I Am the Resurrection

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It’s four days before Easter, and as I write this, I’m hacking up my guts with coughing and suffering through the mother of all sinus headaches. It’s what happens when I catch a cold, because I do not catch common colds. Fortunately, I don’t catch them often, either.

Not terribly conducive to writing Good Friday and Easter sermons, not to mention all the things a mom does to make Easter wonderful.

2018 has been like this. It’s been a two steps forward three steps back kind of year so far, and looking toward Easter, even if it is only four days ahead, seems like a resurrection hope on the other side of an abyss big enough to put Texas in.

I know I’m not the only one.

Working on that sermon, I found a diamond in a story many of us know well. It’s a detail easily overlooked—but the difference it makes to our hopes.

Jesus hears that his dear friend Lazarus is sick. He waits a couple days, then tells his disciples he’s going to “wake him up.” His disciples are concerned.

They politely try to remind Jesus that the last time they went to that part of the country, people tried to kill him. Not really on the tour itinerary anymore, they’re thinking. And, Jesus, the dude’s taking a nap. This is not something that requires you to risk your life. Or ours.

Since euphemisms are clearly lost on the disciples, Jesus has to explain that Lazarus is, in fact, dead. Well that escalated quickly.

They go anyway, because Jesus.

John 11.17-27 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

I am resurrection and life. Do you believe this?

This is Martha’s worst nightmare. They’ve apparently already lost their parents. Lazarus is likely their only source of income. Two women alone in the world at that time? It was a terrifying prospect. She mourned the loss of her brother deeply. She also looked at the future with eyes filled with fear.

But notice this one point—he’s not asking Martha if she believes in something she’s seen. Lazarus is still in the grave. Jesus hasn’t performed his own stunning special effects show of now-he’s-dead-now-he’s-not.

He’s asking Martha is she believes in something that has not happened. Has she known him enough, followed him deeply enough, understood his heart and his identity enough, to believe he is what he says he is, regardless of the evidence in her life?

Lazarus is dead. That hasn’t changed. Martha, do you believe anyway?

Jesus is the Resurrection of all things.

That includes anything in my life or yours that needs resurrection. He can (and did) raise Lazarus from the dead, but he is also the Resurrection of all the small deaths in our lives. There is nothing can’t be raised.

Of course, Martha has to put Lazarus in the ground first.

I wonder if sometimes we don’t receive our resurrection because we’ve never properly buried the thing we need revived. We cling to it, sure we can revive it. Sure it’s not really so bad as to be dying.

We won’t give it up to the grave, and then we don’t understand why it’s not revived. I’m not even sure right now, after the beginning of this year, how much Jesus wants me to let go of and bury. I don’t know if it will be four days or four years or more. I don’t know what’s on the other side of this tomb. I do know that if I want resurrection, I’ll have to bury a few things first.

Is there anything in your life Jesus can_t resurrect_ No, but you might have to bury it first.

But Then, the Dead Body

There are parts of our lives we have to bury if we want them healed. Then, maybe worse, we have to let him deal with the dead carcass of what we’ve created.

When Jesus tells Martha to roll the stone way from her brother’s tomb, she replies that it will stink something awful. The man’s been dead and behind that rock for four days. In an Israeli climate, that body’s going to reek.

This is true of our smelly things, too.

If we hand our things over to him to resurrect, we know they could stink all the way to heaven. We know they could make us smell, too. The stench is often of our own making, but we don’t want to roll that stone away to smell it.

If Jesus is going to resurrect it, it’s probably going to get smelly and messy before it gets good. The cross got that way. It was bloody and grimy and messy—but it led to an empty tomb.

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How much do we really want resurrection? Enough to let Jesus roll that stone away? Enough to allow him to pull away the grave clothes of our pain and sorrow and inabilities? Enough to listen as he calls us out, still wrapped in our mess, believing that he has a resurrection in mind if we simply come out into the open?

Martha, do you believe this? Do you know me and love me enough to trust that, even if it gets smelly and hard, you can trust me with the outcome?

Probably my favorite quote from Jen Hatmaker’s book Of Mess and Moxie is this—”We live because Jesus lives, because he is real and present and moving and working and he will not have us conquered. This is not hoodoo; it is a powerful reality. Flatten your feet, because nothing in your life is too dead for resurrection. It can be worse than you think, and more crushing than you imagined. And even then, we live.”

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Nothing. Not financial issues, parenting issues, job issues, relationship issues, sin issues, nothing —nothing is too dead for resurrection.

