His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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Chasing Peace – Day 10

If you read my Day-9 entry, you’ll see that I crashed. One of my “tricks” for escaping stress and finding peace wasn’t working. I’d been telling myself that all my tasks at work are meaningless – all the stuff that tightens my chest and fills me with stress. What’s more meaningful are my relationships with my co-workers. This new way of thinking had been helping me, for a while.

Yet the stress-machines at work sure haven’t been feeling meaningless lately. They’ve been exerting their ever-present power over me. And then yesterday, Day 10 of my journey, I was thinking about this meaningless idea as I drove home from another day in the stress-pit. And oh so glad it was Friday.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I don’t really believe that all those work tasks are meaningless. I’d been trying to lie to myself.

Look, it’s simple. All my tasks and all the tasks that my co-workers do, help contribute to the success of our little company. And everyone there is relying on that success for a paycheck. Enough said. I can’t dodge the meaning of people’s livelihoods.

I’m confusing myself. But maybe I’m getting closer; closer to an answer. Forget the tricks. Forget trying to con myself. There’s only one path to the peace I’m seeking… Jesus.

 

←Day 9                    Day 11 →

 


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Chasing Peace – Day 9

“Having fun with Jesus.” That was my focus yesterday, Day 9 of my journey to escape stress and find peace. As often as my feeble mind would think of it, I’d look inside myself and ask Jesus what we could do next that would be fun. Yes, I even found fun at work, and it always involved interactions with other people.

But then in the afternoon, I crashed, and fell headfirst into the stress-pit. I found myself staring at my work to-do list; the list where new things are added faster than old things are crossed off. That list seemed to grab hold of my chest and squeeze. The tension I’d been running from had caught up with me, and tackled me. It sucked.

I’d been telling myself while on this journey that all the stuff on my to-do list is meaningless. My idea was to try and take away the power the list has over me. But it wasn’t working. For something so meaningless, it sure killed any peace I had been feeling. The fun was gone.

Oh Jesus, please help me. Pull me out of this pit I’ve dug and fill me with your peace; the peace that goes far beyond my ability to understand. I’m helpless. I know I can’t do this without you. But this knowledge isn’t helping me right now. I need something more. Please.

 

Day 8                    Day 10 

 


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Escaping Stress… Chasing Peace – Day 8

I’ve tried this kind of thing before – I’m always looking for another method to feel closer to Jesus and fill my life with peace. Whatever new trick I try, it usually soon fades from my mind and I fall back to my robotic and habitual ways of slogging my way through life.

But this time is different. I’ve never written a daily blog post about my experience. It’s helping me stay focused and on track, keeping me from losing sight of my goal. And I have a hope that this journal of my journey will help some of you who read about it.

Anyway, yesterday – day 8 of my journey in search of lasting peace – was a very good day. If you read Day 7’s entry, you’ll see that I started off in a goofy mood – always a good way to start any day. Since I often take things in life too seriously, it helps to swing to the opposite end of the spectrum.

But the best part about yesterday, as always, was the feeling of the presence of Jesus. As I went about the day, I frequently looked inside to His Spirit within, and I thanked Him for being with me. I realize now that a big part of yesterday was my feeling of gratitude.

And I frequently chatted with Jesus about what was going on at work. We talked mostly about my co-workers. And since I wanted to hold onto my sense of goofiness, we plotted little jokes and funny things to say. We had fun helping others lighten up yesterday. For those with a sense of humor, it was easy. But for the more serious people, like the managers, many of them were not in the mood for silliness. Yet my hope is that the peace they saw in me somehow gave them a taste of peace for themselves.

One unexpected outcome of me focusing more on Jesus than the stress-machines at work is that I’ve been more productive at work. I think I’ve known this all along, but stress reduces my productivity.

Please consider joining me on this journey. Or rather, step off on your own personal journey in search of lasting peace. Have you done this already? How’s it going? What’s working for you? Please share with others… it helps us all. Thanks.

