Sunday, July 24, 2016

Jennifer Dukes Lee - Guest Post & Giveaway!!


Hi Friends,

It is my pleasure to welcome my friend and writer, Jennifer Dukes Lee, to guest post on my blog this week.  Jennifer is launching her new book, "The Happiness Dare".  I am pleased to help my friend, who is the real deal, and who writes with depth and honesty, to get the word out about her wonderful new book. Will you join me in welcoming her to this place...


How Your Thought Life Influences Your Happiness

It was one very pain-filled night. I was standing in the dimly lit sanctuary of my country church. I had come there to pray with a few friends due to an overwhelming set of circumstances in my life. Suddenly, I felt such a deep panic that I thought I couldn’t breathe.

It was an anxiety attack. I’d never had one before, but I knew what was happening when it hit me. I was nearly knocked off my feet by this sense of panic, even in the solitude of God’s house.

I gripped the pew in front of me while my heart raced and my throat closed around itself. I felt despair and a complete loss of control. I couldn’t find the words to pray, but years of thoughts and meditation on God’s Word let me know for sure that God was there.

Looking back, this was a moment when I learned an important truth about how God’s Word – hidden in our hearts -- serves us well in hard times. It was a moment when I realized the power of a person’s thought life.

My thinking was saving me, even in the middle of a panic attack. My mind had stored up its own happiness—from God’s truth—kind of like the way a person keeps a savings account to fall back on in hard times. When I couldn’t breathe, I remembered who God said I was and I remembered who God said he was.

Bible verses formed a line of defense in my mind, pushing back enemy forces. My mind recalled God’s promises. I remembered a happiness that I once held, and I knew for sure that joy was recoverable based upon the evidence of God’s Word. Verses came to  mind, flip-book style.

Don’t be afraid.

Lo, I am with you always.

My peace I give you.

In that panicky moment, I found some peace. I was unable to fully grab hold of happiness, for happiness felt slippery right then. But I felt a peace coming on. And based on the trustworthiness of my Father, I could believe that I would find my happiness again.

This is why: Because happiness is more than a feeling. Often, it’s a choice.


Some days happiness is a feeling.  Some days happiness is a choice...

For months after that anxiety attack, I prayed through tears for my circumstances to change. Two years have passed now, and the circumstances are almost identical. God didn’t answer my prayer to change my circumstances, but he is doing something else: He is changing me.

There are days I wish I could go back to “how things were.” There are days I still pray that God will work a miracle and change the circumstances that led to that first anxiety attack.

But even when he doesn’t answer my prayer the way I want him to, so be it. He is always good and he is always working. And he is my happiness.

My racing, anxious mind is calmed when I rest inside the arms of Christ. My unhappiness is eased when I ask God to give me the mind of Christ. The great rescue of a great Savior
brings happiness to my heart that is unsurpassed by anything I can imagine.

The best thinking we will ever do is when we think on the things of Jesus. When we, on Sunday mornings, stand before the wooden cross nailed to the wall and behold the place where Jesus had thoughts too—thoughts of you and me.

Even from the cross, Jesus taught us by example how to set our thoughts on heaven, when all around us the world may waver and buckle.

YOUR TURN:

The quality of our thought life is a tremendous indicator of the quality of our happiness.

The Bible says that God can transform you into a new person “by changing the way you
think” (Romans 12:2, NLT). That’s why studying God’s Word is imperative for all five Happiness Styles—Doers, Relaters, Experiencers, Givers, and Thinkers.

Take the Happiness Style Assessment by clicking here. In just five minutes, the quiz will help you discover what makes you truly happy.


Excerpt taken from The Happiness Dare copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Bio:

Jennifer Dukes Lee is an award-winning former news journalist, an (in)courage writer and a blogger at http://www.JenniferDukesLee.com. Jennifer once took a dare to find out whether happiness matters to God and, if so, how to pursue it in a way that pleases Him. Out of that quest, was born: The Happiness Dare: Pursuing Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire.

Take Jennifer’s
Happiness Style Assessment, and find out what truly makes you happy.

GIVEAWAY
In celebration of the release of The Happiness Dare, we are giving away 2 copies of The Happiness Dare!  To enter, Leave a Comment below and/or Subscribe to "Walking Well With God". Order her book and get 4 entries!!!

