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Entries in Christmas (35)

Monday
Dec242018

Christmas: He Lives!

As I (Dawn) think about this Christmas, I can't help but think of people all over America, all over the world, who are without joy and hope. Yet I am also overwhelmed by the gracious gift God gave to humankind.

The offering of salvation. The opportunity for total transformation. The power of the Gospel to change everything!

The good news is, Jesus lives.

Jesus is as alive today as He was in that manger.

That does have the potential to change everything in our lives—better than the best "upgrade" you can imagine! Our hope is in Christ, "because He lives." (Don't miss the song at the end of this post!)

Though my blog is all about upgrading our lives, I hope you understand it's not about becoming "better" to win brownie points with God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We will never be made right with God through good intentions or works.

God's plan to save us does not encourage our comparing ourselves with others or becoming a person God never intended us to become. He has a unique plan and gifts for each of us, and it begins by receiving His free gift of salvation in Christ.

We are saved only by God's good grace; and an authentic Christian is "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

I don't know how that makes you feel, but I know what it stirs in my heart.

I am profoundly grateful for God's mercy!

I rejoice today—

  1. Because Jesus was willing to lay aside His glory and come as a tiny babe in Mary's womb (Philippians 2:7; Luke 2:1-20).
  2. Because Jesus obeyed the Father in Heaven perfectly, even to the point of going to the cross (John 12:49; 14:31; Hebrews 5:8; 10:7; Philippians 2:8).
  3. Because Jesus died on the cross as our substitute (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).
  4. Because Jesus rose again to certify our victory over Satan and death—HE LIVES! (Acts 2:24; Romans 6:5-10; 1 Corinthians 15:54; Hebrews 2:14-15; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Revelation 20:14)
  5. Because Jesus lives forever as our great High Priest, Lord and King (Hebrews 7:24-28; Isaiah 9:7; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 19:16).
  6. Because Jesus is coming again to receive us unto Himself (John 14:3).

The truth of the Gospel message is this: Only God can change our hearts.

When God UPGRADES us, we become more like Jesus.

Though we think it all began with the baby in the manger, our "upgrade" really began in the heart of the Father long before the arrival of Bethlehem's Babe: 

"... he [the Father] chose us in him [Jesus] before the foundation of the world..." (Ephesians 1:4a).

He has blessed us in Christ and adopted us according to the good pleasure of His will "to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved [Jesus]" (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Take a moment or two today and talk to the Father.

  1. Say thank you for His mercy.
  2. Say thank you for Jesus, our Savior.
  3. Commit to renewed holiness.
  4. And take some time to praise the Lord for "his glorious grace."

We often sing “He Lives” at Easter, but I am taken by how it fits the Christmas season too!

"God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus...."

And He's coming again!

Because He lives, we can face anything.

Here is a beautiful song sung by Joni Eareckson Tada and Gracie Rosenberger—women with great disabilities, but also great purpose and joy. In “He Lives,” Joni and Gracie rejoice in the victory and hope we have in Christ. I pray this music will touch your heart and encourage you today.

Christmas Blessings to you!

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.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of Kevin Carden at Lightstock.

Tuesday
Dec182018

Have a Merry Macro Christmas

With insight and compassion, Julie Sanders reaches out to help people in need. She seeks to see the world through the eyes of the Lord, and in this Christmas UPGRADE, she encourages us to look through a "big picture" lens.

"We don’t want to miss a single detail of the Christmas season," Julie said.

"Sometimes, we find ourselves on overload with the details we see, hear, and know. What would we see if we stepped back?"

Stepping back is something I (Dawn) do occasionally to move beyond surviving tough circumstances to thriving in them, so I truly appreciate Julie's encouragement to shift our focus during the craziness of the holiday season.

Julie continues . . .

Since the year 2000, cell phone cameras have enamored us with close-up images. Micro glimpses call us to look closely at what’s overlooked.

We’ve photographed baby feet, latte art, water droplets, Bible passages, candle flame, and flower petals.

In our effort to focus on small things, we easily forget the big picture.

The Invitation to Look Up

The greatest Gift Giver knows we have a human leaning toward small things—so much that He repeatedly invites man to look at the bigger picture.

  • Abraham, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” (Genesis 15:5)
  • To His people, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens" (Isaiah 40:26).
  • When Stephen’s life was taken, he “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God” (Acts 7:55).
  • The Psalmist said, "I will l lift up my eyes to the mountains”—he wanted to remember where help comes from. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Our attention is captured by a micro-scope, but we miss much when we lose the macro-view.

