Birds in My Mustard Tree
Susanne Scheppmann

"He said to them, 'Because of the littleness of your faith [that is, your lack of firmly relying trust]. For truly I say to you, if you have faith [that is living] like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.'" Matthew 17:20 (AMP)

What are birds in a mustard tree? Let me see if I can explain.

My pomegranate bush resembles a Christmas tree decorated by the hand of God. Its branches hang heavy with crimson bulbs of fruit. It sways in the wind and I catch a whiff of the overripe fruit. Various sparrows and robins sit on the branches like "twelve partridges in a pear tree." I hear the high-pitched music of finches and hummingbirds beyond the lush fruit, deep within the branches. The birds on the outer limbs dance while the hidden birds sing a bird medley.

To me this pomegranate bush reflects in the physical world what happens in the spiritual world of faith. Our faith may be small and sometimes hidden, but it can make our souls sing. We find Jesus speaking about faith in our key verse, "He said to them, 'Because of the littleness of your faith [that is, your lack of firmly relying trust]. For truly I say to you, if you have faith [that is living] like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you'" Matthew 17:20 (AMP). He taught that even small faith could move a mountain.

But what are birds in a mustard tree? It's my phrase for recognizing God's response to my smallest faith and most doubt-filled prayers. The birds in my mustard tree are proof to me that God works as long as I have the tiniest bit of faith in His almighty power.

Author David Jeremiah wrote in My Heart's Desire:

"You may sometimes feel awkward and uncomfortable, and find yourself saying, 'Is this really true? I don't see anything in it. I don't hear God's voice. I don't feel His presence.' There are days like that for all of us. The pursuit of God has no shortcuts. You simply must keep walking, keep seeking, and keep yearning. Keep at it, and you won't be disappointed."

One example of mustard seed faith comes to mind as I think back to when my two sons were little boys. I began to pray for their future wives. So, I made a "shopping list" of prayers for daughters-in-law. My list included: godly, kind, sense of humor, good cooks, and fun families. Those prayers have been answered completely. I consider my "daughters-in-love" to be two of the most evident birds to result from my faith.

What would you list as evidences of your faith?

If we combined our lists, we would be amazed at the variety of "birds" we would see. In the days and years ahead, we will see many more birds come to roost in our mustard trees of faith.

Even if my faith is as tiny as a mustard seed, God can bring about miraculous results. He can grow my faith so large that it can host a multitude of His wonderful deeds. I call these the "birds in my mustard tree."

Dear Lord, show me the variety of truths about faith. I ask today for You to reveal to me the unseen aspects of my faith. Grant me the knowledge, wisdom, and revelation to perceive the birds that rest in my mustard tree of faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement

Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann

Fresh Grounded Faith: Devotions to Awaken Your Spirit by Jennifer Rothschild

Visit Susanne's Blog and find other books by her here

Application Steps:
What actions can I take in response to this message?

Do I consider my faith to be weak or strong or somewhere in between?

What would I declare as the fruit of my faith—the birds in my mustard tree?

Power Verses:
Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (NIV)

Romans 10:17, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (NIV)

Acts 3:16, "By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." (NIV)

© 2009 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

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Let the Rope Come to You
Pat Layton, She Speaks! Graduate

"The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." Isaiah 32:17 (NIV)

When I was very young, my dad taught my three sisters and me how to water-ski. You might imagine the amount of patience that took! We would go out in our family boat into the middle of the lake where one of us girls would jump into the water. Then we would each take our turn around the lake as many times as we could go without falling.

Once you fell, another sister was waiting to jump in and take your place. If I fell too soon, before I was ready to give my turn up, I would struggle with all of my might to grab the ski rope back and try getting up again before another sister jumped into the water to take my spot.

I remember gathering up all the 8-year-old strength I could muster to get to that rope back into my hands. I floundered and struggled in the water with all that gear attached to me - a life jacket that seemed the size of a small car and water skis that seemed a mile long. I would get exhausted trying to get to that rope in time not to lose my turn.

One day I remember my dad calling out, "Pat, just relax, lay back on your life jacket and I will bring the rope to you!" And he did. I would rest in the water and my dad would drive the boat slowly and carefully around me until the ski rope would just float right into my hands. No struggle, no fear of missing it, no one jumping in and taking my place.

After 22 years of women's ministry, I have often found myself or watched a sister in her struggle to grab something she was afraid she might loose. A ministry spot, a child, a husband, a friend.

Sometimes, we feel that if we don't struggle and strive, we will lose our "turn." That somehow, what God has called us to do, have or be, will be missed or that another "sister" might jump in and take our spot. When those times come in my life, I try to remember the words of my dad, "Pat, just let the rope come to you."

Maybe you can relate. Have you been struggling to make something happen in your life or to protect a position or opportunity that you are afraid you will miss if you don't strive for it?

Let's listen to the words of our Abba Father, let's just relax in the moment and trust God to "bring the rope to us." If it's His best for us, He will do just that.

Abba Father, thank You for reminding me that You have control of the boat in my life. You will not let me miss my turn, Lord, when I'm following You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources: Do You Know Jesus?

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be: A 90-day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life by Donna Partow

A Love Worth Giving: Living in the Overflow of God's Love by Max Lucado

Application Steps:
Write down each thing that is going on in your life that feels like a struggle to you. List the things you want to do that seem to be slipping away. List relationships not going the way you wanted.

List dreams not coming to fruition. Write anything that creates a feeling of stress or struggle in your heart. Then read Jeremiah 29:11 and pray it over those situations.

Consider the things that you have written and ask yourself: Have I been in this spot before? How and when has God shown Himself faithful to complete something in my life without my having to do a single thing but reach out and take hold of it?

Power Verses:
Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (NIV)

© 2009 Pat Layton. All rights reserved.

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The Perfect Fit
Lysa TerKeurst

"I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws." Psalm 119:30 (NIV)

As a little girl, I had longed for a daddy to pick me up, swing me around, and tell me I was lovely and loved. When this childhood longing went unmet, it became an adult emptiness and brokenness that drove me to seek out all kinds of misguided remedies.

My primary remedy was to look for someone or something that would make me feel loved and significant. It's as if I carried around a little heart-shaped cup and extended it to whatever or whomever I perceived might fill it.

I presented the cup to my education: "Will you fill me?"

I offered it to my husband: "Will you fill me?"

I held it out to my child: "Will you fill me?"

I extended it to my material possessions: "Will you fill me?"

I presented it to each of my jobs: "Will you fill me?"

Within these questions were many more entanglements: "Will you right all my wrongs?" "Will you fill up my insecurities?" "Will you make me feel significant?" The more I offered my emptiness hoping something could fill it, the more frustrated I felt.

And when I had grown in my faith, I was especially perplexed. Wasn't being a Christian supposed to fix these kinds of issues in my heart? What was I missing?

Have you ever been there?

Why is it so tempting to look to things of this world for fulfillment? This notion that worldly things can fulfill is all around us. It's on TV, the focus of countless secular songs, and it's what dominates American advertisements. I can't even stand in the grocery store checkout lane without being bombarded with suggestions for a more fulfilling life. A better husband. A better body. A better career. A more beautifully decorated house. The magazines seem so slick, their promises so enticing. They sneak into our thought processes and make us think, "If only I had _______________, I'd be so happy. I'd be so fulfilled."

