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  • 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

  • Overriding Your To-Do List

     

    Leah

    But Jesus told him, 'Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:62 (TLB)

    I was a woman on a mission and nothing was going to stop me. Or, so I thought.

    With an over-ambitious mindset and a determined heart, I clutched my lengthy to-do list as if it were a sacred antidote for life.

    Having much to accomplish and only a few hours to spare, I whipped into a parking spot and made a mad dash towards the front doors of my local convenience store.

    On the way in, I noticed a group of people staring at something on the ground. Avoiding the distraction, I shifted my direction and headed towards another set of doors on the opposite side of the store. Then the unexpected happened.

    A nudge. A knowing. A whisper in my heart: "Go over to the crowd."

    At first, I dismissed it as curiosity. A random thought that needed to be ignored. But then it dawned on me ... I wasn't curious at all. In fact, I was much more interested in getting in, getting out and going my own way.

    I'm not involved, so it's not my problem.

    Then I sensed the whisper again: "Leah, I want you to go over there."

    With a smile on my face and joy in my heart, I made a beeline for the crowd. NOT. Instead, it went something like this: Heavy sigh. Slow turn. Unsettled feelings.

    I recognized God's nudge, and I wanted to obey. Really, I did. But, another part of me just wanted to keep walking.

    This distraction is going to throw off my schedule and keep me from accomplishing what I need to get done today. It's probably nothing.

    Reluctantly making my way back across the parking lot, I approached the crowd and saw a man on the ground. A heavy concoction of sweat, alcohol fumes and stale smoke filled the air.

    Glancing at his tattered clothes and swollen feet, I noticed the scratches on his arms and face.

    His eyes were swollen shut, and he wasn't moving. The crowd stood silently staring at his body. I couldn't tell if he was breathing, but I could hear the faint sounds of an ambulance in the distance.

    Help was on its way, so I could now be on my way. Then the whisper came again: "Kneel down and pray for him."

    Seriously Lord ... kneel down? Here in the parking lot? Can't I just stand here and pray silently for him? All these people will think I'm a weirdo. Besides, help is coming.

    "Kneel down and pray for him."

    So I did. Kneeling down next to the man, I stretched out my hand and gently placed it on his shoulder. I began to pray out loud. No one else said a word.

    At first it felt awkward. Uncomfortable. Crazy. But then I felt someone's hand rest gently on my shoulder. Within moments, a woman bent down next to me and placed her hand on the sick man's arm. Another hand extended. Another voice responded to the prayers.

    In just a few seconds, this unlikely mix of strangers transformed into a powerful prayer group. Right in the middle of a busy convenience store parking lot. An unwanted distraction became a divine appointment.

    No one objected. No one walked away. We continued to pray until the paramedics arrived, treated the man and left for the hospital. As the sirens faded into the background, I stood there astonished at what God had just done in our midst.

    Had I ignored the whisper I would have missed out on the miracle. I could have overlooked the distraction, but I would have missed my divine appointment. My "important" schedule paled in comparison to what I had just experienced: God tying hearts together and weaving a beautiful blanket of prayer over one of His broken children.

    In the midst of the ordinary, God breathed the extraordinary ... all within a circle of strangers willing to be distracted for a moment in time.

    Did you wake up this morning with a long to-do list and an ambitious mindset? When distractions come your way, try pausing for a moment to see if God is unwrapping a divine appointment for you. It may be disguised as ordinary circumstances. But as you peel back the layers, whispering "Yes Lord, I'll obey," you will no doubt experience His presence and glory!

    Lord, thank You for entrusting me with divine appointments, and let my answer to Your call always be yes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Jeremiah 7:23b, "Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you." (NIV)

    Philippians 2:13, "... for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When was the last time God turned a distraction into a divine appointment for you?

