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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (446)

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.

Thursday
Dec062018

Living Beyond the 'But'

Kolleen Lucariello always makes me think outside the box, spiritually. In this Christmastime, Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she considers two people God used, in His own timing, to help prepare the way for Jesus' first coming.

"I’ve never been a fan of the 'but'," Kolleen says. "Well, that’s not entirely true; I can handle “but then God” moments; however, the 'but' that follows an apology? The one that says, 'I’m sorry I… but you.' No thank you.

'Equally as unappealing is the 'but' that attaches to you, becoming the heartache of your story."

When I (Dawn) think abut the situations in my own life where the word "but" stopped me in my tracks spiritually and in my writing, I know what Kolleen's saying is true. I needed more faith and hope!

Kolleen continues . . .

Luke wrote about a couple who had a "but" attached to their story—Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.

It would seem as though they were the couple rocking at life. Zechariah was a Jewish priest serving in the temple, and his wife, Elizabeth, was a direct descendant of Aaron.

“They were both lovers of God, living virtuously and following the commandments of the Lord fully” (Luke 1:5-6, TPT).

They were the couple we look at today and think, Wow. They’ve got it all! Prestige from the family name, and they were solid believers, living righteously before the Lord.

Yet, behind everything they were doing right was one word they couldn’t escape—"but."

The "but" holding them hostage?

But they were childless since Elizabeth was barren, and now they both were quite old” (Luke 1:7, TPT—The Passion Translation—emphasis mine).

I’m fairly certain Elizabeth would’ve given anything to escape the pain of the "but."

In a culture where great significance was placed on motherhood, one word stole that from her.

  • "But" took away her ability to present her husband with a son, and replaced it with shame.
  • "But" also took away Zechariah’s ability to believe the angel, Gabriel, when he appeared to him and gave him the exciting news he was indeed going to be a dad.

The "but" had followed them for so long, doubt took over the prayerful heart that once held hope.

That can happen to anyone who has found but attached to his or her story. "But" has followed a good many faithful prayers of the righteous.

Perhaps you:

  • prayed faithfully for your children, and raised them in a home that honors God, but you’re still waiting for the return of the prodigal.
  • pray faithfully for your marriage to find healing and restoration, but have yet to see any hope of change.
  • fought hard for that job, but lost it anyway.

Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, have prayed for your womb to hold a baby, but the pregnancy test was negative one more time.

The "but" behind our hopes can be a painful word—one we’d like to escape, but can’t—even in our attempts to do everything right.

Like many we think: I’ve prayed. I’ve done everything I knew to do. I’ve tried to live righteously, BUT I don’t see, I don’t feel, and I don’t hear.

Hope can be hard to hold on to when we focus on the "but" of our story.

It’s easy to get lost in disappointment.

However, part of Gabriel’s message to Zechariah was that his son would arrive at the appointed time (Luke 1:20).

Not their time—the appointed time.

Who knows the appointed time? Only God. And until that time comes we must live in the "so it was" like Zechariah and Elizabeth did.

So it was that while he was serving ... his lot fell (to him) to burn incense" (Luke 1:8 NKVJ, emphasis mine).

Even though they dragged a "but" behind them for all these years, they remained faithful to serve the Lord. It was in this particular moment of serving that the angel showed up.

Imagine if Zechariah had missed it, because he decided to give up on God for not answering their prayer—in their time. God knew the plan for John was to prepare the way for Jesus (Matthew 3).

It was all in the timing.   

We upgrade our lives when, regardless of the "but" attached to our story, we live with hope in the "so it was."

  1. So it was—she prayed without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  2. So it waseven with the evidence of things not seen, she still had faith in what she hoped for (Hebrews 11:1).
  3. So it was—she refused to lean on her own understanding, and instead trusted in the timing of the Lord (Proverbs 3:5).

What is the "but" attached to you, and how are you managing your faith in the "so it was" moment?

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.

Tuesday
Dec042018

Advent Preparation According to Mary

Gail Goolsby, an educator and life coach, encourages women to learn how to live well. In this Christmas UPGRADE, she explains how Mary, mother of Jesus, lived wisely and well—and she encourages us to do the same during the tradition of Advent.

“Recently I read Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James,” Gail said.

