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Tuesday
Oct242017

Lessons Learned During Sickness

Yvonne Ortega loves to help women move forward from the broken places in their lives, having experienced tough times herself. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she invites us to think about how we experience the brokenness of sickness.

Yvonne asks, “I hate being sick, don’t you?

"Sickness means I’ll miss events I looked forward to attending. If the doctor says the illness is contagious, I dread it even more."

Going through two years of recurring illnesses, I (Dawn) know what Yvonne means. When we are sick, it's just plain hard. But God brings wisdom in those tough times too!

Yvonne continues . . .

Days of being alone are not my preference. If a cough grips me and makes talking difficult or impossible, that adds to my torture.

One of my friends emailed me, said she’d pray for me to get better soon, and told me to talk to God.

I do that every day in my quiet time. I didn’t need a burning bush experience like Moses had or to be knocked to the ground the way Paul was. I longed for social interaction with my friends in town.

I learned three lessons—or rather had a refresher course in those lessons—during that illness. I offer them to you as tips.

1. I learned to ask for help.

I like to help others, but I don’t like to ask for help.

However, I was too sick to drive to the doctor and the pharmacy. I had to ask a friend for a ride.

I longed for a Green Passion Power Smoothie from Panera, my favorite restaurant. Once again, I had to ask a friend for it. God made me and you as social beings. He made us into the body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12:26, the Bible says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 

2. I asked God what He wanted me to do during my sickness.

I sensed He wanted me to listen to a set of mp3s from a conference I had attended. After listening to almost every session and several twice, I asked Him again.

That time, I felt led to take three days as a personal retreat at home. I had planned to go to the beach for a personal retreat, but sickness prevented that trip.

As I rested with my Bible, journal, and pen and listened to praise and worship music, I sensed God’s presence, power, and purpose in allowing me to be sick. I drew closer to him. 

James 4:8a says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  

That personal retreat blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.

3. I grew in patience.

Patience tops the list when it comes to difficult lessons.

I had hoped to recover overnight.

Unlike instant coffee, instant oatmeal and microwave popcorn, my recovery didn’t happen fast.

James 5:7–8 says, Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

I don’t pray for patience because I don’t want the tests that will follow to help me develop it.

Since I live in an imperfect world with imperfect people, and an imperfect body, opportunities to learn patience will come my way.

I pray I learned the lesson, so I don’t have to repeat the same one.

What will you do the next time you’re sick?

Yvonne Ortega is a bilingual speaker, author, professional counselor, certified teacher, and speaking coach. She is the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Grief, Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. Yvonne’s passion is to help women facing life transitions or challenges move from broken to beautiful through God’s Word. Her books are available on her website, www.YvonneOrtega.com

Graphic adapted, courtesy of mopje at Pixabay.

 

Thursday
Oct192017

When a Biscuit Blunder Reminded Me of God's Love

Susan K. Stewart is a no-nonsense Christian with a strong desire to inspire and equip people in various walks of life. In this UPLIFT post, she encourages us to find hope in God's love in the midst of life's "blunders."

“Little did I know," Susan says, "my granddaughter, Wendy, would remind me of God’s love when she baked biscuits for dinner.”

God's love? Biscuits? OK, Susan. I (Dawn) think you've got our curiosity!

Susan continues . . .

Eleven-year-old Wendy had just made her first batch of homemade biscuits. She put the plate down in front of her grandfather. “Papa, try one of my biscuits!”

Wendy followed instructions carefully, but the biscuits didn’t rise as usual.

No concern.

The color wasn’t quite right.

Well, it was her first try.

After slathering with butter, Papa took his bite. For a moment his face gave away a concern—just for a moment.

Wendy bit into hers.

“These are great, aren’t they?” She was proud of her effort.

Papa’s initial reaction confirmed that the biscuits weren’t quite right. They were course, not fluffy, and a bit gritty.

I pondered what had happened. What could have gone wrong?

I had supervised the baking effort and didn’t see any mistakes. Well, other than the flour looked odd. While munching my gray, gritty biscuit, the proverbial lightbulb came on.

It wasn’t flour. It was diatomaceous earth (DE).

We keep DE in the pantry to use for bug control. It looks similar to flour except a little finer. The wrong container had been grabbed.

Thankfully, DE isn’t harmful to humans.

In spite of the odd gray color and gritty feel in our mouths, we laughed about the blunder and enjoyed Wendy’s first made-from-scratch biscuits.

