Bucket Lists and Fear

Fear

I was asked to give a talk at a ladies luncheon at our church and their theme was “Bucket List.”  They asked me to share a bit about our time as missionaries in Thailand, and go anywhere I liked with my talk.  I can talk FOREVER, so I asked what time frame they wanted me to keep to.  Ruth replied, “Take as long as you like!”  What a bad idea – so we arrived at 45 minutes to an hour, VERY generous!  So I planned for 30 minutes and took 30 minutes – a miracle! Well, plus the little bit I told about Thailand before jumping in with this. Here is my talk.

I have a bucket list.  You know, those things you want to do before you die.  There are some odd things on my list, reflecting my personality.  It looks something like this, in no particular order:

  • Many more MAJOR evangelistic opportunities
  • Tour Israel
  • Check out Florence, Venice, Rome and Vienna
  • Visit Thailand MANY more times
  • Renew our vows on our 50th wedding anniversary in June 2025
  • See Ankor Wat (in Cambodia)
  • Visit Madagascar (homeland of lemurs)
  • Visit Honduras (homeland of howler monkeys)
  • Visit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
  • Visit Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Australia
  • Visit all our friends in Australia
  • See penguins in the wild (possibly in Ushuaia?)
  • See the Northern Lights
  • See all 50 states, New England in the autumn
  • Visit New Zealand, see where The Hobbit was filmed, visit all our friends there
  • Visit the UK and our friends there
  • Visit Canada and our friends there
  • See my book/books published beyond self-publishing (I think I have interesting and/or helpful stuff to share)
  • Learn to sing PROPERLY
  • Learn to play the guitar PROPERLY
  • Learn to play the piano FAR better
  • Re-learn the flute
  • Many more things, but this is enough for now!

I know many of you are thinking lemurs, howler monkeys and penguins?!  Yep!  I’ve already had the opportunity to pet kangaroos and hold a wombat, so we’re good on those two things.

Because this is to be a talk at a CHURCH ladies luncheon, I felt tempted to alter that list, to scold myself for not being “spiritual enough.”  But my cousin had some amazing insight.  She wrote to me on Facebook and said, “I find our enemy attempts many times to steal our joy, and ambitions. He does so by convincing us we are not worthy to attain such goals or makes us to feel guilty if we take and do some of the things on our bucket list as if we are somehow being selfish to want the things on our bucket list.”  So, I looked at this list once again and realized most revolve around people, places of both beauty and accomplishment, and abilities that could be honed to advance the Kingdom of God.  I don’t know if that original thought about spirituality was from pride or fear, or a combination of both, but I choose to forge on!

What’s on Your Bucket List?

My bucket list is so odd – so I thought I’d take a very non-scientific poll of my Facebook friends and see what’s on their lists.  The first six were posted by more than one person.  After that, they are in no particular order.

  • Visit Israel
  • See the Northern Lights
  • See Niagra Falls
  • See all 50 states
  • See New Zealand
  • Visit Alaska/take an Alaskan cruise
  • Go skydiving
  • Go air gliding in a squirrel suit
  • Visit Scotland for the Highland Games
  • Visit the UK, ride Hogwart’s Express
  • Visit Four Corners
  • See the Vatican
  • Visit the Louvre
  • See the New England fall colors
  • Travel cross-country in an RV
  • Hold elected office
  • Have my books published (not only self-published) – can you tell that’s my husband?
  • Go on a book tour (these two were set forth by two different people)
  • Go to Thailand
  • See all the Great Lakes
  • Go on a Disney Cruise
  • Visit Norway and go on a river cruise there
  • Visit Canada
  • “See my musician spouse play in a large venue, such as The Grand Ole Opry”
  • Visit Waco, TX. Knowing my friend, I assume this is to see Magnolia Farms and meet Chip and Joanna Gaines.
  • Learn to surf
  • Travel the Trans-Siberian Railroad
  • See all the continents

Lots of interesting things.  You can tell which ones MIGHT belong to my younger friends.

What Keeps You from Accomplishing Your Bucket List?

Wow!  Post that question on Facebook, and you’ll read a LOT of “time and money” answers.  But I was hoping for a few answers that were a bit less obvious and more telling.

