Faithfulness and a Coffee Table
Lynn Cowell

"In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron's staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant." Hebrews 9:4 (NLT)

To most, it is just a coffee table. A table that has seen better days, and is maybe slightly out of fashion. But to her it is an altar of sorts. The coffee table is the place where she found Him; the day she received a new life in Jesus.

My mom has looked for new tables. Ones that match her decor. Ones that turn into spiffy serving tables. Ones with glass for displaying things of beauty. But still the old table remains.
The table serves as a reminder. A reminder of the things that God has done. A reminder of His faithfulness. A reminder of what He can do and lives that He can change.

The Israelites had reminders too. Hebrews 9:4 tells us that in the temple, in the Most Holy Place there was a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant. Inside this ark was a gold jar containing manna, Aaron's staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant. All reminders. Reminders of things that God had done. Reminders of His faithfulness. Reminders of what He can do.

I am a person of change. I love new things. My husband and I were recently strolling the aisles of Home Depot and as we passed my favorite counter I announced, "I love paint." "You love paint?" he repeated. "Yes! I love the change that comes with new paint; new color." I don't care to buy expensive things like designer purses or diamond jewelry; things I feel I have to keep. Things I feel I have to use. I like things that I can change.

But this verse reminds me of the importance of "old things." The importance of the things in our past that remind us of God's faithfulness. My things: The dishes that remind me of my grandparent's marriage - one that was full of true unconditional love that lasted a life time. The marred chairs around my table that were for our "new" home when my now eighteen year-old son was crawling. The quilt in my bedroom, handmade to keep my mother warm in the wagon on those below freezing Minnesota mornings as a child. Piles of scrapbooks that document the life that Greg and I have built with our children. All of these testify that though life is hard, God is good.

I haven't told her yet, but I hope that one day Mom's coffee table will be a reminder in my home. You see, it is by that coffee table that I knelt with my mama as a young girl and began my new life with Jesus. Nothing on this earth would bring me joy more than to one day kneel by that table with another young girl and continue with the memories it holds.

Dear Lord, I need to be reminded daily of Your faithfulness. Reminders such as these give me hope; hope that as You have been for all time, You will be faithful again today and tomorrow. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Family Enrichment Toolkit

Dwelling: Living Fully from the Space You Call Home by Marybeth Lagerborg

Visit Lynn’s blog for more encouragement today.

Application Steps:
What in your surroundings remind you of God's goodness and faithfulness in your life?

What change can you bring to your environment that would invoke positive thoughts about God? Are there things in your home that you need to give a more prominent place? Are there things in your home that you need to remove because they cause you to have negative thoughts?

Take some time to attach positive stories to the things in your home with your children. The stories are in your mind, but our children need to hear them so that they too can build a history with God.

What are some specific times in your life when you saw God's faithfulness first hand?

Are you a "new" thing girl or "old"? Do you make a habit of reminding yourself of His goodness?

Power Verses:
Joshua 4:7 "Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."" (NIV)

Exodus 34:6, "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness," (NIV)

Psalm 36:5, "Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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Trusting In Princes
Marybeth Whalen

"It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes." Psalm 118:9 (NIV)

I had looked forward to this moment for days. I sat across the table from my friend and poured out my heart about a big decision I had to make. As I looked into her eyes, I just knew she would have the wisdom I needed. I waited expectantly for her advice.

Instead of an answer to my problems I got a mini sermon. One I needed to hear. My friend pointed out that I was looking to the answer and not the Source of all answers. I thought if I just made the right choice, I would solve all my own problems. "You need to take your focus off making the right decision and trust God," she said. "No matter what you decide to do, He will still take care of you and He will accomplish His purpose for you." (from Psalm 138:8)

I nodded soberly. My friend was right. I had gotten caught up in the outcome. I was placing my trust in princes—looking to people and circumstances for the answers—instead of accepting the truth that, no matter what decision I made, God was going to take care of me. I had made the decision so uber-important that it had eclipsed God's place in my life.

I had prayed to make the right decision. I had journaled pages to Him about it. But ultimately, I reasoned, since He hadn't written the solution in the skies for me, I had to make my own choice based on what I felt was right. I had forgotten that He would still be there working all things together for my good after I made the decision, just as He had before.

If you are facing a big or little decision in your life, seek Him above all. Don't let the outcome or the opinions of others become more important that the One who "opens His hands and satisfies the desires of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16).

No matter whether you make the right decision or the wrong one, He will still be there walking with you, loving you, and helping you. Pray about your decision. Read His word. Seek out godly counsel. And then make the best decision you can. Sometimes the biggest decision is to simply make one. Place your trust in Him and rest in the fact that He will meet you on the other side of whatever decision you make.

Dear Lord, thank You that because of Your grace I know You will always be there. Thank You for the promise in Romans 8:28 that You will work all things out for good. I pray that my life brings You glory and I trust You to work in all circumstances to make that happen. Help me to place my trust in You and not in princes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Reason We Speak General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Visit Marybeth Whalen’s blog

For the Write Reason General Editor Marybeth Whalen

Application Steps:
Look up Psalm 57:2 and Psalm 100:3, and write them in your journal. Spend time reflecting on these verses and how they apply to your life today.

Are you trusting Him to work out His purposes for you today? Are you offering up whatever decisions you must make or steps you must take to Him and letting Him take care of the rest?
What "princes" in your life are throwing you off track?

Power Verses:
Psalm 146:3, "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save." (NIV)

Psalm 60:11, "Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless." (NIV)

© 2010 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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God's Cleats
Rachel Olsen

"Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life." Ecclesiastes 7:12 (NLT)

The Vancouver Olympics have me glued to my TV. Figure skating, downhill skiing, snowboarding, even curling - I'll watch most any Olympic sport. I relish the competition, the teamwork, the medal ceremonies, and especially the stories of athletes overcoming odds to perform well.

In fact, it reminds me a little of my husband Rick.

My husband grew up with a single mother, and very little money. In high school, Rick wanted to try out for track and field – he dreamed of running fast and long, and throwing a javelin. The problem was he didn't have the right shoes, and couldn't afford them. Thank God for good friends and a kind coach.

One of Rick's close friends invited Rick over to his house one day and said, "Try these running shoes on. They just don't fit my feet right and I'll never wear them." Rick wasn't sure if J.T. was telling the truth, but the shoes fit Rick fine. Those shoes helped him qualify for the state meet in the 800 meter race.

Running shoes allowed Rick to run much faster than his old sneakers would, but he would slip and slide in them while trying to throw the javelin. One day after practice, Rick's coach called him over and held up a big box of cleats. "Here's some unclaimed shoes students left in their lockers at the end of the school year. Find your size if you can." Rick found some that fit and the cleats made all the difference. Even the "crunching" sound they made on the track sent shivers of confidence and purpose up Rick's spine. Rick discovered it's much easier to strive for the goal when your footing is secure.

Many athletes dream of standing atop a podium during an awards ceremony with gold medals around their necks. For most, it takes talent, hard work, plus money to get there. But there is an ornament even more valuable than a gold medal. Proverbs 3:21-23 reveals:

"My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble."

Sound judgment and discernment are medals that become ours when we walk in wisdom. Money can take us places, for sure, but it can only take us so far. It provides but a measure of security. Wisdom is the footwear each of us needs to run the race God has set before us. Wisdom will help us make the important trek from this world into eternity.

