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Thursday
Dec122013

Holiday Hospitality: Reaching Out to Others

Diane Dean most certainly has the gift of hospitality. I asked her to share her heart concerning hospitality during the holidays.

“Hmmmmm,” she said. “I wonder if I have ever entertained an angel.”  (*Don't miss a special story at the end.)

Have you ever wondered that? I pretty much know who comes to my house, but I’ve often wondered if I’ve entertained an angel away from my home.

Diane continues …

Hebrews 13:2-3 says, "Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are ill-treated, since you also are liable to bodily sufferings" (Amplified Bible).

When our children were young and my husband was a pastor, we would often have various groups in our home throughout the year. One of our favorites was the annual potluck with the "seniors" group from our church. They were called "The Live Wires" for good reason. 

They were a delightful group and we never knew what would happen. The ages ranged from 60 to 90+ years old. As we got to know them, we discovered that several of the women in the group had no relatives. They loved our children and were so appreciative of their attention.

At Christmas, we would bake cookies to take to those widows. We got all dressed up, went to their homes and sang a few carols. After several years, a couple of the ladies ended up in nursing homes. We continued the tradition, taking cookies. They enjoyed sharing their own goodies with the nurses and others who could eat sweets. 

We often found several of the nursing home "guests" sitting in the hallway in wheel chairs. As we walked by, some would reach out to touch our children. We learned that quite a few had no one to visit them so we would try and give a little attention to each.

Through the years, we have also looked for singles or couples who were alone for the holidays.  

We have included them in our family time when possible. Some have not shared our faith, but enjoyed being a part of our celebration and seeing our traditions. It was a pleasure for us.

We can also give to those who are struggling. We have anonymously left gifts on porches and had someone else deliver something to a friend in need. 

Even when we go through difficult times, there is always someone with a greater need. There is a sense of joy in reaching out to others and it gives a sense of gratitude for what we have.

If you invest in others, it can put your circumstances in perspective. Just think, you can make the difference in someone else's life! 

I have always felt that the Lord brings others into our lives for a reason. Our paths don't cross by accident. As you look around at those you know or those in need, consider what you can do to add value to their lives. The results will surprise you! 

Remember, God never made a “nobody,” and He didn't make us to be alone. It isn't always convenient or easy to reach out. It will costs us something in time or money. It will, however, be worth the effort.

Maybe I haven't reached out to an angel, but I hope in my feeble effort I have seen and loved people as God does.

Who are you going to reach out to this holiday season?

* "Once, an older couple called us out of the blue. We did not know them. They came from out of the country and said they were supposed to stay with someone else on the church staff. I don't know who gave them our phone number. The couple on the church staff was out of town on vacation. The visitors didn't have anywhere to stay. We gave them our bedroom for three nights and then they left.

When the church staff couple returned, we told them the story. They didn't know anything about our visitors. My husband Larry and I have always wondered about that visit! Were they angels?"

Diane Dean is a ministry wife, mother, grandmother, Bible teacher, seminar and retreat speaker, and designer for Diane Dean Interiors, LLC. Her blog, Diane's Traditions, is a potpourri of information from her personal experience and she welcomes questions.

Tuesday
Dec102013

Waiting with Purpose

Jamie Wood is a young woman with great spiritual insight. She has learned many of life's lessons through her experiences in ministry, but also through the "School of Waiting."

Can you feel the struggle in these words?

"Lord, I’m tired of waiting! What are you up to? Will it happen for me? Dare I hope for it?

Do you see me? I feel like the only one. I don’t want to start all over again. Lord?"

Have you ever prayed a prayer like that? I did as a young single woman when it seemed like God would never give me a husband or a ministry. I was frustrated with God's timetable, but God brought me wise counsel ... words of wisdom much like Jamie shares.

She continues ...

If you are a woman, if you are human, then any one or more of these thoughts must resonate with you. In my experience, waiting on the Lord has proven to be one of the most difficult aspects of my Christian journey. 

