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Thursday
Apr062017

Let Us Spray

In Rhonda Rhea's case, the funnybone connects to the heart! In this Prayer UPGRADE, she encourages us to spend time where our strength lies.

"Sometimes I’m tempted to take some time off from hairspray," Rhonda says. "Sometime when I’m planning to go nowhere. And I mean absolutely nowhere. I think I would call it a spray-cation."

Don't get me (Dawn) started on hairspray. It's been a long time since my free-flowing "hippie" years. Now I'm in the "helmet" stage—as in, you couldn't dent my hair!

Rhonda continues . . .

It’s funny because I almost remember what it was like to freely run my fingers through my hair. It’s been a long time, though.

These days I invest in a lot of hair products. The fingers may go in, but I’m telling you right now. They’re not coming out.

I have to keep the crazy assortment of hair sprays, gels, mousses and goops, because it takes a different concoction for every style. A brew for every do, as it were.

When constructing an up-do, for instance, you sort of have to pour footings. I use a product that’s referred to as styling mousse, but I think it might actually be some sort of rebar.

Still—not to split hairs or anything—but it’s good to remember that if you don’t want to have to wrestle with your hair, you have to start with a good goo-foundation.

As for real life battles, if you want victory there, you have to start with a good spiritual foundation. You have to invest.

Time invested in connecting with the Father in prayer is absolutely vital.

  • Are you wrestling with your flesh on some issue or another? Take it to Him.
  • Struggling with a decision? Lay it at His feet.
  • Grappling with a fearful situation that has your hair standing on end—even before the mousse? Spend time with Him and the battle is all but over.

The God who created everything, the One who never tires, the One who has all power and who also promises to grant strength to those who will rely on Him—He is the One who will give victory. There’s not a single battle we can ever face that He doesn’t have the power to win.

Isaiah 40:28-31 spells it out.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow wear, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint” (HCSB).

So it’s eyes off of the battle that threatens to overwhelm us. And eyes on the God who simply cannot be overwhelmed.

The evil one wants to keep us focused on the problems, frustrations and pains of the battle. But the Lord wants us to take our eyes off all of that and fix them firmly on Him. More firmly fixed than the surest hair-glue.

We can do that through prayer. And that’s where our strength will be found.

Feeling weary? Powerless? Like you could easily stumble and fall?

Without a doubt, the best place to fall is to your knees.

Trust in the One who will be your strength. Fall before Him in prayer and you will find everything you need for soaring—really soaring—through every battle.

You win. And it’s the kind of victory that’s sure and complete.

Not the kind you win by just by a hair.

Are you trusting in your own strength today? Isn't it time for a talk with your Father in heaven?

Friends, "Let us spray."

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.

Tuesday
Apr042017

Three Ways to Dial Down Drama in Your Life

Cindi McMenamin is all about strengthening people, whether it's in their walk with the Lord, their personal relationships, or their inner soul strength. In this Attitude UPGRADE, Cindi helps us focus on dialing down the drama so we can experience more freedom.

“There are,” Cindi says, “two types of drama: the drama that life brings—and God allows—and the drama we create by how we respond to life.”

I (Dawn) have never been much of a "Drama Queen" type... in public. But in my heart, that's another story. The Lord knows if we are truly drama free.

Cindi continues . . .

Whether our drama is the petty stuff (like being gossiped about or having a bad day) or the truly painful stuff (like dealing with a diagnosis or losing someone we love), how we respond makes all the difference—or all the drama—in the world.

  • How do you respond if someone addresses you insensitively or is downright rude?
  • What do you do when you read a Facebook post that upsets you?
  • What is your response when you find yourself being falsely accused in a text or voice message or directly to your face?

Here are three steps to take to keep your emotions in check:

1. Take a breather.

In the heat of the moment, take time to step back, take a deep breath, and reevaluate. This will keep your emotions in check and keep you from flying off at someone.

You’ve heard the expression “sleep on it” when you’re faced with making a difficult decision. That’s great advice when it comes to responding to an accusatory email, an angry phone call, or a social media post that ruffled your feathers. Studies show that the brain actually processes situations more thoroughly while you sleep so that means you wake up with a fresh – and often less emotional – perspective.

If you’re in a face-to-face encounter, ask to be excused for a few moments to breathe deeply (and therefore lower your heart rate), and collect your thoughts so you can think and respond more clearly.

