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Family Christian

  • Why I Buy Orange Marmalade

    Karen Ehman JUNE 23, 2015

    Why I Buy Orange Marmalade KAREN EHMAN

    "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

    The sound of clanking silverware and clinking dishes wafted through the air as my husband and I sat across from each other in a retro-styled diner looking over the breakfast menu. We’d been meaning for weeks to spend some time alone, or maybe even go on a real date. So we set our alarms for still dark o’clock and drove a half hour to the quaint eatery.

    I’m not a big breakfast eater, so a steaming cup of coffee with fruit and nut oatmeal was enough for me. My husband, however, loves breakfast. So he ordered one of the diner’s famous combo plates that included eggs, sausage and a few pieces of whole grain toast.

    He slathered some sweet cream butter on the toast. Then he began to dig through the gingham-lined basket on the table like a child digging through a toy box for a favorite plaything.

    I had to know, so I asked: "What are you searching for?"

    "Orange marmalade," he replied.

    "What? Isn’t grape jelly or strawberry jam good enough? You can’t seem to get enough of my homemade strawberry jam," I teased.

    "But orange marmalade is my favorite," he answered. "Loved it ever since I was a kid."

    Wow. There I sat across from my college sweetheart-turned-husband whom I’ve known over a quarter century, and I never knew this simple fact — he loves orange marmalade.

    Often in marriage — especially if there are children in the picture — we spend so much time just getting life done. Keeping up the house. Making appointments. Tending to the yard work. Shuttling children. Paying bills. And we stop noticing the little things about our spouses — the stuff we used to notice all the time when we were dating.

    In college, I took good notes on what my then-boyfriend enjoyed. I knew he was a lover of butter pecan ice cream, so sometimes I would pick up a hand-packed pint from the local ice cream parlor and deliver it to him when he was studying in the college library.

    Back then it seemed easy to put him first, to always be on the lookout for his interests and likes. Selfishness on my part didn’t really exist in our relationship. I was head-over-heels in love with this guy and intent on noticing his preferences and pleasing him.

    Sadly, as the days and months of marriage turn into years and decades, it’s easy for noticing to decrease and selfishness to creep in. Instead of longing to please our spouses, even in the little things, we often look to get our own way. Today’s key verse seems to be the perfect prescription for this dilemma. We are encouraged to look not just to our own interests, but also in humility look to the interests of others. There are so many ways to apply this verse in marriage!

    It may mean spending a weekend doing activities your spouse prefers. In my case, that would mean attending a jazz festival on a Saturday with my trumpet-playing husband, rather than hunting for antiques at a large indoor market, which bores him to death.

    Sometimes it might be a more important matter, and other times it could be a seemingly trivial thing. Again, in all things means not only looking to your own interests, but in humility looking to the interests of your spouse.

    In a culture of selfies and selfishness, let’s purpose to take notice of our spouse’s interests and show them love in even the smallest of ways. For me, that means I’m now surfing the Internet for a winning orange marmalade recipe. Well, that and buying a few jars of the store-bought variety for back up!

    Father, may I be on the lookout for ways to bless my spouse — both in the little interests of life and in the major issues of marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 4:2, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: To be inspired to live a life that’s other-centered, check out Karen Ehman’s book, A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart and Home to Others.

    Today, Karen is sharing a free PDF of "Get-To-Know-You-Again Questions" to ask your spouse on a date. She’s also giving away a special date-night-in-a-box gift to one reader. For details visit Karen’s blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When was the last time you took notice of your spouse’s likes and interests, and then made a point to do something with that information to bless him?

    Make plans in the next week or two to surprise your spouse with a day — or even just a few hours — of the two of you doing something that interests him even if it is something you aren’t fond of.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Guess I Wasn’t "Fine"

    Glynnis Whitwer JUNE 22, 2015

    I Guess I Wasn’t "Fine" GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1a (NLT)

    Standing on the risers in my grade school auditorium, the girl next to me scanned the audience, desperately looking for her father. Her parents were divorced and her dad had let her down more than once. He said he’d show up this time. But as the director’s hands signaled our final note, and there was no father in sight, my friend’s face revealed her pain.

    My dad wasn’t in the audience, but I didn’t expect him. My mom was there. And my dad? Well … he was home, probably reading a book. But compared to my friend’s sadness, my disappointment was minor, I thought.

    For so many years, I compared my growing up experience to others’, and thought, I’ve got nothing to complain about. Surely, I must be "fine." Others had it so much worse than I did.

    Sure, my dad never attended any of my choir concerts or saw me sing (from third grade through high school), but my mom never missed one.

    Although my dad wasn’t involved in my day-to-day life, my mom was my number-one problem solver.

    And even though my dad never said he loved me, I didn’t think I needed to hear those words. After all, my mother’s love more than made up for it.