Even after learning what happened, Wendy was not discouraged. This was her creation and she was pleased.

Isn’t that like God? We are His creation, and we can sometimes be gray and gritty.

He doesn’t throw away any of us.

God said His creation, including humans, was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Not just “good,” but “VERY good.”

Even after Adam and Eve fell into the snare of Satan, God didn’t give up.

He wasn’t discouraged and didn’t throw us in the trash can.

Instead, God had a plan to restore His creation to Himself:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8 ESV).

God made a way for us to come to Him. Jesus died to renew our connection with God.

That’s amazing! Even when I have a gray attitude or am abrasive, God shows His love. He says, “Isn’t Susan very good?”

Like Wendy, God sees beyond the blunders, my blunders, to His creation. He’s not downcast or unhappy. God continues His love. He is still proud of His effort put into me.

The next day, Wendy called her mom to tell her and laugh about her biscuits. She was so happy to have had the opportunity to be part of the meal preparation. We’ll forever talk about the DE biscuits.

“(God) will rejoice over you with gladness” (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV). Sometimes it’s hard to fathom that God takes delight in us, just as Wendy was delighted in her biscuits. He created us, saved us, and takes pleasure in us no matter what.

He continues to rejoice in His creation.

A few days later, Wendy made a new batch of biscuits—this time with flour. They were tall and white with a hint of brown crust. The butter melted into the fluffy bread. Each bite was a delicious. A new baking creation to replace the old.

God does that for us; He makes us a new creation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

In spite of our sin and rags, He offers us hope.

God doesn’t see us as those old dark and sinful creatures. He sees the new, clean creation we are in Jesus.

Take joy in what God has created—a new you.

Have you mistaken one ingredient for another other when cooking? Was the result a disaster or a fun story for the family? What is your reaction to blunders? Are you downcast? Or do you rejoice with God? What is your hope today?

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and donkeys—teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Her passion is to inspire others with practical, real-world solutions. Susan's books include Science in the Kitchen; Preschool: At What Cost?; the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers; and her most recent book, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook. Learn more about Susan at Practical Inspirations.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Olisa655 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Oct172017

Three Things God Says about Food

I got to know Kate Hagen as we grieved together after her mom's passing. I read her thoughts and recognized she was a excellent writer. I've since discovered her love of God's Word. In this Health UPGRADE, Kate invites us to examine lies we might believe about food. Actually, Kate's full title for this post is "Three Things God Says about Food (and How It Can Make You Happy)."

Kate says, "There is a voice that whispers lies in my ears: 'Being thin will satisfy me. Eating will make me happy.'”

I (Dawn) am glad Kate had the courage to confront that voice so she can share some biblical wisdom with others who struggle.

Kate continues . . .

When I was eight, I discovered something bad about myselfI was chubby. It was a new, undeveloped shame, but, it was a growing one. I learned if I could just be skinny, I would be happy.

Now, over 30 years later, I fight that belief. But, it still lingers.

When I see a woman who is thin and fit, there’s a little voice in my head whispering, “Kate, you’d be happier if you looked like her. When you finally lose five pounds you’ll be satisfied." (Some years it’s been a lot more than five pounds.)

At times, I have lost that weight. And, you know what, I wasn’t happier. Not really.

There’s another voice.

This one tells me food will satisfy me and bring me life. It tempts, “Kate, if you get up and get a bag of potato chips, you’ll feel happy.”

I have obeyed that voice many times. It never makes me happy.

Are these voices from God? Do the Bible authors write about how we should eat, drink or view our bodies?

I’ve spent a lot of time digging in Scripture to find these answers. I have found three  recurring truths I can no longer ignore.

1. God gave me a body so that I can reflect His image.

This humbles me when I quietly reflect on its magnificence. God has placed within me a representation of Him. Others “see” God’s image through my physical body. I mirror God! (Genesis 1:27)

Woah. That’s a lot more lofty than being hopeful I can look cute in my bathingsuit.

2. God gave me food as a blessing—to be enjoyed and to draw me to gratitude.

Although there are certain foods some of us should be cautious of, Scripture says food does not commend us to God (1 Corinthians 8:8). He’s not happier with me when I eat spinach instead of cookies. It’s what comes out of my mouth and heart that matters (Mark 7:19).

