Category Archives: Fear

It’s Yours. Go and Take It! How to Let Struggle Work in Your Favor.

Finding joy. Finding strength.

It’s not easy. Not for any of us.

And so often, those who do this hard work of fighting for life and fighting for power are given what is possibly the most condescending response ever. “It’s easy for you. It’s harder for me than it is for you. You have something I don’t have. You have the gift of joy.”

But.

Here’s the thing.

Joy is not a gift.

Galatians 5.

Joy is a fruit.

That means it is something that must be cultivated.

Fruit comes after ownership–owning our territory, and owning our part in the growing. It comes after plotting, tilling, planting, and much care.

Joy is not a gift of the Spirit, nor is it a gift of circumstance. Some of the most emotionally challenged people that I know have had it the “easiest” in terms of visible circumstances.

Joy is not a gift.

 

Those who have not known ease can assume that if they only had a different circumstance, they would also have a different level of joy.

But happiness studies from around the world show that this simply is not true.

Joy and circumstance are not related to the degree that people assume that they are.

Joy is not a gift, but sometimes struggle is.

Struggle works in our favor when we realize that it leads us in to our identity. Struggle and work make us feel our own power when we engage wholeheartedly and watch the fruit come.

Good parents see struggle as part of health.

 

Infants struggle to be born, and then they wriggle and struggle to hold up their own heads.

Babies struggle to crawl. Toddlers struggle to walk, falling down a million times and never giving up.

Good parents see this struggle as part of health. Like weight-lifting or training for a marathon, it’s hard in the moment, but no one gets stronger being carried everywhere.

In fact, I recently heard of a mother who was so protective of her child, never wanting to see him struggle, that she did carry him everywhere for almost two years. The child could not walk. He never had a chance to struggle and learn. There was no normal, healthy development in his legs. Child services came in to insist that the child be allowed to struggle to gain strength.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

And even in Eden, there was work to be done.

There is a consciousness to joy. A conscious choice for cultivation. This consciousness exists with all the fruits of the spirit.

Even in Eden, there was work to be done.

 

There is nothing easier than criticizing a joyful, loving person. Nothing easier than tearing down a soft target. And there is something about a joyful person that can make an angry person angrier and meaner, especially if he is determined to stay in his state of mind.

It is not only that the joyful are a soft target.

A joyful person is a challenge.

The mere presence of a well-adjusted person is an inherent challenge to those who don’t have it figured out yet. And when that same well-adjusted person is also flourishing and strong, the challenge is even louder. And those who have not fought in the same way can sometimes assume the way was easy for those who have already won their battles.

A joyful person is a challenge.

 

I have fought this temptation too. The temptation to see someone who is living well and bearing good fruit as someone who just had it easy and has no real clue about life.

But then, after years of struggle, I started to wonder if, maybe, those people knew something I didn’t.

It can feel good in a twisted way to fall into self pity, to sit and tell myself how hard my life is. To vindicate the waves of emotion that, at forty-two years old, I still have not learned to entirely control.

“I deserve it! I want chocolate! I want to complain! I want to watch myself cry in the mirror! I want to quit!”

Self-pity gives us all the excuses we need to not try harder, to not go out and do the hard work of pursuing our destiny. It makes us feel exempt from the struggle for excellence in our own minds, where the battle is the thickest. We can redefine “excellence” in our pain, saying, “Well, at least I’m still here, well at least I’m this, at least I’m not that.”

At least.

But I don’t want “at least.” I want “at most.”

I want the best there is.

And I know you do too.

And God wants the best for us. He already has it planned out.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

 

When the Israelites were “given” their inheritance from God, He also told them to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Ruth went to Boaz for charity, it was there, but she still had to work for it. She still had to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, He told the man, “Get up. Take up your mat, and walk.” The man had to take responsibility for himself and TAKE his healing. He had a choice.

GO AND TAKE IT

 

It’s time for us to GO AND TAKE the inheritance, the blessings, the joy, the healing that God wants to pour out in our lives. God does many, many things by grace, just giving us blessings because He loves us. But even with a gift, we have to stretch out our own hands to receive.

But other times, like a good father who wants to see his child grow healthy, He stands out a little way from us, holding out His arms and saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! I know you can do it!”

The way to let struggle work in our favor, and incidentally, one way to cultivate joy, is to count the struggle as joy. 

Don’t know how to do that? Me either, sometimes. Ask God to help you reframe it. And you will see Him standing before you with arms outstretched, cheering you on.

***

Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance. Jas 1:2-3

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. Ruth 2:23ab

See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land. Deut 1:8a

What have you been putting off because of self-pity or fear? What do you need to GO AND TAKE today? What is one thing you can do to move forward in claiming your inheritance?

Father, thank You that You allow us the good kind of struggle that brings strength in us! Thank You that You stand before us with Your arms out, saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! You can do it! Come to me! I’ve got you!” Thank You that You know how much we can be, and You believe in us! Thank You that You never leave us or forsake us, and You are our greatest Helper, our greatest cheering section, our greatest encourager!

I pray for anyone reading this to hear Your voice in greater measure today and every day, cheering them on to claim their inheritance! To hear You say in their hearts–there it is! That thing I have for you! I’m shining a light on it, I’m cheering you on! Now! GO AND TAKE IT!

Thank You for helping us and planning out our best lives and making a way for us to find what You have! In Jesus’ name, we GO! Amen!

The Secret Weapon Against Stage Fright for Any Platform

Performance pressure. It can shut us down in a hot minute.

I have always loved people, but I used to get very nervous at parties or gatherings where I didn’t know all the guests.

I asked God to help me with this. “Lord, help me not feel crazy. Help me not feel terrified. How do I talk to people and really communicate? Help me connect in a healthy way that is not show-offy or guarded. What’s the healthy, Godly place in the middle?”

