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Thursday
Aug222013

The Ultimate Life Upgrade

The Bible talks about one woman who certainly UPGRADED her life!

Dianne Matthews, who wrote the devotional The One Year Women of the Bible—reflections on women of the Bible and women today—writes about this transformed woman.

“While researching women in the Bible,” Matthews wrote, “I fell in love with the story of an unnamed woman in Samaria.”

She continues…

As I read the fourth chapter of John, I pictured this woman with the bad reputation plodding along the path to the village well. She occasionally paused to shift the weight of her clay jar. At least the other women can draw water in the cool of the day, she thought bitterly. She hated waiting until noon when it was hot, but she knew how they’d treat her if she showed up when they did.

What the woman didn’t know was that she would leave the well a short time later as a changed woman. A conversation with Jesus would upgrade her life.

Jesus’ request for a drink shocked her. Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each another. A Jewish man who drank from her water container would be considered unclean. Then Jesus made a mysterious comment: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (verses 13-14).
 
Her curiosity aroused, the woman asked the man to give her this miracle water. Jesus responded by telling her to go get her husband. The woman probably stiffened.

“I don’t have a husband,” she answered. To her amazement, Jesus’ response showed that he already knew the sordid details of her life—that she’d had five husbands and currently lived with a man to whom she wasn’t married.

She didn’t like the direction the conversation had taken. The fact that this stranger knew all about her personal life horrified her. So she steered the talk away from herself. Surely this man was a prophet. Perhaps he knew the answer to the debate between the Jews and the Samaritans over whether Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim was the appropriate place to worship God.

Jesus explained that since God is Spirit, a worshiper’s attitude matters more than location. Then Jesus astounded her. For the first time in his ministry, he overtly revealed his identity as the Messiah. The woman’s mouth must have dropped open—she’d received more than an answer to a theological argument.

She'd just met the One who is the Answer to everything in life.

At that point, the Samaritan woman ran off to share the news. I find it interesting that the Bible makes a point of telling us she left her water jar behind at the well. I think it’s to let us know that she left much more than that.

When Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah, she understood that he offered forgiveness instead of condemnation for her sinful past. Besides her water jar, she left behind a heavy burden of guilt, shame, and humiliation, along with her old identity as an immoral woman, an outcast from society.

She began the new life of a woman accepted by God as a beloved daughter. The woman with the bad reputation had just received the ultimate life upgrade.

        How has God’s forgiveness changed your life?

[Photo credit of Jesus and the Samaritan woman - "Living Water" by Simon Dewey]

Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of our daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation. She also writes regularly for websites and blogs (such as CBN.com and FindingGodDaily.com), and contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ 2013 Mornings with Jesus). Learn more about Dianne at her website or connect on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.


    

 

Tuesday
Aug202013

Becoming an Intentional Woman

Joan C. Webb believes in the power of a woman’s story. In this powerful post, she shares how you can become an intentional woman—embracing who you are and making choices to fit God’s design for your life.

“‘If I live intentionally, being true to my own personality, serving out of my God-given giftedness and calling, I’ll no longer feel the urge to envy another woman’s marriage, ministry, talents or work.’ As I jotted this ‘aha’ into my journal,” Joan said, “my shoulders relaxed.”

Joan has given me and other women many “aha” moments, but I was curious about this “aha” that changed her life and ministry.

She continues …

Believing this “aha” gradually transformed my life. Although I rarely voiced envy, secretly I felt disappointed that others had fulfilled their dreams (or so I assumed) but I hadn’t. I longed to live out the secret desires that God had planted deep within my heart.

Yet I felt trapped. My life revolved around working hard and making others happy and satisfied, especially my husband. I didn’t want anyone (including God) to call me “selfish” for taking time and energy to nurture my own interests and gifts. People-pleasing and over-doing gave way to my burnout.

I prayed, “Lord, show me who I am now, and who I can become—the person You had in mind when You created me.”

I wanted to be intentional, instead of having a knee-jerk reaction to whatever happened.

I didn’t realize it initially, but God answered my prayer through a re-usable process that has helped other caring women like you. I invite you into this intentional journey:

Step One: Come As You Are Today. Ask yourself three awareness questions:

  • What is good about my life right now?
  • What concerns me about my life right now?
  • What is missing in my life right now?

Step Two: Celebrate Your Yesterdays. Realize that:

  • Every woman has a story written with the multi-colored pens of her experiences, relationships, pain, disappointments, choices, failures and successes. 
  • There is power in your story and you maximize that power when you partner with God.
  • You can courageously remember and celebrate past experiences, learning to appreciate God’s goodness in developing your unique life script.

