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Entries in Prayer (18)

Tuesday
May162017

Four Ways to Get through the Storm

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Kathy Carlton Willis refers to a tremendous "storm" she's going through. I’m on the prayer team for Kathy and have been privy to her prayer needs. She doesn’t just share requests, but also how they affect her.

Kathy told me:

“I’m starting to look at the storms of life differently.”

That piqued my (Dawn's) interest. She’s been through plenty of storms—enough to provide a full education on how to be a storm dweller!

Kathy continues . . .

I had just been to see a surgeon and infectious disease doctor about an ongoing medical situation. While in the medical center, a tornado warning was issued. A twister had been spotted in the vicinity.

But I stayed putI needed to hear what the doctors would say regarding my health.

Their words still rang in my ears as we stepped into our car. Thankfully, my husband Russ was there to drive us the one hundred miles home.

The worst storm imaginable buffeted us from every angle. We’d driven through hurricanes and tropical storms and hail, but this was worse.

Every time I prayed for God to remove the storm, the storm worsened.

The sky grew darker, the rain pounded worse, no visibility, hydroplaning, wind, and more.

It wasn’t until I quit praying for God to remove the storm, and simply asked Him to be with us in it and to get us through it, that the rain lightened up a bit and we could see our way. Eventually we could resume our normal speed and found our way home.

Once I realized it was God’s presence that gave me such powerful peace through the storm, I thought of this verse in Joshua:

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT).

Brother Lawrence wrote a book titled The Practice of the Presence of God. This monk expressed the importance of not reserving awareness of God’s presence for church services. He taught how it took practice to focus on God and bring Him into everyday living.

Of course, God is always there, but this practice is a discipline to be mindful of His presence by your side (and in you). Brother Lawrence learned to do life with God, whether he was involved in a household chore, taking a walk, or something else. He turned mundane activities into opportunities to talk to God (and listen).

When we go through storms, it’s an important time to practice the presence of God.

When you let go of your expectation that God is the Great Fixer, and instead be content that He is the Great Friend, you can get through any difficult time.

Here are four ways to do that:

1. Be mindful of God with you.

He’s always there, but it’s up to you to sense His presence. Be on the lookout!

2. Swap prayers for praise.

When we swap our focus from our needs to His deeds, we realize His presence is enough to get through this storm.

3. Surrender your agenda.

He’s a big enough God to take care of us, no matter what the storm is.

(I think of how calm Jesus was when the storm hit the disciples’ boat. I want that calmness!)

4. Daydream about God.

Use your everyday, routine, mindless tasks as an opportunity to fix your thoughts on Jesus.

How much BETTER this is than to fill in the blank spaces with regrets about what is past or worries about what is yet to come.

And then when the storms do come, you’re ready to face them.

How will you invite Jesus to hang out with you in the midst of your current storm?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, 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 skeeze at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Apr252017

Growth through Grief

Yvonne Ortega, a woman who moved from broken to beautiful, encourages others to do so as well. In this Trials and Victory UPGRADE, Yvonne invites us to grow and thrive after grief.

“I rode an emotional roller coaster of grief because of the loss of my mother and my only child within weeks of each other,” Yvonne says. “Somehow, my losses couldn’t be in vain.”

I (Dawn) cannot imagine some of the things Yvonne has experienced, but I know her words are true. The Lord does meet us in our time of need, and He doesn't leave us without resources to thrive.

Yvonne continues . . .

After my mother and my son died, I needed to make sense of losing them. I had to do something that would improve the lives of others.

My purpose had to be bigger than learning to thrive after grief.

Leaving a legacy became important.

Six months after my son’s death, I left the counseling job I enjoyed to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time speaker and author.  

Here are THREE TIPS that will help you when you’re ready to think about a mission or purpose for your life.

1. Reflection

I reflected on what my mother did in her life. She had helped teachers, students and school districts through her expertise in grant writing. She helped 26 women complete college degrees, obtain teaching credentials and gain employment as teachers.

She left a legacy.

I asked God to show me how I could leave a legacy. I sensed His leading to do that through articles on my website and on others’ blogs. I also sensed that my educational, social, and spiritual encounters with other people could encourage and support them.

The unexpected death of my son made me understand I wasn’t promised tomorrow either. If I wanted to become a full-time speaker and author, I couldn’t put that dream off any longer. So, I left my counseling job to leave a legacy through speaking and writing.

2. Prayer

Based on what God showed me about leaving a legacy, I prayed for divine appointments and His special mentors or coaches.

I claimed Psalm 28:7:

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy,  and with my song I praise him" (NIV).

God answered my prayers. I attended additional speaker boot camps and conferences, individual coaching for both my speaking and writing, and writers’ conferences. Before each event, I prayed and asked others to pray with me that I would meet the people God wanted me to meet and work with those he chose.

God brought the most interesting and talented people into my life—men and women I would have never met otherwise.

3. Surrender

I chose to surrender my finances, time and energy to God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

I needed to limit leisure days of sleeping in, lunch dates with friends, and shopping days at the mall. As I said no to a social whirlwind, I said yes to scheduled time on my calendar for reading, speaking, and writing. I couldn’t have done that without lots of prayer and obedience to God’s plan on how I would leave a legacy.

God’s favor and faithfulness led to my speaking opportunities and two more books.

Allow your tears to water growth and increase your ministry.

If you’ve lost a loved one, sit alone with God and ask him how YOU can grow through grief and help others.

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful© through Grief (out in a few months / search at Amazon/books). She has also written Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. Yvonne not only survived, but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, she uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of uroburos at Pixabay.

Thursday
Apr062017

Let Us Spray

In Rhonda Rhea's case, the funnybone connects to the heart! In this Prayer UPGRADE, she encourages us to spend time where our strength lies.

