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Thursday
Aug282014

Helping Kids with Their GPS (God Positioning System)

Some women, like Deedra Scherm, seem to have been born with a parenting creativity gene. In this Parenting UPGRADE, she offers practical counsel for building spiritual insight into children’s lives.

“I was driving in downtown Dallas, trying to find my way to have lunch with my cousin Cathy,” Deedra says, “when I had to pull over to call my husband.”

Like Deedra, I (Dawn) often get turned around in the car. (OK, I get totally, horribly lost.) I used to feel terrible about that until I read somewhere that Einstein, a genius, often lost his way too. (Maybe that’s a myth, but I’m sticking with it!)

Deedra continues …

“I’m LOST!” I said with great frustration. “And I’m already 10 minutes late for lunch!”

“Okay," my husband said. "Just tell me where you are.”

“If I knew THAT, I wouldn’t be LOST!”

Shortly after that my husband gave me a GPS (Global Positional System) to help me navigate the roads. Is it too much to say I love my GPS? Because I do. I no longer have anxiety when I have to navigate new roads. I just turn it on and enjoy the path I’m driving.

My spiritual life needs a lot of guidance at times.  Over the years I have learned about the importance of reading God’s Word, prayer, and wise counsel, because I’ve discovered, The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NAS).

I wanted to start teaching my children at a very young age how to understand the importance of God’s desire to guide their lives. 

Their “God Positioning System.” Their own “GPS.”

I thought I’d share a few easy ways to help plant seeds in young children on how to seek God’s guidance for themselves. The hope is that as they get older, seeking God’s guidance will become a natural part of their lives.

1. RECORD family prayers.

It seems like such a simple thing, but it can have such a great impact when you take the time to pray as a family and write down the requests and answers. The visual of written requests and recorded answers can make a lasting impression on a child about how God listens and responds.

When you record family prayers, it not only shows kids the importance of prayer, but it encourages them to seek prayer for themselves as they face decisions in their own lives. 

2. RECALL the times God has personally guided you.

Find ways to share moments where God has guided you and your family to where you are now.

When the boys are enjoying playing at the park next to our house, I like to say, “I remember when we were looking for a place to live and we just couldn’t find anything. Then we prayed for God to open up a house near this park. What a wonderful blessing He gave us with our house.” 

When you recall how you sought God for a decision point in your life, it will encourage them to seek His guidance when they are faced with decision in front of them. 

3. RELATE your child’s story to the story of someone in the Bible.

The Word of God is one of the main paths of guidance for us as Christians. Whenever we can direct our children to find connections to scripture, it will help them be able to relate as they get older.

When your child is experiencing fear, tell them about the story of Daniel and how God will take care of them in the scariest of circumstances.  When they are worried about if they are good enough, tell them the story of the boy with five loaves and a couple of fish and how Jesus can take what you have and use it for His glory. 

When you relate your child’s story to the Bible, it will encourage them to seek the Word for guidance when they are faced with challenging circumstances before them.

4. REMEMBER to show God’s provision in the “less-than-what-I-hoped-for.”

I remember circling a parking lot with my three boys in the car when the “front row” spot opened. “It’s the favor of God!” said one boy.  

At first, I was a little proud at his response. But as I thought about it, I realized that if I only thank God for the good things, when things get tough the kids could believe it’s because God has no hand in it. 

The next time we got the back-row spot, I said, “Oh, it would have been great to be in the front row, but maybe God knew I needed some extra exercise. Or maybe someone who has trouble walking needed that spot more than we did.” 

After time, I saw the boys applying this principle to all sorts of areas in their lives … from when they didn’t win the prize in the raffle to when someone else at church got the starring spot in the spring musical. 

When you remember to show God’s provision in tough times, it will encourage kids to trust God’s plan even when things don’t go their way.

What a great gift you can give to your kids if you teach them to have their own “GPS.” Then they can stop worrying about being lost, and really start enjoying the journey!

Can you think of a teachable moment when you recently taught a child (or a mentee or a friend) how to trust God for guidance? Which of Deedra’s four points could you use in the days ahead?

Deedra Scherm lives in Dallas with her husband and three boys. Between homeschooling and writing, she’s on constant watch for “parents night out” so she and her hubby can get one of those things called a date night. You can find Deedra’s  bestselling book, The ABC Bible Verse Book, and other books and DVDs at lemonvision.com or amazon.com

 

Tuesday
Aug262014

Let God 'Skim Off' Your Pride

Pam Farrel’s books for women have both encouraged and challenged me. This Attitude UPGRADE is one example of how God spoke through Pam to confront my own pride.

