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Author Archives: Tracie Miles

  • What if I Don't Get Any More Tomorrows?

    Posted on April 11, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog — it's here a little while, then it's gone." James 4:14 (NLT)

    Before the plane backed away from the gate, the flight attendant warned us: "It's been a rough day in the air. Prepare yourself for tremendous turbulence." Although I wanted to make a mad dash for the door, I simply tightened my seat belt and prayed for safety. Soon, her verbal warning became a reality.

    The plane rocked back and forth, as if it were slamming into walls instead of fluffy clouds. It was a short, but difficult, flight and after several attempts at landing, we were diverted to another airport, adding hours to the trip.

    During this extra time in the air, I did a lot of thinking about what was most important in my life. I didn't really believe we would crash, but I couldn't keep from wondering ... What if the worst happens? What if I don't get any more tomorrows?

    I thought about my loved ones. What were my last words to them? Were they kind or harsh? Were they filled with love, or merely instructions to carry out during my absence? Did I hug everyone and tell them how much they meant to me? If I didn't make it home, had I prepared my children spiritually and emotionally to handle life, trust God and walk in faith? Had I told my husband how much I appreciated him?

    Was there anyone I needed to forgive? Were there people I had been meaning to call or visit but never took the time? Had my priorities and plans been in line with God's will? Had I sought God's insight about everything on my to-do list? Had I done all I could to bring glory to God? Would I be ready to meet Jesus face to face?

    Although my heart knew God was in control, my mind and emotions ran wild as I peered out the oval window at the dark clouds hovering all around us.

    In an effort to ignore the panicked voice over the intercom, I began searching my Bible for scriptures about how God knows the number of our days. The first verse I found was today's key verse.

    In the rest of chapter 4, James reprimands the people for their self-centered living. Their self-indulgent, judgmental and prideful ways caused arguments and quarrels. They were consumed with business profits and neglected to seek God's insight.

    They focused on their personal agendas instead of what actually mattered. They acted as if God didn't exist, or didn't matter, and pursued their own plans. They disregarded God's control over their lives and the number of their days.

    James then wrote these words that spoke truth into my heart, "How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog — it's here a little while, then it's gone" (James 4:14).

    That passage could have been written to me. Sometimes I focus on my own plans, ignoring that only God knows how long He will allow me to carry them out. Other times, I make plans without seeking God's will and get distracted by lesser things, instead of what really matters.

    James wanted his readers to remember God directs us to live with a holy perspective, knowing every breath we take is one more gift from God. We aren't promised any tomorrows, so we need to live today with an eternal perspective.

    I remained calm in the midst of the airborne chaos, but that time of reflection in the bumpy skies served as a great reminder not to take time for granted. I don't want to assume I'll always have another tomorrow, or another chance to love on those I love the most. From now on, I want to include God in my plans and serve Him as best I can.

    Lord, forgive me for focusing on my own plans or neglecting to seek Your insight. Help me to never put off until tomorrow what You want me to do today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What might I need to do today that I've been putting off until tomorrow?

    Have I sought God's insight about my future plans, or wise counsel from a trusted friend?

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (NIV)

    Proverbs 16:9, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Living in a World Gone Wrong

    Posted on March 28, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" Psalm 10:1 (NIV)

    By the time I returned home that night, I was so agitated that sleep was impossible.

     

    I had travelled six hours by car and made the mistake of listening to news channels rather than my usual Christian music station. Throughout the drive, I became increasingly frustrated and irritated, as I heard one bad news story after another. My mind was spinning with thoughts, and my heart filled with emotions.

    The strongest emotion by far was sadness at the stark reality of our world gone terribly wrong.

    Stories of abuse, death, disaster, political corruption and a general lack of integrity are everywhere. At times it seems the voices and desires of those who are against God's ways shout louder than those who love Him and promote His ways. It frustrates me that things are getting worse instead of better.

    Driving down the interstate with my mind full of mental clutter, my heart felt heavy. I wondered what God's answer might be if I could ask Him, "God, what in the world is going on in this world? And when are You going to take action?"

