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Tuesday
Sep182018

Are You Ready to BE His Fixer Upper?

Kolleen Lucariello's fresh take on the Christian's walk with God is always sure to take us off guard just long enough to help us see the truth. In this Spiritual Living UPGRADE, she encourages us to act on a powerful truth and see a ministry available to each one of us.

"What the disciples weren’t able to accomplish, Jesus did," Kolleen says. "We can spend years believing people are rundown, in disrepair, even beyond the reach of change when actually, what they need is an encounter with Jesus"

I (Dawn) don't know about you, but when I read those words, I instantly thought of two people I've assumed are "beyond the reach of change." How about you?

Kolleen continues . . .

There’s a house in our town that has been sitting abandoned and empty for years. In fact, I don’t remember the last time it was occupied, and we’ve lived here for over 30 years!

Driving by the house, I often imagine the potential within—wondering what remarkable things Chip and Joanna Gaines would do to fix’er up—wishing I had the ability to do the work myself.

One evening, while enjoying a walk through town with my hubby, we were surprised by the sight of a “For Sale” sign in the front yard of the house. It seemed odd after all these years to see the old place was for sale, and within a very short time the sign was gone.

A few weeks after the removal of the sign, new windows were installed in the old, once abandoned, place. In no time at all, every dirty and broken window had been replaced by clean, white, energy-efficient ones.

Another night, we discovered the crew hard at work adhering new siding, which was now slowly rising up from the lower half of the house to cover the oh-so-unsightly, existing layers.    

 Now our walks through town are exciting as we witness the rebirth of what once appeared dead. A lifeless house is being revived and restored.

The house once known as “the abandoned house” will have a new identity because someone saw the potential.

I imagine Jesus’ walks through town must have also been exciting as He began changing the identity of the abandoned ones.

Although, He restored people—not houses.

Jesus met plenty of “fixer uppers” during His ministry years; He saw the potential, and brought life back into every dirty, broken, and abandoned one.

The prostitutes, the lepers, any hiding in the darkest caves because tormenting demons had driven them there.

The father, whose son had been abused and silenced for years, must’ve become undone as he witnessed the restoration of his son after their encounter with Jesus. He’d watched his son suffer torment from childhood because of a demon’s desire to destroy him (Mark 9:21-22).

I envision that dad lost in thought at times as he dreamt of the potential his son had . . . if only.

Helpless, he now stood face-to-face with the One he hoped could restore his boy.

“I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit,” he said (Mark 9:17).

His words held recognition. “I brought You . . . who has . . ."; he understood who bound his son and called the spirit by name.

He was very much aware of what this mute spirit was doing to his son, and it was torture both for the father to watch and the son to endure.

They were victims of the schemer, Satan, who covertly plots as he abuses and silences, leaving people broken and abandoned in shame. He certainly doesn’t want anyone to recognize he is behind the torment or call it by name.

Especially sin. He doesn’t want us to call anything sin.

What do you suppose would happen if we began bringing loved ones to Jesus and called bondage by name?

I brought you . . . who has . . .

  • A Spirit of Offense
  • A Spirit of Lust
  • A Spirit of Hatred
  • A Lying Spirit
  • A Spirit of Jealousy
  • A Spirit of Idolatry
  • A Spirit of Gossip
  • A Spirit of Addiction
  • A Spirit of Depression

The father put his hope in the disciples, but when they couldn’t help him, he took his son straight to Jesus. I’m not sure he expected Jesus to call out their unbelief, but He did.

“Why are you such a faithless people?”

However, I bet he was thrilled when Jesus said, “Now, bring the boy to me(Mark 9:19, TPT).

“Please, if you’re able to do something. . . ” the father continued.

“What do you mean ‘if’?” Jesus asked.

Then, He turned the ‘if’ back to the father. “If you are able to believe, all things are possible to the believer.”

The father, who had recognized the spirit holding his son hostage, now recognized his own bondage. “I do believe, Lord; help my little faith!” (Mark 9:22-24 TPT)

We all struggle with “little faith” from time to time.

Many in our town had lost faith change would come to the abandoned house. We were wrong—the house is changing, little-by-little, each day.

Suppose we’ve gotten it wrong about people, too?

It’s quite possible the Lord is ready to begin work on the abandoned, but He’s waiting to hear,

I brought You . . . who has . . . .

