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Family Christian

  • The Stranger on the Bench

    Chrystal

    "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

    A few years ago, my family took a road trip to Baltimore to visit my grandparents.

    We never visit the city without making a trip to the Inner Harbor. It's something my parents did with me and I have great memories of it, so it's something I love to do with my kids.

    This area is a very popular tourist attraction. It's also an area where lots of local folks from many different walks of life hang out.

    On this particular day, we were walking along the main thoroughfare. I stopped for a bit to glance in the window at one of the stores. I turned my eye every few seconds or so to make sure my son was still chasing birds along the sidewalk in an attempt to scare them away.

    After just a few moments, I turned to check and noticed that he was no longer chasing the birds. Rather, he was standing next to a park bench, seemingly just looking at the birds — or so I thought.

    As I walked a little closer to him, I realized that he was talking ... to the homeless man lying on the park bench.

    For a moment, my heart skipped a beat. My son was talking to a stranger. And based on the way this stranger was reclining on the bench, I wasn't sure if he was well.

    I heard my son say, "Hi! Are you okay, sir?

    "Do you need some water? Are you hungry?"

    And then my heart lurched forward outside my body when I heard my son say, "Can I pray for you?"

    I watched from a short distance.

    The man mumbled something unintelligible to me and then my son walked away.

    I stood convicted.

    When was the last time I had taken the time to notice someone, right in front of me, and ask what needs they had that I could meet?

    When was the last time I had offered the most basic human needs, water and food, to someone who wasn't a part of my church, neighborhood or social sphere of connection?

    When was the last time I had offered a stranger my prayers?

    Just because.

    Our key verse today makes it clear we are to show hospitality to people — even the ones we don't know.

    It's so easy to get caught up in our jobs, churches, community affairs and being nice to people we know or those who are easy to be nice to that we forget the most basic kindness — showing hospitality to a stranger.

    The world is full of hurting people. People you and I can touch with a kind word, a warm smile, a hot meal or a gentle touch.

    The world is full of people who would be eternally grateful if someone just stopped and prayed for them.

    When was the last time you offered a stranger a smile, a prayer, a cool drink or a helping hand?

    I'm sad to say I hadn't even noticed that man laying on the bench ... and even if I had, I can't say I would have stopped to inquire how I might show him a bit of hospitality, grace or understanding.

    I can't say I would have stopped to pray for him.

    I can't say I would have stopped to show him love.

    My son helped me remember that the most simple, basic actions can sometimes mean the most.

    He helped me remember that showing love to others doesn't need to be complex.

    He helped me remember I should not let fear, busyness or lack of understanding stop me from giving the most important gift of all to another ...

    Love.

    And isn't that the point? That the world would know we are Christians by our love?

    Father God, forgive me for how I sometimes forget to love others, especially strangers, in simple ways that honor You. Help me recognize opportunities to share the love You have given me with someone else who needs to feel Your love. Allow me to be Your hands and Your feet. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 4:21, "And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." (ESV)

    Matthew 25:40, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Has God given you the opportunity to show His love to a stranger? What happened? We'd love to hear your story. Share your experience in the comments.

    Why do you think so many of us struggle with reaching out to people we don't know? What practical ideas do you have for being more intentional about showing love to others — especially those that we would consider "strangers"?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Dear God, Where Are You?

    Lysa

    "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

    "Mom, I didn't make it. Please pray for me. I just feel confused about God."

    My heart sank. I felt my daughter's deep hurt. I felt it as clearly as if it were my own.

    I know what it feels like to want something so badly and have that dream shut down. That door close. That opportunity slip away.

    She'd been talking about going for this special achievement at summer camp for three years. Every time we talked about camp, she talked about going for this achievement. But she wasn't old enough to try until her fourth year at camp.

    Finally, this was going to be her year.

    She met every challenge and could see the goal in sight ... until the fire. She was supposed to light a campfire with nothing but three matches, one small square of newspaper and a few sticks of wood.

    She struck the first match and held it up to the newspaper. It didn't ignite. She struck the second match and held it up to the newspaper. It still didn't ignite.

    She stared at the third and final match. Knowing that a big part of the challenge was teaching the kids how to communicate with God and fully rely on Him, she'd been praying through every stage of the challenge. But now, she didn't just pray — she cried out to God.

