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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (480)

Thursday
Jul042019

Honoring Heroes at Home

Ellie Kay is known as America's Family Financial Expert, but she's also the founder and CEO of Heroes at Home and an alumnus of the Military Family Advisory Network. She is an Air Force spouse, mother of seven—including three in the military—and the author of 15 books. In this July 4th UPGRADE, with a special emphasis on the military, Ellie shares financial tips for the military that are helpful for everyone!

"I looked out at the audience of 1300 young Airmen who had gathered at Sheppard Air Force Base to watch Heroes at Home Financial Education event." Ellie said.

"They were tired, hungry and had been told that: 1) they would skip dinner at the 1800 hour, and 2) they were going to sit in on a mandatory 2-hour financial brief.

"To say they were not a happy audience would be a gross understatement."

I (Dawn) got to know Ellie Kay because of her emphasis on financial freedom, but soon found out her strong passion for the military—which is why I wanted her to write something for July 4th. In this article, she combines two of her passions: financial freedom with helping our military Heroes at Home.

Ellie continues . . .

During our live Twitter contest, they were to tweet the best financial tips from the show and a winner got the prize.

Instead, they tweeted photos of hamburgers, tacos, and fried chicken.

One of our resourceful team members had a conversation with the powers that be and we got the chow halls to stay open past the normal time, so they could eat. When our emcee made the dinner announcement, it got the biggest applause thus far in our show!

But by the time we finished with our high-energy, quickly-paced show, they were smiling, happy and getting into the tips we shared. We are dedicated to helping military families and all Americans, find financial freedom. 

We celebrate Independence Day and the less than 1% of our nation’s population who serve in our military, to protect the rights and freedoms of the other 99% of us. 

But we can all support our military members by saying, “Thank you for your service,” and letting them know we appreciate their work on our behalf.

If you want to go above for those who have gone beyond, then you could also:

  • send care packages during deployments,
  • offer to do free yard work for the family left at home,
  • or give a military family gifts cards for the movies, restaurants or other forms of entertainment.

One more way to thank our military is to help them with financial readiness.

Here are some tips that apply to everyone.  

1. Credit Scores

Military members can lose their security clearance if they get into trouble with credit, so their jobs depend on having a decent credit score and what that represents about their debt.

No matter what your financial picture is, it’s critical for every person to improve their own FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Scores). These scores determine not only the APR you pay on a home or car loan, but they also impact auto insurance premiums, whether you’ll get the promotion or the job (many employers check FICOS), whether you pay a security deposit for utilities, and much more.

You can go to Credit.com  or Experian.com to check your score and they’ll even give you specific ways to improve each area of your credit score.

You can improve your FICO in three easy steps:

  • Pay early. Set up automatic payments online so you will never be late.
  • Pay More. Add $5 to $10 more than the minimum balance that is due; this indicates you are paying down debt.
  • Pay Proportionally. Also known as credit utilization, make sure that you don’t have more than 30% of the available credit charged on any one card at any time. For example, a card with a $5000 limit should never have more than $1500 charged.

2. Cut Existing Costs. 

It only takes 15 minutes to save hundreds of dollars. Once you save money in one area, then use those funds to pay down consumer debt or to build up a savings account.

  • Auto Insurance. Once a year, compare policies by getting a variety of quotes. Take the cheaper price back to your existing provider and tell them you will switch companies unless they can match the price. Be sure to check out quotes from USAA.com since you are military and qualify to be a member.
  • RetailMeNot. Download the RetailMeNot app or bookmark it on your computer. This is a code site that offers 400,000 coupon codes at any given time. Just enter the store’s name and you’ll see all the codes to get the better prices. Use this on entertainment, travel, electronics, or any kind of online shopping or in the mall.
  • CouponMom.com. I was one of the original extreme couponers, and I saved 161k while raising my kids by using coupons. If you go to this site, she’s done all the work for you and will tell you what is on sale in your neighborhood, what codes are available, what coupons are out for the item and which stores double coupon. I calculated that over the course of twenty years, I saved our family over 160K!

3. Free Credit Counseling

With a slow economy comes an influx of those who want to "help" prepare you for the worse by consolidating your debt. However, most “for profit” debt-counseling companies charge a hefty fee for their services, which is usually tacked onto your debt load.

Instead, go to the National Consumer Credit Counseling Service found at www.nfcc.org and use their FREE services.

4. Budget Baby

If you don't have a budget as part of your lifestyle, then yesterday was the day to start.

