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Tag Archives: Psalm

  • Things God Planned for Us

    Posted on July 19, 2013 by Van Walton

    Van

    "Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." Psalm 40:5 (NIV)

    Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Bradford were my favorite sixth grade teachers. They knew two things about me: I was bilingual and I lived close to the largest shantytown in Bogotá, Colombia. I'll always remember the day these two teachers asked for my help.

    In the early 60's, my family lived in Bogotá. Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Bradford taught in the American school I attended. Every day on their way to school, they passed the neighboring shantytown. Soon they developed a vision to educate the children living there, and their big dream included me!

    Would I be their interpreter to translate for the teachers who could only speak English? With approval from the school, they designed a free school for the children who had no access to education.

    Not only did they ask me to translate for them, but they included me in their after school program as a peer tutor!

    This idea awoke something that had been tucked in my heart, waiting for the right time to emerge. I grew up surrounded by unspeakable poverty, and even as a child experienced an ever-present burden. How was it possible that I had a home and the children of the street had nothing? I dreamed of helping but dismissed the idea because I was only a little girl.

    However, God didn't see it that way. He had a plan. My classes in education began long before I attended college. Working beside two committed teachers put me on a career course that laid a foundation for more than a job. It became a life calling.

    Years passed. My family returned to the United States. I graduated from college with a Spanish degree and began my career as a teacher. I married. Babies arrived.

    It seemed my calling to teach was put on hold. But as a stay-at-home mother, I had the opportunity to learn about another education, a spiritual one. I began attending Bible studies and my original passion for education multiplied. I wanted to share the Bible with others. And I did, first with children and then with women.

    From teaching Bible classes, God broadened my ministry. And once again, His wonders came to light. It was obvious He had carefully positioned me. A few years ago, I began to reach out to women whose native language is Spanish by translating devotions that reach around the world.

    I certainly never imagined I'd trace God's plan for my life to the Andean hillsides of South America and the vision of two dedicated teachers. That plan continues in the ministry work that fuels my passion today in North Carolina. Looking back, I see the many wonderful things God has had for me, which are truly too many to talk about, just as Psalm 40:5 says!

    I stand amazed that God would choose a young girl living in a jungle and weave her experiences, along with others' lives, into His present and future plans to prove His wondrous ways: "Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare" (Psalm 40:5).

    If God did this with me, He can do it for you.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for planting dreams in our hearts to serve You, even as little children. Open our eyes to Your work all around us, and how You weave people and circumstances together. You are a dream giver and a dream fulfiller. We worship You and give You all the glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Like us on Facebook for daily encouragement.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Take a few moments today to reflect on your life. Note how the highlights weave together and point to God's wondrous ways.

    Power Verse:
    Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (NIV)

    © 2013 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You're Hanging on by a Thread

    Posted on July 16, 2013 by Micca Campbell

    Micca

    "The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all." Psalm 34:19 (NIV)

    I have a dear friend whose husband didn't want to be married anymore. Sure, she knew there were problems in their relationship, but this devastating news blindsided her. We prayed together. She sought counseling and even invited her husband along. Still, no matter her attempts to save her marriage, it was falling apart.

    I've never seen her so helpless, so troubled, so lost. She was hanging on by a thread. I understand the darkness she was in and know the weakness and heart-wrenching pain because I've been there. Most of us have experienced terrible news that took us by surprise and left us hanging on by a thread.

    Perhaps you're there now. You may be experiencing a broken relationship. Maybe you need to be saved from some addiction or financial trouble. Whatever the case, you feel alone, scared and weak. Your situation is hard, wrenching and painful. You're losing your grip on faith.

    I could tell that my friend was losing her grip on her spiritual foundation. In her deep despair, all she had was a thread of hope to hang on to. What was that hope? It is the promise of God found in Psalm 34:19, "The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all."

    Such was the case of Rahab, a prostitute whose story is told in the Bible. Rahab owned an inn near the city gate of Jericho, the city soon to be conquered by the Israelites.

    Rahab had heard about God's greatness and had come to believe He was the one true God. So she hid the two Israeli spies that Joshua, the commander of the Israelite army, had sent on a scouting mission into Jericho.

