Say to those with fearful hearts

At the amusement park, after we’ve parked  the minivan and handed over our passes to be scanned and our bags to be checked, we head for the measuring station .

Only one of my kids still needs to be measured.  My girls have long since passed the point where they can ride anything in the park because of their height.

My son, though, is still tracking his growth progress through wrist band colors.  Each color tells him what he can ride based on how tall he is.

Somehow between the start of summer to the early fall, he shot up through three different colors on the ride chart.   That means technically he can ride his first big roller coaster.

This is thrilling to him.  He announces to each member of the family what color he’s on now.

But when I ask him if he really wants to ride any of the bigger rides—any of them at all—-he says, “I’ll do that when I’m 7.”

He’s taller than he is brave.

I remind him that the colors don’t really matter if we’re not going to ride any of the higher, faster rides, but he’s thrilled just the same.  He celebrates physical growth and that’s enough for him.

Not all of my kids have been like this, but most of them have (three out of the four).  We are timid about these things,  more likely to enjoy the small swings,  the bumper cars and the kiddie roller coaster long after others have moved on to bigger thrills.

We’re not born brave.  We’re  not naturally bold.  Courage isn’t part of our DNA.

(I’m still not a thrill-seeker.  At almost 40 years old, I’d rather not ride any rides at all . Even the spinning teacups aren’t my favorite.)

I can have fun at an amusement park without the speed and the rush and the drops that I hate so much.

But in life, fear can be so  much more crippling than this:  stealing joy, stealing peace, stealing boldness for the gospel and courage for Christ, stealing sleep.   It’s not about preference—rides or no rides.  It’s about fear holding me back from obeying Christ or keeping me from fully entrusting myself, my family, my kids to God.

Sometimes, all the anxiety over taking a next step can be utterly paralyzing.  What I really need to  do is just do  it.  Just take the step.   Just have  the conversation.  Just sign up or just step down.  Whatever God is asking me to  do, I need to do in obedience.   Faith over fear.  Trust over timidity.

Still I waiver so often.

Still I feel that paralysis of indecision and anxiety.

Still I try so hard to keep control over the many things I cannot control.

In the Everyday with Jesus Bible, Selwyn Hughes reminds me of what fear does and why it’s our enemy:

Fear sinks us:  When Peter stepped out of the boat, he “saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord,  save me!'” (Matthew 14:30 CSB).

Fear knocks us down:  When the disciples saw the glory of the Lord at the Mount  of Transfiguration, their fear sent them to their knees.  But, “Jesus came up, touched them, and said, ‘Get up; don’t be afraid.'” (Matthes 17:7 CSB).

Fear hides our treasures and gifts:  The man with one talent in the parable said, “I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.”  His talent was wasted, buried in the earth and shoved into a hole in the ground because of fear.(Matthew 25:25 CSB).

Fear puts us behind closed doors:  After Jesus’s resurrection, the disciples gathered in secret, “with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”” (John 20:19 CSB). 

“Fear drives us underground:” Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews” (John 19:38 CSB).

I wonder how often I let fears from my past hold me back in the here and now.  Maybe I’ve grown. Maybe I’ve gone up a few colors on the growth chart, and yet I’m still sticking to the same-old same-old, the easiest and the most comfortable things before me instead of moving on.

Isaiah the prophet said:

Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Maybe these are words we can speak to fearful hearts around us.

Or  maybe this is the reminder our own fearful heart needs:  “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming….”

It’s because of his presence, His strength, His might, His mercy that we fearful ones can take the next courageous step.

 

The Worst Thing That Can Happen

Our thermometer changes colors when it detects a fever, and it flashed red and beeped its little alarm at us last night.  My daughter hit the couch after school and by dinner the fever had come on strong.

Not too alarming.  Nothing to be afraid about.  Just an unexpected temperature spike at the end of a day when she had felt just fine.

She asks me questions with increasing concern, though.  What if I feel fine in the morning, do I really have to miss school?   Do I have to stay out the whole day?

