Creator of Nobel Peace Prize First Accused of Being ‘Merchant of Death’

It’s true. Alfred Nobel, the creator of the Nobel Peace Prize was once called the ‘Merchant of Death’. 

That doesn’t sound right, huh? 

It’s quite an interesting story that I ran across earlier this week while preparing a talk for my friends at Quad City Christian School. 

Before he was ever the creator of the Nobel Peace Prize, Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist and inventor, holding 355 patents. Most widely known, is his invention of dynamite. 

The story goes that Alfred’s brother, Ludvig had died. A few weeks later, while visiting France, Alfred opened up the newspaper and found his OWN obituary printed as a mistake—not his brother Ludvig’s. Intrigued by what might be said regarding his own life, Alfred read:

Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”) and went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”

Alfred was horrified that the way he would be remembered is as a “merchant of death”. He devised a plan to remedy this—Alfred took 94% (at the time, this was a little over 3 million Swedish Kronor!) of his wealth and created a fund that would annually award those who helped create or keep peace-without regard to nationality. 

Alfred is reputed to have said, “If only every person had the chance to change their obituary in the middle of their life!”

As I learned of Alfred’s story, his labeling as the ‘merchant of death’ and his subsequent action to, as he put it, “change his obituary” it got me to thinking about what my obituary might say were it to be printed pre-mortem. 

I think we all believe that when we die, someone will miss us. Hopefully a handful of someones! They’ll place us on a pedestal, they’ll only remember the good, the times we shone, the highlights. 

Honestly though, the reality is that I have my moments. I can be quite annoying at times. Forgetful. Too busy. Too guarded. Too self-focused. I miss my exit too often, not knowing when to stop. The gift that gives me a quick-wit also gives me a swift and sarcastic tongue that bites. I may not have invented dynamite, but I know that I have killed a few people’s spirits throughout my time on this earth. (On the plus side, I have learned how to apologize really well!) 

What might I need to change in order to leave a better legacy? 

If the entirety of my life will be boiled down to one sentence, amongst my friends and colleagues, etched on my tombstone in the cemetery where I’m buried, what would I want that one sentence to be?

I am unable to put together that one sentence at this moment. However, it has got me thinking of what direction I’d like to head. Afterall, Alfred Nobel’s life has taught me that it’s never too late to change your obituary while you’re still living! 

A Tale of Two Pastors: How One Pastor Blessed Me and Another Told Me to Go Home

This past Sunday, I attended the ordination ceremony for my friend, Tyler. It was a beautiful service that was holy and reverent and so uniquely tailored to who Tyler is as a person and as a minister. This was first time to attend an ordination ceremony of any type, despite being a follower of Jesus for over 20 years and serving in full-time ministry for eight years. Every denomination has its own rituals and in this particular event, there was much symbolism that I was unfamiliar with as a part of my own faith journey. The ministers wore robes, and each had a personal stole around their neck, candles were ceremonially lit and there was a procession of ordained clergy before the program began. The sanctuary was ornate, complete with an organ and a split chancel pulpit ( ß don’t let my confidence here fool you, a friend told me that was what it’s called.) The woodwork was ornate and dark brown in color, matching the wooden pews with velvet red cushions on which the audience was seated. My regular church experience feels nothing like what I was a part of at that moment. 

On any given Sunday you can find me wearing jeans with holes in the knees and a t-shirt, shying away from the moment when someone accidentally calls me “Pastor” Taryn, all while enjoying a full band worship experience in your individual green padded chair. Being a pastor, I don’t really get the opportunity to experience other church experiences or denominations on Sunday mornings. So on this particular afternoon, my mind and spiritual eyes were attentive to all our differences united under our common faith in the one true God. 

The Reverend Carey brought a message from 2 Timothy while giving a blessing and imparting wisdom that can only be found in having walked the ministry life journey. In the passage, Paul is writing to his student and spiritual son, Timothy. Timothy for all intents and purposes is now ministering in his own right and like anyone who has been in ministry longer than 3 days can tell you, situations and people can make the calling pretty tough at times. Paul is writing to encourage and remind Timothy of this calling and he makes an analogy of the work of a pastor being similar to the work of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer all wrapped up in one. It was during this message that I heard something I’ve never heard before.

