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Tag Archives: Karen Ehman

  • Seasoned With Snark or Laced With Grace?

    Posted on March 26, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman MARCH 26, 2015Seasoned With Snark or Laced With Grace?
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

    I am kind of a Bible nerd. I not only love to learn the meaning behind the Hebrew or Greek words in Scripture, I also like to study certain English words that catch my attention, drilling down deep to understand why a particular word or phrase is used.

    And so when I read today’s key verse, Proverbs 16:24, I grew curious: Why did God use a honeycomb to describe gracious, sweet and healing speech? I needed only to look in my own neighborhood for my answer.

    Down the street lives a teenager named Jake. He is a terrific football player and an avid wrestler. However, Jake is also a beekeeper who peddles his amber jars of honey at local festivals and fairs. I decided to interview this high school entrepreneur to discover all I could about the honey-making biz. He was very patient with all of my "whys," and his detailed answers fascinated me.

    Jake told me that the flavor and intensity of honey depends on what kind of nectar the bees drink. Clover nectar produces honey that is refreshingly light and sweet. However, another flower’s nectar might create a murky, bitter product, with a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste. Wise beekeepers will be sure their beehive is strategically placed near a large patch of clover if they want the sweetest, most delectable honey there is.

    He also emphasized the importance of situating the beehive where the sun will hit it early in the morning, warming up the bees and triggering them to get busy churning out the utmost amount of sweet syrup possible.

    "So," I questioned my young friend, "is it safe to say that the sweetness or bitterness of honey is determined by what the bee drinks and the amount of time it spends in the sun — especially early in the morning?"

    "Exactly!" he replied.

    DING! DING! DING! We have a winner.

    Perhaps it’s also true that the sweetness or bitterness of our words will be determined by what our hearts drink in each day, and the amount of time we spend early with the Son.

    Today’s key verse states, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." If we long for our words to be laced with grace, rather than seasoned with snark, we need to think like a beekeeper: Watch what we drink and spend time in the Son.

    By tucking God’s Word into our hearts — drinking in its life-changing truths daily as we spend time with Him — we can learn to speak gracious words that are sweetly soothing to the soul and bring healing and hope. Scripture read daily, studied often and memorized intentionally can teach us to speak strategically — yes, with words that are honest — but that are also lovingly tucked inside an envelope of grace.

    When we lace our speech with grace, healing takes place.

    So when someone else’s behavior threatens to knock the nice right out of us, we can pause before we pounce, taking the advice I sometimes have to give to myself: Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off. Instead, impart grace: sweet, healing, life-giving grace.

    All the humans you encounter throughout the course of the day are "on-purpose" people. God placed them into your life for a reason. These souls — whether they are the easy-to-love variety or the scratchy sandpaper kind — can be used by God to mold, reshape and sometimes stretch our souls as He perpetually crafts us into creations that look more and more like his Son — especially in the way we speak.

    Others are watching, sizing up what we say and how we say it. What will they see? Words that incite spats and squabbles? Or honey-sweet speech that soothes and heals?

    You choose.

    Father, I pray I may carve out time to soak in Your presence, spending time in Your Word each day so I might speak and act more like Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ecclesiastes 10:12, "Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips." (NIV)

    Proverbs 10:32, "The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you need help in watching your words and keeping them in line with Scripture, you’ll appreciate Karen Ehman’s latest book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.

    For a honey-themed "Sweet Speech" giveaway full of all sorts of goodies, head over to Karen Ehman’s blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "Never" and 10 being "Always," what number would you give yourself when asked how often your words are gracious and soothing rather than short and snippy?

    What one thing should you remember when conversing with others, that will help you lace your speech with grace?

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Keep Your Lips Zipped

    Posted on February 25, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman FEBRUARY 25, 2015

    How to Keep Your Lips Zipped
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3 (ESV)

    I still remember the first time I witnessed the power of zipped lips.

    Sitting around my tiny dorm room with a group of girls in college, the topic of someone else on campus came up. One by one, everyone chimed in and shared their opinion about this person.

