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What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just relax? 

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Maybe it’s just me, but I sure have. In fact, a recent family vacation forced me to deal with this issue head on in a very unexpected way.

We had been very graciously given a 3 night getaway to a family resort in the mountains which boasted of zip lines, horse back riding, an indoor water park, tubing, and the list goes on. My people couldn’t be happier. The entire drive there, I smiled and listened as they mapped out all of their upcoming adventures. Three days of non-stop fun was ALL that was on their agenda.

My agenda, however, was to relax and unwind…which for me can sometimes be easier said than done.

Upon arrival at the picturesque resort, my husband and daughter were out the door within the first 5 minutes of unloading the car, ready to dive into all of their action-packed festivities. I, on the other hand, was determined to hit the ground running on the path to relaxation and signed up right away for a yoga class thinking that would be a great way to kick off this mountain retreat.

I donned on my workout gear and jogged on over to the gym, all ready to start my vacation off stress-free and with some good exercise. However, my enthusiasm soon turned to disappointment, as the yoga instructor used the first 30 minutes of the hour-long class to TALK about the importance of relaxation. The longer she rattled on, the more frustrated I felt inside. Enough already. Let’s quit talking and get moving, I impatiently thought. She finally got around to stretching for the last 20 minutes of the session, but by that time I was anything but relaxed.

Later that evening, I had to laugh at the irony that I went to a yoga class to relax but ended up getting stressed out because it was too focused on relaxation and didn’t accomplish anything that was on my agenda.

As I continued to think about the whole yoga debacle, Psalm 46:10  began to echo in my mind:

Be still and know that I am God.

And as the words seeped into my heart, I realized that still was the last thing I had been since the moment we had arrived. And the more I thought about it I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps my inability to relax had nothing to do with a yoga class gone wrong and everything to do with a complete disconnect with what it means to be still. Perhaps I needed more than a relaxing mountain retreat—I needed a change of heart.

So, right there on the balcony of the condo that evening, I decided to put aside any agenda for the next two days and allow God to direct my heart. And here is what He began to show me in the still:

  1. Being still is not about a time or place—it’s about my heart.  Oftentimes, I have no problem quieting my heart and being still before God. Each morning I awaken before my family so that I can spend some quiet, uninterrupted, still moments with God. But as soon as I close my Bible I can ferociously dive into my day and leave that stilled heart in the dust. Carrying a stilled heart throughout the day is a conscious choice. When I allow myself to get aggravated, impatient, and worked up, I am choosing to let the emotions of my heart to run rampant rather than the Ruler of my heart to reign supreme.
  2. Being still is recognizing that He is God, and I am not. When I take the time to look within myself, most of the things that aggravate me do so because I am not in control. What would happen if I quit trying to be the one in control and truly allowed God to be the One who ordained my steps? I’m thinking I would be a whole lot less anxious and much more at peace if I would let go and allow Him to be the One in charge.
  3. Being still is salve for a weary soul. We run. We strive. We achieve. We push through. And somewhere in the frenzy, we can lose touch of what it means to rest, to breathe, and to take care of our souls. It’s like we wear “crazy busy” as a badge of honor, but if the truth be known walking in the still is far more honorable than frantically racing in the chaos. For it is in the still that we can steady our minds and soothe our souls, making us better equipped to handle all the moments we face in life.

Weeks have gone by since our trip to the mountains, but the lessons learned still challenge my heart. I’m sure there will be many more times that I will need to be reminded to quiet my anxious heart, but TODAY I will slow down and choose to embrace the still. For when I turn away from the noise of life, I find PEACE, and when I step into the still, I find GOD.

  • Gail Smith - I know someone wrote this for me ! LolReplyCancel

    • pauladunn - Ha! Yes, Gail, I’m thinking we are definitely alike on this! 🙂ReplyCancel

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There comes a point in life, a fork in the road if you will, when belief beckons us to choose between passionately living by our convictions or passively going with the flow of the culture around us.

One such intersection of belief and conviction happened just last week for my husband and me. Out of the blue, we were faced with an issue that affected us and immediately put our beliefs on the line. Instantly, the question- how far would we go for what we believe demanded an answer. 

While we knew there was no question that we would stand for what is right, the reality of potential consequences of taking that stand was sobering.

As I laid in bed that night, I found myself feeling very frustrated and upset at the condition of our country- at how far it has gone from the morals and values it was built upon. My mind raced with a long list of grave concerns for our country’s future. Yet, in the midst of my inner turmoil, God reminded me that this is nothing new. In fact, from the beginning of time, ALL of mankind has had to make the decision of whether to follow or reject God’s principles.

