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Tuesday
Aug132019

Leaving a Legacy of True Treasure

Cathy Horning, a true Bible lover, loves to help people understand the truths and treasures of scripture. In this Legacy UPGRADE, she shares how to leave a legacy to children and grandchildren that can make a difference in their lives.

"This month I turn 60!" Cathy says. "Six decades of life seemed the perfect time to write an upgrade post about milestones. Until, I received an unexpected gift that shifted my focus from years past to the ones which lie ahead."

I (Dawn) am in the proces of considering what legacy I will leave to my own family someday, so I truly appreciate Cathy's wisdom in this post.

Cathy continues . . .

The gift was an old Bible, a precious treasure which challenged me to be more purposeful about what I will leave behind one day.

You see, during the past year a deep regret had grown in my heart, because I had nothing which belonged to my grandmother. So, on a recent visit to my parents, my mom had no idea the special gift she was passing on to me when she gave me my grandma’s Bible.

And, if that wasn’t enough, joy flooded my heart when she opened the pages to reveal a treasure trove of notes, poems, and handwritten letters addressed “To God” and “To The Lord.” 

The inheritance of my grandmother’s Bible and it’s contents inspired me to be more intentional about leaving behind a legacy of true treasure.

1. Leave True Treasure

Growing up, we lived thousands of miles away from extended family and I loved when we would go for visits. But especially precious to me were the letters my grandmother and I wrote to each other. I’m sorry I didn’t keep her letters, which had been tangible reminders of her love, faith, support and encouragement.

So finding the letters she had written to the Lord in her Bible was like discovering true treasure.

2. Leave A Treasure Chest   

I wish I would have known to cherish the letters my grandma and I exchanged, and to keep them in a safe place. But I didn’t.

So as an adult, I am conscientious to keep journals I have written, notes and cards others have given to me, as well as pieces I have written for others.

I hope that one day the writings I have saved will be a treasure chest for my loved ones to explore.

3. Leave Imperishable Treasure 

The letters my grandmother and I wrote to each other are gone forever, but her plain, black, hardback Bible, filled with the handwritten letters of her prayers, lasted.

Still, after I read each note and letter, I found I was sad that there was nothing underlined or highlighted in her Bible to give me a  glimpse of what had spoken to her the most from God’s Word. Until, I showed my adult children my wonderful gift.

Then, as we looked through the notes and scraps of paper together, my daughters noticed that there were small black pencil marks next to passages throughout it’s pages. To me these marks have become an imperishable treasure.

This month as I turn 60, about the same age my grandmother was when she wrote her letters, the gift of her Bible stirred up questions in my own heart.

  • What will I pass on?
  • What will I leave to bless and encourage my loved ones?

Not just personal letters, like the ones between my grandma and me, but a spiritual heritage like Timothy’s grandmother and mother passed down to him.

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you… 

"Remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:5-7, 3:14-15)

More than anything, I want to pass on a treasure chest to my children and grandchildren. I want it to be filled with:

  • Imperishable treasure from my own faith journey, 
  • A true treasure of my own prayers and prayers God has answered, and of
  • Testimonies of God’s faithfulness as I held on to the truths and promises in His Word.

My prayer is that this true treasure will fan into flame their own walks of faith, long after my life here is over and I am in my heavenly home. 

What legacy of true treasure will you leave behind? How would you want to "fan into flame" your family's walks of faith?

Cathy Horning is an author, blogger, speaker, Bible teacher, encourager, mentor, wife, mom, grammy to thirteen (and counting), and Jesus lover! She loves the Word of God! Absolutely, nothing brings her greater joy than sharing with others how very precious, practical and powerful are the promises and truths in God's Word, and how He desires to transform our lives into the men and women we were created to be! Learn more about Cathy here and here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Bru-nO at Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug082019

Joy, the Key to Peace

Pam Farrel knows more about joy because she's made it a focused choice in her life. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she encourages us to discover more peace as we pursue biblical joy.

"We live in a world where people are struggling with stress and discouragement," Pam says. "In a recent, Fox News poll, 65% say they are stressed daily and 52% of Americans say they are worried daily."