    In Psalm 10, David expressed this same type of frustration and confusion. He asked the Lord why it appeared He wasn't doing anything about the wickedness of the world, or taking control of the cruelty, violence and injustices that ran rampant through their corrupt society. He questioned why wicked people were allowed to get away with their wrongdoings.

    David wanted to know when God was going to step in and do something. Anything. David prayed with a desperate heart, begging God's intervention.

    Maybe you have felt that way too. Maybe you are struggling with difficult circumstances, and you feel as if God is standing far away, not intervening with help. Maybe you have struggled while walking in God's ways, while others with less-than-godly motives succeed. Or maybe you too are frustrated with the direction our world seems to be headed.

    This is how David felt as well, but in Psalm 10:16-18a, we see his tone change from frustration to hope when he says, "The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed ..." (NIV). David took comfort in remembering and believing that God was with him, and in due time, He would prevail.

    In prayer, David voiced his deepest fears and honest feelings. He solicited God's wisdom for greater understanding, yet surrendered to trusting that God sees all, knows all and would handle it all when the time was right.

    Our world has gone wrong due to the existence of sin, but we have a choice in how we respond. Instead of letting despair pull us further from God, or cause us to doubt His goodness, we can choose to lean on our faith and draw closer to Him instead, just like David.

    Let's choose to proclaim God's sovereignty today, trust in His ways and be a voice for His truths even when the ways of this world break our hearts.

    Lord, help me remember that You are in control, no matter how out of control this world seems. Give me the desire to stay grounded in You no matter what I see on the news, or what challenges I personally face, and to trust You wholeheartedly. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Do I feel forgotten or overlooked by God, or do I doubt His sovereignty over this world?

    Read Psalms 9, 10 and 11. Consider how your life and the world we live in mirrors much of what David describes. Ask God to speak to you through these scriptures and fill you with comfort and hope regarding our world and the situations you face in your personal life.

    Power Verses:
    Proverbs 21:2, "A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart." (NIV)

    Ephesians 6:13, "Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet." (MSG)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Overcoming the Doubts of Motherhood

    Posted on March 5, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 (NIV)

    It was another one of those days when I wondered why God ever thought I was capable of being a mother.

    I haven't always thought that way. When my children were younger, parenting seemed easier. I nursed their little wounds, played their favorite games, helped with homework and tucked them into bed each night with prayers and goodnight kisses.

    But years passed and my sweet little ones started maturing, with their own opinions, hormones, friends, social lives and tempers. My heart broke with each disagreement. Frustration rose with every disrespectful word. My fears elevated, worry became my middle name and at times it seemed every ounce of patience had dripped out of my body.

    So on that particular day, when it seemed I could do nothing right, insecurities and doubts flooded my mind.

    With a heavy sigh, I slipped away to my room, sunk onto my bed, rested my head in my hands and prayed. I asked God for guidance, understanding and patience (lots of it). I prayed for the strength to continue standing strong in my parenting beliefs, even if they made me unpopular with my children and their friends. I prayed for peace and joy to fill my heart, even when our house didn't seem peaceful or joyful.

    But then a confession slipped from my lips: "Lord, I obviously don't know how to be a parent now. I feel painfully inadequate and incapable of doing it right."

    Through a quiet whisper to my spirit, the word "confidence" popped into my thoughts. God gently reminded me that depending on my own strength would eventually shake my confidence because deep down, I know my weaknesses.

    Despite how hard I tried to be the mom God called me to be, I always fell short in my own eyes. Plus, I allowed difficult situations or comparison to other parents to shake my confidence. I needed to start depending on His strength to find my confidence instead.

    Later that day, I searched for scriptures relating to "confidence" and came across today's key verses, which soothed this mama's heart. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians reassures us that although life can cause us to doubt our capabilities, we can always find strength and confidence by trusting in the Lord.

    When we rely on God in everything we do, including raising our children, we can be confident He will equip us for this calling of motherhood.

