Friday, September 16, 2016

The Tyranny of Fear

Fear is a tyrannical dictator. Fear diminishes. Fear robs. Fear disallows.

I'm recollecting a lesson God taught me years ago as I wrestled through a decision in my life: God does not lead through or by fear. In other words, do not make your decisions based on your fear. God is not that kind of father. He is not. He is Love itself and is deserving of our absolute confidence.

When my decision is inspired by fear it is not inspired by faith. And without faith it is impossible to please God. Now, does that mean that every determination inspired by faith is fearless? Au contraire mon ami! It simply means we make our choices based on God and His Great Faithfulness and not out of fear. We lift our eyes to Him, choosing to delight in His way, choosing to trust His Word alone. And with that Word we are then equipped to overcome fear.

Determining His heart and delight, bowing your knee in love and deference to Him, then following that course of action in spite of fear or doubt due to situation or condition is faith. Keeping your eye on Him and battling that fear and doubt as you pursue that decision is faith. When weary, looking for others to hold up your arms in the midst of that battle is faith.

Living boldly by faith is not always seen by others. It is not always a visibly gallant exercise, a public display. It might be as simple as saying "Yes, Lord, I will do that. I will call my friend and encourage her today. I'm afraid to do that, afraid she will not be blessed, but I will trust You. I will not make this choice based on my fear, but based on Your heart of love."

I remember as a young bride learning to support my new husband and this lesson first coming to me. My husband needed me to be brave. I hadn't been to NYC in many years, and never as an adult. We were looking for a parking spot near Times Square to buy Broadway tickets. I'm a small town girl remember. And it is summer in NYC - tourist season. Around and around we went. Finally he quickly pulls over to the curbside saying, "You get out here and I'll find a spot somewhere farther away and come find you. You get online right over there." With that, he opens the door and I jump out. Alone. Immediately engulfed in a flowing pushing crowd. PANIC. The thought of ever seeing him again seemed overwhelmingly impossible. "Where did he point to? Am I safe here? What if someone steals me away?" Every bad thing I had ever heard about the city came screaming in. And then His Spirit nudged me, reminding me of His presence, challenging me to be what my husband needed me to be, to be what He wanted me to be. He challenged me to be calm, to know His peace, to refuse the fear so that I could be used by Him. And I yielded to that nudging. I wanted to be used by Him and not be a tool in the enemy's hands, stymied by fear and unable to function. A simple but profound lesson in my life. It has served me time and time again.

You see, fear is a tyrant. It will rob you of every opportunity to experience His grace, His empowerment, His love flowing through you. It keeps you from receiving His best gifts. It holds you back from growing and enlarging. It is a tool the enemy uses against us. It is the absence of faith, overwhelming us when our eyes are off Him and on our circumstance.

Repent of fear. Then ask Him for a red flag to wave in your mind's eye every time you are choosing something based on fear rather than faith. He will do it. He will show you. He will help you. And when you learn to overcome fear in small decisions, you will begin to overcome fear in large ways, too.

Yielding to His heart by making faith-based decisions will release empowerment and freedom, bringing joy to Him and those around you. And His Holy Spirit will enable you to do this very thing. Ask Him and see that God does not lead us by fear but faith.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4.18
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1.7


Tuesday, September 06, 2016


" inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away..." 1 Peter 1.4 
"The grass withers, and its flower fails away, But the Word of the Lord endures forever.1 Peter 1.24
I weep a bit when I read these words. I've suffered loss, seen corruption, experienced defilement. But look and see! What a promise! This assures us that in heaven, for all eternity, our inheritance and our God will not be corruptible or defiled nor will they fade away. Never. Never changing. Always. Wow.

Perhaps it's my age, the years of experience. Or perhaps it is the Spirit of the Living God abiding within, teaching and revealing. But I'm very aware of the defilement, the corruption, the fading away. I've learned about the joy that accompanies the new, shiny, exciting thing: it will fade, it will fail.

I'm not trying to be a downer here. It's simple reality. And in all honesty, it doesn't need to be a downer, just an honest assessment. Because there is a hope, a real and genuine and lasting hope.

Last week the lawn was mowed and thoroughly raked. The gardens were meticulously weeded and edged. The sprinkler had been run generously, renewing green vitality throughout.

