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Entries in Christmas Joy (6)

Tuesday
Dec112018

A Christmas Me-Lighting

Kaley Rhea is wise and insightful, a witty millennial who loves to tweak our minds so we think biblically in everyday life. This Christmas UPGRADE will take you back to the "why" of Christmas and tweak your joy!

Kaley says, "You like Christmas lights? I got some straight-up Christmas fireworks here for you."

When I (Dawn) read Kaley's post, I thought, "Yes, the truth is what we need to renew our Christmas joy. Jesus, the Light of the Word, is our great Overcomer!

Kaley continues . . .

First, I want to invite you to take a look at 1 John 3, verses 5 and 8 with me:

“You know that He appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin… Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (ESV)

Now let’s go back to the beginning. Old Testament.

Back to the Genesis garden where the world was perfect, and humanity existed sinlessly and with the mission to get to know God by turning the rest of creation into the kind of beautiful home He’d made for them in Eden.

What did the devil do?

  • He sowed in them doubt that God actually wanted their best.
  • He planted a seed of his own idolatrous ambition to be as powerful as God.
  • And he pointed out that going against God’s command would satisfy a simple, quick-fix desire for something tasty.

Satan built his traps, and through Adam and Eve, the world fell right in.

Poisoned. Sick. Broken.

Fast forward.

Fulfilling an incredible promise, Jesus—Who has always existed, the creative power of mighty God—came as a Son.

And what happened?

  • He obeyed God, trusting His plan even when it led to the cross.
  • He came as a servant, abandoning His place and His rights as God.
  • And He refused every opportunity to take an easier way out or to compromise the Word of God in order to satisfy His flesh.

Jesus did what Adam and Eve could not do.

Jesus did what you and I could not do.

Because of the love He has for us, He took our sin and the punishment we deserve, and He replaced them with a miracle opportunity to become part of His family.

Joint heirs. Adopted by God.

Us. Can you believe it?

Satan had built a labyrinth of sin and disease; he’d manipulated and whispered and painted all his rot to look pretty.

And then Jesus came in like BOOM! He dismantled. Destroyed. Blew up. Everything the devil had built.

Jesus came as the answer to every point humanity had failed, and He came with a love that redeemed. Big enough to light up and echo through the millennia.

You want joy this Christmas? Real, lasting, soul-deep joy?

  • Think about a devastated devil.
  • Think about Jesus—the only One who could solve our sin problem.
  • Think about a future built on His righteousness rather than our lack thereof.

Then, for literal Heaven’s sake, let’s pick up the gardener’s hats Adam and Eve dropped and get with that new commission, fam!

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to light us up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ this day and this season and every moment until we see Him face to face.

When was the last time you thought about Christmas in terms of Jesus overcoming Satan's plans? Take a few minutes now and thank your Heavenly Father for those three reasons to rejoice!

Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind Christy Award finalist novel Turtles in the Road (along with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). Kaley also makes up one third of the writing team for the new, non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of chris-1974 at Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec072017

Christmas Doors — Invitations to Joy

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to think about the doors we might open to others this holiday season.

I love to see all the pretty doors decorated at Christmas. They look so welcoming. They invite us to share together in joy.

So many are lonely, stressed, even in crisis during the holidays. We may feel caught up in our own holiday joy, but we can't ignore others who struggle to smile. Those who have no peace. Those who hurt and need encouragement.

I've thought about some of the doors we might open to those people. Here are five doors that I call "Invitations to Joy."

1. The Door of UNDERSTANDING

We show empathy and understanding when we learn to listen well.

James tells us to "be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak" (1:19, AMP).

Proverbs 1:5 says, "Let the wise listen and add to their learning." When you listen to people, you encourage them to talk, and that is fertile ground for greater understanding.

As leadership coach Becky Harling wrote in her book How to Listen So People Will Talk, "People feel more loved and valued if we are actively and attentively listening to them."

Empathetic listening is a gift not just for the holidays, but for a lifetime of ministry to those the Lord brings into our lives.

