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.”

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Living Boldly: Fear for Your Personal Well-being

personal-safety

The Twelve Spies

A synopsis of Numbers 13:1-7, 17-24

After crossing the desert on their way from Egypt to Canaan, the land that God had promised Abraham their ancestor, the Hebrews, under the guidance of Moses, were ready to enter the land.  God instructed Moses to send spies to check out the land.  One man from each of the twelve tribes was chosen to go in.  All twelve returned telling of a land flowing with milk and honey and they brought back huge clusters of grapes.  But ten of the twelve included reports of huge giants in the land, men so large that the Hebrews seemed like grasshoppers, and as a result, fear for everyone’s personal safety and well-being was sown that day.

The Rich Young Ruler

A synopsis of Mark 10:17-30

 A man approached Jesus one day.  This man asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life with God forever in Heaven.  Jesus reminded him of the Ten Commandments, to which this man replied that he had kept them all, from the time he was a youth.  Then Jesus instructed him to sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor.  Disheartened, the man went away because he had so many possessions.

 

We, too can have a fear that others will physically hurt us.  Those spies believed that the giants in Canaan, the land that God had promised them, were going to slaughter them.  We can often feel the same way.

In 1990, I had such a fear.  We were new missionaries at the time, and there was an area of town known for its gangs and was considered a very unsafe area.  I had a horrendous fear that someone would want me to go teach a Good News Club© in that area.  I had three children of my own that would go with me.  I feared for our physical safety.  What was I to do?  Well, back I went to 2 Timothy 1:7.  If someone wanted me to teach a club in that area, then God would provide the protection we would need to get it done.  By the way, I was never asked to teach a club in that area.  I was just borrowing trouble!  Matthew 6:34 is very appropriate for this too: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

We might fear we will not have enough resources for the present or the future.  This is how the rich young ruler must have felt.  Fearful that, if he gave all he had to the poor, he wouldn’t have enough to eat, a place to stay, clothes to wear.  I felt that way as we prepared to enter full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in 1989, and again as we prepared to leave for missionary work in Thailand in 2006.  And, yet again, this fear rears its ugly head as I begin considering repatriation to the States.

I’ve already shared the first story, about preparing to serve with Child Evangelism Fellowship.  Seventeen years later, I had a well-paying teaching job.  I was teaching middle school science.  Most of the time I loved my work.  The times I didn’t love it was when the middle schoolers behaved poorly and wore me out.  Outside of my student loan and our mortgage, we were debt free.  I loved our church and the people in it.  I especially loved singing in a top-notch choir.  But on December 26, 2004, the Boxing Day Tsunami struck throughout the Indian Ocean region and my husband went to assist with relief.  He came back home with a heavy burden for Thailand.  The end result was heading to Thailand on August 6, 2006 to minister to the Thai who had been affected by the Tsunami.

My husband and I, then in our late 40s, had finally begun to contribute to retirement accounts about two years previously.  That would end when I left my teaching position, leaving us to depend on the floundering U.S. Social Security system for our retirement income – and God!  We thought our son and his family would live in our home, paying the mortgage, but after a year, that wasn’t working out for them.  We lost the house and all the equity in it.  Then the “what ifs” began again:

What if, when we repatriate, we don’t have a place to live?

What if, when we retire, we don’t have enough to pay our bills and still eat?

What if? What if? What if?

Now, as we are entering our 60s, these “what ifs” jump to the front of my mind again. BUT GOD has promised in Mathew 6:33, 34 that, if I will but seek Him first, He WILL provide all our needs.  I don’t have to fear for the future if I am fully following Him.

We sometimes fear that we might get hurt if we do one thing or another.  Sometimes being a homemaker can cause me to fear for my physical safety.

What if I fall off the step ladder while changing the light bulb or painting the wall or hanging the picture?

What if the oil pops and burns me while I’m cooking a meal?

What if the 220V electric zaps me when I plug in or unplug the toaster?

