Connecting with Friends
By Renee Swope

“I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15b (NIV)

I noticed that I had developed a habit of checking email repeatedly. One morning I checked it as soon as I woke up. Then I made breakfast and checked it again. Had my devotional time and checked it again. Ran some errands and when I got home, checked it once more.

Now, I have a thing about keeping white space in my inbox, but this was more than just managing emails. My heart was going back for a reason. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to pause and ask myself, “Why do you keep checking your email?”

I sat there and let my heart respond honestly. I wasn’t sure if it was God or me answering, but my soul intertwined with His Spirit whispered: “You keep coming back because your heart longs to connect with a friend.”

Somewhere in the busyness of life I had let many of my friendships reduce to quick connections via email. Over the past year my schedule had gotten so full with kids, school projects, family needs, investing time in my marriage, and new responsibilities at work that something had to give. I didn’t want it to be my family, so I asked God to help me find balance.

I’d felt Him leading me to cut back on the amount of time I spent talking on the phone, socializing with neighbors and hanging out with friends. Although I hadn’t completely cut out my friendships, my face-to-face connection time with my friends had been reduced to a minimum. That morning as I sat at my computer, I realized I hadn’t found balance. The pendulum had swung too far.

Here I was checking email repeatedly, trying to fill a God-created need for relationships with a white screen and black alphabet keys.

I knew I needed to make some adjustments to find a better place of balance, to fill the lonely place in my heart with friends I could talk to and share life with in person. That day I closed my laptop and called one of my closest friends. She happened to be available so I took some time off work to spontaneously meet her at a coffee shop and go for a walk. It was just what I needed.

Friendships are not easy to build. Time is limited with lives that keep us so busy. But in this age of technology, it’s important to evaluate things in our lives that create a false sense of connection like email, television, text messaging and overboard activities. Although these things are okay in moderation, they can’t substitute real-life connections. We have to intentionally carve out time for friends that are in close proximity. Times where we can share what’s going on in our lives and, like today’s verse says, encourage one another with what God is teaching us. Long-distance friendships are precious to me, but I also need friends close by. That day I learned that there’s just something in my heart that is filled when I connect with a friend in person.

God created us for relationships where we can see each other, hug each other and talk to each other face-to-face. Jesus knew this need, as well. He encircled Himself with intimate friends – first His Father, then His close friends John, Peter and James and then the other nine disciples. He also had friends like Mary, Martha and Lazarus that He spent time with sharing what He was learning from His Father, laughing and having a meal together. He modeled for us the picture and the power of connecting with friends.

Dear Lord, You created me with a need for friends. Yet, I find myself rushing through my days with little time for heart-to-heart connections. Help me to seek You first as my ultimate Friend, and then reach out to others so I can have and be a close friend. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Grow Closer to God and your girlfriends on the Girls Get-A-Way Cruise with P31

A Walk to Remember: Living and Leaving a Legacy DVD, with Renee Swope

Traveling Together, by Karla Worley

Application Steps:
Visit Renee’s Blog to read and share more girl-talk on women’s friendships today.

Make a list of friends you enjoy being with. Call or email them to set up a time to get together for some girl-talk. If you’re not sure who to call, ask God to show you someone you can begin a friendship with. Invite them to lunch this week.

What are some of my biggest obstacles in developing real friendships?

Power Verses:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (NIV)

All About Eve
By Rachel Olsen

“The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis 3:6 (NLT)

Eve tends to get a bad rap. Yes, I know she earned it by ushering sin into mankind, but I'm just not so sure I wouldn't have done the same thing. So, I'm leery about throwing stones at Eve.

You see, I too would've been tempted by the serpent's promise. I have a compelling desire to be "in the know." I don't like feeling like I'm missing out. Like Eve, I desire wisdom. And I certainly don't want to be intentionally held out on - especially by a God I'd been trusting to tell me the truth.

Satan convinced Eve that God was indeed holding out on her ... He was holding back some deliciously ripe fruit, and lying to her about the consequences of eating it. She wouldn't die, He just didn't want her to attain His status with the ability to know good and evil. Well, that last part is true. You see what Eve knew up until this point was only Good. Everything she saw, experienced, and knew was Good. What she did not know yet was Evil, at least not until she ran into the serpent and sank her teeth into that fruit. Then she knew it all too well, as feelings of guilt, shame and fear flooded her. Those feelings drove her to hide from God, for she knew there would be consequences. And there were ... including being booted from the garden of goodness.

Sadly, Eve and her husband, in swallowing the fruit, had swallowed traces of evil sinfulness that would somehow fuse themselves into the first couple's spiritual DNA. God wanted to ensure they didn't also eat from the tree of eternal life while they were in this state. In His sweet mercy, God kept Eve (and you and I) from living forever in a spiritual state of sin.

So, its true, God was holding something out on Eve - knowledge of evil. How I wish I didn't know evil. If only Eve could’ve seen what I see: the only thing God was holding back from her was something not worth tasting, not worth knowing, and not worth possessing.

Do you ever feel like God might be holding good things out on you?

Sometimes I look around and wonder why I don't have this, or why I can't do that. I guess the wise response would be to just trust God that He will provide everything I need and nothing I don't. Why does that feel so hard to settle for? Why does accepting God's ways even feel like settling at all? I suspect it’s because I have the same impulse Eve did - to have and know it all.

Do you ever fear that following God's orders fully will cost you too much - more than you care to give up?

In Genesis 3:3, Eve makes God's orders about not eating from the tree even more restrictive than they actually were by claiming that He said she couldn't even touch the tree or its fruit. Don't we do that sometimes too ... make what God calls us to do or not do seem even more restrictive or unreasonable than it really is? While reading of Eve's adventures in the garden, I decided I want to cement in my soul the truth that I can follow God’s orders with complete trust that He has my best interests in mind and at heart.

I also decided, in honor of Eve who always gets a bad rap, to make a big bowl of apple salad with celery, walnuts and raisins. As I tasted the crunchy, fruit salad I thought: Oh Eve, how I wish you hadn't eaten that apple! But I also understand why you did. Hopefully, I will learn from your mistakes.

Dear Lord, You know my compulsive desire to have and know it all. You realize my impulse to be in control. You also know because of these I sometimes act against your wishes. Forgive me, and create in me a content, obedient heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
If you’d like to learn more about women of the Bible, visit Rachel Olsen’s blog to read her online study.

God’s Purpose for Every Woman: A P31 Devotional Gen Eds. Lysa TerKeurst & Rachel Olsen

Do You Know Jesus?

Application Steps:
Read Eve’s story in the Bible today in Genesis 2:18 – Genesis 3:24.

Do you ever wonder if God is holding out on you? Memorize the power verses below.

Do you ever think or act like God’s commands can’t be trusted?

