Morning friends,

I'm back from a glorious 10-day vacation to Europe. I've traveled a lot – mostly for ministry and have been to many unusual countries including Cambodia, Cuba and Iraq. But, exploring the wonderful countries of Europe has been on my bucket list since high school and at last, I am having the opportunity. Last year we went to Italy, and this year, it was Paris, France and a little bit of Germany in the Black Forest as well as a day in Lucerne, Switzerland. My niece teaches at a Christian High School in Germany and we went to spend some time with her and her husband as well as teach her students about destructive dating relationships. In between we visited museums, saw beautiful scenery, art, and architecture, ate yummy food, tried out our rusty high school French phrases, and walked our legs off.

They say a picture tells 1,000 words, so I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

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I want to thank our guest blogger for part two of her blog on facing our fears.

The Fear Formula Pt. 2 (Guest Blogger)

I could tell by the look on her face she was processing … my soon to be five-year-old. The furrowed brow was the dead give away. This was all new to her. Having just moved to the area, the surroundings, the guests, and certainly the unfolding drama were foreign to her. I also was a bit taken back and allowed the scene to unwrap out of sheer curiosity. The gift I received that day was the truth of my Grandmother's saying springing to life in front of me, “You can always find truth in two places ~ a drunk and a child.”

We had recently moved in and had invited the neighbors (a relative term in our rural setting) over to lunch. She came frazzled, toddler in tow. She quickly delivered the caveat that Johnny was “not quite himself”, because of his seasonal allergies. It became apparent that a steady stream of conversation was going to be non-existent. It was continuously interrupted by “Johnny, let's redirect”, “I would appreciate if you would come sit down”, “Did you know that it hurts when you slap and scratch Mommy's face like that?” … my four-year-old daughter's expression read like we were directing her in French to make and serve pate' that afternoon.

The dam broke when Johnny climbed uninterrupted onto the kitchen island and began in a rapid-fire succession pitching fruit with an accurate aim at his mother's head nary a miss. With a horrified look on her face, I watched my daughter stealthily move toward “the drawer” from which she immediately produced “the spoon” and ceremoniously walked it over to our guest, who at this point was losing 3-0 to Team Johnny. Stepping around the apples and orange, she quietly placed it on the table in front of her. Taking control she looked into the Mom's eyes and began, “Here, you probably forgot yours … you can borrow ours.” She held true to her middle name Grace that day.

“Why would I EVER need that? He's just expressing himself,” was the righteously indignant response from the Mom.

“Cause we're in the “No-Nonsense Zone”, she said, her chubby finger circling the air above her, “and she doesn't tolerate any of that!” pointing first to me and then to Johnny, who at this point had run out of ammunition and was flipping the empty bowl around ceremoniously akin to an end zone dance. There it was, plain truth from the mouth of a child. However unpleasant in the moment it was to hear.

There's a fine line between unfolding and unglued. I quickly stepped in before we crossed it. Taking advantage of the Mom's turn at silent processing, I found myself quickly grabbing Johnny from the island, “Thanks, Honey. I'm sure she won't be using that. It looks like Johnny's about ready for his nap. Why don't you go gather his bag and we'll help his mom get him into his car seat.”

Our fears, like our invited guests, have important lessons to impart ~ on many levels. We are wise to listen, even wiser to learn. Harnessing their power and making them our allies is our key to victorious living. (Tweet that)

In Part Two of our series on fear we will examine the three-part formula of turning Fear to Fuel.

1. When Something is Both Out of Place & Control, Name it

Let's not let the ridiculousness of the above situation go to waste. Fears, like small toddlers, take on a life of their own and absorb as much power as we allow them. Until their issues are named and called out they continue their pattern of keeping us in check by hurling their fruits of deception at our heads.

I certainly hope you would never allow what unfolded that day in the kitchen to happen to you. Then, I query, why do we allow it with our fears? What is so easy to discern with a toddler may take a bit more thought with our fears, but really they net the same yield. With every hurled, unchecked lie we allow their power to grow. A small toddler now takes on the shape and characteristics of a giant monster.

Do you remember the woman from last week frozen to death in her car? How about the one contemplating putting locks on her bedroom windows to remain safe from her husband? We can certainly make a choice to remain trapped in an out-of-control situation by listening to the lies of the fruit being hurled at us by both an out-of-control toddler or fear.

