Friday, December 28, 2012

A token of gratitude


I've never really been great at giving my thanks to people.  For some reason I get all awkward and freeze up, and any words I say to try to express my feelings end up sounding hollow and empty.

To me anyway.


In any case, I had a revelation today.
 

I am very fortunate to have such encouraging readers.


8 years ago I started my blog, mainly as a way to communicate with people in America that I had left behind.  Unfortunately, most of the people I wanted to share my experiences with, don't actually read my blog.  Somewhere along the way the blog has changed in focus and maturity.  (I cringe a bit when I re-read old posts...)

And somewhere along the way I've picked up followers.  According to Blogger I have 118 people who follow my blog (this doesn't count the people who bookmark it or put it on google reader.)
Of course, the actual number of people who read each post is much lower.  But still, it's way more than I anticipated when I started this.


Sometimes my ego gets the best of me, and I start thinking, "wouldn't it be great if I became a famous blogger?  Wouldn't it be cool to have thousands of people reading what I write?"
Then I start thinking about the consequences of that and begin to think it's not so bad being a minor blogger.  I mean, if I am famous, then people start picking apart things I say.  I have to be careful in case I offend somebody.  And the comments...  I cringe when I go to some sites and look at the comments.

There are so many hateful people out there.


But I realized today, what wonderful readers I have.

Occasionally I get spam messages on my blog, but I delete them quickly enough.  And sometimes I get really strange comments that make no sense.  I have only had 2 or 3 comments that I have removed because they were attacking and not appropriate.


But overall, the people who leave comments here are kind and encouraging.  I'm always gratified to know that people read what I write and resonate with it.  I'm encouraged when others relate to what I'm going through.  And I'm blessed when you share that with me.

Unfortunately I'm not one of those very chatty bloggers, I don't reply to every comment.
But that doesn't mean I don't read every comment I get.  And I appreciate them.

So I wanted to say Thank you today, to those of you who are kind enough to read my blog and return.
and especially thank you to all those who leave encouraging words for me.


I'm glad that even though we may not know who the other is, we can encourage and support each other in love.

In an internet full of hate, I'm blessed to have a small corner that has been blessed with love.


Thank you.

And God bless.







Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas=surrender

 I'm always a bit impressed by Mary when I read the Christmas story.  I mean when you look at some of the other big names, (Moses, I'm looking at you.  Jonah, you know I'm talking about you.  Gideon, don't get me started.) you get the impression that...  they don't exactly welcome God's plans for their lives.  God says, "Hey, I'm gonna use you to do something big and important." and they are like "Ummmm....  but...."


So enthusiastic.

But Mary, she is told she's going to give birth to God's son.  Man, just giving birth is a wondrous and scary thing, but God's son?  Right before she's supposed to get married???

Mary's response?  "I am the Lord's handmaiden.  Let it be done as you say."


 Those are some impressive words from a girl whose life is about to be turned upside down.


You know, I bet Mary had dreams, just like any other little girl.  I wonder what she thought her life was going to be like.  I bet she was looking forward to her wedding.  What did she want to do with her life?  Did she have choices, or was she resigned to the life of a woman in her society?

But just like that, with one late night visitor, her dreams are gone, replaced with a new mission.  She gave up her dreams, she didn't know if her fiance would leave her.  She gave up her social standing and the respect of her family and peers.

And she accepted it with such grace.  I'm sure she didn't understand what was going on, or what all of this would entail.  But she allowed God to change her life.

And in the process changed ours.



I had dreams too, when I was a girl.  I had my future all planned out.  There was only one thing I really wanted, and everything else was planned around that.

I just wanted to get married.

I had it all figured out.  I would go to the private Christian university like a good Lutheran girl and I would work hard on my Mrs. Degree.  Along the way I would take some classes that could be useful as a mother, and get some certification as a church worker.

I would get married around 24.  This was a good age, so that I could have a few years to really get to know and enjoy my husband before we started having children.  And I wanted 5.  So around 26 or so, I would start having my little bundles of joy.  I wanted to be finished having kids at 35 so that I wouldn't be 60 with kids still living in my house.

It was a wonderful plan.  Unfortunately the Mrs. Degree eluded me.  I worked for a summer at camp, where everyone assured me I would find Mr. Right.  Call me Miss Wrong.  Even after I graduated and I was looking for a job, I decided to come to Japan, for once slightly thankful that I didn't have a boyfriend tying me down and I was begging people not to tell me I was going to marry a Japanese man and never come back, because it just kinda felt like I was being set up to fail.

And here I am.  33 and still single.  All my jobs until now have been "filler" jobs, just to keep me until I got married.  You see, I never really wanted a career.  I'm not passionate about working, and I have no great talent to pursue.

I just want someone to devote myself to.  I want someone who I can follow.  Someone to share life with, someone to support... someone to open my heart up to and love...

 Mary had her own dreams too, I'm sure.  Moses, Jonah, Gideon, Joseph...

And they all surrendered to God.

I don't know what God has planned for me, but for the first time I'm considering "What if?"

What if I never get married?  What if I have to support myself the rest of my life?  What will I do?  Teaching English is not really a career.  I can flit from job to job, but I don't feel like it fulfills me.  Nor is it the most stable job.

I need something more long term, something I can put my heart in.


I'm still thinking and praying about this, but I'm thinking of pursuing a job working with Japanese orphans.  I'm sure there are things I wouldn't like about the job, but I think that the chance to give love to children who don't have parents to love them would be worthwhile.  It's one of those ideas that just feels like it "clicked" inside of me when I thought about it.

There will be some hurdles I'm sure.  I need to improve my Japanese quite a bit to even consider this.  And I'm not even sure how many places would like to employ a foreigner.

But this is the first time I've had a future to look forward to.


It's not my original dream, but it's a good dream.  And we'll see if this is what God has planned for me.

So this Christmas, like Mary, I'm learning how to surrender, and allow Jesus to grow in me...
                                                                        Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cholesterol of the soul.

I really dislike commuting.  When I get on a train, surrounded by strangers who are in my way, selfishly pushing, not bothering to look around them and be considerate of the people around, pushing their way up escalators, not walking quickly enough on the train platform, standing in the way on the platform, walking too quickly around me on the train platform, not following proper elevator etiquette, not allowing people to get off the train before pushing their way in....  Well, my list of complaints is long.  In any case, I find myself growing more and more irritated as the experience goes on.  By the time I get to the last train station, I'm so irritated I just want to snap at people.

And of course it's all their fault.

Right?

If only these people would think about others just a little bit more....



The other thing that really ticks me off is internet, or rather the way internet so conveniently exposes the flaws in other human beings and media.  Internet has somehow made it easier than ever to just say whatever you want to say, promote whatever agenda you wish to promote, and tear down and attack anyone who doesn't agree with you.

