Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fearful Faith

How do you co-habitate with fear? How, as a person of faith, do you allow fear to be a real part of your being? How do you respond to the command, "Do not fear", when you feel fear in some form on a daily basis.

I spoke with a friend who talked to me of his fear that maybe he made a mistake in his job choice? Wondering out loud, he said he was questioning if he had the "goods". He rubbed his cheeks hard and described the weariness he felt.

In a small group in which I participated for several weeks this past spring, I listened to several strong, deeply committed women share their stories of fear and faith. Some fears had been conquered, but most fears remained present on a daily basis...fear of not being taken care of, fear of not being able to start a family, fear of being consumed by an alcoholic family member, fear of the pain of a debilitating illness, fear of abandonment in it's many forms. Fear was a common denominator. But, so was faith.

Our community recently saw an outpouring of discussion and debate and anger and hurt regarding an amendment to our state constitution that defines the only legal marriage as one that involves one man and one woman. Fear was stirred and emotions were played out on both sides. Cries against and for revealed how strongly fears influence behavior. Fears of the threat of apostasy and impurity battled alongside fears of injustice and bigotry and hatred. Both sides declared with conviction that faith was their strong ally.

Wikipedia encapsulates the essence of fear that you can read here: . I'll not venture to reword what has already been written concisely and rather well. But, with the subject floating around in my mind, life, and in my community for months now, I thought I should open the door and invite discussion.

I googled:  "How many times does scripture say, 'Do not fear.' ?" I did a search on my smartphone Bible app and got "pages" of scripture references. Loudly and clearly the commandment is stated. Hundreds of times we are exhorted to NOT fear, yet we all know we keep failing. Failure tends to breed denial because who wants to confess they are afraid. We usually end up in an even deeper pit because the residual affects of shame and guilt or anger and bitterness are added to the mix. I heard my small group friends' voices and their tears communicate their unspoken thoughts, "I shouldn't be afraid, if I am a Christian."

Fear and Faith ... two big "F" words. In this life of waiting for Christ to return, receiving the antidote for the first and the source of the second are part of God's completed, consummated promise. We can believe this:  the antidote for fear and the source of faith can be asked for, searched for, and discovered when we walk through the door into his Kingdom .... over and over again, coming around on a daily basis as we receive our daily bread. Like the children of Israel in the years between their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and their final entrance into the Promised land, we circle and we practice faith as it is given to us. God gives and we choose to receive and He teaches and we hope to learn. We forget and we remember. And we deny and then accept the love of God as He made the ultimate blood sacrifice through His only Son. And so, He can command us, "Do not fear." From His perspective, it is finished. The price has been paid for our release. The keys have turned in the prison cell door. From our perspective .... it depends. It is simple and it is not.

How is God's story of truth being written into your life? How is your character changing as the chapters unfold. Can you allow yourself to flip to the last pages and know how the story ends. Can you see how knowing the end can impact on your reading of the middle of the story?

Responses are encouraged.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Waiting for Enough

“To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.” -Henri Nouwen

I am not sure how I got to this place...a place not quite like what Nouwen speaks of (as I am still stubbornly a glass half empty sort of person) but coming closer.  Maybe it has just been the aging and wearing out process that has allowed me to relax my grip on fear and therefore the desire to be in control. Maybe it has been the unpreventable losses and endings and the reality of death's place within all creation that has me giving up my impulsive, instinctive management acts. I think it is all of that. And it is something that has grown out of hearing over and over and over again, declaring with my mouth that it true, and in small ways, by grace, living as though it is true that God is enough. The assurance is seeping in and slowly saturating me with increased confidence in the Control that is not mine.

