Thursday, May 30, 2019

The One Where God Opened My Eyes to the Unseen World...and what it has to do with #bebrave.

(Is. 41.10)
Perspective is everything when the fear buttons get pushed. At least, perspective is everything when it comes from God's mouth to our hearts.

And, I've discovered there is one particular vantage point that is an essential to finding calm in the midst of the "what ifs" of future thinking.

To introduce it, I must go back several years.

I was much younger.

Our kiddos were little.

We were living in Kenya, at Rift Valley Academy, and to the best of our know-how, raising a family and trying to keep in line 30 high school dorm boys (along with a kazillion other little duties that came with the boarding-school-territory).

Every day was an experiment in learning how to "do life" right.

We'd lived on campus for several years, when tragedy struck.

It hit close to home and close to the heart.

Fast. Unexpected. Hard.

Not more than a mile from our home, a friend was robbed and murdered. Her husband survived, but she didn't.

Some of you, who've known us a long time, have heard me share my side of this story:

* The huge giant of fear that pounded relentlessly at my door, as soon as my husband left home and flew back to the US with the family.

* The terror that gripped my heart when I found out that the men, who'd been arrested and charged with this atrocious act, had been released from jail on a bribe.

On top of Bay being away, our mission station was basically emptied, except for our little family. It was, after all, the month when our students went home for vacation with their parents, and all the other missionaries left for a season of rest, or to help serve in other areas of ministry.

I felt very alone, vulnerable, and unprotected.

The "what ifs" crowded my thinking and any reasonable thought couldn't find it's way through the door.

Fear crippled, paralyzed, and ensnared me for a good season...and, the one and only solution that made sense to me was this: If only Bay was home.

But, he would be away for a good two weeks, plus.

And...honestly....what could He have done?

In the midst of it all, I knew I needed to dig into God's Word and find His perspective for me, or I may not survive those two weeks.

Hard seasons have come and gone throughout my life.

This was truly one of the hardest.


Even in the hard of that time, I found Him faithful.

Even there, I discovered the great resource I had at my disposal in the truth of His Words and the steadfastness of His great love for me.

Even more...I felt His magnificent manifest Presence...
and, then, the ensuing peace that passes all understanding...

But, until then, how I felt did not match the theological reality of my life:

I was not alone.

Never alone.

(Heb 13.5)

Never vulnerable.

Never without protection.

In the middle of the mess of my twisted thinking, the Lord came to my rescue.

He chased the lies, and the giant "what ifs" of fear, out the door of my head, and replaced them with His perspective (several perspectives, actually). The most important one being this:

He is always present.

Verse after verse, story after story in the Scriptures remind me that because He is with me, I need not be afraid.

It's a promise...and every promise is YES in Christ Jesus.

His very nature screams PRESENT!

His name is Immanuel, God With Us, so He cannot be absent. I know, because God is incapable of lying.

In the midst of fear, I had become a God-amnesiac.

I forgot who my GOD is, what He does, and the unseen world that surrounded me.

In the middle of my momentary lostness, I forgot I have a God who is bigger and much more capable than a 6'10" husband.

I forgot I had a God who loved to stoop low and work on my behalf.

I forgot I had a God who worked behind the scenes where I could not see.

I forgot I had a God with an army of warriors at His disposal.

In the course of my pouring through God's Word for A WORD for me during this time, I stumbled over one little story that put an exclamation mark on every passage of Scripture that reminded me of God's Presence in my life.

It's a powerful story in the middle of 2 Kings, chapter 6. Only 15 verses. The King of Syria has sent a vast and powerful army after the prophet Elisha. ENTIRE ARMY (with horses and chariots!) just for one man. When Elisha's servant woke up in the morning, and walked outside, his teeth rattled as he came back inside to tell to his master the entire city was surrounded. All he could spit out was, "Alas, my master, what shall we do?" As cool as a cucumber, Elisha responds:

"Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

It doesn't take the servant long to do the math.  He looks around and counts: 1....2...

He goes back outside....hundreds? possibly thousands?


Elisha has lost his mind.

