“Never do anything out of a motivation of fear.”
Some of the best advice I have ever received!
Why? Because fear creates what it fears.
Fear of rejection: If you are afraid of being rejected by colleagues or acquaintances, you become clingy and petty – possibly creepy – causing otherwise friendly people to want to steer clear of you, i.e., to reject you.
Fear of losing a lover: If you are afraid of losing a lover to another, you become irrational and jealous, controlling – potentially driving the person straight into your rival’s arms.
Fear of discovery: If you have a guilty conscience, you become accusatory and defensive, arouse suspicion, and provoke others to dig into your life until you are exposed.
Fear of betrayal: If you fear betrayal, you will consistently misinterpret actions, become petty and treat others as unworthy of trust – a pattern of behavior that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy culminating in (you guessed it) “betrayal.”
It’s just how it works. I’m not sure why. But fear does create what it fears.
So now – before I take action or respond in a situation, before I pick up the phone or send the text or say yes or no to a request for help, before I censor myself on Twitter or Facebook – I try to remember to ask myself “why?” Why am I doing or not doing this? Am I acting out of fear?
Just might be the most important question we can ask ourselves today.
[The theme of Voice has been dancing about in my head for several weeks. I ran into this post, written by me three years ago. It is so timely for today! I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you feel you have found your voice, or (like many of us) are you “in process”?]
This post is about your voice. And your seasons.
I am going through a season change… are you? Time to get more involved in some things, and less in others. Can you relate? Thinking through priorities and proportions. This is especially challenging because I am, at heart, both an activist and an artist.
Just what is voice? It can be a somewhat intangible concept, but by voice I mean the free expression of that unique set of attributes that makes you, you! There is your voice, my voice, God’s voice…
We each have a purpose. God gives us our voice so we can fulfill that purpose.
I enjoy the gradual unveiling of my children’s voices. And every day I pray that they will learn to hear God’s voice… to love and trust it, to navigate through life guided by it, much as the sailors of old relied on the stars in the heavens.
But the aspect of navigating that has taken me years to learn involves my own voice, and a question (you may find yourself asking the same question): Is my voice effective?
We need to look at all our areas of involvement – at relationships and organizations in our spheres of influence – and ask a fundamental question: Does my voice make a difference? Does anybody hear me? Do they want to hear me?
If I am committed, doing my part, and carefully listening to the voices of others, but having no impact and finding no reciprocity, then that is not a fruitful involvement. It may be time for change. There are likely needs or opportunities elsewhere, just waiting!
Or, it may be time to speak more loudly. But no one likes a shouting match. If you’re in a relationship and have had “the talk” multiple times, to be comforted by a “you’re right” and no change, reconsider that relationship. If you have a friendship with someone who has taken advantage of you repeatedly, and you’ve confronted and received an “I’m sorry” only to be misused again, evaluate if it is truly a friendship. If you’re on a board or team and have expressed the same serious concerns multiple times, to be greeted by “great input” and no action, then reality check. Why force others to listen to you, when somewhere else there is a person praying precisely to hear a voice such as yours? Keep the peace, spread the love… and move on!
Of course, I am not talking about giving up when things get tough… Healthy relationships and organizations will always involve dynamic tension. Love and loyalty are key to managing that tension. But even if you are fighting a fierce battle for social justice, or to grow a business or fulfill a dream, you still have to ask yourself the questions above. Time is short. Before you know it, five years will have passed… and your dreams for tomorrow may have become distant bittersweet memories.
Bottom line today – your voice is invaluable, and there is a predetermined place where it is needed and where there is grace abounding for it to be heard. Relax in that knowledge. Listen, think, pray, speak, be thoughtful about your season change. Then watch that last leaf fall and welcome the new season. And as your senses soak in the change, listen for God’s voice and remember – He is listening for yours!
I love campfires. We were gearing up for the day. I was making coffee on the Coleman.
The night before we’d had a roaring campfire in the fire ring, and had watched it burn out. Now the kids were poking around in the remains with some sticks. To their astonishment, the ashes started smoking.
Peter went over, and showed them how to blow into the embers that were deep inside the ashes – quickly flames erupted. With just a bit more kindling, once again we had a roaring fire.
I told the kids how cool it is that God helps us do the same. We all have gifts within us, and we are supposed to “fan the flame of the gift of God that is within you…” (that is in the Bible, in 2 Timothy 1:6).
