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Every day we make choices. We choose whether to get out of bed, what to wear, what we will eat, which activities we will participate in, and how we will respond to others, just to name a few. However, upon closer examination and just under the surface of all of our actions lie the murky waters of what we believe—what we believe about ourselves, about other people, and about the world we live in. These fundamental thoughts hold the power to either unlock the proper mindset needed to keep us moving toward our dreams or to stop us dead in our tracks.

Have you ever thought about how your thoughts impact your dreams? Have you ever considered the domino effect of how your dreams then affect your actions, which in turn determines your future and ultimately defines your destiny?

There is a direct correlation between how we view ourselves and how we live out the dreams God has called us to. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Essentially, you are what you think.

Let’s face it: we live in a very negative world that focuses on what’s wrong, what’s ugly, what hurts, and what can’t be done. But if you take time to observe successful people, you will see that most are positive and enthusiastic. I don’t think you will find them obsessed with negativity and what they can’t accomplish. Quite contrarily, successful people know who they are and are comfortable in their own skin. How much more should we as Christians have confidence in living out our dreams? After all, we have God abiding in us and working through us. What more could we ever need?

Here’s the key to relinquishing our insecurities and embracing a healthy confidence—knowing it’s not about WHO we are and it’s all about WHOSE we are. Knowing who we are in Christ is powerful, for it can break the bonds of insecurity, fear, and even failure, which often hold us captive and keep us from attaining our dreams.

If you look at Proverbs 31, you will see a woman who knew who she was and had the confidence to live it out. You don’t have to read very far to be even a little envious of this industrious lady! Everything she had her hand in turned out to be successful! Her family revered her and called her blessed; her husband praised her; and she was known all throughout the city for her impeccable integrity and her undeniable accomplishments. What I find interesting is that not once do you read about her second guessing herself, questioning her giftedness, or giving up in defeat. Not, it is quite the contrary. This woman never stopped using what God had given her to live out what He had called her to.

All throughout the chapter, this amazing woman selects wool, works with willing hands, brings her food from afar, rises while it is night, provides food for her household, evaluates and buys a field, plants a vineyard with her earnings, draws on her strength, knows that her merchandise is good, extends her hand to the spinning staff, reaches out to the poor and needy, is not afraid for her household, makes bed coverings and clothing in fine linens, sells garments in the city, delivers belts to the merchants, opens her mouth with wisdom and instructions, and watches over the activities of her household. How does one woman accomplish all of this? She accomplishes all of this because she doesn’t waste time standing around wringing her hands on what she does or does not have; instead, she is confident in how God made her, how He gifted her, and how He will use her.

Imagine if we really embraced the fact that we are children of the King. I have a feeling we would think, believe, and live differently. Everything rides on finding our confidence in Him, so it is so important to nail it down in our hearts once and for all and apply it to our thoughts each day.

The reality is at some point we can all struggle with negative thoughts and the lies the enemy sends our way. And I think it is important to remember that just because we have a thought doesn’t mean that it is true or that it has to stay in our minds. We have a choice of what we choose to dwell on and what we choose to discard. Here are some ways to change our unhealthy thoughts:

  • Recognize unhealthy thoughts using Scripture as our standard.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—think on these things.  ~Philippians 4:8

  • Choose to Replace the lies we believe with the truth.

Since God’s Word is the source of all truth, that is where we must go to replace the unhealthy thoughts that have wallpapered our minds.

  • Choose to Repeat the truth.

None of us became the way we are overnight, so it is going to take time and practice before we can experience real change.

  • Choose to Repeal negative self-talk.

When we tell ourselves that we can’t do something, at that moment, we are probably right because we have already made the decision that we can’t. Instead of telling ourselves we can’t, we can replace that internal dialogue with Philippians 4:13 which says, “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Here is a resource from iBelieve.com with some common self-defeating thoughts we often tell ourselves and some verses to refute them. I absolutely love this:

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  • Choose to GUARD your mind.

When was the last time you took an inventory of your thoughts and beliefs? This is so important for all of us to do, for even when we are firmly grounded we can let our guard down and before long have our thoughts go awry.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” I Peter 5:8.

Although our enemy doesn’t hunt us down physically as a lion would, I believe he is ruthless and ferocious in how he attacks our minds. Just as he planted the seeds of doubt and uncertainty in Eve’s mind in the Garden of Eden, he still works overtime doing the same to us today. It is his mission to infiltrate our thoughts and cause us to question, doubt, and give up on our dreams. In doing so, we are stuck on the sidelines and kept from all that God has for us.