Set one up with a budgeting app such as mint, Wally or Every Dollar.

The problem for a lot of families is not having a budget, it’s sticking to a budget.

Set up a “budget date” once a month with your spouse to revisit how the plan is working. This kind of regular accountability works as well in finances as it does in Weight Watchers. When you know there will be someone asking you why you bought that purple mohair sweater for $198, you’re less likely to give into the impulse to go off budget.

EVERYONE: During this time of the year, be sure to thank those Heroes at Heroes at Home—and if you know a Vietnam Vet, then say “welcome home” because most of them have never heard those words from a grateful American.

For more information on where Ellie Kay’s Heroes at Home is visiting next, explore their website at HeroesAtHome.org.

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet, and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.

Graphic adapted, Flags of the Military, Wikipedia.

Tuesday
Jul022019

Only One Thing Matters

Grace Fox, a career missionary, knows much about the pressures of ministry, but she has learned to focus on God's purposes for each day. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she encourages us to have a biblical perspective on how we invest our time for greater intimacy with the Lord.

"So many voices and genuine needs clamor for our attention," Grace says. "So much noise fills our physical and mental space. Our busy lives pull us a gazillion different directions but in truth, only one thing really matters."

Grace echoes a truth I (Dawn) struggled with for years. So much to do, so little time. And it didn't help that I was determined to do it all—many times without checking in with the Lord.

Grace continues . . . 

I’m a recovering A-type personality who totally “gets” Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

She thrives on purposeful work especially when it involves those she loves. The day Jesus and His disciples visit, she invests her total self in serving them.

Martha slaves in the kitchen while her sister Mary lounges in the living room. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach and hanging on every word.

This scenario reveals two sisters and two demonstrations of love for Jesus.

He acknowledges both, but commends only one: “There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her” (Luke 10:42).

What’s the all-important “one thing” to which Jesus refers? Time spent in His presence listening to His voice.

I’ve been involved in career ministry for more than 25 years, and I’m still trying to master the one thing. My human bent wants to focus more on the OTHER thing—service.

In the process, I treat Jesus like a second-class citizen:

“Sorry! I’ll meet with You tomorrow, okay? Right now I need to work on my book about intimacy with You. You know all about deadlines, right?”

I suspect I’m not alone in my struggle to keep first things first.

In his book Secrets of the Vine, Bruce Wilkinson admits that, as a spiritual leader, he’d “become an expert at serving God, but somehow remained a novice at being His friend.”

The process happened slowly, unnoticed, as Wilkinson gained more competence in doing ministry.

  • Activity done for Jesus eventually replaced time spent with Jesus.
  • Listening to the voices of those pressuring him to do and be more replaced listening to the voice of the Shepherd.

Wilkinson lost his joy and his passion for Christ.

Change came when the truth dawned on him: “God didn’t want me to do more for Him. He wanted me to be more with Him.”

Spending time building relationship with Jesus—that’s the one thing that truly matters.

The depth of our intimacy with Him determines everything about us, including how we spend time and money, how we treat others, how we respond to disappointment and suffering, and whether or not our lives bear fruit.

So, in the midst of crazy busy lives, how do we give the “one thing” the priority it deserves?

Here are three practical suggestions:

1. Rise Early.

As a mom with three young kids, I realized that enjoying regular quiet time with Jesus meant rising early. Waiting until later guaranteed other tasks would take precedence. So, I asked God to wake me when He wanted to meet with me.

Without using an alarm clock, I woke bright-eyed at 5 o’clock the next morning and every morning afterwards.

A quiet house void of distractions provided the ideal environment to focus on the Word. I anticipated sweet fellowship, and God never let me down.

Perhaps you already have a well-established routine in the Word. If not, ask God to show you when He wants to meet. He’ll answer your prayer, I promise.

2. Pray Continually.

Invite Jesus into every part of your day, beginning the moment you wake—“Good morning, Lord. What wonderful things do You have planned for us today?”

Share joys and disappointments with Him, but invite Him into the mundane too.

I cleaned other people’s houses for several years. Someone asked me, “How can you tolerate doing brain-dead work?”

The question shocked me: I’d never considered my work in such terms. I prayed for my family as I scrubbed, and mundane became an act of worship.

3. Seek Silence.

The busyness and noise clamoring for our attention distract us from intimacy with Christ. Solitude and silence promote it because they free us to focus and listen.

Turn off the phone and ignore your computer for a few minutes each week (each day, if you have that luxury).