It just so happens that over the last few months I have been reading through Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament. And as I have read about the different kings, it has been mind-boggling to me that so many of them were evil and did what was blatantly wrong in the sight of God and as a result received God’s judgment rather than His blessings and favor. I found myself getting so frustrated, that is, until I came to 2 Kings 22:1-2 which tells of one king who dared to be different:

Josiah did what was RIGHT in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left.

Hallelujah! Someone finally turned the ship around and brought Israel back to God! My relief was short-lived, however, because as I read on the very next king after Josiah went back to doing what was evil in God’s sight.

What is wrong with these people, I mused. Did they completely lose their minds? They knew what was right and deliberately did not do it! They traded God’s favor for a life lived unto themselves. And then it hit me- are we any different today? Do we walk in ALL of God’s ways or are we like the Israelites who swerved far to the left and to the right?

As I thought about this question last week, I realized how quick I was to judge Israel when in reality I can be guilty of the same thing. No, my actions may not be as evil in my eyes as the Israelites’ sin, but the truth is- ALL sin grieves God’s heart. And when I choose to do what is wrong or even to swerve to the right or to the left of what I know are God’s principles, I am living just as the Israelites who wandered from God.

Yikes! How convicting is that? All of a sudden, this was not so much about how others are living or what our country is doing, but rather how am I living before an almighty God?

As if that wasn’t enough, God further challenged my heart this morning, when I read 2 Chronicles 7:14, a verse that I have read many times but today saw it in a new light:

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

From that verse, I couldn’t help but notice that the entire formula for bringing revival and healing to the land was based on God’s people coming back to Him. And then the lightbulb came on for me-It’s not so much about our culture and how they choose to live, but rather it’s all about God’s people humbling ourselves, turning from our wicked ways, and praying and seeking God’s face.

There is no doubt that our land needs healing, but I am convinced more than ever that it must start with US! Instead of looking all around us and casting blame and judgment, we must first look within and make sure WE are walking right with God and living holy lives before Him. Yes, we still need to look within our culture and stand for what is right, but perhaps our impact will be even greater if we do so from a framework of personal revival and unswerving commitment to our God.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for the times that I have arrogantly looked in judgment at others, when my own heart is flawed and can drift away from You. Help me to make sure I am living right before Your eyes in such a way as King Josiah did with a life that didn’t waver or swerve to the right or to the left. I admit that I don’t have all the answers, and as I look at our world today I know it must grieve Your heart to see the moral depravity, the violence, and the way the enemy has deceived and destroyed. I ask You today, Lord, to help me to be brave and bold in standing for what is right. May I be led by Your Spirit rather than my emotions and may it all come from a heart of love and commitment to You. Our land needs healing. Our land needs You, Jesus! Revive our hearts, and may it start with me.

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When was the last time you took a step out of your comfort zone and fully embraced a new adventure? A new path? A change?

Change—a word that evokes sheer excitement in some and pure dread in others.

If I am honest, change is difficult for me. I am the girl that sets her house up, and I could leave it that way until I either move or die. And then there’s my hair. I would probably wear the same hair style to the grave if it weren’t for my wonderful hairstylist (thanks, Dorothy) pushing me at times to change things up. I have friends, on the other hand, who break open a can of paint when they are bored and can transform a room in a matter of hours. And I have other friends who change the arrangement of their furniture frequently, sometimes on a weekly basis. These things practically make me break out in hives just thinking about them.

Yet as silly as these examples are, I have to wonder if sometimes that’s what we do in other areas of our lives. We get so terrified of change that we remain stuck doing the same things over and over and possibly miss out on some of the greatest opportunities God has for us.

Always living in our comfort zones does not usually equate to living out our dreams. We were created for more than just being comfortable; we were created to make a difference (Dare to Soar, 34).

Stepping out of our comfort zones and fully depending on God is what launches us into the sweet spot of the center of His dreams for our lives. It also forces dependence on God rather than ourselves. When we step out of what we are comfortable with and trust God for what He can do, He shows up and performs the miraculous. I love that! We can find great encouragement in knowing that God is able to do FAR beyond what we could ever imagine.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think, according to the power that works in us.   ~Ephesians 3:20

Here’s the best part of all- we can be courageous in stepping out because it isn’t about what we can or can’t do; it is ALL about God and what He WILL do when we make ourselves available to Him.

I saw first-hand what God will do with the writing of Dare to Soar. I have traveled for years singing and speaking, but writing a book had never been on my agenda. However, God had different plans and kept working in my heart last summer—pushing me to trust Him and to step out of my comfort zone. Once I finally made the decision, I was blown away at how God showed up and wrote my story. You see, it was never about me, my story, or my book, but rather it was all about something NEW that God wanted to do through my life for His glory.