    "Please help me, God. Please," she mouthed as she struck the third match. She held the flame up to the paper once again and watched in complete disbelief. The matchstick burned but the paper did not.

    As soon as the final match burned out, she lowered her head in defeat, and gave all her wood to the girls still in the challenge.

    When I arrived at camp to pick her up a week later, she asked if we could go sit by ourselves and process this situation.

    The fact that she didn't get the camp honor was not what was bothering her the most. What was bothering her the most was not experiencing God's power like the other girls. They all had stories of God answering their cries for help in amazing ways that carried them all the way through the challenge.

    "Mom, I didn't get that with God. Why?"

    This was a tough question. One of those questions as a mom that you don't want to mess up in answering.

    I asked her to help me recall every step of her challenge so we could intentionally look for God's hand. As she recalled every part, I listened intently for anything unusual and unexplainable.

    And when she got to the fire, I found it. There was no reason her newspaper shouldn't light. None at all. Everyone else's paper lit. Hers should have. But it didn't.

    "Honey, that can only be explained by God intervening. He was there. He was listening. And we just have to trust that there was some reason you shouldn't have continued that challenge. We may not know that reason, but we can certainly trust God was right there ... protecting you ... loving you ... revealing His power to you."

    She put her head on my shoulder, "You really think so, Mom?"

    I whispered, "I know so."

    I know so because I trust the truth God has given me. Truths like these are anchors that hold me to the reality of who God is:

    He is the One in whom I find comfort and reassurance: "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).

    He is right here with me in the midst of my trouble, I am not alone: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

    Yes, I know deep hurt. But I also know deep hope. So, I whispered it again, "Yes, sweetheart, I know so."

    Sometimes God's power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen. We may never know why. But we can always know and trust the Who.

    Dear Lord, thank You for knowing what I need and what I don't — even when I don't agree. Help me see Your "yes" and "no" as protection and guidance. Today, I choose to trust You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 126:5, "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Look back at a situation where you felt God didn't answer your prayers. Can you see His power in not allowing your prayer to be answered?

    Write out your prayers today. Focus on trusting who God is and not why He is choosing not to answer or delaying His response. Remind yourself, "God's power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen."

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Waiting Game

    Leah

    "The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him." Lamentations 3:25a (AMP)

    Sometimes I see God answer my prayers right away. I'm excited, thankful and ready to tell everyone about His goodness. Then, there are those other times when my prayers linger and miracles seem far away. As time creeps on, my doubts creep in.

    I used to think waiting on God to answer my prayers was like playing a game. Who would last the longest? Would I continue to ask, plead and persevere? Or would I give up first because I was tired of waiting? Or maybe God would give me what I wanted because He was tired of hearing all my whining and complaining.

    If my prayers were answered quickly, I'd give Jesus a quick spiritual high-five, shout Hallelujah! and then move on to my next request. But, if time went on and my miracle didn't show up, I'd get discouraged and frustrated. My waiting turned to worry. My perseverance shifted to pouting.

    Lord, why haven't You answered my prayers? What are You waiting for? Can't You see me struggling? You're taking too long and I just don't understand why.

    I began to think God might be holding out on me. Maybe He really didn't care about me. Or, maybe my circumstances weren't important enough to Him.

    But as I grew in my relationship with the Lord and learned to understand His character, my attitude changed. I realized how much God loves me and knows the desires tucked deep inside my heart. He promises to meet my needs (Philippians 4:19), and His miracles are not a thing of the past.

    Today's key verse tells us that after we pray and ask God for a need, want or desire, we should wait with expectancy and hope.

    You might be thinking, Leah, you just don't understand. I've been waiting for God to answer my prayers for so long.

    Maybe you've resigned to believing there's no hope. Sure, you started out confident and faith-filled, but as time goes by you've started to wonder if any good can come from your circumstances.

    Maybe you've wrapped an invisible wall around your heart so you won't be disappointed if God doesn't come through for you.

    Friend, I understand. I've been there. I've felt that way, too, and it's a lonely place to live each day.

    So what does it look like to have an attitude of hope and expectancy as we wait on the Lord to answer our prayers?

    I've learned to intentionally shift my focus to three things:

    God's Promises: I read Bible verses and speak them aloud daily. As the power of God's Word weaves hope into my prayers, encouragement fills the empty places in my heart. I'm reminded once again of God's unfailing love and faithfulness.

