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Tuesday
Oct162018

Hypocrisy Check, Please

Speaking into the lives of Millennials but with truth for every season, Kaley Faith Rhea provides both humor and insight. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she tackles the hypocrisy problem with grace and truth.

Kaley says, "One of the first things they’ll tell you at Singleness Camp: 'Never go on a second date with someone who’s rude to the restaurant wait staff.'"

HA! I (Dawn) think that's simple common sense, but you'd be surprised how many people can't decipher the lies of a hypocrite.

Kaley continues . . .

This isn’t a post about dating or singleness. But as a single person, I hear a lot of dating advice, good and bad, and it’s interesting to me the seemingly universal nature of this rule.

People will tell you stories.

“The date was going well, and he seemed really nice… until he thought he saw a hair in his salad, and he made the waiter cry. I blocked his number while we were still at the table, and he was so offended.”

Or “She seemed cool. But then she sent her food back three times and started swearing about the silverware? I ran away. Just literally started running. In. A. Direction.”

People of all different philosophies, backgrounds and theologies seem to agree: if you come across someone who wears different faces for different occasions, do not align yourself with that person.

But what about me?

I have to confess, I align myself with… myself far too often and way too staunchly.

It is so easy to spot hypocrisy when it’s sitting on the opposite side of the table.

But when I allow myself the comfort of that sort of farsightedness, the only real change I can effectively affect is adding fuel to the fire of my own arrogance and blindly participating in the irony of my own hypocrisy.

The number one way for me to fight hypocrisy is to ask the Lord to fight it—in me.

Remember Romans 2:1-5?

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 

"We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 

"Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 

"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 

"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Oh, man.

To be clear, it’s NOT hypocritical to call wrong things wrong or right things right based on the Word of God. And it is absolutely right and just to call out abuse where it exists and remove abusers from positions of power, every time.

But in my everyday, it’s hypocritical when I hard-heartedly set myself up as righteous as if anything other than the sweet, miraculous, merciful grace of God could ever make me right.

It’s hypocritical when I decide God should deal graciously with my sins, but I should deal harshly with yours.

It’s hypocritical when I call your wrong things wrong and my wrong things nothing.

So here’s my little checklist that starts with this prayer:

Holy Spirit, soften my heart, and don’t allow me to hide or to justify. Lead me to repent, fully confident in Your goodness, trusting in Your mercy, and grateful beyond words for the powerful way You forgive and produce real heart-change.

Hypocrisy Check:

  • Am I doing anything that's counter to God's Word of His character?
  • Am I doing anything I would be upset with someone else for doing?
  • Am I doing anything that is entirely about being seen by someone rather than being Jesus to someone?
  • Am I miffed at someone for not putting me first when I'm definitely not putting them first?

In Luke 6:41-42, Jesus gives us this famous word picture.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

"How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.”

You hypocrite? Sigh. ME hypocrite.

But the Lord doesn’t leave us there, all log-eyed and useless.

And isn’t it wonderful how, even in all the moments we don’t deserve a second date, our sweet Savior has still lovingly, unflinchingly called us his bride?

Just in case you're wondering whether you are log-eyed, go back over that Hypocrisy Check. Is there something you need to confess to the Lord and allow Him to change in you?

Kaley Rhea is the St. Louis-area co-author of Christian romantic comedy Turtles in the Road (along with mom, bud, and writing partner Rhonda Rhea) and this year’s non-fiction release Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and Monica Schmelter). To read more by Kaley, visit her blog.

Thursday
Oct112018

Can Differences in Marriages Form Bridges—Not Chasms?

Cynthia Ruchti writes both novels and nonfiction, but she always focuses on weaving truth and humor together to challenge people to more biblical living. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she tackles differences in marriage and how they can become a blessing.

"The differences between how some marriage partners think must mean they’re not suited for each other," Cynthia says. "Must have missed God’s leading somehow. Marriage is doomed unless the two can start thinking alike, right?"

Oh, I (Dawn) hope not! Seriously, Cynthia understands how so many of our marriages work, and how they can work better!

Cynthia continues . . .

I’ve been that woman—the one wondering how married life can possibly survive much less grow if the husband and wife approach everything—EVERYTHING—from opposing perspectives.

While writing the novel Miles from Where We Started, I didn’t have to look far for research about the widening gap a young couple can feel when they wake up soon after the honeymoon to discover this person they thought their soulmate speaks a different language, cares about different concerns, and is… different.

Not on the same page? He or she isn’t in the same library!

After spending more than four decades married to my opposite, I can predict what my beloved will say before he says it.

Me: Look at that beautiful fireplace.

Him: I wonder how much that thing cost them.

Me: Did you have a good time golfing with Ken?