2. The Door of COMMUNICATION

The second part of James 1:19 says, "slow to speak." We must be careful what we say, but we do need to speak up.

Good communication skills can be cultivated when our mouths are full of God's wisdom. Our words are to first be acceptable in His sight (Psalm 19:14). We can then wisely pray for others and minister to them with healing conversations.

Our words must be carefully chosen to encourage others. Speak words that will build up and "give grace" (Ephesians 4:29).

Speak words of affirmation and hope, not negative, critical and destructive words. Focus on what is worthy (Philippians 4:8) to share this Christmas!

3. The Door of SERVICE

Just as Jesus came to serve, he calls us to do the same. In Christ, we are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), and that includes serving people.

God notes how we serve and help others (Hebrews 6:10). He praises a servant's heart.

We are to serve with humility in love. We are to use our spiritual gifts, received from the Holy Spirit, to serve others as "faithful stewards of God's grace."

There are so many opportunities to serve during the Christmas season—both in serving individuals and groups.

Serving others "opens a door" to their hearts.

Don't overlook your next-door neighbor's need, a good place to start. You might even be opening a door to sharing the Gospel; but be willing to serve, regardless.

4. The Door of HOSPITALITY

Paul instructs Christ-followers to "share with the Lord's people who are in need" and "practice hospitality".

Hospitality isn't just inviting someone into our homes. It is first a heart attitude, a disposition, of treating others in a warm and generous way.

But it is also a virtue that extends back to Old Testament times. New Testament Christians also depended on hospitality and offered it freely. Jesus and His disciples depended on hopitality as they served in ministry (Matthew 10:9-10).

Hospitality is a kingdom trait. We bring praise to God when we show kindness, especially to the needy and love others selflessly). Hospitality is an important aspect of our walk with God, and not just during the holidays (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).

5. The Door of LIFE

We cannot change a person, but we can speak to them about the door of life—and Jesus said He is that door (John 10:7). He is the only door by which a person can enter and receive eternal life (John 10:9; 3:16). As such, the Good Shepherd is the door to the sheepfold.

The Christmas season is an opportune time to share the Gospel. Be creative in how you share. Think of ways that would speak to specific individuals—that would help them see what God was offering when "baby Jesus" came. 

Jesus was a man on a mission. He came to "seek and to save the lost," and He has commissioned us to share this Good News with others (Matthew 28:19-20).

Think about it.

Every Christmas Door is an invitation to joy.

  • The joy of being heard and understood
  • The joy of being encouraged
  • The joy of finding needs met
  • The joy of being welcomed
  • The joy of receiving life

How can you open doors to people this holiday season?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Neely Wang at Lightstock.

 

Wednesday
Dec072016

Created for Christmas Joy

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson answers the criticism that Christians make too much of Christmas.

Some Christians are almost apologetic about enjoying Christmas, but they shouldn’t be afraid to enjoy this special celebration.

Christians were created for Christmas joy!

Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the festivities, shopping for gifts, and all the activities that layer stresses and smiles into one jumble of emotions.

There’s no question all the holiday hoopla can be fun, but the Christian’s truest joy is found in Christ, not in Christmas. Joy is based on who Jesus is and what He has done.

Still . . .

I love the wonder of Christmas I see reflected in the faces of young children; but the wonder of Christmas is not just for children.

Adults must never forget the wonder and joy that came on Jesus’ birthday. It’s not something we should ever get used to.

Think of the spectacle of that first Christmas that brought such “great joy” (Luke 2:10, 18).

In God’s timing, the Christ-child—the promised and long-awaited Messiah—broke into history.

John said the Word “became flesh” (John 1:14); Luke said our “Savior” and “Lord” was born (Luke 2:11); and Matthew described Jesus as Immanuel, "God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

At Jesus’ birth, the Father remembered us with love and grace. Peter says Jesus came to rescue us and “bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). The joy of Christmas includes a message of reconciliation!

