The Terrifying Toad

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Philippians 4:13

It’s baby toad season here at my GPS location. Dozens of them have taken over the yard: hopping around when I water the flowers, jumping unexpectedly into the house through an open door. I see them every evening.

The other day, my wife and I stopped by a local nursery to purchase some plants. Right next to the cash register, there was this larger than life concrete toad. Yes, we took him home. “Felix” now lives in the rock garden next to our barbeque area.

Check out the lower left corner. That’s a REAL one!

The only problem is, everytime I come out the back door with something for the grill, he startles me just a bit. Actually, it’s a little creepy–the way he looks at me with those stone cold eyes…

Self-doubt. It can take over your life-yard in a hurry: hopping around when you want to accomplish something, jumping through an open door unexpectedly. It shows up mostly in the evening.

It’s hard to be confident when you’re discouraged, because things you knew for certain five minutes ago disappear behind a smoke screen of timidity. What’s one to do with such feelings? Here are three of my favorite action plans. Yes, I’m an actual satisfied customer who used them all today!

Lower the Stakes

For some reason, when I get down, I act like a high stakes Vegas gambler–going all-in on one roll of the dice. #badidea The truth is, unless you drink poison, a single mistake won’t usually kill you.

We don’t live or die on one success or failure.

Jack Lemon

Break the Circuit

The worst part about self-doubt is the SELF part. Gazing at one’s own navel for a protracted period of time imparts a rather myopic perspective. “It’s not ALL about YOU, cupcake, so stop obsessing.” (That last statement was me talking to myself, but feel free to associate).

I’m just afraid I might have to stop talking about myself for five minutes.

Kinky Friedman

Resign as Manager of the Universe

There’s only one God, and you and I are not Him. Therefore, seeking help from a higher power actually makes sense. After my mom died from a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, I ended up with her favorite Bible. I found the following scripture, in her own handwriting, inside:

Self-doubt is often just a silly lawn ornament.

https://davidsdailydose.org/2019/07/03/the-terrifying-toad/

Do What’s Needed

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While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him strength in God.

1 Samuel 23:15-16

One Spring evening in 1975, my family was sitting down to dinner–all but my oldest brother, who’d just gotten his driver’s license.

The phone rang and my mom answered, but something was off. She hardly said anything. After listening for several seconds, she spoke: “Where is he?”

My sixteen year old brother had been in a car accident and was being taken to a local hospital, his condition unknown.

My parents rushed out the door, headed for the ER. I can still see dad’s crumpled napkin on the table next to mom’s unfinished plate.

Our fifteen year old brother stayed behind to look after my younger brother and me. Calmly, he plopped clumps of extra potatoes on our plates. “You’d better have some more,” he said. It felt surreal, the three of us dining in silence across from a trio of empty chairs.

Despite being only seven years old, I wasn’t afraid. My older brother had everything under control. It would be years until I realized how truly worried he was for our oldest brother.

He did what was needed.

Jonathan and David, of ancient Israel, were best friends: the king’s son and a shepherd boy turned superhero. But King Saul, Jonathan’s dad, had gone mad. He was jealous of David, fearing the popular young man who had slayed the Philistine warrior Goliath. With murderous rage, he chased him into the desert seeking to kill him.

But prince Jonathan risked his life to get to David before his dad and helped him find strength in God. At the same time, he was truly worried about his own father.

He did what was needed.

Back to the dinner table. My parents called about an hour later. Our oldest brother had a broken jaw but would be OK.

Here’s to Jonathan and my brother, Ron: two courageous caregivers who helped others find strength in God.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 32:24

Do it.

https://davidsdailydose.org/2019/07/01/do-whats-needed/

A Brush With a Bobcat

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You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3

At twilight this morning, I crossed paths with a bobcat. A medium-sized wildcat native to North America, the bobcat is an elusive and solitary predator. The one I met was about the size of my miniature schnauzer, but with razor-sharp claws and teeth. He paused at the edge of the road and stared back at me as if to say, “You’re in MY territory.”

Anxiety is a bobcat of sorts. It too is an elusive predator that specializes in chance encounters. Often appearing in a dusk or dawn moment of life, it pauses at the edge of the road and stares back at us as if to say, “You’re in MY territory.”

Luckily, my brush with a bobcat ended peacefully. He vanished into the trees just after the brief stare down.

In keeping with the analogy, as a card-carrying anxious person, here are three things I do to manage my encounters with negative-“bobcat”-emotions.

Use Mantras: confront weak emotions with logic.
These are short positive statements said over and over to remind yourself what’s really REAL. My favorite mantras are from the Bible. This verse has gotten me through many a restless night:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3

Unplug: occasionally choose solitude over people
Spending time alone is a great way to recharge, recalibrate, and reclaim your emotional well being. This is a life hack Jesus used in his busiest ministry days; He often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16). When anxiety levels rise, try taking a break from anything with a screen–unless it’s a screened in porch!

Don’t fight the feeling: let it pass over you instead.
A soldier friend, who suffers from PTSD, told me he’s learned not to resist the traumatizing pictures in his mind, it only makes them stronger. Instead, he let’s them pass through until they weaken and disperse–like a brief storm.

Hopefully, I can wrap this up with a favorite quote from the movie, “Gladiator”

I knew a man who once said, ‘Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.’

General Maximus (Russell Crowe)

Bobcats and unwelcome emotions are bound to cross our path at times.

