Fear

Fear is something that enters each of our lives, and makes it’s presence known.

And fear can be a gift to motivate us to move from a dangerous situation.

But the kind of fear that shakes us to the core is something that sews seeds of doubt and distrust in the Holy One, and his plan for our lives.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” -psalm 27:1

Last night at our summer prayer meeting we reflected on this psalm. And it is an honest reflection of our human character to look at the circumstances, and miss the plan of God because fear disables us.

In my life there have been times when fear has invaded, and all but dropped me to my knees.  Yes, the day that I learned i was joining the ranks of the unemployed, and knew that we were already stressed on our finances because Steve had been unemployed for 4 months was a day when for a split second fear flooded everything, overrode all of my understanding of the character and watchcare of God.

And in these 4 years of moving to a new normal in our life there have been many times when fear has knocked on the door.  But fear has no place in my house, or in my life.  Fear is not from God, and fear is destructive to the plans God has for each of our lives, and the witness he has called us to be:

27 Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.

29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; – Phillipians 1:27-29

Adversary, the idea that there is an enemy that desires to devour, destroy, crush and kill is a real concept.  And it is in times when we are stretched beyond our comfort zone that we begin to sense the immensity and depth of the fight that goes on between heaven and hell for our very souls.  Yes, especially once we have yielded our very core to Jesus.  The enemy of our soul does not want us to know the victory and power of our great God and King.  He wants us to live in a defeated state, cowering back when God is saying advance… go forth.

Fear has no place in the kingdom of God apart from a healthy fear of God Almighty, in all his wisdom and holyness.

Fear is also evidence of insecurity, distrust, unbelief.  Wow, harsh words, right?  But true.  If we internalize the truth of scripture, and the promises that the Lord has given us we would live differently.  We would yield our lives and abandon the comfort of our life for the adventure and watch care of a life He calls us to.  Throughout history when there was the opportunity to shrink back in fear or run forward in the power of God we watch as the true character of what we believe comes to the surface.  People like Corrie Ten Boon and Dietrich Bonhoeffer stepped up, believing deeply that God’s Word is sure, true, and solid.  They stood against darkness, evil and all that wrong, and their story shines brightly in contrast to the millions that hid cowering in fear.

And how about the first century church, where believing and following Jesus often meant being captured and fed to lions, oe tortured and made into garden torches for the Caeser.  And how about the countless numbers of believers alive today and living in situations where their life might be required of them at any moment because they follow Jesus.

We know a dear brother and sister who live in Pakistan.  They are among the 1/4 of 1 percent of the Pakistani population that believes in Jesus, surrounded by a harsh world of Islamic rule.  We have prayed for them for 20 years, and watched as the strain of living in such a harsh environment has aged them beyond their years.  But their prayer is not to be relieved of the strain, but to shine brightly for God and have the strength to be the witness they are called to be so that one day in heaven they can say that other Pakistanis believe, and have found salvation in Jesus.  Fear is not an option there either. Fear is not an option because they know who they believe in, and they have seen his character, his goodness, his love, and his keeping power.

When we choose to shed our insecurities, lay down the many ways we limit God to work in our lives, and yield all of this to God he will show us his love and his care.

In my life I have noticed that when i lay fear down at the feet of Jesus, and ask for wisdom to move forward in his power, and his leadership that God himself delights to respond.  Is it scarey at moments – absolutely.  But is it worth letting go of myself for the riches and depth of insight that God will show us – absolutely!

Fear is not an option.  Fear is the prisoner of war that is constantly returned to the commander in this war for our very minds and souls.

Advertisements

Are you an underdog?

underdog

 

I just got my booksneeze copy of ” God of the Underdogs – when the odds are against you, God is for you” by Matt Keller, and i have been devouring chapters, resonating with the ideas he is writing about.  I will tell you alot more when i finally do my book review, but lets start with an idea, and think it through.

Underdog – no not the cartoon you see above, but the person who just defys human logic as the best choice for leader.  Yes, not the popular, smartest, strongest or most financially equipped… but the person who is yielded to the will of God.  We love underdogs in good stories – if you are like me you want to see them succeed – beat the odds – find their place in a successful way.  Underdogs are those people who dont seem likely to fulfill dreams they have been given.

And why do we judge people like that?  Human logic wants to always categorize people, find nice neat little places and categories… the successful, the beautiful, the rich, the poor…. need i go on?  Beyond what our eyes see, and what our minds want to conjure up are people with a heart, and dreams.

