Fear is a Liar

Fear-is-a-Liar

Fear is a Liar.

I believe this to be the most appropriate location to begin a conversation on how to limit fear. In order to limit fear in our lives, we have to recognize it for what it is. A Lie. Fear lies to us on a regular basis. Fear attempt to convince us of things that likely will never come true. Fear attempts to thwart our efforts of success by getting us to short-circuit ourselves before we even try something.

I am not an expert in mastering fear. I often feel like the apostle Paul who said, ‘not that i have attained it’ because I have not attained it. Not even close on many subjects. Or any subject for that matter. But I have learned to control fear in my life to some degree. I have learned to overcome it and press on through the darkness and coldness of fear. Here are some things I keep in mind to assist me in pressing on through the fear.

  • Failure is ALWAYS and option – Always. It is ok to fail. There is no need to fear failing because it is inevitable. I will fail. And I will fail again. And again. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Learn both what I did well and what I did poorly in that given scenario. There are times when failing is the only way to learn. It is the process of trial and error leading to a better way to get things done. I have overcome fear by learning that it is ok to fail. It is ok to fall flat on my face. It is to make mistakes. The critical part is learning from the mistakes so as not to make them again.
  • ‘What if’ is worse – In my experience, wondering ‘what if’ is worse than anything, even failing. Looking back across the landscape of my life and realizing I tried nothing for fear that it work out the way I hoped. Second guessing my life and decisions I have made, has consumed more hours of my life than I care to admit. Constantly consumed with ‘what if’ because I was unwilling to try something is significantly worse than trying something and having any outcome. Because at least I tried and now I know.
  • Nothing is gained by doing Nothing – my brother had children’s book as we were growing up, whose title or premise I can’t recall. The only thing I do recall is a mouse who consistently said he can’t do this or that. Finally at the end, another wiser character told him ‘Can’t never could’. This phrase has stuck with me ever since. Because can’t never could. If you never try anything then you will never know your limits and you never gain anything, even if the only gained is self-awareness of what you are capable of.

Fear does not tell the truth. Fear uses lies to limit us and give us a false sense of we who are and what we are capable of. These are some things I keep in mind when facing a situation I fear. They have helped me. Maybe they can help you.

An Unpleasant Emotion

fear 1

fear

ˈfir/
noun
  1. 1.
    an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

    “drivers are threatening to quit their jobs in fear after a cabby’s murder”

    synonyms: terrorfright, fearfulness, horroralarmpanicagitationtrepidation,

    dreadconsternationdismaydistress; More

There you have it. Fear.

When I think of fear, I can’t help but to think of The Replacements and the classic locker room scene where the coach asks them to admit their fears. Watch it here.

I have come to believe the reality of life is that we are held back in every aspect of lives by fear. Fear takes on many faces and comes in many forms, but the ultimate reality is that fear controls us all at some time or another. Fear traps us and keeps us from being able to move forward in life. Fear inhibits, prohibits and limits us from moving. It paralyzes. It overcomes and overwhelms. It conquers and leaves devastation in its wake.

Why? Why do we let fear immobilize us the way we do? Is fear really that powerful? Does fear really have that much control? Has fear been unlimited power, rendering us powerless to battle against it?

I think what gives fear its power is the unknown or the intangible nature of what it does to us. There are times when our fears are rooted in reality or in previous experience. But many times, fear is not rooted in anything other than our own fear of fear or a fear of the unknown or fear of an outcome based on insufficient or incomplete information. Let me explain. On Friday I took the youth from Grace Landing’s group home to a high ropes course. A couple of the obstacles we tackled you had to climb a ladder for about 15 feet, then climb a telephone pole for another 15 feet arriving at the obstacle approximately 30 feet in the air. One of the youth was barely able to make it off the ladder. He was afraid of falling. His fear in that moment was fear of an unknown, or more specifically fear based on insufficient or incomplete information. He was wearing a climbing harness which was secured around his waist. He was securely attached to a safety rope by locking carabiner. The safety rope was proper rigged and secured to an anchor point. There was a trained professional belaying this youth. There was literally no way for this youth to be injured while at the ropes course, yet his fears kept him from experiencing the ropes course to its fullest. His fear based on insufficient and incomplete information – if he fell, he would get hurt or die. His fears were never going to be realized at the ropes course.

