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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (325)

Thursday
May252017

14 Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day

If we're not careful, Memorial Day can devolve into BBQs and ball games. It's so much more. In this Memorial Day UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us to look once again at the purpose for this day, and become more creative and intentional in celebrating it.

"Yes, I know... Memorial Day isn't about thanking soldiers who serve today," I told my friend.

"But I like to include them into my  'thankful mix' while not forgetting the original purpose of this super-special day."

I hope that's your heart too.

Here are 14 ways to celebrate Memorial Day this year.

1. Educate the Kids.

Explain to children and grandchildren what Memorial Day means—why it was created.

The first Memorial Day was celebrated in 1868. A Union general declared May 30 as a special day to decorate graves of fallen Civil War soliders, and after the first World War, Memorial Day became a national holiday to honor Americans fighting in ANY war for America. President Richard Nixon declared the last Monday in May a federal holiday in 1971.

Don't confuse Veteran's Day (November) with Memorial Day. On Veteran's Day we honor all who have served in the military.

You might also teach children about the American flag, or say the pledge of allegiance together—explaining what the words mean.

2. Take a Moment to Remember.

The National Moment of Remembrance was established by Congress to facilitate Americans pausing as an act of national unity at exactly 3 pm (local time) on Memorial Day to remember the fallen. Some people pause for one minute.

Take part of that time to praise the Lord we still live in a free country.

Take time to pray for our nation (Psalm 33:12; Daniel 2:21; 1 Timothy 2:1-2).

3. Decorate Your Home with Flags.

It's wonderful to see the American flag flying across America any day, but especially on Memorial Day.

Fly a flag half-staff from dawn until noon, local time. (You might also want to fly the POW/MIA flag, if you have one)

4. Decorate a Veteran's Grave.

Go to a cemetery and use a flag and/or flowers to decorate the grave of a fallen soldier.

A special "thank you" bouquet can be sponsored through the Memorial Day Foundation.

5. Attend a Ceremony.

Check the newspaper for a patriotic local ceremony if you can't visit Washington, DC, for the BIG celebration.

Your local American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or even your closest military base may have a special program.

6. Attend a Parade or Fireworks.

Although it's a time of remembrance, Memorial Day is also a joyous holiday. We are a free people because there are people determined to protect those freedoms.

Go to a parade or fireworks and celebrate!

7. Be Creative.

Make a patriotic-themed craft—a wreath, dessert, or even a cap or t-shirt.

Have fun being "Americans" together!

8. Use Music.

Listen to a national Memorial Day concert on television or attend a a local one.

For example: For those local to San Diego, on May 28, the San Diego Master Chorale, under the direction of Dr. John Russell, will present a Memorial Day Concert with familiar patriotic favorites and stirring spiritual arrangements. It's held at the San Diego Central Library auditorium, 330 Park Ave., San Diego. Get there by 2pm or earlier. Tickets are free and parking is free on the streets (or for a fee in the underground structure).

Or, create your own concert. Play inspirational patriotic music, or sing patriotic songs together.

If your child plays a trumpet, let him or her play "Taps" and then pray for the families of those who have died for our country.

9. Visit a Memorial.

See if there is a military memorial site in your town. Consider how you might honor those who have died from your own home town.

But also, put it on your bucket list to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetary.

10. Buy a Poppy

Groups like the American Legion Auxiliary and Veterans of Foreign Wars take donations for poppies.

Ever wonder why the poppy? John McCrae wrote the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields," and it includes the line, "In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row."

"Buddy Poppies" have been assembled by disabled or needy veterans since 1924. Your donation helps maintain state and national rehabilitation/service programs for vets.

11. Aid the widow, widower or children of the fallen.

Are their families of fallen veterans at your church? In your community? Are their needs being me? Are you sure?

Does your church have a regular means to check-up on and encourage these families?

Pray for them today!

12. Thank Someone in the Military Now.

Although Memorial Day is for those who have died, and military personnel you meet on the street or at airports haven't died for our country, they have taken time out of their lives to protect our country and freedom.

They deserve our gratitude. It's always OK to shake their hand and say, "Thank you!"

13. Visit a Hospital.

Take flowers, cookies or good reading material to a local veteran's hospital! This would be a great experience for elementary children.

14. Write a Note.

Take your verbal thank you" one step further. Make homemade cards for military personnel you know, or for the families of the fallen. Or purchase them at Vistaprint.

OperationGratitude.com will give you information about writing soldiers letters (or even sending a "care package" to someone in the military who is currently deployed).

The key word on Memorial Day is "Memorial."

Let's never take it for granted.

Remember. Celebrate. Be thankful.

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.

All photos, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thank you card, available at Vistaprint. 

Note: I am not connected to any of the links I shared (except I have a friend in the San Diego Master Chorale). No compensation given for any of these suggestions.

Tuesday
May232017

Is Growth Measured on a Timeline?

Kathy Collard Miller helps people respond to life's circumstances in godly ways. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she tackles the tricky issue of temptation.

