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Entries in Relationship with God (4)

Thursday
Apr132017

Gasp: A Relationship's Last Breath

Cythia Ruchti is a hope-lover, hope giver and hope promoter. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she offers hope for all human relationships (and our ultimate relationship with the Lord).

"Who sits sipping coffee when a dying man or woman lies on the hardwood floor of the coffee shop or the breakroom at the office?" Cynthia says. "Even people with minimal skills know that someone needs to start CPR, call 911, and ask, 'Is there a doctor in the house?'"

At first, I (Dawn) thought this sounded a little like the beginning of a mystery, but knowing Cynthia, I figured it was more likely a powerful life lesson. I was not disappointed!

Cynthia continues . . . 

With relationships—marriage, parent/child, friendships—isn’t that what we too often do?

We sit idly by, caring but not responding.

“That’s for the professionals.” As if that absolves us of the responsibility to act, to do something, even if our skills are amateur at best, even if all we know about CPR is what we’ve seen on TV dramas.

But sometimes the last gasp occurs before the professionals arrive on the scene.

And sometimes the relationship in trouble is our own.

It’s been said that the number one killer of relationships is neglect.

  • How many friendships would still be alive if years, distance, and neglect hadn’t gotten in the way?
  • How many parent/child relationships could be strong and vital, life-giving, if given more attention when they started to fade?
  • How many marriages list “neglect” as one of the reasons for their “failure to thrive”?

Although the following scripture specifically speaks to a community’s forsaking or neglecting their relationship with God, doesn’t it also give a gripping word picture of the way we handle distance in marriage relationships or friendships?

“For our fathers…have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs. They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps…” (2 Chronicles 29:6-9 NASB).

What a poignant visual! Leaving a porch light on is an expression of hope. He will come home. She will return. We will be okay. We’ll get through this. It may be long into the night, but we’re going to make it.

In this incident in the Bible, the people had boldly extinguished all evidence of hope. Lights off. We’re done.

After decades of marriage, my husband and I still disagree. Shocking, isn’t it? But even when our disagreements reach what seem to be impossible impasses, neither one of us reaches to shut off the porch light, because hope lingers in our commitment to one another.

Most MARRIED couples can recite the list of relationship CPR (Caring enough to Proactively Resuscitate) instructions:

  1. Maintain frequent date nights, even if you’re empty nesters. Get away from the house and its responsibilities for a while to focus on each other.
  2. Set aside an extended period of time for a getaway at least once a year.
  3. Be intentional about what the other person needs, honoring him (or her) above yourself (See Philippians 2:3. Check out the Phillips version—“Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.”)
  4. Learn and respect your mate’s love language.

What would that list look like if our connection WITH GOD is the relationship that’s been neglected, left gasping?

  1. Re-establish a regular time to leave all other concerns behind and focus on listening to Him.
  2. Make it a priority to create an extended time for aloneness with the One you love. A silent retreat. A day-long or week-long sabbatical from other responsibilities. Unplugging. Fasting.
  3. Set your own needs aside to concentrate on what God wants from you—worship, adoration, devotion…
  4. Learn and respect God’s love language—OBEDIENCE (John 14:15).

If your human relationships or your connection with God are gasping for air, what CPR measures do you intend to implement?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope, an ever-lit porch light hope, through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. She and her grade-school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. Her latest novel is A Fragile Hope (Abingdon Press). In June, Worthy Publishing releases her book of encouragement and reflections called As My Parents Agehttp://www.cynthiaruchti.com/books/a-fragile-hope/.

Graphic: adapted, Click at Morguefile.

Tuesday
Jul262016

Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 1

What are your "Prime Relationships"? In this Relationship UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages the kind of "investments" in these relationships that reap powerful results—so it's important to know what they are.

[Note: For a more detailed version of this post with scriptures, see my other blog: Heart Choices Today.]

Investments are not only about money. Investments are akin to watering what you want to grow! We can invest in relationships!

When we invest in someone's life, it likely to cost us something. But investing is wise!

  • Someone invested invested in my life this year with her time, helping me with a project.
  • Another someone invested in my life using her financial resources.
  • And another invested encouragement, motivating me to see the big picture when I was so focused on one failing day.

I want to invest in others' lives too, with time, talents, finances, prayers, words, truth ... and so much more. I'm asking the Lord to help me see needs so I can "invest" wisely. How about you?

In this two-part post, I want to share some practical ways we can wisely and faithfully "invest."

These are the first two "investents."

          Investment #1. INVEST in YOUR LORD

Don't forget: this is your prime relationship! 

Jesus said, "...what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). 

