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Thursday
Aug182016

5 Tips for Defusing Doubt

Debbie W. Wilson is no relation, but she's a sister in Christ with a similar heart. Debbie loves to help women discover the love of God and authentic faith, and counsels them to seek God's Word and ways. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she deals with the subtle intent of doubt.

“Is doubt an annoying uncertainty or a diabolical scheme?” Debbie asks.

For years as a young Christian I (Dawn) was plagued by doubts about whether God could use me. My doubts grew out of lies I allowed myself to believe, rather than confronting those lies with truth. I truly appreciate what Debbie has to say here.

Debbie continues . . .

Decision time had arrived. I wanted to say, “no,” but doubts accused me of wimping out. If you had faith you’d say yes to this opportunity.

I’ve learned that what feels like paralyzing indecision may be Satan’s attempt to derail me from God’s plan.

Jesus called the devil a liar (John 8:44) and the thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). The Bible also says he’s a slanderer and accuser (Revelation 12:10).

And did you know this fiend can plant thoughts in our minds?

Scripture says he gave King David the idea to take a census of Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1-3). He told Ananias and Sapphira to lie about a gift they’d given to the church (Acts 5:3-5). He still sows thoughts in our minds today.

How do we protect ourselves from being taken in by his lies? The same way you identify your friend’s messages from someone you don’t know. Let me illustrate.

An email from a friend asked me to send her cash because she’d lost her passport. Even though the email came from my friend’s account, the message didn’t sound like her. I spotted the hoax because I knew my friend.

The better we know someone the less likely we are to be hoodwinked by an impersonation.

The better we know Jesus, the quicker we’re able to identify Satan’s scams.

Jesus said His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.

Below is an acronym to help you distinguish between the devil’s DARTS and your Shepherd’s leading. Learn to recognize the message or intent buried in your doubts.

DARTS are:

1. DESTRUCTIVE: sent to rob and destroy.

Their purpose is to draw us away from God’s good and satisfying will. They push us toward something we feel uneasy about by causing us to doubt the validity of our reservations. Or they pull us away from something good. You’ll feel out of place in a Bible study group.

In contrast, Jesus’ words bring life and peace.

2. ACCUSING: condemning, criticizing, and blaming.

DARTS tell us how selfish and rebellious we are to want something or how cowardly we are not to do something.

The devil misused Scripture when he tempted Jesus.

If a verse oppresses you, the enemy is twisting it. If you weren’t so selfish, cowardly, or unforgiving, you’d….

Jesus never uses guilt, shame or bullying to motivate us.

3. RULE-ORIENTED: relying on standards for righteousness instead of Jesus’ imputed righteousness.

These thoughts badger us to ignore our reservations. They tell us we are bad people for not doing what they demand.

For example: Good Christians sacrifice. If you don’t help him, how will he ever know Christ’s love?

Jesus reminds us that our righteousness is found in Christ, not in our performance. “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17), not by guilt and fear.

4. TEMPTING: offering ways to meet our needs apart from God.

People will respect you if

or Hurry, you’ll miss out!

Jesus infuses us with courage to stand alone, to wait, to be still and know.

5. SLANDEROUS: maligning the character of God, others, or ourselves.

God doesn’t care about you.

Or, Your spouse doesn’t love you.

Jesus reminds us that He is with us, for us, interceding and guiding. His Spirit bears witness with ours that we belong to Him.

When God showed me the nature of my doubts, I was able to confidently say “no” without guilt.

I wasn’t being a wimp or selfish. I was following my Shepherd.

The next time you’re faced with confusion, uncover the intent of your doubts. Then follow your Shepherd with confidence.

Ask yourself, “Is this legitimate doubt or a diabolical DART? Would my Shepherd talk to me like this?”

Debbie W. Wilson, drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, speaks and writes to help people discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Graphic, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
Aug162016

Peggy Leslie's Legacy

My friend Peggy Leslie went home to heaven a few days ago. Since then, I've thought a lot about her legacy.

Yes, there were all the women who sat under her solid Bible teaching, and those who read her co-authored* mystery novels, and those who were blessed by her ministry in the church library. Her ministry in these and other places of service was sincere and deep, practical and always honoring Christ.

But Peggy's greatest legacy is in her children and grandchildren - those she and her beloved husband Gene (married 52 years) loved and taught so well. Most of all, I remember how Peggy loved to pray for every member in her family: her five grown children, the married children's spouses, and all her precious grandchildren. 

