Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Want to know what Everyday Courage looks like?

So it's Tuesday, the day I have assigned to be 'Write a Blog Day'. 

Last week I came up with this crazy, and probably totally impossible, idea of assigning a task to each day of the week- partly because I need to be more disciplined in accomplishing things, but mostly because I need things to do every day to keep me from drifting into the shadows... 

Monday is 'For Heaven's Sake, Clean the House Day'

Tuesday is 'Sit down and Write a Blog Whether or Not You Feel Like It Day'

Wednesday is 'Take the Puppy to the Greenway and Then Out to Lunch Day' (my favorite day!)

Thursday is 'Gardening and Weeding and Picking Up Sticks Day'

And on Friday I try to find a willing friend to do something 'Be Blessed By a Friend Day'

Of course 'Making Paper and Doing Collage' falls in any open spot of the week!

And finally there's the weekend, which Ted manages to fill up quite well. So far, it's a plan that's working!

Let it be known that I had completely forgotten about it being Blog Day until this morning when I inquired of the Lord, What shalt Thou hast me to do today? And because He has mercy on all those whose brains are mashed potatoes, He reminded me what day it is...Tuesday...and what I had pledged to do on said day...Blog. 

I heard someone say the other day that we are defined by what we do...if you are a painter, you paint, if you are a writer, you get the idea. And though my identity is not totally based on being a writer, writing brings me joy and it is a gift that God has given to me. Someday I will have to answer to God for the use and/or misuse of this gift, so Tuesdays are the day I hope to work this answer out. 

So let me ask you, after reading last week's blog on Everyday Courage, how is that going for you? Has it spurred you on to take an extra step of courage? Boldness? Faith? Have you felt more empowered knowing that you are not alone? I hope so. I know I am!

Just to encourage you, I'm going to share an episode of what Everyday Courage looked like in my life this week. I walked into it, not expecting it at all...

It began with an online post from a local group that popped up on my email, sharing a link to a company to write to if we were concerned about their support of an issue. Nothing more, nothing less. Anyway, I briefly responded that I had recently noticed that another local institution had advertised the same stand. Shortly after, when one of the members responded with some statistics, I asked from where he had obtained that information. And that was it...what I thought was a civil discourse with a group of people that I live and move and have my being amongst.

Until I got a private email in response to my statement/inquiry. I didn't expect the sarcasm and the accusation that I was being judgmental and hate-filled and hey, that's what Jesus called us to, right? I read it. And re-read it, trying to make sense of it. I wrote back and said that posting information and asking questions is not judgmental nor's a right we have and I'm sorry this person felt that way.

A response came back immediately, basically condemning me to the innermost circle of Hell and accusing me of attitudes and actions that have never, ever entered my thoughts. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. I've had heard of things like this going on, but up until then I had never experienced it. I had assumed that this exchange was amongst fellow Believers...but really, who can know? Maybe my assumption was wrong...

And that's when my blood pressure began creeping up. What the? I knew I was upset when an unloving thought flit through my mind: So I studied Truth for a year with Chuck Colson, what's your claim to being allowed to speak? Thankfully I did not say that. By then it was time to leave for a Doctor's appointment and I knew that this was not going to fare well...which it didn't. No matter how I tried to explain it, my Doctor was not impressed with why my blood pressure was 20 points higher this time than the last time.

Anyway, it was at a long stoplight on the way to the Doctors that her next email came in. It was volatile and full of vitriol and at that moment I decided that no matter what I said, I would not get anywhere with her. So I wrote a quick message back saying, 'I am sorry but I do not agree with you and I will not respond to any future communication from you in that spirit. And I will pray for you.' 

It took Everyday Courage to let go and back away and not say something I would regret. There was a time I would have rushed in where fools fear to tread...having to be right, having to make a point, having to win the battle. 

It's taken me years to realize that the battle is God's not mine...that there are spirits out there that can only be defeated through prayer. And fasting, but thankfully I haven't met any of those yet! Sometimes the wisest thing I can do is to close my mouth, back away, and pray. Yes, I probably will be misunderstood for doing this. And sure enough, when another message came in later in the day and I saw the first few words....You are a coward...I knew that I had made the right choice.

Yes, I'm human enough to wish that everyone loved me...and agreed with me...and were impressed by me. Conflict is not my forte. Just the empathy and desire to see others happy often overrides my need to say/make a healthy choice. The fact that I even responded to her first message was a baby step of courage for me. Like the spiritual song says, 'You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run.'  When my blood pressure finally came down, I uttered a sigh of relief that I, by the grace of God, had done just this.

Am I concerned for her? I am. I don't know what is going on her life that would cause such anger to fester. But I had to make the choice to turn from her and run to God Who is a shield around me, my glory, and the lifter of my head...Who has all wisdom and understanding and insight...the One I can trust to lead me in the way I should...or should not...go.

I'm not sure if I will ever be in contact with this person again. Since she's part of the group, I very well may. I can't say what will happen then...God could write an entirely different outcome. I would welcome the opportunity to communicate in a healthy way. But no matter what, I have to trust that throughout every day, no matter what comes my way, Everyday Courage will always be available. And for this I am very, very thankful.