This is the “Goliath Tactic.” That is not God's plan for us. It's time to dig deep and shrink those fears down to size by naming them and addressing their behavior ~ much like David did with Goliath. In biblical accordance, let's examine the truth of II Timothy 1:7 NKJV in which we are told, “for I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.” Whose power is supposed to be in authority here? Who's actually is? What are your fear monster's names? Why have they been given so much authority? Perhaps it's because we've never gotten to know them, or listen to their message in order to meet their needs.

2. Interpret the Message Fear Delivers Correctly

Fear, like the toddler in tow, was part of the neighbor package. He came along with his mom because we had invited him in order to get to know them both better. Having never lived in a rural area, it made sense to get to know farmers. We had recently launched from suburbia; they were a fourth generation farming family. It was exciting, and we had much to learn about rural life in general.

Our victorious Fear-to-Fuel Life will assimilate the same patterns. We invite the fear over by name. In an about face, we become excited by the prospect of getting to know the fear. We beckon it to sit at our table (not so much climb on our island), in an attempt to listen to its much-desired message.

We are committed to hearing the message even if it is not the one we anticipated because we have a lot to learn. It is important to get the correct interpretation of fear's message, whatever it may be, and accept it for what it is.

Conversely, our defeat lies in the misinterpretation or, worse yet, the dismissal of the message. Ask the woman in the car, or the one desiring locks on her windows … or the Israelites as they listened to Goliath's trash talk. Make no mistake about the importance of this step ~ scripture doesn't. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

Finally, after we have correctly interpreted and accepted fear's message, we need to craft an appropriate response. This is the imperative action point with the keyword being appropriate. This is it ~ right here. This is where the battle is either won or lost. Go to the drawers and get your spoons, we are about to enter the “No-Nonsense Zone”.

3. Craft an Appropriate Response

As so often is the case when we look at fears on first glance that day in the kitchen, we had two competing messages. Where would we be if we had crafted a response to the first message, “He is just expressing himself.” Like an artist staring at a garbage heap whose expression produces a rendering of Monet's Water Lilies, we can be easily confused by a misinterpretation or denial of truth.

Like fear misinterpreted or ignored, Johnny's “expression” would have had us all nursing some pretty crazy wounds as he hurtled through this tirade unchecked. Not to mention the “cleanup in aisle seven” that would have had all the innocents working double time. That's what the misinterpretation of fear is ~ a little truth with a lot of lies mixed in. It's that simple. Yes, he was expressing himself … in a totally unacceptable fashion. I know some of you are relating this to your own experiences. I know I did.

The latter, I believe, a correct response came from Johnny himself. When he delivered his message, it was through action. As we dove to protect ourselves, we “listened,” we heard. This was the interpretation, “I am out of control. I need help. I don't have the tools to help myself that's why I hurt you. What are you going to do about it?”

This is it, here is the crossroad. With the clarity of the message discerned ~ this is where the fear turns to fuel. It's Go Time ~ you have seen behind the curtain and know what's there. More importantly, you know whose you are. Herein lies the truth of the power of a sound, sound mind. Fear has done its job, now it's time for you to do yours. Size up, rise up, go to the drawer, get your spoon. Go to your backpack and get your slingshot. Sharpen your tools. This is the correct response. There are no better words than David's to Goliath that day in the valley, “I come at you in the name of the Lord.”

Standing firm, voices shaking, tools in hand, you speak that fear-fueled truth to the enemy in front of you until it keels over: to the snow storm, to the unending abuse, to the toddler on the island, to whatever looming giant God has placed in your path. This is the appropriate response to achieve a victorious outcome.

I learned an important lesson that day, reflecting on my Grandmother's wisdom. Truth does come from some pretty unsuspecting places. If a four-year-old could do it, why can't I?

Friend: How have you learned to name and face your fears? And, what responses have you used to face that fear monster down?

19 Comments

  1. dawn on May 18, 2016 at 8:54 am

    following

  2. Leonie on May 18, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing your photos with us Leslie, they are beautiful, you must have enjoyed your trip & all the beautiful scenery!

    • Leslie Vernick on May 18, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      I did. I so enjoy the beauty of a new country and Lucerne was like a postcard that I was in the midst of.

  3. Aleea on May 19, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you Leslie for the photos and for being willing to share your life like that. ―Wonderful.

    Thank you guest blogger re: facing our fears. ―I really appreciate the time you spent on this, some very good insights I tried to apply to my own situation.

