Turtle Neckin'
Amy Carroll

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life." Proverbs 16:31 (NIV)

"There comes a moment when you know that your face has changed; when that effortless glow you always had going for you suddenly requires serious effort. For me, that moment came on the first of August at 4:13 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, while buying a pound and a half of chicken breasts at Simchyk and Sons." - Lisa Kogan

At first I laughed hysterically when I read those lines from an article. Pretty soon, though, I realized that the laugh was just hysteria and that it had a real note of panic in it. It hit a little too close to home, because I had my own well-defined realization of my aging recently. I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of my car window, and I almost turned to see who was standing behind me.

Unfortunately, the neck that was reflected was my own. I just couldn't understand where all those little crepe-y lines had come from. I had never seen them before. Upon reflection, I think I must even do the turtle neck in the mirror. You know the move. It's the stretch I do with my neck during pictures to try to eliminate any extra chins. Evidently, I've been doing it in the mirror, too, and that's why I hadn't seen any of those wrinkles on my neck!

I had a significant birthday this year, and there were almost instant changes in my face. I've enlisted my good friend Holly to be my dealer -I mean supplier - of skin care products. Even though Proverbs assures me that my gray hairs are a crown, I still want my crown hidden for a while under color from a bottle. I want to age gracefully but not suddenly!

With all the angst over a few wrinkles, I have to admit that I'm also embracing all the good stuff that comes with age. There's actually a lot to celebrate. I have gradually felt myself feeling more comfortable in my own skin. Although I strive to make my words godly, I also feel bolder and more empowered to stand up and speak up. I've increasingly realized that although I have nothing to offer, Jesus in me has everything to offer. I'm relishing becoming the older woman who knows a little bit about the world, mothering, pursuing a passion and cultivating a walk with God.

My outward body may be deteriorating, but I know that running hard on the heels of Jesus will keep me spiritually fit and beautiful. I can revel in each year as long as my image is more closely matching His image.

I see the stretch of the years in front of me as the stretch to truly begin looking more like Jesus. It's the stretch where, if I do it right, the outside matters less and less. The world is less and less attractive. Heaven becomes more and more my home. My character is more and more submitted to Jesus, and my final destination is in sight. I may decide to apply specialized creams to my neck and dye to my hair, but the increase in years is worth it to gain from God the things I need to be a woman of substance!

Dear Lord, help me to keep laughing about all the changes in my body as I age, but help me to take inner change seriously. I truly want to grow older and godlier instead of older and grouchier. In Jesus' precious Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

God’s Purpose for Every Woman: A Compilation of Favorite P31 Devotions by various Encouragement for Today authors.

Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be by Donna Partow

Visit Amy’s blog - Ponderings from the Pathway

Application Steps:
Make a list of the blessings that have come with age.

Thank God even for the hard things that come with age. They are the things that make heaven become more appealing and more like home.

What steps can I take to look more like Jesus every day?

How can I encourage the older people around me that they are valuable and loved?

Power Verses:
Job 12:12, "Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?" (NIV)

Isaiah 46:4, "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (NIV)

© 2009 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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A Mere Piece of Bronze
Marybeth Whalen

"He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan)." II Kings 18:4 (NIV)

I used to have a quote, cut from a magazine article, taped above my desk. I can't recall the exact quote, but the gist of it was that while our children are gifts from God, it's easy to let them become little idols. I remember the shock value of reading those words printed on the page. My children? Idols? It sounded like heresy! But as I allowed the words to sink in, I realized that the person who penned those words was right. Most anything can become an idol in our hearts -becoming more important than our relationship with God, taking priority over His place in our life.

In Numbers 21:8-9, God told the Israelites to raise a bronze snake on a pole and look to it in order to be healed. Seven hundred years later, the Israelites had gotten off track. They had turned that snake - something that was God's idea -into an idol they worshiped. In our verse for today, we see Hezekiah destroying the snake in an effort to turn the people's hearts back to God. The word Nehushtan in the verse means "a mere piece of bronze." The bronze snake was not the answer to the people's problems. They had attached too much significance to it. Hezekiah had no choice but to refocus their attention where it needed to be by physically removing the idol.

Idols can take many forms in our lives. Family members and friends can become idols. Doctors and medicine can become idols. Work and hobbies can become idols. Entertainment - movies, TV, music, games - can become idols. Food can become an idol. An idol by definition is anything that we place our trust in, anything that takes precedence over God. While we may not pray to it and burn incense to it, it becomes more important than anything, including God. Just like God designed the snake to be a good thing in the lives of His people, so He allows us to have good things in our lives. He just doesn't want us to get things out of whack, as we are prone to do. It's not that the thing itself is the problem; it's our attitude about that thing.

God showed me that I needed to destroy any idols in my life. For me, I had to spend a lot of time refocusing my priorities. I started with how important I had made my husband and children. Yes, my family needed me. Yes, I needed to spend time with them. Yes, I loved them dearly. But they couldn't take the place of my relationship with the Lord. I had to put them in their proper place and renew my perspective. This can only be done with intentionality and continual heart work. God gives us good things to enjoy - family and friends and work and food and hobbies and entertainment. But He has also given us Himself, opening the door wide for us to come before His throne. May we keep good things in their place and keep God on the throne of our lives.

Dear Lord, please get my attention when I get distracted. Help me to keep the good things in my life where they belong and to keep You first. Help me destroy any idols I have placed ahead of You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Pierced by the Word by John Piper

The Reason We Speak, General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Visit Marybeth’s blog - Cheaper by the Half Dozen, and find out more about her other resources here

Application Steps:
Read Numbers 21:8-9. Think about the difference in how the snake was created versus what happened with the snake 700 years later.

Is there something God is bringing to your mind that was a good thing that has gotten out of whack in your life?

Power Verses:
I Timothy 6:17, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (NIV)

John 3:14, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up." (NIV)

© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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A Different Way to Look at Suffering
Micca Monda Campbell

"'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'" John 9:3 (NIV)

Jesus had a unique way of clearing up misconceptions by helping people see truth as it was meant to be. For example, in John 9 we find Jesus refuting the traditional explanation of suffering when His disciples point to a man born blind and ask, "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" In other words, they wanted to know Why did he deserve blindness? Jesus answers frankly, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

The disciples looked backwards to find out why the man was blind. Jesus redirects their attention by pointing forward and upward with a new and different perspective.

Usually, our response to challenges or suffering is determined by our perspective. When our focus is inward on ourselves or outward on circumstances, our natural response is fear, insecurity, grumbling and despair. I know. I've been there far too often. Have you?

Yet, Jesus redirects our questions and our focus. In doing so, it causes us to see suffering in a new light that disproves the old tradition. Not all suffering is a direct result of sin. Pain has a higher purpose in our lives. It's not necessarily there because we deserve it. It's to reveal God's glory.

Suffering is meant to refine us. James says it makes us "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (1:4b, ESV). Pain drives us to seek the heart and will of God.

Perhaps you and I have been going at it all wrong. We've been looking backwards in the rearview mirror of life asking, "Why? What did I do to deserve this?" Instead, we should look forward and up asking, "What's the purpose of my pain? What's the end result? What is God trying to do, accomplish, or teach me?"

