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Archive for March, 2016

Fear of the Lord is fountain

Not all fear is bad. Not all fear puts you under the table in a fetal position. Not all fear keeps you bound up and irrational. Not all fear is a trap from the devil. In fact, the Bible is full of encouragement (and even commands) to fear…to fear the Lord.

Most of us would define fear as a “distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” And that is one definition. But the dictionary includes another definition of fear – a reverential awe, especially toward God. And that’s the very best kind of fear…one we should embrace and encourage, not shrink from.

I want to be wise, don’t you? And I want to live a long life. Those are just a few promises for those who fear the Lord. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 10:12

 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…”

So what does it mean to fear the Lord? I’m not a theologian but I guess, for me, it means wanting what God wants, loving Him with all my heart, seeing people as He sees them, doing what He has placed in front of me to do, and obeying the Holy Spirit’s voice. It means reading and studying God’s Word, serving the Body of Christ and telling (with my voice and my actions) others about this wonderful Savior who died for my sins, and yours. It means repenting when I’ve sinned, praising Him in good times and bad, trusting Him when I don’t see any possible way out of a crummy situation, and knowing He loves me, no matter what I’ve done.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (according Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10). It is pure, enduring forever (Psalm 19:9a)…a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27) and can lengthen your days (Proverbs 10:27a). The fear of the Lord leads to life (Proverbs 19:23) and of course, what self-respecting Christian woman hasn’t claimed Proverbs 31:30 a time or two:

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Our fear of things (part 1) and our fear of man (part 2) are snares the enemy wants to trap us in to keep us ineffective in life and most especially, in the kingdom of God. Fear is never from God. In fact, 2 Timothy 1:7 specifically says that God does not give us a spirit of fear or timidity, but of power, love and a sound mind. I think that was the first Scripture my kids memorized after John 3:16. Spirt_of_fearWe used (and still use) it to ward off nightmares when the darkness threatens to overwhelm and our hope seems gone. Another favorite “fighting fear” Scripture is 1 John 4:18a – “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”

God has given us these weapons to defeat the schemes of the enemy in our lives. The Holy Spirit will give you the wisdom you need to wage warfare against the wrong fear. Commit once again to fear the Lord – the very best kind of fear!

“Yea, 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.” (Psalm 23:4)

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fear stops life

Some of us are afraid of specific things (as I talked about in part 1) but most of us deal (or don’t deal, as the case may be) with a fear we seldom admit…the fear of man. Or more accurately, the fear we won’t measure up, the fear we will offend someone, the fear we aren’t good enough, the fear we can’t perform as we think we should. This fear can be and often is, as crippling as any phobia, because it’s not something we can hold in our hand…it’s an attitude, a choice we’ve made, to allow someone else power over us.

When I fear “man” (and don’t go all feminist on me – this applies to male and female), I’m afraid of how I appear to someone else. “Am I too fat to wear those pants to church? Wait – should I wear a dress instead? Wait – I’ll be in the nursery, maybe I should wear jeans. No – that one lady always frowns when she sees women in jeans at church. But these are really cute jeans.” The endless cycle of conversations we have with ourselves in our heads…mental exhausting…and totally unnecessary.

We have been set free from trying to live up to others’ expectations. It’s God in whom I trust. He is the One I need to please…and He does not care if you wear jeans to church…really! In Proverbs, it says that the fear of man brings a snare.fear of man snare It’s a trap from the enemy of our souls. If we are constantly looking for the approval of others, we won’t have our eyes on the One who loves us best. We’ll spend untold hours in confusion and misery trying, trying, trying to please people who are as messed up as we are. Or worse, trying to please someone who doesn’t even know you’re trying to please them.That same verse says that “whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” And there is such security and peace when I feel safe.

Allow the Lord to be your rock, your shield, your strong tower. No one on this earth should have the power to keep you from being the woman of God He designed you to be. Stay strong – push back against your fear of others’ opinions – and sink into the arms of your Heavenly Father. He will strengthen you and help you and uphold you. He loves you with an everlasting love and is pleased with you…no matter what.

 

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Are you afraid of anything?