1 entry for leaving a comment (Leave Jennifer some lovin')
1 entry for subscribing (don't forget to confirm your subscription by checking the confirmation link that will appear in your email inbox)
4 entries if you have pre-ordered or purchase her book this week. (Honesty system - but mention in your comments)

Drawing to be held on August 2nd (official launch date of Jennifer's book)  Winners will be notified.


Ps.  Just a reminder that I pray for all my readers in the morning and in the evening.  Know you are being lifted up!!  If I can pray something more specifically for you...don't hesitate to contact me.  Be blessed...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

For When You're Struggling

Hey Friend,

I got to know Donna through our mutual enjoyment of a devotional blog called (in)courage (www.incourage.me).  I've shared my struggles with OCD induced anxiety and depression with you before.  I do well most of the time, but on this one particular day I was in the middle of an "episode". 

I was struggling to hold onto God's Truth.  My mind was filled with doubts, and the more it was filled with doubts, the more guilt and shame crept in along with downright fear.  I was sure God was disappointed in my lack of faith and He felt so very far away.  My mind was swimming with negative thoughts and I couldn't push them out no matter how hard I tried. 

You may not have OCD or depression, but I'm sure there have been times when you've struggled.  Struggled with negative thoughts, or doubt, or fear.  Thanks to Donna's reminding...I remembered just who is at work when I am most vulnerable...  the enemy (I call him the creep).  The enemy is a vengeful foe.  He seeks to isolate and destroy us and our minds are his battlefield. 

Recognizing who and what we are battling is the fist step in victory when we are struggling.

I'd like to share a letter to me from Donna in its entirety.  It brought great comfort knowing I was not alone and helped alleviate a lot of the guilt and shame I was experiencing.  In the battle with the enemy...she joined forces with me and I am forever grateful.

"They overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony."  (Revelation 12:11)


Monday, July 4, 2016

Dependence Is Not A Four Letter Word

Hey Friend,

Today we celebrate our great Nation's independence.  By "independent" we mean that the United States of America is free from outside control.  We are not depending on another's authority.  We associate great freedom with our independence.

In our society "dependence" has become a four letter word.  We are supposed to be self-sufficient - not depending on anyone or anything.  We talk, in negative terms, of dependence on drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and co-dependence on each other.  We go to counseling in order to be free from our dependence.

What if there was a form of dependence that could be liberating and life-giving?  What then?

I believe that dependence on God can be liberating....

Instead of having to try to strive, and earn, and perform for the applause of God and others, I know that only Jesus was perfect.  This, for me, is liberating.

Since Jesus was perfect FOR me, I can now walk in FREEDOM!

Because Jesus was perfect, I don't have to be...PRAISE!

He did it all.  He paid the price.  He satisfied the Law and therefore I am set free to live life to the full.  I can now walk in freedom.

I also believe that dependence on God can be life-giving...

The more we depend on Him, the more we lean in and utterly rely on Him for our every breath, we find the abundant source of life that comes from abiding in Him.  We, in essence, tap into His life source.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you have fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  (John 15: 4-5)

A living union with Christ is absolutely necessary; without it there is NOTHING.

I believe my highest and most difficult calling is to raise my children to be independent of me, but totally dependent on their Creator.  In that abiding dependence is the most liberating life source one can find.

I'll end this post with one of my favorite passages from the book entitled "Abide In Christ":

"Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying this salvation, but a consenting to let him do all for us, and in us, and through us.  It is a work He does for us - the fruit and the power of His redeeming love.  Our part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has engaged to perform." 

May you have a wonderful Independence Day while growing in dependence and reliance upon the One who loves you beyond words and wants to give you life to the full.

Be blessed...


ps.
Left on his own, this little boy who was destitute, despairing, disillusioned, hopeless, and angry, may have been a ripe recruit for extremists.
Instead, he found his way to a school supported by Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. and is finding love, and hope, and peace in learning about Jesus' great love for him...

Hard to believe it's the same little boy??  RCF, Inc. is transforming lives...


Friday, June 17, 2016

A Cure For The "If Onlys"

Hey Friend,

I have always been convinced that there is no such thing as coincidence.  The events of this week convinced me even more that this is so.

My husband and I have many bookshelves in our home that are filled.  We also have sixteen boxes of books in our attic.  In an attempt to pare down, lighten the load, and simplify, we started going through the boxes to see which books we'd like to donate to a local charity that has a second hand bookstore.

