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Thursday
Mar022017

"Even Though"—How to Upgrade Angry Reactions

Kolleen Lucariello's desire is to help people embrace their identity in Christ in practical ways. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she deals with anger and how our relationship with the Lord can change our responses.

"Don’t Get Mad, Get Even. This thought randomly ran through my mind,” Kolleen says, “as Pat and I traveled south down the Interstate in early January.

I (Dawn) was just cut off on a San Diego highway as a man quickly moved from one lane— across mine—to rush toward an off-ramp, putting several cars in danger. I panicked, and oh yes, I got that sudden angry response. Kolleen has a insight for us about how to deal with life's tough circumstances with a more scriptural response.

Kolleen continues . . .

Our GPS was programmed to guide us straight to the driveway of our son and daughter-in-law’s home, and I had just witnessed one more incidence of road rage on the highway (and my husband was not involved!).

We’ve observed some pretty scary moments during our travel time when angry drivers decide they wouldn’t get mad—they’d get evenbehind the wheel of a vehicle.

I was surprised a few days later when this same thought crossed MY mind as I felt my mad inside begin to rise. Don’t get mad, get even.

It’s been quite a few years since that’s been my motto for getting through life. Yet, over the next few days, the slightest irritation brought this phrase to mind.

I began to notice how effortlessly it is for some to quickly move into the get even lane.

But why had I?

Where was this sudden urge to get even for every offense coming from?

  • Did I have suppressed anger?
  • Was the constant chatter on social media making me hostile?
  • Hormones, maybe?

I decided it was time to pray and ask God to fill me in.  That’s when one word was added to the statement.

Though.

Now, the sentence running through my mind was, don’t get mad, get even… though. With an emphasis on even though.

Just a few days later I read this, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he [even though a slave] became a successful and prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian” (Genesis 39:2, AMP).

There it was, even though, and along with it, came my answer.

You upgrade your reaction when you:

1. Trust God is with you, even though you’re distressed, full of anguish and your cry seems unheard.

His very own brothers had sold Joseph into slavery. Can you imagine?  They saw the distress and anguish as Joseph pleaded for them to let him go but, the Amplified Bible says, they “would not listen to his cry” and he found himself a slave in another country (Genesis 42:21).

All betrayal is rough, but betrayal by a spouse, sibling, parent or the closest of friends strikes a devastating blow.

Betrayal inflicts such intense anguish and distress, you may wonder how you will ever survive. We can become slaves to the pain as we find ourselves wandering in a strange, unknown and unwanted land, where cries for mercy go unheard.

But just as God was with Joseph, even though he found himself in Egypt, He is with us in our even though land too.

2. Trust God is able to prosper you and bring you success, even though your circumstances are not what you dreamed.

Remember Joseph’s dreams? Sheaves bowed down to him. Evidently, he was able to move on from the delay of the dream. He excelled in everything that he did even though he was a slave; and because the Lord was always with him, he found success and prosperity.

I’m certain Joseph never imagined he’d find himself a slave in Egypt. He’s the perfect example for us of someone living out Colossians 3: 23-24:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (NIV).

The Lord is with those who protect their attitude even though the work might not be exactly what we dreamed.

3. Trust God’s purposes even though we may not understand them at the time.

Something I find remarkable in the story of Joseph is this: not once is there any mention of Joseph plotting in his heart how to get even with anyone who betrayed himnot his brothers, Potiphar’s wife, nor the chief cupbearer who failed to follow through on his promise to remember Joseph when he was released from prison. Not even Potiphar for assuming the worst and never seeking to hear his side of the story. Not once.

Instead, he saw God in the even though when he stood face to face with his brothers and recognized that even though they intended evil towards him, God’s intended purpose was for good.

Rather than living by the don’t get mad, get even motto, add the word though as a reminder of how God can bless us in our even though moments.

Are you going through something right now that tempts you to get even? How can the truth of “even though” help you upgrade your reaction?

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She’s a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. She desires to help others find their identity in Christ, one letter at a time. Connect with Kolleen here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Megapixelstock, Stocksnap.io.

Tuesday
Feb282017

4 Ways I'm Learning to Be a Light-Dweller

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson reminds us Jesus wants His followers to walk in the light. That's crucial in these dark days!

Some time ago, when San Diego had days of heavy rains—not common for us—I got a serious case of "The Glooms."

My nutritionist said I might actually have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). And that might be. Thinking back, I've never tolerated gloomy days well; I've always craved sunshine.

I remember one day in the midst of The Glooms when I got out of our car and suddenly, a ray of sunshine peeked through some clouds. I turned my head toward the sun and basked in its light.