Ahhh....  The joys of modern enlightenment.




Riiiiiggghhht.



Hello, my name is Self-Righteous Hypocrite.  You can call me Self for short, or my close friends call me Selfish.



Our modern way of thinking is really messed up I think.  We are so divided into these petty little groups all trying to control the masses with our "morally superior" way of thinking.

One group is advocating "acceptance" and if you don't accept that, then you are not really a human being, you are hateful and because you have chosen to be that way, we of course will not accept you and your beliefs, we will instead attack you and shame you until you join us.  (and then you and your family will be on probation and mildly discriminated against for several generations until we are sure you think the same as us.)

One group is advocating gun control, because guns are of course evil and posses those who are around them to blindly kill each other because humans of course have no responsibility for their own actions.  If we take all the guns away from the "normal" people, of course crime will stop, because all criminals will obey the laws and not buy guns on the black market and then target all the now unarmed innocents.  Lets put hundreds of thousands out of jobs while we are at it, because we don't really care if the unarmed innocents have enough food to feed their families, and I guess if you want to go hunting and kill your own food, get a bow and arrow, but no wait, lets out law those while we are at it too.  Does this sound like the Hunger Games to anyone else???

One group is advocating "World Peace."  Wars are evil and kill people.  Stop fighting wars and killing people.  Peace is best!  Only what happens when only one side stops fighting???  The side that obviously doesn't want peace is going to win, because they will still have the guns and bombs and chemical weapons.  Brilliant.  If all the responsible people stop fighting, then only the people who don't care will be in control.  Yes, I see how this logic leads to world peace.  More like world submission and governments that abuse the people.  Because defending others is bad.  Defending economies is bad.  And who really cares about all the innocent people who will be oppressed if there are no wars?  But yes, war is bad, we hate war.  And while we are hating war with such a one minded passion, our children are killing themselves because they are relentlessly bullied at school.  (Ok, this is a Japan one.)

Lets alienate people with abortion, shaming them, judging them instead of loving them.  Why are the unborn children the only ones that should be loved?  Why aren't we loving the mothers too?

And lets make this an issue about women's rights while we are at it.  Because we should have the choice to do what we want with our own bodies, because sex is not a choice at all.  But lets make it about rape and the danger to the mothers bodies.  And men of course can't have opinions because they are sexist and don't understand and women who disagree are brainwashed and have no pride as women.

Nuclear power, gay marriage, religion, conservatives, liberals, conservationists, green peace, sea shepherd, race.......




I feel sick.





I get so mad.  I want to rip off my "good girl" face and start flinging curse words around.  (the very curse words I try so hard to get my students not to use!)







Now don't get me wrong.  I understand there are legitimate issues and concerns.  There are serious problems.  They need to be fixed by passionate people who care.


But this is not the way.  We are just turning problems into hate.


Like me on the train.  I become the very thing I hate.



“When people begin to say that the material circumstances have alone created the moral circumstances, then they have prevented all possibility of serious change....And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realize that the moral fact comes first.” - Chesterton


I believe, that we all have a choice, no matter what our circumstances are, a choice that goes beyond what happens to our bodies.  We have a choice of the heart, and anyone can make this choice.  (I agree there might be issues when we come to mental health, but other than that...)

This choice is between love and hate.


You can choose to accept people as they are, flaws, differences, everything.  You can love them regardless of their actions or beliefs.

Or you can hate.  You can blame them, judge, attack and even kill.


I can choose to love the people on the trains, forgive those who don't care about me, understand those who brush past me, and love those who get in my way.

Victims and choose to forgive those who hurt them, and continue to love strangers and believe that good exists.

Those in power can choose to love those in need.

We can choose to love the planet we live on.


Or, we can choose to hate.  We can use tragedy to promote our one sided agenda.  We can wound with our words, and harden our hearts so that it takes a heart attack to wake us up.

We can blame others, force them to change.

Or we can change ourselves.

Yes, I'm looking in the mirror right now.

I'm talking to me, myself and I.




Real peace begins in my heart.  Real love begins in my daily life.



Everything else is just an agenda.





Father, forgive me, for I do not love as I should.  Father, help heal this cholesterol of my soul.


Amen.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Most important thing I learned in Japan - doesn't make sense

 After living in Japan for a few years or so (you know, like 8) you start to get used to things.  But every now and then you still get these stop-you-in-your-tracks-scratching-your-head-"huh?" moments.


My latest "why?" moment came this week when I was on my way to work.  I'm rushing to catch my train and out of the corner of my eye, I see what I think is the Alamo.  I'm understandably confused.  Why would I see a significant Texas historical landmark in a train station in Japan?  Right?  So it must be something that merely resembles the Alamo, right?  Well, I didn't have time to verify right at that moment, but on the way home I checked, and sure enough, there were at least 3 large posters of the Alamo.

Merry Christmas from the Alamo.

Huh?  Why?

Apparently it's an advertisement for Japanese liquor.  Yep Japanese shochu.  Now of course Texans like alcohol.  But Texans drink things like beer, tequila, gin, whiskey, vodka, beer and beer.  But I'm guessing 90% of Texans don't know what shochu is.

Why??


I'll probably never know.

this is an extremely ugly apartment building.  Yeah, I don't know why either.
 And this I think is an important lesson I've learned from living in Japan.  I don't know everything, and not everything makes sense.

And that's life.

I don't understand Japanese perfectly.  I can't read half of what I see.  There are things that just don't make sense.  Logic is a lost art in this country.

I can choose to be frustrated, or I can learn to live with ignorance and confusion.  Trust me, you can get used to it after a while.


Recently, I've been dealing with frustration a lot.  I make mistakes, have bad days, and get ambushed by avalanches of "little things."  I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that giving up is not an option, running away will only change the location of my problems, and God is in control.

I've discovered I'm not a very convincing person.  Note to self, never try to make a career in sales, you will fail.


I don't know what my future will be.  I'm frustrated with where I am in life, (or rather where I'm not, married with children.)  I curse "independence" as loneliness and "freedom" as slavery.  I desire to be bound to something other than myself, to a place or a person.  To be able to give up my identity as an individual for the sake of someone else.  I see friends who I used to be at the same place in life as seemingly jumping ahead while I'm stuck on the same level, aging.  I am not cheese.  I'm not getting better with age.  I long for something concrete to anchor me, yet I chafe because I'm not moving.  I feel trapped in darkness of my own making and circumstances out of my control.

I don't understand.  Things don't make sense.

I am frustrated.




I totally get why people can get so addicted to video games.  If you do everything the right way, make the right choices, do things in the correct sequence, have the right equipment, you can pass the level.

But life doesn't work that way.  Sometimes the people who make the wrong choices, pass the level.  Sometimes people who make the right choices get sent back a level.  Sometimes you never get off the level.


