When Fear Whispers

When Fear Whispers


As Christians, we know we’re not supposed to live in it. We have all the awesome verses to trot out in proof. And I even hear it as the reason behind not wanting to be cautious–we don’t want to live in fear, after all. I admit it: I’ve said the same things myself. I’ve said, “I’m not going to be afraid. I’m just going to live.”

And then I seek out information to make me feel better. Maybe you’ve done the same. We seek the news articles that’ll back us up, even if we have to sift through page after page of Google results to find them. “Validate my choices!” we cry to the world. “Prove me right!”

We do it with medical things. We do it with politics. We do it with _________. (Fill in the blank; I think we tend to do it with everything.)

But here’s the thing I’ve been seeing lately: this is, in fact, letting fear win. And worse, it’s creating a self-fulfilling prophecy situation.

Last weekend we had a talk in our church about the new vaccine and people’s views on it. The resounding conclusion? People are afraid.

I flip through the news or read my email lists and see the same thing when it comes to politics, court decisions, culture: People are afraid.

We’re afraid of the government. We’re afraid of people trying to harm us. We’re afraid of our rights being taken away. We’re afraid of health crises. We’re afraid of losing power. We’re afraid of persecution.

This then leads to a spiral. Because we fear it, we want to be alert–so we go looking for it. Hunting up evidence. We tell ourselves we’re just researching so we can be well informed, but are we really reading things that show all sides? Generally not. We’re not digging deeper, we’re just adding more of the same sort of “information” to our well, often more articles from the same sources. We think, “Oh man, this is obviously bad.” So we find other “bad” things connected with our original subject. We look for people linked to it and seek out other terrible things they may have done. We seek faces to put on it, people to blame. People to fight. And any time we come up against opposition or something just goes wrong, we think “This is it! I’m being attacked for my beliefs!”

Why do we do this? Why do we deliberately construct a narrative of fear for ourselves and then put a face to it? Why are we always looking for (and often creating) hidden agendas on our oppositions’ part? I think it’s because we feel like if we can uncover something dastardly, we’d know what to fight. We’d know who our enemy is. We’d know what to DO about it.

In college, we had to read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, and one of the concepts we really had to work to understand was how EVERY dream could be, as he posited, “wish fulfillment.” How, my classmates and I asked, could a nightmare be wish fulfillment? We don’t want these bad things to happen! But Freud didn’t say we wished for the bad. What we wished for was a resolution to the bad. We wanted it out in the open and dealt with, not living in the shadows, not breathing down our necks, not a constant whisper of fear in the back of our mind. We wanted to see it, to know what it was, to resolve it. This, he theorized, was the purpose of a nightmare: to root out our fears and let us face them.

Think what you want about Freud in general, LOL, but there’s something to that. We don’t WANT our fears to come true…and yet we want to know. We want to know how to fight it. How to respond. We want to see those shadows clearly. We want to be validated. We want to be told we had a reason to fear. Because, see? Look! There’s this terrible thing, and we saw it coming!

But perhaps this is why God speaks again and again about how we should NOT be afraid. Because this sort of fear doesn’t just render us immobile. It makes us act in ungodly ways. This sort of fear leads us to create villains where really there are just people doing what they think is best, whether we agree that it’s the best thing or not–equating what may be false opinions with bad motives. It leads us to lash out preemptively, to get defensive, to get entrenched. And do you know what happens then? The thing we feared happens…because we forced it to. When we lash out in fear that sounds like anger, the opposition responds in the same. Battles begin. Politics on both sides get further and further apart. We all become known for hate and anger and bitterness instead of love. And so, yes, then each side tries to persecute the other. Each side tries to take away rights. Each side becomes, in the others’ eyes, a villain.

We let fear dictate to us. And then it laughs in our face when we bring the consequences upon ourselves.

Here’s what God promises though: Perfect love casts out fear.

Because if I love that person on the other side of the aisle, I don’t have room to fear them. I’m too busy praying for them and trying to understand them.

If I love those doctors working to help, I’m going to be asking God for wisdom and guidance for them, not subscribing terrible motives to them or looking for reasons not to trust them.

If I love that transgender person, I’m too busy praying that they’ll understand God’s love for them to worry about whether my own rights are being infringed upon.

If we’re acting in love–love for each other, love for the very people who seem to oppose us–then we don’t have room for fear.

There are a lot of websites and “news” stories out there today specifically geared toward engendering fear in our hearts. Because then we’ll be swayed to act in the ways they want us to act. We’ll be so afraid of what “they” are doing that we won’t even consider listening to anything they ever say. If they say it, then it must be wrong.