Sit in silence before the Lord with no agenda except to hear His voice.

Ask Him to speak to you and expect Him to answer. Journal what He says.

Only one thing really matters. Nothing feeds our soul like intimacy with Jesus.

What’s one action you can take to deepen your friendship with Him beginning today?

Grace Fox is a career missionary, international speaker, and author of nine books. She’s on the writing team for First 5, a daily Bible study app produced by Proverbs 31 Ministries. For more information about Grace, visit her website and blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Marr Creative at Lightstock.

 

Tuesday
Jun252019

How to Find Your Identity and Purpose

Yvonne Ortega has experienced many struggles and tough circumstances, but the Lord has taught her many things through them. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she shares how God helped her find her identity and purpose.

“You have too many Christian friends and family on Facebook. Your posts and website are too preachy," Yvonne said the representative from a speaker’s bureau told her on the phone.

I (Dawn) know how comments like these can be devastating. I once endured a similar disheartening remark from a book agent. But I, like Yvonne, eventually turned that comment into an opportunity to focus on God's perspective.

Yvonne continues . . .

After I heard those words, I faced a challenge to my identity and purpose on earth. I realized I had to choose either what the world considers identity and purpose or what God says my identity and purpose are.

The representative talked about fortune and fame. He wanted me to focus on events that would bring in money and lots of it.

He recommended a new website, new images, and a new identity online.

The catch was that those new things would wipe out my identity as a Christian.

The weekend after that conversation, I knew I had to be true to my divine identity and purpose.

How could I do that?

1. I had to find out who God says I am.

In the Bible He says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).

I prayed and meditated on the phrases.

  • God chose me, not someone else. He selected me or picked me out from the crowd.
  • God made me a royal priesthood. The word, royal, captured my attention. God didn’t make me second-rate or a commoner.
  • By his mercy and grace, He made me holy, separated from sin and reconciled to Him through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
  • All of this, and even more, a special possession. I’m not on my own in a struggle to find out who I am. The Bible tells me I’m God’s special possession.

Nothing in 1 Peter 2:9 indicates that my identity and purpose involve striving for earthly fortune and fame.   

2. I had to find out what God’s purpose is for me.

In Ephesians 2:10, the Bible says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).

Imagine my joy in that truth. I am not just anyone’s handiwork, but God’s. He created me to do good works, not to please people.

And to make that more powerful, God prepared those good works in advance for me to do.

Before my birth, God knew His purpose for my life.

3. I had to remember that the world cannot change God’s plans.

No matter how attractive or alluring people’s plans can be, I cannot change God’s plans.

When I looked at Isaiah 46:10, I read, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (NASB).

God didn’t say He might try to establish his purpose, nor did he say He hoped to accomplish all his good pleasure. God didn’t show any hesitation or doubt.

I may have to wait a long time to understand God’s purpose, but He is always at work, often behind the scenes.

In the New Testament, God confirmed the truth of Isaiah 46:10. Paul tells us, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

The world’s offer of fortune and fame won’t succeed if God has another plan for me.

Years ago, God put a desire in my heart to reach “Gazillions for Jesus in my lifetime” with the message of His comfort, peace, promise and purpose. That desire has not changed.

Four car accidents in seven years, injuries, cancer, and major losses including the unexpected death of my only child seemed to interrupt or delay God’s plans. At the time, I couldn’t understand those circumstances.

As I look back, I see how God used every one of them to carry on His good work in my life. Now I can walk in confidence that God will do whatever it takes to unfold His plan.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for my identity and purpose. Thank you that you are in charge and nothing or no one can thwart your plan for me. You will carry it on to completion. Amen.

What will you do this week to find your identity and purpose?

Yvonne Ortega walks with a small footprint but leaves a giant imprint in people’s lives. This power-packed package is an international award-winning speaker and the author of the Moving from Broken to Beautiful® Series. She celebrates life at the beach, where she walks, builds sand castles, blows bubbles, and dances. Discover more about Yvonne at her website and blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Stux at Pixabay.

 

Thursday
Jun202019

Do You Entertain, or Practice Biblical Hospitality?

Pat Ennis—with her strong background in home economics is an excellent person to write about hospitality. An educator and author, she desires for women to practice the Titus 2 mandate, and in this Hospitality UPGRADE, she hones in on the difference between entertaining and true hospitality.

"Whether enjoying personal devotions, a Bible Study, or a worship service, a variety of mental images may emerge when you are presented with the passages that encourage the practicing of biblical hospitality," Pat says.