This happens to us across the expanse of our lives. We face situations and determine our course of action based on what we think could possibly occur and if it is an outcome we don’t like, we are afraid. We begin to fear the outcome and then fear has crippled us from completing the task at hand. Fear based on a possibility. A possibility that is just as likely to not happen as it is to happen. Fear is at its essence being crippled by the possible. Even when experience supports our fear, there is no guarantee the fears will be realized this time around. For the person who gets married and their spouse breaks their heart and leaves them, just because this was their experience it does mean they should withhold from engaging in authentic relationships with other for fear of being hurt again. They may be hurt again, but they may also find a rewarding relationship in which they are surrounded by the love they deserve.

Fear, in reality, only has as much power as we give it. Fear is only as strong as we allow it to be. Fear can only overcome and cripple us because we allow it to do so.

My hope today is identify fear as a force working against us, only having the power we give it. Tomorrow, I want to identify how to limit the power we give to fear.

How has fear limited or crippled you?

Quicksand

Found at: denvercounseling.com/quickstand-depression/

Found at: denvercounseling.com/quickstand-depression/

I love the movie the Replacements. Just a great movie. I think what I like the most about it is that it’s a movie about a team of underdogs captained by the chief dark horse. Just a fun movie with lots of humor.

One of favorite scenes is when they are in the locker room & coach asks what they are afraid of. Bees. Spiders. And finally quicksand. While I am afraid of spiders… on this list quicksand is the most terrifying to me.

Not quicksand quicksand. But quicksand where we get into something and begin to sink

The more we struggle or try to get out the deeper we sink.

Terrifying. It’s taps into our primal fear of not only dying, but failing too.

This must have been what Peter felt like when he got out of the boat. He gets out on the water a bit. And begins to sink. He has lost focus and is sinking. The more he struggles, the more he sinks because he is increasingly losing focus on Jesus.

We often beat Peter up for losing focus… but 11 other dudes stayed in the boat. Just an observation. Peter was apparently the only one brave enough, or dumb enough, to get out of the boat. But he did.

In the midst of the quicksand we find ourselves in, the answer is the same for us as it was for Peter. Focus on God. The Psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). The way out of the quicksand is to:

  • Be still – calm down. Breathe. Slow down and stop being frantic. When we feel pressed on every side it rarely is helpful to freak out. It usually doesn’t get us anywhere to flail arms and legs. Slow down. Focus on our options and see the way out.
  • Don’t panic – panic is never the answer. Unless you are being chased by a T-Rex… then panic is the only answer. James encourages us to be of sober mind & sound spirit, which doesn’t sound like panic.
  • Know that I Am is God – this is subtle here, but we can’t miss it. When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt he told Moses to tell pharaoh ‘I Am’ had sent him to deliver his people. God’s name is an expression of existence. There is no question as to whether he is God of everything, simply because he exists. But this also reminds all who reads this, like God delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, so will he deliver all who call on his name.
I write this from quicksand. This week my plate feels very full. I feel as though I am having a hard time balancing it. As I meditated on my situation these thoughts came to mind. I’d like to say I was praying or reading the bible at the time… but it’d be a lie. I was driving worrying about all I have to get done.

God is God. God is sovereign and the king of all things. I trust him with my life.

I’m not afraid of quicksand. Even when it suffocates me.

The Beginning of the End

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I started this journey in October of 2007… that’s over six years ago.

Six years ago.

Today is the beginning of the end. This is the first day of class of my last term in my masters in counseling. In 9 weeks I will graduate and complete this degree. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

These last six years have been some of the hardest years of my life. Not because of this education… this education was one of the very few constants in my life over these years.

I have learned much about myself, my wife, the resiliency of my children, what authentic community feels like, the pain of losing jobs, the difficulty of financial ruin, the anguish of mental breakdown, and most importantly the unending love of my savior for me.