And there is no re-set button in real life.


I really, really wish there was sometimes.



I often find myself falling into the trap of trying to make my faith like a video game.  If I say this prayer the right way, then I will pass this level.  If I follow these rules, then I can level up.  If I'm not leveling up, then I must not be doing something right.  If I do the same things that person who leveled up did, then I should level up too, right?


Wrong.


Faith doesn't make sense.  What worked in one situation doesn't always work in another.  Following all the rules doesn't guarantee happiness.

Life doesn't make sense.

It's not fair.

And I'm wondering around with a permanent "huh?" etched into my face.




But that's ok.  I don't have to understand everything perfectly to keep moving.  I don't have to be perfect to be where I am supposed to be.  I don't have to understand Japanese fluently to live in Japan.  I don't have to understand children perfectly to be a teacher.  I don't have to know what is coming to live.  It's ok if I'm just barely treading water.

That's faith.


If I knew all the answers, and followed all the formulas, that is not faith.

Faith is being confused out of your mind, but still trusting.

Faith is believing that God is good, even when you are frustrated and want to quit.


Faith is trusting that even if I don't have all the correct rules and traditions to follow, Jesus will still love me.


Faith is knowing it's ok to fall down, even in the dark when you can't see what you are falling into.


Faith is not beating yourself up as a failure when things don't work out, because God has already accepted you.


Faith is bigger than things making sense.




So I guess I'm doing a little bit of faith training right now.


Merry Christmas from the land of "huh?"!  I have faith God is working in your life too, even if we don't understand what He's doing.  I bet Mary and Joseph felt the same way many many times.

It doesn't make sense.  But it doesn't have to.





Monday, November 05, 2012

Time and grace

 Well, my mini-vacation is over.  Tomorrow I go back to work and the daily grind.


So how was it, my mini solo retreat?


It's something hard to put into words.



It was peaceful.  Beautiful weather.  A lake.  Mountains.  Trees.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Leisurely.  Romantic.



 I spent lots of time walking slowly, taking in the atmosphere.  Taking pictures is a great way to really be able to see things.


Mountain towns in Japan shut down pretty early.  The buses stopped running by 4:30.  So I did lots of walking.  I was limited to where I could walk to.

Of course this is a good way to save money.
 I was refreshed by my time away.  It was good to get out, have a different rhythm, and do things at my own pace.

But yet, I went looking for answers. 

I wanted profound revelation from God.


I wanted something spectacular that would fix all my problems, or at least make them start falling into place.





I didn't get any of that.



The only thing I came away with was:
struggle isn't a short term thing.  It's not something you do for a night or a weekend and then everything is magically better.


I have to be in it for the long haul.




I still have a long way to go.  I still have hard questions to struggle with.  Relationships to fight for.


But I think there are some important things I have to hold on to while I am struggling.


One is that I have to accept that I must change.  I cannot keep going the way I am.

Two is that I have to believe that I am not a hopeless piece of trash.  I think this is important, and something I struggle with a lot.  It's easy to believe that because of sin, and everything else, I am just valueless trash that Jesus might pick up and recycle.  But I think that way of thinking is wrong.

While on my trip, I went to a place called the "Forest of Jewelry."  I saw many kinds of precious stones, in various stages.  (I even saw some beautiful green Amber!)  And this got me to thinking.  As a human, I am not valueless.  I am not a piece of trash.  I am an unpolished gem.  I saw many kinds of unfinished stones there.  They even had a meteorite.  And when left unfinished, the rocks just look like rocks.  Not much good for anything.  Nothing special.  Not anything anyone would want.

But when broken correctly, cut, polished, and set, they become beautiful.  So many different stones, so many different and beautiful designs.


I am in the process of becoming a gem.



This might take longer for me than others.  There might be many times when I resist the finishing process.  Maybe I will run away.  Maybe some of those around me will give up on me.

But I have confidence that God will never give up on me.  I am in the hands of a Master Jeweler.

And that is the third thing I cannot forget.

No matter how long the road, how many bends, how painful it is, how many times I fall down....

God will not abandon me.


I can't see around the bend,  and I'm sure there are many more bends to come.

But it's ok, because I won't be abandoned, even if I never find all the answers, and even if I never become the perfect sparkling jewel.


Even if there are no dramatic revelations, My God is Faithful, more faithful than I, and He will be with me always.

So now it's time to challenge the bend.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Struggling to struggle

This seems to continue with the theme from the last post, but this keeps popping up in my life as a lesson I REALLY need to learn.


Last week I was teaching my bible study and I looked at the days lesson and cringed a bit.  The reading was Jacob wrestling with God.

I've never really been able to "get" what is really being said.  What it really means.  I mean, we don't really live in a society where you go around wrestling with strangers all night long and then demanding their blessings.  We just kinda ignore each other and want to be left alone.

Actually, for a while now, I've really disliked Jacob.  He's a big of a jerk in my opinion.  He takes advantage of his brother and takes away the birthright, (for the insane price of a bowl of soup!  Highway robbery!)  Then he conspires with his mother and takes away the blessing as well.  Of course his brother is really mad by now, so Jacob has to run away.

On the way, he NEVER calls God his own God.  He always says "The God of my father" etc.  And then when God comes to him and says that He will bless Jacob and travel with him, Jacob says "Ok, if you bring me back safely, THEN I will call you my God and I will give you 10% of all I have."  Arrogant much?

Then he meets his uncle, gets along for a little while, just to find out his mother and himself are not the only liars in the family, his uncle does a pretty good job of it himself.  And in the end he has to run away from his uncle as well.

Yeah, I just don't like Jacob.  And I guess what always really bothered me was that God blessed him!  I mean God chose this guy.  I mean granted, Esau wasn't a better choice, but still, Jacob is a jerk!  He doesn't follow the rules.

So this whole wrestling with God bit, and then getting a blessing always confused me.  Why, does such a disrespectful guy get the blessing?

And finally it dawned on me.  It's in the new name God gave him.  When God gives new names, you should pay attention, they mean something.  Jacob means "he who grasps the heel" which was an old fashioned way of saying "deceiver" or "Liar."  Yeah, that's an unfortunate name, but rather fitting right?  But now God says, "you are Israel."  Israel means "he who struggles."

Struggles huh?

Struggles....


Now, I'm a "good" girl.  I follow the rules (mostly) and I get really annoyed when others don't follow the rules.  (I get bad cases of train rage sometimes.)  I like it when things are simple and easy to understand.  Follow the rules and everything will be ok.  Respect your elders.  Don't talk back.

Right?


But this isn't was Jacob was doing!  In fact, this is closer to what Esau was doing.  Esau, who had the legal birthright, didn't bother to fight for it.  He didn't bother to struggle for what was his by right.  He thought if he just followed the rules he would get it naturally.  He didn't want it enough to struggle.  All he wanted was to satisfy his immediate hunger.

