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

Take This Job and Love it!

imagesHow satisfied are you with your job? Bill Hybels asks in Chapter Four of his book Simplify. Welcome back to the fifth instalment of my blog-crawl. Hybles wrote Simplify to combat and inform our tendency toward overwork, exhaustion and over-scheduling. The purpose of the book is to outline healthy practices that will uncomplicate our lives and lead us toward peace.

Finding fulfilment at work, says Hybels, has the power to simplify your life in a number of key ways:

  1. Energy: if you love your job, time flies and it energizes you; a job you hate sucks the life right out of you.
  2. Peace: a job with a healthy culture, well-defined roles, clear directions, and properly assigned responsibility levels brings satisfaction because you can focus on the work without having to fight the system. This brings peace at work and in your after-work hours. By contrast, a job filled with conflict, frustration, poor decisions, chaos, inefficiency and an emotionally toxic environment creates an inner turmoil that robs you of peace at work as well as after-hours.
  3. Self-confidence: a job you love boosts your self-esteem in healthy ways; a miserable job eats away at your self-confidence through ingratitude, petty jealousy, disregard, lack of respect, lack of development, and an invisible ceiling you cannot get past.

So how do you find a job you love so much it will simplify your life? Hybels asks and answers this question — get ready for some babble-speak: I find it helpful to filter the role or position through four foundational alignments: passion, culture, challenge, and compensation. Huh? You mean I can’t just quit my job tomorrow and trust God to lead me directly into a high-paying, appropriately challenging, fun-to-do job in a company surrounded by other fun-loving, highly motivated hipsters?! Dang!

Here are the four alignments you need to consider when assessing your current job or looking for a new one:

  1. Passion: clearly identify your God-given passion and find a job that aligns with it. If you don’t know how to identify your vocational passion, read Let Your Life Speak by PJ Palmer.
  2. Culture: bad culture + passion for the work = no peace! In other words, think beyond the “what” you do, and consider where and with whom you work. If you find yourself in a toxic environment that cannot or will not change, look around for a better job placement.
  3. Challenge: Where do you do your best work? Not when you are under-challenged or dangerously over-challenged, Hybels says. No surprise there. But this did surprise me: not when appropriately challenged either! He invents a new category — appropriately challenged-plus. Here, you feel an excitement, a need for God, a need to work as a team. You’re in just enough over your head that you must swim hard and fast–but you’re not drowning.
  4. Compensation: Think beyond the paycheque here. Compensation includes satisfaction as well as cash. If passion and pay align, lucky you! If pay is low but passion is high, Hybels says supplement your income. If pay is high and passion is low, use that extra cash to fund your passion.

And finally, Hybels testifies that as a young man, God tapped him on the shoulder and called him into the ministry as a pastor. Already well-established in the business world, Hybels brushed Him off for two years, then rather skeptically decided to follow God and see. Forty years later it is abundantly clear God knew what He was doing! His point is, no matter what your current job is, if God is calling you into a vocation take the risk and follow Him.

ACTION STEPS: ASSESS YOUR ALIGNMENTS. This is where you can peek into the confessional as I work through these steps myself. Feel free to stop reading now since the chapter’s “meat” is above.

Passion Alignment: My job(s) fit well with my passions. I have several part-time jobs: homemaker, caregiver (grandkids), speaker, and writer. Some take more time and effort than others and I would not want to promote any of them to full-time. What works best for me is the variety so that no one role is burdensome.

Culture Alignment: I work either with family or people, mostly women, who pay me to travel to their locale. At home, I have a great deal of influence on the culture so if it’s bad, I (should) take the blame and try to improve it. In my travels, I am not any one place long enough to be overly influenced by culture. If it’s bad, I can soon leave. If it’s good, I enjoy it!

Challenge Alignment: At home, I am under-challenged mentally but I have the freedom, at any time, to up the ante and learn something new. On the road speaking, I was dangerously over-challenged for more than a decade due to my phobic fear and panic disorder (more about that in the Fear chapter). Now that I have conquered the fear I suspect I may need to work harder at developing new material in order to keep the level of challenge in the “needing God” zone. Another possibility is a complete role/job change where I would once again have to battle hard to achieve success. (That was not a prayer, God!)

Compensation Alignment: Lucky me, I have a sugar daddy. Not everyone does. Neither Gerry nor I have been driven by the pursuit of wealth. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the years of penury when Gerry was finishing his education, but we have found a nice balance where we have a comfortable lifestyle and the ability to help others and fulfill our responsibilities. Plus we have the job-perk of paid travel so our lifestyle doesn’t truly reflect our wealth, or lack of.

Overall assessment: I am so well aligned a chiropractor would use my x-ray as a model! How about you?

Posted in focus on faith

Simplified Living is Far From Simple!

“Simplified living requires more than just organizing your closets or cleaning out your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul.” Bill Hybels

As we went around the table at our Caring Circle monthly meeting, each woman in turn started the same way, “I’m so tired!” Young moms, grandmothers, working-outside-the-home moms, working-at-home moms. Our ages spanned four decades yet our stories were the same. I’m pooped! And I don’t like it!

I hear the same words repeated over and over: exhausted, overwhelmed, over scheduled, anxious, isolated, dissatisfied testifies Bill Hybels in Simplify. Hybels says he began talking about “simplifying” in response to meeting so many people all over the world who were facing burnout, stress and dissatisfaction.

Why is it that a full generation after learning there is no such thing as Superwoman (the dedicated employee, involved mother, sexpot spouse who never has a headache. She’s a gourmet cook, fashionably dressed, stylishly coiffed, gel nailed, completely accessorized dynamo with buns of steel who teaches weekly Bible studies and volunteers for her community association) women are still knocking themselves out trying to squeeze into that skimpy leotard with the Big S stretched across their bursting bosom?

Everybody is writing and talking about simplifying these days. Go to Amazon and key in “simplify” and you will have scores of resources to choose from. They span concepts like frugality, minimalism, decluttering, organizing, downsizing and more. But most of us are too tired and busy to read those books and we don’t need the stress of having to add one more thing to our lives even if that one-more-thing is “finding a way out of the mess I’m in!”

To most of us the word simplify means “get rid of.” It might mean I need to purge my closet of all the clothes I don’t fit, don’t like, and don’t wear so I can easily access what I do fit, do like and do wear. It might mean get rid of time-wasters, like watching Netflix so I can be more active…but what if I lose weight and have to bring all those skinny clothes back to my overstuffed closet? Oh rats! Two steps forward; one step back.

There are no shortcuts to simplified living, says Hybels. Untangling yourself from the overscheduled, overwhelming web of your current life is not for the faint of heart. It’s honest rigorous work…. Action is required. Hybels then outlines 10 practices to unclutter your soul. These practices deal with finances, time management, relationships, work, forgiveness, and energy to name a few. He concludes each chapter with action steps because reading the book alone will not simplify your life — taking action will. I’m already tired and Bill just told me I need to take action!?

Simplified living is about…being who God called us to be….If you crave a simpler life anchored by the priorities that matter most…you can stop doing the stuff that doesn’t matter and build your life on the stuff that does, Hybels says. Join me as I work my way through Hybels’ 10 practices in my next series of blogs. I will try to be as honest as I can about my “action plan” and how those actions are working — or not — to unclutter my soul. I invite your comments about your own efforts to simplify.