    RE: turning Fear to Fuel. . . . . ―I love that concept! That makes so much sense. “Whose power is supposed to be in authority here? Who’s actually is? What are your fear monster’s names? Why have they been given so much authority? Perhaps it’s because we’ve never gotten to know them, or listen to their message in order to meet their needs.” That really speaks to me.

    This really, really speaks to me also: “I am out of control. I need help (―but help, not dogma, taglines and beatings). I don’t have the tools to help myself that’s why I hurt you. What are you going to do about it?” . . . . but I don’t know how I know what road to take at those critical crossroads: Re: too much FEAR: False “Evidence” Appearing Real. I get so worn down that sometimes I feel, maybe there are no tools and no real answers. In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the “Big Other” refers to a type of internal judge that begins to form around the age of six months. In general it is not something that one is directly aware of, but it remains influential in much the same way that a person might not believe in ghosts, yet still be scared of them. . . . . I once knew a women so, so brave that not only did she no longer believe in hell (re: evidence, please), she wasn’t afraid of hell either! ―Now, that is real bravery. How do we know that type of position is not the real “No-Nonsense Zone?” How do we have a truthful discussion about what is really, really real without kicking people’s defense mechanisms into overdrive/ hyper drive?

    Your grandmother’s comment about children and drunken people is so true. Once the defenses are down, you hear the truth. . . . . Now that we have U-tube, we see what happens when seminary professors/ pastors are poured alcohol and the person asking the questions is poured water. ―Yeah, what they say is terrifying to my worldview because it is spoken without the masks of the certainty so typical of liturgical structures. Those unguarded moments are the Holy Men, they speak the truth. I can only take so much truth because it deconstructs and demythologizes what I believe re: reality is a really hard road.

    ―Yeah, absolutely, HELP. I don’t have the tools. What is a weak, confused person supposed to do? Fake it? Fold like a lawn-chair under threats and fear (FEAR: False “Evidence” Appearing Real) . . . . . In counseling, when we reach a total impasse, we put the entire Word-of-God and Christian Origins “to the side.” We bracket it off. I just don’t understand that but I go with it because it leaves me vulnerable. Maybe the answer is not in what we believe but why we believe it. I guess so but I don’t understand why God isn’t central to anything we are trying to find. . . . . . In your illustration throwing fruit is the solution to a problem (a bad solution) but a solution ―just like abuse. Even if you have better skills to deal with the fear, why does the fear exist in the first place? Maybe we don’t need to know? . . . . but then are left always just dealing with symptoms (―abuse, ―fruit-throwing, ―alcoholism, etc.)?

  4. Sunshine. on May 19, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    When I fear speaking up, it’s because I am making up how I think the conversation will go. I then think of my responses and all the scenarios that could play out. What I then fear is what could be said, but I never speak up so I’m afraid of a nonexistent conversation. I found d that sending a written message is better for me. I get twisted up in my spouses language skills and lose sight of the real topic of discussion. Written form works better for me.

  5. Aleea on May 19, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Martha (re: e-mail reminder of the blog post you sent),

    That was really sweet! Thank you so much for alerting me to this post. Martha, I didn’t see your e-mail until right now but I so appreciate that. I posted earlier as you see above but I really enjoy these posts and they so help me with my counseling journey and my relationship with Christ (We have our issues but I still love Him and miss Him when I can’t get my mind out of this or that rut.) . . . I did see the post yesterday but I was going non-stop and had no time to think and post. You know I would have if I could have. . . . and I also want to again thank the Guest Blogger for the posts on Fear. They triggered lots of raw emotions with me and brought things to the surface that I need to face, so they were very helpful. It is so clear from what you, Guest Blogger, have written that overcoming what frightens you the most strengthens you the most. I hope maybe you can come back and do another Guest Blog on fear based decisions. . . . . It just seems to me that almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something. The upside is that a fear conquered is a fear harnessed, no doubt.

  6. Suzanne on May 19, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    I am having difficulty following the last topic. I can’t think of anything I am afraid of. My emotions are so numb, I don’t remember that I have any. My home has been so frightening for so long, that I no longer fear it or anything else. People tell me I should be afraid, but I am not. In my professional life I have been very close to the Syrian and Iraqi border on a number of occasions. I think we would all agree that is dangerous, yet I have complete peace. As a Christian, this world doesn’t scare me. I know where I am going when I leave here.

