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     PARTNERS:

Lina AbuJamra

Sue Badeau

Dianne Barker

Twila Belk

Gail Bones

Harriet Bouchillon

Mary Carver

Jeanne Cesena

Pamela Christian

Lisa Copen

Erin Davis

Diane Dean

Deb DeArmond

Kelly DeChant

Danna Demetre

Melissa Edgington

Debbi Eggleston

Pat Ennis

Morgan Farr

Pam Farrel

Sally Ferguson

Liz Cowen Furman

Gail Goolsby

Sheila Gregoire

Kate Hagen

Doreen Hanna

Holly Hanson

Becky Harling

Debbie Harris

Nali Hilderman

Cathy Horning

Kathy Howard

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

Ava Pennington

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

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

 

Thursday
May312018

The Perfect Wedding

Jeanne Cesena has written an unusual Marriage UPGRADE about weddings. Her goal is to get us to think rightly about our role as the Bride of Christ.

Jeanne begins with a story:

"My wife had an affair, she left me, and is now a prostitute. God told me to go get her, pay to bring her home so she can be the happy mother and wife. My reaction: Okay God where is she?"

I (Dawn) think some of you might recognize that story from the book of Hosea in the Old Testament.

Jeanne continues . . .

This is an example of how God accepts us as His bride. And how we, as the church, take our rightful place as the Bride of Christ for all eternity.

This is an example of The Perfect Wedding.

In Hosea, God gives us an example of our sins and His eternal commitment. No matter how many sins we have committed, He will accept us as we are today.

Let me summarize the verses about Hosea and his wife-to-be.

1. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute.

Her name was Gomer. They married and had three children and God let Hosea know he is not the father of the third child.

Not only did she cheat on him and have someone else’s child, she then left him and went back to being a prostitute!

2. God commanded Hosea to love her.

“... God ordered me, start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife. Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people, even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy" (Hosea 3:1 MSG)

We see an example of Hosea paying a price for his bride.

In Heaven, we "hear" a similar conversation between God the Father and Jesus Christ. Jesus had to pay the ultimate price of dying on the cross for our sins.

3. Hosea obeyed God.

“I did it. I paid good money to get her back. It cost me the price of a slave. Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me. No more being a harlot, no more sleeping around. Your living with me and I am living with you" (Hosea 3:2-3 MSG).

Hosea recommitted himself to their marriage. He renewed his wedding vows.

But his wife Gomer was in a whole different place.

Gomer must have felt shame and hurt over what she had done to her husband and children. Maybe she felt she was not a good wife and mother.

She felt she could not stay in a home environment, and she went back to what she knew—prostitution and sleeping around on her husband.

She must have felt more comfortable with the chaos in her life as a prostitute than trying to be a loving wife and mother. So she left. 

When Hosea found Gomer, she was standing in a place of sexual slavery and about to be sold. She had no life of her own. Hosea paid to get her back, as God told him to do. She was his wife.

We are Jesus’ bride. We already belong to our Creator. But He paid a price for our salvation.

Just as Gomer had to accept Hosea’s forgiveness, we must do the same. We must accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, because He died and paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins.

There's nothing that should keep us from living a life as the "kids" of our Lord and King. We were created with a purpose for our lives. But sometimes we pretend to be the harlot. 

Be who you were created to be.

Take action—take your first steps to a godly, purposeful life. Work out your salvation and take steps to find and live your life with purpose.

Get ready to celebrate as The Bride of Christ at the Perfect Wedding!

What sin is god speaking to you about that is causing pain in His heart? How or what can you change to recommit your life to Him? What are your "wedding vows"—your commitment to the Lord?

Jeanne Cesena is a strong woman, her strength built through many trials and a growing reliance on the Lord she loves. Enduring threats, abuse, abandonment and psychological struggles, she has come to see the Lord as her hope and healing. She is married, has three children—including a "bonus baby" at age 40—and a powerful message to women about God's redeeming power.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
May292018

What You Think Upon Grows

The simple messages of truth from Kolleen Lucariello's heart always challenge mine. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she asks us to examine the flow of our thoughts.

"After listening to a powerful message on my ability to overcome," Kolleen says, "I walked out of the Easter Sunday service, and within a matter of a few moments allowed a spirit of offense to overcome me."

Oh, how often I (Dawn) have felt a rush of negative emotions driving my thoughts, growing like weeds on steroids and leading to embarassment and regret. So what's the remedy?

Kolleen continues . . .

Looking back on the day, the offense was silly—and completely unnecessary, but the Lord used it in a powerful way to teach me a valuable lesson: what you think on grows.

Easter Sunday brought several visitors to our already large church, which is always a great thing. However, losing sight of the back of my husband’s head as we shuffled out among the crowd was not.

After he decided to follow our son-in-law to retrieve the grandkids without my knowledge, trying to find him in the midst of the large crowd was also not that great.

I tried to stand patiently and wait for his reappearance—truly, I did—but after several bumps, thumps and shoves in a very short amount of time, I began to feel heat rise from within me as my thoughts took a turn for the worst.