“One of the ugliest sins I ever had to confront was my own pride,” Pam wrote in Woman of Influence.

When I (Dawn) first read that, I thought: There are a lot of sins that are uglier than pride. But then the Holy Spirit started chiseling away on my own heart, showing me my own nasty pride. Pam’s right. It’s UGLY!

She continues …

Everywhere I turned, God was pointing out pride. All the illustrations I heard in sermons, all the topics at a conference I attended, all the conversations with other women of influence centered around pride.

I caught myself wondering how I could be guilty of pride, since so often I battled a self-confidence problem. Then God pointed out:  

Oversensitive low self-esteem is pride turned inside out!

When I battle low self-esteem, I am still focusing on me. I am concentrating on seeking approval and encouragement. My eyes are on my needs, when God wants my eyes on Him.

During that time, God brought to my mind all the ugly words I had never voiced but had thought.

  • Why is she so rich when I have just as much talent?
  • Why is she teaching when I know as much as she does?
  • Why is God blessing that ministry with huge numbers instead of ours?

In my complaints, I was telling God that His plan was wrong and mine was right.

Pride made me play God in my own life.

My heart was broken over my sin. I got away to a private place with God; I fell to my knees and wept. I listed every good thing, every compliment I could remember, and I thanked God for what He had accomplished through me, or rather in spite of me.

When goldsmiths create pure gold, they heat up the fire, and the dross and impurities come to the surface. The goldsmiths skim off the impurities until they can see their own reflection in the gold.

The author of Proverbs says, "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart" (Proverbs 17:3).

God’s grace brought my pride to the surface to be skimmed off. I wanted the impurities taken out of my life until people could see God in me.

Afterward, I wanted to keep my confession between God and myself, but God stoked up the fire again. I felt that He wanted me to openly confess my hidden sin of pride. I was afraid of the criticism my confession would bring on me. After all, I was a leader. I should have dealt with pride long ago.

God showed me when He wanted me to confess, and to whom.

I was discipling a small group of women leaders, and I shared my confession and restoration with them. Later, on a Sunday night, I stood up in front of our congregation during a share time and told the highlights of what I had learned from God.

I knew then I was free, because I didn’t care if they thought less of me; God had accepted me by His grace. My slate was clean.

I did hear some criticism through the grapevine, but mostly I felt personal relief for a burden laid down.

And there was another benefit: a new transparency developed in those who were following my leadership. Because I was honest enough to expose the ugliness of my sin, others felt free to ask for help with hidden areas they had battled for years.

Do you struggle with the ugliness of pride? Bring it to God and allow Him to skim it off and give you a pure, humble heart.

Pam Farrel  with her husband Bill, are  international speakers, and authors of over 40 books including best-selling Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti, Woman of Influence, 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make, 10 Secrets to Living Smart, Savvy and Strong, and her newest, Becoming a Brave New Woman. The Farrels, married 35 years, are relationship specialists who help people become “Love-Wise ."

 

Thursday
Aug212014

Living in Uncertainty: Waiting on God

Julie Watson is a gifted woman who not only has technical expertise, she also has deep compassion for people who hurt. In this UPGRADE, she encourages us with powerful words about patience.

“Having patience, standing in line, waiting my turn … these are things I learned in kindergarten,” Julie says, “but still didn’t do well ... until now.” 

Watching Julie in her long waiting season has inspired me (Dawn) and taught me to trust God’s timing. But what I value most are the lessons God has taught her.

Julie continues…

I quit praying for patience long ago because I realized every time I did, I’d somehow get stuck behind the slowest drivers known to man!

God is not surprised by my impatience, but for my journey, He gave me something very special to wait for.

Nearly 17 years ago I married the man of my dreams. As most young couples do, we made plans for our future. Children were a part of that plan. However, life throws you curveballs, and mine came in the form of a slow growing type of ovarian cancer. Long story short, having children—natural children, that is—were no longer in our plans.

We were saddened, but not devastated. God had other plans … perfect plans!

Fast forward to Easter week 2013. Adoption was always something we wanted to do once we found out we couldn’t have children. It just took us a LONG time to get there.

When my husband and I separately received confirmation from God that it was time to move forward (on Good Friday of all days) we were READY! And, when I say ready, we literally prayed someone would drop a child onto our doorstep the next day!

