Are you ready?

 

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Here we are: December 16th. Nine days away from Christmas!

“Are you ready?”

I’ve been hearing this question asked at the bank, at my work potluck, in line at the stores…It CRACKS me up!

Christmas comes the same time and date each year. Not like Easter, that one can mess you up. Christmas has been December 25th for about 2000 years. So, it’s not like we weren’t told about it in advance. How come people aren’t ready?

ANTICIPATION

One of the most tantalizing feelings this time of year is the anticipation leading up to this special day. I remember it well as a child.–The inability to get to sleep on December 24th. My heart beating so rapidly as the agonizing wait for 6 am (this was the absolute earliest my parents would allow for us to awake them!) and we had to bring them with us when we went downstairs to find out if all that “being good” in the weeks prior had put us on Santa’s NICE list —

SURPRISE-What did Santa bring you?

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Unfortunately, one of the biggest surprises this time of year is the VOID.

Some face the VOID of celebrating their first (or second, or third…) Christmas without their loved one.

For others there’s the VOID felt in the bank account, leaving nothing for gifts.

Amidst all the beautiful lights, wreath adorned doors, the hustle and bustle and gatherings, there are those for whom this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. 

I’ll never forget the surprise of my very first out of state Christmas working at Phoenix Police Department. I swallowed the lump in my throat after wishing “Merry Christmas” to family and friends far away as I clocked in for my overnight shift working the holiday. I fully expected the night to be filled with bookings from partying: DUI’s and noise violations from all the celebrating…

Surprise!

The most common arrests I saw that night were the domestic violence and family assaults.

Not everyone has a family they enjoy celebrating the holiday with. That Christmas felt like a “Reverse Grinch” moment happened to me as my heart cinched up and threatened to break.

My heart has these moments when I hear a parent threaten their overly rambunctious child, “Christmas is canceled this year!”

My heart breaks every Black Friday when I watch humanity crawl and punch their way to the front line for the door-busting deals.

My heart breaks when I see the VOID left in this world.

The only cure for this heart break and void is the VERY reason why I love this season and this time of the year.

No matter how dysfunctional your family may be, no matter how misbehaved your children are, no matter how empty your bank account is, you have available a reason to celebrate–the same reason the shepherds, three wise men and a young couple with nothing celebrated in a manger  2000 years ago.

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Every year, I picture Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special telling Charlie the TRUE meaning of Christmas:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

He came to heal the brokenhearted.  He fills the void. He is the very reason for the season. So, the real question is:

Are you ready for Him?

 

 

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WEEDS, BOUNTY and THE KILLER OF GREEN

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WEEDS, BOUNTY and THE KILLER OF GREEN

It was/is harvest time (depending on where you are in the world!) and this photo is the actual bounty taken from my gardening. What you see is the evidence of the extreme care, the hard work, the diligent planting, seeding, weeding, watering and toiling over that I did this year for my new garden.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

I was overjoyed over my harvest! I can usually kill anything green just by looking at it! So, it was with trepidation that I even bought seeds, planted them and thought anything besides death would happen.

But the tools of God (sunlight, earth, rains and His power) brought forth fruits (OKAY—vegetables!) from those seeds planted!

I learned so much for next year…

What I didn’t take a picture of is the bounty that I extracted and swore to never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again replant– THE MINT.

For all you gardeners:  laugh all you want, nod knowingly as you read on– and for those who told me—go ahead and say it, “I TOLD YOU TO NEVER PLANT MINT!!”

I learned this the hard way. Three chiropractic visits later, I can sit upright in a chair and write to you about it.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” (Matthew 13:24)

First, for you who are intending on planting a garden—DON’T PLANT MINT (or oregano for that matter!) THEY ACT LIKE WEEDS!

After I harvested my beautiful vegetables, (took about 10 minutes), it was time to deal with the maddening mint (took the rest of the day.)

All plants, save the oregano, were overtaken by the mint. Four seemingly healthy other plants, that had been it’s good neighbors, had perished. Don’t get me wrong, I planned for this (remember—I am the killer of green,) but I couldn’t kill this green mint to save the neighborhood! As I began the removal process, I was nearly overtaken by it myself.

I tugged at stems, just to be pulled down deeper–(Think of the movie Poltergeist, when the tree comes through the window for the boy.) That insidious mint would surface for a bit, then dive down into the garden box, twist around the roots of a good plant, choke it out, root it’s self and then resurface. Like a pool of swimming piranha: up and down, around and through, over and under, until all in its wake is destruction of all other living things (again, except the oregano that held fast.)

