Tag Archives: fear

Why I am So Afraid of the Finish Line

Photo by infomatique (Creative Commons)

Photo by infomatique (Creative Commons)

I am just going to come out and say it – finishing scare me. To the core of my being. Whether it’s a project for work, writing a book, or hiking to the top of a mountain – it’s the end I am afraid of more than anything else.

This fear has risen to the top of my mind lately, because I have been in a season with a lot of finish lines. I just sent a short book on hope to my editor (details will be forthcoming). I have a presentation for a major client in two days, and a key milestone for another client two days after. My wife and I have decided to stop sitting on the sidelines at our new church and start serving.

Everywhere I look, there are finish lines. And I tremble a bit inside. I don’t think I am alone in this fear.

Why are we afraid to finish?

Our work becomes public. When we are in process, nobody sees what we do. How we operate. What our process looks like. Everything changes once we finish. We can no longer hide what we have toiled over. Our finished product is now available for all (or some) to see. This is the root of the fear.

Other will judge our efforts. Others will place value on what we have done. Good or bad, we will hear the commentary about our efforts and the end results of those efforts. We don’t want to be judged, so we stop before we cross the finish line. Or we crawl forward slowly. Inch by inch. When we have the stamina to sprint.

We assume the worst. Once we give audience to the voice of fear, we can become paralyzed. The worst case scenario suddenly becomes the most likely scenario. We actually start to believe publishing our book will result in the fall of the modern economic system worldwide.

My advice to you, and to myself:

Cross the finish line with bravado. Rejoice in the process. Be proud of your art. (You can tweet that)

Learn from your detractors, but don’t take them so seriously. The economic system will still be running tomorrow. You will still put your pants on one leg at a time tomorrow.

Then get back to creating. As my friend Tim Gallen once told me: Shut up and create!

Dori, Abe Lincoln and Jesus Rescue Me

Photo by bendus (Creative Commons)

Photo by bendus (Creative Commons)

What do Dori from Finding Nemo, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus all have in common? Their words have become guiding principles in my life.

 Just keep swimming Dori

Finding Nemo is my daughter’s favorite movie, and this is her favorite part of the movie. Life is very hard for an epileptic, autistic, socially awkward ten year old girl. Whenever sadness begins to overtake her, I see a small smile cross her face. “I’m going to be like Dori and just keep swimming.”

Her perseverance inspires me. This quote exemplifies the strong spirit within Cynthia. When I come across hard times, I remember this quote and my daughter’s smile. Then I keep on swimming.

My concern is not whether God is on my side; my greatest concern is to be on Gods side, for God is always right Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is probably my favorite president. His resilience in politics speaks to the passionate pursuit of a goal. His stirring Emancipation Proclamation changed the face of America. His courage to make the difficult decisions in the Civil War unified a divided nation. Abraham Lincoln always seemed to have the right approach to important questions.

But his words here remind us nobody is always right. Our arguments, assumptions, and beliefs should always be subject to correction and adjustment.  We must not forget our minds are busted and broken. Therefore, we should focus on knowing and aligning ourselves with the heart of God.

I will never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus

Sometimes life is lonely. We feel as if nobody understands what we are going through. Nobody cares. There is not even a shoulder to cry on. Jesus tells us these feelings are not the truth.

Instead, our God is fully committed to being there for us. When life falls apart. In our victories. When we’re scared. When we are literally on a roller coaster screaming and having the time of our life. God is with us. Always.

If God is for us, who can be against us? Apostle Paul

This verse in Romans 8 led to my salvation and the beginning of my faith walk with Jesus. I will never forget Doug Fox, the youth pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Hemet, California.

He read this verse, and talked about the amazing Creator. Doug said that God invented the idea of art with His sunsets. Indeed, He created the sun, the sky we see it in, and the Earth we stand upon to view the sunsets. And God creates a new masterpiece every single day. It is this God who is for us when we are in Christ.

I was sold. I talked with Doug and accepted Christ as my savior later that very day. When times are low, I remember this verse. God is FOR me.

We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are. John Maxwell

There is a part of me that is incredibly lazy. This same corner of my heart is entitled. I want and even expect success to come my way with minimal effort. “What do you mean I have to earn it?” cries the selfishness. “Don’t you know who I am?”

This arrogance will get me nowhere. As a writer, I’m no Steven King. John Grisham and I am not equally known. And here’s a sad reality check — the TV author turned detective Richard Castle has sold more books than me. If I am content with this, then I can continue my current path. If I want success (which may or may not include a bestseller), I MUST CHANGE. I MUST GROW.

Punch fear in the face. Jon Acuff

Stepping into something new is terrifying. Fear whispers in our ear:

You are not good enough.

You know you are going to fail. Why try?

Nobody cares what you think. Just shut your mouth!

