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Entries in Joan C. Webb (10)

Thursday
Jul062017

Expand Your Attention Span for Spiritual Growth

Got attention span deficit? In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Dawn encourages us to expand our attention span so we can grow in our journey with the Lord.

According to a Time magazine report (2014) quoting Chartbeat, a data analytics company, one in three visitors to a webpage spends less than 15 seconds reading an article they land on.

A 2016 article in The New York Times noted a survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft that concluded the average attention span had fallen to only eight seconds.

(Apparently goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds, but I'm not sure how you'd prove that's true.)

Human brains wander and are “in the moment” for just over half of our waking hours according to a study from Harvard University. The rest of the time we “zone out.”

I've watched the controversy over the rise of fidget spinners for children with poor attention spans; but attention isn't just a kids' issue.

I've joked that I have a shorter attention span than fruit flies—sort of like this common fly hopping on and off my husband's cell phone! But it's really not a laughing matter.

Part of the problem: we flit between television, radio, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, our iPods and iPads and email. We’re distracted and incredibly busy and can’t seem to concentrate on one thing for long.

This problem affects Christians when it comes to spiritual disciplines and lifestyle.

  • We find time to surf the Internet, but fail to swim in the cleansing streams of our Bibles.
  • We eagerly chat on social media, but seldom get in deep conversations with our Heavenly Father.
  • We can quote lines from favorite flicks, but somehow can’t memorize scripture.
  • We spend hours looking for bargains in the mall, but miss seeing the desperate homeless woman outside.

As I write this, I am deeply convicted.

I am caught up in the busyness of modern society, the craziness of the constant media pull, and the emptiness of life when I forget God.

I need a major adjustment in my attention span, my use of time and the priorities I embrace. Do you?

I'm going to leave it to those much wiser to solve the brain/attention issue, but here are 5 ways I think we can expand our shrinking attention span to encourage spiritual growth.

1. Be Intentional in Seeking God.

Intentionality requires us to slow down and think so we can act wisely. In this crazy world, to come apart before we fall apart.

Redeeming or making the best use of time, as Paul encouraged, isn’t always about cramming more into our lives.

I like what Joan Webb, author of The Intentional Woman, says about this. “Speeding through life is not a productive way to redeem the time,” she says. “A better way to redeem life’s opportunities is to slow down, relax, and enjoy myself, others and God.”

Especially God.

Many Christians believe (see The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question #1) our chief purpose for existence is to enjoy God and glorify Him forever. We need to be intentional and seek Him.

It won’t just “happen” like an instant message flitting across your cell phone.

2. Meditate on Scripture.

Meditation is like mental training to improve our focus. It’s what sociologists call “mindfulness.”

“God designed us with the capacity to pause and ponder,” David Mathis wrote. “He means for us to not just hear Him, but to reflect on what He says.”

As a Christian discipline, meditation isn’t emptying the mind—as modern non-Christian teachers suggest—but rather filling the mind with real biblical truth and then “chewing” on it for a while. It is allowing the Word of God to “dwell in you richly.”

I have found meditation connected to prayer, Bible study and memorization. They all help one another.

3. Incorporate Exercise into your Day.

I’ve heard some people say “bodily exercise profits little,” quoting scripture, but a better translation of 1 Timothy 4:8 is “bodily training is of some value….” We don’t want to ignore our body’s need for exercise. And God designed us for a body-mind connection.

A study from the University of Illinois actually found physical activity can increase cognitive control and attention span. So why not get creative and use exercise time to the glory of God?

  • Prayer walk around your neighborhood.
  • Walk on a beach and hand out tracts.
  • Memorize a scripture while exercising.

4. Stay Hydrated!

We forget how much of our body is made up of water. Even mild dehydration, one study found, can impact a person’s ability to concentrate for long.

In her super-intentional book, 40 Days to Healthy Living, RN Danna Demetre says, "If you wait to drink water until you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated," and one of the symptoms of dehydration, she says, is "poor concentration."

As you drink in the Living Water of the Word, don’t forget pure H20 can refresh your body so you can focus on what God has to say. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times.

3. Ask Questions that Encourage Study.

Jesus was a master at asking questions. One author suggests Jesus asked 307 questions in the scriptures. He definitely wanted to get his disciples and seekers thinking.

He asked questions like, “Why are you afraid?”—“Where is your faith?”—and “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

Asking questions will help you stay engaged and apply what you are learning. It might even lead to a life-changing research project!

4. Incorporate Christian Music.

A study at Stanford University’s School of Medicine found listening to classical music engages the areas of the brain that affect attention and memory. Music certainly can play a part in a Christian’s focus on the Lord.