    That is, everyone but my roommate. She sat silently on the bed, staring out the window. Even when another girl asked directly, "Don’t you think so, too?" she said nothing.

    Finally, someone asked if she was listening. Her reply was classic. "Oh, yes. I am listening all right. And I don’t think I have anything to say. We shouldn’t be talking like this behind her back."

    The silence that followed was deafening. But I learned a good lesson.

    My roommate was right. None of us would want others to talk about us, so why were we so eager to talk? Yes, perhaps the most effective way to avoid gossip is to simply keep our lips zipped. And if you want another powerful tool to do that, you might try what I started doing a few years back.

    Make a Promise; Keep a Commitment

    Years ago, I received a call from someone wanting to know if I’d read the newspaper that day. I hadn’t.

    But I didn’t need to see it, because the caller then related all the details about a news story* from the small town where I lived at the time. They asked if I knew a person mentioned in the article — who’d just been arrested for a horrific offense.

    I did know the person. A close relative of theirs was a friend. My heart ached as I imagined what my friend might be experiencing since she was totally blindsided by the situation. Soon my phone started ringing and I heard the computer alerting me to new email messages.

    Knowing it was wrong to talk about this situation, I chose not to pick up the phone and ignored the emails for fear someone might mention the incident to me. I wanted so much to honor God — and my friend — and avoid gossiping about this situation. It was then that I felt God nudge me, saying, "Really? Then tell her that."

    So I sent my friend a text. I said she was loved and treasured, that I could not imagine what she was going through, and then added this note: "I just want you to know that I will not be talking about this situation to anyone other than God. Please let me know how I can pray for you. And if you want to talk or need anything at all, call or text me. We love you."

    I wanted (and needed!) the Lord to help me refrain from idle talk about what was happening to this family. The author of Psalm 141:3, today’s key verse, obviously need the same help when he wrote: "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips."

    By contacting my friend and making a direct commitment to her, I felt like I had set a "guard over my mouth." And if I ever felt tempted to bring up the situation, I zipped my lips before any words emerged. I simply would not go back on a promise to a friend or to God. Making this commitment to my friend was life-changing. Because I promised her I would not gossip, I didn’t. (Thank God for that!)

    If someone else brought up the situation, I said I’d promised my friend not to discuss the situation with anyone besides her and God. The promise helped me refrain from gossiping, and encouraged a few other people to do the same.

    In our gossip-rich culture, the choice to remain silent will be hard. But like the psalmist, we can ask God for help, knowing He’ll be a faithful guard over the door of our lips.

    Lord, help me honor You with my words. Please set a guard over my mouth when I’m tempted to say something that will hurt You and someone else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 10:19, "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut." (NLT)

    Proverbs 20:19, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If avoiding gossip is something you’d like to know more about, you’ll appreciate Karen Ehman’s latest book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It and When to Say Nothing at All.

    Join the discussion on how to zip your lips today on Karen’s blog. She is also giving away a book and DVD Bible study bundle of Keep It Shut.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Do any of the verses above prick your conscience you as you read them? Is God asking you to make a call, send a text or craft a private message asking for forgiveness?

    Will you commit to not gossiping about someone else’s "newsworthy" life in a gossipy sort of way? If so, tell one trusted friend about your commitment.

    *Special Note from Karen Ehman: Some details in this story have been changed to protect my friend, who granted me permission to use it.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Day I Couldn’t Shut Up

    Posted on February 11, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman FEBRUARY 11, 2015

    The Day I Couldn’t Shut Up
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Do you see a man who speaks too soon? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Proverbs 29:20 (HCSB)

    Has your mouth ever gotten you in trouble — yes, even made you sin — all because you talked too much?

    It’s certainly happened to me.

    Years ago while visiting with a friend at a high school basketball game we discussed a budding new relationship between our 17-year-olds — her son and my daughter. It was nothing official, but we knew they liked each other, and we were pleased.

