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And UPGRADE'S Founder

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Entries in Bible study (4)


Tell Me Another

To read Kaley Rhea's writing is to hear her talk. She's real, relevant, righteous and right-on! In this Uplift UPGRADE, Kaley gives us a fresh perspective on the Lord's relationship with us. And it's all good.

"I don’t tend to get attached to things," Kaley says. "My nostalgia-o-meter may be broken."

I (Dawn) thought that was an overall Millennial thing. As an older woman, I'm finding my family of millennials don't want my "stuff." But there's a greater, deeper truth here.

Kaley continues…

Seriously, I’m over here like:

  • First Grade macaroni art? That was years ago; let’s let this go.
  • Backyard clubhouse my dad built? This thing is a rotting deathtrap; burn it.
  • A great, great aunt’s collection of fabric scraps? Why do we even have this?

Somebody—I hope—is reading this and nodding with me, thinking, Yes, girl. Same.

But I know some of you are reading this and going, You cold-hearted monster. Okay, I’ll own that.

But lemme tell you a story.

My sister Allie has a one-year-old little girl named Emerson. Emerson and I, not to brag, are buddies. So because we’re buddies, not long ago I sat on the floor with her while we watched a kiddie program.

As we sat, I found myself getting pulled into this show. I don’t know how it happened.

There was a princess, and she was still learning how to be a princess, and in her moment of victory, I found myself getting choked up. Like I had to pause and take a moment.

The emotions in a preschool animated musical got to be too much, and I had to pull up and do some focused breathing. Me. The unsentimentalist.

You know who made fun of me in that moment? My grown adult mom and sister.

And do you know who else? Nobody else, because Emerson is an emotional person and showed a mature amount of empathy.

All right, it was super funny.

It occurred to me (and Emerson, probably) that I did not become affected when I saw a picture of that animated princess. My eyes didn’t well up when I read the show’s description. Or when I learned her name.

Nothing about that silly show came anywhere close to touching me on a deep level until I learned her story.

Until I saw her struggle. Until I knew her kind, little princess heart.

I do not connect very well or very often to THINGS. But I can connect to a STORY.

Do you wonder sometimes about the different ways God could’ve chosen to relate to us?

He could have said, “I am God, and you are human. Worship me.” And that would’ve been right and just. But we wouldn’t have known Him.

He could have said, “If you possess this amulet or such and such trinket, or say these words to this statue, you may know My favor.”

He could’ve looked at us and been altogether like, “Nah.” But He didn’t.

He gave us His story.

From the beginning of time, through the Old Testament to the cross, the resurrection and the revelation, He loves us so much—has such a desire to connect with us—He wrote it down.

The places. The people. The evidence. The truth.

Does that blow your mind? That blows my mind!

Sometimes I get so caught up in mining the Bible for “What is right in this situation?” and “How does this apply to my life?” that I miss the joy of being swept up by God’s own history.

I forget to marvel over and revel in the God who is present in every page, in every story, in every moment He chose specially to preserve for millennia so my human tinymind could process even a fraction of an understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

Deep breath.

Am I getting emotional now? Emerson, get the tissues!

Wonder at these things with me:

  • What we have is not a religion of relics we have to search out.
  • What we have is not a boss wearing a nametag or a lord bearing a title instead of providing an introduction.
  • We have a God who gave us His stories.
  • We have a Friend who invites us to know Him.
  • We have a Father who proves He has known us since before we knew anything.

All that gets to this cold-hearted monster’s heart every time.

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18-22).

How do you approach the Word of God? What story from the Lord speaks to your heart today? Take time to pray and say, "Tell me another, Lord!"

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, releasing soon, with two more novels in the works. Along with writing and teaching at writers’ conferences, she co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.

This post is adapted from Messy to Meaningful: Lessons from the Junk Drawer by Monica Schmelter, Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea.


Goals to Dig Deeper in Your Faith

Almost from the moment I met Cathy Horning, I knew two things about her: She loves the Word of God, and she is a powerful encourager. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she encourages us to dig into the Word and grow our faith.