So, we chase and chase until we bankrupt our relationships, our bank accounts, and our very souls. The reality is every single thing the world offers is temporary. No person, possession, profession, or position can ever fill the cup of a wounded, empty heart—not my heart, not your heart. It's an emptiness only God can fill.

Whatever "if only I had" statement we are struggling with, we can replace it with solid truths from Scripture that will never leave us empty. It's a bold statement to make and might even sound a bit trite, but it's true.

When God's Word gets inside of us, it becomes the new way we process life. It rearranges our thoughts, our motives, our needs, and our desires. Our soul was tailor made to be filled with God and His truth; therefore, it seeps into every part of us and fills us completely. It is the only perfect fit.

Dear Lord, we ask today that You set within us a passion for Your Word. A passion that will override the fleshly desire within us to chase after fulfillment from people, possessions, professions, or positions. Lord, help us place the highest importance on getting into Your Word every day. And may we always approach Your Word with a humility of need and a heart ready to receive all You want to teach us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog for a list of her favorite Bible Verses. This is just the jump start you need to get into God’s Word each day.

If you connected with this devotion, you won’t want to miss Lysa’s upcoming book, Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl. To order your copy today, click here.

What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Fill in this blank: I've always thought, "If only I had _________________ I'd be happy and fulfilled.

Now, visit Lysa’s blog for a list of Bible Verses to help replace this faulty script we play in our minds.

What or who have I tried to get fulfillment from?

How does this damage my relationships?

Power Verses:
Psalm 19:7a, "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul." (NIV)

Psalm 27:10 -11a, "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way O Lord; lead me in a straight path…" (NIV)

Psalm 45:1a, "My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king…" (NIV)

© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Repent, Rescue, Repeat
Wendy Pope

"Again the Israelites did evil in the LORD's sight." Judges 10:6a (NLT)

When life gets hard, have you noticed how easy it is to sin? I have found during some of the toughest circumstances I face, I am easily lured into sin. The lure seldom comes from new temptations. It usually comes from areas of sin I "thought" I had left behind, repented of and turned away from. Our enemy is cleaver and cunning. He knows our areas of weakness and comes back to those places when we are at our lowest, in hopes to seduce us back into a pattern of sin. It is an age-old ploy. He doesn't stop using the tactic because he continues to have success.
The enemy's success can be proven by looking back at the repeated sin of idolatry and disobedience of God's chosen people, the Israelites. The ebb and flow of the Israelites' sin started soon after their exodus from Egypt. They had barely cleared the banks of the Red Sea when they began to worship a man-made golden calf. Even though the Lord showed grace and forgave their sin, they continued to be lured in this same sin until it became a pattern. When they faced their toughest times: hunger, thirst, and threat of death, they quickly turned against the Lord, looking for other places of safety and hope.

As we read through the Old Testament we find the Israelites became more and more blatant about their sin. They no longer tried to hide it. They worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but still held true to their devotion and worship of the pagan gods. Joshua called their sin evil. Evil is an ugly word, which means morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked. God's Word tells us that the Israelites' evil lead to their misery and their misery grieved the Lord (Judges 10:16). Our sin grieves the Lord and causes us misery as well.

Misery comes from the Hebrew word "`amal." It means to toil, trouble, labor, mischief. I found the meaning of toil to be very interesting: hard and continuous work, exhausting labor or effort. Habitual sin, like that of the Israelites' idol worshiping is exhausting to keep up with. It takes continuous effort to stay involved in sin because one sin leads to another that leads to another. It is toilsome and drains the life out of us. The Israelites sinned until they felt helpless and trapped, at the point of exhaustion. Then they would repent of their sin and beg the Lord to forgive them, promising their wholehearted devotion. In His continual grace God forgave them, but they would eventually fall back into their sin cycle.

As I read about the cycle of repent, rescue, repeat among the Israelites I have come to the conclusion that they never truly repented at all. True repentance of sin as repentance means in the Bible is to turn back. Basically, turn 180 degrees and don't look back. This is not what happened with the Israelites. They enjoyed their sin, but when the going got tough they cried out to the Lord. They simply offered the Lord "lip service" because they wanted to be rescued from their tough circumstances. They never depended on God long enough to allow Him to change their hearts.

Are you tired and miserable? God intended our life to be lived to the fullest, where He alone can make our joy complete. The only way to live this life is to put our safety and hope in the Lord by turning our hearts completely toward Him, leaving our sin behind and letting Him turn our hearts from the lure of sin. I want to be a 180 degree "repenter." I don't want to be a rescue-crying sinner who calls on God to bail me out when life is too exhausting and I am completely miserable. I want to escape the cycle of repent, rescue, and repeat. I am going to ask God to help me change my heart in the issues that I struggle with repeatedly. Will you join with me in this prayer?

Dear Lord, I ask You to forgive me when I fall into the cycle of rescue, repent, and repeat. Forgive me for treating Your forgiveness so causally. I give You permission to have Your way with my heart, changing it to be completely restored toward You and no longer falling prey to the lure of habitual sin. My desire is to live in complete obedience to You, the One and Only true God. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Wendy’s blog to read more about the Israelites and their journey. And for more from Wendy, visit her resource page.

Living Free in Christ CD by Wendy Pope

Messy Faith: Daring to Live by Grace by A.J. Gregory

Application Steps:
Answer the reflection questions in your prayer journal or on a piece of paper. Confess any sin to the Lord. Pray today's prayer aloud.

God's forgiveness is beautifully portrayed in the story of Gomer and Hosea. Read Francine River's skillful retelling of this biblical story in her book, Redeeming Love.

Am I in a pattern of habitual sin? If so, what is the pattern?

What is the Lord saying to me about my sin?

Power Verses:
Psalm 32:5, "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD' - and you forgave the guilt of my sin." (NIV)

1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)

© 2009 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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Partly Sunny
Marybeth Whalen

"Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." Matthew 13:43 (NIV)

Last week my seven-year-old son and I were waiting for his sister to get her hair cut. As we sat in the waiting area, we had no choice but to listen to the radio that played in the background. The forecast came on and the announcer said that it was going to be partly cloudy. My son, who was playing with LEGOs® on the floor, stopped playing and looked up with an indignant look on his face. "Mom," he said, "That man said it's partly cloudy but it's not. It's partly sunny." Then he went back to playing.

Oh, to see the world the way my son did in that moment. He taught me a huge lesson on perspective that day and I have been mulling it over ever since.

Do I see my days as partly sunny or partly cloudy? Do I marvel at the wonders or get caught up in the mess? Do I consciously choose to alter my "glass half empty" mentality and choose to see it as half full? Do I rejoice in what I have or focus on what’s missing?

Just for today, let’s focus on the good things that happen, so they don't get lost in the shuffle of life. I hope that you will join me in seeking to see our days as partly sunny. Sure, a few clouds may enter our horizon, but that doesn't mean our outlook has to be altered.

Partly cloudy or partly sunny? My son taught me it's all in how I look at it.