Do we believe it enough to let those things die, and then let him raise them the way he has planned?

I am the raising up. The everything rising from the dead. I am the not dead, the opposite of death. I am death you don’t win, and death, where is your sting? I am the rising—no one can stop me from raising myself or you.

Is there anything in your life Jesus can’t resurrect? No, but you might have to bury it first.

Do we believe it?

Comparison Creep

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T. S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month, but I vote for January. Where I live, January is blizzard month. Christmas, with all its cheerful songs and twinkling lights cutting the cold darkness, is over and done. January finds me peeling Christmas lights from the frozen ground, lights that stopped working a couple of weeks ago anyway, and tossing them away like the bright hopes they represented.

We’re staring down the barrel of a new year, with new demands–or old ones depressingly unfinished. Maybe we accomplished what we wanted last year, and now we’re feeling underwhelmed with the results. Or we didn’t, and we feel guilty because perhaps we never will.

Do you ever feel the sneaky pull of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that happens this time of year? Do you wrestle with the comparison creep that keeps you from fully finding joy in January? Join me at The Glorious Table to read more of this post and find out how sharing joy keeps FOMO at bay.

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Finding Legos on the Floor–Five Useful Questions for Making Decisions

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2017! When I was a kid, I thought I would not even live to 2000–I would be SOOOO old by then. And look, here is 2017, and I’m feeling pretty good.

2016 brought a daughter married, school started, a new job, a trip to Spain, and a CUBS WORLD SERIES WIN. Among other things.

We won’t talk about the other things it brought. We . . . just . . . won’t.

So to begin 2017, I’m going to rerun some posts from a few years ago on decision making. How do we decide what matters in this new year? How do we make the decision to go for our hopes and dreams or to find new ones? If you could have five questions to ask yourself about your decisions this year, would you use them?

You can, and I think you’ll like them. So, with thanks to Gretchen Rubin, here they are.

“When I’m reluctant to take a risk or face something uncomfortable, I ask myself the Five Fateful Questions that I’ve pulled together over the years to help make difficult choices.” Gretchen Rubin, Happier at Home

Decision Making 2017

Do you, like Ms. Rubin, have difficulty making choices? Me, too.

Having now read both of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness books, I can verify that she is probably often reluctant to take a risk or face something uncomfortable, so I feel not only rather a kindred spirit with her but also trusting that if her questions work for her, they will work for other people.
If you’ve read any of her books, you know that she diligently researches her topics. Trust me, a lot of digging and delving into history, sociology, psychology, and literature went into her work and thus, her five questions.
So I thought, why not talk about them while we talk about fearing risk or discomfort? I’m up for learning from someone else’s hard work. I used to think I had to do all the work myself and make sure it was right but now, hey, that’s what Google is for. And other authors whose thoughts I can steal borrow with due credit. (http://www.happiness-project.com)
Her first question when facing reluctance?

What am I waiting for?

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What is keeping you back? Name the thing. It may be a legitimate need, like downpayment money, or finishing a college degree, or an OK from your parole officer to leave the country.

Name Your Obstacle

But what if the thing you name isn’t a true obstacle? What if it is blocking your way more through imagination and worry than reality? What if it’s just plain old fearful procrastination disguised as . . . waiting?
Sometimes, for us pious types, it’s “waiting on the Lord.” Except . . . it’s not. It’s holy putting-off-a-decision-I-don’t-want-to-make.
 . . . I’m waiting for the kids the be older.
 . . . The bank account to grow larger.
 . . . The person I’m going to marry.
 . . . The person I’ve been dating for eight years finally to decide we’ll get married.
 . . . A house of my own.
Then, I’ll take that step.

Waiting is forever

I have to tell you something. If you’re waiting for those things to happen before you tackle whatever risk is before you, other roadblocks will pop up. Yep, as liberally as dandelions in my rose garden.
Well now that the kids are older, they’re so busy . . .
Now that I have more money, I have more bills . . .
Now that I’m married, I have to live where his job is . . .
Now that that deadbeat guy is out of my life because eight years is quite enough time to sit around waiting for something about as likely as a rain forest in the Sahara . . .
OK, if that last one is you, you can take a pass on this. You’ve been through enough for now.

