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Author Archives: Karen Ehman

  • Click to Change a Life

    Posted on December 29, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN EHMAN

    KAREN

    "For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (AMP)

    "Look, Miss Karen! When you click here you can change the color of her fingernail polish just like that!" I was watching my friend’s pre-teen daughter for the weekend. She was parked on the couch playing around on a nail art website on my computer. Each time she clicked on a different bottle the color instantly changed on the model’s hands.

    Clicking a mouse to change things on our computer screen is so simple. If only real life were the same!

    Many times I look at my circumstances and wish I had a special mouse so I could click and change everything I don’t like. But life doesn’t work like that. While there’s much I can change, there’s much more I can’t.

    And when I focus on all I can’t revise, my heart can feel defeated. There are people I can’t change, finances I can’t control and circumstances that leave my heart feeling shattered. If only I could recolor bad attitudes or rewrite difficult experiences, then I’d feel better. Right?

    Wrong.

    I've discovered that trying to change other people or alter their circumstances isn’t really a fix for my often-troubling situations, because it isn’t something I can make happen. I can't control another's behavior, only my own. Here is where the solution lies: Even when circumstances and people stay the same, my attitude toward them and my perspective can change. What can bring about this transformation?

    God’s Word.

    God’s Word can snap me back to attention, soften my heart and help me view my life through a different and God-honoring lens. It can align my heart and actions with God’s so I don’t do or say things today I will regret tomorrow. As our key verse of Hebrews 4:12 states, it helps to expose, sift, analyze and judge the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.

    In a very practical way, God’s Word makes it all click — and that clicking makes me change.

    Spending time daily in the Bible is imperative to bringing about this change, and we at Proverbs 31 Ministries are committed to helping women around the world interact with God’s Word daily through our many ministry avenues. In the past year alone, God impacted more than 750,000 women daily through our free Encouragement for Today devotions. We celebrated with over 5,000 women who made first-time decisions for Christ, and we led an additional 150,000 women from 120 countries through our Online Bible Studies.

    It’s not only the volunteers and staff who contribute to God’s transforming work. So does everyone who gives a financial gift — no matter the size — to Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    We value every gift and giver. The ones who give hundreds … the ones who forego lattes each month to share their saved $25 … the ones who donate $5.

    Yes, $5 makes a big impact.

    Together, we offer perspective-changing truth that can renew a woman’s heart and mind, no matter what age or stage of life she’s in.

    Together, we point women to the Healer, made known on the pages of Scripture, who can make their spirits whole.

    Together, we teach women how to study the Bible, forgive and mend friendships, strengthen a marriage and effectively parent children.

    Do you want to change the world by offering hope, help and even life from behind your computer screen? We’d love for you to join us. When we give our collective "littles," God transforms them into a big movement that can alter lives both now and for eternity.

    With a click of your mouse, you help change the world.

    We’d be honored if you would join us.

    Dear LORD, thank You for the life-altering and perspective-changing power of Your holy Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 119:11 "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (ESV)

    Psalm 139:23-24 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When is a time that God’s Word helped to change your bad attitude or wrong perspective?

    Will you forward this email to a friend who needs to receive encouragement from God’s Word?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • But You Don't Know My Family

    Posted on December 9, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN

    "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Romans 12:18 (ESV)

    Sometimes the images I spy during the holiday season can deflate my festive spirit and send me instead into a frosty funk.

    A stunning home appears on my television screen complete with color-coordinated décor, an inviting roaring fire and stunning packages under the Christmas tree that look as if they were wrapped at a high-end department store.

    Then, I glance around my home.

    I see ordinary decorations donning our humble tree and gifts wrapped with commonplace paper topped off with tags from the dollar store. And I use the term "wrapped" rather loosely. I'm all thumbs when it comes to holding a roll of tape while also trying to create crisp creases and edges. I usually opt for an easy-open gift bag instead.

    Social media blows up with taunting images too. A holiday tablescape dotted with gourmet foods. Clever crafts. Incredible traditions. All of these can make me feel my holiday season is "less than" by comparison.