Dear Lord, when life starts looking cloudy, help me to remember that the sun is still shining. Help me to take my negative, defeating thoughts captive and shift my perspective. Most of all, help me to remember that as one of Your children, I will someday shine like the sun in Your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Join us for more “Partly Sunny” encouragement!

For more from Marybeth visit her blog as well as her resource page

The Reason We Speak, General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild

Application Steps:
Look outside your window. Is the weather partly sunny or partly cloudy? Even if it’s pouring down rain, praise God for what you see and where you are. Every time something happens today, determine that you are going to look for the "partly sunny" element.

Do you have a tendency to see things from a "glass half empty" perspective?

How can you change your thought process to intentionally see things in a more positive light?

Power Verses:
Philippians 2:14-15, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. (NIV)

Daniel 12:3, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." (NIV)

© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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At a Distance
Karen Ehman

"But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome." Matthew 26:58 (NIV).

I sat in the sanctuary all alone, hot tears trickling down my young face. As a high school senior, I often attended our church's open door, self-serve communion time that was held a few days each year. The church was left unlocked providing a place to be alone with God: to pray or read your Bible. Then, at the altar were the elements. When ready, believers spent time meditating before partaking of the bread and the cup. Although I had done this many times, that night would forever be seared in my mind.

I'd been a follower of Christ for just over a year, having first dedicated my life to Him at a youth retreat. The next 12 months, though an exciting time of growth, were also one of sorrow. I lost friends. I no longer fit in with the "in" crowd. I had no desire to attend certain parties I knew God wouldn't approve of or engage in conversations I wouldn't want Him to hear.

So I clung to my crisp, new Bible and rushed home each afternoon, eager to read more while making notations in the margins. My youth group, as well as my mentor, a stay-at-home mom of two, became my lifelines. I desperately wanted to know how to live this new Christian life and live it in a way that made Jesus proud.

But as I sat there that night, I felt as if I had failed God. There was a new group of kids at school who, when the more popular kids shut me out, had taken me in. But things were beginning to get sticky. I was challenged at many points in my faith; was asked questions by those who felt God didn't exist and were very eloquent in arguing their case. So normally chatty me, often became silent. There were times I knew I should say something, but I remained painfully wordless instead. My silence spoke volumes, and in a way, denied Christ.

It was then that, alone in my church, crying and searching my soul, I read today's key verse. The words stung. "But Peter followed him at a distance…" That was me! I followed my sweet Jesus, but often at a distance; not wanting to get too close; to be lumped in with the Bible-thumping fanatics; to be labeled a "Jesus Freak." That night was a wake-up call. I didn't want to lurk in the shadows any longer. I wanted to be so closely associated with Jesus that I cared not what any soul on earth thought. I left with a renewed commitment to this goal.

God, in His mercy, allowed me to come across many more verses about Peter in the next few weeks as I flung myself on my bed and flung open my Bible each afternoon after school. I witnessed his three-time denial. Then, I saw his sorrow; his repentance; his eventual boldness for Christ. I garnered encouragement from knowing that his once hesitant, in-the-shadows disciple became a bold, world-changing servant of God. And, just weeks later, our youth group took a personality test that matches you with a biblical character and my result came back as—you guessed it—Peter! I knew then that if he could learn to follow boldly, then I could too.

Oh may God help us all to turn our fear of association into boldness for His kingdom! The world is waiting and watching. Will we pursue Him closely or follow at a distance?

Dear Lord, may I not shirk from associating myself closely with You for all the world to see. I want to reflect You; not reject You. Please grant me the courage to do so. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

For more on living boldly for Christ, visit Karen’s blog. For more from Karen, visit her resource page.

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst

Do You Know Him?

When in my life have I been afraid of speaking up or associating myself with Christ? What was it that I feared?

When it comes to following God publically, do I tend to stay close by His side, follow at a distance or run and hide in the shadows?

Application Steps:
What are some practical ways I can follow Christ more boldly? What can I learn to say when the topic of God comes up that will help me to associate myself with Him?

How can I give reason for the hope that lies within me, yet do it with gentleness and respect?

Power Verses:
I Peter 3:14b-16, "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (NIV)

© 2009 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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The Stink That Didn't Go Away
Glynnis Whitwer

"… 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." Hebrews 10:22 (NIV)

It had been a busy Saturday catching up on laundry and housework. With a family of seven, it seemed the loads of dirty clothes were un-ending. By evening time, I was ready to forget about grass-stained jeans and splatters of food on t-shirts. With everyone's help, we folded the last load and put fresh-smelling clothes into drawers and closets. I shut the dryer door and sighed in relief.

By the middle of the week, however, it was time to start a few more loads of laundry. I opened the washing machine door, and a wave of sour-smelling air from forgotten wet clothes engulfed me. I groaned in frustration, wondering what to do. The smart thing would have been to rewash the clothes. But living in the desert, I've grown up trying to conserve water, so I debated my options.

Finally, I decided to take my chances on a dryer sheet removing the stink. I put the smelly clothes in the dryer, throwing in an extra fabric softener sheet for good measure. Sixty minutes later, I discovered my plan had failed. Now they were dry sour-smelling clothes.

Again I faced a decision – should I rewash the entire load or have my family wear smelly clothes? Before rewashing them, I decided to make one more attempt at removing the smell and grabbed the fabric spray designed to remove odors. I spritzed that sweet-smelling liquid up and down pants legs and t-shirts, and was rewarded with clothes that smelled sickenly sweet.

I probably shouldn't admit this in public, but having three teenage boys, I decided to have them wear these clothes as they were. They've worn worse, I figured. I rewashed my daughters' and husband's clothes. One pair of jeans was mine, and I decided to wear those, hoping the unpleasant scent would dissipate.

A week later, I wore the above-mentioned jeans … and they still stunk! All of my attempts to remove the sour smell had failed. The extra dryer sheet, the odor-removing fabric spray and time in the closet didn't remove the stink. Throughout the day, I would catch a scent of that yucky smell, which made me wonder who else could smell it.

What a lesson I learned! The only way to get rid of the stink was to rewash the clothes. Any other attempt to mask the odor not only failed, but also made it worse.

There have been many times in my life when I've done something "stinky" … whether an unkind word, an impatient response, an unforgiving heart or a wrong choice. It's been easier to gloss over that behavior or attitude and go on with life. To be honest, admitting I've said or done something wrong is hard. I know I need to confess it to God, ask forgiveness from those I've offended and make amends where necessary. Sometimes I would just rather spray a little perfume on the incident and hope that covers the wrong. But it doesn't work.

Un-confessed wrong only grows more sour, like those clothes in my washing machine. The only way to deal with it is to bring it out in the light, wash it in God's forgiveness and then move on. Thankfully, we serve a God who delights in our humble hearts, and who offers forgiveness freely. I'll take that sweet smelling offer any day!

Dear Lord, thank you for forgiving my sins with such loving kindness. I confess there have been times when I've tried to avoid dealing with sin. Just like the bad smell in my laundry, the remnants of sin don't go away. I want to be washed clean with your love and forgiveness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Consider joining a Gather and Grow Group for deeper friendships and accountability

Visit Glynnis’ blog and view her other resources here.

Application Steps:
Many women deal with un-confessed sin from years ago. It's never too late to ask God for forgiveness. If you have something in your past that needs to be brought in the light, do that today.

