Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Today was one of those days. Message after message after message about the Corona Virus. This college is closing, that nursing home is not allowing visitors, meetings and conferences are canceled. I’ve even heard one media professional telling people to avoid public gatherings like going to church. You look at all these reports and it feels like we are just a breath away from the end of time or the Zombie Apocalypse, or whatever doomsday prophecy stirs your fears. Meanwhile I hear medical professionals who say that the media is blowing it all out of proportion. In the midst of it all, who do you believe?

I choose to believe the Truth. Now you might look at this and say, like Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” So many people are saying so many different things. In the midst of that, how do you find truth? Because I know where to look. John 14:6,”Jesus answered, ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is truth personified, I choose to believe Him. About now your head is likely to explode. “What did Jesus say about the Corona virus?” Well… specifically… nothing. But His Word tells me “[I was] not given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self control.” Romans 8 further tells us, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Galatians 4 also adds, “6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” The answer to all of this is actually pretty simple. (all passages NIV)

We serve a God who is bigger than our fears. He reminds us over and over again that we who believe are His children. Jesus Christ has made the way back to the Father, and that is the truth. Am I downplaying Corona? No, but neither and I cowering in fear. The Spirit of almighty God lives inside me. I am a child of God because of what Jesus has done for me. Think about that for just a second. This is your value. You were worth so much to almighty God that He gave His only Son so that He could be with you forever. That’s the truth. This world is a scary place. It seems every couple years the next pandemic comes along, and we have a choice. Will we live in fear, or will we trust in His love and His truth.

I choose to no longer be a slave to fear. Instead I am a child of God. Live in His truth and be free.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I wrote a few posts on failure recently. What you don’t know is those posts on failure triggered something in me that has caused me to do a lot of writing over the last few weeks, exploring a lot of areas of importance for the creative Christian life, predominantly around the areas of failure, fear and faith. Here is a little sample of my writings on faith.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” Leo Buscaglia

So how does faith apply to the creative life? I think Dr. Buscaglia really hit the nail on the head with the above quote. Our gifts, our talents, our abilities, experiences and a host of other things are given to us by God. Further, in a very real way, they are His investment in us. He gives them to us, knowing how He made us, and the way He “wired” us, in anticipation that we who love Him will faithfully use these gifts for His purposes in our world. I love this. We call these gifts “talents” which is interesting. A talent in Jesus’ day was a unit of measure, specifically it was a way to measure precious metals like gold, and so it could be said, maybe a little facetiously, that our talents are worth their weight in gold. They have value and if they are gifts from God, and I believe they are, then talents are something of great value that God entrusts to us. As a minister of the Gospel, I believe a big part of my calling is to help people to come to believe in God, or at least to work to that end, but our talents say something different to us. Oh, we still need to believe in God, but our talents tells us God believes in us. And so those of us who have a creative bent should be investing at least some of those creative gifts into accomplishing God’s purposes on earth. One might imagine that there are two primary applications of this principle, serving others and sharing the Gospel.

I’ve been pending a fair amount of time thinking about fear and failure for an upcoming project. Here’re some things that occurred to me recently.

What is failure? I’m sure we could find a definition in the dictionary that would suffice. I’m sure, if we were together in person, you could give me a definition in your own words. The problem is, it’s a sliding scale and everyone defines it differently. You might think of the teacher handing you back a paper with a lot of red ink, and maybe even a big red F in the corner, likely with a circle around it for emphasis, as if the failure was entirely your own. Maybe the F was on your report card. By the way, have you ever noticed most schools skipped right over “E.” A, B, C, and D represent nothing but a level. They are not initials for some word, like “lofty” or “proficient” or “mediocre” which is essentially what they mean, yet we don’t get L’s or P’s or M’s, so there is no earthly reason, why the grade below D is F, except that F means failure and the grading system wants to make sure you didn’t miss the fact that you failed and are therefore a failure. Maybe you’d equate failure with not reaching a certain level in your career or a time when you let someone, maybe even yourself, down. It might reflect a time when you just couldn’t reach the goal. It might even be something your rational mind knows was not your fault, but still you take the blame.

