Courageous Living
Micca Monda Campbell

"'O man of little faith,' Jesus said, 'Why did you doubt me?'" Matthew 14:33b (TLB)

My daughter has struggled with fear her entire life. We first noticed it when she was a baby. She would hold her breath when we carried her down a flight of stairs. Then, at the age of five, she passed out while riding the Ferris wheel at the state fair. Her fears sometimes hinder her from even participating in life—from being an active contributor to society.

Over the years, my heart has broken for her as I've watched her hold back from doing the things she really wanted to do. Playing it safe only left her depressed. She lived most days looking at the world from behind a wall of safety glass, longing to be free. She'd often ask the same question, "Mom, why can't I be full of faith instead of fear?" My answer was always the same. "You are full of faith. You just let fear crowd it out."

Freedom came when Peyton decided that she didn't want to live with regrets any longer. She pushed through her fear by exercising her faith in God. In doing so, her life is now marked by joy, peace, adventure, and courage.

Let me ask you, how many times have you wanted to do something, plan something, or even dare to dream something, but were too afraid? You know deep within that your torment isn't right. You know you're missing out on life and opportunities, but you're too scared to do anything about it.

Those of us who live with anxiety are living below the mark of what we were created to be. Worry and its accompanying emotions are not and never were part of God's plan for His children. Yet thousands live this way each day.

I've often wondered about the eleven disciples who stayed in the boat instead of stepping out onto the water like Peter (Matthew 14:33). Did they live with regret? I don't know. They did, however, miss an amazing opportunity to walk on water with Christ! Sadly, most people stay in the safety of the boat their entire lives and then wonder why life seems so empty, miserable, and dull. They go through life missing opportunities because they're afraid to really live the way God intended. What's Christ response to all of this? He asks "Why do you doubt me?" (Matthew 14:33).

Doubt was the disciples' trouble. When Peter threw one leg over the side of the boat, nobody believed he could walk on water. I can almost hear his friends calling out, "Peter? Have you lost your mind? You can't do that!" And yet, while that thought was still fresh on the minds of his friends, Peter was already doing it. He was walking on water!

Is there someone in your life planting doubt in your heart and mind over something you're already doing? If so, don't listen. Don't look back. Keep your eyes on Jesus and your faith will enable you to walk on water. Exercising your faith is key to courageous living. Like Peter, we are then able to step out of the boat into a world of possibilities.

Dear Lord, I'm ready to get out of the boat by trusting You with my fears. Be visible before me so that my faith will be strong and doubt will flee. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Pre-Order An Untroubled Heart: Finding Faith that is Stronger Than My Fears (Releasing now on March 1) by Micca Campbell

Walk with Me Today, Lord: Inspiring Devotions for Women by Emilie Barnes

Join us for more Everyday Life Encouragement

Visit Micca’s blog

Application Steps:
Conquer your fears by exercising your faith. Look up some verses to add to the Power Verses listed below. Commit these to memory. When doubt and fear enter your mind, block them with your faith verses.

Are you living with regrets due to fear?

What fears are you facing now?

What are you already doing that doubt is causing you to quit?

Power Verses:
Psalm 27:1, "The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid?" (NIV)

Psalm 56:11, "In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (NIV)

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An Emotional Affair
Lysa TerKeurst

"Flee from sexual immorality." 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NIV)

A few years ago, I watched a friend get tangled up in an emotional affair. She was a strong Christian woman who loved her family but the attraction to this other man seemed unavoidable. She tried to talk herself out of it but her heart played tricks on her mind, and the justifications for letting things continue down this path soon led her to a very dangerous place. She was becoming emotionally attached to this other man.

In a moment of desperation and fear, she confided in me what was going on. As she described how she got pulled into this place, I found myself being challenged by the realization of how subtly this had happened. She hadn't planned on being emotionally attracted to this other man. As a matter of fact, she'd always prided herself on being a woman of strong conviction and had scoffed at the idea of ever being tempted to have an affair.

It starts off simple enough - his comment that you mull over one too many times, a conversation in which you find a surprising connection, a glance that lingers just a second too long, or one of a thousand other interactions that seem innocent yet aren't. These are the dangerous seeds that can easily sprout into an emotional affair.

Some think it is a safe way to enjoy the lure of being attracted to someone other than your spouse without crossing any lines. But God boldly and plainly says in 1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee from sexual immorality." God doesn't say walk away from sexual immorality. No, He says to flee as if your very life is at stake! The time to prevent an emotional affair is before it ever starts. For me to rest on my spiritual laurels and think that it could never happen to me, made me a prideful, open target for Satan.

Jesus warned his disciples in Matthew 26:41,"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." The Life Application NIV Bible commentary says, "Jesus used Peter's drowsiness to warn him about the kinds of temptation he would soon face. The way to overcome temptation is to keep watch and pray. Watching means being aware of the possibilities of temptation, sensitive to the subtleties, spiritually equipped to fight it."

Watching: I now realize that I need to be aware that I am just as prone to this temptation as anyone. One of the best ways to be watchful is to be praying with and for my husband. We need to be open and honest about meeting each other's needs and investing wisely in our marriage. If we get into a rough place, we need to be willing to get help. I love the quote, "If you are busy rowing the boat, you won't have time to rock it." The more my husband and I are taking care of each other, the less attractive temptations will seem.

Sensitive to the Subtleties: I will have to be honest with myself that temptations do exist. When another man says or does something I wish my husband would say or do and doesn't, it can make me lessen my husband in my heart and build up this other man. This is a seed of poison. If watered and fed, this seed will sprout and spread and devastate. Seeds seem so small until you realize that within them they contain the potential to become huge. So, I will be steadfast to keep the fertile ground of my heart pure.

Spiritually Equipped: Philippians 4:8 reminds us, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (NIV). I must park my mind with the truth and the truth is I am married to an amazing man. He is not perfect and sometimes our marriage can be hard, but I made a commitment to Him in a covenant before God and there are no Biblical reasons in our marriage why we should ever part. Therefore, I've made the decision not to part - in big ways or small.

My friend did the wisest but hardest thing she could have done in telling me about her emotional affair. Not only did it help her to see she needed to flee and have someone else hold her accountable, but it also made me aware and alert to the dangers lurking in any kind of unhealthy emotional connection with another man.

Dear Lord, may I forever treasure my marriage and see it worthy to be protected. Help me to be a courageous woman who absolutely flees from any and every situation where there is even a hint of danger. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

Visit Lysa’s blog

Come hear Lysa speak in Dallas, Texas at the National Christian Book Expo. For more information, click here.

Confessions of an Adulterous Christian Woman: Lies that got me there, Truths that brought me back by Lyndell Hetrick Holtz

The Man You Always Wanted is the One You Already Have by Paula Friedrichsen

Application Steps:
What are some practical ways I can be:
Sensitive to the Subtleties:
Spiritually Equipped:

Are there any proactive steps I need to take to guard my heart and protect my marriage today?

Is there any person or any situation I need to flee from?

