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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Habits (5)


What's Up with Sheep?

Becky Harling is funny and insightful, and always shares fresh insights for timeless truths. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she writes about sheep and their shepherd. But don't miss this fresh take on a common Christian theme.

"Throughout the scriptures, we are compared to sheep," Becky said. "Have you ever wondered why? I mean, what’s up with sheep? Right?"

I (Dawn) used to think, "Oh, how sweet. God describes His children as adorable little lambs." But there is much more to that picture, as Becky describes here.

Becky continues . . .

I did a little research and discovered some random facts about them that help me understand why God used sheep to describe us so often in scripture.

1. Did you know that sheep are fearful and easily panicked?

Who knew? Can you relate?

In our humanness, most of us are fearful. In fact, that is the number one concern I hear from women and men as I travel the world.

If panicked, we do stupid things, and you know what? So do sheep.

An entire bunch of sheep is easily prodded into a stampede. They have a mob mentality.

But here’s the thing, when sheep know the shepherd’s voice, His voice calms their fears and settles their panic.

This is why Jesus said, “I am the Good shepherd” (John 10:11). He also said His sheep "follow Him because they know His voice” (John 10:4).

Friend, if you want to calm your fears, get to know His voice.

2. Did you know that sheep get jealous easily and push for dominance?

Sound familiar? Maybe this hits too close to home, but it’s so easy for us to become envious of others, isn’t it?

This is the cry behind “That’s not fair!”

Our human tendency is to want life to be fair. If our friend has a beautiful home, we want one too. If our co-worker gets a raise, we want an increase as well.

Here’s the thing: according to the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), our Christian walk was never meant to be “fair.” If it was fair, we would all deserve hell, right? Praise God that isn’t the case!!

One of the most convicting stories of Scripture is when Jesus sits on the beach with His disciples after His resurrection. After He re-commissions Peter, He tells Peter how he will die.

Peter looks at his friend John and wonders if his death will be easier—he blurts out to Jesus, “What about him?”

Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:15-22).

Ouch! I love this story because it reminds me that I must never sink to comparing my life to another.

In Jesus’ kingdom, life may not seem fair, but it is good.

Our quest for fairness will rob us of the abundant life Jesus promised His sheep (John 10:10b).

3. Did you know that sheep are creatures of habits and they are resistant to change?

Many of us are creatures of habit as well. When God calls us to shift our thinking or embrace change, we panic or pout.

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus knows if we are going to live life to the fullest we must keep being transformed.

The truth is we can’t be transformed without change.

Friend, understanding our similarities to sheep can help us focus on Jesus as our Good Shepherd.

He’s the One who laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).  

Which of these random facts about sheep best describes you today? How can you better relate to or trust in your Shepherd?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say That I Am?, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.


5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Victories

Victories don't just happen. In this Victory UPGRADE, Dawn shares five ways to set yourself up for some fresh victories!

When I met Joni Eareckson Tada, I was overwhelmed with the sense that this woman is not a victim, in spite of her quadriplegia. She is a victor! Likewise, Nick Vujicic, a man without limbs, has the mindset and makes the choices that set him apart as a victor in Christ.

I can't tell you the times I've nearly wept, realizing how petty my struggles are compared to theirs. But the same truths that have enabled these victors to rise above their trials are available to me.

As Nick says, "If you can't get a miracle, become one."

I've always loved that exciting moment when runners "set up" in their lanes at the starting block to run a race. To be a victor, we need to intentionally set ourselves up for the victories we so desire.

Here are the five ways I'm learning to set myself up for fresh victories.

1. Set Your SPIRIT

The first thing to acknowledge is our utter incapability to fix ourselves.

Without Christ, we are lost and struggling sinners. But in Christ, the possibilities for change are endless! The Father is making believers like His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit!

To pursue victory, we must first set our spirit on the Spirit.

Knowing we are "crucified with Christ" and that now Christ lives in us, we determine to "live by faith in the Son of God." And how do we do that? We learn to "walk in the Spirit"—to keep in step with Him—so we will not gratify our fleshly desires. We "sow" to the Spirit if we want to cultivate a life of victory over sin.