“Happy 2018! It’s a New Year, and my very favorite holiday,” Cathy says. “A time to remember. To reflect. To look ahead. To refocus. To prioritize. To set goals.”

That sounds like a big order, but I (Dawn) think Cathy knows how to fill that order!

Cathy continues . . .

I was surprised to discover, as the holiday season ramped up this past fall, a yearning in my soul. A quiet ache. A longing to go deeper in my faith.

In the flurry of activities, I realized I was being swept along the river of life by the relentless currents of an extremely full and demanding schedule.

If you have ever been river rafting, you know what I mean.

One of my fondest memories is riding an inner tube on the Salt River in Arizona. On hot, summer days, my friends and I kept cool as we were carried down the river by the strong current. Occasionally, we were even pulled into an eddy along the way, and were forced to paddle our way out to keep from being stuck there or, worse yet, being pulled under.

Floating down a river is great fun! But, it’s not a place you want to stay!

So, as the new year approached, I knew I wanted off my raft of busyness—to paddle away from dangerous eddies, to swim out of my river, and to plant my feet on solid ground.

I needed a plan:

  • to stop being swept along by the currents of busyness,
  • to avoid the dangers of a spiritual eddy,
  • to be intentional, and
  • to stop drifting along.

Instead, I wanted to be firmly planted on fertile soil, and to go down deeper in my roots of faith. 

The New Year seemed the perfect time. Although, to some, it is simply the next day on a calendar, to me the New Year is very special. It is an opportunity to begin again. To start afresh, with a clean slate.

And in my own story, it has been a time of momentous life changes.

It is the holiday when I surrendered my life to Jesus at a midnight church service, 39 years ago. Then four years later, it became the holiday when I walked down another church aisle and became a new wife.

So, for me, the New Year is a time to celebrate not only a clean slate, but also new life.

For four decades now, my faith and my family have grown! Each year has brought many changes like children, moves, teenagers, college, weddings, travel, grand-babies, aging parents, and so much more.

However, with the changes have come challenges. And the challenges of the past few years have found me in survival mode.

You know, going through the motions. Doing the right things. Getting by.

My faith remained steady, yet my soul was not satisfied.

Thus, the longing to go deeper, instead of simply holding steady or just staying afloat.

This year, that is going to change. I will no longer be swept along or, worse yet, become stagnant and stale. As I prayerfully considered my goals, I chose ways to dig deeper in my faith. In order to achieve this, I came up with three simple goals.

In 2018 I choose to—

1. Spend More Time in God’s Word

  • I will spend more dedicated time in God’s Word, reading, studying, listening to, meditating on and memorizing it.
  • I will reserve set times for social media, because, honestly, it is one of the strongest currents which robs me of going deeper.

2. Pray Bigger and Bolder Prayers

  • I will take each worry and turn it into prayer.
  • My prayer requests will be bigger and bolder.

I will not allow myself to get stuck in an eddy of worry. Instead, I will ask, and praise God, for audacious answers which will bring Him glory!

3. Listen To and Follow My Shepherd More Closely  

  • I will more intentionally seek to listen for the Lord’s direction throughout my day.
  • I will follow His lead, even if it is contrary to my own plans and inclinations.
  • I will not be swept away in the currents of routine and order or by the imagined urgency and needs of others.

“Now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots go down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7 NLT).

Dear friend, this New Year, let’s be on our guard against being swept along by the currents of life. Or, worse yet, getting stuck or pulled down in an eddy.

What goals can you make and what intentional steps can you take to dig deeper in your own walk of faith?

Cathy Horning loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than encouraging women how to walk in His ways. She is a popular speaker, blogger, and writer, as well as a beloved wife, mom, Grammy, mentor, encourager and friend. Her first two books will be released in 2018. Learn more about Cathy here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Marboon at Pixabay.


Add Some Color to Your Quiet Time

Morgan Farr is a strong woman both physically and spiritually, yet she struggled with Quiet Time. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she shares how she overcame her frustration.

