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Thursday
Feb142019

Four Ways to Fire Up Your Marriage

Morgan Farr is a woman of purpose, a woman with a godly vision for her ministry, marriage and home. In this Valentine's Day UPGRADE, she suggests four ways we can fire up our marriages.

Morgan says, "Would it shock you to learn that Valentine’s Day is my least favorite holiday?"   

Yes, I (Dawn) was surprised by that question, but knowing Morgan, I was sure she had a good and godly reason. She loves to look at life from God's perspective in His Word, and marriage and sex are no exception!

Morgan continues . . .   

From movies, commercials, and even in the grocery store, we are bombarded with the idea that TODAY is the one day of the year that we should spend time showing that special person in your life how much they mean to you.

To be completely honest the whole thing to me is pretty sad. 

Let me explain. 

I don’t have anything against expressions of love. In fact, I think they are awesome! But, tomorrow all the reminders to “show your someone special how much you love them” will disappear.

For the secular world, Valentine’s Day is the one day a year that you show the one you love how much they mean to you.

The day after?

It is back to life as normal. Sadly for many marriages this means putting romantic love on the backburner. But it could (and should!) be so much more. 

I believe that for a follower of Christ, we should have the corner on absolutely amazing marriage relationships.

In the Bible, we are taught that there are four different kinds of love: Storge, Philia, Agape and Eros;  and we have the ability to use them all!

In this Upgrade, I am going to share Four Ways to Fire Up Your Marriage based on God’s descriptions of love in the Bible.

1. Agape

This word is used in the Bible to define God's perfect, sacrificial, unconditional, gift for mankind (Romans 5:10). This love is best exemplified by Jesus himself. This love is a pure, selfless love.  

With Agape I like to think of: EMPATHY.

How can you show this love to your spouse?

When your spouse has had an awful day at work, you could draw him a bath, make his favorite meal, or take the kids out of the house so he could have some quiet time alone. If he is a verbal processor, listen while he talks through the events of the day.

2. Storge

The word Storge is defined as family love (Romans 12:10). This is the amazing bond that grows between members of the same family: parents and children, and brothers and sisters.

With Storge I like to think of: TRIBE.

How can you show this love to your spouse?

This is where having family traditions and rituals can help to create a lasting bond between family members.

Our family likes to read out loud at the dinner table from William J. Bennet’s The Book of Virtues and discuss what happened in these moralistic stories.

You could also do a weekly game night, or take up a sport or activity as a family. (I would stay away from movie night though as it does deter conversation.)

3. Philia

This love is a close and powerful friendship (Hebrews 13:1). It is described in Greek as a very powerful bond between comrades. This is the kind of friendship forged through standing beside one another in battle, guarding one another’s backs from the attacks of the enemy.

With Philia I like to think of: BATTLE BUDDIES.

How can you show this love to your spouse?

This is the love where you share the trials you are facing.

Is your spouse struggling with moral purity? Intercede on his behalf to your heavenly Father. Go through your movies, books, magazines, and catalogues and remove anything that could be a stumbling block.

Is your husband struggling to get fit? Do some research and help him learn to eat better. Offer to workout with him or go on a walk together.

Does your husband struggle with feeling like he isn’t enough? Build him up with words of affirmation and praise.

4. Eros

I saved Eros for last because it is often the love that people think about most often in relationship to marriage.

Eros is defined as sensual or romantic love (Read the entire book of Song of Solomon).

In my opinion, it is impossible to have true Eros without the other three loves in place.

The secular world will tell you that you can, but in all honesty the “passion” or “sexual attraction” that is felt outside of a relationship with Christ is really just lust. However, when in a Christ-centered, romantic relationship… sparks should fly.

With Eros I like to think of: EROTIC

How can you show this love to your spouse?

  • Initiate sex frequently and in a variety of ways.
  • Jump into the shower with him and ask him to wash your hair.
  • Give him a massage.
  • Make his favorite dinner and show up wearing his favorite shirt and nothing else.
  • Learn one another’s bodies well.
  • Take time to really understand what works for each of you.

A note here: I totally understand if you have a little one at home. I have a four year old, a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old, I totally get it. There are a couple of things that you can do to make intimacy more of a priority when you have little ones at your skirt.

One of the best ways you can show love to your spouse is to schedule sex during busy life seasons. Pick a day and make certain that you make sex a priority on that day. Then, if you can also surprise him during the week. If you can’t manage a spontaneous time during the week, he can always count on that time that you specifically set aside to meet a need for him that only you can meet.  

Voltaire said,

“Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination”.

