Hot off the press!

[Bios on Partners Page]

Lina AbuJamra

Sue Badeau

Dianne Barker

Twila Belk

Dr. Gail Bones

Harriet Bouchillon

Mary Carver

Pamela Christian

Lisa Copen

Erin Davis

Diane Dean

Deb DeArmond

Kelly DeChant

Danna Demetre

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Dena Dyer

Melissa Edgington

Pat Ennis

Morgan Farr

Pam Farrel

Renee Fisher

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Doreen Hanna

Holly Hanson

Debbie Harris

Paula Hendricks

Cathy Horning

Kathy Howard

Priscilla Jenson

Lane P. Jordan

Rebecca Barlow Jordan

Ellie Kay

Maria Keckler

Debby Lennick

Kathi Lipp

Kathi Macias

Melissa Mashburn

Dianne Neal Matthews

Cindi McMenamin

Kathy Collard Miller

Lynn Mosher

Karen O'Connor

Arlene Pellicane

Ava Pennington

Laura Petherbridge

Gail Purath

Marcia Ramsland

Rhonda Rhea

Vonda Rhodes

Charlotte Riegel

Cynthia Ruchti

Julie Sanders

Deedra Scherm

Judy Scharfenberg

Stephanie Shott

Poppy Smith

Stacie Stoelting

Jill Swanson

Janet Thompson

Janice Thompson

Leslie Vernick

Laurie Wallin

Joan C. Webb

Cherri Williamson

Kathy Carlton Willis

Jamie Wood

Dawn Wilson

Thursday
Jul242014

How to Love Cantankerous People

Dianne Barker helps women navigate the challenges in their lives, encouraging them to follow Jesus. In this UPGRADE, she offers practical tips for tough relationships.

          

“Where do they come from? Surely there’s a factory somewhere in America turning out cantankerous people like an auto assembly line. They’re everywhere!” Dianne said. “Grocery check-out. Department store. Medical office. Work place. School. Neighborhood. Church. Under our own roof.”

A woman’s name instantly came to my (Dawn’s) mind as I read those words. How about you? As you read this post, think about the “cantankerous” person in your own life.

Dianne continues …

We encounter cantankerous people when we least expect them—prayed up, filled with joy, minding our own business…then bam! Somebody comes along stomping out happiness.

Unprovoked touch-and-go stranger clashes rattle us momentarily, but we recover, pray for the person, and move on. The challenge: living in a daily unchangeable relationship with a cantankerous person. I call this complicated dimension hard lovin’.

I wasn’t sure cantankerous was a legitimate word. It is indeed and loaded with meaning. Bad-tempered, irritable, crabby, argumentative, difficult, complaining, unreasonable, belligerent, cranky, grouchy, grumpy, disagreeable. Anyone you know?

We spend life from cradle to grave sharing relationships. Some are easy. Some are downright hard.

How do we practice hard lovin’ in permanent relationships with cantankerous people who may act more like an enemy than kin?

Jesus, in His own words:

“…Make it a practice to love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred. Invoke the blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you (who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you)” (Luke 6:27-28 Amplified).

That kind of love is gut-wrenching! Why bother? Apostle Paul said, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24:16).

I bother so my conscience is clear.

I’ve learned this:

1. One person in the relationship, relying on God’s grace, can change the relationship.

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).

2. The relationship is more important than the last word.

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14).

3. Loving most is a Christ-like thing. He laid down His life.

He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).

4. If I do all the giving, I get all the blessing.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20).

5. The quality of a relationship is determined by one radical decision: I will obey God, putting into practice what His Word says, no matter what.

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).

More from Paul (Romans 12:9-12):

  • “Let love be genuine…
  • Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…
  • Live in harmony with one another…
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…
  • Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’
  • To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 How do we practice hard lovin’ in difficult permanent relationships? Just do it.

 “Let a man be what he will, you are to love him” (Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender).

 Which of the five tips will help you best respond to your “cantankerous” person?

Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author of eleven books including the 1986 best-seller Twice Pardoned (life of Harold Morris, Focus on the Family Publishing). Her new book, I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life throws a rope to the desperate drowning in disorganization—purging interior garbage (inferiority, low esteem) and submitting fully to Christ. She and her husband James have two married children and one grandson.

Graphic in text adapted, Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday
Jul222014

How to Grow Faith at the Cellular Level

Author and pastor’s wife Rhonda Rhea always tickles my funny bone, right before she whops me right upside the head with truth!

“My kids are all in their early twenties and all very tech-savvy, so it was really funny the other day

when they saw one of the earliest cell phones,” Rhonda says. “I’m talking vintage here—just this side of fossilized. And huge. A dinosaur in every way.”

