Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Do Something

 I think it's important to know the "facts" about fear and what it means to live fear{less}. It's totally an important concept to understand, that would be why I've spent almost a month talking about it! But, as we talked about two days ago, it's not enough to know the "facts" of fear. We've got to do something with our knowledge. We have to apply it to our lives. We've got to live it out. We've got to find the "so what?" factor. We have to see why this living fear{less} thing matters to our lives, and learn how to move forward.

A first step we can take is to make a pro/con list about fear in our lives. Once we've listed out the pros and cons, we can ask the following questions:
  • What are the benefits that it brings to our lives? What good is it doing? 
  • What are the negatives? What "bad" does it bring to our lives? 
  • Do the "goods" really outweigh the "bads"? Is the fear worth it?
After we've evaluated these fears, we can take a step towards changing them. Sometimes, the best thing for me to do is find a distraction. Rather than thinking about all of the "worst case scenarios" and dwelling on my fears, I've found it better for me to distract myself. At a later time, the situation may not seem as dire as I thought.
  • What are some alternatives to worrying? 
  • What could we be doing with that "wasted" time?
  • How can we distract ourselves from this fear?
    • Learn to sew! (Or quilt)
    • Journal.
    • Do a crossword/wordsearch.
    • Write a letter to someone.
    • Watch a fun Disney movie. 
    • Learn a new hobby.
    • Plan your future wedding on Pinterest.
Those are just some ideas that I came up with. There are so many things out there that can be distractions from the moment. The idea is to get your mind to "step out of" the fear. It doesn't have to be a "productive" thing, and I've found it's best to do something that doesn't require a whole lot of "brain effort" or thinking. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Prison of Choice

When I look back over the last twenty-two years of my life, I realize very quickly that fear has always been an issue in my life. I've always been a cautious child. While there are some "good", "healthy" things to be afraid of (like strangers driving white vans with "free candy" written on the side), most of the things that I've feared were unnecessary, unhealthy fears. In essence, fear has been my prison of choice for the last twenty-two years. It wasn't a punishment I received for something I did. It was a conscious choice that I made every single day

I may not have gotten up each morning and said "Today, I'm going to let fear keep me in bondage." But, I might as well have walked up to the county jail each morning and asked them to put handcuffs on me and stick me in a cell. I might as well have asked them at the end of the day to let me pretty please stay just a little longer. Because, while I may not have really been physically restrained, I was still in bondage. I was still in a "prison", one that I had created for myself. One that I chose to "check in" to on a daily basis and never leave. This prison of fear was "safe" and "comfortable". It was an easy way to deal with the unknown. It was an easy coping mechanism. 

If someone continually walked up to prisons and asked to be allowed to "check in" and stay awhile, we'd probably think they were crazy. Who would want to confine themselves like that voluntarily? Why would you want to give up all of your freedoms? Why would someone want to do that? It seems silly. It seems ridiculous. It seems crazy insane. But, isn't fear the same way? We treat it like it's something "good" or at least "okay". We know that it's something that holds us back from our full potential, but we don't want to give it up. We want to keep it around for "rainy days" just in case we need it to fall back on.

What we really need to do if we truly want to live fear{less} though, is to hand it over. We need to permanently check out of our jail-hotel. We need to say "goodbye" to those chains that bind us. We need to walk away from this thing that has become some comfortable for us. We need to realize that living fear{less} means living free from the bondage of fear...something that we can't do if we're still in the prison. We need to stop choosing fear each morning when we wake up, and instead choose hope. When our feet hit the floor each morning, we need to make the conscious choice to choose hope and joy for the day. We need to surround ourselves with the positive. We need to immerse ourselves in the Word. When we feel helpless, we need to turn to God- not fear. Is it hard? OH YES. It's ridiculously difficult. Sometimes we might fail and fun back to our place of refuge, the place we have the false sense of "safety"....our prison of fear. But, we can get back up. There is still hope. We can fight another day...and another...and another...and another.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Change

Okay, so by this point in time, you may be wondering why all of this fear{less} talk actually matters. I mean, we can talk about living fear{less} for days and days and days. We can learn about fear{less}. We can know what fear{less} is. We can know what we need to do to live fear{less}. But, the fact of the matter is, if we don't let ourselves be changed by it, if we don't begin to live it out, if we just say and we don't do...we're in the same boat we started out in. We've got to take the scary first step into the unknown.

I don't really know exactly what living fear{less} looks like. 

I know, I've been writing on this topic for almost a month. I really should know, right?


I don't think it's possible to fully comprehend life. I don't think it's possible for us to know exactly what lies ahead. There will always be a certain amount of uncertainty and unknown. If we knew exactly what was coming, we wouldn't really have a need to fear, right? Life would be so much easier. The truth is, I'm right in the middle of this life with you. I'm right in the middle of these scary times, just like you. I'm right in the middle of trying to live fear{less}, struggling to keep my head above water...just like you. Please don't think that I've got it all together. Please don't think that I have all the answers. But, I'm seeking them. I'm trying to figure out what God has to say about the topic in his Word. I'm finding the "facts", but when it comes to applying it to my life, allowing it to change me- I'm realizing that this whole fear{less} thing is harder than I first thought.

As you may have noticed, I've gotten a little behind on this 31 Days thing. We're really on about Day 25 here, so I'm going to keep this series going just a little past the 31st of October so we can finish this out. For the last few days of 31 Days of Fear{less}, we're going to be talking about the "So What?" factor. We're going to be talking about what it means to live fear{less} and practical steps we can take to live like that. In the upcoming days, we're going to talk about the idea of "story" and how each of us has a story to tell. We're going to talk about what it means to share our story...fear{less}ly. So, get your minds thinking about story...just a heads up. :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Busy

Sometimes, it feels like my days are full of busy.

Busy can be a good thing- having lunch with friends, the opportunity to get an education, and excitement over a brand new baby being born. But, sometimes busy is a bad thing. It's stressful- like when papers are due, tests are to be taken, and books are to be read. I've found that it's in these times of busyness that I'm most prone to fear. I'm most likely to stress. I'm more likely to worry. It's in these times that I find it especially difficult not to worry.

One of my absolute favorite authors is Ann Voskamp. I feel like I talk about her all the time and we're bffs or something like that (when in reality, she has no idea who I am!). One Thousand Gifts is one of my favorite books, mostly because of a little section she has in it on perception. In OTG, she says that 
That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining.