I (Dawn) see this stress and discouragment all the time. There is little peace in our world. But Pam says joy is the key to peace!

Pam continues . . . 

The good news is, researchers who wrote for Time magazine’s The Science of Happiness say that happiness is made of from 50% DNA, 10%Circumstances, and 40% CHOICES we make.

“We make our choices and our choices make us!” That's a mantra that those in my world have heard my husband, Bill, and I say for several decades.

During one particularly challenging and strenuous circumstance in my life when EVERYTHING seemed to be unraveling, my friends kindly reached out and inquired about my wellbeing.

I didn’t know how to answer them. The answer was too personal, too long and too depressing, so I prayed and asked God, "How do I answer?”

The Holy spirit impressed a question on my heart, “Pam, what kind of person do you want to be?”

Lord I want to be the kind of person that can choose joy no matter what life sends my way. Your Word in Neh. 8:10 says “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and this family needs strength, so I choose You, Jesus, I choose joy!”

From that point on, when people ask, “How are you doing?” my answer has been, “Choosing joy!”       

Yes, our life is the sum of our choices and God’s loving sovereignty.     

In Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, I share a word study where I add the synonyms to help define the key words in this verse with a vital key choice:

The choice to rejoice! 

REJOICE (lean in and delight in God’s grace) at ALL times, I repeat, REJOICE (choose to be glad and joyful because of ALL God gives us!) (Philippians 4:4).

God graciously gives the “how to” rejoice in Phil 4:6-9

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God doesn’t want us to be anxious (worried and loaded down with cares). The solution He provides can be illustrated as a word picture of wrapping a gift into a gift bag:  

Think of your cares and anxieties (your “supplication”) that you desire God to answer, as the gift; wrap them in the tissue paper of prayer, which Strong’s concordance explains is “to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes for His wishes....”

Drop your cares in the gift bag of thanksgiving, gratefully thanking God by faith for what He will deliver as an answer for your eternal good and His Eternal Glory.

As we ask, request and petition God, the confidence comes in believing you are giving this “gift” to the ONLY ONE who has the REAL POWER to answer—The Almighty GOD!   

And as we make this transaction, God gives us a gift back—peace (harmony, tranquility and sense of security) that is beyond comprehension! And that IS a great reason to REJOICE!

TRY THIS EXERCISE to apply this illustration to your life today:

  • Imagine your greatest stress is placed into your right hand, wrap your fingers around this anxiety.
  • Now lift it heavenward; open your fingers and picture presenting it at the foot of the throne of heaven.
  • Leave your care there, but keep your hand open.
  • Now, think of a name of God that would be best to hang your heart on to find hope, joy and peace. If you struggle to pick which trait, choose the name or trait of God that would be opposite of your stress. For example, if you care is your anxiety, trade it for the peace of God.
  • Follow up by looking up verses about God being peace and giving peace.
  • Then string your favorite verses together, put your name in the series and personalize God’s Word to your life.

Remember: Joy is the Key to Peace.

How can you apply this scripture to your life today? "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, relationship expert, and author of 48 books including her newest, Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience. She and her husband, Bill, co-direct Love-Wise ministries.

Graphic of key, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug012019

How to Be a Decisive Woman

Sally Ferguson is a "Woman of the Word," and she draws simple-but-powerful lessons from Bible stories. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she encourages decisiveness by examining the life of a familiar Old Testament woman.

"I hope you brought your sandals," Sally says, "because we’re going to walk the dusty roads from Moab to Bethlehem."

As I (Dawn) read Sally's post, I thought, "becoming a decisive woman is difficult for some women who are naturally more timid, but sometimes God uses circumstances to teach us how to become more resolute."

Sally continues . . .

Look. Just up ahead. Two women are supporting each other as they carry their loads. Let’s catch up to them.

It’s Naomi and Ruth, and they’re both wearing the black garb of mourners.

Oh, it’s so sad. They’ve had three funerals in the span of 10 years.

When I was younger, 10 years seemed a lifetime away. But, now? Don’t blink, because it will slip by.

