• War Room

Family Christian

  • The "Perfect" Cup of Coffee

    Kathi

    "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV)

    It was going to be the perfect Father's Day. Perfect.

    All my husband wanted was his nonfat peppermint mocha.

    And I — his list-making, get 'er done wife — was going to make his dreams come true. So we headed for the coffee shop.

    But as we pulled into the drive-thru, the unthinkable happened: Another car cut in front of us.

    And me? I lost my mind.

    I rolled down my window and screamed, "Are you KIDDING me?!? Who raised you?!?"

    I thought I'd recovered sufficiently, but then Roger said, "Kathi, I need you to calm down."

    Through gritted teeth, I growled back, "I am calm!"

    To which Roger replied, "So why are you unbuckling your seatbelt?"

    Okay — maybe I wasn't as calm as I thought.

    I continued to seethe for the rest of our time in line. I was livid, but there wasn't anything I could do except grumble and complain.

    When we finally pulled up to the window, the young barista looked confused. He handed us our drinks and said, "I don't really understand what's happening, but the car ahead of you bought all your drinks and told me to tell you that they were raised by wolves."

    Thankfully I can laugh about that incident now, but in the moment I wanted everything to be perfect. And when it wasn't, I lost it. That's not the only time the Perfectionism Bully (so named because it keeps beating me up) has made an appearance in my life. And the results are usually anything but funny.

    Perfectionism lures us onto the hamster wheel of Try-Harder Living, causing us to become obsessed with results. "If you do everything just right, everything will turn out according to plan," it quietly lies to us.

    When we've been brainwashed by perfectionism, we feel that people who violate our expectations deserve whatever reaction they provoke. Like yelling out the car window in the drive-through.

    Or giving a spouse the silent treatment to "teach him a lesson" for spoiling our perfect plans.

    Or meddling in a child's life under the guise of "helping" things turn out just right ... the way we know they should.

    Unlike the Perfectionism Bully, God tells us the truth. He is realistic and upfront as our key verse mentions: "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33b). He also assures us that in Him, we can have peace because He has "overcome the world!"

    Here are some practices I've learned when the desire to try harder and harder to make things "just right" starts to brew:

    Pull back and pause. When you recognize perfectionism for what it is — a deceptive bully — you can choose to pull back instead of letting it force you forward, demanding results. You can pause to see what's actually worth yelling out a car window for (a child running into a busy street) and what's not (a car cutting in front of you).

    Pray for discernment. Ask whether you're being driven by fear or guided by God. The condemning voice in your head insisting, "That's not good enough! Try harder!" is perfectionism. The still, small voice of loving conviction speaking to your heart is God.

    Practice "Tiny Acts of Rebellion." Take an active stand against the Perfectionism Bully. Say "no" to its destructive demands and "yes" to caring choices. Praise your child for making his own bed and don't fix it for him. Welcome a guest into your home without apologizing for "this mess." Leave home wearing no makeup, just a big smile.

    Rebelling against perfectionism's tyranny requires bravery. But take heart! It's totally worth it. As you break free from this bully, the peace of Christ will rule your heart instead.

    Lord, help me to recognize the voice of the Perfectionism Bully today. Lead me to hear, believe and follow only You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (NIV)

    Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think about a recent situation in which you tried harder and harder to make things "just right." Ask yourself: Was I driven by fear or guided by God?

    Plan a "Tiny Act of Rebellion" against the Perfectionism Bully for today and tell a trusted friend about it. (You could even invite her to be your Bravery Buddy!)

    © 2014 by Kathi Lipp. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishing for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Dying to My Selfie

    Lynn

    "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin ..." Romans 6:6 (NIV)

    Girls' weekend was finally here! I was so excited to be going away with my two girls and their friends, that when someone hollered, "Selfie!" I nudged my way into the picture just in time.

    The selfie is a spontaneous picture taken to capture ...

    To capture what?

