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Tuesday
Apr222014

Parents: Choose to Diffuse the Battle

After I read an excerpt from Cindi McMenamin’s new book on inspiring daughters, I asked her to share some tips on dealing with parenting “battles.”

“Are you tired of living on a battlefield when it comes to raising your children?” Cindi asks. “Does it seem like every time you turn around there's an argument brewing?” 

I [Dawn] recently watched an angry mom struggling with her son's belligerance at Wal-Mart. She mimicked his attitude rather than responding to it. She needed this UPGRADE Your Parenting wisdom!

Cindi continues …

As I was writing my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I included some practical ways we can choose our battles wisely and also diffuse some battles so we're not constantly in a warzone with our children. 

But I realized recently, that these peace-making principles can apply to ANY relationship. That's probably because our battles can be intensified or diffused altogether based on how we—as wives, moms, and girlfriends—choose to react.

Whether you're going head-to-head with your teenager, husband, difficult family member, or anyone else, these steps can help you bring calm to an otherwise chaotic situation:  

1. Don't Overreact. It's easy for some of us to think the worst and overreact to a situation. To react emotionally, rather than rationally and maturely, tends to escalate a discussion into a battle.

This is where James 1:19 is so appropriate, especially in the heat of the battle:

"But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."

2. Don't Lose Your Cool.  Our volume and energy level can escalate or eliminate a battle in the making.

After many situations of completely blowing it in this area with my daughter when she was a teenager, I have learned to say a quick prayer in the heat of the moment: "God, help me to respond in a way that will bring about a gentle and loving response from her."

When I put the emotional thermometer in my lap and make it my responsibility, it's amazing how well that will diffuse or eliminate a battle, altogether.  

3. Don't Let Your Pride Get in the Way. If you find you are in a "fighting all the time" phase with a child, spouse, or someone else, it may be that another issue is involved.

I learned early on in my marriage that if I am triggered into an argument or a defensive position, there is likely an issue of pride at stake.

  • Unhealthy pride. The kind that says "Who are YOU to talk to ME that way?"
  • Pride also says "I am not going to let this person think this way about me."
  • Pride can also rear its ugly head when we think: I've had it. I'm not going to take this anymore!

I'm not talking about responding to issues of emotional, verbal, or physical abuse. I am talking about discussions or arguments that go sour because our feathers get ruffled and our pride gets hurt.

I'm talking about dying to self and the desire to protect our image at all costs.

It takes a great amount of trust in God to give up our need to defend ourselves and leave our reputation in God's hands. He sees our hearts, He knows our motives, and He can protect our name. After all, if we are following and identifying ourselves with Him, then His name is our name. And He is perfectly capable of taking care of His own.

Can you take one—or all—of these steps today and diffuse a battle that is knocking at your door?

Cindi McMenamin is a national women's conference and retreat speaker and the author of a dozen books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 120,000 copies sold), When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, upon which this article is based. For more on her books and ministry, or to download free resources to strengthen your marriage, parenting, or individual walk with God, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Graphic in text: adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday
Apr172014

Celebrate Easter Every Day

I asked Debbie Harris to share a special pre-Easter* post with us, helping us to UPGRADE our Attitude about this special celebration by cultivating “an Easter heart.” She encourages us to enjoy Resurrection Day every day!

“Though Easter Sunday is possibly the largest attended Sunday of the year,” Debbie said, “did you ever wonder about the fact that if it were not for Easter, there would be no church service?"

What?

No church? And not just that … No choir? No Sunday school? No Bible studies? No Stewardship Desserts and potluck fellowships? Can you imagine that?

Debbie continues …

There would be no church service because there would be no faith. The theme of Easter is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the foundational doctrine of our faith. Out of all the doctrines of the Christian faith, the resurrection may be the most important of them all, for if there were no resurrection, we would have no faith! 

“and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is in vain!” (I Corinthians 15:14)

Christ was raised indeed—there absolutely was a resurrection—and so we do have a faith and we do celebrate it every Easter.

But if Easter commemorates the resurrection and the resurrection commemorates our faith, we should actually be celebrating Easter every day! Yes, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is active in us every single day.

Why do we celebrate?

Let me personalize Ephesians 2:1-10 (from the NLT) to explain.