When we walk in His wisdom – in God's cleats – He promises us solid footing. He does not promise a road that is always flat, or a route that is easy to run, but He promises us solid footing no matter the terrain. Wisdom – proper respect for the Lord and His ways – affords us ultimate security. Eternal security. Money can't do that.

Rick went on to compete successfully in high school, and on his college cross-country team. He also went on to gain godly wisdom. I'm so thankful for the friends and coaches that ensured Rick had what he needed to run his best.

God ensures – through the Bible, His followers, and His Spirit within us – that we each have what we need to run our best as well. He equips us to follow hard after Him. No money is necessary to be well-heeled in God's kingdom. Whether we're wearing nursing shoes, work boots, high heels, hand-me-downs, or flip-flops, we can walk securely by walking wisely.

Dear Lord, grant me wisdom and sure footing as I follow after You. I trust You to equip me with all I need. Whatever my path, I believe Your principals can keep me from slipping. You lead, I'll follow. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Rachel at her blog today to chat about how God equips us with what we need.

All I Need is Jesus & a Good Pair of Jeans by Susanna Foth Aughtmon

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

Application Steps:
Consider what you usually walk in - fear? anger? depression? doubt? discontentment? a big hurry?

Who in your life can coach you in the ways of wisdom?

Who can help you "find your size" and follow after Him?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 4:7, "Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment." (NLT)

Proverbs 2:6, "For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding." (NLT)

© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Is Your Spouse Your Best Friend?
Melanie Chitwood

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NAS)

Although I can say today that my husband Scott is my best friend, that hasn't always been the case. When we first were married, I was so close to my twin sister that Scott felt excluded when the three of us were together. Gradually, however, we both learned to develop our friendship with one another.

We reached a big turning point when we left Atlanta, where I had been single and then newly married, and moved to Florida for Scott's new flying career. Living in a new city where we knew few other people, we learned to depend on each other for friendship in a way we hadn't learned before.

Scott now is the one I turn to first just to be my friend, not in the way a girlfriend is a friend, but in a way that only a husband can be. The support that this kind of friendship brings is reflected in Ecclesiastes 4:9: "Two are better than one."

What are some specific ways we can develop a close friendship with our spouse? First, we can take note of what's going on where we each spend a great deal of time, the workplace Has he talked about a stressful project? Has she said how energized she is by a new assignment? Follow up by asking for more details and remember to pray for these situations. This shows your thoughtfulness and support. If she's a full-time homemaker, acknowledge that you know her job never ends and that you appreciate her.

Secondly, a great way to forge bonds of friendship is to share an interest. What do you both like to do? You may need to think about what you did while you were dating. Our friends Tracey and Ron take short trips to the mountains. It's more Tracey's passion than Ron's, but he's learned to enjoy it too. My mom and dad are great cooks and have created some incredible meals together. Scott and I have watched countless basketball games together. If you don't already have a shared hobby or pastime, start trying out some activities. It's easy to let the day-in and day-out responsibilities of life to crowd out time for relaxation and laugher, so you'll have to make the choice to have fun together.

Finally, we need to ask ourselves if we're making friendship with our spouse a priority. Do we save our best energy for developing friendship with our spouse or are we too busy? Sometimes we have to say no to other pursuits so we can have time to protect and nurture the gift of friendship in marriage.

The seeds of friendship we plant today will continue to bloom later in our marriages. We've all seen older couples sitting at restaurant tables, eating their entire meal in complete silence. I don't want to look like those silent couples, and I'm sure you don't either. I want to grow old relishing my friendship with my husband, a friendship forged over years of sharing interests and making each other a priority.

Dear Lord, show me ways to nurture friendship with my spouse, so we can continue to enjoy each other through the passing years. Lord, today, I commit to making friendship with my spouse one of my top priorities. Where I need to give up some activities so I'll have time for friendship with my husband, give me eyes to see that. Thank you for the lifetime friendship you've given us in marriage. In Jesus name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

This devotion was adapted from What a Wife Needs from Her Husband. Order your copy today!

Visit Melanie’s blog – What Matters Most for more marriage encouragement.

Application Steps:
Plan to do something fun with your spouse. Do this within one week's time, and don't let anything interfere with these plans.

What do you want your marriage to look like ten years from now? What can you do today to reach your desired outcome?

Is there room in your life for friendship with your spouse? Is there anything you can take out of your life to allow space for your friendship with your spouse to grow?

Power Verses:
Genesis 2:18, "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; will make him a helper suitable for him.'" (NAS)

Ephesians 5:28, "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself." (NAS)

© 2010 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

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Jesus in the Fog
Tracie Miles

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

I was full of emotions as my husband and I drove to pick up my dad for surgery. A knot formed in the pit of my stomach. I was worried about the extensive surgery that he would face later that morning. I was anxious, knowing that the possibility existed to receive very bad news from the surgeon. I was fretting over various circumstances, and as I prayed for God to intervene, I began to feel hot tears stinging my eyes.

But then, through those tears, I saw something in the fog.

Due to the dense, heavy fog, my husband was driving slowly when I noticed the figure in the distance, walking straight towards us. I thought it was odd for anyone to be walking outside on such a cool and foggy morning, but as we got closer, my eyes widened, and my heart began to pound.

This figure began to resemble a silhouette of someone I recognized - someone who should not be standing in the middle of the road on a misty, foggy morning. As we approached this person, in front of my dad's house, I noticed that he had on baggy tan pants, a soft white shirt, and was wearing no shoes. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties, with brown wavy hair and a full beard, neatly kept. He looked peaceful and kind.

He looked exactly like Jesus.

My heart skipped a beat. My thoughts were racing. My intellectual mind knew that Jesus would not be standing in the middle of a road on a foggy day in a small beach town in North Carolina, but my heart told me that He was there. I could not take my eyes off of this person, as chill bumps flushed my body from head to toe. As we drove slowly past him, this man in the fog made direct eye contact with me, and a sweet, gentle smile washed over his face.

For those brief moments, it felt as if I was looking into the eyes of Jesus, and a feeling of peace flooded through me. It was as if His holy peace penetrated my heart, and assured me that, regardless of the outcome, everything would be okay. Throughout that day at the hospital, I could not get the man in the fog out of my head, and I truly felt as if I had experienced a Jesus encounter.

Now I am not saying that I actually saw Jesus, of course, but I do believe that He divinely designed that meeting in the road, and that He used a sign that I would recognize as Him, to saturate my heart with the reminder that He really does walk among us. God knew I needed to know that He saw my daddy, understood my fears, and cared. He also knew I really needed to "see" Him that day.

Throughout life, we are all faced with fears of the unknown and personal problems that seem hopeless or scary, and it is so easy to get caught up in our emotions, forgetting to look for God. In some situations, we may even find ourselves wondering if God is really aware of our problems, and doubt if He really cares, but 1 Peter 5:7 is a sweet reminder that He is aware, He does care, and He is with us.

At times, life can make us feel like we are in a fog - a fog so dense and heavy that it seems nearly impossible to feel or see God at all. But even if we can't "see" Him, He has promised to be with us, if we surrender our hearts and sincerely seek out His face. Then as we walk with Him, and sincerely believe He is walking with us, we enter into a place to receive His provisions, His blessings, His comfort and His peace.