    I rattled on about how my husband and I worked hard to teach our kids to choose whom to date, or even marry, based on more than just their looks. We’d often joke that looks shouldn’t matter since we’re all headed toward ugly anyway. (Then my daughter would chime in, "That’s all the more reason to pick someone with a great starting point!")

    In trying to express how happy we were that our daughter listened to us and not only chose someone who was good-looking, but also displayed godly traits and had a wonderful personality, somehow my friend thought I was saying we were glad our daughter chose on character because — boy, was her son homely!

    It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized I had conveyed the wrong message. I received a letter from my friend stating how hurt she was by my backhanded compliment about her son’s character, implying he was unattractive.

    I was floored.

    And devastated. And misunderstood. And now I had a fractured friendship with someone I’d really hoped to get to know better. All because of my words.

    Immediately, I called to apologize and shared what I meant to say before my rambling thoughts came out as misspoken words — that then led to misunderstanding, conflict and offense.

    Thankfully my friend accepted my apology and six years later we are still friends!

    If we want to avoid offending our friends — or committing any number of verbal sins — we need to learn to control our lips. When we sense a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit that signals a downward spiral, we can simply say, "I’m sorry. I’m talking too much." And then? As my dad used to say (much like the character Festus from Gunsmoke), we can "shut our tater trap!"

    Speaking too soon. Before we really understand all the facts. Before we’ve listened fully to the other side. And most importantly, before we’ve had time to pray and process what we’ve heard with the Lord. When we do any one or even a combination of those things, we are foolish.

    Scripture has many things to say about fools. Our key verse today is just one: "Do you see a man who speaks too soon? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20).

    In order not to speak too soon, we need to cultivate two habits:

    Perfect the art of the pause. Pausing creates white space in a conversation that enables us to sort out our thoughts before we let out our words. Counting to 10 before responding provides just enough wiggle room to really think through what we are about to say.

    Ponder what the other person said, and perhaps go on a fact-finding mission. It’s easy to jump to conclusions when we don’t have all the facts. Holding our tongues, and our opinions, for a while often gives us time to assess the situation clearly before pronouncing judgment. I have found that many times what I was going to say was not in the end what I wanted to express. Giving thoughts time to settle and soak in Scripture is a wonderful habit that will keep us from answering too soon and looking foolish.

    So pause. Gather the facts. Think before you answer, and don’t speak too soon.

    Father, I want to reflect Your love and grace each time I open my mouth to speak. Help me to slow my tongue before I say something hurtful that can have lasting consequences. And when I fall short, help me be quick to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 13:3, "The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin." (HCSB)

    Proverbs 10:19, "When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    In her new book, Keep It Shut, Karen Ehman teaches what to say, how to say it and when to say nothing at all.

    For more on honoring God with our words, head over to Karen’s blog today where she’s offering a free resource called 5 Days to Sweet & Salty Speech. She’s also giving away a Bible study bundle of her latest Keep It Shut project.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are one or two things you can say or do the next time you find yourself going down the slippery slope of speaking too much?

    Choose one of the Scripture verses in today’s devotion and work to memorize it. When a growth opportunity comes along, recite it to yourself, and commit to let God’s Word take you along the right path.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • God Wants His Job Back

    Posted on November 19, 2012 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

    I have a confession to make: I crave control. You know—as in I like to be in charge; the shot-caller; the boss.

    I'm pretty sure I was born ready to be in charge. As a toddler, I lined my frilly dolls and any willing playmates or siblings up in a way that suited my preferences. In elementary school, I couldn't wait to be selected for special duties, like heading up a game or putting on a play.

    Yes, from birth I instinctively ordered and organized anything within my reach—objects, circumstances, and later in life, even living, breathing human beings. I didn't need a boardroom to prove that I was a natural born boss.

    In my defense (and the defense of my fellow control-craving friends), this is often a much-needed skill. Being able to multi-task, identify duties and delegate is beneficial on many fronts. Just glance at my partial to-do list for the week:

    Prepare meals and snacks for the week
    Make appointments for the eye doctor
    Do a few loads of laundry
    Haul kids back and forth to sports practice
    Help kids with homework

    Whew, I'm worn out just writing that!