She asks, "Do you sometimes feel discouraged when you keep encountering the same types of temptation?"

Do I? Yes! I (Dawn) get so frustrated sometimes when I think I've got a temptation "licked" and yet—there it is again! But Kathy has wise words here for any of us "strugglers."

Kathy continues . . .

Many of us envision spiritual or emotional growth represented on a linear time line.

But looking at it as a spiral or whirlpool can diminish discouragement.

The Growth "Whirlpool"

1. We will keep encountering the same type of challenge or temptation.

We're going around and around in life, and every time we reach a certain situation or person, there's a rock, representing a sinful strategy that hits us, tempting us to behave badly.

If we think there are no rocks, we'll be surprised and unaware of their approach.

2. Knowing our particular sinful tendency will reoccur knocks off the rocks in the whirlpool of life.

For instance, I don’t like to be seen as imperfect. When I sense someone is displeased with me or I’ve disappointed someone, I use anger as a means of pointing to their faults rather than owning my own.

I’ve been tempted in this way since childhood when I unknowingly decided being perfect would protect me from looking stupid.

As a result, I depended upon a deep sense of perfectionism which was a huge boulder as I was caught in the spiral of life.

Perfectionism is a demand to have my worth and value determined by my behavior. Yet it sets me up for failure because I can never reach perfection.

3. Recognizing our tendencies empowers us to rehearse truth as we know the temptation will come again as life swirls around us.

God has helped me recognize the tempting boulder of perfectionism. When I’m tempted again to start blaming others with irritation or anger, I can slow down and ask, “What boulder is looming again?”

I tell myself, “Only Jesus is perfect but because I am ‘in Christ,’ He sees me as perfect already.”

I quote Colossians 2:10 to myself:

“and in Him you have been made complete.”

I remind myself that “complete” means “perfect.”

Thus, I don’t need to defend myself to others. Or if God leads me to speak up, I can respond without tension.

That boulder in my whirlpool is now much smaller.

I don’t succumb to the temptation of perfectionism as often and God has used this concept to help set me free.

So here’s the bad and good news.

The bad? Challenges to change and grow in holiness are never-ending. God will work on our sanctification until the day we die.

The good news? Growth is possible. We can be strengthened in God’s power to resist temptations more and more.

But that growth will occur most effectively when we believe it’s not a time line but a whirlpool.

How could envisioning your growth as a whirlpool encourage or empower you the next time you are tempted?

Kathy Collard Miller is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 50 books. These concepts are taken from her book, co-authored with her husband, Larry, Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today. Kathy has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. Learn more about Kathy here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of bykst at Pixabay.

Thursday
May182017

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 www.practicalinspirations.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of hotblack at Morguefile.

Tuesday
May162017

Four Ways to Get through the Storm

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Kathy Carlton Willis refers to a tremendous "storm" she's going through. I’m on the prayer team for Kathy and have been privy to her prayer needs. She doesn’t just share requests, but also how they affect her.

Kathy told me:

“I’m starting to look at the storms of life differently.”

That piqued my (Dawn's) interest. She’s been through plenty of storms—enough to provide a full education on how to be a storm dweller!

Kathy continues . . .

I had just been to see a surgeon and infectious disease doctor about an ongoing medical situation. While in the medical center, a tornado warning was issued. A twister had been spotted in the vicinity.

But I stayed putI needed to hear what the doctors would say regarding my health.

Their words still rang in my ears as we stepped into our car. Thankfully, my husband Russ was there to drive us the one hundred miles home.

The worst storm imaginable buffeted us from every angle. We’d driven through hurricanes and tropical storms and hail, but this was worse.

Every time I prayed for God to remove the storm, the storm worsened.

The sky grew darker, the rain pounded worse, no visibility, hydroplaning, wind, and more.

It wasn’t until I quit praying for God to remove the storm, and simply asked Him to be with us in it and to get us through it, that the rain lightened up a bit and we could see our way. Eventually we could resume our normal speed and found our way home.

Once I realized it was God’s presence that gave me such powerful peace through the storm, I thought of this verse in Joshua:

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT).

Brother Lawrence wrote a book titled The Practice of the Presence of God. This monk expressed the importance of not reserving awareness of God’s presence for church services. He taught how it took practice to focus on God and bring Him into everyday living.

Of course, God is always there, but this practice is a discipline to be mindful of His presence by your side (and in you). Brother Lawrence learned to do life with God, whether he was involved in a household chore, taking a walk, or something else. He turned mundane activities into opportunities to talk to God (and listen).

When we go through storms, it’s an important time to practice the presence of God.

When you let go of your expectation that God is the Great Fixer, and instead be content that He is the Great Friend, you can get through any difficult time.

Here are four ways to do that:

1. Be mindful of God with you.

He’s always there, but it’s up to you to sense His presence. Be on the lookout!

2. Swap prayers for praise.

When we swap our focus from our needs to His deeds, we realize His presence is enough to get through this storm.