For believers we know that it wasn’t nature, but rather God that has given us our spouses to love. It is up to us to keep the fire burning in our marriages. We have the backing of the creator of the Grand Canyon, tiny babies, and the majestic eagle.  

Such a creative God encourages us to use our own creativity to love our spouses well so that the fire of the marriage doesn’t just simmer, it roars!

Which type of love can you work on in your marriage this week?     

Morgan Farr is a Texas-loving, succulent-cultivating, book nerd. Currently stationed in San Diego, California, this Army wife is working to better love her husband, develop her three small children, and learning more about homseschooling. Morgan is a homemaker who dedicates her time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one mentoring, and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood on her blog, The Forgiven Former Feminist. You can find her training programs, nutritional information and meal plans on her blog, Farr Functional Fitness.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Prawny at Pixabay.

 

Wednesday
Feb132019

Single on Valentine's Day

Nali Hilderman is a strong woman, a woman with her feet on the ground but her heart resting in a godly perspective. In this Valentine's Day UPGRADE, Nali has a special message for women who are single on Valentine's Day.

"Maybe this Valentine’s Day," Nali says, "you’re feeling the 'truth' of the Dean Martin song as he croons, 'You're nobody 'til somebody loves you; You're nobody' til somebody cares. ... The world still is the same, you never change it.  As sure as the stars shine above; You're nobody 'til somebody loves you.'”

I (Dawn) never much liked that song, but it sure makes Nali's point. This is the world's concept of love, not a biblical one.

Nali continues . . .

Being single on Valentine’s Day can be very hard and I know the temptation is to sink into sadness, bitterness or despair as everyone celebrates around us. 

But, as we encounter the holiday, here are a few suggestions for us single women to intentionally engage instead.

1. Treat Yourself

I don’t mean this in the hedonistic Tom and Donna from “Parks and Rec” kind of way. I mean this in the sense that there are things that you take pleasure in and that make your heart come alive. 

Is it:

  • being outdoors,
  • a massage,
  • a favorite book or movie,
  • cooking, or
  • going to your favorite restaurant? 

Whatever it is, take time to participate in one of those this week and realize that—

when you experience joy from the way the Lord created you, you bring Him joy as well.

Read Psalm 139 to remember how well He knows and delights in you. 

2. Celebrate Others

Chances are that you’ve have some good examples of marriages in your life, so why don’t you take a moment to bless and encourage those who are “running the race” well. 

  • Your parents?
  • Your friends?
  • Your siblings? 

On a similar note, hopefully you have had men in your life to love, protect, and encourage you. 

  • A brother?
  • A father?
  • A teacher?
  • A pastor?
  • Friend(s)? 

Take some time to honor them for the example they’ve set on the man you’re waiting for. 

Text, email, or send a hand-written note to say thank you to those who model romantic love as define in scripture. Read Ephesians 5 for reminders of this.

3. Intentionally Focus on the “Not Yet.”

The hardest part of singleness is waiting and living in the “not yet” with faith. 

If you want to, spend time on Valentine’s Day focusing on your future relationship. Feel free to lament, but also spend time in faith praying for your future mate, and/or writing him a letter. 

Proverbs 31:12 says “she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” 

Also, pour out your heart to the Lord, asking for His work in both your lives.

4. Meditate on the Greater Love!

Remember that our culture is the one that promotes romantic love as the end goal in life, but the Truth is that it is NOT! 

If you have a relationship with Jesus, you already have the greatest love you will ever experience— even more than your spouse will be able to give you. 

Get out your Bible and spend time meditating on God’s love for you in and through Jesus Christ. Read John 13-17 and 1 John especially.

Sisters, it is easy to feel sorry for ourselves when the world around us celebrates the one thing we deeply desire, but let’s be intentional about it instead. 

Let us not allow culture to define us or make us feel like “we’re nothing til somebody loves us.” The TRUTH is, we are loved more than we could possibly imagine. 

While still waiting for the human manifestation of love, rest in and pursue the One who loves you more!

If you are single, where do you struggle on Valentine's Day? Which of these suggestions might help you be more intentional to enjoy the holiday from a biblical perspective?

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history and Political Science at San Diego Christian College. She is working on her Ph.D. in Public Policy and hopes to continue writing and speaking on matters of Christianity in the Public Square. She attends Del Cerro Baptist Church.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Terri C. at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Feb122019

After Almost 50 Years of Marriage ...

Kathy Collard Miller's honesty about her own personal weaknesses and how God has transformed them and enabled her to build a marriage in strength. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she gets honest about what almost destroyed her marriage, and three concepts that have made a huge difference.

"When we were married on June 20, 1970, I thought trusting that God had chosen Larry and I for each other was enough," Kathy says. "As a result, we went through some very difficult times."

