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Thursday
Apr192018

What's Up with Sheep?

Becky Harling is funny and insightful, and always shares fresh insights for timeless truths. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she writes about sheep and their shepherd. But don't miss this fresh take on a common Christian theme.

"Throughout the scriptures, we are compared to sheep," Becky said. "Have you ever wondered why? I mean, what’s up with sheep? Right?"

I (Dawn) used to think, "Oh, how sweet. God describes His children as adorable little lambs." But there is much more to that picture, as Becky describes here.

Becky continues . . .

I did a little research and discovered some random facts about them that help me understand why God used sheep to describe us so often in scripture.

1. Did you know that sheep are fearful and easily panicked?

Who knew? Can you relate?

In our humanness, most of us are fearful. In fact, that is the number one concern I hear from women and men as I travel the world.

If panicked, we do stupid things, and you know what? So do sheep.

An entire bunch of sheep is easily prodded into a stampede. They have a mob mentality.

But here’s the thing, when sheep know the shepherd’s voice, His voice calms their fears and settles their panic.

This is why Jesus said, “I am the Good shepherd” (John 10:11). He also said His sheep "follow Him because they know His voice” (John 10:4).

Friend, if you want to calm your fears, get to know His voice.

2. Did you know that sheep get jealous easily and push for dominance?

Sound familiar? Maybe this hits too close to home, but it’s so easy for us to become envious of others, isn’t it?

This is the cry behind “That’s not fair!”

Our human tendency is to want life to be fair. If our friend has a beautiful home, we want one too. If our co-worker gets a raise, we want an increase as well.

Here’s the thing: according to the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), our Christian walk was never meant to be “fair.” If it was fair, we would all deserve hell, right? Praise God that isn’t the case!!

One of the most convicting stories of Scripture is when Jesus sits on the beach with His disciples after His resurrection. After He re-commissions Peter, He tells Peter how he will die.

Peter looks at his friend John and wonders if his death will be easier—he blurts out to Jesus, “What about him?”

Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:15-22).

Ouch! I love this story because it reminds me that I must never sink to comparing my life to another.

In Jesus’ kingdom, life may not seem fair, but it is good.

Our quest for fairness will rob us of the abundant life Jesus promised His sheep (John 10:10b).

3. Did you know that sheep are creatures of habits and they are resistant to change?

Many of us are creatures of habit as well. When God calls us to shift our thinking or embrace change, we panic or pout.

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus knows if we are going to live life to the fullest we must keep being transformed.

The truth is we can’t be transformed without change.

Friend, understanding our similarities to sheep can help us focus on Jesus as our Good Shepherd.

He’s the One who laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).  

Which of these random facts about sheep best describes you today? How can you better relate to or trust in your Shepherd?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say That I Am?, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
Apr172018

Walking a Loved One Eternally Home

Joanie Shawhan writes words of encourgement to those touched by cancer and other painful struggles, writing from her own experience and wisdom to encourage us in this Grief UPGRADE. Joanie writes about a phone call she received:

“'I have stage 4 cancer,' my sister Tracy said. I groaned as I tightened my grip on the phone."

I'm sure you would agree with me (Dawn)—this is one of the most painful phone calls we can receive. But what do we do with that information?

The Lord says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15); but what choices might we have in the days before they go to their eternal home?

Joanie continues . . .

How could this happen to my sister? She goes to the gym everyday.

As a cancer survivor and a nurse with an oncology background, I was familiar with stage 4 cancer. But a few days later, my heart sank.

God had whispered in my spirit, “Walk her home.”

How do I say goodbye to my sister nine years younger, nine hours away and nine years old when I left home? We had rarely visited or talked with one another between crazy schedules and multiple states.

How DO I walk my sister home? How do we WALK our loved ones home?

With God’s help, I discovered ways to walk Tracy home. 

1. Pray.

  • Ask God how to pray for them.
  • Ask our loved ones for their prayer requests. My sister wanted prayer for the pain.

