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Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Jamie Wood

And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson



Encourage Others With Hope

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites readers to encourage their hearts with hope in God but not to stop there!

Confusion. Chaos. Deep wounds and pain. Disappointments. Betrayal. Again and again we face overwhelming circumstances.

And if it were not for the Lord, we would be overcome.

My sister Pam struggles with many trials, but she shines for Jesus as He continues to do a mighty work of grace in her life.

After a recent fresh struggle she texted me, “In darkness is hope.”

Her words struck me hard and made me cry, because I know how deep darkness has entered her life since childhood. But I’ve also seen the light of hope in God and His Word bring her peace, wisdom and joy.

Not too long ago, we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The Reverend said in his final sermon in 1968, “only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” Our greatest hope can come alive when we need it—and when we need the Lord—the most.

Words by the writer of Hebrews and the Old Testament Psalmist have become two resources of hope for me in recent days.

In Hebrews, we read, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast” (6:19a). Believers were encouraged to “take hold of the hope set before us” so they could be “strongly encouraged” (6:18b).

God’s kind of hope “does not disappoint us,” the Apostle Paul said, because “God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).

The need for hope goes back to the Garden of Eden, when the Lord gave the first two human sinners hope for salvation (what is commonly called the Protevangelium in Genesis 3:15). God's promise gave them great hope, even in the midst of their punishment for sin.

Throughout the Old Testament we sense the deep longing for the Messiah, the Promised One, to come. It was a cry of hope in God, and we hear that heart cry repeatedly in the psalms (Read Psalm 2; 22, 45; 72; and 110).

The cry for hope is loud in the psalms. Listen to the Psalmist’s prayer of lament and allow your heart to feel the pain.

“My heart is in anguish within me … fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me” (Psalm 55:4-5)

But listen too to his honest plea for help and his assurance of God’s presence and help in the midst of his struggles.

“O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.… I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge….” (Psalms 54:2 and 142:5).

The Psalmist confidently proclaimed God as the source of his hope; and we need to point our hearts toward God and His Word too.

We need go beyond our own need for hope to encourage other people to place their hope in the Lord.

It’s wise to encourage hope because:

1. Hope brings spiritual and emotional rest.

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

2. Hope anticipates God’s response.

Job longed for God to grant what he hoped for (Job 6:8), but the Psalmist prayed with assurance: “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15).

3. Hope enables confidence in God’s sovereign care.

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5).

4. Hope in God’s unfailing love delights His heart!

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

There are, of course, many other reasons hope is a worthy focus for us and those we love. Pam Farrel wrote about many of them in her book, Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience, which I recommend.

Why would we NOT encourage more hope? Be proactive. Think of at least one person you can encourage with God’s kind of hope TODAY.

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 (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at 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 Kareni at Pixabay.


Live the Abundant Life in 2018!

Many write about “abundance” these days, but abundant living doesn’t mean we won’t experience struggles, as Yvonne Ortega explains in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE.

“I went through aggressive chemotherapy and thirty-three rounds of radiation seventeen years ago this month,” Yvonne says.

“That experience and the loss of my only child in 2009 convinced me that I want more out of life than a mere existence of going through the motions day after day.

When I (Dawn) think about “going through the motions,” I picture monotony and boredom. Though we may face tough “wilderness” experiences, monotony and boredom are not what the Lord has in store for His children in our times of difficulty.

Yvonne Ortega continues . . .

I celebrate the gift of life not only on my yearly anniversary of being cancer-free but every day.

Jesus said,

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10, NASB).

I want to live the abundant life Jesus came to give us.

My life changed in my journey to live the abundant life. I questioned every area of my life and searched the Bible for answers.

I came up with FOUR AREAS that required change.

First, I had to make FOOD CHOICES to live the abundant life.

For the most part, I look at food from the perspective of 1 Corinthians 6:19–20:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

The Holy Spirit convicted me that I couldn’t eat junk food and take care of my body, His temple.

Second, I had to get SUFFICIENT SLEEP each night to live the abundant life.

For me that means eight hours of sleep each night.

Jesus saw the need for rest in Mark 6:31–32:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them (the apostles), ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

Third, I had to EXERCISE MORE than my fingers at the computer to live the abundant life.

I tried various types of exercise before I settled on the ones that work for me. I enjoy walking outside. As I walk, I review Bible verses and pray for the needs of my neighbors.

Since I live close to the beach, a walk at the beach delights me. The sound of the waves and the feel of the sand between my toes revive me. As I look around at the beach, I thank God for the beautiful world He created.

I also enjoy swimming laps and aqua classes. Through my time at the pool, I’ve met many wonderful people.

Fourth, I needed to DEEPEN MY RELATIONSHIP with the Lord to live the abundant life.

I committed to reading the Bible from Genesis through Revelation each year.

One year, I read the Bible in 90 Days in addition to reading the Bible in a year.

I also chose to listen to praise and worship music daily. When I listen to praise and worship music, I am transported into the very presence of God. He speaks to me, and I listen.