Today? Mounds of grass lie drying in the sun where the mower did its work yesterday. The dirt is dry and the plants lackluster. Clover and grass are creeping across the border. And I sigh a bit, shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, that was nice while it lasted. But I have an inheritance in heaven that is incorruptible and undefiled and does not fade away. Thanks be to my Lord Jesus Christ!"

Time and again the new glass pitcher breaks, the cleaned window gets cloudy, and the friendship fails. A good lesson has been learned. Enjoy the beauty, but don't depend on it for real joy. Delight in the experience but find lasting delight in Him. Lean only on Him and look to Him for the real thing.
The incorruptible awaits us, and oh, how glorious that will be! Perfection forever.

But He is with us today; His beauty, His faithfulness, and His truth.

"The Word of the Lord endures forever."

How wondrous to behold the eternal, the everlasting. It is here for us, even today.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Promise

In this day and age, the thought of giving your life for a cause can seem a bit out there. Suicide bombers, for instance, are regarded quite suspiciously. 
"What ever could bring a person to this point?" we wonder. 

On the other hand, we readily honor those who valiantly risk their lives to save another from peril, such as the firefighters at 9/11. We build memorials, and rightfully so. We inwardly wonder and even dare hope that we would do the same if ever confronted with such circumstances.

However being thus confronted turns out to be quite rare. I, for one, have not encountered a time when I could do something as bold and courageous as jumping into a raging river to save a child. Nor have I bravely faced a house ablaze, risking my own life to bring someone out to safety.

But years ago, I was confronted in another way.

Having given my life to Christ, He faithfully began teaching me exactly what that looked like. And He began meddling.

Luke 9.23 (NIV) - Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."  (emphasis mine)

There it was. A deep challenge, an earnest call. This was just me and Him. His quiet voice alone calling me to lay down my life, to die to myself, to let go of all I was, body, soul, and spirit. No one was preaching at me, sharing with me, nudging me. Just Him.

And no one else would ever know. There would be no glory if I did this; there would be no failure if I didn't. 

No one else would ever know - seemingly.

But in fact, the choice is on display everyday, for good or for bad. It is worked out in quiet ways, seen in small choices and large, in little things and grand. 

In time, a stigma of peculiarity akin to being "a bit out there" is attached to those who have agreed to give their entirety to Him. An aroma - a perfume, if you will - emanates from our daily living because an offer has been made and the promise is a good one: His life in exchange for ours.  He is now alive in us if we daily choose the cross, if we daily die to ourselves.

I never grow tired of this message. It has been for me a source of extreme joy and fulfillment, a paradox divine.
Give and receive. Die and live. Sacrifice and be fulfilled.
His life for mine. Holiness for brokenness. Joy for sorrow. 

Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Childhood memories, Pt. 2

So many ideas for writing float through my head, but I want to finish this first, this recollection of a precious generation, lest it be forgotten and overlooked.

My Grandma and Grandpa On the Street. I wrote previously about my mom's folks, Grandma and Grandpa On the Farm. Now for my father's parents. Since both sides used Grandma and Grandpa as names, my brothers and I came up with our own distinctions for them: On the Street and On the Farm.

My family lived out in the country. My mom's folks lived out in the country. But my Dad? His childhood home was clearly unique in our world -- he was a town kid! His folks had neighbors within a stone's throw on all sides, even across "the street". We lived on a road like everyone else, but this -- this was a street!

Grandma's backyard was pretty much a postage stamp and much of that was dedicated to her beautiful roses. Her gardens could have won competitions. Climbing curtains of white and pink, huge blooms of reds and yellows. Always immaculate and healthy. And beyond the back fence of that garden were the grounds of the public elementary school with swings and slides and even a ball field, if I recall correctly.

Grandma and Grandpa kept things "spit spot". Even Mary Poppins would have been pleased. I don't remember much about the garage but in my memory it is tidy, with a place for everything and everything in its place. A garage boasting the kind of order that elicits a calm sigh.