I assured her that yes, fever tonight means no school tomorrow.  No question about it.

It takes a few questions of my own to root out the cause of her concern.  She’ll miss a quiz that she’ll have to make up  on Monday and that will take away time from something else she really enjoys at school.  Oh, and she’s supposed to get extra recess as a reward for some work  she did over spring break.  Plus her  friends will worry because they have a big project they are all working on together and she doesn’t want to let them down.

It all seems so “big.”  So very vital.  So much to miss out  on.  So much reason to feel pressured and anxious.

But I ask her this:   What’s the worst that  can happen?

It feels like I’ve been asking that a lot lately.  When we chat about scheduling classes for next year and my soon-to-be high schooler feels like she has to make every decision perfectly  or her whole life will be forever stunted, I  ask the question then, too.

What’s the worst that can happen?

It’s not a magic question that solves every problem, but it’s been changing our perspective a bit.  What’s the worst thing that could happen with these high school decisions?

High school goes terribly wrong and it’s all a mess and a nightmare,  so we do something else. We ask God for new direction and we leave that school and make another plan.  We have options and possibilities.  Nobody is stuck here.

So, we calm down.  We breathe a little deeper.  We know the worst thing doesn’t often happen,  but even when it does, God is with us.  He’ll take care of us.  We’ll be okay.

We have hope.

I asked it again last night of a little nine-year-old girl who is stressing out over missing a Friday at school.

What’s the worst thing?  You miss out on some special activities and you have to make up some work on Friday.  That’s disappointing maybe, but it’s something we can handle.

I don’t want to trivialize this in any way.  Mostly, we’re fighting back the enemy of anxiety, of worry, of fretting over every day situations.

Like when I’m waiting on one child to be dismissed from an activity and they are running late. Ten minutes late.  I’m starting to freak out a little bit and I’m catching my breath more than a little bit.

Then I think about what’s true. The worst thing here is that we’re 10 minutes late to the next activity on the night’s agenda.  And a few minutes late to the next thing after that.  And dinner is a bit rushed.

That’s not worth hyperventilating over in a pick-up line.

Even so, I know sometimes the worst thing actually does happen in life, and it’s every bit as hard and heartbreaking as we ever imagined.  I’ve walked through those seasons, too.   I’ve prayed “Anything but this one thing, Lord.  Please don’t let this one thing happen.”

Sometimes God answers prayers with a gentle “no,” and I have heard that “no.”

But I have also felt the sweetness of the Lord in the hardest seasons, His gentleness, His grace, His kindness, and His loving, faithful presence.  “Behold I am with you always,” Jesus promised (Matthew 28:20).

In Morning and Evening, Spurgeon wrote:

Faith’s way is to drop every care on the Lord and then to anticipate good results from the worst calamities.  Like  Gideon’s men, faith does not worry over a broken pitcher—it rejoices that the lamp shines unimpeded.”

Am I the kind of girl who frets over a broken pitcher or who rejoices over the clarity of light?

Maybe right now I’m mostly a girl who reacts to the broken pitcher.  I’m upset about the brokenness, maybe upset about the inconvenience, or the change in the plans.

Maybe I even worry so much about whether the pitcher will break that I’m afraid to be bold, to take risks, to walk in faith.

I ‘m learning, though, to see His Light and to let His Light shine even through broken places:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV)

 

 

 

Please join me over at (in)courage today!

WILL YOU JOIN ME?

Today I’m posting in an amazing community for women called ‘(in)courage’  to remind us of this:

Here at the start of a new year, may our prayers be simple and true: “Your will this year, not mine, Lord. Your will, not mine.”

Then, we open our hands to God, allowing Him to exchange His best plans for our faulty ones. We hold lightly to our own hopes, goals, plans, resolutions, and dreams for the year, and we hold tightly to the God who loves us so much He chose the cross.

I’m thrilled and honored to be sharing this message with the (in)courage community and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click this link and join me over there today.  It would be a true joy to ‘see some familiar faces!’

