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Thursday
Sep142017

Draw Close to Jesus through 'Abiding'

Kathy Collard Miller teaches biblical truth in practical, life-motivating ways. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she shares how she has come to "abide" in Christ in fresh ways.

"In John 15:7, Jesus says: 'Abide in me, and I in you.' What is abiding," Kathy asks, "and how do I abide?"

At first, I (Dawn) thought, "Everybody knows that." But do we? Really? How do we know?

Kathy continues . . .

For more than two years, I’ve been specifically meditating on what abiding is and how it can draw me closer to Jesus.

At times I think of abiding as spiritual antennae sticking out of my heart, acknowledging God is there to do His work.

I’ve found four specific ways I’m living it out.

1. Faithful fixing my eyes on Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2 assures us, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

Jesus is the one who invites us to abide, so we can be confident He wants us to. And whatever He wants for us we can know He’ll provide the means.

We never have to wonder, “Am I supposed to do this?” And the wonderful thing about abiding, is that it’s always appropriate.

It’s a fundamental work that is available for every single minute of our waking day.

2. Steadfast seeking.

Abiding is not a one-time decision, nor something we do and then forget.  

Abiding is seeking God moment by moment, over and over again.

It’s a continuing journey of learning how to abide more and more often.

I never abide every moment, but I don’t have to be afraid God is upset or disappointed.

Philippians 1:6 encourages us saying,

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

The Lord understands every part of Christian growth is a process. Therefore, it’s not an “all or nothing” arrival—that “now I’ll always abide.” No, we learn it more and more.

And we’ll abide more at different times for different reasons. But God is inviting us over and over again to “seek Me again.”

He’s continually taking our spiritual face and gently turning it back to seek Him. It's like a child who won’t look at us; we sometimes take their face gently in our hands and say, “Look at me now.” Their eyes become focused on us and we know they can hear us and more easily understand.

That’s Jesus’ invitation to abide. Seek me again.

3. Accepting ambiguity.

It’s easy to think that if I’m abiding, I’ll know everything, be perfectly guided, and never make a mistake.

No, even as we abide, not everything will be clear.

That doesn’t need to discourage us. Only Jesus did everything right in obedience to His Father. But even then, He had to spend lots of time with His Father.

4. Alert awareness.

Abiding tunes us to the wavelength of the Spirit’s prompting.

Ephesians 6:18 tells us,

“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

Even in the midst of busy daily activities we can abide.

  • Through prayer we turn our attention to Him. “Help me, right now, Lord.”
  • Through memorization of Scripture. “Lord, Philippians 4:13 tells me you strengthen me, and I believe you’ll do that right now.”
  • Through rehearsing God’s faithful loving work in the past. “Father, I remember when you provided what I needed two weeks ago, so I believe you’ll provide now.”
  • Through asking, “God, where are you right now in what’s happening? You promise you are everywhere. Open my spiritual eyes to see you working.”

I suggest wearing a rubber band on your wrist.

Each time you look at it, turn your spiritual antennae to:

Fixing on the Lord, Seeking, Accepting  Ambiguity, and Being Alert.

Your ability to abide will grow.

What can you focus on to abide more?

Kathy Collard Miller’s life is filled with the joy of family, writing, and speaking. She has over 50 books published and has spoken in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries. Her latest book is a women’s Bible study Whispers of My Heart: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series. Visit Kathy's website.

Graphic of rubber band, courtesy of mconnor at Morguefile.

Graphic of heart, courtesty of Krzys16 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Sep122017

10 Steps to 10 Get-It-Done Goals

Retreat guide and life coach Letitia (Tish) Suk loves to help women get a fresh start on their goals. In this Goals and Priorities UPGRADE, she suggests a unique way to move into September with a goal-oriented perspective.

Letitia says, “Ready for the REAL New Year? Create a winning plan for the next 90 Days.”

I (Dawn) have to admit, I thought: REAL New Year? What could she mean? But then I read her unique approach. You don’t have to wait until January!

Letitia continues . . .

Beach towels are stashed, picnic baskets stored away, and flip-flops relegated to the back of the closet. The dramatic page-turn from August to September has occurred and the empty calendar spaces from now until Christmas are rapidly filling up.

Most of us are ready for a fresh start this time of year.

In fact, The JEWISH NEW YEAR comes around every fall and the rest of us would do well to observe a similar time of renewal.

In between stocking up on Halloween Candy and starting on those home-made Christmas gifts, try taking a chunk of time and planning for what could be possible in the next 90 days.

I love the blessing in Psalm 20:4:

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

Without some intentional reflection time, we may never be clear on what the desires of our heart or our plans are.

Ready to make some plans?

Life Coaches like myself and others offer an exercise to shape this process called “10 Goals in 90 Days.”  This plan is always my go-to when a new season comes around, especially in the fall when my energy level seems at its highest.