Meanwhile, some conversations and yes, arguments have been taking place with one of my adult children over the past several weeks.  Even as adults, my children take turns at making me want to pull my colored-over, gray hair out by the roots lol.  I love my children with all my heart, but sometimes their behavior makes me question how much I like them at the moment. 

Anyway, all of this has had me going back over my parenting in my mind.  I wondered...if only I had done that differently, would they not be acting this way?  If only I had been more ___________.  If only I had been less ______.

Always the question:

If I had done something different then, would things be different now?

No matter what your stage of parenting, I don't know many parents who haven't been plagued by the "if onlys" at one point or another. 

As I was mulling this over in my mind while sifting through books, I came across an autographed copy of John Rosemond's popular book, "Because I Said So!"  John Rosemond is a columnist and widely read "authority" on child rearing and family life.  My dad had given me this book when I was a young parent. 

My first thought, while cradling this gift, was "If only I had taken more of his (John Rosemond's) advice to heart."  My dad and Mr. Rosemond were of the same school of thought when it came to parenting...practical and no-nonsense!!

I flipped through the pages while thinking that this was a book I wanted to hold onto - for my children's children.  That's when it fell out.  The sheet with my father's sermon notes from a sermon given in 2001 by a Pastor Dennison.  The message was (not coincidentally) entitled, "A Cure For The If Onlys". 

Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at my father's words written in block print (tell tale sign he was an engineer).  My dad passed away five years ago and there have been so many times when I would have loved to have been able to ask him what he'd do in a given situation.  How would he handle my children?

And here in front of me was the answer to my mulling.  My dad's sermon notes sitting in my hand.  Now tell me that God doesn't have perfect timing??!!  I felt like my dad's hand and heart were reaching down to me from above.  Definitely a "God moment".  I'm sharing my dad's sermon notes here with you.  I hope and pray they can be a balm and comfort to your heart as they were to mine....

A Cure For The "If Onlys"
"Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers...and he brought their father a bad report about them.  Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him."  (Genesis 37:2b-3)

Truth:  We tend to live our lives in the PAST or in the FUTURE, but faith can only be exercised in the NOW.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  (Romans 8:28)

Truth:  If we trust God with the PRESENT, the PAST is gone and our FUTURE is assured.
REGRETS: WE ALL HAVE THEM
WHAT DO WE DO WITH THEM?

1. JOSEPH'S FAMILY (The Regret of FAVORITISM)

"When his brothers saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him."  (Genesis 37:4)

Truth:  God is at work through FAILURE and REGRET to fulfill His plan.

LOOK: at the stories of Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his Brothers, The Prodigal and the Elder Brother.

2.  REGRETS: THEIRS AND OURS

Truth:  Life is full of foolish DECISIONS.

LOOK: at Jacob's "If Onlys", Joseph's, Reuben's, Yours and mine.  They range from lying, to favoritism, to adultery, to murder and more. 

3.  THE CURE FOR REGRET/THE "IF ONLYS" IS TO TRUST IN THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.

  •      Believe God has a PLAN for us.
  •      Believe God is in CONTROL.
  •      Believe God can and will FULFILL His plan.
  •      Believe God has the POWER.
Truth:  God is at work through my FAILURES and REGRETS to fulfill His plan.

LOOK: at the stories of Peter and Judas.  They both denied and betrayed Christ, but God still used their failures and regrets to fulfill His awesome plan.    
****************
end notes

What this tells me is that no matter how badly I screw up, no matter how many mistakes I make, no matter how many "if onlys" I have...God is STILL able to redeem them, redeem me, redeem my children, and fill in the GAPS with His love.

Our mistakes DO NOT...CANNOT thwart the sovereign will of God!

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8: 37-39)

AMEN!!
This post is dedicated to my loving dad,
Ted Senter
who waits for me and continues to look
down over me from heaven.
Thank you for this gift...
I love you dad and miss you...Happy Father's Day!
Me xoxo


ps.  I will be taking some time off for some R&R and visitors from the North.  I plan to be back at my laptop around the 8th of July.  If you missed it, I invite you to listen in to my interview with Holly Barrett on her podcast...just click the link below or look back through the Archives for posts you may have missed...





Friday, June 10, 2016

Sharing My Heart (plus podcast)

Hey Friend,

This week I am blessed to be doing something REALLY different.  I was invited by Holly Barrett, writer of "Living a Redeemed Life" and popular Christian blogger, to be her guest on her weekly podcast series. 

