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Which are you trusting more? Your faith or your fear?

 

The pier seemed to stretch to the middle of Lake Michigan. It was a clear divide. One side still as a summer night. One side as rambunctious as a toddler thrown down in full declaration of his will.

As I stood at the start of the pier, the end seemed completely out of reach. To reach the end, I’d have to face the strength of the wind to my right and the force of the waves as they pounded the walkway. Rather than a peaceful pier stroll, for me, it was a walk filled with the taunts and distractions of fear. The wind roared in my ears. My heart drummed so loudly I was certain it could be heard over the crashing waves.

“Why haven’t they closed this pier?” I wondered. It seemed far too dangerous. No guard rails held up their protective embrace.

My family felt none of the emotions I struggled through. They laughed and played all the way to the clear end. I, on the other hand, baby-stepped my way plank by terrifying plank.

“What if the wind sent Andrew in the water?”

“What if the brothers are goofing off and someone accidentally falls in?”

“What if they don’t see how slippery the pier is and end up fighting the lake that behaves like a sea.”

I never made it to the end of the pier. Fear kept me barely past the start, never progressing. Fear won.

Later I looked at the picture and videos I captured of that scene. If I turned to the left, the water was calm, still, and peaceful. If I turned to the right, the wind slapped water across my legs as it landed on the pier in repeat.

A clear divide separated peace and chaos.

On the side of peace, all lay still. The water glistened. Facing the side of peace, the wind was behind you, so the sound much less threatening. A turn in the opposite direction, the noise intensified, the danger warned to stay back.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

Faith and fear don’t mix. When we choose faith, we silence fear. When we choose fear, we silence faith.

It’s a trust issue. Do we trust faith or fear? One way or the other, we are making a choice. Intentionally or not, it’s a choice. Whose hand will I reach for to hold me steady? Will I reach toward my faith even though I’m scared to death? Or will I reach toward my fear with trembling arms?

See, either way I may be scared at the start.

It’s all about focus. If I am fixed on Him, I experience His calm, soothing voice. If I’m fixed on my fears, all I hear are the threats of what-ifs.

On the last leg of our family road trip, we each shared favorite moments. The pier walk did not earn a spot on my favorites list because it was clouded with fear. But you know what? It did earn a spot on the list of everyone in my family who silenced fear and enjoyed the stroll.

If I live my life with the voice of fear constantly allowed to speak, I will remain stuck and never arrive at the end of the pier and experience the beauty waiting. I’ll stand at the beginning and watch everyone else lean towards faith as they experience the joy of watching fear fade into the shadow of lies from which it dawned.

 

How To Live Fearless In A Scary World

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For the audio recording of this post click here to listen.

I sat straight up in my bed, my heart racing as my eyes desperately tried to focus. Light filtered in through the blinds as I reached for my watch and tried to understand why I felt terrified. My immediate thought went to Andrew. Did he sleepwalk out of the beach house we are renting? The pond steps from our place has several alligators cruising its waters. Did Andrew wander into the waters? What if he’s gone?

Initially, I tried to talk myself calm. I tried to prove to God I trusted in Him by praying and laying still in my bed. But I couldn’t. I bolted out of the bed and ran to the front door. I checked the deadbolt. Twice. I went to Andrew’s bed. Everyone was safely sleeping.

I returned to my bed and prayed myself back to sleep. I wish I could say this is the first time that has happened. It’s not and it seems to be happening more frequently.

Our first day at the beach the wind was fierce, so loud you had to yell to hear each other. The sand blew so hard it pelted our skin with little stings. The boys and I used different words to describe the waves. To me they were violent. To the boys they were adventure.

Steve and I watched the boys jumping in the waves while the sand stung our skin and all we could hear were shouts of kids carried intermittently by the wind.

“Steve, it’s too dangerous for them to be out there. Those waves are rough.” I immediately thought back to a conversation we had on the way to the beach. One I initiated about fear and how I refused to become a person directed by fear. While I wouldn’t jump from a plane, I wouldn’t stop living life because of the what if’s of freak accidents either. That would simply be life not lived, rather life controlled by fear.

But in that moment fear held me by the neck against a wall.

“Steve, I feel terrified right now.”