You can click here to read the whole post over on the (in)courage page.  I’d be truly blessed if you’d leave me a comment on their site!  I’ll be popping in throughout the day to reply.

If you love the (in)courage site as much as I do, you can also sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

While I’d love for you to visit me over at (in)courage today, I ask for your prayers above all. May God be glorified and His people be encouraged by this message of hope in His faithfulness!

Thanks so much for the prayers and the help in sharing this message with others!

Praying with a Penny Cup

The penny plinked into the cup and I walked away.

It was such a simple thing.  The penny pressed into the palm of my hand and then a quick release, a letting go, and I was done.

Before my penny cup, I thought that I was just persevering in prayer like Jesus told His disciples to do in Luke 18.

There was the widow who came before the unfair judge day after day to demand justice, and finally he gave in because he was annoyed and tired of hearing her complain about it.

There was the neighbor awakened in the middle of the night by obnoxious and persistent knocking at his front door.  He finally opened up the door and stood there in his pajamas listening to his neighbor’s plight—an unexpected guest, no bread in the house, could he share?  Yes!  Take it!  Take anything as long as you stop that knocking, knocking, knocking so I can get some sleep already.

So, Jesus tells us, if an unrighteous judge and a sleep-deprived neighbor gave into requests just because of tenacity, wouldn’t God who loves us respond when we pray and pray and pray and don’t give up praying?

Don’t stop praying.  Even when you’re weary and exhausted and hopeless and think it doesn’t do a bit of good, keep pushing and pushing on in prayer.

But my idea of persevering in prayer wasn’t really prayer any more.  It was more like fretting in front of God’s throne and worrying about a problem before a divine audience.

All night long, I mentally paced in prayer: Lord, here’s my problem and here’s what I need You to do to fix it.  

I plead and argued and orated and then when I’d run out of things to say, I started all over again.

Hour after hour ticked by on my bedside clock and still I continued.

God loves when we pray. We can bring anything and everything to Him in prayer and He never tires of hearing us and never turns us away.

But I never released my need to Him.  I was talking at Him without ever letting go or pausing for even a second to listen or be still.

I was wallowing in anxiety and putting a holy ‘stamp of approval’ on it by calling it prayer.

John wrote:

 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for (1 JOhn 5:14-15 HCSB).

I was praying as if He couldn’t hear me.

….as if my will mattered more than His will.

….as if only my solution to the problem was acceptable.

….as if He wasn’t sovereign or compassionate—wasn’t able or didn’t care to rescue me.

… as if He was against me instead of for me.1 john 5

It was a prayer of unbelief.

Then, I read the idea in a discipleship magazine: a penny cup.

It’s not the cup that mattered or even the penny.  Writing a prayer on a slip of paper and slipping it into a prayer box would do just as well.

What matters is a physical reminder to release my white-knuckled grip on my problem and give it over to the God who loves me so.

Every time I  found a wayward penny on a dresser or on the floor, I picked it up and prayed with a quick whisper, “Lord, please take care of this need.  I trust You to deliver me.” Then I released the prayer to Him as I dropped the coin into my penny cup.

I didn’t tell Him how to fix the problem.  I didn’t wrestle with Him for hours every night over the need.

I prayed day in and day out (you’d be surprised how many pennies you find when they become part of your prayer life), but always I gave the problem to Him instead of holding onto it myself.

When the penny cup filled to the brim, I poured out the coins and started again.  For years, I prayed about this one issue, giving it over to God one…..penny….. at….. a….. time.

For the first time, I really prayed.  I didn’t fret and argue and run endless circles of desperate pleading around God.

I persisted in prayer by expressing my need while leaving the solution in His hands.

And God rescued me.  Not in the way I expected.  Not in the timing I expected.  Not without hardship and hurting or obedience or faith in the hard places.  But the deliverance was miraculous and beautiful and perfect in the way only God’s deliverance can be.

Originally published 02/11/2015

Return, O My Soul, To Your Rest

psalm-116-7

My daughter and I settled  onto the bus for our overnight trip to New York City.

