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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

wildernessThen Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted . . . [Matthew 4:1a]

He went willingly into the wilderness. Me? Not so much, more like kicking and screaming. It’s not like I haven’t been there before. I have stumbled through a number of dry seasons and harsh conditions. I have walked blindly and without water, but not because I chose to do so. The supplies got left behind.

Jesus fasted as a norm to the moment before him. He just knew that this challenge would require all of himself. If He could not survive this, then the rest of the mission would fail. 40 days and 40 nights and an evil companion dropping in and out, taunting along the way, was only a small portion of what He would face in the end.

This would not be a wilderness that would kill him. That much He knew. But the his test results could put a major crimp in the plan, in the method, in the progress. This was phase one.

I always mess this up. I look at the wilderness and almost always cry “Uncle.” I project into the wilderness more than is there. It’s like being hungry before I’ve started to fast. It’s rolling over after the alarm sounds because I’m just “too tired” to face the morning. It’s letting my memories of former excursions into the tough times set the tone.

So I know that. Right now. I see it, I know it. So, let’s do it differently this time.

I’m going in.

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ashesThere is something to be said about the Church calendar. Or any calendar, I guess. There is a turning of the pages and steady pace to the days and weeks and months. Some people mark the time with Christmas or the first day of school (what used to be the day after Labor Day), but for me, it’s Ash Wednesday.

Usually, when this day comes along, I have been thinking and praying and pondering how I will engage my God more deeply. This year, the day descended like roller coaster. What? When did the year pass? How is it possible that this year hellish sorrows and losses and change could be done and I am back to Ash Wednesday again. I’m not ready. I don’t have a plan.

And yet, I made it to church and I worked through the little activities of introspection and I promised to look again, to search again, to confess again, and to write again about the journey.

The ashes remind us of our mortality. I have been reminded of that every day since Mike died. It could have been me instead of him. I could have had the heart attack. It could have been different. And it still could be.

But now is now and today is what is and it’s Ash Wednesday. Lent begins and God is calling me back into the bosom of the Spirit. “Indwell. Abide. Hang out with Me, for I, Yahweh, am faithful.” Hear the voice of God.

Come prodigal daughter, it’s time to confess the truth of your vacuumed soul. Empty now. Full later.

Let go of those things that crowd out the Presence. It’s time. Make room, one step at a time.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. [John 15:5]

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keep walkingAnd yet, there are times–in fact, many times, when our hearts are full of hope, our spirits are at rest, and our eyes are looking forward, but the way does not clear. And despite these words:

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; . . .

[Psalm 112:6-8, NIV]

We are shaken and we fear and we hesitate. That’s right. It happens.

I know these things for I lived them. I have walked with confidence and I have seen the glory of the Lord, like a true Shekhinah. I have shaken in the Presence and I have heard the voice of God. I have trusted when there was nothing to trust and I have known steadfastness. My faith is strong.

But that doesn’t mean I am not human. Nor does it mean that I do not fall in my faith. I weep and I call out to God, who has seemed to forsake me. I have walked the lonely corridor where no door is open and no light shines ahead.

Why do I write this? Because I was reminded yesterday in service, to keep going. Just keep going. There is something in the going that eventually reveals the underlying truth. Only when I have stopped, even briefly, have I seen the effects of fear grow roots. And to move, after stopping, gets harder and harder, the longer I delay.

I walk. I go. And my confidence in the Presence of Christ Jesus returns. First as a whisper, but eventually as a song.

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secretplace1After life gives you lemons and even the lemonade is undrinkable, it’s clear that God has something else in mind. I am, by nature, a doer and problem-solver. I have made a lot of lemonade in my life. But I have come to the borders of my self-sufficiency. Whatever comes next is new territory. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” [Psalm 91:1-2, NKJ] So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. [Daniel 9:3] I am peeling away then at the layers that have shrouded that secret place where God and I have met in the past. It is a slow process, like pulling English Ivy, the tentacles of memories and circumstances, loss and sorrow, missteps and futility, have covered the way. But I must push on and push in, for whatever I do next must be directed by God; I need confidence in the hand of God guiding me. I don’t have that anymore. Whatever has sustained me in the last six months is no longer enough. Even though people offer to help, unless the direction is clear, we are all going in circles. What next? That’s my prayer. What next?

