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Tuesday
May222018

Upgrade Your 'Hope Rope'

My friend Pam Farrel always inspires me, because I know her responses to life are sifted through the grid of biblical truth. In this UPLIFT post, she speaks of the kind of hope only the Lord can give.  The ripple of my husband’s compassionate care of his parents impacted me as I tried my best to hold up our life and ministry as Bill held up his parents," Pam said. "We were both at the end of our proverbial rope."

As I (Dawn) have observed several friends and family members dealing with cargiving issues in recent months, I can attest to the kinds of stresses the Farrels are going through these days. But Pam's faith and hope point "true north" spiritually, as you will see in her story.

Pam continues . . .             

I was weary—tired to the bone, drop-dead fatigued, completely exhausted, “can’t take even one more step”, “leave it all on the field” beat.

It seemed we were caught in the perfect storm, and the ship of our life was being tossed about on a tumultuous sea of unending responsibilities.It was a year of up and down swells.

The positive included constant travel for our speaking, including large chunks of time spent internationally—which we love; but travel takes a physical and mental toll.

We also had multiple book projects in various stages, which are all wonderful blessings of opportunity—but these highs were also mixed with Bill having long absences from our ministry office as he drove back and forth through grueling Southern California gridlock traffic for months on end. He was commuting to care for his aging parents, one frail of mind, the other frail of body. 

His folks were fiercely desiring to maintain the independence of living in their own home—which put an ever-growing weight on the shoulders of my compassionate husband.

The Lord’s Life Line

I know that the Word has some prescriptions for handling weariness.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him (Psalms 62:5).

…“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest(Mark 6:31).

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest(Ex 33:14).

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work (Ex 23:12).

I knew I needed a day off for rest, renewal, revival, rejuvenation—and recovery!

I am a part of a wonderful networking group called Professional Women’s Fellowship, and they were hosting a one-day retreat at a lovely private estate. I knew that I needed to get myself there (despite a looming book deadline).

I went begging God to speak to me and give me some HOPE!

I love this getaway because they minister to a person body, soul, mind and spirit. During the hour-long quiet time, I stretched out under the shade of a large tree near the pond. As I laid down on my stomach, spreading my journaling Bible open before me, I couldn’t help but notice that I was already seeing God be the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23.

He was making me lie down in a green “pasture” that was “beside still waters.” So, I continued to pray through Psalm 23:2-3:

Lord,  “refresh my soul….guide me along the right paths  for [Your] name’s sake.”  

Riggings of Rest and Recovery

I flipped opened my Bible to the Psalms, as I nearly always gain a measure of refreshing hope there. My Bible landed at Psalms 55:22:

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken....”

Immediately, I thought,

“Wow Lord, that was fast! This seems the perfect verse for me, but exactly what does it mean to “cast my cares” on You? How can I get better at doing it? And what does it mean that you will “sustain” me? —because I REALLY need some sustaining power! I know that my heart’s desire is to be “righteous”, and right now living “unshaken” is what I need, because I can’t see the circumstances changing all that quickly. Lord, I am open to Your message to me from Your Word.”

I had a smartphone with me, so I connect to my Logos Bible software to help me dig a little deeper into the context, the word meaning and historical frame around this verse.

I prayed out my weariness, then looked up what it meant to “cast” my burden. I was to hurl my net out like a fisherman. God was inviting me to catapult my burdens on to his net. (And I was happy to hurl them!)

As I continued to study, what surprised me is the word used for "burden" can also be translated “assignment” or “gift”.

I remember thinking, “A gift? Really?” (It was interesting that this word “gift” can also be translated “lot” or “allotment”, and is the same word as many of us pray from The Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10: “…Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border…”  which means to pray the equivalent of “God bless me by giving me the full allotment You have planned for me”).

I was beginning to see how the “burden” was how I was seeing the “blessing” of the responsibility, or allotment God had for me.

It seemed to survive, I needed a paradigm shift to a more heavenly viewpoint.

But as I surveyed my “gift” (my assignment) from God, it seemed too big for one to ever carry alone, so I kept digging, doing more word studies through the verse.

I read that God would “sustain” me—He would nourish, strengthen, and support me—and make me sufficient enough to handle this assigned “gift.” 

To me, God was whispering hope to my soul. Whatever my assignment was depleting, God would pour back into me—and more!

I was washed over with peace, relief and rejuvenating hope.

As a praise response, and to lock this refreshing word picture securely and vividly in my mind, I sketched out two hands, representing God’s caring hands. In one palm was my “gift” of cares and I placed myself in the other palm.

Both me and my assignment—both you and your calling—are held up by the Good Shepherd. We are in His sustaining, caring hands. God’s got us!

