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Entries in Surrender (8)

Thursday
Jun152017

When God Interrupts

Kolleen Lucariello’s goal is to help women discover and live out their identity in Christ, and in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she encourages us to see the Lord’s “interruptions” as His appointments.

“I listened as my sister explained her dilemma and easily sensed the disappointment and controlled panic in her voice,” Kolleen said.

I (Dawn) think it’s clear Kolleen has a sensitive heart—a heart primed to help.

But is helping at that moment what the Lord wanted? Great wisdom here.

Kolleen continues . . .

After months of struggle, my sister was finally able to help a young woman she had been mentoring find residential housing suitable to help her overcome the obstacles she’d been battling.

Unfortunately, she had just been informed her friend would not be able to continue in the program and my sister would need to find a new place for her immediately.

As in: ASAP.

After hearing the complexity of the assignment before her, I offered her the only sisterly advice I had when I said, “I’ll pray for you.”

I’ve learned this answer is the safest when the fixer in me rises up at the same time my empathy levels increase. As a recovering-controlling-fixer I often offer quick solutions to the pickles people found themselves in; my advice flowing from emotion with little thought or prayer involved.

This, my friends, usually put Kolleen in a pickle with her husband, Pat.

So now, rather than allow my emotions to speak up, I’ve become determined to wait on the Lord and be prayed up. So pray I did. 

I prayed hard for my sister. I prayed fervently for her friend.

I prayed that whoever God had given the ability to help would clearly follow His leading.

Each morning for almost a week I would grab my cup of tea, play “I Surrender” quietly in the background, and enter my quiet time of prayer—seeking God for wisdom in this situation.

As the day of her discharge grew closer and no temporary housing had been found, the desperation level began to increase. Calls for help were put out but—with a list of very specific needs in housing—choices were limited.

What became unlimited, however, were the many reasons for the answer, no.

Still, I prayed on.

I sensed the Lord was beginning to unravel this mystery of where He had in mind for her to go when I was reminded of the empty spare room we had recently painted and put together.

I began pleading my case for why the answer had to be no.

Since we were on limited time, the Lord wasted little of it exposing the reason for my hesitation: Interruption. Exactly.

How is it possible to sing “I Surrender” or “Withholding Nothing” in the morning and yet refuse to be interrupted by the One I promise to surrender to and withhold nothing from?

Ouch.

I wonder how Abram managed when God spoke to him, “Go away from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 AMP). Talk about interruption. 

You UPGRADE your responsiveness to the Lord when you:

1. Listen for God to speak to you.

Abram was settled in Haran when the Lord spoke to Him and told him, “Go.”

Is there a chance we’ve become so settled in the safety of our routine that we fail to hear the Lord when He speaks to us?

2.  Allow God to move you out of your comfort zone.

God instructed Abram to leave his country, his relatives and his father’s house.

Is it possible we’ve become unmovable by the comfort of people, places and things?

3. Receive God’s blessing through obedience.

The Lord promised Abram there would be great blessing for him in exchange for his obedience.

Could we be missing out on the blessings He longs to give us each time we fail in our obedience?

Abraham became the father of many nations when he “...departed [in faithful obedience] as the Lord had directed him” (Genesis 12:4, AMP).

I wonder what we might become if we depart, in faithful obedience, when the Lord directs.

We won’t know if we refuse to surrender to His interruptions.

Does the Lord want to interrupt your life?

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She’s a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. She desires to help others find their identity in Christ—one letter at a time. Learn more about Kolleen here.

 

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.

Saturday
Feb042017

What's Better than Working for God?

In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Debbie W. Wilson challenges us to think through our perspective on Christian service.

"I quit working for God," Debbie says. "I hope you will too."

On the surface, I (Dawn) think that's a jarring statement. Why would anyone quit working for God? Did I misunderstand? Isn't that a good thing?

Debbie continues . . .

How could a Christian worker make such a declaration?

 Because, I found something better.

When we work for God we make mistakes. We bruise people in “Jesus’ name.” We become resentful, proud, and worn out. We may even hurt His kingdom instead of build it.

Don’t believe me? Check out these traits and biblical examples to see what I mean.

  • Misguided: Moses thought he was working for God when he murdered an Egyptian taskmaster (Ex. 2:11-14).
  • Working against God’s kingdom: Saul of Tarsus thought he was working for God when he was eager to kill and imprison Christians (Acts 9:1-4).
  • Resentful: The hardworking son bitterly resented his father celebrating the return of the prodigal younger brother (Luke 15:11-32).
  • Proud: The Pharisees and religious leaders believed their work for God put them in His inner circle (Luke 18:11).

How do those of us who love Jesus and want to serve Him quit working for Him?

We learn to work with Him.

