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   and Founder:

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Thursday
Aug032017

10 Ways to Make Friends with Foreigners

Though she now lives in Kansas, Gail Goolsby once lived overseas and knows first-hand how to build friendships with people in other countries. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she encourages us to open our heart and home to make friends with foreigners.

“The world is shaken and people are scattered around the globe,” Gail said. “How can we connect as caring Christians with the international immigrants entering our communities?”

I (Dawn) have often heard pastors and evangelists say, “The mission field is coming to our doorstep.” It’s true! We need to know how to connect with those the Lord is bringing to America.

Gail continues . . .

According to Homeland Security statistics, over 560,000 immigrants received permanent U.S. resident status in the first half of 2017, coming mainly from Mexico, India, China, Philippines, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Almost 40,000 fleeing refugees were admitted to our shores. The top five countries were Syria, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Burma.

Politicians and military personnel have their own view of global wars and displaced populace seeking safety and a better life. I am no expert, but I know as private citizens we have the chance to impact the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disillusioned people with a heart of love and hospitality.

For those coming from countries closed to Christians, we may well be the first believers they meet. We can have conversation about who Jesus really is and what He can mean in their lives.

I believe God is bringing those close who used to be out of reach for the Good News.

What should be our response?

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 NIV).

Here are 10 ways to connect with foreign neighbors.  

1. Check with the local resettlement agencies in your area for the needs they have.

Clothes, coats, shoes, furniture and household items are essential to families arriving with great needs and few resources.

2. Educate yourself on a particular people group and culture living in your location.

Find out what foods they eat to make a welcoming meal, and learn greetings in their native language.

3. Develop relationships with shopkeepers, hair stylists, nail technicians, etc., by asking questions and showing interest.

Let them see you as a friendly Christ-follower who is open to spiritual as well as practical conversation in a non-threatening way.

4. Volunteer to be an English tutor or conversation partner.

Local colleges and churches sponsor English classes to help immigrants assimilate quickly. The main qualification is being a native English speaker!

5. Host an international friends group in your home or at a local community center.

Meet regularly with others who have the same interest to help immigrants make new friends while practicing English and learning cultural information.

6. Transport immigrants to work interviews, doctor appointments, shopping trips, etc.

Here is another opportunity to practice English and show care.

7. Invite new friends to your home and share your family.

This is the most influential way to make friends. Hospitality translates through every culture as a sincere connection point.

8. Sponsor an international student from your local university.

Text, call, or take him or her to lunch or coffee regularly to see how things are going and, again, invite into your home for holidays or weekend meals.

Take students on sightseeing outings and show off America.

9. Start a Discovery Bible Study with a small group and invite new international friends.

This is not an academic, pastor-led experience, but rather people reading selected Bible passages, talking together about what is learned, and making personal applications.

10. Bring your international friend to church or other formal study groups if he or she is comfortable.

This is not usually the best first step due to large cultural differences and misunderstandings, especially among Muslim-background friends.

Contemporary religious services can appear irreverent and offensive without thorough preparation and exposure to American culture and Christian ways before attending church.

Women are POWERFUL CONNECTORS!

The women of the world, particularly the Muslim world, are often seen as second-class citizens or worse. That doesn’t mean they are uneducated or even unloved, but typically they are very restricted in the expression of their personhood.

These people are almost unreachable by men.

They are covered, they are absent, and they are culturally not to be in the presence of men outside their family.

We as women have incredible power here, ladies.

We can speak to them, touch them, embrace them, have them in our homes uncovered, visit in their homes, and share as the sisters we really are.

I have special women friends in my hometown from Iran, Jordan, Congo, and Afghanistan. We eat together, share family time, practice English, cook new recipes from our home cultures, explore pumpkin patches, play games, watch movies, and talk for hours about female concerns and interests.

The riches of such relationships give back much more than the cost to me in time or resources. This is my opportunity to make friends with foreigners God has planted in my world at this important time in history.

What foreign neighbors cross your path that you could engage to develop a relationship and share the love of God?

Gail Goolsby, MA, Med is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others Learn to Live Well.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of fsHH at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Aug012017

A Remodeled Life

Julie Gillies encourages women to know and believe God's Word, and share the stories of how God changes their lives. In this Uplift UPGRADE, she says we all need do-overs, and the good thing is, God is in the transforming, remodeling business!

If you’ve ever lived through a major remodeling project,” Julie says, “you probably have a serious appreciation for the hard work involved.

Oh, don't get me (Dawn) started. While landscaping our front yard in the hot sun last month, my husband sweat buckets! Remodeling anything—a yard, a house, and especially a life—is MAJOR! But the results are worth the effort.