Before the flurry of fall hits, here are ten practical way to bring some measurable change to your day to day life in the next three months.

10 Goals in 90 Days!

1. Set aside a chunk of time like at least an hour when you won’t be interrupted. Ideally, this is a place away from your home like a coffee shop, a park, or better yet, a personal retreat! Check out my book Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat for some ideas. 

2. Write down all the ideas that come to mind for what you could accomplish in the next 90 days. Once you get going, it is hard to stop.

This is the fun part, just imagining what might be possible.

3. Pick out a few that are easy and might take just a short time.

We all have these—like cleaning out your junk drawer, scheduling that medical appointment you have been putting off, answering five emails you have been ignoring.

The immediate gratification of crossing those off will feel great!

4. Add some one-time items you have been putting off or waiting for fall.

Invite your neighbors over, visit a friend you’ve been missing, take a class or attend a day-long event for training of some sort. Pick apples before they are all on the ground.

5. Tack on a couple more that are do-able but will take longer, even the full 90 days.

Redo your resume, start a short -term Bible study, write the first chapter of your book, get your finances in order.

6. List these 10 (or less) goals and pull out your calendar. Set aside time for each.

7. Make sure they are very specific goals (i.e. S.M.A.R.T.).

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

“Walk More and Eat Less” do not qualify as specific!

8. Decide which form of accountability will be the most effective for you.

If the list stays on your desk pile or in your purse nothing will happen.

9. Enlist a friend, your small group or a Life Coach to check-in with on how you’re doing.  Review your list often.

10. Pray over your list each day and get ready to see progress!

90 days from tomorrow is December 13. By the time you get through the holidays, you will be ready to repeat the process!

How Can You Start Today?

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

Graphic adapted, courtesty of moritz320 at Pixabay.com and free-printable-calendar.com.

Thursday
Sep072017

Upgrade Your 'Roots' for a Harvest of Hope

Pam Farrel is a first-class encourager. I've seen her in action and enjoyed her encouragement myself! In this UPLIFT post, Pam encourages us to consider how we might reap a greater harvest of hope in our lives.

Pam says, "We all want to be blessed by God, right? But, do we desire to place ourselves in line to receive the blessing?"

I (Dawn) know that's true. So often I WANT the blessing, but I'm not intentional about preparing for it!

Pam continues . . .

I have decided I want to be like mint. Yes, that lovely tasting green leafy plant.

Its smell is unique and recognizable. Its taste is smooth, fresh, sweet, tasty and comforting.

Yes, if you love mint, your mouth is already watering with the thought of soothing, fresh mint in your tall glass of ice cold tea on a hot summer’s day; that sweet yumminess of mint chip ice cream at the end of a hard day’s labors, or that romantic kiss that happens right after a minty spray.

Yes, we love the impact and affect mint has. But how does mint get to be, well, mint?

Last spring, after the sale of our home, we went to live on our family’s vineyard. On that property is a beautiful garden. My sister-in-law loves mint, like I do, so she planted some in cement buckets buried in the ground.

But she did not know the power of mint!

That mint broke through those containers, spread throughout the entire garden and when it was beginning to break up the asphalt driveway, she knew we all had to take action! I volunteered to take on the challenge of mint removal.

Wow! I had no idea of the strength and power of the mint!

  • First, I tried to chop at the roots. Nope—iron clad!
  • Then I tried to yank at the roots. Forget that, not even weight-lifter could budge this hard cord mint!
  • Finally, I decided to try to out-smart the mint. I investigated the power of the mint. Here is the secret to its strength—the root system.

That cute little green plant you pick in bunches have roots that sink yards deep into the ground and are interwoven and braided into one another in every direction!  

I began to truly admire the tenacity of mint!

Upgrade Your Roots

Standing in the field of mint, in awe of the deep, intertwined root system holding the fragrant mint secure, my mind jumped to Psalm 1.

See, for the past two years, I have been submerged in the Psalms, writing  Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience.

Psalm 1 begins with that word we all hope for: “Blessed.” We long for the fruit of being blessed; and we desire to be a tree that “yields fruit” and “prospers.”

Verse two reveals the key that unlocks such blessing: “his [her] delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Sometimes the fruit people see in my life and family is like that sweet fragrant scent of mint. People often ask me how I have overcome traumatic family of origin issues or how my husband, Bill, and I have formed a lasting marriage and successfully raised children who love and serve God.

My response is always the same: “The power is in the Word.” It is not me, it is the roots God has grown in my life through HIS power!

As I studied Psalm 1, I pondered what it would mean to be a tree planted by streams of water with leaves that NEVER wither.

Following the research trail, I discovered that the “rivers/streams” mentioned are irrigation canals common in the Middle East. Fruit trees, especially the nutritious and delicious date palms, were planted near these waterways to ensure prosperity.

