How Anxiety Distracts Us From God

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 The Noticer

Let me be a noticer of things in your world
instead of a dweller of my inner thoughts,
worries, and selfish longings
that only keep me distracted from you.

For when I uproot myself out of the present moment
and plant my focus on myself,
I rob myself of the joy
of witnessing your glory and beauty
all around me.

I have always been a highly observant person, picking out minor details that others often miss. On my morning walk in the woods today I noticed an old, wooden beam with rusted barbwire wrapped around the edges that had clearly once been a fence post. The problem was that I’d walked this path dozens of times before. Worse, it only stood a few inches off the trail.

What may seem an unimportant observation worried me. I should have noticed this a long time ago. But then again, maybe I’m not quite as observant as I once was…not since anxiety and worry have become a constant companion.

I sat there looking at that fence post, noticing for the first time the rotting wood and the crumbling decay of age. In my perifocal view I then noticed a bee hovering around a flower and insects crawling along the earth. I was struck with the realization that I have formed a habit of being so stuck inside my head observing my anxieties and worries that I have lost an awareness of the world around me.

I’ve decided I’m still a highly observant person; I’ve just been preoccupied with the wrong details. Anxiety and worry cause us to retreat inward, focusing on only our thoughts and feelings, preparing for the “what ifs” of the future. In the process they rob us of the joy and experience of life in the present moment.

God dwells in the here and now. God speaks in the present. God walks with us in this moment. When we try to place ourselves in the future, we make no room for God. For the future is determined by His will, not ours. And that is what anxiety and fear inspire us to do, don’t they? To just sprint past God and try to prepare, plan, and control what happens next. We lack faith in God’s providence, so we seek out our own providence. We are finite creatures who are not built to withstand that kind of responsibility. When we put ourselves in control of managing our future, we collapse under the weight of worry.

Even more importantly, when we are constantly distracted by our worries and removed from the here and now, we miss out on the wonderful experience of witnessing God’s glory and beauty all around us.  The beauty of a sunset, the feeling of the wind against your skin, the magic of the leaves changing colors, the love in another’s eyes, the wisdom God passes on in seemingly unimportant things.

It’s a hard fight to pull yourself out of your own head and leave all the worrying behind. It’s maybe an even harder fight to trust in God. But there are opportunities for redemption all around us, yet we have to be attentive to the present moment to recognize them. If we remain focused on the incessant cycle of self-centered thoughts, we deny ourselves the gift of seeing God’s divine presence right here, right now.

-Post and Poem Written by Justin Farley

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Opus Dei – A Poem About the Work of God In Your Life

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Opus Dei – A Poem About the Work of God In Your Life

Your hot breath has blown on me
and provided the oxygen for glowing embers of love
where there was once nothing but cold, hard coals.

You’ve cultivated my soul
and provided the rich, black soil for roots of patience
where there was once rash temperament without restraint.

Your loving hands have lifted my head hung low in shame,
while your fierce winds have blown like a cyclone across a barren desert,
beginning to level this wall of pride.

You’ve provided for me a solid fortress
deep in the heart of your city
with ramparts tall and wide, impenetrable by the sufferings of this world.

You’ve blessed me with the gift of wisdom, to pause for breath.
I once dove headfirst into life’s battles like a torpedo of chaos without thought,
only to be whipped into retreat, scrambling for cover alone in the dark.

Your tongue has embraced my closed eyelids;
your passionate kiss has restored my sight.
You’ve given me a new pair of eyes able to see farther than myself.

Your loving discipline has provided the humility capable of producing laughter
when I take myself too seriously,
caught up in grandiose schemes and dreams of personal glory.

You’ve implanted in me fragments of courage.
Each day I’m getting more comfortable stripping off clothes of delusion
and encouraging the world to look at my naked frame; imperfect, bound in anxious chains.

You’ve taught me how to sow, where I once only reaped.
The seeds of contemplation have grown into hope,
setting my heart on distant destinations, where not long ago I accepted defeat.

The Spirit moves in incalculable paces like a dancer swayed by rhythmic beats.
You’ve given me a new appreciation for the wind, smirking at how it blows wherever it wishes; I was once engulfed by anxiety embracing unpredictable forces.

