Recently, I was asked to give a speech to some women on Faith and Overcoming Fear.  Now, before anyone says it, there are some real obvious questions here.

  1. Why would they ask me?  40 year old woman who has spent most of her life being fairly unfaithful.  Hmmm…..
  2. Do I really know enough and have enough wisdom to speak on Faith and Fear?
  3. Can I even speak well in public?

To answer the last question, I am no Obama, no stand-up comedian, and there are certainly a lot of more talented speakers, but I do speak to groups frequently and I do enjoy public speaking.  It is something I would like improve on and do more of, God willing.  So, yes, I can do that and would actually welcome the opportunity.

Back to the first question.  I have no idea why they would ask me.  I am guessing because of my openness in writing this blog, the fact that I am a cancer survivor, their limited budget J, or perhaps, and most likely, divine intervention.  I’m guessing God knew I would need it as much as anyone.

The second question….Do I really know enough to speak on faith and fear?  I didn’t at the time.

When they asked me, I thought “What do I know about fear?  I may not be a pastor, but I think I can talk on faith and obedience to a certain extent, but honestly, I am not a real fearful person.  So, how am I going to speak into these women’s lives on overcoming fear?”

No idea.

Pray without ceasing.  “God please speak through me.  Give me your words to speak.”

Be careful what you pray for.

All of a sudden, I was gripped with fear.  Fear that keeps me up at night.  Fear that keeps my head spinning.  Fear that makes me freak out and question God as to why I am going through these things when am really trying to be so faithful….so much more faithful than before.  Haven’t I earned a little bit of easy street?  I thought once I became more obedient to you, my life might get easier and maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with so many of the negatives.  Don’t I deserve some blessings versus this trial that is keeping me up at night?  I thought you blessed those you love?

Self-help book, where are you?!   Because I need some answers!

I’m not sure exactly how or why God moved in my life at the time He did, but prior to my 40th birthday, prior to this “40 day” project, and prior to this blog, I lived a life full of shades of gray.   Very few things were black and white to me.  Everything had an exception.

Looking back now, I attribute this lack of clarity, this absolute muck that I lived in, to the 100 issues of Oprah magazine and the 50 self-help books that I looked to for the ever elusive solution to all of life’s problems.  Of course everything was gray.  I was taking the opinions of hundreds of different people and trying to assimilate them into some form of truth.

At the time, it seemed so logical.

Now it seems so ludicrous.

Thankfully, for whatever reason, and on whatever schedule God wanted, on March 25th of 2013, life became much more black and white for me.

If I believe in Christ, then there are just flat out certain things that I need to do, OR I need to really question whether or not I truly believe.  I need to go to church. I need to pray and actually believe in the power of prayer.  I need to put God first on a daily basis.  Read my Bible.  Have faith conversations with others.  The list goes on and on.  Many of these things I am doing or at least working towards.  I’m not perfect and never will be, but at least I have one thing straight.

The Bible is the best self-help book ever written!  End of story.  End of discussion.  Who cares what Oprah or one of her contributing editors thinks about how to be happy?  Or how to prioritize?  Or how to deal with a friend that is being a boob?

I listened to these voices for way, way too long, and they wreaked havoc on my life as I tried to play out all the pieces of advice that, looking back were often misleading.

Now, when I need help, when I need guidance, when I am struggling, I read the Bible.  And, when I don’t need help, and I am not struggling (I always need guidance!), I read the Bible.  And life, although not easier, is easier to understand.

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-3.

Blessings, where are you?!

How many times was my prayer answered?  God gave me a trial, a fear to experience.  Then He gave me help through His word.  And then He gave me blessings through others in my life that are courageous and dedicated enough to speak on the Truth on a regular basis.  This is a link to a blog post from a friend.

http://uncommonfaith.org/2013/10/22/do-you-despise-him

This is a link to a sermon by our pastor.  I think you probably had to be there in person, but this service was special.  I think everyone in the room needed it, and you could just feel the presence of God.

http://woodcrestworldwide.org/?p=470

Both of these were given/written in the midst of this gripping fear without any knowledge of my issues at all.

Black and white. 

As a Christian, I am called to look at trials in a different way.  I am called to consider them pure joy because I know God will use them to shape me into the person I need to be.  And while this might seem crazy, and I am certainly not very good at it yet, that’s what the Bible says to do.  It’s black and white to me now.

We all have struggles.  We will always have struggles, struggles/trials that invoke a reaction of fear.  Our normal reaction is to think, “This isn’t right!  This isn’t fair!  I shouldn’t have to go through this.  Why do I have to go through this?”