This is not the way God and faith work, my friends. He does not move through fear. He does not move through selfish ambition. And Christianity did not change the world by seeking its own. It changed the world through acts of selflessness, sacrifice, and radical love. It changed the word by being courageous and bold for Christ. It wasn’t about gaining a voice in politics. It wasn’t about avoiding persecution. It was about risking it to reach one more soul. It was about giving even when it hurt, trusting that God would make what we had enough. It was about being willing to give up our own–our possessions, our ambitions, our very lives–to show others that this is what Christ did for them.

The Gospel is too often being drowned out today by our other goals, though. By our ambitions for power. By our desire to be proven right. The Gospel is just a whisper behind the fears we’re shouting so loudly.

Something I’ve been trying to do before I share any opinion, though, is to ask, “Does my saying this show Christ? Does it speak love to my enemies? Does it seek the best for them instead of the best for me?” If not, then I can be pretty sure I’m acting out of fear, not faith.

But we can combat it. We can combat it in our own hearts by focusing on how to LOVE those people we don’t agree with. We can focus on praying for supernatural protection for our heart of hearts, for our minds, for our lips. Pray for deliverance from fear. For ourselves, and for those around us. Pray that its stranglehold is broken, that its strongholds are torn down. Pray that its pernicious whisper is silenced.

We are not children of the night, my friends. We are children of day and children of light. We are not children of fear. We are children of faith.

What can we do today to silence that whisper of fear? What can we do today to show love for those who seem to be against us? What can we do to try to understand instead of assuming bad motives? These aren’t hypothetical, rhetorical questions. Seriously–let’s come up with a list of things. And then…let’s do them.

Fear makes us worse. But let’s #BeBetter.



Interruptions. We all know them. And we all hate them (unless of course we’re being interrupted in a task we don’t want to do, LOL). They are distractions. They are things that keep us from doing what we want to be doing, or what we should be doing. They are those annoying, frustrating moments that pull us out of our groove, throw a wrench in our works, or otherwise discombobulate us.

Interruptions are life’s hiccups. And we ALL know how annoying hiccups can be!

Back in September, one of my devotional readings from Live in Grace, Walk in Love by Bob Goff was all about interruptions. I read it while I was away on a writing retreat–one of the few times of uninterrupted writing I manage in a year–so I was especially aware of how far I will go to avoid those dratted interruptions. When I returned from my retreat, I took the time to muse about this topic to the #BeBetter group, and it was something we could all agree with. A few days later, my life was seriously interrupted by a 5-day hospital trip and diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes for my son.

For the next few months, I was left feeling like all I had left were interruptions. My plans, derailed by health issues. My days, interrupted constantly by the need to check blood sugars. My sleep, thoroughly broken by the same. I’ve always loved uninterrupted spans of time in which I can just work. Just be. Just do what I feel I need to do. (Which makes it rather ironic that we chose to homeschool and have both of us working from home. Because lemme just tell you, there is no such thing as a day without many, many interruptions, LOL. As in, the interruptions even have interruptions, until I sit back down hours later and don’t even know what I’d originally been doing! Bet we can all commiserate with that too, right?)

But here’s the thing. Maybe…maybe we’re looking at it all wrong. That’s what Goff pointed out in the devotional, and it’s something I’ve been pondering for months since.

He points out that Jesus was met with constant interruptions too. He was on His way to help one person when He’s stopped by another. Or was on His way to the mountaintop for a much-needed retreat and refresher when He’s interrupted by crowds swarming Him. He was trying to enjoy a nice meal when someone came in to pour oil on His feet. His life was a life of constant interruptions too.

But how did He react?

Well, we don’t see Him complaining. We don’t see Him pushing the interruptions aside. We don’t see Him sighing and getting overwhelmed by frustration.

We see Him pausing. We see Him being constantly “moved by love” for those interruptions, those people so desparate to touch even the hem of their garment that they’d haunt Him through the streets. We see Him recognizing that every single interruption is its own appointment. Not just a distraction from what He was “supposed” to be doing–but a worthwhile task in itself.

Do we view our interruptions the same way?

I’m trying to do that, to view things in a new way.

That the phone call is an unexpected conversation, not an interruption.
The kid at my elbow is a chance to love on one of the most important people in my life, not a distraction.
The email that comes in, filled with demands and exclamation points, is a chance to serve someone in a moment of need, not just something taking me away from my to-do list.
That 2 a.m. blood sugar check is an act of love for my son and a chance to pray, not a half-hour of missing sleep.

