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Entries in Choices (26)

Tuesday
Feb172015

I Choose Grace

Those who know Mary James will testify to the sweetness of her spirit and the power in her songs. I asked Mary to share an UPGRADE Uplift to encourage our hearts.

“If you believe change is not possible when looking at a situation,” Mary says, “you are deciding what God’s grace is capable of achieving.”

So many times, I (Dawn) have allowed the enemy to weigh me down with regrets. When I do that, I can’t move forward. But God does not leave us without hope.

Mary continues…..

The message of God’s grace through Christ is the most beautiful gift any of us can ever possess—especially for those who have made significant mistakes along the way.

Though we may have regrets, the weight of God’s forgiveness covers our choices with a love so big that the past loses it power over us. 

I recently heard a message that sadly left listeners without this hope. Its focus was on parenting. In a nutshell, the message said, “If you do not do as Scripture instructs, you will have regrets.” 

Ok, makes sense. We know that Scripture has been given to us for a reason and will spare us much heartache. But all of us have fallen short of its expectations.

So then what?  Oh, yes . . . a heart full of regret.

As a person who the enemy loves to torment with the past, I began to squirm in my seat.  Occasionally, I squeezed my husband’s leg in almost uncontainable frustration. 

The message continued and my spirit grew heavier and heavier, especially for the men in the auditorium who were being held to the highest level of accountability.  Yet I remained hopeful and kept waiting for it . . . and waiting . . . and waiting.  

But it never came. 

There was plenty of truth, but no grace. Not a shred.

As my husband and I sat there—two people who have made a thousand mistakes as parents—we were left to see ourselves as only one thing: failures.     

Years ago, I heard Bunnie Wilson share about the remorse she had in raising her children. Her regret was that she had not taught them to have a servant's heart. But—and there was a but—she pointed us all to a new day, a new beginning, a Christ-centered resolve. 

Bunnie said that now, every time she is with her children, she models servanthood for them. What she did not teach them when they were young, she taught them as adults.

And they were changed by her efforts. 

Every parent in the room who had missed the boat in some aspect of parenting left with that hope.  I have never forgotten her reminder of God’s ability to redeem our less than perfect choices.    

If you believe change is not possible when looking at a situation, you are deciding what God’s grace is capable of achieving.

God has given us history so that we that we can learn from it, but Paul also understood the danger of living in the past.

As he wrote in Philippians 3:12-14,

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We can live in the bondage of regret, or we can let the power of God’s grace move us into a new day. Either way it requires effort.

Regret is like carrying around that proverbial baggage, where grace requires humility: placing any limitations, grudges or shame into the hands of God.

Whether we are at the podium or in the pews, rigidity in our thinking when it comes to God’s ability to change us or restore a relationship/situation, diffuses the work of the cross

Oddly, our regrets can be the very things that help us understand our need for Jesus.

We must accept consequences, but God has shown us time and time again that He can take a mess and turn it into a masterpiece.  

Which do you choose? The mess or the masterpiece? Regret or grace? 

 Mary James is a Christian Artist and Speaker who has embraced the charge found in 1 Peter 2:9, that we are, “Saved to Proclaim the excellence of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Through her music, testimony of grace, and transparent, biblically-centered messages, Mary is devoted seeing hearts and lives healed, strengthened and transformed by Christ. Since entering ministry in 2000, she has released five full-length CDs, shared the platform with leading Bible teachers such as Dr. David Jeremiah and Kay Arthur, and is a three-time Inspirational Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year Award winner. Visit Mary's Website.

Graphic in post adapted, Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday
Sep302014

10 Great Choices to Make Today

Leslie Vernick‘s wise counsel encourages women everywhere to live for God in freedom and abundance. In this Life UPGRADE, she encourages us to consider 10 simple but powerful choices we can make every day.

“God has given an important freedom to humankind,” Leslie says. “It’s the freedom to choose.”

Now anyone who knows me (Dawn) and my ministry (Heart Choices Ministries) will know Leslie had me at the word “choose.” In this post,* Leslie shows us how important choices are to God, and how they can change the direction of our lives; and then she offers 10 great choices you can make today … and every day.

Leslie continues …

The Bible gives us plenty of examples of individuals who made good choices and of others who made poor choices. We can learn from their example.

Eve chose to believe the serpent rather than believe God. She only looked at the moment (it looked good to eat and she wanted it), but the consequences of her choice affected the entire human race (Genesis 3:1-6).

Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:25-26).

Noah chose to believe God and built an ark, suffering the ridicule of his entire community for a season, but saving his family in the long run (Genesis 6-8).

Abram chose to believe God and it was counted unto him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

Esau chose to sell his inheritance for a pot of stew. He was living for the moment and made his decision on a temporary felt need—hunger (Genesis 25:29-34).  