Don’t Wait on Obstacles that Aren’t Real

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You get the idea. Waiting for circumstances to change before you get started on something usually means new circumstances, new challenges, old procrastination. Because the problem is, that obstacle wasn’t really stopping you. Your own desire to avoid the risk did that. After that, finding reasons not to do something becomes as easy as finding Legos on the floor with your bare feet.
The obstacle isn’t really stopping you. Your own desire to avoid the risk is.

What am I waiting for?

What is it? Is it real? Is it your imagination? Your fear? Your intimidation? Name it. Know it. Maybe you have good reason to avoid something—then these questions are made to help determine that. But maybe not.
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1.9
Next week—Fateful Question #2.

Five Truths I’ve Learned about Fear

Five fears? No problem. I am an expert at fear. At least, that’s what my (former) blog title tells me.

IMG_0057I’m well acquainted with fear. I’m the kid who refused to step too far into the backyard after dark. The one who slept with a nightlight when she was twenty. The woman who still would rather face a rabid bobcat than walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation. Fear has been a really close friend of mine. For too long.

I’m linking up again today with my friend Kelly over at Mrs. Disciple, and the topic of the day is – fear.

In teaching about fear, I’ve learned a lot about the beast. So, here we go. Five truths I’ve learned about fear.

Fear is a lie.

Well, that’s blunt enough. Think about it. Pretty much every time someone is afraid in the Bible (unless it’s of God’s power), something bad happens when he or she gives in to it. Think Abraham basically giving his wife to Pharaoh because he was afraid he’d be killed. Abraham having a child with someone else because he was afraid he’d have no heir. Joseph’s brothers afraid of their father’s obvious favoritism. Paul’s shipmates afraid of the storm. Adam and Eve afraid of God in the garden. This is a short list.

And every time someone steps our of his or her comfort zone and obeys, with trembling hands and heart? Golden.

Gideon. Mary. Ananias (Acts 9). You know you know others. (In fact, do comment with your favorite examples.)

Satan’s first lie to humans was this: You need to be afraid that God is keeping something from you. You need to be afraid of Him. Worry, and take things into your own hands.

Basically, that’s it. And we’ve gleefully done so ever since.

Fear lets us believe the lie that we have to be in control.

I cannot tell you how devastating that lie can get.

Fear lets us off the hook.

I just signed up to volunteer with World Relief. I’m terrified. I do not do strangers, conversation, or awkward situations. I don’t like intrusions on my time and very busy world. All of the above are absolutely guaranteed in this new venture. I have to meet refugees, walk into their lives, and learn how to be a friend. In a language I don’t speak.

For a long time, I have avoided this. I’ve known it was a heart call. But I was busy. Had other callings. Was too introverted. Something else would come along.

I was afraid.

Even though some of these things were true, they were also excuses. Finally, I had to look at that. People are dying. They’re fleeing real-time nightmares, losing everything they know and love, washing up on unknown shores half alive, just for the chance that someone will care. And I was sitting here afraid of giving up my time and comfort.

Fear was letting me get away with waiting for a life and ministry that wouldn’t hurt too much. 

Fear keeps out love.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4.18)

If perfect love expels fear, it kind of makes sense that fear expels love.

If I’m afraid of what someone is going to think of me, or or what someone will say 33422_445689050125_6454112_nabout me, or that everyone will finally know what a fraud I really am, what am I really afraid of? That there is some cosmic punishment for not being good enough. And I’m in line for it. I’m afraid “someone” has the power to punish me for being human.

Someone does. And He chose not to. Enter Jesus on the cross.

That means no one else ever can.

I can choose to give all the power to love or all the power to fear. I can’t choose both.

Fear fuels too many of the wrong things in our world.

Because fear keeps love at bay, it can make even good people do not good things. The moment my first reaction to a news story, a statistic, or a facebook viral post is fear, I’m dooming myself to respond with less than love. Fear is the gasoline that people pour on fires to make them spread. Christians participate.

Love is the water. If I refuse to look at a person of another color, language, political party, religion, or country with fear but look instead for his humanity, I can knock fear out cold. If I insist on seeking the truth about something before I pass it on, I can stop the deadly spread.

I can choose to be gasoline or water. Every day.

Fear can be good.

IMG_0767Yes, it can. Fear is not always bad. This is the most shocking thing I’ve learned about fear. Sometimes, it teaches us humility. For me, it forces me to lean into God and remember that He is the vine and I am a vulnerable branch that needs His power every minute.

We can react to fear by walking into it. Go toward that terrifying thing! But we can also react by feeling it, living it, taking the moment to accept our weakness and glory in His strength.

Fear teaches me where real strength is found.

