The other day I was with my family and my youngest son just wasn't himself.  I asked if he was feeling bad.  He just said he was tired.  No reason to be, just tired.  He wasn't himself.  He was quiet, withdrawn, never smiling, little response to anything.  We thought he might be sick.  But, I kept probing. (it's what I do)  Are you sick?  Are you worried about something?  Are you stressed?  He didn't think so, but then again he didn't know what stress felt like.

I remember those days.  I used to think stress was something other people had.  Mainly, I just didn't know what stress felt like.  That, and I didn't know that the source of stress wasn't from just negative stimuli.  We accumulate a certain amount of stress points for the death of a loved one or the birth of a child.  Stress can just as easily come from losing a job or from getting a new one.

Let's see:  He's about to start a new job, sign his first mortgage and buy a replacement for the car he has.  Stress, stress and stress.

No matter what the coroner says about us, we all die from stress.  Whatever gets us was stress-induced. Think of yourself as an egg and the world around you like two big hands, holding you.  Every time a major change comes in our life, those hands put a little more force into holding us a little tighter.  New job....squeeze.  Moving to a new city...squeeze.  Divorce...SQUEEZE.  Promotion...SQUEEZE!  Unexpected Root Canal...SQUEEZE!  Enough squeezing and your shell is gonna crack.  And, trust me, that's a mess.  BEEN THERE. DONE THAT.  GOT THE T-SHIRT AND THE SCARS.

So...what's the answer?  Here's God's prescription: "Don't worry about anything.  Just pray about everything.  Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers".  Yes, I'm aware it's easier said than done.  But, if God asks us to do it...then it's doable.

1.  Recognize that every change brings stress...victories as well as defeats
2.  Acknowledge them
3.  Rather than internalizing them, pray about them
4.  Prayer is the spiritual exercise for your soul and mind.  Physical exercise is for the body.  Get
5.  Understand this is waging war on your mind and body.  Take it seriously.  But don't worry about



OK, so it's no secret...I love cactus!  I have a cactus garden in my back yard.  Of course, with a pool, some people think I've lost it.  But, when everyone else's petunias are wilting and burning up, my cacti are soaking up the sun and loving it.

One item in my garden is blue agave.  These are beautiful succulents that have those blue-green leaves.  I love them.  However, they have been a frustration to me.  What I want for my garden is for them to get big.  However, that doesn't seem to be their priority.  Rather than putting all their energies into growing themselves, they prefer to put their energy into making more blue agaves.  They are constantly "pupping"...sending out shoots that will become new agaves.  Frustrating to this gardener, but teaching a great lesson.

I'm only a part-time cactus gardener, but a full-time pastor.  I like cactus, but I love Christ-followers.  However, the frustration that I have with Christ-followers is exactly the opposite of what I face with my agaves.  Rather than being overly concerned with "pupping", Christ-followers have a tendency to be more consumed (or should I say, self-consumed) with their own personal lives, many times to the exclusion of spiritual reproduction.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard from believers the complaint, "I'm just not getting fed".  I suppose my response to that should be, "How many "pups" have you reproduced?".  In other words, if this Christ-life you've found is so great that you want to grow in it, then how many people are you telling about it?  That may be a better indicator of your growth, or desire to grow.  Spiritual maturity is more than just a constant whining, "Feed me!".  It should possibly be measured in reproduction.

What frustrates me in agaves is exactly what I want to see more of in Christ-followers.  I want to see more blue agave believers...exerting more and more of their energy on making more blue agave believers and less on just getting "bigger".  That's real growth!