How to Walk Through Darkness

I don’t like to be scared. I’ve never cared for scary movies or spook houses.  I never understood the appeal of having someone jump out of the dark at you while wearing a frightening mask.  Some people love this kind of thing.  I don’t.  Some spook houses have a room or hallway that is designed to put you in absolute darkness.  It is terrifying because you can’t see what’s coming.  The only way to conquer the darkness is to wait it out or to keep walking till you get to the light.  What keeps you from going crazy with fear is knowing that eventually you’ll get out of the darkness and the night will return to normal.

Life can be like a dark room in a spook house.  You can find yourself in a place of darkness.  Suddenly, you can’t understand what’s happening and even worse you can’t see what’s  going to happen next.  An emotional “dark room” can be terrifying.  To handle it you attempt to shore up your courage with the hope that light will return, things will get better, and hopefully, life will return to normal.

Struggling with the dark has been one of the more difficult parts of my wife’s and my experience with cancer.  Our lives were changed dramatically without warning and we struggled to make sense of it all, kind of like having the lights go off.  The darkness increased as we  faced the complication of medical treatments, the resultant body pain, the loss of control of time, and the steady stream of medical bills kept coming at us.  We fought to keep a positive attitude.

One of the worst aspects of “the dark” is the waiting.  As a friend of mine, whose wife is also struggling with cancer shared with me;           

The whole process is taxing on my wife.  It is all the waiting.  Every time we see one doctor, we have to wait another week or two until   we see the next one.  This weighs on us knowing that she has cancer inside her. The surgery is still probably at least 3-4 weeks out. 

I feel his pain.  Been there, done that, and we have that cancer t-shirt.

Maybe you’re in the dark right now.  Maybe you are facing:

  • The terror of a job loss.
  • The fear of ballooning debt.
  • The fright of a health crisis.
  • The panic of a child that is on drugs.
  • The apprehension of a spouse who is threatening to leave.

What can you do?  You don’t have a lot of choices.

One, you can curl up in a fetal position and cry in the dark.  You can whine incessantly about how unfair life is, and how God has failed you.  Of course, that will change nothing except to shorten the list of friends who will take your phone calls.

Two, you can choose to shore up your courage and keep on walking.   You can choose to believe that God is good, life is worth living even in times of struggle, and that eventually the darkness will end.  You can put a smile on your face as you make the inner determination that you will get through this with your integrity intact, and that the darkness will make you a better person when it is gone.

You can choose not to visit a spook house.  You can’t always choose not to walk through emotional darkness, but you can choose how you get through it.  Keep on walking. Keep on believing.  Next year will be better.  The darkness will eventually lift.

Leave me a comment about how you have dealt with the “dark rooms” of your life.

 

QUIT BEING AFRAID TO BE YOU

Quit being afraid to be you. If you want to create something that has power and lasts, then you have to be the authentic you, no matter who that annoys or makes angry.

A copy has no power to inspire.  A cheap knockoff has limited appeal.  People want to see and hear something that is real, and they get pumped when they encounter leaders who are irrepressibly themselves.

Why do we fear being ourselves?

  • We fear we are not good enough.
  • We buy into the lie that other leaders have it all together, all the time.
  • We have the tendency to overemphasize our failures and downplay our successes.
  • We feel arrogant to assert our ideas and opinions.
  • We wonder why people would want to hear what we have to say.

But, you are the only you in the universe.  You have life experiences that no one else has.  You see things in your own unique viewpoint and that viewpoint might just set someone free.

In the biographical movie “Walk The Line,”the young singer, Johnny Cash tries to get a record deal by singing a gospel song that has been recorded by Jimmy Davis.  The producer Sam Phillips stops his performance and says “this is awful.” Then he asks this question.

If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in a gutter and you had time to sing one song—one song that people would remember before you’re dirt, one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth, one song that would sum you up—are you telling me that’s the one song you’d sing?  That same Jimmy Davis tune that we hear on the radio all day about your peace within and how it’s all real and how you’re gonna shout it.  

Or would you sing something different, something real, something you felt?  ‘Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear.  That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.  It ain’t got nothing to do with believing in God, Mr. Cash, it has everything to do with believing in yourself!”

I don’t agree with Sam’s theology, but I agree with his plea for authenticity, and so did Johnny Cash. He put away his props and sang for the producer a song he had written called “Folsom Prison Blues.”  The rest as they say “is history” and a new star was born.

I ask you, what are you meant to say, sing, do, or produce?  Will you continue to spin out weak copies of other people’s work and ideas? Or will you start singing the song you were put on this earth to sing?

Quit being afraid to be you. If you want to create something that has power and lasts, then you have to be the authentic you, no matter who that annoys or makes angry.

 

 

What’s Intimidating You?

What’s Intimidating You?

