After 45 minutes listening to an interview with someone discussing the idea of “faith over fear” and her testimony, I encountered real fear.
The interviewee shared of loss due to cancer, her mother’s death and her own diagnosis from which she recovered.
She recalled those fears and the interviewer asked about her testimony. She laughed and shared her stable faith driven upbringing and the path towards believing in Jesus that seemed, some might say, a boring story.
I silenced the podcast as I took the main road when approaching the hill, a sedan cut it close at the curve and forced me to walk in the overgrown ditch.
I thought little of it, said to myself you shouldn’t be on the pavement, this is not a quiet road.
I walked on as the high weeds brushed above my ankles. Tired and almost home, I looked down to see my shirt wet with sweat and saw the waiting snake. The snake with the markings my daddy taught me, the snake with the metallic like tail raised up in the weeds. The snake with its eye focused on crossing the road.
I was scared.
And then I wasn’t.
I had not been struck by the car, the snake did not turn and strike me.
Later, I wrote my June Newsletter to include what I’m learning about fear and its part in my story. Read and if you’d like, subscribe here.
More than focused on what could have happened, I thought of how I’d been protected. I remembered what I was learning about fear in relation to faith.
This is progress for me. My husband had been so nonchalant, “But, you didn’t step on the snake, you are okay.”
I agreed to agree with him. I let the fear go.
Fear of everything has always been a theme in my story. Fear of catastrophe, of rejection by those I love, of illness. But, my story of redemption has no place for that old chapter, those old characters.
Which story will I choose?
Like being in the middle of a thick rope in a tug of war game, fear is strong with the brute force to pull me back. Redemption is a more strategically played strength, the pull more steady with necessary breaks and balance leads to a sustainable victory.
Redemption will win because it won’t wear itself out aggressively like fear that’s so angry, so unpredictable, so mean and devilish.
Fear is an emotion. Faith is a committed choice.
I woke this morning wondering why more of us aren’t telling our redemption stories, our testimonies. The timing is good. Our fear fighting redemption story may lessen another’s fear. The time is opportune for sharers and for listeners. Dare I say, our stories of Jesus are not only more important but more sustaining than yet another commentary on the virus or the heartache of societal unrest.
Fear is a distraction, these times are skilled at using it.
Dare I say that? I suppose I should be afraid. My faith says don’t be.
“Tell me the story of Jesus. Write on my heart every word. Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that I’ve ever heard.” an old hymn
The woman in the podcast interview was raised in church, began to believe at church camp around age 11.
Me, at age 11 is a story I’d love to forget. My Jesus story, my testimony began when an elderly pastor told me, a new single mama, that all I had to do was ask for mercy, Jesus died for me and grace and forgiveness is a gift called salvation.
It was mine for the asking.
So, I asked and received.
I’ve never doubted God’s love for me through Jesus, only doubted I’d ever simply believe I deserve it. This is the never withdrawing pursuit of grace. I am redeemed because of it. God doesn’t see my struggle to believe, He simply sees my continued pursuit of a deeper belief and loving communion with Him.
I sent the newsletter last night never mentioning the reckless car or the rattlesnake. I could hardly believe it! A day spent focused on faith and choosing to fight off fear was ended with a walk at dusk and tangible fear.
But, I was kept safe. I am safe. I am here to tell the story of it.
Just a thought, if there were not in us, this inner spark, a fervor to run farther, a desire to see little things that set our souls to trust once and so we go looking again…would there not be a source of that motivation?
How can we say we were not purposefully created when we seek, despite all this fear and all encompassing strife, to feel that fire again?
I added color to the somber piece I called melancholy. Changed its name again. Now, it is finished and the name is settled, “Returning to Rest”.
I heard a familiar tune from the hallway. Must’ve been stuck in his head from the Sunday service we watched on the TV in the den. Neither of us sang along. Church at home still weird.
I told him, I heard you can’t be sad or angry if you’re humming or whistling.
No response really.
But, he did resume his whistling as he walked away.
“Nobody loves me like you love me, Jesus!” Chris Tomlin
I woke up with this lyric. God wakes me up with songs some mornings. I think it’s sweet. I’m not a singer except in my car or the shower. I’m not even one to sing loud if someone’s in the car with me. I’m too self-conscious to raise my hands in church but I have found myself lately walking through my neighborhood with my palm to heaven, have driven down the road with one hand lifted in praise.
