Courage

“But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm'” (Exodus 14:13-14, New Living Translation).

I think that we live in a culture where we are programmed to fear. A lot of advertising is based off the notion that you need a particular product or program if you want to avoid a dreaded catastrophe and if you want to stay safe and secure.

We live in a society where many fear what they don’t understand. Much of the time, that fear expresses itself in anger and outrage and putting up a wall toward anyone who has a different viewpoint than us.

But Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I.”

The way I look at courage has changed over the years. I used to see courage as bravely charging into a fearful situation or boldly standing up for an unpopular cause.

Now, I see that sometimes courage can be that quiet voice that tells you to try again tomorrow. Courage can be as small as taking that next step when everything in you is crying out for you to quit.

Courage can be showing up every single day, regardless of how bad the day before was or how bleak the future looks. Courage knows that while I myself may be at my weakest, what lies ahead of me is no match to what dwells within me– namely, the indwelling Spirit of Jesus.

Courage may indeed sometimes be bold and decisive, but often it’s continuing to be obedient in the minutiae, knowing that every little step matters. Sometimes, courage looks a lot like perseverance and patience.

My prayer is for courage for all of us not just in the dramatic moments but in the ordinary minutes and hours of every day humdrum. May we heed that quiet voice to always try again tomorrow.

 

A Beautiful Prayer

“You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are almighty.
You, holy Father, are
King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One,
Lord God, all good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good,

Lord God, living and true.

You are love,
You are wisdom.
You are humility,
You are endurance.
You are rest,
You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches,
And You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector,
You are our guardian and defender.
You are courage.
You are our heaven and our hope.
You are our faith,
Our great consolation.
You are our eternal life,
Great and wonderful Lord,
God almighty,
Merciful Saviour.

Amen” (St Francis of Assisi).

Once again, I think this covers it. I found this through Daily Celtic Prayers and Inspirations on Facebook. See, there is some redeeming value to social media.

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes when you can’t find your own words to pray, it helps to borrow other words. Obviously, you start with the Psalms and other prayers from the Bible (including the Lord’s Prayer), but sometimes you can also pray the prayers of other men and women of God down through the centuries.

Here’s one more you can add to your list.

 

Peace and Courage and All That Other Stuff

“I have told you all this so that in me you may find peace. In this world you will have trouble. But courage! The victory is mine; I have conquered the world” (Jesus, John 16:33).

Some days it’s easier to believe these words than others. Some days it’s easier to feel that peace of Christ surrounding you and holding you together.

Some days fear wins. Some days you feel overwhelmed and stressed and defeated. You wonder where the peace has gone or if it will ever come back.

The peace never leaves. You may not always tangibly feel it all the time, but it’s there. How do I know that? Because Jesus promised that His peace would remain.

That’s what I’m holding on to these days.  That peace of Christ that passes all understanding, that passes what I can comprehend of my present situation, that stands when I can’t.

It’s like in Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Aslan whispers. “Courage, dear heart,” to Lucy. It says afterwards that she felt a very little bit better. Not a lot. She and the ship weren’t immediately delivered from the darkness, but they began to see a way out on the horizon.

Maybe that’s what it is. Peace is the ultimate knowledge that no matter how bad things are now, God will work all these things out for the best possible outcome. Everything will be fine in the end, as the movie quote goes, and if it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

I don’t necessarily think that peace always comes with a calmness. Sometimes, you can have those butterflies in your stomach, that gnawing in your belly, and still have peace. In the same way, just because you don’t feel the nearness of Jesus doesn’t mean He’s not there.

So that’s where I am, craving that peace and finding it in the unlikeliest of times and places. God is good like that.

 

It’s A Good Feeling When . . .

Elizabethtown-Panerai

It’s a good feeling when you can finally be you– the real you– with no shame or embarrassment. That you can be a full-on goober and not care what anybody else thinks. That you can be the ultimate anti-hipster and go against all that is hip and trendy and not give a rat’s . . . tail.

It’s a good feeling when people walk out of your life and you can smile and wave goodbye and move forward. When you know the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind. The people in your life are God’s blessing to you. When He removes people from your life, it’s often a bigger– though underappreciated– blessing. You never really know what He protected and saved you from when He did that.

It’s a good feeling when you’re content with who you are and realize the best things in life can’t be bought or sold or even valued. When you hear your Abba’s voice and decide that that one voice speaks more meaningfully to you than all the other voices of popularity and fame and success.

It’s a good feeling when you can finally forgive yourself for not being all things to all people, for not being perfect all the time, for being a forgiven sinner and not a first-rate saint. It really is a good feeling when you can not only hear God calling you His beloved in whom He is well pleased, but receive it and live out of it and never ever get over it.

So go live boldly. Make big mistakes and fail ridiculously. As one of my favorite quotes from a movies goes, “Have the courage to fail big and stick around and make ’em wonder why you’re still smilin’.”

And most of all, go out and love being you because not even you can love being you as much as God does.

 

Courage and Cowardly Lions

cowardlylion

 

“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 dusky 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?” (Cowardly Lion).

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die (G K Chesterton).

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality (C S Lewis).

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow” (Mary Anne Radmacher).

