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Entries in Dawn Wilson (72)

Monday
Feb042019

Elevate at Eleven-ish

There's one thing about finding out you have a disease. You tend to turn your thoughts inward.

Self-care is good and proper, but self-focus can hinder what God wants to do in and through you in your new adventure with God.

When I woke up at 3:00 am this morning, I couldn't go back to sleep. Lying in bed I remembered many thoughts I'd had since New Year's Day, 2019. I had so many goals for this year.

Then wham!

A diagnosis sent my thoughts reeling and my heart to God's throne of grace.

To be honest, the next weeks were all about me, me, me. How was I feeling? What was I thinking? Why was I weeping? Where would this journey take me?

But early this morning, God gave me a new perspective.

God was making me more sensitive spiritually, and I needed to do something with that sensitivity.

In recent days, I've become more aware of Facebook friends and church family who are hurting and struggling. Knowing my own upheaval, I wondered if they are facing the same temptations I am. The temptation to question God. The temptation to fear. The temptation to believe the enemy's lies.

A friend battling breast cancer. Another nauseated with an incurable disease. A woman struggling to care for her mother even as she battles her own physical weakness. A new Facebook friend who has touched my heart with her response to her own physical struggles—a true "heart sister" trusting God for each new day.

The Bible tells us to pray for one another (James 5:16), bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) and encourage one another, building them up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I'm good at finding practical ways to help or encourage. But when it comes to prayer . . .

I don't know about you, but—and I hate to admit this—I often promise to pray for people, saying I'll do it "whenever I think of you."

But then I don't.

Like you, I mean well. But I get distracted and busy. Or caught up in my own struggles. Then later I'm totally bummed because I forgot to pray.

Like me, do you need a "trigger" to remember to PRAY MORE for those who hurt?

I don't want Satan to rob me of the blessing of praying for those who struggle or are in pain. And I don't want to forget the power of prayer.

What came to me at 3:00 in the morning—which usually isn't a good time to start on anything new, but it worked for me—was a plan to not only remember to pray for those in need, but also to remember the God who answers prayer.

An intentional time. A focused time. A sacred time.

Now a person can choose ANY time; but what came to my mind was, "Elevate at Eleven." (I considered that time simply because "elevate" and "eleven" both start the same way.) Every day, clocks hit 11:00 twice—am and pm.

But then I thought, what if I didn't notice if it's 11:00 am or 11:00 pm? I didn't want to set an alarm, but I'm so often busy or distracted. I need a wider window of opportunity.

How about "Elevate at Eleven-ish"?

(Are you laughing at me or with me?)

I'd have two whole hours each day to remember. Surely, sometime from 11:00 to 11:59—twice a day—I'd remember to turn to the Lord for these precious people in my life.

I want to do two things in these special prayer times:

1. Elevate the Lord.

One definition of "elevate" is to raise or lift up something or someone to a higher position.

I know I can't make the Lord any more than He is. He is all in all, above all, infinitely more than I can imagine. We cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:26-27; Psalm 139:7), because He is everywhere and fills everything; in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28a). We cannot add anything to the great "I AM."

But I can elevate God in my mind and heart. I can lift him up in praise and upgrade my worship (Psalm 103:1-4; Isaiah 25:1; Psalm 63:3-4, 7-8; Ephesians 3:20-21; Revelation 4:11). I can focus on one quality or characteristic of the Lord and praise Him for who He is and how He is working.

To elevate the Lord is also to remember He is sovereign—He is in control (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Job 42:2; Psalm 103:19; 115:3; Jeremiah 32:17; 1 Timothy 6:15). Nothing in our lives takes Him by surprise or causes Him frustration.

To elevate Him is also to seek His purposes in our circumstances. We want to learn from our suffering and praise Him for how He will change us through our trials.

2. Elevate Others in Prayer

Another definition of "elevate" is to bear aloft—to bouy up or boost. Our hurting friends and family are no doubt praying for their own concerns, but we can boost their prayers heavenward with prayers of our own.

We elevate others when we lift them up before the Lord, taking their pain and suffering before Him and praying specific requests for them (Ephesians 6:18b; James 5:16b; Philippians 4:6-7; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14).

The One who knows the power of intercession—Jesus, who prays for us—can transform our prayers for others into great blessing.

We can pray people will sense God's presence. We can pray for His power and provision in their lives—whether in healing or in helping them endure. We can pray for their peace.

In order to best lift people up, we need to stay abreast of their concerns. We need to check in with them from time to time, because their prayer needs may change.

