Tag Archives: fear

Press On!

Athlete running road silhouette

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.  –Philippians 3:13-14

It’s pretty easy to get stuck in the past. We humans all too often step into the quicksand of old ways of doing things and outdated thinking. Why? I’m sure there are a host of logical (and illogical) reasons, but the illusion of security seems to be one of the bigger quagmires into which we oh so willingly step. I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard words like these: “Why should we change? We’ve been doing it this way since 1961? Oh, that’ll never work; our folks don’t like change. It’s too (fill in the blank with whatever rationalization comes to mind) to change.” The list could go on and on, but you get the picture. By blanketing ourselves with the vestiges of our sentimentalized or glorified pasts, we avoid stepping out into an uncertain and rapidly evolving future. Looking backward prevents us from seeing the things ahead that make us uncomfortable and that challenge our notions of how things ought to be. In short, and I’ll make a bold claim here, we open ourselves to the insidious nature of sin whenever we dig in our heels and circle our wagons.

People running in city marathon..

Take a look at this week’s gospel lesson (John 12:1-8). Jesus is dining at the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. In less than a week, Jesus’ life and ministry will take a turn that changes both history and humankind forever, yet right now life is going on as usual. Life as usual, that is, until Mary steps out of the circle of acceptable community behavior and chooses to anoint Jesus’ feet with a pound of expensive perfume. Judas Iscariot just can’t stand the act he sees taking place before his eyes. How dare she “waste” something of so much value! What a prodigal show of devotion, this anointing. Jesus reminds Judas of the bigger picture, a picture he cannot fathom in the present moment.

Yes, fear stifles us and prevents us from moving forward in ministry and mission, from following the one who holds the cosmos in his hands. Succumbing to the “what ifs” keeps us bound and blinded to new possibility. This is not what God intends for God’s people. God desires good for us, but we must keep pressing on in faith and listening for the voice of the Spirit’s guiding. We must quiet our own hearts and minds and stifle our angry, fearful voices to even begin to discern God’s will for our lives individually, our congregations corporately, and the church universally. Listen to the words of the Lord as recorded through the prophet Isaiah: “Do not remember the former things,/or consider the things of old./I am about to do a new thing;/now it springs forth, do you not perceive it (Isaiah 43:18-19)?

Finish Line, Just Ahead Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Sky, Clouds and Sunburst.

Our God does new and wonderful things through ordinary people like you and me and calls us to look forward into kairos (divine) time. Yes, it is a step of immense faith, but do we really have any other palatable option? All of our fearful clinging to the past will get us nowhere but the future anyway. Wouldn’t it be better to press forward with purpose rather than cling to a pitiful illusion? We are all of us invited to join the great parade of the faithful who trust God enough to follow into the future, press on in the light of Christ, and sing good news with the psalmist:

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. (Psalm 126:5-6)

Note: This reflection originally appeared on the Stewardship of Life Website in 2010.

Photo Credits: © Warren Goldswain – Fotolia.com, © Chee-Onn Leong – Fotolia.com, and © Andy Dean – Fotolia.com.

Dream Boldly

“Why are you scared to dream of god when it’s salvation that you want?” — Conor Oberst (American singer and song writer)

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about fear and what it does to people. Fear is a basic emotion. It can be experienced as a response to perceived danger or risk, or it may be expressed as a response to something disliked. What fear is “not” is the place we are to dwell. Living in fear is not the Creator’s plan for any of us.

In fact, scripture has plenty to say about not being fearful. There are at least 365 references to living without fear–one for every day of the year. A couple of my favorite passages are from Deuteronomy and Psalms:

Be strong, be bold, don’t be afraid or frightened of them, for Adonai your God is going with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. –Deuteronomy 31:6 (CJB)

Adonai is my light and salvation;

whom do I need to fear?

Adonai is the stronghold of my life;

of whom should I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 (CJB)

I think for some folks fear is a crutch to keep them from dreaming boldly and from believing fully. I remember Macbeth’s words to his wife from Shakespeare’s timeless play of the same name “If we should fail?” (1.7.58) Of course they are plotting mayhem and murder to ensure Macbeth’s rise to power, not brave, bold thanks-living. But still, fear cripples Macbeth as surely as it does any human–for good or ill intent.

Fear can keep you from experiencing deep, satisfying relationships. Fear can prevent you from taking risks that will lead to amazing rewards (both tangible and intangible). Fear can stifle creativity and prevent you from reaching your potential. Fear can keep you from being generous and sharing.  Fear can prevent you from flying and achieving your wildest dreams. In short, fear can lead to inept decisions that keep a person small, selfish, and short-sighted.

So on this second day of 2013, I wish you a year without fear. Just let it go. Refuse to give fear power over you, your emotions, and your actions. Let go of fear and see what the Creator of the Universe can work in and through you. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!

Reflect:

How has fear prevented you from achieving something you wanted or dreamed about?

What one thing are you afraid of that you can let go in 2013?

How can you release your fear and harness your hopeful dreams of God’s goodness and mercy?

Photo by Martin Finch. Thanks!

The Dark Places

When I was a little girl, I was terribly afraid of the dark. I used to beg my parents to leave the hall light on outside my bedroom so that a shaft of light would fall across my bed from the partially open door. With the door ajar, I could also hear the reassuring sounds of their voices in conversation with each other along with the muffled prattle of the television. The light, the voices, and the mounds of stuffed animals arranged about me like some furry moat kept the darkness at bay until light from the window would signal a new day. All was well.

Tonight was the darkest night of the liturgical church calendar. We gathered for a community Good Friday service just as many other believers did in congregations around the world. The passion story was read in its entirety from John’s gospel. We sang the 22nd psalm. We journeyed through the Stations of the Cross as imaged by Food for the Poor, an ecumenical non-profit serving the marginalized in Latin America and the Caribbean. And we left our sorrows, hurts, sins, and pain at the foot of the cross. With strains of “Ah, Holy Jesus” echoing in our ears, we went silently into the night.

Yet amidst this dark night and the reality that our human brokenness would be party to the suffering and death of an innocent man, indeed of countless precious lives, the light of love is not extinguished. For even in the darkest recesses of our hearts, the love of God finds a way to shine, to seek, and to illumine us in mercy and grace.

Yes, we still have to walk into the dark places. We must open our eyes and look unflinchingly at the stench of sin and death. We must be willing to be changed by what we see. But we are not alone. The one who conquered death and darkness for all eternity journeys with us. The dark cannot quench His light.

Thanks be to God.

Photo by Glasgowamateur used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!