Uncomfortable: One Family’s Story of Reconciliation

Leslie never imagined her life would turn out that way.

Addicted to drugs.

Estranged from her family.

Selling everything she had to eat and to use.

She never imagined a day when the Department of Human Resources (DHR) would take her 3-year-old son, Garrett away from her.

But it happened.

A few weeks ago we discussed how there are times in our lives we need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to receive a blessing. We used a story from 1 Kings of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. You can read that post here.

At the time Garrett was taken from Leslie, her addiction got worse, not better. Having her son removed from her custody only increased her drug use rather than her wake up call, her rock bottom.

“The day they took Garrett from me, I remember throwing a fit on my porch,” Leslie shared. I slammed my head against the pillar, kicked the table, and slammed the door going into my house.”

By this time Leslie had so much anger, hurt, and unforgiveness deeply rooted in her heart, the only way she knew to cope with the pain was by acting out.

She was already distant from God. She distanced herself further from healthy, safe people, and sunk deeper into addiction.

For Leslie it wasn’t an “ah-a” God moment that turned her life around. In fact, the thing God used to get Leslie’s attention was fear. And let’s face it, fear can feel really uncomfortable.

“ I was sworn into Drug Court, in lieu of going to prison. I had to spend the next twelve months going to court a few times a month, going to the Intensive Outpatient Program three days a week for three hours a day, and consistently test negative for drug use,” Leslie explained.

“Knowing that if I relapsed or didn’t follow through I could be sent off to prison got me moving forward in the right direction.”

For Leslie, she had to learn how to surrender to God in the uncomfortable.

And in doing so she learned how to forgive, how to submit to authority, and how to exhibit patience when all she wanted to do was run.

How about you?

Are you in a place where you feel stuck?

Perhaps you feel like you are spinning around in a destructive cycle and can’t seem to figure a way out.

What if God is allowing these circumstances right now for you to feel uncomfortable so that ultimately He can bless you with His spiritual blessings?

What can you do while you are in this very uncomfortable place?

  1. Surrender to God. I love what Peter says in Mark 10:28, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” That’s the sum of it. Leave whatever it is you are clinging to: control, addiction, anger, unforgiveness, unbelief and surrender it to God.
  2. Embrace the discomfort. As hard as those words are to read, and even harder to do, embracing the season your in is so much easier than fighting against it. When you embrace your discomfort, it can become your companion rather than your enemy.
  3. Wait on the blessing. “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18 Your blessing is coming, God promises it. But you are going to have to choose daily to wait on Him to bring that blessing in His timing.

garrett and leslie

Garret is now 9 years old and has been back living with his Mom for over five years now. God allowed this season of discomfort in Leslie’s life to help her find freedom from addiction, forgiveness, and hope.

Leslie is no different than you and I. God will is able to do more than we ask or imagine (Eph 3:20, NIV), when we choose to surrender to the uncomfortable.

How do you feel when you are uncomfortable? Does it bring you comfort to hear stories of how God can provide blessing in the midst of discomfort?

Feeling Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

I cannot stand being uncomfortable.

I don’t like being too hot. I can’t stand it when I am so cold I am shivering.  New places can stretch me when I don’t know anyone because I feel awkward, shy, and vulnerable.

It’s the worst.

But sometimes being uncomfortable can be good for us. In fact, I’ve learned coupling the uncomfortable with obedience to God and found it’s the perfect intersection for God to produce a blessing.

Allow me a moment to tell you a story about a prophet and a woman. You can find these stories in 2 Kings 4:8-37, 8:1-6 .

There was a prophet in Israel named Elisha. He was known to be a man of God who did whatever God told him to do. A well off Shunammite woman (they never mention her name) and her husband, host him at their home for several meals, and then decided to offer him a place to stay. She redid a room in her home specifically for him. Elisha was very touched by the woman and asked if he could bless her for her goodness to him. She waved off his request and told him, she basically had all she needed. Elisha asks his servant to find out how he can bless her and his servant lets him know she wishes to have a son, even though her husband is old. But that is exactly what Elisha does. He tells her she will have a son, by this time next year. (v.16) She objects to his words and gets angry that he would even suggest such a thing.

Nine months later, she gives birth to a son. All is well until the son gets sick and dies in the father’s arms. They lay the son in a bed and she goes to get Elisha, to demand he do something about it, as he had promised her a son. She was quite upset Elisha’s promise did not come with a life-long guarantee. Long story short, (too late) he returns prays, asks God to revive her son, lays on top of him 3 times (okay, lets all admit that is a bit weird), and he lives.

But that is just the back-story. However, you needed to know that part to get to this part.

Years later there is a famine in the land. Elisha returns to warn her and tell her to move. And so, she does. She moves her family to a far off land for 7 years while her people go through the famine. When she is told it is time to return she does so and goes to the king to retrieve her land back. When she returned the King assigns her an official to assist and he blesses her by returning her home and land back to her.

Now if you are starting to scratch your head and think, “Dawn, you have lost it! What does any of this have to do with being uncomfortable?” Stick with me and we’ll get there in a moment.

Check out what this no named, only described by her ethnicity, woman does as we began our story. She opens up her home to a prophet. She does not know him; not really. She and her husband only had a few meals with him. But then she takes her hospitality a step further by setting up a room for him and giving it to him for as long as he needs it.

Is there anything in that scenario that makes you feel uncomfortable? Um…yeah!

Now I am not suggesting to you to bring strange men into your home, but it does beckon us to wonder, if her faithfulness in the uncomfortable here did not bring her the blessing later?

