Posted in focus on faith

How do you spell fear? s-p-i-d-e-r!

toonvectors-12422-140My recurring nightmare as a child was my bed was full of spiders. I would wake up yelling and my dad — volunteer fire chief for 25 years — was always the first responder. He’s my hero.

He would turn on the light, pull back the covers to show me it was safe, and tuck me back into the top bunk over and over and over … until I finally got married. Then it was someone else’s problem! Some dowry eh? My phobic fear of spiders has lessened but never disappeared.

Fear is the fundamental barrier to peace, and its a deal-breaker when it comes to leading a simplified life, Bill Hybels says in the sixth chapter: Conquering your Fears. Welcome back to my bog-crawl through Simplify. Hybels says that simplified living is about more than doing less…. It requires uncluttering your soul…. by examining core issues that lure you into frenetic living, and by eradicating the barriers that leave you exhausted and overwhelmed.

Fear has built massive barriers in my life and, with God’s help, I have spent most of my adult years dismantling them. I’m not alone.

Hybles clarifies the difference between constructive and destructive fear. We will focus on destructive fear since that is our battleground. Destructive fear is baseless, useless and crippling…. it nips away at our emotional well-being, cluttering and complicating our lives by erecting false barriers in our work, our relationships and even our recreational pursuits. 

Destructive fear mutes our joy and robs us of satisfaction. It makes us anticipate the future with dread rather than exhilaration. Hybels then cites people who refused to buckle to paralyzing fear but bravely stepped out into history and changed the world: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai.

Conquering fear is tough work. The first thing you must do is NAME your fear. Hybels lists some common fears: financial pressure, relational breakdown, unexpected bad news, moral failure, impending mortality. What are you afraid of?

Here’s how to craft a strategy to overcome your fear:

STEP 1: Understand fear’s origin. Can you identify the source? My arachnophobia began as a result of some innocent child’s play. My cousin would catch daddy longlegs spiders, pull off a couple of the legs and then drop them down my shirt. No matter if I ran, she was faster and she always caught me. That feeling of helplessness, knowing I could not escape, carried over into my dreams.

STEP 2: Expose fear’s lies: What are the lies that fuel this fear? All spiders are dangerous, creepy, and terrifying. Spiders will hurt me. Why do these lies seem believable? Some spiders are poisonous! But the truth is, most are not. There are virtually NO dangerous spiders that share my habitat in southern Alberta. Having long legs isn’t creepy, it’s sexy! (ok, I’m trying really hard here. Cut me some slack!)

STEP 3: Face Fear Head-On: What is one baby step you will take to face this fear? Forget it Hybels! No way! I will NOT be touching any spiders in the near future, or ever! Long deep breath …….. Movin’ on. Before you judge me a coward, ask how I overcame 12 years of crippling fear of public speaking.

STEP 4: Speak Words of Truth: 

  • Self talk: What strengths do I possess that will help me say no to this fear? What is the logical truth that most people believe about this fear? I am bigger than all spiders and I can squish them. All the spiders in my neighbourhood are harmless. When I travel to poisonous spider zones, I will take strong sedatives — ha ha, just kidding…sorta…. No, the truth is I have found spiders IN MY BED on occasion in other peoples’ homes and I have managed to kill or chase them off and then sleep undisturbed. I remind myself of this when the fear rises.
  • Scripture: memorize one or two verses to recite when fear grabs you. I wish I were that spiritual! When gripped by fear, I am paralyzed. Scripture does not spring to mind. Maybe this is why I offer a weekend retreat called Hope for the Rest of Us: when sainthood eludes you, God can still use you!
  • Prayer: What specific requests do you want God to answer re: your fear? You want specific? Would I be out of line to ask that He eradicate all spiders from the face of the earth? Knowing that’s pretty unlikely, I do request that He allows me to overcome my fear without ever having to willfully touch a spider in this lifetime. Also, it would be great to be able to brush one off me without doing the Freak-Out Dance and risk breaking a hip.