I also learned about the healing of restoration, the excitement of redemption and the joy of emerging on the other side of intense pain & difficulty.

By the grace of God I have emerged victorious against my foes.

There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting to this place in my life… but honestly, it isn’t the kind of feeling of accomplishment you might expect. I am proud of myself, but more than anything I am proud of the God who has gotten me through.

When I began this journey, this masters degree, I honestly wasn’t sure why I started it. I didn’t really want to be a counselor. I would have rathered an MSW (Master’s of Social Work)… I felt as though this was more up my alley and have continued to profess that over the course of 6 years. Each time reassuring myself when I complete this degree it will certainly help me in ministry. I no longer feel this way exclusively. It will help in ministry, but it also fits me very well. I enjoy counseling (actually I enjoy being on both sides of the couch, but that’s for another time) and believe I make a good counselor. I listen well. I have good insight. I offer sound, wise advice. I certainly have experienced my own pain in a way that is meaningful to others and in a way that resonates with them. I can help others because of what I have experienced. I am a better father and husband because of what I have experienced. I am more humble because of what I have experienced.

I have learned more than I can put into words about myself. One thing I have certainly learned is I am able to accomplish something. Over the last six years, more times than I care to recount, I have felt like a failure. I am not a failure.

Quite the opposite is true.

I am a Champion.

Today, I lift the head of the giant and celebrate my defiance. But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

Today is the beginning of the end.

Which Star Wars character are you?

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I have generally always fancied myself a Han Solo kind of dude. Even though, when I was a young boy I refused to answer my parents unless they called me Luke Skywalker.

But Han Solo is the shiz. His carefree cavalier attitude, his quick wittedness, his ability to think on his feet and get himself out of trouble. Not to mention his dopey, lopsided grin. These are qualities I see in myself. At least in my mind.

The last two nights we have watched Episodes 1 & 2 with our boys. We have played lego Star Wars for months, they’ve watched the clone wars and now we have begun the saga at the beginning to bring them I to the fold.

But this got me to thinking about which Star Wars character am I really? Is Han the best choice for me?

I think if I am honest with myself, I am Darth Vader. Or at least Anakin Skywalker as he turned into Darth Vader. Anakin struggled with anger and controlling his fears and emotions. Anakin was reckless and often didn’t think before he acted. He regularly threw caution to the wind.

These all sound strikingly similar to me.

What do I do with this newfound knowledge?

Nothing really.

But it is an interesting note that Anakin was touted as the prophesied one who would bring balance to the force. He goes crazy and murders everyone he could get his light saber on, but ultimately is redeemed and saves his son while destroying the emperor who was the pinnacle of evil.

He was redeemed.

He became know. For something other than his struggles and missteps. He became known for something beyond his mistakes.

This is what I want also. I want to be know. For something other than my mistakes, my sins.

In the end, Darth Vader didn’t win and Anakin prevailed in the battle for his mind and soul. Anger didn’t win. Hate didn’t win.

Redemption won the day.

Parenting Tips from Curious George

Most of the time I consider myself a hack as a dad. I feel like I fumble through and do an ‘ok’ job of being a dad. Every now and then I will have a stellar moment where I am an epic dad, but honestly I think I thrive on mediocrity as a parent.

It seems like I am always reacting my boys rather than being proactive and thinking ahead. It’s almost like they are always one step ahead of me. I know the right things to do, I actually possess the skills needed to be an epic parent all of the time. I am certified to teach the Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting & the Systematic Training for Effective Parenting.

So why does it always feel like I’m behind the gun?!?

I don’t know the full & complete answer to this question, but part of the answer is attitude.

My attitude.

I sometimes look at parenting as an inconvenience that I’m stuck with. There is truth to this – I am stuck with it… however, I am here thanks to choices I made with regard to engaging in potentially reproductive activities. I only have myself to blame.

Parenting is not an inconvenience. It is in fact one of the greatest responsibilities and privileges we could ever have. Being a parent isn’t synonymous with having a fulfilling life, don’t hear me saying that. I am saying if you are a parent it adds fulfillment to your life, though.

