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Entries in Choices (26)

Thursday
Sep262019

The Security of a Good Father

Debbie W. Wilson teaches women about practical, uplifting faith. In this Relationship with God UPGRADE, Debbie asks us to consider growing a more robust faith by trusting in our Father God.

“I woke up at 4 a.m. questioning a decision I’d made," Debbie says.

I (Dawn) have done that so often, and always wished I had more confident faith concerning my choices!

Debbie continues . . .

I’d told the designer who’d drawn out a closet plan we wanted to work with her. In my sleep I had second thoughts.

“Lord, I’m too tired to figure this out. I don’t know if we made the right decision.” 

With that prayer an Old Testament passage came to mind.

If a young woman makes a vow…and her father hears of the vow or pledge and does not object to it, then all her vows and pledges will stand. But if her father refuses to let her fulfill the vow or pledge on the day he hears of it, then all her vows and pledges will become invalid. …because her father would not let her fulfill them” (Numbers 30:3-5 NLT).

Relief filled me. I didn’t have to figure it out. Like a good father, my Abba would protect me.

“Father, you heard our words. If we jumped too soon, please rescue us. I’m giving this to You.”

I asked the designer to wait while we did more research. She understood. In the end, we chose a different option that saved us money.

Once I let go of bearing the burden of making the perfect decision and trusted my Father to lead me, I enjoyed the adventure.

I know I’m saved “by grace through faith,” but sometimes I forget I’m to live by faith (Romans 1:17). God wants me to include Him in every aspect of life.

Jesus modeled this. He relied completely on His Father (John 14:10). Jesus wants us to walk with Him the same way (John 15:4-5).

Living by faith protects us from regret, pleases God, and satisfies us (Hebrews 11:6John. 15:11).

Our heavenly Father longs to show up in the mundane tasks of life. When we lean on Him in every area, life becomes an awesome journey.

I find robust faith requires a knowledge of the Word and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

1. The Word

The Bible says our minds are either shaped by the world or transformed by the Word. Without renewing our minds, we can’t recognize our Father's good will for our lives.

  • “Don’t become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect” (Romans 12:2 GW).
  • "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV).

2. The Spirit

God sent the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us (John 14:17). 

  • “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT).
  • "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).

Maybe your earthly father is no longer here or wasn't reliable. If you know Jesus, you have a heavenly Father who loves you deeply and covers your back. 

  • “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26 NIV).

What wakes you up in the middle of the night? Are you learning to rest in the security a good father provides?

Debbie W. Wilson helps people live in God’s grace so they can enjoy fruitful and full lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She is a life coach and an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Lorraine Cormier and Pixabay.

Thursday
Sep122019

Upgrade Anxiety to Excitement in 4 Steps

Joanie Shawhan is a "choosing joy" sort of person, despite some tough circumstances she has faced. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she helps us choose a positive, godly attitude over one that can be debilitating.

"My heart raced," Joanie said. "Why was I dreading what should have been a fun celebration?"

Joanie Shawhan has been on one of my (Dawn's) big encouragers in a cancer journey, often challenging me to turn my fearful thoughts into faith, and my anxious thoughts to joy. So I'm excited to read her four steps to "upgrading" anxiety into excitement—and I hope you will be too.

So practical. So real.

Joanie continues . . .

Several months ago, my book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, was released. With a friend’s help, I organized a book launch party in my home. We prayed, planned, and prepared. Every detail had been taken into account.

But when the morning arrived, I felt anxious, devastated, and drained.

What happened?

First, Mother Nature had overstepped her boundaries.

I was sure by the end of April we would’ve accelerated into spring with any significant snowfall relegated to the rear. But I was wrong! Instead, a massive snow band hovered over the highways my guests would be traveling. The swath shifted every few hours with predictions ranging from a dusting to eight inches.

Several out-of-town visitors cancelled. Would my only guests be my faithful helpers? I feared my launch party would flop.

Desperate, I cried out to God.

Suddenly I experienced an aha moment—sometimes anxiety and excitement can produce similar physiological responses!

The same sensations I was experiencing: accelerated heart rate, rapid shallow breaths, trembling, muscle tension, and butterflies in the stomach can be caused by either anxiety or excitement.

But I was so familiar with these sensations that for me they signaled only anxiety. I had never associated these physical manifestations with excitement.

Would I allow anxiety to rob me of the excitement and joy of celebrating my book release?

I realized I needed to CHOOSE EXCITEMENT.