So, naturally when Dayspring's review for the month of October included this little daily "calendar" devotional and reflection book, I jumped right on it. I know that it's in this "vulnerable" time- this precious time at the end of my education, before a "big girl" job- is when I need to be immersing myself in the Word the most. It's in these times of fear that I need to surround myself in the scriptures. I need to see "words of wisdom" on a frequent basis if I have any hope of keeping my head afloat.

In these times of "busy", I might not always have the time or energy to do a bible study (as much as I know that I need to). In these times of busy, Bible reading and study may be too often equated to class. I might not have too much available free time (or finances!) to read the newest and latest Christian Living selections at the bookstore. But, I can take five minutes out of my morning and reflect on a "portion". I can take a minute or two to reflect on the gifts that God has given me and thank him for them. I'm not that busy. 

I've learned that in order to live fear{less}, you have to have margin- you have to have space- in your life. You have to immerse yourself in the Word, and you have to study it and learn what other people have to say about it. Maybe in these busy times, the reason that I stress more, worry more, and fear more is because I'm not getting "fed". I'm too busy and I forget what's really important. So, today, take the time to slow down for a minute. Maybe it means putting off homework. Maybe it means logging off of Facebook and Twitter (or turning off your phone!) to get some time of quiet. Take the time to think about the gifts that you've been given- even in the midst of stress and bad times. Find joy in your current situation, and thank God for it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: In My Weakness, He is Strong

Let's spend some time today talking about a man named Peter. Peter was a disciple of Jesus, so that means that he was a great fear{less} Christian, right? Let's take a look at a story where Peter walks on the water to meet Jesus. Matthew 14:22-33 reads,
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Peter had a choice: he could choose to doubt or he could believe. He decided to doubt- which I think we can learn a lesson from. I think sometimes we like to look at this story at first glance and think, “If that was ME, if Jesus told ME to walk on water, I totally wouldn’t doubt. I'd never do that. I’d walk right up to him.” But, I think if we think for another minute, we’d realize that we’d probably do the same thing. 

I would guess that each of us has had a moment in our lives where we didn’t fully trust God. That we doubted that he was truly at work for “the good of all who love God and are called according to His purpose”. But, these moments aren’t all that bad- as long as long as we don’t use them as an excuse to flee from God and his call to our lives. We can’t forget the end of Peter’s story! After Jesus rebuked Peter for his doubt, ALL of the people in the boat WORSHIPPED Jesus and saw that he was the Son of God! This was before Jesus said anything about being the Son of God. This is before His divinity was common fact. This was before the crucifixion. In Peter’s weakness, God was made strong. In Peter's weakness, God received the glory. In Peter's weakness, the power of God was shown even more.

When I look back at my faith journey, I can’t help but notice that it’s the moments when I’m at my weakest- when I can’t see how things are going to possibly work out good- that I can see God’s strength the most. It’s in these times that God gets the glory, because I can’t try and claim any for myself. When I look back, I can’t help but see how God was at work- even in the darkest of times. In my weakness, his glory is made oh-so-strong. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Sparkle

It's my word of the year (even though you haven't seen it in awhile). 

Even though I stopped my "Sunday Sparkle" when I got busy and I haven't talked about it in recent months, that doesn't mean that I haven't been dwelling on it. At the beginning of the year, I made some New Year's goals. Am I doing great on all of them? Not really. But, I have finished 1 of the 5 and I'm working towards a 2nd- AND we still have two more months left in the year. I got this. :) But, back to Sparkle. In that post way back in January, I described "sparkle" as follows:
Sparkle reminds me of so many things, and that's why I'm picking it. It comes from Philippians 2:14-15 where Paul tells the Phillipians to "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." Sparkle just sounds prettier than shine. 
I want to sparkle this year. I want to be that princess (the child of God) that I talk about becoming and I want to dwell in the presence of the King. I want to sparkle this year and let my personality shine through. I want to sparkle and show people the love of Jesus.
So, I think that the idea of "sparkle" goes quite nicely with the idea of living fear{less}. When we live sparkly lives, we are living fear{less} lives. After all, one of the goals of living fear{less} is living as a light to the world. When we stand in opposition to a world full of fear and worry, we show an example of what life "could be like" when we have the hope of the Kingdom of God within us. When we live Kingdom lives, when we live like this world doesn't matter and the world that is yet to come is the ultimate priority- this changes things. This makes us "sparkly". This makes us "light". This requires us to live fear{less}. 

Another thing from January was that I adopted a "verse of the year". It's a verse that is so-very close to my heart this year. It comforts me in times of worry- which I have a lot of. It gives me a hope for the future and helps me to live fear{less}. Jeremiah 29:11-14 reads,
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
In him, we have a HOPE and a FUTURE.

Wow. Let that sink in for a moment. When we seek Him, when we call out to Him, when we pray to Him, he will listen to us. When we seek Him, we will find Him. Even in the midst of really bad times, he will bring us back. He will come and gather his people and bring us into the "land" that he has promised! I love the amount of hope in these verses. Even though I don't know the plans that God has for me, I know that he knows them. I know that these plans are good plans. These plans are plans that will bring glory to his name. I can live fear{less}, because I know that he's got it. I don't have to spend my time in fear and worry about what might happen, I can leave the details to God- because he is GOOD and he is in control.

When we live live in this radical, crazy, giving-it-all-up-to-Him sort of way- we can sparkle. We are uniquely positioned to show the world around us just how great God is. We can make people's days brighter by bringing a happy spirit- a little sparkle- with us wherever we go. Think about how much happier you tend to be when you aren't spending your days worrying. Think about the kind of light, the kind of example, you can be to the world around you. So, don't let life get you down. Don't let anyone ever dull your sparkle. You were made to dwell in the presence of the King of Kings. You were made for so much more than you could ever dream of...than you could ever ask or imagine. Don't spend precious time worrying...let God handle it. And you? Just keep sparkling and being a light to the world. :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Jump Anyways

Sometimes living fear{less} is kind of scary. So, we stand at the edge of the pool, not wanting to fully immerse our entire body in the water. We're okay with sticking our toes in the water. We're okay sitting on the edge even. But, we don't want to jump in. Jumping in to the water would mean giving up all control. So, we sit on the side of the pool, away from the action and activity, wondering why we aren't finding fulfillment, why we aren't happy. 