Though I love the crispness of fall, I NEED the sunshine of summer.

I read about a little bird that enjoys perpetual summer. In the book God of Wonders, David A. Steen writes about the arctic tern, a mostly-white bird with a bright-red bill and tiny red legs and webbed feet. The arctic tern only weights about 3.5 ounces. When it's summer in the far north, they raise their young in Greenland or Iceland, and then when summer wanes, they take off for the Weddell Sea in Antarctica—some 12,000 miles south!

The actic tern "enjoys the most daylight hours of any creature on earth," Steen wrote. Flying in a looping, zig-zag pattern, they log the most miles during their annual migrations—24,000-30,000 miles each year, pole-to-pole-to-pole, round trip. They are so desperate for the summer sun.

Now reading that, I had a thought. I wonder how desperate I am for the light of the Son? How much do I desire to seek Him—the Light of the World? I get so caught up in seeking other things. But God has a better way.

The Lord wants me to live as a Light-Dweller.

Here are some things He's teaching me about that.

1. I'm Learning to Seek the Son.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

What we seek shows the state of our hearts—what we really crave. Sadly, I'm inclined to seek "stuff" because I love it; but oh, how I need the Son!

Sometimes the Lord has had to draw my stuff away from me before I realized what really matters. "Stuff" isn't wrong, but my inordinate affection for my stuff can keep me from seeking and loving God and desiring to live fully sold-out for Him.

I must learn to turn my head toward the Son and bask in His glory.

2. I'm Learning My Position—Light in the Lord.

When I became a Christ-follower, the Lord slowly began transforming my heart as I studied the scriptures. I learned I was once "in darkness," but by God's grace I became "light in the Lord." God wants me to discern what is pleasing to Him (Ephesians 5:8-10).

Slowly I've understood: the darkness of my spiritual graveyard is behind me. In the resurrected Christ, I should and can live in the light of my new birth.

I am a partaker of "the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12). That's where I belong ... in the light.

Jesus wants to shine His light on me, but I must wake up and start living like a child of light (Ephesians 5:14-17).

3. I'm Learning to Walk in the Light.

In his book study on Ephesians, Warren W. Wiersbe wrote, "Walking 'as children of light' also means reveling in God's light in our daily lives. By our character and conduct, we bring God's light into a dark world. As God's light, we help others find their way to Christ."

Yes, I need to discern what God wants and obey Him for my own good and His glory. But walking in the light is even more than that. People are blinded by Satan and living in darkness. "Only as we witness and share Christ can the light enter in," Wiersbe wrote.

I can't be sluggish in my walk of light. I must be intentional and faithful.

"Jesus bids us shine, shine for all around.

Many kinds of darkness in the world are found.

Sin and want and sorrow, so we must shine—

You in your small corner and I in mine." (Susan B. Warner)

4. I'm Learning How Light Exposes Darkness.

Light reveals truth and exposes lies. It reveals sin for what it is.

That's why some people avoid church like the plague. They will not come to the light (John 3:20); they like their sin too much.

We don't have to blast sin at every point. God wants us to love people. But the truth is, if we are seeking God, resting in Christ and walking in the light, our lives will expose others' sin in contrast.

Some time ago, a woman blasted me, saying I was "on a pedestal." She said I must think I'm "holier than others." Her words cut deep. I felt I was following hard after Christ—pursuing Him and His righteousness; but I examined my heart to see if there was truth in her statements. Was I projecting pride?

God showed me one way that might be true and I dealt with that, but in the process, the Lord showed me the root of the problem. This woman was smarting under her own sinful choices. She lashed out under the weight of her own guilt.

God nudged me to love her more, encourage her and "be there" for her if opportunities came to help. But I realized at that point, standing for righteousness is going to invite some enemies (2 Timothy 3:12). I can't be a phoney Christian—I must walk in HIS light and not put the spotlight on anything less (and especially on myself)—but I can't expect everyone will love me for that.

The self-righteous Pharisees hated Jesus, the Light of the World, precisesly for this reason, and they tried to destroy Him. When sinners saw Christ's character, they had no cloak for their sin (John 15:22).

The righteousness of Christ in us will make the lost and religious hypocrites uncomfortable; but that doesn't mean we should stop walking in the light.

I want to be a Light-Dweller. Don't you? What's stopping you? Turn your head toward the Son today, rest in Him, and walk in His light.

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 of Sunbeams Breaking Through a Cloud, adapted, courtesy of SeaquestDS at FreeImagesLive.