That’s when I felt the Lord whisper, “Rejoice!”

In anticipation of fun events and celebrations, how do we switch our thought tracks from anxiety to excitement?

Here are a few ideas.

1. Ask God to help us recognize the presence of anxiety.

Sometimes we become so familiar with an emotion or emotional response that we fail to recognize the source of that vague sense of unease or apprehension.

We need to identify our feelings and the lies we believe about our situation in order to respond appropriately.                                                                                    

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts (Psalm 139:23 NIV).

2. Discern if the emotional response is appropriate for the situation.

Since anxiety and excitement can produce similar physical cues, we must determine if the situation is a real or imagined threat.

Anxiety can take us on an imaginary train ride of numerous what-ifs that never happen, derailing our strength and joy.

We need to rein in our runaway thoughts.                                                        

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

3. Pray with thanksgiving.

Thanking God changes our focus from our problem to the loving God who cares for us.

I had much to be thankful for. The book I had labored over for years was finally in print. I had prayed and placed the details of my book launch party in the capable hands of God and many friends.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

4. Choose excitement.

I chose to use the emotions I associated with anxiety—my racing heart, quivering stomach, and chest tightness—to fuel excitement instead of anxiety.

This choice immediately changed my perspective.

A new joy and strength surged through my body and emotions. I was excited about my party.                                                                              

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10 NLT)

Rejoicing and choosing excitement over anxiety changed me as well as the atmosphere of my book launch party. Despite the threats of snow, I welcomed a house full of guests. I enjoyed their company, signed books, and gave away fun door prizes.

I felt energized, excited, and joyful.

This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24 NKJV).

How do you upgrade when anxiety attempts to rob your joy?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor, registered nurse and author of In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer. She has been a featured guest on podcasts, radio, and television. You can find her media interviews, blog, speaker topics, and contact information at www.joanieshawhan.com. Her book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, is available at Amazon 

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay.

Tuesday
Sep102019

Seeking Spiritual Discernment Is Brave

Janet Thompson writes solid, biblical books on a number of tough topics—cancer, prodigal children, infertility, mentoring, etc.—and in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she challenges us to look at the topic of discernment, which is more than just knowing what to do.

"Imagine a scenario where you observe a situation and your instinct tells you something isn’t right, but you look around and no one else seems alarmed," Janet said. "Everyone is carrying on as if nothing abnormal is happening.

"Do you intervene or do you walk away?"

Good question! I (Dawn) have often prayed for discernment about a tough situaiton, and then when I got that answer from the Lord, sometimes it was truly hard to follow through. I'm glad Janet is taking the topic of discernment one step further, because sometimes we need courage to obey God's direction!

Janet continues . . .

As women of faith, praying for the spirit of discernment can prove to be a brave and bold request in itself.

When we humbly ask God to reveal His will to us for specific situations, even when others may not see what we perceive, God may ask us to perform courageous acts that could be life-saving or forever life-changing.

We can become the brave spiritual warriors that our world needs so desperately.

We tend to categorize “brave women” as those who go into the mission field or into the military. Police officers, firefighters, first responders. Any woman who goes into a dangerous career, willing to lay down her life for a job, cause or belief is superhero—brave in our eyes.

Or we may only attribute bravery to men.

Typically, we don’t consider that “ordinary” women like you and me display real bravery and courage every single day, often in the routines of life.

We may not realize that a courageous heart makes us “superheroes” to those who know us and especially to God.

How Do We Know When God Wants Us to Bravely Intervene?

James 1:5–6 reminds us:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

1. Pray.

Prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit’s wise direction and guidance gleaned from reading the Bible and prayer.

Spiritual discernment and godly wisdom lets God guide.

2. Be patient.

Discernment takes time and effort to develop as we grow and mature in our faith and develop an ability to sense God’s plan and purpose in a given situation.

3. Obey.

Expectantly ask God for the willingness, strength, and desire to take whatever action our discernment dictates and let God handle the consequences.

Some Christians are more sensitive than others to the still small voice of God; but with patience, studying—not just reading—God’s Word, and a desire to know God’s will, we all have the ability to seek and obtain discernment to be braver than we ever thought possible.

Maybe you’ve sensed the pain behind a word or facial movement or body stance. You know there’s a sadness hidden behind, “No, everything is fine.”

Discernment is seeing what others may not see or say.

It’s more than just a hunch, or burying our hunch in denial, even when faced with observable evidence of a problem. When we discern a situation, we have a choiceignore or ask God what He wants us to do about it.

