A Faith in Fear Alone

Blog_Faith in Fear AloneFear is the thing holding humanity back from transforming the earth into a place centered around love. Fear is the most powerful force apart from love. In a world bombarded with fear it is easy to allow fear to run our daily lives without even recognizing we are doing so. “I put my faith in Jesus alone,” is a statement Christians often make and I think a large majority of them genuinely believe they do. Faith is not simply belief though. It is in waking up to the fact that if our life is driven by fear, no matter what we intellectually claim to believe, it will be insufficient as a means of moving forward towards something better.

From early on in our lives we begin to adopt fears that over time slowly change our behaviors so we can better avoid our fears. We are abused by a person who was supposed to love us…We fear being hurt again…We lose our ability to trust. We lose a loved one to death or divorce…We blame ourselves…We push people away. We fail…We fear not being good enough…We don’t dare to venture outside our comfort zone. This list arises because of people, events, and past memories and covers a small fraction of the things that could be on this list. There is another dimension to our fears though.

Society thrives off of fear. Without fear-based marketing, public relations campaigns, and advertising, corporations wouldn’t be the center of wealth and power in our culture; in fact, I would contend they likely wouldn’t exist at all. Day in and day out we are bombarded with messages that tell us over and over again, “You are not good enough.” Our bodies are lacking in every way imaginable. Our clothes are no longer in fashion. Our houses are too small. Our families are not ‘put together’ compared to the rest. Our marriages don’t involve constant sex, void of arguments or painful struggles. Our kids aren’t in the best school…aren’t involved in enough activities…or don’t measure up in their academics. Our jobs aren’t prestigious enough. Our neighborhoods aren’t safe. Our world is on the verge of an apocalyptic catastrophe. (Of course, the kind of catastrophe depends on what the media has chosen to splash over their 24-hour-a-day running fear-casts.)

Fear cannot be avoided. It is instilled in us at far too young an age and reaffirmed millions of times a day through media, entertainment, and corporate america. This unavoidable force is not—cannot be—the final answer. Fear will not be the ultimate victor, because its component crushes fear simply by showing up on the scene. The journey to conquer fear in love cannot be a passive one. Conscious strides to identify, call out, and push against the fears that bind us is of utmost necessity.

Looking back on my own life I can identify the very moment at which my greatest fear was realized. I was in my mid-20’s. I had battled drug addiction, a myriad of unhealthy and abusive relationships—which at the time I was still battling against. During this period in my life, I was fond of berating myself in front of a mirror. It felt more fulfilling, as if I could feel more deeply the punishment in which I was afflicting on myself. “No one will ever love you. You don’t deserve to be loved.” For whatever reason, on that day as I looked in the mirror, I was overcome by something I had never recognized before—the thing I had been perpetuating within me all these years was a lie. If it was only found in God alone, I was worthy of love–we are all worthy of love. God is never disappointed in us. God will never reject us. His love is all encompassing. His love is unconditional. And His love is this way, because He cannot be any other way, because HE IS LOVE.

And it is love—this agape love—which Jesus has given us the power in finishing what he began by eradicate fear once and for all.

Within each of us there is both a fear and a possible freedom from that fear. Maybe you can already name your fear/s. Maybe you need to ask yourself what is truly driving your daily actions and life. We must gain understanding about ourselves, in order to use that knowledge going forward. Identify the fear. Label it as a lie (no matter how difficult it may seem). Then start taking notice of when that feeling of fear rears its ugly head. Call it stupid, evil, and unwelcome. Replace it with the exact opposite thought, which can only be one of love. And then prepare yourself to lather, rinse, repeat this process on a daily basis (on some days an hourly basis), because until an agape-centered unity is established among humanity our battles with fear will continue. This is not reason to lose hope! It is the very best reason to stand strong on the side of victory and commit to living out a reality that displays a faith in love alone.

The remedy for fear is love …. Fear is a slow, solidified energy that needs to be unwound with love.” Michael Harrington 

I Am No Longer A Machine

I realized something today as I was standing in front of my oven, carefully placing eight dinosaur chicken nuggets in a row on a pan.   Both my children were at the kitchen table, happily playing with crayons and blocks.  It was almost noon on a Monday.  It was at this moment it dawned on me that I am no longer a machine.

