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Monthly Archives: August 2016

  • Crafting My Character, One Choice at a Time

    Crafting My Character, One Choice at a Time by Glynnis Whitwer

    “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9 (NIV)

    As a young college graduate my first job was at a start-up company. I was given a hybrid position that included marketing and writing, which I loved, and answering the phones, which I didn’t love.

    The owners promised my position would develop as the company grew. So I took the job and was happy to have it.

    One of my bosses had a strong personality. She was smart, confident and aggressive. And very successful.

    She was one of those people who never forgets a thing, with high expectations for herself and her employees.

    Over time, both the company and my work level grew — but I still answered the phones. Eventually, it got to the point where I wasn’t managing things very well. I’d get great assignments, be excited to start, but then reality would step in and soon I’d be overwhelmed.

    My boss was hands-on and often called me into her office for an update. I found myself dreading those meetings, knowing she’d be displeased with my lack of progress. I could feel myself getting anxious as I fell further behind.

    And that’s when the lies started.

    I offered responses like: “Yes, that project is coming along nicely,” or, “I’m almost finished,” and “Just waiting for a few more pieces of information.”

    After our meetings, I’d frantically rush back to my desk to try and make my progress match the answers I’d just given.

    At first I justified my replies as “half-truths.” Perhaps they were, if statements like “coming along nicely” and “almost finished” really meant “I’m thinking about starting any time now.”

    Over time, the lies and truth became jumbled. Rather than face my procrastination for what it was, I’d always find something convenient to blame. In truth, I felt overwhelmed and put off hard projects.

    I’d crossed a line of personal integrity that nagged at the edges of my conscience, but I felt helpless to change. Until one day my boss gave me another request: lie for her.

    I couldn’t do it, and somehow mustered up the courage in my young, 23-year-old self to tell her so. Amazingly she didn’t fire me.

    God used that experience to show me how easy it is to compromise my character. I so desperately want others to think I’m capable, that excuses and dishonesty can easily become a habit. Yet Proverbs 10:9 calls these “crooked paths” and warns against choosing them: “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”

    This promise of walking securely is what my heart really wants. I might think I’ll find security in a job, approval by a boss or achievement of a project, but true security comes from walking in God’s ways and under His protection.

    When I sacrifice my character for the world’s “security,” I’ll always be left wanting. But when my security is in Christ, the crooked paths don’t seem so promising.

    Since that first job experience, I’ve had many opportunities to develop my character and many times when my integrity was tested. I wish my history in this area were flawless, but that would be a lie — which I don’t want to tell.

    What I can say is the Lord has given me His Holy Spirit to prompt me when I feel tempted to speak false, misleading words. And He’s granted me His strength to face the consequences when I tell the truth about something I’d rather not admit. And glory hallelujah, God forgives me when I slip.

    The whole struggle to be a woman of integrity has kept me humble because it reveals every weakness, which can be painful. Humility comes with a cost, but it’s a cost worth paying as it keeps me my heart in the right place.

    My character is far more important to God than my career or accomplishments. With that in mind, I’m crafting my character, one choice at a time.

    Heavenly Father, help me become a woman who walks with You in integrity. Help my heart feel secure in Your love so I’m not tempted to seek security elsewhere. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

    Psalm 15:1-2, “Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have you compromised your character to try and cover up a weak area?

    Present that weak place to God, and ask for His strength to start crafting your character. © 2016 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Use Your Powers for Good: The Story Behind Small But Mighty

    We recently had the opportunity to travel down to Monterrey, Mexico and serve orphans at a children’s home. On that hot day in May, we were tasked with digging a drainage trench for a new set of bathrooms to provide more privacy to the older children on campus. As we began the project our team was joined by a seven year old from the children’s home named Miguel. He came ready to work – fully adorned with gloves, a shovel and his trusty cape!

    Meet Miguel

    This little superhero was fully committed to the task at hand. He worked right along side the adults, doing his share of the digging and then some. He used the very best he had to serve our team and participate in the hot, hard, grueling project. Occasionally he would disappear from the ditch, only to return with sunscreen, water or orange slices to lift our spirits and renew our strength.