The Capacity to See

Today we have the ability to see small acts and needs around the world. It’s a lot to take in, and we become numb. Our exposure exceeds our capacity.

God’s capacity is infinite, sufficient to be all-seeing and all-knowing for the multitude of small things only He can be fully aware of and responding to in full. 

For us, it’s more than we are meant to see and know and touch.  Too much micro is just too much.

We are limited in our knowing and our capacity to know, but God is all knowing and able to know it all. If we look up, we see beautiful things.

The Benefit of Big Picture

As Christmas approaches the Northwest coast, ferries cut through cold Puget Sound waters from Seattle to a destination in the San Juan Islands. Outer decks empty as passengers find warmth inside around tables. 

A walk through with a broad, macro view reveals random tables where puzzles have been left for strangers and would-be friends.  Simply walking past with a “big picture lens” reveals missing pieces, matches, and images taking shape.

A big picture view reveals people gathering and making warmth, jingling with laughter and conversation.

There’s power in the big picture.

The Invitation to a Merry Macro

What if this was a Merry Macro Christmas?

Instead of Insta-posting small micro-glimpses, what if we captured wider landscapes and larger themes? What if we took steps back to scan the scene, taking in the collective gift of a silent night, decked halls, and peace on earth?

Maybe, like shepherds long ago, we would lift our eyes and see creation’s host giving glory to God in the highest.  Maybe the macro-view would reveal what hearts long to receive—the gift of love to the world.

Maybe the big picture would show mankind through us what grace looks like.

Stepping back in this telephoto time takes courage.

If we resist the urge to zoom in every time, will we fit in or be left out?  Is it a big mistake to look away from the small?

Here are five steps to start:

  1. Take pictures of whole scenes, not just details.
  2. Make your exposure match your capacity.
  3. Talk about the themes of what you experience.
  4. Limit social media details to focus on real, macro life.
  5. Physically lift your head, look up and out, and be present.

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name:  

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know’ (Jeremiah 33:2).

This Christmas, let’s lift our eyes from the micro-scopic and look to the macro-scope of bigger things God wants us to see.

Have a Merry Macro Christmas!

What small things distract you and hold you captive to details? What micro-scopic concerns could you let go of to invite in a bigger view?

Julie Sanders is a leader with children and families in need, where the big picture of God’s love is always the best gift. During this Christmas season, you’ll find her happy to have her family together again and doing puzzles on cold Northwest nights. Julie writes from her online home, “Come Have a Peace.”

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec132018

Three Ways to Make This Christmas More Meaningful

Cindi McMenamin, who writes to strengthen women in their daily walk with God, opens up about how she has changed in her attitudes about the holidays, and in this Christmas UPGRADE, she offers suggestions for a more meaningful season.

Cindi asks, "Are you a woman whose goal is to survive the holidays? You go into get-it-done mode and plow through your to-do list and give a big sigh of relief on January 2nd when it’s all over?"

That was my (Dawn's) attitude for many years before God rescued me from undue stress. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one!

Cindi continues . . .

I was that way, too. For years. Then I realized I was missing something very important.

  • Special memories passed without my embracing them.
  • Loved ones came and went and I barely noticed.

Soon the Christmas Season was over and I was tired, but unfulfilled. I knew something had to be done differently.

Today, I’d like to think of myself as a woman who doesn’t just survive the holidays, but, rather, a woman who actually thrives during the most hectic time of the year.

And I’d like to encourage you to be one, too.

Yes, there are extra expenses, extra responsibilities and extra amounts of stress this time of year. There can also be extra expectations—on your part or the part of others—that can cause drama and leave you feeling like a woman on the edge.

Last year, I decided I wanted to be one who truly ENJOYS this time of year, so I started focusing on the few things that matter—and those few things helped me experience a drama-free Christmas that was memorable and fulfilling.

1. Put God First.

You’ll be a woman who is able to accomplish more if you know where your priorities are.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, He replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Since Christmas is when we celebrate His birth, what better gift to give Him than obedience? And what better way to show Him we are obeying His command to love Him first by giving Him the first of our day, through our time?

I can honestly say that if I don’t spend quiet time with God every day—preferably in the morning—I’m a mess. My family will attest to that, too!

Preferably, for me, that quiet time consists of at least 20 minutes in prayer and in God’s Word, letting His perspective and principles guide my life. But there are days when that quiet time consists of only a few minutes of quieting my heart before God and asking for His strength to get me through the day.