I know what Scripture says about the truth of who God is and the plan He has for my life, but living out the tension between faith and doubt has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion. I know God doesn’t work on my timetable, that His timing is perfect, but my challenge has been to learn to wait…not aimlessly or without hope, but with PURPOSE!

God most poignantly taught me to wait with purpose when I was 30 years old. I had hit a new decade and ... Still. No. Husband. Everything in me wanted to scream, “God don’t you see my lonely heart?”  “Do you care?”

I was also battling lies from the enemy to just settle, that my standards were too high. (Maybe someone reading this can relate to that?)

So, one day, as I was yet again talking to God about this area of my life, He brought to mind an acronym that helped me put waiting into perspective.  W - A - I - T.

W – Worship. And He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and fear (revere and worship) and put their trust and confident reliance in the Lord" (Psalm 40:3). Worship means to declare worth, to attribute worth. When I worship God, I am saying that God has worth, that He is worthy.  

God reminded me through worship that He is the only One who can satisfy all my heart’s desires. To put it plainly, God is enough. 

Despite the brokenness in the world and the desires in my life that may or may not be met, I can go to God in worship and be reminded that He will be enough.

A – Attitude. "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me" (Psalm 138:8). God showed me that He promised to accomplish His purposes in my life. Since that was a promise, my attitude needed to reflect His faithfulness.

I – Intimacy. I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). God reminded me that as His daughter, He hears me. Often that’s all I need – to be reminded that I’m not alone.  He sees my desperate heart and hears my plea!

T – Trust. "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13). Trust. A hard five-letter-word. 

I had to come face to face with a hard question: Do I trust God? When that is settled in your heart, you can wait with purpose. He will come through!

I hope this helps to encourage you to wait with purpose in whatever your heart is longing for.

And just in case anyone is curious, God brought along my husband shortly after this lesson and He used Craig’s List to do it! I posted a suitcase for sale and you got it, Jeff is the man I sold it to. Little did I know I’d be inheriting that suitcase back one day!

What are you waiting for today? Are you waiting with purpose - trusting God?

Jamie Wood was born into a Pastor’s family and desires to disciple women for Christ. She has served as a conference planner for Anne Graham Lotz at AnGeL Ministries, as the Women’s Spiritual Life Director at San Diego Christian College, and on staff in the Women’s Ministry Department of Shadow Mountain Community Church. She has traveled to 33 countries and loves teaching others how to study and apply God's Word. Jamie, her husband Jeff and their baby son, David, live in San Diego. 

 

Thursday
Dec052013

Faith Steps: Knowing God Is in Control

Kelly DeChant has always struck me as a woman of faith, but my respect for her increased when her faith was tried in the crucible of tough circumstances. Her strong testimony can help us Upgrade our faith!

“In 2007, yielding to the petition of our mortgage company to refinance one more time,” Kelly said, “we succumbed to their leading and entered into the refinance that would put us over the edge and change our lives forever.”

I remember when Kelly went through that scary time. My heart was heavy for my sweet friend and her husband. Though I’m sure there were many temptations to give in to fear, her faith in Jesus kept shining through!

Kelly continues …

With thousands of other families, we fell victim to unscrupulous business dealings—trusting in their professionalism versus realism—and entered into an area without researching, blindly signing our financial future away in one fell swoop. 

I learned important lessons and took faith steps as I asked myself three tough questions.

1. When faced with life-changing decisions, which will you choose—panic or prayer?

Was this is a surprise to God?  I think not! 

I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you, not for calamity but to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

When faced with the reality in 2008 that we were facing foreclosure of our home and the fact that we were well over $120,000 upside down, bankruptcy also loomed desperately in our future.

We had a choice to panic or pray! Panic would bring us fear, prayer brought us peace. Through that peace we sought wise counsel, and the solution was to sell the house before foreclosure took the house. God was still in control. 

