What Are You So Afraid Of?

The King's SpeechFor the past two weeks my church has been hosting their annual “At The Movies” event.

It’s something I look forward to every year and last week the featured movie was the The King’s Speech. As we watched clips from this movie, which is one of my favorites, our pastor, Lee Cummins, wove together a message about fear and how it doesn’t have to define us or determine our futures.

It was a message I needed to hear and there was one scene in particular, toward the end of the movie that spoke straight to my heart.

King George of England, who suffers from a severe stammer, is about to deliver the most important speech of his life by way of public radio. His country is about to go to war with Nazi Germany and he knows his people need to see him as someone they can trust. As he stands before the microphone his speech therapist and friend, Lionel, tells him, “Speak as though you are speaking only to me, your friend.”

For me this scene was a picture of Christ and the way He stands by us. In the midst of our fears He is there, reminding us we are not alone.

As I writer I go through phases where writing comes easy, where ideas flow freely, and inspiration can be found in anything from a dustpan on the floor to a profound moment that must be put into words. But the opposite is also true. There are plenty of times when writing comes slow, tedious, and hard. Ideas dry up. Inspiration gives way to hesitation, procrastination, complacency, doubt.

For the past month or two the progress I’m making on my book has seemed painfully slow. My blog ideas seem to fall flat. And while I feel inspired to write my chances to actually sit down and work seem few and far between.

As I write these words I can see a pattern of what “seems” to be and what actually is. And I know this is where the fear comes in. When writing becomes a challenge all kinds of fears invade my mind:

What if I never finish this book?

What if I run out ideas for my blog?

What if I’m only kidding myself with this idea of being a writer?

And when fear creeps in all kinds of doubts and accusations seem painfully true:

You’ll never publish this book and if by chance you do, NO ONE will ever read it.

You don’t have anything new or interesting to say.

Your work as a writer is pointless.

There’s one more scene from the King’s Speech that spoke to me last week. King George has just seceded the throne and in a private moment with his wife breaks down in tears saying again and again, “I’m not a king, I’m not a king, I’m not a king.”

But he was a king.

Fear, doubt, and accusations were taking over his mind, defining the way he saw himself, determining what he believed about his role as king, his future.

But none of it was true.

When I give into fear, and doubt, and accusations all I want, at least on the inside, is to sit and cry like George. With my heart in my hands I shake my head and think again and again, I’m not a writer, I’m not a writer, I’m not a writer.

But I am a writer. I’m a daughter of the king and I. Am. A Writer.

Seeing this, catching this truth in the scenes of the King’s Speech, in Pastor Lee’s message, in God’s words just for my heart, makes me feel like I can breathe again. Like I can write wholly and confidently in the truth that this writing life was His idea long before it was mine and because I am His I have nothing to fear.

And this is the truth.

So what are you afraid of? How are you letting fear define you? Control your thoughts? Determine your actions, your future?

In the face of this fear, in whatever it’s keeping you from, I hope you’ll remember King George.

I hope you’ll remember that you are a child of the King. You have nothing to fear.

With your courage, your calling, your life, you can stand before the microphone and speak as though you are speaking only to Him…your King, your Father, your Friend.

Why We’re Never Too Far Gone

photo-2About a month ago my husband, Chris, and our daughter, Aletheia, went pear picking at my in-laws’ farm. Chris’ mom and dad have a beautiful pear tree in their front yard, and with Aletheia’s help, Chris managed to fill a Rubbermaid trashcan with hundreds of pears.

At first the pears were hard as rocks, but with the last warm days of fall, the pears began to soften. When the smell of ripened pear started to fill our garage, we knew it was time to roll up our sleeves and start canning.

My mom joined in the process, and for several hours on a perfect fall afternoon, we washed, peeled and canned the delicious fruit for use this fall and winter.

I wanted to peel, but Chris and my mom ganged up on me. Apparently, they informed me, I “lack skill with the blade,” and was therefore banished to the sink to rinse, wash and dry.

One by one I washed the pears and set them on a large wooden tray. At first it was easy work, but as I got deeper and deeper into the pail, more and more pears turned up spotted, molding, or altogether rotten.

I was able to salvage most of the pears by cutting away the spotted or moldy parts, but there were two or three, way down deep that were too far gone to save. I remember one in particular. Black with rot, it was soft, covered in mold and oozed with sticky juice. I didn’t want to touch it, let alone pick it up and throw it away. I avoided that one, rotten pear for as long as I could.

That’s when I realized, in a flash of truth, that this rotten pear was a picture of grace. Here, in rotten fruit: grace.

Scripture tells us that in comparison to God and His righteousness we are but filthy rags because of our sin. I looked at the pear and wondered, is this what my sin looks like to God? Rotten? Decrepit? Grotesque?

I mustered my courage and reached down deep for the pear. I grasped at the rottenness and thankfulness poured from my heart.

