Fear A Lot? Fear Not!

 Psalm 27:1   The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Fear A Lot? Fear Not!

shark_surfThe week starts with more bad news, what appears to be more losses in my life; at least situational wise.  I don’t know if you ever get jaded from hardship, but I’ve experienced so many difficulties in three years, that I don’t want to sound like it’s no big deal, but it’s just doesn’t have that initial titanic-hits- the-iceberg impact. Shock is buffered. Anger, simmered.

Fear, however, is the monster that does not seem to lose its dagger-like incisors that can shadow me throughout the day and well into the thick of my nightly slumber.  I try to outrun the monster, it catches up to me.  If I deny it, it seems to give me the heebie-jeebies when I least likely expect it like during the times I am securely reclined into the bend of my “Jersey Strong’s” arm.

Ahhh, but on those days and nights, despite my cowardly spine, once courage emerges as if derived from rubbing a genie’s magic lamp, I turn to face the monster head on, and go so far as to lean into it, it loses its volume and wilts. The concept of facing your fears is nothing new. How to do it is the clincher. How the hell do you face your fear while you live life walking a tightrope and the big secret—one you do not even admit to yourself—is that you are deathly afraid of heights?

As far as the great fear/faith debate goes, and whether the two can live under the same roof, is a matter of semantics. Plain and simple, humans feel fear, even if only on occasion; in this same vein, even those mortals who occupy a house built on faith can trip up and panic especially when they witness the snarl of a monster! 

I look at it this way. Tripping is okay. We get up. Falling and breaking a limb in an emotional nosedive is another issue. We stay down for prolonged periods. This is unhealthy. A condition to avoid at all costs. Again, how? How do we do this?  Well, wtf, where’s the faith? When you don’t feel it, think it, believe it—find someone who does and catch the fire! Or read or watch something uplifting that feeds the faith and starves the fear to death. Pray/ meditate even if it feels forced and fake. Volunteer to help clean up an elderly neighbor’s yard. Employ positive actions to get to the non-tangible end product; for faith, after all, is believing in what we do not see, do not hear, cannot touch.  But have no fear; frame it as a job that must be done even when you’re down and out and plumb tired. Walk that tightrope if it means crawling on all fours. Stop thinking that He won’t be there because He is. He has been there all along. Though things and people and circumstance may fail you; He will not. He is your protein drink. Your stronghold. The safety net under the tightrope and the One who will squash a rampaging five-hundred-foot, two-thousand ton monster into the likes of a midge. 

So, getting back to my own personal story, I had a lot of bad news, I walk a tightrope, I am afraid, but I know that it is only an illusion for I believe in faith…the one real thing that I can always count on.

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A Message to the Boston Marathon Bomber(s)…You cannot kill us

He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” And they went out quickly and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Mark 15:43-16:8

rainbow-scenic-on-sky

Never fear people. Mortals can only kill our bodies, our flesh, but never our spirits. In this vein, we should be in fear and awe of only spiritual matters.

Ironically, and quite appropriately, the day before the terrorists’ attacks in Boston this past week, the above quote was part of the Sunday sermon that I heard at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Sunday’s Gospel was about the angel asking the holy myrrh-bearing women in front of Jesus’ empty tomb to go tell the disciples the news that they would meet the risen Lord in Galilee. Instead of obeying the angel’s command, the women flee from the tomb: “for trembling and astonishment had come upon them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” 

If we had a supernatural encounter with an angel, our response would probably parallel the myrrh-bearing women’s reaction of trembling (fear) and astonishment (total surprise). The priest expounded that we, though far removed from biblical times, still tend to heed to the physical law rather than the spiritual law. Instead, he said, our principles should be reversed.

Modern spirituality is centered on the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” For Christians this means things like a belief that there is everlasting life after physical death…however, how we navigate the road to the final destination is up to us.  I do not want to get into a fire and brimstone discourse, but simply stated, there are spiritual laws to follow and that if these are broken, there are consequences—perhaps, not always apparent in this life, but certainly apparent in the next.

To me, my heavenly father, loving in all ways, is also a great teacher and disciplinarian; and I’m not talking about the penalty, punishment, and all that awful-sounding stuff that religious zealots shoved down our young minds for the littlest wrongdoing in order to scare us into submission as children. God is loving and also just. Here is how it is…and these days, in my fifth decade of life, what I have come to believe, people who rape, kill, and model other Hitler-kind-of-acts, whether you believe in hell or not, do not go to a place like heaven. (How exactly holy you need to be to get to heaven, I will leave for another discussion!)

In other words, as a God-fearing (as in reverent) adult following the Ten Commandments to the best of my ability, I have nothing to fear. The meaning, in fact of Sunday’s gospel is “Do Not be Afraid.” In the end, the myrrh-bearing women (and apostles) get beyond their emotions, and obey the angel’s command. That is the happy ending.

