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Entries in Dawn Wilson (61)

Thursday
Dec072017

Christmas Doors — Invitations to Joy

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to think about the doors we might open to others this holiday season.

I love to see all the pretty doors decorated at Christmas. They look so welcoming. They invite us to share together in joy.

So many are lonely, stressed, even in crisis during the holidays. We may feel caught up in our own holiday joy, but we can't ignore others who struggle to smile. Those who have no peace. Those who hurt and need encouragement.

I've thought about some of the doors we might open to those people. Here are five doors that I call "Invitations to Joy."

1. The Door of UNDERSTANDING

We show empathy and understanding when we learn to listen well.

James tells us to "be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak" (1:19, AMP).

Proverbs 1:5 says, "Let the wise listen and add to their learning." When you listen to people, you encourage them to talk, and that is fertile ground for greater understanding.

As leadership coach Becky Harling wrote in her book How to Listen So People Will Talk, "People feel more loved and valued if we are actively and attentively listening to them."

Empathetic listening is a gift not just for the holidays, but for a lifetime of ministry to those the Lord brings into our lives.

2. The Door of COMMUNICATION

The second part of James 1:19 says, "slow to speak." We must be careful what we say, but we do need to speak up.

Good communication skills can be cultivated when our mouths are full of God's wisdom. Our words are to first be acceptable in His sight (Psalm 19:14). We can then wisely pray for others and minister to them with healing conversations.

Our words must be carefully chosen to encourage others. Speak words that will build up and "give grace" (Ephesians 4:29).

Speak words of affirmation and hope, not negative, critical and destructive words. Focus on what is worthy (Philippians 4:8) to share this Christmas!

3. The Door of SERVICE

Just as Jesus came to serve, he calls us to do the same. In Christ, we are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), and that includes serving people.

God notes how we serve and help others (Hebrews 6:10). He praises a servant's heart.

We are to serve with humility in love. We are to use our spiritual gifts, received from the Holy Spirit, to serve others as "faithful stewards of God's grace."

There are so many opportunities to serve during the Christmas season—both in serving individuals and groups.

Serving others "opens a door" to their hearts.

Don't overlook your next-door neighbor's need, a good place to start. You might even be opening a door to sharing the Gospel; but be willing to serve, regardless.

4. The Door of HOSPITALITY

Paul instructs Christ-followers to "share with the Lord's people who are in need" and "practice hospitality".

Hospitality isn't just inviting someone into our homes. It is first a heart attitude, a disposition, of treating others in a warm and generous way.

But it is also a virtue that extends back to Old Testament times. New Testament Christians also depended on hospitality and offered it freely. Jesus and His disciples depended on hopitality as they served in ministry (Matthew 10:9-10).

Hospitality is a kingdom trait. We bring praise to God when we show kindness, especially to the needy and love others selflessly). Hospitality is an important aspect of our walk with God, and not just during the holidays (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).

5. The Door of LIFE

We cannot change a person, but we can speak to them about the door of life—and Jesus said He is that door (John 10:7). He is the only door by which a person can enter and receive eternal life (John 10:9; 3:16). As such, the Good Shepherd is the door to the sheepfold.

The Christmas season is an opportune time to share the Gospel. Be creative in how you share. Think of ways that would speak to specific individuals—that would help them see what God was offering when "baby Jesus" came. 

Jesus was a man on a mission. He came to "seek and to save the lost," and He has commissioned us to share this Good News with others (Matthew 28:19-20).

Think about it.

Every Christmas Door is an invitation to joy.

  • The joy of being heard and understood
  • The joy of being encouraged
  • The joy of finding needs met
  • The joy of being welcomed
  • The joy of receiving life

How can you open doors to people this holiday season?

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 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 Neely Wang at Lightstock.

 

Monday
Nov272017

Three Women Can Prepare Your 'Christmas Heart'

In this Christmas-season UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to re-read the Christmas story from a fresh perspective, through the stories of three women.

I’ve read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke over and over again, but what struck me this year was the three women God used in the story of our Messiah’s coming and childhood.

