Conflicts and Fear

So last night, while speaking with some close friends, someone asked me…how is it you can go through such crap & hard things, and still be so happy?  My answer? “Because I’m a really great faker.” Don’t think that’s much of an answer? Well…..neither did I once it was out of my mouth.

Since I was in HS, honestly probably before that though, I’ve been the “tough girl” who doesn’t let things get to her. And it’s not that I really AM that tough, it’s just that I don’t want to face those things. Tonight, I was at a youth retreat, and after saying yes to leading part of a game……I said….I can’t handle it. I don’t want to do that. (I’m learning to say no when I need to and tonight I needed to say no.)  Instead, I somewhat reluctantly grabbed my Bible, hid myself away in someone’s room & read. I searched for all the places that God told us about his peace, and how he would hold us together & allow us to have rest in Him. Here’s some of what I found: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) “Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest…..” (Hebrews 4:8-11) “Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink;….” (Psalm 69:14)

These are all things that were going on in my heart tonight, and as we studied together later, about how God wants to open our doors if we LISTEN to Him and then wants us to OBEY Him, I wondered about what it was that He wanted me to open up with.  My answer?  Fear.  He wanted me to open up about the fear that was residing inside, holding my outside captive, never letting me truly express what was going on.  It was interesting, because it was like God was saying….I can’t heal that if you’re not admitting it’s there.  So I admitted it was there. And then the next thing, was….how do I obey God in this area?  What am I supposed to do about it?

One of the other verses I found spoke to that…Psalm 62:5,6 and 8 says “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken…. Trust in Him at all times, O people; POUR OUT YOUR HEARTS TO HIM, for God is our refuge.” Then you know, there are those many other verses that say do not fear….well, it felt like God was telling me….”don’t fear or worry….but if you do, tell someone. Tell ME.”
The other thing, was I avoid conflict (I’m growing in this though) ….and most times I think about that in relation to others. But tonight, I realized that I’m avoiding the conflict within myself, about the fear that I am (was) unwilling to face.  Fear about my mom, my family, my future, relationships, what God’s “to-do-list” is for me, etc.  So the conflict wasn’t with other people, but it was a conflict that I’m fighting with myself.  (which is interesting b/c a year ago, in a class, the question was posed “what is the biggest hindrance to you growing with God and I answered “myself”)  Hm.

So….it’s been a good night.  I cried. I think the last time I cried was in December….and before that one day in October. I do not cry.  But I want to, because it’s an outward expression of the deep fear that is in me, and I need to express that not just to others, not just to God, but also to myself.  ….”The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take delight in you, HE WILL QUIET YOU WITH HIS LOVE, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

And now….I’m going to be quiet.

A Story Worth Living

We all have stories….some are comedies, some are tragedies, some are romantic & some are just plain stale. Wherever your story fits on this grid…it fits…somewhere, because we all are living a story.  But what is making your story great? Are you inviting people to live out that story with you? Are you drowning in character development with a character that never does anything? Are you frustrated that your climax scenes never get the “aha” resolution like in the movies? Are you intrigued by the chapters, enough that you keep wanting to go further & further into the story?

I’ve been thinking a lot about story. I’m pretty sure I’ve already blogged on this somewhat, but it’s in my mind again. Listening to music like Grace Potter, and her sweet crooning of “are we falling or flying”….a lot of this has to do with perspective…but your perspective is shaped by your story, right? somewhat?

In Ezra, he is a scribe that writes the Jews’ story of coming back to the homeland & rebuilding their temple after so many years in captivity. What a story!  The captors release a certain amount of captives to go home & rebuild a temple, that has so much importance to them. It’s pretty amazing to me that the captors did that….and it’s also pretty amazing how the people wanted the temple rebuilt so bad, that obviously they weren’t just sitting around in captivity going along day to day….they wanted that temple, and they wanted it bad!  I don’t think it was really so much about the “temple” as it was about wanting a place to worship the one true God….but giving Him a place to reside was important for the Jews. They took steps to push for this goal, made pleas, petitions, spoke to apparently the right people, and when they got the chance, they took it!  The set to work right away, and praised God while fasting on their trek back to Jerusalem.  Amazing. They made their story a glorious one….not one of defeat.

It’s about going after something, and not being afraid to face obstacles along the way. It’s about trusting that God has quite the story to tell through you, and not just sitting around waiting for it to happen. How many stories have you read where all the main character does is think & sit on the couch?? (Okay….I’ve honestly read one like this, and it was the most pointless, aggravating, frustrating book I’ve read….I kept waiting for something to happen, and when it ended & nothing HAD happened, I wanted to die.) Alright, so….you get what I’m saying?

This is getting long, so I’ll wrap up…..and maybe I’ll make a Part 2 to this particular topic…..but what kind of story are you living?

My friend was inspirational, she challenged me to do things I’d never done before. I wanted something bigger than what I’d ever thought possible….when she died, that dream of mine got cloudy.  But then…what I wanted was to honor her inspirational life. Many of us did. We set a goal, and figured out all the things we needed to do to get there. We invited people into our story (which makes it hard to give up)…and last summer, hosted a 6k to allow kids the chance to go to a summer camp….kids whose parents are imprisoned & would never have been able to go otherwise. It’s a small story, but it IS a story.  It’s continuing, and it’s exciting!

What kind of stories are you making?? Share them with me!

Grasshoppers

We are not grasshoppers.

Maybe you think you are, but you’re not. I’m not just being silly….Keep reading.