How about you? Does fear rob you of peace? What do you do to beat it into submission?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in focus on faith

When Good Traits Aren’t So Good: guest post by Kathy Collard Miller and Larry Miller

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Have you ever tried to turn over a new leaf only to discover that before long “something” flipped that leaf back to the way it was? 

Keep reading and see what my guests, co-authors Kathy Collard Miller and her husband, Larry Miller, have to say about a new you:

It may seem strange but a good quality or behavior can actually become a means of leaving God out of our lives. We have recognized that in ourselves.

I, Kathy, love being seen as dependable. Early in life, to try to protect me from some painful things, I decided, “I will never be seen as a liar, so I will be dependable. I’ll protect my image.” Did I say those actual words? No, but that was the motive of my heart and my behavior followed suite. Many years later as a Christian, I would sacrifice obeying God if it meant appearing undependable to others.

I, Larry, had my own self-protective plan of being seen as knowledgeable. Could be a good idea except that my motive was to appear persuasive because then I seemed powerful. I tried to prevent anyone seeing me as weak because I appeared weak as a teenager. But making sure I’m seen as knowledgable doesn’t look to God to provide my value. It disregards my inheritance in Christ and tries to control other people’s opinions of me.

Here are some other examples of mixed motives. Someone might turn generosity into a self-protective strategy to earn the applause from others—rather than God. Another person could love to give compliments (which seems positive) but she turns it into a sinful strategy because in her heart of hearts she wants to hear a compliment about herself.

Only God knows a person’s heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). That’s also why we can’t judge another person’s behavior. We don’t know their heart condition and motive. And we must seek the Spirit’s enlightenment to recognize our own motives.

To get to the core of what motivates us, we must recognize the way each behavior choice diminishes—or even destroys—our dependence upon God. Then we can get to the root of our own sinful plans and turn to God. Paul warns the Corinthians believers, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor. 2:11). The NASB even uses the word “schemes” for the word “designs.” We must heed the Apostle Paul’s warning in order to strengthen our hearts to recognize the ways we are deceived by Satan’s schemes.

How about you? Can you see any way that what you value about yourself is actually a means to receive what you believe you need? And as a result, you don’t look to God to provide or protect you?

God wants to be your everything. Ask Him to reveal anything that isn’t as pure as you think. Your heart will feel like a fresh breeze has swept through it cleansing and purifying.

This article is excerpted from Never Ever Be the Same (Leafwood Publishers) which offers Christians hope that they can change their ungodly reactions through identifying their self-protective strategies and trusting God instead. The authors are Kathy Collard Miller and Larry Miller and includes biblical principles, insightful stories, and helpful instruction. It has individual and group discussion questions.

Kathy Collard Miller and Larry Miller are speakers and authors. They have been married 44 years and Larry is a retired police lieutenant. The Millers live in Southern California, and have two grown children and one grandson. Visit them at www.LarryAndKathy.com. Kathy blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Never Ever Be the Same is available at your local Christian bookstore and in both print and digital versions at:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1ITmLfy

CBD: http://bit.ly/1AuJZSX

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1BJz3lC

Posted in need a laugh?, tips for speakers

7 Compelling Reasons you need Laughter at your next Outreach Event

IMG_3324Did Jesus laugh? We know Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the bible says so. But there is no corresponding verse to John 11:35 that says, “Jesus laughed.” Or even grinned!

What then are to make of the fact that there are hundreds of biblical references to joy? Do joyful people laugh? You bet they do. And it’s contagious. Because I have made people laugh at hundreds of events since 1999, I have seen what laughter can bring to a group.

The typical checklist for what we want at an event includes prayer, sound biblical teaching, practical help for Christian living, encouragement, inspiration, and lots of chocolate. Here are seven compelling reasons why we need to add one more thing to our next Christian women’s outreach event checklist: guaranteed laughs.