Needless to say, adoption doesn’t work like that. We waited… and waited… and waited some more.

Living in uncertainty is never fun. Waiting for something I had wanted for so long stirred a whole range of new emotions, and I learned some things along the way:

1) Don’t ever stop talking to God—keep praying diligently for His will to be done and leave your own will out of it!

2) Don’t stop listening to God—keep reading His Word, be still and allow His truth to penetrate your heart! (Proverbs 4:11-13)

3) Don’t alienate yourself by shutting others outkeep your support team on standby; you’ll need their continuous encouragement and prayer!

4) Don’t hold in the anger, frustration or disappointmentkeep it real and be honest with yourself and God. You can even yell at God; it doesn’t surprise Him and He can take it—plus it might be very cathartic for you!

5) Don’t doubt the path God placed you onkeep your eyes on the prize and persevere! (Isaiah 40:31; Jeremiah 17:7-8)

6) Don’t stop planning—keep your priorities straight, your routines normal and don’t stop living just because you don’t know when “that something” is coming! (Philippians 4:12-13)

So yes, I hate waiting (even still). But, I now see God’s handiwork in the wait. I know the wait will equip me for the task ahead. And, I know that if I trust God and wait on Him, He will accomplish great things in and through me (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28).

Lastly, even while writing this article God revealed to me why I needed to wait for what was coming.

We were about to embark on the hardest journey of our lives and marriage.

We chose to open our home to a sibling set of abused and neglected foster children who needed a ton of love. But what do they need almost as much as love? A mountain-sized amount of PATIENCE (1 Corinthians 13:4a).

Had I not gone through this waiting game, I never would have been ready for the most important job of my life: motherhood.

Are you waiting on God for something? How can you use this time to prepare (physically, emotionally, spiritually) for what’s to come?

Julie Watson has worked with pregnancy care centers over the years and is currently a Grant Writer. She and her husband Shawn are new parents to three beautiful children who have forever changed their lives. The process of becoming foster/adoptive parents was neither painless nor short, but was well worth the wait. They know these children were hand-picked by God to be their own, and plan to adopt as soon as they are legally allowed.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday
Aug192014

Upgrade Your Life While You Wait

I've been following what's happening in Kathy Carlton Willis' life, so I know this UPGRADE was born as a life message in her heart.

"No one eludes those pesky life on-hold challenges," Kathy says, "but everyone wants to know how to live through them without hating the wait."

Waiting. It's not something I (Dawn) have ever enjoyed. It's so hard for me to "wait for the Lord" and His goodness in my circumstances (Psalm 27:13-14). So I appreciate Kathy's "waiting wisdom."

She continues ...

Probably the hardest thing for me, and most of you, is the trial of hurry-up-and-wait. Left unchecked, it tests my patience, challenges my contentment, and sours my joy.

I have several God-and-me times yearly to evaluate the priorities He wants me to have, the goals He sets for me—you name it. The frustrating part comes when I think I have my marching orders from God and then something comes into my life that puts everything on hold.

I get so antsy to want to hurry up and do what God has planted as a burning passion in my life, but instead I have no choice but to wait. It feels like I’m expected to sit on my hands! I’m quite certain you can relate.

I’ve come to realize that the reason I hate the wait is because I feel like I have to make progress to please God. And I’ve been programmed to think I have to be doing something or see a situation moving in the right direction to count as progress.

I’m learning from back-to-back-to-back on-hold situations that it’s in the wait where we grow, others grow, and situations come together for a better outcome later on. Just because we can’t see the signs of progress doesn’t mean nothing good is going on.

Psalm 62:5 says, "Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him" (NLT).

The wait is not a delay, it’s an on-purpose plateau to let what used to be catch up with what’s going to be in the future.

It’s just like losing weight. If we don’t allow for the plateaus when we diet, our skin doesn’t shrink up and we walk around like Shar Pei puppies. We don’t want saggy baggy skin, and we don’t want saggy baggy lives, either.

A life on hold isn’t a life delayed. It’s just not time yet.

What do you do about it when you hit a delay in your git-up-and-go? Does it derail you? Do you learn to be flexible? How do you cope? After you are no longer on hold, does hindsight help you find the blessing in the wait?

Perhaps you recognize a drama avoided by the delay or a travesty missed by the trial of waiting. Or maybe you see the results of a spiritual growth spurt that took place during the time you felt you were stalled out.

