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  • When We Need to Listen With Our Eyes

    Alicia Bruxvoort NOVEMBER 6, 2015

    When We Need to Listen With Our Eyes ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "The one who listens to me, who carefully seeks me in everyday things … that one will find true happiness." Proverbs 8:34 (The Voice)

    "I just need to know you’re here," I told God, as I mindlessly chopped carrots in preparation for dinner.

    The baby whimpered in her bouncy seat, the toddler begged for a snack and I wished our meal would magically appear while I escaped to the bedroom for a nap.

    My body was weary from the demands of a long day with little ones; my heart was weary from the weight of unanswered prayer. I was walking through a season of loneliness, and I desperately wanted to hear from God.

    I’d never heard God speak audibly, but I’d experienced the Lord’s "still small voice" many times in my life. In the past, words of Scripture had often leapt off the pages of my Bible. I’d gleaned heavenly insight from the lyrics of a Christian song, a sermon that pierced my heart or the inspired words of a godly friend.

    Why wasn’t I hearing anything now? I’d been begging the Lord for a word of encouragement for months. But it felt like my ears had grown deaf to the sound of my Savior’s voice. When I read my Bible, the words fell flat. When I tuned my ear to Heaven, I heard only silence.

    Just then, my 8-year-old son skidded around the corner with a shiny blue ribbon pinned to his shirt. He hopscotched across the dingy floor, laughing as the ribbon caught air with every bounce and flapped like a baby bird trying out its wings.

    Suddenly, my laments were trumped by my son’s noisy chatter about the track meet he’d enjoyed at school that afternoon.

    "I can’t believe I won the race, Mom! I thought my legs were gonna give up, but I just kept moving my feet and suddenly I was at the finish line."

    His happy prattle mingled with the rhythmic clank of my knife on the cutting board, and I looked up to acknowledge his words with a proud smile.

    "Did you hear me cheering for you?" I asked.

    I wasn’t sure if my little runner even realized I’d been in the bulging crowd of parents flanking the track that afternoon. Despite juggling the baby in one hand and the camera in another, I’d cheered as loudly as I could when my son sprinted past us toward the finish line.

    "Yep," he said with a grateful grin. "I heard you."

    "Oh, good," I replied. "I wasn’t sure if I was yelling loud enough."

    My bouncing boy stopped hopping on one foot and shrugged his shoulders. Then he looked me in the eye and confessed, "Well, I couldn’t hear you with my ears, Mommy, but I knew you were there, ‘cause I was listening with my eyes."

    My son wrapped his arms around my middle in a quick hug, then pointed those fast feet toward the back door and dashed outside to join his sister. I stood silent in the kitchen with the echo of those words in my head.

    When my child couldn’t hear my voice, he’d sought my face.

    When my cheers failed to echo in his ears, he’d let my presence encourage his heart.

    My heart lurched with conviction. Maybe I hadn’t grown deaf. Maybe I’d grown blind. In my quest to hear God’s voice, I’d stopped seeking proof of His presence.

    Today’s key verse reminds us God doesn’t just want us to seek His word with our ears. He wants us to listen with our eyes, as well.

    This concept is woven throughout Scripture from the first page to the last. God’s people are often commanded both to listen and look, to hear and see.

    Bending our ears to the promises of heaven involves tuning our eyes to God’s existence on earth. We can’t hearken His word without heeding His "with-ness."

    I dumped the carrots into the simmering skillet and turned toward the window to watch my son chase his sister across the lawn. They blazed a trail of giggles across the emerald green, as the One who paints the sunset ignited the horizon with a blaze of orange glory.

    I looked and listened while the day gave way to dusk. And as the sun sank low, I felt the weight on my heart soar high. Then, before I called the kids in for dinner, I changed my desperate prayer for an expectant plea: "Open my eyes, Father. I’m listening."

    Dear Lord, teach me to listen to Your voice with my ears and my eyes and to seek You in everyday things. I want to know true happiness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 68:33, "To Him who rides high up beyond the heavens, which have been since ancient times, watch and listen. His voice speaks, and it is powerful and strong." (The Voice)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Develop the habit of looking for and listening to God each morning. The First 5 app can help.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement and a special giveaway to help you look and listen.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Practice the habit of "listening with your eyes" this week. Keep a list of the ways you see God as you go about your everyday things.

