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Thursday
Sep182014

How to Create a Godly Legacy

I’ve been reading Becky Harling’s newsletters for some time now, and find her to be a godly, insightful woman. This post about Upgrading your Legacy isn’t just for grandmas! I appreciate Becky’s perspective on building a legacy now – whatever your age.

“I realize that if I want to leave a godly legacy for those coming up behind me, I need to make intentional choices now,” Becky said.

Those of you who know me (Dawn) will know Becky had me at the word “choices.” Leaving a godly legacy doesn’t just happen.

Becky continues … 

I have found I need to return to these choices often to remind myself of the end goal – leaving a godly legacy.

Choice 1:  Prioritize personal purity.

In other words, don’t allow yourself to engage in “secret sins.” Choose integrity. Let your public life match your private life.

If you’re struggling in a particular area, confess your faults to a close friend or mentor and ask her to hold you accountable. James 5:16 instructs us, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed.” When you dare to bring others into your struggles, it provides accountability and healing as they pray for you.  

Choice 2: Break the cycle of ungrace.  

A judgmental spirit and bitterness is often passed from one generation to another in families. Think of older people you know who have never forgiven those who have hurt them. They harbor bitterness. I don’t want to be like that!

I have found that I must continually ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse my mind. It’s so easy to hang on to our hurts and build a monument to our personal pain.

Jesus calls us to something entirely different. He commands us to “settle matters quickly” (Matthew 5:25). In other words, learn to let go of your hurts and offer grace instead.

Choice 3:  Commit to sharing the gospel and investing in others.

One of my daughters reminds her four-year-old son, “Jesus first, others second, you last.” That’s a great policy for our lives, isn’t it?  

Practice lifting your focus to God every day in praise, then turn your focus outward to see how you might invest in someone else, and then finally glance inward.

Too often we become obsessed with ourselves and forget that God wants us exalting Him and encouraging others.

Choice 4: Choose praise over complaining.

Whew! That’s tough, isn’t it? It’s so easy to complain even about the small things in life, like the weather, the food we eat, or the clothes we wear.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should, “Do everything without complaining” (Philippians 2:14).  I fear sometimes that we are so accustomed to complaining that we don’t even realize we’re doing it anymore.

What if we became ruthless with ourselves in the area of complaining? What if the next time we feel like complaining, we start praising God instead? Wow. Imagine how our attitudes would change. Imagine the positive legacy we would leave behind.

What kind of spiritual legacy are you leaving for your children and grandchildren? The people you mentor? Others who are watching your life? What can you do today to insure you leave a godly legacy?

Becky Harling is a sought-after speaker and the author of several books, including Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Her degree in biblical literature, and her experience as a missionary, women's ministries director, pastor’s wife and breast cancer survivor, bring depth to her message. She and her husband Steve live in Arvada, Colorado, and they have four grown children and five grandchildren.  

Note: This post is adapted from a Becky Harling Ministries newsletter (6-6-14).

Tuesday
Sep162014

10 Keys to Defusing Anger

Poppy Smith's humor and wisdom invite women to think through serious issues. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she shares insight about the anger that trips us up in our relationships.

“Everyone gets angry from time to time,” says Poppy. “Some people think there’s nothing they can do about it, but there is. God provides not only life-changing advice, He also provides the power we need to zip our lips.”

Now I (Dawn) seldom get angry ... externally. But boy, can I seethe inside! I need Poppy's wisdom.

Poppy continues ...

Flying through Chicago airport recently I heard a woman shouting at the Boarding Agent. Everyone swiveled around to see what was happening. I didn’t catch the reason for her angry outburst but she had no intention of keeping it to herself.

After taking her abuse for so long, the Agent locked up his desk and disappeared.

Five minutes later he reappeared with a burly man in a bright yellow vest—clearly a “mediator” of some kind. Talking softly and soothingly to the irate customer, he helped her calm down and listen to what the airline could do to help with her frustration. She was wiping her tears as I heard my call to board.

Whether you’re angry at an airline employee, fuming in traffic, annoyed at work, or irritated at home–what is going on? If your anger erupts fast and hot, what can you do?

Those of us “blessed” with the gift of being verbal often need help with controlling our tongues and temper.

At least, I do!

I want to live an emotionally healthy and happy life–not to mention one that reflects my relationship with Jesus.  As I’ve prayed about my problem and practiced what God has shown me, I’ve discovered ten keys to turning off our ready to blow inner fuse-box. 

ASK Yourself:

1. What is making me angry?

2. Were my expectations reasonable given the circumstances? Had I made them known?

3. Am I feeling anger–or is there something else underneath. What is the real problem?

4. Is my anger justified or am I making a mountain out of a molehill, blowing off steam and blaming?

5. Am I mind-reading, claiming the person I’m angry with should have known how I’d feel?

6. Is my self-talk feeding my anger?

7. Will my anger bring about what I desire—a better relationship, less stress, a solution?

CALM Yourself:

8. Change your “should” statements to: It would have been nice if…. I wish the situation were …

9. Stop and identify what thoughts “trigger” your anger. focus on thoughts that cool you down.

10. Evaluate your responses: Was something said or done intentionally to upset you?

     PRAY for control and SPEAK TRUTH to yourself.

