Secret Decoder Ring
Rachel Olsen

"You have been permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have not." Matthew 13:11 (NLT)

Did you catch that gem of a revelation in today's key verse? Jesus said there are secrets in the Kingdom of God.

I don't know about you but I have a hard time resisting secrets - especially God-sized secrets. So when I discovered this verse, I immediately wanted to know more. Don't you?

What secrets might God share with me? What secrets will He reveal to you?

To be perfectly honest, for years much of the Bible seemed like a giant secret I wasn't privy to. I just didn't get parts of it—many parts of it. Was I one of those "others" who hadn't been permitted to understand? I wondered. I suspected maybe if I went to seminary or became a nun, I could get a secret decoder ring and suddenly my Bible would make sense to me.

I just wasn't sure this average, everyday gal could ever figure it out all by herself. Turns out, I was right.

Today's verse starts a passage every woman needs to hear:

"You have been permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have not. To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But to those who are not listening, even what they have will be taken away from them. That is why I tell these stories, because people see what I do, but they don't really see. They hear what I say, but they don't really hear, and they don't understand." (Matthew 13:11-13, NLT)

According to Jesus, God grants us the ability to recognize Kingdom truths. Jesus promises if we are truly open to His teachings, He will help us understand spiritual realities. Therefore, it's not up to you or me to figure out the mysteries of God or the deep truths of the Bible with our own perception. No need to spend your days in seclusion, or your money on an advanced degree. Jesus is our secret decoder ring!

And we can wear it proudly because no ring shines brighter than He does! Peter, James, and John, three of Jesus' disciples, witnessed His astounding brilliance—His sparkling glory—when He took them to a secluded spot on a mountain top. "As the men watched, Jesus' appearance changed, and his clothing became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly process could ever make it" (Mark 9:2-3, NLT). Suddenly a cloud came over them and "a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him'" (Mark 9:7, NLT).

God never hides truth from sincere seekers. In fact, He came to earth in the person of Jesus to ensure that we'd learn His secrets and understand His ways. Our task is to open ourselves—ears, eyes, and heart—and listen intently to Him. To concentrate and apply ourselves to the process of prayerfully reading the Bible.

So, when I don't understand something I read in scripture, I look to Jesus. I ask Jesus to help me understand. I consider the example He set while here on earth - found in the gospels - and then I read the perplexing chapter or verses again in light of that. I ask His Holy Spirit to guide me into all spiritual truth. And I've been amazed by what I've found.

I won't say that I now understand everything in my Bible cover-to-cover, but I have discovered some truly empowering secrets to life in God's Kingdom. And I trust more revelation is to come, simply because Jesus said it would. He promised an abundance of knowledge to those who listen.

It's easy to miss the full impact of the first dozen words of today's key verse and zero in on the last four: "You have been permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have not." Don't make that mistake. Don't assume you'll never "get it." If you are a follower of Christ, listening to Him with your heart, He will reveal to you victorious secrets for life in His Kingdom. Open your eyes to Him. Open your ears to Him. Open your heart to Him, and dig into His Word. Pray for revelation and understanding.

And be ready to record the amazing things He reveals as you do.

Dear Lord, I willingly and eagerly open my eyes, ears and heart to You today. Cleanse me and speak to me through Your Word, I pray. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

This devotion is based on the opening of Rachel’s new book It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Needs to Know. Be the first to order your copy today!

Interested in learning the secrets Rachel discovered? Want to win a copy of her new book It’s No Secret? Follow the link to her blog at and read the book’s opening, first chapter and Bible study. Click here.

Application Steps:
Listen as you read the Bible today.

Consider getting Rachel's new book It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Needs to Know. Each chapter covers a different "secret," ending with a Bible study section giving you the opportunity to dig into God's Word for yourself.

Do I avoid reading the Bible because I've struggled to understand it?

What does Jesus say in Mark 13:11-13? Read it out loud.

Power Verses:
Colossians 2:2-3, "I want them to be strengthened and joined together with love so that they may be rich in their understanding. This leads to their knowing fully God's secret, that is, Christ himself. In him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are safely kept." (NCV)

© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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Entertaining Thoughts
Zoe Elmore

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

As I entered the room, my old familiar feelings of inadequacy and insecurity welled up within me. I prayed that the "measuring tape of self-worth" sticking out of the top of my head wasn't visible to anyone but me. "You're not pretty enough, thin enough or smart enough" echoed in my head, and I found myself entertaining thoughts of critical comparison.

Did you get that? I allowed my mind to "entertain" those harmful thoughts.