    But the images that prompt the most "must-be-nice" feelings in me are the ones of the families gathered together. And they're not just gathered. They also appear to be getting along!

    Family time around the holidays can be rough. Different personalities, lifestyles, schedules, religious beliefs and political views — even the opinions on who should bring the pumpkin pie this year — can all make for an interesting, even explosive, yuletide gathering.

    I used to enter time with family with the goal of everyone behaving. No outright fights, sarcastic statements or backhanded comments. While it didn't always happen, when it did, it was usually due to one particular relative who loves to sling their opinions throughout family events. Before each family gathering with this person, I hoped and prayed that none of their caustic and cruel comments were slung my way. But rarely did that happen.

    Instead I had my mothering skills subtly slammed, my method of mashing potatoes called into question and worse. As a result, my hopes of a happy family gathering were dashed and my feelings got repeatedly — and deeply — hurt.

    Over the years, I have found a tool that helps me when entering into interactions with the in-laws and out-laws. I simply apply today's key verse from Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

    I am not single-handedly responsible for bringing peace to the family gatherings. I can't close the curtain on every scene of drama. I can't force others to be nice. But I can control my words and actions. I can make sure what I say doesn't contribute further to the tension or escalate a minor squabble into a family feud.

    As far as it depends on me, I can behave.

    I can change the subject. Speak in a calm and collected tone when answering the combative person. Or just simply keep my mouth shut and say nothing at all. I can leave the room and go play with the children. Go into the kitchen and quietly do the dishes.

    I've learned I don't need to say every single thing I'm thinking. Or even half the things I'm thinking!

    I can purpose to pray and weigh. Pray that the Lord will help me know if I should speak or remain silent. And weigh each word I do say, asking myself if it is totally appropriate, completely necessary and ultimately gracious.

    Then, when another family gathering is in the books, I can look back and see that I did not contribute to any of the drama that might have ensued, but instead I chose — to the best of my ability — to create or keep the peace. I can then put on my coat, give a round of goodbye hugs and leave the family gathering guilt-free, with no regrets.

    Well, except for that second piece of pumpkin pie.

    Father, when interacting this holiday season with family members, help me to do everything in my ability to live peaceably with all. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 14:19, "So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For more on using your words properly, check out Karen's latest book, releasing next month, entitled Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say it and When to Say Nothing at All. Click here to preorder and be among the first to receive your copy.

    Save the date! Our next Online Bible Study starts January 26 and features Keep It Shut. Watch for updates at Proverbs31.org.

    Visit Karen's blog to enter her 12 Days of Christmas giveaways or sign up for her free email resource about using our words carefully called 5 Days to Sweet & Salty Speech.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Is there someone you encounter at family gatherings whose bad behavior sometimes tempts you to behave poorly in return?

    How can keeping in mind the instructions in Romans 12:18 help you to alter your behavior around that person this year?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • The $285 Cinnamon Roll

    Posted on November 21, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN

    "Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right." Psalm 106:3 (NIV)

    It was a simple cinnamon roll. Well, not the run-of-the-mill, refrigerated whack-open canned variety. It was a jumbo pastry from our local all-night diner, laden with gooey cream cheese frosting. The cost? Just $285.

    My 16-year-old son was spending the night with some boys at a neighbor's house. A little past dark, they got a hankering for this famed treat and decided to make the less than 2-mile trek to satisfy their culinary desire.

    Our state has rules for 16-year-old drivers. They may not have more than one other person in the car unless they are related or the group is heading to or from school. Also, they may not drive past 10 p.m. unless they're returning from school, church or work.

    These boys knew all this, so they decided one of them — age 19 — would drive. However, his car was out of gas. So my son allowed him to drive our car instead. Upon leaving the restaurant, his friend discovered he didn't have his driver's license with him. The group decided it was better for my son to shuttle the gang the short distance home rather than for his friend to drive without his license.

