Category Archive: Fear

Fear

We arrived at our drive-in church service early last week, as we always do, to get a spot from which we can hear and see our pastor teach. The precious old hymns of the faith were uplifting.

Then Pastor Tim began to speak.

“As the elders and I prayed together this morning, each of the seven prayed about the fear people are feeling in these days of insecurity! Each of the seven. And I thought, ‘this needs to be addressed.'”

Fear is prevalent in our world, with the coronavirus, political divisions and hatemongering, ongoing fires, a country divided, and many unknowns.

  • What will be the results of the upcoming election, and how will those impact us and our society?
  • When will our current fires get controlled, and how many more fires will begin before fire season ends?
  • Will I, or someone I love, become ill with Covid-19? Will someone I love be hospitalized and die while I can’t be with him/her?
  • Will my child be able to learn remotely? And when will our children, and we, return to a more normal life?
  • When can our children return to Sunday school, Kids Club, and other after school activities?
  • If I teach remotely, will my teaching be effective?

Tim had a sermon prepared; but he set that aside and spoke to us about fear instead. He said that in the Bible, we’re told not to fear 365 times – that’s once for every day of the year!

Tim reminded us that if we live in fear, we cannot be a light to those around us. And if we don’t check anxiety, it runs us! Meaningful words for me.

II Timothy 1:7 tells us “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Fear is not from God and we need to rebuke it in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Oh, fear can be a warning; but God never meant for us to live in fear for the future.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 

I John 4:18-19

When Jesus’ disciples watched Him die in agony on the cross, they thought their world had collapsed. Hopes were dashed. They were in despair, depressed, downhearted. Their leader, the one they believed to be the Messiah, was dead. Hopes dashed. Reality set in.

But three days later reality was upended when there was resurrection, just as He had promised! Even though Jesus had told them He would rise again, they were shocked and, at first, unbelieving that this could be their Savior, their Messiah, risen from the dead.

How like us when we face critical times. God has promised never to leave nor forsake us, to carry and sustain us. But when things look darkest, we forget that resurrection is coming. Christ WILL take us home to be with Him, regardless of what comes before. We can’t SEE that, don’t KNOW that because we’ve not been there yet.

But that’s where faith comes in, doesn’t it? The disciples despaired at Jesus’ death. But they they were filled with joy at His resurrection. He had spoken truth, had been fully faithful in all He told them before His death.

It is critical that we seek our God during this very uncomfortable year! He who has told us to bring all our burdens to Him, is the One who sustains, upholds, rescues, and delivers us from fear. As we focus our eyes on Him rather than the problems around us, we can experience His peace in whatever situation He allows to come our way.

For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:9b-10

How are you experiencing God’s peace in the storm around us? I’d love to hear about it. And if you are dealing with fear, I’d love to pray for you. May God bless you as you enter a new week with the Presence and Power of Jesus in all you do.

Fires, Fear, Faith

California fire season is usually in September and October. But 2020’s fires started early, with about 400 wildfires and 5700 “incidents” (https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/) in the past week. Don and I have kept in close touch with our neighbors here, sharing updates with each other as we receive them.

We are right on the line of an evacuation area (we’re in the SCU Lightning Complex), but haven’t been told to leave as of yet. Should you need it, there’s a good evacuation map at https://nifc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=69fca73a82df4fefa7c0e48b66d0899d&extent=-123.2395,36.6849,-119.5618,38.1032

I’ve felt anxious, always watching for the next bit of news. Wednesday night I had a hard time falling asleep. Tears have been near the surface, and sometimes have fallen. Thursday I couldn’t concentrate, but kept watching for news, and registered for notification in the event we are ordered to evacuate.

We heard Thursday that Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center, where I’ve spent a good bit of time at retreats and then at writers’ conferences, had been evacuated and was in danger. Some of our family have been evacuated from that area as well, and are safe.

Meanwhile, food, meals, writing–it’s been hard to concentrate on anything else while we wait; yet life doesn’t stop. We have our “go bags” pretty ready; and my computer bag is next to my desk so I can pack my laptop quickly in the event the fire moves toward us.

According to San Jose Fire Chief, as of Sunday morning they expect winds, light rain, and possibly more dry lightning strikes–something we sure don’t need right now! Praying God will light up the world over the ocean rather than in the forests!

I am calmer now, but seem to go in cycles of fear and then release, recognizing there’s nothing we can do except be prepared and pay attention. So far, the fire seems to be moving a bit farther from us. My brother and sister-in-law have offered us a haven if we need to leave.

And we’re certainly not alone. Floods are pounding the South and East of the United States. Hurricane Marco threatens the Gulf Coast, closely followed by Tropical Storm Laura, which has already impacted Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and is expected to slam Cuba on Monday.