    Write an encouraging note or send a text to someone who may be lonely. Ask God to help that person "hear" His heart through your words.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • When My Words Give Me Away

    Katie Williams NOVEMBER 5, 2015

    When My Words Give Me Away KATIE WILLIAMS, COMPEL Member

    "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35 (NIV)

    The smell of warm butter and freshly baked bread wafted through the window, beckoning me into the quaint French bakery. A timid bell chimed my entry. Behind a case glistening with fruit tarts, the shop owner glanced up at me and smiled.

    "Bonjour, mademoiselle," he said courteously.

    "Bonjour, monsieur!" I answered in my best French.

    His eyebrows lifted. "Oh! You are American, non?"

    I forced a smile and nodded. Betrayed again.

    He immediately slipped into English, and we spoke for several minutes as I made my purchases. I thanked him with a warm "merci." His English "good bye" echoed in my mind all the way back to my apartment, where I slumped into a chair in dismay.

    After 10 years of dedicated study and almost a full year living in central France, I still didn’t blend into French society. I couldn’t even pronounce a simple greeting without being identified as a foreigner! My accent had betrayed me again, and I was tired of standing out.

    That afternoon, I confessed my disappointment to a French friend. Secretly, I was hoping she would tell me my accent wasn’t so bad.

    Her response surprised me.

    "You do have a bit of an accent, Katie," she admitted, "but I think it’s charming."

    "It’s not charming, it’s frustrating!" I fumed. "I’ll never blend in here!"

    "Maybe that’s a good thing," she countered. "Your accent marks you as a foreigner, yes. But you are still here, in my country, speaking my language. That means you cared enough about my people to cross an entire ocean to live among us. That makes you charming, and it makes me want to learn more about where you came from, too. Don’t be ashamed of it."

    I was staggered. I had always considered my accent to be an inconvenience, not an inspiration. Could it really be true that my accent wasn’t alienating, but inviting?

    That evening, I returned to my tiny apartment and flipped open my Bible. My reading plan for the day took me to the book of John, Chapter 13. In this passage, Jesus is partaking in His final meal with His disciples before the crucifixion. As He faces His imminent death, He shares these powerful words, and today’s key verse: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

    In light of my friend’s remarks, I began to see this passage with a new perspective. I realized that the love Jesus speaks of here isn’t a one-time action; it’s a lifelong "accent."

    Just as our native accent influences every word we speak, love influenced everything Jesus did.

    He left His home in heaven to come live among us. He lived a life of service and compassion to all members of society. And His love for us ultimately sent Him to a cross, becoming the invitation that welcomes us back to the family of God.

    When we follow Jesus, we are called to love the same way. When we do, our love — our Christian "accent" — will set us apart. It will make us stand out on days we wish we could just blend in.

    But it may also be the invitation that leads someone back home to the heart of God. And that is nothing to be ashamed of, friends.

    So today, let us cherish our accents. Let us love one another as Jesus did.

    And may the world know that we are truly His disciples. Allons-y, mes amis! (Let’s go, my friends!)

    Father God, thank You for living a life of love, service and compassion. Help me follow Your example and to love others the way Jesus did. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 3:20, "But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior." (NLT)

    1 John 4:16, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Longing to write words that are memorable and life changing? Struggling to build a platform, but realize it takes more writing than you thought? Today’s devotion author, Katie Williams, is a member of COMPEL, a monthly membership program for those who want to write words that move people. Click here to learn more.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think about a time when you met someone who "stood out from the crowd." What was different about that person? Would you want to be known and recognized for the same reason? Why or why not?

    Reflect on how you interact with the people around you. What is your "accent" — the thing that influences all you do and say to others? Is it love? Is it pride? Is it a need to be in control? Is it fear? Ask God to help you identify what drives you. Then pray and ask Him to help you love others as Jesus did, letting His love shape the way you interact with people.

    © 2015 by Katie Williams. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Mythical Mosaic of Motherhood

    Karen Ehman NOVEMBER 4, 2015

    The Mythical Mosaic of Motherhood KAREN EHMAN

    "A tranquil heart is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones." Proverbs 14:30 (HCSB)

    One crisp fall afternoon while strolling through an art gallery, I spied a mosaic depiction of a woman from the Roman era that took my breath away.

    A mosaic is an art form where hundreds of pieces of glass converge to form an image. But I’ve realized it’s not just in art galleries where we can find a mosaic.