Have you ever believed that God has a purpose for you, but….???  We fill in the “but” with a plethora of other things – the economy is bad, i am insecure, the timing is not right…. We each have a call to our lives, but that call takes a leap of faith and a willingness to risk it all.  Matt Keller begins working through some of the people of the bible, and how they have struggled with the call of God on their lives, and their human reasoning to doubt, underestimate or not be willing to move with God in blind faith.  Samuel doubted God when he called Samuel to go to find a new king to replace Saul.  Human fear (Saul was a warrior with a powerful and fierce streak) wanted to override the call of God.  How many times do we lay aside what God is calling us to and cave into the fear of someone, something, or perhaps the fear of stepping out of the comfort zone?

I have believed deep in my soul that there is a deeper purpose for me in God’s kingdom… He has taken me through some deep water,and showed me his deep love and saving grace and that is not by accident.  The bible is very clear that every experience, even when it is out of the perfect will of God, can be used in our lives as examples of how God moves in our lives, and how he can take even the most wretched situation and use it for his glory.  Yes, we all have history of living, struggling, and working through this salvation we have been given… filtered through the situations of our lives.  And Yes, God has a plan for each of us beyond the call to salvation.  As a young believer I was convinced that we were called to be missionaries…. we prepared, planned, and and got so close when doors closed.  But while that door closed my belief that there is a deeper purpose for me has not changed. In fact, it grew deeper, stronger, and more “unrequited”.  I have always been involved, volunteering for things, teaching classes, cleaning, cooking, and organizing.  And it has been good, but there is a hunger for something more.

Being honest here I must tell you that I turned my focus to workplace ministry – and how to share my faith in the marketplace.  And I threw my heart and soul into a career – educating myself, preparing and becoming the best i could be.  In the workplace quickly there were answers – hungry and hurting people ended up in my cubicle; prayer was abundant, and this was good.  But that nagging sense that God has me targeted for another purpose still kept coming up.

This deep sense of a purpose continues to magnify itself in me as I realize my own inadequacy.  When the economy went south, and my hard working career came to a crashing halt it caused me to ask hard questions. Inadequacy coupled with a big blow to confidence quickly changed my hopes of lifelong workplace ministry.  There has to be a plan here.  I turned to the church for support and encouragement and i found it in little packages – a word of encouragement from one person, prayer from another.  I honestly think i wanted an accountability group – several trustworth friends who will hold me to task, as would I.   I realize how much the church needs courageous examples of people living for God’s glory, sold out, or in the popular term of our day “All In”.

So what does “All In” look like for a woman that is a lot more of “Super Chicken”, fearing one more round of human rejection, or not willing to put myself in a place where accountability becomes the church gossip.  Wounds of the past have changed my courageous zeal into restrained curiosity to follow God.  “All In” looks different though.  All in means shedding the wounds, listening to the word of God, allowing him to fan the dreams and passions he has placed in my heart, and following him as he says move.

In the midst of the wrestling match about being all in I confided to Steve that one thing I really have always wanted but lacked is a safe small group where life can be shared, filtered, prayed over, and we can know we are each other’s keeper, encourager, prayer partner.  It must be an atmosphere that is fiercely guarded and protected as a safe place, allowing us to work through our lives as we yield them to God.  Steve and I have that kind of a relationship – but i meant among women.  My heart has been to see something grow, partly for my own selfish wish to belong, and be accepted, and partly because there is a gaping void of this.  Oh, its not a personality issue – i think we are all just so very busy that we do not set aside time to grow together.  And we do not take the time to build the trust we need for such a group.  The tyranny of the urgent crowds out the essential of life.  In my own life that i must pencil in a date and time, make it my word that i will be there, and then honor my word and follow through.

So underdog – what has God called you to?  and what have you sensed as a deep passionate dream that your soul senses God has placed there?  And how are you being called to impact the world?  And what lies, misgivings, insecurities have you layed in the path of that dream?

Samuel put every excuse before God when he was called to visit Jesse and his family for the purpose of selecting the next king.  His fear of the angry warrior that was Saul crumbled as an excuse God would not allow him to believe. And his obedience resulted in valuable lessons on how God selects leaders versus how humans do.  And his obedience resulted in a new king who would be in the lineage of Jesus.

So far this book has been thrilling, and encouraging.  And i have been reminded that every person God has used in the bible has been an underdog – whether insecurity, or fear, or lack of popularity, or appearance, or economic status…. Underdogs.  We are all underdogs… but we have a courageous, wise and all powerful God leading us… so we must follow.