Graphic of Arctic Tern, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
Feb212017

Comfort Zone / Chocolate Zone

In this UPLIFT post, Rhonda Rhea encourages us to step out in faith—maybe more faith than we think we have.

"Think chocolate is not the answer? Maybe," Rhonda says, "you're not asking the right questions."

Ok now. Rhonda had me (Dawn) at the word "chocolate." Say that word and I'm like a dog hearing the word "squirrel." But knowing Rhonda, there's some spiritual truth in here somewhere.

She continues . . .

Okay, I do know chocolate is not really the answer to all the world’s problems. But it does sort of make a challenge a bit more palatable.

Chocolate-coating our discomforts—couldn’t hurt, right? Sometimes chocolate is not only in my comfort zone, but chocolate is my comfort zone.

Did you hear about the recent scientific study that determined 10 out of 9 people appreciate chocolate? It doesn’t matter so much that the math doesn’t exactly work, I don’t argue with it.

As a matter of fact, I’ve sometimes wondered how much it would take to cause me to say the words “Now that’s just too much chocolate.” And while I don’t know how much, I’m more than willing to explore the topic through my own personal research.

Other studies—real ones—are always citing more ways chocolate is good for you. So I’ve decided to no longer consider myself a few pounds overweight.

I’ve decided to instead think of myself as “chocolate-enriched.”

That’s my comfort zone and I’m sticking to it. Also, it’s sort of sticking to me.

There are comfort zones and there are comfort zones.

When God commissioned Joshua after the death of Moses, He gave Joshua instructions about the new land He was to possess. He said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

Sometimes God calls us to step out of everything comfortable.

We see it all through Scripture. God called Moses to step out before the mantle was passed to Joshua. God called Abraham to leave his home and everything familiar to him to take off to zones unknown. He called Samuel, He called Isaiah, He called so many more. Jesus called His disciples to step out of their comfortable lives and to follow Him with abandon.

There aren’t a lot of things in this life I can promise will happen, but I can promise this. At some point you will be called to step out of your comfort zone.

Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t think you’re being reprimanded. And even more importantly, don’t think for a second that He is not with you in that less-than-comfy place. Be strong. Be courageous. Know He is with you.

It’s good to remember that stepping out of our comfort zone is also stepping into the comfort of His Holy Spirit. It’s amazing—even in discomfort, there’s comfort! Real comfort. It’s comfort not in a place, not in a possession, not in a food—it’s in a Person, the Person of our mighty God of all comfort.

His is the zone of victory—even miracles. Paul spoke of how the churches in Macedonia, though they were in a zone of great discomfort, gave “as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability,” (2 Corinthians 8:3, NIV). God makes it possible for us to do more than is possible for us to do. It’s “10 out of 9” kind of math, only it’s very real.

As you step out in faith, you’ll find there’s growth in every new place the Lord leads you. You can rest assured He will never ask you to step out of one zone into another without His presence, without His purpose or without His empowering.

There’s great comfort there. Sometimes there’s even chocolate.

Where might God be asking you to step outside your comfort zone and into a place of growth?

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.

Thursday
Feb162017

Are You Really Addiction-free?

Surviving and thriving after numerous trials, Yvonne Ortega speaks words of wisdom to women who hurt and struggle. In this "Choices" UPGRADE, she encourages women to break free from their addictions.

Yvonne asks, “When you think about addiction, do you imagine a drunk person, who slurs his words, stumbles, and smells of alcohol? Perhaps you visualize a drug addict in a questionable neighborhood selling family possessions to buy illegal drugs."

Because I (Dawn) have faced few "addictions" of my own—like obsession with food—I know addictions can overwhelm anyone. But I also know from experience: we can break free!

There truly is hope!

Yvonne continues . . .

You may think that if you don’t drink or smoke, you are addiction-free.

  • However, you may be addicted to food, such as sugar.

Can you make a meal out of candy, cookies or cake? Do you stop at the store, buy a half-gallon of ice cream, and eat it in one sitting? You may be obese. You eat when you worry, get bored, or can’t cope with grief or some other pain. Rather than talk with a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor, you eat.

Philippians 3:19 addresses this problem and says, “Their god is their stomach” (NIV).

  • Perhaps you go shopping to cope.

Your father verbally, physically or sexually abused you as a child. You held in the anger and pain of that abuse, but turned to shopping to cope. Now if someone hurts you, you go shopping.

Until you face that pain, you will stay addicted to shopping. 

  • Maybe you’re a slave to perfectionism.

If you invite guests to your home, your house will be in perfect order inside and out. You’ll probably clean the windows too. You’ll serve a homemade meal and wear the perfect outfit and have every hair in place.

