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  • Moving From Grief to Grace

    Posted on March 31, 2015 by Family Christian

    Susan Mead MARCH 31, 2015

    Moving From Grief to Grace
    Susan B. Mead

    "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

    Grief hits each one of us and can come from so many different directions.

    A romantic relationship gone awry. The loss of a cherished friendship. A puppy put down. Empty arms and a broken heart due to abortion. Infertility. Abuse. The death of a loved one.

    Dreams with a hope and future dashed in an instant. I know. I’ve lived it, too.

    A phone call changed my hopes and future as Matt, my older son, wailed into the phone about my younger son, "Kyle died last night!"

    Oh, God.

    NO, GOD!

    Hopes, dreams, future …

    Wedding invitations from his friends simply ripped my heart apart. Birth announcements of babies from those now married friends rekindled the loss. And the realization that there would be no grandchildren from him — running to me, holding their pudgy little hands or him tossing them into the sky showered with shouts of glee — hit hard.

    Yes, weddings, graduations, birth announcements — all reminders of those hope-filled dreams that had been shattered — caused weeping, groaning and bitterness. My heart often wondered: Will I remain bitter or will I get better? Will I continue to dissolve into tears, or will I ever erupt into cheers for these precious friends?

    At one of my lowest moments, realization and remembrance flooded my heart and mind: God lost His Son too, His only Son. The Father knew my loss, pain and brokenness oh so well.

    That revelation was like supernatural glue applied to bind my wounded soul. The lost, dark, broken part receded as God proceeded to heal my broken heart with His love and light.

    How about your lost plans, hopes and dreams?

    Are you bitter?

    Do you want to be better?

    Are you ready to lay your heavy cares at the foot of the cross … and leave that burden there, so you can step into God’s plans for you? Jesus promised, "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light," (Matthew 11:30, NKJV).

    God’s plan for His Son was not what the people hoped for and expected as they celebrated the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, then experienced His death on the cross by week’s end. They did not know Easter Sunday — His Son’s day — was coming.

    Remember, friend … Sunday’s coming! Jesus arose from the grave by the grace of God to save and redeem us. He has plans for us that include a hope and a future, even when our plans are dashed and we can’t see beyond the overwhelming loss of now.

    "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

    We lost Kyle seven years and three days ago today. Yet, out of the ashes of grief a story of grace rises — the grace of our Lord, Jesus.

    Father, help me ease the grip on my grief and lay it at the foot of Your Son’s cross. Thank You that You can bind our wounds and heal our broken hearts. Remind us of Your magnificent plans for us, Lord God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Peter 5:8-11, "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ — eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you, or someone you know, are working through grief and need help experiencing the transformational joy of the Lord, Susan Mead’s new book, Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace, can help.

    Join Susan on her blog today for her giveaway basket of goodies, including a Kindle Fire.

    Enter to WIN an autographed copy of Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace. In celebration of this book, Susan’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. (We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one on Monday, April 6.)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Reflect on how you felt when you read, "He gets the last word," from our Truth for Today Scripture above.

    © 2015 by Susan B. Mead. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • One Holy Morning

    Posted on March 30, 2015 by Family Christian

    Liz Curtis Higgs MARCH 30, 2015

    One Holy Morning
    LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb …" John 20:1 (NIV)

    Long before daylight touched the sky, a trombone choir crept along the deserted sidewalks of Main Street, gently nudging the sleeping town awake. Each step drew them closer to the historic church square, where they would form a semicircle, point their instruments toward heaven and herald the dawn of another Resurrection Day.

    I tossed aside my bedcovers, eager to get going. "He is risen!"

    "He is risen, indeed!" my husband mumbled, though I heard the smile behind his words.

    Our two teenagers appeared, bleary-eyed. "This better be worth it, Mom."

    It would be.

    We dressed in a hurry, then joined dozens of worshippers assembled on the church lawn. Many had their hands tucked under their arms for warmth, like robins poking their bills beneath their wings.

    When the final trombone note floated across the square, my husband shepherded our family through the narrow, wooden doors of the church. We settled into a pew near the front and exchanged glances, our eyes moist. Almost time.

    Two thousand years ago, Mary Magdalene ran through the streets of Jerusalem "while it was still dark" (John 20:1), seeking the One who called Himself light. But He was not there. The tomb was empty. As two angels looked on, Mary Magdalene wept. She didn’t grasp the truth of His resurrection until He spoke her name: "Mary" (John 20:16).

