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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson



10 Things I Would Tell the President in a Sit-down Chat

This is a bit of a departure from my normal UPGRADE posts. It is a Leadership UPGRADE that took shape when I had an image in my mind of sitting down with our President to share from my heart.

At first, this seemed a bit presumptuous. But then again, I love our President and pray for him and his wife and family, so my words would come from a heart filled with love.

The more I thought about what I would say, the more I realized I could speak this truth into any leader's life, because it is all based on scriptural truth.

We all need to grow spiritually. There is no room to think we've "arrived." But I believe we are to challenge each other to make better choices so we can grow, help others, and bring glory to God.

That said, here are my "10 Things I Would Tell the President in a Sit-down Chat"

1. Seek God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

This is more than a casual, superficial relationship. Be sure you know Him, not simply know about Him.

Get this relationship wrong and nothing else matters.

(Psalm 14:2; Matt. 6:33; Psalm 63:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:23; 5:8; Titus 3:5; Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 6:23; 10:9-10; John 3:16)

2. Love your wife*—your prime relationship after God.

Be faithful to her, listen with your heart, be sensitive to her needs, and appreciate her sacrifices for your career.  

(Prov. 18:22; Eph. 5:25-33) 

* Obviously, this would be a little different if the president were a woman.

3. Be a good example to your children.  

Model good character and service, and teach them what truly matters.

In parenting, observed actions matter even more than words.

(Prov. 3:21; 22:6; Deut. 11:18-19; Psalm 78:4; Prov. 13:22; 18:9; Eph. 6:4) 

4. Protect other key relationships—grandchildren, valued friends and co-workers.

People will always be more important than programs, possessions and profits.

Love and serve people well. 

(Psalm 78:4; Deut. 6:5-7; Psalm 112:1-3—Prov. 17:17; 27:17—Matt. 20:26-28; Prov. 16:11; Eph. 4:28; Col. 4:1; Deut. 24:14-15)

5. Surround yourself with wise advisors.

Wise is far better than smart.

Cherish those who dare to tell you the truth, even if it hurts. 

(Prov. 11:14; 13:20; 15:22; Col. 2:8)

6. Refrain from belittling those who disagree with you.

Personal attacks and name-calling are unnecessary. 

It’s OK to point out where and why a person is wrong, but do so with respect.

(Phil. 2:3; Rom. 12;10, 19; Luke 6:31; Eph. 4:24; 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:17)

7. Look for the positive in people.

Listen and consider how you might learn from them. Be willing to learn and change. 

Never neglect giving honor where honor is due. 

(James 1:19; Phil. 4:8—Prov. 3:27; Rom. 13:7b)

8. Always be quick to forgive and to ask forgiveness—even when it’s hard.

Pride can destroy a leader.

Humility comes before honor.

(Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13; Luke 6:37b—Matt. 18:21-22—Prov. 15:33; 18:12)

9. Practice self-control.

Every day you will encounter opportunities to:

  • show patience,
  • temper anger,
  • resist bragging,
  • overcome lust,
  • and avoid temptation.

Be brave and choose well.

(Gal. 5:22-23; Rom. 12:2—Eph. 4:2; Prov. 15:18; James 1:19-20; Prov. 22:24; Psalm 37:8; Prov. 29:11; James 4:16; Phil. 2:3; Jer. 9:23; Prov. 27:1-2; 2 Cor. 11:30; Job 31:1; 1 Cor. 10:13; Gal. 5:16)

10. Leave a legacy that blesses those in your charge; but ultimately, seek to please God.

In the end, only what God says about you will matter—not what it says in life’s history books or on your tombstone.

(Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 11:6; Psalm 147:10-11; Prov. 16:7)

Are you a leader? Are any of these truths lacking in your own life? What does God say you should do? Obey Him for greater blessing, and to bring Him praise.

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 She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.
Graphic adapted from Jessica Gale at Morguefile.

How to Be a Woman of Purpose

Practical and biblical, Sally Ferguson invites women to grow in faith as they study God's Word learn how to apply scripture. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she focuses on a woman in the Bible who became a true Woman of Purpose.