Grandpa was the head maintenance man at the public high school. As a very young girl I would visit him at his office and tag along as he performed his duties. Walking down those long, empty, shining hallways lined with locker after locker was always delightful to me, knowing all of this was under his charge. How important he was and how well he cared for his domain. He would always chuckle and smile with a twinkle in his eye as he shared a pleasant word with those who worked for him. My favorite duty was checking the pool. What strange smells as he tested the water and added needed chemicals. How very HUGE this pool was to me! Grandpa was wonderful and he knew so very much!

Grandma On the Street passed away when I was five years old. She died of liver cancer, fairly quickly so I've been told. Therefore, my memories of her were truncated. I wish I had a clearer image of her entirety in my mind's eye, but I do not. Sadly, I recall her demeanor, presence, and character more than her actual physical being. Were it not for photos, I think a clear image would be lacking.

But her stature and roundness of face and features are there. She had soft eyes and plumpness, I think. Her smile boasted straight clean teeth. Actually, she kept everything clean. I recall linoleum kitchen floors shining and crumb-free, polished hardwood, and tidy rooms. Always tidy. Kitchen counters were clear and clean. No clutter allowed in this home!

In one of the spare bedrooms upstairs, Grandma had a large tin filled to the brim with buttons. How I loved touching, sorting, and arranging those buttons! They filled my time at Grandma's house. And in that same room, Grandpa had large silver coins - dollar coins and half dollars. Such treasure - and he let us touch them! And his old pocket watches. This was the stuff of pirate lore!

We spent overnights there on occasion. I would stay in the room with the buttons, and my brothers across the hallway. When in need of a shampoo, my hair was washed in the whiter-than-white kitchen sink with me stretched out along the counter. No "tangle-free" conditioner in those days, and Grandma never had a girl (my father was an only child.) Grandma didn't tolerate much fuss, so I well recall hair-washings and the subsequent combings with Grandma!

Grandma provided meticulously for our physical care, making sure we were clean and properly fed when we spent time at her house. But Grandpa was the one who cared for our hearts. When my brother fell out of bed in the night, he was the one who scooped him up and held him until he was settled. He would play peek-a-boo and let us climb on his lap during TV time.

Grandpa retired a few years after Grandma's death and he moved in with us. Our new ranch house had a finished basement, and next to the rec room was his bedroom and bath. Now his lap, his smile, his "same ol' jokes" were with us continually. I loved him so dearly.

He shoveled our snow in the winter, mowed our lawns in the summer. He drove us back and forth to after-school rehearsals and ball games. Sometimes he took us to the diner if Mom and Dad had other things going on. And ice cream treats were often a part of time with Grandpa. His chuckle and the twinkle in his eye as he smiled are indelibly etched in my memory.

He was no longer Grandpa on the street but was now Grandpa Follette. Louis LeRoy Follette. I love all of those names because of him.

He accompanied us everywhere on all sorts of family outings and vacations. My head would routinely rest on his shoulder in the back seat as we traveled roads to NYC or Boston, or just around the corner to the nearby golf course.

And he smoked cigars. He had a chair - Grandpa's chair - in our living room. This was where he sat to enjoy his afternoon and evening cigar while he watched sports on TV. And there my brothers and I would fight for time on his lap, never tiring of being with Grandpa.

Always tanned from working outside, always puttering on equipment, and always taking his Saturday night bath whether he needed it or not!

He passed away shortly after Carina Beth was born in 1984. What a deep loss that was for me. Even as I write these words, my eyes fill with tears. How I loved him.

What a dear special man he was; his presence fills all of my childhood memories. He was always there. Always.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Childhood memories, Pt. 1

This morning I'm reflecting on the length of a lifetime, and the brevity of a lifetime.

King David's lifetime is recounted in some detail in several chapters of scripture.

And, too, his life is summarized in one verse. Okay, three: "Thus David the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. And the period that he reigned over Israel was forty years; seven years he reigned in Hebron, and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem. So he died in a good old age, full of days and riches and honor; and Solomon his son reigned in his place."

I'm wondering how mine will be summarized.

In the meantime, I'm recollecting bits of my childhood. Today I am particularly aware of my mom's pattern of interest and investment in her parents. Consequently I have fond memories of their home because, it seems to me, that every Saturday we made the trek to the farm to visit them. I'm sure it wasn't every Saturday because I also clearly recall Mom saying, "Better head to Mom and Dad's today since I didn't get there yesterday." (Sunday afternoon, I suspect.)

