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Proverbs 31

  • 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

  • When You're Tired of Coloring in the Lines

    Posted on May 9, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia

    "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

    I was elbow-deep in soapsuds when my 4-year-old's cries prompted me to drop my dishrag and race to the other room. Maggie had been coloring a picture, but when I reached her side, the paper lay crumpled and torn on the floor.

    "Honey, what's wrong?" I asked.

    "I can't color in the lines," Maggie complained.

    I retrieved the wrinkled paper and smoothed it with my palm. The kitty on the coloring page looked like it had been caught in a crossfire.

    "See?" my preschooler said, as she rubbed the crayon furiously over the holes on the paper.

    I could feel Maggie's frustration as I watched her shoulders tighten with each squiggly stroke. The more she pressed that plum Crayola upon the page, the more the picture ripped beneath her efforts.

    "I just can't make anything beautiful," Maggie declared.

    What a curious remark from this child who sculpts gourmet cakes from Play-Doh and creates masterpieces on the driveway with a fistful of sidewalk chalk. An artist indeed, my daughter doesn't yet know that beauty isn't always measured between the lines.

    Maggie sighed and set down her crayon, and I recognized myself in her try-hard weariness. There, in my 4-year-old's furrowed brow, I saw the mom who had once tried to live within a set of invisible lines.

    No one had written out the rules of good parenting for me. They were the result of my own expectations, noble ideas shaped by well-meaning mommy books, fabulous Facebook posts and my personal good-girl gospel.

    My lines declared that a good mom keeps a clean house, bakes bread from scratch and arrives everywhere on time. A good mom knows just what to do when her teen slumps into silence, when a toddler refuses to eat her veggies, or when a 6-year-old strings a web of lies.

    No matter how hard I tried, my life kept spilling outside the lines.

    I was certain that a good mom never lies in bed at night wondering if she is ruining her children. (But sometimes I do.)

    A good mom never delivers her child to the wrong soccer field on the wrong day at the wrong time. (But maybe I've done that once or twice.)

    And a good mom never leaves the house with dirty-faced children or forgets to pack her kindergartener's lunch. (But I'm guilty of both.)

    Perhaps you've lived within a self-declared set of lines, too.

    Maybe you believe that good wives serve dinner by candlelight and always have the laundry done. Or that good friends always reply to texts and certainly never forget a birthday.

    Maybe, like me, the harder you try to live within the lines, the more your soul rips beneath the weight of your efforts.

    But here's the good news for try-hard women like us: God's not offended by our flaws and imperfections.

    God's Word tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9a, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

    That verse was what finally compelled me to trade my invisible lines of expectation for the compassionate contours of my Savior's grace. When I finally stopped obsessing over my flaws and began focusing on His faithfulness, my life took on a new kind of beauty.

    Maggie was still crying over the rips in her coloring page, so I tipped her chin and asked her to watch as I placed that picture, holes and all, against the window.

    Morning sunbeams streamed right through those holes in the paper and cast a glorious rainbow of light upon the carpet at our feet. Maggie grew quiet staring at the shimmers on the floor and slipped something small and purple into my hand. "I don't need my crayon anymore, Mommy. I like my picture just like that."

    So we stood at the window together, watching glory stream through the gaps.

    Dear Jesus, I am tired of living within my self-invented lines of expectation. Show Your strength through my weakness, Your sufficiency through my flaws. Make my life beautiful to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 8:26, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    It's Mother's Day this weekend, which can sometimes create angst either in our roles as adult children or as moms. Take some time to prayerfully consider the invisible lines you've created for yourself. What is one unnecessary expectation you could trade for God's grace today?

    Name three of your unique "holes." How could Jesus display His strength through your weakness or imperfection? Invite Him to shine His glory through your gaps this week.

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Am I a Bad Mom?

    Posted on May 8, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God'..." Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

    Have you ever struggled with letting a circumstance define you? This seems to be a lesson God lets me live over and over again. He wants to be my only definition of who I am.

    I am a child of God, holy and dearly loved.

    I know this. I teach this. I believe this. Yet it is so easy for me to slip into redefining myself when situations arise.

    Several years ago, one of my precious, precious, precious yet just-as-apt-to-sin-as-the-rest-of-us kids was called to the principal's office — on the very day I received an invitation to speak at a national parenting conference.