    The king of Jericho heard that the spies had been at Rahab's home, so he sent orders for her to turn them over. When the king's soldiers questioned her of the whereabouts of the spies, Rahab misguided the soldiers and sent them on a wild goose chase after the spies whom she had actually hidden on her roof.

    Once the soldiers were gone, Rahab asked the spies to save her and her household. She promised to keep silent about their mission if they would spare her family when the Israelites invaded the city of Jericho. The spies told her to hang a scarlet cord from her window as a sign to the Jews to protect her.

    Rahab obeyed and when the walls of Jericho fell, Rahab's life, and all those in her household, hung by the thread of hope that the spies would keep their word.

    They did, and she and her family were spared from the destruction when the walls of Jericho crumbled. Her household was passed over. Protected. Delivered.

    Like Rahab, the only thing my friend had between herself and total destruction was a thin thread of hope. It proved to be enough. Although her marriage came tumbling down, she was saved from total destruction. When all was said and done, she still had the love of God, the hope He offers and the peace He gives.

    Each of us needs a thread of hope—a reminder that just as Joshua saved Rahab, God can save each of us. He may or may not change our circumstances, but He can protect us from being taken under the falling rubble that surrounds us.

    He is there when we're hanging on by a thread. Even at our weakest point, a simple cry such as, "Lord, help me" invites the hand of God to take hold of our situation. And deliver us.

    Dear Lord, thank You that Your salvation is far reaching. It not only takes away my sin and provides eternal life, but also it helps me for today. Help me, Lord, as I throw to You a thin thread of hope. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell

    Reflect and Respond:
    In what ways can you put up a thread of hope as an indication to God that you need Him to save you?

    Power Verse:
    Psalms 145:18, "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Pause and Breathe

    Posted on July 15, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea." Psalm 46:2 (NLT)

    Recently as I was waiting to board a plane, I felt a little twinge of anxiety.

    I looked tentatively at the other passengers at the gate, wondering if any posed a threat. I found myself reading their faces, looking at their carry-on bags and speculating if anything dangerous might have slipped through.

    You see, the horrific events of previous months were heavy on my heart. My mind had been filled with school shootings, the Boston Marathon bombing, massive floods in the Southwest, the plant explosion in Texas, tornados, and tragedies overseas. As the news broadcasts so many calamities, innocent lives lost and people injured, it's easy to harbor fear and wonder: What's happening to our world? Why are people so evil? Can we ever feel safe?

    In that airport terminal, my mind was on the verge of drifting to a thousand what-ifs and whys when I remembered God's promise in Psalm 46. As I allowed His truth to sink in, I paused to take comfort in the fact that there was no need to fear, because no matter what, God is with us.

    Verses 1-3 assure us that "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!" Interlude

    God is our Protector. He is where we find strength to get through tough times when we are afraid. When the earth crumbles, floods abound, avalanches roar, tornados threaten—He is our refuge.

    Yet, sometimes in the face of tragedy and heartache, we question God, doubting His promise of protection. Although God does have the authority and ability to protect us from every trouble, sometimes He uses the trials we go through to teach us, purify us and draw us closer to Him. Although at times it may seem that God has not protected us in the way we need or desire, we can rest in knowing that He is protecting us in the way He knows is best for us to learn to fully depend on God.

    Psalm 46:4-7 says, "A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it. The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God's voice thunders, and the earth melts! The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress." Interlude

    While I love the ocean, I don't long to dig my toes in the shorelines when there's a storm. But I wouldn't mind sitting on the banks of a peaceful river, even during a rainstorm. Just like the calm, flowing waters of a river, God weaves His peace and provision throughout our lives even in chaos.

    Psalm 46:8-11 says, "Come, see the glorious works of the LORD: See how he brings destruction upon the world. He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire. Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress." Interlude

    Although the world is in disarray, God is still God. He is still on the throne. Still mighty. Still faithful. Still sovereign.

    In all three sections in this passage, each one ends with the word Interlude. The definition of interlude is to pause, break, breathing space, or rest.

    When we pause to focus on the truth that God is God, we find rest.

    If fear has been creeping into your heart lately, pause and remember that God is your protector; His presence is with you, and He is in the highest position of authority over this broken world. Ask Him to settle the anxiousness in your heart. Then, just breathe.