And He said, “Go in to serve.”

And I saw myself at a wedding I would soon be attending, straightening napkins and dishes at a serving table. I said, “But Lord, they have hired people to do that. Won’t that be weird?”

He said, “There is never enough help at an event like that. Go in to serve, and you will be appreciated by everyone who sees you, from the mother of the bride to the caterer they hired.”

It was an “aha” moment for me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing. It is your secret weapon against stage fright or performance pressure of any kind.

I did go to that wedding, and I did serve a little bit, but not much because I got too busy having fun. We talked and danced and laughed all night.

But going in with the *attitude of a servant* relieved me of wondering what was going to be expected of me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing.

 

There is never enough help. There is never too much love or consideration being shown. Serving means we don’t have to engage in arguments. We don’t have to win. We don’t have to be top dog. We don’t have to strive to be noticed, or perfect, or worry if we hit the mark, or say the wrong thing.

If He says ‘say it,” then say it. If He says “do it”,  then do it. Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

No matter what your platform is, from the big screen or the stage, to taking care of toddlers or just living in your community, showing up to serve relieves expectation and pressure.

Servants don’t worry about what others think, they just do what they were called to the platform to do.

Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

 

I knew what God expected of me at that wedding, and that was enough. It freed me. I wasn’t going to have to be brilliant in conversation or an expert on wedding etiquette, I just had to watch for trash on the ground or someone needing help with their plate or napkins that needed straightening.

I could do that.

Since then, any time I feel nervous or inadequate, or even bored or uninspired, I say to myself, “Go in to serve.” Could be parties or events, but also when I’m asked to speak to a group or when I’m writing.

When I approach writing with the pressure of creating a masterpiece, I want to quit before I ever get started.

Other times–I feel completely out of ideas, like I have nothing to say at all.

But when I ask God to show me how to write as a servant, how to let the words reach out in love and minister to the hearts of those who need His touch, the message becomes simplified and so much more clear.

All the questions of performance boil down to one in the heart of a servant: Am I loving well for His sake?

Am I loving well for His sake?

 

It’s a brilliant tactic that Jesus teaches us as our Servant King.

Service done well, with excellence and awareness and humility and care, is so rare in this world, that when someone serves, truly lowers themselves to serve another person and do it with grace, it gets noticed. It gets favor. It gets promoted.

Servants.

Going in to serve.

So much simpler this way.

***

I pray God guides your head, heart, and hands as you serve. I pray He reminds you of the beautiful freedom of being a servant.

Serve one another humbly in love. Gal5:13b 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Cor3:13

 

Too Whatever: Overcoming the Sticky Green Lies

Last year,  I did a post called “Too Whatever.” Upon a reader’s request, I’m writing it again, with a little spin, a little more backstory, a little more dimension. I pray it blesses you. God loves your “Too Whatevers.”

When I turned forty, I had a strong and wonderful moment of empowerment.

Finally.

Old enough to command respect. Old enough not to care what people think. Old enough to bust out and do whatever I want.

It was a fleeting moment.

A sudden fear of being obsolete and out of touch came over me as I studied my hair in the mirror, and the half-inch of showing roots looked whiter than ever. And all that empowerment? Fled away, its whimpering and ancient gray tail tucked between its legs.

I shared this aging angst with my friend, the lovely Chana Keefer.

She understood. She laughed. And she told me that she had the same fear about her modeling career–when she was sixteen.

Sixteen.

At the time, fifteen-year-old Brooke Shields had hit it big, and Chana was one year older. She was, she decided, over the hill, past her prime, antiquated, passé. She hadn’t done enough in her field. She was doomed to fail at life.

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At sixteen.

Chana, of course, went on to do all kinds of amazing things, modeling, acting, writing, living.

And this conversation was an eye-opener for me.

Chana heard the same lies, at a young age, at sixteen years old, that were trying to take me out at forty.

Too old.

The same lies.

As I talked to Chana, the Holy Spirit showed me a dark figure holding handfuls of green slime, like really wet neon green bubble gum. He was waiting for someone to walk by so he could throw it at them and cover them with the nasty goo.

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And I heard the Holy Spirit say this: The enemy has nothing new. He has no creativity or orderly strategy, even though it seems like he does at times. He just stands there and throws the same lies at all of you.

It’s up to you what sticks.

It showed me the truth. The same lies come against all of us, no matter who we are or what we are dealing with.

Too old. Too young. Too late. Too shy. Too inexperienced.

Too…whatever.

We all hear the same doubts and battle the same insecurities.

It’s up to us what sticks.

I shared this story with a friend in the music industry. She said, “YES!! When I was in my twenties and thirties and I went to auditions, I was always afraid of being told I was too young for the part. I thought when I turned 40, that feeling would go away! And it did, but it was immediately replaced with a new one. Too seasoned. I started hearing people say the company told them they were ‘too seasoned’ for a part. Overnight, my fear went from being ‘too young,’ to being ‘too seasoned.”

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Whatever we put our faith in that isn’t God will let us down. We will just trade one lie for another, over and over, until we realize we have to stand on the miraculous power of the truth of God for our lives and nothing else.

His word for us??

OVERCOMERS.

We are OVERCOMERS.

You are an overcomer. An Overcomer of the Too Whatevers.

All the enemy has is lies. That’s all he has. He can’t create, he can only pervert what God has made with lies.

When you approach your destiny, he flings those sticky green lies at you, harder than ever.

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Don’t believe the lies that say, “you can’t,” whatever they are.

In that moment of 40-year-old empowerment, I started my blog. I started appearing on media. I started doing video and ministering online.

Not long after, when the doubts came, I went to the Lord.

“Father. I am too late. I waited too long. I’m too old.”

And I swear to you, He laughed.

I heard Him laugh for what felt like a very long time.

