Keep calm and trust in God

I was reading this passage from James 1:2-6

2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

I was really struck by the verse that says the “doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

It reminded me of these stories from earlier in the New Testament –

Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. 23 After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. 25 Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.” 29 “Come!” He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

Note verse 30 in particular. Peter becomes afraid – and THEN he begins to sink. He isn’t afraid because he’s sinking. He’s sinking because he’s afraid. The fear came first.

And there is this, an earlier story. This story is in Matthew 8:23-27, but I like the version in Mark 4:35-41 better.

35 On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. 37 A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?” 41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Is it possible that the storm came about because of the disciples fear?

Is it possible that if we keep calm, the world around us will keep calm? I feel that the politicians want us to be afraid. When we react in fear or anger or disgust at their actions, they are controlling our behavior. They are calling the shots. They are leading the dance. We are Re-acting, instead of Acting.

Be calm, trusting in the One who is in charge – God. Not a politician. Listen to the still small voice of God to tell you what to do – not the shrill shouts of politicians.

I leave you with these words from the prophet Micah (in Micah 6:8) to know how to act in these difficult times (and every other time)

“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you:to act justly,to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

If we do these things, we will be fine.

(All Bible verses are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

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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.

Rabid (what really scares me about Trump)

Trump doesn’t frighten me. His followers do. He is only one person. There are many thousands of them. The fact that he is popular means that they agree with his message.

Remove him from the election and these people will still feel what they feel.

They will still be afraid of anyone who isn’t them, and they all appear to be straight, white, and Christian.

Somehow they feel that the civil rights advances of others are threatening to them. For some reason they feel that allowing other people to live their lives differently means that their own choices are under attack.

They don’t get that allowing gay people to get married does not mean that straight people have to become homosexual. It does not take away straight people’s rights.

They don’t get that allowing people of other faith traditions to practice their religion does not mean that Christians cannot practice their own. It is important to remember that Jesus never said to attack another person’s way of life – in fact, he said the opposite. Judging other people (and making laws against them or discrimination against them is not what Jesus would do)

They don’t get that allowing immigrants into America does not mean that those who are here will lose their jobs or homes. And, lest we forget American history, the vast majority of Americans are immigrants or descended from them. Trump’s own father was an immigrant from Germany.

Trump frightens me because he is a center point to the rage and frustration that so many of them are feeling.

Saddam Hussein didn’t kill anyone. He just talked, and his followers did the deeds.

Hitler didn’t kill anyone. His followers did.

The leaders in the Rwandan genocide didn’t kill anyone. Their followers did.

Nobody has been killed by the people who follow Trump. Not yet. They’ve rioted. They’ve assaulted. It is a start.

I’m surprised that his hate speech hasn’t been called out for what it is. Is it because he is a presidential candidate that he is allowed to incite violence against people? Other citizens are called out for that. There are watchdog agencies that check for such activity. Why aren’t they speaking up? Or are they stunned into silence by his pomposity?

I’m concerned that all of the advances that have been made in the effort of unity and inclusion will be swept away in a tidal wave of fear and ignorance.

The leaders of hate are simply the voice to long unspoken feelings that have been bottled up, suppressed, whispered. The leaders of hate don’t do anything to get their hands dirty. Their followers are the ones who do the evil.

Is this what we want America to become? A nation where it isn’t safe to be gay, or black or an immigrant? Where it isn’t safe to challenge the status quo? Where it isn’t safe to be an intellectual? Where it isn’t safe, period?

Trump is a figurehead to a slow boiling pot filled with people who feel threatened. In making room for people who are “other” they feel pushed out, excluded, ignored. In a way, I understand this. America is a land where it is considered laudable to have gay pride, black pride, Latino pride. But “white pride”? It is seen as racist. They have been told that they cannot be proud of their roots.

You can’t fix discrimination by discriminating. This is true for everyone.

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.

The erasure

They finally came. After months of broadcasts on all known media (radio, television, Internet, newspaper, shortwave, telegraph, TTY, dolphins, psychics) saying it was coming, that they were coming, it had finally happened.

Nobody knew who was sending the broadcasts, or where they were from. Agencies and detectives and amateur sleuths all over the world tried to answer those questions, to no avail. Séances were held. Runes were consulted. Wires were tapped. Still the messages came, and still no one knew the source or the author. Television anchors were told to say nothing that might frighten the public more than they already were. Talk show hosts were, as usual, under no authority or ethical standard, so they said whatever they felt, regardless of truth or concern for how their prattlings would harm.