Just recently, I had the joy of spending 3 days with a friend I have had for 20 years. We don't see each other very often as we live way too many miles apart. But I flew to Florida and we sat on her lanai for almost the entire time, getting up for food when we thought about it, venturing out to take the dogs to the dog park, but mostly we just talked and remembered. We shared stories of things we once tried to manage...marriages, children, jobs, circumstances. We reflected on how hard it has been to be mothers of adult children who wander(ed) in the shadows and how not being able to keep them safe and lead them by the hand forced us to wait and pray and turn and practice faith. We shared stories of trying to trust when a child is in rehab for the second time or admitted to the psychiatric floor or called up before a judge for drug violations. We talked about the grief of broken relationships and pain suffered from stones of judgment thrown. And then we moved on to talk about God's love and our discovery of it through the years as He waited with and for us all along the way. And we talked about God's love being enough...enough for us and all those we love.We discovered this love through the firm hand of our God's discipline that forced lessons of yielding and waiting, more so than the satisfaction of our wants and needs, ought-to's and should-have-been's.

Neither surrender or waiting are natural characteristics for most of us. My sense is we are born wanting and demanding our needs be met. When someone else fails to satisfy we instinctively set out on our own to find what we think we have to have. We think we can and should, in our own strength, go in and "conquer the land". We think that is what we are about ... that that is our destiny. But, God's desire is that we wait. Wait every moment, in every moment, in every situation, for He is a work. It is what He does. He so loves the world.

We have been molded according to God's creative love. We are defined by God's creative love. The tools in His hands to form us and shape us have often been used with force and caused pain and yet at other times they have brought great comfort and release. Now with the perspective of 20 years my friend and I can bear testimony to a vision of the end result of this love. New things have happened and will happen. Things beyond our imaginations, for who would have imagined divorce and drug abuse and mental health challenges would be a part of our lives. Who would have fantasized that cancer and death would would have brought us closer to God's love. Our lives are caught up in the mystery of surrender and waiting for the our God who is enough to finish what He has begun. His love is enough. He is enough.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Second Try to Emerge

Maybe I just need to write .. not wait for enough time to get it worded just so .. believing that writing something even if incomplete is better than writing nothing.

I thought I had emerged from my cocoon in February but found I had just taken a peak outside only to retreat again. I drew my invisibility cloak about me and moved slowly and contemplatively through the Lenten season and on into spring. I was a bit slowed by a mood shift that brought along a physical and mental sluggishness and by 3 mammograms and a breast biopsy (negative). I also found myself unexpectedly stirred to do some serious sifting of my soul of the remnants of unforgiveness left over from a relationship I thought I sufficiently buried for good.

Ash Wednesday's journal entry is highlighted in my journal: "Prayer is the forerunner of mercy. Prayer is the preface to blessing. Repent. Prepare. Produce fruit. You have stayed here long enough. Break camp. Advance. I have given you the land. Go in and take possession. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you." God's love is enough. But, breaking camp from a spot one has found familiar and in a strange way, comfortable and taking the first steps to move out can be a slow process.Fortunately, my God is patient and long suffering and is not one to abandon or forsake me just because I am a slow learner.

Today I read on Elisabeth Corcoran's blog of her description of "enough-ness" ( and was stirred me to consider that my retreat back into my cocoon has served to allow this truth of God's love as enough to seep into the cracks and crevices of my being where "what was" had hidden and grown foul.

In the quiet protective confines of solitude, transformation has a chance to move beyond prayer to the reality of new life. It is there that instruction and teaching and counsel grow into convincing conviction and stir acts of faith and love and hope. I heard the instruction to remember, observe, and be careful not to forget who God is. I was taught not to judge and counseled to forgive. I asked, I sought, and I knocked and I was given what I needed and found what I was looking for and the door was opened. I am prayerfully pressing on and stripping off the residual layers of what was and allowing God's love that is enough to cloak me in satisfaction. Today's journal entry is highlighted by God's words from Jeremiah 31: "I have loved you with an everlasting love. I will build you up again. You will be rebuilt. I will bring you from. I will lead you. I am your Father. I will turn your mourning into gladness....give you comfort instead of sorrow....satisfy you with abundance. I will refresh and satisfy."

I BELIEVE His love is enough.