When we prepare our hearts to experience Him, He will prepare our eyes to see Him.

Dear Lord, I seek Your Face with my whole heart. Help me to see You in a special way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Journey to the Well by Diana Wallis Taylor

Come Thirsty: No Heart Too Dry for His Touch by Max Lucado

Visit Tracie at her blog today

Application Steps:
If you are full of fearful or discouraged emotions today, close your eyes - picture Jesus walking in the fog, straight towards you, with eyes full of love, a heart full of compassion, and a smile that melts you heart.

Have I had a hard time seeing God in the midst of my life lately?

Are emotions and doubts clouding my vision?

Do I fully trust God to work in my situations?

Power Verses:
Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." (KJV)

Matthew 5:8, "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world." (MSG)

© 2010 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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Wandering Children
Susanne Scheppmann

"The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." James 5:16b (NLT)

Research shows that our children are wandering from the faith. "Why?" we ask. The answer is not simple. Even the experts realize the reason our children wander from the faith is multifaceted.

The truth is our children are straying from Christianity rapidly as soon as they move into their twenties. According to a recent George Barna study, "In total, six out of ten twentysomethings were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood." Again, there is no concrete answer to the questions of why our children wander.

But I know this statistic holds true in my own life. I became a Christian at the age of 15. I was on fire for Jesus. I loved Him from the depths of my soul—with all my heart, mind and strength. But then in my mid-twenties I walked away from my faith. Why?

For me, it was because I could not understand pain and suffering. If God was good, how could He allow all this junk in my life? I remember going to my pastor's wife for help with this question. However, I felt she criticized me for my lack of faith rather than help me comprehend God's ways. So I didn't return to her for counseling; instead I turned to my friends who seemed to understand my confusion. Sadly, they weren't walking strong in their own faith and inadvertently led me further away from God.

For seven years I walked in a desert of destructive sin.

Finally, after years of frustrated living, Jesus drew me back to Him. It wasn't a big church event. It wasn't a friend who witnessed to me about my sins. It was the Spirit of God who nudged me back to being a devoted follower of Christ. It wasn't mystical. It was not full of fireworks—it occurred in a Volkswagen Jetta in the parking lot of Knott's Berry Farm. It was just Jesus reconnecting with His lost lamb because of the prayers my mother prayed for me.

I do believe wholeheartedly that my mother's prayers were answered. Her prayers never wavered. Her love never failed. She persevered when the future looked bleak for her eldest child's faith walk. Never underestimate the power of a parent's prayer. Our key verse declares, "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." If you are a parent of a wandering child, hold fast to this verse in your mind and pray for your child.

God hears. He answers. I know this to be true because I was child who wandered, but was brought back by the fervent prayers of a praying parent and the loving hand of God.

Dear Lord, give me the strength and faith to keep praying for my child. Help me understand, though it might take years, You are a God who hears and answers the prayers of a praying parent. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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

Visit Susanne’s Blog

Raising a Spiritually Strong Daughter: Guiding Her Toward a Faith That Lasts by Susie Shellenberger

Find more encouragement with Spiritual Warfare and Praying for Our Kids

Application Steps:
Determine to pray for your child at least one minute every day. Ask God to touch your wandering child's heart. Determine not to give into despair and doubt. At the close of your prayer recite today's key verse.

Do I blame myself for my child's wandering?

Have I given up on the effort of praying for my child?

Power Verses:
1 Timothy 1:16, "But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." (NIV)

Luke 15:4-6, "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?" When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'" (NASB)

Luke 15:20, "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (NIV)

© 2010 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

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Don’t Read Your Bible
Lysa TerKeurst

"Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word." Psalm 119:37 (NIV)

I have a request today. Don't read your Bible.

Does that shock you? Relieve you? Make you angry at worst? Curious at best?

Read on and see what I mean by my request.

There have been many days in my Christian journey where God was reduced to something on my to-do list. Somewhere along the way I picked up a checklist of sorts with what good Christians are supposed to do: Pray. Read your Bible. Go to church. Don't cuss. Be nice.

Being the rule following girl I am, I subscribed to the good things on that list and waited with great expectations to receive the zap of contentment and happiness good Christians girls are supposed to exude. But then I felt something was wrong me. I still felt restless. I still reacted in anger. I still felt a bit hollow.

I was going through all the motions but didn't feel connected to Jesus. Others around me seemed very connected. They would talk of being 'moved by the spirit.' They would hear from God Himself. They would clap their hands and shout amen in the middle of a sermon that sounded like Greek to me.

I often felt like a weightless soul grasping at the air hoping to somehow snag this Jesus that was just out of reach. Have you ever been there?

Have you ever sat in a church service watching everyone else eagerly flip open their Bibles to the exact right passage while you were left sweating because you didn't have a clue how to find what they were reading? Have you ever walked out of church watching everyone else smile and shake hands and seem so gentle while you mentally beat yourself up for throwing the orange juice carton across the kitchen that very morning?

Suddenly this nagging sense creeps in that you don't belong- that you'll never get it- that you don't have what it takes to be a Christian. That's where I was. I lived there for a long time until someone challenged me to stop simply reading my Bible because it was a thing on my Christian checklist. They challenged me to experience God.

In other words, look at the words in the Bible as a love letter. God's love letter to a broken down girl. A love letter not meant to simply be read... but a love letter meant to be lived.

I won't lie. It took a while. It took many days of sitting down with my Bible while praying gut honest prayers. I told God I wasn't connecting and didn't understand. I asked Him to help me. I begged Him to help me. Finally, one verse suddenly came alive to me one day. I literally felt moved when I read it. I think I read it 100 times that day. I memorized it and thought about it all day long. All week long. Maybe all month long.

I was overjoyed. I had a verse. A verse where Jesus spoke tenderly and clearly and specifically to me. It was Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper not harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope." Slowly, I added more verses. Day by day. Chapter by chapter. And eventually my Bible became my greatest treasure, my love letter.

Every day now I open up God's Word with great expectation and intentionally look in the chapter or two I read for my verse for that day. Usually one verse among the many I read during my devotion time, grabs my heart and I know was meant just for the day ahead. And then I attempt to live that verse out in some way that very day. When I make the connection between what happens in my life that day and why I needed that verse, I experience God. I see Him being active in my life and I become even more deeply aware of His constant presence.

I'm sure some Bible scholars would probably take issue with my simplistic approach. But it sure has helped me throw less orange juice cartons across the kitchen.

And 'less thrown cartons' sure seems like a step in the right direction to me.

So, back to my original statement. Don't read your Bible. In other words don't simply read it because you have to check it off the Christian to do list. Read it with great expectations of connecting more deeply and living more authentically with God.

Dear Lord, thank You for showing me the Christian life can be so much more than a checklist. I want to not only read your Word, I want to live it each day. Please give me the wisdom to understand and the courage to become more like You each day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa TerKeurst’s blog for your chance to win a copy of her new DVD teaching series featuring a session on how to study the Bible for everyday girls like us.

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Read Psalm 119 today and make a list of some of the amazing ways God's word can help us everyday.

Each time you sit down to read your Bible, ask God specifically to help you understand and apply what you're learning.

Which of the promises from Psalm 119 touch you most personally right now?