Faith has given me footsteps where my feet were once immobile, heavy as iron.
Fear remains, but it doesn’t incapacitate me.
I can walk on water as long as my vision is focused on you.

I’m no longer terrified of your wrath; you’ve given me the green light
to doubt, to challenge, to investigate, to verify, but you’ve also allowed
my heart to accept that sometimes our walk requires steps of blind faith.

It’s becoming easier to call you Captain and turn over the keys to my fate,
finally able to humbly accept that I am incapable of steering this ship,
understanding your hands are the only ones qualified to take the helm.

You’re consistent affirmations are beginning to ease my mind over finite time.
I once restlessly rattled the cage, unceasingly beat and banged
upon the heavy door of immorality, feeling owed admittance.

But you make peace of mind a possible reality; detached from the bondage of self, starved from the selfish desires of the flesh. You give me food filled with substance where I once only chewed and swallowed emptiness.

I am far from at peace.
I am not absent of fear.
I am still riddled by questions without answers.
I am not unmoved by my sufferings.
I come unhinged by my own madness.
I am inhibited by narcissistic obsessions.
I am wavered by trials.
I can be found in moments of doubt.
I still unsheathe my tongue as a weapon.
I am sometimes caught without showing patience.
I am occasionally guarded and scoff at love.
I still sometimes rage against offering others my hand or my time.
I am not always victorious over my passions.
I fall prey to temptations.

Yes, I admit that I am far from perfect.
But your perfection is slowly, but surely
working to change me into a better man.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

Opus Dei – Latin for the work of God


 

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Grace – A Poem

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Grace – A Poem

I am awed by the way you move me
like freshly fallen snowflakes dusting across the frozen ground.
Some days I forget the barren tundra from which I came
and how you whispered by name, echoing across that vacant landscape
so that a lost soul could be found.

Some days time passes by me without a single thought
that each waking moment is a treasure –
a gift granted, light years away from being deserved.
But despite all my wrongs and all the foolish footpaths
I chose to walk, in my time of desperation I called
and without hesitation you answered.

Each single second is abounding opportunity,
a renewed possibility for new life.
My destination was one I was unable to arrive at
by the work of my own hands, but while I lingered,
withering away in the darkness, you nestled me
within your loving embrace and brought me back into the light.

The fact that I breathe and my heart beats
is a living testament to your endless love and grace.
May I never forget from where I came and that each day is a gift
that I should unceasingly praise and never waste.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


 

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Like Me – A Poem About Loving Yourself

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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God doesn’t make mistakes. It’s easy to compare your weaknesses to other peoples’ strengths and become discouraged; it’s easy to let it tear down your self-esteem and think you have no value or self-worth. But often times, it is our weaknesses that have the greatest potential to transform other people. Our weaknesses are what make us human and give God the greatest opportunity to reveal his glory and redemption. As hard as it is sometimes, by learning to like our weaknesses and accept them instead of hiding them in the dark, we can allow others to see God’s light and give others the confidence to open themselves as well. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to improve them or allow them to run our life because “that’s the way God made me”; it means we have the courage to admit we’re weak, have issues, and allow God to transform us instead of pretending like they don’t exist or trying to do all the work ourselves.

Like Me – A Poem About Loving Yourself

I like me.
I’m learning to love the flaws
I see staring back at me in the mirror…
They keep me humble.
Each time I stumble humility grows
And flows through my eyes. allowing me to accept others’ shortcomings.

I like me.
Just as crazy as I come,
Never refusing to silence the feelings that drip
Like sweet drops of honey from the tip of my tongue…
They keep me honest and open, vulnerable and true.
They give others the confidence to let down their guard
And feel comfortable walking in their own shoes.

I like me
With a belly full of fear
And a heart filled with angst…
It keeps my pride in check
And my will at bay,
Knowing that left to my own devices
I’d likely be lying in a grave.

I love me
Even when I don’t like me,
For after all, this is the way God made me.
Who am I to critique his work?
What can the clay say to the Potter,
Except to appreciate and accept
The art sculpted by His hands.
I like me because in the chaos created by my flaws
I know He brings order from anarchy and has a plan.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


 

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The Black Veil – A Poem

5150943940_b94fffd722_bThe Black Veil – A Poem

I wear this black veil of despair
Like the wrappings of a mummy,
Covering my self-inflicted wounds.

