What is Fear Costing Us?

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

I have known the Lord as my helper for years, but I am still afraid.

What will man do to me? Well, for starters, man doesn’t always approve of me. Sometimes man rejects me. When I succeed or fail, man watches and judges my worth or value.

Or so I think. I’m beginning to suspect that others think far less often of me than I might guess, everyone’s thoughts being as centered around themselves as mine are around me.

And the more I study fear – in the Bible and in real life – the more I see that fear is a trap, particularly for those who say they trust God.

The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. (Proverbs 29:25)

There is no telling how much hurt and heartache the Christian Church has caused because we have feared man more than God. I don’t want to be a part of that mess. The writer of Hebrews calls across the centuries,

Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say,

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6)

The same fear that has driven God’s people in history and right now, drives me.

Let love of the brethren continue…

I feel called to love as Jesus loves, but some within my Christian community and even family think I’m taking it too far. Accepting people and things that are unacceptable. I’m too touchy feely, I’m not safeguarding the Gospel, I’m not defending God’s Word.

Will I love anyway?

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers… Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. 

I read about immigration and the racial biases implanted in our justice system, and my heart breaks. If I speak publicly about this, it’s seen as political, not befitting my position, I’ve “gone liberal.” Will I show hospitality and remember prisoners (and work to right these wrongs) anyway?

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have…

Ouch. This one hits close to home. Is my character free from the love of money? What role does fear play in my spending habits, in my debts, in my lifestyle choices, in the difference between what I spend on myself and what I give in generosity to others? What role does fear play in my willing participation in the over consumption embedded in our culture, to the harm of the earth and my fellow humans? How much does the love of money affect my politics, the issues I care most about? Is contentment or comfort my driving goal?

I want to love the brethren, welcome outsiders, stand with those who are mistreated and imprisoned. I want to continue to honor my marriage, and I badly want to be free from the love of money, to find real contentment. HOW?

… for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”  so that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraidWhat will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6)

The voice of fear is loud. But Jesus Himself says He is with me. Do I believe Him?


 

This post is the latest in the NO FEAR Devotional Series. Check back every Tuesday for the latest, and you can read the previous posts in the series here.

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Ree Reads: April Book Reviews

The reading challenge I set for myself in April was a TOTAL FAIL. Sigh. I did read a lot of great books, but my plan to go back and finish books I’d tried to read and quit was….maybe not that great a plan?

Two readerly goodies that I’m excited about and that may be relevant to your interests because FREE BOOKS. (Disclaimer: I tend towards being a book collector more than a book reader, and both of these free book opportunities are probably not helping with that… I am supposed to be reading the books I own before buying or borrowing this year, maybe that self-given challenge is going to fail too? #sorrynotsorry #freebooks!)

#1 Do you know about Amazon First Reads? If you’re a prime member, you get a free new release kindle book each month. I have an Amazon account, but we shop and buy and have Prime on Matt’s account, so I don’t get any Amazon emails, and missed out on quite a few free books when we first signed up for Prime. I’m finally in the habit of checking the Amazon First Reads page at the beginning of every month and choosing my free book. They have 6 to choose from, and there’s almost always one (or more!) that sound really good to me. There are several great choices this month, I chose this one, which sounds delightful.

#2 Have you heard about the free audiobook summer program at Audiobooksync.com This is for you if you enjoy YA or have a teen in your life whom you’d like to encourage to read more. SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens (aimed at getting teens to read, but open to everyone). Beginning April 26 2018, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. You have to download the overdrive app (that’s where the books are stored once you download them), but it’s easy and FREE and they have a great variety of interests represented over the course of the summer.

(This isn’t a sponsored post  – not that I’m against sponsored posts, a blogger has to make a living, and the links below are all my affiliate links as always… Both of these programs are free, I’m not receiving compensation for sharing them – I just thought you’d be interested and I love to share!) Now on to my…

Book Nerd Failure Confession: I’m not afraid to quit a book I’m not enjoying, but I have a stack of books that I thought I’d quit because my attention span was spoiled by the internet, or because I tried them on audio and they weren’t a good listening fit for me. So I checked out a giant stack from the library, all books reader friends have loved and encouraged me to go back to, and gave myself the challenge of finishing them.

Guess what? I read ONE of them. ONE. It took me FOREVER to finish it, and then April was nearly over. I picked up 2 or 3 more (and drove around town with one in the car for a week), but… I’m thinking maybe I quit because I didn’t like them? It’s like I thought we were just on a break, but now it seems I  need to break up with them forever. Sorry books. Maybe I’ll put a list at the end of this post and let y’all tell me if there are some I’ll be sorry I missed?

In spite of my fail, I managed to read 13 books this month (thanks, audiobooks!). Read on for quick reviews of the books I did manage to finish this month (and to chime in on the books I’m breaking up with!), including a mystery series I’m loving on audio, a Christian book from a new-to-me (and super helpful) perspective on Jesus, two heart-breaking non-fiction books, a fun read-aloud and the one book I managed to go back and make myself finish.