Now, don’t think for a second I am ending this blog with us fearing lions and flaming darts of Satan. Here’s what we must never lose sight of no matter what the enemy tries to bring our way: We already have the victory in Jesus Christ our Lord!

“Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” I John 4:4

So, the next time your thoughts threaten to submerge you and keep your dreams at bay, hold your head high and choose to believe who you are in Christ. Here’s what you can hang on to: You are created in God’s image, you are His child, and He loves you fiercely and has a phenomenal plan for your life.

Let this be your mindset and let this be your mantra—God is for you! He is for you when you feel unworthy! He is for you when you struggle to believe! He is for you when you doubt your future! He is for you when you want to give up on your dream! So, let go of negativity and the thoughts that hold you back, and boldly chase the dreams that God has placed in your heart! The future ahead is bright for those who know who they are and who make the choice to be positive and believe!

*Most of Today’s Blog is taken from Dare to Soar, 75-87. Dare to Soar is available at Pauladunnministries.com, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and iTunes.

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If I had to pick a favorite song that I have ever had the privilege to record, this song would be at the top of the list. The words are such an incredible reminder to me of the HOPE and the POWER that is found in Jesus…a message that I need every single day, especially today.

After the horrific attacks of terrorism this week, my heart is broken for all of mankind. How we need the message of Easter more than ever to remind us that no matter what is going in our lives or in the world around us, the goodness and the power of the cross will never change and is the only thing that can heal and change lives.

So on this Good Friday morning, I bring my weary heart to Jesus and find that by doing so I can’t help but do the following:

Be Thankful for the Cross.

Rejoice that He’s Alive.

Grab on to the HOPE and the POWER that is found in Jesus.

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The Name of Jesus is the answer to our soul’s distress.

The Hand of Jesus is the touch that fills our emptiness.

Oh, He’s here. Oh, He’s here with us.

So come and lay your burdens down before the throne where hope is found and call upon The Name of Jesus.

Your brokenness and offering of sweet surrender to the King.

There’s Power in The Name of Jesus.

The Name of Jesus is the peace that calms our troubled hearts.

The Love of Jesus is the freedom to come as we are.

Oh, He’s here. Oh, He’s here with us.

So come and lay your burdens down before the throne where hope is found and call upon The Name of Jesus.

Your brokenness and offering of sweet surrender to the King.

There’s Power in The Name of Jesus.

The cross of Jesus bore our weakness covered all our sin.

He is Risen. We’re forgiven. Forever alive in Him.

So come and lay your burdens down before the throne where hope is found and call upon the Name of Jesus.

Your brokenness and offering of sweet surrender to the King.

There’s Power in The Name of Jesus.

Words & Music by Shelly Johnson and Michael Boggs. 2010 McKinney Music, Inc. (BMI) (Admin. by Music Services)/Upsurge Music, LLC (ASCAP) (admin by EMICMGPublishing.com). All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

The Name of Jesus is available at Pauladunnministries.com or ITunes.

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Have you ever wondered what the future looks like, where you will be in five, ten, or twenty years? If only we had a sneak peek of the motion picture of our lives. How much better we would be at making decisions if we knew where they all led?

Unfortunately, there are no such films, no “Back to the Future” episodes, and no crystal balls. What we do have access to, however, is a God who is the director of our futures. If we place an unabashed faith in Him, we will find He always does as He promises, and in Ephesians 3:20, He promises to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask or think.

God wants to push us past the boundaries of ordinary into the realm of extraordinary living. Extraordinary as defined by Webster is “going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary.” I believe it is living beyond the mundane, above mediocrity, and in the center of all that God has called us to to. This can only be accomplished in a life that is built on a foundation of faith.

So what is faith? Simply, faith is complete dependence on God. People with faith have a different outlook on life. They see more than just the circumstances they are facing; they see God working through them. Oswald Chambers defines faith as “the inborn capacity to see God behind everything.” Imagine if we saw God behind everything. Suddenly mountains could be reduced to foothills, storms could be calmed, peace could drown chaos, and hope could restore desperation.

I remember learning an acronym for faith when I was a child in Sunday school— Full Assurance in the Heart. While it was a great way to describe faith, it falls just a little short in defining it. Full Assurance in the Heart about what? I believe it is Full Assurance in the Heart that God is sovereign and in control of our lives and truly has our best interests at the center of His plan for us. Does that mean we will never face a problem and everything will always be rosy? Hardly so! What it does mean is that we will never face our struggles alone and that God is our source for everything and will help us navigate the stormy seas.