Your addiction to perfectionism won’t allow you to relax, enjoy your guests, or life for that matter.

  • If you choose unhealthy relationships, you might date an alcoholic, a batterer, or a gambler.

As one woman said, “My boyfriend doesn’t have a job, but he has a motorcycle. He’s exciting.” As she talked about the different men she dated, she said, “My parents never liked any of them, but they were fun—even the one who ruined my credit.”

She was addicted to unhealthy men and wanted to help them. She needed help to improve her self-confidence.

How can you BREAK FREE from addiction?

1. Admit that you use an escape mechanism to avoid reality.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

It’s not enough to admit the addiction to yourself.

Do so to a pastor, a Christian counselor, or to a Christian recovery group. Confession and prayer will help you. 

2. Establish accountability.

The devil wants you crippled with guilt, shame, and secrecy.

Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (NIV).

When you meet weekly with your pastor or counselor, you set up accountability. This is comparable to a sponsor in a 12-step group. 

3. Know who you are in Christ.

Find Bible verses about your identity in Christ, such as Ephesians 2:10 (NIV):

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Each day repeat those verses often.

Once you believe with your heart and soul who you are, the relief from addiction won’t entice you.

What will you do this week to break free from addiction?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (both in paperback, Kindle) and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), all available at amazon.com/books. She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer, and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Learn more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of TeeTasse, Pixabay.

Tuesday
Feb142017

Valentine Valor

A strong marriage requires good communication, and in this Valentine's Day UPGRADE, Deb DeArmond encourages marriage partners to be brave and cultivate better heart communication.

“Marriage is not for the faint of heart," Deb says. "It’s the HEART-est work you’ll ever do.”

The "heart-est" work — I (Dawn) love that! Hard work we accomplish on behalf of loving marriages is well worth the effort!

Deb continues . . .

I was recently asked by a young friend, “What’s your secret to a happy marriage?”

My response took her by surprise.

“We discovered it’s better to find the courage to fight than the strength to run.”

Let me clarify. We don’t believe stepping into the ring to take our shots at one other is the best way to come to agreement. That’s what happens when we forget Christian marriages have a very real enemy.

But it’s not your spouse.

So, we do fight, the enemy, together, for the life of our marriage—and it’s always been worth the effort.   

As my husband and I have ministered to marrieds, a familiar pattern often appears: “We don’t fight. We try to avoid conflict. It’s not healthy.”

They go along to get along, remaining silent, as they disconnect from one another, bit by bit, till there’s very little left of the love they proclaimed at the altar.

Silence can speak volumes.

Just because it’s quiet, does not mean there’s peace in the house.

And it’s not the way Jesus dealt with relationships that He valued.

My favorite example:

Jesus asked Peter three times after His resurrection - “Peter, do you love me? Then feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Jesus confronted Peter because He loved him, and the relationship was important to Him.

He did it to restore the connection. He did it to restore Peter.

The goal of confrontation is to connect. And to make that happen, the language of confrontation must be love.

Healthy confrontation requires valor, otherwise known as courage, bravery, or audacious boldness.

What’s that look like?

Here are three Valentine’s Day opportunities to bravely step into a healthier, more intimate marriage.

1. Speak up.

Bravely say what needs to be said—speaking the truth in love. No matter how long you’ve been married, your spouse can’t read your mind.

When couples retreat into silence, they no longer have enough hope or ambition to fight. Silence says, “I give up.”

One gentleman told us he and his wife never experienced any conflict until 20 years into the marriage when she announced she’d “had enough and wanted a divorce.” He was stunned when she presented him with a list of grievances, carefully compiled, but never shared.

2. Confront courageously.

Confront the issue, not the person. Be aware of your tone, timing, and the words you choose.

“I’d like to talk about what happened last night at your folks. I was embarrassed when you . . . .” Describe your issue with the behavior rather than attack the person.

And return the favor: are you confrontable? Are you open to hear from your spouse?

3. Boldly examine YOUR heart first.

It’s easy to see the flaws in our partner; tougher to see the cracks in our own facade.

  • Do you have to have the final word?
  • Are you quick to point out your spouse’s shortcomings, but don’t see your own?
  • Do you nurse a grudge like a baby at the breast?

If you are willing to acknowledge your own flaws, God will reveal them to you. Ask Him to help you grow in those areas.

Speaking up is a risk. But the goal of genuine, authentic connection is worth chasing, even when it might create some tense or painful moments.

Are you brave enough to take that step?

Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. Author and speaker, her newest book is entitled Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers whether newlywed, or long-time married create the life God meant marriage and family to be. For more information about Deb, visit her website, Family Matters.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

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