    Our Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Steve Biondo, began to call out his efforts and praise him for his hard work. He took Miguel aside and gave him a big hug. He told him that he was doing great good for every member of our team. Miguel hugged him back hard and said, “Tio (which means Uncle) I am using my powers for good aren’t I?”

    Use Your Powers For Good

    As we were leaving, you could see the pain in Miguel’s eyes, but even more so in us. We had all fallen in love with him. Our bus began to roll down the dirt driveway and we stuck our heads out the side widows waving farewell to the children, when out of the dust emerged Miguel. He was sprinting alongside the vehicle, his cape flapping in the wind. Our hearts soared knowing his last act of serving was to let us know that we were special. Steve shouted back to him as we drove away, “Miguel, use your powers for good – always!” He stopped his sprint, and with a glad heart, raised both hands in the air as a victor would.

    Miguel touched our hearts that day and taught us that we all have the power to do good, serve others and bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ. Size matters not, but only the willingness of our hearts to put our power into action.

    Inspired Product Line: Small But Mighty

    Miguel’s story inspired our team to put together a new line of products just for kids called Small But Mighty. The collection includes bedding, wall art, storage cubes and even a superhero cape. This line was designed to remind your little ones that while they might be small, their faith makes them mighty — especially when they use their powers to serve and love others.

  • How to Supersize Your Happiness Today

    How to Supersize Your Happiness Today by Jennifer Dukes Lee

    “That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives.” Galatians 5:26a (MSG)

    Recently, I ran across an old photograph taken when I was dating Scott, whom I’d eventually marry.

    In the photo, Scott has his arm around my waist. I’m smiling, but it looks like a smile I’m not feeling inside. I remember why. Before our date, I stood in front of my mirror with a mascara wand, nervously pinpointing flaws and wishing I were someone a little … different.

    When I saw the photograph 20 years later, I took pity on the younger me. She was beautiful. She was falling in love. She had a great job offer in front of her, and a few days later, she would take it.

    She should have been happy! Instead, she was missing her own life.

    Hindsight is a terrific teacher.

    Looking at the photo, I thought about all the happiness we give away while wishing for something different.

    This year, I took a dare from God to cultivate more happiness in my life. During my Happiness Dare, I identified four major Happiness Hijackers. One of those hijackers tries to convince us of this: If you could just be like her, then you’d be happy.

    We calculate how much it would cost us to get there: how much hustle, how many Fitbit steps, how many promotions, etc. And then we live like machines instead of people. How exhausting!

    At the root, we’re playing comparison games. The apostle Paul called comparison what it really is: pointless. “That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives” (Galatians 5:26a).

    This is what I’m learning: If we want to be happier today, let’s stop wishing for someone else’s life and discover happiness in the life we have. We begin by halting comparison.

    Let’s see others as imperfect people going through some of the same challenges we are. Comparison is rooted in idealizing people rather than humanizing them.

    Furthermore, let’s say another woman gets what we want. We could actually be genuinely happy for her. Our happiness is automatically limited if we can be happy only for those dearest to us.

    Let’s not wait until we come across an old photo, only to realize we walked right past the happy that was in front of us all along.

    Sister, go easy on yourself. You are a person — not a machine! You don’t have to work so hard for the happiness that’s already yours.

    Let this be our declaration:

    I am a person.

    I am not a machine, spreadsheet, agenda or résumé.

    I have a heartbeat, skin, scars and a soul.

    I am a person.

    My worth isn’t calculated in efficiencies, results or ladders climbed. I am not the sum of my accomplishments — or the sum of my mistakes. I am not my ambition, energy level, approval rating, mass appeal or worth to the company store. I am not an A-plus or D-minus. I am not a mess or a miscalculation.

    I am not a mistake. Rather, I am a miracle. And so are you.

    Because I am a person, made of love in the hands of God.

    I will be a person today. I will be me. I will resist the urge to believe I’ve got to fight for my piece; God says there’s more than enough to go around.

    I will see the best in others and recognize the best in myself.

    I will reach for virtue more than trophies, dignity more than stardom. I will choose encouragement over envy. I will rejoice with those who rejoice.

    I will stand tall on the inside, even if I’m feeling weak on the outside.