Choose music that is both inspirational and truth-packed to get your attention and creative juices flowing. I recommend the CD “Be Still: Piano Meditations” by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

(But Note: if you are like me, when you are deep in study you may want some simple symphonies in the background instead—I find myself singing words of well-known hymns, and my brain starts chasing other topics!)

5. Write to Focus.

Writing long-hand engages more mental processing according to researchers.

Whether you journal or simply make notes in book margins or underline passages, writing will help you focus your thoughts—even better than using a laptop (which can prove to be an easy distraction).

Which of these attention span expanders could help you today? Do you have other ideas to help you focus?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphics adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jun142016

Trying Too Hard vs. Enjoying Good Enough

I can't tell you how many time the wise counsel from Joan C. Webb has resonated with my heart. We are kindred spirits. In this Attitude and Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she tackles the unhealthy thinking that surrounds "perfectionistic thinking," even in the church.

"Tired after an extra-long work day, Richard and I decided to eat a simple dinner at home—by candlelight," Joan says. "I rested while he cleaned up. Then it happened!"

I (Dawn) often feel dog-tired, collapsing after a long day. Are you struggling with weariness too? Let's pay close attention to Joan's wise counsel.

Joan continues . . .

After our intentionally relaxing evening, the phone rang. Rushing to answer it, we inadvertently knocked over the burning candle. It flew, hit the piano, landing on the carpet. We spent two hours cleaning up globs of wax.

“How stupid!” Richard muttered. Previously I might have agreed.

This time I smiled inside.

I don’t buy that. It was an awkward situation, but no one or no thing is stupid because of it.

Perhaps like me, you may have at times believed that everything is either perfectly wonderful as you envision it should be or totally botched-up.

But the truth is that joy and fun can mix with mistakes and disappointment.

There is a fundamental difference between trying too hard to make it (someone, or something) “just right” and partnering with God for excellence.

I found relief as I began to understand these two underlying principles.

So how do you know when you’re trying too hard to make it “just right,” and what can you do about it?

1. Our culture focuses primarily on doing and it has led to an action-addiction epidemic. It’s wearing us out.

Pursue being first and doing will follow.

You and I have the joy of partnering with the Ultimate Being—the Great “I AM”, allowing Him to show us who we are and what He’s designed us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

2. Are you trying to avoid someone else’s disapproval? Or are you playing the comparison game?

You can let yourself off the guilt-hook: You don’t have to be the best mother, wife, worker, friend, or Christian compared to others.

You get to be the best version of yourself—the person God created you to be.

This is doable and reasonable.

3. When you get caught in the “trying too hard to make it just right” gerbil wheel, you may succumb to black and white thinking: It’s all good or all bad.

When you feel stuck, STOP.

Pause.

Make an intentional choice to think not in black and white, but in your favorite color. It is in this place that options, ideas, and freedom are found.

4. Pause and listen to your self-talk.

A mentee recently told me that she has a “Hitler-Type Bully” in her head. Listen for the “I should...," "I must...," "I have to..." demands you silently make on yourself.

This is not how God’s Spirit guides you.

With His loving and gentle guidance, you can change your self-chat. Ask a safe mentor, coach or counselor to help you stay committed to this new way of thinking.

I do believe there is an epidemic of this kind of “perfectionistic thinking.” It seems to be a tactic of the enemy. He wants to keep us overly-busy and exhausted, because when we are we become vulnerable to the subtle “trying too hard” misbeliefs mentioned above.

This hinders the kingdom-work God wants to do through us and the enemy is pleased.

For those of you—and it includes me—who have a tendency to over-try to make things “just right" and then get bone-tired, what one small choice will help you enjoy “good enough” this week?

Go ahead. It is okay with God.

He’s not trying to make it harder for you. He wants to lighten your load (Matthew 11:29-30).

For more about the difference between “trying too hard” and “partnering with God for excellence,” see Joan's free resource.

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right, The Intentional Woman and a devotion titled, It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about her books, services and teaching, visit www.joancwebb.com.

 

Wednesday
Nov252015

On-Purpose Thankfulness...in the Midst of Reality

Joan C. Webb and I have joked that we must have come from the same blueprint. We both care deeply about making intentional choices. In this special Thanksgiving UPGRADE, she encourages "on-purpose" thankfulness.

"When a holiday like Thanksgiving rolls around do you ever ruminate too much?

     Over what you did or didn’t do at the last family get-together?
     Or how your house or cooking skills don’t measure up?
     Or how others don’t help like they should?

"Perhaps different concerns bother you when you lay your head on your pillow at night," Joan says. "Like others (myself included) maybe you’d like to hush your racing mind and relax."    