So, Elisha prays:

"Oh Lord, open his eyes that he may see."

And God does...and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around...

My God is ever-present ( matter how it may feel).

There is an unseen army at my disposal.

Yes, sometimes He allows bad things to happen to good people...

...sometimes, God stays His protective hand...

...that's a perspective I learned for another day (come back next week).

In the meantime, in the middle of that season of difficulty, the Lord wanted to remind me,
"Do not be afraid...for I am with you...ALWAYS."

He who is WITH you is greater than those who come against you!

May God open your eyes in every season of hard to see His Presence with you...

His Presence always eliminates fear.

Now, go back and re-read all of those wonderful verses above. Step into your own #bebrave in His Presence!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The One Where I See Fear with New Eyes

Unquestionably, this is the second verse of Scripture my children memorized (right after John 3:16). I doubt they could give you chapter and verse, but the words will pour out with the push of a fear button. They heard it often enough from their mother, as she put them to bed, and prayed "happy" over them through the night-watches. 

At different times, all three kids struggled with night-time fears, bad dreams, unreasonable problems with no solutions. They got this from their mom. 

After all, who was the one that had trouble sleeping, because of the certainty that some mama spider had woven a nest filled with spider eggs under her bed, and in the darkness of night, those babies would hatch, and millions of tiny spider-babies would come creepy-crawling into her bed? 

This girl!!! 

I knew about night-time fears.

baby spiders being born - the fear is real, people!

I also knew about day-time fears, too.

I was also the girl who went home sick from school more often than I stayed in school, because of very real tummy issues...all because I just knew that my parents would die from some unexplainable cause while I was away during the day.

As if being at home would prevent their death? 



That also came from night-time dreams that reoccurred over and over with me waking up to find that everyone in my world had died, except for me, and I was left all alone...generally, it had to do with a nuclear attack (too many "shorts" on World War 2 at my dad's local theater).

So, when I discovered Psalm 56:3, it became for me a teaspoon of medicine to take that would solve all the fear-issues of my life.

If I quoted it enough to myself and my kiddos, we'd all be cured of our fear.

Psalm 56:3 was the solution to fear. 

In the times I was most fearful, I just had to trust the Lord, and if I trusted Him enough, the fear would go away...for good...forever...and I would live #bebrave.

This isn't a profound thought this week...

It's just that when I turned in the Scriptures to the next verse on my "fear list" of passages to read, I read it this time completely differently.

I read it with new eyes.

Psalm 56:3 isn't an answer to the fear-problems of my life.

Not a pill to swallow.

Psalm 56:3 isn't a solution.

It is, however, an OPPORTUNITY.

It is (very much) a GIFT.

God has gift wrapped a package that He wants me to receive with joy: an opportunity to go deeper with my Heavenly Father.

The greatest gift He can give me is deeper faith.

Fears that pop up in my life are blessings, if I am able to reconcile myself to them. They allow me to cling to my Lord a little tighter, to seek His word a little more fervently, to be still and to watch as God does His Best Work on my behalf.

And, this is one reason, fear will never be eliminated entirely.

The Lord doesn't want me to become self-reliant.

Instead, He lets those fears beckon me to come closer - to draw near - to sit in His Presence - to let His words wash over me - and in the place of the current fear, to give comfort, contentment, and courage. 

Psalm 56:3 isn't a remedy; it is an invitation.

An invitation to "be still and watch" what God can do in me, for me, and all around me.

Fear is an invitation to #bebrave, while being held in His lap.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The One About Running Toward the Roar of Fear...and a way to #bebrave

Everywhere I turn, I am face-to-face with fear-talk.

The title of the message at church last Sunday...

Instead of asking why I am just one more additional voice to the already very large group of writers, singers, podcast presenters, sermon-givers, and meme makers....I simply figure I'm heading in the right direction. There must be a need, and who knows (?), maybe someone won't see or hear their work, but will cross paths with mine.

from Hillsong's "Not Today"

So, here I am this morning, with another random thought on fear, anxiety, worry, discouragement and living #bebrave.

A story is coming...