"For many the images are based on the glossy photos in women’s magazines—an immaculate home, a gourmet menu, and an exquisite table setting."

I (Dawn) understand what Pat's saying. For years, I thought my house had to be "picture perfect" before I could be hospitable. I'm glad Pat is making a clear distinction here.

Pat continues . . .

While some of these images could be applied to Biblical hospitality, what they actually portray is entertaining. 

When hospitality is described in the scriptures, there is an absence of instructions relating to the home décor, menu or table setting.

Let’s take a journey through scripture as we paint a word portrait of biblical hospitality.

John 14:15 and 21-24 clearly states that the primary evidence that individuals are Christians and that they love their heavenly Father is their choice to obey His commands.

Though we live in a world that promotes “have things your own way,” I learned that to please my heavenly Father I need to respond to all of His instructions with an obedient spiritnot just pick those that appeal to me—and that includes my response to what His Word teaches about hospitality

  • Romans 12:13b says I am to practice hospitality—literally I am to “pursue the love of strangers” (Hebrews 13:2)—not simply offer hospitality to my friends. If I want to demonstrate obedience to my heavenly Father, I will choose to practice hospitality.
  • 1 Peter 4:9 builds on the instruction to practice hospitality and reminds me that my attitude is of utmost importance—I am to practice hospitality without complaining! This verse challenges me to conduct a heart search to discern what my attitude is and whether I am approaching this opportunity to minister with a “hearty attitude” (Colossians 3:23).
  • I am reminded in Hebrews 13:2 that my willingness to extend hospitality may have far-reaching implications. As we study the lives of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18:1-3), Lot (Genesis 19:1-2), Gideon (Judges 6:11-24), and Manoah (Judges 13:6-20), we learn that all entertained strangers who were actually special messengers from God. While my motive should never be to give so that I will receive, Luke 6:38 clearly states that the measuring cup that I use to dispense my gifts and talents will be the same one used to provide my needs. What is the size of your hospitality measuring cup?
  • One of the requirements for church leadership, according to 1 Timothy 3:1-2 and Titus 1:7-8, is a willingness to allow others to observe them in their homes—the arena where their character is most graphically revealed. Are you privileged to be in a leadership position in your church? If so, remember that these verses are requirements, not suggestions!

The attitude of the apostle Paul is one that all women who desire to cultivate a heart of biblical hospitality will want to copy. 

As we study the scriptural passages that challenge us to practice hospitality most of us can reflect on a time when we tried to extended friendship to others and were met with rejection. If you are like me, Satan can use that rejection as a roadblock to prevent me from obeying my heavenly Father on future occasions. 

Paul teaches us that he moved toward his heavenly Father’s will for his life—that of Christlikeness. He refused to dwell on the past or to drink of the cup of self-pity but, rather, kept climbing higher toward his goal of Christlikeness all the days of his life (Philippians 3:13-14).

If we are to cultivate a heart of biblical hospitality we must refuse to rely on past virtuous deeds and achievements or to dwell on sins and failures. As well, we must lay aside past grudges and rejection experiences. 

Instead we will follow Paul’s example and continue the ascent to the top of the “hospitality mountain.”  That ascent begins with developing proper climbing strategies—here are some to get you started:

  • Collect and file simple, inexpensive recipes for desserts and meals.
  • Make a list of people who would be encouraged by your offer of hospitality—purpose to invite your first guests soon!
  • Start simple—spontaneously inviting someone home after Sunday evening church is a great beginning.
  • Pray that our loving heavenly Father will give you joy in demonstrating hospitality to others.
  • Remember that memories require time and energy to create.
  • Purpose to nurture a ♥ for Biblical hospitality that sincerely communicates “come back soon."

Are you willing to take a step of faith and begin your ascent up the “biblical hospitality mountain?”  

Pat Ennis is a Certified Family and Consumer Science (Home Economics) Educator. She is the author of multiple books including Practicing Hospitality, the Joy of Serving Other with Lisa Tatlock (Crossway). Her most recent book is God Is My Strength, 50 Biblical Responses to Issues Facing Women Today (Christian Focus). Visit Pat’s Blog. Pat's life mission is to (1) Love her Lord with ALL of her heart (Matthew 22:37); (2) Walk worthy of her calling (Ephesians 4:1-3); and (3) Train the younger women to fulfill the Titus 2 mandate so that God's Word will not be discredited (Titus 2:3-5).