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT)

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT)

Dealing with Unresolved Disappointment
By Glynnis Whitwer

“‘Take away the stone.’ He said. ‘But Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’” John 11:39 (NIV)

Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, was sick. Really sick. In fact, they were sure he was close to death. So they called for the one man they knew could heal Lazarus. That was their friend Jesus.

Messengers found Jesus about a day’s journey from the sisters’ home in Bethany. But when Jesus got the message about Lazarus, He didn’t pack up and leave immediately. In fact, Jesus stayed put … for two more days.

It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t care. He did. Jesus didn’t lose track of the time either. No, the Bible tells us that Jesus intentionally delayed going to help saying “… it is for God’s glory, so that God’s son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4 NIV). Jesus had a plan, but Mary and Martha didn’t know that. All they knew was their brother had died and Jesus didn’t come in time.

The sisters were clearly disappointed in Jesus’ lack of response. In fact, they both told Him so. Martha chided Jesus first, then Mary fell at Jesus’ feet and echoed her sister’s words, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.”

Jesus knew their pain. He felt it too. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus wept with them. Together the group of mourners made their way to the tomb, and when they arrived, Jesus made an unusual request – that the stone in front of the opening be removed.

The sisters were shocked. Why would Jesus make this request? Didn’t He realize how bad the body would smell? Martha even told Jesus so, perhaps to “remind” Him that her brother had been dead for four long days.

Mary and Martha were devastated. Not only had their brother died, but they knew Jesus could have changed the outcome of their brother’s illness. In their minds, Jesus abandoned them in their time of greatest need. The sisters were grieving the loss of their brother, but I wonder if they were grieving because Jesus hadn’t done what they asked. In fact, they were so sad and discouraged, when Jesus made a move to help, they wanted to leave the stone in front of the tomb.

Have you ever been disappointed with God’s apparent lack of response? I have. It’s disheartening when you know God could immediately change the outcome of your circumstances, but He seems absent. So there you sit, in the pain, grief and fear while God delays.

Martha even seems to have given up and accepted her grief and disappointment. She was ready to live with the “fact” that Jesus didn’t care enough to heal Lazarus.

However that “fact” couldn’t have been further from the truth. As the sisters gave in and moved the stone, Jesus showed them just how much He loved them. In a loud voice Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!”

Jaws dropped, hearts pounded, wails turned to screams of joy as a formerly dead man walked out of the tomb … very much alive. Jesus had never ignored their cry for help. He didn’t disregard their pain. He hadn’t abandoned them. He had a plan that included a delay.

Sometimes God’s plans for us might include a delay. As we wait, may we learn from this story to not give up, to not accept grief as our lot in life and to expect God to turn our mourning into joy. Remember, He’s coming right on time.

Dear Lord, please forgive me for all the times I have given up on You, and believed You have abandoned me to suffer. Help me to trust that You have a plan to bring about my healing, and bring joy back to my life, even though it may not look like what I had asked for. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Your Scars are Beautiful to God by Sharon Jaynes

Visit Glynnis’ Blog

Do You Know Jesus?

Application Steps:

Identify an event that has caused you great pain. Have you resigned yourself to live with that pain forever? If so, choose today to believe that God can do something about it.

Has God ever delayed answering one of your prayers? If so, could you see His good plan in the delay?

How does waiting on God develop our character?
What should our attitude be when we are waiting on God to answer our prayers?

Power Verses:
2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (NIV)

Psalm 17:6-7, “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.” (NIV)

Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (NIV)

Persistent Friendship
By Melissa Taylor

“And now may the Lord show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing.” 2 Samuel 2:6 (NKJV)

Donna and I grew up together. We weren’t each other’s closest friend, but we were always friends. I knew if I needed someone, she would be there. She was so kind to me but was never afraid to tell me the truth…even when it hurt. She was fun, caring, accepting, forgiving, non-judgmental, and honest. There aren’t many friends like that.

Over the years, we went our separate ways. We both got married, had children and life got busy. Our paths didn’t cross often, even though we lived in the same city. When we ran into one another unexpectedly, we’d say, “We have GOT to get together and catch up!” Then we never would. I missed her and began to feel guilty for not pursuing our friendship more. I remember a mutual friend of ours saying, “I can’t believe you both live in Charlotte and never see each other. You have no excuse!”

One day during my quiet time, I read a verse that made me think of Donna. It was 2 Samuel 2:6. I don’t have an explanation for her coming to my mind except that it had to be from God, so I prayed that verse for her. “Lord please show your kindness and truth to Donna and I will show her kindness and truth too, because she has shown it to me many times.” I didn’t know why, but I knew I had to get in touch with her.

Contacting her was difficult. I called. I emailed. Weeks went by and I heard nothing. I made sure that I left all of my contact information and a nice message. Still, nothing from Donna. For over a month, I called and left messages. I began to get discouraged. Was she mad at me? Then I got a little worried. What if something has happened to her? I was not going to give up. My last call to her was one of desperation. I left a message saying, “Donna, this is Melissa. I have been trying to contact you, but you won’t return my calls or emails. If you don’t want to talk to me or you are mad, that’s okay. Just call me and let me know that you are alive. I’m worried about you. Please call!” She called me back.

That was a year ago. It was such a blessing that we reconnected. Donna was going through hard times. I was about to go through hard times as well. God knew that Donna needed a friend close by who could understand and be there for her. He also knew I was about to go through one of the roughest trials of my life. It was perfect timing. Another blessing that came out of our reconnection is that our daughters became close friends. They had never met until now and they are crazy about each other.

I’m glad I was a persistent friend, persisting in my attempts to find Donna. I was not giving up because I considered our relationship valuable enough to pursue. If I had given up after the first call, or second or third, we would still be apart. I hate to even think about going through this past year without her. Persistence is often necessary in obtaining a blessing.

Have you ever thought about how persistent God is with us? How many times have I wandered off or put someone or something else above Him, yet He never left me. The Lord considers us valuable enough to pursue, and He wants us to “call back” and communicate so the relationship can flourish and grow.

God is pursuing a friendship with you right now. He offers you kindness, truth, forgiveness, acceptance, unconditional love, and loyalty. He’s the best friend you could ever have. He will never give up on you because He is a persistent Friend.

Dear Lord, When others walked out, You never did. When I walked away, You waited for me to come back. Thank you for being my persistent Friend. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Visit Melissa’s Blog

His Princess, Love Letters from Your King by Sherri Rose Shephard

Intimacy with God: Daily Prayer Journal by Tara Furman

Application Steps:
Make plans to reconnect and spend time with someone you haven't seen in a while. If you can’t reach them at first, don’t give up. Be persistent.

Has someone tried to be a persistent friend to you? Have you called them back?

Is there someone God has placed on your heart to contact?

How is your friendship with God? Are you spending time with your Friend Jesus?