    I am a person, a citizen of the Kingdom, where there is unending grace for me. Because I am a person, and I belong to Jesus.

    Dear God, remind us that you created us as people, not machines. Remind us happiness isn’t bought in a store, earned by our hustle or found by trying to be someone we’re not. Thank You, Lord, that happiness is found in You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 6:4, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If I could just be like her. How have you experienced this Happiness Hijacker? Make a list of three things you can appreciate about the life God created for you. Studies show that gratitude significantly boosts happiness. Ask God to help you focus on where you can be thankful today. © 2016 by Jennifer Dukes Lee. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale 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

  • When His Luster Shines Through Our Lack

    When His Luster Shines Through Our Lack by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

    My youngest ones padded down the boardwalk with plastic sand buckets dangling from their arms like bangled bracelets. I followed the sound of their flip-flops slapping against the weathered wood and tried to rub my eyes awake.

    My giddy treasure hunters had climbed out of bed in the dark, in hopes of collecting seashells at the beach before the rest of the world rose.

    “Come on, Mommy,” my son, Joshua, urged as he leaped off the boardwalk and landed in the cool white sand. “We have to hurry or the best ones will be gone.”

    As if on cue, streaks of pink broke through the quiet darkness, and within moments, the horizon was aflame with the hope of a new day.

    “Look at all of those!” my daughter Maggie exclaimed as she surveyed the seemingly endless string of seashells deposited by the morning tide.

    “Just pick your favorites,” I said with a cautionary wink. “We can’t bring all of them home.” My kids each gave a knowing nod and raced toward the water’s edge, and I sat down on a washed-up log, content to watch my early birds scour the sand.

    When my son returned with his collection of treasures, I marveled over his picks — smooth shiny spirals and flawless fluted fans, shells with bold stripes and shells with subtle speckles.

    My daughter’s finds, however, were shoddy in comparison. And each shell she’d selected bore a hole in its rippled surface.

    Joshua studied his sister’s stash with wordless confusion and then kindly offered to help her find some shells without holes.

    “No, thanks,” Maggie replied with a satisfied smile. “I’ve got plans for those holes.”

    As we headed for home, Maggie prattled happily about her grand ideas for those fissured finds. “I just need to string some thread through those holes, and then I’ll be able to make something beautiful!” she declared, while skipping through the sand.

    Suddenly, I realized my little girl’s imperfect treasures weren’t a source of exasperation; they were a springboard for inspiration. She didn’t view the chinks in her shells as a liability; she saw them as a possibility.

    Remarkably, our Maker sees us in the same light.

    Our key verse reminds us God is not deterred by the “holes” in our lives. God sees our weaknesses as an opportunity to spotlight His strength.

    It’s an amazing truth we see all through Scripture — God’s luster can shine brightly through our lack. On days when you’re having a hard time believing that, remember these real-life stories from Scripture:

    God displays His colossal strength through a small shepherd boy who fights a giant (1 Samuel 17).

    God displays His lavish fruitfulness through a barren womb that gives birth to the Messiah’s family line (Genesis 17:19).

    God displays His unassailable sufficiency through the dire poverty of a desperate widow (2 Kings 4:1-7).

    And His unlikely story continues through you and through me.

    God doesn’t need flawless followers to make Him famous. Instead, He needs surrendered lives through which to shine. As we read in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “… My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness …”

    So, the next time we feel discouraged by our weakness or disheartened by our lack, let’s remember that, like a 7-year-old girl I know, God’s got big plans for our holes.

    And when we place both our gifts and our gaps into the hands of our wise Creator, He’ll make something beautiful for the world to see.

    Dear Jesus, remind me I don’t need to be perfect to be used by You. I want my life to showcase Your strength. Please use my holes to highlight Your Holiness. Shine Your glory through my gaps. And let my life be a testimony of Your power and presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 138:8a, “The LORD will work out his plans for my life — for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.” (NLT)

    1 Samuel 16:7b, “… The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one “weakness” God might want to use to display His power in your life? Take time to tell someone how you see God shining through his/her gaps this week.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • 4 Ways to Energize Your Prayer Life

    Has prayer become yet another item on your busy to do list? If we’re honest, we’ve probably all felt this way at times. As humans, it can be easy to get swept up in the demands, distractions and disappointments of this world. But as Christians, we know that prayer is a powerful and essential part of our spiritual walk. If prayer feels like a burden instead of a blessing, these tips will help you get excited about spending time in prayer.