    Dear Lord, thank You for being a safe place to flee, for always providing peace in the face of anxieties. Fill us with joy. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell

    Reflect and Respond:
    Consider what fears, whether valid or imagined, have been burdening your heart lately. Search God's Word for a verse that specifically addresses that fear(s).

    Power Verse:
    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)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You're Angry at God

    Posted on July 10, 2013 by Micca Campbell

    Micca

    "LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me." Psalms 30:2 (NIV)

    As I waited for my husband to return from surgery, I began to worry. It was taking longer than the doctor had said it would. Since over 80% of my husband's body had been burned during the house fire, I feared the surgery would be too much for him.

    My worst fears were confirmed when the doctor walked into the waiting room, still in his surgical clothes, and knelt down beside my chair. My heart began to pound as he explained that my husband had gone into cardiac arrest and though they were trying everything they could to resuscitate, they feared they had lost him. Immediately, I cried out for God to save him.

    I still remember my desperate plea: God, I realize if my husband lives he most likely won't keep his arms. I understand what that means. He'll never hold me again or play ball with our son. But I don't care, God. Please let him live!

    As the clock ticked down, there was no response. After some time, it finally hit me: he had already left me.

    After the funeral was over and the people were gone, I realized I was alone, a new mother, and a 21-year-old widow. I was very angry God had allowed for things to turn out this way.

    One desperate night, when the pain was more than I could stand, I cried out, Why, God? Why did You take him away from me? Oh, God. I need to know, why!

    Have you ever been angry with God?

    We've all made requests to God that didn't turn out like we had hoped. When that happens, it's easy to become confused about Him. We start to wonder if He heard us or just said "No" to our prayer. What we are certain of is the anger we feel toward the Lord's ways.

    It's important to express our upset emotions to the Lord. But we have to view our circumstances through the lens of God's grace: everything He does is without fault and is always right. Look at Psalm 30:2, "LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me." Rather than ignoring our pain or not sharing our anger with God (which is silly because He already knows), we should confess our anger and seek His healing.

    When I was completely honest with God that night, what happened next took me by surprise: God showed up!

    I can only explain it like this. Just as a mother runs to her screaming child, God, the Father, ran to me—His child. I didn't see Him with my eyes or touch Him with my hands, but I knew He was with me. It comforted me. This encounter with God became a turning point in my healing. I realized God understood my frailties and feelings ... and He was big enough to handle them.

    If you're angry with God, tell Him. Lay your heart open before God. Acknowledge that even while you don't understand what's happened, you trust He can make everything work out.

    It took me a while to see how my circumstances could be used for God's glory and my good. I didn't get my husband back, but I did get a closer relationship with God. A few years later, I re-married, had two more beautiful children, and began a ministry of comfort. God also healed my heart from the pain of loss and the scars anger left.

    I'm glad I was honest with God when I cried out in anger to Him. You will be too.

    Dear Lord, there is so much hurt and anger inside of me. I'm tired of living this way. I'm giving it to You to heal my hurt. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    This devotion was taken from Micca Campbell's book, An Untroubled Heart; Finding a Faith That is Stronger than All My Fears.

    Find refreshing hope and healing in the new NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women, filled with God's truth and 366 devotions by the Proverbs 31 Ministries team.

    Reflect and Respond:
    How do you feel when God doesn't respond the way you hope? Are you ready to share those feelings with God? Why or why not?

    Power Verse:
    Psalms 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (ESV)

    © 2013 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Dancing with Daddy

    Posted on July 9, 2013 by Sheila Mangum

    Sheila

    "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever." Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV)

    My father was an alcoholic. Sadly, the disease consumed him and when he couldn't find a way out, he committed suicide. His death affected my life in so many ways, and I missed his presence regularly. But one of the hardest times was at my wedding.

    My wedding day was not what I had dreamed of. I glanced over to where my father should have been and saw an empty chair. The beauty of the father-daughter dance and him giving me away was a moment I would have treasured and framed.

    But there was no photograph of our dance or of him handing me to my husband. Those pictures and memories were stolen from me. My wedding dress hid my vulnerable heart and my flowing veil covered my sad eyes.

    In my brokenness, it felt like my father, by his suicide, abandoned me. I thought I was different because of the shame and loss and never really had a sense of belonging. In many ways, I felt like an orphan. Thankfully, I still had my mother who encouraged me that our faithful God would send someone into my life at the times when I needed a father figure.