Smile back.

https://davidsdailydose.org/2019/06/29/a-brush-with-a-bobcat/

A One Firefly Night

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Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

Psalm 43:5

Last night, just after dusk, I sat on the back porch taking in the sounds of nature. There were a few crickets and some bird who didn’t know not to sing after sun down. It was all garden variety, until my eye caught a green blink…blink…blink. A firefly!

Hyper-focused, I tried to guess where the micro flash would come next. Over by the storage shed, near the silhouette of a tree, surely this little guy has company!

But there was only one. A single firefly blinked several times and then was gone.

A one firefly night.

And it happened so fast, I didn’t get the chance to share it with anyone. I ran inside, “Sweetheart, I just saw a firefly. ONE firefly! I think I’ll name him Frosty.”

“Frosty?!”, she said.

“Yes, after Robert Frost. You know, the poet who wrote, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

I then began to quote, unprompted of course, one of my favorite poems:

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

A single lightning bug–arguably, the most beautiful but fragile of God’s creatures, lives in the words of a famous poet, but also in the heart’s cry of Psalm 43.

Nothing Gold Can Stay.

The scripture, the poem, and the firefly: each say life is GUARANTEED to change. It’s beyond our total control; all one can do is prepare for the inevitable.

Depressing? Perhaps. The free acceptance of an unknown future CAN be.

But you and I know who holds the future.

Put your hope in God; for I will yet praise Him.

https://davidsdailydose.org/2019/06/27/a-one-firefly-night/

Telling Ourselves the Truth

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Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom

Psalm 51:6

The brawny woman behind the ice cream counter slammed the scoop into a tub of butter brickle so hard it rattled the glass. Clearly discontented, she never looked up at my teenage brother and me–not even to hand us our double-dip cones.
That’s when my older sibling, rarely hesitant, asked the most daring question:

Maam, do you enjoy your job?

My brave brother

THAT got her attention! The ice cream lady looked up, glaring at my brother like a roller derby queen about to pounce. For a second, I thought she would jump over the counter and start wailing on him with that scoop. But almost as quickly as it came, her penetrating stare softened into a heedful gaze. Even an eight year old me could see the wheels turning; it was an aha moment.

“No, I don’t like my job,” the woman said with growing resolution. “I used to be a truck driver, trucking is what I really want to do.”

Ice Cream Lady

That was it. We paid for our ice cream and took a seat. But, clearly, the would be truck driver experienced a catharsis. Prompted by my brother’s question, she told herself the truth.

Good questions. God likes to ask them too.

I looked it up, the first question God asks is in Genesis chapter three. Adam and Eve have just eaten the forbidden fruit and hide when they hear God out for a walk. But God calls out to Adam,

“Where are you?”

Genesis 3:9

God knew the answer, of course–He always does–but he could have said, “What have you done?” Thankfully, He is more concerned Father than pitiless inquisitor (2 Peter 3:9). He just wants us to come back.

Today, may both you and I tell ourselves the truth–whatever it is.

Speak the truth and see what happens.

Dr. Jordan Peterson

https://davidsdailydose.org/2019/06/23/telling-ourselves-the-truth/

YRUMAD?

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Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Genesis 4: 6-7

My brother has the coolest personalized license plate, it says, YRUMAD?.

I’ve never asked him to explain, but I suppose he wants passing motorists to think about what drives their lives.

However, everytime I see it I get defensive, “I’m NOT mad!” But a simple glance into my inner psyche reveals destructive emotions aplenty, they’re just catching a few z’s. Come to think of it, I often AM a little mad, anxious, or worried; maybe I should find out why.

Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.

Benjamin Franklin

Take the tale of two brothers, as told in Genesis. Cain was enraged because God rejected his offering, but accepted his brother’s. While the older brother sulks, God pays him a visit and tries to talk some sense into him.

Son, if you were a professional you’d be on television. Now get back out there and try again! You’d better snap out of this, or there will be hell to pay.

My version of what God told Cain, based on what my dad once said to me in a similar situation.

Cain made the wrong choice, he murdered his brother and was a wandering fugitive for the rest of his life.

Let’s not be like that–especially after God tries to talk some sense into us.

YRUMAD?

https://davidsdailydose.org/2019/06/22/yrumad/

Have you gotten to “When?”

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And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.

Job 42:10a

“If every Christian’s prayer was answered, ‘Yes’,” says the skeptic, “Who would benefit most, the Christian or the seemingly lost world?”

Ouch!

Come to think of it, looking from the outside in, Christianity COULD seem like a pretty self-centered religion. A typical prayer meeting in many churches features a group of people commiserating about their, mostly personal, “problems.” Such spiritual navel gazing is why a recovering addict once told me he prefers AA meetings for their unselfish ambiance.

Double Ouch!

Anyone who has read the book of Job, knows that the man at the center of the story endures an incredible amount of unjust suffering without blaming God.
However, Job DOES question his Creator,and THAT doesn’t go over well. The following is a summary of God’s response:

Just who do you think you are?

God

Thankfully, things improve for Job in the end, as God restores his losses. And the turning point comes when Job takes his eyes off himself and prays for his friends.

Folks I don’t know about you, but in some situations I just haven’t gotten to “when.” And, like Job, my state of affairs isn’t likely to improve in these areas until I do.

Life is full of difficult times, but someone out there has it worse than you do.

Admiral William H. McRaven

Have you gotten to “when?”

https://davidsdailydose.org/2019/06/20/have-you-gotten-to-when/