    Praise & Worship: I listen to praise music throughout the day in my house, car and at work in my office. The lyrics and melodies splash over me with joy as I sing along. I sense God's peace and pleasure and in those sweet moments, my worries fade, turning my doubts into confident expectancy.

    Thanksgiving: I thank God for the answered prayers and miracles in my past. I remember how God always came through in those tough times of great need, and I thank Him in advance for His answers yet to come.

    If you've asked God for answers but find yourself waiting longer than you planned, take a moment now to thank Him in advance for His answer. Trust that He is working behind the scenes on your behalf. Don't give up. Look forward in hope and expectancy for Him to respond and remember that the Lord is good to those who seek Him.

    Lord, thank You for remaining faithful to me. Help me have hope and expectancy as I wait for Your answers to my prayers. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 30:15a, "This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength ...'" (NIV)

    Isaiah 30:18, "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When was the last time you thanked God in advance for an answer to your prayers?

    Write Isaiah 30:18 on a 3x5 card and replace the word "you" with your name. Speak this verse aloud throughout today and wait expectantly as you seek the Lord in prayer.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Love Encounter

    By Emily Rose Massey

     

    I seriously enjoy Saturdays.

    It’s the time where I get to spend a few hours of my morning with the Lord and just relax before the weekend picks up speed.

    I’m able to slow down and really just enjoy the simple pleasures of life like coffee, PJs, and messy hair.

    This morning, as I ended the last couple pages of my journal, I was reflecting on this past year and couldn’t help but praise God for His overwhelming love and faithfulness.

    Around this time last year, my husband, Paul, and I just found out that we were expecting our first child, a promise that God had spoken to us about through our pastor during a Wednesday night service just a couple months before.

    At six weeks along in my pregnancy, we went in for our first doctor's appointment and we were able to hear our baby's tiny heartbeat- this was becoming so real! After the appointment, the doctor asked me to come in again two weeks later. A part of me found it a little odd that I needed to already come back again so early on in the pregnancy, but I didn't let it bother me and scheduled the follow-up appointment.

    Those two weeks passed by pretty quickly, and I was on my way to the doctor's office again. My spirit was troubled the whole way there. Paul wasn't able to go with me this time, so I just kept declaring God's peace over my heart and kept whispering the name of Jesus, even when I was in the exam room. While the doctor was looking at the ultrasound, I heard her sigh and say, "I hate when that happens."

    "What?" I asked.

    "The baby no longer has a heart-beat. I'm so sorry."

    Right then, I immediately felt God's presence fill the room. I sat up and the doctor just looked at me, not really knowing how I was going to react. My eyes began to well up with tears, as I said these words to her:

    "You know, I have been through a lot in my short 27 years on this earth. From depression, to the murder of my dad, to watching my family be torn apart by adultery and divorce and God has never left my side. My faith has always carried me through it all and this is no different. God has a plan. He will work this all out for good."

    She said, "I believe He will too," put her hand on my shoulder and left the room so that I could have a moment to myself.

    I got my things together, scheduled my follow-up appointment to discuss the next steps/options, and called Paul to tell him the news, even declaring and believing that God could resurrect that tiny life inside me if it was His will, fighting back tears with each word. When I got home, we went to my favorite restaurant and continued to speak of God's faithfulness, even through all of our questions and deep pain.

    After dinner, Paul reminded me of the gift card someone from church had given us for the baby and suggested we go and pick up some items for our precious promise from the Lord.

    Talk about faith!

    It was hard for me to walk through those aisles, staring at all of things for babies when I had just received the sad news about our little one, but deep down, I knew God had declared that we WILL have a child. Walking out the pain, we continued to trust in God’s timing and kept believing He would make it happen again for us.

    In the car, a song came on the radio that stirred my emotions for what I had just experienced. I tried to hold back the tears, but couldn’t do it any longer. Paul just held me as I cried. Although it was difficult, I didn't allow my emotions to overtake me.

    We pulled the car in the drive-way and I walked upstairs to our bedroom and just cried out to the Lord. Again, in that moment, the presence of the Lord filled the room. His loving arms wrapped around me as I laid on my bed, with a broken heart. As I cried out, a short song came forth from my mouth that I knew came straight from the abundance of my heart:

    "Jesus, take my life, display it for the world to see, so that You My King, can receive Your glory...."

