The Fear of Success

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It was about this time last year that I found myself sitting in a room full of strangers (and my husband) holding my breath. Waiting. I’d been waiting for a couple months since they first announced on the conference website that my book proposal was among 9 others that were being considered for a book contract.

The moment of truth finally arrived; the announcement was seconds away…and the honor went to someone else.

I exhaled. And as I applauded the winner taking the stage, you know what I felt? Sadness, disappointment? Nope–relief.

I’d felt it simmering in me for a while, almost since I had submitted the proposal (and probably long before). A familiar emotion. Fear. But it wasn’t the kind of fear I was expecting. I expected the fear of failure–what I discovered was a fear of success. I passed it off as complete trust in the plans of God (which was partially true), but deep down I was afraid to succeed. Afraid of the unknown ways in which success would change my life. The ways in which it would expose me, and my weaknesses, to the world. Knowing it would demand a new, truer vulnerability, something I wasn’t sure I was capable of or even wanted to give.

I was afraid to succeed, knowing that in my success I would be opening up another avenue to fail.   

One of the best-est movies of all time is It’s Christmastime, Charlie Brown. In it Charlie Brown sidles up to Lucy’s psychiatric help booth, drops in his nickel, and gets her “professional help.” She then rattles off a list of “phobias” asking if any of them match his vague feelings of unhappiness.

Finally she says, “There’s pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?”

“What’s that?” he asks.

And she says, matter-of-factly, “the fear of everything.”

Bowling her over, in true Peanuts fashion, he shouts, “That’s it!”

I laugh every time. But sometimes I can relate a little too well to that scene. I fear failure, I fear success (and spiders, and rats, and something happening to my family, you get the idea). Sometimes the list can get really long. So today I’m reminding myself that God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear of success or failure. So I’m moving forward out of fear into pure trust in the plans of God.

Have you ever found yourself fearing success? Did you recognize it for what it was? How did you handle it? Drop me a comment; I want to hear from you.

Lies I Tell Myself

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I’ve been thinking a lot about a little word called justification lately. And not the good kind of justification where Jesus takes away our sins and makes us right in his eyes. The kind that whispers, “Well, it’s not so bad if I tell a little white lie. It’s harmless. I’m not really hurting anybody.” I’m talking about the excuses I make that let me take the easy way out and ignore the hard things that demand a higher standard in my life. That’s what my justifications are, excuses designed to allow me to do whatever I want to do which is usually completely out of line with what I know God wants from me.

What got me thinking about this, you might ask? I was recently confronted with the knowledge of something that caused my heart to grieve and I kept wondering, completely puzzled, “How could this person even think that what they’re doing is okay?” I just couldn’t wrap my head or my heart around it. I thought, surely they know better! And then I felt the Holy Spirit drop this word–the subject of this blog– justification into my heart. See, we can almost always come up with ways to justify our actions, even truly ugly ones, and the Holy Spirit reminded me that I do it all the time. Um, ouch!

When we were living in India as missionaries one of the things I justified, big-time, was my lack of compassion for people on the street. Whenever I felt a tiny nudge to reach out to a beggar I usually reasoned, “Well, I can’t make any sort of real difference. Since I can’t change everything, I should probably do nothing. This problem is just way too big for me. I don’t have the resources or the time to do anything significant.” Or at least that’s what I convinced myself was true. What I was really saying is, “I don’t want to do anything, stopping to help this person would be too inconvenient for me.” I’m ashamed to admit that the more I told myself those lies the more I believed them, until one day I found I could walk by people, dirty, destitute and broken, and not bat an eye.

1 John 3:16-17 (The Message) says: “This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why  we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

Justification allowed me to read that verse and say, “The number of people in need that I see on a daily basis is staggering, surely God doesn’t really mean this! I would drive myself crazy trying to live this out on the streets of India!” And just like that I could conveniently ignore it and dismiss it as too extreme and definitely too hard. I just want to say that is a scary place to live, picking and choosing the commands you want to follow, a place I no longer want to live in, and I’m sorry that I lived in it as long as I did. Truly sorry. I weep over the opportunities I missed, the people I could have helped, over the times that I made God’s love disappear in a place that desperately needed it to be tangible and visible. I truly hope you don’t relate to my story, but if you do, it’s not too late to change! Are you making excuses to justify disobedience? Ask God to help you change; he will!

Let me know what you think! Drop me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Hello 2016

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Over the holidays I discovered something, or more accurately, someone, new. Long-time fans of said person will roll their eyes and think, how could you just be hearing about her?!  to which I will now say, “I know! Where have I been?” Under a rock, clearly.

But right before Christmas I crawled out from under my rock and purchased a copy of For the Love by Jen Hatmaker and, after finishing it, proceeded to devour every book she’s written like the sugar cookies and cinnamon rolls that I only make at Christmastime for obvious reasons (my scale will rudely testify as to how many of those goodies I actually indulged in this year). I laughed, I cried, I looked like a lunatic laughing out loud all by myself in the pickup line at my kids’ school. Such were the emotions I experienced while reading her words. And then I came upon a statement that stopped me cold.

Here’s what she said in 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess: “At some point the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts. We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming.” (p. 172). Ummm, yikes! That made me a little uncomfortable. Okay, a lot uncomfortable.

She went on in Interrupted to say, “There will never be enough knowledge to fill the cracks of Christian maturity without the fruit of selfless service manifested in our lives.” (p.228) All of this got me thinking about all of the consumption I’ve done over the years, the countless bible studies, the Christian books I’ve read, not to mention all the Bible reading, and how much of it has actually changed me–made a real impact on the way I live my life. I asked myself, do I really live it? And my honest answer was: just the convenient parts. Just the parts that don’t require me to get messy or be uncomfortable, or that make me feel good about myself.

So in response, I’m declaring 2016 to be the year of living it! No more sitting belly-up to the table, shoveling it in, and then walking away and leaving it all at the table. Don’t get me wrong, studying and learning are important (how else will we know what to do) but I don’t want to be guilty of knowing what to do and not doing it anymore. This is the year of being uncomfortable in the best possible way. Of doing the hard stuff. Want to join me?

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Worth it?

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Photo Credit: Éole via Compfight cc

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I had a theological discussion with my plumber last week.  As he was bent over my porcelain commode he explained that he had been raised in a very traditional religious environment, one that he still faithfully adheres to.  But he looked at me and said, “Reading the New Testament, I saw all of these people willing to give their lives for the Gospel, and I thought I must be missing something because I’m not willing to do that.”

His words stopped me cold.  It reminded me of a question that’s been looming in the back of my mind, a question that makes me extremely uncomfortable, and I’d really rather not answer.  Am I passionate enough about Jesus that I would literally lay my life down for him and his message?

It’s an easy question to dismiss sitting here in the comfort of my leather chair with blankets tucked tight around me and snow swirling outside my window.  Without any thought or contemplation I would flippantly answer, “Yes, of course I would.”  But when I really think about it, about the way I live my life, my real answer, not with my words, but my actions and attitudes, has been no.

I hold things back.  I decide what’s most comfortable or safe for me and my family.  In general, I give very little thought and devote even less prayer to asking Jesus what he really wants from me because I might not like his answer.  I want to do what’s most convenient and comfortable for me. 

It’s very easy for those of us who “give our lives” to serving Jesus in a church setting here in America, where we don’t face the daily reality of martyrdom that some followers of Jesus do, to forget how high the stakes really are, about the level of commitment that Jesus calls us to and why (hint: it’s because he’s crazy in love with us and wants us to love him that way too).  Please understand, I’m not belittling the American church at all.  But I do believe that God is calling us to a deeper love that will happily sacrifice anything we can to get closer to him and to draw others towards him as well.

I’m learning he is worth so much more–of everything that I have, my time, my money, my talents–than I can ever give.  But that’s not going to stop me from trying to give it.  I want my words and my actions and attitudes to scream, “Yes, I’ll give it all–whatever you ask!”  Because he is so worth it!

Have you asked yourself that same question?  Would I really give my life for Jesus? 

What is your honest answer? 

 

Confessions of an Imperfect Christian–#6

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So…I’ll be honest.  I don’t want to write this blog post.  In fact, I haven’t wanted to write it for about a week now :).  I started reading Francis and Lisa Chan’s new book You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, and it’s wonderful!  Really good stuff, I highly recommend it.  But round about page 116, I started to get a little bit uncomfortable.  He said, “Christians in America have become experts at conviction–and failures at action.”  He went on to talk about an article that he read about people that weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds and that it made him think of the church.  Interesting line of thought, huh? 🙂  Chan went on to say:

It (the article) reminded me of a lot of people I find in the church.  They are fed more and more knowledge every week.  They attend church services, join small group Bible studies, read Christian books, listen to podcasts–and are convinced they still need more knowledge.  Truth is, their biggest need is to do something.  They don’t need another feast on doctrine.  They need to exercise.  They need to work off what they’ve already consumed.

Yikes!  I don’t know about you, but that hit me hard.  As someone who grew up in church every Sunday and Wednesday I’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge.  But often I don’t apply it, especially the hard stuff (and boy did Jesus have some difficult things to say, definitely counter-cultural!).  I read those passages and think Whew, that sounds really hard, surely Jesus doesn’t expect me to do that?!  And I give myself a pass.  The trouble is, he actually means what he said!  Well, it’s trouble for me, not for him! 🙂  And the good news is that he’s promised that he will do it through me if I will just allow him!  So today I’m praying that God will help me to examine my heart and stop ignoring the difficult things he’s asked me to do, and submit to his promise to work through me.

Is there anything that God has been speaking to you through his word that, like me, you’ve been ignoring because it seems too difficult or painful? 

Confessions of an Imperfect Christian–#5

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Confession #1–It’s been a long time since I last wrote a post!  It was a good summer with the kids, but they’re back in school (cue the angelic choir) and I’m back to the blog 🙂

Confession #2–I can be spiritually blind and deaf

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Photo Credit: RonAlmog via Compfight cc

Alright, here’s another confession, since I’m on a roll: I love football.  Nobody is more excited about the NFL season opener Thursday night between the Green Bay Packers (Go Pack!) and the Seattle Seahawks than me (well, maybe my son).  In the meantime, I’ve been getting my football fix with preseason games.  About two weeks ago, my son and I were watching the Packers play the St. Louis Rams and I was standing in the kitchen over a sink full of dirty dishes when I suddenly realized that about five to ten minutes of the game had passed, and I didn’t have a clue what was happening.  While my eyes were technically fixed on the screen, and I had seen the players moving around the field, I wasn’t really paying attention.  I’ll chalk it up to the wide margin in the score (sorry Rams fans), but it made me think about all of the times that I technically “see” something, but don’t really take the time or invest the brainpower to comprehend or appreciate it.

Many of you may know that our family moved to a new community this summer, and I have the delightful privilege of driving over a bridge nearly every day that spans a beautiful little waterfall.  Looking at the water as it rushes over the rocks, smooth like onyx on top and then frothy white at the bottom, literally makes me happy.  However, as gorgeous as it is and as much as I love it, sometimes I don’t even look in it’s direction.  Or other times I see it in a very vacant, disengaged way, not allowing it’s restorative power to move me.  I’m ashamed to admit, I often read my Bible in much the same way.  I see the words on the page, but my mind wanders and I fail to comprehend or appreciate what it’s saying to me.  I don’t take the time to really listen to what the words are whispering to my heart and forfeit the restorative and life-changing power they can bring.

Today I’m praying to live more fully in each moment, whether it’s taking in a beautiful sunset, waterfall, or football game, or reading the word of God.  I want each moment to be filled with appreciation for what’s before me and my mind with comprehension so that I don’t miss out on all the incredible things that God wants to do in and through me.  If you relate, drop me a note.  I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

Confessions of an Imperfect Christian–#4

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Photo Credit: mikebaird via Compfight cc

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Confession #4: I Don’t Trust God

T-r-u-s-t. Five simple letters spelling out a very risky and complicated idea. Some synonyms for trust are: certainty, assurance, and confidence. Right there, with those words, is where things started getting a little muddled for me. Did I feel confident, assured, and certain when it came to God? Not so much. I mean, he’s God, he doesn’t have to operate the way we do. He’s unpredictable. A mystery. And I didn’t understand the way he worked. When everything that I cared about was on the line, and the stakes were high, (for more about this read Holy Doubt) I realized that I didn’t trust him. I thought I did. But I didn’t.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the root of my distrust could be traced to my understanding (or lack of understanding) of God’s character. The problem wasn’t with God, it was with my view of him. I didn’t believe that he had my best interest at heart or that he truly cared about what was going on in my life, and sometimes I thought he sent trouble and suffering my way just to “teach me a lesson,” like some sort of twisted schoolmaster. And when life was good I was always waiting, with bated breath, to get what I deserved and have it all snatched away.

I’ve been reading the Gospels over and over in an attempt to “see” Jesus as the Bible says he really is, as opposed to how I’ve been taught or what I’ve always believed. What I’ve found has been eye-opening. While Jesus usually didn’t do the easy thing, or sometimes even the most likable thing, he truly cared! About us. He healed, forgave, and wept over us! This Jesus that I’m finally “seeing” is worth putting my trust in. I now see that even though God makes beauty from the ash in our lives, it doesn’t mean he sent the fire.  And that makes all the difference.