This month: Readerly goodies (#freebooks!) My reading FAIL Challenging books from diverse perspectives A fun new-to-me mystery series/palate cleanser

 

Continue reading

The Opposite of Fear is…

A few years ago we made the decision to move from homeschooling our younger two sons and sent them to school, 3rd grade and kindergarten. This was a rough transition for both of them, but particularly (and understandably) for our 3rd grader. Like his mama, he was afraid of failing, of standing out, of doing something wrong. He mourned for the safety of home, even when what he really needed was the risk and reward of the big wide world.

We talked to him nonstop about bravery, “Be brave!”, “You’re so brave!”, “You can be brave!” I’m embarrassed to think about how frustrated we got with him when he refused to be brave, especially considering my own wealth of personal experience in this area.

When has telling myself to be brave EVER helped me be less afraid??

Answer: Never. It has never helped me.

I should have known that courage is not the opposite of fear. Courage is being afraid and doing it anyway.

So what is the opposite of fear?

As I’ve studied verses from the Bible about fear, I think I’ve found if not THE answer, then at least AN answer. Continue reading

Desperate for God

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. 

You’re probably familiar with the opening of Psalm 42: It covers the walls of Christian bookstores, often printed on a peaceful picture of a sweet fawn tenderly approaching a quiet stream. Lovely.

But that’s not the picture the psalm is painting. Psalm 42 opens with desperation. Joel 1:20 uses the same word, “pant” describing animals when the brooks are dried up and the pastures devoured by fire.

Perhaps a better translation: “As a hunted deer, dying of thirst, pants for water, so my soul longs for You, O God.” But no one wants a picture of a dying deer hanging on their wall.

What is the deer dying for? What does the Psalmist want?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

I am convinced that the Psalmist is not thirsting to know about God. The word for “living” is a nature word, living or alive in the sense that vegetation is green, water is fresh and flowing, humans are lively and active, springtime is reviving.

The psalmist is thirsty for life. He’s running to God, naming God as the source of life and liveliness.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. (Psalm 42:1-4)

Do you relate? Are you thirsty for God, perhaps even remembering a time when you praised Him and were more sure of His help?


Click here to read the rest of this post over at the EquipHer Blog, where I am  honored to write this week.

10 Commandments for a Happy Home

Hello from our last months as a family of five living under one roof, our last days with a high school senior.

I could mourn (And I have cried. Friends, you know I have CRIED.) But I’m choosing to celebrate. To count gifts, to name the things that have made our home happy. So many things bless our days and hours together in this season, blessings that add up to a happy home.

Here’s my top 10 list, 10 things I love about our family, 10 ways to live together well, 10 commandments for a happy home. Continue reading

The One Thing that Helps Me Face Fear

Are worry, anxiety, and fear the same thing? I’ve never been a worrier, and hardly ever identify myself as anxious. But I’ve been afraid my whole life.

I’m afraid of failure.

I’m afraid of abandonment.

I’m super afraid of rejection.

I’m so afraid of embarrassment I don’t enjoy movies or shows with embarrassing characters (See also: I’ve never watched a full episode of The Office.)

I’m afraid of making wrong decisions, of being misunderstood,  of doing the wrong thing, of not being enough, of being too much.

My life, my decisions, my relationships, my ministry, have all been shaped by fear.

Fear calls me to live a safe life, a life as protected as possible from failure, abandonment, rejection, embarrassment.  But a life without risk is also a life without adventure, connection, love, and freedom.

Continue reading

Everyday Holy: Creating a Sacramental Family

I hadn’t been a mother for very long before realizing that waking up before my children is a necessity for my mental health. I am a morning person, and I don’t function well without a bit of silence (and coffee) before facing the needs and demands of parenthood and life.

So nearly every week day my alarm goes off and I roll out of bed, stumble into my clothes, wander to the kitchen to pour a warm cup of wake-me-up,  and fall into the chair in my bedroom for a little silence, solitude, and time with Jesus and His Word. This is my preferred start to the day, and (when I don’t let myself get distracted by my dumb phone) it is a delight. But it is not the most delightful part of my morning.

The most delightful part of my morning begins over the next 30 minutes or so as the rest of the house wakes up.

Our youngest son is the only other early riser in the family. When our border collie camps out in the hallway, I know M is starting to move around. Before long I have a sleepy-eyed, pajama clad visitor. His preferred start to the day is a few minutes on my lap, and at almost 9 he will outgrow morning cuddles soon, so I soak them up while they last.

Soon my sweet husband drags himself out of bed and wakes up our sleepyhead middle child. T rises at the crack of dawn on weekends, but has to be pried out of bed when school is on the schedule. Eventually he too makes his way to my chair, seemingly unable to face the daunting task of getting dressed without a hug and kiss from his mama.

At some point in the morning, Matt wanders by in various stages of getting ready, kisses me, and tells me he loves me. An affectionate spouse is a gift I never tire of receiving.