2. Will you relinquish your plan for His purpose?

I could have never imagined leaving our little house where our children grew up to go to an unknown destination. It was not in our plan. But it was in His. Taking a deep breath and leaving our future in His hands, we prayerfully embarked on selling our little home in a short-sale transaction! Short is a relative term; there was nothing short about it! 

Within one week of our house being on the market, we had an investor willing to pay cash within $60,000 of what the house was worth at the time, and we felt hope. The process actually involved five different buyers over 12 months and two threats of foreclosure; but His plan was fulfilled as our home released through closed escrow. God was still in control.

3. Will you praise or pout? 

With our dreams of being long-time home owners dashed, and a subsequent move to a local mountain community, we chose to praise God in the midst of much uncertainty. Our new location lasted only two years before we were notified that this house was to be sold to lighten the homeowner’s load.

At this time, we had a huge decision to make. We again chose to pray versus pouting, and God shook us to a new level of release—this time, releasing possessions. Moving required down-sizing from a 2,700 square-foot location to a mere 670 square feet. Yet again, we embraced His leading and relinquished our control.

We sold most of our furniture, pictures and various household items to the impending buyer and thanked Him for it! God was still in control.

He is still in control today!

Leaning on Him and relinquishing control, we are certain that His purpose has guided us to His perfect plan for our lives! 

And it’s certainly easier to move now. Our load is so much lighter—in more ways than one! 

Panic, our plans and pouting … or praying, God’s purpose and praising Him. We all have a choice in our circumstances. And I’m so glad we chose Him!

When faced with tough circumstances, what is your tendency – panic, pouting, prayer or praise? Do you want God's plans, or are you still clinging to your own? How does Jeremiah 29:11 speak to you today?

Kelly DeChant serves as the Ministry Coordinator for Women’s Ministries at Shadow Mountain Community Church (SMCC) where her passion is to equip women for their life’s purpose through discipleship and mentoring. Kelly coordinates the Evangelistic Outreach events—Girls’ Day Out and Girls’ Nite Out—bringing the Gospel message to unsaved friends and family of the SMCC women. 

Graphic in text adapted: Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday
Dec032013

'Financial Language' - Are You a 'Partner'?

Janice Thompson says there are six Financial Languages that describe how women deal with money matters. In this, her third post on the topic, she describes "The Partner" approach, beginning with this quote by an unknown author:

"Working together, ordinary people can perform extraordinary feats. They can push things that come into their hands a little higher up, a little further on toward the heights of excellence."

The scriptures tell us "two are better than one" (Ecclesiastes 4:9). It's good advice for anyone, but partnering over financial decisions comes naturally for some women.

Janice continues ...

We have the privilege of observing a woman of the Bible whose partnership with her husband impacted our world.

Take a little trip with me back to 52 A.D. when the Roman emperor, Claudius, evicted al the Jews from the city of Rome. According to the Roman historian, Seutonis, the Jews were persecuting their Christian neighbors and causing considerable disturbance in the city. All Jews, regardless of their guilt or innocence in the matter, were uprooted from their homes and banished from Rome.

This included a Jew named Aquila and his faithful wife, Priscilla.

From the accounts we are given (Acts 18, 1 Corinthians 16, Romans 16, 2 Timothy 4), they were a highly-regarded, model couple.

Priscilla not only worked with her husband, but she ministered with him - they are always mentioned together in the biblical accounts. Priscilla was obviously very much a part of this dynamic team.

Some fruitful outcomes developed from this collaborative effort with her husband. Paul commended them for the work they did to help the disciple Apollos, who became a dynamic leader in the church. And not to be forgotten are the contributions they made to church doctrine through Paul. God used them to impact Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, gave us the major doctrines, and wrote the General and Pastoral Epistles.

This was a partnership that made an impression on people!

Does this sound like you? If you are "The Partner," you thrive on being a team player. You are cooperative and trusting. You prefer not to be the primary decision-maker, but you value making decisions - doing life - with someone you trust.

Whether it is with a spouse, a business partner, a friend or an adviser, you know how to make an important contribution to the collaborative dynamic and it is easy to recognize the synergy you bring.