We upgrade the lives of others when we: 

1. Recognize the bondage and call it by name.  

2. Bring them to Jesus.

3. Pray for the faith to believe all things are possible.

Do you know someone abused and silenced? Abandoned by shame? Pray for the faith to recognize the spirit holding them hostage and then bring them to Jesus.

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC's of Who God Says I Am; and as a speaker, she speaks into women's lives "one letter at a time." 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. For more information about Kolleen, visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of LechenieNarkomanii at Pixabay.

Thursday
Sep132018

Rebuilding Our Lives After a Winter Season

Joanie Shawhan is a wise encourager. She uses the experiences of her life, couples them with God's truth, and speaks that truth into others' lives. In this Personal Care UPGRADE, she explains some of the ways we can rebuild our lives after a tough season.

"Sometimes my life," Joanie says, "seems to mirror the two seasons dominating Wisconsin—winter and road construction."

HA! I (Dawn) lived through many winters in the Midwest, and I know exactly what Joanie's talking about. But there's a deeper application here.

Joanie continues . . .

For me, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer raised a stop sign and detoured me into a winter season.

Major life events can divert us into the barrenness of winter: loss of a loved one or a job, changes in finances or health, disruption of our marriage or home. Customary rites of passage such as moving, career changes, graduations, empty nest and retirement may also reroute us into a winter season.

But eventually winter yields to spring.

We attempt to merge into the previous traffic patterns of life, but discover that the flow has shifted.

Questions pop up like orange construction barrels.

  • Who am I in light of these life changes?
  • How do I re-engage?
  • What is my purpose?

My Story

When I emerged from my winter season of cancer, surgery and chemotherapy, I reached a crossroads filled with questions.

  • Who am I as an ovarian cancer survivor?
  • What do I do now?
  • How do I rebuild my life?

I sought out other ovarian cancer survivors, but found no support groups, Gilda’s Clubs or Facebook groups. Were there other survivors?

As I searched for answers, I joined a Christian writing group, Friends of the Pen. I started writing a book for women undergoing chemotherapy—the stories of everyday women with everyday lives interrupted by cancer, concluding each piece with a scripture and a prayer.

My hope was to provide the help I desired throughout my own ordeal.

I finally met other ovarian cancer survivors at an ovarian cancer camp in Missoula, Montana—Camp Mak-A-Dream. Some of these survivors were involved in a program called Survivors Teaching Students (STS) in which they shared their stories with medical students and other health care providers. These presentations raise awareness for ovarian cancer in hopes of earlier detection, thus saving women’s lives.

As a nurse and an ovarian cancer survivor, I was excited about joining the STS volunteer team.

While participating in STS, I met local ovarian cancer survivors. We formed an ovarian cancer group, “The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up.” We meet monthly, sponsor speakers, plan fun outings and participate in fundraisers for ovarian cancer.

A cancer detour steered me into a new purpose and calling for my life—to write a book encouraging women undergoing chemotherapy, and to advocate for women and educate regarding ovarian cancer.

Several new roads were paved into my life. I love the changes.

If you find yourself in a construction zone following your own winter season, don’t lose heart.

Instead, consider these 7 areas of focus as you reconstruct.

7 Tips to Rebuild Your Life

1. Pray.

Ask God what He has for you in this new season of life. Study His word. Ask Him for specific scriptures that define this season.

2. Identify Your Passion.

What energizes or inspires you? Cancer awareness, pregnancy information, adoption, foster care, civic or church activities?

3. Dream Dreams.

Are there dreams you have laid aside or new dreams you discovered? Travel, write a book, learn a language, play an instrument, own a home, start a business?

4. Try a Hobby.

What activities do you enjoy? Music, photography, crafts, painting, gardening, traveling, biking, hiking, reading?

5. Use Your Talents.

What are those things that come easy for you?

Have others around you affirmed a particular gift or ability?

6. Try Something New.

Try a job, class, mission trip or volunteer opportunity.

When we attempt a new activity, we may discover a hidden talent or the ability to do something we never thought possible.

7. Connect.

We often relate with people who have undergone a similar experience.

In sharing our stories, we can make new friends as we help and support one another.

At the time of my cancer diagnosis, I could not imagine how God would rebuild my life. What began as a winter journey blossomed into a life enriched by the wonderful people I met along the way, including my Christian writing community and my fellow ovarian cancer survivors.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT).

