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Entries in Fear (19)

Tuesday
Jul092019

5 Excuses that Hold You Back

Kathy Carlton Willis is not only an encouraging cheerleader for writers and speakers, her practical wisdom as a life coach helps people move forward in faith. In this Goals UPGRADE, Kathy identifies five excuses that hold us back.

“How would your life be different," Kathy asks, "if you could ditch excuses for good?"

As a long-time excuse maker, I (Dawn) understand the distraction and loss that comes from living with excuses. In fact, my goals mantra has become, "There may be reasons, but not excuses."

Kathy continues . . .

One of my biggest blessings, but also biggest struggles as a life coach, is to recognize what causes someone to feel stuck, and to strategize biblical ways to help them be free of those restraints so they can function in freedom. It is challenging because some prefer to stay stuck rather than step out in faith into unfamiliar territory.

Faith gives us the bravery we need to move forward, one foot in front of the other, until we get to the destination God has for us.

Are you feeling stucik? What’s holding you back from pursuing the goals God has for you?

First, let’s look at the typical excuses we give.

5 Common Excuses

  1. I don’t have time.
  2. You don’t know my story, my hang-ups, my trials.
  3. I can’t afford it.
  4. I have a broken relationship.
  5. It’s out of my control.

You make your own list. What’s holding you back? Why can’t you or won’t you take the next step needed toward your goal?

6 Ways to Ditch the Excuses for Good

1. Is it an excuse or a reason?

  • If it’s an excuse, learn not to listen to it.
  • If it’s a true reason, learn a “work around” so the reason is merely a detour rather than a dead end.

2. What fear is attached to your excuse?

If you find yourself in a place where you aren’t comfortable moving forward, usually it’s because there’s a fear holding you back.

What do you fear might happen if you move toward the goal God has for you?

  • Fear of failure?
  • Fear of success?
  • Fear of change?
  • Fear of what others think?
  • Fear of it costing something you hold dear?

3. Kick the excuses to the curb and use godly self-talk instead.

Evict the excuses out of your head and heart. Then learn a new truth statement to repeat to yourself instead.

You can find what God thinks about you in Scripture and can apply it to your situation.

4. Make moving forward a priority.

Don’t wallow in stuckness.

Don’t give your excuses permission to have control over you.

Determine what God wants for your life and don’t let anything hold you back from it.

Even if you have to wait for something out of your control to happen, you can have “active waiting” by learning how to adopt the right thinking so it’s in place when you get the green light to move forward.

5. Spend as much time seeking the solution as believing the excuse.

Evaluate what it would take to tackle the problem.

Decide if you were aiming for the wrong destination—maybe the solution is a different destination or outcome. Seek God for that direction and then ask Him to help the next step become apparent to you.

6. Embrace the work of change.

Many people don’t move toward their goal because they’re comfortable where they are and don’t want to put in the extra effort necessary to get to where they wish they could go in their lives.

Sweat equity isn’t just for house projects—it’s for life projects.

We might get a little uncomfortable moving to the next step. That’s okay if it’s a temporary discomfort. And hey, that’s one reason Jesus sent the Comforter, right? He knew we’d be uncomfortable living out the deeds of His will in our lives.

“You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom” (Galatians 5:7-9 NLT).

Would you allow a thin rubber band wrapped around your middle to hold you back from rescuing a child from a burning building? Of course not.

Don’t let a thin excuse hold you back from what God wants in your life—from what you know to be a desire you have as well. Risk the momentary pinch or snap of that rubber band as you disable it from holding you back, and then all of a sudden you realize there’s less resistance than there was before.

What’s holding you back today?

Kathy Carlton Willis, God’s Grin Gal, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’sspeaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceHer popular blog, Grin & Grow with Kathy is featured on CBN. She just released a training manual for speakers called, The Ultimate Speaker’s Guide. Kathy and husband Russ are trying to raise seven-month old Hettie the Boston Terrier—but in truth, she’s training them.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jun272019

Fears, Fears ... Go Away!

Dawn Wilson is the creator of Upgrade with Dawn. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she gets honest about her fears and how the Lord has encouraged her to confront them with His truth.

I argued with the Lord a bit.

“I’m not a fearful person; I know better than that.”