See as I was standing there, joy in my heart, gazing over their work – encouraging them, helping them, laughing with them – I felt a pang in my stomach.  A knot of anxiety jabbed me deep in my gut.  I knew what it was telling me, why it had graced me with it’s disgusting presence.  I wasn’t producing anything for it.  I wasn’t doing anything that could be formulated into a spreadsheet to display my progress or lack thereof.

At a previous corporate position I held, we had “Our Numbers”.  Or at least, that is what we called them in our department.  I’m certain this report had an official name, something like quarterly summery progress report, I suppose.  To the people in my department though, it was the still small voice in the part of our brains – not stemming from the Spirit – but stemming from Corporate America.  It was the voice that reminded us time is money.  It reminded us that we were nothing more than the production we put out.  It reminded us that in order to get a raise, which on a good year would equal half of the cost of living increase, was determined by the outcome of “Our Numbers”.

There is joy in hard work, company loyalty, and work ethic – all of which I like to think I possess.  There is also a time for simply living in the moment.  We were not built to be machines.  We were built to create, procreate, and honor the earth we were given.

I spent almost 45 minutes with Isaac this morning doing two things; trying to get him to say “shoe” and playfully helping him pull his shoe on his foot.  I spent 45 minutes with my child in which the worth of my time could not be determined.  I spent 45 minutes in which I did not produce and no client could be billed for my time.  Isaac will likely not be putting shoes on by himself anytime soon. And when he does say “shoe”, it could have been the exact same day he would have learned this word if I had not spent those 45 minutes working with him on it.

My worth is no longer determined by my production.  It is not determined by numbers, graphs, or progress reports.  My worth, in my home, with my children, is the level at which I am able to love them … a worth that cannot be broken down and analyzed.  The deep longing I have always had to stay at home with my children, is to be given the opportunity to simply love on them more hours of the day.  I am here to love them.  Nothing I do, or don’t do, short of loving them is going to change that.

I am no longer a machine … and this will take some getting used to.

Why Reality TV is Getting ‘Left Behind’

As I begin to dig into my study of what will be worthy of eternal continuation in the new Earth I have come to realize I’m likely going to ruffle some feathers in this series, possible even offend.  The things that, at their core, are the most detrimental to the way we are living are often the things that: 1) We don’t discuss at all, such as sex slavery and porn addiction, and 2) We discuss constantly without truly thinking about any subsequent ramifications.  I think today’s topic falls into the second category.

There is a theory of human communication labeled symbolic convergence.  This theory states that when a group of people share in some form of discourse a type of group fantasy emerges.  The theory goes much deeper into what symbols, of that fantasy, are then formed, but I think the theory can be useful when we take a look at our desire, as a nation, to be manipulated by reality TV.  What is it about reality TV that draws us in?  Why is it dangerous to our life?  And how are we victim’s to the propaganda machine that is mass media?

I have known the desire to be attracted to these shows.  I have been a faithful follower, in the past, of more then I would like to admit.  So I think I have a fair understanding of the appeal, as well as their the soul sucking capabilities.  If we look back fifteen or twenty years we can see where these shows took root: Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous, Cribs, and The Real World.  Although, not unheard of before 1990, they didn’t hold the same concept or appeal.  This monumental shift in what we view on TV is startling and worth some thought.

One of the most bothersome aspects for me is in the name itself …. “real”.  As viewers, we become involved in these ‘real’ peoples lives, we discuss the nature of their dramas and lifestyles, and we begin to view it as an actual part of society.  The problem is there is nothing ‘real’ about reality TV.  The people are want-to-be actors, or Hollywood nobodies looking to create a name for themselves.  The shows are scripted, far too much of what they ‘have’ is paid for, and the drama is caused by careful personality placement.  And even if that is all true what is the harm?  It is entertaining, after all.

When we begin to let the idea that these are real people, living in the same society as we are, we slowly start to undertake the notion that these fictions hold true in real life.

Peter Rollins is quoted as telling us that “Many of us would agree that having a better car, a nice home, or more possessions will not really make us happier. We are all able to concur that such things are not worth giving too much attention to and that we should not let our relationships suffer in order to achieve them. The problem, however, is that we often walk away from such conversations and act as if we do believe that they will make us happier and that making our relationships suffer in the pursuit of them is worth it. While we are very quick to say we do not believe, we continue to act as if we do.”

