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  • Feeling Alone and Disconnected

    Feeling Alone and Disconnected by Sheri Rose Shepherd

    “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 (NLT)

    For some reason, I’ve always struggled with inner loneliness.

    No matter how many people are around me or how many “likes” I get on Facebook, I fight that deep dark feeling of loneliness.

    I remember the night I became a Christian. I was alone in a hotel room, and I was fighting with guilt and shame from my past. To be honest, I was contemplating taking my life.

    I felt so desperate, I finally cried out to what seemed like an invisible God and asked Jesus to come into my heart. In that moment, something happened. I knew God’s presence and love were real, because for the first time ever, I didn’t feel alone.

    I thought I would never have to fight feelings of loneliness again. But I was wrong!

    I’m in the hardest season of my life. I lost my marriage, my health and many friends. However, in the midst of my deepest heartache, God has used my tears to heal my broken heart, and in His goodness, He gave me what I needed and longed for most — a CURE for my loneliness and a REAL relationship with Him!

    It was hard to see the Holy Spirit at work until I was totally alone and had no one else to run to but God. It took me a while to fully surrender to the only One who will never leave me or forsake me.

    Through my trials and tears, the Lord revealed the reason I felt alone … I connected more to doing the works of God and to God’s people than I did to God Himself.

    In other words, to cure my loneliness, I needed time alone with God! I was brokenhearted and that takes time to heal. The only way to complete the process is to connect with Him.

    Jesus reminds us of this in today’s key verse: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).

    I don’t want to oversimplify our connection with the Creator of the universe, but the vine Jesus talks about in John 15:4 is similar to a light switch or a Wi-Fi connection — always there, but of no benefit to us until we connect to it.

    In fact, God was there for me all along, lovingly and patiently waiting to connect my heart, my mind and my spirit to His heavenly vine through Christ alone!

    I’m not sure what season of life you’re facing. Maybe it’s a marriage where you feel alone, or you’re divorced and feel abandoned by the one you loved and trusted, or you’re where I am — fighting cancer — and you feel disconnected from the life you once knew.

    I know from personal experience there’s a cure for loneliness and a real connection to a Heavenly Father who wants to heal our hurting hearts.

    So here are some hard questions that may help when you feel disconnected from God. Answering these questions honestly will be worth your time, truth and tears for an encounter with true love and new life found in Christ alone.

    1. When you’re hurting, where do you run first?

    2. When you’re alone, who do you miss the most?

    3. What are you connected to right now that could be disconnecting you from God?

    4. When you need wisdom, where do you find it?

    5. Do you feel your relationship with God is artificial or authentic?

    6. Have you prayed and asked God to become real to you and to fill those empty places meant just for Him?

    There’s no better place to connect than to the One who gave His life to connect with you — your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Heavenly Father, if I’m honest, many times I don’t feel Your presence or Your peace. You left the Holy Spirit for us while You’re away preparing us a place in glory. So be with me. Fill every lonely place in my heart and heal every broken piece of me so I can know I’m never alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: As you think through the questions Sheri Rose Shepherd asks, pray for God to give you courage to assess them honestly. Consider calling or texting a friend you think could be lonely to remind her God loves her, and she is never alone.

    © 2016 by Sheri Rose Shepherd. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

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

  • The Rejection Infection

    The Rejection Infection by Lysa TerKeurst

    “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

    The plastic seats were green. The desks a dirty beige. The perfect pale color to make pencil marks easy to read.

    That’s how I saw what was making the group of girls in front of me laugh. They looked at me and then added to Jennifer’s desk art: a frizzy-headed stick figure with huge buck teeth and crazed eyes. I knew even before I saw the name scribbled, she’d drawn me. Me. An awful caricature of me.

    It’s been years since I sat at that dirty beige desk. But it hasn’t been years since I’ve had those same feelings of rejection and hurt. Of course, they aren’t from girls drawing pictures. But meanness hurts, no matter what age or how it’s delivered.

    You can take the girl out of middle school, but for many of us, you can’t take the middle school out of the girl.

    If you’ve been hurt in this way, you know what I’m talking about. If we’re a stuffer type of person, we want to withdraw and get away from the source of our hurt. If we’re more of an exploder person, we want to attack so they’ll feel as badly as we do.

    But here’s where things get a little complicated. Jesus flies in the face of conventional wisdom and instructs us, “love your enemies.”

    Seriously?