    The Lord speaks our names as well, in the depths of our hearts. He calls us to see Him as He truly is: risen, victorious, eternal. He calls us to believe, to leave the darkness of doubt behind and step into the light of His truth.

    That Easter morning, my family and I sat up straighter as John’s Gospel was read aloud, the words washing over us like a shower, scrubbing us clean. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched my teenagers listen more intently than usual. The greatest story ever told, the one that never gets old: the Son of God, risen from the dead.

    We’d heard His story before, but we needed to hear it again. To be reminded.

    My son elbowed me. "When do we go to the cemetery?"

    "Soon," I promised. It was the highlight of our sunrise service, that solemn walk to God’s Acre — the hallowed field where those who’d fallen asleep in the Lord in centuries past were laid to rest.

    When the brief service in the sanctuary ended, we left the stained-glass walls behind and moved out into the damp morning. Trombones and trumpets and French horns echoed across the church parking lot as we walked toward the graves.

    Flat, plain stones — so old the engravings were worn smooth — pressed down upon the spongy earth. We enclosed them in a human square, facing due east in anticipation.

    I realized that nothing was going to actually happen among these graves. I was not Mary Magdalene, and this was not the first Easter. Oh, but it felt like it.

    We’d sung His praises and spoken His name. Now we stood, transformed among the tombs, as we watched the sky above us slowly brighten.

    On that sacred morning long ago, Mary Magdalene couldn’t keep the good news to herself. She went to the disciples, just as Jesus had commanded her, and told them, "I have seen the Lord!" (John 20:18).

    He urges all of us who love Him to do the same. To tell everyone who will listen, "The Lord is alive. He is real. And here’s how much He loves you."

    Dear God, thank You for the resurrection of Your Son, Jesus. We want to celebrate Him every day of our lives. In a world that grows increasingly dark, help us hold up His light. Give us the courage to speak as boldly as Mary Magdalene did, and never be ashamed of proclaiming Your Good News. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 8:12, "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’" (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 4:6, "For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Celebrate spring with Liz Curtis Higgs’ joy-filled daily devotional, Rise and Shine: Encouragement to Start Your Day.

    Join Liz as she unwraps the Bible each week on her blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    The days and weeks leading up to Easter give us a chance to prepare our hearts for renewal, to leave behind the darkness of winter and welcome the warmth and light of spring. What could you do to make this Easter your most memorable yet?

    How might you, like Mary Magdalene, share the Good News with someone you care about?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Real Love Bleeds

    Posted on March 27, 2015 by Family Christian

    Chrystal Evans Hurst MARCH 27, 2015

    Real Love Bleeds
    CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

    "We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

    Once while attending a conference I found myself browsing through the vendor section.

    Most, if not all, of the vendors had products available where the proceeds would be invested directly into a ministry or mission project designed to change the lives of people near and far.

    The idea that my purchase could in some way be a small contribution to Kingdom work propelled me to actively seek something that I wanted to wear, use or display in my home.

    I paused in front of a table featuring art prints with various inspirational quotes and verses. It was like a sea of words.

    I figured that somewhere on that table were words I would want to display in my home. Words that would inspire me and spur me on to be the person God wanted me to be.

    I found those words. But they weren’t the warm and fuzzy words I was looking for. The kind that would make me want to smile when I walked by them in my home.

    Instead I found words that cut deep and convicted me beyond my expectation. Words that inspired me … but solemnly. Words that did not yield a cozy experience, but certainly lit a fire within my heart and soul. The print said:

    "Real love bleeds."

    I bought it.

    Loving people can be hard work. It can be even harder when the love you give requires the very essence of who you are to flow through wounds inflicted by the ones your heart beats for.

    When I read these three small words penned by this artist-turned-missionary, I stopped in my tracks because I knew I had been doing exactly the opposite in my life.

    Instead of being willing to "bleed" for the ones I loved the most, I had slipped into full-on apathy.

    Why? Because sometimes caring for and loving others doesn’t feel good.

    Sometimes, it’s easier not to love.

    Over time, and unbeknownst to me, I had become an expert at self-preservation and pain avoidance.

    Anything that hurt, I didn’t touch — including the people I loved the most.

    I grieved as I realized that the very love Jesus continually offered me — the same love that came at His own great personal discomfort and eventual agony — was unfortunately the kind of love I’d become unwilling to consistently offer.

    Why? Because sometimes loving others hurts.

    As I stood there and pulled out my wallet to purchase the simple yet beautiful print, I realized that great love comes at a great cost — as evidenced by the example of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for my sins, which we see in today’s key verse.

