Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

The Genius of “The Next Right Thing”

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Fear can become pervasive.  Fear remains largely immune from facts, data, knowledge.  What fear carries no immunity from is loving, open relationship.

There lies the genius of the beautiful words from the 12 Step Tradition … one must simply do “The Next Right Thing.”  In times of fear, paralyzed, unsure … do the next right thing.  Very simple.  Very powerful.

Life then becomes, despite complex circumstances and context, blessedly simple, drawing us away from fear and into relationship.

“You have reached wisdom when you no longer have any concern about understanding what is true and good, but are motivated by and living what is true and good; for this is wisdom.” Arcana Coelestia 10225 Emanuel Swedenborg

Ebola and When Fear Reigns

Friday, October 24th, 2014

The recent news that a New York City Doctor, Craig Spencer, tested positive for Ebola will no doubt create another spasm of fear in the US.  Understandable.  The frightening ability of this disease to spread, even to highly trained  medical professionals who no doubt take every precaution, terrifies.

And we live in an even more dangerous world when a contagion of fear reigns.

Yesterday read of another tragedy … over 3,000 Palestinians have died in recent months attempting to flee by boat to Europe in hopes of starting a new life.   Buried deep in the paper … who knew?

That does not make Americans bad or wrong either for not paying attention to the plight of refugees or paying too much attention to understandable fears around Ebola.  But.  But our fears can blind us to the plight of others. We will experience cases of Ebola.  We will not experience what many anticipate is soon coming in Africa … thousands of cases a week.

I admire Dr. Spencer.  I admire he traveled to Africa.  I admire he followed a dangerous call to help.  That is the bigger story to me.  A man driven not by fear but by compassion, joining unknown others doing the same.

Weaning Us From the Worry at the Center of Our Heart

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Worry inhabits most hearts.  And God’s loving endeavor is to wean us away from dangerous dependencies towards the state of peace that is heaven.   As one author noted, “All of the stories of healing and transformation, awareness and enlightenment that we find in the Bible come to people moving beyond the usual definitions of power (i.e., false power, temporary power, dominative power, cultural power) to discover their deeper soul and their true spiritual power.”

To do that takes a willingness to give up control.  The desire to control others is distinctly human.  The only viable exercise of “control”, if that is even the right word, must grow, New Church theology cautions us, from “love and mercy.’  (Secrets of Heaven 1755)

I am not exactly sure how to connect “fear” with “control” in a way that is erudite.  But doesn’t it just strike you that somehow if we allow God to pry from our hands the crazed need to control others and things that somehow fear would leave, would leave along with the white knuckled wrestling as God helps us to find our right sized soul?

Vulnerability and Engagement

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

It is excruciatingly hard to change, to place ourselves at the growth edges where success is every bit as much a possibility as failure.

Living in our culture, most of us, as Brene Brown points out eloquently, live in deep fear of being ordinary.  So the pull to change can at times grow from a false motivation – that very fear of the ordinary – a fear more closely tracked by how we perceive ourselves to  be in the eyes of others vs. our own eyes and the eyes of God.  Such a motivation is fear based and in the end self-seeking.

I don’t believe God worries much about whether we live “ordinary” lives or not.  We all experience the extraordinary in the ordinary.   A favorite uncle, for example, fails in certain measures of eloquence but far surpasses others in terms of dedication to higher purpose, support of family and friends, as well as just plain fun. Ordinary in one sense. Extraordinary in another.

I do believe God’s desire for us is to live engaged lives regardless of whether the wrapper is “ordinary” or not.  Engagement of course predicates itself on vulnerability.  We have to allow ourselves and others the vulnerability that in the end will engage.

That is painfully difficult. As a pastor, I face those challenges constantly.  It is far easier to function out of a list of “nots” and “knowns” then to take risks.  As one pastor phrased it, we prefer certainty over the grace that would change us

I imagine the whole of regeneration connects to that very work.

The Scary Lion King Voice: Fundamentalism that cuts both ways

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Most of us have a “scary” voice, a Lion King voice.  I certainly do.  The voice keeps me in a sense “safe” because it keeps me “right.”  I know the triggers all too well given that I rehearse my responses to perceived criticism daily, specifically criticisms directed at what I believe to be the work of church.

I know there is a tad bit of that “voice” that is even necessary given the tumult of the times in which we live.  But only a “tad”  - an amount far less than the roaring monologue we often would choose to unleash if given our way.

Where is this voice for you?  The scary voice, the one used to “frighten” and “prove”?  The one which after we roar, we look to friends with the question, “Was that good?”  ”Did I sound scary enough?”

We have to wonder more and more how good any of that voice is.  The Third Way is so difficult to write about because it is not a solution but it is the solution. Cutting between the easy division of “liberal” and “conservative” it neither supplies “Safety” or “rightness.”  And I do think more and more it is one of the prized discoveries God places before before us.  Read this powerful reflection from Richard Rohr.

At this time in history, the contemporary choice offered most Americans is between unstable correctness (liberals) and stable illusion (conservatives)! What a choice! It has little to do with real transformation in either case. How different from the radical orthodoxy of T. S. Eliot, who can say in Little Gidding,

You are not here to verify, 
Instruct yourself or inform curiosity 
Or carry report. You are here to kneel . . . .