It's because we aren't really living fear{less}.

Fear{less} doesn't mean that we're completely unafraid. It doesn't mean that we have to be completely comfortable with everything. But, living fear{less} requires that we push through the uncomfortable feeling of being unsure. It means that we don't stay sitting on the side of the pool, but rather- we jump in!

This reminds me of something that happened at camp this summer. You should know that I'm not a camp person. I don't swim. Lakes are quite terrifying. But, since I was chaperoning a wonderful group of middle school girls that wanted to spend free time in the lake and I don't know how to say "no" really well...that's where we spent most of our time. I was okay with the whole "floating around" thing since I had this great invention called a life jacket on. But, there was this slide thing that was the bane of my existence.

 I know that it doesn't look that big and tall- but trust me, it was terrifying. My girls were convinced that they would get me up this monster at some point in time that week. Scratch that- everyone was convinced that they would get me to go on it, even if it was kicking, screaming, and unconscious. So, come the last day at the lake- I had no "real" choice. Somehow I was convinced up the thing- and at that point, I had a choice. I could either have a freak out moment, completely disappoint the children, and look like a quite horrible person. Or- I could "jump". In that moment- that split second- a decision was made. I grabbed one of the girl's hand and we went down the slide. It was absolutely terrifying. But, I didn't die. The world didn't end. Is it something that I wish to do again? Not really. But, I did it. I conquered that fear. I jumped anyways.

Sometimes living fear{less} is terrifying. I don't want you to get the idea that it's an easy thing. I don't want you to think that you're a failure for being scared. The thing is, being a Christian can be scary. I mean, look at the Bible. There's some crazy and radical things in that book. It talks about taking up your cross- a form of torture and execution- and following Christ. It talks about putting your relationship with Christ over all else. It talks about big, crazy, scary things. I'd be lying if I said that being a Christ follower isn't scary. I'd be lying if I said that it's not scary for God to give you a heart for missions. When I look at the way that God is leading me in my life, it's not the most comfortable life. It's not like going to law school and having great financial security. It means giving up a lot of time, for little pay- in order to benefit the Kingdom. So, to me, it's worth it. But, that doesn't mean that I don't have freak out moments where I think "What DID I get myself into???!" I think the thing to focus on isn't the fear. The thing to focus on is God- he's going to make it worth it. It is always "worth it" to be in God's will- it's not always easy (but God doesn't promise that!). So, even in the hard times- JUMP! Don't stay sitting on the side of the pool. Don't stay in the "comfortable". Living fear{less} means knowing when to JUMP!

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Known God

Even in the midst of chaos, fear, and the unknown;  there is one thing we can know for sure...we serve a known God.

Sometimes, this whole life thing seems a little unsure and fleeting. We don't even know what tomorrow holds, much less ten years from now. Sometimes, I don't even know what I'm going to eat for dinner...much less what I'm going to do after graduation. This is a prime time for fear and worry and anxiety to set in. The "what ifs" use this moment to attack. But, we can rest in the fact that God is known. We have all of these examples from the past when he's come through...why do we think that he'll be unfaithful now?

I mean, we have a great big book full of stories of God's faithfulness. We can read stories from the Old Testament about how he provided for the Israelites' every need, even when they were disobedient. We can read stories about how he provided food for them (manna) as they walked through the desert. We can read about how he conquered the promised land for them. We can read the stories of miraculous things that Jesus did in the New Testament. We can read about the struggles of the early church. We can see how throughout the centuries, God hasn't changed. He's remained the same- faithful.

So, in the midst of moments of fear, remember God's faithfulness. Remember the stories of the book, but also remember the stories of your own life. Where has God shown his faithfulness to you? How has he "come through"? What makes you doubt that he can still handle your situation? Living fear{less} means remembering the past to help us persevere in the future. Yes, our futures may be unknown. They may be scary- frightening even. But, we can know that all things will work for the glory of God. God will come through. God has a plan. God will provide...we can know that much, even in the midst of all the unknown.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Silence.

Sometimes the best words to say aren't our own.
Sometimes there's a message that people need to hear, but we aren't the ones that need to give it.
Today's one of those days.
Some things I've been reading in my Google Reader lately that remind me of living fear{less}.

Katie- she clings tightly to the edge of the pool...
Annie- the mending and breaking.
Erin- be still.

Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Learning to Laugh

You should know- I'm a huge Proverbs 31 fan.
Some people get in a tizzy about this whole "ideal woman" thing- but I don't. I know that I'm not going to be perfect. I realize that. But, this lady (whatever her name is) lived a life that is worthy of the gospel. It's not just about how she sewed clothes or made dinner for her husband or whatever- it's about how she lived life. It's about how the way that she lived her life impacted the writer of Proverbs enough that he "put her in the book". It's about how the way she lived her life is still impacting generations today. You just can't deny the influence of this woman.

One of the verses that I've focused in on recently is Proverbs 31:25.

I don't know about you, but I don't often laugh at the days to come. Sometimes I laugh at what's going on in the here and now, but most of my thoughts about the future involved worry and fear. What am I going to do when I graduate? Where will I live? Will I have to move? How will I ever survive on a ministry salary? There are so many unknowns about my future- and it's kind of freaking me out, because I'm graduating in less than two months. Crazy, right?

Back to our Proverbs 31 woman. She lived a fear{less} life- and we can know this from this verse. She lived a life that was free from fear- and she laughed at the days to come. She laughed. She didn't just sit there with a stoic look on her face like, "Whatever life. Come at me." NO! She laughed. She "clothed" herself (figuratively, of course) with strength and dignity. Some translations say strength and honor. Whatever the case, she was strong in her faith. She trusted that God could and would take care of her troubles. She trusted that he could handle the storms that life would throw at her. So, instead of spending her days worrying about "what if" or "what may"- she laughed.

When I think about my life- that's how I want people to see me. I don't want to be known as the worry-wart. I don't want to be known as the girl that's always freaking out about what she's going to do in her life. I don't want to be known as the girl who's fear always held her back from living. I want to be known as the girl who lived fear{less}, the girl who laughed. 

So, baby steps. Maybe all my fears won't disappear overnight. Maybe it won't always be easy. But, maybe I can learn to laugh. Maybe I can learn to see the good in things- before I think about all of the bad. Maybe I can focus on the positive, the gifts, the things to be thankful for. Maybe life should be more about laughing, more about enjoying, more about standing strong and living a life of honor.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Absolutely Terrified? It's Okay.

