Much Ado

Various strong opinions of refugees and terrorists have been lighting up the social media circuits this season. As I scroll through my news feed, I see sympathy for those in crisis and sorrow for the plight of people fleeing the destruction of their communities. I also find the fear that allowing displaced persons to resettle in our own neighborhoods would make us vulnerable to those among them who may violently oppose our religious, political, or social ideals.

Fear. That’s a topic I’m pretty familiar with. I struggle with myriad fears. Some are probable, but many are not. I am not an expert on immigration or refugee issues. I don’t really know how likely these concerns may be. But, honestly, I’m not sure it matters.

Much as I don’t like the idea, I can’t read the Bible and believe that God calls me to feel safe because my country has a strong military presence, a powerful leader, a stable economy, or a well-defended perimeter. Instead, He asks me to trust in His strength, His leadership, His stability, His defense, and to share His love with everybody.

Don’t forget to welcome outsiders. By doing that, some people have welcomed angels without knowing it. Don’t be controlled by love for money. Be happy with what you have. God has said, “I will never leave you. I will never desert you.” So we can say boldly, “The Lord helps me. I will not be afraid. What can mere human beings do to me?” (Hebrews 13:2, 5-6, NIrV)

This passage would be much easier to deal with if it were phrased a little differently. If only the writer of Hebrews had said, “welcome friends” or “welcome people just like you” or even “welcome folks who will bring you lots of gifts and be great friends.” I could definitely get behind that last one. But that’s not what the verse says. It says to “welcome outsiders.” Other translations use the term “strangers” or “foreigners.” The meaning is pretty clear–I need to welcome people who are different from me, people who don’t run in the same circles I do, people who come from somewhere else, people who may make me feel really uncomfortable.

And the potential threat to national security that scares so many of us? Yeah, that’s in there, too. “I will not be afraid. What can mere human beings do to me?” If God is with me, what business do I have fearing anybody (Romans 8:31)?

God,

You have called me to show Your love indiscriminately. I don’t often do that well. I wait to grant blessings on those I feel have earned them. I want to save up favor for people who will likely repay me in kind, or at least let me feel good about giving to someone who can’t give anything back. I dislike the idea that I’m supposed to show love to my enemies in the same way I do to my friends, but that is Your command (Matthew 5:43-48).

I pray for our leaders and those who influence national policies. I ask for Your wisdom as they determine how best to respond to crises around the world and within our own borders.

Please help me to have no fear of bad news, but trust in You. May I find Your Light, even in the darkest places. Let me live rightly, being gracious, showing compassion, and freely passing Your blessings to those in need (Psalm 112).

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A Dream Within a Dream

Several months ago I signed up as an independent consultant with a direct sales company. While I didn’t have any expectations that I would earn the incentive trip to Europe this summer or win any sales awards, I figured I could make a steady income and help balance the household budget. After a few weeks with the company, I discovered that the larger team I was a part of had been named “Dare to Dream” and the leader’s focus was on realizing your financial and family goals by building a successful business.

My business has not been very successful. In fact, I’ve spent the last couple of months teetering on the edge of deciding to quit, but arguing myself out of it because I was afraid I hadn’t yet tried hard enough. Just this morning, I realized that daring to dream is not something I often allow myself to do. Dreaming is scary. I am afraid to get my hopes up lest they be dashed against the rocks by a cold wave of reality.

I don’t want to dream because I don’t want to be disappointed. The god I imagine is much too small and far too concerned with tallying all my rights and wrongs to love me with the extravagance God does. In my fears, my imaginary god will give me what I deserve; he will abandon me because I have failed him.

May you have power together with all the Lord’s holy people to understand Christ’s love. May you know how wide and long and high and deep it is. And may you know His love, even though it can’t be known completely. Then you will be filled with everything God has for you.

God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. He does everything by His power that is working in us. (Ephesians 3:18-20, NIrV)

Lord Jesus,

I have set up an idol of my own image in Your place. The god I have been looking to is not You. In fearing to fail, I have failed once again. Forgive my sin of believing that You are small enough to fit in my imagination. Forgive my unwillingness to ask for what I need, fearing You won’t give it to me.

Thank You that even when I wander off, You stay right with me. Thank You for loving me so much that You are willing to follow me until I learn how to follow You. Open my eyes to the dreams You have for me. Let me know that what You have in store is bigger and more amazing than anything I could dream up. Let me fear no failure, but trust in Your love that never fails.

How to Be Rich

I’ve had real trouble being nice to people the past several days. Nearly everything everyone did just seemed to annoy me. I had my own agenda and whatever else was happening, it was getting in my way. Lying down to bed one night, I realized I didn’t feel very loved and cared for. Instead, I was feeling empty and worn out and tired of doing stuff for other people when it didn’t seem like anyone was doing anything for me. Me, me, me. I was focused very much on me–even when I was trying to do stuff that was supposed to benefit someone else, it was all about how I was the one working so hard on it, being so creative about it, or generally how it was still all about me.

