Finding Car Keys: Who's Finding Who?

It started as a crappy day.

No, seriously.

It literally started as a crappy day.

I went to bed the night before with Tums still stuck in my back teeth and I woke up with an incredible urge to use the bathroom.

It was the last day of church camp. I was a cabin sponsor in charge of 6 teenagers and a younger one. The cabin was decorated in the Finding Dory theme with fish hanging from the ceiling, green streamers for seaweed, sand toys, sand we got from the actual ocean on our way there, Dory posters, Dory bags, and chalk drawings of Dory and Squirt on the cabin wall...plus some. 


Artwork by Mary Elias

Between our late night giggle fests (myself most definitely included in them), plenty of crying, and a large amount of walking each day, I was tired, sleepy, and exhausted, not to mention the fact that I woke up several times during the night with my stomach aching. When I awoke with my stomach still giving me trouble, I must admit that I have never been more grateful for the nearby porta-potty in all my life.

I locked myself in, sat down, and 5 days of camp food finally released its fury.

I couldn't complain, though; the porta-potty had been cleaned the day before, so it didn't smell bad and it was mostly empty. So empty, in fact, that I could amuse myself by counting the seconds between delivery and time of impact. And the backfire was too far down to reach me. Best place to have diarrhea, if you ask me.

Breakfast was off the menu for the day.

We had a strict timeline. One of my cabin girls had to be back home in time to perform her play. I had instructed everyone to pack quickly because we were leaving at 10am, earlier if we could. My helpful crew packed, cleaned, and assisted me in loading the car. We all piled in and at 10am exactly...a feat even I was surprised and proud to have managed...I reached into my pocket for my keys.

No keys.

In my grumpy exhaustion, I got annoyed and started digging my backpack out of the tightly packed car.

No keys.

Sweatshirt? Purse? Cup holder?

No keys.

I sighed and pulled out my suitcase, causing our tightly-packed belongings to spread themselves out. Perhaps they were in my pajama pockets.

Nope.

And so I went through every pair of pants pockets in my suitcase - the clean, the dirty, and even the pockletless. Still no keys.

All the kids piled out of our car and began looking all over camp. I was stressing about how I was going to get the actress to her performance and forming Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C in my head as we all looked for the keys.

Fellow campers, who were just as eager to get home, came around and started searching, checking lost and found, asking camp staff for help, and brainstorming places that the keys might be.

A friend took our actress with her as I worked out Plan B for her. I felt much better once I knew she was going to be taken care of, but completely over camp and ready to go home.

Eventually, I knew what we had to do.

"Kids, we need to unpack the car and go through all the bags."

We all groaned, but we all wanted to get home, so out came the bags--the stinky socks, the disturbingly clean underwear, and all of our Dory paraphernalia.

We made calls, we walked, we searched, and we found nothing. I finally told the other campers to go home.

As I retraced my steps one last time from the last time I had my keys, I thought about my porta-potty party that morning. The thought had been turning around in my brain for a couple hours, what if they fell in? Would I be willing to fish them out? Would I be able to stomach the search? Was it even worth it? It had been hours of fruitless effort and I was ready to accept the inevitability of this last, desperate attempt at finding my keys.

I grabbed a stick and started digging.

With camp staff cleaning cabins behind me, I gave new meaning to the term "swirly" as I humbly swirled that stick through Ground Zero of that morning's storm. I found things that should never be seen twice. I poked, I swirled, I fished, but never saw my keys.

I had to be like Survivor and admit that the search was over.

A kind staff member, Tad, had been helping me all afternoon.  He was a very kind, selfless man. First, he prayed for me. Then, he researched our options to see what our cheapest route would be. He even called people I had already called to see if he could get a better price or information because he was a man and less likely to be taken advantage of. Tad had such a kind spirit and never made me feel bad for putting him out. Instead, he just kept offering to help more. It was humbling and difficult for me to accept and I couldn't help but hear the words in my head from one of the sermons, "We cannot do life alone."

Once the search was fully over, he used up one of his AAA calls to have my car towed to the local locksmith to save me $140 and even followed behind the tow truck with my remaining crew that wouldn't fit in the tow truck so that I wouldn't have to drive the 30 minutes back to get them.