I have not met Holly in person, but have linked up many times with her "Testimony Tuesday" blogging linkup.  I've read Holly's writing and folks, she is the real deal.  I love Holly's candor in her writing and after chatting with her before and during the podcast, I felt like I had known Holly for years.  Then, when you put two southern gals together...who knows where the conversation will take you lol.

If you've read my blog before, you probably know that I champion a ministry called Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc.  You may have wondered, how did a middle-aged homemaker from North Carolina come to start a Christian education ministry in the Middle East?? 

Well here's your chance to get some answers plus a whole lot more on my blog, my ministry, and how God has redeemed me from the pit in order that I might praise Him and give Him the glory.  In our conversation I share my heart, my passion, and what makes me tick.

I hope you'll tune in and listen to our conversation while you're washing dishes, paying the bills, or folding laundry...I truly hope that it will bring a smile and encouragement to your day.

Just click on this podcast hyperlink to the interview:
http://hollybarrett.org/2016/06/lrl-047-bev-rihtarchik.html

After the interview, I hope you'll stick around Holly's place to read her blog and check out her amazing story and what she is doing to further God's kingdom. 

www.hollybarrett.org

I also invite you to follow the link on the Podcast notes to Redeemer Christian Foundation, Inc. to read more about how we are helping orphaned and impoverished children in the Middle East reclaim a redeemed life and how you can be part of the story!!

www.redeemerchristianfoundation.org

When this was taped, the Pittsburgh Penguins had just started the final series with San Jose.  I don't want to mess with MOJO, but I sincerely hope that by week's end we will be hoisting the CUP!!!  Yes, I bleed black and gold...Let's go Pens!!

Holly and I shared a lot of laughs as well as some deep conversation.  We'd love to have you join us...meet you there...

Be blessed...


 ps.  Holly loves to hear from her listeners, so let her know your thoughts and I pray you'll keep tuning in to her uplifting and encouraging podcasts. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"Hey Day" - A Redemption Story


Hey Friend,

I remember a time that I was going through the check out line at the grocery store with my son and daughter when they were young.  My son sat perched in the front of the cart while my daughter hung on the side.  The young man bagging the groceries snagged the gallon of milk and slapped a little orange sticker that said "Paid" on the jug of milk and shoved it under the cart.

My daughter, into reading everything at this point, asked me, "Mommy, what does this say?" 

"That says 'Paid',"  I told her while fiddling through my purse in order to pay the cashier.

"Well why did he put this sticker on the milk?" she asked with typical childhood curiosity.

"That tells people that I paid for that jug of milk," I said - still somewhat distracted.

Leave it to my daughter to pull the sticker off the jug of milk.  Then she tugged on my arm until I bent down to her level.

"Here ya go Mommy," she said, as she proudly stuck the orange sticker on my forehead, "you've been paid for!"

Out of the mouths of babes such truth will come...

That was quite a few years ago.  Little did I know, at that point, that in a few years, my husband would walk out the door and abandon me and in the process leave our children in the wake.  I knew and experienced the sacrifices that go into being a single mom.  These women are heroes in my book.

My husband and I reconciled about a year later. Ten years later, he left again.  Abandoned not once...but twice.  It felt like I had the word "unworthy" seared upon my forehead.  Separation and divorce do nothing for one's self esteem.  I thought I was about as low as a person could go...

That was until the day I lost my job.  Enrollment in the school was down and one of the classes had to be cut and...well...you guessed it - it was mine.  I needed that income, meager as it was.  Now what was I going to do?

I came home and sobbed.  I tried calling my mom, my close friends and family members.  I couldn't get anyone.  I went online and was hoping there would be a friend available that I could talk to.  I desperately needed the reassurance that I, indeed, had value.  I was struggling to find any. 

My friend, Dave, from high school was the only friend online.  I hadn't talked to him in thirty plus years.  We had exchanged pleasantries on Facebook - "cute dog" was the last thing I had written.  But, that day, God prompted me in an uncustomary way to reach out and say, "Hey".  That was it..."Hey".  That was all I could muster. 

That one word prompted more written conversation and spoken conversation, then reuniting in person.  The pictures below show us celebrating the anniversary of "Hey Day" (June 2nd) and celebrating over two years of marriage.

