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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Quietness (3)


Only One Thing Matters

Grace Fox, a career missionary, knows much about the pressures of ministry, but she has learned to focus on God's purposes for each day. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she encourages us to have a biblical perspective on how we invest our time for greater intimacy with the Lord.

"So many voices and genuine needs clamor for our attention," Grace says. "So much noise fills our physical and mental space. Our busy lives pull us a gazillion different directions but in truth, only one thing really matters."

Grace echoes a truth I (Dawn) struggled with for years. So much to do, so little time. And it didn't help that I was determined to do it all—many times without checking in with the Lord.

Grace continues . . . 

I’m a recovering A-type personality who totally “gets” Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

She thrives on purposeful work especially when it involves those she loves. The day Jesus and His disciples visit, she invests her total self in serving them.

Martha slaves in the kitchen while her sister Mary lounges in the living room. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach and hanging on every word.

This scenario reveals two sisters and two demonstrations of love for Jesus.

He acknowledges both, but commends only one: “There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her” (Luke 10:42).

What’s the all-important “one thing” to which Jesus refers? Time spent in His presence listening to His voice.

I’ve been involved in career ministry for more than 25 years, and I’m still trying to master the one thing. My human bent wants to focus more on the OTHER thing—service.

In the process, I treat Jesus like a second-class citizen:

“Sorry! I’ll meet with You tomorrow, okay? Right now I need to work on my book about intimacy with You. You know all about deadlines, right?”

I suspect I’m not alone in my struggle to keep first things first.

In his book Secrets of the Vine, Bruce Wilkinson admits that, as a spiritual leader, he’d “become an expert at serving God, but somehow remained a novice at being His friend.”

The process happened slowly, unnoticed, as Wilkinson gained more competence in doing ministry.

  • Activity done for Jesus eventually replaced time spent with Jesus.
  • Listening to the voices of those pressuring him to do and be more replaced listening to the voice of the Shepherd.

Wilkinson lost his joy and his passion for Christ.

Change came when the truth dawned on him: “God didn’t want me to do more for Him. He wanted me to be more with Him.”

Spending time building relationship with Jesus—that’s the one thing that truly matters.

The depth of our intimacy with Him determines everything about us, including how we spend time and money, how we treat others, how we respond to disappointment and suffering, and whether or not our lives bear fruit.

So, in the midst of crazy busy lives, how do we give the “one thing” the priority it deserves?

Here are three practical suggestions:

1. Rise Early.

As a mom with three young kids, I realized that enjoying regular quiet time with Jesus meant rising early. Waiting until later guaranteed other tasks would take precedence. So, I asked God to wake me when He wanted to meet with me.

Without using an alarm clock, I woke bright-eyed at 5 o’clock the next morning and every morning afterwards.

A quiet house void of distractions provided the ideal environment to focus on the Word. I anticipated sweet fellowship, and God never let me down.

Perhaps you already have a well-established routine in the Word. If not, ask God to show you when He wants to meet. He’ll answer your prayer, I promise.

2. Pray Continually.

Invite Jesus into every part of your day, beginning the moment you wake—“Good morning, Lord. What wonderful things do You have planned for us today?”

Share joys and disappointments with Him, but invite Him into the mundane too.

I cleaned other people’s houses for several years. Someone asked me, “How can you tolerate doing brain-dead work?”

The question shocked me: I’d never considered my work in such terms. I prayed for my family as I scrubbed, and mundane became an act of worship.

3. Seek Silence.

The busyness and noise clamoring for our attention distract us from intimacy with Christ. Solitude and silence promote it because they free us to focus and listen.

Turn off the phone and ignore your computer for a few minutes each week (each day, if you have that luxury).

Sit in silence before the Lord with no agenda except to hear His voice.

Ask Him to speak to you and expect Him to answer. Journal what He says.

Only one thing really matters. Nothing feeds our soul like intimacy with Jesus.

What’s one action you can take to deepen your friendship with Him beginning today?

Grace Fox is a career missionary, international speaker, and author of nine books. She’s on the writing team for First 5, a daily Bible study app produced by Proverbs 31 Ministries. For more information about Grace, visit her website and blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Marr Creative at Lightstock.



Before You Enter the New Year

Becky Harling often encourages women to forget about "performance" and take time to seek  God and find refreshment in time alone with Him. In this New Year UPGRADE, she suggests taking a day for personal reflection.

"Every year between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I take a day for prayer and personal reflection," Becky says. "Honestly, it’s become one of my favorite days of the year!"

In all the busyness of the holidays, I (Dawn) have found I need a quiet place of rest and reflection; so I appreciate what Becky is sharing here today.

Becky continues . . .

By creating the space to be alone with God I am able to refresh and revive. As I spend time alone with God in prayer and praise, the Holy Spirit brings my spirit into alignment with His.

  • During that day, I spend a lot of time listening to God—I want to know what His desires are for my life as I enter the New Year.
  • I also reflect back over the past year and consider my relationships and different aspects of my life.
  • I then ask the Holy Spirit to speak into that area how he wants me to grow in the coming year.

I turn off my cell phone and take a break from my computer. It can feel scary at first, but it is so freeing to unplug and simply luxuriate in God’s presence.