    A few days later, the Lord gave me the rest of the song:

    In You Verse 1: You’re my desire Lord, You are my everything It’s in You I find My purpose, my meaning Verse 2: So take my life Display it for the world to see So that You, my King Can receive Your glory Chorus: I’ll hide my life In You, Jesus Christ It’s You who gives me strength To rise above the storm Oh yes, My life Is a living sacrifice So that You can shine And draw all men to Your heart I live and move and have my being In You Bridge: Jesus When I stand in Your name Your blood cleanses me of all my shame The Father sees what You’ve done How You died on the cross to save us

    I encountered God's amazing love during that trial last year and I know I will never be the same because of it. He is faithful to me in loss and faithful to me in gain. His promises are true. I can't wait to tell our son, Isaiah, who I will be able to hold in my arms in just a few short weeks, about them.

    All glory to God!

  • What Your Pastor's Wife Needs Most in a Friend

    AMY

    {Editor's Note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month. We recognize there are women serving in churches in a variety of roles, and encourage you to show your appreciation for all those serving in ministry this month.}

    "One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend." Proverbs 22:11 (NIV)

    I sat in mute sadness, as I listened to the woman sitting in the driver's seat beside me.

    Tears streamed down this pastor's wife's face as she described her family's financial struggles. No one had asked her about her return to the workforce. She felt nobody cared about her as she transitioned from home to full-time work. Years before, a "friend" in the church gossiped about a confidence she shared, so this woman felt she could no longer trust anyone with her pain.

    Another pastor's wife stoically described the 20 years she spent alone in a pew Sunday after Sunday until one woman finally reached out in friendship. Her face lit up, as she told me about her new friend who now sits with her and banishes the painful loneliness she felt amongst the crowd at her own church.

    Isn't it strange? Pastors' wives are often some of the most admired women in the church, and yet they are often the most lonely. When listing my life-long friends, I realized two of the five are pastors' wives.

    That's a pretty big percentage, so what binds me to these women? Their loyalty, love and acceptance. They're a treasure to me, so I've been thinking: What does a pastor's wife most need in a friend? How can I be that kind of friend?

    When talking to my besties and searching Scripture, two main needs emerged. Pastors' wives need their friends to be: 1) free from expectations and 2) free from self. Here's what I mean ...

    Free from Expectations

    Both of my friends defy the stereotypes attached to a pastor's wife. They need friends who will let them be themselves, women with their own identity separate from a spouse or the church.

    Releasing our pastors' wives from our expectations is the greatest gift we can give.

    Pastors' wives are real women just like us with flaws, varying gifts, dust on their dressers, arguments with their husbands and a wide range of personalities. If we want to be true, pure-hearted friends without ulterior motives, we need to affirm all their facets, cover their imperfections with love and encourage them to follow their passions rather than just expect them to conform to a mold.

    Free from Self

    Some days, it's all about me ... or at least that's how I act at times. In my selfishness, I've had thoughts like: She hasn't answered my email. I wonder what I've done wrong. Or, I can't believe she just blew by me in the store. She must be mad at me.

    I'm learning to let go of selfish thoughts and give my friends space.

    Pastors' wives minister to the many people, carve out time for their husbands during their odd hours off, work, run their households, reach out to neighbors, care for their children and more. The list is unending. They need friends who are selfless, patient friends who give them grace instead of demand perfect performances.

    We also have to refrain from gossip. I hate to admit it, but there's a part of me that longs to repeat confidences when I want to feel more important or in the know ... like I'm part of the inner circle. As their friends, we have to overcome the desire to build up ourselves and to put our friend first by never, ever, gossiping.

    Both my friends expressed how important confidentiality is to them. It's a deal-breaker for your pastor's wife. As today's key verse points out, good leaders delight in friendships with those who are in pure in heart and speak graciously. Indeed ... sincere, caring, kind and genuine relationships give life to those who lead.

    In the midst of church life, we walk through all of life's joys and pain together with love and loyalty. It's what pastors' wives want in a friend ... and it's what I want, too. That's true friendship and a desire at the heart of everywoman, pastor's wife or not.

    Lord, help me to be a truly loyal friend to my pastor's wife, putting her needs above my own. Purify my heart and my words to be a joy and encouragement to all my friends. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." (NIV)

    Job 16:20, "My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God ..." (NIV)

    Ecclesiastes 4:10, "If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is an action step God is calling you to do this month to encourage your pastor's wife?