 

←Day 7                    Day 9 →

 


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Escaping Stress… Chasing Peace – Day 7

Yesterday – day 7 of my journey to escape stress – was good. Better than day 6. Ironically, I think part of the reason was that I was more tired than usual… kind of groggy all day. When I’m like that, I’m in my whatever state. Meh, whatever, I don’t care. I love my whatever mind… so peaceful.

But it wasn’t my dull mind that brought me peace. My mind was dull to the stress-machines at work, which somehow made it easier for me to focus on the real presence of Jesus. Seeing and feeling Jesus within me is what brought me peace. More often than usual, I found myself frequently closing my eyes and visiting with Jesus. One time I barely opened my eyes in time to see my boss walk in… “Sleeping on the job CJ?” That would have been slick.

And then last night… something new smacked my mind. There’s some psychological thing that says that focusing on what you want to avoid will just bring you closer to what you want to avoid. Some law of negative reinforcement thing? I don’t know. But if my goal is to escape stress, I wonder if even using that word is hindering me. Well, I believe it could. So from now on, instead of escaping stress, I’m chasing peace. Hence the title change.

And for me, the formula for chasing peace is simple – focus on Jesus, from where all peace flows. Yet the execution of this formula is the hard part. Because it requires me to change my mind. And just ask my wife; it’s hard for me to change my mind sometimes.

But bring on day 8. Peace, I know you’re out there. You can’t escape me (too cocky… chill). The caffeine has kicked in, but I’m still feeling kind of groggy… and goofy. I like it.

 

←Day 6                    Day 8 →

 


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Escaping Stress – Day 6

Since I blew it on day 5, Sunday, I spent more time than usual yesterday morning quietly praying with Jesus. And I was surprised when I felt myself looking forward to going to work. I was excited about the interactions I would have with other people, even in the midst of the chaos that Monday promised. Now that’s not how I usually start off a Monday.

Well, day 6 of my journey to escape stress was just okay. Nothing special. I miss those first days of my journey, where the progress seemed large and the experience was fun. Yesterday I felt I was falling back to my old ways… at least a bit. I realize now that I was putting too much importance into the things of work, the tasks and projects and schedules and deadlines and all those problems. I let it all take hold and control my feelings. And I now see that when I let all that stuff take hold of me, it blinds me to the presence of the Spirit of Jesus within me. I can’t see Jesus because of the wall of work-stuff that holds me prisoner in my self-dug stress-pit. Oh, I tried looking for Jesus a lot yesterday, but the wall kept blocking my view. I can’t see Jesus when my mind is focused on the stuff.

But thanks to yesterday, my path to escaping stress is becoming clearer… I think. Maybe trying to explain it will bring it more into focus. Let’s see… well, I think I need to do three things at the same time:

  • I need to consider all the work-stuff as meaningless so it cannot take hold of my reactions and consume my attention;
  • I need to focus on the Spirit of Jesus within me, and let Him control my emotions and reactions. And He will help keep the wall from rising again.
  • And I need to totally trust Jesus to take control. I need to give myself to Him.

And then there’s the fourth thing that helps me. With my life’s meaning all about Jesus rather than work-stuff, I want to give more meaning to my other relationships, and my interactions with my co-workers. This fourth thing helps distract me from the stress-inducing stuff.

Day 7 here I come; though a little weary as I go. This takes effort. But I’m so tired of living in that dreary stress-pit – I don’t want to give up. Please pray for me, as I pray for you. Thanks.

 

Day 5                    Day 7 →

 


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Escaping Stress – Day 5

Yesterday, day 5 on my journey to escape stress. Sunday. The day before Monday. Typically my most stressful day of the week. You see, I suffer from chronic The Day Before Monday Blues Syndrome. Have for years. It may be Sunday, but my mind tends to live in Monday and the stress-pit that is work. The only reason Sunday is more stressful than Monday, is that it feels like I’m wasting a day off of work. I’m tired of this crap. I want my Sunday to be filled with peace, not stress. That’s partly why I’m on this journey.

