Tag Archives: fear

No Fear

No Fear

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” – 1 John 4:18

635897229513164483-866846937_heartI am not afraid.

I will not let the media frenzy lure me into the cesspool of fear mongering.

Neither will I let my own fears rule my heart and mind in this tumultuous time.

I REFUSE TO BE AFRAID.

Instead, I choose to be bound by my faith to reach out and build bridges, not erect physical walls and emotional barriers against the Muslim, the Migrant, the Refugee, the Opposing Political Party, the Other.

As a Christian, I am called to love…even my enemies. Even the politicians who condone division and stir up strife, however difficult, I am called to pray for and to love them.  For those with dramatically different views of the world as me, I must, as a Christian, pray for and love them, too. For those who carry out hate crimes or acts of terror…yes…I will lift even them up in prayer and love them. (Luke 6:27-28)

Today and every day, I will step further into my call as a Christian to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). I will work even harder to forgive others (Colossians 3:13); I will recall that when I show kindness to “the least of these brothers and sisters,” I do so to Christ as well (Matthew 25:31-40). I will strive more and more to rejoice, pray, and be grateful in all times (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  I will put bitterness, anger, and slander aside making “Kindness-Compassion-Forgiveness” my mantra as I make my way through each day, with each soul that comes my way. (Ephesians 4:32)

I will withhold from judgment and remember that it is not mine to carry out. I must consider my own actions or inactions instead (Matthew 7:1-5).  I will trust that no matter how crazy the world appears, assurance rests in my trust in God (Psalm 27:1).

I am a Child of the Most High called to do my part to bring peace, kindness, and civility back into fashion; to show others the profound powers of love and forgiveness to mend the endless divides between individuals, groups, and nations, bringing much needed healing to our fragmented world.

I am a follower of Christ, a believer in the Way, and I am NOT afraid.

 

(I originally published this March 20. After the recent shooting in Orlando, I felt the need to revisit, revise, and publish it again…)

 

 

Running on Fear

Running on Fear
no feeding the fearI’ve been running on fear all week.

 

It is not the best emotional fuel, but it was propelling me never the less further into panic when the summer temperatures starting rising.

With high 90s looming, I told several folks on Friday I’d probably be curled up in the fetal position in my air conditioned bedroom for the duration of the weekend….Truth be told, that was the fear speaking.

You see, I have Multiple Sclerosis, and heat is NOT my friend.

I got caught off guard this time last year when we had a heat wave, and didn’t get my AC into my bedroom soon enough for the necessary cool, restful nights. Add to that the untimely death of the air-conditioning in my car (which I use throughout each day in my work as a hospice chaplain) and it was the perfect storm for an exacerbation—which is exactly what happened.

And unfortunately my flare up invited all my symptoms to the party: extreme fatigue, balance issues, vertigo, weakness in my legs, speech issues, brain fog, as well as muscle and eye pain. I had to cut my work hours way back for a few weeks and only returned to “normal” a few months later. I’ll be honest…It sucked!

Flash forward a year and Fear is in the driver’s seat. It is so scary to experience a break down of the body at so many levels. I’d been on the verge of tears several times this week frightened of another attack.

But here’s the deal.  I know my thoughts can directly impact my body. And that’s just as bad, if not worse, for me as the heat. I needed to get my head in the game and fast.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.”   Isaiah 43:1

 

I began ruminating on these words from scripture and “Fear not” quickly became my mantra.

It became my response to all the questions Fear had to ask of me: What if the heat really does restrict you to your bedroom leaving you non-productive all weekend? What if you have another exacerbation? What if you loose more time at work? What if another flare up leaves you worse off?

Fear not. Fear Not. FEAR NOT.

 

It is Saturday evening as I finish this post.  The temperature did not go as high today as expected for which I am grateful.  I got important stuff done and even spent time outside. Tonight I give thanks to the One who teaches me every day to breathe and trust and surrender.

Today I refused to allow Fear to run my life. I realize now that my faith is bigger than that.  My connection to the Holy is stronger than that. I have come through too much in the past to put Fear in control of my future.

I have been called by name, and I am NOT afraid!

 

 

Why I’m Praying for Donald Trump

Why I’m Praying for Donald Trump

In just over an hour, Donald Trump will be speaking at a rally just 6 blocks from my home. And despite the ever-so convenient 10-minute walk, I will NOT be attending—for so many reasons.

More than anything, his tone and rudimentary rhetoric trouble me and strongly go against my Christian values.

My faith instructs me to welcome the stranger, not to inflame division or exclusion. As a follower of Christ, I am called to show kindness and respect, and refrain from taking cheap shot and condoning maltreatment of others.  And yes, I am expected to not judge—a character defect I’m working on all the time.

Most heavily on my mind in this hour is the expectation I pray without ceasing. 

I consider both word and action to be part of that unceasing prayer and believe I am faithful to this on-going expectation.

But here’s the rub for countless faithful people including myself.  As a Christian I am also called to pray for my enemies.  And although I cannot consider Mr. Trump a direct enemy of mine,  I do notice my jaw clench and chest tighten when I think of all that he has uttered and all he represents at this time.

And so, like it or not—challenging or not—as a Christian I must pray for Donald Trump.

I pray then that he will experience the transformative power of forgiveness and humility.  I pray, as my daughter suggested, that he be given eyes to see the ways in which his words and actions hurt others.  I pray that should he be elected as our next president that he makes decisions that are wise for the nation, not made in order to defend or bolster his ego.

Do I believe prayer will change him?

I believe in miracles. Many hardened men and women have been transformed into compassionate, sacrificial, loving individuals. Realistically, however?  A spiritual make-over for Donald Trump is probably a long ways off. In truth, only the Holy knows what awaits him.