"Sometimes I’m tempted to take some time off from hairspray," Rhonda says. "Sometime when I’m planning to go nowhere. And I mean absolutely nowhere. I think I would call it a spray-cation."

Don't get me (Dawn) started on hairspray. It's been a long time since my free-flowing "hippie" years. Now I'm in the "helmet" stage—as in, you couldn't dent my hair!

Rhonda continues . . .

It’s funny because I almost remember what it was like to freely run my fingers through my hair. It’s been a long time, though.

These days I invest in a lot of hair products. The fingers may go in, but I’m telling you right now. They’re not coming out.

I have to keep the crazy assortment of hair sprays, gels, mousses and goops, because it takes a different concoction for every style. A brew for every do, as it were.

When constructing an up-do, for instance, you sort of have to pour footings. I use a product that’s referred to as styling mousse, but I think it might actually be some sort of rebar.

Still—not to split hairs or anything—but it’s good to remember that if you don’t want to have to wrestle with your hair, you have to start with a good goo-foundation.

As for real life battles, if you want victory there, you have to start with a good spiritual foundation. You have to invest.

Time invested in connecting with the Father in prayer is absolutely vital.

  • Are you wrestling with your flesh on some issue or another? Take it to Him.
  • Struggling with a decision? Lay it at His feet.
  • Grappling with a fearful situation that has your hair standing on end—even before the mousse? Spend time with Him and the battle is all but over.

The God who created everything, the One who never tires, the One who has all power and who also promises to grant strength to those who will rely on Him—He is the One who will give victory. There’s not a single battle we can ever face that He doesn’t have the power to win.

Isaiah 40:28-31 spells it out.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow wear, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint” (HCSB).

So it’s eyes off of the battle that threatens to overwhelm us. And eyes on the God who simply cannot be overwhelmed.

The evil one wants to keep us focused on the problems, frustrations and pains of the battle. But the Lord wants us to take our eyes off all of that and fix them firmly on Him. More firmly fixed than the surest hair-glue.

We can do that through prayer. And that’s where our strength will be found.

Feeling weary? Powerless? Like you could easily stumble and fall?

Without a doubt, the best place to fall is to your knees.

Trust in the One who will be your strength. Fall before Him in prayer and you will find everything you need for soaring—really soaring—through every battle.

You win. And it’s the kind of victory that’s sure and complete.

Not the kind you win by just by a hair.

Are you trusting in your own strength today? Isn't it time for a talk with your Father in heaven?

Friends, "Let us spray."

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.

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
Mar092017

Daaa-Dum... Daaa-Dum... Daa-Dum... Daa-Dum.

Nothing surprises me when I read something from Kaley Faith Rhea or her mom, Rhonda. These two combine humor with wise insights every time. In this UPLIFT post, Kaley helps us combat worry.

"You know how a lot of times you’ll have your deepest, most philosophically significant thoughts in the solitude of the shower or bathtub?" Kaley asks. "Allow me to share an example of ... NOT that."

Didn't I (Dawn) tell you? Insights from a bathtub? Of course.

Kaley continues . . .

The other night I was tired. Not exhausted. Just that mid-week fatigue that crops up now and again.

Decided to take a bath. Because that sounds like pure heaven for a tired person.

My tired brain was, I suppose, off doing its own thing, and I nicked my knee while shaving my legs. Little bit of blood, no big deal; you know the drill.

In that moment, the thought that formed in my mind while watching that little bit of blood in the water was:

Uh, oh. I had better watch out for sharks.

Yes, go ahead and read that thought again as slowly and as condescendingly as you can. It’s fine.

Because I worried about sharks. While sitting in my bathtub.

      

If I could just take a moment here—I live in Missouri. Probably the most landlocked state in the United States. If TV and books and the internet weren’t around, I would not know an animal called a shark exists.

And none of that’s even relevant actually because sharks do not happen in bathtubs. At least not by accident. Brain, what were you doing?

Later, after the bath (because this is not a story of deep shower thoughts), it hit me how my mind is so programmed to worry.

I can worry in my sleep. Without breaking a sweat—without even noticing—I can worry about things that are irrelevant, implausible or imaginary.

That is where my mind, in its natural state, wants to live.

That is not a happy place to live. There are sharks there apparently.

Philippians 4, verse 6 reads, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” I hear and see this verse quoted a lot. Maybe you do, too, and you’re like me and think Okay, easier said than done, Paul, thanks.

But have you noticed this verse does not begin with a capital letter? There is a run-up to this statement in verse 5 that causes it to make so much more sense. It says simply, “The Lord is at hand.”

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious…”

Let me tell you, something, friend. If I am at hand, you need to be anxious. If you are at hand, worry is the completely correct response. But the Lord is at hand. Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became flesh, the One through whom everything that is made has been made, the defeater of death, our champion, risen from the grave—He is at hand. Don’t worry.

Furthermore—and I love this—when the Lord is at hand, instead of worrying, I can pray. When the Lord is at hand, I can check my arrogance at the door. When the Lord is at hand, I can be thankful.

What?

I have a brain built here in a fallen world. It will tell me the appropriate response to every cut and scrape is to worry about sharks.

And you know what? Sometimes there really are sharks out there. But how wonderful to know my Lord knows this. He knit my brain together. And in his incomprehensible kindness, He’s already told me what to do when I feel worried. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel so loved.

Final Words:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2a).

A prayer when faced by our sharks, real or imagined:

Lord Jesus, thank You so much for being everything I need. For being bigger than my darkest fears and for loving me enough to allow me to draw close to You when I’m anxious. When I am tempted to give in to worry, renew my mind, Lord, by Your Spirit, and set it on you. AMEN!

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, a novel releasing in a few weeks. Along with writing and teaching at writers’ conferences, she co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.