As I was battling this beast, I had all but forgotten of the sweet victory of my other bounty.

What started out as a lovely little herb was winning the battle over my joy for the harvest.

And isn’t that how sneaky sin can be in our lives?

It starts out with an innocent thought that can quickly turn into a joy stealing, all encompassing, relationship destroying action.

After I (hopefully!) successfully removed all the mint’s massive amounts of leaves, roots, off shoots and appendages, I turned to the oregano.

I have to hand it to the oregano. Even as it witnessed the devastation of its garden box neighbors and was surrounded in the waves and torrents of mint, it held its ground.

“The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one and the enemy who sows them is the devil…The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:38,41)

The weird thing— it was the oregano that nearly did me in.

We battle against an enemy that came to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10)

Something that we could’ve handled at our full strength, can drop us to our knees and take us out when we aren’t on guard…

After dealing with the multitudes of mint, I should have known the oregano would be challenging.

I began tugging. I mean, there really wasn’t much left in the box for it to hold on to, so it should just lift right on out of that box.

I stood on the side of the garden box, both feet anchored as I put all I had into it. I hung suspended above the earth, holding to nothing but oregano. I groaned and grunted (it works for tennis players, so maybe it would help give me some gusto!)…it wouldn’t budge. I flexed and pushed, got down and tried at all angles.

I nearly gave up. Would it really be that bad to allow the oregano to hang out?

But, hadn’t I had those same thoughts about the mint?

I had to admit I needed help. I turned to the garden tools.

As dusk approached, I shoveled, chopped and dug up that oregano and piled it atop the carcass coffin of mint. I gave my apologies and condolences and went inside to cook up my bounty…and to call the chiropractor.

 “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

For whatever the weed is in your life, there is Help.

What’s Your Worth?

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Envision the Capital One commercial with the Vikings stating, “What’s in your wallet?”–
WHAT’s YOUR WORTH?

Niki Lauda, the former Formula One race car driver from the Ron Howard movie RUSH (a great rivalry movie!) = $100 million

John Wayne = $50 million (Even after he’s dead!)

David Baldacci, the author = $45 million

Gisele Bundchen (the Brazilian model) = $250 million (I picked the wrong career!) *tongue in cheek*

J.K. Rowling, another author = $1 Billion (Okay—Maybe there’s hope!) 😉

Angelina Jolie= $27 million (Even without Brad Pitt!)

Howard Stern and Magic Johnson are tied with $500 million each
(Data gathered from http://www.celebritynetworth.com & Forbes)

A few curious findings:
Pam Anderson and Nicholas Cage= $0 (Apparently some tax issues tangled them up.)
Also mind-blowing to me, the following people all filed for bankruptcy (some more than once) and bounced back from it:
Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds and Henry Ford.
(www.moneyreign.com)

So, the question: What are you worth?

I was 17 and grappling with what college to attend and what to study to obtain this so-called “success.”

So I began questioning people.

“What does it mean to be successful?”

Most people answered by citing a famous person they aspired to be like (such as those above) and all answers described the visuals of success: a four car garage with each bay filled with an Italian performance car, the climbing of the corporate ladder, the growing amount of their investments, the lavish amounts of time off and money to travel, etc.

One person answered different. It stuck with me. I will summarize what this very wise individual said, “Success is different for each person. Mostly, I think it is to dream and achieve those dreams, while living a life that honors God with those dreams.”

This didn’t help me in deciding on my college (Go BUFFS!) or what major to declare (not surprisingly I chose sociology!), but it did help me years later, when I was in jeopardy of losing the career and title I’d worked to obtain.

My identity and value was tightly wrapped around my work and how well I did it. “Ten minutes early is ten minutes late” was one of my mottos. I dressed for a position higher than I was in and always took extra training classes and afterwards submitted reports of what I learned to my superiors. Intense study and exams, several interviews, a detailed background investigation, drug testing, and a polygraph took months before I was hired by the police department. Then the full year of “hands-on” training were required (all on night shift) before I was certified by the State of Arizona. I loved the meticulousness of my position. I felt I made a difference in my work when I became the lead trainer a year later and, when asked, I held my head high as I announced I was a fingerprint identification technician at Scottsdale’s crime lab.