She told me once how she prayed for each child on a separate day. I remember being so convicted that I did not pray nearly enough for those I loved ... and that all changed for me because of Peggy's influence.

I am sharing this adapted version of a post she wrote for UPGRADE in April of 2015. (It's short and simple - but don't mistake how wise her words were!) I chose to run her words again to remind her family and friends what an extraordinary woman of God she was (and is).

As if they'll ever need reminding.

I love you, Peggy. I'm thankful for eternity.

I wonder if there will be "sweet tea" in heaven?

Dawn

“'Opposites' are supposed to be two different things. Right? So, how did I get five opposites in my five children?”

Our first three children were born in less than three years. Even before the first reached kindergarten, I observed that from the beginning each one, though in many ways like the others, was different from his or her siblings.

Karen, our firstborn, had a beautiful Sunshine Girl smile and could be very entertaining. Yet overall she was somewhat reserved, definitely not a chatterer.

Chuck, on the other hand, was one of those outgoing children who never met a stranger. We said he was “born talking.”

Scott was the observant one and the one most likely to share deep feelings. One day little Scottie came to me and said, “Mommy, I feel sad.” None of the others ever did that voluntarily.  

The differences continued as Kate (the sweet little “ham” and born teacher) and April (the sensitive musician) came along.

In the beginning I knew nothing about studies on temperaments, A-B-C-D “types,” or birth-order. But as I observed—and dealt with—each child’s idiosyncrasies, I concluded that to a point, each of my children was “born that way.” 

God had designed each one with a unique, inborn make-up that Gene and I needed to recognize.  

Here are a few things I learned along the way—some of which I wish I’d figured out sooner!

1. Pray, pray, PRAY to know how to “Train up your child in the way he should go . . . " (Proverbs 22:6)—which will usually be quite different from his siblings!

Gene and I have always prayed for our children, but for a long time in a kind of haphazard way, and usually individually. Many years ago, we came up with a plan.

We call it SPD—Special Prayer Day.

With seven in the family, each gets his or her own SPD. On that day, I usually contact that one by phone call, text or email and ask:

“Do you have any SPRs [Special Prayer Requests] today?”

I cannot count the number of blessings and answers and special moments that has brought to our family.  

Come up with you own plan. Just be sure to pray!

2. Observe each child so you’ll recognize differences and know the way that one should go.

3. Celebrate each one’s uniqueness.

Don’t try to force one into an area he’s not good at (sports, music, drama, etc.).

Don't expect, or try to make, one child like another one.

4. Encourage talents or skills God put there by providing ways to enhance them (sports sign-ups, music lessons, etc.).

5. Discipline when a child uses those talents and skills in inappropriate ways.

To me, those last two hints envelope the meaning of Ephesians 6:4b: ...bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

6. Pray. It bears repeating!

"Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her" (Provrbs 31:28).

* NOTE: Peggy Leslie and Donna Jeremiah co-authored and published two Christian mystery novels: Storm over Coronado and Intrigue in Coronado.

Tuesday
Aug092016

God Harvests Fruit From Mentoring Seeds

With wise words and sweet songs, Dr. Gail Bones invites women to a place of change in Christ and the cross. In this unique UPLIFT/Mentoring UPGRADE, she shares a personal note from someone changed by her ministry.

A decade ago, God allowed me to mentor a younger woman in ministry," Gail says. "Years later, she wrote to thank me for equipping her to invest in the next generation."

We don't often get an opportunity to see how God uses our ministry. I (Dawn) am so glad Gail received this tremendous blessing. It encouraged me to think how God might be using us in ways we don't yet understand.

Gail has truly been a Titus 2 woman, equipping and encouraging younger women.

Gail continues . . .

I’m grateful that the seeds I’ve planted in her life continue to produce a rich harvest.

Her words can serve as an encouragement to all who hear the call to mentor but may feel uncertain as to how to go about it.

You’ll see it took no special talent or herculean effort. We just planned to spend regular time together walking and talking. 

Be inspired by some of her cherished words to me about our mentoring relationship:

Thank you for loving me so well. You cared about the things I cared about. You let me lead out in conversation about things that were on my heart and mind without making me feel silly or juvenile for giving my attention to things that, looking back, seem so shallow.

You affirmed and pointed out my strengths. You let me plan a party for my young adult group at your house and afterwards said, "You are really good at putting on events and bringing people together.” You gave me the confidence to continue to have people over often, even now. 