    Something deep inside us whispers, “Don’t you dare love this person. This situation is the exception.” Let the internal battle begin.

    But what if I were to assure you Jesus isn’t being cruel or naive in His command for us to love? He’s actually showing us how to get free from the sting of another person’s wounds. When we’re wounded, we can either pursue healing by extending love back, or, we can refuse healing and allow the “rejection infection” to set into our wound.

    Here are three things to remember:

    The Command

    My job isn’t to fix my enemies. My job is to be obedient to God in how I deal with them. And He tells us in our key verse how He wants us to deal with those we would label our enemy.

    “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44).

    The Caution

    If there is abuse, we must get wise people to help us and learn to love from afar. How? By forgiving the person who hurt us — releasing their offense into the hands of God. By trusting God (and others in authority) to reveal to them their wrong and deal with their actions.

    But we must also remember this: Forgiveness and restoration don’t always go hand-in-hand. You can forgive someone but not necessarily do everyday life with them. Ask God to give you discernment to know when and how to love from afar.

    The Catalyst

    So, back to Jennifer and the hurtful drawing. I wish I could relive that moment with the knowledge I have now. Jennifer drew that picture because of her own insecurities. And while it’s tough to have compassion for someone who’s hurting us in the moment of rejection, it is possible to have compassion for their obvious hurt. Hurt people hurt people.

    Dig beneath the surface of a mean girl and you’ll find a girl riddled with insecurities and possibly even self-hatred.

    Romans 12:20 says, “On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” (NIV)

    Jennifer was hungry and thirsty for affirmation. And the only way she could figure out how to get it was to make those around her laugh at me.

    What might have happened if I were to have walked by her desk and given this desperate girl a drink from the living water? “Jennifer, you are beautiful. Do you know that?”

    Not in a million years could I have done that in middle school. But I’m not in middle school any longer.

    And now’s a good time to remember that.

    Dear Lord, I am thankful You don’t give up on me. Please help me love those who hurt me, and teach me when to seek restoration and when to let a relationship go. I want my relationships to honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think on a situation that involved a “mean girl.” That girl might be someone close to you, an acquaintance or maybe even you. Pray for her. If it’s you, pray that God will show you areas in your life only He can fill.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Moving Into a Better Measurement

    Moving Into a Better Measurement by Amy Carroll

    “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love.” John 15:9 (HCSB)

    For a checklist-loving girl, there’s nothing quite as frustrating as feeling you’re getting nothing accomplished.

    In fact, for much of my life, here’s how I processed my days: No check-marks. → No progress. → No worth.

    I determined my value by what I produced. Consequently, I often bore the soul-crushing weight of my own disapproval. Times like:

    When I used three-fourths of a day to feed and care for an infant without even accomplishing a shower. When my toddlers dismantled the house faster than I could put it back together.

    When I moved to a new place and the phone stopped ringing and my calendar remained empty.

    Those periods were a struggle because when I didn’t do enough, I thought I wasn’t enough. I let my work define my value. Maybe you’ve been there too.

    Young mom, you love your children madly, but life’s joy drains out of the holes you poke in yourself.

    Single friend, you know there are upsides to singleness, but it feels like a trap that keeps you from building the future you’d prefer.

    Newbie neighbor, instead of seeing new possibilities in your new home, you feel stuck in grieving the old one.

    Sick sister, your body needs rest, but you feel like a failure as you lay on your bed.

    But the saddest part happens when we start believing God views us with the same disappointment we view ourselves. After all, we even express our spiritual life in terms like “faith walk” and “journey,” which implies forward movement. We start to view Him as the One pushing us along and measuring us by our work — a divine Project Manager in the sky. That belief left me wrongly feeling like His laborer instead of His daughter … His friend.

    In today’s key verse, John, the beloved disciple, records this instruction from Jesus: “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love” (John 15:9). In this verse, the word “remain” can also be translated dwell or abide. Reflecting on these definitions made me realize how wrong my beliefs had been.

    We want to move on, but Jesus invites us to move in.

    Remain, abide and dwell — these words revealed how I evaluated progress and growth, and they helped me understand God’s approval in a new way. We don’t have to produce or create forward movement to earn God’s love. Instead, He asks us to move into … to settle … to be still in His love.

    This idea changes everything. As a wise friend once told me, “You don’t work for God’s love. You rest in His love.”

