Choose Faith or Choose Fear

It’s a cold, cold night. The winter storm is coming. Tomorrow is supposed to be -35 degrees. I am warm inside the house. I let my dogs out for 5 minutes and then bring them back inside. They whimper because the ice is frigid. It hurts their paws.

The storm is coming.

I could worry about everything. Will my car start? Will I make it through the snow and ice? What about the storms at work? What if someone else gets Covid? What will we do? What about this? What about that?

What if…What if…What if…

2022 is not starting out well. We are stuck in a bad, bad approaching storm. Think about the economy, think about Covid, think about the supply chain shortages, think about this, think about that…..think about all the bad stuff on the news…….get all filled up with anxiety and fear. Get all angry and frustrated and all worked up.

Or…..

choose to stay calm. Choose faith. Not the crazy blinding stupid faith that totally ignores the potential dangers. No the kind of faith that informs the serenity prayer.

Lord, help us to accept the things we cannot change and give us the courage to know the difference between what we can and what we cannot do.

I went to Galilee when I was 21. It was a study abroad for a summer. We took a rickety old metal bus up to the Golan Heights for the day and then on the way back, we stopped at an outside cafe. We got the wild notion to swim in the Sea with our clothes on. I still remember the joy of that moment swimming in the Sea with friends.

It really wasn’t that big, the Sea of Galilee. You could see the other side….much like a big Missouri lake. I wondered then what the disciples were so afraid of when the storms tossed their boat around and the waves threatened to come over the sides. Why did they panic? Jesus was asleep in the boat and they came to him and asked him to save them. Now, I realize that they probably didn’t know how to swim. That would be scary for sure.

Anyway, he got up and told them to have faith and then he calmed the waters to ease their minds.

We’re all kinda stuck in a Galilee boat and we don’t know what to do and we’re worried that this dang disease is gonna drown us. But remember what JFK said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear causes anxiety and procrastination and arguing and in-fighting and endless stupid drama which only serves to compound our problems. It causes the blame game and finger pointing. People stop fixing things and looking for solutions. Instead, they just throw shade and throw each other under the bus in an attempt to save their own hide. Every man for himself like we’re on the Titanic and there’s only one lifeboat left.

Admit it. You’ve done this. I’ve done it too. But this time…

Relax. Stay calm. Stay the course.

We’ll get out of this.

The man who wrote the song Amazing Grace was once in a storm too off the coast of England. He tied himself to the boat and he asked for mercy. He came through the storm and gave up his profession of slave trading. He went on to become a prolific preacher and hymn writer and we still sing his songs to this day.

It’s getting colder and colder outside. I could sit here and worry myself to death about the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. Or I could sit here and write something encouraging.

I choose to write.

Protection

by J. Speer

Terrell had been working at the factory for fifteen years. He had seen a lot of people come and go through the years. He worked at the head table in assembly. Four weeks ago, the supervisor had clocked in another new hire as Terrell worked at his station on first shift. Terrell kept his head down and kept working but he noted the appearance of the new guy. Rough is probably how Terrell would describe him. He wore an old t-shirt and blue jeans with tears and holes in the knees. He was a white guy but had obviously been in the sun a lot. He looked weathered and old with tanned skin and noticeable wrinkles on his face. The guy wore a key chain from his belt. He looked like he hadn’t shaved in days or maybe a week or two.


Terrell kept working. The supervisor brought the new hire to his table and said the guy’s name was Mick. They started working across from each other at the table that morning. Mick was a fast learner, so it was easy to teach him the ropes. What Terrell liked about the guy was he seemed quiet and just did his work…..just like Terrell.


They had worked together for a few weeks now and barely spoke much to each other. There was an unspoken camaraderie though. Occasionally, when the background radio music lulled, they’d exchange small talk conversation. They didn’t talk about much but Terrell was pleased to learn Mick had an avid interest in sports. So they mostly talked about the Browns or different quarterbacks in the NFL. Mick seemed to like more sports than just football so they spent some time over the weeks discussing golf or basketball or even the Olympics. Terrell didn’t mind this much. It passed the time on the 10 hour daily shifts before he could go home to his family. He wasn’t there for a popularity contest. He was there to get paid and go home.


