Listening to Your Fears Again

“‘Hush!’ said the other four, for now Aslan had stopped and turned and stood facing them, looking so majestic that they felt as glad as anyone can who feels afraid, and as afraid as anyone can who feels glad. The boys strode forward: Lucy made way for them: Susan and the Dwarf shrank back.

‘Oh, Aslan,’ said King Peter, dropping on one knee and raising the Lion’s heavy paw to his face, ‘I’m so glad. And I’m so sorry. I’ve been leading them wrong ever since we started and especially yesterday morning.’

‘My dear son,’ said Aslan. Then he turned and welcomed Edmund. ‘Well done,” were his words. Then, after an awful pause, the deep voice said, ‘Susan.’ Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. ‘You have listened to fears, child,’ said Aslan. ‘Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?’

‘A little, Aslan,’ said Susan” (C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian).

Everyone has fears.  Everyone.

Your fears may tell you that you’re not good enough– and never will be.

Your fears may tell you that people would never want to get to know the real you– and if they did, they wouldn’t like it.

Your fears may tell you that you can never change– and that it’s too late to try anyhow.

Everyone has different kinds of fears, but they all have one thing in common. All that fear is based on a lie. As a pastor once said, FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear leaves out Christ. Fear doesn’t add God into the equation. Fear says that it is totally and completely up to you and that you’re not adequate to the challenge.

That’s partially true. You by yourself are not adequate for the challenge. But the God in you is. And He hasn’t left you to face your fears alone. He has provided a way out and a way through.

Let your fears lead you to the faith that leads you to worship, remembering that God has been faithful in the past and will not fail to do so in the future.

 

When You Know the Ending

I’ve mentioned it before (I think) that I have a few books that I like to re-read every year. One of those is The Lord of the Rings, which is actually one novel with three parts and not a trilogy of novels as is commonly believed these days– but I digress.

You might think that for me to already know the outcome would diminish my enjoyment of this book. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

For me, knowing the end makes some of the darker parts of the book more bearable. Knowing that Frodo and his faithful Samwise will come out alright in the end (spoiler alert) helps me through some of the passages when it seems that all will be lost.

It’s like that when I read the Bible. If you look at the metanarrative of the Bible story and keep the ending in mind, it makes some of the Old Testament passages (particularly Judges and the majority of the writings of the prophets) easier to stomach. Knowing that the Messiah is soon to arrive helps me get through all the apostasy and idolatry of the people called out by God.

In my own story, there have been many times when I’ve had to remind myself of the happy ending that awaits me. I am no different than most of you who have gone through dark and difficult chapters where the villain seems to be winning and hope seems all but lost. Sometimes, you think that if your life were a novel, it would be either a black comedy or a dark tragedy with no chance of a redemptive ending.

But the ending has already been written. God wins. Love does actually win in the truest sense. Not the warm fuzzy kind of love that comes with butterflies in your stomach, but the kind that lays down its life for a friend. That’s the love that wins in the end.

Everything good about this life will be redeemed. All the evil will be undone and all the lies exposed and banished forever. All the best parts of your deepest longings and dreams will be fully realized.

You are allowed to skip ahead and read the last chapter, Revelation 22. It’s my favorite ending of all time.

 

The Theology of Tired

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Have you ever been somewhere and suddenly have the overwhelming feeling of being tired? Like you could go sleep for 18 hours straight?

I had that feeling tonight. I went from fine to tired in 0.6 seconds. At least, that’s what it felt like.

Sometimes when you’re tired, your mind can play tricks on you. It will tell you that you’re all alone, that no one really understands you– or really wants to. That maybe they’d be better off without you.

It’s easy to take small things that mean nothing– a particular turn of phrase or remark– and make it seem monumental.

You have to remind yourself that your brain doesn’t function at its best when you’re tired. Sometimes, the best thing– the most spiritual thing– you can do is physically rest. Take a nap. Go to bed early.

The longer you let those tired thoughts play out in your head, the more attractive they become. You can even be to the point of wanting to give up on everything and everybody for no good reason. All because you’re tired.

As I learned once and have mentioned before more than once, what you think and what you feel will lie to you, so you go with what you know.