Well, I made a mistake yesterday. I rushed into day 5 without Jesus. I skipped my morning quiet time with God. And if you’ve been following my journey, you know that my secret to escaping stress is to start the day quietly with God and Jesus.

Oh I know… skipping quiet time with God on Sunday, of all days!? Well, I don’t attend church, as you may know. I haven’t for, oh, five years I think. But that’s no excuse, just a fact. As I’ve learned every other day of the week, I don’t need church on Sunday to help me get connected with God and Jesus.

Anyway, from the reading on my Stress-O-Meter, yesterday was okay. No worse than a typical Sunday. But I think it was a good reminder – and I need constant reminding – that I can’t escape stress alone. I need constant intimate contact with the Spirit of Jesus, here within me.

Are you on your own journey to escape stress? How’s it going? What’s working for you?

 

← Day 4                    Day 6 →

 


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Escaping Stress – Day 4

One of my secrets to avoiding stress is to focus on relationships and interactions with people, rather than stress-inducing stuff. But what will I do when a relationship is the source of my stress? Oh well, I’ll have to wait and see when it happens, for it certainly will.

Yesterday, day 4 of my journey to escape stress: I started out a bit nervous about the weekend. Oh, I understand my stress at work. But I have a talent for making weekends stressful too. I think it comes from my desire to make the most of my “free” time. There’s irony there, for I end up becoming a prisoner of my weekend free time. I’m driven to fill every minute with checking off items on my to-do list, and that drive breeds stress.

But thanks to my focused effort to escape stress, yesterday was different. The most stressful part of my day was when I read the final chapter in the book The Martian, by Andy Weir – you know, the Matt Damon movie. Except for those tense moments a few miles above Mars, yesterday was pretty stress-free.

And that’s because I followed the same path I was on at work last week. I tried to ignore my to-do list and just focus on each moment. Oh, I still did chores, but they’d lost their power over me. And, I focused on putting all I could into each interaction with other people – for people have more meaning than chores.

But most importantly, my mind kept drifting back to the Spirit of Jesus within me. I found myself thinking about Jesus more frequently than on a typical Saturday. And I think this is because the tingling of approaching stress has become a trigger for me, automatically sending my mind inward, to Jesus. And when I’m with Jesus, there is no stress… only peace.

I just hope I don’t lose hold of this. As I type this, it’s Sunday morning – sometimes my most stressful day of the week. Stay tuned.

 

Day 3                    Day 5 →


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Time for Some Changes…

I’ve been re-thinking my purpose for writing, whether blog posts or the books I’m working on. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of peoples needs I hope to fill. This is what I’ve come up with so far…

  • Help people escape the stress in their life. Show them how to replace the stress with the peace they are looking for.
  • Help people feel the same freedom and joy we felt as children. Do you remember that, the days of fun and play?
  • Help people find a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and find this in their relationship with God.
  • Help people feel loved. I hope to help people find and feel the Fatherly love of God.
  • Help people find freedom from the influence of false ideas about Christianity. Show them the freedom that comes from the truth.
  • Help people know and accept that true Christianity is all about a relationship, not rules.
  • Dechurched Christians, like me, may be looking for a sense of belonging, like me. Show them how to find that.
  • Help dechurched Christians find freedom from any guilt they may feel because they no longer attend church.
  • Show people how to find and have an intimate and personal relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Help them know the Holy Spirit of God as a person, rather than an idea. And help them feel His presence in their lives.

What do you think about this? Please let me know. Does this look like too much to you? Does it leave you with the sense that I have an over-inflated idea of my talent for helping people? After all, this is a lot. But truth is, I’m just a searching human like you, with all the same needs I’ve listed above. I’m no expert in any of this – all I can do is share what I’ve learned, and continue to learn, in my own search.

Another change I’m planning to make is that I will soon start sending out periodic emails with stuff targeted to help fill the needs I’ve listed above. I’ll send these email messages to everyone who would like to subscribe to receive them. I will probably send an email once a week, or maybe every other week. I’m curious, what do you think of this email idea?