Why do we sometimes neglect to confess our sins, even though we know God will forgive us?

How does un-confessed sin negatively impact a woman?

What rewards do we receive when we confess sin?

Power Verses:
1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV)

Luke 5:32, "I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent." (NLT)

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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Surrendered - For the Display of His Splendor
Renee Swope

"They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

My dearest friend, women's ministry director and mentor was moving - hours away! This was the woman who had believed in me, invested in me and encouraged me. She'd also prayed for me and stood beside me as I overcame fears and doubts, following God's call into ministry.
How was I going to make it without her?

Trying to find a distraction for my despair, I decided to tackle long overdo yard work. As I headed out to our shed, I noticed a rose bush the previous homeowner had planted. It was in full bloom, displaying her splendor through gorgeous pink blossoms across the center of our split rail fence.

How did that happen? I wondered.

Although I'd never used it, I remembered seeing rose fertilizer in our shed so I decided to use it. I pulled the weeds away from the bush's base so the plant food could sink into the soil and noticed the root ball had four sections.

Should I leave the sections all together or divide and place them at different posts on the fence?

If I planted them at separate posts, their vines would eventually connect and create a blanket of pink draped across the whole fence. With that image in mind, I knelt before the blossoming beauty and pressed my hands into the dirt to find the right places to separate the root ball.

At that moment, I sensed God whisper to my heart that the rose bush was a picture of what He was doing with the women's ministry I loved. Each of us serving on the ministry team had been carefully planted in our giftedness, nurtured and encouraged through prayer, equipped through training and fertilized by opportunities to serve. We had become a display of God's splendor.

But, like this plant, we had reached the fullness of His glory in our current soil. I sensed Him telling me that we were ready to be divided into separate plants so that His glory would be more fully displayed, as He planted each of us uniquely and individually in new places of ministry.

I couldn't bear the thought of it. Would there be more pruning? More breaking up of what had taken years to establish? This was nowhere in my plans and dreams!

It is so painful when God allows our dreams to be shattered, our hearts to be broken, our relationships to be separated and our fears to be realized. I really doubted what God was doing. I doubted any good could come from such loss. I doubted that I could make it through the pain. Yet, as I imagined God's glory being more fully displayed, my heart settled into a place of surrender. It wasn't my plan, but if it was for His glory, wasn't that what I wanted? Wasn't that what Jesus did? Would I also trust Him to ease my sorrow and bring something good from it?

That day I knelt on holy ground in front of my rose bush and surrendered the broken dreams in my heart. Even if it meant letting go of what I loved so deeply, it would be worth it if others would see HIM more fully in my life and eventually in my ministry.

Are you in a season of being uprooted? Has God re-arranged your plans and your future? Are you struggling to trust His ways?

Jesus' life and death displays God's promise to turn our despair into divine joy and our loss into a legacy as we depend on and trust in Him. I didn't think I could make it. But five years later, I see how God took my doubts and sorrow and used them to draw me into absolute dependence and sweet surrender to Him – for the display of His splendor.

Lord, I want to reflect Your glory through the display of my dependence on You. As painful as it is, I realize Your splendor is revealed in my brokenness as I rely on Your love and strength. I put my trust in Your plans and not my own today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Renee’s blog for more thoughts on surrendering to God’s promises and plans.

Beyond the Shadow of Doubt: Becoming The Woman You Already Are in Christ, a message on DVD by Renee Swope

Click here to know more about Jesus

Click here for more of Renee’s Resources.

Application Steps:
Reflect on today's power verse, Isaiah 61:1-3. List ways that God has, or ways you want Him to fulfill these promises in your life.

Am I going through a season of surrender? Am I struggling to trust God's ways?

If you want more encouragement or prayer, click here to let Renee know how she can pray for you.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 61:1-3, "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, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." (NIV)

© 2009 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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Nothing More to Say
Van Walton

"Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet… seek me daily and delight to know my ways…" Isaiah 58:1-2 (ESV)

I take daily walks. They serve as the "required 30 minutes of daily exercise" my doctor advises. Yet they are much more than that – they are also spiritual exercise for me.

Stepping out of my house, I look up and ask Jesus to come along with me. Then, for 30 minutes I tell Him everything I think He should know.

Sometimes I praise Him for Who He is and what He has done. But other times I lay out a litany of things gone wrong.

I remind Him about my friends who have asked that I pray for them.

I remind Him that I still have unanswered prayers.

I beg Him to answer various requests. I talk a lot.

I pray for my marriage.

I discuss my children.

On and on my feet and mouth go.

One day recently in a state of frustration and confusion, I felt that I had no control over a certain situation in my family. I figured I could find the answers, and longed to step in and somehow fix the thing.

Whew - did God get an earful during that walk!

I stepped out my door, dog in tow, looked up and said, "Come on Jesus, let's go. The sooner I solve this, the better I'm going to feel. I have to deal with this now!"

By the time I reached the corner I had laid out the basics of the situation.

The issue? My grown, married son.

I explained the problem and poured out my heart.

"God, should I…?"

"Do You think if I …?"

"What if they…?"

"I think I'll call. Better yet, I think I'll go for a visit."

On and on my feet, mouth and mind went.

I turned over every stone. Detailed each circumstance. Approached the problem from different angles, and suggested a variety of solutions.

Then, after an exhausting tirade, I had nothing more to say!

Opening my mouth to continue, nothing came forth. So I just walked on in silence.

About a block from my house, I felt God speak to my heart: "The two shall become one." Whoa. I stopped in my tracks. And then I heard three more words, which were almost identical to something God says in His Word: "Leave and cleave."

"You're right; Lord. I need to let them figure this out. And with Your help, they will."

Is there a situation you are facing that has made you weary? Are you at a point where you have nothing more to say? If so, you are not alone. Let's pray today that our words will cease so that we can make room in our hearts and thoughts to hear His.

Father God, forgive me for being so quick to tell You how my life should progress. Forgive me for thinking I should be in charge of others' lives. Thank You for Your Word that reminds me You are involved in the lives of Your children. Thank You for caring enough to speak to me even when I take so little time to listen. One more thing, watch over my children for me so I can take a rest from this challenging role as a mother. Teach me to trust You, in Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Van’s blog

From the Pound to the Palace by Van Walton

Consider gifting one of these two books to your married children:
Generation Next Marriage: The Couple's Guide to Keeping it Together by Tricia Goyer

The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage by Stormie Omartian

Do I know God's voice when I hear Him speak?

Am I familiar with His Word? When He speaks, do I understand what He is saying?

Power Verses:
Psalm 95:6-8, "The LORD, our Maker…is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…" (ESV)

Ephesians 5:31, "For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." (NASB)

© 2009 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

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Meet Me at the Table
Sharon Sloan, She Speaks! Graduate

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." Psalm 23:5-6 (NIV)

For the past two summers we have rented a house at the Jersey shore from some friends. As I was packing for our beach vacation this summer, I silently prayed to the Lord and shared a wish with him. "Lord, I'd really like to have a special place to have my morning quiet time with You at the shore house this year. You know how I like to spread out a little for my quiet time and study time. Last summer at the shore, I used the kitchen table every day, which was dandy. Yet it would be wonderful to have a special little spot where I can spread my Bible, books and journals out, and not have to put everything away when I am done every morning. Just a little wish, Lord. Thanks."

