Tag Archives: fear

A Playlist Mashup – Life and Death

width and depth

“Will you be going to the cemetery?”

“Yes.”

The magnet thumps dully against the metal as the flag declaring our intentions is put on the roof of the car. The sky is a brilliant blue, unfit for grief and I think back to a similar sky on a similar day over a decade ago.

What do you say to the boys who have lost their mother?  What do you say to the husband who can’t make sense of how cancer laid claim to a body within a span of days?  Not years. Not months. Days.

“I am so sorry…”

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
‘Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting

There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place,
Will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always (1)

There will be a day with no more suffering, no more pain, no more fears.  Even and especially when we don’t understand Jesus please flood our hurt with your comfort. Peace that passes understanding.  The assurance that covers all hurt – not removing it but allowing you to breathe through it and heal in spite of it.  And I know it and believe it and have laid claim to it.  I pray that they do too because mere words fall hollow on both ears and breaking hearts.

“The doctor will see you now.”

“You’re blood tests look great.  So, you know you are in remission…”

I grab hold of these words and hang on as if my lives depends on them, because it does.  But for how long?  And how will I know when I’m not?  And what happens then? Will I have the grace to declare God’s sovereignty over my life? When the fear becomes paralyzing, the unknown too heavy to carry, lay it down…take courage. God is striding ahead.  And if that day comes, if the results are different, He promises He will be right there with me.

This has been a week of paradigms of opposition, of declarations of continued health and the sweeping hand of death.  It’s been a week where even a diagnosis of remission is terrifying because it isn’t a continued guarantee of anything. Life’s fragility has been at center stage.

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You (2)

“Hey, Mom. My homework is done and the top is still off of the Jeep.  Can I go get ice cream before I put it back on?”

The clock says its almost 9:00 on a school night.  That brilliant blue sky of the morning has faded and darkened.

“Sure.” Then, running out the door after him, even though I am ready to call it a night, “Wait! I am coming too.”

And with the now night-cooled wind blowing our hair and the heater cranked warming our feet he looks at me and says, “Thanks for coming along.”
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

And in his sincerity, my eyes fill and my heart spills over as God wakes me up to how much life there is to live in every single day. I think about how quickly time is passing us by and how I don’t want to miss a second of it because as I have been reminded there aren’t any guarantees.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long. (3)

Praising and leaning in and holding on for dear life because Oh God, how I need You.

 

(1)There Will Be A Day, Jeremy Camp (2) Lord, I Need You, Matt Maher (3) Blessed Asurance, Frances Crosby

 

Standing With The Trees

Maybe it’s because 13 years ago today I woke up never knowing what the week had in store, never knowing that in just 5 days we would be burying our son.  Ignorance is bliss.

Maybe it’s because this season is marred by so many anniversaries.  Anniversaries marking the passage of time from “the before.” Before we knew “that” grief, before we knew “that” fear.

Maybe it’s because I can identify with the tree, but I read this and I can’t get it out of my head. Beating like a drum…

All through the woods, the trees are letting go.

I told the Farmer on the way home from Sunday chapel—when we came up to the top of Bobbie Johnson’s corner, and just before he turned, where you could look long to the northwest and out across Gingerich’s cornfield to their woodlot with the embers of maple — that it was brave, the way the trees made dying look glorious.

How did you let go and relinquish glory and be willing to stand bare, straight into wind?

(How The Brave Deal With Losses, Ann VosKamp)

I read the rest of the article but I kept coming back to this, a question for the trees. How do you let go and relinquish glory and be willing to stand bare, straight into the wind?  It keeps echoing in my head.

So, maybe it’s all those things and probably so much more…

There are so many things that strip us bare, aren’t there?  Death and disease have both stripped me down and left me standing bare, and vulnerable, and exposed. They come like a thief in the night stealing away swiftly all that we have known and come to count on and love.

And I thought of this tree, letting go because that is what it has to do. The tree, no matter how badly it wants to, cannot make it’s leaves last another season. And my heart hurts for the tree and for what it is losing.

fall tree

And I thought of these words…

Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight
Of His wind and mercy

The tree, beaten, bruised, and whipped by the wind. Bent and broken under the forces it endures, but rooted still…

How do we let go…of a person, of control, of a dream?  How do we let go and relinquish our beautiful leaves when they have reached their vibrant best?  But the Autumn tree, it lets go and I am reminded of the rest of the song.