    Other friends had missing or cruel fathers. They’d been openly rejected. Their parents divorced. Their house was chaotic. Not mine. I’d just had a quiet overlooking. One that I accepted as normal.

    And I really did believe my father loved me in his own way. I held no bitterness. His own father had died in an accident before he was born. Even as a child, I knew he didn’t have any father examples.

    I was fine.

    Yet over time, an independent streak took root. A hardness grew that kept me isolated from needing or wanting help. I developed a "pull yourself up by your boot straps" mentality that impacted my opinion of others who needed help, and my own weaknesses.

    I never connected it with my father’s passivity. I genuinely thought I was doing fine. Until someone challenged me to consider the impact my human father had on my relationship with my Heavenly Father.

    Only then did I consider the impact of all I had missed. No tender moments, no champion, no confiding of worries or requests for help. No father-daughter dates or advice on a boyfriend.

    The honesty caused a pain that surprised me. And I struggled with that same feeling of guilt as I compared myself to others and the truly hard lives they had. I didn’t want to dishonor my father. But I’d opened a door I knew God wanted open. So I pressed in to the honesty.

    My little-girl heart had tried to heal itself by developing an inner strength. Only that "strength" built a wall, instead of a bridge, to God’s heart.

    My independence had kept me from a deeper relationship with God. I loved God, but I didn’t really trust Him with my heart or my problems. He was a distant Father to me, more like a king on a throne than a Daddy holding my hand.

    Yet once I allowed the door of my heart to open, it started to soften as I forced myself to admit that in reality, I wasn’t fine. I did need help, and in a way my independence simply couldn’t provide. I confessed the hurt and pain that I had covered up in fierce self-sufficiency.

    And God whispered words of truth. He reminded me …

    … I never missed a choir performance.

    … You can come to Me for help; I’ll be there before you finish your request.

    … I started saying "I love you" thousands of years ago.

    Today’s key verse tells us God loves us as His children. So as an adult, I had to learn what it was like to have a Daddy who loved me perfectly.

    As God continues to prove Himself faithful, I’ve admitted this truth: Sometimes the pain from what didn’t happen is as real as the pain from what did.

    The healing I initially didn’t know I needed has made me a better person. But it’s still a work in progress. I still struggle to admit any weakness. And yet every time I do, I experience the realness of God’s love anew. My heart is becoming more merciful, gracious and kind … to others and myself.

    If you’ve dismissed your pain as insignificant compared to others, I invite you to experience the same healing I’ve received. God wants to fill in all those missing pieces and be your perfect Father.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me so perfectly and seeing that my heart needed Your tender healing. And thank You for being the perfect Father for me for eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (NIV)

    1 John 4:16, "So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." (NRSV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: TODAY is the first day of our Online Bible Study featuring Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places. There’s still time to join if you’re ready to accept God’s healing for your deepest hurts. Click here for more information.

    Visit Glynnis Whitwer’s blog for more encouragement.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Glynnis said, "Sometimes the pain from what didn’t happen is as real as the pain from what did." What is missing from your life that causes you deep pain?

    Present that pain to your Heavenly Father, and allow Him to fill in all the missing pieces.

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • It’s Good to Seek Wisdom

    Liz Curtis Higgs JUNE 19, 2015

    It’s Good to Seek Wisdom LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions." 1 Kings 10:1 (NIV)

    Anytime my mother wanted to put me in my place — let’s say I was flouncing around the kitchen in some dime-store costume, wearing borrowed makeup and putting on airs — she shot me a stern look, one eyebrow arched: "Who do you think you are? The queen of Sheba?"

    If she meant to scold me, it didn’t work. Sorry, Mom. Being the queen of Sheba sounded positively delicious. To my way of thinking, she was Delilah, Nefertiti and Cleopatra all rolled into one — an exotic beauty from a foreign land with wealth, power and appeal beyond anything a small-town girl could fathom.

    Is that how you’ve imagined her too? Then it’s time to meet the real queen of Sheba and leave the Hollywood version behind.

    A leader of uncommon boldness and vision, this real-life queen traveled from the ends of the earth to seek wisdom, drawn to King Solomon’s doorstep because of his bond with the One true God, who was wisdom Himself.

    This remarkable woman journeyed for two months across an unforgiving desert — on a camel. All we have to do is cross the room, reach for our Bibles and God’s wisdom is ours for the taking.

    Maybe that’s the problem. His Word is so convenient, it’s conveniently forgotten. I’ll read it later. I’ll start tomorrow.

    Or we wait until we’re desperate for answers, then don’t know where to find them. We aimlessly flip from one chapter of the Bible to another, looking for a verse that will magically solve everything.