The Israelites chose to believe the eight spies that feared the giants rather than Joshua and Caleb who trusted God (Numbers 13).

David chose to honor his commitment and loyalty as a subject of King Saul, even though Saul sought to kill him. When David had the chance to kill Saul, he chose not to, instead trusting God to deliver him and protect him (1 Samuel 18-24). 

Queen Vashti chose to say no to her drunken husband, King Xerxes when he commanded her to come to the palace to parade her beauty before the people and nobles (Esther 1). As a result she lost her position, but she kept her dignity.

Abigail chose to do the right thing and overruled her foolish husband’s orders when he refused to feed David’s men. She saved her family from disaster and David from sinning (1 Samuel 25). 

John the Baptist chose to stand for the truth rather than compromise with sin and lost his head (Mark 6:17-29); yet Jesus says of John that no human being has ever been greater than he (Matthew 11:11). 

Judas chose to wallow in self-hatred instead of choosing to repent after betraying Christ … he went out and hung himself (Matthew 27:3-5). 

Jesus, the very Son of God, chose to leave His heavenly kingdom and live among us. He wanted to show us who God was and what He was like. He chose to suffer and die on the cross so that one day we might live forever with Him.

"We can decide

  • to live in response to the abundance of God, and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs.
  • ... to live in the environment of a living God and not our own dying selves.
  • ... to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab.”

Just like turning your steering wheel slightly will make a big difference in where your car ends up, making small but regular good choices can make a huge difference where your life ends up.  

Here are ten choices you can make today.

You can:

  1. Choose to love, rather than hate.
  2. Choose to smile, rather than frown.
  3. Choose to build, rather than destroy.
  4. Choose to persevere, rather than quit.
  5. Choose to praise, rather than gossip.
  6. Choose to heal, rather than wound.
  7. Choose to give, rather than grasp.
  8. Choose to act, rather than delay.
  9. Choose to forgive, rather than curse.
  10. Choose to pray, rather than despair.

Moses encourages the people of God with these words, “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live….” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Which of these 10 abundant life choices can you make right now? Which would most change your current circumstances?

Leslie Vernick is a national and international speaker, author, licensed clinical social worker, consultant and relationship coach with an expertise on the subjects of personal and spiritual growth, marriage improvement, conflict resolution, depression, child abuse, destructive relationships and domestic violence. She has 25 years of experience helping people enrich the relationships that matter most! Visit her website!

* This post is excerpted from Chapter 6 of Leslie’s book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong. The “We can decide...” quote: Alice Gray, Steve Stephens, and John Van Diest, comps., Lists to Live By: For Everything that Really Matters (Sisters, Oreg.: Multomah, 1999), 215.

Thursday
Sep182014

How to Create a Godly Legacy

I’ve been reading Becky Harling’s newsletters for some time now, and find her to be a godly, insightful woman. This post about Upgrading your Legacy isn’t just for grandmas! I appreciate Becky’s perspective on building a legacy now – whatever your age.

“I realize that if I want to leave a godly legacy for those coming up behind me, I need to make intentional choices now,” Becky said.

Those of you who know me (Dawn) will know Becky had me at the word “choices.” Leaving a godly legacy doesn’t just happen.

Becky continues … 

I have found I need to return to these choices often to remind myself of the end goal – leaving a godly legacy.

Choice 1:  Prioritize personal purity.

In other words, don’t allow yourself to engage in “secret sins.” Choose integrity. Let your public life match your private life.

If you’re struggling in a particular area, confess your faults to a close friend or mentor and ask her to hold you accountable. James 5:16 instructs us, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed.” When you dare to bring others into your struggles, it provides accountability and healing as they pray for you.  

Choice 2: Break the cycle of ungrace.  

A judgmental spirit and bitterness is often passed from one generation to another in families. Think of older people you know who have never forgiven those who have hurt them. They harbor bitterness. I don’t want to be like that!

I have found that I must continually ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse my mind. It’s so easy to hang on to our hurts and build a monument to our personal pain.

Jesus calls us to something entirely different. He commands us to “settle matters quickly” (Matthew 5:25). In other words, learn to let go of your hurts and offer grace instead.

Choice 3:  Commit to sharing the gospel and investing in others.

One of my daughters reminds her four-year-old son, “Jesus first, others second, you last.” That’s a great policy for our lives, isn’t it?  

Practice lifting your focus to God every day in praise, then turn your focus outward to see how you might invest in someone else, and then finally glance inward.

Too often we become obsessed with ourselves and forget that God wants us exalting Him and encouraging others.

Choice 4: Choose praise over complaining.

Whew! That’s tough, isn’t it? It’s so easy to complain even about the small things in life, like the weather, the food we eat, or the clothes we wear.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should, “Do everything without complaining” (Philippians 2:14).  I fear sometimes that we are so accustomed to complaining that we don’t even realize we’re doing it anymore.

