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Entries in Encouraging Words (3)

Tuesday
Oct112016

10 Ways to Foster Gracious Speech

Kathy Howard, who sometimes calls herself a "confused southerner," is not at all confused about the truth of scripture. In this Communication UPGRADE, she encourages us to use our words wisely, with gracious speech.

“Our words have the power to build up or tear down," Kathy says, "but gracious speech has been an area of struggle for me.”

I (Dawn) have never had a serious problem with using words to tear other down, but it took me a while to learn how to effectively use words to encourage others. I'm glad Kathy addresses both issues!

Kathy continues . . .

Years ago, when our young family lived in Wyoming, my parents regularly came all the way from Louisiana to visit us. Just before one such visit, we purchased a dining table and chairs for a long-empty breakfast area. I couldn’t wait to show off the new furniture.

The first time we gathered around the table, Mom pulled out her chair and sat. As she scooted forward, a leg of the chair caught in the groove between two tiles. The leg snapped off, the chair tilted, and my mother hit the floor. HARD!

My immediate reaction was not words of grace.

“You broke my chair!” is what came out of my mouth.

Not, “Are you alright?!” or “Let me help you!”

My mother looked so hurt. Not physically; the tumble wasn’t bad. But I terribly hurt her feelings.

My quick words revealed what was in my heart – I cared far too much about material things. My first thought had been for the chair, not my mother. And my thoughtless words wounded her.

The apostle Paul knew our words have the power to build up or tear down. In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he tells them – and us – exactly what effect our speech should and should not have on others.

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29, KJV).

First, our speech should not “corrupt.”

Far more than curse words, corrupt speech is graceless speech.

It tears down, deflates. Whenever we speak corrupt words to our spouse, our child, our coworker, or friend, they deflate like a beach ball full of holes.

Any words not wholesome or beneficial tear them down emotionally and spiritually. Little by little the air goes out. Sadly, I’ve seen my own words have that effect on other people.

Second, our speech should “benefit” or “minister grace” to others.

Like air blown into a deflated beach ball, good and edifying words will encourage and build up an individual, helping them to reach their full potential in Christ.

Even when we long for our words to give grace to others, sometimes things break down between our desire and the words that flow out of our mouths.

Sadly, our words will betray us, revealing the junk we have hidden in our hearts. Things like insecurity, hurt, unresolved anger, selfishness and pride produce words that wound, tear down and corrupt.

Would you like your words to consistently encourage, build up, and give grace to others? Here are ten things we can do to foster this “gracious” overflow:

  1. Regularly reflect on the unbounded grace God has lavished on us.
  2. Remember God will hold us accountable for every word we speak (Matthew 12:36).
  3. Constantly check our hearts for sinful attitudes and motivations. (See Matthew12:34-36.)
  4. Ask God to heal old hurts, soothe anger, and humble pride.
  5. Refuse to use "corrupt" speech – any words that wound, discourage, or tear down.
  6. Commit to using "good" words - kind and gracious words that build up and encourage.
  7. Find something positive with which to begin and end every conversation.
  8. Don't waste time talking about things that can't be changed.
  9. Focus on the other person. Ask questions about them and their feelings.
  10. Exercise self-control. Sometimes the most gracious thing to say is nothing.

With God’s grace flowing through us, our words can be tools of grace God uses to build up, encourage, and edify.

When was the last time your noticed the power of your words to either wound of give grace? What was the result?

Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life no matter the circumstances. This post is adapted from her new Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy and her speaking and writing, or find free resources at her website

Heart graphic is adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.

Thursday
Sep152016

3 Ways to Make Nice in Your Marriage

Elaine W. Miller wrote a book with a funny title, We all Married Idiots. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she gives a little insight into why that’s true!

“Why are we such idiots?” Elaine said. “We smile, open doors, and run to rescue strangers. In the workplace we hold our tempers, fearing a job loss if we don’t. Yet when we enter our homes, we frown, slam doors and lose our tempers with no fear of the consequences.”