Sometimes, we can wait to take action, but other times we can’t dodge, deny, or dismiss the signs that our discernment is revealing—we’re the ones who must act immediately.

In Everyday Brave, I tell the biblical story of Huldah, an Old Testament prophetess who King Josiah asked to decipher the meaning of the lost “book of the law” found during restoration of the temple. Huldah felt dismay, but not panic, as she resolutely read the words in “the book.” She knew she must bravely tell the king the dreadful consequences of the Israelites’ sin and rebellion.

God wanted her to proclaim the truth, no matter how distressing, from His written Word.

Fortunately, because of King Josiah’s grief over hearing from Huldah about his people’s unfaithfulness to follow God’s laws and His covenant with them, God gave a reprieve of punishment during Josiah’s reign.

Josiah took advantage of God’s grace to initiate a spiritual revival.

Lives saved, spiritually and physically, all because Huldah bravely resolved to interpret God’s Word truthfully, even though it was painful for all to hear.

In moments that require the spirit of discernment, we need to pray for God’s protection and then respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. If we ignore the Holy Spirit, we may regret it or even feel responsible for a preventable crisis.

It takes great courage to step out in faith on a revealed truth.

If it’s God’s will, He will be there, giving us the help and reassurance we need when it’s difficult or others shy away from getting involved.

When you act on Holy Spirit–inspired discernment, you’re braver than you know.

So what would you do now when facing a situation you know isn’t right? 

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author. She mentors women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness. Janet's latest book, Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faith, releases today, September 10, 2019! Among the 20 books she's authored: Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness; Forsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. She founded Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Sign up for Janet's blog/free newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com.

Graphic adapted, Photo courtesy of Bethany Laird on Unsplash.

Tuesday
Aug202019

I Don't Like Correction, but It's Good for Me

Kathy Collard Miller is a wise woman. She writes much about the heart and how to please the Lord. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she encourages us to see God's correction through a biblical grid.

“If we can see the value of being corrected by God,” Kathy says, “we will be much more receptive to receiving His love through it.”

I (Dawn) have never much liked being corrected. It was a pride thing. But shortly after I became a Christ-follower, I learned about the love motivating my Heavenly Father whenever He corrected me. In a life story, Kathy writes about how the Lord helped her understand His loving correction.

Kathy continues . . .

Years ago, I remember feeling guilty about not giving my toddler daughter enough attention, but I didn’t know how to change.

Then one day the water bottle man dropped off a five-gallon glass bottle for us to use later. As I watched a soap opera on TV, I looked over at my two-year-old daughter who played near the bottle. I thought, “She can’t possibly be strong enough to push over that bottle.”

Then she pushed on it.

Over it went and the bottle shattered, spilling five gallons of water onto the carpet.

For once I didn’t get angry at my toddler. I realized I had the problem, not my toddler, and God was gently correcting me about my lack of attention to my daughter.   

In the future, when I was tempted to watch television at the exclusion of my daughter’s needs, I remembered that glass bottle. I also reminded myself God wasn’t wanting to punish me but teach me how to be the good mom I wanted to be.

The Bible tells us a lot about being corrected. We can learn He intends our good.

1. Receiving correction shows you are smart!

I don’t like to be thought of as stupid. I’ve been bothered by that since childhood mainly because being stupid seemed to get me in trouble. I concluded, “If I’m not seen as stupid, I won’t get in trouble!

Interestingly, Proverbs 12:1 tells us,

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”

I didn’t know that principle when I resisted anger after the water bottle incident. Now I see God was showing me my sinful escape method of soap operas! I was smart to learn to pay more attention to my daughter.

2. God corrects us in many different ways, even painful ones.

God’s correction may not always seem evident, because we can interpret His loving action as harmful.

He can correct us through the words of others, through unwelcome circumstances, or as He gives insights into our past wrong choices. Correction might be involved anytime we stop and evaluate: “Is my response godly and glorifying to God?”

James 1:2-3 tells us,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

We may not like that verse because trials are not fun, but God intends to use something difficult to bring the good results He wants—our holiness for our good.

3. Being corrected is a gift from God offering a sense of love.

Children rarely say, “Thank you, mom, for giving me that correction. I’ll be happier because of it.” But that is exactly what God wants to hear from us.

We may not see it at the time, but God's correction helps us feel loved and valued.

Hebrews 12:5-6 assures us,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

The next time you recognize God’s correction, you can actually tell yourself, “God is loving me!"

