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Thursday
Oct302014

When Life Yells 'Boo!'

There are many reactions to the invasion of costumed candy-seekers. I remember one year when I opened my door to a teenage boy's loud ...      

I jumped back, my heart racing. I didn't know whether to laugh or slug him! Talk about scared!

I've never been one for horror movies. I don't like things that "go bump in the night" or jump out at me with a bloodcurdling scream! It's enough to make me whimper like a baby.

But life is like that sometimes. And when life says "boo" we need to know how to respond.

I'm talking about dealing with fear. Fear that comes from tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes. Wars and rumors of war. A cancer diagnosis. A desperately-ill child. Unreasonable fears. Everyday fears.

There are many sources of fear. There are always trials and scary circumstances. But it can also come directly from our enemy, Satan, from interactions with others, and from our own sinful hearts.

The source of our fear isn't the biggest issue. Our source for dealing with fear is what's important.

Jesus often told his disciples not to fear; but instead to "take heart" (Matthew 14:27; 28:10; John 16:33); and throughout the Bible we find the Lord's remedy for fears. He tells us how to face every one with His strength and grace.

When God's Children experience fear, they can:

1. Run to the Stronghold! Run to Him in prayer, because no matter what happens, God's child is eternally safe in Jesus and He's always ready to listen (Psalm 27:1; Proverbs 18:10; Isaiah 26:3).

2. Embrace to God's encouraging presence. He will comfort in times of fear (Psalm 23:4).

3. Believe He will help. He will take us by the hand (Isaiah 41:13).

5. Stand firm and watch Him work. He is the Deliverer (Exodus 14:13a).

4. Practice courage. Whether you're a little scared or terrified, you can choose to be bold, knowing God goes with us into every circumstance (Deuteronomy 31:6).

6. Replace ungodly attitudes. God gives power, love, and a sound (disciplined) mind—not fear (2 Timothy 1:7) ... ask the Spirit of God to renew your mind (Romans 12:2).

You cannot imagine the power of God at work, even in scary circumstances. (Need a reminder? Read 2 Kings 6:15-17). I pray our eyes will open to the Lord's power for us.

What is saying "boo!" to you right now? Which of these six points might need some work in your life so you can overcome the fear/s in your life?

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.

 

Tuesday
Oct282014

He's Personal

Ava Pennington’s creative mind challenges my thinking about God. Ava wrote a book about the names, character and attributes of God, and she is the perfect person to write this Spiritual UPGRADE post.

“Thirty years ago, a phrase entered our collective frame of reference,” Ava writes. “Christian or not, almost all of us can identify the source of the quote, ‘May the Force be with you.’ 

I (Dawn) remember the first time I heard that phrase. I thought, “The Force? The FORCE? What about God?” I wanted people to understand God is more than a mere force. He is a Person, the Controller of the universe, but also Someone who loves me.

Ava continues …

Star Wars isn’t just a Hollywood franchise, it’s a cultural icon. And the theology of Star Wars has wormed its way into the minds of many Christians. Yet after three decades of subtle and not-so-subtle influence, most of us still don’t realize the impact.

One Star Wars character described the Force this way: "It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." The fictional Force sounds a lot like God, doesn’t it? But if this is our view of God, then it’s time to upgrade our view.

"Praise be to the Lord my Rock.... He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge" (Psalm 144:1-2 NIV).

The first time I read these verses, I focused on the names and attributes of God: Lord, loving God, fortress, stronghold, deliverer, shield, refuge. Each one tells us something about God’s nature and His ways—important concepts to meditate upon, and like David, to use as a basis for praise and worship.

But the second time I studied these verses, my attention was drawn to a small word I had previously overlooked: My.

Before David ruled as the second king of ancient Israel, he was a shepherd and then a fugitive. He penned his Psalms from personal experiences and identified each name and attribute with a sense of ownership

My Rock. My loving God. My fortress. My stronghold. My deliverer. My shield.

My Rock. The ground shifted under David’s feet with frightening regularity. One minute a shepherd boy, the next anointed as king. One moment he was best friends with a prince, the next a fugitive from the prince’s father. Through it all, David knew the personal privilege of standing on the eternal Rock.

My loving God. David understood what it meant to be unappreciated. When the prophet Samuel sought Jesse’s sons, Jesse neglected to include David. Later, his brothers dismissed him when he appeared at their war camp.

My fortress. My stronghold. Running from King Saul, David and his men hid in unlikely places to escape Saul’s wrath. But David knew a cave was as safe as a fortress while under God’s protection.

My deliverer. David’s life was often in jeopardy. Yet God rescued him as a shepherd defending against wild animals, in combat with Goliath, or from Saul’s murderous attempts.

My shield. David respected the value of a shield. Still, he refused Saul’s shield when he faced Goliath. David understood God was more effective than any earthly shield.

David knew about God as the Creator of the Universe and the One who holds the universe together. But he wasn’t content with knowing God as an impersonal force. Instead, David used his experiences to upgrade his view of God as more than a force … God is personal!