Power Verses:
Psalm 119:15-16, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."

Psalm 119:66, "Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Out of the Mud Puddle
Amy Carroll

"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name…who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion…" Psalm 103:1, 4 (NIV)

One weekday my employer, the best boss in the world, held our quarterly meeting in a local salon. As the hard calluses were rubbed off my feet, my heart softened, too, and the news about our company became secondary to the news about the life of one woman. I was seated next to Brenda, a co-worker to whom I'm always drawn. We talked and laughed as we soaked our worn hands and rough feet. The atmosphere was relaxed and our conversation turned toward Brenda's mother, Lillian.

Brenda recounted one remarkable story after another of Lillian's last days as she lay in a nursing home bed dying of cancer. Her mother was a bastion of encouragement and regaled everyone with delightful stories of her past and of God's goodness despite her dwindling energy and the stupor usually brought on by pain medication. As I listened to Brenda describe this brave saint, I became overwhelmed with emotion, and decided I wanted to be just like Lillian when I grow up!
People were still drawn to her even as she struggled with declining health, removal from her home and loss of freedom. Brenda proudly told of her mother's positive attitude and how she refused to complain even on days that were painful and difficult. "She taught me everything about living," Brenda said with emotion, "and now she's teaching me how to die."

At the end of our conversation, I asked Brenda if her mother would be willing to talk to me. I wanted to know the secret of this outstanding woman's life. Brenda asked her mother if I could visit, and Lillian agreed. I arrived one afternoon to find her reclining with oxygen tubes running into her nose. She was diminutive in her large hospital-style bed and her voice was soft, but Lillian's eyes sparkled at the opportunity to tell some of her life's stories.

Like most women of her age, Lillian's life had held both joy and sorrow. She had grown up with scant financial means and struggled monetarily through many years in early marriage. She had married at 17 and had three children in three years. Her fourth child was to arrive 14 years later. Even though she described these years as difficult, she spoke on and on of her love for her husband, their happy marriage and their mutual joy in their children.

Her big heartbreaks came later in life when her beloved mother was raped at age 80 in her own yard. Later in a nursing home, Lillian's mother was abused physically by a staff member despite the fact that her children visited every day. Many years passed, and tragedy struck again. Lillian lost her granddaughter and a great-grandson in a terrible car accident one icy night.

Through all these difficult times, Lillian clung to Jesus and served those around her. She ended our conversation by telling me, "In all that we've been through, we knew that our strength comes from the Lord. Whenever we fell in a mud puddle, we just jumped right out into His arms." In a conversation rich with memories and wisdom, Lillian described an up-close, intimacy with God that both sustained and matured her through a lifetime of trials and triumphs.

Jumping out of a mud puddle and into His arms is the kind of childlike exuberance and trust that can bring a woman to the end of her life with a still-growing, vibrant relationship with Jesus Himself.

Lillian died soon after our conversation, but her legacy lives on. She was a woman of tremendous faith and resiliency who set an example for her children, her friends, the staff of a nursing home and me. She'll forever be one of my heroes.

Dear Lord, I desire to leave a legacy like Lillian's. Help me live a life that is completely dependent on You. I raise my arms to You and jump knowing that You will catch me, clean the mud off of me and hold me tight. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Amy’s blog-Ponderings from the Pathway

Finding a Mentor, Being a Mentor by Donna Otto

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Seek out and listen to the stories of faith from an older saint. It will be a blessing to both of you!

What is my response when I've "fallen in a mud puddle"?

Who can I encourage with stories of God's goodness and sufficiency?

Power Verses:
Psalm 116:7, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." (NIV)

Psalm 116:13, "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord." (NIV)

© 2010 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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The Wonder Bat
Lynn Cowell

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NIV)

"An asset to the team." That is how my daughter's coach described her. Madi was great behind the plate. Her arm could get the best of them out at second base. She could move from catcher to first base position with ease, and was flexible in the outfield. Yet her batting was weak and she was last on her team. Her coach's diagnosis: her bat. Madi had grown over the summer and needed a longer, heavier, stronger bat.

My husband began his research. Best bats for girl's softball was his Google criteria. He studied their size. He read recommendations and manufacturer's guarantees. He compared results, tests and costs. After days of investigating, he purchased the "weapon" as he called it.

The instructions said my daughter needed at least fifty good hits with that bat until she would be comfortable with the new feel. They were right; at first she didn't like it. It was uncomfortable and heavy. But she kept on using it. We played in the yard and went to batting cages. We put in the time and effort to be sure she would be well adjusted to her new equipment before she used it in a real game.

My daughter is now batting at the top of the order! Doubles, triples, even home runs are her norm. She wields that bat, smacks the ball and racks up points for her team.

Often, we are getting along pretty good in life, but there is just that one area where we are a bit weak. Maybe life has ramped up; trials have gotten harder and we haven't evaluated the tools we are using. Self-help books, chatting with friends, infomercials, time on the internet can be helpful, but there are other tools we can wield that will help us even more: the Bible and prayer.

As we grow in our faith, we need to look for passages in God's Word that will empower us in this game called life. We should ask Jesus what He sees that needs to change so we can live in His victory. When fear, doubt, anger, lust or pride are thrown our way, we can get equipped to swing back with memorized verses of the Word. Instead of allowing complaining, grumbling and discouragement to slide into home plate, we can strike them out of the game with continuous prayer.

The Word is called a double-edged sword, but unless we practice applying the verses to our lives, it does us no good. Unless we read the reviews, the testimonies of the men and women in the Bible, we may not be convinced that it will really make a difference. Unless we invest time to use the Word and prayer as our "weapons,", we will never know what it is like to bat at the top of the order.

Now, when Madi gets up to bat I feel confident. Her father and I have given her the "weapon" she needs to be successful in softball. Just like Madi, your Father has also given you what you need for life. Just like Madi, you are going to need to grab hold of those weapons and practice many, many times until you are comfortable with them. And, just like Madi, as you step up to the plate, you can hit a home run!

Dear Lord, I need You today. Show me where I need to use the weapons You've given us, Your Word and prayer, in my life in order to be victorious. Give me the strength to learn Your Word, meditating on it over and over and over again until I am comfortable with using it as a weapon against the enemy of my heart. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Holding His Hand: A devotional for teen girls by Beka Dewitt

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

Visit Lynn’s blog

Application Steps:
Go to BibleGateway and do a word search on your greatest struggle – jealousy, envy, conflict, etc. Write out one of the verses regarding this difficulty that speaks to you and read it several times a day until you know it well.

Visit our Everyday Life section to read how other woman are finding victory in the areas where you need a stronger weapon.

What areas in your life do you currently feel like you are losing a battle?

Do you have a friend that you could ask to pray for you on a regular basis in your battle?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 6:17, "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (NIV)

Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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Every Yes Involves a No
Glynnis Whitwer

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it.” Luke 14:28 (NIV)

So, how are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions? If you are like many of us, frustration has set in. Maybe you are already behind on your read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. Are the numbers on the scale increasing, rather than decreasing? Did that goal to reduce television watching stop when American Idol started?

While we love to set goals, and dream of becoming a slimmed down, spiritually mature and more well-read version of ourselves, the living out of those goals is infinitely more challenging.