I received the examples of these women as a gift, and their stories can help you prepare your own “Christmas heart.” Allow the Spirit of God to cultivate a heart that respond to and worships the Lord with fresh wonder.

Here are the lessons I unwrapped from these godly ladies.

1. Elizabeth - Learning to Hope in God’s Promises (Luke 1:5-25, 36-80)

The cousin of Jesus’ mother, Elizabeth played an important role of encouragement. As the wife of a Jewish priest, Zechariah, she no doubt encouraged her husband in the ministry. They were both spiritually mature, called righteous and blameless before God and obedient to His commands. But the Jewish people were getting impatient for their Messiah to come.

The Bible says Elizabeth was barren, and when we are introduced to her she was “advanced in years”—past child-bearing age. Yet God was about to do a miracle! While Zechariah served in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared and gave them not only a pregnancy announcement, but a name for their soon-to-be son: John. The child would fulfill a special prophecy; John would be the “messenger” of God, preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming.

Zechariah doubted God’s messenger and the angel imposed a penalty for his unbelief; but at John’s birth, Zechariah showed he had grown in faith. Perhaps Elizabeth’s faith grew to a higher level too.

Six months after Elizabeth conceived, Mary heard the good news and went to visit her cousin. Mary—also pregnant at that time—experienced the wonder of her own child leaping in her womb as the cousins embraced; and old Elizabeth declared her joy about Mary’s pregnancy even before Mary mentioned it!  

Ever the hope-giver, Elizabeth encouraged young Mary for her own journey.

In due time, Elizabeth’s son grew to minister “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) and she indeed saw the wonder of God’s promise.

This Christmas, I want to help people see the wonder of God’s promises, fulfilled in John the Baptist and our Savior, Jesus!

2. Mary - Learning to Trust God with our Future (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52)

Young and likely still living with her parents, Mary is an example of a woman who surrendered to God’s will and trusted Him for her future. She is described as “highly favored” in scripture, meaning she fully received God’s grace; but she acknowledged her need for a Savior. An ordinary Jewish girl, God chose to use her in an extraordinary way.

She was engaged to, and later married, a carpenter named Joseph. As a virgin, she gave birth to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. She and Joseph had no sexual union until after the birth of Jesus. (They had other children later—Jesus’ half-brothers and sisters.)

Mary is an example to us of trusting God with our future, no matter how uncertain or painful.

She knew God would do a mighty work through her son, God’s “only-begotten” Son, the One who made possible the believer’s sure hope for eternal life.

Mary never received worship, adoration or prayers herself, but she pointed all glory to God alone (Luke 1:46-49).

This Christmas, I want to worship and adore the Lord, and remember my loving Father in heaven has all my tomorrows firmly in His hands.

3. Anna - Learning to Pray until the Answers Come (Luke 2:36-38)

There are only three verses in scripture about Anna, but they are rich in truth.

Like Miriam, Deborah and only a few other women in scripture, Anna was a prophetess. She was also an elder widow dedicated to the Lord. Scholars debate whether she was 84-years-old or 104 when she met Jesus.

Regardless of her age, she never left the temple after her husband’s death. She “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”

God's people were waiting and waiting for the Promised One, the coming Messiah.

Anna prayerfully waited too. And her prayers of faith were richly rewarded.

Simeon was a fellow-servant in the temple (verses 22-35). Simeon set the stage for an important response by Anna. After he saw Jesus and said his eyes had seen God’s “salvation”—the one who would enlighten the Gentiles and bring glory to God’s people, Israel—Anna spoke up.

The Bible says she came to the place where Jesus was being dedicated in the temple that very moment and began to “give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Her prayers, all Israel’s prayers, had been answered. The Messiah had finally come!

This Christmas, I want to thank my Father God for the Messiah’s coming, and recognize Him afresh as the Promised One ... MY Promised Savior.

Join with me this Christmas:

  • Hope in God’s promises.
  • Trust God for your future.
  • Pray with confidence and expectancy.

And rejoice! The Redeemer has come!