As the strong hands of a lifeguard are a welcome sight to someone caught in a tempest at sea, so Psalm 55:22 is a snapshot of the rescue God’s hands can give YOU!

Boats need their riggings and lifelines repaired or replaced on a regular basis to keep a sailor safe. You can tell a line is losing strength if it shows signs of wear and tear, fraying at edges, or corrosion.

Is your life showing any signs of needing to take time away to let God renew, refresh, repair or rebuild your lifelines of God’s reviving Word?

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, living on a boat in Southern California. When she is not kayaking to get her mail, she loves writing and teaching so others can find hope from God. Her newest book is Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience (by Pam Farrel, Jean E Jones, and Karla Dornacher, from Harvest House.) Learn more about Pam and her ministry at Love-Wise

Thursday
May172018

Practicing the "One Anothers"—Dos and Don'ts

In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages readers to not only study the many "one anothers" of scripture, but also to incorporate them into daily living.

One of the first teachings of biblical truth that changed my life after becoming a true, biblical Christian was the study of the "one anothers" of scripture.

At first, they were a nice list of Christian-sounding scriptures.

But as I began to mature in my daily walk with God, I realized the "one anothers" of scripture are a gift. They teach us how to interact in the body of Christ.

I want to share what is by no means an extensive list of the "one anothers" in scripture, and in some cases, to share some insights. Then I want to share a second list that I only recently began to put into practices.

1. Things we SHOULD DO to, or for, "one another"

I don't know about you, but that list is overwhelming!

But imagine how your family and church—and as a result, possibly your community—might change if you lived according to that list of "one anothers."

Imagine how the Lord might work in and through you if the "one anothers" were more than a list!

But that positive, powerful list is not the only one to consider.

The scripture also is clear about some things we should be careful NEVER to practice!

2. Things We SHOULD NOT do to "one another"

  • Don’t JUDGE one another. (Romans 14:13)
  • Don't bite and DEVOUR one another; don't "annihilate" each other. (Galatians 5:15)
  • Don't PROVOKE or challenge one another—this is related to envy and being conceited or boastful. (Galatians 5:26)
  • Don't bring LAWSUITS against one another. (1 Corinthians 6:7)
  • Don't DEPRIVE one another sexually in marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
  • Do not LIE to one another. (Leviticus 19:11; Colossians 3:9)  
  • Do not speak against (BAD MOUTH) one another. (James 4:11)
  • Do not COMPLAIN or grumble about one another. (James 5:9)
  • Do not INJURE or wound one another with infighting. (Watch your words; be a peacemaker.) (Acts 7:26)
  • Don't QUARREL, separating from one another in sharp disagreement: destroying unity. (Acts 15:39)
  • Don't be HATEFUL to one another. It's part of your "foolish" past before you knew Christ. (Titus 3:3)

We can either choose to be intimidated by those lists, or we can realize there is no earthly way we can live according to these biblical standards except through the amazing and transforming grace of God.

Ask the Lord to help you depend on Him, and walk in the Spirit daily.

The Lord can help you practice these one anothers more and more as you trust Him and obey.

Which of these "one anothers" is hardest for you to practice? Why? What is the truth of scripture that can encourage you to change?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God and 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 coffeebeanworks at Pixabay.

Tuesday
May152018

How to Deal with Gossip—about You!

In this Attitude UPGRADE, Kathy Collard Miller addresses the wounding of gossip, and how godly people should respond when others' words hurt.

“Dealing with people who gossip about us is so difficult,” Kathy says. “But there is a way to have peace—through godly sorrow.”

I (Dawn) have to admit: I've never thought about gossip that way. But Kathy's insight is simply amazing ... and biblical!

Kathy continues . . .

I recently learned that someone criticized me to a group of people. Although I didn’t know this group of people, I felt deeply wounded that I was misrepresented.

I wanted to lash out at the gossiping person. Then I thought of the Apostle Paul’s response to his fellow Jews who were gossiping about him.

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:2-3 ESV)

Because of that passage, I asked God to give me godly sorrow for that person—even at my own expense.

Asking myself three questions helped me have godly sorrow and peace.

1. Why might this person speak negatively about me?

The gossiping woman had been deeply wounded as a child and felt inadequate. She compared herself to everyone and always found herself lacking.

Her need to gossip, though sinning, wasn’t particularly about me. It was her sinful pattern to deal with her own insecurity. I felt offended, but being offended is because I’m believing the lie she told about me.

I truly believe most gossipers are motivated by their own broken self-image.

Most often those who listen to a gossiper can identify their motive. But even if they don’t, my worth and value is determined by God, not someone else’s words about me.

2. How can I love that gossiping person?

Although I wanted to confront that person, I was able to correctly evaluate God’s will because of the peace from godly sorrow in my heart.