You remember that God is faithful and He’s got His eye on you tonight. You’ll be alright in the end. And all those overblown scenarios that play out in your head won’t ever come to fruition.

God is in control. You’re not. That’s a very good thing.

Good Times, Bad Times

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I had a really good day. In fact, nearly all my days are good days. It helps when you’re an optimist like me and choose to focus on the good instead of the bad. That helps.

But what about when you have bad days?

What about when you have those days when you don’t feel confident? When you feel like all those old fears and insecurities have crept right back into your mind and taken up residence again? When you feel like you’ve regressed back into the you that wasn’t very fun to be around?

Even as much as I, the eternal optimist, would like to say differently, you will have bad days. You will even have crappy days. You will have those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days (just like that Alexander kid).

Bad days do more than just take up the necessary 24 hour allotment of space. They give perspective. They help you see how good the good days are in comparison.

The good news that I need to remember (and I’m sure you do, too) is that God is just as faithful and present on the bad days as He is on the good. He may not seem as tangibly present, but trust me, He’s there. You just have to trust what you know of God and His promises rather than what you feel. After all, feelings lie. Feelings can be misleading. Feelings can be such fickle things. But God never lies.

Even when it seems like you’re having a month of Mondays, remember that all the promises of God still hold just as true for you as they did when you were having a good day.

And remember, you DID wake up this morning. You DID get out of bed. You ARE reading this, so you still have your mind. Even on a bad day, there are still so many things to be thankful for. Good things. Just you remember that.

 

 

Hello, My Name Is . . . More of What Jesus Wants to Say to Every Woman

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I felt like I had to revisit this because there’s so much more that I felt needs to be said. So much I feel like Jesus wants to communicate to women, both single and married. So here goes:

“My Precious Daughter,

Why are you so concerned about the future? Do you think by worrying you can hasten its arrival or change one iota of your destiny?

If you are single, be single. Regardless of whether I’ve called you to be single for life or not, I have called you to be single today. Embrace this stage as a gift and especially embrace all the lessons and wisdom that you can only gain from this part of your life.

If you are married, remember I am your identity now. Not your husband, not your children, not your job. All these things belong to Me.

Your marriage is not yours. It’s Mine. So is your husband. I expect you to give him back to me better than when I first gave him to you– more like Me.

Your children do not belong to you. They are Mine and I have entrusted them to your care for such a short time. They will form their opinions of Me much more by watching your daily actions and habits and lifestyle than by listening to your words. Live what you profess to believe.

Make time to find rest in Me. Notice I did not say to take time. In your hectic schedule, you will never have time for Me unless you make time for Me. And you will always make time for what really matters to to you.

Remember, whenever you hear the voices reminding you of your past, your shortcomings, your faults, and your mistakes, speak My name aloud. Do not dwell on such things, but rebuke them in My name.

Your feelings will lie to you. Your woman’s intuition will lie to you. Your mind and heart will deceive you. I will always tell you the truth, for I am the Truth. Trust me.

Let My love for you captivate and enthrall your heart tonight. Repeat the phrase, “Abba Father, I belong to you” over and over until the thought becomes as ingrained as breathing.

I love you just as you are right now but I will not let you stay that way. I am far from finished from the masterpiece I am making out of you.

Revisiting the Old Fears

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All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends” (Ann Voskamp).

Sometimes they do come back.

I’m talking about fears. Every so often, you will run into one of those along your path, usually when you least expect it and thought you had dealt with it.

Here’s a few examples.

Someone stops responding to your texts. The fear says, “See? You’ve offended that person in some way. You’ve ruined the relationship and it will never again be the same.”

A good friend moves to another town. “The fear moved in and whispers, “She won’t tell you to your face, but the real reason she moved was to get away from you.”

The one that dogged me for years was this: “Every one will eventually abandon you. Once they’ve seen what you’re really like, they won’t want to have anything more to do with you. They’ll start by growing distant with you and then disappear altogether. Nothing you do matters. No one notices anything you say. You might as well never have been born.”

Or maybe your fear goes like this: “You’re not worth someone’s love. No one could ever be attracted to you. You are repulsive to the opposite sex. You will always be alone.”

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Fear lies. That’s its nature.