One of my friends responded, “I’m supposed to have a bucket list?”  Years ago I thought the same thing, and even phrased it in a very similar fashion.  For me, it was hopelessness disguised as humor, gloominess disguised as gaiety.  I believed that it was so beyond possibility, why even bother?  Maybe some of you feel that way.  I sure did for a good, long time.

I have a couple of teacher friends that responded.  We teachers are experts at metacognition, a term educators use and is defined as “awareness of analysis of one’s own learning or thinking processes.” (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metacognition accessed 26 September 2018)  Roxann, a friend a bit older than I, responded, “Time and money for sure.  But I find when I’m afraid/uncertain of something I keep putting it off.”  Carole, a bit younger than I, wrote, “Fearing success as much as failure.  Either will cause change and it is easier to stay in place than to change.”

I think time and money are often the obvious excuses.  But I also believe that often the reason we don’t pursue our “bucket lists” is because of deep-seated fear.  And fear is really what I want to address.

My Biggest Fear

I’ll be quite honest here.  I think I have a lot of interesting stories to tell, mostly because I’ve had the privilege of living overseas for 11 years.  There have been many crazy things that have happened to me, and I have gained insight into a lot of things because of these experiences.  I believe a lot of people could benefit from, or at least be entertained by, these stories.

But I fear rejection.  This is what keeps me from writing and sharing.  God has been teaching me about fear in many of its forms.  I taught the ladies in Thailand about fear and overcoming fear.  I took those notes and wrote and self-published a little book about it.  My heart must have been beating a mile a minute and my blood pressure sky-high when I clicked that button on Amazon’s KDP press site to “Publish Now.”

(BTW, just go to amazon.com and put my name, Cindy Bratton, in the search bar, and you’ll find it.)

I have other topics I’ve taught the ladies there: The Fruit of the Spirit and The Armor of God and The Put-Ons and Put-Offs, amongst other things.  Simple, basic things.  My little twist on all of it is simple application of truths into daily life, not necessarily the deep, knowing-the-Greek-and-Hebrew-and-syntax type of learning, but the practical application of Scripture to life in simple, doable ways.  But nothing I write is scholarly, and I cringe that I’ll be condemned for my “shallowness.”  I allow this fear to cripple me, keep me from writing and sharing, teaching and encouraging others.  Maybe some of you have a similar fear.

But there are other fears that can be just a crippling.

I’ve come to the conclusion that worry is fear, disguised as something honorable. Let me explain what I mean.

First of all, let me be perfectly clear that I do worry from time to time, but it is not USUALLY what controls me.  I see trouble or the potential for trouble, and then make a plan and do it.

The silliest worry I had was worrying because I didn’t worry about my loved ones enough.  How silly is that?!  Does this ever happen to anyone else?  I would scroll down my Facebook feed and see my women friends worried about this thing for their loved one, or another thing.  Of course, it’s all love, NOT worry! (That was written very much tongue-in-cheek fashion.) This “love” is lauded as good, as desirable, even as honorable!  I think to myself, “Do I really love my loved ones?  If so, why am I not consumed with ‘concern’ for their wellbeing and happiness, etc., etc.?  What is the matter with me?!”  I worry that I’m not a “normal” wife, mother, grandmother, friend.  While that’s true enough, it’s not my lack of worry that’s the problem.

his is kind of an abrupt transition, but back to fear in general.   What I’m learning is the opposite of fear is NOT courage.  I know . . . you think I’m crazy for sure now!  Courage is the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”  (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/courage accessed 5 October 2018)  The opposite of fear is LOVE.  1 John 4:8 tells us, “. . . [P]erfect love expels all fear” (NLT). When His love is exceptionally present in our lives, we will be able to live BOLDLY for Him.  In 2 Timothy 1:7 we also see fear and love contrasted:  “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV).

Here’s the challenge:  Will you choose to place “Learn to not live in fear” on your bucket list?  Oh, fear will come knocking at your heart . . . but, will you use that sound mind God has placed in you, rely on His love, on His power, to rise above that fear?

I want to close with the lyrics to a song entitled “Fear is a Liar.”  It was written by Jason Ingram, Zach Williams, and Jonathan Lindley Smith and recorded by Zach Williams.  Listen to these words.

