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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Mercy (3)


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 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.


Margin for Error

Deborah DeArmond writes, from experience, about the ups and downs in relationships. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she reminds us to treat each other with exceptional grace.

“Marriage settles over the years. Kind of like the sugar in the bottom of the tea glass,” Deb says. “It's still there and just as sweet as it's always been. But unless we stir it up a bit, we lose some of the flavor.”

I (Dawn) love this picture of sugar in tea, especially as it applies to marriage. The Bible tells us to “stir up” each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), and marriage is certainly a place where this is true. But it all begins with true fellowship and grace.

Deb continues . . .

My husband and I recently completed what may be the most significant collaboration of our marriage, with the exception of producing our sons. We’ve written a book together. Two heads, two hearts, but only one set of hands on the keyboards. It’s only practical.

The topic? Marital conflict. And I assure you we’ve personally tested every idea in the book. We did it while writing the book.

We’re incredibly qualified to author this work; we’ve been disagreeing for years. Forty-plus, to be exact. We’re both strongly opinioned, and not hesitant to share our thoughts—intensely, at times. But at least neither can say, “I didn’t know you felt that way.”

Those intense moments of fellowship, however, have not dimmed the intensity of our love. It’s as fierce as it’s ever been.

Recently, however, during one of those “he said, she said” conversations, I stopped to consider whether it was time to cut one another a break.

The issue was insignificant, a matter of principle. Or so I thought. The Lord encouraged me to examine which “principle” had placed me on my high horse. “Was it love?” His Spirit inquired. “Patience? Selflessness or humility?

Um. No. It was the I’m right, I know I’m right, so just admit it, principle. It’s not in the love chapter. Or the Beatitudes. Or anywhere biblical.  I looked. Ugh.

Then God threw me a lifeline.

“Create a margin of error for one another.”

What does that mean? Isn’t it a financial term? Math is my third language, so I looked it up. Here’s the definition:

Margin for error:

  1. An extra amount of something, such as time or money, which you allow because there might be a mistake in your calculations.
  2. A small amount that is allowed for in case of miscalculation or change of circumstances.

 An extra amount of something? Like humility, patience or love, perhaps? Or what about mercy?

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew 5:7)

In case of a change of circumstances? Isn’t that our address these days? At the corner of empty nest and why don’t you listen to me anymore? 

So how do we fix it?

How do we inject kindness, patience, and mercy into our interactions?

Create a margin for error.

  • Accept there is a possibility: you said it and I didn't hear you.
  • Abdicate the need to be right; send the high horse out to pasture.
  • Create a margin of extra love to smooth the path.

Some tips to create that margin.

1. Face-to-face communication. Ditch the drive by interaction with ten assorted and unrelated topics on your way out the door or while he’s watching football. Eye contact makes a difference.

2. Write it down. I’m a list maker. If it’s on the list, it gets done. Science confirms our recall is better if we use both head and hand. We get it.

Plus there’s a written record in the event you need evidence in court, “I’m sorry, your honor, I had to put him in time out. Dry cleaning was definitely on his list!”

3. Check for understanding. Confirm you both heard and understood the details in the same way.

“We’re leaving for the airport by 4:30 pm, right? You’re comfortable with that?”

4. Let. It. Go. It’s not my gift.

Ron once said to me, “It’s not enough that I eventually just agree with you. You want me to believe you are right!” Why is that a problem? I mean, I was right, right? So he should acknowledge it. Don’t you agree?

And then I hear the Holy Spirit, tapping His toe. I got it.

Another definition defines margin as a place of safety or something that makes a particular thing possible. Like loving one another, fiercely, all the days the good Lord gives us with fewer bumps and scrapes. Or scraps.

Which of the tips for creating margin would help your relationship today?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her bookRelated by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between moms and the girls who marry their sons, and her new bookI Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb and her husband, Ron, live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.



Modeling God's Love When It's So Tough

We have seen a monumental display of God's mercy this week, and in Dawn Wilson's Spiritual Life UPLIFT, I want us to focus on the grace of forgiveness.

At his bond hearing, Dylann Roff stood in his striped inmate jumpsuit with a blank expression as family members of the victims he admittedly gunned down at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church said over and over again, "I forgive you."

A daughter of Ethel Lance said,

"You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but God forgives you, and I forgive you."

To the astonishment of a watching world, relatives offered words of grace. Mercy. Forgiveness.

It was a painful but powerful testimony to the work of Christ in the hearts of those who love Him.

In Commentary magazine, Abe Greenwald, senior editor of Commentary, wrote, "The late [antitheist] Christopher Hitchens formulated (and forever repeated) a superficially clever challenge to people of faith: 'Find one good or noble thing,' he said, 'which cannot be accomplished without religion.' The astonishing rejoinder to Hitchens comes now from the family members of those who were gunned down Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina."

"At today’s hearing for the suspect, the spouses, siblings, parents, and children of the murdered innocents addressed the man being held for this unspeakable crime—and showered him with mercy and forgiveness. Theirs is a model for all humanity and a testament to the unique and transcendent power of faith." 

How can those, so wounded, so wonderfully forgive?

Forgiveness does not mean the relatives approve of Dylann's evil act. Forgiveness releases Dylann to God's hands. Forgiveness prays for peace, but it does not mean we don't need just laws to deal with those who are filled with hate and would harm or kill.

The victims' families are following in the footsteps of the Great Forgiver.

1. Jesus Modeled Forgiveness.

Mark 2:5 - "And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'"

Luke 7:48 - "And he said to her (a sinful woman), 'Your sins are forgiven.'"

John 8:11 -"...'Neither do I condemn you (an adultress); go, and from now on sin no more.'"

On the cross, Jesus forgave a repentant thief, hanging on a cross beside Him (Luke 23:42-43), and He even forgave those who put Him to death! (Luke 23:34)

2. Jesus Taught Forgiveness.

Matthew 6:14 -"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

Matthew 18:21-22 -"Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him,'“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" [Story of the Unforgiving Servant, Matthew 18:23-35]
We see the power of forgiveness in the much-loved parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), modeling the Father's love and forgiveness.
Jesus exemplified and taught the kind of monumental mercy and forgiveness we've seen at Emanuel AME Church.
Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., says, "Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that."

As the deadly shots came, the victims were in Bible study. They loved the Word of God. And likely, they too would say to us, "Love and forgive. It is when you are most Christ-like."

Do you struggle to forgive? Can you walk in Jesus' footsteps and forgive by faith?

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 Director 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.