It’s important to note that faith does not begin with us; it begins with God. Mark 9:17-24 tells a story of a desperate father who brought his son to Jesus. This son had been possessed by a spirit since childhood that made him unable to speak and caused him to convulse and foam at the mouth. Many times he was cast by the spirit into fire and water as it tried to destroy him. The father had tried everything to no avail. His last hope was Jesus.

As the father begged Jesus to have compassion on them and to help his son, Jesus responded by saying, “Everything is possible to the one who believes.” Immediately, the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.” In that instant, Jesus heard the desperate father’s cry and rebuked the spirit. The spirit came out of the boy shrieking. It made him convulse violently and then dropped him like a rag doll. Many thought the boy was dead, but Jesus took him by the hand and raised him up.

This story holds the following encouraging messages for us:

  • God cares for every detail of our lives.
  • God will intervene when there is no other way.
  • Nothing is impossible to those who believe.
  • But perhaps the greatest salve for my weary soul is found in “I believe. Help my unbelief.” When we don’t have the faith we need, God will provide!

There are times in all of our lives when our faith wavers, when the waves crash over us and we can barely stay afloat, let alone courageously live out our dreams. I’ve had a few of these fragile moments lately in my own life— that is why I love this passage. I think God knew we would need to know that we can ask Him for the faith to believe when we don’t have it within ourselves. Perhaps that is why He even included this story in the Bible to let us know that when we can’t even muster the strength to find the faith that we need, God will come through and give us the faith to believe. So rather than beating ourselves up when our faith is on shaky ground, we simply need to say, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Lord Jesus, I’m so thankful that You are not insulted when I come needing my faith strengthened and renewed. Life is hard sometimes, Lord, and it can take a toll on my heart. Thank You for loving me anyway and giving me the faith that I need to believe. Help me to grab on to that faith and never let go, for through it You can MOVE MOUNTAINS and do the MIRACULOUS in my life!

*Most of Today’s Blog is taken from Dare to Soar, 109-112.  Dare to Soar is available at Pauladunnministries.com.

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We all have moments. Moments that we dread. Moments that we fear. Moments that we know are inevitable.

For me, one such moment recently took place but to my surprise the moment I dreaded the most became a beautiful moment where God showed up and surrounded me with His tender love and the strength to carry on.

I’ve known all along that it is only a matter of time before my mom no longer recognizes me. That’s what Alzheimer’s does. And no matter how hard I have tried to prepare myself, deep in my heart I have known that moment would be heartbreaking…and it was.

It had been a good day. I made lunch for my parents, and we had talked and even laughed together. Several times I even saw my mom’s eyes twinkle and heard her familiar laughter which now is such a treasure to me, but the laughter was short-lived. For just as we were saying our goodbyes, she looked up at me with inquisitive eyes and asked if I was the baby she had taken in and raised.

My heart stopped and tears began to fill my eyes. The dreaded moment had finally come, and I had no idea what to say or do. I closed my eyes and did the only thing I knew to do—I cried out and asked God for help. And instantly it was as if God whispered in my heart don’t focus on her not recognizing you—focus on the fact that she remembered taking a baby girl in and loving her as her own. In that moment, God showed me that she might not have recognized me but she still remembered me!

What a precious gift God gave me. In my despair, God gave me His grace that not only comforted my heart but turned a dreaded moment into a beautiful portrait of His love and concern for me.

Incidentally, just the other day, it happened again. We spent the afternoon together and at one point she looked at me and asked, “Now how do we know each other?”

I took a deep breath and knew it was going to be okay. God had already shown me His power and peace the last time, so I knew He would come through again. I grabbed her hand and said with a smile, “Oh, mom we go way back,” and I began telling her the story of when she showed up at my house and took me in when I was just a baby. Before long, we were both smiling, laughing, and thanking God for His incredible work in our lives.

I share this very personal story because it was such a powerful reminder to me that God will take our painful moments and turn them into beautiful gifts that truly point to His incredible love for us. As I think about the future, I know there are going to be many more difficult moments ahead, but I also know—His Grace Will Be Enough. Enough for Today and Enough to Hold and Heal My Heart so that I can confidently say:

My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.    Psalm 73:26

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Out with the old and in with the new! A fun motto that is cheerfully chanted while ringing in the New Year but a motto that ignites within me a cleaning out frenzy like no other. Closets, drawers, storage rooms—they are all on my hit list.