What we must remind ourselves of when we read these stories from the Bible is that the people who were living them out never knew what their outcomes would be. Our Shunammite friend had no idea she was going to receive the blessing of a child, one she never thought she could ever have…in fact, she was so sure of it that she couldn’t even dare to ask for fear for fear of his answer being “No.”

Can you relate to that? Can you relate to the desire of wanting something so bad and for so long you don’t even dare mention it anymore because it brings up all those feelings? All those emotions you may not be able to control should someone mention that “something”? That one thing you can’t have?

I get the sense that is exactly where our Shunammite woman was in this story. Willing to serve her God anyway she could, even to the point of making her home a refuge for a strange, man of God. Even if it meant getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.BluewithWhite Become uncomfortable emotionally

She was willing to become that uncomfortable in the physical…but God wanted to take her a bit further to become uncomfortable emotionally and spiritually with Him.

And when she obeyed look at what it yielded her—blessing—and in the form of a son, an heir, a first-born who not only carries on the name of the family but now will also carry on the testimony of faith in a God who moves us into the uncomfortable.

Then, when she was told to move away for seven years, in the face of famine, she had already learned the blessing of obedience, even when it is uncomfortable. In her case even if it meant moving her family away temporarily to the land of the Philistines. (2 Kings 8:1) In case the name Philistine isn’t familiar to you, the Philistines were the ones the Israelites battled in the famous story of David and Goliath. Goliath was a Philistine.

It doesn’t say why they chose to move to the land of their sworn enemy, but they did.

And God blessed them.

He blessed them with the return of their land and a king who honored them as his people by paying back all that they had lost. You see he did not have to do that. He did not have to return any of it to them. But it just so happens that the king was talking just that day to Elisha’s servant and he was telling him the story about a Shunammite woman whose son was brought back to life by Elisha.

And in walks the woman, seeking her land back.

“Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.” (2 Kings 8:3-6)

And just like that God does yet another miracle in her life. Out of an act of obedience, and an uncomfortable one at that.

I don’t love becoming uncomfortable. But I have learned over time through a seven hour move from Ohio, a house that wouldn’t sell up north for seven years, surgeries that have permanently disabled parts of my body, unemployment, and chronic health issues that regardless of how uncomfortable I am, if I am willing to obey God, I will see blessings. I have learned to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Because I know the blessing will come…sometimes financial, but more often spiritual blessings like new gained freedom, joy that surpasses understanding, learning mercy instead of justice, and being used to steward a vision bigger than I could have dreamed on my own.

Seek God, while you are uncomfortable. You just never know, when He’ll use it for your blessing.

What about you? Can you relate to the Shunammite woman in your desires? Have you seen times your willingness to be uncomfortable made it possible to see the blessing?

Want to hear more of Leslie’s story? Listen to her podcast. 

Share below and let’s talk more about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

How to Tend to the Roots

For two and a half years, I struggled with a chronic condition. Well, not just one condition, it was believed I had several. Some of them had names, some of them did not. Although I went from one doctor to the next, I was told, with frequency, you are an anomaly and we don’t have any idea what is wrong with you.

Many times their solution was to take this pill, or that pill or to go see this doctor or that doctor. They’d suggest not to do this anymore or try to see if this or that works. But most of the time it felt to me like the doctors I was seeing were just taking a shot in the dark. Hoping they could give me something to help the symptoms. But not a single one of them could figure out the root cause.

Until one day, I listened to a friend and took a chance on a naturopathic doctor. I went into it thinking, “Why not, what could be the worse thing that happens?” For two years, all I have done is gone from doctor to doctor. Same answers. Same results. No hope.

I really felt like the women with the blood issue. Do you know her? She is in several of the gospels, but we’ll go to Luke 8:42-48 to hear her story.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Me and the woman at the well, are so much alike. I can totally relate to her and what it feels like to not be able to find the right person to heal you. Although mine did not last twelve years, Praise God, it did at times feel like it. I’d go through times where I felt like I was experiencing joy even in the midst of my struggle. Other times I found myself bitter and frustrated, constantly complaining in my head. I wrote about that here. I asked God to search my heart and reveal any sin issue I may have which was causing the sickness. I asked people to pray and lay hands on me for healing. I was anointed with oil. I spent time with God every morning. But never the less, the illnesses never left me and I went on in my pain.

On many occasions, I asked God, “I have faith like the woman with the blood issue and I am reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, why won’t you heal me?”

Can you relate? I wonder what you have in your heart, in your body, or going on in your life that you are seeking people or symptoms to provide your healing. Do you have a chronic condition like me, that feels like it is never going away? Do you have someone in your life you stay angry at because you can’t or won’t forgive them? Is there an addiction you can’t seem to conquer no matter what you do?

What do you do when you feel like you have done everything you are supposed to do but nothing seems to change?

Sometimes the issue we are trying to deal with can’t be addressed by tending to the symptoms alone. There is no pill to cure us. No special prayer we can pray.

Sometimes it takes addressing the problem from the root cause to open up the door for healing to come.

For me, God addressed the problem in two different ways. First of all, He led me to the naturopathic doctor who tested my food allergies, after months of telling doctors my flair ups happened when I was eating “clean” foods. It was this doctor who finally listened. Low and behold I had food allergies that were causing inflammation in my body. Stay away from the foods; lower the inflammation; healing happens.Perspective Changes everything.

