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   and Founder:

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Entries in Struggles (4)

Tuesday
May302017

How to Conquer Your Conundrum (Confusing Problem)

What do you do when faced with a "conundrum"—a confusing or difficult problem or challenge. Dawn Wilson suggests 10 steps to conquer your conundrum in this Life Choices UPGRADE.

We all have conundrums. They can be challenging, bothersome, scary—and all of these things at the same time! What do you do when you are perplexed and just don't know how to move forward?

Here are 10 steps that can help you conquer your conundrum.

1. Prepare

Invest time in a quiet place with your Bible and other resources—even a laptop with the Internet for research, if you don't think you'll get distracted. Just as God told His people, "in quietness and confidence" is your strength" (Isaiah 30:15b), we will find strength when we pause to reflect and prepare.

Just like anything worth pursuing, preparation will help with processing your thoughts and focusing on fresh goals.

2. Pray

ASK the Lord for His wisdom (James 1:5). But remember prayer is not just you talking to the Father.

Be willing to say, "Speak Lord. I'm listening!" Better yet, "Whatever you tell me to do, Lord, I will obey." That's where the blessing comes in (Luke 11:28; James 1:25b).

3. Anticipate

Trust that the Lord WILL speak to your heart and clarify direction (Proverbs 3:5-7). Maybe He will use His Word. Maybe the Holy Spirit will remind you of a truth you already know. Anticipate His voice and "marching instructions."

You may find a word from the Lord in a solid, biblical book, or as you listen to a sermon or message. You may even hear the Lord speaking through a hymn book.

Once, when I was struggling with direction, I flipped through a hymn book and ended up on the old song "Trust and Obey. It was like the Lord said to me, "You don't need any new information; you haven't obeyed what I already told you!" I took care of that and God gave me fresh insight.

The point is, anticipate God's direction and obey it, rather than being "wise in your own eyes" (v. 7).

4. Think

Take time to brainstorm, if there are several options available to you and you're not sure which direction to move. Weigh the facts. Think. Do your best to DISCERN what the Lord might be saying (1 John 4:1; Philippians 1:9-10; Hebrews 4:12; 5:14; John 7:24; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

Some people even make a "pros" and "cons" list. But be careful with that. Once I had a long list of "cons," but the Lord confirmed I should move ahead. It made no sense at the time, but it was clear later the Lord had a plan I couldn't see.

5. Study

I included this one because I know human nature!

Just in case you treated #4 lightly, stop now and go a little deeper. Actually research the very best options in light of scripture. See if they align with what God has said, because He will not lead contrary to His Word.

As you study, be sure you are walking in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God "searches all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV).

6. Consider

Imagine possible outcomes. Count the cost for each one and weigh them carefully. (A biblical example: Luke 14:28).

Consider whether you are ready to move ahead and pay the necessary price. That price might not just be financial. There might be a cost emotionally, spirituallly, or to your family.

7. Learn

Seek out and listen to wise counselors. There is usually safety in a "multitude of counselors" (Proverbs 11:14: 15:22). Be sure you have a teachable spirit. Pride has hindered many wise decisions! (Proverbs 9:9; 13:18; 1 Peter 5:5).

And this would be a good time for more prayer: "Holy Spirit, teach me. Guide me in Your truth" (Psalm 25:4-5).

8. Challenge 

This is where it might feel "impossible" or confusing.

  • We may need to challenge our fears and perceived limitations (Psalm 56:3-4; Isaiah 41:10).
  • We may need to confront some lies and bolster our mind and heart with God's truth (John 8:44b; Ephesians 6:11).
  • We may be suffering from "analysis paralysis" at this point and need an encouraging, godly friend to help us see reality or seek God's perspective. Reach out and ask for help.

9. Act

There are usually two courses of action at this point.

We'll either take the best possible action with discernment; or we'll decide to trust and wait a little longer—with God's guidance. Both can be wise actions if we're following the Lord's direction (Psalm 32:8) and believing He will not withhold anything from us that will enable us to walk close to Him and "uprightly" (Psalm 84:11b).

We don't want to lag behind if the Lord is nudging us to move forward with courage; but we don't want to rush ahead—rash or foolish—for the sake of just making a decision either.

10. Rest 

We may not ever have complete peace; we are very human.

It's good to know we can trust the Lord for course corrections. And even in our missteps we can recognize God's grace. He will transform our sins and foolish mistakes for His purposes (Romans 8:28).

So after you follow all these steps and any others the Lord may give you, simply rest in Him. HOW?

  • Cast your cares on Him and release all striving.
  • Submit to His will.
  • Relax in His love.
  • Embrace Hope.

You may feel confused, but remember: Your "conundrum" has not taken God by surprise.

Which of these 10 steps will help you the most today as you ask the Lord for help with your most pressing and confusing question or problem?

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 Workbrite1 at Morguefile.

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.

Tuesday
Mar282017

Trials Polish the Shine

I’ve watched Kathy Carlton Willis deal with trial after trial and somehow continue to shine. I often wonder how she manages to grin despite the challenges. In this deeply personal Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she helps us consider the blessing in our trials.

“Trials are going to happen to everyone. We don’t get a choice," Kathy says, "but we do get to choose how we respond. Will I grin or will I groan? I’ve found if I can stay focused on God and others, I can endure the negative circumstances in my life.”

Kathy’s not merely saying words. She’s my (Dawn's) personal Barnabas of encouragement even when she’s in the middle of her own painful situations.

Kathy continues . . .

A few months ago I had a simple surgery that resulted in serious complications. Others ask how I keep smiling during personal turmoil.  