It made me laugh.

And then I heard Him say this: I love too old.

And before my eyes, I saw Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Daniel, Anna, and Caleb.

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They were all “too old” when God did some of the most amazing things in their lives.

“I love too old.”

“Ok then,” I said. “You love too old. Well. Let’s see what you can do with this.”

Truth is, you might be older or younger than the average success story. You might have held on to a vision for years. You might have too much on your plate to see your way to living your dreams or reaching your goals.

But God loves our “Too Whatevers.” He loves showing up in the gap, like He did for Gideon and his tiny army and bringing them to victory.

When I said, “Too old,” God did not try to talk me out of it. He said, “Oh, that? No problem. I love it.”

I felt that He was laughing because He much prefers to show His strength in us than let us lean on our own. When we feel weak, He is strong in us.

I could tell you that you haven’t missed the boat. And ultimately, I believe it is true. God wants to use you. He wants to help you. There is plenty of time. There’s always a place for the thing you carry because it’s never been done by you, in your own unique way.

But even if you did miss the boat, get this–

IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER.

I’m laughing typing this.

Even if you did miss it, your Daddy in Heaven loves a missed boat. He loves too old! He loves when we are late to the party! He loves TOO…WHATEVER!!!

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I love thinking of Caleb, armored up and raring to go. I imagine that he must have felt it too, at least one or two times, that he had missed the boat. It makes me wonder if he was determined not to miss it again, if God used some of that pent up energy from the past to give Caleb a greater measure of courage, if Caleb felt closer to death than the others because of his age, and rather than letting it weaken him, he wanted to go out with a bang in the promised land. It seems that God used the very thing that could hold Caleb back to make him the fiercest warrior of the day.

Never give up. Never, never, never, never, never give up. You have destiny inside you. You carry purpose and a plan. You carry the future. Don’t quit. If you have a commission on your life, He will help you achieve it. Don’t leave a vision because it sat too long, unless He tells you to leave it. He loves missed boats, late-to-the-party guests. He loves your “Too Whatevers.”

***

Father, I thank You that You are the God of Second Chances! And Third! And Fourth! And A Million!!! Thank You that nothing is impossible for You! Even our weaknesses and stumblings–especially our weaknesses and stumblings. You show Yourself strong in our weaknesses. You love our TOO WHATEVERS!

Thank You that we can’t miss the boat in You if we really want to catch it. God, we lay it all at Your feet. Our doubts. Our insecurities. Our struggles. Time. Energy. Inspiration. Skill level. Experience. Team. Whatever we feel is lacking, we give it to You.

We give you permission. Take what we have to give, however we feel about it, and DO SOMETHING AWESOME WITH IT!

We rebuke the lies of the enemy that would come in and shut us down and shut us up! We rebuke the sticky green goo that tries to attach itself to us! It cannot touch us, it cannot stick–because we stand on the word of TRUTH! We are OVERCOMERS IN CHRIST! We stand in expectation, that You will take our “Too Whatevers” and turn them in to SOLID GOLD. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Four Energy Seasons: Which One Are YOU In?

We all know that the earth has seasons of weather and growth.

But have you ever noticed that your life has seasons too? Not just in the way that time passes, but in the way your energy comes and goes.

Spring, summer, fall, winter. Energy ups and downs.

I read something from Kris Vallotton recently that alludes to this idea, and it got me thinking about my own season, and how hard it can be to give myself permission to be truly present in each one, especially when it requires rest.

In our culture, Westerners, particularly Americans, seem almost addicted to the creativity and busyness of springtime.

Something new! Something fresh! Something different!

Taglines for ads are always “the latest new thing!” Fast food and processed food companies seem to be in a weekly race to the “best” new eating concept. “Best” being a relative term…

Root beer breakfast tarts. Unicorn rainbow coffee. Cheese puffs stuffed with macaroni.

It is possible to innovate too far.

With the exception of unicorn anything, maybe they should just stick to the original flavors. Plain old mac and cheese is a classic. Biscuits and gravy are fine just the way they are. Don’t need root beer on my biscuits.

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Springtime is lovely. Innovation is fun. New things are exciting. Plowing  stale earth and dropping in fresh seeds is good. It’s a beautiful time of year. But it doesn’t make sense to have springtime all the time.

To Everything There is a Season

Plowing through.

How many times have I heard myself say those words? “Got to plow through today! So much to do, so little time! Working hard, keeping busy, plowing through!”

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Sometimes that attitude is condemned by people who interpret “plowing through” as striving. In springtime, however, plowing is right on schedule.

But you can’t plow all the time.

If you plow and plant, and then keep plowing and planting over the same field in summer, the seed won’t  have time to grow, and you will ruin what you planted earlier. If you plow a harvest too soon in the fall, you may get some of the crop, but not nearly the abundance you could have had if you waited for the season to come to its fullness. If you try to plow in winter when the ground is hard and ready for rest, you could break your plow and wear yourself out as you fight the elements. Frozen ground won’t welcome a seed.

Knowing your season is key.

In springtime, we plow, and plant, and plan for what is coming after all this sowing.

But it’s a temporary time, until next year at least.

After spring comes summer, a time of tending diligently to what has been planted. Time to weed, and water, and fertilize, and watch over the hard work of the planting. Summer is hard work in the heat, and it is less about dreaming and startups, and more about maintaining and guarding the hard work of spring.

Summer is about follow-through.

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And fall is the harvest! Everyone wants to hear the words, “Your harvest is coming!” But your harvest comes after seasons of spring and summer.  Harvest-time still takes work, but it’s the work of celebrating dreams manifesting from the spring.

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And then comes winter.