Second of all, spiritually God had walked me through understanding how my “trial” was not a count against me, which was this little lie that had imbedded itself in my brain. In fact, I learned we bring glory to God in our sufferings. (Romans 5:3) So if I am to bring Him glory, should I not be okay in the suffering? Perspective changes everything.

The food healed my inflammation.
The Word healed my heart.

My path to healing may be different than yours. You can’t take what happened to me and just place it nicely into the crevices of your life and it will fit like a glove. Just like we could never take the story of the woman with the blood issue and make it fit perfectly with ours.

There is no one story that fits all, when it comes to healing.

But what I can tell you stands consist in every one of them…is that faith in God and trusting Him has a huge role to play in it.

There was nothing that either of us could do to heal ourselves of the sickness.
There was nothing the doctor’s could do to change our situation.
There was nothing our friends or family could do to make it better.

The only thing we had left was faith. Faith to know God is the Healer–Jehovah Rapha. The faith to believe He will guide our path of healing, in His time, in His way, and through His means.

And when it boils down to it, that’s the root of the issue.

faithforhealing

It’s why Jesus said to so many people that received feeling, “Do you have faith?” or “It is by your faith you have been healed.”

God works in mysterious ways and I do still believe that healing can come instantaneously. But I also believe it’s just as glorifying to Him, just as miraculous, and amazing when He heals us over time. I believe sometimes the healing is even better than the instantaneous, because not only is the recipient healed of their physical ailments, but they receive spiritual blessings of seeing their long-term faith come to fruition.

 

What are you struggling with in your need for healing and addressing it through your symptoms rather than seeking God for the root cause?

 

What Happens When Fear Wins?

I got to thinking this past week. What would have happened if I allowed my fears to get the best of me. What is at stake if I choose to avoid the things I feel God leading me to do and let them pass me by?

For the last five weeks we have been talking about how to overcome our fears. Doing so is not easy, but hopefully one you feel a bit more equipped to accomplish. I have one more piece of advice for you before we end this series, but before we get to that let’s take a quick walk back through the main points from the last 5 weeks so we can be sure to receive all God taught us during this time.

Let me remind you that this is an on-going process and you are going to need to exhibit patience and perseverance through it. The reality is that we will always have another fear to overcome, another area of our life that God wants us to gain freedom in so that we can live our lives to the full, as He wants us to do according to John 10:10.

So let’s walk through what we learned through this series on overcoming our fears:

First we talked through how we can overcome our fears with peace by praying through Philippians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

It is through this verse that we can know that our God is full of peace and that peace can guard our hearts against worry, anxiety and fear to help us overcome any situation we are walking through.

Second, we learned how to surrender our need for control, which can only intensify our fears. Jeremiah 29:11 was our guide for this post and it reminded us that God is in control and has the very best plans in mind for us, plans not to harm us to give us hope and a future. We learned how to follow a few steps in the process of surrendering by repenting, renewing our mind, releasing, and obeying God.

Next we talked about how important it is to have an on-going relationship with God and to be in the Bible everyday to be able to overcome your fears. Joshua 1:7-9 which reads, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” reminded us that the only way we were going to be able to be strong and courageous is if we get into God’s word and get it in our mind and in our hearts.

The fourth week we learned how to fight and whom our fight was against. We were reminded that the devil likes to scheme against us as he is constantly plotting and planning his next move. But we are not left without a way to fight back. Ephesians 6:12-17 reminds us who our enemy is, powers and principalities of darkness, and the armor that we need to put on to fight against that enemy. I hope you are now starting to pray that armor on every day, Warrior. If you are going to stand firm, which I know you can, you’re going to need this as a daily habit to withstand whatever it is your enemy throws at you.

Then last week we all got a gut check when we realized we need to quit complaining about our fears over lack of provision. I shared Psalm 116:17 as the antidote “I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.” In that we need to give thank offerings. How many found yourself complaining this week and switched to thanks and praise instead? The struggle is real; I know it, my friend.

So now you are armed with five scripture verses that I hope you are starting to outline, study, memorize and get into your heart. That way when the enemy starts coming at you with all the reasons you should be afraid, you have got a contingency plan of scripture verses you can say recite to show how powerful YOU are.

So here is my last bit of advice for you as you seek to overcome your fears. I learned very early on in my process of following God’s vision now called “The Link of Cullman County” that more often than not the only way I was going to overcoming my fear was to do the thing I was most afraid of doing. Which meant, I could not allow the fear to win.

To highlight my point to you today we are going to go into the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a Jewish prophet during a time in which Jerusalem was in ruin. He served as a cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes (Neh 1:11b), in a foreign land. We learn very quickly his heart for his people as his brother shares with him that the city of Jerusalem has been “broken down and its gates have been burned with fire.” (Neh 1:3) Nehemiah’s response is one to be admired.

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept, for some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Neh 1:4) See what I mean? When was the last time you wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed for several days over something that God broke your heart over? Yeah. Me too.

Next, he prayed one of the most beautiful prayers in scripture. And then he waited. (If you have not read Nehemiah it is definitely a book in the Bible you want to study.)

The reality was he had no other choice. Nehemiah had no power or authority to do anything about the city that had him heartbroken. He was in service to a king who did not have the same beliefs as him, didn’t care about the things he cared about and did not worship the same God he worshipped. In fact, the only things they had in common was their humanity and the place they lived.

Nehemiah was stuck. He lived in one place and his heart longed to be in another.