What will you do this year to live the abundant life Jesus came to give you?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (paperback, Kindle) and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), both available at She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pexel at Pixabay.


My Hope Is Built On . . . 

Everyone talks about "dreams" these days, but Susan K. Stewart says we need to be careful when we dream and consider where we're placing our hopes. In this Spiritual Life UPLIFT, she tackles the topic with a personal story.

“I plan to go to UCLA and major in screenwriting,” the high school freshman announced.

She then laid out her plan, including what classes she would be taking in high school and community activities that will help her preparation for her goal.

Ah, plans. Yes, I (Dawn) have placed my hopes in so many personal plans, and even in people who might help me accomplish my goals. And I've learned, the hard way, exactly what Susan is about to teach us.

Susan continues . . .

“Wow! That’s wonderful,” I responded. “It seems to me you just might make it.”

When this confident young lady left the room, her dad said, “I want her to major in something that will give her a real career.”

“What!?” was all I could stammer. “What’s wrong with her goal? With her determination, she has a good chance of success.”

The response was, “Look what happened to Aunt Shirley.”

Aunt Shirley is a divorced family member who was a successful writer before the divorce, and was now struggling to make ends meet with two part-time jobs.

Has that ever happened to you? It has to me.

Why do we do that?

Compare someone’s (or our own) dream with another person’s failure.

Sometimes we sabotage our own hopes. We listen to our own negative talk.

  • “It can’t happen."
  • "I’m too old."
  • "I’m too young."
  • "No one else has ever done this before.”

Other times we have our hope in the wrong thing: education, another person, fortune, ourselves.

All of these sources of hope will fail us.

An archaic definition of hope is “trust, reliance.” Most often we think of our hope as the anticipation of something. We also build our dreams on what we or others are going to do for the fruition of that expectation.

If hope is in fact trust rather than dream, maybe our hopes are dashed because we have placed our trust in the wrong place or person.

We are told by Paul that Christ Jesus is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1). Not our dream or expectation, although we surely look forward to the coming of Jesus. Christ Jesus is where we place our trust; who we rely on.

We are told by Peter to “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

We are to TAKE ACTION BASED ON OUR HOPE (trust) on the GRACE of Jesus Christ.

When our expectations are based on hope from Jesus, we can’t sabotage them.

This requires taking those dreams to God before making all the plans on our own to-do list.

For years, I’ve had a dream of a having a specific book published. For years, my hopes have been built up only to be knocked down. This year I asked God, "Why?"

He impressed on me that I was trusting in my own plan, not the dreams He has for me.

I laid my desire aside. Even though a number of people gave me reasons not to, it was the right thing to do. I’m now trusting God’s vision for me rather than mine.

I’ve placed my hope in God’s dream.

When our hope—remember, that means trust and reliance—is in the Lord, no one can take them it away from us or talk us out of it. We will be able respond to negative self-talk with “God told me to do this and I trust him.”

What is your hope is built on?

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

~ Edward Mote (1797-1874)

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and donkeys—teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Her passion is to inspire others with practical, real-world solutions. Susan's books include Science in the Kitchen; Preschool: At What Cost?; the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers; and her most recent book, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook. Learn more about Susan at Practical Inspirations

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Daniel Reche at Pixabay.


Purify Your Heart: It's Good for You!

Kathy Collard Miller is a "heart sister." She cares deeply about our hearts—the choices we make. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she asks us to examine our hearts so we can live for God's glory.

"God placed within you a desire for pure motives," Kathy says. "He knows purity is good for you and gives glory to Him. Purity may seem impossible but God will provide the way."

I (Dawn) like that two-pronged approach to purity: "good for you and gives glory to (God)." Pursuing purity is a win-win proposition!

Kathy continues . . .

Have you ever had a sense of being motivated by true love? By wanting the best for someone? Those desires are pure motives and God wants to purify your heart because it’s best for you.

When we have muddy motives, we are like James 1:6 describes: “driven and tossed by the wind.”

But the more we release wrong motives, the happier we will be: loving, content and joyful.

God loves you so much He wants to set you free from selfishness and neediness.

Unfortunately, we are so used to acting a certain way, we don’t even realize there could be underlying selfish reasons.

Here are three questions to examine your motives, asking God to reveal your heart.

1. What do I hope to gain?

Lily grew up in a family with three sisters, and the competition to be heard was fierce. She rarely felt like her opinion was heard or important.

While in college, one teacher exclaimed, “You have a way with words.” That statement seemed to affirm her value and birthed a selfish strength to control situations and relationships with talking.

Unfortunately, her many words only drove friends away because she talked about herself almost non-stop. Plus, she really thought she was bringing glory to God by sharing all the wonderful things he was doing in her life.

Lily began asking herself, "What do I hope to gain?"

The Holy Spirit revealed her demand to be heard and affirmed. Although difficult, she began recognizing more and more God’s value for her thoughts and opinions, even if people couldn’t receive them. It made a difference.

2. What do I hope to avoid?

Mae told me, “When I was in middle school, my parents were always sleeping in on weekends because of their partying. If my brothers and I made too much noise, our parents came out and cursed at us.

