3/31/10

Kwitcherbellyakin

A few days after the world watched the horrors following the earthquake in Haiti, I walked through my house with new eyes.

• I wasn’t searching for a bowl of rice. I had food in my refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, and a separate pantry.
• I didn’t have to boil water to remove germs. I had fresh water in my sinks, refrigerator door, and bottles in the garage.
• I didn’t have to huddle under a tarp to avoid the scorching sun. I have a strong roof.
• I wasn’t struggling to stay alive, and if my body started feeling even a bit queasy, medicines and doctors would be available.

I looked into closets and cabinets at all the abundance in my home—and my eyes filled with tears of gratitude.

We have so much in America. The explosion of storage units in the United States points to this abundance and our greed. Yes, we have our homeless, the poor living in Appalachia, and others just getting by with little money to buy food after paying basic bills, but compared to much of the world, we are tremendously blessed; and we need to think seriously and sacrificially about what we can share with others in need.

When I worked full-time for a Christian newspaper, the publisher's office was in his home. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a wooden, carved sign posted above the kitchen doorway. It said, Kwitcherbellyakin. I imagined that my boss and his wife pointed to that sign many times as they taught their children lessons on contentment. Perhaps they saw it when they were tempted to complain. It spoke to me several times while I worked there.

Gratitude and contentment are choices (1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 6:6). If you are reading this, you probably have a computer and at least a few other nice things. We have no real reason to complain, do we? Philippians 2:14a says, "Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God]" (Amplified Bible). When we grumble, we are really grumbling against the Lord (Exodus 16:7-8).

Our security and provision come from Him; but everything can be taken from us in an instant. We've come to rely on a full pantry, our daily bread. But that's not even secure. [If you doubt that, read "Wheat fungus: Will It Steal Your 'Daily Bread'?"] As believers we must remember the true Source of all we have, and offer God thanks every day. Been complaining lately? Friend, kwitcherbellyakin!

3/24/10

The Will of the People

Much has been made of the “will of the people” as being crushed under the recent passage of Health Care legislation. In human terms, I am afraid for our country. As Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) said, “In a democracy, you can only defy the will of the people for so long and get away with it.” Though I’m not normally a doomsday prophetess, I keep wondering exactly how the axe will fall.

Yet I am certain God is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe (1 Chron. 29:11-13; Ps. 47:7-8; 115:3; Is. 46:9-11; Rev. 19:6). Those who follow Jesus must not trust in technology (Psalm 20:7) or in politicians (Psalm 146:3) who can fail us – boy, do they ever! Instead, we must trust in God.

We are “in the world, but not of it” (John 17:11-16); we were made for Kingdom living. But God expects us to be good stewards, and part of that modern-day stewardship, I believe, is wisdom in earth’s political affairs. Our politics has gone awry, but we’re also sinking in economic debt and smothered by cultural filth. All these ills are symptoms of a deeper disease. We Americans, so keen on independence, think we can live in independence from God (2 Cor. 3:5).

I added my voice this week to those who cried out, “Listen to the will of the people!” But the will of the people is still subjective; the will of the people can be wrong; and, too often, the will of the people ignores the will of God. The principles and truths of God’s Word are objective and authoritative—His Word never fails.

As I considered the fallout from the Health Care votes, I received a newsletter from Byron Paulus, Executive Director of Life Action Revival Ministries. He quoted from D.L. Moody’s final call to his church to seek revival. In a letter written June 1, 1899, Moody wrote, “The enemy has come in like a flood—it is time for those who believe in a supernatural religion to look to God to lift up a standard against him.” Byron added, “This plea from D.L. Moody is not just for them ... then. It is for every church and every ministry today....”

Many are deeply upset about the political travesty we observed in our halls of Congress, and rightly so; but the lack of revival in our churches should be our most urgent concern. As go our churches, so goes our nation. And revival begins in individual hearts before it consumes our churches.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we read, “If my people ...,” and prescribes the remedy for a nation gone downhill. Though addressed to Israel, its truths are valid today for all Christ-followers. God could not have made our choices for revival clearer: we must humble ourselves and repent ... pray ... seek God’s face ... and, in the light of His holiness, turn from our wicked ways.