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expecting a miracleWe all think we know what we need. It’s part of our human nature. And honestly, in many cases, it seems pretty obvious. In the case of the lame man, he had adapted to his disability and didn’t even consider that a need any longer. He asked for alms each day to meet his immediate needs and had already decided that he could not meet these needs himself.

Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  [Acts 3:2-5, NIV]

I can’t help but wonder how many times I have missed the bigger miracle while reaching out for the thing right before me.

Right now, it’s kind of important for me to keep my head, heart, and eyes clear in just this way. It’s pretty obvious that I cannot remain in our big house anymore now that I am down to one salary after Mike’s death. With no life insurance or other nest egg to speak of, I am faced with downsizing now rather than later. Preparing a home for sale and looking for miracle treesomething else is overwhelming to say the least. I need a small miracle to find something that is affordable for my new life and yet practical for house guests or boomerang children.

What is my expectation of God here? I am trying to balance the realities of looking at properties (in essence, one can’t win the lottery without buying a ticket) and believing that God has something planned for me, yet out of sight. I don’t want to jump at “good enough” if best is around the corner. I don’t want to leap out of anxiety or doubt.

Work and pray. Like Nehemiah. That’s all I know to do.

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Asking and thanking go together. They are a song that has perfect but unique harmonies. Asking & thanking in prayer is a tight union, like an A Capella group that intertwines the main melody with sounds and riffs, highs and lows.

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. [Philippians 4:6, CEB]

I cannot ask without thanking. Well, I should not.

If I take my anxieties and concerns to God in prayer, then the next thing from my lips needs to be my thanksgiving because “God’s got this!” That’s the point. The prayer part, the appeal, is not so much about God or Christ, but about me. I am sharing, as transparently as possible, how I understand my  situation and what I believe I need to happen. But listen, I may (more than likely) be wrong about the best outcome. Thank God. I mean, sincerely, I thank God who listens but is not particularly moved by my limited discernment.

But when I’m hurting, I tell God. When I’m confused, I complain. When I’m angry, I confess. When I’m convinced, I give God an opening to disagree.

Thanks for your patience Lord. Sing with me.

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grateful heartSaying “thank you” should not be just a polite expression or automated response. When the words come from the heart, they can germinate and roots will strengthen them. The words sound differently when they bubble up from the truth center of our selves, and as a result, they have the power to reach into the hearts of others. True thanksgiving is compelling. But, ya gotta mean it.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV] and The Lord does look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. [I Samuel 16:7b, NIV]

When expressing thanks to another person, I think it’s important to make eye contact to reveal one’s intent, an acknowledgment and appreciation for the efforts of another. It is an I/Thou interaction. Another way of saying this: when a person feels thanks and shares that thankfulness with another, there is an exchange of energy and recognition, much like saying, “I see you and you see me.” It is the simplest form of gratefulness.

surrender 1God asks no less. Acknowledge Me, appreciate what I-God has given to You-Human, celebrate gratefulness, and express all of it with thanks. Trust Me.

No doubt, when circumstances are difficult, I tend to withhold thanks. I make assumptions and judgments: no, not this, no, this is a bad day, no, this is a bad choice, no, this is too sad, no, this is too painful. And so I reject the situation and look for another. I decide on my own that this is not the way I want to go, that this can’t be the path God intended me to take. I’m outta here.

But there is more loss; I’ve missed important lessons along the way because I ran, I eluded, I buried my head in the sand.

aloneI am facing such a time again, this newly minted widowhood. Can I find an inner thanks, a genuine “yes” to God, despite the tears, the loss, and the anxieties? Can I surrender into gratefulness? Can I fight off disappointment?

Little by little. Little by little. I must. I can. I will.

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