The Reverend Carey, while expounding on the passage, referred to a pastor as a “she”. Regularly using both male and female pronouns for his analogies of ordained clergy throughout his message, Reverend Carey, included people like me: the female clergy. It was such a new thing to hear that it stood out like a sore thumb—but a sore thumb you want to brag about. At first, I thought I had zoned out. I thought, maybe I missed the context while I was taking in the sights around me. I went home and found the service online, listening again to make sure I had heard it correctly. I had heard it correctly. It was the first time, I’ve ever heard any person, male or female, refer to a pastor in a message as a “she”. 

On that very same evening, with my brain still tingling with the new experience I’ve had, (yes, my brain tingles…it’s hard to describe so you’ll just have to trust me) a friend posted a video clip of well-known pastor John MacArthur celebrating his 50th year of ministry and preaching. For some reason….I’m not sure who thought this would be a good idea….the moderator of this particular session introduced a word-association game. As he snickers, the first “word” he says is Beth Moore. John MacArthur immediately says, “Go Home”, resulting in laughter from the majority of the audience. 

Ahhh, yes. This feels more familiar than what I had experienced just a few hours before. 

Honestly, at that moment I thought to myself, “surely, this is an old clip.” And I went to the source to find the date. Nope, it was from this week. All the hope and the joy I had felt from Reverend Carey’s message became lost and jumbled up in the midst of MacArthur’s two-word admonishing reply. 

I thought about Beth Moore, wondering how she would choose to respond (because as a woman you HAVE to respond…but carefully….because too strong will come off as too emotional and not strong enough will come across as too-soft with a slight hint of door-mat, both of which will allow others to disrespect or deny you future ministry opportunities). 

I thought about my own calling. I haven’t had any one directly tell me to go home, but after interviewing multiple times, feeling called to a new context and hoping for the final vote, I’ve been told, “we really like you. We are all on the same page. But the church and some of the leadership just isn’t ready for a woman pastor right now.”  (Okay. I feel like I was upfront from the get-go about being a woman this whole time.) 

When putting together a message to share with the congregation, the male-pastor who has closed the service with a prayer has thanked me “for sharing a few scriptures.” (Ummm, I didn’t just read some Scriptures there, buddy! I put my heart and soul into that sermon.)

Well-meaning hearts have relayed to me, “you know, I voted no for you because you are a woman and I didn’t really believe that women could be ministers, but now that you’re here, I just want to tell you that I like you.” (Ummm, thanks?)

I am new to this world of standing for women’s equality in the calling of Christ. I think it’s safe to say I’m a recovering complementarian. For the past several years, God has been enlightening me on my journey, changing my theology and the way I understand long taught Scriptures in a new way. 

While I’m NOT here to vilify Pastor MacArthur, I wonder about how he could’ve responded in a way that was more Christ-like. Outside of choosing not to play a dangerous game of “word association” (which if we are honest was simply a platform for this sort of thing to happen), there were certainly better responses available. 

  • For most of us, our theology doesn’t sway in the wind, nor is it changed based on our feelings. Most of us, take time and give serious educational effort to understanding God’s word and standing firm upon that which we feel God is calling us. 

–There were hundreds of other responses MacArthur could have responded with outside of “Go Home” that would’ve allowed him to maintain his theological beliefs without being disrespectful, divisive, rude and unkind. Answering with “servant of God”, “faithful”, “passionate”, or “a godly woman” all would have been true without having to bend on what he felt was his theological position.

–In the Gospel of Luke, John the disciple says to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” And Jesus replies, “Don’t stop him….for whoever is not against us is for us. And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ—truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward.” 

–Jesus is saying, “hey, we’re all on the same team here.” And I believe that Jesus would challenge all of us to see who is working in His name and to bless them in their ministry, rather than tearing them down.

  • Regardless of where we fall on the theological spectrum, we are called to be Christlike in our behavior and our treatment of others regardless of where THEY fall in their theology. 

–Christ reminded us multiple times in the Gospels that the words from our mouth actually pour out of our heart. What’s on the outside reflects the measure of health of our insides.

–We must remember this as we encounter different experiences and expressions of faith. 

  • As we continue to behave with Christlikeness, we see in Jesus a model for how to respond to women…. we invite them along in God’s work, we see their gifts, we acknowledge their calling, we train them, we educate them, we pave the way for them, we bless them.