What does "Elevate at Eleven-ish" look like for me?

  • I now have "11" on Post-it Notes around my house ... triggers to get me started on my new prayer habit.
  • Some people may want to set an alarm for 11:00 on their clock or iWatch; or if they're at a desk a lot, they might try this Online Alarm Clock. (Personally, I don't like the intrusiveness of an alarm. There are already too many "jarring" things going off in my life—bells and whistles! But it could be one way to start a new prayer habit.)
  • I have a separate prayer list with all those I'm praying for during these specific and sacred times. But over time, I won't need the physical list. Their needs will be written in my heart.
    • NOTE:  These times of "elevation" do not replace my regular prayer time, but they enhance and upgrade it.
  • I'm asking the Lord to make me more aware of 11:00-ish times to intercede ... to stop me in the midst of my busyness, if only for a few minutes, to remember and pray. (But remember, you can choose to pray for strugglers any time.)

The whole point is, we must become more intentional about doing something we say we want to do.

Perhaps you will join me to Elevate at Eleven-ish (or any special time you choose).

If you do, please add me to your prayer list. I surely need your prayers as I enter this time of uncertainty. Yes, I want to be healed. But one thing I know for sure—one thing you can pray for that will always be God's will—I want to know the Lord more and make Him known.

Who are the people the Lord brought to your mind as you read this? Stop right now and pray for them.

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.

 

 

Thursday
Jan172019

What Makes Bite-sized Upgrades Work?

I have written about UPGRADING our lives since 2013, and in that process, the Lord has shown me how to cooperate with Him to upgrade my own life.

In that process I've also learned an important lesson:  

Personal upgrades can be overwhelming.

It's true no matter what we're tackling:

  • weight loss,
  • toning our bodies,
  • creating a more joyful or contented spirit,
  • moving forward without fear toward a personal goal or dream,
  • learning to be a better parent or grandparent,
  • becoming a prayer warrior,
  • making decisions that lead toward financial freedom,
  • and a host of other upgrade choices!

In a very practical way, personal UPGRADES begin with a choice toward a goal, and then we break down that goal into small (bite-sized) action steps.

Case in point: I wrote on Facebook recently that helping some loved ones pack and move motivated me to clean out my home of my own overflow of "stuff."

I decided:

  1. I no longer use or want many things that still are cluttering my shelves, cabinets and garage—why am I keeping them?
  2. I want to move forward into new adventures and new ministries, and don't want to be "encumbered" by unnecessary and distracting clutter.
  3. I do not want to leave so much "stuff" to my children to dispose of—so this became a "legacy issue" for me.

But considering this UPGRADE goal, I soon became overwhelmed with the thought of the "how" of making that change.

But then that old adage—"How do you eat an elephant?"—came to mind.

We "eat an elephant" one bite at a time!

One bite.

So what was my "one bite" for clearing out the clutter? I decided I could manage one box per week to Amvets or some other charity. That would equal 52 boxes of "clutter" and unused-but-useful items gone from my home in one year!

I am tackling weight loss the same way. Losing all the weight I need to lose is overwhelming, but I can choose bite-sized goals for each day.

I want to write a book this year. It feels daunting. But the Lord is giving me some bite-sized goals, and my "elephant" doesn't seem so huge.

Now this is not a new insight. The "eat an elephant" example has been around for a long time.

But what makes it powerful is when we take action.

Author Pam Farrel recently wrote about the many action steps the Proverbs 31 woman took that changed her life, enabled her to bless others, and earned her well-deserved praise.

Pam even wrote an action planner to encourage wise action steps.

We have to take that one bite... and another... and another.

The key to bite-sized actions making a difference is PERSEVERANCE!

We need to stick to it—or as Pam Farrel says—"Get It Done, Girl!"

  • We can't make a resolution and forget it the next week.
  • We can't make a decision and then back away.
  • We can't set a goal and then suddenly think it doesn't matter.

Perseverance is a steady pursuit of a goal or a repeated action despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

It includes tenacity, determination, resolve, purposefulness, courage, endurance and staying power.

With that in mind, I will persevere in cleaning out my home, losing weight, and writing a book in 2019.

The Bible encourages in this regard. It speaks much about practical perseverance in the Christian life.

One of the scriptures currently motivating my life is to be a "doer" of the Word and not a "hearers"  only (James 1:22-24).

A successful life doesn't grow out of hearing and nodding in agreement or even expressing good intentions.

To be a success, we must take action and persevere.

Even when it's hard.

Even when it takes courage.

