Ten years ago yesterday, what started as an idea for people done with church/religion to have a safe space to encounter the transformational love of God, gave birth to the church of called West.

And what a ride it has been. Just like any amusement park ride, it has had its ups and downs.

The anxiety of whether we would coalesce into a vibrant faith community was palpable.

Questions loomed: Would people come? Would they stay? Could we effectively manage the church’s administration?

These were significant concerns that tested our faith and resolve.

The first Sunday we had public worship was a prime example of how our chimp brain can take over.


The memory of the first sermon at West is still vivid. Feeling a significant bit of pressure to be a “good preacher,” as I started preaching, my lips stopped moving. They wouldn’t go over my teeth, which in part made my speech slurred. For a few minutes, I couldn’t figure out what was happening; it kept getting worse, and I was mortified.

This experience was a classic “fright” response, a part of our “Chimp Brain” reacting to acute stress.

No doubt, we all face moments of stress and uncertainty. Our responses vary – fright, flight, freeze, or fawn/appease. Each reaction is a natural human response to the challenges we face.

Fright: Just like that mortifying first sermon, sometimes we encounter situations that make us tense and fearful.
Flight: There are times we might want to run from our challenges, avoiding difficult tasks or conversations. We simply leave.
Freeze: In some instances, we may feel paralyzed and unable to make a decision or take action.
Fawn/Appease: Occasionally, we might try to mitigate stress by pleasing others, even if it means compromising our values or comfort.

These are all chimp brain responses. Over the next several weeks, we are going to discover how we can learn to manage our chimp brain and live into being strong, level-headed human beings. (Wouldn’t this be great leading into a contentious political election year?)

The concept of the “Chimp Brain” helps us understand these reactions. This part of our brain, responsible for our survival instincts, can sometimes take over, causing physical and emotional responses like rapid breathing, tense muscles, or, as in our story, dry mouth.

What if we could have spiritual mantras to help us when we find ourselves in these “flight, fright, freeze, fawn” modes?

Human responses are normal parts of our human journey. Yet, we also have something bigger than our humanity that always helps us when we encounter our chimp brain.

Over the next several days, let’s learn to recognize when we are acting out of that “gut reaction” part of ourselves. Recognizing it is the first step in managing it!

Grace and Peace,


Psalm 56:

God, have mercy on me because I’m being trampled.

All day long the enemy oppresses me.


My attackers trample me all day long

because I have so many enemies.

Exalted one, 3 whenever I’m afraid,

I put my trust in you—


in God, whose word I praise.

I trust in God; I won’t be afraid.

What can mere flesh do to me?