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Tuesday
Nov072017

Choosing Leaders, Casting Votes & Raising Voices

In this Election UPGRADE, Julie Sanders encourages us to consider godly wisdom when we vote this year.

"Elections raise a lot of questions and stir up even more emotions," Julie says. "Scan social media or listen in to nearby conversation during Election Season, and you’re likely to hear conflict."

I (Dawn) do hear it, and I'm weary of all the name-calling and lies. But Christians can't pull away from the election process. We need to make our votes count.

Julie continues . . .

Casting our vote has become a tense business. To choose wise leaders in hard times, we need truth.

The voter’s guide arrived a month ago. Descriptions of experience, opinions, alliances, and promises filled the pages to help make decisions about who to follow.

People have had to “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15) since the Garden, but when it comes to elections, one thing is sure. 

We will vote for a flawed human being. 

1. Choosing my Leaders

Passion, rhetoric, or vision may cause us to cast our vote for a candidate.

Since no one is righteous, “no not one,” (Romans 3:10) every leader will let us down. It’s human habit to look for someone to see, hear, and touch (to physically follow); but every human leader will someday be a let down in some way.

If you’re looking for a leader who won’t let you down, look up.

Only Jesus is worthy of our total commitment and confidence. When we look to a man or woman to be what only Jesus can be, we’re on a collision course with disappointment. We won’t find flawless leaders to follow.

Eventually, a leader will stand up or sit down at the wrong time. A world hinging on human performance is a world in conflict.

Human leaders are flawed leaders. Our heavenly Leader is the faithful leader.  Though we cast a vote in our community, our trust remains in Christ alone.

2. Casting my Vote

While a follower of Christ knows her citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), she can prayerfully approach the chance to influence her government with her vote.

After reading the voter’s guide where I live, I am more prepared for God to direct my vote to work out His plan. Nations and governments use varied ways to identify leaders; voting isn’t a Biblical mandate. God allows leaders to rise or fall (Romans 13:1).

In every people group, God lets leaders lead.

Our vote results from who we are.

When our identity is in Christ, the process or results of an election shouldn’t overturn the Holy Spirit as the “incumbent” resident in our heart and mind; He has no term limit and cannot be impeached.

Jesus should never share the throne of our allegiance with earthly issues and candidates.

Whatever the conversation stirred by election coverage, when I am in Christ, I am His follower alone.

3. Raising my Voice

A Christ-like vote should have a Christ-like voice.

Followers of Christ cast their votes and raise their voices as representatives of the Light of the World. Too often, it’s not that way.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” (James 3:10-11)

Inflammatory language and emotion have poured out from those who don’t claim to follow Christ and those who do. Too often, words have sounded the same. Angry. Attacking. Untruthful. Proud. When we have the privilege of a vote and voice to shape government and life, a Christ-like vote should have a Christ-like voice.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom ... But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:13, 17-18).

Every human leader will let us down. 

Only Jesus deserves to be followed with our whole heart, to have our identity tied to His.

Whatever the outcome of Election Day, God is in control, listening for sweet words and attitudes to pour from a heart filled with His Spirit.

Our vote matters and our voice matters, no matter who sits on earthly thrones.

May our Christ-like votes be heard in our Christ-like voices.

Questions to consider:

  • How could I include government and leaders in my prayer life?
  • What are those around me on social media and in person hearing me say about leaders?
  • What kind of conversations am I listening to?
  • How does my voice and my vote reflect my identity?  

Julie Sanders grew up near the Nation’s Capitol, with a front row seat to watch and learn from elected leaders. She has served with her husband on ministry teams around the world, in nations without the privilege of a vote. Now they call the Northwest home, where she is the director of early learning programs across urban and rural regions. Julie writes from her online home, “Come Have a Peace.”

Graphic adapted, courtesy of maialisa at Pixabay.

 

Tuesday
Nov072017

Choosing Leaders, Casting Votes & Raising Voices

In this Election UPGRADE, Julie Sanders encourages us to consider godly wisdom when we vote this year.

