Monday, February 28, 2011

Downsizing

There comes a time in one's life when it becomes necessary to downsize.  For those whose children have left home or who simply desire a smaller dwelling, part of the downsizing includes getting rid of unnecessary clutter and better organizing and utilizing what remains.  Quite often taking time to downsize and reorganize can have the benefit of maximizing our finances.  Not at all a bad deal.

I have spent a couple of hours downsizing my website and cleaning up some unnecessary cyber-clutter in order to trim costs and streamline things for those who visit my site.  When you get a chance, I invite you visit to www.deedeewike.com to see what has changed.  Also, take a look at the sidebar links on this blog -- there are a few changes there as well.  I hope you will subscribe to my monthly email newsletter, which will contain publishing updates as well as a devotional.  It's free and relatively painless.

I wish downsizing my dress size or the clutter in my home were so easy!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Changes and New Beginnings

For two and a half years Living the Dream has been primarily a devotional blog with a little family news thrown in.  It has been a privilege to share the truths of God's Word and the lessons He has taught me through the circumstances of everyday life.  Many of you have left comments that have encouraged me, and for that I thank you.

Recently I was offered my first paid writing job as a devotional writer for the online devotional site, DevotionalChristian.com.  As I write devotionals there, I will post the link on Twitter and Facebook.  Click here to read my first devotional, "A Living Hope," which I just posted today.  There are many devotional writers in this community, so visit the site anytime you need a little inspiration.  Please be sure to tell others about the site as well.

Since I will be writing for the Devotional Christian website, the focus of my Living the Dream blog will change to include more family news as well as production updates for Lessons from the La-Z-Boy, due out later this year.  In addition, I plan to make some changes to my website in the coming weeks.

Please continue to pray for God's direction for my ministry.  With one book published and a second book soon to be, I am looking for opportunities to speak and share the encouragement of God's Word with others.  His timing is perfect; my patience is not.  Please pray that as I wait upon Him, He will continue to teach and inspire me so that in due season He can use me to do His work.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.  If I can pray for you, please email your confidential prayer requests to deedeewike@bellsouth.net

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just Two Words

Words are one of the most powerful forces in the universe. A simple “yes” or “no” can forever alter the direction of a person’s life. As I was thinking about my wedding anniversary, it dawned on me just how powerful two little words spoken over two decades ago proved to be and how much they have impacted my life ever since. When I said “I do” to my spouse that day, I made a forever commitment to love, cherish, honor, and remain faithful to him, no matter what life brought our way. Because of the love we shared in the months leading up to our wedding day, saying “I do” came easy. Even though the years since have been a mix of both challenges and blessings, we have grown closer and more committed to one another than we thought humanly possible at the time.

The most pivotal “I do” we will ever utter this side of eternity is in response to Christ’s saving work on the cross in our behalf. Once we understand His grace and mercy, receiving the free gift of His salvation is easy. On the other hand, surrendering to His Lordship in our lives can be quite difficult as this requires a level of trust and obedience, sacrifice and selflessness that are impossible to achieve in our own strength and by our own effort. The level of commitment this requires is second to none, but infinitely more gratifying than anything we will ever experience in life.

When we say “I do” to Christ and make Him Lord of all, we give Him permission to change us from the inside out and to employ us as His ambassadors in our circles of influence. Although our mission field is often confined to our own families or our co-workers in the marketplace, it is nonetheless our partnership with God that leads others to believe in Him.

There are those who are called to travel as missionaries to foreign countries, but there are multitudes more that are called to share the Gospel and serve God locally. Even the simple act of praying for others while folding a load of laundry is a ministry, both to God and to the persons for whom we pray. Even if the only two words you can pray are “Lord, help!” you are communicating with the One True God who is able to do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Just those two simple words can summon the kind of resurrection power it took to raise Christ from the dead, resulting in amazing answers to prayers we can scarcely put into words. No matter whether it’s two words or two hundred, “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Whatever God calls you to do – go, pray, or give – make sure that you answer with a heartfelt “Yes, Lord!” God is more interested in your availability than your ability, and He will enable you to do amazing things for His glory if you are simply willing to say, “I will.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Operator Error

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." -- Matthew 7:1-2

Recently I had the frustrating experience of being unable to login to a new account I had just set up on a popular publishing website.  Although I had worked for well over an hour formatting, uploading, and ordering copies of a book I had written, I never received an email acknowledging the order and was not able to login to confirm that the order, or I, even existed. As a consumer, I was quick to blame everything on the website when, in fact, it all turned out to be my own fault because I had misspelled my email address.  No wonder I couldn't login!