We lose many battles because we forget our struggle is not a simple flesh-and-blood skirmish. It's a tough, spiritual war. We struggle against powerful forces of evil, and we must go to battle with spiritual, God-supplied weapons.

2. Set Your MIND

Paul told the Colossians to set their minds on "things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

A focus on eternity can help us make better decisions and live a more victorious life.

Sitting in a revival conference many years ago, the evangelist's words stirred my heart: "There are only two things you can take with you to heaven," he said. "Only two things pass from this world into eternity: the Word of God and human souls."

Those words greatly impacted my perspective and priorities. When life is boiled down to those two things, it's remarkable how some choices are simplified and others eliminated.

Christian victors have an eternal perspective.

David Ring, who has cerebral palsy, explains it this way: "I'm still in the oven. God's still in the kitchen, and God's still cooking on me. And when God is finished cooking on me, God is going to pull me out of the oven, and God's going to say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

David is an example of a believer whose perspective is being transformed by the "renewing" of his mind. Just as we are to walk in the Spirit, we're also to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

A person's mindset colors responses to life's circumstances.

While we may legitimately be victims of others and need to learn new ways to respond to our pain, in many cases, our victimization comes from within. We may be labeling ourselves as victims as an excuse not to change, or to receive pity from others.

Our focus makes a huge difference. For instance,

  • Victims focus on losses, while victors realize the "gain" possible in tough circumstances.
  • Victims see people conspiring against them; but victors realize we are all sinners and we're likely to wound each other as we rub shoulders--so they learn to forgive and give grace.
  • Victims wear themselves out trying to achieve elusive approval and contentment. Victors have learned to live for an audience of One.

So set your mind on heaven and the things of the Spirit, and you'll escape a lot of "victimhood."


It's not only the mind that needs setting. While charging his son Solomon to build the temple, King David told the leaders of Israel, "Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God" (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

David, who had a heart for God, took time in the fields as a shepherd boy to develop his heart relationship with God; and God used these experiences to develop David's character and leadership skills. Though he made foolish choices in his later life, he always deeply honored and loved the Lord.

Jesus encouraged His disciples to set their affections when He said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...." It's a choice.

4. Set Your BODY

Along with setting our mind, Paul, in Rom. 12:1, appeals to believers to "present" their bodies to the Lord as "a living sacrifice." He also speaks of yielding our bodies as tools of righteousness. That's an intentional decision—to set our bodies before the Lord and allow Him to use us.

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies, and bring Him glory with our actions in the body.

5. Set Your GOALS

When we have given God our spirit, mind, affections and body, we are ready to set some goals.

The Bible gives us a balanced view of goal-setting. We're to make plans, but to plan with humility and seeking God's wisdom and will.

When making any goals, be sure your priorities are biblical. Don't worry; seek and trust the Lord

We certainly don't honor God with laziness. He expects us to use His wisdom and be diligent so we be can be successful. That doesn't mean we can be presumptuous either! James says it's better to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Set your goals, but know the Lord is sovereign and He may change your plans.

We live in a fallen world. We will not be perfect until heaven. But we can't make excuses and coast spiritually.

Intentional, biblical choices will encourage more and more victories!

So, are you all "set" for victories? Which of these "sets" needs a little tweaking 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 Morguefile.


3 Habits to Help Us STAY Organized

Marcia Ramsland, the Organizing Pro, helps people organize their home, office, files, holidays—just about everything! In this Organization UPGRADE, she shares about three habits that can make anything more organized.

“As I speak on organizing,” Marcia says, “the comment often arises, ‘I get organized but then it all falls apart. How can I stay organized?’ Good question.”

I (Dawn) am a pretty organized person. The Lord is a God of peace, order and harmony—not "disorder" and confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33); and I think He wants us to reflect that in our lives. That said, I have one area in my home that always disintegrates into disorder, so I was eager to read Marcia’s wisdom for organizing.

Marcia continues . . .

