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Why You Don’t Tell Your Fear How Big Your God Is.

This morning I was spending some time reading in the book of Exodus. Some months back I heard Jesus whisper to my soul that I was a “Modern-Day Moses”. I continually argued and claimed I had no ability to do what I believed He was calling me to accomplish for Him.

Oh how He must have laughed at me and my incredibly short-sightedness. How much He has taught me, revealed in the hearing of His voice in my mind and through the pages of Scripture.

He has showed me the incredible impossibility of my doing any work for Him. He opened eyes and heart to see the reality and truth of Ephesians 2:10:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

new american standard bible

Everything I thought He had created me to do, everything you think He created you to do, has already been done. We are merely to walk in the good works He has prepared and accomplished. Remember His words on the cross. It is finished. We so often think He was simply referring to redemption and certainly that was finished. That means there is absolutely nothing more for us to do for our redemption. Not a thing. It is finished. In Him and by Him. The works our faith produces are completed by Him. We simply walk in them as we walk in Him.

If you’re wondering what that has to do with Exodus, you’re in good company. Hopefully by the end of this post we will both know.

This morning I read in Exodus 5 of Moses and Aaron’s first appearance before Pharaoh. They tell him exactly what God told them to say. Pharaoh’s reaction was not at all surprising.

But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel god? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.’

exodus 5:2

What did surprise me and really make me pause to think, ponder, and pray was the next verse where Moses answers Pharaoh by completely ignoring the question. Check it out.

Then they said, ‘ The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.’

exodus 5:3

Here Moses and Aaron were given a golden opportunity to talk about their Great God and they ignored it. They completely side-stepped the question and instead further asked their original question. Why? I kept thinking about Jonah. He did not want to go to Nineveh because he knew they would hear and repent. Maybe it is a real possibility that if they had answered Pharaoh could have repented. That is all conjecture and a moot point because we already know God was going to deliver them and Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened.

You don’t evangelize your strongholds; you get rid of them.

If we see ourselves as enslaved in Egypt and Pharaoh as our strongholds, we begin to see why they did not answer the question. To evangelize (telling others Who our God is) would be making friends with our strongholds. Making friends with our strongholds would be to keep them intact. We do not want to do this. Strongholds are sin and negatively affect our service.

We cannot make friends with our sin. We must ruthlessly eradicate it. Now, please understand here, I am not at all saying that we must do something to atone for our sin. That is impossible and a horrible affront to God and His grace that we have that mindset (and make no mistake, we do). We cannot walk in freedom with God and live in our strongholds. Jesus has already paid the price for our sin and set us free. Our eradication of strongholds is not done by us, it is done when we confess the sin, and invite Jesus to speak His truth into the stronghold.

We do not tell our fear how big our God is. We don’t tell our strongholds how big our God is. They already know. We get rid of them through our Big God. Just because they taunt us by asking Who God is, does not at all mean we must answer.

The strongholds, our own personal Pharaohs, want us to believe they are the most powerful god in the land. They want us to believe they are more powerful than anyone and anything, even God. They want us to shut up about being free and get back to work for them. They want us to believe there is no freedom for us because there is no God bigger than them.

They are wrong. And we are fools when we believe them.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore. keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

galatians 5:1

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

romans 8:1-2

and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

john 8:12

Do not dialogue with your strongholds. Surrender them to Jesus.

Quiet Time

It was a hurried quiet time this morning. There was no lingering long over coffee and prayers, this was a fly out of bed and hit the deck running day after a very short night. Normally there is plenty of time to bask in the grace and wonder of Jesus, to linger long while sipping coffee, pondering the deep things of Jesus and praying His peace pervades all of everything.

But not this morning. This morning was an I have to get up and out the door by 6:45. Which means I need to be in and out of the shower by 5:30 so Mr. FullCup has plenty of time to get ready himself before leaving for work at the same time. It was also a I still have so much to read before 9am, I better begin as soon as I get out of the shower. And that is exactly what I did.

Life hit me like dominoes. One thing after another. Please, do not misunderstand here, I am not at all saying one must spend copious amounts of time with Jesus every morning or watch out, He’s going to get you! Not at all. Jesus isn’t like that. He doesn’t operate that way. My focus was two-pronged which is unusual and more or less impossible. I knew He was with me, I could sense His closeness, but my thoughts were on what needed to be done now. Right now. This minute. This very minute now. Not in a few minutes, not in a few days but now, right this second now.