And he lost.

Jacob, while not playing nice, still wanted it.  He wanted the birthright, he wanted the blessing, and he was willing to lie and cheat to get it.

Now I know God does not like lying and cheating, but it seems He does like passion.

God forgave Jacob for the wrong ways he took, and gave him the blessing.


Now, I understand that things are more complicated than that.  I mean, you have to think ahead in terms of genetics, the goal being the birth of Jesus, future history and all that stuff when God blesses Jacob.

But, God still praises Jacob for his struggling.


Struggle is born of passion.


Passion honors God.


God hates lukewarm hearts.


God loves passionate people.  (remember Peter?  James and John, aka the Sons of Thunder?  David?  Jonah?)


So I have to put away my distain of Jacob and look again.  Look and see how he fought and fought hard for what he thought was valuable, and he considered the blessing and favor of God to be valuable.


Sometimes I think of what I would like in a husband.  I want a man who loved me enough to not give up.  Who valued me enough to keep trying to win my heart.  Even if I rejected him once or twice, if he valued me enough to keep struggling, I would feel so valued and treasured.  (of course that can't be the ONLY good trait he has, but it should be one. -- there is a fine line between being devoted and being a stalker.)

And when I think of that, I realize that that's what God wants too.  He wants us to pursue him with passion and devotion.  He wants us to struggle and to treasure Him.  He wants to be our treasure.

Then I realize that I don't do that at all.  I follow the rules.  I take the easy way.  I barter away my birthright for some soup that is gone as soon as I eat it.

And I get angry when others don't do the same.  I get angry when others receive the birthright and live in it, because they didn't follow the rules.

But I didn't struggle either.







Anyway.  This is my lesson for now.  Struggle.




Struggle to struggle.






I've had a long history of depression.  I had childhood depression, and a two year long case of major clinical depression.  I've tried drugs (prescription drugs, not illegal ones!), and some therapy, but nothing seemed to work and I just always kinda rode it out, until things got better.

I learned how to give up.  With my depression.  When I fought with my little brother.  Scholarships at school.  Friendships.  Love.  I never struggled long with any of these.



Recently, I've noticed the signs of depression coming back.  But this time I've decided to not take medication yet.  I've decided I should struggle.  Fight it.

And even if I don't overcome it, there is value in the fight.


Next week I have a break from work, so I'm going to take three days of that break and go on a little trip for the first time.  I have never actually traveled on my own anywhere (always with a group or going to meet someone.)  But this is a trip with a purpose.  I want to be refreshed by nature (going to take lots of pictures of the Autumn leaves near Mt. Fuji) and I want to struggle with God.

I want to wrestle with Him until He gives me a new name.


I make big statements, but they are often hard to follow through.  So I'm learning little by little how to struggle.  This is hard when I'm tired and everything is screaming to just give up, but I am going to do my best.  My goal is struggling.

And I won't give up until I have been blessed.  (that's kinda a scary idea.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fighting to change.

"I always thought I'd just naturally change.  I thought that both my heart and my body would become stronger as I got older...  I swear (to protect the ones I love) to transform from a caterpillar into a butterfly and take flight.  I have to change!"

One of the great things about having a computer again is the ability to watch videos again (having no TV in our house.)  This weekend, after actually accomplishing several things, I decided to spend some time catching up on one of my favorite series.

It's about Ninja, and the world they live in.  The story follows the main character from when he is 12 to 16.  It's a great story with wonderful character development, even among the minor characters.

One minor character has always had a special place in my heart.  He was the fat kid (actually, it was an inherited body type for the special ninja powers that his family had, but kids don't care about that.) and he was teased for being fat.  He developed an inferiority complex.  But the problem was, he was an exceptionally kind boy.  He didn't want to hurt anyone.  He understood pain, and didn't want to inflict it on others.  But he was training to be a ninja.  Ninja fight and hurt people.  When push came to shove, he managed to fight enemies, but he still remained reserved, and in some peoples eyes, a coward.

And in some ways he was.  He was hiding behind his kindness, using it as an excuse to run away, or not give his all.  And this caused his teammates and friends problems.  They often had to save him when he wouldn't fight to protect himself, or do his job properly.  I think, he was afraid of failure and pain.  Afraid of trying your best, and it still not being good enough.  So if you never give your best, you don't really fail, it's not a reflection of who you are at your core.  If you try your best and it's not good enough, that can crush who you are in your core, you are a failure.  So don't try that hard, run away before it gets to that point, and you never have to face that great of a failure.

He grows, and trains his body, and grows physically powerful.  But he still cowers inside in fear.

Until war breaks out.

When he is confronted by the war, he of course reacts in fear.  But then comes the turning point.  He is faced with a situation where his full strength is needed.  He must stop hiding behind kindness and fight, to save his friends, to save his village, to win this battle.  But he can't.  He stumbles and falls, while his friends keep trying to make him realize they need him to fight, and to fight honestly and with his full strength.  Until finally, in the dramatic climax, he realizes that he can't just "become" an adult.  He won't just automatically become strong one day.  His fears won't just disappear.  He has to choose.  He has to choose to change himself, to move forward.....

to fight.

And once he lets go of fear, and embraces his true strength, he is able to transform and become stronger than he ever realized he could.  He defeats his enemy, and changes the tide of the whole battle.




I really empathize with this kid.  I understand many of his fears.  I'm not quite as nice as he is, but I understand not giving your all, of being afraid to fight.

But sometimes, to move forward you have to fight.  This is a world at war.  Good vs Evil.  I have to fight to protect my own heart, to not give into my fears.  I have to fight to protect those who cannot fight themselves.   I have to fight to protect what I love.

If I don't, then I'll always be falling down and depriving my fellow fighters of my strength.



It's a good lesson for me.


Fight with all my heart.  Love with all my heart.  Love and kindness are not the same.  Love and peace are not the same.  There are times when it is necessary to fight, and fight with everything I have.

I won't just change naturally.  I have to fight to change myself.

It's not just a story.  It's a reminder to never settle for less than I should be.


I love a good story.



Sunday, September 02, 2012

Mourning the end of summer, looking forward to autumn...

It wasn't one particular thing.  In fact, it was more like the accumulation of my summer, or maybe more like this season of my life...  But I found myself in the middle of a field, tall grasses waving in the light of a sun thinking about setting.  The sky was open and clear and big, like West Texas sky.  I was in the middle, in the place where I've chosen to be for now.  All around me were people I loved, who I wanted to share my life with me.  But every one of them was in the process of moving away.  Some north, some south, some quickly, some slowly, some moving towards other people, some just growing up and moving on.  And suddenly I felt the tears spill over, mourning the loss of what was, of what is.  Because the future is never the same as the past.  I can't stop the flow of time.  And I know God is good, and I know the future is in God's hands, but just for the moment, I mourn the loss of the present, for it will never come again.  My throat tightens with this overwhelming emotion.  I close my eyes, and more tears streak down my cheeks.  Even now I still feel the trails, stinging slightly in memory.
I mourn the loneliness of the human condition.  I cry because I know no matter how many people surround me, we are each trapped in our own loneliness...