You'd think that at fifty-something I would have stopped "entertaining" these thoughts and moved on to recognizing and dismissing lies from the enemy. But I still find myself believing them at times.

What about you, do you entertain lies from your enemy, Satan? Do you entertain thoughts of comparison and insecurity?

If you do, I want to encourage you to memorize and apply 2 Corinthians 10:5, "We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (NIV). In order to apply this verse, you and I need to recognize what is truth and what is lie. Once recognized, we should reject the lies and replace them with God's truth.

God tells us over and over again that He thinks we are beautiful; but not just on the outside. Look closely at the truths contained in Ephesians 1:3-6, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (NIV)

Friend, critical thoughts filled with comparison and insecurity are not from your heavenly Father who has chosen you and loved you. When Satan whispers his lies, let's quickly respond, "That is a lie and I reject that thought. I will only entertain thoughts of God's truth."

When we entertain a lie, we allow the enemy to plant it in our minds. Once planted, it is hard not to entertain the lies and even harder to discard them. Satan's lies take hold in our minds just like weeds in an unattended garden. We need to take seriously the task of guarding our minds against Satan's lies. When we guard our minds, it's as if we are holding up a shield of truth that repels lies.

I've heard it said, "Every spiritual battle is won or lost at the threshold of the mind." While I do believe we can triumph over the lie once we've allowed it to cross over the threshold, we can save ourselves a great deal of trouble and heartache, if we begin to recognize Satan's lies, reject them and then replace them with God's truth. As a believer in Christ we have the Holy Spirit to help us in this journey. Our job is to outsmart the father of lies by "out truthing" him.

Dear Lord, I confess that I entertain thoughts that I know are not true. I compare myself to others; entertain lies of rejection and worry. Through the power of the Holy Spirit I want to reject the lies of the enemy as soon as they enter my mind. Help me replace them and entertain Your truth instead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Zoe’s blog

He is that Into to You (CD) by Lynn Cowell

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

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

Application Steps:
Write down the lies you believe about yourself. Write a corresponding truth verse from the Bible for each one.

What does God see when He looks past all the makeup, clothing and jewelry right into your soul?

Write down verses of truth in your journal and meditate on a different one each day.

Power Verses:
Colossians 3:1-4, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (NIV)

Isaiah 26:3, "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You." (NASB)

Ecclesiastes 8:1b, "Wisdom brightens a face and changes its hard appearance" (NIV)

© 2010 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.

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Just Because He Said So
Rachel Olsen

"And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands." 2 John 1:6a (NIV)

"No more words, honey, we're going to be quiet for the rest of the ride home."

My four year-old daughter and my husband were out late at a church event. She's an extrovert so being around all those people had her excitedly talking non-stop on the way home. The more she talked, the more animated she became. Finally my husband issued the no-more-words decree.

"But why?" she asked.

"Because it's late and you are tired, and you need to let your body wind down to rest."

"I'm not tired at all," she insisted.

"You don't realize it but you are very tired; it's way past your bedtime and you need to settle down."

After a moment of silence she said very matter-of-factly, "You can't know how I'm feeling."

My husband, who has a Ph.D. in communication, came through the front door saying, "Our preschooler just out reasoned me!"

She wants to understand our plans, motives, and reasons for everything. If she doesn't understand the logic of something she has a hard time accepting it. She loves us and truly wants to please us, but she wants to know why before she obeys.

She's usually obedient, once she's heard our reasons. Nonetheless, in response to her questioning I'm often tempted to use that infamous parental phrase: "Because I said so!"

I wonder if God ever wants to use that phrase with me?

I sometimes challenge His rules. Do not murder – check. Do not take the Lord's name in vain – got it. Honor your father and mother – um, OK. Do not gossip – hum, not even in the form of a prayer request? Do not lie – you mean, not ever? What if it is a little white lie that prevents hurt feelings? Do not envy – is that even possible?

Other times I question His ways. Can't You just feed the poor by making crops grow? Why do unbelieving drug addicts conceive babies, but my own girlfriend who follows You cannot? Why didn't You give me more organizational skills if You were going to have me marry this man and do this job? Are You sure You weren't distracted when You made me? Or when you gave me this questioning child?

God is infinitely more patient a parent than I am, and He is abounding in grace and love. He can easily handle all my questions without exasperation. But I wonder if He wishes I would just simply trust and obey – just because He is God.

I sure wish I would!

