Fearful People are Easier to Control

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I’ve been pretty quiet for the last few weeks as I watched the COVID-19 pandemic grow. I didn’t want to jump in with just another pat Christianese answer about having faith and not giving into fear. But as the public hysteria grows, I’m done being quiet because there are some things that need said.

Yesterday I was working at Meijer as a Shipt shopper. Shipting has been my job for the past three years. If you aren’t familiar with Shipt, I’m basically a personal shopper. I use an app to accept orders which I then shop and deliver. Over and over again every hour while my kids are in school. Sorry to disillusion you if you thought I had a glamorous life that included spending my days at chic coffee shops typing out beautiful words. Nope, I’m just a professional grocery shopper.

Because I spent the day at Meijer I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the madness that is the toilet paper apocalypse. Three times over the course of the day, trucks arrived with more toilet paper. Every time before the employees could even get it to the shelf, people descended, grabbed, pushed, and shoved multiple packages into their carts. As customers left with carts full of toilet paper the shelves were once again bare.

The ridiculous thing is that there isn’t really a shortage of toilet paper. We are creating the shortage by overbuying. As the shelves deplete, more people feel panic and begin acting out in fear. Thus the toilet paper apocalypse continues.

Fear makes us do crazy things.

I know this because I spent a decade in a cultic sub-group of Christianity heavily influenced by fear. In fact, if you look into any cult you will find fear based teachings. Why? Because fearful people are easier to control. 

Our state has decided to close schools for the next three weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Trust me, that decision did not help the panicked hysteria. People have swarmed the local grocery stores and stripped the shelves bare. Parking lots are full, every checkout is open, and the lines are long. Why?

It’s not like those stores won’t be open tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s not like more semi-trucks won’t be showing up to deliver food. But the news of empty shelves causes even more people to panic and try to buy whatever they can. It’s a vicious cycle. Fear makes us act irrationally. 

But I get it. Looking into my fridge this morning, I noticed that I only had half a gallon of milk. I wondered if there was any milk left in the store. Irrational or not, I felt the urge to run out and buy some just in case. I wouldn’t really be out of milk until Sunday at the earliest, but still.

Although I tried to talk myself out of it, eventually I couldn’t help it. Ridiculous or not, I went to a smaller grocery store (that still had food) and got some milk, bread, and a bag of apples. Trust me, I understand the feelings of fear and sense of panic.

But here’s the thing, the lines in the grocery stores, the shortage on toilet paper, and the empty canned good shelves have nothing to do with the actual virus. They are cause by anxiety, fear, and worst case scenarios in peoples’ minds. Personally I’m more concerned about the effects of the public mass hysteria than I am about COVID-19.

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I was picking up my room this morning when I looked out the window and saw a sunbeam glinting on these grassy plumes in my flowerbed. It was a beautiful March morning, especially for Michigan. The sun was still shining, the birds were still singing, and the grass was still waving gently in the breeze. Life was happening around me despite viruses, or hysteria, or a lack of toilet paper. God had not lost control and life was moving on.

We aren’t used to hard things in this culture. But we fear them. And that fear makes us do crazy things.

I want to close with some reminders.

COVID-19 is basically a viral pneumonia. The media likes to call it “the deadly coronavirus” but that just means it’s killed people. So have a lot of other things. Adding the adjective deadly makes it seem scarier. Remember, people who are terrified are easier to control. I find it interesting that in the entire world no child under the age of 10 has died from COVID-19. People who are most at risk are the elderly and those with preexisting health concerns. Most of the population is at a low risk for infection and an even lower risk of serious illness. Most of us do not need to be afraid. 

Should we be educated, aware, and prepared? Yes. Should we follow guidelines from the CDC and our local government agencies? Yes. But should we do irrational things and fall into the public hysteria that is the toilet paper apocalypse? No, please no.

Instead, enjoy some extra time at home. Do your spring cleaning. Make cookies. Read a book. Play a game with your family. Experience the simple things that we don’t usually have time for in our hectic lives. Breathe. Rest. It is going to be okay.