But the Lord pressed a few examples into my thoughts and I had to admit, I was filled with more fears than I thought.

When my children were small, I feared for their safety. Then they grew up and I found out—once a mama, always a mama—I still had fears for their safety. And I added my grandchildren to that fear list too! I was afraid of my husband’s safety in his many travels too.

Many fears have come, but I’ve suppressed them all rather than dealing with them biblically.

Then, this past January, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Talk about fears!

Somehow, that first day in the hospital, I kept repeating a verse I learned long ago: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

Still, my mantra from February through late April was pretty much, “Fears, fears… go away!”

All that time, my cancer treatment wasn’t working, and I became anxious and afraid.

Maybe I going to only live a year, I thought. I started downgrading my priorities list to something simpler and more manageable. What would I want to accomplish if I only had one year to live?

I started developing a plan, and the only time I cried was when I thought of leaving my family members.

Thankfully, in early May, my oncologist decided to upgrade my cancer treatment. He prescribed a super-expensive drug, which the Lord graciously covered for almost five months through a nonprofit grant.

But my fears that the drug wouldn’t work—or that it would tank my hemoglobin, one of the oncologist’s concerns—continued.

Beneath the surface ... subtle fears. But fears that still had a grip on my heart.

In many ways, I was trying to trust the Lord through all this. I chose to praise and worship Him. I wrote about my struggle on Facebook. I tried to be honest about how I was trying to overcome my fears; and many friends—I call them #TeamDawn—encouraged me.

  • "You're in God's grip."
  • "I'm praying God will completely heal you."
  • "Keep trusting!"

Most people praised me for being a good example. They recognized the battle, but also some of my victories in trusting God.

Yet the toxic thinking continued. Especially in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep.

And then around Mother’s Day, one of my daughters-in-love, Tracy, gave me a book. Switch on Your Brain by cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf,* who is also a Christian. It's heavy-duty science, but fascinating to realize how science is catching up with the Bible!

The book affirmed me in all that I’ve taught for many years: As we think, so we come to believe, and so we choose. My ministry, Heart Choices Today, is built on that simple-yet-profound concept.

We build our thoughts, choices and habits based on what we’re thinking.

As I read the book, the Lord began to speak to me about my toxic thinking and the fears and anxieties that wouldn’t seem to go away no matter how I wished them to leave.

There was a lot at stake! And Dr. Leaf made a strong case:

She wrote that fear alone triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses in our bodies, activating more than 30 different hormones.

Left unchecked, toxic thoughts (like fear) create ideal conditions for illnesses.

I figured "unchecked" fears weren't going to help me battle my illness!

So I decided to do what the book recommended. I'm a writer, but I don't journal. Yet using Dr. Leaf's processyou'll have to get the book to read about that—I began a 21-Day Detox to confront my anxious thoughts and fears. I chose scriptures to study and I am memorizing key verses to make them a deeper part of my life—replacing toxic thinking with strengthening, biblical truth.

It's an ongoing process, but here are some things I've already discovered during my Detox from the scriptures I'm studying.

