People

20170603_135737Frankly I just love people. I am a people-person to the core.  I love to be around people, they energize me. Yes, I know that makes it glaringly obvious to everyone reading this that I am, at my core, an extrovert.

Without people I would die. Literally. Everyone needs people, we need interaction with other humans because that is the way we created. We were created to crave relationship with others. That is what draws us to continue the human race and to continue to seek hard after Jesus.

Ultimately our searching for fulfilling relationship is found only in Him, but the relationships He gives us along the way are breathtakingly beautiful to me. The precious souls He has purposely put in my path are some of my greatest treasures.

I’ve noticed a recent change in some relationships that I’m not altogether happy about. Since I’ve changed prayer tactics and reclaiming ground lost to the enemy of my soul in the name and power of Jesus.  I’m declaring my family and my friends are off limits to the enemy.  We are not for sale, we have been bought with the blood of Jesus and we are His.

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Jesus opened my eyes to see that since I’ve been praying this way certain friendships have struggled. There have been conflicts within relationships. But also some friends have experienced some very strange things, things that can only be attributed to the enemy.  While I’ve escaped somewhat unscathed.

Don’t misunderstand, what hurts my friends hurts me. No one is a fan of conflict and I am not exception. I’m used to conflict and so I don’t run from it, I’m not prone to squash my feelings to avoid conflict. Unfortunately my flesh tends to speak first and then think, which as, you know, causes conflicts and pain.

The enemy of my soul knows the great value I have in those I love. He knows this and he exploits this. He knows that he can get to me by getting to my friends. And he will use anything at his disposal, even if it is my own words and fleshly reaction. He will take a friend’s words to me (or my words to them) twist them into something they were not meant to be, then whisper them to me as if they were truth.

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He uses this to drive a wedge between my friends and I, because if he can get us to think the other one is the enemy, we will fight and devour each other.

Which is crazy because then we are doing his job! All he does is twist a few words, offer an alternate meaning and we’re killing each other. Stupid!

Ephesian 6:12 says we don’t battle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of wickedness.

John 10:10 says the thief comes ONLY to steal, kill, and destroy.

But the thief has gotten us believing flesh and blood is the enemy we’re battling and so we destroy each other.

I think I’d like to get off that crazy train and go to battle against my true enemy.  But not alone. That is one battle we can’t do alone and we have no business attempting it on our own. Our enemy will eat us for lunch!

We do it by surrendering our will to the Father, the One who already won the war. The One who died to set us free from the power of the enemy. The One who says in Him we are more than conquerors. The One who says “Stand firm and see the deliverance of the Lord.”

I know I can be rash and have a huge propensity to be impulsive, and chances are you can be the same way too.  What if we decided to take our immediate, rash responses straight to Jesus, seek His face with the matter, ask for Truth to be spoken to our hearts before we just respond?

What if we did?

We would stop doing the enemy’s job. We would stop battling each other and join forces to battle the unseen enemy in the name and power of Jesus.  Instead of battling each other we would do battle FOR each other on our knees.

So let’s hit our knees and pray, first of all, confessing our sins of pride and unbelief, then begin praying for the one we’ve tried to annihilate with our words and actions. Then let’s seek to build up each other, spurring one another on in our faith.

We are so much stronger together than we could ever hope to be alone. We were made to be in real relationships with real people, to be mutually built up, not destroyed.

 

 

 

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One Proposal… Guest Author!

unnamed (3)One Proposal for An Improved Marriage

by Lori Lipsky

 

For the first time in our marriage, we decided to read a book at the same time so we could discuss it together. Credit for the idea goes to my husband, but I was excited about the plan and in total agreement with our book choice.

My husband had once asked a well-read acquaintance we both respect to recommend several books that had been most influential in his life. One of the authors this man mentioned was Dostoevsky. We decided to choose Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I’m a bit ashamed to admit what happened next.

I could make excuses, but the quick truth is my husband read the book right away and then patiently waited for years for me to complete it. I started in several times but got bogged down in the early pages by the long Russian names. Prior to this I had read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and some Chekhov stories so I’m not sure why I struggled. I guess I allowed myself to be distracted by life and by other books, and I put off the Dostoevsky. As I look back, I regret not making The Brothers Karamazov more of a priority. I eventually purchased an audio copy of the book and completed the novel.

