Fear of God?

The Hebrew word יִרְאָה that is translated into English as “Fear of God” means something entirely different. It is spelled phonetically as “yirah” and pronounced as “Year-uh”.

“Fear” is an improper and misleading rendering, because God does not want us to be afraid. It is said that the phrase “Don’t be afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible – one for every day of the year. We are told repeatedly that “God is love”, so why should we be afraid of God?

According to Strong’s, the word actually means “reverence” or “piety”, not fear.

It is to indicate respect, to know before Whom you stand. To not take God for granted, but remember that God is your Creator. It is the same feeling you would have for a good parent or a wise teacher.

However, it is not the feeling that you would have for a friend. You must always remember that God is greater than you and existed long before and will exist long after you. You must remember that God created you and the rest of the universe. There must be some humility because of this.

But it isn’t fear.

Consider what other words that we have been told about God and Jesus that are not true, that were given to control us.

The Village

The Village had no place to hide. They’d planned it that way from the very beginning. Decades later, the influence of the Company could still be felt.
They’d laid out the streets in an arcane pattern which would have been instantly recognizable to ancient alchemists. It was reasonable after all, since the Company were modern alchemists. However, they were no longer trying to convert base elements into gold, but into bombs.
The Company was all about control. It had to be. What with such volatile elements under their purview, control was a matter of life and death. The only problem was that they did not know when to stop.
They thought the same about their employees as the elements that they worked with – unknown, potentially dangerous. The Overseer decided early on to keep them isolated from the city at large and then to further segregate them by function. It was best to keep the workers from mingling with the supervisors, and both from regular citizens. Explosions could not be ruled out. Separation was for everyone’s safety.
They’d done their job too well. Even now the people who lived in the Village, no longer a Company town, still were isolated from the rest of the city and suspicious of anyone who had not lived there for at least 20 years. Even that wasn’t a free pass, with any aberrant behavior transforming a “friend” to a “foe” at the speed of a post on their neighborhood watch’s Facebook page.
The layout of the neighborhood created invisible walls that focused energy and attention inwards. It was a feedback loop. It was a closed circuit. Day after week after month after year it built up with no release. Like crabs in a pot, they clawed at each other, keeping the whole group down, preventing escape. Little did they know that they were all doomed.
Only the Overseer could have predicted this.
It was his plan all along.
On the surface it seemed like a great place to live. All the houses were built by the Company for their workers. The school, the library, even the gymnasium were provided. All the workers had to do was show up to work and put in eight hours every day excepting Sundays. Everything was paid for through their wages. They didn’t have a lot of money left over for personal needs, but they felt it was a fair trade-off to be able to live in a model community. They were told that here their children would be safe, protected from the dangerous elements of the rest of the city.
This inward-facing community was their undoing. With no new information, no variety, no challenge to the status quo, the Village stagnated and degenerated. It became inbred, where aberrant and defective ways of thinking became the norm rather than the exception.
They never saw it coming. The wall surrounding their village and their minds was invisible but no less effective because of it. Perhaps it was more effective because it was invisible. They didn’t know they were trapped, thus they had no reason to try to escape. Why would they? It was perfect here, they all agreed. Those that didn’t agree were silenced in the way that works best – by declaring them crazy. Why martyr someone by forcing them to leave the community? Excommunication wasn’t just for the Church. It was far better to keep them as an example of how not to behave.

Care or codependency?

I recently posted a picture of an item I’d bought at Goodwill on my Facebook page. I’m going to use it as a prop for a story I’m writing, but in the meantime I wanted to know what it really was. Several helpful friends let me know that it was a kitchen timer. It looks more like a remote control than a timer, so that is what it will be in the story.

However, one person posted this picture and said “Don’t buy from Goodwill”.

Perhaps it is significant that this is a cousin, from my husband’s side. I’ve never even met him. Perhaps that alone is my problem. Perhaps I need to not “friend” people I don’t know, even if they are family. That is a topic I write about a lot. Boundary lines blur a bit with family.