Step Three: Commit It All to God.

  • Embrace Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)
  • Assess your God-given personality traits.
  • Surrender your present, past, temperament, and gifts to Christ.

 Step Four: Consider Your Choices. Understand that:

  • You live in an age of over-choice.
  • Without acknowledging the roles (including your Child of God and Self-Care Manager roles) that you’re attempting to manage currently, you’ll find it hard to be objective about your needs.
  • Discovering your current stressors and supports in each role will help you make intentional choices to relieve your overwhelm.

Step Five: Clarify Your Next Steps. You:

  • Pinpoint one intentional action you want to take.
  • Pray for wisdom.
  • Picture your desired outcome.
  • Plan how you’ll achieve it.
  • Act. Set a date for implementation. Share your decision with a safe person. Step out with God to make the change.

The key reason for living intentionally is to glorify God as the person He created you to be. I love that, because it is doable and reasonable.

What He has for me fits me—and what He designed for you fits you.

What intentional decision have you been avoiding—and how can you be intentional this week? What loving encouragement is God whispering to you right now?

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Intentional Woman (co-authored with Carol Travilla), The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right and a four book devotional series for children. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about becoming an intentional woman, visit www.intentionalwoman.com

Thursday
Aug152013

Overcoming Fear and Regrets

We all have fears—big and small. Priscilla Jensen’s amazing story (read it here) is a testimony to the grace of God and how she overcame her fear of death.

“Because I was pronounced dead and got a second chance in life,” Jensen said, “I often get the question, ‘How do I overcome fear of death?’”

Maybe you don’t fear death, but there’s an UPGRADE lesson here for all of us as Jensen continues…

Everyone has some type of fear—heights, spiders, failing, speaking—they’re a fact of life, an emotional response to pending danger. 

I had to ask, “Why do some Christians have such a strong fear of death when we know what our eternity holds once we have put our faith in Jesus?” I feared death even after I’ve already experienced death.

Death: no possibility to change anything ... the finality of it all, at least of what I knew and saw.

The fear of death can be explained as the realization of being powerless against the inevitable, while making choices that can exacerbate the inevitable.

Maybe that is why so many people are afraid of death: REGRETS!

Regrets of the unfinished… mistakes… unfulfilled dreams… of anything else. We will never be able to live life having always made the right choice. We will always have regrets. I had tons of regrets. They secretly ate at me.

What would it look like if we didn’t have any regrets?

Is that even the right question? Could we live life with absolutely no regrets? I believe that is the wrong focus. Regrets are essentially always going to be focused on one person… me!

There is a huge difference between regrets and disappointments. Regrets are focused on what we did or didn’t do. Disappointments could be described as a hopeful beginning with an ending that is less than desirable. Regrets focus on us and our decisions. Disappointments focus on the outcome.

Imagine if we flipped that question around. 

What would it look like if the choices we make were all done to bring glory to God? 

We will still have disappointments, but our regrets would be astronomically lower. Why? Because it is no longer about us. Our lives were never about us; we’re not created for our own purposes. This has huge ramifications in every area of our lives.

This paradigm shift completely changed how I view life. Since my life was never about me, then who instilled purpose into my being? God did that. He bestowed His breath of life into me. He formed me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Not created for me, I was created for God Himself. God created me for His glory.

As I went through the process of overcoming fear of death the first years after that dreadful night (believe me, it was a real fear), time and again God, through His Spirit, counseled me regarding the ultimate purpose of why He created me. I was created in His likeness and to bring glory to His Name.

God freed me from the continuous pressure to live up to my own impossible standards,  buried by my regrets. Suddenly, I had a rope thrown down so I could crawl out my self-created pit.

When my focus was no longer targeted on me, a whole new world opened up. I had one task: bring glory to God. I needed to love Him with all my heart, soul and mind. I caught myself being in constant communion with Him.

The fear of death was taken away, because ‘to die is to gain’ (Philippians 1:21). I’m blessed to get a second chance in life—spiritually and physically! My focus is no longer on my death; my focus is on my decisions right now.

Are your thoughts, actions, attitude, relationships and everything else bringing glory to God?

Priscilla Jensen is a motivational and inspirational speaker and writer who was pronounced dead and is now living a daily miracle. She was born and raised in the Netherlands with Asian ancestry, and received her graduate degree in Intercultural Studies from Biola University. After living another 12 years in Europe, she and her husband and teenage son now reside in California, teaching at San Diego Christian College and helping to plant Catalyst Church in downtown San Diego.