After I finished listening to the book, we shared our impressions with one another. Remarkably, my husband remembered details of the book quite well. Since then, we’ve read or listened to dozens of books and discussed them. We have different tastes, but our interests intersect with authors like David McCullough, Louise Penny, and David Baldacci. When it’s time to order another Audible book, we’ll sometimes collaborate to choose a selection we agree on so we can both listen on our own, but then have the book in our shared reading history.

Our book talk is informal and brief, but it’s a treat to talk books with my husband. We’ve found discussing books often sparks interesting conversation. Good books teach me more about who I am, but each new book we share helps me learn more about my spouse, too. We’re learning together as a couple. We discuss dreams and ideas. Books get us talking, and in marriage, communication is a good thing.

About the Author:

Lori Lipsky is a writer and teacher. Her poetry and short fiction pieces have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines. She lives in Waunakee, Wisconsin with her husband, where she teaches piano at a private music school. You can find her at lorilipsky.com and on Twitter @LoriSLipsky

 

 

 

 

Cancer–A Word that strikes Terror. Guest Author

unnamed (2)Cancer: A Word that Strikes Terror

by Joanie Shawhan

Are there certain words that trigger pressure in your chest or tightness in your throat?

For me, that word is cancer.

 

I am an ovarian cancer survivor.

My Story

During the summer of 2006, Every time I had another bout of nausea, I brushed thoughts of ovarian cancer from my mind. Surely these spells were too infrequent to be cancer.

But in September, I rolled over in bed and felt a grapefruit-size mass in my abdomen. I closed my eyes and dismissed the whispers of ovarian cancer.

Several weeks later, I almost shot off the table when my physical therapist palpated my spine to isolate the location of my back pain. It’s not in my back, it’s jabbing through my abdomen!

My gynecologist suspected a uterine fibroid and ordered an ultrasound. Even in the dark room, I saw the ultrasound tech lock her eyes on mine. Something is seriously wrong.

Gripping the ultrasound report in her hand, my doctor said, “You have ovarian cancer, the size of a cantaloupe.” She rattled off all that needed done—scheduling tests and surgery. I barely heard her words. Was she talking to me?

 When I walked into the hospital on surgery day, I exchanged my scrubs and nurse shoes for tieback gowns and skid-free slipper socks. The surgeon removed a volleyball-size tumor—ovarian cancer.

Today, I am cancer-free. During my treatment, I lost myself to ovarian cancer, but in losing myself, I found a new purpose and calling. Today I have an encouragement ministry to women undergoing chemotherapy. I advocate for and educate women and healthcare professionals regarding ovarian cancer. I write articles so that other women won’t put off getting checked out if they have any signs or symptoms, like I did.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of all female cancers. The symptoms women experience prior to diagnosis may be vague or similar to other diseases. This causes some doctors to rule out other causes before they discover ovarian cancer, which is why it is often not diagnosed until later stages.

 

 

Contact your doctor if the following symptoms of ovarian cancer persist:

 

·         Gastrointestinal symptoms:

Bloating, indigestion, nausea, feeling full or loss of appetite

·         Pelvic or low back pressure or pain

·         Urinating more frequently

·         Changes in bowel patterns

·         Tired or low energy

 

Ovarian cancer used to be called the silent killer, but survival rates are high if discovered in the early stages. Learn from my story. Will you listen for the whispers of ovarian cancer?

About the Author:

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. Her publishing credits include Coping with Cancer magazine and God Still Meets Needs. She speaks to medical practitioners in the Survivors Teaching Students program. Check out her blog at http://www.joanieshawhan.com.

Strongholds

strongholdStrongholds can be a good thing. They can be a place of refuge for our weary bodies. Strongholds were places of protection in ancient times. They were fortified with necessities and protected those inside from attack. They were a good thing.

We still have strongholds today. They dot the European countryside and if you’re fortunate you can visit them, or at least watch tours of them on Netflix.  Great stone buildings designed to protect their inhabitants against attacks from the enemy without.

But what about when they didn’t work? What if the enemy was inside? Where was the protection then?

The simple answer is there wasn’t any.

We still have strongholds today. We all have places, habits, people we run to when we feel we’re being attacked. Some of us run and hide either literally or figuratively.  Life puts the squeeze on us and we run shopping. Or we hide in a phone call to a friend. Or skip out through sleeping, alcohol, drugs, a good book etc.