    God doesn’t measure our worth by our works. He establishes our worth by His love. Although I tend to calculate value by external things, God gauges value by internal things, and love is an internal work. I invite you with the same invitation God extends to each of us: Remain in God’s love.

    Move in all the pieces of your life. Every thought, emotion, gift and flaw.

    Stay awhile.

    As we say in the South, “Sit a spell!” In other words, dwell and bask in the love of God. You are worthy because of God’s gift of love, not the checks on your to-do list.

    Lord, I’ve been so prone to evaluate my value in terms of what I produce. I’ve believed wrong things about how You see me, keeping me from being as close as You desire. Today, I surrender. I move in to dwell permanently in Your love. I choose to rest and abide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 84:1-2,10a, “How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord of Hosts. I long and yearn for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Better a day in Your courts than a thousand anywhere else.” (HCSB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you believe you have to earn God’s love or do you live in His unconditional love?

    Do a word search for the word “love” in an online Scripture reference website. What new truth do you learn about God’s love for you?

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • 6 Guidelines for Encouraging Your Child’s Spiritual Growth

    Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. - Proverbs 22:6 NIV

    This verse is both a command and a promise – a command to raise children who know Jesus, and a promise that God will be faithful in holding up His end of the deal. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect but He does ask us to be purposeful. Encourage your kids to pursue Jesus with these guidelines for fostering spiritual growth.

    Teach Them To Be Thankful  Use everyday moments as opportunities to teach them gratitude. Go around the dinner table and take turns sharing something positive that happened that day. Use their response as an opportunity to show your children how God has blessed them.

    Get Them Involved In God’s Word Introduce your little one to God's Word with a kid’s Bible. Get them excited about their faith by taking them with you to pick one out. Have their name imprinted on the cover to personalize their Bible and explain how God’s Word speaks directly to them.

    Practice Prayer Teach your children about the power of prayer. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or as you tuck them into bed, make sure you and you set aside a consistent time every day to pray. Encourage them to explore prayer on their own and document their conversations with God in a prayer journal.

    Cultivate Curiosity Kids ask a lot of questions. Do your best to answer them and introduce Christian principles to their everyday curiosities. The more often you initiate conversations, the more comfortable they will feel coming to you when they need direction.

    Create Community Faith flourishes in the presence of community. Encourage Godly friendships by getting them involved in a youth group and other activities with the church outside of Sunday service. Surround your children with kids and adults who model Christ.

    Lead By Example Whether they admit it or not, your children look up to you. They are watching and learning your attitudes and actions. You have a unique opportunity to show them what it means to live out their faith. Go to God in prayer and ask him for guidance and wisdom as you seek to raise children who love the Lord.

    We hope you feel inspired to foster your child’s faith in new and exciting ways. Tell us how you encourage your little ones in their spiritual journey.

  • An Interview with Mike Berenstain of the Berenstain Bears

    Q: How did the Berenstain Bears get their start?

    Stan Berenstain and Jan Grant were both born in Philadelphia in 1923. These talented artists met in art school in 1941 and were married several years later. They began joint careers in art as a professional cartoonist team, creating for magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. But as time went on and they began their family, Jan and Stan became consumers of children’s books. Their interest piqued, they decided to try their hand at creating a children’s book of their own. Under the editorial and publishing guidance of Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), this first book—The Big Honey Hunt—was released in 1962 and success followed. As the husband and wife team, The Berenstains, they created about twenty books with Geisel, and went on to produce about two hundred more over the next forty plus years.

    Q: How did you become involved in the family business?

    Because of the huge success of these family-life themed books about a family of bears, Stan and Jan grew too busy to keep up with the demand for more and more titles. So in the late 1980s my parents put out a call for some assistance. I had always loved to draw and had gone to the same art school as my parents. I was working as a children’s author and illustrator at the time. So, when they began asking me for help, it seemed very natural for me to get involved. Having grown up with the Berenstain Bears I viewed them as a part of myself and I wanted to be involved with their ongoing artistic development.

    Integrating my own work into the Berenstain Bears style was not without its challenges—in fact, it was hard. But as I gained experience, this father-mother-son partnership began to work. I learned more and more about illustrating and writing Berenstain Bears books until, to an outsider, our work couldn’t be told apart. We created dozens of books together until my father’s death in 2005. My mother and I continued to create new Berenstain Bears books, collaborating on the illustrations while I took on the writing. We worked together in this way until her death in 2012.