    Sometimes, like our road-trip shot, it's to capture a moment we're enjoying and people we're loving. Other times, I wonder if it's more than that.

    "Mom, you always find a way to get in there!" one of my girls lovingly laughed from the back seat.

    My daughter's tease got me thinking ...

    Do I always find a way to get in on what is going on? If so, why?

    Do I turn selfie moments into opportunities to make the moment about me? Shift the attention toward me?

    Shouldn't I be past this?

    Sometimes the young girl we once were, the one who wanted to be noticed, the one who sought after a boy's attention or longed for her parents' approval, is not completely gone.

    Maybe there's a side of me still wanting acceptance and attention. This possibility makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to be an insecure woman.

    I want to be a woman who reflects love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I want to have selfless attributes of a heart that reflects Christ in me, the fruit of His Spirit on display. A lasting grace that isn't about getting attention, but about serving and loving others more than I love myself.

    I want that kind of beauty for me, and for my daughters as well.

    But to gain it, I have to give something up. I'm going to have to die first.

    Die to the me who is all about me.

    Die to my selfie.

    Because, when I die to me, another woman can emerge. A woman whose character is found in the love she gives, the joy she lives and the peace when she forgives.

    A woman who doesn't make her life about gaining attention, but giving it.

    Today's key verse reminds me that Jesus' work on the cross makes it possible for me to become this kind of woman: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6).

    Christ died so I don't have to struggle with the sin of self-centeredness, the pull to make life about me. Christ's new life in me means I no longer have to be a slave to needing attention. I can confidently put the spotlight on Him and others.

    And here is the intriguing twist: A woman who possesses this type of beauty, who chooses others above herself is hard to find, yet she is easy to spot.

    Jesus, I want to be beautiful the way You define beautiful. A woman whose life reflects Your life inside of me. Help me to die to myself so that You might daily live strong in me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Reflect on the past 24 hours. Can you spot a moment when you needed to "die to your selfie"?

    In that moment, were you able to recognize this difficult choice you were facing of choosing others over yourself?

    Today, ask the Father to help you recognize when you need to choose others over yourself.

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Shut the Door on Anger

    Sharon

    "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)

    I was alone downstairs in my home — at least I thought I was, until noises from the cellar startled me. From the corner of my eye, I saw something move. Taking a big gulp, I looked up to see eyes staring at me from the cellar door. Fear gripped me, and I screamed for my husband.

    Peering out from behind Dale, I could see a long snake hanging firmly from the top of the door. Dale grabbed it and pulled it off. I watched from on top of the table as he juggled the snake's weight toward the front door and flung it outside.

    With a sigh of relief, I gathered myself and sat back down to work. Ellie, my youngest daughter, came into the kitchen a few minutes later and pointed at the same door. "Mom, there's another one." Swallowing hard, I turned to see she was right.

    We've lived in our home for 20 years and never had a snake indoors before then. It turned out Dale accidentally left the crawl space door under the house open in the fall. The snakes saw it as a welcome sign and took up residence. Once winter was over, they decided to go exploring. Thankfully, we haven't seen another snake in the house since.

    That night, as I thought about that open crawl space door, Ephesians 4:26-27 came to mind: "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

    The open door in my house was much like the foothold referred to in that passage. A foothold in our lives is an open door of opportunity Satan uses to gain access.

    Scripture cautions us to guard the door of our hearts because Satan is always looking for a way in (1 Peter 5:8).

    Many times we don't realize he's gotten a foothold until anger and anxiety stare us in the eyes and say: Here I am, now what are you gonna do about it? We can choose to ignore it, be afraid of it or engage in a battle that will define our lives.

    A good starting point is to take a look at our thoughts and emotions. Is there someone we harbor resentment toward? A situation we replay over and over in our mind, causing untold anxiety? A wound that is still sore, years later?

    These are indicators of unresolved anger — anger that has been carried from one day to the next to the next, maybe even for a lifetime. The enemy uses these open doors to come between us and God, tear apart relationships and hurt our Christian witness (John 13:35).