Here’s my reply to his post (which you might notice didn’t answer my question at all) –

“Too late. I don’t buy from Goodwill with the thought that they will be donating to charity. I am the charity. I benefit because I get to buy something very inexpensive that I need, that I can’t afford to buy new. This is where I buy my clothes. In spite of the fact that the CEO makes lots of bucks – they do provide job training and opportunities to people who normally have a hard time getting a job (those with mental or physical disabilities, or those who are ex-cons). Plus, by their mere existence, they are encouraging people to recycle and reuse – the items don’t go into a garbage dump. Surely these points have to be of value to you. I’ve seen this image before – and I notice that yours does not include the one donation center that does donate a lot to charity and the CEO takes home under $25K a year – and that is the Salvation Army. I’m so tired of messages from people who mean well that say “DON’T do this” but then don’t tell you what is good to do. We cannot live our lives based on fear.”

I thought “How dare he tell me what to do! How dare he try to share his fear!”

His need to “correct” me is a sign of codependency. His way of thinking is the problem, not where I shop.

It reminds me of health book that said to drink lots of clean water – but not from a tap, and not to drink out of plastic water bottles. But what is there other than that? The author didn’t say. So how is that helpful? If all you share is what not to do, you are not helping anyone. In fact, you are making the situation worse. This is part of the current problem our society faces – too many “don’t” and not enough helpful information. We are being lead by fear of everything, with no let up. There is no relief – just more and more fear.

Here are some current fear-based modes of thinking that are going on:

The government is going to take away everything you have.
The government is putting chemicals in your food.
You are under constant surveillance.
Immigrants are going to steal your job and/or kill you.

These ideas are poison, because they don’t offer a cure. They contribute to un-ease, to dis-ease. They are all passive. They are things that are going to happen to you (so they say), rather than things you can do something about. They create fear and disorder.

We are being told we are in a cage and not given a key. The real problem is that we were fine before we were told these lies.

And then I thought more about his message. This was a chance to educate him on the rest of the story. So I shared this picture.

Half information is worse than no information. Whatever we share must be for the good of all. To share mis-information or terror-talk is to BE the problem. Also, it is important to consider before you share anything – are you trying to control the actions of someone else? If so, why? Is it perhaps that You are the one who needs to hear your message – not the other person? Thinking about why you feel the need to control someone else’s actions, even in the guise of caring for them, is a very useful meditation.

Poem Wild

It is the forest.
It is always the forest,
the wilderness.

The wolf didn’t torment little Red,
the forest did.
The wilderness was something to escape
all those 40 years.
This is the story we are told.

The untamed is the
uncivilized is the
We are told –
Leave the forest.
Leave the wilderness.
There isn’t only wild.
When you are there
you are wild too.
Because you can’t control the forest
or the wilderness.
can’t be controlled.

If a tree falls in the forest,
it does make a sound
but nobody is there to hear it
because they are afraid
to be there
afraid of what is lurking
behind the trees,
of finding their true nature
in all that nature.

The forest frightens those
who tell us these stories
because they are afraid we will return
to the forest
inside ourselves.
They are afraid
we will rediscover
our inner wilderness.

They aren’t afraid we’ll be eaten
by the wild animals.
They are afraid
(A bronze sculpture from an exhibition at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, all about how fairy tales are dark. This is about Little Red Riding Hood)

On carrying cash only.

One of the most common things I hear when I tell people that I carry cash instead of credit cards is that they are afraid. They don’t say the words that they are afraid, but the next sentence does. They say “It is dangerous to carry around large amounts of money all the time.”

I think to myself – why would you need to carry around large amounts of money all the time? Do you have a sudden need to spend large amounts of money? That alone should be something to look into. That indicates deeper problems – ones that can be addressed by taking on the discipline of carrying cash.

For everyday occurrences, simply carrying at least a 20 on you will do. Even before I started carrying only cash, I would have a 20 under my ID as an emergency backup, and a 20, a 10, a 5, and some ones. That meant I had whatever change I needed for whatever circumstance. It also meant that I had enough to pay for my meal when the credit card machine reader was broken.

I have experienced enough times with myself and with observing others that not every place takes credit cards, and not every credit card reader works all the time. It is safer to have some cash on you.

I know a guy who was ‘running on fumes’. He just barely managed to get to a gas station before his car ran out of gas. Ideally, he would have filled up long before the gauge hit E, but that is another story. He gets to the gas station and pulled out his credit card. The card reader did not work. He knew that he did not have enough gas to start the car and drive to the next gas station. He did not have any cash on him. He was stuck. Fortunately someone nearby, (someone older), had cash and lent it to him.