    I remembered His illustration of love for me and recalled His command that I follow in His steps: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34, ESV).

    Now, let me concede this. I am completely aware that everyone who causes us pain should not be an automatic recipient of our deepest level of sacrifice. However, I am acutely aware of my own need to assess my willingness to love like Christ loves me and to sacrifice for those to whom I am called.

    What I know for certain is this: There are times when the love I have for others is not a matter of feeling, but rather a matter of my decision to be obedient to Him — and it won’t feel good.

    The question is, when real love results in my personal discomfort or even a heart-wrenching level of pain, am I willing to love well anyway?

    Father, thank You for Your love — a love that never fails and never gives up on me. You are the perfect example of a great love — a love that is offered full-strength even when love is not given in return. Help me to love like You. I want to honor You by doing my best to love others in the way You have loved me — even when it hurts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 4:11, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (ESV)

    1 Corinthians 13:13, "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Kingdom Woman by Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst will encourage and challenge you to be transformed by God’s truth, seek His best and move forward in the abundant life He has for you.

    Visit Chrystal Hurst’s blog for more encouragement. Chrystal has prepared a free printable Scripture to remind you that love matters. CLICK HERE to download.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Would the people closest to you say that you love them well? Why or why not?

    Think of one person in your life who is hard to love. What one thing can you do today to love them anyway?

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Seasoned With Snark or Laced With Grace?

    Posted on March 26, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman MARCH 26, 2015Seasoned With Snark or Laced With Grace?
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

    I am kind of a Bible nerd. I not only love to learn the meaning behind the Hebrew or Greek words in Scripture, I also like to study certain English words that catch my attention, drilling down deep to understand why a particular word or phrase is used.

    And so when I read today’s key verse, Proverbs 16:24, I grew curious: Why did God use a honeycomb to describe gracious, sweet and healing speech? I needed only to look in my own neighborhood for my answer.

    Down the street lives a teenager named Jake. He is a terrific football player and an avid wrestler. However, Jake is also a beekeeper who peddles his amber jars of honey at local festivals and fairs. I decided to interview this high school entrepreneur to discover all I could about the honey-making biz. He was very patient with all of my "whys," and his detailed answers fascinated me.

    Jake told me that the flavor and intensity of honey depends on what kind of nectar the bees drink. Clover nectar produces honey that is refreshingly light and sweet. However, another flower’s nectar might create a murky, bitter product, with a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste. Wise beekeepers will be sure their beehive is strategically placed near a large patch of clover if they want the sweetest, most delectable honey there is.

    He also emphasized the importance of situating the beehive where the sun will hit it early in the morning, warming up the bees and triggering them to get busy churning out the utmost amount of sweet syrup possible.

    "So," I questioned my young friend, "is it safe to say that the sweetness or bitterness of honey is determined by what the bee drinks and the amount of time it spends in the sun — especially early in the morning?"

    "Exactly!" he replied.

    DING! DING! DING! We have a winner.

    Perhaps it’s also true that the sweetness or bitterness of our words will be determined by what our hearts drink in each day, and the amount of time we spend early with the Son.

    Today’s key verse states, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." If we long for our words to be laced with grace, rather than seasoned with snark, we need to think like a beekeeper: Watch what we drink and spend time in the Son.

    By tucking God’s Word into our hearts — drinking in its life-changing truths daily as we spend time with Him — we can learn to speak gracious words that are sweetly soothing to the soul and bring healing and hope. Scripture read daily, studied often and memorized intentionally can teach us to speak strategically — yes, with words that are honest — but that are also lovingly tucked inside an envelope of grace.

    When we lace our speech with grace, healing takes place.

    So when someone else’s behavior threatens to knock the nice right out of us, we can pause before we pounce, taking the advice I sometimes have to give to myself: Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off. Instead, impart grace: sweet, healing, life-giving grace.

    All the humans you encounter throughout the course of the day are "on-purpose" people. God placed them into your life for a reason. These souls — whether they are the easy-to-love variety or the scratchy sandpaper kind — can be used by God to mold, reshape and sometimes stretch our souls as He perpetually crafts us into creations that look more and more like his Son — especially in the way we speak.

    Others are watching, sizing up what we say and how we say it. What will they see? Words that incite spats and squabbles? Or honey-sweet speech that soothes and heals?

    You choose.

    Father, I pray I may carve out time to soak in Your presence, spending time in Your Word each day so I might speak and act more like Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ecclesiastes 10:12, "Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips." (NIV)

    Proverbs 10:32, "The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you need help in watching your words and keeping them in line with Scripture, you’ll appreciate Karen Ehman’s latest book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.