2. Encourage. Share encouraging words, scriptures and songs.

I sent my sister a Bible, but would she feel well enough to read it? I created daily memes with scriptures of God’s love, comfort and faithfulness.

3. Listen.

Some people want to talk about dying. Tracy did not want to talk about cancer, death or anything negative.

4. Respect.

We need to respect their choices.

Tracy had a rare bladder cancer resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation with a life expectancy of three to six months.

She did not want to live the rest of her days sick from chemotherapy. Instead, she chose two weeks of alternative treatment in Mexico followed by a home regimen.

5. Contact. Call, text and send cards.

I discovered that Tracy was more receptive to conversations starting with “What’s up?” rather than “How are you?” This gave her the option to talk about things other than cancer.

She preferred to text when her breathing grew labored.

6. Gifts.

My sisters and I sent flowers, Polish pottery, tea, books, DVD’s, and hand-knitted socks and blanket.

7. Meals.

Tracy’s co-workers ordered food from a local restaurant when they heard family were in town. There were so many leftovers that she invited her co-workers for dinner the following day.

8. Finances.

A devastating diagnosis can drain the family’s finances.

Tracy’s treatment in Mexico was expensive and not covered by insurance. One of my sisters set up a Medgift * account for her.

9. Visits.

Visits from friends and family can be great distractions from sickness and pain. But they can also be exhausting.

Some days our loved ones may feel better than other days.

Call or text to see if they would like a visit.

10. Outings.

Movies, shopping trips and walks provide wonderful distractions.

11. Serve.

Offer specific help such as childcare, housekeeping or lawn care.

  • Tracy wanted help taking down her Christmas decorations.
  • As part of staging their house, my brother painted and laid flooring.

12. Prepare.

Prepare for the loved ones left behind.

Help videotape messages, sort photographs or write cards for special occasions. Tracy and I sorted through her childhood photos.

13. Celebrate.

My brother-in-law brought Tracy into town for an old-time family dinner. Fourteen of us gathered around the table set with china that hadn’t been outside of a hutch in over twenty years. Wisecracks, laughter and family stories mingled with the aroma of roast beef.

For a little while we could forget that this weekend would be our last time together.

14. Hope.

Allow hope.

Between staggered breaths, Tracy had said, “We’ve had lots of miracles in our family. I hope there is one more miracle for me.”

My sister still clung to hope despite starting oxygen and entering hospice.

On Good Friday, Tracy’s husband texted, “Her condition has worsened. I don’t know how long she has.”

My Mom, sisters and I arrived in town to be with Tracy during her last days. We enjoyed Easter together, Tracy hooked up to oxygen, swinging on the patio and soaking in the sun.

Early the next morning, Jesus received her—eternally home.

I am sure she would say along with the psalmist David:

“When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied” (Psalm 17:15b NLT).

How would you lead a loved one eternally home?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. She also speaks to medical practitioners in the Survivors Teaching Students program. Visit Joanie's website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Kaz at Pixabay.

* MedGift is a non-profit with resources and tools for those facing a health-related hardship or need.

Thursday
Apr122018

Three Keys that Unlock Breakthroughs

Kathy Carlton Willis has experienced more in a few years than many people experience in a lifetime, and in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she tells us how she’s experienced some personal breakthroughs this year. And we can too!

Kathy admits, “For the last few years I’ve been circling a holding pattern waiting for a landing strip.”

Kathy has personally coached me (Dawn), and she certainly shines the light on issues that hold us back. Her insights on what to do when we feel stumped are sometimes uncomfortable, but always on point.

Kathy continues . . .  

What I felt like God wanted for my life wasn’t materializing, and it seemed like others were living the dream I thought God had for me. What was I doing wrong?

The more I tried to fix things, the bigger mess I made. But now as I look back, it wasn’t a mess. It was a process.

This year my dreams are starting to materialize. Now I’m in a position to look back and identify the keys that unlocked my breakthrough.