I mourn the passing of summer into autumn.

At least for today.

But I know I can't mourn forever.  Tomorrow brings new beginnings, new opportunities, new adventures and maybe new people to love.  Tomorrow will not erase today.  Tomorrow can't exist without building upon today.  But I did love today, and the people who lived there with me...




It was a pretty picture in my mind, as I stood at a train station, listening to the same musician I have been listening to for 7 years now.  But I cannot hold onto that picture forever.  Reality is stronger, and I can not live in my tears.

Tomorrow....

I wonder what it will be like...

I remember other times when I wanted to hold on to my todays...  When I was in elementary school, I wanted to live at school.  In High School, I wanted to stay forever at the dorm I lived in.  In college I wanted to live forever at the camp I worked at one summer.  But after I left each place, and look back, I can see there was always a better place waiting for me as I matured.  And I don't regret leaving those places.

But I still feel the melancholy of transition and the uncertainty of the future.

Yet, I know...  My God will never fail me.



 I remember Jesus mourning for Jerusalem, for the people he loved who would not love him, who would not see the truth.  Jesus mourned for the pain that awaited him, for the lostness of the people, and maybe he understood loneliness then too.  But Jesus knew there would be joy in the future.  There would be many saved.  But still, that moment, those people, that season, was worth morning over.

So this time, I mourn differently.  I don't try to hold on longer than I should.  I mourn the passing of today, while waiting in anticipation of tomorrow.








So, summer has come to a close.  I have gone back to work, my roommate has returned, I have been given a new computer.  Summer was good for me this year.  I spent some time with a community of friends, I spent time with God, I read books.  I was encouraged, fed, rested and stretched.  I'm still processing everything that has happened, and what it all means.  I'm learning every day how little I know about my future.  Every time I think I have a grasp on the situation, something else is left up in the air.

I waiting to see where everything lands.

Hopefully I'll be able to find more concrete words later to describe what I'm thinking.

But for now, I leave you with my picture, watching people move away from me, waiting for what comes next.

But the sky certainly was beautiful....

Monday, July 02, 2012

My God is a Jealous God

"Amber, it'd sure be nice if we could spend some time together..."  a small voice tickling my consciousness...

"What?  Yeah, sure, gimme a min..." I answer, returning to checking my mail, or reading my book, or watching a video....

"Amber, I'd really like it if you would pay some undivided attention to me..." a note found in a conversation with a friend....

"Yeah, yeah, I'm trying to figure out how to do that...." and I allow day to day life to take swallow me up again.

"Amber...  You know...  I AM supposed to be first in your life...."  yet another gentle reminder....

"I know, I know.  But I don't know WHAT I'm supposed to do to make it that way!" and I go back to complaining about the weather and my aching body...

I complain I'm lonely, and I hear a sigh from somewhere.

I wonder why there is no joy in my life, even when I try to be more thankful and I feel the shaking of a head...

and slowly, but surely, doors begin to close.  Things that distract me are taken away.  My laptop dies a sudden death.  My roommate goes on a sudden, months long visit back to her parents (whose home has burned down in the Colorado fires...)  I have no more books to read.  I have no money to go out and "play."  I have no energy to go out and enjoy nature.  Even being outside for too long in the sun makes me sick.

And I get the sneaking suspicion...  God is trying to get my attention.

My friend even agrees, bringing up the subject today at lunch.

God is trying to get my attention.

I remember thinking before that it would be nice if God was pursuing me, but I think I had more of the image of being showered with blessings, and warm fuzzy feelings of being loved.

But when I refuse to allow myself to be captured, what should God do?  Like a jealous lover, He starts hiding the things that are keeping me away from Him.  One by one they vanish, until nothing is left but Him.

So now, I can continue to pretend I don't understand what's going on, or I can give Him my attention.

I can get angry because He has taken away things from me, or I can be flattered that He goes this far to get my attention.


I have no idea what the next few months are going to look like, but hopefully they will be spent with more attention on God.




So, for now, I will not have my own laptop (I have been firmly shown that it is impossible with my current budget to get a laptop at the time being.)  In a few days my roommate will leave to be with her family in Colorado (prayers please for the victims of the fires there.)  In one month I will be on summer vacation.  My internet time is slowly decreasing here.  So, I am having more and more time opened up for God.  Maybe I will be able to post some of the revelations of this time, but it is possible I won't be posting until September or so.  So please forgive me, for I have been neglecting the attentions of my Jealous God.  I will return when He is satisfied.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Please excuse us while we are having technical difficulties....

Well, just in case there is anyone out there waiting with baited breath for me to post something beautiful and inspiring....

(yes, you can laugh here)

It seems my laptop has had a bit of a mental breakdown and is unable to function correctly.  I do have access to blogger at my work computer(which is where I am typing from now), but I don't often feel inspired to write at work.

So now I'm navigating the logistics of budget, if I can afford a new laptop, how to purchase the new laptop and how to get it from America to Japan in a reasonable time and affordable way.


In other news, it has been about 4 years since I last purchased a laptop, and maybe 8 years since I seriously knew what I was doing.  Technology has passed by me and I find myself confused at what it all means!  There was a time when I felt reasonably technologically savvy.  That time has passed, and I'm now in the "barely staying afloat" stage.

My previous two laptops were Sony Vaio, which were nice at the time.  Sony is now WAY out of my budget (actually it was the previous times I bought laptops, but somehow money was miraculously provided each time).  Now I'm am less sure of what I want, other than a decent computer to use daily, that is not so heavy, doesn't overheat so easily, and is faster than my previous computer.  I'm considering something ultra-cheap (in the $350-400 range) or one that looks pretty good but is in the $800 range.  Decisions decisions.

In any case, I'm guessing I will be taking a temporary blogging hiatus.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Must be a heart condidtion.

 Recently it feels like I don't give mission updates to talk about life in Japan so much as I talk about anime or books I have been reading and reflecting on...

And in keeping with such trends...

There's a story re-visited lately.  (it's on going, so I don't know how it ends yet.)  It's the story of a girl.  She grew up with out a father, and with a mother who didn't love her.  There was no meaning to her existence if she wasn't perfect.  And of course, since no child is perfect, she often failed to meet her mothers demands.  She spent much of her childhood crying, or stressing over how to make her mother love her.  Eventually she gave up.  The only solace she found was at the place of her childhood friend.  Eventually, she innocently fell in love with her friend.  Everything she did was either to please her mother, please her friend, or please her friends parents, who often looked after her.  She put her whole heart into working for them.  Eventually, her friend, who rebels against his parents, asks her to run away to Tokyo with him so he can seek his fortune as a star.  She of course replies without hesitation.  She would follow him anywhere.

