The Day I Left My Fear in the Dust

We stood on the dusty shoulder watching the tow truck driver load up the car. Transport trucks roared past. I turned to the state trooper. “Thank you for your help.” He had spent at least an hour with us that afternoon, trying to identify and solve the problem. My words seemed inadequate.

The afternoon sun was hot. It was a pretty place to break down, at least. There was a little pond and some trees in blossom. There were red-winged blackbirds, my favourite. But we were in the middle of the country—a different country, no less.

I was on my way to Cincinnati for a conference with a girl I had only met once before. Midway through Ohio, her car began to clank and the engine cut out. We coasted to a stop at the side of the interstate, smoke billowing from the hood. I tried hard to push down my panic. We were hours from our hometown in Canada and a mile from the nearest highway exit. The only building of note was an empty, white farmhouse across the fence.

Lord, help us!

I had been terrified of this trip from the second I decided to go. The kind of terrified where your heart pounds and your breath comes fast and you lay awake in bed at night silently crying out to God for what to others must seem like no good reason whatsoever. The process is a familiar one. I’ve dealt with my share of fear in my life.

But this is a story of freedom.

Less than a week before we left, back on Good Friday, I was getting ready for church when I felt the Lord speak to me: “I want to heal you of anxiety.” If I wasn’t so sure it was Him, I would have laughed outright. I’ve quietly carried this burden for as long as I can remember.

I’ve begged. I’ve pleaded. I’ve wept.

And I’ve worked hard to hide my crippled heart.

Two nights before my trip, I began to tell my husband about my deepest fear—one that has plagued me for years. One that seemed silly when spoken yet still gripped my soul. One that surfaced every time I had to go away from home. A fear that God alone knew.

As I stood at the side of the interstate less than 48 hours later thanking the state trooper for his help, I was still pushing down my nervousness. The officer smiled at me. Then casually, he called out my fear—my irrational, nonsensical fear.

He called it out right there at the side of the highway as if it was nothing.

My eyes blurred with tears. I knew immediately that this was a divine appointment, a prophetic encounter, a sacred moment.

I knew I’d better listen hard.

“You need to have faith,” the officer continued. “This is a test, and you’re failing big time. You’re failing big time! You need to learn to turn things over to Him.

“Do you know why God put you with her?” He gestured towards my travel companion, now a friend for life. “Because she has faith. She knows how to turn things over to Him. And it’s not an accident that God brought me along today either.

“Someday, your daughter—Do you have a daughter?”

I nodded. I have three.

“Someday, your daughter is going to go on a road trip with her friends, just like this. And what are you going to do?”

“Turn it over to Him?” I laughed weakly. “I’m getting better at it.”

The policeman nodded. “God uses these things to make us strong. He’s making you strong.”

The car was loaded and the tow driver was ready to go. I climbed into the front seat and put my purse in my lap. God had confirmed, once again, that He is with me. That there is nothing to fear.

He brought me more than halfway to Cincinnati just to remind me of that.

Hours later, we were back on the interstate in a rental jeep. It had taken the mechanic only a few minutes to determine that my friend’s car was broken beyond repair. She sold it to the tow company for a pittance. After a bit of a wait, a local car rental company hooked us up with a ride and we were on our way. There was only open road ahead.

I settled into my seat and smiled. Something had broken in me that day.

Somewhere in Ohio, I left my fear in the dust.

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When Love Needs Truth

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Everyone’s talking about the big change. A man becoming a woman, his new identity splashed across the pages of Vanity Fair.

(Yes, I’m going to go there.)

Our society is hailing him as a hero.

Why?

I think it’s because he embodies the tenuous hope that, somewhere out there, happiness is possible. But, as Matt Walsh pointed out, brokenness in a surgically and hormonally-altered casing is still brokenness—and no matter how much you change the outside, your inner self is still your inner self.

Seeing people wrestle with themselves like that? It wrecks me.

Know what else wrecks me?

The church.

I love my pastor because he does not compromise truth. But there are many churches in which the definitions of gender, orientation and identity are not being shaped by the Word of God. We live in a society in which the global church is increasingly adopting “progressive Christianity”. Here’s the thing. Progressive thinking becomes regressive thinking when we become so focused on promoting love that we forget truth.