Oh ugh. I (Dawn) am guilty as charged. Why do we hurt the ones we love?

Elaine continues . . .

As married men and women, we should make every effort to make nice behind closed doors as well as in public. I know we can control our tempers. We do what we need to.

In the heat of anger, we politely answered the phone, “Good morning!” Yes, it is under our control. But for some reason I don’t understand (except that we are all sinners), we find it easier to make mean than to make nice to the ones we love. How foolish!

Making nice is something we need to do; it may not necessarily just happen. I like the synonym “do.” Just do it.

Do nice. Cause nice. Build nice. Create nice. Accomplish nice.

Making nice is a choice.

“Nice,” it turns out, comes from the Latin nescius, meaning “ignorant.” The computer dictionary defines “ignorant” as “unaware.” When our loved ones do something idiotic, be unaware of it. Ignore it. Overlook the mistake. Make nice.

One day I watched a husband make nice when he certainly could have made mean. He and his wife and my husband and I climbed an Adirondack mountain together. Inexperienced at climbing, the other wife wore sandals. What a mistake! This trip required sneakers at the very least – hiking boots at best.

As we trekked up the mountain, her discomfort became evident. Reaching the summit, her feet Rob with blisters, she agonized about her ability to descend the mountain.

What was your husband to do? He had a choice. He could yell from the top of the mountain, “I married an idiot! Why didn’t she wear better shoes?” He could have humiliated her with words like, “You are such a wimp! Stop your complaining.”

This husband didn’t choose those options. He chose to make nice. Without a word, he lovingly scooped up his love and carried her down the mountain.

This man realize the truth that on his wedding day he and his wife became one. When her feet hurt, it hurt him. Instead of making the pain grow deeper with thoughtless words, he decided to alleviate the pain.

I once wrote,

“Every day we decide the words and actions that will serve or suffocate our marriages.”

Every new day begins with choices. We choose what clothes to wear and what to eat for breakfast. We choose to sin. We choose to act like idiots. We choose to make nice or not.

Making nice is an investment that pays big dividends. Kind words and considerate deeds deposit love into our marriage love bank. Mean remarks and thoughtless actions count as love withdrawals. Take out too much, and there is no love left.

Making nice manifests itself in every aspect of your life, but especially in the bedroom. When you are unkind or unfaithful, it affects sexual intimacy. You can’t treat your spouse shabbily and then expect your beloved to jump into the sacred marriage bed.

Making nice makes a nice marriage. When meanness becomes the norm, marriages fail to thrive.

Here are three ways to make nice in your marriage:

1. Watch your words

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

If in our desire to build ourselves up we put our spouse’s down, every derogatory remark registers in the brain creating a chill in the marriage vault. Negative words are like icicles stabbed into your loved one's heart that only kindness and forgiveness and making nice can melt.

When unkind words come from our condemning mouth, who benefits? No one. Certainly not the little ears that listen. Most are aghast when their children repeat words to the world that their parents say in private.

2. Don’t Demand Your Own Way

Love strives to live in peace (Hebrews 12:14), and God says love does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5). When we become angry and impatient and rude, most likely it is because we have not gotten our way. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

When we choose not to be self-seeking, we then become more patient and kind and not so easily angered. Then, as much as it depends on us, our homes will be peaceful.

3. Root out bitter roots

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that… no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Our bad behavior does not come without consequences. It destroys our marriages.

The hurt of bitterness hurts not only the one the arrow is aimed at, but also others we love. That arrow penetrates our children’s hearts. Sometimes the wounds never heal, and the scars remain for a lifetime.

Marriage is not a competitive sport. The one who gives the most verbal punches does not win. You both lose because condemning your spouse is condemning yourself. God has declared you to be one flesh.

Verbal punches leave you both knocked out and too tired to fight for your marriage. Don’t let it happen. Make nice!

What did you say today that built up your spouse? What did you say that put down your partner? How can you make every effort to live at peace?