For some failure becomes their name, as in “I’m a failure.” Others will adopt it’s cousins, like “Loser” or “Waste” or “Idiot.” It manifests in questions, like “How could I be so stupid?” Sometimes we think we’re failures because someone labeled us as such. Other times we just see the evidence on the faces of those around us. For me it was all of the above. Sometimes I’d hear statements like “If brains were dynamite, you wouldn’t have enough to blow your nose.” Other times it was the C on the report card in a field of A’s and B’s. Ironically, that C was for something most people don’t even teach anymore, Cursive. This brings me to another point. A grade of C, is essentially translated as average. For most people C is okay, you’re not the best but neither are you the worst. Most people would see it as maybe needing improvement, but nothing to lose sleep over. For others, a C might as well be an F. In their minds, average, being on par with everyone else equates with failure. Further, why was it so easy to miss the A’s and B’s and the lower grade of C becomes the focus. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this. I can get a hundred positive comments and one negative and that one negative becomes my entire focus. I’m almost positive I’m not the only one and that needs to change.

Okay that’s not entirely true, but there is one thing we cannot afford to fear: failure.  It’s true, there are few things more paralyzing to the creative process, to the utilization of our whatever gifts, that fear of failure. Fear of failure will keep you frozen and stuck. It will keep you from accomplishing your goals and putting yourself and your work out there for the world to see.

I was once driving down the highway and I got behind a guy who had one of those custom  frames around his license plate. The smaller copy at the top of the frame was illegible, but the bottom text could be read from quite a distance. It said Failure is not an option. My heart automatically went out to the guy and I began to feel very sorry for him. I thought of all the undue pressure he must put himself under. Poor guy. Eventually the light in front of us changed to red and I was able to catch up enough to read the top line of text on the frame, which gave me an entirely different view of the man’s predicament. You see, it said “Bomb Disposal Technician.” In that case, he was right, failure is not an option. He gets one shot to get it right each and every time he steps up to do his work. The same applies to surgeons and a few other fields.

So unless you are a bomb disposal technician or some other hazardous profession, failure is also not an option. It’s a necessity. The truth of the matter is using our gifts and solving problems, requires experimentation, requires trying new things, and with trying new things comes failure. Bottom line: YOU WILL FAIL. No exceptions, so you might as well not fear it. Instead, we need to learn from our failures, and learn to fail forward. Fearing something that is inevitable, is pointless. Instead the question is what we can learn from this failure? How can we move forward to success from here?

Don’t be afraid of failure, learn from it and keep going. Success belongs to those who do the work and persevere.

Assignment: Think about a past failure. What did you learn from it? What are your current struggles? How has fear held you back? Now look for ways to overcome your fears and fight you way back from them.

The Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I’ve always wrestled with this verse and what it means. On one hand we need to stand in awe of our awesome God, and there should be a certain amount of fear involved in running afoul of His ways. We should fear living in such a way as to defy the God of the universe.

I’ve seen this illustrated in the life of someone I love very dearly who just stepped in to his first year as a full-time public school teacher. When he corrects a student, they will say things like “Make me.” When I was in school, that would have been followed by a swift and painful response, which of course has been taken off the table. We think we have evolved so much as a society, but truth be known, we’re not doing these kids any favors. Sooner or later they will come up against someone who is not bound by the rules of polite society who will in fact “make them” or their out and out rejection of authority will make society “make them” with incarceration or other penalties. Kids would do far better learning this at a young age from people who have their best interests at heart, you know like parents, and if not parents, teachers, but this will not happen and our society is already beginning to reflect our failure. A healthy fear of authority is truly wisdom and we fail to teach this at our peril. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Oh that we would embrace wisdom again, rather than the foolishness of “conventional wisdom” which in our day is neither.

But there is another side of this verse. A negative side whereby people regard the Lord with terror. They see the power of the Lord but do not see His benevolent love. I had a great illustration of this last night. I was returning to my parsonage from Bible Study. I pulled into the garage to discover a Katydid sitting on the windshield wiper. I don’t really like bugs, but this guy was doing no harm, so I decided to catch him and release him back into the great outdoors. Well of course he saw me coming at him and he flew. I couldn’t catch him because he was afraid.