I’d Rather Not Remember

If you are over the age of 22 or 23, today is the day you tell your story of “where you were”. Its hard to believe its been 18 years since I was pulling into the parking lot of Blackman High School for another day of my junior year in high-school. We were listening to the radio and the short news break in between songs said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. I remember my mom gasping, “oh my God!” when she heard the news. “How in the world does a plane hit that big of a tower?” I shrugged my shoulders, more willing to assume that it hadn’t been intentional, “Maybe they got off course or just had an accident?” She quickly replied, “There’s no way you can accidentally hit the World Trade Center. Its huge.” She rounded the corner to drop me off and I got out of the car like every other day, “love you Mom.”, closed the door and walked into school.

It wasn’t until the end of our first period of class that we understood what was happening that day was an act of terrorism. In a world with no cell-phones and no text-messages, we were glued to the TVs and live coverage. In our second period, we saw the buildings collapse. By the third period, we were braced for where the next point of impact was going to land. 

I remember walking the halls from class to class that day, so silent and somber. In a school of about 2000 students, to have the hallways be absent and void of the usual chatter, jovial greetings, and even occasional fist-fight was striking. The silence of the day felt so loud. As 15, 16, and 17 year olds, we looked to our teachers for cues on how to properly respond to the events that were literally changing history right before our eyes. I remember at the close of the day, our principal Gary Nixon coming on the speaker to tell all of us, “what has happened today is a moment of history. It is scary. It has brought out fear and sadness. Take notice of yourself and those around you. Take today and be with your friends, family and loved ones. And, overall, we will rise out of this and we are going to be okay.” 

Soon after the day was over, cries of We Will Never Forget sprang up alongside American flags all over the nation. It was the most patriotic I’ve ever felt in my life. United over tragedy and grief, it felt GOOD to be an American. I swore to not forget this day nor its impact on me.

Eighteen years later, I’d rather not remember the events of that day. All this time has gone by and it seems impossible somehow that 9/11 wasn’t just a few years ago, that it was actually almost two decades ago; that anyone who is a senior in high-school has no personal memory or attachment to the day. If I’m perfectly honest, their naivety and blissful unawareness seems like a gift. I’d rather not remember the day that we helplessly watched-live on TV-planes filled with people, REAL people, have their lives stolen from them. I’d rather not remember watching the buildings fall, the people run, and the screams and cries of the victims on the ground. 

But I must. I must remember. I must force myself to watch the videos that make me uncomfortable. Avoiding it won’t make it never have happened—it will make me not care that it really did happen. Not caring that it happened is the equivalent of saying that 3000 people’s lives were stolen for no reason and were insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It is the very opposite of what I swore—to never forget. 

So, I watched the 4 minute montage today—I heard the recordings of the confusion in the air-towers; the last “I love you’s” being left on answering machines; the panicked 911 calls; the screams from the ground; the moments when those who were helping realized there was nothing more they could do to help. And I felt the pain all over again, just like I was a 16- year-old walking into another day of high-school. Because I swore I’d never forget—and keeping that promise means forcing myself to remember.

Other Ways To Remember Well:

  • Reading out loud the names of those who lost their lives
  • Observing a moment of silence in remembrance
  • Praying for the families/friends of those who lost their lives
  • Taking a meal or a sweet treat to your local firehouse, police station, or hospital emergency room
  • Sharing our stories with children who were not alive at the time
  • Visiting one of the memorial sites in Washington DC; New York or Pennsylvania—they are breathtaking and reverent
  • Making a donation toward the continuing health and treatment funds for those impacted by being a first responder or immediately on site
  • Inviting a neighbor over for dinner; intentionally building relationships with those around us—today more than ever, we need community in all new ways

The Big Leap

My therapist looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Taryn, I think this is gonna be the absolute best thing for you.” I couldn’t contain my tears as I thought about everything that this decision entailed. She continued, “I think you’re going to love Iowa.” 

I couldn’t even think about loving Iowa. I was still too numb from the hurt and betrayal that had come just two months prior. How had my life taken a path that was leading me away from everything and everyone I had ever known? Away from anything familiar. Away from my whole life. How in the world was I going to “love” a place that wasn’t Nashville, TN?

I remember going home that afternoon and continuing to pack up my things. I had moved twice before but those times had felt more like a choice. Each time had come with excited anticipation about a new beginning. This time was different–it felt like a “have-to”. The presence of deep grief and loss overshadowed any excitement possible. I called my mentor that afternoon and asked, “Do you think moving to Iowa is just me running away from my problems?” Without hesitation she answered me, “Taryn, I don’t think you’ve ever run from any problem in your entire life!” Despite her reassurances, I felt like Daniel (from the Bible) must have felt when he was thrown in that lion’s den….before God showed up; before God rescued him from certain death.

