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5 Ways to Practice “Being”

The past few weeks I’ve been teaching my international students at the university the practice of “being” and not “doing” when it comes to leadership. Why is this so difficult for us? We want to know what the next steps are and yet sometimes we aren’t willing to pay the price to “be” instead of “do.”

We’ve bought into the lie that if we keep doing MORE things then we will be able to discern the next best decision and avoid making the wrong turn on our life path.  (click to tweet)

If you joined me on Wednesday night for the weekly Facebook Live in the Live Bold Series Group, I shared the many reasons why I love peering into the lives of bold women in history. Amy Carmichael, Emma Dryer, Hannah Whitall Smith, and Mrs. Oswald Chambers to name a few. They have a common thread of walking out their faith. There is a theme of learning what it means to sit in God’s presence and to be still that accompanies their “doing.”

Each of these women faced unexpected challenges and yet they kept their hearts and minds fixed on Jesus (Psalm 57:7).

Amy Carmichael challenges, If we wait till we have clear enough vision to see the expected end before we stay our mind upon Him who is our strength, we shall miss an opportunity that will never come again. Now is the time to say, My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. (Psalm 57:7), even though as we say the words there is no sense of exultation. 

Their vision was not dependant on clarity and certainty. It was dependant on God by waiting, listening, and taking steps of faith as they heard God whisper to move ahead. They “stayed their mind” on Jesus. They learned what it meant “to be.” Amy challenges us to keep our minds focused which in turn influences our behavior.

I don’t know about you, but when I am feeling anxious about a situation or a decision I need to make, I need some tools to help me “stay my mind” on Christ.

Here are five ways to practice “being” so you can stay your mind on Jesus. 

1. Worship music: Fill your day with praises to God and watch your anxiety melt away by refocusing your thoughts on the praises of God. 

2. Pray: Move out of your ordinary routine to pray. Take a walk and release all your thoughts to God and then take some time to walk and just listen. Take a drive and park at the beach, park, or a place of God’s creation you admire. Pray for 5 minutes. Listen for 5 minutes, and then pray for another 5 minutes. 

3. Read a passage of the Psalms: Read and look at the pattern of David’s prayers. He was authentic and yet always brought it back to focusing on what God could do and who He is. Speak it out loud. Here are a few to get you started: Psalm 42, Psalm 91, Psalm 37.

4. Write your own Psalm: In a journal record what you are facing or the decision you need to make. Turn the last part of your writing into praises of confession believing that God: 
is for you,
will provide, and that
He loves you no matter what. 

5. Serve others:Purposefully plan to do something to serve someone else who is in need. Whether making a meal for a neighbor, write a note of encouragement, or drive someone to the doctor. Focusing on helping others can keep our mind stayed on Jesus. 

These are not new ideas. Being intentional about the simple basics and practicing “being” can bring a fresh perspective. 

Excerpt from: A Very Present Help by Judith Couchman, 1996 Servant Publications.)

Thinking Clearly in a Storm

I am an overachiever, overworker, overperfectionist, and overthinker. These dysfunctions in my life have come as a result of analyzing too much and not taking my thoughts and filtering them through God’s Word and direction.

I’ve had to work hard to retrain my brain so when I am in a storm, I can make a choice to confess my faith in a way that leverages my ability to see God and rise above my circumstances.

It has been a long, arduous journey, but to date, my faith is rooted deeper.

I live in Psalm 1:2–3:

“His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

My prayer is that I will be planted deep in Jesus by the river so when the floodwaters rise I will not only survive, but I will flourish and thrive.

The more I practice detoxing my thinking and focusing on God’s Word the more I can rise above the obstacles. (click to tweet)

I move from being paralyzed, stuck on the riverbank watching the hopelessness of a rushing river, to a place of confident faith.

I have come to understand a few things about my thoughts.

First, my thoughts are real, and they are a result of what I observe, feel, and experience.

I can’t dismiss them and simply wish them away.

I must deal with recurring negative thoughts or they will deal with me.(click to tweet)

I need to, as Dr. Leaf says, “replace it with the correct information.”

Taking the random thought and vetting it through Philippians 4:8 is a good place to start.

 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

And we can’t forget verse nine, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Want peace from toxic thoughts? The only way to achieve the God kind of peace in a storm, is to filter our thoughts through his Word.

Excerpt from Anchored: Leading Through the Storms

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018

Find out more about being anchored in the storm.

www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

Dispelling the Myth of Perfection at Christmas

There are exactly 20 days 13 hours 4 minutes and 40 seconds left until Christmas, or as my grandkids would say 20 sleeps left! I don’t know about you but right now as that clock is clicking down it makes me go into a cold sweat and break out in hives.

How about you? Knowing that there are only 20 sleeps left before Christmas hits your doorstep.

Maybe you are feeling a little…

Panic

Anxiety

I want it to be over

I don’t want to think about it

Rush

Relatives

What is it that happens at this time of the year that causes us to freak out and turn into women that we normally don’t seem to be the rest of the year?

I was trying to explain this to my husband and he said,

“I don’t think people struggle with that as much as they used to, I think that it’s just a few people like you.”

