This is a photo of the beach at Cape Fear, the actual spit of sand that curves into the Atlantic at the southeastern corner of Bald Head Island, NC. It doesn't look so fearsome, although when the tide is high and there is wind or storms, the surf is surprisingly rough. And the Frying Pan Shoals just offshore are littered with shipwrecks. But it is really a great beach on an island that is closed to vehicular traffic (which gives it a certain peacefulness missing from many other beach locations). And since it is a dreary February day where I am now, I thought a photo of a sunny beach would be in order.

But I'm also thinking about fear. How we are ruled by it, more than anything. In our society, spokespeople for everything from political parties to products for personal enhancement tap into our lizard brains by playing on our fears, however subtly. In church, I regularly hear folks talking about their fear that they or their loved-ones somehow won't get to heaven. Parents fear that their children will be failures if they do not get into the right school (preschool or college!). These fears keep us from being open to others, from being joyful and grateful for what we have, from growing and changing and being transformed. Our fears encourage us to treat others as objects, to deal in stereotypes, to shield us from human relationships. Most especially our fears keep us from risking ourselves for the sake of others. What if those others are or poor or bad or mean or dangerous or will challenge us to think differently or might change us if we come too close/let them in? What if we have to grow, when growing can be so painful?

It is no accident, then, that almost every time an angel of the Lord visits someone in the Bible, the angel says, "Fear not." Fear not, I am with you, God says - to Abraham, to Moses, to Mary, to shepherds. Don't be afraid to let others in, to risk ourselves for the sake of others. Don't be afraid to go and free some other people from their poverty, bondage, loneliness, hunger, pain. Don't be afraid to let God in and at be transformed because of it.