One of the exercises I learned to do during my latest life-on-hold period was to evaluate: What do I do that drains me? What energizes me?

God loves for us to accentuate those things that propel us rather than those things that drag us down. Think motors, not anchors. Of course, all work has aspects we don’t like—that’s why it’s called work! But it’s important to do something daily that gets us jazzed. Can you put your finger on that thing that makes your motor purr?

Delays are the beginning of grand adventures.

Join me today by asking yourself, “What attitude adjustment can I make today to help me get closer to the future God’s dreamed up just for me?”

Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published and she has several books releasing over the next three years, including Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers. She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas. Learn more at: www.kathycarltonwillis.com/

Thursday
Aug142014

Cultivate the Beauty of Gratitude at Home

There's nothing more precious in this culture of entitlement than a grateful, appreciative child, as we can see in this Parenting UPGRADE

I've learned a lot about parenting from the Word of God ... but also at Wal-mart.

What I mean is, I see examples of good parenting and poor parenting almost every time I shop there!

Two cases in point:

There was a little girl in the grocery section who whined constantly that she wanted this and that, wearing down her frazzled mom's nerves. I heard her a couple of aisles away, but ran into them in the cookie aisle.

Finally, the mother gave in and got her daughter the cookies she wanted. The whiney daughter didn't even say "thank you."

And you think she'd be satisfied. But no ... she started asking for more.

And then there was an adorable boy—same store, same day—a little older than the girl. I was in the toy department, looking for a hula hoop. The boy was waiting for his mom while she priced some beach toys.

"Mom, can I get this water gun?" he asked, fingering a big, powerful-looking, high-grade water cannon.

"Honey, you know we can't afford that right now," Mom said. "Maybe for your birthday."

"Yeah, I know," the boy said as he stood quietly by the cart.

Suddenly, the mom picked up two water pistols—much more affordable. "How about these?" she said, "one for you and one for Charlie."

The boy's mouth dropped open in a huge smile. "Thanks, Mom!"

Even though I overheard these two families' conversations, I could have guessed a lot about them without any words, simply by the spirit they communicated at the store.

I thought: Man, that girl was a pain, but I'd take that boy home in an instant! What a sweetie!

There's beauty and grace in gratitude, but an unthankful heart is just plain ugly.

Certainly we are to be grateful to God (Psalm 136:1; Colossians 3:17) and in the circumstances of life (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20); but we need to give thanks for and to people as well (Ephesians 1:16; Colossians 3:15). Many times this gratitude surfaces as pronouncing a blessing on others, or a willingness to repay them in kind because of what they have done for us (see 2 Samuel 2:6).

"Abounding in thanksgiving" is part of our walk of faith (Colossians 2:6-7); it should be evident in our lives.

I do believe some temperament types are more conducive to thankfulness, but gratitude can be cultivated by anyone. And parents have the responsibility to teach it to their children. To model it.

So how do we fight the "entitlement culture" and cultivate the beauty of gratitude at home?

It's E-E-E-E-E-asy.

1. Encourage appreciation for others in the home. Be intentional. Tell them why you love them. Thank them sincerely when they serve you or finish a task you've asked them to do.

2. Explain to your children how others serve them with time, effort, money and other resources. Make them more aware of things they can be grateful for in daily living.

3. Educate everyone in the family in how to write thank you notes (a lost art in modern culture), and how to tell someone "thank you" in a sincere, meaningful way.

4. Express gratitude (verbally or in a note) for the special things your family members and friends do for you - for their encouragement, counsel, gifts and other things you receive.

5. Enlist your family to create "thank you" gifts. Make small gift boxes or baskets for those who serve your family—your dentist or hairdresser, for example. (Note: Your payment is "expected" for services rendered; but you can always surpise those who serve you with "something extra.")

Create a larger basket for your pastor, pastor's wife, missionaries or leaders in parachurch organizations to share your appreciation for their ministry.

6. Extend gratitude even more ... to your children's teachers, their Sunday school teachers, community servants, people in your neighborhood, etc.

7. Empathize with those who are hurting, and notice when they "suffer well." Thank them for their godly example. (But don't stop ministering to those who hurt who are still struggling! They need encouragement, compassion and prayer!)

It's always a choice to cultivate the beauty of gratitude in our homes and in the lives of others. Who knows what will bloom in their lives!

Which of these "E"-asy tips for cultivating gratitude are you already doing? Something new you'd like to try?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.