Take a breather, get some perspective, and let the extra time cool the heat of your emotions. 

2. Take a personal inventory.

In every situation there is a lesson to be learned. And in every accusation there is a seed of truth.

A drama-filled woman says, “I must defend myself. I must clear my name. I must straighten this person out.”

But a Spirit-filled woman lets God work in her heart by exposing to her any shred of truth in the accusation or any lesson she needs to learn for the molding of her character.

It’s easy for us to want to be loud and proud and prove our point in the heat of the moment. But when we step out of the battle and ask God to speak truth to our hearts, we are acknowledging that we make mistakes too, and we are willing to learn from the situation how to better respond next time.

This is a way of living out our instructions in James 4:10:Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

3. Take it to God.

I have found that when I am plagued by a situation that could cause drama, it is diffused when I take it to God and sit there with Him in it for awhile. As I ask Him to help me see the situation more clearly, not only does He show me my part in it, but He also gives me wisdom to know how to respond next.

And sometimes, we find a matter isn’t worth pursuing further after we’ve set it at God’s feet.

Also, as we pray about it, God fills our heart with the peace of His presence (Philippians 4:6-7) and we find the drama isn’t so overwhelming after all.

When we take a breather, take a personal inventory, and take it to God we are allowing Him to draw us closer to Himself through the drama so we can emerge from the conflict more Christlike.

Which of these steps do you most need to practice so you can be drama free?  

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of fifteen books, including her newest releasing this month, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, upon which this post is based. For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Vector4Free.

Thursday
Mar302017

Obedience ... and My Bathroom Scale

Dawn Wilson discovered a simple concept that changed her health overhaul, but it had far deeper consequences. In this Health and Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she focuses in on a key life-changer: Obedience.

I stepped off the bathroom scale one morning with disgust. Hadn't I stayed "on program," following my nutritionist's counsel carefully? (Maybe I deviated a wee bit... OK, twice.)

But really, the scale should have budged a little over a week. I was eating healthier and exercising more than a year before.

What happened?

Now I knew, from my nutritionist's cautions, that many things can influence the scale: gaining muscle from exercise as we lose fat, overeating, emotional eating, the time of the month, and even being constipated!

So I shouldn't worry. I knew I should just stay the course and over time, I'd see change.

But I was still mad that morning.

I started questioning the whole process. I grumbled. I was ready to throw in the towel, or maybe toss out my scale!

But wouldn't you know it. God was watching.

And the Lord provided an answer for me that very morning.

It came from Lysa TerKeurst. She quoted a friend who said,  

"Define your week by obedience, not by a number on the scale."

I tell you, I cried as I read those words.

When it came to my weight and appearance, I was trying to live according to human expectations, not with joyful obedience to the Lord.

Lysa continued, again quoting her friend:

"Yes, eating healthy and exercising get our bodies into better shape, but we are never supposed to get soul satisfaction from our looks. Our looks are temporary ... The apostle Paul wrote, 'We must obey God rather than human beings' (Acts 5:29).

"I read that verse differently now. 'I must obey God rather than human values'—like a number on the scale or the size on the tag in my jeans."

I wanted to solidify that thought in my mind, and my study on obedience that day encouraged my heart. I simply asked:

Why do we obey the Lord? (Or maybe, why should we?) And here's what I discovered:

1. We obey the Lord because He IS Lord!

Obedience is the right thing to do, because He is our Lord, our Master, and He has every right to tell us what to do. He rightly expects obedience. He says, "Be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16), and "love each other as I have loved you" (John 13:34). Commands like that.

In the Old Testament, God required obedience regarding particular laws. He told his people, "keep my commandments and do them" (Leviticus 22:31). In other words, put them into practice!

Why? "... I am the LORD."

God also connected obedience to His sovereignty and His rescuing of Israel from Egypt (v. 33). Their obedience was a humble response to their gracious Lord's deliverance.

Likewise, we must respond to His Lordship and holiness from grateful hearts, because He has "delivered" (rescued) us from sin and spiritual darkness (Galatians 1:4; Colossians 1:13-14). We glady offer ourselves to Him as living "sacrifices" (Romans 12:1-2) to do His bidding.

What we want (desire, crave) is always to take second place to what He wants.

This is so crucial. In fact, our desire to obey the Lord is one sign to others that we know Him (1 John 2:3).

