Tag Archives: fear

“I will not die an unlived life”

Standard
Photo credit: aguscr / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: aguscr / Foter / CC BY

A friend of mine used this quote last week and when I asked for the source, she sent me the link to this beautiful blog.  This is exactly how I feel about my life… plus I do it all with a latte in my hand and I don’t see any point in going for skim milk.

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.” —Dawna Markova

My Mother-in-law is from a generation where people lived with plastic over their furniture and lamp shades.  She never takes the plastic off of things.  She says she’s saving things, but I don’t know who she is always saving things for.  There has never been a special guest in the house who has merited the removal of the plastic from the lamp shades and table tops.  Never.  So when she dies and the house is inherited by her children, they will find all the furnishings unused and brand spanking new… from the 1980s.

I can’t live like that.  I like to put pictures of my own loved ones in my picture frames instead of keeping the picts of the department store model families that come with the frames.  We actually asked her about this once.  She jokingly told us that these people were better looking than all of us, so that’s why she never changes the picture when she buys a new frame.  Really I think she is secretly planning to return the frame to the store someday.  But I can’t live like my house is a store.  I want my life to feel “lived in”.

I try to live life by fully focusing on the beauty of the moment.  I don’t always succeed in this since I’m naturally future focused and like things well planned ahead of time.  However, this is my goal- live and love this moment.  Whether good or bad, stressful or relaxing, I reject guilt and fear which rob me of my joy and thankfulness.  I find God in the moment.  He’s in the past and future too, but I am only in this moment so I can only connect with Him right now.  This living in the moment is so hard for me sometimes, but it’s always good for me.  It’s worth doing something that is good and hard when you get the kind of joy that I find in this challenge.  I live fully in the now.  I will not die an unlived life.

Back away from the Doorbell, Buddy!

Standard

In my last post I talked about letting go of my fear of having our house broken into.  Today I’m going to be a bit more practical.  Yes, we trust the Lord.  Yes, we know that if someone wants in your house badly enough they will figure out a way to get in.  Yes, we have a daily peace, knowing that the Lord is with us.  However, that does not mean we no longer take precautions.  There’s no sense inviting the Fox into the hen house, so to speak.

Photo credit: bitzcelt / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: bitzcelt / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I actually feel safer inside my house here in San Jose, Costa Rica than I did when we were home on our last furlough and living in the suburbs of the Twin Cities.  My sense of space has changed.  Here in Costa Rica, our house has a big, tall wall around the whole property.  If someone wants to ring our doorbell, they stand on the street and ding the speaker phone.  I can choose to answer the phone or not.  They would never know if I was avoiding them like a Jehovah’s Witness or if I was simply not home.  In order to let someone into our house, I must walk down the driveway and manually open the door for them to enter into our yard first.

Compare that to how close a stranger actually comes to me when he rings my doorbell in Minnesota.  I remember the jolt of fear that I felt at seeing a perfect stranger standing right at my front door, looking shamelessly into my living room through the window at the side of the front door.  I wanted to click an imaginary speaker phone and order the guy back out onto the street.  “Hey! Hey! Hey!  You are WAY TOO CLOSE to my house!” I wanted to yell, “Back off Buddy!”

I had changed.

In addition to the doorbell out on the street and a wall around the yard, when we were negotiating our contract with the land lord, we agreed to install a security system with door alarms if he would beef up the security of the wall.  He gladly agreed.  A few weeks later we had a lovely electric fence on top of the front of the wall and barbed razor wire around the sides and the back of the wall.  Not very pretty, I admit, but MAN DO I FEEL SAFE NOW!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, has barbed wire around their walls.  Now we blend in.  And I like that.

So that explains how I actually feel SAFER living in Costa Rica than I did living in Garrison Keillor’s imagination (I’m referring to Lake Wobegon, in case you have no idea or have never heard Prairie Home Companion Radio Broadcast.  It’s hilarious, by the way.)  Here I know that no one can get close to my house just by ringing my doorbell.

Violated!

Standard
Photo credit: just.Luc / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: just.Luc / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

It is a horrible feeling to know that someone has been in your house, looking at your pictures, touching your things… robbing you.  I count that our house has been broken into 3 times, our car has been stolen twice, and less importantly, our garage has been broken into and our bikes and tools all stolen.  And only one of those home invasions happened overseas.

