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be not afraid of power part 1
2016.07.15 00:32:03

Be Not Afraid of Power part 1

be not afraid; Facing Fear with Faith by Samuel Wells


Read Matthew 21:23ff

You’re not the boss of me!

I arrived early to pick up Andrea from day care. She hadn’t seen me yet and I could watch her playing with her friends. She had many and I never tired of watching her interact with them on the playground. A simple world but still they were learning how share and be kind and also to negotiate conflict and differences. I liked the school’s policy of generally letting the children work things out on their own.


When I arrived, she was in a group sitting on a blanket playing with blocks and dolls. Moments later she and two others broke away from the group and headed for the teeter-totter. Two spots…three kids. An argument ensued that quickly escalated. One yelled, “You’re not the boss of me.” Another yelled “And you’re not the boss of me.” Andrea, the pastor’s daughter, yelled, “You aren’t the boss of me either…(thinking, thinking, thinking…maybe she had seen me…) Yeah, ‘cause God’s the boss.” That seemed to settle the argument, at least for that afternoon.


In chapter 11 Wells asserts that one of the unexpected consequences of the Reformation is a shift in our understanding of power and authority. Prior to the Reformation ultimate authority rested (in theory) with God. The Reformation, by placing the bible in the hands of the people shifted this authority. Furthermore,

the Enlightenment said authority lay not in ancient documents, venerable institutions, or inspired leaders but in the heart of each individual. So the American and French Revolutions invested authority not in God, in the church, or in the Bible but in the people. They introduced a new religion, which said that the voice of the people was the voice of God.”


This chapter really got me thinking about how much power we allow God. Yes, I believe God is the ultimate authority but do I live as if I believe that. How often do I presume God’s grace and take it for granted. Yes I am loved and forgiven, but does that shape how I live day to day. Yes I am a pastor and spend hours and hours in scripture and prayer and worship every week, but still, I am a human, a sinner, living in a fallen world. I know that there are times I resonate with the kids on the playground, “You’re not the boss of me.” I hope I can remember it’s because God is boss!

Wells asks some great questions on p. 75:

What authority do you have? Are you admired, perhaps even feared, because you are powerful?

Are you respected, perhaps even imitated, because you are effective and get the job done? Or do you have another kind of authority, which …restson a confidence God is fundamentally in charge…in Jesus. (Authority of truth)


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Be not afraid of weakness part 2
2016.07.14 22:34:59

Be not Afraid of Weakness #2 (be not afraid; facing fear with faith by Samuel Wells)


The Lost Sheep, the lost coin, and the hound of heaven.

Years ago, our congregation read Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. I have always thought that his most profound insight was stated in the first sentence of the book: “It’s not about you.” Warren’s point is that we are born by and for God’s purpose. Wells writes, “But the truth is the Bible is not fundamentally about us. The Bible is fundamentally about God.” (p. 43)   When we try to make the Bible into a guide for living, we usually miss the point.


In the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, the shepherd and the widow go to extremes seeking out what is lost. I lose things all of the time: my keys, my sweater, my hat, my purse, my sermon. Well, actually I don’t lose them, I misplace them but like the good shepherd and the widow I search diligently (often with the help of husband and staff!) until I find them. I internalized early the persistence and good stewardship of keeping track of all possessions.

That is how many of us think about these two parables.

Wells says, “We are not the shepherd; we are the lost sheep. We are not the woman; we are the lost coin.” of course wants to remind us that this is ultimately about how we are to live but how God is the persistent one who will make every effort to not let one of his children’s lives be lost. It is about God who searches for us. “…and the way to become part of the story is “to stop running away, to stop hiding from the one who yearns and searches for you.” (p. 45)

Over a hundred years ago, Francis Thompson wrote a poem describing God’s relentless pursuit of him and named it “The Hound of Heaven.” “God is the love that will not let go.” (p. 46) In my life there have been a number of times that I have been distracted or have slipped away from God, only to discover that God had been nipping at my heals all along.

Share a quote from this section on weakness and tell why it speaks to you.

Why is it dangerous to think about the Bible as an instruction guide for your life?

In what ways have you pushed God to the edges of your life, so that you can be “in the center?”

When have you felt God’s love nipping at your heals?