Consider how that miraculous night changed everything. God did not forget His people. God kept His promises.

What a wonder!

In a riches-to-rags story of love and sacrifice, Jesus came to be a servant, and to seek and save the lost” (Matthew 20:28; 1:21; Luke 19:10). Don’t water that down. Don’t get so used to the word “Savior” you forget what it means.

Without a Savior, we would have no reason for hope. We would fear judgment and fear the future.

“Do not be afraid,” the angel told the shepherds, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy….” (Luke 2:10). God knows fear can neutralize joy. And He never created us for fear.

When Jesus was born, God’s people felt deep fears about their future under the tyrant, King Herod. But God’s message to them through the angel was, “Don’t be afraid. Your Savior, your Messiah, has come!”

And the Father's message to us today is STILL:

"Don't be afraid. Let go of all your fears.

Give them to Me. Let Me give you My joy instead ... real joy ... joy in Christ!"

This babe who was born became our dying Savior, and is our risen Lord. God is our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4). In Christ, we can shout with joy, joining in chorus with the heavenly host: “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14).

We were created for this!

We were made—as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says (answer to question #1)—“to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

The wonder of Christmas is a special opportunity to express that joy.

The Word of God can teach us how to glorify and enjoy Him more and better. But so can our Christmas hymns.

“Shepherds, why this Jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be Which inspire your heavenly song?

Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing;

Come adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.”

(“Angels, We Have Heard on High”)

The truth is, our Christmas celebrations are commemorations of joy that lead to adoration and worship.

What can you do during this holiday season to consider the word “Savior” and join the angel chorus for God’s good gift?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Heartsand a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt, Pixabay

Thursday
Dec172015

Christmas Joy—After the Wrapping Paper is Discarded

We sing “Joy to the World” this time of year, but in this Christmas UPGRADE, Kathy Carlton Willis reminds us it’s more than a holiday sentiment.

“You won't find joy gift-wrapped and under the Christmas tree, but it is a gift indeed,” says Kathy.“Without the birth of Christ which we celebrate at Christmas, there would be no authentic joy.”

I (Dawn) can remember Christmases when there was more joy than there were Christmas gifts, so I can see where Kathy is going in calling joy a Christmas gift. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Kathy continues . . .

There might be temporary bursts of happiness at Christmastime, controlled by surrounding circumstances, but there would be no true joy without Christ’s birth.

Joy can only come from the One who guarantees salvation, because with that, there is eternal peace of mind.

When Christ becomes real in our lives, we begin to pick up His mannerisms, and if Christ was anything, He was joyful.

It is one of those character traits I’m most thankful for receiving. The Holy Spirit living in me whispers joy to my heart and my mind when the outside world seems to be yelling negativity to me.

In times of crisis and conflict, joy produces a calm that cannot be explained. It allows a person to be more than just content, but actually excited about living life out loud. Joy gives its recipient an assurance that any unpleasant circumstance is only a temporary inconvenience that can be overcome victoriously.

A Christmas carol we sing says, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” That song speaks truth.

Joy came to the world in the form of the baby Jesus. Anything before that time was just an anticipation of the Christ Child’s appearance.

We who live after His birth get the full picture—the gift of grace and mercy—rather than having to offer our own sin sacrifices like God’s people did in the Old Testament. Christ’s life and death give us the completion of God’s gift to us, His beloved.

How can we not be joyful, when we consider this?

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11 KJV).

You’ll still have joy after the wrapping paper is discarded when you focus on the best gift of all.

Are you overwhelmed with parties, guest lists, gift wrapping, and tinsel this season? Or are you overcome with joy?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker at writer's conferences andwomen's retreats, and as an author - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She has several books releasing over the next three years, includingGrin with Grace with AMG Publishers at the end of this year. She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. 

Thursday
Dec032015

Cultivating Joy in Your Family This Christmas

Becky Harling, a conference and retreat speaker, is the creator of many praise challenges. She just bubbles over with joy! For this Christmas UPGRADE, I asked her to share how we might cultivate joy in our homes during the holidays.