    When they were almost home, the red and blue flashing lights of a police vehicle interrupted their quick outing. My son got pulled over. Questioned. Busted. Not only was my son driving past curfew, but he also had three unrelated passengers in the vehicle with him. He was fined heavily and ordered to pay for an online driving refresher course. Additionally, he had to appear before a judge at the Secretary of State's office.

    Although the authorities told us the hearing is usually just a stern lecture (which we were glad he would get!) when his turn came, the usual judge was ill. Instead, our son appeared before a judge from a neighboring county. She listened to his story. And then? She took his drivers license away completely for two months, and ordered him to pay another three-digit fine to get it back!

    The diner's menu that fateful night listed the cinnamon roll for the meager price of $3 and some change. In the end, it actually cost our son a total of $285 dollars of his own hard-earned money because he did not do the right thing by obeying the laws of our state.

    Although we know we should "always do what is right" as today's key verse urges, sometimes we think we can bend the rules ever so slightly. We might even have good reason, as my son felt he did that night. But a rule is a rule. A law is a law. Breaking them comes with consequences — sometimes even stiff penalties and hefty fines.

    Likewise, we might bend God's rules. Flirt with sin. Rationalize wrongdoing.

    Things such as ... It's not really "gossip" if I'm simply sharing a prayer request. I don't think of it as lying, just creatively leaving out a few minor details. Come on! I'm just reconnecting with a former guy "friend" I found on Facebook for a cup of coffee. What harm could there be in that?

    We might know what God commands of us in Scripture by heart, but sometimes we decide ignoring a command "just this once" isn't really a big deal. We convince ourselves we probably won't get caught. However, these seemingly innocent actions could lead to more costly behavior. Sin snowballs. And it often cruelly crushes those foolish enough to stand in its path.

    When we're tempted to twist God's commands oh-so-slightly, let's remember my cinnamon-roll-craving son. What we think has a very affordable and even enticing price tag might end up costing us a whole lot more.

    Father, please help me to pause before I decide to bend Your commands even a tiny bit. Give me the strength to make right and righteous choices. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Genesis 4:7, "You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master." (NLT)

    Romans 13:3, "For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is one area in your life that — if not kept in check — could potentially lead to a sinful and messy situation? Take this matter to God in prayer now asking Him to empower you with strength to avoid sin and pursue righteousness.

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Dangerous Familiar

    Posted on September 5, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN

    "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" Galatians 4:8-9 (NIV)

    "Aw, come on Mom and Dad ... pleeeeease!"

    During an afternoon drive, our kids spied a "free kittens" sign and begged for their first real pet. My husband and I caved and pulled into the farmhouse. After weeks of pestering, our offspring had won. We would get a kitten, and they would get the chance to prove they could handle the responsibility.

    Our youngest child, Spencer, chose a tiger kitten and proudly toted him out of the barn. When he placed the timid fur ball in the car, the kitten frantically dug his claws into Spencer who let out a scream and let go of the cat. It scurried under the driver's seat, crawled up near the clutch, and somehow managed to squeeze through a small opening into the dashboard where we could not see him.

    As an employee of an automaker, my husband assured us the kitty was safe. Even then, we waited awhile before making the trip home with the stowaway. Once home, he still wouldn't come out. We pulled the car into the garage, opened the driver's side door and tried to bribe our furry friend with some milk and food. Surely the little kitty would get hungry and come out. He did — a full two days later.

    We promptly named him Dash, and he became a normal, playful kitty. But we noticed something about Dash. Whenever he wanted to escape, he would crawl up under the engine of our van and sleep. When we'd start the engine, he would dash out and run into our woods. Apparently, even though his first few minutes with us had been traumatizing, they had made a lasting impression.

    When he wanted to take a break from life, he went back to what felt familiar, even though it initially had been a horrible experience.

    Sometimes we make the same kinds of choices as Dash. When we feel like throwing in the towel for awhile, we revert back to a not-so-nice habit because it feels familiar. Maybe it's a brownie laden with ice cream and hot fudge eaten in secret, a somewhat steamy show or questionable novel, or perhaps a phone conversation to "let off steam" while engaging in gossip.