You don’t need to carry large amounts of money on you at all times. You know when you’re going to go to grocery store or the hardware store. You have an idea how much you’re going to spend. Bring that amount. Otherwise keep it at home or at the bank.

I think that all of this anxiety about carrying large amounts of cash is a disease that has been spread to us to make us afraid and controlled.

Think of the stories you’ve heard in the news of people who have been robbed. Then start going backwards. How many people do you personally know who have been robbed? If you know anyone who was robbed, how often where they robbed?

Have they been robbed every week?
Have they been robbed once a year?

How big is this problem, really? More importantly – how small is it?

Then think about the numbers of times you’ve heard about thousands of people experiencing credit card fraud. Their wallet doesn’t even have to be stolen. They won’t even know they have had their information taken from them until it is too late. It is less traumatic at the beginning, sure, but way more expensive at the end. Lots of time has gone by, and lots of money has been spent. Lots of money that isn’t even there to be spent – it is all on credit.

I believe that all the stories we hear of people being robbed are exactly that – stories. I believe that we have been told these stories to keep us afraid, and in line. I believe that the world is exactly as safe as we choose it to be. But also – it is exactly as dangerous as we will let it be.

I would rather have cash on me than credit cards with huge limits. Not only is it dangerous to have the ability to mindlessly spend up to $15000, it is also dangerous that someone could steal my purse and could swipe my card and max it out all the way up to the limit of my credit. These days, if someone steals my wallet, the only thing they’ll steal is the amount of cash that is inside it. That is at most 50. On grocery days it is 100. I’d much rather have $100 stolen than $5000.

But what about unforeseen accidents and problems? My car might break down? What then? What did we do before credit cards? Think. We have created our own monster.

I can live in fear that I’m going to be robbed, or I can live in fear that I’m suddenly going to have to spend lots of money because my car is going to break down.

I chose to not live in fear.

Bus driver.

One time during the drum circle I was given the task of playing the bass drum. The bass drum holds the rhythm. The bass drum is the backbone of the whole thing. It sets the time and the tone. It has to be a consistent steady beat. It is what everybody else relies on.

Midway through something really amazing happened and a lot of people were in the center and they were singing and drumming together. It was really beautiful and I wanted to look at it, but I realized if I did then I would lose track of where I was.

I realized then that I was the bus driver. They were all enjoying the scenery. My responsibility was to driving the bus and keeping us all on track.

There was another person who was keeping the rhythm with me. Every now and then I’d lose track of where I was and I look over at him. The problem was that often he was holding his drum up so I couldn’t see his mallet hit. I couldn’t use his rhythm to find my own.

At that point I had to find the rhythm within the song that was already going on and just jump back in. The group had based itself on me but then I was basing myself on it. They didn’t really need me to keep it going but I felt the responsibility.

At another point, the facilitator came over and started to talk with me during the song. I got really frustrated and told her that I couldn’t talk to her and keep the rhythm going at the same time. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I didn’t have to worry so much. I got the group started, but by then there was no way that they were relying on me. They couldn’t hear me at that point. They were doing it all very well on their own.

Which then leads to the next thought – why do I feel such a responsibility to keep things going? Why do I think that I’m in charge and have to control it? It is good to notice this and meditate on it. Some of it is rooted in my dysfunctional home life, then and now. I feel like I have to be the responsible one. I feel like if I don’t take care of things, they will all fall apart. Bills won’t get paid. There won’t be food in the house. No money left for retirement. Lifetime goals won’t be achieved.

Slowly, I’m learning to let go and trust that God is really the one driving the bus. I have my own duties that I’m called to do, but I’m not in charge. I don’t want to slack off and assume that there will be another day to do what I’m called to do – but I also don’t need to fret so much that I don’t enjoy today.

Bead control

I once taught a prayer bracelet workshop at a silent retreat. That was very difficult for me. I normally want to control things, and when I can’t talk, I can’t control. I could have written down what I wanted to tell people right then but either I didn’t think about that or I thought that was cheating. I had printed instructions for the very first silent retreat that I taught at but it seems like nobody read them or followed them.

There was a certain length of cord that I provided for the bracelets this time. That helped a lot. When I’ve taught prayer bracelet classes before where I could talk, people sometimes ended making bracelets that were either too short or too long. Some of them were more like necklaces.