When we arrived at the shore house, my husband Jim took the first of many heavy loads up to the house while I was organizing our children and gathering as many things in my mommy-octopus arms as I could carry. When Jim came back down he enthusiastically said, "Honey, there is a new little table in the family room that is perfect for morning quiet times." I had not even shared my prayer with Jim at that point, but he was excited about the table and knew it would be a perfect spot for devotions. Wow, Lord, thank you! I was so thankful to the Lord for remembering my prayer. The surprise addition of this furniture at the shore house was a treasured spot for me to meet with and seek the Lord each day.

A few days later, I called my sweet girlfriend who owns the house to see how she was feeling as she had been ill. Toward the end of our phone conversation, I told her, "By the way, we love the table you put in the living area of the house. It's perfect for morning quiet time with the Lord!"

"What table?" My friend asked.

"You know, the little table between the fire place and the front door. It's just perfect for devotions and studying."

"We didn't put a table there."

"Yes, you did."

"No, we didn't." She paused momentarily and then told me to hold on. Then she called to her tween daughter to inquire. Her daughter said "no," they didn't.

I took a picture of the table with my cell phone and texted it to my friend. Her reply: She had never seen the table before. She double-checked with her husband and a handful of people who have key access to their shore home. Nothing. Nobody knew about the table or how it got there.

But we knew.

God remembered my prayer.

The Master Carpenter prepared a table for me. He met me there. He encouraged and blessed my heart remarkably. He spoke His love and acceptance to my heart in a way I will always remember. He made my cup overflow. His goodness and love are following me, and I am so thankful and humbled. I prayed, saw His answer and responded with joyful thanks.

Before we left the shore house at the end of our week's vacation, I stood at the table with my hands on it. I prayed for all the people who had sat there before me and for those who will sit there in the future. I prayed they would meet with God there, that it would be a special place for them as well. I prayed also they would inquire of Him, be watchful for His answers and give Him joyous thanksgiving.

Ask Him to meet you. He will. The table is set. Join the Master Carpenter in conversations He has planned for your heart.

Dear Lord, I pray for a generous portion of You. Open my eyes that I may see Your detailed answers to my prayers. Give me a heart that watches in expectation of Your miracles and gives great thanks to You. May my heart's greatest desire be to meet with You daily. As the worship song says, 'May my life be one unbroken gaze, fixed upon the beauty of Your face.' Oh, Lord, may that be my life's passion! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Come Along: The Journey into a More Intimate Faith by Jane Rubietta

10 Minutes a Day with Jesus: Growing in Your Love for the Savior Jim Reapsome

Application Steps:
Choose a special spot to meet with and seek God daily in His Word.

Pray for His will and watch in expectation for His answers. Keep a prayer journal and be sure to record His responses and provisions.

Am I allowing God to mold the desires of my heart according to His will and purpose?

Have I asked God for a greater portion of Himself in my life?

Am I watchful and thankful?

Power Verses:
Colossians 4:2, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." (NIV)

Isaiah 30:18, "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!" (NIV)

Mark 6:2-3, "'Where did this Man get these things?' they asked. 'What's this wisdom that has been given Him, that He even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter?" (NIV)

© 2009 by Sharon Sloan. All rights reserved.

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Getting Ready for Tomorrow
Wendy Pope

"Then Joshua told the people, 'Purify yourselves for tomorrow the LORD will do great wonders among you.'" Joshua 3:5 (NLT)

Last year the Lord whispered to my heart to stop watching a certain television show. This show came on once week in the evening. It was not anti-God, but let's just say it did not promote healthy family and personal values, nor did its' writers use the Word of God as a basis for the show's content.

I would love to say I obeyed the Lord with a glad heart and immediately did as He asked, fully confident that He had my best interest in mind. I wish I could say that but I can't. I believed I had the right to challenge the Lord on His request. Can you imagine my nerve?

I remember huffing and puffing like the wolf when he tried to blow down the little pigs' house. I wanted to watch my show and could not understand what I was doing wrong for the Lord to discipline me in such a way. I argued, "My watching this show is not causing anyone to stumble in their walk with the Lord." I was not influencing anyone else to watch, in fact my family was all in bed. It was my time. Time set aside each week for just me. What possible reason could the Lord have for asking to do this?

Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I realized the audacity of my attitude and understood my egoistical reasoning. I thought since I had been obeying the Lord in other areas of life I had the "right" to negotiate His other instructions. I finally saw the fallacy of my arguments to the Lord but up until that point, I'd failed to see that I was the person I was causing to stumble and being wrongly influenced.

Shortly after my tantrum was over and I obeyed God, He introduced me to today's key verse. He also used an incredible book to hammer in His point. His point being: God has something planned for tomorrow and He wants me to be ready for it. In his book i am not but i know I AM, Louie Giglio suggests that we are "i am nots" playing supporting roles beside the star of the story, the great I AM.

Joshua told the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. God was going to do something amazing in His story the next day and He wanted them to be a part of it. But they needed to prepare for that. They needed to purify themselves. Purify, or sanctify as it is written in the NKJ version, means to wash, to deal with your sin, and perhaps even make a sacrifice so that heart, body, mind, and soul are ready for the day. I was not preparing for my role in God's Story by continuing to watch the TV show God asked me not watch. I was ending my day in disobedience and separation from the Lord. How could I be ready to take my supporting role beside Him the next day if I was not purified before Him?

Do you realize God wants to do amazing things among you each day? Are we ready each morning to wake up and join the story of God? In order to prepare ourselves for our supporting role in God's story we need follow His instructions – meditate on the "book of instruction day and night" (Joshua 1:8). Be ready my friend! He has a role only you can fulfill.

Dear Lord, help me to know what I should and should not do as Your child. Will You give me a desire to mediate on Your Word day and night? I want to see You at work and join You, fulfilling the role You have for me. Thank You for wanting me to participate in Your story. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

i am not but I know I AM by Louie Giglio

The Yes, No and Maybe of a Balanced Life – audio CD by Wendy Pope

Visit Wendy’s blog and view her other resources here

Application Steps:
Personalize today's key verse and pray each night: "Dear Lord, help me to be ready for tomorrow. Show me the ways I need to purify and prepare myself for my role in Your story."

Read a few verses of Psalm 119 each night and listen to what He has to say.

What if anything is the Lord asking me to do to purify myself for Him?

Do I mediate on the Word of God day and night? If not, why? If yes, how?

Power Verses:
Psalm 147:15, "He sends His command to the earth; His Word runs swiftly." (NIV)

Psalm 119:1, "Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord." (NIV)

Psalm 119:11," I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (NIV)

© 2009 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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Bringing Out the Best in Our Children
Glynnis Whitwer

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

I threw up my hands in despair, and sighed with a dramatic and disgusted exhale of breath. At that moment, all five of my children were the focus of my frustration. I was tired of correcting the same behaviors, the same tones of voices, and the same irresponsibility from the same children. It had not been a good day, and I told them so –individually and collectively – in not-so-nice terms.