So where does Curious George fit into all this? One thing I’ve noticed about the man with the yellow hat is that he expects George to do something crazy, off the wall, destructive and troublesome. He is a monkey after all. And when George does whatever crazy things George is going to do, the man with the yellow hat is always like, ‘George, you can’t work on the plumbing for the apartment building!’, or ‘George, you can’t direct all the trains!’, or ‘George, pigeons are not allowed in the house’, or ‘George, this painting (all over the walls) is spectacular!’.

The man with yellow hat expects George to make a mess, break stuff and get into trouble… he’s a monkey. The man with the yellow hat loves him anyway & gently guides him in the proper direction.

Herein lies the lesson, our kids are kids and they should be expected to NOT act like adults and to make messes. They are kids. My response needs to be more like the man with the yellow hat who has appropriate expectations and gently guides George along when those expectations are met and there is a BIG mess to clean up.

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Wandering Mind

As I sit down to put the finishing touches on classwork for my internship class, I find it easier to let my mind wander in an accelerated manner. My thoughts aren’t quite racing per se… but as my dad used to strongly encourage me and my bro as children, I wish my thoughts would stop ‘flitting around and light somewhere’. I realize my thoughts vacillate between wrapping up this course and the last 2 I have left to have earned a master’s degree, my church ministry, my internship where I am counseling clients, my family (both wife & kids and bro/sis(es)/mom/dad), impending employment at conclusion of grad school,the numerous blog post ideas I have been sitting on for months, my desire to publish a book, our search to buy a house this summer and the slight indigestion I have from that burger I ate at lunch.

I find myself at this moment specifically asking God to calm my mind and fears and to allow me to feel the peace beyond understanding and to know that he is God in the midst of the whirlwind of experiences that is my life.

Peace. As I hate hell, all Montagues.

I can’t help to think of Romeo & Juliet when I think of the word peace… sorry.

I find myself a little antsy or anxious today in general… which is probably the contributor to my thoughts not wanting to sit still while I wrap up homework. I have found there are times when my thoughts wander that it is better to give it space to calm itself down rather than force it to do what i want. It doesn’t hurt to throw a prayer in there to assist in the calming process.

We all have moments when our minds want to be somewhere other than where they are… we don’t wanna have to deal with work, family, church, school, friends, whatever it may be. I have learned the most important thing I can do to make me the best husband & father I can be is to focus on my own mental, emotional and spiritual health. I am no good to anyone else if I am a mess. Today, as my thoughts are scattered I let God fill me with calmness so that I am to parent my children well and finish my homework.

Are you feeling scattered and disjointed? Feeling like your mind wants to be somewhere else? Try asking God for calmness, then sit quietly and let your mind wander until it comes home.

Setbacks

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Setbacks. Roadblocks. Speed bumps. Pot holes. Getting knocked down. Challenges. Obstacles.

Whatever you want to call them we all experience them.

I love to trail run. Running is sublime in and of itself, but being able to commune with nature and enjoy the run in that environment is truly a pleasure. The downside to it is that I often get so wrapped up in the moment and the joy that I often don’t notice a root sticking out of the ground invariably I trip and fall. And it hurts. It is surprising. Did I mention it hurts? But you get back up and you keep going. You finish the run. And you don’t hesitate to trail run next time either.

This week, brought me my biggest setback in my counseling program. I have to withdraw from my internship. It really sucks. But it is ok. It is out of my hands. The site I was interning at, didn’t have the number of clients coming in regularly that I need in order to complete the hours I needed to complete. So in order to not jeopardize my placement in the program I am withdrawing, reloading for January and I will start again.

Throughout our lives we will encounter roadblocks, setbacks, challenges, obstacles. What do we do when we encounter them? Do we stay on the ground? Do we admit defeat and give up? It would do no good to give up the trail run after tripping over the root, because you would be stuck on the trail and possibly become food for the next skunk ape to pass by (I live in Florida and the skunk ape is our version of Bigfoot).

We can not let these setbacks define us. We have to be defined by our response to the setbacks. And our response to these setbacks needs to be to get up and try again. We can’t let a few setbacks stand in the way of our goals, dreams and becoming the person we want to be.