    Our hidden habits and besetting sins entice us to participate just a little. They promise to offer us rest and a feeling of familiarity, but in reality they are dangerous places for us to lodge.

    Today's verse labels those familiar places that enslaved us before we knew God as "weak and miserable." Paul writes these words to the Christians: "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" (Galatians 4:8-9).

    And that is just what returning to old habits makes us — weak and miserable.

    Determine today to stop hiding out in old destructive habits. Instead, come out into the light of His glorious grace and learn a new method of coping. Race to Him instead of running back to your old ways. His Word is alive and active. It can help us break horrible habits and form new, Jesus-pleasing ones as we reply with a resounding "No" to returning to the dangerous familiar.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for running to the familiar instead of to You. Break sin's hold on me as I strive to break old habits for Your glory alone. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it." (HCSB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    To what familiar habits do you regularly revert? Write them down. Then come up with one or two alternative actions you could take the next time you are tempted to participate in an old pattern.

    Recruit a friend to help you resist becoming enslaved by old habits. Call her for prayer when you feel yourself slipping back into wrongful ways.

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Just Nine Doors Down

    Posted on June 18, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these.'" Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

    In the two years since we'd moved into our new neighborhood, I'd seen her on my walks. Sometimes she was rolling her trash can out to the curb. Or in her front yard watering her flowers. I'd smile and say "Hi" for a brief second.

    After all, my neighborhood is big; my life is busy. So I'd pop my headphones back in and keep walking to my house, just nine doors down.

    Awhile back, there were flashing lights, sirens and all things alarming in our neighborhood. A fire, maybe? ... I thought as I drove into my neighborhood, returning from an errand-running venture. My mama's heart raced. My 12-year-old son was home alone. Had he burnt some toast and set the smoke alarm system blaring? Or worse?

    As my car approached, I saw it was not my house, but another house nine doors down. Relief for my soul.

    And though the rescue vehicles were parked in front of my nine-doors-down neighbor's house, no fire appeared to blaze there either.

    Must have been a false alarm, I reasoned to myself.

    Two days later, I heard the awful news. No fire. No smoke. Just a terribly saddened soul.

    You see, just nine doors down, something happened in the mind of my nameless, flower-watering, smile-and-say-hello fellow human being. Something told her this life wasn't worth living anymore. And she agreed.

    Now her heart no longer beats. Her flowers still grow, but she can't water them anymore. I can still walk by her house, lost deeply in the Jesus-music blaring on my iPod. Staring straight ahead. Rushing to the next thing on my to-do list for the day.

    Nine doors down, there will be no more hand-waves. No smiles as I stroll by. And no more thoughts of, I should stop and find out her name. I haven't really met this gal yet. If I'd reached out and befriended her, would she have seen Jesus in our friendship?

    Could we have walked the neighborhood streets together? Maybe gone for coffee to get to know each other a bit? Would a glimpse of the perfect God in the life of an imperfect me perhaps beckoned her to have a relationship with Him, too? Would she have found God's purpose and peace instead of finding a way to end her emotional pain?

    God only knows.

    I am a woman who wants to love God, but so often I am too busy to really love the people He puts plainly in my path. But this love, as today's key verse declares, is more important than all the sacrifices we could make.

    I cannot beat myself up. But I can do something. So can you. We can pause, permitting God to tap us on the heart, gently interrupt us and rearrange our day.

    We can go deeper ... beyond a hurried "Hi!" to an authentic, "How are you?" When God knocks on our hearts, we can knock on their doors.

    Will you do it? Will you try? Then once you've reached out, leave the results to God. Our job is obedience. God's job is results.

    Trust me, it is AWFUL to get to know your neighbor through the tales and tears of her relatives at a memorial service. I wish I had made the time and gotten to know her personally.

    May we all respond to those taps on our hearts today and not ignore them. God just may use us as He saves a life.

    After all, remember it isn't that far of a walk ... just nine doors down.

