The Fretnotters’ Club by Beth Smith*

 

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Are you a worrywart? Worrying is something most of us do even if we don’t want to do it. Barbara Johnson once wrote that, “Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.”[1] We’re not meant to go through life like that. There’s a better way.

Today I’m inviting you to join my club, The Fretnotters Club. It’s based on Psalm 37:1, “Do not fret because of those who are evil.” There’s no monetary investment required, but there are a few rules. (You knew that was coming.) I’ll summarize them, but the complete list of rules and bylaws is found in Psalm 37. That chapter doesn’t just tell us to stop fretting. It also tells us how to stop that nasty habit, and what will happen when we do.

Rules for Fretnotters:

  • Rule One: “Trust in the Lord (lean on Him; rely on Him) and do good” (Psalm 37:3 AMP).
  • Rule Two:Take delight in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4).
  • Rule Three: “Commit your ways to the Lord. Roll over and rest each care of your load on Him and be confident in him” (Psalm 37:5 AMP).
  • Rule Four: “Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon him” (Psalm 37:7 AMP).
  • Rule Five: “Refrain from anger. Turn from wrath. Don’t envy” (Psalm 37:8-9 author’s paraphrase.

Now about that last rule, sometimes we think, “Well, I’m not an angry person. There’s no wrath in me.” Ahh, but do we experience road rage? Can we read the newspaper without having our blood pressure rise? How many times do we raise our voices to loved ones or grit our teeth to keep from yelling? Maybe we all have a little more anger in us than we’d like to admit.

In verses 23-40, God lovingly the benefits he bestows on those who trust and obey him, on Fretnotters. It’s a great list. He will delight in us, make our steps firm, and direct our paths. When we stumble, we won’t fall because he’ll hold us up. (This is a very important promise, because we will stumble as we attempt to obey these club rules.) God says he won’t forsake us, and he’ll protect us. Instead of requiring a pledge from us, God makes one to us in the last two verses of Psalm 37. I’ve changed pronouns, but not the meaning. Here’s God’s pledge to Fretnotters. Imagine him saying this to you.

The salvation of the godly comes from me, your Lord. I am your stronghold in times of trouble. I help you and I deliver you and save you, because you take refuge in me.”

Because we are in his care, we need not worry or fret, ever. Go on – enjoy God. Become a full time member of the Fretnotters’ Club.

*This is an abridged excerpt from Every Wednesday Morning, written by my mom, Beth Smith. If you want to read all 64 devotional essays in their full length form, you can grab a copy of her book at Etsy.com.

 

 

 

[1] Johnson, Barbara. Splashes of Joy. New York: Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 332.

Fight Fear by Beth Smith

coat-of-arms-1762562_1280-swordsWe all have fears, but it’s easy to think, “Our fears are rational. Theirs, the fears we see in other people’s lives, just come from a lack of faith.” That isn’t right. We should never make light of others’ fears, for we haven’t lived their lives – haven’t experienced their sufferings or traumas.

I’ve experienced God’s love and faithfulness many times, and I’ve surrendered many fears to Him. I have one, though, that I give to him and take back over and over again. I am afraid in fast, heavy traffic. I struggle with an irrational, gut fear that we’re going to be in a wreck. You may be thinking, “How childish! How very unspiritual of her! Why doesn’t she just trust God?” Believe me, I’m working on it.

May I give you the background of this fear? The night before my eleventh birthday, my beautiful sixteen-year-old sister was killed in a horrible automobile accident. Five of the seven people in the car died instantly. Tragic. But people recover emotionally from much worse, and I recovered from the loss of my sister. My parents, however, kept pictures—8 x 10 inch black and white glossies—of the mangled car in which my sister died. They kept them in our family photo album. I saw that wrecked car thousands of times.

Have I evoked your sympathies? Are you thinking, “Well, then, that’s okay? She has reason to be afraid.” If so, stop it. Don’t sympathize with me. Help me to change with your reminders from God’s Word. We don’t have to be fearful, no matter what our flesh, the devil, or our experiences tell us. We don’t have to panic in the face of our fears. We have God’s power. We can fight fear with faith.

We can push aside the mental pictures, the thoughts, the dread, and the ugly fear.

  • “God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity or cowardice, of craven and cringing fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a calm and well balanced mind and discipline and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7 AMP).
  • In God have I put my trust and confident reliance; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:11 AMP).
  • You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship whereby we cry ‘Abba Father’” (Romans 8:15).