We are to obey the Lord IMMEDIATELY, COMPLETELY and JOYFULLY (Psalm 119:60; 1 Chronicles 28:8; Psalm 112:1).

2. Obedience demonstrates love for the Lord (1 John 5:2-3).

If we love Him, we will desire to keep His commands (John 14:15, 23).

It's not a matter of obedience to a plan, program, any list of arbitrary rules or people's preferences for our lives, but rather: "What is the Lord teaching me through the things He brings into my life and the disciplines He wants me to cultivate?"

If I love the Lord, I will seek to obey Him as I'm prompted by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:16; John 14:26). It is the Spirit who gives us necessary wisdom and empowers us to obey (1 Corinthians 2:9-13, 16; Zechariah 4:6). It is the Spirit who helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us when we struggle with obedience (Romans 8:26-27).

3. Our obedience in faith pleases the Lord (Hebrews 11:6).

It's about our hearts. God sees our hearts and delights in us when we obey (1 Samuel 15:22).

We can be such disobedient creatures—willful and independent of God. Disobedience can indicate a heart filled with fear, lack of faith, wrong desires, personal agendas or even idolatries.

The Lord showed me a deep idolatry I cherished: the idol of food. Food is good and nourishing, but giving in to my rebellious appetite controls and enslaves. Constant cravings and lack of discipline point to a tremendous heart issue. My false god will never satisfy the deep needs in my heart. I need to give my food idol to the Lord and worship Him alone—not fudge and French fries!

It takes faith to obey the Lord when we can't see the end results. But when we choose to "trust and obey," this pleases Him.

4. Obedience is one way to prove our faithfulness to the Lord (1 John 2:3-6).

God does not respond to our mere discussions about obedience, but rather to our active obedience (James 1:22-25).

He evaluates our behavior for signs of faithfulness. He checks to see what values are driving our actions. He looks for intergrity.

In the Old Tesament, God said he would "raise up a faithful priest" who would serve Him and "do whatever I tell him to do" (1 Samuel 2:35). Likewise, God is looking for faithful servants today. It's ESSENTIAL.

5. Obedience opens the door for the Lord to bless and reward (John 13:17).

As the old hymn says, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." Obedience may be difficult at times, but it ultimately brings joy, freedom and fulfillment (Psalm 119:1-2).

"Blessed (HAPPY) are all who ... walk in obedience" (Psalm 128:1).

Throughout the history of God's people in the Old Testament, the Lord promised reward and many blessings to those who obeyed Him and His Word (Genesis 22:18; Deuteronomy 4:39-40; 5:29; Proverbs 3:1-6; Jeremiah 7:23-24). Truly, in keeping (embracing and obeying) God's Word, there is great reward (Psalm 19:11).

Jesus echoed this truth. If we obey His commands, He said, we will be blessed to dwell in His love and find joy that is complete (John 15:10-11).

Some of the rewards of obedience are long life, gladness, protection, a sense of God's presence, assurance, peace; and answers to prayer. (Scriptures for these are at the end of this post.)

God rewards those who seek Him with a heart bent to obey.

6. Obedience glorifies God in our lives and before others (Matthew 5:16).

We should never want to bring shame on God's holy name; we should deeply desire to bring him honor and glory.

Our testimony of obedience to our loving Father shows the world God is working in and through us (1 Peter 2:12); and the sweet blessing is, God honors those who honor Him (1 Samuel 2:30b).

In these terms, living according to human expectations or values cannot be compared to living in obedience to God. Obedience is a far superior way to live, and with eternal dividends.

And it might even nudge that bathroom scale!

How can you apply these points of obedience to something practical in your liferegaining your health, getting out of debt, working on a relationship or something else?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Scriptures for "rewards" of obedience: long life (Deuteronomy 32:46-47; Proverbs 3:1-2); gladness (Nehemiah 8:17; 1 Chronicles 16:27; Acts 2:41, 46); protection (Deuteronomy 23:5); a sense of God's presence (John 14:21); assurance (1 John 3:24); peace (Psalm 119:165); and answers to prayer (1 John 3:22).

Graphic adapted, courtesy of HyenaReality, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday
Mar282017

Trials Polish the Shine

I’ve watched Kathy Carlton Willis deal with trial after trial and somehow continue to shine. I often wonder how she manages to grin despite the challenges. In this deeply personal Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she helps us consider the blessing in our trials.