Here are three habits that can take you from frustrated to fantastic. Anyone can practice them. It takes one new action at a time and persistence.

1. Practice the “Two Minute Pickup” All Day. 

This means before leaving in the morning clean up the kitchen for two minutes, before lunch spend 2 minutes clearing out emails, before dinner spend 2 minutes organizing desk papers into a To Do list.

You’ll always come back to “order.”

2. Set up a Weekly Schedule. 

A simple 3 x 5 card posted near your computer will remind you: 

  • Monday - send staff email
  • Tuesday - clean out one file
  • Wednesday - send your blog post ... etc. 

Or at home, post it in the kitchen:

  • Monday - wash clothes
  • Tuesday - get groceries
  • Wednesday - vacuum ... etc.    

If you want to improve any aspect of your life, set up a weekly schedule. Test and adjust it until it works.

3. Use an Email or Phone Reminder to Create a New Habit. 

If you want to be on time for work and your drive is 20 minutes, set a reminder to ring 30 minutes before arrival. That gives you a 10 minute cushion to leave.

If you want to remember to exercise more, set a reminder 45 minutes before you need to be at the gym.

Why does a Two-Minute Pickup, Weekly Schedule and email/phone Reminder

Because they create regular habits to accomplish things you need to do daily.

These aren’t “To Do” list items. They are routine habits that will build a successful day!

A Personal Application: 

The retirement home in Florida wondered how I could remember to call my mother Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4 pm every week. Simple – My phone rang 15 minutes before the time in California and I called my 88-year-old Mom.

When she passed away I had no regrets and lots of good memories. It was a good time habit.

What would be the best thing to set a Time Reminder for yourself?

Marcia Ramsland is The Virtual Organizing Coach for Business and Life Success. Her books on simplifying the holiday season have encouraged many. "Turn Seasonal Stress into Holiday Success," she says. 

For helpful holiday resources, or to download your FREE Holiday Calendar and get your Holiday Book Planner, go to

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of photostock at


Make Time for God

Poppy Smith ..... 

“I have a bad habit I’m trying to break,” Popppy says. “Instead of cozying up to God first thing in the morning, I cozy up to my computer, filling my head with what’s temporary rather than eternal.”

Oh, I (Dawn) sooooo understand this. There are so many "temptations" to keep us from seeking God first, aren't there? I check email early because I work for people "back east" and want to see if there are assignments, but after that, I try to not get distracted and spend time with the Lord. Believe me, it takes intentionality!

Poppy continues . . .

You’d think that King David had his spiritual life all together—but clearly, he didn’t.

 David says, 

"My hearts says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek" (Psalm 27:8).

He acknowledges his longing for a greater closeness to the Lord, but he also recognized that deliberate choices were needed in order to experience what he desired.

His response to the stirring in his spirit required a decision of his will.

It takes more than inner yearning for us to enjoy God. It takes a conscious decision of our will to follow through on the words, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” 

For God to work inner transformation and produce a deeper sense of His presence in us takes time and some level of self-discipline. But it is possible. We can discipline our bodies and our time.

I’ve seen the Holy Spirit change me in many ways, but on a recent Sunday I decided more self-discipline was desperately needed. I especially wanted to see if I could break my addiction to checking email. 

Instead of merely not looking at my inbox for the day, I determined to not even turn the computer on.

I’d been responding like Pavlov’s dog every time my email pinged, so I deliberately fasted—I gave up one thing to give time to another.

That’s my definition of fasting, whether it’s food or anything else that has control over me.

As the hours went by I was amazed. By committing my little exercise to the Lord, I discovered that I could control myself and spend more time in His presence. I learned that I don’t have to allow email, or any other habit, to gobble up the hours in my day.

For someone who isn’t naturally self-disciplined, this was a major victory.

How about you? Is there a habit, attitude, or hard-to-break behavior that needs kicking out of your life? It won’t happen by magic, but it can be overcome if you ask God for help and follow through with personal discipline.

Paul urged Timothy to “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (l Timothy 4:7).