Have you been there my friend? Have your dreams and plans fallen and shattered all around you? Where you once felt control over your future, you now feel like a pawn being aimlessly moved around a chess board by someone else’s hand? After experiencing this myself I can assure you of one thing:

IT’S GONNA GET BETTER!

This week, I celebrate my two year anniversary of calling Iowa home. My therapist? She was right. Moving to Iowa WAS the best thing for me. And I do love it! I mistakenly thought that I had to completely heal first before I should make a move (both career wise and on the home-front). “God’s going to use this move to continue your healing,” were wise words from my mentor. I couldn’t see it at the time. I was going through the motions, I was doing the next best thing, I was making decisions based on logic rather than emotion and I was scared to death of it all. I tend to be an all or nothing kind of thinker—since I wasn’t all healed up, I wouldn’t (and shouldn’t!) have a position in ministry. 

(Sometimes) God doesn’t need you to be all healed up before moving your influence or using you for a new task. Sometimes the new task or environment will be the source of healing. For me, moving to Iowa was the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken. I moved here scared, shaken, ashamed, my self-confidence depleted, my trust destroyed, my ability to let others love me gone, my belief that I was worthy of anything good completely dissipated. I remember driving across the i74 bridge, crossing over the Mississippi River and the Iowa state line right around sunset thinking, “God, I don’t know what the hell you’re doing. But please don’t let me be hurt again. My heart can’t take it and I won’t be able to afford a move back to Tennessee anytime soon.”

Oh if the Taryn of 2019 could be in the truck with me that day! She’d be able to say, “Oh honey (I call everyone honey), God’s gonna blow your mind! He’s not giving you one last chance with a side of left-overs….just you wait! He’s gonna give you more than you could even ask for or imagine! Right over this bridge is gonna be a new church family that’s going to straight up LOVE you, literally hundreds of kids that are going to fill your heart up; friends that are going to honor you; the chance to fulfill your calling of pursuing your doctorate; a crazy intro into the world of Taekwondo (which will also play a part in your healing); Whitey’s Ice Cream; a little orange cat named Theo; being just two hours away from the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois; a house that has a basement and where there aren’t any shootings or drug deals on a regular basis; the wonder that is the annual TugFest; a T-Rex costume that’s going to get you in the paper and not only that but a Triceratops AND a Pterodactyl to go with it; access to beautiful river sunsets that are going to help you breathe and bask in wonder on a regular basis; and SO. MUCH. MORE. 

I’m so glad I didn’t let my (what turned out to be) momentary fear get in the way of all this blessing!

Halfway to BlackBelt and Even Further to Healing

I’m celebrating the one year mark of my Taekwondo journey today. From the time that I began, I have heard that Taekwondo is an individual journey—there’s no race to black belt. As I have moved up the ranks, I’ve told new students, frustrated by their perceived lack of progress, the same thing. There is a great honor in finishing what you set out to accomplish, no matter what finishing looks like for you.

Similarly, the reason why each person begins their journey is different. I was never interested in the martial arts. When I was a kid, I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Michelangelo was the coolest, let’s settle that right now) and the lesser known 3 Ninjas (I see you Tum Tum) but it never really transferred over into a personal goal like those movies do for some. My brother actually won a year’s worth of Karate lessons but my parents refused to let him take lessons for fear that he would be beating people up in the neighborhood (way to go mom and dad!). All of that to say, I never imagined that at 32 years old, I’d don a white belt and a dobok and eventually find my ki-hap inside of me. However, as I reflect on the past year, I’ve realized there’s so much more under the surface of my journey. For me, Taekwondo has been a key component of my mental and emotional health. Struggling with a lot of anger, anxiety, fear, hurt and trauma from people and circumstances in days past, I was sitting in my therapists office when she suggested, “what if you took Taekwondo?” and she listed the benefits of the martial arts. I took her suggestion seriously and went home that day to do some research. I made a phone call and from that moment, my journey was more than just earning a black-belt, it was another tool to help me heal.

I see God’s hand in the timing of me finding Taekwondo. My Taekwondo Master has been teaching for 38 years. As I reflected on my “Taekwondo birthday”, I realized that before I was even born, God began a solution to a problem that I didn’t even know I had yet. And now today, one year to the date of sitting in that office, crying and scared, I am half-way to black belt and even further in my journey of personal healing. 

