Posted in focus on faith

How do you spell fear? s-p-i-d-e-r!

toonvectors-12422-140My recurring nightmare as a child was my bed was full of spiders. I would wake up yelling and my dad — volunteer fire chief for 25 years — was always the first responder. He’s my hero.

He would turn on the light, pull back the covers to show me it was safe, and tuck me back into the top bunk over and over and over … until I finally got married. Then it was someone else’s problem! Some dowry eh? My phobic fear of spiders has lessened but never disappeared.

Fear is the fundamental barrier to peace, and its a deal-breaker when it comes to leading a simplified life, Bill Hybels says in the sixth chapter: Conquering your Fears. Welcome back to my bog-crawl through Simplify. Hybels says that simplified living is about more than doing less…. It requires uncluttering your soul…. by examining core issues that lure you into frenetic living, and by eradicating the barriers that leave you exhausted and overwhelmed.

Fear has built massive barriers in my life and, with God’s help, I have spent most of my adult years dismantling them. I’m not alone.

Hybles clarifies the difference between constructive and destructive fear. We will focus on destructive fear since that is our battleground. Destructive fear is baseless, useless and crippling…. it nips away at our emotional well-being, cluttering and complicating our lives by erecting false barriers in our work, our relationships and even our recreational pursuits. 

Destructive fear mutes our joy and robs us of satisfaction. It makes us anticipate the future with dread rather than exhilaration. Hybels then cites people who refused to buckle to paralyzing fear but bravely stepped out into history and changed the world: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai.

Conquering fear is tough work. The first thing you must do is NAME your fear. Hybels lists some common fears: financial pressure, relational breakdown, unexpected bad news, moral failure, impending mortality. What are you afraid of?

Here’s how to craft a strategy to overcome your fear:

STEP 1: Understand fear’s origin. Can you identify the source? My arachnophobia began as a result of some innocent child’s play. My cousin would catch daddy longlegs spiders, pull off a couple of the legs and then drop them down my shirt. No matter if I ran, she was faster and she always caught me. That feeling of helplessness, knowing I could not escape, carried over into my dreams.

STEP 2: Expose fear’s lies: What are the lies that fuel this fear? All spiders are dangerous, creepy, and terrifying. Spiders will hurt me. Why do these lies seem believable? Some spiders are poisonous! But the truth is, most are not. There are virtually NO dangerous spiders that share my habitat in southern Alberta. Having long legs isn’t creepy, it’s sexy! (ok, I’m trying really hard here. Cut me some slack!)

STEP 3: Face Fear Head-On: What is one baby step you will take to face this fear? Forget it Hybels! No way! I will NOT be touching any spiders in the near future, or ever! Long deep breath …….. Movin’ on. Before you judge me a coward, ask how I overcame 12 years of crippling fear of public speaking.

STEP 4: Speak Words of Truth: 

  • Self talk: What strengths do I possess that will help me say no to this fear? What is the logical truth that most people believe about this fear? I am bigger than all spiders and I can squish them. All the spiders in my neighbourhood are harmless. When I travel to poisonous spider zones, I will take strong sedatives — ha ha, just kidding…sorta…. No, the truth is I have found spiders IN MY BED on occasion in other peoples’ homes and I have managed to kill or chase them off and then sleep undisturbed. I remind myself of this when the fear rises.
  • Scripture: memorize one or two verses to recite when fear grabs you. I wish I were that spiritual! When gripped by fear, I am paralyzed. Scripture does not spring to mind. Maybe this is why I offer a weekend retreat called Hope for the Rest of Us: when sainthood eludes you, God can still use you!
  • Prayer: What specific requests do you want God to answer re: your fear? You want specific? Would I be out of line to ask that He eradicate all spiders from the face of the earth? Knowing that’s pretty unlikely, I do request that He allows me to overcome my fear without ever having to willfully touch a spider in this lifetime. Also, it would be great to be able to brush one off me without doing the Freak-Out Dance and risk breaking a hip.

How about you? Does fear rob you of peace? What do you do to beat it into submission?







Posted in focus on faith

How full is your bucket?

isl08062Draw a bucket and put a line to mark where you feel your energy level is right now. Do it. I did. That’s where we begin.

In my blog Simplified Living is Far From Simple  I featured Bill Hybels’ book Simplify and committed to blogging my progress, or lack of, through the book. Wait a sec…I need to grab another cafe latte…it’s my third one. We’ll talk about judging in a future blog!

Okay, let’s simplify! The first of the 10 practices in Simplify is replenishing your energy reserves. This is how you move from exhausted to energized. Ergo, the bucket exercise. This gives you a visual for where you are right now. How full, or empty, is your bucket?

Yesterday, I drew my line around the two thirds mark, say 65 percent full. But now that I’m working on that third coffee, I feel closer to 90 percent! Note to self: don’t be fooled by false readings based on faulty evidence. The caffeine pendulum swings both ways. I’m going with the initial assessment of two thirds.