Fear doesn’t come from God. Ever. Fear comes from the father of lies and means to keep you from God, imprisoned in your anxieties and phobias

Remember, perfect love casts out fear. And you are perfectly loved, just as you are, not as you should be or could be.

Name the fear. Expose it. Demons die in the light. Rebuke that fear OUT LOUD in the name of Jesus.

You in and of yourself will never defeat fear, but the power of Christ in you has already beaten it once and for all. That power is yours now to claim.

If you’ve allowed yourself to be mastered again to that fear, repent and move forward. Shame is a close relative of fear and is just as bent on keeping you away from God. Shame is also a defeated foe.

You as a child of God fight not for victory but FROM it. Keep that in mind and have a blessed Monday!

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A Good Weekend

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As I stepped into my car to head home from a Sunday School class party, I could hear the hypnotic drone of cicadas and felt 10-years old again and ready for the next big adventure. That’s what life really is. At least for those who have their eyes open to appreciate the mystery and wonder in each gift God unwraps daily called life.

I still fondly remember running through the streets of downtown Nashville with my friend Katie to catch the next act at Live on the Green, Michael Franti. It was a moment I never imagined happening, yet if you were to ask what my all-time favorite moment was, this one would be climbing the charts. And no Gatorade ever tasted better than the ones from the Exxon convenience store on the way home.

How can I forget an impromptu Starbucks session of great conversation and good coffee drinks? I can’t remember two hours flying by that fast. It was yet another in a long line of unexpected treasures and blessings God has showered on me lately.

I remember Friday and Saturday in downtown Franklin, seeing some of my favorite McCreary’s people and savoring yet another beautiful summer night visiting my usual haunts and trekking my familiar path up and down Main Street. I especially recall how quiet it was in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as I sat silent and still and expectant, waiting on a Word from God.

I finally fell asleep at 4:30 this morning after another night of tossing and turning. I think I’ll sleep better tonight. At least I hope I do. But even that time awake gave me time to reflect on all the little gifts that eucharisteo had opened my eyes to see.

I remember something my Sunday School teacher Derek Webster said. He said, “God believes in you even more than you do.”

I have to write that down somewhere. Oh yeah, I guess I just did. But I need it in a place where I can find it and see it every morning, because I know some mornings I’ll wake up and not be as excited to be alive. Those old self-doubts will creep in. The enemy will whisper, “See? Nobody really cares about you. No one would notice if you weren’t around. You don’t make one bit of difference to anybody.”

That’s when this Truth of God comes in. God says differently. To me. To you. To anyone who heard and followed the voice of Jesus. God said you do matter because I made you. Jesus said you matter because I thought you were to die for. You have a gift and a purpose that no one else ever in the history of mankind has ever had. Only you can play the part God wrote for you in the Great Romance He’s written out in history.

You being you makes God smile. You being who God created you is what the world around you needs to see more than any Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. You coming alive to your gifts and talents will be the ripple in the ocean whose effects will last far beyond your own lifetime.

Yep. All that from four days in August.

Things I Love 14: Back to Life, Back to Reality

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OK, I confess. I’ve slacked off from reading the book that I said was so amazing, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It’s still amazing, but I’ve been distracted from reading by a multitude of things, mostly involving my ADD. So I do plan to resume reading the book at some point, but I continue with the list currently, starting at #322.

322) Those of you who are old enough now have that song by Soul II Soul stuck in your head, thanks to my oh-so-clever subtitle.

323) Grabbing coffee with friends at the multiple coffee locations around town (and I would love to meet any of you for coffee and conversation, preferably at The Frothy Monkey or The Well, but Starbucks works just as well).

324) When the Word of God comes alive to me and speaks to my life in powerful ways.

325) Fellow cat-lovers who understand that cats aren’t dogs, but can be very loving in their own ways.

326) Finally being able to speak the truth in love and not have the co-dependent, approval-addicted part of me worried sick about losing the friend.

327) Orange popsicles.

328) Still getting a kick out of trying to type out a word and accidentally typing the word “poop.”

329) The people who get my weirdness and love me anyway.

330) The honesty and vulnerability of the teaching pastor at Kairos, Mike Glenn.

331) Singing along with Stevie Wonder in the car (well, not actually Stevie Wonder, but his songs).

332) That Stevie Wonder is not driving the car while I’m listening to his music in my car.