I am fully convinced that God knows our fears even better than we do.  I believe that He was preparing us for life overseas by forcing us to face our fears in our own beloved Minnesota.  We don’t live in Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.  But sometimes when we are overseas we tend to romanticize “home”.  We think, “This never would have happened to me if I had stayed in Minnesota!”

But that’s just not true.  Houses get robbed in Minnesota too.  Cars get stolen in middle class neighborhoods in First World Countries.  If someone wants to get into your house badly enough, no amount of locks and security systems will stop them.  They could drive a car through the wall of your living room if they wanted to.  Bad things happen in America too.

So I think the Lord knew that by facing my fears while we were still living in America, it would have the effect of releasing me from those fears.  It’s like facing your fear of heights by going rock climbing or facing your fear of public speaking by giving a toast at a wedding.  Once you see that your fear was survivable, well then it has lost its grip on your mind.

It took a long time after each violation for my peace to return to me, but eventually it did.  At the moment of our last break-in, in Mexico, my husband and I held each other and cried.  As I cried, I prayed out loud and thanked God that we were safe, that our children were at school today, that not much was stolen.  I repeated the scripture verse from Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”  And I felt like we passed a test.  Deep in my heart I felt the approval of the Lord.  I sensed that we would not have to face this test again.

When we picked up our kids from school, we worried about their reactions when we told them that the house was broken into while we were away that morning.  They only asked if all their toys were still there.  They were not the least bit concerned otherwise.  I marveled at how the Lord had given them a resiliency that I didn’t even think to ask for.  I thanked the Lord for giving us peace once again.

“Finding Nemo” and Faith

Standard

I looked high and low for a youtube clip of this scene from the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo, but I couldn’t find it.  Do you remember the scene where Marlin (Nemo’s over protective father) and Dori (the little blue fish with no short term memory) are trapped inside the whale because Dori thought she could speak whale and tried to ask for directions?  In this scene, Marlin is throwing himself against the baleen of the whale trying to escape to continue his search for his lost son.  In discouragement he sinks to the bottom of the whale’s mouth and gives up.

He says,  “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.”

Dori pauses and comments, “Well, that’s a funny thing to promise someone.”

“What?” Marlin looks up in a bit of surprise.

Dori continues, “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him.  Not much fun for little Harpo.”

I’ve thought about that often.  A good parent doesn’t over protect.  For the good of the child, parents need to let their children have experiences in life.  Age appropriate experiences can provide wonderful teaching moments.  Difficult experience can provide opportunities for growth and for trying new things.  Risky experiences can build courage and faith when handled properly.  You can’t prevent things from happening just for the sake of protecting a child from what MIGHT happen.

My Lucy with Nemo in Disney World.

My Lucy with Nemo in Disney World.

God does the same with us.  If he wanted to, he could place us in a perfect little environment with a protective dome over us.  We could live in a celestial terrarium where nothing would ever happen to us that was outside of our control.  But what fun would that be?  We would never need to learn to trust if there was never any risk.  We would never explore our limitations if we never faced challenges that pushed us to our edges.  We would be bored silly with how safe and ordinary and self centered our lives would be if God never allowed ANYTHING to happen to us.

Maybe that’s why we encourage people to “get out of their bubble” and have an adventure or go on a missions trip or try something scary for God.  You can’t stay at home forever.  Get out there and see what can happen when you let something happen.  Don’t be scared of the possibility of something bad happening.  You should be more afraid of nothing ever happening to you.  Take a chance!  Don’t fear the what-ifs.  Turn them into why-nots?

Kennedy Space Center with our family.

Kennedy Space Center with our family.

Looking Fear Square in the Eye

Standard

I don’t think I have ever been a particularly cowardly person.  As a matter of fact, I’ve done a whole lot of things that have required more courage than I thought I could muster.  Each time I’ve had to reach down deep and search for the courage to do something major, it has become one of the highlights of my life.  When I’m not sure I can actually do something and then I find the will within me to conquer, I feel elated.