What would change in our day if we started viewing each interruption as its own appointment, ordained by God? How much less frustrated would we be if we realized that our time is not our own, and so when our scheduled activity is forced to pause, we recognize it as God tapping us on the shoulder? What if we could seriously view each unexpected thing as a chance to serve Him by serving others and showing His love?

When that woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of His garment, the man who’d been taking Him to his house to heal His daughter no doubt called it a devastating interruption. But the woman called it a life-changing miracle. And Jesus called it another chance to show the love of the Father to a hurting heart. He still healed the little girl–brought her back from death, even. He performed a bigger miracle because of the interruption. And another besides.

We serve a God whose love is not divided by interruptions–it’s multiplied. So let’s rejoice in that assurance…and try to remember that each moment matters…whether it’s filled with what we’d planned or something else entirely.

Free But Costly

Free But Costly

In the book world, there’s a lot of talk about whether it’s worthwhile to give things away for free. People are of multiple mindsets on this. Some think it’s a great way to draw in new readers. Others think it devalues our work. What I know is this: when I get something for free–by which I mean the item simply has no cost assigned to it–very rarely do I actually read it. Why? Because I have so many things waiting to be read that I paid for, or to which a definite value was attached. For instance, one of the perks of being an author with the Baker Group is that we get to pick out a few books from the catalogue each time we’re in it. But we’re given a set value. So I know every title I pick means another that I don’t. There’s still value there. The same goes for if I get a coupon or store credit/cash. It’s a set value. Each item I buy with it means another I don’t. There’s still a cost.

And then there are gifts. They cost us nothing. But we know there’s value, right? We know that someone who cares about us paid something for that item, or invested time in the creation of it. When Judith from church gave me hand-knitted tea cozies for Christmas, it wasn’t just a matter of the ten dollars of yarn, it was a matter of the hours upon hours I knew very well it took her to create that. It has value. It has worth.

Then there’s salvation. It’s free…but it’s not just free. It’s a free gift–paid for by Jesus. And my friends, it’s COSTLY. So, so costly. He couldn’t just offer us salvation with no cost to himself, because then it wouldn’t have value. It wouldn’t satisfy the debt that was owed. He paid it. And then He gave it. Free to us, but certainly not free to Him.

We know this, obviously. We use all the right words when we talk about it. But so often…so often I feel like we toss it around like a free download without really thinking about the value. Or at the least, without putting that value above everything else. We talk about the price Jesus paid, but because it isn’t a cost to us, we offer that so freely and yet don’t give of our own resources unless it’s convenient. We stop giving before it hurts.

He gave until it killed Him.

As we enter the season of Lent, those forty days leading up to His sacrifice, will you join me in really contemplating the cost of this free gift? Let’s pause each day to enumerate the cost.

  • Instead of a life of comfort, He chose the life of a wanderer
  • Instead of the security of a family, He chose to find family among the people who needed Him so desperately
  • Instead of making friends with the powerful, He brought the touch of Heaven to the weak
  • Instead of using His authority to bring Himself riches, He gave up everything to suffer with the poor
  • Instead of hoarding what He had to provide for Himself and His disciples, He took a little and multiplied it to feed the masses
  • Instead of seeking a peaceful life that ended in an easy death at a ripe old age, He offered His life up for us in His prime

Life is the most sacred thing in this world. It is so much more valuable than anything we can purchase with money, isn’t it? Who among us wouldn’t trade everything we have if necessary to keep our child or our spouse or our parent alive? Let me just tell you, when your baby is struggling to draw breath and fighting for consciousness, you don’t care how much the helicopter costs, you just want him to get the help he needs. Life is sacred. Life is precious. Life is beyond price.

And that’s what Jesus gave for us. Everything. Absolutely everything. Let’s make sure we pause to really appreciate that this year.

In Abba’s Arms

In Abba’s Arms

Over the weekend, I had a dream that my kids were little again. That Rowyn was maybe 18 months, and he was crying from another room. I heard him so went to find him, and he looked up at me as he did in reality a million times, saw me, stretched up his arms, and just cried, “Mama!”

In my dream, I scooped him up on the move. I held him close. He stopped crying. But I was still moving, and I tripped. I felt myself going down in that slow-motion way of dreams. My only thought being to keep him from harm. So in typical dream physics, I twisted and bent and held him up and tried to force my mind to put me back on my feet. I couldn’t bear the thought of my baby hurting. I just wanted to make it better. Not be the cause of any more harm.