    Many women have collected bits of information over the years to mentally construct a mosaic of the "ideal" mom. When we step back and gaze at the image we have fashioned, it too can take our breath away. And by that I mean leave us huffing and puffing for air as we race to try to replicate the image in our own lives.

    Was there a mom in your childhood who always fed the neighbor kids fresh-baked cookies and glasses of lemonade? Clink. You deposited in your mind’s bank that "a good mom" does that effortlessly and cheerfully.

    Did one of your friends in high school have a mom who not only made it to all of her children’s sporting events, but also held down an important job? Clunk. Another characteristic deposited. "A good mom" should both bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.

    You picked up another idea when as a new mom you had trouble keeping your toddler quiet in church, but a few rows ahead of you sat a mom of a half dozen children who never moved a muscle. Oh! "A good mom" also must know how to keep her children quiet when the preacher is preaching.

    Did you recently visit a friend who has children about the same age as yours, whose house was tastefully decorated and also void of dust and clutter? Perhaps your mind migrated back to the scene you left at your house that morning: breakfast dishes still on the table, peanut butter smeared on the counter and a trail of crumbs on the floor that would make Hansel and Gretel squeal with glee. Piles of dirty laundry. Dust bunnies. Toothpaste in the sink.

    When I spend time staring at these other seemingly amazing moms, it can unsettle my soul. Can you relate? We wish we were more like them. It isn’t fair they seem to have it so together, when we seem to be falling apart instead.

    Today’s key verse asserts that, "A tranquil heart is life to the body …" The word tranquil here in the original Hebrew language in essence means a heart free from envy — with its emotions and passions under control. It is calm. Confident. Not fretful and frenzied.

    Instead of letting our hearts grow envious of a fictitious mom mosaic we’ve crafted in our minds — or the actual mom we sit next to at the ballgame — let’s ask God to help us cultivate a serene heart. Instead of riveting our eyes on others, let’s glance upward at God instead, asking Him to enable us to embrace our unique personalities and talents — even our shortcomings.

    We cultivate a tranquil heart when we saturate ourselves with God’s Word, tucking His wisdom into our heart. Then we can retrieve His Word when we need it to speak to our situations and calm our sometimes out-of-control emotions.

    We cultivate a tranquil heart when we make prayer a priority and watch God respond to our specific requests — in His always-perfect timing.

    We cultivate a tranquil heart when we trust God with our circumstances, believe He has our best interests at heart, and purpose to play the specific part He has planned for us in this life — especially with regard to our families.

    God knew what kind of mother our children would need long before they were even born. By embracing our skills and circumstances, we’ll be better positioned to let serenity permeate our souls. With a tranquil heart we can stop comparing ourselves to a mosaic of a "perfect" mom and instead, allow God to shape us into the distinct work of art He created us to be.

    Father, may I keep my eyes on You and not on others, so I may cultivate a tranquil heart. Help me focus on the truth of Your Word and appreciate my unique gifts, talents and circumstances. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:15, "And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Karen Ehman’s newest book Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off just released. If you purchase the book through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you will receive a free downloadable journal entitled, "On My Knees & In My Heart: 5 Mini-Spiritual Retreats for Moms."

    For more motherhood encouragement, visit Karen’s blog today and enter to win a copy of Hoodwinked.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have you been tempted to craft a mosaic of a "perfect" mom in your mind? Which characteristics have you been jealous of? How can today’s key verse help you to combat the urge to compare?

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Feel Desperate & Discouraged

    Crystal Paine NOVEMEBR 03, 2015

    When You Feel Desperate & Discouraged CRYSTAL PAINE

    "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

    I sunk into a heap on the floor in our little basement apartment.

    "What am I supposed to do, God?" I cried aloud. "I’m so thankful for this baby, but I’m so sick with this pregnancy. And being so sick means I can’t work. How are we going to survive?"

    I felt helpless and at the end of my rope. My morning-noon-and-night sickness had hung on for weeks, keeping me from working at the part-time jobs I had before I got pregnant.

    While my husband was in school, our combined part-time jobs were keeping us afloat. Combining his part-time income and my part-time jobs, we were already barely making it. With the absence of my income, our finances suffered a huge blow — and so did my faith.

    I’d always believed that God would provide, but it’s easy to believe that when things are going well and your income is steady. It’s a whole lot harder to believe that when you have bills piling up, and your income is dwindling.