    And the Berenstain Bears go on! I am still actively exploring Bear Country—a fictional but recognizable place where millions of children have laughed and learned and done a little growing up. It’s a good place to be.

    Q: I understand you have a faith-based series of Berenstain Bears books with Zonderkidz. How did the Living Lights brand come about?

    In 2004, after forty years of publishing with Random House, we made a move to a new publishing home at HarperCollins. Their expanded and imaginative new line of Berenstain Bears books was immediately successful and has grown by leaps and bounds ever since.

    At about the same time we were moving from Random House to HarperCollins, my men’s group at church was reading the then recently published, A Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. I was aware that this spiritual blockbuster was published by the HarperCollins Zondervan division. I also knew their children’s subdivision, Zonderkidz, was a powerhouse in the industry. A cartoon lightbulb went off over my head. Clearly, a guiding hand directing me toward a purpose-driven goal—in this case, the creation of a series of Christian-themed Berenstain Bears books.

    So, with my parent’s help, I developed the concept of Living Lights books. Everyone at Zondervan enthusiastically got on board and the first four titles were launched with great success in the fall of 2008. The line now has over seventy-five titles with many more in the pipeline and annual sales at 1.5 million copies and growing.

    Q: Are there any fun facts about the Berenstain Bears or you and your family that you’d like to share?

    This is, perhaps, a good point at which to clear up a confusion about our last name. No, it is not Berenstein, Bernstein, or Bearenstein. “Berenstain” is pronounced as it is spelled—Beh-ren-stane as in “coffee stain” or “ink stain” or “grape juice stain.”

    Exactly how this spelling came about, we don’t really know. It’s been spelled that way ever since my great grandparents got off the boat in New York in the 1880s. Perhaps it was just a misprint by a weary immigration officer. Or maybe he was trying to phonetically spell “Bernstein” as pronounced with a heavily Ukrainian-tinged accent.

    Another fact is that the Bear family is not just in print books. Over the last fifty years Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister, Honey, their friends and family in Bear Country have spread out into other media and forms: three television series, four stage shows, amusement park attractions, museum exhibits, websites, DVDs, apps, toys, games, puzzles, and juice boxes are just a few of the places you can find the Bears visiting.

    Thank you for answering some questions about the Berenstain Bears, Mike! God bless you!

    I feel infinitely blessed to have been a part of this—the Berenstain Bears adventures—and very thankful to have been used for the Lord’s work in this way. In the words of the beautiful hymn, “So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.”

    I also very much appreciate the role my friends at Family Christian have played in doing this work. Our partnership in making the Berenstain Bears Living Lights series available to all our readers in the Christian community has been an essential part of our mission to help families in raising happy, healthy, and faithful children. Thank you very much and God bless you.

  • How to Make Room for More of God in Your Life

    How to Make Room for More of God in Your Life by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you …” James 4:8a (NASB)

    My son woke up and called my name from his hospital bed.

    Again.

    After spending a few days stuck in his bed with an arm that hurt when he moved his body, my son was a little whiny — and frankly, so was I.

    My young son had broken his arm pretty badly. He’d decided to pretend he was Spiderman and attempted to leap from a stool to a monkey bar above his head. Needless to say, he missed.

    After three days of us both being stuck in the hospital, he was perpetually not happy and working my nerves.

    He wanted ice cream.

    He felt too hot.

    He felt too cold.

    Then he wanted to go home. I totally understood that. Because I wanted to leave too.

    But as my son jolted awake that early morning, he called to me because of a bad dream. He wanted me right next to him so he could relax, have peace and fall back asleep. Of course my heart melted, despite my exhaustion and frustration.

    He didn’t want anything else than for me to be close.

    There was only one problem. Those hospital beds aren’t made for two people, especially when one is a full-grown adult. In order to do what he wanted and what I had no problem doing, he had to move over.

    In other words, he had to make room for me.

    I, like my son, often find myself in life situations that feel like a bad dream. I might be uncomfortable … stuck … in emotional or physical pain. Sometimes I find myself stressed out, overwhelmed, without peace, lonely, worried or unhappy.

    Do I believe this? “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18, NASB). Absolutely.

    Do I believe “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NASB)? Sure I do.

    But I have to admit many times I settle for the ache in my heart or the anxiety in my head. I don’t immediately reach out for the Presence available to me.

    I love that as soon as my son woke up, he asked for me to come close.

    I love even more that he was willing to make room for me to do so.