Though I was originally redeemed- "paid for"- by the blood of Christ, that day I felt like God had purchased back something of value that had been lost - me.  I felt like once again I had that orange sticker placed on my forehead that said to the world...I am loved and I have been paid for. Someone saw value in a daughter who was of great, great value to God.

God can redeem anyone in any situation.  Nothing is beyond Him.  He is ABLE!  How have you seen His redeeming love worked out in your life? How do you hang onto God's love when others deem you unlovable?  I would love if you would share?!



Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that through the blood of Jesus Christ,  I have been bought and paid for.  Help me not to find my worth in who others say that I am, but to truly know that I am your precious daughter because YOU have claimed me - you have paid the ransom.  I praise you for your faithfulness through good times and bad.  Thank you for your ever lasting arms you've held under me so that I would never fall.  May I be sure to always tell of the good things that you are accomplishing THROUGH me.  May your name be glorified!!  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

ps. Next week I'll be blog hopping over to Holly Barrett's place.  I will provide links to her wonderful blog, "Reclaiming a Redeemed Life" as well as to her podcast on which I will be her guest. 

If you'd like to know the story behind how a middle-aged homemaker from NC came to be championing a Christian school in Pakistan, you may want to tune in.  Holly and I will be chatting about my blog, the foundation, the good works that God is up to, and ultimately about how we can reclaim a redeemed life. 

I know you'll love Holly - a native North Carolinian - who is hard at work furthering God's Kingdom.  See you then...

Saturday, May 28, 2016

He Chose Me!

Hey Friend,

In a few months we will have the privilege of electing a president.  We may not like the choices, but yet we still get to choose.

Our choice involves a discriminatory evaluation of the candidates.  We will choose one above the other based on their political views, their personal character, their past performance, even on whether we like their clothes or their hair.  Out choice is all about the candidates.

And, what about me.  I can be fickle.  Depending on how my day is going or in which direction the breeze is blowing, I can change my mind.  If I'm tired and moody and read bits and bytes on the candidates, it can change or taint my view. My choices are also based upon the person that I am.  Some days I'm good, and some days...not so much.

Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Bible Theology describes the concept of "election" in this way:

"Those who are saved, the believers in Jesus Christ, are called "the elect (chosen)".  None who is ultimately redeemed can boast that they saved themselves or that they added anything to the salvation that they received through Jesus Christ."

It goes on to contrast human choice with God's choices:

"Since it is true that mere human choices are made according to what the person is, it goes without saying that God's choices are made in a accordance with who God is.  God's choices and decisions are fully consistent with his eternal wisdom, goodness, justice, fairness, and love.  Nothing that God chooses to do is mean-spirited, vindictive, or wrong.  God cannot act any other way than consistently with his eternal divine nature.  For this reason, human beings may trust God to do what is right, and our highest good is to choose the will of God for ourselves."

God is Love...His very nature is Loving...His choices are always in line with His character.

"He chose me , not because I am great, but because He is good."  (K. Balarie)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

The Greek word for "chosen" here is "eklektos" which not only means elect, or chosen, it means "The Chosen One".  I believe that God is equating our being chosen by Him with Jesus Christ (The Chosen One).  Who am I to be put in the same category as Jesus himself??  Yet, God calls me His chosen one.

The words "special possession" are together in one Greek word "peripoiesis".  We are not just a possession...we are a Special Possession.  Jesus is described as the stone the builders cast aside, but the One who is ultimately the Cornerstone of our faith.  We are not just any possession, we are God's precious stone.

He chose me not because of something I did, but because of who He is.

This allows me to cast all the striving, earning, fear of disappointing, out the window.  He chooses (elects) me because of His great love and NOTHING will change that.  Nothing I can do can make Him love me more or less, because His very nature is Love and He cannot deny Himself.

God is immutable (unchanging). He has set His love upon me and this fact is unchangeable. 

What a reason to praise Him!!

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for the good and loving God that you are.  I praise you that all your decisions are based upon you Holy character that you cannot deny.  How thankful I am that you are not like me.  Forgive me for my fickleness and align my choices with your will so that you can use me to bring you glory.  Thank you for loving me so much that you chose me...you call me Christ's sister/brother...you have set me apart as your special possession.  Help me to grasp this unfathomable love you have for me and to live like the loved one that I am.  Thank you for choosing me.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...



ps. Check out these faces and lives that are being transformed:


Click Here to find out more about sponsoring a child through RCF, Inc.

We Need You...