How has God rebuilt your life after a winter season?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes articles and encouragement for women undergoing chemotherapy. Publishing credits include Coping with Cancer Magazine, Upper Room and God Still Meets Needs. Visit with Joanie here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Annca at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Sep112018

Worryectomy

Kathy Carlton Willis knows how to turn the everyday circumstances of life—even crisis situations—into  opportunities to trust God. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she deals with the bothersome problem of worry; and it's a perfect topic for today as we think back to a crisis in America that changed so many lives: America's 9/11.

“On this day we reflect back to September 11, 2001, our country continues to experience many different types of unrest," Kathy says. "In addition, we daily fight fears of doubt and worry regarding our personal lives. To live a life of peace and joy, we need to undergo a worryectomy from time to time.”

I (Dawn) grew up with a "worrier," and I "caught" the disease of worry. I know what Kathy says is true!

Kathy continues . . .  

When I was 19, newly married, this smalltown girl had to adjust to my college town. Springfield, Missouri, was the third largest city in Missouri.

Besides taking 20 credit hours of school and being involved in youth ministry, I also worked part-time. I used $500 from a scholarship to buy a 1969 Chevy pick-up truck. I looked like Farmer Jane!

During the Christmas season, my job at Walmart involved later hours, plus we’d have to stay lafter the store closed to restock all the things that got unshelved (like the entire toy department). The drive home took me through the worst area of town.

I didn’t even know enough to be worried, but Mom worried for me.

One day my husband decided to show me how to change a tire on that big ol’ truck—in case I ever had an emergency. But what he didn’t do was wrench all the lug nuts tight once he showed me the process.

Somehow, I made it the twenty minutes to the store. Worked my shift. We got out late. Midnightish. I drove part-way home, when all of a sudden, in the bad part of town, the whole tire, wheel and all, shot off my truck!

My tall truck screeched to a halt because the hub severed the brake line. Like taking one leg off of a four-legged chair, my truck leaned to the short side. What happened?

I jumped out of the truck quickly, not thinking. I started to walk to call for help and realized—without any money, how could I use a payphone?

I prayed, and felt God lead me back to the truck.

I had peace that somehow God was going to take care of me.

Next thing I knew, a security car from that area, pulled up in front of me and offered to help. He radioed for the command station to call Russ and have him come to the scene. A tow-truck also came.

Next thing we knew, a young man on a bicycle rolled up my wheel. He found it two blocks away and said it shot out like it was in a race!

When it was all over, I thought back on the situation.

Here I was, in a bad area of town, at a bad time of night. This naïve small-town girl had no money, stuck, no phone, and God took care of me.

I was never out of His care—out of His grasp.

It was a wonderful lesson to me that when you are in God’s will, He takes care of any of the risks involved. I was just as safe and secure there as I was sitting in a church pew.

When I told Mom what happened, she admitted her worries. Relieved at the outcome, she could finally exhale.

When those worries practically strangle us, we need to perform a WORRYECTOMY.

One way to do this is to create reminder cards to read through when worry hits. Have them say things like:

  • My God is bigger than my fear.
  • My God is bigger than this.
  • Nothing is impossible with God, not even this.
  • I'm never alone. God is with me always.
  • This circumstance isn't taking God by surprise.
  • God cares when I hurt.
  • What matters to me, matters to God.
  • This is temporary!

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NLT)

Repeating biblical concepts really helps you fight the torment of worry.

God is the Master at using hope of the future to reshape our present and overcome our past!

Through Christ, you have control over panic and fear.

Worry doesn’t have to overcome and overwhelm you unless you allow it. Don't give worry permission to mess with you!

Is it time for a worryectomy?

Kathy Carlton Willis, God's Grin Gal, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceHer popular blog, Grin & Grow with Kathy is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Beaumont, TX where they just recognized the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Alexas-Fotos at Pixabay.

 

 

Tuesday
Sep042018

Upgrade Your Destiny: The Obvious Choice

Pam Farrel is a woman with much life wisdom, and in this Spiritual Live UPGRADE, she reminds us to check our level of spiritual maturity and the choices we make.

The real complications in life come when our maturity does not match our challenges," Pam says. "Simplicity will come when our maturity surpasses our challenges."

I (Dawn) think we sometimes complicate our journey with God. We want more and more knowledge and opportunities, but we may be failing to obey the "first things"—the simple things God asks us to do, and the simple, unfettered way He wants us to live.

Pam continues . . .