You have some very unique abilities and perspectives. You might be feeling insecure, or be afraid that it is too late for you…
Make a plan, share your dream, take a class, break out the study books, do whatever it takes, but blow on what looks like ashes! It’s up to you, and no one else. Put some kindling in there, and just watch – the embers are still hot, they are just hidden!
You can do it. The gift is within you. The world needs to see your fire.
Faith and I were exploring the campground. Faith is ten. We wandered over to the bathrooms, which were a five-minute walk from our primitive campsite. I propped the heavy door open with my foot, and in the darkness I struggled to turn on the light. I pushed the switch; I pulled it; I pressed it up and pressed it down.
Then Faith reached up underneath my arm, and turned the switch. As she turned away toward the sinks, she laughingly said, “You work too hard at it, Mommy. It’s funny.”
It hit me. Like a ton of bricks.
She is so right. I work too hard. At a lot of things. Always trying to get it right. A bit like a ringmaster in a three-ring circus, jaunting from ring to ring, making sure all the acts are perfect, every performer happy and feeling listened to… All this while envisioning electrifying new acts, novel adventures, what can be.
What did I learn from my Faith? A better question is: of what did Faith remind me?
One word – REST. That word has been echoing from my chest for several weeks, trying to get my attention. Close friends have verbally highlighted that word for me as we have prayed or talked. And God has steadily and insistently told me to REST.
Anytime you pioneer with your business or ministry, you face daunting tests. Obstacles bigger than your abilities. That is what we have been working through…
My goal now? To say, “That is what we have been RESTing through…”
What about you? Advice for the rest of us? What is the one thing that helps you to REST when life gets frantic?
The Japanese man clings to the rooftop of his home, adrift ten miles out to sea. The tsunami has swept his house and his wife away, and that bit of roof is what is keeping him alive. Miraculously, after two days tossed about by waves, he is rescued.
I have never had to overcome anything physically and materially as challenging as Hiromitsu Shinkawa faced. But I have had some very heavy blows in life. We’ve been talking about “how to deal” when life blindsides you and you are nearly destroyed by an emotional disaster. After the first key – Don’t Panic – the second key is this: Find the Rock.
God as a concept can seem overwhelming. It is difficult to think of Him in “manageable” terms – in a way our brains and hearts can understand. When someone tells you to “trust God” or “turn to God” in hard times – how do you know what he (God) is thinking? Do you cry out to him in desperation (as we have all done) saying, “Please God, please God, help me?”
And then what? Do you hear a reply? When your emotions are in turmoil, does he seem inaccessible? God’s Word, though, is always beautifully and easily accessible.
When life blindsides me, I cling as tenaciously to the words God speaks to us as Hiromitsu clung to that rooftop. Those words are my Rock, my stability. I read them, pray them, repeat them… and feel my spirit regain its strength.
Index cards have been a great tool for me. I carry them with me for easy access. When anxiety or fear starts to creep back in, I can pull out the verses, read them, resist the negative emotion and move on with my day.
Below are some samples… I highly recommend you make your own set of cards. Hold tight to the truths found in the Bible. They will keep you from drowning.
Sometimes I have a hard time believing that God made us in His image… When I look around at all the small-mindedness and suffering humans swim around in, I wonder – are we just a bad copy of a copy of a copy, a Multiplicity gone wrong to the tenth degree?
Then my imagination pulls the emergency brake on that train of thought…
Because I imagine people being so much better than they currently are. I imagine change and growth, and stingy hearts growing three sizes bigger… I imagine injustices being set right, and funds released to help the poverty-stricken. I imagine forgiveness flowing in impossible situations.
I imagine all those things because I have smelled them and felt them and watched them happen. I know they will happen again.
And when I imagine change, and see change, and help make change happen – I know I am not the only one doing it…
“Woohoo! Look at me!!!” – ever want to say that? Sometimes, when feeling particularly accomplished, I wish others could see what I see – and tell me how awesome I am. Sometimes it happens; sometimes it doesn’t. (Hey, just being real here!)
“Wow, you are awesome!”would be a great reward… or would it? Truth is, public acclamation is like the chocolate of rewards. Doesn’t last. Gives you a quick high, some strength to keep going, but wouldn’t work as your only food source.
