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Thursday
Jun082017

Smart Women and Financial Choices

Known as "America's Family Financial Expert,"® Ellie Kay walks her own financial talk. She knows the power of following clear  financial principles. In this Financial UPGRADE, she suggests wise tips to help women become more money savvy.

Ellie asks, “Would you like to make smarter decisions when it comes to money matters? Think about the woman who ‘considers a field and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard’ (Proverbs 31:16). She’s smart!”

I (Dawn) know the Bible has a wealth of wisdom regarding finances* and Ellie has some great tips to encourage the wisdom process too.

Ellie continues . . .

When I was a young bride, I was overwhelmed in learning how to manage a household. I didn’t even know how to cook and I remember asking my mom how to boil an egg.

She said, “Boil it until it floats.” I had no idea she was joking, and I boiled it for an hour until the water evaporated and the eggs exploded. They never floated.

Today, I have young millennial daughters and daughters-in-law who are learning to manage their own homes, and I developed guidelines that can help them a little more proactively than my mom’s advice helped me.

Here are my top ten tips for women to make better financial choices.

1. Avoid Emotional Spending.

Never shop online or in the store when you are depressed, sad or lonely because you are far more likely to engage in “shopping therapy” and overspend.

2. Show Love through Actions and Not Things.

If you have a love language of gift giving, or if you tend to show love to others by what you buy for them, then you may want to shift your point of view and save your budget in the process.

3. Volunteer Often.

Those people who have the best balance in their financial lives understand how fortunate they are by giving back to their communities.

4. Err On The Side of Generosity.

By following the principle of tithing 10% of your income, you invite God’s blessing upon your money matters and live a more abundant financial life.

If you are going to err, don’t let it be on the side of stinginess, but let it be on the side of generosity.

5. Ask Yourself, "Is This a Need or A Want?"

Most of us do not have unlimited financial resources and for every purchase we make, it’s wise to ask ourselves this question BEFORE we buy.

6. Play the Waiting Game.

In order to avoid impulse buying, when you see something on sale in the mall or online, wait 24 hours to purchase it. This helps you get beyond the impulse to see if it’s something you truly need.

7. Have A Money Buddy.

Accountability is a wonderful thing.

Every woman should have a person who can ask the hard questions about sticking to your budget, paying down consumer debt, or funding a retirement. In community, you are far more likely to keep your financial commitments towards good stewardship.

8. Become a Master Saver.

The Millionaire next door rarely pays full price on anything when they can save money. Read money savings blogs, download apps for coupon codes, and be prepared to compare prices on goods and services.

9. Become Comfortable with Negotiation.

Whether you are negotiating the price of a car or the bid on painting your house, you have to feel it’s the best deal for you.

Tell the other person, "I don’t feel comfortable with that price," and then be quiet. I’ve found that nine out of 10 times, I’ll get a counterbid that is something I feel more comfortable with; and if I don’t, then I feel the freedom to walk away.

10. Pray about Money Matters.

Recent PEW Research indicates that 80% of Americans admit to praying weekly or even daily. Even a financial expert like myself needs to pray to be make wise financial decisions, that people won’t be able to take financial advantage of me and that I’ll be able to find the best provision for my budget.

When in doubt, pray.

Which of these steps do you already practice and which ones can you implement today?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet (with Danna Demetre), and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.

* Some Key Scriptures about finances: Matthew 6:24-25, 33; Philippians 4:11-13; Luke 12:15; Psalm 37:21; Mark 8:36; Proverbs 15:27; 22:7; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19; Philippians 4:19; Malachi 3:10; Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Luxstorm at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jun062017

You Can Ketchup More Fries with Money

Rhonda Rhea's posts always go deeper than one might think at first. Such is the case in this Stewardship UPGRADE.

"Don’t even try to pretend," Rhonda says. "Don’t pretend you don’t know that the hamburger and the French fries have to come to an end at exactly the same time."

I (Dawn) was intrigued by Rhonda's title until I saw a longer version and scanned the article.

The whole title is: "You Can Ketchup More Fries with Money—And Catch Fools with It Too."

Ah... I see. This is about stewardship!

Rhonda continues . . .

Bite of hamburger. Bite of fry. Burger. Fry.

Once you invest your money in the full meal deal, it feels like bad stewardship if any one bite doesn’t live up to the others.

Burger, fry, burger, fry.

These are the rules, people. Hey, it’s not like I make this stuff up.

When you think about it, it’s the only cultured way to eat a burger.

Of course, “culture” and “full meal deal” don’t always go together like… well… like burgers and fries.

I was eating my burger, fry, burger, fry the other day and I happened to glance over at the ketchup packet and noticed it said, “FANCY.”

Well, that was just frustrating. I felt underdressed the whole rest of the meal.

