Fear Factor

Have you ever been afraid? Sure, I think just about everyone can relate to that gut-wrenching feeling of fear. The panicked, flight or fight response when your body tenses up or goes into complete meltdown because of some deep seated fear of dying, or falling off a cliff, or your youngest going off to kindergarten, or being poisoned by some foul toad bewitched by an unlikely fairy godmother. Well. You get my point. Big fears are easy to pinpoint and easy to explain away.

Yet, what about the little fears? The nagging, “uncomfortable” feelings that are not rational fears, but take hold of you nonetheless? Do we talk about those fears? Do we even call them fears? “Anxieties” perhaps? Unease. Apprehension. Worry. Perhaps this worldwide pandemic has heightened those unforeseen thoughts for you as it has for me. Do I send my kid to school this fall? Do I ride public transit ever again? Why am I finding it so nerve-wracking to be driving on a four lane highway again after so many months of going nowhere? Will I ever fit into real pants again?

I must tell you a little story about my weekend in order to assist you in following my web of convoluted thoughts about fear, and consequently, my muse this week. We spent the weekend up at the trailer, near the lake and welcoming the final weeks of Canadian summer (albeit a strange one à la Covid-19). My beloved convinced me it was a perfect opportunity to spend a little time canoeing with him. Now, I like canoeing. I used to canoe often. I’ve even canoed with my husband. I’m not a white-water portage expedition canoer, but I can paddle. Yep, I can even steer the motorless boat! Still, the initial reaction to the invitation was fear. I have not been in a dugout piece of floating wood in a very long time. Years. I’m a little curvier now. And less agile. And a whole lot “awkwarder” in a wobbly floatation device than I used to be.

Our old canoe was light, and very tippy, and sank to about an inch off the water’s surface. But, our new-to-us boat is wider and sturdier and “will certainly hold you” assures my beloved. I agree to a short paddle. Then fear. True, my fear was irrational. There was no reason for it. No clear explanation of why my brain went to where it went. I had a lifejacket. I can swim and paddle and have a partner with me. We were barely going offshore. Yet, there it crept: the nagging trepidation of the what if’s.

As I thought about those feelings and how irrational they were (we had a delightful time on the water by the way!) I was reminded of 2 Timothy 1:7. The Amplified version expands it out nicely:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 AMPC

Why do we get so caught up in our petty thoughts when the God of the Universe has given us a spirit of power and a mind that is in control? Do we let Satan weasel his way into our thoughts and twist them into self doubts, creeping anxieties and irrational fears? How much more does God want me to share my faith? Surely more than He wants me to try paddling a canoe after so many years. And yet, so many of us have an underlying fear factor there, too. Why do we find it so hard to share our faith? God is bigger than those fears! He gives us the power and the confidence and an extra dose of love to push us along the way. Like the gentle wake of our canoe, may you be encouraged by the wave of power that is God promised, and may calmness and self-control be your guides this week as you paddle through your faith journey, one small fear at a time!

The Call of the Crows

CalloftheCrows1I’m writing this post under the tranquil setting of the tall oaks… okay it’s not true.  Unfortunately, the internet is not reliable here, and although I thought of playing it old school and using pen and paper and transferring it later… I am just too lazy for that.  (Funny how attached to our technology we are now, eh?)   So.  I am writing contemplating this post under the tranquil setting of the tall oaks near our summer home.  The olive leaves sway gently in the breeze, a mix of mature and mighty oaks and a few spindly little ash trees.  The ash borer beetle destroyed a lot of them a few years back.  It’s so pleasant here.  In the spring, the leaves are sparser and you can almost say we have a lakefront view.  The lake is there, the forest just blocks it most of the time.  Occasionally, if you are really patient, a chipmunk or squirrel will dart through, inquisitively eyeing you, hoping you have a treat or dropped one nearby.  The other night the foxes crept near,  sheltered by the dark brush, but close enough to let us know they are becoming less afraid of us humans.

It’s cooler here than over in the field where the sun beats down all summer.  It has its disadvantages though — nothing ever dries, and the dark, damp ground attracts mosquitoes.  We don’t picnic outside too often, here in the bush.  But it’s a great place to read — or contemplate blog posts.  We rarely have to cut the grass.  Nothing grows much, except the weeds that seem to tolerate the acidic soil.  It’s tranquil, but it is definitely not quiet.CalloftheCrows2

I live in the city, so you think I would be used to the noise.  However, up here it is nonstop.  We love how a good thunderstorm sounds on the roof of the trailer.  During the day you can hear the people playing and enjoying their vacations, or a boat out on the lake beyond the trees.  On Mondays, the garbage truck comes by and you can hear the bins clanging.  Cars make a distinct grinding noise as they go slowly down towards the private cottages along the gravel roads.  The squirrels and chipmunks climb high into the oaks and get at the acorns.  Every so often they drop one, and if it happens to drop on our porch roof it bangs with such a thud, you’d think there has been a shot fired!  Seriously — it’s loud.  When you get used to it, you wait for the ping ping ping as the nut rolls down the incline and off the roof.   Single handedly, the most annoying noise in the woods, however, is the crows.CalloftheCrows3

I say they are crows, but they might be ravens.  They’re big, but ravens are bigger, though, I think.  So let’s say they are crows.  You don’t see them often, their black, sleek bodies with just a hint of iridescent green, blend in to the dense foliage in the treetops.  Sometimes you can hear them fly in — the flapping of their huge wings like some horror movie from the sixties.  It’s their calling that is so obnoxious, though.  Kinda like a cross between a duck quack and dog bark.  Loud and harsh.  It doesn’t seem to hold any meaning either… perhaps they answer one another.  Perhaps they just like to be heard.  Like a two year old and a new, flashy, electronic toy that is stuck on repeat… caw, caw, caw… Either way, the sound is creepy.  During the day, they are there, but the other noises drown them out, and it is easier to ignore them.  It’s in the wee hours of the morning when they become most hideous.  The sun is barely up and the calling begins… like some sick rooster announcing the dawn.   No pretty songbird chirp, just caw, caw.  How come the falling squirrel acorns don’t hit them on the way down and knock ’em out?  Sheesh!

And yet, as I sit here in contemplation, I can’t help but compare the crows to the doubts, fears and insecurities in our lives.  Big, black, and often overshadowing the pretty songs of our other qualities, our doubts creep in and disrupt all our other solitudes.  “Am I good enough?” “Why does this always happen to me?” “Will we make it to the next paycheck?” “What about the kids?”  I don’t know what your doubt is, my friend, but I know that we all have those nagging worries somewhere down in our souls.  We can ignore them most of the time — when the other noisy distractions can push them aside.  They hide in the treetops until, sometimes, in the wee hours, when no one else is around to displace them, they come calling again.  Loud and harsh.  Caw, caw, caw.Callof theCrows4

I want to end this post on a positive note, but the crows will always be there in the treetops… and the doubts and fears will always be there, too.  Sometimes they fly away and the calling stops, but then a new set of crows show up and the noise begins again, in a different tune and tone.  Take comfort, then, that God is the orchestrator of the forest, the one who created the “call of the crows”.  I don’t understand why all the noise, to me it is just harsh and annoying — but He has some purpose in the call.  It’s up to us to give it over to Him, and let Him use those needling noises, the ones all unrelenting and severe in our ears, to blend them in to the swaying melody of the mighty oak forest, in a concert worthy of the master conductor.