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) juvenileMost people have at least one thing they fear –mice (me), snakes (me, again), spiders, clowns, small places, heights, flying, needles, and even balloons. In fact, the phobia list is extensive – from Ablutophobia (the fear of washing or bathing) to Zoophobia (the fear of animals). The Top 100 Phobia List includes all of the above plus fear of public speaking, fear of crowds, fear of zombies (really?) and of course, the fear of fear. There is even a phobia called Theophobia, or the irrational and persistent fear of God.

For someone who suffers with a phobia, there is no logic, no talking them out of it, no advice to “get over it.” The fear is very real. I’ve read that phobias are the mind’s way of protecting itself. Somewhere along your timeline of experiences, something triggered an emotional link to a bad situation.I can certainly attest to this with my irrational fear of little ,cuddly, cute rodents. I know it’s illogical. I know I’m way bigger. And I know that “they are more scared of you than you are of them.” Doesn’t help.

Some people have allowed these fears to overwhelm them to the point of avoiding life and any situation that may put them in a fearful circumstance. Fear of flying means only taking ground transportation. Fear of clowns means no circuses or carnivals. Fear of zombies? Not sure how that one plays out in real life – since zombies aren’t real, but you get my drift. Fear of mice means I avoid any area where I know mice are located…and run like crazy or jump on the nearest piece of somewhat sturdy furniture whenever I encounter the little buggers. My family loves to tell the story of the time I jumped up onto a chair and left my baby boy on the floor when a mouse zipped by.  I think the tale (or is it tail?) has been embellished somewhat from the reality of the situation, but they like to laugh about it and David seems to be okay, so no harm done. Except the guilt I now have for abandoning my baby because I’m terrified of mice.

There is help to be had – if you’re willing to be vulnerable and ask for it. I’ve experienced it in other areas of my life…now I just have to tackle the mouse problem. Of course, God can heal you of your fear but since it is wrapped up in past experiences and emotions, He has provided a method of clearing this trauma and a group of people who are currently traveling around the US and internationally, teaching this method so fear no longer has a grip upon us. Wind and Fire Ministries has a division called WFM Peace Clinic, a workshop based training designed to help clear post-traumatic stress, panic, fear, anxiety, anger, running away, nightmares, addictions, coping habits, phobias, weight gain, pain storage, lack of concentration, and more. Ummm…that’s a lot of fear. Originally designed to help restore the victims of human trafficking, this workshop has proven to give assistance to anyone who deals with victims of fear and phobias. If you have fear yourself, or deal with others who do, this is an opportunity to be free and embrace peace.

Feace_Clinic_Sheboygan

(Part 2 – another face – fear of man…)

 

 

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Kris_aging_gracefully

As much as we fight and complain, all of us want to get older. Because the alternative is obvious and no one really wants that road. But the path of aging is fraught with potholes and deer crossings and railroad tracks. Some places are well-paved, four-lane highways and others are one curve away from a two-lane dirt track made by migrating yaks. Aging isn’t pretty. But it is necessary and that means it’s my attitude that’ll make the difference between facing it with dignity and grace or petulance and irritability. We’ve all known those cantankerous old people…and I don’t want to be one.

I’ve never been too worried about getting older. My hair began it’s elegant slide toward silver back in my mid-30s. I was too cheap (and lazy) to purchase stock in Clairol so I’ve been au naturale for quite some time. And I’m perfectly fine about it. Oh, once in a while I’d make a joke about being the only gray-haired mother with preschoolers, but in reality, I am comfortable in my skin (or hair, as the case may be). (Side note: I’ve noticed the recent trend of young women coloring their hair gray – I wonder if that makes them cool or me cool?) I’ve been blessed with good health and with my recent weight loss and healthy life style changes, I’m looking forward to many more years to love and live. But I am on the back side  of my 50s and my body has given me a few signs that it’s not as young and agile as it once was. I’ve recently had to start taking a medication just because I’m now an “older woman.” Pretty much hate that.

So what’s necessary to age gracefully without succumbing to society’s marketing of youthfulness forever? First – admit it. Second – accept it. Third – Get past it.