So, living fear{less} isn't always easy.
Sometimes, we DO get absolutely terrified. It's okay. It's all a part of the process.

Sometimes we're up against situations we simply can't control.
Sometimes we don't have the strength to fight the fear. Sometimes, that's just how it is.
But, when we live in spite of the situation, when we do the best with whatever we've got, we're setting an example to the world around us. We're saying to them, "Yes. This stinks. But, even in the midst of all of this, I'm going to stand strong. I'm going to keep the faith. I'm going to see this through."

Real courage- really living fear{less}- isn't about standing strong in situations that you're in control of. Real courage is living in spite of crappy situations. Real courage is knowing that you're in the midst of a battle and all you want to do is give up to the fear- but fighting anyways. It's okay to be absolutely terrified. It's okay to not know what the next step you're going to take is. But, don't give up. Keep living in spite of these situations. Living fear{less} means that we stand in the midst of these situations and we don't give up. We fight anyways. We live anyways. We try to calm our anxious hearts and we pray for God to help us get through this. We see it through...and we don't give up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Living in Spite of

Okay, so today is a big day.
Are you ready for this?

We're headed back to Taylor Swift, yall. :)
To me, Fearless is not the absence of fear. It's not being completely unafraid. To me, Fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. -Taylor Swift
For the next bit, we're going to talk about how living fear{less} means living in spite of things that are scary. Something that I've realized is that there is never going to be a shortage of scary things in the world. Some scary things are "legit" fears, but most of them really just stand in the way of us living our lives to the absolute fullest. I mean, is my fear of flying on an airplane because it might fall out of the sky justified? How many planes really just "fall out of the sky" on a daily basis? Please. This is a totally irrational fear. I mean, the total odds of dying in a plane crash (considering every single crash...not just ones that just "fall out of the sky") is 1 in 5,862. According to this site, you're more likely to die falling out of bed. Silly right? I think I'm not going to be able to sleep in a bed again. :)

I mean, think about it. We live in a broken, fallen world. We live in a world where bad things happen to good people. But, are we supposed to just stop living? Are we supposed to just lock ourselves in our homes and sleep on air mattresses? I don't think so. If we choose to live fear{less}, we make the choice to live in spite of these things. We make the choice to not let our fears hold us back. I mean, I think of all of the things that I've avoided over the years because of fear. There have been several things that looking back, weren't as bad as I thought they were. They weren't as scary as I thought. I'm not sure why I was so freaked out about them. Then, there's other instances. The times when I chose to live fear{less}. When I didn't let my fear of "what may" hold me back. Take New York City for instance. I was terrified to go there. I mean- think of all that could go wrong.

  • Plane flight. 
  • Tsunami destroying the city. 
  • Giant meteor falling and hitting the Earth. 
  • Lots and lots of people mean more crime. 
  • Getting stuck up there and not being able to come home. 

But, I went anyways (and yes, those were really the fears that I had going into this trip). And you know what? None of that stuff happened. I survived. Mom survived. No natural disasters occurred. The world didn't come to an end, even though it's 2012. Scared to death of these kinds of things. But, I did it. Living Fear{less}, guys. :)

It's time to buckle up and enjoy the ride. Time to live fear{less} in spite of the things that scare you the most.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Running to Tarshish

The title for the first section of Jonah 1 in my Bible is “Jonah Flees from the Lord”. Those words kind of make me giggle on the inside, because we never can truly flee from the Lord. He’s always right here with us. Jonah thought he was running far, far away. Tarshish would have been a place “really really far away” from Nineveh, located somewhere on the coast of modern day Spain. So, Jonah may have thought that he was running away from the reach of God and that he would no longer be responsible for the message that the Lord gave him (I mean, Tarshish was really, really far away!), but we know that this is so not true. There is a promise that is contained in the words of scripture. It is found over and over and over again. It is the promise that God holds us securely in His hands, that He lavishes us freely with His unconditional love, and that He fills us with an unspeakable joy and incomprehensible peace. This doesn’t mean that things will always be easy. Many times we will experience frustration. Our weaknesses will seem so big and we may feel like they will overcome us. But God in our weakness is made oh, so strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9 reads, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

It’s in these times of frustration- these times when following God isn’t easy- when we aren’t on that “mountain top” experience after camp or a retreat or a really good worship service that we have to make a choice. It's in these times that we have to choose to live fear{less}. It’s when our friends are trying to convince us that disobeying our parents this one time won’t hurt, it’s when your best friend is talking about you behind your back, it’s when someone you love gets sick, it’s when you don’t make the team, it’s when your heart gets broken, it’s when things aren't going the way that that you've planned that we have to make this choice. It is in these times that we reach a crossroads and we have to make a choice: we can choose to trust like a child completely or we can choose to run to Tarshish, for whatever reason we might conjure. Sometimes we’d rather run away from our problems and decisions. We’d rather take the “easier” road…even if it’s not the choice that glorifies God.

But, if we lean on Him, if we choose to trust, even though it might be hard sometimes…I believe we will find moments of joy along the way. I believe we will laugh and cry and laugh so hard we cry some more. This doesn’t mean it will always be easy. Life isn’t always sunshine, daisies, sparkly things, and rainbows. But, I believe that at the end of the journey, when God has made us perfect, we will be able to look back with great thankfulness and joy that He gave us the faith to let Him bring us through. Isaiah 43:2-4 reads,
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; you are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.
You are God’s precious child. He loves you and he is ALWAYS with you. I think sometimes we forget God’s faithfulness. It’s not that he stops being faithful, it’s just that we aren't looking hard enough. Just because we get a little scared doesn't mean we need to run away. It’s in these times when we learn what it means to trust God. It’s when we learn about taking the leap of faith. We learn what it means to “die” to ourselves and follow God wholeheartedly. It’s in these hard times when we have to give God ALL of the glory and we learn that alone we can do nothing. It's in these times that we need to chose to live fear{less}, free from the bondage of "what may". It's in these times that we need to make the choice to follow God completely- come what may- and trust that he's got this.

Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Not Where I Belong

I'm not from here.
This world, this Earthly home where I currently reside, isn't where I belong. 