For example, I was barely 16 years old when I started college.  I had been away on a missions trip to Guatemala until the day before classes started, so I missed Welcome Week and the campus tour and Freshman Orientation.  I walked onto the campus with my schedule in my hand and didn’t even know where my first hour classroom was located.  I just started asking people for directions.  I opened the door and saw 300 chairs arranged in theater style.  I chose a row at eye level with the speaker on the stage and took the center seat.  Courage.

At home with my collection of college class syllabi spread out in front of me, I spent the next two hours meticulously writing each assignment into my Day Timer Calendar, then backing up a few days or weeks to write a reminder about starting each project.  When I had the due dates for all 6 classes written neatly in my calendar, I cried.  I felt totally overwhelmed at what I was about to do.  I didn’t know if I had what it would take to do college at age 16.  I would need every ounce of courage I could find.

Fast forward many, many years.  The day finally came where we said all our tearful good-byes and walked through the security check point with carry on baggage and two children.  We were leaving for the mission field.  In the next few weeks we would need courage almost hourly.  We landed in a foreign country without knowing a word of Spanish.  The next day we put our kids on a school bus with 5 other missionary kids and off they went to a school that we had never seen in a city where I couldn’t even locate my own apartment in a country where I didn’t speak the language.  “Dear Jesus give me courage!” I prayed.  As we walked the mile from our apartment to our language school, I felt like I would never be able to learn this route.   I was sure I would get lost here.  I needed courage.

And here I am again, staring into the deep, dark well of fear and wondering if I could dredge up some courage again.  I have been hired as the vice principal at our school here in Costa Rica.  My emotions are swinging wildly between the excitement of all my ideas and the deer-in-the-headlights shock of what I’ve just stepped into.  I prayed for this, and now I’m terrified.  Once again, I am digging deep for courage.  I go to Jesus and ask for courage.

A friend and fellow teacher sent me a very encouraging note the other day.  See that word “encouraging”?  What do you see in the middle of it?  COURAGE.  Encouragement gives courage.  How many times did the Lord tell Joshua and the untrained soldiers of Israel, “Be strong and courageous.  Take heart and do not fear.”  The battle is the Lord’s.  I have nothing to fear.  I take courage in the fact that Jesus is my source, a well that will never run dry.  I can ask him for courage and he is glad that I have come to him with empty hands for he is ready to fill them up.  I am more than a conquerer in Christ Jesus.

I told you this would happen!

Standard

Sometimes we just need a good, “I told you so!”  When the disciples asked about The End, Jesus told them this.  

Watch out that you are not deceived.  For many charlatans will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and “The time is near.”  Do not follow them.  When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened.  These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.  This is just part of normal history.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.  At times you’ll think the very sky is falling!

But before all this, they will arrest you, hunt you down, drag you into court, and persecute you.  They will deliver you into the hands of your enemies and throw you in prison.  It will go from bad to worse.  Everyone will be at your throat because of me.

You will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.  This will result in your being witnesses to them.  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that will reduce your accusers to stammers and stutters.

You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  All men will hate you because of me.  But every detail of your life- even down to the  hairs of your head- are in my care and control.  By standing firm, hang in there, don’t lose faith and you will gain life.

It will seem like all hell has broken lose.  There will be sign in the sun, moon and stars.  Everyone will be in shear panic.  Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift us your heads because your redemption is drawing near.  Hold your head up high because help is on the way!

Be on your guard.  Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation become dull with parties, shopping, and the anxieties of life.  Otherwise that day will take you completely by surprise.  It will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that is coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:8-36 a combination of the Message Version and NIV)

*****It looks like a mess around here, and it is.  But hold on to your seats because the ride is going to get bumpier before it’s over.  Just hang in there.  Jesus already told us that it’s going to get ugly which means he’s got this under control- nothing surprises him.  It’s part of his plan.  Why?  Because if you don’t think you need a Savior yet, just wait- you’ll want one real soon!  So don’t be afraid, dear Christians.  The pilot of our airplane is Jesus and he’s just put on the “fasten seatbelt” light.  Turbulence is coming, but our pilot can handle it and bring you home safe and sound.

Brace for crash landing!

