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No Fear

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY

is the most frequent command in the Bible? The following answer by N. T. Wright surprised me. What instruction, what order, is given, again and again, by God, by angels, by Jesus, by prophets and apostles? What do you think—“Be good”? “Be holy”? Or, negatively, “Don’t sin”? “Don’t be immoral”? No. The most frequent command in the Bible is: “Don’t be afraid.”

“Fear not.

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Anxiety in Our Digital Age: Creating a Tranquil Spirituality

The theme of fear and anxiety confronts, in my opinion, one of the greatest emotional challenges we face in modern times. Not surprisingly, the recapturing of spiritual disciplines and practices can play a significant role in protecting our mental health. More specifically, the ability to create and maintain a tranquil state of mind in our modern, digitally driven world can play a significant role in preventing the many emotional disorders that are now becoming epidemic.

It was the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (c. 469 B.C.–399 B.C.) who said to his followers: “As it is not proper to cure the eyes without the head; nor the head without the body; so neither is it proper to cure body without the soul.” These were wise words for that time, but I can’t think of any admonition more timely and imperative for our day and age as this. The Socratic idea that we have to treat the body, mind, and soul as a single unit has come to the fore again—and this admonition is not just for physicians.

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Stay in the Boat; My Story of Fear, Financial Crisis, and Fumbling Faith

I was making the bed in the corner bedroom, listening to NPR’s coverage of the economic meltdown. It was October 2008, just before my son’s thirteenth birthday. After twenty-some years on InterVarsity staff in California, Pennsylvania, and Canada, my husband, Dan, and I had packed our family and moved to Connecticut. We were there at the behest of supporters who invited us—begged us—to help them start a firm with a completely new model for making and giving money.

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Strok of Grace

We live in a fear-filled world. Much of the fuel for the generalized angst and breakneck

pace of our culture is a product of a disabling fear that lurks both in the known and unknown parts of our heart. Over time we can begin to limp through our days carrying either a numb indifference or a bone-weary anxiety. Fortunately, I’ve found a dear friend who—in the time it takes to deliver just a few precious, stuttering words—can open up a universe of heart-lifting, peace-giving, awe-inspiring, truth-revealing realities that soothingly revive my doubt-worn soul. That friend is Dieter Zander.

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Worry, Work, Finding Delight—And Knowing When to Play Hooky

Last year, I read the pronouncement of the angel Gabriel, to John’s father: “You shall have joy and gladness…” I burst into tears in the quiet dawn. Where was that promise being fulfilled in my life? Work occupies my waking hours, and if I’m not working, I’m worrying about work. But I do work; I almost never don’t work. I work three jobs, between my calling, my office (the necessary foundation undergirding that calling), and my family. I have become a zombie of sorts, with the lifeblood of joy and gladness sucked from my veins.

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What is it About Worry?

We—you and I and the society we live in—are frantic with worry. Worry is part of our culture, an expectation of responsible people. Most of us don’t even realize we’re consumed with worry. When I asked several people to tell me about their experiences with worry, most indicated they don’t consider themselves “worriers.” Then they went on to tell me about their struggles with worry, some of them describing sleepless nights and disruptions to relationships caused by worry. A few described panic attacks and other symptoms of runaway anxiety. But almost no one wanted to be labeled a “worrier.” One reason you and I worry so much is embedded in the world around us. We are surrounded not only by reasons to worry, but also by people who want us to worry because it makes them feel better about themselves or because there is profit in fueling our fear. Whether we realize it or not, we are under pressure to conform to a self-feeding culture of worry.

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Using Fear To Grow In Courage

After one Saturday Easter vigil, we gathered with a group of friends to feast, not only with food, but hearty discussion. My husband, David, and I did what we often do to encourage folks to dig deeper and share more passionately. We asked them each to write down a question for discussion that we put into a basket. One by one, each person had to pick a question and answer it (a question could be passed to someone else, although you would then be stuck without recourse with the next question you drew). Our friend BJ picked a question, looked at it and said, “I should probably give this to someone else.” Then pausing for a bit he said, “No, I will answer it.” Slowly he read the question, “What is your greatest fear?” Mind you, BJ is a rugby-playing fearless friend who has worked with pimps and prostitutes in Times Square and gone into the Bolivian Andes dozens of times to help our poor Quechua friends. He has almost died with an emergency appendectomy and falling off cliffs there, has started ball clubs in rough neighborhoods in New York, and loves a challenge. He paused and said, “I am not really a very fearful person… but I would say, something terrible happening to one of my children.” We all took a deep breath. He paused again and said, “Or my wife dying before me and my having to do my own taxes and organize my life for myself.” We all laughed; but he was serious.

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My Fearless Year

I took my tinies for a walk in the fading of the day’s grace. We’ve been overworked and tired lately, still recovering from that flu going around. I had spent the day doing laundry, cleaning our home, bathing tinies, and clipping fingernails in the post-Christmas recovery. We were finding ordinary time again, and I was tired and a little dull. That night, my husband was working late, so I wrestled our three little ones into their winter gear and set out.

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Fear of Missing Out; How the Curiosity Culture Confuses Virtue and Vice

I was just heading home from a conference near Washington, D.C., and landed in Dallas for a few hours, waiting for my connecting flight back home to Los Angeles. As I waited at the gate with a colleague who joined me at the conference, we reminisced about the excellent presentations and gifted speakers. During the conversation we took a “rabbit trail” about the fears people have about public speaking. He mentioned that often “public speaking” ranks at the top of people’s fears. I protested, saying that certainly couldn’t be the case.

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A For Anxiety; How Panic Attacks and Surrender Leads To a Life of Meaning

Editor’s note: When we read Rebekah Lyons’s new book, Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning, we knew that her voice was needed in this issue. Rebekah is a mom of three living a busy life in New York City who fell prey to that which she feared most—mental illness. For her, that came in the form of debilitating panic attacks and depression. As Rebekah journeyed through this dark period with God, she discovered that where her fears and desires met was actually a place of calling and purpose. What follows is the story of Rebekah’s first relapse, and her subsequent breakthrough. Afterward, Rebekah graciously agreed to talk with Conversations Journal about the things she wishes pastors and churches knew about anxiety, and the spiritual practices—the Classical Spiritual Exercises—that keep her grounded in surrender and love.

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