But, oh so sad. They’re both widows. And the young one must be in her 20s. What a shame.

Ruth has chosen to uproot from her home and go with her mother-in-law to a place she’s never been. Is she scared about what she will find there? Maybe she feels lost without her husband? But, she seems to be peacefully resolute.

Maybe, for the first time in her life, she feels as if she has been found.

Ruth’s heard the stories Naomi recounted of the wonders God had done in Israel. Would this God take notice of her, a barren, destitute widow with no man-child to support her in her later years? Is there a future with this God, for a woman?

Her own country’s gods couldn’t keep her from her current state of affairs. Would this God be any different?

What made Ruth decisive? I believe there are four things we can glean from her life.

1. She jumped in with everything she had.

Have you ever seen someone go to the beach with a brand new swimsuit, but never get in the water? When they returned, would you say they went swimming? No, probably not.

We might say they were sun-bathing, but wouldn’t equate that with the experience of feeling the silky smooth water and tasting the salty spray.

Walking with God is like that. You can’t fully experience a relationship with Him if you’re going to settle for sticking to the beach.

Like Ruth, leave the past behind you and fully embrace what He has to offer.

Like Ruth, give it all you’ve got. Read Ruth 1:16-17 to see the depth of her commitment.

2. She took refuge in the Lord.

When Ruth met Boaz, he had already heard about her. Look at Ruth 2:11-12.

When someone takes refuge, it implies taking shelter from a storm. When hurricane season hits the Caribbean, you seek refuge. But, even a fortress can take a battering.

The only place we can find true peace in a storm is when our heart is anchored in Christ.

Read Psalm 91, to hear David’s proclamation of confidence in God.

3. She trusted God to provide a way.

When Naomi sent Ruth out into the darkness to meet Boaz, Ruth must have wondered if Naomi had lost her mind. But Boaz’s response became the prototype of when Jesus became our Kinsman Redeemer.

When Ruth trusted God, He provided a way through His kinsman-redeemer named Boaz. He was the one to handle legal matters for the family. Ruth 3 gives the details.

4. She let God rewrite her story.

When we began our story, Ruth was a barren widow. Look how far she’s come!

In Ruth chapter 4, she’s married to her kinsman-redeemer and they have a son.

Ruth is grafted into the story of the Israelites through a baby boy named Obed and is the great-grandmother to a shepherd boy to come, named David.

Why is this important to us? Because we are also grafted into the family through salvation found in Jesus.

And we can therefore claim the promises God made to the Israelites through the ages!

Aren’t you glad we have these wonderful promises in Christ? You can claim them, too, when you believe in Jesus as your Savior and confess that He is Lord of your life. Acts 4:12 says we only have access to God through His Son.

Won’t you let Him rewrite your story, too?

Sally Ferguson loves sharing God’s Word in all different forms! 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 here.  

Graphic—painting by Thomas Matthews Rooke, 1876-7.

Tuesday
Jul302019

You Can Be as Close to God as You Want to Be

Life coach Debbie W. Wilson helps people live in God's grace. In this Relationship with God UPGRADE, she offers three tips to help us grow closer to our Heavenly Father.

Debbie shares a friend's words: “I believe, but I don’t feel close to God like some of you. Not sure why. I’d like to.”

I (Dawn) believe every Christian, at some point in their spiritual journey, is nudged by the Holy Spirit to draw closer to God. But perhaps we don't know how.

Debbie continues . . .

My friend’s words caused me to remember my own faith journey.

In Sunday School, my young heart warmed toward God when I heard the stories of David and Goliath and Zacchaeus, the wee little man. My grandmother made sure I treated God with respect. No food in my mouth when we blessed our meal.

But I didn’t understand the part about being a sinner who needed saving. I wasn’t sure what people were saved from. That changed when a youth leader explained John 3:16 at a weekend youth camp and the Holy Spirit cut through my blameless veneer.

I’d wronged God. Jesus had gone to the cross for my sin.

The realization broke—and healed—my heart. The gospel became personal. Jesus didn’t just love this conglomerate called “world.” He loved me!

I returned from camp on top of the world—a citizen of heaven—a child of God. Could anything be better?