Tell yourself, “With God’s help I can cope, I can tolerate the situation, there are solutions, and I can learn new responses.”

Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity” (Prov.14: 29, The Message).

“A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire” (Proverbs 15:1, The Message).

If we’re wise, we intentionally choose to set a guard over our mouths.

Three powerful words that I’ve etched in my mind are ZIP YOUR LIPS! Try practicing this phrase over and over before you need it—you’ll be glad you did.

What makes you mad? Which of these keys can you use to help defuse your anger?

Poppy Smith is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. A former Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader with a Masters in Spiritual Formation, she is a multi-published author who speaks globally challenging women to make their lives count by looking at their choices, attitudes, and relationship with God. Poppy has just returned from ministry in China and had a fun time signing her one book that is in Chinese! Visit her website.  

Thursday
Sep112014

4 Ways to Foster an Awareness of God's Presence

Looking for a Bible study for your women's group? Check out Kathy Howard's books and studies. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she highlights the powerful presence of God.

"The Creator of the universe, the eternal, almighty God is personally present with you all the time, everywhere," Kathy says.

I (Dawn) always appreciate Kathy's depth and wisdom. She takes tough biblical truth and serves it up in ways that encourage us to live out what we believe. When tough times come (like America's 9/11), it's so comforting to know God is real, present, and loves us!

Kathy continues ...

Most Christians believe God is always with them. Scripture teaches it, so Christians accept with faith that God is omnipresent. For instance, David wrote about the omnipresence of God:

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" (Psalm 139:7-10, NIV).

All of God is present everywhere, all the time. That means God is with us, all the time.

Yes, we believe it. But, too often we fail to practically live out what we accept intellectually. We believe God is present with us, but we rarely experience His presence.

Thankfully, we can purposefully foster an awareness of God’s presence that will gladden our hearts, nourish our souls, and feed our holiness.

Here are a few, quick suggestions to build and maintain an awareness of God’s presence:

1. Learn more about His holy character – Read Bible passages that give insight into the nature and character of God, then contemplate how those truths impact how He works in the world and in your life.

2. Determine a means to remind yourself to concentrate on Him throughout the day – For instance, put small notes in places throughout your house or office where you will see them regularly. Each time you spot them, stop and reflect on God and the truth that He is with you when they catch your eye.

3. Never allow much time to go by without thinking about Him – In case you miss or forget your reminder prompts in the suggestion above, set up a back-up plan.

One way to do this is to set an alarm on your phone to break into the busyness of your day and turn your thoughts back to God and the reality of His presence.

4. Start an ongoing conversation - Form a habit of talking to God throughout the day. Converse with Him, as you would a friend who is physically with you. Talk with Him about urgent, important things and even the small, mundane things.

God is always with you. He knows your thoughts, your heart, your needs, and your heartaches. Maintaining a constant awareness of His presence will comfort, encourage, strengthen and challenge you!

Let’s talk more about ways to help us foster a constant awareness of God’s presence. Share ideas you have. Think outside the box!

Kathy Howard writes to have something to do while drinking coffee and eating chocolate. The author of 6 books, Kathy helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances. Find out about her Bible studies and get discipleship and leader helps at her website and blog.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday
Sep092014

How to Take Off Your 'Junior God Badge'

Melissa Mashburn is a creative, busy pastor’s wife—perfect to share this Life and Ministry UPGRADE with us.

“Here she comes to save the day! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … it’s ... it’s just CRAZY that, in the midst of the many hats we wear as women today, we think everything relies on us to get it done,” Melissa says.

Uh huh. "Busy." That’s my (Dawn’s) middle name! And "Control Freak" is my old nickname, but I’ve learned to step back, get away from my to-do list, and ask God for my marching orders each day.

Sometimes, that looks nothing like what I’d originally planned. And sometimes, I just need to get out of the way.

Melissa continues …

In a world that celebrates achievement and getting things done, how do we slow down the need to control every detail of our lives and walk in faith that God has a perfect plan for everything?

How do you slow down when you have:

  • the big event that you are coordinating that is projected to have five hundred people attend;
  • the open house that you are planning all the details for;
  • the carpools that need to be set up;
  • doctors’ appointments for the kids;
  • as well as preparing meals for the homeless, the sick and the celebrations within your church family?

Oh, sweet friend, I know exactly the burdens you carry. I live them, carry them, and wrestle with them every single day too.

My hope is that we will learn how to take off our Junior God Badge, do our part, then get out of the way and let God lead the way.