  1. Laughter is inviting: You want people to come to your event. And you want people to come back next time. The primary purpose for most Christian events is to connect people to Jesus and to your Christian community. A guaranteed good time is a strong invitation.
  2. Laughter is attractive: Our best Christian witness is a happy life. Most people want to be happy. If they see the joy we have and the way we share that joy – often, but not always, in the form of laughter – then they want it too. (Note: a “happy life” is not free of tragedy, loss, betrayal or suffering. It is a life characterized by the joy of the Lord in the midst of difficulties and challenges)
  3. Laughter is the best medicine: A good laugh makes you feel better. Laughter might not cure what ails you but it certainly puts it out of your mind for a while. There is so much pain and suffering in real life, people need to get relief that doesn’t destroy their liver!
  4. Laughter is the “spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down”: Real healing often means we have to deal with our “stuff.” In order to help people, they need to be made aware of nasty things like selfishness, greed, jealousy, pride, in a word, sin. Tough love is easier to swallow if it is coated with a little sugar!
  5. Shared laughter builds trust: It is much easier to trust a friend than a stranger. People never laugh with their enemies but with their friends. A roomful of laughing people feels a lot friendlier to someone who might have come in the door hesitantly.
  6. Laughter builds bridges: People who might otherwise think they have nothing in common with “church people” can see that the Christian life can be rich and meaningful and joyful.
  7. Laughter can signal a new beginning: there will be people in every crowd who literally have not laughed since their most recent tragedy. I have often had people thank me after a hilarious talk with words like this: “You made me laugh. I didn’t realize how badly I needed that. I haven’t laughed since I lost my husband (child/mother/marriage) three weeks (months/years) ago. For the first time, I think there might be hope that I can live again.” The irony is, every single time this happens to me, it makes me cry! But they are tears of sympathy and joy.

 

Posted in focus on faith

Generosity part 3: hope for the rest of us

hubcap-treeAs the Christmas season approaches does the word “generosity” make you nervous? If so, you’re in the majority. Many of us are in a constant state of donor fatigue, inundated with requests from our kids’ schools, our churches, the natural disaster of the day (tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes, floods and fires), starving children, missions fundraisers, telemarketers, political parties, community initiatives, door to door campaigns, and on and on and on.

We aren’t just stretched financially but many of us also have a bulging calendar and a demanding clock. Maybe you are multi-talented and you don’t want to waste it. Or perhaps you can’t bear to see an unmet need. Or maybe you look at the staggering success of colleagues and, in comparison, you feel like you have to crank it up a notch so you don’t get left behind. Maybe, like me, you read Sheryl Sandberg’s blockbuster book, Lean In, and you think super-woman really does exist so you just need try a little harder.

303891 The truth is Superwoman is a mythological comic figure. And no matter how much we want to be her, we can’t. (I doubt the slinky get-up would be overly flattering for most of us anyway!) We can’t say yes to every request for our time, our talent or our treasure. We have limits. We are human.

Boy that really stinks doesn’t it?!

How are we supposed to “change our world” if we are limited human beings? Well, a few of you will do and are doing huge things that grab the attention of the multitudes. But most of us, the vast majority of us, are the multitude. What about us? We want to make a difference too! Is there any hope for the rest of us?

A resounding yes! Consider these four suggestions:

Get to know and then respect your limits. Even though I wince every time, I have learned to say “no” or “not at this time” with kindness, courtesy and respect.  I agonized for a month and finally replied to a request for support from a godly, gifted, impassioned young woman with “no.” I explained that I did believe in her and in her calling and I didn’t doubt she would do great things but I have limits and her request fell outside those limits at this time. It was tough. But right.

Discern what your top one, two, at most three talents or areas of giftedness are rubber-glove-thumbs-up-20579179transparentand operate mainly from those strengths. This will require focus, discipline and, you guessed it, the ability to say no.  I know that I have two strong gifts: my hands and my humour. I use the gift of humour in lots of speaking and some writing. I use my (often rubber-gloved) hands helping my family, my friends, my community and my church.