You told me I had the gift of exhortation and, because of your affirmation, I ask God to use my voice in that way as I minister to the people He entrusts to my care.

One of my deepest cares was whether I’d ever get married. You always told me I was beautiful inside and out, and helped me to believe that God did in fact have someone very special for me who would see me that way too.

You shared your life with me, and were vulnerable, letting me into the good, the bad and the ugly of your life. My admiration for you grew deeper as my understanding of the Lord and his grace through your story changed me. This became part of the spiritual foundation I stand on today, and the hope I cling to in times where I feel like I’ve lost my way. Through your story, I learned that God is gracious, and not only is He gracious, He is good. When we search for him we find he is loving, compassionate, and forgiving.

You were also honest about marriage and family, finances and your self-doubt. That honesty prepared me for my own marriage and life as an “adult.” You gave me the confidence to take life head-on and to not be so afraid.

When I cried, you cried, and you taught me that emotions were okay. Watching you cry made me feel like women can be strong and they can be emotional; the two can co-exist.

You inspired me to read, something that I still love to do today. This has opened my world to new information and wisdom that I use every day in ministry.

Thank you Gail, I love you! 

What impact could you have in the life of another as a mentor if you’d be willing to trust God’s Holy Spirit to guide you? Who is he placing in your path?

Ask the Lord to show you who He has in mind for you to mentor and be mentored by.

Dr. Gail Bones is a speaker, retreat leader, songwriter/worship leader, former professor of education and the founder of CrossWise Living, an intergenerational ministry devoted to helping people navigate change. She and her husband Jeff have two married children. From the east coast but now living in San Diego, Gail says “happiness” means always having one or more of the following in her hands: a dog leash, a sailboat rudder, bicycle handlebars, a kayak paddle, an acoustic guitar, a big fat book or a hazelnut coffee. Be blessed by her Bible studies or her newest CD, "Still," and read more about Gail at her website/blog.

NOTE: The full story of how God brought us together and began my cross-generational ministry can be found in Living CrossWise: Hope and Help for Navigating Transition.

Graphic of strawberries adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.

Thursday
Aug042016

When Faith's Song Goes Silent

When I think of Cynthia Ruchti, I think of hope and wisdom. It's the hallmark of her life and ministry. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she calls us to value the unique song of silence.

“What happens," Cynthia says, "when faith’s song goes silent? Or is missing key notes? Or grates on our nerves because it feels out of tune?”

Oh, how well I (Dawn) remember a whole long year when faith's song felt out of tune. I was miserable and depressed. And I know what Cynthia says is true.

Cynthia continues . . .

Many of us express our faith in song:

  • He’s a Good, Good Father
  • I’m Standing on the Promises of God
  • He’s All I Need
  • How Great Is Our God
  • This Is Amazing Grace
  • Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

But the heart doesn’t always feel like singing, at least not an upbeat, confident, triumphant song.

Life’s circumstances can threaten to turn our “praise songs that work great for cardio exercises” into a dirge, a lament, or a barely-hanging-on-how-miserable-can-this-get? blues tune.

Every time we open to the book of Psalms in the Bible, we’re reminded it’s not a twenty-first century problem. Listen to the way the psalmist David intertwined the wrestlings of his faith with the truths that held him in their grip:

“Get me out of this net that’s been set for me because you are my protective fortress(Psalm 31:4 CEB).

“I rejoice and celebrate in your faithful love because you saw my suffering—you were intimately acquainted with my deep distress” (Psalm 31:7 CEB).

“Have mercy on me, Lord, because I am depressed. My vision fails because of my grief, As do my spirit and my body ...

"Strength fails me ...

"I’m a joke to all my enemies ... I scare my friends, And whoever sees me in the street Runs away ...

"I am forgotten, like I’m dead, Completely out of my mind ...

"But me? I trust you, Lord! I affirm, ‘You are my God.’ My future is in your hands(Psalm 31:9-15 CEB).

No matter how long the lament, how soul-rattling its lyrics, how far distanced from hope its tune, the song turns from minor key to major when the Truth gets its solo.

When faith’s song seems to have gone silent, for whatever logical or unexplainable reason, we have options:

  • Listen to the fear-inducing noise our rusty, creaking soul makes in the hollow, silent spaces.
  • Listen to the unbelieving or skeptical world that claims silence is a sign of God’s absence, despite reassurances to the contrary in God’s never-silent, never-will-I-leave-you-or-forsake-you Word.
  • Realize that silence is its own song.