“Renee, you need to send that fear away.”

I began talking to God with my eyes lasered at my kids. In that moment it hit me. He commands those waves and winds. He quieted the waves and winds with two words. Be still.

Be still.

I’ve written talks around this. I’ve spoken on this topic multiple times. And here I am again. Reminding myself that the One Who holds the world, is the One who commands the waves, is the One Who has numbered my days. So why do we fear?

We are a scared bunch of people. Anxiety plagues our world. The world is scary.

We are surrounded by terrifying reports. Within days we read about the Orlando massacre, the tragic death of a 2-year-old in Disney, a missing 14-year-old who was swimming in the ocean, a 13-year-old almost kidnapped right from her mother’s side. I am debating getting off of Facebook for good because I walk away scared, or mad, or nervous, or something that is not good for me.

Here’s the deal. I hate when satan attacks us and we let him. There is something so deep inside me that begins to boil over when I see his schemes. I’m dropping the gloves with him. I’m tired of watching him seek to destroy us through fear tactics. It’s his age old trick. He’s not very creative. We are simply not seeing what he is doing. And we aren’t putting on our armor.

I will not live scared in this world.

How often does God instruct us not to fear? Throughout the Bible God tells His people not to fear. Trust Him.

But we read these words then we turn to the news and immediately forget God’s instruction to us.

The weeks before Steve and I left for Haiti, I battled fear in a big way. This is nothing new for me. Fear I battle regularly. Last fall I had an intense fear war going on as God revealed many things to me. His intent was not for me to fear, yet I went first to fear.

Prior to our Haiti trip, Jacob expressed his own fear about our trip. What if we died while there and he was left with no parents? It’s a valid fear. It was my biggest fear as a child. I shared his fear with a friend who instantly reminded me of the truth.

Job 14:15 You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.

Jacob and I read this verse together. I said, “Jacob, God has appointed a time for me to die. He knows the exact hour. Whether my plane crashes over the ocean or I’m sitting in my house and my heart simply stops beating, God knows the day I will go home to Him.”

I watched as the moment of understanding transformed his face. That’s why we can’t let the what if’s of life plague us.

Psalm 56:3 “When I’m afraid I will trust in you.”

Psalm 139:16 “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

The day we depart this earth is no surprise to God. He has numbered our days. He knows the very moment we will enter into eternity. So why should I waste one second on fear? Why should I allow satan to steal my joy and my moments because I’m pondering the what-if’s?

We have two choices in where we allow our mind to go. On Him or on the fears of this world.

Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

To live fearless in a scary world takes us making the choice to live fearless. The choice is ours. The moment fear creeps in, we take charge by breaking down the stronghold.

2 Cor 10:4-5 “since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly,[a] but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Either we take fear captive….or it takes us hostage. All we have to do is take those fear thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. God is not the author of fear. Fear is from satan. Because we are under the lordship of Christ, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to take every thought captive and make it obey Him.

Our fear thoughts only torment us if we allow them to. Battle with His Word.

 

My near-death experience

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Saturday I had a near-death experience. Or it felt that way at the time, and even more so as I reflect back on the event. I can’t help but wonder what I will never know. Were we spared because we prayed?

This question is tough and unanswerable. We all know someone who prayed for protection or safety, yet the Lord called them home despite their prayers.  We’ve all faced circumstances where we prayed for healing and healing didn’t come. We’ve all received no’s to some of our prayers.

What we don’t know is how many yes’s we’ve received in the invisible world. How many times did we pray for hedges of protection, and in the spiritual realm those hedges are the very thing that saved our lives, but we never knew.

Identifying the no prayers seems a bit easier than identifying the yes prayers. The no’s are clear and obvious. The yes’s can be categorized as coincidence or “luck”.

If our eyes were opened to all the yes’s we’ve received, would we ever forget to pray again? I wonder.

Do we pray like our very lives depend on it? Do we believe it? Or have our prayers become an act of religion?

We took a trip to Georgia to celebrate my nephew’s graduation. Visiting my sister is a treat because their house is a true experience. Farm, land, 4 wheelers, pool, trampoline, and lots of wide open exploring. A boy’s dream.