These types of questions enable us to hold out hope for the future. They remind us our suffering can be transformed or redeemed. Tragedies and hardships like the loss of a spouse, a child, a limb, a job, or a home can be used to display God's work and make us more like Jesus.

Isn't it time you and I looked up? An upward focus brings about a supernatural response that reflects trust and confidence in God, as He brings about His glorious work in each of us.

Dear Lord, give me a new perspective today. Help me see the real meaning of my suffering. Enable me to trust You with the good work You are accomplishing in my life through this pain. I long for You to be glorified in this trial. Give me the strength I need to make that happen. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell

Get Over It and Get On With It by Michelle McKinney Hammond

Visit Micca’s blog - Reflections, and find out more about her resources here.

Application Steps:
Choose not to look in the review mirror of life today. Instead, look forward. Ask God "to what end" is my suffering. Look for evidence of how God is at work refining your faith and character to match His.

What do you think God is trying to accomplish in your life through your suffering?

The blind man learned something about Christ from being healed. What have you learned about Christ from your experience?

Power Verses:
1 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).

© 2009 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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A Financially-Productive Woman
Glynnis Whitwer

"She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes." Proverbs 31:24 (NIV)

In today's economy, I look for every way to save money. I'm a sale-shopping, coupon-clipping, leftover-loving woman. I'm a firm believer in Benjamin Franklin's well-known adage, "A penny saved is a penny earned." And this past couple of years, my family has certainly had to apply that to our lives in greater measure.

Sometimes, however, saving money just isn't enough. As many families face a reduced income due to layoffs and company closures, there are only so many ways to cut corners. So I'm also a believer in trying to make money in creative ways. As many of us wonder what the future holds financially, I'd like to suggest we look at a biblical example of how to use the resources we have within our homes to increase our families' incomes.

One of the best examples I know is found in Proverbs 31. Throughout chapter 31 we meet a woman who was a good manager of all her resources, and in verse 24, we learn that she used her weaving skills to make money. As I consider this women's ingenuity, I learn that she identified a need (merchants needed sashes) and then used her skills (making garments) and energy (selling them) to increase her family's financial well being.

I wonder if many of us overlook this principle as we face a financially shaky future with dread. Perhaps we don't need to look for an employer that is hiring, but instead should consider how to use the resources God has already given us. On a recent trip, I met a wonderful example of a woman doing just that. She is past retirement age, lives alone and wanted to bring in extra income. Since I'm a small business owner, our commonalities got us talking.

This productive woman buys used wool sweaters, shrinks them and sews them into designer mittens using other fabrics and decorative accents. Then she sells them in a local shop where she has a booth. That's not all she sells. She has added hand-made products made by women working at home in other countries, plus some unique new clothing items she buys and resells. It all started with a creative idea, the use of her talents and some energy to sell them.

Artistic talents aren't the only resource we have to help our families. Many people have other skills that can be used to increase incomes. Some examples are physical strength, athletic training, organization, planning, love of travel, cooking, gardening and cleaning. Many have families that can help. This past summer I watched a local landscaper work every week with his two sons by his side. They are a family pulling together when it counts most.

No one wishes for hard financial times – though we can learn much in them. When God is on our side, there are always opportunities waiting to be uncovered. Instead of dreading the future, perhaps God wants to tap into the unique resources He has planted within our lives and family for such a time as this.

Dear Lord, I thank You today for the many resources You have given me. Thank You for my life, for my mind, for what health I have and for the hope you offer. Please help me to see how I might use these resources to become more financially productive. Only You know the true depth of my needs. So today I ask for Your help. I know I can do all things through You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Work@Home: A Practical Guide for Women Who Want to Work from Home by Glynnis Whitwer

Learning to Live Financially Free by Marybeth and Curt Whalen

Visit Glynnis’ blog to read suggestions for home-based businesses you can start with little money.

Application Steps:
If you are in a place of financial need, take some time to evaluate all the resources you have. List five that could possibly be used to increase your financial health.

Reflections: God often uses our finances to teach us lessons. What have you learned about God as a result of a financially difficult time in your life?

What is one wise money management principle that you should apply to your life now?

Power Verses:
Matthew 25:21, "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)

Proverbs 21:5, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." (NIV)

John 21:6, "And He said to them, 'Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.' So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish." (NASB)

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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A Morning Prayer
Lysa TerKeurst

"Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

It is very early in the morning. Not many people are stirring yet.

Though my body begs me just to roll over and go back to sleep, my soul is stirring to get up and go sit with Jesus.

Though I can't physically see Him, I know He is present.

I decide to open my Bible to the Psalms and use the verses I read as prayers to start my day.

And the more I pray those verses out loud the less I hear all the nagging things of the world. A beautiful melody of truth starts to rise up and suddenly my worries fade in the light of God's truth.

His perspective on things that are troubling me starts to overshadow my anxiety. Like shade on a hot summer's day, I feel relief in His presence.

I know that He is preparing me for what I will need throughout this day. He is already standing in every minute of my day and He sees what I will face. So, He's equipping me to be able to handle what is ahead of me with His gentle boldness, quiet strength, and loving grace.

In Psalm 81:10b, God instructs me, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." He will give me what to say today. What to say in happy moments. What to say in aggravating moments. What to say in moments where I feel insecure and what to say when I feel completely confident. What to say in disappointing moments. What to say in response to questions.

He also reminds me that sometimes it is good to keep my mouth closed and say nothing at all.

All the words that rumble about in my brain and those that will proceed out of my mouth, Lord, You be the author of those.

Psalm 84:1 reminds me that God's dwelling place is lovely. So, I ask God to dwell in me richly. I want Him to be what radiates about me. I want Him to be my pretty today.

Not my hair. Not my outfit. Not my efforts. But simply Him and His spirit dancing invisibly about me... shifting a wrong attitude, guarding my words, and whispering constant truths into my heart.

Psalm 86:11 is what I ask the Lord to give me. "Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart..."

Lord, may nothing separate me from You today. Teach me how to choose only Your way today so each step will lead me closer to You. Help me walk by the truth and not my feelings.

Help me to keep my heart pure and undivided. Protect me from my own careless thoughts, words and actions. And keep me from being distracted by MY wants, MY desires, MY thoughts on how things should be.

Help me to embrace what comes my way as an opportunity...rather than a personal inconvenience.

And finally, help me to rest in the truth of Psalm 86:13a, "Great is your love toward me."

You already see all the many ways I will surely fall short and mess up. But right now, I consciously tuck Your whisper of absolute love for me into the deepest part of my heart. I recognize Your love for me is not based on my performance. You love me warts and all.

Have mercy, that's amazing.

But what's most amazing is that the God of the Universe, the Savior of the world, would desire a few minutes with me this morning. Lord, help me to forever remember what a gift it is to sit with You like this.

Dear Lord, I love You. All that I have read here is the desire of my heart. I know and confess that sometimes my actions and reactions betray my love for You. Please forgive me. Thank You for Your grace that is able to recognize this new day as a new chance to walk closer with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Lysa’s blog to register to win a free conference call with Lysa to do a Q&A with your Bible Study group!

This “morning prayer” is taken from Lysa’s new book just released this month called, Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl. If you've ever wanted a book that will show you how to move into a closer relationship with God, this is the book you've been looking for. Order your copy today!