    On those days when we doubt our strength, we can ask God for His strength to persevere.

    On those days when we feel like the least-liked person in our homes, we can ask for confidence to stand strong in our beliefs.

    On those days when we question whether or not we're cut out to be a parent, we can find assurance knowing God will surely stay beside us during the journey.

    Most importantly, on those days when we find ourselves hiding in our bedrooms, we can boldly approach the throne of God, knowing with full confidence He hears our prayers and will give us wisdom to carry out this task of parenting.

    That was not the last day I felt inadequate and insecure about my parenting skills. But now when those feelings creep in, I remember to pause and seek holy confidence.

    The question we should ask ourselves when doubt creeps in isn't whether we're perfect parents. Instead, we can ask whether our children will look back and be thankful we loved them enough to pray and persevere through the hardest of days.

    And that alone will be a rich reward.

    Jesus, please strengthen me to persevere through the trying days of parenting children. Let me not waiver, but stand firm in what I know to be right, despite peer pressure from children, friends, other parents or society. Help me remember to be confident by believing You have equipped me to be the parent my children need. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have I allowed the challenges of parenting to cause me to doubt my abilities?

    Consider the most difficult struggles weighing on your heart today with respect to raising your children. Pause and talk to God about your feelings. Seek support and confidence in Him.

    Power Verses:
    Jeremiah 17:7, "But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him." (NIV)

    1 John 5:14, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Ruin Your Appetite for God

    Posted on February 18, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

    With the summer season just a few calendar pages away, the media is preparing to bombard us with information about new diets, exercise programs and creative ideas for healthy eating. So in light of all the buzz, I considered my own health goals for this season and wondered what changes I need to make.

    My thoughts soon wandered away from my physical health, to my spiritual health. As I pondered the junk food I need to remove from my diet and toss from my cupboards, I considered what spiritual junk food needed to go as well.

    Junk food is usually delicious in flavor, low in nutritional value, but high in fat and calories. While okay once in awhile, if I fill myself with junk food on a daily basis, I won't be hungry for nutritious food.

    In the same way junk food derails our health goals, succumbing to the temptations of spiritual junk food throws us off track and curbs our appetite for God.

    Today's key verse addresses this subject of filling ourselves with God's Word, instead of the temptations of the world. In this first chapter of Joshua, God appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites after the death of Moses. To prepare Joshua for the task, God gave him instructions and encouragement. God explained the importance of meditating on His Word to avoid temptation and sin, and the importance of keeping His commands on Joshua's lips.

    God knew the distractions and discouragements of the world could easily derail Joshua from God's chosen path. So He commanded Joshua to have a daily menu of God's truth — to meditate on the Law every day and talk about it often — so that His ways would always be fresh in Joshua's mind. In other words, God wanted Joshua to be filled with His Word, so that he would have no hunger for the temptations of the world.

    An infinite amount of spiritual junk food tickles our fingertips every day through television, movies, computers, smart phones, books, radio and more. Even though these mediums can offer good "food" as well, if we don't use spiritual discernment to selectively choose what we are consuming, we may find ourselves filled with the wrong things, and a curbed appetite for what is spiritually nutritious.

    If we aren't careful, the spiritual junk food the world offers might inadvertently become our primary source of nourishment, diminishing our appetite for God's Word and lessening our desire for healthy portions of His instruction.

    Too much junk food of any kind will weaken our bodies and our spirits. But spending time with God and keeping His Word on our lips will bring strength and health, inside and out. Might we put His words on our lips today and pray for an insatiable hunger from this day forward?

    Dear Lord, open my eyes to the spiritual junk food I have fed my heart and mind. Help me see where I need to make some changes in order to be spiritually healthier. Give me the courage and perseverance to break unhealthy habits and focus on what You know is best for me instead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What "junk food" have I been consuming that is possibly curbing my appetite for God and His Word, and negatively impacting my relationship with Him?