Let me explain.
As I've grown older, I've met people that didn't agree with me. Some people eat food that smells funny, like collard greens. I love my Mom even though she eats stinky food. Some people I can get along with anyways. I have a best friend who is a Democrat, and I love her even though she loves Obama.Then, we get a little deeper into moral/ethical issues. What about abortion? What about gay marriage? Can you simply "agree to disagree" on these issues, or is that selling yourself short? For years, I avoided talking about these things. I didn't want to offend people. I mean, going around speaking counter-culturally is weird. Who wants to be the girl on campus that's against premarital sex? I mean, it's not a popular view, even on a "Christian" campus. Is it really necessary to speak out against these things, or can we just sit back and live life in our own little bubbles?

I had the realization today that we are called to stand up for what we believe in. I want my faith to be something worth dying for. I want to be that committed, and I don't want to be afraid to stand up for what I believe. Please don't misinterpret me here, we ARE supposed to love people. We're supposed to show God's love to them, even if they aren't making wise choices. We ARE supposed to treat them like children of God- we aren't supposed to hate them. But, I do believe that we can, and we SHOULD speak the truth in love. Living fear{less} means realizing that this world is not our home, and we are called to a higher purpose, a higher standard. If we claim the name "Christian" and are professing to be "little Christs", we should live differently from the world. This won't always be easy. Some people won't like it. But, we aren't called to be "well liked". We aren't called to "blend in". We are called to be a light in the darkness. We are called to live lives that would represent Jesus to the world. We are called to be different. 

What stirred all this up? I guess you could say this event last fall. Or maybe it would be the fact that administration at my "Christian" college that receives funding from the United Methodist church tells teachers that they aren't allowed to pray in class, because it "might offend someone". Maybe it's the fact that we do a "GYT" (Get Yourself Tested) each month- yes, free STD testing each month during lunch in the Dining Hall. Maybe it's the fact that they hire professors that don't represent Christ to the student body- and even try to dissuade people from the faith. Maybe it's the fact that Planned Parenthood is coming to campus tomorrow to give a presentation in the Dining Hall (Can you say disturbing? Abortion and dinner) about how girls should "take responsibility for their sex lives". Why does an institution that claims the name "Christian" not look any different than the world around it? I'd have to say that it looks more like we're blending into the world and culture, than striving to live against it. My college says that it's mission is "faith, wisdom, and service"....but that isn't what we look like. Maybe it's what things used to be like. But, somewhere, we've gone wrong. We've forgotten our roots. We've lost our way, much like the seven churches in Revelation. I don't know about you, but that's not how I want to be remembered. I don't want to live a lukewarm life. I don't want to live a life that doesn't stand in opposition to the ways of this world. I already know the end of the story, and I know who's side I want to be on.

So what? What do we do? How do we live in a world that is SO against everything we believe?
We stand up.
We stand up for what is right. We stand up for what is good. We stand up for what is true.
We speak out.
We speak with love, not hate. We speak words of truth, backed up with Scripture.
And when they refuse to listen?
We accept what comes.
We accept that we live in a fallen world. We accept that it isn't going to be easy. We accept that there may be persecution. We accept that we may lose some things. We might not get that job recommendation. We might not get that grade we "deserve". We might lose a friendship. 

But, we know that we stood for what is right. We stood for truth. We spoke with love. We realize that our reward doesn't come in this life. It doesn't come with fancy jobs. It doesn't come with shining rec letters. We realize that our hope for a bright future is in the world to come.

And with that, we run fear{less} each step of the way.

Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Learning to Sail my Ship

No, I haven't taken up sailing recently.
The theme of today's post comes from a Lousia May Alcott quote (at least, she's the one it's most often attributed to, sometimes the internet lies and says that Helen Keller said it, so who really knows anyways?). The bottom line for today is that living fear{less} is a process.

Living fear{less} is a process. I'll be the first to say that it's not easy. Most likely, you won't wake up one morning, jump out of bed, yell "Hear I come, world! I'm living fear{less}", and have everything go as you planned. Sorry. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but that's just not how life works. There are storms in this life. There are hard things that we will go through. But, these storms can teach us things. For one, they can teach us how to sail our ships.

Even though I'm not a sailor, I'd have to guess that storms aren't the easiest thing to sail a ship through. There's wind. There's rain. Sometimes there's thunder and lightning. Most of my knowledge of ship-sailing comes from a scene of a shipwreck in Little Mermaid. According to this Disney movie at least, sailing through storms is not good. It can lead to you wreck your boat and have Prince Eric almost die (and Ariel have to save him)! But, it's in these times that we learn things. A "good" sailor should be able to keep his boat under control (for the most part) during a storm. Is it easy? No. But, he does it, and in the end, it makes him a better sailor, because he learns how to sail his ship. If a sailor just knew how to sail a ship in good weather, he'd be in trouble come hurricane season. It's the same way with our faith and living fear{less}. 

Living fear{less} isn't easy. But, if we can stick with it, commit to it, place importance on learning about it (even in the rough times), our faith will grow and mature. We can learn things from storms in life, so that we are better able to sail our ship come the next time. If we are able to separate from the situation enough to learn and grow from our mistakes, we will be so much better off. Living fear{less} is a process. It's not going to happen overnight. It can involve all sorts of circumstances  But, if we are able to learn how to sail our ship, which path we should take, we'll become fear{less}. We'll be able to lean on God in the hard times and get through them without having a spirit of fear in our lives. We won't be controlled by our circumstances, rather we will learn how to trust that God can handle anything and everything that life may throw at us...even those super scary hurricane-strength storms.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

31 Days of Fearless: Believe in the Silence

In the 16th century, there was a Catholic mystic named St. John of the Cross that wrote a poem describing the "dark night of the soul." His poem narrated the journey of a soul from its bodily home on Earth (where there was suffering, pain, and hardships) to union with God. The main idea of the poem is that sometimes there are "dark nights" on our Christian journey as we seek Christian maturity. Many Christians have had their "dark night" on their Christian journey. One of the most notable that we discuss today is Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa is a woman that many people hold in an extremely high spiritual regard. Sometimes we like to think that she was one of those "perfect" people. But, according to letters, even she went through periods of "dark nights of the soul" from 1948 until her death in 1997.

The phrase "dark night of the soul" tends to refer to an experience when God removes the sense of his presence from a believers life. Sometimes, it feels like God isn't there. It feels like we've been abandoned in the night, in the darkness. A Christian may feel that God no longer exists. This isn't a consequence of sin or a punishment for an action- it's just something that happens without much explanation. One theologian describes the process as God "removing the training wheels" so that we can become more mature and not have our faith just based on feeling. 