    Many days I felt desperate and in those moments, I began claiming the promises of God and praying them back to Him.

    One particular promise I clung to was today’s key verse, Philippians 4:19: "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

    As I cried out to God for help, the wheels began turning in my head and an idea was birthed in my heart. I realized maybe God’s supply was not coming in the way I thought it would. Instead, His supply arrived by giving me creative ideas He wanted me to be brave enough to step out and try.

    While lying in bed feeling sick from my pregnancy, I began taking little steps to act on the ideas I couldn’t get out of my brain. I researched ways to make money online, I emailed other entrepreneurs, and my ideas started to become more concrete, even viable business plans.

    It was really slow going at first, and there were days when I felt like I’d never be able to figure out how to successfully earn money from home. But I didn’t give up!

    I clung to the Scripture’s promise that God would provide for us and supply our every need — even when I wasn’t sure how we were going to pay the rent or stretch our grocery budget far enough. And He was always faithful!

    During those first few months of my pregnancy, I couldn’t have envisioned where those initial baby steps of faith and trusting God to supply creativity and wisdom would lead. Those first feeble attempts at making money from home have, with much time, effort and prayer, turned into a flourishing business that not only supports our family and multiple other families, but has also given us the opportunity to give generously to causes we believe in both locally and around the world.

    I’m so thankful for that hard season of life. I learned so much about God’s faithfulness and provision. I saw God show up in very tangible, practical ways, and I was motivated to stretch the little we had futher than I thought possible.

    Things don’t often end up like you imagine, but we can trust there will be rewards when we keep putting one foot in front of the other, cling to God’s promises and believe He will faithfully supply our every need.

    Heavenly Father, thank You that You never leave me or forsake me. Thank You that I can trust You to be faithful to supply my every need, even on those hard days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 13:5, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’" (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Need some practical ideas and inspiration to increase your income? Check out Crystal Paine’s new book: Money-Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference.

    Sign up for Crystal’s free 5-day video series on how she makes a full-time income from home. For more money-saving advice, visit her blog, MoneySavingMom.com.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Money-Making Mom by Crystal Paine. In celebration of this book, Crystal’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. (We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, November 9.)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are you struggling to trust God with right now? Take a few minutes today to remind yourself of a few of the promises in God’s Word that apply to this situation.

    Write these promises on an index card and hang them above your kitchen sink, near your desk, or on your bathroom mirror.

    © 2015 by Crystal Paine. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

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

  • The Rapid Rise of Christianity

    In 2013, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey brought us The Bible Miniseries, a ten episode series which aired once a week leading up to Easter Sunday. It briefly covered main events of the Old Testament, as well the life of Christ from birth to resurrection.

    Earlier this year they returned with a sequel series, A.D. The Bible Continues, which covered life after Christ’s death and resurrection. This time the first episode aired on Easter Sunday and ran for the eleven weeks following.
    A.D. The Bible Continues

    The series, which releases on DVD and Blu-ray today, follows the disciples who, after the Resurrection, received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, enabling them to go out and share the message that they were commissioned to give.

    Christianity quickly spread during this time period, but it was not without heavy persecution. However, at times the suffering believers endured was the reason that belief spread.

    In Acts 7, we read about the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who was stoned to death for proclaiming Christ as Lord (Acts 7: 54-60 ESV).

    Following that story, we find in Acts 8 that because of this great persecution in Jerusalem, believers were “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,” but also that “those who scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:1-4 ESV)

    Even with all the torturing and killing, believers did not turn from Christ, as the combination of Roman oppression and Jewish revolt was no match for the power of God. This goes to show that God can use evil for good and will do whatever is necessary for His will to be done.

    The faith and perseverance that early believers had offers strong encouragement for Christians today. If you’ve ever been treated poorly because of your faith in Christ, remain steadfast, as “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV).

    Check out some of these stories and many more in A.D. The Bible Continues, which recreates the tense and dramatic narrative of the beginning of the Book of Acts, and encourages you to dig deeper by studying Scripture for yourself.

  • Where Did She Go Wrong?

    Lynn Cowell NOVEMBER 2, 2015

    Where Did She Go Wrong? LYNN COWELL

    "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last — and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." John 15:16 (NIV)

    Where did she go so wrong?