And it apparently started to show. About four months later, the king asked him why he looked so sad, as he knew he was not ill. “This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” (v. 2)

And then came the response that we all need to hear. The thing that separates those that do AMAZING and BIG things for God compared to those who completely miss out. This one line changed everything for Nehemiah and it can change everything for you.

I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, ‘May the king live for ever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” (v. 2b-3)

Did you catch it? Nehemiah said, “I was very much afraid, but…” Oh and don’t leave off the “but.” The “but”, shows he took action. He did it even though he was very afraid. Just like you and me Nehemiah, the man who would go on to rebuild Jerusalem, the prophet who now has his own dedicated book of the bible, was afraid. And not just afraid, he was VERY afraid. Does that not give you comfort?

SO here’s the main point that I want to make sure I get across to you in all of this. If you want to do the thing that God is calling you to do, you are going to have to be willing to do it AFRAID. That’s right.

Do it afraid.

But make sure you follow God’s prescription for Nehemiah with this:

  1. If God lays something on your heart that feels bigger than you you need to repent, pray, fast, and mourn.
  2. Keep praying over it; don’t give up.
  3. Have patience. It was four months before God opened the door for Nehemiah to share with the king.
  4. Do it afraid.

How do I know this works? You only have to look a few lines down in Nehemiah to see. The King responded to him.

“What is it you want?” (v.4)

He did not scold Nehemiah. He didn’t tell him to keep is opinions to himself. He didn’t send him to jail or to his death. He asked him what he needed. And Nehemiah laid it all out for him. “Letters for travel and letters to get timber.” (my paraphrase)

The king not only gave him what he requested but he also gave him army officers and cavalry to ensure his safety. WHAT?! Only God could do something like this for Nehemiah, and only God can do something like this for you.

You see when you pray into that thing that feels bigger than you and do what He is calling you to, even when you are afraid, God does the impossible. (Luke 18:27)

How else do I know this to be true? Because I lived it.

God gave me a vision for my city in December of 2010 that broke my heart and left me wanting more. It wasn’t until October of 2011 that He revealed to me it was time to start the work of bringing the vision into fruition. Day by day I learned to trust and obey him by doing whatever it was He laid on my heart to do…and I did it VERY afraid. Seriously, I was petrified. And little by little God started to open up doors with the people I needed to see and speak with in order to accomplish the thing He had called me to do. I can tell you now that the best thing I ever did, was choose to “do it afraid.” In fact, I would suggest to you today, I don’t have a choice anymore. Now that we are heading to the end of our fourth year as an organization, the only way we continue on is if I continue to do things afraid. There is too much at stake.

But what if I chose to not do the thing I am afraid of? What if I decided to let fear win? Then what?

Well, let’s put this into perspective for a moment in relation to my experience. You may want to consider your own, but what if I didn’t trust God and do the things He called me to do because I was too afraid?

What if I was too afraid to talk to bank presidents, our Wise Up financial literacy program for teens would not be in every school in the Cullman Area. For the past four years, thousands students would not have been equipped to make wise decisions with their money as they moved on from the 9th and 12th grade. Many of them would not be breaking generational poverty in their families as they are doing now.

What if I was too afraid to ask to ask a church council for the use of their building for free we would not been able to minster to thousands of people who were hopeless, helpless, homeless, jobless, illiterate and afraid. And this is a big one, because had I been too afraid to ask once I would never have asked a second time for a building significantly larger than the first. And we would not be renovating a 22,000 sq foot building compared to the 1800 sq feet in the first.

What if I was too afraid to talk to City Council we would not have been able to partner with Cullman Mental Health to receive joint funding to help place homeless men and families into housing for the first few years. And they also would not have been willing to fund us once we received our 501c3.

What if I was too afraid to share the gospel with women in the jail? Someone else would have received the blessing of ushering them into the kingdom of God and I would have missed out.

What if I was too afraid to talk in front of large groups of people? I would have never have gone to the jail and shared with the men and women in the dorms our vision for hope and their opportunities for classes. And many inmates would not be equipped to live life differently through the many classes we have taught at the jail. I also would never have shared our vision with churches, civic groups, students, and over 10,000 people at Rock the South!

And the most important of all of these is what if I was too afraid to trust Him at all, then over 7,000 people would not have had the their lives transformed through the vision my team and I steward every day. Including myself.

You see, there is just too much at stake for me and there is too much at stake for you.

So do it afraid, don’t let fear win. No matter what it is. And I promise you, God will bless it and you will see the vision He has laid on your heart come to fruition.You will become a walking example of John 10:10, living the life that Jesus came to give you…to the full.

Which blog post in this “Overcoming Fear” series over the last 6 weeks has meant the most to you? Why?

 

How I Quit Complaining

Over the past few weeks we have been discussing a variety of ways we can overcome our fears. It’s been so exciting for me to see how you have responded to my posts and how many of you have resonated with what I shared. You have no idea how comforting it is to know that what God has taken me through can offer hope to someone else. This journey has not always been an easy one for me and there are days that I still struggle , but I am better equipped now more than ever to deal with the things that can cause me fear.

However, the next thing we are going to talk about may seem a bit counterintuitive to you. If you will stick with me and put what I suggest into practice I promise you it will yield the results that you are looking for. Fair enough? Great.

Let me begin by sharing a little truth about me. I can be a bit of a complainer.

I am the type of complainer though that does most of the grumbling in my head and only sometimes to the people who are closest to me. Can any of you relate? (I am going to assume that you are not an outward complainer, cause who likes to be around someone who complains all the time, right?)