Our youngest is eating breakfast by now, having let the dog out to do his morning business. When Dudley comes back inside, he (hilariously) also comes darting into the bedroom, sitting insistently at my feet until I tell him good morning too. He won’t leave until I’ve petted him, and most of the time he jumps up into my lap for a doggie-breath scented hug.

As my quiet morning draws to and end and the clock reminds me that it’s time to finish getting ready for my day, our oldest son comes in to say goodbye. As my alarm goes off every morning, I hear his blaring through the vents from the basement, attempting to wake the only other family member who has to be up early. This giant blond bearded man is about to graduate and fly our nest, but he never leaves without coming in and kissing his mother goodbye.


One of my co-workers has been studying and thinking about the idea of sacraments, and he won’t shut up about it (I’m not complaining, I love it!) A Sacrament is “a visible sign of an inward grace”. In the church the sacraments are the intentional, physical ceremonies we do to remind ourselves of God’s love and presence, like communion and baptism.

A good morning kiss, quiet words and loving embraces, these are such small things. But when we repeat them every day, they create an environment of affection and appreciation. A good morning kiss, quiet words and loving embraces, these are such small things. But when we repeat them every day, these small things can become holy, sacramental.

Nearly accidentally, we created a family culture of waking up to say I love you and hear it back.

I realized today that is what I want from my morning times: A quiet moment to crawl into my heavenly Father’s lap, hear “I love you” and say it back.

His love makes every day holy.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

 

Photo in images by Ember + Ivory on Unsplash

 

When You Have to Make a Decision, and You’re Scared to Death

I worked full time in order to pay for my last few years of college, taking only 1-2 classes a semester, so I had a lot of time to decide what I wanted to do “when I grew up”. About a year before my long awaited graduation my church created a job that was half administrative assistant and half women’s ministry assistant for the college ministry, and offered it to me.

At the time, it was the hardest decision I’d ever faced.

I loved the people offering me the job, and I loved my church, and I loved college ministry. But I’d never imagined working at a church. And since this job hadn’t existed before, it wasn’t something I’d pictured or dreamed of doing. Previously, the only jobs available to women at my church were secretarial, and I wasn’t interested in secretarial work as a career (I was working full time as an Admin Assistant at my university).

Looking back I recognize that deep down I wanted to say yes, and even felt the Lord pointing to His goodness for me in that particular job. But I was very afraid. And they wanted a 5 year commitment: I was 25, working my tail off to finally graduate and leave my college town, and I wasn’t ready to commit to being anywhere for 5 years.

If I say I agonized over that decision, I’m underselling it. I obsessed. I over analyzed. I made pro and con lists. I met with people from the church, repeatedly. I prayed, obsessively. I was paralyzed by indecision, desperately afraid of making the wrong choice.

Two things helped me to move out of my paralysis. Continue reading

3 simple ways for People of Faith to Avoid “Bad News Fatigue” {No Fear Devotional}

As part of my ongoing efforts to live life less tethered to my phone, last month I turned the notifications off on the News application on my phone.  Fringe benefit: Nearly instantly my mornings felt more peaceful. I don’t want to stick my head in the ground, but I also don’t want Google or Apple (or Facebook!) choosing what news I see. And over the last few years the news has proven a particularly unsuitable way to start peaceful days.


Before writing this, I popped into the news to check today’s headlines:

Zuckerberg testimony: Members of Congress grill Facebook CEO  (Washington Post)

Raid on Trump’s Lawyer Sought Records of Payments to Women (New York Times)

The Latest: Russian envoy says US has been warned on Syria (Washington Post)

And locally:

Man arrested following assault of two Lincoln Police officers

Officers defuse situation with man in Lincoln Wal-Mart threatening to shoot people (both from the Lincoln Journal Star)


In a world of bad news is it possible to not live a life of fear?

Is my only healthy choice to stick my head in the ground, never reading the news, refusing to engage in what’s going on in our country and the world?

I wasn’t expecting my study of “No Fear” verses to lead me to an answer to this question, but it did. Continue reading

Bittersweet

On April 9, 2003 in College Station, TX I was wrapping up another year in college ministry, rerouting summer teams whose destination had to change because of the SARS epidemic in Asia.

Meanwhile, wholly unbeknownst to me, in Omaha, NE many of the people who are now nearest and dearest to me were going through the hardest days of their lives. Fifteen years ago today, Matt’s first wife and my oldest child’s first mother lost her battle with breast cancer and went home to Jesus.

I love this life I lead, the home we’ve built, the family we rejoice in. But I also recognize that our home was built on a foundation of sadness and loss. Ours is a not a story of victory only, but of redemption.

My sweet life was made possible by the bitter hurt of the people I love the most.

So today I pray: Thanking God for my husband and son, praying for Julie’s parents, her sisters and brothers and the nieces and nephews who were robbed of knowing their aunt.

And I remember to trust God in my own bitter seasons, looking for His sweetness even here, and expecting His comfort for me and mine. He is a God who knows the bittersweet.