And when my situation changed and this was all in jeopardy of evaporating away, the proverbial rug was ripped out from under me. My talents, skills, daily duties, position, pay check and performance all came crashing down around me. Couple this with some health issues and a loved one diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was spiraling out of control. To say I was on my knees was an understatement.

But sometimes, on our knees is just where we are supposed to be.

I didn’t know where to turn, what to do or how to do it, but I knew I still had dreams. I let go of my need to control, released my need to know and, as those wise words about success echoed forward into my consciousness, I laid my life at the feet of the One who planted those dreams in me and the One who is always in control.

With the recession stripping many of their positions, their homes and their identities, this question of WORTH is on a lot of people’s minds.

What is one life worth?

Is it just about the $$$’s above, or about a title attached or possessions obtained? Or what the person can offer? What if that person is sick or very old? Or, very, very young?

Strip people of their millions, their talents, their titles, power, possessions and what’s left?

Is what’s left a life worth dying for?

Take it ALL away and you find out what you are made of–

“…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

–You are dust.

The loss of these “things” is no small matter. They are big, and deep and wounding things to lose. But we have a God who is bigger, deeper, wider and so much more mind-blowing-ly powerful.

“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”
-Lyrics from Gungor’s “Beautiful Things”

He makes good things from dust.

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6)

God breathes in, taking in the common element of oxygen, and exhales, emitting the stars and galaxies into existence!

And the same God breathes into us.

The same God, regardless of our dusty title, dwindling possessions, meager abilities, lack of talent, unrealized dreams, stripped power or embarrassing net worth, believed we were worth dying for; worthy of sending His Son to die on a cross.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

So the next time you compare yourself to “the Jones’s,” stress out about your pay check, feel hopeless toward job prospects and the slippery success you sought after; remember you are valuable.

In spite of your efforts, regardless of your talents or where you find yourself, your life is worth the death of a King.

LUCKY 13

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October is Breast Cancer/Cancer Awareness month.
Through FaceBook, Carrie Ann Coomes-Kemp shares her story and we’ve seen her “warrior” against breast cancer. Every day.
Saturday, October 5th we lost a friend, Colleen McEahern, to cancer.
Also on Saturday, October 5th, I gulped down tears (and a Coors light in Colleen’s honor,) as the Avett Brothers played Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away” :

“I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain’t got no rain
She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been”

If you have cancer, or if someone you love has it, every second of every day is Cancer Awareness.


She nearly died TWICE “on my watch” on two different trips to Arizona.

Very frightening for a granddaughter to see in her beloved grandmother.

She enjoyed long talks with the Avon lady, days at the hair salon with Desi, gambling at the penny machines “up on the hill” and anything with family.
She loved gifts, butterflies, shoes, the color purple, scary movies, buttered popcorn, chewy brownies, grandpa, angels, Jesus and, did I mention she loved gifts? 8)
Because we loved her so much, we all competed to give her great and creative gifts.

She gave me the very best gift.

Born October 13,1927, she would say, “Thirteen is my lucky number. It’s the day God placed me in this life.”

Before every NFL team wore pink in support of it, before Susan G. Komen made #savetheboobs a communal rally-cry and before every school had a “pink week” to raise money, my grandmother got her first (of several) cancer diagnoses. Aggressive breast cancer at 41 years of age. There was no 5K run in support. Her co-workers didn’t shave their heads to encourage her. This was before people were aware.

She didn’t drive. She carpooled with a “gentleman” to her government job. After she was diagnosed and began her treatments, (that she rode the bus to!), her carpooling partner explained he had to quit taking her to work because he couldn’t risk catching what she had.
This was before reconstructive surgery was “approved.” They took her breast, lymph nodes and so much tissue (including scraping a rib or two) that they developed a bodysuit for her to make her look “normal.” You could say she was the impetus of the original Wonder Bra!–She survived this treatment (from doctors and from co-workers) and persevered through many more cancer diagnoses and treatments. Eleven major surgeries in twenty years.
I never once heard her complain. Not even when she lost every single strand of her hair (which happened with Desi at the hair salon.) My grandmother fixed her jaw and stood strong while she watched as Desi wept.

Lucky 13?