But the glow faded. Instead of sprouting wings, I bristled when Mama said, “Clean your room.” I fussed when my little sister got into my stuff.

Knowing Jesus assured me of heaven when I died, but it didn’t seem to make much difference now.

Even reading the Bible raised more questions than it answered.

My Journey

In college, I spent a weekend with some vibrant Christians. Their lives created a thirst to know God better. At a friend’s Bible study, we listened to Bible teaching audio tapes. This group treated the Bible as if it meant what it said.

I’d filtered the Bible through my own understanding. What agreed with my world view I kept, and I dismissed the parts that didn’t. No wonder it didn’t make sense.

A Turning Point

I wanted the peace my college friends who simply trusted the Scriptures shared. But could I let go of relying on my own understanding and fully trust the Scriptures?

God tenderly wooed me to trust Him.

I exchanged my know-it-all approach for childlike faith. The Scriptures came to life. Questions I thought would never be answered in this life became clear. Scales fell off of my eyes.

“I feel I’ve been living blindfolded all my life, and now I see,” I told my friend. “Even how I view the evening news has changed.”

Life brimmed with the presence of God, and I couldn’t get enough of Him.

Perhaps like me and my friend, you want to feel closer to God. You can! Here are some tips to help you get started.

3 Tips to Help You Grow Closer to God

1. Ask Your Heavenly Father for a Closer Relationship.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt. 7: 7-8 NIV).

2. Read the Bible with Childlike Wonder.

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do’” (Luke 10:21 NIV).

3. Invite Jesus to Be Your Life, Not Just a Part of Life.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 NIV).

The apostle John called himself the one Jesus loved.

That was true of all of the disciples, but John believed it and pursued closeness with Jesus.

Which of these tips might help you draw closer to Jesus?

Debbie W. Wilson helps people live in God’s grace so they can enjoy fruitful and full lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She is a life coach and an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jantanee at Lightstock.

Tuesday
Jul232019

A Fresh Take on Familiar Scripture

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson shares a favorite scripture passage with a fresh "take" on the verses.

Have you ever become so accustomed to a Bible verse that you no longer appreciate it's impact?

Long-time Christians are familiar with Proverbs 3:5-6. We see it emblazoned on t-shirts and painted on wall art. We're so used to seeing those verses, we don’t really take time to reflect on their richness.

My dad wrote those verses in the front of my Bible when I went off to college. It was the only time I remember him sharing any scripture with me. When I joined a revival team two years later and became more aware of deeper spiritual truth, I added verses 7-8 to my understanding.

That passage remains with me after more than forty years, giving me direction and hope.

In these days when I’m dealing with a cancer diagnosis, I've returned for a "fresh take" on Proverbs 3:5-8. Here's what the Lord is teaching me.

1. My Sovereign God Is Trustworthy.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart….” (verse 5a, NKJV).

Who is this One we’re to trust? He is the sovereign God who sees, knows and delights in us. He is faithful, trustworthy.

We can trust His love, wisdom, presence, power, provision and so much more—with all our heart. We’re not to be double-minded and unstable; we’re to rely confidently on the Lord.

Circumstances may cause us to struggle, but we’re not to live by our emotions. We’re to trust our faithful God and hold fast to His faithful Word (2 Timothy 2:13).  

2. My Understanding Is Limited.

“And lean not on your own understanding” (verse 5b).

Humans have limited understanding, limited discernment. It’s not wise to depend on our own understanding or try to figure out everything on our own. In other words, don’t put your stock in your own understanding, insight, judgment, or strategies. Why?

God’s thoughts ways are higher and better—beyond us (Isaiah 55:8-9). There are things we may not know about our situation or why we suffer. That’s why we’re to seek the wisdom from above and the mind of Christ.

If we want a reputation for good judgment and common sense, we’ll want to saturate our mind and heart with scripture (Proverbs 4:5-15; Colossians 3:16; Philippians 4:8-9). We’ll store up His Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11; Joshua 1:8) and walk in the Spirit, obedient to the Word (Galatians 5:16).