There is a third way, and it probably is a way of “kneeling.” Most people would just call it “wisdom.” It demands a transformation of consciousness and a move beyond the dualistic win/lose mind of both liberals and conservatives. An authentic God encounter is the quickest and truest path to such wisdom, which is always non-dual consciousness and does not take useless sides on non-essential issues.

Neither expelling nor excluding (conservative temptation), nor perfect explaining (liberal temptation) is our task. True participation in God liberates us from our control towers and for the compelling and overarching vision of the Reign of God—where there are no liberals or conservatives. Here, the paradoxes—life and death, success and failure, loyalty to what is and risk for what needs to be—do not fight with one another, but lie in an endless embrace. We must penetrate behind them both—into the Mystery that bears them both. This is contemplation in action. 

Spot on stuff.  New Church theology is cut right along those lines as well.  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted, “[The] pact is the Lord’s close connection with us through love or to put in another way, [it] is the presence of the Lord with us in love and charity. The Word calls the pact itself a pact of peace.  This is because peace symbolizes the Lord’s kingdom, and the Lord’s kingdom consists of mutual love that is the only thing that affords peace.”

Living into that place is hard because we are asked to give up being “right” and learn to just “kneel.”  Hard to do for the Lion King!



Too Blessed To Be Stressed

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

My sister sent me a text.  She enjoyed a conversation she had with a house painter.  He found faith through battling a drug addiction. The conversation started simply – his T-Shirt read “Too Blessed To Be Stressed.”

Why don’t we live there?  Why do I choose stress so often?  Why do I choose worry so often?  Why am I so dammed “serious?”  Here is the reality – life is actually good – broken but good.  Blessings abound.  Most of what I categorize as “failure” opened up into something far different.  Learning to love is a life’s work but also a life’s joy.  Adventure.

On Sunday night a support group around divorce met.  Looking around that room, seeing so many tender faces there for reasons beyond “self” was a glimpse of heaven.  Yes it was serious and there was an underlying joy – not a joy of laughter but a sober, deeper joy of life lived well as life lived for others.  It is serious stuff but as Mary Oliver put it … “happiness, it is another one of the ways to enter the fire.”

“I am so worried about the stock market.”

Friday, August 19th, 2011

I read the New York Times daily.  Over the past weeks, nearly every day is headlined with news of economic challenges.  The language accompanying these headlines often includes words like …

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Risks
  • Lehman like collapse
  • Need to calm
  • Strain
  • Skittish

Those words don’t exactly bring peace.  And we clearly need to take a breath and get perspective.  Even today an article on the front page of the Time’s business section wrote of panic because a European bank had tapped into an emergency fund set up to ensure that the banks have a safety net in oder to avoid panic.  So even taking the steps to avoid a panic create more panic!  There is no end to that.  If the two polls of human motivation are truly fear and greed, we will go “broke.”  And we get to choose.  We can choose fear and greed or we can choose differently.

I shudder hearing the market made into a person, aka “We will see if the markets like (don’t like) the latest news” or “How will the market react?”  It as if we have bowed down and offered our destiny and our serenity to the “market.”

The market does serve very useful functions.  It creates wealth and capital, funds retirement plans etc….  However it is a man-made creation and as such is fallible.  Period.  It is not a person.  It is certainly not God.  It is not a relationship.  It is not love, or connection.  It is a man-made creation and as such is fallible.

Relationships filled with too much drama are toxic.  I wonder if our relationship with the stock market is the same – a relationship in which there is too much drama.   We can let the market do what the market does minus the drama – maybe that is our individual choice.  We can also focus on what is actually far more “real” – each other, God, and the need to connect, create, love, and serve.


Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

One of the primary motivators of human behavior appears to be “safety.”

Safety is a key concern.  I want my children to feel “safe.”  I want our congregation to feel like a “safe haven.”  Small groups thrive when everyone feels “safe.”

And the pursuit of safety can be stifling when taken to an extreme.

It is interesting fodder to run an individual anxiety back through the wash so to speak to find what “safety” need was triggered.  I know much of my anxiety and compulsive thoughts grow from situations where I feel my safety threatened.  That threat is predominantly illusion – pure mental lower-self noise based on thoughts patterns that run quickly to the most catastrophic result (and important to note the most unlikely result!).  When my safety is threatened – “safety” as I define and perceive it – I visualize the place as being as unsafe as imaginable.

As is often noted, the most often given command in the Bible is “Fear Not.”  Hmm … an obvious connection to safety.  What if we exercised that command and our our thought pattern became …

  1. Here is the anxiety over “x”
  2. Note how it is attached to “safety”
  3. Prayerfully go to the place where you can acknowledge in stillness that you are already “safe” – to use the Daniel story – God closed the Lion’s mouths.
  4. From the safe place, either dismiss the concern or act on it from a centered, un-anxious place.

Maybe we eventually we get to the place where the starting point is #3  I think that was one of Jesus’ primary goals with the disciples and a key part to the “Good News” – the Good News that we are “safe” despite the world that swirls around us.

There is a deeper way of knowing than safety!