    Ask yourself these three questions, and then pray over your honest answers:

    1. In what ways do I feed my heart and mind on a daily basis? (TV, radio, books, God's Word, devotions, etc.)
    2. Does my hunger for God outweigh my hunger for other "foods"?
    3. What two changes can I make in my daily life to increase my appetite for God?

    Power Verses:
    1 Peter 2:2-3, "Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness." (NLT)

    Matthew 4:4, "Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (NIV)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • New Year's Traditions

    Posted on December 31, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

    While driving my kids to school one morning, I asked what their favorite Miles' Family Christmas traditions were. My daughters answered in unison, "We don't have any traditions."

    I was shocked and a little annoyed as I replied, "You mean all these years I have been trying to make memories for you, and you honestly think we don't have any special traditions?!" My holiday spirit diminished as my blood pressure rose.

    They meekly asked me to remind them about these traditions. I provided them with an exhaustive list of family holiday activities and events that we've participated in every year since their births.

    When I stopped to take a breath, one said, "Oh, I just thought those were things we do every year. I didn't know they were traditions."

    I was relieved all my Christmas efforts had been noticed. And smiled realizing the problem was a simple lack of understanding the word "tradition."

    The conversation wouldn't leave my thoughts, so when I got home, I read the definition of "tradition." The first definition was, "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." The second definition read, "a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting and a continuing pattern of culture, beliefs or practices."

    Through the misunderstanding with my children, God showed me annual activities and events aren't the only things we should pass down to our kids. Rather I should be concerned about spiritual traditions - the passing down of faith - as even more important.

    I had been fretting over my children remembering that we drank hot chocolate while putting up our Christmas tree one month out of the year, when I should have been focusing on the spiritual traditions throughout the entire year.

    With a bit more research, I realized God gave us guidance on how to do this in Deuteronomy 11:18-19. He was talking to the Israelites in this passage, but the wisdom applies today:

    "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (NIV)

    This verse changed my thinking about traditions. Now my New Year's resolution each year is to focus on the spiritual traditions I can pass down throughout the entire year in the Miles' home. Traditions that will matter long term and make a difference in the hearts of others.

    Deuteronomy 11 guides me in making these resolutions. They include reading the Bible with my kids and applying it to everyday life. Also important are talking to them about God and praying with them, memorizing verses together, and understanding Scripture so that all we do reflects the love of Christ.

    I don't want these spiritual traditions to be passed down simply by word of mouth, but by practice. As a parent, I have to live out these traditions in my own life to lead my kids to pick them up. The tradition of reading, living out, and loving God's Word is a tradition worth passing down.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for losing sight at times of what is really important. Help me see ways I can build spiritual traditions in my home that will impact hearts and lives for generations to come. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Consider what traditions you focus on in your home. Are they all attached to a holiday, or are there spiritual traditions that create a bond to Jesus year-round? Ask God to show you what new traditions you can begin in your family to help them learn God's Word.

    If your children were asked what your spiritual traditions were, what would they say?

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." (ESV)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Calming Our Hearts

    Posted on December 24, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness." Psalm 145:7 (NIV)

    In the midst of the busyness of Christmas, I often pull away to calm my heart and quiet my thoughts with a cup of hot cocoa. I love to feel warm and peaceful while sipping a cup of steaming chocolate with marshmallows piled on top.

    But there is another reason I love cocoa. Each letter of my favorite winter drink helps me focus my heart on Christ and to live out Psalm 145:7, "They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness." (NIV)

    C – CHRIST "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit." Matthew 1:18 (NIV 1984)

    It's easy to focus on shopping and planning Christmas Day menus instead of seeking Jesus. Take a break today from searching for that last-minute present or perfect recipe to spend time praising God for the gift of His Son.

    O – ORNAMENTS "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV 1984)

    Decking the halls can be a lot of fun, but have we adorned our hearts with God's love and compassion, patience and kindness? When we do, our words and actions will glorify God and bless others.

    C – CHEERFULLY CELEBRATE THE SEASON "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 (NIV)

    Although Christmas is meant to be a joyous season, it's also a time we might struggle with depression and discouragement. Focusing on God's truth that we are valued and loved as children of God can remove that shroud of darkness and replace it with great joy. This month will be over in a few days, but the peace and hope we find in God's love are forever.