Him: Yeah.

Me: How’s he handling the news about the lesion near his optic nerve?

Him: We didn’t talk about it.

Me: You didn’t talk about the biggest threat he’s ever faced to his life and his vision? About his pending surgery?

Him: It didn’t come up.

Me: (after a day full of conquering small mountains in my various job assignments) How was work today?

Him: Meh. You know.

I deal in emotional currency.

He deals in checking account balances.

I view life’s experiences through their impact on people.

He views them through their impact on the price of gas.

On every personality test we take—I provide his answers for him, because he doesn’t take personality tests—we score as polar opposites on the charts, graphs, and animal names.

It’s no surprise that God’s artistry didn’t include creating automatons who all function, feel, speak, and process alike. What a wide variety of personality types He made!

When we look at the gifts His Holy Spirit gives so that the body of the church functions well (Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, among other references), it’s obvious He intended us to approach life from different angles.

We’re not all administrators or helpers or gifted teachers or prophets. But together, we can form a complete picture of the Church.

Why would we assume that wouldn’t be the case in marriage?

What if our differences are bridge-building material rather than distance-making?

How can differences signal pending strength rather than pending doom for a marriage relationship?

Consider these marital points to ponder:

  • SOMEBODY has to consider the costs. (If not me, it had better be him.)
  • Emotion without stability equals tears and laughter with no place to land. Stability without emotion equals a highway in North Dakota (no interesting or growth-producing hills or curves).
  • One angle—even if shared by two people—eliminates the advantage of perspective. It removes dimension. The best brainstorming and problem-solving happens when we take a look at the issue from a variety of angles.

God’s Word says it this way:

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (1 Corinthians 12:17-18, NIV).

Same verses—with a few added—but different… uh… perspective:

“I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together.

"If Foot said, 'I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,' would that make it so?

"If Ear said, 'I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,' would you want to remove it from the body?

"If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell?

"As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body [or the marriage] right where he wanted it (1 Corinthians 12:14-18, MSG—bracketed part, my addition).

Differences in marriage build DIMENSION bridges across the gaps.

Is it time to stop fussing about differences of opinion and use them as planks to build a dimension bridge?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and speaking events for women and writers. She’s the author of more than 25 books, including the recently-released novel—Miles from Where We Started

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Eusodroff at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Oct092018

The Silent Sufferers Among You

I met Shonda Savage Whitworth years ago. I had no idea what she was dealing with—but God has taught me much, seeing through her eyes. In this Ministry UPGRADE, she invites us to consider how we might minister to those a particular group of people who suffer in silence—prisoners' families.

“What do you imagine a family member of a prisoner looks like?” Shonda says, “She may be the person sitting next to you in church, working in your office, or ringing up your purchase.”

This is so true. I (Dawn) have friends and acquaintances whose loved ones are incarcerated, and the struggle in their lives is heartbreaking. I'm so glad Shonda is speaking up about this!

Shonda continues . . .

We do not easily identify prisoners’ families as they place themselves in the protective custody of their self-imposed emotional prison.

Yet, with approximately 2.3 million prisoners in the US, there are at least 4.6 million people who have a loved one in the penal system. Most likely more.

If prison families disclose that part of their lives, they risk being ostracized, so they choose to suffer in silence among us.

However, should you meet a prison family member who is a silent sufferer, here are three things you can do to upgrade their lives.

1. Commit to Pray.

For the family member of a prisoner, it is like becoming a missionary in a foreign land.

Families must adapt to new rules and learn new lingo for effective communication. Just as missionaries need prayer covering, so do the families of prisoners. I am grateful for the prayer warriors who pray for us.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18, HCSB). 

Intercession means to pray on the behalf of others.

I imagine a day where the church shares the prayer needs of “all the saints” affected by incarceration as commonly as they share the prayer needs of the infirmed.

Join others around the world in praying for prisoners, the prisoner’s families, the victims of crimes, and those who work in the criminal justice system by participating in:

Prison Week: A Week of Prayer — October 14-20.

2. Remember the Prisoner.

After my son’s conviction, I was told to forget about him and let him rot in jail.

I’ve met wives of prisoners who were told they should divorce their husband and move on. Sadly, that advice contradicts the Word of God.

Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them…” (Hebrews 13:3, HCSB).

It is important for families of prisoners, who are not victims of the prisoner’s crime, to stay connected with their incarcerated loved one. The visitations, phone calls, and letters make a significant difference to the inmate.

Staying connected becomes more difficult for families of prisoners who have lengthy sentences as time and distance takes its toll on them.

Extended family, friends, and church members can help the family by sending the inmate cards, books, and magazine subscriptions. This is especially meaningful during the holidays.