Power Verses:
Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (NIV)

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Clean Hearts

Luann Prater

"It is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’." Mark 7:15b (NIV)

Most women dislike feeling unclean. We prefer to shower, perfume and powder! But it takes more than dirt to make a heart unclean, and it takes much more than perfume to make it pure.
Jesus told the people, "What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’" (Mark 7:15b-23, NIV).

Whew! That is some list of issues! But why did Jesus take the time to name each one of those evils? We know that not one word in the Bible is wasted, so there is purpose behind the Savior spelling out each one to this crowd. Maybe there were folks in the crowd who looked good on the outside, but their hearts were unclean.

It is easy to understand why the Lord would mention the so-called "big sins" like murder, adultery, or theft making us unclean. But Jesus lumped in some seemingly "small sins" like arrogance, envy and greed too. Those are sins we often cover over with some perfume and powder.

The dictionary describes arrogance as "an offensive display of superiority or self-importance; or overbearing pride." At first glance, we may think that doesn’t apply to us. But if we let the Holy Spirit shine His search light on our heart, we may find times when we have thought, Well, at least I’m not THAT bad, or, It’s amazing her kids turned out as good as they did.

Envy is pretty sly at hiding in our hearts as well. It is the feeling of discontent with regards to another’s advantages, success or possessions. Does your friend have a new car, a new flat screen TV, or a nicer home? And does that make you look at her or at your possessions with disdain? If so, that’s envy. Ouch!

Then there is greed, the excessive desire for wealth or possessions. Maybe we don’t think we are excessive in our desire for things, but how much time do we spend trying to make more money? How stingy are we with what we have? Compared to what most nations have, we live in abundance, and yet we seem to have one eye forever focused on getting more.

What would it look like to take those three definitions and clean them up?
• Un-arrogance – a gracious display of selflessness
• Un-envy – being completely content with all of my blessings
• Un-greed – an excessive desire for God and His righteousness

That sounds like a clean heart to me! So today I challenge myself with the words Jesus spoke, "It is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’" Today, I will set my mind to being un-arrogant, un-envious and un-greedy. Yes, today I want to live with a clean heart.

Dear Lord, thank You for shining Your light on my heart so I can see where it is unclean. Illuminate those sins that I dirty myself with and cleanse me from the inside out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Confessions of a Good Christian Girl: The Secrets Women Keep and the Grace that Saves Them by Tammy Maltby

The Uncommon Woman: Making an Ordinary Life Extraordinary by Susie Larson

Visit Luann’s Blog

Application Steps:
Make a list of the things that occupy your mind. Do any fall in the categories mentioned by Jesus of an unclean heart?

Ask Jesus to replace those desires with a clean heart.

How do I hurt others or myself with my arrogance, envy or greed?

Who needs me to be selfless, content and godly today?

Power Verses:
Matthew 15:8, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (NIV)

Luke 3:14b, "He replied, "Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay." (NIV)

Matthew 19:21, "Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." (NIV)

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The Love of The Father
Wendy Pope

"For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes." Hebrew 12:6 (AMP)

"This hurts me more than it hurts you." These were the exact words my mother and father used before they disciplined me. Have you ever heard these words? Have you ever said these words?
As a child it was hard to understand how my parent's correction and discipline could hurt them more than it hurt me. After all, I was the one on the receiving end of the pain and suffering! I had many mental conversations with myself on this very subject. How can they say that when I am the one confined to my room for the week?

Growing up I thought I would only use positive reinforcement as disciplinary tools to raise my children into civilized, well-behaved members of society. My plan worked perfectly until I actually had children. Then I begin to re-think my mindset and seek the counsel of the Word as my guide for disciplining my children, as well as for receiving my own discipline from the Lord.

As a young mother correcting her children, my heart began to understand the Father's correction. It helped that I had already made the decision to allow God to be the Lord of my life. I was surrendered to His leadership in my life. Surrender meant accepting and submitting. Accepting His unconditional love and undeserved grace for my sin and submitting to His correction and discipline in my life. Trusting Him to use His Word to shape me into the person He wanted me to be. I was and I am today the object of His great love.

The Lord's correction and discipline is given to everyone He loves, accepts, and cherishes in His heart. According to Ephesians 1:5, through Jesus Christ we are adopted as sons of God. Therefore, as His children we are entitled to His great love and His loving hand of discipline.

Admittedly, it took me some time to willingly submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord. At times, the process was painful and difficult, asking me to give up things I took pleasure in. When I obeyed though, I always saw a positive result. Two truths came to life: discipline is good, and discipline is necessary to help me become like Christ.

I felt His great love as God would tell me, "No honey, don't watch that show anymore" or "Wendy, that relationship is not really beneficial to you. It would be in your best interest to break away from it." When I submitted to the discipline, I could see that He really loved me and wanted what was best for me.

As a young mother, I began to understand how giving the discipline really does hurt more than receiving the discipline. How? Because of the love. The giver loves so deep and in a way the receiver cannot understand until the discipline is accepted and applied, and the receiver matures. Eventually, the one receiving the discipline and correction realizes that discipline brings what he or she has always longed for: security, comfort, and peace.

The next time you need to accept discipline, remember the love of the Father who uses correction to shape you into the person He has designed you to be.

Dear Lord, help me to accept and apply Your loving discipline to my life. Thank You for loving me enough not to overlook my faults. You want me to be all that You have planned. Forgive me when I stubbornly stand in the way of the work of Your great love. It warms my heart to know that You accept and cherish me in Your heart, even enough to discipline me when I need it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

Pierced By the Word: 31 Meditations for Your Soul by John Piper

Out of the Mouths of Babes by Wendy Pope

Visit Wendy Pope’s blog

Application Steps:
Read Hebrews 12:1-12. Look for and write down all the benefits of God's discipline.

How do I typically respond to God's discipline?

Do I really believe that discipline means love? Why or why not?

How does discipline really provide security, comfort, and peace?

Power Verses:
Job 5:17, "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty." (NIV)

Proverbs 10:17, "He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray." (NIV)

Hebrews 12:11, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (NIV)

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How is Your Marriage?
Melissa Taylor

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7 (NASB)

A while ago, I wrote a devotion where I revealed portions of my past that continue to affect my marriage today. I followed that up with another one recounting the struggle I've had being intimate with my husband. I received hundreds of letters from women of all ages who could relate to what I had written. Because I also reported that my marriage was now thriving, I received a lot of questions and concerns:

"How did your marriage go from just surviving to thriving?"

"What if your husband won't go to counseling?"

"I don't love my husband anymore; what do I do?"

"My husband doesn't make me feel good; he doesn't even notice me."

"I'm exhausted from trying to be happy."

"All my husband wants is sex; I'm just too tired."

"What if your husband is not a Christian?"

"That's great for you, but what about me?"

I wish I was equipped to answer these questions. Wouldn't it be nice if we could go to Someone who could answer all of our questions for us? We can.

One thing that helped me was prayer. I know that sounds simple. I also know it's not. It can be difficult to pray and be satisfied with God's response. We need to be committed to receiving what God offers, not just asking for what we want.