    The queen of Sheba took a different route. As we see in our key verse, she put her royal life on hold and made seeking wisdom her number-one priority. Here’s what she teaches us about wisdom by her good example:

    1. Wisdom requires time. We say, "Time is money," but the truth is, time is worth more than money. It can’t be bought, sold or bargained with. Each minute ticks by, never to be seen again. If we can spend 10 minutes each morning bathing in a hot shower, we can spend at least 10 minutes being cleansed by His Word. "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12, NIV).

    2. Wisdom requires sacrifice. When I first embraced the grace of God, He clearly instructed me to unplug my television and start reading the Bible. Do what?! It was hard at first, but as the months went by, I forgot about what I was missing and rejoiced in what I was learning. "The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7, NIV).

    In case you’re curious, the television eventually returned, but with greatly diminished appeal. God’s plan, absolutely!

    3. Wisdom requires humility. I hate admitting I don’t have all the answers, yet that’s what seeking wisdom is all about. It’s saying, "Lord, I haven’t a clue, but You do." Admitting, "I don’t know, but I know the One who does." Only then will God’s wisdom be revealed for what it is: His and His alone. "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2, NIV).

    As the queen of Sheba discovered, information is interesting and facts are fascinating, but wisdom is world-changing. Wisdom is the resource we bring to the workplace, the encouragement we offer to our friends, the gift we give to the body of Christ, the legacy we leave for our children.

    However full our schedules, adding just one more line to our to-do list can make all the difference: Open God’s Word. Find wisdom there today.

    Father God, help us never take Your Word or the wisdom it contains for granted. Give us a passion for learning and a thirst for Your Truth. Fill us with the courage to ask hard questions and seek wise answers from You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 2:6, "For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." (NIV)

    Colossians 1:28, "He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Liz Curtis Higg’s new book, It’s Good to Be Queen, explores how you can become as bold, gracious and wise as the queen of Sheba. Pre-order your copy today and receive an exclusive collection of 4x4 Queen Cards that will put God’s wisdom front and center in your life.

    Visit Liz’s blog for more encouragement.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: More than 3,000 years ago, the queen of Sheba sought the wisdom of King Solomon and discovered its Source, making her a worthy role model for her modern sisters. Solomon likely penned most of the book of Proverbs in the Bible. Consider reading one chapter a day, starting today. If you do, you will have read the entire book of Proverbs in a month.

    Of the three needs mentioned here in our quest for wisdom — time, sacrifice, humility — which one is the most challenging for you? What step could you take this week to help you begin to overcome that obstacle and grow in wisdom?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Helping Our Kids See God

    Lysa TerKeurst JUNE 18, 2015

    Helping Our Kids See God LYSA TERKEURST

    "Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’" Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

    My kids have always been fascinated when I’ve shared things I remember from my childhood. Those memories are especially meaningful when I point out how the stories relate to my life now.

    So much about our stories can be traced back to God working in our lives, and when we share them, our kids can see evidence that Jesus is real and intimately involved with us.

    What’s even more surprising is that they can later recall them in surprising detail! It’s amazing how well they remember the life lessons that I tie to the stories I tell.

    While it may be difficult for a child to recall a passage of Scripture they just read, most can recall in specific detail the accounts of a story.

    For instance, I love to tell them of the time my stepdad brought home a hand-me-down typewriter from his office. I placed my hands on the keys and wondered what it would be like to type pages of legible words. I loved the rap-tap-tap sound it made and envisioned myself finishing the final page of a book. I didn’t know enough words at that point to write an entire book, but one day I would.

    That story allowed me to point out that even back then, Jesus was preparing me for my calling as an author. And although my kids may not understand their own callings yet, by seeing me live out mine and knowing that the Lord put it in my heart at a young age, they understand the reality that God does indeed have a plan for their lives. This gives them access to Divine Truth.

    Jesus wanted children to have access to Him, as He said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).

    Though my kids haven’t experienced all the ways God’s revealed Himself to me, I can use my story to teach them of things to come … if they are willing to take hold of Him for themselves.

    Author Dr. Tim Kimmel, in his book Why Christian Kids Rebel, explains the number one reason children walk away from the faith is because they never see it make a real difference in the lives of their parents.

    And I don’t want that to be the case in my family.

    So now, not only do I trace the hand of God in my past stories, I also constantly look for ways to exemplify Jesus today.

    I point out answers to things we’ve prayed about.

    I show them the many ways God provides and make sure they know where credit is due.

    I live my faith out loud so they cannot miss that Christ is the center of our home.

    He has become too real to deny.

    I pray my kids will start collecting their own stories of experiencing God. Then they can share the reality of Christ’s presence with their friends today and with their own children in the future. Yes, indeed, let the children have access to Jesus!