I can make it seem like I have it all together on the outside but inside I am failing apart feeling things like anger, frustration, impatience and sometimes even bitterness. In reality, I can not only fool you but I can also fool  myself into justifying my inward emotions by comparing myself to others. “I’m not as bad as so and so.” “At least, I didn’t say that or do that.” “I am justified in the way I feel, what struggles does that person really have?”

Oh, let’s face it folks. Our insides are full of some pretty dark stuff. Most of us would be mortified if our true thoughts were placed on a movie screen for the world to see. Me included! Gasp!

But what does complaining have to do with fear? Well, at first glance it may seem like two different issues. But to offer a bit of an explanation let’s go into the Bible to the Book of Exodus. The Book of Exodus is one of my favorite books of the Bible because it is the home of a character that I feel like I relate so well to…Moses. Moses and I have so much in common…with the exception of him being a male and me a female, I wasn’t put in a basket to float down a river only to be picked up by a princess, though I would argue my mother is royalty, and I wasn’t a prince. I didn’t kill anyone and I have not been a shepherd to real sheep. But besides that, we actually have a lot in common. HA!

We both messed up big time and was in need of a Savior, we both felt God calling us to do things that were way beyond what we could possibly do on our own or even what we thought we had capabilities to do, we were both called to speak and felt ill-equipped to do so, and we both were given visions that were bigger than our little minds could fathom. But here’s the really big one, we both made excuses as to why we were the last people on planet earth that should do whatever it was God was calling us to. So, yeah…I get Moses.  If you haven’t read Exodus you totally need to because it’s full of adventure, intrigue, drama and excitement.  This is not a book of the Bible that you sleep through, this one will keep you on your toes.

Exodus is the story of how God used Moses and his brother Aaron to set the Israelites free from 400 years of captivity to lead them into the Promise Land that God had promised to Abraham years and years ago. Where I want us to begin for our purposes today is in Chapter 16. So to fast forward you there here is a quick rendition of what happens: Moses grows into a prince, sees injustice and kills a soldier, flees to another land, marries a native becomes a shepherd (this is a riches to rags story), hears God from a burning bush, gives excuses, finally yields, talks to Pharaoh “Let my people go! ” Pharaoh says no way, God puts 10 plagues on the Egyptian people (frogs and bloody rivers and locusts, oh my!), with the last one killing all the first born children and creating the first “Passover.” Israelites are told to get the heck out of dodge and head to the Promise Land taking the longer route (per God’s instructions), Moses splits the Red Sea, Egyptians die, Israelites cheer! And now here we are wandering in the desert in Exodus 16.

God just accomplished all this amazing stuff, right? The Israelites just witnessed miracle after miracle you would think they would be floating on cloud 9, singing God’s praises until the day they die. But here is what happens instead: (I am going to paraphrase here for brevity purposes)

Israelites to Moses and Aaron:  (in whiny voices) We are so hungry. Why didn’t you bring us any food?  How could you bring us out here just do die from hunger? Waah, waah, waah. We would rather be back in captivity to the Egyptians than die in the dessert.

God to Moses: I’ll rain down bread from heaven to provide food for them. They are to get what they need each day. Let’s see if they follow my instruction. I hope they listen to me.

Moses to the People: Really? You think you are grumbling to us…but you are really grumbling to God. Who are we? Are we your providers? Of course not, God is.

It continues on giving the account of how God provided manna and quail meeting their every need.

So let’s talk about this a bit.

Here are the Isrealites in the midst of the wilderness not seeing any end in site. Not knowing where the “Promise Land” was or how much longer they were going to have to walk to get there. They saw no food along the way and let’s face it, they were getting hungry but in not seeing a way for their hunger to be satisfied they also were afraid. They were afraid they got duped. They were afraid they made a big mistake in following Moses and God. They were afraid their better chances were back in Egypt. And they were afraid their needs were not going to be met.

How many of us fall into that exact category? You have a need… a job, a car, a spouse, finances, a healing, a decision on which way to go…you name it and instead of praying about it you find yourself grumbling in your head and before you know it out your mouth, to anyone that is willing to hear you.  Your fear of lack of provision is real.

But let me suggest to you another way to respond, that Moses helps make known to us in Exodus 16. Instead of joining on the grumbling, he reminded them who they were actually grumbling too…not them (Moses and Aaron), God. He called them out on it, right there in the middle of the desert. And in doing so he reminded them who their provision comes from.

The same thing happened to me.

Sometimes when you ask people to pray for you God gives them insights into the things you are doing to help you get back on track. You see, I was in a rut just a few months back. I live with a heart infection called pericarditis. I have had it for 2 years now and in June I had my second attack in a two month period with severe discomfort, and when I say discomfort I mean pain, in between. I was tired of living in pain every day. Tired of feeling limited. Tired of the challenge of a chronic illness that should have been acute. I felt very justified in how I felt because of all I had already been through. I wasn’t necessarily making this known to anyone in particular. But God knew.

And in my case, my complaining was made known to dear friend (did you know that God tells secrets on you) and I was called out on it. She not only called me out on my complaining but she also shared this verse in Psalm 116.

“I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.” (v.7)

Maybe my mind thinks differently than yours, but my mind went to “what in the world is a sacrificial thank offering and what does it have to do with my complaining.”

So I did what I know do to and I looked up the word sacrifice. Sometimes words that are common to us can become assumed or mundane. When I looked up sacrifice it said this:

” to surrender something as a possession as an offering to God, the act of giving something up, something that you want to keep especially in order to get or to do something else or to help someone.”