God has not lost control and life will go on.

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Healing and Surrender

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“I’ll heal you if you’ll let Me.”

I heard the Spirit’s whisper clearly in my heart. Fear and worry had wrapped themselves around my body threatening to strangle me. Again.

Some of my earliest memories include freaking out because someone was sick in my family, or in my Sunday School class, or at the grocery store. I worried about many things as a kid but sickness was one of my biggest.

As an adult, I’ve been able to work through many of my fears. And while I no longer fear my own illness, I hate my kids or husband being sick. Because I feel helpless. Because I’m out of control. Because I can easily imagine worst case scenarios. Because I love comfort and happy, easy moments of life. Because I hate not being in control.

As I sat there contemplating these things, I realized what a powerful grip fear and a desire for control have on me. A grip that I felt powerless to resist.

Maybe you can identify with this. Maybe it’s also fear and control for you. Or maybe it’s something different.

“I’ll heal you if you’ll let Me.”

If you’ll let me. The irony isn’t lost on me. In order to get rid of this fear and desire for control, I needed to surrender my control. I needed to let go.

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about right and wrong, why we should choose to reject sin, and what it means to believe that Jesus is Lord. I know that it has to be more than behavior designed to earn something because that’s just religion again. But at the same time, the Bible clearly shows God’s desire for our righteousness and holiness. How do they both work together?

I love that the people who are helping me work through this are people that much of the church doesn’t know what to do with. There is a group of Christians within the LGBTQ community who call themselves Side B. These people identify as LGBTQ but also believe that God’s design for sex and marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s a really uncomfortable place to land because you get criticized from all other sides.

Laurie Krieg, author, speaker, and podcast host, is attracted to women but is married to her husband Matt. I recently heard a podcast episode with Laurie, Matt, and David Bennett author of A War of Loves. David, a former atheist gay activist, is attracted to men but is choosing to live a single celibate life. They talked about surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus, not just in their sexuality, but in all of life.

I’ve heard people use the phrase make Jesus the Lord of your life in a way that makes me cringe. It usually comes with a list of behaviors that prove you are indeed making Jesus Lord. Often this phrase is also linked to salvation which I can’t accept because I believe salvation is a free gift of grace that we can do nothing to attain on our own.

But as I listened to David and Laurie talk, surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus felt different. Surrender for Laurie and David is costly, uncomfortable, and strange to the modern world. They aren’t doing it to earn anything. And somehow what they have found through that surrender is more than worth it. I find myself convicted and challenged. Jesus is Lord whether we acknowledge that fact in our lives or not.

Surrender sounds like death. It’s giving up control. Letting Jesus be in charge. Laying aside my own pride and way of doing things. It’s scary.

“I’ll heal you if you’ll let Me.”

Surrender may sound like death, but holding onto control feels like death. I hate what worry and fear do to my heart and mind.

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I sat there with my fists clenched at first. There was an utter lack of condemnation or shame in His Presence, just gentle love. Slowly I opened my hands. I wanted healing more than I wanted control. Palms up, I surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus.

It’s not going to be an instant healing. It’s going to be a journey of surrender. I know that the Spirit will continue to show me areas where I’m holding on but I’m already seeing glimpses of freedom.

I think this is real life with Jesus. It’s a process, a daily adventure, continual surrender. God longs for us to live in righteousness and holiness because He loves us and because He knows that this is where we will flourish and find life that is truly life.

It’s about so much more than behaviors and right vs wrong. It’s about our hearts. It’s about healing. And it’s about the Lord Jesus restoring His precious creation.

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What Now? How to Live After the Election

It was a rough political season. Tuesday was a hard, divisive election. Now we are dealing with the emotional, draining aftermath. At least we are on the internet, specifically social media.

I cringe before going on Facebook right now. If you read my other election post you will know that I have hidden a bunch of my more political friends. Still, my news feed is full of political articles, political comments, and political arguments. Do you know what I see and feel on Facebook right now, even from some of my Christian friends?