That’s because every time we set a goal for ourselves, a more appealing alternative is presented. Have you noticed this phenomenon? Just as you decide to diet, someone brings you a plate of brownies they “baked just for you.” As soon as you decide to get up early and pray, the cold weather makes it much more appealing to stay in bed. And that decision to stop gossiping gets challenged when some interesting news about your boss finds its way to your inbox.

Every good intention will be met with a challenge at some point. Without a plan, most of us will abandon those intentions, telling ourselves we knew we couldn’t _________ (fill in the blank).

The reason this happens is we overlook the fact that every “yes” we say, requires a “no” to something else. Without that understanding, we operate outside of how life works, and underestimate the cost of achieving our goals.

Here’s an example of what I mean. When you say “yes” to reading your Bible every day, you have to say “no” to the morning news or your favorite novel. If you say “yes” to teaching a small group of women, you’ll say “no” to your favorite Tuesday night tv show, plus free time to prepare.

There will always be a sacrifice of something when we desire to move forward in an area of our lives. Goals are exciting. Possibility of change is alluring. Sacrifice is hard, but worth it in the big picture of our lives. In fact, it’s the road Jesus called His followers to walk daily.

The resolutions you set at the beginning of the year have great value if they are helping you grow into a more disciplined, mature follower of Christ. However, if you feel like you’ve reached a plateau, or hit a dead end, perhaps it’s time to evaluate if you’ve said enough “no’s.”

I invite you to remove the “New Year’s” label, and reevaluate the goals you set in January. Recommit to them and consider what you’ll have to sacrifice to make them happen. The good news about sacrifice is we serve a Lord who lived it out on our behalf. When we are frustrated with the cost of achieving our goals, we can always turn to the One who understands.

Dear Lord, I praise You and thank You for sacrificing Your son, Jesus, so I could live forever with You. In light of that, help me keep my sacrifices in perspective. I ask for Your strength to fulfill the dreams and goals You have placed in my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst

Visit Glynnis’ blog for some tips on setting goals

Work at Home: A Practical Guide for Women Who Want to Work from Home by Glynnis Whitwer

P31 Woman magazine

Application Steps:
Identify one goal you have for yourself. What do you need to say “no” to for that to happen? Write down the “no’s” for future reference when you get off track.

What mental battles happen when you decide to sacrifice one thing for another?

What are some ways you can keep your commitment to your goals fresh and realistic?

Power Verses:
Luke 9:23, “Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (NIV)

Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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When God Serenades You
Micca Monda Campbell

"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." Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Growing up I had to watch whatever my sister wanted to watch on television because she was the oldest. She liked the black and white classics that featured Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and Frank Sinatra to name a few. Over time, I began to enjoy them too.

I really liked the part of the movie when Dean Martin would serenade the woman he loved at her bedroom window. I thought that was so romantic! In fact, I would get a funny feeling in my stomach. Somehow, I knew deep inside that I, too, would be serenaded by some lovesick man. I didn't know when, but I was certain it was going to happen.

Well, guess what?

It never happened.

At first, I was bummed. Then, one day shortly after I had experienced tragedy in my life, and was feeling completely unloved, I came across our key verse.

"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."

Right away, I knew God had led me to this truth. How else does a person stumble into the book of Zephaniah if not led there by God? At the time, I didn't know the book of Zephaniah existed. But it did exist, and the words on the page read like a personal note written just for me. Micca, I will rejoice over you with singing!

That's when it dawned on me. God delights in me so much that it causes Him to break out in song! Suddenly, it no longer mattered that no one else has ever serenaded me. God, Himself, serenades me. He sings to me. He sings over me and He sings about me! It's His joy to do so. Better yet, He delights in serenading you, too.

I pray that you will allow this verse to sink deep into your heart today so you'll have it when you need it. Trust me. There will be a day when you will need it. You see, we tend to believe that because we are children of God that nothing bad will ever happen to us. When the bad does happen, we believe the lie every time.

I knew it, God! I knew You really didn't love me.

Friend, that is a lie from the pit of hell. Nothing is further from the truth. God, indeed, loves you because He can't do anything less. You and I cause God's supernatural heart to skip a beat at the mere thought of us. Therefore, the next time you're feeling unloved because of some adversity in your life stop and say, "NO! That's a lie. God loves me so much that He can't help but sing about it!"

Dear Lord, I need Your loving touch today. Let Your love song wash over me and fill my heart. I release my feelings of doubt to You and rest in Your undying love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
An Untroubled Heart: Finding Faith that is Stronger than All Your Fears by Micca Campbell

Micca Campbell's Testimony DVD by Micca Campbell

Visit Micca’s blog for more encouragement today.

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

Application Steps:
Look up each verse and memorize them. When you need to experience God's love, close your eyes and repeat them to your heart: Jeremiah 31:3; 1 John 4:16; John 15:16; Isaiah 54:10.

What causes you to doubt God's love?

Is there better proof of God's love than giving His own life for you? Have you experienced the power of God’s Love through Christ? Accept His invitation today to know Him.

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 13:8, "Love never fails." (NIV)

Isaiah 54:10, "My love and kindness will not depart from you." (NIV)

© 2010 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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Love, Respect and Admiration
Tracie Miles

"However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Ephesians 5:33 (NIV)

When I married my wonderful husband twenty years ago, I fully intended to unconditionally love, respect and admire him. I had great intentions of being the perfect wife, with sweet words, a romantic kiss and dinner on the table every evening. But then careers took off, bills increased, children were born, laundry piles grew, and life got chaotic. Along the way I subconsciously created a measuring stick of expectations for whether my husband actually deserved my love and respect.

When marriage doesn't meet the unrealistic expectations we imagine before the wedding, and real life kicks in, women can inadvertently get lured into tearing down their husbands, and their marriages as well.

In fact, the longer couples are together, the easier it becomes to not only see each other's flaws, but to mercilessly criticize them. This eventually leads to low tolerances, short tempers, minimal patience, and a woeful lack of marital bliss. As a result, those gifts of unconditional love, respect and admiration that were once offered so freely become gifts that we are not so willing to offer at all.

A few months ago I picked up The Man Whisperer, written by my friend and author Rick Johnson. The title intrigued me, as I was anxious to rekindle some passion in my own marriage Little did I know that God would use the truths shared in this book to step on my toes and cause me to take an inward look.

Many relationship topics are covered, but as I read, God convicted my heart about things I had said to my husband just days earlier. As I recalled some of the critical comments that had rolled off my tongue so easily, I became overwhelmed with regret and disappointment. I had fallen into a bad habit of tearing down my man with my words, not fully realizing the toll it was taking on him. Most importantly, I began to realize the powerful influence I have on my husband and marriage by simply choosing words that encourage, instead of discourage.

As women, we have the power to build up or tear down our husbands every day, merely by the respect we give and the amount of faith we let him know we have in him. Respect and admiration are two of the most powerful tools a woman has to influence her husband. I realized I had fallen short lately in giving those two precious gifts to my man.

I prayed, asking God to help me control my tongue and fill my heart and mouth with words that would make my husband feel appreciated, admired, respected and loved, regardless of whether I felt he deserved it. I prayed that God would convict my heart when critical thoughts crept into my mind, and help me avoid the temptation to say them out loud.

Within just a few weeks, I saw a change - in me, in my husband's demeanor, and in our relationship: a change that rekindled that unconditional love, respect and admiration that I set out to give him all along, and that I also wanted in return.

