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Mary James

Priscilla Jenson

Lane P. Jordan

Rebecca Jordan

Ellie Kay

Maria Keckler

Sylvia Lange

Debby Lennick

Peggy Leslie

Kathi Lipp

Kolleen Lucariello

Kathi Macias

Paula Marsteller

Melissa Mashburn

Dianne Matthews

Cindi McMenamin

Elaine W. Miller

Kathy Collard Miller

Lynn Mosher

Karen O'Connor

Yvonne Ortega

Arlene Pellicane

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Laura Petherbridge

Gail Purath

Marcia Ramsland

Kaley Rhea

Rhonda Rhea

Vonda Rhodes

Cynthia Ruchti

Julie Sanders

Judy Scharfenberg

Deedra Scherm

Laurel Shaler

Joanie Shawhan

Stephanie Shott

Poppy Smith

Susan K. Stewart

Stacie Stoelting

Letitia "Tish" Suk

Jill Swanson

Janet Thompson

Janice Thompson

Teri Thompson

Brittany Van Ryn

Elizabeth Van Tassel

Leslie Vernick

Laurie Wallin

Julie Watson

Joan C. Webb

Shonda Savage Whitworth

Cherri Williamson

Kathy C. Willis

Debbie W. Wilson

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Jamie Wood

And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson

 

Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (421)

Thursday
Oct112018

Can Differences in Marriages Form Bridges—Not Chasms?

Cynthia Ruchti writes both novels and nonfiction, but she always focuses on weaving truth and humor together to challenge people to more biblical living. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she tackles differences in marriage and how they can become a blessing.

"The differences between how some marriage partners think must mean they’re not suited for each other," Cynthia says. "Must have missed God’s leading somehow. Marriage is doomed unless the two can start thinking alike, right?"

Oh, I (Dawn) hope not! Seriously, Cynthia understands how so many of our marriages work, and how they can work better!

Cynthia continues . . .

I’ve been that woman—the one wondering how married life can possibly survive much less grow if the husband and wife approach everything—EVERYTHING—from opposing perspectives.

While writing the novel Miles from Where We Started, I didn’t have to look far for research about the widening gap a young couple can feel when they wake up soon after the honeymoon to discover this person they thought their soulmate speaks a different language, cares about different concerns, and is… different.

Not on the same page? He or she isn’t in the same library!

After spending more than four decades married to my opposite, I can predict what my beloved will say before he says it.

Me: Look at that beautiful fireplace.

Him: I wonder how much that thing cost them.

Me: Did you have a good time golfing with Ken?

Him: Yeah.

Me: How’s he handling the news about the lesion near his optic nerve?

Him: We didn’t talk about it.

Me: You didn’t talk about the biggest threat he’s ever faced to his life and his vision? About his pending surgery?

Him: It didn’t come up.

Me: (after a day full of conquering small mountains in my various job assignments) How was work today?

Him: Meh. You know.

I deal in emotional currency.

He deals in checking account balances.

I view life’s experiences through their impact on people.

He views them through their impact on the price of gas.

On every personality test we take—I provide his answers for him, because he doesn’t take personality tests—we score as polar opposites on the charts, graphs, and animal names.

It’s no surprise that God’s artistry didn’t include creating automatons who all function, feel, speak, and process alike. What a wide variety of personality types He made!

When we look at the gifts His Holy Spirit gives so that the body of the church functions well (Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, among other references), it’s obvious He intended us to approach life from different angles.

We’re not all administrators or helpers or gifted teachers or prophets. But together, we can form a complete picture of the Church.

Why would we assume that wouldn’t be the case in marriage?

What if our differences are bridge-building material rather than distance-making?

How can differences signal pending strength rather than pending doom for a marriage relationship?