Do you need hope, faith, a more expectant spirit? How can the example of these three godly women encourage your heart 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 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 of Mary and Elizabeth, a painting by Sebastiano Del Piombo.

 

Tuesday
Aug292017

Break Free from the Shackles of Comparison

Comparison is a prison, Dawn Wilson says in this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, but our Maker holds the key to release us from our shackles.

I used to excuse myself when I got caught up in comparisons, but not anymore. I’m recognizing comparison for what it is: an ugly prison that keeps me and others caught in its destructiveness—self-focused and paralyzed.

Anyone with a “performance addiction” understands the comparison prison. Behind the bars of that prison we are shackled to selfishness, pride, envy, jealousy, discontent, ingratitude and the constant quest for acceptance and affirmation. It’s a constant battle.

The prison walls of comparison have a thick wallpaper of “if only”s.

  • If only I looked like so-and-so.
  • If only I could speak like so-and-so.
  • If only I was as smart as so-and-so.
  • If only I had a house like so-and-so.
  • If only I had a loving husband like so-and-so.
  • If only I had obedient kids like so-and-so.
  • If only had so-and-so’s money… or travel expenses … or clothing allowance … or …

She sad truth is, so-and-so might even be in a prison of comparison herself, wanting what YOU have!

Locked in this dark prison, we are caught in a bitter cycle of “better or worse.”

It goes something like this:

“I’m better than that person” (and that’s pride). Or “I’m glad I’m not like that person” (and that’s also pride). We need a good dose of humility to conquer the pride of comparison.

Performance addiction and comparison addiction are cousins. In both, we use our own measuring stick to make judgements both about ourselves and others, and we ignore God’s perspective.

When we’re bound in the shackles of comparison, we live unhealthy, ungodly lives.

But the Lord holds the key to release us—the truth and power of the Gospel in Christ. He will unlock the shackles that bind us when we begin to recognize who we are and what we have in Him.

[I've found a book titled The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am by Kolleen Lucariello helpful. She explains in simple terms exactly who we are in Christ:  A for Accepted, B for Beloved, C for Changed, etc.]

After many years caught up in a performance mentality, I learned an important truth.

The Christian life isn’t a matter of working harder or trying to measure up to a faulty “image” we have for ourselves or of others.

Father God wants us to rest in His provision of grace and look only to Jesus, because His “image” is the only one that matters.

God unlocks the shackles when we embrace the truth of His grace in our lives, but we still have to learn to walk as free people. We need to walk in newness of life. Lies have distorted our thinking and we need the truth of Scripture to learn how to become holy, faith-filled saints.

It’s a process.

Here are a few things I’m doing to encourage change.

1. I Notice When I Tend to Struggle with Comparison.

Sometimes it’s a kind of event or a particular set of emotions that drive me. Sometimes it is a past issue I’m still struggling to overcome in Christ. Many times, the root is seeking the approval of man rather than desiring to please God.

What are your specific comparison “triggers”?

2. I See My Tendency to Compare for What It Is.

Paul was clear about comparisons when he wrote: “We do not have the audacity to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with some who [supply testimonials to] commend themselves. When they measure themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom and behave like fools” (2 Corinthians 10:12, AMP).

The Message version of this verse warns against “comparing and grading and competing.”

Comparing is not necessarily a sin—though it can lead to sin—but it’s certainly not wise. I need to stop it! And if it does cross over into sin, I need to repent!

3. I Purposefully Fill My Mind and Heart with God’s Truth.

I read, reflect on, and saturate my mind and heart with the Gospel so the Lord can transform my behavior.

As I realize how much the Lord has done for me, how He has extended great grace and mercy, there is no room for comparisons.

4. I Keep on Reminding Myself of My True Identity.

I counsel my heart concerning the truth of who God says I am in Christ.

5. I Challenge My Pride with Christ-like Humility.

Pride sets me up for boasting. Or a judgmental spirit. The Lord wants me to be humble; so I am asking the Lord to break my pride and help me think with “sober judgement”, not judgmentalism.

Are you wondering if you need to be “broken”? It helped me to meditate on this list.