For years, I spent my time praying for God to change Jeff, my husband. I blamed Jeff for me not feeling good about myself and my life. I thought:

If he would only pay more attention to me … then I'd be happy.
If he would just be more romantic … then I'd be fulfilled.
I wish he understood me.
He loves his work more than me.
I wish he would read the Bible more, or pray with me.

I bought the book, Power of a Praying Wife, certain if I began praying diligently for my husband everything would be fixed. I opened the book, ready to change my husband through prayer. Imagine my surprise when the first thing the author suggested was that I pray for myself! My intentions in reading this book was to change Jeff through my prayers, not to change me. That really opened my eyes. Maybe God didn't want to change my husband; maybe He wanted to change me!

This shifted my focus on what God could do in and through me. Instead of trying to figure out how His Word applied to everyone else (especially Jeff), I focused on how it applied to me. What a difference that made!

As I prayed for myself, I also began praying for Jeff. This time I stayed out of God's way and let Him work in both our hearts. There was not quick, but steady improvement. Looking back to when I first made the decision to focus more on my role in our marriage and less on Jeff's, and compare it to today, it is like night and day.

I am a wife, but even before that I am a child of God. I pray my marriage lasts forever, but I have no guarantee of that. I do have the guarantee that my relationship with Jesus will. That's the relationship I must work on first. Amazingly, when that one is right, the rest falls into place for me. It doesn't mean that all is well, but it means I am well.

The next time you find yourself yearning for more from your marriage and husband, think about this. Instead of asking, "How is my marriage doing?" or "How is my relationship with my husband?" Ask "How am I doing?" or "How is my relationship with Jesus?"

Dear Lord, help me to turn over all of the desires in my heart to You. Work on my relationships, beginning with me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage: Protecting Your Relationship So It Will Last a Lifetime by Stormie Omartian

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

Visit Melissa’s blog

Application Steps:
Commit to having a daily quiet time with God each day this week.

How can I make a difference in my relationships?

Could it be me who needs to change?

Power Verses:
Galatians 6:9, "So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." (NLT)

Mark 11:24-25, "I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too." (NLT)

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The Whitening Process
Marybeth Whalen

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7 (NIV)

When my dental hygienist of a mom gave me a free whitening kit from her dentist's office, I was elated. The cost of the whitening treatment had been far too expensive for me in the past, so I had never pursued it. But free I could do! Unfortunately, I quickly discovered this whole teeth whitening thing wasn't the blissful experience I had anticipated. It was far more painful and complicated than I understood when I began. As I thought about this, I realized it was a parallel to the Christian life.

Whitening is painful. The chemicals they use in the bleaching process can cause pain. The nerves under the gum-line that are exposed to these chemicals can really hurt, making things you used to do without thinking—like eating, for example—impossible. I thought about how this applies to God's process of making us white as snow, as today's verse says. We want that process to be quick and easy. We don't want Him to make things we used to do to become painful or unpleasant. And yet, by exposing those nerves—the stuff we keep hidden under the surface—we are forced to change things about ourselves. We don't want the pain, and yet sometimes pain is the only thing that will cause the change God wants to bring about in us.

Whitening takes a long time. I was asking my mom why they don't just make a product that works in one application. Why does this process have to be so drawn out? "Because," she answered, "The chemicals are so harsh you couldn't take it all in one application, so they break it up a little at a time." I thought about how gentle and loving our Heavenly Father is, allowing us to go through a process of refinement, instead of being exposed to more than we can take all at once. He leads us along the path of righteousness – a journey. He never gives us more than we can take, balancing just the right amount of pain mixed with just the right amount of perfectly timed relief. It might take longer than we want, but we can find peace in knowing that the end-result will be worth waiting for.

Whitening isn't convenient. I couldn't find an ideal time to submit myself to this process. Finding three hours to wear a tray full of chemicals in my mouth just wasn't happening. The refiner's fire is like this. It is never convenient and it certainly won't fit into your neatly ordered life to develop the character of Christ. And if you wait until you are "ready" to submit to it with your whole heart, well, it likely will never get done. God wants us to come before Him and say, "I will make the time to undergo what You have for me, because I want to be all I can for You, Lord." When He hears this from us, He moves within our lives to bring about dazzling change.

God's whitening process—it might not be easy, or tidy, or even close to what we expected, but we can trust it will be for the best.

Dear Lord, the cry of David's heart is the cry of my heart: I want You to cleanse me, to make me whiter than snow. I understand that pain, discomfort and inconvenience will be part of that process. Help me to submit to that process every step of the way and to trust You at all times. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Pierced By the Word: 31 Meditations for Your Soul by John Piper

For the Write Reason General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Visit Marybeth’s blog

Application Steps:
Sit quietly with the Lord asking Him, "Lord, what areas in my life need to be cleaned?"

Enlist the encouragement of a good friend in Christ for accountability in making and keeping the choice to be refined.

Have you gone through a painful time that you can now see was part of your "whitening process"?

Do you struggle with submitting yourself to the inconvenience of God's maturation process?

Power Verses:
I Peter 4:12-13, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (NIV)

Psalm 23:3, "He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake." (NIV)

Zechariah 13:9, "This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.'" (NIV)

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Pause Before Reacting
Lysa TerKeurst

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

A few years ago, Art and I hit a rough place financially. Some investments we'd made went bad and we lost nearly our entire life savings. I was knee deep in 3 small children at the time and hadn't a clue that financial danger was looming on the horizon.

That is until Art came home one day and the look on his face spoke of utter defeat. How could we have lost so much? He'd been wise with our finances. He'd done his research. He was a faithful saver. I stood stunned in our foyer that day, as Art told me the news.

There were many different directions my reaction could have gone in the minutes that followed. I was upset. When Art first talked of making these particular investments, I shared with him that I didn't have a good feeling about it. But, in the end, I let him make the final decision.

So many times in my marriage, I've chosen the wrong words - words that were tainted with bitterness, words that were emotionally toxic. But I'm so thankful the Lord had been working on preparing my heart for this moment and instead of reacting immediately with what would have been a disastrous response, I paused. I allowed the Holy Spirit a few seconds to interrupt my natural flesh feelings.

Then, because of God's Spirit working in me, I was able to wrap my arms around my husband and speak life-giving words into his weary heart. "I love you Art. I loved you yesterday when we had everything. I love you today when we have nothing. I love you for who you are, not what you have."

A few years later, Art and I were on Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program. On the show Art was asked, "I know you and Lysa had a rough start to your marriage. But what happened that made you know you'd stick by her forever, no matter what?"

Without hesitation, Art recounted my reaction over the lost investments.

I cried.

Had I been left to my own flesh reaction that day, it could have set us on the road to marital disaster. But, because of God's response being stored up in me, this situation wound up bringing us closer together than we'd ever been.

I realized how crucial it is to always be aware of God's preparation in our lives. Because He stands in our yesterday, today and tomorrow, He sees all. And He knows the perfect way to prepare our hearts for every situation.

When we embrace His preparations, even a girl with firecrackers in her blood like me can have reactions that honor God and breathe life into relationships.