Do you need to upgrade your view of God from an impersonal force to a personal Father? As you read the Bible, ask yourself what the passage is saying about God. Then consider how God has personally revealed Himself to you by that name or attribute.

Ava Pennington's newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries. She has also written numerous magazine articles and is a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers (AWSA) and the Christian Authors Network (CAN). Ava also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class of 175+ women. She is a passionate speaker who engages audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations. Visit her at AvaWrites.com.

 

 

Thursday
Oct232014

Keeping to the 'B-word'

In this Financial UPGRADE, Ellie Kay, known as “America’s Family Financial Expert,”® gives us some timely information on how to be better stewards of our resources through budgeting.

"The only real failure in budgeting is to do nothing at all," Ellie says.

Budget! I (Dawn) used to hate that word. I saw it as restrictive ... no fun! But the Lord showed me the value of budgeting, and how it could free me up to do the things I really longed to do.

Ellie continues ...

Families usually have favorite restaurants, movies, and even special songs that reflect the character and tastes of the family. Your budget will be just as unique as your family. It will be based on variable factors, such as your family’s size, geographical location, debt load, and income.

One of the reasons Bob and I first set up a budget, is because we wanted to be better stewards of our finances. We remembered Luke 14:28, a passage that talked about the fact that a wise man counts the cost before he builds a tower. We wanted to build a Biblical financial legacy for our kids and realized that both of us wanted to have healthy finances.

We also realized that we didn’t need to go overboard by pinching our pennies so tightly that it strained our relationship and took all the enjoyment out of life. So we allowed for an occasional indulgence, implemented budget-cutting techniques slowly, and modified our plan as needed.

There are a few problems that can throw your budget off in a matter of seconds, sending it toward disaster. But the only real failure in budgeting is to do nothing at all.

Here are a few tips to avoid these common pitfalls, and a few reminders to keep trekking at this budget thing:

Debt or Credit

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” We knew we wanted to get out of debt and we chose to adopt a cash-only policy when it came to our budget, setting up an envelope system where we placed the budgeted amount of cash in envelopes marked “food,” “entertainment,” “gas,” and so on.

When the money runs out, you stop spending until the end of the allotted period (generally one to
two weeks, depending upon how you are paid). A regular peek at the amount of cash left in each envelope is a vivid reminder of your budget commitment. If credit has become a habit, then you might even do something drastic, like cut up your credit cards. Mint.com also has a great, free app to help you track your budget.

Impulse Buying

Nothing busts a budget like impulse buying. If this is an area where you struggle, it’s important to be proactive and address the issue before you take action.

If you don’t drive to the mall and go to your favorite department store, you won’t be as likely to spend unbudgeted money. So determine to practice the habits you’ve been learning every day so you will have to internal motivation needed the next time you are tempted.

Comfort Spending

Many couples indulge in comfort spending on clothes, sports equipment, expensive restaurants, and excessive entertainment, to name a few. This unhealthy habit of throwing caution to the wind just to live in the “now” is a budget buster that will keep you living in debt. However, most of us do not reform our unhealthy habits overnight.

At the very least, begin to modify and become more intentional about these comfort indulgences. Even cutting back on some of this kind of spending can add up positively.

What is one thing you can do this week to stay on budget?

Ellie Kay is a regular expert on national television with ABC NEWS NOW’s Money Matters and Good
Money shows. She is also a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest on Fox News, and CNBC, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of fourteen books including her newest release, The Little Book of Big Savings (Waterbrook, 2009). For money savings links, or to view Ellie’s blog, go to www.elliekay.com.

Graphic in Text, adapted, Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday
Oct212014

How to Turn 'Tough Things' into Treasure

Lisa Copen has lived for nearly 21 years with degenerative rheumatoid arthritis. Out of her struggle, she created an entire ministry to help people cope with chronic illness. I wanted her to encourage us in a Life UPGRADE.

“Living with illness,” Lisa says, “is like sitting on a pottery wheel as a soft lump of clay,” Lisa says.                             

I (Dawn) think Lisa’s insights about illness can be applied to all of our lives, no matter our circumstances. Whatever our "tough thing" in life, God can transform it into treasure on His potter's wheel; He delights in redeeming us and making us "new" (see Jeremiah 18:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5).

Lisa continues…

“It doesn't matter how long we sit on the pottery wheel or what shape we are, as long as the hands of illness keep touching our life, we will be reshaped into something new.”

Here are the top things I have learned through 21 years of illness:

1. Do it – whatever your “it” is – even when you don’t feel well.
There will be a million times it will be tempting to cancel. Don’t. Learn to push through.

The memories of the times I said “yes” and did something despite pain are the joys I treasure.

2. Utilize tools to live as fully as possible.
Whatever your limitations are there is likely a tool that can help. Don't use the tools to compare who you once were with who you are now.

Be grateful someone came before you and was determined to not let their limitations stand in the way, making it easier for you.

3. Get out of the house.
We all need a change of scenery. Seeing the same dirty dishes and dingy walls can quickly send you into depression. Walk outside and sit on the patio. Go to the local coffee house and check your email. Go to a movie, even if it’s alone.