Something that I've learned is that feelings aren't necessarily fact. It may feel like right now God isn't with you. You might not be able to feel his presence. But, living fear{less} means pushing through these "dark nights of the soul" and growing to have a deeper faith that isn't based solely on how we feel. We may feel like God isn't all that fair. That doesn't mean that it's true. We may feel like God doesn't love us anymore- that's definitely not true! Feelings don't equal fact. Remember that. Cling to that. Living fear{less} means believing in God even when it's silent. Even when you can't hear his voice. Even when the sun isn't shining. Living fear{less} is persevering through these times, so that in the end we can stand and say the words from 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Believe in the silence.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

#nycgw: part 3!

I'm terribly forgetful. Like, it's been three weeks since my trip forgetful. Like, I forgot to post about our last one and a quarter days forgetful. Eek.
So, Friday of our New York trip, we went to Central Park. Since we stayed close to Times Square, we just walked, and it wasn't really that bad. It was nice weather and pretty outside. Once we got to the park, we found our preplanned food truck for the morning- Waffles and Dinges.

Yes. Waffles.
Probably the best waffle I've ever had.

Then, we crossed the street and ate our waffles on a little bench at the entrance of Central Park so we could watch some street performers/dancers. Because we're cool city people like that. If you're ever in the city, track down one of their trucks and get a waffle with strawberries and spekuloos spread. Trust me on this one. I'm pretty sure that this is what breakfast in heaven will be.
After two long walking days, Mom and I weren't looking forward to walking all around Central Park. I mean, my feet hurt. Chacos are great and all (even though apparently no one in NYC wears them), but at some point, feet hurt. So, we found a pedicab driver that seemed not sketchy, spoke English, and was willing to take our picture at some stops and tell us some history. After the fact, we judged the tour totally worth it and justifiable.
That guy was our tour guide. If you go to Central Park, I'm going to recommend that you find him. He was pretty much awesome, I didn't have to worry about death by pedicab, and he seemed to know a lot about the park. He's currently doing the whole pedicab thing while he goes to school in the US, because he's from some Middle Eastern country. And yes, Mom did ask his permission to take his picture (and I think we mentioned something about a blog and he said cool. but, I'm not exactly certain.). So, anyways. Pedicab tour of Central Park= much easier on the feet.

After Central Park, we walked over to the Plaza to check it out. I kind of liked pretending I was Eloise for a few minutes. We walked through the hotel like we belonged there...and then quickly left. Then, we hit up 5th Avenue (actually, only FAO Schwartz, but that's another story). We began to get a little hungry, so we started looking for somewhere to eat. We found a neat little pizza/Italian place called Patsy's and ordered a pizza to share. It was really yummy. I'd recommend this place.

Then, we walked over to Sprinkles Cupcakes. My cupcake was totally overrated and I was disappointed. The cake was kind of solid and felt too "manufactured" and the frosting wasn't anything special. And that polka dot on top? It tasted gross. Oh, and their sporks were made from bamboo, so I was kind of terrified about getting a splinter in my tongue, plus it made my cupcake taste funny. I'm going to give this one a thumbs down and not recommend it. Find you a better cupcake in NYC...like Magnolia Bakery. Yummy.

Then, we took a train to Grand Central Station. I think since it was Saturday, it didn't feel that "grand", because it wasn't all that busy. I did kind of want to bust out some dance moves and start a flash mob though. Kind of tempting. :) After grabbing a Magnolia Bakery Cupcake to-go for later (since we had a Sprinkles let down), we walked back to the hotel. It was a bit of a walk, but not too bad. We dropped our stuff off, then headed back out to Times Square, where we found a few souvenirs for the boys (hat and sunglasses for Des, Dr. Who shirt for Max).

About that time, we were hungry...again. Not too hungry, but enough that we wanted to find some food. I remembered a place near the theater that I had seen called "Ellen's Stardust Diner" that looked cute, so we went and tried there. The food wasn't amazing, but we just ordered appetizers- and the entertainment was great! People who are starting out on Broadway work there before they get the jobs (like when they're auditioning and stuff), and they sing and put on a little show while you eat your dinner. Pretty neat. After dinner, we went back to our hotel to enjoy our cupcakes and watch the Auburn-LSU game. It was going great until we started watching it, but it was a nice way to end our evening in NYC. :(

Sunday morning, we woke up and walked over to Times Square Bagel to grab a bagel to eat for breakfast before we caught our shuttle to the airport. The bagels were really yummy.  It's a really non-descript, hole in the wall bagel place, but they were amazing and we got what we needed. No website, but it's right off the square on 44th, and you can Google it! Definitely recommend this one! :)

After a quick photo in Times Square, we caught our shuttle and headed off to the airport to fly home! Woo! Three days in NYC made for a busy trip, but it was a nice time to get away with my Mom and spend some time exploring a new, fun, and exciting place! :)