Another thing that is important to tell people when making prayer bracelets is that they need to not put anything really heavy in the center because it will slide to that underside of your wrist and you’ll never see it. I couldn’t say that this time, and saw it happening. I knew the person would be frustrated later, but I had to let it go.

When I have taught the class before I would sometimes have to have people take the entire thing apart and redo it. At this retreat I couldn’t say anything, so I just had to let the bracelets be the way they were. Bracelets and people are a lot alike.

I had printed instructions telling them that they were supposed to put a special bead and then a plain bead and then a different special bead and the same kind of plain bead. Since the bracelets were only five dollars each this is a way that I wouldn’t lose money. Nobody did it this way. I had to let that go too.

I never thought that I would learn a lot about myself from teaching a prayer bracelet workshop at a silent retreat. It was hard to let go. I’ve invested a lot of my life into beads. Part of all of this was about relearning and unlearning. I wanted to share this new way of praying with people, but I didn’t need to do it in such a way that I needed therapy afterwards.

God provides – drum class

There is this drum class that I’m planning to attend. I heard about it months ago, and I felt really called towards it. I had no idea how I was going to justify the cost of it, though.

It is $500. This is for a two-day class. I’m kind of gasping at how much money the teacher is making. I wonder if I can get in on that kind of action. It is hard enough to get people to accept the prices I have on my jewelry, and they never approach three digits, much less close to rent-payment amounts.

Plus, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with this class. I’m not very good at drumming. I’ve never hosted a drum circle at all. I only have four drums, and I’m not really hot on lending them out.

But I felt called to this. It kept gnawing at me – sign up for the class. I feel that God is calling me to it. It isn’t something for me, really. It is interesting, sure, and I guess it goes along with some of the other classes I’ve taken recently.

I figured I’d pay for it and then earn the money with jewelry, and that hasn’t quite happened – but something else has.

I’ve earned $100 with my jewelry, and that is nice. But some surprising things, some unplanned things, have happened.

I got a raise at work, that amounts to $600 extra a year.
We got a discount on our YMCA membership that amounts to $72 off.
We changed car and house insurance, and that saves us $300 a year.

So unplanned, unrelated to this, we essentially are up $1000. I only needed $500.

Normally, when I sign up for a class that I feel led to, I earn the money first. That wasn’t possible with this one – they wanted the money right away. I trusted, and God provided.

This really lets me know that I’m on the right path, and that I really am supposed to take this class. God always makes a way.

Now I wonder what God wants me to learn out of it. That will be amazing to see. Perhaps this will be a stepping stone to something else. Perhaps I’ll meet someone who will help me with one of my usual projects.

I’ve got a lot of projects.

I’m not worried about it, just curious. God is always surprising me. That is one of the best parts about trusting that God is in control.

Command – on distractions and religious observance

I’m at a silent retreat. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to Not do anything either. I could check email. I could check Facebook. One of the nuns even told me I could go watch TV in their communal TV room. Normally that room is off limits to visitors. They have to have some areas that are theirs. We are basically in their home, after all.

But I won’t do anything that involves the outside world. These things aren’t part of the “rules” of the retreat, but they are part of my rules for retreats. I think it is important to unplug and stop long enough for God to get a word in edgewise. Maybe if I’m lucky, maybe if I’m quiet enough, God won’t even have to sidle up to me and can talk to me straight on.

At retreats I also make sure to be vegetarian, or at least pescatarian. When food is prepared for me I don’t always have that choice, but I try. I think it helps keep me mindful.

I’m reminded of Daniel, who wanted to keep kosher, but found that it was impossible to do so where he was. He asked for a vegetarian diet because that was the simplest way to keep kosher. I don’t keep kosher, but the idea is the same. I want to make intentional choices, and one of the easiest things to do that with is food. I want to stay all the time in that space that says “Here I am God.”

I want to go online. It is such an itch. But I know if I scratch it, it will get worse. I don’t have to give it up. All I have to do is be silent. But if I go online I’ll be wasting this gift of time.

So I pray. Jesus, I give this craving to you. I can’t handle it. I’m weak and you are strong. Help me give it up so I can get closer to you.

I’ve come through so many other addictions before this, so many distractions and temptations. Life is a series of these. So many obstacles. Yet they strengthen me, the more I notice them and consciously take myself away from them.

I think just noticing them is a big deal. How many times have I gone on autopilot and just reacted to something or someone without being mindful?