Sometimes the Lord will lead us to confront that sinning person and we need to do it in love, not in haste and anger. Only seeing their broken heart and motives will give us the ability to love them for their good, not our defense.

My own sin of succumbing to the temptation of gossiping in the past helped me to forgive this woman. The Bible says we can forgive others who have hurt us because we have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13)

3. Why do I feel threatened?

That question might seem totally ridiculous, because the answer is she talked about me!

But there’s something deeper.

I felt a need to defend the halo around my reputation.

To make sure everyone knew I really am a good person.

But my peace came from knowing God is in charge of my reputation and He can defend me if He wants. Even if I go around trying to correct other people’s opinion of me, it will only cause me distress.

People choose what they want to believe. I can’t control that.

Have you been gossiped about? Have you gossiped?

  • If we’re on the receiving end, we can trust God by knowing He is our defender.
  • If we have gossiped, we need to ask God to forgive us and ask for forgiveness of the person we sinned against.

Either way, peace from godly sorrow will well up inside us—whether it’s the sin of others or our own.

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 50 books, her most recent is No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom (Elk Lake Publishing). She loves to speak at events and has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. Visit her: www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Prixel Creative at Lightstock.

Thursday
May102018

Six Must-have Elements for a Successful Retreat

Freelance writer Sally Ferguson has written devotionals and for magazines, but her specialty is supplying tools to equip women. In this Ministry UPGRADE, she shares how to plan a successful women's retreat.

"In the midst of busy ministry tasks, Jesus called the disciples to time away with Him," Sally says. "Why would the CEO of a budding company take His associates away at their most crucial season? It all had to do with what’s called the bottom line."

Having planned retreats, I (Dawn) know the tremendous time and effort required, but I love Sally's biblical approach to the whole process.

Sally continues . . .

Look at Mark 6:30-46 for six essentials for a getaway.

1. The Invitation - Mark 6:31

The apostles were frazzled. They traveled, taught and tended to the needy. Jesus invited them to step away from the tyranny of the urgent and regroup.

How about the women in your sphere of influence? Are they carpooling moms, trying to make ends meet, or a part of the sandwich generation caring for aging parents and young children?

How would they respond to a weekend of R&R? How about a chance to recharge their batteries!

Invite them on facebook. Ask them in person.

Print flyers and posters. Get the word out that you are planning something special with each one in mind. Advertizing your event in multiple venues, repeatedly, spreads the message.

2. The Challenge - Mark 6:37

Jesus issued a challenge to His followers to be the vessel through which God could display His glory.

Could you cast a vision for a getaway, too?

Casting a vision helps a leadership team to plan and implement your retreat. It also refers to the challenge you set before attendees.

Will you call them to discipleship or dedication to unity? Will you challenge them to a deeper prayer life or a broader scope of servanthood?

The vision of the retreat provides a foundation on which all else can be built.

3. Organization - Mark 6:38-40

This passage illustrates that God is a God of order! (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40)

First, Jesus sent the disciples on a fact-finding mission (vs. 38). Planning women’s retreats is no different…

  • How many rooms will we need?
  • How many can the location handle?
  • What amenities are available?
  • What will it cost?
  • How much time do we want to schedule away?

Second, Jesus organized the massive group (vs. 39-40). What will you need to organize?

Food for thought, food for the body and food for festivities are all important elements to a retreat.

Break down each task into smaller chunks.

  • Who will be in charge of meal planning?
  • Who will plan activities?
  • Who will arrange transportation?
  • Who will handle registration?
  • Who will bring the chocolate? (Yes!)

Take it a step further.

How will you foster a sense of belonging?

Groups of seven to nine people add intimacy to a retreat; a place where everyone learns your name. It’s a place to listen to what others think about faith and to be heard in the questioning places of our hearts.

Small groups meet several times during the retreat to cultivate relationships and to pray for one another.

4. Gratitude - Mark 6:41

Jesus gave thanks for what had been given.

What happens when we show gratitude? Not only does an attitude adjustment happen, but it shifts the focus to the One who wants us to “come away” with Him.

  • Include opportunities for worship in your retreat.
  • Schedule outings to experience the wonderful world He created.
  • Affirm each woman for the contributions she makes to your small group.
  • And recognize ways others have made the experience better for all.

5. The Meat - Mark 6:41-44

After Jesus had given thanks, He broke the loaves and fed the crowd abundantly.

How will you break the Bread of Life for your women? Will it be through video, speakers or study material?

When women tell their stories, camaraderie is developed through shared struggles.

Did you notice that Jesus didn’t distribute the loaves and fish to the people? He let His disciples experience the joy of the miracle.

When you spread out responsibilities to your leadership team, more people take ownership of the event, and more people receive the blessing!