Subtitle:  Adventures in Car Hauling

My son-in-law bought my dad’s old truck from my mother.  The truck no longer ran and there was a lot of confusion about what might be wrong with it. But, Charley figured it would make a good starter vehicle for my grandson, who was fast approaching driving age.   He learned that other family members possessed a long bed trailer suitable for car hauling and he decided to drive down and haul the truck back home to Tyler. I decided to go along with him on the 3-hour trip, so I could see my mom, sister, and the rest of the family, and because I had brokered the deal.   We made a boy’s trip.  My son-in-law Charley, myself, and two of my above average grandsons set off on a distinctly, masculine adventure.  How hard could it be?

We thought we could do this. I mean it wasn’t rocket science. But, the more we talked with an experienced person, the more our insecurities mounted.  Neither one of us had ever pulled an 18-foot-long trailer, and we had never hauled anything as large as a truck.   As we learned about the things we needed (tie down straps, come-alongs, and weight-centering strategies, our fears began to mount), we realized this was serious stuff.  If we messed up, at the very least, it could be expensive, and at the worst, someone could get hurt.   But, we did it. We faced our fears, we loaded that truck and safely hauled it back to Tyler. We were feeling pretty proud as we rolled into the Rose City, thinking we had once again earned our “man cards.”

This adventure of car-hauling and the mental gymnastics we went through made me think about how people get intimidated out of attempting things that will take their careers to new levels of success. 

  • They turn down a promotion, because they’re not sure they can handle the stress of leadership.
  • They change their minds about relocating to a dream company, because it’s out of state and they have never moved before.
  • They own a company that is offered the chance to bid on a contract that will pay them the kind of money they have been dreaming of, but turn it down, out of fear they can’t hire enough quality employees to fulfill the contract.
  • They perhaps are encouraged to write a book about a life changing experience, but refuse to take action, because they have never written anything before.

All of these opportunities have the same key factors.  One, they offer tremendous potential for improvement in life. Two, they require the learning of new skills or the need to enter into levels of leadership, not yet experienced. Three, they are fear inducing.

These tips from my car-hauling experience might keep you from missing your opportunity.

  • Refuse to be intimidated. Everything is new the first time you do it.
  • Remind yourself that it can be done. Others have hauled cars, so can you.
  • Seek out good instruction. My brother-in-law provided needed expertise that greatly increased our chance for success.
  • Have confidence in yourself. You have made it to your current level of success through hard work and discipline and you can make it further using the same tools.

I don’t want to encourage you to do anything foolish or dangerous in life.  But, I also don’t want you to get intimidated out of what may be one of your greatest chances for success, because you’ve never done it before.

Take on the task.  Take up the challenge.  Haul a truck if you need to.  You might even earn your “man card.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

I came close to refusing the offer to become the Pastor of the amazing church that I am privileged to lead.  I was afraid that I wasn’t up to the task.  I told myself, “I should tell them thank you, but you should get someone else.” I am extremely grateful that the Lord spoke to my heart in that moment and said, “Oh yes you can do this.  If I have called you to this task, I will empower you to accomplish it.”   Thirty-one years later, I am still enjoying the opportunity to lead this fantastic group of people, which has certainly been one of the greatest of my life.

Are you letting fear keep you from something that you would like to do?

Is there a position you’d like to apply for, but you’re afraid to submit your resume?  Is there a project you’d like to take on, but you are afraid you will fail in bringing it to pass?  Is there a relationship you’d like to pursue, but you fear that you’ll be rejected?  Do you wish you had the courage of people around you, who seem bold enough to chase any goal they get excited about?

Here’s a little secret: They are afraid too.

Everyone feels fear.  Everyone has doubts.  Everyone feels that they are not up to the task.  But, successful people push through their fear and do what they dream anyway.   It takes courage to put yourself out there in front of people.  It takes a brave heart to write a book on relationships, offer a class on success, or apply for a demanding job. The ugly thoughts of your inner critic begin to hammer at your doubts. They attack you with questions like:

  • Who are you to think someone would listen to you talk?
  • Who do you think you are to write a book?
  • Who made you an expert?
  • You know you are not perfect. You’ll be a hypocrite if you write or speak about success.

Michael Neill wrote about his strategy for facing fear in his book “Financially Fearless.”

 “As I have written elsewhere, there is a tremendous difference between feeling the fear and doing it anyway and the freedom which comes from finding that space in yourself which is beyond fear. And the more time you spend living beyond fear, the sooner the answer to ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?’ will become ‘Exactly what I’m doing now.'”  

How to push through fear to success:

  • Make the decision to try, after all, the worst you can do is fail
  • Make the distinction that failure is nothing more than a learning experience
  • Make the connection with your God and tap into His power
  • Make the leap of faith

In the beautiful movie “We bought a Zoo.”The father, Benjamin encourages his teenage son, who wants to ask a girl out, but is afraid to, with the story about how he met, the boy’s mother. Benjamin told him he saw a lovely girl through a shop window and found the nerve to walk up to a complete stranger and introduce himself.  This led to the great romance of his life.

Then he told his son:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

What would you attempt if you found 20 seconds of insane courage?  I hope you find those 20 seconds, because I promise you, the world is waiting on your greatness.