We each pulled out our books and book lights and enjoyed some reading time as we pulled away from the parking lot and headed out onto the road for our grand adventure.

About an hour into the trip, I pulled out my blanket and little travel pillow and asked my daughter to do the same.  We were, after all, supposed to be sleeping on this bus and we were certainly going to need that sleep since we were hitting the streets of New York City by 6 a.m.

Only, she hadn’t brought her pillow.  She’d left it back at the house.

Oops!

So, I handed mine over (because I love her and I’m her mom) and tried to sleep without it.

Now, I do not sleep in moving vehicles, and this night the odds were particularly against me.

I was in a completely, wonderfully comfortable bus for daytime travel.   Nevertheless, I was still mostly upright, with highway noise for my soundtrack, surrounded by 50 people, and without a pillow.

We shuffled this way and that through the night.  None of us on the bus slept more than an hour or two , and even that was in fits and starts.

At 3:40 that morning, the bus lights flicked on to full strength and we pulled into the New Jersey rest stop where we were scheduled to start the day.  Everyone filed out to use the bathrooms, change our clothes, brush our teeth, and buy coffee (or tea!) from the 24-hour Starbucks.

From then on, it was go, go, go.  Drive around the city.  Eat breakfast at the diner.  Walk through Central Park.  Stroll through the Museum of Art.  Subway back to our bus for lunch and the ride to the hotel.  Quick showers and changes.  Back onto the bus for the ride to the Lincoln Center for a ballet performance.

We had the best time!

Finally, we settled back at the hotel around midnight after being awake for about 35 hours of the last 36 hours.

A bed never felt so good.  The pillows were luxury and the sheets were heaven.

Normally, I hate sleeping away from home and restlessly fidget all night long.

Not that night.  I slept the deep sleep of the truly exhausted.

That same weekend, I read this verse from the Psalmist:

Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you (Psalm 116:7 ESV).

Return to rest.

Right there when I was pushed to the max physically, I needed to know that rest doesn’t entirely depend on circumstances.

Some seasons are stressful and full of huge crises or petty daily annoyances.  Life demands so much of us–sleepless nights while we rock the baby, or work the job, or care for the loved one, or nurse the sick, or more.

Our hearts can be tumbled into pits of anxiety with one phone call, one nasty email, one ridiculous Facebook post, one bank statement or unexpected bill.

Maybe we’re running at full-speed because of blessing and not burden.   We’re packing for the big move or working hard on the big project.

Rest can seem elusive until we remember the truth:

Our rest isn’t in peaceful circumstances or ideal conditions; our rest is in Jesus.

He doesn’t just bring us peace; He is our Peace.

Like the dove that Noah sent out from the ark, we can seek rest in so many places in the big wide world but never find it.  The dove searched throughout the earth for a dry place to set down and only found water, water, and more water.

The bird only found rest when it returned to Noah.

The same is true for us, as well.

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

Noah’s dove found no rest outside the ark, so she returned to it.  In a similar way, my soul has learned today, more fully than ever, that there is no satisfaction to be found in earthly things–only God can give rest to my spirit…they cannot fulfill the desires of my immortal spirit” (Morning and Evening, January 29th).

We may search and search, looking for rest and finding only stormy seas.

Ultimately, we truly find rest by returning not just to the ark, but to our Master.  We return to Jesus.

Like the dove,  we can’t face the night on our own, flapping our wings in the darkness until we’re exhausted.  On our own strength, we’ll drown.

When night looms, when we’re deeply tired, when we realize that nothing else satisfies, we stop trying so hard on our own and release control into His hands.  That is the rest our weary souls need—trusting Jesus because He is so trustworthy.