Maybe it’s God saying I know you’re longing to sing and you’ll be singing very soon. Maybe it’s just a truth I need.
Truth is, nobody knows me and loves me like Jesus. I can tell him my deepest regrets and He is gentle, not a harsh critic or a negative reply.
More importantly I can tell Him the sweetest possibilities I hope for and He knows the significance. He’s not surprised by my surprise over me being blessed in some way, chosen for something that is a deep deep longing, so deep a desire it’s kept secret.
But, He knows.
I stand in awe of His amazing ways.
“Nobody loves me like You love me, Jesus I stand in awe of Your amazing ways I worship You as long as I am breathing God, You are faithful and true…”Chris Tomlin
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT
It’s trendy to choose a word for the year in some circles. Make a hashtag, tag it onto your posts, think about what it means to you.
So, when I chose endurance it was a subtle choice. Not working out with a buff trainer flipping tires and doing burpees kind of intention.
No, I chose endurance because it seemed to be the mindset to the phrase I like to live.
Continue and believe.
It felt like a soft determination to put action and patience and steps forward. No destination or goal, just keep going.
And I liked the idea of it. It was doable.
Then the pandemic crept in and took over and I laughed a little cynical giggle, what was I thinking to choose the word endurance?
But, I didn’t let it consume me. I decided it meant what I meant it to mean.
Months have passed and the days are written in my journal with the word “surrender” written daily and circled, the thick circle somehow making me believe I could and should do it.
Because I love words I found myself not really understanding the purpose of the word and my daily circling.
I began to feel it was something different God wanted me to embrace.
Today marks the return of my very old and reliable friend.
Today, I return to trust. The word surrender can be found in the Bible in the context of battle. Not once is it found in the New Testament, only the idea of it.
I’m fully on board with idea, the idea of giving my concerns, my goals, my worries to God in surrender and letting Him filter the outcomes. I am for this for sure. I’m just more certain that now more than anything I need to recommit my mind to “trust”, the word and decision I used to scribble on my wrist before making a speech or decision.
Yes, I am returning to trust today.
And I’m sticking with endurance in my own unique way.
Believe and continue.
Trust, a good word. I hope I’m known for not quitting, not striving to be the grand winner, simply staying in the race.
I intentionally leave the blinds open now. The morning light and the shift of the sheers is my gentle waking alarm.
I’ve been thinking about fear and the contradiction of such beautiful occurrences as light through the window and when will this fear inducing pandemic uncertainty end.
But, I talked about fear the other day with my friend as we sorted out the hurtful and inappropriate behavior of another. I told my friend
At the core, it’s fear. Every unwanted behavior spills over from the fear brought on by something the other person has kept and is fighting to keep secret.
Since then, I’ve been contemplating fear. How so many of us are allowing our fear to go unacknowledged. We are afraid of things we can’t name on top of our already debilitating fears.
We are justified in our fear.
After all, there is no page in this book we’re all currently reading to tell us which chapter we are in.
Are we still reading the introduction? Have we moved into the mix of characters’ conflict, resolution and either an ending that leaves us unfulfilled and angry over giving time to its finishing or the final chapter in a really honest memoir that leads us to feel satisfied in the reconciliation of the author’s story?
We know little about this epic story called Co-Vid. I suppose we keep reading the book of it.
As needed. Only.
Otherwise, there are too many plot twists and too many arguments to make it pleasing or informative, to get pulled in, sleepless night reading birthing crazy night terrors.
I bet you can tell, I’m unschooled when it comes to this pandemic or anything else global or political.
This is by choice. Knowing everything is potentially harmful to catastrophic story writing me.
Today, I opened my Bible and decided to focus on fear.
Then I journaled each of them, as if taking notes for an upcoming test.
The section in my Bible that is called “What the Bible says about…” lists seven scriptures on fear. I googled “how many times is fear mentioned in the Bible?” The answer was “over 500” with a little more about the statement “do not fear” being in the Bible 365 times.
Many of us already know this cool fact. Many of us know God does not want us to be afraid, reminds us He is our strength and any fear we feel is from man not Him.
The greatest gift of reading my Bible is reading a verse I’ve read before but it being different, God being intentional in my receiving of it. Today, it’s 4 words from Isaiah 41:13
I am your God.