The beings, or spirits, or aliens, or whatever they were had tried to communicate with our earth for far longer than people realized. They had subtly influenced moods and desires since before 2000, like a silent alarm, like an odorless poison. They were the reason for the Y2K panic. They were the reason preppers stocked up on ammunition and canned ham. They were the reason people began to mis-trust the authorities and began to take matters into their own hands. Urban farms, homeschooling, anti-vaccine? These were their doing. Layer by layer they had painted a picture of paranoia in our brains to divide us, keep us off balance.

Everyone was affected to some degree. It was only those who didn’t consume mass media that maintained some semblance of control over their actions. All those who watched TV or movies or listened to the radio got multiple doses of the message, and it was cumulative, just like any other poison. A single bee sting is annoying, but not fatal. A thousand stings is another matter.

When they finally came it was almost a relief.

It was a cool day in August, one of those days that was not too hot or humid with a few clouds in the azure sky. The morning had gone peacefully for everyone for a change. The disturbing dreams have finally stopped. Even the news reports were calm for a change, with the latest plastic surgery of one celebrity being the lead instead of the usual threats of war from petty tyrants trying to get the world to notice them. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day, until the skies scissored open with the dimension-melting sight/sound/smell of their ships at 11:11 AM.

People started to see sounds and hear colors.
Time ran backwards and sideways and stopped.
Everything suddenly made sense
but there were no words
anymore to explain it.

And then there was nothing.

The silence was thicker than the darkest night, a crushing subterranean weight, more alienating than being trapped in the Marianas Trench in a powerless submarine.

Then, just as suddenly, there was only now. The past wasn’t even a memory. It was just a word. All mistakes, all forgotten grocery lists, all insults, all arguments, gone in a blink of the eye. Gone too were first kisses. baby’s first laugh, that perfect day in October when the sky is the blue of watery dreams and crisp like a Gala apple.

All of it.
Gone.

Somehow they knew, whoever they were. They knew that what was holding us back was our near-pathological need to catalog the past into neat (and not so neat) piles, holding onto memories and snapshots and train tickets and receipts for ice skates and ice cream. Somehow they knew that our need to separate those piles into “good” and “bad” was our secret un-doing, our un-humaning, our un-being. Somehow they knew that our “bad” pile held us down, became a pattern for our future, made us think we would always be cheated, be robbed, be abandoned. Somehow too, they knew that our “good” pile equally enslaved us, making us feel that we could never feel that exhilarated or proud or delighted ever again.

Our collective and individual past being erased was as great a blessing to us as a tornado or a house fire. It forced us to stop holding onto the dried husks of what it means to be truly alive. For too long we thought that the artificial joy of our memories was what made us human.

Overnight, the scrapbooking industry was rendered irrelevant. No one could even imagine why they had spent so much of their lives (and money) gluing memorabilia into organized books, accented with metallic rickrack and die-cut stickers. No one took photographs either, choosing to see their lives through their own eyes rather than through a viewfinder.

Why save the past anymore?
It was meaningless.
Only the present moment,
a moment eternally composed
of beginnings,
was valid.
In that moment
anything
could happen.

Broken dreams

Broken dreams2 011816

This speaks to obsessive, controlling “love” that is one-sided.
Brokenness, cover up of truth/self/other.
How even in the same language and culture two people are like other nations/languages. Miscommunication.
Washed out roads and bridges – driving in the fog.
Being lost even with a map.
The glitter represents the celebration of the crushed glass at a Jewish wedding ceremony, simultaneous with the broken glass and dishes in a “domestic disturbance” – how joy can turn into tragedy.
The two sides of a bad relationship – where one is completely clueless as to the terror of the other.
Relentless pursuit, feeling trapped.

(close up)
Broken dreams2 011816 close

Materials/techniques used –
Strathmore 9 x 12 visual journal
Bought ephemera – sheet music “I had a dream, dear” and Asian map
Matte medium
Scrapbooking scissors
Distress Ink – Rusty hinge, crushed olive, chipped sapphire
Acrylic paint – olive green + white + water, manganese blue
Fingernail to scratch out a section.
Paper towel to remove paint.
Gold “super gel” pen
Spray mount, “crushed glass” glitter
Tim Holtz “idea-ology” words

(Made over two days, from 1-17 to 1-18-16)

Poem – terrorist incident

How about we agree
that any time a person
willfully attacks
another person
it is an act of terror,
regardless of the color
of the people involved?
Regardless of politics or creeds,
regardless of belief,
regardless?

If a person attacks another person
with a gun,
a bomb,
a knife,
it is a terrorist act.
They are trying to terrify,
to instill terror,
plain and simple.