Thankfully I got in touch with a very patient support representative who was able to track down my account with what little information I was able to provide him, then corrected my mistake.  After I got over the embarrassment of having omitted one tiny little letter in my email address, which made the support call necessary in the first place, I admitted to being a fellow tech support assistant who has had to walk others through similar cases of "operator error."  I felt bad that I was too quick to blame the website and regretful of my own ungracious behavior.

All too often we are quick to criticize others or make rash assumptions before looking at all the facts or possibilities concerning a given situation.  Had I been a little more careful, I would not have made the mistake.  If I had been less hasty in rushing to judgment, I might not have behaved as ungraciously as I did.

Fortunately for us, God is never ungracious and or swift to judge us.  He is a God of mercy, eager to forgive our offenses when we are humble enough to confess them.  But he is also a righteous Judge, who requires that we forgive others in order that we may receive his forgiveness.  Next time you are inclined to rush to judgment, look in the mirror first and consider how it might feel if someone misjudged you.  A little bit of mercy and grace go a long way toward understanding others and making sense of a potentially unpleasant situation.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Power of the Nap

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." -- Matthew 11:38-30

When I called into work to request a day off to rest and recover from a nagging cough and chest cold, little did I know just how badly I needed the rest.  An unusually hectic schedule the week before with very little rest over the weekend had not only been unavoidable, but also proved unhealthy for my over-fifty body.  While I thought I might simply take it easy and perhaps catch up on a few things around the house, all I did was sleep.  I think I took power napping to a whole new level!

God did not create us to overcommit and overextend ourselves, no matter how noble the reasons.  Our bodies and minds are designed such that they need good nutrition, adequate sleep, and some exercise in order for us to be our best.  Sometimes a deadline will require that we push ourselves more than we would like, perhaps, but wisdom dictates that when the opportunity to rest presents itself, we let a few things go so our bodies and minds can be replenished and refreshed.  We also need to learn how to balance our priorities.  How easy it is to become so involved in our own activities that we neglect the needs of those around us, particularly our own families! 

The idea of rest did not originate with man.  It originated with God, who not only rested after creating our world but also set aside and commanded a Sabbath day of rest for his children.  That includes you and me.  Whether or not you are a believer subject to the teachings of his Word, you are his creation and your body is designed to require rest on occasion.  A day off from work, a power nap, or even a movie night with your family can leave you refreshed like nothing else. 

Jesus often set aside time to rest and reconnect with his Father, separating himself from the disciples and seeking solitude in a place where God could refresh him.  Each of us has that opportunity every day by choosing to have a quiet time of Bible study, meditation, and prayer.  That is how I start each day and why I believe God has enabled me to accomplish all that my busy life requires. 

If you find yourself on a hamster wheel of activity, try hopping off the wheel and find a quiet place where you can open your heart to God.  God is never too busy to meet the one who seeks him or to refresh the weary soul in search of rest.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Because of Your Love

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!" -- 1 John 3:1

View DetailsValentine's Day is a day to celebrate love.  For many it is a bittersweet holiday because of personal loss or loneliness, but for all of us it can be a joyful day because of God's love.

Scripture is full of passages which declare God's love for His children.  Whether we are walking close beside Him or have wandered far from His sheepfold, He never ceases to love us.  God created us as an expression of His love, to be an expression of His love to a lost and hurting world. 

In the fourth chapter of John's first epistle, we are told that "Love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed His love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (vs 7-10).

