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Lina AbuJamra

Sue Badeau

Dianne Barker

Twila Belk

Gail Bones

Harriet Bouchillon

Mary Carver

Pamela Christian

Lisa Copen

Erin Davis

Diane Dean

Deb DeArmond

Kelly DeChant

Danna Demetre

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Melissa Edgington

Pat Ennis

Morgan Farr

Pam Farrel

Renee Fisher

Sheila Gregoire

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Holly Hanson

Debbie Harris

Paula Hendricks

Nali Hilderman

Cathy Horning

Kathy Howard

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Priscilla Jenson

Lane P. Jordan

Rebecca Jordan

Ellie Kay

Maria Keckler

Debby Lennick

Kathi Lipp

Kathi Macias

Melissa Mashburn

Dianne 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

Teri Thompson

Brittany Van Ryn

Leslie Vernick

Laurie Wallin

Julie Watson

Joan C. Webb

Cherri Williamson

Kathy C. Willis

Jamie Wood

Dawn Wilson

 

Tuesday
Mar032015

Friendship Praying

Rhonda Rhea is known for her humor, but I also appreciate her practical leadership and encouragement. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she touches on one important way to strengthen our friendships.

“Ever feel lonely? You’re ‘not alone,’ as it were, in feeling alone,” Rhonda said. “It’s amazing how so many can know a gazillion people—yet still experience a devastating loneliness. Prayer can change that.”

I (Dawn) know the Word of God encourages us to make “supplication” for “all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18) and “for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1), and this certainly applies to praying for our friends. So many scriptures about prayer can be applied to our friendships, and especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Try it!

Rhonda continues . . .

The truth is, we need each other.

We need to pray for each other. We need to pray for our friends!

Here are some “ifs” for friendship praying:

1. If you’re experience smothering loneliness:

  • Ask the Lord to send you a “breath of fresh air” kind of friend.
  • Ask Him to help you become someone else’s breath of fresh air as well.

2. If you’ve been wounded in a friendship:

  • Ask the Lord to give you the ability to forgive and to help you move forward and trust again.

3. If you’re not already:

Ask the Lord to give you courage to become proactive in making and maintaining friendships.

4. If you have at least one close friend:

  • Thank the Lord for the amazing blessing she is.
  • Ask Him to make you a blessing to her.
  • Ask Him to give each of you wisdom in honoring Him through the friendship.

Which of these “if” prayers could make the biggest difference in your friendships today?

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. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at www.RhondaRhea.com.

Post adapted from Rhonda’s book, Join the Insanity: Crazy-Fun Life in the Pastors' Wives Club.

Graphic adapted—Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday
Feb262015

From Glance to Gaze

Brittany Van Ryn has a heart for God that is fresh and pure. I asked her to share a Spiritual UPGRADE, and she is helping us consider something very special about the Lord.      

"Sunsets. Ocean. Mountains. Parakeets. Purple Cabbage. Bugs. Nudibranches. Galaxies. Algae. Teeth. That short but diverse list contains ten fascinating works created by the Lord God," says Brittany. "How much do you know about them?"

When I (Dawn) look around me at the handiwork of God, I cannot help but be drawn to Him. (I smile at His sense of humor when I look at the colorful "nudibranch" in the photo, above.) As Job said, "[God] does great things past finding out. Yes, wonders without number" (Job 9:10). I'm so glad my creative friend, Brittany, is encouraging us to look Godward . . . to our great Creator.

Brittany continues . . .

Some probably gross you out for various reasons; others may make you smile—or are PART of your smile. Some may have caused you to marvel at their grandiose vastness, still others at their intricate detail.

But you know what happens most of the time? More often than not, we neglect to even take a moment to look up and admire the clouds, or we apply eye shadow, forgetting that our eyes automatically blink to keep from drying out.

We complacently ignore our Creator’s handiwork, which ultimately turns our hearts away from Him.

Let me prove it to you.

One of the very first things we learn about the Lord God is that He is the Creator, and, as such, is foundational in our understanding of Who He is. God could have introduced Himself in a myriad of ways, but He wanted us to start with an understanding of His ability to make something out of nothing.