The lecture ended and they all went their own way, as upset and annoyed as me. Instead of changing their behaviors and attitudes, the negativity went underground. We were like a simmering pot, ready to blow its lid. My angry response only exacerbated the problem, not helped it. What I wanted was for them to get along, speak kindly to each other and do their chores respectfully. What I got was more of the same.

As I returned to my own chores, I realized how ineffective my tirade had been in achieving my true goals. While I got them to stop bickering momentarily, I hadn't really made an impact on their hearts. In fact, I'd done more harm than good by not modeling gentle and respectful words. The rest of the day confirmed the truth: I'd not brought out the best in my children. I just stamped down the bad for a while. My children are not so different from me. I know how I feel when someone speaks in an angry tone to me. It certainly doesn't spur me on to show kindness to them. In fact, I tend to take my frustration out on someone else. That's just what happened in my family that day. We had a domino effect of irritation.

In Hebrews 10, verse 24, the Bible encourages us to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds." In my experience personally and with my children, showing love and good deeds spurs others on to show more love and good deeds. The Bible also tells us that we reap in greater measure than what we sow (Hosea 8:7). Which means love multiplies more love, and kindness multiplies more kindness.

As a mom, I have an opportunity to bring out the best in my children. But it consistently means I have to bring out the best in me. I can't model impatient behavior and expect my kids to learn patience. I can't model a self-focused lifestyle and expect my kids to learn how to serve others. Nor can I model an ultra-busy schedule and expect my kids to find time for God in theirs. Spurring my children on to greater love and good deeds means they need to learn it by watching and listening to me.

Dear Lord, thank You for calling me to be the mother of my children. I confess that at times I fall far short of where I want to be in this area of my life. I know I can't do this high calling of motherhood without Your Spirit within me. Help me to submit my selfish will to Your perfect way. Thank You for loving me and seeing my potential to grow and change. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

When Your Child is Hurting: Helping Your Child Survive the Ups and downs of Life by Glynnis Whitwer

Visit Glynnis’s blog for more mom encouragement.

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Identify one area of your personality that hinders you from spurring your children or others on to love and/or good deeds. Commit to submitting that area of your life to God for the next seven days.

Think about how someone has spurred you on to love in greater measure. How did they do that?
What are some ways your family can do "good deeds" for those around you? Make a list together and commit to doing one or two a month.

Power Verses:
Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." (TNIV)

Galatians 6:8, "The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (NIV)

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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Distorted Vision
T. Suzanne Eller

"But godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV)

My husband went back to school three years ago. It's been an adventure! We sold our home to lessen our debt load. We moved to a new city, buying a smaller home closer to the university. I worked full-time as a freelance writer the first two years while he attended school full time. Our budget was minimized to the essentials, like food and shelter and tuition! There were many times I was reminded of what we could or could not have, like when I was shopping with a friend who dropped cold hard cash on a purse or shoes, or was invited to join friends at a special restaurant. The money for those things was not in the budget—or the bank!

Have you ever wished for something you couldn't have? We all have at one time or another, but what happens when it's something you really can't have. Like being model tall instead of average height, or a different nose or longer legs, or the pounds to be distributed differently (a little more in the bust and little less in the stomach, please!). Maybe it's not your body, but your house, your wardrobe, or the car you drive. If only you had ten times more money, then you'd have all you want!

What's wrong for wishing for what you can't have?

It can distort your vision as you become fixated on what you don't have, and fail to see what you do have. It can get scary and mess with your health or your relationships as you pursue quick fixes. At some point it can even become an obsession.

Right now Richard and I can't jet to Hawaii (or even New Jersey), but watching my husband walk across the stage to receive his degree was priceless. Out of the view of the public he did a dance and his joy was contagious. The sacrifices haven't ended for us. He's started over in his career at an age most are settling into success. He's pursuing his Master's degree at night. We continue to pay tuition and live on a tight budget. And yet I feel rich with contentment.

How do you avoid distorted vision? The first step is to change your focus. You may not be model tall, but are you healthy? Do you have a circle of friends, or a caring church? Did your child wrap her arms around your neck this morning? Has a friend walked with you through a difficult time? Has the presence of God wrapped around you in your quiet time?

The next step is to focus on others. Something happens when you take the time and energy and thought life previously devoted to your thighs or that beautiful house on the other side of town. You begin to see the needs of others. You find joy in generosity to others. You become others-centered.

Contentment becomes like a new set of contacts or binoculars. Our world expands as we see beyond ourselves and invite God into the picture. It becomes a spiritual act of grace, a work of God in our hearts as we give it all to Him.

Dear Father, today I will not grumble. I will not compare myself to others. I will praise You for the blessings all around me, and Your song of praise will be the words of my mouth. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Woman I Am Becoming: Embracing the Chase for Identity, Faith, and Destiny by T. Suzanne Eller

God’s Purpose for Every Woman by various P31 authors, Gen Editors: Lysa TerKeurst and Rachel Olson

Visit Suzie’s blog

Application Steps:
Define what contentment is not:

o It is not complacency – it's not saying "that's all I'll ever do or be"
o It is not self-righteousness – it doesn't come from your own efforts
o It is not repression – it is not staying in abuse, hunger, or harm's way

Define what it is:

o It is sufficient – pray that God will give you joy to fill the empty places
o It is enough – it is a work within that opens your heart and eyes
o It is to be full – it reveals your true blessings

Are you willing to trade discontentment for contentment?

Start today by making a list of what truly makes you "rich" in Christ.

Power Verses:
Psalm 73:25, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (NIV)

© 2009 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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I Picked Up a Runaway
Holly Good, She Speaks! Graduate

"My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place." Jeremiah 50:6 (NIV)

I picked up a young runaway a few months ago.

She was dirty, wore baggy sweat pants and a yellow sweatshirt, and had muddy feet. I was stopped at an intersection when she sauntered across the street right in front of my car.
I continued on when the light turned green.

But I could not get those bare feet out of my mind. Those muddy, bare feet.

Why was this young girl walking across a busy intersection with no shoes on in the middle of a school day? About a mile down the road I felt the Lord encouraging me to turn around and go find that girl with the bare feet.

It was a gentle, but direct nudge I could not refuse.

I found her several minutes later outside a convenience store with a cup of water in her hand. I pulled up, rolled down my window and said, "Hey, what's going on with you?"

With little emotion she replied, "Oh nothing."

"Well...what are you doing? Can I take you home?" I offered.

"You can take me to my friend's house," she answered.

"I'd rather take you home," I said. "Where do you live?"

"Well, I'm running away from home, so you can't take me there," she said.

"Oh. Well, I would like to. Where do you live?" I asked again.

She eventually complied and trustingly got in my car. (And, oh how my heart was pounding!)
My new friend Sarah was only in 8th grade, skipping school and leaving home because she got into an argument about friends with her parents. She had been gone for two days. The previous night she had slept outside.

I prayed for just the right words to come from my mouth with my fragile but captive audience of one, on that short 18-minute ride to her house.

As I dropped Sarah off at her home, I prayed that the Lord would take over from there. I drove off and felt a peace in what He had led me to do that day.

It just so happened that a minor traffic accident had occurred around the corner as I was leaving. So I pulled over and told one of the officer's about Sarah, hoping they could also help her in some way.