“Just because you weren’t courageous today doesn’t mean you can’t be tomorrow. Just because you’ve never been courageous in your life doesn’t mean that you can’t ever be in the future. It’s never too late to be who you were always meant to be or always wanted to be” (Me)

“Have I not commanded you? 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).

I think that I haven’t been courageous as much as I like to think I have. There have been times when I did a good impression of the cowardly lion and shirked from my duties out of fear.

But the beauty of the Gospel is that it’s for people like me. It’s for the cowards and the much afraids.

The best part is that the transformational power of this Gospel makes most cowardly of us into the most courageous. Just ask the Apostle Peter about that when you see him in heaven. He’d have plenty to say about that.

May we have the courage to keep fighting for what we believe. May we have the courage to keep believing even when common sense tells us not to. May we have the courage to get out of bed every morning, whether we feel like it or not, and keep clinging to the promises of God.

God, give your people courage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s The Little Things

I’ve come to a few conclusions in my time. One of them has come to me recently.

I’ve always been a fan of the epic movies like Lawrence of Arabia or Braveheart or Gladiator, with big battle scenes behind a massive soundtrack and bold and daring actions. Life is sometimes like that. But most of the time it’s not.

Most of the time, courage isn’t the absence of fear, but being afraid and still taking the next step of faith anyway. It means shutting your ears to what those fears are telling you and choosing in the moment to believe what God has been telling you all along about yourself, your friends and family, and your circumstances.

Most of the time, faith isn’t doing incredible deeds like leading masses of people to Christ or flying halfway around the world to be a career missionary. It’s going next door and doing a small act of kindness for your neighbor. It’s moving out of your usual circle of friends and sitting with someone who looks lost and lonely.

Sometimes, belief isn’t supreme confidence that you know everything there is to know about God and His ways and how He will act. Sometimes, it’s a very small mustard seed. Sometimes, it’s the wavering confession amidst doubts that says, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

It’s not about big faith in God, but faith in a big God. The saying goes that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. I say that sometimes, it’s about showing up even when you don’t feel up to it, when you feel utterly powerless and weak, when every part of you is telling you to throw in the towel and quit.

Those are the times that God shows up. When you are weak, the Bible says, that’s when the power of Christ is made perfect. Paul even goes so far as to boast in his weakness because he knows that God shows up strongest in our weaknesses.

Keep believing. Keep taking the small steps of faith. Keep holding on to that quiet courage that says you can try again tomorrow. After all, it really is the little things, the small things done with love that really matter in the end.

When the Lights Go Out

lucynarnia

I was en route from Memphis recently, listening to a book on CD, as all well-seasoned travellers do. It was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, book 5 of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It was read by Derek Jacobi, by the way, in case you were dying to know.

In the book, the Dawn Treader sails into an island of darkness. It’s a place where fear rules and all nightmares come to life. Lucy is at the top of the ship, watching as the crew tries vainly to escape. In her desperation, she says, “Aslan, if you ever loved us, help us now.” The answer to her prayer is an albatross who, as he flies by her, whispers, “Courage, dear heart,” in Aslan’s voice. He then leads them out into the sunlight.

I bet you’ve been in some dark places in your life. You’ve felt trapped in the valley of the shadow of death, where no light or hope can get through. You’ve been searching for a way out, but all you find is more darkness, more despair, more hopelessness.

You feel your circumstances will never get better. You fear that nothing will ever change. You come to believe that your worst-case scenario is due to come true any day now. Your faith is at a low ebb and your fears are cresting and crashing waves that swamp you.

There’s a voice, if you are still enough to hear it, that whispers the same words what it whispered to Lucy. “Courage, dear heart.” It says, “Hold on. Trust in Me in the darkness even when you can’t find Me there. I am with you, with My everlasting arms underneath you. I will never ever let go.”

Don’t believe that you feel or what you think, but what you know. Believe the same God who has proved Himself over and over and Whose word is true. Know that He is with you and for you in your darkness. Darkness may prevail right now, but joy is coming with the morning.

Another prayer from Henri Nouwen (with my own commentary added)

“I pray tonight for all who witness for you in this world: ministers, priests, and bishops, men and women who have dedicated their lives to you, and all those who try to bring the light of the Gospel into the darkness of this age. Give them courage, strength, perseverance, and hope; fill their hearts and minds with the knowledge of your presence, and let them experience your name as their refuge from all dangers. Most of all, give them the joy of your Spirit, so that wherever they go and whomever they meet they will remove the veil of depression, fatalism, and defeatism and will bring new life to the many who live in constant fear of death. Lord, be with all who bring the Good News. Amen.” (Henri Nouwen)

As the old saying goes (or maybe a new one that I just made up), when you can’t think of anything original, borrow and steal from smarter people than you. Actually, this prayer of Henri Nouwen’s is my prayer, said better than I could ever say it on my own, for my friends who are going out and making disciples of all nations, starting in Nashville and ending up in the uttermost parts of the earth. You inspire me to want to do a lot more than I’m doing right now.

Who knows what God has in store for me or you or anyone? I’ve learned that whatever it is, it’s usually way different than what we thought it would be, and way better. So go with it. Jesus calls us to die every day to our rights and desires and dreams and hopes, so that we can live in God’s greater dream for us. As Oswald Chambers wrote, “Trust God and do the next thing.”

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.