But here is what I do know.

I know that in praying for Donald Trump, I, myself, will be renewed in the Spirit.  I know that through prayer the seeds of hatred I’ve allowed to be planted in my heart won’t take root.  I trust that my prayers will be answered—most likely in unexpected ways—and that someday, those prayers might even be reflected in a new creation found in Donald Trump.

So join me in prayer in this uncertain time.

Pray for the candidate that has your vote. And especially pray for the candidate that causes your blood to boil.

Pray without ceasing. And let your own heart be renewed in the process!!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                                              ~Philippians 4: 4-7

 

 

 

In the End, It’s all Grief

In the End, It’s all Grief

Lately I’ve been working on a theory that under all the emotional baggage we carry—the regret, anger, control issues, fear, resentment, and shame—there actually lies grief or sorrow.  I experienced this first hand recently.

I was cleaning out my files and came across the summary of a church survey from 10 years ago.  The survey had been the beginning of the end for me as pastor of that congregation.  Even before the unsanctioned survey was sent to church members, my anxiety had been through the roof, my health was deteriorating, and my attempt at doing it ALL (from full time ministry to parenting two small children to managing our home life) was failing miserably. It was such a painful, difficult time for me.

As I read the comments in my kitchen, both positive and negative, the emotions came flooding back:  the regrets in all that I did not accomplish; the deep shame in having let people down; the resentment of those who spoke critically of me; the fear of failure and rejection I carried into the jobs that followed. Regret, shame, resentment, and fear.  Powerful emotions. But in the end, all I could do was quietly weep. Until seeing that survey summary, I had no idea that grief had been buried so deep. I had dealt with all the other emotions, but grief—she had lain dormant.

And so it is with much of life.

We move through it often numb to the losses we have experienced, oblivious to the ways our emotional baggage weigh us down. I’m grateful for those kitchen tears and pray I continue to grieve the many losses experienced in that ministry.  More than that, I am moved to remember all of the blessings that came out of that time—the incredible landscape and seasons of Vermont we experienced, the life-long friendships gained, the lessons learned, the spiritual growth attained.

No longer remain in denial about the baggage you, too, are carrying. 

Open those boxes, duffle bags, backpacks, steamer trunks—any and all emotional baggage—and unpack the fear, regret, shame, anger, control, and resentments.  And when it is all said and done, grieve.  Weep for all that has been lost, all that cannot be changed.

But do not stop there.  Remember that in the midst of the sorrow, joy will appear.  She may come in unexpected ways, but she is promised to us nonetheless:

From Jeremiah 31:13 (The Message)

Young women will dance and be happy,
    young men and old men will join in.
I’ll convert their weeping into laughter,
    lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.

So grieve and lament…and trust that, in time, joy will come rushing in!

Ambushed by Grief

Ambushed by Grief

“I love this song!” I over heard a woman exclaimed as I sat with a hospice patient in a facility. “It reminds me of my couisn,” she told her coworker.  “He died at 16 in a car accident. My brother was driving.”  Her recollection was heartfelt.  Without missing a beat, however, her mood switched. “I can’t listen to it anymore,” she announced in a hurried voice. In an instant she had fled the nurses station and headed down the hall, leaving her co-worker and beloved song behind.

From Website: http://www.holisticdrugrehab.org/news/7-stages-of-grief-and-loss/

From Website: http://www.holisticdrugrehab.org/news/7-stages-of-grief-and-loss/

She had been ambushed by grief.

Brutal as it is, that’s how grief works sometimes. Out of nowhere and without notice, memories of our deceased loved ones spring up, snatch our serenity, and leave us stripped and shaken.

I was ambushed once in a grocery store.   It had been about 6 months since my father dropped dead at a gym, literally.  There was no warning. No signs of illness.  Zero chance of survival.  His aortic artery ruptured and he was gone.

The shock of his death had worn off months prior and the time of grieving, passed.  I was doing well.  Or so it seemed until I strolled down the canned food aisle. No sooner had I reached for a damn can of organic beans was I suddenly flooded with sorrow.

I was remembering a conversation my dad and I shared the year before in that very aisle.  He was baffled that I would spend twice the amount on an organic product when I could buy a much cheaper, generic brand of beans instead.  I couldn’t believe, with all that he had taught me about caring for our planet, that he wouldn’t applaud the extra money spent. The memory was so clear.  All I could do was stand there, crying with a can of  beans in my hand, ambushed by grief.

“The best way out is always through.”  I often call upon these words of Robert Frost when I collide with difficult times on life’s journey.  In order to soften grief, we cannot ignore it or run from it.  Rather, we must move through it—through the memories of favorite songs and canned beans as we flow with the tears and move with the pain that springs forth.

Processing a death or any kind of loss is on going and sometimes never fully resolved.  My sister, whose oldest son, Deniz, died as a toddler, acknowledged that years later the pain from his death lingers on. “The heart that beats,” she told me on what would have been his 17th birthday, “waxes and wanes with grief.”

And so it is.  With life, comes loss and with loss, sorrow.  Grief, an inevitable part of living, waxes and wanes, and yes, is sure to ambush us now and again.

Psalm 46 (NIV) begins with these two verses: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

When life appears to be giving way and falling apart, when grief rises up out of nowhere, it is scripture like this that lift my spirits and assures me that I do not journey alone. Even in the canned food aisle grieving the death of my father, God was and is my ever-present help.

As your own life unfolds, believe in something greater than yourself.  Be grounded in and inspired by your faith (or your spiritual practices or philosophical beliefs).  Have a safety net of close friends and/or family with whom you can rely on and confide in.  Reach out.  Be compassionate, especially with yourself.  Show empathy.  Embrace change.  And, when ambushed by grief, fear not.