Application Steps:
Set aside time today to personally pray through the verses in Psalms listed in this devotion. Personalize them by inserting things personal to you. For example: Psalm 86:11 talks about having an undivided heart. List out those things that divide your heart and pull you away from the closeness you desire with Jesus. Spend some time confessing these and asking for wisdom to know how to better handle them.

What distracts me from spending time with Jesus?

Is it important to spend time with Jesus in the morning or is there another time I'm more alert and able to concentrate?

Power Verses:
Mark 1:35, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (NIV)

Luke 5:16, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (NIV)

© 2009 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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A Divine Appointment
Wendy Blight

"He answered, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;' and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27 (NIV)

Every Memorial Day weekend my friend Karen and I travel with our families to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, for five days of rest and relaxation. We just cannot wait to dig our toes in the sand, take long walks on the beach, and enjoy the island's incredible sunsets. Every trip is special, but this most recent trip stood above all others.

Karen and I ran to the local grocery. Feeding nine people for five days resulted in two carts overflowing with food and supplies. We approached the checkout lines looking for the shortest line. We chose a line with an older woman without a cart. Apparently waiting on someone else, she motioned for us to go ahead of her. Moments later, a young woman scurried up pushing a crying child in a half-full cart. It was clear the older woman was frustrated that they now had to wait behind us, so we offered to give her back her place in line.

As the young woman and her child passed by me, my heart began to pound. I physically began to tremble. I felt God impressing upon my heart that Karen and I were to buy her groceries. I hesitated, but past experience caused me to obey. I tapped the young woman on the shoulder and spoke these exact words, "I know it sounds strange, but God told me that we are to buy your groceries."

She graciously accepted with tears in her eyes, and then she and the older woman left. A few minutes later, the older woman returned to share an incredible story. The young woman was her daughter. Her name was Micah.

Micah's husband had walked out on her and her young son a few months before. He had abused her for years before leaving. She could barely make ends meet and felt completely abandoned by everyone, especially God.

Days before this God-ordained meeting in the grocery story, Micah and her mother had prayed. Her mother prayed that God would draw Micah back into relationship with Him. Micah prayed, "God, if you are real, if you love me, show Yourself to me!" As her mother shared these words, it was a powerful moment. Micah, in the midst of her deepest sorrow and pain cried out to God for His Presence. Karen and I simply walked in the store that day to complete an ordinary task. And God crossed our paths at one point in time to show each of us He is active, involved, and OH SO REAL!

Yes, it was a great day for Micah. But what a day it was for Karen and me as well! Our obedience to the Lord's prompting touched this woman's life in such a powerful way that she KNEW He was real and had not abandoned her, and that He answers prayer. A divine appointment ... a day I will treasure forever.

Heavenly Father, Sovereign Lord, the Great I Am. Thank You that You have planned every day of our lives before we have lived a single day. Thank You that You speak into our lives today. Thank You that You invite us to join You in Your work. Father, give us opportunities to be Your hands and feet. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see the broken and hurting people all around us. Give us a heart of obedience. Give us boldness to speak. May all glory and honor and praise go to You. In Jesus' Name Amen.

Related Resources:
Please pray about becoming part of a child’s life through Compassion International

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

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself by Mary Lance Sisk

Visit Wendy’s blog, Living Truth

Application Steps:
Over the next few days, pray for the Lord to bring opportunities in your life to minister to others. Pray that He will open your eyes to see and your ears to hear.

If you have a story to tell, please share it on Wendy's blog, Living Truth.

Read Luke 10:25-37: The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Focus especially on Luke 10:27. How does this lesson relate to our devotion?

Power Verse:
Proverbs 11:25, "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes another will himself be refreshed." (NIV)

© 2009 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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Feel The Burn
Luann Prater

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

Jagged rocks sunk deep into my knee. They left a hole the size of a quarter and deep enough for my mom to wrap her finger in a washcloth and stick it down in it to clean it out! (How is that for way too graphic?) This 3rd grade bicycle accident left an impression, literally!

My knee always gave me trouble after that. Bike riding was still possible because I had the leverage of the other leg. I could walk for miles. But running was a different story. Running a lap in gym class caused my knee to swell the size of a small cantaloupe! If the teacher insisted I keep running, the knee would go limp and I would fall on the track.

The school nurse told my mom to take me to the doctor. He drained it, then wrote a note and handed it to my mom. A prescription? No, a note excusing me from EVER taking another gym class....EVER! Woo Hoo! I felt like I had just been released from exercise-prison!

What that did over time, however, was clip the wings of this butterfly. That note was my "get out of jail free card" and I pulled it out whenever exercise was mentioned. At first I was fearful that my silly weak knee would let me down and embarrass me in front of my friends, so I would just excuse myself from the fun. Then I just gave up all together, thinking I could never do anything physical beyond walking.

A few years ago, my sweet friend Lysa began running every morning. I remember thinking, I wish I could do that. My neighbor also runs every morning and asked if I wanted to join her. "Wish I could," I'd say.

Dealing with congestion in our chests one day, my hubby and I decided to go for a walk. Suddenly I blurted, "Let's run and get active enough to break this stuff up!" He looked to see if I was joking, then saw my serious face. So we ran.

And I liked it! I didn't even consult my knee! We made a second lap and I finally felt it -- the burn.

People talk about feeling the burn but I never really "got it." However, that day the warm sensation in my limp, lazy muscles felt good. Stretching past the norm made me feel alive.

Complacency is never good, not physically or spiritually. Fear of what might happen took the drive out of my physical life. Sometimes fear of what might happen can take the power out of my run with Christ.

Are you pulling out your note of excuses, explaining why being an active Christian just won't work for you? Or are you regularly feeling the burn in your walk with Jesus?

My husband and I are running twice a day now. I feel the burn and I'm LOVIN' IT!

Is God calling you to get off the couch and out in the world to make a difference? If so, get up and go with gusto.

Dear Lord, You never sat lazily on the sidelines and watched life happen while You were here on earth. You were active in the lives of others. Help me Father to love the burn that comes with stretching my faith. Take my hand Lord and teach me to run! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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

Making It Real: Whose Faith is it Anyway? by T. Suzanne Eller

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Visit Luann’s Blog and listen to her radio program Encouragement Café

Application Steps:
Stretch yourself today. What can you do to get off the sidelines of life and get into the race?

What excuses have I made to stay in my comfort zone?

Will I take that first step and decide to run my race with faith?

Who could I share this word of encouragement with to spur them to live an active life with Jesus?

Power Verses:
Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (NIV)

Proverbs 31:17, "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks." (NIV)

© 2009 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

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Finding Shelter
Mary DeMuth, She Reads Featured Author

"And I say, 'Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest." Psalm 55:6-8 (ESV)

I'm not normally one to sense family secrets about people's lives, but this time I did. The moment "Sarah" walked through my front door for a Bible study, God whispered to me, "She needs help."

A few weeks later she asked if I could come over and talk.

She welcomed me to an immaculate house and peppered me with questions about how I managed our home. At first I answered her questions directly, but as she kept asking, I realized she was really asking something else: Why can't I be enough for my husband's expectations? She seemed frightened, jumpy.

That day my new friend Sarah confessed that her husband abused her. Emotionally. Physically. Psychologically. I prayed for her, gave her my phone number, and felt her burden in my gut.
She called after a violent episode, her two children crying in the back of her car. "I'm afraid," she told me.