Five things. What do you know about fear?

Getting Friendship Backward–What Really Goes First?

Community is the word for October. In that spirit, I’ve invited a friend Andrea Stunz to guest blog today. She has a great message about community, friendship, and being totally honest with ourselves. I love it, and I’m sure you will, too.

Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. Romans 12:10 (The Voice)
Friends don’t care how old you are.

I’ve gotten it backwards for a whole lotta years. Not on purpose but out of just not knowing how to do it right. Not being taught. I do selfish very well. Too well. Don’t we all? I’m just shy of 50 years old and I think God may finally be getting through to me and helping me understand how this whole friend thing works.

First, you have to be a friend. Then you get to have a friend.
Ahhhhh….. soooo….. Well, I’ve been trying that out and guess what? It’s working!
But it’s not easy for this control freak.
I’m putting myself out there more and with a different outlook. I’m trying new things. I’m risking.That’s the hardest part. Risk. Being vulnerable. Knowing that if I truly let myself be a friend to have a friend it might hurt at some point. Knowing that it will most definitely hurt at some point. I don’t like that part. The hardest part for me in all of this relationship business is being willing to be hurt. Because it will happen. Even by those who aren’t supposed to hurt me. They aren’t God. God is the only “person” who will never disappoint me.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~C.S. Lewis
Somewhere along the way I decided that risking heart exposure wasn’t worth the pain. What I’m finally learning is that risk is not always worth it but it is sometimes worth it. Love is costly, but anything of value costs. Being willing to be broken is also being willing to accept redemption.
If I let myself be a friend and have a friend then it might just might turn out okay or even better than okay. It might actually be great!
Or how crazy you are.

The thing with friendship is that we can have a lot of them but not all of them have to be bff’s. If we follow the model of Jesus, he had a three “bff’s” in his inner circle. Three that he went all in with. Three that he shared his guts with. Then his circles broadened. As his circles broadened so did the amount of information he shared with them. Not because he didn’t want to but because those he would be sharing with couldn’t handle it or wouldn’t receive it.

I am coming to realize that those who can’t handle me don’t deserve me. That may sound harsh, but this control freak has to have some boundaries. I can still love and share Jesus and share my life with everyone but I don’t have to share my guts with everyone. We’ve told our kids countless times that you don’t have to be friends with everyone but you do have to be friendly. I’ve got friendly down. I’m working on being a friend. Got trust issues? I do! My trust issues include trusting God enough to put people in my life whom I can trust. Then, the onus is on me that once he does that to not squander it. I have to trust and try. Once the loneliness gets lonely enough, we’ll either choose to move out of it or resolve to stay in it. I’m finally in the place where I’m choosing to move out of it.
Relationships are messy and what I’m coming to learn (not having arrived just yet but learning) is that messy = living and living = messy. I’ve gone far too long without really living and then getting all upset because no one else was helping me live it. Ridiculous, right? But it’s true and ridiculous and I’m tired of not living. Life is so much better when it’s lived.
“In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
There will be strong and unfriendly winds that will make a mess of our lives. On those blustery days, the kindness, prayers, and simple-but-profound ministry of the presence of dear friends will be the anchor to our unraveling, the rescue to our storm.  ~Dr. Leslie Parrott

Those kinds of friends are few and far between. I have a few of those and they know my mess and love me anyway and come to my rescue. Some have known my mess and chosen not to love me and that hurts but there’s nothing I can do about that now. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that people were just supposed to know when I was hurting and miraculously come to my rescue. What I’m realizing now is that I have to let them in. I have to take the risk. The power of the lies of thinking I need control and not trusting because it hurts are a relationship killer. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that if I shared too much or exposed myself they wouldn’t stick around. But now I know that if they don’t stick around then one of us still has work to do. I can’t fix them but I can work on fixing me. I need to be careful and have some boundaries but isolation is not where it’s at.