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be not afraid; facing fear with faith; part 2 Be not Afraid of Weakness
2016.06.26 22:36:59

Wells writes that there are 2 dimensions of discipleship. "One is the learning of habits and the forming of character....But the the acknowledgment of weakness, the asking for help, the naming of failure, the request for forgiveness, the desire for reconciliation, and the longing for restoration..." p.35 



I have been in ordained parish ministry for over 30 years now. This month I got my medicare card in the mail. It is just a natural time to be reflecting back on success and failure in my ministry. I was one of the early women clergy. At seminary I was in the minority. Some of my classmates didn't approve of my being there. It drove me to be "an excellent student" to prove them wrong, and to perhaps bolster my own confidence in my call. I was one of the first two women to be called as a pastor developer, to start a new congregation. Many colleagues doubted I could do it alone (So did I, to be honest) It was not unusual to hear from people I met "A woman pastor? Oh I have never met one before." So I worked extra hard to prove my competence. 


I probably am a work-aholic, over-achiever, perfectionist. Recovering now because I no longer have the energy to keep it up nor do I desire to keep at it. There is freedom in letting go of unrealistic expectations. Now, as I look back, it was not my strength that moved anything ahead in that first parish, it was my "weakness." In those days I weighed 110 lbs and appeared to be about 20. I didn't look the part of a "strong pastor."


Actually, I think that worked to the advantage of the congregation. I suspect members would look at me and think to themselves, "That woman needs help." I couldn't sing and many joined the choir. They didn't think I should be out knocking on doors alone so they joined me meeting people in the neighborhoods. I had only small children so the young moms figured I needed help in planning Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I knew nothing about construction so many stepped up to be on the building committee. I knew nothing about art and so local sail makers designed and made our banners. And so it went. 


That woman did need help! And it brought out the best in my congregation. I give thanks for those supporters in that first parish and my current partners in ministry. We need each other.


Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. 

Little ones to him belong, I am weak but He is strong!


What do you need help doing? Has someone helped you accomplish what you could not do on your own. How are you stepping in where there is need? Where have you experience God blessing your weakness?





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be not afraid; facing fear with faith: part 1 continued the 4 great fears
2016.06.26 03:24:08

Samuel Wells names 4 great fears: death, pain, guilt, and isolation. A friend of mine asked her father, who suffered from Alzheimer's, what it felt like to have Alzheimers. I thought it was a gutsy question in the first place. People often pretend the disease isn't there but here there was truth telling and it was a first step in facing the disease faithfully, for the father and for the daughter. Though often confused this former preacher now only had fleeting moments of clarity but this was one of them. He said, "it is like a black hole. I know there is light out there but I am slipping down further into the darkness." 

That's what real fear feels like: fear of death, of pain, of guilt and of isolation. That is what it feels like to yearn for a word of hope to encourage and sustain us. 

I asked my friend what did you say to that? Her response was simply to take his hand and say, I love you Dad. We (family) are right here.


Wells compares it to Israel's experience of the EXILE. For a prophet like Isaiah Exile was the end of the world and it is from Exile that Isaiah writes about hope. See Isa 43:1-7.


"The promise is not, 'you won't face death, pain, guilt, isolation, You won't face flaming fire and flooding water.' the promise is, 'when you face these things, they won't destry you, they won't drown you, they won't overwhelm you, they won't fundamentally separate you from me" p. 31


For me, this is a truthful promise, one that squares with my experience of the world and of God. I don't get out of living in a broken world but God has held me together and given me strength to face what comes. 


What do you think. Is this enough for you? Have you experienced god's hope differently?

Please share Smile 



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be not afraid; facing fear with faith; part 1 continued Be not afraid of death
2016.06.17 04:30:00

p. 9 ..there are two kinds of healing in the church. ..."Loud Healing" and "Quiet Healing."

Back in my Youth Ministry days, I had a youth group that wanted to study healing. Several had seen late-night evangelists slaying the bad spirits and healing whole crowds of people from all sorts of ailments. some stood up out of wheel chairs; others had hearing restored. This would be "loud healing. " They were intrigued and a little disappointed that nothing like this had ever happened in our quiet healing services on the fifth weekend of each month. So we looked at several of the healing stories and at the healing service in our hymnbook and we chewed on the subject for weeks, like only teens can do. Then one night, one of the youth had an epiphany. "You know, I think I have been healed." Now he had our attention! "When my father committed suicide I was really angry at him for doing it and for leaving us. But over the years, I have forgiven him and now can remember the good times."


