When my fear is confronted by grace…

Love GOD first More at http://ibibleverses.christianpost.com/:

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. James Stephens


Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me— Psalm 49:5

The righteous will see and fear;

    they will laugh at you, saying,“Here now is the man

    who did not make God his stronghold

but trusted in his great wealth

    and grew strong by destroying others!” – Psalm 52 6-7

 

I just can’t get this whole idea of fear out of my head lately. With the revived debate regarding refugees that has infiltrated life once again the topic is ever more on my mind.

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

My latest literary obsession, C.S. Lewis once said “You cannot know, only believe – or not.”

What truth!

And yet, there is fear again…surrounding the borders of my heart and mind, laying it siege and slowly, slowly choking the life out of me. Sucking the hope from my limbs, and the love from my heart.

I’ve been horrified following this debate amongst people I know…amongst Christians and family members that I know specifically. Their words, generally typed in absurd amounts of capital letters (when did shouting become a thing in the written English language?) just sound so desperately fearful. Jihad this and jihad that and Muslim this and Muslim that…and in the blink of an eye people are lost amongst the labels that others have chosen for them

Yet, I am no different. When I wake up every morning I have to will myself out of bed and out the door and in to work on what I so often refer to as “the trenches”. And every day I am met with the thought that I don’t make enough money, and I won’t be able to pay my bills, and what if I crash on my way to work, or I forget a student in the bathroom, or this or that or the other thing.

And when it comes to refugees, I am afraid too. When I first think of  refugees, I think – holy crap, they want to kill us. There is no way we let them live, never mind come here! what if they murder me in my sleep? What if they murder my children? Take me job? Inflate the economy? The list goes on and on.

Yes, my mind is also filled with fear, just like you, who so viciously argue against allowing refugees from here, there, or everywhere in to our great country.

But that is where the similarity ends.

Yes, my mind is filled with fear. I see the danger. I see the potential for harm.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care because that is what God has called me…no, not just me. That is what God has called any person who has been saved by grace to do.

There is no way to sugar-coat this foundational truth.

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God. Ecclesiastes 5:7. This is who I fear. I fear that if I allow my human instincts to overwhelm my heart, I will not be living in the fear of the Lord but will be living in the fear of man. And that same fear for Him who created me and you  (and Muslims by the way) calls me to love others. To love very.single.human.being. Even if I don’t want to. Even if it’s card. Even if it’s scary. Even if it means I could die in the process.

So yes, I fear. But I know my life is so much more than sitting in my comfortable little home…so I swallow that fear and carry on.

But so much more than that, I try to understand. So much of the hatred and fear that I see my fellow Christians and family members is simply a lack of understanding. A limited worldview, and a failure to educate themselves.

Marie Curie said ““Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Which is really so perfect for the point that I am trying now to make.

Don’t just belief the things that your father, or sister, or pastor, or favorite conservative radio host, or politician tell you to believe. Really take the time to educate yourself about the facts of other people groups.

Again, here I think that it is fear that holds people back. Fear of the unknown. Fear of challenges themselves and having to change their beliefs and views. Because after all, the familiar is comfortable. I am so thankful for my very public-college education that required me to take two courses on culture and religion. I studied the history and culture of Africa for one semester (which is a rant for another day), and one semester studying Asia and The Middle East.

This was the best thing that I have ever done in my life when it comes to learning about others.

It confronted so many of the stereotypes that I unknowingly held for these people groups ( I refuse to label them). It combated so many of the groundless fears that my mind used to create prejudice and hate. And it opened my eyes and enabled me to see that these people too are just caught in the struggles and trials of everyday life, born into a system that tries to define them. Lost in the rush of this world, yet longing for so much more than their inherited religion can offer them.

So now, when I fear, I remember all I have learned. And then I put myself in the shoes of those refugees. I fight back against the fear-led desire to dehumanize them…and slowly their blurred faces come clearly into view. I imagine them taking up residence is some temporary housing next to my quiet little house, on a scenic little cul-de-sac in small town New England. There they are, heads wrapped in their traditional dress, skin much darker than mine, words so different than mine…living there next to me with their children who bear the physical scars of their life experiences and the mental burden of all that they have seen. Cooking their food, same as I do…cleaning their emergency tent, same as I clean my home, sleeping as I do, waking as I do, breathing as I do…holding their precious little babes same as I do. And they are afraid.

I imagine myself at first being afraid and wary…probably locking all of my doors and windows and making my children sleep in my bedroom with me…after all you just never know. The next day I’d make my husband conceal all of the hand-guns that we own and we would bring them cinnamon rolls or some other traditional American “welcome to the neighborhood” greeting – cuz that’s what my mother taught me to do when you have new neighbors. Of course, we probably wouldn’t understand each other, but in my experience with English Language Learners, sometimes a smile and a kind gesture is all you need. And besides, love has no words.