The scriptures say: "Do what your king commands; you gave a sacred oath of obedience. Don't worryingly second-guess your orders or try to back out when the task is unpleasant. You're serving his pleasure, not yours. The king has the last word. Who dares say to him, 'What are you doing?' Carrying out orders won't hurt you a bit; the wise person obeys promptly and accurately" (Ecclesiastes 8:2-5, MSG).

I want to be that wise person.

The Bible also sets my questioning tendencies straight with: "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Romans 9:20-21, NIV).

Yes, He certainly does. I want to be the fancy pot but I have to trust I will find the greatest joy when I accept the purposes He's designed me for.

So my goal today is not to question God but simply to trust and obey...even if I don't understand why, and even if it's hard to do. I will accept the way that I am made and the plans that He has set before me.

Yes, I know I can take all my questions to the Lord and He will lovingly sift through them, but today I want to obey His commands in swift, willing obedience – just because He said so.

Dear Lord, help me to know Your commands and obey them. Give me the mind and obedient attitude of Christ today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know by Rachel Olsen

Win a copy of Rachel’s new book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know by stopping by Rachel’s blog. She’d also love to pray for your ability to be obedient to God.

6 Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

Read our free P31 Woman magazine article, When God Calls, Answer Yes

Application Steps:
Write out a declaration of intention to obey God at all costs. Pray and ask God to help you grow in obedience.

Have you been challenging the Lord lately about the way He made you? Or the task He has set before you?

Are there commands that you are struggling with obeying?

Will you leave this place of questioning and doubt and move forward in obedience?

Power Verses:
Romans 6:16, "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (NIV)

2 Corinthians 9:13, "Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else." (NIV)

© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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The God of Learning
Marybeth Whalen

"Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary." Isaiah 46:1 (NIV)

Education is important. None of us would disagree with that. But how important is it and what role is it to play in our lives, especially as parents?

This has been a conflict for me as I have made my peace with the need for a good education for my children with my own desires for them to be "the best." While I recognize that education opens doors, I also wonder if perhaps I haven't at times fallen out of step with what God wants me to stress as a parent.

I will admit that I have valued academics over character growth at times.

A friend of mine once said, "Bible is not on the test." I asked her what she meant. She said that she always tells her children that, no matter what they score on standardized testing, she reminds them that there are things that can not be measured with grades or charts. My friend reminded me that our children's character growth and commitment to the Lord are more important than any grade, yet which gets more attention in our society?

In today's verse, Nebo, the god that burdens the Babylonians, is the god of learning. My breath caught in my throat when I read that note in my Bible. God pointed out in scripture that the god of learning burdened the people who worshiped it. I know the god of learning has burdened me during the time I have been a parent.

Whether I was a young parent making sure I exposed my child to all the right things to get them ready for kindergarten; a homeschool parent striving to provide all the right academic curriculum for my young students; or a mom of a public school kid pushing them to make the grades and try harder, I have felt the burden of making a god out of learning.

As parents we should care about our children's performance and grades. We should care about sending them to the right schools and their academic futures. But more than that, we should care about them growing closer to God. I want to give my children a hunger for His Word and ignite in them a passion to chase after Him. But as my friend said, none of that is on the test. At least, not any test the world devises.

With my eye on eternity, I can remove the burden of the god of learning by refocusing on the one true God, and helping my kids to do the same.

Dear Lord, as a parent I want my kids to know You first and foremost. Help me to keep my priorities in perspective and to not put too much stress on academics. Help me to find the balance between doing everything as unto You (including learning) and inspiring my children to follow hard after You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
P31 Woman magazine

Learning To Live Financially Free by Curt and Marybeth Whalen

Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Character Chart and CD by Renee Swope

Visit Marybeth’s blog

For more great parenting ideas, read our free resource Full-time Job

Application Steps:
If you have children, set aside time today to read a Bible story or turn on some praise music.

Praise them for the character qualities you see in them and not their academic achievements or shortcomings.

What place does learning have in your life? Has it become a god to you? To your children? How can you topple that idol in your life and put God first?

Power Verses:
Luke 2:52, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (NIV)

Isaiah 46:7, "They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles." (NIV)

© 2010 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

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The Truth is in the Handbag
Shari Braendel

"Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me." Psalm 31:3 (NIV)

I recently watched as a frazzled shopper fumbled around in her bag trying to find her allusive keys. As she dug through her overstuffed purse, multiple items spilled out, landing on the counter and falling to the floor. Quickly, she began collecting her items.

I thought about her pretty purse, beautiful on the outside but hiding an unruly mess on the inside. And then I started thinking about how alike women and purses can be.