So what kind of reward fuels you for the long haul, and lasts forever? There is something called a prophet’s reward in the Bible. It says that when you actively embrace a messenger of God (a prophet – someone sold out to promoting God’s agenda only), you get the same reward he or she gets. (Matthew chapter 10 toward the end, if you want to check it out).
What does that mean? Well,when you recognize that God is transforming the lives of people (you cannot change the world without changing lives) through a specific person, you are recognizing God.
And recognizing God is a big deal.
It means that often the most significant work we do is unseen. It means if I bless a prophet (no matter where they are in chain of command) to help them achieve their potential to change the world, I will be blessed every time.
It also means that when others invest in my life, and recognize God’s hand on what I do, they too will be blessed. I’ve seen it again and again.
Is public acclamation bad?Of course not!It gives you a great platform, is sweet and – a lesson I learned long ago – a crowd draws a crowd. I want that platform. Anyone who has anything worth saying should want it. But it cannot be your identity.If you base your ministry identity on being more and more attractive to more and more people, you will lose yourself.
And that is no reward at all.
It’s so opposite to what we humans believe. To us, public acclamation alone is success – turns out it is chocolate, and can melt as quickly.
Recognizing God in the lives of those that are truly devoted to doing his work – and helping them be strong – will keep you strong for a lifetime. Now that is the reward I want!
Father, please help us be peaceful enough today to recognize you at work through others, and to bless you by blessing them.
I came across this quote from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. Da Vinci was a genius. He started life in a simple way, as the illegitimate son of a peasant woman and a notary. He painted the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and many other works of art.
But above all he was an astounding thinker. He is responsible for advances in architecture, botany, engineering, science, mathematics, anatomy… and more. This is what he said:
While I thought I was learning to live,
I have been learning how to die.
Hmm. I am going to be chewing on that one for a while. What do you think he meant?
It is becoming a tradition that I post this every year! I have found that there’s always someone out there that needs it right around this time of year… could it be you?
I am sitting in a Starbucks thinking about growing things.
In 2003, when we moved into our house, there was a huge 60 foot (at least) Tree. It was a hub of zoological life in our back yard. A virtual Grand Central Station of flora and fauna. Squirrels, birds, foot long fluorescent green lizards, children… all were drawn to it.
In 2005 hurricane Wilma visited. For a day we watch it assault our beloved Tree. Through the night it howled, as our Tree and thousands of others fought a losing battle. We watched 20-foot branches weaken and begin to tear, giant invisible hands pulling on them until they fell with a crash, inaudible in the roaring storm.
Morning came; our Tree was devastated. By God’s mercy it didn’t cave in our home. It simply fell apart, becoming a pile of wood and leaves, taller than me, filling our entire yard, destroyed by an event totally outside its control.
I miss that big old shady Tree, so full of life. It made me feel safe. It gave me a sense of roots, of stability when we first moved here and were weary with transition.
The yard has been transformed. Grass grows where it could not grow before, because the Tree’s shadow used to lord it over all. A new tree now grows in its place. Not the same at all, but pretty. Several feet away I planted an avocado tree. Can’t wait to taste the fruit. On the rebuilt fence nearby morninglories grow. Always my favorite flower, because they are new every morning, just like the mercy of God.
And in an opposite corner, I have two papaya trees waiting to be planted. They were given to me as babies, six inches tall each. Now they are a few feet tall, and more than ready to be planted. I very much look forward to their fruit.
I’m planning on having lots of containerized trees also. Oranges, mandarins, lemons… and maybe a mango tree or two in the ground.
New things grow when old things fall apart. It’s the way things work. My big old Tree in an odd way was a special friend. I would look out the window at the kitchen sink, see its huge trunk enveloped with life, and feel safe. But its foliage, so beautiful, was too big.
It was top heavy and in the end that is why it could not stand the storm. Its presence fell over the entire yard, and a lot of other things couldn’t grow in its shadow.
When we hauled all the old branches out, and the stump was ripped out of the ground, I had no inspiration as to what would replace it. I didn’t understand why it had to go.
Now I do.
My thoughts drift to other places in life. More than once I have had cherished relationships torn apart by storms the hit us unannounced. Work situations, life situations, seemingly unnecessary situations…
But new things grow when old things fall apart. Always.