Monday, February 22, 2010

The only thing to fear

I quit watching horror movies sometime in the last 10-15 years. I'm not sure of the exact reason. I once thought it was because I became a Christian, but I think it had more to do with growing up and realizing that I have enough realistic fears that I don't need to add fictitious ones to the mix.

Some of the things I fear:

getting pregnant again too soon

discovering a major health issue when I don't have medical insurance

stifling my daughter's outgoing personality and wild, creative behavior because I'm tired or impatient or more reserved, myself

obeying God's call on my life

This last one is the one that has been most on my mind lately. God's specific call for my life includes writing. I have lots of ideas, some information, and hardly anything actually written, yet I can't deny that God wants me to write. I can't NOT write, even if I'm just making a grocery list or jotting a note to a friend. It lifts my spirits, gives me hope and spurs me on. My heart races when I do it, and I feel full when I've let my thoughts flow on paper or screen.

And I find myself jealous (usually), critical (sometimes) and challenged (always) when I hear about someone else's writing success. Mostly I just want the time and motivation to do what I know needs to be done.

So I ask myself how much I want it. Because if I really wanted it, I'd do it.

I think I'm afraid. Not of rejection because I know it will happen; it happens to all writers, even good ones. I think I'm afraid that if I write, I'll discover that God didn't call me to that after all, and then I won't know what my calling is.

Wow. That seems a little silly when I see it written before my eyes. Still ...

I read this in Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest" today. Speaks to me where I'm at. He says, "tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. ... Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted."

Then I read these words from the psalmist's pen: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear ..." (Psalm 46:1-2a, NIV)

God is my strength, whether in trouble or not. Therefore, I have nothing to fear. "Tenacious" is not a word I would use to describe myself, and I haven't always thought of it as a good thing, but after today, I think it's a necessary attribute for the Christian life.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." From the Christian standpoint, the only person we have to fear is God Himself, not because he's horror-movie scary but because of something else I read today: "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." (Psalm 24:1)

Everything is His. Everyone is His. If that's true, then I don't have to live in fear of any of the above-mentioned circumstances because God is in control. I don't have to acknowledge that He is for that to be true. I don't even have to FEEL like He's in control for it to be true. Because He is in control, all I have to fear is how I live my life in relation to Him -- in obedience or disobedience. One brings life; the other death. I can tenaciously pursue obedience to God and trust Him whatever the outcome or I can live disobediently and find myself merely hanging on, afraid to fall.

The first step is always the hardest.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Out of the tube

Isabelle, our almost-2-year-old, has been saying "Dang it" occasionally. I don't know what bothers me more -- that she uses the phrase in appropriate situations so she already knows what it means or that I know she learned it by listening to my husband and me.

When she says it, we tell her not to use those words, and sometimes she'll say "Oopsie" right after it because we've tried to substitute that phrase for the other one in our own speech. Still, the "dang" cat is out of the bag, and I'm reminded, convicted really, how much harm we do with our words and how permanent their place once they are voiced.

I remember a children's sermon about this, using a tube of toothpaste as an illustration. The teacher squeezed all the toothpaste out and offered $5 to any child who could put the toothpaste back in the tube. Try as they might, not one of those kids could put an ounce of toothpaste back in the tube. The teacher went on to tell the children that this is what it's like with our words. Once they're out, they can never go back in.

One time while working for the college newspaper, I had an issue with one of the editors and said some things about her to other staffers. Of course, those comments got back to her and she confronted me about it. I was embarrassed that she heard what I'd said about her, and I'd like to say it's a lesson I learned, but I know far too often I still speak without thinking or considering whether I'd want the person I'm talking about to hear what I've said.

Recently I've been reading through Proverbs, and the Lord has convicted me through a string of verses that I must be more discerning about what I say. Consider these thoughts:

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. (10:11)

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning ... the mouth of a fool invites ruin. (10:13, 14)

Whoever spreads slander is a fool. (10:18)

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (10:19)

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver ... the lips of the righteous nourish many. (10:20, 21)

"Loose lips sink ships" is how the old military saying goes. The same is true of the Church. Our "casual" commentary on each other will slowly destroy any chance we have at unity and witness to the world.

And, it starts with me.

"Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." (Psalm 141:3)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I broke a sweat Swiffering the kitchen floor last week. Maybe I wouldn't have had to work so hard if the last time the floor was swept and mopped wasn't three months ago. (Gross, I know, but no one will ever mistake me for Mrs. Clean.)

Days later, as my husband prepared our Valentine's Day dinner, he said, Sorry, you're probably going to have to sweep again.

Not a big deal when we're only talking about a day or two's worth of kitchen crumbs. That's a quick job. When it has accumulated over time, then we're talking scrub-worthy effort.

I feel the same way about my spiritual life. It doesn't take much for God to get the gunk out of my life when I come to Him daily with it. But when it's been days, weeks, months or years, the process requires more effort, more sweat and most likely some tears.

1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV)

I admit, I'm not too faithful at confessing my sins. Sometimes, I delude myself into thinking I don't have any. Then, I get a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder from God, and for a time, I'm humbled. Until I become comfortable enough with my life to stop confessing my sins.

What would my life look like if I daily came to God and asked Him to not only forgive me of the sins I could remember but to show me the sins I didn't even know I was committing?

We're entering the season of Lent today, and I haven't given much thought to how I can intentionally honor the Lord during this time and set apart something for Him. This may be the place to start: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

My heart longs to sing this truth each day: "Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow, now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

He's always going to be starting with dirt when He begins the washing process. How much dirt is up to me.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The sigh moment

Raising two kids wouldn't be so hard if one of them wasn't a toddler who was constantly demanding her own way. Her first-born nature and mine seem always to be wrestling for control. She loves to help with dishes, and some days, I feel like we're elbowing each other for a better position at the sink -- her goal, to play in the water and mine, to actually clean some dishes! She's also in the bossy stage. I feel like her pet sometimes. "Sit." "C'mere." Will I soon be asked to "roll over" or "shake"?

No matter how crazy the day has been, though, there's this moment at the end of the day that makes it all worthwhile. It starts with kisses and hugs at bedtime, followed by an "I wuv you" as one of us puts her in her crib. As soon as the door to the bedroom closes, my husband and I look at each other and almost audibly let our breath out. He calls it "the sigh moment." The work part of the day is over and it's time to relax. Even if our son is still awake, it's still a more calm time in our household.

Thinking about the sigh moment helps me get through those everyone's-tired-and-cranky-and-there's-too-much-to-do days. That's my reward.

So, too, in the Christian life. Walking with the Lord, working for Him, serving in His name can be exhausting and seemingly unrewarding, at times. But we have confidence that when our time is done, we'll have a sigh moment with Him. Not just a "well done, good and faithful servant," although coming from God Himself, that would be enough, but eternity to live with Him.

"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3-4