Find her. Stop her. Detain her. Guide her. Protect her. Save her.

As I pray for my runaway friend each day, I realize that she is not much different from you and me. From a place we have journeyed or perhaps a place we are in right now.

Most of us have found ourselves running away at some point in our lives. Running from someone or something. Looking to escape.

Running, yet desperately hoping to be found.

She is lonely. She is angry. She feels betrayed. She feels misunderstood. She feels unloved. She is searching. She is confused. She is bitter. She wants to rest.

Oh my friend, I pray that you will have eyes to see, ears to hear and a place to finally find rest. For you are loved.

You are loved indeed.

Seek Him right now.

Dear Lord, thank You for loving me today and every day. I am grateful that You bigger than all of my problems. Give me the courage and the wisdom to seek You today, regardless of my circumstances. I want to be found by You Lord. And give me a heart to be able to see and help others near me in need. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog today to hear more from Holly.

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart by Lysa TerKeurst

The Wonder of His Love: A Journey into the Heart of God by Nancy Stafford

Application Steps:
Please read Luke 15:11-32. Focus on the father's actions and reactions and journal your thoughts. What does this story teach you about God's love for you?

Pray that you will have eyes to see that God's love is constant, patient and welcoming.

Am I running from something today? Spiritually, physically or emotionally?

How can I seek Him more today?

Read Psalm 71:20-21. Record these verses on a 3x5 card. Do you know someone you could give these verses to as an encouragement?

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 29:14, "'I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back from captivity…'" (NIV)

Luke 15:32, "But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and his found." (NIV)

Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (NIV)

© 2009 by Holly Good. All rights reserved.

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Choosing God's Plans
Tracie Miles

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

Several years ago, I was sitting in a management meeting, when my manager suggested we kick off the meeting by allowing each person the opportunity to say what they felt was their most important contribution to the company.

One by one, each person spoke, stating things like "to decrease overall expenses," "to lower headcount," etc. When my turn came, my heart fluttered, and I felt compelled to share that I felt my primary purpose was to counsel employees, encourage them, and help them work through personal or work related issues. You could have heard a pin drop in that room, as everyone stared at me with blank faces.

You see, the months leading up to this meeting, there had been a lot of issues going on in the company. There were office politics, power struggles, lofty egos, and people had been hurt.

As a result of my position, people would often come to me for guidance. God had been leading unexpected people into my office for weeks and opened the door for me to minister to believers and non-believers with the love of Christ. He'd also given me the desire and courage to be a light for Him, in an environment that didn't operate under Christian principles. He had ordained opportunities for me to share how Jesus gives true peace and acceptance, even when people and politics cause pain and disappointment.

My supervisor was not a believer, so he didn't appreciate my answer to his question. He wanted to hear how I was going to streamline procedures and improve his department, not what was on my heart, and as a result, our relationship went downhill from there.

A year or so later, I resigned from that position. The atmosphere had simply become too difficult, but more importantly, I knew God had been nudging me to make a change. I felt called to serve in ministry and to be a stay at home mom. All that time, I had been walking in disobedience.

When I resigned, it felt like a sacrifice. However, I quickly discovered that God's plan was so much better than mine. I realized that I had been unable to understand His plan, until I was willing to lay aside my own, and that I had to choose Him, before He could show me His will for my life. Had I simply said what I knew my boss wanted to hear in that meeting, I might still be working there, climbing the corporate ladder, and striving to reach my career goals.

But God had been working on my heart for years, preparing me for that moment. He had gradually shifted my desires to building His kingdom, more so than building my resume. He had inspired me to see the hearts of the people in my office, not just the problems in the people. And He had helped me to see that lasting success and happiness could be found in Him alone, not through my own accomplishments.

Was making that change easy? Or course not. Did I have to make difficult sacrifices? Most definitely. But was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

Regardless of where you work, you can make a spiritual difference in people's lives. Whether you work in corporate offices or a Christian ministry, when facing a difficult choice, you can trust that God has prepared and equipped you for such a time as this. Pray for strength to stand up for God's truth, even against all odds, and ask Him to lead you in your decisions.

Choosing Christ's plans, over our own plans, will always result in more peace or blessing than we could never imagine.

Dear Lord, it is not always easy to stand up for You in the face of opposition, or to make choices that seem outside of our understanding. I seek Your guidance, and Your divine wisdom and discernment regarding the decisions in my life. I do desire to do Your will. Thank You for never leaving me. Please help me to be strong in You, and for You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Tracie’s blog

Reinventing Your Rainbow by Tracie Miles

What Happens When Woman Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Consider a hard decision that God has been calling you to make, and pray for His wisdom.

Write down the steps you can take to begin working towards a goal that God has placed in your heart.

Is God calling me to make a change or a decision that requires sacrifice?

Do I trust that God ordains all things?

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 15:58, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (NIV)

1 Corinthians 16:13, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong." (NIV)

© 2009 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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One Good Reason
Lisa Whittle, She Seeks Coordinator

"Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts." James 3:13 (MSG)

It all started with a girl named Debbie.

Debbie was about 18 when she attended my family's local Baptist church. I was 8 and entering an awkward stage. She was brunette and beautiful. All the boys wanted to date her, and all the girls wanted to be her. I just wanted her hair.

Debbie successfully got her hair to form glorious, sweeping cowlicks in the front, with perfection matched only by 70's singers on album covers. I admired it from afar, coveting its style. I bugged my mom so bad about wanting it, she finally decided to pick up the phone and ask Debbie how she did it. Seems a little Aqua Net and the blast of a hairdryer did the trick. At least for Debbie.

You may be interested to know that I never did achieve the style of my hair-icon Debbie. Apparently Debbie did not have fine hair such as mine. But boy did she give me a good reason to spray, tease and blow-dry my little heart out trying. She wore her hair so beautifully that I believed I would look just as beautiful if I had her style.

This silly childhood example reminds me of the very real influence we have on each other. Even as adults we see another woman's fashion style and we try to copy it. We watch another woman's success, and we try to match it. We want what others have…try to be what others are…and believe that we will be more and live better if we can only become like someone else.

The truth is, even though I want to be a trendsetter, an individualist, a unique woman with a mind of my own, I have to admit I am just as impressionable as the next person. Let's face it, no matter our age, we influence and are influenced by each other.

As ironic as this may sound, the thought of how impressionable we are gives me great hope as to how we can help other women find Jesus. I Corinthians 11:1 talks about the type of influence we can have on one another – a way of living that comes from within and attracts those around us to want what we have. "Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ," speaks directly to this type of Godly influence.

It's about wearing Christ with the authentic beauty of a heart that's been changed, giving other women a reason to want what we have. To look like we look. To live like we live. To be what we are. Make no mistake, our hurting girlfriends are looking for one good reason to change their lives. The reality is that our lives may be the only reason they find to seek out something different than what they have known. It's a beautiful, important responsibility.

May we always remember that our mission in life is not one of perfect hair or worldly achievement, but of living and breathing the message of Jesus Christ by our words, our actions, and most importantly, our life. May we embrace the privilege of imitating Christ, so that our girlfriends and others we have influence over will see something in us that they want desperately to have. May we wear Him well so His beauty is fully and completely represented.