“Trials are going to happen to everyone. We don’t get a choice," Kathy says, "but we do get to choose how we respond. Will I grin or will I groan? I’ve found if I can stay focused on God and others, I can endure the negative circumstances in my life.”

Kathy’s not merely saying words. She’s my (Dawn's) personal Barnabas of encouragement even when she’s in the middle of her own painful situations.

Kathy continues . . .

A few months ago I had a simple surgery that resulted in serious complications. Others ask how I keep smiling during personal turmoil.  

Even though my time in the hospital was miserable, the God-appointments were amazing! When people entered my room to do their jobs, God prompted me to say the right thing so they felt comfortable opening up about a burden. I got to deliver a dose of Jesus’ grace before they left.

Only God could bring the hurting to me when I was hurting and couldn’t go to them!

How rewarding to be used for God’s good and glory despite physical limitations.

If you are going through a terrible circumstance, I’m here to share this fact: trials polish the shine more!

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold" (1 Peter 1:6-7a, NLT).

I rejoice that God planted me at the right place at the right time. Oh—the stories I heard!

People came in with family problems. One admitted she was shamed by a hospital worker for being “just an aide.” My tenderhearted night nurse was worried about her own upcoming medical test. The next week she returned to thank me for my prayers because her test came back normal!

A mom visiting her son across the hall talked to me about his serious injuries. We discussed how God answers prayer. Many more God-stories occurred.

As I walked the halls, every door had the name of that room's patient and their doctor. I prayed for each. For the patients, to have grace to endure, and for the doctors to have both wisdom and compassion.

It was like my own personal missionary assignment!

Praying for others got my mind off my own problems and kept them in perspective considering what others faced.

TIPS for ENDURANCE

1. Be alert to others.

Be alert to what's going on around you more than you're tuned in to your own problems.

God can use us anywhere as long as we pay attention to the pain—and joy—of others rather than being singularly focused on our own dilemmas.

2. Sense the prayers of others.

Allow them to lift you up, uP, UP—just like a hot air balloon.

3. Don't apologize for being weak.

One of God's graces is that when we are weak, God shows up strong. (Well... He's always strong, but I sure notice it more when I'm weak!)

4. Tap into God's strength.

The strength you need or others need in you will show up as He surges through you with His power. It's the Christian's super power!

For whatever reason, God seems to like to use me in the MESS rather than in the BEST. If that’s the way He gets the most glory, I’m okay with that. My story is about how BIG He is despite my big problems.

Whether in the BEST, or the MESS—I am BLESSED.

How might God use you during your current messy life situation?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker   at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author   - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She wrote Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers and has several books releasing over the next few years. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Thursday
Mar232017

What Does 'Walking in the Light' Look Like?

In this longer Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson asks us to consider our "walk" with the Lord. Are we truly walking in the light? What does that even look like?

It's a well-know metaphor in Christian circles: We're to "walk in the light."

But it's often misunderstood.

It doesn't just mean to live openly and honestly before people. It doesn't even mean to behave well.

To walk in the light biblically has a far deeper and more significant meaning.

One of my favorite Bible passages is Ephesians 5:8:

"for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light."

Maybe it's because my name is "Dawn," but I've always been fascinated with light. This scripture awakened me to the whole concept of "light in the Lord."

Paul was admonishing Christians to live in light of the light God has provided us in the example of Jesus and in the truth of the Word of God.

This concept began in the Old Testament when saints were encouraged to walk in "the light of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:5).

Isaiah predicted that people who "walked in darkness" would see a "great light" (9:2); and in due time, Jesus came down from the "Father of Lights" (James 1:17). Those who trusted in Christ would find light for life (Isaiah 50:10).

The Father's nature is light. There is no darkness or evil in Him at all. And Jesus, His Son, is the pure Light of the World (John 8:12). He is the provider of the Father's light to us.

Jesus is the "true light, which gives light to everyone," John said (John 1:9). In Him, we don't need to walk in darkness.

So what does it mean to "walk in the light"?

Essentially, our "walk" is our lifestyle—our mindset, patterns of behavior and the choices we make. But that mindset and behavior must be holy and aligned with scripture, and our choices must be biblically wise in order for us to say we are truly "walking in the light."