    Be Thankful When our prayers are a laundry list of all the things we want to change, we’re not likely to approach the throne of grace with excitement. We certainly need to pray for our needs and the needs of others, but let’s remember to thank God for all the good He is doing in our lives.

    Rework Your Routine Prayer should be a regular part of our life, but that doesn’t mean we have to do it at the same time, in the same way, at the same place. If you normally pray in your living room, try going for a walk. If you normally use a prayer journal, try praying verses in the Bible. Don’t be afraid to change it up!

    Learn To Listen Relationships are a two-way street and our relationship with God is no exception. We often develop a pattern of listing off our needs without pausing to hear from God. It’s important to sit silently in God’s presence and simply listen.

    Pray Without Ceasing Don’t compartmentalize your prayer life. God’s door is always open which means we have the opportunity to present our requests to Him all day long, not just during our designated prayer time. Say short prayers during those busy moments in life, then go back and pray more in depth when the events of the day have settled.

    God never intended prayer to be dull, mundane or boring. We hope these tips inspire you to approach your prayer time with a joyful spirit and a hopeful heart.

    What tips have helped you improve your prayer life?

  • He Said Yes

    He Said Yes by Lynn Cowell

    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

    The day had finally come and it was none too soon! My husband and I had stalled on making needed repairs to our backyard, and I was happy to see the repair crew arrive.

    As the workers sweated away outside, inside, I typed away in my office. I ended the article I was working on with this challenge: "Today, let’s you and I look for someone who needs our prayers."

    Sounds good, doesn’t it?

    Almost immediately, I looked back out into the yard and noticed a new worker, so I headed out.

    That's when I struck up a conversation with Johnny.

    After exchanging greetings, it didn’t take long to learn Johnny was fairly new to our community. We swapped stories of what brought us to the area and how we both had to make major life adjustments when we moved.

    Then that nagging, I've got to get back to work feeling crept in my mind. Just as I was about to say goodbye and make my way back into the house, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit in my heart: Pay attention to the person in front of you.

    I spent a few more moments listening to Johnny before heading inside to locate our checkbook. As I began writing the check, I noticed my pen that had our church information on it.

    Ask Johnny to church came a second nudge in my heart. Honestly, this one scared me, so I told God, "I'll ask Johnny to church if I see him again."

    After writing the check, I looked around but there was no Johnny. I'm sorry to say I felt relieved. I don’t have to do the hard thing, I thought.

    I stepped back into our home and my eyes saw something through the windows to our front yard. Johnny’s truck. He was still at our home, packing up his tools.

    You can see Johnny, I felt the Holy Spirit pointing out to me.

    I needed to obey.

    “How am I going to do this, Lord? It’s so unnatural to just walk down there and start talking to him?” Then the idea came: Go down the driveway, get the mail and start a conversation. And that’s what I did.

    "Johnny, you said you were new here. Have you found a church, because you should check out mine?" I blurted, as I stuck out my pen.

    Johnny looked at the pen. He looked at me. Then, like a volcano oozing lava, Johnny poured out his heart. He’d been hurt by a relationship in his church, but he wanted to believe God was still good. He was searching for God to speak to him.

    I was stunned. To think I had almost missed this opportunity because of fear and my preoccupation with my own affairs!

    After a few minutes, I attempted to wrap up our talk when I sensed God wasn’t finished yet.

    You didn't pray for Johnny. I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit.

    "Here, Lord? In the middle of my cul-de-sac? What if my neighbors see me and wonder what I’m doing talking to a man?"

    That's for me to deal with, I felt Him reassure me.

    So, I simply said, "Johnny, can I pray for you?"

    He said, "Yes!"