3. God’s Plan Is Always Best.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him…” (verse 6a).

Acknowledging God means submitting to Him. We know, recognize and then submit to God and His will. We listen for God’s voice and seek His will so we can submit to it.

Acknowledging Him also means we give Him the credit for everything we accomplish. We adore Him, lift Him up and magnify His name (Psalm 34:3). We make Him “bigger” in others’ lives through our testimony.

In everything, every day, we look for ways to acknowledge His work in our life. Our hope in God grows, and we praise Him more and more.

In acknowledging God knows best, we can be at peace.

We stop trying to control everything, knowing God’s counsel and plan are firm and for our good (Psalm 33:11).

4. God Can Keep Me on Track.

“And He shall direct your paths” (verse 6b).

In love, God wants to direct our path (Psalm 32:8). He wants to keep us on track. But we must pay attention to and submit to His will if we want His guidance (Proverbs 1:5).

God desires to make our way straight and smooth, establishing our steps (Proverbs 16:9), giving us light (Psalm 119:105), and keeping us from falling into destruction. Sometimes He removes obstacles that block our way (Psalm 37:23-24)—He can clear the road so we can faithfully follow Him. He will show us what path to take, and enable us to make wise, godly choices.

We experience God’s guidance as we pursue Him in His Word, but also as we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13). We pray for God to teach us (Psalm 25:4-5). We learn to wait on His timing and are ready to take action at His command.

Our path might look different from others’ paths.

God knows the best path for us to please Him (and not be people-pleasers) so we can grow spiritually and love and serve others. As we put Him first, He will crown our efforts with success. He will reward faithfulness.

5. Human Wisdom Can Lead to Pride.

“Do not be wise in your own eyes” (verse 7a).

Pride stands in opposition to humility (Psalm 138:6; Matthew 23:12). Pride says (or acts like), “I know better than God.” The proud, conceited heart is impressed with its own knowledge and insights.

We can’t assume we know it all. As fallen, sinful creatures—with hearts deceived by sin (Jeremiah 17:9)—it’s foolish to think we can decide on our own what is right and what is wrong. (That’s why our culture is in trouble!)

As Christians, we must never operate independently of our Creator God or His Word.

God guides and instructs the humble and obedient (Psalm 25:9-10; 32:8). To be wise, become a life-long learner of the sure and reliable Word of God, not of the failing philosophies of the world. Ask God for His wisdom (James 1:5-8).

6. I Must Fear God and Turn from Evil.

“Fear the LORD and depart from evil” (verse 7b).

Wisdom comes from God, and the beginning of our wisdom is to fear the Lord (Proverbs 2:6; 9:10). Fearing the Lord involves living in reverent awe of Him and obeying Him.

As we fear God, we will begin to know His heart. We will love what He loves and hate what He hates. We will learn to shun evil and turn toward righteousness.

In other words, let’s run to God and run from evil!

7. Strength Comes When I Trust and Obey.

“It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones” (verse 8).

This has become the most exciting “fresh take” in my recent experience.

I cannot do much to change my medical prognosis except to follow the doctor’s orders, but I can do much to allow the Lord to change my heart as I trust Him and obey His direction.

Another translation of verse 8 says a healthy fear of the Lord will bring “health” to my body and “nourishment” to my bones.

This renewed health and vitality in my inner self will come when I am free from the strain of a sinful life.

I will feel stronger at my core as the Lord adds sweet blessing and refreshment to my life (Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 4:16).

There are many rich truths in this short section of scripture that can guide the Christian's life.

In summary:

  • My sovereign God is trustworthy—I can confidently trust Him.
  • My understanding is limited—I must seek wisdom from above.
  • God’s plan is always best—I can safely surrender to His will.
  • God can keep me on track—He’ll enable me to make wise choices.
  • Human wisdom can lead to pride—Humility will help me depend on God’s wisdom.
  • I must fear God and turn from evil—God wants to shows me His heart.
  • Strength comes when I trust and obey—God can renew my health and vitality.

Can you see how these verses might apply in your own life circumstances? Where might you need a change of perspective?

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 Christianity.com (wiki posts) and Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Bessi at Pixabay.