Leaders are seldom naturally drawn to simplicity, says Hybels. He confesses that simplified living is a learning journey for him too. But he is determined to strive for simplicity because he has personally experienced the damage done to himself and others when he allowed himself to get dangerously depleted.

Depleted people are often:

  1. resentful
  2. irritable
  3. unable to focus
  4. seeking escape in unhealthy ways

Replenished people, however, are usually:

  1. soulful
  2. rested
  3. creative
  4. loving
  5. playful
  6. prayerful

Which list describes you these days? I find myself straddling the fence; not fitting either list exactly, which seems to support my bucket reading of two thirds.

Evidence of being Depleted:

  • Resentful? No.
  • Irritable? No, but credit must be given to HRT.
  • Unable to focus? What menopausal woman isn’t?
  • Escapism? I have been watching more Netflix these days….hmmm.

Evidence of being Energized:

  • Soulful? Not sure what that means; assuming it refers to being driven by non-material pursuits I would give myself a passing grade but not by much.
  • Rested? Usually, because it is a priority.
  • Creative? Not wired that way.
  • Loving? Hope so. Will ask my family to report. If you don’t hear from me, I flunked.
  • Playful? Also missing in my DNA but being a grandparent has revealed hidden reserves, so, Yes. Still not even close to my party-animal sister Lisa but better than I was.
  • Prayerful? If unspoken groanings count then I am a prayer warrior.

Hybels recommends that before you try to fill a depleted bucket you should figure out what is driving you to make holes in your energy bucket. The two main hole-makers are:

(1) getting our self worth from over-achieving (people pleasing)

(2) feeling guilty for taking time to replenish (children are starving and I’m at the beach!?)

Hybels says the path to simplicity requires total honesty: I confess, what others think of me has always mattered. A lot. Probably too much. But I am pretty much over the guilt I used to feel when I worked in my garden, went hiking or skiing, walked a beach, read a book, or did other activities that fed my soul. Like Hybels I’ve learned that I am of more value to others and more connected to God when I have taken the time to replenish. Spend some time thinking about what drives you.

Make a list of the things that replenish your energy. Hybels lists his five keys: connecting with God, family, satisfying work, recreation and exercise (including rest and diet). But he suggests you make your own list by determining what are the replenishing people, dynamics, activities, and engagements that fill you up?

My list mirrors Hybels’ (like I said, I’m not creative!):

  1. connecting with God: Mainly — bible reading, prayer, church attendance and involvement, acts of service, Christian books and studies. Occasionally — nature walks, fire gazing, worship music.
  2. family: I work part-time from home (writer/speaker) since having children and have often curtailed my work when my family needed “more” of me. A five-year season of homeschooling, my husband’s burnout from exhaustion, and our daughter’s cancer were times when I scaled way back to accommodate what I thought were higher priorities. Obviously this put a strain on our finances since my husband is not an oil magnate but a minister. We incurred some debt — not for necessities but for extras — and have been following a self-induced program of rapid debt retirement for the past year. It’s exhilarating watching that debt shrink!
  3. satisfying work: honestly, I used to prefer my unpaid job, puttering around the house. In fact, my reward after a speaking engagement was to spend a day cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, gardening, anything that did not involve sitting at a computer or engaging with people. Obviously I am an introvert. My work-for-hire job of public speaking, for many years, was only satisfying when it was over and I was on my way home. But that was because I had to overcome crippling fear and occasional panic attacks on and off stage. Now, thankfully, I can enjoy my work/calling due mainly to persevering with God’s help and learning to follow Him one yes at a time. So I caution you, before you walk away from the right job, think about what it is about the job that’s depleting you. In my case, I didn’t need a job change but a “me” change. Keeping the job forced me to grow and to rely on God and I am so glad I hung in there.
  4. recreation: Online Scrabble, reading for pleasure, being outdoors, grandkids, simple home reno, gardening, traveling with my husband…. All these things–lest we forget BBC shows on Netflix!–replenish me.
  5. Exercise/rest/diet: For most of my adult life I have been disciplined about this. I have found that fatigue makes me feel sick, literally. I hurt all over. So I am motivated to get enough sleep most of the time. Poor diet also makes me sick. I can’t tolerate dairy, gluten or much sugar. So I am motivated to eat foods that make me feel good (if you need a category, I am closest to paleo). And God brought me a fabulous gym partner several years ago who is my secret weapon — she calls me M/W/F at 6 a.m. and I say yes. Almost every time… I attend a later gym class T/TH and supplement with outdoor walks and getting up off the couch to get my own snack (if my husband is away, otherwise, I grow roots and he feeds me)

So that’s Chapter One! If you’re still here, you are really motivated to find a simpler path (or you have too much time on your hands!). Dive in and let me know what depletes your energy, what you do to replenish your energy, and what you think about the quest to find a simpler life.