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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Stewardship (6)


You Can Ketchup More Fries with Money

Rhonda Rhea's posts always go deeper than one might think at first. Such is the case in this Stewardship UPGRADE.

"Don’t even try to pretend," Rhonda says. "Don’t pretend you don’t know that the hamburger and the French fries have to come to an end at exactly the same time."

I (Dawn) was intrigued by Rhonda's title until I saw a longer version and scanned the article.

The whole title is: "You Can Ketchup More Fries with Money—And Catch Fools with It Too."

Ah... I see. This is about stewardship!

Rhonda continues . . .

Bite of hamburger. Bite of fry. Burger. Fry.

Once you invest your money in the full meal deal, it feels like bad stewardship if any one bite doesn’t live up to the others.

Burger, fry, burger, fry.

These are the rules, people. Hey, it’s not like I make this stuff up.

When you think about it, it’s the only cultured way to eat a burger.

Of course, “culture” and “full meal deal” don’t always go together like… well… like burgers and fries.

I was eating my burger, fry, burger, fry the other day and I happened to glance over at the ketchup packet and noticed it said, “FANCY.”

Well, that was just frustrating. I felt underdressed the whole rest of the meal.

And you don’t want to feel underdressed when you have to go back for that extra order of fries. Because when you’re explaining to the kid taking your money that you had too much burger at the end of your fries, you don’t want to look stupid.

When it comes to dealing well with money, there’s always a challenge not to get stupid. Not because money is evil. Because loving it is.

And it’s a trap.

“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, HCSB).

Obsession with material things leads to more obsession with material things, and then more—a trap of our own spiraling desires. It’s like always needing one more fry.

How sobering to read verse 9. Our craving for money can lead us away from our faith and right into all kinds of piercing pain. Foolish sinfulness. Certainly nothing sophisticated about that.

Paul tells us to “run from these things” (verse 11). Run away from that temptation to focus on getting rich.

People who already enjoy wealth are not safe from the trap either. It can become all too easy to find security in a big bank account rather than in Christ.

Verse 17 says, “not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.”

When Paul tells us to run from the love of money and all the other evils, he doesn’t just leave us running wildly off without direction.

“But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness" (verse 11).

As we pursue all the right spiritual things, our view toward all things physical comes more clearly into focus.

When we’re not distracted by loving or trusting in money and things, we see what’s real.

“Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real,” (verse 18).

Investing in Kingdom work. That’s real investing.

Incidentally, anytime you’ve invested the meal deal and you’re feeling a little unsophisticated… ketchup. It’s the fancy condiment.

Anything else just won’t cut the mustard.

Are you pursuing the physical or the spiritual? How is pursuing the spiritual a better "deal"? 

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10 books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Espresso Your Faith - 30 Shots of God's Word to Wake You Up, and a book designed to encourage Pastor's Wives (P-Dubs): Join the Insanity. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at

Graphic adapted, courtesy of eisenmenger at Pixabay.


The Least of These

Susan K. Stewart is is a practical and insightful writer with heart. In this Ministry and Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she encourages us to think like Jesus thinks when it comes to "the least of these."

“Today I encountered another “panhandler” on the corner of a busy intersection.” Susan said.

“As is my habit, I grabbed some bills out of a container on my console and handed them to the man. Once again I hear in my internal ear, ‘He’s only going to use it for drugs or booze.’”

Yes, I (Dawn) have heard that thought many times. Who hasn’t? But then there is another voice, a still, small voice of love.

Susan continues . . .

Quiet down internal ear.

As I gave this man a couple of dollars, I thought about a Dave Ramsey quote, which had been circulating on Facebook:

“Make sure that you are actually helping someone when you give them money, not just enabling bad behavior.”

I generally appreciate Mr. Ramsey’s suggestions. In this case though, life experiences have changed my way of thinking about this kind of giving.

Like others, I have thought those who ask for money, food, or whatever are drug users, alcoholics or morally unacceptable people.

Then the situation hit closer to home.