It is the lens through which we look at every other aspect of His character. It’s almost as if He wanted us to know that His love has an infinite number of ways to be shown, or that His name, Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, means that taking care of our needs is not always in ways that we expect because He is a better Idea Generator on how to meet needs that we could ever be.

When we take the time to see Him as Creator, we learn that He does NOTHING without intention.

We have even recently learned that the appendix in our bodies, which for a long time was thought to be rather purposeless, does in fact serve a function for our digestive systems!

I feel confident in saying that one reason God designed us with the minds that He did in the world that He did is so that we might SEEK him and FIND Him. (See Acts 17:26-28.)

That God placed us in this world full of His creativity—even our very souls in a complex body—is a beautiful metaphor of the work He also wants to do in our spiritual lives. He wants to create new life in us by His Spirit that we might be in awe of His transforming renewal and that others might want to know more about this Creator who can take the nothingness of our lives and give it beauty and purpose.

If you find yourself in a place where your heart feels far from God, spend some time in His creation.

It could be anything from searching the word “bromeliads” online—especially if you don’t have them available to observe in person—to looking out the window for one moment before bedtime to gaze at the moon. Sometimes when we spend time loving God with our minds, it can trigger a deeper love for Him from our hearts.

What has looking at creation caused you to consider about the Creator?

Brittany Van Ryn is a Midwestern girl now shining her light in California, ever delighting in the endless flow of ideas from her Creator. She pursues all sorts of creative endeavors, works as a stylist, crafts her little heart out and encourages others towards the Lord as much as possible. Visit Brittany on her website, or on her blog. [Moms, Brittany’s blog can encourage your teenage daughters. Check out her three devotional themes.]

Tuesday
Feb242015

Façades: Laying Down the Mask

With the rise of Facebook, people always see our better side, but do we really minister to people that way? Melissa Mashburn encourages us to lay down our phony masks in this Ministry UPGRADE.

“Ministry is tough,” Melissa says. “I get it. But it’s time we start to lay down the masks and put away the façades so people can see us—the real us—the us that Jesus has changed.”

 Oh, how I (Dawn) have seen this issue hinder relationships and ministry in the church. Jesus is calling us to get real!

Melissa continues . . .

 If you’ve spent any time in ministry, especially with women, chances are you’ve been hurt, burned, back-stabbed or misunderstood.

It’s painful. It’s brutal. It flat out sucks the wind from your sails. And in order to protect yourself from getting hurt again, you put up a façade.

Chances are you probably don’t even remember when you started to wear that mask, but to protect your heart, you did.

I did it too. After fifteen years in ministry, I have seen it all, experienced a lot of incredibly tough stuff and had my heart broken many times.

I built a protective barrier around myself—the façade—in order to keep people from getting close to the real me.

In doing so, though, I also kept myself completely isolated. That led to feelings of loneliness, isolation and, at times, even depression. It wasn’t until about six years ago I decided to lay down the mask and let God show me how to put away the façade.

Paul told the Roman Christians,

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:9-10 NLT).

In other words, God tells us,

“Lay down your mask! Get real! Love people!”

If you are struggling with this like I have, here are a few things to help you as you learn to lay down your mask.

1. Pray First

Ask God to open your heart and allow you the opportunity to just be you. Ask Him to be your protector, and to also bring you a few truly special, safe friends who can come around you as you take these steps.

2. Talk to Your Spouse or Close Family Member

If you’re married, talk it over with your spouse. Ask him to be a part of the process with you and seek out his prayers.

If you’re not married, talk it over with a close family member who understands you and your struggle to be more authentic in ministry.

3. Talk to Your Pastor

If you’re in ministry at a local church, I encourage you to talk it over with your pastor. Ask him to pray for you as you step into new territory in ministry.

This takes another step of vulnerability. I understand that. But by bringing your pastor in on this process, he can help you venture into new territory.

4. Give Yourself Time

If you’ve been in ministry for more than ten years, you’ve probably slowly built up the façade. It’s not going to just disappear; it will take time.

Make sure you allow yourself time to release years of protective layers around your heart.

5. Give It All Back to God

Whatever steps you make, and however long it takes, if God has called you to ministry, He has equipped you to do it as well.

