Why not riding a roller coaster is really being brave (no matter what anyone else says)

Bravery doesn’t run rampant in this house.

Me and my girls freak out about bugs.joshua1

We grab for a dry towel when water splashes into our eyes.

We talk through all possibilities and potential scenarios so we won’t freak about what’s new and different. 

We inch into doorways when there’s a room full of new people.

Me and these three daughters of mine, we’re not adventurers or discoverers, explorers or conquerors.  We’re not risk-takers or rock-the-boaters.  We’re not the movers or the shakers.

No, we’re planners and organizers.  We’re the faithful and the hard-working and the folks dipping their toes in all gentle and nervous on the side of the pool to test the waters before jumping in.

I’ve been spending all these years of motherhood encouraging my daughters to have courage. 

I tell them:

It’s okay to make mistakes, so just give it a try.

I tell them:

God is with you, so don’t fear.  Just relax and trust Him.

I tell it to them and maybe along the way I’m preaching to myself.

So, there we were at the amusement park this week for the last hurrah of summer break. And this daughter of mine, the one who screeches the loudest of all about spiders, announces she wants to ride her first big roller coaster.

Oh, yes, the real roller coaster, not the one with a Sesame Street character on the front in the clearly marked kiddie zone.

I balk at her request.  Is she sure?  Really sure?

Oh yes.  Her friends all ride this roller coaster and she has her heart set on it.  Today is the day.  She’s going to do it.

I poll the family.  Anyone else?

Nope.

No one else feels the need for speed today.

So, we visit all the normal rides and enjoy all the usual adventure and it’s just about time to go. 

She pouts.  She really wanted to give it a try and now she’d have to wait another year.

I decide right there that if this child feels the urge to be brave and say yes to what frightens her, then there was no way were leaving without her riding that ride.

Dad took her one way while I took the other non-roller-coaster riders another way.  This was her big moment.

Forty minutes or so later, we meet up again and I throw up my hands in a big question:  “So, how’d it go?”
She didn’t ride.

Dad says it simple.  She looked up at how high it went, down at how low it dropped, and wrinkled up her nose.  Maybe she really didn’t want to ride that ride after all. 

Maybe doing it just ’cause all her friends can do it wouldn’t be so fun for her.

Maybe she just needed to wait a bit longer.

And that’s okay.

Yes, that’s okay.

I was proud of her for stepping up there and looking over that beast of a ride and then making the tough choice to be wise and true to herself.

That’s brave.

I’ve spent a whole month this summer learning to say, “No.”  I’ve learned that bravery doesn’t look the same for everybody.

You stepping out in faith and saying “yes” when God calls, that’s brave.

Me doing what you’re doing just ’cause you’re doing it, or just ’cause it needs to be done? 

Or me doing it just because you want me to or ask me to…or maybe because society tells me I need to or because I don’t want to upset anyone by saying, ‘no’?

That’s not brave.

That’s being a coward in a brave costume.  It’s choosing to give in instead of stand up and say the hardest thing:  No, thanks. 

That young shepherd-warrior David stood in front of the Mighty King Saul and tried on the king’s very own armor (1 Samuel 17).

The King’s protective gear swallowed the teenage boy up. It was hanging off him, clanging and heavy.

It fit Saul perfectly.

It didn’t fit David at all.

So, he had to say, “No.”

That had to take courage, to tell a king, ‘No’ instead of just follow blindly and obediently.

I guess the truth is it takes bravery to do what you know is right, whether that’s saying, ‘Yes’ or saying ‘No.” Courage is knowing what God wants you to do and doing it no matter what.

In Let’s All Be Brave, Annie Downs says, ‘The road to courage is lit by God’s wisdom.”

During this year-long pursuit of God’s presence, I’ve spent this month learning to say, “No.” That meant seeking His wisdom and His opinion over everyone else’s and shaking off the people-pleasing and the cowardice.

Because I want to be where He is. I can do anything if He’s with me and only if He’s with me.

I found courage in His presence.  Courage for yes and Courage for no.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Learn to Say, ‘No?’

It’s Not Business; It’s Personal

The letter arrived in a crisp white envelope with a typed address….for my six-year-old.

Obviously, this wasn’t a card or drawing from a school friend or a birthday invitation from a classmate.  This looked like official business.

I opened the envelope and was amused to find them asking her to contribute to their nonprofit organization.  If she made a generous donation of $50 to their worthy cause, they would send her a beautiful and stylish tote bag.

I’m sure she’s just dying to empty her piggy bank of pennies and send them right along.

Clearly, they didn’t know this name in their database belongs to a six-year-old first grader who would prefer to spend her money on fun-shaped erasers and colorful pens at the school book fair next week.

That’s because it wasn’t a personal message.

It was business, just business.  She was a name on a computer screen that ended up as a name on a form letter.

In a world of catalogs and bills, form letters and political mailers, opening the mail box and finding a handwritten note from a friend surprises us.  It’s the rare joy of thoughtfulness and kindness in a mostly business society.

So sometimes we think that our God is a mostly business God, too: That somehow He just pushes His agenda on us without concern for our feelings or best interest.

Or perhaps we think that He’s juggling so many crises–wars and famines and terror—and how could He have time for anything else?  And the people, so many people, how could He possibly care about one little insignificant individual like me?

Maybe we feel like little more than a typewritten name on a divine form letter.

Yet in a mostly business world, we have an amazingly personal God.

He calls us by name and knows our innermost thoughts, saw us in our mother’s wombs and designed a plan for us from the beginning. 

He was not a Savior from afar, but God who walked among us, suffered among us, and knows what it is like to live out life in this world.

This was His reminder to the nation of Israel as they stood on the edges of the Promised Land, a people wandering long and whose last memory of a “home” was a land of slavery.

God said:

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you….Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deut. 31:6, 8).

He didn’t set them on a path and then abandon them to the journey.  God was personally with them, personally going before them, personally concerned about them.

And for Joshua, the newly appointed leader of this wayward and difficult people, God’s message was specific and consistent.

It began with God’s instruction to Moses on how to hand over of the staff to his protege, not with lectures and correction, but with encouragement:

Instead, your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will lead the people into the land. Encourage him, for he will lead Israel as they take possession of it (Deut. 1:38).  Instead, commission josh1,9Joshua and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead the people across the Jordan. He will give them all the land you now see before you as their possession (Deut. 3:28).

God repeats the message again and again, relentlessly, not just through Moses, but with His very own words—“be strong and courageous…Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

God didn’t have to say that.  He could have issued commands from afar, distant and cold.

But God knew Joshua personally. He knew exactly how it felt to step into Moses’s gigantic sandals.  He knew just how high those walls of Jericho were and how much courage it would take to command the people.

God knew the one message that Joshua personally needed to hear, not once, but repeatedly: Do not be afraid.

This is the blessing for us, incredible as it is, as hard as it is at times to feel with our emotions:

God knows us personally, too.  He knows exactly what obstacles we’ll encounter and the precise insecurities and fears that will beat down our faith.  He knows the days we walk weary and the nights we flop into bed discouraged.  He knows the immensity of the need and how insufficient our provisions appear.

And He “will personally go ahead for you.  He will neither fail nor abandon you….” so do not be afraid.

That’s not a business slogan.  That’s a personal guarantee.