    What is something you can do if you find yourself in a setting where there is gossip or criticism about your pastor's wife?

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Who Will Rebuild My Home?

    ‘Who Will Rebuild My Home?’

    By Laura Reinhardt

    *Post and photos are courtesy of World Vision.

    It was around noon on a day in 2012 when Adelina and her grandmother, Juliet, returned from working in the fields. They found their house collapsed into a heap of rubble because of poor construction.

    “I felt poverty,” Juliet remembers

    The 78-year-old widow recalls thinking: “My husband has died and now my house had fallen down. Who will rebuild it for me?”

    Adelina says, “I asked myself, ‘Where are we going to live?’”

    Twelve-year-old Adelina has known hardship before. Her mother died due to complications from childbirth. Her father abandoned her and she has lived with her grandmother since 2005.

    But she had always had a roof over her head. Now where would they go? She and her grandmother lived as subsistence farmers. They didn’t have money to rebuild a home.

    The loss of their home forced them to ask for help from neighbors, who allowed them to move into a nearby home. Sadly, that home also had one collapsed wall.

    Despite her advanced age, Juliet began doing extra farming to raise a little bit more money.

    Finally she had saved enough money to buy a few supplies for a new shelter. However, it was hardly a home. Four thin tree posts long by three tree posts wide with a grass roof over top—there were no walls on the sides. It was simply a roof for Adelina and her grandmother.

    Sometimes when it rained, they couldn’t even lay down. Water leaked through the quickly constructed roof. They had to stay awake and standing all night to avoid getting wet.

    Both Adelina and Juliet worried about snakes. Juliet also worried about strangers passing by on the nearby road. Would they see the wide-open shelter and come to harm them?

    Adelina’s biggest fear was simple: “I was afraid the house would fall.”

    Thankfully the story didn’t end there.

    Powerful Training for Pastors

    In the same community, Pastor Jornito Jorge, 35, had begun receiving training from World Vision thanks to child sponsorship in the Namanjivira Area Development Program.

    The training encouraged Pastor Jorge to work side-by-side with his fellow pastors. “Before I didn’t know it was important to have these relationships with other churches,” he says. “It feels like it’s important because if you have interaction with other churches, you grow spiritually and you learn to know much better the word of God.”

    Through this training, he learned about the Community Care Coalition (CCC), which World Vision had started in other communities. The CCC provides for the physical and material needs of children left vulnerable due to poverty like Adelina and Juliet.

    He also learned about World Vision’s Channels of Hope program, which helps pastors and church volunteers to support those who are chronically ill and their children. They work to provide for both the physical and spiritual needs of their patients.

    “Through this training I learned to wear the shoes of somebody else. If this was me, how would I feel? I thought it was good for me to help those in need,” Pastor Jorge says.

    Through the CCC, the community now cares for 144 children. Pastor Jorge gives credit to World Vision and the training he received. Without the training he wouldn’t have even begun “because I didn’t have an idea how to start this work.”

    A Donor’s Generosity

    A donor and child sponsor named Linda Fisher visited Pastor Jorge’s community and heard a presentation about the work that the CCC and Channels of Hope were doing. She asked the groups how would they support all the activities they had planned for the children.  They replied that they planned to pool the money they had to buy a mill to grind corn. They could then sell that corn flour to the community and use the money to provide clothing, school workbooks, and whatever else the vulnerable children might need.

    Linda returned home to the United States and within a month sent back the money for the mill.

    That wasn’t the only source of income for these programs. Pastor Jorge has a small bakery next to his church where he and church members bake fresh bread to sell and raise money.

    The church also owns and cultivates an acre of land growing fresh vegetables. World Vision provided Pastor Jorge and the CCC with seeds. A World Vision staff member who focused on food security trained them on best agricultural practices to increase their vegetable yield.

    Now Pastor Jorge sells cabbage, carrots, corn, and other vegetables to provide additional funds to help the orphans and vulnerable children of his community.

    A Volunteer Visits

    The CCC and Channels of Hope each are composed of 15 volunteers. The CCC volunteers come from throughout the community and the volunteers from Channels of Hope all come from Pastor Jorge’s church—Luz de Jesus.

    The volunteers scour the community visiting all of the vulnerable children and chronically ill in the area. Due to the vast area and the fact that people are most often on foot or bicycle, they usually are able to visit all the people they serve once a quarter.