If we can’t run, we’ll fight back. Or maybe for some fighting back is our stronghold. “You hurt me, yeah well, hang on, buddy because I’m gonna get you right back. Only I’m going to make sure you’re really dead this time.”

“Apparently I killed you too quickly the last time.A mistake I don’t intend to duplicate” type of thinking. (Bonus points if you know where that quote came from.)

We also forge strongholds by our thoughts and feelings. These are lies we believe, either consciously or unconsciously. We believe they are true and so we act on them as if they were true.

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For example, if one believes they have no value, or are to blame for everything they will act as if this were really true. When they act this way, guess what? The world learns to treat them as if everything was their fault and that they have no value. Which reinforces the stronghold belief. While also causing incredible pain to their heart.

If one believes they are not wanted, they will either make sure they are not wanted or work to make sure everyone wants them. It’s only when the stronghold of “I’m not wanted” is released through Jesus power that we really see how wanted we really are.

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Strongholds color our perception of everything. It’s like wearing dark, broken glasses. Everything, even those good things, is seen as dark and broken.  We can’t see truth because we don’t truly see.

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When we ask Jesus to break the stronghold, invite Him to the pain of it, ask Him to speak His truth to the core of the painful hold it has on us, He replaces our dark, broken glasses with clear ones and we can plainly see that what we perceived as bad was really not.

We can see the lie for what it was because we can see the Truth for what it IS. We can now more easily see the truth and separate from it the lie.

The lie always seems at first to be more powerful and true than the truth. But when we pray and choose to believe the power in the truth we see that it is more powerful and is wielded by the One who used that power to raise Jesus from the dead.

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And that is some pretty awesome power!

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses [Strongholds]. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience whenever your obedience is complete.”
2 Corinthians 10: 3-6 (nasb)

What are you trusting in? Is your trust in the power of your stronghold or in the power of your God to demolish your false strongholds? Those strongholds you’ve erected over time to protect yourself from outside invaders not realizing the enemy was inside the stronghold with you feeding you lies. Lies you chose, and still choose, to believe.

“Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle;
My Lovingkindness and my Fortress,

my Stronghold and my Deliverer;
My Shield and He in whom I take refuge;…”
Psalm 144:1-2 (nasb)

“The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”
Psalm 34:7-8 (nasb)

Stuck Sweet In the Middle–Guest Author

Another guest author post!!

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Stuck in the Sweet in the Middle

by Robin Steinweg

 

Do you ever feel you’re in that awkward, in-between stage? I sure do!

 

I recently spent years stuck in a crushing middle. Round and round I turned from the growing needs of aging parents to those of growing sons to those of work. I’d carve hours from sleepless nights to write, compose, or read. More often to pray. My husband accepted leftovers with grace and gratitude. Not just food, but time and energy. He was stuck in his own middle, caring for his dad and doing more for my parents than can be recorded.

 

Now our parents are gone. I’m living in the middle of grief, rediscovering who I am if no longer a caregiver. Looking to experience—and to pass on—the rich life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). Know what? God shows me things I can do so He can help me move forward. I’m not stuck here. I get to be here, where it can be sweet in the middle!

 

If you’re in the midst of circumstances or even past them, it’s never too late to rediscover who you are. Try some of the following:

 

  • Develop friendships with people who will build you up.
  • Find ways to build others up.
  • Journal what you’re going through as a way to release feelings.
  • Photo journal or doodle journal.
  • Admit if you need help.
  • Get more color in your surroundings/clothing.
  • List your blessings.
  • Express more gratitude.
  • Find ways to expand or share your hobbies.
  • Join a book club.
  • Volunteer to help others.
  • If you have grieving to do, do it whole-heartedly. But don’t stay there.
  • Live fully. Enjoy what God gives you to enjoy.
  • Dream again. Don’t hold back—dream big. What does God have for you next?

 

These ideas have helped. Yes, I still pick up the phone to call my mom or find jigsaw puzzles for my dad. I still if wonder I could have, should have done more for them. Guilt and remorse creep in.

 

But I realize that’s the voice of our enemy, the accuser. So I intentionally turn to words of life in God’s Word. I leave my broken heart at Jesus’ feet. I embrace the blessings He sends my way.