31 Days of Fearless: Imagine the Impossibe

For today's post, I wanted to share with you a talk that I gave this past summer at the church I was interning with. There were several Sundays where each of the interns took turns sharing a message, and this was my first one. Since I don't have a video of that one, I thought I'd just post what I'd written in preparation. :)
The Bible is full of stories that seem more than slightly impossible, improbable, or over the top. Let’s briefly review for a minute.
  • Noah spent 120 years building an ark in preparation for a great flood that God had warned him of. Never mind the fact that it had never “rained” and the people had no idea what “rain” or a “flood” was. People must have thought he was crazy. 
  • God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars- even though Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren and they were really old. After God blessed them with a son in their old age, Abraham was told to kill his only son…the son whom God had promised to make nations from. 
  • God led Moses, a man who had a stuttering problem, to stand up to Pharaoh and release the Israelites from captivity. On their way to the Promised Land, God instructed Moses to place his staff in the water to part the Red Sea so that the people could cross. 
  • Joshua led the Israelites to victory over the city of Jericho…by marching around the city once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day with seven priests blowing trumpets made of rams’ horns. Then, the walls of the city fell down. Later, Joshua prayed to the Lord for the sun to stand still and the moon to stay in place while they fought the Amorites. The Lord answered his prayer and the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the Israelites had defeated their enemies. 
  • Jesus told his disciples to pass out five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand people. Later, he told Peter to walk on water through a storm. Oh- and don’t forget the Easter story. After Jesus was crucified on the cross, he rose from the dead three days later. Who does that? 
I think a lot of times we don’t think that things like this happen anymore. Sometimes, we try to explain away these things, because we don’t understand them. They don’t fit into our idea of how the world is supposed to work. Stories about “impossible” things make us uneasy. We want to think that God can still do these kinds of things today, but it’s hard to imagine or believe. It doesn’t make sense that a man could (or would) come to Earth and perform miracles like healing the sick, turning water into wine, or even raising the dead to life. It does not make sense to think that a man could die on a cross and be resurrected three days later. It all comes down to a matter of faith. We read these stories and think that they are great stories- but we leave them at that. Deep down inside, we want to believe that these kinds of things are still possible, but we really don’t believe that they could. We think that maybe Moses, Abraham, and Noah have something that we don’t- that they were “special” in some sort of way. But, this really isn’t true. God is the same yesterday, today, and always. We are all created in his image. That means that all of these “impossible” things could happen for us, too!
Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I think deep down inside, we all want big things from God. We’d love to see miracles happen, but we just don’t think that they still do. We think that it’s strange when God asks us to take a leap of faith. We think it’s strange when God asks us to build an ark, feed five thousand, or march around a building for seven days. Francis Chan says in his book “Crazy Love” that 
God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through. We have to believe it enough that it changes how we live.
This book- the Bible, the Word of God has to have an impact on the way you live your life. Living the Word means living your life in a way that shows that you believe that this book is the true word of God. It means believing and trusting that God did all of those things that were written down, and that he can still do amazing things today! We serve a God who used Moses, a murderer, to part the Red Sea. We serve a God who let Peter, who would deny him three times, walk on water. We serve a God that looks at us in all of our weakness and says, “I can use YOU, yes even you, to do the impossible”.

In 2 Corinthians 6: 11-13, Paul wrote,
 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
God did not intend for you to be small. Do not belittle yourselves. He didn’t intend on you to live your life in a safe little box with picture perfect people doing small things that have little to no impact on the world. He wants you to dream big- after all, he is a great, big, powerful God! He dares you to “live openly and expansively”. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” God has a great, big, ginormous plan for each and every one of our lives. This plan is so much bigger than anything you could ever imagine. Don’t think that just because you are young that you have an excuse either. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

In this book, He has given us a promise of great things to come, which can help us press on in times of hardship. Even when life looks hopeless and things seem impossible, we still have hope. Don’t give up at this part of the story. Keep turning the pages. Think about it. 
  • If Noah hadn’t done what God had commanded and built the ark- even though he had no idea what this flood/rain thing was- things would have turned out differently. 
  • If Abraham had said, “Hey God, I’m not so sure about this whole sacrificing Isaac thing. I know you’re God and all, but don’t you realize that I’m over 100 years old and you promised to make my name great and my descendants as numerous as the stars” and not sacrificed his son and trusted God, He probably wouldn’t be known as a Patriarch of the Christian faith. 
  • If Moses hadn’t trusted God enough to part the Red Sea, the Israelites would have died or been kept in captivity until God sent someone else. 
  • If Joshua and the Israelites hadn’t trusted that God could take down a city’s walls simply by marching around it, they wouldn’t have conquered Jericho. 
Faith- living like the Word that God has given us is true, like the promises God has made us will be fulfilled- makes impossible circumstances possible. We serve a God who whispers to us in our weakness “With me, you can do the impossible”. In our weakness, He is made stronger. We may feel powerless, like the world has turned against us and that our circumstances are too big, too hard, or too impossible to handle. But, when we trust God completely, when the Word of God changes the way we live…that is when these circumstances become “not too big”, “not too hard”, and we realize that all things are possible through Christ (Philippians 4:13).
The other day, I was reading a book called “One Thousand Gifts”, and it really made me think about perspective. Perspective is how we see the world. Ann writes that "that which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining." That hit me like a ton of bricks. In the midst of dark times when we think that God cannot possibly be there, that God cannot possibly do anything good, and that our situation is completely impossible, we need to remember that the light never stops shining. God is still there. God is still at work. God is still standing beside us, holding our little hand. Later, the author writes,
I feel Him hold me- a flailing child tired in Father's arms. And I can hear Him sooth soft, "Are your ways My ways, child? Can you eat My manna, sustain on my Mystery? Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world- because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched?
Our perspective is warped. We fail to look at life through the lens of God's Word. Our view is warped, because we cannot see outside our tiny little worldview. Julian of Norwich writes,
See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom, and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?
Reflect on this today. Even in the midst of the darkness, when sin and death seem to overwhelm you...don't give up. Look at life through the lens of God and readjust your perspective. Cling to the promise found in John 16:33b, where Jesus tells you, his precious child, that "in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world." Take heart. Don't stop fighting. Don't give up. Embrace hope. Trust that God can turn your bad situation into something good. He can make your impossible possible. His story isn't finished yet! Think about the best books and stories that you have ever read. Remember that this is just one chapter, and everyone knows that a "conflict" has to before a "happily ever after" to make a good fairytale. Live with faith and believe that God exists and is still working hard in the world today. Expect great, big things. Dream big dreams. Pray big prayers. Believe that the impossible can become possible. Trust in God’s ways and believe in His greater, higher plan. It’s worth it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: It's Okay

So, I've just got a short little message for today. I think it sums up the entire series, but I'm going ahead and posting it right here, right now. I don't want you to keep reading these posts and have thoughts like..."But, I still fear a lot of things, Lauren!" or "Seriously girl. There's no way that I can live a life completely free from this fear thing." I think sometimes I get caught up in sharing a message that I'm passionate about and I forget to say one thing, one very important thing. It's okay.

It's okay to still have fears sometimes. It's okay. I truly believe that it's okay. As I've said before, fear in and of itself isn't a bad thing! There are sometimes when it's good and natural to have fear. Fear can encourage us to go in the direction that we need to go. Fear can help us know when to get out of a bad situation. Fear can tell us "Hey girl. This is a really bad idea." Then, there's the ugly side of fear. There's the all-consuming fear. There's the anxiety kind of fear. There's the "my world is over and I don't know what to do anymore" kind of fear. And, while I'd like to say that we should never-ever-ever have these kinds of fears and that we should always be Positive Pollys and that life should always be happy...that is kind of unrealistic, don't you think?