The more we persevere in our walk with God, the more God teaches and blesses us, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue to persevere! Christians should desire to persevere and cooperate with the Spirit as He works to change our hearts and make us more like Jesus!

Ask yourself this question:

"What is God trying to accomplish in my life, and how can I cooperate with Him in complete surrender and obedience?

Then ask,

"How can I make little decisions every day—bite-sized upgrades—to persevere in that cooperation?"

It is perseverance in the right direction and with effective actions that make our intended upgrades work!

What upgrades do you want to make this year? What bite-sized choice can you make today ... and tomorrow ... and all year long?

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, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

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.

Wednesday
Nov212018

"Thank God!" (Even When Life's a Struggle)

As I (Dawn) wrote this Thanksgiving UPGRADE, I was so aware of people I know who are struggling this year. How can they be thankful? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us it is God's will that we be thankful IN all things—in the midst of them—not FOR all things. (1 Thess. 5:18)

I think this is an important distinction, because frankly, sometimes life stinks. Pain. Loss. Confusion. Offenses. Desperation. Suffering.

Yet we can learn to be grateful in the midst of it all.

I remember the Thanksgiving after America’s 9-11, with the destruction of the Twin Towers and so much suffering. The grief was overwhelming.

And then stories came out that warmed my heart. People were searching for something good in all their pain.

I remember friends struggling last year in Texas with the flooding after Hurricane Harvey.

And yet some reached out to bless others. (I have a personal story of a flood “victim” who turned her loss into a victorious opportunity to help my family in another state!)

I think back to a time of deep personal pain, and how friends and family gathered around my husband and I to help us move forward in so many ways.

Their kindness helped us embrace the future, and I thank God for them.

I think about the wildfires California has experienced in recent years and especially this fall. Homes lost. Deaths. Incalculable pain. So many questions.

And then again, in the midst of calamity, stories of kindness and hope.

While I’m no Pollyanna, I do try to search for things to be grateful for when I hurt—a solidly biblical approach to life’s struggles.

I believe there are times for legitimate lament as well as celebrations.

If you doubt that, search out the Psalms of lament, or even the book of Lamentations. Part of learning to grieve well is getting a biblical perspective on all the pain. It doesn’t erase the pain, but it helps us bear up under the suffering with a sense of hope in God.

Ask God to help you see His good hand and loving heart in your circumstances.

I think this Thanksgiving Day I will meditate—as many others are this year—on some of the things we can be grateful for even when life is tough and confusing.

For that, I go to the solid, unshakeable rock of scripture.

1. "Thank God!"—He is always good. Even when life seems unbearably bad.

Psalm 31:19 - His love is abundant, stored up for those who take refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8 - Taste and see ... He is good.

Psalm 59:16-17 - God is our fortress and refuge in the day of distress.

2. "Thank God!"—Our lives find meaning when we are centered in the Lord.

Philippians 1:21 - He is the center of our lives and, in Christ, even death is gain.

Philippians 3:7-8 - Even if we suffer great losses, nothing can compare to what we gain in Him.

Philippians 4:11-12 - He teaches us how to face great abundance and great need.

James 1:17 - Every good gift we have is from the Lord.

3. "Thank God!"—Even though tough things happen (because we live in a world cursed by sin), our Father has a big-picture plan of redemption.

Heb. 12:10-11 - Our most painful struggles discipline us and yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

James 1:2-4, 12 - Our trials produce steadfastness and cultivate maturity.

I Pet. 5:9-10 - We may suffer, but the God of all grace desires to restore and strengthen us.

Rom. 8:28 - He redeems His children's circumstances, creating something good.

Jer. 29:11-13 - He desires to give us a future and hope so we will seek Him with all our heart.

4. "Thank God!"—Suffering won’t last forever; but in the meantime, there are opportunities for blessing even in our suffering.

Psalm 71:20 - God will "bring us up" from our troubles and calamities.

Jer. 31:13 - God turned His people's mourning and sorrow into comfort and gladness.

1 Peter 3:13-17 - When we suffer for righteousness' sake—for doing good—God will still bless us.

5. "Thank God!"—There is always hope, because we can go through anything in the Lord's strength.

Phil. 4:13 - We can do all things—everything we need to do—through strength in Christ.

Psalm 18:28-29 - God lightens our darkness and gives us His power and strength.

6. "Thank God!"—We can experience Him—His help and healing—in His many attributes.

One thing is certain: This side of heaven we will all face trials and struggles sooner or later.

In time, we will all feel physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual pain at some level. 

