Fear and the Crazypants Cycle

Fear does funny things to us.

We once could look at life reasonably. We could hold discussions, share opinions, eat across the table from someone we disagreed with and not want to rip their head off.

But that’s anger, you say, not fear? Isn’t intent to harm, even when it’s deep inside us, never actually expressed- that’s anger?

No, no it is not, and it’s time to get honest about that. We are destroying one another, not because we are angry, but because we are afraid.

When I sit down at my computer, when I open my google plus tab, when I connect with my friends across miles and space, I see fear written all over the internet, and it makes us crazypants, which looks a whole lot like angry.

Let me introduce you to the crazypants cycle. I jest, but it’s real.

First, we are afraid.

We are afraid for our finances – will there be enough money? will I be able to make ends meet? will I have a job next month?

We are afraid for our marriages – will he still love me? do I make her happy? will we make it through the storm and the struggle?

We are afraid for our children – will a shooter come to their school? will they understand the values I try to pass on? is this world screwing them up? am I screwing them up?

We are afraid for our neighborhoods – if people look different, will I understand them? will they understand me? Different makes us uncomfortable, unsure.

We are afraid for our churches – where are all the people? what if we close? will our people hear the Gospel? will it change anything?

So many questions and so few answers. So much of life we don’t know, we don’t understand, we aren’t in control of. It’s scary. Life is scary. The world is a scary place, because this isn’t the way God intended it. Sin and divisiveness, hurtful words, selfish ambition, isn’t what we were created for. So we make assumptions, we jump to conclusions. We make accusations.

Enter anger.

We say things that should be said in person. We refuse to let someone disagree. We eat, sleep, and breathe this climate of anger until it sucks us in. We become unreasonable and we so desperately need to be right, that we become rude without noticing. We shift from speaking the truth in love to speaking the truth in rage.

And next, comes shame.

Words come out and relationships are affected in a way that “whoops” just can’t fix. So we crawl back under our original rock of fear, which was Satan’s original intent after all. Work done, he slinks under his own rock, slimy and satisfied.

But there is a solution to fear, which anger and crazypants can never give.

The Holy Spirit. 

He’s real. He’s a gift, left for us by a Savior that knew we would need Him like fish need water. He freely gives This Spirit in the waters of baptism. He welcomes the little children, the sojourner, the weary, and the weak, the disgusted, and the disgusting.

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Let us lay our fears down at the cross of Christ Jesus, instead of the mob of social media. Let us lift our prayers to Him like incense, rather than battle uphill to be heard.

He gives us His gifts in our anger, and He gives us His gifts in our shame. He gives us His gifts in our crazypants. He never treats us as less than. He doesn’t need us to be right. He just offers us Redeemed.

So let’s bust out. Let’s bust out of the Crazypants cycle. Let’s call fear what it is, so we can put on love and self-control.

No longer a spirit of fear. Crazypants no more.


Clergy and mental health


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Once upon a time, the world was perfect. There was no sin, no evil, no disappointment, no sorrow. That time, my friends, has been long gone.

I sat in my therapists office and let the question stuck in my throat for weeks on end, finally come tumbling out…

“But when will it get easier. I keep waiting for life to be easier.”

I knew life wasn’t made for easy. That even before sin in the world, easy wasn’t the goal.

So, why in the world was easy suddenly my goal?

Maybe because life had been hard, really hard. We had some junk. We had marriage junk, mental health junk, kid behavior junk, family junk. In fact, if there was a form of junk in existence, we probably had some connection with it. Or at least that’s how it felt.

I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed. Pastors were not supposed to have junk. Pastor’s wives were not supposed to have junk. Deaconesses weren’t supposed to have junk. Our families were not supposed to have junk spilling out our back pockets. We were supposed to hold it all together so that we could help other people with their junk. “Above reproach” in the depths of my mind, hidden from even myself, meant keeping it together, being above turmoil, above struggle…above the junk.

Then I opened my eyes.

This world- it’s been filled with junk since the tree in a garden and the fruit that changed everything. I am a part of that world. God, in fact, in John 17:15-17, asks me to hold on tight and walk fully immersed in this world bearing His Truth. Bearing His salvation.

You see, your pastor has some stuff. Every member of our church has some stuff. This is the world we live in, far from perfection, never easy, but full of people walking around bearing His salvation.

Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2-6) isn’t in being the person without any junk, the pastor without any real life stuff to deal with, whether in himself, in his marriage, in his home, or in his family. It is about how we deal with those things. Do we ask for help? Do we take the time we need to get help? Do we avoid keeping secrets? Are we willing to take the risk to help our marriages and our families and our ministries, by admitting we have some stuff?