As I study Scripture, I see a similar process for others who had a wilderness before a Promised Land, so I think I’m on to something.

There’s just one problem. This process includes THREE KEYS we all try to avoid. Now I’m seeing they are necessary parts of our journey.

Key #1—WAITING

I would prefer instant answers, but sometimes it takes time for everything to come together. It takes time for God to mature me into the person He needs me to be to fulfill the purpose He has for me.

No fine design before its time.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NLT).

The Message paraphrases it,

“Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around."

Life thrives like a tree when dreams come true. When we give up too soon, we miss out.

Key #2—SUFFERING

Did I have to include suffering as a key to unlocking breakthroughs? Why couldn’t I pick a more enjoyable process? Maybe involving chocolate!

But no—suffering is necessary. It is what prepares us for the desired end goal.

I remind myself when I go through trials (like illness, extreme weather, rejection) that it will be worth it all when I see Jesus bring about His best outcome for my situation.

“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation" (1 Peter 5:10 NLT).

Key #3—OBEYING

Okay, now I’ve just gone to meddling. Obey? Me? But I am woman, hear me roar!

I resist the word obey. I wanted to put the word trust in its place.

Same idea, but a more positive spin on the concept. Yet God nudged me to keep the word obey. Why? Because part of the process toward breakthrough is realizing I can’t go it alone, and it’s not about what I want, it’s about what God wants.

I show God I can trust Him with the outcome, when I also trust Him with the process.

Even when it seems the next step doesn’t propel me toward the goal. In fact, sometimes His direction goes in a completely different trajectory.

For example, a few months ago, God led me to invite Mom to come live with us. This took a big step of obedience.

Each day are little steps of obedience as I choose to care for her needs rather than advance my own goals. But I know God is in it because every day we have new reasons to grin together.

Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Read Psalm 112 for additional inspiration.)

I mentioned at the beginning of the article that God is starting to bring about the desires of my heart.

  • After a dry period of feeling like we couldn’t find a place of service at our new church, we were invited to lead a new small group in our home.
  • A regional ministry invited me to speak for a women’s event.
  • All of a sudden I’m starting to meet new friends, after a year of aloneness.
  • The largest Christian writers conference invited me to be a primary faculty member.

Breakthrough!

Are you looking for a breakthrough? How do these three keys influence your attitudes and decisions?

Kathy Carlton Willis, God's Grin Gal, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceHer popular blog, Grin & Grow with Kathy is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of LoggaWiggler at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Apr102018

5 Steps to Organize Your Closet Like a Pro!

If I could give someone a crown for best-organized, it would be Marcia Ramsland. There are so many areas she helps people get organized, but in this Organization UPGRADE, she tackles one area where all of us can use some steps for improvement.

"Have you organized your closet recently?" Marcia says. "Spring and fall are ideal times to organize your clothes."

I (Dawn) was able to organize my closet a few years ago. What fun ... and what a relief. And I just re-organized it last week! I think we can all use a fresh tweak when it comes to closets.

Marcia continues . . .

My client Debbie recently did her first annual closet organizing and carried FIVE bags off to charity!

She said, “I didn’t realize how much had accumulated. Now I’m happier and getting dressed is so much easier.

"My teenage daughter is so impressed," she said, "and we’ll do her closet next!”

Every spring and fall, I find “donations”—which means with a twice annual clean out, you can, too!

Be generous and share. You’ll dress better and feel better with fewer well-chosen outfits.

What’s the Best Way to Organize a Closet? *

Here are the 5 steps I recommend to all my clients and course participants. It can be done in just one day or 10 minutes a day as you get dressed.

Step #1 – Get Ready to Organize

  • Make your bed so you have a flat surface to do any necessary sorting.
  • Designate a bag or box for “giveaway” clothes, plus two others for “fix” and “dry clean.”
  • Now get ready to organize your closet by hanging categories together—blouses, slacks, skirts, dresses, etc.