    To avoid these destructive conditions, Scripture tells us to quickly get rid of anger so the enemy has no foothold. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live with snakes in my home or an enemy in my life. So how do we close the open doors?

    • Trust God to be your defender. Holding a grudge sets us up to think our anger will avenge the wrong against us. But it doesn't; only God can do that (Romans 12:19).

    • Even if you never receive an apology, forgive anyway. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (NIV). This verse helps me to recall God's great forgiveness for my own sin.

    • If possible, follow the prescription of reconciliation in Matthew 18:15-17.

    • Desire for God to be glorified more than you long to be justified (1 Peter 2:12).

    Imagine what my house would be like if we left the door open. I wouldn't want to live there! Every now and then I double-check the crawl space door, just to be sure it's closed. And I double-check my heart for any footholds of anger.

    Lord, please help me be aware of open doors and to close them through trust, reconciliation, forgiveness and honor. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:19b-20, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (NIV)

    1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you holding on to any anger or grudges? Ask God to forgive you and heal your heart.

    Do you need to ask someone for forgiveness for your actions? Can you do that today?

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • True Peace

    There are so many trouble spots in the world.  It is overwhelming and can be depressing to watch the news; it appears that so many places are on the edge of disaster.  You have the fighting between Israel and Hamas, the tension between the Ukraine and Russia, the issues in Syria and, even here in the United States, we have the fighting from the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

    It can be so unsettling.

    Business is hard, it is competitive and changes quickly and you have to be on your game daily.  I just transitioned to a new role.  After 19 years with the HoneyBaked Ham Company I recently became the CEO of Family Christian Stores.  And while I am excited to be at Family Christian and feel called by God to the position, there are significant challenges to be addressed.  In addition, I am meeting new people and learning new processes.  I am working to get a better understanding of the business and its risks and opportunities.

    It can be so unsettling.

    And yet… I have complete Peace.

    I care deeply about those things.  I follow the international situations carefully and I care deeply about the direction of our country and the results of our business.  I pray faithfully for all of these issues and candidly they are not all moving in the direction I prefer.

    Yet… I have complete peace.

    Why?  How?

    The peace I have is not one that is dependent on external circumstances.  It is not dependent on the situation I find myself in.   I have lived long enough to know that I can never have true peace if it depends on circumstances.  My experience is that there are always struggles and challenges in life.  I have found that I cannot escape it.  Even more, I have found that in periods when all appeared to be going well, I still had this unsettled feeling, this tension.  I have concluded beyond a shadow of a doubt that peace cannot be “found” in circumstances.

    The peace I have is born out of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    This peace is a tranquility of the soul, a calm despite circumstances, it is born out of a dependence on a loving and sovereign God who has my best interest at heart… always.  It is not born out of the absence of trouble but from a God who comforts and guides me in the midst of the trouble.

    Jesus said (John 14:27) “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful”.  He delivered this amazing message of comfort to his disciples the night before he was crucified.  Reflect on those words, chew on them.  The words are powerful and they are true.

    It is His peace that is available to us.  It is a supernatural peace.

    In Philippians (4:7), Paul writes about the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.  It is hard to make sense of this peace in a fallen world, but it is real.  It is a peace that is not logical, it makes no sense and it exceeds our wildest expectations.

    I have experienced it.

    It seems to me that the more I am overwhelmed, the more I struggle, and therefore, the more I cry out to God… the more peace I have. The routine goes something like this.  When I think I am in control, when I am worried about me, when I am unilaterally acting without seeking His guidance, I get anxious.  I want more, I want it faster and I want it better; always and without fail.  On the other hand, when I am over my head, when I am failing, when I am worried, when my family is hurting, when I have no options, then, I cry out to God.  I go to Him in desperation, and it is there, not in the circumstances that I find peace. He comforts me; always and without fail.