Numbers 13 tells the story of the 12 spies scouting out the land that God had given to the Hebrews. They spent 40 days exploring the land, and at the end they came back with a report. Two of the spies (Caleb & Joshua) said “We should go up & take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” That’s a good encouraging report! Unfortunately, there were 10 other spies that replied “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are….The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size….We seemed like GRASSHOPPERS in our OWN eyes, and we looked the same to them.” The second report wasn’t so encouraging….it was rather deflating & discouraging.

Who really would want to do something like that, where your good friends & knowledgeable people came to tell you how little chance you’d have of accomplishment? I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go either…..but then again, who knows. I just heard a sermon on this passage, and it shocked me too to hear that they said how they “seemed like grasshoppers” in their OWN eyes. They had a view of themselves as little bugs…little annoying bugs that men can easily squash. Grasshoppers don’t have a lot of power…but they do seem to “whine” a lot, which is why I know we can crush them.

But what did Caleb & Joshua see that made them think so differently? They knew the power that they had with them. It was the power of the Holy Spirit, not their own power that they put trust in. I think the others must have known they had the Holy Spirit too, but didn’t trust in the POWER of it in them. The Holy Spirit’s power is in each of us who put our trust in God, and who truly believe that He is the One True God that saves us from our sinfulness. It is very easy to be discouraged when those around us, even people who love us, say… “you can’t do that,” or “I don’t know that that would be the best choice,” or “is that really where you think God is calling you?” You second guess yourself, and if you’re not completely confident in the power of the Lord, often you will give up that dream or desire.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). We are each given the Holy Spirit, with the same power…missionaries in foreign lands don’t have a special power, pastors don’t have a special power…we ALL have this power & can overcome the things of this world that fight against us in the spiritual realms. Luke 10:19 reminds us of the authority we’ve been given….”I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions (two terms used to describe evil spirits visible in people of that day)…and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Wow. That sounds powerful. AND WE HAVE THAT IN US! Right now! Wherever you are!

So why are we so afraid to step out in faith & do the things we know God wants us to do? Why are we so afraid to say what we want to say about our commitment to Christ? Why? Have you thought about it? Use that authority to overcome the words of other people, of the beliefs you hear, and to overcome even the words you put in your own mind to discourage you. You are given power through the Holy Spirit to go into the world & change lives…to set captives free! Be FREE in Christ, not captives in the world.

So remember the grasshopper….yes, you are small like him, and yes, we probably all whine like him too. BUT we are not able to be crushed like him.

Toes touching the water

On a trip recently, I walked to the middle of a river, on a rock path. I found a perfect sitting rock, took my sandals off, rolled up my jeans and put my feet in. The water was running fast all around me, pulling at the rock that wouldn’t move, urging it to flow downstream, yet it held its course. I sat there with my toes underwater, feeling the power of the water and I almost cried. It’s been so long since I’ve done anything that has scared me, or challenged me in a way that I don’t want to face. I don’t know if that’s either good or bad…or neither, but it intrigued me. There I sat, having said earlier how I don’t really enjoy rivers as much anymore….and with the water pouring down around my feet, I enjoyed it. I felt the power and the surge, and wanted nothing more than to lay back against that rock, and stay there in the sun for the rest of the afternoon. I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t sad…I was calm.

It’s interesting to find those things that sometimes scare us, or give us bad memories, and try to overcome those thoughts. I wasn’t really setting out that day to do something I didn’t want to, but once I was there, it was something that called me from within…just go, don’t let it hold you back, don’t take for granted the beauty of the rushing water. It brings God joy to see us enjoy His creation, rather than locking ourselves inside, while being too afraid of what might happen.

This was originally written in June….but just published today. Hope it met you today.

Why Romania? Part 2

So what really is going on in my mind about all this? Well, recently, I’ve been challenged here and there, by “random” people who’ve taken risks & steps forward in their calling, despite the circumstances that surround them. Some of the risks are going out even when the money isn’t all there, or going to an unknown land without knowing the language, or making choices on what to stay home for or what to miss. It all comes down to what they value. What values more…financial security or trusting God’s provision? What values more…cultural know-how or hoping God will bring you just the right words? What values more…your social life or trusting that God might have another person He wants you to be with that day?

What matters to me, admittedly more on some days than others, is just how much God has blessed me, and how I can give away what I’ve been given. In my life, I have been given two parents who love me & care for me, four siblings from two completely different worlds & situations, a home that I can call my own, food to fill my fridge (and some that even rots), I’ve been raised in a family that is built on a strong Biblical foundation, and I’ve been blessed with people who’ve taught me the value of working hard and praying harder. And how will any of this matter unless it benefits someone else? If it ends with me, then it is truly wasted. It’s like an inheritance…unless there is an heir, what is the point to all the billions upon billions that one has saved or acquired? Who will it go to once the person is gone?

I want my earthly inheritance to be spent before it’s stockpiled…I hope to give it away, and to bless those who may never be encouraged to take a step of faith into a life they never dreamed of. In Psalms 68, it talks about putting the lonely in families. Well, I’ve been given a family, but others have not. They are the lonely, and they can be part of our family…my family…God’s family. The love, care & provision that I have been blessed with all my life, can be someone else’s if you or I care enough to share it with them. Sharing not only the practical things like food, shelter, & water, but God’s blessings of love, acceptance, forgiveness & encouragement.

Wherever I go, whoever I become, this is the person I want to be: I want to be someone who serves others, who cares about the people who are rejected from society, who is involved with missions, who goes wherever I’m needed to so I can meet a need, who seeks God first, who is unashamedly Christian, who gives all that I am to love on people & listen to them when they need it.

This is why….and this is how it will happen…loving God & loving people.