Power Verses:

Proverbs 17:17, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” (NLT)

Proverbs 18:24, “Some friends don't help, but a true friend is closer than your own family.” (CEV)

Exodus 33:11a, “So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (NKJV)

The Sunny-Side-Up Car
By Susanne Scheppmann

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 NIV)

I received a rude hand gesture as I was driving, twice in one day. “What in the world?” I thought. I am a careful and considerate driver, and thought I was driving just fine. I could not remember the last time I had angered another driver to that extent. Today, it happened not once but twice, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Then just a few blocks from home, a woman in a sporty yellow convertible raced by me, honking obnoxiously and glaring at me. Finally, it began to dawn on me why this was happening. I usually drive a shiny SUV. Today, I was tooling around in our old car with very faded paint and eggs splattered across it. A few weeks ago, someone had thrown eggs at the car as a prank, and by the time we discovered it, the egg had adhered permanently. We scrubbed and scraped but in the heat of the Nevada desert, the eggs had baked into the paint.

Then an “ah-ha” thought popped into my mind. People were judging my driving skills and me, by my sunny-side-up egged car. Their attitudes became aggressive. They felt they needed to put me in “my place.” Their angry actions told me, “Get that thing off the road. Don’t you know how to drive, woman?” I suspect this was because my car looked like a disaster.

Sadly, I know I have misjudged, misinterpreted, and misunderstood other people because they look and act differently than I do. Unfortunately, sometimes I inspect the outside and never delve beyond the exterior of the person.

However, today’s key verse instructs us differently— to consider others better than ourselves. In addition, Romans 12:16 advises, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (NIV)

I guess I am thankful for my sunny-side-up egged car. Every time I turn the key in the ignition, I’ll be reminded that appearances do not matter.

Dear Lord, forgive me for the times I have judged someone by his or her outward appearance. Remind me that we are all Your children. Grant me the grace to love unconditionally as You do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Perplexing Proverbs – A Woman’s Bible Study by Susanne Scheppmann

God’s Purpose for Every Woman by Various P31 Speakers and Authors

Visit Susanne’s Blog

Application Steps:
Read Philippians 2:1-11.

Make notes on how “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (vs. 5).

In what circumstances do I tend to judge people by their outward appearance?

Do I truly believe that God loves everyone? Do I act like it?

Power Verses:
Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (NIV)

Zechariah 7:10, “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” (NIV)

More Than Cookies
By Zoë Elmore

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42 (NIV)

While our youngest son was in high school he started a band that practiced in our basement twice a week for three years. I spent those late afternoons baking cookie dough from five pound tubs and pouring gallons of milk for hungry teenagers (are there any other kind?). Our home was quickly transformed into the gathering place, and I knew I needed to take this opportunity to offer these teens more than just a sugar high. Soon I became known as “the band mom” because if you offer food, they will come; and if you love them they will return.

At the end of practice a few band members and “fans” would often come upstairs for one more hot cookie. As I poured the milk, they’d pour out their problems or concerns over family or friends. Many days I felt like our home was an emergency room for broken hearts, broken dreams, and broken teens. As the Lord provided opportunities to pray for and with these hurting teenagers, I was amazed at His loving grace in these young lives.

One afternoon my son mentioned that the newest member of the band would be arriving for rehearsal and asked me to send him down to the basement. When the doorbell rang, I peeked out and saw all the tattoos and body piercings. They did give me pause before opening the door but I heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The young man entered and politely introduced himself; he shook my hand, thanked me for hosting the rehearsal, and then made his way to the basement. When band practice ended and the teens began to scatter; our son and his “colorful” new band-mate came into the kitchen to polish off the remaining cookies.

When the last crumb had been consumed the young man made an interesting request. “Mrs. Elmore, could I have a hug before I leave today?”

“Of course” I answered and granted his request.

“That was wonderful.” he said. He took a breath and then quietly whispered, “My mom abandoned us several years ago and I haven’t been hugged by a mom in such a long time.”

My heart sank and it was all I could do not to let this young man see my tears.

From that day forward I made sure I was available for hugs, and it wasn’t long before my husband Tom and I became a sounding board and a safe place for this young man to share his heart . There were times when he would pop in unannounced for cookies and conversation. Throughout the next two years there were opportunities to pray with him and to share the gospel. Although Tom and I never heard this young man profess a personal relationship with Christ, we know we fed more than his physical hunger as we offered him spiritual food from God’s word.

In thinking back on my tenure as “the band mom,” I’m reminded to pray for all those hungry teens that came and went from our home. I pray they would become or remain hungry for the spiritual truths held in God’s word. I pray for the Lord to put godly men and women in their pathways that would feed their spirits. And I pray that my heart would remain sensitive to the fact that I should offer everyone in our home spiritual as well as physical hospitality.

You may not be the mother of a teenage band member, but I’m guessing there are people in your life that you could be a “mom” to. I want to encourage you to be available for some cookies and conversation, and to offer them both physical and spiritual hospitality.

Dear Lord, help me to be a woman of physical and spiritual hospitality. Show me ways to be available to my children’s friends and to everyone you bring to into our home. Instruct me on making You known through grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

P31 Woman magazine

Visit Zoe Elmore’s blog

A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

Application Steps:
If the Lord is asking you to rethink your idea of hospitality; will you trust and obey or make the excuse that hospitality is not your gift.

How can you prepare your heart and your home to be a spiritual hostess?

Do you spend more time cleaning and decorating your home, or being spiritually available to those who enter your home?

Power Verses:
2 Thessalonians 3:4, “… May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God's love and Christ's endurance.” (MSG)

Acts 10:4, “Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” (NIV)

Finding Power in Weakness
By Lysa TerKeurst

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

Jesus is the author of compassion and kindness. When facing the pain, agony, shame, and horror of the cross he couldn’t walk away – because He saw YOU. As Max Lucado says in his book The Final Week of Jesus, He saw us “right there in a middle of a world which isn’t fair … He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body which gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own Garden of Gethsemane – and he didn’t want you to be alone…He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you.”

What an amazing act of kindness, and what an incredible example to follow of what we should do when we feel vulnerable and weak. Many of us say we have nothing to give when dark and lonely times come our way, but Jesus taught us to look past loneliness into the richness of helping others.

We say we having nothing to give, and God says, “You’re right, but I have something to give through you.” Remember the encouragement given to us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Maybe that is why the world hates weakness so much. If it is in our weakness that the power of God can flow most freely, then it’s no wonder the world would want to cork up this power’s flow. Everything about our society screams out against being weak, yet weakness resides in us all. No matter how beautiful, rich, powerful, and significant someone may seem, weakness is still there.

Behind the thin bodies and glamorous clothing of the rich and famous, weakness is there. Weakness knows no bounds. At every level of society, in every race, men and women alike have weaknesses. And be assured that along with weakness, loneliness calls their names. Sorrows and insecurities still haunt them. All the while God gently calls them to let Him make their weaknesses and loneliness count for something good. Many choose not to listen.