Dear Lord, remind me to pause before I react. Sometimes the stresses of life pull at my emotions, which cause me to have reactions that tear at my relationships. Please forgive me for poor reactions in my past. Thank You for second chances. Thank You for the way You prepare my heart for everything You see that I'll be facing today, tomorrow and in all my tomorrows to come. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Come hear Lysa speak in Dallas, Texas at the National Christian Book Expo. For more information, click here.

Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog

Capture His Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Part of embracing His preparations are to pray prayers that make God my focus rather than my circumstances--- Here are a few I've been inspired to pray:

God, despite my circumstances, I will find reasons to praise You.

God, even when I feel disappointed by what life brings, I will trust You to bring good out of bad.

God, no matter what, I will hold on to You and Your truths.

God, my deepest desire is for more of You in me. And if that is the desire of my heart, I will never be disillusioned.

When hard situations arise, do I tend to react out of my emotions or out of a well-prepared heart of love? How might pausing help me to react better?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 15:4, "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." (NIV)

John 15:4, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (NIV)

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A Brownie Knife
Sylvia Basham, She Speaks! Graduate

"But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose." 1 Corinthians 12:18 (ESV)

Oddly enough, I'm thinking about plastic knives today. You know, the kind you get with your to-go meal at restaurants, packaged with a plastic fork, spoon, and napkin?

For years I ditched the plastic knife, thinking they are a waste of energy and not very useful at cutting my food. Steak, chicken, pot roast …metal knives slice right through these, but not plastic knives. Hard foods are not their forte. Where plastic knives do excel, however, is in cutting fresh from the oven, piping hot brownies!

Have you ever cut brownies with a table knife and made a ragged mess out of them? Well, I've discovered a way to enjoy them, and keep them in tact, while they're still warm. I've used this trick successfully for years, as my hips will attest. Nice squares of warm, gooey chocolate goodness with smooth edges can be yours when cut with a plastic knife.

Knowing plastic knives' special knack for cutting brownies, I use them specifically for that purpose. I don't try to cut cardboard, steak or wood with them. That would be a senseless misuse of their gifts.

Oh, but how often have I misused my gifts or stepped away from my natural talents, attempting something I am not really cut out to do? This usually leads to frustration and a mess.

The point is this: God designed each one of us with certain abilities, but we tend to look at the abilities of the other women and we get caught in the comparison trap. We try to emulate her gifts and her talents when God has called us to something totally different.

Some of my friends have better culinary skills. Some of my friends train their children better than I. Some of my friends are well organized. Some of my friends...well, it really doesn't matter. What does matter is this: What am I going to do with what I am?

Paul puts it this way in I Corinthians 12.17-19: "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?" (ESV)

In what way has God gifted you? Have you yet to use that talent for His glory? Are you a wonderful hostess? Then don't compare yourself to the woman who is a teacher. Are you an organizer? Then don't compare yourself to the woman who is creative. Are you great with children? Then don't compare yourself to the woman who writes the newsletter.

After many years of anguish over my place in this world, or in my church, or in a women's group, I've come to embrace that which God has blessed me with. And I've decided I love being a plastic brownie knife!

Dear Lord, thank You for the gifts and talents You've given each of us. Please show us where we are most useful for Your kingdom and Your purposes. Give us boldness to carry out Your will especially when it might be an unexpected task. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
She Speaks Conference

Youniquely Woman: Becoming Who God Designed You To Be by Kay Arthur, Emilie Barnes and Donna Otto

Shaped with Purpose CD and companion Workbook by Renee Swope

The Confident Woman by Anabel Gillham

Application Steps:
Pray and ask God to reveal your gifts and passions which can best be used to further His kingdom. Embrace and excel in your uniqueness. Be available when opportunities arise for which your talents are best suited.

Are you grateful for your gifts or do you dismiss them as useless?

Are you second-guessing God and making comparisons with the talents of others?

Will you choose to love who God created you to be?

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (NIV)

Matthew 25:22-23, "The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" (NIV)

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Keep Chalking the Line
Lynn Cowell

"And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'" Genesis 2:16 -17 (NIV)

When it came to football, my mother-in-law gave me great advice, "You can either get mad or learn to love it too." I took the latter part of her advice. So, along with 90 million other Americans, I was recently glued to my TV watching the Super Bowl. It reminded me of several years ago when my husband and I had the opportunity to be one of the screaming fans attending the Super Bowl.

Knowing this was once-in-a-lifetime, we arrived at the stadium hours before the game to watch preparations. We took in everything, including the caretakers pushing their carts up and down, carefully chalking in the boundary lines.

At any football game, depending on the weather, these lines might be facing a tough day. Rain, snow, cleats, smashed bodies might beat against them for hours. At the end of the game, they are no longer white, straight and clean. In some places, they may have been completely rubbed away. But when game time rolls around again, the caretakers pull out their carts and chalk the lines back in.

Often, as a parent of two teens and a pre-teen, I grow weary of "chalking in the lines." Peer pressure, TV, music, and FaceBook all beat against the boundary lines of safety and obedience I have helped create for them. I am prone to think to myself as my children leave the house with keys in hand, "I don't have to remind them to not blare the music. They know. I've told them before." Or, "It isn't necessary to tell them not to have the opposite sex in the house when you are gone. You have told them that many times." But then I remember that the world is constantly repeating its opinion on what is fun, acceptable, and okay. So I must chalk in the lines by reminding them of the boundaries the Lord has called me to put in their life.

The Lord is our example of setting boundaries with those we love. In the Garden of Eden, He made it clear to His children that they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He set the boundary. It was then up to Adam and Eve to obey.

Just recently, I had to chalk the lines again. My son asked me if he could attend an event, to which my answer had to be "no." With tear-filled eyes, I explained why. Needless to say, he was not happy! But then I remembered another conversation we had several months ago when he said, "Mom, thanks for my curfew. It has kept me out of trouble many times." That was evidence enough for me that when we set the boundaries, with love, they know we care deeply about them. When the day has been long, when you are tired, trying to cook, run a load of laundry and figure out what time you need to leave for the next rehearsal, my hope is that you will not grow weary in "chalking in your lines." I pray that one day soon, your child will thank you, too.

Dear Lord, help me. Sometimes as a parent, I get tired: tired of going against the world that seems to have no boundaries. In Your strength, help me to lovingly show my child the way. Soften their heart to accept and obey. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Boundaries: When to Say Yes & How to Say No by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

Visit Lynn’s blog

Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement

Application Steps:
Write a list of boundaries for your family and your home. During natural conversations (in the car, during breakfast) casually bring these up a little at a time, making sure your child knows what your boundaries are.

Are there any areas in your own life where you have overstepped God's boundaries?

Do you discuss boundaries with your child at times when it won't turn into a heated argument?

Power Verses:
2 Thessalonians 3:13, "And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right." (NIV)

Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV)

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Joyful Humility
Zoe Elmore

"The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility." Proverbs 15:33 (NASB)

I am passionate about football! When our favorite college team beat a nationally ranked opponent, my husband and I cheered all the way home. Their preparations on the practice field had brought victory in the game. In a post-game interview the player who scored the winning touchdown made a comment that caught our attention. He said, "Our coach always encourages us to remain humble in victory." Wow! Joyful humility; how refreshing!