Consider these marital points to ponder:

  • SOMEBODY has to consider the costs. (If not me, it had better be him.)
  • Emotion without stability equals tears and laughter with no place to land. Stability without emotion equals a highway in North Dakota (no interesting or growth-producing hills or curves).
  • One angle—even if shared by two people—eliminates the advantage of perspective. It removes dimension. The best brainstorming and problem-solving happens when we take a look at the issue from a variety of angles.

God’s Word says it this way:

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be" (1 Corinthians 12:17-18, NIV).

Same verses—with a few added—but different… uh… perspective:

“I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together.

"If Foot said, 'I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,' would that make it so?

"If Ear said, 'I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,' would you want to remove it from the body?

"If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell?

"As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body [or the marriage] right where he wanted it (1 Corinthians 12:14-18, MSG—bracketed part, my addition).

Differences in marriage build DIMENSION bridges across the gaps.

Is it time to stop fussing about differences of opinion and use them as planks to build a dimension bridge?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and speaking events for women and writers. She’s the author of more than 25 books, including the recently-released novel—Miles from Where We Started

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Eusodroff at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Oct092018

The Silent Sufferers Among You

I met Shonda Savage Whitworth years ago. I had no idea what she was dealing with—but God has taught me much, seeing through her eyes. In this Ministry UPGRADE, she invites us to consider how we might minister to those a particular group of people who suffer in silence—prisoners' families.

“What do you imagine a family member of a prisoner looks like?” Shonda says, “She may be the person sitting next to you in church, working in your office, or ringing up your purchase.”

This is so true. I (Dawn) have friends and acquaintances whose loved ones are incarcerated, and the struggle in their lives is heartbreaking. I'm so glad Shonda is speaking up about this!

Shonda continues . . .

We do not easily identify prisoners’ families as they place themselves in the protective custody of their self-imposed emotional prison.

Yet, with approximately 2.3 million prisoners in the US, there are at least 4.6 million people who have a loved one in the penal system. Most likely more.

If prison families disclose that part of their lives, they risk being ostracized, so they choose to suffer in silence among us.

However, should you meet a prison family member who is a silent sufferer, here are three things you can do to upgrade their lives.

1. Commit to Pray.

For the family member of a prisoner, it is like becoming a missionary in a foreign land.

Families must adapt to new rules and learn new lingo for effective communication. Just as missionaries need prayer covering, so do the families of prisoners. I am grateful for the prayer warriors who pray for us.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18, HCSB). 

Intercession means to pray on the behalf of others.

I imagine a day where the church shares the prayer needs of “all the saints” affected by incarceration as commonly as they share the prayer needs of the infirmed.

Join others around the world in praying for prisoners, the prisoner’s families, the victims of crimes, and those who work in the criminal justice system by participating in:

Prison Week: A Week of Prayer — October 14-20.

2. Remember the Prisoner.

After my son’s conviction, I was told to forget about him and let him rot in jail.

I’ve met wives of prisoners who were told they should divorce their husband and move on. Sadly, that advice contradicts the Word of God.

Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them…” (Hebrews 13:3, HCSB).

It is important for families of prisoners, who are not victims of the prisoner’s crime, to stay connected with their incarcerated loved one. The visitations, phone calls, and letters make a significant difference to the inmate.

Staying connected becomes more difficult for families of prisoners who have lengthy sentences as time and distance takes its toll on them.

Extended family, friends, and church members can help the family by sending the inmate cards, books, and magazine subscriptions. This is especially meaningful during the holidays.

This small act of kindness shows them they are remembered.

3. Be Alert to Ways to Bless.

We took out two loans to pay for our son’s legal fees, which maxed out our monthly budget with no room for emergency expenses.

One weekend we traveled five hours each way to visit with our son. On our way home, we stopped for a break and my husband noticed a knot on a tire. While putting on the spare, he noticed the other three tires were practically bald. We traveled the remaining 120 miles home protected by the grace of God.

I shared with friends the testimony of God’s goodness to see us home safely without mentioning the unexpected financial need. A few days later a check arrived in the mail to cover the cost of new tires.

My friend’s alertness to the need and her gift blessed me significantly.