Image of Welcome mat, Ottomanson Welcome Mat from Home Depot.

Tuesday
Jun182019

3 Suggestions for the Next Time You Feel Lonely

Becky Harling shares transformational messages, encouraging her audience to think biblically—and she does so with both depth and humor. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she offers three things to try if you're feeling lonely.

"What if your loneliness wasn’t something to dread but a vehicle for God to use?" Becky said. "What if instead of running from loneliness or hiding from it, you embraced it and ran to God?"

I (Dawn) seldom feel lonely, but when I have, it was tough. I think Becky's suggestions here are realistic and helpful.

Becky continues . . .

In our lives, we bristle against loneliness. We avoid it at all costs.

Yet many of us are experiencing soul weariness because we run from loneliness.

I remember a few years ago, during a heavy season of travel and ministry, I collapsed on my hotel bed and had a rather bizarre thought: “I’m lonely”.

After thinking about that, I almost giggled out loud reflecting, “How on earth can I feel lonely when I’ve been with people non-stop?” That’s when it hit me!

“I’m lonely for God!”

I had been pushing hard, and I needed time to sink into God’s presence and simply be at home with Him. He is my heart’s true home, and I needed the soul refreshment that comes only from enjoying His presence.

The Psalmists who wrote Psalm 84 understood. They penned,“My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

In our fast-paced, over-caffeinated, non-stop culture, we need refreshment and renewal.

In order for that to happen, we must embrace our loneliness and recognize it as a divine signal inviting us to our heart’s true home—God. There in His presence we can relax, re-group, rest and simply be loved.

All of this may sound ethereal to you.

How do you experience God’s presence when there’s so much pressure from our society to perform and accomplish? It’s not as difficult as you think.

Here are 3 simple suggestions to get you started.

1. Read a Psalm.

The Psalms are a great place to find connection. These poetic masterpieces help you connect with God.

In addition, the authentic words and feelings of the various Psalmists will help you feel connected to their emotions.

As you hear them crying out—

you’ll find yourself whispering, “Me too!”

The Psalms offer empathy to the feelings we experience in our journey with God and help us connect with Him at a deeper level.

2. Recognize the Ache in Your Soul Is Your Call Back to God.

The ache you feel deep in the innermost parts of your soul has been placed there by God Himself. It is a hunger that only He Himself can fill. Nothing else will completely satisfy.

In our culture, we don’t like to feel pain, so we run from pain, hide from pain or numb our pain. The truth is, pain can be a fabulous signal alerting us that something is wrong.

When you feel the pangs of loneliness, rather than turning on Netflix or vegging out in front of an Amazon movie, consider whether you’ve had adequate time soaking in God’s presence.

Set aside some extra time to relax unhurried in His presence. In your time, read a few verses, listen to some worship music, journal your prayers, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you a deeper awareness of God’s presence.

3. Re-connect with Heart Friends.

Not only were our souls created with a hunger for God, they were also created with a thirst for friends.

In Psalm 95, the Psalmist invites others to join him in worship, writing, “Come let us sing for joy to the Lord” (Psalm 95:1).

When my soul is bone weary, I know I need extra time alone in God’s presence; but then I also need my heart-connection friends.

  • With these friends we can have a conversation about what God’s teaching us and how we’ve experienced Him in the mundane of everyday life.
  • We can share prayer requests and encourage each other in the journey.
  • With these heart friends, I experience the presence of God in our fellowship, and I walk away refreshed and uplifted. 

Friend, the next time you feel lonely, read a Psalm out loud, recognize your soul is aching for God, and re-connect with heart friends who understand your spiritual journey.

Don’t run from loneliness or hide from it. Instead, embrace it and then celebrate that loneliness can lead you back to your heart’s true home—God.

Think about the last time you felt lonely. How could these three suggestions have helped you get back on track?

Becky Harling is authentic. Passionate. Funny. She brings a life-transformational message to every audience. Becky has a Biblical Literature degree and is a Certified Speaker, Leadership Coach and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team. She is represented by Outreach Speakers. Her experience as a pastor’s wife, women’s ministry director, breast cancer and childhood sexual abuse survival all bring depth and realism to her message. Becky wrote eight books. Her latest, Who Do You Say that I Am?—an 8-week Bible study/video series—looks at the “I Am” statements of Jesus. Listen Well, Lead Better, written with her husband Steve, releases in February 2020. 

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Engin Akyurt at Pixabay.