Winter is about rest. After the hard year of plowing, planting, tending, and harvesting, the rhythm of the year makes room for rest. There is still work that has to be done in winter, and seeds still doing mysterious things under ground, but it is more about keeping the home fires burning and enjoying the nourishment that came from your garden. Eating well, resting, and getting things ready for the next planting season.

And as my friend Alice Briggs says, “In winter is when the roots grow deep, wide, and strong to support all that new growth come spring!”

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As often as I hear myself say, “I’m plowing through!” I also hear myself say, “I’m hiding. I’m hibernating.”

Understand Your Season

In the Kris Vallotton blog post I mentioned above, he says, “It’s so important that we understand what season we’re in, or we will judge ourselves against the work that others are producing in very different seasons than ourselves.”

You can’t compare your winter to someone else’s spring. Their resting time will come, and so will your harvest and your new thing. If you get out of order because of someone else’s season, you could miss the benefit of God’s timing for your life.

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I have a tendency to think my personal seasons should match the natural ones. Sometimes they do, but that is not always the case.

I also put pressure on myself to be in perfect balance all the time, plow in the morning, tend in the afternoon, hibernate at night.

But no other natural system works like that. I want to stay in balance and guard my Sabbath days during the week as much as possible. But there is a rhythm to life, to our years as well as our weeks. I’m learning to accept that, and to pay attention to my words as my spirit tells  me what I need.

I have to listen to myself, my body, the words coming out of my mouth, feelings of fullness or depletion, to help me recognize my personal energy season.

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Honoring our seasons with career, dreams, family, health, and all aspects of life can be make the difference in how successful we are over time.

Spring is glorious, beautiful fun. Winter sometimes can feel like a drag, especially if you are addicted to productivity.  But even the best marathon runners and athletes schedule recovery months after big events. They know that scheduling recovery cycles will allow their bodies to achieve peak performance.

Rest makes room for a different kind of productivity. Most growth in children occurs while they sleep, and nearly all centenarians will credit sleep as at least part of their secret to a long life. The most healing in our bodies occurs while we sleep, and pregnant women need more sleep than others overall.

Miracles may begin in energy, but to grow, they also require peace and quiet and rest.

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Part of being in any season is enjoying it while it lasts and fitting your activity to the season, while also planning for the next one. A favorite winter pastime of gardeners is browsing through seed catalogs, thinking about how they’ll use their energy when the spring season comes back around again.

And knowing that all the seasons will come back around, that each one is temporary, can help us enjoy and make the best use of every one as they pass.

Spring is about plowing, preparing the ground, and planting. Summer is about follow-through, even on the scorching hot days. Fall is about harvest. And winter is about rest.

No season will last forever. Learning to appreciate each one will help us maximize the time we’ve been given.

***

What season are you in right now? How can you honor your season and prepare for the next one? Knowing that this time is temporary, whether of working hard or of resting well, how can you make the most of the time God is giving you right now?

Father, we thank You for seasons. Thank You that You are the God of the Seed. And the Tending. And of the Harvest. And the God of Rest.

Give us discernment to see the season we are in and to walk in its rhythm.

I pray no condemnation for the time spent in plowing or in rest as we fit our plans to the time. I pray for the best possible use of time in our current season. Our culture is good at working hard. I pray we learn how to work smart. And I pray we learn how to truly rest, both in weekly Sabbaths and in our winter seasons.

Resting in You, Father. Trusting all things to come together in Your perfect time.

In Jesus.

Amen

The Revelation of Memory: A Process of Emotional Healing

Some things stick so sharp in memory, like blades thrown hard in a turning board.

And those memories reveal more than just the details of an event.

Memories reveal truths about the person remembering them, things we need to look at in ourselves. Rather than make accusations, or lay blame, or look to others for resolution, when a painful memory arises we have an opportunity to see something that has been hidden.

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My earliest memory always troubled me. I saw home videos of myself as a child, giggling and playing. So I know that I had those moments, but that is not what I remember early on.

My first memory is of a family altercation that left my mother in tears.  I remember feeling angry and protective of her, as little as I was, around three years old. That memory would come up at random times and stab away at me again.

I shared the story with women friends last week. We were praying for each other and agreeing with one another’s desire to go to a new level of health and strength. They asked me if I wanted to pray through the memory with them.

“Of course,” I said. “I want to be done with this.”

I have recommended a book several times on this site, and it’s becoming a staple around here. Praying Medic’s book, Emotional Healing in 3 Easy Steps, is so simple that it seems like it can’t be real.  But it works.  I’ve used it alone, with others, and now I’ve had friends walk through it with me.  It’s powerful and deceptively simple.

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My friends were familiar with the book and started praying and talking through the method with me.

It really is three easy steps.  The book is more thorough and gives anecdotes and testimonies, but, basically, you bring up the memory in your mind. You share the emotion that you feel when you focus on the memory. And then you give that emotion to Jesus.  Repeat the steps until there is no negative emotion left, until you feel peace.

When I first focused on the memory, I felt anger. Absolute rage. I remember taking a box of tissue to my mother and being furious that someone would be so mean to her to leave her crying like that.tissues-1000849_640

I saw Jesus standing there.  I gave the rage to Him.

My friend Ginny said, “Ok, now go back to that memory. You are standing by your mother. What do you feel now towards the person who hurt her?”

Disgust. A wave of disgust that felt like it could knock me over. Horrific gobs of disgust.

“Ok,” she said. Give the disgust to Jesus.”

“Ok.” I gave it to Jesus.

“Now go back. What do you feel now?”

Still disgust. Not surprising, really. There was a lot of disgust.

“Ok, that’s ok,” she said. “Sometimes you have to give it to Him more than once. Just say, ‘Jesus, I give you this disgust.'”

And I could not do it.

I’m not even kidding. I could not do it.

It surprised me. I am an emotionally aware person, and I wanted to be healed. But I could not let it go. It was a physical sensation even, a tightness in my throat.