As we put God first in our day, we are reminded that His approval, His love and His expectations are more important than anyone else’s.

And at this time of year when we can become run down and therefore ultra sensitive, hormonal or just plain cranky, we can tend to have unrealistic expectations on others and be hurt if they’re not appreciating us, supporting us or showing love toward us.

When you are secure in your relationship with God and convinced that He loves you and that’s enough, you can face whatever comes your way.

2. Prioritize Your Loved Ones.

You’ve heard the saying “You can’t please all the people all the time,” right? We have to remember this one at this time of year because there are so many demands on our time.

Often those we live with and love the most get the least of us when we are trying to please everyone.

By asking yourself “What does my family need most from me today?” and then accomplishing that first on your to-do list, you won’t make the mistake of being a people pleaser and a friends and family failure.

Yes, you may be expected to bring cookies to your child’s classroom, but if it happens on the day your child is sick or your husband has a last-minute need that he forgot to communicate to you, or your grandmother is rushed to the hospital, you will have to make a choice to keep yourself sane.

You just may have to let some people down at this time of year in order to keep first things first.

No one likes to do that, but in reality, when you have priorities, it means something else (or someone else) may have to go without. Make sure you prioritize those who love you and need you the most.

Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The ones you live with, eat meals with, and sleep next to are your "neighbors" more than anyone else.

You can prioritize them—while still reaching out to others at this time of year—by making sure their needs are met first and then inviting them along with you to help meet the needs of others. That will keep you balanced, but not at risk of neglecting those closest to you. 

3. Pursue Moments that Lead to Memories.

There’s nothing worse than a Christmas that is self-absorbed.

If it’s all about what we want—or what our children want, or what someone else wants—we can lose focus of what it truly means to give as God gave of His Son, and Christ gave of Himself. As you look around, it’s not difficult to notice so many in need—physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.

What are the moments that lead to stories you will tell at the dinner table at night?

  • Stopping to talk to a homeless person and handing them a bag of groceries?
  • Taking your children—or your girlfriends—to a convalescent home and singing carols, or just going door to door to visit the elderly and handing them each a candy cane?
  • Taking a meal to a family at church? 
  • Going caroling and wishing well those that open the door and smile at you?

The holidays that have meant the most to me and my family are the ones in which we got outside of ourselves and touched another life, not necessarily because it made us feel good, but because it touched someone else’s life.

It showed our God that we understood a glimpse of what He sacrificed when He sent His Son to earth—and then to a cross—for us.

What will you do to make Christmas more meaningful this year—for yourself, for your family, for your neighbors, for those with desperate needs?

Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, mother, and national speaker who helps women and couples strengthen their walk with God and have drama-free relationships. She is the author of 16 books, including the best-selling  When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, Ten Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, and Drama Free.  For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jill-111 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Dec112018

A Christmas Me-Lighting

Kaley Rhea is wise and insightful, a witty millennial who loves to tweak our minds so we think biblically in everyday life. This Christmas UPGRADE will take you back to the "why" of Christmas and tweak your joy!

Kaley says, "You like Christmas lights? I got some straight-up Christmas fireworks here for you."

When I (Dawn) read Kaley's post, I thought, "Yes, the truth is what we need to renew our Christmas joy. Jesus, the Light of the Word, is our great Overcomer!

Kaley continues . . .

First, I want to invite you to take a look at 1 John 3, verses 5 and 8 with me:

“You know that He appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin… Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (ESV)

Now let’s go back to the beginning. Old Testament.

Back to the Genesis garden where the world was perfect, and humanity existed sinlessly and with the mission to get to know God by turning the rest of creation into the kind of beautiful home He’d made for them in Eden.

What did the devil do?

  • He sowed in them doubt that God actually wanted their best.
  • He planted a seed of his own idolatrous ambition to be as powerful as God.
  • And he pointed out that going against God’s command would satisfy a simple, quick-fix desire for something tasty.

Satan built his traps, and through Adam and Eve, the world fell right in.

Poisoned. Sick. Broken.

Fast forward.

Fulfilling an incredible promise, Jesus—Who has always existed, the creative power of mighty God—came as a Son.

And what happened?

  • He obeyed God, trusting His plan even when it led to the cross.
  • He came as a servant, abandoning His place and His rights as God.
  • And He refused every opportunity to take an easier way out or to compromise the Word of God in order to satisfy His flesh.

Jesus did what Adam and Eve could not do.

Jesus did what you and I could not do.