    But, it helps to see that we need to be able to juggle a lot: home, school, family, careers, and church duties. The problem lies with our failure to know where to draw the line; to differentiate between leading and bossing; to know the difference between taking charge and taking over.

    Competency carried to an extreme can morph into control.

    I've struggled to find a balance between taking charge and ultimately taking over for most of my life. Colossians 3:23 helps me remember that managing my life and to-do list is ultimately an act of worship and service to the Lord. In it we're told, "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." (NLT)

    When I work willingly as though I'm working for the Lord, I set about my tasks and navigate my relationships with a humble heart and open hands. I willingly let go of my preferences and desire to be the one in control.

    When I work willingly as though I'm working for the Lord, I focus more on caring about others' feelings than controlling their opinions and resulting actions.

    When I work willingly as though I'm working for the Lord, I want to please Him, not myself.

    I've discovered there exists a minuscule line between being conscientious and being controlling. What I have to constantly keep in mind is the difference between being conscientious (my part) and being in control (God's part).

    I'll probably always have long to-do lists and lots of activities. It's just the nature of my personality. But I'm trying to remember each day that it is God who is ultimately in charge, not me.

    It's not easy for this control-craving woman to let go and let God run the show. It takes emotional effort and intentional change of my ingrained habits. But I am learning to work diligently without being controlling.

    This week as we set about our tasks, lets remember just who the boss is: God. We are on His time clock. May our thoughts, actions and reactions make our Boss proud and accurately reflect His character.

    Dear Lord, may I purpose to learn the difference between being conscientious and being controlling. Help me remember You are God and I am not. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    If you crave control but want to learn how to let go and trust God more with the everyday details and decisions in your life, check out Karen Ehman's new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith. It will empower and equip you to control what you should and trust God with what you can't.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Think about your week ahead. What tasks must you perform? How can you go about tackling these in a way that is conscientious but not controlling?

    Power Verse:
    Colossians 1:10 "... walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." (ESV)

    © 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Find And Replace

    Posted on November 13, 2012 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "... throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." Ephesians 4:22-24 (NLT)

    There's a nifty editing tool on my computer called "find and replace." It allows me to locate an existing word and exchange it for one more suited to the meaning of my sentence.

    At times I wish I had such a feature on my brain; a "find and replace" option that would help me keep my thoughts in a healthy place and in line with God's Word. Especially when it comes to setting my own agenda and getting my own way. (Better known as selfishness.)

    Even though I can't press a button and instantly swap out my old thoughts for new ones, I can still apply this "find and replace" process to my sometimes-selfish line of thinking.

    When tempted to throw a pity party with only ourselves on the guest list—because let's face it, no one fancies the company of a whiner—let's replace our negative notions with insight from God's Word.

    Here are some "find and replace" examples to help pull a selfishness switch-a-roo. When we find ourselves thinking one of the thoughts listed in bold, let's replace it with what God says in the verse that directly follows it.

    "If I don't look out for myself, who will?"
    "What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7 NLT)

    "What about my rights?"
    "You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being." (Philippians 2:5-7a NLT)

    "I'm entitled to my opinion."
    "Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, 'If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.'" (1 Peter 3:9-11 NLT)

    "I gotta look out for number one."
    "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. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:3-5 ESV)

    "Who cares about them? It's all about me."
    "I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God." (Philippians 1:9-11 NLT)

    "But what about what I want?"
    "Carefully determine what pleases the Lord." (Ephesians 5:10 NLT)

    How about it? Could your thought patterns benefit from some "find and replace" therapy? It is sure to center our minds on God and, as a result, make our relationship with Him—as well as with others—healthier, happier and whole. Let's pursue an unselfish and God-pleasing attitude. Find and replace.

    Dear Lord, at those times I'm tempted by selfishness, may I align my thinking with Your will and Your Word. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    We're celebrating the release of Karen Ehman's new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith. It will empower and equip you to control what you should and trust God with what you can't.