I hurt for the many who have lost family members, homes or structures. It’s good to grieve, to weep with friends, to sit and listen to their pain. Even Jesus, who was perfect and knew He would reverse Lazarus’ death, wept with Mary and Martha as they grieved the loss of their brother. But after He listened and wept, He called Lazarus forth out of that grave!

We are so grateful for the many who are praying for us, and for California.

  • Grateful for yesterday’s report that Mount Hermon is okay at this time. All staff are safe.
  • Twin Lakes Church’s Camp Hammer is partially burned. Some of the cabins are still there and the forest is evidently still lush and green, and all staff are safe. May God bring beauty from the ashes!
  • Grateful for loving family and friends.
  • Deeply grateful for our firefighters, as well as those coming in from other states and even other countries to help fight these massive fires; for the sheriffs and police who are helping people evacuate, working long hard hours. Thank you to each of you. We are praying for you.

Earlier this week a dear friend recommended we read Psalm 36. Yesterday I read it aloud for our morning devotions, tears coming to my eyes. What a precious scripture!

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies… How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings …

Psalm 36:5,7

I have been through several major challenges in my life and, while it’s taken time to work through those issues with God, He has never failed me. And He will not. Tim Keller said Jesus didn’t suffer so we wouldn’t suffer. He suffered for us so when we suffer — and all will! — He can REDEEM it!

Crises such as these do remind us of what’s most important–our relationship with God, family and friends. An old friend used to say the two things that last are God’s Word and people! If you’re not sure of your relationship with God, I encourage you to read John 3:16-18 and Romans 10. I welcome any questions you may have.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:16-18

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I John 5:12

California and our nation, you continue to be in our prayers.

What’s your Family History?

In researching Mennonite history for a novel I’m writing, I found the story of a whole village that escaped Russia through Siberia and over the Amur River to China, from where they went to Canada, the United States, and South America.

This was 1929, when the anti-God Communist government was imposing collectivization. They took property from individuals, leaving them barely able to provide for their families. They arrested and executed or sent to labor camps those who owned a horse or cow, machinery—or taught Sunday school or wrote letters to family in North America or Europe.

My grandfather was a minister/farmer; his family, including my father, was in the last group to receive exit visas from Moscow in 1929.

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row, before he was married. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.

Others were desperate enough to escape illegally. One such route was over the Amur River in Siberia into China, and from there to the Americas.

Border guards were constantly on the lookout as the Amur was only about a mile wide at the point they planned to cross to China. Escape attempts were fraught with tension. Leaders tried to time their escapes in mid-day when they thought no sane person would cross the river; later in the afternoon when the guards were less well staffed; in the brilliance of the setting sun which they hoped would blind the guards temporarily; or at shift change between 11 and 12 pm.

The entire village of Shumanovsk (Siberia) planned to leave together–a very risky business with 60 sleighs and 217 people. They had to cross the Amur when it was frozen over. Villagers had been hiding sleighs and goods in their barns in preparation. The leaders knew there were several in the village they couldn’t trust to keep the plans to themselves. So they waited until late one night, then went door to door, knocking softly. “We leave in one hour.”

They approached the two homes of those they didn’t fully trust. “We leave in one hour. You come with us, or not, but we are going.” No time to warn the border guards.

There were some tragedies on the journey–several sleighs broke down and had to be repaired or their occupants shifted to other sleighs while crossing the river; and at least one baby was smothered as his mother tried to keep him from crying out. But the group reached China, across the river, as a whole.

In stories from two sources I read that the group learned later that the two border guards who were supposed to be watching for nighttime crossings were arrested. They were asked why they didn’t stop the group or call for help.

The men’s response was that they saw a large group of armed men around the group and supposed they could not overpower them, so they left them alone. The refugees thanked God for the guardian angels protecting them.

I think in these days we need to hear stories like this. I need them! While many have suffered and still do suffer for their faith, we need to be reminded of stories of God’s deliverance as well. And we need to remember that whatever comes, He will be with us–whether that’s by guardian angels surrounding us or by taking us Home to heaven.

Our pastor reminded us this morning that GOD IS GOOD. His character is good, and He does not change. So whether it’s Coronavirus, divisive politics, or anything else stressing us, we can rely on His goodness, knowing He uses even bad things for His own purposes.

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:5

When Anxiety Invades

We knew there was an accident on the freeway. Highway 17 is a very curvy road over the mountain between San Jose and Santa Cruz. But the radio announcer had said it was about a five-minute wait through the accident area. We should still be on time for Don’s eye exam.

However, after we were in stop and go traffic for 20-25 minutes, we were routed off the freeway.

“Good,” I thought. “We’ll bypass the accident and get on the freeway on the other side.”