Look, I am about to do something NEW; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. ~Isaiah 43:19

So back to my question—when was the last time you took a leap of faith out of your comfort zone? What is something new that God is speaking into your heart? Maybe it involves beginning, changing, or ending a career. Maybe mending a relationship or following through on a commitment. Maybe His still, small voice is calling you to get involved in ministry.

Only you can search your heart to discover God’s plan and His dreams for you. But one thing I do know for myself is that I don’t want to look back in thirty years and wish I had done things differently. I don’t want to just go through life surviving, coping, existing and always playing it safe in my comfort zone. I want more than that. I want the abundant life that Jesus talks about in John 10:10, a life that I believe is found when we are seeking Him and boldly chasing after the dreams He has placed within our hearts.

So, let’s pick up our paintbrushes and boldly paint our stories. Let’s be brave and welcome changes God brings along our way. Let’s commit today not to miss one thing God has for us.

Lord Jesus, Creator of the dreams within our hearts, we ask You to continue doing a NEW work within us. Help us not to get so comfortable and stuck in a rut that we miss out on the incredible opportunities that lie just before us. Help us to realize that it is not about being safe in our comfort zones—it is about trusting You to do more than we could ever ask or think through us. We praise You for being the God of our past, present, and future. May we live like we believe that by trusting You when You lead us out of what we know into new opportunities to trust You and bring greater glory to Your name. This we ask in Your powerful name, Amen.

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  • Gail Smith - Blogs get better and better, love you my sweet friendReplyCancel

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“Mommy, guess what happened at preschool today?” My little girl excitedly asked.

“I have no idea. Tell me what happened, sweet girl, ” I answered as we got in the car to drive home.

She quickly blurted out, “Olivia KISSED Hunter!”

Trying desparately not to completely over-react, I ever-so-calmly asked, “so what did you do? Did you kiss Hunter too?”

I held my breath for her answer. Without missing a beat, my four year-old proudly said, “no, mommy! Of course, I didn’t kiss Hunter. I was too busy spreading the news!”

Well, let’s just say our little bedtime routine that night included a talk about kissing boys as well as one about spreading the news.

As I walked out of her room that night, I had to chuckle at the honesty of her answer and then it hit me- I wonder how many times I have been guilty of spreading the news and using my words in ways less than ideal.

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Words. We use them every day. In fact, statistics say women average between 10,000-20,000 words a day. (Okay, I’m just going to own it- I’m more than likely on the 20k end of the continuum.) But regardless of whether one is a person of few or many words, the bottom line is that ALL OF OUR WORDS MATTER. 

Words have the power to breathe life or devastation on those around us. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:24 that “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” And Ephesians 4:29 gives us the following instruction for our words: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen.”

If only words were always spoken for helping, building others up, and benefiting those who listen. How different things would be.

Perhaps how different this man’s life would have been had he encountered different words:

He was a quiet man. One who had many struggles in life, but one who was trying to turn things around. He had worked hard all day and his appearance attested to it with his muddy, cement-stained jeans and his dirty, tattered shirt. But his weary heart was searching that night, so he went as he was and stumbled into a church as a last ditch effort to find peace. It took every bit of courage to walk through the door. Failure after failure had stripped him down to a shell of a man filled with regret. Somehow, he put one foot in front of the other and found his way to the back row of the church. But before he could sit down, someone swiftly approached him asking him why he was dressed as he was and why he didn’t have more respect for God’s house. The forlorn man looked down in embarrassment, mumbled an apology, and quickly stumbled back out the door with the man’s words still ringing in his ears.

Those words never stopped ringing in the depths of his soul. From that day forward, this quiet man never darkened the door of a church again, and he never broke free from his broken life or found the peace he was so desperately searching for.

That man was my dad, and I can tell you first-hand that the memory of that heart-breaking experience never faded away for him…or for me.  It made a lasting impression on my heart and taught me the powerful lesson that not only do words matter but WORDS ARE FOREVER. Once they are said, they are out there forever. Yes, apologies can be given, but nothing can fully erase our words. This is why it is so important that we truly think before we communicate and respond in love rather than react with our emotions.

The Bible says in Matthew 12:36  that we will give an account for every idle word that we have spoken. So whether I am spreading the news or lashing out in judgement or anger, my words have lasting consquences that I am accountable for.

Ultimately, WORDS REVEAL OUR CHARACTER. Luke 6:45b tells us that what is in our hearts comes out in what we speak. So, when our words are cynical, judgmental, angry, or hate-filled, it all originates from within.

