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Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

In the cool of morning two weeks ago, I sat on our deck before the sun had cleared the distant trees–much less those close by.   Below, the creek bed of lush foliage loomed dark and still, but above me birds chattered happily while one lone cardinal out-sang them all.  Thankfully the cicadas hadn’t started their ruckus yet.

a bit later in the morning

From several blocks away, commuter traffic already rumbled, and high in the sky the occasional jet roared northward.  Yet the serenity of my immediate surroundings superseded the extraneous noise.

And I sensed God saying to me:

Breathe in the stillness, in spite of traffic din and aircraft drone. 

I’m referring to the serenity you feel in your spirit because of what you see around you:  quiet trees unmoved by breeze, the tranquil creek bed, and the peaceful yard to the east where golden light silently presses against deep shadow—portraits of stillness in spite of the noise.

Be mindful that, as the sun faithfully turns darkness into day, my face shines faithfully upon you with the golden light of peace (1).  I push back the shadows of worry and fear while the noise in the world clamors around you—political factions arguing against one another, loud voices contending for self-serving agendas, terrorists, criminals, and thugs wreaking havoc, and more (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

Learn from the birds and woodland creatures who find refuge in the thick foliage of bush and tree. You too can find refuge—in me.  In fact, peace grows in direct proportion to time spent with me (2).

Picture yourself surrounded by my protective, calming presence and affirm:

  • I will never stop caring for you or supplying your every need (3)
  • I will never leave you to struggle alone (4)
  • I will never fail you, no matter how the future unfolds (5)

Focus the eyes of your spirit on such promises. Feel their truths calm your heart (6).

Even as the noise of this world grows louder because the end of time draws near, breathe in such peace-generating realities often.  Let them usher you into my Presence, surround you with comfort, and encourage your soul (7).

I long for you to live within the tranquility and protection of my Presence.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

Thank you, Father, for even wanting to be my shelter. Thank you for your loving care expressed in countless ways over the decades.

I know you are trustworthy. I praise you for your unfailing love that will see me through whatever the future holds. In addition, you will provide quiet refuge within my spirit where I can rest in you.

Help me keep focused on you, to live in the shelter of your love no matter the noise of the world.

(1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 9:10; Psalm 32:10;

Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:114)

Notes:

  1. Numbers 6:24-26
  2. Isaiah 26:3
  3. Philippians 4:19
  4. Isaiah 41:10
  5. Hebrews 13:5c
  6. Psalm 119:50b
  7. Psalm 119:165

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg (2), http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; www. heartlight.org.

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If you happen to visit the Cincinnati Zoo tiger exhibit at just the right time, you’ll get to watch the enormous cats walk right past the observation glass. Then you’ll realize how massive they are, with heads the size of beach balls and paws the size of saucers. Our zoo’s Malayan species aren’t even the largest.

 

 

The Siberian tiger wins that distinction, growing to eleven feet from head to tail, and weighing as much as 660 pounds. Their canine teeth are longer than any other predator—up to three inches in length.

 

 

Experts say if a Siberian tiger and grizzly bear ever battled one another, the tiger would win. They are stronger, more muscular and agile, more active and aggressive than any other mammal. Tigers epitomize fierceness, intensity, strength, and power.

You may be wondering, why all the tiger talk? Because they can teach us a thing or two about getting ferocious ourselves. And what do we need to get ferocious about? Our fears. These days we have plenty to worry about:

  • The COVID death rate, perhaps to rise again during the winter months
  • The financial future of family and friends who’ve lost jobs or businesses
  • The future of those American cities plagued by violence
  • The upcoming election—likely contested—and its serious implications for the future of our nation
  • Troubling situations on the world scene

But how do we get ferocious against such fears? Here’s a strategy that might not readily come to mind: GRATITUDE.

 

 

To some that might seem silly. Gratitude sounds like a pretty weak strategy against fear. And who would choose the adjective ferocious to describe gratitude?