Growing up in the U.S. with 110V electricity flowing through the general house wiring, we were taught to greatly fear the 220V electricity that powers electric stoves and ovens, electric clothes dryers, and air conditioners.  If we needed to unplug such an appliance, we’d not only turn off that particular circuit breaker, but probably the main breaker to the whole house.

Living overseas, I’ve had to give up that fear.  Can you imagine cutting the power every time you plug in and unplug the toaster?  Remember, power to the wifi router would also be cut, along with the power to the alarm clock and all those appliances with clocks, such as the microwave and DVD player.  You get the idea.  And again, cutting the power to plug in and unplug the blow dryer, the curling iron, the phone charger, the power supply to the laptop, the iron . . . the list can go on and on.  And the inconvenience is not only to you, but to your whole household.  This particular fear of personal hurt could be quite debilitating.

You might ask if people really live in fear of these daily uses of electricity.  The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”  Come live where I live and observe how people live in my neighborhood.  It seems to be either total fear of or total disregard for the 220V electricity.

We sometimes fear that we might get sick if we do, or don’t do, something.

“Germaphobia” (not used here as a medical diagnosis) is rampant in the U.S.  I see it more now that I’ve lived and not just visited overseas.  It seems as if every cleaning product is anti-bacterial and anti-microbial.  Kitchen counters are bleached in one way or another multiple times a day.  The same goes for every bathroom fixture.  Hard flooring is disinfected daily.  Many little children are disallowed from playing outside in the grass and dirt and mud most of the time.  If they do get to play on the grass, Mom is there with a pack of disinfectant wipes scrubbing their hands and faces every fifteen minutes or so.  Then comes the time for the child to enter kindergarten.

As a former kindergarten teacher, I can share my personal experience.  This is not a scientifically controlled study, just my personal observation.  I observed two basic types of student health in kindergarteners:  Those with the occasional sniffles and little to no fever, and those who were absent from school much of the time.  It was the children who often played in the grass, dirt, and mud who missed less school!  Why?  It is my understanding that they had been exposed to germs little by little and had built up personal immunity over time.

As adults, I see a similar phenomenon.  Teams will come to assist us in ministry here.  They come with multiple packs of disinfectant wipes.  They brush their teeth with bottled water.  They insist on expensive little bottles of (sometimes imported) drinking water.  They must be wondering if the large, very inexpensive, bottles of purified water have been purified enough.  They refuse to enjoy ice in their drinks, and refuse uncooked vegetables and fruit.  Some places this is necessary.  Where we serve, it is not.  The one piece of advice we give them – wear mosquito repellant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is totally disregarded.  Where we are, the problem is not malaria, although many will take daily anti-malaria pills; the problem is the four strains of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever which is carried by the aedes aegypti mosquito.  That same mosquito carries Yellow Fever (not a problem here) and the Zika virus.

So, what are we to do?

Recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Second, look back at 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  (KJV) Focus on the term “sound mind.”

Third, I think we need to examine these particular fears.  There may be things we can do to prevent some of this.

Has God enabled me to save a reasonable amount for my retirement?  By all means, do it.

Make sure that step-ladder is fully open and stable before climbing on it to change a light bulb or hang a picture.

Plug things in properly, with dry hands, and unplug properly, with dry hands and not yanking on the cord.

Wash your hands properly when you should be.  Wipe down the counters and keep the bathroom clean.  Sweep and mop your floors regularly.

When traveling, especially overseas, research what is truly needful, and when locals strongly advise something, follow their suggestions.

Remember that “sound mind” that God has given you?  Use it.  Then, don’t live in fear.