    Dear Lord, help me be a teacher of Your truth. As You continue to write the story of my life, reveal Yourself to me so I can tell my family of Your faithfulness. I want them to see the reality of Christ living in me and the difference You make in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Deuteronomy 4:9, "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." (NIV)

    Psalm 145:4, "One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts." (NKJV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Help a child look for the hand of God in their life with 4 Fun Ways to Grow Your Child’s Faith! Sign up to receive these FREE activity sheets today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In your quiet time this week, write down some memories from your childhood where you can see God’s hand at work. Then, reflect on a more recent memory where the reality of Jesus was evident in your life. Share these with your kids or family members.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Find Real Peace

    Lynn Cowell JUNE 17, 2015

    How to Find Real Peace LYNN COWELL

    "Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." Luke 1:78-79 (NIV)

    I left my dying father’s hospital room and searched in vain for my car. The parking deck hadn’t felt so dark and looming when I’d pulled in, but that was more than 24 hours ago. A new day had begun, but there was no shining sun.

    As I opened my door, it was all I could do to hoist my mentally and physically exhausted self up into my truck’s seat. It may have been my birthday, but not one ounce of me wanted to celebrate.

    There is no way I could have prepared for that day; it’s a strange feeling to take care of a terminally ill parent, especially when you’re a mom of little children. Would my eldest remember my dad? I knew my 2-year-old wouldn’t. I felt robbed. I’m too young not to have a dad.

    Tears streamed down my face. As soon as I started the car, lyrics from the radio spoke of a day when going to heaven will bring those of us who love and follow Christ new bodies. The day of ultimate healing.

    Jesus met me in my car that day. He reached down into my pit of despair. He made it clear to me that He was real and heaven is real, too.

    Before this day I’d prayed non-stop for God to heal Dad. I knew He could. As I read my Bible I came across stories of Jesus healing the blind, the lame, even raising the dead. I’d seen Him heal a friend’s child of cancer. There was no doubt in my mind that God could heal my dad’s cancer too.

    However, until that day in the parking deck, I had never considered my father’s passage to heaven as the ultimate healing. This realization poured a peace into my spirit like I had never experienced during his cancer battle.

    That peace filled my heart and stayed through the next day when he died. It was there the day of his funeral, and it’s been there each time I’ve thought of him since. God’s perfect love flowed to imperfect me and continues to remain in my life, quieting my fears of the future as well as the pains of my past.

    Perhaps there are days when you feel life isn’t fair. Maybe it even feels hopeless. At times like these, when we don’t feel Jesus’ love for us, we can reach out to Him, asking for His peace that goes beyond our feelings. A peace that surpasses our understanding (Philippians 4:7, ESV). A real peace beyond what we can comprehend or communicate. We can reach out to our Jesus and lay hold of the truth in today’s key verse: "Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

    Father, no matter how I feel, help me remember and reach out for the peace Jesus wants to give me through His perfect love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (NIV)

    John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Empower a young woman to learn more about allowing peace to rule in situations beyond her control with Lynn Cowell’s book, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants. Purchase your copy here.

    Know some young women who need help learning to live in God’s peace? Start a Magnetic Bible study and invite them to join! You will grow together as you become the women God intended you to be. Magnetic includes a free leadership guide plus you’ll find additional free resources to help you get started here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What one situation have you been in recently that threatened to steal your peace?

    If you didn’t experience God’s peace in that situation, take a moment to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you turn to Him at the moment it seems your peace will be threatened.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why Daughters Were Made to Dance

    Alicia Bruxvoort JUNE 16, 2015

    Why Daughters Were Made to Dance ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children." Romans 8:15-16 (NLT)

    She’s fresh out of bed, still clad in her pajamas, when she finds me outside sipping coffee with my husband.

    Her daddy is dressed in shabby jeans and a faded t-shirt, the patron uniform of Saturday morning yard work. But when that song she loves pulses from the radio, our littlest girl turns to him like he’s a tuxedoed prince and asks if he’d like to dance.

    There’s grass to mow and weeds to pull, but he sets down his coffee and accepts the invitation with a regal bow. I clutch my coffee cup and savor the sheen in my daughter’s eyes as her daddy twirls her around with a smile.

    And suddenly I remember the woman who once told me she didn’t need a daddy …

    We’d met at a church retreat where we’d learned about our identities as God’s daughters. She sat beside me, her hair wound tightly in a bun, with arms folded even tighter across her chest.

    On our last evening together, the speaker used a simple metaphor to retell our salvation story. It wasn’t perfect theology, but the imagery resonated with the women in the room.

    "Once upon a time there was a Father who created His children to dance. But those kids’ feet got shackled by sin and their hearts stopped beating to the rhythm of Heaven’s love. And, in time, they forgot who they were.

    "But their Father didn’t forget.