I’m all for grace and mercy. Believe me. I breathe it every day. But it was John Lennon who said that “all you need is love”, not Jesus.

Jesus, the embodiment of love, said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Love and truth are intertwined.

So when we say that black is white and white is black? Or when we ignore both black and white entirely?

We end up with people in the church who are just as lost and confused as they were before they joined the church because they still don’t know why they are broken. The church might throw out a lifeline of love but if that love is not anchored by truth then we are all just hopelessly drifting.

If that doesn’t break your heart, nothing will.

We will never fully understand the redeeming power of Jesus without understanding the destructive power of sin. Angry confrontational protests do not show love. But love that does not bring freedom is not really love either. Jesus died for our freedom but until we realize that we are bound, we will never be able to embrace the fullness of the cross. 

We need both love and truth.

Sometimes, I sit in my living room and weep. I weep for the world and I weep for the church. And I weep because I want so badly to be brave.

Why are we afraid to stand for truth? I don’t know if there has ever been a society so lost and confused.

I truly believe that God wants to bring freedom to our land. I truly believe that He wants to sweep across our nation and ignite hearts with His love and His truth. But the church needs men and women who will stand for what is right. Only then can lives be changed. People are not looking for conformity. They are not looking for compromise.

People are desperate for the freedom that only Jesus can bring.

In the confusion and brokenness of today’s world, God is calling the church to rise up strong. Full of love? Yes. Yet uncompromisingly strong. Even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it’s unpopular, and even when no one else gets it.

Whom shall I send? Who will go for Me?

The need is great; the call is great.

Here am I. Send me.

To Those Who Serve Our Country….

Poppies in Field

“Why is there a traffic jam?” my four-year old asked from the backseat of the car. The highway was backed up a ways. At the front was a line of flashing red lights. And although we couldn’t see it from our vantage point, I knew that the police were accompanying a young soldier home.

I want to shelter my children. I want them to stay innocent as long as possible. So I didn’t tell my daughter that this soldier had lost his life and was coming home to be laid to rest. I didn’t tell her that there are senseless acts of violence happening all the time in the world and that they sometimes happen on our own soil. I didn’t tell her that there is evil in the world that can sometimes hit close to home and shake us to the core.

I didn’t tell her that the man lost his life while serving his country. Or that a mother and a father lost their son. Or that a sister lost her brother. Or that a child lost his father.

What I did tell her was that a soldier was coming to Hamilton. That he was a hero because soldiers are very special people who protect our country from bad things and bad people. That throngs of people came out to honour this soldier because he deserves to be honoured. That we should always honour our soldiers.

My daughter is only four years old. So I sheltered her.

You know, as much as most parents want to shelter their children, there are places where it isn’t possible. There are children in other parts of the world who are confronted with violence and death on a daily basis. There are children who see and experience unspeakable things. Every. Single. Day.

They have no choice.

It is because of those who serve our country that I am able to shelter my little girl. It is because of countless men and women that have sacrificed their lives that I have the freedom to raise my family in safety.

Tonight, as my four-year old and I watched the procession from afar, the tears fell. I have never been more grateful for our soldiers.

To everyone who has served our country, thank you.

Letting Go

 

1435807_71651021I lugged the heavy bins down the attic stairs, one at a time. Once I got them into the bedroom, I carefully opened the lids and peered inside. Mounds of clothes stared back at me. They were all shapes, colours and sizes.

There were clothes from when I was at my thinnest just over a year ago. There were clothes from when I was a more average weight. There were bigger clothes from various stages of kidney treatment.

Some of the items were brand new and still had tags on them. Other items, believe it or not, were almost 20 years old.

Four and a half giant bins of clothes.

I had been holding on to most of them for years, taking them out and packing them away again as my size fluctuated. Every now and then, I’d sort through the clothes, but I was never quite able to get rid of them.

What if you have another kidney disease relapse? I’d ask myself. You’ll need the varying sizes to accommodate the weight fluctuation. Or what if you lose weight and can’t afford new clothes? You better hang on to these just in case.

Fear. Fear of sickness. Fear of lack. It all boils down to fear.