Rather than setting a tight schedule for my day of prayer, I include certain elements:

1. Praise music to help me settle down in God’s presence.

Worshipping God on my knees sets my focus for the day and brings my heart into alignment with God’s heart. (At the end of this guide you will find some new and wonderful praise songs that I recommend for your praise time.)

2. Scripture

God speaks through His Word, the still small voice of His Spirit and through others. 

I often read through a passage like John 15. Then I underline and circle whatever phrases seem to jump of the page at me. As I read, I look for specific patterns. I ask the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to what He wants me to see in Scripture. 

I then choose some key verses for the coming year and commit those to memory.

3. A Journal

As I read scripture, I record principles that I believe God is speaking. I watch for patterns or phrases that keep reappearing. I may look for one word to focus on in the New Year.

4. Silence

My world, like yours, is filled with noise: cell phone, TV, social media, etc.

In many ways, I’m addicted to noise.

I love people. I love music. I love the adrenaline rush of lots going on.

But, my soul needs quiet to re-calibrate and connect with God.

Rarely do I hear God’s voice in the chaos and cacophony of daily noise.

I have to be intentional. I have to pull away and do as Jesus invited, “Come with me, by yourself to a quiet place” (Mark 6:31). There in silence, I listen for the quiet whisper of God’s voice.

5. Beauty

I believe God created our souls to enjoy beauty. As part of my day of prayer and reflection I incorporate beauty.

Depending on where we are in the world, I might take a walk by the beach. Or, I might go for a walk in the snow, or by a river. Or, I might simply spend time gazing at the mountains.

Beauty reminds me of the majesty of my God.

6. Reflective Questions help me to understand what’s going on in my heart and what the Holy Spirit might want me to surrender or embrace.

I ask myself questions like:

  • What do I want to see God do in my life in the next year?
  • Which relationships do I need to focus on more closely?
  • How well am I listening to those I love?
  • Do I need to do a better job with self-care this up coming year?
  • Is there a specific cause that God is inviting me to join in the upcoming year? If so, what steps do I need to take to get involved?

Friend, here’s the thing. Without intentionality you won’t find the space to spend time in reflection, so I encourage you, pull out your calendar and mark the day that you’re going to spend with God. Then gather the tools I mentioned and find a quiet place where you can retreat with the Holy One.

Here are some recommended songs for your quiet retreat:

1. "Abba (Arms of a Father)" by Jonathan and Melissa Helser

2. "There is a Cloud" by Elevation Worship

3.  "I Believe" by JJ Heller

Which of these songs best helps you reflect on the Lord?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!


Hurry to Pause

I first met Debbie Harris in a revival ministry, and clearly, she still loves to see women come alive with God’s Word. She shares three ways to slow down and find strength in the Lord.

“It is true I spend more time “doing my day” than “reflecting on my day,” Harris said. "Hurrying seems to come naturally.”

She continues …

I have certain tasks to perform, deadlines to meet, phone calls to make, a job to do, a meeting to make, kids to care for, friends to respond to, food to prepare, clothes to wash, a ministry to maintain and the list goes on.

A scripture that motivates me is Isaiah 30:15b: “… In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.”

“Quiet” does not happen on its own in this busy loud world. Quiet only happens when I intentionally step out of the fast lane with the express purpose of pausing life.

Pause to PRAY

I have learned at square “52” on my journey that it is unwise to get out of bed without pausing to pray, and perhaps that is why I list it first!

Prayer is how I start and end my day and what I find myself doing all day! Jesus is the only One who is available to me 24/7. He never tells me He is too busy, and I don’t have to make an appointment in advance; He is always there and with the promise He will never leave! We do life together, and since learning how interested He is in my life, we are the very best of friends! 

Pause to PONDER.  

The best thing to ponder is God’s Word. I have a verse journal, as my Christmas gift to Jesus this year, with the goal of 365 verses washing over me—collecting one per day.

Dr. David Jeremiah says,

“We don’t need the Bible in our hands; we need the Bible in our hearts!”

My purpose as I ponder each verse is that it comes off the shelf, embeds itself in my heart, and comes out in my behavior for my good and God’s glory.

Pause to PEN.

I love to journal. I learn things about myself, God and life that I don’t seem to catch any other way. I often don’t know what I am going to write when I grab my journal, but it is always a reflective time. I write verses God has pointed out so I can find them again, make lists of things I am praying for, write where I have already been and where I plan to go, collect quotes and write or copy poems.

I ask God for certain things—and put a box by them so I can return later to check them off—or write things God is nudging me to do. And I praise God for all that He is and does in this life on my way to Him. My favorite part is harvesting the journal. I am always amazed as I look back and trace God’s hand in my life through the pages of my own journal!

Oswald Chambers wrote, “I am here not to realize myself, but to know Jesus.” I want to know Jesus through the Word better than I know anything else. Pausing throughout my day will push me toward that goal.

God help me to “hurry to pause.”

How do you pause in your day to step out of the fast lane and seek God?

Debbie Harris is married to the Men’s Pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church in southern California. She and Ben have six children and three grandchildren. She loves God, family, women and the Word.  Debbie assists her husband in various ministries, disciples women, and will begin her seventh year teaching a Precept class this fall. She prays for women to come who “don’t want to be in a Bible study” and women who “don’t know they want to be in a Bible study,” and she has found the thrill of mining diligently through the Word contagious!