    "While His children stumbled and staggered, He devised a plan to set their feet free and teach them to dance again. He stretched out His arms on an old rugged cross and invited His children to return to His embrace and waltz with Him into eternity …"

    When the speaker finished, women jumped to their feet to worship with abandon. Except for the woman beside me.

    She sat silently until the music waned. Then with trembling lips she murmured to me, "I don’t need a daddy. I just need a savior."

    Her eyes brimmed with a lifetime of hurt and I asked if I could pray for her. Embarrassed, she shook her head no and headed for the door.

    I sat there alone, stunned and sad, and closed my eyes in prayer anyway. Moments later, I felt a hand on my shoulder. "I still think I’m too old to ask God to be my daddy," the woman explained. "But if I ever change my mind, I’ve always wanted to learn to waltz …"

    My attention returned to the dancing duo before me. My daughter’s arms flapped happily like a bird set free.

    And I see it clearly — how every daughter of God was made to soar in the safety of her heavenly Father’s arms.

    Then my husband holds our daughter close as the music slows, and together they sway to the song’s end. Maggie nestles her chin on my man’s shoulder and exhales a satisfied sigh. "I just dance better in your arms, Daddy!"

    I smile at my daughter’s declaration and wonder if the woman at the retreat ever learned to "dance." I hope she did.

    She was right, of course. We all need a savior. But according to our key verse, that’s not where our story ends. Once we’ve been set free from sin, God invites us to call Him "Abba," a loving and familiar term, similar to "Daddy."

    It’s there, in our heavenly Daddy’s arms, where we’ll learn to "dance" freely, living as His treasured children.

    Your steps won’t look like mine. And mine won’t mimic yours. But we can all grab our Daddy’s hand and let Him lead us step by expectant step into the life He’s dreamed for His girls.

    And, remember, according to my daughter, we all just dance better in our Daddy’s arms.

    Dear Jesus, I don’t want to miss the life You’ve dreamed for me. Guide my steps and teach me how to live as Your child: confident, joyful and free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 30:11, "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing." (NLT)

    Psalm 90:12, 14, "Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. … Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Proverbs 31 Ministries t-shirts are now available for pre-order until Friday, June 19. Pre-order yours today!

    If you’re looking to move forward and find healing for your deepest hurts so you can dance again, Suzie Eller’s book, and our next P31 Online Bible Study, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places, might be helpful for you.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement and for your chance to win a giveaway just for Daddy’s girls.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one step of faith God has been asking you to take lately? What keeps you from saying "Yes"?

    Make a point of lingering in your heavenly Daddy’s arms this week. Listen to worship music, write a prayer of praise or watch a sunset He’s painted just for you. Tell Him how much you love being His girl.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • What To Do When Life Becomes Turbulent

    Leah DiPascal JUNE 15, 2015

    What To Do When Life Becomes Turbulent LEAH DIPASCAL

    "Yes, he alone is my Rock, my rescuer, defense and fortress. Why then should I be tense with fear when troubles come?" Psalm 62:2 (TLB)

    As I headed down the gateway toward the plane, I noticed something was different. My heart wasn’t racing and my palms weren’t damp with perspiration. To say it was a phenomenon is an understatement.

    The fact that I wasn’t afraid was proof God was changing me from the inside out. Years prior, you couldn’t have paid me enough to step foot on a plane.

    As I looked out the plane window, I marveled at the beautiful day God created. There’s not a cloud in the sky … It’s going to be great flying weather. No bumps or turbulence to worry about. I can just sit back, relax and enjoy.

    One hour into the flight I was singing a different tune. Although the sky was still clear, the turbulence was anything but enjoyable. Even the flight attendants were asked to take their seats, and the cockpit was silent. Uh … hello? Can someone tell me what’s going on up there?!?!

    What started out as a relaxing flight turned into a stressful experience. With three hours left in the flight, I didn’t want to feel anxious the entire time. I needed to shift my focus off the turbulence and on to God.

    With all the bumping, shifting and rattling, it wouldn’t be easy, but it was necessary. I was determined to learn from this experience, not be terrified by it.

    So after praying for God’s protection, I closed my eyes and whispered, "God, what are You trying to teach me? What am I supposed to learn?"

    For the remainder of the flight I waited and watched for God to reveal some invaluable lesson. By the time we landed I walked off the plane with this in mind: Unexpected turbulence creates an opportunity to experience more of God.

    It’s the perfect opportunity to …

    Grow my faith. Rather than shrink back in fear or become discouraged, I can lean in and draw closer to God’s presence while looking for His activity in the midst of my circumstances. Patiently waiting for God to act on my behalf can be a catalyst for spiritual maturity and deeper faith in Him.

    Remember Who is in control. Remembering God is in control helps lead my heart and mind to a place of peace. I may not always know exactly where I’m headed, but God does. Regardless of how turbulent the journey may be, He promises to get me safely from my present location to His eternal destination (Heaven). Therefore, I have nothing to fear.