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Hatred, Fear, Worry, and Pride. Christian brothers and sisters, This. Is. Not. Right.

Hatred – For some reason, people seem to think that they can post awful things on social media that they would never say face to face. I have seen so many harsh, judgmental, rude, condemning comments. I have heard sweeping generalizations. People are ruthlessly fighting. There is very little love.

Fear – So much fear is being expressed on social media right now. Terror, really. It breaks my heart. Also, since I grew up in a fear-based cult, I know first hand that people who are afraid are easier to control. It’s not good.

Worry – Another way to describe worry is “borrowing trouble”. People are creating scenarios that are currently not true. Rather than focus on this beautiful fall day, where the sun is shining, and the sky is blue, people are consumed with “what if’s” that might happen.

Pride – When we feel that we are smarter, or more intellectual, than others, when everything seems black and white to us, or when we refuse to try and see from someone else’s perspective, that is pride.

The only one winning in this wildly stressful scenario is our enemy, Satan. The Bible calls him “the father of lies” so let’s fight him with the truth.

The TRUTH:

  • God is still the same as He was on Monday. He has not changed. He is not surprised at the results of the election. He has not lost control. We might not understand why He allows things to happen, but He has a purpose for everything.
  • The Bible is full of less-than-stellar leaders that God used anyway: Samson, the womanizing judge, Saul, the angry, sometimes possessed, first king of Israel, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon who took God’s people into captivity, etc. God will work His will through whichever messed-up person happens to be our president. It’s not like He hasn’t done it before.
  • This world is broken. The people who live in it are all broken. We will not have a perfect society until we are being ruled by King Jesus Himself.

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Feeling powerless is never a comfortable thing. It’s scary! So, what can we do if we don’t like the President-Elect, or if we can’t convince other people that our way is right, or if someone is telling us that we are ignorant and multi-phobic?

Let’s CHOOSE to control the only thing we can: ourselves.

  1. Choose grace: What would happen if we were willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt whether or not our ideologies agree? Instead of making broad assumptions and condemnations, what if we choose to give grace? Instead of typing or texting or saying something, stop and think if it’s really necessary, if it will build up those who read/hear it. We need to remember that all people were created in the image of God, and He loves them and died for them (just like He did for us).
  1. Choose humility: None of us has the “perfect perspective”. The lenses through which we see life are affected by our past, our present, our personality, etc. None of us are smart enough to see the whole picture alone. We get the clearest perspective when we are able to hear from multiple people with different views, when we are able to share and listen without judgement or assumptions.
  1. Choose truth: We have an enemy, friends, and he wants to destroy us. His lies are sneaky and they often sound like our own thoughts. Have you been hearing things like “This is hopeless” or “Everyone is against me”? Those kinds of thoughts are not from God. The enemy wants to destroy you. Don’t let him! Choose to reject lies and fill your mind with God’s truth.
  1. Choose love: In a world that is increasingly filled with hate, choose to act with love. Reach out to others, including strangers, with a smile, a kind word, hold the door, etc. Choose to love your friends and family in tangible ways. Loving others also includes holding your tongue/fingers. Is that social media argument really necessary? Probably not.
  1. Choose gratitude: Instead of focusing on everything around you that isn’t going your way, instead of being frustrated by the people who don’t agree with you, choose to be thankful. Enjoy the blessings that God has given you such as your family, friends, home, possessions, this beautiful fall weather, etc. We have SO MUCH that we take for granted every day.
  1. Choose trust: You might feel like life is out of control, but God never loses it. Instead of freaking out, place your hope in a God who is bigger and more powerful than you could ever imagine. Rest in His Sovereignty and the fact that this world is not your home. Dream of heaven and life forever with your Savior.
  1. Choose mental health: If Facebook or Twitter or other social medias are stressing you out, if the news is triggering anger or worry, then I have a suggestion. Close your computer. Turn off your tablet or TV. Set down your smart phone. Take a walk, grab a coffee with a friend who won’t talk about politics, or get a massage to work out those tense muscle knots. Live your life! Make cookies, refinish some furniture, read a book with your children, recognize that your actual life has not changed. And, if it does someday as a result of this election, God is still on the throne!