Now he wasn’t trying to be mean or heartless, I think it is because most men just don’t get everything that goes into Christmas. Not because they don’t want to, but for them, they pretty much just show up for the holidays like a guest. They might do a few things at our request like help clean, cook, wrap some gifts and wrangle the kids together but most of it seems to fall on us.

My husband has always been a tremendous help and asks frequently what he can do especially when my voice gets higher and stressed!

Here’s a side tip, nothing to do with where I’m headed but it will help make Christmas smoother,  Be sure and give your husband kudos of appreciation when he jumps to your side this Christmas in the prep. I know that sometimes they see us stressed and don’t know how to fix it, and when they jump in be appreciative as much as you can without any cranky remarks. I am preaching to myself right now!

To help Kevin out a bit when we were having this discussion, I nonchalantly pointed this out when we were watching a movie and there were several Christmas commercials.

I said, “Look, look, see it’s all women!”

Most of the commercials were about women getting things ready for Christmas. The houses were perfect, the tree was spectacular, presents were wrapped exquisitely under the tree and everything looked like it was in perfect order.

“There!,” I sighed as I moved my hands up and down towards the big screen to prove my point of helping him understand how we get caught up in the madness of perfection.

Now, before I set some of you on edge or sound like I am stereotyping or men bashing, I know this isn’t true for all men, I do know some men that actually take care of the whole meal for their families, shopping, cooking and everything. I have a friend whose husband wraps ALL their gifts. I know of another guy who actually decorates not only his house but where he works and helps friends do the same. But generally speaking, Christmas does or doesn’t happen mostly because of the women. And then if you are a single parent, that’s a whole other story…everything falls on your shoulders to make Christmas happen!!

No matter how much we try and disconnect and tell ourselves it doesn’t have to be like what we visually see in the stores or on the television, we are thrust with images that portray perfection EVERYWHERE!!! Even the scripting of the commercials reinforces it with, “find the perfect gift” “set the perfect table” and to top it off everyone looks so happy together as relatives arrive and the warm sentiments of the Christmas season. Enjoy Christmas perfectly if you shop our stores and buy our stuff, that’s the underlying message. One of my favorite magazines had on the cover “395 Ways to Dazzle Your Friends and Family.” No wonder we struggle!

You and I both know how hard it is to actually find the perfect gift, keep a perfect house, tree, food and are you ready for this, really PERFECT relatives.

Now you might say,  do we have to talk about this?

Can’t I stay in the cave of denial and just get it over with?

I would say, let’s for once get gut honest and talk about this Christmas chaos and what it does to our psyche. We all to some degree struggle with this in our lives, whether or not we do a lot or a little for Christmas. It stirs up all kinds of emotions for us as women and seems to magnify the reality and heightens our awareness that we don’t have it all together no matter how much the media or retailers try to help us get it all together. AND we have messy families, cranky relatives who show up and that alone can create extra trauma around the season.

We buy into this ‘perfection’ whether consciously or unconsciously. We try so hard only to be utterly disappointed and exhausted at the end of the season eating ourselves into oblivion to cope with the stress that accompanies the holiday season. Then we feel worse because we’ve gained weight and our clothes don’t fit, we make New Year’s resolution we don’t end up keeping and we do the self-talk and the cycle continues. Is anyone out there that can relate? Whether it is a 15 on a scale of 1 to 100 or a 85 because of cranky relatives we all face it at some point.

I am hoping that this Christmas, the anticipation of what is to come that we can embrace something that can’t be bought or given, and that can help ease the stress…..something that can’t be put on a credit/debit card and shopped for. I would like to give you the one gift you can give yourself~the gift of imperfection.  Brene Brown has written a book, The Gifts of Imperfection on this very subject and I have found it liberating and enlightening. She gives these definitions when talking about the need to put on the perfection.

Perfectionism is not the same things as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. 

Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.

It seems to be all about having to be perfect because we are worried about what other people are going to think more than striving to do the best. Who will raise their hand with me that we are of so guilty at times?

Here is what became my ‘aha’ moment when I was reading her book. She said that, Perfectionism hampers success, in fact it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis which mean we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect.

 WOW! Having the need to be perfect at Christmas or any other time actually hinders my success, my ability to actually enjoy life, and especially to enjoy Christmas. This was huge for me. We all want to experience the love, joy and peace of the Christmas season, so here is what I think the solution is….receiving the gift of imperfection! We will continue on and discover what that looks like over the next few blog posts. So in the meantime, here’s a tip of what I am trying to practice for the next

20 days, 14 hours, 4 minutes and 40 seconds left until Christmas~ANTICIPATION.

I am creating a space of anticipation that invites

slowing down,

being still,

enjoying the moments,

being present,

choosing gratitude and

speaking it out loud daily and writing in my journal.

Creating this space looks like intentionally sitting each day in my favorite cozy chair curled up with a cup of tea and the devotional “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp and my Bible. It’s only Day Four and my heart is making space for Advent, the true meaning of waiting to receive the greatest gift, celebrating Jesus. The noise, the fanfare, the chaos subsides within me as I am choosing to submit to a ritual of being still and pondering as Mary might of done when she received her news that she would be the mother of the Son of God. It is causing me to break out in worship.

It doesn’t come easy for me, it has come slowly and it is growing each day. Will you join me on this Advent journey?