Our son was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Like so many who suffer with these confusing brain diseases, his recovery didn’t start right away.

Unlike many other diseases, mental illnesses don’t have a quick fix. Too often our loved ones flounder trying to get better, trying to be good people, trying to be normal.

Like others, our son followed a path of self-medication through alcohol and drugs. Much to our pain, we had to ask him to leave our home. He began couch surfing, but at times would just get in his car and leave.

With no real destination, we never knew where he would end up. Most of the time he survived these trips by begging. Had it not been for the generosity and kindness of others, my son may have committed a crime or worse, died on the streets.

Maybe I respond with gifts as returning favors others gave my son.

Begging or panhandling is the practice of imploring others to grant a favor, often a gift of money, with little or no expectation of reciprocation.

Panhandlers are often found in public places such as street corners, urban parks, and near busy markets. Besides money, they may also ask for food, drink, cigarettes, or other small items.

According to a study in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, “seventy percent of beggars stated they would prefer a minimum-wage job, typically citing a desire for ‘a steady income’ or ‘getting off the street.’” Mental illness was cited has one factor that makes them feel they cannot handle conventional jobs.

Beggars have existed since the beginning of time. We know Jesus encountered many of the less fortunate. What did He say?

First, there’s:

“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Mt. 7: 1-2 NASB).

Think. Have you ever picked up a free cup of coffee or snack? What if someone said that you don’t deserve it because you have caffeine or sugar addiction?

You don’t want to be judged in that way, do you? Does that person on the corner deserve it?

Second, in the New Testament:

“‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 

"The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’ (Mt. 25:37-40 NASB).

I don’t recall that Jesus ever said, “Help those who meet this list of qualifications.” He said help the least of these.

I believe money or other possessions belong to God. I need to make them available to God for his use, in his time, and in his way.

I’m responsible to God how I use or not use what He owns.

When I pass one of those possessions to someone else, that person becomes responsible to God for its use. If that man on the corner this morning buys a bottle of wine, he has to answer to God.

  • Ask God to give you an opportunity to give a gift to someone on the street corner.
  • Give, not worrying about the gift, but praying for the receiver.

Give to the least of us.

How do you feel when you pass a beggar? What do feelings have to do with it, really? What might the Lord be saying?

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and peacocks—teaches, writes and edits non-fiction. Her passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Susan's books include Science in the Kitchen, Preschool: At What Cost? and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. Learn more about Susan at

Graphic adapted, courtesy of hotblack at Morguefile.


Finish Well: Embrace Freedom

In the previous two UPGRADE posts, "Take Courage" and "Build Strength," we considered a number of ways seniors can finish well. In this final post in the series, I (Dawn) want us to consider how we can "Embrace Freedom."

In my span of 65 years, I've discovered two kinds of seniors.

One kind retires from life and fails to dream new dreams. As one such woman told me, "I'm just waiting for the rapture." You may have heard someone say that too.

The other kind grabs hold of every day, buying up the time. As one senior I know said,  

"I don't know how many days I have left on this earth, but I'm not dead yet and I'm going to drink my cup of life dry!"

The first woman foolishly sqandered many opportunities to serve the Lord. The second woman was living out Ephesians 5:15-16, redeeming time, wisely making the most of every opportunity.

I want to be like that second woman. I want to redeem the rest of my years. Because I have freedom in Christ, I want to embrace freedom and finish well.

Now I don't know what redeeming the senior years looks like to you, but here are four ways I'm going to embrace freedom in my own senior years.

First, I'm going to . . .

1. Purge the Unnecessary.

In today's culture, with so many things to buy and so many storage units to keep them in, it may not be as natural to pare down in the senior years as it used to be. To be sure, many are "down-sizing" as they get older, but others are still burdened down with too much stuff.

In our elder years, we should be simplifying our lives, purging out the unnecessary, making much of our sweet memories, and preparing for heaven!

Many problems would be helped or even solved, if we just owned a lot less.