6. I Try to Remember Everything I Am and Have are from the Lord.

“…What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Without the Lord, I can do nothing; and when I remember no one else can do anything without Him either, it helps me think straight about foolish "comparing."

7. I Ask God to Open My Eyes to See People as He Does.

We are all created in His image. And every believer is “accepted in the Beloved.” Every child of God has strengths, gifts, weaknesses, and besetting (habitual) sins.

Comparing each other is like comparing apples and oranges.

God has made all of us unique for His purposes.

8. When Tempted to Compare, I Choose Gratitude Instead.

Sometimes it doesn’t just happen. I have to choose gratitude, cultivate it, and practice it every day.

9. I Practice the Godliness of Contentment.

Covetousness is a sin. The Lord wants me to practice contentment. When I focus on eternal things rather than temporal, I can more readily release my grip on earthly desires.

And I need to remember The Lord calls people in different ways. We can’t compare our lot with others’.

10. I Choose to Be Genuinely Happy for People.

Rather than focusing with envy or jealousy on their gifts, abilities, etc., I can pursue love and rejoice in them, what they have and their accomplishments.

Criticism that arises from envy (wanting what someone has) or jealousy (grudgingly wishing they didn’t have it) destroys relationships. Love and jealousy are mutually exclusive. James says envy comes from the pit and it causes disorder and wickedness.

“If I love neighbor as myself, there will be no reason at all for the least twinge of jealousy, because I will be just as happy that he has what I wanted as I would be if I had it.” – Elisabeth Elliott, The Music of His Promises.

That's my goal. I want to get to the point where I'm always rejoicing in and over the blessings of others.

I praise God He is helping me break free from the hideous shackles of comparison.

Do you struggle with comparisons? Which of my 10 “in process” choices might encourage spiritual growth in your life?

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 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 Jeremiah7 at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul062017

Expand Your Attention Span for Spiritual Growth

Got attention span deficit? In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Dawn encourages us to expand our attention span so we can grow in our journey with the Lord.

According to a Time magazine report (2014) quoting Chartbeat, a data analytics company, one in three visitors to a webpage spends less than 15 seconds reading an article they land on.

A 2016 article in The New York Times noted a survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft that concluded the average attention span had fallen to only eight seconds.

(Apparently goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds, but I'm not sure how you'd prove that's true.)

Human brains wander and are “in the moment” for just over half of our waking hours according to a study from Harvard University. The rest of the time we “zone out.”

I've watched the controversy over the rise of fidget spinners for children with poor attention spans; but attention isn't just a kids' issue.

I've joked that I have a shorter attention span than fruit flies—sort of like this common fly hopping on and off my husband's cell phone! But it's really not a laughing matter.

Part of the problem: we flit between television, radio, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, our iPods and iPads and email. We’re distracted and incredibly busy and can’t seem to concentrate on one thing for long.

This problem affects Christians when it comes to spiritual disciplines and lifestyle.

  • We find time to surf the Internet, but fail to swim in the cleansing streams of our Bibles.
  • We eagerly chat on social media, but seldom get in deep conversations with our Heavenly Father.
  • We can quote lines from favorite flicks, but somehow can’t memorize scripture.
  • We spend hours looking for bargains in the mall, but miss seeing the desperate homeless woman outside.

As I write this, I am deeply convicted.

I am caught up in the busyness of modern society, the craziness of the constant media pull, and the emptiness of life when I forget God.

I need a major adjustment in my attention span, my use of time and the priorities I embrace. Do you?

I'm going to leave it to those much wiser to solve the brain/attention issue, but here are 5 ways I think we can expand our shrinking attention span to encourage spiritual growth.

1. Be Intentional in Seeking God.

Intentionality requires us to slow down and think so we can act wisely. In this crazy world, to come apart before we fall apart.

Redeeming or making the best use of time, as Paul encouraged, isn’t always about cramming more into our lives.

I like what Joan Webb, author of The Intentional Woman, says about this. “Speeding through life is not a productive way to redeem the time,” she says. “A better way to redeem life’s opportunities is to slow down, relax, and enjoy myself, others and God.”