    Dear Lord, I want to be aware of the times You tap my heart, asking me to reach out to someone. May I pay attention and respond, so they might know You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    James 4:17, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." (NIV 1984)

    Proverbs 3:28, "Do not say to your neighbor, 'Come back tomorrow and I'll give it to you' — when you already have it with you.'" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Was there ever a time you felt God nudging you to reach out to a neighbor, coworker or other person in your life, whom you didn't know very well? Did you? If not, how could you respond differently in the future?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • No, After You

    Posted on May 26, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13 (NIV)

    "I call shotgun, Mama Karen!" the strapping teen yelled as he approached my car after football practice.

    "No way, Javari! Get in the back. She's my mom, dude. I get the front!" my son Spencer hollered back, trying to jockey for the prime piece of vehicle real estate known as the front passenger seat. Then, while the two of them playfully argued over whose turn it was to ride next to me, their friend Grant quietly slipped in front, grinning with a smile of victory.

    Kids like to get their own way. So do adults. During my substitute teaching years, I spent many days getting children to take turns at recess or not cut in line at lunch. I broke up fights over seats in the library and over who was going to be captain during flag football.

    A morning commute in traffic will showcase how adults also like to get their own way and be first. Horns honk and nasty looks are exchanged as drivers vie for their spot on the road, sometimes speeding or cutting others off in the process. But how refreshing it is to meet a kind person in a traffic jam, one who waves you on and allows you to move over a lane. And when they do it with a smile, this rare gesture restores faith in the human race.

    I used to read today's key verse about laying down our lives, and thought of it as a person actually dying for another, which of course is the greatest love of all. But I have also come to think of "laying down my life" as the little choices which put others first.

    Putting others first doesn't come naturally to us. Our innate tendency is to reach for the biggest slice of pie rather than offer it to a family member. It takes a conscious effort to allow others to go before you or to let them have what you really want. This is why I have always been impressed at those who seem to do it regularly.

    My mother is one who made selfless choices, when as a single mom on a tight budget, she would wear the same threadbare coat winter after winter in order to make sure her children had warm jackets.

    I also think of Alma, whom I've known since she was the Sunday school teacher for the preschool class when my adult daughter was young. Conversations with this sweet woman are sure to revolve around you and your family. She rarely talks about herself, but instead wants to know how she can be praying for you and your loved ones. She is known by many as "the nicest woman in the world."

    Then there's the man at church who opens doors for others, helps visitors find a cup of coffee or locate a classroom, and does it all with a genuine smile. He is not an official usher. Just a kind soul.

    But I also know people who've given more. Like Andrew, my friend Tami's son. I first knew Andrew as an energetic toddler. Throughout his life he wanted to serve. To protect. To save. It was evident in his play as a child and with his future goals as a teen. Then one day, as a 19-year-old soldier, he laid down his life for his country on a battlefield far away.

    Most likely we won't ever be called to make the ultimate sacrifice, but could we vow to put others first a little more often? To intentionally look for ways to meet their needs while we put ours on hold? To, in a sense, lay down a little of our lives daily for another?

    When we do, we will be modeling Christ to a watching world as we learn to live a life that says, "No, you first."

    I'm in. Are you? If we ever meet in person someday, I'll hold the door open for you with a smile. Why, I just might even let you take the biggest piece of pie. {Maybe.}

    Dear Lord, help me to be unselfish, to intentionally look for ways to put others first in the little things in life. Maybe even in making the ultimate sacrifice if ever I'm called upon. When people look at me, I want them to see You instead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 3:18, "Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action." (HCSB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    In America, today is Memorial Day, the day we honor those who have given their lives in service to our country. Take time to attend a parade or ceremony in your area or join in a call to pause, pray and remember with others around the country.

    Pray about a way you can put others before yourself today. Then, go and do it.

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Pause Before You Pounce

    Posted on May 12, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed ..." Proverbs 31:26-28a (ESV)

    On a sunny spring day, I sat in my backyard with my friend Suzy and our kids. While we relaxed in lawn chairs, sipping lemonade, a few of the children played on the swing set. The rest sat at our bright yellow children's picnic table, purchased just days earlier. They were happily creating masterpieces on the pages of several coloring books.