Meanwhile we called the optometrist and explained the situation. They would still see Don if we could be there within about 20 minutes of his appointment time.

Back on the freeway, I spoke into the phone.

“We’re back on the road. Should be there within 20 minutes.”

Suddenly Don said, “Get off here. We’re in Los Gatos.”

“What?” Los Gatos was on the way back home.

“We didn’t bypass and continue. They turned us around and we’re back on Highway 17, going home.”

Oh my. Once again we called the optometrist and explained we couldn’t get past the Summit, that we wouldn’t make the appointment. They were kind enough to reschedule Don for an appointment yesterday, Saturday.

We left home one and three quarter hours before his appointment time, for an hour’s drive. Traffic seemed to be moving well and I thought we’d even arrive early. Suddenly brake lights flashed red in front of us.

We never did learn the reason for the stop and go, but felt terrible knowing we had to call the doctor’s office AGAIN to say we would be late. Once again they agreed to see Don if we could get there within about 20 minutes of his appointment time.

Both of us were tense. I was driving, knowing his eyes would be dilated during his exam. All of a sudden I relaxed, knowing God was in control.

“Honey, it’s going to be ok. We may get there and we may not, but it will be all right.”

We got there 20 minutes late. Don had a bit of a wait but was able to have his eyes examined by a very gracious optometrist before we turned for home.

Maybe we need to find local doctors since we’ve moved away from Santa Cruz. But we do like our doctors over there.

The significant thing to me was the sudden reminder that God wasn’t surprised by our traffic challenges, and that we could trust Him whatever the outcome.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7

We face a lot of anxiety these days–traffic accidents, family challenges, fear of illness, loneliness and isolation, concerns about how school will start and when we can meet together in our churches, protests, riots, and political differences even with those we love dearly.

That’s a lot. But God is Our Father. He loves us unconditionally, without reservation, and He wants to bear our burdens.

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 94:19

What do you need to give Him today? Can I pray for you? I’d like to be an encourager in this time of new challenges.

Be blessed in the love of Our Father today!

How Do I Deal with Separation Anxiety …

I took my Sunflower Butter and raspberries to the checkout counter, where a tall, lovely African-American woman greeted me with a big smile. We chatted for a minute and I said something to which she responded, “I’m on your team there.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is woman-in-gray-sweater-3214751-2-683x1024.jpgPhoto by Ralph Rabago from Pexels

Prompted internally, I said, “And the biggest team I’m on is Jesus’ team.”

“Me too girl! I don’t wanna miss that team!”

Her joyful response prompted me to say that I thought she might be. We parted with big smiles and anticipation of seeing each other the next time I’m in that market.

With Shelter in Place we have fewer opportunities to communicate with others, to encourage them and be encouraged by them, to laugh together, to enjoy a shared moment that brings sunshine to both our souls.

Most of Don’s and my interactions have been with each other and our sweet Paigey; and occasionally with a family member we see, or an individual in a grocery store. I notice that with our masks on, shoppers look less at each other.

Perhaps because we can’t see each other smile.

Perhaps because we’re trying to keep as much facial distance as possible between us. 

So when we relate to someone, like a cashier, over our masks, eyes meeting, it is a gift. We are made to be in relationship. We need each other. We need to find ways to connect despite our social distancing, which separates us, increases anxiety and depression.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is depression.jpg

At PsychCentral, Paula Durlofsky, PhD writes about ways to combat the emotional impacts of social distancing. I have edited and added my own comments to some of her points.

  • Record your feelings like a reporter – just the facts. This helps calm the emotions and allows us to reason more clearly.
  • Make a plan for reducing your distress, whether that is watching a funny movie, taking a walk or a warm bath.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading and listening to the news. A radio talkshow host told one listener who was feeling depressed that if she stopped listening to the news for four days she would feel considerably better. Wise counsel!
  • Eat well-balanced meals, exercise, get enough sleep, and avoid damaging coping strategies like alcohol and drugs.
  • Enjoy the times you can have with family. Playing board games, watching movies together, taking walks, and talking through your day all help reduce stress levels and enhance your relationships.
  • Stay connected via social networking sites and virtual platforms. Zoom and FaceTime can provide opportunities to see the other’s facial expressions while we hear his or her voice.
  • Spend time in nature, hiking, going for a run or bike ride.

And  I would add:

  • Make prayer and Bible reading a part of your daily life. In this pandemic we are not alone. We have family, friends, people of faith with whom to connect; and more, we have the God who is always Present and who loves us unconditionally. Reading the Bible helps me cope with some of those depressive and anxious thoughts that rear their ugly heads. Praying helps me give them to my good good Father – even if I have to do that multiple times a day.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 NLT

What strategies are you using to deal with or prevent depression and anxiety?