    His Peace he gives to me.

    My second son was a Marine Infantry officer.  He fought in Iraq and he fought in Afghan.  He received a Bronze star for valor in combat.  He fought a lot back in ’08 and ’09.  My son was on the front lines fighting almost daily and I knew that.  Yet I had complete peace.

    Why?  It was during those years that I learned the true nature of the peace that is only available through Christ.  It was the first time in my life that the circumstances that affected me were completely out of my control (at least my perception of control).  My son was in Afghan and I was in Atlanta.  There was nothing I could do to help him, nothing.

    Except pray.

    I realized the depth to which I was not in control.  I cried out in desperation and I cried out in total dependence.

    You know what happened?

    During those two years, God transformed me.  He gave me a peace that I cannot describe and it was not a function of the expectation that my son would come home alive.  It was based on a trust that His ways are best and that His love is unconditional and fully comforts.  I was not worried about the outcome.  I simply wanted more of God.  It was an incredibly sweet season for me in what should have been a period of extreme anxiety.

    I have not forgotten that lesson.  I had become a Christian long before my son went to war, but I had never cried out to Him so passionately and so earnestly.  I understood my helplessness and my total dependence on Him.  I was not fooled into thinking that I was in control and only needed God occasionally.  I needed Him “full time” and He was there to comfort me and give me peace.

    Here is the deal… if you want peace… Trust Christ fully and completely.  Do not wait for the world to give you that peace.  That will be a long wait.

     

    Shalom

    Chuck Bengochea

    Chuck

  • Fulfilling Life's Roles

    It seems that all the things in life that I struggle with come around to one central point: how to fulfill all the roles that God has given me. I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a youth minister’s wife, a friend, a writer….the list could ramble on for half of a page. It seems that if I’m giving 100% to one role then I’m lacking severely in all the others. No one, including myself, is ever quite satisfied. If this sounds like you, then I hope that you will find encouragement in today’s words.

    Since giving birth to triplet boys last year, my life turned from an organized schedule into a disheveled mess. From being always late, to forgetting to turn in a paper for my daughter’s school, to flaking out on commitments at the last minute, I’ve found myself letting people down in so many ways. It’s never intentional—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I have the best intentions. But taking care of my baby boys takes full priority over other things, and I discover that I struggle to fulfill the many roles that I’m supposed to complete.

    It has surprised me the number of times that others have no objection to letting me know how much I haven’t fulfilled what expectations that they have of me. I forgot to send a Thank You card. I didn’t call a family member. I made a last minute plan that someone else found to be an inconvenience. I failed to show up at an event on time.

    This reminds me of a Bible story where someone was accused of not showing up on time. In the familiar Bible story of Martha and Lazarus, Jesus arrived “late” and Lazarus had already died and was buried.

    John 11:21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

    Although this isn’t the point of the story, it was within this account of Jesus that I found comfort in knowing that even Jesus had others who, through their human eyes, felt He wasn’t fulfilling his roles. (If Jesus couldn’t make everyone happy, then I know that I definitely can’t!).

    Bystanders even echoed these sentiments.

    John 11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

    But we know the story. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Beyond the circumstance, beyond the feelings of others, Jesus fulfilled his roles of Friend, Healer, and Savior in ways that go farther than human comprehension.

    For me, this is a reminder that only through the Heavenly Father can I fulfill any roles that He has granted me. All responsibilities and commitments are opportunities for God to work through me and for Him to show His hand in my life. Life roles are more than things on my to-do list. They are chances to be a witness for Him. Regardless of the complaints or skepticism of others, I’ve discovered that keeping my eye on how I can let God shine through my roles allows me to be content and, well, fulfilled.

    John 11:1-43

    Me and Nat cropped

    Melanie is a minister’s wife, freelance writer, blogger, and a mother to a lovely daughter and triplet boys. She enjoys cooking, photography, and her children’s church group. You can find her at It Happens in a Blink where she shares recipes and crafts that utilize fewer supplies, fewer ingredients, and less time.

