Facing Fear

fear is a liar

(source)

I ran outside today. It had stopped raining. It’s been a few days since I could say something like that. The air smelled good, filled with the scent of growing things. But also woodsmoke, since temperatures still start out in the high 30s, early 40s every day.

I cruised downhill. I reminded myself that I’d have to go back up again, and not to get too cocky. The skies partly cleared, drifting clouds floating above me. Lavender bushes put out their fragrance as I ran by.

I thought about fear. I tend to pick up the emotions of people I’m close to, and fear seems predominant at the moment.  Of course, my own fears add to the muddle. It’s fear about the future, fear of failure, all the ones that keep you up at night. At the conference we attended this weekend, one of the speakers reminded us that as believers, we’re thermostats, not thermometers. We don’t reflect the current attitude; we change it. I don’t want to be a thermometer, measuring the feelings of the people around me. I want to change the atmosphere.

I started reminding myself of the scriptures that deal with fear:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

I like the New King James Version better, though:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Give your burdens to the Lord,
    and he will take care of you.
    He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. – Psalm 55:22

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. – 1 John 4:18

Fear is crippling. Fear is a cheater, tripping us up at the end of a good race. Fear keeps us from thinking clearly and creatively. Fear keeps us from all that God has for us. I am meditating on these scriptures today as the day progresses. I’m going to take my thoughts into captivity and trust Jesus for the outcome. I’m going to start speaking faith and not doubt. What are your favorite scriptures to change the atmosphere?

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17% Streetwise

After last week’s close call, I reconsidered pepper spray. Kudos to my mom, who gave some to me probably 4 years ago. I remember laughing at her.

“It’s Shelton. I’ll never need this, Mom!” I shook my head and shoved it in the glove box.

Well, never has arrived.

I pulled out the clear containment unit.

pepper-spray

In case you can’t read the label, it says “17% Streetwise”. I thought it odd. I don’t want to be only 17% streetwise. What about the other 83%? I need to be 100% streetwise. Hence the spray with cayenne pepper in it.

The directions stated to fire it at least every six months if not in use regularly. D’oh! I turned the red nozzle a quarter turn.

“Even works on drug addicts!” the page yelled.

Great.

I pointed it away from me and sprayed on the insert. Watery, bright orange goo spurted out of the bottle. Guess it still works.

This morning, I picked up the vial. It felt light and compact in my hand for such a strong deterrent. Where to put it? Would I be quick enough on the draw if I placed it in my left coat pocket? I opted for the right, mp3 player on the left.

I opened the back door. The dark morning was cold. Stars glittered above me and temps hovered at 40 degrees. Rex followed me down the driveway to say goodbye.

I ran along by streetlight. But I couldn’t relax. I listened. What was that? Any and every strange sound made me jump. I passed the first bench-and-garbage can combo on my route. The lights showed me nobody there. Good.

I pressed on to the next pairing. This was where it happened last week. The two objects sat side by side in shadow. Nothing moved. No sound. Cars passed on my right, beyond the median. I kept going. It, too, was empty. I breathed a sigh of relief. The entire 3-mile run passed without incident.

I thought about fear. It’s so crippling. FDR once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Fear holds a wealth of deadly imagination within it, a potential frightening world within our day to day reality. But we don’t need to live there.

I want to make the most of this life, every bit. I don’t want to live hoping nothing bad happens. I want to live, looking for good to happen. I have to believe, should anyone ever approach me, that God would be with me. I have to know that He would direct me and protect me in critical moments. He does it now. I only have to pay attention. In that, maybe I can be more than 83% Godwise.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. – Psalm 119:105

The Miracle

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”- Albert Einstein

We watched a movie the other night – “Miracles from Heaven”. Despite the semi-cheesy title, it turned out to be a good flick. It’s based on a true story. Some of you have seen it, but for those who haven’t, here’s a plot summary complete with spoilers:

A little girl, 10 years old, from a good, God-fearing family suddenly takes ill. After months of what gets misdiagnosed as acid reflux and lactose intolerance, a specialist discovers her digestive system lacks the ability to process food. And there’s no cure for the disease.

Jennifer Garner plays the mom, Christy, in this movie. Say what you will about her, she does mom roles well. The girl, Anna, doesn’t get better. In fact, time becomes precious as they realize she won’t live long. The family’s church and community rally around the family. Hundreds of prayers go up for Anna’s healing. Anna and her mom spend time jetting back and forth from Boston back to their small Texas town, getting doses of an experimental drug to prolong her life and give her some relief.