The letter is green and hand addressed to me in Arizona and bears her characteristic, barely decipherable, chicken-scratch lettering. It is written on paper embossed with butterflies:
“…The rooms were great and I won just enough so that I didn’t have to spend a lot. Eleanor took $650.00 and I had $450.00. We didn’t want to carry that much in our billfolds so we devised a scheme. We hid it all in my fake boob behind and under my fake silicone boob. Eleanor called it our boob safe. I had a nice birthday and your mom cooked a great dinner for us as usual…”

She gained strength through every trial. She was an over-comer and had such humor about life.

I am 22 and we are in a red velvet lounger at a buffet in Las Vegas enjoying some special grandma/granddaughter time. I asked her how she could be so strong.
She said, “Your grandpa and I have seen so many of our friends and family die, we know each day here is a gift.”

Just after we nearly lost her in Arizona, they released her into my care so she could gain strength to return to Denver. She slept in my bed while I slept on the air mattress and brought her soups and cheese and crackers. We played cards and talked about life.
I had to know, “Did you see the light?”
She smiled. She said she knew where she was going. She was at peace. She soon would be with the Lord, but she remained because my mom and uncle weren’t ready.
She passed away shortly after her return to Denver.
She shared her attitude with all who would listen for 74 years before she “slip slided away.”
It was my grandmother’s “gift of gab” that endeared her to so many (and it was what drove us a little crazy.) One time I counted; she told me the same story FIVE times!
I would give all I own to have her back now and to hear one of her stories. But I know, deep in my bones, because of her faith, that where she is–sickness, sorrow and pain no longer pursue her. She is in the Lord’s presence.

What a gift.

An article from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association addresses this very thing, “Heaven is the place of perfect happiness — and one of its greatest joys will be our reunion with those who have gone there before us. God loves us, and He won’t withhold that joy from us!” (from BillyGraham.org)

“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away”

The next time someone you love is driving you a “little batty”—remember it’s these little things that make them so endearing; so treasured and so unique when they are gone.

Because of the free gift of grace offered in Jesus Christ, I know that one day I will be able to laugh with my grandma and hear her stories for all eternity.

Pretty darn lucky.

In loving memory of Nancy Sterkel 10/13/27-4/30/01

And in honor of all the Valiant Warriors who have and who are battling cancer.

AUTHENTICITY – Part 1

Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth-So…Help Me GOD!

CENTRAL PARK

CENTRAL PARK

You’ve heard it. You know it from courts of law, swearing on the Holy Bible in a country where Christianity and beliefs get blurred and kicked out of any public or political place.
What do you believe?
WARNING: This blog post contains some harsh truths
JOHN 8:32—“Then you will know the Truth, and the truth will set you free.”
My friend and neighbor, Heidi Rosner, (and the artist behind the cover of my first novel “grace,”) sent the above picture from her most recent visit to Central Park. Her text said: “Looks a lot like your cover?!”
I was stunned. It really did look a lot like my cover. As writers, we are continually on the quest for authenticity. The cover that I created in my mind’s eye—morphing the Applegate River with the events in my book; calling the river in the book The Rogue River, adding a bench and a bridge…totally unique. I was searching for an authentic cover (which is why I had it created instead of using one of the publisher provided images).
What Heidi created with her translation of my descriptions and desires for the painting truly blew my mind. She has authentic talent: morphing water, brushes, color and a two dimensional surface into depth, beauty and captivating emotion that brushes the soul with magic.
Then it hit me—Like the ugly truth—words from Dr. Jared Aragona the instructor from my most recent writing course at SCC, “There are no new ideas. There are archetypes that are generally appealing and re-used in new ways. You will not come up with something that has never been thought of or already created.”
This mirrored a truth I have found in movie productions. There are usually two movies released close together; two competing studios trying to capture your attention and your dollars. Think about it–Remember “Stir of Echoes” and “The Sixth Sense?”—Two very similar movies released within weeks of each other and both embodying quite similar stories. Or, how about “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist?” and “Wyatt Earp” vs. “Tombstone.” More recently, although I didn’t see either of these (nor do I think I need to) “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached.” These are just a smattering of genres and types but the list goes on and on, seemingly proving Dr. Aragona right—no new ideas.
Gloria Steinem—“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
It was like the first time I heard the awful truth of Santa Claus. My older sister and I huddled in the living room after asking the hard question—our parents huddled in the kitchen, awaiting our answer.
My sister in a hushed whisper, “We need to know! All those nights we spent waiting for him? They said they would tell us the truth.”
I was too young to really get what my sister and parents were talking about, but I felt the foreboding in my gut. Truly, though young, I already knew the universal truth that, indeed—Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t want to know, but I wanted to be brave like my big sister.
We squared our tiny shoulders and approached the kitchen. I love how my parents handled it—my sister, driven for the truth gave them our answer—we deserved the truth. She folded her arms across her night gowned chest and lips quivered slightly with the words, “We want the truth.”
“First understand that, no matter what we tell you, there is still magic in Christmas — if you believe. It is more about belief than the truth…The truth is — there is not a Santa Claus. Also, the truth is—if you don’t believe—there just might not be the magic…or the presents.”
I saw my out, “I will believe! I believe!”
Fast forward–back to truths and authenticity—is this a myth? An unachievable platform that people somehow grasp at but it slips by them as they await up late at night, trying to stave off the sleep-laden eyelids long enough to get that glimpse of it? Does what one believe even matter?
I believe there are fakes and forgers; you can’t work in my profession at the police department and not see this truth. But there is also the scientific truth that no two fingerprints are the same—Each of your ten fingers’ prints are unique and different, and these are different that anyone else’s ten fingers, and those are different that anyone else’s created, EVER.
“We are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)
As I studied the photo of Central Park and thought about the creation of “The River” by Heidi, I was struck with another truth—Beauty is beauty. Beauty is true and we are simply God’s unique creations trying to interpret, translate and relay His beauty. Truth is, even these ideas I was “stumbling across” were not new. As I studied this phenomenon in these two pictures, pondered the duplication of movies, and thought on my beliefs, I also came upon these words—