  • The Dangerous Familiar

    KAREN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Before They Go to School ... Have This Conversation

    LYSA

    "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

    I look around the dinner table and feel that desperate ache not uncommon to women who deeply love.

    Whether it's my own family or those who just feel like family, I want so much for them. These young people who are so full of possibility and dreams and bright futures ... they have my heart.

    Yet my heart feels fragile in the hands of these young people. They are smart. They are grounded. But they are young.

    It takes me back to me at that age.

    And that scares me.

    I remember feeling so grown up and crazy excited at the chance to be in charge of my own life. Ready for independence. Ready for love. Ready for the next chapter of my life.

    Chasing what felt good and thrilling, I quickly learned the wind blows in dangerous directions sometimes. Going with the flow led me places I didn't intend to go. And I woke up one morning ashamed of my choices, wondering how in the world I got to this place.

    How?

    I cringe thinking back on it. And I cry. Because I don't want that experience for these people I desperately love.

    So, in the midst of the laughter and casual banter, I turn the conversation at the dinner table to a word I want them to know and live.

    Pre-decide.

    Decide today who you want to be. In this moment of togetherness, surrounded by family, and saturated in love — decide.

    Decide what your answer will be when the talk turns ugly and the laughter turns mean against that girl who desperately needs you to be her friend.

    Decide what your answer will be when someone invites you to the cool party full of drinks and drugs.

    Decide what your answer will be when the boy says it's no big deal to stay the night.

    Decide what your answer will be when "friends" laugh at your Christian views and challenge you to lighten up.

    Pre-decide.

    Decide today who you are going to turn to if you do get into trouble. Remember the people at this table. Remember who truly has your best interests at heart. Remember who you are.

    Pre-decide.

    Decide today to turn around any mistakes from your past by asking for God's forgiveness and walking in His grace.

    Decide today to ignore the enemy who wants to trick you and trip you and take you out.

    Pre-decide. And only say yes to the decisions that lead you in the direction of becoming more like Christ. This is the Best Yes.

    Yes, pre-decide.

    And then we go around the table and tell what we are pre-deciding this year. And my heart feels less of that ache.

    I'm not so foolish to think this will act as a bad choice immunization. We are all susceptible. But it is a way to infuse their heart with a memory of a pre-decision.

    And with that the plates are cleared, the cookies are nothing more than crumbs, and it's time to go.

    Here are some great Bible verses to pray for our kids as they head off to school this year:

    • Galatians 1:10 "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (NIV)

    • Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will." (NIV)

    • Joshua 24:15 "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (NIV)

    • Proverbs 29:25 "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." (NIV)

    So, along with these Scripture verses, I whisper a few last words that are a "best yes" for them as they pack up to go ...

    Go where wisdom gathers, not where wisdom scatters.

    Make decisions today that will still be good tomorrow.

    And (insert voice cracking and tears welling up), remember how much I love you.

    Dear Lord, You are so good. Thank you for entrusting these people to me. I pray You'll guide my family in Your way as we enter a new school year. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Which of the above Scripture verses will you pray for your child? Write it down on an index card and personalize it using your child's name. Then, put the index card where you will see it often during the day as a reminder to pray.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • FulFill: Most Likely to Succeed

    Recently a former high school classmate posted an old issue of our newspaper. There was my photo, complete with big glasses and feathered hair, Most Likely to Succeed.

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    At the time, it seemed like an honor. Now, it felt more like an indictment. Because in the intervening decades, I haven't become a doctor or a lawyer. I haven't been elected to public office. Sure, I taught school for eight years, but then I fell into the career black hole known as "justamom."

    Justamom is an uncomfortable place to be for the former kid who wanted to jump right in to each school project the day it was assigned. It's not what you'd expect from the kid who wanted to make a visual aid for each section of the social studies book (my teachers always talked about visual aids. Was that a '70s thing?). I wasn't a member of the Walnut Street Go-Getters 4-H Club for nothing!