And slowly life continues, little by little every day, learning to trust, continuing in love. And while this little dream of mine will never likely be realized, and could likely also include my house blowing up in the middle of the night, well, somehow it doesn’t make a difference.

Because I’d rather confront my fears and live in love than remain in my safe little comfort zone.

Not just because I want to be a super-cool person, not because it is easy to do so. But because when I received grace through the death of Jesus on the cross, that’s what He called me to do.

And now, when I think of the complacency of so many Christians that I know and am surrounded by and their scathing remarks regarding the current plight of so many individuals throughout the world it literally makes my blood boil. My heart stops for a moment because the rage inside of me is just too much to handle.

But then another feeling emerges, and I honestly feel so bad for these friends and family members who possess such a limited worldview and who cannot even realize that their lives and attitudes are ruled by fear of man instead of fear of God. Whose attitudes towards their fellow man are wholly void of love and understanding. And my heart breaks for them, that they are so engrossed by fear and so immature in their spiritual walk that they fail to realize the perspective of another.

And I beg God to challenge my faith. So that I never arrive at that place of complacency. Whatever I do, whether I live or die…all the while knowing that in death me, my husband, and my sweet little babes will have achieved the final victory. And though death may separate us for a moment, eternity awaits us. And the words “well done, my good and faithful servant” are worth more than any comfort here on this earth.

And so Kreade and Ellie, I pray that God challenges your faith. I pray that you do not remain complacent in your faith, but challenge yourselves and always seek to gain an understanding of the world and the people around you. I pray that above all, you do not fear man, but fear God instead, and allow this fear to cause you to love all those around you…just as God loves you – without regard for self, wholly and passionately, not matter the cost.

 

 

“What do you fear, lady?” Aragorn asked.

“A cage,” Éowyn said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

 

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When Middle Earth Becomes Reality…

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Fear does not have to make you cruel or cowardly, fear can make you kind. -Doctor Who

“To fear is to have more faith in your antagonist than in Christ.”
D.L. Moody, The Overcoming Life

Lately, I feel that my dreams have finally come true. And in a way of sorts, they have. Here I live, in my comfortable heated home, in a beautiful part of the countryside, with the ability to sit by my fire and smoke my pipe, and if it weren’t for the fact that I lack hair growing between the toes of my nonexistent tough-skinned feet, my life could nearly pass for the complacent, comfortable, unadventurous life of a Hobbit.

Middle Earth at last.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

I am afraid that that basically sums up so many of us out there. So many of us Christians. Paralyzed by fear. Swallowed up with doubt. Empty as a clanging-gong or cymbal. Wholly without love or care. Or eyes that see and feel.

We are so privileged to live without fear of death or rape or hunger or pain. But of course, many will argue that we have many things to fear. And yes, we do. There is always the possibility of a horrible car crash, that vaccines will kill us, that non-organic food will cause our sudden demise. But really. We are so privileged, to be burdened by fear that in the perspective of the larger world, seem so trivial and mundane.

People are dying out there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

And no one seems to care.

I literally don’t get it.

How have our Western Christian hearts become so callous? Truly it blows my mind.

We have forgotten to feel. We have allowed our hearts to become stone, and fallen prey to the Devil’s lie that it could never happen to us…and that it shouldn’t.

As if we are simply too good to ever experience the horror of what so many others live day in and day out.

I get it. We have issues of our own. We have homeless people, and veterans who probably deserve more. Our education system is hugely flawed. Our politicians largely selfish. Our food system may or may not be healthy. The Mexicans keep crossing the border. We have too many taxes, not enough money, we work too much, sleep too little, we never have enough time. We have problems of our own.

We are Hobbits.

Plain folk, who have no use for adventures. Who care not one bit for those who live elsewhere. With our heads in the sand, and our hearts guarded by stone. We care not and do nothing.

But still, we fear.

It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.

And the ache in my heart has been fully reawakened by the recent issue surrounding refugees from Syria that has become such a hot topic lately.

My first reaction to my fellow Christians is completely less than wholesome – they’re f***ing refugees for Gods sake!

Refugee noun someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons; :  one that flees; especially :  a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution

And I don’t care if our of the 1000 of them are hurting women and children and one belongs to that infamous terrorist group who I won’t give the satisfaction of naming.

We can’t just ignore what is happening in the rest of the world.

With every chance we have to help, and every choice we make to do nothing, we only allow our hearts to be overtaken by stone.

In this highly political issue, I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. I am not saying that we allow them into our homes. Although I am not saying that we should not.

I only urge my fellow Christians to look at these people as Jesus would. To see the hurt and the pain, to acknowledge the sin and the shame, but ultimately to love and treat with care and respect.