As I walked outside her house, the warm Georgia sunshine hit me full on. Sounds of summer and celebration took all anxious thoughts and cares right away. Beach tunes, splashing kids, adult conversations weaving in and out, the smell of charcoal, and the sound of 4 wheelers coming and going. Activity swirled at a pace set to relaxation.

Steve and Zachary pulled into the front yard on the 4 wheeler. I took note how big Zachary is on the 4 wheeler. Gone are the days his little body fit snug into Steve’s as he held tight. Zachary hopped off, and with his still boyish grin, Steve nodded my way, “Hop on and let’s go for a ride.”

My nephew may have graduated but I’m not too old for some 4 wheeling fun. I climbed on for a ride on a freshly created trail. It was nice not clinging for dear life. The trail was fairly narrow and bumpy, so our speed stayed in my safe zone.

Steve has learned the hard way that I’m not much fun when I’m scared, and because he wants me to join him on his little adventures, he is wise to use caution.

I don’t know if I said this out loud to Steve or only thought it, but there were lots of small stumps and bigger than sticks smaller than logs obstacles. I noted how we had to be quite careful because these small innocent stumps could likely do some damage. About 1 second later it happened.

We took a turn at a safe speed, but the back tire hit a stump on the side of the trail. As Steve steered left, our left rear tire hit a stump and it pushed us right. Right at the time Steve was accelerating for the upcoming straightaway.

Everything happened so fast, I remember having all of these thoughts and questions quick firing. It likely took 1-2 seconds for us to hit the tree, but it felt like longer as I watched us accelerate to the tree. I remember not being scared because I thought when you hit a tree you stop, but the 4 wheeler performed what it was made for. It climbed right up that tree like it was climbing the side of a mountain. I fell off the rear, landing flat on my back, and I know Steve fell off and landed on top of me. What I can’t figure out for the life of me is how in the world the 4 wheeler didn’t crush us.

The details in the moments after falling are foggy to both of us. I remember lying on my back, looking straight up and seeing the 4 wheeler in a vertical position. 2 wheels in the air, 2 wheels on the ground, headlights shining to heaven.

I remember Steve being somewhat on top of me, but also somewhat holding the full weight of the 4 wheeler up, protecting me. I can only imagine what fear he saw on my face. I must have looked in shock.

Steve said, “You’re ok. You’re ok. Now move. Move!”

In that instant I realized I hadn’t died, but if I didn’t move fast, I might die. At any moment, that 4 wheeler could fall back on me with a crushing force.

Steve holding it up seemed supernatural. There is no way he could brace that 4 wheeler from his back the way he did. I mean he’s strong and all, but not that strong. Right then he was my hero.

I scurried to my feet and retreated to a safe distance to watch the 4 wheeler roll over and down, dumping chains and first aid kits from hidden compartments.

That’s when I started to tremble. It was only then that I felt the fear. We could’ve died. As hard as we hit the ground, had there been a rock instead of dirt, everything could have been different. Had Steve not held up the 4 wheeler, it could’ve crushed us.

I wish I could say that was the end, I thought it was the end. I thought that was the worst part, we’d be back to my sister’s in no time.

I had no choice but to get back on, though I had hoped I’d never have to again. Somehow we ended up off trail in a part of the woods that I saw no way out of. We were in deep, no carved trail, and steep hills that seemed impossible to a 4 wheeler.

I jumped off and walked while Steve rode up the ravine that felt impossible. I watched it flip a couple more times.

I was taken by his calmness. I felt a basket case, but I was too terrified to even speak. I thank God Steve handled each step with a quiet calm that hushed my fears.

As I watched him riding up what looked impossible, I prayed out loud for God to do the impossible and to protect Steve in the process.

Eventually, we made it out unharmed and the 4 wheeler still works. It did the job well.

As I have thought on that incident, I go back to the day before we left when the boys and I prayed while we packed and cleaned in preparation for the trip. We prayed for safety and protection, for hedges to be placed around us.

I must admit, I often pray these prayers out of habit and duty. I wonder if I pray them in disbelief even at times. I’m sure I do. What if we hadn’t prayed? How do we know if it wasn’t us calling on the power of God for protection that saved our lives that day?

I’ll never know that answer, and that is ok.