“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” Piet Mondrian
“The music of this opera was dictated to me by God; I was merely instrumental in putting it on paper and communicating it to the public.” (About Madame Butterfly) –Giacomo Puccini
“It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God.” Mary Daly
So, God helped me. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but…
And, indeed, it is free.

DIVINE IN THE DESERT

THE DIVINE IN THE DESERT

I have a friend who hates the desert—it’s extreme temperatures, the unfriendly cactus, trees with hidden thorns and landscape filled with animals and bugs that makes you go–”Hmmm?—What was God thinking when He created the hairy, snouted, smelly javelina (a.k.a. the skunk pig)? Or those seemingly death-defying, flying, hissing cockroaches?”

I have heard several unhappy desert dwellers say, “There are two colors in the desert—brown and blue.”

And when my flip-flops nearly melted as I walked across the parking lot the summer when temperatures approached 120 degrees—I get it.

Being from Colorado, I am used to beauty. The Rocky Mountains, soaring bald eagles, the four seasons that create and renew the landscape every year—I respond to Dumb and Dumber –“John Denver isn’t full of sh@*?”

However, after nearly 30 years there, with its eight months of winter, my new reply is, “You can’t shovel sunshine!”

“He holds in his hands the depth of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.” (Psalm 95:4)

The desert is different. I am in awe of the extreme beauty in the desert; rugged and rough. Take, for example, the jumping cholla that shoots out spiny chunks of itself to ward off predators when triggered by vibrations. A plant with a self-defense plan against a smelly javelina or a burrowing bird?! Wow.

Right now in the desert, the “winter rains” have filled the desert landscape with a rainbow of colors. When I go out running, I witness blooms covering and spilling off of those thorny trees, callous cactus and barbed bushes bright with blossoms in every shade of the rainbow.

When I studied nutrition and holistic health, I learned that a plethora of these desert plants are components of many natural remedies. It would turn out that, living in these rugged extremes actually creates healing properties in the organism. Western medicine and science often attempt to chemically reproduce the healing capacities of these plants. 

Remedies are often found in the most unlikely…

When I moved to Arizona from Colorado, I remember driving down HWY 87.  Alongside the road, lined up in formation, stood a multitude of the cactus most associated with the Sonoran Desert–the saguaro. I later found out these massive structures are protected by law. Crews working to expand and repair the highway couldn’t just remove these prickly plants but had to ensure their survival.  If a person is found cutting one down or harming it, it is a felony offense.

According to Wikipedia, this special species of cactus are only found a few places in the nation and the Sonoran Desert boasts the most and the largest saguaro in the nation measuring at an impressive 45 ft high and with 10 feet across.

