Sore Afraid

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11 KJV

My pastor Steve mentioned this passage in church today and it got me thinking. I’m not particularly an everyday King James Bible fan. I know that is sacrilege to some, but I am a believer that God speaks to us in our own language and while I won’t deny the beauty of old English and the warm remembrance of the tradition of my childhood where that was the only translation used, now I prefer to use a translation that is closer to the way I talk. And listen.

But one thing I love is when a phrase attaches itself to my brain and I can just ponder it. I began to think about being “sore afraid”.

If you are someone with fears, and I am convinced that includes most of us, haven’t you had times when that fear seems downright painful? When it festers like an open wound that simply won’t heal….and becomes infected and takes over more and more of your flesh? When it takes over your mind, and you can’t think of much else? When you are faced with it and there’s just a feeling of pure panic?

You hear the old saying “Love makes the world go round”….but often I believe it is fear that drives it. Fear seems to be the reason for so much of what we do and how we live. Why do wars begin? Why do relationships end? Why don’t people live fulfilling lives? Why do people stay in jobs they hate or that drag them down? Why do people turn to substances or food to make them feel better? Why do so many people spend much of their life angry or anxious? Why is there so little joy? I think often the answer to those questions is fear.

Sores can heal. They usually need attention They need to be cleaned. Sometimes they need air. Sometimes they need to be covered. Sometimes they need ointment and medication. Sometimes stitches. Sometimes they need amputation. Sometimes they simply need you to quit picking at them.

How do we get rid of that “sore fear”? The same way you deal with any other sore. Usually it means you do something….get support, talk it out, make changes that will fix it, and sometimes just shift your mind and/or face it head on. Often it requires a plan of care…or a plan of attack.

Oh, there is a healthy fear. I’m not talking about that. I tend to think of that fear a bit more on the level of a healthy awe. But so much fear is unhealthy. It paralyzes is, keeps us from living life to the full.

I spent a lot of my life living in fear. I was scared of so many things. Sometimes….OK often, that fear existed because I fed it and tried to avoid these things that caused it. I built it up in my mind as something bigger than it should have been. One day my outlook changed. Logic took over. I don’t know exactly what made it so important for me to overcome my fears, but I believe it is simply because I came to see how much acting out my fear insults God. If I trust God, why would I invest so much of my life in fear? Angels are messengers of God. What is their message in Luke 2, and at several other times? Fear not.

But my first instinct is still to fear. Fear is a feeling….it’s OK. We can’t necessarily control those initial feelings. But where do we let that feeling go? How do we handle it? That’s where our responsibility begins.

As the Christmas story comes to life, we learn that “fearing not” brings great joy and great change. It’s a gift to us and a gift to the world. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t scared as we face fear….but that we face it in spite of being scared.

One of my favorite things about scripture is watching God use some really flawed humans to make miraculous changes. I am one of these flawed humans. But each time I face a fear, I believe it glorifies God. It brings scripture to life.

You were not created for fear. You were created to bring joy to the world. Really, if you have to choose, which sounds like it will lead to a more fulfilling life….fear or joy? As a former fear-monger, and now a self-proclaimed fear facer, I can tell you my opinion. Give yourself a gift. Become a fear fighter. Choose joy. And remember….you don’t have to do it alone. There is an arsenal and a legion of troops at your disposal. God will bless you in your attempts. The sore will heal.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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The Cool Side of the Pillow

This time of the year I am reminded of my dad’s final hospital stay two years ago. The memories are bittersweet. Certainly there is the pain of things going from bad to good to horrible to hopeful to hopeless, but there are also the memories of my family. Not only did we look out for my dad, we looked out for each other. It was important to us that he never be alone, and he never was. But to do that we had to work in sync. We had to communicate, We had to speak our needs and coordinate our schedules and do what needed to be done. We adjusted and tweaked and we never left him…from November 8 until his death December 18. It’s certainly easier to do this when you have four siblings….yet we were all needed and it consumed our lives for the duration. There was nothing more important.

When someone is in ICU, there is only so much you can do.  I did not inherit the nursing gene from my mother. It does not come naturally to me. I am a bit squeamish, and become even more graceless than normal when put in that situation. As a nurse, I am a great patient advocate. I am “that” family member. I will follow the medical staff around to get attention for those I love. I avoid doing direct care myself….but I will make sure my people get it.

My mom….the former public health, Hospice, and chemo nurse….has a gift. There is no one better at taking care of the sick. She always makes things better. From her I have learned to pay attention to the little things. My dad had a tendency to be hot-natured. Knowing this, my mom would lift my dad’s head periodically and turn his pillow over to the cool side. That gesture was something that I know brought him such relief. Such a little thing, but it was the definition of love. A reminder that my mom, his wife of almost 60 years, knew who he was, was paying attention to what she thought would be making him uncomfortable, and she was doing something to make it better. We watched and learned. It was something even I could do for Dad.

I’m not one who is very impressed by huge dramatic gestures of “love”. I’m not saying no one should ever do them…and I have been entertained, and even touched,  watching many. They are usually very appreciated by the recipients and wow the crowd. But to me, love is most precious in the small gestures. The little acts of kindness we do for those around us, that often go unnoticed.

Proverbs 11:25 says “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (NIV)

Some read this verse as “Do something nice for someone, so they will do something nice for you.”  I believe we often get in that mindset, and it is sure to disappoint us. Instead, I belief the very act of refreshing the soul of another reflects that refreshment back to us. It brings us a sense of peace, like a tiny puff of cool air, or a sip of water on a warm day. Like the cool side of the pillow.

Life is tough. We often get road weary. We are over-stressed and over-extended and often that makes us only aware of our own needs and wants. But pause. Think of someone. Really think about them. Not yourself. What small need can you meet for them? Do they need an authentic compliment (not a cheap one)? A hug? Someone to help them with a chore they hate? Is there something that is causing stress in their life that you can make better? Is there someone hanging on the sidelines of a group that needs to be drawn in? Someone who is a bit cranky that needs someone to hear them talk it out?

So much of life is about ourselves. Even things we pretend we do for others is often more about us than about them. If you get mad because they don’t appreciate your gesture, it was never really about them in the first place. It was about how you wanted them to respond. I know it frustrates….but if you expect a certain reaction itjust nay indicate it was a selfish act. (Not to say they shouldn’t have appreciated it….but that’s another dimension to it all in many ways totally unrelated to the gesture itself.)

Anyway, for this person who came to mind (short attention span folk, see above), find a way you can take their pillow and turn it over to the cool side. Show them that you see them, understand them, and are there to help. Do it as a simple gesture of love for them, not because you want them to reciprocate. Focus on the gesture, and meeting their need, not on anything else. And then tomorrow, do it for someone again. I’m not talking big grand gestures, but small bites of refreshment. Things the outside world may not even notice, Things that person may not fully notice, but things you notice. Be the one who brings cool comfort to a sick and restless soul. Be the one who turns over the pillow.

Thoughts on Life and Living

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I agree with RLS….though with a twist…..

“The (wo)man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent (wo)men and the love of children; who has filled (her/)his niche and accomplished (her/)his task; who leaves the world better than (s)he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best (s)he had.”

Robert Louis Stevenson