    In school, she was the girl everyone wanted to be like; the one I wanted to be like. So much potential. She seemed to have it all: the grades, the guys, the goods … everything. It was as if she were magnetic, attracting all the best, all the time. Often I wished, "If I could have just one ounce of her talent and beauty …"

    Yet, years later, not everything came together for her like I thought it would. Her ’til-death-do-us-part marriage parted early. The promising career didn’t deliver on its promise. My heart broke as her life came up so short of what I had expected. I’m sure it fell short of what she expected, too.

    Life can be strange at times. What we thought were the ingredients for the perfect life can prove to not be enough. Investments made with our time, energy and emotions can seem more like withdrawals when they don’t produce what we were counting on.

    It reminds me of the two types of fruit I saw when I opened a bag of oranges recently. One juicy orange, so healthy, had reached its full potential. Sunshine, water and nutrients from the soil gave the fruit all it needed to reach the fullness it was created for. I couldn’t wait to enjoy it!

    Another fruit in the same bag, shriveled and pale, revealed only dried pulp when peeled. Why the difference? Both pieces began with so much possibility.

    The result had everything to do with what the fruit had soaked in … or hadn’t.

    When we’re planted in God, we become like the healthy fruit. Drawing from God and His Word, we can reach the fullest potential He desires. We can grow into a person who is bearing fruit as today's verse mentions — fruit that will last. If, on the other hand, we look to some person, place or thing to make our lives fruitful, chances are we’ll never become all Christ created us to be.

    As I think back to the teen-turned-woman in my life, my heart aches for the time she lost, but I am joyful for the woman she has since become. Like for many of us, life didn’t go as planned. But in that place of loss and disappointment, she made a change. Instead of looking for the good life in all the places culture tells us to look, later in life she again made Jesus the focus of her life, motivation, energy and efforts. His ways and His plans took center stage instead of her own.

    At the end of trying to find the life she was looking for, God took her shriveled heart and filled it, empowering her to become the woman He always envisioned her to be. The beauty she now possesses is much more than skin deep; it’s heart deep. She has truly become a magnetic woman.

    Dear Jesus, I may not see it or feel it, but in me is all the potential You planted the day You created me. I want to draw on Your strength and power to become all You created me to be; I want to be a woman whose beauty reflects Your beauty. Teach me to come to You each and every day, to feed my heart so I can have a beauty that’s more than skin deep. I pray for a beauty that’s heart deep. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (NIV)

    Jeremiah 17:7-8, "But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you know a young woman who is filled with potential? Help her soak in the nutrients of God’s Word by getting her Lynn Cowell’s book, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants.

    Join Lynn on her blog for more insights on how to reach your fullest potential, where she is also giving away a reaching-your-fullest-potential gift box.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Every day we are soaking in something, both intentionally and unintentionally, by the things we watch, listen to, read and observe. Pray and ask God to reveal what influences you need to change in your life. Write them down so you can see them.

    Ask God to nudge at your heart when you are tempted to turn to those things that will hinder His work in your life.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College: Part Two, The Scholarships

    This is the second part of a series on helping your child get into their dream college. Part one discusses testing.

    College is expensive. Tuition alone costs a monstrous amount, but then there’s room and board, a meal plan, travel costs and let’s not forget text books — yes, some really do cost hundreds.

    But one of the best kept secrets when applying to school is that you don’t have to pay it all. You can earn it.

    Most students concerned about college try to get a job to help pay for school. Instead of looking for minimum wage work, I focused on being a student. And within only two years, I’d earned $40,000 to put towards my college education.

    How? Private scholarships.

    Most students and parents assume that they will only earn what their school of choice gives them. They then miss out on the wonderful opportunities that exist through private scholarship organizations.

    I'm here to tell you that with the right attitude and diligent hard work, students can make more money studying for your SATs and applying for scholarship competitions than most who have a job all throughout high school.

    Here’s how.

    The Prep Work:

    1. Have your student study the SAT by taking practice tests. I lost count of how many times I actually took the SAT and ACT. The best way to do well is to know how the test is structured. Buy the practice test books and have your child utilize them. You can even sign up your student to receive the SAT question of the day sent directly to their email — if they take this every day, they are getting more exposure to the style and format of the questions.

    2. Help them make a resume. Students don’t need to wait until they’re job searching to have a resume. They should keep it on file and have it ready at all times. If they haven’t had much job experience, then they can include any awards or accomplishments, volunteer service, extracurriculars or special skills.

