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Entries in Encouragement (6)

Thursday
Dec072017

Christmas Doors — Invitations to Joy

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to think about the doors we might open to others this holiday season.

I love to see all the pretty doors decorated at Christmas. They look so welcoming. They invite us to share together in joy.

So many are lonely, stressed, even in crisis during the holidays. We may feel caught up in our own holiday joy, but we can't ignore others who struggle to smile. Those who have no peace. Those who hurt and need encouragement.

I've thought about some of the doors we might open to those people. Here are five doors that I call "Invitations to Joy."

1. The Door of UNDERSTANDING

We show empathy and understanding when we learn to listen well.

James tells us to "be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak" (1:19, AMP).

Proverbs 1:5 says, "Let the wise listen and add to their learning." When you listen to people, you encourage them to talk, and that is fertile ground for greater understanding.

As leadership coach Becky Harling wrote in her book How to Listen So People Will Talk, "People feel more loved and valued if we are actively and attentively listening to them."

Empathetic listening is a gift not just for the holidays, but for a lifetime of ministry to those the Lord brings into our lives.

2. The Door of COMMUNICATION

The second part of James 1:19 says, "slow to speak." We must be careful what we say, but we do need to speak up.

Good communication skills can be cultivated when our mouths are full of God's wisdom. Our words are to first be acceptable in His sight (Psalm 19:14). We can then wisely pray for others and minister to them with healing conversations.

Our words must be carefully chosen to encourage others. Speak words that will build up and "give grace" (Ephesians 4:29).

Speak words of affirmation and hope, not negative, critical and destructive words. Focus on what is worthy (Philippians 4:8) to share this Christmas!

3. The Door of SERVICE

Just as Jesus came to serve, he calls us to do the same. In Christ, we are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), and that includes serving people.

God notes how we serve and help others (Hebrews 6:10). He praises a servant's heart.

We are to serve with humility in love. We are to use our spiritual gifts, received from the Holy Spirit, to serve others as "faithful stewards of God's grace."

There are so many opportunities to serve during the Christmas season—both in serving individuals and groups.

Serving others "opens a door" to their hearts.

Don't overlook your next-door neighbor's need, a good place to start. You might even be opening a door to sharing the Gospel; but be willing to serve, regardless.

4. The Door of HOSPITALITY

Paul instructs Christ-followers to "share with the Lord's people who are in need" and "practice hospitality".

Hospitality isn't just inviting someone into our homes. It is first a heart attitude, a disposition, of treating others in a warm and generous way.

But it is also a virtue that extends back to Old Testament times. New Testament Christians also depended on hospitality and offered it freely. Jesus and His disciples depended on hopitality as they served in ministry (Matthew 10:9-10).

Hospitality is a kingdom trait. We bring praise to God when we show kindness, especially to the needy and love others selflessly). Hospitality is an important aspect of our walk with God, and not just during the holidays (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).

5. The Door of LIFE

We cannot change a person, but we can speak to them about the door of life—and Jesus said He is that door (John 10:7). He is the only door by which a person can enter and receive eternal life (John 10:9; 3:16). As such, the Good Shepherd is the door to the sheepfold.

The Christmas season is an opportune time to share the Gospel. Be creative in how you share. Think of ways that would speak to specific individuals—that would help them see what God was offering when "baby Jesus" came. 

Jesus was a man on a mission. He came to "seek and to save the lost," and He has commissioned us to share this Good News with others (Matthew 28:19-20).

Think about it.

Every Christmas Door is an invitation to joy.

  • The joy of being heard and understood
  • The joy of being encouraged
  • The joy of finding needs met
  • The joy of being welcomed
  • The joy of receiving life

How can you open doors to people this holiday season?

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 Neely Wang at Lightstock.

 

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.

Monday
Mar202017

Virtual Hugs and Vertical Help

With the explosion of social media, there are countless opportunities to encourage our friends and family. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson shares two: Virtual Hugs and Vertical Help.

While it's better to spend some face-time with our friends and family, don't discount the value of encouraging Facebook-time!

It's my goal to encourage someone every day in some way. That's hard to do when I spend most of my time at my computer with work, blog management and personal writing.

But here are two ways anyone can be an encourager on social media.

1. Virtual Hugs

The word "virtual," as it is related to computers, means not physically existing as such, but made to appear to be true. A virtual hug is a practical social media way to encourage others.

