Category Archives: fear

Taking Courage

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Did you ever watch the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz?” Of all the various characters that we are introduced to throughout the film – I think that my favorite is ‘The Cowardly Lion.’ When we are first introduced to him, he is doing all he knows how to be the very best lion he can be; doing everything he can to play the role. He jumps around, roars at little Toto, and growls his fiercest growl. The problem is that it is all an act. One quick swat from Dorothy and he falls completely apart. He starts sobbing. He lowers his shoulders. He backs away from the others. He holds his tail and cries out pitifully. He is a hot mess! After regaining his composure, somewhat later however, he makes this grandiose speech – Courage! What makes a King out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusty dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the ‘ape’ in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got? – Courage!’ Have you ever given your own version of that exact same speech? Have you ever played the part of ‘having it all together’, but deep inside knew you were nothing but afraid? It is not the best feeling, is it?

In December of 2019, the Lord impressed on me the word ‘unafraid’. It had come to me at the end of a very difficult year. In January of that year, my husband changed jobs. He had been commuting about an hour away (Monday – Friday) and now was working out of the house, traveling one week a month to Washington, D.C. Because of this job change we realized that the house we were living in (that already felt too small for our family of 6) was not going to provide an adequate work environment for him long term. We knew we would need to sell our house, but having lived in it for over twelve years, there was going to be much to do to get it ready. So we immediately set out to renovate our home (while we all still lived in it and while he now worked out of it. Oh my.) Along with our decision to make ready our house to sell, we had also made the decision that we would use the year to pay off some of our dumb debt and get ourselves in a financial position for me to step away from the toxic work environment that I was in. So for twelve months he learned a new job and our family a new rhythm around that job; we took our house through massive renovations; we sold our house without an inkling of where we would be moving; found a home within weeks of our move out date; and moved. All while I was preparing things where I worked to carry on without me so my leaving would not cause any issues for them – oh and did I mention we were training for a massive marathon weekend where in 4 days we would run 48.6 miles? Love a duck! So needless to say, when the Lord pressed ‘unafraid’ into my mind – it made complete sense to me. I knew that as the year turned over to 2020, it meant figuring out a new neighborhood and meeting new neighbors (I’m an introvert and the thought of that makes me sweat even now.) It meant preparing to step away from several decades of a life working in church ministry. It meant having to find a new church. It meant figuring out what the Lord had for me next. It meant a great many changes were in store – and I won’t lie – I wasn’t handling all of the impending changes well. To put it delicately – I was a hot mess. I had no clue what 2020 was really about to bring. I had no idea the level to which I, and everyone around me, would be taken under by a tidal wave of fear. 

Over the course of 2020, I leaned in – hard – to finding out what God had to say about living life holding tight to Him, and not holding so tightly to the fears that seemed everywhere; what He had to say about living unafraid. In case you were curious, He has an extensive amount to say on the subject. Out of the 66 books that lie within the pages of the Bible, 60 of them speak directly to the subject. Each Biblical character that I read about, glanced over or knew of, all have struggles surrounding some form of fear. Every sin that I saw mentioned has roots that tie back to fear. It is a vicious animal, fear. It can sneak up when your back is turned. It can consume. It can devour. It can kill if we are not careful. To me, the visual that comes to mind is the most vicious of predators – the lion…sitting in the shadows waiting to pounce.

In actuality, this is something that the Lord intends for us to think of when we process the idea of fear. It is interesting to me the amount of times that lions are referred to in scripture. In Isaiah 31:4, the LORD references how a strong lion is not afraid. Proverbs 21:8 references their boldness. Isaiah 5:29 references their strength as a predator. They are used over 25 times as examples to help paint a picture of things we should expect, ways we should act and warnings of what to look for. Their strength is demonstrated countless times in a manner of something that should be feared and that can cause fear – in Judges 14:18, Sampson is even asked, ‘What is stronger than a lion?’ Each of these instances can be countered, however, with the truth that despite all of their strength the Lord can silence them and crush them. In the same way – fear can feel like something that wants to devour and destroy you but Lord gently reminds us that He stands ready to crush fear, silence it, defeat it – if we would but trust that He will.

Too many times to count, God asks for us to ‘take courage’, to ‘be courageous’. It is something we must chose. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, ‘for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.’ We can feel just like that cowardly lion mentioned above – convinced that this is who we are with fears that are too real, too consuming. Despite that – He still says ‘take courage’. 