Oh, that “the will of the people” ... God’s people ... might be aligned with His will, and that we might hunger for His Word and ways and rejoice in Him (Ps. 85:6).


Do you allow God to rule your life? How do you know?

For more insight, read my article, "Tethering" at the True Woman blog; or read this article about God's will: "A New Spin on 'Whatever!."

3/17/10

Judy Scharfenberg: Life-Affirming Choices

Friends bond for many reasons. I bonded with Judy Scharfenberg because I sensed she was an authentic woman of God; but what drew me to her was her quick wit. Judy enjoys life. When I asked her, “What adventurous ‘no fear’ choice would you like to make in the days ahead?” she answered, “I would go sky diving with my grown grandsons.”

Judy’s choices haven’t always been easy, but trusting the Lord has given her a powerful perspective.

Dawn: Judy, what led to your choice to trust in Christ as your Savior?
Judy: There was a time in my life when I should have been the happiest woman in the world. I had a wonderful husband, happy and healthy children, and a lovely home. We owned a business that promised prosperity; and I was a real people-pleaser. I would give of my time and energy because it made me feel good. I didn’t realize it was only temporary. It didn’t take away the emptiness, fear, or despair that occupied my heart.

Dawn: What was causing all those emotions?
Judy: I had brought a lot of problems to this marriage and they consumed me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was falling apart and didn’t know how to change. So I began to drink, just like my parents had—a little here, a little there until it became routine.

Dawn: So, what changed you?
Judy: An old friend came back into my life and invited me to church. I heard the truth about God, heaven, and real love. I learned the truth about Jesus, and I prayed and asked Him to forgive me and come into my life. As I studied the Bible, God changed me. I began to talk and act differently; I nurtured my children, and began to love my husband the way God spells it out in the Bible. It’s been 37 years, but each day I learn something new and praise Him for coming into my life. I hate to think of what would be had I not made that choice so many years ago.

Dawn: What was the most difficult spiritual choice you made after becoming a believer?
Judy: Coming from a very dysfunctional, alcoholic, and abusive family—my father was the perpetrator—I didn’t have much respect for men. I often talked down to my husband and found it difficult to treat him with honor. Sometimes, to my shame, I was like that to him in front of others. An older woman in our church recognized this and had the courage to tell me the truth. Now I live by Proverbs 12:4: “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones.” I choose to treat my husband like a king.

Dawn: What has been your most rewarding choice in life so far?
Judy: There was a time in my life when my health was an issue. It seemed serious; even the doctor was concerned. At the same time, I learned that I was pregnant. We hadn’t planned this. It was suggested that I have an abortion; but there was no question in our minds. My answer was an emphatic “NO!” Thirty years later, the health issue no longer exists and my beautiful daughter is a joy to my heart. Her name is Amy Joy.

Dawn: What has been the hardest decision you’ve made in your marriage?
Judy: To accept my husband’s disabling stroke as God’s will for my life—to choose to be happy and content as his caregiver for these past twelve years.
Dawn: I can imagine that it’s often tough, though your heart is right.
Judy: I could choose to be melancholy sometimes. All of us have circumstances that could suck the joy right out of our lives. Life as a caregiver is not always easy. Add to that trying to stay close with my six children and thirteen grandchildren, do a little speaking, mentoring, discipling, more writing, keep the house in good order, etc. You know how it goes. Barbara Bush has been quoted often, but the quote I like best is this: “You have two choices in life. You can either like it, or not. I chose to like it.”

Dawn: What led you to write your book, Secure Families in a Shaky World?
Judy: Writing a book is hard work. I never wanted to do it. Secure Families in a Shaky World is a message I’ve been giving at women’s events for the past two or three years. Once I began to receive the response from my audiences, it changed my thinking. Women were leaving these events with a plan, and I knew it was going to enhance their lives. Writing the book just fell into place.

Dawn: Judy, thank you so much for sharing your heart today. Life isn’t easy, but you’ve got a powerful perspective.
Judy: I choose to like my life. Walking with Jesus makes it easy.