Yes that is a healing. It is a healing that gives life as surely does one cured from cancer. It is what Samuel Wells calls a quiet healing.


p.11 Forgiveness takes away the guilt, blame, enmity, and shame, but it doesn't immediately take away the pain, loss, hurt, and damage. something else is required....Healing is the third part of salvation, the part sandwiched between forgiveness and eternal life. Salvation means there's forgiveness. there's eternal life, and in between, filling up any space that may linger between forgiveness and everlasting life, there's healing.


Have you or someone you know experienced healing? Was it the loud kind or quiet kind? Have you participated in one of our healing service? How did you experience that time at the altar, the prayer, the opportunity to light a candle?


Wells' definition of healing may be broader that you originally understood healing to be. Basically he says after forgiveness, there still may be a mess to clean up. Healing is for that mess. Do you like this definition? Why?


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be not afraid; facing fear with faith: part 1 Be not afraid of death
2016.06.14 03:51:50

p. 1 If faith in God can address the subject of death, then it can be set free to speak to every other aspect of life.


p. 2 To speak of faith in the face of death means to name our worst fears and gently but purposefully bring them into conversation with our deepest convictions.


I think I was in about 5th grade when I first figured out that I was going to die. Really die.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a sick stomache, pain in my side and a very high fever. I was in bed and  somewhere between dreaming and hallucinating. I saw a heavy navy blue, wool blanket floating above my bed. It hovered over my toes then my ankles, then my core, creeping slowly toward my head. I was thinking that if that blanket covered my head I would be dead. so I screamed out "MOM, DAD I AM GOING TO DIE!" That woke them up! 


My parents quickly recognized appendicitis, rushed me to the ER and before I knew it I was waking up from surgery. "I AM GOING TO LIVE," I thought, but I had a new world view: I could have died. It could have been the end. There is an end to everything. However, now is not the end. Someday but not now"


I started thinking of life as "extra life" i.e. life after what could have been death and so everything was sort of an extra gift. But I also felt a sadness. I understand it now as anticipatory grief. There will be an end...someday. 


When did you first understand that you were going to die? Did knowing so change you in anyway? 


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be not afraid; facing fear with faith
2016.06.04 04:01:26

Introduction p. xiii-xix

Everyone has fears. I know a woman, okay it was my mom, who had a terrible fear of traffic and we had lots of friends and family, who lived in big cities and so that meant we drove in lots of city traffic as a family. Mom would be in the front seat, gasping, clutching her arm rest, telling Dad to " watch out." Sometimes she buried her head in a pillow. Dad was patient but it was hard to listen to. So she decided to get help. She went to a class on facing her fears. We were all excited that finally she (and we) would get some relief. After several weeks, she graduated. I asked her about the experience. Almost gleefully she said, "Oh we all learned that our fears were reasonable. When you think about it, any sane person would be afraid of city traffic." 


Of course that is not what I had hoped for. After all of those sessions, she had basically been given permission to carry on as before, afraid of traffic. However, in the end, it didn't work out that way. There was something about being given permission to be afraid that eased her anxiety.

So we all have fears. Any reasonable person would. What is it that people or we, ourselves, fear the most?

p. xv Wells writes, "Fear isn't itself good or bad. It's an emotion that identifies what we love. The quickest way to discover what or whom someone loves is to find out what they are afraid of.

Would you agree?


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Getting started
2016.06.03 03:50:07

Whenever we took our kids out to eat, in the car, before we went in, we reviewed expected manners. They already new the expectations but it was still helpful to remind them. 

So, with that in mind here are a few operating expectations:

  • When you post something, we ask that your username contain your last name so that what we write here is "owned" by the author. Many folks use their first initial and last name with no space after the initial.
  • Everyone's thoughts are to be respected. There will be different perspectives. I always assume that we all see in part and together we will have a bigger picture of what God is doing in this world.
  • It is okay to have doubts, questions, or to be skeptical. That is often how we grow in faith and understanding.
  • Negative Nancys and Antagonistics Arnolds will not be tolerated. 
  • As the manager of the blog, I reserve the right to remove offensive comments or irrelevant posts by spammers.


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Book Study starting this week.
2016.05.31 23:51:49

BeNotAfraidI am really excited to get started on this book study with you. The title is Be Not Afraid by Samuel Wells. If you still need to get the book there are copies at Barnes and Nobel, Amazon and even an e-book version for your Kindle. 


I will be introducing and commenting on a chapter or two a week. I look forward to your questions and comments. If you have time, read the introduction to the book for discussion later this week. 


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December 17, 2017




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