            

If you know the kind of phones Rhonda’s talking about, you’re dating yourself. Dr. Martin Cooper (pictured here) is credited with creating the first cell phone for Motorola. Imagine holding that to your ear for while … can you say, “Muscle cramp”?

Rhonda continues …

I dubbed the phone “Cell-a-saurus Rex.” My kids thought it must be some sort of coffee grinder. I think one of them was trying to get it to churn butter.

If you want to know what it was really like with those first mobile phones, try holding your microwave oven upside your head. All the mobile phone bells and whistles? I’m pretty sure on those first phones, they were actual bells and whistles.

I told my kids that I thought people probably had a tough time back then knowing if a guy was listening to his boom box or talking on his cell phone. Of course, then I had to explain what a boom box was. I told them it was a giant mp3 player.

I’m thankful technology is always evolving, coming up with something bigger and better.

Or sometimes something smaller and better.

Sometimes size is pretty relative. I want a big faith. I really do. I want super-sized faith with all the bells and whistles. But when the disciples asked Jesus to give them bigger faith, Jesus answered in a rather surprising way.

In Luke 17:5 the disciples said to Jesus, “Increase our faith.” Jesus’ answer? “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you’” (HCSB).

Matthew tells us that Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you,’” (Matthew 17:20, HCSB).

According to Jesus Himself, with even the tiniest faith, we can do huge things. Impossible things. Impossible things like bearing fruit in our ministries. Even finding great joy in it.

It’s not so much the SIZE of the faith as it is WHO the faith is in.

A faith planted firmly in Christ and an obedient response to His lordship makes a huge impact on life. Mountainous!

It’s good to remember that faith grows at the deepest part of who we are. At the “cellular” level, if you will. Not just the surface parts. Not even just the p-dub service parts. But all the way to the heart.

Paul tells us in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Don’t you love it that His Word teaches us about His character, His history, His power and His incomparable trustworthiness?

Studying the character of God has changed my faith. It always changes our faith—all the way down to our deepest, heart-of-heart parts. The more we study Him through His Word, and the more we know Him, the more we respond in obedience, and the more our faith grows.

How has God’s Word deepened your faith? Increased your faith? Stretched your faith?

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10 books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Espresso Your Faith - 30 Shots of God's Word to Wake You Up and a book designed to encourage Pastor’s Wives (P-Dubs): Join the Insanity. This sunny pastor’s wife lives near St. Louis and is “Mom” to five grown children. Find out more at www.RhondaRhea.com.

Note: Post is excerpted/adapted from Chapter 10, Join the Insanity.

Thursday
Jul172014

'Financial Language' - Are You an 'Overcomer'? - Part 3

Janice Thompson addressed three financial tsunamis in her last post (disability, unemployment and identity theft). In this Financial "Overcomer" Upgrade, she discusses divorce, widowhood and significant wealth.

"Regardless of the circumstances that lead up to a dynamic change in your financial life," Janice said, "any of these life-challenging events can thrust you into a place where you must quickly adapt to a new way of dealing with your financial world."

Divorce and widowhood can crush a woman's spirit, but significant wealth—especially when it arrives unexpectedly—can be just as overwhelming. I'm thankful for Janice's helpful insight.

She continues ...

In each of these circumstances, I encourage you to be patient with yourself and the process ahead of you. Remember, "Tsunamis" can be a catalyst to a deeper, richer relationship with God.

1. Divorce

I have yet to see a divorce that doesn't expose raw emotion and inflict unbearable pain on all parties involved. Divorce is often complicated by the fact that finances can be a major reason for the breakup.

While money problems may only be symptomatic of deeper issues, they are clearly among the contributing factors.

I am in no way an advocate of divorce, for it is not God's ideal, but I do understand that divorce happens. It is important that women who find themselves in this situation be proactive in the midst of their pain. They must move forward, making appropriate plans and taking appropriate actions.

It has been said that a woman facing divorce experiences many of the same emotions of a woman who experiences the death of her husband. Add to that the understanding that in many cases she has been rejected, and it is no wonder the psychological, emotional and financial adjustments are overwhelming.

It is imperative that you surround yourself with trusted advisers and legal counsel as you go through this process. There are many important steps to take before the divorce is final that can help you better prepare for being single again.

Let me also encourage you to develop a spirit of forgiveness as you go through this process. It is a critical component not only for your financial well-being, but also for your ability to be truly free to become a whole person again.

2. Widowhood

Adjusting to life after the death of a spouse is an agonizing journey. Widowhood is often met with an intense need for grounding, stability and a sense of normalcy and emotional relief. Widows need emotional support and the reassurance there is life beyond this intense pain!