3. Surrender your agenda.

He’s a big enough God to take care of us, no matter what the storm is.

(I think of how calm Jesus was when the storm hit the disciples’ boat. I want that calmness!)

4. Daydream about God.

Use your everyday, routine, mindless tasks as an opportunity to fix your thoughts on Jesus.

How much BETTER this is than to fill in the blank spaces with regrets about what is past or worries about what is yet to come.

And then when the storms do come, you’re ready to face them.

How will you invite Jesus to hang out with you in the midst of your current storm?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of skeeze at Pixabay.

Thursday
May112017

To Mommy

Kaley Faith Rhea is Rhonda Rhea's daughter. I wouldn't normally make a big deal out of that because I think every daughter has a right to stand on her own, not her mama's reputation.

But Kaley has a special tribute to her mom today, and in this Mother's Day UPLIFT, I think there's a message here for all of us.

"Happy Mother's Day!" Kaley says. "Today I want to take a look at how we honor moms--including mine.

(Note: I have a neat mom!)"

I (Dawn) think Kaley's mom, Rhonda, is a hoot. And a godly one at that. I would even let Rhonda be my mom, except I already have a good one, and a good mom-in-law too.

Kaley continues . . .

The Bible talks about, reiterates, and quotes “Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12; Matthew 19:19; Ephesians 6:2; and more). It’s in there a lot.

And with this festive little holiday, here’s a great opportunity to do just that for our mommies. But how? How can I honor her?

I'm going to lay out some practicals.

1. Let’s talk about what honor means.

We’re using it as a verb here. To honor someone is to do something.

I can hold my mom in the highest regard (and I do), but if I am not demonstrating that esteem and affection I have for her, then I am not honoring her.

If Mom doesn’t KNOW she’s being honored, she’s not really being honored.

2. I need to honor MY mom.

Let’s be clear, when I say she needs to be mine, I’m not talking biologically. Plenty of moms out there are mothers of choice, and that is beautiful. But what I mean is, I need to keep in mind WHO I am honoring.

If I want to honor my mom, for example, I am not going to buy her a motorcycle. There are mothers out there, I’m certain, for whom a motorcycle would be the perfect, thoughtful, Mother’s Day gift. Mine is not that mom.

I think sometimes society likes to lump mothers together into one, easily-definable group. All moms are not the same person. I want to say it one more time: All moms are not the same person.

Mommies are vastly different from one another.

You know—the way all people are different from one another.

God is magnificent at crafting unique, individual souls, and that’s what each mom is. The key here is to learn how my mom feels most honored and cherished.

If you’ve ever looked at the Five Love Languages, that can be a nice place to start.

My mom’s love languages are gifts and acts of service. She loves getting Mother’s Day presents. Sometimes she asks for projects to be done around the house as her gift (which is very helpful. Thanks, Mom).

But I have friends whose moms cannot stand getting gifts. Gifts are just not their area.

Maybe that’s yours. If you find yourself frustrated with your mom going, “Please, you don’t need to get me anything” every year—while you’re going, “Mom, please, I have already bought these flowers; please take them; they’re dying!”—I want to set you free to try a different approach.

Maybe...

  • Offer to paint her living room,
  • Or write her a letter telling her how much you appreciate her,
  • Or take her out for a date or give her a boatload of snuggly hugs.

Let our moms be who they are.

I honestly can’t understand the acts of service thing. I’m over here like, “I’ll clean my own kitchen, thanks; get back in here and tell me how great you think I am.”

My mommy’s different than me. And that’s cool.

3. I don’t have a real number three. I just want to say I’m so grateful for my mom.

  • She has blessed every part of my life with her sweet acts of service.
  • Her words and her example have been used by God to introduce me to and strengthen my relationship with Him.
  • And the way she’s filled our home with laughter and kindness all my life has shaped me and helped me grow.

I love the time I get to spend with her, and I hope someday I’ll be a mom like THAT.

Lord Jesus, help us to honor our mothers according to Your Word. Thank you, specifically, for putting my gorgeous mom together the way You did and for making me hers.

Lord, I know there are some who have struggled with not having a mom or having been deeply hurt in that relationship in the past. I pray that You, Holy Spirit, Healer, would repair hearts, restore relationships where possible, provide closure if not, and ultimately be glorified in the way Your children love one another by Your strength.

Amen!

A Note from Dawn:

  • Think about your mom (mother, mommy) and thank the Lord for something very special about her, or something you learned from her.
  • If she is still alive, think of some way to honor her that she would personally appreciate this Mother's Day, as Kaley suggested. If she has passed away, take some time to look over old photographs and remember her with thanksgiving.
  • If you currently do not have a strong relationship with your mother, take time to pray about that. (There may be some way you can show her kindness.) Or perhaps you can think of another woman in your life you can encourage today. Express to her a positive way she has "nurtured" your life.

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, a novel releasing in a few weeks. Along with writing and teaching at writers’ conferences, she co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.