    O – OVERJOYED not OVERWHELMED "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

    Many of us are overjoyed to kick off the Christmas season but feel overwhelmed by the middle of the month, much less the day before Christmas. Reconnect with the wonder and awe of celebrating Christ as you bring a gift of gratitude to Jesus for coming as our Savior. When we focus our hearts on all God has done, we won't get as easily overwhelmed by all that we'd like to get done.

    A – ABUNDANCE "... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10b (NIV)

    Whenever I think of Christmas morning, from my childhood to the present, the word abundance comes to mind. Abundance of gifts, food, and activities. But these things are temporary. What we need is the abundant life Jesus came to give us. Our hearts need His mercy, peace, and love—not only on Christmas day, but every day throughout each year.

    I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a cup of Christmas cocoa. Will you join me? Let's take time to ponder the verses above and make room for God's love to pour into our hearts. His abundant goodness is worthy to be celebrated!

    Dear Lord, thank You for giving me the gift of Your Son. Please help me not get so caught up in the earthly celebrations of Christmas that I forget to celebrate all I have in Christ. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have you allowed the chaos of Christmas to overshadow your celebration of Christ?

    How can you share God's goodness with others?

    Power Verses:
    Number 6:25-26, "The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Most Important Christmas Choice

    Posted on December 4, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.'" Luke 2:13-14 (NLT)

    Tis' the season to be merry... and stressed. Although it should be a season of peace, this month can often make us feel more tangled up inside than a messy string of Christmas lights.

    Some people dread the hustle, bustle, and emotional rustle this time of year brings, knowing that irritability, loneliness, or depression will threaten. While there are others who may love the Christmas season, but worry, busyness, family conflicts, and unmet expectations take their toll.

    In either case, we have a decision. We can choose to get bogged down with stress or we can choose to bow down in worship.

    Scripture gives us a beautiful picture of praise in Luke 2:13-14. When Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds sharing the good news. Then many other angels joined together and praised God.

    "Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.'" (NLT)

    That's not the only place the Bible records angels worshipping the Lord. In Hebrews 1:6 it says, "And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, 'Let all of God's angels worship him.'" (NLT) And Revelation 5:11-12a says, "Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus." (NLT)

    Angels serve as role models of worship. They bow down before Jesus. They shout with incredible joy as they sing songs of praise. Through worship, angels spread the news of God's glory and exhibit holy reverence. Angels intentionally and deliberately spend time praising God.

    Keeping Christ in Christmas is more than just a cliché. It is an intentional act of worship. It requires a heart of adoration, much like the angels had. When Jesus is the focus of our holiday, we're centered on His love, peace, and joy.

    This prompts us to be His hands and feet to others in need. When worship fills our hearts, it leaves little room for aggravation in long lines at the store. We focus on what Christmas is truly about—the amazing gift of a Savior—rather than stressing out over buying the perfect presents. We exhibit grace to someone when we'd rather do otherwise. Worship turns our attention to giving thanks to Jesus for all He has done, rather than letting stress strip His joy from our hearts.

    And it might even mean joining in with the heavenly chorus to sing praises to Him, even if we can't carry a tune!

    The holidays can bring a flurry of heightened emotions and can often result in an unhealthy level of stress which can prevent us from engaging in worship and praising the One we are supposed to be celebrating.

    There will be lots of choices to be made during the month of December: where to serve, what gifts to buy, and how many events to attend. The most important choice we can make is to worship and sing praises to our Lord. For His gift. For His love. For His peace.

    And when our hearts are at peace, our holidays can be too.

    Lord, I choose to intentionally worship and praise You during this Christmas season. Help me stay focused on You and Your goodness. Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Pick a praise song that you will commit to sing to the Lord this Christmas season as a way to intentionally focus on worshipping Him.

    How have you allowed the emotions of the season to distract you from worship?