The devil loves destruction. Don’t for a minute pretend that he doesn’t want to eat us up and spit us out. He would love nothing more than for a church work family or even a whole congregation to implode because he convinced us to let darkness reign over the struggles of our lives.

1 Timothy 3:5 tells us – “…if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”

How does he manage? By asking for help. By admitting that he’s not perfect and making sure he gets the help he needs.

There are certainly instances in which someone can not be a pastor, it isn’t the best choice for him, or the church. And we need to be honest when that is the case, but the majority of the time only good things come from church workers and their families seeing a counselor, getting needed medication, and placing boundaries around their time and energy.

Surprise – your pastor has some stuff, your deaconess has some stuff, your dce has some stuff, your children’s ministry person, your teachers, your youth director…all have stuff.

Let’s build one another up and normalize the act of getting of help, asking for what we need. How much more likely are our parishioners to come for care, confession, and counseling if we, ourselves, utilize what’s available to us?

Life is full of junk – God promises to make all of it beautiful in His time. He restores us with His salvation, not just for a place called heaven, but for His kingdom today. Anything we have, Jesus Christ can handle. Run to Him. Ask Him for help. Let the Church be the place that loves us unconditionally and helps us rise up from the ashes of whatever Satan throws at us.

Need resources or help with something? Send me an email. This is what I do and I’m happy to help. Brothers and sisters, I’m praying as we minister and reach this fallen world together.

Open People or Closed People: Vulnerability is worth it

Spring has finally decided to settle itself into the far reaches of Northwest Ohio. It is a much more patient wait here than it was growing up outside of St. Louis. But just like anything that requires patience, the wait is worth it! After the long months of winter, colors begin to protrude out of every nook and cranny, from garden beds to sidewalk cracks, vibrant greens with splashes of the happiest yellows and oranges and purples and reds.
Tulips are my favorite. They always have been. They seems so dignified, but also have a certain weakness about them. They bloom bright and fast, but only last so long. You turn around once and the petals lie on your dining room table, leaving you wondering what in the world happened. There’s a mystery to the tulip. She doesn’t give up her secrets.
I always thought that tulips were at their best, at their “peak” when they were in their tallest state, petals sharply at attention. This is the state right after the bud. The tulip has given up it’s tight grip and opened to stand straight and tall. This is the tulip we see in childhood pictures and books. This is the shape of the tulip you can draw with ease for pictionary, a semi-circle on a stem with two peaks. Voila!
Then, I substitute taught as an aide for the preschool class. Nothing changes your life perspective like 20 three and four year olds. Monday, we went on a walk to look for spring things.
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, look at this! I found a beautiful rock!”
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, look at this leaf!”
“Oh Mrs. Goehmann, did you see my new tennis shoes?!”
Joy abounded in ever sight and sound and touch. The first class took their walk at 10am-ish. The tulips were a favorite find for everyone, colorful, stately, just as I expected them. The second class took their walk around 1pm. It really was a beautiful day. There was oodles of sunshine, the temperature was perfect. The teacher led the class right by our friends, the tulips, and I was shocked to see this:
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Sheer and utter gorgeousness.
And then I realized – this is how a tulip is supposed to look. This is the moment in time it was made for. Bright and fresh, yes, but more than that…wide open.
Wide open to the sun and the life giving rain water, and the day itself.
Wide open to opportunity and the vibrancy of life and whatever was coming next. Rather it be eyes that look upon it with fascination or preschool fingers that pluck it up without thinking of the consequences.
There is more to this blog than tulips, I think you are probably able to see.
Friends, we were meant to be wide open.
In 2 Corinthians 6:11, Paul shares some wisdom:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.
Now, look at Mark 1:9-10:
 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Jesus, who He is and in His work, tears open the heavens for us. He gives us a life that can be open to risk and relationship and meaning because He is in it.
When Jesus heals in Scripture, the language is openness…
the eyes of the blind are opened
the tongues of the mute are opened
the ears of the deaf are opened
the wombs of the barren are opened
the tombs of the dead are opened
We can live as closed people, and God will not love us any less, tight as a bud, fending off risk and harm. We can live as partially opened people, and God’s grace will be the same for us. Open to stateliness, as centuries, guarding our tender centers, sharing beauty, but never quite letting all of ourselves known.
Or we can also live as open people. We can bloom and blossom and let the sun all the way in.
We can bloom and blossom and let the Son all the way in.
We can open our hearts wide to His people. We can forgive and love unabashedly. What abundance there is in that!
I marched my children out to the tulip after school. I wanted them to learn a life lesson that I had embraced far to late.
“Children- this is how the tulip is supposed to look. It can close itself up overnight from the cold and the darkness, but in the bright and glorious afternoon, do you see it? Do you see how it’s heart is meant to be open wide?”
Big smiles all around. Nothing is quite as beautiful as a flower fully bloomed with the sunlight kissing each and every petal. Life is beautiful.       

