Sunday, September 13, 2015


Shells - by Margot Cioccio
(Written for a service at the Gathering House Church in Spokane Washington)

Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”  I wonder if we are missing something here. Yes, God is big and powerful, but God is love and God is good. Perhaps it is not that we should fear him but rather get over  our fear of him so that we may know him. There is a line between what we fear and what we most want. We want to know God but our fear keeps us from moving past that fear into really knowing him. If we get over our fear of God perhaps that is where wisdom truly begins because then we find ourselves in his presence.  In his presence we are changed. 

My Journal excerpt: I awoke from sleep, having spoken to the Lord about my fears. My fears hold me back from doing things and being who I was created to be. I have discovered the line between what we fear and what we desire is the same line. We must cross over our fear to get to those things we most desire. It is all to often easier to stay where we are miserable but familiar than to cross over into the unknown. What holds me and pins me in? It’s my fear on so many levels. Fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of what others will think, fear of disappointing God, fear of not being able to handle things, fear that I wont like the new thing any better than where I am presently. Fear that I may learn and grow and then no longer fit or belong among the people am around. Fear of having to go on alone. Fear of having to share what I really think, fear of being rejected. Fear of loosing my way, fear of being different, fear of not being understood. There is fear of loss, fear of the new, fear of embracing new ideas and beliefs. I fear loosing my own identity, that being with others with stronger personalities that I will meld into them and loose my individuality. Yet I don’t want to walk alone. I want to share my thoughts and my feelings and to do that I have to let people in. “ 

In my comfort zone, I am pretty secure and confident. Out side of it is where I realize that I have a lot of fear but to grow and move forward, I must somehow take down my walls. My fear was stopping God from taking me further up and further in. I didn’t want to remain in that place of fear so I had to conquer and overcome these fears many others I have not even realized. I had to find the roots to them and dig them out of the garden of my heart and mind.”

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  How can one have knowledge of the Holy One without crossing over the barrier of fear of the Lord?  I am reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote. Mr Beaver said “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”  The children in the Narnia stories move past their fears and come to know and love Aslan the great Lion. I suppose crossing the line between fear and desire is never safe but we have to trust that we are crossing it with God who is good and who loves us more than we realize.

When I first thought about using shells in this series I thought it might be something about listening to God. You know how if you listen carefully you can hear the ocean in a shell. As I thought about how shells relate to pursuing your dream I had another idea. I realized that we all build walls and have our familiar shells from which we face the world. Our shell may many different things. It could be group of people we feel safe around. It may be our home, school or our church or somewhere we work. It could be our behavior or attitudes. In that shell we feel safe and we know our boundaries. We know what people expect of us and the way we relate to others in that safe environment.

Hermit Crabs are interesting creatures. They have their own semi tough exterior but its not much protection against predators.  To truly be safe they find discarded shells of other creatures and move in and call it home. Eventually they out grow that home and have to go find a new one. If they don’t they will die. If they do they will continue to grow. The same is true for us. We need to keep growing. Parents don’t want their babies to stay in diapers forever. 

I'm growing up and continuing to learn from my mistakes and trying not to make the same ones over and over again, but am I going to live in a shell, or am I just going to hide from everybody and not do anything? I don't think that's the way I should live my life, and I'm not going to do it.  ~ Johnny Manziel

It's when you begin to think about going to your dream that your dream is always outside of your comfort zone. It's always beyond what you've ever done. ~ Bruce Wilkinson

A couple of years ago my job at this church ended. I was challenged to take a period of time to really pray and seek the Lord about what was next. I felt the Lord calling me to do something new and different but I didn’t know what. I knew it was something out side of my familiar safe comfort zone of the church. How could I use my spiritual gifts and talents outside of the church. For 30 some years I had done art, music and ministry. So I spent almost 6 months trying to figure out what I might possibly do. Counseling, Nursing, Art Therapy, Teaching, Missions, Massage were some of the ideas I considered. Really none of those ideas excited me all that much at the time. They all sounded like a lot of work. Rob gave me books and so did others. I read them all and didn’t feel any closer to knowing what to do than before. Some days I felt like throwing all the books against the wall. Why wouldn’t God just tell me what He wanted me to do? I don’t like the in between places, the are really uncomfortable. I felt adrift in an ocean of possibilities. I was waiting for God to tell me what to do. God was waiting on me to decide what I wanted. I got a lot of good ideas from the many books but it was a book my dad gave me called What Should I Do with my Life? in which I finally found something that really clicked. It said towards then end of the book
“Here’s my point” usually, all we get is a glimmer. A story we read or someone we briefly met, a curiosity. A meek voice inside, whispering. Its up to us to hammer out the rest. “ ~ Pi Bronson  In that moment I realized I was looking for a revelation not a glimmer. Once I started to look for the glimmers, I realized that there was a glimmer around the idea of massage. I had been drawing pictures of hands for months. I kept finding verses like

Zechariah 8:3 that said So I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, let your hands be strong.”  One day flipping though my papers I noticed there was an open house at a massage school so I called and made a reservation to attend. While I was at it I called some other schools.  Once I decided on a direction the rest came together very quickly.  I found the school I wanted to go to and just needed to figure out how to pay for it. Even that answer came unexpectedly. September two years ago my life changed in so many ways and I began a new adventure. Today back in the prayer loft there are shells with glitter on them to remind to look for the glimmer as you look for that next larger shell so you can keep growing. Change is often frightening and uncomfortable - in the end its worth it to be able to keep growing. There is one picture in my illustrated journal that I goes along with the idea of moving out of your old shell. My journal will be back in the prayer loft if you want to take a peek at some of the other drawings from my journey to find a new life.

Lord help us to over come our fears and to notice the glimmers’ so that we may continue to go forward with you on this grand adventure called life. 

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