    Make a refining decision. Sometimes, turbulence is not an option. So I’m left with two questions: Am I going to worry and wonder if God will get me through this? Or, am I going to relax and trust that God will get me through this? Hebrews 11:6 give us the best answer: "… without faith, it is impossible to please God …" (NIV). I just need to apply it to my life. And when I do, God refines me in the process.

    Watch for God’s goodness and glory. When turbulence comes I can easily miss God’s goodness. I need to look for His glory around me and set my thoughts on the impossible He can do for me.

    Has life been tossing you around lately? The next time you experience a little turbulence … whether on a flight or at ground level … remember that you have full access to the One who will hold you steady and secure. Just like Psalm 62:2 states, "Yes, he alone is my Rock, my rescuer, defense and fortress. Why then should I be tense with fear when troubles come?"

    Heavenly Father, as I face today’s challenges, help me not to shrink back in fear or discouragement. Instead, teach me how to see these challenges as an opportunity to grow my faith, to remember You are in control, to be refined, and to experience Your goodness and glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Acts 2:25, "I see that the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me." (NLT)

    Psalm 91:14-15, "The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.’" (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Does the chaos of life have you feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Check out Stressed-Less Living: Finding God's Peace in Your Chaotic World by Tracie Miles.

    Connect with Leah DiPascal on her blog today and discover tips on how to turn your turbulent life experiences into teachable moments with God.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries t-shirts are now available for pre-order until Friday, June 19. Pre-order yours today!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What has become a challenge in your life? Ask yourself these questions regarding this challenge:

    1. Am I shrinking back in fear and discouragement or am I drawing closer to God’s presence? 2. Do I really believe God is in control of this situation? 3. Am I going to worry or trust God — believing He will get me through this? 4. How can I look for God’s goodness and glory in the midst of my challenge?

    Be sure to record your answers in a journal or your Bible.

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • The ‘Write’ Way: Instilling a Love of Writing In Your Child

    “Hey, can I read your book?” I looked up at the face of a young boy watching intently as I worked on my newest novel manuscript. Ben lived in my dorm with his family, the community counselors. I smiled and passed the book over and three days later, he became my youngest reader. Over the course of the semester, I began helping him in creative writing and motivating this budding artist. It was incredibly rewarding to have the chance to invest in a young person’s life, but I was truly touched when I received a letter from Ben that moved me to tears.

     

    “Ciera, thank you so much for always encouraging me with my writing…I am doing an assignment called ‘whose shoes’ where we write to someone we look up to as a hero. I just want to thank you for the time you have spent with me helping my stories progress and grow…I hope that when I grow up, I will be as generous and loving like you…I will never forget you.”

     

    Young people are highly impressionable and the smallest amount of encouragement can go a long way. In this case, I discovered that sharing my work with him and reading his writing in return gave him the necessary motivation to further pursue his dreams of finishing a book.

     

    Writing is an integral part of life in that it helps young people learn to appreciate language and culture and formulate their thoughts on the world in a way that is both creative and formative to their development as an individual.

     

    As parents, you have an even greater opportunity to instill a love for writing in your children. Not only will they learn by watching you as their role models, but you have the unique ability to touch their hearts with encouragement and challenge, which is both gracious and inspiring. Whether or not you yourself were raised to have a love for the written word, if you desire for your child to have a greater appreciation for the art and discipline of writing, there a few key ways you can encourage them.

     

    1. Expose your child to quality literature at a young age.

     

    Consider ways to make books a part of your child’s life, such as making regular trips to the library, giving books as gifts or encouraging your child to read every day. When I was growing up, my mother scheduled reading time for an hour every afternoon. This practice helped me gain the ability to focus intensely for longer periods of time. In addition, it widened my palette of vocabulary and helped me fall in love with the narrative art of storytelling.

     

    Furthermore, children who are read to daily are found to test higher in cognitive skills such as language, mathematics, memory and the process of understanding and recalling facts. A study from the University of Melbourne showed that parental reading increases a child’s cognitive skills and reading abilities from the age of six months to age 11. In other words, you can start reading to your baby to help instill a fundamental understanding of cadence, language and object recognition! This basic understanding of reading is the first step toward leading your child to love writing. Words become meaningful to them and they will ultimately have a greater desire to use their own words to express and communicate.

     

    1. Have them keep a journal.

     

    Journaling for personal meditation or along with devotions and Scripture is a good life practice for any Christian no matter the age. This is beneficial for any child, both because it helps them learn structure and responsibility and also because they become more naturally self reflective. Furthermore, the progress is tangible and they can see their own growth as a writer as they fill up the pages.