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

[CHECK OUT THIS BRIDGE, fear contrasted with love]
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel
Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

https://genius.com/Zach-williams-fear-is-a-liar-lyrics accessed 5 October 2018

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Love is Messy

Love is messy

Galatians 1:10 (NLT) – Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Although Paul wrote this in direct reference to preaching the Gospel and exactly what the Gospel is, and relating to the falling away of the church at Galatia, application can still be made to any what which Christ has called me to serve.

We lost any expressed approval/respect we may have had with at least two people dear to me the day we left for Thailand as full-time missionaries.

Then, when Dana’s as-of-yet-undiagnosed dementia took a turn for the worse this past spring, summer, and fall I also lost the expressed approval/respect of three additional people dear to me when I wouldn’t abandon and divorce Dana and pursue my own personal financial well-being.

At this time, I serve God mostly by honoring my marriage vows and serving Dana.

It strikes me odd that, when it was generally believed that Dana was mentally ill, it would have been OK to have thoughts about divorcing or abandoning my spouse, even in Christian circles.  Even one person who expressed the opinion that I was acting in a crazy matter stated, “God forbid, if there really is something wrong with his (physical) brain (i.e., tumor or dementia), I’ll eat my words!”  Now there’s been a diagnosis of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, a dementia that first affects a person’s ability to logically reason. But I’ve not heard one word or read one text, email, or message to that effect.  I don’t even need to hear words of apology; I’d just like to see a change in attitude.

It also strikes me odd that the church cries out against divorce and for honoring marriage vows, yet many in the church approve of and may even encourage abandonment and even divorce in the case of severe illness and in the case of nearly all mental illnesses.

Here’s what I have learned over the past forty-two years of marriage:  Love, marriage, and commitment is not always kittens, sunshine, and skipping through the meadow.  Often it can be quite the opposite: The roaring lion – the enemy – seeking to devour, to tear apart Christian marriages, which are to represent God’s eternal covenant with the church; The valley of the shadow of death, walking through difficult, sometimes even dangerous, passages of our pilgrimages here on Earth, yet fearing no evil because God is with us; Trudging knee-deep through the mud and mire that this life sometimes is, through no fault of our own.

It is in those dark times when we are knee-deep in the messiness of this life, being attacked from every side, that true love can shine forth like a diamond: walking the path together, encouraging and strengthening and wrapping our arms around the other without condemning them in their struggle; Working out in real-time that love, that commitment, to serve the other’s need; Taking upon ourselves a portion of the heavy burden the other is carrying, the burden that is crushing them to the point of annihilation; Holding the other up when they are weary so together we can take one more step forward.  It’s in these times that an example of God’s love for us can be seen and He can be glorified in our lives.

As I walk this journey of dementia with the one I love, my husband of forty-two years, I know I won’t win the approval of many people.  I cannot expect that.  In fact, I expect the disapproval of most, if not everyone.  But that is not the calling of God on my life.  The calling of God on my life right now is to honor Him, to “do” my “I do’s.”

Minimalism

Less is More

I’ve been thinking a lot this past year about when we (finally) get our own place in the States.  What will I need to furnish it appropriate to our needs, both present and future?  I thought I’d go to Pinterest and get a bunch of ideas.  Oh, there are so many wonderful ideas, so much of it expensive and time consuming!

Then on September 24, during my Bible reading, I came across Matthew 6:19-21.  The past two years I’ve been reading a chronological Bible – two years and I’m not yet to the end.  But I regress.  That’s another story for another day.

Anyway, Matthew 6:19-21 in the New Living Translation reads, “Don’t store up treasures here on Earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in Heaven were moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

It seemed to me as if God was whispering (maybe yelling?) the word “minimalism” to me.  The past three months I’ve been focusing on what that means to me, and what it doesn’t mean to me.

By nature, I’m a clutter bug.  If the papers are to be put away, there must be an easy way to accomplish that task.  If the folded and hung laundry is to be put away properly, I need a place to do that, a place which is easily accessible.  You get the idea.  If a task seems overwhelming for whatever reason, I opt out of it.