I (Dawn) know every marriage has rough patches. Sometimes turbulent ones. But I know what Kathy shares here is true. We can make choices to strengthen our own marriage to the glory of God.

It's almost Valentine's Day—the perfect time to examine our marriages and consider where they still need to grow.

Kathy continues . . .

For our long-lasting wonderful relationship, I depend upon three basic concepts. They may seem too simple, but they make a world of difference.

1. We’re different.

Seems too basic? It’s not. Every child grows up thinking that the way they view people, life, and God is the right way.

But we don’t recognize how our different experiences influence our current belief system and can negatively affect our marriage. I still fall into it at times—to the peril of our marriage.

God wants to use those differences to help us believe God’s perspective, not our own.

Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

After we married, I told Larry, “I’m going to the bank to open our Christmas fund.” He looked horrified and said, “No, you’re not!”

I was offended.

My mother paid for our many gifts by saving all year. Larry only received one gift from his parents and no gifts from relatives. What a shock!

Not only did we have different past experiences, we had gender differences. The world wants us to think there are no differences, but God created male and female different.

When Larry is telling me something sweet, I find it hard to believe because he can’t seem to look me in the eye. But men have a hard time doing that when saying something positive. When they are saying something confrontational, they have no trouble at all.

Like all gender differences, this difference is a generalization, but very true over all. Now that I know, I can believe his words without him looking directly at me.

2. Everyone can grow and change.

When I’m disgruntled with Larry, what’s bothering me convinces me he won’t ever change. I can rehearse every wrong thing he’s done to support my bitterness.

I’m convinced that if I hadn’t finally believed everyone can change, I could have walked out the door—or at the least continued in my hopelessness about my horrible marriage.

But BOTH of us have changed and for the better. It hasn’t always been as fast as I want but we have learned to be more patient, supportive and understanding.

If we believe any person can’t change, we are saying God doesn’t love that person.

Hebrews 12:6 assures us, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Even when nothing seems to be happening in our mate’s heart, God is on the move.

We can most support His work by receiving God’s correction ourselves.

Remember: no one is beyond God’s ability to influence and change. He may be using resources we don’t know about.

3. God is FOR your marriage.

He wants your marriage to persevere and prosper, because it represents Him to the world.

Ephesians 5:31-32 tells us, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

During many of the times I focused on the negatives of Larry’s behavior or attitudes, I was convinced God didn’t care about our marriage.

But I’m now convinced He not only cares; God is passionate about representing His perfections through helping us learn to love each other more.

No, not become perfect.

But our increasing joy and contentment point to Him.

Do you want a long-lasting marriage? At this point, it might be hard to envision celebrating 50 years married to your spouse. I sure never thought it would be around the corner for us.

But you’ll get there as you live day by day reminding yourself that

  • your spouse is different than you by God’s design,
  • everyone can change and God is working on it,
  • and God is for your marriage.

Which of those three points is most important to you right now, and how can you remind yourself of its truth?

Kathy Collard Miller and Larry, a retired police lieutenant, have had many adventures together, including writing, speaking, being lay-counselors, and traveling the world. They live in Southern California and have two children and two grandchildren. One of Kathy’s recent books is No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom, which tells the story of how God healed their marriage and delivered Kathy from her abusive anger. Visit her website for more information.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Wife of Excellence at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Feb052019

Shed Your Past—Shed the Pounds

Julie Watson is inspiring. In this UPLIFT post, she shares her story of how dealing with personal pain from her past enabled her—with the help of a healthy nutrition program—to lose weight and gain confidence.

“You can’t shed the extra pounds,” Julie says, “until you shed the painful experiences that put them there in the first place!”  

Exactly! I (Dawn) discovered the same thing over the past two years. I had to deal with the underlying emotional causes for my weight gain, and I appreciate Julie's honesty here.

Julie continues . . .

Last summer I set out to lose weight… a lot of weight! It’s not weight that came on recently, or even in the last 10 years. I’ve been carrying around this extra weight my entire life.

I often joke and say, “The last time I was thin was in the birthing room the day I entered the world!” 

Laughing about my weight has been my coping mechanism for as long as I can remember. But the truth is, there’s a lot of pain under that laughter.

My guess is that’s the case for most people who are obese. There’s always going to be a memory or two of the mean kids on the playground who called you, “fatty” or, in my case, my third-grade crush who called me “moose” while standing behind him in line at a Sea World drinking fountain.

I can still remember it like yesterday, and that was nearly 40 years ago!

Worse yet is when a person of authority crushes your spirit with words that are hurtful and damaging.