I am thankful that, unlike me, God is never afraid to touch the rotten spots he finds inside my heart. I am thankful that He is skilled with the blade. That He willingly stands over the sink, washing, cleansing, and cutting away the bruised and deeply rotten places where sin has left its mark. I am thankful that He sees something worth keeping and works to uncover that which is good.

With these thoughts in mind, I took one last look at the rotten pear. As I tossed it away, I realized that this too is a picture of grace: No matter how rotten or deep the sin, God never declares us too far gone.

~From the archives

How to Be a Hero

Everyday when my daughters and I get ready to start our schoolwork we begin our day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

I remember this is how the school day always started when I was in elementary school and while I don’t know if this practice is something school children still do at the start of each day (goodness, I hope it is) in my homeschool classroom it is a tradition that will not be forsaken.

Especially on days like today.

Today after saying the pledge I instructed my girls to pull out their calendars and find the box for September 11th.

“Today is a special day,” I said. “Would you like to hear why?”

“Yeah,” they cheered together.

“Today is Patriot’s Day,” I continued and for the next several minutes I shared the story September 11th. Tenley, my three-year-old, was for the most part oblivious, but Aletheia, my five-year-old, seemed absorbed in the story.

I explained to my girls how bad people who hated America and all the good things we, as a country stand for, decided to do very bad things to American people and places that symbolize our freedom, liberty, and strength.

I told them that many, many people died because of the things the bad people did.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” Aletheia said.

“I don’t either,” I told her but then I also told her that September 11th is a story about heroes. I told her that there were people that day who refused to let the bad people do what they wanted to do. I told her that because of these heroes and the sacrifices they made many, many people were rescued.

Finally, I told my girls that America, today, is still in need of heroes because there are still bad people in this world who hate what our country stands for. People who seek to steal, and kill, and destroy.

I know there is a lot our country is getting wrong these days but I also know there are still people in the United States who believe in freedom, and liberty, and justice.

America, at its core, was established to give freedom and liberty to its citizens and, in turn, offer that freedom and liberty to the world.

On September 11, 2001 our nation witnessed the power of what can happen when American heroes decide to stand for what they believe in and stand for what is right. In the face of all the evil that sought to prevail that day the actions of American heroes stopped evil in it’s tracts and saved the lives of thousands.

Thirteen years later, at a pivotal time in our nation’s history the best way to remember September 11th, the people who died, the people who gave their lives and stood as heroes, is to become heroes ourselves.

To stand for what we believe in…

To act in the face of injustice…

To fight against evil and darkness…

When we do these things we offer freedom. When we live like heroes we shine liberty’s light against the darkness that lurks in this world.

We don’t have to bring down planes. We just have to look for ways to be heroes to the people around us in need of rescue.

A single mom in need of groceries.

A teen on the brink of destruction.

The new person in the neighborhood, at school, at church in search of community, a friend, a place to call home.

The heroes of 9/11 sacrificed everything they had to do what they knew was right and we can honor them, we can honor God, when we’re willing to sacrifice our time, our luxuries, our resources, for the benefit of others.

So today, be a hero. Be a hero to someone in need a rescue. Right something that’s wrong. Take a stand against evil and darkness.

Remember the Pledge of Allegiance, the way it feels to stand before the stars and stripes with your hand over your heart.

Remember the story of 9/11, the people who died, and the actions of heroes.

Remember freedom. Remember liberty.

And share them with the world.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1 (NASB)

Red Hot Faith Interview with Cindy Bultema

Cindy Bultema

Cindy Bultema, Author & Speaker

Last week I hosted a Red Hot Faith giveaway in my post, “Be Hot! Be Cold! Be Something!” The winners of the drawing are Theresa and Stephanie. Congrats, ladies! Your copy of Cindy Bultema’s Red Hot Faith Bible study will be on its way soon.

In celebration of Cindy’s recent RHF release I asked Cindy a few questions about her own RHF journey. Her answers are full of wisdom and encouragement. I hope you enjoy this Q&A as much as I did and, seeing how this is just a taste, I hope you’ll check out Red Hot Faith Lessons from a Lukewarm Church to learn about what it means to “Be Hot! Be Cold! Be Something!”

1) Cindy, tell us a little bit about Red Hot Faith:

Red Hot Faith is an exciting journey to the lukewarm church of Laodicea found in Revelation 3:14-22. Through eight power-packed sessions, including video teachings, discussion questions, memory verses, and more, we’ll unpack God’s Word together to discover how to turn up the heat, fuel the fire of our faith, and strengthen our relationship with God.

If you are tired of being pulled into a lackluster, lukewarm routine of life that keeps you from experiencing God’s best – this Bible study is for you!

2) Where did your ideas for RHF come from? What inspired you to create this study?