    Do you struggle with discerning God's voice? Pray and ask God to give you a greater awareness of His presence.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Fulfill: Promised By God

    It's so hard for me to believe my baby girl will be two soon. She is the youngest of 6 with 5 amazing older brothers. The fact that she is our last makes everything more emotional. While all of my children are miracles in my opinion, my youngest definitely beat the odds and reinforced my faith and trust.
    I had suffered 4 miscarriages in the past, two after my 2nd son was born and two after my youngest son. They were devastating. When I got pregnant for the 10th time, I was a nervous wreck. I was one of those people that planned and charted so I knew I was pregnant super early. When I got the first positive test, I immediately called my doctor and asked if I could come in to have my levels checked. She agreed and I went in the next morning. I was so anxious and scared. I prayed and prayed that everything was okay. I knew my hcg levels should be around at least 80. When the phone rang, I jumped on it. The nurse proceeded to tell me that my levels were at 165! I immediately started crying. I was so relieved since that was a great sign. My doctor called me a few hours later to congratulate me. I asked her if I should come back in for a second test. She said I could just come in for an ultrasound the next week if I wanted to see how everything looked. I would only be 5 weeks so we knew we wouldn't see a heartbeat but we would still be able to tell a lot about the health of the pregnancy from what they could see. I was cautiously optimistic and continued to pray for my tiny little one.
    The next Thursday, my husband and I went for the ultrasound. The tech started and we could plainly see the sac and it measured at 4 weeks, 5 days weeks. I took this a great sign. However, when my doctor came into the room, the look on her face told me otherwise. She proceeded to tell me that the sac was not shaped right. It should be nice and round at 5 weeks and mine was shaped more like a lima bean. I felt my stomach drop. I fought back the tears as she told that while she wasn't saying I was definitely going to miscarry, she wasn't getting a warm fuzzy. She said I had a 50/50 chance of the pregnancy being viable.  She told me to come back in one week for another ultrasound. At that point they would be able to tell more. I left the office feeling completed deflated. The thought of going through yet another miscarriage was heartbreaking. I went home and spent the rest of the day crying in bed.
    That weekend, I went to our church's annual women's retreat. I was trying so hard to be optimistic but it was hard, especially after 4 previous losses. I even packed some supplies in case I started to miscarry during the 2 days I would be gone. That night at our first group session, we gathered together and sang praise and worship songs. When we started singing "Mighty to Save", it really spoke to me. When we sang "My Savior, He can move the mountains My God is mighty to save He is mighty to save", I started crying. Inside I started begging God to save my baby. Thankfully, my good friend was there with me.  She was one of only 3 people that even knew I was pregnant. I was so thankful for her caring and support. Later, when the speaker started, she told us our first memory verse for the weekend. It was Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” It was like God had spoken it directly to me.
    That verse was immediately stamped on my heart. When I got home the next afternoon, I shared my experience with my husband. I remember getting on my knees that night and begging God to fight for me and my baby. When I talked to a close friend the next day, she told me that God was bigger than that ultrasound machine and He was in control. I clung to that.
    The following days were filled with so many emotions. I was hopeful, scared and anxious. I prayed for the best but tried to prepare myself for the worst. The morning of the ultrasound, I was admittedly cranky. My husband and I snapped at each other because we were both worried and scared. We got to the office only to find out that one of the techs was out that day so I would have to wait an additional 45 minutes to see another one. That was torture. I sat there praying and trying not to cry. When they finally called me back, I said one last prayer that God would be with me and if it was bad news that He would give me the strength to get through. The tech started the ultrasound and said, here's the sac and I can see a yolk sac. Then, she the words I will never forget, "and there's your little one's heartbeat!". I immediately broke down crying. I was flooded with gratitude and joy! I think the tech was caught off guard by my reaction since she hadn't done the first ultrasound and I don't think she was aware of why I was there. I told her that I hadn't expected to hear good news but that I had been praying all week for a heartbeat. She smiled and said "God is good!". She went on to tell me that in addition to a strong heartbeat, she also saw a perfectly normal, round sac. In fact, everything looked perfect and I was even measuring 2 days ahead. I was over the moon happy and my doctor even teared up when she walked in. She hugged me and told me how happy she was for me. I couldn't stop smiling and kept thanking God for fulfilling His promise to fight for us.
    We chose not to find out the gender of our baby but with 5 sons, I really assumed it was a boy. We even decorated the room for a boys and had a boy's name picked out. So when after only 2 hours of labor, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, we were a little shocked. We hadn't decided on a girl's name but one stuck out in my mind. I had found it on a baby name website in the final weeks of my pregnancy and it just felt right. We named our sweet baby girl Amaris which means "Promised by God".
    Belinda is a wife, mom, blogger, and Brand Ambassador. She has six children including 5 boys and 1 girl. Belinda enjoys reading, photography, crafts and DIY projects, and watching her boys play soccer.  You can more from Belinda at Mudpies and Tiaras.

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