Maybe you're like a small purse that only has the capacity to hold a few things. Yet you try stuffing more into your life than you can hold, only to get frustrated. Perhaps one of those things is God: He's been crammed into a tiny space in your world and you don't give Him much room to rule because you feel more comfortable when you are in control.

Perhaps you're like a big purse, carrying all kinds of things. You're involving yourself in so many activities just because you can; with no real purpose to why you're doing it. You end up flustered like the shopper digging for her keys because you haven't spent the time needed to organize your spiritual life.

I know you're not a handbag, but when applying biblical truth and application, what kind of purse are you most like?

It's not God's desire for our inside to be out of sync with our outside. He desires for us to have our hearts turned toward Him and have our very pulse in beat with what He is doing in us.

Where should we start to curb the chaos, release our controlling tendencies and lighten the busyness to fall in step with God?

Start by being still. For some, that will go against every fiber of your being, but try it. Perhaps you abide in chaos because it's masking what is really going on with you, just like your pretty purse hides the unorganized mess within. Sit quietly and pray for God to help you be keenly aware of Him. Nothing that you are going through is a surprise to God.

Next, relax and trust the Lord. Sometimes feeling out of control causes you to hyper-control everything around you. Let go of your fears, doubts and worries and make room for God in your life.

Finally, clear your calendar. We overbook and over-schedule out of habit and now busy feels normal. Is your fast pace driven by fear, or does it define your value or identity? If so, re-evaluate where your time and energy are being spent and why.

Making a change doesn't come easily, but it can be done. Although seeking out time with God, learning to trust Him, and reorganizing your priorities can feel uncomfortable and difficult at first, I know for sure that it's not nearly as hard as living overcommitted and out of control.

Together, let's commit to cleaning out our "purses!"

Dear Father, will You please meet me right here, right now and quiet my heart so that I can rest and regroup? Thank You for the comfort of knowing that while I sometimes get waylaid, You never take Your eyes from me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Shari’s blog where she is giving away two spectacular handbags and signed copies of her brand new book, Good Girls Don't Have to Dress Bad!

Walking with God in the Quiet Places: Devotions for Women by Various Authors, including Lysa TerKeurst

Intimacy with God: Establishing a Vibrant Quiet Time and Prayer Time by Tara Furman

Take a quiet moment to read our free resource, Good Thing or God Thing?

Application Steps:
Take a moment to journal what you are thinking right now. This is for you only, so feel free to be absolutely honest and dig deep.

Challenge yourself to make one change; slow and steady wins the race.

Do I believe God is in control?

Do I trust Him with my whole heart? If not, what am I holding back and why?

If God has more planned for my life than just coping, can I embrace a change for the better?

Power Verses:
2 Thessalonians 3:3, "The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." (NIV)

Hebrews 13:20-21, "May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." (NIV)

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)

© 2010 by Shari Braendel. All rights reserved.

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Letter of Love
T. Suzanne Eller

"And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, Abba, Father." Galatians 4:6 (NLT)

I have only scraps now. Words penned on paper when I was a teen. I was a new Christian, trying to live my faith in a house of chaos. My mom was broken. My dad hid behind a newspaper, calling out words like "you belong in a loony bin" to my mother, spiraling her deeper into the abyss of rage and hopelessness.

I lived in parallel worlds. One, my very fractured home. And the second, a world of faith where people loved Jesus, and their lives reflected that love. Church was more than a building to me. It was a sanctuary, a shelter, from the roller coaster existence at home. I spent hours in the altar, weeping -- not out of grief, or self-pity -- but because I had discovered the most amazing truth: God is.

Two years after my encounter with Christ, I found a letter on my pillow.

Dear Suzie, I've watched you and I know what you have is real. It's a treasure, and I hope you hang on to it. . .

I sat on the edge of the bed and read through the rest of the letter, amazed. It was penned by my dad. A man who did not know how to express his feelings very well. A man who had faced his own demons growing up, and who believed that love was putting food on the table and going to work every morning at 7 a.m.

I look back now through the mirror of time and I see two adults, younger than I am now, who struggled. My mom with pain. My dad with the inability to know how to help. But that letter was a ray of light. I keep the tattered pieces because it came at a time that I needed it. I was praying often for my family, but came home to the same old mess day after day. I often thought about running away from home, but I ran after Jesus instead, all the while longing for my parents to discover what I had found.

My father never said a word about the letter left on my pillow. But he was baptized the next year. He and my mother started attending church. It was a long, hard road, but over time my mother was healed emotionally. Her smile came back, and it was beautiful.

In the 30 years that have passed, I've been reading another letter from a father -- my Heavenly Father.

