I must love lists. I have enough of them. Let me list a few:[Read more…]
When is keeping quiet a good idea?
For years, our society has promoted a philosophical ban against keeping quiet.
Have you heard these lines?
- Let It all hang out
- Sometimes you just have to vent.
- I need to get something off my chest.
- Honesty is telling you how I feel.
- I would feel so much better if I can tell you something.
You don’t have to let fear rule you.
Right, Karen, you say. What kind of secluded life do you live?
Au contraire. I have my moments where fear is a viable option.
Take the time the airplane captain announced we were in for some heavy turbulence while we pushed toward a comfortable cruising altitude. My seatmate, a 30-something-year-old man, spent the next fifteen minutes clenching his fists and swearing under his breath.
Gracious, I thought, does he know something I don’t? A jolt sent my body sideways. I grabbed the seat in front of me so the poor man wouldn’t have the inconvenience of my slung body on top of his to add to his list of woes. “The turbulence was SO bad that . . . .”
I wasn’t afraid.
I really wasn’t. I actually started to hum and no, I wasn’t using humming as a mind redirection. The turbulence was unpleasant. But I wasn’t afraid.
I admit, I’ve been where that young man was – maybe not the swearing but the white-knuckle grip. The terror that my next breath might be filled with fumes and choking smoke as we go down in flames. Yet, as the plane ascended into the power charged clouds, my mind finally connected with why I did not need to fear the turbulence.
It’s because I believe in the God of creation.
Belief in creation is useful for more than college dormitory debates. Creationism does have a practical takeaway. An “if . . . then . . .” component.
Believing in a God of creation is fundamental to my choice to not be afraid.
If God has the power to create an expansive universe, then He has equal power to alter His creation. He made the towering thunderheads. He designed the invisible wind and energy that surges through the hangers of air pockets where our airplane resided. Can I not then believe that He is able to alter the course of nature in order to protect me or keep at bay the power that could rip our man-made airplane to shreds?
If I can’t accept that God is the author of creation, I’ll also ind it difficult to accept His power to alter that creation design and His desire to protect His people from the consequences of the forces of nature. If I buy into evolution theory, I will believe in random chance. I then have to expect that nature will respond randomly as well, with no divine power to control or restrain it. We may get through, we may not. Survival of the fittest and sometimes that doesn’t even matter.
Those who take an old earth view of creation soften God’s ability to command the winds and waves. They turn God into an ineffective God, unable to create or restrain nature at a single command. If God really can’t create a world in six days, how could He possibly abort the force of wind in one second with one word?
Bottom line: If God created the wind and the storms, He can also protect me from the storm’s capacity to harm me. God’s power is still greater than the power He has granted to the storm. That’s because He is in charge. He has both power and authority to direct and use that power as He chooses.
One look at the ocean shows me there is a divine hand at work that allows the waves to go to a certain line in the sand and no further.
Sometimes God allows that line to move, but there is always a restraint, always an inaudible voice that commands, “Stop.”
And so I hung on for the airplane ride. I allowed my body to shift with each downturn. Nothing would happen that God could not restrain. I can’t control the bumps and shifts, but I know who can.
I also trusted the management of my airline. After having two flights cancelled over the course of the last 24 hours because of bad weather, I knew that United Airlines wouldn’t allow this jet to fly if we were truly in any danger. So I trusted the pilot and I trusted my Pilot. And I sat there and hummed.
I must have driven that poor man crazy.
Like you, I once thought a life without fear was a nice goal but would never be mine to claim. Courage is doing what you need to do despite the fear, right? It’s beneficial to have a healthy fear, correct? After all, fear can keep you alive. And the Bible says we should fear God, yes?
What is fear?
Not intending to pull a Bill Clinton on anyone but it’s all in the way you define fear. Fear of God is a respect for what God can do, including the power and authority to condemn any of us to eternal punishment for our rebellion against him. A healthy fear of fire means knowledge of the potential harm fire can cause will propel you to take action to keep that from happening. Respect is not the same as fear. Fear immobilizes you.
At the core of fear is a feeling of helplessness.
What if you cannot take action to protect yourself or those you love from certain danger? Sitting in an airplane rocked by invisible winds proved the extent of my helplessness, for I had no steering wheel in front of me to countermand the skid into uncertainty. Yet fear does not need to reign supreme, for while I am not at the helm, I can trust the One who is.
Stripping fear of its control means that once you have done all you can do, you no longer have anxiety over the danger you might experience. You can sit calmly, knowing that whatever happens, you will be all right. Why? Because you have a God who loves you enough to look out for your best interests. He has promised to protect you, deliver you, walk with you through danger, and bring you to your eternal home.
Chose this day to replace fear with peace.
When you do reach that plateau of peace, you will hum and make the world wonder at your song.