1. His resurrection gives us life!  

Once I was dead, doomed forever because of my many sins. I used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. I used to live that way, following the passions and desires of my evil nature. I was born with an evil nature, and I was under God's anger just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved me so very much, that even while I was dead because of my sins, he gave me life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor that I have been saved!)

2. His resurrection gives us position! 

For He raised me from the dead along with Christ, and I am seated with Him in the heavenly realms—all because I am one with Christ Jesus.  And so God can always point to me as example of the incredible wealth of His favor and kindness toward me, as shown in all He has done for me through Christ Jesus.

3. His resurrection gives us the gift of salvation! 

God saved me by His special favor when I believed. And I can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things I have done, so I cannot boast about it. 

For I am God's masterpiece. He has created me anew in Christ Jesus, so that I can do the good things He planned for me long ago.”   

What fascinating truth, even more fascinating than what Easter means to most:  a new season bringing treasures of new life and spring flowers. The resurrection of Christ was the vehicle that gave the treasure of all treasures—new life, position and salvation to all who believe. 

Easter may come only once a year, but because of the resurrection we have reason to celebrate it every day!

How do you celebrate Easter (Resurrection Sunday) each spring? How can you be intentional in extending that celebration throughout the year?

Debbie Harris is married to the Men’s Pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church in southern California. She and Ben have six children and three grandchildren. She loves God, family, women and the Word. Debbie assists her husband in various ministries, disciples women and her highlight of the week is teaching a Precept class, where she has found the thrill of mining diligently through the Word contagious!

* Although this term is usually used, even in most churches, "Resurrection Day" or "Resurrection Sunday" are more accurate.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Prepare Your Heart and Home for Easter

Diane Dean knows the reason for this special spring season—Easter*, or Resurrection Day—is Jesus! She shares this Holiday UPGRADE in the hope it will help us focus our hearts on Him.

"I was at Walmart the other day picking up some Easter candy and craft projects for our grandchildren," Diane says, "And the checker said, 'Is it just me, or are all the holidays becoming more commercialized?'"

Commercialization of holidays is inevitable in a society that worships money and the things it can buy, but I (Dawn) think retailers are going overboard these days. There's always something new to draw our hearts away from the true meaning of Resurrection Sunday.

Diane continues ... 

My first thought was, "Are you just noticing?" It does seem there are very few occasions for which Hallmark doesn't have a card.  

Decorations are in the marketplace for all kinds of "special days." Some holidays are secular, but others are holy days. How easily we can get caught up in the marketing and 'stuff" and forget the glorious reasons to celebrate holy days!

When I taught Sunday school to grade school children, I would ask why we celebrate Christmas and Easter. Most often the answer was, "That is when Santa" or "the Easter bunny" comes. Upon pressing them, we would eventually get around to the correct answer. Most knew, but that wasn't what they thought of first. 

What do we think of first?

When we think of Easter, we should think of Jesus' sacrifice to bring us to God—to allow us to have a relationship with the Father.

1 Peter 3:18 (NIV) says, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit."

Good Friday and Easter are days that changed history forever. For those who believe the Bible, it was an event that ended the need for sacrifices and atonement for sins. Jesus died on the cross as our Savior, a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy—He was the promised Messiah. He paid for our sins with His blood and horrific death on the cross.

Luke 24:1-6a states our reason to celebrate Easter. Pretend you've never read this before, and sense the wonder of that first Easter morning:

"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.

"In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!"

Why is the death of Jesus different? He didn't stay in the grave!

On the first Easter morning, Jesus physically came back to life. Life, for those who have embraced Jesus as their Savior, has changed forever! This fact is unique to Christianity. The founders of other faiths are still in their graves.

No one loves the decorations, fun and family time of Easter more than I, but I find it necessary to bring myself mentally to a quiet place and reflect on His great sacrifice for me and that wonderful day when He was resurrected, assuring eternal life through faith in Him. In John 14:6, Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

John 3:16 signs show up in sports stadiums and arenas everywhere, but I wonder how many don't know what it says and take time to look it up. This verse, so familiar to most Christians, says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

What can we do to be more intentional—to make the emphasis of Easter a time of spiritual reflection?

1. Read the story of the crucifixion and resurrection as a family (from Luke 23 and 24:1-8).

2. Pray together with a spirit of thanksgiving for His unconditional love for us and the gift of our salvation.

3. As you bake Easter cookies or make decorations with your children or grandchildren, talk about why Easter is so important. It will make memories that can become a tradition for them.