  • We might find extra hours in our day or more money in our checkbooks;
  • We'd have a lot less housework to do—like dusting all those knick-knacks;
  • We'd eliminate a lot of stress about our stuff;
  • We'd find the calming freedom of "space;"
  • We'd be able to, perhaps, release ourselves from others' expectations (just think about the freedom of not having to keep up with the Joneses or fashion's dictates); 
  • And maybe we'd finally learn true biblical contentment.

It's not about being a minimalist. It's about becoming a wiser consumer and a better steward. It's about finding the joy of freedom. It's about not being "encumbered" and distracted by so much stuff!

If you're looking for help decluttering, there are many good books that can help. I recommend Kathi Lipp's book, Clutter Free, and Marcia Ramsland's, Simplify Your Space.

2. Use Resources Wisely.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to enjoy financial freedom in old age? That doesn't just happen. Many seniors have frittered away valuable dollars that could have been invested for the latter years.

But regardless of our past foolishness, we can still learn to be good financial stewards. There are so many helpful resources to read and apply, like Ron Blue and Jermey White's Faith-Based Family Finances; Dave Ramsey's Your Money after the Big 5-0; and numerous books and booklets by financial expert Ellie Kay.

It's not just financial resources we need to consider. I believe God wants us to walk through our homes and ask Him how we might better use the material goods in our homes. Maybe we could lend or give an item we own to someone in need. Or maybe we could sell something we have to make compassionate use of the money we generate.

Maybe there is a skill we have that could be used for the Kingdom. We could make quilts, blankets or clothing for someone in need. We could paint someone's fence or help plant a garden. We could write or edit for a financially-strapped ministry. Ask, "What can I do?" Then ask, "How can I use this, Lord?"

Another wise use of resources is considering where we might leave special financial gifts in our will for a favorite ministry or two after we pass on. (You do have a will, right?)

3. Keep on Dreaming.

As people in many walks of life have noted, when we stop dreaming, we start dying inside. If nothing else, our dreams die! And that's sad. Seniors need to keep on dreaming. Dreaming is a diamond for old age with many facets.

Part of dreaming is creativity—figuring out ways to act on our dreams and keep on contributing to our families, church and society.

Creative expression is said to benefit the elderly, promoting health and wellness. I've always admired people like "Grandma Moses" (Anna Mary Robertson Moses), the American folk artist, who started painting in earnest at the age of 78!

Dreaming also includes visionary thinking. Cam Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, went to Moscow and learned Russian to assist in Bible translation when he was 72.

Another part of dreaming is reading and being a lifelong learner. Did you know Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes began the study of Greek at the age of 92? People no doubt wondered why he waited so long. He said, "When else would I have had the time to take it up?"

So keep on dreaming. It will keep your mind young and give you unexpected opportunities to serve the Lord.

(Lost your way and think you can't dream again? Cindi McMenamin can help—read her book, When a Woman Discovers Her Dream.)

4. Pursue New Adventures.

Related to dreaming is: Never be afraid to try something new. When I think of the word "freedom," I often associate it with the word "adventure."

There's just something exciting and freeing about going on an adventure with God!

My friend Pam Farrel has modeled adventursome living over the years. I loved Pam's book, Becoming a Brave New Woman: Step into God's Adventure for You. 

This year, "Adventure" is Pam's focus word—with perfect timing. God is taking Pam and her husband Bill on a big detour in life, but rather than sitting around and complaining about it, they are contemplating what might be right around the corner! They are on a fresh adventure with the Lord. They are anticipating new opportunities with their family and growth in their ministry together.

When we allow God to lead us as He wills, as our Sovereign Lord, we can know that all our adventures will be for our good, others' benefit and His glory.

So don't be afraid of new adventures. Embrace them! (I'm determined to run my life race, wherever it takes me, with joy! Isn't that what you want too?)


What does finishing well look like for you? What is God asking you to change in the days to come so that you can hear His words, "Well done, good and faithful servant"?