I encouraged her to come over. Nearly at that moment, a friend of mine arrived and, through a series of God-moments, we worked together to get Sarah and her two children to a safe place.

In doing so, we feared for our safety. Her husband stalked us, called us in the middle of the night screaming. During one conversation, my husband asked him, "Why are you in seminary?"

"Because I want to pastor people." He said it as if the answer were obvious.

My husband cleared his throat in the quiet of our room. "If you can't shepherd your own family, you can't expect to shepherd others."

The man erupted, spewing obscenities. "She just needs to learn to submit!" With that, he hung up.

Since this time, we've encountered several hurting women married to men who pursued, or were active in, ministry. These women felt trapped, worried, and afraid. And because their husbands held the position they did, these wives didn't know how to find a safe place.

As a fiction author, I have written a series of novels with the purpose of exposing this kind of pain in Christian families. I didn't write to impugn or to harass, but to shed light on a sad reality. So that silent sufferers wouldn't feel alone. So that redemption could shine on such a dark family canvas.

Do you know a "Sarah"? Whether she is a friend, acquaintance, or the woman you look at each day in the mirror, there is something you can do. Pray fervently that God will give you the wisdom to find shelter. Pray for the courage to tell the truth, or to be a safe place for her to tell the truth. And believe that no one "deserves" punishment, violence, or verbal thrashings by a spouse. Remember that God's heart for marriage is unity, mutual understanding, longsuffering, love that overlooks shortfalls, and camaraderie.

May we all seek God's design for marriage and may those who need to find shelter hurry towards it.

Dear Lord, whether I am a Sarah, or a friend of a Sarah, give me wisdom. Make me aware if You desire for me to take a role in helping someone. I give You everything, including my fears, worries, and stress. Shine Your light on my family, I pray. And lead me to Your safe place. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth. This book is one of the three fall selections for our recently launched SheReads Fiction Book Club.

Mary will be guest posting on the SheReads blog this week. If you would like to ask questions anonymously or dialogue further about this devotion, she welcomes you there and would love to hear from you!

When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference by Carolyn Custis James

Application Steps:
If you're a Sarah: Seek solace in a safe friendship and share your story. If you fear for your life or your children's lives, contact your local battered women's shelter.

If you know a Sarah, pray that God would show you how you can be used in her life to help her find shelter from what she is going through.

Who benefits from me keeping a family secret like this?

How is it loving to allow someone to hurt you or others?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:15, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every aspect into him who is the head, into Christ." (ESV)

Ephesians 5:11, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead, expose them." (ESV)

© 2009 by Mary DeMuth. All rights reserved.

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The Six Most Dangerous Words Ever
Glynnis Whitwer

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

A few months ago, I heard the most horrible news report. It was about a couple who owned a python. One night, the snake escaped from its cage and killed a two-year-old baby. It was heartbreaking. I kept asking, "Why?" Of course, those people never thought that would happen to them.

That's where I ended up in my thoughts ... with what I have decided are the six most dangerous words in the English language:


I don't judge this couple for having the snake. My heart just breaks for them. And my heart breaks for anyone who finds themselves in a devastating situation because they didn't think anything would happen. The hard truth is, every one of us has the potential to make a serious mistake, or a life-altering miscalculation, because we thought we were immune to trouble. Here are examples we see every day:

A woman who enjoys an "innocent" flirtation at work
A kid who gets in the back of a truck
A girl who gets in the car with someone who has been drinking
A couple who moves and stops attending church
A mom who starts an email communication with a man who makes her feel young again

The list goes on and on. Every woman, man and child is a candidate for making a mistake. This is because of our sin-drenched DNA. It's also because we have a tendency to forget this sin-nature, and ignore the fact that we desperately need God's help ... every minute ... every hour ... every day.

When I think "That will never happen to me," I let down my guard. I imagine myself above my circumstances and above the need for God. It's like I open a door for pride to sneak in.

The reality of this world is we are in a battle. Only many people either don't know that, or forget it. We wake up thinking it's going to be a peaceful day. However, for those who have chosen to follow Jesus, we have an enemy who is preparing for a fight. No wonder we are blindsided by the results of our choices. We are in a fight we don't know about.

A passage in 1 Peter reminds me to be on guard, and gives me hope:

"Turn all your worries over to him. He cares about you. Control yourselves. Be on your guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow. Stand up to him. Stand firm in what you believe. All over the world you know that your brothers and sisters are going through the same kind of suffering. God always gives you all the grace you need"(1 Peter 5:7-10a, NIRV).

That last verse is what I hang on to when the sadness of this world threatens to overwhelm me. No one is immune to making a mistake that ends with devastating consequences. No one. It's a call to remember that I need God's help every day. And that His grace is enough for me.

Dear Lord, I know how desperately I need Your help. On my own, I'm no match for Satan's schemes. Yet I know You have given me grace to be alert and to stand firm in the face of temptation. Help me to make the right choice in every situation. Forgive me when my selfishness or inattention causes You sadness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Jesus invites us to come to Him to repair whatever’s broken in our lives? Hear more and be encouraged by this truth on our Radio Show.

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

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

Visit Glynnis’s blog and browse her other resources here

Application Steps:
Have you made a choice recently you regret? If so, take this opportunity to confess that to God and ask for His forgiveness. Commit to praying for God's strength to stand firm.

What are some dangerous paths women tread, believing they are immune to making a wrong choice?

What are some habits you can develop to keep you alert to the devil's schemes?

Power Verses:
Psalm 37:23-24, "If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, or the LORD upholds him with his hand." (NIV)

Proverbs 2:6, "For the LORD gives wisdom, and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding." (NIV)

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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I Want What She Has
Lysa TerKeurst

"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." Proverbs14:30 (NIV)

Chances are, if you're like me, you've struggled with comparison and envy.

My house looks great until a friend redecorates. Her clever color combination and crafty restoration abilities have created rooms that look as though they've stepped straight from a magazine. Suddenly my home feels outdated and plain.

My kids seem great until I'm around someone else's who excel in areas my kids struggle in. I see her kids quietly reading books that are well advanced for their age and loving every minute of it. I compare that to mine who would rather have their right arm cut off than to read books that are barely grade level all the while asking me when they can go do something else more exciting. Suddenly I judge myself for not making reading more of a priority when they were younger and feel like a sub-par mom.

Suddenly all that I'm blessed with pales in the face of comparison. I'm blinded from seeing what I do have in the face of what I don't have. My heart is drawn into a place of ungratefulness and assumption. As I assume everything is great for those that possess what I don't, I become less and less thankful for what's mine.

And here's the real kicker… things for the person I'm comparing myself to are almost never what they seem. If there's one thing that living 40 years has taught me, it's that everybody has not-so-great sides to their lives. Whenever I get an idyllic view of someone else's life, I will often say out loud, "I am not equipped to handle what they have, both good and bad."

God has taught me a lot about how to nip a comparison in the bud so it doesn't develop into full blown envy and jealously.

The statement, "I am not equipped to handle what they have, both good and bad," has been one of the greatest realizations God has given me. Every situation has both good and bad. When I want someone else's good, I must realize that I'm also asking for the bad that comes along with it. It's always a package deal. And usually if I'll just give something enough time to unfold I can often be found thanking God that I didn't get someone else's package.

