Silence the Storm of Ordinary

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)

Fear Not

(45/365 Days of Fear Not)

There is a life to which I am drawn. One that I sense somewhere deep within me, within my soul. Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, when the house is silent and all is at rest, my spouse, my children, my worries, I see myself clearly.

I see the me that I am. The me that God designed me to be and to whom He is calling in the wee hours and the quiet.

Do you ever sense your true life?

That life for which your were knit together in your mother’s womb.

That life for which God planned many good works for you to do even before the beginning of you and your time here.

Sometimes I sense Jesus standing before me in my desperation and desire. This desire to be something more than ordinary. This desire to do something more than survive the days I’ve been given.

The storms of life threaten to overwhelm and I panic. I see Jesus sleeping calmly as this vessel in which I travel these oceans is pitched and swamped with the waves beyond my control and I shake Him awake. Don’t you care that I am about to drown in ordinary?

His response is as matter-of-fact for me as it was for His disciples that night on the Sea of Galilee: Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?

I rationalize and hedge. I tell Him that it’s not that I don’t have any faith, but that the world, my circumstances, they cause me to falter, to doubt, to second guess. And to fear.

But even as He questions me, He stills the storm. Quiet and calm envelop me and it is there that I hear the whisper of my true self beckoning me to the life I’m meant to live.

The life of risk and of boldness and of absolute, radical faith. A life lived with seemingly reckless abandon with and for the One who gave me life.

The life of extraordinary.

It’s there.

Do you sense it?

There, in the midst of the chaos and the chores and the children and the noise and the fear.

There, in the midst of the storm there is Jesus. And with Him, there is peace.

But it requires faith.

Will you choose it?

That’s the question we all get to answer. Will we choose faith? Will we choose extraordinary?

It likely will be scary. It likely will be messy. It likely will be stormy.

But it will be worth every moment if it means discovering that wisp of vision that calls you forward.

Leave fear behind and discover the life for which God created you.

Faith Doesn’t Make Sense

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:49-50)

 

(44/365 days of Fear Not)

Fear Not

It’s one thing to say that God’s ways are not our ways and that God’s timing is perfect, but it’s another thing altogether to believe those ideas.

Not only to believe them, but to trust them. To hold on to them when life throws its worst at you.

Because more often than not that’s exactly what faiths asks us to do. Especially in the moments that cause us to tremble with genuine fear and uncertainty.

This is what Jesus asks of us, actually demands of us, if we are going to follow Him and trust Him instead of the world.

Faith and fear cannot exist simultaneously in our conscious mind. We will either be afraid or we will trust God and take Him at His word. And, always, despite what reality tells us or what circumstances indicate or what others seem to know, faith is always the better option.

That doesn’t mean it’s always the easiest option. Even so, trusting Jesus is always the best option. That’s what Jairus did, isn’t it?

Even though someone came from his house with the news that his daughter had died.

Even though someone had more information than Jairus did.

Even though someone told him to give up, that it was too late.

Jairus trusted.

Jairus believed.

And Jesus responded. He responded in the face of laughter and unbelief from those who thought they knew the truth. Those who thought they knew more than He did. How easy would it have been for Jairus to give up and give in to his fear and his pain?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve responded that way. Responded toward Jesus as if He weren’t God and as if He didn’t know the future, my future.

I’ve questioned. I’ve doubted. I’ve been afraid.

But I’ve also been like Jairus. And Jesus responded similarly because He has always been faithful.

His ways are almost never what I would do; they’re better. Isn’t that good news?

His timing is perfect. Though I usually don’t see that until much farther down the path, He is never late or delayed. Not according to His plans for me.

Jairus believed.

He trusted even though everything said it didn’t make sense.

And, then, Jairus stood beside Jesus as He took the girl’s hand and told her to get up from the bed. Jairus received his daughter back. He received a miracle.

We don’t all get the kind of miracle that Jairus got, but God still offers us His faithfulness and His presence. He still invites us to trust Him and to stand beside Him as He works all the things in our life together for good if we love Him and are called according to His purposes.

God sees you in your struggle. He sees the world telling you its version of reality and truth. He knows your doubt and your fear.

And He’s inviting you to trust Him.

God Overshadows Life’s What Ifs

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:29-31)

Fear Not

(43/365 days of Fear Not)

Worry is something that can quickly develop into fear. We can translate the what ifs of our worry into paralyzing circumstances. Eventually fear grows where we planted seeds of worry.

But Jesus is as clear about worry as He is about fear: it’s unnecessary.

And it gets in the way of our relationship with Him.

But we can choose not to worry. We can choose not to be afraid. We can choose instead to seek Jesus.

So far through 2015, I have clung to my One Word: abide. And I have discovered that as I abide in Christ, as I seek God’s face and His kingdom, I live differently. I live without the same degree of worry and fear as I have in the past. No, it’s not that I don’t ever worry or fear, but I am learning to take those thoughts captive and I am choosing to focus on Jesus and not the storm. What follows is what has happened in my life as a result of abiding in Christ and seeking Him over my worry and accompanying what ifs.