    And right there, in my cul-de-sac, God showed me what happens when we look not only to our own interests, “but also, to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

    Friends, if we will slow down, stop and listen, we will see that God has an assignment for us today. Let’s look for someone who needs us to pray for them. May our eyes and ears be open to the Holy Spirit and boldly ask the question: “Can I pray for you?”

    Father, those five words, “Can I pray for you?” seem so intimidating. Yet when spoken, they can open doors for You to do Your work through us. Empower us, Holy Spirit, to be brave and be bold today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (ESV) 1 Timothy 2:1, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Reflect for a moment on where you are going and who you might see today. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to see someone you can ask, “How can I pray for you?”

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Crushing Times

    The Crushing Times by Lysa TerKeurst

    “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

    No one wants to have their heart crushed. But being wounded in deep places happens. Sometimes it just seems to be part of the rhythm of life.

    And when these hard times come, we feel it all so very deeply. And we wonder if others have these hard, hard moments. After all, we don’t snap pictures of the crushing times and post them on Instagram. We just wonder if we have what it takes to survive …

    … when the doctor calls and says he needs to talk to me in person about the test results.

    … when the teacher sends one of “those” emails about my child.

    … when someone I love closes their heart and turns their back on me.

    … when I feel so utterly incapable and unable and afraid.

    I suspect you know the tear-filled place from which I speak.

    So, let’s journey to the olive tree and learn.

    To get to the place I want to take you, we must cross the Kidron Valley in Israel. Kidron Valley Map

    John 18:1-2 tells us, “When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples” (NIV).

    Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.

    The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. This garden is where Jesus, just before his arrest, said to Peter, James and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” (Mark 14:34, NIV).

    Jesus knew the crushing-heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it. And I don’t think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in this moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.

    Garden of Gethsemane

    The olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.

    The crushing times are necessary times.

    First, in order to be fruitful the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day.

    The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life. The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit — and so do we. We need both winds of hardship and relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.

    The crushing times are processing times.

    Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it this month, its bitterness would make you sick.

    For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes: washing, breaking, soaking, sometimes salting, and waiting some more.

    It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness and prepared for usefulness.

    If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well … the process of being cured.

    The crushing times are preservation times.

    The final thing I want to consider about the olive is the best way to preserve it for the long run. It must be crushed in order to extract the oil. The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.

    But what about our key verse, 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are “pressed … but not crushed”? Let’s read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; …”

    This was one of the biggest “aha” moments for me standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn’t the olive’s end.

    Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It’s also the way to get what’s most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed … pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.

    I think I need to revisit these truths often:

    When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.

    When I’m being processed, I forget it’s for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.

    And when I’m being crushed, I forget it’s for the sake of my preservation.

    I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this.

    Oh, how I forget.

    Maybe God knew we all would forget.

    And so, He created the olive tree.

    Dear Lord, I’m so thankful that on the other side of the process of being broken and waiting is a useful heart free of bitterness. Help me to hold fast to You when the days are especially hard. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV) I love how Eugene Peterson describes those same verses, “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (MSG)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you walking through a difficult season? Look back on the points Lysa made. Write out how your situation may fall into one or all of these categories. © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Calming My Back-to-School Mama’s Heart

    Calming My Back-to-School Mama’s Heart by Karen Ehman

    “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Luke 2:51-52 (HCSB)

    Neatly lined notebook paper. Sharpened number two pencils. A brand-new box of brightly-colored crayons. A sturdy lunch box ready for the first PB&J of the year. Permission slips. Sports schedules. Class lists. So many details and so much stuff!

    This time of year, shopping for 3-ring binders can seem almost like a 3-ring circus. Gone are the lazy days of summer. The fall school routine brings new courses, loads of homework and many extra curricular activities.

    While the arrival of the school year brings a fresh start — and soon the change of seasons — it can also bring a lot of worry to a mama’s heart.

    Our thoughts turn toward our children’s interaction with others. We wonder how our timid child will fare in a brand-new classroom, when most of his friends are in another class. We fret about our prank-pulling middle schooler, earnestly hoping he doesn’t make a habit of getting called to the principal’s office. We fear for our high school student, worried she will start hanging around the wrong crowd.

    Or we stress over academic concerns. Will our struggling first grader ever make progress in her reading? Will math ever click with our fifth grader who gets hives when she sees a story problem? Will our high schooler get into his hoped-for university?