When we allow this into our lives, we are giving it permission to change our beliefs.  Your beliefs, after all, are only as good as the actions they live up to.  Watching reality TV which prides itself on fame, greed, casual sex, degrading women, stupidity for the sake of comedy, worth only through possessions, and self image we cannot expect that, after a given amount of time, these ‘values’ will impact who we are.  Add to that the conversations we have with our friends, family, and co-workers on the same subject and we find that those symbols I spoke of before will begin to form; we will let other’s reassurance of the worth and reality of these fictions to be our excuse to not look deeper.

There is so much more I could say on this, but I’m going to have to stop at some point.  I do think it is important to recognize the reasoning we continue to see these types of shows at such a fast rate.  Producers aren’t making these shows because, as a nation we like them more than any other given TV; rather, they produce them because the actors are paid next to nothing, no set is needed, and they cost little to make.

So am I suggesting we all turn off the TV, since that would be the only solution to rid ourselves of reality TV?  Do I think there are people that can’t watch a limited amount of these shows and still have a grasp on what is true and untrue?  Do I think they are all worthless and without morals? I don’t think there is one right answer for these questions that will make sense for every person.  What I do know is that reality TV won’t be part of this Earth 2.0 we are waiting on, the lies alone remove it from the running.  And if it won’t be part of what is to come, the chances are it isn’t a worthy of our time now.  At best we are missing something better, at worst we are contributing to something with the ability to create negative self-image, promote greed, and lift up those unworthy of the title role model.

There was a time in my life I found myself believing, and acting, as though the “reality” seen on certain shows were a standard worth striving for – when upon observation it should have been the exact opposite.  I know, for me, when I made the conscience decision to turn off these types of shows I felt freedom.  I felt more real.  I felt more grateful for what I had, and less envious of things I couldn’t attain.  I was given so much time to focus on more important things.  There was nothing I lost, nothing I missed, and nothing to regret.

I Smell Good To God

I love the feeling of coming across a Bible verse that you never knew was there, but sure enough it was there all along. This happened to me in church today. We are in the midst of a sermon series titled A New Creation. This week we discussed the idea of the new covenant, and referenced 2 Corinthians 2. Here is the verse that caught my attention:

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Often we underscore the sense of smell. If we had to give up one of our senses, with the alternatives of being blind or deaf, most of us would probably choose scent. But here is Paul, describing the body of Christ, as a sweet scent to God. How amazing.

And although we often undermine our gift of scent there is nothing else like it. Imagine you are at home and your children are away at the grandparents. Although the quiet is a beautiful thing, and it’s the first time you’ve gotten anything done in weeks, you still ache a little in your separation. You are doing laundry and as you go to throw your little one’s blankie in the washer it grabs you. That scent. You know the one … baby soft skin, sour milk, and Johnson and Johnson’s tear free baby wash. At that moment it takes all one has to contain themselves.

It has happened with my late husband, Matt, too. I remember clearly in the weeks after his death when I was acutely aware that his scent was leaving every last item I had of his. It was painful, but what was more emotional than that was coming across a box months later of his things. Opening the box, that I had packed, assuming it was nothing more than clothes now. Opening that box of t-shirts and for just a moment he was there. He was making me laugh; making Evelyn laugh. I grabbed at the shirts fruitlessly trying to identify the exact place the smell was coming from. Before I knew it the smell was gone. As if opening the box had just allowed the aroma to drift out and away.

We can be those emotionally charged scents to God. When we live our lives according to the Holy Spirit’s leading we send that drifting sweet smell straight up to God. And it says, we smell to God like Christ. We smell like his child.

This idea has me blown away today. I wish to smell good to God. I wish to smell of Christ (Which makes me wonder just how did Jesus smell?). The idea further discussed in the sermon was how, in the new covenant, we find freedom. Freedom, in this case, to smell the way you want. By listening to the Holy Spirit and being reminded to repent when told, to go when told, and to wait when told we have an opportunity to bring an unending sort of joy to God that only the ability of sweet scents, filled with memories and love, have the capability to do.

Yes, I want to smell good to God indeed.