Especially God.

Many Christians believe (see The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question #1) our chief purpose for existence is to enjoy God and glorify Him forever. We need to be intentional and seek Him.

It won’t just “happen” like an instant message flitting across your cell phone.

2. Meditate on Scripture.

Meditation is like mental training to improve our focus. It’s what sociologists call “mindfulness.”

“God designed us with the capacity to pause and ponder,” David Mathis wrote. “He means for us to not just hear Him, but to reflect on what He says.”

As a Christian discipline, meditation isn’t emptying the mind—as modern non-Christian teachers suggest—but rather filling the mind with real biblical truth and then “chewing” on it for a while. It is allowing the Word of God to “dwell in you richly.”

I have found meditation connected to prayer, Bible study and memorization. They all help one another.

3. Incorporate Exercise into your Day.

I’ve heard some people say “bodily exercise profits little,” quoting scripture, but a better translation of 1 Timothy 4:8 is “bodily training is of some value….” We don’t want to ignore our body’s need for exercise. And God designed us for a body-mind connection.

A study from the University of Illinois actually found physical activity can increase cognitive control and attention span. So why not get creative and use exercise time to the glory of God?

  • Prayer walk around your neighborhood.
  • Walk on a beach and hand out tracts.
  • Memorize a scripture while exercising.

4. Stay Hydrated!

We forget how much of our body is made up of water. Even mild dehydration, one study found, can impact a person’s ability to concentrate for long.

In her super-intentional book, 40 Days to Healthy Living, RN Danna Demetre says, "If you wait to drink water until you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated," and one of the symptoms of dehydration, she says, is "poor concentration."

As you drink in the Living Water of the Word, don’t forget pure H20 can refresh your body so you can focus on what God has to say. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times.

3. Ask Questions that Encourage Study.

Jesus was a master at asking questions. One author suggests Jesus asked 307 questions in the scriptures. He definitely wanted to get his disciples and seekers thinking.

He asked questions like, “Why are you afraid?”—“Where is your faith?”—and “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

Asking questions will help you stay engaged and apply what you are learning. It might even lead to a life-changing research project!

4. Incorporate Christian Music.

A study at Stanford University’s School of Medicine found listening to classical music engages the areas of the brain that affect attention and memory. Music certainly can play a part in a Christian’s focus on the Lord.

Choose music that is both inspirational and truth-packed to get your attention and creative juices flowing. I recommend the CD “Be Still: Piano Meditations” by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

(But Note: if you are like me, when you are deep in study you may want some simple symphonies in the background instead—I find myself singing words of well-known hymns, and my brain starts chasing other topics!)

5. Write to Focus.

Writing long-hand engages more mental processing according to researchers.

Whether you journal or simply make notes in book margins or underline passages, writing will help you focus your thoughts—even better than using a laptop (which can prove to be an easy distraction).

Which of these attention span expanders could help you today? Do you have other ideas to help you focus?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), 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.

Graphics adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Saturday
Jun172017

'I Will Be Your Father'

In this special UPLIFT for Father's Day, Dawn Wilson is joining with Claudia DeNure to remind us of God's special invitation to be our "Father."

I (Dawn) remember when my Daddy died. It was such a tough day, and to this day, I still have "unexpected tears" when something triggers a memory about him.

I know on Father's Day many have tough memories as well as sweet ones.

I don't know what your memories are, but I once heard a preacher say, "We often respond to the Lord in the same way we responded (or respond) to our earthly fathers."

I don't know if that's true for everyone, but it certainly was for me.

My Daddy loved me, but I never sensed we communicated that love heart to heart (though I was supposedly a "Daddy's girl.") I knew Daddy expected me to "do good" and "not get in trouble." But I also knew his correction when I did mess up was fair and swift. Yet sometimes he let me off the hook. I never deserved the "mercy" I received.

And that's exactly how I viewed God for so many years. That has both good and bad results. Good, because I've always seen God as fair and merciful; bad because there were times I thought God might be letting me off the hook for my sin, and also because I struggled with feeling truly connected in prayer. I knew God loved me, but I somehow wanted to hear it in a more tangible way.