    When it came time to serve lunch, I helped the children clear their coloring supplies off the table. As I grabbed the crayons and coloring books, I spied a frightful sight. One of Suzy's daughters had gone into the house and grabbed permanent markers to color with instead of the crayons. And colored with them she did – all over the brand new picnic table! She'd even written her name in her very best 7-year-old penmanship.

    I was angry that our newly purchased picnic table was now laden with red and purple permanent graffiti. I wanted to raise my voice and shout and scream my displeasure. But I didn't. Instead, I leaned over and gently spoke to my friend's child.

    "Oh, Kelly. Miss Karen wants you to use crayons when you color, not markers. Would you please go put them back in the house? Thank you, honey."

    My eldest child's jaw dropped when she saw how I reacted to the situation with kindness and a calm voice.

    Loud enough for everyone to hear, she said, "Man! It's a good thing it was you, Kelly, and not one of us. Mom would've hollered at us something awful if we'd done that!"

    Ouch.

    My daughter simply vocalized a truth she noticed in my life: I tend to lose my cool with my family, but somehow manage to keep calm when I interact with others.

    Today's key verse, describing the actions of the woman from Proverbs 31:26, states, "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Can that be said of us? Or would a reality TV reporter capture the way we talk to our families and announce, "She snaps with caustic words, and 'Why can't you this?' and 'You should have that!' rolls angrily off her tongue."

    When communicating with others, it appears this woman in the Scripture Hall of Fame was careful to speak in a way that honored and glorified God. In the Amplified Version of the Bible, which is rendered as close to the original language as possible, Proverbs 31:26 reads, "She opens her mouth in skillful and godly Wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness [giving counsel and instruction]."

    "Kindness."

    The tone of voice you'd use with a stranger.

    Friendly, not feisty.

    And the words, "giving counsel."

    Counsel is giving advice and guidance in a gentle but direct way that helps the person who's seeking the instruction. Counsel is not barking. Counsel is not belittling. Counsel is not filled with superlatives like "Why can't you ever _____?" and "See, you never _____!"

    I faced the music that day and owned up to the truth my child pointed out: I tend to extend grace to those outside my family — even complete strangers — while so easily snapping at the people within my home.

    Yes, there are times we must instruct and correct our families. Yet when we do, we should be conscientious and kind while giving counsel. It's not always easy, but God is always available to help me not to be controlling, complaining or critical.

    Perhaps we would all do better to learn to pause before we pounce when interacting with our loved ones, treating them with the respect we tend to give others. Or better yet, to pause, pray and then not pounce at all!

    Dear Lord, I want to run my home well, but as I seek to do so, help me to pause before I react, to ensure my words and actions are pleasing to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)

    Psalm 101:2, "I will be careful to lead a blameless life — when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Was there ever a time when you barked at your family about how things were done around your home? What happened?

    In retrospect, how could the situation have been handled differently?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Turning Worry Into Worship

    Posted on April 16, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)

    I think I have the worry gene. And I'm sure I got it from my mother. She passed down her aqua blue eyes to me, her slightly-crooked smile and her tendency to worry.

    This trait didn't show up when I was younger. In fact, when I was a teenager, I thought it strange that my mom couldn't go to sleep until I got home. Then, I had teenagers of my own, and now I do what she did: sit on the couch appearing to watch television, while my mind rehearses the quickest route to the hospital, or perhaps even plans a funeral.

    Before I had children, I didn't understand the stories my mom shared about her concerns for my health. When I was a toddler, she took me to the doctor because I kept falling when I walked. After observing me play in his office, he assured her that my mind was working faster than my legs. I wanted one object and headed toward it, but then changed my mind and wanted something else.

    You'd think the story would have calmed my own fears when I became a mom. Not so. When my first-born was more than a year old and not yet crawling, I was certain something was medically wrong and headed to the doctor.