It is a reflection of the story of The Widow’s Olive Oil:

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” (2 Kings 4:1-7)

And today, I am praising and thanking God for a miracle in our life that mirrors the widow’s. For us, this miracle has been part of an on-going provision from God during what can only be deemed extremely lean times for us.

We have scraped the bottom of the financial barrel more than once in the past six months and worry and fear have teamed up and knocked loudly on the door to my heart. But as we approached the end of 2014 and I began considering One Word on which to focus, God drew me to Himself, inviting me to abide in Him.

And so I began the year focused on abiding in Christ.

I also began working through a series of posts tracing God’s words to Fear Not.

As I have focused on these things, focused on Jesus and not on the storms of our circumstances, I have experienced God’s presence and provision in ways previously unknown to me. It’s not that God was not faithful before, but that I was not tuned into what He was doing.

But, as we have had to lean on Him and trust Him more, as we have had to rely on Him to provide, I’ve become acutely aware of His movements in my life. Of His whispers in my heart.

None of these has been more obvious to me than the extremely low heating oil level that has lasted us far longer than it should have.

We have not had the four hundred dollars needed to add the 100 gallons we usually eek by with. In fact, we have not added oil to the tank since we added 100 gallons on March 17, 2014. Typically, we had at least another 100 gallons in the fall.

Every time the heat has come on, I have been reminded of the Widow’s Olive Oil and how she filled jar after jar after jar from a single small jar that she had. It was all she had and when she obediently took what she had and sought Elisha, the man of God, what little she had became an overflowing abundance.

We have since received our tax refunds and my husband received one of his twice monthly paychecks on Friday and we have been playing catch up on bills.

And this morning, the heating oil tank finally ran dry. I woke up to a chilly house and called Burrells. They have delivered our 100 gallons and the heat is running and we are cozy.

And I am not overlooking that God has been our provision and continues to be.

He continues to provide in ways that I am realizing I never noticed before.

Courage: an Unlikely Result of Humility

because I will remove from you
    your arrogant boasters.
Never again will you be haughty
    on my holy hill.
But I will leave within you
    the meek and humble.
The remnant of Israel
    will trust in the name of the Lord.
They will do no wrong;
    they will tell no lies.
A deceitful tongue
    will not be found in their mouths.
They will eat and lie down
    and no one will make them afraid.” (Zephaniah 3:11-13)

Fear Not

(42/365 days of Fear Not)

What an interesting juxtaposition: being meek and humble and not being afraid.

By the world’s standards this doesn’t seem possible, does it?

It’s usually the other way around. The strong, the boastful, the self-centrics tend to be the ones we think of as courageous, unafraid, unbothered by life.

But, God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not like ours. So, it makes sense that in God’s view, there is no room for the boastful, the arrogant, the haughty, the self-centrics. God’s world view is focused on the meek and the humble. On those who will trust Him, not themselves. On those who recognize and acknowledge their weakness and their need of Him.

When we are able to do that, when we are able to acknowledge our need of God, we will eat and lie down and no one will make us afraid.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a promise I need to hear.

Because I was raised a strong, independent New England Yankee girl who does things for herself. And for a long while, that worked pretty well and I was fairly successful. At least according to the standards that the world sets and by which it measures us and our abilities and our achievements.

But, this way of life is also exhausting.

Perhaps it’s because it is like a game of make believe that never ends. I have to carry my mask everywhere I go and it becomes too heavy to carry let alone hold to my face and hide behind.

But this life as a redeemed New England girl who depends on God and who abides with Christ?

It’s refreshing.

It’s life-giving.

It’s invigorating, even when it’s a difficult struggle according to what the world sees.

These first 40 days of 2015 have been amazing.

My husband and I have struggled well beyond what we have ever experienced in our 14 years together.

Our finances have scraped the bottom of the change barrel more often than I care to recount.

Our circumstances have challenged us beyond what we are able to handle or fix.

But God has been faithful and He has met our every need.

He has not done this at our demand or according to our expectations, but in His perfect timing.

He has met every need and His provision and His grace have sustained us.

And I have been learning, one day, one moment at a time, one abiding moment at a time, that when I trust God, I have nothing to fear.

It is not rational.

It makes no sense.

But it is absolutely true.

And each moment of provision and met need has shown me that I can indeed eat and lie down and nothing and no one, no one, will make me afraid.

And I’ll take that every single time over my own self-centric efforts that lead to nothing but exhaustion.

Combat Fear with Faith

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. (Hebrews 11:23)

Fear Not

(41/365 days of Fear Not)

So many times when God tells His people not to be afraid, He precedes that declaration with a call to trust Him. To trust Him more than what their eyes can see and to trust Him more than what the world or the culture is declaring to them.

In other words, He desires our faith.

Because although God is always faithful, we are sporadic and timid and tempted and broken. And we tend to play give and take with our faith despite our desire to trust Him more.

But without consistent faith, we are prone to fear.