Rolling forward

Steve and I signed up for a three day seminar on business management, strategies for sourcing out financing, and wealth creation. What an interesting first day it was. Woven in the many discussions was a theme that I personally have been wrestling with – Courage. The speaker said something about either we are motivated by fear to stay where we are, or we are motivated by courage to step out and move forward. Fear… I can so relate to the idea that fear keeps us restrained and resigned to doing what will pay the bills, but not necessarily what we love, are gifted to do, or what energizes us. I am not getting any younger, and what I have been doing all these years has so very much seemed like Bill Murray’s movie “Groundhog Day” – get up, do all the same things, go to sleep, and wake up the next day to do it all over again. Yikes!!!
Perhaps since 911 there has been a restless awakening of something in me that wants more from life than a mundane routine. Yes, predictable routine is a good thing but there is no risk, no adventure, no stretching outside your comfort zone, and definately no discovering what is hidden away deep inside each of us. After the loss of my brilliant job at the hospital I began to understand that this was not a bad thing, but the answer to my hope to be stretched, and to discover some of those hidden characteristics that I have been wired to bless the world with. But like a frenetic maniac, i initially lunged forward in a series of fits and starts, defying my graduate school business education logic. What I did had some measure of success. But there is something to be said for wise planning, and careful research. At the heart of anything there is a decision to either live in fear, and let that fear shackle my feet or make the brave and courageous decision to move out, to roll forward and discover new territory.

Today, in the midst of this seminar I heard him speak of how a decision to be courageous, and step out of the comfort of the routine is not for everyone…. but there is something wonderful about it. What have I to loose…. and what have I to gain?

Another amazing thing one of the speakers said was that we are put on this earth to bless each other. and every day when we wake up we need to think about how we can serve others, and bless them. I realized that I cannot bless anyone until I get my heart and mind in the right place. And then it hit me…. I have been loving being the art gypsy. It has been refreshing to see happy people enjoying life, and our offerings blessing them in different ways. I have a joy in my soul when I am using my hands, and my creativity. And I see a new life coming back to both Steve and I. We are finding a joy that was smuthered under layers of job stress, and career pressures. But the good news is the layers are melting away, leaving us more free to pursue what we have been designed to do on this earth. What exactly is still a work in progress, but I want to say that I want courage. I want to defy the odds and wade out into the territory of adventure, and watch as our faith and our joy both grow.

Wild, Free and Known by God

What an amazing title. What an amazing retreat. Last weekend I attended the ladies retreat from my church. I was looking forward to the time to meet with God, and I came with a teachable spirit and a heart desiring to be surrendered to God. And God showed up in powerful ways.

From the small details to the accommodations to the prayer time and the sensitivity of each of us to the work the Lord wanted to do in our hearts it was amazing. So what was amazing about the weekend?
> We gathered and our hearts were in unison.
> Each of us came with anticipation of something wonderful.
> The teaching was real, clear, and practical examples of faith
> We laughed, we cried, we prayed, we shared, and it was with a heart of confidential trust.
> We were able to be vulnerable and it was safe
> We were accepted for who we are and Loved by our savior.

So what have I taken away from my time? I have asked the Lord to lift the load of my worries and cares, to calm my heart and assauage my fears and just love me, pursue me without restraint.
I must confess in my own strength the fears reappear 0 then I am reminded that my life is not my own, and I surrender the struggles back to the Lord.

The butterfly on this page is a reminder of the beauty of the retreat found on the decorations, name tags, our booklet. It is also a reminder of the transformation that the Lord is doing in my life. Caterpillers and coccoons are not so attractive, but through a transformation process the most beautiful and incredible butterfly emerges to fly and show off the beauty God has created it to display. My life feels a bit like that caterpiller now trapped in a coccoon – struggling, unable to do what I once could do, and unable to live life as I have… but the transformation is not complete yet. The struggle of this time is preparing me to emerge with a new beauty, a new depth to my soul and my spirit.

“Lord, I thank you for women who love you, and are eager to grow, to share the struggles, and pray through until you have seen the process through. I want to be wild for you, free in you and I am so thankful that I am known by you. In this time of sorrow and suffering may I continue to surrender each moment to you. I give you the fear that rises in my soul, and ask that you will replace the fear with your presence, be my strength, and my wisdom. Pursue me and love me deep in my soul so that I can know you more, grow in your character, and be more conformed to your image. I love you and thank you for your grace and mercy in my life. In you I trust because you are good. Amen”