In reality, while I was dreaming this, we were having a blood sugar battle. The same amount of insulin that usually kept him on the low side of normal had done nothing that night, it seemed, and his numbers were way too high. So I was worrying, and it came out in my dreams. These dreams that were total wish-fulfillment–I just want to be able to make it all better!–and fears–because I can’t.

I woke up with the image of that adorable little boy still in my mind. That mama still in my heart. It didn’t take a degree is psychology to understand why I’d been dreaming about Rowyn as a toddler, when all it took to make the world right was a cuddle in mama’s arms.

Today my baby turns 13. He certainly doesn’t hold his arms up anymore and beg to be picked up, or cry out for mama in that way that says, If you just come, everything will be better. Today my baby turns 13, and I know that life will never be what it was on other birthdays, in other years. He can’t just grin and cut himself a piece of leftover cake for breakfast or eat a spoonful of extra icing for the fun of it. Every gram of carbs that go into his body must be counteracted with insulin. His life will never be what it was before…but it’s all the more precious for what we’ve gone through in these last four months.

As a mother, I’m keenly aware of all I can’t do for him. All I can’t control. All I can’t make better. But then I remember the lessons I would dwell on when he was a baby and a toddler, and I was so exhausted from those constant calls for mama. I remember falling asleep in our old wooden rocking chair, him cuddled in my lap, and realizing that this was how we should approach our Father in heaven. With that certainty that He can make everything right. And that even when He doesn’t change the situation, it’s okay because He has us in His arms.

Do we still have that perfect trust? The certainty of a toddler in his mother’s arms? That calm assurance that the storm doesn’t matter, as long as we can weather it with Him?

Do we cling to that child-like faith even as life wears us out and wears us down? Or do we stop lifting our arms? Stop calling out, “Abba!” the moment we sense something going wrong?

Children grow up. They become independent. They turn into young women and young men with dreams beyond the walls of their parents’ house. And I love watching that process. I love seeing who my babies are growing into. I don’t have to share all their dreams or even understand them. I don’t have to force my own dreams on them. I can just love them and commit them every day to God and trust that even when my arms aren’t holding them, His are. I can pray that they keep clinging to Him long after they stop clinging to me.

So today, we celebrate the birthday that wouldn’t have been, had we lived 100 years ago. We celebrate the first birthday with insulin as our best friend and worst enemy. We celebrate a milestone birthday with injections and carb counting and in a world still shut down with a pandemic. We celebrate with a smaller cake than usual and our only party being hanging out online with friends. But we celebrate with so much joy. Because Rowyn has the chance to keep growing, keep becoming the young man God intends him to be. And we celebrate with that certainty that though mama’s arms can’t fix it all, Abba’s can. We only have to abide there with Him. He may not change our circumstances–but He’ll change us to be victorious through them.

Hold us close, Abba God. And thank you.

What We Do Next

What We Do Next

“Our faith isn’t all the things we say we believe; it’s what we do next.”
~ Bob Goff, Live in Grace, Walk in Love


That. 😉 I feel like I could just leave you with that quote–shortest blog post ever, LOL. Because really, it says it so well, doesn’t it? It harkens to that “walk the walk” adage. It appeals to James’s “I’ll show you my faith by my works” line. It sums up pretty much all the commentary on living out what we believe, day by day and step by step.

I read this in Goff’s devotional several weeks ago, and it’s stuck with me. And as usual, it’s combined with other things I’ve been reading or otherwise coming across. The idea of loving our neighbors, truly loving them. The idea of loving our enemies. Of loving the sinner. It’s about what happens in our lives and in our hearts when the rubber meets the road.

In Dream Big (also by Bob Goff), one of the questions in the study section issues this challenge: Take your average Tuesday. List the things you do during that day.

How does it declare your faith?

Why is this profound? Because our lives aren’t lived in the big moments. Our faith isn’t proven only in a crisis or a victory. Our witness doesn’t rely on how we act at special events. It’s the everyday, the now, that really determines who we are and how we love God. So what’s in your Tuesday, or your Monday, or your Thursday afternoon? How does it shine His light into the darkness? What are you going to do in the next 30 minutes? The next hour? The next four? How does that intersect with your faith in the one true God and the Son who gave His life for you?

