A bit of background: "Never Be Afraid" was written during an extremely difficult time several years ago. Our raw milk dairy had been shut down by state regulators for the second time in three months even though our milk was super clean and no one was proven to be sick. This particular time, we were shut down for around three weeks. Our ardent Family Cow tribe of families were understandably upset by what seemed suspiciously like an orchestrated vendetta against us. Many of our customers expressed fear of where this would lead... fear of what the future may hold... fear and warning even for our safety. Their questions and fears reminded me of a tough time that Dawn and I had gone through a few years earlier. I decided to share what and who had brought us peace and still was our source of strength. This is a true story and is very personal and close to my heart. So please read it reverently. If it touches you, give God the glory. He touched me too.
Never Be Afraid
by Edwin Shank, August 7, 2013
“For God hath not given us the Spirit of Fear; but of Power, and of Love, and of a Sound Mind.” ~Apostle Paul, ~ Circa AD 50 ~ II Timothy 1:7
You ask how, during these difficult times, our family finds the strength, courage and stamina to go on. Many of you are afraid for us…or for yourselves. "Please lay low so you are not such an easy target"… "Don't advertise"… "Please don't have any more public raw milk meetings. It just draws the fire and ire of those who wish to stop raw milk"… "Please be careful…I'm afraid they will shut you down and we'll lose the only milk my children can drink"… "Don't write newsletters that expose; it just makes them all the more determined to knock you down a peg." …"Even though it's the truth, it is too dangerous to say it."
Believe me; your concerns touch our family. It makes us tear up to feel your heart and love. It means a lot that you care deeply enough to be scared for us. Your thoughts of fear are certainly not new to us either. In fact, they used to be way too familiar! And as I read your concerns, I knew right away I had to share a personal story with you.
I always get a little emotional when I share this story and I’ve never tried to write it out so stick with me. I’m not sure how this will go. It was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life and is still close to my heart and special, so please don’t laugh.
It was the wee hours of the morning of October 2011. My wife Dawn and I were traveling south on I-70 heading for the Washington-Dulles International airport. It should have been a wonderful time together. We were off for a rare, one-week vacation to my sister's family in Guatemala and to top it off, my parents, as a gift, had paid our way.
So the big, exciting day was here. Everything was in place to run smoothly. Rodrick and Gwendolyn and the rest of our six children, along with a few key employees were in charge of the farm, the store and the drop points. Dawn and I were on the way...but I was not having a good time.
I don’t know how to describe it. Maybe a psychologist will recognize it. The best way I can put it is that it felt like I had 100 different, urgent, complex dilemmas coursing through my brain at once. And they all must be answered soon! Now! Before we leave the country! Before I can relax! So I was frantically working on them...all of them...at once. And I was afraid.
We were under a lot of pressures right then...the biggest being financial pressure. The bank was threatening foreclosure of our 5th generation family farm if we did not figure out how to be more profitable. Dry weather, escalating organic feed costs, direct marketing learning curves and all had left us with several years in a row of punishing losses. I was worried, discouraged, embarrassed and...very afraid.
I’m not proud of this. I hesitate to tell you about it even now because it looks so silly and childish. But it was real. It all seemed sensible and rational and desperately urgent. I just had to figure this stuff out now! My world was crumbling. The fear was oppressive and depressive. I was responsible! If I didn’t figure this out, who would? My wife, my children, our reputation, our customers, my employees, my creditors, my parents were all depending on me! This was not child’s play!
To make matters worse, Dawn was trying to listen to a new a cappella music CD from a Florida family that we know and she was disturbing my urgent, important thinking! She kept commenting on the beauty and message of the songs and turning the volume up so she could hear the lyrics better and I kept wanting to turn it off or at least lower because "I can't think properly with that on."
So Dawn quietly tried to listen to her music (and probably prayed for me... She does that a lot...dear girl. God knew long ago I'd need her faith, prayers and strength.) and I, not-so-quietly, stormed and worried and tried desperately to find answers, construct a plan and regain control.
Then it happened. God started speaking straight to me through the music! It was like a miracle. Even now as I write it sends the shivers up my back and brings quick tears to my eyes just to remember. The words so perfectly fit my desperate, scared, panicky heart that I just had to listen. After a few lines I reached over and spun the volume up. The majestic harmony and beautiful, peaceful, powerful words filled the car and washed over my soul and the healing miracle began.
