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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Dawn Wilson (63)


Who We Are and What We Have—In Christ

Sometimes we forget who we are. And forgetting can have sad, even devastating consequences.

When I realized who I am and what I have in Christ, it revolutionized my thinking. And the more I focus on these truths, the more freedom, peace and courage I have in my life and ministry.
There are three things I discovered in my study. In Christ, I have a new identity, absolute security, and God-given dignity.

Let me unpack those for you here:

I. In Christ, you have a New IDENTITY

II. In Christ, you have Absolute SECURITY

III. In Christ, you have God-given DIGNITY

I encourage you to study each point, and rejoice in who you are and what you have in Christ.

Which of these categories of who you are and what you have in Christ speaks to you today? How will you allow it to change or encourage you?

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 Lightstock.


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.


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."


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.


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 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.



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 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.



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 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.