Now don’t get me wrong, I get it. I probably outweigh him by thousands of times, and tower over him, and if I saw something of similar proportions coming at me, no doubt I would run and hide, too, but here’s the thing. My intention was entirely benevolent. Had I captured him, he would have been in my hand for five seconds, and this morning he would be out doing all the things Katydids do, probably eating grass. Instead he is hidden somewhere in my garage, and before long he will starve. Had his fear not overcome him, he would be in a much better state than he is this morning. As I was thinking of this, I wondered is this another side to the idea of the fear of the Lord. Not so much fearing the Lord, but fear that is from the Lord. After all, there are times where fear is good and right and justified, but there are other times where something we fear is actually meant for our good and is a great blessing—overcome a little fear and receive a great blessing in return.

So what do you fear today. Is it justified or are you running from something that is meant for your good?

I got this really interesting journal today. It’s by a company called Waff. It’s got this rubber waffle like cover and comes with an assortment of letter tiles you can use to decorate the cover. I called my Ideas 4 World Domination Notes. Now to be clear, I don’t really want to rule the world. I know the guy who does and it’s too big a job for me. The idea was to do something a little tongue in cheek where I could store my product ideas, book outlines and other things that pop into my head that I might one day take to market.

As you know I am a big advocate of storing ideas and I thought this might be a good way to do it. After all ideas are very valuable to creatives and most of us are pretty prolific idea generators. If we’re not careful, though, we can have a hundred projects started and none finished. It’s far better to finish what you’re working on and store the other ideas for when your current project is finished.

Guys we have got to finish what we start. Until our work is finished, we can’t share it with the world, and until it’s shared, it benefits no one. I think sometimes withholding our work is just a form of procrastination. We still feel busy and somewhat productive, but we don’t have to deal with rejection, or any one of a hundred other things we fear. Of course all those fears also keep us from the best byproduct of finishing a project… SUCCESS.

What we really fear is how the world will receive (or not receive) our work. Putting that fear behind us allows us to achieve a different kind of world domination. The kind that allows us to stand up and say here is my contribution, I hope you like it and if you don’t, I’m not worried, someone will. It’s that kind of confidence that allows us to succeed.

I am really excited to start filling my world domination notebook, I’m even more excited to share what comes out of that book with the world around me. You need to do the same. Your ideas are your own. If you don’t put them out there, no one will, because no one else can.

Get out there and dominate!

In our world there seem to be an almost infinite amount of things we can be worried about—things that can strike fear into our hearts. Terror, the economy, even the upcoming election, all these things and many more can send us cowering into a corner. In the midst of everything, we have this command from Jesus to now worry:

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Like everything else Jesus said, it’s absolutely true. Most of what we worry about never happens and even the stuff that does happen is largely out of our control. No use allowing our fears to limit the size of our world. What is fear really? It’s imagination misused. We imagine the worst and the worst is what we end up with. On the other hand we serve a God for whom all things are possible. This should allow us to see past fear to infinite possibilities and when we see infinite possibilities we can stop cowering in fear and start working toward solutions.

The first step in any problem, whether real or imagined, is prayer. Take your worries, your fears and your actual problems to the One who knows everything. This is a first response not a last ditch effort. Then trust, obey and move. In every problem, God can. God is capable. We just need to be faithful and remember the first five letters in faithfulness are F-A-I-T-H.

Let’s imagine better and then work to make it so.

This morning on my prayer walk I learned something from some very foolish deer. I was walking down the street when I saw two deer run into the road. One of the deer saw the car coming toward him and assumed the stereotypical deer in the headlights position. I clapped my hands to get him to move and he did. What I could not see though was two more deer were behind him and they jumped into the road as well. The car narrowly missed the last two deer. It could have been a fatal mistake and that’s when it hit me. That’s what fear does.