One warm summer day I was on a prayer walk with my mentor Mary. During our time together Mary prayed, “Oh Lord, raise up a generation of women who are red-hot for You!” I thought, “Yes, God, sign me up!” I desperately want a life that has purpose, passion, spark, and meaning! I want red-hot faith!

But unfortunately, my reality: most days I feel caught up in the whirlpool of life.

After a week filled with trips to the store, waiting at Walgreen’s, and drop-offs to the dry cleaners, I barely have energy to change my kids’ sheets, much less change the world.

But Mary’s prayer really stuck with me, and I spent the next year digging into God’s Word, trying to learn everything I could about letting go of lukewarm living, and instead experiencing Red Hot Faith!

3) What are a few specific ways you seek to live with RHF?

One of the greatest ways to ignite a sizzling faith life is time spent with God through His Word. I am very intentional about devoting time to read the Bible, pray, and invite God into every area of my life. Now I need to be honest, as a busy mom with four kids, sometimes this is easier said than done. Some days my “quiet time” might be in the carpool lane or shower, but I really do believe it’s in His presence that our faith becomes red hot!

I also look for ways in the midst of my every day, ordinary life to put my faith in action. Even if it as simple as sending a quick encouraging text, greeting the store clerk by name, or walking next door to spend time chatting with my neighbor – I don’t want my life to be caught up in the “kingdom of me.” Instead, I want my faith life to impact those around me.

4) Tell us what you hope your readers/viewers will take away from RHF:

I hope this study will change the reader’s perception of Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:15 when He says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!”

You see, the city of Laodicea had two sister cities, Hierapolis and Colossae. Hierapolis was known for its therapeutic, healing hot springs. Colossae was known for its cold refreshing streams. Laodicea’s water supply was lukewarm and useless. I used to think “hot” was “for Jesus,” and “cold” was “against Jesus.” In other words, “be hot” or “for Jesus,” or “be cold” or “against Jesus,” just don’t sit on the fence and be lukewarm.

Now that I’ve traveled to the ancient ruins and studied this passage in great detail, I don’t think that’s what this passage is communicating. Instead, I believe Christ is saying, I wish you were therapeutic and healing (like the hot water of Hierapolis) or refreshing and invigorating (like the cold water of Colossae.)

Be hot, be cold, but be something! Church members, be of some use!

5) Why is RHF important? How do you see it impacting your life and the lives of others?

Red Hot Faith is significant because our lives are meant to be fruitful and effective, not self- absorbed and useless. When we understand Christ’s firm words to the lukewarm church, hopefully His rebuke will motivate us to “be of some use” in the midst of our every day, ordinary lives. When our focus moves from saying, “God, what about me?” to “God, use me!” – the adventure really begins!

6) What’s the #1 thing God has taught you through your RHF journey?

While we were filming the Bible study, we visited a gold refinery at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It was incredible to watch gold refiner Ayhan Usta in action. I was awed by the extreme heat and intensity of the refiner’s fire. However, I also noted how Ayhan’s eye was always on the fire, monitoring not only the high temperature, but the fire’s strength and the timing. And no matter the circumstances, the refiner never leaves the scene.

In the midst of this Bible study journey, I experienced many faith tests and often felt like I was in the “refiner’s fire.” What I discovered was without the testing, refining, and purifying, we would    never know our full endurance level, nor would we grow in our Christ-like character. It’s seasons of struggles and sufferings that strengthen our faith, so we will be useful to God and others.

The #1 thing God taught me: sometimes it’s in the fire that our faith becomes red-hot.

 7) What’s the #1 thing you hope to teach others through RHF?

My hope is every person going through the Red Hot Faith Bible study would remember “Lukewarm is not our norm!” Jesus came so we could experience a full, abundant, purposeful faith life (John 10:10). Today. Not someday— when we get to heaven, when we lose weight, when the kids get older, or when we know more Bible verses—but today. Christ is warmly inviting us to open the door and invite Him into every area of our life. (Yes, every part!)

Bultema Red Hot Faith Cover Image8) When will RHF be available to purchase? Where/how can we get it?

Red Hot Faith was nationally released in early July of this year. The easiest way to purchase it is from Discovery House Publishers at www.dhp.org, although you’ll also find it at Amazon and Christianbook.com.

9) Will there be any opportunities this year to hear you share the RHF message in person?

Yes! One of the highlights of the Red Hot Faith release is visiting women’s gatherings and sharing Red Hot Faith Lesson 1: “Live.” I also often share Red Hot Faith as a weekend retreat or one day conference. You can find a complete list of upcoming events at www.cindybultema.com. I would love to meet some of your blog readers at a Red Hot Faith event!

10)  What’s next for your ministry and for RHF? Any sneak peeks you’re willing to share with us?

I am enjoying this season of encouraging, equipping and praying for others as they journey through Red Hot Faith. Of course, I’m also praying about what God might have next. I’m thankful to have a few invitations out there, but I want to make sure it’s what God wants. I’ll keep you posted!