Here’s the thing about sacrifices…they hurt. They are typically something we don’t want to give up but the thing that maybe we need to give up in this case it’s giving thanks. Why? Well, to be honest, who feels like giving thanks when you are in the midst of complaining. I certainly don’t. But this verse, compels us to anyway.

What do we give thanks for? Anything really. But you could start with God. Thank Him for who He is. For His sovereignty (2 Sam 7:28). For being on His throne (Rev 4). For listening to your prayers (Num 20:16). For knowing the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). For being your provider (Gen 22:14). For knowing what you need when you need it. (Matt 6:25-26)

Because when I started to do just this thing…my entire perspective changed. Not only did I stop grumbling, I got that perfect peace back again that reminded me of Philippians 4:6-7. And once I really started seeking God for my condition, He showed me all kinds of riches in His word about long-suffering and rejoicing in my circumstances. So instead of being ill and focusing on me, I suddenly started experiencing joy and only seeing Him.

I don’t know what your fear is that you are trying to overcome, but I do know, your Father in Heaven knows your every need. So, maybe you can start today by making a sacrificial thank-offering to God by calling on Him to meet you at your fear and in it’s place you’ll start to experience peace, joy and more of Him.

What else can you give thanks for besides the things that I mentioned above?

Want to Overcome Your Fears? Then You’re Gonna Have to Fight

The other day I was traveling with a friend in the car when she started talking about the reality of her panic attacks. It didn’t take long for another friend to chime and share about hers. They spoke of how it felt so real. Each woman explained how it came on out of no where and was uncontrollable. They spoke of the shame they felt when they were finally able to calm down and gain perspective back again.

I know those feelings. I have had those same experiences and know the weight of the shame that can consume you after the anxiety fog lifts. It’s horrible. Though my times with these panic attacks have been few,  these two ladies have had them for years.

It reminded me how our fears can feel huge to overcome all-consuming. They are very real. And it can be very hard to know what to do.

So what do you do?

We are now on week 4 of our series on overcoming fear with just two weeks left. My goal is to help you tangibly see how pursuing God with everything you have can help you to not only overcome your fears but ultimately live the life that Jesus promises in John 10:10.  We have talked about overcoming fear with peace, with surrender, and with pursuing Him through His word. This week we are going to move a little out of our comfort zones and talk about fighting.

When I was in the 11th grade I was asked to walk home with a girl who hadn’t been particularly nice to me in the past. That day she was scared for her life because apparently she gave some “looks” to the “mean” girls in gym class. When I say mean, what I am getting at is, these are not the girls that you want to pick a fight with unless you are prepared to actually use your fists. She had made them pretty mad that day and they caught her at a time where she was pretty vulnerable. All her friends were off doing other things, and she still needed to walk home. I was the innocent victim she asked to keep her company.

I have to chalk that up to one of the scariest times in my life. I think the hair stood up on my neck nearly the entire walk home, because as we walked the group of “mean” girls walked only feet behind us, taunting her and reminding me to mind my own business. We went a few more blocks and the intensity of their mocking increased. She started to tell them to leave her alone, but her words only spurred them on more.  Before I knew it they were on top of her attacking her and she was trying to fight her way out. A neighbor came out of a nearby house and scared the girls off. I know she felt scared, hurt and ashamed. It was the first time I had ever seen a fight like that and I glad to say it was my last. I will never forget that day.

Our enemy is much the same as those “mean” girls. The Bible says that “the devil schemes”(6:11b). The definition of schemes is a large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect. That means the enemy is devising this incredibly divisive plan using every tactic he knows how to in order to essentially tear you away from God. Fear is just one of his many tools to do that. How do I know that…read Ephesians 6:12-17:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

One of the enemy’s tactics is fear. Fear against anything you will come up against. If it were not, why would Paul urge you to become like a warrior and put on the full armor of God? He knew that equipping you with the tools you need would help you guard against your enemy so that you can stand firm against his schemes. Essentially, you are going to have to learn how to fight. And fight well.

When I got serious about the calling God had on my life, I realized I was going to have to go to battle with all my fears. Which included things like: the fear of telling others about this crazy vision I had, and the fear that they may think I am ridiculous and disapprove. The fear that I could be wrong, or that I would look like a fool. And the worse fear of all, the fear of failure. Oh the enemy knew me and my patterns well.  He knew that I longed for peoples’ approval and people not agreeing with me would slowly defeat me so the first few times I shared the vision that is exactly what happened.

They said stuff like:
“Great vision, Dawn…good luck” or
“That may happen but not by a woman, not in this town” or
“That could never happen here”

I felt defeated, confused, and ashamed. It wasn’t until I got into the Word of God and realized all I was feeling was not from God, but rather from the Devil himself. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

So with my armor on, and with all the faith I could muster up I put one foot in front of the other and started to pursue the vision God placed on my heart. That vision was to unify our community by loving the poor into life transformation. I had to conquer my fears one at a time. First I shared with one person. Then that one person, had me share it with a few more. Then I was to share it with a few more. Almost every time I shared I had to either fight back or wipe away the tears…that was how scared I was. Next, I acquired a few board members. Then we took steps to seek to become incorporated through the state of Alabama for “The Link of Cullman County, Inc.” Before I knew it I was fundraising and then getting to attend a Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in Chicago. I was going to be trained on becoming a Christian Community Developer.