My face frozen in cold, blank stare
Trapped within my tomb,
Alone in my room.

Why do you continue to test me?
Why do you hold out savory meat
Only to snatch it from my hands?

It is wrong for me to question your authority,
To question the good of your plans,
To hold you in contempt, unable to understand?

I wear this lonely shroud of betrayal.
Spend my days wondering
Why is it I who should be denied?

Haven’t I sought to be faithful?
Why are the wicked given an easy ride,
Never facing near the trials you’ve thrown in my life?

Is it too much to ask
For an outlet to this love,
Just to have a companion by my side?

Each time the die is cast
Comes another lashing to my pride,
Another time where I’d discarded and thrown aside.

Why is it that romantic lovers
Are often the ones alone,
While cheaters, liars, thieves, and betrayers come home to open arms?

But though anger stirs, I’ll patiently wait to discover
Why you seem set on placing me in the midst of harm,
Why alone is always where you think I belong.

I wear this black veil of despair,
But I trust that you know more
Than what sits before my somber scene.

I guess that life is not always fair,
So be my rock upon which I lean
As I wait in solitude until you send to me my queen.

-Poem by Justin Farley


 

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The Mirror of Truth – A Poem

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The Mirror of Truth – A Poem

Into the mirror I gaze
and am wrapped within the frame
of a smoky haze of secrets swirling within glass.

I can’t deny the face,
can’t pretend I don’t know,
have no trace of realization that the figure before my eyes is me.

It’s unsettling to see the darkness,
to discover the demons in the flesh,
to witness my flaws, flogging me in the face.

Beneath this mask of pride,
there is a face scorched and seared
by lies, deceit, and by the heat of betrayal.

I know the image I wish to see,
I know the reflection my heart believes;
but within me is a darkness I prefer not to acknowledge.

The mirror of truth does not lie,
does not flinch when it brings onlookers to their knees,
does not hide delusions, but pierces the veil of our ego.

The mirror of truth is a loving master,
a humbling stone meant to trip our feet,
a pastor to turn us towards joy and away from the bonds of slavery.

I may not like the face that stares back at me,
I may not like the icy eyes, the lips of pride,
but I have the opportunity to reconstruct my image.

Morning sun, be my witness –
when you lay down to rest tonight, the flames may remain
fueled by my darkness, but will crackle beside the waters of love and grace.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


 

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Build Within Me A Foundation of Thanksgiving – A Poem of Praise to God

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Build Within Me A Foundation of Thanksgiving – A Poem of Praise to God

May your rays of righteousness
pierce through the clouds and shadows of my heart.

May my mind give way to your fruit –
take up your shears and prune these vines that ensnare me.

Give thanks, give praise to the tree of life,
whose branches stretch out into infinity’s depths.

Give thanks, give praise to the tree of life,
whose leaves cover and provide shelter from worldly strife.

May wisdom flow like a river, filling my well –
knowledge of you soothing my parched lips and restoring my soul.

May I not walk by the power of my own two feet,
but make the journey through life on my knees, yielding to your majesty.

If I find nothing to be grateful for, nothing to praise you for,
surely my eyes are closed like curtains to the light of morning.

If my ears do not hear your name praised throughout the forest,
surely I am deaf to the songs and melodies of mother nature.

Build within me a foundation of thanksgiving –
a cornerstone on which my heart and soul rests.

Build within me an unquenchable thirst to praise your name,
never ceasing to be marveled by the brilliance of your glory.

Still the river of desire that flows through the heart of man,
unceasingly paddling down torrential waters, never satisfied, never able to rest.

Still the winds of lust, of jealous breezes,
our noses consistently sniffing for scents trying to sense what we don’t have.

Let our hearts not beat for what we’re missing,
but become firmly grounded in the grace which we already have.

Let our hearts not beat for foolish wishes,
but boil over with thanksgiving for your endless bounty and be glad.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

Everyday Miracles – A Poem About Finding God in Ordinary Things

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Everyday Miracles – A Poem About Finding God in Ordinary Things

The clamor of your wisdom claps
like a thousand hands in unison throughout the forest,
calling from every treetop,
and whispering within every breath the north wind blows.
Your wisdom can be found in the simplicity of a dew drop
and within the caw of a congregation of crows.