This isn’t the first time I’ve wondered this. I looked back at my prayer journal prior to Zachary’s Lyme diagnosis and read specific prayers for the strengthening of his body and immune system. This was before he had any symptoms. What if those prayers hadn’t been released to God? We just don’t know, so why take the chance? He’s placed power closer than a whisper’s reach.

What God has impressed on my heart is a desire to deepen my prayer life. To opening my eyes for a moment by moment need for Him. He actually has been stirring this in my heart for weeks. I’ve been reading a few books on prayer, I’ve been spending more time throughout the day simply talking to God. I’m finding constant companionship with Him is a treat I’ve been missing out on in the busyness of life.

Summer seems a good time for slowing down and praying more. Each moment I encounter is shaped by prayer. If we are given that kind of power, we’d be crazy not to use it.

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The Fear You Thought You Conquered

 

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We stood in line to ride the one ride I said I never wanted to ride.  I don’t like fear to stand in my way, so last year I swallowed my fear and rode the ride.  The same one that rose 300 feet into the air before breaking down.  The same one that stranded riders at 300 feet for hours.  I rode it.  All was fine.  I believed my fear had seen defeat.  That was last year.

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Each time I’ve ridden, the fear has decreased, but it’s always remained in the back of my mind.  This time was no different.  Except it was. Steve and I took our seats, clicked in, even posed for a picture.  The swings rise 300 feet until you reach the top for a beautiful view of Charlotte.  The breeze picked up as we gently made our way around the circle.

Steve looked out to the city, “You know this really is a relaxing ride.”  The words barely escaped his lips when the ride took a lurch.

“Well, except when that happens.”  The swings stopped.  You have got to be kidding me.  Everything in me wanted to scream and panic.  We were stuck.  And the fear was so threatening all I could do was breathe, lay my head back, and let go.

Fear.  I despise fear.  Just when you think you’ve got it under control, it rears its nasty head to taunt you.  Reminding you of its presence.  I thought my fear was the ride.  I thought I conquered my fear by riding the ride.  My true fear was not the ride.  It was being stuck on the ride.  And that was a fear I had never faced until that moment.

I’ve procrastinated writing a new blog post.  Telling myself that having the kids home all day every day makes writing hard.  Telling myself I need to work on other writing projects, not my blog.  Telling myself it’s because I have so much to do around the house and with the kids and this and that.  I’ve been lying to myself.  So can I confess to you?

Here’s the truth.  I’m scared.  I’m avoiding writing because I fear the reaction. Not because I’m anticipating a reaction, but the opposite possibly.   What if I get no reaction?  You see I tell people all the time that I used to care too much about what people thought about me, but I’ve outgrown that in my maturing years.  Yeah right.  That’s a lie, too.  I still care very much what people think about me.

That’s why I’ve procrastinated writing a post.  I’m afraid to let you down.  I’m afraid you won’t like what you read.  I’m afraid that you might be a reader that liked my post that went viral and now you are expecting another one to touch you the same way.  And I don’t want to disappoint you.

I’ve never written from the position of fear before.  Yes, I’ve faced this in life with other circumstances.  But when I write, I simply write.  I write from my heart using situations and stories God has brought into my days.  I don’t sit at the computer thinking about what people will think.  Or at least I thought I didn’t.  Until God used a letter to my boys on my blog to create reaction I’m not accustomed to in order to show me that yes I do still care what others think.

My entire life I’ve placed an enormous amount of pressure to perform on myself.  Whatever I excelled in naturally brought praise.  The praise planted fear in my heart.  Fear of failure the next time around.  Failure leads to disappointing others.  And I hate to let people down.  So I tried hard.  Really, really hard.

A performance-based life that feeds on praise lives in fear.

My try hard life shows me in the clearest way my desperate need for grace.  I need grace daily.  When I fail, I want to know it will be ok.  When I mess up, I want to know I’m still accepted.  When I disappoint, I want to know I’m still loved.

It’s the gospel.

What I’m seeking from others in my life, can only come from one.  The same holds true for you today.

So today I write.  An average post that will not go viral.  I’m choosing to accept the fact I might disappoint some.  I’m choosing to accept that I can’t do everything perfectly.  I’m choosing to tell my fears to run away.  I’m choosing to release the pressure to perform so I can open my hands to grace.  And I thank you for grace.

