Lent

Giving Up Fear in Loneliness

If you’ve ever taken a Myers Briggs personality test, you know that one of the spectrums that you are rated on is I and E … Introvert and Extrovert.  We often think of extroverts as loud and outgoing and introverts as more isolated.  While that is part of it, this is also measuring how someone gets recharged.  Do you prefer to be alone or have a few close friends?  Or is heading out to a big party where you don’t really know anyone more thrilling to you?  Do you get energy from being around people or does it drain you?  Most of us need both but tend to lean one way or the other.  Over the years I’ve taken this personality test 3-4 times and every time I end up EXACTLY in the middle of “I” and “E”.  I see this as true in my everyday life too.  I NEED both to be with other people as well as to be alone.  Too much of one or the other can be draining to me.

All that to say, even the most introvert of us doesn’t want to be alone ALL the time.  God created us to be in relationship with each other and when we don’t have enough of that (what ever “enough” is for each individual person), we crave it. I might even go so far to say that we perhaps fear that loneliness.  We all love to be alone from time to time, but no one wants to feel lonely.

Just like the other fears I’ve mentioned so far this week, I see this fear creep into my life and lie to me, paralyzing me from things.  When fear and loneliness get together, Satan has a heyday bringing a million “what ifs” to mind and when you’re alone, there’s no one to remind you how ridiculous some of them are?  What if something bad happens to you and no one knows about it?  What if some of the dreams you have for marriage and family never come to fruition?  What if you make the wrong decision about this major purchase because you had to make it on your own?  What if someone breaks into your house?

What if?

What if?

What if?

When I force myself to step back and think about all of these what if questions, I begin to see how unnecessary (and unhelpful) these fears are.  If something bad happened to me, Kathy Figini would know within 5 minutes and have help on the way.  I have friends and family around me to help me make decisions and if I still make a wrong one, they’ll be there to figure out the next steps.  And no matter what any given day or the future in general holds, even if it ends up being bad, it’s not worth my times to live in fear.

No matter what, God’s promise over and over and over in Scripture that He is always with us and we are never alone.  We have no reason to fear when God is on our side.  So, in those moments where fear and loneliness meet, may we give up the fear and cling to these beautiful promises of God:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.(Isaiah 41:10)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”(Joshua 1:9)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  (John 14:16-17)

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

lonely

Lent

Giving Up The Fear of What Other People Think

My dearest child,

I see you.  I see you craving the approval of others.  I see you paying attention to each “like” or “retweet”.  I see the way your fear of what people think dictates your life.  I see you and it breaks My heart.

When will you stop living for the opinions of others? When will you realize that they’re so focused on what you think of them, that they probably aren’t even thinking about what they think of you?  When will you finally refuse to let anything but My love for you and My calling on your life dictate your actions?

You have no need to be ashamed and no need to fear.  I am on Your side.  When that is the case, what else matters?!?  Who will you trust in… them, or me, the Almighty God, Your Father and Friend?  Whatever you do, work hard at it, without fear.  But don’t do anything (or not do something) simply out of what others will think; work as if you’re serving Me.

I love you!  My opinion of you is all that matters.  The world may not like you, in fact it may even hate you, but I will ALWAYS love you and I will always lead you and I never fail.

So give up that fear that holds you captive.  Give up the fear that keeps you from abundant life.  Give it all up and let Me flood your life with grace and power and amazing things beyond your imagination. Give it up.  It’s worth it.

Your Loving Savior,
Jesus

(Based off of 2 Timothy 2:15, Galatians 1:10, Psalm 118:6-9, Colossians 3:23-24)

fear of what others think

 

Lent

Giving Up My Fear of Failure

Back at the beginning of January I wrote a post called “Grace… to Fail“.  In it, I describe a day where I tried something in which “failure” felt quite possible.  There was pure joy in that day knowing that despite the outcome, I tried something that my perfectionist, afraid-to-fail, self would have normally kept me from trying: auditioning for the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus.  How much sweeter that joy was as this past weekend, I enjoyed my first of what I hope to be many concerts with this great ensemble.

Unfortunately, these kinds of situations don’t always work out this way.  Often, we miss these beautiful, joy-filled moments in life because we’re afraid to even try.  It seems that so many other fears accompany this one… fear of how other people will react when we fail… fear of how we’ll recover… fear of how that may impact opportunities in the future… and more.  Fears so often seem to compound.  One “what-if” multiplies exponentially until we’re paralyzed and refuse to even try.