6. Prayer - Mark 6:46

And so, we come full circle and end at prayer. From the invitation to the benediction, Jesus modeled a lifestyle of prayer.

He knew it all came back to the bottom line... relying on the One who would supply all their needs.

Bathe your retreat in prayer. From conception to birth, let it be the Lord’s baby. He will show you how to nurture and raise it up to be an event that takes on a life of its own and brings praise to Him! 

Could a retreat enhance the way your group connects?

Sally Ferguson loves planning women’s retreats. Her coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press) and ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat are both available on Amazon. Visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of StockSnap at Pixabay.

Tuesday
May082018

Three Steps toward Dependence

I've long admired Kathy Howard for her skill in communicating biblical thruth through creative Bible studies, and recenty she tackled a topic that is hitting many people where they live. In this Caregiving UPGRADE, she provides a fresh perspective for weary caregivers.

"Self-reliance and independence hinder our caregiving," Kathy says.

Didn't I (Dawn) say it is a "fresh perspective"? I've read many posts promoting independence for caregivers, but never one on learning dependence.

Kathy continues . . .

Caring for my aging parents demands more than I have to give. I remember one night in particular.

Voices penetrated the heavy shroud of sleep. I could hear the anxiety in Mom and Dad’s conversation, but I couldn’t make out the words.

I threw back the covers and stumbled across the hall to their room. Dad lay on the floor beside the bed. I managed to get him sitting, but I could not get his 230-pounds off the floor and back in the bed.

My husband was stirring in the other room, so I called for help. Together we got Dad back in bed.

Thankfully, the fall only caused a few bumps and bruises. But it dramatically reminded me of my limitations.

My natural bent toward self-reliance is reinforced by a culture that admires this quality.

Our culture teaches us that independence is good and dependence is to be avoided at all costs.

While true in certain instances, self-reliance and independence can hinder believers. When we face circumstances and situations we cannot control, change, fix, or conquer we are thrown off balance.

What do we do when we simply can’t do it?

There is nothing easy about caring for aging parents.

No matter how much we love them, the task demands more than we have to give—physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. We need help from family members, friends, and health professionals.

But even that won’t always be enough.

Soak in this glorious truth for a moment: Our deficiency is an opportunity for God to demonstrate His sufficiency. Our dependence allows God to prove Himself dependable.

Within ourselves, we don’t have what it takes to tackle life’s hardest challenges, but God has more than we need.

A passage in 2 Corinthians beautifully shows us how Paul depended on God to carry him when he couldn’t go on. Paul had encountered a situation in Asia so desperate, he saw no way out of it with his life (2 Corinthians 1:8). Yet, miraculously God delivered him.

When the situation was hopeless, Hope flooded in. And Paul learned utter dependence on the One who is utterly dependable (2 Corinthians 1:9-10). 

The passage reveals that God allowed this situation to happen so that Paul and his companions would learn to rely on God (2 Corinthians 1:9).

And Paul continued to depend on God. When God chose to leave the “thorn” in his life, Paul learned the sufficiency of God’s grace. In his weakest moments, God’s power was revealed.

Paul’s weakness became a stage for God’s strength.

God also wants us to trust Him with all the circumstances of our lives—including caring for our aging parents. He longs to show us He is trustworthy, reliable and powerful. So, how can we let go of independence and learn to depend on Him?

Let’s follow Paul’s example toward dependence in 2 Corinthians.

1. Reflect on God’s past provision.

Think about all the times in your past when God has worked. Remember the times He has comforted you, encouraged you, delivered you from danger, given you clear direction for the path ahead.

Reflecting on God’s past provision and faithfulness will strengthen your future trust in Him.

2. Contemplate the scope of God’s power.

Meditate a few moments on our powerful, almighty God. The God who created the universe is not weak or powerless. He heals the sick, raises the dead, and holds the stars in place.

He can provide what you need for your daily life. Even the hardest days of caregiving.

3. Sit quietly in God’s gracious presence.

The same God who spoke the world into existence is the same God who delivered Paul. And He is the same God who longs to fill you with His grace and strength.

Linger with Him today. Ask Him to give you an awareness of His presence with you.

When we depend on Him, our caregiving role is a chance for God to demonstrate His strength in our lives. Paul expressed this truth:

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

Caring for our parents provides ample opportunity for God’s power to work in our weakness. For God to show Himself worthy of our dependence.

Depend on Him today.

What are some other ways you can purposefully work to foster dependence on God for caregiving today?

Kathy Howard, a Bible teacher and former “cultural Christian,” now lives an unshakeable faith for life and encourages other women to also embrace real, authentic faith. Kathy is author of 8 books, including “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” (May 2018). Get free discipleship helps on her website: www.KathyHoward.org.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Unclelkt at Pixabay.