We don’t have to be slaves to our fears. I heard a Bible teacher on television say that fear is an acrostic for “False evidence appearing real.” Isn’t that very often the case with our fears? We have God as our Father. We can run from the fears into his loving arms, where we will find peace and hope.

The Rubber Met the Road

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On Wednesday, July 27th, the rubber met the road. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I read, write, and study the topic of trust.

  • Don’t worry, be happy.
  • Trust and obey.

Those lines are pretty easily said and done when life is rocking along. But what about when life is simply rocked? Stephen Covey is famous for saying, “Begin with the end in mind.” So here’s the end of my story: God is faithful. Everything I’ve read and written about trusting him in the dark times is true. Here, though, is the rest of my story.

First of all (pardon the nitty  gritty of this) I want you to know my symptoms. No, make that symptom—singular, and subtle. I had bit of spotting so faint I almost could have missed it, and certainly could have talked myself out of paying any attention to it. No pain. No abnormal pap smears. Just a bit of a blush when there should have been none. Steve and I were cleaning out bookshelves, and I “happened to” scan one that didn’t make the cut, just one final look before I threw it away. Here’s what the book said. Please make a mental note of this and tell every woman that you know: A woman with any abnormal bleeding should see a doctor. And so I did. (And I promise, that’s the last descriptive medical detailing you will read here.)

I started that Wednesday in in solitude, drinking Earl Grey with honey and randomly chose to read Psalms 116-118. I hope you’ll take time to read those chapters today. The passage I read included these verses:

  • “Truly I am your servant, Lord. I serve you just as my mother did, you have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:17).
  • “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17).

I’d never noticed that “mom” part before. In fact, it struck me as a little odd. I didn’t realize God was preparing me for the hours to come. Here’s what you should know about my mom. About 30 years ago, she had the same surgery I ended up having. A teacher, a speaker, and a writer, she is nearly 80 now and continues to be an ace at proclaiming what the Lord has done. Two hours after my Bible reading, the phone rang. Endometrial cancer, stage unknown. I’d need to have a hysterectomy before further treatment could be determined. I scribbled notes, trying not to pass out, hoping to get all the information straight. Then came one of the hardest moments of this journey.

I had to tell Steve that my biopsy showed cancer, but here’s another of what became a stream of blessings. He was home when that call came through. No waiting. No deciding whether or not to tell him the news over the phone. He was, my journal of that day says, “just as I needed him to be.” He held me, prayed with me, and helped me rewrite my scattered call notes so that I’d be able to keep all the doctor’s information straight. It “just so happened” (are you seeing a pattern here?) that all four of our kids would be visiting within a couple of hours. We were thankful for the opportunity to talk to them in person, even though it was hard to see those red-rimmed eyes.

Now you’ve heard the beginning and gotten a glimpse of the end. For the next four blogs, I want to talk about the middle, to “proclaim what the Lord has done,” to describe the creative ways God took care of me, encouraged me, and showed himself faithful. It will be far more uplifting than this introduction has been. I hope you will stick with me for the next several weeks, and that you’ll share my story with as many people as possible, because it’s always good to brag on the goodness of God.

The Thunder’s Still There

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Thunderstorms are fairly common in Houston. In fact, we’ve had some real “doozies” in my years here. This past Sunday, I was visiting a church where the pastor asked all the children to join him on the steps leading up to the pulpit. He sat down in the middle of them and asked this question:

“Where do you go when thunder comes in the middle of the night?”

Of course, they all said the same thing. They run to their parents’ room. I had visions of that scene in Sound of Music where half a dozen Von Trapps came running into Maria’s room, the girls unabashedly diving for her bed, the boys proudly declaring that they were simply there to make sure the new governess was safe and sound. Here’s what the pastor said, though.

“When you get to your parents’ room, the thunder’s still there. It’s the presence of your parents that makes you feel safe.”

As you’ve already guessed, he went on to talk about our ever-present God. When thunderstorms break into our lives, we can always run to him. The thunder is still there, but we are safe with him. Later in the service, we sang an old hymn that beautifully reminds us of our Lord’s protection. I’d like to share it with you here.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms;

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.[i]

Perhaps the author was thinking of Psalm 91 as he wrote those words. (This is a shortened version of that powerful passage, but I hope you’ll take time to read the whole chapter today.)

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”… You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday…For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone… He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble,

The passage does not say we will never have trouble. It says our Lord will be with us in trouble. The thunder is still there, but we can find rest instead of fear when we run to our Heavenly Dad.