But Ann Voskamp firmly states from her own experience:  “It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear” (1). Why? Because thanksgiving teaches us to trust.

So how do we get ferocious with our gratitude? By fierce attentiveness throughout the day, pouncing enthusiastically on every small blessing that presents itself:

  • Sunbeams turning floorboards into burnished gold
  • Raindrops-become-rubies on a backyard bush

 

 

  • A close encounter with one of God’s creatures—a soul-delight if ever there was one
  • Discovering family members among the contacts of the day—members of the family of God, that is—and sharing a word of blessing

Those are examples of what we could call grizzly-bear-gratitude—fiercely seeking out moments of joy even in the midst of trouble or pain. I suppose we could compare such a search to a bear’s quest for honey, even amidst bee stings!

 

 

And then there’s ferocious-as-a-tiger gratitude—the toughest, most intense kind of gratitude there is, but the most impactful over fear. Are you ready to get really ferocious? Thank God for those troubling and painful situations.

 

“When we thank God for sorrowful intruders,

frustrating circumstances, or maddening relationships,

we are indicating to God that we trust him

to work out in our lives that which is best for us.”

–Valerie Bell (2)

 

When we exercise that kind of fierceness, fear will slink away.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, O God, for giving us the wherewithal to battle fear. May we become ferocious fighters knowing that, even while traversing the darkest valley, you are working out your perfect purpose through it, and the other side is radiant with your glory.

(Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; L. B. Cowman (3)

 

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 203.
  2. A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 105.
  3. Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reiman, Zondervan, 1997, March 14.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (Paul Everett); http://www.wikimedia.org (Greg Hume); http://www.wikimedia.com (Rolph Dietrich Brecher);  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixaby.com.

 

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“Be careful what you think,

because your thoughts run your life.”

–Proverbs 4:23, NCV

 

“Your thoughts run your life.” That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.

No one wants to dwell in such misery.

But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity.  Climbing out is difficult.

“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.

“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.

“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection–nor the inclination–when we’re hurting.

So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?

By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.

You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to twenty and reciting the ABCs at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.

We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:

“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore; it’s accomplishing nothing. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”

                           

Then we start singing a favorite praise song, or quoting an uplifting scripture, or listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation.

For a start, the bold-print quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking.  Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:

“There is no way this situation is going to work out.”

Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).

“I can’t stand another day of this.”

Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).  Restoration will come.

“I am never going to succeed.”

 Not true.  God says [he] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added).  What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?

“I have no idea how to proceed; maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”

I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

“Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?”

It is God who made me the way I am, with specific plans and purpose in mind:  to do good works according to the gifts and talents he’s given.

_________________________

If the comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.

If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.

“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.

“Outlook determines outcome” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, p. 22).

(https://quotefancy.com/quote/931807/Warren-W-Wiersbe-Outlook-determines-outcome)

*     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *     *

What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down?  Add your favorites in the comments section below!

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.heartlight.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefancy.com.

 

(Revised and reblogged from April 16, 2015, “Focus Determines Direction.”)

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A homeless woman slumped against the familiar brick wall of the warehouse, then grouped her plastic shopping bags snugly around her. Next she looped several bag-handles on her legs, and stretched her arms over the rest. The worry of losing to theft any of her treasured possessions kept her vigilant. Once settled, she succumbed to a fitful doze.

A man approached. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he called gently. “Are you Genevieve Bartlett?”

The woman startled awake, instinctively clutching her belongings more tightly. “What if I am?” she grumbled.

“Well, if you can answer a few questions for me, I may have some excellent news for you,” he replied calmly, recognizing that defensiveness in her position was only to be expected.

Genevieve returned his gaze with a scowl, but sat up straighter, readying herself to listen. The questions were easy: what were the names of her deceased parents and grandparents, when and where had she been born, and where had she attended school.