    With my head I was able to see the situation for what it was: My child is in the process of being shaped. My child is strong, and while this will serve her well later in life, strength in an immature little person begs to be disciplined. She is a sweet child who made a not-so-sweet choice.

    However, in my heart I felt like a failure. I wanted to decline the opportunity to speak and crawl into a hole. A part of me felt as though I'd personally been called to the principal's office, as the voice of condemnation started haunting me: You are a bad mom. You have a bad child. You have a bad home.

    Quietly, I slipped away with Jesus and did what I'd done a hundred times before. I held those condemnations up to the Lord and asked Him to help me see this situation the way He wanted me to see it. Not the way others see it, not the way my heart is tempted to see it, but the way He sees it.

    Matthew 7:24-27 brings some perspective: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash" (NIV).

    Do you know what amazes me about these verses? Both the person doing right and the person doing wrong experienced hard times. In each case the rains came, the streams rose and the wind blew and beat against the house.

    Just because we're parents living out God's principles for life doesn't mean we won't face difficult circumstances.

    God's Spirit spoke to my heart that day and said, "Let Me invade your natural flesh reaction. Instead of letting your mind run wild with this, sit with Me for a while. Be still, and know that I am God."

    So I sat and prayed. I went from defining myself as a failure of a mom to being a praying mom who can face hardships in a godly way. The frustration diffused as I determined to look at the situation from God's perspective.

    God's truth reassured me. I am not a bad mom. My child is not a bad child. My home is not a bad home.

    This situation is a call to action.

    There is a character issue that needs to be addressed within the heart of my child. And kids are supposed to have character issues that need to be addressed. That's why God gave them parents. That's why God gave me this specific child. God sees within me the ability to be the one He's perfectly designed to raise this child.

    When hard times come and beat against our stability, we must determine to hear God's words and put them into practice. Then nothing can topple our peace, security or true identity.

    I'm not sure who else needed to hear that — but I know I did. So dry your tears, sweet mama. Today is a new day. A day when we will only be defined by God's truth and grace as we navigate this wild wonder called parenthood.

    Dear Lord, help me to be the mom You've called me to be today. I want to honor You in everything I do. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 3:20, "If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Write down a condemning thought you have often. Spend some time with God praying against this thought. Then, cross out that condemning thought and write down God's truth about who you are to Him instead.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • My Faith Declaration

    Posted on May 7, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    Wendy

    "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:37 (NIV)

    It was a day like any other. She awakened to the usual routine: Rouse her children from bed. Prepare lunches. Pack bags. Drive carpool. Work out. Return home.

    A day like any other ... until she walked into the kitchen.

    She heard a text alert from a phone on the counter. Not hers, but her husband's. A name she didn't recognize. A woman's name. Probably a new co-worker. Or a client. She trusted him. Right?

    Something drew her to the words on the screen. Reading through the intimate communication, waves of nausea overcame her. She scrolled through more texts ... words that pierced her heart.

    She heard her husband step out of the shower. What would she say?

    She said nothing.

    That night, she confronted him. He confessed, apologized and promised to end it. She wanted to believe him, but she knew how difficult that would be. The woman lived in another state. They worked and traveled together often.

    How could I ever trust him again? she thought to herself.

    Months passed. She discovered more texts and e-mails. So she asked him to leave, at least temporarily.

    She appeared at my door, tears streaming. She poured out her heart as she shared his betrayal. Betrayal that flooded the depths of her soul. My heart ached.

    She felt abandoned and alone. Words escaped me. But I knew she didn't need my words. She needed truths and promises from the One who would never betray her, never abandon her, never leave her. So I gave my friend a Faith Declaration to remind her of who she was in Christ and the promises that, no matter what happened, could never be taken away. Here's what I shared with her that day ...

    You are Loved

    "For I have every confidence that nothing – not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, height, depth, nor any created thing – can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39, The Voice)

    You are Known by Almighty God

    "You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." (Psalm 139:15-16, NLT)

    You are Forgiven

    "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9, NIV)

    You are Redeemed

    "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20, NLT)

    You are God's Masterpiece, Created with a Purpose

    "For we are the product of His hand, heaven's poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago." (Ephesians 2:10, The Voice)

    You are More Than a Conqueror

    "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:37, NIV)

    Has someone broken your heart? Betrayed you? Lied to you? Used you?