When all of a sudden, I am unaware
Of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me.
(How He Loves, David Crowder Band)

The glory eclipses the pain of affliction. It doesn’t erase it, it doesn’t negate it. You don’t forget, you never forget. The pain is still there but it fades under the shine of His glory when our eyes shift from “it” to Him.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. (Psalms 73:26 NLT)

winter treeAnd so we trust. We trust that this isn’t it. This isn’t the end. We know that as trusters and believers glory lies ahead for us. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:18 NLT)

And we hold onto hope. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. (Job 11:18 NLT)

While we may stand stripped bare, as autumn turns colder, facing straight into the howling winter winds remember the spring will come.

spring tree

Tiny But Mighty – An update on Hannah

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“Though she is small, she is but fierce.” Shakespeare

20140204-184424.jpgThis is what it looks like when your heart is no longer your own. This is what it looks like when you hold your baby according to a schedule, not according to her cries. This is a picture of lives consumed with the beeps, wires, and medical jargon of life’s Plan B. Each of us has our own path to walk, and while it may be rocky and terrifying at times, most of us will never know the anguish and helplessness that Hannah’s parents have lived for the last two months. Nor will we ever experience the depth of peace and comfort that has been poured out from Heaven to fill and cover that fear and anxiety. There is one other thing that they have experienced in the days since Hannah’s birth, the power in prayer. This tiny little miracle, this sweet little baby, now two months old, is doing great work for the Lord.

Yes, it has been 2 months since Hannah Kay, our little tiger, graced this world with her presence at only 26 weeks into her momma, my sister-in-law’s pregnancy. (Read We interrupt this Christmas celebration for part 1 of this heart-tugging story) Two months… 1488 hours…89,280 minutes and every single one of the seconds that make up that time, this little family has been uplifted and supported by an invisible scaffolding of prayer. Prayers offered up by you and I. Prayers offered up by complete strangers. Prayers that have changed and affected the lives, of not only Hannah and our family, but the lives of those who have prayed for Hannah as well. On behalf of the family, let me say how grateful we are for every single prayer offered up on our behalf. Your response has been humbling. This is what your prayers look like…
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In those same two months there have been middle of the night calls from the hospital that have produced bleary eyed mornings. There have been tears of fear, joy, and exhaustion. There have been moments when they thought their hearts would absolutely break. They have been doing the dance of two steps forward and one step back, all the while pulled ever closer towards God’s promise of rest and protection. There are days when They are discovering exactly what it is to be held by God.

“From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.” (Ps 130:1)

The Lord has heard, and he has answered. On Monday, Hannah took one big step towards coming home as she was moved from NICU to the step-down unit. Born at 2 lbs 6 oz and 12 in long, Hannah is now 5 lbs 12 oz and 18″ long. She is taking bottles three times day and receives the remainder of her feedings though an NG tube. She’s on a low flow nasal cannula, on the lowest setting (0.1) Hannah loves her binky, and has a dimple the nurses (and her aunt) adore. Hannah has captured the heart of everyone who she has come in contact with. Hannah has a very special place in my heart. She is, in a way, a beautiful answer to so many of my “what ifs.” (Read My story)
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A beautiful story, inspiring faith. But we cannot tell it without acknowledging what lies beyond a frosting of good news and answered prayers. Acknowledging, instead of ignoring, what’s found just below the surface, where heartache resides and reality nags. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. A phone call, a knock on the door, a doctor’s report, a life altering event that changes a life in uncountable, unimaginable ways. This is what I have come to call “the valley.” Deep, dark, and dreadful. But in the mess, in the heartache, in the realizing that we cannot save ourselves from the despair that clings to our heels, this is ultimately where we finally find Jesus…

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You .
(Matt Maher, Lord, I Need You)

Are you in a valley? You are not alone, so do not be afraid and cling to the grace of God, find your inner “Hannah-tiger” and be assured you can make it through.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalms 23:4 NLT)

Oh! Happy Day!

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AMEN! The day has arrived and I have a real book in my hand! What an unbelievable feeling of achievement but I am also humbled beyond belief at what God has accomplished already through this. It’s been an adventure and I have a feeling it is only the beginning. Books will begin shipping 10/7/13. To pre-order an author signed copy or learn more about the book visit our bookstore or the Run and Be Still book page.

I have had this quote marked for a long time because I loved it. Today, I leave you with it…

If someone writes a great story, people praise the author, not the pen. People don’t say, “Oh what an incredible pen…Where can I get a pen like this so I can write great stories?” Well, I am just a pen in the hands of The Lord. He is the author. All praise should go to Him.