Bible Verses on Overcoming Fear and Worry

verses-fear

  • Exodus 14:13
    And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again (ESV)
  • Deuteronomy 31:
    Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
  • Joshua 1:9
    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened,and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • Nehemiah 4:14
    After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
  • Psalm 23:4
    Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  • Psalm 27:1
    The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
  • Psalm 34:4
    “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
  • Psalm 56:3
    When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
  • Psalm 56:4
    In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?
  • Psalm 91:4-6
    He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
  • Psalm 112:7
    He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
  • Isaiah 35:4Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
    for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.”
  • Isaiah 41:10
    So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Isaiah 41:13
    “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
  • Isaiah 44:8
    Fear not, nor be afraid;
    have I not told you from of old and declared it?
    And you are my witnesses!
    Is there a God besides me?
    There is no Rock; I know not any.”
  • Isaiah 51:12
    “I, I am he who comforts you;
    who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
    of the son of man who is made like grass,
  • Jeremiah 1:8
    Do not be afraid of them,
    for I am with you to deliver you,
    declares the Lord.”
  • Zephaniah 3:17
    For the LORD your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
    He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
  • Matthew 6:34
    Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
  • Matthew 10:31
     Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
  • Mark 5:36
    But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” (ESV)
  • Luke 1:74-75
    We have been rescued from our enemies
    so we can serve God without fear,
    in holiness and righteousness
    for as long as we live.
  • Luke 12:32
    “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
  • John 6:19-20
    They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but he called out to them,“Don’t be afraid. I am here!”
  • John 14:27
    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
  • Acts 18:9
    And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,
  • Romans 8:38
    And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
  • 2 Timothy 1:7
     for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
  • Hebrews 13:6
     So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
  • 1 John 4:18
    There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Struggling with fear, anxiety, and crushing worry?

Me too.anywhere-faith

I wrote in Anywhere Faith a reminder that I need myself some days:

“What happens in our Christian walk will always be with God. Even when we stand on the precipice of the unknown, feeling the knots in our stomach, fretting at night rather than sleeping, wondering what will happen next, we can hand that situation over to God and remember that He is with us. Jesus said it to the disciples when they called out in fear on the lake, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’ (Matthew 14:27 NLT).

Take courage, because He’s here, right here with you, present with you, never abandoning you, not sending you out all by your lonesome self. He knows the risks. He knows what makes your heart quake. He knows exactly what’s going to happen when you obey His call, and He promises to be with you no matter what.” (Anywhere Faith).

 

I was tempted to fret

psalm 37-3

I trekked across the parking lot at Epcot in the mid-day August heat with my two-year-old in tow.

Why were we attempting this feat?

Because my son uses Caprisun juice pouches like most kids use pacifiers or a security blanket.  When he is tired, overwhelmed, scared, or maybe even bored, he asks for a juice.

Normally, this is no crisis.  But that day was the final stretch of a six-day marathon at DIsney.

He was tired.

He was a bit overwhelmed.

He was a teeny bit bored because, while Epcot was awesome, he was too small to ride some of the attractions.

That meant he was cruising through our Caprisun supply faster than I anticipated and I was running out.

No fear, though!  I had more in the minivan.  Hence, my mid-day jaunt out to the parking lot.

We finally arrived, a hot, sweaty mess.  I unlocked the van, plopped him on a seat and enjoyed a few seconds of air-conditioning while I pulled Caprisuns out of the cooler.

He promptly hopped into the front seat and pretended to drive.

Then, we walked back to the park and had a grand old time with our refilled Caprisun supply and a happy two-year-old.

But that’s when I began to fret.

Normally, any time my son climbs into the front seat of the minivan, he immediately turns on the lights.  He has an auto-reflex with buttons.

See button.  Push button.

So, we’re touring around Epcot and I’m wondering, “Did my son turn on the van lights?  If he did, did I turn them off?  Will the van battery be dead by the end of the day?  Will we be stranded at Disney in the August heat?  Will we be abandoned forever in an Epcot parking lot?”

My fretting began as a fairly reasonable question and quickly escalated to worries beyond proportion.

I had to get control.

After all, I’ve never been to Disney before.  This was my big chance to enjoy the day with my family.

I could spend it relishing the moment.

Or I could spend it fretting over a hypothetical future.

It was my choice.

I considered the worst case scenario: He turned on the lights and I didn’t turn them off.  The van battery is drained.  We ask the Disney car-rescue people to jumpstart our van.