One of the first times I came to understand this truth was in middle school when I met a beautiful girl at the Children's Theater in my town. We were both budding child actors cast in a Christmas play. During rehearsals I can remember seeing her long dancers legs move in ways my stubby limbs never could. Her legs were muscular and lean and graceful. Mine couldn't be described with any of those adjectives.

One day there was an unusual pain in her left leg. And then a doctor's appointment turned into a battery of tests that turned into a hospital stay that turned into a diagnosis. Cancer. A surgery to remove a tumor turned into an amputation turned into a complete life change. Her world became filled with words no child should ever have to know: chemotherapy, prosthetics, hair loss, and walking canes.

As a young girl I was stunned by the whole thing. Especially because I clearly remember night after night after watching her glide across stage, I would ask God for legs exactly like hers.

… not equipped to handle what they have, both good and bad.

I don't want to paint the picture that every good thing someone else has will end with a tragedy. That's not the case. Sometimes others' good things are simply fantastic. But they are fantastic for them - not me.

…not equipped to handle what they have, both good and bad.

Dear Lord, thank You for only entrusting me with what I have and who I am. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s blog for a give-away you don’t want to miss! You could win four copies of Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl to share with your friends.

Today’s devo is taken from Lysa’s new book just released: Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl. If you enjoyed this devo, you will want to order the book!

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
What I must remember is to consciously make the choice to redirect my thinking when I find myself comparing and wanting.

Think of something you've wanted that someone else has. Have you been lured into thinking, "If only I had _______ like that person, my life would be great!"

Now, practice redirecting those thoughts by instead saying:

I am not equipped for their good.

I am not equipped for their bad.

I am not equipped to be them in any way.

I am, however, perfectly equipped to be me.

When I compare myself to others and start wanting what others have, it quite simply wears me out. I start feeling weary from wanting and burdened by trying to figure out how to have more, be more, and do more.

In light of all we've been talking about, isn't it interesting what Jesus instructs worn out people to do? Look at the power verse below.

Power Verses:
Matthew 11:28-30 finds Jesus instructing us, "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 Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Finding God in the Laundry Room
Lara Krupicka, She Speaks! Graduate

"The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." 1 Samuel 17:37a (NIV)

As I carry a load of clothes into my laundry room, I glance at the breakfast dishes in the sink and the piles of toys in the family room. Here we go again, I think. Another day of cooking and cleaning that will only be repeated again tomorrow. What is the point of it all? Why am I stuck with such a meaningless existence? When will I ever get to spend my days doing things that have a lasting impact?

Everyday life can be so uninspiring at times. I want action and excitement. I want something to happen. But then when it does (like the day the washing machine overflowed into my basement), I get all out of sorts. I have a hard time handling the disruption to my simple routine. This is not the kind of excitement I'm wanting, I think to myself. I grumble and complain my way through the problems that come my way.

When I consider this verse from 1 Samuel, I realize that, unlike me, David had learned the benefit of being faithful in seemingly insignificant work. He did not despise the lonely job of shepherd. Instead day in and day out he patiently watched in the fields, making sure the sheep didn't wander or get eaten. He took his work seriously, and in doing so he trusted God to be with him in the simple task of herding sheep. He didn't say that once he was a mighty warrior like his older brothers were, then he would trust God. He did it right where he was. Then when trouble came to his quiet field, in the form of a lion or a bear, it was God he relied on to come to his aid.

This dependence of David's is what prepared him for one of the turning point moments in his life. He was able to face the giant Goliath with confidence, not because he'd fought in many battles. He could do this because he'd seen God work in the everyday and knew God would show up on the battlefield too.

I still have a lot to learn about dependence on God. Yet I know that as I depend on Him in the routine tasks of my life, He is preparing me for circumstances yet to come. When I turn to Him in the midst of my laundry room troubles, I experience His care for me and I grow in my ability to know that He will "deliver me" from things both great and small. And in my dependence on God, the chores of cooking, cleaning and laundry begin to take on meaning. My life isn't as pointless as it once seemed.

Dear Lord, thank You for being with me today. Help me to see You in the mundane things of my life and show me how You can bring significance to those things. Teach me dependence on You as You taught the young shepherd, David. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Pampering Gifts: Crafting a Ministry of Treating People Well for Less by Lara Krupicka

My Heart’s at Home: Becoming the Intentional Mom Your Family Needs by Jill Savage

P31 Woman magazine

Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock

Application Steps:
As you engage in the rote tasks of your day, take the time to acknowledge God's presence. Ask Him to be a part of your day and the things that your hands find to do. Take even the smallest problems that arise to God in prayer and ask for His help with them.

In what area of your life can you begin seeking a greater dependence on God?

How can relying on God bring significance to the everyday things of your life?

Can you think of a time that God "delivered you from the paw of the lion"?

How can recalling that help you through other circumstances that you come upon?

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 31:8, "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (NIV)

Phillippians 4:11b, "For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (NIV)

© 2009 by Lara Krupicka. All rights reserved.

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The Empty Chair
Shari Braendel

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you." Colossians 1:9a (NIV)

What is one thing I would not live without?

The answer is a team of prayer warriors.

I surround myself with specific groups of women who pray for me and me for them. I have a Moms in Touch group at my son's school, an "around the world team" made up of friends in different states, local girlfriends, and P31 sisters.

For years these women have been praying for me. I have shared my dreams with them, and we have prayed together over God's calling and plans for me. The power of prayer is amazing, and we've seen God work in unbelievable ways. Let me share one instance that was undeniably prayer in action.

About two weeks ago, I was running out the door to my weekly prayer group at school. Just before I left, my husband reminded me to send an overdue e-mail. Telling him I'd do it later, he chimed, "There's no time like the present." So I quickly turned on my laptop and as I did, a new email came in.

Have you ever waited on an answer to come through email? It could be about a job, a test result, or maybe a response from a friend or family member. Regardless, you know when the answer comes it will impact your life. I was waiting on news about a ministry endeavor.

What I found in that hurried moment was an email telling me there would be a meeting at 10:00 that morning to determine the outcome of the matter. I was asked to pray that they would seek the Holy Spirit together as decisions affecting the ministry I serve in were made.

Quickly I forwarded the e-mail to my "around the world team" and headed out the door, with emotions running high. I cried all the way to the school prayer group, where I told them about the 10 o'clock meeting as well. The girls gathered around me and prayed.

When I got home, I read the prayers that had come in from my "around the world team." Bev had prayed there would be an empty chair in the room in which Jesus would be sitting, leading the conversation at the meeting.

Later that afternoon I received a call. The ministry opportunity was going forward! I had prayed about this for two years and approached it many different times. Praise God, things had moved forward in ways I never could have dreamed or imagined!

Recently, I met with one of the women who sat in the 10:00 meeting. She told me the meeting had gone so well it was as if Jesus Himself was right there in the room! I asked her what I'd wondered: "By any chance, was there an empty chair at the table?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact there was. We sat around the table with four chairs and there were only three of us." I imagined Jesus in that fourth spot.

Oh girls, the power of prayer! Believe that God will perform a miracle for you! Never, ever underestimate the power of friends praying. Find some girlfriends today and commit to praying for each other.