Admit it – say this after me – “Yes, I’m getting older. Yes, my body is changing. No, I don’t have to look 15 (or 25, or 35 or even 45 for some of us) anymore. I am beautiful, inside and out, just as I am.”

Accept it – ok, we can talk the talk, but can we walk it out? Accepting the reality of our aging means acting it out in all we do. No more putting ourselves down as “the old lady” in the group (hey – I’m preaching to myself here). Take advantage of the wisdom that comes from living life. Feel free to buy clothes you like wearing and add some color. Everyone looks better in color. And remember, beauty comes from the inside so work on that inner beauty thing. It’s way more valuable than any lift, tuck or injection.

cartwheel

Lastly, get past it. No more fixating on our age. It’s really just a number. “You’re only as young as you feel.” Nope – because somedays I feel 80 and somedays I feel 16…and that’s when I do something stupid. Like a cartwheel. More accurately, you are only as young as you determine in your heart you are. So, if you’d like to attend a concert with all 20-somethings, go for it. (I do it all the time – with the intention to never embarrass my children in attendance.) If you want to go rock climbing and have the ability, do it. If you want to learn a language, take a cooking class, run a 5k, get a dog, change your hair color, join a gym, buy a motorcycle, teach a class, write a book, volunteer at a homeless shelter, get a job, travel the world…go for it!

God has given us a number of days – He has a purpose for you and me. I want to live in such a way that God’s purpose is being fulfilled everyday. I don’t want to be one of those old ladies who look like they suck on lemons every morning. I want to embrace children and the elderly. I want to smile at strangers. I want to give love out of the abundance that Christ has put in my heart. As my husband often says, “I want to be saltier salt and brighter light.” It’s my choice and I choose to have a wise heart and youthful spirit, even while my body ages, gracefully.

 

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Ordinary Life Extraordinary Destiny

sorrow_longing_tears______by_Westia

(Note: A year ago I wrote the followingarticle and it received the most views of any blog I had ever written, including any since then. Because it’s Black Saturday – that day of sorrow between Good Friday and Easter – and because recently so many friends are going through this grief journey, I’m reposting.)

I’m on my next to last “blogging through the 40-days of Lent” adventure. Today’s topic is hard. A lot of the other blog posts have had some difficulty, but this one today – giving up sorrow – is tougher than most. Because how can I presume to tell you how to grieve or when to stop. So I won’t. But I will encourage you not to allow sorrow to overwhelm you (forever). To choose to step outside your sadness for a few minutes each day…until you can look and see the deep grief is behind you.

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sorrow_longing_tears______by_Westia

(Note: A year ago I wrote the following article and it received the most views of any blog I had ever written, including any since then. Because it’s Black Saturday – that day of sorrow between Good Friday and Easter – and because recently so many friends are going through this grief journey, I’m reposting.)

I’m on my next to last “blogging through the 40-days of Lent” adventure. Today’s topic is hard. A lot of the other blog posts have had some difficulty, but this one today – giving up sorrow – is tougher than most. Because how can I presume to tell you how to grieve or when to stop. So I won’t. But I will encourage you not to allow sorrow to overwhelm you (forever). To choose to step outside your sadness for a few minutes each day…until you can look and see the deep grief is behind you.

I have a dear friend who lost the love of her life last summer. He had been ill and yet the suddenness of his passing was a shock to all of us. He was a wonderful man, loved and respected by so many…a great husband, father and grandfather as well as a supportive and generous friend to me and my family. The grief has been overwhelming for his wife, children and grandchildren. But each one has taken the baby steps necessary to continue to live their lives and honor the memory of this dear man.

My friend shared some of her grieving process with me. Losing a husband is different than losing a parent. The “oneness” feels broken. The grief includes anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, feelings of loss and even rejection. People’s attempts to comfort her often left her emptier, not encouraged; sadder, not exhorted. “You’ll always have your memories” turned into a trite phrase because it’s the remembering that hurts the most.

So, for those of you who are “walking through the shadow of death,” please know that “life sucks sometimes.” (Thank you, Ben Rector, for those poignant and truthful words.) We must keep going – we have responsibilities, we have people who count on us, we have a Father God who loves us unconditionally, even when the grief is so deep that you can’t get dressed or face another human being.