And then there’s Peter, telling Jesus to command him to get out of the boat and walk on the water towards him. He’s giving Jesus control. But how much control does Peter have, when he was the one who asked to be commanded?

It is a bit of a mindbender.

It reminds me of when I’d want to learn more about a topic, so I’d volunteer to teach a class on it. Nobody was forcing me to do anything. Nobody’s forcing me to give up anything on this retreat, other than being silent. I’ve added in all this other stuff. But I think it helps.

It is kind of like any religious observance. If wearing a head covering gets your head in the right place to remember to worship – great. If wearing a certain style of clothing does it, great. If eating certain foods do it, great. It isn’t the head covering or the clothing or the food that does it though. It is the fact that you have decided this is going to be your reminder. You’re using that outside stimuli like a bell, to call you to prayer.

(Written on retreat, around 10 pm, 1-17-14. Added to 1-22-14)

Control (dig out the roots)

Much of our pain and problems come from a need to control. We want to control the future. We want to control our friends, coworkers, and family. We are sure if they just did things our way they would be happier.

At the core of it, what we hate is what we define as evil. We think whatever it is that we are against is wrong. We are afraid. Fear is a lot of this. Ignorance is a lot of fear.

What is evil for one is no problem for another. We want to save them. We want to protect them. We do it out of love, in our eyes.

Don’t fight evil. That is what it wants. Love it. Love is the answer. Really.

Love it by learning about it. Why do you hate it? Who taught you to hate it?

I’m thinking out loud here. I’m approaching this from both perspectives. I’m looking at it from the perspective of the person giving and the person receiving.

It is all connected.

When you come across someone who is controlling, see through the person’s reaction to their fear, their loss, their neediness. Their mess.

Do the same with your own need to control.

Dig down deep and find the root of it. If you feel fear or shame about something, instead of feeling those feelings, try to feel curiosity. Get curious about where this came from. Who gave that feeling to you? Many feelings are taught to us. We are taught to be ashamed of our bodies. We are taught to think that we are greater than or lesser than another. We are taught to be open or close-minded.

If this is an unpleasant feeling, one that isn’t productive, dig down. Don’t turn away from it. Uproot it. Bring it out into the light.

Who first gave you that feeling? Who first taught you to feel that feeling? Where were you? What was the circumstance? What was going on?

Then go deeper. Who taught that person? Then who taught them?

There can be many generations of this line, this rope that we hold on to. This rope that we use to define ourselves. This is how we in this family act. “Don’t shame us. Don’t embarrass the family name.” We are exhorted to not let go of this rope that holds us together. We all have to stay together, you know, or we’ll get lost.

But this rope can also be a noose, a lariat, a line that prevents growth.

Someone is trying to plant seeds of fear or shame into you. Don’t let it bloom into an ugly tree. Don’t give it a space.

There are many things that they will try to plant. They will try to plant seeds of doubt and fear. These seeds are the fruits from trees that have matured in them. They aren’t even aware that they have these misshapen trees growing inside them. They have had them so long that they think this way of thinking is normal.

How about these seeds? Have you been given these? These seeds of fear and doubt and ignorance are common. It is healing to see them out in the daylight. It is hard to look at them – but that is the root of healing. So here we go –

Don’t date somebody outside of your race. Don’t read holy books from other faith traditions. Don’t have gay friends. You are fat. You are lazy. You are ugly. You need to get a better job. You need to support your parents when they get old, even if they are abusive.

Wow. That Is a hard bit to digest.

We are told to “be a good girl/boy”. “Good” is often defined as obedient and submissive. This keeps the status quo. This keeps them happy, but you stunted.

Drop the stories. Drop the seeds. Don’t take them into yourself.

Grow into the light. Protect yourself from this poison. Their fear doesn’t have to be your fear.

Sometimes our pain and problems are given to us by others, but we
don’t have to take them.

Our minds are our biggest hang ups. See your mind as a sense organ. Like your eyes or ears it is limited and faulty. It is not able to relay all information.

Dig deeper. Learn more about the situation. Learn why. Why can’t I have friends of other faiths, other traditions, other ways o living? Is there something to be afraid of?

Is there something that you are being sold? Is there something that they were sold that they are now trying to give you?

Would you eat something without checking the ingredients? What if it is all calories and carbs and fat, and no vitamins or minerals? The same is true of ideas. Test them out. Are they helpful? Are they true?