You know because you’ve been there too. It’s the tyranny of the urgent and life’s demands stack up like unpaid and unpayable bills. Soon you find yourself running hither and yon, then back to hither in a mad, vain attempt to accomplish something. Anything. You can’t think straight enough to know what the next step is, the next thing is. You’re just so dang crazy busy.

You pray on the fly, “Jesus, help here!” “Oh Jesus, are they crazy? Do they think they are the only one who is making demands on my time? Do they really think now is the time for that? How on earth, Lord, is all of that going to be done?”

You feel the panic and stress rising. You want desperately to drown your stress in mochas but you haven’t the time to get one. You want to go anywhere but here. You’re desperate to run any where as long as it isn’t here. Quitting isn’t just a nice thought, it’s a mind obsession. Fight or flight and you’re picking flight. But your dang feet won’t move, won’t budge an inch.

You battle tears and find yourself losing, thinking, “What on earth good are tears at a time like this? Tears won’t get that job done. They won’t write that article. They won’t read that book. They’ll just make a mess of your makeup. That’s it.”

As you choke back the tears, wipe your nose and eyes for the millionth time in an hour, you suddenly realize, your focus is wrong. Your focus in on what you can do. All of your abilities and inabilities. You see the waves and feel the wind in your hair and you raise your hand as your heart cries out, Oh Jesus! My focus is the waves! I’m feeling the wind, and oh Jesus, I’m sinking fast. Please show me the next thing. Keep my focus on You.

Just as fast He reaches down, grabs your hand, lifts you out, and sets you on a rock. He covers you with His pinions, and under His wings you find refuge and strength. Not your own, His own. In His arms, we are safe and we rest in His life living in and through us. If you listen close, you can hear His sweet voice as He gently sings over your soul, calming your fears and your tears.

How to Say Good-Bye to the “What-Ifs” of Life

What if that happens?
What if she really doesn’t like me?
What if they had an accident and are dead on the side of the road and no one knows it?
What if no one talks to me?
What if no one believes me?
What if I ruin my children?
What if I …what if that…..?

We are all so familiar with the whole what if scenarios. We create them in our mind and call it nice things like concern and planning. We pride ourselves on being full of forethought and caring concern for others.

We plan for every little contingency; we stress and worry. We stress and worry when we think we have no “what-ifs” to stress and worry about. We like them. We are fond of them. They drive us up the wall, but without them we think and fear we are nothing. We have no place and no purpose.

Dear reader, this is not where our purpose and place is found. It is not found in our frantic grasps for control. Our purpose is found solely in Jesus Christ.

“…there is but one God,the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”

1 Corinthians 8:6 nasb (emphasis mine)

Our purpose is His and to be His. He defines us and our place in this world. We live out our purpose when we surrender fully to His life in us and live from that place of complete surrender and obedience to Him. I’m sorry there is not other way, unless you like wallowing in worry and self-pity.

The other night I was struggling with something I knew for a fact that Jesus had told me. I knew He led and directed my steps, but still my thoughts went to the what if route. The thoughts took me by surprise, I thought my confidence and my obedience to Jesus would negate them and their ability to strike fear in the pit of my stomach. I was wrong.

I have walked with Jesus through a lot of yucky stuff, I have learned to trust His voice and His heart, so when I heard His whispered voice in my ear, I listened. 

What ifs come from fear, not trust.

What ifs speak of our fears, mostly our fear of a loss of control. One thing Jesus has really been opening my eyes to lately is how much we think we are in control. I am sure most of our sins could be eradicated if we only realized the idolatry of our control. Our push and grab for control tells Jesus, “I don’t need You for this. I’ve got it. I’ll just worry, fret, stew and control everything and every part of it so You can just go help the people in Sudan. They need You.”

Oh how wrong we are! Oh how that flies in the face of grace. If we could control our way to heaven there would have been no need for Jesus to ever come to earth. If we could worry and fret our way out of situations, we wouldn’t need Him. But we so desperately do! We need Him more than we need air.

He is our Breath and our Life. He gives and sustains life. Not worry, not fret, not control. Jesus.

Oh dear reader, I know you’re tired. You’re weary and worn. And you’re trying so hard to not be. Give up your unending drive for control, give up all your what ifs and fears, and cling to Jesus. Only in Him is there the peace and joy you so desperately need.

Unlikely Friendships

The Unlikely Friendship between Mari Sandoz and Charley Sears

Charley Sears rode his horse through the long prairie grass seemingly oblivious to the little girl watching him in the grass. That little girl, with a baby on her hip, watched him ride away, and when she thought it was safe to stand to watch him disappear over the prairie, he turned to see her, and lifted his hand in a typical western greeting.