  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
  • “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

As the ‘Wizard of Oz’ draws to a close, we see each of the characters come before the wizard with their requests, their needs. In response the wizard gives the cowardly lion a medal of bravery. A symbol of the courage that is assuredly within him; a reminder that any time fear wants to sneak in, he can be courageous. We have been given a very similar gift to remind us of the courage that we too can have, Christ Jesus. The events around us will continue to swirl. Situations will overwhelm, life will continue to pull the rug from beneath you…taking courage, living unafraid isn’t holding to those moments…it’s holding to Christ and becoming strong in the Lord. If this concept seems unattainable – pray. Ask Him to help you to ‘take courage’ – to have the physical courage to to stand up for your beliefs or to weather life’s storms. To take courage that no matter what – He has not left you; He will not leave you. Instead of just playing the part – begin to truly seek Him, know Him, draw close to Him, believe Him and yes, stand strong in Him. He WILL carry you through. He WILL calm your heart. He WILL direct your next steps. He WILL remind you that you are loved. He WILL silence those fears. No longer do you have to say ‘what have they got that I ain’t got’ because you ‘got’ Him! Praying this with you my friend!

Choosing What You Cannot See

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Do you ever scroll through the TimeHop on your social media? My memory is terrible. And I have found that over the years that I find true joy over scrolling through past memories each day. Inevitably I will be surprised by things that happened – having completely forgotten that I had participated in certain events  – or I will get ridiculously tickled over some dumb thing either my kids or I had done – which are numerous! So I guess it shouldn’t entirely surprise me that when I decided to scroll through today’s memories – I encountered something of an anniversary on this date. It was a year ago today that I stepped down from my previous job. As with any major decision there is a lot of heartache and questioning that goes into it – and this shift was no different. I had been serving at a church for five years. God had made it so abundantly clear when He opened the door for me to work there. I had a thousand concerns, worries, and red flags – but through all of that noise – He continually confirmed and reaffirmed that He wanted me on that mission field. I love how the Lord can truly give you a peace over a decision, situation or issue. I am so thankful when everything else is a chaotic hot mess…His peace, His stillness, His voice somehow breaks through. It is amazing. What is not so amazing…is when He is quiet. I am not sure if you have ever encountered it, but there are times when the Lord can be deafeningly silent! And a year ago today was a perfect storm of both of those moments. He had made it SO clear that it was time to leave my job…and not just my job, but to step away from serving inside the four walls of a church. I had spent the previous two decades serving inside church walls – and now He was saying it was time to step out. This was completely clear. But where I was to go; what I was to do next; what serving Him in ministry would look like next? Yeah…you could hear crickets…but not His voice. 

Maybe I am an odd duck – in fact, I am aware that I am and am rather proud of this fact – but when faced with big changes like those listed above – I freak completely out. I, like so many, do not like change. Good or bad – change is still change and I don’t like it. Why? Because what I do like is to be in control! It is my favorite! I like to have a plan (okay…that’s a lie. I like to have six plans with another back-up or two just for kicks). I like to know what’s going to happen and what all potential outcomes might be. The Lord too, loves a good plan (as a dear friend reminded me earlier – just check out Exodus and his layout of the building of the Tabernacle. If you don’t think God loves a thorough, detailed, fully laid out plan – head there.) There isn’t anything that has appeared on this earth or happened in our lives that the Lord doesn’t have a plan for – there is peace in that and that truth absolutely deserves at least one ‘hallelujah’. He is just not always in the business of laying it out in front of us. He calls us to lean in. He calls us to take a step forward. He calls us to trust. He calls us to choose Him. 

As I sat here reflecting on my time in ministry, my time in my last position, and this day one year ago, God allowed another memory to come to mind as well. I have shared this before, but it is too fitting here not to share again. Several years ago…and by several, I think it was close to a decade ago, my husband selflessly allowed me to sneak away for a weekend. I say selflessly because at the time we had three young children, no grandparents in town, and he was going to be left to figure it all out on his own while I was away. (He is rockstar husband and father – it was just exceptionally meaningful to me that he gave me this little break.). Some friends of ours had a place about forty-five minutes from where we lived – and had offered it up to me for the weekend. I was very excited. I had planned do some prep for an upcoming Bible study I was going to lead. I planned to try and relax a bit, but I really planned to be laser focused and have some quality time with the Lord. (If you have ever seen a mama of young ones – you know time is precious, sleep rare, and time with the Lord as scattered as the crumbs and toys in the house.) Similarly, I was approaching a new season and it was time to get real with the Lord – to look at the areas where I had struggled, acknowledge the gifts He had given, and prepare for the unknown road ahead. It all sounded great – I was super excited, but also incredibly nervous about what the unknowns of what He had next for me.

I was thinking through these things as I drove when I came to the driveway of the get-away house where I would stay. And the thing He had next for me – that He put in front of me?…This nasty picture you see here (forgive the ugliness of it – but without the visual, you might not fully understand). I mean good glory! How completely gross was this little guy! It was bad enough that it was in the driveway to begin with, but for extra kicks it had landed itself smack-dab in the middle so my ability to ignore it wasn’t really an option. 