    My mom was right. God did send a father to take my dad's place. He arranged for someone to care for my needs, to nurture my wounded heart and be the solid foundation that a girl needs in a father. He sweetly sent someone who would not abandon me.

    God didn't hand-select a pastor, uncle, in-law or godly man whom He trusted to show me love the way I needed. No, God sent Himself as a Father to me and my crippled heart. He fulfilled what He promises in Psalm 68:5, "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling" (NIV).

    The Fatherhood of God has created a healthy, trustworthy relationship with me that would never have happened if He hadn't helped me overcome the sadness of the loss of my earthly father. He saved me from my doubts and insecurities.

    God has been so very faithful to give to me what the years my childhood of insecurity and immaturity stole from me: wisdom and discernment. He's promised to restore back to me everything that's been stolen, even the memory of a father-daughter dance.

    The Bible describes in vivid detail the beauty that is to come for those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus. Revelation 19:7 says, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready" (NIV).

    There is a wedding where my Father will be. His presence will be known. His seat will be filled. His love will surround the place where there will be no tears or pain. At the wedding of the Lamb, I will finally have a dance with my Daddy.

    I will take the hand that created me (Colossians 1:16). I will hold the palm that has my name written on it (Isaiah 49:16). He will lead me to all righteousness, just as He has taught me through life (Psalm 23:3). I will look into the eyes that are watching me now (Psalm 145:20). I will be held in the arms that I have run to so many times (Proverbs 18:10). I will be face-to-face with the One whose love has never failed me (Psalm 31:16). I will dance with my Father on that day.

    Do you need a Father who never will leave you? Do you need security, love and devotion? Your Heavenly Father is the One who holds your heart safely in His capable hands. You are His most treasured possession. He wants to nurture you. Ask God today to heal your heart with His Fatherly love and set your hopes on eternity and a future dance.

    Can He have this dance?

    Father, You are trustworthy, true to Your Word and truly extravagant in Your love. You will never leave nor forsake me. Thank You for Your care for me. Amen.

    Related Resources:

    A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God's Promises by Renee Swope

    The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness by Suzanne Eller

    Reflect and Respond:
    Write this on a note card and place it where you can see it:

    You are MY daughter and I adore you. I watch your every move and direct your every step. I have a future planned and purposed for your good. Your heart is safe with Me. I promise. May I have this dance?

    Love,
    God

    Power Verse:
    Ephesians 1:5, "He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Sheila Mangum. All rights reserved.

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

  • Take the Plunge

    Posted on July 8, 2013 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn

    "I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure." Psalm 119:162 (NLT)

    My husband and I had saved for a year to go snorkeling. With all the sacrifices we had made, I couldn't believe we were finally on the white sandy shore. Confidently, I grabbed my gear and prepared to jump into the clear blue water.

    But it wasn't like I had imagined. The mask felt funny once I got it on; how was I supposed to breathe like that? My heart fluttered as anxiety grew.

    My head screamed at me, dive in! Get out there. This is an opportunity of a lifetime! But my feet stayed planted on dry ground. Though Greg pleaded with me, even came and took my hand to lead me out to the deep water, I never got past the rocky shore that day.

    Twenty years later, my chance came again. Starting a few months before the trip, I gave myself a talking-to every day. Go for it, Lynn! It will be worth it. Just dive in and don't look back! I recited this pep talk as I waded in the ocean.

    My heart began pounding again, but I kept going. Encouraging voices beckoned me to come farther out where the schools of rainbow-colored fish swam. Holding my breath, I peeked under the water, shocked to see the cobalt blue and golden yellow creations. I even swam with a sea turtle! Before I knew it, an hour had passed.

    Did I want to quit? Some moments I did, but I reminded myself of all I was gaining by staying out away from the shore.

    There was a time when I avoided "diving" deeper into Scripture. My schedule was always short on time. Not to mention I felt intimidated by stories I didn't understand and challenges that made me feel "less than."

    I relieved any guilt I felt about not studying the Bible by reading a verse or two here and there. Yet, like that young woman on the rocky shore so many years ago, I knew I was missing out by not going deeper.

    When I became part of a leadership team at my church, I had to take the plunge. The group's accountability helped me be consistent in reading and studying the Bible. The daily homework navigated me as I learned to go below the surface. I found I loved it!