Uh huh. Describes me (Dawn) perfectly.

Joan continues . . .

As a child I memorized Philippians 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 It seemed like such a wise way to live. I liked it.

Yet, I never dreamed how challenging it would be to pray, ask, thank, and experience peace. All while trying to manage relationships, hormones, major life decisions, job and financial challenges, health issues and inevitable disappointment.

What was Paul really saying to the people in the Philippian church (and you and me) in these verses?

After studying the original Greek, I think he’s encouraging us to—when we’re feeling annoyed and anxious about what happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow:

  • Take full advantage of the grace-gift of prayer, available to us because of Christ’s rescuing work on the cross.
  • Admit both unpleasant personal and corporate needs to God.
  • Pause and slow down, offering the bold combination of requesting and gratitude as an act of worship.
  • Do this intentionally with active, on-purpose thanksgiving.

But sometimes we wonder how to do this?

Here’s a practical habit to cultivate: Develop a Gratitude Journal.

1. Buy a simple spiral notebook.

Start slow—with one journal entry per week. You can expand to additional days later.

2. Name one thing you did recently that you’re thankful for.

This is a vital step in your gratitude process, yet you might find it the most challenging. It is for many.

We ask God to help us grow to be more like Christ; to be healthier emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically. Then, when there is evidence that God is working in us and we’re responding in obedience, we shrink from acknowledging the progress for fear that we’ll become too self-focused. Yet we negate a part of ourselves and who God is when we refuse to thank Him for what He’s doing in us.

You might write something like: 

  • “I acknowledge that I’ve been working hard with preparations and need to rest. Thanks that I took time for a nap this weekend.”
  • Or “I recognize that I finished this report early. I’m grateful.”
  • Or “Thank you that I was honest with my spouse about my thoughts/feelings without yelling.” (Maybe for you, it was “without withdrawing,” because that—not yelling—is your normal non-helpful style.)

3. Then jot down one thing that someone else did that you’re grateful for.

This will be enlightening if you’re used to ruminating on how your boss, sister, spouse, parent disappoints or irritates you.

4. Last, list five things for which you’re grateful.

Your friend’s encouraging text. Last night’s rainbow. The new supplement you’ve started. That you had a headache-free day.

Will you exercise these intentional gratitude steps during this holiday season 2015? Maybe you’ll want to keep it beside your nightstand. Watch for signs of an increased sense of well-being and peace. And then thank God for that, as well.

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right, The Intentional Woman and a devotion titled, It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about her books, services and teaching, visit www.joancwebb.com

Graphic adapted, young woman with book, Pixabay.

Tuesday
Aug042015

Permission to Serve God Imperfectly

One of the things you'll discover about Joan C. Webb is her authenticity and the desire to live make intentional choices. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she invites us to choose to relax in our service.

"I remember the day my shoulders relaxed and I gained permission to serve God in spite of my humanness and nagging imperfection," Joan says. "I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time; it was such a grace-filled release."

Did you get that? Isn't that what you want—to serve God in "grace-filled release"? I know I (Dawn) do; and I need the peace that comes with grace too.

Joan continues . . .

Every person in the packed hotel lobby stared at me as I banged my head against the glass door and fell to the concrete floor. The manager hurried to my side.

“That was dumb,” I whispered.

“You okay?” he asked.

“I thought it was an open door,” I mumbled. All I wanted was to pick up the morning’s newspaper on the other side of the room. Instead, I walked forcefully into a recently cleaned picture window.

“I’ll be fine, thanks,” I responded as I walked away, blurry-eyed.

How could you have done that, Joan? You know better.

 Then remarkably, my thoughts shifted. Hey, it was a mistake!

 And just as quickly shifted again. Yeah sure, JC. Not only was it a mistake, but a very public example of imperfection. Wonder if they all think you’re tipsy this early in the day.

Yet I couldn’t stifle an internal chuckle, because I was at the hotel to write another chapter in my book, The Relief of Imperfection. Right before I walked into the floor-to-ceiling glass window, I wrote the following words in my journal:

You know what? I don’t think there is a single biblical character (spiritual giant or not) who was consistently pure, good, or wise. Not one!

  • Abram lied about his relationship with wife Sarai (Genesis 12:10-20). Twice.
  • Sarah shamed and ridiculed her employee Hagar (Genesis 16:6).
  • Paul and John Mark had a public ministry split (Acts 15:36-40).
  • Peter impetuously cut off a soldier’s ear in defense of His friend Jesus and then denied even knowing Him (John 18:10,26).
  • James and John jockeyed for higher status, disregarding the others on Jesus’ team (Mark 10:35-41).