My music educator father often said, “Play the rests with as much intensity and focus as you do the notes on the page. Rests are not moments of nothingness. Play the rests.”

When only twenty-two, the hymn writer Robert Robinson penned these faith-gone-silent words in 1757. How true they ring today.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

Listen for the significant, pregnant-with-promise moment of silence after that familiar confession in this modern version (video) at the 5:15 mark. It will steal your breath, and steel your resolve to keep listening in the silence.

Do you value the silence or fear it? And if your answer is fear, reflect on the “and”the moment of resting and regrouping—in Psalm 46:10.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Unlike many other verses in the Bible, these eight words appear without alteration in translation after translation. These words.

Stillness—or silence—was prescribed by God as a prelude, or an accompaniment, to knowing He is God, and finding our rest and courage in that truth. Is it in part because a whisper sounds loud in the silence?

So I’ll ask again, and prepare myself to answer the questions honestly too.

     Do you value silence?

          Have you heard its song?

               What did it teach you?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope. She’s the award-winning author of more than eighteen books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin. Connect with her at cynthiaruchti.com or hemmedinhope; or check out her recent releaseSong of Silence.

Graphic of bench, courtesty of Morguefile.

Tuesday
Aug022016

Keep Your Marriage Full When Your Nest Is Empty

Elaine Miller encourages married women to consider the things they can do to improve their relationship with their spouse. This is especially important when the nest is empty, as we see in this Marriage UPGRADE.

"Marriage seems to take a backseat during the child-rearing years," Elaine says.

I (Dawn) know this is true, even when we were cautioned in the early years of marriage to keep our spouse priority number one after our relationship with the Lord. Sometimes, we don't wake up until after the children have left home.

Elaine continues . . .

I remember taking my oldest to college. Sobbing, in the fetal position, I was sure our sweet sunshine had left our home forever.  

Our 12-year-old, trying to soothe his distraught mother, announced, "That's it! I'm never going to college! I will live with you forever!"

Well, he did go to college, and this time I wept in the bathtub wondering where the time had gone.

Never did I wonder how my husband felt watching his wife's world fall apart, because now all I had was him.

With the arrival of the empty nest—it's time to upgrade your marriage. 

No doubt the empty nest is a time of transition in marriage. Here are some tips (and some winks from God) to help you transition well.

1. Rejoice!

Honeymoon! The day your littlest walks out the door, grab your honey's hand and you walk out too. Don't stay home and grieve.

Go away with your spouse and celebrate your new life as a twosome. Pick a romantic spot. Perhaps revisit your honeymoon destination. Or choose a place on your bucket list. Just go away and enjoy each other and your new life together.  

It won't be long before your empty-nest heartache is healed and you are thinking Well, this isn't so bad, after all!

"Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages" (Song of Songs 7:11).

2. Recreate!

Find a common activity to enjoy with your spouse.

My Dan was over-the-top thrilled with his 50th birthday present to me. "Wait until you see it! Oh, you'll be so excited!" He couldn't miss my not-so-thrilled surprise when I opened the huge wrapped package and found, not diamonds, not a cruise, but golf clubs.

Dan loved to golf and wished to share this activity with me. Oh, the hours of fun we've enjoyed together in the quietness and beauty of the golf course.

"May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Proverbs 5:18).

3. Romance!

Reconnect as a couple again. Plan romantic dinners. Laugh! Make love!

"Kiss me and kiss me again..." (Song of Songs 1:2).

4. Redecorate!

Prepare your bedroom as your love sanctuary. The children are gone. The house belongs to you. Wow! You can even leave the door open.

Turn the music up! Go wild with candles! Decorate your bed with Christmas lights! Use your imagination and redecorate your bedroom.

Forget the bedroom! You have the whole house to yourself!

Enjoy your newfound freedom for uninterrupted intimacy.

". . . may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love" (Proverbs 5:19).

My prayer as a wife has always been:

"...Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment" (Song of Solomon 8:10 NIV).

Ha! Well, with the nest empty, we have time to actually make that happen.

What steps can you take to keep your marriage full when your nest is empty?

Elaine W. Miller is an international author and speaker known for sharing biblical insights with warmth, enthusiasm, and humor. She is the author of three books including her latest We All Married Idiots: Three Things You Will Never Change About Your Marriage and Ten Things You Can (available in English, Spanish, and Bosnian). Residing in upstate  New York with her husband of 45 years, she enjoys having three married children and 11 grandchildren close by. Check out Elaine's website and blog.