Terrell clocked out at 5 pm like usual and headed to the back alley door. He walked the 3 blocks from the factory district to the local subway station underground. He kept to himself mostly on the subway ride home. When an older woman entered from the platform, he got up quietly from his seat and offered it to her. She nodded thank you and he simply smiled briefly and looked down at his feet and then out of the subway train towards the tunnel walls of the subway system.


From station 26, he walked the rest of the way home to his apartment rental. He took the stairs up to the third floor, passing Ms. Davis on her way up with groceries. He helped her the rest of the way up the stairs to her apartment door with the bags. She smiled at him and said thanks. He smiled back and headed to his apartment door too.


The dogs greeted him at the door first. It wasn’t much of an apartment. The walls were not painted. The furniture was hand-me-downs from family or stuff bought off Craigslist. His wife was sitting at her laptop at the kitchen table. She smiled absentmindedly at him as he took off his jacket and headed to the cabinet for a glass of water. She went back to typing on her Nursing class project for school. She was in her second year at the local Community College preparing to be an RN.


“Dinner ready?” he asked.


“Yeah,” she said not looking up from behind her glasses. “It’s on the stove.”


She called the kids. They had three children ages 6, 8, and 9. Together, the family worked on setting the table. Terrell asked his kids how school was going. He kissed his wife briefly as she put away the laptop and notebooks. At the table, they all paused for prayer. The kids were in a pretty good mood that night. They had been playing Mario Kart on the Play station in the TV room.


After dinner, they cleaned up together. The kids went off to play. His wife sat back down to do homework and Terrell retreated to the bedroom. He took off his shoes, changed out of his work clothes, showered, put on some casual clothes, and then sat down to his small desk in the corner. He opened up his laptop too. By then, it was nearing 8 pm.


A few years ago, Terrell had started a YouTube channel. It wasn’t much. It wasn’t elaborate or fancy. It had grown a small following of steady subscribers over time. At first, he just wanted to share what he knew about Psalms and Proverbs and such from what he had read in his free time from the Bible. Over time, as the subscriber list grew, he would read the comments from his followers and found that some of them were in real need for guidance and help. So he prayed on this and he started writing out little prayers.


Each prayer was generally about 3 to 4 minutes long at most. He did prayers on marriage, on work, on job searching, on pets, on finding apartments, on whatever…you name it, he tried to write it….if the commenters said they needed it. Each night, he’d sit with pen and paper and come up with a good heartfelt prayer. Then he’d record himself saying the prayer and offering words of encouragement and inspiration for the folks that listened. He knew it wasn’t much but perhaps it could help here or there. He didn’t really see it as a ministry of sorts, just as words to help. He re-labeled the YouTube channel with the name, Protection Prayers.


Terrell opened up YouTube to his channel and saw the reaction to his latest video. It was a short piece on protection for one’s family. It already had 1,415 views and about 201 likes. Terrell frowned a little when he saw the few dislikes. He read through the usual comments. Towards the bottom of this video there was a bizarre comment. It was made by a viewer who went by the name Thanatos 669. The message was in another language Terrell didn’t understand.


Curiosity got the best of him and Terrell opened up an online translator. He cut and pasted the strange symbols into the translator and hit send. The words were in Greek. They read, “There was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.”


Terrell sat back in his lamp lit bedroom at his desk. He looked at the words from Revelations.


“Bizarre,”he said to himself and shaking his head.


Terrell spent the rest of the evening going over the videos and comments and working on his next video script. As he did so, he checked every so often on the kids in the other room and on his distracted wife. He helped get the kids to their showers and helped get them to bed that night. They snuggled deep under the covers as he closed the door to their room across the small hallway from his own room.


That night, Terrell and his wife went to bed about 11 am. He woke up with a start around 2 or at least he thought he did. Perhaps it was a dream. He could not tell for sure. Yes, he believed it was a dream. It had to be. A nightmare.


Terrell slept on the right side of the bed by the alarm clock and light. In the darkness, in his dream he became instantly aware of imminent and very near danger. He felt someone or something was in his room. In fact, it was directly beside him….standing next to his sleeping body. In his mind in the dream, he thought a stranger was in the apartment and next, he thought of his sleeping children and wife. The presence, the entity….it felt like death, not the devil.