This selfless thing is really a kick in the butt.

God,

It’s so easy for me to forget everything You’ve already done for me, everything You’re doing every day. When I get bogged down and focused only on what I’m doing, it’s like I just can’t see past myself to the blessings You shower on me–the love You are always showing me. Yet, even in these moments, when I’m complaining that my own little world is not as I want it to be, You still pour out Your love into me.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made. Psalm 145:8-9 (NIV)

Even more than just loving me, though, You pour Your power into me, giving me the strength to pour love and grace and compassion into the lives of others. You call each of Your kids to be gracious and compassionate. Yet You don’t simply make such a pronouncement and leave us to do Your bidding, You have compassion on us. You know we can’t do it on our own, so You provide the resources I don’t have so I can.

Thank You, God, for loving me. Thank You for giving Yourself to me, even when I am looking no further forward than myself. Thank You for walking with me, even when I wander off on the way I think is right, even when I wander down roads I know are wrong. You are still there for me. You are still loving me, showering me with grace, calling on me to show Your love to the people around me–even when I don’t know how to be loving on my own.

Please, help me to remember to move in Your power when I am weak. And help me to remember that “when I am weak” is really all the time.

Don’t Wanna

I don’t want to write today. I don’t want to think about life and why stuff got hard this morning and how to deal. Here’s the thing. We rent our house. We had contacted the management company to get our sink fixed because it was leaking into the cabinet below. The guy came to fix the sink a week or so ago. It seems to be fine now and I haven’t heard from him since. Only this morning, while I was getting ready to wash some dishes, I discovered that 1) our sponge was missing and 2) we had a new stopper in the sink.

In addition to that, the kids have been scaring themselves (and, quite frankly, me) the last couple of days by pretending there is a person hiding in the shadows of our basement. We only moved in here a few weeks ago and they’re not used to having a basement yet, so I’m guessing this is just a way to play with their actual fears that someone might be in the basement. Only, I’m not amused by the game. It creeps me out to think that someone could get in our door, head down the back stairs, and be lurking about down there.

Between their games, which they played multiple rounds of this morning, and the changes to the sink which DH told me he hadn’t made, I had a minor panic attack. It wasn’t so much a heart-racing , shaking-in-my-boots kind, but more “I’m angry at the world because they just can’t stay out of my space.” I felt violated that someone had been in the house unannounced. We’re supposed to have 24 hours’ notice for a non-emergency visit. I got no notice at all. It felt like a huge invasion of privacy as well as making the house feel unsafe.

Emotionally, safety and control are pretty closely linked for me. I feel safe when I feel in control of stuff. If I have the keys to the house and I control who can come in and who can’t, the house feels safe. If random people can come and go without my knowledge, that feels very unsafe.

I understand that, realistically, I’m not in control of much. That’s one of the things God’s been working on in my life. As DH and I tell DD (who is very much like me in personality), we humans are only in control of two things: our attitude and our behavior. I don’t like that, but there it is.

We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us. (John 4:18, TLB)

For about a year between high school and college, I met with an older-than-me Christian woman for mentoring once a week. One of the verses she had me memorize was John 4:18 in the Living Bible translation. That part that gets me every time is the last “we are not fully convinced that he really loves us.”

God,

I had a hard time with this verse 20 years ago because I wasn’t ready to admit that I was not fully convinced that You really love me. Today, I know that’s the truth. I have always had trouble confusing gratitude for love . I am always looking for ways to do things for people so that they will be grateful that I’m around, as though that’s some sort of litmus test indicating their love for me. It doesn’t work that way, though. That’s a good thing, because I can’t do anything for You. There is nothing You need. I can’t provide anything that You don’t already have. Except me. All I have to offer You is myself. But to give myself wholeheartedly to You, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, I have to trust that You really do love me and I have nothing to fear from You.

Trust is a pain in the neck. Even knowing that You offer me security that’s way bigger than I could ever provide myself, even understanding that what I don’t understand is significantly more than what I do, it’s hard for me to just give up the sense of control I keep trying to cling to, thinking it will keep me safe.

In some ways, it’s so easy. I don’t understand how a car works, but I get into one nearly every day. I don’t know most other drivers on the street, yet I trust that they’ll stay on their side of the yellow lines and stop when the light turns red. Even though I know sometimes they won’t. So how come, even after You have proven Yourself trustworthy time and time again, do I find it so much harder to believe You when You tell me that You’ll always be there? Why is it such a struggle to choose to let go and rest in Your provision? When You offer to love me for free, why do I keep trying to earn it?