Thus, began a rather unlikely friendship.

Mari Sandoz was that little girl watching from her hiding spot in the grass as her new neighbor, Charley Sears rode by on the way to his home. He had purchased land with a house already built on it. The house and land had belonged to Pat and was said to be haunted. It had been struck at all four-corners by lightning. Even Pat met with an unfortunate end after marketing a phenomenal wheat crop, he was found dead the next morning after choking to death in the wagon.

This story with all its personal qualities, giving us glimpses into the life and heart of Mari Sandoz, touched me in a deep, personal way. The sort of friendship that grew between Charley and Mari seemed very unlikely during that time period.

During this time of Mari’s childhood, men were not friends with women typically, especially not young girls. Now, it is somewhat culturally acceptable for men and women to be friends, but in the early 20th century it just wasn’t so.

One could ask why Charley would purchase this land with the seeming curse on it, when he could have easily traveled further on and gotten better land, a better, more prosperous farm I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and has a purpose. Some of it we will never know, and this might fit that category. But I must think that in this instance there was a
deeper meaning to their friendship.

Charley really seemed like a doting uncle, to not only Mari but all her siblings as well. He took her under his wing, and he taught her how it feels to be loved, to be important. He brought her out of her shyness; he fostered in her a love of reading and writing. This was done both under the nose of Old Jules and against his rules. He had strictly forbidden Mari from
reading novels and from writing. She shares that her inability to read (at nine years of age) disturbed Charley and she told him that “going to school would not be permitted and she had not the shoes.” (page 46) Someone
saw to it that her age was reported to the county superintendent and she was allowed to attend school. If I were a betting woman, I would put my bottom dollar on Charley being the one who reported Mari’s age to the superintendent, thereby forcing her parents to allow her to attend
school.

All because a man saw a little girl, deep inside her shell and longed to see her dance free. This story resonates with me for a few reasons. One of those is simply the story is very well written. It moves a long and keeps your attention. It is one of those stories that you never want to end. I found myself wanting to know all about Charley and Mari’s friendship, their
conversations. I longed to be able to watch them interact, to get to know them both more as people and not just characters in a book.

This passage from the story really stood out to me:

This man had tried to lead a peaked-faced, shy, and ashamed little girl down on the Niobrara to see that she could learn to be a person in her own right, a person outside of the comfort and security she might be for her small siblings. He made her see that perhaps she could live without too much embarrassment and shame over her shortcomings, no matter how barefooted she might have to remain. Perhaps she could learn to use a little of the tireless energy, the bald-outspokenness of her mother and yet
retrain the excitability, the gloom and fault-finding that were also her inheritance. He showed her that the swift, almost murderous temper of her father need not be uncontrolled in her, even while she nursed a little of Old Jules’ fierce intellectual independence and any bit of his creative builder’s vision that, with luck he might have bred in her. (page 50)

Hostiles and Friendlies, Mari Sandoz page 50

This passage is written so that it lives in the eyes of the reader. It is more than just letters strung into words; more than just words put into sentences. These words live, if you look close enough and read them with your heart and not just your eyes, you can see the heartbeat of the man for the girl and in return the girl for the man. Charley Sears reached the heart of young Mari Sandoz, and her life was forever changed.

It is that living breath that speaks to my own heart. This passage made me remember and realize truths long-forgotten about my own story. It opened my eyes to see the blessing I had in the man who touched my life by befriending the young, backwards girl that I was. Maybe it stood out to me so much because I relate to it so much, it brings memories to the forefront of my mind; those bring a smile, sometimes a tear, and always a sense of well-being and immense gratitude.

I, too, was a very quiet little girl, with a difficult childhood. My home life was not easy or pleasant. It was a hard life, but into that life was brought someone who would teach me many things, much like Charley Sears taught Mari.

Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to see the potential in us and to draw it out. They show us that what we think is our fate can indeed, be changed. Our parents and their mistakes do not have to define us, nor do we have to follow in their footsteps. We can see and learn that our inherited traits can be changed or channeled in different ways than those we saw
modeled before us.

These people take us by the hand and says, “Hey, look, here is a better way.” They speak encouraging truth into our life, while teaching us at the same time, much like Charley did when he, after finally getting Mari to laugh, cautioned her now and then, “little ladies don’t show their gums when they laugh.” They refine us, taking off our rough edges, teaching us how to not be
who and what we think we are and destined to be. They give us permission to dream more than a little dream.