For me, this fear often plays itself out in my job.  I get scared to try new things or explore possibilities, because … well, what if it fails.    What I have had to remind myself again and again and again is that yes, something may fail, BUT it also may be WILDLY SUCCESSFUL! I need to trust that if God’s leading me, I can trust Him even if, in an earthly sense, it looks like something failed. Also, I have to remember that I’m human… and I will fail.   A life lived only doing “safe” things (if that’s even possible) is… well… boring.  Jesus tells us in John 10:10

“The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly!”

That fear that’s holding you back from trying things… yea that’s from Satan.  He knows the power that’s in us if we move beyond that fear.  He knows the full, joyful, abundant life Jesus has in store and desires to destroy it.  He gets the fact that all he has to do to stop the amazing things God wants to do in and through our lives is to make us a little afraid. He, perhaps even more than us, understands the truth in these other powerful words of Scripture:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

We have power. We have love. We have self-discipline.  God has given us those things.  Fear is not from God.  So let’s give up the fear of failure this Lent (and beyond), lean into God, and trust that when He’s calling us to do something, e will lead all the way.  We may stumble and fall, but he is faithful and His love for us will NEVER fail!

Jesus, fill us with a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  Strip away our fear of failure, that we may do great things in Your name and for Your glory!  We give it up and ask you to give us courage instead to step out in faith and trust you for whatever the results may be.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Lent

Giving Up Fear… 

What do a dark room, a tall building, and spiders have in common?

They all top the list of things people fear.  While those may be the first things that come to mind, I actually believe there’s another list of top fears that are perhaps even more common.  Things like fear of what other people think or fear of failure. Fears over what might happen to people we loved or fear based in uncertainty about the future in general.

Fear is such a big part our lives and can keep us from all that God has in store for us. This week I’m going to spend each day giving up some of my biggest fears.  Over 300 times in the Bible God reminds us that with Him on our side we have no reason to fear.

To get us started today, here is one of my favorite:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬)

Jesus, help us to give up fear today and every day, resting in your hands and trusting your provision for us. In your name we pray, Amen!

Joy, Lent

SUNDAY JOY: I Choose TRUTH!

When people count the 40 days of Lent (such as me and this blog series of 40 Days of Giving Up), it doesn’t include the Sundays.  The thought process behind this is that even though Lent is a somewhat solemn time to focus on the sacrifice of Jesus in his death, each Sunday of the year, including those in Lent, is to be like a mini-Easter celebration.   So, on the Sundays during this Lent season, I’ll take a break from “giving up”.

Today, I want you to think about the number 6.  Keep thinking about the number 6.  When you go throughout today think about the number 6, over and over and over.  When you brush your teeth…. when you get the car… when you’re in church (I guess you can take a break to listen to Pastor’s sermon)… when you’re eating lunch… when you’re watching TV… constantly think about the number 6.

Now let’s say you did that for a whole week… constantly thinking about the number 6.  Then, all of the sudden, next Sunday, I told you to just STOP thinking about the number 6.   It would be practically impossible.  After focusing on it so much for a whole week, you couldn’t NOT think about it if you tried.  And when you would try you would then fail, because in trying to not think about 6, you actually think about 6, and then get frustrated that you can’t stop thinking about 6.  Which, again, would be thinking about 6.

This is how it can be when we’re trying to give up these hard things that are so ingrained in us… things like worry and pride and busyness.  If we couldn’t even “stop thinking about 6”, how could we ever just “give up worry”.

BUT, what if instead of just telling you to stop thinking about 6, next week I told you to START thinking about the number 9 instead?  When you brush your teeth…9  When you get the car…9.  When you’re in church… 9. When you’re eating lunch…9.  Constantly think about the number 9. At first you might slip up at times and think about 6 instead of 9, but then you could refocus on 9 and before you knew it, 6 would be less and less in your mind as 9 overtook it.

So many of these things I’m choosing to give up this Lent are based in lies. Lies about myself, lies about God, lies about the world and the people around me.  If I simply try to stop believing those lies, I will never actually succeed. BUT if I shift my focus on truth, slowly those lies will fade and loose their power.  Sure I’ll slip up, but more and more I’ll be able to catch myself and refocus my attention.