As I matured in faith after finally trusting in what Christ did for me (and not my own efforts), I one day read 1 John 3:1, and it transformed my heart:

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are."

That verse was the "more tangible" I was looking for. I believed that scripture. And I built my worldview of God's Fatherhood on it.

I set on a course to discover God's love as a Father.

I started praying to Him in a different way. Instead of "God," I started addressing Him as "Father God." I felt that reflected my awe of Him as the sovereign God and Lord of the universe, and yet acknowledged the special, new relationship the Bible says we have together.

I understand Jesus was the first Jewish rabbi to call God "Father" directly; and it was also Jesus who first taught His disciples to pray, "Our Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:9). Jesus was inviting His followers of all time into a deep, personal relationship with the God He knew so intimately.

What a tremendous privilege the believer has to pray to the Father, in Christ! And what an introduction Jesus gave us to the most unfathomable love in existence (John 15:9-17).

The Father's love for His own is not like human love. It is lavish and unconditional.

Our love story began with the love of the Father for His "only begotten" Son, Jesus (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-11).

And then this matchless Love of God enabled us to "be called children of God" (John 1:12-13). It is this love that quickens and changes us and empowers the conquering of sin (Ephesians 2:4-5; Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:37-39).

It is a mistake to believe all humans are automatically "children of God." Only those the Father "births" through the Gospel, adopts and transforms through the Holy Spirit can truly call Him "Abba." * (John 1:12-13; 3:6; 1 Peter 1:3, 23; Romans 8:14-17, 22-23; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:4-6).

Yet "Father's Day" may truly trouble some. Their memories of their daddies are too grim, too hurtful. But there truly is no comparison between them and our "Abba" in heaven.

God the Father is not like some distant, dirty or deadbeat earthly dads.

Father God is not an absent father, an abusive father, or an always-failing-us father.

He is good—an absolutely "good, good Father," as Chris Tomlin's song reminds us so beautifully:

I've heard a thousand stories of what they think you're like,
But I've heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night;
And you tell me that you're pleased
And that I'm never alone.
You're a good, good father—
It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are;
And I'm loved by you—
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am....

As I was thinking about this recently, I was struck by the powerful testimony of my friend, Claudia DeNure, and I want her to share it with you.

"My mother married three times," Claudia says. "My dad had been a German prisoner of war in the Second World War, and when he returned home, he was a very different man. He divorced my mother. 

"After a second failed marriage to an alcoholic musician, she married the man with whom I went through my teen years calling my step-father. This, too, was a difficult marriage which included many heated and accusatory arguments, and frequently ended with, 'I'm going to divorce you' from both parties. 

"I had just returned from a church camp experience, as I recall, and hearing the screaming above—from the basement room I been given as a bedroom—I prayed, 'Lord, I don't want a life like that. Please help me.' 

"Then I heard quite clearly in my mind, 'If you will be my daughter, I will be your Father." That was the moment I turned my life over to Jesus Christ, and I've never looked back. 

"He became the Father I never had; the best Father a girl—and now a woman—could ever have asked for."

I know that is the case for so many today. Just as on Mother's Day, there are many who hurt on the special day we set aside to honor our dads.

Some, like me, simply hurt because their daddies have passed away and we're no longer to put our arms around their necks and whisper, "Daddy, I love you."

In those times, oh, how we need Father God.

Claudia understood the CONDITION as well as the COMFORT involved in this Fatherhood:

"IF you will be my daughter, I WILL be your Father."

God desires to (and He will) "Father" us, but we must be willing to be His sons and daughters. We must be willing to trust the Gospel, surrender to His control and obey Him.

Do you know the Father today? Do you understand His lavish love for you? If not, here is how to become a "child of God" with the Lord of the universe as your Father in heaven.

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 Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

*Note: "Abba" is closely related to the word for "Daddy" in Aramaic.

THANK YOU for your testimony and the use of your photos, Claudia DeNure.