Would it be miserable?

Probably.

Would I survive?

Well, yeah.

So, could I let it go?

Yes, I could.

At the end of the day, we found the minivan with its lights off.  No crisis at all.

Had I spent the day worrying, I’d have wasted every joy-filled moment on a hypothetical that never happened.

The truth is, we have plenty of opportunities to fret in life and most of them are for naught.

We often worry over a future we’ll never face and circumstances we won’t even endure.

I certainly had a week full of chances to choose to fret or choose to trust.

Our cat became extremely ill just as we left for Disney.  An odd warning light flicked on in our minivan just as we pulled into the first Disney parking lot. My husband’s car sat at a repair shop back home waiting for the mechanic’s verdict about brakes.

Fret, fret, fret.  I could have done it all week long.

But God cared for us: Cars without the problems we expected, a cat who was better cared for than we could have even cared for him ourselves.

All those opportunities to worry became opportunities to trust Him and find the blessing of His grace and abundance.

During the week, I read Psalm 37 once again:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.

David was tempted to fret also, in his case over evildoers who seemed to get ahead.

But, like me, he had to discipline his vision.

Where was he looking?  At circumstances?  Hypothetical tragedies?  At others?

No, he recaptured an eternal perspective.  What truly matters in the light of heaven? (verse 2).

He focused on God:  trusting Him, delighting in Him, and committing his ways to the Lord.

And then he chose to “do good.”  He didn’t remain paralyzed by the fear and the fretting; he took one right and true step forward at a time and kept on moving closer to God.

We can do the same.

Recapture a vision of heaven.

Fix our eyes on Jesus.

Take the next good step and trust Him with everything else.

Why you don’t have to be afraid

christmas

I remember thinking that I would have done the same thing.

At the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, I picked up a tiny booklet with a name and a story inside.

My booklet told the story of a survivor.

My friend’s, however, did not.  Hers was a mom with a young daughter.  When the death train stopped outside the concentration camp, guards tried to push the crowd into two separate lines: Those who could work and those who could not.

The women could work.

But the kids were considered a burden without benefit, so they were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

This woman, though, refused to be separated from her daughter.  She must have clung insistently, desperately, stubbornly to that little hand.  I imagine her words, “Don’t be afraid.  Mommy’s with you,” even as they walked into death together.

I hope I would have done the same thing.  I’d want to be there with my kids for every frightening, fearful, terrifying thing they might face.

I’ve watched in the school parking lot on those scary days when a school shooting hits the news.  Moms pull the minivans right over, climb out and take a moment to squeeze their children.

We all fear.  I do it, too.  After the news headlines, I want so much to retreat with my kids to a secluded cabin in the woods, my pitiful attempt to protect them from the madness of sin in this world.

Yet, that’s the truth of it all: we live on a sin-scarred planet and while there are hints of beauty here, and there is mercy and grace, there is also pain and sorrow.

So, what hope do we have?

How can we wake day after day, not in defeat, resignation or anxiety, but with the joy of the Lord and the peace of salvation?

The gospel message is all about hope for the hopeless, light in the darkness, joy in sorrow and peace in turmoil.

It’s for those hopeless enough to feel like one more day alive is too much to bear.

It’s for those of us watching the clock at night, too worried about bills and our kids, our marriages, conflicts with family, or problems at work to sleep in peace.

It’s even for a worrier like me, anxious over the little things like birthday parties and church program.

It’s for the daily troubles that we turn into crises and for the life-and-death struggles we sometimes face.

It’s the reminder that God came here to be with us so we wouldn’t be alone, and He will not leave our side.

That’s the hope we have.  Not us alone in a crazy, mixed-up, broken world.  Not us alone facing bills and divorce, depression or stress.

Not us alone against any road-bumps ahead in the new year.

Emmanuel.  God with us.

As it says in Isaiah:

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Fear not.

That’s the loudest message from the Christmas story.  The one grand announcement over and over: “Do not be afraid.”