    Are you feeling lost? Alone? Defeated? Desperate? Unworthy? Unloved?

    You are not alone. Jesus understands. He identifies with our pain and suffering. Those He created betrayed Him. Those He loved abandoned Him.

    Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer, understands.

    Through His living and active Word, He has given us truths and promises to heal our gaping wounds ... to bring hope to what seems hopeless ... to speak truth to the lies.

    Sweet friend, pray this declaration over your circumstances. Plant these seeds of truth in your heart. God will water them and grow deep roots of love, hope and faith.

    Heavenly Father, I pray this declaration over my life today. Plant these truths and promises deep in my heart, water them with Your love and make them come alive in my circumstances. I ask this in the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 119:50, "This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life." (KNJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Take time to read through and reflect upon the verses in the Faith Declaration. Which one spoke to you the most? Write it where you'll see it often.

    Write a prayer surrendering your circumstances to your Father in heaven and pray each of these verses over your situation.

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • Cleaning up a Mess I Didn't Make

    Posted on May 6, 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    Chrystal

    "And I pray that you ... grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Ephesians 3:17b-18 (NIV)

    When my middle son was 2 years old, he went through various stages that almost sent me to the mad house.

    One of the most irritating stages was his habit of taking off his diaper after putting him to bed. Many late nights we would have to put on a fresh diaper, change his sheets and put him back to bed.

    After awhile, we wised up. We started putting him into all-in-one pajamas that made it not so easy for him to accomplish his little feat.

    That pretty much solved the problem.

    Until one night, when my husband put the boys (ages 2 and 4) to bed. Unfortunately, he forgot about our precautionary measure of locking our toddler into his diaper.

    Before long, our eldest son shouted at the top of his lungs, "Mommy! It stinks in here! Somebody needs his diaper changed!"

    No worries. It happens, right?

    Soon we heard urgency in our eldest son's voice as he called out again, "MOMMY! COME QUICK! THERE'S A STINKY MESS IN HERE!"

    We entered their room. The smell that greeted me at the door was enough to make me want to run for my life.

    Friends, we are talking yuck e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e ... on the sheets, blankets, feet and smudged into the carpet. So that night, while many other mothers slept peacefully in their beds, guess what I was doing?

    Cleaning up a mess.

    At almost midnight and for close to an hour, I was on my hands and knees cleaning and scrubbing. I'll spare you the gory details.

    Believe it or not, the carpet today looks like nothing ever happened. Between my cleaning concoctions that fateful night and a borrowed steam cleaner the next day, I managed to handle the situation like a pro.

    Of course I did. I'm a mom. That's what moms do. We clean up after our children when necessary, because that's what love does.

    There is a lesson to be learned from the middle of this messy situation ...

    My son didn't mean to make a mess. He didn't intentionally deprive me of sleep or aim to make me uncomfortable. He didn't mean to make me suffer for his transgression.

    But I did.

    And why? Because that's what love does.

    Even when he wasn't showing me much love, I loved him anyway. And I showed my love by cleaning up a mess that I didn't make.

    My dear sister... don't you know Jesus loves us this same way?

    He saw us in our mess. He cleaned up after us. He was willing to suffer for our transgressions. And even when we aren't showing Him much love, He loved us first and continues to love us anyway.

    Because that's what love does.

    I believe with all my heart that as my son matures, he will be grateful and appreciate my sacrifices. I pray that eventually he will come to understand the width, length, height and depth of the love I have for him. Just like God's love for us, Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus "may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:18).

    In the same way, as we mature in our relationship with God and develop a greater understanding of why we needed His rescue, we can appreciate more and more His huge sacrifice.

    Here's the kicker – our lives, actions and attitudes should show it.

    Just like mothers find a way to do what seems

    ... inconceivable

    ... impossible

    ... or insurmountable ...

    so, too, our precious Savior found a way to rescue us from our plight.

    And I'm so thankful. Aren't you?

