Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fulfilling Your Unfulfilled Dreams

Are you settling for merely existing? Have you put your dreams on hold? What is holding you back?

Do you have an unfulfilled dream or unreached goal that is gnawing away at you? Have you given up because you feel it will never come to pass? Or, are you just putting it off for someday far in the future? Perhaps it is just too overwhelming to even think about right now. Or, it is such a daunting task that you will just have to wait and get around to it when you have more time or energy.

Many of us have the best of intentions, yet we beat ourselves up when we realize how much time has slipped away without our making even a hint of progress toward our dreams. What is it you hope to accomplish? Are you any closer today than when you first began dreaming about it? It could be something as small as cleaning out a disorganized office desk or as big as going back to school for your master’s degree. Here are some common unfulfilled dreams or goals in which many of us may be putting off:

• Losing weight, eating healthy, or starting an exercise routine
• Changing careers or advancing in present career
• Traveling
• Organizing and cleaning one’s house, or attic, or garage, or closets
• Owning a home
• Running for Office
• Writing that first book or recording that first CD
• Launching a full-time ministry
• Owning your own business
• Going back to school and finally getting that degree
• And the list goes on and on and on …

What is it that keeps us from achieving our goals, and why do we let it eat at us rather doing something about it? From my experience, the hardest step in almost any undertaking is the first step. Once we take that first step, however, momentum will most certainly take over and propel us forward. The initial effort may be excruciating, but it will be worth the hard work once we see ourselves making real progress toward our dreams. It is just a matter of conquering that first step! Confucius say, “The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.”

It has been my observation that some of the most resistant enemies of progress are perfectionism, fear, lack of confidence, lack of self-discipline, and being deficient of the resources or support necessary to achieve success.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest causes of procrastination. It is the belief that no matter how hard we try, it is never going to be good enough or just right. We can become so anxious about the details that we miss the big picture entirely. So for fear of failure, we opt instead for no action at all. The cure for this is to break the task into smaller steps, then force yourself to do that first step and leave it alone. Learn to be content with excellence rather than perfection. We must adjust our standards and be reminded of the ultimate goal rather than getting lost in the minute details.

Fear is one of the most paralyzing enemies of all; however, it is not all bad. Conquering fear can be one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world, such as riding a scary roller coaster or sledding down a steep, snowy hill. In the same way, taking the leap and adjusting our lives to make our dreams happen can be one of the most thrilling rides of all. Take inventory of your fears and conquer them with courage and truth. Courage is not the absence of fear, but it is moving forward in spite of fear. You don’t have to be fearless, but you can be courageous!

Lack of confidence is really a lie that holds us back from trying something new because we do not believe we are good enough, smart enough, strong enough, good-looking enough, or whatever enough. Well, who told you that you were not enough? It is time you crushed that lie head on, and the only way to do that is with truth. Know the truth of who you are and what you have through Christ. He made you exactly as you are and has given you your abilities. Wherever there may a deficit, He will fill in the gap. He will never leave you, and He will never call you to do something without also equipping you. If He has called you to do it, then you have nothing to worry about, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. (Philippians 4:13) Yes, you can!

Lack of self-discipline is synonymous with laziness, slothfulness, and idleness. What a tragedy to waste our lives and settle for mediocrity because we could not drum up the self-discipline to make a change. We must remember that the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit that is alive and active inside of us. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, and that is the fiercest weapon against laziness. We have it inside of us, but we must choose to employ it. Discipline and diligence can be our best friends. As Scripture says, “Sloth makes you poor; diligence brings wealth.” (Proverbs 10:4 MSG)

Deficiency of needed resources or support can be the final stop that keeps us from our goals. My advice here is to list what is needed; bring your request to God; and then make the adjustments necessary to obtain it. If it is finances that are in the way, for example, find a way to earn, save, or raise the funds needed rather than becoming discouraged about the lack thereof. Explore all possibilities, such as student loans, fund raisers, or additional employment. Perhaps this will require some very hard work and may even defer your dreams a bit, but at least you will be moving in the right direction. Whatever the need may be, do not let lack of any kind stop you from making progress. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NIV)

Now that we have dispelled any excuses that are keeping us stagnate, let us move forward with confidence. Just as Nehemiah and his crew had to lay the first brick to rebuild the wall; Moses had to overcome his anxiety and speak to Pharaoh before he could lead the Israelites out of Egypt; and David had to swing that first stone to topple the evil giant, Goliath; you too can slay the giants in your life that are keeping you from achieving all that you have dreamed.