Why would anyone want to hold on to it?

And I didn’t really, but I couldn’t let it go.

The women prayed, and we just waited. I couldn’t say the words. Did I mention that it was 3 am?

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Perfect love doesn’t watch the clock.

It was like digging out a dandelion root. The Holy Spirit was leading me down and down and down to something so deep that I didn’t even know it was there.

I have been to more counselors and pastor’s meetings and prayer groups than I can count. I have read books on healing and had multiple experiences with deliverance in many forms. I have forgiven much. And I am so much stronger than I was. None of it was wasted, and I have been healed of so much pain.

But I was confused that night because I was looking for more pain at the roots of these old things. I thought that when I let go of the disgust, I would feel more pain. But pain and hurt were not present. I’ve been healed of so much of that.

When I finally was able to choke out the words, “I give You the disgust,” it felt like some great covering was wrenched from me. I felt wide open, exposed.

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My friend said, “Ok. You are back in the room. Now what do you feel?”

I thought I would say “pain.” But it wasn’t that.

It was fear.

A sharp and bright little burning flame of fear. A child’s world rocked to the core. It scared me so much, the screaming and the crying. And as a child, I guess I went straight to disgust and anger to protect myself. And then carried it all around for years like a shield.

I think the pain actually came later, as the implications of the problems became more clear, the waste and the disappointment. But in the beginning, it was just simple fear.

Fear is at the root of so much of our junk.

“Ok,” Ginny said. “Give Jesus the fear.”

So I did. That part was easier. But I guess that fear and I go way back. Further than I even thought. It’s a battle I’ve fought for a long time. And the Lord spoke “Lady the Fearless” over me when I asked Him the name of this blog.  He meant it.

He’s speaking “Fearless” over you.

And He means it.

We are getting healed. Together.

***

When you remember something that stabs at you, what is the heart, the soul, the spirit within you trying to say about the past and what needs healing and release?  

Praying Medic’s book can help you.  Find it here.

Perfect love casts out fear.  1John4:18b

And a thank you to the women of Facebook at Lisa Palieri Perna’s Daddy’s Girl conference. You know who you are. May you be richly blessed.

Why Milo is Rising and Why You Should Care 

Berkeley burning.

I saw the images, and I was stunned.

I had already dismissed Milo Yiannopoulos, without ever hearing him speak, as an absolute show-off with fabulous hair.  But when Berkeley decided to burn itself down over his visit in January, I had to know what he was saying that was so terrible and incendiary.

I took a crash course in Milo over the next week. If you aren’t familiar with him, Milo is a gay Jewish Catholic British Greek journalist in the U.S. and the U.K.  Read that again if you need to.  I’ll say up front that he is R-rated, and I don’t agree with everything he says.  But, that much, I expected.

What did surprise me was how much of what he said, getting past the bear-baiting and f-bombs, that I did agree with.

I listened to Milo talk about the war on boys in public school.  A personal issue for me since taking my son out of a school that was humiliating him, lying to me, and certain to insist on medication as the path to his success.

I listened to Milo talk about the bullying tactics of third-wave feminism and the importance of truly giving women choices, also a personal issue for me since leaving an academic path to stay home with my kids.  When I had my first child, the academics I knew were visibly disappointed, and I knew the things that would be said behind my back.  A woman that had made the same choice before me had been called “a waste” and her choice “a shame.”  Older women that I knew called me during my baby’s first year and told me over and over, “You know you can go back to work now.  It’s time for you to go back.”  I didn’t want to go back.  I thought feminism was about giving women a choice?

I listened to Milo talk about women proudly videotaping abortions, his support of the Catholic church, his concern for the cultural confusion around the problems of radical Islam.  He was laughed at, screamed at, even assaulted onstage.

And I found myself cheering him on.

For standing up for stay-at-home moms?  For families feeling the pressure to medicate their otherwise healthy boys? For Christians and their right to free speech?

Yes.  I’m cheering him on.

I saw a post on social media saying, “shame on Milo.”  Many headlines emerged after the fires at Berkeley, incidentally, the place, should anyone forget, that birthed the concept of the peaceful protest.

Headlines that read, “Milo Incites Outbreak of Violence at University.”

Last time I checked, we still have a constitutional amendment that guarantees a person’s right to say what they think.  It’s called free speech.  And burning buildings is still against the law.  It’s called arson.

And yet, people are afraid to say much of what Milo is saying, even if they think it.  And as Milo is escorted out of Berkeley for a very real threat to his life, and police stand and do nothing, it starts to look like their fears are founded, that there is indeed a very real war on free speech in our country.

You should care about Milo, because if his right to free speech is threatened, censored, or reframed in the media, your free speech can be, too.

Let me repeat:  Protestors throw fire into a publicly funded building and the main media headline is “Milo Incites Violence at Berkeley”?

Here’s the thing:  Milo never spoke that night.

He didn’t get a chance.  Rather than shut down the violence, police let it rage, and Milo was taken off of the campus.

You should care about Milo, because if his right to free speech is threatened, censored, or reframed in the media, your free speech can be, too.

I hesitated to do this blog. Considered keeping my own mouth shut on this topic. Google is censoring Milo’s name, so anything containing it is damaged in SEO. But one great thing about being small is that you don’t have much to lose.

And this is Lady the Fearless.  I can’t be quiet for fear of speaking up.

True freedom is always associated with free speech. I’m for freedom.  I’ll support free speech whether I agree with all of it or not.  And I’m not running to a safe space if I feel challenged. I am an adult.  I do not need play dough to recover from hearing someone else’s opinion.  And I don’t plan on starting a fire if someone says something shocking.  Call me crazy.  I just don’t think play dough and fire are the right avenues for me.

But I do feel suddenly like raising my voice in a new way. It feels weird. All fluid and like I scare myself a little. Like I might say anything.