The more I watched my Father in Heaven do miraculous things, the bolder I got. The bolder I got, the more I wanted to kick fear in the tail and keep on going. My mantra became “I’d rather stand before man and be deemed a fool for believing God, than stand before God and be deemed a fool before Him.” Yes I was scared, but I did it anyway. Yes, at times it felt like crazy radical faith, but I did it anyway. It didn’t always happen quickly and I learned patience along the way. But the more I believed in Him the more I got to see Him do miraculous things. (One day I may do a post on the miracles He has performed and is still performing.)

So here is what I have to say to you today. If you truly want to overcome your fears you are going to have to learn how to fight like you mean it. The only way to fight like you mean it is to put your armor on and then do whatever it is that gives you fear. I do encourage you to start small. For instance, if you are deathly afraid to speak in front of people…you can start by seeking God for all the strength and courage you need, then you can put on your armor and you begin by speaking in front of some folks at work for the first time. No matter how it turns out…you praise Him. Then maybe the next time you are asked to speak, you say yes…even though it scares you to death. Then you praise Him for the opportunity to gain more freedom. And you do the same steps…. pray, put on the armor of God, and do that thing.

Can you see me giving you a virtual fist pump? I am! I promise you defeating your fears becomes invigorating. Why? It’s taking steps forward towards freedom. You are starting to live what Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came to give life, a life that is full.”

Most of us don’t realize the chains we bear, until we are broken free of them. Choose today to start walking in the freedom that Jesus came to give you. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”(Gal 5:1)

This week I have a challenge for you, I want you to pray the armor of God on every day (Ephesians 6:13-17) and then I want you to come back here and tell me how it went. Did you feel more powerful? Did you defeat any of your fears? Let’s champion each other on in this battle against our enemy to scheme against us. He does not have the last word in this, the Bible tells us that we are over-comers and so as such we will live.

I Still Struggle With Fear

He did it again. Right when I thought I was gaining ground over fear, He reminds me I have not yet conquered it yet.

So there it is, I still struggle with fear. It’s true. I have had wins in conquering it, but there are still times that it rises back up in me.  Like today.

Ugh, I so don’t want to talk about this right now, while it is still so raw. But, I know that feeling all to well. That feeling of knowing exactly what God wants me to do and knowing when my flesh wants to rebel against it. But I also know what happens when I obey…I get more freedom, experience more of Him, and I may understand a bit more about facing my fears.

So here goes.

For the last several weeks now we have been discussing the ways in which we can overcome fear. Our first week we talked about the importance of choosing to believe Jesus when He said in John 10:10 that “the enemy came to kill, steal, and destroy but that He came to bring life in abundance.” (my paraphrase) The second week we discussed how peace can be the anecdote to fear and how if we use Philippians 4:6-7, we can put down the anxiety and have our hearts guarded by the God of peace.  Then last week we talked about how the root of the fear is issue is control, and how we needed to use surrender as our method to overcoming fear. I offered a few tangible ways to let go of whatever it is that you feel like you need to control to allow God to lay out His plans in your life, plans not to harm you, to prosper you to give you hope and a future.

And over those weeks I have been sharing with you about how I had to have a carotid body tumor removed and the anxiety and fear that I faced in that process and even afterwards. It’s been my intention to continue to walk you through that helping you see what God showed me through that time in overcoming my fear. But here I am, 5 years later with another health related illness and He’s shown me how I am letting fear control me again.

I had yet another doctor’s appointment today. For the last two years I have been going from doctor visit to doctor visit. Since January I have probably gone through at least twenty. And of nearly every kind of doctor you can think of. Cardiologists of varying types, rheumatologist, internal medicine, naturopathic, neurologists, vascular and homeopathic.  Since August of 2015 I have been deemed an “anomaly” that no one can quite figure out.

I went to this doctor today in the hopes of well…to be honest, some hope.

I wanted to find a doctor that I was no longer an anomaly for so I could avoid the very thing that nearly every one of my doctor’s wants me to do. It’s that thing that scares me the most. To be honest, I don’t even know why. I have been asking Him to reveal that to me, and I still have no idea what it is that keeps me wanting to run the other way. But it does. And when it does…the fear is there, right in front of me staring me straight in the face.

So what do I do when I feel this way? The only thing I know to do. I run to Him. Jesus. God. My Daddy.

Cause here is the thing…no one else has answers or wisdom or understanding like He does. No one can offer me comfort like He does. No one can put just the right song, after song, after song on the radio for me on my drive home like He did for me tonight. And no one can show their love for me like He does.

The only way that I am able to overcome the things that are thrown at me… challenging health diagnosis’s, long recoveries, loss of my employment, miscarriages, financial difficulties, stresses in our marriage, more health issues…is by clinging to Jesus.  In fact,  there is no way I can get through all I have coming at me, which can feel overwhelming at best, is to cling to Jesus. What does that mean really? How does one cling to Jesus?

Allow me try and share with you how it looks for me and you can decide if you can apply it to your life.

When I first became a Christian, at a age 26, I chose to follow Jesus by faith alone. I had been trying to overcome the shame and guilt I felt over a divorce only a year prior and felt like everything else I tried to use to numb me out or  just” get me through it” wasn’t working. Not the alcohol, not the drugs, not the shopping or the guys. No amount of work could fill the emptiness and or take away the darkness that I felt overwhelming me. I decided to “try Jesus” because I had literally tried EVERYTHING else.  Because I chose to follow Him by faith alone and had no prior experience with Christianity,  I had never read the Bible. Therefore, it  seemed like the most logical thing for me to do was to start there. My mom, being the only  person who I knew who knew Jesus, suggested I start with the Book of John. So I did, and 14 years later I am still digging in. His word has become like honey on my lips, a lamp unto my feet…when I go without it I feel lost and unsure. But with it, I feel secure and on track.