God’s will lead us to maturity step by step, if we will simply follow His light and His leading through His Word.

My husband, Bill, and I consistently share a simple, obvious statement to gain success:

“We make our choices and our choices make us: Healthy choices gain a healthier life.”

Healthy decisions cause growth and improvement in our lives. With each passing year, we are faced with challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities that seemingly are bigger and more demanding than the year before.

Healthy decisions move us forward step by step so that each year we are better prepared for what comes our way.

In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success at Keeping It All Together, I share a series of tests we can use to check our choices and upgrade decision-making skills. Here is one of those tests.

Decision Making Skill 1: The Obvious Test

Ask yourself, “Is this decision so obvious that I am wasting time thinking about it?”

The reason these decisions are obvious is that God has already clearly spoken to these areas of life or they are generally accepted as the best practices. 

Consider these obvious decisions based on the best practices in life:

  • Get out of bed. Get dressed. Brush your teeth.
  • If a police car pulls up behind you and turns its lights on, pull over.
  • Get a good night’s sleep regularly.
  • If someone does something nice, say, “Thank you.”

God wants to strengthen our life, beginning with the obvious.

We all want to gain God’s blessings, yet struggle to place ourselves under His “Umbrella of Blessing”—that is, choosing to live a life of integrity.

"He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity" (Proverbs 2:7).

Just as an umbrella shades us from harmful rays of the sun or protects us in the rain, even so, obedience to God’s stated will protect us—mostly from our own misguided choices.

God’s stated will is the foundation on which we all can build a stronger, more stable life.

We long to know God’s will, yet often many of us fail to obey the obvious verses where God clearly lays out the place to begin knowing His plan for our lives.

Here are a few verses that share God’s will for our lives.

Ask yourself, "Am I . . . "

. . . Saved?"

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

. . . Spirit-filled?"

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

. . . Sanctified?"

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).

. . . Sexually Pure?"

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

. . . Saying Thanks?"

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

. . . Suffering for Right?"

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:17).

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19).

. . . Seeking God?"

Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart (Psalm 119:2).

I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me (Proverbs 8:17).

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29). *

Start doing—or continue walking out—these OBVIOUS things that God says are His will for you and three things will happen:

  • Your heart will become more in tune to God’s heart,
  • Your ability to understand the Bible will increase, and
  • You will gain insights from God for your future.

Which is God asking you to upgrade by obeying?

For me, I keep Praise Pages in my Bullet Journal to help me keep an attitude of gratitude. This obvious habit helps me keep a positive mindset, and I make better, wiser decisions as a result.

By simply obeying God’s Word, you gain the ability to walk in God’s will.

Can you thank God today for all these “obvious” things? Take a moment to consider which one/s might need some fresh obedience in your journey with God today.

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of over 45 books including 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success In Keeping It All Together which looks at how to strengthen 7 core areas of a woman’s life to move it forward.(This article is adapted from the Simple Skills material)  To gain more from Pam ‘s insights, join the Living Love-Wise Community. Simply go to www.Love-Wise.com and click the subscribe tab and select the membership option that best fits your life.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Delanie at Lightstock.

* The 7 "obvious" verses are from 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make (Harvest House, 1999), pp. 142-143.

Thursday
Aug302018

5 Ways to Impact the Abortion Crisis in America

Morgan Farr takes tough stands because she is a strong woman with a tender heart. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she urges Christ-followers: Don't be complacent when it comes to protecting the unborn.

"This summer season has been rife with discussions about abortion laws across the world," Morgan says, "but especially in the United States of America."

I (Dawn) remember years ago when Christians in churches all across our nation were moved to pro-life action, but recently wondered, "Where are the YOUNG VOICES crying out for the lives of the unborn?"

Thank the Lord, Morgan is a powerful young voice!

Morgan continues . . . 

With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, an open seat on the Supreme Court of the United States means that the landscape of abortions in the United States could be about to change.

With roughly 3,657 abortions happening every single day in the United States, abortion is a topic that the body of Christ needs to address. But this is the point where many Christians get uncomfortable because they don’t know what to do or say.

 In fact, 57% of Millennials don’t know even the most basic facts about the landmark case Roe v. Wade[1] which legalized abortion in the United States.

So today, I am going to share my top five ways to impact the abortion crisis without relying on emotional arguments.

1. Understand the Terminology. 

There are a lot of labels that are bandied about in the abortion debate, but they all fall into one of two camps:

You either support abortion or you don’t.