"Elections raise a lot of questions and stir up even more emotions," Julie says. "Scan social media or listen in to nearby conversation during Election Season, and you’re likely to hear conflict."

I (Dawn) do hear it, and I'm weary of all the name-calling and lies. But Christians can't pull away from the election process. We need to make our votes count.

Julie continues . . .

Casting our vote has become a tense business. To choose wise leaders in hard times, we need truth.

The voter’s guide arrived a month ago. Descriptions of experience, opinions, alliances, and promises filled the pages to help make decisions about who to follow.

People have had to “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15) since the Garden, but when it comes to elections, one thing is sure. 

We will vote for a flawed human being. 

1. Choosing my Leaders

Passion, rhetoric, or vision may cause us to cast our vote for a candidate.

Since no one is righteous, “no not one,” (Romans 3:10) every leader will let us down. It’s human habit to look for someone to see, hear, and touch (to physically follow); but every human leader will someday be a let down in some way.

If you’re looking for a leader who won’t let you down, look up.

Only Jesus is worthy of our total commitment and confidence. When we look to a man or woman to be what only Jesus can be, we’re on a collision course with disappointment. We won’t find flawless leaders to follow.

Eventually, a leader will stand up or sit down at the wrong time. A world hinging on human performance is a world in conflict.

Human leaders are flawed leaders. Our heavenly Leader is the faithful leader.  Though we cast a vote in our community, our trust remains in Christ alone.

2. Casting my Vote

While a follower of Christ knows her citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), she can prayerfully approach the chance to influence her government with her vote.

After reading the voter’s guide where I live, I am more prepared for God to direct my vote to work out His plan. Nations and governments use varied ways to identify leaders; voting isn’t a Biblical mandate. God allows leaders to rise or fall (Romans 13:1).

In every people group, God lets leaders lead.

Our vote results from who we are.

When our identity is in Christ, the process or results of an election shouldn’t overturn the Holy Spirit as the “incumbent” resident in our heart and mind; He has no term limit and cannot be impeached.

Jesus should never share the throne of our allegiance with earthly issues and candidates.

Whatever the conversation stirred by election coverage, when I am in Christ, I am His follower alone.

3. Raising my Voice

A Christ-like vote should have a Christ-like voice.

Followers of Christ cast their votes and raise their voices as representatives of the Light of the World. Too often, it’s not that way.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” (James 3:10-11)

Inflammatory language and emotion have poured out from those who don’t claim to follow Christ and those who do. Too often, words have sounded the same. Angry. Attacking. Untruthful. Proud. When we have the privilege of a vote and voice to shape government and life, a Christ-like vote should have a Christ-like voice.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom ... But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:13, 17-18).

Every human leader will let us down. 

Only Jesus deserves to be followed with our whole heart, to have our identity tied to His.

Whatever the outcome of Election Day, God is in control, listening for sweet words and attitudes to pour from a heart filled with His Spirit.

Our vote matters and our voice matters, no matter who sits on earthly thrones.

May our Christ-like votes be heard in our Christ-like voices.

Questions to consider:

  • How could I include government and leaders in my prayer life?
  • What are those around me on social media and in person hearing me say about leaders?
  • What kind of conversations am I listening to?
  • How does my voice and my vote reflect my identity?  

Julie Sanders grew up near the Nation’s Capitol, with a front row seat to watch and learn from elected leaders. She has served with her husband on ministry teams around the world, in nations without the privilege of a vote. Now they call the Northwest home, where she is the director of early learning programs across urban and rural regions. Julie writes from her online home, “Come Have a Peace.”

Graphic adapted, courtesy of maialisa at Pixabay.

 

Wednesday
Nov012017

5 Tips to Strategically Simplify Your Holiday Season

Because Marcia Ramsland is one of the most organized people I know during the holiday season, I asked her to prepare us for Thanksgiving and Christmas with some helpful strategies.

