My refuge and strength

Last week, my pastor asked whether any of us had ever played the game jenga. He showed us photos of a couple of buildings that resemble a stack of jenga blocks; it is amazing that they haven’t toppled over. Like an unstable stack of blocks, sometimes it doesn’t take much to unbalance us. The stresses of life can wear you down and make you feel exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed. When life gets overwhelming, what do you do? Where do you go for help?

Pastor Brad said that faith and anxiety occupy the same space in our heads. He spoke about the coping mechanisms people use to deal with stress and anxiety. Many of us cope with stress in unhealthy ways – losing our temper, withdrawing from other people, or by eating or drinking or shopping to excess.

When you have faith, you can turn to God for help. A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1

The scripture for the sermon was Psalm 46, one of the most familiar psalms. It begins, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” When I get really stressed, I wake up in the night and worry about things. I call on God in the darkness. I call on God when I am afraid. I call on God when I am overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. I call on God when I need courage. He comforts me. He builds me up. He gives me hope. He gives me peace. God is my refuge and strength.

I especially like Psalm 46:10. When you start to feel anxious, be still. Stop trying so hard to solve your own problems. Know that God is God. He’s got this. Put your trust in Him.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

Pastor Brad ended the sermon with Psalm 131:2.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Psalm 131:2

Like a weaned child, David was content. He was able to calm and quiet himself because he put his hope in the Lord.

When the stresses of life are overwhelming, what should you do? Wean yourself from the coping mechanisms of the world. They don’t work. Don’t be anxious about anything. Instead, call out to God. Let Him be your refuge and your strength.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

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Photo by Bart Jaillet on Unsplash

Marching with Strength and Dignity

One year ago, I participated in the Denver Women’s march because I believe in the words on a Freedom poster that hangs on my bedroom wall: The struggle for freedom, equality and justice transcends race, religion, political affiliation and even death. I would add that the struggle also transcends gender. Although the struggle is ongoing, this year I marched to celebrate the strengths of women.

I am proud of the women who broke years of silence about sexual assault and harassment at the hands of powerful men. I am proud of the women who rallied to support them, giving credence to their stories. Those who abuse their power have been put on notice that women expect to be treated with dignity and respect. The silence breakers proved how powerful women can be when we stand together.

Last year, I carried a poster that said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” This quote came from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who paraphrased the words of Theodore Parker, an abolitionist.

This year, when I thought about what to put on my poster, I initially wanted to express my anger at the “stable genius” who disparaged the people of Haiti and other countries with his profane comments. Though many people make the Women’s March about their opposition to him, for me, it is about strong women standing up for human rights.

When I searched for words about the strength of women, I found words that Solomon wrote long ago about a woman of noble character:

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25

On the flip side of my poster, I wrote:

She is:

Compassionate, courageous, wise, strong, determined, gentle, tough, and

SHE VOTES!

When I marched last year, I saw many people carrying posters with red, white and blue images of beautiful, diverse women: an African-American, a Latina, and a Muslim. I searched for Women’s March posters and found free downloadable We the People artwork. Since the inauguration, the images have been used as “symbols of hope to combat the rising power of nationalism, bigotry, and intolerance.”

I march to defend the dignity of all human beings, especially those considered unworthy by the president. I march because I want to protect the vulnerable, including the Dreamers. I march because love is greater than fear.