Before leaving us, he told us that he has 4 daughters and he hopes that should they ever get stranded, some other kind person will help them the way he helped us. I wish the same for them and if God orchestrates that in response to this one man's kindness, it will be well deserved. I asked him what I could pray for him about and then said a prayer right there in the parking lot. When I lifted my head after the amen, he proceeded to pray for us again. Truly, this was a very kind man.

Two hours later, we had a new key in hand. Our 10am departure time from camp had turned into a 6pm departure from a locksmith. It was a long day, but we were finally heading home and glad to get on the road at last.

As the back seat fell silent and the kids slept, I began to contemplate the events of the day. I have been struggling with Christianity as a religion for some time now. I have questioned every tradition and belief I grew up with and have become increasingly uncomfortable with many of them. Wanting to be genuine, I have avoided Christian catch phrases and avoided public prayer whenever possible. I've put a wall up between myself and most other Christians - sometimes just a few bricks, sometimes quite a few - in order to avoid the sting of emotionally triggering Bible verses and the us vs. them mentality. Anything that resembled the religion I grew up in was especially suspect and, to be honest, I've been carrying around a lot of fear.

I had just spent 5 days immersed in sermons and lessons, all from people in the denomination of my childhood religion where I had encountered years of spiritual abuse and legalism...and my defenses were solidly in place.

Even so, when this kind staff member asked if he could pray with me, I found myself a willing and grateful participant. I was surprised by my subsequent desire to pray for him - in a public parking lot, no less.  Why did this feel so natural again all of the sudden?

While I have struggled with Christianity, I have struggled with my childhood religion most. I still attend church in this denomination with my family and I guard my heart very closely. Nearly every sermon triggers my emotions with some phrase that represents the spiritual abuse I have encountered in my life.

To think that I fell into public prayer naturally and without fear surprised me. I was at church camp where my fear was being triggered all day and night, and yet I found public prayer comforting when it came from Tad.

Tad was not from my childhood denomination.

I began to see that, despite my best attempts not to, I was having difficulty separating my negative experiences in my denomination from that of Christianity as a whole. The anger and hurt I have had with my childhood denomination has spilled into every aspect of my current religious experience. I've sung the words, "I'm no longer a slave to fear," as I've felt the relief of currently not being a member of the church I attend with my family, but I have still been in bondage. Without feeling guilt, I took a moment to contemplate how my bad experiences were souring my Christian experience as a whole.

I thought about how I've seen others do the same and how I had judged them, wondering why they couldn't see it. Contemplating my own experience, I also realized that religion is complicated and that their experience might not actually be anything like mine...and I really had no business analyzing them, anyway.

I also reflected on some of the spiritual highlights of the week and realized that there is still some good here.

Do I still have issues with Christianity? Definitely. There is much I will still avoid. Do I still feel fear thinking about walking into church this Sunday, knowing that something will trigger my fear and anger? Absolutely. But my heart opened a bit more and I discovered once again that God's perfect love casts out fear... little bit by little bit.

Though my car keys were never found, I found a little bit more of God that day. I learned more about myself and took one more step toward healing from spiritual abuse. I was honest with myself without condemning myself, something that I was surprised to experience. I was at peace and I had less fear.

All in all, I suppose that's not such a bad trade for a set of keys.

One Month After My Defense of the Lone Ranger Christian

Well, I did it. I created a conversation. A lot of conversations, actually.

After posting In Defense of the Lone Ranger Christian on my personal Facebook profile, I had 15 private message conversations, 5 text conversations, a phone call, an unexpected letter in the actual mail, and a handful of other in-person interactions. There were 58 comments on my personal Facebook post, not counting my own, 3 comments on this blog, and there were over 730 page views (and still counting) on that specific post--a record number for my blog. That blog post didn't go viral in the internet sense, but its presence was felt in my circle.

Nearly all of my interactions were positive and supportive. Not everyone agreed, but they were respectful and kind. Some very loving. Only a few people were rude--tough love, I think it's called--but there is something that I think a lot of people missed:

I didn't leave church because I was hurt.

Did I get hurt? Yes. Shaming words hurt. But that hurt occurred in response to my leaving.

I could talk about why people are leaving the Church--about why it's not about music or immature conflict resolution skills; however, there are far better ones out there than I could write, at least at this stage in my life. My reasons are varied and personal, none of which have anything to do with personal conflict with church members.

