Linda went to start her car the other day, and the battery was dead. Apparently she hadn’t driven enough recently to keep it charged.
A few days earlier, I was walking up the three steps to our front porch, and I tripped on the top step, and down I went, face first. I guess that’s what happens when you’re trying to carry something while thinking about something else.
These days I consider it good if I can keep one thought in my head, let alone two or three at the same time. I mentioned the problem to one of our daughters, and I blamed it on creeping dementia. “No, Dad,” she said, “that’s pandementia.”
Pandementia – I think the word perfectly describes our current situation. After nearly a year of decidedly non-normal behavior, many of us have gone just a little bonkers trying to cope.
I told my chiropractor about falling, and she said, “You should have come to see me right away.” Don’t you hate it when people lecture you, and they’re right?
For weeks now, I’ve wanted to start a new exercise routine. Wanting is as far as I’ve gotten. The new routine would be on top of my regular routine of stretching and light exercise to help my back. I don’t remember the last time I did that.
I never figured that I would be one to fall into this sense of endless drifting. Not me, I’m too strong for that! But I have to admit that I have a major case of pandementia. What can I do to shake myself out of this mental quicksand? What can you do to shake yourself out of it?
Mindful that I always preach to myself as much as I do to you, let’s proceed under the jaunty title of “Seven Steps to Beat Pandementia.”
Let’s begin by reading Philippians 4:6-9 from the Common English Bible. The Apostle Paul writes:
Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.
Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.
For many of us, those are familiar words – almost too familiar. Let’s hear them again a different way, this time from The Message by Eugene Peterson.
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
There you have them, Paul’s seven steps to beat pandementia. Let’s count them out.
First, don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. One way or another, anxiety is always crippling. It’s a mental dis-ease that does more to harm than many physical diseases.
Henri Nouwen says that worry means our hearts are in the wrong place. We’re focused on “many things” rather than the one thing that Jesus says is necessary (Luke 10:41-42). Our lives are so fragmented that we’re “all over the place” mentally and spiritually. We’re in such spiritual crisis that we may have an address but we’re never home.
Instead of worrying, pray. That’s step two. I love this phrasing from The Message: “Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers.” Don’t hesitate to tell God all your troubles. Don’t hold back. God is a good listener. God already knows your concerns, even before you express them, but you need to put them into words to express them freely to God and to yourself. You may be surprised how much healing occurs when you hear yourself saying the words, in your head or out loud.
As you pray, always give thanks. That’s step three. As bad as some things are, other things are still good. Give thanks for the good, even if your heart is breaking over the bad.
As you praise God even in the midst of your pain, you may be surprised again at the change that can occur within you. This is step four now. As you pray, allow yourself to be filled with a sense of God’s wholeness. This is a sense that no matter how broken the world is, and how broken some parts of your life are, God is still working to mend all things. This sense is what used to be called the peace that passes all understanding. This is the peace that surpasses all we can fathom, the peace that keeps our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
Fifth, focus on what’s good, and shun bad thoughts. A simple way to remember this is the old Johnny Mercer song that’s as true today as it was in the 1940s.
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
Yeah, sometimes pop culture gets it right.
Sixth, practice what you’ve learned from role models who model Christ. You can best remember and honor those saints whom you have known by doing as they did. If you follow their good examples, the God of peace will be with you, and you will feel God’s peace within you.
The seventh and final step is a summary of all that came before. It’s a firm call to action to all of us when we feel weak and when we stumble. This message comes to us in a frequent refrain heard throughout the Bible, but especially in the New Testament.
When the Prophet Elijah falls exhausted, the messenger of the Lord comes to him and says, “Get up and eat!’’ (1 Kings 19:7)
When God commissions the prophet Jonah, God says, “Get up, and go!” (Jonah 1:2)
When King Herod threatens the life of the infant Jesus, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and says, “Get up and go.” (Matthew 2:13)
When a crippled man is lowered through the roof to him, Jesus says, “Get up, pick up your cot, and go home.” (Matthew 9:6)
To a man at the Bethesda pool who has been unable to walk for 38 years, Jesus says, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8)
To the leper who returns to thank Jesus for healing him, Jesus says, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.” (Luke 17:19)
To blind Bartimaeus who calls out to Jesus for mercy, people say, “Get up, Jesus is calling you.” (Mark 10:48-49)
When the daughter of Jairus the synagogue leader dies, Jesus takes her by the hand and says, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And she does. (Mark 5:41)
When Peter is called to the bedside of a stricken saint, he says, “Tabitha, get up!” And she does. (Acts 9:40)
After he is transfigured before them, Jesus tells his disciples, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:7)
When he awakens his sleeping disciples in Gethsemane, he says, “Get up. My time is at hand.” (Matthew 26:46)
When Jesus accosts Saul on the road to Damascus, he says, “Get up. I have plans for you.” (Acts 9:6, 22:10, 26:16)
When God calls Ananias to help Saul, God says: “Get up and go find Saul.” (Acts 9:11)
When Peter is bound in prison, an angel appears and loosens his chains and says, “Get up quickly.” (Acts 12:6-7)
Those are just some of the “get up” commands of the Bible. Notice that we’re not told simply to “get up” but to “get up” and do something. Also notice that in these commands is an implicit promise. It takes gumption and resolve to get up when you’re down. But you never act alone. God is always with you. God is always at your side. And God may provide that extra “oomph!” to lift you up.
In these long days of pandemic, it is so easy to become bed ridden, house ridden, habit ridden, self ridden. Don’t fall into this trap. Don’t let pandementia get the best of you.
Read Philippians 4:6-9 again and again for those “Seven Ways to Beat Pandementia.” Or remember just this one.
When the battery dies, get up and recharge it. When you fall on your face, get up and get going. When it’s time for your exercises, get up and get moving. Whatever happens, always get up – and keep following Jesus, who’s always there to lead you.
This message was delivered online January 31, 2021, to Edgerton United Methodist Church, Edgeton, Kansas, from Philippians 4:6-9.