In turn, we too can depend on a happy ending in our lives. The bottom line is, if we try and live right, we should cast fear away from our house of faith. Even with earthly death, there is no fear for we are reborn into the spiritual for eternal life. Thinking about everyone affected by the violent acts in Boston, as much as we want to make sense out of the senseless, we must take comfort in the idea that evil never wins. Sure, the evildoers may rob our physical lives, our limbs and our bodies; however, they cannot kill our spirit. It lives forever in His unyielding love.

I pray we heal together, rise up and keep our faith, which will help us to prevail through this painful, senseless time.

As we say in Ukrainian,

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Христос воскрес! Воістину воскрес!

Put you Game Face on and play to win!

81744202_ce188b0c50Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint,   and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary,and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

You can be super choosy with your cheerleading team while you are going through a life crisis. You can also isolate yourself for only so long.  However, sooner or later, odds are, while you are in the middle of the bowels of circumstances, bearing your soul to the likes of slowly peeling your sunburned skin off, someone, sometimes, whom you least expect, will surface and throw a comment or two that comes directly from a insensitive pool of feelings.

Ouch!

Realize, even the best of us can be insensitive at times. It just makes it doubly hard when we are so vulnerable to begin with. It feels like coating a newly acquired sunburn (to use that noun again) with baby oil and going back for another round of sun.  Basically, you can alienate the person (for however long), who shoveled the little nasty at you, heave a nastier comment back to the offender or accept the remark and move on. There is no right or wrong approach. I, myself, have  reacted with all three different responses in different situations.

As adults, we all know that the nicest people can sometimes slip and say less-than-amicable things. We can over think the situation, try and dissect it to its original root and, in essence, give it a lot more brainpower than necessary.

It’s done. Wrong words hurt regardless of the bearer’s intention.

The sad thing though I find is that once someone says something hurtful, I am guarded with him or her, shielding myself from further attacks. The art of dialoging, which I think is the crust of any solid friendship disappears. Instead, the relationship becomes one sided, however temporarily. Whether I regain my original trust and the dynamics go back to where they were, only time will tell; but with the damage done, for me, cannot be so easily reversed. I don’t like neutral conversations with my friends. Real conversations constitute real friends.

Through my crisis, a few well-meaning friends have fallen off the radar.  One of my friends, for instance, who listened to my heartbreaks early on, turned around later and said, “If only you knew what I was going through.”

This comment came after I thanked her for listening to my grief. Once she said this, I felt like every single confidence that I shared with her was devalued. I also felt guilty for my grief, and that made me feel devalued as a person.

We’ve all heard Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous saying, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

For me, I abridge this as, “Nobody can hurt me without my consent.”

In the final analysis, others can help empower me, but I have to put more of the faith in me than in them to do the job; all the faith I must give to God. For He is the one only one whom I can depend on completely. Gosh, after all, He is God; unlike people, he will never falter.  What more do I need than his never ending beacon of light? He is how I can switch on my game face garb and aim to win. The obstacles of life can be a monster of a challenge, but you have the best coach who will never abandon your side.

Until next time….Faith forward!

Be picky with your travel companions

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. Matthew 24:4

During my last blog post, Travel not alone, I drove the point home that you need not make any journey in life, especially one at a time of living in crisis, alone. What I failed to mention is that when we share our deepest and darkest thoughts, feelings and emotions, we need to choose our travel companions carefully. Hopefully, you know who your friends are, and when you share your most intimate thoughts with them, you need never worry about any of your confidences appearing on the cover of the local newspaper.

90327119_bd17bf7c49If a person’s name and their deepest and darkest liabilities are maliciously broadcast to a random source, that’s gossip. It’s a sin. It burns. I know that for a fact since I have been on the other side of it. I mean, it’s bad enough when in a state of torment, but to trust someone else with our anguish, only to be pushed into a further state of distraught when our secrets hit us point-blank from sources that we would never suspect, is like having open heart surgery without anesthesia.

Yes, have some faith, but proceed with forethought. There’s never enough to be said about acting with prudence especially when we are in a state of crisis. Go to friends who are anchors even in tsunami conditions, not matter what, hands down. If you have the slightest doubt, move on. Beware too of those friends who are good people but who could flip their toxic switch at any given moment and just act without any constraint or consideration. We need not over think it. Just let go and realize that they just can’t take trauma for whatever the reason may be.

Crisis is, in many ways, a time of battle, and we need to choose our forces and allies precisely and strategically. This time in our lives is not for wimps.  It is not for toxic or immature people.

Now is the time to pick the very best for your life troop. Never settle for something less. Soldier on. The sweet taste of victory is so worth the battle ahead!

Until next time….Faith forward!