    Being justamom feels like ... I'm not accomplishing all I need to. It feels like I'm not, perhaps, fulfilling my destiny.

    In the Bible, I read:

    The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands (Psalm 138:8)

    I can relate to fulfilling things! But then I notice, it's not me doing the fulfilling in this verse. It's the Lord. He is doing all the work here.

    I kind of like that.

    Because, even for the overachieving kid now in grown-up skin, sometimes life gets hard. Yes, God is good and we're all so blessed and yadda yadda yadda -- and still, there are days when I'd like to step off the merry go round and just rest a while.

    The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14)

    That sounds so ... freeing. Perhaps we can simply be, and let the Lord do the fulfilling for us. I think I could succeed at being still today. How about you?

    *************************************************************************************************************************************************

    Susan Barnett Braun is justamom in northeastern Indiana, where she is also a freelance writer, church organist, and piano teacher, when she's not taking care of her three daughters and the family rabbit, chinchilla, and hedgehog. Her books are available at Amazon, and she blogs each weekday at Girls in White Dresses.

  • When Potholes Fill Your Path

    Alicia

    "The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth." Isaiah 26:7 (NIV)

    On the night before he began kindergarten, my youngest son, Joshua, announced he'd "rather go to jail" than go to school.

    His big brother mumbled something sarcastic about the prison bars in the principal's office, while his sisters attempted to soothe Joshua's anxieties by pointing out the perks of being a kindergartener.

    "Did you know that when you lose a tooth at school you get to bring it home in a tiny treasure box?" my daughter Hannah asked.

    Joshua grinned and poked his finger in his mouth to check for loose teeth. But when it was time to brush those pearly whites and head to bed, his smile faded and fears returned.

    What if my legs get cramped on my carpet square?

    What if my ears hurt from listening all day?

    What if I forget to raise my hand?

    What if I'm the only one who can't read?

    To be honest, Joshua's worries resonated with my own. I'd prayed unceasingly over the school year to come and was certain God had placed my son in the kindergarten classroom that would best meet his needs. Yet I just couldn't imagine my littlest boy thriving in any classroom at all. He loved piles of dirt more than stacks of books and preferred hammers over pencils.

    Joshua's eyelids drooped and his breathing slowed. Then, before he surrendered to sleep, he voiced one last concern: "I can't go to kindergarten tomorrow, Mommy. I don't have even one wiggly tooth!"

    I assured my son that loose teeth weren't a prerequisite for kindergarten, and I headed to the kitchen to pack lunches for morning. Minutes later my husband found me crying over the peanut butter, and I had to confess the angst preying on my mind. "I can't figure out how Joshua's going to make it through the school year."

    "You don't have to figure it out," my husband gently replied as he wiped a smudge of peanut butter off my cheek. "That's God's job."

    Have you been there before? Perhaps you've sought God's direction, followed His lead, only to find yourself walking a path marked by concerns that cause you to stumble.

    Sometimes the potholes in our path make us wonder if we are really on the right road. Unanswered, difficult questions can make us doubt the direction we've been given.

    However, today's key verse reminds us it's not our job to fix the chinks in our trail. If we let God lead, He will smooth the way: "The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth" (Isaiah 26:7).

    Whatever the path looks like, God has a plan for every step (Jeremiah 29:11). We may be trekking toward a new school year or stepping into an empty nest; stumbling along a painful detour or skipping into a new job; but no matter where we're headed, God is aware of every gap in the road He's established for us.

    Joshua's school year wasn't perfect, but God was faithful. And nine months later, as we waited for the big yellow bus to chug up our street on the last day of school, my son admitted he'd changed his mind. With a toothless grin, he conceded. Going to kindergarten was definitely better than going to jail!