And you don’t want to feel underdressed when you have to go back for that extra order of fries. Because when you’re explaining to the kid taking your money that you had too much burger at the end of your fries, you don’t want to look stupid.

When it comes to dealing well with money, there’s always a challenge not to get stupid. Not because money is evil. Because loving it is.

And it’s a trap.

“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, HCSB).

Obsession with material things leads to more obsession with material things, and then more—a trap of our own spiraling desires. It’s like always needing one more fry.

How sobering to read verse 9. Our craving for money can lead us away from our faith and right into all kinds of piercing pain. Foolish sinfulness. Certainly nothing sophisticated about that.

Paul tells us to “run from these things” (verse 11). Run away from that temptation to focus on getting rich.

People who already enjoy wealth are not safe from the trap either. It can become all too easy to find security in a big bank account rather than in Christ.

Verse 17 says, “not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.”

When Paul tells us to run from the love of money and all the other evils, he doesn’t just leave us running wildly off without direction.

“But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness" (verse 11).

As we pursue all the right spiritual things, our view toward all things physical comes more clearly into focus.

When we’re not distracted by loving or trusting in money and things, we see what’s real.

“Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real,” (verse 18).

Investing in Kingdom work. That’s real investing.

Incidentally, anytime you’ve invested the meal deal and you’re feeling a little unsophisticated… ketchup. It’s the fancy condiment.

Anything else just won’t cut the mustard.

Are you pursuing the physical or the spiritual? How is pursuing the spiritual a better "deal"? 

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.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of eisenmenger at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jun012017

The Big Break

Wendy Hamilton is an inspirational, everyday life writer who loves to tackle the daily tough stuff with truth and grace. In this UPLIFT encouragement, she encourages us to give ourselves a break in more ways than one.

"I sat across from my new friend aware that this was the first time in a long time that I was on this side of the table," Wendy said. "Usually it was me telling other women to take a break, rest, create fun in their lives or for their families, and not overdo." 

Wendy made me (Dawn) sit up immediately when I read that. Resting has been one of my big issues, one of the reasons my body fell apart and my ministry suffered. As Wendy points out here, sometimes we're our own worst enemy when it comes to rest.

Wendy continues . . .

That day it was me weary and undone. Everyday life felt like an overwhelming burden. I managed my day on autopilot, living that day much like I had lived the day before with little hope that tomorrow would be different.

“You can’t continue at this pace. You are headed for burnout. You need to rest,” my friend cautioned. “Take the rest of today and rest. You will be better for it.”

Her advice seemed counter-intuitive. I had so much to do.

Deadlines loomed. My house looked in many ways to be one more pile of clutter or laundry way from perfect for an episode of "Hoarders." Yet, I knew her advice was the truth.

“You are right," I confessed. "I’m not going to get anything done in the way and at the level I want to when I feel this tired.”

I thought back to scriptures I studied earlier that week. 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

Both of those verses reflected an attitude and posture much different than what was reflected in my current pace and to-do list.

God’s good for me was a quieter pace.

His expectations for me did not require that my house look ready for a magazine feature or even “company ready.”  His expectations for me were to walk with Him, be with Him and rest with Him.

What God models reveals a way of life that keeps us ready to love Him and others, and allow us to be rested and not fatigued. God never is a tough taskmaster with an impossible to-do list. That method is you and I at work, not honoring who God created us to be the way God designed. 

The way of life God models is designed for us to know that we do not walk life alone. God promises:  “Never will He leave me and never will He forsake me” (Hebrews 13:5).

When I create the impossible pace in my day and in my life, I forget that I do life with God. 

I make myself and my talents, abilities and strengths an idol, and I place "me at work" above God at work in my life. I live life focused on what I should do instead of living in the victory of what God has already done.

The result of such heavy self-imposed burdens is weariness.

God knows our tendencies to rely more or ourselves than on Him. That is why He calls us to receive His comfort, love, faithfulness and presence.

God draws us to Himself through scripture and stillness so we can take a break and have a break. 

What He asks of us leads to more life and more freedom. We don’t get tired of what God gives us when we function in everyday stillness and get to know Him more. What God has for us as we listen to Him speak in scripture and in our everyday lives is “immeasurably more than all we could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

What God designed is our big break and rest.

Where is God calling you to rest and take a break? What areas of your life does God want you to surrender to Him so He can give you more than you could ask or think?

Wendy M. Hamilton is a writer and songwriter from Dallas, Texas. When she is not ministering with her church family at Valley Creek Church, a multi-site mega church, she is volunteering at The Salvation Army or teaching and encouraging others to minister and lead with their art and bring inspired ideas to life. Wendy and her husband, Mike, are the founders of Inspired Life Ministries, and they love living a messy, busy and fun life with their 4+1 kids. Her most recent published song compilation, "Here We Go," is included on Compass, the new Valley Creek Kids Worship CD released May 2017 from Valley Creek Worship.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Lightstock (free download).