Reload.

Start again.

Keep trying.

Don’t give up.

This is by far the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered in this program, believe me there have been many setbacks, but it will not defeat me. It will not cause me to give up. I will not admit defeat. I will not fail.

What defines us is not whether we experience a setback or not… it is what we do after we encounter them. Do we get back up? Do we stay the course? Do we finish the run?

Not allowing the setbacks to stop us is more descriptive of who we are.

Get up, keep going, don’t stop.

That’s what I’m doing. How are you going to overcome your setback?

Friday the 13th

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One of biggest fears is that I have or will fail as a dad. I constantly struggle with whether I am a good dad or have been one in the past. It seems like everytime the boys have behaviors issues, I blame myself as the reason for their bad behavior. I feel personally responsible. Like I didn’t/haven’t parented them well or I haven’t read the bible to them enough or we don’t pray together enough. And when all they think about is themselves I wider if I haven’t taught them enough about who God is and he asks us to put others first.

These last couple of days, I feel like the boys have really been pushing their limits… or should I say, my limits. I realize it is the summer and so far our schedule has been crazy, but it seems like they are really pushing the limit. Noah is 7 now, which puts him at the ‘I’m not a little kid anymore, but not really a big kid yet’ stage and it is hard. He wants to be so much bigger than he is. He is so smart and active and compassionate and understanding yet he still ha the self-centered mindset of a child. He can only think of himself and the here and now.

This is where I am right now. Constantly questioning myself as a parent. Always wondering what I’m doing wrong. Always second-guessing, wondering how to be a better dad.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a dad and it is my greatest joy. I wouldn’t trade my family for the world. But I’m not always sure I do it right.

God, I ask you to equip me with the skills, wisdom, peace & patience to be a spirit-filled dad.

3 Irrational Fears

This is gonna be just for fun and for you to laugh a me. I have realized I possess 3 fears that are completely irrational and have no basis for me being afraid of them. I will share them with you and allow you to laugh, poke fun, and just have a grand time at my expense.

So here they are, in no particular order:

1. Sharks. I guess I may have seen Jaws either too many times or at too early of an age. I am terrified of being eaten by a shark, in any body of water including a pool. Yes, it is that irrational. This coupled with the fact that I am a generally poor swimmer attributes to my overall fear of water. I would love more than anything else to complete a triathlon, but there’s that whole swimming thing. I have no idea why, but I’m just scared of sharks. Coincidently, this also keeps me from learning to surf. I can’t pinpoint a beginning of this fear, but it has been around for awhile.

2. Dinosaurs. More specifically, being eaten by them. I used to have this dream where dinosaurs played a prominent role. My parents were house parents for a children’s home in east Tennessee for a little while and to the right out the front door was a wooded area. I don’t know if I ever went into this area, but in my dream there was a trail and a stream. I distinctly remember a dream I had often where I was in those woods with dinosaurs chasing me. I don’t think I ever had that dream while we lived there. It was a dream that happened after we moved. It was always the same dream. Now I often, fear being attacked by dinosaurs while I run at night. My in-laws neighborhood is the freakiest for this. If its cloudy or a little overcast or rainy, I begin to watch for dinosaurs… As though I could do anything about it if they wanted to chase me down. Yes, it’s unreasonable and irrational… But scary too.

3. Being abducted by Aliens. Let me begin by saying I don’t even believe in aliens. There’s no need for them in the created order or in Scripture. No need. They aren’t real, not even a little bit real. But I fear what experiments they may do on me if they ever caught me. Probes. I don’t want to be probed with anything by anyone for any reason. I suppose you never know for sure though. There have been movies, stories and legends of aliens for years. Maybe aliens were the catalyst that God used to create our civilization. Probably not, but they may be out there watching us, waiting to get me alone in a vulnerable location so they can abduct and then probe me… With their spindly-long, creepy gray fingers.

There you go. Laugh at me… A lot. Have fun at my expense. Enjoy it while it lasts. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it… Just know I will lay in bed tonight trying to figure our which of these three will kill me first.