Julie continues . . .

The way I see it, anyone can move into a brand-new house. Zero sweat equity. Instant pretty.

But remodeling takes a willing investor with a keen eye for potential—someone prepared to put a lot of hard work into a far-from-perfect building.

Done right, the results are a gorgeous old home with character, yet filled with all the new stuff you wouldn’t want to live without. The before and after photos are remarkable, and no one who visits your house can believe that it ever looked like that before.

It's truly a labor of love.

My husband, Keith, and I were crazy enough to take on such an endeavor back when we were newly married, young, and willing to invest some serious elbow grease. We had purchased a tiny two-bedroom, one-bathroom, stinky, old, sorry excuse for a house, mostly because it only cost us $55,000.

Its flat, gravel-topped roof needed replacing, the jalousie windows had to go, the scary carpet reeked to high heaven, and the hot water heater needed to be moved out of the kitchen. Add in a garage, new electrical wiring, and paint—lots of paint—and it would be habitable.

Did I mention I was pregnant when we began?

We ended up knocking down walls and adding some extra rooms. It was almost a total do-over. For seven months, we stressed, sweated, and toiled, working far too hard and sleeping far too little.

Then we watched in amazement and great satisfaction as our smelly, rinky-dink place was slowly shaped into something beautiful.

God does this very thing with us.

The Lord deeply values us, His daughters, and sees the potential that others (and often we ourselves) cannot.

He deems us worthy of His investment. His Holy Spirit pinpoints areas in our hearts and lives that need loving restoration, and He gently coaxes us to believe, surrender, and cooperate with Him.

Some of us have sagging foundations. Some of us are a slapdash paint job on rotting boards. Some of us have broken windows where thieves can crawl in.

All of us need a complete do-over.

Like the hot water heater standing awkwardly in the middle of my kitchen, we often recognize when things are out of place. We know when parts of us are broken, and yet we aren’t really sure how to change. We are powerless to make changes apart from Christ.

As the psalmist puts it, Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted” (Psalm 127:1).

Unless we partner with God by surrendering to the work He is doing, cooperating with His promptings and discipline, and doing our part by saturating our hearts in His Word and spending time with Him in meaningful prayer, our house will remain in the same sagging, sorry shape.

He’s willing. Are we?

Are we willing to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him through the intimate intricacies of deep inner heart work? Will we submit ourselves, hearts wide open, to the One who is able to renew and restore?

Because that is God’s heart for us. He knows the things that have stripped us of our hope, our trust and our dignity. And He is well able to replace all the enemy has stolen from us (Joel 2:25).

Jesus is willing to beautifully restore the years spent languishing in hurt, the broken areas we cover and attempt to hold together on our own, and the dreams we think are irretrievably dead.

When we allow God to have His way by surrendering to His process, reading His Word and truly believing it, and investing in some serious prayer time, we will live an overcoming life—a life that is not held back by issues that once plagued us. Our lives will become testimonies to those around us.

The more we allow Jesus to do in us, the more His glory is revealed. And that is His ultimate goal: a world full of regular people whose hearts and lives have been utterly transformed and radiate His unmistakable image.

Though it can be a long, arduous process, Jesus, with His keen eye, restores us to better than new. He makes us whole. We wind up beautiful, yet functional, and filled with His character.

When we share our amazing before and after stories, no one can believe that we ever lived like that before because our hearts are all sparkly and fresh and new.

It's truly a labor of love.

What area of your life do you need to surrender to the Lord so He can “remodel” you afresh?

Julie K. Gillies is the author of From Hot Mess to Blessed: Hope to Propel Your Soul and the Promises that Change Everything and the devotional, Prayers for a Woman’s Soul. Healed from a traumatic childhood, Julie’s message helps women pray, know, and believe God’s Word. Julie is the joyful wife of Keith, mom of two soldiers and one civilian, and Grammy of four. Find FREE resources and connect with Julie at www.JulieGillies.com .

Graphic adapted, courtesty of Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul272017

Organize Your Life - Part 2

In Part One of “Organize Your Life,” Kathy Carlton Willis covered several helpful organization tips along with spiritual applications. She explained how we can have less stress in our homes and our hearts as we get organized. In this article, she continues the topic with 4 more tips.

I (Dawn) think one of the biggest consequences of disorganization—whether in our homes, our workspace or our heart—is stress. I'm glad to see Kathy addresses this.

Kathy continues . . .

There are several ways we can take life hacks and use the same principles to straighten up our spiritual lives, too.