Clearly, Moses’ parents realized the connection between trusting God and not being afraid, otherwise they would not be known by name in the Faith Hall of Fame (also known as Hebrews 11). And God leaves little room for interpretation here. By faith they did what they needed to do, they hid their son, and they were not afraid.

Not, they hid Moses because they were not afraid.

No,t they hid Moses and hoped for the best.

No.

By faith they hid Moses, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict to kill all Hebrew baby boys at birth.

Imagine the courage, the faith-filled courage it took to ignore and ultimately defy Pharaoh’s proclamation to put all Hebrew baby boys to death. Imagine the faith-filled courage it took to do this for three months.

Did Moses’ parents spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders? Did they spend hours and days searching the horizon for Pharaoh’s chariots and soldiers? Were they afraid?

Or did they spend a lot of time on their knees, seeking God’s face and protection and provision?

Did they trust Him completely with their son’s life?

Indeed they did.

And so by faith they hid their son for three months and by God’s faithfulness and mercy, their son not only survived but became the first vessel of redemption for the Israelites. Moses became the appointed deliverer for God’s people because his parents trusted God with the outcome.

Faith and fear cannot coexist. They are polar opposites.

We either trust God completely with the outcome or we don’t. There can be no hedging.

You’re either all in by faith or you’re not.

What will God do in your life, with the God-given dream and purpose you are living out if you trust Him completely? If you combat your fear and uncertainty with faith.

By faith.

What will your entry in the Faith Hall of Fame read because you chose to live by faith and not by sight as you lived out your God-given purpose in this world?

A Life Worthy of Your Dream

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27-30)

Fear Not

(40/365 days of Fear Not)

If you have a God-given dream.

If you are living out a God-given purpose.

If you are co-creating a God-designed life.

You should realize that the gospel of Christ is no small part of your dream, your purpose, your life.

And so the words that Paul wrote are meant for you: conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Those words, that admonition, plays on a continuous loop in my heart, mind and soul and it both encourages and frightens me. But I’m pretty sure that God knew living out a God-given purpose in this world would inspire these mixed emotions in us.

Because I’m pretty sure that the sovereign, omnipotent Creator knew what we would need to hear and remember this refrain. All of the plans and good works that He designed for His people, all of the plans and passion and desires that He planted in His children’s hearts would necessarily involve the gospel and therefore require strength and courage and Him to fulfill.

He predicts the opposition we will encounter.

He foretells the suffering we will endure.

He indicates the struggles we will face.

And so He provides His constant refrain for us to hide in our hearts: do not be afraid.

Though you face these things, like Paul, like Peter, like John, like Timothy, like countless pilgrims and sojourners who have gone before, you will not be afraid.

You will succeed at your mission as long as you stand firm and do not shy away from who God created you to be and what He created you to do. Standing firm in the Spirit. Striving for the faith of the gospel. Living a life worthy of Jesus.

Despite what you may sometimes think or feel, God reminds you that you can do this without being frightened in any way of those who oppose you.

Sometimes, because of the broken and hurting world and the me-centric culture in which we live, it becomes tempting to separate living out a God-given dream and purpose from living out a life worthy of the gospel. But that is not what God calls us to when He calls us to work with Him and fight beside Him and co-create with Him to change this world.

Our dreams will bring God’s kingdom to bear on this world that desperately needs hope.

But only if we are living out the full picture of that God-given dream and God-given purpose and that faith of the gospel.

God-Given Dreams May Be Hazardous

Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. (Nehemiah 4:13-18)

Fear Not

(39/365 days of Fear Not)

A God-given purpose or dream does not insulate you from trouble or from naysayers or from opposition.

Would that it were so, that working with God to fulfill your calling would keep you from opposition, but it’s the very thing that attracts it. When you’re about the business of partnering with God to bring forth His vision and His kingdom in this world, you’re going to have difficulties.

Scripture is filled with this truth. Consider Moses, David, Esther, Jeremiah, Job, Nehemiah, Peter, Paul.

Consider Jesus.

God’s word tells us that if we are adopted into His family, we take on as much of Jesus’ struggle and suffering as His glorious inheritance.

Sometimes, that may mean working on your God-given dream while defending your efforts along the way.

Consider what Nehemiah describes after he tells those working on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem not to be afraid and to focus on how great and awesome is the Lord and fight for your families. Nehemiah describes how those who carried materials worked with one hand and held a weapon in the other. And there were others whose job it was to stand guard while others worked on the wall.

You cannot expect anything less as you fight for your dream.

And you, too, will need a tribe to fight with you and for you and encourage you as you live out your God-given dream and purpose and as you build that dream one brick at a time.

Not only do God-given dreams require God and His provision, they rely on community. They need a tribe for support and protection, a safe haven.

Have you built a community around you and your God-give dream?

Have you invited others into your God-given purpose?

Don’t miss how important it is to have people to help you along the way. God gave us that example Himself when He sent Jesus into our world and surrounded Him with 12 disciples.

Gather your tribe and build your God-given dream. Together.