Food is one of the gifts God gives me—a blessing that can draw me into worship of the One who provides! (Deuteronomy 8:10)

3. God's food is eternal.

Feasting on the Spirit of Jesus is what truly nourishes and fills me. It is food that lasts forever! (John 6:1-15; 25-69)

Therefore, we don’t need to worry about what we eat or drink! (Matthew 6:25). The thought of NEVER worrying about what I’m eating is so freeing. I think I’ll follow Jesus on this one!

When I’m tempted to eat when I’m not hungry, I now shout over the whispering lie:

“Food will not satisfy me! Jesus’ Spirit satisfies my soul.”  

All of the times I’ve been overweight, it’s been because I was eating when I wasn’t hungry. Now I know I was eating like this to satisfy some lack I was feeling; I believed that somehow food would satisfy.

But, Food DOES NOT SATISFY MY SOUL!  It satisfies my hunger. Only Jesus can satisfy my soul (John 6:35).

Here's a practical tip.

Only eat when you’re hungry. If you’re eating when you’re not hungry, question what your soul is lacking. It’s your soul, not your stomach that needs to be filled if you eat when unnecessary. But, don’t view this as law; it’s merely a principle that leads us to Jesus (our true food).

When that other voice tempts, “I’ll be happier when I’m thinner," I sometimes have the courage to shout over the whispering lie. I say, Being thin will not make me happy!

When WILL I be happy if it’s not when I’m thinner?

The crazy thing is, I can be happy NOW, before I look good in a bathing suit. Why? Because God’s Spirit is in me. I have been seen and known by God. Jesus has shown me a perfect way to be human. That’s good news that brings me true, deep, real happiness.

Here's another practical tip.

The moment you feel yourself envying someone else’s body or longing to be thinner, let the phrase repeat in your head, “Being thin won’t make me happy. Loving Jesus makes me happy.”

Jesus so beautifully said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

What do you tell your soul when those whispering lies come?

Kate Hagen spends most of her time teaching, knowing and loving her three kids in their beach community of Leucadia, CA. She has a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling and has written, spoken and counseled women about mothering, body image and health. She runs a small essential oil business from her home, and usually smells pretty good. At her website you can read her journey of grieving and laughing as her mom passed of cancer, as well as her thoughts on the Bible and body image.

Graphics adapted: "Whisper" (cupped ear), courtesy of Morguefile, and Cinnamon rolls courtesy of Adam Kontor at Pixabay.

Thursday
Oct122017

A New Kind of Survival

I’ve followed survivor Kathy Carlton Willis in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In this special UPLIFT, she shares some insights inspired by Harvey.

Kathy is always finding a way to grin through stinky days. One of her Facebook posts said, “Harvey Schmarvey! Harvey is like the unwanted house guest who doesn’t know when to leave.”

Kathy's example encouraged me (Dawn) in my own recent "storm," and I pray her words will help you too.

Kathy continues . . .

One thing that popped up during Harvey was the use of unintentional puns. It’s as if God wanted to help me keep generating grins despite the devastation surrounding me.

Here are a few of them:

  • I forgot to get vaccinated for cabin fever.
  • This whole area feels a bit like cornflakes sitting in milk too long—soggy.
  • I’m flooded by emails and calls from concerned friends.
  • I’m blown away by how people are helping people.
  • The water to all of Beaumont has been shut off. (Sure, we didn’t want more water, but we meant rain!)
  • I can’t believe the Internet router went out just four hours after our electricity came back on. What? Wasn’t ten days enough time without technology? When it rains, it pours!
  • Russ saw a 4-foot alligator on the road. I wonder if Russ said, “See you later, alligator!”
  • We’ll be playing catch up once the power is back on. We’ll keep calm and power on!

And a serious one:

  • “The sun is coming tomorrow. The Son is here today.”

No Light in Sight

The electricity failed for ten days. Having no air conditioning or fan during the hottest part of Texas summer was most miserable.

It was pitch black without the light. I kept flipping the light switch on, even though I knew the power was out. Darkness is never so dark as when there’s not a spot of light. As I pondered about God in the darkness, I centered my mind’s eye on His light, and a sense of His presence gave me great peace.

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. (Luke 1:78-79 NLT)

Grateful for Simple Luxuries

It looked like a war zone all around us, with the army tanks and helicopters. Lines at what few stores opened had a two- to three-hour wait time, with guards at the entrance.

We found a battery-powered fan housed in a dented box at the store. It was the only fan on the shelf. Others assumed it was defective. We inspected it, and decided it was functional. Did God crunch the box so I could have some air movement in my steamy home?