    For a honey-themed "Sweet Speech" giveaway full of all sorts of goodies, head over to Karen Ehman’s blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "Never" and 10 being "Always," what number would you give yourself when asked how often your words are gracious and soothing rather than short and snippy?

    What one thing should you remember when conversing with others, that will help you lace your speech with grace?

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Love The Home You Have

    Posted on March 25, 2015 by Family Christian

    Melissa Michaels MARCH 25, 2015Love The Home You Have
    Melissa Michaels

    "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

    One day as I was putting away some laundry, I caught a glimpse of our upstairs family room through the door at the end of the hall. The sun was streaming in the windows, filling the room with bright light. Instead of simply rejoicing at the sunshine, I couldn’t help but notice how worn the carpet had become.

    I didn’t love the drab color to begin with, but after years of wear and tear with an aging dog, a teenage boy and three puppies, that carpet definitely had lost its new-house freshness.

    The declining condition of the carpet reminds me of an ever-growing list of things falling apart around the house. If I let myself think about it too long, I can get so overwhelmed counting the flaws (and lack of funds to improve them) that I begin to grow discontent with my home. Before I know it, I’m daydreaming about a better house in a different neighborhood.

    My dream house includes a picket fence, more closet space, less clutter and definitely no drab or smelly carpet in the family room!

    I almost believe that if only I lived there, life would be so much easier.

    There’s nothing particularly wrong with daydreaming now and then about home improvement or a better house, but I’ve learned that what comes next can either help or hinder me.

    When I’m tempted to peer over a picket fence to see if the grass is indeed greener on the other side, I know it’s time to turn around right then and there and change my perspective. The home I have is enough.

    Most of the time I really am grateful for the gift of a roof over my head, but if I lose perspective, it doesn’t take much for discontent to move in and steal any contentment with what I have.

    Yes, carpet can be cleaned or even replaced someday. Clutter can be removed to reveal more closet space. The dishes will have to be done in any house we live in. I will never get to every project on our to-do list.

    Any home needs some TLC to transform it into a sanctuary for our families. Yet to find true contentment in all circumstances, as our key verse reminds us, I have to be transformed first.

    I’ve learned that it’s not about finding the right house or keeping up with the to-do list or the Joneses, but about learning how to find joy and delight in what I’ve been given (even when it isn’t exactly what I would have chosen!).

    With the right perspective, I can create a comfortable space to serve God and my family well, right here in this place.

    Every uplifting word we speak to our families, every time we pick up the mess or clean the carpet or rearrange the furniture, every opportunity we take to show hospitality and love to the people who come through our door — they all matter.

    Caring for the home we have with a perspective of gratitude builds up our contentment with what God has provided. As Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (NIV).

    Whether your home is an apartment, a condo, a rental or your forever dream house, the ordinary blessings you count every day will keep your perspective on what matters most.

    Dear Lord, sometimes I lose perspective when viewing the gifts right in front of me. I start to believe my dream house must be somewhere else, because it certainly couldn’t be right here in this mess. Help me refocus my heart and find contentment right here, in this place You so graciously provided for me. Help me honor You through learning to take care of the home I have and showing love to the people who enter through my door. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 14:1, "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    What if the house of your dreams is the home you have? If this devotion resonated with you, Love the Home You Have, a brand new book by Melissa Michaels, might inspire you.

    Visit Melissa’s blog, The Inspired Room, for more encouragement today.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels. In celebration of this book, Melissa’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, March 30.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are the things that bring you frustration or discontent in your home?

    How could you find a new perspective and develop more gratitude to show love for the home you already have?

    © 2015 by Melissa Michaels. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Interview with Matthew West

    Posted on March 24, 2015 by Family Christian

    Matthew West is releasing a new album called Live Forever.  We had the honor of interviewing Matthew.

    Family Christian:  What was your main goal as you were making this album, Live Forever? Take us through a little bit of the process.

    Matthew West:  Six years ago I had the idea to write some songs inspired by peoples’ true stories and see what God might do with it. Six years, 40,000 stories and now 3 records later, I’m blown away by what an amazing experience this has been! Live Forever is my third project inspired by the testimonies that people have sent to me. In the last couple records, I wrote songs that covered a number of different types of chapters that many of us have in our stories. This record looks forward at the chapters of our stories that we are writing write now, and the chapters that are still to come.