Be ready, and willing, to scale back, take a break, or walk away from some or all of your world-changing activity if God asks for it. In July 2012, with a head full of plans and a briefcase full if solid ideas, I returned home from a professional development conference to find my husband Gerry near collapse from exhaustion. It was obvious to me he needed a wife! Being Gerry’s wife is my highest calling and greatest privilege. God didn’t have to ask me twice. I dropped the plans and ideas and quit some other things and embarked on a yearlong ministry to my dearest and best friend. During that year, our oldest daughter was diagnosed with and surgically cured  from pancreatic cancer. It was a rough road. Gerry is doing great, my daughter is almost fully recovered and I am getting back into the swing of my ministry. Did my “sabbatical” affect my work? Greatly! My invitations and influence are much reduced. But remember this: when we follow God one yes at a time, we trust Him, not our own efforts. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works (Hebrews 4:10). Either we trust He who calls us or we don’t.

Have some fun! Hug your kids or grandkids. Go for a walk on a snowy pathway. Sign snowy pathwayup for the Christmas choir. Paint a room. Curl up with a good book or your fav series on Netflix. Hop into bed early with your husband — check out this resource!

If generosity is a scary word for you right now, you are probably over-extended. Generosity flourishes in “margin” I meet very few truly stingy, selfish people. Christmas is still several weeks away, start now to create some margin–space around the edges of your life–and generosity will no longer be a scary word, but a joyful invitation to change the world one small act at a time. If the rest of us all do a little bit, it can make a huge impact. Now that gives me hope!

Posted in focus on faith

Worry Can’t Change Others

I worry. You worry. Most of us worry. Kathy Collard Miller has written a useful, practical book that can help you worry less and trust more. Read what she has to say:

Partly CloudyThere’s something deep inside of us that believes worry can change others. If someone we love has a different perspective than we do, we worry. If someone we love has a different belief about God, we worry. If someone we love has a character flaw, we worry. We just know their wrong thinking will mess up their lives.

Some of these worries may truly seem “worthy” of worry. Your mother may not know Christ as her Savior, and she has cancer. Your son may be on the street taking drugs. Your friend may demonstrate a lack of integrity at work. Another friend drives while intoxicated. You may have tried to reason, cajole, quote Scripture, even manipulate each person into changing their ideas and their behavior, but nothing has worked—not even prayer. God hasn’t changed them either. You fear something bad, really bad, is going to happen.

Even if it’s not a matter of something really bad occurring, we can easily take responsibility for someone else’s happiness and then try to change them.

A verse that has helped me in releasing that worry is:  “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:15 NASB). If God has the ability to give you and me a different attitude, He can do it for anyone. He is powerful and creative. When we worry or feel like we have to change someone’s ideas, we are saying, “God, you aren’t effective enough. You aren’t creative enough to work in this person’s life. I’ve got to do it myself.”

When I think of how God creatively worked in our daughter Darcy’s life, I sense the tears coming. Darcy went to Denmark for a semester of college and requested to live in the home of a Danish family. At that time, Darcy was friendly with us, but distant emotionally.

But while in Denmark, our phone calls soon were centered on how badly her Danish “mother” was treating her— ignoring her and saying mean things to her. Larry and I were incensed, as most parents would be, and I began to worry about my daughter’s emotional health. Then my worry fueled anger toward this woman who had no right to treat my daughter like that. We suggested Darcy move to on-campus housing, but she wanted to stick it out. Since we couldn’t afford to go visit her (I would have loved to give that woman a piece of my mind), I had to stew over it … in the beginning.

Then I saw God’s work in Darcy’s life. Because of her circumstances, she began to appreciate our family as she never had before. In comparison to the way her Danish family treated her, we were looking pretty good. In fact, fabulous. I’d never heard as much love and warmth in Darcy’s voice as when we talked with her.