Here are a few more tips as we continue the article started here.

5. Loaded is Bloated.

What slows down an electronic device? When there are too many programs or documents loaded to it, or too many apps open.

The only way to make it faster is to lighten its load or to add more hard drive or memory.

Spiritual Life: What slows me down? When I have too many burdens I’m trying to carry around. I have so many tasks going at once I’m not multi-tasking, I’m maxi-tasking. I have to let some of it go in order to have enough white space in the margins to think straight. Then I give God room to work in my life—His strength is my hard drive and His Spirit is more memory.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).

6. Do It When You Think of It.

The older I get, the more I realize I have to do things when I think of them, otherwise, out of mind is, well—out of sight!

Spiritual Life: What do I do when I’m reminded of my sin? The best time to deal with it is as soon as it comes to mind.

7. Handle It Once.

Don’t handle the same piece of paper twice.

  • If it’s trash, throw it out.
  • If it’s a bill, pay it.
  • If it needs to be filed, file it.

Spiritual Life: Am I holding on to chronic guilt? Once I’ve asked God to forgive me, it's time to receive that forgiveness and move on.

The longer I hang on to the guilt, the harder it is to get rid of.

8. Take Five!

It doesn’t take an hour or half-day to organize.

  • Use the five minutes it takes to make a cup of coffee to pick up clutter or empty the dishwasher.
  • When commercials come on the television, deal with a pile of papers.
  • Five-minute work-bursts add up fast, and keep you from being overwhelmed.
  • Take five minutes before leaving the house to straighten up.
  • Before bed take another five minutes to pick up items that didn’t get put away. Prepare ahead for the next day.

Treat five-minute work-bursts as a race, and you’ll be surprised what you get done!

The bonus? Once you get going, you’ll extend that five-minute challenge to longer work sessions, because once you get started you feel up to tackling more.

Spiritual Life: Am I putting off having some quiet time with God until I find an extra hour in my day? I need to grab five minutes when I can get it to talk to God or read His Word or listen to His Spirit. And the more I spend time with Him, the more I want to.

How will you get organized to have less stress in your home and heart?

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.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jul252017

Organize Your Life - Part 1

Kathy Carlton Willis would love to see women escape the chaos of their lives. In this Organization UPGRADE, she explains how we can have less stress in our homes and our hearts as we get organized.

"Lately, a phrase has been stuck like a song in my head—'Don’t put it down, put it up!'" Kathy says.

"Every time I think about putting something in the wrong place, that advice nags me and I'm reminded it doesn’t take any longer to put something in its designated spot."

I (Dawn) am a firm believer in "a place for everything and everything in its place," but Kathy takes this one step further and I agree: Conquering the chaos in our lives begins with a more ordered perspective and a change of heart.

Kathy continues . . .  

Realizing this simple organizational tip might be a good reminder to others as well, I started collecting other helpful tips to share. Each one ended up also triggering a spiritual reminder to me.

Isn’t it interesting that the same things that help us get our acts together help us get our lives straightened out?

Let’s look at some.

1. File It, Don’t Pile It!

I admit it. I’m a piler. It’s a good thing Russ and I are minimalists because it minimizes the number of piles I can create!

But every so often I get into a sorting mood and I force myself to either file it away, scan it in, or pitch it.

Spiritual Life: What do I allow to pile up before I deal with it? Hurt feelings? Disappointment? Anger? Sadness? Time won’t shoo away what I’ve stockpiled. It’s time to address the mess going on in my life.

“But be sure that everything is done properly and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40 NLT).

2. Clutter Clatters.

I’m a messy cook. I tend to dirty every dish I own. And then I’m too exhausted to clean up.

But it doesn’t take long before I’m back in the kitchen washing, organizing, putting everything away. Why? Because the clutter is so noisy, it clatters. Such a distraction!

When everything is straightened up I sense a quietness—peace.

Spiritual Life: Is my day cluttered with so much busyness that I have neglected my quiet time with God? Does the clutter clatter so loudly I can’t hear God’s still small voice? It’s time to roll up my sleeves, put away the clutter and let the cleared space make room for God’s peace.

3. Less is Best.

I used to own a 4,000-square-foot fixer-upper and set out to fill it with stuff. Then a life reversal forced us to have a living estate sale before moving into an 800-square-foot rent house.

I learned to hold on to my stuff with a loose grip.

Now I love a more minimalistic approach to my belongings.

When I don’t pack my space full, I have enough white space to give my chaos a break. Peace.

Spiritual Life: I need as much white space as my house. When I cram every hour with to-do lists, obligations, chores, and busyness, there’s no margin for relaxation. By allowing space in my day for contemplation and meditation, I can handle the rest of the day with more resolve and clarity.