And that, friends, is my story.

How about you? Do you have an example of how God empowered you with Everyday Courage this week? I would love to hear it! It's in these small battle that the wars are won, dear friends. Know that I continue to cheer you on and pray for you!

You are dearly loved!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Everyday Courage...or the ability to keep-on-keeping-on

What does courage look like to you?

I think most of us have this idea that it's this BIG BRAVE THING that only a few diving into a frozen river to save someone...pulling someone out of a burning car...climbing that mile-high mountain...any good thing we normally don't do on a regular basis. Something bigger than ourselves.

Now I agree, all  those things do take a superhuman effort to accomplish. I like to think I could do a BIG BRAVE THING if necessary. So far I haven't been called to one, unless it was giving birth. I loved the end result but I sure hated the process. But hey, I wasn't given a choice to NOT do it, so I'm not sure that counts.

You see, the hard part for me isn't the big things...true's the courage to day at a time...sometimes one hour at a the little things...when life seems so hard and I want to quit. 

I shall call that an act of Everyday Courage.

And to me, that's a much bigger challenge. 

You see, I struggle with depression. I come from a long line of people with anxiety disorders who found it easier to live life through self-medicating in one form or another. The thing about self-medicating? It may appear to make life more bearable for the person doing it, but it's definitely not beneficial to the others around them. They don't get the benefit of numbing or dulling the pain...all they get is fear and the need to somehow try and make it all better. 

I cannot remember living without elementary school teachers called me a 'worry wart". I have no idea how this spirit entered my life...perhaps it is genetic or hereditary or learned. All I knew was that there was so much wrong and so much evil to worry about...hiding under a desk during the Cuban Missile Crisis...Kennedy's assassination...the Vietnam War...Silent Spring. Or how to keep a cat from being run over or a dog from being hit on the highway. Could I have done anything about any of those things as a child? No. But neither did anyone tell me HOW to deal with all those fears. So, I taught myself to be in control of all I could to keep myself safe. 

So here I am, 50 years later, still struggling to feel safe. God knows that now there are infinitely more things to be afraid of, courtesy of the world-wide-web and social media. The world has not become safer or less scary. 

This past week I really had to fight to keep on going. Picture a rolling, roiling dark storm cloud coming towards you...surrounding you, smothering you, enveloping you. That's what depression is like to me. My senses are alert to its coming and all I want to do is hide. I have begged and pleaded with God for years to take this show me the way through it and out of it. And maybe He will or maybe He won't. Depression may be the thorn in my flesh that He may never deliver me from. There may only be grace. And that will have to be enough.

Do I think about checking out? Sometimes...when I am ever so tired and the journey seems too long. Until I remember the suicide of someone I dearly loved and the crushing pain it brought on. And the hardest part was never knowing why she couldn't go on. But I realize now that she may have saved my life...for she taught me that though the pain would end for me, it would never end for those I love. So no, checking out is not an option.

The question is, what does it take to keep-on-keeping-on during times of darkness? When something bigger than you makes it hard to breathe and you've lost your direction and the light forward is dimming? 

Everyday Courage. Plain old Everyday Courage. To me it looks like...

   * The grace to just wake up and get out of bed. Maybe open the curtains. Or not.

   * Being willing to be fragile, real, and to someone safe, someone who will enter your brokenness and not ask nor expect anything from you. 

   *  Doing the next thing. Brush your teeth? Feed the dog? Put dishes in the sink? Baby steps. Don't let fear paralyze you. 

    * Asking for help. Wearing a mask only makes the journey lonelier and longer.  

    * Knowing what you need. And doing it. Self-care is not selfish.  

How are you living out Everyday Courage? What does it look like to you? 

We all have fears. We all struggle with something. We all need help. You may not struggle with depression like me. Perhaps you've been afraid or hurt or living life on the edges because it's safer that way. Perhaps Everyday Courage looks to you like...

    * Speaking the truth in love. Yes, you may be rejected but that's not the point. Stepping in to something difficult takes courage and though the outcome can't be controlled, you will have taken the first step to freedom.

    * Writing a letter, making a phone call, reaching out...finally...doing something long overdue because it's the right thing to do. And God always honors the right thing.

    * Making a good choice...letting go of something harmful...embracing a new beginning. Walking in a new, healthy direction is an amazingly good and brave thing!

Everyday we are given opportunities over and over again to be choose the right the right thing. Trumpets may not sound and banners may not wave, but our souls need it. And they are of greater value than any trumpet or banner.

I love that life is a journey...that there are so many truths to learn, and ways to apply them along the way. Have you ever gone on a perfect journey? I haven't! With every trip I have taken there are necessary stops and what seem like unnecessary breakdowns, detours and changes of plans, conflict and times of bliss. To expect it to go perfectly is to be delusional. The same with after day after day, for however long God gives us, there are of thousands of opportunities to grow in Everyday Courage.

I pray this post is an encouragement to you. Being this open and transparent is scary to me. I could be fearful and expect rejection, mockery, or dismissal. Or, I can believe that  I will be accepted, loved, and understood. I choose to believe the second option. I choose Everyday Courage. 

'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' Joshua 1:9

We can do it!