 

Tuesday
May302017

How to Conquer Your Conundrum (Confusing Problem)

What do you do when faced with a "conundrum"—a confusing or difficult problem or challenge. Dawn Wilson suggests 10 steps to conquer your conundrum in this Life Choices UPGRADE.

We all have conundrums. They can be challenging, bothersome, scary—and all of these things at the same time! What do you do when you are perplexed and just don't know how to move forward?

Here are 10 steps that can help you conquer your conundrum.

1. Prepare

Invest time in a quiet place with your Bible and other resources—even a laptop with the Internet for research, if you don't think you'll get distracted. Just as God told His people, "in quietness and confidence" is your strength" (Isaiah 30:15b), we will find strength when we pause to reflect and prepare.

Just like anything worth pursuing, preparation will help with processing your thoughts and focusing on fresh goals.

2. Pray

ASK the Lord for His wisdom (James 1:5). But remember prayer is not just you talking to the Father.

Be willing to say, "Speak Lord. I'm listening!" Better yet, "Whatever you tell me to do, Lord, I will obey." That's where the blessing comes in (Luke 11:28; James 1:25b).

3. Anticipate

Trust that the Lord WILL speak to your heart and clarify direction (Proverbs 3:5-7). Maybe He will use His Word. Maybe the Holy Spirit will remind you of a truth you already know. Anticipate His voice and "marching instructions."

You may find a word from the Lord in a solid, biblical book, or as you listen to a sermon or message. You may even hear the Lord speaking through a hymn book.

Once, when I was struggling with direction, I flipped through a hymn book and ended up on the old song "Trust and Obey. It was like the Lord said to me, "You don't need any new information; you haven't obeyed what I already told you!" I took care of that and God gave me fresh insight.

The point is, anticipate God's direction and obey it, rather than being "wise in your own eyes" (v. 7).

4. Think

Take time to brainstorm, if there are several options available to you and you're not sure which direction to move. Weigh the facts. Think. Do your best to DISCERN what the Lord might be saying (1 John 4:1; Philippians 1:9-10; Hebrews 4:12; 5:14; John 7:24; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

Some people even make a "pros" and "cons" list. But be careful with that. Once I had a long list of "cons," but the Lord confirmed I should move ahead. It made no sense at the time, but it was clear later the Lord had a plan I couldn't see.

5. Study

I included this one because I know human nature!

Just in case you treated #4 lightly, stop now and go a little deeper. Actually research the very best options in light of scripture. See if they align with what God has said, because He will not lead contrary to His Word.

As you study, be sure you are walking in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God "searches all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV).

6. Consider

Imagine possible outcomes. Count the cost for each one and weigh them carefully. (A biblical example: Luke 14:28).

Consider whether you are ready to move ahead and pay the necessary price. That price might not just be financial. There might be a cost emotionally, spirituallly, or to your family.

7. Learn

Seek out and listen to wise counselors. There is usually safety in a "multitude of counselors" (Proverbs 11:14: 15:22). Be sure you have a teachable spirit. Pride has hindered many wise decisions! (Proverbs 9:9; 13:18; 1 Peter 5:5).

And this would be a good time for more prayer: "Holy Spirit, teach me. Guide me in Your truth" (Psalm 25:4-5).

8. Challenge 

This is where it might feel "impossible" or confusing.

  • We may need to challenge our fears and perceived limitations (Psalm 56:3-4; Isaiah 41:10).
  • We may need to confront some lies and bolster our mind and heart with God's truth (John 8:44b; Ephesians 6:11).
  • We may be suffering from "analysis paralysis" at this point and need an encouraging, godly friend to help us see reality or seek God's perspective. Reach out and ask for help.

9. Act

There are usually two courses of action at this point.

We'll either take the best possible action with discernment; or we'll decide to trust and wait a little longer—with God's guidance. Both can be wise actions if we're following the Lord's direction (Psalm 32:8) and believing He will not withhold anything from us that will enable us to walk close to Him and "uprightly" (Psalm 84:11b).

We don't want to lag behind if the Lord is nudging us to move forward with courage; but we don't want to rush ahead—rash or foolish—for the sake of just making a decision either.

10. Rest 

We may not ever have complete peace; we are very human.

It's good to know we can trust the Lord for course corrections. And even in our missteps we can recognize God's grace. He will transform our sins and foolish mistakes for His purposes (Romans 8:28).

So after you follow all these steps and any others the Lord may give you, simply rest in Him. HOW?

  • Cast your cares on Him and release all striving.
  • Submit to His will.
  • Relax in His love.
  • Embrace Hope.

You may feel confused, but remember: Your "conundrum" has not taken God by surprise.

Which of these 10 steps will help you the most today as you ask the Lord for help with your most pressing and confusing question or problem?

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 adapted, courtesy of Workbrite1 at Morguefile.

