Fear

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Fear is darkness.

Have you ever woken up at night and fearful thoughts start running through your head? Those thoughts tend to multiply and sometimes become overwhelming. The fear grips us in a mental, emotional and even physical way. The darkness becomes even darker.

I remember vividly a time soon after the birth of our first child when fear gripped me in this way. Phil was late getting home from a trip (before cell phones!) (although that might not have made a difference since Phil’s cell phone is most often on his dresser – turned off!) and I became consumed with fear. My mind went wild as I planned his funeral, planned how I was going to live as a widow, and raise our little boy without his father. The more I thought, the worse those thoughts became. The darkness became darker!

When he walked in the door, I was an emotional mess!

Yet we may have those same fearful thoughts in the midst of the day and they don’t seem quite as terrible.

Why?

It is the LIGHT of day.

We see things more clearly.

Jesus says in John 8:12 –

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John explains the blessing of recognizing Jesus as the Light and following Him.  – I John 1:7

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Fear is darkness.

Faith is light.

As we allow the Light of Jesus to enter our minds and hearts we will have faith. Just as turning on a light in a dark room reveals where things are located so we don’t stumble and fall, the Light of God’s word illuminates our daily path as we follow Him.

Psalm 119:105 says –

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

When our children are fearful we need to share this truth with them as well. I memorized this verse from Psalms as a child and it still reminds me to follow the light of faith, not the darkness of fear.

There is so much to be concerned about in our world today. We must not let the darkness close in. Fear of the future can have a paralyzing effect on our lives. We should be examples of hope by our words and deeds.

We can choose to walk in the Light!

No Fear

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Watch those boys!

I had to bite my tongue not to say those words. I have hiked on Wildcat Cliffs numerous times and thoroughly enjoyed each one. The panoramic views overlooking the sheer rock cliffs are breathtaking and beautiful.

This time I did not enjoy the hike at all. Why? Because fear had a hold on me.

Those sheer rock cliffs became dangerous instead of beautiful because all I could see was one of our grandchildren falling down those cliffs.

My fear robbed me of any enjoyment on that hike. Our grandchildren’s parents were doing a good job of monitoring their sons’ behavior, but fear has a way of blinding us to reason.

That fear was overwhelming. It consumed all my thoughts, made my blood pressure spike, and ruined what should have been a lovely family outing. (Well, everyone else had a great time, especially the grandchildren!)

God wants us to be free from fear. The antidote for fear is faith. When I trust God with my life and the lives of those I love, fear has NO hold on me. That does not insure that bad things won’t happen to me or those I love. It does give me peace that God is in control and that He will use every circumstance to further His purposes. I have seen this truth demonstrated many times in my life.

I John 4:16-18

16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.   17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.   18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

There are so many concerns in our nation and our world that could cause us to fear. Most of these are things that we have no personal control over. Living in fear of these situations, or possible situations will not help the outcome. The future of our nation will not improve because I fear it’s future.

Prayer will help. It focuses my heart and mind on the reality of God’s love for me, His perfect love that casts out fear.

Does this mean I will never feel fear when grandchildren are near a cliff?

No.

But, I will recognize the source of the fear and choose faith.

 

 

 

One and Only

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“MOM!”

“Nana is right here, Adella”

“MOM!”

Our granddaughter, Adella, had fallen. Her mom had stayed at the house to get the bike trailer attached so they could go on a bike ride together. We had started to the park with her brothers so they could play soccer.

When Adella fell, all she wanted was her mother.

Nana would NOT do.

I tried everything in a grandmother’s bag of tricks –

  • distraction “oh, look at that amazing crack in the sidewalk”
  • empathy “I want my Mom, too, when I am hurt”
  • humor “let’s cut off the leg that hurts”

And when all else fails,

  • bribery “I will buy you a milkshake”

Nothing worked.

When an injured child wants their mother, mother is the one and only person that will do.

As Christians we should be that way with our Heavenly Father.

God should be our “one and only”.

Yet in our culture, think of who and what we go to for “help”-

  • the media “google that”
  • friends “rant on Facebook”
  • move to a new location “I am out of here”
  • alcohol, drugs “self medication”
  • distractions “partying, media, devices”

God wants us to come to Him. In fact, He wants us to come to Him FIRST!

John 6:66-69 says the following in the Amplified translation –

66 As a result of this many of His disciples abandoned Him, and no longer walked with Him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve [disciples], “You do not want to leave too, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]. 69 We have believed and confidently trusted, and [even more] we have come to know [by personal observation and experience] that You are the Holy One of God [the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

God is our one and only hope. In our troubled times, and we all have them, as parents, grandparents, yes, and as nations, we must go to God for help.