To grow my roots a little deeper, I continued doing word studies on “tree,” “planted,” “yields fruit,” and “prosper.”

  • I responded to God with prayer and praise.
  • I penned a poem in my own psalmist-like way.
  • I prayerfully savored the fruit of these studies on walks down my tree-lined driveway.
  • I sketched a tree with deep roots.
  • Into my Journaling Bible. In short, I sat in the shade of this Psalm 1 tree and reflected on my life.

Then, in God’s perfect timing, a tree on our property fell. It was not a strong wind or a raging storm that toppled it—no, it was a beetle that can do its damage only in drought conditions.

In California, we’ve been on strict water rationing because of a nearly decade-long drought.

The tree appeared healthy, but because of lack of water, it was dead inside.

It was a vivid reminder of what kind of tree I did NOT want to become! And the “living water” of the Word would be the difference!

So, friend, let’s do make it our goal to grasp that blessed life by growing roots that can stand strong no matter the storms life may send.

Or BE MINT, with roots interwoven with others who are also deeply rooted in the Word. Your deep roots will produce a sweet and fragrant life!

Turn on the soaker hose, pull out the sprinklers, and get out your watering can by reading, memorizing, worshipping, meditating on, and creatively responding to the verses God is placing along your path.

Daily study will deepen the roots of your life and help you find and hang on to hope.

And as for that field of mint on our family farm? We decided to let it stay since it is so deeply rooted there so I am thinking of writing a cookbook on 1001 Recipes for the Mighty Mint!

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, Discovering Hope In the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience. (Co-authored with Bible teacher  Jean E Jones and artist, Karla Dornacher ) For more Bible study tips and tools to help your roots grow down deep in the Word and your hope to grow sky high, see www.DiscoveringHopeinthePsalms.com

Psalm 1 Graphic adapted, artwork courtesy of artist, Karla Dornacher; Mint photo from Pam Farrel.

Tuesday
Sep052017

Upgrade Your Fall by Falling into Him

Engaging and wise, Morgan Farr writes about biblical womanhood, homemaking and Christian living. She wants women to fall in love with the Lord. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she helps us deal with things that feel out of our control.

“The season of fall is a beautiful thing,” Morgan says. “The falling feeling of failure isn’t.”

Oh, I (Dawn) know that feeling. It's like spiraling down a deep hole and wondering if I'll ever get to the surface again!

Morgan continues . . .

If you’ve been in the grocery stores recently you might have noticed that celebrating fall is in full swing.  Although the first day of fall isn’t until September 22, if you are anything like me you have probably already started decorating for the what is arguably the best season all year round. 

I recently moved from North Carolina where the spectacle of the changing seasons were just breathtaking.

There is something majestic about watching the sun break through the morning mist and sprinkle the multicolored leaves with golden light. When the show starts, I watch the leaves fall to the ground and I admire the patterns, colors, and shapes.

My boys are even picking up on the tradition, bringing me leaves with interesting marks or of notable size.  

Most people associate fall with gratitude, family, and just general warm feelings, and I think that is fabulous. Fall is definitely the time when I can see God everywhere I look. When the maroon, orange, and brown decorations come out I want to remember that the original idea behind these hues came from God. His conglomerate of rust tones and golden yellows are just a glimpse of His incredible power and provision.

As a military wife, I can tell you that I cling to the idea of God’s authority in all things.

Oftentimes this life comes with things beyond my control, things that make me feel like one of the leaves falling uncontrolled from the sky.  

This year I am going to fight against that falling feeling by remembering three things: 

1. I need a Christ-centered community to help with the falling feeling! 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says,

“Two people are better than one because together they have a good reward for their hard work. If one falls, the other can help his friend get up. But how tragic it is for the one who is all alone when he falls.There is no one to help him get up. Again, if two people lie down together, they can keep warm, but how can one person keep warm? Though one person may be overpowered by another, two people can resist one opponent. A triple-braided rope is not easily broken.”

We need to be in regular and constant community with fellow believers in order to help one another when that falling feeling comes around.

I am not talking about going to a brick and mortar ”church” building. I mean that we need an Ekklesia—a gathering of true believers dedicated to growing in Christ Jesus.

We need a community that will call one another out in our sins, pray for us in our tribulations, and encourage us in our daily walk.  

2. God is there when I feel that falling feeling!

“I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:13-14).

God knows when things are hard.

He understands the frustration of my two year old’s tantrums and the exhaustion of my one year old that won't sleep through the night. He knows when I feel like I am falling, failing, and need His help.

All I have to do is lean into Him. He will give me strength to endure the current trials and to stand firm before them.

3. God will pick me up when I do fall!

Psalm 145:14 says, “The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.”

Sometimes I will fall, that is the reality of living in a sinful and broken world. However, that isn’t the end.