Even though my time in the hospital was miserable, the God-appointments were amazing! When people entered my room to do their jobs, God prompted me to say the right thing so they felt comfortable opening up about a burden. I got to deliver a dose of Jesus’ grace before they left.

Only God could bring the hurting to me when I was hurting and couldn’t go to them!

How rewarding to be used for God’s good and glory despite physical limitations.

If you are going through a terrible circumstance, I’m here to share this fact: trials polish the shine more!

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold" (1 Peter 1:6-7a, NLT).

I rejoice that God planted me at the right place at the right time. Oh—the stories I heard!

People came in with family problems. One admitted she was shamed by a hospital worker for being “just an aide.” My tenderhearted night nurse was worried about her own upcoming medical test. The next week she returned to thank me for my prayers because her test came back normal!

A mom visiting her son across the hall talked to me about his serious injuries. We discussed how God answers prayer. Many more God-stories occurred.

As I walked the halls, every door had the name of that room's patient and their doctor. I prayed for each. For the patients, to have grace to endure, and for the doctors to have both wisdom and compassion.

It was like my own personal missionary assignment!

Praying for others got my mind off my own problems and kept them in perspective considering what others faced.

TIPS for ENDURANCE

1. Be alert to others.

Be alert to what's going on around you more than you're tuned in to your own problems.

God can use us anywhere as long as we pay attention to the pain—and joy—of others rather than being singularly focused on our own dilemmas.

2. Sense the prayers of others.

Allow them to lift you up, uP, UP—just like a hot air balloon.

3. Don't apologize for being weak.

One of God's graces is that when we are weak, God shows up strong. (Well... He's always strong, but I sure notice it more when I'm weak!)

4. Tap into God's strength.

The strength you need or others need in you will show up as He surges through you with His power. It's the Christian's super power!

For whatever reason, God seems to like to use me in the MESS rather than in the BEST. If that’s the way He gets the most glory, I’m okay with that. My story is about how BIG He is despite my big problems.

Whether in the BEST, or the MESS—I am BLESSED.

How might God use you during your current messy life situation?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker   at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author   - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She wrote Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers and has several books releasing over the next few years. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Tuesday
Jan102017

Survive Life's Firestorms (without Smelling Like Smoke)

Joanie Shawhan knows about life's firestorms. As a nurse, she's seen people shaken by their struggles, and she's also survived her own trials. In this helpful Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she shares crucial steps to survival.

“A firestorm blasted my world,” Joanie says. “I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.”

I (Dawn) haven't had to face that—you likely haven't either—but there's no doubt you've gone through a personal firestorm, or you will. Let Joanie's words encourage you.

Joanie continues . . .

Firestorms—those unexpected, devastating losses that disrupt our lives. It may be the loss of a loved one, health, job, home or dream. The derailment may be temporary or have lasting effects.

How do we not only survive but also overcome these catastrophes?

During the ovarian cancer firestorm in my life, I discovered three steps to survival based on the fire safety principles of stop, drop and roll. But how do we rise out of the ashes without smelling like smoke? Hence the fourth step—rise.

1. STOP

When a firestorm erupts, our daily activities halt. All of our energy, strength and resources shift into crisis mode.

After an ultrasound for what I thought was a uterine fibroid, my doctor strode into the room and announced, “You have ovarian cancer.”

I froze. Surely this isn’t happening to me. Surgery and chemotherapy consumed me for the next six months. Cancer threatened my health, my job and my future.

When all I had was questions, I found I also needed to stop and listen to the One who had the answers.

2. DROP

Smoke rises in a fire so we drop to the ground. The air is fresher, our visibility clearer.

So too, in a life firestorm we drop to our knees in surrender and prayer, seeking God, humbling ourselves before Him. Our sacrifice of praise and worship mingles with our tears.

As I wrestled with the Lord about going through chemotherapy and sought His direction for my treatment, I sensed His voice whispering, “Go through the process.” The Holy Spirit strengthened me to endure the treatments—treatments which were worse than the cancer itself. I could not even focus to pray and read my Bible.

All I could do was drop into my Father’s arms like a child and cry for mercy.

3. ROLL

We roll to douse any lingering flames.

In a life firestorm, the flames of anger, bitterness and unforgiveness will cloud our vision and scorch our lives.

As we draw near to the Lord, we roll our cares onto Him: our pain, grief, anger, fears, doubts, loss and loved ones.

We stretch forth our hands, grasping for a reason. “Why? Why? Why?” But the answers slip through our fingers like a vapor.

I don’t know why I got ovarian cancer, the rarest and most deadly of female cancers. But I needed to allow my desire for answers to be extinguished with the flames.

4. RISE

God desires not only to raise us up out of the ashes of our brokenness, but also give us beauty for the ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Through thanksgiving and praise, we shake off the ashes and exchange the lingering smell of smoke for the fragrance of Christ.

We recognize that all we are comes from Him. We reflect His glory.

I lost myself to ovarian cancer, but in losing myself, I found a new purpose and calling in my life—to write encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy and advocate for and educate women regarding ovarian cancer.

Because of God’s power we are able to come through the firestorms in our lives without smelling like smoke.

But surviving a firestorm does not imply that everything is “all better” and the wound is healed.

Some heartbreaks and losses permanently char us.

True triumph is not a return to life before the firestorm, but a heart attitude—is God still God despite my pain and loss?

If so, then we will be able to proclaim, along with Job, I know that my redeemer lives” (Job 19:25 NKJV).

How has God brought you through the firestorms in your life?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. Joanie also speaks to medical students in the Survivors Teaching Students program. Visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of ZoranD at Pixabay.