    As soon as my son moved over, I got in. He looked up at me and smiled, full from the joy that safety and security brings, and then just a few minutes later, he fell into a sweet and peaceful sleep.

    While we can desire more of God’s presence, knowing He desires the same, we have to make room for Him. Just like we read in today’s key verse, James 4:8a: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

    I’ve learned how important it is to “make room” for God in my life by creating space in my day to talk to Him and read His Word. I make room for more of God’s presence when I honor Him in my actions and attitudes and “move over” by submitting my will to His. I create more space for God when I choose to accept the love He offers above my feelings of inadequacy that seek to crowd that love out.

    And I do this because I know that God’s presence is always available to me. And to you.

    Not only that, but the Psalmist says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy …” (Psalm 16:11b, NASB).

    When we are in His presence, we can experience joy that safety and security in Him brings. His presence helps us experience His peace, regardless of circumstances surrounding our lives. God’s presence can bring us to a place of calm, comfort, confidence and rest.

    We just have to make room, diligently seeking Him and trusting in His love.

    And knowing that His presence makes a difference.

    Dear God, I desire more of You. Please help me make room for You in my life. Help me know that when I call, You will answer. Convict me when I need to make more time for You and be more obedient to You. Help me graciously receive Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 16:11 ”You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what practical ways do you make room for God’s presence in your life? Have you called to Him and known His presence to make a difference in your life? Share your experience in the comments so your words might be an encouragement for someone today.

    © 2016 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • You Don’t Like Me

    You Don’t Like Me by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Do not be anxious about anything …” Philippians 4:6a (NIV)

    Have you ever been taunted by toxic thoughts? I have.

    “You are not liked.”

    “Who are you to think you could do that?”

    “Why did you say that? Everyone thinks you’re annoying.”

    “Your kids just illustrated every inadequacy you have as a mom.”

    “You are invisible.”

    Why do we let such destructive words fall hard on our souls? Toxic thoughts are so dangerous because they leave no room for truth to flourish. And in the absence of truth, lies reign.

    One day I was discussing something with my husband and I said, “I know you think I’m being annoying and overly protective about this but …”

    He stopped me and said, “How do you know that’s what I’m thinking? Please don’t hold me liable for saying things that are really only thoughts in your mind.”

    Wow. He’s so right. He hadn’t said those things. I was assuming he was thinking them and operating as if those toxic thoughts were reality.

    I think we girls do this way too often. People aren’t thinking about us and assessing us nearly as much as we think they are.

    As Christian women, we should hold our thoughts to a higher standard. How dare these runaway thoughts be allowed to simply parade about as if they are true and manipulate us into feeling insecure, inadequate and misunderstood! Oh how much trouble we invite into our lives based on assumptions. But God’s Word instructs us:

    “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:6-9, NIV).

    This is probably a passage you’ve read before. But, have you thought of applying it to your every thought — especially the toxic ones?

    The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes our thinking will be the making or breaking of our identity.

    That’s why we need to think on, ponder and park our minds on constructive thoughts — not destructive thoughts. Thoughts that build up, not tear down. Thoughts that breathe life, not drain the life from us. Thoughts that lead to goodness, not anxiety.

    So, here are three questions we’d do well to ask ourselves when thoughts are dragging us down.

    1. Did someone actually say this or am I assuming they are thinking it?

    If they actually said it, deal with it then. If I’m assuming it, that’s unfair to them and unnecessarily damaging to me. Instead of staying anxious, I need to seek truth by seeking God and asking Him for peace.

    “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

    2. Have I been actively engaging with truth lately?

    The more we read God’s truths and let truth fill our mind, the less time we’ll spend contemplating untruths.

    Thinking runaway, worrisome thoughts invites anxiety. Thinking thoughts of truth wraps my mind in peace and helps me rise above my circumstances.

    “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

    3. Are certain situations or friendships feeding my insecurities?

    If so, maybe I need to take a break from these for a season.

    I need to seek friendships that are characterized by truth, honor and love.

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

    I know this is tough stuff. I know these issues can be more complicated than three simple questions. But it’s a good place to start holding our thoughts accountable. After all, how a woman thinks is often how she lives. May we think upon and live out truth — and only truth today.

    Dear Lord, reveal to me untruths throughout my day that can so easily distract and discourage me. Help me see You and Your truth in all I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (NIV)

    John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have negative thoughts been weighing you down recently? Look back at the three questions Lysa shared today. Which one applies to you? © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Crafting My Character, One Choice at a Time

    Crafting My Character, One Choice at a Time by Glynnis Whitwer

    “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9 (NIV)

    As a young college graduate my first job was at a start-up company. I was given a hybrid position that included marketing and writing, which I loved, and answering the phones, which I didn’t love.