I cling so very hard to what I want my life to look like.  And as I wrestled with the fear that seemed to be overtaking me one day, I realized precisely what God is teaching me.  My life is God’s.  It is not my own.  While I can enjoy the situations I am in now, He might want me to do something totally different tomorrow.  The harder I cling to my ideas, the more of His I will miss.

I claim to want to do God’s will, but am I really willing?  If His plan for my life doesn’t look like my plan, can I accept that with joy?  Instead of clinging to financial safety and security can I trust peacefully in God that He will either provide in the way I am asking or He will provide in another way and that either is His will?

Wow…that is totally counter culture and a really hard truth to embrace, let alone practice.

This is really a foreign concept for most of us.  By societal standards, it might even be judged as stupid.  But going back to myself as a believer, the Bible is clear on this.  Trials are for our own good and produce great things in us.  The worst trials I have faced in the past, my most difficult struggles, when I am honest…..have produced the most beautiful results, the most beautiful truths.

One to the most convicting verses to me is the one in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I say?” Can I sit in this storm, this trial of sorts and do what God says?  Can I be joyful and know that His will is better than mine?

One of the things I love most about participating in triathlons are the lessons, the parallels I find between triathlon and life.  God can use all things for his good and through sport, he has taught some pretty valuable lessons.  Here is one that really drives this point home.

When I was pretty new to the sport, we had a good friend who owned a coaching company.  He, of course, encouraged Mark and me to hire a coach.  He knew how much we enjoyed triathlons and wanted to help us enjoy them more.   Because, ultimately, what is the purpose of a coach?  A coach provides guidance, a blueprint; direction so that the person being coached can get the best possible results for whatever it is they are working towards.  Right?  And, so it seemed like a pretty good idea to us.

I was a good swimmer already, a very mediocre biker and a terrible runner.  Naturally, I wanted to get better at them all, but I really wanted to become a faster runner.

My coach lived 6 hours away from me so he coached me from a distance, providing my workouts online.  He would send me a plan at the beginning of every week, and then I was to go in after each workout and record what I had done and how I felt.

The swimming was pretty simple, because I was already above average, and I actually had some good cycling classes at my gym, so that was pretty easy too.  But the running, this is where it got interesting.

The running workouts just didn’t make sense to me.  They would be weird things like skip uphill, then hop on one foot 20 times, and then run downhill.  Repeat 10 times.  Or, go out and run as slow as possible for an hour.

I mean seriously?  Go out and run as slow as possible.  I’m hiring this guy to make me a faster runner, and he is telling me to go out and run as slow as possible and to hop around like a goof ball on one foot???  UM…..let’s just go with no.  I think I am not going to do that.

So, week after week, he would give me these workouts.  And, I would proceed to do what I wanted, like I knew what was going to make me better as this had clearly worked in the past.  I would get online after my hour of running at whatever pace I wanted and I would log “ran one hour.”  I tried to make it look like I was doing what he wanted me to do by omitting every detail, but I wasn’t.

Interestingly enough at the end of that first year, (this will not be a shocker) my swimming was better, my biking was better and my running was still horrible.

So, somewhere along the line, God did give me some common sense.  It takes me awhile some times, but I do have it, occasionally.  After that first year it occurred to me that I was paying this person, who I knew to be wiser in the ways of triathlon, to tell me what to do….to guide me.  So, either I needed to do what he was telling me or I needed to stop paying him.  Right?  Why pay him to tell me what to do and then just continue doing whatever I want, especially when it isn’t working.

I continued paying him and FINALLY decided to do what he said.  I wasn’t perfect but low and behold, my running got better.  I was faster, my back didn’t hurt, I started to really love running and finally, my weakness became a strength.

I do this to God all the time!  He’s like the best coach ever, but too many times, even now, I’m not listening.  OR, probably more likely, I hear what He says, but I am so ingrained in what the world has told me over the years, His wisdom seems to get overshadowed and I just can’t make myself rely on it.  Honestly, just like the running workouts my coach gave me, some of God’s advice doesn’t always make sense to me, but also just like those workouts, God knows more than I do and His will and His ways will always produce better results than mine.

Ugh!  So just like my coach, it is absolutely ludicrous to say that I believe in God and then not value His guidance.  I am acknowledging that He is the creator of all things, all people, and the author of truth.  OR I am not.  This is where it all becomes very black and white to me and where I think we all need to ask ourselves this question.  Do I believe or do I not.  Because if truly believe, I will do or at least try to do what God says.

God is guiding me, coaching me if I am willing to be coached.

Today instead of the usual pity party that I try to avoid but usually end of throwing at some point during the day, I will be truly grateful for the storms of life and I will pray to learn what God is teaching me.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9.

When I am weak, when I struggle, I know God’s power is made perfect in me.

It’s black and white.  Now it’s just a matter of doing it.

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