II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Spring is a time of new life; we see it in nature. Let us remember to celebrate our new life in Him.

             He is risen indeed!

What are your special Easter traditions that prepare your heart or home to celebrate the resurrection of Christ?

Diane Dean is a ministry wife, mother, grandmother, Bible teacher, seminar and retreat speaker, and designer for Diane Dean Interiors, LLC. Her blog, Diane's Traditions, is a potpourri of information from her personal experience and she welcomes questions.

"The Empty Tomb" painting by Frank Ordaz, used with permission.

 * "Resurrection Day" or "Resurrection Sunday" is a more accurate term.

 

Thursday
Apr102014

Plan B = Beautiful

My author/speaker friend Judy Scharfenberg has a quick smile and wit, but I truly grew to admire her as I observed her role as caregiver. I asked her to share this personal testimony as an Upgrade Your Attitudes post, because she exemplifies so clearly the "how to" of Christlike service.

"The ER nurse looked at me and said, 'You'd better call your family. Your husband is not going to survive!"

With those words, Judy's life turned upside down. But the Lord has a way of turning things rightside up for His glory ... when we trust Him. And that's what happened to Judy at this turning point of her life.

She continues ...

In the middle of the night my dear husband had a massive stroke. It was my worst nightmare come true. I was scared to death and could only cry silently, “Lord, I’m so afraid. Is my husband going to die?”  

Well, that nurse was wrong. Richard survived, and even though his speech returned beautifully, he came home in a wheelchair, paralyzed on one side. He needed my help dressing, bathing, getting in and out of bed, cutting up his food, help into the car and many other things.

This is the way things were going to be. I was now a caregiver.

Life changed dramatically in the Scharfenberg household. I didn’t have the freedom I once had; my life was built around Richard. We couldn’t do some of the things we used to do and everything took twice as long. I didn’t just have to get myself ready, I had to help get Richard ready too.

I wondered if I could live like this for the rest of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t mad. I didn’t act ugly, but I was sad. I wanted my straight and tall husband taking care of me. I yearned for the days when he drove and I was the passenger. I wanted to take walks like we used to.  I wanted his arm around me at the movies and his help around the house.

I had to come to grips with this new life. It is not something either one of us chose, but it happened. 

A few years earlier I had memorized Romans 12. The first few verses rolled over and over in my mind: 

“I urge you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice which is your spiritual service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I asked God to give me the strength, the joy, the peace that passes all understanding.

I truly wanted to serve my husband; I never wanted him to think he was a burden. 

It was a subtle change, and I can’t tell you when it happened, but one day I looked at this man and great joy rose up in my heart and I thanked God that he was alive and here with me. I thanked God that I could care for him and make his life easier. I thanked God that I could keep him clean, I could drive him places, I could read to him, I could make his favorite foods, I could literally lavish him with love and care.   

Oh, don’t get me wrong; we still had our disagreements just like everyone does. Richard came from stubborn German stock and I like control. Many times we butted heads over the way I did things. And then I would remember how confined he was.

I could encourage him or I could think about myself and make his life miserable. 

Former first lady Barbara Bush has a wonderful quote that I love.  She said, “You have two choices in life. You can either like it, or not. I chose to like it.”

I especially thanked God because I knew my feelings and my abilities are not normal. Only God could take this devastating experience and turn it around for His glory.

Our Plan B looked BEAUTIFUL.

God turned me into a giver instead of a taker. And you know, it really isn’t caregiving; it’s life-giving, for Richard and for me.

If you could see the future; if you knew your life would change overnight; what would you do differently today?

Judy Scharfenberg has a heart for women and families and has spoken at conferences, retreats and women’s events for more than 20 years. She was wife to Richard for more than 42 years—he passed on to heaven recently—and is the mom of six and proud grandma of 15. Judy will tell you she’s earned every strand of her gray hair. Her encouraging book, Secure Families in a Shaky World, was written for young wives and moms and older women who mentor younger women. Judy is currently working on a new book, Secure Marriages in a Shaky World. Visit Judy at www.judyscharfenberg.com.