So she works for the sake of her friend, who she believes is her prince.  He quickly becomes a star, while she is working several jobs to support him.  Then one day she is faced with the reality of her situation.  He does not love her at all.  He is only using her as a maid and a servant.  Her pure heart was shattered.  The unselfish love and devotion she had poured out on him was scorned.  And in an instant her love became hate.  She swore revenge on him, and set out to enter the entertainment industry so she could  put him in his place.

She is now faced with a heart that is closed off to love.  Hate becomes her strength and her motivation.  But she catches the eye of the company president, who is a self-proclaimed warrior of love.  He makes it his mission to help her heart find love again.  She joins his company with the statement "Please help me regain a needed human emotion."



I like this series a lot.  It gives me a lot to think about.  It's cute and funny, but dark at the same time.  The main characters all have this big gaping holes in their hearts, and they try so hard to fill them.  The main character has many set back, but the losses help her find her true talent and help her to shine.


I'm reminded of myself so often.  I choose small, petty idols who will disappoint me and throw me away after using me and then after pouring out my love, time and energy uselessly, I become afraid and  lock up my heart so I can't be hurt again.  And I allow my life to be ruled by fear and hate.

I feel like the more I lock up my heart, the more it becomes filled with trash.

It's crazy when you look at the mountain of trash.  And I want to give up.  How can I possibly do anything with all this junk?  Where do I start?  Will there ever be an end?  And what exactly is that smell?


I get discouraged, and try to hide the trash behind closed doors.

But God is looking out for me.  God, who wants me to learn how to love - the needed human emotion - has planned things out for me.  Yes, it hurts if He takes away my idols and exposes them for what they are.  But, would I really have been happy in that false place, a place that was so small and weak compared to real life?  If the girl in the story looks back, can she really say she would have been happier living in the shadow of her false prince all her life, and never knowing that she herself could also shine?  Wasn't it the loss of that "happiness" that helped her find the path to her true calling?

And so isn't this how God leads me as well.  I can look back and see where things didn't go my way, and I was frustrated and thought I had lost my "happiness."  But if I had settled for those things, I wouldn't be living in Japan, I wouldn't have met the people important to me now, and I wouldn't be writing this insightful blog.
And looking back it's easy to see.

The problem is that it's so hard for us to see when we are in the middle of it.  When we don't get what we want, or when we are struggling.

We close off our hearts, cry, and blame God for our heartaches.

When really, my heart hurts because I locked it away.  Because I won't allow myself to love anymore.  Because I'm afraid I've chosen yet another idol who will betray me.

But one day...

I will rise up.

And I will move past these times, with a heart stronger and wiser that will open to the sky and truly love.

Psalm 37:4
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.


Delight in the Lord.  Not scorn.  Not distrust.  Not doubt.  Delight.


First, to open my heart...  I must delight in the Lord.

Recently, "Love Song for a Savior" by Jars of Clay has been on repeat on my music player.

Because this is what I know I'm missing.  And what I want to be able to do...

I want to fall in love with You.
I want to fall in love with You.
I want to fall in love with You.


It's not just on repeat on the music player.

It's on repeat in the depths of my heart.

I have a heart problem.

And it can only be solved by falling in love.  Not with an idol.  But with the Love of my Life.


Oh yes.

I want to fall in love with You.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Searching for my Dream and Truth.


Last week my friend read me a passage from Haggai 1 -
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. ’”
Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin? ”
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, ” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands. ”

 I have been pondering this verse often this past week and a half, trying to apply it to my life.  Because you see, it hit me hard the way so many of the warnings applied...  You have planted much, but harvested little.  You eat, but never have enough.  You drink but never have your fill.  You earn wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it.

Ouch.  (that last one hit especially hard)

And it feels like the past few years of my life have been summed up neatly.

So out of the crevices of my mind where half remembered memory verses float around waiting for a chance to be useful comes the ever famous "Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things shall be added onto you" verse (and no I don't remember where it's from...)

Put all these together and I've been trying to figure out how to seek God, build up His Temple first, and love Him with all my heart while at the same time continuing to try to panel my own house because I can't seem to figure out how to stop.

Then this was in my devotion today from the book Captivating by John and Staci Eldridge:

"One of the deepest ways a woman bears the image of God is in her mystery. By mystery we don't mean "forever beyond your knowing," but "something to be explored." "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter," says the book of Proverbs, "to search out a matter is the glory of kings" (25:2). God yearns to be known. But he wants to be sought after by those who would know him. He says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13). There is dignity here; God does not throw himself at any passerby. He is no harlot. If you would know him you must love him; you must seek him with your whole heart. This is crucial to any woman's soul, not to mention her sexuality. "You cannot simply have me. You must seek me, pursue me. I won't let you in unless I know you love me."

Is not the Trinity a great mystery? Not something to be solved, but to be known with ever-deepening pleasure and awe, something to be enjoyed. Just like God, a woman is not a problem to be solved, but a vast wonder to be enjoyed. "


Yes!  This is one of the pieces I have been missing.   The picture is a little clearer now.

God is not something to be solved.  God wants to be known, but yet He is not a harlot throwing herself at any passerby.  He wants to be sought out, He wants to be loved, and he wants to be enjoyed. 

My discontent with my life, the problems that plague me, the things that tie me down and keep me preoccupied... That's all me trying to build my own paneled house.  I'm trying to get all my affairs in order, before trying to move on to the kingdom of heaven.

And in a similar manner that I do when I watch a child trying to go about doing a problem in the completely wrong way, He tries to get my attention, and when that doesn't work, He allows my path to be thwarted.

"You're going about it the wrong way silly.  Come over here and I'll show you."  He says gently.

But like many young children, I refuse to hear.  (seriously, trying to make a child listen to you sometimes is HARD.  Even when the answer is so simple, they are too wrapped up in their own thoughts to hear you trying to help them.)


Thankfully God is patient.


Now I feel a little freer, with a different angle on things.

So the questions for this week are now:

How does a woman chase after her lover in a way that is feminine and yet whole hearted?  (since I have never chased after a lover whole heartedly, I'm a little stumped to know what this looks like just yet...)

How do I go about seeking after God in a way that will enable me to fall deeper and deeper in love with Him?



For now I ponder...

with my hands outstreached...

grasping for the ever elusive love affair born from faith and hope.



I'm certain, someday I'll be still and finally listen.


My friend wrote a song that feels appropriate here...

My dream, I never catched that yet.  My dream, I never touched that yet.
Every night, I'm reaching my hand to the sky...