That wasn’t just God’s plan for our past.  It’s been His passion from the beginning of Creation—to be with us.  It was His driving desire all those years of patiently planning for our salvation through Christ’s coming, His death, His resurrection.

It’s the great passion of God’s heart even now.  In the book of Revelation, we’re told that when the battle is over and Christ establishes His forever kingdom, God will say:

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

We close another Christmas season.  We stop playing the carols.  We pack up the decorations.

We make resolutions and plans for the new year.

But this is what we carry with us; this is the hope we have every single day:

He chose to be with us so we could choose to be with Him.

So we do not need to be afraid of facing anything in this life alone.

God is with us.

What other moms say when they find out you are having a boy

Deuteronomy 33

After having three girls, when I found out I was having a son, other moms chimed in with tons of wisdom.

They told me to be quick with the diaper changes or I’m bound to get peed on.  (I did.  At least twice.)

They told me to prepare for climbing, running, growling, and dirt (lots of it).

They told me no one would love me like a son, not ever.   “It’s different than with a girl,” they said.

One mom told me how her son would cradle her face in his tiny palms and say, “You’re bootiful, Mommy.”

And another mom told me her son announced he was going to marry Mommy when he grew up.   When she explained that Daddy had already married her, the little boy scowled and said “Dad’s lucky.”

Mom after mom told me that no one treasured her as unconditionally or completely as her son had when he was little.

And then.

Then older moms started warning me.  They are still offering forebodings of doom.  I’ve had several depressing conversations just this week about my future.

“When you have a daughter, you have a friend for life,” they say, “but a son ditches you as soon as he finds a wife.”

I get it.  “Leave and cleave.” I don’t want my son to be a stunted mama’s boy.  I don’t want to break up his marriage by pitting myself against his wife or refusing to let go.

But I wouldn’t mind if he chooses a wife I could get along with or calls me once in a while.  I wouldn’t mind a visit here and there and I’d hate it if he only hung out with ‘her’ family instead of sitting around our holiday table sometimes, too.

I’ve been enjoying this season with my son, loving and loving it.

I love train shirts and train toys and train books and conversations about trains.

I love airplanes and bulldozers and how we have to point out the fire trucks every time we walk past the fire station on Main Street.

I love making faces at him in the mirror and growling out funny voices.

I love toting along a few trucks everywhere we go.

This is my great joy.

But this week, other women have been telling me to enjoy it now because I might as well kiss my son goodbye in a few years. So I’ve been more than a little sentimental and emotional.

It’s my nature and my way to pray about my kids’ future, their choices, their passions, their careers, their spouses, and my son is no different.

A week of prophetic doom, though, has my heart more fearful than hopeful or prayerful.

And then I read Jacob’s blessing for his son, Benjamin:

‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”  Deut. 33:12 NIV

I don’t know what may have your heart turning somersaults of fear instead of clinging to hope this week, but my kids’ future has done it for me.  It’s made me clingy and tearful.

Yet, this verse offers me security and peace.

This isn’t the season for me of farewells or parenting adult children and worrying over their not-so-adult decisions at times.

This is my season of early morning snuggles on the sofa before everyone else awakes and making pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

It’s my season of listening to all of their news about their day at school, laughing at funny lunch escapades and wiping away tears when another girl gets mean.

It’s my season of bedtime hugs and bedtime stories.

And it’s my season of lifting children up….up into my arms, snuggled into my chest….up onto my shoulders, high so they can see, high so they can be carried and so they can rest.

That’s what God does for His beloved.

He lifts us right up out of the mess and the weariness and sets us between His shoulders and tells us to ‘rest.’

Don’t strive.  Don’t fight.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to keep moving forward on your own.

Let Him carry you.

High up there on the shoulders of our God, our perspective shifts.

Stop fretting about the future.

Life doesn’t depend on us to fix it and make it happen; our future depends only on Him and He is so dependable.

We are safe from danger.

We can cease striving.

We see the big picture.  All that trouble we were in below looks so small from our new spot on the shoulders of the Lord.