My first hot meal was a McDonald’s breakfast biscuit. I never thought I’d be happy for McD’s, but I prayed the most appreciative meal blessing I’d prayed in a while!

Washing my hands with soap and warm water felt like such a luxury.

Finding a loaf of bread seemed like a small miracle.

Weather the Storm

The only way to weather a storm is to plan ahead for it, do all you can, and then rest in God’s presence as you wait out the worst of it.

And then, as soon as relief is in sight, ask God to show you how He wants to use the trial* for:

  1. His glory
  2. The good of others
  3. Your own personal and spiritual growth

What do you need to do today to be ready for the storm that might hit tomorrow?

* NOTE: Kathy wrote Four Ways to Get through the Storm earlier this year. She practiced her own tips during Hurricane Harvey. Kathy is coordinating an encouragement project to deliver donated gift cards and homemade baked goods to a neighborhood hardest hit by Harvey.

The rest of the story? She was supposed to close on a home in that very neighborhood on September 19th. The home was flooded with 5-7 feet of water and the contract was voided. She says she discovered home isn’t a WHERE, it’s a WHO.

Please continue to pray for Kathy and others you know who have "weathered" a tough storm in recent days. Pray they will not only "survive," but thrive in the Father's care.

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 GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

The photo in the graphic, above, was Kathy's photo of the first sunshine that broke through after Harvey.

Tuesday
Oct102017

Avengers [Please Do Not] Assemble!

Kaley Faith Rhea is a funny, faith-filled young woman with a strong voice for the Lord. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she encourages us to not repay "evil for evil."

"Want to know something the Bible goes over and over and over again? I’m not talking about love or peace or forgiveness," Kaley says. "I’m talking VENGEANCE."

Something about that word makes me (Dawn) shudder. That couldn't possibly be a Christian issue, right? Oh, yes it is. Often.

Kaley continues . . .

Don’t get me wrong. I like a good Marvel movie or book as much as the next gal. Sometimes more. Sometimes maybe too much. I might be watching Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as I write this. Who knows?

But seriously, take a look with me at what the Scripture says about revenge. It’s in there a shocking number of times.

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

Well, that’s just one instance of ... Oh, wait.

“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

Okay, so twice it’s… Hmmm.

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17).

I’d almost say Scripture is beating a dead horse about the subject, but it seems like it’s actually all about blessing the dead horse and repaying the dead horse’s evil with good.

Wait, what?

Do we even struggle that much with the desire for revenge in our modern, everyday lives?

When I think of the word "vengeance," I think of blood feuds or wrathful vendettas of old. But we come across vengeance every day.

  • Sometimes we call it “getting even.”
  • Or making sure someone “gets what they deserve.”
  • Or even “standing up for myself.”

To be clear, if someone has hurt you and remains unrepentant, it may be very necessary to place boundaries on that relationship. And if you are in an abusive situation, do not let anyone tell you you have an obligation to remain there.

But I’m talking about that very human, very dark instinct that is able to rationalize and even righteous-ize the thinking for slights big and small:

“I am hurt. And in my anger, all I want is for you to hurt too.”

Paul wrote,

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21).

  • Seeking to get even robs you of your peace.
  • It reveals a lack of trust in the Lord.
  • It obliterates an opportunity to show the love of Christ.

Did you notice the part where it says “If possible, so far as it depends on you”? It won’t always be possible to live peaceably with everyone.

Where there is sin, you may be called to lovingly confront. Whether that person responds peacefully or with the same kind of love is up to them. But, beloved, “never avenge yourselves.”

If this seems impossible, well, it is. This is something we need to ask Jesus to do in and through us. Every day. Every time a car cuts us off or a coworker whispers behind our backs.

Let Jesus be your example and your strength. That way, as He works in you and through you to take a bad situation and do something good, God gets all the glory.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

So by all means, dress like Thor or Wasp or Ms. Marvel or any of the other Avengers for your costume parties this year. But when you do, use the opportunity as a reminder for your heart that the One we really want to look most like is Jesus.

When are you tempted to seek revenge? Which of the three everyday examples of "revenge" do you struggle with most?

Kaley Faith Rhea is a co-author of the Christian rom-com novel, Turtles in the Road, with two more books in the works to release in 2018. She also co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.

Article adapted from the Bible study companion to Turtles in the Road.

Graphic adapted, Open clip art vector courtesy of Pixabay.

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