Step #2 – Sort Hanging Clothes

Sort one section a day or sort it all on a weekend. Start at one end of the closet rod and sort the hanging clothes.

Pull out each item and ask yourself these two questions:

1. Do I like this?
2. Do I wear it?

If the answer is no, place the item in your “giveaway” box.

If the answer is yes, then rehang the clothes by categories, such as long-sleeved tops, short-sleeved tops, slacks, and jackets. 

Step up your organization by arranging each section from dark colors to light colors, like a rainbow. Often you will find too many of the same color or style, so keep the best and let go of the rest.

Step #3 - Organize by Categories

Finish by using matching hangers about one inch apart.

  • Place the front of the clothing items toward you so you can easily see what it looks like.
  • Place your most used category of items closest to you.
  • Hang items from light to dark like the rainbow colors. That way you’ll see if you have too many white blouses or black tops—that’s what you donate.

Step #4 - Keep Your Best and Donate the Rest!

Note that I said, “Keep YOUR best and donate the rest.”

If you never wear the most expensive item in your closet, it’s not “YOUR” best. It’s pricy clutter that someone else could be wearing.

So give that away and think of how happy someone else will be to wear it!

It’s a "win-win" helping someone else and gaining space in your closet.

Step #5 – Deliver Your Donations within 24 Hours!

The most important step is to bag up and deliver to charity all the things you’ve weeded out!

This must happen the same day to leave the house. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to put it down the hall or in the garage, and it will never leave you.

It must go to another very worthy person right away.

Keeping your closet organized reminds me of Matthew 25:23:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

* BONUS: DOWNLOAD a Free Closet Inventory Worksheet to “Organize Your Closet in 10 Minutes a Day!” With this worksheet you’ll have a clear plan how to organize your closet by doing one small section a day!

Marcia Ramsland is well known as The Leading Online Organizing Coach, a Business Productivity Expert, and author of the Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay that Way book series, which has sold over 100,000 copies. Marcia regularly teaches online courses, has over 8,000 email subscribers, and coaches individuals and organizations to be highly productive personally and professionally. She believes anyone can become more organized and productive - even YOU!

For courses and coaching, visit www.organizingpro.com.

Thursday
Apr052018

Cherish Each Day

In this Life UPGRADE, Dawn invites us to look at all the areas of our life to consider what we cherish, and how we can treasure these people and things more every day.

As I write this, I'm listening to a broadcast about a bridge collapse in Miami near Florida International University (on March 15). I wept to think about families whose loved ones died under the bridge, and the thought came to mind:

We never know our last day. We need to cherish our loved ones before it's too late.

It's not a new thought. Many have expressed the same sentiments, especially after a great tragedy like America's 9-11 or the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Hish School in Parkland, Florida.

As our minds and hearts try to wrap around these horrible circumstances, thoughts of REGRET may arise.

"I wish I had ...."

"I wish I hadn't ...."

"Why didn't I ....?"

"If only I had another opportunity to ...."

I've learned to deal with regrets.

  • I look for the LESSONS God might want to teach me.
  • I seek and receive God's FORGIVENESS for my failings, if that is a factor.
  • I try to think of positive, biblical ACTION steps to move forward.

One of the steps to my moving forward is this:  

I'm learning to cherish what I once took for granted.

To "cherish" is to hold dear, prize, value highly and treasure something or someone. When we cherish someone we protect and lovingly care for them.

I have a little plaque on the back of my bathroom toilet that I see every day. It simply says, "Cherish EACH DAY."

We often hear "seize the day," and that's good counsel too. But to cherish each day is to see value in each day.

It starts in the heart and then flows out through wise responses and actions.

Still, "cherish each day" seems generic.

To know how to cherish each day, we need to think about what we love and treasure within those days.

As I think about what I often take for granted, I've identified some things and people I need to learn to cherish more.

1. I Need to Cherish My LORD.

The scriptures admonish us: "... seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).  

When we cherish the Lord, we will seek Him and we will seek to please him with right choices.