    Each song on the record is inspired by someone’s true story. So these songs mean a lot to me, because when I sing them, I’m thinking of that one person who shared their testimony and I’m amazed by how God can use all of our stories if we will choose to let him.

    Family Christian:   How do you think your latest release, Live Forever, speaks to listeners? What do you hope listeners think and feel after listening to your album?

     

    Matthew West:   I hope listeners get so fired up by the messages on this record! This is a victory album. A reminder that God’s mercy is new every single morning. A reminder that our best days are not behind us, they are in front of us. Even musically, my aim was to move forward. I didn’t want to make the same style of music. I wanted to move forward in my sound and in the lyrics. Starting over, starting now…

    Family Christian:   What does the title of your new album mean? How was it chosen and what significance does it have?

     

    Matthew West:   This record carries a message that in many ways flies in the face of the message the world sends to us. This world tells us things like YOLO—You Only Live Once. That sounds real good, but it’s an empty thought. The world lives like our legacy ends the day we die and so the emphasis is on making these moments last forever. But we know this life is temporary. And we also know that for those who choose to follow Jesus, there is the ultimate hope that we can live forever. The songs and stories on this record all point to the reminder that between the day we are born and the day we die, there is a dash. God offers us a way to live our dash, our story in such a way that it leaves a legacy behind us and secures an eternity in front of us. That is how we live forever.

    Family Christian:    Who was Matthew West when your first album came out? Who is Matthew West now?

    Matthew West:   That’s a good question. I was a young songwriter with a calling on my life that I was going to be part of a new generation of voices telling the world about Jesus through song. I guess not much has changed on that front. But I have changed, and hopefully I have grown in many other ways. I think it’s so amazing how God does have a calling placed on each one of our lives, and the more we follow him into his plan for our lives, the more layers he peels back, and the more we begin to see and understand what God had planned all along. Today, I feel like I’m in my sweet spot in many ways. God has blessed me with an amazing wife and two incredible children. He has combined my passion for story with a platform to tell the world how God is the author of redemption in all of our lives.

    Family Christian:   To expand on the previous question, How have you changed over the years when it comes to songwriting, recording and producing music? Do you have the same goals?

    Matthew West:   Well, for starters, I used to use songwriting as a vehicle to tell my story to the world. Now, I’ve found fulfillment in sharing that spotlight with thousands of people who are brave enough to believe that God can speak through their stories. I’d like to think I have continued to push boundaries musically and also topically. I guess I used to write songs with the masses in mind. These days, I find myself reading someone’s story and thinking, “I want to write a song for this one person.” It’s amazing that with such a finite focus, I’ve been writing songs that have been pretty universally relatable. I guess that’s how God works.

  • Going Nowhere or Getting Ready?

    Posted on March 24, 2015 by Family Christian

    Glynnis Whitwer MARCH 24, 2015Going Nowhere or Getting Ready?
    GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them …" Joshua 1:2b (NIV)

    I was poised to take the next step in my career and ministry. My three boys were getting older. Life was moving in a sweet groove. Finally, after years of childrearing I was ready to take my work to the next level. Then God stepped in with a shocking request that changed everything.

    One minute I was sitting in a woman’s conference, enjoying the speaker’s story. The next, God was pounding on my heart to adopt from Africa. Surprised would be an understatement. Terrified was more like it. But the surety of the request was undeniable.

    It took my husband about 60 seconds to agree, and then about six months for us to be certified. But just months after that, two little Liberian sisters (ages 8 and 11) walked into our hearts and homes, and my professional plans came to a halt.

    Although we knew their needs would be great, we hadn’t fully understood the multiple wounds those years of deprivation would cause them. Nor the complicated issues we would face. But one thing was certain: My physical and emotional presence was required.

    So I started to say "no" to other things. No to new opportunities. No to my old dreams. No to going where my heart thought I was finally headed. And "yes" to caring for my two daughters.

    In my prayers, I clearly heard God say this time of stepping back would be three years. I think God didn’t want to overwhelm me, because it’s going on 10 now. And in the beginning, I thought for sure God had replaced my career and ministry dreams with His calling to care for two little girls. And I was completely fine with that.

    What I know now, is that not only did God give me the assignment of raising my daughters, He also equipped me for a future I didn’t see coming.

    God was taking me somewhere, only I couldn’t see where. And those years that felt like I was going nowhere in my career? They were years of preparation for what God had planned next.