"We can learn some lessons from an orphan gal," Sally said. 

I (Dawn) think we can learn lessons from the most unlikely people, if we are alert to how God is using them; and Sally highlights practical lessons from Jewish girl who became an influential queen.

Sally continues . . .

Mordecai and Esther were a part of the contingent living in exile, and as such, they were subject to the decrees of the king of Persia.

One day, the town crier announced a beauty pageant at the king’s palace. The girls were rounded up and transported to the king’s harem.

Did Esther wonder about her purpose during those twelve long months of being sequestered in her quarters? Did she feel forgotten and lost in the crowd of beauties all vying for the king’s heart?

Wonder of all wonders, King Xerxes chose Esther to be his queen and threw a banquet in her honor.

Esther had reached the pinnacle of success in her day, but the red carpet was about to be ripped out from under her sandaled feet.

A man named Haman was cooking up a plot to annihilate the Jews; her people.

What made Esther a woman of purpose?

I believe there are five gems we can see in her life.

1. She was winsome.

Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her (2:15). Verse 17 says she won the king’s favor and approval.

Webster’s Dictionary defines winsome as “generally pleasing and engaging, often because of a childlike charm and innocence.”

Maybe that’s what Paul was referring to when he said in Romans 12:18, “If at all possible… live at peace with everyone.”

He also said in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 that we are the aroma of Christ to everyone we meet. If our words and our actions are winsome, then we represent the King of Kings!

2. She showed respect.

Esther honored her uncle, even after she was removed from his care. She didn’t abandon her upbringing in her palatial environment (2:20). And when an assassination plot against her husband came to light, she gave the credit back to her uncle for the foiled plans.

That’s a refreshing twist to the story when we live in an era where everyone looks out for #1.  

The act of giving deference to another is unselfish and unspoiled. It’s winsome!

3. She cared about the plight of others.

Have you ever cared so much about something that you wept over it? Esther did (8:3).

Isaiah 53:4 says Jesus carried our sorrows and Revelation 7:17 says God will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Who determines the worth of an individual?

Haman and Hitler thought the Jews were expendable.

Today, we have a pandemic of abortions because someone deemed a fetus expendable. Yet, God says every human was made in His image. Isaiah 43:1 says He created us, formed us, redeemed us, summoned us, and we belong to Him.

Esther was a woman of purpose because she cared about others.

4. She sought God.

Esther called for a fast (4:15-16). She had come to the end of herself and realized how much she needed the Lord’s intervention.

It was time to let down the mask of perfection.

It was time to be real about her need.

  • Maybe she had gotten by her whole life by her winsomeness and beauty.
  • Maybe she had lived a sheltered life and never understood what it meant, to not live in captivity.

But now, the stark reality of her own mortality stares back in the mirror and she tastes fear.

What happens when we crucify our own agenda to seek God’s?

2 Chronicles 7:14 says we connect with forgiveness and healing.

Galatians 2:20 says that’s when we really let Christ reign in our hearts.

Esther became a woman of purpose when she sought God with her whole heart.

5. She sought out answers.

In Esther 5:1, we see Esther breaking the rules for the first time in her life. She went against the law of the land of Persia and approached the king’s throne.

Maybe Esther’s request was the beginning of her thinking for herself?

Previously, we see her following instructions:

  • from her uncle,
  • from the eunuch in charge of the king’s harem,
  • and from the king.

Now, however, Esther seems to have come to a new understanding of what it meant to wear her thinking cap along with her crown, as queen of Persia.

Could it be that her time of seeking God gave a newfound courage to step into who He created her to be? Esther 7:3, 9:13 and 9:29-32 all show Esther using her authority to make a difference.

Where has God placed you? How might He want to use you as His agent of change in that place?

Could you, like Esther, be placed in your sphere of influence for such a time as this?

Sally Ferguson is celebrating 15 years of planning women’s retreats! Her coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press) and ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat are both available on Amazon.  Visit her latest retreat release and her website.

Graphic—Esther by John Everett Millais, 1865—resourced at Wikipedia.


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.



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.


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.