  1. Fear does not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7). It is a learned response.
  2. God gives me a spirit of power, love and a sound mind (also 2 Timothy 1:7). A sound mind is right thinking!
  3. It is possible to be in “bondage” to fear—or any other fleshly attitude (Romans 8:15). This verse is talking about fear we suffered before knowing Christ, but now we have a Heavenly Father, and the Spirit does not make us “slaves” to fears.
  4. God’s presence, strength and help allow us to not be fearful (Isaiah 41:10). He’s got a firm grip on me!
  5. Whenever we are afraid, we can choose to trust the Lord (Psalm 56:3-4). That was the only verse I could remember in the hospital in January—but it was enough!
  6. God will never leave or forsake me, and because of that, He wants me to be “strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
  7. I can cast all my burdens, including fearful times, on the Lord, and He will sustain me— strengthen, support and encourage me, and cheer me up! (Psalm 55:22).
  8. I don’t need to be afraid of bad news (but instead need to live in light of the “good news”); and when I think rightly, my heart will be firm and steady, not afraid (Psalm 112:7-8).
  9. I don’t need to be fearful or anxious about anything, but instead, I can pray about everything, with thanksgiving, and God will give me His peace… and He will then guard my heart and mind in Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
  10. Like a loving father with a trusting child, God holds my right hand; and He is the One who helps me (Isaiah 41:13).
  11. The peace Jesus gives us is not like the world’s concept of peace (John 14:27). Though some of the world’s solutions may work if they are based on biblical truth—whether they give God credit or not—Jesus’ peace is a gift from Him, and an answer to my fears.
  12. When fears and anxiety arise in me, I can turn to the Lord and His consolation (comforting) will restore my joy (Psalm 94:19).
  13. God expects/commands me to “be strong and courageous” and not afraid (Joshua 1:9)—because He is with me.
  14. God redeemed me and I am His. Like the children of Israel, I never need to fear that I am forgotten (Isaiah 43:1).
  15. Anxiety and fear is like a heavy weight in the emotions, but a “kind word” of encouragement from God (or others) can cheer the heart (Proverbs 12:25). (I am so thankful for my #TeamDawn prayer warriors and encouragers!)
  16. I don’t need to worry or fear about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34); I need to live in day-tight compartments. God is already in my tomorrows.
  17. I can cast (throw) all my fears and anxieties on the Lord, knowing He cares about me and what I’m going through (1 Peter 5:7).
  18. Even if I must walk through the darkest valley—the “shadow of death”—I do not need to fear, because God is and will be with me to protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4).
  19. The Lord is my light and salvation, my stronghold—whom (or what) shall I fear (Psalm 27:1).
  20. God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1); and verse 10 says, “Be still and know that I am God….” I am challenged to be still and know my “refuge more.”
  21. When I seek the Lord, He responds; and He wants to deliver me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).
  22. When I call out to God, He answers and He is with me in my troubles (Psalm 91:15), rescuing me and honoring me (for trusting Him).
  23. The Lord doesn’t want me to worry about the details of my life (Matthew 6:25), but He is concerned about those details. He will provide, but He wants me to know there is more to life than what’s going on with my body.
  24. I can be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10)—and He gives me the tools for standing strong (the Armor of God, vv. 11-18).
  25. I want the peace of Christ to rule in my heart (Colossians 3:15). I will subject my fears to His control and be thankful for His loving Lordship in my life.

Obviously, I’m going beyond the recommended 21-Day Detox. I want to continue building positive reinforcement thoughts into my life. I want right thinking, godly thinking about my fears, to become my new habit of life.

This is what Paul means when He writes of “renewing the mind” (Romans 12:2) instead of following the unhealthy “pattern” of this world. Scientists are finally beginning to see the brain as having "renewable" characteristics. Biblically, a renewed mind is a Word-founded, Spirit-controlled mind—and from our mind, our thoughts, come our beliefs, choices and habits.

It's the best way I know to make the fears go away ... or at least to confront them God's way.

Is fear a biggie in your life? Or is it something else? Begin now to replace toxic thinking with biblical thinking.

(*NOTE: You might want to read the book I recommended, Switch On Your Brain—there is also a workbook if you want that—to understand how the brain works from a scientific viewpoint, and rejoice that science is finally catching up with God’s truth about our thinking!)

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts, and a writer at Christianity.com (wiki posts) and Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of M. McKein at Pixabay.

Thursday
Apr192018

What's Up with Sheep?

Becky Harling is funny and insightful, and always shares fresh insights for timeless truths. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she writes about sheep and their shepherd. But don't miss this fresh take on a common Christian theme.

"Throughout the scriptures, we are compared to sheep," Becky said. "Have you ever wondered why? I mean, what’s up with sheep? Right?"

I (Dawn) used to think, "Oh, how sweet. God describes His children as adorable little lambs." But there is much more to that picture, as Becky describes here.

Becky continues . . .

I did a little research and discovered some random facts about them that help me understand why God used sheep to describe us so often in scripture.

1. Did you know that sheep are fearful and easily panicked?

Who knew? Can you relate?

In our humanness, most of us are fearful. In fact, that is the number one concern I hear from women and men as I travel the world.

If panicked, we do stupid things, and you know what? So do sheep.

An entire bunch of sheep is easily prodded into a stampede. They have a mob mentality.

But here’s the thing, when sheep know the shepherd’s voice, His voice calms their fears and settles their panic.