His comment reminded me of Moses, who was "educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action" (Acts 7:22, NIV). After killing an Egyptian and fleeing for his life, Moses spent the next forty years in a hot, dry, forsaken place of anonymity. Talk about humbling circumstances … Moses, a prominent member of the royal family spent his days on the parched sands of the desert. Though he had been sidelined, God used that time to prepare him for great things to come. When God called Moses back into the game, Moses obeyed with joyful humility. Humility comes before honor in God's Kingdom.

Likewise, David grew up away from the spotlight of public glamour, tending animals in the fields. As he lived a life of solitude and faith, God prepared him for great things. Just like Moses, David stepped into the spotlight with an attitude of joyful humility.

If you look at the life of John the Baptist, you will find large crowds came to hear his sermons and to be baptized. Eventually that stopped when the crowds turned their attention toward Jesus. Others expected John to be jealous, but John's reaction was one of joyful humility: "He must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30, NIV).

While many clamor for honor, prestige and the spotlight, God calls us to cultivate joyful humility and service. So like that football coach and his star player, like Moses, David and John the Baptist before us, let's live the powerful truth that humility can be joyous and it comes before honor.

Dear Lord, I thank You for humbling Yourself and dying on the cross so that I could know the joy of eternal life with You. I bow before You in joyful humility as I seek to make Your glory known today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Zoe’s blog

The Tale of Three Trees Retold by Angela Elwell Hunt

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

Application Steps:
Demonstrate an attitude of joyful humility today – serve the Lord and others with a positive attitude.

What am I gaining from God's Word to nourish a life of joyful humility?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 66:2, "'Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?' declares the Lord. 'This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. '" (NIV)

Philippians 2:8, "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (NIV)

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Be Mine
Rachel Olsen

“My lover is mine, and I am his.” Song of Solomon 2:16 (NLT)

While I spent the last few months thinking about Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, another group of people likely spent it focused on Valentine’s Day: greeting card writers. Valentine’s Day is the second-biggest card-buying holiday besides Christmas. More than 200 million cards will be exchanged this weekend. That’s a lot of love.

Have you ever watched somebody pick out a greeting card for someone special? Growing up, my family owned a chain of Hallmark stores where I worked as a sales clerk. The occasional customer would breeze in, look at two or three cards and then head to my cash register. However, most would spend 10, 20, even 30 minutes reading through cards, searching for the just right expression of love.

In Christ, God sent us the ultimate Valentine. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16, The Message). Whole and lasting, two things we desperately seek but rarely find in this world. Long after the greeting cards I might receive are forgotten, I know that God’s love for me endures.

Jesus demonstrated His love for us and taught us how to live and love each other. He received criticism, testing and rejection -- and yet gathered strength from God to turn the other cheek. Jesus prayed for us, and His enemies. He even suffered crucifixion in order to save us from our sin. Jesus is God’s perfect expression of love. His life and death are God saying to me and you, “Be Mine.”

Yes, God loves us so much that He gave us His most valuable gift, Himself. And after Jesus rose from the grave and ascended back to heaven, God sent His Spirit to remain with us. As He shares Himself with us through His Son and His Sprit, God says, “You are my beloved.” Hearing that is better than any sentiment the best card-writer could pen. God Himself, given for you and me -- as well as anyone willing to open their heart to Him -- demonstrates the ultimate expression of love. Like melt-in-your-mouth chocolates from a heart-shape satin box, He invites us to taste and see that He is good.

Close your eyes and hear Him whispering to you today, “Be Mine.”

Dear Lord, Thank You for first loving me, and for showing me what love truly is. I’m so grateful You invited me to be Yours. Like a bouquet of exquisite roses in a simple earthen vase, I treasure Your presence in this “jar of clay.” May others see You displayed in me this Valentine’s, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Have You Received God’s “Valentine” in Christ?

My Prince Will Come by Sheri Rose Shepherd

Want More Love? For teens by Kathy Wierenga Buchanan

Stop by Rachel’s blog

Application Steps:
Take some time to read through scriptures about love. You can read through them in Paul’s writings online here at

Do I realize the great extent of God’s love for me?

How do I respond to that? What does it look like to “Be God’s?”

Power Verses:
John 15:12-13, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (NIV)

1 John 3:16a, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (NIV)

Romans 5:5, “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (NLT)

1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Unexpected Treasure
Amy Carroll

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)

“Where is that goat?” the young Bedouin shepherd muttered under his breath in frustration. He clambered over the rocks as he moved up the cliff on his search. It was hot, and he was impatient. Rather than going into the darkness of the cave near him to look, the shepherd tossed a rock into the opening and listened for a protesting “Bahhhh!” Instead, he heard the breaking of a pot. Suddenly the goat was forgotten, and the shepherd’s curiosity prevailed. He entered the cave to find one of the greatest archeological and religious treasures ever discovered—the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Visiting an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls recently captured my imagination, and my mind pictured the story above. The tale continues that this nomadic shepherd took the scraps of paper rolled in a cloth and stored in the pot to a merchant in Bethlehem. From there, the treasure passed from hand to hand until they came to rest in a special museum at Hebrew University named the Shrine of the Book. The fact that these ancient documents of God’s own Word lay moldering, unfound in a cave for over a thousand years before being found in the search for a wandering goat seized my heart and mind.

Paul tells us that each believer is a jar of clay that contains treasure. When we look through scripture, we can see that we contain peace (Philippians 4:7), the forgiveness of sins, redemption, the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7), joy (John 15:11) and the resurrection power of Christ (Philippians 3:10).

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls provides a powerful and biblical picture of how a broken vessel can release the power of God into our lives and those around us. Brokenness, although painful, is one of God’s means of showing His all-surpassing power in our lives. Even when the cause of our brokenness is the result of living in a fallen and sin-filled world, God is able to show Himself as the Redeemer by pouring out His treasures through us.

Are you a broken or crushed pot today? Are you suffering because of the loss of a job or the current financial crisis? Are your emotions broken and bruised because of the rejection of a friend or husband? Are you experiencing crushing loneliness because of the loss of someone dearly loved? Is your heart torn and bleeding for a wayward child? If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, He says even in catastrophic times He is not only with you but longing to pour out through you. God’s Word that you have been storing away in the quiet times with Him can be revealed through your brokenness. He sees your pain, and His heart breaks with your every hurt. You are dearly loved. Hold on to His promise that your brokenness is not wasted but releases His Spirit to do works of perseverance, power, character and hope.

At times, I’ve been a very intact pot, moldering and hidden in a cave while the world around me sinks into the abyss of the absence of His Word. I pray with my broken sisters today that God would use the broken places in each of us for His great glory and our ultimate good. I pray even as He walks with us through the broken places of our lives that His Word would be exposed and powerful in a lost and dying world.

Dear Lord, I come to you in brokenness today. I give myself over to you even in my weakness and frailness. No matter if I’ve been broken by sin or circumstances, I ask you to fill my broken pot and pour out through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God's Story by Wendy Blight

Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents: Words to Pray When You Don't Know What to Say by Susanne Scheppmann

Redemption by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley

Visit Amy’s blog

Application Steps:
Read the power verses below.