You are an invisible hand, always laboring,
opening and closing doors as you see fit –
not always on my time frame,
not always giving me access to the rooms I wish,
but often times I find ignorance is bliss.
For the paths I most yearn to walk down
you wall off, knowing they lead to my demise.

You are the wise King,
always leading, but serving unceasingly.
With each new day you bring,
I am astonished at your beauty –
as long as I make the time to open my eyes,
as long as my awareness is focused on you
and turned away from the desires of my mind.

Your miracles come in small packages,
constantly sent, but rarely opened.
I look for you in grandiose experiences,
but you keep gently tugging at my sleeve,
urging me to put on my leather gloves
and dig for you in the dirt of the garden.

If I’m not careful,
I can become oblivious to the everyday mystery –
the beauty of a daffodil,
the way sunlight rests upon my windowsill,
the spirit that speaks when my mind gets still,
and the non-coincidental meetings of strangers,
sharing the exact conversations I need to hear.

Open my eyes when they are blind to your majesty,
so that I may witness your glory
in every root, rock, river, and ravine.
May I read the love letters you’ve written
upon every stump I pass in the forest,
every deer that crosses my path,
and every squirrel that leaps from limb to limb.
May I marvel at your everyday miracles
and find your fingerprints upon every piece of evidence
in this case called life.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


 

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Patience – A Poem About Waiting and Trusting in God’s Timing

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Patience – A Poem About Waiting and Trusting in God’s Timing

The agony of waiting, watching the hours
Drains my power and leaves me bitter
Filled with battered pride and endless angst.
But just as it takes a season to cultivate a flower,
I must keep a steadfast heart and wait.

My deepest failure is relying on my own two hands
To control, conquer, defend, and prevent defeat.
For when I am solely responsible for the success of all life’s plans,
My heart lies anxious constantly, consciously looking
To deter life’s inevitable outcomes with each and every beat.

It is in waiting, humbly praying, admitting
That you and you alone know the matter of my fate,
That my anxious and impatient heart can rest
Trusting you know what’s best and patiently, pridelessly wait.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


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Wandering – A Christian Poem About Guilt

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Your commandments loom over me,
Blinding my eyes like a bright light in the midst of darkness.
It hurts my eyes and causes me to turn away
From the angelic presence of your glory.
Isn’t this the essence of the human story,
Locked in a constant battle with our foolish hearts
Year after year choosing to remain chained,
Restrained in the bonds of slavery?

But what is this desire that I should
Choose slavery, to remain under the cloud of your judgement
And continue serving the weak idols of my passions
Instead of an infinite God of unfathomable majesty and might?
Why do I consistently chose to fight against you,
Knowing I will lose?
Why do I fail to chose you even when I desire to do so?
How do I approach the Judge’s bench,
Knowing beyond all doubt that I am guilty?

But your mercy is as endless as beautiful fields of clover,
Covering my rebellious ways beneath blankets of green pastures.
For who among us is without the stain of guilt
That has been branded and tattooed upon our feeble hearts?
If there is no Law, if your ways are simply the creation of the human mind,
Why do I find that I am condemned and guilty
Beyond all reasonable doubt?
It is not simply the shame of hurting my fellow man
That stirs my restless heart to reason.
No. It is a primal instinct woven into the fabric of my being
To alert me when I walk paths away from you,
Allowing me to acknowledge that I am lost without your truth.

But you are a hound dog that never grows tired,
Steadfast, seeking me throughout the ever-changing seasons of my soul,
Loving me when I’m near you,
And loving me just the same when I’ve lost control
Of my sinful desires.
Your fire burns like a raging sun and is just as hot
Among the snows of winter as it is in the summer heat.
My love is your ultimate desire,
Not because you need me, but because you know without you
I will always be incomplete.

We mute our ears to your voice,
Eager to continue along our paths to destruction,
But even the proudest hearts fall to humility
In the presence of your might.
Lord, may your light shine ever bright
And lead us from the darkness of this night,
Which we have created by blocking out
The warming rays of your precious Son.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

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