I love the way Peter, in verse 68 says “You alone have the words of eternal life, you are our only hope.”

Just as our children and grandchildren want their mothers, we must go to God as our source of help, comfort, and life.

God is our one and only hope.

 

 

 

First Responder

Lincoln and candle

 

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

God bless Mommie and Daddy,

And Garry and Gayle and Gregg,

And keep us safe from the communists.”

 

and keep us safe from the communists?

 

I was a freshman in college and we were sitting around one night talking (as we often did) and the subject came up about memorized prayers. (those late night talk sessions covered a vast array of topics) Several of us started reciting our bedtime prayers from childhood and when I said the last line from my prayer, we all stated to laugh.

Where did “keep us safe from the communists” come from?

I had no idea. I hadn’t thought of that prayer in years. So I went to the source of all things childhood and asked my mother.

“It was the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion and your older brother was concerned about communists invading our country. I suggested he pray about it, so he did. Of course you and Gregg copied his prayer,” my mom informed me.

I have two thoughts about that prayer looking back –

  1. when global events concern us  – pray about them
  2. where is the communist threat now?

If we are paying any attention to global events right now – there is certainly cause for concern. There are threats to peace and security on every continent, some are the most brutal threats I can remember in my lifetime. There is little we can do as ordinary citizens about these concerns – there is even less a child can do.

This can bring fear into our lives and fear into the lives of our children and grandchildren.

We can pray.

Not only is that enough, that is the most important thing we can do. God is in control even when things appear to be in chaos. These awful situations are the result of sin. Mankind’s desire to be in control leads ultimately to death and destruction.

Prayer does change things, most of all it changes us. Prayer adjusts our focus from suffering to the Lord God who loves us and gives help in time of trouble.

Philippians 4: 6-7  (TLB)

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

I love these verses. God’s peace is FAR more wonderful than the human mind can understand! The peace comes from trusting  in Christ Jesus, not in our ability to fix things ourselves.

Our daughter’s pastor encouraged us to ask ourselves what our first response is to concerns we face. Do we worry, call a friend, get angry? Our FIRST response should be to pray.

It made me think about first responders to disasters like earthquakes, fires, or floods. Those are the people who arrive on the scene first, assess the situation, and then determine a plan of action.

I realized how much better my response to any concern would be if I prayed first – asking God what my plan of action should be. Prayer centers my vision on God and His will for me in every situation – big or small. Then I should determine my response.

I want to be a first responder when it comes to prayer – pray first – then act. I want to model that for my children and grandchildren as well.

 

Don’t Look Down!

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I am not afraid of snakes or spiders. I don’t mind small places or thunder and lightning. I enjoy roller coasters and flying in airplanes.

I DON’T like to see people I love on the edge of high places.

I can literally feel my heart pound and my blood pressure rise when Phil is on a high ladder which he tends to do more often than I like to think. He washes windows and has painted our house which has places three stories up. He has patched the roof on the barn suspended from two ladders roped together. He cleans out the gutters removing leaves in the fall and seeds in the spring. All of these activites require climbing ladders.

He has asked me to hold the ladder while he assends or decends and I can only close my eyes and pray.

Phil doesn’t have a problem with doing these tasks up in the air because his focus is on his job, not the height. I have trouble watching because I am focusing on the “what if……”.

Jesus faced this same issue with His disciples.

Matthew 14:25-33 (NLT)

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was walking on the water. As soon as he looked down, he began to sink.

The same thing happens to me. As soon as I take my eyes off Jesus, I sink. I allow fear to control my thoughts. I worry about what others think, or what tragedy might occur.

I allow self pity or feelings of inadequacy to control me when I take my eyes off Jesus and look down at the circumstances around me.

As a mother it is so easy to allow worry and fear to creep in and control my thoughts and eventually my actions. I must learn to keep my eyes on Jesus – the author and finisher of my faith.

Hebrews 12:1-3(NLT)

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

I just noticed that Phil has put the ladder up against the side of the house near the gutter down spout……I better re-read this……

Scary Things

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All testimonies are not sweetness and light. In fact, as I get older, I have become suspicious of those who share only victories, blessings, and triumphs. Now, I do believe that God blesses His children. I believe that God answers prayer and has a plan for my good. But I am suspicious of those who only share the positive occurrences in their lives. I am suspicious because even Jesus “learned obedience through the things He suffered.” What makes me think that I am exempt from suffering? In fact, Jesus says in John 16:33 -“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (emphasis mine)

So – as long as I live in this world – I will have times of trouble. BUT, take heart. In other words, be encouraged. Not that everything will always go my way, but that there is no darkness where God is.