    So it had been a couple of months that Adelina and her grandmother had lived under their shelter before a volunteer came and learned what had happened. The CCC sprang into action.

    They made bricks, then bought bamboo and grass to roof the house. “I was happy for the news of the house construction,” says Juliet.  “God is powerful because He saw that we have been through a difficult situation and now we have this new house.”

     

    When Adelina learned about the new home she says, “I was laughing [with joy].”

    “Thank you for the help,” says Juliet. “We would be facing hard times because in that house, which used to be so cold.”

    “They are good people,” says Adelina of the volunteers and donors who built her new home.

    Now, thanks to funding from World Vision’s sponsorship program, Adelina and Juliet have a permanent shelter over their heads. The sturdily constructed home should stand for a long time. No longer does Juliet have to worry about strangers passing by in the night. No longer do they have to sleep standing up to avoid the rains. And the future looks a little bit brighter.

    *This is a brief glimpse into the work that World Vision is doing 24/7, 365 days a year around the world.  Every time you shop in-stores, or online, with Family Christian, it helps fund programs like these mentioned above.  Thank you for your support and thank you World Vision for your service and for sharing this blog post with us.

  • Smooth Sailing No, Faithful God Yes by Amy Dewey

    This was originally posted on Amy Dewey's blog and is being shared with permission here.

    I like to think of me steering my life like a ship sailing along in calm waters with the wind filling the sails and nothing but blue skies.  It really is an idyllic and comforting thought, flowing along without a care in the world.  Ahh!! How safe and simple it truly would be....
    Here's the part where life cues the storm clouds, sheets of rain, hurricane winds, and tossing waves....ta-da!!  Well, my dumb idea just got lost at sea along with my security, my personal comfort, and my naïveté.  Bummer, that didn't last long.
    You see, this fake sense of control I like to live in, is just that, fake.  It brings me a comfort for a moment then reality crashes down on me.  I sink into the mire of an aching soul and deep fatigue.  All the plates I had carefully spinning, perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect everything, crash to the floor splitting into a million pieces.  I try to clean up my mess, but I have nothing left and collapse in frustration.
    God pulls me up and reminds me of His promises.
    "Meanwhile the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. "(Romans 8:26-28 MSG)
    I remember then that God has His hand on me.  His Holy Spirit abides in me and It will do for me what I can't do myself.  I then remember all the times God has been faithful to see me through when I thought I couldn't take another thing going the wrong way.
    After 3 car accidents, 3 stinky jobs, and 1 difficult post partim after my daughter's birth, I'm still here in one piece thanks to His love and grace.  Believe me, I could have done without the hard things!  Still, it is during such times that I grow strongest in Him.
    So hold tight to His promises and let go of the false control.  He will see you through each and every circumstance.  You are His precious and beloved child for always.

     

    This was a guest post written by Amy Dewey from Moment by Moment Grace.  Here is her bio:

    I'm a wife, a mama, and a girl that loves Jesus.  My words are simple, but I hope they speak volumes about Jesus' love to those that read them.
    He loves us all so deeply, and that is my greatest joy to share.
  • What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

    LYSA

    "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

    I felt so fragile sitting in the parking lot of Target, too sad to stop crying. And although I had a list of things that really couldn't be put off another day, I was now entirely too tired to run errands or do much of anything. So there I sat.

    Alone.

    Moments earlier, a friend had called to tell me something she'd seen posted about me online.

    It was harsh and hurtful.

    I tried to give myself a little pep talk, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Who on God's green earth came up with that ridiculous saying? It's not true. I cried a little more.

    I pulled up the social media page my friend referenced, and there it was for all the world to see: Opinions about me flying through the Internet, intent on ripping me apart. As soon as I read the unkind words, daggers hit their mark deep inside my heart.

    It was only a handful of people but they debated me as if I were a product sitting on a shelf, void of a soul. A soul that feels and breathes and cares so very deeply about everything.

    Instantly, I wanted it all to stop.

    I looked up and saw people walking into Target and felt so very envious of them. They seemed peaceful, happy or at least neutral. I suddenly wished for a less risky life.

    Why do I display my heart to all the world typed up in pixelated letters?

    Words like, "calling" and "disciple" suddenly felt like burdens, not blessings.