This is why Jesus said, “I am the Good shepherd” (John 10:11). He also said His sheep "follow Him because they know His voice” (John 10:4).

Friend, if you want to calm your fears, get to know His voice.

2. Did you know that sheep get jealous easily and push for dominance?

Sound familiar? Maybe this hits too close to home, but it’s so easy for us to become envious of others, isn’t it?

This is the cry behind “That’s not fair!”

Our human tendency is to want life to be fair. If our friend has a beautiful home, we want one too. If our co-worker gets a raise, we want an increase as well.

Here’s the thing: according to the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), our Christian walk was never meant to be “fair.” If it was fair, we would all deserve hell, right? Praise God that isn’t the case!!

One of the most convicting stories of Scripture is when Jesus sits on the beach with His disciples after His resurrection. After He re-commissions Peter, He tells Peter how he will die.

Peter looks at his friend John and wonders if his death will be easier—he blurts out to Jesus, “What about him?”

Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:15-22).

Ouch! I love this story because it reminds me that I must never sink to comparing my life to another.

In Jesus’ kingdom, life may not seem fair, but it is good.

Our quest for fairness will rob us of the abundant life Jesus promised His sheep (John 10:10b).

3. Did you know that sheep are creatures of habits and they are resistant to change?

Many of us are creatures of habit as well. When God calls us to shift our thinking or embrace change, we panic or pout.

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus knows if we are going to live life to the fullest we must keep being transformed.

The truth is we can’t be transformed without change.

Friend, understanding our similarities to sheep can help us focus on Jesus as our Good Shepherd.

He’s the One who laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).  

Which of these random facts about sheep best describes you today? How can you better relate to or trust in your Shepherd?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say That I Am?, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Monday
Oct302017

Upgrade Your Fear Factor

Cindi McMenamin's specialty is strengthening women in their various roles. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she addresses something that holds many women back—the wrong kind of fear.

"Can fear ever be a good thing? It can," Cindi says, "but only when you are fearing the Right Thing."

I (Dawn) am a naturally fearful person, but I add my testimony to Cindi's here. Perspective is everything!

Cindi continues . . .

It occurred to me, as I was writing my book, Drama Free, that most of the drama we experience in life is a result of fear.

We tend to fear people—or circumstances—more than we fear God.

For instance, I was recently stressed out because I feared not being able to complete a deadline. But my fear was really rooted in failing to meet the expectations of others and then fearing what they would believe about me as a result.  

It bothered me to realize I was fearing what people thought of me more than I feared the God who had my back and could clear my name.

And couldn’t God equip me with what I needed to meet my deadline as I surrendered it to Him?

Throughout Scripture we are instructed to fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

A friend once told me:

To fear God is to have a wholesome dread of ever displeasing the Lord.

That implies a love relationship with God in which we fear disappointing Him. That results in obedience, respect of His authority, and a careful intention to not break His heart.

The Bible also tells us, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom….” (Psalm 111:10, NASB).

I’ve come to realize the opposite of wisdom is drama.

When we exercise wisdom, we use discretion and we don’t make a scene.

When we demonstrate wisdom, we don’t bring distress to others.

When we display wisdom, we are not putting ourselves on display. 

If fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which negates drama, then fearing anything other than God is likely to trigger drama.

Instead of fearing God, you and I can tend to fear:    

  • being misunderstood
  • being treated unfairly
  • being embarrassed (by appearing weak or incapable)
  • being rejected
  • being in a situation where I am not in control (My daughter has a fear of flying because she fears not being in control. And let me tell you, she can be drama on the airplane because of it!)

Sometimes we simply fear the worst. That is still a fear of something other than God. It is giving more power to what we fear than to God, who can handle those fears.

In Exodus 14:14 we are told: The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV).

That is ONE CAPABLE GOD—able to do far more than our fears, worries or drama can accomplish.

The more you and I get to know who God is and what He is capable of, the more our worries, fears, and freak-outs can be stilled.

We can be full of drama, or full of trust in an all-capable God.

I know which one I want to be.

What do you tend to fear more than God? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below.

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of sixteen books, including her newest, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, upon which this post is based.  For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.                        