    In the Bible, God often told His people to get ready for what was coming next — even when they had no idea what that meant. In our key verse, the Israelites had left Egypt 40 years prior and were close to the land God had promised them. Yet it still must have looked impossible to get there. Not only was there a nation to conquer, but there was a swollen river before them. And yet God said, "Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them …" (Joshua 1:2b).

    Getting ready takes on many forms. There’s the practical side of getting ready, like packing a tent. But getting ready for what God has planned next is often a spiritual task. The Israelites had to reaffirm their trust in God to do the impossible. They had to submit to His lead and not their own, and they definitely had to wait on God’s perfect timing.

    And that’s what happened to me. God needed me to get ready for the next step in my life. In order to do that, I needed to become more dependent on His strength, and less on my abilities. My heart had to be stripped of any remnants of pride and judgment of others. I had to discover the power of the Name of Jesus in a way I’d never experienced from just reading about Him. All of this took time.

    What I didn’t see 10 years ago were the doors of opportunity God would open from my home, allowing me to work around my family commitments. I didn’t see how the Internet would grow and allow ministry around the world. But God did.

    God knew his plans for me 10 years ago, and they involved my getting ready.

    Maybe you feel like your plans have come to a screeching halt. Do you think opportunities are passing you by that won’t come again?

    Don’t despair. The Israelites didn’t see that God was about to do multiple miracles. All they were told was, "Get ready." Maybe that’s just where God has you. If so, what’s coming next is going to be amazing. So get ready.

    Heavenly Father, Your plans for me are perfect. Help me to trust You more and get ready for what You have planned. And Lord, please give me patience as I wait on Your perfect timing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Joshua 3:5, "Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.’" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you struggle to manage the practical parts of your life? If so, Glynnis Whitwer’s book, I Used to Be So Organized, can help you regain some control.

    Join Glynnis on her blog today for 5 Ways to Get Ready for Answered Prayer.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Has God changed your plans or priorities lately? What are some of the emotions you are experiencing?

    What work might God want to do in your life (or heart) to get you ready for what’s coming next?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • What if the Next Big Step God Wants You to Take is Small?

    Posted on March 23, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst MARCH 23, 2015

    What if the Next Big Step God Wants You to Take is Small?
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Listen for GOD’S voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track." Proverbs 3:6 (MSG)

    It was a hot day inside and outside at the orphan village in Liberia. The 12 boys inside, practicing their choir music, found their eyes wandering over to the soccer field, where the promise of fun and the cheers of their friends tugged at them.

    They were feeling the pull of wanting to go outside and play soccer. But these boys determined the choir was worth the sacrifice.

    Years earlier, Liberia had been ravaged by a civil war that left more than 25,000 orphans to be cared for. So to raise money and support, an a cappella boys’ choir was formed to travel throughout the country of Liberia and perform in churches.

    Two of the teenage boys in that choir, Jackson and Mark, had been orphaned as babies when their parents and most of their siblings were killed by rebel forces.

    Night after night, these boys knelt beside their makeshift beds and poured out prayers of thanksgiving and hope that one day they’d hear six simple yet life-changing words, "You are my child — welcome home."

    God had a perfect design for their prayers to be answered and worked miracle after miracle to bring the boys’ choir to America. But little did I know my husband Art and I would be part of the answer to Mark and Jackson’s prayers.

    Our life was busy and full, and we were enjoying being the parents of three little girls. So you can imagine my surprise the night I went to see The Liberian Boys’ Choir concert at our church that I was stirred to consider adoption.

    As I sat in the concert, God whispered to my heart that two of those boys singing were mine. No, I thought. Not me.

    I felt like sticking my fingers in my ears and singing, La, la, la, la, la … I’m not listening to You, God! But the stirring in my heart wouldn’t stop.

    I decided to try a new tactic with Him. Lord, I just came here tonight to bring my girls to a simple little cultural event. I’m not looking for a major life change. My life is already very full with speaking and writing and homeschooling three girls. Besides, all my friends would think I was crazy, and my husband would never think this is a good idea.

    But God wasn’t discouraged by my response. His directive in my heart became more intense as the evening went on. After the concert, I asked the coordinator of the event which of the boys still needed homes. He told me that eight of the boys still needed to find families and encouraged me to walk into the reception area where they were. If God intended for some of these boys to be ours, he was sure I’d know it.

    Reluctantly, I walked into the reception area. In a matter of seconds, Jackson and Mark walked up to me, wrapped their arms around me, and called me Mom.

    I was moved and terrified at the same time.

    What began as a small heart prompting had turned into a very big decision for our family.