Then something even stranger occurred in the dream. He was lifted from a sleeping position to a sitting position in the bed by an unknown force. His eyes were closed but his mouth opened and from his throat came a voice that was not his own. It was deep and authoritative. It simply said the same phrase 7 times rapidly in a row. The wording was foreign and strange to Terrell. It was not how he normally spoke. Not how anyone he knew normally spoke. The words were simply, “I compel you to leave this house through the blood of Jesus Christ.”


The words were repeated rapidly over and over again 7 times. Then Terrell felt the entity. He felt it’s reluctance and anger. It got directly physically behind Terrell. Then it passed through the bed frame and through the wall itself and was gone.


Terrell opened his eyes in the darkness of the little bedroom. He was sitting up in the bed. He was fearful for his family. He looked to the left to his sleeping wife. Then, he pulled back the covers and headed straight to the hallway and to his children’s room. He pushed open the door quietly and peered inside. Nothing was disturbed in the room. All three children were asleep in their bunk beds. Terrell watched them for a moment. Then he gently closed the door again to their room.


He turned around in the hallway and looked left to the apartment door. He walked over to it. He peered out the peephole expecting to see something. Outside the door, there was nothing but stairs. He checked the locks again and the chain.


He padded back barefoot across the wooden floor to the bedroom doors. There was a small butterfly night light near the children’s door and by the slight light, he could see something tiny and white on the floor. He stooped down to pick it up. He held it in his hand. It was a small white feather…..must have come from one of the kids’ pillows he reasoned. He put the feather in his pocket and returned to his bedroom. When he went back to bed, he rolled over and held his wife. She sighed in her sleep and snuggled closer to his warm body. Eventually, Terrell fell back asleep.


The next day and the days that followed one after the other at the factory, seemed to drag a bit for Terrell. He kept his strange dream to himself. No one would believe him anyways about such a weird occurrence.


Mick kept at it, working across from him at the workstation. Mick didn’t say much. They talked about the Chiefs game and the Packers a bit. When it was time for breaks, Mick would head out for a smoke and Terrell would head to the break room to check his phone and such. Terrell noticed Mick smoked a lot but that was Mick’s business he reasoned.


The nights went on as usual with dinner, the kids doing homework or playing games, and the wife at the table working on tests or assignments. He would kiss her on the forehead every now and then. He helped the kids off to showers and bedtime as usual but Terrell had sorta stopped writing the prayers and creating the YouTube content for a bit. He still checked his channel and the comments from his viewers. He noted that he had lost a few subscribers in the past few days.


On the fourth or fifth day at work, about right before quitting time, Mick stopped working across from him. He started grabbing his stuff and putting on his jacket across from Terrell to leave for the day, or so Terrell thought. Mick eyed him for a bit.


Then he said, “I think I’m gonna be moving on. This job, you know, I got other things I need to be doing and it’s not working out.” Terrell just nodded. Retention was notoriously low at the factory so he was used to people quitting.

“It was nice working with you, Mick,” Terrell said and nodded. “I wish you well.”


“Thanks,” said Mick and he slung his bag on his side. “You know, Terrell…..you shouldn’t give up writing them prayers…….they’re helping people more than you’ll ever realize.” With that, Mick turned and started walking towards the clock out station.


Terrell stared at Mick’s back. He had never told Mick anything about prayers or his YouTube channel or anything. As far as he knew, no one at the factory even knew he did that on the side.


Mick stood in line to clock out behind the others. Terrell grabbed his stuff and went to stand in line too but he was watching Mick curiously. Mick clocked out. He headed to the back door opening to the alley way.

Terrell thought for a moment………Mick, Mickey, Mike, Michael…..


Mick’s hand reached the door knob, he turned slightly and grinned briefly at Terrell as Terrell’s mind was on the name Michael.


“Be safe, Terrell, and watch out for that beautiful wife and three kids of yours. God bless.” As he said this, he reached into his pocket for his pack of cigarettes. He grabbed his lighter and something small and light and white fell out of his pocket. He stepped out into the alleyway. Mick looked up as he lit a cigarette and the back door slowly closed behind him.


Terrell clocked out. He headed for the door too. He looked down at the floor and found the item that had fallen. He picked it up and examined it. It was a small white feather…just the same as the one he had seen in the hallway outside his children’s room nights before.


He opened the door to the back alley and stepped out. He looked left. He looked right. He looked all around but Mick was gone.