Memorize one of them and quote it often as you struggle in a difficult time.

How can I come to know God’s Word better so that it can flow out in times of brokenness?

Power Verses:
Phillipians 3:10-11, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (NIV)

James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (NIV)

Romans 5:3-5, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

What Has God Done For Me Lately?
Tracie Miles

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 (NIV)

Is the glass half full or half empty? Is it partly sunny or partly cloudy? Perspective makes all the difference.

Even for strong Christians who are grounded in their faith, discouragement can easily sneak its way into hearts and minds as life deals us chaos. As we struggle with the challenges and difficulties of everyday life, or things that happened to us that were unfair or unwarranted, it is easy to get pulled into a habitual mindset of negativity. Just like that old song from the ‘80s says, we may find ourselves asking God, “What have you done for me lately?”

Our answer to that question will depend entirely upon our perspective. God does more for us each and every day than we deserve, but it’s so easy to lose sight of the good, because we are caught up in the reality of the bad. How do we combat this perfectly human attitude?


Resolve to have an attitude like Christ.

Take inventory of our every blessing.

Life. Your every breath. Your every heart beat. A spouse or loved one. Children. Clothes that need to be washed because God gave you clothes to wear, and a way to wash those clothes. Good health to help those whose health is failing. Trusted and educated doctors to treat you when you are facing health challenges. A house that needs cleaning. A car to drive. The ability to purchase gas for the car. A job to go to. The ability to be a stay at home mom or wife. Healthy kids who can play music or sports. Friends. Family. Freedom. Jesus. Eternal life.

What is on your inventory list today? If you were honest with yourself, would you say you have been looking for the positive aspects of the situations in your life? Are you considering how God could be using those things to draw you closer to Him? Or have you been primarily focused on the negative?

During times of negativity, we actually become our own enemy. We wage a battle in our mind because we look at our situation from our own perspective, instead of what God may be doing through our situation. So in order to change our minds, we have to choose to change the way we think – our perspective. Attitude is a choice.

Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” What do you usually see?

To quote an old cliché, today is the first day of the rest of your life, and it is never too late to become an optimist! I have heard it takes 21 days of doing something for it to become a new habit. The more you practice challenging your thought patterns, the more automatic it will become. Changes may not take place immediately, but over time, the challenge gets easier, and optimism becomes the norm instead of the exception.

Are you willing to take the challenge to become an optimist today? The rewards of looking for God’s goodness in every situation will be a healthier and happier heart.

Dear Lord, help me with my human tendency to be critical or look for the negative in situations. Forgive me for a lack of gratitude for all You have given me. Thank You for Your patience with me as I strive to be a Godly example. Guide my heart to recognize You at work, instead of seeing things from an earthly perspective. Lead me into a closer relationship with You by helping me remember to count my blessings every day. I n Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Reinventing Your Rainbow by Tracie Miles

A Thankful Heart: How Gratitude Brings Hope and Healing to our Lives by Carole Lewis

Visit Tracie’s Blog

Application Steps:

Draw two columns on a piece of paper. On the left side, make a list of the difficult situations or daily frustrations in your life. On the right side, write down something positive about that situation or frustration, and how God can grow your faith by depending on Him about that situation. If you have a hard time finding something positive, pray and ask God to show you.

Is my attitude typically one of negativity or optimism?

If a close friend were asked to describe me as a pessimist or an optimist, which one would they choose?

Power Verses:
1 Peter 1:1-3, “Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.” (The Message)

© 2009 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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Pleading for Salvation?
Luann Prater

“…for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:9 (NIV)

Kay was a prodigal. She had been stunningly beautiful, but now her beauty was hollow and worn. Downcast with shoulders slumped, she walked through the doors of her childhood church. The reaction of the congregation burned an image that remained in my young mind. Heads turned and steely whispers followed her as she made her way forward during the invitation. She fell to her knees at the altar. A group gathered around her and prayed for what seemed like an eternity. She slowly rose to her feet and was asked, “Did you pray through?” to which the weary wanderer replied, “I think so.”

I don’t remember ever seeing Kay back in church again.

“Pray through.” In my small town church this phrase was synonymous with striving, straining, and working to find grace and deliverance. When I became a prodigal myself and wanted desperately to find answers and deliverance, I remembered the forlorn look of Kay and decided to keep wandering. It just seemed easier than trying to “pray through” somehow.

Have you been wandering through life looking for answers? Do you long to return to the Father after being far away but hesitate, wondering what it will cost?

When coming “back home” we often have the same mentality as the prodigal son in Luke15:18-19, "’Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants (ESV).’” Feeling worn down and unworthy, we return to our Heavenly Father thinking we have to work like hired servants to earn our place.

After many years, I discovered that forgiveness and salvation aren’t chores for us to labor over. They are tremendous free gifts from an amazing God! How incredibly liberating to know that Jesus offers these to any and all who believe on His name.

Jesus says, “Come to me.” Period. It really isn’t any more complicated than that. He loves you. He has been waiting for you and He welcomes you with open arms. We don’t have to work for forgiveness or “pray through” like those well-meaning people in my childhood church felt the need to do. God’s heart for us is the same as the prodigal son’s father in Luke 15:20. “So he [the prodigal son] got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (NIV).

When you allow Jesus to walk through the doors of your heart, no pleading is necessary, only faith that His salvation and grace are your gifts.

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the gift of salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ. Today I come to You and believe that You are my Savior. I ask You to come into my heart and forgive me. Help me to live in the freedom that You promised to give. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Broken into Beautiful: How God Restores a Wounded Heart by Gwen Smith

Confessions of a Good Christian Girl: The Secrets Women Keep and the Grace that Saves Them by Tammy Maltby

Visit Luann’s Blog

Application Steps:

If you don’t know Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, ask Him into your heart today.

If you are a believer and have seen weary wanderers walk through the doors of your church, show them unconditional love. Be the grace-filled Jesus with skin on to them.

Do I understand God’s grace; His unmerited favor towards me, His daughter?

Who in my world needs a kind word or touch from me?

Have wandered away from home - even in some small area of my life - and need to return to the Father?

Power Verses:
John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (NIV)

Hebrews 10:22, “…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (NIV)

Matthew 11: 28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (NIV)

© 2009 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

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Hand-Made Heart
Lee Merrill, She Speaks! Graduate

“He made their hearts, so He understands everything they do.” Psalm 33:15 (NLT)

I love hand-made gifts. Just knowing that someone loves me enough to take the time to create something just for me touches my "I feel loved" button!

Personally, I can't sew, paint, or do anything remotely crafty. In fact, when I was a high school summer missionary working with underprivileged children in Houston, Texas, I wore a pin every day that said, "I Don't Do Crafts."

One Christmas, as a money-deprived newlywed, I decided I would take on the creative gift-giving task of decoupaging glass platters with decorative tissue paper. The craft show that inspired me turned out these gorgeous serving platters resembling stained glass. Well, mine looked like crumbled up tissue paper glued to the bottom of a glass platter. I can still remember the shame I felt after giving one of those ugly platters to my creative mother-in-law.