     

    I have personally kept journals since I was five years old — granted, the subject matter of my entries has changed greatly, but to look back into the thoughts of a younger me is a beautiful gift. Reading over my old notes is like stepping back in time, having a conversation with myself and it gives me insight to see how certain events shaped me. The practice of journaling can be creative, too, and I often include pictures, sketches or poems, anything that is a personal reflection on what I’m thinking or feeling.

     

    1. Celebrate when they ask questions.

     

    Before answers can be found, questions must be asked. That truth is at the very heart of writing. To write is to question, to analyze, to seek truth and to strive to examine what you observe. The heart of this, though, is the art of experience and the acquired ability to reflect what you see in what you write.

     

    Questions like, “What does it mean to be a girl? Why do I have to love my brother? Why do we go to church?” are life shaping. Let them thrive on the “why” questions and explore answers though the process of putting thoughts into words.

     

    1. Praise the work ethic.

     

    I’ve heard it said “Praise the process, not the product!” But the truth is that we should affirm both. The journey is just as important as the destination and the same truism applies to writing in that we should value the method and time spent working on our craft just as we should appreciate the end result. When your child shows you a story he has written, praise him for the effort, encourage him in his endeavors and challenge him to grow. Illustrate ways in which he can learn more or become better, but understand that the truth is loving and to love is to be truthful. So affirm his desire to use his gifts and interests and show him how to practice his skills humbly.

     

    1. Help them see writing as applicable to various interests.

     

    There is a place for the writer in everyone’s world. Not every child will have the same artistic imagination to write their own fairytales; others may prefer journaling or nonfiction or poetry. But the understanding that writing is both expression and communication is key. It’s both deeply personal and can be made public. It is an art and a discipline. Encouraging your child to learn how to think analytically and write critically about the world around them will sharpen important life skills and even help them formulate their recognition of identity.

     

    When I received Ben’s letter about his project “Whose Shoes”, I was incredibly honored to be selected as this boy’s hero because of our writing mentorship. His note continued, “Our writing teacher asked for a pair of signed shoes from you, for our ‘whose shoes’ display that we have in class so we can literally walk in your shoes.” He asked for old, worn shoes that I wouldn’t miss.   Instead, I gave Ben my favorite pair of Chuck Norris Converse. Being selected as Ben’s role model has continued to be a reminder to me that we as Christians have the blessing of being able to speak deeply into others’ lives, especially children. I truly believe that leadership skills are not determined by how much we accomplish, but by how much those we lead accomplish. As a parent, recognize that you have the ability to lead, challenge, humble and encourage your child in both the writing process and whatever endeavor they undertake. The “write” way looks different for every child, but to instill a love for the written word in them is to share a valued appreciation for stories, both those of others and their own.

     

    Bio: A sophomore at Wheaton College, Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, she grew up hanging out with Christian music stars, artists and writers who greatly influenced her culturally-engaging outlook on life, which she writes about at www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

    Ciera Horton
  • When You Need Help … but Don’t Want to Admit It.

    Chrystal Evans Hurst JUNE 12, 2015

    When You Need Help … but Don’t Want to Admit It. CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

    "I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’" Psalm 91:2 (NIV)

    As a single woman in my twenties, I took a trip to San Francisco for my job.

    Not only did I work, but I made time to play. My favorite part of the trip was a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

    I rented a bike, complete with a helmet and a map, and set off down the coast.

    I rode the few miles to the bridge, cruised across the bay, sailed mostly downhill towards the tiny, quaint town of Sausalito, then caught the ferry back to the mainland.

    A few years later, I made the trip again to San Francisco with a few friends to relive the wonderful memory of that ride and build some new memories as well.

    We rode the few miles to the bridge, cruised across the bay and made the right turn to sail with ease towards Sausalito.

    It only took a few seconds for us to pick up speed as we biked downhill. But then I sensed I was going a tad too fast. So I tapped on my brakes.

    Seconds later, I only remember the dawning realization that I was in the middle of the road and needed to crawl to the shoulder for safety.

    While my friends rushed toward me, I sat dazed, trying to piece together what had happened and figure out what should happen next.

    All I could think was I needed to get myself together so I could get back on that bike and head toward Sausalito. I had come to San Fran on a mission and I wanted to finish the journey.

    But that finish would not come.

    Not long after, a paramedic approached me from the ambulance someone had called and squatted down on his haunches to ask me if I knew my name and the day. You know … the type of questions asked of an injured person who has just been thrown from their bike. I tried to convince him I was okay.

    I told him I thought I could still finish. I told him that after I’d completed my goal of biking to Sausalito, then I would go to the hospital to figure out what was wrong with my body. Needless to say, he advised against my gallant ideas.

    I needed help. I didn’t want it, but I needed it.