     

    Reflect and Respond:
    Why is it so easy to let our thoughts and resulting actions be selfish in nature?

    Was there a time when you intentionally chose to not be selfish even though you wanted to be? What happened?

    Power Verse:
    James 3:16: "For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. (HCSB)

    © 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Me and My Mama Mouth

    Posted on November 7, 2012 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Proverbs 31:26 (ESV)

    When I'm trying to control someone or some situation, I've noticed I have a little trouble controlling my tongue.

    For instance, the other day the dishes needed to be done. If I'd been the one at the sink, I'd have washed them in the proper sequence I learned in Home Economics class—from least to most soiled. Instead, my son, a smart preteen, was up to the challenge.

    He didn't give me an attitude when asked to do the dishes. He wasn't disrespectful, didn't drag his feet, and was doing the job. So why was I tempted to tell him in a harsh tone he was doing it wrong?

    Because he was failing to do it my way.

    He started with the grimy pots and pans, then moved to the plates and silverware. Finally, he had to bubble up more water to spit-shine the glasses last. While working he lolly-gagged, trying to stack some plastic cups in a pyramid.

    As I watched his unconventional ways, I could feel irritation welling up inside. An unkind reaction was itching to come out; one that was not tempered with the Holy Spirit. If I had not caught myself, I could have easily let my momma mouth take over and blurted out:

    "What are you doing? Don't you know it uses way more water to wash the dishes in that order? Plus the water is filthy now!"

    "Stop playing stack-up with those cups. Ugh! Why do you always have to play while you work? You're so slow."

    What was really going on? I wanted to be a control freak and fire off words that would have conveyed unspoken thoughts.

    I think the only way to do the dishes is my way.
    I see different as wrong.
    I interpret a preteen being a preteen, with a slight distraction of fun, as "slow."

    Any time I unload on junior (or anyone for that matter), it has the potential to damage our relationship and plant seeds in his mind of his mom's view of him, whether verbalized or implied (lazy, wasteful, distracted, and slow). It does not, as today's key verse states, come close to resembling a woman who "opens her mouth with wisdom and speaks with kindness on her tongue."

    This does not make for a happy home and I've come to know that it's better if these scenarios go down much differently.

    So let's back up the minivan and replay that scene again with a fresh dose of perspective and a God-honoring, Spirit-controlled response in keeping with Proverbs 31:26.

    As I see my son doing the dishes in an illogical order, I can make a mental note to myself to explain a way to do it next time that will save water, money, and time. When done, I can praise his efforts, keeping in mind his age and abilities.

    I can intentionally point out particulars in his unique method. "I saw the clever way you stacked those dishes. You always make work fun. I wish I were more like you."

    I can mentally ask myself questions that will empower me to maintain calm emotions and keep my "mama mouth" in check. Like ...

    Does it matter now or will it matter tomorrow?
    Will it affect eternity?
    Is God trying to teach ME something? If so, what?
    Can I pause and praise instead of interrupt and instigate?
    Is there really an issue here that needs addressing with my child?
    Am I just being a control freak and need to let it go?

    The interaction would be a learning experience for both of us. It wouldn't damage, it would nurture. It would be wise. Kind. And there would be no lost time, no regrets, and no need to call in the United Nations peace-keeping forces for intervention.

    This mama would be less control freakish and more Proverbs 31 womanish. It might not come easily—trust me it usually doesn't—but with the Holy Spirit, it is possible.

    We can learn to speak with godly wisdom and kindness. And then there won't be any need for duct tape for the ole' mama mouth!

    Dear Lord, may I purpose to temper my words with Your Holy Spirit as I interact with my family today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    If you liked this devotion, check out Karen's new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith. It will enable you to control what you should and trust God with what you can't.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Which of the above questions do you most need to ask yourself when you are tempted to over-control and, as a result, use unkind words?

    How will you respond differently the next time you are about to speak in an unwise or unkind manner?