My lack of talent in the crafts department gives me a deep appreciation for the skills of others. I love admiring hand-made scrapbooks, cross-stitched wall hangings, hand-painted pottery, and all kinds of other crafty things. The scrapbooks my mother-in-law has given me over the years are some of my most prized possessions. (Glad she didn't hold the ugly platter against me!)

Did you know that our Heavenly Father is a crafter? Psalm 33:15 says that God, "made [our] hearts, so He understands everything [we] do.” (NLT)

How does it make you feel to know that the Ultimate Crafter--Almighty God--fashioned your heart individually?! You have a hand-made heart! God is such an amazing crafter that He doesn't even have to spend countless hours toiling over the task. Psalm 33:9 tells us, "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." (NIV)

I can just picture my loving Lord almost four decades ago thinking to Himself, Hmmm...the 1970's are quickly approaching. It’s time to create Lee. I'm going to make her tender-hearted and full of compassion. I know she'll have a leaning toward laziness and inconsistency, but I'll give her victory over that when she's ready. I want to use her to point people to me and to the power of prayer. I want her to be there to lift up the downcast and point the defeated to triumph through My power!

If you are feeling less-than-precious today, pray these words based on Psalm 139:13-14 out loud, and take comfort as you allow the truth to settle into your heart and soul: God, You created my innermost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I’ll praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. The works of Your hands – including me – are wonderful, help me know that full well.

Dear Lord, we can be very critical of Your one-of-a-kind creations called “us.” Please forgive my lack of thanksgiving for all the beautiful things You hand-fashioned in me. You and I both know I have flaws that need work, but nevertheless, I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the Master Crafter—You. Polish and shape me into exactly who You had in mind when you knit me together in my mother’s womb. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Your Creator?

Shaped with Purpose CD and companion Workbook by Renee Swope

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

She Speaks! Conference

Application Steps:
In your journal, write out a prayer of thanksgiving to God as you reflect on the beautiful qualities He created in you. Include the qualities that will be made “beautiful in His time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Keep an eye out for someone who needs to be reminded that she is a one-of-a-kind creation of the Master Crafter.

When you declare you are “no good,” what are you telling God about His skills as a Creator?

Do you truly believe God’s Word when He says you are wonderfully made? If not, ask Him to change your mind!

Power Verses:
Song of Solomon 4:7, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” (ESV)

Psalm 139: 13-14: “… for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV)

Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image…” (NIV)

© 2009 by Lee Merrill. All rights reserved.

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Risky Behavior (The Good Kind!)
T. Suzanne Eller

"Peter said to Jesus, 'If it is You, Lord, tell me to come to You on the water.' Jesus said, 'Come!' Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus.’” Matthew 14:28-29 (New Life Bible)

A long time ago I took a risk with God. Opening my heart to Him meant that I would be vulnerable. I had learned that if I stepped outside my carefully constructed walls, I could be hurt. Was I willing to let God past those barriers? Letting Him in became a first step in a life of risky behavior - the good kind! My mantra – the beat to which I marched – became “do it afraid.”

God had plans for me that I could never imagine. If I could go back in time, I would find a young girl sitting outside on a curb, afraid to go back into her home because of the chaos. She was hurting. She was angry. She wanted to run away and never come back. I’d wrap my arms around her and tell her that God loves her. That He had plans for her life that she couldn’t even imagine. I’d tell her to take risks.

It was a risk to become an author. It was a risk to become a speaker. But there were other, more personal, risks that came first. It was a risk to believe that I could have a loving, safe and fun family. It was a risk to break free from the entanglements of my past and embrace who God intended me to be. It was a risk to take the mask off and be myself with others.

Every time I took a step outside my comfort zone, I grew spiritually. I discovered God’s destiny rather than operating within the limitations of my own experiences. I discovered a powerful truth along the way: When we take calculated risks, we discover talents and facets of our personality waiting to be developed.

But Suzie, what if I put myself out there, make myself vulnerable, and wind up getting hurt? Fear can be our largest obstacle to stepping out in courage. A step of faith might not look like success to others, but every risk can ignite more courage. But still, what if I fail? Take time to consider the other “what if’s?” …

-What if you live in authenticity and discover new and lasting relationships (even with those in your own home)?
-What if you face your fears and overcome them?
-What if you unmask your emotions and actually deal with them?
-What if you tell your secrets and they no longer suffocate you in the hidden places of your heart?

Step out of your boat, as Peter did, and discover who you are and what you can do as a child of an amazing God. It’s a calculated risk, and it’s worth it.

Dear Father, I am climbing out of the boat today just like Peter. I hear Your truth instead of the voice of doubt and fear. I trust that You know me as my Creator. Help me to take a baby step today toward You and my destiny. Thank You for reaching out and helping me walk on unfamiliar and exciting waters. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future by T. Suzanne Eller

Visit Suzie’s blog

Application Steps:
Write down this word in five places where you can see it throughout the day: ANTICIPATE

(Begin to anticipate what God can do in your life.)

It is important to differentiate between a calculated risk and risky behavior. Risky behavior—the bad kind—is anything that goes against Scripture or that has the potential to physically or emotionally harm you or your loved ones.

A calculated risk:
o Is planned and has a specific goal in mind. (I want to be a speaker, so I will go to a training conference, take a course, connect with others with the same passion.)

o May cost you something (thus the word “risk”), but you’ve weighed the cost vs. the benefits and the possible advantages are worth it.

o Is trying new things, exploring talents that lie dormant, and reaching out to new friends.

o Is believing that you can be accepted and valued for who you are.

Power Verses:
Ephesians 1:19-20 “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” (NLT)

© 2009 By T. Suzanne Eller. All Rights Reserved.

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Orange and White Barrels
Van Walton

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths… I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)

Last spring I monotonously approached my neighborhood exit where a newly posted sign announced that I could not make my normal left turn. Lined up on the road as far as I could see around the bend was a neatly laid row of orange and white barrels. Road construction had interrupted my usual routine.

My daily plans would now be detoured due to the construction. Faced with this disruption that would surely put a kink in my life, I felt agitated and even hit the steering wheel with my fist. I would have to design new ways to reach my destinations and I wasn’t happy about it.

One day when construction was completed enough to allow some through traffic, I turned left and surveyed the sights. I couldn’t believe what I saw. No more lovely forest. Gone were the inviting trails into the woods. Decades-old wooden fences and bridges had disappeared. Honestly, the place resembled the combined affects of earthquake and fire. That whole summer I rolled up to the intersection with its orange and white barrels, and it triggered in me negative thoughts and feelings.

Soon after, my life was more seriously interrupted. A disturbing phone call forced me to drop everything. The bad news exploded like a bomb - my heart and mind quaked with emotion. Spiritual frustration filled my soul in the following months. I can’t remember how many times my fist hit hard places. I screamed at God when life carried me away from the direction I wanted to take.

“How long will You take me out of my way?” I questioned God. I longed for my life before the interruption. Managing my days on autopilot was no longer an option as I faced my new circumstances. Slowly I began to see that this spiritual reconstruction paralleled the roadwork outside my neighborhood.