    Years later, I can't wait to hang out with Jesus and learn what He has to say to me each day. I still participate in a group Bible study now and then, but what I enjoy most is going through my Bible on my own.

    When we study God's Word, He reveals who He is and His plans and heart for us. As we explore different verses, their original Greek and Hebrew meanings, the culture the text was written in, and how verses tie in together, it's like coming upon a gold mine. See how the psalmist put it: "I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure" (Psalm 119:162).

    It was one thing to hear my husband's experience of snorkeling 20 years ago when I waited on the shore. But, his stories came to life when I dipped my head under water and discovered for myself the beautiful coral, shimmering fish and vibrant colors.

    In the same way, it's wonderful to hear what others have to say about Scriptures they have studied, to listen to sermons or to read books. But it's really amazing to dive in ourselves. Studying God's Word opens our eyes, heart and mind to learn from Him about His ways, His will and His direction for us. So go ahead, take the plunge. What are you waiting for?

    Lord, the only thing holding me back from discovering the depths in Your Word is me. Empower me to be disciplined and help me to hear Your voice as I study Your Word. Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Devotions for a Revolutionary Year: 365 Days of Jesus' Radical Love by Lynn Cowell is a book to help your daughter get her feet wet and take the plunge for the deep water of God's Word.

    Looking for a way you can connect to your daughter and learn God's Word together? His Revolutionary Love: Jesus' Radical Pursuit of You by Lynn Cowell is for girls ages 13-18. It's a great study for moms and girls to bond over!

    Dive deep into Scripture with the new NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women, filled with 366 devotions written by the Proverbs 31 Ministries team. Take the plunge by clicking here.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What hinders you from spending time alone with Jesus?

    In the next 24 hours, carve out a time for just you and God. You may need to set your alarm clock earlier. You may need to stay up later. Be intentional.

    Power Verse:
    Jeremiah 15:16, "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Christ and Country

    Posted on July 3, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind. Psalm 33:12-13

    God blesses a country that honors Him, but He brings down a country that dishonors Him. It honors Him for His people to pray in earnest for righteousness to reign in religion, the work place, seats of government and the home. It dishonors the Lord when we behave like His commands are suggestions and we marginalize His mandates. Countries founded on Christ are blessed if they continue with Christ.

    Where is our Christ conscientiousness? Do our actions reflect accountability to Almighty God and His ultimate judgment? Faith without the fear of God is weak and anemic in the face of moral relativism, academic attacks and the indulgences of affluence. A nation who fears the Lord fears sin and its deadly consequences. Thus, Christians are called by Christ to engage in their communities with compassion and a standard of right and wrong.

    The law of the Lord is the basis of the law of the land in a country that honors Christ. The Bible is clear, “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous” (Romans 2:12-13). God blesses a nation who obeys His laws.

    Therefore, for our children’s sake, let's raise our standards of acceptable actions for preachers, politicians and parents. Let’s return to public prayers of dependence on the Lord and private prayers of repentance from sin. Without God’s blessing a country creeps into moral chaos, an economic meltdown and institutional irrelevance. But, with God’s blessing a country thrives on trust in Him. We desperately need to stay bless-able before the Lord.

    If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

    Prayer: Am I a citizen who unashamedly represents Christ in my community? Do I pray with persistence and humility for repentance among God’s people?

    Related Readings: Exodus 19:5-6; Psalm 144:15; Romans 12:14-15; 1 Peter 2:9

    Post/Tweet today: Countries founded on Christ are blessed if they continue with Christ. #foundingfaith

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • How to Survive the Stress of Summer

    Posted on July 1, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    The threat of summer craziness was becoming a reality. I settled in a chair at my kitchen table, surrounded by the clutter of information sheets regarding work obligations, sports practices, mission trips and church activities. Pulling out my family calendar, I mapped out the summer months.

    After writing down all our commitments, I stared at the endless scribbles etched across practically every date. We had only one free week during the entire summer. With a heavy sigh and swirling thoughts, I felt a twinge of stress and anxiety slowly rising up in my chest.

    I couldn't help but wonder, isn't summer supposed to be footloose and fancy-free? What happened to sleeping in and time to rest and unwind? Are relaxing summer days merely a thing of the past?