 

Photo snitched from http://www.theonlinemom.com/best-apps-personal-safety/

Living Boldly: Fear of Others

fear-of-others

Fear of Others

Moses’ Call

a synopsis of Exodus 2:11-3:22; 4:10-17

 

Moses, a Hebrew man who had been miraculously spared from slaughter by the Pharaoh when he was an infant, grew up in Pharaoh’s household.  He knew that he was a Hebrew who had been rescued and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, and when he saw that a Hebrew slave was being beaten by an Egyptian, he became angry and killed that Egyptian.  He thought no one had seen him, but the next day saw two Hebrews struggling.  He asked why they would strike their companion.  The one was quite bold, asking who did Moses think he was? Was he going to kill him too, just as he had killed the Egyptian the day before?  It wasn’t long before Pharaoh heard of it and set out to kill Moses, his adopted grandson.  So, Moses left Pharaoh’s court and went to the desert land of Midian.  There he met his wife and began a family.

Forty years later the Pharaoh, and the burden upon the Hebrew slaves became far greater than it had been before.  They cried out to God for deliverance.  And God had a plan.

God spoke to Moses as he was leading his flock in the wilderness.  God told Moses that he had seen the affliction of the Hebrews in Egypt, and was going to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and take them to their promised land, the land that He had given to Abraham long, long before.  He told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand the release of the Hebrew slaves.

Moses made excuse after excuse to God, giving Him reasons why he shouldn’t be the one to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  First, he replied that he was no one special; why would Pharaoh listen to him?  My guess is that he was afraid to have an audience with Pharaoh because of the Egyptians he had killed all those decades ago.

Then he was afraid that the people of Israel would not believe that God had truly sent him to deliver them.  Probably intertwined with this was the fear of being mocked for his position.

Then he was afraid of his ability to speak.  Maybe he had a speech impediment.  Even after God promised to be right there by him, he still begged for someone else to be given the task.  So, God gave Moses his brother, Aaron, to be his spokesman.

Moses’ fear kept him from fully experiencing the amazing plan that God wanted to work through him.

We can have some of these same fears today.  We think, we might even know, others are smarter than we are. We fear we will perceived as stupid. But if God has called us to a task, we must realize that we know and understand things in unique ways that can help others.

We can be afraid that others have more wealth than we do, which in the eyes of many, seem to give them a greater level of credibility.  That’s always been something in our lives.  Most people in the States have far more wealth than we do.

We can be fearful that our skill set is not great enough, that others have better abilities than we do.  We don’t want to appear incompetent.  But we have skills that others don’t.  And, if we are following God’s call on our lives, He will provide for the deficiencies.

But what is the underlying fear of these three things?  It is the fear of what others will think of us.  This is probably the most debilitating fear in this category.  I don’t want to be looked down upon because I said or did something that someone considers inappropriate.  So I just don’t do anything.  This is not procrastination; this is debilitating fear.  On a personal note, this is a fear I must fight as I pursue this project of writing about fear and overcoming it.

So, what is to be done?

First, recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Then I must overcome that fear, the most difficult part of this process.  What is a Scripture passage that can help me overcome the fear of what others and what they think of me?

In 2 Timothy 1:3-7, the Apostle Paul reminded Timothy of his faith, his God-given gifts, and the calling God had placed on his life. Paul exhorted Timothy to stir these things up, to use them boldly.  And then in verse 7, Paul reminds Timothy that, “. . . God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (ESV).  The King James Version of the Bible uses “a sound mind” in the place of “self-control.”

It is, in that simple verse, the reminder that, as I live in faith, exercise my God-given gifts, and walk in the calling God has placed on my life, any fear I experience does NOT come from God.  I shouldn’t live in that fear.  I must press on and fulfill the calling God has on my life.  Is it easy? Not usually!  Nevertheless, God calls me to press on.