And then there is one item that represents even more. I came across it today, its brown sheen peeking out from beneath a pile. I bought it with so much hope and expectation. Today, I found it buried at the bottom of a bin, limp, a symbol of disappointment and heartache.

God doesn’t call us to a life of fear. He doesn’t call us to a life of brokenness. He calls us to a life of fullness and wholeness.

So it’s time to move on and let go. It’s time to start over.

I’m down to one bin of clothes now, consisting of my portaging clothes and some key wardrobe pieces that I love. Everything else that isn’t damaged will be donated, given away or swapped.

Except for that one item. I threw that one in the garbage. Pushed it way down to the bottom.

It felt good. Very good.

Sometimes freedom can be found in the strangest places.

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Stepping Out of the Zone

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The tiles in the change room were slippery and the air was thick with chlorine fumes. I tried not to think about much of anything as I squeezed my body into a bathing suit left over from my first pregnancy. I’m not pregnant, by the way. But I’ve gone up almost five sizes in two months and the bright orange-pink piece of spandex is the only bathing suit that fits.

Well, it sort of fits.

I nervously made my way into the pool along with a group of seventy-year old Eastern European women. A lifeguard put on an upbeat CD and instructed us to grab some foam “weights”. I clumsily tried to keep up as she led us through a series of exercises but my feet and legs kept cramping up and my muscles wouldn’t cooperate.

Okay, let’s be real, it was also because I’m a bit out of shape.

I was embarrassed until an elderly lady caught my eye. She was having trouble too. Suddenly, we were both laughing uncontrollably.

The rest of the class was incredibly fun.

Whenever I’m on kidney treatment, I fight the same battle. It’s a big but silly battle. I get embarrassed about the way I look—the weight gain, the clothes that don’t fit and (most especially) the “moon face”. I become paralyzed by insecurity.

Forcing myself to take a fitness class is one way I’m fighting back.

I’ve also been taking my children to the local literacy centre once a week so I can meet and develop friendships with other moms. I’ve been striking up conversations at the park. I’ve been inviting people over for coffee or for dinner.

Why? Because Jesus has a calling and purpose for my life—and for those around me—that goes beyond what I feel like on any particular day.

There are people out there who desperately need to experience His love. There’s a lot at stake—their eternity. I’m not going to get to share Jesus’ love with anyone if I’m at home hiding under my covers because I’m tired or because I’ve gained (more than) a few pounds!

Why am I sharing such a personal struggle? Well, a few weeks ago, I wrote about “Breaking Limitations”. Here is what I’m learning: You don’t break limitations off of your life by praying a one-time prayer. You break limitations off of your life by actively stepping out of your comfort zone on a daily basis.

Every day, I have been looking for ways to step out of my comfort zone. It has been life changing!

So now it’s your turn. What is one thing that holds you back? And what is one step that you can take today to overcome that issue?

Breaking Limitations – Not I, but Christ

My husband and I stood on our cobblestone driveway watching flames curl around a measuring tape by our feet.

“I have been crucified with Christ,” I said softly. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

As the fire died down, my husband poured water on the twisted, charred plastic. It is garbage day today and, along with the trash, goes this symbol of the enemy’s whispered lies. I’m glad.

You see, the enemy wants us to believe in limitations.

I can’t meet that person. I don’t know how to make conversation.”

I can’t write for that organization. The articles are read by pastors and missionaries. I’m just a mom.”

I can’t apply for that job. I’m not qualified.”

I can’t mention Jesus to the neighbours. I’m sure they heard me raise my voice to my children yesterday. I’m such a big hypocrite.”

Do you notice the one thing that these limitations have in common?

It’s the word “I”.

Lies don’t have to be rational to be effective. They simply need to take our eyes off of Christ.

Last night at a prayer meeting, I asked Jesus to show me the key to overcoming the ever-present sense of failure in my life. Clear as a bell, the words came to mind, “It’s not I, but Christ.”

“It’s not I.” The truth is that we’re human. Humans have limitations.

But that’s not the end of it.

“Christ lives in me.” We have been crucified with Christ. That means that all of our limitations were broken at the Cross.

We need to take our eyes off of ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we “can’t” do something; we are dead! Our lives have been laid down at the cross. Jesus lives through us. His grace has covered us. His limitless power is at work in us.

