Worn

Watch this “Armor of God” oil painting come to life in 2 minutes (time lapse)

There’s a lot going on in the world today, and I feel worn. Do you? I’m sharing this “Armor of God” painting again, a metaphor for spiritual strength, as I talked about in a blog post called “Are you wearing armor?” I could use some spiritual strength today, so I’m focusing on things that restore my spirit.

There is much evidence of wrong, but little justice, enforcement of laws, or deliverance from evil. These things can wear on the soul. It’s good to focus on what we can control. Strip everything down to the simple acts that keep us alive from day to day, minute by minute. Eat good food. Drink water. Rest. Sleep.

Each day we are still here is a day that we were destined to be here. Why? Why are we here? We don’t always know why we survive when others do not, but we honor them when we are grateful to breathe another day. When I am worn, I don’t listen to “news” or let the malice of noise drown my inner voice. I choose gratitude.

Gratitude is what raises us up, because we are empowered by what we already have. At this moment, I am looking forward to eating a fresh salad. It’s a simple thing, but good food matters to this moment. Living moment by moment is what gets us through when there’s not much we can do to change the weight of the world. All we can be is who God made us, but one small act can help another. I hope that my blog posts encourage you. Stay strong, and know that if you’re feeling worn, this too shall pass. No season lasts forever.

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Do We Want Peace?

Watch me paint “Dove of Peace” in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

Surely most of the world’s people want peace. So why don’t we have it? Who is acting against our wishes? What is our response to these actions against our will?

These are big questions, and the answers appear to be unsolvable. They were unsolvable in ancient days, and unsolvable now. We may want world peace, but those in power do not listen. However, if we want spiritual peace, we as individuals will have it. No one can stop us from this choice.

Inner Peace

Inner peace is often described as being calm even if situations are stressful. Others describe inner peace as being strong in the face of chaos and crisis, rather than crumbling to stress and anxiety. I think of it as a combination of “calm” and “strong”. Spiritual peace is quiet strength.

Quiet strength can make the difference between surviving or not. It can make the difference between saving others or not. It can make the difference between a prosperous, happy life or not. The dangers of panic, anxiety, and fear are often greater than we realize. The absence of inner peace can make us sick, can cause us to make rash unfortunate decisions that harm ourselves or others, and can create favorable conditions for accidents. Whereas, the presence of inner peace protects us from these dangers.

Benefits of Spiritual Strength

The first three items on the list (rational thinking, steadiness, and calming to others) increase the likelihood that we and anyone near us will survive a crisis. Spiritual strength makes an impact on minor situations as well. When we handle problems with authority and grace, stress and anxiety don’t have time to take root. Therefore, we head off tension between people that could have lasting effects. We may even reverse the situation from something potentially damaging to an incident that people are proud to recall.

The second three items (confidence, physical health, and better relationships) are reasons for the final benefit on the list: greater prosperity or other rewards. For when we make good decisions, maintain good health, and make solid connections with the people in our lives, our opportunities for success expand exponentially. It all begins with a choice we can all make as individuals: peace.

People of faith find inner peace through spiritual redemption and confidence in a higher power. It may be difficult for a disillusioned person to find this type of calm, but there are still steps one can take that are general tips for healthy living. Even if not fully convinced of the importance of spirituality, putting a desire for peace into action will encourage a strong spirit.

Tips for Establishing Inner Peace

  1. Cut the cord. Shut off the TV. Turn off your phone. Yank the Internet. Do this for 30 minutes. Next time, try it for longer. Aim to cut back on some of these habits permanently. Cull your accounts, platforms and subscriptions. Carve out time in which you go completely unplugged. No screens. No phone. No earbuds. Just you.
  2. Learn how to tell time. The way we measure time is based on societal rules. Learn how to measure time differently, in a way that works for you. I will explain this further in a few minutes.
  3. Eat well, sleep well, play well, love well. Everything is connected. When one of these is off, our emotional self is effected.
  4. Limit the clutter in your physical spaces. Clean out your vehicle, home, outdoors areas, your closet, your desk, your kitchen cupboards. Everything in your path should be as free of distractions as possible. Make your space pleasant to be in.
  5. Work hard. In everything you do, from taking care of yourself to taking care of others, from vocational goals to hobbies… in every action of your day, expend passionate high energy as much as you can. When you are tired or need to pace yourself, slip into a calm state of deliberate action. Do not allow yourself to be “checked out”, but in all ways be mindful of what you are doing. Time and energy are an investment, a priceless treasure that is finite. Never let it slip away unaware.