4. Correction helps us see when we are at fault.

Every one of us has a tendency to blame someone else for why we were unloving, unkind, unwise and a host of other ungodly reactions.

A miserable person is one who never takes responsibility. She never learns to make better choices resulting in her own joy, peace, patience, and self-control, and the good of others.

Proverbs 19:3 verifies that.

“When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.”

Let’s stop blaming God for our own choices. You will better know how to change and avoid ruin.

Being corrected doesn’t seem positive at the time, but as we change our attitudes about it, we will:

  • gain wisdom,
  • value God’s involvement in our lives,
  • feel more loved, and
  • take responsibility for our actions.

Those choices will result in our good and the good of others.

What lie have you believed about being corrected? What truth would you like to replace it with?

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 50 books, her most recent is Heart Wisdom: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series (Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.). She loves to speak at events and has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. Visit her website.

Graphic of water jug - 20 Canada Drinking water jug - offered at Wayfair.

Thursday
Aug082019

Joy, the Key to Peace

Pam Farrel knows more about joy because she's made it a focused choice in her life. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she encourages us to discover more peace as we pursue biblical joy.

"We live in a world where people are struggling with stress and discouragement," Pam says. "In a recent, Fox News poll, 65% say they are stressed daily and 52% of Americans say they are worried daily."

I (Dawn) see this stress and discouragment all the time. There is little peace in our world. But Pam says joy is the key to peace!

Pam continues . . . 

The good news is, researchers who wrote for Time magazine’s The Science of Happiness say that happiness is made of from 50% DNA, 10%Circumstances, and 40% CHOICES we make.

“We make our choices and our choices make us!” That's a mantra that those in my world have heard my husband, Bill, and I say for several decades.

During one particularly challenging and strenuous circumstance in my life when EVERYTHING seemed to be unraveling, my friends kindly reached out and inquired about my wellbeing.

I didn’t know how to answer them. The answer was too personal, too long and too depressing, so I prayed and asked God, "How do I answer?”

The Holy spirit impressed a question on my heart, “Pam, what kind of person do you want to be?”

Lord I want to be the kind of person that can choose joy no matter what life sends my way. Your Word in Neh. 8:10 says “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and this family needs strength, so I choose You, Jesus, I choose joy!”

From that point on, when people ask, “How are you doing?” my answer has been, “Choosing joy!”       

Yes, our life is the sum of our choices and God’s loving sovereignty.     

In Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, I share a word study where I add the synonyms to help define the key words in this verse with a vital key choice:

The choice to rejoice! 

REJOICE (lean in and delight in God’s grace) at ALL times, I repeat, REJOICE (choose to be glad and joyful because of ALL God gives us!) (Philippians 4:4).

God graciously gives the “how to” rejoice in Phil 4:6-9

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God doesn’t want us to be anxious (worried and loaded down with cares). The solution He provides can be illustrated as a word picture of wrapping a gift into a gift bag:  

Think of your cares and anxieties (your “supplication”) that you desire God to answer, as the gift; wrap them in the tissue paper of prayer, which Strong’s concordance explains is “to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes for His wishes....”

Drop your cares in the gift bag of thanksgiving, gratefully thanking God by faith for what He will deliver as an answer for your eternal good and His Eternal Glory.

As we ask, request and petition God, the confidence comes in believing you are giving this “gift” to the ONLY ONE who has the REAL POWER to answer—The Almighty GOD!   

And as we make this transaction, God gives us a gift back—peace (harmony, tranquility and sense of security) that is beyond comprehension! And that IS a great reason to REJOICE!

TRY THIS EXERCISE to apply this illustration to your life today:

  • Imagine your greatest stress is placed into your right hand, wrap your fingers around this anxiety.
  • Now lift it heavenward; open your fingers and picture presenting it at the foot of the throne of heaven.
  • Leave your care there, but keep your hand open.
  • Now, think of a name of God that would be best to hang your heart on to find hope, joy and peace. If you struggle to pick which trait, choose the name or trait of God that would be opposite of your stress. For example, if you care is your anxiety, trade it for the peace of God.
  • Follow up by looking up verses about God being peace and giving peace.
  • Then string your favorite verses together, put your name in the series and personalize God’s Word to your life.

Remember: Joy is the Key to Peace.

How can you apply this scripture to your life today? "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, relationship expert, and author of 48 books including her newest, Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience. She and her husband, Bill, co-direct Love-Wise ministries.

Graphic of key, courtesy of Pixabay.