 Dawn Wilson, founder and president of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM). Dawn is the co-author of a devotional, 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 Mike Enerio,


A Fresh Start for Your Finances

Do your finances need a fresh start in the New Year? Ellie Kay, known as “America’s Family Financial Expert”®, is sharing a timely Financial UPGRADE today.

“After the holidays, most Americans face some pretty hefty credit card bills in January,” Ellie says. “In fact, it will take until May of this year to pay off the new credit card debt from the holidays and this doesn’t even include what debt may have already been on the card.”

Been there, done that, and I (Dawn) have “financial scars” to prove it! I had to learn some wisdom from the Bible and practice good stewardship. (*See end of this post.)

Ellie continues . . .

It may seem like a game to juggle debt, but it’s one that you can win if you are determined to get a fresh start. Through the power of prayer and a desire to follow God’s wisdom in your finances, you can get the fresh start you desire.

As a child, I loved Monopoly®. I pretended all the play money was real—and mine! Sometimes we view real money as if it were play money.

When faced with the hard facts about their finances, many families go through five different stages—similar to the stages of grief:  shock, denial, depression, anger and acceptance. Your fresh start is just on the other side of this journey.

1. Shock

Shock depends on what you believed in the beginning. For example, if a family already knew their total consumer debt load (credit cards, car payments, furniture loans, etc.) was around 40K, they would only be mildly shocked at how 40K in debt looks on paper. But another couple may think they are only a couple of years away from being debt free and they discover they are twenty years away. That kind of a severe shock can take time to absorb. 

Use shock as a starting point to make better decisions. There are excellent budgeting and debt repayment tools at my website. I absolutely love the free Mint app.

2. Denial

Denial is not a river in Egypt.  It is the most common stage in financial recovery. Continual denial makes people more likely to succumb to scams such as email phishing schemes or “Payroll Loans.” Once you face denial, you can overcome it.

Several red flags of financial denial include:

  • Paying late fees
  • Missing Payments
  • Balancing or staggering bills, or
  • A perpetual lack of cash.

Oftentimes, this stage will find you stuck—you are unable to reduce your debt, or if you do, you are soon back into debt again. There’s hope when you begin to follow God’s principles of good stewardship.

3. Depression

A series of money problems that press in can bring on financial depression characterized by:

  • Lack of concentration,
  • Insomnia,
  • Guilt, or
  • Hopelessness.

Consumer Credit Counseling Services is a non-profit organization specializing in debt reduction and financial education. A counselor can get credit card interest rates lowered, payments deferred, and help develop a plan to emerge from the debt depression cycle.

4. Anger

The anger stage is sometimes scary. Anger can be manifested through a wide range of emotions at a high intensity level. It can be as mild as being a grump or as severe as significant arguments.

At this point, some people even get mad at God and blame Him.

When the number one issue cited in divorce today is “finances,” it’s easy to see how couples in this stage end up in the “debtor’s prison” of divorce court.

Refuse to put your anger on someone else. Talk with someone—professionals, your pastor or church counselor. It helps diffuse feelings.   

5. Acceptance

You’ll know you’ve reached this final stage, acceptance, when at least some of these elements are evident:

  • Change – You discover what you need to change and you’re willing to make changes.
  • Responsibility – You’ve stopped blaming someone or something else and have accepted responsibility for what you and your spouse did to contribute to your current financial status. 
  • Accountability – Besides mutual accountability, couples agree to make themselves accountable to another couple or financial counselor. 
  • Hotspots –You’ve identified hotspots where you’ve fallen short financially, and you purpose to avoid them through prayer and God’s help. 
  • Patience – You have hope. You are more tolerant of your own mistakes and have decided to learn from them. 

Invite God into the equation. Through the power found in a relationship with Jesus, we can be more than conquers, even when it comes to our finances. Take it a day at a time and, in the future, you will be on the other side of this problem.

Then it will be your time to help someone else.

What will you do to get your financial fresh start in the New Year?