My Truth, I never catched that yet.  My Truth, I never touched that yet.
Every night, I'm reaching my hand to the sky...

Looking for my Dream and Truth.

(He is not Christian, nor a native English speaker, which is why you have the word catched instead of caught...)

But this is what my heart feels like sometimes (no, make that most times).  If you imagine that my dream and my truth are in fact My God, then this is what I am searching for in all I do.  And so often it feels like I can never quite grasp Him.  But I am compelled to reach my hand to the sky...  searching for my Dream and Truth.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

sometimes there just aren't any words...

Second week back to work, Friday:

It was a normal week.  I felt as if progress was being made inside my heart a bit.  No major problems in my classes.  Things progressing smoothly enough.  It's payday.  I had bread from the bread shop today.

Last class of the week.  3 students. 

We learned about the difference between -ing adjectives and -ed adjectives (this is a very confusing issue in this country.  I can't even count how many times I've had people declare "I was really interesting." when they really wanted to say "I was really interested.") 

We had chapel time.  We sang "God is so good." and read Psalm 100.  Talking about being thankful and how that can change your heart.

Then it was tea time and free talking.

And that's when everything suddenly changes.  One minute you are smiling and joking around, and the next answer you hear to the standard question "How was your month?" (we hadn't seen this student in a month...) is




"It was a nightmare."









And as best she could, in the English she had, she told us about her nightmare.  She was just married last year.  And now she was the victim of domestic violence.  She told us how her husband attacked her.  She told us how she ran away.  She showed us the bruises left on her arm.  She told us about meeting with lawyers and police officers.

She remembered to correct herself when she used the -ing adjectives instead of -ed ones.

She has to borrow her sisters clothes right now because she's afraid to go back to her house.  But she remembered to bring her English textbook with her when she fled.





So quickly the atmosphere in the room changed.  Laughter and joking were subdued.  The speech one student was eagerly waiting to give was forgotten.

Only stunned silence was left as we listened to her speak.



The shock echoed deep inside me.


What do you do when you listen to things like this?  How are you supposed to react?

She was supposed to be a happy newlywed.  Now she is bruised and wondering if her husband will become a stalker.  He was supposed to be the man who loved her.  Now he is the man who frightens her.

How deep of a betrayal!




I can't even imagine.



I don't want to imagine.




What was she thinking as we were singing "God is so good"?  How did she feel when I was talking about my silly struggles of negative thinking etc?  How much was she hurting, and we didn't know at all?




But God is good.  This girl has been a student at this school for years and years.  She was the student of the girl I came to Japan with almost 8 years ago.  And God brought her to this place.  She felt safe enough to come a week after she had been beaten.  She felt safe enough to share a story that most would hide.  She felt attached enough that as she is fleeing her home, she grabs her English textbook.

I'm glad she could do that.  I'm thankful for all the years she has been learning and hearing about God.  I'm thankful for all the missionaries that have been placed in her life.



But her situation is still so unbelievably sad.  On the way home, I literally felt sick.  I was wondering if I was going to throw up at one point.  And she's not the only one.

All my petty complaints are nothing.  I grew up in a home where I knew I was loved.  Sure we fought, but I was never abused.  I was aware of a close friend that she might be verbally and physically abused by family members, but I was too young or too callous to really empathize.  I had never allowed it to impact me.  Violence on tv or in books was removed and unreal.  I knew in my head these things exist, but it never impacted me emotionally.

But this is real.  This is in your face.  This is sick-to-your-somach kind of real.

This is consequences of a broken world.




It's so unbelievably sad.



When Jesus wept for Jerusalem, didn't he also weep for her?  Wouldn't the pain of knowing every persons hurt and unfairness and sorrow be infinitely worse than a mere death by torture?  Isn't this what Jesus gave his life to overcome?


Jesus, please send your healing.  Please rescue her and hold her close to you, so she never doubts your love and goodness.

Jesus, thank you for allowing your heart to break when we break.

Thank you....




God is so good, 
God is so good
God is so good,
He's so good to me.

He answers prayer
He answers prayer
He answers prayer, 
He's so good to me.

I love him so
I love him so
I love him so
He's so good to me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lectures to myself 2 - Jealousy tamples honor

The second lesson from last week was about jealousy, satisfaction, creativity and honor.


Imagine for a moment a king in a far away country long ago.  In olden times, kings had many offspring, sometimes numbering into the hundreds.  It was a way of life.

Now imagine that there was a king with many children.  He loved his children very much.  He wanted his children to grow up and respect and honor others.  He wanted his children to grow up and be able to handle any situation.  He wanted them to become good adults.

So he decided to start giving them random gifts.  He would think long and hard about each child, and he would choose a gift for each one.  As he gave the gift, he would tell them that he wanted them to show him what they had accomplished with the gift when they were done.  He wanted to be proud of their accomplishments and to see how much they'd grown.

To one he gave a horse.  To another a puppy.  To another money.  Another received fabric.  Yet another received seeds.  Another a tree.  Another a cart full of rocks.  The gifts seemed to have no rhyme or reason, but they were all different.

Now.  Imagine you are one of the children.  You father the king has given you a gift.  But instead of something big and grand, suppose you got something like....  a pencil and paper.  The king has looked into your eyes, and with a loving face handed over a pencil and paper.  Does your heart drop?  Doesn't the king know how long you have been looking forward to getting your gift too?  How much you've envied your sister's horse?  How much you longed for a puppy of your own?  But he has given you a pencil and paper.

The disappointment is almost too much to bear.   Why?  Doesn't he love me the same as my sister?  Why does she get something wonderful like a horse and I get pencil and paper?  What kind of gift is that?  Am I not good enough for him?  Is this how he shows his love to me???

So now what do you do with this "gift?"  Do you throw it out, treating it like garbage?  Do you leave it in the corner of your room?  Do you write all your frustrations on it and then burn it?  Maybe draw a picture?  Rip it into a thousand small pieces?

or

You could use it to write a letter to someone who needs encouragement.  You can give it to a child who can't afford it.  You can use it to study.  You can cherish it.  You can use it to start a new business...

The possibilities on both sides are endless.

What will you do with your gift?

Will you keep it to yourself?  Will you throw it away?  Will you share it with others?

Will you be thankful for it?


Will you honor your father with it?



When you are finished, what will your father's reaction be?  Will he be proud?  Will he be honored?  Or will he feel rejected and misunderstood?  Will he feel sad?  Will he feel angry?




In our lives we are given many gifts.  We are born with things that no one else has.  Some of us have talents.  Some of us disabilities.  Some of us are born into wealth.  Some into hardship.  There are infinite possibilities for infinite people.

Yet one thing is the same.  It was all given to us by the King.  Yes.  The good was given.  Even the "bad" was either given or allowed.  Does this mean God is not good?  Does this mean He doesn't love you?