Fear can be very convincing. It will stifle our vision and creativity if we allow it space. This is where Jon’s advice comes into play. We should never cower when fear speaks to us. Instead we should move forward with intention and aggression. Come out swinging. Punch fear in the face and move forward.

If we succeed, what a win! If we fall flat on our face, so what? Either way we have already won. We conquered fear. We put ourselves out there for the world to see, as we pursue our dream.

What quotes inspire you to move forward, no matter what comes your way?

Graffiti & Family Fun Time For the Win?

Graffiti Run


I declared 2013 the year to overcome, but what does it mean to overcome? The truth is, I don’t really know, but I will share as I learn, and I hope you will do the same.

Yesterday I learned that overcoming means facing multiple fears at the same time: fear of extreme dirtiness, fear of 5K events, and fear of seizures in dangerous public places.

We signed up as a family for the Graffiti Run, which is a fun 5K event where you have loads of colorful chalk-based ‘graffiti’ thrown at you while you run, walk or hula hoop your way through the course. Did I mention I don’t like being dirty, and I am out of shape? These are the small fears though, compared to what happened on Saturday.

The day before the race, I had two distinct and unique types of seizures that I have not had in the past. So my wife and I had a decision to make. Will we allow caution to win the day? I could legitimately have had a significant seizure during the Graffiti Run, with disastrous results. Together, we decided that fun would lead the way.

I ran the race without any seizures, and as a family we had an absolutely amazing time. If we had chosen to be overcome by my seizures, we would have missed the sheer joy, color, exhaustion, bewilderment, and nasty tasting graffiti we all experienced yesterday.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful, but it was worth the risk. Overcoming always is.

What can you do right now to face multiple fears and overcome in your life?

Fear, Trust and Parenting – Part 4 of 4

My oldest son is 17, in his junior year of school, and now gainfully employed at McDonald’s. In less than two years, he will be done with high school. We are having conversations right now about what college to go to, his top choices for majors, and how to get through his schooling with as little debt as possible. We have come a LONG way from potty training and multiplication tables. He is well past the stage of life where his decisions are easily reversible, and is now moving steadily into adulthood.

My wife and I have worked hard for all the years of his life to teach Jonathon how to live an honorable life; how to love deeply; how to walk purely; how to think then act, not the other way around; how to understand God’s Word; how to worship freely; how to spend and save money wisely.  We have given our best to him, invested all the energy we could muster (and more), in the hope and expectation that he will have every opportunity to succeed in his life, and to surpass us in every way.

Yet even here, fear has a chance to take hold of me, if I let it. What if I haven’t taught him everything he needs to know? What if we missed something really important, and he falls into some trap that he cannot escape from, but he never even knew the trap existed? The questions can go on and on, if I let them. Some days, I do let these thoughts paralyze me, cause me to question my parenting, my love, and my son’s readiness for adulthood? In those moments, when I allow doubt to creep in, I get stuck. And then, a favorite verse comes to mind:

ImageThe key here for me is “when he is old” – as much for what it does NOT say as for what it does say. Proverbs doesn’t say when he is 19, or a college graduate, or a new dad, or a high school junior. No, it says “when he is old.”  My wife Barbara and I have spent literally hundreds of hours building into Jonathon the values, theology, morals, kindness, wisdom, humor and love that he have within our hearts. We have given him our all, and we will continue to do so as he moves into adulthood. We hope and pray he will move forward into a vibrant life in Christ that he has already started, and that we won’t have to pin our hopes on “when he is old.”

I don’t have any answers, and I don’t think Proverbs is a magic bullet for good little Christian families. I have seen too many friends go through the heartache of watching their children walk away from the church, and eventually from God Himself. But I still remember being too young, and believing that I knew EVERYTHING, regardless of how ignorant I really was. I also remember waking up one day, and realizing how foolish I had been. So as my son walks into adulthood, my prayers are for his protection from the darkness of the world, and from the foolishness of youth. But beyond that, I take a stand against the fear that says “Your son will fail,” and trust that he will be the man we have taught him to be.

Fear, Trust and Parenting – Part 3 of 4

As we round third base on this series of blogs on fear trust and parenting, I am going to talk about my youngest son Elijah now. He fits the typical profile of the youngest child – social, outgoing, loves to be the center of attention, dramatic, charming, spoiled, entitled, and handsome. A lot of these traits are commonly seen as the result of birth order research, but some of these traits rest solely on my wife Barbara and I, and we own them. It is exhausting to have 3 kids in 4 years, so we let some things slide.

In keeping true to his outgoing self, Elijah auditioned for a local holiday-themed play about two weeks ago. His attitude coming into the audition was amazing, and sounded something like this:

I assume that I am going to get a part, and probably a large part to boot. I am a very good actor, and have been in every play I ever tried out for. Plus, I have people tell me ALL THE TIME that I should pursue acting more seriously because I am so good. I actually think they might make a mistake if they don’t choose me.