We can store up treasures and yet not be "rich toward God" (Luke 12:21).

1. Know the Lord.

  • Examine your heart. Do you really know Him, or just know about Him? 
  • Seek Him. Pursue Him. Be intentional. 
  • Grow in your intimacy with Him. 

2. Deposit Your Life with the Lord.

  • Trust His character. 
  • Appreciate His love. 
  • Celebrate your security (in Christ). 

3. Seek to Please the Father.

  • Yield Your body to Him. 
  • Be obedient to Him.
  • Follow Jesus' example. 
  • Discover how to be like Jesus! 
  • Bear good fruit! 
  • Love others well. 

4. Cherish His Word.

  • Use your Bible. 
  • Stand for truth. 

5. Rely on the Holy Spirit.

  • Don't Ignore God's Gift. 

          Investment #2. INVEST in  YOURSELF.

Viewed correctly and biblically this isn't selfishness.

If you don't invest in your own health and well-being, how will you find the strength to invest in others?

Loving others as yourself assumes you've learned how to love yourself biblically (Mark 12:30-31). 

1. Take Care of Yourself!

  • Nurture your body.
  • Move your body.
  • Relax.
  • Get some sleep .

2. "Paint the Barn."

  • Maintain the Temple... reflect the beauty of the Lord who created you. 
  • Style yourself for a simple, attractive appearance.

3. Expand Your Horizons.

  • Discover your strengths and weaknesses ... your spiritual gifts.
  • Develop some new skills and explore creativity options. 
  • Expand your knowledge.
  • Further your education.

4. Plan for Strategic Dreaming!

  • Plan to decompress.
  • Plan in daily "breaks" to rest and recharge.
  • Give yourself permission and time to dream. 
  • Be a FINANCIAL investor.
  • Set aside some "dream" money.

5. Practice Gratitude.

  • Look for things to appreciate. 
  • Train yourself to notice God's goodness. 
  • Be thankful for grace.
  • Worship in thanksgiving.

We'll continue with three more "investments" in the next post. [Note: for a longer version of this post with scriptures, see my other blog: Heart Choices Today.]

Meanwhile, do you need to invest more in your relationship with the Lord, in your own well-being, or in your husband? Which of these tips might help today?

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 contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Tuesday
Mar102015

How to Keep Steady in Your Walk with God

I met Teri Thompson in a ministry that cares deeply about equipping and encouraging women, and this is Teri's heartbeat, for sure. I asked her to write a Spiritual Life UPGRADE.

"Would you ever be tempted to purchase a dining table with only three legs?" Teri said. "What if it was a beautiful, one-of-a-kind table . . . with one exception? That silly leg is missing! I doubt you would buy it."

While I (Dawn) have bought many garage sale items I later regretted, I don't think I'd ever buy a three-legged dining table. But there's something just as absurd, as Teri points out.

Teri continues . . .

There isn’t a three legged table I know of that is sturdy enough to handle the pressure of anything weighty being placed upon it! The missing leg makes the crippled table—no matter how beautiful it was in mint condition—unstable.

Our spiritual life can be compared to a four-legged table.

If we have four major spiritual disciplines operating on an ongoing basis our faith is strong, our joy is evident and the peace that passes all understanding anchors us to the Rock of our faith. But when just one or more of those disciplines is lacking, our spiritual life fluctuates, faith diminishes, discontentment sets in and peace is replaced with nagging worry and joy flees as a frown sits upon our brow.

We all know believers like that. You have seen them haven’t you? You would never be able to tell by their demeanor and their stern facial expressions that they were heaven bound!

I have seen those serious, worn, worried Christians. They are not fun. And I hate to admit it, but at times I have been that Christian.

God’s Word has an answer for every dilemma. We can find the solution to joyful steady plodding in our walk with God right there in scripture!

Peel your bible pages back to Acts 2:42. In this meaty section of scripture, God gives instruction to the New Testament Church as to how they were to operate. If we believe we are the church, then we can assume this instruction also pertains to the individual believer.

Right there in Acts, we see God calling His people to practice four spiritual disciplines. We could visualize these as “the four legs of a table.”

Scripture says,

“They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine (which is God’s Word) and fellowship, in breaking of bread (worship) and in prayer” (Acts 2:42 NKJ).

Do you see it?

  • God's Word
  • Fellowship
  • Worship
  • Prayer

If we take just one of these disciplines out of our daily life, it doesn’t take long before life’s pressures bear down upon us, causing instability. We become weak and the peace we were meant to live in is gone.