Ellie Kay has been a regular expert on national television with ABC NEWS NOW’s Money Matters and Good Money shows. Ellie is also a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest on Fox News, and CNBC, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet (Thomas Nelson, 2014).

* A few scriptures to apply wisdom from the Bible regarding finances (Proverbs 15:22; 21:5; 22:7; 27:12); and stewardship (Psalm 24:1a; Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:42-44; Romans 14:12).


Upgrade Your Saving Power!

Holly Hanson is one of those multi-talented individuals with words of wisdom in so many areas, especially parenting and financial “smarts.”

“My plunge into motherhood almost nine years ago,” Holly said, “has taught me a lot about sacrifice.”

Anyone who’s been a mom understands that word, “sacrifice;” but I admire Holly, because she  turned financial stress into positive living with creative, productive choices. When I called her a financial expert, she said, "No, I'm not an official financial expert, just a civilian price warrior!"

She continues ...

The biggest sacrifice I made was giving up my producer job at a TV station to stay home full time. In order to make it all work and still be able to eat, I discovered a multitude of ways to be a good steward of my money each and every day.

I see this opportunity as one way to emulate the creativity and household responsibility of the Proverbs 31 Woman. In verse 27 it says, “She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  I want that to be the way others describe me, as well.

If you can turn some of these tips into rock-solid habits, you can live a two-income lifestyle on a one-income paycheck!

1. Pick Your Time to Shop. This tip works best for major purchases.

Buy a car or a mattress on a holiday when there are sales and no tax. Buy a barbecue after Labor Day when they all go on major clearance.

If you have children, shop the clearance clothing rack at the end of the season for the next year’s sizes—your kids will definitely grow, while the price of the clothing stays small! I keep all of my daughter’s too-big clothes in an under-the-bed box. I review the inventory each season to see if anything new fits. 

This works for BOGO [buy one, get one] sales too. I buy two pairs of tennis shoes, one in the current size and one in the next size up.

If you need party supplies, shop for them after every major holiday. Heart napkins on sale after Valentine’s Day will work great for your anniversary dinner. Spring napkins/plates/decor on sale after Easter can beautify a table any time of the year!

2. Know the Menu.  When you go to a restaurant, don’t always assume the “combo” is the best deal, or that the sandwich has to be ordered the way it is described. Take a minute to review your options.

If you like lettuce and tomato at Wendy’s, you can add it to the dollar cheeseburger for free. Some Mexican restaurants allow you to add “items” to an existing combo for less than the price of a regular entrée.

We sometimes order one meal and “add on” enough to feed the whole family for much less than three separate meals! Denny’s does this with their Grand Slam breakfasts. I never get the kids’ meal when I can just add on a 99-cent item or two for my daughter!

3. Use Those Coupons! I have made it my personal mission to NEVER buy something at a store that I know I have (or can get) a coupon for. It’s amazing how much you spend on impulse items, if you can’t discipline yourself to follow this rule.

In the age of smartphones, a simple Google search can yield plenty of online coupons, many of which can be redeemed by simply showing your phone to the cashier. I’ve done this at restaurants, too, like Souplantation and Fuddruckers, when I forgot to print the email that they sent me with the offer. 

Vons also has a wonderful program called Just for U, which allows you to select coupons on your phone or computer that are instantly added to your club card. (I have even added coupons in the checkout line!) Coupons are like free money!

Don’t be foolish. Don’t waste the chance to upgrade your saving power!

Which of these helpful tips are you using now? Which would be a great new choice?

Holly Hanson is a veteran Emmy Award-winning journalist who finds her calling in her family motto: “Love God, Serve Others.” Holly has written and produced internationally for Women of Faith, Turning Point Ministries, and locally with KFMB-TV, KFMB-AM and KPBS Radio. She is married and is a mom, step-mom and soon to be step-grandma. Holly is active at Shadow Mountain Community Church, serving on the Women's Ministries Council, singing in the choir, and running Moms Inc., a ministry she founded and directs.  

Photo in text: Image Courtesty of Grant Cochrane at