We will have no other gods before Him—no idols that displace our love for Him. 

"... love the Lord your God will all your heat and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind..." (Luke 10:27.

And if we cherish the Lord, we will love and obey Him and His Word.

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46)

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

 2. I Need to Cherish My LIFE.

This one is a little complicated. On the one hand, we are to cherish our life because we are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). On the other hand, our life is a "vapor," a whisp of wind. We are creatures made by a mighty creator, and He knows we are but dust (Psalm 103:14).

The Lord may call on us to make the ultimate sacrifice of our life because we cherish some things even more—our decision to follow and obey Jesus, His calling on our life and our desire to please the Father.

Certainly, taking all of this into account, I need to cherish my life because Jesus died to rescue and redeem me! (Titus 2:14) He is the one who has established my worth.

3. I Need to Cherish My SPOUSE.

In the great scripture passage about husbands and wives, Paul says,

"no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it...." (Ephesians 5:29).

This is often seen as a man's sacrificial love and care for his wife, but it also could be an outflowing of verse 21: "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Certainly, a wife's submission to her husband's leadership (v. 24) and respect for her husband (v. 33) are manifestations of her desire to cherish her husband as God's provision.

When a spouse is difficult and stubborn, it is hard to find ways to cherish. Indeed, for all marriages there are difficult times when a spouse annoys and disappoints us. Cherishing in those cases comes from Christlike character and grace, living out the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:32; Galatians 5:22-23).

4. I Need to Cherish My CHILDREN... and GRANDCHILDREN!

5. I Need to Cherish My MINISTRY.

All Christians, in one sense, are called to ministry (Matthew 28:18-20).

But also, God calls us to specific tasks whether in the secular world or church-related; and we need to cherish that calling and not consider it a burden.

The Lord gives us gifts (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-5; 8-10; Ephesians 4:4-14) to enable our ministries and vocations, serve the Body of Christ and bring Him glory. We want to be the "fragrance of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:15) no matter where He calls us to serve.

Where God calls, He establishes, equips and empowers (Psalm 37:23; Isaiah 30:21; Hebrews 13:20-21; Ephesians 3:20-21).

6. I Need to Cherish My BODY.

It's too easy to take our bodies for granted. When we lose our health, we suffer greatly. God wants us to cherish our body—not in a self-focused, obsessive way, but rather to bring Him glory and preserve our ability to serve Him and others.

The Bible gives us keys to good physical health (along with other kinds of health). It surprised me to see how obedience to God's Word can promote health (Proverbs 3:1-2, 8; 3 John 1:2).

There are many scriptures about health—too many to put here. The simple truth is, our Creator knows how our bodies work and what is best. We need to follow wisdom as we respect and honor Him (Ecclesiastes 12:13). He doesn't want us to suffer the diseases brought about through ignoring wisdom about health (Exodus 15:26).

One thing I know for sure . . .

The boundaries God gives us are for our good, to protect us!

7. I Need to Cherish My FRIENDSHIPS.

God gives us friends in the body of Christ to challenge, teach and encourage us.

I cherish friends who:

Maybe you have some friends like that. Cherish them!

Or maybe you will think of other RELATIONSHIPS you treasure—extended family, co-workers, etc.

You may think there's one thing I've left out—THINGS!

Many have "things" they cherish—things they have or collect.

In the world's eyes, these things might be worth lots of money. But let me ask  you: How TRULY valuable are your things? Yes, we can enjoy things now, but we need to keep them in proper perspective. And we must never let our "stuff" become idols, replacing God's place in our hearts.

The Lord has challenged me on that, and helped me focus on eternal values.

"for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world" (1 Timothy 6:7).

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19).

In recent years, I've observed the attitudes of a number of people and couples who either lost homes to fires or floods, or had to drastically downsize.

In all of these cases, the people testified that "things" were important, but not what they cherished most.

It's all a matter of perspective.

What or who do you value most? How can you express your appreciation today?

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 and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Heartsand 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

 

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