Those who work for God ask Him to bless their ideas.

Those who work with God join Him in His plan. They look to Him for guidance and strength.

  • Moses learned to rely on God. “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Ex. 33:15 ESV).
  • Saul of Tarsus was transformed into the Apostle Paul who said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 ESV.)
  • Jesus who said, “No longer do I call you servants, …but I have called you friends” (John 15:15 ESV) also said “ I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV).

I used to beat myself up when I failed to meet the expectations I put on myself. Now I believe my job is to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. That in no way translates into passivity. It means I believe Jesus is living and working in me.

I work with Him. He works through me.

When we serve God by working with Him, He gets the glory.

His plan, through His power, and in His time, builds His kingdom.

Who do you think makes a better ambassador for Christ, the one who works for God or the one who works with Him?

How to Start Working With God:

1. Ask God to show you where you have been striving to work for Him.

2. Admit your inadequacy and surrender your will and your way of doing things to Him.

3. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit and to teach you how to rely on Him in every area of your life.

4. Thank Him for leading you. This demonstrates faith.

It takes practice, but I’m learning that staying in sync with my Lord is better than reaching my goals—even ministry goals.

Would you rather work for God or with Him?

Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. They, along with their two grown children and two standard poodles, enjoy calling North Carolina home. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of DodgertonSkillhouse, Morguefile.

Tuesday
Jan172017

Catch Me

Kaley Faith Rhea is a young author and TV show co-host with a unique perspective on life. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she asks us to consider falling back on the Lord in faith and confidence.

"I’ve never hesitated to do a trust fall. Ever," Kaley says, "But I’ll admit it’s less because I’m a trusting person and more because I’m short enough a fall from this height wouldn’t cause any real damage."

Oh, Kaley, in all my years I (Dawn) have NEVER done a trust fall. I think I'd sooner jump out of a plane than trust that my pranking friends would catch me in a trust fall! But I know you've got something to teach me ... us ... here.

Kaley continues…

In seventh grade I went to a cheerleading practice. Suddenly they wanted me to let my fellow twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls lift me up, throw me into the air and catch me.

Have you ever heard the sound of twelve- or thirteen-year-olds catching another twelve- or thirteen-year-old out of the air?

I will tell you.

It sounds like getting punched in the face.

Oh, I "noped" right outta there. Really put my trust fall record into perspective.

I think I tend to do the same thing with the Lord.

Father, I will trust you...

  • Only as far as I can be sure I won’t get hurt.
  • Or only as far as I have a backup plan in place.
  • Or only as far as I’m really the one in control here.

Which is no kind of trust at all.

In my life I have determined—through a great deal of data analysis and scientific observations—there are three specific situations during which I most need reminding that God is the One in control:

1. When everything feels out of control.

2. When I’ve accidentally convinced myself I am in control.

3. All the other times.

It is so easy when things go wrong to lose sight of the One we can absolutely trust.

Or maybe even to look at God—who is in control, after all—and to blame Him. How could He let this happen? Why didn’t He stop this?

I don’t know the answer every time to be honest. But I do know that every time God is good. He is the source of goodness.

And I do know that every time God loves you. He is the God who loved us enough to send his Son Jesus to die where we deserved to die.

God is good, even in a fallen world. God is love, even when it seems like your fallen world is especially falling apart.

When you are hurting or devastated or even just proud, and you wonder Can I trust God? Can I really trust Him?

While you’re quoting Jeremiah 29:11 to yourself, maybe listen to Paul in Romans 8, too, where he writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (verses 38-39).”

Paul—whose life was filled with more hardship than I know how to imagine—had this brilliant, God-given trust that none of those hardships for one moment could keep him from experiencing the love God had for him. He could feel secure in God’s love in the face of everything. He had that assurance because of Jesus.

So I suppose in my life I have discovered—only through a miracle of grace—there are three specific things I need when I am arrogant or weary or battered enough to forget in Whom I can place my trust:

1. I need to focus on Jesus.

2. I need to read about Jesus.

3. I need to ask Jesus to, by His grace, give me the wisdom to trust Him when everything human in me is screaming Jesus may be the answer to a lot of things, but Jesus can’t be the answer to this.

Jesus IS the answer to this.

 If Jesus is the answer in the face of death and demons and “anything else in all creation,” Jesus is the answer to every one of your thises.

Dear Jesus, You are perfect. You love me perfectly. Remind me through your Spirit there is no height I could fall from too high for You to catch me. If I believe You loved me enough to go to the cross, I have to believe You love me enough to catch me when my life or my ego seems out of control. Lord Jesus, I trust You.

Are there any areas of your life where you’ve been reluctant to trust in Jesus? How can you surrender to Him today?

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, releasing this year. 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.