Faith/Spirituality, fear, freedom

“Napping” Fear

I am not always aware of the fear “napping” in my soul. The other day I was reminded. Let me tell you a story about me that I’d rather not, but know I need to. It’s a “soul-selfie” in it’s most un-doctored form; the kind that makes you look like you just rolled out of bed.

I was having lunch with a friend the other day. Feeling pretty normal and unflustered about life. All was well. As I stood up to leave, a person who I have felt very wounded by got in line. She didn’t see me. I had a moment where my stomach flipped over, but she didn’t see me so I wished her well in my head and headed to empty my tray. “That wasn’t so bad”, I thought. “Maybe I am getting better at this forgiveness thing”.  As I turned around, I caught a glimpse of someone joining her, who was a part of the falling out. She was heading for the exact area I needed to go to empty my tray. I paused, prayed, and proceeded to walk over, meet her at the door and say, “Hey there. Nice to see you. Hope you and your family are well. Have a great day!”.

Oh wait…that’s what I wish I. would have done. Or at least something in that vein. Instead, what I did do, was ran. I saw her coming and without any pausing or praying, I proceeded to shove my tray into my confused lunch-date’s hands and said, “Please throw this away for me, I gotta go!”, and I fled to my car and locked the doors (for extra protection). I was reacting out of a fearful spirit that I thought I had overcome.

Here are some of my thoughts on fear as I unpacked this event in my head a couple days later; Oh, the crystal clear benefits of hindsight.

I have a visual of what fear looks like that helps me see it for what it is. Let’s call it a “he” for the sake of this blog. He is a little imp, devilish and devious, who behaves like a toddler having a tantrum. He is out of control, bigger and stronger than even a grown adult can handle most days, confounding to those around him, exhausting, raging with chaos, all-consuming, exasperating, bulldozing and bratty and mean. When he is like that, I do a lot of praying and meditating and reading and talking to counselors and mentors and friends to get him calmed down. I have been doing that consistently for the past several years. I actually thought I might have have finally given him the big heave-ho.

But then…then something happens and I realize that he wasn’t gone at all, he was just napping on my living room floor. I had been tip-toeing around him so as not to disturb him. Like we do when a child finally wears themselves out and falls asleep in their car seat. Side note — my parents often tell me the story of a time I was inconsolably crying and fussing (when I was little, not like, yesterday, just to clarify) while traveling (as I screamed and raged on blankets on the floor of the back seat because that was way before seat belts mattered) When I finally wore myself out enough to fall asleep, they didn’t dare risk waking me up by stopping to change drivers so they made the switch while in motion. Fear is kind of like that. He seems harmless and small while sleeping, but when he gets disrupted, run for the hills. I realized that though I thought he was gone, he was really just taking time out to recuperate. I forgot about Fear, and when I wasn’t paying good attention, I tripped over him and woke a sleeping giant.


So–how do I deal with this Fear guy? Can I kill Him once and for all so I can stop scanning rooms for people I might need to flee from? Let me say that I have done hundreds of hours of work in an effort to rid myself of Fear, but so far, my best efforts have just lulled him to sleep. What I am finally realizing through much reading, prayer and open-mindedness, is that he is impervious to death but eviction is a strong possibility. As author Beth Moore puts it, I have been focusing more on the strength of my stronghold than the strength of my God.

I have left a cushy place for Fear to rest instead of filling my “house” with more considerate and helpful guests like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, trust, bravery, forgiveness, compassion, grace, self-control, passion, faithfulness. When those inhabit my spaces, Fear gets squished out. There’s simply no room for him.

I have a few ideas about how to make this shift in my life. I’ll get back to you on those in a few days. For now, I will begin by NOT giving Fear more attention than he deserves. He’s already monopolized this entire blog. Enough of that already. I’ll be in touch soon.

For now:
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about THOSE things. (Philippians 4:8)

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Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

Myself! Myself! Myself!

I was talking with a friend a couple of days ago who has a story that rivals any memoir I have ever read about dysfunctional families. I told her she should write her own book. She basically told me, “No way! I don’t want to sit down and think about any of that on purpose!”. I get it. I know the feeling. There are some things that we would rather not reflect on intentionally. I bring this up, because although it’s minor compared to much of what I avoid thinking about, I have been avoiding writing about my follow-up story from last weeks blog entry on Hypocrisy. I am not 100% sure why, but I have been finding a lot of other, more pressing things to fill my time. I have an inkling that it is because it was exhausting and profound and difficult.

So, let’s get on with it (read the previous entry if you haven’t already, otherwise I might sound crazier than usual). Last weekend I wasn’t not planning to write. It was early morning and I was heading out of town to do some Homecoming dress shopping with my daughter and mom. I had a couple hours to get ready. I was doing my typical reading routine when the topic fell in my lap. Hypocrisy. Do I really live like I believe what I say I believe? I say God can take away my fears and worries but do I let those feelings consume me? Refer to that blog for more lovely examples of my duplicity. I mentioned, as a solution, that I can pray “God, I am feeling worried about __________, I am turning my __________ over to you.” That’s practical. I can try that. That would help me at the very least, turn my attention to Someone more powerful than me who can actually help. I made a promise to put this in to practice in the future.