    Now, it seems like the summer can instead be filled with days when the kids are bored and whiny, camps get cancelled, work interferes with vacation plans, the AC goes out, and traffic is horrendous. Days when we lose our patience, harbor a bad attitude, and have had quite enough of family time. Days when we feel powerless against the exhaustion of our busy schedule and stress rules the roost.

    It may seem that easy summers are long gone. However, we can make it through the hectic days and stay at peace despite the chaos. In Psalm 29:7 God promises He will help with whatever we face: "The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace."

    There are several keys to God's peace overriding the mayhem. When we remember to focus on God's sweet goodness, instead of all the scribbles on our calendar, we can be proactive in managing summertime. We can receive God's calm, even in a busy and sometimes stressful time of the year. Here are some specific ways to do so:

    Focusing on all the good things God has done for us, instead of the challenges of summer.

    Remaining calm and praying for God's peace when the demands of family and life seem overwhelming.

    Asking God to give us rest and strength when we begin to feel stretched thin and worn out.

    We can also take some additional steps to keep summer stress at bay. Such as:

    Take daily mini-vacations. Try to set aside at least five minutes per hour to stretch and take a break.

    When you take days off from your work or daily routine, unplug completely—meaning no phone or emails.

    Keep a checklist or a detailed calendar of all scheduled activities.

    Do something for yourself once a week: take a bubble bath, read a good book, spend time outdoors or take a nap.

    Busyness and stress can heat up quicker than the summer sun. But it is possible to stay cool on the inside. Whether we are low in spirit or low in energy, depending on God and seeking a daily infusion of His strength and peace can ensure a less stressful summer.

    Dear Jesus, sometimes I allow the chaos of summer to distract me from spending time with You. I neglect to claim Your peace and allow myself to get bogged down with the stressors of the season. I get frustrated with my children, rather than treasuring this time with them. Help me to focus on You when I begin to feel overcommitted and to seek Your peace with each rising sun. In Your Name, Amen.

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

    I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer

    Reflect and Respond:
    Do the stressors of summer zap your strength and rob you of your joy and peace in Christ?

    What can you do differently this summer than you have done in the past to prevent summer stress?

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 13:6, "I've thrown myself headlong into your arms—I'm celebrating your rescue. I'm singing at the top of my lungs, I'm so full of answered prayers." (MSG)

    Proverbs 8:30, "Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Prone to Wander

    Posted on June 25, 2013 by Amy Carroll

    Amy

    "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..." Psalm 103:2 (NIV)

    For years, we owned a dog named BC who was the bane of my existence. He definitely earned his nickname—Houdini. He was a long hound with short legs and truly an escape artist of the highest degree.

    There was no fence high enough and no enclosure secure enough to keep him contained. BC scaled or dug or jumped or schemed his way to freedom outside our yard on a regular basis.

    I think about those days and have to laugh. Because our whole family adored him—despite his wandering heart—we worked and worked to keep him home. We built a fence we believed would protect him from the outside world. My boys played and snuggled with him. BC was fed healthy dog food and yummy snacks. He had balls, toys and a soft dog bed.

    And yet he wandered.

    BC roamed our neighborhood, and sometimes we got reports of him on streets miles away. He always came home eventually (sometimes pursued by the dog catcher), but our family worried about him when he left the safe haven of home.

    How I identify with BC's wandering ways.

    These words from my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, pierce my heart each time I hear them:

    O to grace how great a debtor
    Daily I'm constrained to be!
    Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
    Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.
    Prone to leave the God I love.
    Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
    Seal it for Thy courts above. ~Robert Robinson

    God has created a place of safety for me within His Word. His commandments are designed to protect me, not restrict me. God gives me the good gifts of His mercy, grace and forgiveness to remind me to stay near. He pours His love on me and draws me deep into His family, and yet ...

    Sometimes my heart still wanders.

    I ignore His truth and make decisions that launch me outside the safety of His guidelines. I harbor wrong thoughts. I use words that minimize others. These choices and others can take me away from God's heart. And yet He longs to draw me home again.

    The opening verses of Psalm 103 provide a key to keep my wandering heart close to God: "Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits ..." (Psalm 103:1-2 NIV).

    By praising God and rehearsing His benefits, I train my heart to find contentment close to God rather than far from Him.