It feels like freedom.

***

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2Cor3:17

A Willing Vessel: 9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

I love movies.

Not all movies.  But the well done and uplifting ones, I love those.  The wisdom of a lifetime compressed into two short hours:  Seabiscuit, Queen Elizabeth, and William Wilberforce, and now, Bernie Webber, from start to finish, in the time it takes to paint my nails.

I’m grateful.  I need all the life-school I can get.

The Finest Hours is based on the true story of the most daring small boat rescue in Coast Guard history (Spoiler Alert).  It’s a simple film, easy to watch unless you are upset by rollicking ocean scenes.  It is not complex in the sense of subplot or psycho-drama, but it is a great tribute to a group of heroes who faced their fears, not to promote themselves, but to save the lives of 33 men stranded on one half of a ship destroyed by a raging storm.

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If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that Chris Pine, also cast in recent years as the new Captain Kirk, is almost unrecognizable as the windchapped and head ducking rule-follower, Bernie Webber.

I love seeing actors lay down their vanity.  It’s a different kind of bravery.

The movie takes place on a night rocked by terrible winter storms and is based mostly around a Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts.  Not only one, but two tankers were torn in half by the storm that night.  Most thought that Bernie and his crew were being sent out on a suicide mission when they went out to help the S.S. Pendletion.

Throughout the movie, I was struck with Bernie’s absolute unwavering determination.  He and his crew were in a tiny open boat, sometimes completely submerged in water, four men on a huge and angry ocean.  I watched it twice.  And some things stood out to me about courage in the face of a challenge.

9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

 

1. Face your fears, and then do it afraid.

Bernie’s fiancée, Miriam, is afraid of boats and water.  When he finds out, he immediately wants her to get on a boat.  Bernie tells her, “We all get scared out there.” Don’t stuff feelings, admit them.  Bernie does not cover up his fear.  He does what he has to do in spite of it.

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2. Keep it simple, and shrug it off if you have to.  

Miriam says in reply, “I’m not scared of the water, just what’s underneath.”  Bernie shrugs and smiles and says, “Just more water.”

And later, when everyone around him tells him that he will die if he goes on the mission, he shrugs again, respectfully, and responds, “The Coast Guard says you got to go out.  It doesn’t say you have to come back in.”

Whatever it is, don’t overthink it.

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3. Knowing your why helps with your how.

Bernie joined the Coast Guard to be a protector.

And so had his crew.  They all volunteered.  A Coast Guard officer has the ability to command a crew, but Bernie didn’t have to take unwilling sailors.  One volunteer, Ervin Maske, says, “Well, someone has to go out there and save those guys, right?  That’s why I signed up.”

If you’ve never written a personal mission statement, it’s a helpful exercise.  When life gets distracting, difficult, and confusing, I go back to my mission statement.  It helps me know what decision fits with my ultimate purpose; it helps me remember who I am when I’m being pressured to be something else.

It helps me choose my battles.

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4. So does being prepared.  

Show up, and work hard, even if you don’t know the end game.  Bernie had been on rescue missions;  he had completed his training and knew the local waters well from his patrols.  He could not have anticipated the shipwreck that particular night, but by doing what he was good at every day, getting better, gaining skill and knowledge, he allowed God to prepare him for the biggest rescue of his life.

When the time comes, it goes a long way to know that you have the skill you need to do the job He’s asking you to do.

The years of training and boating allowed God to use these four men.  At the same time, in some ways they weren’t experienced enough.  Just showing up with the knowledge you have is half the battle.  He can use a willing vessel.

As Heidi Baker says, “If you don’t quit, you win.”

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5.  Be singleminded.

Once the leaders in the film make up their minds, they stay with their decisions.  Bernie Webber, Station Sergeant Cluff, and Chief Engineer Sybert on the shipwrecked S.S. Pendleton, all are singleminded men, even in the face of raging criticism and undermining.  And they insist on unity from their teams, that everyone around them be singleminded as well.

Though these men are surrounded by doubt, they do not allow themselves to be distracted and lose focus. In this particular situation, it was key.

If any of them had wavered, many men would have died.

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6. Courage doesn’t come from our peers.

The men at Chatham Station tell Bernie that he should pretend to follow Cluff’s commands, to motor around the harbor, and then come back in and say he couldn’t get out.  Bernie tells them thank you.

And then he goes out anyway.

As Praying Medic said to me recently, “Most friendships are temporary.  I can’t change what I believe just because a friend asks me to.”

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7. At the same time, it helps to have at least one person that believes in you.

Chatham Bar, a shallow sandbar off the coast, was also known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”  It was difficult to cross, especially in a storm.  Bernie pauses when they reach the Bar and looks at the huge waves crashing toward them.  Engineman Andy Fitzgerald calls out, “We got faith in you, Skip!  Anytime you’re ready you just go, ok, Bernie?!”

Bernie wants to go, but he is unsure at times.  He knows what is at stake, and he knows his decisions put his crew at risk.  Fitzgerald’s cheering strengthens Bernies’s resolve.

Courage doesn’t come from friends, but believing in each other goes a long way to bolster courage.

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8.  Don’t give fear center stage.

On the S.S. Pendleton, Chief Engineer Sybert plans to run the ship aground and wait for help.  Another sailor, Brown, berates him and questions his decision, implying that he cares more about the ship than saving the men.  Sybert replies, “I got a life, same as you.  I’m scared, too, Brown.  Just don’t see the point in sitting around and talking about it.”

At the same time, on the Coast Guard boat, Richie Livesey is shouting at Bernie everything that is wrong, that they should go back. But Bernie already knows that they are in danger, that they have lost their compass, that the storm is getting worse.  When Fitzgerald hears Livesey, he goes from supporting Bernie to agreeing with Livesey, “Maybe Richie’s right!  Maybe we should just go back!”