4. Don’t Give in to the Pig Pen.

It’s tempting once things are a mess, to not even try. Why bother? Why put this away when it won’t make the rest of the mess look any better?

It’s a downward spiral toward the pig pen.

Spiritual Life: It was in the pig pen, where the prodigal son realized the enormity of his messed-up life and desired to go back to the father, thinking even his father’s servants were treated better than what his life had become.

In the middle of my mess, when it’s tempting to keep making poor choices because I’m already stained with sin, the Father wants me to leave the mess and come to Him for rest. He will repair the damage and make all things new.

What needs sorted out in your house and in your heart?

(PART TWO of “Organize Your Life." is published here.)

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.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul202017

3 Ways to Keep Summer Sane

Women's ministry leader Cathy Horning loves the Word of God and making biblical truth practical. In this Summer UPGRADE, she shares three ways to keep the summer months sane.

“I love summers! I love long days of sunlight, warm evening walks, and so many other special summer delights,” Cathy says. “However, I also hate summer.”

I (Dawn) read that and thought, "Huh?" Who could hate summer? And why?"

Cathy continues . . .

I hate summer because as much as I like to imagine I am an easygoing, carefree, and flexible person, in reality, I thrive on routine, order, and schedules.

And every year, I am reminded how summer time, pretty much, throws a wrench into the regular rhythm and predictable plans in which I flourish the other nine months of the year.

This summer is no different. I have been out of town nearly every weekend since May.

My husband and I have attended out-of-town birthday and anniversary parties, graduations and weddings, as well as helping our daughter move into a new apartment in Los Angeles. When we happen to find ourselves at home, we enjoy time with those who come to visit our beautiful beach community, or being Grammy and Papa to our ten amazing grandchildren.  

Summers are crazy—full and busy!

However, unlike summers past, this year I hesitantly took a step of faith which, surprisingly, has kept me a little more sane in the craziness of this season.

The step I took was to accept an online invitation to become part of a group of ladies who would go through a book called 40 Days to Healthy Living, by Danna Demetre.

When I first saw the Facebook post, I thought, There is no way I can add this to my summer.

Yet, the day before the group began, I decided to order the book and jump in. And, I am so glad I did!

This book and the group have helped me upgrade my life and bring order to three vital areas that often suffer in the chaos of summer.

1. Make Time for God’s Word

As a Bible teacher, I love spending time in the Word of God. Still, with the busyness of  company, travel, and all the fun of summer, I confess my priority of spending intentional, daily time in God’s Word can slip.

Danna’s book begins each day with scripture. And, always, what she shares about the passage is a good reminder, or brings fresh insight, that I can apply to my life during these long, lovely summer days.

2. Make Time for Healthy Eating

Every year, I grow in wisdom regarding my diet, but with the many celebrations and lack of routine in summer, I find it extremely difficult to eat the right foods, as well as the right proportions.

The "40 Days to Healthy Living" group has given me daily nutritional tips and challenges that I discovered are guiding my food choices during these wildly-full summer days.

3. Make Time for Exercise

Finally, one of Danna’s strong recommendations is to simply eat less and move more.

Going through the book motivated me to be more diligent to use my Fitbit. It doesn’t happen every day, but most days this summer, I am hitting 10,000+ steps, sometimes by only adding little things like parking further away, taking the stairs, and choosing the long way to get where I am going.

1 Timothy 4:8 NLT says, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

I love summer! It is my favorite time of the year.

However, I also hate that summer can rob me of investing in my spiritual and physical well being.

What a nice surprise it has been to discover help in this area from the 40-day devotional, plus the support and encouragement of other women online.

I have a feeling this may be my best summer yet!

What are you doing this summer to upgrade your spiritual life and health and keep summer sane?

NOTE from DAWN: I do not normally do "book promos" on this blog, but Cathy and I were both part of the group she mentioned, and I wanted to share how encouraging Danna's book was to me personally too. If you're looking for a new devotional book that will encourage your health as well as your heart for the things of the Lord, this is a good one.

Cathy Horning has been a women’s ministry leader, Bible Study teacher, speaker and writer for more than 25 years. She loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than sharing with others how very precious, practical, and powerful the promises and truths in God's Word. Married for 34 years, Cathy has four grown children, 10 grandchildren, and many spiritual sons and daughters. She loves long walks by the bay, a good book or movie, Starbucks ice tea, and especially family get-togethers. Read more by Cathy at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of rwalsh623 at Pixabay.

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