The man handed her his card and began to explain. “My name is Henry Lewis. I’m a lawyer, here to inform you you’re the last surviving Bartlett of your family, and you’ve just inherited fifty million dollars. If you’ll come with me, we can take care of the details at my office, and start the process of…finding a more comfortable situation for you. Would that be to your liking?”

 

 

Genevieve didn’t move for several moments. “Fifty million dollars,” she repeated slowly, and studied the lawyer’s face. Could he possibly be telling the truth? But why else would he seek her out at the warehouse?

Genevieve suddenly slipped the bag-handles off her legs, stood up, and announced, “I’m ready, let’s go!” Without even looking back, Genevieve left her shopping bags and their worthless contents on the pavement.

Out of several interpretations for this story, consider the shopping bags as representative of our fears. Don’t we sometimes hold on to them—worthless as they are—as tightly as Genevieve held on to her belongings?

But as God’s children, we possess tremendous wealth, worth much more than fifty million dollars, because “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure” (Matthew 13:44). And unlike Genevieve during her homeless days, we have access to a good part of that treasure now, if we let go of our worries and lay hold of our wealth.

 

 

So what might that treasure include?  Consider the following:

1. God’s Glorious Provision. Unlike Genevieve, we know a glorious inheritance is waiting for us.  Ours is in heaven—an inheritance so magnificent, when we arrive there, we’ll look back on our earthly lives “as an insubstantial dream from which we have happily awoken” (Austin Farrer).

2. God’s Involvement. He is always at work. Take note of his wisdom in creation, his engineering of life-circumstances, and his generosity in the blessings he bestows. God even makes joy available in the midst of trouble. 

3. God’s Sovereignty.  No doubt Mr. Lewis designed a plan for Genevieve to provide for her well-being. God too has designed a perfect and purposeful plan to accomplish much good, in the world at large and for each of us individually.  Whatever we entrust to him, he will take care of much better than we can.

 

 

4. God’s Unfailing Love.  We can leave our worries behind, as Genevieve did her shopping bags, when we dwell on the lovingkindness of God. In fact, peace of heart is guaranteed–if we keep our focus upon him. 

5. God’s Constant Presence. He is always with us—even as we wait for him to act. The attentive person recognizes his presence in the aria of a songbird, the sunbeams of a morning, the spontaneous hug of a friend.

 

 

6. God’s Kindness and Care.  Surely Genevieve marveled for the rest of her days how Mr. Lewis had changed her life.  We can draw strength and great delight from remembering God’s gracious provisions of our past.

7. God’s Powerful Word. Scripture offers indispensable comfort and encouragement, reminding us that God is our protective Shield and dependable Rock, our caring Shepherd and devoted Helper, our loving Provider and strong Confidence.

 

 

In these seven ways and more, God generously shares his inheritance with us now, giving us the opportunity to overcome anxiety with joy.   After all, every fear about our future, safety, health, suffering, death, financial woes, inadequacy, and events beyond our control are good-for-nothing baggage.

The question becomes: Will I let go of my worthless bags of worries and lay hold of my glorious inheritance?

 

 

Scripture Notes for:

  1. 1 Peter 1:3-4
  2. Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 94:19
  3. 2 Chronicles 20:6; Romans 8:28
  4. Psalm 94:17-18; Isaiah 26:3
  5. Psalm 23:4
  6. Psalm 92:4
  7. Psalm 3:3; 18:2; 23:1; 46:1; 78:23-29; Proverbs 14:26

 

(Genevieve’s story is based on an illustration from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “To Give You the Kingdom.”)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; wwww.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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

M-m-m.  Interesting.  John doesn’t say perfect courage drives out fear.  Not even perfect faith.  Why does he say perfect love will drive out fear?

First of all, this verse is not talking about fears of financial ruin or life-threatening events.  Verse eighteen gives us the context.  John is talking about Judgment Day.  He’s reminding us that, if we know Jesus, there is nothing to fear when we leave this earth for eternity.  Jesus gave his life to save us from the consequences of our sin.  Our place in heaven is secure, if our faith is in him.