Through a wife's gifts of unconditional love, respect, and admiration, we can help our husbands become the great men that God created them to be, and in turn, create the marriages we always dreamed of.

Dear Lord, help me to tame my tongue and focus on building up my man. Help me break free of the habit to criticize, even when warranted. Open my eyes to the positive, not the negative. Draw us closer, and help us both nurture a strong and loving marriage. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Tracie’s blog for more about this topic and to enter for a chance to win an audio CD by Rick Johnson called Power Tools for Women

The Man Whisperer by Rick Johnson

What a Husband Needs from His Wife and/or What a Wife Needs from Her Husband by Melanie Chitwood

Love Notes on His Pillow: And Other Everyday Ways to Keep Your Love Alive by Linda J. Gilden

Application Steps:
Think about how important your husband's love is to you and consider that your respect means just as much to him.

If your marriage seems strained right now, think about your conversations with your husband lately. Have your comments been encouraging and uplifting, or discouraging and destructive?

Instead of chocolates this Valentine's day, give your husband what he really desires- respect, admiration and love.

Am I in the habit of tearing down my husband?

Do our daily conversations leave him feeling respected and admired, or unrespected and criticized?

Power Verses:
Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." (NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:2-7, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (ESV)

James 3:5b-6a, "Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body." (NIV)

© 2010 Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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How to Grow in Love for God
Rachel Olsen

"Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name! For the Lord is good; His mercy and loving-kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations." Psalm 100:4b-5 (AMP)

I remember the late-night conversation with my dad, the one I'd been praying would naturally arise. The one about God, and Jesus, and salvation. I'd understood these things myself for the first time a few months before, and now it was my desperate hope that my dad would understand them too. But even more than grasping their meaning, I wanted my dad to be drawn to them, to feel them—to experience their truth for himself.

My dad has a strong intellect and I knew the likelihood was high that Dad would settle for a mere understanding of my new found passion. Yet I longed for my dad to come to love this King of Glory in a way that would propel him to follow Christ.

"But how am I supposed to love someone I can't even see?" Dad said.

His words were ordered as a question but I couldn't quite tell if he was asking, or simply dismissing. Either way, I didn't know how to answer him. But I do now. I now realize a huge key to loving Jesus is gratitude.

1 John 4:19 explains, "We love Him, because He first loved us" (AMP). Even though we were sinful and He is holy, God loved us. Even though we were ignorant or hostile towards Him, He still loved us. Even though we were intent on making our own way in life, He still made a path for us—Jesus—leading to life with Him. It takes belief in this fact, and gratitude for it, for a heart to truly love God in return.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day, the Pharisees, were masters at following God's laws, but failures at loving Him. In Luke 7, a Pharisee invited Jesus over for dinner. A prostitute entered the dining room, knelt and began weeping, kissing, and wiping Jesus' feet with her hair. Then she perfumed them. The Pharisee grew indignant that Jesus allowed this from such a sinful woman.

So Jesus asked the Pharisee a question: If a moneylender cancelled the debts of two men—one that owed him $5,000, and one that owed him $50—which one would love him more after that? "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled," the Pharisee answered (Luke 7:43, NIV). Jesus told him he was correct. Then Jesus added:

"Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn't offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn't greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love." (Luke 7:44-47, NLT)

This woman realized the magnitude of her sins, and the extent of God's love for her to forgive all those sins and bid her to come to Him. And she was grateful. She was so thankful, that her heart overflowed with love for Jesus, sparking her extravagant display of affection and appreciation.

There is a direct correlation between our level of awareness of what we deserve—an awareness of our own sin—and our level of gratitude and love for God. A key to growing in love for God is to be aware of what He has done, is doing, and will do for us, and to remain grateful for it.

No one will ever do more for you than Christ has done—open your eyes to this fact today and be filled with gratitude. "Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name! For the Lord is good; His mercy and loving-kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations" (Psalm 100:4b-5).

Dear Lord, I am thankful today for the love You showed me, long before I even noticed it. I'm grateful for Your blessings and grace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For 5 simple ways to love God through gratitude this month, visit Rachel’s blog

God’s Purpose for Every Woman: a Compilation of Favorite P31 Devotions by various Encouragement for Today authors; Gen Editors Rachel Olsen and Lysa TerKeurst

Saying Thank You offers practical ways to give gratitude to God

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

Application Steps:
Reflect on the many reasons you have to be grateful to God. Give thanks and praise Him!

For some additional, practical steps you can take to cultivate gratitude, visit Rachel's blog.

No one will ever do more for you than God, through Christ, has already done.

How does your perspective on today change when you consider the tremendous gifts of grace, mercy, love and eternal life given you through Christ?

Power Verses:
1 Chronicles 16:34, "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." (NIV)

Hebrews 12:28, "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;" (NASB)

© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Grace Covers
Melanie Chitwood

"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8 (NAS)

Cartilage is a tissue that is found in many places in our bodies, including at the end of bones where joints form. It protects our joints from wear and tear, helps them move smoothly, and absorbs shock. When the cartilage in our knee, for example, is damaged, we feel pain.

Grace in our marriages is like the protective covering of cartilage in our joints. Couples who show each other a gracious attitude cover their marriage with understanding, protect their marriage from misunderstandings and short-tempered emotions, and help one another absorb life's jolts and shocks.

For example, the other day Scott came home late to discover that I had forgotten to turn off the hose after washing the dogs. The backyard was overflowing with water—an inconvenience and a costly mistake on my part. He could have gotten mad at me, but he didn't. His gracious attitude covered my shortcoming.

Today's key verse contains the word love rather than the word grace. That's because one aspect of love is grace. It's the part of love that is generous, forgiving, encouraging, and unconditional. It's the part of love that empowers you to fill in the gaps rather than notice what's lacking in your spouse. Grace asks, "How can I help you?" instead of growing frustrated or bitter when your spouse isn't measuring up to your standard.

Bringing criticism, judgment, and self-righteousness into your marriage is all too easy. Saying "Why didn't you…" "You should have…" or "I told you so" requires no effort. But being gracious is what we need in marriage, and that's what Christ calls us to be. We're human. We're going to disappoint one another. We're not always going to meet each other's needs.

When you are fully aware of your own weaknesses and of the ways you fall short of the glory of God, you are more likely to show your partner a gracious attitude. God's Word reminds us that "love covers." How can you cover your spouse with the love of grace today?

Dear Lord, search me, O God, and know my heart (Psalm 139:23). Soften my heart and make me willing to adopt a gracious attitude toward my spouse. Where I have been unforgiving, harsh, judgmental, or bitter toward my spouse, Lord, I am sorry and ask Your forgiveness. If we need to talk about an issue, Lord, I pray our conversation will lead us both to a gracious attitude toward one another. If there's something I need to be quiet about or just to accept, give me willingness and strength. Lord, I pray that my attitude toward my spouse will reflect Your gracious love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

This devotion was adapted from What a Wife Needs from Her Husband. Order your copy today!

Join Melanie for a conference call on "Building a Marriage that Will Last a Lifetime." For more information, please visit Melanie's blog.