Because of the love He has for us, He took our sin and the punishment we deserve, and He replaced them with a miracle opportunity to become part of His family.

Joint heirs. Adopted by God.

Us. Can you believe it?

Satan had built a labyrinth of sin and disease; he’d manipulated and whispered and painted all his rot to look pretty.

And then Jesus came in like BOOM! He dismantled. Destroyed. Blew up. Everything the devil had built.

Jesus came as the answer to every point humanity had failed, and He came with a love that redeemed. Big enough to light up and echo through the millennia.

You want joy this Christmas? Real, lasting, soul-deep joy?

  • Think about a devastated devil.
  • Think about Jesus—the only One who could solve our sin problem.
  • Think about a future built on His righteousness rather than our lack thereof.

Then, for literal Heaven’s sake, let’s pick up the gardener’s hats Adam and Eve dropped and get with that new commission, fam!

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to light us up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ this day and this season and every moment until we see Him face to face.

When was the last time you thought about Christmas in terms of Jesus overcoming Satan's plans? Take a few minutes now and thank your Heavenly Father for those three reasons to rejoice!

Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind Christy Award finalist novel Turtles in the Road (along with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). Kaley also makes up one third of the writing team for the new, non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of chris-1974 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Nov272018

Get Organized with a Holiday Notebook

Marcia Ramsland, The Holiday Coach, has so many ideas for organizing our lives, homes, offices and more; and in this Organization UPGRADE, she helps us organize the holidays!

 “The Holidays are as much a matter of organization as a matter of heart," Marcia says.

"Organize your plans and tasks in a Holiday Notebook to let your heart shine through and be relaxed enough to celebrate the reason for the season."

 I (Dawn) love that... "let your heart shine through." We're to let our light shine for Christ—actually, a reflection of His light—so others will be drawn to the Lord.

But it's hard to "shine" when we're a mess mentally and emotionally with holiday chaos.

Marcia continues . . .

I used to start every holiday season from scratch . . . until I realized my scattered lists from last year weren’t organized enough to give me a springboard to build upon this year.

So I started My Holiday Notebook.

It worked so well even a major retailer had me be a Holiday Entertaining spokesperson and called this “My Holiday Hub.” It works!

Select a three-ring notebook, put in these five tabs, and write in it whenever you get a brilliant idea.

Everything will be in one place and take the mental stress out of the season once you see all your planning in one place.

The goal is to be calm enough to celebrate the season with joy—not stress. 

Remember the angel's words?

“Behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

Tab #1 — THE HOLIDAY CALENDAR

Keep my 8-Week Holiday Season Calendar to improve on the dates you did things last year.

Refer back to what weeks you did holiday prep and events last year. (DOWNLOAD HERE.)

Tab #2 — GIFTS & CARDS

Keep your Master Gift List here so you can regularly jot down ideas and update purchases. Check off with a red pen if is wrapped and where it is stored. (DOWNLOAD HERE.)

Keep your Christmas card address list here, printed from your computer, or screenshot your email holiday list.

Tab #3 — DECORATIONS

Take pictures of decorations as you place them in your home. This will be a time-saving reference.

Neatly label the decoration boxes and donate what is not used by the first week of December so someone else can use it.

Tab #4 — RECIPES

Keep your favorite recipes and menus in this section. It will be easy to start baking your favorite Christmas cookies along with a grocery list for the season.

Include your holiday menus. Next year will be a breeze.

Tab #5 — EVENTS

  • THANKSGIVING This tab with photos, notes, and menus will make next year easier, especially what to do on the days before anything you host. Listing specific details helps you simplify.
  • CHRISTMASKeep your notes and photos here as a memory jogger for next year, such as the family opening presents, eating together, and a journal page of “The Best Things that Happened This Christmas.” You’ll love the annual summaries.

Think of the possibilities for a calm season if you kept all your holiday ideas in one place, followed the Holiday Season Calendar Plan, and cleaned up your notes for next year!

You really could be organized and less stressed for the holidays!

Create a Holiday Notebook and start today.

Do you have a Holiday Notebook?

(If not, I highly recommend Marcia's resources. I think her Holiday Notebook would be a wonderful "heritage" item to pass down to family members someday too! - Dawn)

Marcia Ramsland is The “Organizing Pro,” a Coach and Online Trainer, and author of Simplify Your Holiday Season and Simplify December Devotions. For your free Holiday Calendar & Master Gift List visit organizingpro.com

Graphic adapted, courtesy of jill 111 at Pixabay.