I will never forget my first public speaking appearance. I was in grade school and there was this public speaking contest that took place in front of all the grades. My mother was in the audience as I read an excerpt from Erma Bombeck, "the Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank." Some of my peers were nervous but I couldn't wait for my turn. It was a home run and I earned a 3rd place award.
That appearance gave me confidence to say yes when another cast member got scared and dropped out of a grade school play. He had the lead role (Ebenezer Scrooge) in "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. You see, my character had to deal with ghosts from the past, present and future and these spirits helped Scrooge to change his life. This was my first experience dealing with ghosts. I had limited time to learn my lines. If I got stuck, someone would call my lines into me from off-stage. Most people would have stopped public speaking after going through these miss-steps in front of a crowd, but this was just the beginning of what the Creator had planned for me.
I brought up public speaking first since this is the number one fear for most of you reading this post. My greatest fear is getting stuck with needles. I was so scared when the blood mobile came to my work and I tried to avoid giving blood. My peers cajoled me and I ended up in line. After going through so much anxiety, the nurse rejected me. She told me it would be too much trouble to get the blood to come out. I asked to get a note from her to show my buddies that they refused me.
Years later, I was approached by another blood mobile in front of Home Depot. "The blood supply is critical", I was told. I decided it was time to face my fear and I got through it but it was not easy. I ended up on their phone list and always avoided committing because of my fear of needles.
Recently, my wife signed up to give blood at our church. She knew my fear and told me I was "excused". I thought of my neighbors from my hood (see earlier post) and decided I would donate. My blood came out slowly but enough came out to make the donation a success.
Another childhood fear I experienced daily had to do with selling "starts" on my newspaper job. It would take me all morning to get the courage to go out and ask for the newspaper order and many slammed their door in my face. Thank God that McDonald's was close by so I could buy a milk shake and work up the courage to go knock on another door. I started delivering newspapers in the 7th grade and found that I could increase my income if I overcame my fear of "selling" and got new orders for home delivery.
When I was fifteen, my dad sold me his '71 VW Super Beetle to raise money for his business. I paid him cash from my paper route money. The car was parked until I got my driver's license on my 16th birthday. This is when I experienced one of the greatest fears of my life...
I gathered up my friends in the hood for my first camping trip without parents. We headed to the white mountains in Arizona and camped for a couple of days on the Indian reservation. On the way home, my friend in the back seat yelled that the engine was on fire. I quickly shut off the engine. Next, the steering wheel became locked. We were coming up on a right turn and I was about to cross the line into traffic. There was a 300 foot cliff and I was either going to go over the cliff or have a head-on collision. Because I was forcing the steering wheel to go right while in the locked position, I could not get the key to turn. I kept going straight to the cliff.
When it looked like we were all going to die, I cried out, "God help me!" The key turned, I regained control of my VW and we pulled over. We used a rag to put out the fire. When the traffic cleared, we crossed the road to see how steep the cliff was. This was the beginning of my prayer life.
Our very first brand new vehicle was a Chevy Lumina van. I was on my way to the dealership to have them fix an electrical problem when it went completely dead at a red light. I noticed two vehicles in my lane behind me. They were approaching at about 60 mph and did not know I was stopped. Frantically, I tried to restart the van...Nothing! I thought the best thing to do was jump out of the van so I unbuckled my seat belt. It was too late, the vehicles were about to rear end me and my life was about to be over. Just like my childhood prayer, I yelled out, "God help me!" I was totally helpless and the cars were about to strike me. I didn't even have time to re-buckle my seat belt.
The first car swerved to my right and missed me by inches. The skid marks stretched all the way around the van. A few seconds later, the second car swerved to my left, also missing me by inches. I looked in my rear view mirror and more cars were coming. Then, I tried the key again and the van started. I pulled off to the side of the road and parked the van. A few minutes later, my work buddy pulled over and asked me what was up. He shook his head as he looked at the skid marks and then offered my a ride to work. Once again, I thanked God for answering my prayer.
It doesn't rain much in southern California so it took months before the skid marks disappeared. They were my daily reminder that I must have some kind of purpose here on this planet. My time in the cave has given me time to reflect and prepare for what is ahead.
We attended a pool party yesterday and I heard "Come Sail Away" just after I talked about my new blog experience. Putting your sails up all the way may be scary and getting out of your comfort zone may also cause anxiety. The lesson I have learned about facing fear is that you can face any goliath in front of you if you remember just how big God is that is right behind you.
May you enjoy this Labor Day without any fear or anxiety. Don't forget to sign up to be an organ donor... Erma Bombeck is no longer with us because she died from kidney disease. Too bad, because she knew how to make the world laugh and I thank her for giving me such great material. I will always remember her any time I am doing public speaking.