Dear Lord, thank You for hearing our prayers. Thank You for bringing into our lives other women who lift us up in prayer. You know the plans You have for us, dear Father, and we lift our prayers to You, waiting for Your direction and timing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Gather and Grow groups are the perfect place to pray with girlfriends!

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

Visit Shari’s blog

Application Steps:
Pray and ask God who you should invite to be on your team of prayer warriors.

Join a Moms in Touch prayer group at your child's school or start one by going to www.momsintouch.org.

Join the Proverbs 31 Ministries' Prayer Team.

Do you need a miracle for your marriage, child, job or health? Pray without ceasing.

Do you have a calling that you need to take to your prayer warriors and spend some time praying over?

Power Verses:
1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." (NASB)

James 5:16b, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (NIV)

© 2009 by Shari Braendel. All rights reserved.

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A Good Kind of Reckless
Tracie Miles

"'Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'" Matthew 14:29-30 (NIV)

A while back, I opened my daily devotion and the theme verse was the passage above. When I first began reading I thought, "Oh, I know this passage backwards and forwards: Peter stepping out onto the stormy waves. A great story of faith and keeping focused on Christ." But in this particular devotion, there was a different focus. The key word used was "reckless." It explained we are to be reckless in our faith – not habitual, not routine, not guarded. Reckless.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of reckless: Utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution. If you ask me, reckless doesn't sound like a good thing! When it comes to acting without caution, usually the consequences are negative, resulting in pain and problems that could have been avoided had common sense been used.

But when it comes to our faith, acting without caution is an awesome quality. Reckless faith is…

Living out loud for God, regardless of the consequences.

Opening ourselves up to be Christ's hands and feet in situations where most people close themselves off.

Reaching people others have deemed unreachable.

Loving those who are not very lovable and do not return our love.

Forgiving when forgiveness is not justifiable by the world's standards and making others wonder if we have our head on straight.

Changing direction in life because God called us to even if it doesn't make sense.

Reckless faith is being abandoned for Christ, completely surrendered to Him without restraint, and at peace with the consequences of what might happen.

Peter was reckless in earthly terms. He jumped onto the sea during a raging storm without a flotation device, into waves big enough to capsize his boat. However, if you think about it, it really wasn't Peter's earthly actions that were reckless; it was Peter's spiritual faith.

He had reckless faith: Without thinking, without distress over consequences, without anxiety over what might happen, and without concern for what his friends might think, Peter had faith.
Peter had reckless faith. And we can too! Reckless faith means doing what God has called us to do, commanded us to do, and prompted us to do – because it brings Him glory. Those who witnessed Peter's reckless faith didn't ooh and aah over Peter. Instead, like Peter, they fixed their eyes on Jesus. "Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God'" (Matthew 14:33, NIV).

There are a few times in my life when I've exhibited reckless faith, and found God blessed me immensely as a result. Unfortunately, there are many more times I've chosen to remain safely in my boat. It is so much easier to stay afloat in the safety of our comfort zone than to step out into stormy waters, putting all of our trust in Christ.

Reckless faith requires a vibrant and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. When we climb from the safety boat and exhibit that, we spur those still in their boats to fix their own eyes on Him, and worship the Son of God.

How is God calling you to be reckless for Him today?

Dear Lord, truly You are the Son of God. I know You have called me to reckless faith, but it is hard to step out. Infuse me with courage to climb out of my boat in whatever way You have called me to. Please help me hear You and give me bravery to move beyond my comfort zone. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Reinventing Your Rainbow by Tracie Miles

Birds in My Mustard Tree: How to Grow Your Faith by Susanne Scheppmann

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman

Visit Tracies’ blog

Has God called me out of my comfort zone?

Have I been paralyzed by doubt or fear?

Do I really believe I can trust God enough for me to be reckless in my faith?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 55:9, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (NIV)

2 Chronicles 16:9, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." (NIV)

© 2009 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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Shelter from the Storms
Melanie Chitwood

"Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62:8 (NAS)

The thunder and lightning of a powerful storm rattled our house last night. As rain slashed against the windows and lightning lit up the dark sky, I woke up just long enough to make room for my youngest son and yellow lab to join me and my husband in bed. I remember thinking with surprise that I didn't even know it was going to storm.

What a picture of my life lately. It's been a year of unexpected rain. Some just drizzles, but others, like the storm hitting me most recently, have rattled windows with wave after wave of thunder and bursts of lightning.

What about you? Is there stormy weather in your life right now? Where are you finding shelter from the storms?

My friends and family have been a shelter for me this year, just like my family was last night as we all huddled together in bed. They've encouraged and supported me. And most importantly, they've pointed me to the strongest shelter from the storms, my Heavenly Father.

As I've turned to Scripture this week, I'm amazed at the number of times it reminds us God is our shelter. God knows that we will encounter hard times and His Word reminds us that the strongest and safest shelter is God Himself.

As always we have a choice: get drenched in the rain or seek shelter. You see, the storms of life can cause us to run toward God, but just as easily they can cause us to turn away. A whole range of emotions can leave us standing in the rain to get drenched: bitterness, anger, confusion, helplessness, or hopelessness. If you can relate to these emotions, you might feel badly for having these emotions, but don't let these feelings keep you from God.

Read the Psalms and you'll see that God can handle every emotion. Negative emotions are not a reason to turn away from God. They're the very reason to turn to Him, desperately wanting the kind of faith and strength only God can provide.

Keep turning to God, continue to tell Him in prayer how you feel, and leave your emotions with Him. As you do, you'll start to feel His nearness, His hope, His promise, and His comfort. If you find yourself returning to feelings of fear or hopelessness, just go back to God. Be honest in your prayers. Acknowledge that you're having a hard time, but that you want to trust Him in your circumstances. Know that He loves you and will consistently and constantly be your shelter from the storms.

Dear Lord, "Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings" (Psalm 61:1-4, NAS). In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Join us for more Everyday Life encouragement

What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

An Untroubled Heart: Finding Faith that is Stronger than My Fears by Micca Campbell

Fear Less, message on CD by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Find comfort as you read Psalm 61, 62 and 91 today. Write out and display in a prominent place in your house a particular verse that helps you keep your eyes on God.

Have you been turning away from God? Can you turn back to Him today? He is waiting for you with open arms and a loving heart. He loves you and wants to be your strength and comfort in the storm you're facing.

Power Verses:
2 Chronicles 20:12, "… For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You." (NAS)

Psalm 91:1-2, "Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him." (NLT)

© 2009 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

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Mean Girls
Lynn Cowell

"The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him." Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

The words on FaceBook glared back at her. "You are so ugly! You are fat, annoying and I hate you!"

Lindsay just sat there, staring at the screen, baffled. "What did I say? What did I do?"

Maybe this has happened to one of your children, or in some way they've faced this type of rejection. Maybe you have felt it yourself. I recently spotted a t-shirt at the mall that read "You're no one until someone talks about you." What a sad state of affairs.

Growing up in a world where "Mean Girls" and "Gossip Girl" are movie and TV titles, it comes as no surprise that "mean" defines many females today. How can we guard our hearts against this? As a mom, what can we do when our children's hearts are crushed by meanness?