Whatever that means for us.

“Bilbo saw that the moment had come when he must do something.” 

I urge you to prayerfully consider what it is that God would have us to do. Because I cannot believe for one second that He simply wants us to turn our eyes, blind to the reality that could have been ours.

 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The fact is staring us in the face. And something has to be done.

And in my heart, I feel that the end is nearing.

As a child, the thought of the world ending or the though of dying was just too much for me. I have lived under the oppression of anxiety of these things for so long.

But it is amazing how God gives you what you need.

In one of my psychology classes I learned that normal development prepares you for death. And that the majority of people are truly ready to die when the time comes. I was very comforted by this. Death has scared me since I was young. And it is comforting to know that God has designed us to die, and die well.

I never thought that at 27 I would be alright with the thought that the end times are more than likely here.

A year or so ago, my pastor showed a video of a woman and her family who were being persecuted in some country somewhere. The family had the chance to leave the country, but chose to stay and share His love with whoever they could. The video told of the woman giving her life, literally, to the hands of the Lord. Then her husband, then her children. Through prayer, they committed themselves. And decided that if they were to die, their last words would speak of forgiveness to their killers.

I really struggled with this.

I made myself imagine being in this situation.

And it was hell.

But it is amazing how God’s word speaks.

So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. ~ Hebrews 13:6

This is the meaning of Azrielle’s name. Her name literally means the Lord is my helper. And this is her verse.

I always wanted my children to have names full of meaning…and sometimes I wonder if there is so much more awaiting them because of it.

And now I have peace. Because this woman- I wish I knew her name, and the rest of her story – has helped me to know with every part of my heart that no matter what is going on around me, no matter how He chooses to use my life and the life of those I love, He will be enough. He will give me what I need.

And I refuse to live in fear. 

And I will see people.

And I will do whatever it takes to allow my life to be the difference, to exude the love, and tell the story that gives Life to all.

Whatever it takes.

And so Kreade and Ellie…

“Things are drawing towards the end now, unless I am mistaken. There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep your heart up!”

In this world full of so many things – decisions and choices, hatred and persecution, right and wrong and everything in between…never loose heart.

Because if it is the end, we have a job to do.

We must be the faithful church. The ones who persevere. The ones who overcome. The ones who keep His word.

We must be great and do great as we allow ourselves to be filled with His love.

And never loose heart.

“Where there’s life there’s hope.”

Do not allow your hearts to become stone. Even if we are called to lay down our lives for the brethren.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.”

And when that day comes, I will see you when all things are made new.

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” John 3:17

 

 

The Immobilization of Fear

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
― Plato

“Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”
― Dante AlighieriInferno

“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Children of Húrin

I recently read on Facebook (whether it be true or not) about a new tactic that gangs are using as initiation. It seems like there is always some new horrific action required to join a gang that keep police departments on their toes trying to alert the general public. Whether true or not, close to home or far away, I was contemplating driving right to the police station and getting a concealed weapons permit. If some gang member wanna-be is gonna drive after me trying to shoot me and everyone in my car, well, I want to be able to shoot the sucker back. But really, I’m terrible with handguns and I have no idea where I’d conceal it anyways…so what were my options? I could stay at home and hide all day, only venturing out into the world to get groceries and go to church. But reality is, tragedy could  strike anywhere. I know it’s awful to think about but really, a gas leak could cause a house explosion, you could get in a car accident on the way to get groceries, you could be the victim of a random crime at the grocery store, or fall prey to hatred of religion while attending church. Anything could happen anywhere and anytime. And let’s face it. This is downright scary…and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is filled with fear by the thought of such horrid occurrences. So the question remains: how do we live amongst all these fears and possibilities? Do we hide away in our safe little homes, away from people, away from the world?

If you know anything about the life of the Apostle Paul and all of the tragedy he endured you probably will agree with me when I say that, as Christians we are called to face the fear that surrounds us and refuse to let it immobilize us. God commands us to “go into all the World”, and no one took this more seriously than the Apostle Paul. Really, who isn’t fearful about going into the world and preaching something that often leads to persecution and suffering. I;m sure Paul’s flesh was filled with fear, yet his Spirit filled “new man” was sustained by Godly peace. Paul didn’t let fear of being stoned, killed, or persecuted stop him from being a light in the world. In 2 Corinthians he writes ” For we do not want you to be ignorant, bretheren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired of life. Yes. We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that he will still deliver us. (1:8-10)”. And isn’t this heavenly weapon so much more useful than a gun? No matter where we are, and what tragedy could befall us our faith still remains. If we don’t remember that God is there, surrounding us, protecting us, bringing His will to pass as we live every moment it is so easy to become immobilized by fear. Paul didn’t let fear stop him from being a light in the world and allowing God to use him to bring many into the fold of faith.

