Do something.

Hey ya’ll! Fun fact: our college girls are home!

Lizzy mentioned to me how strange it was that after being gone so long and experiencing so many new adventures the thing she found herself talking about with the ones she loves is….COVID.

I want to turn the corner. COVID is here. I get it. But certainly there are some other and better things to occupy our minds and fuel our conversations and spur our actions?

A friend told me this week that when an outbreak of the bubonic plague closed theaters in London, William Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony & Cleopatra.

Sometimes when life gives us lemons, we need to get out of bed, take a shower, and get to work making lemonade.

Did you know:

  • Beethoven composed his greatest works, including the Ninth Symphony after going completely deaf.
  • Joseph Pilates developed a physical training regimen while imprisoned in an internment camp during World War 1.
  • And the Great Depression brought us inventions such as: Scotch Tape, the ball point pen,  chocolate chip cookies and the car stereo.

There’s no end of stories of heroes who made a positive impact on the world in spite of, or perhaps because of the challenging circumstances they faced. Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela. Or look to the scriptures: Moses. Joseph. Daniel.

Challenging times aren’t an excuse to disengage from life. They are actually times to let God use us to do something great. What amazing thing does God want for you right now? For your marriage, your family, your career, your prayer life, your gospel witness in your world?

Benjamin Franklin, another great hero borne out of adversity once said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”

Let’s let God work in us and through us to do something great this week.

Fear of death.

Phobias!

What is the silliest thing that you’re afraid of? That’s the Icebreaker question on this week’s GNNNN. We are asking it to prompt a discussion of fears in your family. This week’s Bible story is the account where Jesus calmed the storm. He performs this miracle to remind His friends that He is God in response to their cry, “Don’t you care that we are all going to die?” (Mark 4:38).

I’ve asked some of my friends that same Icebreaker question (mostly for fun and future pranking) and their answers have been everything from rats (that is NOT silly) to balloons, bridges, birds, tapeworms, ticks and tsunamis.

As kids, all our fears seem equally valid: bees, thunderstorms, monsters. But as we mature, we diminish some and dismiss others. But some we hold onto and decide, “This one. This one is for real.”

Fear of heights, needles, snakes, and the dark are some of the most common adult phobias. But did you know that 25% of Americans fear an IRS audit (1)? An estimated 12% of American adults are afraid of clowns (2)! Strangely, according to one 2017 study, more Americans are afraid of water pollution ( 53.1%) than of dying (20.3%)(3).

Fear of dying, though. Pretty sure that one’s gonna climb the list in 2020. Trying to not catch or spread this potentially fatal virus has changed the way we shop, work, school and worship. It’s changed the way our entire society now operates. Please understand: as a young woman, I suffered from significant and paralyzing anxiety. I am super compassionate to those who live in fear or battle anxiety on a daily basis. And I know COVID-19 has certainly amped up the environment where those fears can thrive.

But let me challenge you…What if even the very real, very pervasive fear of death could be diminished for us as maturing believers? What if it we could be free from it?

I heard a challenging quote many years ago that has stuck with me and helped me. It helped me when my baby niece was diagnosed with a rare cancer. It helped me when my friend and my nephew left for military deployment. It helped me when my teenage children drove home at night from hundreds of miles away. Or traveled alone in a third world country. It helped me through the deaths of three young nephews, a dear sister-in-law, and my father. It helped to ground me during many times of worry, crisis, and grief…when the possibility of death also includes the reality of death. It has reminded me that I (and my family) am safe in God’s hands at all times and in all circumstances–even in the midst of this global pandemic.

The quote is from Stonewall Jackson, a genius Civil War general and devout Christian:

“Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.” (4).

Belief that our days are already numbered by God as the scripture teaches, has brought me incredible peace and stability even when the world seems dangerous or my loved ones seem to be going into “harm’s way.” If you want to live Bold and Brave, that quote will help you do it.

In the meanwhile, look out for wolves, snakeskins, cats, horse teeth, going airborne on the I-80 Interchange, getting your fingers sliced off while ice skating, and of course, don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV)

With love to you and your family,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: A dear friend recommended a book to me that I read last fall. I promptly ordered an entire case and gave it to friends as a Christmas gift. If your world is rocked with fear and anxiety around death and dying, I highly recommend it to you. It is a short and easy read-but one of those books where you want to pause and reflect after every other paragraph. Literally life changing. Paradigm shifting. Empowering and encouraging. Remember Death-The Surprising Path to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough
WEB SOURCES: 1. Fear a tax audit by IRS? Don’t – the odds are with you 2. 20 Childhood Fears That Stick with You Until Adulthood. 3. Inc.com “Forget Dying and Public Speaking, Here’s the 47 Things Americans Fear More in 2017” 4. Stonewall Jackson Quotes

See Him There.

new-years-day-2910931_960_720New Year, New You!