    Dear Lord, thank You for being willing to clean up my mess. Sometimes I'm a little bit of a mess. Other times, I'm a big mess and the yuckiness in my attitude or actions greatly impacts others. Yet You still love me. You loved me enough not only to clean up after me, but also to suffer on my behalf. I want You to know I'm grateful. Help me to walk worthy of the love that You have so lavishly offered me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 4:1b, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:19, "I ask that you'll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God." (CEB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    At some point and time we have all been a mess. If we're honest with ourselves, we still are! How does the fact that God loves you anyway make you feel?

    In light of God's great sacrifice for you, what is one thing you can do today that would show your appreciation for His great gift?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Your Life Feels Like a Mess

    Posted on May 5, 2014 by Renee Swope

    Renee

    "But while Joseph was there in prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden." Genesis 39: 20b-21 (NIV)

    Do you ever feel like your days are filled with one messy relationship and situation after another? During those times, it's easy to label my circumstances and myself as "a mess," then wonder how God could ever use me, or my experiences, for good.

    To protect my heart from discouragement, I often ask God to remind me of times when He has worked in ways I couldn't have imagined, in my life and the lives of others. Recently He reminded me of Joseph's story (Genesis 37-50). It reads like a series of very unfortunate events!

    Imagine being beaten and thrown into a pit, sold as a slave and then relocated to a foreign country where you are falsely accused of a crime you didn't commit and banished to die in prison. And to make matters worse, what if your siblings had initiated this evil against you?

    That's only the beginning of what happened to Joseph.

    Looking behind the scenes of stories like his helps me see how God specializes in using messes to transform people into masterpieces of His grace. That's exactly what He did here:

    "[Joseph's brothers] saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him ... they stripped him of his robe ... and they threw him into a pit" (Genesis 37:18, 23b–24, ESV).

    Joseph was then taken to Egypt where he was sold as a slave to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Could things get worse? They did when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him, and despite Joseph resisting her advances, she accused him of attempting to rape her:

    " ... she called to the men of her household and said to them, 'See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.'"

    "As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him ... his anger was kindled. And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison ..." (Genesis 39:14-15, 19-20a).

    In Potiphar's house, Joseph learned servant leadership and integrity; in prison, Joseph learned forgiveness, wisdom and patience. He had been wronged multiple times, yet he experienced God's guidance through the darkness that helped Joseph get out of prison:

    "And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. ... And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed" (Genesis 39:22-23, ESV).

    In a messy pit, the house of Potiphar and a cold dark prison, God prepared Joseph for the amazing future and role he would play in rescuing God's people and eventually bringing his family back together.

    Through it all, Joseph stayed close to God and allowed his difficult circumstances to make him more dependent on the Lord. And in turn, God molded Joseph's character into a great and godly leader — who was humble, loving, forgiving, patient and wise.

    Friend, you might feel like you're in a pit right now just like Joseph was, but don't despise the mess you're in — God is doing some behind-the-scenes work. He is preparing to unleash His limitless power in and through you!

    Dear Lord, thank You for reminding me that You are always with me, just like You were with Joseph. When I face hard circumstances, I want to lean in and depend on You for wisdom, patience and grace. In all these things, I will remember that I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 8:37, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:

    Do you ever look at the messiness of your circumstances and feel discouragement or even despair? Although Joseph had every reason to be depressed, he chose not to be by looking beyond where he was, to what God was doing.

    Read Joseph's story in Genesis 37-50 and make a list of ways God used messes and difficulties to transform Joseph's life for His glory.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Losing This Battle is Not an Option

    Posted on May 2, 2014 by Sharon Glasgow

    Sharon

    "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

    By the time our daughter Heather turned 2, all my prideful pre-parenting thoughts had come back to me. How many times had I unfairly judged another mama and promised myself my kids would never act like that?

    You know that behavior: flailing around in their mother's arms, pitching a fit on the grocery store floor or throwing a tantrum in line at the movies. However, my daughter's strong will was unrelenting. She tried my patience constantly ... and often acted like that.

    I'll never forget one particularly difficult night. It had been a long grueling day of battles, and it was bedtime. (Praise God for bedtime.) Heather had hurt her baby sister, so I told her to apologize. She refused.

    Everything in me wanted to just put Heather to bed, but I knew I couldn't let this go. So in a stern voice, I told her, "Go to your room and I'll meet you there." Thankfully, she obeyed and walked to her bedroom.