[i] “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” Elisha A. Hoffman, 1887.

 

Would It Help? In the Words of a Spy…

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Spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen Bridge of Spies yet, you might pass on reading this blog. I won’t be giving away the whole plot, but there will be more information here than you might want to have before you enter the theater.

In Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks is tasked with the defense of a Russian spy. (Okay, he isn’t actually Russian, but that’s not important here.) As the plot thickens, their lives are in danger, and every possible outcome looks dire. At least three times during the movie, though, Tom comments on the pervasive calm of the alleged spy. “You don’t seem worried.” “Are you ever worried?”

On each occasion, the response is the same, “Would it help?”

Would it help? Would worry ever help? Today I came across this verse yet again. “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27). In other words, when you worry, does it help? Of course, the answer is, “No, not a bit.” Worry wouldn’t have helped that spy, and worry never helps us. I even waste time worrying about whether or not I’ve made the right decision after the decision in question is in the past and irrevocable. How foolish that is!

So today I’m going to stop writing entirely and point you to Matthew 6:15-34, a portion of what we’ve come to call The Sermon on the Mount. It comes just a few verses down from The Lord’s Prayer. I’ve quoted it before, but it bears repeating over and over again. In order to encourage you to read the passage twice, I’ve provided it in two versions, first the NIV and then the Amplified Bible. Enjoy, and may you be free of worry today!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

“Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow [seed] nor reap [the harvest] nor gather [the crops] into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying can add one hour to [the length of] his life? And why are you worried about clothes? See how the lilies and wildflowers of the field grow; they do not labor nor do they spin [wool to make clothing], yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory and splendor dressed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive and green today and tomorrow is [cut and] thrown [as fuel] into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Happy Birthday, Catherine Marshall

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Catherine Marshall would have celebrated her 101st birthday last Saturday. Her wonderful books include A Man Called Peter, Beyond Ourselves, Christy and The Helper. A skinny little volume called Adventures in Prayer is my favorite. My copy is old and faded now, and the cover is long gone. Still, I learn something new every time I peruse its pages. I am often drawn to the chapter entitled, “The Prayer of Relinquishment.”

Catherine learned about the prayer of relinquishment while she was stuck in bed for six months with a lung infection. After countless petitions for renewed health, she prayed, “I’m beaten God. You decide what you want for me.” And she began to recover.

Years ago, I had to relinquish my son. During a routine check-up, the nurse put cold goop on my belly and slid a microphone around. Then she stopped talking and excused herself from the room. My doctor was out of town, but her partner came in, slid the microphone around again, and told me something was wrong with my baby’s heart. A specialist confirmed the bad news. I could even see the irregularity of my son’s heartbeats on the ultrasound. There was nothing we could do. No medicine I could take would fix the problem, and it was far too early to give birth.

Plans were made. When Tony was born, a team of specialists would be waiting to whisk him off to the neonatal intensive care unit. No one knew what would happen after that. All we could do was wait. And pray. And pray we did, enlisting the support of friends and family.

I had to say, “Whatever, Lord, your will be done.” It wasn’t the first time in my life that I’d prayed that prayer, but it had never been so difficult before. I wasn’t giving up. I didn’t stop caring. I still desperately wanted my son to be healthy, but I opened my hands and my heart to accept whatever my loving Father handed me. Relinquishment means saying to God, “Anything you decide will be all right with me, because I trust you.”

Catherine said, “Fear is like a screen erected between us and God.” When we face the hardest things in life with the confidence that God and his power are real, then fear fades. And my fear did fade.

I went back to the doctor. This time, my regular obstetrician was back in town. She did another ultrasound and said, “OK, it all looks good. ‘See you next time.”

I caught my breath and answered, “Uh, wait a minute. What about the heart problem?” It was a busy day, and the doctor hadn’t studied my chart before coming in. Her next words stunned me.

“What heart problems?” His heart was normal. The problems never showed up again.

God is enough. He is always enough. Even when he doesn’t give us what we ask, we can trust him to lead us through the darkest times.

Catherine once said, “God, who is the Author of creativity, is ready to make a dull life adventuresome the moment we allow him to go to work inside us.” May your adventure begin anew today!

This blog is adapted from the original story, “Thank You, Catherine Marshall,” which originally appeared in Plus magazine, and is used with permission from Guideposts. Copyright (c) 2014 by Guideposts. All rights reserved.