Instead, let me clarify that the post was to point out the shaming that Lone Rangers receive when they decide to either leave a church or never join one, whatever their reasons may be, and to provoke church members to think about their assumptions.

***

Now, allow me to drop my defenses for a vulnerable second.

My husband pointed out that I "withdrew fellowship" from church before any church "withdrew fellowship" from me.

He's right.

I've been mulling it over and I guess everyone is hurt in the process of a church break-up. When you've been in, or associated with, a particular church since preschool, your church is your family. These were my people, my community, my tribe. They raised me. They were people who poured themselves into me as a child, teen, adult. They were my childhood friends. They were people I served and people I served alongside. They were friends who confided in me things I still hold in confidence. They were friends who know some of my worst moments, including puberty and the years I spent as a legalistic Christian.

And I left them.

In actuality, I left the doctrinal structure of the churches I grew up in, but it's sure hard--for everyone--to separate the structure from the people when doctrine mingles with a name and a shared history.

It's messy.

As we sift through the shattered glass of our broken church life, I challenge all of us, Lone Ranger and Church Member alike, to ask a question I asked some time ago in another blog post

What are they afraid of?

Church Member: It's frustrating to see all your efforts to love, preserve truth, and welcome others into a relationship with Jesus and the church being rejected, picked apart, and mocked by the same people you brought food to, cried with, and celebrated with. 

Lone Ranger: It's frustrating to have your decision to leave or never join church blamed on you having an issue with entitlement, a lack of morality, or shallow Christianity. It's hard to be condemned if you dare to be or believe something different, but condemned and dying inside if you don't.

While reasons and methods of hurt are innumerable, I think the number one motivator is fear. And if we can remember that everyone is afraid of something and reflect without unhealthy judgement what someone else's fears might be, perhaps we can get a little closer to having a love that casts out fear.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that those who have encountered spiritual abuse should go back and work it out Matthew18-style. 

I'm not suggesting that those of you who don't believe in church anymore should walk back in and go back to pretending that you do. 

I'm not even saying you should go to church, even on Christmas and Easter. 

But, Lone Ranger and Church Member, in an attempt to keep us from cementing the idea of "us" vs "them," maybe we can put ourselves in each other's shoes and see if we can imagine what fears may be motivating the other. 

The process is disarming and causes us to see that we are not really at war with each other, but at war with our born nature to demonize those who aren't like us and justify any means possible to preserve our own way of getting along in this world.

This last month has made me reflect on my internal conflict between protecting myself through isolation and wanting to be known and understood. I've learned what some of my triggers are and just how much church talk I can handle before I crack.  I've been validated, making me think that maybe I can let my guard down, and I've been harshly criticized, both directly and indirectly, making me think it's time to add a new layer of bricks--or maybe throw a few.

I've also been challenged to step back, chill out, and remember that the church member is still a person. And I think I may have challenged church members to do the same in regard to the Lone Rangers out there. 

I'm not saying that I've perfected the practice of reflecting on our shared humanity or that my protective default to categorize myself apart from "them" has disappeared. But, perhaps all of us can move beyond the death march of name-calling and labeling and, instead, nurture the new life born within us by remembering to ask a simple, yet compassion-provoking, question:

What are they afraid of?

And once you do, maybe you will finally be able to put to words what it is you're afraid of, as well.  




In Defense of the Lone Ranger Christian

I don't know about your church, but the ones I grew up in have an informal term to describe a Christian who doesn't attend weekly services: the Lone Ranger Christian.

The so-called Lone Ranger Christian is one who is a believer, but who navigates their spiritual journey without the accountability and community of other Christians. They believe in Jesus, follow Jesus' teachings, and don't feel the need to show up for church every Sunday...or ever.

I've grown up hearing a lot of Lone Ranger Christian-shaming. "Lone Ranger Christian" is used as a derogatory term and I've heard countless times the dangers of being one. You will backslide, they say (if you aren't judged as a backslider already). You will fall into a life of sin, they say. You will be empty and alone, not having a community of brothers and sisters to encourage you in times of trouble. I've even heard some say that there are no Lone Ranger Christians, implying that a Lone Ranger isn't even a Christian--or, at least, not a good one.

Ouch.

But I beg to differ.

I'm writing today as a recent, mutated form of a Lone Ranger Christian, meaning I attend church with my family where they are members, but I am not a member of the church we attend. In fact, for the first time since I was 7, I am not a member of any church. As my family transitioned out of a difficult church situation and into a new church in the same denomination, I decided to be free from it. I chose to go to church with my family, but technically and mentally left, even as I physically walk through its doors each week.