So I choose to rest here with the Lord, enjoying safety, enjoying this season, enjoying His presence, enjoying being His beloved–handing over fear and holding on to hope.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

Fire drills, tornado drills, lockdown drills, oh my!

psalm 31-22

My daughter announced that she hates ‘drills.’

All kinds of drills, she says.

They were only about two weeks into the school year at the time.

They had fire drills.

They had a tornado drill.

My oldest daughter chimes in about ‘lock-down drills,’ and how her teacher is so funny but the one thing she is super serious about is anyone who dares to giggle, laugh or even squeak out a hint of noise during a lockdown drill.

“She’ll send you to the principal,” my daughter lowers her voice for added drama.

These older girls of mine try to reassure the youngest sister that drills are essential and there to help and not really a big deal.

But the baby girl is testing out fear here.  I can see it on her face and I hear it in the way she keeps bringing these drills up.  When she gets home from school.  Over dinner.  In the minivan.  As she climbs into my lap for bedtime prayers.

“The drills…the drills….the drills…”

Clearly, they are on her mind.  And we older and wiser ones keep jumping in with confidence that everything is fine and not to be afraid, but she’s just not convinced.

So, the fear is kind of leaking out of her heart and into our conversations.

Oh, I don’t blame the drills, of course.   I let her tell me about them all over again and then I look right into her two blue eyes and I even brush away her wild bangs so she can’t miss this reassurance:

Those drills are there to keep you safe.  So that if anything ever happens, you’re not too scared to do the right thing.  We drill now so we don’t have to be afraid later.

She nods knowingly, but I’m her mom and I know we’ll probably have this conversation again in a month when the alarm goes off at school and all the kids file outside for yet another fire drill. So we pray about it, every time it comes up, I pray peace for her.

It’d be nice, it’d be great, it’d be heaven really if we didn’t need drills, if we didn’t have to practice for fire or intruders or tornadoes or a world of harm and hurt.

But we live here, on a broken earth with sin and natural disasters and trouble.

And how we react in the crisis makes a difference.

I know this because haven’t I been alarmed and sent into a dizzying whirlpool of fear at the slightest provocation?

A phone call.

An email.

A Facebook post, for goodness’ sake.

Maybe you, too?  The doctor’s report, the bill in the mail, the late night call, the hurtful remark, the broken car (again), the sobbing friend?

Trouble storms into our lives and how we react in the crisis matters.

We’re tempted to freak out and run around like a wild woman with her hands flailing hysterically in the air.

We’re in crisis mode.  Making phone calls.  Feeling hopeless.  Crying desperately.  Feeling helpless.  Rallying the troops and sending out an SOS signal and doing anything possible to keep from drowning.

I’ll be honest, sometimes it doesn’t even take a crisis, it just takes one tiny bump into my plans for the day for me to settle into a funk of frantic activity and aggravated grumpiness.

The Psalmist said it just right:

In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help (Psalm 31:22 NIV).

In our alarm, when the bad news comes and we haven’t had time for faith to kick in, we snap to the judgment that God has abandoned us.

He can’t see us.

We’re cut off from Him, alone, dependent on our own strength to get us out of this mess.

Our natural reaction to an alarm is haste and hysteria, foolishness and fear.

It’s unnatural to choose peace under pressure.

Yet, the Holy Spirit offers us just such unnatural, supernatural peace.

When everything settled and the crisis passed, the Psalmist recognized the truth: “Yet you heard my cry….”

In the haste of the moment, he had rushed into fear.  But then he saw what was true, God had indeed heard His cry for help.

What about us?

Over time, after alarm and alarm and alarm have passed and the dust settles and we see Jesus right there with us, surely we’d know by now what to do in case of crisis:

Cry to God for help.

Trust Him to hear your call.

Rest in the assurance of His presence.

Choose peace.

Not flaky peace, vague peace, warm-and-fuzzy-feeling peace, or the peace of blindness to our circumstances.

The peace that is the confident assurance of Christ’s presence right where we are.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King