Feeling unaccepted is definitely nothing new. In Song of Solomon 1:5a, we are introduced to a young girl who felt this way: "Don't look down on me because I am dark…" (MSG). She felt rejected. Those feelings are so opposite of what our children want to feel. They want to be accepted! Matthew Henry concludes about this passage in Song of Solomon that we, as represented by the young girl, are "often base and contemptible in the esteem of others, but excellent in the sight of God."

We counteract the poison of meanness by remembering who we are in God's eyes. I am in. I am excellent in the sight of God. So are you. Song of Solomon 1:5b reveals the tanned girl's acceptance of this truth; she knows full well that her Lord finds her lovely. When I know that I am accepted by the Lord, it puts me exactly where I need to be to slough off insults and to help my child do the same.

As a sixth grader my daughter was 5'10". One day as she got off the school bus, I noticed she was holding back a flood of tears. Once again she had been made fun of for her height.
On that day, her youth pastor wasn't there. Her teacher, counselor and small group leaders weren't there either. But her mom was. I began telling her how her Father saw her. Sharing truths like these:

• "My beloved is mine, and I am His…" (Song of Solomon 2:16a, NKJV).

• You're beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless" (Song of Solomon 4:7b, MSG).

• "The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord" (Psalm 45:11, NIV).

These are the types of verses I poured back into my daughter that day and continue to remind her of still. I put them everywhere so that together we can read them over and over again. When we feel rejected, these words remind us that we are, in fact, accepted! Let them remind you today.

Dear Lord, help me to be purposeful in putting Your truth about who I am into my heart and mind so that am not swayed by the opinions of others. And when the time is right, I can pour Your truth into the hearts and minds of my children and friends. When my child feels rejected, help me remind them that in You they are accepted. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit our Radical Revolution site for encouragement for your 12-17 year old and our She Seeks site for your 18-29 year old.

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

Authentic Beauty: The Shaping of a Set-Apart Young Woman by Leslie Ludy

Visit Lynn’s blog

Application Steps:
Create a list of verses such as the ones above and below to have on hand to review or to share with your child when they are hurting.

Choose one verse per week and memorize it with your child. You can speak it to them as they are eating their breakfast in the morning, when they come home from school, and before they go to bed.

If you have your own set of "mean girl" stories, share them with your children so they can know you understand and have been there too. When we're vulnerable with our children, we create an atmosphere where they feel comfortable to open up.

How can I help my child set boundaries so the rejection doesn't continue?

Am I teaching my child to forgive when they are hurt by others?

Do you feel that you have a strong understanding of how Jesus sees you? How can you pursue learning more about His heart toward you?

Do you have young girls or young moms who need to have another woman come along beside them and help them to see this truth?

Power Verses:
Zephaniah 3:17, "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (NIV)

Zechariah 2:8, "For this is what the Lord Almighty says, '…for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye…'" (NIV)

© 2009 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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So Yesterday
Priscilla Richardson, She Speaks Graduate

"Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven." Psalm 119:89 (NASB)

We live in a society that prizes change. Whether it's the most recent dictum of haute couture from the world of fashion, or the latest in technical gadgets, we are enamored with the idea that newer and different is better.

Let the word "change" fall from a politician's lips, and his or her future is suddenly golden. Discontented with the ordinariness of our lives, we are often an easy sell. So much so, in fact, that one of the quickest ways to kill an idea or project is to describe it as "so yesterday."

Obviously, some changes are positive and some are negative. But too much change, or change for the wrong reasons, can leave us scrambling for the higher ground of stability. When we are forced by circumstances to ride those roiling seas of change, to what do we cling to maintain our emotional and spiritual equilibrium? In Psalm 61:2, David said, "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (NKJV).

Isn't that what we all want - a sense of permanence in a world of change and restlessness? Solid ground when we can't touch bottom? Stillness in place of agitation?

God's Word tells us that all these are possible because of one man, and His name is Jesus. "For he himself is our peace," (Ephesians 2:14, NIV), the One who never changes. The "same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8, NIV). The unshakeable foundation beneath our feet when everything in our world totters (Psalm 40:2).

How comforting to know that our lives are encompassed by an eternally present Christ. He is our Alpha and Omega, our Beginning and our End. Who He is and what He says stands




Long after you and I are considered history and "so yesterday," Jesus will still be. Describing the uniqueness of our God, Eugene Peterson in The Message asks, "Are we not at bedrock?" (Psalm 18:31).


Dear Lord, as everything around me changes, may I rest my heart on the firm foundation of Your Word, which never goes out of style or needs revision. May I rejoice in its timeless truth and rest in its awesome strength to transform my sometimes erratic life into a place of peace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Sanctuary: A Devotional Bible for Women

Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose by Rebecca Ingram Powell

Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair by Dave Carder

The Overwhelmed Woman's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents by Julie-Allyson Ieron

Through a Season of Grief by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard

Application Steps:
List the major changes that have occurred in your life within the past year. How have these changes impacted your life?

As you identify your reactions to the changes - disappointment, anxiety, fear, loneliness, grief - spend some time in the Word to see how Jesus, the great "I AM," provides stability for you in the midst of your rocking world.

Can you recall another time in your life when God worked good for you out of what appeared to be a negative change in your life?

Is it possible to look at an unexpected or negative change in a positive way?

In what way does God's Word provide an anchor for us?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." (NIV)

John 8:58, "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'" (NIV)

Psalm 27:5, "For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock." (NIV)

© 2009 by Priscilla Richardson. All rights reserved.

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Invisible Miracles
Tracie Miles

"And my God will meet all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 4:19 (NIV)

Recently, I "tempted fate." I teetered on the brink of death, gazed at hundreds of feet upside down, and heard blood piercing screams from all sides. There were tears and fear in people's eyes, including my own.

I took a ride on a rollercoaster!

I was a good sport during our family outing at the theme park and rode several rollercoasters. But there was one in particular that made me think. It was called The Ricochet: an erratic ride where one would practically fall off the edge of the track just before abruptly (and painfully I might add) jerking back to safety.

Each time we neared the edge of the track my stomach sunk and quick thoughts popcorned: what if a chain broke? A gear jammed? A mechanism failed? And how close would I be to my demise if these happened?

Teetering on the brink of terror, praying nothing would break and I would be jerked back to safety even if it hurt, I wondered how many times God has protected me from danger without my realization.

I thought back on my college years and questioned how I ever made it out alive. God was surely there protecting me when I made bad decisions and gave little thought to the consequences.

I thought about how fearful I was that I would never be able to have a baby, but remembered how my heart was overwhelmed as I drank in the glow of Christ's forgiveness and mercy shining through the big blue eyes of my first little girl.

I thought about my son who was born with premature lungs and could not draw his first breath, and how God protected him and helped him grow into an active little boy.

I thought about when my 18 month-old daughter fell through an attic in a two-story home, landing on the hard garage floor, miraculously escaping injury without even one broken bone in her tiny little body.

I thought about how each of my children are well and God has protected us from illness or harm.

I thought about how my marriage is still thriving, despite the trend of divorce plaguing couples today.

I thought about the day I miraculously averted a major collision. A deep gash in the bumper of my car reminds me of how close to death I was, but how God pushed that truck away just far enough to miss us. A millimeter of movement, in a millisecond of time.