Knock, Knock

20130831-112515.jpgWhat do you do when fear comes knocking? This week I was told by my doctor that the blood supply to my brain may be insufficient at times. While this isn’t a major problem right now it could potentially become one. I won’t go into all of the medical explanations but will just say this, I thought I had covered all of the facets of fear my disease held, dealt with them, and filed them away. I was wrong, and this sent my blood pressure rocketing skyward. I am unable to control this situation. I am unable to DO anything to prevent or fix it. I have been here so many times and yet every time fear comes knocking and I answer the door I am unprepared.  My brain struggles against what I know to be true. I need to just be still and rest in The Lord. It’s one thing to write about it and another thing to live it. So, I share with you, in authenticity and transparency, today.  Here I struggle. Instead, I need to take my own advice from last Sunday, when I had no idea what the week would hold and I posted don’t worry about anything, pray about everything. When fear comes knocking it’s easy to let your brain run away with the “What If” game. You launch yourself ahead of God’s plans for you, you assume the worst, and you come to conclusions without ever stopping along the route to listen to what God has to say about it. I can’t imagine that I am the only one whose brain functions this way. This is my brain on default mode, hurtling into the future trying to sort out answers and solve problems, even before they exist. I have to make a concerted effort to say “STOP!” When fear comes knocking I have to ask, is this perception or reality? Is this of me or is this of God? If it’s fear, I can assure you it’s NOT of God. He doesn’t want us to live in fear. Verse after verse in the Bible Jesus tells us “do not be afraid.” But fear is a very real part of our lives. We can expect it to show up but we can’t allow it control us, not our thoughts, our actions, or how we live every day. This, at least for me, takes a concerted effort. It takes a conscious decision to let God have control of whatever is causing the fear. In this case, the very way the blood courses through my veins and arteries. And an even more concerted effort not to take that fear back after I have released it, not to obsess on it, but instead to pray over it. We are to turn our fears into our prayers. We aren’t to bottle it up, but let it out. Let it flow from us to the very throne of God. Let your fear drive you to God, not to madness. I speak those words to myself, afirm what I know to be true, and crawl towards God, worn down and worn out by the out of control spinning of my own thoughts.

Here is something, written by David Jeremiah, that I bookmarked a month after being diagnosed with Takayasu’s arteritus a year and a half ago. I refer back to it whenever I need a reminder of how to dissipate fear, how to rob it of the power it holds over us. “When fear is on your doorstep, express your faith. David said in Psalm 27:1, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ We know David is in trouble and fear is knocking on his door. The rest of the Psalm speaks of his enemies and trouble. Yet, here he is expressing his faith out loud and aggressively. He is saying what he knows, even though his feelings don’t match what he’s expressing. We can’t have a blind kind of simple faith that’s not objectively attached to anything and get through fear. Jesus says that as a believer in Him, you don’t go through trouble alone. In the midst of his trouble, David can say, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation, and I know that I don’t have to be afraid.’

Can a person just stop worrying and start trusting?  One day I read something that impressed me so profoundly that I haven’t worried since then. It said: ‘A man of God in the will of God is immortal until his work on earth is done.’ What that meant to me was that as long as I am a man of God doing the will of God, nothing can touch me until God is done with me. When He’s done with me, I don’t want to be around anymore.”

That is so profound to me. If I am in the will of God, going where God wants me to go, I can be sure that God knows what He is doing with me. Even in sickness and sidelining. Even when I don’t like it or understand it. God knows what He is doing and I don’t have to be afraid. And I will keep professing that until my feelings catch up with my words and embrace it as truth.  Some days it takes longer than others.

What are you holding on to?

20130808-092857.jpgMy son battles with stress-induced anxiety.  When under pressure, he becomes hyper-sensitive.  Everything is enhanced and he will become very aware of any ache, pain, or sound to the point of maddening distraction. He is on sensory overload. He becomes agitated, begins to shut down, and cannot see reason.  He also avoids, at all costs, that which is causing him the stress.  It literally slams on the brakes of his life and our family.  In exasperation I have talked, I have pleaded, and I have yelled.  (I am not proud.) I have prayed over him, prayed for him, and prayed with him.  Yesterday we found ourselves in the middle of one of his firestorms and I finally looked at him and asked that one simple question…What are you holding on to?

He is reaching out for help with one hand but the other hand refuses to let go of the frustration and agitation.  Have you ever found yourself in a pit like that and it seems that no matter how much you climb and struggle you only get deeper?  What are you holding on to?  It is only dragging you back down, slowing your progress.  God is not going to pry it out of your hand. You must open your hand and let it go.