Celebrate the small steps. Give Him all the glory and continue moving forward.

I know it’s not going to be easy—it wasn’t for me either—but the women God has brought into our lives are desperate for women in ministry to be real, to show them what it is like to live out ordinary lives with God at the forefront.

Let’s take this step together and see what God will do.

Are you wearing a mask today? What is keeping you behind the façade? What will you do to “get real” so God can minister through your transformed life?

Melissa Mashburn passionately pursues God daily, taking her ordinary life and placing it as her offering to Him. She is an author, speaker, mom, pastor’s wife and trained communicator through CLASSeminars, with extensive background in Womens, Kids and Volunteer Ministry. Her passion is helping women “keep it real” in their lives and ministries. Melissa is married to her best friend, Matt (22 years) and they have two adult sons, Nick & Bailey. She loves to relax with a great book and giant cup of coffee. You can find her at Melissa Mashburn: Real Women. Real Life. Real Faith.

Thursday
Feb192015

Five Tips for Upgrading Your Love Life

Ever practical and with keen biblical insight, Sue Badeau shares a post-Valentine’s Day UPGRADE for every married couple.

“Valentine’s Day has passed. Long, dark winter days lie ahead,” Sue says. “Coughs, sniffles and bulky layers of winter clothing don’t exactly scream romance. Is it possible to keep flames of passion burning brightly during this dreary season?”

Isn’t that what all married couples want? I (Dawn) know there won’t be “flames of passion” every day, but there certainly are positive ways to “stoke” the flames of marital love.

Sue continues . . .

My husband and I were high school sweethearts. Our first date, a frigid February night in Vermont, involved walking home from a dance through snow and ice. Holding mittened hands was our first display of affection.

 

We celebrate the anniversary of this first date every February. More importantly, we celebrate our love throughout the year using the tips below to build a foundation for romance to flourish even in the darkest seasons.

1. Connect

We begin every day with Bible reading, conversation and prayer. Even when one is on the road, we enjoy our morning reflection by phone. Sometimes, due to busy-ness of life, or distance across time-zones, we only have ten or fifteen minutes for this daily practice.

We’ve found that when we share our spiritual journeys, we enjoy increased intimacy as well.

“My beloved said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along” (Song of Solomon 2:10).

2. Touch

Working, managing a home, participating in church and community while raising children are fulfilling and meaningful activities. The by-product is often physical, mental and emotional exhaustion and susceptibility to seasonal illnesses. None contributes to “the mood.”

Frequent small moments of physical touching are essential. A pat-on-the-back, shoulder rub, hug, tickle or snuggle while watching TV don’t require much in the way of “mood” but are critical for maintaining closeness and intimacy in the relationship.

“Let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me” (Song of Solomon 2:6).

3. Move

Get off the couch and do something! A brisk walk after dinner. Cook, wash dishes, shovel snow, or dance in the living room.

Doing one or more of these activities—or something more vigorous such as skating, biking or swimming—for just ten minutes a day is not only good for well-being, but being active together improves mood and a sense of connection.

“Draw me after you and let us run together!” (Song of Solomon 1:3)

4. Text

Turn all electronics off while engaging in the activities suggested above. On the other hand, it’s a digital age, so use electronics to add zest to your relationship.

Send encoded “racy” texts, a few brief words that tell your partner, “I miss you . . . can’t wait to see you . . . you excite me.” These missives are like leaving a trail of rose-petals with the promise of more to come.

Imagine texting this verse to your hubby:

My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, Outstanding among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:10).

5. Laugh

With bills to pay and the future of children to worry about, life is serious. When you begin to feel heaviness and gloom, break out the clown nose, bubbles or anything that makes you laugh. Laugh regularly with your spouse.

Finding moments for child-like delight decreases stress, strengthens relationships and increases opportunities for romance to bloom, even in the dead of winter.  

“Your hair is like a flock of goats” (Song of Solomon 4:1).

If that verse doesn’t make you laugh, watch this video - Vonda Skelton’s rendition. It's priceless! 

Maybe I could add another tip here, but it also fits under # 5. Eat Chocolate Every Day! At least it will make you smile!