During the time I was starting to recover from my carotid body tumor removal, the Lord spoke a very specific scripture verse to me that felt very personal and very needed at the time. It is from the Book of Joshua and it says,

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9

The irony of this verse is at the time I felt nothing close to strong or courageous. I was in the midst of losing my job because of my new disability. I was the bread winner working in the corporate world making more money than I ever thought possible. Chris was working part-time at a local business and we were living comfortably in spite of still not selling our home in Ohio.  We didn’t want for much and were able to purchase a home in Alabama while still paying off our bills. But the reality that my time at my employer was coming to an end was eminent. Truly the only way I was going to be able to overcome my fear in this situation was to truly be strong and courageous by clinging to Jesus.  But how do you muster up strong and courageous? Honestly, you can’t. Well, at least I couldn’t no matter how hard I tried.

Thankfully, God knew that and taught me the key to becoming becoming strong and courageous…so that I would not be afraid.

In verse 8 it says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” The Book of the Law, aka the Bible as we know it today is the only thing that can help us get through our stuff… if we wish to be prosperous and successful.

If I get no other point across to you, if you hear absolutely hear this: You must have an on-going day-by-day relationship with Jesus and a commitment to reading the Bible to be strong and courageous.

No I am not trying to be legalistic. I am being honest.

I have been in relationship with Jesus for 15 years. There are times I can look back and see the fruit of my time with Him in the Word and then there are times I can see my struggle because I was not in His Word. The older I get the more I see how my walk with Him becomes more intimate and more consistent when I am reading, studying, and obeying His word daily.

This may be the thing that I am absolutely most passion about in your learning how to overcome fear. His word is what is going to bring you life. His word is what is going to help you over come your fears. His Word is what is going to teach you about peace and obedience, and surrender, and love and submission, and kindness and really any other thing you think you need to learn.

Now I may have lost every single one of you to reading your Bible instead of this blog, but if I did, PRAISE GOD! He is the only One that can give you the wisdom you need, the understanding, and the truth. But if you decide to keep on reading, I’ll promise I will continue to encourage you through what I have learned in the hopes that what I have walked through will help to equip you with whatever it is that you are trying to overcome. But know this, I will always drive you back to the Word in every post I write. I hope that as you continue on with me you search the scriptures on your own. That the verses I use will bring up questions for you to then dig into the Bible yourself. To wonder what it means for you, to hear Him speak to you, and for you to gain freedom in what He teaches you.

Am I saying cast aside all your devotionals? Not necessarily. Am I suggesting that you should no longer read Christian authors. Probably not. What I am saying is don’t make these tools your sole experience with God. He gave us the Bible to have an on-going relationship with us, one-on-one so that you and I can know Him personally. When we only rely on devotionals and Christian books it’s like we are putting another person between us and God.

He wants you to know Him and Him alone. He is a jealous God. Seek to know Him by making a daily study time.

What if you don’t do that now? How do you begin to read His word?

  1. Pray. It’s always a good idea to start off your study time with prayer. He is the One who wrote the scriptures and therefore, He is the one that can guide you through them. Seeking Him first.
  2. Pick a book of the Bible and start reading. Honestly, it can be any book. You can start with any Old Testament or New Testament book. It’s not where you begin, it’s just for you to begin. You may want to consider reading the entire book through first. This way you can get the gist of the story and know what you are going to study. If your Bible has a commentary at the start of the Book, read that first. You can always start where I did, with the Book of John.
  3. Try to journal as you read. I am an avid journaler, but I know some people are not. However, forsaking this seems so odd to me, that I have to at least offer it as a suggestion. As you read, write down questions you have, or words you are unsure of. Maybe jot down the characters you never heard of before, so you can come back later and do more research. Journal your prayers you can see how God answers them.
  4. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. Ask God to speak to you about the text. He wrote it, He can also help you understand it. This is the most basic way you can interact with Him. Do you not know who the Holy Spirit is? Why not start there and search the scriptures. Have questions, feel free to contact me directly and we’ll talk more.
  5. Grab a few writing utensils. It’s okay to write in your Bible. In fact, there are people who doodle all over their Bibles. But for now, you may just want to highlight some key points, underline, or make a notes in the margin. Whatever feels most comfortable to you. But don’t be afraid to write in your Bible. Of course it is a Holy Book but it is also your textbook for life. Writing things down helps us remember what we learned and someday you’ll want to come back to these scriptures so you can reflect on them or teach them to someone else.  So make sure you mark it up however you see fit.\

There are also lots of great study methods out there. One of my personal favorites is by Jen Wilkin, you can get her book, Women of the Word here. Jen points out in this book how  the Bible is not about us, it is about God. Learning her method of study will help you to study the Bible with God in mind and not you.

See, I even directed you to a Christian author. No legalism here.

So that’s the reality of it. You need His word to cling to Jesus so He, not you, can overcome your fears. There is no way around it. Not for me. And not for you.

His word will guide you in prayer. His word will tell you what to do next. His word will give you comfort and calm our fears. No one else can do that the way He does…not your spouse, not your best friend, and certainly not me. So, Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

Be strong and be courageous my friend. The Lord is with you as you…even in your fear.

Do you have a daily time with the Lord and does that include studying the scriptures? What is it that keeps you from studying His Word?