Thursday
May252017

14 Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day

If we're not careful, Memorial Day can devolve into BBQs and ball games. It's so much more. In this Memorial Day UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us to look once again at the purpose for this day, and become more creative and intentional in celebrating it.

"Yes, I know... Memorial Day isn't about thanking soldiers who serve today," I told my friend.

"But I like to include them into my  'thankful mix' while not forgetting the original purpose of this super-special day."

I hope that's your heart too.

Here are 14 ways to celebrate Memorial Day this year.

1. Educate the Kids.

Explain to children and grandchildren what Memorial Day means—why it was created.

The first Memorial Day was celebrated in 1868. A Union general declared May 30 as a special day to decorate graves of fallen Civil War soliders, and after the first World War, Memorial Day became a national holiday to honor Americans fighting in ANY war for America. President Richard Nixon declared the last Monday in May a federal holiday in 1971.

Don't confuse Veteran's Day (November) with Memorial Day. On Veteran's Day we honor all who have served in the military.

You might also teach children about the American flag, or say the pledge of allegiance together—explaining what the words mean.

2. Take a Moment to Remember.

The National Moment of Remembrance was established by Congress to facilitate Americans pausing as an act of national unity at exactly 3 pm (local time) on Memorial Day to remember the fallen. Some people pause for one minute.

Take part of that time to praise the Lord we still live in a free country.

Take time to pray for our nation (Psalm 33:12; Daniel 2:21; 1 Timothy 2:1-2).

3. Decorate Your Home with Flags.

It's wonderful to see the American flag flying across America any day, but especially on Memorial Day.

Fly a flag half-staff from dawn until noon, local time. (You might also want to fly the POW/MIA flag, if you have one)

4. Decorate a Veteran's Grave.

Go to a cemetery and use a flag and/or flowers to decorate the grave of a fallen soldier.

A special "thank you" bouquet can be sponsored through the Memorial Day Foundation.

5. Attend a Ceremony.

Check the newspaper for a patriotic local ceremony if you can't visit Washington, DC, for the BIG celebration.

Your local American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or even your closest military base may have a special program.

6. Attend a Parade or Fireworks.

Although it's a time of remembrance, Memorial Day is also a joyous holiday. We are a free people because there are people determined to protect those freedoms.

Go to a parade or fireworks and celebrate!

7. Be Creative.

Make a patriotic-themed craft—a wreath, dessert, or even a cap or t-shirt.

Have fun being "Americans" together!

8. Use Music.

Listen to a national Memorial Day concert on television or attend a a local one.

For example: For those local to San Diego, on May 28, the San Diego Master Chorale, under the direction of Dr. John Russell, will present a Memorial Day Concert with familiar patriotic favorites and stirring spiritual arrangements. It's held at the San Diego Central Library auditorium, 330 Park Ave., San Diego. Get there by 2pm or earlier. Tickets are free and parking is free on the streets (or for a fee in the underground structure).

Or, create your own concert. Play inspirational patriotic music, or sing patriotic songs together.

If your child plays a trumpet, let him or her play "Taps" and then pray for the families of those who have died for our country.

9. Visit a Memorial.

See if there is a military memorial site in your town. Consider how you might honor those who have died from your own home town.

But also, put it on your bucket list to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetary.

10. Buy a Poppy

Groups like the American Legion Auxiliary and Veterans of Foreign Wars take donations for poppies.

Ever wonder why the poppy? John McCrae wrote the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields," and it includes the line, "In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row."

"Buddy Poppies" have been assembled by disabled or needy veterans since 1924. Your donation helps maintain state and national rehabilitation/service programs for vets.

11. Aid the widow, widower or children of the fallen.

Are their families of fallen veterans at your church? In your community? Are their needs being me? Are you sure?

Does your church have a regular means to check-up on and encourage these families?

Pray for them today!

12. Thank Someone in the Military Now.

Although Memorial Day is for those who have died, and military personnel you meet on the street or at airports haven't died for our country, they have taken time out of their lives to protect our country and freedom.

They deserve our gratitude. It's always OK to shake their hand and say, "Thank you!"

13. Visit a Hospital.

Take flowers, cookies or good reading material to a local veteran's hospital! This would be a great experience for elementary children.

14. Write a Note.

Take your verbal thank you" one step further. Make homemade cards for military personnel you know, or for the families of the fallen. Or purchase them at Vistaprint.

OperationGratitude.com will give you information about writing soldiers letters (or even sending a "care package" to someone in the military who is currently deployed).

The key word on Memorial Day is "Memorial."

Let's never take it for granted.

Remember. Celebrate. Be thankful.

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.

All photos, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thank you card, available at Vistaprint. 

Note: I am not connected to any of the links I shared (except I have a friend in the San Diego Master Chorale). No compensation given for any of these suggestions.

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