This is what my friend taught me. Some of it I was eager and ready to hear, other bits of it I was not so excited and open. But still he persisted, just like Charley.

My friend was often telling me that my own choices were my own responsibility. I alone was to blame for my poor judgments and misdeeds. Just like Charley told Mari when he said, “If you got a bellyache it’s you that’s been eating the green apples.” (page 51) It was refreshing to
read this, especially in a society and a generation with the mindset of “take no responsibility as it is always someone else’s fault.” I think we have forgotten how to be responsible for eating our own green apples.

I wonder if we would have known about Mari Sandoz, if she would have written books and stories, if not for the influence of her friend, Charley Sears. We don’t have a crystal ball to see in to the past and what might have been, but we can sit and be thankful that a kind man saw a troubled little girl and loved her enough to desire to help her, to expand her horizons, to let her know there was a whole big world and life outside the walls of her home. We can be grateful that he opened her eyes to the world of books and writing, even knowing it was forbidden by her father.

Mari Sandoz grew up in a very patriarchal society, and Old Jules was the patriarch to end all patriarchs, but Charley was willing to buck the society to draw out the good in Mari, to teach her, to open her eyes to see the world beyond her own small home in the west. For him to do this, to buck the societal norms of the day, to me speaks loudly of his affection for Mari, and the potential he saw in her.

We owe a lot to this unlikely friendship.

Works Cited
Sandoz, Mari. Hostiles and Friendlies; Selected Short Writings. University of Nebraska Press, 1959.

The Friend

She sat in the uncomfortable vinyl chair in the waiting room. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the chair, it was just your typical waiting room chair, designed to make you squirm with either eager anticipation or abject fear. Whichever one she was experiencing in that moment is a long-forgotten memory now, but she sat there and stared at her hands. They were clenched in her lap, her feet flat on the floor. She
didn’t know where she was or why she was there. She only knew she was told to “sit still and be quiet,” so she sat still and quiet.

People came and went from the room, sometimes names were called out by a disembodied voice, but still she sat. She could hear the swishing of the front door as people would enter or leave the building, even though there was a wall separating her and the rotating door. She contemplated leaving but knew she would get no further than that swishing door.

The place was Denver, Colorado. The brilliant Colorado sun shone brightly in through the glass in both the door and windows, but she was almost oblivious to its cheeriness. It was not until years later that she began to reflect on that sunshine and the way it played on the waiting room floor.
The little girl thought, at thirteen years of age, she was way too grown up for childish things like braids or ponytails, so her long chestnut hair hung heavy down her back, as she peered at the others in the waiting room through her heavy bangs.

She couldn’t tell you who had called her name, but soon it was her turn and she was led down the long hallway, around a corner to an open door on her left, she was ushered in and the door was closed behind her.

The man was tall, light haired, and standing across the room in front of a large desk, a large black office chair at his hip. Her gaze was transfixed on whatever was outside the large picture window behind the man.

“I’ll just turn off my hippy music,” he broke the silence as she slowly slipped in to the chair immediately to her left. She watched as he leaned over and silenced a radio she hadn’t known was playing.

Over the years this man taught the shy, withdrawn, frightened little girl from the Nebraska prairie, many things. The thing he taught her most was how to be loved and how to be a friend. Until he came into her life, she was unloved and unwanted. He showed her a new way to live, a new life. He was not one to ever mince words with her, “Your standards are so high, no one will continually risk rejection to be in your life.”

Those hard, harsh words were not ever meant to wound her, but to open her eyes to the truth. It wasn’t only harsh, seemingly unkind things he said to her. He was continually feeding her bits of encouragement that she did not receive from anyone else. He was the first one to call her a friend. He taught her the meaning of friendship. He showed her that she could be a real person, one that was seen and known. He took that ugly, quiet,
passionless little waif of a girl and breathed life into her, he showed her that she could have dreams beyond mere survival. He showed her by actions and words that she mattered and was important.

She had a nickname she hated, everyone used it, in fact, she herself thought it was her name until just before he came it her life. While her family used her nickname exclusively, she began putting her real name on everything. When he asked by which name she wanted to be called, she pointed, too shy to say it out-loud, at the real name. He became her hero that day as she heard him tell her family to heed her desires and call her by her real name.

It would not be until many years had passed and she was an old woman that she was able to articulate all he was to her, all he did for her. His friendship was a lifeline to a troubled girl and though many years have passed since they first met, she treasures the memories of her own unlikely friendship.