The pro-life one is pretty simple, you believe life begins at conception and you are therefore you do not support abortions.

Meanwhile, the pro-choice label is really just brilliant marketing. What it means that you believe women should have the right to choose to end the baby’s life.

Pro-choice is often interchangeable with pro-woman, meaning that if you really care about women then you believe they should be able end a baby’s life. If you are not pro-choice you are almost always labeled as anti-woman.

2. Understand the Science.

The number one argument that most pro-choice advocates use is that the woman has a right to choose to end a pregnancy because the baby isn’t a person yet. The baby will, oftentimes, be referred to as “the fetus” (Latin for offspring) to help in the dehumanization.

This is the most basic way that abortion advocates have skewed the way people think about unborn children—by connecting development with personhood.

However, stage of development does not, in fact, define personhood.

Personhood is defined as "the quality or condition of being an individual person."

The exact moment when a sperm penetrates the egg, an entirely new organism is formed called a zygote, and it is the earliest stage of human development. The zygote is composed of brand new human DNA, meaning it is entirely unique. This unique zygote will develop for the duration of his or her time on earth.

The development goes like this:

Zygote, fetus, baby, toddler, preschooler, grade schooler, teenager, adolescent, adult.

The zygote carries the same completely unique DNA all the way through development into adulthood.

The person is the same unique person, with all their own qualities from conception to death. This means that in the act of abortion (whether chemical or surgical) the woman is killing a unique individual, not a portion of her own body.

3. Understand the Impact.

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in the case of Roe v. Wade that abortion is legal. It also set guidelines in place breaking pregnancy into three trimesters.

 The guidelines for each trimester are:

  • 1st trimester—The state cannot regulate abortion (due to the woman’s right to privacy) aside from requiring that the medical procedure be performed by a licensed doctor in medically safe conditions.
  • 2nd trimester—The state may regulate abortion if the regulations are related to the health of the pregnant woman.
  • 3rd trimesterThe state may prohibit abortions unless abortion is necessary to save the life or health of the mother. (This means that the state can protect the life of the unborn child because the life’s potential outweighs the woman’s right to privacy).

According to the National Right to Life Committee, there have been approximately 60,069,971 abortions performed legally since the 1973, Roe vs. Wade decision.

That means that roughly 1 out of every 4 people from “Generation X” didn’t get a chance to live.

In a recent poll, a Public Religion Research Institution survey gathered that 65 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Americans believe that abortion should be legal in almost all cases. [2]

This means that the numbers of unborn children lost to abortion will only climb in the future unless something is done to end the massacre of unborn children. 

4. Vote in EVERY Election.

In the United States of America, we have the privilege of electing the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government. Get out and vote in every single election.

Local votes matter; midterm elections matter.

Do your own research. Find out about each candidate’s stance on abortion and vote accordingly.

Encourage your friends and family to vote. Help to get people to the polls by organizing a carpool.

5. Pray, Pray and Pray Some More! 

Prayer is the single most important aspect of having an impact on the abortion crisis in America.

 I cannot emphasize this enough.

  • Pray for wisdom for our country’s leadership.
  • Pray for those writing the laws to be convicted about the murder of unborn children.
  • Pray for the women who are seeking these abortions.
  • Pray for the men who helped to conceive these children.
  • Pray for the American people to wake up and realize that “aborting a fetus” is just a pleasant way of saying “murdering a child”.

To put it in perspective for you, roughly one fourth of my generation didn’t survive “choice”.

Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

  If we truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God and we are to follow His instruction we cannot stand idly by any longer as the abortion industry robs the world of its future.

It is our responsibility as Christians to stand up for those that are being massacred on the altar of sex without consequences.

How can you make a difference in the abortion crisis this week?

Morgan Farr is an Army wife currently stationed in San Diego, California, with her wonderful husband Brian and their three small children. Morgan is a homemaker who dedicates her free time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one mentoring and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood on her blog, The Forgiven Former Feminist. You can find her training programs, nutritional information and meal plans on her blog, Farr Functional Fitness.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Ashton Mullins at Unsplash.

Footnotes:

[1] https://www.prri.org/press-release/young-people-set-impact-debate-womens-health-issues/

[2] http://thehill.com/hilltv/what-americas-thinking/395824-dem-pollster-millennials-think-roe-v-wade-happened-after-the