Let’s not be afraid today

If you’re a fan of this blog, you know that we who populate it with … words are not typical Christians. We’re … well, in the main, I would say, Unfundamentalist Christians. We think it’s perfectly okay to be gay; we don’t think that God is a jealous, angry butthead in the sky waiting to punish anyone who crosses him; we don’t think people go to hell for nothing more offensive than not being a Christian. (Most of us also think the whole concept of hell is just a tad extremely suspect.)

But we are Christian. I sure am, anyway. And this is Sunday. And Pastor Bob is (literally) off in the desert being inspired by God to finish his doctoral dissertation on the history of the commonalities of the conception of the oneness of God in Christianity and Islam.

So right now I’m gonna preach just a little. If you’re not Christian, and are offended by the Christian philosophy/belief system, look away! Because this definitely won’t warm your giblets.

Mmmm. Giblets. I’m hungry.

Wait. What are giblets? Maybe I’m not.

Anyway, I’ve lately been thinking about the nature of identity. And that made me think of the source of our identity. And that made me think of the relationship between our identity and God.

And that made me think that the degree to which we are happy in life is the degree to which we have our identity in God.

God knows who we are. We don’t. We can’t for beans figure out who we are. (See? Beans. I’m trying to stop cursing on this blog, so that parents won’t feel weird about sharing it with their youngens. Although, you know.) We are so complex, and reactive, and ever-changing, and have the roots of our identity so deeply intertwined with so many raggedy-ass people (sorry) who affected our lives so early on, that today we can’t tell where own roots end and theirs begin.

And look at the trees we’ve become. Branches growing everywhere. Some bearing fruit. Some rotting at the ends. Some attracting birds. Some attracting snakes. Some with leaves. Some without. Some that have leaves one moment, and the next are bare.

And all around us it’s sometimes sunny. It’s sometimes cold. Sometimes there’s a storm. Then there’s not. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it only acts like it will.

And through it all we just stand there, wondering what’s next. Wondering if anything’s growing out there on our extremities. Enjoying the songs of the birds within us. Getting all weird about the wind tickling our leaves. Wondering if we have termites. Feeling our knots. Hoping for the best. Waiting.

And all along our tree is the work of God. Bark, branches, roots and all. Everything that is our lives is created, designed, and sustained by God.

Which is unbelievable, basically. We just can’t believe it. We largely don’t believe it. The very thought of it makes us get all … judgey.

Because so much of it seems so wrong, is why.

God or not, there are worms in some of our apples! Some of our best branches seem to be withering away.

Root rot!

Root rot!

Be afraid!

But you know what? Just for today, let’s not be afraid. For today let’s sink into the truth that virtually everything in our lives is exactly as it is because God is using it all to reveal to us, in his own way and time, the fullness of our true identity in him.

Today let’s celebrate the truth that this is God’s world—and that, forget it though we sometimes do, we’re all just squirrels playing in his vast network of branches.


image via cslacker.com

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  • Carol VanderNat


  • I don’t know about setting up a separate blog, but I do host a blog carnival at the end of every month for sharing the best comments I’ve received that month, and other people link up with their favorites on their own blog. It’s a fun way to show appreciation for my amazing readers and to show people what they are missing by not reading the comments.

  • Leslie Marbach


    Perfect love casts out all fear. Who provides more perfect love than God? So even with the storms and the worms in our apples and the rotting branches, there’s no need to be afraid. I’ve in the past done a meditation where instead of just breathing in and out I breathe in God’s love, breathe out fear, breathe in God’s love….

  • Barbara Rice

    Oh John, my mother and father both swore like…. like… well, like you do… and they wouldn’t have had a problem with me reading this as a wee tot. Where do you think I learned it?

  • Har! I do appreciate that. And … well, as I just added to the post:


  • Diana A.

    Amen! Thanks be to God!

  • Love the squirrel picture!

    And the timing of this, at least for, is perfect. Its that little reminder we need now and then, especially when we are having a shitty…err…I mean stinky period of ones life. To be assured that we are interconnected, that we are not alone, that somehow, even though we may not realize it, that our existence is purposeful, and most importantly, God is at work in all of us. Then there is the wonderful treat of knowing that we can be a tree or a squirrel.

  • I once drew/painted myself as a tree-creature. It was a fandom thing – drawing myself as various races in a videogame series. I based my wood-person design on the mesquite tree. In other words, if I’m a tree, I’m sure my branches are thorny.