    Today, I find endless reasons to worry. Kids. Marriage. Finances. Health. Relationships. The future. If I let my thoughts run wild, I can concoct all sorts of terrible scenarios, all starting with "what if." What if my husband gets laid off? What if my aging parent needs to move into a nursing home or live with us? What if I get sick and can no longer care for my family?

    Over time, I've noticed something about worry: 99% of my past dreads never came true. However, I spent oodles of time fretting about them. How I wish I could redeem that time, to do something productive instead! What if I had turned my worry into worship?

    Contrast my attitude with the woman in today's key verse, Proverbs 31:25 says, "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." No weariness in her thoughts and actions. She laughed at the days to come! Not in a careless sort of way, but with a confidence that came from God.

    Because she wore strength and dignity due to her faith in God, she had a smile on her face and a chuckle in her heart when considering the future. She trusted in God, whose faithfulness in the past assured her He would work out circumstances in the future.

    This has happened many times in my life. Often, things that concerned me have turned out to be blessings instead. For example, when our son was in third grade, we discovered he had severe dyslexia. Oh, the time I spent worried about his academic progress! Even fun milestones for other children were cause for fretting. Would he pass his hunter safety course? His driver's ed written test? And what about college?

    God used my son's learning disability to grow my faith. As I learned to turn my panic into fervent prayer and praise, and trust God's plan and timing, my relationship with God strengthened. Plus, we saw our son grow stronger and more confident as he overcame each cognitive hurdle.

    That's just one way God worked in me to replace my worry gene with confidence in Him. Each time I've turned worry into worship, I find it easier to laugh at the days to come, like my Proverbs 31 sister.

    God knows my future as well as He knows me. My job is to seek to know Him more as I place my future in His hands.

    Oh, and to laugh a little more often.

    Dear Lord, help me turn my worry into worship, believing that You alone know the future. May I rest in Your loving arms, knowing You have my best interest at heart. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Was there ever a time you were worried about something that never came true? In retrospect, how do you wish you had handled it differently?

    Spend some time today praying over your concerns. Choose to trust God has you in His care.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 112:7, "They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Making the Resurrection Real

    Posted on March 26, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness. Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles." Psalm 145:3-5 (NLT)

    The television host leaned over to make sure the microphone was close to the precocious girl's mouth so as to catch her every word. He'd just asked her, along with a panel of other school-aged children, about the real meaning of Easter. Her classmates' answers ranged from getting candy and trinkets from the Easter Bunny to the official beginning of spring.

    This curly-haired youngster seemed to have an answer that was more spiritual and accurate than the others. She spoke quietly into the microphone stating, "Easter is the time when Jesus died on a cross for our sins and got buried in a tomb."

    "That's right!" the host responded. "But He didn't stay in the grave, did He honey? Tell the audience what happened next."

    "Oh, that's easy!" she chimed. "He rises from the dead and comes out of the grave."

    The host smiled and started to commend her for her correct answer. But before he could, the no longer camera-shy student grabbed the microphone, pulled it closer to her mouth and heartily added, "And each year, if He sees His shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter!"

    Often holiday traditions can get mixed in with the real essence of holy days. Which can be confusing, like when that sweet little girl merged Easter with Groundhog Day. As a child, I wondered what Santa caravanning his reindeer through snowstorms had to do with baby Jesus who was born in Bethlehem. Wasn't that in a desert?

    And I never did figure out why the Easter Bunny brought me chocolate eggs each year. Didn't chickens lay eggs, not rabbits?

    Today's passage from Psalms encourages us to teach our children and future generations of God's mighty acts. We are to proclaim His power over all the earth. I can't think of a more powerful act than when God raised His only Son Jesus from the dead, making a way for us to gain access to heaven to live with Him for all eternity.

    There are many fun, family-bonding Easter traditions to celebrate with children. But this year, why not be intentional to tell the powerful story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in ways that stick in little minds? Here are some ideas to help make the reality of the story come alive for us too:

    • Attend a live passion play put on by a church in your area.