    I thought a battle had been avoided ... until she looked back at me with that iron will glaring. She stood there with one foot in the room and one foot in the hall.

    "Get in your room, Heather." My tone meant business, but she wouldn't budge. I thought to myself, I'm just too stinking tired for this.

    At that point, I remembered Proverbs 3:11-12, a verse I memorized before Heather was born: "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in."

    As I weighed my choices, the Lord spoke to me through that verse. And I knew He was saying: Losing this battle is not an option. I took a deep breath and decided no matter how long it took, I would not allow Heather's disobedient will to triumph over my exhaustion. I loved her too much.

    She finally sat down, half in the room, half out. And I joined her in the hall. We stayed there for hours that night. I wasn't mad, just determined. My daughter would know after this night that her mama means what she says. There was no TV. No toys. Not even a scrap of paper to draw on.

    While she sat, I folded laundry, paid a few bills and made my grocery list — in between asking if she wanted to apologize. Her eyes were getting heavy, and I knew she wanted to win the battle, but I remained firm.

    Finally, three hours after her bedtime she apologized to her sister and to me. I kissed her goodnight as I tucked her in bed; she hugged me and smiled like I was the greatest mom in the world. All was good in our home, at least for that night.

    That wasn't our last battle. But over time they became fewer and fewer as I consistently disciplined my children, just like the Lord disciplines those He loves. Why? Because He longs for us to be wise, to avoid making harmful mistakes and to grow in His grace. That's what I want for my five daughters.

    I spent a lot of time in prayer and sitting in doorways as my girls grew up. Each one was different from the other, each requiring a different form of discipline. They're grown up now, and I'm delighted to say that Heather and her sisters love the Lord and walk in His ways.

    I love my children and know they are worth all the time invested in the disciplining. Even the many long, sleepless nights.

    Lord, I need You more than ever. I need Your strength, wisdom and leading to raise my children up in the way they should go. Help me! I feel inadequate most days. I know that through You I can do all things. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Raising children takes a lot of mental, spiritual and physical bandwidth. Are there things in your schedule you could delete that would give you greater ability to parent well?

    Are you consistent in disciplining? Do you follow through with the rules? Do you discipline in love? Write a list of things you need to work on to be the parent God calls you to be.

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 29:17, "Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • The 5 Best Things to Say to a Friend Today

    Posted on May 1, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:12-13 (NIV)

    I remember sitting in the smelly middle school gym like it was yesterday.

    I'd survived the awkward and much-dreaded moments of changing into my PE uniform in the girls' locker room. And now I sat on the hard bleachers listening to the squeak of tennis shoes, the uneven cadence of bouncing balls, the teacher's sharp whistle and the girls laughing behind me.

    They weren't laughing with me. That would have meant I was accepted, wanted and invited in to be a part of their group.

    No, they were laughing at me.

    I was the subject of their gossip. I was the punch line of their jokes.

    And it hurt.

    I imagine you know that hurt too. Change the scenery and people, and this same hurt can be found in most of our lives.

    • When your co-workers all make plans to go to lunch, but you weren't invited.
    • When that other preschool mom says, "Several of us moms are concerned with how aggressive your child seems on the playground."
    • When everyone else's social media makes marriage look dreamy and uber-romantic as you're crying yourself to sleep.

    Then a friend steps in with a gentle smile and a few simple words of encouragement and suddenly you're not alone.

    I want to be that friend for you today.

    In the midst of whatever it is that's made your heart feel knocked off-kilter, can I whisper what I believe are the 5 best things one can say to a friend? And then might you give the gift of saying these things to a friend today?

    This list is from our key verses, Romans 12:12-13, in a section titled "Love."

    1. "You're wonderful."

    (Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope ...")

    What a loving thing to infuse joyful hope into your friend's life by reminding her why you think she is wonderful.

    The world is quick to tell us girls all the ways we fall short. We are hyperaware of our faults and frailties.

    So, what a precious gift to remind a friend of specific ways she's a wonderful friend, a wonderful mom, a wonderful Jesus girl, a wonderful wife, a wonderful co-worker, a wonderful person.

    2. "Me too."