As parents of an inmate, we face on-going financial challenges. However, the financial burden is even greater for a spouse with children. For many of them, their two-income family suddenly became one and it stretches the checkbook just to meet the basic needs of life—shelter, food, and clothing.

Allow the Lord to prompt you when to help a family experiencing a financial burden due to a loved one’s incarceration.

Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality” (Romans 12:13, HCSB).

As the Christmas season approaches, one way to help the children of prisoners is to participate in Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program. This is an opportunity to give a gift and to share the gospel with children of the incarcerated in your local area.

You can upgrade the lives of prison families, who are the silent sufferers among you, by committing to pray for them, remembering the prisoner, and being alert to ways you can bless them.

Which of these three points might you be able to act on this week?

Shonda Savage Whitworth is the founder and president of Fortress of Hope Ministries, Inc., offering hope to those whose lives have been impacted by incarceration. Shonda connects with others through her personal experiences and testimony of God’s faithfulness in her life. You can read more stories about Shonda’s unexpected prison family journey on her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Hanna Postova at Unsplash.

Tuesday
Oct022018

Overwhelmed by Overflow

Letitia "Tish" Suk is immensely practical. As a life coach, she often helps women deal with personal struggles in positive ways. In this Organization UPGRADE, she helps us cope with the disorder in our homes.

"Some of us settle for a junk drawer," Letitia says. "I grabbed a whole room!"

I (Dawn) am picturing a closet right now in my own home. Maybe Letitia can help me. And you!

Letitia continues . . . 

I had a vague memory of the color of the floor in my small storage room in the basement. That was before I claimed it for my miscellaneous possessions: off-season items/gift wrap/old photos/grandkid toys/folding chairs, and all the other items I might need someday.

The rest of my home more or less reflected my orderly side—we all have one somewhere; but the storeroom was an embarrassment, even to me.

Just closing the door was no longer effective.

With the holiday season looming, with all the extra activities, it was time to get serious about tackling this chore. But just where was I going to find that time?

My best M.O. for a large task is to seize a whole day for it. The idea of "an hour here and an hour there" might work for some. It gets me nowhere.

Of course, that requires rescheduling everything else previously slotted for that chosen day. It takes a bit of ruthless planning, but the result is worth the inconvenience.

Strategies abound on the “right” way to declutter.

You may already know what’s your favorite plan of attack for your personal overflow. I could recite many methods that work for someone else, but here is what worked for me.

Each item got scrutinized and sorted into one of ten piles for distribution.

Here are the categories:

1. Freecycle

This is a web group where you post what you want to give away or acquire, and the community responds to you.

In the past week, I have left a number of items on my porch with post-it names on them for the new owner to come and collect. Easy! Look for it in your area.

2. Return to Adult Kids

We have provided free storage to our children’s memorabilia for years, but now they are getting it back!

I decided to provide a little deadline to “come and get it,” and then it lands back in THEIR storage room.

3. Giveaway

Our church has a free clothing pantry every Wednesday, so all found clothing and small household items are going on that pile—very satisfying to see the patrons enjoying their “new” items.

Also, most areas have a Goodwill or Salvation Army store that is happy to accept donations and give you a tax receipt.

4. Take Back to the Store.

In the purge, I found unopened purchases from mostly craft stores that went right back for merchandise credit.

5. Recycle

The bins in our alley overflowed from all the recyclables we generated. I also started gathering a box of electronics to deliver to a different community site, and cell phones for another.

Check in your area for where you can recycle all your cast offs. Sometimes there are “recycling fairs” sponsored by local businesses.

6. Friends

Books, photos and even a cassette tape turned up that got passed on to their original owners or those much more interested in the subject.

You might want to ask permission first before the handoff.

7. Sell

Ebay or Facebook Marketplace are great sources to make some cash for your no longer needed items.

Stores for used books or music might also be interested in your former possessions. Don’t count on big sums but it is usually worth the trip.