Will it cure everything? No, but it will put you back into the world and make your bed look even more appealing at the end of the day.

4. Practice communication.
No matter how wonderful you think your relationships are, there is room for improvement. Facing day after day of pain can make any relationship tense, and people make be reluctant to talk to you about your attitude or how you constantly speak of your symptoms.

We can easily blame our circumstances for our temper, attitude, and outlook and expect people around us to just accept it and cater to our needs and moods. This is a perfect storm brewing. Ask close friends how you can improve your friendship. Make sure your marriage is safe from underlying resentments that are buried that can one day shatter the relationship.

5. Practice taking care of yourself.
The more you do it, the easier it will become.

Pride, shame, and not wanting to be a burden by asking people to accommodate our needs gets in the way of our well-being – both physically and emotionally. As you accept yourself for who you are, others will do the same.

6. Determine the purpose of your life and what you will rely on.
Obviously this is a big one! But what is going to hold you together when you have little support of friends, your body is falling apart, and all the feel-good-tips no longer work? For me, it is my faith. I have great faith in God and I believe He not only has a purpose for my life, but I have seen how He has used my disease in many ways.

This has given me the strength to hold on when there is no reason to hang on. It gets me up out of bed each day, and without it I would quickly wilt on my own strength. You are going to need a foundation of strength. Start seeking now.

7. Consider what you want your legacy to be.
What kind of person do you want to be, and what do you hope people will recall about you someday? Were you one who was always sighing and complaining about how no one understood your circumstances? Or did you show grace and character that taught those around you how one can be faithful through the fires?

Rather than overcoming your circumstance, make it part of your character.

My illness is intertwined with every part of who I am. Yet, life is good. I must choose to make it that way each day.

The words "chronic illness" don't bother me. I embraced them long ago, because I don't see them as a curse, but rather as the largest chisel in my life that will determine who I am.

Some days, it isn't so pretty. I am hopeful, however, that at the end of this life my legacy will be, "She fought to live each day with so much joy... and encouraged others to do the same."

How can these suggestions help you develop the tough things in your life into the treasure it is meant to be?

Lisa Copen began Rest Ministries to encourage those who are chronically ill through daily devotionals, small groups called HopeKeepers, and other support. She is the author of a variety of books including Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for twenty years and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.

Graphic in Text, adapted, Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday
Oct162014

12 Keys to an Extraordinary Marriage - Part 2

Dianne Barker shared six helpful keys for UPGRADING our marriages in her last post; here are the final six.

"What did a nineteen-year-old bride know about marriage…pleasing a husband…pleasing God? Not much," Dianne said. "But I had big dreams."

I (Dawn) think Dianne expresses the hearts of many women. Do we really understand what marriage is all about when we walk down the aisle. We may read, we may prepare; but there's always so much to learn!

Dianne continues...

I’d never told James my childhood dream—riding away with Prince Charming in a shiny car, “Just Married” written in shaving cream on the windows, colorful streamers and noisy cans dangling from the bumper.

James didn’t understand such dreams.

To prevent that very thing from happening, on our wedding day he hid his prized car at an uncle’s house and borrowed one to drive to the church. When friends badgered him to reveal the hiding place, I nagged him to tell so I could live my dream.

As we stuffed wedding cake into each other’s mouth, he frowned his disapproval and said, “You’re my wife. You’re supposed to be on my side.”

His buddies guessed the location and decorated his car, which secretly pleased me. My dream would come true! James drove straight to the car-wash and washed away my dream before the first mile of our honeymoon.

Although we agreed on important matters of life and faith, we approached most issues from opposite perspectives. How would we ever achieve harmony?

The Lord provided a mentor, a gracious older woman who lovingly pointed me to Jesus. When I’d complain about my exasperating husband, she’d quote Proverbs 16:7. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

I had only one assignment: pleasing the Lord.

What pleases the Lord in marriage? Ephesians 5:33 Amplified gave me a job description: “…Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].”

Time, maturity, and following Christ made amazing changes as the Lord quietly worked, doing his typical Ephesians 3:20, “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.”

The two essentials for a flourishing marriage:

1. A conviction God has a standard of conduct for our lives; and

2. A desire to live that way.

“So shall you heartily accept My commandments and conform your life and conduct to them. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 22:31 Amplified).

You can have an extraordinary marriage! [Six marriage keys were shared in Part 1; here are six more.]

  • Be kind. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31: 26).
  • Repay evil with good. “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
  • Choose a Christ-honoring response. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
  • Trust God to meet your needs, freeing you to meet your husband’s needs. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
  • Believe nothing is too hard for God. “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).
  • Expect God to do something mighty. “For the  eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him….” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

A final question: At the end of the day, we’re accountable only for our life of obedience. What action can you begin today to change the climate in your home?

Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author of eleven books, including the 1986 best-seller Twice Pardoned. Her 2014 book, I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life, won the Christian Authors Network Golden Scrolls third-place award for non-fiction book of the year. This post is adapted from her forthcoming book, Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, which will be available at www.diannebarker.com.

Marriage Graphic in text, adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net