To walk the path that the Lord delights in, we must be willing to let God use the circumstances of our lives to reach out to others. Let’s compare our hurts to stones littering our paths. We have a choice to do one of three things with these stones. We can use them to beat ourselves up, making our scars run deeper than they should. We can throw our stones at others, wounding them and making them also feel our pain. Or, we can use these stones to build bridges for others to walk across from their own darkness and pain into His healing light. This third option is seldom chosen, yet it’s exactly what God delights in.
Dear Lord, help me take an honest assessment of my weaknesses and places where I feel vulnerable right now. Show me Lord, who I could touch today so Your power could flow through my weakness. Help me to not be so self-consumed with my troubles but rather be a bridge to help another person find Your power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog

Who Holds the Key To Your Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Who is in your sphere of influence today that might need a touch of some sort from you? Ask Jesus to give you the wisdom and words to know how to reach this person.

Have I been paralyzed by some type of weakness in my life?

Is it possible for Jesus to use this for good?

During this Easter season, people are usually more receptive to Jesus and to visiting a church. Who could you invite to go with you this weekend?

Power Verses:

Jeremiah 9:23-24, “This is what the Lord says: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” (NIV)

Chickadee Peeps
By Susanne Scheppmann

“Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged.” (Proverbs 17:6a NLT)

Mmmm ... it’s time for those yellow, sugary-marshmallow candies formed into squiggly chicks, better known as PEEPS®. They rank as one of my favorite springtime treats. Their sweet softness brings to mind my two granddaughters. I call these sweet little girls my “chickadee peeps.” I adore the silliness and delight they have as they play and show-off for Grandma.

Yes, it’s true. I have turned sappy. Me--the type A personality. Me--the goal-oriented woman. Me--the no fuss, no frills, no time for silliness gal. Somehow, my chickadee peeps have turned my world upside down. Everything in my life comes to a halt when I have a chance to spend time with my blue-eyed, black-haired granddaughters. Nothing else matters. The depth of feeling for these two little girls startles me. Its intensity perplexes me. I can’t figure it out. All I know is I am one sappy grandmother.

However, I also realize that there is great responsibility involved in this precious relationship of being a grandmother to granddaughters. I am humbled by the opportunity to teach these little girls how to be godly women. The apostle Paul wrote,

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord. They must not go around speaking evil of others and must not be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, (Titus 2:3-4 NLT)

This verse speaks to my heart. I know my chickadee peeps are already watching me. They imitate how I hold my purse. They try on my shoes. They mimic the women in their lives—their mommy and grandmas.

Oh, I pray that they see our love for Jesus. I want them to raise their hands in praise and bow their heads in prayers. I pray that we all are role models who inspire them to serve Christ Jesus, so one day they will influence their own snuggle-sweet grandchildren.

Now I am off to buy sweet treat Peeps® for my darling, adorable, precious, cute chickadee peeps. Yup, I am sappy.

Dear Lord, I thank you for the joy of being a grandparent. Grant me the knowledge and wisdom to influence my grandchildren for all eternity. Help me become a godly role model for all the children whose lives touch mine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Perplexing Proverbs – A Woman’s Bible Study by Susanne Scheppmann

P31 Woman Magazine

Visit Susanne’s Blog

Application Steps:
Read Colossians 3:16. Consider how you can influence the lives of your grandchildren (or children) by using the admonition in this verse. What stories and songs can you share with your own “chickadee peeps”?

Am I intentional in how I want to influence my grandchildren?

How can I make my faith real to the children in my life?

Power Verses:
Psalm 128:6a, “May you live to enjoy your grandchildren.” (NLT)

Proverbs 13:22, “Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren, but the sinner's wealth passes to the godly.” (NLT)

Stretcher Carrier for Christ
By Charlene Kidd

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Mark 2:3-5 (NIV)

Having a background in the medical field, I know first-hand how a stretcher is used to carry someone where they need to go. However, my understanding of this was expanded recently while on a trip to Ecuador with some of the Proverbs 31 Speaker Team and the Compassion International ministry.

One of our Compassion hosts, Rich, gave a message on this passage from Mark in a small, poor Ecuadorian church that sat on a rural hillside surrounded by three volcanoes. He talked about the faith of the paralytic’s friends and the tenacity they showed in getting their friend to the feet of Jesus. They overcame some seemingly insurmountable odds to get the paralytic in the building – including carrying him there, lifting him onto the roof, digging a hole in the ceiling of someone’s home, and then lowering him down into the crowd!

The paralytic could not get himself where he needed to go. He had to rely on his friends. Those friends were willing to do whatever it took to accomplish the goal of getting the man to Jesus. I was struck by this thought. How many people do I know or come across each day that need to get to the feet of Jesus, but for whatever reason (fear, insecurity, depression) cannot seem to make it?

I know how to sit at the feet of Jesus. Why then would I not use my faith to be a “stretcher carrier for Christ?” I want to be purposeful today in bringing the hurting ones I encounter into a place of peace and healing at the feet of Jesus.

Dear Lord, I ask that you open the eyes of my heart to see the people around me that You want me to be a “stretcher carrier” for. I pray that I would hear Your Holy Spirit prompting me, and then be obedient to reach out to them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

To read more and see pictures of the P31 team’s trip to Ecuador, visit our Love in Action blog

P31 Woman magazine

Visit Charlene Kidd’s blog

Application Steps:
Make a list of three people that need to be carried to the feet of Jesus and pray for them now.

In what ways can I “carry someone’s stretcher?”

Who “carried the stretcher” for me?

Power Verses:
Mark 6:54-56, “The people recognized Jesus at once, and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was. Wherever he went—in villages, cities, or the countryside—they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.” (NLT)

John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (NLT)

Today is Tomorrow
By Melissa Taylor

“Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’---when you now have it with you.” Proverbs 3:28 (NIV)

Many times, I don't want to do, or think, about what needs to be done today, so I put it off until tomorrow. Can you relate? I've noticed that often tomorrow gets pushed back daily and then when I finally do whatever it is I've been putting off, I end up stressed out, in a rush, in a bad mood, or convinced that I don’t need to do that task at all. Here are a few of my “I’ll think about that tomorrow” things:
"I'll start my diet...tomorrow."
"I'll start my quiet time...tomorrow."
"I'll clean my house...tomorrow."
"I'll read to my daughter...tomorrow."
"I'll call my friend...tomorrow."
"I'll go have lunch with my son...tomorrow."
"I'll take brownies to my neighbor...tomorrow."
"I'll spend some quality time with my husband...tomorrow"
"I'll __________________ tomorrow." (fill in the blank)

God gave us 24 hours in each day. How I use those precious hours is up to me. Although I may not be able to complete every task assigned to me in a single day, to continue to put off important things that need doing is not being a good steward of the time and tasks God has assigned me.