I will be the first to say that I am not perfect and my words and my heart can stray from what I know is right. But here’s what I do know: I want to honor and please God with everything- my words, my actions, and my heart. And the only way that I know to do that is to make this the prayer of my life:

 

Keeper of my heart, I don’t always get it right, and I sure can make a mess of things sometimes when I open my mouth. But my heart’s cry is that my soul will be so in tune with You that everything that flows out of the wellsprings of my heart truly brings honor and glory to Your name. Help my words to be uplifting and point people to You. May I use my lips to speak life, hope, and encouragement to those around me. And most of all, I ask You to empty me of me, and fill me with Your power, Your presence, Your love, and Your words each day. This I pray in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

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“Mommy, I don’t think that I can go to horse camp.”

“What do you mean, sweet girl? You love horses, and I know you will have a blast,” I quickly assured her as we settled in for our bedtime routine of snuggling and reading together.

Her voice cracked and tears spilled out of her eyes as she choked out the words, “but if I go to horse camp every day that means we will only have six hours a day together!”

Those words. Those precious words.

In that moment, my heart melted as I thought about how much my eight-year old daughter was growing up so fast before my very eyes, yet even with how big she was getting- she still needed me. I held her close and assured her that she would be fine without me, but the tears continued…out of both of our eyes.

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One thing that I am learning is that this whole letting-go thing is not easy. I’m quite certain that I have left pieces of my heart in the church nursery, at the preschool, in her kindergarten class, and now even at horse camp. And I find myself fighting through the mixed emotions of wishing that I could keep her little forever but yet wanting to help her to mature and grow.

As parents we have such an awesome responsibility. The Bible challenges us to train up our children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and what I am learning is that part of training them is to help them transition from parent-reliance to God-reliance. As much as I want to be her everything, that is only a place that God can and should fill.

Suddenly, this became more than just about horse camp, but rather, an opportunity for both of us to grow.

Interestingly enough, the very next day after our emotional bedtime conversation, my daughter came to me and said, “Mommy, I’ve thought about it- horse camp is only a week long, and we have all summer to be together. Go ahead and sign me up.”

I watched her excitedly skip away, and I had to shake my head and laugh because I was still back at our emotional bedtime ordeal… while she had clearly moved on.

However, my heart was so happy and thankful that she didn’t get stuck in needing me to miss out on a week of having so much fun! I’m sure we will have many more of these crossroads to face together, but today I will hug her and tell her,

“Go ride that horse, my love! And have the time of your life at horse camp! And when you are done, I will be there to hear all about it and to savor our six hours together.”

 

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  • Nancy Rogers - Paula,

    What a touching warm story. Yup its hard letting go..of children, of grandchildren, of lifes problems and of life’s tragedies, hard to let go and let God take control, to watch over, to wait on Him for all of it. Even adults have to learn this, almost everyday I find myself having to give it to Him yet again.
    As for horses, your sweet Emma has my heart there. I road horses in shows, for pleasure all my teen/young adult life. I owned 3 horse. Then not quite all that long ago had two mini horses, that I let go of about 5 yrs. ago as I got older. Nothing like the love of horse and a girl. 🙂

    God Bless,
    Nancy Looking forward to seeing you again at Maine Coast Baptist.ReplyCancel

    • pauladunn - Nancy- you are exactly right: handing over everything to God is definitely not a one-time thing. It is a daily, hourly, and sometimes even a moment-by-moment realization that we need God. Letting God have control in all areas of our lives is an ongoing process for all of us. Glad to know I’m not the only one who keeps having to let go and let God… 🙂

      Emma definitely shares your love of animals! So sweet!

      Yes, I am so excited to come back to Maine in August! I look forward to seeing you then!
      Thanks for your constant support of my ministry!
      Blessings to you!ReplyCancel

  • Gail Smith - Beautiful,

    Jack and I have had to watch ourfour sons grow up over the years and let each one of them go at different times. It was hard all four times but I do remember giving them back to the Lord when each was an infant. That is a comforting feeling just knowing that He has them each in the palm of his almighty hand

    Love you Paula
    Gail SmithReplyCancel

    • pauladunn - You are so right, Gail! It is so comforting to know that God has our loved ones in His almighty hand- our children & our parents!!! 🙂 Love you, my friend!ReplyCancel

  • Denise Ames - Oh so precious. You’re both too sweet!ReplyCancel

    • pauladunn - Thanks, Denise! I so appreciate your sweet enouragement & support! Much love…ReplyCancel