Failure is not the end of the story.

Each year the trees shed the old leaves to make way for the new ones. God knows the load I carry, the burden that I am under. When I stumble, Christ can make something wonderful out of every fall. I only have to allow Him to do so.

The fall season is my favorite time of year because it helps me to remember to focus on the important things.

It's true. Oftentimes this life comes with things beyond our control. Fight against that "falling" feeling.

What can you do this year to help you remember God is there during your falling feelings? How can you help those around you when they feel like they are falling?

Morgan Farr is an Army wife currently stationed in San Diego, California. with her wonderful husband Brian and their two sons. Morgan is a homemaker who dedicates her free time to ministering to other military wives through Bible studies, food, and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood at The Forgiven Former Feminist and you can find her fitness training and nutrition programs at Farr Functional Fitness.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Graham-H, Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug312017

The In-law Connection: It's Your Move

Deb DeArmond helps people improve their interactions at work and at home. She specializes in family dynamics, and in this Relationship UPGRADE, she focuses on the "in-law connection."

“I’ve known outlaw in-laws who prey on one another," Deb says. "It shouldn't be so.”

Outlaw in-laws? Oh, my. I (Dawn) have seen that far too often, and even in the church! I always admired the relationship between Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Rutha good example of in-law connection. Deb has some wise counsel for us if that connection isn't strong.

Deb continues . . .

  • When my three sons were little, I knew there’d never be a woman good enough for them.
  • When they hit their teens, I feared I'd never find a woman to take them off my hands.

I need not have worried.

They brought three wonderful young women into the family, and I am thrilled. All love Jesus and each is dedicated to my son and their family.

God was clear:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife” (Genesis 2:24a NKJV).

A redhead, a brunette, and a blonde—as diverse in personality as in hair color.

Not only are the girls distinct in their personalities, mine is the fourth in the mix. And I’m glad to report we love one another deeply, and we’re grateful God brought us together.

Friends often ask, “You’re not just friendly, you’re family. How’d you do that?”

The answer’s simple: patience, perseverance, and a desire to please Jesus on the journey.

I had to learn how to develop my relationship with each of these gals as individuals. Because what worked with DIL (Daughter-in-Law) #1 would not necessarily work with #2 and #3. 

Sarah entered our lives as Jordan’s “friend” at 13 years old; they married at 19.

Heather was 16 when Cameron introduced her to us; they married four years later.

With both of these beauties, I had time on my side, and we developed our relationships as they grew up. I witnessed their transformation from girls to women.

Bryce and Penny had a short courtship: four months. At 28, she was grown up when I met her, so this was very different.

Penny’s a runner, an avid reader, and a gifted writer. I knew nothing about marathons or writing when we met. She’s not shy, but she’s a bit introverted.

I wanted to connect, but I wasn’t sure how.

I know women who feel disconnected from their daughters-in-law.

“It’s not bad, but it’s not good. Truthfully, it’s not anything,” said one woman. “There’s no bad blood, but there’s no connection. It’s like she forgets my son has a mother, until we’re together, and then it’s awkward.”

Another friend shared her experience,

“My son married a woman with three sisters and all are close to their mother. At holidays, they all chat together, finishing one another’s sentences, and I’m excluded. I’m sitting right there, but it’s like I’m invisible. It’s devastating.” 

I hoped Penny and I might be close. I loved her from the start. So, I asked God to help me develop our relationship.

Here’s what worked for me that might work for you, too!

1. Ask about Her Interests.

Ask her what she enjoys about running or homeschooling. People love to share their passions. It was Penny’s love of writing that prompted me to get serious about mine. It’s now something we share.

2. Invite Her Opinion.

Instead of planning the holidays yourself, invite her to help. She has an opinion, so ask her to share it. You might discover how creative she is, and sharing the responsibility takes pressure off you.

Some of the best conversations with my DILs are in the kitchen as we cooked together. The shared activity makes the chatter more comfortable. 

3. Tell Her What You Value About Her.

  • Is she a great mom? Tell her, specifically, why you think she’s a rock star.
  • Good cook? Compliment her meals, and ask for recipes!
  • Successful professional? Ask about her work and let her know you admire her accomplishments.

If it’s uncomfortable face to face, drop her a note, or brag on her (in front of her) to other family members.

4. Pray for Her

It’s impossible to pray genuinely for God’s favor and direction in her life, while constantly criticizing her.

Pray, genuinely, and see how your love for her (and your attitude) changes.

If your MIL (Mother-in-law) is the standoffish one, you could use the same tactics on her.

So, it’s your move. Why not start today?

Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. Her book on in-law relationships, is entitled Related by Chance, Family by Choice! Deb’s books help readers create the life God meant marriage and family to be. Read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb DeArmond.

Graphic adapted - Blog owner seeking source to credit.