For a while in my life, I was so bad about putting my goals and tasks off until another day that I got behind in everything. My life needed changing. I wanted to change, but my choices didn’t reflect that. I was choosing to sleep instead of get up and have quiet time. I was choosing burgers and fries over a healthy soup and salad. I was choosing to play instead of do the laundry. I was watching TV instead of exercising. I was spending time with friends but not my husband. Day after day, I had good intentions to make necessary changes in my life. Day after day, I put them off until tomorrow. Eventually, I felt like a failure.

One day while I was feeling discouraged about putting off things until tomorrow, I was reminded of a lesson I learned a few years ago, after we planned a trip to Walt Disney World. At the time my daughter, Hayley Grace, was 3 years-old. We booked the trip months before we actually went, and I made the mistake of telling Haley Grace about it. Each day she’d ask, "Are we going to Disney World today?"

I would say, "No Hayley Grace, we aren't going for 3 more months." Then "2 more months ...1 more month ...3 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week". The night before we were leaving, I announced the news she’d been waiting for. "Hayley Grace, we are going to Disney World TOMORROW!" She was so excited!! The next morning she came running into my room before I was out of bed and the first words from her mouth were, "Mommy, Mommy, is today tomorrow?" I proudly replied, "Yes! Today is tomorrow!"

I’ve decided that I am going to make today my tomorrow by moving into action. Instead of wasting precious time, I want to look at what I've been putting off until tomorrow and put it in action today. The Lord has great plans for my life. I would hate to miss them because I was not embracing the changes He has placed on my heart.

Will you join me? What changes, goals, or intentions have you been putting off until tomorrow? Take a look at your current “to-do” list and make it a “to-day” list. Not only will you have a sense of accomplishment, but you’ll also make a difference today. Today is tomorrow!

Dear Lord, It never seems like there are enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. Help me to discern the important from the unimportant and set my priorities in a way that is pleasing to you. I pray for daily discipline and motivation to get started today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
A Woman’s Secret to a Balanced Life by Sharon Jaynes and Lysa TerKeurst

The Complete Guide to Getting and Staying Organized by Karen Ehman

Visit Melissa’s Blog

Application Steps:
Before bedtime tonight, make a list of changes or things that you’ve been putting off but want to get done. Place a number beside each one, ranking them in the order that you believe God would choose them. Pray and decide how you can implement the changes into your life. Call a friend and tell her about it so you’ll have someone to hold you accountable.

What is keeping me from doing what needs to be done today?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 3:28, “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow’-when you now have it with you.” (NIV)

Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT)

Spreading the Word…Then and Now
By Karen Ehman

“He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Mark 16:15 (NIV)

As a family, we enjoy learning about great missionaries of the faith – whether from the pages of the New Testament and the travels of Paul, or from current day servants who try to spread the wonderful, life-saving news of Jesus in remote places. Did you know that this month there is another missionary we can glean from as we hear of his longing to reach others for Christ? I am talking about St. Patrick.

What do we really know of St. Patrick, in who’s honor patrons don green? To look around at the way modern day folk celebrate St. Patrick’s day, you’d think it all had to do with shamrocks, leprechauns, rainbows and the ever famous pot of gold at the end of them. Well, that and the traditional “wearing of the green” to prevent any pinching that might occur on March 17th each year. But there is actually some wonderful truth that we can celebrate at this holiday and can pass along to the children in our lives.

For as far as history can tell, the story goes like this: At about the age of 16, Patrick, a Scottish young man born into wealth sometime in the late fourth century, most likely around 385, was violently captured by Irish raiders and forced into a life of slavery. Patrick later escaped and was reunited with his family, but in a dream, felt called by God back to Ireland to spread Christianity to the people of that isle. So this godly young man set about to make this dream come true. He prayed for God’s strength and then studied scripture to ready himself. Then He was prepared to return to the land of his captivity. He preached the Gospel and built churches throughout the country until his death on March 17, 461. For the modern day Irish, St. Patrick’s Day is considered a time for spiritual renewal as they fondly remember the slave-turned-evangelist who spread Christianity to the Emerald Isle. For our family today, we feel we can use him as an example of what a young person, sold out for God can do in their generation.

Just think about this man. How many of us, after being captured and held as a slave and forced to work in a foreign land, when finally set free, would actually return to the very place where we were enslaved? It must have taken a great deal of maturity and immense faith in God’s protection to go back to that island. And Patrick must have known that spiritual bondage is far, far worse than physical slavery.

In some ways, don’t we see modern day examples of just such a story? The drug addict who finds freedom from a life of addiction through faith in Christ, sensing a call to return to their old neighborhood and preach the freedom and everlasting life Jesus offers. The women who made a bad choice resulting in her and her unborn child both being the victims of abortion. Now she longs to counsel young girls to choose life for themselves and for their precious baby. All of these people serve as wonderful examples of someone who found freedom and longed to lead others there as well.

So at this time of year, when you spy a leprechaun or see a shamrock, whisper a prayer that God continues to raise up men and women who have been set free to return to the land of their captivity and lead others to the same liberating, life-giving freedom.

Dear Lord, may I long to impart words of freedom to all those who will listen, helping to lead them from their land of captivity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Homespun Memories from the Heart by Karen Ehman

A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

Do You Know Him?

Visit Karen’s blog

Application Steps:
With the children in your life, do an Internet search to see what other facts you can discover about St. Patrick. Talk to them about why He wanted to return to Ireland after being released. Ask what would they have done if they were him? You can even combine this discussion time with a just-for-fun activity like making Irish Soda bread, chopping veggies for Irish stew, or decorating shamrock sugar cookies.

In the past, what held you captive? How did God set you free?

Do you know others still in the same bondage you were in? What can you do to try to reach them and show them the way to freedom?

Power Verses:
Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (NIV)

Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” (NIV)

Help from the Helper
By Melanie Chitwood

“’And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter [Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby]’” John 14:26 (AMP)

“Mom, you took all the fun out of me today,” six-year-old Tyler announced to me with frustration as I tucked him into bed.

And you took all the fun out of me! I thought with exhaustion. I kissed Tyler goodnight and turned quickly to hide the smile on my face. I couldn’t help but smile at his comment, which had so perfectly summed up our day.

We were both having growing pains that day. As I was committed to helping Tyler show a little more responsibility and self-control in his little world, it had been a day of power struggles. He wanted to go play with his friends, but I made him do chores. He wanted to play video games, but he had to do homework first. When he whipped his pencil across the room, he received a very long timeout, something we both needed!

During the day, I had thought how easy it would have been just to let Tyler do what he wanted to do. After all, I like to have fun too, and I was not enjoying our power struggles. However, just as I was helping Tyler to grow up some, I, too, was doing some growing up. God had convicted me lately that when it came to being Tyler’s mother, I needed to do what was best for him, not just what was easiest. God was showing me that the balance between fun and discipline was off-kilter in my son, and it was my responsibility to teach Tyler a healthy balance.