And the shaming has begun, as I have been told in a formal letter that the writer is praying that I will "...return to the service of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," and that the church has formally voted to "withdraw fellowship" from me. *

Ouch.

And we wonder why some people just want to be left alone.

I don't think there is any shame in being a Lone Ranger Christian. In fact, I think that, for some, it's vital. There was no shame for the Apostle Paul, a religious man above religious men who spent 3 years in the desert after his conversion, a Lone Ranger Christian, sorting out the scriptures and shaking the perverted religion from his head. Yes, he later joined and even started churches, but what would have been lost if the church in Damascus told him there was no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian?

Perhaps worse than shaming a Christian for not wanting to join a church is the shaming that occurs when Christianity takes on a sinister form and the preaching on the Lone Ranger Christian becomes a bully stick, pounding one back into submission. The church member has to choose to either die within its walls as a "good Christian" or make a run for it to the desert, a Lone Ranger.

To those who run to the heat of the barren desert because it is cooler than the politics of religion, I say there is no shame. I say, there is a wealth of truth and peace to be found there.

To those who run into the wilderness on broken legs and the sword of judgement still wet with their blood, I say there is no shame. I say, The Great Physician has an office there.

As I become more familiar with the wilderness, I'm finding that I'm actually not as much of a Lone Ranger as I thought I would be... or that I hoped I would be. 

When my heart walked out of church, I was angry with God. I was angry over the injustices and inconsistencies I saw in the Bible and angry on behalf of everyone who had been hurt by religion. I mourned the loss of my security in scripture and the Church and I shut God out before He could hurt me again. 

And then He spoke. To tell what He said would mean nothing to the reader, but it melted my defenses in a supernatural second and made me believe that maybe God wasn't what I thought He was. The God who was speaking to me now was not the God I had been talking to.  The one I was throwing punches at was formed by years of believing things I was afraid not to. Tearing myself away from the god of my own construction has been like tearing off pieces of my own flesh. I have nearly vomited from the pain. Literally.

Here in the wilderness, I am finding God. He is finding me. He is in the wilderness. He is in the desert. He meets with the church and the Lone Ranger, perhaps especially the broken-hearted Lone Ranger.

Dear Lone Ranger Christian, I have misunderstood you and have thrown stones at you. I am sorry. I applaud your courage and your willingness to be true to yourself. I am now sitting in my own bed of stones and I am coming to understand:

You can be a Lone Ranger and still be a Christian--even a good one.


(My thoughts one month later: One Month After My Defense of the Lone Ranger Christian.)



*In the spirit of fairness, when a church in this denomination says they "withdraw fellowship" from you, the wording can be misleading. In action, members still talk to you; friendships are not broken (though the very act does make things awkward); you can still show up to church, every Sunday, if you'd like, and attend church gatherings. But you are no longer considered a member and you are viewed as a sinner in need of repentance. It takes an apology to the church and a statement of your repentance toward God to be re-instated as a member. You're not shunned, but still...ouch.  As for why they have "withdrawn fellowship" from me, well...ironically, because I decided to be a Lone Ranger Christian. 


The Missing Costume (On Show Night)

Working with children is one of the most fulfilling things I have done in my life. To know that I have made a difference is something that cannot be measured in dollars and cents, nor can it be explained by letters on a computer screen. Suffice it to say that I've learned that love has no max capacity.

Or maybe I've just have the most special students in all the world, which is entirely possible. Just ask their parents!

I taught Music at a private, Christian school for 8 school years to K-8th graders. One part of my job was to direct the school's two musicals. It was a big production on a small budget. Depending on the year, there were roughly 80 kids on stage at once, close to 100 when preschool joined us for a song or two. The whole school sang in the choir and included drama and solo parts. In less than 3 months, somehow we manage to learn 6 or 7 songs and memorize parts for a 45 minute show. Three months may seem like a long time, but we only had Music class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My kids were amazing!!!

I can go on and on about my job and about my students. Really, I could, but we'll move on to the story.