Likewise, we should not allow fear to immobilize us. We need to go out into our little worlds and be a light. God doesn’t call us to sit at home with our fear, he calls us to GO. I hear so often about people who are immobilized by fear. Christians who pull their children from school because there was a bomb threat, those who stop going to church because they heard that somewhere some wacko went into a church and shot a lot of people. I even know someone who refuses to drive anywhere except the town they live in because they are just too afraid of what else lies beyond. I’ll admit. These choices make me sad. I get it; no one wants to put their kid in harms way. No one wants to put themselves in harms way. But the reality is, bad things can happen to anyone, anywhere. We can’t protect our kids from everything…it’s too much…and we just aren’t capable of doing it. God is the ultimate protector, and really, our children are His. It’s kind of this huge leap of faith that we take when we come to grips with reality: we can’t protect ourselves and our children from everything. But we can take comfort in the fact that there is a greater protector: the Almighty God.

I say these words to myself as I realize this truth. While this is a very depressing and not-so-fun-to-think-about topic it is reality nonetheless. Evil is all around us, and fear seeks to immobilize. But God calls us to put our trust in Him, accept the fact that He is the ultimate protector, and GO OUT INTO THE WORLD. If no one goes, there will be no light left in the world. If we all hide away in our safe little homes there will be no one left to be an Example for Him. Until Christ returns this world will be filled with evil. Even still, God calls…no, He commands us to step out into the world and live for Him. I personally don’t believe that this applies only to foreign missions. Our neighbors need to see the light that we bring just as much as the rest of the world. The elderly couple at the grocery store needs to see His light in you as much as someone in Africa. The people you see and are able to pray for while serving at a local soup kitchen need the hope that you bring as much as the poor in Albania. Even those gang members need to see His light.

There are many excuses we can make. I’m too busy to get involved in my community…I’m a mom, so I can’t really get out and do anything…I really am just too afraid….I might get sick if I volunteer somewhere…I don’t have time…I have to be somewhere else…the excuses are endless. But I think it’s time to stop using excuses to cover up our fear. The Apostle Paul didn’t just say that someone was threatening to kill him so he was going to stop preaching. No. He stood in the face of fear and possible death and carried on with God’s command. We need to do the same.

I hope that one day you realize this, Ellie. Do not let fear immobilize you. Do not be content to sit at home with a false sense of safety ignoring God’s command to be a light unto the world. Fear is all around you, and always will be, until He returns. In the meantime, God wants you to do everything you possibly can to bring His message of hope to those who are without hope. There are many excuses, but excuses they remain. Always remember the Apostle Paul, and seek to follow his example.

All At Once

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

― Corrie ten Boom

“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Children of Húrin

It seems that so often in life it all comes at once. You think you have it all figured out and everything is going to go smoothly…and in the blink of an eye your well laid plans are lying in a thousand pieces before you. There can be so much fear in life. So much fear in uncertainty, in decisions, in each and every moment of the day. I admit that sometimes, no, most times I am swallowed up by this fear, this lack of trust in Him who knows it all, sees it all, and cares for all. It’s easy to say that we trust God; but do we really? We can say it, but how to we live it? I think that half the battle lies in acknowledging the fear, in admitting to ourselves that we doubt. And then it all comes down to how we live in the midst of our fear and doubt. I say the best thing to do is to face the fear head on, do the thing that scares you, make the uncertain choice, and all the while know the peace in your heart that He holds your life in His hand; trust your unknown future to a known God.

Since fear is such a huge and recurring theme in my life I can venture a guess that it will be something that Ellie will pick up on as she learns and grows. It is not, however, something that I want her to learn. I do not want her to learn to fear…and children learn so much by what they see. So now it’s up to me. If only for her I cannot allow fear to reign and take hold in my life. Instead of inspiring her to fear every day and life as a whole I want to inspire her to stand in the face of fear and life and hold fast to the knowledge that God holds her future in His hands. I also don’t want her to have unrealistic expectations. Fear does exist, fear is acceptable to feel, but it is not something that we should allow to control us. Instead of hiding my fear from Ellie, I aim to acknowledge it. But not just that, I aim to live my life in a way that faces fear and ultimately overcomes.

Aristotle said, “He who has overcome his fears will truly be free”. This is truth about life that I want Ellie to know. And will I continue to struggle with uncertainty, overwhelming circumstances, and fear? Of course! It’s not a one-time battle. One fear dismissed can open the door for another fear to manifest itself in a person’s life. But it is the struggle that builds character and confidence, and it is this struggle that Ellie will see; I can only pray that she will learn from me not to fear, but to overcome. And with God’s grace and peace she can; and I can too.