Thank God, we can learn the truths of scripture now—to prepare our hearts for when troubles come.

Which of these "Thank God" truths can help you most today? Are there any scriptures you could memorize to "store up" for difficult times?

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, courtesy of Julie at Lightstock.

Monday
Aug202018

Reasons, Not Excuses

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson admits to her own struggle with excuses, and how a more biblical perspective has helped her grow to be more like Jesus.

"There really is no personal growth or progress until we stop making excuses for bad behavior, bad habits, and wrong choices."

As a young pastor’s wife, I remember counseling a woman and hearing her litany of excuses.

Finally, when I could take no more, I lovingly but firmly said, “Those are all reasons—maybe even valid reasons—for you to feel the way you do, but they are not excuses for your behavior, because you have the living Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and He can empower you to do what is right.”

The woman seemed stunned. She stopped talking, blinked at me a few times, and said, “You know, you’re absolutely right. They are reasons, not excuses.”

That kind of counsel is easy to give, but hard to follow.

I’ve struggled in my own life with a list of excuses—and God’s Spirit kindly returns the counsel that I’ve given to others.

When it comes to making wise, biblical choices, there is never a place for excuses after the fact.

We simply chose not to do what we knew was right.

  • We may have been motivated by lies.
  • We may have had ulterior motives.
  • We may have chosen to fear man rather than God.
  • We may have lacked faith at that moment, or hope.
  • We may have given in to our emotions rather than living by the truth of scripture.

There can be hundreds of reasons for wrong choices.

God wants us to OWN UP to our wrong choices.

Some are sins that need to be confessed in true repentance (I John 1:8-9). Other choices are simply not wise—not necessarily sin, but not the best (Proverbs 1:7).

We can’t move on to make better choices when we cling to excuses and try to justify our words or behavior.

What should we do instead of making excuses?

1. Listen to your Conversations.

What do you say when you "mess up"? Are you always defending yourself? (See Proverbs 16:2, 25.)

What do you say to others when you make sinful choices? What do you say to yourself? Not only that: what excuses are you making in prayers to the Lord? 

I'm not kidding. I found myself excusing a sinful habit in prayer because "that's just the way I am, Lord." What was I doing? I was accusing God of making me sin!

The Lord wanted me to understand my position in Christ, and not give in to the enemy's evaluation of who I am!

How often are you making excuses?  (See Proverbs 16:2, 25; 21:2).

2. List your reasons for not following through with wisdom and obedience.

Take time to sincerely consider why you do what you do. Be honest!

The person who conceals or tries to cover up failings "will not prosper" (Proverbs 28:13a).

What motivates you to make unwise choices? Call that motivation by name.

I discovered in dealing with one of my own besetting sins, I was soft-pedaling my sinful overeating. It wasn't until I named the sinful motivation as gluttony and even idolatry that I began to see some changes in my attitudes and approach to obeying the Lord regarding my health. No more excuses!

Why do you think you disobeyed? Was it rebellion or ignorance of the truth (or something else)? Dealing with a root of rebellion or idolatry is different than ignorance—and the Spirit of God will encourage you to deal with them in different ways.

Examining the reasons behind sins and failings can bring you greater understanding.

3. Learn to acknowledge any wrong, sinful, or unwise choices—quickly!

If it is sinful, confess it (1 John 1:9) and then deal with your sin biblically. The person who confesses and forsakes sins "will obtain mercy" (Proverbs 28:13b).

Run to the cross and remember why Jesus died. No sin is too great to bring to the cross!

I remember the day it hit me.

Dawn, stop making excuses, because . . .

Jesus didn't die for your excuses!

Don't ever allow the enemy to convince you that you have no other choice. God provides a "way of escape" (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we have to be alert to it, and that's harder when you're listening to the devil's lies.

Determine to take the holy escape, not the harmful excuse!

Ask the Lord to help you, then make yourself available to Him. Keep in step with the Spirit of God! (Galatians 5:16).

4. Lean in to the unchanging Word of God and the Spirit of God.

The Lord will help you as you continue to counsel your hearts according to scripture and keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him for a heart that wants to hear and increase learning, wise counsel "and the skill" to steer your course wisely (Proverbs 1:5).

Excuses are fruitless. Rationalizing and justifying doesn't change anything.

But figuring out the reasons for our failings and then dealing with them God's way—that sets us up for a life of fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

In what area/s of life are you making excuses? Can you see how the enemy uses that? What can you do to stop making excuses and live according to the truth?

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, courtesy of knerri61 at Pixabay.