One day, Anna and her older sister climb a tree. Anna loves to climb. At her sister’s urging, they go up about 30 feet. Then the tree branch cracks. Her older sister urges Anna to get into the tree hollow to save herself. Strangely, the tree hollow collapses but the damaged branch stays intact. Anna falls 30 feet inside the tree, all the way to the base.

Firefighters rescue Anna out of the tree. She’s sustained only minor injuries, the first miracle. The doctors are amazed that she only has a slight concussion and no broken bones.

It gets better. Her digestive condition is gone. She’s gotten healed. Somehow, some way, she is back to normal. It can only be called a miracle. Anna’s specialist has no other word for it.

I don’t know why God heals some people and not others. This movie left me with more questions than answers. Early in the movie, women from Christy’s church told her Anna’s illness might be due to sin in Christy or her husband’s life, or possibly even Anna’s. Christy’s faith tanked after that.

Christy quotes Albert Einstein in the movie, the one at the top of this blog. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. How do I live? How should I live? This life, the air we breathe, our senses, it’s all beyond wonderful. Even more than that, what if Anna hadn’t gotten healed? Could she still see her life, limited though it was, as a miracle? I think I need to.

 

Miracles-from-Heaven-Drama-Wallpapers-5

 

Knee Discipline

woman-kneeling

(source)

I ran today. Confession: I haven’t been running as much as before I went on vacation. I had an ache in one knee, then the other. I decided to slow down a bit and rest. So I did.

As I headed uptown into the early morning, I thought of this scripture:

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. – Hebrews 12:12-13

The first half of Hebrews 12 is all about God’s discipline and how it means He loves us. Frankly, I’d rather get flowers and dark chocolate, plus backrubs. That’s my kind of love. But you don’t grow to maturity when life comes easy. It’s when you’re down on your knees, seeking God for help, that you start to get somewhere.

Life’s afflictions can wear us down. We find ourselves in a sort of fog. We encounter the same people with those ridiculous beams in their eyes that we want to pluck out. With extreme prejudice. Yet we have beams, logs really, of our own. The discipline comes when we keep on living where we are, loving and serving, and trying to keep our 2 x 4s from ramming into others.

Maybe our circumstances don’t seem to change, no matter how hard we pray. Houses won’t sell. Money won’t magically jump into our bank accounts. Kids do whatever they want, despite our kind admonitions. But we don’t give up.

So, I’m holding on with my tired hands. I’m doing some lunges to strengthen my knees, as well as continuing to petition.  I will strengthen the spiritual and the physical parts. I don’t want to become one of the weak or lame. I need to press on and keep a good attitude as I do, every day, the things I know to do. I don’t want to be the reason others stumble. I can wait for God to move. He has all things in His hands.

Bug Swallowing

I stepped outside this morning. The air felt cool yet soupy. A storm brews. The cool breeze smells wet. I turned right on the county road this time, past all the garbage out for pickup, leftover revels in a can. The sun rose on my left as birds dipped around me. Clouds crept in from the west, over the lake. It looked like God was tucking us into bed with a thick gray blanket.

I ran past Sunset Beach. I spotted a couple of dead raccoons. What I didn’t figure on was the gnats. They have been here all along, swarming up from the lake in the afternoon. They get so thick you can barely see. Last night after fireworks, it seemed like all the bugs in the universe wanted in the house, or at least as close to the outdoor lights as possible. They stuck to the windows and doors, crawling and creeping. I could almost hear them crying out, “Let me in! I belong inside! Pleeeaaase!”

moody lake

The gnats like the standing water of the lake and its boggy surroundings. I closed my eyes and exhaled as I pushed through clouds of whirring wings. I blew as much air out as I could to keep from sucking any bugs in. I tried not to think of Old Testament plagues and their order of increasing magnitude.

But, inevitably, I did suck some bugs down. Some tried to get into my eyes. Some flew into my hair or tried to lodge in my nose. I kept swatting and I kept moving. One stuck to my lips. Thanks, Burt’s Bees, for making lip balm irresistible to insects. I appreciate it.

The gnats of doubt like to dive-bomb my spirit. They don’t totally go away, though I swat at them and keep my mouth closed.  I ingest a few, sometimes, along the way. Do I even have any miles in me today? Did we hear from God about fixing up our house? Why hasn’t our house sold yet? The thoughts swirl and the emotions surge, like a moody lake in our spirits.

