Death, Racism, Fear, Oh My!

Today was the funeral for my Great Aunt June (H.) It was the second funeral service I’ve attended in my life and the first one I remember. (When Coach Headley died over the summer, I didn’t attend her funeral because I didn’t want to go without Melissa and Amanda, and they couldn’t go).

Maybe because today was only the second time that I’ve walked past an open casket, but I am still totally weirded out about it. I just can’t comprehend why people would want the last image of a loved one in their memory to be of the person’s lifeless body. Aunt June still looked like herself, but I know that at Coach Headley’s viewing, she definitely did not look like herself.

The service was at her church, which is a Lutheran church. Up until today, I hadn’t ever been in a Lutheran church for a service. Besides the fact that the pastor didn’t follow the order on the bulletin, I wasn’t a fan of the service because 1.) it was rather boring 2.)I learned how ritualistic her church is, and I’m a huge fan of NOT having rituals as church. I was uncomfortable at times because of the rituals.

During our moments of boredom, my mom and I were passing notes. We jokingly decided that when we got back home, we would plan our funerals so that they wouldn’t be boring. We didn’t do it yet, but knowing us, we probably will. I know for myself that I don’t want my funeral service to be full of sadness–I want it to be a celebration: a celebration of my life here on earth, and a celebration that I (at that point) will be with Jesus. No black. Lively music.

One line from the service today did catch my attention, though:

“June’s baptism is now complete.”

Over the summer, when I was at Coach Headley’s viewing, I finally was able to see with my own eyes what Jesus conquered-death. Seeing it helped me understand even more the magnitude of what Jesus did. Yes, there will be a day when this body no longer functions, but by no means will I be dead. I will just start to be fully alive.

In regards to racism, I have known pretty much since I understood what it was that racism still exists today. While I have heard about racism and maybe even witnessed it, watching a show on TV tonight really made me see how alive it really is, how awful it really is, and how broken mankind is. This article is a summary of the segment that I watched. I live in an area with many, many migrant workers, a lot of which may be illegal. After watching this, I felt compassion for them on a whole new level. I kinda wanted to learn Spanish, just so I could help them (Then I remembered that I stopped taking Spanish in high school after what was required of me, and that I wasn’t exactly fond of it then).

Fear.

Oh boy, this could be a whole blog in and of itself. But I will try to keep this brief.

We all have fears. Some are silly, some are serious. I’ve been thinking about fear lately for a few reasons: my friend posted a blog about it, I’ve been starting to feel it in my heart, I’m helping to lead a retreat in a couple of weeks about courage (and you only know courage because of fear), P. Ray’s sermons about fear have been coming up on shuffle a lot, and because Pete Wilson at Cross Point is starting a series on being paralyzed by fear. (I’ve listened to his sermons before and he’s encouraging and legit 🙂 ) In working on my material for the retreat, I realized that I should be able to answer my own questions. I’m going to be honest here, since this is my blog and I can. Right now, I’m afraid of:

*how the money i need for this upcoming semester will come

*not having the right words to tell someone about Jesus

*missing opportunities to tell others about Jesus

*where I will work over the summer or if i will get hired at all

*missing the timing of what God wants me to do after i graduate in a year and a half

*messing up God’s plans for my life

*(this one is hard for me to say) finding the “right guy”

*becoming lukewarm in my relationship with Christ

*having to “settle” for things/situations that I don’t want to

I know, I know, I know. Silly things to be afraid of when I have the Creator of the Universe on my side. My heart knows to just trust God and what He wants to happen will happen IN HIS TIME, but my head doesn’t quite get that. For Christmas, my mom got a little book of encouraging quotations. One of them is by a guy that I’ve never heard of named Michael Pritchard,”Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.” I liked that quote right away because of the obvious photography reference. The more I thought about it, I realized this Michael guy was right and I understand the basis for Pete’s upcoming sermons. Once you let fear grow in you, it creates doubts. The doubts also grow. Doubts create a negative attitude. If you don’t take control of your fear, it can paralyze you. When an opportunity comes along to step out, if you are too fearful, you will shrink back and let that opportunity pass by, even if that opportunity was a chance to step out and grow in faith in Jesus. I can’t help but think of the song “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns:

Oh,what I would do to have
the kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown
Where Jesus is,
And he’s holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name
and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
time and time again
“Boy, you’ll never win,
you’ll never win.”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says “do not be afraid!”
and the voice of truth says “this is for my glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh, what I would do
to have the kind of strength it takes
To stand before a giant
with just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound
of a thousand warriors
shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

But the giant’s calling out
my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
time and time again
“Boy you’ll never win,
you’ll never win.”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says “do not be afraid!”
and the voice of truth says “this is for my glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

But the stone was just the right size
to put the giant on the ground
and the waves they don’t seem so high
from on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
when I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
singing over me

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says do not be afraid
And the voice of truth says this is for my glory
Out of all the voices calling out to me (calling out to me)
I will choose to listen and believe (I will choose to listen and believe)
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

I will listen and believe
I will listen and believe the voice of truth
I will listen and believe
‘Cause Jesus you are the voice of truth
And I will listen to you.. oh you are

The good news about fear is that it is 100% conquer-able, especially with Jesus. Proof? Here is my proof:

The summer after I graduated high school, I went on a mission trip with my youth group. I had never been on a mission trip before. In the months leading up to us going, as part of preparing us, our youth leader played this song one night at youth group (as part of her lesson). Even though we had heard that song before, for many of us, it was as if we had heard the song for the first time. When we got there, I didn’t know what to do or how to do what I was doing. I was afraid. As the week went on, my fear went away and I became more confident. I was put into situations that allowed me to conquer my fear. I wasn’t very comfortable on ladders, but before the week was over, I could say that I had worked on a ladder and done my job well. I did that because I had the encouragement of those around me. Since I analyze pretty much every facet of my life in a deep fashion, by the end of the week I had a new understanding of conquering fear. Going into the week, I was most afraid of getting out of my comfort zone–how do to it, what I would find outside of it, etc. I came up with a silly analogy, but it makes sense to me.

More often than not, we think our comfort zones are really hard to break down–solid, thick wood walls surrounding us on every side that would take planning, effort, and help to bust down. By leaning up against those walls, I realized that they weren’t solid wood–they were flimsy scraps of wood decorated to look and sound intimidating. It took very little effort to knock them down. Outside of them, I wasn’t afraid because I could breathe. I wasn’t listening to fear because I was listening to Jesus.

(It made much more sense and was more drawn out in Mississippi).

Regardless of silly analogies, the things that I’m afraid of, the things that you’re afraid of–if our hope is in Christ, it won’t take much to squelch Fear. Yes, it might take a long time, but it can be done. We should fear no man because our hope is not in men. We should not fear anything of this world because we are not of this world. We should not fear death, because that has already been taken care of by Jesus Christ. Since we have nothing to fear, it should be easy to do what Christ calls us to do, right?
Nope.

It is much easier said than done, but it is not impossible.:

” Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.'” (Luke 18:27).

I’m trusting in God on this one.

Jesus,

I know that I shouldn’t have any fears, but I’m still human. Once again, I commit all of my fears into Your hands, trusting that they will be resolved in a mighty way. Please help me to keep them there, and to not let them grow in my heart again. You have my best desires at heart. Doing crazy stuff involves stepping out of where I’m comfortable. Please don’t let my heart grow comfortable and stagnant–I want to be forever growing in You. I’d hate to waste my life being comfortable. I don’t want to miss any opportunities that You have for me. Set me free from the chains I have bound myself in with these fears. I trust You. Amen.”

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