    Sometimes life is like that. We are cruising along and something goes wrong. We sit dazed, trying to piece together what has happened and what we should do next, not realizing we are hurt and in need of help.

    We may not want it, but we need it. We may try to convince others we are okay, when it’s clear we are not.

    I reluctantly agreed to get into the ambulance and take the ride to the local emergency room where I later realized I had a broken finger, a fractured elbow and a sizable puncture in my chin.

    That ambulance. The beautiful thing about that ambulance is it arrived quickly when I was in trouble.

    In the same way, God is a very present help when you are in trouble. When you call Him, He will be there. Right where you are. Even if you are on the side of the road.

    And just like I found refuge in the ambulance and at that hospital, you can find refuge in God.

    You may be reluctant to admit you need help. Or you may be reluctant to pause and give God your situation so He can help you. Can I encourage you today to let God help?

    He can soothe you with His Word, send reinforcements through His people and provide answers to your prayers.

    Seek Him today. He loves to help those who are in trouble and He is an expert at fixing the source of pain and setting the hurting on a path to healing.

    Dear God, I need Your help. I’m hurting and I need You to help me address my source of pain and set me on a path to healing. Please show me where I can get help in Your Word or through Your people. Help me be patient as I wait for You to answer my prayers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you …" (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Kingdom Woman by Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst can help you find perspective to be the woman God has called you to be.

    Chrystal has prepared a free printable Scripture to remind you that God is with you and will help you. Click here to download.

    If you’re looking to move forward and find healing for your deepest hurts, know that you don’t have to run this race alone! Join our next Online Bible Study of The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller, launching June 22. Click here to get your book or learn more.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Why might you be reluctant to admit when you need help? What will you do in light of today’s devotional to embrace the help God offers?

    If you’ve ever experienced God coming to your aid in your time of trouble, share your experience in the comments to encourage another person in need of hope today.

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Please Interrupt Me

    Lysa TerKeurst JUNE 11, 2015

    Please Interrupt Me LYSA TERKEURST

    "The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes." Psalm 19:8 (NIV)

    I wonder if the greatest witnessing tool available to us Christians is often pushed aside because of our busyness.

    Recently, I was focused on all the items on my seemingly never-ending to-do list.

    As I sat at a stoplight, a friend called and started lamenting that her son had forgotten his lunch and his belt required by the school’s uniform policy. She was stressed and trying to get in touch with her husband who’d just dropped off her son at school. She was at home with a new baby feeling groggy from a sleepless night and overwhelmed by her situation.

    Her son could probably get his friends to share their lunches with him. But, the belt would be a problem. The school would call her when they noticed the missing belt and require her to bring one. She lives over 20 minutes from the school.

    As I sat at the stoplight listening to my friend, I looked to the store off to my right. That store has belts. That store has lunch food.

    I was faced with a decision: Could I help? Well, I could, but my schedule would have to be rearranged a bit. Would I help? My friend wasn’t asking for my assistance but in that moment, I knew it would be a tremendous blessing for her.

    This day I wouldn’t let my busyness take precedence over the blessing of divine interruptions. So, I helped.

    I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect my friend had been asking Jesus to help her. It’s hard being up half the night with a sleepless baby. It’s hard to find a new normal when life gets a little off-kilter by changes in the family dynamic. It’s hard when you need help but feel like everyone is so busy you hate to bother them.

    Now I’ll admit, I’m a task-oriented person, so it doesn’t come naturally for me to look for interruptions in the midst of my busyness.

    But sitting at that stoplight, I realized the power of pausing. Pausing just long enough for Jesus to tap on the edge of my heart and say, "Could you? Would you? Do this as if it’s the most important part of your day and not an unwelcome interruption."

    The Bible teaches one of the most important precepts is love. When we love others we are living the message of Jesus. And listen to what Psalm 19:8 says, "The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes."

    Oh how many times have I missed the joy of pausing to live and love and light the world for Jesus? I suspect it’s happened more often than I’d like to admit.

    But instead of getting stuck in what I might have missed, I’m choosing to see this as a wake-up call. I’m choosing to underwhelm my schedule so God can overwhelm my soul with these opportunities to love.

    Dear Lord, help me pause today and remember my greatest witnessing tool is to simply be available to love others. Show me where I can love. Make me courageous enough to put aside my carefully planned to-do list. And help me find ways to be an answer to someone’s prayers today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 3:18, "Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." (NLT)

    Psalm 39:6a, "We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’ve set your life to the rhythm of rush without any time to love others, Lysa TerKeurst understands. She wants to show you how to add white space back into your life with her book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Get your copy here.

    For more encouragement, follow Lysa on Facebook!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who in your life is currently going through a season where you could practically lend a hand?

    Today, spend some time praying about ways you can create white space in your schedule to make yourself more available to help this person.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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