Such was the case with my pediatrician when I was 10 years old. I was told that I was overweight and needed to go on a diet immediately or I might get a myriad of health problems. 

Perspective for just a second:

  • I was five feet five inches tall at 10 years old.
  • I was a fully developed young woman and weighed 145 pounds.
  • I realize that’s a lot for an average 10-year-old. But I was NOT average! I was 3 inches taller than my fifth-grade teacher!

Back to the story . . .

My pediatrician sent me home with instructions for a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet and requirements to come back weekly to weigh-in. You would have thought I was the fattest person she had ever seen! That’s how I felt, anyway.

I remember crying in my room later that day. Nevertheless, I listened to her instructions and followed the plan. Of course, my mom made my food because, quite frankly, at 10 years old I didn’t know what a calorie was!

The following week, back we went. The scale read 144.5 pounds. I felt good that I had lost! But, that’s not the response I received. I got a FULL-ON YELLING LECTURE!

She was upset that I ONLY lost a half pound and needed me to understand—quite loudly—that if I didn’t lose weight, I was going to have High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Diabetes, and would die of a heart attack really young!

I was 10—what did those words even mean? 

Traumatized, we left, and thankfully, never returned! However, the damage was done.

As I aged, I learned what those diseases were. I started having anxiety and panic attacks that I would get them.

I became a moderate hypochondriac in my teen years as the weight piled on. I used food to escape my emotions and feelings about my weight. If I heard one more person tell me, “You have such a pretty face, if only you lost weight,” I might have just exploded!

Fast forward to June 25th of 2018.

Desperate and alone I cried out to God for help!

I had self-fulfilled much of the prophecy that pediatrician had placed on me. I was in a very dark place, imagining an early death and that my family was going to have to bury me in a double-wide coffin.

God was faithful and graciously led me to an amazing, life-changing health program!

  • It broke through “why” I had a food problem, all relating to the pain compiled over the years.
  • It helped me look at the triggers, why they were there and how to be free of the pain that kept me in bondage.
  • At the same time, I learned new, healthy habits to replace the old, bad habits, one at a time.

The weight began to melt off and I began to heal from the inside out!

I learned that you can’t shed the extra pounds until you shed the painful experiences that put them there in the first place! 

I’m just about halfway in my weight loss journey—nearly 90 pounds down in just over 6 months! I have a long way to go yet, but I haven’t looked back because I haven’t wanted to!

When you feel good—really good—you don’t want to give that up! I found true FREEDOM, one directed by the Lord, for such a time as this!

When someone gives you keys to the jail door, you DON’T give them back!

Painful pasts must be dealt with so we can reach our goals! Whether it’s losing weight or another desire, speak to a pastor, counselor or therapist to work through your past and reach for your dreams!

You are worth it!

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”  (Jeremiah 29:11).

Are painful experiences keeping you in bondage? Are you ready to shed them?

Julie Watson became an independent C.O.P.E. Certified Health Coach after finding freedom using an amazing health program that is transforming lives one habit at a time. Her husband became her first client, lost 43 pounds in three months and remains in maintenance. She loves helping others find the same freedom she found! Julie and Shawn live in San Diego with their three children and myriad of pets.

(NOTE from Dawn: This article is not meant to promote any specific program, but if you are interested in learning more about the specific program Julie is using, let me know and I will contact her.)

Graphic adapted, courtesy of MoreHarmony at Pixabay.

Monday
Feb042019

Elevate at Eleven-ish

There's one thing about finding out you have a disease. You tend to turn your thoughts inward.

Self-care is good and proper, but self-focus can hinder what God wants to do in and through you in your new adventure with God.

When I woke up at 3:00 am this morning, I couldn't go back to sleep. Lying in bed I remembered many thoughts I'd had since New Year's Day, 2019. I had so many goals for this year.

Then wham!

A diagnosis sent my thoughts reeling and my heart to God's throne of grace.

To be honest, the next weeks were all about me, me, me. How was I feeling? What was I thinking? Why was I weeping? Where would this journey take me?

But early this morning, God gave me a new perspective.

God was making me more sensitive spiritually, and I needed to do something with that sensitivity.

In recent days, I've become more aware of Facebook friends and church family who are hurting and struggling. Knowing my own upheaval, I wondered if they are facing the same temptations I am. The temptation to question God. The temptation to fear. The temptation to believe the enemy's lies.

A friend battling breast cancer. Another nauseated with an incurable disease. A woman struggling to care for her mother even as she battles her own physical weakness. A new Facebook friend who has touched my heart with her response to her own physical struggles—a true "heart sister" trusting God for each new day.