Remember we were meant to be in community. Don’t isolate yourself. Insulate your heart but don’t isolate your body. ~Patsy Clairmont
God has been faithful to show me the way. I’ve forced myself to become more involved in a few things at church – which really is not bad at all once I’m there. I’m purposely asking old friends and new friends to lunch or coffee and just letting whatever happens happen. It’s mostly been wonderful. Not easy and not without some anxiety and heart palpitations but wonderful. I also signed up to get some email tips from (in)Courage on “how to be the friend you wished you had.” God is lovingly but clearly telling me that I need to figure out how to be a friend before I can have a friend. I’m getting it. Slowly, but I am.
So in all of this, I’m still learning. I’m still growing. I have not arrived. I’m trying to be brave. I’m willing to risk. I think…
God help me. Amen.
~Andrea
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” ~Maya Angelou

Andrea is: “A homemaker, a traveler, a seeker, a writer, a pilgrim. I love cooking and sharing good food with others who love good food. I take pictures that tell a story, my story, God’s story. An almost empty nester. A fellow struggler. A fellow stumbler. In need of God’s grace. Oh, and coffee. Grace and coffee. Then I’m good. Oh, and a sunrise. Grace, coffee and a sunrise. THEN I’m good. Oh, and my grandson. Grace, coffee, a sunrise and my grandson. … you get the picture. 🙂 I have many favorite scriptures but my “go to” scripture which seems to encompass all I may be stumbling through or rejoicing in is always this: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

This was originally published on Andrea’s blog, here. Check out the rest of her writing while you’re there!

Do It Again

A week ago was Easter. Today is Easter. Every day is Easter, from my point of view (and the point of view of some pretty reliable historic sources). True story. Because if what the Christian church says happened on Easter really happened, then every day after that is a repeat celebration. An encore. One more chance to stare up into the heavens in what really should be daily freaked-out surprise and say, “I can’t believe you did that for me!” 
If Jesus truly–physically, spiritually, historically, existentially, and any other ‘ly’–was dead and then wasn’t anymore forever,  then today is still Easter. And that needs to mean something. Quite honestly, if such a thing happened, and you don’t think it merits more than one day’s notice in 365, you’re not taking this whole life and death thing we’re all in very seriously. 
At one point in my life, I did look at that cross in freaked-out surprise and say, “I can’t believe you did that for me.” I cried, right there in front of late night TV. No one had ever told me about Jesus, but somehow I knew. It happened when I was watching the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. Not a conventional conversion, I admit, but a fact. It took a few years of being around better people than I to realize exactly what that belief meant. I’m still working on it.
One thing a conviction that Easter is a daily celebration means is that we face those days with anticipation, not fear. My personal ministry revolves around helping people be freed from fear. Easter is the ultimate release from fear. Without Easter, I’d have nothing to say about fighting fears. I might try, and I might unleash all kinds of pop psychology to make you feel better temporarily, but really, without Easter, I’ve got nothing.
On Easter, it seems appropriate to point out that fear comes from somewhere. It was never innate to human nature. Humans started this gripping emotion called fear by running away from God in the Garden of Eden. Why? Because they knew they had messed up, they knew He knew it, and they didn’t know what He was going to do about it. 
It’s the same basic principle that caused me to hide in my closet when I was eight and I skipped out on dishwashing duty to go out and play even though I knew that my name was clearly on that chore chart and my mom would find me. No one who knows in her soul that she has deliberately opted to go against the established order of rightness feels good about that choice for long. We may go through all kinds of emotional gymnastics to pretend and believe we do, but eventually that delusional behavior bites us from behind. How long we choose to run from it depends on how stubborn we are. 
We don’t like accountability for our actions. We don’t like the notion that any behavior could actually be wrong. (It’s just different.) And we certainly have lost all enchantment with the word ‘sin.’ It’s quaint but irrelevant. 
Except no matter how far or fast we try to run away, we have soul-deep-knowledge of a variety that won’t be suppressed that there is wrong; that in fact, there is wrong in us, and it scares us. We hide, because our Parent might notice our name on that chart at any minute and realize we aren’t doing our job.
Then hiding hits the blinding light of Easter, and it has to make a choice. Run farther into that dark closet, or stare at that cross in the morning sunlight and surrender to the inconceivable surprise that it happened because I couldn’t stop hiding. And now I don’t have to. 
Personally, I’ve come to realize that hiding in the closet because I’m afraid of the consequences of my own behavior comes with a few problems:
One, the anxiety about what my parent might do imprisons my soul. I could just go and find out and get it over with. But why do that when I can spend hours imagining it? Or a lifetime. (God’s reply–“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6.23)
Two, It locks my relationship into the realm of fear, when it could be transformed into the heathy thing it was meant to be–a parent and child teaching and growing. (Which is what God wants, too. “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Romans 8.15-16)
Three, hiding becomes my default whenever I don’t want to face something, robbing me of experiences outside the closet. (Which is not what God wants. “The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?” Psalm 27.1)
Four, it’s really hot and stuffy in an upstairs closet in a century-old house with no air conditioning. I think this may have been the beginning of my claustrophobia issues.