When I find myself worried, I can remind myself that my God provides everything I need.  When I over-commit to things and am way to busy, I can remember the truths God shares about the value of rest, and make adjustments to my schedule.  When I get caught up in pride and selfish-ambition, I can focus on the truth that God alone is powerful and worthy and ask Him to give me a spirit of humility and service.

Yes, I give up all these things, but only when I choose truth instead, will I find any success.

Jesus, help us give up these things by imprinting Your truth on our hearts.  In Your Name we pray, Amen!

Lent

Giving Up Over-Commitment 

Yesterday I talked about giving up the concept of being busy. But what does that really look like? It’s impossible in a practical sense to give up a spirit of busyness without also giving up things like today’s topic: over-commitment. I do believe it is possible, and sometimes God-honoring, to have a schedule that is really full. Where trouble comes for me is when I go from “full” to “too full”.  

Here are a few things I’ve learned to help me and that I’m reminding myself of today as I choose to give up over-commitment:

SAYING NO 

This one is hard for me. Sometimes it’s my people pleasing nature pushing me toward “yes”.  Others I’m just so busy that I don’t have the mental power to say “no” and therefore I get even more overwhelmed. Still other times, I simply forget my priorities, goals, gifts, and passions and end up committing to things I’m either not gifted for or am not supposed to be doing with my time. Lysa Terkerst has a great book about this called “The Best Yes”. Here are some questions I found all throughout her book or have come up with on my own that help me in various situations when trying to make a decision in order to avoid over-commitment:

  • Have you been spending time with Jesus lately in His Word and prayer? (Translation: Am I in a good place to make this decision with Jesus or am I trying to make it on my own?)
  • Have you sought godly counsel and insights from wise people who know details about your situation?
  • Could this fit in your life/are there resources for it… Physically? Financially? Spiritually? Emotionally? Professionally? Relationally? If resources aren’t there, is it because I need to say “no” or do I need to step out in faith that God will provide? 
  • Does it seem like God is wanting use ME or is this someone else’s assignment? What might be my role, if any, in helping them be able to say yes.
  • What is my attitude about this? Am I making to decision in love or obligation? Am I making any part of this decision, either way, simply out of fear? 
  • What might end up being sacrificed because of saying “yes” to this? Is that worth the cost?
  • How will this impact you or calendar? 
  • Is this potentially a “yes…but not now?”
  • How do you think you will feel after saying ‘yes’? After saying ‘no’? Where is God giving peace?

While sometimes these questions just lead to more questions, I have found that simply by being intentional in my decision leads me to the best yeses and the best nos.

SABBATH 

I believe God created Sabbath for a reason. We need to rest, but I think even more so, we need one day to remember that the world doesn’t depend on us. Ceasing to work for one day a week helps put into perspective that GOD is God, not me and the world will still go on if I rest. As a church worker, it is hard to take this day of rest on Sunday’s. But, knowing it’s important in order to give up over commitment and busyness, I recently went through my calendar from now until May and marked one 24-hour period a week that can be my Sabbath. Some weeks I only found 20 hours or maybe it had to be split up over two days in a week. It’s not so much about “getting it right” but rather making it a priority to stop, and say, “God, I trust you know better than me. Use this time to remind me who I am and Whose I am”.  

When I am intentional about putting this time on the calendar, I suddenly find I am WAY more productive on the other 6 days.  I have energy to do a load of laundry or focus for one more hour in the office because I’m know that I have these moments of rest coming to renew, restore, and prepared me for another week. What to do during these sabbath moments could be an entire blog series on its own, but in general, I try to do things that refresh me, connect me to God, and spend time with people I love.

ACCOUNTABILITY 

Sometimes we just need someone to say no for us. As a single woman, I have learned that people aren’t likely to do this without me asking; so I have to ask. I have to be intentional about sharing details of my life with friends and family so when I ask for their input they have details to inform their thoughts. I have to ask people to check in on me and challenge me to think about how I’m spending my time. We need other people in our lives, whether it’s a teammate, friend, spouse, or parent, to keep us accountable for not over-filling our lives.

REMEMBER THE REASON 
Above all, I have to remind myself of the reasons I desire to give up over-commitment…mainly because it often gets in the way of my relationships with others and with God. When I step back and can practically see how less in some areas means more in the areas that matter most, making those decisions easy. 