By the way, I really appreciate the ideas and comments you might share with me. These changes I’m planning to make are a bit scary, and the support I get from those who visit and follow this blog is like comfort food.

Thank you. From my heart, CJ


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Escaping Stress – Day 3

Note to self: beware of relying on my own strength. As soon as I stop relying on the Spirit of Jesus to guide me on my journey to escape stress, I start to fall, and fail. I can’t do this on my own.

Oh, that’s right… I need my old friend humility. That will help me escape stress. Humility will help me rely on Jesus rather than myself. And humility will help me focus on the needs of others, rather than myself, which will help me focus more on my relationships (rather than myself).

But shortly after noon yesterday, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by all the stuff I still needed to do before I could leave work and begin to enjoy the weekend. My chest started to tighten – typical stress symptom for me. But I caught myself, closed my eyes, visualized the Spirit of Jesus inside me, and the tension immediately melted away. And I smiled. So cool. I’m having fun on this journey to escape stress.

I now know how it feels to be at peace even in the midst of chaos. Oh, I may have experienced this before, but I’d forgotten how it is when I don’t feel my usual internal tension, while the external tension is so deep I could drown in it.

Are you following me on this journey to escape stress? Are you trying some of the things I’m trying? If so, how is the journey going for you? Please let us know.

Thanks, CJ

 

Day 2                    Day 4 →

 


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Escaping Stress – Day 2

I deceived myself yesterday. Oh, in my effort to escape the stress of work, I indeed focused on my interactions with co-workers, rather than the stress-pit of problems that fills my work day. But then I caught myself, though too late.

I snuck into the infrequently-stocked pantry at work and pocketed a sugar-filled cereal bar, twice. On a good day, I have no problem resisting sweets. But not yesterday. It’s a sure sign of stress – I run to sugar. Crap.

But the day wasn’t all sugar and stress. I did have some good moments. For example, I told two co-workers about my new approach to work; to turn my back on the stress-machines that are all the tasks and projects and problems of work, and instead focus on my new meaning for work… my relationships with co-workers. I think letting other people know about my journey will help motivate me to keep going. Maybe my efforts, and hopeful success, will help them on their own journey to escape the stress of work.

By the way, though I try to ignore the problems at work, I still get my work done, and more effectively than when I’m all stressed out. But the work itself has no meaning for me beyond the opportunity it gives me to have relationships with some really neat people.

Well, that’s on a good day. And as I said, yesterday had some problems. My mind seemed to easily loose hold of the secret.

So this morning, before stepping into Day 3 of my journey, I went back to the beginning, to my first blog post written on the morning I started on this journey (see it here), and I also read yesterday’s post. So today, before hitting the trail, I remind myself of my secret to escaping stress:

  1. The day starts when I take the time to push all the early-morning distractions out of my mind (usually thoughts about work), and rest in my quiet time with the Spirit of Jesus within me.
  2. The problems of work and life are meaningless.
  3. Meaning comes from being a light for Jesus, shinning His love on other people. Meaning comes from relationships.
  4. Never go into an interaction with someone alone. Always visualize the Spirit of Jesus with me, guiding me and encouraging me.

Okay, I think I’m ready to step off into Day 3. But first, I have a question for you, and I really hope you’ll share an answer. How do you escape stress? What has worked for you?

Thank you, CJ

 

Day 1                    Day 3 →

 


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Escaping Stress – Day 1

The world is a stress-machine, cranking out high blood pressure, stomach acid, and emotional breakdowns. And I’m tired of it. Sometimes finding myself on the edge of an emotional cliff, looking down into the dark pit of a breakdown, I’ve decided it’s time to make my way to safer ground. So, I’ve stepped off on a journey to find a way to avoid stress, even while living in the midst of it. Do you want to join me? Well, here’s something I did yesterday that got me started:

First, I spent my early-morning coffee time with the Spirit of Jesus who hangs out with me – typical morning. But in our quiet time together, He prompted me to write a blog post that set the tone for the rest of my day (see it here).