What is it that has made you uneasy lately? Has a “people problem” drained you of your last bit of heavenly joy? Did that recent news rob you of all peace?

When was the last time you positioned your heart low enough before the God of heaven in prayer, not coming unto Him with a need’s list but just to commune with Him because He is worthy to be worshipped? Is time alone in God’s Word a common practice? Hungry souls sit at a distance from the mercy seat of God!

If we will avail ourselves to these four spiritual disciplines God has given us in His Word, we will not be promised a perfect life, or a trial-free life. Frankly, that would be unscriptural. But we will invite the joy-filled, abundant life that God had intended for us to live!

Which of these four disciplines is weak in your life today? Isn't it time to prop up and strengthen your "spiritual table"?

Teri Thompson lives in Bakersfield, California, with her wonderful husband, Brad—happily married 32 years—and has three grown children and seven adorable grandchildren. Teri loves to teach the Word of God to women and watch it wonderfully transform their lives. She is the Women’s Ministry Director at Crossroads Christian Fellowship, Director for the Kern County Women’s Conference and the President of NEWIM Kern County. Teri has taught and written weekly Bible Studies for many years and speaks at various women’s retreats and events. Her “Ephesians” Bible study is available here.    

Thursday
May222014

How Big Is Your God?

Author and speaker Ava Pennington is a Bible teacher whose heart's desire is to drive women to the scriptures and help them focus on God. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she helps us stretch out thoughts about Him.

"My God isn’t big enough. Of course, I never actually said those words. Good Christians don’t say things like that," Ava writes.

That's true, but sometimes we don't act like good Christians, do we? I know I (Dawn) don't. But that's why I/we need to hear Ava's wise words. Maybe you do too?

Ava continues ...

My God isn’t big enough. But I shouted them in my worry, fear, and anger when life didn’t follow my agenda. Then I excused my behavior. Maybe you’ve uttered similar rationalizations. “I can’t help it. It’s how God made me. I’m only human.”

So I threw myself into more prayer, Bible study, and ministry. But relying on external activities—even spiritual ones—was another attempt at controlling life in my own strength.

What I really needed was to upgrade my perspective of God.

Everything in our Christian life flows from our understanding of who God is.

So I began the journey of exploring God’s names and attributes as He revealed them in His Word. The Bible tells us that those who know God's name are able to trust Him (Psalm 9:10), and I wanted to be able to trust Him more than I had in the past. In the process, I learned my perspective of God had been terribly limited.

If you find yourself living the Christian life in your own strength, trying harder but not experiencing change, consider the following:

1. Start with who God is.

One of my biggest mistakes was to focus on one name or attribute to the exclusion of all others. But focusing only on God’s love left me with an anything-goes god who tolerates sin. And focusing only on God’s holiness created an unloving fire-and-brimstone god.

God is love and holy. He is merciful and just. He is all these things and more. To truly know Him, I needed to learn all that He is—not just one or two characteristics that appealed to who I wanted Him to be.

Tip: As you read your Bible, ask yourself what the passage reveals about God’s nature. Then praise Him for who He is (Psalm 61:8)!

2. See yourself in relation to who God is.

The more I learned God’s nature, the more I learned who I am in relation to Him. Any doubts I harbored about how far I fall short of God’s perfection were banished by studying His holiness, righteousness, and justice.

But I also saw His love and care, and how He redeemed and sustains us in all things. God valued us enough to sacrifice His own Son to restore us to Him.

Tip: God does not change (Malachi 3:6). As you study God’s names and attributes, ask yourself, How is my life impacted because God is who He says He is?

3. Enter into relationships in light of who God is.

God is a personal, relational God. We see this in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is fellowship in the Trinity, and God created humanity for fellowship with each other and with Him.

The more we learn who God is, the more we’ll understand the priority He places on relationships and the characteristics needed to nurture those relationships.  

Tip: The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)—are attributes of God that He develops in us. Ask Him to show you which ones are missing from your relationships. Instead of trying harder to develop these characteristics yourself, submit to the Holy Spirit in those areas and watch Him increase them in you!

Studying God’s names and attributes helped me understand that not only is my God big enough, He is bigger than I could ever imagine!

Are you clinging to one "picture" of God to the exclusion of others? Do you need to stretch your understanding of who He is and rightly relate to Him? It might be time to start a deeper study and see how BIG God really is!

Ava Pennington’s newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries. She has also written numerous magazine articles and is a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers (AWSA) and the Christian Authors Network (CAN). Ava also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class of 175+ women. She is a passionate speaker who engages audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations. Visit her at AvaWrites.com.

Photo graphic adapted, image from photos-public-domain.com.