 Each had unique flaws, limitations, imperfect relationships, quirky habits or faulty reasoning. Yet…

Over the years, I have studied and received spiritual direction from these and other biblical servants. But perhaps I had not honestly examined the cumulative picture.

On this particular morning, God lovingly splashed His grace into my “trying too hard to serve Him just right” mentality and I saw the truth:

There is not one totally perfect human role model in the entire Bible.

(Well, except Jesus—who was 100-percent God and 100-percent man.)

I experienced a relief-producing paradigm shift that day as God assured me that: 

  1. He says “yes” to partnering with sinful, flawed, limited human beings (like me!) who choose to accept His Son Jesus Christ’s work on the cross and follow Him.
  2. Jesus surrounded Himself with perfectly imperfect people who decided to admit their needs, take risks, make mistakes and grow.
  3. He loves me—not merely what I can do. He wants me to grow. And since I want that, also, we’re on the same page with this desire. God doesn’t expect me to be, do or make it all just right all the time. That’s His job.

Now, I’m inviting you to re-read that last point with yourself in mind. God loves you – not merely what you can do. He loves watching you courageously serve Him without being overly-concerned about doing it all perfectly.

Are your shoulders relaxing yet? 

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Intentional Woman (co-authored with Carol Travilla), The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right and a four-book devotional series for children. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about becoming an intentional woman, visit Joan's website

Thursday
May142015

How to Stop Being an Adrenaline Junkie

Joan Webb’s intentional living so aligns with my desire to make wise choices. I invited her to write this Attitude UPGRADE because she puts her finger on a big issue with so many women.

“‘You really love this, don’t you? You’re so animated when you’re busy working.’ Although my client meant this as a compliment,” Joan said, “I gagged when I heard her words.

OK. I (Dawn) will get totally honest here. Joan pegged one of my huge struggles. I live with the stress of busyness, and some of it is self-imposed. Oh, how I needed to read this! Maybe you do too.

Joan continues . . .

To me, my client’s words represented a lifestyle I’d tried to ditch. Anything that reminded me of my excessive behavior felt like a punch in the gut.

I get a high when rushing, working and finding solutions. I am an adrenaline junkie. 

What do I mean by “adrenaline junkie”? 

Experts say action-addiction is both a process and a substance addiction. We get a high when we over-do, over-rush or even over-help. As long as the chemical keeps flowing, we medicate our past or current distress. 

Incidentally, some action-addicts appear motionless at times, but their minds are racing.

Normally, hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline release when we sense there’s a threat to our well-being. It’s the “Fight or Flight Response,” and it produces a shot of energy, giving us strength to cope with frightening situations.

With this response, heart rate escalates, digestion slows and blood flow forces to our muscles. Our bodies return to their natural state of relaxation when the real or perceived threat passes. 

When we’re addicted to action, we remain in chronic stress-mode, causing damage to our bodies. 

Initially, symptoms are fairly mild, like chronic headaches and lowered resistance to colds. Eventually we can develop depression, panic attacks, gum disease, unexplained weight gain, diabetes, stomach problems and even heart disease. 

Who wants THAT?

Doctors agree there is a pandemic of action-addiction in our world today. Author Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

“What belief have we accepted that suggests that, if we are not rushing and hurrying, we have no meaning?” 

An often-effective treatment for action-addiction includes identifying and modifying our negative thought patterns. For example, modification of the above misbelief can become: I am a valuable person, even when I quit working and helping to relax.

This all reminds me of something the wisest man who ever lived wrote: "Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6).

When I continually run, chase, rush after stuff—even if it is very good and helpful stuffI whiz past tranquility in the pursuit.

What are some wise, practical things we can do to shake hands with tranquility again?

1. Pause to breathe deeply.

Slow down. Breathe. Give yourself time to think and feel again.

2. Pause to enjoy God.

Reflect on who you are in Christ! He invites you to come and find rest. (Matthew 11:28-30.)

Pray—have an unrushed conversation with the Lord. Soak in His love; meditate on what He’s said.

3. Pause to enjoy yourself … and others (without trying to fix them).

Honor who God created you to be.

If you’re an introvert, schedule a re-energizing alone-time activity. (Maybe just to soak in a hot tub. Perhaps to enjoy an overnight personal retreat.) If you’re an extrovert, schedule a re-vitalizing activity with friends, uninterrupted by to-dos and work.

And repeat these steps at regular intervals!

Ahhhh. I can feel my shoulders relaxing and that constant adrenaline surge diminishing.

What helps you become friends with tranquility again? 

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Intentional Woman (co-authored with Carol Travilla), The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right and a four-book devotional series for children. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about becoming an intentional woman, visit Joan's website