It’s Easter. Still. Running was never part of the nature God intended for us. He proved it by walking straight into the consequences of our behavior, facing the terrors there, and blasting them to bits with one shove of a stone away from a tomb and a sunrise beyond our craziest dreams. Today, instead of turning around and going about your day like it’s a normal day, look up. Stare into the sky. Say in freaked-out surprise, “I can’t believe you did that for me.” Yell it if you want to. Then close your eyes, and let the Easter light do its freeing work.

Would You Rather–Tend a Grave or Hold a Spider?

These guys?

I am fascinated by insects. Yes, I like them. They are interesting to watch, amazingly varied, and just plain cool. You know the odd thing, though? Add two legs and subtract one body segment, and what does that make an insect?


A spider.

They are awesome.
And they are decidedly not cool.

I cannot explain this.

All I know is, there is family lore about me involving a bathtub, multiple shoes, and one large spider. Also another involving me and a spider on the shower wall and a subsequent non-family-friendly dash through the house, but that is another story . . .

I do not like spiders. I used to hyperventilate going down the aisle in Petco where I know they are kept. Actually looking in the aquarium would have required an EMT situation.

So what, oh what, could have ever inspired the picture below? (Warning—graphic picture below. No, not of the shower dash. Worse.)

A refusal to give in to fear.

Not. So. Much.

I know I’ve told the tarantula story before, and some of you have read it. But there’s more. We need to know the power of fear to take our identity from us and keep us from moving toward growth.


We fear too many things that steal our identity.


I forced myself to stop in front of the tarantula cage one day and allow that nice young man to put a spider in my hand because I knew my fear would hold me back from being what God wanted me to be. It sounds silly, I know, to say that fear of spiders can get in the way of being used by God. But whenever fear, whatever the fear, controls your choices, it blocks who you were made to be.

In this case, it would control my choice to lead a team to Costa Rica to minister. In the middle of convincing other team members to cast off their fears and go for the trip, I had to face mine or be a hypocrite. After all, they grow some big spiders in Costa Rica. (I never actually saw one in two weeks there. Only a hole where the tour guide told us we could see one if we looked. I did look. I didn’t see.)

The older I get and the more I go through, the more I am adamant – I do not want to give control over to anyone but God. Certainly not an eight-legged critter with a brain the size of . . . I don’t know . . . do spiders have brains? Conventional ones? No clue. But I do know they have to be smaller than human brains, based on fundamental laws of physics.

“Get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (Romans 8.14-15, The Message)

What do grave tenders do? They make graves neat and lovely. They ensure pretty, clean plots. Over dead things. Past things. Things with no life and no future. I don’t want to be a tender of dead things. I want to live adventurously expectant.

So why don’t we? Why don’t we feel like we are created for incredible purpose? Why don’t we wake up every morning asking, “What’s next, God?” Why don’t we expect wonder?

Because we fear. Rather than jump into our days, we dread them. We look at our lists and groan. We plan our next escape. We’re terribly afraid to step into identity as those children of God, because it might mean risk, conflict, change. We may dread mornings, but at least we know them. Being God’s representative – Stepping into our identity as His children and taking on whatever that means? That’s a scary unknown. It could involve things I’m not ready to give up, risks not I’m ready to take, changing values and ideas I’m not ready to reexamine.

Look what I might have missed in Costa Rica?

It could involve holding that spider. And we hyperventilate at the thought.


Sadly, I could not get over fear of spiders by thinking about them. Pondering their purpose. Looking at photos of them. I just had to jump in and face that stupid fear head on. It’s the only thing that works. And it’s in doing that we realize the anticipation was far worse than the actual execution.

We’re more afraid to start than to follow through. So just start.

Observer or Participant?


Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In is fullest definition, “rich and satisfying” means “over and above, more than is necessary, exceedingly, abundantly, supremely, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon, beyond imagination.

Wow. That’s a whole lot of satisfying.

So the question as we work through Lent and prepare to jump into the power of Easter is: Do we want to observe an extraordinary, uncommon, abundant life–or do we want to participate in one?

If the latter, how are you being a timid grave tender today? How are you listening to voices that steal your identity by telling you to be less than extraordinary? (Extraordinary is not, by the way, always newsworthy and show stopping. Extraordinary is simply getting yourself off center stage and looking for all kinds of ways to love like Jesus loved.)


God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!