Once spoken, Richie’s doubt becomes contagious.

It’s the only time Bernie shouts.  He will not listen to doubt or make a decision based on fear.  “We aren’t giving up on ’em! Not on my watch!”

Don’t give fear all the air time.  Give hope the sound instead.

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9. Faith, not luck, is on your side.

The men on the S.S. Pendletion pray when the ship is torn in two.  Later Brown yells at Sybert, “This ship is just bad luck!”  Sybert replies, “It’s got nothing to do with luck.”

Bernie Webber’s father was a pastor, and Bernie considered the ministry before he joined the Coast Guard.  Bernie always said about that night, “The Lord’s hand was on my shoulder.”  (ChristianNews.net)

In one of the few scenes that is not completely true to the story, Fitzgerald sings an old sailor song, and all the men join in, a sign of solidarity and a way to strengthen themselves.  In reality, they did sing, but not a sea shanty.  They sang the old hymn, Rock of Ages.

Bernie had a strong inner life.  He leaned on faith to do the impossible.

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One last thing that struck me as I researched this rescue was the absolute humility of these men.  Bernie always gave credit to the whole crew, even refusing a gold medal unless the crew received the same honor. One of the men’s wives didn’t know the full story of the rescue until years later. They chose bravery and self sacrifice, it was how they saw themselves.  And then they just lived it, without asking for glory.

It’s a beautiful story.

If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you learned from this film in the comments.

If you haven’t, it’s on Netflix right now.

Enjoy.

***

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.  Jn15:13

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.  Phil2:3

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle–victorious.  ~Vince Lombardi

13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

Friday the 13th.

Mine was great.  How was yours?

I’ve never been especially superstitious, but I do remember a time when numbers, bridges, black cats, and ladders made me think twice.  Now they make me smile.

So, in honor of Friday the 13th and all the good gifts God gives on any given day, here are

13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

  1. Positive messages.  Start pumping them in.  Right now.  Whatever.  Whoever.  A comedian you love, songs, speakers, TED talks, podcasts, redemptive movies and television shows.  Tons of great preachers have free videos on YouTube.
  1. Pump OUT the positive messages.  Fill up on joy to spread joy.  Make yourself a veritable font of joy.  LAUGH.  Joy is strength.  Learn from people who make you laugh, listen to speakers who make you laugh, create a culture of humor around you.  Plan to make someone else laugh.  You reap what you sow.  So, instead of ruminating on negative statistics, politics, news, gossip, and complaints, sow some joy, and reap some strength.couple-1846208_640
  1.  If fear does not budge, you may need a deep healing work in your life.  Most Christians believe that God does deliverance, in other words, cleanses us of any spiritual influence that is causing fear and replaces it with peace.  Get counseling from someone who understands emotional healing and deliverance.
  1. Hope.  For something.  Believe that things can get better.  Believe that you can be free and victorious.  Believe that your dreams can come true, in some form.  Believe that you were made with a plan and a purpose and that God has not brought you this far to drop you.
  1. Do something.  Don’t give up.  Don’t back down.  Just keep swimming.  Forward movement is always better than wallowing in emotion.  Remember, no matter how little you are able to do, doing something means you are running circles around the guy sitting on the couch.  running-573762_640
  1. Raise up your voice. Talk back to anxiety.  Recite scripture.  Just say “no.”  Just say “Jesus.”  Say something, anything, to cheer yourself on and give yourself much needed strength.  The most powerful people I know speak over themselves constantly.  It’s a habit that has to be learned and practiced—put up post it notes with verses and sayings, and then SPEAK THEM!  Don’t let random thoughts rule your life.
  1. Move in the opposite spirit. This means that when circumstances look bleak, you look for the rays of sunshine.  Stop blaming everything on the devil and looking for demons in every drawer.  It is not about being Pollyanna, it is about looking for the Easter egg, the silver lining, the hidden treasure of goodness, and focusing on that instead of anything else.  If you can’t see it, ask God to show you.  Ask Him to tell you what moving in the opposite spirit looks like right now.
  1. Watch the crowd you hang with. If everyone around you is constantly spewing negativity, fear, and doubt, it is going to be harder to find courage.  You don’t have to drop everyone, but make your inner circle a circle of courage.  active-1822704_640
  1. Watch the influences you allow. So many of our emotions flow from things we did yesterday or last week, or things that happened to us years ago.  We can’t control everything, but we can control some things.  What are you reading, listening to, watching, thinking about?  Watch your responses to movies, conversations, news reports, etc.  How is your heart rate?  Are your palms and pits cringing with sweat?  Are your shoulders tense?  Do you feel restless and wish you could get away?  Are you reading/watching/listening out of obligation or peer pressure?  What is your body telling you?  Listen, and limit influences that rob you of strength.
  1. Love and draw near to God and draw identity from Him. The more time spent in His presence, the more like Him we will be.  There is no anxiety, fear, stress, or frustration in God.  los-cabos-68861_640
  1. And, as God reveals His identity to you, saturate in that. Pay attention to His love languages with you, like armor, doves, hearts, thunder, etc.  What do “God winks” look like to you?  And then watch for these things.  Billboards, radio, people, little signs.  Wear them, find clothing that reminds you of what He’s shown you.  Jewelry, stickers, artwork, furniture.  Let Him weave His message into every part of your life.  Write down every instance and reminder in a journal, and pull that baby out and read it often, not just on the bad days.  And spend time with people who understand identity.  Celebrate these encounters and reminders with them.  It’s amazing and encouraging to see how much He is communicating with us when we plug in.
  1. Forgive.  Yourself and others.  Confess something if you need to.  Let old and new things go.  Quickly.  Don’t ruminate and take offense.  God is for you.  Forgive and move your focus to the plans God has for you.
  1. Know your why! You’ve heard me say it before:  Your why will help you with your how.  Why do you want to beat fear?  Who is watching your example?  Kids, family, friends?  What are your dreams?  What do you long to do?  As the old question asks, “What would you do with your life if you had no fear?”  Knowing why you’re fighting the good fight will help you push through the hard days.