Proverbs 16:9 says,

"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps" (NLT).

Yes, we need to be obedient and do our part. I am in no way advocating we step back and take our hands off everything and “hope” that God works it all out. I don’t think that is what God wants from us at all.

The Lord absolutely wants us to do our part, and then—once we’ve done all we can—we step back and say, “The rest is up to you, God.”

Right about now you may be wondering, how on earth do we do that?

1) Ask the Lord for strength and wisdom to do the work He’s given you.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5 ESV).

2) Remember Who you are working so hard for.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23 ESV).  

3) Seek the support of your friends.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity (Proverbs 17:17 NIV).  

4) Do your part, then step back and let God do His. When He does, give Him all the glory.

Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God (Romans 6:13 NLT).  

Will it be easy taking off your Junior God Badge? No, it won’t. But it will be so worth it when you finally do.

There may be days when you take the badge off only to pick it back up later that same day, but that’s alright. Don’t give up, don’t give in—this will take time—but it will be so worth it when you finally lay it down and let it go.

What about you? Which of the four steps do you need to take to today to start the process of taking off your Junior God Badge?

Melissa Mashburn passionately pursues God daily, taking her ordinary life and placing it as her offering to Him. She is a writer, speaker, mom, pastor’s wife, and trained communicator through CLASSeminars, with extensive background in Women’s and Kid’s Ministry, and her passion is helping women “keep it real” in their lives and ministries. Melissa is married to her best friend, Matt (20 years), and they have two teenage boys. She loves to relax with a great book and giant cup of coffee. You can find her at Mel’s World with Melissa Mashburn.

Thursday
Sep042014

The Blessing of Routines

Most vacations are over and it's time to return to routines. Back to school. Back to work. In this UPGRADE, I want to encourage us with this one thought: Routines don't have to be boring!

Routines are basically big life "habits." Most adults are in a habit of going to work, 9-5, Monday through Friday, to earn some income to pay our bills. (Hopefully, those out of work are in a habit of going to the unemployment office to seek work.) Our children are in a habit of going to school and getting an education. These are good, necessary routines!

It's true, some people call routines boring, even "mind-numbing." But I think we can alter that perspective and see routines as a huge blessing.

Let me explain.

In the smaller, daily habits of life, like brushing teeth or taking a shower, we don't have to use much brain power to function. We've done them so long, they are almost automatic. This gives us some brain matter and freedom to concentrate on more needful things that arise each day.

The same thing is true for going to work and going to school – the mega routines in our lives. We know we're going to get ready for our day, get to the location for work and school, and plunge into our tasks. Those are givens. We don't have to think much about that.

But then what?

What are we going to accomplish today? What are we going to learn today? Who are we going to serve or love or encourage today?

Our 9-5 routine is just a vehicle to get us involved in the great adventures of life.

Involved in progress. In education. In problem-solving. In relationship-building. In love-sharing. And so much more.

So I am thankful for the routines. They are blessings in disguise! With the basic routines fixed, we can focus our heart and mind on what God wants us to do, and that can change every day!

Jesus is our example in this. He worked hard to accomplish all the Father wanted Him to do (John 5:17, 19; 6:38).

Routines can also help us solidify new good habits. Every new habit begins with a choice. You decide to develop something new in your life. You know that if you create this habit, you'll be blessed with some kind of reward. But getting from the choice to the reward is where the routine comes in.

For example, let's say you want to start memorizing scripture.

  • You make the choice: I will start memorizing scripture.
  • You know the reward: I will have a stockpile of stored-up truth the Holy Spirit can use in my life.
  • You design a routine: I will create proactive cues and behavioral steps to help me accomplish my goal.

One cue might be a scripture verse written out and taped to your bathroom mirror so you can see and read it every single morning when you brush your teeth. (Attach a new routine to an older routine!) My daughter-in-love, Carrie, does this for her family. I love her bathroom mirror scriptures!

I do the same thing at my desk. I have scriptures I want to memorize right above my computer monitor where I'll see them every workday.

One behavioral step might be to create some scripture "flash cards" to stick in your purse for "wait time" at the doctor's office or in the grocery store checkout line. (Use your present routine to create a new behavior. In this case, every time you wait, you will use your time to memorize)

In other words, exploit current routines (work/school) to accomplish new purposes. That's using your brain creatively. And when you use your brain creatively for the glory of God and your growth to become more like Jesus, that's a blessing indeed!

It's all about perspective. Your job isn't just a job. Schooling isn't just schooling. Each are opportunities.

If you'll be alert, you'll discover each routine comes packed with possibilities to honor God and accomplish His purposes in fresh ways.

Be encouraged with these scriptures:

"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90:17)

"... be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58b)

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23).

Pray God will open your eyes to some blessings that may be hidden in your daily routines!

How can you use your return to work, or your children's (or your) return to school to create some new routines – to exchange perceived boredom for true blessing?

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.

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