A great part of minimalism is having what you need, and not a whole lot more.  Remembering that whatever I own will require maintenance, which uses a lot of time that could be better spent elsewhere, I asked myself, “How many pairs of slacks do I really need?”  Turns out, it’s not too many.  I figure two pair of nice, well-fitting black slacks should do it.  Same goes for skirts and shorts.  What about jeans?  I upped that to three or four, because they only get washed together because of the possibility of fading.  Then, several blouses to add color, a few sweaters in a variety of colors, and I’m pretty much finished.  My husband gave me a dress and some amazing Thai Silk fabric to sew into a skirt and blouse.  I do have a couple of nice suits, one a slack suit and the other a skirt suit. It should all fit on less than 3 feet of closet rod.  Nearly everything is machine washable too.  Easy to care for with minimal time spent.  Of course, my new tendency toward minimalism can’t be forced on my husband, but I can pursue it for myself.

I got to thinking next about bedding and other linens.  Is it truly necessary to have more than two complete sets of bedding for any bed in the house?  I think not.  What about towels?  Two sets for each person I can sleep in my home seems reasonable to me.  I do love to have LOTS of washcloths though.  Living in the tropics for over a decade had me using a clean cloth for every face wash or shower.  They just got so disgusting, not drying out well between uses.  The same applies to kitchen towels and cloths.  You see, I’m not a total minimalist, just trying to head that way.

Another place that can get overwhelming quite quickly is the kitchen.  How many place settings do I really need?  There are so many types of appliances available!  How about something that does several different jobs?  I like that idea!  I need to remember I don’t need appliances for every task, especially the ones I never do!

I think it’s going to be interesting to get into all the “stuff” we shipped back from Thailand and has been in storage more than nine months now.  What if a bunch of it is just stuff I can’t or won’t use?  I know I really miss some of it: my serge/overlock sewing machine, my keyboard, pictures, my fantastic high-capacity printer, the good vacuum cleaner which has been in storage these past 11 years.  It just might make me sick to see how much “junk” I had shipped over the Pacific Ocean, needing to toss even more as I unpack it all here!

One area I need to work on is my love for crochet thread, yarn, and fabric.  Much of it is used to generate income.  That’s legitimate.  The rest, not so much.  With that, I’ll share part of the prayer I wrote down in my journal on Sunday, 24 September 2017:

Father, guide me as we work to establish a home of our own once again.  Let us be more minimalist.  Keep me away from crochet thread, fabric, and yarn unless I have a specific use for it.  Keep us away from too many clothes, too many kitchen things, too many trinkets.

What are your thoughts on minimalism?

 

 

 

My Online Shop is Up and Running!

13062157_10153639979811849_5165504760692843204_nGo check out what’s up at Cindy’s Creative Gifts! You can search for me on Facebook, and order from the “shop” link on the left side of the page. We won’t call the page “perfect,” but I’m learning a little more about how to do this day by day.  Look for my colorful doily when you search. Global shipping is included!

Cindy’s Creative Gifts

13062157_10153639979811849_5165504760692843204_n

/*<![CDATA[*/

One of the things I'm doing to earn a bit of cash so we can survive until jobs are found, is to sell the crochet things I make.  Check out my Facebook page, Cindy's Creative Gifts.  There's lots of pretty doilies and coasters at a pretty reasonable cost.  LOTS more doilies should be going up Friday and Saturday (the 5th and 6th) as I just need to take pictures and post them.

I've not figured out a shopping cart yet, but if you pm me with your email address and with what products you want, I'll send you a PayPal invoice, and the business day after PayPal tells me you paid I'll get it in the mail.  The price you see is all–inclusive – nothing else is added in 🙂  So, enjoy shopping for Mother's Day, and don't forget your mother-in-law, your daughters, your daughters-in-law who are also moms!

God bless you as you help support us in our repatriation adventure!

/**/

A Call to Repentance

25 April 2017

Warning:  This is not my normal type of blog!

God got me up more than an hour before my alarm this morning, having planted an exceptional hunger for His Word in my heart.  I’ve learned over the years to just get up, wash my face, get a cup of coffee, and dig into whatever is next in my Bible reading plan.

For the past year and a half, I’ve been reading through a chronological NLT (New Living Translation) Bible.  This translation seems mostly accurate, at least according to the Bible training I have undergone, and is very story-like and easy to read.  At the end of 16 months, I’ve made it all the way up to June 24.  I decided a while back that the chronology was what I was desiring more than “making it through” the whole Bible in a year.  I want to take my time and catch what God is speaking to my heart rather than rush through and “just gitter-done.”  I write all this to say I believe this is a very important message for me today, and it might be an important message to you, too.  I’ll just give you the (slightly revised – mostly more organized and with names confirmed) notes about what God showed me this morning.