Note: Image from http://www.quick-good-fortune.com/Stress-Relief-Solution-to-Difficult-Situations.html

 

Living Boldly: Fear of the Unknown

fear-of-the-unknown

Abraham Called to Leave Ur of the Chaldees

a synopsis of Genesis 12:1-9

When Abraham was 75 years old, God called him to leave his home in Haran and go to a place that God himself would show him.  If he did so, God promised him that he would make a great nation of him and would bless him and would bless those who would bless Abraham himself.  So, he gathered up his wife, Sarah, his nephew, Lot, and everything that they had acquired in Haran along with their servants and their families, and headed out to the land of Canaan.  When they got to a certain oak tree in Shechem, the Lord appeared to him once again and promised him and his offspring the land there.

God called Abraham to leave everything he knew and move to an unknown (to Abraham) location.  Even though God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, I know from other accounts about Abraham that he was probably fearful, at least at first.  But, as we read in verse 4, Abraham obeyed, taking his wife, his nephew, his servants, and his possessions and set out on this grand adventure.  He didn’t know where he was going, when he was going to arrive there, who was in the area he was moving to, what the land looked like.  It was a total unknown.  Yet, any fear he had was overcome and in faith he moved forward.

Sometimes God may call us to leave all that we know and move elsewhere, not knowing all the details of the move.  This happened to us when God called us as full-time missionaries.  But there are other unknowns we face far more often.

The fear brought about by serious illness is one.  Not knowing what the illness is, not knowing what treatment is best, not knowing how long it will last.

The fear of attending a new school or university or church.  Yes, heading into a new place with unknown people and an unknown culture.  Every institution has its own culture, so there will be adjustments in order to adapt to each new environment.  Often, we don’t know what those adjustments will be.

The fear of a new job or volunteer position is very real.  Once again, we don’t know the people, the culture of the organization, and we usually don’t know all the particulars of the position.  This can cause a lot of fear.

The fear after unexpectedly losing a job: how will I pay my bills? How can I live? What job will I find next?  Frequently we have no idea where we will go next, how we will generate income.

The fear of a new neighborhood, new people and their pets.  Sometimes this is mixed in with the excitement of the move, and only becomes apparent when it seems hard to “settle into” a new place.

There are so many other unknowns that we can fear.  So, what are we to do?

First, we need to recognize fear for what it is: fear.

Second, we must acknowledge that not knowing what is happening or what will be happening is going to happen whether we like it or not.

Third, we need to overcome that fear.  This is often the most difficult part of the process.  One of the best ways I know to do that, and what has worked for me in the past, is to memorize and recite a Bible verse or passage that particularly relates to that particular unknown.

Here is an example from my own life:  I was very fearful when we entered full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in August of 1989.  My husband was leaving a 10-year tenure at Pacific Bell telephone company, where we had adequate salary, full medical, dental and optical insurance, and a good retirement plan in the works.  Now we would be paying the bills from the generous gifts of friends, family, and churches that believed in what we were doing and that also believed we were the ones to do it.  We were going to have the income cut by 60%, have to pick up self-employment taxes, and not have any benefits such as insurance and retirement plans.  What passage of Scripture did I learn and cling to during this transition?  Matthew 6:25-34.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)

God built it into my life through this passage that, as long as I was pursuing what He called me to do – seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – then everything I needed – food, clothing, and I was so bold as to add in shelter and the tools to perform the work He had called me to do – would be provided for me in one way or another.

One other thing, too.  I learned to pray like I had never prayed before, trusting God to meet my needs and those of my husband and children.  I learned what the father of the boy possessed by a demon cried out to Jesus in Mark 9:24 –

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (ESV)

So many times I asked the Father to help me believe more; build my faith strong.  And He was faithful, answering the cry of this wife and mother as she traveled through this unknown territory.

So, to sum things up, we must identify fear as fear, acknowledge it exists in our life, then overcome that fear with an appropriate passage of Scripture to memorize and meditate upon, and with vibrant prayer.

Share some of your “Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown” stories.  I’d LOVE to read them and see how God worked in your life.  Share some of your “Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown” verses, verses that spoke into your heart and life.

 

Visual from http://www.ics.com/blog/planning-unknown-unknowns