The curious thing about the future, is that it starts immediately. And so it did. Almost as soon as I posted my entry, I checked my emails. I saw one that scared me to death. My mind went in to full “figure it out” mode and my brain started spinning information around and around. It was fear mixed with worry mixed with a terrible sense of being powerless and having no control. And the (potential) consequences were huge. Of course, my head went to the worst case scenario and I literally felt sick and distracted and panicked. I have never had such an intense physical reaction to “information.”

But then….I remembered what I say I believe. And what I had just written. I had no choice. I had to practice what I preached if I could look any of you in face ever again. I knew I had an entire day to spend with two of my favorite people doing something fun and significant. I didn’t want to let my fear and worry of what might happen in the future hijack my serenity for the whole day. I have most definitely done that before, with deep regret. So I reviewed the first 3 steps of Recovery in my head. I have heard them summed up like this:

Step One: I CAN’T
Step Two: GOD CAN

This became my mantra for the day. I said it out-loud and in my head at least 1,000 times. It would be lovely if once would cut it, but my tendency is to turn it over and take it back, turn it over and take it back. I find it amusing, and telling, that about half of those 1,000 recitations came out backwards the first time around. I would attempt to say it and I would say, “I can.  Wait, no, I mean, I can’t.” I just so badly want to think I can. I Can fix it. I can control it. I can change it. I can solve it.

When my oldest son was about 2 we took a swim class together. It was torture, for both of us. He couldn’t swim-at all-but he developed his own little mantra that echoed in the kiddie pool area for the entire lesson: “My-self My-self My-self!” He wanted me to let him down even though he couldn’t swim or touch. I knew this but he was not believing any of it. He was convinced he would be safe. I was just holding him back from success in his two-year-old mind.

This is my typical reaction to God when things get stressful. “My-self! My-self! My-self!” It’s a dangerous and naive reaction. But I have to tell you, that last Saturday, when stress and anxiety threatened my serenity and ability to be fully present with people I loved, I tried doing the opposite. And it worked. I still felt fear sneaking up on me throughout the day, beckoning me to jump in with both feet, but I chose differently. I chose to trust Him. I repeated “I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let Him” until I climbed into bed that night and throughout the weekend. The situation was not and is not “fixed”, but my fears are diminished and I am not frozen with dread (does this happen to anyone else?).

I am determined to continue this practice of living as an Anti-Hypocrite. It’s much more palatable and will look much better on a T-shirt.

Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality

“Hypocrisy”. I hate that word.


“How you do your life is your real and final truth, not what ideas you believe.”   -Richard Rohr
This sentence has been invading my thoughts since I read it a couple of weeks ago. I can’t shake it, and for good reason. It challenges everything I think and act on every minute of the day and sometimes hours in the middle of the night. What it clarifies for me is the blunt reality that what I say I believe is often very different from how I act. And I am not just referring to the times I say I believe in taking good care of my body and then proceed to eat approximately a half a bag of chips and salsa.  Or how say I believe it’s imperative to start my day on spiritual footing,  but hit the snooze so many times that I bolt awake in a frenzied rush just to make it to my first appointment, without even a flippant prayer or passing thought of God’s plan for my day. These may seem like silly examples. There are many bigger ways that I have not lived out what I believed.

But here’s a question that has been pestering me, or rather, pursuing me, lately: what about the tiny dark places that only God and I know about? My life might look good on the outside, to my readers and friends and most of the time, my family. But if I am honest, there are moments when I am not living what I say I believe. I am living out what I really believe and those two are often quite opposite. There is a strong word for this that is stinging and harsh, but nevertheless, accurate. Hypocrisy. I think its fair to say that we hate hypocrisy. Many people have stumbled in their quest for God because of people who say they are God-followers but live in a way that is unkind, unloving, judgmental, arrogant. I don’t want anything to do with that category of “Christian.”

Hypocrisy means “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which ones own behavior does not conform.” Well, that pretty much sums up what Richard Rohr was saying: “How you do your life is your real and final truth, not what ideas you believe.” Jesus says as much to the people in the Church of Rome, a couple thousand years ago. He says, “you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?”  You get the gist. Most of us feel pretty safe to answer those questions with self-righteous confidence.

However, lately I have been asking myself questions like, “you who teach others not to worry, do you worry? You who say resentments will kill you, do you hold grudges? You who say you believe God will provide all your needs, do you feel jealous of what your friends have? You who say you trust God to direct your life, do you live in fear of the future? You who say God loves your kids more than you do, do you fret over their safety and life choices? You who say that living in God’s will is the best option for peace and serenity, do you work fervently to manipulate and control the people around you so that your will is done instead?”

The answers are embarrassing. According to Websters Dictionary, I am a hypocrite. That word makes me feel sick. And humbled. And repentant. I do not want to be a hypocrite.

In order to do that, I must must must live “as if” I actually believe what I say I believe. It’s one thing to have occasional temptations to worry. That’s normal. But if I live in worry, that is opposite of what I say I believe to be true about God and His ability and willingness to help me not worry. It’s normal to be tempted by all the questions I posed above, but to live in them and coddle them and make it a habit or lifestyle, is hypocrisy.

I have to pray,  maybe a thousand times a day, prayers like
“God, I feel afraid, I am turning that fear over to you.”
“God, I feel worried about money, I am turning that worry over to you.”
“God, I feel unhappy in my circumstances, I am turning my discontent over to you.”
“God, I feel scared for my kids futures, I am turning them over to you.”

Now you try;
“God, I feel _____________, I am turning __________________ over to you.” AMEN