One of the most effective ways we can have lasting impact on our world is to become a conduit of peace. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying and doing nothing at all.
I’m obsessed with impact. I want my life to count for something. Don’t you?
I want to be an influencer for good. It’s deeply important to me that I represent the Lord Jesus well and model His grace and love to everyone I meet.
But I don’t always do a good job of that.
I tend to manage moments on my own instead of allowing God to put me where He needs me most. When I do put the Lord in charge of my Day-Planner, it becomes obvious that He is orchestrating my activities and encounters down to the moment. He does such a good job of that!
Take a recent Tuesday morning. Thinking it would be a quiet day, I got an early start at my desk. Unlike many writing sessions, the words flowed, and within two hours, I had a completed blog post on the WordPress drawing board.
Immediately after I hit the “Publish” button, the phone rang. A man in our church had suffered a stroke. “Do you want to go with me to the hospital?” my Preacher-Creature husband asked. Well, yeah! Frank is my buddy. He and I have this script we say to each other every Sunday. It started when my vision improved and I was discovering I could see so much more of people’s faces than ever before.
Me: It’s so good to see you.
Frank: It’s good to be seen.
Frank has suffered several strokes so, yes, he is appreciating renewal of life as much as I am. And now, Frank was in ICU with a bigger than usual stroke.
Since we didn’t know how many people would be allowed in Frank’s ICU room at one time, we decided I would sit in the waiting room while Jack visited with Frank. I found a comfortable chair in a quiet corner, whipped out my IPAD PRO, and started transcribing notes.
I forgot that Intensive Care Unit family waiting rooms are for families whose loved ones are in ICU. And ICU means life-threatening, intense situations.
A woman sat across from me, talking on her cell phone. I caught a few sentences, enough to deduce that a family member was in ICU with cancer, had been there several days, and the family was rotating in and out, trying to catch sleep as they could. Not wanting to eavesdrop, I hunkered down and concentrated on my notes.
Soon an older, weary looking woman wandered in, sat beside me briefly and then spotted the other woman who was now off the phone. A third woman joined them. They soon digressed into a tense argument about the care of their loved one.
It was a conversation I didn’t want to hear, one I shouldn’t have heard. Their discussion was animated enough that I couldn’t concentrate. I wanted to move to the other side of the room to give them the privacy they deserved. Okay, honesty check-up. I wanted privacy so I could keep working. I don’t like listening to family disputes. Would you?
Don’t you dare move, something or Someone told me. Don’t give them The Look either. Don’t even glance in their direction. This waiting room exists for conversations like this, not for writers who want quiet nooks.
If I wanted to make an impact for Jesus on that family, the very best thing I could do at that moment was to sit still, stay silent, and keep staring at my IPAD. The more invisible I could become, the better it would be for them.
When I told my husband later what had happened, he commented, “You did the right thing. They needed their environment to stay normal.” Very normal. They needed a haven where they had the freedom to be tense and anxious and fearful.. A safety net where they could wrangle out their misunderstandings, share their perceptions and perspectives, and admit their honest feelings about the mess they were facing.
What would their reaction have been if I had moved?
Shame at the discovery of their family quibble would have added another layer to hearts already heavy with grief and anxiety. One sister could have told the other to pipe down. That could have squelched their need to resolve their differences.
Instead, in the absence of criticism, my meld with my chair became a conduit of peace. Within two minutes, the women’s voices settled down. They apologized to each other for their sharp words and for how they weren’t listening to each other. Then they respectfully spoke in turn without interrupting.
I’m not saying my presence caused the turnaround in that family conversation. But I’ve got a gut feeling it wouldn’t have been so peaceful if I had moved or shown my annoyance even with so much as a glance and a frown.
How can we impact our world?
- It’s not just what we say.
- It’s not even just how we act.
Our impact can be most influential by how we react to those in the middle of expressing their brokenness. When we choose to be unfazed by their behavior, we project peace, acceptance, and grace.
Perhaps that’s what the writer of Proverbs had in mind when he wrote:
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:11
And Paul reminded his readers that we need to do our part to be at peace with all people. That word ALL includes strangers in hospital waiting rooms. Our best impact on the world comes when we project the peace and grace Christ has to offer.
What other times do people need us to stay silent and continue on with “life as usual?”
- The working spouse comes home tired and burdened with job responsibilities.
- A child at church makes a mess on the floor.
- Children are behaving badly at a dinner party.
- A teenage boy does something gross in public.
- A couple snips and snaps at each other in line at the grocery store.
- Someone walks in late to a church service.
Don’t react. Act normal. Stay silent. There are times when we need to act, yes. There are many more times when we can bring peace by becoming invisible and continuing with life as if nothing unusual was happening.
The world uses the slogan, Keep Calm.
The Bible calls it Grace.
Think about your past week? When did you need to remain silent and invisible?