Since we were on a small budget, when it came to costumes, we begged, borrowed, and... well, didn't steal, but we did our fair share of begging and borrowing! For our Christmas performance one year, there were 3 kids that played the roles of janitors. We managed to find 3 coveralls and, since they were borrowed, I didn't give them to the kids until the day before the show because I didn't want them to get lost. You know how it is: child puts costume in backpack, backpack goes home, backpack gets unloaded along with the newest glitter creation of the day, and somehow it ends up under the bed with stinky socks and all the healthy food that mom or dad packed for their lunch and told them they had to eat.

So, the day before the big night I handed out the coveralls. The next day one of the kids brought the coveralls back so he could practice with them. (He was very eager! He was also GREAT at his part! I could start bragging, but I'll spare you...for now.)

As most directors, I am a total stress case the day of the program. When the coveralls showed up at our last rehearsal and then got left behind, I knew that in my heightened state of freak-out I should be sure this costume gets put somewhere that it would not get lost.

So, I put it in a very...safe…place. (Cue foreboding music.)

The bit night approached, always ever-so-suddenly and, before I knew it, there I was, pacing the floor, waiting for kids to arrive and checking to see what I could have possibly missed. At 6:30pm the drama kids arrived. I made my rounds, making sure they got mics, props, and checked over their costumes to make sure everything was there. I got through all the kids, but at 6:40 I realized that I was missing one. Where is he???

As I headed toward the foyer of the building, I saw him.  He wasn't in costume. Yikes!

"Mrs. Mickel, Zach lost his costume."

Lost his costume?

In a stunned reply, I said to Zach, "I remember you brought it to school…"

"Yeah!"  Zach says.  "And I left it in the chapel."

Apparently, he thought he was supposed to leave it for me.

Ok.  At this point, I couldn't remember anything past seeing the costume in the chapel.  I didn't remember if I picked it up and ran it to Zach's classroom or that I put it in a "safe place." (Cue foreboding music again.)  I couldn't remember anything at all.  What I DID know is that if this was my fault, I was going to feel really..really...really bad!!!  This was Zach's first program with a speaking part.  Not just that, but he also had a little dance number.  Zach is a born entertainer and I had been looking forward to seeing him shine on that stage since he was in Kindergarten.  "I MUST FIND THAT COSTUME!" I said to myself, many times over.

I looked at the clock and saw that we had 20 minutes until show time.  Let's see...5 minutes home, 2 minutes of looking, 5 minutes back. "I can do this!" I thought.

And so, off I flew like a bat out of a Scooby-Doo episode.  I got home, tore out of my car, and began searching the house, the garage, the trunk of my car, the inside of the infamous Expedition...everywhere I could think of.  When I didn't see the costume, I begin to ransack my husband's wardrobe to find something Zach could wear.  I pulled out a flannel or two and headed out.

On my way back to the church I thought, "Hey!  I'll bet Zach took the costume back to class with him since I told him to make sure to not forget it at rehearsal today and then he must have forgotten to put it in his backpack.  Yeah!  That MUST be what happened!"

8 minutes until showtime. I calculated: 10 minutes to the school, 30 seconds of looking, 10 minutes back...I won't be TOO late.  Ok.  Let's do this!

So, off I flew like a mom running late, trying to get her kids to school on time. (Not that I know what that's like or anything…)  I unlocked the classroom door, searched wildly, and to my dismay, did not find the costume.

Office!  Maybe it's in the office!

I ran to the office, unlocked the door, tore inside, unlocked my office door, and began searching.  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  Under this thing?  Nope. In that corner? Nope.

I gave up.  I was late for the show, I had no costume and, as Survivor would say, the search was over.

On my way back to the church I was thinking, "Oh, please don't let this put Zach in a tailspin!  Please don't let it be so unnerving for him that it ruins his whole night.  Oh, please, please, please!"

Once I arrived, I threw the flannel over Zach's back while hurriedly explaining to a nervous 3rd grader that his costume is lost, he has to wear this.  While rolling up his sleeves, I assured him that he was going to do an amazing job, I had total confidence in him, and, "Wow! This new costume looks GREAT!"

On with the show!  I had the not-so-wonderful privilege of letting the audience know why we were starting 10 minutes late.  There was no sense in saying something like, "Due to technical difficulties..."  No, all that means is, "Hey!  I was running late." I had to tell the truth.  A costume is missing and I'm not sure why.

Talk about feeling humiliated!