No.

God is wise.  Life is not fair, but that is a world of human making.  God redeems us.  And gives us all gifts and situations.

And gives us the freedom to do something with what He has given us.

What are you doing with your gifts, Amber?  Are you honoring God, or are you complaining because life isn't as great as you want it to be?

Are you throwing away what God has given you, or throwing it aside because it's not what you asked for, Amber?

Are you thankful for what you have received, or are you spitting in the face of the One who loves you more deeply than you can ever understand?





I find myself hanging my head in shame for a bit, keenly aware of how I have treated the love shown to me.

My jealousy belittled the gifts I was given and the love they were given in.

Honor was trampled.

My Father's heart was hurt.





But my Father forgives.

And I hope that He is smiling a little as I learn one more lesson, and pick up my broken gifts with a new feeling of awe and wonder, and a heart that asks, "What can I do with these that will make Him happy?  What will make Him think, 'I'm glad I gave that to her?'"


Maybe one day God will point out the work of my heart with Fatherly pride as He did Jobs.

I can't think of anything better than that.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lectures to myself.

I just finished my first week back to work of the new school year.

It's hard to explain how it felt...

Spring break was exactly what I wanted for a break, a chance to calm my heart, be refreshed, and experience peace and joy.

First week of work had me experiencing all the things from the previous year all compressed together.

That's a lot to process.



Over the course of the week, I had many things to learn and experience.  It's good to know that even the teacher is still a student.  ;-)


The first point I pondered was about the meaning of fear.  You know how we are often told in the Bible, "Do not be afraid," and even more confusing "Fear the LORD your God."

As a kid I always wondered about that.  Why should I have to fear God?  Isn't He supposed to be good?  So if I love Him, why should I fear Him?

Out of curiosity I looked up fear in my handy dandy electronic dictionary (a must for living in Japan!).  It was kind of lacking, so I decided to look it up on the internet instead.  Here is what I found:

noun
1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. foreboding, apprehension, consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm. courage, security, calm, intrepidity.
2. a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights. phobia, aversion; bĂȘte noire, bogy, bogey, bugbear. liking, fondness, penchant, predilection.
3. concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone's safety.
4. reverential awe, especially toward God: the fear of God. awe, respect, reverence, veneration.
5. something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; something a person is afraid of: Cancer is a common fear.

verb (used with object)
7. to regard with fear; be afraid of. apprehend, dread.
8. to have reverential awe of. revere, venerate, honor.
9. to consider or anticipate (something unpleasant) with a feeling of dread or alarm: It's about to snow again, I fear.
10. Archaic . to experience fear in (oneself): I fear me he will ne'er forgive us.
verb (used without object)
11. to have fear; be afraid: I'll go with you, so do not fear!
12. to feel apprehensive or uneasy (usually followed by for ): In this time of economic instability, I fear for my children's future.

13. for fear of / that, in order to prevent or avoid the risk of: She is afraid to say anything for fear of the consequences.
14. put the fear of God in / into, to cause to be greatly afraid.
 
“What we, following the Scriptures, call the fear of God, is not terror or dread, but an awe that holds God in reverence.”
—Martin Luther, The communion of the Christian with God: Described on the basis of Luther's statements, by Wilhelm Herrmann, transl. by J. Sandys Stanyon, revised by R. W. Stewart (1906)
 (It even came with citations!  cool!)

I had been told before that it does mean honor, but even though I know this, it still didn't always make sense.

But thing I was thinking this week...

I'm not really someone who fears many things.  Sure I get a scare when I'm in a dangerous situation.  I mean, I react if there was a near miss with a car.  I'm not a big fan of cockroaches and I have a nagging fear of being single forever.  But a lot of the things that other people are afraid of, I'm not.  Well, physical things.  More than the fear of being single forever is possibly my fear of intimacy.  Fear of relationships.  Fear of not being good enough.  Fear of failure.  These kinds of fears I have in spades.  And they haunt me.  Oh how they haunt me.

And somewhere in the midst of thinking about my fears, I realized something...  When you fear something, you give it power over you.  You have given it the power to change, shape and sometimes even define your life.  The more you fear something, the more power it has over you.  This seems to me to be the conjoined twin of idolatry.  Fear gives power.

Actually, when you think about it, it's not so much of a surprise.  I mean look how often it shows up in the epic stories.  The hero must always battle fear before he/she can prevail.

So fear is the second cousin of idolatry.  This could be a good reason why God kept telling us not to do it.

But as I was thinking about it more, it dawned on me...  Fear is not just an emotion that we have to battle with:  it's at the core of our sin!

If, when we fear something, we give it power over us, we have not honored God.  In fact, we are not trusting God.  Remember: fear means that we are anticipating something bad.  So we give power to something else, because we doubt that God a) is strong enough to save us, b) is good enough to save us or c) cares enough to save us.

We don't trust God.

So we fear.

Isn't this the first sin?  Eve doubts God's goodness.  She thinks that God might be holding out on her.  When confronted with doubt, Eve gives fear power, and in her fear that God was keeping something from her, she took it herself.  Her sin was not eating the fruit that God told her not to (yes the action is also sin, but I'm talking about the heart of things.)  Her sin was not trusting God.

And this is the legacy left to us.

Our world has been invaded by fear.

When I fear that I will never get married, I accuse God of holding out on me.  I don't trust His love for me and His words that everything is for my good.  I accept that "my good" does not always equal my happiness.  I am not trusting God with my life.

When I fear to love people, when I fear that they will hurt me, I am not trusting God to validate me, to comfort me and that His love will sustain me.  I have given others the power over my happiness and sense of worth.

When I fear I will fail, I am not trusting that God can redeem all things and work through them for my good and the good of others.  I have given myself the power over my destiny and the responsibility.  I no longer look to God as my King and ruler, but as a judge on the sidelines with the power to raise or lower my score according to my performance.

When I fear pain, I allow it to rule me.

When I fear loneliness, I allow my actions to be dictated.

When I fear taking chances, I demonstrate that I do not trust God with my future.

When I fear, my heart builds up walls to lock myself up behind.

Fear is a prison.






So I guess the lesson I learned was:  Fear gives power to the object of fear.  It is almost the same as idolatry.  So the only thing I should fear, should be God.  God should be the sole object of my fear because fear is a form of respect or acknowledgement.

So now, for me, I can see that my fear is my sin.  Giving up fear frees me to love and live life in true freedom.  Perhaps this is the "life to the full" that Jesus promised, that has ever eluded me.  I have held too much fear in my heart to allow life in.

So for now, I would like to calm my heart and mind, and stop expecting or giving power to the bad things and bad possibilities in life.  If I trust God, mountains can be moved.  God is more powerful than all these things.  And God loves me.  So me cowering in fear is just stupid and stubborn.