For me, my main source of stress is work. So on my drive to work yesterday, I kept telling myself that the activities at work – all the projects and deadlines and tasks and problems and crises – they’re all meaningless, and they have no power over me. And the only thing that has true meaning is my relationships with my co-workers.

So, at work I did my tasks and dealt with my problems in a sort of detached way. I felt a bit insulated from those things that normally fill me with stress.

But what I put all my effort into was each interaction with the other people at work, even those who are often a source of my stress. Yet I wasn’t doing this alone. I kept seeing the Spirit of Jesus within me, guiding me and encouraging me.

It was awesome! Each interaction was calm and warm. I wonder if my co-workers were wondering what kind of drug I was on. (Yes, I can sometimes come across as intense at work.)

Also, I think it was my focus on others that resulted in me feeling insulated from the stressful tasks. Focus on others first, and it will put everything else into a right perspective. It was like my focus on people distracted me from the stuff that normally stresses me.

Okay, now to see if I can do this again. Here I go, stepping off into Day 2 of my journey. Come with me.

 

← The Beginning                    Day 2 →


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Escaping Stress

As a person who loves Jesus and thrives on His love for me, I really want to help show His love to other people. And I think the best way for me to do that is to be a light in this sometimes dark world. As Jesus said, “You are the light of the world … Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16)

Well, I can’t do that when I’m all stressed out at work. When I let the stress of work pour into me, it fills me with darkness, and buries the light of Jesus under its quivering mass of dread (feeling poetic here). Anyway, when I let the stress take over, my co-workers know it. All light disappears and my mood gets dark.

But it gets better. For Jesus is gradually changing me. He’s showing me how the problems of work and life are meaningless, and that fulfillment comes from being His light, and shinning His love on other people. And He’s showing me how to let go of the things that stress me out.

It all starts with my quiet time with Him each morning. He fills me with His Spirit, pushing out all darkness. I may wake up and crawl out of bed dreading another day at work, but Jesus soon reminds me of what’s really important. It’s not success at work. It’s not accomplishments. It’s love; His love, shinning from His Spirit within me and pouring onto the people around me.

Do you dread today? Is the stress of life darkening your mood? Well, if so, then please join me on this journey to escape stress, even while living in the midst of it.

Day 1 


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I’m Hungry for God’s Presence

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]

My gut is speaking to me. Or call it my inner voice. You know what I mean. It’s been talking to me for several weeks now, always with the same message, which goes something like this:

“CJ, even though you believe in the presence of the Spirit of God and Jesus within you, you’re not feeling the reality of who they are. Look, I’m talking about GOD here – the creator of all that exists – living WITHIN you! The ONE who gives you the reason for living, and loving. How do you think you would feel if you truly felt the reality of the presence of God within your very being, living with your soul?”

It’s that last question that’s been nagging at me. I believe that if I truly felt the reality of the Spirit of God and Jesus within me, I would be so overwhelmed with awe that I might spend most of my time weeping with gratitude. And it occurs to me; maybe God is protecting me from feeling the whole truth, for He knows how His reality could be so overwhelming for this tired soul called CJ.

But that sense of God’s protection doesn’t diminish my hunger for more of Him. Oh, I have random moments of awe, with a rush of love and gratitude. But I want more. I want as much of the reality of God that I can handle, and still be able to function without constantly breaking into tears of joy and gratitude. I hunger and thirst for the reality of God within me.

Dear Lord, that’s my prayer. Please open my eyes, my heart, and my mind to the reality of You… as much as you know I can handle. Amen


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To Leave Everything … and Follow Him

They left everything, and followed Jesus. I was reading in the gospel of Luke about when Jesus started calling the first disciples. When He called Peter and again when He called Matthew, Luke writes that they “left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11, 28) They left their former way of life – fishing for Peter and tax collecting for Matthew – and physically followed Jesus.

That’s fine for them, but what does it mean to me to leave everything? One thing I’m certain about, Jesus isn’t calling me to leave work, home, and family to physically follow Him on some mission trip. Since His Spirit lives within me, I don’t have to physically go anywhere in order to follow Him. I feel He wants me to follow Him right where I am; at work, home, and in my family.