A pastor who was praying for me last night suggested I go home, find a measuring tape and burn it to symbolize God breaking limitations off my thinking. As my husband and I stood under the night sky and watched orange flames lick yellow plastic, I felt such a sense of freedom.

This is a lesson I won’t soon forget.

There are no limitations. There is no measuring stick. There is only the One who overcame death and sin, the biggest limitations of all. There is only the cross. There is only Jesus.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

It’s not I, but Christ – the limitless love and power of Christ.

The Cobwebs in the Basement

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I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s a deep, dark, cobweb-covered secret that you have to promise not to tell anyone. Promise? Are you ready for this? First, let’s set the scene …

It’s a beautiful, bright day. But, in the basement, it’s gloomy. The tiny windows don’t let in much light. In some places, the walls are covered by faux wood paneling. But in most places, the chipped, grey, stone foundation is clearly visible. The air is musty and stale. No one comes down here much except to grab something from storage or to use the washer and dryer that are pushed against the far wall.

Near the bottom of the stairs is a wooden door that is rarely used. And yet, if you were to peek into the room that lies behind that door, you would be pleasantly surprised. For inside is a startlingly modern washroom. It is bright and white and bizarrely out of place in this dark subterranean part of the house.

Even more bizarre, however, is the assortment of dish towels and cleaning supplies that fill its cupboards.

“Why is this a secret? What’s the big deal?” you ask.

Well, the big deal is that, although I am describing my very own basement to you, those dish towels and cleaning supplies don’t belong to me. They belonged to the previous owner and are probably covered in dust and cobwebs. It’s all quite disgusting.

You see, although I’ve lived in this house for five years, I rarely enter that room. No one sees it. No one uses it. I can’t be bothered to clean it. After I settled into my home, I never even really examined its contents too closely. I simply closed the cupboard doors and pretended that the room didn’t exist.

It makes me think about my spiritual life. My heart didn’t always belong to Jesus. And there are things deep inside that are left over from the previous owner. Things that I don’t want to face. Dusty things. Dirty things. No one sees them and dealing with them is too much work.

So I simply close the door and pretend that they don’t exist.

Or I did until recently, anyway. Lately, God has been digging deeper and deeper into those tender areas. Cleaning. Healing. Restoring. Though sometimes it stings a little, it’s a beautiful thing. So very liberating.

We all have those places in our hearts, don’t we? Hidden attitudes. Hidden sins. Hidden hurts. And we’ll never be healthy and whole until we start to open those areas up to Jesus.

Unfortunately, even though there is an amazing spiritual analogy to be found in my dirty basement bathroom, writing about it isn’t making it any cleaner. Time to buy some rubber gloves and get to work. Yuck.

Dirty Diapers and Good Friday

Large tears rolled down my daughter’s cheeks. “Nooooooooo!” she wailed.

The scene had been going on for about five minutes now. My husband was trying to change Evelyn’s diaper, which was wet and heavy and very smelly. My daughter was crying like her heart was breaking into a million pieces.

“Waaaaaant stinky diaper!”

Twenty minutes after he had finally gotten her changed, she was sitting in front of the diaper pail, still crying.

“Waaaaaant stinky diaper!”

I’m sure that the neighbours could hear her crying. I’m sure that they thought that we were inflicting some sort of cruel and unusual punishment on our daughter. We were merely trying to put a clean diaper on her.

Don’t we so often do the same thing? We hold tightly to our hurts.

“Waaaaaant stinky diaper!”

We hold tightly to our addictions.

“Waaaaaant stinky diaper!”

We hold tightly to our anger.

“Waaaaaant stinky diaper!”

Why? When there is hope, freedom, and chance to have a fresh, clean start, why are we holding so tightly to the past? Why are we so desperately clutching our sin? The thought of relinquishing those things makes us act like our hearts are being broken into a million pieces. Why?

Today is Good Friday. Today, we celebrate the One whose breath on our souls brings life. The One who gave everything so that we could be free. The One whose grace doesn’t just drip on us, but it washes over us like a tidal wave, leaving us completely and totally clean. Every sin, every addiction, every ounce of bitterness, every hurt is gone. They are washed away in the flood of His love.

Today is Good Friday. What better time to let it all go?

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)