As I seek to be the parent God wants me to be, I am so thankful that I do not have to rely on my own wisdom or strength. In John 14:26, Jesus promises that we are not alone: “’And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby)’” (Amp). The minute we ask Christ into our hearts, the Holy Spirit becomes a permanent resident who remains forever as a guarantee of our salvation and as the Helper we need in any situation.

I try to start each day with quiet time, when I turn my heart to the Lord and acknowledge that I am dependent on His strength and wisdom, not my own. Then throughout the day I pray for Him to direct my steps, to give me wisdom, to empower me to be the mom He wants me to be.

I encourage you today to turn to the Lord at the start of your day. Then in the heat of challenging moments, call on the Helper for what He gives best, his supernatural Help.

Dear Lord, I praise You for being Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby. Thank You, Holy Spirit, that You are with me throughout the day, and that I can call on You for help at anytime. When it comes to being a mother, Lord, You know that sometimes I get worn out and just want to take the easy way. Give me Your strength and Your wisdom to be the parent you want me to be, to do what is best for my children, not what is most convenient or easiest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Today’s P31 Radio Show

P31 Woman magazine

Visit Melanie Chitwood’s blog

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

Application Steps:
Memorize a verse to repeat and strengthen you in the midst of challenging moments in your day. Sometimes I repeat, Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Read today’s key verse in the amplified version. As you read it aloud, each time emphasize a different name of the Holy Spirit. Which of these names calms your heart most today?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 29:17, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.” (NAS)

Isaiah 9:6, “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (NIV)

God Can Handle Even My Greatest Fears, Part 2
By Lysa TerKeurst

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10 (NIV)

Do you ever fear something happening to one of your children? I think most of us moms do. I have learned to make a choice to get intentional when I feel fear creeping into my heart. I pray. I read God’s truths. I verbalize my trust in Him. And I make the choice to walk in assurance.

Does it mean that nothing bad will ever happen to my children? No. Does it mean that my heart can finally find peace past the fears that could consume me? Yes.

The next time you find yourself being pulled into fear, try these steps:

Pray -
We should pray honestly to God telling Him what we are afraid of and asking Him to help us not live in this fear. I ask Him for His protection over whatever I fear. But I also ask God to fill my heart with the rich blessing of His perspective so that no matter what, I will be reassured.

Read God’s Truths -
Matthew 18:10 is a really amazing verse: "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

Do children really have guardian angels? I was always hesitant to think this because it seemed mystical and new age-ish. But here it is in God’s Word! Not only do my children have a guardian angel that has direct access to God but because I am a child of God, I must have one as well! Think about this for a minute. God has assigned an angel to guard over our children and us every minute of every day. And there is never a second where God does not know what is going on with us. Knowing this, we are ready for what we must do next.

Verbalize My Trust in Him -
Isaiah 54:10 (written below) reminds us that God’s love is too pure not to have our best interest in mind. Pause for a minute and let’s state that profound truth again. God’s love for my children, my husband, my family, my friends, and me is too pure not to have our best interest in mind. If I really believed this with all my heart, I could completely trust God.

That’s how we can process the fact that bad things sometimes do happen and still trust. I think we struggle at not fully trusting God because we know the realities of this world. Parents trust God and children still go missing, choke, get cancer, and die in car accidents. This is hard to reconcile apart from understanding God’s love.

God’s love is complete and able to transcend the here and now. God sees an eternal picture that we’ll never understand on this side of eternity. God is all-knowing and fully compassionate. Therefore, we can trust that even when the outcome seems tragic to us, it is still in the best interest of the one He loves. I’m convinced He allows one thing, to save that person from that which is so much worse.

Knowing this, I can say aloud, “God You are bigger than my fears. And no matter what I will continue to trust You and Your perfect plan. Therefore I make the choice to reject the paralyzing feeling of fear so I can walk confidently in the truth of Your assurance.”

Walk in Assurance -
When I look back on a tragedy my family faced, I can now trace God’s goodness through it. And amazingly, it is well with my soul. Through it all God has brought me to a sweet place of intimacy with Jesus that I would not want to trade. Though the circumstances of my childhood were rotten, God’s plan throughout my childhood was good and perfect. I see that now and my trust in Him grows stronger still.

I can now face every one of my fears with a newfound confidence. While I can’t control the events of my life, I can rest assured in God’s amazing love for me and my loved ones. So even when I face times I don’t understand His hand, I can always trust His heart.

Dear Lord, help me find that peaceful trust in You. Assure me of Your love. Reveal Your goodness in every situation. Give me just enough wisdom to process all that I must face and just enough perspective to keep my mind fixed on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s Blog for more encouragement on finding peace past our fears

Order Lysa’s CD message on this topic, “Fear-LESS, Thank-FULL.”

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Go through the Bible and write out verses where God talks about His love for His people. Write in your name and the names of those you love. Believe theses verses as absolute truths that transform our thinking and solidify our trust in God.

Think back on God’s hand of faithfulness in your life. Write out some ways that God has brought good even out of very hard situations. How have you grown closer to the Lord through these times?

Power Verses:
Psalm 36:5, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (NIV)

Isaiah 54:10, “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (NIV)

God Can Handle Even My Greatest Fears, Part One
By Lysa TerKeurst

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

Last week my sister called to tell me that she’d gotten an urgent call from the school nurse. The bad news - her son had gotten choked on a piece of apple. The great news- the nurse was able to successfully do the Heimlich maneuver and he was going to be fine.

I must admit, instantly when I heard the word “choked” my heart seized and my pulse started to race. Even when I heard that my nephew was going to be fine, it still took my heart a while to calm down. You see, I know sometimes these stories don’t end with, “and he’s going to be fine.”

When I was 18 years old, my baby sister tragically died after having surgery. Before the surgery, everyone thought she would be fine. Even the doctors were shocked by what happened.

Do you ever fear something happening to one of your children? For most moms, this is their greatest fear. You see your teenage son drive away from your home and fear grabs your heart. You hear of another child getting diagnosed with cancer and you start asking the “what if” questions. You watch the news reports on a child that has been abducted and you hold yours just a little tighter that night. You know that children die every day from drowning, accidents, and choking and it can make you feel helpless and overly controlling all at the same time.

Having 5 children, I know these fears well. I know their paralyzing affects. I know how it can make you want to just tuck your kids under your wing and never let them leave your side. But I also know that this is not how God wants us to handle our fears. And I know it would not be healthy for my kids to never be able to spread their own wings and fly.

So, I pray. I read God’s truths. I verbalize my trust in Him. And I make the choice to walk in assurance.

In tomorrow’s devotion I’ll expand on each of these steps.

For now, think on that key verse from 2 Timothy 1:7. God does not want us to be held captive by a spirit of debilitating fear. We must believe that with God we have the power to deal with anything life brings our way. We must cling to the reality that God loves us and He loves those that we love. God is a merciful God who keeps our best interest in mind. We can put our runaway minds at ease when we are grounded in God’s truths. The more truth we fill our minds with, the more sound our minds become. Then we can make wise decisions where our kids are concerned not from a worrisome place of fear but rather a wise mindset of complete trust in God.