If you’d like to read about the benefits of Taekwondo for children and adults, CLICK HERE. ***Note, this website is not the location where I train but has great information regarding the benefits.

A New Way To Read The Bible

I became a follower of Jesus when I was fresh into being 14 years old. I did my “growing up” in a Southern Baptist church right in the middle of Tennessee. It was an awesome place for a kid like me….wonderfully supportive, loving, patient, gracious, and generous. If you’ve had any contact with a Southern Baptist church you’ve probably realized that the Bible is of foundational importance. It was a doctrine that I “caught” just by spending time weekly at the church.

However, I grew up thinking that I needed outside help (in the form of a workbook class, commentary, teacher, study guide, life-application notes, etc) to understand the Bible and its message. I rarely grasped anything in the Old Testament and would joke that it was indeed “old” (i.e. weird, hard, confusing) and therefore not as worthy of my time and attention. In the New Testament, I would skip to the end of the letters so that I could get the practical tidbits of information about how to behave (’cause that’s usually what I struggled with….good behavior).

Many years later, I was planning a new college and young singles ministry and wanted to know more about the Bible like some of the leaders in my new church seemed to. When there is something I want to learn, nothing stops my pursuit of the subject at hand. So, I asked, “will you teach me everything you know about the Bible?” And that’s where I learned what I am about to share.

***Side Note: this is just ONE way of enjoying the Bible. There are so many great resources out there and hear me be an advocate to find what works for you! What I have below is what largely works for me in my day-to-day life. It may or may not be a good fit for you. You try and you decide.***

So….here it is: Bible Reading Plan

  • Mondays-Proverbs (start your week off with wisdom)
  • Tuesdays-History (Genesis-Esther)
  • Wednesday-Poetry (Job-Song of Solomon)
  • Thursday-Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi)
  • Friday-Gospels (Matthew-John)
  • Saturday-Letters (Acts-Jude)
  • Sunday-Revelation

For me, this plan gave me the freedom I needed. No boxes to check (or feel guilty about if I didn’t check them each day!). Have a super busy day and can’t read that much? That’s okay. Read what you can and just mark where you stopped—anytime in God’s Word is beneficial.

You’re in ALL parts and genres of the Bible within an entire week. No getting bored spending a month (or two months) trying to slog through Leviticus, only to be defeated once again by confusion. The Old and New Testaments are interrelated and often quote each other. This method helps you naturally cross-reference.

I learned the importance of simply reading the Bible, no commentaries, no study guides, no notes from anybody else. I learned that the Holy Spirit is our helper and that God isn’t going to “hide” things in His Word from us. Let the Bible interpret itself. Need help understanding something you’ve read? Pray and ask for understanding to come….and just keep reading. You might discover the answer a few days or weeks later.

What methods of enjoying the Bible work for you? Perhaps you’ve given up on reading and understanding the Bible. Maybe you could give it one more try and see what happens!

A Crack in the Frit

I’ve been a resident in Iowa for two winters now. This year’s was the worst in terms of brutal cold, the amount of snow, and crazy weather patterns. I learned more about the weather in the past three months than I have all of my years on earth thus far. I’m adjusting but there have been a handful of new experiences for me—(i.e. my 5 year old battery would NOT start in -55 degree weather; bubbles “deflate” in frigid temperatures, thunder snow IS a thing). 

About a month ago, I was driving across the bridge on my way home and all of the sudden, a line began slowly crawling across my windshield. The i-74 bridge is NOT the place you want to be when something is going wrong with your vehicle. I started screaming, “what? no no no! NOOO!” as I helplessly watched the line continue to spread. What in the world?? WHY was my windshield cracking??? Was this an “Iowa” thing???

I have never had a windshield crack before so once I got home I did the most reasonable thing a responsible car owner could do—I googled it. All of the results told me that there is a starting point to any crack and I should try and find that point. I could NOT find it….inside or out. I ran my hand across the windshield multiple times….inside and out, nothing. When the windshield repair person came out to take a look and see if it was fixable, she came inside and said, “I found the point of impact.” She took me outside to see it and it was the smallest little ping I’ve ever seen. 