But I must say, it’s a love/hate relationship I have with this task of decluttering and deep cleaning. I start off excited, highly motivated and ready to conquer the excess in my home but by the end I am tired, overwhelmed and can even be downright grumpy about the whole thing.

Perhaps this short glimpse into how it all went down last week might help explain why it’s bittersweet for me:

Day One:  I ferociously dove in determined and even excited to declutter and to begin the New Year fresh and organized. So I decided on the first day to take on one of the biggest challenges—my closet! Looking back, I’m not sure that was the best starting point for the simple fact that the time it takes to remove everything out of a closet, sort through it all, try on stacks of clothes and then put them back in such a way that would make Martha Stewart proud is enough to make anyone crazy! I’m embarrassed to say that I still had a few items in my closet from college days! And I should also mention the pair of blue paisley pants that truly could have passed for drapes. And if that’s not bad enough, I had a number of pants that I’m pretty sure I could have fit both legs into one side. I couldn’t help but think what in the world was I thinking holding on to all of this? But maybe what I really should have asked myself is what in the world was I thinking ever wearing any of it?

Day Two: Hall closets and bathroom cabinets—another daunting task that required fortitude as I ripped into all the hair products and makeup that I clearly must love to collect. (I’ve decided that I’m going to blame it on Y2K. I’m quite sure that I would not have survived without a cache of hair waxes and serums, so it’s always best to be prepared and stock up). But I have decided that if I buy one more Clinique or Estee Lauder bonus I really do need therapy.

Day Three: The kitchen pantry, cupboards, AND tupperware drawer. It always amazes me how many cans of cream of chicken or mushroom soup I think I need to have on hand. Or how about all the extra bottles of barbecue sauce or grape jelly that I buy because I forget when I’m at the store that I already have 5 bottles of said item sitting in my pantry? I find that deep cleaning is such a great task just to reacquaint me with what I already have! One thing is for sure though—if I never see another random lid-less Take Along container in my plastic container drawer I will be one happy girl!

Day Four: The last frontier: my daughter’s playroom. Anyone that is familiar with Emma’s love of animals will especially appreciate this undertaking. We dumped bins of her stuffed animals into the middle of the floor and one-by-one painstakingly determined if each one would stay or be donated to to the children of Guatemala. I must say that it was a tough decision since every animal had a name and a special place in Emma’s heart. “But mom, that’s Happy Cat. He’s part of the family. We can’t give him away,” she would say as she looked at me with her big imploring eyes. Needless to say, her family of stuffed animals is still going strong, but thankfully we were able to say our goodbyes to some and downsize her clan and even spread the love to those who have never had a Happy Cat, Bob the Duck, or Bucky the Horse.

Day 5: Operation Take the Christmas Tree down was launched followed by putting the house back together after a week of being in a tornado’s path.

So, there you have it—a short diary of 5 long dust-filled days. But the more I have thought about it, those 5 days actually went beyond decluttering and served as a great reminder to me of some important principles for other areas of my life:

  • If I want to accomplish anything of significance, I must be willing to work hard and do what is necessary rather than just what is fun and easy. I love what Ann Voskamp says about this:

When we don’t want to tackle hard things each day we must remember that we are meant to do hard and holy things because they are the next thing to get to the best thing God has for us!

  • Sometimes things must get worse before getting better and that is when I must practice tunnel vision—staying focused on the goal rather than the difficult process.
  • It’s important to sift through that which clutters my life so I can make room for what really matters.

However, what has been resonating most in my mind over these last few days is the importance of not just ringing in a New Year with an immaculate house but much more importantly making sure I take the time to thoroughly search my heart. Insecurities, lies from the enemy, jealousy, fear, greed, selfishness, and laziness are just a few of the things that can creep into the hidden places of the heart and crowd out the purposes and plans God has for me. My prayer is that I will not let a day go by without asking God to empty me of me and fill me with Him. May I fervently seek His face and keep my heart pure so that I won’t take one step out of His will or miss out on one opportunity to make a difference in this world for Him.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

So here’s to a new year, a fresh start, and a clean heart. God, I ask You to do a new work in me this year that only You can do. Help me to be diligent in not allowing anything to clutter or harden my heart in any way. May I unswervingly follow You and honor You every single day of my life.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life…Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left: remove your foot from evil.   Proverbs 4:23-27

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