Slaves

We were slaves in the marketplace; we were full of fear. We wondered how and where we would end up, who would purchase us and what would they be like? Would they be means and vicious, or kind and tender? Would they care for our needs or expect us to care only for theirs?

Fear–thick and heavy–ruled us with an iron fist and our captors wanted it that way. Fearful slaves were easily controlled slaves. They led us, not in tenderness and love, but by hatred with beatings, both actual and threatened.

Hatred kept us in our place. Hate and fear were our two constant companions that dogged our footsteps and shared our bed.

We didn’t have names, that would have shown kindness, we were just a number to those who ruled us with an iron hand of control. One by one, they called our number, the number they had assigned us when they stripped us of our identity and our hope as one strips off yesterday’s clothes.

There we stood, wearing nothing except our fear, wondering, trying not to cry, nor look anyone in the eye because they could see our fear and they would feed on it.

“Just do what they say and never think about anything else. You have no choice, just do as they say.”

We were bought, shame, fear, and all. Brought with a price. The One who bought us clothed us. We were given a name.

But still we clung to our fear, believing we had no choice. A slave we were, a slave we will always be.

Then our new owner–stooped down, looked us in the eye and said, cutting straight to the heart, our heart,

“Do not fear. I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are Mine.”

The freeing part isn’t in our redemption, but in the One who redeemed us. The One who paid the price of our life on that slave block. Everyone not sold is sentenced to death.

And we were already dead.

Sometimes we strut around touting, “I have been redeemed!” and “I am FREE!” as if we had anything to do with it. It wasn’t because we were so strong or capable or great that He redeemed us, because He is far more than we. But He redeemed us.

That is the reason we can have no fear, He redeemed us. The words “Do not fear” is not saying, “Do not fear you are redeemed.” It is saying, “Do not fear I have redeemed you.” The emphasis is not on the one redeemed by on the One who does the redeeming.

In Jesus fear dies. In our pride, in our arrogance, we show who our real master is in that moment–fear.

Why when He has freed us from death, sin and fear, do we chose to live that way again? WHen we choose fear, we choose the old life. There is no life there. There is no freedom there.

He has redeemed our life from the pit! We must stop going back there. And how, how do we do this? By surrendering fully to Him. Admit the shame, the fear, the nakedness, and confess our wrong beliefs about ourselves and our God, our Redeemer.

Then we walk free…given a name and clothed in His robes.

Laying it all Down on Our Mt. Moriah

“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…but whatever things were gain to me, those I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,”

Philippians 3:10, 7-8

The first sentiment is easy and very churchy. It’s what we think we’re supposed to want, to say and to mean. It’s all well and good until He starts taking things and we start losing those things we hold so dear. Then counting our dearest treasures as rubbish in view of the surpassing value of knowing Him, suddenly it isn’t so easy. It’s hard. It’s brutal.


Dying to self and denying ourselves is never easy, except on paper and in our head. Move that to a heart thing and we find out we are incredibly selfish and, quite frankly, we don’t really trust and believe Jesus. We don’t believe He is good because if He was truly Good He would know how much we need that. You can name your own that, possession, relationship, person, job, treat, pet, position, it’s a need and you feel entitled to it. He’s good if He takes what you’re willing to freely give, the things on the fringes of your heart. Those are easier to let go of than the gifts you treasure.


One of the hardest things to give up is the very thing you know He gave you. You’re facing your own Mt. Moriah, you have the wood, the knife, the altar is there. But where on earth is the sacrifice?


It’s living in you. It is the very thing you’re holding onto with a death grip. It is the thing you know deep in your marrow that He gave you, He told you and now you’re having to die to yourself. You have to lay it all down on that altar, not knowing if there will be a ram caught in the thicket by his horns.


You pray and pray that this cup, this cup of affliction and suffering, this cup of pain and loss when you’ve lost so much already, will please pass from you.

But you’re still holding that cup. The cup that burns in your hands and you’re looking around, wanting someone, anyone to come and take that cup from you. You’re dying for someone to rescue you and heal your burning hands.

But still you’ve got the cup.

You know in your soul as the word reverberates in your mind that Jesus says “Die to that thing. Kill it. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross. The very cross you said you’d gladly bear and bear it all the way to the death. The very cross you want someone else to take, pick it up and die on it. Die to the very thing you want more than life itself. “

Because only in the dying do we live. Only in the losing are we found. The only way out is the way in. The way to life is the way to death.

So sacrifice it already. Surrender it and yourself in tears if you need to. But give it and your anxious heart to Him. No guarantees and no bargaining. Just simple trust.