This Holiday UPGRADE is based on her practical book, Simplify Your Holiday Season, and it includes a free download!

“If you do anything more than once in life," Marcia says, "organize it and simplify it. That’s especially true for the holidays that come year after year like clockwork. “  

I (Dawn) totally agree with the "organize and simplify" concept. Along with walking in the Spirit and experiencing His peace in our hearts (Galatians 5:16, 22), one of the blessings of being properly prepared for the holidays is the peace that flows into our celebrations and activities!

Marcia continues . . .

There is ONE DATE that signals it’s time to launch your holiday planning every year—November 1st.

Knowing that, you can be ready and sail through the holidays by taking these five action steps early. These five steps—and my free 8-Week Holiday Planning Calendar—will get you ready early and make it the peaceful Thanksgiving and Christmas season you’ve always dreamed of.

1.  Mark Your Holiday Dates for November and December.

Thanksgiving is “early” this year on November 23, which means Christmas is a little over four weeks after Thanksgiving. That’s really good news!

But you still need to follow a good Calendar Plan so too many details don’t mount up at the end to cause you holiday stress.

2.  Write A Master Gift List.

List the names of people that you are planning to give gifts to. Better yet, FIND YOUR LIST from last year and follow that same order early in November.

Can’t find last year’s list? You could download my free Master Gift List.

You can download the 2017 Free Master GIFT LIST and Holiday CALENDARhere.

(NOTE: If you already have my Holiday planner, put the list in the front pocket!)

3. Organize Your Gift Wrap Center.

Right now, you don’t have to wrap any gifts. Just organize your Gift Wrap Center with 7 key items all together, say in an under-the-bed box or drawer. 

Include: holiday wrapping paper, gift bags, gift tags, fresh tissue paper, bows & ribbons, scotch tape and a dedicated pen. Get it organized and ready to use.

4. Plan Ahead by Writing Things Down.

Mark your calendar with family coming to town, favorite concerts, kids school vacation dates, and business vacation days. This forms the structure for your holiday season.

5. Sort Your Holiday Decorations Early.

The best weekend to put up Christmas decorations this year will be Thanksgiving weekend or the weekend after, but not turning on lights until December 1.

That way you can enjoy them for five weeks before taking them down after New Year’s weekend.

Donate what you don’t use early in December. Why?

1) Someone else can enjoy your excess decorations this Christmas.

2) Charities won’t take them after Christmas, because they don’t have room to store them for 11 months.

Free up space by donating this year!

Planning is powerful! And with a good plan and your eye on the calendar, you can simplify your holiday season.

Instead of playing “catch-up” and feeling stressed, you will experience freedom and calm.

With an organized plan in action every week—written out on an 8-Week Holiday Calendar Plan—you can say wholeheartedly like the angelic heavenly host who praised God when they appeared to the shepherds and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” Luke 2:13-14.

Let me share a holiday prayer just for you.

"Dear God, today as I work on preparing my heart and home for Christmas, may I reflect on the events of the first Christmas and find strength in knowing you have a special plan for my holidays this year.” Amen

What holiday activity will you start this weekend to make sure you’re calm and ready to celebrate this holiday season?

Marcia Ramsland, the Holiday Coach, is the author of two holiday books: Simplify Your Holiday Season: Turn Seasonal Stress into Holiday Success” and Simply December Devotions and was a spokesperson for Sam’s Club Holiday Entertaining. Download Marcia's free 2017 Holiday Calendar and Master Gift List HERE

Thanksgiving/Christmas blocks in the graphic available at BuzzingBeesCrafts on Etsy.com, while quantities last.

Monday
Oct302017

Upgrade Your Fear Factor

Cindi McMenamin's specialty is strengthening women in their various roles. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she addresses something that holds many women back—the wrong kind of fear.

"Can fear ever be a good thing? It can," Cindi says, "but only when you are fearing the Right Thing."