Shortly before she returned home, she sent a Christmas card and wrote in it:

Dear Dad, Mom, and Mark: Since I can’t be there with you for Christmas, I’m writing to tell you how much I’ll miss not being there and how much I love you all. Being away has really made me realize how awesome a family you are. I love and appreciate all of you so much! I can’t wait to come home to see you all. Give my love to the rest of the family. I’ll be seeing you on January 6. Love, Darcy.

That was in 1994. After Darcy returned, her appreciation for our family continued to rise to great heights, and it all started with something I was worried about. It’s every mother’s longing to have her child value their family. But in our case, God accomplished this through mistreatment, something I would have changed if I could. But if I had, the good results God intended would not have occurred. Even today, when we talk about that situation, Darcy remarks, “Oh, yes, God really used that in my life.”

We don’t want to thwart God’s changes in those we love, do we? We need to make sure worry doesn’t prevent His work. Let’s live like we believe Philippians 3:15: God can change others.

 BOOK SUMMARY AND BIOGRAPHY:

It is possible to worry less through trusting God more. Regardless of the storms of trials, temptations, worry, uncertainty, confusion, or regrets that you’re facing, you can trust God more. Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries offers a conversational style, personal testimonies, practical illustrations, and solid biblical teaching for breaking anxiety and the devastating effects of worry. Each chapter includes Discussion Questions for individuals or groups, along with a “Letter from God.” In addition, a profile of a woman in the Bible who struggled with or experienced victory over worry is featured in each chapter to inspire every reader to see God’s hand in her life.

Kathy Collard Miller is a speaker and author. Her passion is to inspire women to trust God more. She has spoken in 30 states and 7 foreign countries. Kathy has 49 published books including Women of the Bible: Smart Guide to the Bible (Thomas Nelson) and she blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.blogspot.com. Kathy lives in Southern California with her husband of 43 years, Larry, and is the proud grandma of Raphael. Kathy and Larry often speak together at marriage events and retreats.

Watch book trailer here

Order Here

Posted in focus on faith

It’s all Greek to me

IMG_3324Have you ever said, “It’s all Greek to me”? What does that mean? How many Greek words do you know? Moussaka and spanakopita don’t count. None? Me too. And things aren’t likely to change on that front since I am losing brain cells faster than fat cells.

For most of my Christian life, I blindly supported the false narrative of a Christian Caste System. The people I placed at the top of the heap (the Brahmins or priestly caste) were the Bible teachers and scholars. They were closest to God. They had earned the right to have a voice. They had a message worth listening to. They were the experts.

I have never felt like an expert when it comes to spirituality. In regards to my personal journey, 10 years of spiritual wilderness took the shine right off my halo!

However, my “problem” was my call to ministry and the constant invitations to speak and write. But God! I’m not a scholar! I can’t pronounce or translate one single Greek WORD! All I have are my hands, my humor and a heart that wants to serve You. How can You use me?

His answer? Connie, most people are just like you. They don’t know Greek either! And they never will. But they have gifts – gifts I have given them. And they need encouragement to use those gifts for My sake.

  • Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the   same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything. (I Corinthians 12: 4-6)

In God’s eyes, there is no difference between the man who preaches to thousands and the one who leads a small group during lunch hour at his office. There is no difference between the woman with the television ministry and the woman who brings a meal to her neighbor after she has had a baby. There is no difference between the Bible Study author who sells millions and the young mom who blogs to bring hope to her friends. All are using the gifts God gave them to be the hands and feet and voice of His Son Jesus.

What gifts has God given you? Two good hands? A sense of humor? A heart that notices the needy? Eyes that see beauty in unlikely places? Ears that hear the cries of lonely people? A nose that does not turn up in disgust for the homeless, the hapless, the helpless, the horribly disfigured? You have a voice. Don’t let false narratives silence it. Join me in saying there’s hope for the rest of us. Let’s take the message of authentic spirituality by encouraging everyday people, just like us, to keep it real.