I affirm this truth: It is Sweet in the Middle!

 

About the Author:

Robin Steinweg says life is like a sandwich-cookie. Whatever circumstances close in on us, it can be Sweet in the Middle. Her writings can be found in Today’s Christian Woman, Upper Room, Secret Place and The Christian Pulse. She also writes monthly for Music Teachers Helper blog.

Where does that Grin come from? By Kathy Carlton Willis

I received an email from my friend Kathy a few weeks ago. Kathy is an author and was interested in providing some blog posts for me. Today is her first submission! Hope you enjoy it.

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I’m often asked, “How can you keep grinning despite the challenges in your life? It has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the God in whom I put my trust. Knowing “He’s got this” helps me carry on (in hope) rather than to carry on (complain)!

Grinning instead of grimacing comes from the discipline of thinking on glorious victorious thoughts outside the current stinky situation.

 

First I get my imaginary lariat out and wrangle those negative thoughts that attempt to defeat me.

 

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

 

Once I evict those destructive thoughts, I fill the void with healthful and helpful thoughts. Thoughts that line up with the mind of Christ.

 

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. …Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8b-9 NLT)

 

If I practice this passage in Philippians, it might look something like this. I’m going to fix my thoughts on what is:

 

  • True: I remember the extreme way God answered my prayer to provide for our family.
  • Honorable: I’m blown away by the way that writer stays humble when others try to put her on a pedestal.
  • Right: I respect the decision this politician made to choose an unpopular but godly path.
  • Pure: How precious the gift of life is when I see photos of the much prayed for Lyla.
  • Lovely: How beautiful are the wildflowers dressing up that field.
  • Admirable: I see integrity in the choice Russ made to not malign a wrongdoer.
  • Excellent: I respect how she endures through her weight-training routine.
  • Worthy of praise: God’s faithfulness is something I can count on.

 

Are you having a hard time grinning this week? What will your fix list look like?

 

About the Author:

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a popular speaker and writer’s coach. Read her book, Grin with Grace, or find more information at: http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com/.

 

How To Clean Your Gutters

A friend of mine recently fell off a ladder while cleaning out his storm gutters. Or that was the story originally told, but what really happened was his ladder sunk into the soft earth and fell away beneath him, which left him hanging from the gutter on his house.

Not a good situation as the gutter was not designed to hold a man for very long. Needless to say he took a quick drop with a rather sudden stop when the gutter unceremoniously dumped him off.

I have taken it upon myself to show everyone the only proper way to clean your roof gutters without using a ladder.  Ladders = Bad.

First it is imperative that you use your own personal prayer bench to climb on to the lean-to roof of your garage. If you don’t have a personal prayer bench, borrow your neighbors.

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It is also very important that you wear the same clothes you wore to church that morning. Two very important things.

Then realize you are too short to just hop on to the garage roof, so you must now climb back down using the bench as a ladder of sorts.

Next, go around to the front yard and pull your SUV most of the way into the garage. I failed to mention, you will need to make sure your garage door is fully open before pulling you SUV most of the way into the garage. But you probably figured that out already.

Use the front bumper to climb onto the hood of your SUV, then shimmy up the windshield just like you did when you were 10, and stand on the roof of the SUV. Now it’s just one easy hop to the roof of the garage.

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Survey the gutter. And set to work.

When this gutter is clean, move to the roof of the house and begin at a corner. Any corner will do but it really should be the southeastern most corner.

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Begin surveying and then get to work.

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When the gutters have been sufficiently cleaned, you will merely reverse the getting up process to get down from the roof. But to recap, you will now go from the house roof to the garage roof, hop onto the roof of your SUV, shimmy down the windshield, then it’s a quick hop to the ground from the hood.

But once you’re down you will realize that you really should have trimmed your tree while you were up there. So you will grab your tree trimming shears and again use the bumper of you SUV to climb onto the hood, shimmy up the windshield, stand on the roof and it’s a quick hop to the garage roof.

Now trim away while praise music blares in your ear drums.

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Take a selfie of yourself on the roof so everyone can see your cool Harley necklaces.

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20170820_151421Yes, my hair really is naturally that red. No, I haven’t dyed it.

Then hop, shimmy, and hop to the ground again and go inside where you will take sunglasses selfies with your offspring.

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And that, my dear friends, is how you clean out your gutters.