    The owners promised my position would develop as the company grew. So I took the job and was happy to have it.

    One of my bosses had a strong personality. She was smart, confident and aggressive. And very successful.

    She was one of those people who never forgets a thing, with high expectations for herself and her employees.

    Over time, both the company and my work level grew — but I still answered the phones. Eventually, it got to the point where I wasn’t managing things very well. I’d get great assignments, be excited to start, but then reality would step in and soon I’d be overwhelmed.

    My boss was hands-on and often called me into her office for an update. I found myself dreading those meetings, knowing she’d be displeased with my lack of progress. I could feel myself getting anxious as I fell further behind.

    And that’s when the lies started.

    I offered responses like: “Yes, that project is coming along nicely,” or, “I’m almost finished,” and “Just waiting for a few more pieces of information.”

    After our meetings, I’d frantically rush back to my desk to try and make my progress match the answers I’d just given.

    At first I justified my replies as “half-truths.” Perhaps they were, if statements like “coming along nicely” and “almost finished” really meant “I’m thinking about starting any time now.”

    Over time, the lies and truth became jumbled. Rather than face my procrastination for what it was, I’d always find something convenient to blame. In truth, I felt overwhelmed and put off hard projects.

    I’d crossed a line of personal integrity that nagged at the edges of my conscience, but I felt helpless to change. Until one day my boss gave me another request: lie for her.

    I couldn’t do it, and somehow mustered up the courage in my young, 23-year-old self to tell her so. Amazingly she didn’t fire me.

    God used that experience to show me how easy it is to compromise my character. I so desperately want others to think I’m capable, that excuses and dishonesty can easily become a habit. Yet Proverbs 10:9 calls these “crooked paths” and warns against choosing them: “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”

    This promise of walking securely is what my heart really wants. I might think I’ll find security in a job, approval by a boss or achievement of a project, but true security comes from walking in God’s ways and under His protection.

    When I sacrifice my character for the world’s “security,” I’ll always be left wanting. But when my security is in Christ, the crooked paths don’t seem so promising.

    Since that first job experience, I’ve had many opportunities to develop my character and many times when my integrity was tested. I wish my history in this area were flawless, but that would be a lie — which I don’t want to tell.

    What I can say is the Lord has given me His Holy Spirit to prompt me when I feel tempted to speak false, misleading words. And He’s granted me His strength to face the consequences when I tell the truth about something I’d rather not admit. And glory hallelujah, God forgives me when I slip.

    The whole struggle to be a woman of integrity has kept me humble because it reveals every weakness, which can be painful. Humility comes with a cost, but it’s a cost worth paying as it keeps me my heart in the right place.

    My character is far more important to God than my career or accomplishments. With that in mind, I’m crafting my character, one choice at a time.

    Heavenly Father, help me become a woman who walks with You in integrity. Help my heart feel secure in Your love so I’m not tempted to seek security elsewhere. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

    Psalm 15:1-2, “Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have you compromised your character to try and cover up a weak area?

    Present that weak place to God, and ask for His strength to start crafting your character. © 2016 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Use Your Powers for Good: The Story Behind Small But Mighty

    We recently had the opportunity to travel down to Monterrey, Mexico and serve orphans at a children’s home. On that hot day in May, we were tasked with digging a drainage trench for a new set of bathrooms to provide more privacy to the older children on campus. As we began the project our team was joined by a seven year old from the children’s home named Miguel. He came ready to work – fully adorned with gloves, a shovel and his trusty cape!

    Meet Miguel

    This little superhero was fully committed to the task at hand. He worked right along side the adults, doing his share of the digging and then some. He used the very best he had to serve our team and participate in the hot, hard, grueling project. Occasionally he would disappear from the ditch, only to return with sunscreen, water or orange slices to lift our spirits and renew our strength.

    Our Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Steve Biondo, began to call out his efforts and praise him for his hard work. He took Miguel aside and gave him a big hug. He told him that he was doing great good for every member of our team. Miguel hugged him back hard and said, “Tio (which means Uncle) I am using my powers for good aren’t I?”