Despite the late start and missing costume, the show went fabulous.  No one in the audience knew which costume was missing because the flannel I put Zach in looked perfect, perhaps even better.  He did a fantastic job and I was so proud of how he was able to be flexible with the costume and still come out shining on stage.  I love that kid!

Two weeks later I was cleaning up my office.  I lifted up a lost sweatshirt and...wait!  What's that?  No.  It can't be.  I looked under there!  I picked up this same sweatshirt and looked under there!

There it was.  The costume, finally out of hiding.  Oh, thank goodness because it was slightly begged for and definitely borrowed.

However, I had some explaining to do to some parents… (Cue foreboding music.) I am happy to report that they took it well.

Another parent captured the night. Here's a video with Zach. He's the one in the flannel and holding a broom.

http://youtu.be/qKJSZzJ9OvE

(Thank you, Zach's parents, for letting me post this story.  You have a great kid, there! And thank you, Zach, who is now old enough to either be embarrassed or entertained by the story, for letting me post this.)






The Expedition Comes Home

If you haven't read about how I had a collision with a car wash (The Crash and Drive-Through Car Wash), you must go there first!

I am known for my ability to get things done and get them done quickly.

Ok, that's a lie. It took months before I took the Expedition to get repaired. Taking care of anything besides poopy diapers, boo-boo's, and markers on the wall at that time required a lot of energy. Like, a lot. The mechanic looked it over and called me at home. I can't even tell you what all the repairs were that had to get done. Almost the entire right side of our car needed something. 

Much to my dismay, we had a $1000 deductible and, of course, the repairs cost much more than $1000.

But alas, the day came for me to pick up the Expedition and so Travis picked me up from home and together we went to the repair shop to pick up the car. We arrived, paid the thousand dollars, got the keys, and away we went, me in the Expedition and my husband in his truck.

Now, I am so incredibly nervous when Travis is watching me drive. I just know I'm going to do something, so when we arrived home without a hiccup, I was feeling pretty good. All that was left was the home stretch: backing into the driveway.

Due to the steepness of our driveway, we had to back in. Eh, that's easy. I'd done it a million times. I simply pulled over to the side and...

What was that sound? 

And why are my garbage cans moving?

Yup! I drove my car right alongside the garbage cans on the street. I'm thinking, "I wonder if Travis noticed?"

As I get out of the car, Travis approaches the vehicle and says, "Did you just hit the garbage cans?" I let out a small, "yes..." as Travis looked over the car. I'm thinking, "I didn't hit them that hard. Surely there is no damage." But no. There, right where all the repairs were just done from my unfortunate car wash incident, was a L-O-N-G scratch in the paint from one end of the Expedition to the other.

Travis didn't laugh about this, either.

The Crash and Drive-Through Car Wash

For the record, I was medicated.

I hate the car washes where you have to get your tire on their tiny, little track. Oh, the embarrassment I have suffered! It's horrible when you just can't get your tire on the track and a stranger behind you jumps out and asks if he can do it for you. (It's amazing how many strangers will offer to parallel park your car, too! Beautiful people.)  For a long time, I refused to use these types of car washes, but one day I thought to myself, "O.K. Rachael. You can't live your life in fear of the track forever. Just do it!" 

I had no idea what fear was yet!

I finished pumping my gas, got in the car, and with fear and much apprehension, approached "The Track."

I was pleasantly surprised when the tire landed on the track and I sat back and waited for it to send me through the car wash.

Nothing happened.

So I waited.

Nothing happened.

I figured that I did not successfully put my tire on the track and attempted it again.

I got the tire on the track, sat back, and...nothing happened.

My small kids and my niece were in the back telling me to turn around, but I had to forge ahead.

At this point, there were people in line behind me and there was no way I was going to get out of my car and ask them to back up so I could get out of the car wash. No, I had to make it through one way or another.

I tried yet again to get my tire on track and when I couldn't, I decided that I didn't need the track after all and I would just drive through myself. 

Wouldn't you?

And so I drove, being careful to go slowly just like I would on the track. The water sprayed, the bubbles appeared, and the shredded rubber came down, throwing itself back and forth onto my windshield. All was well, except for my children in the back who were literally screaming for me to get out of there. They were afraid of car washes and this certainly wasn't helping.

And then…I'm flinching as I type this…the side rollers approached. I never knew this before, but they are moved about by these huge- amazingly huge!--pieces of thick--amazingly thick!-- metal and if your car is in the wrong spot at the wrong time, well…read on. 