 

 

Tuesday
Apr082014

How to Grow a 'Wildfire Faith'

Carol Kent is an amazing woman, shaped by the Lord for a powerful ministry—but not through circumstances she ever would have chosen for herself. Be encouraged with this Faith UPGRADE.

“As a teenager I wanted to live for something that would outlast my life,” Carol said. “I remember saying, ‘God, I’ll do anything for you.’” 

I [Dawn] remember saying that to the Lord too … and then life got in the way. Carol had a similar experience.

She continues …

After I graduated from college and got married, I began a home Bible study. A couple of years later I was directing women’s ministries in a large church, followed by an opportunity to teach a city-wide Bible Study Fellowship class.

But in the middle of saying, “Yes” to a speaking ministry, I was stopped in my tracks when my only child was arrested for a serious crime.

Suddenly, I felt like my once vibrant faith was turning into an ash heap as I wrestled with God over why he would allow something so devastating to happen.

How about you? Do you sometimes wrestle with disappointment with God, deep discouragement, or diminished trust in God’s faithfulness? 

 Each one of us has our own trigger points for what wears us down to the point of feeling like the fire of our faith is going out. 

For some, it might be great personal loss or a series of losses; for others, it might be the burnout of working hard in business or ministry without visible results or much-needed breaks. Sometimes it’s dealing with the “daily” part of life. 

We don’t intentionally let our faith turn into a small flicker; we just get too busy to tend the fire.

Here are Seven Steps for Growing Your Faith-Fire:

1. Identify the current state of your faith. Is it an early spark, just beginning to flicker? A raging bonfire? Smoldering coals? Does your love for God burn so brightly that others are drawn to the radiance and warmed by its heat?

2. Embrace the power of embers. I used to think of embers as the sad remains of a dying fire. However, embers are the glowing, hot coals that remain after a fire.

If you’ve experienced a personal firestorm that threatened to quench your faith, ask the Holy Spirit to blow on the embers of your faith as you hang your weakness on his strength.

3. Document what God has done. Every time I get discouraged, I’ve started listing what God has done in the past and it reminds me that even if my current challenging circumstances don’t change, he’ll walk with me through the heat of the crisis.

4. Remember your first spark of faith. I came to know Jesus when I was five years old. I was listening to a Christian radio program and I turned to my mother and told her I was “such a sinner.” She immediately realized that God was speaking to my heart and led me to Jesus that day. Remembering that day reinforces my desire to stay close to him.

5. Tend the fire of your faith. I’m learning to be intentional about spending time reading God’s Word. I write out verses that strengthen my faith. Right now, I’m memorizing Rom. 12:11-12 (MSG):  “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.  Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.  Don’t quit in hard times…”  

I have a friend who challenged me to plan DAWG Days (Day-Alone-With-God Days). She encouraged me to plan ahead for a full day, or even a half-day when I could go to a quiet place (a park, a library, or any place where I wouldn’t be interrupted) with my Bible, a devotional book, and a journal. I was to read God’s Word and then write out what I believed he was saying to me.

6. Pierce the darkness.  Matt. 5:14 (MSG) says, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept.  We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” 

Begin doing one tangible act of kindness for someone else every day. (Examples: offer to babysit for a single mom so she can have a break; visit an inmate in a jail or prison; take a meal to a friend who is recovering from surgery (or send a gift card); or pray with someone who needs encouragement (over the phone, via a text message, or through an email).

7. Develop unquenchable faith. Wildfire faith springs from God’s Word and burns itself into your own story. As you ask him to give you a passion for living for things that matter, act on what you know to be true about God. Review his attributes and his names. 

Be assured that when the fire of adversity meets the God of the Flame—He wins…and so do you!

Which of these seven steps does God want to use to tinder the fire of your faith this week?

Janet Baker won the drawing for Carol's UNQUENCHABLE book.

Carol Kent, a bestselling author and international speaker, is the president of Speak Up Speaker Services, a Christian speakers' bureau, and director of the Speak Up Conference—equipping men and women to develop speaking, writing and leadership skills. She also founded Speak Up for Hope, which benefits families of incarcerated individuals. Some of Carol's books include: When I Lay My Isaac Down, A New Kind of Normal and Becoming a Woman of Influence. Her newest title is Unquenchable: Grow a Wildfire Faith That Will Endure Anything. Carol and her husband Gene live in Lakeland, Florida.