There's no Song of Solomon reference for that, but the book does make reference to milk and honey, apples and pomegranates, wine, figs and spices. All are good, but seriously . . . where's the chocolate?

You can upgrade your love life, even in dark, dreary winter months. It only takes a little effort and it is always worth it!

Which of these tips would encourage the “flames” in your relationship today?

Sue Badeau is a nationally known speaker, author, and child welfare and trauma expert. Sue and her husband Hector are lifetime parents of twenty-two children—two by birth and twenty adopted. They wrote the book Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids. Learn more about Sue at suebadeau.com and badeaufamily.com.

Mittens in Graphic: “Romantic Mittens” at trendhunter.com.

Tuesday
Feb172015

I Choose Grace

Those who know Mary James will testify to the sweetness of her spirit and the power in her songs. I asked Mary to share an UPGRADE Uplift to encourage our hearts.

“If you believe change is not possible when looking at a situation,” Mary says, “you are deciding what God’s grace is capable of achieving.”

So many times, I (Dawn) have allowed the enemy to weigh me down with regrets. When I do that, I can’t move forward. But God does not leave us without hope.

Mary continues…..

The message of God’s grace through Christ is the most beautiful gift any of us can ever possess—especially for those who have made significant mistakes along the way.

Though we may have regrets, the weight of God’s forgiveness covers our choices with a love so big that the past loses it power over us. 

I recently heard a message that sadly left listeners without this hope. Its focus was on parenting. In a nutshell, the message said, “If you do not do as Scripture instructs, you will have regrets.” 

Ok, makes sense. We know that Scripture has been given to us for a reason and will spare us much heartache. But all of us have fallen short of its expectations.

So then what?  Oh, yes . . . a heart full of regret.

As a person who the enemy loves to torment with the past, I began to squirm in my seat.  Occasionally, I squeezed my husband’s leg in almost uncontainable frustration. 

The message continued and my spirit grew heavier and heavier, especially for the men in the auditorium who were being held to the highest level of accountability.  Yet I remained hopeful and kept waiting for it . . . and waiting . . . and waiting.  

But it never came. 

There was plenty of truth, but no grace. Not a shred.

As my husband and I sat there—two people who have made a thousand mistakes as parents—we were left to see ourselves as only one thing: failures.     

Years ago, I heard Bunnie Wilson share about the remorse she had in raising her children. Her regret was that she had not taught them to have a servant's heart. But—and there was a but—she pointed us all to a new day, a new beginning, a Christ-centered resolve. 

Bunnie said that now, every time she is with her children, she models servanthood for them. What she did not teach them when they were young, she taught them as adults.

And they were changed by her efforts. 

Every parent in the room who had missed the boat in some aspect of parenting left with that hope.  I have never forgotten her reminder of God’s ability to redeem our less than perfect choices.    

If you believe change is not possible when looking at a situation, you are deciding what God’s grace is capable of achieving.

God has given us history so that we that we can learn from it, but Paul also understood the danger of living in the past.

As he wrote in Philippians 3:12-14,

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We can live in the bondage of regret, or we can let the power of God’s grace move us into a new day. Either way it requires effort.

Regret is like carrying around that proverbial baggage, where grace requires humility: placing any limitations, grudges or shame into the hands of God.

Whether we are at the podium or in the pews, rigidity in our thinking when it comes to God’s ability to change us or restore a relationship/situation, diffuses the work of the cross

Oddly, our regrets can be the very things that help us understand our need for Jesus.

We must accept consequences, but God has shown us time and time again that He can take a mess and turn it into a masterpiece.  

Which do you choose? The mess or the masterpiece? Regret or grace? 

 Mary James is a Christian Artist and Speaker who has embraced the charge found in 1 Peter 2:9, that we are, “Saved to Proclaim the excellence of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Through her music, testimony of grace, and transparent, biblically-centered messages, Mary is devoted seeing hearts and lives healed, strengthened and transformed by Christ. Since entering ministry in 2000, she has released five full-length CDs, shared the platform with leading Bible teachers such as Dr. David Jeremiah and Kay Arthur, and is a three-time Inspirational Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year Award winner. Visit Mary's Website.

Graphic in post adapted, Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.