“I discovered an expanded image of Jesus’ mother, Mary, beyond the virginal blue headscarf of Christmas nativity scenes.”

I (Dawn) am so glad Gail wrote on this topic. I think many Christ-followers misunderstand Mary—who she was and how the Lord called her into something hard yet beautiful. Beautiful beyond her imagination.

Gail continues . . .

Custis James described how Mary prepared for the COMING of her baby, the Messiah, and how she prepared for LOSING Him.

Through His painful sacrifice, she lost her son, yes, but gained eternal salvation and peace with God.

Mary’s model of heart preparation for all that was coming to her life motivated me to enhance my own Advent season of worship and reflection.

Advent Tradition

The word Advent means coming, derived from the Latin word adventus. Modern day Christians recognize the four weeks before Christmas as the Advent season to celebrate the wonderous arrival of Jesus the God-man.

For centuries this coming preparation did not focus on Christ’s birth but His second coming as King and Redeemer. Only during the Middle Ages did Christians begin to explicitly link the Advent season to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.

Today we combine the two targets of Advent.

  • We anticipate the glorious reappearance of the judge of the world through the clouds.
  • We remember the tender birth of a baby to a young mother in a humble shelter.

The first two Advent Sundays look forward to Christ’s second coming with songs like O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

The last two Sundays look backward to recount His first coming and lead us to Christmas Day. We rejoice with the angels and shepherds, singing the carols we love like Hark the Herald and Silent Night.

Advent Public Preparation

Historically, Christians prepared for Advent in similar ways to Easter, with prayer and fasting.

During a month of traditional parties and feasts, fasting can be challenging, yet can help center us on the reason for the season.

  • The addition of Advent scriptures and prayers by congregant families in the weekly church worship service points us to the future and past comings of our Lord.
  • Devotionals and special readings at home with family members gives reflection time direction and meaning.
  • Parents often add a count-down calendar or place daily ornament-symbols on a holiday tree with their children while teaching Old and New Testament verses about Christ.
  • Advent wreaths with four to five candles in significant colors set among greenery with blood-red berries are popular decorations in churches and homes. Each candle depicts a piece of the waiting and remembering story of Christ’s two comings.

Mary’s Personal Preparation

In Custis James’ presentation of Mary, I found THREE POSTURES that can prepare our hearts for welcoming the person and deity of Christ in our Advent practices.

1. Lose ourselves

As Mary agreed to take on the role of mother to Jesus, she lost

  • her reputation,
  • her engagement/marriage in cultural acceptance,
  • her personal dreams and goals, and for a time
  • the trust of her fiancé and family.

When her unthinkable situation became public, she lost

  • personal safety and
  • community tolerance.

Mary laid down her full earthly identity to become God’s servant.

Custis James wrote (page 167),

Mary got lost in the very place where ultimately she was found—in her relationship with her son.”

2. Let go and let Jesus be Jesus

Beginning with the story of twelve-year-old Jesus remaining behind in Jerusalem after celebrating Passover, Mary and Joseph had to release their son to live out His destiny. Jesus shifted His authority allegiance from his parents to His Father in heaven.

Several times in scripture we see Him explaining this obedience to God versus His earthly family (Luke 2: 48-49; John 2:4; Luke 8:19-21).

Like Mary and Joseph and his brothers, we must relinquish our human ideals of relating to Jesus and discover Him as He truly is—fully God and fully man.

3. Embrace our destiny

Just as Mary’s fullest calling was not serving as the birth vehicle for Jesus, we must recognize our greatest identity is found in following Christ.

If Mary had not embraced her son’s spiritual teachings, her supernatural motherhood would have meant little.

An unnamed woman cried out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you” (Luke 11:27 NIV).

Jesus replied in Luke 11:28: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Custis James wrote (page 180), “Mary was the first to believe and lay down her life for the gospel. She was the first to leave all to follow Jesus, first to love him and minister to his body, first to hear and treasure his words, the first to share in his sufferings.”

The promise for each of us and the world is Jesus Christ.

He has come, and He will come again.

This is the essence of Advent.

How will you prepare yourself? Follow the model of Mary.

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd, ACC is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan, and credentialed life coach with the International Coach Federation. Gail and her pastor husband of 40 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.

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.

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.

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