    • Aleea on May 20, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      “. . .My home has been so frightening for so long, that I no longer fear it or anything else.” . . . . I guess that numbness happens so we can survive. Maybe that is better than being afraid of everything but both extremes are probably really unhealthy. ―As Brené Brown would say: “Numb the dark and you numb the light.” In talking with many traumatized people they chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies. The past is alive in them like this form of gnawing interior discomfort. You know, constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. ―They learn to hide from their selves.

      “As a Christian, this world doesn’t scare me. I know where I am going when I leave here.” That is so wonderful, but the last thing this world needs is one less Christian.

  7. Carolee on May 22, 2016 at 12:05 am

    I recently took part in a class on pain. The same idea of naming the fear and inviting it in as a guest we did with our pain. Acknowledging it and not pushing it away. It was such a foreign idea to me. But when I did the exercise it helped so much. Taking the fear before God’s throne and showing it Who has the power is what I can meditate on now. 2Tim 1:7 has been my special verse for many years. I have so wondered how to deal with that spirit of fear that plagued me. Taking it to my Father and letting Him replace it with His power, love and a sound mind, I don’t have to deny it or fight it.
    I am very surprised there have not been many comments on this subject. Fear in an abusive and toxic relationship is so strong! I fear my husband’s verbal tirades and put downs so much. This article has been helpful. Thank you Leslie for posting it. I am so glad you posted your pictures of your trip and that it was a blessing to you. Thank you for all you do.

    • Aleea on May 22, 2016 at 7:37 am

      “Taking it to my Father and letting Him replace it with His power, love and a sound mind, I don’t have to deny it or fight it.”
      . . . . . . Absolutely beautiful, totally wonderful! . . . . . “I don’t have to deny it or fight it.” . . . . Now, let’s do that in church too!!! Where is the raw honesty in our liturgical structures that we hear, here?

      . . . . . Instead of the happy-clappy keeping up of appearances that so much Christianity seems to emit. ―Especially when the decay and sorrow in our world and in our hearts and lives is Good. Good! Not so that we despair but so when we really, really speak it, that it begins to dissipate. This seems infinitely preferable to pretending the darkness isn’t there or lying about the levels of certainty we have. Churches pretend that the darkness just isn’t there, trying to cover it up through their upbeat worship songs and bands full of certainty (―certainty we don’t have) and insisting that if people just pray hard enough and have enough faith, they will be happy. The repressed truth (―to me) seems to be that Christ is a product that promises satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment (―if only in the next life.) In a world where we are constantly told that we can be fulfilled it becomes one more product. Own this home, have this relationship, this type of job, drive this car, have these types of friends, etc. That is, we add one more product (God) to the cosmic vending machine.

      What if Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to him but rather smashes it to pieces, bringing freedom, ―not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them? . . . . ―freedom from our felt need to escape them? . . . . .maybe?

      . . . . .Otherwise, again, what have we got: Religious hymns become little more than advertising jingles, and the clergy come to resemble slick salespeople presenting their god-product to the potential consumers because other things in their life did not bring the satisfaction and certainty. God becomes an uber-idol. And when it doesn’t “work” they disavow, pretend, deny, say you are not “doing it right,” talk about “mystery,” tell you to supplement it: “Aleea, you need to read/ attend/ do this,” et.al. . . . . Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, the God testified to in Christianity (―oh my, especially, early Christianity!!! <350 AD/CE) exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the all Idols: Satisfaction, Certainty, Happiness, Joy, et.al. . . And sweet freedom from our felt need to escape them. . . . that vs. total UBER-idol?

      —————–
      Content Disclaimer: As everyone knows, I have been so wrong, about so much, the above could easily be totally wrong too. . . . . However, I do think many decisions people make are *totally* fear-based and that always ends wrong because it starts off wrong (fear-based). The point of early Christian liturgy was that when we are confronted by the horror of our religious belief through the removal of unbelief (―My God, My God ―Why have you forsaken me? ―Veil of the temple torn in two, et.al.) . . . we move beyond it into what they called “Religionless Christianity.” This is however deeply traumatic for it means letting go of our intellectual security blankets.

    • Mary on July 20, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Yes! Taking it to God and allowing Him to replace it! Great explanation!!