For more on grace, read Fighting Words

Application Steps:
What you can do today to show a gracious attitude toward your spouse? Some ideas:
• Let it go.
• Assume the best.
• In your quiet time, think about the different ways God has covered you with grace rather than burdened you with judgment.
• Hang around friends with gracious attitudes. Let their attitudes rub off on you.
• Be careful of keeping company with people who are constantly bashing and bad-mouthing their spouses. Their bad attitudes are likely to affect yours.
• Don't say, "I told you so."

What triggers in you a harsh or judgmental reaction toward your spouse rather than a gracious reaction?

How has Christ shown you grace, and how can His grace spill over in your marriage?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:2, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (NIV)

1 Peter 3:7, "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way…" (NAS)

© 2010 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

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Take A Walk On The Wild Side
Jenny B. Jones, She Reads Featured Author

"'Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus." Matthew 14:29 (NIV)

Who doesn't like to be safe?

While writing Just Between You and Me, I immersed myself in my Bible—studying fear, the novel's central theme. This was ironic coming from the poster child for fears. I fear rejection, success, heights, strangers, green peas, and skinny jeans.

I kept going back to Matthew 14. The disciples are in the boat, the winds are going crazy, and walking across the water is this dark figure. Peter says, "If that's you, Jesus, call out for me to join you." (I would've said, "If that's you, can you toss me a life jacket?")

Jesus does indeed call out to His friend, and things are going well until. . .Peter takes his eyes off his Savior and focuses on the wind. The wind that's tossed the boat and made the night scary.
The second Peter takes his focus off Jesus, down he goes.

So many focus on Peter's lack of faith here. I think the guy's cool just for getting out of the boat. Let's be honest. I wouldn't. Would you? Safety is comfort. But. . .what am I missing by playing it safe? What are we missing by not climbing out of the boat onto the waves?

God has huge plans for us. In Jeremiah He tells us that He has plans to prosper us, not to hurt us. What about you? Would you have taken on the giant if you had been a young David? The Bible is full of amazing moments that required blind faith—faith in something unseen that defies logic and does not make sense. Yet, moments in which a challenged child of God would have let his or her fears rule, would've turned out so much differently. So much. . .less.

In 2005, I had my David and Goliath moment. I went out to meet my giant with uncharacteristically giant faith. I had long had a dream of being a writer. But really hadn't done anything about it beyond wishing. Wishing is safe. And tidy. I had prayed a lot about it—but hadn't given my desire feet. I became burdened with the idea that my attitude was like saying to God, "I don't believe You're going to take care of me. I don't believe You can whip up anything satisfying for my life." I wasn't trusting God with all my life.

I traveled to my first writer's conference armed with nothing more than 20 pages of a book idea and supernatural faith built on months of prayer, claiming my dream, and relying on nothing but God. But I knew God was going to do what I began to call "The Amazing." I went to this conference expecting great things. And I think that is what made all the difference. Much like David, who went in knowing the battle was his. And God's.

That conference changed my life. Six months later I had my first book deal. The statistical chances of that happening given my lack of experience and writing? Zero. But I had to meet the giant on the battlefield for that to ever happen.

What are you dreaming of today? Or maybe for the last decade? All your life? Like me, are you living in your comfort zone? What dreams have lingered with you that won't leave you alone? Take your eyes off the raging waters, off all the logical reasons why not, reach out your hand and slip it into God's. He's been waiting for you.

Dear Lord, You have not called me to live a safe life, but a faith-filled life where I face my fears to achieve the amazing things You have planned. Help me to reach out to You, even when I'm afraid, and keep my focus on You. Bind up any fear, any excuses, any obstacles in my way, and show me Your will; Your clear path. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Just Between You and Me: A Novel of Losing Fear and Finding God by Jenny B. Jones
Pop over to P31’s She Reads site today to enter a drawing for a Jenny B. Jones giveaway. One grand prize winner will receive a copy of her novel Just Between You and Me plus a fabulous gift basket: Zingerman’s Baked Goods Dreambox. Four runner up winners will also receive the novel.

She Speaks Conference – P31’s conference for aspiring speakers or writers

Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say when you talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild

Application Steps:
Make a list of at least five things you'd do if you only had six months to live. Next to each one, list what stops you from achieving or going after this.

Do a scripture search on fear, or blessings. Pray these verses out loud and personalize them by inserting your name and your goals. Jeremiah 29:11 is a great place to start. I used Deuteronomy 28:1-6.

What are my greatest fears? How could these fears get in the way of God's plan for my life? Of my own dreams?

How has my past manifested into fears or control issues? Are there areas I'm not surrendering to God out of fear?

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

John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (NIV)

© 2010 by Jenny B. Jones. All rights reserved.

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Poisoned Pride
Luann Prater

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12 (NIV)

I love Stacie Orrico's song "Don't Look at Me." She sings, Don't look at me if you're looking for perfection. Don't look at me, I will only let you down. I'll do my best to point you in the right direction. Don't look at me, look at Him.

These lyrics remind me of a resounding theme I noticed recently in Mark 15:9-10, Matthew 23:1-39 and Luke 18:9-14: leaders who shined the spotlight on themselves. They had no interest in making Jesus the main attraction. God pulled a few lessons out of each passage for me to do the mirror test on my heart.

The problem that tripped up the leaders in Jesus' day might look familiar to you and me:

Lesson #1 – Envy

The chief priests were burning with envy over the popularity of Jesus. He had only been on the scene for three years, yet the marketplace was always buzzing with the latest Jesus story! Perhaps the chief priests wondered, Why is HE the center of attention? What makes HIM the authority figure?

Envy is a poison we may not even recognize. We give it a nicer title like "keeping up with the Jones" or "climbing the corporate ladder," but being upset with someone else's success is a bone-rotting toxin. Proverbs 14:30 confirms it saying, "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (NIV).

Lesson #2 - Practice What You Preach

The leaders were busy barking legalistic orders to others, but didn't apply the rigid rules to their own lives. Legalism is a strict adherence to the law and rules, and usually packs a punch of guilt if the regulations aren't followed to the letter.

James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (NIV). The leaders of Jesus' day had great amounts of scripture memorized, but did not live it out. They focused on the rules and making others follow them, rather than on pleasing God. If we are focusing on keeping rules and rituals, instead of building a relationship with Jesus, we too are missing the point. Maybe shifting our angle is in order. Look up. Let Bible study move us past just reciting scripture to allowing its life-giving Spirit to penetrate our actions.

Lesson #3 - All For Show

Dressing up and looking good made the Pharisees believe their own press. They seemingly had it all together. Do we act that way too? When asked, "How are you?" do we put on a happy face and respond, "Fine," when in fact, all is not fine? Do we fear what people will think or how they will react if they know we messed up again? It's easy to think, "My issues are nobody's business." Truth is, they are God's business because you belong to Him.

Lesson #4 - Clean The Inside

"Woe to you," Jesus repeated over and over to the Pharisees throughout Matthew 23. The junk that was brewing inside their hearts didn't resemble the righteous life they claimed to live.

Everyone sees our pretty outside attire, but God knows what's going on beneath the surface. When He cleans house, He starts on the inside.

What's lurking in your dark corners? If self indulgence, self-reliance, or self-centeredness has camped out in your heart, let the housecleaning begin! Soon your outer beauty will radiate your new inner beauty.

This mirror test revealed some junk in my life. What did you see in your reflection? A prideful heart, or a passion for Christ? Are you wanting others to look at you, rather than God? Psalm 10:4 says, "In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." Pride is a venom. Making room for God takes deliberate action.