Our grandchildren wanted night lights in the bedrooms when they stayed with us over Thanksgiving. The unknown of the darkness caused them to be afraid. Once that faint, but visible night-light shown, they were able to feel safe and fall asleep.

Kathy, a friend who has been real, honest, and transparent shared a powerful testimony Sunday. It wasn’t about a victory, a blessing, or a triumph. It was the reality that when we face the scary things that can paralyze us with fear – God is light in the darkness. Situations are scary because we know the consequences can be devastating – even life threatening. There is reason for the fear we feel. Yet God wants to shine His light in those dark corners of doubt and fear. He wants to illuminate those circumstances in such a way that we can see Him in the midst of our circumstances.

Kathy encouraged us to see God in our scary situations. She shared this Scripture:

Isaiah 54:17

 No weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

When, not if, we face those scary situations, may we remember –

1 John 1:5(NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.

Paralyzing Fear

Will he fall?

I was pregnant with our first child in 1977.  Phil was driving our 1974 VW bug, and we were traveling at night down a narrow, curving road from Cashiers to Cullowhee in the mountains of North Carolina. All of the sudden I was gripped with fear that we would crash. I cried out to Phil to slow down, almost hysterical with anxiety. He was mystified. We had traveled this same road dozens of times and I had never shown any concern with his driving. Phil is a very safe driver – he has never had a ticket nor an accident since he was 16 years old. (he did get a speeding ticket and had an accident soon after obtaining his driver’s license at 16 – it must have been a well learned lesson !) Yet my fear was very real and I could not reason it away. Was it because I was now a mother?

This past Wednesday we were driving to Hickory on Interstate 40 and a thunderstorm burst upon us with torrential rain. Again I was fearful of being involved in a car wreck. Fear seemed to come from nowhere and consume me.  I planned to write this post about fear and how it can paralyze our minds, preventing us from sensing God’s presence. I knew the negative power of fear, yet here I was  – feeling this fear, unable to ignore it. I know I will be in my Heavenly Father’s presence when I die – but I was still afraid.

Fear can come from many sources.

  • past experience – like a previous accident
  • harmful situations that happened to friends or acquaintances
  • the unknown
  • warnings from others, “there might be spiders/snakes/bugs in there!”
  • failure
  • future
  • real danger – this is healthy fear!

As mothers, we NEED to aware of possible danger that could harm our children. We don’t want them to play near the road, jump in water above their heads before they know how to swim, or jump off the top bunk onto sharp objects.

As a grandmother, my perception of possible danger is much more acute than it was as a parent. I think this may be a universal occurrence. I remember my mother not wanting our children (her grandchildren) to play in the woods because they might get poison ivy. I recall thinking – as a child myself I played in the woods for hours and my mother was not in the least concerned! Maybe it is the years of life experience – but grandmothers are much more cautious than mothers.

Healthy fear is positive – but what about those unhealthy fears that paralyze us? Those fears that prevent us from enjoying times with our family because something bad may happen, what do we do with those?

I want to share three ways to confront fear that MAY be helpful. Notice I said ‘MAY” be helpful. Just as there are many sources of fear – there is no “one size fits all” antidote for fear. These Bible verses have helped me overcome fear, I use them often.

  1.  Confront Your Fear  When a feeling of fear grips you – recognize it. Don’t suppress it or pretend that if you ignore it , it will go away. By naming the fear – even verbalizing that fear, you displace the unknown quality that can undermine your thoughts and feelings. When I told Phil I was afraid of driving in the thunderstorm, that fear lost some of its hold on me as soon as I identified it.  This verse helps when thoughts fill my mind that I know are not good.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) ” We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

       2.  Recognize the cause of the Fear  Why am I fearful? Is the cause valid? What can I do about it? If the cause seems unfounded – that may not take the fear  away. You may know that a black snake is not poisonous, yet the sight of one still may cause fear. If the cause of my fear is something I cannot do anything about – then I must confess my fear to God and ask for His strength to overcome it.

              2 Timothy 1:5-9 (NLT)   ” 5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois, and mother, Eunice.  And know that same faith continues strong in you. 6This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.   7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

          3.  Pray – Confess God’s faithfulness through Scripture and Song   I quote Bible verses that build my faith, and I sing songs that encourage me.

“My hope is built on nothing less, then Jesus’ blood and righteousness….On Christ the SOLID ROCK I stand….”

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me… I can….I can….”

“When sorrows like sea billows roll……It is well with my soul.”

The LOUDER I sing, the more it builds my faith.  This may not be what helps you. Pray about what God will use to help you overcome fear. Fear is a common concern for us as mothers and grandmothers. Yet we can win this battle through the power of our Heavenly Father.

Please share ways that God has helped you overcome fear. These will be an encouragement to others.