    3. Help them perfect the short bio application essay (less than 500 words). This is your student’s time to shine and tell the judges about life experience and what makes them a good contender for their competition. Word of advice: students should not over-emphasize other scholarships they have already won, as some organizations want to identify new potential winners.

    4. Guide them to read voraciously. Reading deeply and widely will help students answer scholarship questions and will aid them in writing the necessary short answer essays on the standardized tests and on the grant application forms.


    5. Assist in identifying candidates to write letters of recommendation. It’s helpful for your student to go ahead and ask important people to write a letter of recommendation for them. Consider a wide range of people — teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors, employers etc.

    The Process:

    Help your student go for it! Here are a few sample organizations that provide generous amounts of money to high school students applying for college. Your student will usually create an account and then submit your application.

    A few scholarships:

    National Society of High School Scholars - This is an honors society that I joined as a senior after receiving an invitational letter. They have monthly scholarships that your students can apply for and some are quite simple. Not only is this a great way to earn money, but membership is also a good resume-builder.

    Distinguished Young Women - I walked away from DYW with $20,000 to be put towards Wheaton College, the school of my dreams. This organization is for girls in their senior year of high school. Students compete in 5 categories: Fitness, Self-Expression (onstage question), Talent, Interview and Scholastics. Not only can this program help you gain money but it is also a thrilling experience and a wonderful opportunity for students to challenge themselves and to get involved in their community.

    National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) - This organization is for college athletes, so if your child plans on taking sports to school, look into the leadership programs, grants and scholarships with the NCAA.

    Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) - I also participated in this organization. This program serves to educate young people about patriotism and the fundamental values of our nation. Students compete at several different levels in an essay competition: Post, Regional, State, National. The competition is called "Voice of Democracy".

    Siemens Foundation - Siemens offers both a merit scholarship and a national competition for math, science and technology. Applicants create a project and write a research report on their findings to be evaluated by a panel of judges in the selected field. If your child prefers science fairs to literary analysis, Siemens is one to consider.

    Ayn Rand Institute - Every year, there is a substantial essay competition in honor of the magnificent writer and political thinker Ayn Rand. The competition for Grade 12 - College is on her book Atlas Shrugged and the winner walks away with $20,000. It's worth looking into.

    The Official College Board - This is the organization that releases the SAT. Through them, you can find online questions, study guides and other resourceful materials. There are also merit-based scholarships through private organizations. It's helpful for your student to create a profile with the College Board and browse scholarships that match your needs.

    I recently received an email from someone working at my school’s Financial Aid department telling me that I brought in more private scholarships than most students they see. She was asking me how this was possible because they’re always working to make college affordable and she wanted to know my story so that it could potentially help other applying students.

    This is how.

    In just a handful of hours, any student can apply for a plethora of scholarships. Think about the possibilities! If your child wins one quick-draw $5,000 scholarship that probably took only two-three hours to prepare for, they’ve just made over $1500 an hour.

    This is the kind of work that pays off. This is the kind of work that pays for college. Help your child do the research and learn how to apply their strengths. They can work hard and work smart — they, too, can earn $40,000 for college.


    This post was written by Ciera Horton, a unique blend of academic and artistic. She is a writer and world traveler, a lover of old books and swing dancing, and a student at Wheaton College in Chicago.  She shares her culturally-engaging outlook on literature, education and social hot topics for the Christian millennial on her blog, www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

  • What Does It Mean to Be Made New?

    Liz Curtis Higgs OCTOBER 30, 2015

    What Does It Mean to Be Made New? LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

    When this Former Bad Girl received Christ, you can imagine what my coworkers thought when I danced out the door on a Friday afternoon shouting, "Party!" and then strolled in Monday morning saying, "Praise the Lord, I’ve been baptized!"

    Did they notice? Oh, baby.

    As spring turned into summer, I soared and stumbled along my new walk with Christ, watched carefully by my coworkers, who were curious about the changes they were seeing.

    One October day, our receptionist asked me, "Liz, what does it mean to be a Christian?"

    Uh-oh. The most important question ever. Did I have an answer at the ready? I did not. Desperately looking around for inspiration, I saw a ceramic pumpkin on display and stammered, "Oh, Alice, it’s just like being a pumpkin."

    "Really?" she asked. "What do you mean by that?"