    When I want to wander, the verses that follow Psalm 103:1-2 list even more reasons to praise and thank God:

    "...who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's" (vv. 3-5 NIV).

    I spent 14 long years chasing BC around our neighborhood. My love for him kept me pursuing him and finding ways to keep him safe in our yard. God's love is the same toward us. Let's join with the Lord in staying in the protective boundary lines He's given us by praising and rehearsing His faithful ways. Doing so will bind our wandering hearts to God and keep us safe in the nurturing places He's created for you and me.

    Lord God, I thank You that You have given us such a long list of benefits for which to praise You. Settle my heart in the safety of Your home with a faithful and content heart. In Jesus' precious Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Scripture is the perfect place to search for the benefits of God. The NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women is also filled with 366 of our devotions. Pick up your copy, now 20% off, by clicking here.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Do you fill your heart and mind with the benefits of God that keep you close to His heart, or do you constantly allow your heart to wander from God's safety and care?

    Read Psalm 103 in its entirety and make a list of the benefits of God you find and rehearse them in your mind today.

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 16:5-6, "LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You're a Run-Away Bride

    Posted on June 14, 2013 by Samantha Evilsizer

    Samantha

    "I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people." Psalm 116:14 (NIV)

    As soon as the opening prayer ended, I knew I had to leave my wedding. Whispering a quick apology, I turned and ran.

    My patent leather shoes burned rubber, leaving my soon-to-be groom in a cloud of confusion at the altar. Fast down the aisle where my father and I had just walked. Past the curious wedding guests. Straight to the powder room where my purse and coat were waiting.

    I breathed a sigh of relief. There they were, my written vows, forgotten in the excitement of preparations.

    I hurried back to Joshua waiting patiently for me at the altar. Facing the man I loved, we exchanged our vows.

    It's not every day that a girl makes a lifelong commitment like that. But it is every day I get to carry one out. Not just to my husband, but to my God.

    Sadly, although I made a vow to follow God years ago, there've been times when I've left my vows behind. I've been a run-away bride, leaving Jesus and my commitment to Him in the dust as I took off for what I thought were greener pastures.

    The whole time, He waited patiently. Waited for me to return and say, "I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people" (Psalm 116:14).

    We can run all our lives, but we're never truly settled until we make and keep a lifelong pledge to the One to whom our heart truly belongs. In Him, we have all good things, including the gift of love—God's love.

    As I read my marriage vows out loud at my wedding, I realized they were vows my heart needed to make to Christ as well. So I took the promises I made to my earthly husband, and re-addressed them to Jesus, as a covenant with my Savior, to record my heart's vows to Him:

    There really is no place like home. I've come to know this with great certainty as my love for You, Jesus, has grown. You're my favorite place to be. That's because You are where I am most at home ... You are where my heart is settled, comforted and loved.

    I vow to always keep You as my home base. To never stray emotionally, physically, or in my thoughts.

    I vow to keep You as the center of my home. To seek You every day with all my heart, mind and soul, and to serve You with all that's within me.

    I vow to keep my home clean from doubt, strife and unnecessary cares, and will fill it with believing the best about You, humility, and prayerfulness.

    I vow to willingly submit to You as head of my life, to lean on You, and not be stubborn. And to allow You to serve me.

    I vow to stay healthy and keep active, inviting You into my everyday activities.

    I vow to dream and plan and pray for my future with You.

    I vow to love mercy, act justly, and to walk humbly with You.

    I vow to let You know every day just how very much I love and honor You. And to thank You for all the wonderful things about You that make You ... YOU!

    If home is where the heart is, then my heart will always be with You.

    I don't know where you stand with God right now ... how near or far you are. But I know from experience, the further away you are, the more lost you will feel. Today, let's run to Christ—and make or renew our vows to Him.

    Lord, You alone are worthy of all my heart, soul, mind. Please help me keep my vows to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Scripture is the best thing to read to reignite your relationship with God. The new NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women is a great way to start.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Consider your relationship with God. Do you take it as seriously as a marriage covenant? Write your vows to Him today.

    Power Verses:
    Joel 2:12-13, "'Yet even now,' declares the LORD, 'Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.' Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil." (NAS)

    Ephesian 5:25-27, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (ESV)

    © 2013 by Samantha Evilsizer. All rights reserved.

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

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