Dear Lord, help me know You are good even when circumstances are not. Help my unbelief. Help me to make the choice to live fully trusting You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s Blog today for more on how to handle our fears

Order Lysa’s CD message on this topic, “Fear-LESS, Thank-FULL.”

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
List your greatest fear(s).

How has fearing that affected your choices and behaviors?

How you would you live differently if you were able to fully release thatfear to God?

Power Verses:
1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (NIV)

1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (NIV)

Lead so Your Children Will Follow
By Michelle Weber, She Speaks Graduate

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

I get so excited when I see examples of God’s Word at work in my life, don’t you? Just the other night I experienced the wisdom of today’s verse. In this scripture, the word “bring” is so brilliantly chosen. The dictionary defines “bring” as meaning “to lead, to accompany, to convey.”

In order to “bring” my children up in the training and instruction of the Lord, I must first be within His training and instruction myself, striving to live His word out in front of them. Our children will reject lessons if we merely preach “at” them, so we must seek to set the examples through our very own actions, leading the way and then “bringing” them along with us.

Recently, as everyone was just sitting down at the dinner table, the whining began. “I really need a new cell phone”, “I hate my freckles”, “When can I redo my room?”, “Mom we really need to go to the mall”. I was not in the mood to hear “I need ...”, “I want...”, “When can I...” or “I hate...” How dare they start this sacred time of our day with these petty self-centered complaints and requests? Did I mention they were 11 and 13 year-old girls?

Rather than letting my frustration get ahead of me and begin the familiar lecture on needs vs. wants, and how we need to appreciate what we have, I quickly changed the tone of the conversation and shared what a great day I’d had. It was nothing special or out of the ordinary. In fact, it was quite ordinary. I shared how thankful I was for each of the very ordinary things or events in my day. Hoping to “bring” them along with me, I handed the proverbial ball to my daughters and asked them to tell me about some things in their day for which they were thankful.

Some thought was required at first, but soon they were on a roll. They began rattling off things such as: “I’m thankful for the rain this afternoon,” “I’m thankful mom came and jumped on the trampoline with us today,” “I’m thankful Haley came over today,” “I’m thankful for Bella and that she didn’t run through the invisible fence today,” “I’m thankful everyone worked hard at practice today,” and, “I’m thankful Emily didn’t get hurt today at practice.” Now we were getting somewhere! Through their thankful hearts, they had been “brought” into a loving relationship with God and with each other.

We each revisited our ordinary day with a new perspective. We each shared how our lives had been sprinkled with God’s protection and blessings. We all looked back at a day that could have been easily forgotten and turned it into something special. There was no lecture, no hurt feelings, no exasperated children (or parents), just a great ending to a great day for which we were sure to thank God.

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for Your instructions on raising strong and Godly children. I am also thankful for the example Your Son is to me as I strive to emulate Him in raising children who glorify You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Family Enrichment Toolkit, by Michelle Weber,
Bring the Fruit of the Spirit into your heart and home, and strengthen family relationships as you raise virtuous, confident children.

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith, by Lysa TerKeurst

Do You Know Jesus?

Application Steps:

Tonight at dinner ask your family to share even the tiniest things in their day that they’re thankful for. Continue this conversation on a regular basis. Soon, rather than just remembering when asked, they’ll recognize God’s blessings as they’re experiencing them. Now that’s living in God’s presence!

What attitudes and actions can I change in myself so that I can become a better example to those around me?

How can I bring my family to the dinner table more?

Do I notice God’s blessings throughout my day, starting with my children’s sweet faces as I wake them up in the morning?

Power Verses:
Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV)

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (NIV)

Making Time

by Rachel Olsen

"But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. John 15:7-8 (NIV)

How can I find time to have a “quiet time” with God? Even if I found the time, how do I know what to do during this time?

Ever ask yourself these questions? I have. There was a time when these questions left me speechless because I didn't know how to answer them. I knew people who would spend an hour alone with God each day, and I wondered what their secret was. What was it that enabled them to do that? What kept them from falling asleep sitting there alone with the Bible? How did they know what to say, read or think about during all those minutes? How did they keep from getting distracted? How did they even manage to find an hour of free time each day? I kept waiting for a season of my life to come during which a block of time would regularly present itself and my spirit would drive me to God. I wasted a lot of time waiting for that to happen and I’ve learned it never will without some effort.

“Rachel, how do you find time to have a quiet time?” I was asked not too long ago. “I don’t find the time,” I answered. “I have to make the time. I can’t expect to find time – that’ll never happen. There’s always going to be something needing my attention, calling my name. I have to make the time, and that means sometimes I have to let other things slide. I have to be OK with letting less important things slide,” I confessed.

I've come to realize it’s a matter of choice, a matter of discipline… and a matter of active investment. E.M. Bounds wrote, “The lazy man does not, will not, cannot pray, for prayer demands energy.” What a simple but profound statement. When I don’t pray or spend time reading the Bible, it’s because I simply don’t want to expend the energy on it. Bounds is saying that people who do not pray much probably claim to be too busy or too bored with it, but in reality are too lazy to press into God. Wow. Ouch!

I believe we have to be earnest in pressing into God and this will bring glory to God as today verse says. In the words of a little shoe company called Nike; we have to “just do it.” Let’s carve some time in our days to be quiet before the Lord, to read His words and pray. We can trade a small portion of our time and energy for a large portion of His grace and power.

Purpose to stick to it for several weeks until it sinks into your schedule, and your soul begins to respond. If you want some help being accountable on this, or some ideas for how to start, visit my blog listed below and we can do it together for the next six weeks. I know we’ll find it is more than worth the effort.

Dear Lord, I want to make time for You. I want to read the Bible and understand it. I want to pray and see You answer. Help me to press in closer to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Visit Rachel Olsen’s blog and join her in making the time to read about women in the Bible over the next six weeks.

Do You Know Him?

God’s Purpose for Every Woman: A P31 Devotional Gen Eds. Lysa TerKeurst & Rachel Olsen

P31 Woman magazine

Application Steps:

If you are not in the habit of spending time with God praying and reading your Bible, commit to doing so. It doesn't have to be for an hour - start with 10 minutes. Gather your Bible, some pen and paper and set the timer.


What is stopping me from pressing into God?

Do I truly not have any time in my day to spend with Him?

Power Verses:

Isaiah 28:23, “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.” (NIV)

Isaiah 32:9, “You women who are so complacent, rise up and listen to me; you daughters who feel secure, hear what I have to say!” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 14:15, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” (NIV)

Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (NIV)

© 2008 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

Up Close and Personal
By Renee Swope

“’I will bring him near and he will come close to me, for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?' declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 30:21b (NIV)

"This is not how I wanted to spend the weekend,” I grumbled to my husband. It was cold and I wanted to be inside enjoying our kitchen renovations and completing some unfinished projects.