    (Romans 12:12, "... patient in affliction ...")

    What a gift to remind a friend we all have afflictions, hurts, faults and tender places. We all get sick both emotionally and physically.

    The patient friend freely gives grace because she so desperately needs it herself. "Me too" acknowledges that I'm no better than you, but together we can get stronger. It is such a loving and disarming admission that we're all in this together.

    3. "I'll pray."

    (Romans 12:12, "... faithful in prayer.")

    Wouldn't it be wonderful to tell a friend you will absolutely be faithful in your prayers for her? I have someone who prays for me faithfully and even texts me Scriptures she's praying.

    But here's what I really love about her. She doesn't just pray about my situations. She prays me through them. I honestly don't know how she hasn't gotten tired of praying for some of my same issues for so long. I get so tired of me ... but she never does. What a gift. A gift I know I must pass on by being faithful in my prayers for others.

    4. "I'll share."

    (Romans 12:13, "Share with the Lord's people who are in need ...")

    When we notice a need in a friend's life, might we be willing to step in and be part of the solution?

    I have a friend who lost every possession she owned due to a chemical spill in her home. So, we threw her a "Job (like the man in the Bible) Party." Each of us brought a few things to help her family start over.

    We didn't come close to fully meeting their financial needs. But we helped build a foundation of restoration and gave this family the assurance that God was working on their behalf.

    5. "Come over."

    (Romans 12:13, "Practice hospitality.")

    Welcoming a friend inside the sacred space of our home is such a needed gesture. There's just something about relationships that are less pixilated when we get eye-to-eye, voice-to-voice and talk. Really talk.

    Over broken bread we share broken hearts. And then we celebrate the parts of us that are still intact. We reach across the table and across our differences to grab hold of the glorious bond of friendship.

    Yes, these are 5 great things, maybe even the best things, to say to a friend. So, today, I pause and say them to you.

    Now, I haven't quite figured out how to do that last one. It would be such a hoot trying to fit you all in my kitchen, but I sure am dreaming about it!

    Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of friendship. Please show me who I can encourage today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Think of a friend in need. Of the five statements above, which one can you put into practice with her today?

    Power Verse:
    Hebrews 13:16, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why My Savior Complex Had to Die

    Posted on April 30, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    Amy

    "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28 (NLT)

    For years, something in me longed to be a savior. It was the space within my heart that lit with imagination when I watched heroes on TV save a falling baby with a mattress, rescue survivors from a mudslide or wrestle a hijacker to the floor of a plane. I aspired to be a woman with such daring, admired by thousands.

    That desire carried me on a trip to Kolkata, India, where I was determined to make a difference with my positive attitude and can-do spirit!

    I prepared with confidence and traveled with bravado, but when I arrived in the city, my assurance began to wilt. Walking out of the airport into the dead of the night, our team was surrounded at once with impoverished women and children begging. Shouldn't they be sleeping?

    Decrepit buildings lined potholed streets, patrolled by feral dogs and rifle-armed policemen. Rancid smells and unfamiliar sights assailed our senses.

    On the way to our hotel, we drove by a billboard proclaiming, "Kolkata: City of Joy." The very idea whiplashed my brain, and my deepest motives were exposed. What was I thinking? This isn't a job for me ... making Kolkata the City of Joy is truly a God-sized job!

    In that moment, my desire to be a hero was both exposed and crushed. My smile and positive attitude alone would not feed the hungry, free women from oppression or liberate captives from spiritual darkness with. No, only Jesus the Savior could meet such overwhelming need and make a difference! I was simply there to serve Him.

    Why did I want to be a savior? The truth was a mix of good and bad. I desired to help people, ease their suffering and introduce them to a loving God. But all that good was spoiled when mixed with my desire to feel virtuous, to gain recognition from others for the "noble" things I was doing and to feel I had met God's requirements.

    The works inspired by my savior complex might have looked good on the outside, but they were achieving self-gratification rather than pleasing God.

    Jesus is our true hero, the only real Savior. Jesus brings good news to the poor. He can bind up the brokenhearted. He provides freedom for the captives and releases prisoners from the darkness. Jesus brings God's favor, comforts those who mourn and cares for those in need. He gives us beauty instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning and praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3). Jesus is beautiful and powerful and worthy of being the Savior.