When you remove something, you must replace it. For example, if you want to curb an Internet addiction, create a new activity that forces you to turn away from the screens. If you don’t fill the space, it will likely cause you to feel restless and antsy. Your commitment will waver.

The second tip on the list is about measuring time. We often allow outside factors to structure our days. Take control of your most precious resource, the one thing that can neither be added to you or subtracted from you- time. Try this little experiment:

 

  1. Time yourself doing routine things. How long are you really “checking your messages”? How long does it really take you to get ready to go somewhere? How long does it really take you to fix your lunch and eat it? How long does your bedtime routine take? Try not to hurry your natural routine. You want an accurate result.
  2. Time yourself again, based on the estimates you found in step one. Use a timer that makes noise when your time is up. The more obnoxious the sound, the better. If you have a timer that ticks down the final minutes, that’s even better.
  3. Next round, use a sand timer (a tea timer, often in an hour glass shape). If you don’t have one, set a timer that has a pleasant soft sound when it ends, perhaps music.
  4. Next, use no timer at all, but make note of how long it took you to do your routine tasks. Did you move faster or slower than you did before the experiment? Did you move at about the same pace? What difference did an awareness of time make?
  5. Finally, choose a day when you can let go of your schedule and hide all clocks from yourself for a two hour period. How does that feel? Are you anxious? If you are serious about learning how to measure time differently, make at least one hour a week without clocks a regular event.

Self-improvement, health improvement, de-cluttering, and all of the other lifestyle tips do help. They help spiritually strong people as well as those who feel that they are standing on ground zero. But, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably guessed that I believe the biggest help is faith in God. When we believe in a higher power who loves us, we have less fear and anxiety. When we believe that when someone says, “God bless you”, we truly will be blessed, we have inner peace.

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Be a Lion

Watch me paint this lion art in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Yesterday I posed the question “Are you a lion or a lamb?” We are meant to be both, but today let’s focus on lions. Most definitions for the word lion begin with a description of the animal, end with a reference to Leo (the constellation which I happen to have been born under) and somewhere in the middle includes phrases such as “a very brave person“, as per The Free Dictionary.

As we think of lions representing bravery, let’s establish what we must be brave about. I’d mentioned before that we must protect ourselves so that we may then protect others. Before we make a checklist, we need to define what is meant by “protection”.

  1. Health: As we humans are composed of mind, body and spirit, our physical self is important. Protection and defense seldom warrant physical battles, but is instead a reference to an ongoing struggle to create and maintain optimal health. This is made more difficult when entities are acting against our interests. Our strength and energy allows us to withstand hardships and endure long trials, to outlast an oppressive era, and make it through to better days. Therefore, we must make the protection and strengthening of our health a critical priority. Eat well, move, do things we love, be with people we love, sleep well. Refuse to comply with anything that endangers your health. Protect the rights of others.
  2. Education: Education is to the mind what nutrition is to the body. We must protect our access to information and defend against the distortion, bias, deletion, and manufacturing of the truth, as well as censorship of organic voices; and fight against powerfully financed and govern-mentally coordinated propaganda. Math doesn’t lie, but people do. Statistics must be free of manipulation, and the presentation of data must be held to the highest standards. The People must demand this.
  3. Freedom: The freedom to define our lives, values, and pursuit of happiness according to our own counsel is critical to the spirit. We must defend against all manner of persecution, and all pushes to create new forms of religion that are raised to be superior to all others through coercion. State religion is denied to exist, as it is nonetheless simultaneously installed, replacing all others. A cult of oppression is unable to co-exist with pre-existing religions and ideologies, including the right to be left alone; the choice to reject any allegiance to ideals or groups.

Lion of Judah” oil painting by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Bravery Checklist

  1. See: Be brave enough to look for answers, no matter how scary the truth may be. Seeing is the first step to defending oneself and others. We must name the problems.
  2. Hear: Be brave enough to listen to ideas and people that go against coordinated agendas.
  3. Speak: Be brave enough to voice our thoughts, opinions, concerns, fears, and hopes for the future.

Cowardice breeds more oppression. Consenting to what we know is wrong, will only embolden tyrants to demand more. Bravery is often the simple act of thinking for oneself; refusing to convert to what is being pushed. Few are called into stronger acts of profound sacrifices that define history. For most of us, we are only tasked with staying true to what we believe and refusing to comply with any acts that unlawfully persecute, oppress, or harm ourselves or others. This may simply mean avoidance of places or institutions who enforce tyrannical rules. But if we all make a commitment to stand, we outnumber the oppressors and we will win our battles. Every brave person makes a difference.

Be a lion.
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