    Use Your Powers For Good

    As we were leaving, you could see the pain in Miguel’s eyes, but even more so in us. We had all fallen in love with him. Our bus began to roll down the dirt driveway and we stuck our heads out the side widows waving farewell to the children, when out of the dust emerged Miguel. He was sprinting alongside the vehicle, his cape flapping in the wind. Our hearts soared knowing his last act of serving was to let us know that we were special. Steve shouted back to him as we drove away, “Miguel, use your powers for good – always!” He stopped his sprint, and with a glad heart, raised both hands in the air as a victor would.

    Miguel touched our hearts that day and taught us that we all have the power to do good, serve others and bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ. Size matters not, but only the willingness of our hearts to put our power into action.

    Inspired Product Line: Small But Mighty

    Miguel’s story inspired our team to put together a new line of products just for kids called Small But Mighty. The collection includes bedding, wall art, storage cubes and even a superhero cape. This line was designed to remind your little ones that while they might be small, their faith makes them mighty — especially when they use their powers to serve and love others.

  • How to Supersize Your Happiness Today

    How to Supersize Your Happiness Today by Jennifer Dukes Lee

    “That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives.” Galatians 5:26a (MSG)

    Recently, I ran across an old photograph taken when I was dating Scott, whom I’d eventually marry.

    In the photo, Scott has his arm around my waist. I’m smiling, but it looks like a smile I’m not feeling inside. I remember why. Before our date, I stood in front of my mirror with a mascara wand, nervously pinpointing flaws and wishing I were someone a little … different.

    When I saw the photograph 20 years later, I took pity on the younger me. She was beautiful. She was falling in love. She had a great job offer in front of her, and a few days later, she would take it.

    She should have been happy! Instead, she was missing her own life.

    Hindsight is a terrific teacher.

    Looking at the photo, I thought about all the happiness we give away while wishing for something different.

    This year, I took a dare from God to cultivate more happiness in my life. During my Happiness Dare, I identified four major Happiness Hijackers. One of those hijackers tries to convince us of this: If you could just be like her, then you’d be happy.

    We calculate how much it would cost us to get there: how much hustle, how many Fitbit steps, how many promotions, etc. And then we live like machines instead of people. How exhausting!

    At the root, we’re playing comparison games. The apostle Paul called comparison what it really is: pointless. “That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives” (Galatians 5:26a).

    This is what I’m learning: If we want to be happier today, let’s stop wishing for someone else’s life and discover happiness in the life we have. We begin by halting comparison.

    Let’s see others as imperfect people going through some of the same challenges we are. Comparison is rooted in idealizing people rather than humanizing them.

    Furthermore, let’s say another woman gets what we want. We could actually be genuinely happy for her. Our happiness is automatically limited if we can be happy only for those dearest to us.

    Let’s not wait until we come across an old photo, only to realize we walked right past the happy that was in front of us all along.

    Sister, go easy on yourself. You are a person — not a machine! You don’t have to work so hard for the happiness that’s already yours.

    Let this be our declaration:

    I am a person.

    I am not a machine, spreadsheet, agenda or résumé.

    I have a heartbeat, skin, scars and a soul.

    I am a person.

    My worth isn’t calculated in efficiencies, results or ladders climbed. I am not the sum of my accomplishments — or the sum of my mistakes. I am not my ambition, energy level, approval rating, mass appeal or worth to the company store. I am not an A-plus or D-minus. I am not a mess or a miscalculation.

    I am not a mistake. Rather, I am a miracle. And so are you.

    Because I am a person, made of love in the hands of God.

    I will be a person today. I will be me. I will resist the urge to believe I’ve got to fight for my piece; God says there’s more than enough to go around.

    I will see the best in others and recognize the best in myself.

    I will reach for virtue more than trophies, dignity more than stardom. I will choose encouragement over envy. I will rejoice with those who rejoice.

    I will stand tall on the inside, even if I’m feeling weak on the outside.

    I am a person, a citizen of the Kingdom, where there is unending grace for me. Because I am a person, and I belong to Jesus.

    Dear God, remind us that you created us as people, not machines. Remind us happiness isn’t bought in a store, earned by our hustle or found by trying to be someone we’re not. Thank You, Lord, that happiness is found in You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 6:4, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If I could just be like her. How have you experienced this Happiness Hijacker? Make a list of three things you can appreciate about the life God created for you. Studies show that gratitude significantly boosts happiness. Ask God to help you focus on where you can be thankful today. © 2016 by Jennifer Dukes Lee. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

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

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