Instead we were scraping paint. A few weeks earlier, I’d found a notice on our door from the neighborhood architectural committee informing us that our windowsills and front porch columns needed to be painted within 30 days, or we’d be fined. I was so humiliated!

Did our house look bad enough to warrant an official notice? Had they taken time to peek inside the windows and see our kitchen renovations? I defended myself to the “neighborhood police” who weren’t even there to listen.

We’d been so focused on improving the inside of our home that we hadn’t had time to work on the outside. Now I wondered if my neighbors had sat around a table talking about us in a meeting.

Humiliation turned to ranting when my husband got home. “These people need to get a life. There are 400 homes in our neighborhood. Plenty of them are in much worse condition. Anyway, how could they see our windowsills and front porch? We have large trees in our yard that block the view from the street. They must have come onto our property!”

To prove my point, I marched to the curb and announced that I could barely see the windows or columns. From a distance, the house looked fine. However, as I got closer I noticed the sun’s heat and cold winter winds had worn the paint thin.

What we thought would take hours turned into days. We spent the weekend on ladders scraping, sanding, priming and painting. The more we sanded and scraped, the more the paint peeled. It was worse than I thought and I soon realized that if we hadn’t done the repairs, the damage would’ve gotten worse. Eventually the wood could have rotted.

I thought about how our house looked fine from a distance. It was only when someone came near that they could see its neglected condition. I didn’t feel offended anymore that someone had come up close and gotten very personal. I felt thankful they cared enough to tell us.

As I painted and pondered, I noticed similarities between my home and my life. I, too, can look like I’m doing fine - from a distance. I, too, can get so busy focusing on one area of my life that I easily neglect another. And I need someone who is close enough to notice things I may not see and cares enough to tell me.

We all need up close and personal relationships. We all need others in our lives that see areas that need special attention. Yet, it requires transparency and trust, and that can be hard.

Having up close and personal relationships is a risk. What if others see our imperfections and use them against us? Isn’t it safer to perfect or protect the image others see by pretending “everything is fine” even if things aren’t?

That’s why the best place to start is with Jesus. He’s an up-close and personal Savior who creates a safe place for us to be real with Him, ourselves and eventually others. His life and His death prove that He knows us fully, loves us completely and accepts us unconditionally. In Jesus we find a safe place to let someone see the peeling paint in our hearts and the rotting wood in our lives.

So today let’s commit to spending time getting to know Him and inviting Him to know us. He wants to help us maintain the condition of our hearts so we can experience the fullness of His!

Lord, I want an up close and personal relationship with You - where I feel safe in being known completely. I want to be so secure in how You see me and love me that I can even risk letting others get up close and personal. Show me how, in Jesus Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Searching for Satisfaction CD by Renee Swope

Dear Jesus by Sarah Young

Just to Be Close to You – Read more about an up close relationship with God, and share your thoughts/questions on Renee’s Blog.

Application Steps:
Have you ever asked Jesus to be your personal Savior? If not, click here to find out how you can know Jesus.

If you have a relationship with Jesus, ask Him to show you an area of your life that needs some up close and personal attention.

How will I spend more time getting to know Jesus?

How can I develop transparency and trust with Him and others?

Power Verses:
“So you will be my people, and I will be your God.” Jeremiah 30:22 (NIV)

”He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;” Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

© 2008 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Feeling Emotional
By Rachel Olsen

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1 (NLT)

Frustration hit me full force about a quarter ‘til dawn. I woke up to find my child is sick, again. With my husband away on business, it was up to me to help the young boy who was standing beside my bed coughing. He’s been sick the better part of the last 5 weeks. I thought he was finally turning the corner. I thought we were done with decongestants, germy tissues, and Clorox wipes. That is, until this morning. So the first thing I felt today was frustrated.

When my child is out of commission, it puts me out of commission as well. He is now behind on his school work, and I am now behind on about a half-dozen things. I could feel my stress level rising as I poured the cough syrup into the plastic measuring cup. I thought about the things I was supposed to accomplish today … the meetings, the deadlines, the errands. A scowl settled into my forehead. I closed the medicine cabinet door with much more force than really necessary.

I felt sorry for my pitiful son. I also felt frustrated that my prayers had not prevented this relapse in illness. I felt angry that yet another day would be interrupted by some virus. And I felt bad because I knew I wasn’t handling it well. I felt, I felt, I felt …all I was doing was feeling, letting my emotions spread out and lay claim over every aspect of my day.

I have this notion in my head that a mature Christian wouldn’t be feeling this way. Shouldn’t I be so spiritual that I’m above getting upset over things like this? After taking care of my son, I sat down and scanned the gospels to see if Jesus ever felt emotionally strained. Sure enough, I found instances where Jesus is described as feeling “deeply troubled” and “distressed” (Mark 14:33, John 13:21, John 12:27, NLT).

If Jesus got emotionally agitated, then it’s ridiculous for me to expect to go through life without feeling some stress. The problem isn’t my emotions, it’s my reaction to them. The trouble comes when I give them free reign in my heart and mind. That’s when I become unstable. That’s when I lose sight of God. That’s when I say or do things I regret.

Jesus spoke today’s verse to his disciples, knowing what their futures would hold. He knew His death was coming and it would trigger fear, sorrow and doubt in their hearts. Not wanting them to wallow in those emotions, He counseled them ahead of time to keep their focus on God and all that He’d been teaching them.

Jesus, knowing what our day holds, speaks the same words to us. He tells us to not let our emotions fly about today, creating an unstable and troubled heart. Instead, our trustworthy Lord tells us to focus our attention on Him.

I made the decision this morning to pray and place my trust in God, despite how my day was shaping up and despite how volatile my emotions felt. He calmed my anxious heart, and my son seems to be feeling better as well. It feels good to trade in my troubled emotions for a source of strength that will get me through my day. And that’s one feeling I think Jesus would love for me to wallow in.

Dear Lord, I want to be ruled by Your Spirit, not by my emotions. Help me to focus on You today and not my troubles. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

For ideas to calm your anxious heart, click here to visit Rachel’s blog.

P31 Woman magazine

God’s Purpose for Every Woman: A P31 Devotional Gen Editors, Lysa TerKeurst & Rachel Olsen

Application Steps:
Start your day by praying for God to give you the mind of Christ and emotions that are submitted to Him.

On days when you get off track, like I did today, resolve to shorten the amount of time between the emotional trigger and the moment when you release your feelings and the situation into God’s care.

What is getting the best of you today? Anger? Bitterness? Depression? Fear? Lust? Greed? Christ?

Am I willing to release these emotions to God and determine to not let my heart be troubled?

Power Verses:
Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NIV)

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (KJV)

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (NIV)

Matthew 6:33-34, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (MSG)

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