To survive the extreme desert conditions, this plant has adapted a system of survival. When it rains, it absorbs and sucks up into its body and woody internal system as much moisture as possible.  The saguaro swells and expands and stores away its life blood. It had learned from the desert droughts. As it swells and stores, it also blooms with its reproductive flowers and will often house the desert dwelling springtime birds.

The saguaro seems to understand life’s extremes; the droughts and the downpours. Because it takes nearly 100 years for a saguaro to grow an arm, when you see the portraits of the standard saguaro, with its two arms reaching out and up, stretching toward the sky, these giants have stood the test of time. With or without their legal protection, they not only survive, but these kings of the desert thrive in the parched, rugged environment.

And when the landscape around these dwellers is changed over time, sometimes (like the photo) they get by with a little help.

I think we have much to learn from this God-given example whose life-span nearly mimics ours. As we experience the extremes of life, suck up the goodness, it will be your lifeblood when the droughts come. As the landscape of our lives change, we will be protected. Our God is ever-present and He might just send help, cleverly disguised in the form of a friend, to support us when we have been shaken through to our very core. But the best example is, through the storms and the extremes, as we thrive and adapt and grow, let our own arms reach out and up and praise the very One that provides us with everything we need.

 

“Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being.” (Psalm 148:5)

FEAR

FEAR

I sleep on my left side. When I was a kid, I heard that vampires only bite on the left side of your neck. So when I lay down at night, I trained myself in this habit of curling upon that side, sometimes stuffing covers and pillow around me for even more “protection.” I never took it so far as to hang the garlic wreath or anything with holy water or a crucifix, but you can bet that is where I started the nighttime habit of praying the “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake…” Sound familiar?
One of my favorite books of all time is called, “The Monster at the end of this Book.” It is a real page turner (all twelve pages!) The original horror book – probably what started me liking Stephen King. When I was a kid, my mom would read it to me and I would keep requesting it. Night after night. My mom is the most patient woman I know. Night after night, after night, she would tell the tale. She laughs as she recounts those readings; even though she’d done it over a hundred times, I still acted like I didn’t know who the monster was at the end of the book (and she never gave it away.) I would start listening in bed, tucked in and curled up on my left side and about half-way through, I would be at the edge of my bed, hanging on every word, willing her to NOT turn that page for it would bring that monster one page closer!
SPOILER ALERT!!! The monster at the end, the very one he was fearing, turns out to be lovable, furry, little, blue Grover himself!
Besides loving a good story, what was it that kept me requesting that one?
The old saying “hindsight is 20/20” comes into play here. Wouldn’t it be great if we all knew how things turn out? Would it make the ups and downs of life more fun knowing it all turns out okay in the end? Or is it just in the things we fear that makes us want to know the ending?

Figures from 2007 state that Americans spend more than $300 million a year on psychic hotlines alone. There are people who don’t do anything without consulting a psychic. The image I have of someone calling a hotline before they get out of bed, plan their day, order off the menu, apply for that job, go on that interview, accept that date or marry that spouse, isn’t an image of someone enjoying the crazy ride of life. Rather, it evokes an image of someone living in constant fear.

GAD – or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, phobias, fears that I cannot even pronounce, and with new terms popping up every day for all the new disorders and all the new medications for those disorders – it would seem this is a society-wide phenomenon.

When I was studying Natural Medicine, I remember reading about breathing. How deep breathing can calm the nervous system. How people under extreme duress and stress forget to breathe deep and that the lungs, the lower part that expands in deep breathing, actually atrophies and dies in those who don’t breathe deep.

I am not immune to fears, nor do I think I have it all figured out. Yet, as I have grown and learned from my hindsight, I find rest in a new place. As I face fears, whether they be real fears– seeing the solemn face of your doctor as he or she tells of the latest test results, or false fears – lying sleepless in bed on your left side, tucking in the covers a little tighter to ward off vampires – I trust that no matter what I face, I have a God who understands; a God who is with me – The 23rd Psalm reminds us that “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”

I love how Joel Osteen’s “The Hope Bible” states Romans 8:38, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

No doctors with their test results, no vampires with their fangs. Nothing can separate us from this love. NOTHING.

1 John 4:17-18 tells us “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.”

All fear is gone; nothing separating you from a God who loves you.

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

No psychic needed. The end is known. Embrace God’s love – taking in a full deep breath – facing what it is you fear and enjoying the crazy ride that this world and life bring you!