    I looked back at my phone and reread the hurtful remarks posted online. What's a girl to do when she's feeling desperate to fix something that can't be immediately fixed?

    Should I defend myself?

    But I don't want to sound defensive.

    Should I pray for others to defend me?

    But I don't want to pull others into this.

    Should I just stay quiet?

    But then what if my silence just feeds their case?

    Every response felt like the wrong response.

    What do you do ... when you don't know what to do?

    Maybe you've sat in a Target parking lot crying, too. The circumstances might have been different, but the hurt is the same ... that sliced-open feeling of being judged, misunderstood and wrongly exposed for the purpose of a good debate.

    I wish I had the perfect answer. I don't. These kinds of situations are messy, complicated and unable to fit in formulaic boxes.

    However, I have an imperfect solution that will get us pointed in the right direction: Do the next small thing, the right way, right away.

    In other words, find some small right thing to do that negates the negativity. Do that right thing, right away, to prove to yourself what's being said isn't ALL true.

    There might be some small tangles of truth in the hurtful thing being said. We can pray about that and do something later when the hurt isn't so fresh.

    But first things first. We have to stop the bleeding from the deepest wound.

    Do the next small thing, the right way, right away.

    The small thing I decided to do was see their comments coming from a place of hurt, not hate. Hurt people hurt people. Something caused hurt to stir up in their hearts. Maybe I even inadvertently added to it without meaning to. Regardless, having compassion for them eased my pain.

    I called my friend who'd shared the hurtful comments and told her, "I don't know what to do except be a picture of love in this situation. If I respond out of hurt, things will only get worse."

    Our key verse, 1 John 4:7-8, reminds us of the importance of showing love to each other, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

    So, I must let love guide me.

    Love can empower me to feel hurt without becoming a person consumed by that hurt ...

    I can feel offended, but I don't have to be offended.

    I can feel insecure, but I don't have to act insecure.

    I can feel angry, but I don't have to respond in anger.

    That's the choice love makes.

    And please understand I'm not all Pollyanna about this and able to walk it out perfectly.

    I have to give myself permission to be honest about my feelings. But I don't have to compound the hurt by reacting out of those feelings.

    I never did make it into Target that day. And there are still days I feel so very fragile and vulnerable. Maybe you do too?

    Let's allow love to take us by the hand and empower us in each and every situation where we don't know what to do.

    We can feel afraid, but we don't have to be afraid to do the next right thing, right away.

    Dear Lord, I want love to guide me today. Help me to do the next right thing right in front of me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 13:10, "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you in a situation that feels hurtful? Look closely at the options in front of you and choose to do the next right thing, right away.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Your Best Isn't Good Enough

    RENEE

    "Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him ..." 1 Peter 5:8-9 (GW)

    Have you ever gotten that awful pit-in-your-stomach feeling after finding out you let someone down? It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me as I read through an email from a client, sent to my manager and forwarded to me, describing how I had let some details fall through the cracks on a project.

    A horrible sense of discouragement and embarrassment moved in for the kill.

    In the past, I would have welcomed my uninvited critical thoughts to stay a while, resigned to the fact that I must be unable to do anything right!

    But not this time; too many hurtful experiences had taught me to recognize failure as an opportune time for my opponent, the devil, to devour me with feelings of inadequacy and shame. This enemy is bent on making me believe that when my best isn't good enough, I'm not good enough.

    Fortunately, times of pain have also included hours of poring over God's promises, gathering wisdom to deal with this unwelcome intruder. I have learned to be alert to the devil's schemes and ready to stand against them. In today's key verses, Peter tells us how:

    "Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him, knowing that other believers throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering" (1 Peter 5:8-9).

    After reading the email and letting my thoughts run wild for a few minutes, I knew I had to clear my mind. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me unclutter my thoughts with the clarity of truth from logistical, circumstantial and spiritual points of view.

    1) I jotted down a list of logistical truths: facts about what happened, what I did right, wrong or forgot to do at all.

    2) I also wrote a list of circumstantial truths: factors of my "reality" during the project.

    In six months time, a close friend died of cancer, our family adopted a baby from Ethiopia, my mom was hospitalized with blood clots in her lungs and moved in with us, and my father underwent emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Although I cut back on some things, I tried to push through on a few commitments I made before the bottom fell out. Exhausted and completely overwhelmed, I couldn't keep up. But I hadn't admitted or communicated my limitations to our client.