God is not just the God I believe, the Heavenly Father who desires eternity for me and so He gave His only Son. He is of course, those things.
But, He is my God. Yours too, as if we could be the one and only and He belongs to each of us with the same amount of love, of power, of protection, of fighting for us in a gentle way…as if to say, know this love I have for you more fully, better.
I am yours. God
The other verses are just as good. This thing called fear in this time called Corona has me thinking. Fear is complicated now. We can’t name the reasons for it because we’re overwhelmed with questions and information and a non ending to this chapter and book.
I do know God says don’t fear.
So, I’m sure fear must be coming from somewhere I’m not supposed to be seeing, hearing, absorbing into my thoughts. Maybe if there is one teaching and promise we can all wrap our minds around, it is this.
Do not fear.
Maybe it’s our heart and mind’s stubborn and faithful incomprehensible to others decision not to live in fear.
I think it’s what is thought in the processing that may be more distracting than the noise of distractions.
I kept my earphones in although no sound came through. I’m still the one walking with the long white cord swinging. I’m way out of the loop, no cordless audio and nothing on my wrist to ding an alarm, message or celebration of steps. I just keep walking, occasionally I run.
Walking is an escape, an unraveling, a reconfiguring of my intentions gone astray by thinking.
The sound in my ear is not distracting. It typically is a guide for my thoughts, songs and the words in them that help me believe. Lyrics like this:
“And, oh as you run, what hindered love will only become a part of your story.” Out of Hiding
Yesterday, I thought of the man who laid beside the pool of water that was known for healing, Bethesda. He watched others bathing, hoping for health benefits but stayed at a distance on his mat for 38 years.
When Jesus asked if he wanted to be well he didn’t seem sure. He pointed out the crowded water, how from where he was lying he’d surely get trampled trying to get in.
I wondered if his thoughts were what kept him from going. Was the water truly healing water and what if it wasn’t, would he be better “as is“?
I wondered if it was mental torture for him, his own thoughts distracting him from possibility.
“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.” John 5:6-9 ESV
Jesus was there and then he was not. The man was left with wondering over his very own miracle.
Maybe wondering, will it last? Then Jesus finds him or he finds Jesus. Either way, it was confirmation, your healing is true, carry on now, keep on running.
It’s that way with me, maybe you. Thoughts cause me to be distracted by the reality of my redemption. This crazy world feeds into the natural and leaves little space for the miraculous.
We know we’ve been healed by mercy’s water but some things make it feel less than enough.
This is when we remember our very own Bethesda moment, we remember we are one soul in a crowd of others all sweetly welcomed into the fold.
We remember our soul is aligned to that love. We see Jesus in the sky, the words of a song, the gaze of a child or the worrisome situation that we surrendered that has led to easy breathing.
We hear Jesus. A more serious tone in His voice and yet, we’re not offended, we’re simply reminded of who we were and who we are becoming.
“But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” John 5:14 NLT
Grace and truth.
Continue and believe.
Believe and continue.
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The bystanders recognized the beggar up walking around. All of a sudden he could see and they began to dispute the truth of Jesus, they began to argue over the day of the week and were certain the beggar was mistaken in some way.
I’m wondering how he became a discarded one at all. Scriptures say he had parents. Had they given up on being his support system? He was an adult after all, he’d have to fend for himself.
Or was he so downtrodden by his lifelong blindness, he just grew tired of being their burden? He could beg others for money instead of his parents.
I love the Gospels, the Books of encounters with Jesus. There are many people who stir empathy in me. There are relatable stories to my healing by Jesus.
Jesus came along and he noticed the man blind from birth. The disciples, always looking to learn from Jesus, asked what had caused the blindness, were his parents neglectful, had they been bad people before they became parents, or was the little boy born with some sort of predicted worthlessness that led to him being born blind?
They wanted to know who or what was to blame.
Jesus told them it was God’s plan. The blind man would be an instrument for God’s glory to be real, for the mysterious to be memorable.
“Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3 ESV
Jesus made a paste of mud and his own spit, pressed it against the blind beggar’s eyes and then said go down to the water and wash it all off. The man did and he could see.
Everyone asked how, the man said I did what Jesus said and that’s really all I know.