This small act of kindness shows them they are remembered.

3. Be Alert to Ways to Bless.

We took out two loans to pay for our son’s legal fees, which maxed out our monthly budget with no room for emergency expenses.

One weekend we traveled five hours each way to visit with our son. On our way home, we stopped for a break and my husband noticed a knot on a tire. While putting on the spare, he noticed the other three tires were practically bald. We traveled the remaining 120 miles home protected by the grace of God.

I shared with friends the testimony of God’s goodness to see us home safely without mentioning the unexpected financial need. A few days later a check arrived in the mail to cover the cost of new tires.

My friend’s alertness to the need and her gift blessed me significantly.

As parents of an inmate, we face on-going financial challenges. However, the financial burden is even greater for a spouse with children. For many of them, their two-income family suddenly became one and it stretches the checkbook just to meet the basic needs of life—shelter, food, and clothing.

Allow the Lord to prompt you when to help a family experiencing a financial burden due to a loved one’s incarceration.

Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality” (Romans 12:13, HCSB).

As the Christmas season approaches, one way to help the children of prisoners is to participate in Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program. This is an opportunity to give a gift and to share the gospel with children of the incarcerated in your local area.

You can upgrade the lives of prison families, who are the silent sufferers among you, by committing to pray for them, remembering the prisoner, and being alert to ways you can bless them.

Which of these three points might you be able to act on this week?

Shonda Savage Whitworth is the founder and president of Fortress of Hope Ministries, Inc., offering hope to those whose lives have been impacted by incarceration. Shonda connects with others through her personal experiences and testimony of God’s faithfulness in her life. You can read more stories about Shonda’s unexpected prison family journey on her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Hanna Postova at Unsplash.

Thursday
Oct042018

What Are You Welcoming?

Morgan Farr is a physically, mentally and emotionally strong young woman, but what I admire most about her is her spiritual strength. She is a woman of great discernment, and in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she invites us to consider what we welcome into our homes.

“Every single year at the start of fall I make people uncomfortable,” Morgan says.

“Don’t misunderstand me—I don’t do it on purpose, but it happens nevertheless.”

When I (Dawn) first read Morgan’s post, I thought, “She’s setting herself up for some serious criticism from readers.” But Morgan’s emphasis on discernment is a message the family of God needs to hear in these days where there is so much spiritual darkness.

It’s a matter of aligning the heart with the will, ways and Word of God.

Morgan continues . . .

We are an Army family. By our sixth year of marriage we will have moved four times with three small children. This means every time that we move we have to develop new friendships and explain our traditions and convictions.

One of the first things people learn about me—after my love of Jesus, Texas A&M and Dr. Pepper—is that I love fall. I love the colors, smells, and family traditions. I pull out the fall decor on August 31 to be fully decorated on September 1.

People can tell I love this season.

Every year people ask us what are plans are for the holidays.

I tell them we purposely choose to have Christmas where we are stationed so our home and family is available to the soldiers who can’t travel home. I share about hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the people who train in our gym.

And then the inevitable question…

“What are you doing for Halloween? Would you like to trick-or-treat with us?”   

And I give the same answer every time: “No thank you. We don’t trick-or-treat, because we don’t celebrate Halloween.”

This almost always leads to a discussion of WHY we don’t celebrate Halloween.

There are plenty of articles out there on why Christians should not celebrate Halloween. So today isn’t going to be another of those articles.

Instead, I am going to share how three questions increased my discernment leading to our family convictions about what holidays we celebrate, what shows we watch, and what we allow to fill our minds.

1. What are you inviting in?

With Halloween comes the scary movies and TV shows. When you watch scary television shows, horror movies, or television shows about crime (Bones/CSI), what are you inviting into your mind?

I Corinthians 10:21 says, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s Table and of the table of demons.”

Yet how many of us pray to our perfect and holy Father at our evening meal and then pop open Netflix to watch some sex crimes on Law and Order SVU?

Does watching any of that actually benefit us, or more importantly, God?

2. What does this show in your Christian witness?

As believers, we are called to be Christ’s representatives here on Earth.

According to Titus 2:7, we are supposed to “...set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness.”

Now, does this mean we unfairly judge others for watching these shows? NO.

Oswald Chambers wrote,

God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.”

It should break our hearts to see people (especially fellow believers) trapped in bondage to the evil material that allows Satan to get his foot in the door of their minds and their lives (Ephesians 4:27).

We should not be conforming to the expectations of society.

I often hear people say things like, “But won’t your kids miss out?”

YES! They sure will.

If it will prevent my children from battling the demons that “spooky” and “scary” movies open the door to, then I will gladly stand between my children and the darkness.