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 139:4 "Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether." (ESV)

    © 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • A Quiet Place To Rest

    Posted on October 31, 2012 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'" Mark 6:31 (NIV)

    "I want honey in my tea! And a lemon slice too! Oh, and can I use great-grandma's teacup, pretty please? I'll be careful," my then five-year-old daughter sweetly begged.

    We were enjoying our afternoon mother-daughter ritual while her two baby brothers napped. Each day we pulled out china teacups and saucers from my collection and slowly sipped herbal tea while I read a book out loud to her.

    This afternoon, however, she was asking permission to use an heirloom piece that had been passed down through four generations in my mother's family. While I knew my baby girl was grown up enough to be careful with the antique pink and white china cradled in her little hands, something else made me deny her request. I tried explaining it to her.

    "Sweetheart, I know you'll be careful, but we can't have hot tea in that cup. It has cracks. See?"

    I showed her a few tiny, hairline fractures on the side near the handle. It wasn't cracked all the way through and could actually still hold water without leaking. However, if hot liquid were to be poured into it, the crack would give way, causing the petite cup to shatter. (Been there. Broke that!)

    There was just no way for the fractured piece to withstand the stress of a steaming beverage.

    Our emotional lives are much the same. When we do not allow time to rest and regroup from the stresses of life, we allow cracks in our spirit that make us emotionally and spiritually fragile. We keep going at break-neck speeds, rarely slowing down long enough to be refreshed.

    Today's key verse highlights the fact that even Jesus Himself found it important to get away for a while; to slow down and cease activity. He urged His disciples to get to a quiet place. In doing so they would find rest. Being alone and quiet would help keep them whole.

    In our fast-paced society we rarely get to sit in a quiet place. Televisions blare. Computers sound out webcasts. iPods and MP3s crank out music at times when we could be seeking solace.

    As a result, stress chisels away, creating tiny cracks that although barely visible to the eye, could cause us to shatter under the heat and pressures of everyday life.

    Let's purpose to take time this week to slow down, get away, and rest. To find solitude in a hushed and holy place alone with our Savior, even if only for an hour or two.

    If we make time to answer Jesus' call to go away with Him to a quiet place, we can crack-proof our spirits, making them strong and rendering us ready to handle life. A few quiet moments spent with Him can help mend cracks, renewing and making us to be vessels strong enough to be used by Him.

    Dear Lord, help me to intentionally carve out time this week to reconnect with You in a quiet spot. I know You are waiting. I want to seek Your face and find true rest. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Stressed-Less Living: Finding God's Peace in Your Chaotic World by Tracie Miles

    Reflect and Respond:
    Remember a time when you got away for a time of rest and quiet. What did it do for you emotionally?

    Why don't we get alone or seek a quiet place more often? List some things, people, or activities that prevent us from doing so. Now, make plans to seek a quiet time soon. Write it on your calendar and keep your appointment with God.

    Power Verse:
    Matthew 7:25, "The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn't collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. (HCSB)

    © 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Pick Me! Pick Me!

    Posted on October 23, 2012 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "For we know, brothers and sisters, loved by God, that he has chosen you ..." 1 Thessalonians 1:4 (NIV)

    I stand with my back against the school's red brick wall, my woolen plaid skirt scratching my legs even though I have on my best cable-knit tights. Trying not to look desperate, I secretly pray I won't be the last one chosen for the team that morning.

    It is recess time and kickball is my classmates' game of choice. Names are called. As I look to the captain pointing and choosing kids, my heart's cry is simple, "Pick me! Pick me!"

    I sit in sixth hour a few years later awaiting the end-of-day announcement of the homecoming court nominees. Earlier that crisp autumn day, the lunchroom had been all abuzz, a whirlwind of activity: scribbled ballots and scrambling beauties seeking votes. Now that the folded papers are tallied and the results are being read, my heart's cry remains the same, "Pick me! Pick me!"