Standard

Don’t be naive.  There are difficult times ahead.  As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money hungry, self promoting, boastful, proud, abusive, profane, contemptuous of parents, ungrateful, unholy, impulsively wild, ruthless, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, addicted to lust, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure instead of lovers of God.  They will make a show of religion, but live like a heathen behind the scenes.  Hypocrites.  Stay away from people like this.  (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Don’t go along with the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They have refused so long to deal with God that they have lost touch not only with God but with reality itself!  They can’t think straight anymore.  Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.  (Ephesians 4:17-19)

The way it all fell apart was like this:  Even though people knew God perfectly well, they neither worshiped him as God nor gave thanks to him.  Their thinking became dumb and pointless because sin makes people stupid.  They had neither sense nor direction in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  They traded the glory of God who holds the whole universe in his hands for cheap figurines that you can buy at any roadside stand.

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, then that’s what you get.”  It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.  All this because they traded the true God for a fake god- they made an idol of their passions- they worshiped the god they made inside of themselves instead of worshiping the God who made them!  What a mess.  (Romans 1:21-25) 

Faith is the evidence of things not seen

Standard

I woke up this morning with a “Summer Head Cold”.  (It is still Summer here in Costa Rica, even though my Minnesota friends have recently had another foot of snow dumped on them in a rare “Spring storm”.) I automatically wondered, “Where did this cold come from?”  I spent a few minutes reviewing the events of my week, searching for a particularly germy location where I could have picked up a bug.  It was a toss up between being at school with 150 children or spending hours in the Immigration office, which was air-conditioned.  Costa Ricans firmly believe that a rapid change in temperature can make you sick (or kill you).  Apparently they were proven right today.  It’s no more ridiculous than American mothers ordering their children to put on hats to prevent a cold.

Anyhow, once I had settled on a possible source of my cold, I actually felt more at ease.  Silly, I know.  I am one of those people who feel better with more information.  When things are left vague, I am uneasy.  I am hard-wired to sift through the grains of life searching for nuggets of information to guide my decision-making.  When I can’t find those nuggets or the sifter is torn from my hands, I feel like life is out of control.  I am programmed to search for purpose and meaning in life.

For me, faith is going forward with insufficient information.  I do not consider it faith when I witness a miracle, or when I pray in another language, or when I observe the physical effects of contact with the spirit world.  No, for me those things are logical manifestations of the supremacy of our God.  We should by fact have a physical reaction when a Superior Being gets close to us- that’s normal, in my mind.  That requires no faith, for me.

Where I am stretched is when I am required to take a step without being totally secure of my data-base, when I don’t see a purpose.  If I know the WHY, I can proceed without fear.  If I know the final destination of these steps, the WHERE, then I can walk forward without concern.  If I can see an obvious HOW, then I have no reason to draw on my faith.  But when those questions are left ambiguous, or worse when they are completely unaddressed, then I frantically cast about for something else to hold on to like a drowning person searches for a life preserver.  The thing I seize upon is where my faith is anchored:  the personality of God.  God is the rope that I cling to.

What I believe God to be is the core of faith.  I cannot see Him.  But I can see the EVIDENCE of what he is, of who he is.  Just like I can’t see wind, for example, but I can see the evidence that wind exists- so it is with God.  Having faith is like being a forensic investigator.  We have to look for clues, finger prints, that God was here.  We build up our knowledge of him, our data-base, which gives us a larger and stronger rope to grab on to when the trail has taken an unexpected turn or the lead has gone cold.  In those times, when I am left without a WHY or a HOW or a WHERE I hold onto the rope, which is my faith in who God is.

I say to myself, “I don’t know why I am going through this, but I know that God has already approved this trial because he is all knowing.  He is in control and nothing surprises him.  He has promised that he only has good plans for me.  He will not harm me.”  When I can’t make sense of my reality, I hold onto my faith in the Goodness of Almighty God.  God is always good… even when I have a cold.

Travel covers a multitude of sins

Standard

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it solely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  said Mark Twain.

Based on this statement I might develop a sudden prejudice against Italians just so I can justify a trip to Florence, Italy.  Yeah, that’s it.  I need to go purge myself of my “Italophobia”.

I am originally from Iowa.  But before you jump to conclusions, you should know that I never even SAW a real live cow until we drove from Des Moines to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I was 6-years old then.