What I also didn't know at the time is that these amazingly thick pieces of metal actually move inward…at the right time...regardless of what place your car is in. With eyes wide and hands shaking, I watched the thick metal embrace and squeeze the right side of my car. 

Oh, the sound of your car being crushed is something one never forgets!

I was literally fearful of my children's lives, as I wasn't sure just how tight these pieces of metal would squeeze my car, so I stepped on the gas and steered left, knowing I had to get out of there quick!

I made it through--alive, hallelujah!--and got out of the car. It wasn't pretty. I was due to meet Travis at his office immediately following this crazy ordeal. His co-workers got a good laugh and Travis...well, let's just say he wasn't laughing.

Because Scary Works

I
I loved my Political Science class in college. There is a bit of an activist in me and I found the debate energizing. I loved getting riled up and setting out to prove someone wrong. Perhaps not the healthiest attitude and I'd like to think I've grown since then, but at my core is a passionate and opinionated woman who would like to set the world right again.

In college, my research included articles that were also passionate and opinionated and, of course, passionate and opinionated authors that thought like me. Today, I allow myself to be challenged by varying opinions and I allow myself to try on different filters to see if any nuggets of truth can be found after the rush of information passes through them. I am seeking truth.  

Something I've been trying to do lately is ask myself, is this fear-driven? Not ask if it's neutral or unbiased, but fear-driven. Whether it be an article, scripture interpretation, sermon, or the sounding board of Facebook, does the information incite fear? 

I took some screen shots of a few headlines:




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Where's my bomb shelter?! My country, no, the entire world is right now at war against me because I'm a Christian! Never mind the fact that I have non-Christian friends and family who would incur physical harm to save my life. The death penalty is returning, even though 32 states still have it, as well as the U.S. Government and U.S. Military. The USA is going to collapselike, SOON!..and what's more, the entire world is going to collapse--the Bible says so--and we better put a stop to it NOW! (Wait. The Bible says it's going to happen, so we should stop it? I'll let that rest for now.) And, as if that wasn't bad enough, I need to get my kids some camouflage and teach them how to handle a machine gun! Heck, I need to teach myself how to handle a machine gun! I'm in so much trouble!

We're all going to die because of the liberals!

We're all going to die because of the conservatives!

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I'll admit that the majority these headlines are one-sided. I literally spent hours trying to find articles on both sides, but the truth is that what struck fear in me is what I'm already afraid of. Having grown up on Apocalyptical teachings and being a moderate conservative, I'm susceptible to it. Not so much with liberal headlines. It doesn't scare me to think that the world will end without the Mark of the Beast or that we'll have a Republican in Congress. 

These headlines feed on my fears, not on my ability to discern truth. Fear is the cheap trick they use to lure me in and trap me into feelings of anger and distrust. They massage my emotions and stroke my vulnerability to keep me coming to any conclusion but their own. I'm positive that there are headlines that do the same for Bible-unbelievers and liberals.

In my search, I've found that truth does not lie in fear. Is there a nugget of truth in a fear-driven article? Yes, but often times it's so riddled with half-truths that it's harder to sort out the facts from the fears.

And what does this preying mentality do to mankind? We don't love each other; we fear each other. We don't respect each other because we don't trust each other. We give only a little bit of room for disagreement because, well, the fate of the world is at stake! 

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been made perfect in love." I John 4:18

If I am to find truth, I cannot look for it in fear. 

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head." Ephesians 4:15

If I am to find truth, I need to find it in the voices of love. The voices of love will not cause me to fear.

Fear is so powerful and prevalent that not only will there always be a ready supply of it in arguments, sermons, articles, etc., but we will always be susceptible to it. So then, how can we help to diminish our fear and disrespect for one another? How can we create in ourselves an attitude of humility and foster a means to strengthen our community?

Ask yourself, "What are they afraid of?" 

Perhaps the greatest tool we have at our disposal is empathy. It has the power to disarm and the potential to change the world, even amidst the uncertainty of it's future. It brings strength to our relationships, it brings healing, and it dares to forgive. 

If we can ask ourselves that one little question, "What are they afraid of?" we might find in ourselves the humility to approach the subject differently with a mind bent on understanding, a heart moved to advance humanity, and the maturity to figure out what is true.