Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself...but There's a Lot of It

Those words spoken by President long ago to reassure a shaky nation that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" are hope filled words that seem to be falling on deaf ears these days. Perhaps our deafness is caused by a constant bombardment of fear-filled words coming to us from 24 hour news that has now been amplified by intense and polarizing rhetoric from the "right and the left."

In a recent article, "Faith Verses Fear in America" Katherine Marshall offers a telling observation. When fear is in control four things tend to happen: 1 Thinking is shut down 2 There is a heightened stereotyping of others 3 Actions and words are driven by emotion and 4 People are more susceptible to charismatic leaders.

Mix this with what Frank Fured terms "cultural cooling" and you have a recipe for a fear casserole. Fured in his book, "Culture of Fear" writes: "A culture of fear estranges people from one another and breeds an atmosphere of suspicion that distracts people from facing up to the challenges confronting society."

So we are afraid that illegal immigrants will be the ruin of society. We fear Muslims are plotting to take over the world. We fear that too much money is going to inner city schools thus depriving children with "real potential" the resources to exceed. We fear crime so we buy more guns and get very angry if someone suggests that we do not have the right to arm ourselves with whatever kind of gun we chose even if that gun might be a danger to the "larger welfare of the whole community." We fear the loss of individual rights in the face of creeping government intervention.

The partial truth is that all of the above mentioned "fears" are grounded in some reality. The question that is lost, however, in an atmosphere of fear is how much of it is truth and how much of it is amplified by the magnifying glass of our fear. Donal Walsh came up with what the letters for "fear" sometimes really mean: False Evidence Appearing Real.

I'm not saying that we should roll over and play dead when it comes to real threats in our society but what is the role of "people of faith" in the face of fear? If the saying, "Feed your faith and starve your fears to death" has any real meaning it is time for a faith banquet.

In the Christan tradition we attempt to follow a man who looked into his first follower's eyes and saw fear. He loved them very much so instead of scolding them for not having enough faith he simply said, "Do not let your hearts be so troubled...believe." Research shows that the world he selected for "troubled" actually means "terrified." Jesus knew that fear was human and natural. He told his disciples basically that it was okay to be a bit afraid since they were all journeying toward a city where death awaited, but he said do not be "too not be not be scared to death for heaven's sake."

For a follower of Christ fear is to be put into a larger context. Do we feel that some of the things we fear will be "the death of us?" What will we Psalm 27 says, "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. When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident."

Those words might be a good start for a faith casserole. Fear robs us of vision. Fear steals the ability to risk loving. Fear wants to rule. Fear likes an enemies list and wants to limit the people on our love list.

Having faith does not mean that we are naive and stupid but having faith has always meant risk. After all faith is faith. It is sometimes called a "leap of faith." That does not mean jumping off the cliff of reason but it does mean not sucking in the atmosphere of fear that is being offered so much lately.

Fear is doing a number on us. It is time to feed our faith so that at least we can make some of our fears "anemic."

The "faith manual" says something like this...What can separate us from God?...shall tribulation, distress, persecution, peril, famine, sword (have I gotten to your fear yet).. neither death, nor life nor principalities nor powers...nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth (are we there yet?)...nor anything in all creation shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus... That about wraps it up.

Bless you

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Numbered Days

OK I admit that the only "blackberry" that I have is hidden behind the frozen onions in our frig. And my "i phone" is simply bad grammar for, "Yes, I have a phone." In other words when it comes to technology I am Rip Van Seymour. I awakened into a world that sped by while alas I did sleep...or something.

Anyway I was made aware of all this when it came time to "change calendars." My friends pull out little pencil like gizmo's and punch in code on blackberry-druid-i phone-type devices while I pull out my spiral bound pad, not i-pad, and gently slide it into the hard plastic cover that I have used for, O 20 years or so.

I then look at the penciled in dates that I scratched in for the next year in those tiny blocks that allowed me to predict the future by writing words in "next year's calendar" that is always at the back of "this year's calendar." This can make one fall victim to the illusion that somehow we are in control of time. We block it in, fit it in, cancel it out, scratch it out if written in pen, or simply erase it from memory with pencil in hand. What power!

Of course the creator of all time must get a kick out of our efforts to make time, find time, keep time, or even delete time. The old wisdom saying offers the counsel; "Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." So when I go through my yearly ritual of changing calendars and transferring dates I get the chance to literally "number" my days.

This year I paused while carrying over time. I thought of the young mother with two children who has not many numbered days left. Her battle with cancer is nearing an end. She is counting days in a different way. Teach me a better way to number my days O one who "calendars" all our days. I so often live days like they are postage stamps I use to send something off somewhere. I forget that each day is not only numbered, it is sacred. It does not have to "be." It was not scheduled or ordered from a catalogue. Each day is "given."

The square space on my calendar cannot contain the day, only an image of the sacred space that awaits my presence. So the next time you go to either the frig or your pocket for your blackberry...or the next time you enter an appointment on your i phone pause a moment and realize that time is a special thing. Pay attention to those beings that are passing time with you rather than spending too much time with the devices we use to "contain" and schedule time. My spiral bound old fashioned "device" is not the time I have. The numbering cannot really be done by a calendar. The numbering must be done my me. And the number that matters is the space I occupy now. That is all anyone has.

So teach us to number our at a time...gently...respectfully...fully aware and that we may gain a heart of wisdom. So on some device it says that today is January 13, 2011. Wisdom says, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." You can plug that date in any device you use to "measure" time.

Bless you