I love the story of the mountain climber who, when stranded, hanging by a single rope with nowhere to go but down, he finally yells in desperation, “If there is a God up there, help me.” To his ultimate surprise and astonishment an immediate reply was forthcoming.  “Yes, ” said a thundering but kind voice, “I will help you.  All you have to do is let go of the rope.”  The startled mountain climber thought about this for a moment, and again raised his eyes to heaven and asked, “Is there anyone else up there?” Author, Gerry Boylan puts it this way.  “I am seeking God without seeking God’s help.”

Stop fighting.  Stop struggling. Wave the white flag.   Release the death grip of control.  Surrender.  The actual act of surrendering is the easiest thing you will ever have to do. Getting to the place where you are ready to surrender may, in fact, be the hardest.  Your victory comes through surrender.

Father, you know what is on my heart today.  You know what I have my fingers clamped around, what I am unable or unwilling to let go of.  You know what my heart is holding hostage.  Please change my heart Lord.  Help me to loosen my grip and let go.  Help me to forgive, to move on, and most importantly open my eyes  so that I can see the freedom that surrender brings through your salvation.  Through You Lord, and only through You, I know that I can claim victory.  Lord, save me!

Still Moments

20130716-071131.jpgMoses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13, 14 NIV)
Moses is telling the Israelites as they faced the Red Sea on one side and the advancing Egyptian army on the other side, do not be afraid, stand firm, don’t give up, just get out of the way and watch God work. I love that! Do you feel caught between an army and the sea today? Quiet your battling mind, hand over the struggle to God, no matter how big or how small, believe He will fight for you, and then get out of the way and watch Him work!

It’s A Bird. It’s A Plane

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly? Not in a plane, or on an amusement park ride but fly like superman. I think that would be one of the most amazing experiences ever! The freedom, the exhilaration of soaring above the trees, the view from the air! But I have to confess I am terrified of heights. It isn’t so much being up high
that scares me it’s the idea of falling. So if I ever wanted to fly I would have to let go of that fear of falling. I can promise you I will probably never know the experience of skydiving because I don’t know that I would ever be able to get past the door of the plane, let alone the free fall at the beginning. Isn’t that what holds so many of us back, fear? A fear of falling, a fear of failing? What if you didn’t have to be afraid? What if you could let go? I will never be able to fly if my feet stayed planted on terra firma. If I want to know what it is to fly, I will have to let go, I will have to jump.

I am only truly beginning to understand what the cost of being a true disciple of Christ is. This is where you begin to move from one in a crowd of nameless faces to someone who stands out, stands up, and says “Hey wait, there has to be more than this!” It is where you begin to move from what can God do for me to what can I do for God.

I love how Joni Ericson Tada relays this idea…
“God extends His hand and offers you life abundant and joy unspeakable, for here and eternity. But do you ever wonder how much it could cost? The answer is short, simple, and painful. “It will cost you everything,” God replies.

To understand life abundant, joy unspeakable, you have to be ready and willing to lay everything, everything, down and walk away. You have to be ready to stand on the edge of a cliff and jump, with no Plan B. This is where it is so easy to get tripped up. I am a sucker for Plan B. Plan B represents safety but another way of saying that is that Plan B is your failure plan. It is where you say, okay God Plan A is yours, but just in case you let me fall, I have my back-up parachute packed. How easy does it then become to pull the emergency cord as soon as we jump. We never get to experience the freedom of flying because we react to the fear of falling. I love how Woody puts it in Toy Story when he is talking to Buzz Lightyear (for those who are familiar) “that’s not flying, that’s falling, with style.” I, for one, am tired of living this way. Tired of hedging my bets, tired of looking over my shoulder, tired of living afraid to fall even if it is with style.

Joni goes on to say, “Most of us trifle with the cost of Christianity. We slap our sins on the table and, for the price of Somebody Else’s blood, happily walk away with an asbestos-lined soul and a title deed to heaven. With “eternity” taken care of, we get back to living life as usual, offering the obligatory gestures to God on Sundays and holidays.”

Will that work? It’s definitely not Plan A. Jesus said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39)

We are creatures of habit, creatures of comfort, and that too easily becomes the driver of our daily lives. I have begun to understand that I need to get over the idea that Christ died for me so that I could live comfortably, allowing Him into my life on Sunday during church or when I find myself in need. We need to understand that we cannot live however we want day to day, knowing that we have our insurance policy of salvation covering us when we die. We will never know life abundant and joy unspeakable if this is the route we choose.

God has a great plan for all of us and I am pretty sure it doesn’t involve the view from inside the plane, the comfort of the couch, or the safety of the sidelines.

Do you want to fly? I do! So, no more being afraid of failing, for greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. If God is for us who can be against us?

If you want to fly, first you have to jump! I think its time.