Morgan asks, "Have you ever just dreaded doing your quiet time? Does it feel like doing what you are supposed to do, but it just doesn’t feel personal?"

Yes, that's a problem I (Dawn) have encountered many times, and God gave me a solution almost identical to what Morgan is going to share here!

Morgan continues . . .

Quiet time is one of those Christian phrases that can be overwhelming to new believers. As someone that didn’t have a relationship with Jesus until my 20s I can tell you, I used to be so very frustrated with "quiet time."

I tried everything that people suggested to be diligent in reading my Bible and none of it fit.  

A few things I have tried: 

  • Reading just my Bible  
  • Reading my Bible with with a Bible commentary 
  • Reading my Bible with a concordance   
  • Reading my Bible and taking detailed, organized notes 
  • Following a Bible-reading plan 
  • Reading through the Bible in a year 

None of it really stuck and that made me feel like the worst Christian ever.

I mean, really, what kind of Christian dreads quiet time?

Finally, one of my mentors suggested that I think about what makes me … ME.

After really thinking about it, I realized I like the academic side of studying the Bible. I love to study, but that isn’t enough. A quiet time is so much more than just studying. Quiet time is your time to communicate with God.  

So how would I have a quiet time and personalize it between just God and me? He is the creator of the universe.

When it hit me that the Creator of the universe loves me and wants a relationship with me, that changed everything.

The Artist of the universe, the Creator of color wants a relationship with me! So why can’t I add color in my quiet time?

I am that person who loves nothing more than a brand new pack of crayola markers, so using color in my quiet time just seemed natural.  

But how do you do it?  

I am sure many of you have heard of Bible journaling. If you google itor check it out on Pinterestyou will find all kinds of really awesome examples. They are beautiful and delicate.

I tried my hand at it. But honestly it was a little much for me. I didn’t want to make a mistake in my Bible. I am an absolute perfectionist and the idea of illustrating in my Bible made me very nervous. I was unable to actually do my quiet time.

Since Bible journaling was too much, I had to come up with something else.

In lieu of creating an actual drawing in my Bible, I use a system of color-coded symbols to mark the text of my Bible. I gathered up the symbols from around the internet, and the colors were based off of my associations with each group.

What does my Bible marking key look like?

Purple is God’s "team members" (Father, Son, Holy Spirit...)

Red is the cost of our salvation (blood, cross, sacrifice...)

Orange is sin. because it makes me think of traffic warnings (lust, cursed, suffering...)  

Brown is all the things with earth (nation, land, home...)

Blue is the things we give back to God (prayer, repentance, believe...)

Green is the things God does for us (grace, bless, forgiveness...)

Pink is for family interaction (family, marriage, child...)

Using this system has made me so much more willing to do my quiet time! I like being able to look back at a text and see if it was more about the cost of our salvation or the gifts that God has given us.

I also like that it doesn’t take forever to complete my daily reading using this method. Having a one-year-old, writing a blog and running a full-time, functional fitness gym ministry doesn’t leave a lot of down time.

That means I have to be even more diligent about utilizing my quiet time with God to the best of my abilities. In Colossians 3:17, we read,

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

I am so grateful that God made me just the way He wanted to, with a love of Him and the color He created.

Does this sound like a system you might use? Do you use a different kind of coding in your Quiet Time?

Morgan Farr is an Army wife currently stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with her wonderful husband Brian and their seven-month-old son, William. She is a homemaker who dedicates her free time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one interactions and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood on her blog. You can find her training programs on her blog,


The Lonely Leather-Bound Book

Dawn Wilson wrote the original version of this back in 1983, but I find it is just as relevant—maybe more so—today. In this adapted Spiritual Life UPGRADE, which is a bit of a departure from our normal posts, let's think about our relationship to the "lonely leather-bound book."

“Oh, boy … it’s only 11 weeks until Christmas! I love Christmas. I seem so much more important then.”

The leather-bound book sighed. He remembered happier days when his owner spent hours reading and focusing on God’s timeless words.