You love to be included in the details, exercise your intelligence, and contribute to a cause. That is where you shine!

"Two are better than one," the Bible says, "because they have a good (more satisfying) reward for their labor" (Ecclesiastes 4:9, Amplified).

Is your financial language partnership? Who is your partner in financial matters, and how do you contribute to this collaboration?

Janice Thompson is the founder and president of Strategic Financial Solutions, Inc., a comprehensive wealth management firm focused on biblically-based financial solutions. Janice is a Certified Financial Planner®, Certified Life Stewardship Advisor™, and serves on the Board of Directors of Kingdom Advisors. She has two married children with one grandchild on the way. She and her husband Tom live in San Diego.

Note: Material adapted from the book, Managing Your Money Maze by Janice Thompson (Revive Our Hearts, 2009).

Graphic in Text: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday
Nov262013

Sparkle for the Holidays

A couple of years ago, Jill Swanson helped me find my signature color and style, and as a busy woman, I love her book, Out the Door in 15 Minutes! I invited Jill to help us "upgrade" our holiday wardrobe style ... without breaking our budget.

"What a fun time of the year - Christmas programs, parties and presents!" Jill says. "So how are you wrapping yourself up this year?"

Wrapping YOURSELF up ... Hmmm... I never thought of it like that. Fun!

Jill continues ...

Stressed about getting dressed? Have no fear ... help is here! It’s as easy as “1 + 1” ... a practical and fun technique that will help you use what you buy throughout the year.

Here’s how it works:

Begin with one basic garment –  a simple dress, crisp white blouse, a solid color sweater or a black pair of slacks - then add one piece of “glitz.”

The glitz is something that can be blended throughout the year into the rest of your closet.

Here is a list of ideas to help jumpstart your holiday wardrobe:

  • Luxurious Lame’ - a gold, silver, bronze or copper scarf with earrings to match can accent a neutral sweater (ivory, beige, gray, black) and a sleek pair of slacks.
  • Ruffled white blouse – the more abundant the ruffles, the better! This holiday staple will become a “romantic go-to” for the rest of the year. Anchor it with a fitted bottom piece and a pair of “diamond” earrings.
  • Dark or black suit jacket – Separate it from its mate and introduce it to a new shimmering tank or cami and some dressy jeans and heels.
  • Metallic leathers – They remain all the rage this year. Add a purse and a pair of shoes or even a jacket to your usual business casual look and you’ll have holiday dazzle in a flash.
  • Color - Try a blaze of bright blue, gold or red in a sweater, scarf or hat. The jewel tones can be segued into the rest of your closet for 2014. If the idea of tying a scarf intimidates you – I’ve given examples of 3 simple ways on Youtube
  • Velvet - This forgiving fabric will play down areas you are self-conscious about and add an air of elegance to everyday pieces. Try it in a blazer, skirt or a jean-cut pair of pants. Use rhinestone baubles to complete the look.
  • Multiple jewels - Co-mingle a pearl necklace and one or two silver or gold chains and layer them abundantly on a solid dressy blouse. Or take a long pearl necklace, double it and fasten it together with an antique broach and wear it asymmetrical and voila - inexpensive and exquisite!

While these are fun ideas, making outer beauty is easier to come by, inner beauty is far more important during this stress-filled season. We need to take time to dress ourselves inwardly before starting our day by giving God time in the morning. Even Jesus did this (Mark 1:35).

Colossians 3:12 gives clear instructions for putting on an attractive attitude:  Therefore ... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And in verse 14, it tells us the essential piece that completes the look and makes the outfit work: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Go ahead, add some sparkle to your holiday look this season - from the inside and out!

Is there something in your closet you can adapt for holiday events? Are you wearing the "essential piece" Jill mentioned?

Jill Swanson is a Christian Image Consultant who works with individuals and speaks for groups/organizations on how to make the most of their God given beauty – in side and out. Her books Simply Beautiful and the newly released, Out the Door in 15 Minutes! are available at her website and on Amazon.