When I woke up this morning, Paul Baloche's song, "Because of Your Love," was one of the first things that came to mind.  It's a song that has been in my heart all day. You can listen to the whole song by clicking here
 
The chorus says:
Because of Your love, we're forgiven
Because of Your love, our hearts are clean
We lift You up with songs of freedom
Forever we're changed because of Your love
This Valentine's Day, will you let him forgive you, cleanse your heart, and forever change you?  Your surrendered heart is all God wants for Valentine's Day.  Will you give it to Him?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Traveling Buddy

"The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'  Then Moses said to him, 'If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here'...And the LORD said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.'" -- Exodus 33:14-15, 17

If you breathe, you are alive.  And if you are alive, then you are on a journey like the rest of us.  Some journeys are exciting; others, not so much.  New jobs, fulfilled dreams, and financial prosperity are mixed with seasons of unemployment, disappointment, heartbreak, and lack of money, health, or motivation. 

No matter where your journey has brought you, or where it will take you in the days ahead, rest assured that you are not traveling alone.  The same God who promised Moses that his Presence would go with him is the God who walks beside us each and every day.  No matter how bitter the water or how hot the desert is for us, God never leaves us, even if we are intent on going our own way.  Through the best and worst of circumstances he is our faithful and constant Companion, ever imparting direction to us even if we are too stubborn to follow the map!

God himself will be with you, and he has given you his Word to guide and direct you as you journey through life.  Read the map, trust the Navigator, and know that the narrow road -- God's highway -- leads to a life that only a few will find (Matthew 7:14). 

Bon voyage and Godspeed!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Indescribable

"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?" -- Job 38:23

Chris Tomlin is one of my favorite Christian music artists and an absolutely brilliant lyricist.  His song, "Indescribable," tells of the wonders of God's creation.  The first time I heard this song I was especially intrigued by the line, "or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow," and completely amazed when I ran across a scriptural reference to the "storehouses of snow" in Job 38:22!  How awesome is our Creator and how marvelous are his works!

Much of the country is blanketed in snow as I write this, and we are having our heaviest snow storm this season.  As I enjoy the scenery from inside my cozy suburban home, I am thankful -- thankful for my family, the heat that keeps our house warm, clothing and blankets to keep our bodies warm, and sweet hot cocoa to savor as our family watches TV and enjoys a break from the fast pace of our ordinary lives.  These days don't come along often, particularly where we live, so I plan to make the most of this opportunity to enjoy my family and God's beautiful winter wonderland.



Sunday, February 6, 2011

What NOT to Wear

"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these:  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." -- Colossians 3:8-10

"What Not to Wear" is a reality program on TLC which showcases the makeovers of ordinary people.  The hosts take a woman who has a limited sense of style, critiques and disposes of her existing wardrobe, then replaces it with a wardrobe better suited to her body shape.  After a shopping spree and sessions with a makeup artist and hair stylist, the newly madeover participant shows off her new look and comments on how the experience has changed her life.

As Christians, we should also be transformed from the inside out.  In Colossians, the Apostle Paul originated the whole "what not to wear" concept by commanding us to put off the old self with its anger, rage, and ungodly attributes of our sin nature and to instead clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. "And over all these put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity" (Colossians 3:12, 14).

Can people tell by your spiritual wardrobe that you have received a divine makeover?  Is your profession of faith in Jesus evidenced by compassion, kindness, patience, and love, or do you continue to wear the comfortable garments of sin that were in your wardrobe before you received him as Savior?  If you are holding onto the sins of your past, remember that Christ's shed blood washes you white as snow and that he clothes you in garments of righteousness.  Put off the filthy garments that are stained with sin and put on the garments of love and grace.  As you do, people will take notice of the new you and their hearts will be drawn to the One who so beautifully arrayed you.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Flood Insurance

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." -- Matthew 7:24-25

During 2010, some of the prominent news headlines focused on flooding in places like Nashville, Tennessee, which historically is not known for being flood-prone.  There were destructive floods around the world, even some as close as our own backyard.  Many of the flood victims had not purchased flood insurance because their homes and businesses were not zoned in a flood plain.  Without insurance to cover their losses, many were unable to recover from the devastation.