8. Library

Whatever books I didn’t sell went to the public library donation bins. Magazines also ended up there.

I will try not to buy them back at the next library sale!

9. Garbage

Some items were clearly not valuable for any other use and needed to be pitched.

10. Return to the Storeroom.

Once I eliminated all the clutter in the tiny room, it was a pleasure to organize the items I DID want to keep.

I could actually see my good stuff now as well as the formerly hidden floor.

What area of your home are you ready to tackle?

Letitia (Tish) Suk invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger and author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat, and Rhythms of Renewal. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide and life coach in the Chicago area. Learn more about Letitia here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Annie Spratt at Unsplash.

Tuesday
Sep252018

Who's Doing This? Me or You?

Dianne Barker writes with profound simplicity, calling us to live out what we know to be true. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she suggests two ways we can change thought patterns of hopelessness. 

"I’d been in a slump," Dianne says. "Again."

Been there! The last time I (Dawn) was in a "slump," it was accompanied by depression, hopelessness and frustration. A slump is not a good place to be!

Dianne continues . . .

Entangled with daily cares of this life, I seemed to be drowning in hopelessness.

How will I ever finish the work God has given me to do?

Long ago, Psalm 19:14 provided a solution for my negative thoughts.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Putting that into practice began to satisfy my desire for a consistent inner and outer life.

But long years in hard places had drained my hope.

I felt a calling from God to write and speak, but circumstances hindered me. I didn’t seek fame and fortune. I only wanted to know when I left this earth that I’d fulfilled his purpose for me.

In 1956, Elisabeth Elliot lost her husband Jim—one of five missionaries brutally murdered after following God’s call to evangelize the savage Auca Indians in Equador. Left with a young daughter and an uncertain future, she learned God “will always give you the power to do the next thing.”

What is my next thing?

The Lord suggested I’d been in a slump because my goals were vague. Instead of worrying about finishing projects, I needed to simplify my focus: what shall I do today? I can be sure He will provide power to do it.

Another Elisabeth Elliot quote encouraged me:

“…waste no time wondering if you CAN do it. The question is simply, WILL you?

Your weakness is itself a potent claim on the divine mercy. ‘When I am weak, then I am strong’” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Knowing I still needed direction, the Lord led me to a folder where I’d stashed notes and verses. I found this:

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:18-22).

The words left me silent before the Lord. What more did I need to know?

  • My hope is in his steadfast love.
  • He is my help and my shield.
  • I trust in his holy name and I am glad.
  • I hope in him.

Hopelessness is a thought pattern, not a reality.

When his disciples urged him to eat, “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work’” (John 4:34).

On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). How did he do it?

He prayed to his Father in heaven and obeyed. That’s a doable plan.

To finish the work He has given is my goal, too. How will I do it? Pray to my Father in heaven and obey.

He knows about the hard places. In fact, He designed them.

As for fulfilling my purpose—isn’t that God’s responsibility?

And isn’t he able to complete what He starts?

Apostle Paul said: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

My plan going forward: PRAY and OBEY.

What is God showing you to do today?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pearl at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Sep182018

Are You Ready to BE His Fixer Upper?

Kolleen Lucariello's fresh take on the Christian's walk with God is always sure to take us off guard just long enough to help us see the truth. In this Spiritual Living UPGRADE, she encourages us to act on a powerful truth and see a ministry available to each one of us.

"What the disciples weren’t able to accomplish, Jesus did," Kolleen says. "We can spend years believing people are rundown, in disrepair, even beyond the reach of change when actually, what they need is an encounter with Jesus"

I (Dawn) don't know about you, but when I read those words, I instantly thought of two people I've assumed are "beyond the reach of change." How about you?

Kolleen continues . . .

There’s a house in our town that has been sitting abandoned and empty for years. In fact, I don’t remember the last time it was occupied, and we’ve lived here for over 30 years!