Elaine W. Miller is an international author and speaker known for sharing biblical insights with warmth, enthusiasm, and humor. She is the author of three books including her latest We All Married Idiots: Three Things You Will Never Change AboutYour Marriage and Ten Things You Can (available in English, Spanish, and Bosnian). Residing in upstate  New York with her husband of 45 years, she enjoys having three married children and 11 grandchildren close by. Visit Elaine's website/blog to learn more about her unique ministry.

This blog post was adapted from Chapter 9 in We All Married Idiots.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of christinevitved for Pixabay.

Tuesday
Mar252014

Write a Thank You Note. Use Paper.

In this Relationships UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson writes about something we don't want to leave behind in our rush into more and more technology.

Don't get me wrong. I love the ease of Facebook and email. It's so easy to jot a quick "thank you" to friends and family.

But there's nothing like a handwritten note. I want to focus on that in this Relationship UPGRADE.

Writing thank you notes isn't just good for the recipient ... it's good for you!

Lawyer John Kralick's New Year's resolution in 2008 was to write one thank you note each day to family members, friends, co-workers, even his Starbucks barista! (His notes are recorded in the book 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.)

Kralik says,

"Things we write in cyberspace are so easily deleted and forgotten ... buried by the next 30 emails we recieve. In this day and age, a handwritten note is something that people really feel is special."

I once heard about a mom who kept a precious note in her Bible. She told friends she often read the note - written many years before - because, as she says, "It always encourages me when I think people don't appreciate me."

I began writing thank you notes years ago when I traveled with a revival team. Years later, I keep blank cards in my Bible and car. (You might also keep one in your purse. In my purse, it would likely get crushed!)

Kralik's 10 Tips for writing the "perfect" thank you note are helpful and practical. But I want to share just a few insights - Four Key Words that express what I've discovered through the years.

1. FOCUS. It's not about you.

A thank you note isn't written to impress someone or win their favor. People can read through that nonsense. Take time before you write to think about the person.

Why are you writing? Is it for a selfless reason? (Philippians 2:4) Is there something in a person's life you can highlight with praise? (Philippians 4:8)

And consider this: How can your thank you note focus on the Lord too - to glorify God? (1 Corinthians 10:31).

2. TIME. It's a gift.

It takes just a bit more time, perhaps, to write a handwritten note. You'll have to gather up a pen and paper or a special card (although Kralik wrote many of his on simple 3 x 5 cards). But treat your note as a special gift.

The recipient will, if he or she chooses, be able to hold it, store it, treasure it. It's worth your time.

In fact, it's one wise way to use your time, especially when you are encouraging those who do not know the Lord! (Colossians 4:5)

3. GRATITUDE. It is a "thank you" note, after all.

Allow the gratitude in your heart to pour out onto the paper. Christians have many reasons to be grateful (Ephesians 5:20). God is the ultimate foundation for our grateful spirit. We can learn to see opportunities to express gratitude to Him - in fact, why not write a thank you note to the Lord today and slip it in your Bible? And we can thank others in Jesus' name (Colossians 3:17).

Don't think it must be about material things or what a person has done for you. Consider how he or she  has touched your life ... an attitude you admire, a character quality that has motivated you, a perspective that changed your mind.

It may be something simple to you, but expressing gratitude for even little things can bless others.

We can give thanks to God in every situation, and it's a privilege to express our grateful heart to others (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

4. SIMPLICITY. Forget the "flowers," unless they're on the card.

While we can aim for a "word fitly spoken" (Proverbs 25:11), keep notes simple.

It's tempting to get flowery with words, but that's usually a sign of trying to impress, not to express.

So forget the phoney frills. Consider what you're grateful for and just say it. Add a simple "blessing" prayer or scripture, when appropriate. 

Aim to encourage (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and "give grace" with your words - especially to those who do not know the Lord (Ephesians 4:29b; Colossians 4:6).

You may never know, this side of heaven, how your note has blessed another soul.

Do you have a treasured thank you note? How did that note encourage you?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. In these ministries and as President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego), Dawn encourages, edifies and energizes women with  scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God. Dawn and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.