Graphic adapted, courtesy of John Hain at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Aug222017

Fear... or Coffee

The super-talented Joy Elben has always struck me as confident and capable. But I've learned we all have struggles, and in this Gifts and Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Joy shares how she moved from fears and feelings of inadequacy to using her gifts with confidence in the Lord.

“I would never have told you I was afraid,” Joy says. “In fact, I would have told you the opposite.”

I (Dawn) sense a kindred spirit here. Years ago, I could have written this same post. I'm glad Joy did. So many people hide behind their fears; and Joy encourages us to come out of hiding!

Joy continues . . .

I would have said that I'm bold. I’m adventurous. I pursue my dreams.  

When the reality was, there was a part of me lying dormant.

I hadn't actually forgotten that part; it just wasn't necessary anymore. 

Or was it? 

You see, growing up, I was the girl who was always writing. 

All over.

Everything. 

  • My Lisa Frank trapper keeper. 
  • My lunch box.
  • My brother's lunch box.
  • My brother.

The girl who, when the teacher would ask you to put your name in the front flap of each book, I put my name right on the front cover.

In big, BOLD letters. Yep, that was me.

My teachers may not have appreciated that. I may have been the inspiration for the modern book cover.

But letters were art and words were powerful, and I liked the look and sound and feel of the script flowing from my pen to my page. 

My high school English teacher was the first to say it:

"Joy, you have a gift! You need to write." 

I did? I should?

OK!

I devoured every book I could. Every genre, prose and process.

Collecting words as if they were treasures. I was going to take over the world and inspire anyone who would listen with all the eloquence and wisdom of my sixteen-year-old self.

My freshman year of college, there was a campus-wide essay contest and I won.

My professor said,

"Joy, you have a gift. You should write." 

I studied and honed my craft and my family repeated the refrain,

"Joy, you have a gift. You should write."

But then life happened. 

And the voices in my head began to tell me:

  • "Joy, maybe you can write, but really, what makes you more interesting than anyone else?"
  • "Joy, you're only (insert the age). What makes you think that you have any wisdom to offer?"
  • "Joy, you are the pastor's WIFE, and sharing from a platform is his job."
  • "Joy, you are surrounded by brilliant writers—let them do the writing."
  • "Joy, Joy, Joy ....”

The voices chanted my inadequacy.

And I hid.

I hid behind all of the voices and I did it with the conviction that I was honoring God in the process.

Doesn’t Proverbs warn us time and again to weigh our words? I seemed to have forgotten that it also says, 

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a GOOD WORD makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25).

Recently, when invited to join a new friend at our local coffee shop, I shared my hesitation and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and she urged, "Joy, if God has given you a gift, then you need to share your voice and write!"

In the spirit of good conversation, I reciprocated and asked her to share her passion. 

She responded with, "This is my passion."

Wait, what?

"Having coffee."

I was a little baffled. I mean I like a good cup of coffee as much as the next gal, but…huh?

She was a mother and a missionary and a remarkable woman, and her passion was having coffee? 

She explained that for her, sharing coffee meant using her gift of encouragement to create connection and relationship.

Coffee is to her what writing is to me. A mode of connection.

My heart received the message and I knew that I had a choice to make.

I could continue to hide under my own veil of self-doubt and fear of vulnerability,

OR

I could choose to live by faith and write.

So today, I will make the choice to use my words for encouragement and sharing a good word.

What is your passion? Is it writing? Is it coffee? Have you been given a gift that is lying dormant and you hold back because of fear? 

Don’t do it. Don't hide. 

Write, teach, serve, draw, sing—whatever it is for you—and drink coffee, all for the glory of God!

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Take a moment to examine your heart and ask the Lord to reveal if there is any part of you that He has CREATED FOR MORE.

Listen carefully. 

Respond.

Get EXCITED!

The Lord longs to help you live in the fullness of who He created you to be.

What is your gift? How are you using it for God’s glory?

Joy Elben, born and raised in sunny San Diego, is serving alongside her husband at Forest Home Christian Camps and Conference Center, in the picturesque setting of Ojai, California. She is a pastor's wife, adoptive mom, foster parent, enthusiastic traveler and owner of Joy Elben Design, a home staging and design business.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Engin_Akyurt-Pixabay.