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 148:2, "Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Adjusting Our Holiday Focus

    Posted on November 20, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)

    As I stared at the hard wood floor covered in shattered ornaments and tangled lights, tears welled up in my eyes.

    The frustration over my fallen Christmas tree had pushed me to the breaking point. This was not the first time my decorated tree had crashed to the floor that week. It was the fourth.

    After a fun day of picking out a tree, my family brought it home and secured the tree in a stand. When the last ornament was hung, we turned on the sparkling lights and stepped back to gaze at our accomplishment.

    We cherished that moment . . . and cherished it again after the second round of decorating. But when the tree fell a third time and the surviving ornaments were sparse, the task of decorating became a chore. So when I heard the tree crash in the middle of the night, for the fourth time, I loudly vowed to never have a Christmas tree again.

    My Christmas joy had been replaced with frustration and a small dose of anger. I'd become consumed with winning the battle with this tree and decorating my house for upcoming guests. Before I knew it, my focus was no longer on what was really important.

    In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus told Martha that she'd lost her focus on what matters most: spending time with the Lord. Martha was so bent on planning the perfect dinner party and completing her tasks, she was too distracted to take time to enjoy the company of Jesus.

    Her pursuit of perfection left her frustrated with her sister Mary's lack of help to make things "just so."

    When Martha voiced her irritation to Jesus, He gently reminded her that she was worried about aspects that didn't matter. "But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about'" (vs. 41). Jesus wasn't bothered with how fancy dinner was, or how clean her kitchen was, or if she had a perfectly decorated home. What really mattered to Jesus was Martha seeking Him.

    This season—when our focus should be gratitude and on the birth of Jesus—we can get easily distracted by other details. Gifts to buy and how much they will cost. Social outings and what to wear. Decorating our homes (inside and outdoors). Cooking and cleaning to prepare for guests or parties.

    It's easy to get swept up in many things and forget to stay connected with, and focused on, the one thing that really matters.

    Just as busyness, cooking, and cleaning pulled Martha's focus away from Jesus, the same can happen to us in the fast pace of the holidays. Whether basting the perfect turkey or re-decorating an unstable Christmas tree, if we allow it, there is plenty to distract us and lure us away from the one thing that matters most.

    Might we make a commitment to adjust our focus this holiday season? Let's slow down, pare down, and sit down with the Lord each day as we set our thoughts on being thankful. And remind our hearts to be blessed by the birth of our Savior, instead of being stressed over the season.

    Dear Lord, I tend to get stressed during the holidays. Help me stay focused on You, and not get distracted or frustrated this season. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:

    Have you allowed a particular frustration or disappointment to pull your focus away from Jesus?

    What holiday plans or activities might you need to adjust to stay focused on Jesus, and not seasonal busyness?

    Power Verse:
    Colossians 3:2, "Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth." (NLT)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Choosing a Centerpiece

    Posted on November 11, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "He's the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do." Hebrews 3:2 (MSG)

    I thought my Thanksgiving decorations were securely packed away last year, but when I pulled out the decorative cornucopia something was different.

    Apparently a few hungry mice had nibbled on the Styrofoam bread loaf and plastic apples, thinking they were a tasty treat.

    I had planned on putting the cornucopia in the middle of my dining room table, like I always do. But lack of proper packing had taken its toll, and my centerpiece was now full of holes.

    As I assessed how to repair the damage, I felt a holy nudge on my heart. It was a prompting me to consider if I was concerned about the right centerpiece for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

    The previous months had been full of busyness and challenges. My heart had been burdened at times. I'd fallen into a pattern of focusing on my problems and to-do list instead of taking time to give thanks to God for His goodness in my life.

    I intended to make Jesus the center of my attention, but didn't keep that commitment. My distracted focus reminds me of the Christians to whom the author of the book of Hebrews wrote.

    These believers were in danger of losing their focus on Christ as their deliverer. People had begun putting their trust in prophets, angels, and even Moses. So in Hebrews 3, the people are reminded that Jesus is the only one worthy of trust and is where our faith should be centered.