Jesus, we pray that today you would help us stop over-committing in our lives. Help us give up the things that don’t fit in your great plan for us.  Give us strength to say no to some things without guilt that we may say yes to the best things.  Give us wisdom about which is which.  Give us peace to rest always in you! We trust you with our lives! Amen!

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Lent

Giving up “Busy”

“How are you?”

Such a common phrase, often said more as a passing greeting than an actual question.  Our responses typically don’t go too deep either:

“Fine.”   Or   “I’m good.” (Even if we’re not really either).

The one I seem to hear more and more lately: “Busy”

Or some combination of them “busy but good”.

Something struck me recently about how often I use that phrase when it doesn’t even really apply.  It’s simply a socially acceptable way to respond when you don’t really know how to respond.  While life is pretty good for me right now, I know there have been plenty of times when I share with my closest friends that I often don’t know how to respond to the casual “How are you?” greetings.  When things aren’t going well, I find myself pulling out one of these side-truths.  “Busy” sound so much better in our culture than simply admitting we’re having a bad day.

I’m sad at realizing what this often inadvertently communicates to people around me.  Perhaps that “I’m too busy for you.”

I also hate what this communicates to my own soul.  The hurry. The resistance to rest.  The chicken-with-her-head cut off. Even in seasons of full schedule, “busy” is not who I am.

I am loved. I am valued. I am adored. I am powerful. I am Rebekah. I am being used by God. I am hopeful. I am sad sometimes. I am joyful. I am a kingdom worker. I’m a daughter, sister, aunt, teammate, teacher, encourager, missionary, friend.

And while those things don’t each individually make up my identity, I am so much more than “busy”.

So for today, and the rest of Lent, and prayerfully, the rest of my life, I give up “busy” being an acceptable response in my life to the “How are you?” question. I also give up busy as a state of my soul.  Things will happen that will frazzle me.  There will be plenty of times, especially in the coming months, where my schedule will be packed full.  But I choose to not let busyness steal my soul.

I will rest. I will laugh. I will be honest about how I am doing in the middle of the full schedules. I will pay attention to my body and my heart and take care of myself.  I will say no to some things in order to save my “yes” for the best things. And more than that, I will take time every day to sit at the feet of Jesus and let him remind me who I really am apart from any of the “busyness”.

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Lord, in the middle of what can seem like a busy life, remind me that I am so much more than “busy”.  I confess my busyness and the way it impacts my heart and potentially the hearts of people around me. May I be fully present wherever I am. May I never get so busy for you that I neglect just being with you. Help me to slow down and remember my job is simply to abide in you as a branch abides in a Vine, to trust You will provide all I need that my life may bear fruit. I love you and thank you for loving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Lent, Music

Blissfully Unaware – Giving Up Worry

I recently joined the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and have truly enjoyed singing in an ensemble regularly again. One of the pieces we’re doing at our concert this Sunday is a 3-movement piece by Bernstein featuring a collection of Psalms sung in Hebrew. No matter what order we rehearse the movements in, the second one is the one that always plays over and over in my head for days after a rehearsal.  

A soloist and the women start by singing the well-known Psalm 23, when suddenly they are interrupted by the men singing Psalm 2.  We go from peaceful sheep in green pastures by still waters to “why do the nations rage?!?” with quite a different tone. Part of the way into the men’s psalm, the women come back in recounting the Lord as their Shepherd again over the top of the chaos described in Psalm 2.  While the words are powerful (especially when you look at them in English together), it suddenly meant so much more when I saw the musical markings as the women come back in. Typically the music may say something like “fast and crisp” or “bright sound.”  In this section we are instructed by the composer to come in singing “blissfully unaware of threat“. (You can listen to this movement here performed by the Taipei City Symphony.)

In my mind, this musical note isn’t suggesting being naive about the danger, but rather, of remembering in Whose arms you rest as the “nations rage”. A sheep doesn’t spend all of it’s days freaking out about the potential dangers around them, and even if they do, there is absolutely nothing they could do on their own to protect themselves from the things that might attack them.  They have to depend on their shepherd.  

The same is true for us. 