For more information about Judy’s ministry, visit www.judyscharfenberg.com or visit her blog, Encouraging Others.

3/10/10

Pet Rocks and 'Felt Needs'

When Gary Dahl launched the Pet Rock craze in 1975, I wisely resisted the marketing ploys, even when I saw the cute “Pet Training Manual” that told me I could house train my pet rock and teach it various commands. All good fun, but I figured Dahl didn’t actually need my $3.95. He did just fine without me, earning more than 15 million dollars in only six months!

As a writer, I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing. Most authors today know they need a marketable product and a platform for marketing sales. Marketing isn’t so much about the product itself as what a product can do for a person—the perceived felt need. Sometimes advertisers will create false needs in order to push a product. Dahl tried to convince people that they needed pet rocks as companions, and that having one would bring them great pleasure.

Writers and speakers may want to focus on felt needs—basically the same today as throughout all of history: love, acceptance, a sense of worth, hope, purpose—but we must be careful not to ignore deeper heart concerns. The Bible speaks to real, sometimes desperate heart needs. It deals with sin, the need for forgiveness, our relationship with God, etc.

I think of Jesus with the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-23. He said he wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, and in his superficial understanding, he was willing to offer his good works. His “felt need” was to be Jesus’ disciple. But Jesus went deeper to the wealthy man’s heart—exposing his idolatry and the deeper need to surrender all.

Sometimes an emphasis on “felt needs” can distract us when we need to understand what’s really going on beneath the surface, beyond the superficial. I find this when I speak or write about choices. Some people are intimidated by choices; they just want stories. They want to laugh and cry—and there’s nothing wrong with that, because the path of felt needs can lead us to the discovery of real needs. Somewhere along the line, though, people need to examine their hearts, discover their deeper issues, believe the truth about God’s answers for those concerns, and make choices that change their lives. The wonderful thing is: God often meets our perceived felt needs when we allow Him to deal with root problems.

I want to offer people more than Pet Rocks. I want to lead them to the Rock, Jesus. He is still the way, truth, and life (John 14:6)—the answer to the questions in our hearts.

3/3/10

High Heels, and Sneakers,and Flats ... Oh My!

You can never have too many friends. I also think you can never have too many books—but then, I’m a writer. But what about shoes?

I won’t even tell you how many shoeboxes are stacked in my closet. I’ve tried weeding through them, but each one serves a purpose. It’s almost like I’ve given each pair of shoes a personality… each one is like an old friend. And like I said: you can never have too many friends.

I just finished speaking at an all-day women’s event in Ft. Myers, Florida. The theme was “Choices of the Heart,” and my keynote message was “The Power of Your Choices.” The ladies (who were some of the friendliest women I've ever met) used shoes as a decorating theme, and I thought, How appropriate! We ladies often have a tough time choosing the right shoes for the events in our lives. Have you ever worn classy high heels to a meeting, and wished all day that you’d worn the cute flats instead? Ugh.

Simple choices may not be life-and-death issues, but they do affect us. Sometimes they affect how we can serve others … how people perceive us … whether we can move forward in confidence … or what our next choice might be. My Facebook friend, Joan Webb, speaks of being intentional in her Facebook Group, The Intentional Woman. Like Joan, it’s my experience that we become intentional women by making intentional, proactive choices … once choice at a time.

Joshua told the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15, ESV). He meant, of course, that that day was a day to make a life-changing, purposeful decision to follow and serve the one true God; but I take that thought one step further. We choose, every day, whom we will serve.

Our daily choices can solidify or bolster our original decisions. If I decide to lose weight in order to be healthy, it’s my daily food and exercise choices that will accomplish that original choice. If I purpose to be more intimate with God, it’s my choice of daily time in the Word and prayer that will fulfill that desire. We can’t escape the power of our individual choices in building a framework for progress and success.

Simply put, we choose, and our choices design our lives.

What seemingly small daily choice has changed the direction of your life? I'd love to hear from you.

For more help with choices, read: "Seven 'Cs' for Making Wise Choices," "Reasons, Not Excuses," or "Not Choosing Blindly."