    After talking with Art, we cried out to God, desperate for His guidance and wisdom. We pondered every aspect and wrestled with this decision deep in our spirits.

    Still, doubts and questions flooded our minds: How could we financially increase the size of our family? How would we find the time in our already crammed schedule? How would we raise boys? How would we find room in our home? The list went on and on.

    One day, I called a friend and poured out my heart. I told her I could list many other parents who were much more qualified to adopt. She patiently listened without much response as I asked, "Why me?"

    Then quietly and prayerfully she answered: "Because God knew you’d say yes, Lysa."

    I was stunned. It was the highest compliment I’d ever received. My heart was filled with joy as memories filled my mind of the years of small steps God had me take to reach the place where I could be prepared to take this much bigger step.

    Now, over 10 years later, I think back to sitting in that church pew, just going about my ordinary life when God’s extraordinary invitation burst forth. I could have so easily walked out of that church and ignored God’s stirring. I’ve done that more times than I’d like to admit. But look at everything we would have missed out on, had I done that.

    Terkeurst Family
    Hear my heart: I’m not saying everyone is called to adopt. Honestly, the next big step God wants you to take might actually be small. But we’ll never know what that next step is if we don’t "listen for GOD’S voice in everything we do, everywhere we go" as Proverbs 3:6 instructs us.

    Each day we can look for His invitation to leave our plans behind to join Him in His wondrous work through small steps of obedience.

    Dear Lord, today I will embrace what You have for me. I will step out in faith because Your ways are higher than mine! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    WIF Bookcover

    What if the next big step God wants you to take is actually small? Remember, Lysa’s big step of faith came after years of taking small steps of faith. No matter where you are or what God has called you to, you can take the first step. Find out more in our next FREE online Bible study of Lysa’s book, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith. Sign up today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Be in prayer about what small steps you can take to experience God’s big plans for your life!

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Don't Miss the Glory

    Posted on March 20, 2015 by Family Christian

    Leah DiPascal MARCH 20, 2015

    Don't Miss the Glory
    LEAH DIPASCAL

    "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge." Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV)

    When I was a little girl, on lazy days my mother would spread an old, worn blanket in our small front yard. I’d lie there for what seemed like hours, daydreaming about all sorts of wonderful things.

    Surrounded by a blended fragrance of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass, I’d close my eyes as the gentle breeze blew through my strawberry blonde bangs. The summer heat would sizzle my forehead as I aimlessly swatted at the garden gnats that were stirred up because of my unannounced intrusion.

    Gazing at the skies, I’d count the clouds and watch them slowly glide across the blue canopy stretched out above me. One by one, I’d imagine those enormous puffy shapes to be all the things I loved: birthday balloons, fluffy stuffed animals and heart-shaped boxes.

    When I reminisce about those days on the front lawn, it brings back such sweet memories. Peaceful moments that felt simple and carefree. No place to go and no reason to rush. I was content to just rest and take in the beauty of God’s creation.

    My days look quite different now. Maybe yours do, too. Let’s face the facts: there will always be errands to run, commitments to fill and good reasons to rush. If we’re not intentional, we will miss the opportunities to experience the beauty of God’s creation.

    So let me ask you … when was the last time you paused for a moment and noticed the clouds above you? Or watched the sky explode with color as the sun gently sank into the horizon? When was the last time you noticed birds singing first thing in the morning or counted the stars at night?

    I know. It sounds like a luxury, doesn’t it? After all, who has time for that sort of thing? Life is busy. There’s so much to do.

    Sky gazing is for children who have all the time in the world, or for teenagers who zone out in English class as they stare out the window, right? Well, not exactly …

    Today’s key verses tells a different story: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge" (Psalm 19:1-2).

    When we look at the skies above, we can clearly see evidence of God’s glory as written in the Scriptures. God alone created the heavens and earth so that all living things would rejoice in His splendor.

    But many of us rarely take time to notice. To pause and marvel at the vast beauty of His creation. What could be more important than experiencing the revelation of God’s glory?

    The sun illuminates at His spoken command, and the stars are formed with magnificent perfection. The galaxies were created by His grand approval. Not a single cloud moves without His direction.

    The Lord takes pleasure in all He has made, so let us marvel at the greatness of His creation. Let’s be sure to give God all the glory He deserves.

    Let the earth rejoice and be glad! Let the heavens sing out His praises! Let the sea bow before Him as the waves reveal His wonder! Let every voice lift high the holy name of our Lord Almighty! For He is worthy!