The first song that grabbed me was "He's In Control." It starts like this: "There are conflicts everywhere…Men are sinking in despair…But keep trusting in God's love…He has a plan…Don't be shaken or alarmed…The world is resting in His hands…He's the Lord of everything and He's in control! He's in control…I know He is…It's when I think my world is crumbling…He says 'Child, I’m always near.' … He is the Lord of everything and He's in control!"
But God was not done talking yet. I was still basking in the message and healing of the first masterpiece, when the next one caught me. This one is a powerful song called "Never Be Afraid" and it was during this song that the real breakthrough came. I listened to it all the way through, hit repeat, turned the volume higher yet and listened to it again...and again. It was exactly what I needed. The truth of the words just sunk into my heart. As I meditated, the power of the Spirit of Fear just washed away. "We will never be afraid of the enemy…God is on our side. We can win!...Watch and pray…Never be afraid…We can win the battle with Him…Never be Afraid! …We will Never be Afraid!...We will watch and pray…Never be afraid!...We can win the battle with Him!"
The change that came over my spirit can hardly be described. I pulled onto the shoulder of I-70 and Dawn and I held hands and prayed together right there. It was a sacred time for both of us but God worked especially with me. I just turned all my fear and stress over to God and the tears flowed. I gave him complete, full, uninhibited control of everything. Everything! I profusely thanked him for our many blessings and turned the troublesome parts over to him too. I made a solemn pledge to him that, since He’s In Control, We Will Never Be Afraid! I can still feel that deep, washing, refreshing, and cleansing breath of relief as I merged back into the I-70 traffic a different man. And my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our week with my sister and her family.
Our family still listens to and sings these songs a lot when going through tough times. Never Be Afraid has sort of become The Family Cow theme song. (We played and sang it a lot this week!) It keeps us grounded. It keeps us pointed toward our true north. It keeps us connected to the Spirit of Power, the Spirit of Love and the Spirit of a Sound Mind!
So...this is the secret of our courage folks. We will never be afraid because He’s in control! It is really not us; it is God. And in fact, it’s really not even courage; it’s more accurately called Trust.
Your Farmer ~ Edwin Shank
P.S. We don’t know all of you well enough to know your personal struggles and fears, but enough of you have shared your story that we recognize that our family’s struggle pales in comparison to some of yours. I felt led to share our story because God powerfully used the eternal message and truth of these songs in our life. I’m sure they will be helpful for you too.
This is not whistling in the dark. We are not just optimistic, power-of-positive-thinking, Pollyannas. Before any of us can boldly claim that “We will Never be Afraid, God is on our side,”… We must know that the only way God will be on our side is when he is in control. The only way he will be in control is when we fully, unreservedly have given control to him. God never grabs control.
Thank you so much for all your prayers for us. Our family prays also for you that, whatever experience that you are facing, you can find the rest of turning control over to God. Believe me, it’s the only way.
More About The Martin Brothers
It's impossible, via email, to do justice to the inspiration of the song or the symphonic four-part harmony of seven brothers singing purely a cappella. There is no instrument that can match the human voice for conveying emotion and message. You absolutely must hear it to understand. We got permission to share He's In Control and Never Be Afraid with you for free. (Thanks Aaron!) Click the links to download. Put them on your iPhone or iPod. I did. They come in handy for the tough times!
Aaron, one of the Martin brothers, has an extraordinary musical talent and inspiration. He wrote the lyrics and music for the entire album, I Want To Live For Jesus. I was curious to know what Aaron must have faced in life to refine such insight and inspiration. I learned that Aaron and his wife have four little girls. Three of them have a rare genetic liver disorder called MSUD. The oldest daughter is awaiting a liver transplant with the others possibly needing it in the future. And to add to the weight, he is the minister of their Mennonite congregation in Pensacola, Florida.
So, to me that answers it! He writes and sings from his heart… He understands Fear. He understands Trust in God. You can hear it in the songs!
Since Aaron gave you the two songs at no charge, please consider buying the rest of the CD. You will not be disappointed and it will help Aaron and his family in a small way too.
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That’s right! "Fresh Thoughts on Real Food" is not just for Family Cow customers. It is free for anyone who is intrigued enough to follow our family’s struggle for real living foods, food rights and non-industrial, farmer-connected food systems.