The Bible tells us to pray for one another (James 5:16), bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) and encourage one another, building them up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I'm good at finding practical ways to help or encourage. But when it comes to prayer . . .

I don't know about you, but—and I hate to admit this—I often promise to pray for people, saying I'll do it "whenever I think of you."

But then I don't.

Like you, I mean well. But I get distracted and busy. Or caught up in my own struggles. Then later I'm totally bummed because I forgot to pray.

Like me, do you need a "trigger" to remember to PRAY MORE for those who hurt?

I don't want Satan to rob me of the blessing of praying for those who struggle or are in pain. And I don't want to forget the power of prayer.

What came to me at 3:00 in the morning—which usually isn't a good time to start on anything new, but it worked for me—was a plan to not only remember to pray for those in need, but also to remember the God who answers prayer.

An intentional time. A focused time. A sacred time.

Now a person can choose ANY time; but what came to my mind was, "Elevate at Eleven." (I considered that time simply because "elevate" and "eleven" both start the same way.) Every day, clocks hit 11:00 twice—am and pm.

But then I thought, what if I didn't notice if it's 11:00 am or 11:00 pm? I didn't want to set an alarm, but I'm so often busy or distracted. I need a wider window of opportunity.

How about "Elevate at Eleven-ish"?

(Are you laughing at me or with me?)

I'd have two whole hours each day to remember. Surely, sometime from 11:00 to 11:59—twice a day—I'd remember to turn to the Lord for these precious people in my life.

I want to do two things in these special prayer times:

1. Elevate the Lord.

One definition of "elevate" is to raise or lift up something or someone to a higher position.

I know I can't make the Lord any more than He is. He is all in all, above all, infinitely more than I can imagine. We cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:26-27; Psalm 139:7), because He is everywhere and fills everything; in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28a). We cannot add anything to the great "I AM."

But I can elevate God in my mind and heart. I can lift him up in praise and upgrade my worship (Psalm 103:1-4; Isaiah 25:1; Psalm 63:3-4, 7-8; Ephesians 3:20-21; Revelation 4:11). I can focus on one quality or characteristic of the Lord and praise Him for who He is and how He is working.

To elevate the Lord is also to remember He is sovereign—He is in control (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Job 42:2; Psalm 103:19; 115:3; Jeremiah 32:17; 1 Timothy 6:15). Nothing in our lives takes Him by surprise or causes Him frustration.

To elevate Him is also to seek His purposes in our circumstances. We want to learn from our suffering and praise Him for how He will change us through our trials.

2. Elevate Others in Prayer

Another definition of "elevate" is to bear aloft—to bouy up or boost. Our hurting friends and family are no doubt praying for their own concerns, but we can boost their prayers heavenward with prayers of our own.

We elevate others when we lift them up before the Lord, taking their pain and suffering before Him and praying specific requests for them (Ephesians 6:18b; James 5:16b; Philippians 4:6-7; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14).

The One who knows the power of intercession—Jesus, who prays for us—can transform our prayers for others into great blessing.

We can pray people will sense God's presence. We can pray for His power and provision in their lives—whether in healing or in helping them endure. We can pray for their peace.

In order to best lift people up, we need to stay abreast of their concerns. We need to check in with them from time to time, because their prayer needs may change.

What does "Elevate at Eleven-ish" look like for me?

  • I now have "11" on Post-it Notes around my house ... triggers to get me started on my new prayer habit.
  • Some people may want to set an alarm for 11:00 on their clock or iWatch; or if they're at a desk a lot, they might try this Online Alarm Clock. (Personally, I don't like the intrusiveness of an alarm. There are already too many "jarring" things going off in my life—bells and whistles! But it could be one way to start a new prayer habit.)
  • I have a separate prayer list with all those I'm praying for during these specific and sacred times. But over time, I won't need the physical list. Their needs will be written in my heart.
    • NOTE:  These times of "elevation" do not replace my regular prayer time, but they enhance and upgrade it.
  • I'm asking the Lord to make me more aware of 11:00-ish times to intercede ... to stop me in the midst of my busyness, if only for a few minutes, to remember and pray. (But remember, you can choose to pray for strugglers any time.)

The whole point is, we must become more intentional about doing something we say we want to do.

Perhaps you will join me to Elevate at Eleven-ish (or any special time you choose).

If you do, please add me to your prayer list. I surely need your prayers as I enter this time of uncertainty. Yes, I want to be healed. But one thing I know for sure—one thing you can pray for that will always be God's will—I want to know the Lord more and make Him known.

Who are the people the Lord brought to your mind as you read this? Stop right now and pray for them.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts  and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.