    College girls gather around the stately cement fountain in the middle of campus. It is the place where many women give others a glimpse of "the ring." The ring that means they are chosen and loved, soon to be some dashing coed's wife. While the third finger on my left hand remains painfully naked, my heart's cry is still so very, very simple. "Will some man please pick me?"

    Throughout much of my early life I desired nothing more than to be wanted. Yet, at many junctures my heart repeatedly felt rejection as someone else was chosen instead of me. It wasn't until late in college that a wonderful truth was shared with me.

    I am already chosen. Already loved.

    1 Thessalonians 1:4 nails it. "For we know, brothers and sisters, loved by God, that he has chosen you." (NIV) We are loved by God. He's already picked us.

    So there is no need to hope and wish and cross our fingers for good luck. We won't be left standing against a wall, unloved and passed over for someone with more skill, better looks or more brains. We are the objects of our Savior's love and nothing we do will change His feelings for us.

    Will you cling with me to the very words of God? Let them be louder than the voices from your past or the jeers of the present or even your own negative self-talk that tells you that you're not worthy, not loved, not _________ enough.

    You are the one He is pointing at, in front of the whole wide world's schoolyard, boldly declaring both now and forever, "This is My heart's cry: I choose you!"

    Dear Lord, help me erase the negative thoughts that run through my mind at times, making me feel unloved and rejected. Remind me that I am chosen and dearly loved both now and forever. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    A Confident Heart by Renee Swope

    His Princess: Love Letters from Your King by Sheri Rose Shepherd

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have you ever been chosen or passed over? What happened? How did you feel when you were chosen? How about when you weren't?

    You are the object of your Savior's love and nothing you do will change His feelings for you.

    Power Verses:
    Ephesians 1:4-6, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (NIV)

    © 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Forget About It

    Posted on October 16, 2012 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." Hebrews 8:12 (ESV)

    In the midst of a heated conflict do you ever get historical?

    Not hysterical, as in acting totally out-of-control ... but historical. As in bringing up the past; reliving and rehashing former wrongdoings and offenses.

    "You'll never change!"
    "You're acting just like you did when ..."
    "There you go again. You always ..."

    I do this to others. But mostly I do this to myself.

    At times I have trouble remembering the name of the person I just met or where I put my cell phone. However, I'm keenly adept at remembering my sins from the past. Or the shame and guilt they carry with them as ammunition to target my heart and make me feel defeated. I can recount my sins as easily as I can say the alphabet.

    Oftentimes forgiving myself sometimes feels like it's impossible to do.

    When it comes to God however, we don't have to fear He will bring up our past sins and use them against us, throwing them in our face and refusing to forgive. In today's key verse, God says, "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:12 ESV)

    This verse reminds me of a story of a man who claimed to have dreams where God regularly visited him and they talked together. He shared this with his pastor who doubted whether this was actually true. So the pastor issued a challenge to prove whether or not the man's claims were valid.

    "The next time God visits you," he instructed the man, "ask Him to tell you the worst sin I've ever committed." Since this pastor had a wild background he was certain there were a lot of sins lurking there from which God could choose.

    Later when the pastor saw the man again, he asked him, "Well, did God visit with you again?" The man replied, "Yes, He sure did."

    "Okay then, tell me, what did He say was the worst sin I ever committed?"

    The man responded, "I asked and God looked straight at me and simply stated, 'Hmmm ... I don't remember.'"

    In God's Word we are told, "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103:12 NLT) And, as today's verse says, He not only removes sins, He forgets them!

    His ability to forget is His way of giving us a new start. He hits the refresh button on our lives and enables us to start over, no mater what grievous wrongs we've committed. Or how often we've committed them.

    We must simply confess our sins to Him. He is faithful to forgive our wrongdoings and hit the restart button of our heart, giving us a fresh beginning.

    Perhaps it is time we "forget about it" - just like God does. If He chooses not to remember our sins, why do we keep shaming and blaming ourselves for them?

    Let's pray for the ability to forget and live like the holy and forgiven people God says we are when we bring our sins to Him. Instead of remembering our history, let's focus on the history of Jesus' death on the cross and His forgiveness and forgetfulness . . . of our sins.