My mom worked outside of the home from Mon.-Fri. so weekends were usually the best option (though perhaps she would slip down on a rare weeknight if she knew the weekend promised to be busy.) She didn't always insist on our accompanying her, but we usually did.

Grandma died when I was in 6th grade, at Christmas time. She was 62. Until then, visits to her cozy yellow house made for so many happy memories.

If it was summer there was gardening in her flower beds, sitting in yard chairs in the shade on the front lawn, slipping away unnoticed to her always cool living room to find Bach minuets on the piano open and ready for a read-through, exploring the back woods with the meandering creek with my brothers. Or riding on Grandpa's big red International tractor through his beloved orchards.

Winter-time visits meant attic expeditions where I found miniature Beatrix Potter books that I adored, eating warm-from-the-oven powdery molasses cookies shared with my twin brother (I always put two hands out, "One for Darryl, too, Grandma!"), and sitting on Grandpa's lap while he played "slap your hand if you don't move quickly enough" games. And the cellar. We loved the cellar furnace with the window in it. We would watch the flame dart and change forever, or so it seemed.

The farm also boasted a big ol' barn with an attached chicken coop. Haylofts, corn-husking machines that my ever-curious older brother discovered still worked by inserting his thumb resulting in a quick trip to the ER, old cow stalls, and dusty long low-slung rooms in the coop, perfect for hide-and-seek. There was never an end to fun when discovering new corners with ladders to climb up to "who knows where" and echoes to make by shouting and singing at the top of our lungs. And it was always better when cousins happened by at the same time!

Out in Grandpa's woods was an old lean-to for escaping a sudden downpour. Next to it was a freshwater spring with a tin cup tied to the neighboring tree, insuring a fresh drink was always on hand (more than welcome when working in the orchard on a hot summer day.) And, of course, a taller-than-I-can-imagine rope swing attached "somewhere in the top of that tree" provided more fun than the most expensive roller coaster could dare boast.

The cool air of their home in the summer, the spicy fragrance in the winter; Grandma and Grandpa's weathered, worn hands that often held ours and would reach out to catch me in a hug that held me to her floured apron or his fresh-air overalls; the warm smile she gave and the ready glance from his bluer than blue eyes; Grandpa's ruddy complexion from long outdoor days and Grandma's strong sinewy arms that churned butter and rolled cookies. These are things I remember like it was yesterday. And yet it was another lifetime it seems.

This was my heritage from my mom. Farm folks, hard working, simple and upright. Grandma was educated to be a teacher. In fact, that's what brought her to my hometown of Williamson, NY from her hometown of Potsdam, NY. There she met Grandpa, son of a merchant (I believe it was a hardware store), who bought land and became a fruit farmer. They had 6 children, all raised on the farm, my mom being the only girl.

It was Grandma that taught me by example to pray. I would often sit by her side on the wooden pew in our Presbyterian Church. And always, as we slid along the bench upon arrival, she would fold her hands and close her eyes. As she bowed her head, I knew she was talking to God. And I prayed, too. I saw her draw near to God and this has become a lifelong endeavor of mine. I draw near to God and pray to Him. Always.

Before I went to school my grandmother babysat my twin brother, Darryl, and me. But one warm afternoon she was out working on her hands and knees in her flower garden when she suddenly clutched her chest and huskily told us to "get Uncle Ed." Somehow, we managed to do so. It was a heart attack. The first. And it was the end of her babysitting us. She went on to live, as I mentioned, until I was in 6th grade. My Grandpa, I recall, was deeply sorrowful at the loss. I spent a night at their home shortly after Grandma died. I remember star gazing out of my upstairs window that night when I noticed him. He was standing in the cold dark night on the backdoor step, looking up at the same stars I was looking at. I could see that his bluer than blue eyes were heavy and misty, and his strong shoulders hung a bit. My heart ached and cried for him. And I missed her, too.

Grandpa Lockley passed away shortly after I became engaged. Rick was never able to meet him, something I have always been sorry about. He was so precious to all of his grandchildren. A wonderful loving man.

I was a truly blessed girl. Another day I will write my memories of my dad's mom and dad.