She went on to tell me that this tiny little impact was probably caused by a very small piece of gravel that hit my (very warm on the inside) windshield at just the right speed, velocity, and time to cause the damage that it did. “So is the crack fixable,” I asked? “Well, here’s the complicated part….the original point of impact is in the area of the windshield called the frit….the very bottom black part of any windshield. The way that they are installed means there is so much pressure just from the way windshields work in addition to gravity. Anytime there is a chip or impact in the frit, it basically means it’s unfixable and the entire windshield has to be replaced.” Shocked, I responded, “so you mean something THIS SMALL…something I couldn’t even see, did THIS MUCH damage??” 

I went back to my desk and pondered about my new knowledge….about this whole frit thing and how something as tiny as a flake from the road could cause hundreds of dollars worth of damage. Then I realized how each one of us has a “frit” area within us. The place where even the smallest impact of words or actions cause us heavy damage. I have one of those brains that can’t remember where I put my keys, but I can tell you word-for-word and tone-for-tone some of the most hurtful things said to me at age 8. Because they hit me square in the frit. 

Even more so, it made me think about how many people are living their daily lives in the frit. Why even the smallest infraction makes someone seemingly explode. They haven’t gotten the help they need to work through deep rooted lies they’ve been told; they haven’t gotten or have refused the opportunity to begin healing; they fear that the things spoken over them, about them or to them are true and they’re just the last ones to admit it. 

There’s a verse in Scripture, Proverbs 25:11 that says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.” How true that proverb has proven itself to be. I want to be person whose words fit on others like custom-made pieces of jewelry. I think Jesus calls His followers to be the kind of people that build-up, encourage, and support those around us rather than the people that cause cracks in frits. 

My windshield of course will be replaced and the visual reminder of what winter and tiny pieces of gravel can do will soon be gone. However, I don’t want to lose the object lesson—the tongue is a small thing but what enormous damage it can do!

On Having Courage

I was completing the next chapter in my workbook on healing when the question was posed, “what is your definition of courage?”. I found myself staring for quite a while at the blank space in which to write my answer down. I really didn’t know how I would define courage in a personal way. Dictionary answers are often pretty sterile—I like to define words in ways that are inspiring and meaningful. 

I told my leader that I didn’t know how to answer it because anything I wrote down would implicate ME as being courageous and that just certainly couldn’t be true because I didn’t believe it about myself. She began to list all the ways that she thought I had shown courage over the past several years of my life and that made me deny having courage even more. 

Switching gears, she challenged me to find a definition of courage that resonated with me. After searching for a while, I came across this quotation:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” 

-Mary Anne Radmacher

THIS captured courage perfectly to me. I can get on board with the idea that courage doesn’t always roar. What is it about us that thinks that courage means a public showing of bravado? The most courageous things I have done in my life have often been in the complete silence and stillness of being alone with God, making a decision that no one else knows about. In those moments, it hasn’t always felt courageous. But I believe it is because I always thought courage meant not having or showing any fear.

I have walked with people through their most courageous decisions: getting on with life after the death of a spouse; helping their child heal from abuse; overcoming addictions; facing cancer head on; seeking counseling and therapy or getting on anti-depressants; uprooting their lives to head to a foreign country to spread the Word; staying in a hard-relationship; ending a relationship; breaking unhealthy family cycles; going back to school after having a career and raising kids; purposefully and intentionally building bridges with “others” (people who are different than ourselves); fostering and adopting children from trauma backgrounds; parenting children with special needs; and there’s so much more I could write. 

Joshua 1:9 is often quoted at the outset of a big project or decision, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” I have mistakenly used this verse to perpetuate the idea that courage is public bravado, no fear, no pain, no regrets. It is incongruent with the entire message of the Bible that we should have courage based on our own aptitude or abilities. The source of our courage and strength is not found in ourselves. It is found in a God who never leaves us, nor forsakes us. Who doesn’t always pick the loudest, most popular, most handsome/pretty, most talented, most likely to be chosen person to be the world-changers. Far more often, He chooses the person who everyone else would overlook that has “tried again” at every one of their tomorrows. 

So where are you in this defining of courage? What do you think about this new definition? Have you been like me, thinking that courage was always a public showing of no-holds-barred bravado? Do you think that this definition of courage might mean that you’re courageous when you never once thought you were? Share your thoughts and let’s learn from each other.

On Having Courage

I was completing the next chapter in my workbook on healing when the question was posed, “what is your definition of courage?”. I found myself staring for quite a while at the blank space in which to write my answer down. I really didn’t know how I would define courage in a personal way. Dictionary answers are often pretty sterile—I like to define words in ways that are inspiring and meaningful.