 What do I mean, keep it real?

  • Recognize and dismantle your idols: anybody need a slightly worn “What Would Beth Moore Do?” bracelet?
  • Realize that all God-given gifts are spiritual and worthy: stop apologizing for being “just” funny or handy or creative or strong or energetic and accept that God made you that way and whatever He created, he declared to be “very good”.
  • Refuse to pretend you are something you are not: if I have a spare moment, I do not run to my desk; I run to my garden or my kitchen or the home of family or friends who need help. “Doing” feeds my soul. God made me that way. It’s okay!
  • Reject guilt that you are not a carbon copy of the saints you idolize: I love to read and listen to scholarly teachers and preachers. I admire their passion for study and their ability to gain insight from that study and their skill in conveying that insight in engaging ways. But I’m not them. And that’s okay!
    • But now God has placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12: 18-20)
  • Rejoice in who you are and let others see Jesus in your joy:The best Christian witness you or I will ever have is to be happy in Jesus. In 2004, in Surrey BC, I heard Beth Moore say, “I am happy!” Even though I have done many of her wonderful Bible studies, that is the one statement that stands out from everything else. That alone, was enough for me. I am going to go out on a limb here…I daresay the biggest reason Beth Moore is happy is because she is doing what God created her to do. She is being who God created her to be. Humans clone; God makes originals. Be the “original” God made you to be and let others see His joy in you.

Posted in focus on faith

Confessions of a productive procrastinator

As the photo illustrates, I didn’t let the paint “keep” very long did I? Mere minutes after last week’s bodacious blog was posted one of my daughters dropped in and offered to help me paint. I abandoned my writing desk without looking back. We dove in and tackled the project — changing the living room walls to a lighter colour, including the newly installed peninsula fireplace in the colour facelift.

We started on Wednesday and were finished by Friday, leaving me sore and tired and my daughter with a massive headache, the result of wielding a heavy roller on a long pole for hours on end. Sorry sweetheart.

Before I get to the grovelling and repenting, let me say I love Aura paint! It is a Benjamin Moore product, not cheap, but worth every cent. No need for primer and two coats more than covers. I chose matte finish because you can wipe it without leaving streaks. It completely hides existing imperfections that a glossier coat advertises: for instance, an eye-level paint ridge left over from a wallpaper border that was annoyingly visible under the last wall colour in an eggshell finish is now invisible under the matte finish.

Okay, so how is that book proposal coming? Ahem. Dang.

As I type, I am sitting in the green chair pictured here near the “blazing logs” (aka natural gas flame). Even though it is officially Spring, here in the eastern shadow of the Rockies March through May is when we get our biggest snowfall accumulation so a cheery flame is a welcome addition.

This cozy spot has beckoned me every morning where, warmed by the fire, I have sipped my tea and enjoyed my current Bible study. This morning’s portion from the online study of the book of Ephesians by Kathy Howard dealt with Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus in chapter 3:14-21.

Some of Paul’s words really connected  with me today: I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Three moms have emailed me in the last few days requesting prayer for one of their adult children. All three have this in common — they feel desperate and betrayed by both the grown child and by God. All three of these moms are devout believers who have taken their faith walk seriously for decades. They are not saying they are going to throw away their faith because of this current storm, they are simply being honest about how they feel right now — scared and doubtful.

Can you relate? I can!

I have been there! And most likely I will be in their shoes several more times in my future. And so I will pray for them as others have prayed for me, using Paul’s words from Ephesians — that they will know His inner strength, that they will trust in Him, and that the roots that they have each been developing for decades will find life-giving nurture in the very heart of God and these roots will feed them with His love and the assurance that He is still in control even though the storms are raging in their families.

Is a family crisis shaking your faith right now? It’s okay to admit it if you feel afraid and doubtful. God can take it. Don’t suffer in silence. Ask for prayer. Be transparent. Invite some trusted friends to walk this journey of suffering with you.