In other words, he looked a little like this:

ImageAs I am listening to him talk about this, I have two completely adversarial thoughts running through my head:

1)      I hope Elijah does not get a part – he needs humility.

2)      I hope Elijah does get a part – it would be exciting for him to be in another performance.

On the one hand, I was afraid that Elijah would walk out with an even bigger head if he got a significant part in this production. At the same time, I didn’t want his heart to hurt, and I was worried it would if he got rejected for this play.  These crossroads in parenting are always interesting to me. Elijah’s emotional needs and his spiritual needs were really at odds with one another in this moment. Spiritually, he needed a reality check, a moment of clarity in which he realized that he was not indeed God’s gift to the acting world. At the same time, his heart is so very tender, and he is so easily discouraged and wounded. I would have hated to see him struggle with the pain of rejection, especially in an area that he perceives as a strength.

Thankfully, this time the decision was not in my hands. I did not have to determine whether to prioritize his spirit or his emotions. The director of the play got to decide this one, and his concern was merely ability, not the condition of Elijah’s heart.

My son received a small but active role in this production, and along with it a dose of humility. As the cast did the first read-through of the play, he realized that he was not ready for a major part in this play. Indeed, he was in awe of the actors with the two major parts:

There are so many lines. I have no idea how I could memorize all those lines in just a few weeks…Dad, did you hear how different her voice is when she is in character, as opposed to real life. I don’t think I could do that…I am SO GLAD that I didn’t get a big part in this play – it’s hard to learn so quickly.

One of the things that I love about our God is that He is ever watchful over every ounce of our being: spirit, body, mind, soul, and emotions. He knew I would face those parenting crossroads long before I did, and He had Elijah’s best interests in mind the whole time. I am so thankful that God does not leave us alone to parent our children, but that rather He joins with us. When we stand at a decision point, He is beside us. Truly, our God is always with us, supporting us, sustaining us, guiding us.

Have you ever had a conflicted moment as a parent, where you wanted two things for your kid at the same time? What happened?

Fear, Trust and Parenting – Part 1 of 4

I will never forget the day I got to be Superman for my daughter.

ImageOur family was at a friend’s house two summers ago, just chilling out and swimming. All the kids were in the pool have a great time, while the adults were relaxing about twenty feet away under the porch. As is often the case, we were half-paying attention to kids, while also secretly enjoying the ability to finish conversations without interruption. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my daughter Cynthia jumping into the water…and go limp in mid-air as she went into an absent seizure!

In a moment I slipped off my sandals, ran to the pool and jumped in after her. I saw her face-down, body limply floating downward in the pool. I grabbed her and rose quickly to the surface. As we got to the pool’s edge, Cynthia was still out of it. I pulled her out of the pool with me and held her in my arms for about three minutes before she came out of her seizure. She looked up at me, completely confused. “Poor girl,” I thought. “She is moved into her postictal state, and is probably done swimming today.” Not exactly….she smiled and said, “Dad? Thanks for hugging me, and I love you too. Can I go back to swimming now?”

I let her go swim with her friends, and stayed on the side of the pool, silently weeping prayers of gratitude. She had been in the deep end playing by herself. What would have happened if I had turned my head to the left instead of the right and missed her jump? What if nobody noticed and my daughter slowly sunk to the bottom of the pool? What if…what if…what if. Even now – over two years later – as I tell you this story, I am starting to tear up. There is actually a possibility that my daughter may have died if things had been only a little different.

It’s not every day that we have true life-or-death moments in parenting (thank God – I wouldn’t make it as a parent!). But we do have choices as parents about the freedoms we give our children, and this is always in contrast with trust – trust in our children, and trust with God. The next four posts are going to be focused on this contrast, and the struggles that I continue to work through in this context.

This was one of those moments that changed the way we parent Cynthia. As you might imagine, Cynthia never swims alone anymore. We also came face to face, really for the first time, with how dangerous this world can be for an epileptic like my daughter. This paradigm shift has impacted our parenting in some really significant ways, some pretty frustrating for our daughter. Our tendency now is to hold our daughter close, maybe closer than we should, and maybe closer than she wants.

ImageRecently, Cynthia has been frustrated, because she sees these safety concerns through the lens of mistrust. I realize that we will need to pull back and give her some chances to experience life outside our watchful eye. I want her to know that we love her, we trust her, that it’s not really about her per se; it’s her epilepsy we don’t “trust.” Yet the fear, the what if’s grounded in perhaps the most emotional moment of my life two summers ago, won’t go away.

I’d love to hear from you – how do you figure out the balance between fear and trust? I’d especially like to hear from you if you have a special needs child, as I think the answers might be a bit different.