But what is He calling me to leave behind? For me, I feel Jesus calling me to leave my old self behind. Myself, who reacts stressfully to chaotic stuff at work; myself, who is sometimes selfish and not thinking enough of the needs of others; and myself, who sometimes goes for long stretches of time without thinking of Jesus.

For me, I think it boils down to the call to be in the world, but not of the world; for example, to be at work, but not let work control my reactions to things. For me, to leave work and follow Jesus is to let Him control my reactions to the chaos of work.

I believe Jesus calls each of us in a very personal way; His call to you may be different from His call to me. Do you feel Jesus calling you to leave everything and follow Him? And what is He calling you to leave? What does this mean to you?


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Why Doesn’t God Give Up?

Sometimes I try to look at this world from a detached perspective. Like, how would this mashed up mixture of humanity look to an alien from another planet?

So much strife, and evil, and violence, and arrogance, and judgment, and hypocrisy, and selfishness, and hate, and on the list goes. What a mess we are!

And then I wonder… why doesn’t God give up on this failed experiment of humanity? If I were Him, I would have walked away a long time ago. But He didn’t give up. He hasn’t walked away. In fact, He sacrificed His Son in order to save this experiment.

WOW! God must love us a lot.


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Can You Hear My Voice?

I am the Holy Spirit – the voice of God here within you. I speak to you from the depths of your soul. I know that believing in me can be difficult. But even if you believe, it’s not always easy to listen.

You may look inside and see me here with your minds eye. Yet your mind doesn’t stop there. Your mind has so much to say. Try listening to yourself when you come to me while you pray. What do you hear? Does you mind ever stop talking?

Also, there are so many other voices within your mind, all clamoring for your attention – work, school, relationships – you know the voices that nag you and consume your mind.

I know it’s hard, but when you are able to gently silence those other voices, and when you are able to quiet the voice of your own mind; then please listen for my voice. And you will discover that even if I have nothing to say to you in that moment, your voiceless presence with me will give you complete peace. And it also gives me joy. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your love.


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Dear God … for Terrie

Dear God, dear Jesus… you know Terrie’s condition. You see the Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that is rapidly killing her. You see her now, in that hospital bed.

I don’t know Terrie as well as you do. In fact, I haven’t seen her for many years. But because of your love that fills me now, I too feel love for Terrie, like a brother for a sister. And I love her husband, as a brother. And I love her children, as a father. Unfortunately, I’m feeling this love more profoundly only now – now that I’ve heard about Terrie’s pain and suffering.

Lord, as you know, Terrie enters my mind a lot these days, ever since we heard of the relapse. Today I just felt like writing my prayers, and sharing my prayers with anyone who might like to join us in prayer.

Dear Jesus, as I feel your presence within me now, please pour your presence into Terrie, and throw out the evil disease that possesses her, and fill her with your love and peace. I know you love Terrie, and maybe you are ready to bring her home to heaven to live with you. But I also know you love her family. For her family, please heal Terrie so she can remain with them a while longer.

But no matter what dear God, your will be done. I give all my trust to you. Thank you dear Lord. Thank you dear Jesus, for sending your Spirit to be with Terrie now. She may not feel you there with her, but you’re there.

All my love for you dear Jesus.

CJ


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Enemy Me

It’s hungry for all,

holding everyone prisoner,

except those he rescues.

It wants all of you;

it wants to control you –

your thoughts, your words, your actions, your soul.

You say things you wish you hadn’t said.

You do things you wish you hadn’t done.

And all the while, it’s reveling in its control over you.

Who is our enemy?

It’s pride. Selfishness. Self-centerness. Arrogance.

It’s the root of all evil in our world.

What wretched people we are!

Who will rescue us from our captor?

Thanks be to God – we are saved by Jesus Christ our Lord!

He gave us His Spirit, to fill our lives and push out pride.

He will arm us with His love and humility.

And rescue us from the prison of pride.

And I’m so grateful.

Thank you dear Jesus, our savior, our rescuer.