As you gear up for fall, here are ways to respond when your soul echoes David’s cry: “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

  • Pray for Spirit-given discipline to put a higher value on seeking God’s face before other activities.
  • Pursue daily intimacy by thinking about how Jesus treated people, spoke to them, noticed and cared for them. And ask that He would live that kind of life through you.
  • Practice being alone with the Father to talk to Him, to quietly listen for his direction and correction, as well as encouragement and love. 
  • Persevere in the race God has set before you, inviting the Holy Spirit to change your daily choices to what matters most to your best self.

We all have the same amount of time each day. What will you take time from in order to spend it in God’s presence?

Poppy Smith is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. A former Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader with a Masters in Spiritual Formation, she is a multi-published author who speaks widely, challenging women to make their lives count by looking at their choices, attitudes, and relationship with God. Find more about Poppy on her website 

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


The Blessing of Routines

Most vacations are over and it's time to return to routines. Back to school. Back to work. In this UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us with this one thought: Routines don't have to be boring!

Routines are basically big life "habits." Most adults are in a habit of going to work, 9-5, Monday through Friday, to earn some income to pay our bills. (Hopefully, those out of work are in a habit of going to the unemployment office to seek work.) Our children are in a habit of going to school and getting an education. These are good, necessary routines!

It's true, some people call routines boring, even "mind-numbing." But I think we can alter that perspective and see routines as a huge blessing.

Let me explain.

In the smaller, daily habits of life, like brushing teeth or taking a shower, we don't have to use much brain power to function. We've done them so long, they are almost automatic. This gives us some brain matter and freedom to concentrate on more needful things that arise each day.

The same thing is true for going to work and going to school – the mega routines in our lives. We know we're going to get ready for our day, get to the location for work and school, and plunge into our tasks. Those are givens. We don't have to think much about that.

But then what?

What are we going to accomplish today? What are we going to learn today? Who are we going to serve or love or encourage today?

Our 9-5 routine is just a vehicle to get us involved in the great adventures of life.

Involved in progress. In education. In problem-solving. In relationship-building. In love-sharing. And so much more.

So I am thankful for the routines. They are blessings in disguise! With the basic routines fixed, we can focus our heart and mind on what God wants us to do, and that can change every day!

Jesus is our example in this. He worked hard to accomplish all the Father wanted Him to do (John 5:17, 19; 6:38).

Routines can also help us solidify new good habits. Every new habit begins with a choice. You decide to develop something new in your life. You know that if you create this habit, you'll be blessed with some kind of reward. But getting from the choice to the reward is where the routine comes in.

For example, let's say you want to start memorizing scripture.

  • You make the choice: I will start memorizing scripture.
  • You know the reward: I will have a stockpile of stored-up truth the Holy Spirit can use in my life.
  • You design a routine: I will create proactive cues and behavioral steps to help me accomplish my goal.

One cue might be a scripture verse written out and taped to your bathroom mirror so you can see and read it every single morning when you brush your teeth. (Attach a new routine to an older routine!) My daughter-in-love, Carrie, does this for her family. I love her bathroom mirror scriptures!

I do the same thing at my desk. I have scriptures I want to memorize right above my computer monitor where I'll see them every workday.

One behavioral step might be to create some scripture "flash cards" to stick in your purse for "wait time" at the doctor's office or in the grocery store checkout line. (Use your present routine to create a new behavior. In this case, every time you wait, you will use your time to memorize)

In other words, exploit current routines (work/school) to accomplish new purposes. That's using your brain creatively. And when you use your brain creatively for the glory of God and your growth to become more like Jesus, that's a blessing indeed!

It's all about perspective. Your job isn't just a job. Schooling isn't just schooling. Each are opportunities.

If you'll be alert, you'll discover each routine comes packed with possibilities to honor God and accomplish His purposes in fresh ways.

Be encouraged with these scriptures:

"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90:17)

"... be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58b)

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23).

Pray God will open your eyes to some blessings that may be hidden in your daily routines!

How can you use your return to work, or your children's (or your) return to school to create some new routines – to exchange perceived boredom for true blessing?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at