I told my leader that I didn’t know how to answer it because anything I wrote down would implicate ME as being courageous and that just certainly couldn’t be true because I didn’t believe it about myself. She began to list all the ways that she thought I had shown courage over the past several years of my life and that made me deny having courage even more.

Switching gears, she challenged me to find a definition of courage that resonated with me. After searching for a while, I came across this quotation:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

-Mary Anne Radmacher

THIS captured courage perfectly to me. I can get on board with the idea that courage doesn’t always roar. What is it about us that thinks that courage means a public showing of bravado? The most courageous things I have done in my life have often been in the complete silence and stillness of being alone with God, making a decision that no one else knows about. In those moments, it hasn’t always felt courageous. But I believe it is because I always thought courage meant not having or showing any fear.

I have walked with people through their most courageous decisions: getting on with life after the death of a spouse; helping their child heal from abuse; overcoming addictions; facing cancer head on; seeking counseling and therapy or getting on anti-depressants; uprooting their lives to head to a foreign country to spread the Word; staying in a hard-relationship; ending a relationship; breaking unhealthy family cycles; going back to school after having a career and raising kids; purposefully and intentionally building bridges with “others” (people who are different than ourselves); fostering and adopting children from trauma backgrounds; parenting children with special needs; and there’s so much more I could write.

Joshua 1:9 is often quoted at the outset of a big project or decision, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” I have mistakenly used this verse to perpetuate the idea that courage is public bravado, no fear, no pain, no regrets. It is incongruent with the entire message of the Bible that we should have courage based on our own aptitude or abilities. The source of our courage and strength is not found in ourselves. It is found in a God who never leaves us, nor forsakes us. Who doesn’t always pick the loudest, most popular, most handsome/pretty, most talented, most likely to be chosen person to be the world-changers. Far more often, He chooses the person who everyone else would overlook that has “tried again” at every one of their tomorrows.

So where are you in this defining of courage? What do you think about this new definition? Have you been like me, thinking that courage was always a public showing of no-holds-barred bravado? Do you think that this definition of courage might mean that you’re courageous when you never once thought you were? Share your thoughts and let’s learn from each other.



Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Several months ago, I had a vision of something I have always wanted to happen, coming true in my future. The movie reel highlight that played in my head felt so real that it shortened my breath and gave me an overwhelming feeling of pure giddiness in my spirit and goosebumps up and down my arms!

In that moment, I took what I had seen in my head before the Lord and just asked, “is this really going to happen? I need to know because I don’t want to get my hopes up if this was something that my brain just made up in order to torture me.” He didn’t really give me a solid answer. As the days have continued to pass, I have wondered what do I do with what I saw? Do I hope for it and pursue it with all my heart? Or do I sit back and wait for things to unfold?

There have been times when I have pursued something with all of my heart and found myself at the end gaining what I set out for. Likewise, there have been times when I have wanted something with everything inside of me and it falls like sand through my finger tips no matter how tightly I hold on. Am I speaking anyones language?

As I drove to work this morning, I thought about my vision again and got honest before the Lord, “God, I’m scared to pursue that with all of my heart because I’m afraid that I’m wrong about what I saw. And I don’t know that my heart can take the deep hurt that would occur if I didn’t get what I wanted. I know that I COULD pray for this to come true, to receive what my heart longs for. I know that you’re a good Father who delights in giving your children what they want. But you’re also a good Father who gives us what we need even when we don’t realize it. So all my prayers would be a waste and my heart crushed. I can’t take that.” And in the way that He tends to respond to me in these moments (i.e. a big compassionate sigh complete with a loving smile and much patience), He answered, “What if instead of praying for what you want, you pray to want what I want for you?”
I paused before responding, “Well, yeah….that’s a thought.”

So, my friends, in this moment, I’m able to tell you that I’m praying to want what God wants for me. And I’m wondering who out there has a desire in their heart that they’re scared to pursue, don’t want to get their hopes up about, and feels more comfortable staying in the box. If we really believe that God gives us what we need, can we believe that what He wants for us is better than what we want for ourselves? What if instead of getting your hopes up, you placed your hopes in God’s hands? What would happen if you said, “okay God, help me to want what you want for me.”

God is too good and cares about us too much to give us what we want when what we want is not what is best for us. What is the next step for you? What would it take for you to believe that? Bring it to God, pour out your heart and see how He responds….I bet you’ll be surprised at how things work out.