And once that matter has been settled, other fear-producing questions can be put in proper perspective. We have to remind ourselves that earthly life fades quickly like the leaves (Isaiah 64:6).  These questions will cease to matter–questions like:

  • Will my job survive the cutbacks?
  • Will I be able to keep my health insurance?
  • Will my kids make it through their personal crisis?

But such questions can cause torment to the point of ulcers and high blood pressure.  If we allow fear to control us, we’re saying that the troubles we face are more powerful than our God.

So here are a few ways to fight against fear:

  • Rename your difficulties as possibilities—possibilities for God to do something glorious.  Without a problem, there’s no opportunity for a miracle.
  • Picture God Almighty accompanying you all day long.  He’s standing right behind you at the sink.  He’s sitting beside you in the car.  His ever-watchful eye is upon you,  his infinite strength is available to you, and his perfect wisdom will guide you.
  • Don’t feed your fear with worry; feed your faith with the truth of God’s Word.  Psalm 23 is a perfect place to begin.  Remember verse four?  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
  •  Listen to what he says:  “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you (Isaiah 41:13).  Visualize God holding you by the hand as you walk through each day.

Years ago, when a I was a young teenager, my family visited Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.  Dad and I were hiking over the mountain paths when we came to a deep, narrow ravine.  He easily jumped across, turned, and held out his hand for me.

“I can do it myself,” I announced confidently.  Then I looked down into that deep ravine.  What if I fall? I thought.  Grinning sheepishly at Dad, I said, “’Guess you’d better help me after all!”  I had great confidence in my father.  I knew he loved me and would never let me fall.

God is ready to walk hand-in-hand with me along the mountain paths of life.  Problems arise, though, when I repeat that moment on Lookout Mountain and focus on the ravine, the what-ifs.  The  result?  I’m frozen with fear.

How downright foolish of me, when my loving, trustworthy Heavenly Father has assured me:

“Don’t panic.  I’m with you.  There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” (Isaiah 41:10, The Message).

 You see, perfect love drives out fear because we can trust the perfect love of our perfect God.

(art & photo credits:  www.gracevine.com; http://www.visualphotos.com)

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Steve and I received a calendar for Christmas with a quote for each day. Sometimes the choice is quite meaningful, such as:

Babe Ruth, full-length portrait, standing, fac...

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way” – Babe Ruth.

We can actually find similar truth in scripture.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Sometimes, as I turn the calendar page to a new day, I have to wonder what the selection committee was thinking. See if you agree.

Sample #1:

“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” (I won’t name the person who said that!)

Forgive me, but that makes no sense. Am I missing something? If so, please set me straight.

But here’s what makes sense to me:

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes” — Winston Churchill.

Wise men also admit mistakes and correct them. When we don’t, we heap another mistake on top of the first: pride.  Ouch!

When we do admit and correct, we develop humility and maturity. And God values those traits (James 4:6, 1:4)

Sample #2:

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

Here’s what makes sense to me:

Although there is joy in the journey, it is not home. Our final home is heaven. I do not want to become enamored with the journey and lose sight of my home.

With Paul, I want to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Heaven

(Photo credit: irunandshoot)

Sample #3:

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

Problem is, no matter how well we take care of ourselves, these bodies have expiration dates. But praise God our earthly bodies are not the only place to live!

In fact, for those of us who know Jesus, “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We’ll have new, spiritual bodies fit for heaven — strong and vibrant, with no expiration date.  Can you imagine?

Paul said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (v. 23).

Oh, yes.

Quadruple combination opened to the Book of Is...

Thank you, Father, for your Word that speaks reliable wisdom and truth—truth that guides, teaches, and protects. But I need your help to live by its truths. Remind me that only fools despise your wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).

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