    Giblets – poultry organs, can be made into good gravy in the right hands and something nasty in the wrong hands.

  • Hey John. Giblets (pron with a soft g) are the gizzards of chickens and turkeys and other fowl that consume tiny stones. The gizzard is a powerful muscle that uses the stones to grind their food. Sometimes giblets will include the heart and liver.

    Nice huh? Not very appetizing to think about but they are actually quite good finely chopped and fixed with a gravy over baking powder biscuits or whatever you care to put gravy on. But ya gotta turn them gizzards inside out and wash out all the gritty stuff first!!!!!

    Can ya tell I grew up on a farm?

  • Allie

    Fear not, one of the most important phrases in the Bible. Angels always say that by way of introduction, which should tell you something about angels. I once got curious about the phrase fear not and searched bible.com’s searchable Bible for “fear.” Try it, it’s interesting.

    Today is my dad’s last day of rehab, tomorrow he goes home with my mother and my husband and I are staying with her a week to help her deal. Speaking of fear, she is frankly terrified that her whole life as she has known it is over. My dad right now requires 24/7 care, still sometimes thinks that his having a stroke is some weird hoax perpetrated on him by the Underground Pentagon (where he did in fact work for many years), and last night he got down on the floor and told the care nurse to hide under the bed with him because they were being shelled. Also he told me that he was being well taken care of by a family of intelligent gorillas who spoke French, and that he was being given the Order of the British Empire by the Australians for something having to do with capturing a Russian bomber. But believe it or not this is a dramatic improvement – he’s making full sentences and he makes sense a lot of the time – my dad is still very much in there, never so much so as when he decides the caregiver is a prison guard and tries to make a break for it by taking his bed remote apart and swinging it at her like a bola. Please pray for us, and pray especially that he comes to himself a lot when he’s back in a familiar place.

  • Allie

    Oh, and I forgot to say, thank you for the sermon, John! If you see Pastor Bob tell him I miss his weekly sermons. But it sure is nice to have you filling in. I’m unchurched presently, and way too busy juggling illnesses at the moment even if I had a regular church, but I miss gathering with Christians under the same roof. Thank you for this roof.

  • cat rennolds

    I am He as you are He as you are me as we are all together….

  • Susan in NY

    This post really affected me. Thank you. It was just the thing I needed to read today. Thank you very much.

  • vj

    “the degree to which we are happy in life is the degree to which we have our identity in God”

    Perfect! If we think God looks on us as unworthy worms who can never measure up, we become miserable and judgmental, looking for people who are ‘worse’ than us so that we can feel better about ourselves. Even when the circumstances of life are great, we will have a residual fear of not being ‘enough’.

    If we think God looks on us as dearly beloved children, we become secure in His love and can move freely out into the world, seeking to pass along the love and acceptance we have received from Him. Even when the circumstances of life are awful, we find comfort and rest in Him.

  • Jill

    🙂 The reference makes me think of how much spiritual experience came from my first listen to a Beatles album. Happily I was never the same.

  • Prayers and love being sent your way, Allie! That is tough.

  • Very encouraging. Thanks, John!

  • Allie

    Thanks! Actually last night went really well, better than we hoped. We have a baby monitor with him and my husband and I woke instantly to the sound of him getting up and went in to stop him. My mom was right there in the same room but she’s, well, old, and doesn’t like to admit she’s deaf, and hadn’t woken up.

    He was a little disoriented but he does know where he is, which is fortunate, since when he was in the hospital he kept talking about houses he lived in decades ago. The main thing is going to be his getting to the point where he understands he can’t stand up by himself without falling. Also I have *no idea* what the Australians have to do with anything. Today he told me very seriously, in the middle of an otherwise lucid conversation, that he needed to get in shape in case he was called up by the Australian reserves.

    John, if you’re ever in search of a column, I’d love to hear your thoughts on health care. The thing that’s shocking to me is this is a man who was an officer for 25 years and thus has the VA to fall back on, medicare and medicaid and all that, good insurance from a job he worked decades and retired from, savings in the bank, and I’m still alarmed at how quickly this is blowing through funds. People talk about the uninsured, heck, the insured can’t afford care either! There’s got to be a better way to take care of people.

  • Krissy

    That’s a great idea, Leslie! I’m going to have to try that for sure.

  • Jill

    I just come back here to this post at times… its like a comforting hug. I printed this, keep at my desk @ work. It means a lot to me.

  • oh, wow. thanks.