    Besides relational and academic matters, we also long for kids who are spiritually and physically healthy and strong. If left unchecked, our thoughts and concerns as mothers can wreak havoc on our hearts as we allow the tentacles of worry to choke out our joy.

    We find an antidote to worry in the gospel of Luke and the story of Mary and Jesus.

    Luke 2 mentions four areas Jesus grew in as a young boy: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Our Lord grew wiser each year. He physically grew. His relationship with His heavenly Father continually strengthened. Jesus even gained favor with people here on earth who saw Him day to day.

    And how I love the simple sentence that precedes this: “His mother kept all these things in her heart.”

    When Mary was mothering Jesus, she tucked thoughts of her son safely in her heart. Some Bible translations say she “treasured” them. Others use the word “cherished.” The original Greek word meant, “to keep safe or hold fast.” In none of these descriptions do we see Mary fretting and fussing, worried and anxious, disquieted and unsettled. She pondered about her son and his growth, but she didn’t allow her mama heart to become rattled.

    This fall, let’s turn our anxious thoughts into treasured prayers, kept safe and held fast by our loving Father — the one who knows our hearts and loves our children even more than we do. When a concern pops up in our mind, let’s drop to our knees and carry that concern to God. When we start to fear for our child’s future, let’s petition the only one who knows exactly what the future holds.

    When we turn our worries into our prayers, we create space in our hearts to treasure and cherish the sweet moments with our kids. These paper-and-pencil school days won’t last forever.

    Let’s delight in all that God is teaching our kids, whether it’s how to read, how to forge friendships or how to solidify their walk with Him. And realize they aren’t the only ones being taught; we moms are learning a life-long lesson in trusting and treasuring, knowing God is always in control.

    Father, please help me this year to turn my worries into prayers, knowing You are in control. Allow me to treasure each moment with my children as they grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with others and also with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (HCSB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: List one worry or fear you have for each of your children or someone younger in her faith — whether they are school age or not. Now, how can you reword that issue, turning it into a prayer to God?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Can a Wounded Marriage Be Better Than New?

    Can a Wounded Marriage Be Better Than New? by Cindy Beall

    “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

    It was a mild day in central Texas on January 9, 1993. I remember it well because that was the day I stood in front of the people I loved, to proclaim my commitment to Chris Beall. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death parts us.

    Always and forever, I knew I would be his, and he would be mine. We would serve Jesus together and in my mind, everything would work out perfectly. It just would.

    However, one February morning close to a decade later would prove me a fool.

    Within minutes of my husband walking through the door, my world crumbled as I listened to him confess his infidelity and pornography addiction. After a slew of questions, as well as long periods of silent weeping, I began to suffer from an onslaught of unbearable pain, suffocating despair and waves and waves of grief. My desire to leave this world and meet Jesus face to face was powerful. Surely, I thought, that would be better than my present predicament.

    That was over 14 years ago.

    Thankfully, God brought my husband and me through that fire, and we don’t even smell like smoke. The first thing God did was heal each of us from the inside out, and then He was able to make our marriage better than new.

    He gave us a platform where we could shout, “You don’t have to throw in the towel when marriage gets tough. Ask us how we know!” God has been more than faithful to redeem, restore and reinvent two broken people.

    I wonder what circumstance you’re facing right now that makes your heart weary and heavy, or makes you cry on a daily basis.

    Maybe your marriage is broken and you have no idea how to climb out of the pit you’re in. Perhaps you struggle with your health and no treatment seems to make a difference. It could be your children are weary, wounded, angry or far from God, and some days even getting out of bed feels like an Olympic sport.

    I get it.

    There were days I could barely lift my head from my pillow. Mornings where I awoke with joy only to have it dashed because I suddenly remembered, Oh yeah, this really did happen. And there were times when the trigger of a past event left me helpless and in a puddle of tears in the middle of some store. There were moments of hope only to be eradicated by our spiritual enemy’s assault of doubt.

    I’ve been in that pit of despair. But, by the generous grace of our God, I am no longer taking up any real estate in that deep abyss.