“I don’t get used nearly enough these days. Years ago, when my owner asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior, I was used every day—picked up from my special spot, opened with tender, loving hands, and read at least an hour. She just couldn’t get enough of me! (Psalm 1:2; 1 Peter 2:2)

But that was then.

I’ve been resting here undisturbed for a couple of months now, but Christmas is coming and I hope my owner will at least read the Christmas story. She used to pull me out all the time when her sons were small. She told her husband it was important to teach the boys about Jesus. And she seemed to have a hunger for the truth in my pages. (Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119:103; Job 23:12)

But last Christmas she didn’t open me at all. She was too preoccupied with parties and shopping.

And then, after Christmas, she made a lot of New Year’s resolutions about reading me regularly and maybe even taking me to a Bible study, but I guess her resolutions were empty promises. Again.

Oh, I know she’s been terribly busy. There’s the scrapbooking class and trips to the mall, and she’s especially fond of that spa.

She reads several books each month that talk about me. It’s not the same, though. I’m the real deal.

I do get dusted off occasionally, along with the coffee table and candy dish. She feels she needs to make a good impression for company. Anyone who knows my owner knows she’s very concerned about appearances, and I’m such a ‘spiritual’ decoration.

Please understand. It’s not that I don’t get picked up. I get carried to church every Sunday—though heaven only knows why. My owner doesn’t bother to look up the verses when the Pastor preaches. I’m just good ‘for looks,’ I guess.

And I suppose in a few years I’ll be replaced by a newer, snazzier model. I hope it will get used more than I have, but I doubt it.

She’s already got six translations, a big print version, and two devotional Bibles on her bookshelves.

Last month was a thrilling time for me, though. My owner had a lousy time with her kids, and she got so upset she sent them to bed early. Frustrated, she plopped down on the couch for a good cry. I was there on the coffee table—ready, as usual. She stared at me for a long time through her tears, then reached out and picked me up.

I was so excited!

She thumbed impatiently through my pages, wishing I’d fall open to a good answer or a quick promise … something, anything that would speak to her heart.

How I wish she’d get familiar with me before these moments of crisis arrive.

She did seem somewhat encouraged as she lingered in the psalms, though, and I was glad to help. One of her boys got out of bed to visit the bathroom, and he seemed surprised to see my owner reading me. No, shocked would be a better word.

Most of the time, I remain here forgotten, or at least, neglected. Once in a while she gives me a guilty glance. Oh, how I laughed at her expression when the Women’s Ministries director stopped by last week. She glanced over her shoulder at me, shocked to hear me screaming. (Actually, it was her conscience doing all the screaming.)

She’s been in denial about me for so long she can’t recognize her desperate need.

She forgets I bear witness to the One who gives life—not just eternal life, but the daily life her heart craves. I could show her God's wonders and help her understand His ways. I could teach and equip her to serve the Lord. Most of all, my words could make her more like Jesus! (John 5:39-40; Psalm 119:18, 130; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 17:17)

Sometimes I feel like extra baggage, especially on vacations. I can’t believe how much I traveled last summer. I was in seven states, but she didn't use me once.

Once she even took me on a cruise. I didn’t see much, though, except the inside of my owner’s suitcase. Her priorities were clear. She pulled everything else out several times, but I can’t see why I even went along. I just took up space.

The house is pretty chilly today, but I feel hot and stuffy. It’s hard to breathe when I’m covered up with magazines and all those catalogs. I can just barely peek out.

Sometimes I get lonesome and wish for the ‘good old days’ when my owner loved me more than anything, even food. (Jeremiah 15:16)

I was alive and powerful in her life—a real eye-opener, motivator, wise counselor and friend. I brought her peace and joy. I showed her how to make God smile.

Oh… she’s coming!

Hey, I’m over here—over here!”

Do you have a "lonely Bible" too? Could you schedule some regular visits?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

This post was adapted from an article I wrote for Spirit of Revival magazine, a publication of Life Action Ministries, in 1983. Used with permission.