As the song says, "Don't look at me, look at Him."

Dear Lord, pride can camp out so easily in our hearts. Will you clean us from the inside out and let us reflect You? In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Encouragement Café and Luann’s blog today.

Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl book and DVD Curriculum by Lysa TerKeurst

The Character of God: Understanding His Heart for Us by Brian T. Anderson and
Glynnis Whitwer

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

Application Steps:
Write down all the things you don't possess that have captured your heart. Ask God to purify your heart and change your desires.

What do I use to measure myself?

When am I most prone to let envy master my mind?

How can I stop the comparisons?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (NIV)

Galatians 6:4, "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else." (NIV)

© 2010 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

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Mismatched Candlesticks
Karen Ehman

"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found..." Proverbs 10:12-13a (ESV)

They are an odd, but pretty pair; the two candlesticks we have perched on the antique dresser in our master bedroom. While both are crafted from solid brass with similar round and sturdy bases, the shafts of each candlestick couldn't be less alike.

One is straight and streamlined; not at all fancy, just functional; with tall lines, direct and strong. The second is designed with a touch of flair; two equidistant strands of brass whirl and swirl side-by-side in a "look at me" manner, as they ascend to the top of the shaft that holds the candle in place.

I found each candlestick at a different yard sale, both in the same month. While their styles aren't the same, somehow this eclectic pair is an interesting match. And more importantly, they are a constant visual reminder to my husband and me, providing a tangible picture of our marriage.

My husband is the first candlestick. No frills. Straight-forward. Only about function. I am the second one. Crazy. Winding. All over the map. Completely about fun. While we both are "forged from brass" in that we are followers of Christ with the same spiritual foundation, pair our opposite-end-of-the-spectrum personalities together and disaster could ensue. In fact, we often joke that if in our college-courting days, we would have been able to send our profiles to an online matchmaking website, instead of pairing us up with each other, the computer screen would have blinked a bright warning. DO NOT DATE!! TOTALLY NOT COMPATIBLE!

Beyond the normal male/female differences, we have a lot in our personalities that cause friction, conflict and sometimes (mostly from me) snapping and harsh words. In fact, it doesn't matter if it is in marriage, parenting or in a work or friendship situation, mismatched personalities can cause frustration, anger and at times, wounded feelings.

Someone who is not wired as we are, does not think like we do and who makes decisions and carries out actions we would never dream of, can just plain rub us the wrong way. It causes our feathers to ruffle and not-so-nice thoughts to invade our brains.

Usually, if dealing with a non-family member, we manage to keep our composure; tame our tongue; to not do or say anything in the midst of our frustration that we might later regret. With our children or spouses, however, sometimes we open the floodgates and spew out all sorts of cutting comments, nasty words, flying criticisms and awful accusations. My husband and I call it "throwing flesh balls." At that point, we are not "walking by the Spirit" but "gratifying the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).

My flesh just likes to be gratified sometimes and nothing gratifies it more than a good ole', all-out verbal assault on my "thinks-and-acts-so-different-from-me" husband. Instead, today's verse provides direction for how we should handle the inevitable conflicts that arise from trying to mesh two very differing personality types.

We shouldn't spew hate. We should seek to understand. We should ask God for wisdom. We should love. Not necessarily in an "ushy-gushy, touchy-feely" sort of way; but rather, in an, "I am going to choose to react gently and behave kindly because that is what God is asking me to do" sort of way. Cementing this line of thinking in our mind will help us to make the right choice. There are things we will do because we are doing them for God that we otherwise might never do for a spouse, co-worker or friend who makes us mad!

Will you join me today in purposing to stop stirring up strife when it comes to someone in your life who is oil while you are so water? Yes, even if it is your own spouse. The world is watching; sizing up how we behave. When we are one part of a divergence in personalities, what will they see? Stirred up strife or lovingly covered offenses?

Dear Lord, grant me the ability to speak kindly, respond gently and at times, to hold my tongue. I want my actions and reactions to please and reflect You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

What a Wife Needs from Her Husband by Melanie Chitwood

For more on mismatched marriage and a chance to win a couples ‘basket-in-a-box’ giveaway, visit Karen’s blog

A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

Application Steps:
Jot down the names of one or two people with whom you have difficulty getting along. Now, name at least one kind and thoughtful gesture you could do for them during this Valentine's season, even if anonymously. Do it this week.

In the past, how have you dealt with male/female differences with your spouse or, if you aren't married, with other personality clashes in your life? What were the results? What could you do differently in the future to promote a more harmonious relationship?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 15:1-3 "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." (ESV)

John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)

© 2010 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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Heavenly GPS
T. Suzanne Eller

"After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone." Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

It was a drama-packed day. Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, was dead because a drunken king chopped off his head. Jesus tried to get away to deal with the news, but crowds of people called his name.

Heal me! Feed me!

He healed the sick. He fed over 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread. These miracles caused the crowd to press in closer, to shout louder and to demand more from Him. It also caused conflict.

He's our new king!
No; he's dangerous; kill him!

Sometimes life gets complex. Many times we just keep on going even though we are pulled between the demands of the people we love – Feed me! Love me! – with those feelings festering just under the surface.

But what happens when you arrive at ground zero emotionally because of loss or pain or fatigue?
What did Jesus do? When His day was finally done, Jesus hiked into the mountains to pray. He needed strength. He needed guidance. He needed to be refreshed spiritually and physically. Jesus settled in to talk to His father.

I'll be honest. When I'm at that place, the temptation is to wrap up in my favorite blanket, turn on a mindless TV show, and veg.

But what waits for me in that alone place with God?

He knows us better than anyone else. He's willing to carry our burdens, soothe our hearts, and that prayer time becomes a shelter, an oasis where we are revived. At that point it's not about the time we spend, or even the words that we say, but what we discover when we settle in.
Prayer becomes our heavenly GPS system.

An earthly GPS system contains atomic clocks that are accurate to a billionth of a second! No matter where you are, it can find your location and give you direction.

Think about this: The God of the Universe is greater than any earthly GPS. God knows where you are, where you are headed emotionally, and how to recalculate so that you can find your way back to sanity, peace, and even to joy.

Dear Jesus, You know what it is to be emotionally and physically spent. You know what it is to hurt, to grieve, to long for quiet and peace and healing. Thank You that You understand how I feel, and that You carry my burden when it's too big for me to carry alone. I adore You. In Your Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Woman I Am Becoming by T. Suzanne Eller

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

Visit Suzie’s blog today for a giveaway

For more encouragement, read The Most Important Time of My Day

P31 Woman magazine

Application Steps:
Many of you, like me, probably talk to God throughout the day. But is there a sacred place set aside for you and God?

Don't set a time limit, or make it a duty.

Settle in with Him. Close the door.

Talk to Him about your day. Praise Him for His great love.

Breathe in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Don't rush it.

Let God do His work inside of You.

Prayer is a spot where we go just as surely as a church sanctuary is a place. When we pray, we are going into a place built from words. Or at least it's a place where words are the parameters, the walls into which we enter. Phyllis Tickle

Power Verse:
Psalm 19:7, "The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple." (NLT)

Psalm 91:1-2, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom trust.'" (ESV)

© 2010 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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