"The angel who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds declared that the birth of Christ was good news of great joy," Becky says, "Yet, so often during the holidays, 'joyful' is not the word someone might use to describe our homes. Tense, hurried, stressed or chaotic might be a better fit.

"Yet, God wants us to experience great joy."

Try as I (Dawn) might, I tend to exhibit all the characteristics of "holiday hurry" disease. I have to be intentional about peace, or my days are robbed of joy. Are you like me? Let's learn wisdom and cultivate some joy!

Becky continues . . .

How do we experience great joy in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season? And, how do we encourage joy in our kids during one of the most demanding and draining times of the year?

In search of the answers to these questions, I did a bit of research on joy.

I discovered that: (1) joy is primarily relational and (2) our brains have a joy center!

I know, right? Isn’t that amazing?

Studies indicate the "joy center exists in the right orbital prefrontal cortex of the brain. It has executive control over the entire emotional system.”

The joy center grows in infancy. Neurologists and psychologists teach us that when infants see delight in the eyes of their parents, the joy center of their brain is strengthened.  In other words, when babies see their parents’ eyes sparkle and light up in response to them, they know they are loved and their joy center develops.

“If the joy center develops correctly, an individual can find the path back to joy, in spite of the most difficult trauma.” * 

Even if your joy center didn’t develop properly in childhood, that part of your brain can be regenerated. Not only can you as a parent develop your child’s joy center, you can strengthen your own joy muscle!

Strengthening your joy muscle begins when you internalize the truth that you are the sparkle in your Heavenly Father’s eye.

Friend, God--your heavenly Father--is madly and categorically in love with you! God's Word teaches that He take great delight in you. He even sings and dances over you. (Zephaniah 3:17) His eyes sparkle and light up when you come to spend time with Him.  

It’s possible that you’ve never felt like anyone was particularly glad to see you. That’s not true of God. You are the sparkle in God’s eye. As you internalize that truth you are more able to pass the sparkle on to your kids, your spouse, your friends and neighbors.

So, how do you go about internalizing that truth and passing it on to your kids--especially during the Holidays? I have a few suggestions.

1. Spend a few moments praising God each day.

As you lift your focus to the sparkle in God's eye, your cares won’t feel nearly as burdensome, and you’ll feel His love more deeply.  

Listen to Christmas music that is focused on praising Jesus Christ. As you listen, remind yourself: God’s eyes sparkle when He gets to spend time with you! He’s glad to be with you. Praise Him that He designed you to experience joy and you have the privilege of passing that on to your child.

2. Smile often. 

Smiling sends the message that you’re happy to see someone. When your kids wake up in the morning or come home from school allow them to see the sparkle in your eye. Communicate that you’re glad to see them and you’re happy to be with them.

3. Sing when you’re stressed.  

When you feel stressed out or tense, start singing or turn on some music. Music often lightens our mood and helps us to enjoy God’s presence. Even if you can’t carry a tune, your efforts will release some of the stress.

4. Speak affirming words.

Let your kids know you’re proud of them and you praise God for them.

It’s easy to criticize when you’re stressed over busy schedules or tight finances; but scolding doesn’t strengthen anyone’s joy center. So, let it go and choose to affirm.

Friend, I think we need more joy in our world, don’t you? The angels acknowledged this when they proclaimed at Jesus' birth, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy" (Luke 2:10).

As you look at the Holiday season with all its demands, why not make it your goal to cultivate joy. Praise God that He is the joy giver and that you are the sparkle in His eye. Seek to strengthen your joy center and your child’s.

Make it your goal to PASS ALONG THE SPARKLE this Christmas, and I think you’re going to find your home a much happier place!

Which of the four “S’s” for cultivating joy can you begin today?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

* Quote from James G. Friesen, E. James Wilder, Anne M. Bierling, Rick Koepcke and Maribeth Poole, Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You (Van Nuys, CA: Shepherd's House, 2000), p. 12

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.