After an attempt to reach him on his phone failed, I wondered if I’d find him at the car; I did not, but what I did find was locked doors on a blustery-cold-snowy-twenty-degree day.

My thoughts began to grow aggravation. Quickly.

Standing outside the car, I called his phone one more time. He finally answered to discover, through a rather terse conversation, he’d best find his way to the car. NOW!

(Amazingly I was able to smile and sweetly greet people as they passed me in the parking lot. It appears all my snarkiness was reserved for Patrick).

When his head came into view, the intensity of my frustration grew; and when he asked, “Where did you go?” the thoughts I’d been holding inside came pouring out like the water shooting over a waterfall.

Where did I go? Where did YOU go is the better question!”

Once we were both safely in the car, the fit was able to find its form in a full-blown tirade.

The takedown was swift, and the outcome embarrassing when, in the midst of my tirade, I suddenly heard, “Hello? Hello? Hello?”

Glancing down I discovered I had somehow called a gas company! The poor lady on the other end was listening to the fruit my thoughts had grown: annoyance and irritation.

And she was able to feast upon them while we were exiting our Easter Sunday church service.

Nice.

After wishing one another a Happy Easter, I decided it was best to apologize and then remain silent.

If we’re not careful, our thoughts can grow quite the outcome—in our lives as well as those around us.

A great example of this is found in 2 Samuel 13 where we find ourselves peering into the lives of Amnon, Tamar and Absalom, and the devastating aftermath uncontrolled thoughts can have.

As King David’s son, Amnon, thought about his fleshly desire for his half-sister, Tamar, lust grew. While his lustful thoughts grew, his cousin helped devise a scheme that planted deceptive thoughts. The result of his deceptive thoughts led to rape. Following her rape, her brother, Absalom, gave in to thoughts of revenge and murder.

Whatever you think on grows.

Paul must have recognized this when he told the Philippians to fix their “thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).

Implanting this into our hearts may save us from embarrassment and heartache.

You upgrade your life when you:

1. Think differently!

Understand that while you “are human, you don’t wage war as humans do” (2 Corinthians 10:3, NLT).

2. Know the truth of God’s Word!

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NLT).

3. Capture your Thoughts!

“We break down every thought and proud thing that puts itself up against the wisdom of God. We take hold of every thought and make it obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5, NLT).

May 31 is designated: Whatever You Think Upon Grows Day.

What fruit are you growing? Grow something good!

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC's of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She’s a mother of three married children and Mimi to five beautiful grandkids. She desires to help others find their identity in Christ – one letter at a time. Find out more about Kolleen at her website.

Graphics adapted, courtesy of Anemone123 and Geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
May242018

Habits for the Rest of My Life

A prestigious writer, Dianne Barker has long asked the Lord to guide her steps, so it's no surprise she focuses on what will please Him. In this Choices UPGRADE, she shares some habits that are changing her life. Maybe they will change yours too.

"I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions in January—gave that up long ago," Dianne says. "Decisions and goals work better for me."

I (Dawn) totally agree with this. "Resolutions" are too easy for most of us to break. But making daily choices that get us closer to healthy, godly goals, and cultivating life-building habits? Now that's a good thing!

Dianne continues . . .

Scrolling through journal notes, I found a ten-year-old list of decisions and goals. I’m updating the list and calling it “Habits for the Rest of My Life.”

1. Exercise daily—body and spirit.

No excuse for missing my daily quiet time.

Why settle for my feeble wisdom to navigate this life when I have divine resources for every minute?

2. See Jesus’ face only—especially when I encounter difficult people.

I’m making this decision carefully, aware that He may provide many opportunities to test me.

3. Get a grip on my self-esteem.

Still craving approval? Get over it!

My esteem depends only on God’s acceptance—not on performance or perfection.

God has poured his life into me and chosen me for a purpose.

4. Bring every thought into captivity.

Negative thoughts are defeating. Devastating. Paralyzing. A dead-end street.

Forget trivial stuff.

How many times the Lord has said to me, “You could be praying about bigger things.”

5. Learn thankfulness.

I lost a tiny screw from my glasses. How would I ever find it in my mammoth purse?

My friend said, “Let’s thank the Lord. Now empty your purse.” Found it!

Thankfulness makes sense—since my only options are to thank the Lord or grumble.

Thankfulness pleases the Lord and makes my life better.

6. Rejoice by faith.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Rejoicing is a decision, not a feeling.

Discouragement has robbed me. I choose to rejoice by faith.

7. Stop wallowing in despair and wailing about my inability, and make the most of every day.

I’m encouraged by Rahab’s comments to the two spies Joshua sent to Jericho:

"I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath" (Joshua 2:9-11).

The Lord my God is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. He is my courage!

I ended the journal entry,

“Lord, I only desire to glorify you. Don’t let me waste my life. I’ve set my heart to praise, trust and obey. Fulfill your purpose in me!”

We’re almost midway through another year—a good time to adjust our goals.

What do you hope God will accomplish in your life in the coming months for His glory?

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 TruckDown 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. For more information about Dianne or her ministry, visit her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

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.