Remember, no matter what, Jesus is still Jesus, the Gospel is still the good news, and God is still in control. Christian friends, let’s choose to believe truth and act with love and grace.

An Honest Confession – I’m Afraid of Failure!

This is just an honest update about me and this book that I am supposedly writing. I’m going to give some background, be honest, tell you what happened yesterday, and ask you for prayer!

I never set out to write a book, or even have a blog for that matter. It all started about two and a half years ago with the website called Recovering Grace. Yes, I had spent ten plus years in a cult (I didn’t call it that back then), but I had tried to put it all behind me. It wasn’t something I talked about. Even my husband didn’t know most of the stories or the ways the teachings had affected me. Then Recovering Grace happened.

IMG_3567Recovering Grace is a website run by former ATI (Advanced Training Institute) students. ATI is the homeschool program created by Bill Gothard, creator of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. The Duggars use this curriculum (which if you dig deep explains a lot of their behaviors and beliefs),and so did my family. If you Google Bill Gothard right now, you will find that he, and IBLP, are being sued for sexual misconduct by 18 plaintiffs (which is the very tip of the ice berg since one of the plaintiffs was his driver for a few years and says he witnessed over 150 young ladies being harassed). You get the picture.

Two and a half years ago, Recovering Grace started publishing stories about women who were sexually harassed. Once they published these, the wheel started turning; people came forward from the 1970s and gave them hard copy information alleging financial and sexual misconduct, manipulation, intimidation, slander, etc. I started remembering, dissecting, processing.  After joiningg a Facebook community of former ATI students, I encountered many people who wanted nothing to do with Jesus or God because of the “Christianity” they experienced. It completely broke my heart! I realized that I was one of a few former ATI students who still considered themselves a Christian, who still had a relationship with Jesus.

I spent time in soul searching and introspection. As I thought about the lies we were taught about God and Jesus, I started to realize that the same lies are subtly present in much of Modern Western Christianity. Jesus found me in the middle of the legalism and lies, and showed me how to know Him. That is my desperate desire for the world…to actually KNOW God because of His Son, Jesus.

That was the beginning of this whole crazy journey. God wants me to write a book. He has made that abundantly clear over the past few years. But I don’t want to, and I have been dragging my feet. Mostly because I am afraid.

Look at what God has done!

  • As all of this went down, God confirmed that I was supposed to write, even having another woman say out of the blue, “Maybe you need to write a book”.
  • I started my blog, despite having reservations.
  • The speaker for  our spring Ladies Day at church not only confirmed my calling, but gave me the next step, the Speak Up Conference which just happened to be in Grand Rapids.
  • I won a full scholarship to the 2014 conference!
  • At the conference I shared my One Page (kind of like an introduction to your book idea) with a publisher and an agent and they were both interested. This does not happen!
  • After the conference, I freaked out and although I continued to occasionally blog, I ignored the whole book idea.
  • God did not let me get away. I continued to run into people who reminded me that He wanted me to write a book. I had plenty of excuses.
  • Over a year later, I revised my One Page and sent it to another agent (referred to me by a writer friend). She loved it and wanted to work with me. This does not happen either!
  • The Speak Up Conference this summer “just happens” to be on the only weekend that would work (since I’m working as the health officer at camp again) and they are willing to give me a significant discount.
  • I found an awesome cabin that I can get for cheap, on a lake, to go and focus on writing since I’m supposed to get my full Book Proposal done before the conference this summer.
  • BUT, I’m freaking out!! And freezing and wanting to run away…

All of this brings me to yesterday. We had a guest speaker at church. The minute he opened his mouth I realized that God was speaking to me, including a pounding heart and tingles going down my spine.

“If you’re on mission, just do what you’re supposed to do.”