It is critically important to work toward the development of a long-term plan, stabilizing cash flow and minimizing major spending decisions during the initial months of loss.

If you are newly widowed, I encourage you to postpone major financial decisions until you can think clearly about long-term goals and plans. Surround yourself with people who understand the journey you're on and will be patient with you through the process.

While the level of pain diminishes with time, the passion to honor the memory of a spouse with wise financial decision gives them purpose amidst the pain.

Women who have lost their beloved life-partner don't want anyone to forget the memory of their spouse, so while they may resist being prodded to "move on," they seem to be able to respond to the idea of "moving forward."

3. Significant Wealth

I can still remember the time when my husband and I were having one of our many family financial discussions with our children. The discussion turned to the financial impact "if Daddy died," which in turn led to a conversation about life insurance.

When our eight-year-old daughter, Jamie, found out her father had a substantial amount of life insurance, she jumped up and ran to the kitchen and started calculating some figures. She proudly returned a few minutes later with a budget of how this money would be spent.

  • She'd first tithe 10 percent,
  • then buy her brother a Lamborghini (David was six at the time!),
  • give me $50,000 (thank you, Jamie!)
  • and then she outlined the rest of her wish list.

While she had one thing right—making the Lord the first priority—we still laugh about the rest of her perspective. She had a lot to learn about the responsibility of handling significant wealth.

Interestingly, I have since seen grown women initially respond just like my eight-year-old did when they come into sudden or unexpected money!

The sense of responsibility that accompanies an influx of wealth can be intense when the emotion wears off.

Women need to recognize the importance of stabilizing their physical, emotional, spiritual and financial well-being before making major spending decisions.

Since wealth can also intensify the potential for mistrust as you find new friends you didn't know you had, be cautious. Evaluate your inner circle carefully. It is not uncommon to feel stretched and strained by a life-changing circumstance that others might feel would solve all their problems. It can, in fact, feel downright lonely.

No matter your tsunami—disability, unemployment, identity theft, divorce, widowhood, significant wealth, or something else—take a deep breath and begin working on an immediate cash flow plan to ensure day-to-day needs are met. If possible, postpone major spending and investing decisions until you can think clearly.

There is a reason God has allowed this event in your life. Surround yourself with a trusted inner circle who will give you wise counsel and help you develop a strategic plan that incorporates His purpose in all your decisions. And by all means, pray and trust God for peace and direction (Philippians 4:6-7).

Are you going through a tsunami experience right now? How will you seek God for encouragement and wise counsel? He can help you!

In her final "Financial Language" post (August 26), Jan will discuss timeless truths for all Financial Languages.

Janice Thompson is the co-Founder and CEO of One Degree Advisors, Inc., a comprehensive wealth management firm focused on biblically-based financial solutions. Janice is a Certified Financial Planner®, a Life Stewardship Advisor, and serves on the Board of Directors of Kingdom Advisors. She has two married children and one grandson. She and her husband Tom live in San Diego.

Note: Material adapted from the book, Managing Your Money Maze by Janice Thompson (Revive Our Hearts, 2009).

Graphic adapted: Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday
Jul152014

How to Cultivate Awe-titude

Joan C. Webb  is an intentional woman, and you can be an intentional woman too! In this Attitude UPGRADE, she shares a word she created that can help us all live more positive lives.

 “‘Thank you, Lord!’ I prayed. Yet my words,” Joan said, “felt inadequate to express what I thought about my joy-filled reality. While journaling, the coined word AWE-TITUDE plopped through my pen onto the page. Awe-titude—where awe and gratitude merge!”

Don’t you love that? When I saw this awesome word on Joan’s Facebook page, I (Dawn) knew she had to share it with our UPGRADE readers.

Joan continues …

I had sensed God by His Spirit whispering these shocking words, "Joan, ENOUGH! I'm not asking for more." (For a recovering perfectionistic over-achiever, this caused a “nice, but” war within me.)

Perhaps to assure me He wasn’t finished with me yet, God added, "Joan, the rest will be icing, so sweet. I’ve heard your heart’s longing to attend Bible School again. You’re right, it will take a miracle."

Why? Because I was a woman—too old, too un-credentialed and without the money or moral support I imagined I needed for such a thing.

Yet here I sat, thanking God for the miracle: I had been accepted at Phoenix Seminary. Awe-titude explained how I felt: In awe of who God is and what He had done for me; grateful that He’d moved me beyond disappointment and shame to thanksgiving joy.

I realize you may not identify with my particular life-long dream; but I share, trusting that God will connect you with your own story.