A random side effect of having little kids at home is that they tend to make you more inquisitive and curious than you normally would be, and I found myself inexplicably getting out of the car to check him out. Now please don’t picture this scene with any form of bravery or poise. I am relatively sure I crept from the vehicle, tip-toeing to his side, with my shoulders tight, my face contorted and a small groan escaping my mouth for no real reason. Please also keep in mind that this thing…this squirrel…was dead and I am ridiculous. As I got nearer to him (to take the lovely picture you see here), I quickly noticed that he was completely missing a leg. Bless this little guy’s heart, I don’t know what got a hold of him, but it did not come out well for him at all. I stood up and breathed a bit easier (now sure it wouldn’t attack me) and suddenly dread swooped over me again. What on earth was I going to do with him?

I’m a planner, remember – so I assessed the situation and quickly came up with four potential plans…

  1. Though obviously dead…I could get back into the car and repeatedly run him over just to verify death.
  2. I could find something to throw over it – covering it up so I didn’t have to look at it.
  3. I could pretend like I never saw him and just ignore it all together (though being right in the middle of the driveway…that was not super realistic.) Or…
  4. I could find a shovel and remove him to his final resting place in the woods.

Now put a pause on this scene from the nature channel…and fast forward to this anniversary date of such big changes that occurred a year ago today. I knew God’s hand was ushering me out, and I knew that up to this point He had never failed or left me – but the not knowing what would come next…the having to trust in the unknown and unseen…I didn’t know what to do. Insecurities overwhelmed me that maybe He was calling me away because I had failed Him. The insecurities of whatever is ahead, I’m not good enough for them, those areas where we (who are all sinners) don’t like to unravel and give God access to – what if I had to face those as I stepped out. I don’t know about you, but those unknowns, those quiet moments, those blind spots – are incredibly scary. And In that moment, I was faced with some choices…

  1. Do I replay past events, past choices, past sins repeatedly to verify that I am too worthless for whatever He might be calling me to and allow the fear of repeating failures to stop me in my tracks?
  2. Do I find something to throw over those areas of my life to cover them up and make excuses so I just don’t have to look at them at all?
  3. Do I pretend that He isn’t really calling me to something new? Why even bring it up with the Lord – let’s focus on the easy stuff and pretend that possibility isn’t there?
  4. Or do I get down on the ground, even it takes an ocean of tears, even if it’s painful, even if it gross…and scoop those past failures and fresh fears up and allow the Lord to put the junk in it’s final resting place so that I can move forward?

Back to my little friend. As I considered my options on what to do with this blasted squirrel, I really did begin to lean toward pretending it wasn’t there and just trying to avoid it. The only problem was it became all I could think about. First of all it was just icky. But let’s say I did leave it – what if it encouraged other critters to come out and feast on it right there by my car? (‘Ick’…intensified.) As much as I wanted to just walk away – that was not a viable solution. I wish you could have seen me remove this thing. It’s not like I even had to get my hands dirty. I just had to grab a shovel, scoop the dead squirrel up (although scooping was actually pushing it across the driveway until I could gain some traction to scoop) and walk a few yards toward the woods. I barely touched it and that gag reflex came over me, and I stood there for a moment shuttering. After a quick ‘man up’ speech…I pushed, scooped, and carried the little bugger to it’s final resting place (head turned away the entire time) and like that…the problem was solved… the yuck was gone and I could move on.

A year ago today was February 2020. I had no idea that within a month the world would shut down. I had no comprehension that I would take over as primary teacher for my children’s education. I didn’t know that a new technology would emerge allowing me to lead three Bible studies out of my home and across the states. My head and heart could not have possibly been able to process that I would lose my father-in-law (who was the only father figure to me). I had no idea what the Lord was calling me to and yet…He called me to it anyway. Sometimes He is quiet because the reality of what’s ahead is beyond our grasp. 

I hope you see where I am going here. The Lord has a plan for you. Even when you can’t see it, when you don’t understand it, when what’s in front of you seems awful and gross, and you feel you are far from prepared for it. Yes, you have lived a life of a thousand choices you wish you had not made – don’t continue to beat yourself up over them. Don’t try to hide away – hoping others won’t see and convincing yourself that He can’t use you or doesn’t want you. Don’t try to pretend that the unknown of what’s ahead doesn’t bother you, or that by avoiding God you will prevent further pain (the old ‘if I don’t talk to Him, I won’t have to hear what He says’ adage doesn’t ever work here). Don’t’ let current circumstances or situations have such massive victories over your heart and mind. Don’t beat yourself up over what you could have done or should be doing or might not ever get to do. Don’t hide away and think that absence will just make it all go away. Grab your shovel…fall to your knees…allow the junk that you think makes you too icky to be His, to get scooped away. Allow Him to take the insecurities and fears and chuck them to their final resting place. Yes, there will always be a multitude of choices – choose Him. He calls us to lean in. He calls us to take a step forward. He calls us to trust. Even when it’s hard, even when we don’t know what’s next, He is always the best choice!

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV