Fear’s Toothless Bite

I was 4 years into a relationship with a wonderful young lady; but she wasn’t meant to be my wonderful young lady. I had an ulcer to prove it…literally.

The source of the ulcer was a complete mystery. I had gone from being perfectly healthy coffeeto experiencing constant pain and not even being able to take a sip of coffee. (I’m sorry. I should have warned you that this was going to get ugly.) The doctors couldn’t figure it out and prescription medications had zero effect.

It ended up taking a three-and-a-half hour flight south of the border to unveil the cause.

I wasn’t even looking forward to this trip, but it had been booked for months and my brother Allen and our friend Adam were going, so backing out wasn’t an option. Little did I know how magical the waters of the Caribbean could be.

A quick aerial leap over the Gulf of Mexico and I went from avoiding milk to being able to comfortably enjoy Mexico’s most famous indigenous bar time beverage. That was the moment I came to understand how devastating stress could be. I also realized how good it could be at building so gradually that you have no idea how stressed you truly are. We are the proverbial frog and stress can heat up so gradually that by the time we come to our senses we are taking a shot of tequila south of the border, wondering where in the world that brutal ulcer went.

It seems odd, but I had no clue my relationship was having that effect on me. But now I knew. And just in case I needed additional evidence, the day before we returned home my unpleasant reminder returned with a vengeance. I was miserable physically and psychologically. And it was completely and totally my fault.

“Once your fear of continuing on as you are is greater than the fear of making the change, then you will do what you need to do,” a very wise friend named Peter Buckland counseled.

Unfortunately the fear of continuing on wasn’t enough for me. I needed three heaping scoops of fear topped with a giant mound of whipped ulcer and the cherry was the fact that I couldn’t even drink coffee!

Around this time a prayer kept coming to my mind. Perhaps it was through my talks with Peter that the thought originated. I’m not sure. But writing about it now, I think it reveals how permanent I believed my decision to end that relationship would be. I felt like it would be the end of all romantic relationships in my life. There would be no second chance. I had been given a relationship with an amazing person and if I broke it off there would never, ever be a Mrs. Phillips.

Here was, in essence, my prayer: “Lord, if you give me another chance, I will pursue the woman you reveal to me, and no matter how much fear I feel during that process, I will act in spite of it. I will act as if I am fearless.”

I wasn’t bargaining with God. It was more like I had come to terms with the ugly fact that fear can keep you from opening a door to a much better life, and that you might never get a chance to go through that door again. I couldn’t bear the thought of a feeling ruining my life or making it less than it could be. It wasn’t a bargain, it was a resolution. I was done letting fear push me around. I was done with fear. Period.

That decision changed my life.

Honeymoon
Your greatest accomplishments will occur on the other side of your fears, and that’s where I found this pretty lady. Her name’s Nicole. ūüėČ

But right then, I was right where fear wanted me. I was a wreck AND willing to stay a wreck because getting out of the wreck would make me wrecked-er…more wrecked?…whatever! See how stupid it seems from a distance? Absurd, isn’t it.

Why don’t you tell me how many decisions in your life right now are being dictated by fear. It’s way more than you want to admit, I guarantee it. How stupid do those fears feel? Your “wrecks” are completely different than mine was aren’t they. Right….

Take one of your fears (you can start with one of the smallest) and in your mind transfer the whole scenario surrounding that fear to a friend you know well. Vividly imagine them explaining it to you. Now tell me how that fear looks. Did it just shift from being very justifiable way closer to the absurd? What would you advise your friend to do in that situation?

Now you know what you should do.

Dog attackYou get to choose the role fear plays in your life. Fear can’t actually¬†do anything to you at all! It is all bark and no bite. It is simply a vague idea that things won’t go in a way that you prefer if you take a particular course of action. And by the time you reach the point where you are willing to kick fear in the teeth, you realize it never had any in the first place. My fear told me I wouldn’t get another chance, and I was dumb enough to believe it.

The point is, fear lies. Fear lies a lot. The things we fear almost never come to pass.

Fear’s real power and influence comes in its ability to alter the course of your life in a negative way. And the more you yield to that fear, the stronger it gets. It feeds on your submission, just like an addiction. And that, my friends, is wonderful news.

It’s wonderful news because you can stop letting it dictate your decisions right now. You might feel fear, but you can still look at your situation and make a decision that flies in the face of it. Just like a junior high bully, fear backs down when you stand up to it. Stand up to it enough and it pretty much leaves you alone. Fear eventually figures out that you won’t put up with it. Besides, there are plenty of easier targets around.

Easter
12 years in and 2 kids later, and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Fear told me to stay put in my misery and if I didn’t my future would be a disaster; but now I have a beautiful wife and Saturday, May 11th was our 12th anniversary. We even have two kids who are 7 and 9, so it’s getting pretty serious! And that prayer I told you about earlier…well it ended up being pretty necessary in order to land Nicole. She wasn’t exactly an “easy catch” as they say. I felt fears, but my decisions weren’t based on them. I learned to act in spite of fear.

I have since applied that same mindset to the other areas of my life. “And what about fear?” you ask. Well, fear’s moved on to the next guy.

 

And Heaven Moves

When you tell a friend who is going through a hard time that your “thought and prayers” are with them, you mean it. But some would say that your attempt to bring comfort amounts to empty words. I have a friend who would strongly disagree with those skeptics. He and I went through the Dale Carnegie Professional Training program together, and with tears in his eyes, and a shaky voice, he finally made it through this story.

His name is Terry.

Terry’s eyes shoot open! By the time he regains consciousness, he realizes that he is Scared in bedsitting up in bed. He’s not just sitting up, but his heart is also pounding in his chest. His breathing is short and quick.

What’s going on?!

He looks around the room and his eyes settle on the blue numbers on his digital clock on the nightstand. It’s 2:33 am.

Somethings wrong.

He doesn’t know how he knows. But he knows. Something is very wrong. But what? How would I even know?…

Ben! It’s Ben! Something’s happened to my son! What can I do?! I don’t even know where he is!

(PRAY.)

The word wasn’t audible, but it might as well have been. There was authority behind it, and it wasn’t a request. It was a command.

Terry threw his covers off, jumped out of his bed and fell to his knees. Then he opened his mouth and said the first words that would come to any loving father’s mind.

“Dear God! Please…please, protect my son.”

(Exactly one minute and thirty seconds earlier.)

Dark windy roadsBen is exhausted as he drives home after working the late shift.

Too much drama. Not enough pay. He thinks as he continues on, trying desperately to stay awake for the 25 minute commute.

His eyes start to droop as he navigates the dark windy roads of Northwest Arkansas.

BAM! He hears a sudden noise and opens his eyes! But it’s too late.

The right side of his car goes off of the steep shoulder and his wheels are turned sharply to the left. The axle holding the right front wheel bends as that tire takes the impact of the rocky ground and sends the mid-sized car flipping down the side of Highway 16.

Ben doesn’t notice the deafening crashing sounds, or the shattering glass that sends tiny shards into his arms and face. He is completely unaware of everything until

I can’t breathe!

He can barely move, but he does his best to groggily asses the situation. The car is upside down. His head and some of his upper body are outside of the car, but the rest is in some weird, twisted position around the steering wheel and dashboard. As the blood starts to fill his right eye, he makes one feeble effort to free himself and absolutely nothing moves. All he feels is the pain.

That’s when he realizes how desperate his situation is. The mangled car has pinned him to the ground and is crushing his chest. To be able to breathe, he would have to lift the entire weight of the car. His lungs slowly start to ache.

(75 miles away at that very moment.)

“Dear God! Please…please, protect my son…….” and the tears and groans of a loving father Dad Prayingbegin to flow.

Just as Ben is starting to lose consciousness he hears a faint sound. As it gets closer, he realizes that it sounds like someone walking on gravel. It seems like a dream, but it keeps getting closer. His will to hang on gets a boost when he sees a shoe less than a foot away from his head.

The steps stop, then he senses the person stooping down. His hand brushes Ben’s shoulder as he grips the edge of the twisted car.

The metal creaks loudly and tiny pieces of glass start falling like jagged drops of rain as the side of the 3,400 pound Camry is lifted completely off of the ground.

Inhale!

The oxygen burns as it enters his lungs and for a few moments he doesn’t notice the pain as the euphoria of being able to breathe sweeps over him.

As his breathing starts to slow, the pain returns. He doesn’t even try to locate the source because it feels like it’s coming from everywhere, and it is more pain than he has ever felt in his entire life.

As if his very welcome guest could sense his panic, he speaks.

“You’re going to be okay, Ben. Just don’t move.”

The words are confident….calm…loving…

A wave of peace flows over Ben as he drifts off into oblivion.

Emergency VehiclesHe opens his eyes when he hears the scream of sirens and all he can see is emergency lights flashing all around him. As his eyes adjust, he looks around him and thankfully takes a breath when he sees the same shoes right next to his head. He then looks at his chest where the car was crushing him. He takes a deep breath and winces as pain shoots through his ribs. Then he notices the car, still suspended 6 inches above his broken and bruised body.

How long have I been here?! he wonders to himself.

About thirty minutes. But you’ll be out soon.

Ben tries to move to see the man’s face, but he is leaning over and it is blocked by the car. As his clarity of thought starts to return, it occurs to him how crazy this all is.

“Sir, what is your….”

The emergency personnel quickly surround Ben, checking his vitals, telling him not to move. Soon the Jaws of Life come out and within minutes, Ben is on a stretcher being wheeled towards the waiting ambulance.

“Where is the man who helped me?” Ben asks, immediately realizing there is no way the EMT heart him over all of the noise.

“The man! Where is he?!”

The closest paramedic hears him. “Who’s that, son?”

“The one who helped me. I couldn’t breathe. He lifted the car.” His thoughts are still a little jumbled.

“He sure did, son!”

“Who is he?!”

“We don’t know. None of us have ever seen him before.”

“Well…where did he go?!” Ben asks, desperate to thank the man who kept him from suffocating.

“I’m not sure, son. He just started walking that way,” he said and pointed.

Right before they load him into the ambulance, Ben looks off in the direction the man isDark road pointing and sees a nothing but a dark, windy road. He squints and strains his eyes until they hurt, and when he is totally convinced that there is absolutely nobody else on that deserted Arkansas road, he slowly turns his eyes towards the heavens.

 

When the Impossible No Longer Is

Just because something is impossible, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, Feeding the 5000“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not be enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6:5-7)

There was a problem. Thousands of people were hungry and had nothing to eat. To Philip, this was a major problem; an insurmountable problem; an IMPOSSIBLE problem for him to solve. And you know what? He was right. He was right….but he wasn’t alone.

May I ask you a personal question?

What moves you?

DaydreamingIn those rare instances when you are able to get off by yourself for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood and your mind isn’t cluttered with worries and tasks, what ideas begin floating to the surface that stir your soul? As you start thinking about those ideas your pulse quickens and your eyes dilate as excitement starts to well up within you. You don’t really even know where those ideas come from. They’re yours….but then again, somehow, they aren’t yours. They are just there, and they are good. You¬†know they are good. But regardless of their source, just thinking about them makes you feel alive.

You want to pursue that idea, and for some reason truly feel like you should pursue it. You can envision all of the good that could come about if you do. But when you start thinking about all the things that would have to happen for this idea to come to fruition, it just seems, well….impossible. You know what?

You’re right…but you’re not alone.

The greatest accomplishments in your life will be determined by which of these ideas, if any, you pursue. What you decide to pursue will be determined by what you think is possible. And for most people, that is what will hold them back. They will only pursue that which they can envision accomplishing alone. 

“Eight months’ wages would not be enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Solving the problem is impossible to Philip…so he does nothing.

Nothing is ImpossibleBut what if you never stopped to think whether something was possible or not. What if you simply took the greatest passions or ideas you have and simply pursued your vision of what could be?

What if instead of being the pragmatic Philip, you were the hopeful and expectant Mary?

“They have no more wine.” (John 2:3)

With Jesus, his disciples and many others at a wedding in Cana, Mary sees the stress on the family’s faces as they realize the dreaded social consequences that will soon bring an end to a celebration that was to joyfully begin a new couple’s marriage.

Was Mary capable of solving that problem? Nope.

Did she know what Jesus was going to do? I don’t think she did.

Would it have ever crossed her mind that Jesus was about to have jars used for Mary at the Cana Weddingceremonial washing to do his first miracle? These jars are like something between a bath tub and a toilet bowl, and out of them was about to flow the most heavenly vintage of wine ever produced. Literally!

This thought I can confidently say would have never entered Mary’s mind in a million years. It’s impossible. And even more than that, it is the impossible done with a flair; because with Him, the impossible isn’t just doable…it’s easy!

Mary knew the problem she wanted to address (no more wine), and even though she didn’t know how it would ultimately be solved, she took the first step and did what she thought she should do. She took her problem to Jesus. Her problem then became His. But in many cases, they are His before they ever become ours. And it is only when we truly take ownership of them that we can make them His again. And that is when miracles happen.

Allow me to explain.

I believe that in the same way each of us are given certain gifts, we have also been given certain missions in life. (Ephesians 2:10 comes to mind: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”) Those missions, assignments, or problems, are almost always linked to the very issues that move us the most. In short, they are near and dear to our hearts. What we ultimately do with them is up to us, but we have an innate emotional impetus to help propel us to action.

Jesus wanted Philip to see that when you are doing good to others, you need not be Follow the Leaderbound by your own limitations. As you start to move forward in your quest to make life better for others, you will see others following in your wake. They will possess different talents, resources, and levels of authority than you do. They can make things happen that you alone could not.

This world is starved for people who truly want to help their fellow man, who are selflessly willing to work to improve the lot of others. And when you begin moving forward with a powerful vision to make that happen, heaven and earth will conspire to help you along.

Philip knew something was impossible, so he did nothing. Mary didn’t bother to worry about whether something was possible or not, so she acted. And when she moved, the miraculous occurred.

So as you think about that one thing you would love to accomplish, and how much bigger than you that problem actually is, remember….you’re not alone.

 

 

A True Warrior’s Motivation

My brother-in-law set aside his life as a successful entrepreneur to serve the people and the country he loves. Make sure that whatever you are fighting for is inspired by love. It is the only drive that is inexhaustible and results in a truly fulfilling life.

Anger, resentment and revenge are motivators that burn hot. But they also burn out fast and take you with them. But when love is acted on, it is refueled by the responses of others and your own internal response. As far as motivators go, it is the only renewable resource.

Jordan Meme

What to do When it Breaks: A Lesson from the First Moon Landing

When you aim for the moon, you intend to make it; because you’re not likely apollo-11to get a second chance.

Neil Armstrong knew he was risking his life on the Apollo 11, but he was willing to take that risk. America had set its goal, the entire world was watching, and there was no turning back.

With so much new technology traveling at speeds up to 24,200 miles per hour, they were anticipating some challenges. But NASA wanted to be as prepared as humanly possible when those issues arose.

Discussing his historical flight to the moon, Neil Armstrong explained that NASA had assembled on site or waiting by the phone the individuals who had designed and built every single significant part of the Apollo 11. That way if something went wrong, they could get answers immediately.

NASA understood a powerful principle: if you want to know how to fix something when it breaks, you talk to the person who designed it in the first place.

This doesn’t just apply to machines and electronics, however. It also applies to you and me; and we’re all just a little bit broken.

“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run frustrated-mechanicon petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself,” C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity.

Have you ever heard¬†someone say, “To heck with my car maintenance manual! I bet they’re just trying to keep me from driving really fast! Oil is expensive, and I don’t have any; but I have plenty of maple syrup. The two look almost the same, and besides, what do they know?!”

When it comes to the basics in life, our common sense typically prevails and we consult the manual when something goes wrong with one of our¬† machines. So why don’t we consult the manual written by our Designer when we want to know how to live our lives to the fullest, fix a relationship, or put things back together after everything has fallen apart?

It’s never too late to change that, though. The Manual is sitting right there on your bookshelf, night stand or end table. It might be a bit dusty, but never mind that. Pick it up, blow off the dust, and marvel at how your Designer knows exactly how to deal with what’s broken in your life.