When Dawn first asked me to write on cultivating awe-titude, I started a mental list of various ways a woman could nurture a fertile place for awe-titude to germinate within her. Here are two effective ideas:

Idea #1. Cultivate an attitude of awe by intentionally naming the Lord’s numerous attributes, using the alphabet as a springboard.

I may pray “You are Almighty; Beautiful; Compassionate; My Defender; Everlasting; Forgiving; … Just … Wonderful. Reflecting on His awe-inspiring characteristics, my heart expands.

Idea #2. Utilize this three-part exercise regularly to cultivate the habit of gratitude.

(1) Jot down one personal acknowledgement. If you’re like me, you pray for God to change you and then often neglect to acknowledge when He does. Writing something like “I’m grateful I responded calmly instead of yelling at the kids today” helps soften your soul.

(2) Acknowledge another (spouse, child, parent, friend) by writing one way you’re thankful for him/her such as “I’m grateful that __________ did ___________.

(3) Name five things for which you’re grateful like your new pen, today’s sunshine, your job, God’s protection in traffic.

Even as I prepared the list, I realized there is no exact prescription for cultivating awe-titude. We don’t make it happen.

During the last few months my sense of awe-titude began to fade. I asked God about it and He surprised me with this thought: “Joan, you’re neglecting self-care.” I was overly-busy, working and studying without breaks. It affected my mental/emotional/physical/spiritual well-being.

I admit going back to school after 45 years (in addition to my normal ministry load) created a steep learning curve. It reminds me of other life transitions that are both awe-titude-producing and challenging: new motherhood, marriage, moving, starting a new job.

 Awe-titude is a gift God plants within us. We have the privilege of nourishing it.

Both the blessing of enjoyment and the capacity to enjoy are God’s gifts to us. Sometimes we experience awe-titude vividly. Sometimes it fades a little. That’s when we can accept God’s grace anew and give ourselves the “white space” of rest/relaxation and the time we need to “Be still [drop our arms, admit we’ve done enough at the moment] and pause to nourish the awe-titude seeds God has planted within us. (Psalm 46:10 

This week, how will you nourish the seedling-gift of awe-titude that God has planted within you? Could you be sabotaging the cultivation of awe-titude in your life? How? Will you accept God’s grace anew and practice awe-titude?

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 devotional 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 image, adapted, Image courtesy of scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday
Jul102014

Get Better, Don't Get Even

Author Charlotte Riegel asked some of the questions we ask when we’re boxed in by tough circumstances. But she helps us remember why we should take off the boxing gloves in this helpful Attitude UPGRADE.

“Feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances and unable to concentrate on the sermon being delivered, I quietly slipped out of my pew and left the building,” Charlotte wrote.

“Feeling overwhelmed” … have you been there? I (Dawn) have. And in those times, I’ve discovered I often require an attitude adjustment.

Charlotte continues …

The beautiful spring morning beckoned my enjoyment as I wandered the streets surrounding the church. Turning onto a pathway through trees in a nearby community park, I began sobbing, unable to contain the grief, anger and confusion seeking an outlet.

My husband, Stan, had recently been told his teaching contract would not be renewed, and with four children to provide for, I struggled with “Why?” and “What now?” questions.

We had managed to survive the three years on “below the Canadian poverty line” wages because of frugal living patterns taught by my husband’s parents who learned these life skills during the Depression. We had no savings.

Stan was angry about the dismissal and considered what reprisal actions he might utilize.

The administration’s reasons for not renewing his contract seemed very shallow. He loved his students and they often told him how much they appreciated his instructions. However, they did not sign his pay check. He worried about how he would provide for his family.

A glance at my watch forced me to put a stopper on the tears and head back to church before someone came looking for me after the service ended.

It was the Easter season. On my walk back to the church, I remembered Christ’s sacrifice. 

Jesus knew the grief of rejection, yet He said nothing. He did not fight back.  He did not call “ten thousand angels to set him free,” but instead He died, alone.

I knew we were being called not to retaliate, but to trust God for what lies ahead. Jesus is our example.  

Condemned.

Sometimes like Christ

We stand condemned

By just, or unjust means.

Then we must die

To rise again

Liberated and free.

Aware that retaliation would only bring us more stress and possibly more grief, we silently adjusted our life direction and started down a different path. A new job was found without major distress, and it paid considerably better, thereby helping us care for our growing family with more ease.

“Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it” (Romans 12:17-19, The Message).

When are you tempted to retaliate? How can you respond more like Jesus did?

Charlotte Riegel is a freelance writer living in Rosebud, Alberta. She can be contacted at bridgesofhope2@gmail.com. Follow Charlotte at her blog.

Graphic in text, adapted - Image courtesy of hin255 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net