Then he asked four questions, questions that originally came from Jesus.

  1. What are you afraid of? Failure, rejection, change, success, basically everything!
  2. What do you want God to do? This question scares the crap out of me. If I actually allow myself to dream, I’d say, I want God to use this book to push people to evaluate their Christianity, to make them question their beliefs, to see lies, and to start seeking for the real God, the God who is only more than we can ever imagine. I want people to realize that if they are feeling discontent and disillusioned with their version of Christianity, maybe they too have found an impostor and not the real Jesus. I want God to use my book to bring people to a real relationship with Him!
  3. What are your excuses? (Do you want to get well?) I have plenty! Trust me! Including not having time, being the mother of small children, not being wise enough or good enough or etc.
  4. Who do you say God is? If God is really who I say I believe He is, then I just need to shut up and get to work. It’s one thing to believe in my head and another to believe with my heart.

Ok, this brings me to the end of a very long blog post (389 words over my normal limit). Friends, I need you to pray for me! Pray that my faith will be stronger than my fear. Pray that I will stop making excuses. Pray that I will be obedient! I’m going to be starting a prayer team. If you are interested in joining me, please let me know on Facebook or by contacting me here. I’m closing with a final thought from the speaker-sent-from-God. 🙂

“God doesn’t measure success; He measures obedience.” Thank goodness!!!!!

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Trust and Panic Attacks

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I was an illogically worried child. If it was five minutes past 8pm, then I would keep myself awake being worried about not getting enough sleep. I could never sleep at other people’s houses, which then would make me worried about being exhausted the next day. I couldn’t have clocks that I could see in my bedroom because then I would worry if it got too late. I specifically remember lying in bed at night as a child, thinking about my three greatest fears: my house burning down, a tornado coming (unlikely since I lived in Michigan), and throwing up. This was a nightly occurrence for years. I had an incredibly powerful brain and I could totally convince myself that I was sick or about to be sick, especially if I woke up in the middle of the night. My poor parents!

I was in college when I started having pretty severe panic attacks. I’ve always been a strong (prideful) person, so it was hard to admit to others that I was struggling. At first I didn’t know what they were, the shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest tightness, numbness, unreal feelings… I thought I was dying. After some research, I realized they were panic attacks. And then with some surprise, I realized that I’d struggled with a milder form of something similar for years. I used to call it “spiritual warfare” back in the “Duggar Days“. I still get occasional panic attacks, in fact I had one this morning.

Ironically, last week I wrote a quick blog post about not being afraid, which in a manner of three days became the most popular post I’ve ever written! So, how does someone write a blog post about not being afraid, truly not feel afraid of ISIS or the end of the world, and yet still struggle with panic attacks? I supposed in the same way that any of us are redeemed children of God still living in our broken human bodies. We are sinners, saved by God’s amazing grace, still dealing with our sin!

The biggest thing that has helped me to overcome worry, is recognizing how big, how huge, how incredibly enormous God really is! He is in absolute control at all times. He adores me. But God does not owe me an explanation for anything that happens. It was in one of my darkest and most troubling times that God showed me these truths with definition and clarity. I’m going to share that story next. (This is probably part 1 of 3)

For now let’s go back to daily anxiety and panic attacks. Why do they happen? What’s behind it? Everyone is different. My anxiety comes when I’m stressed, when I allow negative thought patterns, or when I am afraid of losing control. It always helps to take a quiet moment and figure out what is bothering me. Then I recognize my panic attack for what it is, speak truth to myself, and seek Jesus. Taking a minute to just breathe and focus on who Jesus is and how much He loves me usually calms me down. I’m honest with Him. I tell Him what is freaking me out and I let Him calm me and speak truth to me. It’s not like God doesn’t already know! We can’t hide anything from Him. We won’t disappoint Him.

  • “And he (Jesus) awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still (after living with him and seeing what he could do) no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:39-41

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus can calm a wild, raging storm on a lake, He can also calm the storm of worry inside of me! I know He can, because I’ve seen Him do it before.