What fears are you facing today?  What fears did you believe you had under control only to see them resurface?  Where are you trying so hard that you are closing your hands to grace?

Everyday Fears – The Awakening

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“Sometimes I just wonder who am I to write to encourage others.  I mean I struggle constantly and fail daily.  So who do I think I am to do what I’m doing?  Maybe I’ve misinterpreted God.  I wonder if people think ‘Who does she think she is?’ ”

She listened to me, nodding in agreement.  My insecurities climbed another notch.

It’s kind of like asking your husband if the pants make your butt look big.  If he isn’t quick to reassure you, then you spend the rest of your life thinking your butt is bigger than it is.  It lingers in the back of your mind for life, and you never let it go.  Or so I’ve heard….

I was fishing.  I wanted affirmation that I was good enough to do what I wanted to do and what I felt God had called me to do.  I thought God would surely send that message through my friend. I looked to my friend for reassurance rather than the One who placed the desire in my heart. This conversation took place before Seeking Christmas released.

I continued on, “Sometimes I wonder if I write because that is what God called me to do or if it’s me just following my own desires and dreams.  Maybe He didn’t call me to write and it’s just something I love to do.”

For  years I wrote out of a desire in my heart. A desire I kept hidden.  Thoughts battled inside me that led me to believe a calling from God would look big and highly sacrificial.  That it would be something highly uncomfortable, so I began to wonder if I was wrong.  I’ve come to realize that God’s callings can look big or small, and no matter the size, He will do with them what He chooses – for His glory.

Insecurity held me back.  Insecurity rooted in fear.

I kept the desire somewhat hidden out of fear.  Fear of ridicule.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success.  Fear of disappointment.  Fear of exposure.  Fear of imperfection.  Fear of comparison.  Fear of…..the list is endless.

I feared, quite simply, myself.  More than anything I feared myself.  I asked myself the question “Who Am I?”.  The better question is “Who is He that despite me can use me?”

Desires lie within each of us.  Desires that desire to be awakened.  Who placed those desires within us? Who created us with a natural bent towards something?  Who makes our heart beat a little faster for something?  Who does that?

What causes us to feel deeply?  What causes us to really come alive?  When those desires are tapped into, do we feel a deeper purpose in our moments?

These are just a few questions I began exploring in my life.  When asked the question ‘What is our purpose in life?’,  we spout off the answer we know.  “To glorify God.”  But how?  How do we glorify God in our daily lives?  I began searching.

I recognized the desire the Lord placed in my heart.  However, the desire didn’t fully come awake until I took the first step forward.  With each step the desire grew.  It grew from a desire into a flaming passion.  Each trample on the head of fear allowed something to grow in its place.  Something had to die in order for new life to occur.

The awakening won’t happen when fear is given the front seat.  Desire and passion will lie dormant in the backseat until fear is given the boot.  Fear must be put in its proper place in order to awaken, fully awaken, the passions that are desperate for the front seat.

We don’t have to be the best at what we do to do what we were called to do.  We just have to do it to the best of the gifts and abilities He has given us.  This is counter to the perfectionistic world we live in.  We can’t all be the best.  We won’t all be the best.

As I began writing this post, I realized it would end up becoming more of a mini-series.  I watched the word count climb as I unpacked this piece by piece.  In order to keep you with me on this journey, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts.  I hope you stick around.

Fear is the theme the Lord has been swirling around my head these days.  Not the fear of the unknown or the unexpected twists and turns of life.  It’s the everyday kinds of fears.

Would you journey with me through the book of Nehemiah?  We will explore Nehemiah and how he recognized a desire, which became a passion.  How he used his abilities to act on that passion for God’s glory.  How he faced fears and moved forward anyway.  And how he inspired a people to rebuild a wall.  It’s an amazing story.

Here’s the thing, some of you reading this have desires tucked away.  Some of you have passions burning, some brighter than others.  Some of you haven’t taken the step forward because fear (also known as your inner critic) has been speaking too loudly.  Some of you are believing fear’s lies (your desire isn’t big enough or your desire is impossible).

In this New Year, get ready to come awake.