Try to get one thing done….mark one thing off your “to-do” list. Put sorrow away for a couple of minutes and face your day. Do a little more each day, or week, or month…than you did before. Meet someone for coffee. Write a few “thank you” notes. Bake a cake and take it to someone. Watch an episode of your favorite comedy and give yourself permission to laugh a little. Call someone you haven’t seen for a while. Read a new novel. Take a walk. Buy a new pair of shoes. Indulge in a rich, chocolatey dessert. Take a friend to a movie. Pray for someone else who’s facing a similar situation.

Jesus was a man of many sorrows, according to the prophet Isaiah. He knew suffering and grief. He knows your pain and sorrow. Lean into His grace today. He’s more than enough.

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spic_and_span

This beautiful day gives me energy to take on some spring cleaning. After a long winter, I love to open up the windows, let in the beautiful sunshine and fresh air and get rid of the mustiness of a closed up house. Time to turn off the furnace – though in Iowa I know that’s a day-by-day, sometimes hour-to-hour, decision. There are three specific areas I try to take care of during my spring cleaning efforts.

(1)    Closets.

I don’t know how it happens, but my closets fill up with lots of junk over the winter. Sweaters, coats and boots take up more room than tank tops and sandals. My hall closet seems to bulge with the accumulation of hats, mittens, scarfs, and sweatshirts along with items no one knew what else to do with except shove it in and quickly shut the door. For you old radio show aficionados, it’s like Fibber McGee’s closet. So I like to go through each item, determine whether it’s worth keeping, and if not, it goes to Goodwill or the trash. We took 3 large trash bags today and I’ll have more as the spring progresses

(2)    Corners.

Our home does not have an abundance of natural light so we rely on lamps for most of our illumination during the winter. As a result, we don’t always take time to examine closely the corners of our rooms. When spring’s light shines in, those cobwebs show up big! Time for a little broom action to rid us of those little creepy-crawly homes.

(3)    Windows.

My least favorite area to clean but probably the one that needs it the most is my windows. We have a nature trail and cement manufacturer behind our house so I could clean my windows one day and they’d be just as dirty the next. So I don’t. I just get overwhelmed with the enormity of the task and don’t do anything at all. Guess what? My windows are filthy, especially the back ones. I finally tackle the project in the spring and of course, it’s amazing what a little soap, water and elbow grease can accomplish. The hardest part is getting started. 

'It must be Spring. I can't see out the window.'

‘It must be Spring. I can’t see out the window.’

I need to do spring cleaning in my spiritual house too. I don’t know about you, but I allow the dullness and routine of life to keep me from the regular maintenance we all need to do on our hearts. So how do the three cleaning areas in my house translate spiritually?

(1)    We all have junky attitudes that accumulate if we aren’t diligent about keeping our spiritual closets clean. Where God intends us to “store” our spiritual gifts and talents, we sometimes keep our unforgiveness, greed, selfishness and pride. We hide it away from prying eyes, but it’s still there. Now is a great opportunity to clean out those closets of your “old” self and fill it with God’s blessings of grace and favor.

(2)    I don’t think I’m the only one who needs to closely examine the corners of my heart. Old habits tend to grow and spread without the illumination of God’s love. Time to take the broom of God’s Word and sweep away the webs of deceit and lies. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you what needs to be cleaned up. He’s just waiting to be the “merry maid” in your cleaning adventure!

(3)    Finally, the windows of my soul need regular maintenance. The dust and dirt adhere so strongly if I don’t scrub them clean on a regular basis. It’s no fun. Who wants to see just how dirty you get throughout a season of life? But it needs to be done and not just once. We need to work out our salvation or do what’s necessary to keep ourselves saved. That means keeping those windows clean by continually being washed by God’s Word, praying (even when you don’t feel like it), forgiving those who’ve hurt you, serving those in need and allowing the bright light of God’s love to shine out from those beautiful windows.

So tackle that spring cleaning soon – both physically and spiritually. What a great way to begin a new season – uncluttered, clean and shiny!

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