I cannot help but wonder, how many other times has God protected us when we were not aware? How many times have armies of angels surrounded me and my family with a cushion of protection? How often has God stepped in between me and danger, and I didn't even know it?

A close call with danger or death is a stark reminder of God's gracious protection. I am reminded to thank Him for His goodness and protection, even during times I didn't realize His presence. I am reminded to consider the invisible Savior that is always walking closely beside me.

Be on the lookout for the invisible activity of God in your life, and don't take anything for granted today. Show Him your gratefulness.

Dear Lord, thank You for who You are, and for protecting me and loving me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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

Visit Tracie’s blog and resource page

Application Steps:
Think back on the little miracles God has done in your life and thank Him.

In what ways has God provided for and protected me and my family?

Have I given Him credit for all He has done for me?

Power Verses:
Psalm 32:7, "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." (NIV)

Psalm 40:11, "Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me." (NIV)

© 2009 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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When Your Child is Afraid
Glynnis Whitwer

"'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.'" Psalm 91:14 (NIV)

When I was a child, my sister and I would set out on our bikes early Saturday morning. No helmet, cell phone, sunscreen or water bottle accompanied us. We might be gone for hours without communicating with our mother. Now as an adult, I wonder how I survived my childhood.

Those days are long gone for most children. The carefree days of yesterday have been replaced by vigilant protection and numerous warnings. Sadly, it seems our children have more to fear than we did 20 years ago. If not more to fear, then at least we are more aware of the dangers facing children. Consequently, many kids struggle with anxiety and fear.

There was a time when my youngest son Robbie struggled with fear. Nothing traumatic happened to him as a young child. It's just he has always been more sensitive than his siblings. Perhaps having two older brothers, Robbie was incorporated into games or television shows slightly above his maturity level. It's hard to pinpoint the reason for the fear, but when he was younger it manifested itself mostly at night. Robbie consistently had trouble falling asleep, and then would awake with bad dreams. It was a difficult cycle.

Being a fear-inclined person myself, I knew no amount of my reassurances would really help Robbie. And as he got older, Robbie knew my ability to protect him was limited. So night after night, I was startled awake by a shake on the shoulder and whisper in my ear, "Mommy, I can't sleep." I knew I had to do something to help Robbie rest easy, and for me to get some sleep.

We did two things to help Robbie deal with the night fears. The first was to personalize Psalm 91:14-16:

"'Because (Robbie) loves me,' says the LORD, 'I will rescue him; I will protect (Robbie), for he acknowledges my name. (Robbie) will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with (Robbie) in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy (Robbie) and show him my salvation.'"

I wrote it on a 3"x5" note card, which he kept by his bed. Reading that Scripture at night reminded Robbie to place his trust in the One who could protect him in times of trouble.

Second, we specifically prayed for God to protect Robbie from bad dreams. This is a nightly habit we developed over 10 years ago, and continue to this day. Every night I hold the hand of my now 14-year-old son, and pray the prayer I started praying so many years before. We can both testify to God's amazing faithfulness to protect Robbie even in his dreams.

The times I have struggled most with fear are the times I have placed my trust in someone or something other than God. It is my prayer as a mother, that my children will learn at an early age there is One in whom they can trust, and who is ready and able at the breath of a prayer to intercede on their behalf.

Dear Lord, I praise You for Your faithfulness to answer my prayers. I know only you are powerful enough to protect me and my children in every circumstance. Please guide me and give me wisdom as I deal with fear in my own life, and in the lives of those I love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
To learn more about how to help your children when they are hurting, check out Glynnis’ newest book When Your Child is Hurting

Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents by Susanne Scheppmann

Visit Glynnis’ blog and other resources

Application Steps:
Identify one thing you (or your child) are afraid of. Can you identify in what or whom you have placed your trust, other than God?

Reflections: List some of the attributes of God that remind you of how powerful God is in the face of your fears (unchanging, all-knowing, etc.).

Why do we choose to trust in things other than God?

When have you seen God's protection in a fearful situation? How have you seen Him provide for your basic needs?

Power Verses:
Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)

Psalm 34:4, "I sought the LORD, and He answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." (NIV)

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

© 2009 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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The Bigger Picture
T. Suzanne Eller

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains." James 5:7 (NIV)

I overheard a conversation while in an airport. I wanted to jump into the dialogue, but I had a plane to catch and more importantly, I would have to admit that I was eavesdropping, so I moved on. "He's just in it for the money," the man said while we waited in line at security. He named the author of a best-selling Christian book. "It's simplistic. Over-hyped. I can't believe it's sold so many copies." This conversation made me think about my daughter's best friend, Emily.

When I first met Emily she was a new believer. Occasionally our pastor would ask families to pray together. On those Sundays we opened our arms and Emily joined us. But as much as she loved the Ellers, it wasn't her family.

Her parents didn't understand her faith. Her older brother mocked her faith.

Emily went on mission trips. She was involved in youth group. She left for college and organized campus ministries, and even traveled to Africa to minister to children with AIDS. The longing for her family to love Jesus intensified, but from the outside looking in it appeared that her prayers were hitting the ceiling.

What Emily didn't know is that her brother was watching closely. His little sister's faith had grown and now she was a woman of faith.

One day he bought a book and read it straight through the night. Somewhere between dark and dawn Emily's Savior became his. In the next few months he led his fiancé to Christ. He shared his faith with his parents, and now that both of their children's lives had been changed, they too became believers.

That was four years ago. Recently Emily came home to visit her family, and they all came to church. I couldn't help but look back with excitement when I heard these words, "Could families gather together and pray?" Emily walked down the aisle. Her family wrapped her in their arms. It was a beautiful sight.

And the book that the man in the airport said was simplistic and overhyped? That was the very book that Emily's brother read that changed his life. It was an answer to a faithful girl's prayers. What does this have to do with you and me? As a writer, every day I'm in my home-office wearing jeans and a T-shirt writing on a laptop, hoping that someone might actually hear the message. But I can't see the bigger picture. I don't know if the words are making a difference or not. All I know is that God called me to communicate a message and to be faithful to that call.

Maybe there are days that you struggle, too. Maybe all you hear are the negative comments like those of the man in the airport. But does that mean that nothing good is happening? Absolutely not!

When I think of Emily, I am encouraged to place my ministry in God's hands and allow Him to do the miracles while I type one word at a time.

Will you trust Him to do miracles with your faith and your work as well?

Dear Father, I don't always see the bigger picture, but You do. Today I place my discouragement and comments of others in Your hands. Thank You for wisdom, encouragement, and renewed joy as I trust You with the bigger picture. Amen.

Related Resources:
The Woman I’m Becoming: Embrace the Chase for Destiny, Faith, and Identity by T. Suzanne Eller

Has God called you to speak or write for Him? Find wisdom and encouragement in The Reason We Speak and For the Write Reason, Gen. Ed. Marybeth Whalen

Visit Suzie’s blog where she interviews Emily and shares a giveaway of one of her books. Also, check out her other resources here!

Application Steps:
What is one act that someone did for you that changed your life?

Encourage them today by writing them a note or e-mail thanking them.

When people encounter Jesus, no matter how they find Him, it changes their lives. Stay faithful as you spread the Word.

Power Verses:
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)

1 Thessalonians 2:13, "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." (ESV)

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

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