    3) Finally, and most importantly, I made a list of spiritual truths. Turning through my Bible, I found and wrote down promises to remind me of these facts:

    • "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26, NIV).

    • "The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands" (Psalm 138:8, NASB).

    Listing logistical, circumstantial and spiritual truths helped me quiet my mind to see all that was going on. Suddenly, I was aware of what God wanted me to do versus what my opponent was trying to do — devour me with discouragement.

    God wanted me to humble myself before Him, be honest with my limitations and make more cut backs in my schedule. After apologizing to our client and explaining what happened, she understood and things eventually worked out.

    Although I had done the best I could, my best wasn't good enough. But it didn't mean I wasn't good enough. It just meant I needed to make some truth-filled assessments and wisdom-based adjustments!

    Lord, some days my best isn't good enough, but it's all I have to give. Help me remember that my best is all You expect. Guide me with Your grace as I make truth-filled assessments of my life and wisdom-based adjustments as needed. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 90:17, "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands." (NIV)

    ENTER TO WIN a copy of Renee's A Confident Heart Devotional and Lysa's new best-selling book, The Best Yes! Renee is giving away 3 "Fall Book-Bundles" that include a copy of each book and more! Enter on Renee's blog today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of a time when you felt like your best wasn't good enough. Like Renee described, make a list of logistical, circumstantial and spiritual truths that relate to your situation.

    Looking at your lists, ask God to help you keep (or get) your mind clear of condemnation-clutter the enemy has piled on your thoughts. Then stand firm on God's truths and stay alert to His thoughts as you keep making truth-filled assessments and wisdom-based adjustments.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Faith To Believe

    We come to this Christian walk at varying stages of life. Some of us barely remember a time when we didn’t believe. Some tried to figure out this life in many different ways before coming to a belief in the one true God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. While still others struggle to believe even now.

    And no matter where you fall on that journey, we can all lack the faith needed to believe when life isn’t easy. When the choices are hard. Our hearts are broken. Our spirit tired. When we wonder, even if we don’t have the courage to say it out loud, if God sees our circumstances.

    Please, reader, know you’re not alone in this.

    *****

    To the wife of many years who realizes, with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, divorce is a very real next step in her faith journey. A decision sure to affect friends and family as well. For years to come. Believe.

    “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

    *****

    To the one struggling with an addiction. Not only today, but every day. Who, no matter how much faith he conjures up, still has trouble getting up, going to work, putting one foot in front of the other. Every. Day. Lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us be the church. Believe.

    “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15:1

    *****

    To the sister who knows God has placed a calling on her life. But struggles to find a church where she can serve freely. Who often contemplates if perhaps she misunderstands the God-given gifts she sees in herself. Believe.

    “But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted.” I Corinthians 12:18

    *****

    To the pastor who has seen it all. He has served faithfully for years. And knows the depths of the fall of man. But also knows the heights we can reach when we exercise

    the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Who would somedays give it all away to get a job where he worked the day shift, 40 hours a week. When you’re not sure you can continue living into this calling God has on your life. Believe.

    “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

    *****

    To the mama of many children, blessed enough to spend her days with them. So worn out from all these blessings when she finally gets them to bed at night. And, when she’s very honest with herself, often wonders deep down if she’s doing things right. If her children will have the faith she tries to instill in them. Believe.

    “Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9

    *****

    To the brother who’s been waiting for a really long time. For a wife. A home. A job. An opportunity to serve. Whose heart longs for his circumstances to change. But God appears silent. Believe.

    “Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 *****

    To the family member who celebrates an anniversary every year. Honoring the death of a loved one. An infant. A child. A husband. A parent. No one gets to tell you how to grieve. Or how long you should bear the sorrow. Know God weeps with you. Believe.

    “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

    *****

    The real hope for a Christian lies in the fact that there is so much more for a believer. More than this broken, fallen world can offer us. His Word promises, again and again, we can have more in this life. And an eternity of better awaits us. Believe.

    “Blessed is she who believed.” Luke 1:45a

    Traci Rhoades can trace God at work her whole life, preparing her for various seasons of ministry. In a big picture kind of way, that very idea encompasses her blog, http://www.tracesoffaith.com.  Her articles offer an honest look at how we can trace ways God prepares us to glorify Him with our lives both now and for eternity.

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