An Unexpectedly Good Read

I’m not good at going to church. I’m pretty lazy. Once a week though, I go to the little chapel near the church. The chapel is open 24-7 and the members of the chapel each devote one hour to prayer. They are each assigned a one-hour time slot equivalent to time spent in the Garden of Gethsemane to spend with God.

My time slot is 3 am to 4 am. It’s supposed to be the devil’s hour, or the exact opposite of the 3 pm time of death of Jesus. So I figure that is as good a time as any to try praying, although my prayers are admittedly probably not that great. I spend about 10 minutes in actual prayer before I run out of things to say, I do general petitions for folks (the homeless, the sick, the elderly, immigrants, etc.) 15 minutes doing a rosary, and then I get off my knees, sit in the chair and look around the little chapel. Generally, I got nothing to do for the rest of the hour so I wander to the back of the chapel to the little religious books library.

The library is full of all sorts of religious books. Many of them are kinda dry or boring. Some are convoluted and some are definitely too flowery for my tastes. But occasionally, I find a real diamond in the rough, a high quality read. I always close my eyes and let my fingers wander over the book tops in a sort of eenie-meanie-minie-mo fashion until they stop on one particular book. I figure maybe if I do it this way, God will lead me to something I need to read.

I pick up the book, take it to my chair, and once again I just close my eyes and let it fall open in my lap. Again, I superstitiously think well maybe, God will let it fall to the exact words I gotta hear. I know. It’s kinda silly. But who knows, maybe it works…

Today I picked up a book by David Jeremiah in the Billy Graham Library Selection Series. It was called Slaying the Giants in Your Life. Apparently, in the book, the giants the author speaks of are not physical giants like Goliath but the giants of anger, loneliness, discouragement, etc.

The giant that my hands opened to was the giant of failure. It was Chapter 11 called Facing Your Failure. It’s kinda something I needed to hear since some of my projects and work and stuff aren’t doing as well as I had hoped.

This book was so easy to read and cited a lot of great and fascinating people in their experiences with failure from Abraham Lincoln to Saint Peter to Charlie Brown to Michael Jordan. I really recommend the book from the chapter I read. Here is a small excerpt:

“The lanky, quiet boy never had much of a chance. He had to work from the age of seven, when his family joined the homeless. His mother died two years after that. As he grew to adulthood, the young man held a series of small jobs until his twenties, when he was fired as a store clerk. But the idea of operating a store appealed to him. At age 23, he took out a loan that would enable him to buy a small business. But the run of bad luck continued; his partner died 3 years later. Now the young man’s debt was more than doubled and it looked like he would spend years just repaying it. He fared no better in relationships. Approaching his 30s, he was a bachelor. He proposed to one young lady after 4 years of dating, but she turned him down. It was just another failure; he was used to that. Twice he ran for Congress and twice, he unsurprisingly lost. To put it kindly, his credentials were unimpressive. But at the age of 37, with more than half his life over, he was finally elected to an office – only to be subsequently voted out! He failed in 2 separate runs for the Senate. He failed in a Vice Presidential try. No one was more conscious of his legacy of failures. “I am now the most miserable man living,” he said. “Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell.” Some would say he didn’t know when to quit – and most of us are glad he didn’t. For at the age of 51, Abraham Lincoln became probably the greatest of all American Presidents.”

Another passage in the chapter, cites Michael Jordan, the famous basketball player:

“I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I have been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life…………and that is how I succeed.”

In another paragraph, the author speaks of the best coaches in the history of sports:

“Anyone in the world of sports will tell you where the best coaches are found. They’re found on the benches. They are found among the players that were beaten out by the better athletes. A 3rd stringer can sit on the bench and dwell on his/her failure, or keep trying, keep hustling, and keep learning everything there is to know about the sport. That’s why the best coaches have often been the more obscure athletes in their youth. They fell down and they got back up.”

There’s a lot more material to that chapter and also to the entire book itself. It was a good read that I wanted to share with you. I really liked the chapter so much that I came home and took the time to write this brief review. Here is the book:

The Trumpet

These are passages of the Bible that are important to read at this time. Notice the similarities in numbers among some of the passages:

Exodus 12: 12-13

Psalm 91

Deuteronomy 30-19

Joshua 7: 10-12

Job 1:9

Romans 10:9

2 Chronicles 7:13-22

Ezekiel 33:1-6

Notice the repeat of the numbers. For example 91, 10:9, and 1:9 = variations of 19. Also, several of the texts have the number 3 repeated which is mentioned later in this piece.