    Dear God, thank You for creating the heavens to declare Your glory and the skies to proclaim the work of Your almighty hands. Help me to have a greater awareness of Your creation and to pause throughout my day to celebrate the grandeur of it all. For You are worthy of all glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 8:1, "LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens." (NIV)

    Romans 11:36, "For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen." (NLT)

    Psalm 72:19, "Praise his glorious name forever! Let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and amen!" (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    In her book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, Lysa TerKeurst guides you in how to make the most of your moments so that you can discover your "best yes."

    Stop by Leah DiPascal’s blog to continue the conversation and enter her drawing to win an exciting giveaway!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time you noticed something in creation that made you pause and give God thanks? Reflect on that memory for a moment. How would you describe it now?

    Spend 15 minutes outside today and write down every thing in creation that you notice. How does it reveal God’s glory to you?

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • 3 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was Single

    Posted on March 19, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst MARCH 19, 2015

    3 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was Single
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow." Matthew 6:34a (MSG)

    I remember the hardest day of the week for me when I was single was Sunday. Specifically, Sunday right after church.

    Many of my other single friends would have plans with their families that day, but not me. My family lived nine hours away.

    So, I’d walk through the parking lot, watching young moms ooh and ahh over Sunday school artwork and I’d think, Their lives seem so blissfully full.

    I’d walk past an older couple holding hands and think, They are so lucky to have such an easy, breezy life.

    I’d walk past a gal walking arm in arm with her boyfriend and think, She is so fortunate to feel loved.

    And then I’d get in my car and decide happiness, fulfillment and contentment were something to hope for in the future, when I found the life I desperately wanted. I was focusing on what could be instead of looking for evidence of what God was doing right in that moment, like our key verse Matthew 6:34 instructs us to do.

    Boy, do I wish I could go sit in that car beside my single self and tell her some life-giving truths I now know:

    1. Loneliness isn’t fixed by surrounding yourself with more people.

    Sure, having people to go grab lunch with you after church is great. And having the built-in companionship of your own family is wonderful. But it hasn’t fixed my struggles with loneliness like I thought it would.

    Some of the loneliest women I know wear wedding rings.

    I had to learn to enjoy life without being dependent on someone else to create the fun for me. That way I could bring the fun. I could bring the interesting conversation starters. And I could start to better discern the kinds of people who would get me.

    What are those things you truly love spending time doing, creating or researching? Invest your lonely moments there. Create life-giving experiences around your unique passions. After all, people are attracted to others who are full of life.

    2. Learn from the pitfalls in friendships.

    If only I would have dared to really look, I could have seen patterns of pitfalls in my relationships. Some of the same relationship struggles I had in my single friendships quickly popped up in my marriage.

    Being a little more self-aware of how I contributed to frustrations in friendships would have helped me work on having a healthier marriage even before I met my husband.

    I could have learned valuable self-improvements like taming my spontaneity a tad, remembering that not everyone likes to talk before the sun comes up and working to not interpret everything with way more emotion than necessary. Just to name a few.

    I absolutely would have encouraged my single self to make good use of those hard friendship moments by learning … really learning … from them.

    3. Stop expecting perfection.

    All those people I was watching those Sunday afternoons weren’t living perfect lives. They were having a moment of perfection in the midst of very imperfect relationships.

    None of those moms were perfect moms. None of those couples were perfect couples. None of those families were perfect families.

    I obviously know this with my head. But sometimes my heart gets tripped up looking for perfection and missing what’s really good.

    Single self, realize perfection doesn’t exist on this side of eternity, and it’s exhausting to chase something that doesn’t exist.

    So, look at relationships through the lens of grace. Instead of asking, "Is this the perfect relationship I’ve dreamed about?" ask yourself, "Is this a person with whom I can both give and receive grace?"

    Sundays are no longer the hardest days of the week for me. But it wasn’t because I got married and had kids.

    It’s because I finally learned how to bring the joy I wanted to experience, became a healthier version of me and stopped chasing perfection.

    Dear Lord, I’m choosing to give my full attention to what You’re doing in my life today. Help me to keep the right perspective as I place my plans and my future into Your hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Have a friend who needs to know she is valued, loved and beautiful? Encourage her with the Proverbs 31 Ministries "Live a Life of Love" Gift Set. Each set contains a piece of stationary, a frameable print and 2 Scripture cards so she can keep God’s Truth close to her heart. Get one for a friend here.

    Live A Life Of Love

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Whether you’re single or not, consider the three points Lysa talked through. Which perspective do you need to work on embracing this week?

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

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