What if we became ruthless with ourselves in the area of complaining? What if the next time we feel like complaining, we start praising God instead? Wow. Imagine how our attitudes would change. Imagine the positive legacy we would leave behind.

What kind of spiritual legacy are you leaving for your children and grandchildren? The people you mentor? Others who are watching your life? What can you do today to insure you leave a godly legacy?

Becky Harling is a sought-after speaker and the author of several books, including Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Her degree in biblical literature, and her experience as a missionary, women's ministries director, pastor’s wife and breast cancer survivor, bring depth to her message. She and her husband Steve live in Arvada, Colorado, and they have four grown children and five grandchildren.  

Note: This post is adapted from a Becky Harling Ministries newsletter (6-6-14).

Thursday
Sep042014

The Blessing of Routines

Most vacations are over and it's time to return to routines. Back to school. Back to work. In this UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us with this one thought: Routines don't have to be boring!

Routines are basically big life "habits." Most adults are in a habit of going to work, 9-5, Monday through Friday, to earn some income to pay our bills. (Hopefully, those out of work are in a habit of going to the unemployment office to seek work.) Our children are in a habit of going to school and getting an education. These are good, necessary routines!

It's true, some people call routines boring, even "mind-numbing." But I think we can alter that perspective and see routines as a huge blessing.

Let me explain.

In the smaller, daily habits of life, like brushing teeth or taking a shower, we don't have to use much brain power to function. We've done them so long, they are almost automatic. This gives us some brain matter and freedom to concentrate on more needful things that arise each day.

The same thing is true for going to work and going to school – the mega routines in our lives. We know we're going to get ready for our day, get to the location for work and school, and plunge into our tasks. Those are givens. We don't have to think much about that.

But then what?

What are we going to accomplish today? What are we going to learn today? Who are we going to serve or love or encourage today?

Our 9-5 routine is just a vehicle to get us involved in the great adventures of life.

Involved in progress. In education. In problem-solving. In relationship-building. In love-sharing. And so much more.

So I am thankful for the routines. They are blessings in disguise! With the basic routines fixed, we can focus our heart and mind on what God wants us to do, and that can change every day!

Jesus is our example in this. He worked hard to accomplish all the Father wanted Him to do (John 5:17, 19; 6:38).

Routines can also help us solidify new good habits. Every new habit begins with a choice. You decide to develop something new in your life. You know that if you create this habit, you'll be blessed with some kind of reward. But getting from the choice to the reward is where the routine comes in.

For example, let's say you want to start memorizing scripture.

  • You make the choice: I will start memorizing scripture.
  • You know the reward: I will have a stockpile of stored-up truth the Holy Spirit can use in my life.
  • You design a routine: I will create proactive cues and behavioral steps to help me accomplish my goal.

One cue might be a scripture verse written out and taped to your bathroom mirror so you can see and read it every single morning when you brush your teeth. (Attach a new routine to an older routine!) My daughter-in-love, Carrie, does this for her family. I love her bathroom mirror scriptures!

I do the same thing at my desk. I have scriptures I want to memorize right above my computer monitor where I'll see them every workday.

One behavioral step might be to create some scripture "flash cards" to stick in your purse for "wait time" at the doctor's office or in the grocery store checkout line. (Use your present routine to create a new behavior. In this case, every time you wait, you will use your time to memorize)

In other words, exploit current routines (work/school) to accomplish new purposes. That's using your brain creatively. And when you use your brain creatively for the glory of God and your growth to become more like Jesus, that's a blessing indeed!

It's all about perspective. Your job isn't just a job. Schooling isn't just schooling. Each are opportunities.

If you'll be alert, you'll discover each routine comes packed with possibilities to honor God and accomplish His purposes in fresh ways.

Be encouraged with these scriptures:

"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90:17)

"... be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58b)

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23).

Pray God will open your eyes to some blessings that may be hidden in your daily routines!

How can you use your return to work, or your children's (or your) return to school to create some new routines – to exchange perceived boredom for true blessing?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday
Feb012014

Embrace Your Season!

A short Upgrade UPLIFT:

I want to encourage all of us to embrace the season we're in ... the season God prepared for us.

If need be, upgrade your attitude today.

Look for the blessings in this day ... this circumstance ... this season.

Determine to honor God in all your decisions.

In your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or beyond? Live out godly priorities as the Lord makes them clear to you - no matter your age.

Look for ways to delight God's heart with your faith and obedience.

Whether you are in the sunrise of your faith, or nearing the sunset when you will see the Lord, your view of your "season" will determine how you respond to life's challenges, and whether you see the hand of God - even in the little things that others might miss.

The Bible says,

"He has made all things beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Including you!

That's the truth. Do you believe it? Do you embrace it? How does that truth cause you to want to act more like Jesus in this season of life?