Exodus 12:12-13 speaks of the Passover and the Blood of the Lamb. “I will pass through the Land of Egypt at night and strike every firstborn male in the Land of Egypt, both man and beast. I am Yahweh; I will execute judgements against the Gods of Egypt. The blood on the houses where you are staying will be the distinguishing mark for you; when I see the blood I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”

Deuteronomy 30:19 uses the numbers 3 and 19 again. It is Moses’ message to the Isrealites. ” I call heaven and Earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

Joshua 7: 10-12 refers to the Israelite defeat against Ai and explains why according to the Lord. ” The Lord then said to Joshua, “Stand up, why are you on the ground? Israel has sinned. They have violated my covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart. They have stolen, deceived, and put the things with their belongings. This is why the Isrealites can not stand against their enemies. They will turn their backs and run from their enemies, because they have been set apart for destruction. I will no longer be with you unless you remove from you what was set apart.”

2 Chronicles 7: 13-22 is the discussion between wise Solomon and God about the temple. “If I close the sky so there is no rain, of if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send the pestilence on My people and My people who are called by my name humble themselves and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. My eyes will now be open and my ears attentive to prayer from this place. And I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there at all times. As for you, if you walk before me as your father David walked, doing everything I have commanded you, and if you keep my statutes and my ordinances, I will establish your royal throne, as I promised your father David. You will never fail to have a man ruling in Israel. However, if you turn away and abandon My statues and My commands that I have set before you and serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from the soil I gave them, and this temple I have sanctified for My name I will banish from my presence. I will make it an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples. As for this temple, which was exalted, everyone who passes by will be appalled and will say, “Why did the Lord do this to the land and to this temple? Then they will say, “Because they abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clung to other gods and worshiped and served them. Because of this, he brought all this ruin on them.”

Job 1:9 explains God’s hedge of protection. Without the hedge, Job is tested. “Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Haven’t you placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? You have blessed the work of his hands, his possessions, and increased the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job needed the hedge of protection.

Psalm 91 is a spiritual warfare prayer against pestilence. It also uses the numbers of 1 and 9 as does Job1:9.

Ezekiel 33:1-6 is a message for the watchmen, those who discern these words of wisdom. “The word of the Lord came to me, Son of Man, speak to your people and tell them: Suppose I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land select a man from among them, appointing him as their watchman and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows his trumpet to warn the people. Then, if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet but ignores the warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but ignored the warning, his blood is on his own hands. If he had taken the warning, he would have saved his life. However, if the watchman see the sword coming but doesn’t blow the trumpet, so that the people are warned, and the sword comes and takes away their lives, then they have been taken away because of their iniquity, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.”

Romans 10:9 is a final message once again using the numbers 1 and 9. It is also called the Sinner’s Prayer. “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Conclusion to this message, these are very important:

Job 1:9 = pray for a hedge of protection around your family.

Psalm 91 = prayer against the pestilence, “the plague that stalks in darkness.”

Romans 10:9 = pray the sinner’s prayer. “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

All of these use the numbers 1 and 9 as does COVID-19.

Passover = pray for the blood of Jesus to cover your loved ones.

Amazing Grace

Do you know the story of the man behind the gospel song, Amazing Grace? He was a slave trader. His name was John Newton and he lived from 1725 to 1807. John Newton was a slaver, a captain of slave ships. But in 1748, he was on a ship off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. The ship was hit by a massive and terrifying storm. It was said that night, that John Newton experienced a Christian conversion when he prayed amidst the winds and rain and tossing of the ocean waves. He prayed for deliverance.

He later gave up the slave trade and became a vocal advocate for abolition in England. He became a very charismatic Anglican clergyman and produced many speeches and a book of hymns. Amazing Grace is one of his hymns.

Here is a really beautiful version of Amazing Grace by BYU Noteworthy:

At this time, when our world is facing the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to bring you some encouraging and hopeful songs as well as prayers you can use for your loved ones. Here are some great songs. I will include the prayers in my next post. Please enjoy these songs and I pray you and your loved ones are safe and well.