I hear about a hurting friend or family member and I want to rush to their side and offer a huge hug and word of encouragement. But we are often miles aparteven states away or around the world!

I can certainly pick up a telephone and call them, or shoot them a quick text; but for ongoing encouragement, I can offer a "virtual hug" often and in a number of ways online:

  • I can empathize, seeking to understand and share in others' feelings.
  • I can share an encouraging quotation, maybe in a specially-created meme.
  • I can ask questions to help people process and come to wise conclusions.
  • I can offer a scriptureby text or memethat speaks hope into their situation.
  • I can post an article that might encourage or challenge for guidance or growth.
  • (And sometimes, I can set up an appointment to "do lunch" or meet somewhere for an actual hug, because there are times face-to-face is the only way to go.)

While my motives and efforts are good, I know virtual hugs can only go so far. I might not understand the real or deepest needs. So . . .

I invite the Lord into the encouragement process.

2. Vertical Help

I've learned to turn my thoughts and conversations into prayers for my friends and family. I especially do so to enlist the Lord's help in sticky, tough and seemingly-impossible situations.

We can do much to help others "horizontally," but we also need to seek aid "vertically" too.

In other words:

Our help and encouragement can be good, but God's help is always better.

We might have an agenda to our prayers, but the Lord most certainly has purposes beyond us. His thoughts and ways are so unlike ours (Isaiah 55:8). It's always wise to seek His will as we pray for ourselves and others.

More than an "I'm praying for you" or an even quicker "Praying" (although there is nothing wrong with those responses), I especially love to pause a little longer and actually write my prayer to the Lord on Facebook so my friend can join in.

As my prayers fly upward to the Lord for my Facebook friends, I picture God's help flowing down to encourage, assist, and even transform.

  • The Lord is our refuge and strengtha safe place for usand He is ready to help whenever we need Him (Psalm 46:1; Hebrews 13:6);
  • He understands what we're going through (Hebrews 4:15);
  • and when we trust Him completely, seeking His purposes, He stands ready to guide us (Hebrews 4:16; Proverbs 3:5-6).

It's a privilege to pray for our friends and family members with these truths and promises in mind.

How are you combining virtual hugs and vertical help to encourage and support your friends and family?

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.      

Thursday
Jun232016

Breathe Life! How to Upgrade Hope

Pam Farrel is a pro when it comes to applying biblical truth to the tough situations of life. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she inspires us to "breathe life" and hope wherever we can.

"God is a specialist at breathing life into seemingly hopeless situations," Pam Farrel says.

And there is the secret. Although Pam is a relationship expert, the best "specialist" in hope is the Lord, and Pam encourages us to tap into that power source.

Pam continues . . .

My grandmother scarred her lungs rushing into a barn on fire to rescue animals. As an elderly woman, she needed her oxygen tank to breathe life into her.

In a similar way, God wants us to be those who breathe life into difficult moments—and sometimes into difficult people!  

The Lord, Himself, is the breath of life:

 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being”  (Gen 2:7 NKJV).

 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else" (Acts 17:24–25).

God wants us to be more like Him, more of a life-giver.

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, God’s heart is evident :

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

This “choose life” principle can be extended to apply to all kinds of situations: the seeming death of a dream, the spiraling downward of the life of someone you love, a business on a decline or in any situation that feels stuck or hopeless.

Seek to breathe life by simply asking:

  • What would bring life to this situation?
  • What would bring life to this person?
  • Who has the skills, talents, time, and/or energy to resuscitate or revive this circumstance (or person) to bring life?

Most recently, our family saw this “life-giver” philosophy change a situation that seemed beyond hopeless.

My father-in-law is 86 and he had fallen. He was being released from a convalescent home, but he was not strong enough to function in his home—and my 86-year-old mother-in-law was too feeble to give the kind of care needed.

We had a full speaking schedule and it is our sole income, and thousands of people in our audiences would be impacted if we cancelled, so it was near impossible for either Bill or me to be the caregiver. (We were willing, but it felt impossible.)

However, we knew both mom and dad would be more comfortable if the caregiver could be someone they already knew.

Our youngest son, Caleb, came to us and said, “I believe God has called me to breathe life into Grandpa’s situation.”

Caleb was a recent graduate from an engineering program, and he had three weeks available to use before moving to another state for his Master’s program. Caleb was football player and had just completed building a block home on the mission field—so he was strong enough to carry his grandfather. Also, because Bill’s father was an aerospace engineer, the two already had much in common.  