    In Matthew 20:28, Jesus reveals His superhero, Savior secret to His followers, and it's a huge surprise: "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."

    The secret is service. As we serve our Savior and those around us, we can become behind-the-scenes heroes in God's eyes. Humble service may not make the news, but it can definitely change the world.

    Years after my lesson in Kolkata, I walked into a new volunteer position with my same bright smile and positive attitude. The difference was I wasn't there to be a savior, but instead to serve my Savior.

    Jesus is the hero to admire; I'm just there to roll up my sleeves and stand beside Him as He saves the world.

    Jesus, I praise You as the only worthy Savior. Will You change my motives from a desire for admiration to a desire to humbly serve You? Please change my savior complex to a servant's mindset? I long to follow Your example in serving Your people. In Your Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have your motives to serve the Lord ever gotten mixed with a desire for recognition or to feel virtuous?

    What is one way you can serve someone anonymously this week?

    Power Verses:
    Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior." (NIV)

    Psalm 115:1, "Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness." (NIV)

    Ephesians 6:7, "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people ..." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Every Doing Starts With a Step

    Posted on April 29, 2014 by Shelene Bryan

    Shelene

    "When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" 1 Kings 19:13 (NIV)

    When I was about 13 years old, my family vacationed in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands with friends. We heard about a local waterfall with a smooth slide carved into the rocks. We were up for the adventure, so we went to check it out.

    The water slide looked spectacular. As we made our way to the top of the rocks that formed the slide, I noticed a handful of local kids jumping off of the adjacent towering cliffs into the water. Whew, that looked scary!

    After about an hour of fun on that wonderful natural slide (it's still the best water slide I've ever been on in my life), we started eyeing the cliffs and the local kids who were jumping. We looked at each other to see who would conjure up the guts to be the first mainlander to climb the cliff and jump.

    Seeing how I always wanted to beat the boys, I volunteered.

    I made my way up a path cut into the rock wall. As I stepped up to the edge of the cliff, where the overhang suspended me 30 feet above the water, I began to seriously appreciate how high I was. Basically I started to freak out.

    Tim, one of the younger boys in our group, joined me on the cliff. He said, "If you're not going to jump, move over and I'll jump. Are you chicken?"

    Before I could answer his challenge, a local man, who must have been watching me for five minutes as I contemplated jumping, said, "Just step off."

    "What?" I yelled.

    "Just step off," he repeated.

    "Yeah," Tim echoed. "Just step off."

    Just taking a step seemed easy. I took steps all day long. What was the big deal? It's just a step. With that, I moved to the edge, closed my eyes tight and simply took a small step forward. My body instantly plunged into space and I free fell with a scream of thrill all the way to the water. I came up out of the water feeling like a stunt girl on Hawaii Five-0.

    Are you standing on a "cliff," unable to jump? Are you feeling like God wants you to make a radical change, but you just can't? Some people are born jumpers. Others are more like I was: frozen on the edge of that cliff, unwilling to jump but willing to take a small step.

    Throughout history God has prodded His people with questions and suggestions to help us figure out what we are doing for Him. Kind of like that man's comment to me to step off the cliff.

    An example of this kind of question is asked of one of my favorite Bible characters: A prophet named Elijah. Elijah had a deep love of God. And in 1 Kings 19, God quietly called out to Elijah through a whisper in the midst of a series of riotous distractions.

    God asked a very simple question: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

    The question was not for God's benefit and certainly not for His information. God already knew the answer before He whispered the question. God designed that question to help Elijah come to grips with what he was going to do.

    Nearly three millennia later, God asks the same question of me: "What are you doing here, Shelene?"

    His question asks me to consider where I am. It challenges me to see where I need to go. And then it prompts me to take my next step.

    I may not be a jumper, but I can take a step.

    Lord, help me recognize Your voice when You call. Help me recognize Your trustworthy character and trust that You have my best interests in mind. Burn into my heart the desire to do the tasks You want me to accomplish for You. Give me the strength and courage to take the first step toward what You want me to do. In His Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What insecurities are holding you back from taking a step toward the things God is calling you to?

    What small steps can you start taking this week?

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 37:23-24, "The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Shelene Bryan. All rights reserved.

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

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