  
So today in my Lenten journey, I give up worry. I give up freaking out about things over which I have no control. I give up wondering when things will happen in my life.  I give up worrying about our own “raging nations” in the world today. I give up unproductive concern for loved ones.  Worrying about things doesn’t make any potential threat go away. 

Instead as the troubles come, I pray that I can simply rest content in my Shepherd’s arms… that I find myself blissfully unaware… abiding in His love. 

Adonai r-oi, (The Lord, My Shepherd), even when I walk through the valleys of life, may I do so without fear, because I can trust that You are with me.  Help me today, give up my worry and replace it with trust. No matter what is going on around me or what happens in this life, may I rest secure knowing that I will dwell in Your house, forever. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

  

Lent, Prayer

Giving Up … Pride

  
Jesus, you and I both know how I struggle with pride.  Today, with your help, I give it up! It seems only appropriate way to start this reflective, repentant season of giving up the things that keep me distant from you, to begin with this one.  (And perhaps wearing ashes all day might help in the process.)

How easy it is to shy away from the truth of how often I mess up. We want to believe we are good enough and that the things we do “aren’t really that bad”. Our pride is good at times at hiding our mistakes and failures from others and sometimes even from ourselves. It’s easy to look around our world and see people doing awful things and rather than being grieved at the injustice we are all capable of as human beings, we instead “thank” You that we’re “not like them”. Such an ugly thing–that pride!  John seemed to understand this as he wrote: 

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Deceive … that’s a great word for what pride does … And I’m not sure what could be scarier than deceiving myself… unaware of how far I’ve fallen.  Jesus, I’m thankful the passage doesn’t stop there.  

BUT if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)

I don’t want to be blinded by my pride any more, Jesus. I’m trusting in Your justice and faithfulness as I confess my need to give up pride. Only when we own up to our faults do we experience the freedom of Your forgiveness. As I walk around today with black ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead, may it be a statement not only of my guilty pride and my confession, but also a declaration of praise to You, the One greater than all my sins. 

Jesus, today, I give up pride. It seems like such a handy tool to pull out whenever I want to think I’m better than someone else or am trying to ignore my sin. But in reality it only keeps me from You. Help me give it up today remembering that from dust I came and to dust I will return, yet always in Your loving arms. 

In Jesus’ Name, 
Amen 

   
  
 

Lent

40 Days of Giving Up…

Lent. Through history, people who celebrate lent often pick something to “give up” during the 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. While sometimes this can become a check-list, Pharisee-like, ritual to try to “be a good Christian” for some, it can also be a beautiful opportunity to focus more on Jesus as we sacrifice something–a chance to say, “Jesus, you are more important.”

For me, as I enter this season each year, above all, I always look for ways to connect with God in a fresh way and let him shape me and mold me (as I would pray He would do any day of the year). Some years I haven’t “given up” anything. One year I even gave up Lent itself! This year, I’m giving up 40 things! No, not all at once. Rather, one for each day, though I hope and pray these are things that I can give up for life! While giving up things like chocolate or a certain food item can be a great prompt to think of Jesus when I want them, the things I long to give up this Lent are the things that on a day-to-day basis keep me from seeing Jesus and create instant idols in my life.

This lent, I want to give up pride and ingratitude. I want to remember that because of the way Jesus forgave me through his death on the cross I have power to give up any unforgiveness in my heart toward others. I desire to fast from looking at what others have with jealousy or envy. I abandon greed, entitlement, and bitterness. I’ll forgo pity-parties and leave behind insecurities.  And the list goes on.

I may only focus on each of these things for a day, but I pray that in doing so, they can be things that Jesus can take out of my life forever. While I’m hoping to blog about one of these things each day, I have to admit that might be hard to follow up on.   To publicly say I’m giving up these things, means I deal with them (and who likes to admit that!?!). It might be hard, but having these moments to reflect and share of the things that take instead of give value to my life and those around me, is perhaps a way of having daily confession. I pray this will bring the tough stuff that we all deal with (please tell me I’m not alone!!!) out of darkness and into the light. I hope you’ll journey with me and find opportunities to say “me too! I want to give that up too!”

Jesus, we give ourselves to you this lent and as you to open our eyes to the things that keep us distant from you, the things that Satan uses to steal, kill, and destroy our lives, take these things away. Release our grip on them that we truly may give them up and be filled with Your abundant, full, true life! In Your Name, we pray, Amen!