But first:

What have I learned so far?

#bebrave is more than possible. It is absolutely attainable.

To #bebrave doesn't mean fear and anxiety are eliminated.

(Surprised by this? Truly - fear will never go away. Why? because we are human.)

#bebrave means moving toward the thing I fear, facing it, and learning how to manage it, regardless of how I feel. #bebrave...I have to remind myself of a few fear-conquering-strategies and have them in place before the ugliness of it all catches up to me.

Some of those strategies include...
1) Growing in knowledge of God and CELEBRATING the character of Him who is ever-present in my life (in Christianese this is called praise).

When I do this - the bigness of my problem minimizes and I see the enormity of my God instead.

He really is bigger than all my fear!

Indeed, John was right when he wrote:


Perfect LOVE (that's God)...

2) Learning to pray: strategic, specific, DESPERATE prayer...

This quote (not mine) became a mantra:

the path to peace is paved with prayer... 

...but not just any casual, generic cry of "help(!)," will do..I must seek after what I want just as in desperation one might seek out a palm reader, or a tarot card specialist...

3) Recognizing how easy it is to store up fear, gathering it for another day, simply because I think I can control my fears and worries by doing so.

However, when I begin storing up fears instead of facing them, it shows exactly what I treasure in my heart.

Fears are great indicators of those things I value; and, there is an element of greed to much of what I fear.

Thus, I need to clear out my barns of a few idols... (The Lord is always willing to help, because this is a HARD JOB.)


With that little bit of review, the story I promised.

It's a story about lions (learned way back when I lived in Africa).

Male lions look good.

They are far prettier than the females with their long flowing manes.

Male lions sound ferocious.

Their roar is loud (and can be heard, I'm told, up to five miles away) and frightening. If you're in the near vicinity, you have fair warning.

Male lions are regal.

There's a reason they are called "The King of the Jungle."

They possess a proud and kingly attitude that permeates their character.

But male lions aren't really all that...

Truth be told, male lions are lazy.

They far prefer to lay around, look good, roar loudly, and let the female lions do all the work (aka: the hunt).

A female lion will lie in wait in the tall savannah grasses.

She waits until prey is in sight.

With a nod, or possibly a wave of her tail (some believe this is how she communicates), the male will do his part and roar loudly.

The prey will run away from the roar...generally straight toward the female, who is waiting for the take down....and certain death.

Then, the female waits for her meal, until the male has eaten first.

This is also a story about fear.

Let the male lion represent our fear.

It roars loudly.

It is life dominating.

It confuses and paralyzes, then causes us to run for our lives, simply because we want to get rid of it as fast as possible.

And, just like the prey mentioned above, we run straight for the greatest danger.

Instead, the only way to a life of #bebrave is to turn toward the roar.

Face fear.

Move toward it.

Listen to it.

All fear speaks.

What is it saying?

What does it tell me about me?

What does it tell me about my relationship to the Lord?

What can I learn about the fear itself...and what God has to say about it in His word?

The more I gain perspective, the less I have to fear...and the easier it is to #bebrave.

To run away is to run to certain spiritual demise.

We can't out run fear.

The more we run, the more there is to fear, because fear will always be right behind us...

Ed Welch says the following in his little bible study, "When I Am Afraid."

"Fear is the perfect problem.  No doubt, it can be paralyzing and painful. When it comes, your goal is to get rid of it immediately. By its very nature fear tells you to run rather than to face whatever is causing it. But fear is ideal in this: God reserves His most persuasive, beautiful, and comforting words for fearful people. Listen. Really listen. For when you hear His beautiful and comforting words that surpass everything you can imagine, you will do something. You will be led to action."

This is what I learned about #bebrave this week:

Face fear's roar, and in the midst of it, listen for the still small voice of a shepherd who wants to protect His sheep from the lion who seeks to devour.

And when I hear His voice, I will find strength for my soul, renewed energy for what I have to face, and a way to #bebrave.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

When Fear Becomes Greed (yes, it's a thing)....and, #bebrave

I tell my husband regularly, "Someday....someday, when we are traveling, and aren't always in such a rush to get to the next speaking event, I want to stop more and take pictures of two things I love to see: old churches and barns."