For the influence we have through Him will last much longer than a fashion fad…a social trend…or even, a coveted hairstyle like Debbie's.

Let's have what they want, and show them how to get it.

Jesus, You are the reason to love, to live and to breathe. You alone make the journey possible. May we remember that we represent You always, and help us understand how to do that in such a way that it will lead others to a saving relationship with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit our new She Seeks site, P31’s exciting new ministry for women 18-29!

Behind Those Eyes: What’s Really Going on Inside the Souls of Women by Lisa Whittle

Finding a Mentor, Being a Mentor by Donna Otto

Becoming a Woman of Influence Message on CD by Marybeth Whalen

Application Steps:
Remember - why your life with Jesus is better than your life was without Him.

Pray - for a passion to represent Christ and draw others to Him.

Live - authentically, genuinely, and purposefully.

How often do you think about how you represent Christ in daily living?

Do you care enough about the hurts and needs of others to offer them a solution through a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Is something hindering your ability to be the influence for Christ you want and need to be? If so, why and how can you change that?

Power Verse:
Matthew 5:16, "In the same way, let your good deed shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." (NLT)

© 2009 by Lisa Whittle. All rights reserved.

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Learning to Give
Curt and Marybeth Whalen

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)

Marybeth and I are going to admit something that you don't usually hear in Christian circles. For most of our marriage, we haven't tithed regularly. Even though we both grew up in church, heard all the sermons about tithing, and knew what the Bible had to say about money. We had all the head knowledge any one person would need.

We just never participated.

When we decided to become debt free, part of our process was to recognize our need to surrender. We surrendered our mistakes, our marriage, and our money to God. We humbled ourselves, confessed our pride, and asked Him for help. Surrendering control of our money was a hard but important step to take, and we knew that regularly giving an offering to God was part of the equation.

During this time, Marybeth and I finally admitted out loud what we had always been convicted of in our hearts. When it came down to it, we didn't trust that our Heavenly Father was really going to take care of us. Giving, we've learned, is an expression of love and worship, but our fear outweighed our love.

Even so, we were determined to start. It wasn't easy. We argued with God about giving Him money that He didn't really need when we could have used that money to pay off our creditors. Little by little, we began giving to our church. At the time, it wasn't a full 10% of my paycheck, but it was something, and we began to develop the habit of giving on a regular basis. We began to understand that giving God 10% of our income, or tithing, has nothing to do with whether we need the money to pay bills, whether it's an old covenant command that Jesus changed (as some suggest), something we do out of guilt, or something that will bring us unlimited financial blessings.

It's much simpler then any of those things.

Giving God our tithe is an expression of love. We give God the first of what shows up in our checking account to acknowledge that He loved us first. We worship Him with our gift because God gave us the ultimate gift: His life, dying a brutal death on a cross to save us from the horrors and consequences of sin. We, like God who sacrificed His Son, give to demonstrate love.

When we began consistently giving it was hard, painful, and even scary to develop the habit. But year after year, month after month, we stayed committed. And now, I can tell you that nothing is more meaningful to us than to write God that tithe check.

My encouragement to you if you don't currently give is to simply begin. Don't be overwhelmed with what you don't do, should do, or have to do. Just start small. Take something to church this Sunday and experience the joy of worshiping God with your money. Challenge yourself to be consistent and to increase what you give. Ask God for help and share the joy of giving with your children. Pray over your gift before you leave for church, sharing with your kids your "thanks" for the many blessings that God has filled your life with – the roof over your head, the clothes on your back, the food on your table, and His love in your hearts.

Dear Lord, I pray that You would transform me into someone who demonstrates love with the gift of my money, my time, and my talents. Please teach me what it means to be a cheerful giver. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
A Life That Says Welcome, Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others by Karen Ehman

Learning to Live Financially Free Marybeth and Curt Whalen

Visit the Whalens’ financial blog and click here for more resources by the Whalens

Application Steps:
Determine to give this Sunday at church or write a check to an organization you have been blessed by. Don't get hung up on the amount. Just give in response to what God has given to you. Then build from there. Pray that God would unleash a spirit of giving within your family.

Do you trust God to provide for you and your family, even when you give money that you feel you should keep "just in case"? How has this viewpoint affected your ability to give with joy in the past? How can you begin to give out of joy instead of guilt and obligation?

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 8:7, "But just as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving." (NIV)

©2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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Still a Pretty Good Day
Lysa TerKeurst

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…" Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

Several months back, my daughter Ashley had a gymnastics meet that didn't go so well. She fell on almost every event. She scored well below her expectations and I thought there would be lots of tears at the awards ceremony. But, much to my surprise, she bounced up to me and exclaimed, "Mom, did you see I landed my vault on my feet. That's a good thing about today."

She then flitted off with her teammates to get ice cream. One of the other moms grabbed my arm and complimented Ashley's good attitude. Though I did feel sad for Ashley - after all she had worked so hard to prepare for this meet, my heart still swelled with joy. That compliment meant more than seeing my daughter with a neck full of gold medals. Do I want Ashley to win? Yes, of course. But seeing a good attitude displayed in the face of adversity - well that's simply priceless.

Ashley's outlook challenged me. How many times do I have something bad happen in my day and it just seems to turn my whole attitude south? Instead of just resigning myself to being emotional or sensitive, I've decided to see this as a call to action. I've started making the choice to say a simple statement that often diverts a bad attitude. And the statement is this, "If this is the worst thing that happens to me today, it's still a pretty good day."

Boy does this statement put things into perspective. I guess it's an everyday way to do a little heart check up. The Bible tells us that we should intentionally make our minds think of things that are good, true, excellent, and praiseworthy. The more I think about things like these, the more my perspective seems to stay in check. In Colossians 3:15 we are instructed to, "Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts… and be thankful." Verse 16 goes on to say that we should also, "Let the word of God dwell in us richly…" Finally, verse 17 says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…"

Letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and letting the Word of God dwell in us richly doesn't just happen naturally. We have to intentionally make those choices. And we have to challenge ourselves to deal with the bad while focusing on all the good that is there as well.

So, what aggravation or disappointment are you facing today? If that's the worst thing that happens - I bet you could say it's still a pretty good day too.

Dear Lord, help me to put daily aggravations into proper perspective. Give me the wisdom to choose to let the peace of Christ rule in my heart. And give me a hunger to get into Your word and let Your word get into me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Bathtub is Overflowing but I Feel Drained by Lysa TerKeurst

*Be one of the first to receive Lysa’s new book! Pre-order her newest release: Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl.

Visit Lysa on her blog and click here for more of her resources.

Application Steps:
Click over to Lysa’s blog to post a comment about how you will choose to see the good rather than focus on the bad in your day today. Each time something aggravates you, make the choice to say, "If this is the worst thing that happens to me today, it's still a pretty good day."

Are there some areas that are consistently tripping up your attitude? Find some verses that you can memorize to help redirect your outlook when negativity starts to creep into your heart.

Intentionally recall things you are thankful for and focus on praising God for those circumstances.

Power Verses:
Philippians 4:4-5, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all…" (NIV)

Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)

Colossians 3:15-17, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (NIV)

© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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