Today should mark the end of my running streak. Actually, yesterday. It’s more than a month since I started running at least a mile every day. Originally, I signed on to do Memorial Day to Independence Day. I have no idea how many miles I’ve logged overall. I did 17 last week. I’d like to get 19 in this week. I’ve put in 37 days so far. What’s 9 more?

We can keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. You get up and just do it. Noah built the ark over 80 years. He must have felt mighty foolish at times. Abraham had second thoughts placing Isaac on the rock as a sacrifice. We can’t see the end or the outcome. Yet God has the answers. I just need to put in the faith..

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1

 

Friday Sandwich

sandwich

(source)

I ran 3 miles this morning in the cool yet humid air. The sky threatened rain at any moment. I tried to talk myself out of the distance but did it anyway. I’m working towards a mileage goal for the week. Two miles tomorrow, and I’ll have it.

I’ve been meditating on this scripture lately – Proverbs 10:22. A good friend of mine gave it to me months ago when I asked her to pray about us moving and all.

Proverbs 10:22 – The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

I had lunch with a different friend and I mentioned it. I told her about the scripture.

“You know, the one from Proverbs that says ‘The blessing of the Lord….'” I trailed off. And I completely blanked. I shook my head. Really? Granted, often I find Proverbs a dusty book, but still.

She looked at me, waiting, her lips quirked up.

“The blessing of the Lord…blah blah blah…?” she queried. Her eyes sparkled with mirth.

I had to laugh. Someone had taken the time to give me confirmation of our dreams and I hadn’t taken the time to actually *look* up the reference. Sigh.

I can see God’s blessing on our lives. We’ve got a couple of great kids and live in a nice town. Our church lets us serve in ways we love. Jonathon and I have good jobs with great people. Financially, we’re doing well. We have limited debt. We can live within our means. We can give as opportunities arise. We’re already rich in so many ways.

This verse out of Proverbs has helped me stay the course. Living in the middle of renovation and working full-tilt throughout makes for weary folks. I’ll admit,  I questioned all of this. I couldn’t see the end. Would we recoup our investment? Did we do the right thing? Would it ever end?

Yes, it will. Because God planned this from start to finish. He never leaves us halfway.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. –  Philippians 1:6

Those two verses together make something that resembles a faith sandwich. The blessing of the Lord initiated this work, and the Lord will finish it. The verses apply to the house circumstances as well as running. Can’t give up now. I need to take a big bite out of that reality today.

Go Right

 

go right poster.jpg

I saw this poster recently, and it’s stuck with me. I’m someone who thinks through scenarios in my head. I try to plan for contingencies. I’m a planner, part of the administrator in me.

I find myself getting extra plates and extra cups. I put out more utensils than we will need for a gathering. I bring extra money on a shopping trip, “just in case”. Okay. Well, clothes shopping isn’t really a contingency issue. Maybe a cute little spring dress will…call out to me. I must answer, right?!

Anyway.

This poster above is how optimists think. At least, looking at it from the realist/pessimism point of view, it seems that way. I see what is. I see the bad things and the shortcomings. I sense what could go wrong. But those Pollyanna folks see all the great outcomes. They see their kids, down the road in the future, serving God and bringing him glory. I see those same kids struggling right now to even attend church. It makes me gloomy, in point of fact. Glass-is-half full people figure out how to make the most of their money, deliberately building joy  and surprises into the mundane tasks of bill-paying and keeping house. Us glass-is-half-empty types only see that the month is 1/3 gone and the money is running out. We feel like indentured servants to our jobs. We see no hope.

I’ve painted stark pictures. These days, I tend to fall more in the mid-range on pessimism.  Jesus has worked on me. My husband has helped with this also. He’s a natural optimist. He’s a happy person. So is Ruby. They get happiness out of small things, like donuts on Friday and riding their bikes on sunny days. I admire them. There’s a beautiful contentment in this personality trait. In fact, it’s like Jesus said:  you need to become like a child to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:3). Some of us (ahem) are too sarcastic for our own good. It masks a fear to look forward to something too much, to hope and be let down. We have a history of painful experiences behind us. We don’t want to feel disappointment again or, even worse, fail. After all, we think smugly, we’d rather be right than happy. Which, now that I’ve written it, sounds rather pathetic.

But living in the negative scenario in your head doesn’t leave room for what could become a wonderful event. I’m not open to the great things – serendipitous things – that God can bring about. So I’ve decided to let this go. I want to focus on the good in situations and believe for the best. I’m discovering a new place to walk. Yes, wear the boots if it’s raining outside, yet also dress in layers, cause the sun could start shining again any minute now.