I'm not sure why they stir my soul, but they do.

I'm moved by them.

Were I to go back and look at old photos, I already have quite a collection.

However, currently I have more churches than barns.

I especially love all the old barns back in Pennsylvania Amish country, the ones that have quilt patterns painted on the sides; but, any old barn is stunning to me.

We have a barn.

It's old.

It's not stunning.

It actually looks like it could collapse at any moment.

The other thing about our barn is that it's not being used for what it is meant to be used's more like a garbage dump, than a place for animals or storage.

Our barn is where stuff we need to get rid of goes to die!


Last Thursday, I began what will become a series (for who knows how long) on these siblings: fear, anxiety, worry and disappointment.

Actually, the series is more about living out #bebrave, and not letting those very intense emotions dictate how I live my life.

But, before we can #bebrave, we need to explore how it is they come to have such control over us.

This was the verse we started with:

As we began exploring this passage of Scripture, we looked at the word that is translated "sought."

It's not just general praying.

It's not even a simple "cry for help."

This kind of praying is desperate, detailed (specific), and determined.

To pray our fears away takes a lot of effort!

I don't want to hear that!

I want the magic-wand-kind-of-prayer.

I want the kind where you offer up your need, and the Almighty, Sovereign Lord in Heaven waves His magic wand, like any good fairy would, and rights my world.

But God isn't a good fairy, and that's not how our God works.

He sees a bigger picture, and He is making sure that what He has planned will be accomplished...

The thing we need to remember in the midst of it all is that 1) He is working (in spite of how we feel)....and, 2) What He works out is for our good!


Now, let's look at the word that is translated "fear" in Psalm 34:4.

Interesting word: Megura (Hebrew) - the first part of the word refers to a fear, a terror, a fright; and, the second part of the word means to lodge, to store, to abide (LOOK AT THIS: it refers most often to a BARN, a place of STORAGE).

I do that with my fears, worries, anxieties, and disappointments.

I start building a barn to store them in.

Then, I find I need bigger barns.

More barns.

Before, I know it, I am barn rich and courage poor.


I know why I do it.

I think (rather unreasonably) that if I store my fear and anxiety away in a safe place, then I will be able to have control over them.

Over life.

As the realization hit me, I recognized how irrational that whole philosophy is.

The more I store, the more it consumes.


To store = Control.

To Control = Greed

And, greed when it is unleashed becomes all-consuming.

I begin to "treasure" my fear; and, then I live for what I "treasure."

All of a sudden, my fear, anxiety, worry and disappointment are my treasures.

And, now I'm afraid to let them go...I've worked hard to store them up.

Invested a lot of my energy into them...

Heaven forbid!

I think in Psalm 34, David has come to the same realization.

When he did, he sought the Lord.

He got desperate.

He got specific.

He began paving his way to the many barns he had built with praise and prayer...

...and the Lord answered.

Together, they threw open the barn doors; and, they began emptying out the barns of all the garbage that was consuming and controlling David.

The Lord God wants to do the same with us.

He longs to come along side us, and sift through the barns we've built...clean them up, organize them, and then fill those barns with other treasures.

He's waiting for us to simply ask!

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life...

...But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
Matthew 6:19-21, 25, 33

Instead of storing up fear, anxiety, worry, up heavenly treasures.
Seek how God would want to work through us to further His Kingdom.
And, let's fill our barns with being about His business...
Get busy....
...Start working His will into our lives and the result????


Thursday, May 2, 2019

The One About Fear...and #bebrave

As I brought in the new year, I entered with no sense of real direction from the Lord regarding an area of study for 2019 (explanation here).

Humorously, the Lord has actually led me to a word-of-study for the next several months, as I research and write a new retreat series, based on the theme #bebrave.

So, in spite of my rebelliousness, not wanting to be like everyone else who chooses a new word-of-the-year, well....I now have one!

Here is the verse the retreat committee has chosen:

Obviously, the word "brave" does not appear in this familiar passage of Scripture.