Isaiah 8:5-8      Then the LORD spoke to me again and said, “My care for the people of Judah is like the gently flowing waters of Shiloah, but they have rejected it.  They are rejoicing over what will happen to King Rezin and King Pekah.  Therefore, the Lord will overwhelm them with a mighty flood from the Euphrates River – the King of Assyria and all his glory.  This flood will overthrow all its channels and sweep into Judah until it is chin deep.  It will spread its wings, submerging your land from one end to the other, O Immanuel.”  (NLT)

My personal take-away:  Do NOT rejoice when God brings judgment on evil men and women.

Before I go any farther, let me state a caveat:  I don’t pretend to understand politics and world events, try as I may.  God brought to mind a few events I know of as illustrations, using the few facts I believe are reasonably certain, to apply this Scripture to my life, and to the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

How often do we, God’s children, rejoice when God brings judgment on evil men and women today?  When Saddam Hussein was executed by American forces?  When Osama Ben Laden was assassinated by Seal Team Six?  When President Trump sent the MOAB missiles into Syria, an attack against Syria’s President Assad, just this past month?

By God’s standards, all there of these men are evil men, doing evil things.  It may be possible that God used America to bring about His judgment upon these three men and their political kingdoms, rooted in the same evil.

Yet, I am reminded of a few things:

  1. The title of John Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
  2. 2 Peter 3:9b tells me, “He [God] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (NLT)
  3. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” (attribution uncertain)

A bit further down in Isaiah 8, verse 11 says, “The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.”  (NLT)  Further down in verse 20, “Look to God’s instructions and teachings!  People who contradict His Word are completely in the dark.”  (NLT)

So, today I will choose to repent, to confess as sin and turn away from doing again, the times I took joy in seeing evil men – and women – brought to justice.  I will choose instead to begin praying for their salvation and their transformation into godly men and women.

Who will join me?

 

Repatriation Part 8

Hugs from the kids

Tonight, we leave for Phuket International Airport at 9 p.m. for our 2 a.m. flight tomorrow morning.  14 more hours in our neighborhood.  We’ve been here nine years, one month, and nine days.  This is “home.”  The stuff we’re leaving behind is selling quickly, the sofa gets picked up 4 hours before we leave – so a couple of lawn chairs for us to finish out our time here.

Yesterday was difficult.  It was our last church service with our beloved church family here.  Pastor Levi and his team are perfect for the church here.  We feel so blessed to have them come.  There are three cell groups nearby that will be joining in.  It will be good!

The most difficult part was saying good-bye to the children.  Those of you who know us well know that we were missionaries in Riverside, California with Child Evangelism Fellowship© for 11 years.  You know we also served as volunteers with AWANA Clubs in two churches in the Greater Riverside Area.  Children are near and dear to our hearts.  Every week, two of the children pray at church before they collect the offering.  These kids want to serve!  So, we let them!  The church has been a shining example of 1 Timothy 4:12 – “1Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  When the adults started drifting away from the Wednesday evening meal/prayer/Bible study meeting, the children continued to come, learning the Scriptures and growing in their faith.  They continued to share, every single one of them, something they were thankful to God for, every single week.  Two of the older girls – seventh and eighth graders – helped with translation from time to time.  It’s exciting to see how they’ve grown!

Dana “just happened” to be preaching from 1 Timothy 4 yesterday morning.  If you know how Calvary Chapel teaching usually works, the pastor teaches through a book of the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse.  Sometimes a chapter is broken into two or three parts, sometimes two chapters, or more, can be combined. And yesterday it worked out to 1 Timothy 4.  The church, including many of the new members, were charged to continue a focus on the children.  There are not many “second generation” Christians in Thailand.  These children are the first in their families to come to faith.  They are the foundation of continued growth here in Tha Chat Chai.  Pray for them.

The picture I chose to use for this blog was taken at the most difficult part of our day yesterday.  Pastor Levi and most of the adults had gathered around us and prayed for us.  Then the kids.  The hugs.  The tears.

Even if we never make it back to visit Tha Chat Chai, we KNOW we will see our beloved Thai family again.  What a comfort as we end one chapter in our lives and begin the next.