Caleb moved in, was trained by all the health care professionals, and began to rehab his grandfather. In addition, those two engineers redesigned doorways and gates, a patio, a desk and a wheelchair to make them more user-friendly for Dad. 

Caleb is such a workhorse that when he wasn’t caring for grandpa, he rebuilt the patio, a ramp, a gate and several other areas of their home to help give Dad independence and access.

In just two weeks, Dad went from what appeared to be death’s door, to stronger mentally and physically than we had seen him function in several decades.

Caleb breathed vibrant life into the situation!

Who can you breathe life into today?

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success At Keeping It All Together.

Graphic: adapted, courtesy of Jan Schultz, Webdesigner Stuttgart, Unsplash.

Saturday
Sep072013

How to Encourage Someone Who Is Ill

Lisa Copen has more than her share of struggles, but she has still managed - with God's help - to create a ministry to help others who suffer. In this special Upgrade UPLIFT, she explains what not to say to those who are ill, and how to encourage them.

"When friends are coping with a chronic illness or pain, our instinctive way of encouraging them may be more hurtful than helpful," Lisa says.

Ouch. I do want to be an encourager, but I haven't always known what to say.

How about you?

Lisa continues ...

"You look great. You must be feeling so much better."

"I just know God will heal you. You don't deserve this pain."

"Let me know if you need anything."

These comments sound kind and there is no doubt they are said with good intentions. For the one who is ill, however, they "feel" less than comforting.

Being told you look fine feels like the pain isn't believed. What if your friend isn't healed? Does it mean she does deserve the pain? And it is so hard to ask for help.

"Call me if you need anything" is considered a general greeting to one who is ill, like asking, "How are you?"

She will never ask.

Nearly one in two people in the USA live with a chronic illness or condition like back pain or migraines. If it is not you, odds are it is someone you love.

Most people do not have any visible signs of the pain or suffering they experience on a daily basis. And when we say "Well, you look fine," the comment is interpreted as "Since you look fine, you can't really be that bad. You are just making a big deal out of nothing."

Invisible Illness Awareness Week is sponsored by Rest Ministries, a Christian organization that serves the chronically ill. I began this week in 2002 because I witnessed many people growing frustrated about the lack of understanding of invisible illness. Despite finding peace about their diagnosis, the remarks of people around them - even at church - were planting seeds of bitterness.

Invisible Illness Awareness Week (IIAW) is September 9-15, 2013, and the IIAW website features many ways to encourage loved ones with illness, as well as teach those with illness where to find true validation.

Here are a few tips on how to communicate with an ill person:

Don't say, "I am praying for you!"

Say, "I would love to keep your needs in prayer. Is there something that is on your heart that I can pray about? Maybe something that no one else is even praying for?"

Don't say, "Call me if you need anything."

Say, "I would love to bring your family dinner. What would you prefer, chicken or lasagna? Wednesday or Thursday?"

Don't say, "You look fine."

Say, "It must be hard to be in so much pain and not have anyone realize what effort it took to get here. Thank you for coming."

Don't say, "Don't cry. God will work it all out."

Say, "If you need to cry, I will just sit here with you. I'm not going anywhere."

We have all suffered. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, "[He] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in ANY trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" (NIV, emphasis added).

Take a moment to reflect on a time you suffered and what you needed.

Did you really need someone to give advice or did you just want someone to listen? Did you pick up the phone and call a friend to ask for help, or were you grateful when someone just showed up and offered comfort food or help with a task?

One of the reasons God allows us to suffer is so that we understand how to comfort others when they suffer. Rather than relying on clichés and instinctive responses, take a few minutes to consider what you wanted when you were suffering. Did you wish someone would ask you what you needed, rather than making assumption about how to help? Don't be afraid to ask a friend what they need - and then listen.

Find out more ways to encourage friends who are chronically ill at Invisible Illness Awareness Week where there are specific articles on ways to bring a friend a meal when she may be embarrassed, how to help a friend with errands, or how a church can make a difference.

Who do you know who is ill that could use some tender care and encouraging words? Ask God to show you how to use Lisa's wisdom to reach out with caring words and actions.

Lisa Copen began Rest Ministries to encourage those who are chronically ill through daily devotionals, small groups called HopeKeepers, and other support. She is the author of a variety of books including Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for twenty years and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.