    Friend, I had no idea what I meant. After silently pleading for the Lord to make sense of my nonsense, I said, "Well, God chooses us out of the pumpkin patch of life." Whew.

    "No kidding?" Alice nodded thoughtfully. "Tell me more."

    More? Another prayer, another leap of faith. "We’re dirty, right? From being out in the field? So, God washes us on the outside. That’s like baptism. Then He pierces our thick skins with the double-edged sword of His Word so He can clean out all that icky stuff on the inside."

    Alice made a face, no doubt remembering the last time she’d plunged her hands into a warm, slimy pumpkin. Squish.

    "Yuck," I agreed. "And those slimy seeds? Bitterness and discontent can cling to our hearts just like those stubborn seeds. Thank goodness God is willing to clean us out, because He’s the only One who can."

    "Okay …" She was still listening, still taking it all in. "Then what?"

    The Lord had a swift answer for both of us.

    "He gives us a brand new face, Alice."

    I swallowed hard, overwhelmed by her open expression, knowing God was at work, right then and there. "He gives us eyes that see like His, without blinking or turning away. A nose to capture the fragrant aroma of His sacrifice. And a mouth that smiles with joy."

    "Then …" I blinked away tears. Oh, Alice! Do you see? "He fills us with the light of His Spirit and puts us out in a dark world to shine for Him."

    Her eyes widened. "Boy, that all makes so much sense!"

    My hands shook as I reached for a pencil, wanting to write down everything God had shown us. Over the years, I shared this parable in many places, until it took on a life of its own and began spinning around the Internet. If it ever appears in your inbox, now you know the rest of the story!

    What matters most is what happened next: Alice was made new.

    Not long after our conversation, Alice gave her heart to God and was scrubbed clean, inside and out. Just as today’s verse tells us, "If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) Alice’s old life wasn’t nearly as hairy and scary as mine, but she was forgiven all the same. So was I.

    And those slimy seeds that represent our old sins? God has a plan for those, too. They can be sprinkled with salt, roasted to perfection and shared with others, just as we can use our past experiences to speak to loved ones who are stuck in the yuck.

    Heavenly Father, when I invited You inside my dark heart, I feared my less-than-lovely past would turn You away forever. Yet, You willingly plunged Your holy hands into my unholy mess and gave me a new heart. This season and every season, Lord, help my sisters and me shine for Your glory, praying others will hear Your story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." (NASB)

    John 4:35b, "I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Celebrating 20 years of encouraging young hearts, The Pumpkin Patch Parable is available in a big, new Parable Treasury, combining four stories by Liz Curtis Higgs — one for each season — especially for children ages 4-7. Liz has 10 copies to give away! (U.S. addresses only — thanks for understanding.) We’ll choose 10 winners at random and send email notifications to each one by Monday, November 2.

    Stop by Liz’s blog, where she offers a free weekly Bible series on opening God’s Word and embracing the Good News.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Over the centuries, our Creator has revealed the promise of His redemption through story, music, dance, art, drama, spoken word — He is endlessly creative.

    Ask God to give you a new way to capture the profound truth of the Gospel, then look for an opportunity to share it this weekend with someone who needs to hear about Jesus.

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Sometimes I Talk Too Much

    Lysa TerKeurst OCTOBER 29, 2015

    Sometimes I Talk Too Much LYSA TERKEURST

    "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)

    I have some opinions.

    I have some thoughts.

    I have a plethora of words that beg to be spoken.

    And if I’m not careful those words can be too much. Maybe you can relate.

    Unchecked words that come too fast bring with them a rush of trouble. That’s why it’s important for us to consider three things with our words …

    1. Listening should take precedence over speaking.

    Honestly, I think a lot of relationship troubles could be solved if we made the commitment to listen more than we speak. Gosh this is hard, isn’t it? Sometimes when I’m listening to someone all I can focus on is when I’m going to be able to jump in and say what’s screaming in my brain. Later I realize all that focus on my next words prevented me from really listening to what they were trying to say.

    What if I made the commitment today to do more listening than speaking? I’m going to challenge myself to not interrupt. Wait until there is a true pause in the conversation. Truly consider what the other person has said. And then respond with care.

    "To answer before listening — that is folly and shame." Proverbs 18:13 (NIV)

    2. Words should be measured.

    I need to engage my brain before I engage my mouth. Just like I consider how a purchase will affect my bank account, I have to consider how words will affect my relationship account. I can do this by thinking about how my words will come across and intentionally asking myself if there are better words that could be used in this situation?