Understand that God has already turned the odds in your favor, and you have been set up to win. All you have to do is take that first step, with His help, to make it happen. Get off that couch and get started today! Do not delay! You can do it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Do You Ever Have One of Those Days?

Do you ever have one of those days in which nothing seems to go right?  You run late for work; your hair frizzes up in the humidity; you get stuck in a traffic jam; your boss gives you an enormous yet tedious project to complete with an unrealistic deadline; your child’s school calls for you to pick up your puking child; and you stub your toe on your way out the door.  Never mind the burnt toast you scarfed down for breakfast or that cup of coffee you took the time to brew and pour into a car mug, yet left on the kitchen counter.  How about drinking a blueberry smoothie and forgetting to check your teeth before walking in to morning staff meeting?  (Not that that has ever happened to me, of course!)

This kind of sounds like a day in the life of … well of any of us!  We all have days like this from time to time!  The issue, however, is how we choose to respond to them.  

There are times we can use these irritations as an excuse to be big ol’ grumps and let it sour our attitude for the remainder of the day.  The whole day is now shot!  It becomes painfully obvious that we have slipped into yet another funk!  We feel an undefined sense of blah, or icky, or waah!  We might even ascribe these feelings to PMS and seek comfort in a heaping mound of chocolate bliss.  Of course, the comfort is short lived when the bliss quickly turns into the afternoon slump and sugar crash.  Ugh! When will this day end?!

I have learned some practical tips for overcoming days like this and to get out of that miserable funk. It is all about focus, as Debbie Alsdorf explains beautifully in her book, The Faith Dare.  You see, it isn’t so much about the things that happen to us, but it is our perception, our choice of response, and most importantly, where our hearts and minds are focused that makes all the difference.

When we put God first in our lives day by day and keep our eyes fixed on Him, He will give us the strength and energy we need to not grow weary or to lose heart. (Hebrews12:2-3)  We can choose ahead of time where our focus will be, and we can stop that nasty old funk before it has a chance to start.  We can fill our minds daily with God’s goodness so that there is no room for self-focus or self-pity.  We can force ourselves to get up when we feel down by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We can shake off that bad mood and rotten attitude by looking up and putting our focus on God.

Then, when we have another one of those bad days, we can stop the funk before it has a chance to set in.  We can make up our minds right then and there that we are not going to be grouchy or allow the rest of the day to be miserable.  We can stand up strong and say, “No!” to that rotten mood, and make up our minds that we are not going to give in to it!  

As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we have self-control within us, but we need to exercise it so it can ripen and be ready when we need it.  Then, decide that you are going to control these emotions before they have a chance to control you.  Decide to squash the funk early before it has a chance to grow and overtake you.  You will have much better success the earlier you get a grip on it.  Remember, it is about focus, and you can control and choose your focus.  Keep it on Christ!

As the great philosopher and theologian, Barney Fife would say about it, “Nip it!  Nip it in the bud!”  That is some of the greatest advice for an attitude adjustment I have ever heard!

From, The Andy Griffith Show

Today’s truth is speaking to me…

Focusing on Christ changes my perspective and my attitude.  I have gotten lost in a funk so many times in my past, and it has been a result of allowing my focus to drift away from Christ and His goodness, and the victory I have in Him.  Instead I had set my gaze toward my problems and what was irritating me, and the result is big time grumpiness! 

The cure is to fix my eyes on Him and to choose to submit my attitude to Him.  I don’t have to be stuck “under,” but He has provided the way for me to live in perpetual peace and joy.  When my emotions get out of control, focusing on the truth of His goodness calms me and sets my perspective back to a peaceful place.  My emotions then become manageable, and I can stand firmly on the fact that I am a victorious and strong woman of God.  I am blessed every day that I live!  I can choose my attitude and walk in the peace, joy, and victory He has provided for me.  I am shaking off the funk by focusing on Him. When I am down, He lifts me up!  He sets my heart and mind aright again.

God is asking me to…

Start each day with Him and keep my focus on Him to avert the funk ahead of time.

Make the decision ahead of time that I will not be overcome by the funk.  I won’t give in to it, but when it comes, I will look up and get up!

Train my mind and attitude to remain focused on Him and to recognize and avert a bad attitude as it comes.

As you fill up your heart and train your mind with God's Word, you will be prepared ahead of time to combat the funk. Next time you feel it coming on, nip it! Nip it in the bud!

God bless!

Shari Lewis