    • Read the account of Jesus' last week of life out loud as a family while enjoying a favorite snack. Read a passage each night beginning in Luke 22:1 through the end of the book of Luke.

    • Watch a movie on the life of Jesus. The Jesus Film by Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) is well done with each scene coming directly from the words of the Bible. Make sure to decide if the child is ready to see a depiction of the crucifixion.

    • Use Resurrection Eggs to tell the story over several days. (See the Related Resource section below for purchase information.)

    All of these activities help portray the true meaning of this sacred season and point the children to the God who created them, knows them and sent His only Son to die on a cross for them.

    Let's purpose to tell of God's mighty act of raising Jesus from the dead to the generations that come after us. Fun traditions can be OK, so long as we don't miss the real meaning of this Christian holy day.

    Dear Lord, help me to tell of Your wondrous power and mighty acts to those generations that come after me. May I not let the season pass by without pondering the real meaning of Easter. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Was there ever a time in your life when the secular traditions and the true spiritual meaning of a holiday got mixed up for you?

    In what ways have you seen Easter celebrated that drove home the real meaning of the season?

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 71:18 "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come." (NIV)

    John 17:3 "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (NKJV)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Scurrying or Seated?

    Posted on February 28, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations." Luke 10:39-40 (NASB)

    I glanced at the clock on the wall. How was it 11:45 already? Where had the time gone? It was nearly noon and I wasn't even halfway through my to-do list for the morning.

    My day had started hours earlier when I had bounded out of bed with a goal of knocking off a bevy of tasks around the house, on the computer and in my little hometown. Scrawled out on a baby-blue legal pad, my plan included things to cook, calls to make and errands to run.

    I'd started whittling down my list as soon as my family left for school and work. Now at mid-day, I still had four or five items left undone and no way to accomplish them before my 1 p.m. dentist appointment to get a crown on my tooth.

    My spirit sank. What's my problem? I wondered. Did I underestimate how long each task would take? Or did I overestimate my ability to execute them quickly? Or, perhaps, it was a little bit of both.

    I also hadn't factored in the interruptions. A text from my daughter needing help on a tax form. An email from a friend wanting a recipe for company coming over later that day. A neighbor whose computer was on the blink and needed to borrow ours to make an order online. More distractions and delays.

    A little nervous about my dentist appointment, I called my friend Mary to ask for prayer. As we visited, I shared the details of my frustrating morning, and asked how her day was going. She replied that she hadn't completed what she'd hoped to either, concluding, "But I had a good long time alone with God this morning praying and reading my Bible which is what I needed most, so it's okay."

    My heart sank as I realized my problem: I hadn't taken time for the most important detail of the day. Spending time with God wasn't even on my radar. Maybe if I had spent time with the Lord I wouldn't have felt so much frustration at my lack of productivity.

    Our key verse today tells of another woman who put chores ahead of spending time with Jesus. The story in Luke 10 tells of two sisters and how they spent their time when Jesus came to visit. Martha was busy scurrying to get to the end of her "to-do list," but Mary chose a different path. She settled herself at Jesus' feet, soaking in His words and His presence.

    Later on we read that when Martha complained to the Lord that Mary wasn't helping her, He replied, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42, NASB).

    There's no doubt Martha's sister Mary also had things to do. So did my friend Mary. But in the case of each Mary, they chose to do the best thing first: position themselves where they could clearly hear from the Lord.

    Perhaps today we can set aside our to-do lists until we've mimicked the Marys. Let's vow to meet with God before we attempt to meet the challenges of the day. Yes, maybe that's the key. Let's stop scurrying and be seated instead.

    There is always plenty of room at His feet.

    Dear Lord, help me to take time today to meet with You before I try to tackle the tasks of the day. Give me the perspective that You are more important than my never-ending list of tasks. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Can you remember a time when you didn't get to the end of your to-do list? Now, think back. Did you have a time alone with God that day? How, if so, how did it make a difference?

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 27:8, "You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, LORD, do I seek.'" (ESV)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

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