While some of us may not be insured against weather-related floods, we can all be insured against the floods of stress, ill health, and financial turmoil that are part of living in our present world.  We are told that in this world we will suffer, but Jesus promises that those who hear and put into practice his words will be able to stand strong in the face of disaster and not fall, because like a house built on rock, their lives are built on the sure foundation of God's Word.

Are you insured against life's floods?  Do you know God and the promises of his Word?  If not, make it a point to read and study the Bible and ask God to give you a heart to seek and know him.  Storms will inevitably come in every season of life, but we can ride the waves and weather the storm as long as our feet are firmly planted on the foundation of God's Word.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Take Him at His Word

"Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." -- Luke 6:38

One Friday night, I had the pleasure of joining several women from our Sunday school class for dinner at a local restaurant.  It had been a difficult week for me and I felt too tired to be social, yet having verbally committed to joining them I didn't feel I could back out at the last minute.  On the way to the restaurant I prayed for God to simply get me through the evening, help me be pleasant, and keep me from bursting into tears in the middle of our conversation.  Not only did God answer my prayers, but he refreshed and encouraged me in ways that only he could have that night.

There were eighteen in our party served by one very wonderful young waitress who had just come off maternity leave.  Although some in our party special ordered items and we all came in at different times, she never complained or missed a beat.  She conversed warmly with us as she waited our tables and delivered such a high level of service that it was just a natural response to tip her generously.  Still, I couldn't help but think of how tired she would be after her shift and the energy she would need to meet the demands of the young child that awaited her at home.  While the other ladies in our party were settling their checks, I decided to run out to the car and bring in a copy of Good to the Last Drop to present to her as a small token of appreciation from all of the ladies in our class.  She seemed genuinely appreciative and asked me to autograph her copy, then gave me a big hug.

Driving home I prayed for her, satisfied that I had followed God's lead in giving her a copy of the book and thankful for the opportunity to minister to her.  I prayed that God would open doors for ministry to others like her and help me actually sell some books, since sales in recent months have been lackluster and my new job doesn't leave much time for book marketing. 

Before turning in for the night, I checked my email one final time and found this message from a woman I had never even met:  "I happened to be sitting at the bar when your waitress showed me the book you gave her.  You have no idea how much your book will bless her.  I would be very interested in getting your book for some of my employees.  Many of them are wonderful Christians.  I will need about 10 books."  Needless to say, I was absolutely bowed over with gratitude for this blessed turn of events which only God could have orchestrated!  I really had no idea anyone but God was even interested in what took place in the room where we had gathered for dinner and fellowship.  

At a time when I really needed encouragement and a special touch from God, he proved himself faithful to the promises of his Word and showed me that he really does care about the details of my life and the desires of my heart, just as he does yours.  You can take him at his Word!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Burden Bearer

"Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." -- Psalm 55:22 (NASB)

Lately my energy level has been less than desirable.  I'm not sure whether that is because I have the winter blues (Seasonal Affective Disorder), am feeling the effects of age, or am simply busier than I ought to be.  The part-time job I took on a few months ago certainly has caused a change in my schedule, but I believe my fatigue simply boils down to living a challenging life in a very demanding world.

Thankfully, no matter what season of life we are in, Jesus is there to bear our burden with us.  The study notes in my Bible define burden as "what God has given you."  I like that!  "Cast what God has given you upon the LORD, and He will sustain you."   God gave me my job, my family, my writing, and areas of service within the Church, and he will give me the strength to do that which he has called me to do.  When I don't think I can take one more step, I can cast it all on him and rest in the promises of his Word.

What season of life are you in?  Each of us has our own unique set of challenges that can easily sap our energy and cause us to feel overwhelmed.  Whatever your situation may be, know that God is in it with you and that as you wait upon him, he will renew your strength and give you wings to soar as you live to fulfill his purpose for your life  (Isaiah 40:31).