    May this former pit-dweller offer you some hope? God can take your questions and your pain. In the midst of your storm, rest in the truth that God sees and He knows. He has not forgotten your discomfort. He is holding each tear you’ve cried. He will never leave you.

    Just as we read in today’s key verse, the Lord wants us to be strong and courageous, not fearful or panicked: “God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6b). He is always near.

    Sometimes I’d much rather God just wave His majestic arm and make everything better. Yet, it’s the difficult times that develop our character and simultaneously reveal God’s glory while making us more like Him.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for making the journey with us through the valley of the shadow of death. Thank You for being our peace and comfort in the midst of tumultuous situations. Help us be aware of Your presence each day so we can walk in the power of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What current struggle are you facing that makes you feel alone, panicked or afraid? Find truth from God’s Word to stand as you press on in faith. © 2016 by Cindy Beall. 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

  • What Can I Do to Bring You Joy?What Can I Do to Bring You Joy?

    What Can I Do to Bring You Joy? by Suzie Eller

    “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:11 (NLT)

    Lord, take care of that friend who is a missionary.

    Lord, heal my hurting heart.

    Father, help me to be wise with our finances.

    Father, I need You right now.

    If I could stack up my prayer requests, I’m sure they’d reach the sky. I’ve been bringing them to God for a long time, sometimes whispered in a time of crisis and other times as I settle in the morning for quiet time. I love that God is receptive to each request and hears every one.

    However, a while back, I started praying a little differently.

    I started talking to God as if He were truly a friend, someone who wasn’t just the recipient of my requests, but a dear friend where the conversation was mutual. This idea might seem strange to some, but it’s very biblical.

    In Romans 5, Paul reminds us that Jesus came to earth as a result of God’s love for us. It was God’s desire that the cross and resurrection forever break down walls that sin erected.

    Paul doesn’t stop there, however. He joyfully shares that this reconciliation brought us into a wonderful new relationship with God — that of a friend.

    This concept of God as a friend doesn’t diminish His sovereignty or the fact that He is powerful. Rather it reveals His desire not only to know us, but to be known.

    I would never come to a friend with only requests or only praise of their virtues. I would tune in to that person’s heart; sharing would be mutual.

    That’s what led me to pray in a different way. I began my conversations every morning asking one simple question: Lord, is there anything I can do to bring You joy today?

    That simple question led to answers, some of them surprising. One day I was rocking 2-year-old Josiah, my grandson. His tired mama rested in the other room. I sang a silly song over him and he snuggled close.

    This brings Me joy.

    Those words came from deep within. A confirmation that God was delighted by what I was doing.

    He saw something I didn’t. Perhaps it was the fact that Josiah was snug in my arms and that moment was building security in this little man’s heart. I’ll never know for sure, but it brought God joy and that was enough.

    On another day, a friend messaged me. She was having a bad day. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I felt that gentle tug so I messaged her and we chatted for no more than 15 minutes. I ended our conversation with the words, “I love you big and I’m going to pray for you.” Then I knelt and prayed before going on with my schedule for the day.

    There it was again. That inner knowing.

    This brings Me joy.

    I had assumed it was the bigger things that brought God joy. You know, like telling someone about Jesus or changing the world. Certainly, these are beautiful in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, but these small moments matter to God, too.

    As we begin our everyday conversations with God asking, “What might I do to bring You joy today?” our spiritual ears start to open. We might discover that some of the smallest events of our day are actually miracles, as we partner with God to love people.

    Coming to God as a friend as well as our heavenly Father draws us into the wonderful relationship Paul talked about in Romans 5:11: “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

    Maybe today is a great day to flip our prayer lives in a whole new direction.

    What can we do to bring You joy today, Lord?

    We just might be surprised at the answer.

    Heavenly Father, what can I do today to bring You joy? Not to earn points with You, but to simply talk with You. To hear Your heart, as well as to share mine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Sometimes what brings God joy may be buried in the heart of our request. Our prayer might be, “Lord, fix my friend’s hurting heart.” As we reach out to her with a note or words of encouragement, our response might be exactly what delights the heart of God.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

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Proclaim the Good News | Mark 16:15
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