I’m a city girl.  But I am related to people from small towns.  They don’t come up to the Cities very often, and when they do, some of them are “packing heat” the whole time.  (In my wedding pictures, my grandparents were both armed.)  And I would be too if I stayed in the Super 8 Motel on the edge of town.  Apparently they don’t want to go too far into the city in case God rains down fire and brimstone in Sodom and Gomorrah fashion.  They are scared of the city.

But the interesting thing is that several years ago my grandpa asked my dad for a computer.  My dad asked why he wanted it.  He said, “I want to be able to check the weather in Australia.”  Is he ever going to go to Australia?  Not unless they relocate it to the next county over.  He just wants to know.  Go figure.  Maybe if he could have nurtured that spark of natural curiosity when he was younger, he might have one day visited Australia and experienced the weather for himself.  But as it stands, traveling beyond his little world, at this age, is almost too much to handle.

On the other hand, my world spans the globe.  I have friends in nearly every continent.  And yet, sometimes that makes this world feel just as small as my grandpa’s town.  The words that are used to describe the missionary lifestyle are the ones you see in travel magazines: Ex-Pats, International Community, Global Nomads.  That’s my favorite one, Global Nomad.  I like it because I DO feel like a Nomad.  We pick up and move somewhere else every couple of years, sometimes more frequently.  When we are in one place too long, we get the itch to travel somewhere else.  When we are in one place, we long for another.

I feel like it’s just a physical reflection of the spiritual reality that we really are just sojourners here on this planet.  We feel a deep seated longing for our spiritual home, Heaven.  We don’t settle down here.  We don’t get too attached to this old life.  THIS is Temporary.  THEN is Forever.  In the mean time, I hope to cultivate broad, wholesome, and charitable views of men and things by all my global wanderings.

Trauma is in the eye of the beholder

Standard

“Resilience is a precious skill.  People who have it tend to also have three underlying advantages:  a belief that they can influence life events; a tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil; and a conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences.  These beliefs act as a sort of buffer, cushioning the blow of any given disaster.  Dangers seem more manageable to these people, and they perform better as a result.  ‘Trauma, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,’ says George Everly Jr…”

I recently read a book called The Unthinkable: Who Survives when Disaster Strikes and Why by Amanda Ripley.  Though the details of how people survive disasters are morbidly fascinating, the author is an evolutionist who takes a bleak and sterile point of view when considering the motives of humans under duress.  For her, everyone is selfishly motivated to preserve their genes, and the thought of a higher, more noble way of looking at life is foreign to her.  I think her point of view is sad.  However, I did like her research and anecdotes.  It was fascinating!

It was fascinating that (forgive me for being vague) something like 40% of all the 9/11 survivors went back to their desks and logged out of their email or computers before evacuating the building!  That’s insane!  They felt the building sway and shudder under the impact of the airplane, they could see the smoke and flames from the floors above them, they heard the orders to evacuate, and still they delayed.  They were in denial.

So where am I going with this?  Friends, Jesus is coming back soon.  We can see the signs all around us.  There are earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, pestilences, famines, and fearful signs in the sky…  and yet people delay in making a decision about Jesus Christ and his message to us.  Jesus is calling us to repentance.  A massive, cancerous growth called “Apathy” has dulled our senses and covered our eyes to the obvious.  We don’t WANT to believe that things are THAT bad, that we would need a SAVIOR.  “We aren’t in need of rescue,” people say.  Yet the signs are all around us.

This old world is straining and shuddering with the impact of collective sin, and yet we delay.  The flames of hell leap higher and higher,  the smoke billows around us, and we deny that we are in danger.  In Luke 21 where Jesus talks of the signs of the end days, he says people will be busy carousing and getting drunk and will be distracted by the worries of life, then this last day will catch them like a trap.

But the most fearful verse, for me is Matthew 24:12 “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”  MOST!  He said MOST!  That terrifies me.  I have no intention of being counted with the majority in that instance.  I am doing all I can to not grow cold even as the heat intensifies around me.  It’s time to wake up.  Shake off that apathy that has held us in its cold grip so that we don’t even sense the burning up of all that hay and stubble in our lives.

Let the fearful events that will be unfolding in our future become a catalyst for change in you.  Take notice of how the world is crumbling and step up on the high rock of Jesus Christ and be saved.  It’s not too late… the tower hasn’t collapsed, yet.