Driving by the house, I often imagine the potential within—wondering what remarkable things Chip and Joanna Gaines would do to fix’er up—wishing I had the ability to do the work myself.

One evening, while enjoying a walk through town with my hubby, we were surprised by the sight of a “For Sale” sign in the front yard of the house. It seemed odd after all these years to see the old place was for sale, and within a very short time the sign was gone.

A few weeks after the removal of the sign, new windows were installed in the old, once abandoned, place. In no time at all, every dirty and broken window had been replaced by clean, white, energy-efficient ones.

Another night, we discovered the crew hard at work adhering new siding, which was now slowly rising up from the lower half of the house to cover the oh-so-unsightly, existing layers.    

 Now our walks through town are exciting as we witness the rebirth of what once appeared dead. A lifeless house is being revived and restored.

The house once known as “the abandoned house” will have a new identity because someone saw the potential.

I imagine Jesus’ walks through town must have also been exciting as He began changing the identity of the abandoned ones.

Although, He restored people—not houses.

Jesus met plenty of “fixer uppers” during His ministry years; He saw the potential, and brought life back into every dirty, broken, and abandoned one.

The prostitutes, the lepers, any hiding in the darkest caves because tormenting demons had driven them there.

The father, whose son had been abused and silenced for years, must’ve become undone as he witnessed the restoration of his son after their encounter with Jesus. He’d watched his son suffer torment from childhood because of a demon’s desire to destroy him (Mark 9:21-22).

I envision that dad lost in thought at times as he dreamt of the potential his son had . . . if only.

Helpless, he now stood face-to-face with the One he hoped could restore his boy.

“I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit,” he said (Mark 9:17).

His words held recognition. “I brought You . . . who has . . ."; he understood who bound his son and called the spirit by name.

He was very much aware of what this mute spirit was doing to his son, and it was torture both for the father to watch and the son to endure.

They were victims of the schemer, Satan, who covertly plots as he abuses and silences, leaving people broken and abandoned in shame. He certainly doesn’t want anyone to recognize he is behind the torment or call it by name.

Especially sin. He doesn’t want us to call anything sin.

What do you suppose would happen if we began bringing loved ones to Jesus and called bondage by name?

I brought you . . . who has . . .

  • A Spirit of Offense
  • A Spirit of Lust
  • A Spirit of Hatred
  • A Lying Spirit
  • A Spirit of Jealousy
  • A Spirit of Idolatry
  • A Spirit of Gossip
  • A Spirit of Addiction
  • A Spirit of Depression

The father put his hope in the disciples, but when they couldn’t help him, he took his son straight to Jesus. I’m not sure he expected Jesus to call out their unbelief, but He did.

“Why are you such a faithless people?”

However, I bet he was thrilled when Jesus said, “Now, bring the boy to me(Mark 9:19, TPT).

“Please, if you’re able to do something. . . ” the father continued.

“What do you mean ‘if’?” Jesus asked.

Then, He turned the ‘if’ back to the father. “If you are able to believe, all things are possible to the believer.”

The father, who had recognized the spirit holding his son hostage, now recognized his own bondage. “I do believe, Lord; help my little faith!” (Mark 9:22-24 TPT)

We all struggle with “little faith” from time to time.

Many in our town had lost faith change would come to the abandoned house. We were wrong—the house is changing, little-by-little, each day.

Suppose we’ve gotten it wrong about people, too?

It’s quite possible the Lord is ready to begin work on the abandoned, but He’s waiting to hear,

I brought You . . . who has . . . .

We upgrade the lives of others when we: 

1. Recognize the bondage and call it by name.  

2. Bring them to Jesus.

3. Pray for the faith to believe all things are possible.

Do you know someone abused and silenced? Abandoned by shame? Pray for the faith to recognize the spirit holding them hostage and then bring them to Jesus.

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC's of Who God Says I Am; and as a speaker, she speaks into women's lives "one letter at a time." Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She's a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. For more information about Kolleen, visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of LechenieNarkomanii at Pixabay.