"The most hurtful was when my mom yelled, ‘You’ll never amount to anything unless you learn to shut up.’ I learned to control my every move—and my brothers’. Even now, too much noise makes me uncomfortable, because I vowed to be quiet as a mouse so I wouldn’t get yelled at.

“Now, when my two sons start rough-housing, I get panicky. I yell at them to be quiet. Isn’t that ironic? I yell so they will "be quiet.”

In time, Mae allowed the Holy Spirit to help her relax more and more by seeing she didn’t need to fear someone would yell at her. And even if they did, it didn’t mean she would “never amount to anything.”

3. How do I feel threatened?

When Charlotte was a little girl, she rode with her grandmother late one evening. She has a vague memory of being in the back seat of a big Plymouth where she could barely see over the front seat’s high back.

“It must have been around the 1950s when I was seven or eight," Charlotte said. "The car was stopped at the intersection, and my grandmother suddenly asked me, ‘Is there a divided highway here?’

I had no idea what a divided highway was, but I’d learned I always had to answer a question. That was respecting my elders. So, I guessed and said, ‘No.’

Wrong answer. My grandmother drove forward and drove right into the curb of a divided highway. I still don’t know why she asked me or why she couldn’t see it, but I immediately thought, ‘I’m so stupid. I should have known the right answer.’

“Even today I have a hard time saying, ‘I don’t know.’ My intelligence always feels threatened. As a result, I jump to conclusions to give any answer and I don’t ask God first.”

After Charlotte recognized the self-imposed wound of declaring herself stupid, she repented of her motive to protect herself. Now she can say, “I don’t know.” She’s also more willing to seek God and give an answer based on what He says rather than what she thinks another person wants or needs to hear.

Try this challenge: For one or two days, ask God to reveal the motives of your heart: WHY you want to choose something.

You can be honest knowing God loves you, regardless, and is passionate about purifying your heart for your good.

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 50 books, her most recent Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory (Elk Lake Publishing). She loves to speak at events and has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. Visit her:

Graphic adapted, courtesy of suju at Pixabay.


Upgrade Your Finances: Financial Freedom in 2018

Ellie Kay, better known as "America's Family Financial Expert," loves to teach people how to find financial freedom. In this Financial UPGRADE, she focuses on three steps that can help anyone find that freedom in the coming year, and she shares her "financial testimony" to make this personal and practical.

“Sacrificing for a short time helped us gain financial freedom in the long run," Ellie says.

I (Dawn) think financial freedom is a wonderful tool for growth and ministry. Why? Because, as Ellie Kay shows in her own life and teaches so powerfully, there is so much we can do for the Lord if we're not deeply in debt!

Ellie continues . . .

In Romans 13:8 it says, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.”

What does financial freedom mean to you?

When I think of the times I’ve felt truly free, it’s when I’m on a roller coaster, bungee jumping or on a zip line. These “adventures” are full of letting go, experiencing the moment and screaming until I’m hoarse!

Financial freedom is very similar, because it can be a roller coaster filled up ups, downs and unexpected turns. But it is also the freedom to let go of worry, live life in the moment and enjoy the adventure around the next bend.

Financial freedom doesn’t necessarily mean an early retirement, but it does mean you are financially healthy.

But that’s hard to do when living paycheck to paycheck or with excessive debt.

Conquering consumer debt can be as daunting as stepping into a roller coaster or stepping off the bungee platform . But it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience if you take a few easy steps to get started.

1. Assess Your Debt.

The first step toward financial freedom is to find out where you are in your journey and how far you need to go to reach your goal.

Start by ordering your credit report for free at annual credit report. Use this report to add all your consumer debt (for both spouses if married). Most consumers don't know how much debt they have, which is why this step is so important.

2. APR Reduction

This is where the miracle of compounding interest happens and it can either work for you or against you.

If you’ve been working on your credit score and still have high interest rates on your credit cards, then it may be time to call your credit card provider to ask them to reduce your APR. A lower APR can save hundreds of dollars a year. Just tell the customer service person you want to reduce your APR because your FICO has improved, you’ve been paying on time for many months and you could transfer the balance to a different card (outside of their company) if they can’t help you.

If you don’t get the answer you want, kindly ask to speak to a manager. Then repeat the process. You’d be surprised at how often this works.

3. Absolute Commitment

When my husband and I had 40K in consumer debt early in our marriage, we had to fully commit to getting out of debt. This helped us pay off that debt, on only one income, in 2 years.

This means all the money saved will go toward consumer debt including tax refunds, bonus checks, birthday dollars and items you sell. We even sold one of our cars, when we lived on base, and my husband rode his bike to work or car pooled for a year.

We realized that we couldn’t have debt and a lot of extras at the same time. Sacrificing for a short time helped us gain financial freedom in the long run.

What is one step you can take today to be financially free in 2018?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of 15 books, veteran of 2800 media interviews and podcaster of The Money Millhouse. She is the founder of Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that provides financial education to military members. She’s married to Bob and they have seven millennial children.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of stevepb at Pixabay.

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