333) I’m officially 1/3 of the way through my list of 1,000 things I love.

334) Really small Bibles.

335) God loving me when I’m most selfish and petty and whiny.

336) When friends have every right to write me off, but choose to give me grace instead.

337) Recognizing a thought for the lie that it is and taking it captive through the power of Christ in me.

338) One-hit wonders from the 90’s.

339) The Cheesecake Factory.

340) The Mall at Green Hills (even though parking there is a nightmare).

341) Because of Jesus goodbyes are only temporary.

342) Feeling God’s pleasure over me when I run.

343) Learning more about Jesus from faith-traditions that are different than mine.

344) The spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A.

345) The steak bowl from Chipotle with Smoked Chipotle Tobasco sauce on it (to add a little extra kick to the flavor).

346) Food in general.

347) My $5 polarized sunglasses from Savannah, Georgia that I still somehow have not managed to lose yet.

348) Being able to use the suffering and hardship in my own life to help someone else who’s going through something similar.

349) Little baby shoes. Even though I don’t have kids yet, I love how they can make boots and sandals and tennis shoes so small.

350) That I’m now going to start calling my tennis shoes “tenny runners” just to be different.

When You Feel Like Giving Up

I’ve felt like giving up sometimes. And by that I don’t mean I felt a desire to end my life. I just didn’t feel like trying anymore. At the time, I felt like I didn’t matter and nothing I did made any difference. Like the world would be better off without me.

But those thoughts were lies. I know that now. I’ve learned not to trust every feeling I have. I’ve come to realize that not every thought in my head deserves attention, because what I think isn’t always true. The Bible calls it “taking every thought captive.”

God is always true. He never lies. I know now I can always trust him, especially in the times when I can’t trust my own thoughts and feelings.

It’s easy to let fear or anger or doubt or depression skew your reality. It’s easy to give into those fears and the bondage that comes with them. But that’s no way to live.

It’s much harder to say, “I need help.” It’s much harder to say, “I can’t do this on my own. I’ve tried and tried and failed and now I need help.”

Sometimes faith and prayer are enough. I know personally that sometimes it takes medication and counseling. It’s not weakness to need pills to help you think normally. It’s because you and I and everybody else live in a fallen world and have brokenness because of sin entering the world.

Just remember that God’s in control. He’s bigger than any problem you’re facing. As a pastor I once heard said, what seems impossible to you and me isn’t even remotely difficult for God. And he’s waiting for you to ask him for help.

There’s a whole lot I don’t know. But one of the few things I do know is that God is truly close to the broken-hearted and crushed in spirit. He knows where you are and what you’re going through. And he will get you through it.

That’s what I know.

 

It’s Time To Play “Name That Fear”

I have an image in my mind of that old TV game show where the contestants were constantly yelling, “Big bucks! Big bucks! No whammies!”

It’s time for me to name one of my fears, that big ol’ ugly whammy that has always gotten to me– the fear of abandonment.

I’m putting this out there so that 1) it will lose its power over me and 2) so that you can be brave enough to name your own fear and diminish its power over you. So here goes.

My fear is the fear of abandonment. I’m afraid that you will get to know me and then decide that I’m not worth the effort, that I’m really too messed up for you to deal with, and you will go away.

I go through long stretches where I am good and that fear isn’t a problem. But then someone won’t respond to a text or will stop commenting on and liking my facebook posts and that old fear creeps up. That voice says, “See? They’ve given up on you” or “They’re gradually pulling away from you and pretty soon won’t have anything to do with you.”

Or maybe I’m at a social event and a friend isn’t as friendly as usual and I wonder if I’ve done or said something to offend them. I fantasize in my mind how they’re really angry with me and are just waiting for the right moment to tell me where I can go and what I can do with myself (putting it nicely). I’ve actually played out those scenarios to the point where I’ve thought a friendship was over when it wasn’t even close to being over.

Sometimes you can recognize a lie and believe it anyway because it’s familiar. It’s all you’ve known and lived with your whole life. But when you name it and where it came from, it loses its power over you.

So, I name that fear of abandonment from the pit of hell and I claim the blood of Jesus over it right now. I receive my status as the beloved of God, chosen by Jesus.

Now if I could just hit some of those big bucks. . .