Facing the Giant

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Photo by tmaull (c) 2008. Some rights reserved.(Flickr.com)
Photo by tmaull (c) 2008. Some rights reserved.(Flickr.com)

To celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, a friend and her husband took a weeklong sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands. Although they hired an experienced captain to pilot the 39-foot Catamaran, my thoughts at the time were, “I’d never do that!” Perhaps I’ve watched too many adventure movies, such as The Perfect Storm, or read too many articles about some hapless individual getting lost at sea.

Another friend loves to sail and owns her own sailboat, which she singlehandedly maneuvers on Northwestern Pennsylvania lakes. Sailing, she says, calms her spirit and gets her mind off her worries.

Another friend—also past middle age—celebrated her birthday by going skydiving.

Photo by Laura Hadden (c) 2005. Some rights reserved. (Flickr.com)
Photo by Laura Hadden (c) 2005. Some rights reserved. (Flickr.com)

I have to admit I envy these women. Not in a jealous way, but in an admiring one. To be honest, my inner spirit whispers, “I wish I could do that!”

Funny thing is, the older I get, the more fearless I become. Maybe it’s because I realize the time I have left on earth grows shorter and shorter, and I’m missing out on too much simply because I’m afraid.

I used to be terrified of deep water, but I conquered that fear and learned to swim.

I once remarked—feeling brave at the time—that I wanted to bungee jump the New River Gorge in West Virginia. I’ve since changed my mind because I don’t think this old body of mine would take the jerky stop. But now whenever we drive over it, my husband, the big tease, likes to remind me of my boast.

Just like he teases me about wanting to zip line. “Do you realize how high that is?” he points out whenever we see someone gliding on a cable suspended far above the ground. He knows I’m scared to death of heights.

Photo by Tara Joyce, (c) 2009. Some rights reserved. (Flickr.com)
Photo by Tara Joyce, (c) 2009. Some rights reserved. (Flickr.com)

But bungee jumping and zip lining look like so much fun. So I want to conquer my fear. How else to conquer fear but to face it?

By fear, I don’t mean a reckless fear or a “No Fear” attitude. That can be dangerous. Fear, after all, in the right amount, is healthy. It prevents you from doing something foolhardy that you’ll regret.

By fear I mean an unhealthy fear that keeps you from realizing your potential, from enjoying the thrill of adventure, from trying new things—a fear that keeps you in the safe corner, always watching and wishing.

What is fear, after all, but an emotion—a powerful one—that can paralyze us or propel us forward.

The fear the Bible talks about isn’t a being-afraid kind of fear, but means respect and reverence. For example, I’m not afraid of storms, but I respect their power.

Respect is important in conquering fear. Respect means you acknowledge the danger but take steps to minimize it. You prepare. You train. You learn all about whatever it is you fear or want to do. And you don’t adopt a careless, “I’m invincible” attitude.

Young Timothy had a timid spirit, and his fears were keeping him from realizing his God-given potential as a pastor. So his mentor wrote to him, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (1 Timothy 1:7).

The young shepherd David knew he could conquer the giant because he’d conquered wild animals threatening his flock. And he knew God would enable him.

What fear is keeping you from reaching your potential? From enjoying life? Making you afraid to try new things?

It’s time to give that fear to God, forget what’s behind you, and reach for the abundant life God has in mind for you.

You know, I think I’ll add “go sailing” to my bucket list.

Father, I give my fear to You. Help me to embrace the challenges and to live my life to the fullest. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on 1 Samuel 17:1–50

Even more tea: Research how many times “fear not” or “do not be afraid” appear in the Bible.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Picnics on the Hill

Picnics on the hill were not only reserved for holiday weekends, but for any time the need was felt to get together, which was frequently. And they were open not only to the Benson clan, headed up by Grandpa Oscar and Grandma Henrietta, but also to friends from the little country church we attended and anyone else they took a shine to—which was just about everyone they met. 
There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you….When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. —John 14:2 NLT

 “It doesn’t get any better than this. This is what heaven’s going to be like.”

I’ve never forgotten those words uttered by our friend Sam while we were sitting around a campfire on Benson Hill. That was back in our camping days, when the kids were still with us and family vacations were spent at campgrounds and holiday weekends with the crew on the hilltop outside Punxsutawney. With three kids, we couldn’t afford anything else.

Not that camping on the hill translated “poor.” It was a rich experience in every way. 

Picnics on the hill were not only reserved for holiday weekends, but for any time the need was felt to get together, which was frequently. And they were open not only to the Benson clan, headed up by Grandpa Oscar and Grandma Henrietta, but also to friends from the little country church we attended and anyone else they took a shine to—which was just about everyone they met. 

The kids played night games—“Capture the Flag” in the dark. And there was always a pot of coffee on the fire and food on the table, a weekend-long covered dish picnic. 

We looked forward to the legendary cowboy breakfast, compliments of the many hands that prepared it—scrambled eggs, fried potatoes with onions and peppers, bacon, ham, and toast, all cooked over an open fire. Auntie Kay was famous for her sticky buns—cinnamon rolls slathered with a thick ooze of sweet, sticky icing. Back then we didn’t worry about fat grams and cholesterol and anything else that would eventually kill you. We just enjoyed eating and being together.

Occasionally the Backwoods, a local men’s quartet, would fill the air and our souls with Southern Gospel music. 

One year, in response to the growing number of folks who showed up for picnics on the hill, Sam and Steve, another friend from church, built a three-bay outhouse Sam named “The Steven F. White Memorial Toilets” (after Steve), which he painted across the top.

I never had to worry about my kids. There were plenty of moms who patched up skinned knees, put ice on sprained joints, and kissed boos-boos.

Grandma and Grandpa are gone now, and the kids are raising kids of their own. Echoes of laughter and singing no longer ring across the hilltop outside Punxsy. The creaks and groans of aging have caught up with just about all of us.

If I could relive any time of my life, it would be picnics on the hill. We were surrounded by family and friends who loved Jesus and us. Like-minded folks who knew, believed, and lived the Bible, who practiced that old-time religion the world might label “politically incorrect” but never really goes out of vogue. 

Ask a hundred people what heaven will be like, and you’ll get a hundred different answers. No dust. No cleaning. All the chocolate I can eat and no worries about gaining weight (I’ll have a new body!) No aches. No pain. No tears. No sadness. No conflict. Only love, joy, peace and rest forever. Whatever we enjoy most in life is what we associate with heaven, whether golf, fishing, family, friends—or picnics on the hill.

What does the Bible say about Heaven? After all, that’s what really matters—what God says about it.

That it’s His home, unimaginably beautiful, and open to all whose names are inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27). I know my name is there. And I’m looking forward to an eternal picnic on the hill of all hills.

You were right, Sam. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Dear God, thank You for blessing us with picnics on the hill and people who fill our lives with their love—in this world and the next. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Revelation 21 and 22.
 
From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.