What habits do you cultivate to keep anxiety at bay and your mind on things above?  When anxiety creeps in, how do you kick it out?

***

Anxiety is doublemindedness.  –Neil Anderson

Peace I leave with you; my peace I leave with you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not be troubled, and do not be afraid.  Jn 14:17

Election Year Blues. Courage, My Friends!

I’m in the middle of NaNoWriMo.

That’s “National Novel Writing Month” for the uninitiated.

It’s a wacky thing where a bunch of overachievers get together and attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.  It’s an average of about 1667 words a day, give or take.

Today is “bear day.”  If you get stuck, write a bear scene into your story.

So.  I need to get back to my bear scene, but I wanted to quickly say something about the election, because it just seems like I’m floating down the River Denial if I don’t.  You know the one.

All I have to say is this:  Fear has no place in the election booth.

Whatever you’ve heard about either candidate, their cronies, their taxes, their past, etc.  Whatever you’ve dreamed, whatever leaders have said around you.  Please, don’t take fear into the voting booth with you.  Our country was not built on fear, but on the great vision of a few brave men.  Moving forward for any people will always look like that.

Take courage.  Take hope.  Take heart.

And vote from there.

Oh, and, whoever you’re voting for, you might think about asking for a paper ballot.  Not out of fear, but out of wisdom.

God bless America.

***

Be strong and of good courage; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Josh 1:6

More than Pearls. Going Up, Together.

My mother is an amazing woman.

Most people commenting about her say what a lady she is.  And it is the first thing you notice.

She is intelligent but gently spoken, and she carries herself well.  She likes doilies and little pink flowers.  She is a woman who wears pearls while she gardens.

But she also adores king snakes, and she has a thing for those huge black and yellow garden spiders.  These creatures are the good ones, you know, the protectors of the outdoors, a woman’s best friend.

After God, husband, and poodle, of course.

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My mom, last year, with one of her dear friends.

I have seen her chop down a tree, barehanded, with an axe.

I have seen her move a couch.  By herself.  Not dragging it, but lifting it off the ground and setting it gently down, Wonder Woman in blue jeans.

I have seen her saddle a stallion, and I once saw her kill an armadillo with a shovel.  Not an easy task.  Like hammering a nail with the sole of a shoe.  But saddling up horses and protecting kids from rabies and leprosy is an everyday thing in the South.

It’s what you do.

It’s what you do, even if you are a single mom, and you have so many hours set aside for crying on a Saturday afternoon.  You chop the trees, you whack the beasts, you put on your pearls, and you take care of the kids.

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Single moms are my heroes, especially my mom.

My mother pinched every thin dime we had and somehow made a home on a teacher’s salary.  She cooked meals from scratch every day, and, one Easter,  she stayed up all night sewing so we could be those girls at church in the beautiful dresses.

We knew we didn’t have what other kids had, but sometimes when I visited their houses, I realized I didn’t want anything different.  My mom made a good life for us.  And I did see her cry, a lot.  But I learned something about pain from her tears.

She hurt, yes.

But my mother never wallowed.

She never took her identity from pain.  She did not let betrayal define her life or ours.  She had times when she cried.  And then she got  up.  And took us to the park or to the river.  And cooked out hamburgers and hot dogs and ate potato chips out of giant generic bright yellow bags.  And laughed and sang songs.  And enjoyed life, in spite of all the heartbreak.

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My mom knew how to focus on what she had, not on what she didn’t.

It is easy to look at someone lovely and only see the pearls.  It is easy to look at someone courageous and only see the strength.

It is easy, and sometimes more comfortable, to assume if someone has success, then they must have never known defeat, they must have never known pain like ours, they must have never had to whisper to themselves in the dark.

But mostly, isn’t the opposite true?  Most of the people I know who walk in a shocking level of victory have overcome some shockingly terrible thing.

The difference is not that they were never knocked down, but that they decided to get up.

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They made certain choices in the face of pain.  They gave grief its time but did not let it overtake them.  They put emotion in its place and did not let it wash over them.  They took their burdens to God and left them at His feet.

The challenge for us comes when we look to their example and decide if we will follow it for ourselves.  And it’s an example that Jesus teaches, however much we sometimes twist that message in the church.

When faced with the lame man at the pool, Jesus did not pander to him because of his pain.  In fact, we never see Him do this.  He said to the man, “Get up.”

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My audience here is truly amazing.  I have an extremely high level of support.  Even so, I have had some criticism of my worldview, and considering the generally encouraging tone I try to set here, I find it surprising.  But one of the great joys of writing on the internet is opening yourself to all interpretations of your message, and all the uncensored, unveiled response.

I would say this.  Life is messy, and we are walking uncharted territory.  If we can’t be honest about these situations, and laugh and grow together, then we are kind of missing the point.

There is always backlash to a message of strength.  There is always resentment when someone shares a story of bravery, some secret jealousy or suspicion.  There is always that one person worried that courage is just a cover for recklessness, that one person who wants to bring up a few rare exceptions to argue and prove a point and use it to justify their own passivity.  That’s fine.  This blog might not be for them.

But for the ones who want to get up, welcome.

We are going up, together.

***

You are in my prayers.  I am rooting for you.  To focus on what you have and not on what you don’t.  To have victory and to enjoy this bloody beautiful life in spite of it all.  

With His help, you can get up.  You can do it.  We can do it.  Going up.  Together.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat, and walk.”  Jn 5:8