So, I want to share a message of hope. It's okay to have fears sometimes. It's okay to be nervous about the future. It's okay, God isn't going to hate your guts for doing that sometimes. Sometimes fear is uncontrollable or unavoidable. In the midst of tragic situations, it's where our minds wander to. So, don't give up. Don't give up, ever. Even when you feel like a total failure over this whole living fear{less} thing, know that it's okay. God still loves you. God still cares for you. God is always there for you. Even when this whole living fear{less} thing kind of stinks and it's not going all that great, don't give up. It's going to be okay. Remember a word of advice from one of the greatest books ever written (thank you J.K. Rowling for making my childhood).

Remember to turn on the light. Fight another day. Don't give up. It's okay.

Monday, October 8, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Shaken

Yes, I'm posting this one day late. Things got busy yesterday between class, tests, and homework, which left a very tired Lauren at the end of the day. Blogging consistently for 31 days is an important part of this challenge, but I don't want to go overboard. October is a busy month. This week is midterm. That means, my life is a little in the "crazy" category at the moment. But, I'm going to stick with this and keep on keeping on. Be on the lookout for today's post a little later. 

In the midst of the troubles of this life, it's so critical that we don't give up on this faith thing. I think it's easy to take a step back and to ask "why?" and never return to the place we were. When the ground we stand on is shaken, we fall down and we don't get back up. We walk away from the situation and try to avoid it. We don't want to deal with the struggles, so we just avoid them. We don't stand firm in our belief...we falter. We misstep.We fall.

But even in the midst of all of this that the world throws at us, we can know that one thing is for sure. One thing is trustworthy. One thing in our life won't shake, won't falter, won't stop. God's unfailing love for us will not be shaken. In the midst of all of this, his love remains. He has compassion for us in these hard times, and he wants to comfort us and cover us in his love.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Grief and Hope

Today we're veering a little off the beaten path to unplanned territory. Today we were going to talk about some of the great Bible heroes that wrestled with this fear thing, but after some events that have transpired over the last 2 days, that wasn't what I felt I should blog about. So, here we go. 

Grief and fear. Over the last two days, I feel like I keep hearing about people dying. I mean, I know that bad things happen in this world. I know that death is a natural part of life. But, it seems like everywhere I turn, I'm hearing of someone person- someone that I don't necessarily know, but that I feel some sort of connection to- that has died. Yesterday, I heard about a college freshman from my hometown that was shot and killed by a police officer on his college campus. It's described as being out of his nature- and people are looking for answers. Some way to explain the pain. Not getting into politics or debate, but no matter how you feel on the issue, somebody's son died. Somebody's little brother died. Somebody's best friend died. In the midst of all of this confusion, how do you  move on? This afternoon after church, I heard about a precious blogger's husband passing away in a car accident. How do you explain a baby losing a daddy before they even really know them? There's so many questions, which results in a lot of metaphorical wrestling with God. Why did this happen? How did this happen? What is going to happen next?

There's some amount of fear and trepidation going into tomorrow. Anyone else just want to lock up everyone you love and not let them out of your sight? Anyone else want to make sure they always say "I love you" before you say goodbye? The truth is, we aren't promised tomorrow. We aren't promised that the future (on this Earth) will be bright and happy. The truth is, really bad things happen sometimes. Sometimes, there isn't a "good" answer. Sometimes people die young. Sometimes people die and leave a family and baby behind. 

We can live fear{less} in these hard times by remembering God. We can remember that although there may be pain, there may be grief, there may be "unexplainable events", we have hope. We have hope. 

I normally wouldn't call the Hunger Games gospel, but I think that it might have hit the nail on it's head with this one. Hope can combat fear. Hope can free us from the chains that hold us in bondage. When we realize that we DO have hope for a brighter tomorrow (in heaven), we can let go of the fear. When we embrace the fact that "because HE lives, I can face tomorrow", we can live life to the fullest. We can know that even in the midst of grief and suffering, there is hope. We can know that we serve a God that conquered death and the grave. We can know that there is a better tomorrow in store that involves you and me worshiping God...forever. For eternity

We can know that there will come a day that we won't have to cry anymore. 
We can know that there will come a day when we won't have to worry about "what might happen".
We can know that there will come a day when we won't have to grieve the loss of loved ones. 
We can know that there will come a day when we won't have to try to explain the "unexplainable".

We can have hope, we can place our hope, in our God, the creator of the universe. The creator of everything living. The one who "gives and takes away". We can hope in Him. We can trust in him. 

When we live a life of hope, we can live fear{less} with Him. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

31 Days of Fear{less}: Worry

I'm a professional worrier.
I mean, I'm great at it. It's a not-so-hidden talent.
Want to know all of the worst case scenarios of what might happen? Ask me. I've probably already come up with them.

I've realized though that all of this worry isn't a good thing. I mean, sure- bad things happen in this world. But, is is really worth my time to worry about "what might"? Is it really worth my effort? Is this something that is going to build me up or bring me down? Is it going to enrich my life?

I'm beginning to realize that worry- even more so than the fear that it is rooted in- doesn't make my life better. Does worrying about a plane falling from the sky (not crashing- just ceasing to stay up in the air) make it happen, or does it just make me freak out during plane flights? Worrying doesn't do anything to solve the problem- it just makes me feel worse.It empties today of its strength. It brings me down- and it stresses the people out around me.

While I might be a pro at coming up with worse case scenarios- and this might help me survive past December 2012 and the end of the world as we know it- it doesn't enrich my life. It holds me back from experiencing the life I've been given. I mean, seriously. I worry about California and refuse to plan a trip there because I worry that I might die in a tsunami. That just sounds silly. I didn't want to go to NYC in the first place, because in all the apocalypse movies, that city is always the first to go (whether by snowstorm or tsunami). I don't like cruises, because of the Titanic. Because of this little thing called worry, I find myself unable to enjoy life- and that's not the way that God intended us to live. God didn't just say "do not worry" because worry is a sin. Is it harmful in and of itself? Not really. But, when it controls our lives, when it controls our actions, when it holds us in bondage- we aren't living free. Living fear{less} is living free from fear, free from the bondage that enslaves us and holds us back from experiencing the riches of the life that God has planned for us. Living fear{less} means trying to find a way (or ways) to keep our worry in check and keep it from getting out of control. Living fear{less} means living life...to the fullest.