I (Dawn) am a naturally fearful person, but I add my testimony to Cindi's here. Perspective is everything!

Cindi continues . . .

It occurred to me, as I was writing my book, Drama Free, that most of the drama we experience in life is a result of fear.

We tend to fear people—or circumstances—more than we fear God.

For instance, I was recently stressed out because I feared not being able to complete a deadline. But my fear was really rooted in failing to meet the expectations of others and then fearing what they would believe about me as a result.  

It bothered me to realize I was fearing what people thought of me more than I feared the God who had my back and could clear my name.

And couldn’t God equip me with what I needed to meet my deadline as I surrendered it to Him?

Throughout Scripture we are instructed to fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

A friend once told me:

To fear God is to have a wholesome dread of ever displeasing the Lord.

That implies a love relationship with God in which we fear disappointing Him. That results in obedience, respect of His authority, and a careful intention to not break His heart.

The Bible also tells us, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom….” (Psalm 111:10, NASB).

I’ve come to realize the opposite of wisdom is drama.

When we exercise wisdom, we use discretion and we don’t make a scene.

When we demonstrate wisdom, we don’t bring distress to others.

When we display wisdom, we are not putting ourselves on display. 

If fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which negates drama, then fearing anything other than God is likely to trigger drama.

Instead of fearing God, you and I can tend to fear:    

  • being misunderstood
  • being treated unfairly
  • being embarrassed (by appearing weak or incapable)
  • being rejected
  • being in a situation where I am not in control (My daughter has a fear of flying because she fears not being in control. And let me tell you, she can be drama on the airplane because of it!)

Sometimes we simply fear the worst. That is still a fear of something other than God. It is giving more power to what we fear than to God, who can handle those fears.

In Exodus 14:14 we are told: The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV).

That is ONE CAPABLE GOD—able to do far more than our fears, worries or drama can accomplish.

The more you and I get to know who God is and what He is capable of, the more our worries, fears, and freak-outs can be stilled.

We can be full of drama, or full of trust in an all-capable God.

I know which one I want to be.

What do you tend to fear more than God? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below.

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of sixteen books, including her newest, 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, courtesy of John Hain at Pixabay.

Thursday
Oct262017

When Tempted: Do Something Else!

In this Choices UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson explains how a simple weight loss tip helped her get a grip on habitual overeating and a lot of other addictions!

Maybe it will help you. . .

It was ridiculously simple. I was talking with the Lord about my food program, and I almost missed a quiet "suggestion."

The truth is, I wasn't praying as much as COMPLAINING.

  • "Lord, I can't do this."
  • "Lord, I think about chocolate all the time."
  • "Lord, I always want more, more, MORE!"

Somewhere in my complaint, my words turned more desperate.

"Lord ... HELP!"

And then I heard this little voice deep within my soul.

"Do something else."

"Do what?"

"Some... Thing... Else!"

"Like eating potato chips instead of chocolate?" (I wondered if the Voice was amused?)

"No. Do something else entirely. Switch your focus."

Though I'd been struggling for months, I instantly understood what "switch your focus" meant.

Stop focusing on food. Stop focusing on stuff. Stop focusing on getting "more" of everything.

Look elsewhere. Get busy elsewhere.

Anywhere but the refrigerator and the mall.

The more I thought about it, I knew there were three ways to re-focus my attention.

1. I needed to Focus on my faithful OVERCOMER.

Instead of focusing on how overwhelmed and powerless I felt, I could gaze on the One who died to give me hope and victory over my flesh.

The first and best things I can do when tempted is to "watch and pray" (Matthew 26:41) and read or quote (memorized) scripture that applies to my temptation (Psalm 119:11).

The enemy would like me to receive and live by DEVILISH LIES: You can't win ... It's hopeless ... You're doomed to failure ... You're too weak, etc.

The truth of scripture is, "...walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" ... "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Galatians 5:16; Romans 13:14)

Yet there is an element of truth in one of Satan's lies. I AM too weak!