Childhood nightmares, adult solutions

So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
John 20:3-4
When I was a little girl I had a lot of bad dreams. A lot of bad dreams. It seemed like anything could lead to a nightmare – someone talking about ghost stories, a scary movie preview on primetime television, or a bully’s threat at school.
In most of my nightmares, I was running. Running from something, trying to get somewhere, out of breath, exhausted, tripping over branches and divots of grass and hidden treachery. As I laid in my bed, the branches scrapping the window signaled someone trying to get me, I came up with infinite excuses for drinks of water and extra hugs, mostly I imagined what would come for me in my dreams that night.
I’m sure there is a psychological explanation for all of this, but honestly I’m not sure I care to know. I came from a stable and loving family. I didn’t experience any form of abuse. The real curse was my extremely overactive imagination.
What I do know is that I hated to run for years. I saw it as a punishment inflicted to my body and soul. At recess my best friend and I would sit on swings and hash over our current favorite book reads and imagine what we would do when we were grown up – anything from European princesses, to journalists, to doctors curing disease. Watching everyone one else on the playground run around us.
Running the mile in gym class…pure torture. “Why would anyone ask this of awkward adolescents?” I complained. I circled around that track four times and consistently came in at my 12 minute marker. Gag. It was anxiety producing and embarrassing.
At 14, I decided to face my running “fear” head on. I joined track and ran the 400 for about 3 weeks. By the end of which I embraced my new general life rule of – Why spend time doing something you hate so much?
And so I didn’t. I quit, but unbeknownst to me I began simultaneously running in another way, looking and searching. I ran to everything else, instead of what I really needed to be running to… that empty tomb, that risen Savior. I ran to be the best academically. I ran to boys that I thought might love me. I ran to adventures and folly and anything that hinted of excitement.
So, this Easter, sitting in the pew listening to my husband speak the Word, these verses jumped out to me.
Both of them were running together…”
The other disciple outran Peter…”
Instantly in my head I could see myself in those disciples running toward something that mattered. I realized that God’s grace was in the running. That with Christ, I was no longer running from something, but I was invited to run towards something.
I remember one glorious spring day in college, my husband-to-be flippantly asked me to go for a run with him. We weren’t dating, I’m not even sure at that point I was interested in him. God reveals all that good stuff in His time. But I was shocked to hear my own tongue say, “Sure. Meet you in 15 minutes in the Triangle.”
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Looking back, Dave was safe. His gracious spirit and tongue that constantly dripped words of encouragement, spoke grace in my life in a way that was new and fresh and sent me running to find an empty tomb, a unneeded burial cloth, a new day.
Who has been that person in your life? Who has spoken Jesus afresh to you in this season of your life?
Can you walk to the tomb? Of course. No need to take up running as a hobby to cement your relationship with Christ. That’s not the point of this message. The point is, for me running was fear. Running was anxiety. And Jesus offered me gifts beyond what I could even see, which He revealed this Easter day, March 2016. I was made to run to Him, no matter the darkness or the daylight, the sorrow or the unexpected sweetness.
Jesus’s Word, His empty tomb always offers healing, sometimes in very specific ways. Where are you in need of healing? What anxieties surround you? Run them to Him. Run, run, run. Let His grace seep in to every little place. And then rest in His presence. Assured of His marvelous mercy.

Walking out of the cave

Romans 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers…
The unknown of life is a scary thing. So much of life is a little unknown. Little children may be fearful of water or new places, or even new food because so much is unknown to them about things. Adolescents have all kinds of nerves about school and relationships because so much of it is unknown. College students wonder where they will live, who they will marry, what life will look like for them- the unknown. In adulthood the unknown doesn’t stop – how best to raise a child, how they’ll turn out, tackling illnesses to come, changes in employment, moving, changes in anything- more and more unknown.
Our children really love the movie “The Croods.” (We do too, to be honest!) The entire movie centers around the premise that the dark cave is safe, nothing can get to you in there, the world outside holds dangers untold. The Dad in the movie has a family motto that he makes everyone recite – “Never not be afraid.”
We could live our whole lives like this, in our metaphorical dark caves, feeling “safe” and protected. God tells us that He wants to be our protection. He is what is safe, resting in His grace and salvation, living in His light, this is Life. Otherwise, it’s not Life at all, just a phony imitation.
Nothing can separate us. We’ll find that truth in the next verse. That truth is for another day. Today, Jesus invites us to shed fear.
            Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
                                                                           John 14:27

His peace rests in our hearts. The unknown is known to Him.

Exploring caves in Haiti 🙂