    Dear Lord, help me grasp the truth that You do not remember my sins. Thank You for not only forgiving my sins, but for forgetting them as well. May I live as a new creation, holy and blameless as I seek to serve You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    If you liked this devotion, check out Karen's new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith. It will enable you to control what you should and trust God with what you can't.

    Confessions of an Adulterous Christian Woman by Lyndell Hetrick Holtz

    Reflect and Respond:
    What sins in your past or present do you tend to beat yourself up over? Make a list of them on a piece of paper.

    Now, read today's key verse again and then tear up the list and throw it in the trash. Promise yourself that, since God doesn't bring up the sins anymore, you won't either.

    Write out the verse to post in a prominent place for those times when you are tempted to shame yourself again. Memorize it if you must!

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 103:2-4, "My soul, praise the Lord, and do not forget all His benefits. He forgives all your sin; He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit; He crowns you with faithful love and compassion." (HCSB)

    © 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Why I Wear a Toe Ring

    Posted on October 8, 2012 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves." 1 Peter 2:16 (NIV)

    I remember begging my mom to get my ears pierced. I was in 5th grade and only one other girl in my class had hole-less lobes. I pleaded my case. "But Mooooooom! EVVVVV-ERYONE has their ears pierced but Heidi and me!"

    That year on my birthday, she took me to the Meijer Thrifty Acres grocery store where a nice lady in the jewelry department pierced them for me.

    The pain was worth the cool.

    When I was in college, my friend Carmen got one ear double pierced. She said she did it to remind her that she belonged to the Lord; that she was His slave.

    You see, in the Old Testament, slavery wasn't unjustly forced like in our modern world. It was more of an occupation; a servant with civil and religious rights. A slave worked for his master for six years and then had the option to leave. However, if he wanted to continue his servanthood, he could. As a symbol of his loyalty, his ear was pierced. Exodus 21:5-6 says this about slaves:

    "But suppose the slave loves his wife and children so much that he won't leave without them. Then he must stand beside either the door or the doorpost at the place of worship, while his owner punches a small hole through one of his ears with a sharp metal rod. This makes him a slave for life." (CEV)

    I loved Carmen's idea of having a small hole in her ear as a sign of life-long service to the Lord. An earring to remind her that she chose to serve God in all areas of her life. However, I am a wimp. And the pain of the first ear piercing was enough for me!

    But a few years ago, while shopping downtown with some friends I had an idea. What if I wore a sterling silver toe ring as a sign of my service to the Lord? My friends and I each bought one.

    I wear this toe ring everyday to remind myself that I am a voluntary slave of Christ. And that I love my Master and the things He's given me to serve, like my family, church, neighbors and others.

    When I see it, it reminds me that I'm not in control, God is. And it helps me realign my preferences with His when I want to be the boss of my life and my circumstances. When I grow weary of serving God selflessly, I am reminded that I belong to Him.

    My toe ring also reminds me that my relationship with the Lord is for life.

    Yes, I am free to do as I'd like. There are no laws in my country against chucking my faith and running away.

    However, my toe ring reminds me:

    "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves." (1 Peter 2:16 NIV)

    Are you willing to commit to God with all your heart, mind and soul? To serve rather than be served? To carry out the wishes of your Master willingly and joyfully? Even though you are free, will you choose to be His slave today?

    A pierced ear or toe ring is optional.

    Dear Lord, may I be reminded continually that it is You that I serve, not the other way around. May my life show my love and devotion to You and my loved ones. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    If you liked this devotion, check out Karen's new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith. It will enable you to control what you should and trust God with what you can't.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Although the term slave rightly has a negative connotation given history and current-day sex trafficking, how can the word "slave" properly describe how we should relate to God?

    On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being never, 10 being always), how often do you react to life's circumstances with a joyful attitude and "whatever Your will is" perspective? What can you do to make that number go higher?

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 119:17, "Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word." (ESV)

    © 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

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