By the time of this writing, most of us have either forgotten or given up on the sincere resolutions we made for the new year.  My only resolution was to spend New Year’s Day brainstorming and planning and working up the courage to actually, eventually resolve something.  But nothing went as planned on New Year’s Day.

Our two eldest kids left at 5AM to fly to Atlanta for the 2018 Passion Conference.  They called us early in the morning to let us know they’d landed safely.  That was the end of things going smoothly for them (and me) on January 1.

Long story short, the only funds available to them was their dad’s debit card.  However, Marissa used an incorrect PIN one too many times and locked that card.  We called CapitalOne customer service to unlock the account only to discover their CREDIT services department was open on the holiday but not their DEBIT department.  The card would be useless until the next day.  What’s in YOUR wallet?

The kids were meeting friends whose flight was significantly delayed.  Not being old enough to secure a room on their own,  they planned ahead and reserved the accommodations through a 21-year-old friend.  Her flight ultimately didn’t arrive until much later in the evening, after the conference began.  They had nowhere to go. They had no way to pay for food, transportation, or lodging.

Did I mention they were 860 miles away from home?

I spent the entire day trying to help.   I was eventually able to successfully wire some money to a check-into-cash type place in what the kids would call a “sketchy” part of town.  The knowledge that Jake was walking alone in the dark from sketchy neighborhood to his hotel with a couple hundred bucks in his pocket was disconcerting, to say the least.  Do you see how even the solution was causing me anxiety?

I didn’t enjoy my holiday.  But do you know what?  The kids did. This was an adventure. They were far away from home and finding their way.   To quote Marianne Williamson,

“Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called “All the Things That Could Go Wrong.”

During their downtime, they played cards. Once Jake got the money I wired, the hotel clerk INEXPLICABLY allowed him to check in and–pay with cash.  They later walked to Philips Arena, sang their heart out with Crowder and Passion Band.  Levi Lusko encouraged them to worry less about the things of this world and instead focus on the world to come.  🙄

Then they crashed at their hotel after an exciting and inspiring night with thousands of other college kids.

But when I laid my head on my pillow that night I thought of how I had wanted to start the year off “right.”  New Year, new me.  Instead, I just felt like same old, same old.  Same old life of stress and worry. Same old reluctant acquiescence that I’m not in control of anything. Same old responding with fear instead of faith.  That sense that It Will Never Change.  and I Will Never Change.  I’m tempted to despair.  Oh, mercy.

In mercy, God brought words to my mind. Old words. Lyrics.

“When Satan tempts me to despair…”  Then what?

Oh, had I been tempted to despair!  Tempted so well I dove right in.  Headfirst (because it starts with my thoughts) and swimming in it, submerging my heart! In years past, I’ve been known to stay in that pit and wallow.  I don’t want to wallow in 2018.

“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within; upward I look and see Him there who made an end of all my sin.”           (Charitie Lees Smith)

What should I do when tempted to despair under the weight of an entire day worrying about my kids’ “helplessness”?  Look upward. See Him there.  See Him where? There on the throne.  Sovereign as He’s always been.  See Him where? Walking on the water, defying fear and gravity.  See Him with the mourners, the broken, the sinners, the anxious.  Bringing the dead back to life.  Saying, “Fear not.”  See Him working all things out for good.

See Him in a hotel worker’s willingness to give the kids a room.  See Him in their joyful hearts, whiling away the hours playing cards in a hotel lobby.  See Him in their safe flight.  See Him in the hearts of my kids whose highlight of the entire year is attending a conference of Jesus-loving and Bible-believing young adults.

If I don’t see Him and I look simply at the initial circumstances of New Year’s Day, 2018 got off to a pretty abysmal start. I spent the day fretting instead of trusting.  Not my finest hour. But I can’t let Satan tempt me to despair.  Tomorrow is another day…His mercies are new every morning.  See Him there.  Where?  See Him in the sunrise.  As always.

Happy New Year.

2018-01-01 at 07-09-40-2

Sunrise, January 1, 2018.

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