I often wish someone had made sure that I missed out on the evil and demonic influences of Deen Koontz, Lisa Jackson, and Anne Rice. Some of the scenes from their books and movies plague my mind to this very day, if I am not wrapping myself in scripture.  

3. How does this honor God?

In Corinthians 10:31 we read, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

I heard it said once:

We should not see how much we can get away with, but rather, how holy can we become.

This means that we need to be asking some hard questions.

Things like:

  • Is watching American Horror Story honoring God? No? Then don’t watch it.
  • Does reading Harry Potter honor God? No? Then don’t read it.
  • Will dressing up as Katniss on Halloween bring glory to God? No? Then don’t do it.

It is that simple.  

Many people have followed up this conversation with, “But really, does watching these movies or celebrating this holiday do anything bad? After all, it is just pretend, and it isn’t like I am going out and doing the things in the movies!”

This is where I would like to quote the English preacher, Charles Spurgeon:

“Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; but rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

How much ground do we give Satan every single day simply because we would rather be “almost right” and popular rather than truly right and different?

My answer? Way too much.

What areas of your life could use some more discernment?

Morgan Farr is a Texas loving 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 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 Frances Yeung at Unsplash.

 

Tuesday
Oct022018

Overwhelmed by Overflow

Letitia "Tish" Suk is immensely practical. As a life coach, she often helps women deal with personal struggles in positive ways. In this Organization UPGRADE, she helps us cope with the disorder in our homes.

"Some of us settle for a junk drawer," Letitia says. "I grabbed a whole room!"

I (Dawn) am picturing a closet right now in my own home. Maybe Letitia can help me. And you!

Letitia continues . . . 

I had a vague memory of the color of the floor in my small storage room in the basement. That was before I claimed it for my miscellaneous possessions: off-season items/gift wrap/old photos/grandkid toys/folding chairs, and all the other items I might need someday.

The rest of my home more or less reflected my orderly side—we all have one somewhere; but the storeroom was an embarrassment, even to me.

Just closing the door was no longer effective.

With the holiday season looming, with all the extra activities, it was time to get serious about tackling this chore. But just where was I going to find that time?

My best M.O. for a large task is to seize a whole day for it. The idea of "an hour here and an hour there" might work for some. It gets me nowhere.

Of course, that requires rescheduling everything else previously slotted for that chosen day. It takes a bit of ruthless planning, but the result is worth the inconvenience.

Strategies abound on the “right” way to declutter.

You may already know what’s your favorite plan of attack for your personal overflow. I could recite many methods that work for someone else, but here is what worked for me.

Each item got scrutinized and sorted into one of ten piles for distribution.

Here are the categories:

1. Freecycle

This is a web group where you post what you want to give away or acquire, and the community responds to you.

In the past week, I have left a number of items on my porch with post-it names on them for the new owner to come and collect. Easy! Look for it in your area.

2. Return to Adult Kids

We have provided free storage to our children’s memorabilia for years, but now they are getting it back!

I decided to provide a little deadline to “come and get it,” and then it lands back in THEIR storage room.

3. Giveaway

Our church has a free clothing pantry every Wednesday, so all found clothing and small household items are going on that pile—very satisfying to see the patrons enjoying their “new” items.

Also, most areas have a Goodwill or Salvation Army store that is happy to accept donations and give you a tax receipt.

4. Take Back to the Store.

In the purge, I found unopened purchases from mostly craft stores that went right back for merchandise credit.

5. Recycle

The bins in our alley overflowed from all the recyclables we generated. I also started gathering a box of electronics to deliver to a different community site, and cell phones for another.

Check in your area for where you can recycle all your cast offs. Sometimes there are “recycling fairs” sponsored by local businesses.

6. Friends

Books, photos and even a cassette tape turned up that got passed on to their original owners or those much more interested in the subject.

You might want to ask permission first before the handoff.

7. Sell

Ebay or Facebook Marketplace are great sources to make some cash for your no longer needed items.

Stores for used books or music might also be interested in your former possessions. Don’t count on big sums but it is usually worth the trip.

8. Library

Whatever books I didn’t sell went to the public library donation bins. Magazines also ended up there.

I will try not to buy them back at the next library sale!

9. Garbage

Some items were clearly not valuable for any other use and needed to be pitched.

10. Return to the Storeroom.

Once I eliminated all the clutter in the tiny room, it was a pleasure to organize the items I DID want to keep.

I could actually see my good stuff now as well as the formerly hidden floor.

What area of your home are you ready to tackle?

Letitia (Tish) Suk invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger and author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat, and Rhythms of Renewal. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide and life coach in the Chicago area. Learn more about Letitia here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Annie Spratt at Unsplash.