    "Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions." Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)

    3. Once words are spoken, I can’t un-speak them.

    Once words come out of my mouth I can’t gather them back in. It’s like once you squeeze too much toothpaste out, you can’t get it back into the tube. Now certainly, I can quickly say I’m sorry. I can ask for forgiveness. I can attempt to make the wrong right. But I can’t un-speak my words.

    "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." Proverbs 18:21

    If my greatest desire is to honor the Lord with every word I say and interaction I have, these three things are crucial for me to keep in mind. Instead of allowing my flesh reactions to lead me, I’ve got to boss my thoughts and opinions around using God’s Truth.

    Dear Lord, I always want my words to reflect the fact that You live within me. But sometimes my first reaction isn’t as God-honoring as it should be. Help me to keep these three perspectives in mind as I deny my flesh response and follow Your teaching in this. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 10:19, "Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues." (NIV)

    Galatians 5:16-17, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Join a community of women who want to honor God with their actions and reactions with our next free online Bible study of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, UngluedSign up here.

    Get ready for the study by purchasing your copy of Unglued today!

    RELFECT AND RESPOND: Consider the three points Lysa gave in today’s devotion. Which of these speaks to you the most?

    Choose one point and determine to implement it in your conversations and responses this week.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Find an Unshakable Identity

    Glynnis Whitwer OCTOBER 28, 2015

    How to Find an Unshakable Identity GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12 (NIV)

    For so many years, I had the ability to move from success to disappointment in a heartbeat. Just when I thought I had it all together, something happened. I’d forget an appointment. Snap at one of my children. Or procrastinate on a project until I was stressed out and mad.

    I’d built my identity on the shaky foundation of my circumstances and abilities. As soon as the delicate balance was tipped with a mistake, misstep or mishap, I kicked it in to overdrive to try and compensate. But all that frenetic activity never made a lasting difference.

    My roller coaster identity took me on a wild ride for years, but not the fun theme park kind. It all changed when I read about the difference between being and doing. These two things are opposite, but somehow, I had connected them.

    Why do so many of us draw a straight line from our actions to our identity? Why are we so quick to connect dots that aren’t there, slap a label on ourselves and believe it to be true? We stumble and call ourselves clumsy. We forget to pay a bill and call ourselves stupid. Our home is cluttered, and we call ourselves pathetic.

    Those aren’t lines God draws. Only Satan, the enemy of this world, draws a line from our work to our worth. Only the enemy wants us to find our identity in what we do, because he knows when the lights dim and the "success" is gone, so is our value.

    God, however, has another identity for us, one that’s unchanging and independent of our actions. It’s as His chosen and beloved child. John 1:12 says, "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

    When I first learned this truth about my identity, it took a long time to accept. Each time I caught my belittling self-talk, I had to make a choice about what to believe. I had to choose to take God at His Word, and believe in His love. This took my faith from academic head knowledge to real-life heart belief.

    If I have any doubt that God’s approval is conditioned on my perfect behavior, Romans 5:6-8 tells me the truth: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (NIV).

    God’s acceptance of us, and hence our identity, is NOT defined by our actions. So we will never be a "failure" when our performance doesn’t match our expectations. When we reassign the source of our value and worth to its rightful place, we will be free from the fear of failure or the opinions of others. We will be free from the labels we place on ourselves. And free from the shifting sands of our self-worth.

    The only thing that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks about us. And that is unchanging. We can rest knowing we are safe and secure in God’s unconditional love.

    And once we really believe this truth, our identity will be unshakable.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for embracing me as Your beloved daughter. Knowing You will never turn away from me, nor forsake me, fills my heart with joy. I want to love You and serve You more each day, free from the lies that hold back my potential in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 2:6-7, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (NIV)

    John 8:36, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If your overwhelming circumstances have you feeling like a failure, you’ll appreciate Glynnis Whitwer’s newest book, Taming the To-Do List. It’s filled with encouragement to help you learn the truth about your worth, identify your priorities and develop simple strategies to live that out every day.

    Join Glynnis on her blog today for a special announcement about her FREE Do It Now! Challenge and a giveaway of her book, Taming the To-Do List.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What labels have you put on yourself that you would never put on someone else?

    How would your life change if God’s thoughts about you were enough? How would you approach your relationships, work and ministry differently?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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