    The bus slowed to a stop, and Joshua climbed aboard. He pressed his face against the window and waved good-bye. That's when I noticed a splash of white hovering at the top of his gaping grin.

    Soon a new tooth would inhabit that endearing hole in his smile. Because that's just how God works, faithfully filling every gap in His own way and in His perfect time.

    Lord, I don't have every step figured out, but I'm thankful You do. Fill me with courage when my path is packed with potholes. Give me faith to follow Your lead and awaken me to see You at work as I travel along the road You've prepared for me. Thank You for providing direction and peace in Your perfect timing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is the most daunting "pothole" in your path right now? Today, how could you lean on Christ rather than on your own understanding?

    God's word is like a GPS for life travelers. When your path feels confusing or difficult, the truth of Scripture brings peace. Set aside ten minutes this week to read your Bible. Look up these promises in the Psalms: Psalm 16:11, 18:36, 119:9, 119:35, 119:105.

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Woman on a Mission

    Liz

    When you leap into the arms of Jesus, you never know where He'll carry you. As a new Christian, I was certain God called me to a distant mission field. Really distant: Indonesia.

    True, I'd only been a believer six months, after a wild and wooly decade as a seriously Bad Girl. I also had no husband at the time, no college degree and little knowledge about Indonesia other than where it landed on a map. Still, I knew that Christians were called to "go into all the world" (Mark 16:15, NIV). Shouldn't I go too?

    When I threw myself at a mission board, certain they'd be thrilled to take me, the director was very kind. He listened, nodded, took notes. And then he said the last thing I expected to hear: "I'm sorry, Liz. But ... no."

    My heart sank. I thought if you offered to live in a hut and eat beetles, they'd say, "Great! Sign here."

    Then he explained why I wasn't the best candidate for foreign missions: "Liz, you're already well versed in a culture most Christians know little about."

    I knew where this was going. He meant my old life. My Bad Girl life.

    His voice softened. "Do you know the story of the woman at the well? After she met Jesus, she went back to town, where everyone knew her sordid story, and she told them about Jesus. That's what you need to do."

    "You mean the people I used to hang out with?" My cheeks grew hot even thinking about it. "The people I partied with? The men I slept with? Those people?"

    I could feel Indonesia slipping away as I pictured the faces of friends I knew well — and who knew way too much about me. People as lost and confused as I'd once been. People who needed to know Jesus.

    "Never fear," the director said as he placed a gentle hand on my shoulder and escorted me to the door. "God will take care of Indonesia."

    So, I went back to Louisville and told my story. No hut, no beetles, yet a mission field for which I was already qualified, simply because I spoke their language. And because I loved them.

    Soon one coworker came to know Jesus. Then another. Then a third. Who knew?

    God knew. But He never forgot my heart for Indonesia.

    Twenty years after my no-go with the mission board, I stood in my publisher's booth at a Christian booksellers convention. The guy in charge of international rights pulled me aside and said, "Liz, please meet Yani with World Harvest."

    A tiny woman with thick, black hair looked up, her face radiant, "I am in the process of translating three of your books into my country's language."

    "Wonderful!" I beamed at her. "What country might that be?"

    She beamed back. "Indonesia."

    Oh my. To think that my words would travel there, even if I never did! Only God could manage such a thing.

    And He wasn't finished. When I shared my experience at an evangelism conference, one of the guest speakers approached me. "Liz, would you like to speak in Indonesia?"

    My heart skipped a beat. Would I?! I could barely get out the words. "W-who would my audience be?"

    "Women," she assured me, then smiled. "Missionaries."

    Lord, the tenderness of Your mercy overwhelms me. You miss nothing. You care about everything. You answer our deepest longings, according to Your perfect will and perfect timing. You know our mission fields, Lord, far better than we do. Help us serve You, wherever You send us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 2:8b, "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Liz was eager to share the gospel with the world because God's grace had changed her life. What compels you to tell others about Jesus?

    Might someone cross your path today who needs to hear the good news?

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

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