 

 

Tuesday
Aug132013

The Importance of Forgiveness and Prayer

Renee Fisher, who started out as a voice for 20-somethings, now writes material that can move all of the Body of Christ to action. The following is an excerpt from her new book on forgiveness - UPGRADE material for not only our emotions, but also our walk with God.

"Prayer must accompany forgiveness," Johnson said. "Have you ever felt like Jesus can't hear you, and for whatever reason the crowds of this life try to choke you and keep you from crying out?"

Ummm, yes. Been there, Renee.

She continues ...

In these times, remember this:

Anguish leads to a powerful prayer life.

Don’t let Satan make you believe otherwise. When Jesus finally heard the blind man he stopped. Yes, that’s right. He looked right into his eyes - which could not yet see - and asked the man, “What do you want me to do for you?”

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.

When he came near, Jesus asked him,  “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God (Luke 18:35, 40-43).

What a powerful question. Thankfully this man didn’t hesitate. Instead of telling Jesus his sob story or trying to explain the reasons why he was blind, he simply asked.

You can do that too.

You can just ask.

We have that ability through the power of prayer.

In One Year Alone with God, Ava Pennington writes, “Intercessory prayer causes us to look beyond our interests as we become aware of the needs and burdens of others. . . Intercessory prayer is critical if we are having difficulty forgiving someone else. It is almost impossible to stay angry with a person when we ask God to help us see them through His perspective, and pray for Him to bless them abundantly!”

We might think prayer helps change God or speed up the process of healing, but in fact, it changes you!

Just like the blind man, we need more than just physical healing. We need to see God and experience His forgiveness!

Have you ever experienced the presence of God through the power of prayer as you ask Him to help you forgive? Why or why not?

(Adapted from Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, © 2013 Harvest House Publishers.)

Renee Fisher, the Devotional Diva®, is the spirited speaker and author of four books including Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me. A graduate of Biola University, Renee’s mission in life is to “spur others forward” (Hebrews 10:24) using the lessons learned from her own trials to encourage others in their walk with God. Learn more about Renee at DevotionalDiva.com and ForgivingMe.com

 

Wednesday
Aug072013

See the 'Wows' of This Day

How many "Wow" moments have you seen or experienced already today?

Each of us chooses our perspective on life. We choose our overall worldview, certainly; but also, we choose how we will live based on our worldview.

Long ago, as a homeschool mom, I asked my boys to finish this statement: "Life is a _____." One son had two answers. "Life is a party," he said. "Life is an adventure!" This really didn't surprise me. Those answers reflected his fun, go-getter approach to practically everything.

My other son analyzed the question - so typical of him. He then responded, "Life is a struggle." I felt like I had a little budding philosopher on my hands. But at the time, this son was struggling with some life issues. It took some effort to get him to alter his approach and declare, "Life is a challenge." With his competitive nature, that was a more positive view.

I needed a viewpoint adjustment recently. I was growing weary with some daily concerns, bogged down in the mundane and having a hard time seeing any vision for change. Then a caring Sister-Girlfriend asked,

"Where did you see God's hand today?"

It was a simple question, but oh my, God's Spirit used her question to prick my conscience. I get so self-focused. It's hard to see God's hand when I'm only looking at my own. It's hard to understand God's heart, His thoughts, when I'm constantly turning inward.

I need more upward glances throughout my day. You likely do too.

That day, as I paused to think about the situations troubling me, I did indeed sense the presence of God; and that makes all the difference.

I saw that He was with me in a moment of temptation, giving me grace to do right. He was just as surely with me when I blew it - offering mercy and forgiveness. He was with me when physical pain made me grumpy, showing me how to suffer well (or at least, better). God was with me in moments of frustration, teaching me to believe He is in control; and in a situation I deemed hopeless, encouraging me to trust Him completely.

The more I considered my day, the more I realized I was never alone for one minute - and I saw so many "wows" of God's presence active in my life, the beauty of His provision and the constancy of His care.

We get so caught up in our stuff, don't we? Maybe this is why God calls us to daily, consistent communion with Him. I visited the chair in the photo (above) today in a time of quiet reflection. My Father God wants to "WOW" me with Himself.

How has God "wowed" you with His presence? Take a moment to thank Him.

Dawn Wilson is the founder of Heart Choices Ministries and creator of UpgradeWithDawn.com. Dawn's ministry encourages, edifies and energizes women with the truth of scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God.