His vision restored, the interrogations continued. The parents were questioned, they confirmed their son’s blindness as well as his current condition. Told all the skeptics to ask him, not us, he will tell you! According to scripture, the parents were keeping their distance because they were Jews and they would be disallowed from the synagogue if they acknowledged Jesus, if they acknowledged their own child’s healing.
These were the times I suppose even a parent of a son who was healed was careful about boldly agreeing and believing in Jesus.
Seems it was safer to be a skeptic, to know there are people who believe in Jesus because of their own healing; but, they were not ready to believe for themselves.
Maybe it seemed too impossible, too unattainable, too supernaturally “magical”.
Same as today really.
The man who could see could only speak for himself, hope with all his heart that his testimony mattered.
“So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” John 9:24-26 ESV
Centuries later, I sit in my mama’s covered chair with my Bible, the margin on the page has a pen and pencil resemblance of me, my face turned towards the words and a slight listening tilt.
I understand the blind man. I can relate to his dismay over Jesus initially. I can sit with my Bible and know beyond doubt that I too have been healed when many for valid reasons discarded me, left me to fend for myself.
And like the blind man who couldn’t explain mud and spit restoring his vision, I often wonder how me simply believing in a cross, the likeness of which I now add to my wrist could have altered my life so very significantly.
It is not my place to understand it all, to know every how or why God found me worthy of healing. It is mine to believe. To be able to rest in this:
But, you do know, God, You do.
We’re all in a state of not knowing now. On Sunday, I knelt in the place by my mama’s chair. I was distracted, I admit. Still, I joined in the prayer of Pastor Steve Davis with many others. I prayed and am praying in agreement with him that this time will bring people who don’t really understand God, maybe just hope in the possibility of Him being real closer to believing. The prayer closed with that very request of our Heavenly Father, that during this pandemic stirring panic, countless people will come to know God, will believe in Jesus as their healer.
I pray this as well. I know healing that saved not just my soul but my very life from risky, dangerous, threatening to kill me situations.
Like the blind man, I believe in Jesus.
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” John 9:35-38 ESV
Continue and believe, moment by moment if necessary.
Acknowledge/Admit you were born a sinner. Believe in Jesus, God’s plan for us to be with Him in heaven. Confess your sin and begin to live healed.
It’s not new, my fascination with the sky. The clouds on Tuesday looked like fat pillows against clear blue and situated as if a pillow fluffing designer had been busy all morning setting up the shop.
Then Wednesday morning not too many, cloud cover interspersed very flatly, blank canvas space.
But, in the afternoon we spotted the big crow. My granddaughter smiled and then giggled when her clearly adult grandma sang a song she made up and then over and over added “Ca Caw! Ca Caw!”
My sky is different, I thought yesterday evening walking. I’m not as sullen or driven to staring at the blankness as if looking for inspiration or looking for anything else. Maybe it’s not necessary I decided.
Maybe, as my friend answered yesterday when we talked of trauma’s inability to be anything less than honest with us. Maybe it’s just now a representation of clarity, of sweet truth despite storms.
She answered my question.
”Do you think it’s possible not to be affected by trauma?”
Were the people who were healed in the Bible really going in peace or did they get drawn back by their pasts? We decided the scriptures are true and if there had been a “rest of the story” about the women Jesus made well, God would’ve included it.
Instead, the stories have a certainty. An encounter with Jesus that brings certain healing.
My friend told me the way to believe in our very own healing is simple.
We become certain of God’s love. I loved her reply because I see it. It’s a slow coming to terms; but, it is becoming certain and it is making the difference.
I am certain of my healing.
So the sky is now different. It’s not a place I’m looking towards to ponder possibility and wait for some answer aching heart turned in an upward skeptical way.
No, now the sky is my solid confirmation. I see its steady changing and its transformations daily. Same sky, steady and at the same time changing.
God. God and I, the sky above me reminds me of His knowledge of me, of His delight in what delights me.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 KJV
How can we truly believe all the promises we’ve read, heard from pulpits, been enthralled by testimonies? How can we embrace “daughter, you are healed” or like the prodigal who returned know it wasn’t just a fluke, God was waiting, He ran out to meet us and we were welcomed. How can we believe God planned our meeting Jesus just like the woman at the well, a prostitute who was surprised to see Him, even more surprised by His intentional kindness?
We can decide to be certain of His love more than anything. We can be as certain of God as we are of the sky.
Look up today.
Be reminded, God’s love is vast and wide and deeply unchanging.