Without the Lord, I can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him, there is victory, because nothing is impossible with the Lord (Matthew 19:26). My Faithful Overcomer conquered Satan and sin, and lived a sinless life. I can be victorious because I am hidden in Him and can live by faith in Him (Colossians 3:3; Galatians 2:20). 

I don't need to make "provision" for my flesh (Romans 13:14), but rather, I can "clothe myself" with Christ and consider some ways I might make "provision" to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in changing me—to "put off" some things that belong to my old sinful life and "put on" new things that align with a renewed mind and heart (Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 12:1-2).

And that's where I move from grounding in theology to practical outworkings.

2. I needed to Focus on freeing OPTIONS.

Instead of focusing on all the things I CAN'T have and do, I could dig a little deeper and hone in on positive, healthier, life-building choices.

Dig a little deeper? How?

  • I could LOOK for recipes that would nourish my body and not contribute to ill-being.
  • I could SEEK new ways to exercise that I actually enjoy.
  • I could FIGURE OUT how to restructure my personal spending and time management (with better stewardship of my mind, emotions, body and spirit in mind).
  • I could THINK ABOUT things that bring God glory and bring me God-blessed pleasure—things that don't burden me with guilt or negative consequences. (God's original design in giving us "appetites" was good; because He wants us us to honor and enjoy Him and His blessings.)

As a simple tool, I recently created a "Do Something Else" list with ideas to help me "get up and get busy." I use it to:

Get out of the pantry;

Get off the couch and stop stuffing my face; and

"Get" (understand) what is good for me (Philippians 4:8), and pursue those things with passion!

On my list (below, right) are simple things under four headings: HOME, HEART, HEALTH and HELP.

Some are quick five- or ten-minute distractions with benefits. Others might take a little longer, but believe me, that's good when the call of the flesh is loud and strong!

I included simple things like:

  • Sort Bob's (my husband's) sock drawer. 
  • Organize the spices.
  • Start a "giveaway box" (for my local help-the-homeless ministry).
  • Try on at least 10 clothing items and make a quick decision: keep, mend, give away, trash.
  • Memorize a scripture verse. (I'm working on Galatians 5:1 right now.)
  • Pull weeds out of my garden.
  • Take in the waist on my black slacks.
  • Dust my bookshelves.
  • Organize around my washing machine and dryer.
  • Look for a low-fat, low-sugar holiday cookie that actually tastes good.
  • Write my friend with cancer who isn't going to make it.
  • Wash out my dog's water bowl.
  • Put seed in the bird feeder.
  • Pray and search the scriptures over a pressing question.
  • Wash my brush and comb.

Your list willl be different than mine. But make the list.

Then you'll have a "GO-TO" list for when you're tempted to GO TO your favorite addiction. Or to return to whenever you're distracted from making wise, godly and healthy choices. (Strive for excellence, not perfection)

3. I needed to Focus on fresh OPPORTUNITIES.

Instead of always focusing on obstacles—which actually boils down to focusing on "me, myself and I," or what Satan uses to sidetrack me—I could instead envision opportunities to do what might bless others.

I could become more sensitive to the Spirit and allow the Lord to lead me into greater love, service, ministry and encouragement. I could lift up my eyes beyond my wants and my desires to others' needs.

And then, I could ACT!

We can't do everything to deal with the world's needs. But we can all do SOMETHING.

And it's best not to wait. We don't know what tomorrow may bring. Life is short. We need to get busy, gather our resources, and "occupy" until the Lord returns (Luke 19:13).

We need to redeem the time and buy up opportunities as they come (Ephesians 5:15-16)— especially when the Lord asks us to act. (Consider James 4:12-17.)

What is God prompting you to do?

Obey quickly. Completely. Joyfully.

Since I've altered my focus, my perspective has changed. My choices have changed.

Even my bathroom scale shows the difference "do something else" can make.

Which of the "focus points" might help you today; and what would be on your "Do Something Else" list?

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.