I think all too often we just mark time–we’re standing there, marching in place, waiting for the boring everyday stuff to be done so that we can get to what we really want to do. The weekend. The summer vacation. That big holiday. The mission trip. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to any of those things, obviously…but they’re not what life is made of, are they? Life is more than the big moments. It’s ALL the moments in between. Our characters, our hearts, aren’t just definied by those big days, but rather by all the “meantime.”

The challenge that Goff issues, and which I’ve long tried to live out as well, is to live EACH day as if it’s the one you’ve been waiting for. Each normal, ordinary day is a chance to give glory to Him. It’s a chance to choose what we’re going to do next. It’s a chance not just to talk about our faith, but to walk in it. It’s a chance to chase our dreams. It’s a chance to mend a bridge. It’s a chance to try something new.

Make a call. Send an email. Write a letter. Bake cookies for those neighbors you’ve never met. Go out of your way to give lunch to the homeless man on the corner. Write that story you’ve been meaning to get started on. Or hey, just write down that epiphany from the other day in a journal. Do something nice for your most annoying coworker. Give away something to someone who knows how much it means to you, to prove to them that they mean more. Take the first step toward that off-the-wall, crazy dream that won’t leave you alone.

Do something. Do something today to be more like Christ. Do something today to give feet to the words we say so easily. Do something to make today special.


Don’t just say you believe in Jesus. Prove it. Prove it today.


Love the Sinner

Love the Sinner

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

You’ve heard this saying. I know you have. I’ve been hearing it all my life, and in its truest sense, it’s right. We are certainly called to hate sin. And we are certainly called the love everyone, neighbors and enemies alike. That includes sinners.

But what does this actually look like?

Well, Jesus gives us the ultimate example, of course. It looks like loving people so much, it breaks your heart to consider what separates them from the Father. It means giving your own life in order to keep them from paying the penalty for their sins. It means instructing people, showing them the Truth, teaching and living an example. It means bringing the kingdom of Heaven near to earth and showing people what it really means to live in the love of God.

I don’t imagine many of us quite live up to that though, LOL. I know that when I consider sinners–and let’s consider some really grievous ones, like those who hurt and abuse children, murderers, people who prey on the elderly–my first response to hearing about them is anger. Frustration. Disgust. I hate the sin, that’s for sure. And I want them to repent so they’ll stop doing it, stop hurting people. But it’s for the sake of those other people. The victims. In my natural state of reaction, I’m more concerned with the stopping than why they’re stopping. So if they’re arrested, awesome. Killed? Meh. I just want it to end.

This is natural. But it’s not what Christ modeled, and that’s something that’s been convicting me lately. He didn’t just want a sinner to stop sinning because of who they hurt. He wanted sinners to stop sinning because that sin stood between them and God. He wanted them to stop so that they could experience salvation. He wanted them to stop because He loved them.

But how did He approach this?

From what I can tell, He just focused on the love. When He saved the life of the woman caught in adultery, He didn’t have to sit her down and explain to her why adultery was wrong, did He? He didn’t look her in the eye and say, “I love you, but I hate what you’re doing.” He didn’t try to convince her of anything. All He did was offer forgiveness. All He did was refuse to condemn her. All He did was set her free and tell her to go, live her life, and sin no more. Now, I imagine “stop committing adultery” was pretty easy to check off her list. But sin no more doesn’t just mean the one sin she was caught in, did it? That woman would have gone home and embarked on a lifelong journey to figure out what “sin no more” really means. And she would have done it, because she understood that He was calling her to something higher. Because He loved her enough to save her life.

How do we approach the sinners who cross our paths? I think far too often, we focus on hating the sin. We say we love the sinner, but what we really mean is that we want them to stop sinning so that we can love them. We want them accept Christ so that they can be washed clean and then enter into fellowship with us. But we have it backward. We need to love them first. Just as they are. Love them messy, stinky, dirty, selfish, greedy, violent, hateful, bitter, perverted, nasty. Love them because they are a child of God, a bearer of His image, and He loves them so much He gave His Son’s life for them. He loves them so much, and just wants them to come home. Now, when they enter His mansion, they’ll see how spotless it is, how gleaming, how pure, and they won’t be able to help but look down at their own hands and see the filth there. Let Him do that work, that convicting.

We just need to focus on the love. My new mantra is going to be “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Which is to say, “Just love the sinner.” I need to focus on the love, not the hate. Because if I truly love them, it will include wanting better for them. It will include wanting them to reconcile with the father. But it will focus not on what they’re doing, but rather on their heart and soul. On who they are beneath the actions.

How can you demonstrate love today to the worst among us?