After this incident, I walked at least ten minutes before I saw another car. Had the deer waited, they would have had all the time in the world to cross the street, but they didn’t know that, they’re deer. Their fear of me, though I posed no threat, drove them into the path of very real danger. Fear can often cause us to make impulsive decisions rather than taking the time to think and then do something rational. Sometimes fear is valid. Most times fear is misused imagination.

The impact of fear on creatives is phenomenal. We do one bad piece of work (or maybe it’s a good piece but someone gives us an adverse reaction) and the next thing we know we condemn all of our work, decide we’re not good enough and give up. Maybe the reaction is not quite that severe, but how many pieces of work are in your workspace right now that will never see the light of day because you fear that it’s not good enough. Learn the lesson from the deer. The thing you fear is not the real threat. The real threat is jumping to the conclusion that you’re not good enough and never becoming all that you can be. Don’t jump to that conclusion. Look at your work and your choices, be rational and move when the time is right.

Don’t let fear wreck your life.

There are times for al but the strongest in faith where fear and doubt come to call and when they do it is a real bear. Is it a lack of faith? To some degree, yes, but the purpose of this post is not to beat us up. Often, at least for me, it starts with a kernel of doubt. Often it’s not a doubt about God but rather looking at our own abilities, our own resources and doubting we are up to the challenge at hand. When this happens, doubt gets on a roll and invites her ugly stepsister, fear, to the party. From there, it’s a downhill slide. The ultimate assault is on our faith, and a byproduct of that is an attack on creativity.

You see creativity and faith are the two things that are needed to get us through the majority of our struggles. Faith brings hope and creativity helps us to find the solution to the problem. Without those two things we will wallow in fear and hope (while still there) become nearly invisible.

Here’s what we need to remember. There is hope because there is God. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. God is not fickle, He’s solid, the same yesterday, today and forever. He loves you today, He will love you tomorrow, and He is always there, walking us through the valleys.

Don’t make the mistake of looking at this post and thinking I am a strong person who has this mastered. Truth be known, I am writing this at what I hope is the end of a valley myself. Fear and doubt did a number on me just yesterday and in writing this, I really hope it helps someone, but ultimately this is as much about reminding myself.

God is always good. He’s bigger than our fears and our doubts.


This post is going to seem really strange, so please stick with me. I think you will see my point.

I just awoke from a nightmare. I was out with some friends in the woods. I think I was going to be speaking because we were standing around this large amphitheater. We were chatting before hand and I was standing on a couple rocks that were sort of loose rocking back and forth. I remember thinking, “I better watch myself, there could be rattlesnakes under these rocks.” All of the sudden one of my friends, yells and grabs a rock to kill a huge rattlesnake. I remember thinking, “He’ll never kill it with that rock.” Sure enough the snake reared up. I thought, “I better get out of here.” I started to back away, and sure enough it looked at me and started coming toward me.

I was scared and started to back away faster. All of the sudden, the thing grew legs so it could come after me faster. It morphed into a rabid dog and I started to run. I remember thinking, “If I fall it will get me.” and sure enough I tripped and fell. The snarling figment of my imagination (rabid snake-dog???) was on top of me in seconds ready to bite, and then, mercifully, I woke up.

Why do I tell you such a weird dream. Did you notice what happened? Everything I thought came into being. Everything, every fear, my imagination conjured, came true. I don’t necessarily think that happens in the real world all the time, but sometimes it does. The stuff we worry about seems to happen. It’s not necessarily anything mystical, just self fulfilling prophecies. If we think about something long enough we will subconsciously make it happen or if we look for something long enough, we find it. At the very least we let the stuff we worry about steal our joy and we miss a lot, fearing something that may never happen.

Creatives specialize bringing the things we imagine to reality. This is awesome but it can be a two edged sword. Fear and worry are often imagination misused. We need to get our thinking, our minds under control. We need to identify negative thought patterns and put them out. Jesus warned us about worry and asked us to trust Him instead. Paul tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How we think definitely determines the way we live. So check yourself, take those thoughts captive, and give them to Jesus.

Otherwise the rabid snake-dogs are coming…