In our identification with our Savior, we are holy—set apart for the Lord's use. As we walk with the Lord and learn to trust and obey Him, we grow and mature spiritually (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24). We become more like Jesus (1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 1Thessalonians 4:3).

It's a one-time transformation when God changes our hearts at salvation, but there is also a "being made holy" (sanctification) process. When we walk, we're going somewhere. We're making progress on the lighted path.

At one point in my life, I thought walking in the light was too difficult.

I rationalized that I live in a morally dark world, and choices for "light" were just too hard. So I coasted spiritually.

But with growth in Christ and through His grace and power, I've learned more about what "shining" for the Lord looks like. Just as Jesus is the Light of the World, we are called out of darkness and each one of us is commanded to be a light in our "crooked and twisted" world (1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 5:14-16). God does not want us to "abide" (or dwell) in darkness any longer (John 12:46).

So HOW are we to walk as children of light?

1. We're to REMEMBER we were rescued from darkness.

We can't forget what it's like to live in darkness.

  • Living in darkness is lying to ourselves and lying about the reality of eternity—it's not acknowledging and practicing the truth (1 John 1:6).
  • People who live in darkness don't want to come to the light because it exposes their sin (John 3:19-20).
  • They reinterpret good and evil (Isaiah 5:20) because they are spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4).
  • People who choose to walk on the dark path take pleasure in doing wrong, enjoying their twisted ways of evil (Proverbs 2:13-14).

Walking in darkness is a lifestyle that promises (and sometimes gives) us so much, but it's all empty in the end.

In contrast, the Christian's walk should reflect a glorious truth: the Father has qualified us, in Christ, "to share the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness..." (Colossians 1:9-14).

To walk in the light begins with a heart transformation as we trust in what Christ did for us when we were lost in darkness, separated from God.

2. We're to BE HOLY: "blameless and innocent."

Being "righteous" has gone out of style in much of our culture, but to walk in the light is to grow in holiness. We relinquish our sin and let God's holy light shine through us (Matthew 5:16). A holy testimony is important!

We must "lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light" behaving properly (Romans 13:11-14; Ephesians 5:7-14). We are wrestling against the spiritual wickedness, the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12). We're to dress ourselves for battle in the light of Christ, and get moving for Him.

God's Word is the light we need for daily choices (Psalm 119:105; John 1:4-5). We're to embrace and hold tight to scriptural truth so the world can see Jesus' light in us (Phiippians 2:14-16).

We can't straddle the fence between holiness and wickedness (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

We "walk by the Spirit." The Spirit of God enables us to walk in the light (2 Corinthians 4:6). As we walk by the Spirit, we do not "gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16, 25; Ezekiel 36:26-27).

3. We're to keep our MISSION FOCUS.

Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6b in Acts 13:47, reminding believers that God wants to use us to "bring salvation to the ends of the earth." Jesus gave us a mission, and we don't want sin to diminish our testimony and effectiveness (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 24:16; 1 Peter 3:16).

We also need to pray the Lord will lift the blindness of people, because without Christ, they cannot "see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). They may even be rebelling against the light (Job 24:13).

It is our Father alone who can shine life-transforming light into hearts.

Knowing that, we can pray He will open the eyes of our friends and loved ones.

3. We're to live for GOD'S GLORY.

We were chosen for a reason: to "proclaim the excellencies" of the Lord who called us "into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

We're to do all things for His glory alone—to live "for the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

4. We're to be CAREFUL about our RELATIONSHIPS.

Be careful about your "walking" companions. They may lead you astray.

It's hard to be light-bearers when our closest pals are those who walk in darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 John 1:6-7).

This doesn't mean we can't ever associate with those in darkness; but we must be alert and careful in those interactions. Light and darkness are opposites.

5. We're to BE FUTURE-FOCUSED: to live in the light of Jesus' return.

We're not in darkness, but we still must be "alert and sober," remembering the Lord will return and what we're going to do for Him, we need to do now (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).

We must remember this world is not our home. We're heading into eternity, and we will all appear before the Lord to give an account of ourselves (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Walking in the Light involves total commitment to the Lord and the Word, not just for righteous living today, but to prepare us to live with the Father of Lights for eternity.

Are you walking in the light today? Which of these five points might need some work so you can keep in step with the Spirit of God?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pexels at Pixabay.