Once all the orange and white barrels were gone and I was free to turn left at that intersection, I appreciated the results. Smooth asphalt spread out before me. Two lanes of traffic moved steadily. The “earthquake zone” had been transformed into a park-like setting. A tree-lined sidewalk encouraged pedestrians to walk toward the ballpark and the neighborhood church. Admiring the new landscape, I realized I’d been inconvenienced, but now I could see that the long delays were worthwhile.

Today, although my life continues to zigzag through various “construction sites,” I realize God allowed me to experience the orange and white-barreled roads to illustrate a truth. He is at work up ahead rearranging the landscape of my life. Psalm 37:34 says, “Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land.” (NLT)

I may not be able to see what that land looks like, but I believe His Word. So, with His help, I put my hope in Him, traveling the paths He lays out for me, even though they are not the familiar roads I would normally take.

Father God, You know how difficult life is right now. My interrupted life and the difficult roads You have me traveling feel like they’ll break me. Give me the capacity to graciously travel the paths You lay out before me. Help me trust You, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Van Walton’s blog

From the Pound to the Palace by Van Walton

Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner by Wendy Blight

Application Steps:
Memorize one of the referenced Bible verses. Pray it out loud when disruptions threaten to interrupt your life.

How has my life been interrupted recently?

How would God have me respond to this most recent disturbance?

Power Verses:
Psalm 25:4, “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.” (NLT)

© 2009 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

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Zoe Elmore

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

Who knew that rest was something to seek after like one would pursue a virtuous quality? After all, aren’t virtues supposed to be difficult and even require heroic action? I consider rest to be passive, a do-nothing kind of thing. What is the value of that in our daily lives, especially in the life of a busy woman?

Rest, like all things, is only good if it is taken in the right measure and at the right time. When I was a singer (in my former years), I learned that a properly placed rest is as effective as any note. By putting rest into practice in our lives, we reap the benefit and value it brings. As women, many of us have forgotten the importance of rest and how to employ the proper placing of the pause.

When people ask how things are going, more often than not the response is, “Busy as usual,” or “There aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.”

Why are we so busy and why do many of us feel this way?

I think one reason may be that our society has sold women a false sense of self-worth by connecting our value to our level of busyness. We should ask ourselves the important question found in Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or God? Or am I still trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Now please don’t think I am suggesting all women go on permanent rest and take to our beds leaving our responsibilities and families to suffer. Heaven forbid! What I am suggesting is this. When faced with another opportunity to “do” one more thing, “go” to one more event or “host” one more party, resist the urge to immediately throw up your hand and volunteer. Pause and pray, asking the Lord’s direction regarding each matter. Perhaps the Lord has someone else in mind to “fill” the position.

Some women have discovered the secret to living a full yet balanced life. Their busy life is punctuated with periods of rest, and that rest consists of a time of prayer. When I see women who rest in the midst of their busy lives I do not see them frantic and harried like myself. Their spiritual balance allows them to accomplish more with less stress.

Perhaps they have learned to employ the truths found in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (NIV). Just like farmers hand-crafted a yoke for every work-animal to help and assist them in their work, these women have learned that the Lord’s yoke is perfectly fitted to us in order to assist us in the work He has ordained. And resting is one component of that work. When we are obedient to do the work God has called us to we can experience the joy and benefit of a balanced spiritual life as we utilize the proper place of rest.

Dear Lord, Thank You for reminding me that rest is an important part of spiritual balance. Teach me to seek Your direction as I prioritize my life’s busyness. I want to experience and enjoy the balance of work and rest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life by Keri Wyatt Kent

Do You Know Him?

Visit Zoe Elmore’s blog

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

Application Steps:
The next time your life becomes frantic and harried, pause for a time of restful prayer.

Memorize the power verses below and learn the benefits of rest; it will help you achieve balance in your spiritual life.

What can you do to ensure proper rest is a part of your life?

What is the Lord calling you to “give up” as a way of making room for proper rest?

Power Verses:
Genesis 2:3, “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (NIV)

Exodus 33:14 “The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’" (NIV)

Hebrews 4:10, “For anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” (NIV)

© 2008 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.

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You Are Not Alone
Wendy Blight

“All that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it to dry land.” Exodus 14:21 (NIV)

Do you feel alone?

Does God feel far away?

Does life seem dark - are you afraid?

At one point in my life, I answered “yes” to each of these questions. Following a tragic incident in my life, fear filled my heart. God seemed so distant. I felt completely alone.

It was then that God placed a familiar story before me from Exodus chapter 14. It tells the story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. Initially, Pharaoh agreed to let God’s people go, but soon after they left, he changed his mind. He began to pursue them with 600 of his best chariots. The approaching army terrified the Israelites. They cried out to Moses. Moses reminded the people of God’s promise that He would deliver them. But their circumstances told them otherwise. They heard the rumbling of the chariots charging toward them. They saw the huge body of water blocking their only escape.

Can you imagine their fear? The reality they knew was that Pharaoh’s finest soldiers were pursuing them, and there was a huge obstacle, the Red Sea, preventing their escape. God’s people had no idea the miracle awaiting them.

When Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, Scripture says, “All that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it to dry land” (Exodus 14:21). Because it was dark, the Israelites could not quite see what God was doing. In the dark of night, God tirelessly worked on behalf of His children to deliver them, just as He had promised.

It’s as if the words of this story leapt off the pages of Scripture and into my dark, desolate heart. Although the Israelites could not see or hear God, He was working in the midst of their darkness. I too could not “see” or “feel” God, but He was at work around me in invisible ways – present and active, working on my behalf to carry me through my dark place.

In the dark, we have two choices. We can take matters into our own hands, turning to drugs or alcohol to numb our pain, seeking out friends’ advice, or the latest self-help book, never really knowing if any of them is the way to healing and wholeness. Or we can look to God. We can open His Word and know that He guarantees healing and wholeness.

Would you like the Truth of God’s Word to come alive for you? Would you like Him to come along side of you? You need only ask. The Lord promises, “When you seek me with all your heart, you will find me.” (Jeremiah 29:13). You don’t have to feel alone - seek God today!

Dear Heavenly Father, it is so difficult to walk through darkness. You feel so far away. I feel so alone. Thank You for the promise that You will never leave me or forsake me, and that there is nothing in all creation that will ever separate me from the love I have in You and in Your Son. Walk ever so closely with me during this darkness, Lord. Speak to me. Give me hope. Show me the treasures in my darkness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God’s Story by Wendy Blight

For more on Wendy’s story, visit her blog

Sanctuary Devotional Bible

Application Steps:
Sometimes God allows difficult circumstances to do a mighty transformational work in our lives. Will you examine your heart and honestly ask the Lord whether your difficult circumstances might not be a part of His refining process for your make you more like Him? Journal what you discover.

Reflect on this verse from Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to...bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners...” Allow God the Healer, Jesus the Redeemer to come bind up your brokenness, show you the way to freedom, and release you from the darkness. He is waiting.

Power Verses:
1 John 1:5b, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (NIV)

Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

© 2009 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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