Truth is, I can't study bravery without reflecting on fear, anxiety, worry, and discouragement.

These four siblings come from the same family.

Their parents are Unbelief and Control.

As in every family, each child is different, and some have more intense personalities than others.

However, meet them, and you'll see the family resemblance. They come from a long line of "What Ifs!

So, over the next few weeks, as I'm pouring over Scripture, reading books (Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado; Running Scared, Ed Welch have already been downloaded into Kindle), and listening to sermon messages, you're bound to see some of what I'm learning creeping up in this blog space.


Research shows that fear and anxiety plague us more than any other soul-problem.

On top of that, out of all nationalities in the world, Americans, who live in one of the most safety-conscious-societies, lead the statistics as being the most fearful.

So, let's face it, followers-of-Jesus, we need some stones to put in our pockets to slay the giant of fear; and, it's best if we start wandering the dried up Elah Brook to look for the perfect ones.

(The Valley of Elah)
Proactively picking up these stones will be our way to brave.

(stone from the Brook Elah) 

The first rock we all need is the stone of PRAISE (see the blog written on April 4th & last week).

The minute we begin to reflect, remember, and rejoice in WHO GOD IS and WHAT HE HAS DONE, then CELEBRATE the Lord, we are on our way to #bebrave.

This week, I picked up another stone.

Turning to Psalm 34, I read David's words; by the time, he had written them, Goliath was a mere memory.

Now, David faced two other giants.

One was King Saul.

Saul, jealous of David (after all, the people were chanting this mantra everywhere Saul traveled: "Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands...") wanted David dead!

Nothing less would make him happy.

Fleeing Saul, David landed in Philistine territory.

The home of Goliath.

Enter, David's other new giant: Goliath's King - Abimelech.

Abimelech hated David, too.

He, also, wanted David wiped from the face of the earth...

These men weren't the physically menacing threat of Goliath, but they sure were psychologically threatening (by the way, all fear fits one of those two categories and often the psychological is worse...).

How did David handle these fearful threats?

1) He ran from Saul (flight)...and,

2) He pretended insanity in front of Abimelech (his fight of choice)...

While some may freeze, our initial response to fear is almost always one of these two methods: fight or flight.

Both worked temporarily for David; and, they will for us, as well.

However, David needed something more lasting, as do we...

In Psalm 34, we see David be more InTeNtIoNaL about his fear.

Look at the first four verses of this passage:

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears (ESV).

Right here, two of the five stones David collected:

Stone one, in red, we already know: PRAISE!

Stone two, highlighted in purple, PRAYER!

(Um...I'm pretty sure I hear a chorus of "duh" coming from the blogosphere.)

But David isn't just referring to any old kind of prayer.

This word, a very specific word, chosen out of all other Hebrew words that could be translated prayer, carries a different meaning...

It's a word, that more often than not is used when someone seeks out a sorcerer, witch, or magician regarding the future.


Wait a minute...we know how that episode in Saul's life-story turned out (if not, start reading here).

David isn't telling us to go have our tarot cards read, or seek out someone with a crystal ball.

What he's saying is much more simple.

Necromancers are desperate folk (that's a fancy name for those who resort to such tactics as divination).

They go with a do-or-die determination for an answer.

The NEED for a response is as strong as the DRUG OF CHOICE for an addict!

David is simply saying this is the posture with which he approaches the Lord.

He's desperate.

His longing to have God move is bigger than his fear.

He recognizes the gravity of his situation, and urgently asks of the Lord for knowledge and deliverance.

He's tried everything, has given up, and is turning to the only one who is really in control and capable of help...

Here's the good news of Psalm 34:4.

When we pray like this...God delivers (but how often do we pray like this?)!!!!

We often come to the Lord with half-hearted prayers, not even sure we believe God can or wants to work on our behalf (maybe I should speak for just myself)...

Now, read verse 5:

No need to be embarrassed by fear...
Seek the Lord...
Desperately entreat His deliverance...
And, in His timing, He will act on our behalf.

After all, to be afraid is to be human...