    The writer of Hebrews wanted Christians to stop putting themselves, other people, or material items, at the center of their attention, and instead draw their gaze back to Jesus.

    Just like the people of that time, we can quickly get distracted, become busy, and inadvertently make our obligations and celebrations the focus of our attention. We gradually become self-centered instead of Jesus-centered.

    Hypothetically, we may put Him in a box in the attic of our heart, only pulling Him out when the time is "right." This eventually leads to a life off-kilter and a heart full of holes, as challenges and pressures nibble away at our joy and peace.

    It's one thing to believe in Jesus. It's another to make Him the center of our lives. When we make that important choice and remember to focus on Him and be thankful in all things, our hearts and lives stay in balance.

    This Thanksgiving (and every day), let's praise God and commit to making Him our focal point. When we choose to make Jesus the emphasis of our holidays and our lives, we are blessed with the most beautiful centerpiece of all.

    Lord, I never intended to put You on a shelf and allow life's distractions to alter my attention on You. Give me the spiritual desire to stay intently focused on You during this holiday and into the new year. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:


    Reflect and Respond:
    Consider what areas of your life need to be more Jesus-centered and less self-centered.

    How can you make sure your attention stays on Jesus and not on life's distractions?

    Power Verses:
    Colossians 3:15, "And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful." (NLT)

    Psalm 117:1-2, "Praise the LORD, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth. For he loves us with unfailing love; the LORD's faithfulness endures forever. Praise the LORD!" (NLT)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • But I Have a Right to Be Angry

    Posted on October 11, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." (James 1:19–20 NLT)

    I had been lied to, betrayed, and hurt. I was angry and felt I had every right to be. Anger crushed my desire to forgive. Although I'd asked God to fill my heart with mercy, I kept a running mental list of justifications for my anger that overrode my empty prayers.

    My internal dialogue was one big argument. One voice tried to convince me I was justified in remaining angry; another voice tried to persuade me that mercy was the right choice. For months, the loudest voice was the one that indulged my damaged emotions: Yes, I have a right to be angry. Anyone would agree.

    Listening to the voice of bitterness and unforgiveness, I often lashed out with impatience and meanness. I could play the good Christian girl for short periods of time, but if something triggered my suppressed emotions, hostility and resentment catapulted to the surface.

    Reading Scripture one morning, I sensed God inviting me to consider the direction my anger was taking me and the damage it was doing. As I read the words from James 1, I couldn't help but notice how it says "everyone" should be slow to speak and slow to anger. This truth from God's Word left no room for my excuses or righteous indignation, even though I felt like my anger was justified. And then a few verses later, I read this: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).

    From a worldly perspective, I knew I had every right to be angry. But from God's perspective, my anger only added to the sin of the situation. My refusal to extend the same mercy and forgiveness God had given me was preventing me from living out the gospel.

    Through the words of James, God softened my heart. I acknowledged that although I said I'd forgiven this person with my words, I had not forgiven with my heart—and it was time to do so and move on.

    In every area of life, including managing our most powerful emotions, God tells us to be quick to listen (to Him and others), slow to speak, and slow to become angry. As we apply these practices in our relationships, we become doers of His Word, not just hearers, and that leads to the righteousness God desires.

    Dear Lord, please forgive me for harboring anger. Equip me with a supernatural ability to forgive those who have hurt me. Guard my heart when old emotions threaten to surface. Strip my heart of anger and replace it with joy. In Jesus' name, Amen.

    Remember
    Anger only worsens any situation, but selfless forgiveness brings freedom. We are all called to forgive even when wronged, just as God forgives us.

    Reflect
    Whom have you been harboring anger toward or withholding forgiveness from? Have these feelings caused you to feel bitter?

    Respond
    Pour out your heart to God today, telling Him how you feel. Then write out a prayer of forgiveness for the one who hurt you, surrendering that burden to God, and asking Him to replace your feelings of bitterness with peace and joy.

    Power Verses
    Ephesians 4:26–27; Ephesians 4:30–31

    Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

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

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