  8. Leonie on May 22, 2016 at 8:52 am

    I agree, Carolee, that’s been my experience too. This article was very helpful. When I am overwhilmed by fear it helps me to sing praise and worship songs, pray and tell God about it and meditate on truth from his word – then his peace comes in and replaces it. God’s word is full of reminders to not fear because he is with us and that he has overcome the world! I also noticed another theme is to take heart, don’t lose hope and persevere! We can only do this if we keep our mind filled with the truth of God’s word!

  9. Liz on June 1, 2016 at 1:50 am

    Loved the photos. Europe is so charming, and what wonderful memories you will keep from your trip! Looks like you had great weather, too!

    • Leslie Vernick on June 2, 2016 at 8:31 am

      Thanks we did. It was a great trip.

  10. Mary on July 20, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Learning to stand up for yourself is a scary business when you fear other people’s disapproval! I was taught that, because of who I was (parent;s crazy perception), I was just automatically wrong-across the board. If someone disagreed with me, I was to be humble and take it in and change my mind (and attitude and action). I responded this way for many years. But once I became a Christian, God’s spirit inside me started telling me that this was not so. I didn’t really get WHY though! But I started fighting back-a little. That looks bad to those who don’t understand what is going on. I was labeled as rebellious. (Admittedly, I was rebelling against some very necessary, reasonable things) I WAS often rebellious-but that is not always a BAD thing! I was rebelling against injustice-for one thing. I was rebelling against overt and covert control. Against crazy, patriarcial expectations of women that tended to put them in a diminished position in society. I didn’t really understand that this was my position. I was usually reactive. We all know how well that is taken!
    So now, I am going to clarify my position with my (fairly new) counselor. I need him to know where I’m coming from. And I am scared!! It seems like he is misunderstanding me pretty frequently. I could be wrong, though. Or, I could be misunderstanding him! So, for practically the first time, i am going to make sure to explain, listen and (IMPORTANT part) ask a lot of questions. I feel pretty intimidated by him. In spite of his demeanor, I feel an undercurrent of something I can’t put my finger on. But that doesn’t mean I need to automatically quit counseling with him. It may be that I can learn a great deal from him. Learn to work with someone who is very different from me.
    Would ya’ll pray for me?

    • Leslie Vernick on July 22, 2016 at 5:53 am

      SO wise. Let us know how it goes. I’m glad you are realizing that you may have something to learn even from someone who makes you uncomfortable.

      • Mary on July 27, 2016 at 9:19 pm

        Hello! I did talk with my counselor today. We mutually decided that it would be better to find a female counselor who specialzes in abuse. He didn’t feel comfortable with some of the issues I was going to have to deal with, and out of his element in helping me learn to have a voice in my life. His specialty is helping people learn who they are in Christ and how our identity changes everything! And I think that his ideas are, in general, good ones. They just can’t be applied exclusively. He really couldn’t understand my need to have my husband prove his trustworthiness to me before I let him back into relationship with me to any great extent. He feels that when someone sets up an expectation of the other needing to prove something, that it puts both people in a bind. One person is always looking for continued proof, the other person feels that they can never do enough. He feels that my trust issues hinder our relationship and that I need to trust my husband’s heart if we are to go forward. I agree. But we couldn;t come to an agreement on how I am suppose to learn to trust him again. I felt a little minimalized, now that I’ve had time to think about it. My husband’s actions have been abusive, dismissive, controling, manipulative and sometimes belittling. I have good reason to ask for open discussions about how he has changed. And, I feel, that I also have good reason to have my husband take extra care of my feelings when we are around other women, considering that he had several affairs… My counselor felt that I was expecting my husband to pay for his sins with no expiration date. I guess we really came to an impasse. I am afraid of what this will do to our marriage. We were both hopefully expectant about couples counseling. Not to sound overly dramatic but It is entirely possible that this will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. So… I admit it; I’m scared.

        • Leslie Vernick on July 30, 2016 at 12:57 pm

          Mary, you might find this blog helpful and I’d forward it to your counselor as well. I wrote it for counselors and for those of you interested, there are many more of my blogs for counselors at this site. https://christiancounseling.com/blog/uncategorized/restoring-broken-trust-through-relationship-counseling/

          • Mary on July 30, 2016 at 9:39 pm

            Thank you for responding back to me. You are very kind to do so. Your ministry is making such a difference in my life! The article helps me to understand these practical ideas. It shows me that my responsibility to the relationship is not just grace and letting go with no consequences expected for repeated sinful behaviors.
            Thank God!!!!



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