The Bible has become an ongoing communication between me and Jesus. I don't know how many times I've sat with the Bible in my hands, and felt an encouraging word or a corrective nudge. A command to overcome, or a promise that I'd never have to do it alone. It's not specifically written to me, but the Holy Spirit marks it with my name as He reveals truth.

Just when I need it. Just when I've been praying for direction. Just when I've felt that my faith was running on empty.

Can I be honest? There are times I have allowed that precious Letter to sit idle. I've pushed it to the side, glancing at it as I passed, knowing I'd "get to it" later. And yet one day I realized the Bible is just as precious and affirming as those tattered pieces from my earthly father. In fact, the words are very much the same. I find in Scripture that Jesus knows what I've been feeling, but He reminds me that He sees me. He affirms that I have discovered real treasure, and encourages me to hang on to it, even in the hard times. Especially in the hard times.

Maybe it's been a long time since you picked up your Letter of Love. I pray that today that you'll pick it back up, hold it in your hands, and read it for the first time all over again.

Dear Father, You know my pressures. You know my shortcomings. Thank You that You know what I need. Restore the joy of my salvation today. Restore my hunger to communicate with You. Thank You for Your letter of love to me. I ask that Your Holy Spirit take Your word and mark my life with it. In Your Loving Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Women's Devotional Bible (NIV)

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

Visit Suzie’s blog where she will give away a copy of Making It Real and share tips on how to make Bible study more personal.

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

Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl
by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
It's not about checking off "read your Bible" on your list for the day. It's taking time to communicate with Jesus.

1. Make an appointment, as you would with a friend.

2. Don't worry about a set number of verses or chapters. It's better to study three verses and grow through them, than to read five chapters just because it's on your to-do chart.

3. Read with a pen in hand. Mark verses that speak to you.

4. Keep a journal next to you. Share your thoughts and questions as you read. (It's also great to write down those pesky thoughts like "pay the water bill." Write it down and it's out of your thoughts, so you can go back to hanging out with Jesus.)

"The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs to me; it has hands, it lays hold of me." ~ Martin Luther

Power Verses:
Revelation 1:8, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega--the beginning and the end,'" says the Lord God. "'I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come--the Almighty One.'" (NLT)

Revelation 3:20, "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." (NLT)

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

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Faith over Feelings
Tracie Miles

"For you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." Psalm 25:5b (NIV)

I spent months working on it, with big expectations and high hopes. But in the blink of an eye, it was crushed. This reality tore into my heart like a jagged knife, ripping my dream into tiny little shreds. Disappointment was so great; it was difficult to process my feelings. I had worked tirelessly on this project and now I was not only feeling disappointment, but rejection.

Disappointment soon turned to irritation, then resentment. I didn't FEEL it was fair.

Why didn't God answer my prayers? Why had He placed a dream in my heart only to allow it to crumble? Why had He let this happen? Why me?

I knew I needed to have a good attitude and not give up, but I did not FEEL like doing that at all!
Questions continued to pummel my brain. What is the use? Why try again? If God didn't answer my prayer after all this time, why bother to keep trying?

You see, I allowed my feelings to overtake my mind, and let my FAITH take a back seat.

All I could think about was how this disappointment made me feel, instead of what God may be doing that my faith could not see. I felt things weren't fair, without remembering God's ways are best. I felt a longing for immediate results, instead of trusting God's timing is perfect.

I soon realized my feelings were getting in the way of my faith. So I went to Psalm 25 (NIV), and allowed the following verses to wash over my spirit.

Verse 1, "To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;"

I felt discouraged, unworthy, hopeless, rejected. So I poured my feelings and my soul out to God. And He listened.

Verse 2, "…in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me."

God reminded me to trust Him, not a desire or a dream. Not the world's view of things. Not my abilities. Not my timeframe. Not my ideas. Just Him. I prayed about my enemies - intangible feelings such as self doubt, insecurities, frustration, and discouragement.

Verse 3, "No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse."

Regardless of whether or not my desires become a reality, I will not be put to shame, because God is my God. If His plans coincide with my dreams, I know He will keep His eternal promises.

Verses 4-5a, "Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me,"

These words stopped me in my tracks. I began to think more rationally. Why have I been beating my head against a wall? Why have I been consumed with anxiety and frustration? Am I allowing God to direct my paths? God gently reminded me that He is the teacher; we are the students.

Verse 5b, "…for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."

If I put my hope in my own desires and abilities, I simply set myself up for failure. My only hope for joy and fulfillment comes from Christ alone. Hope can only be found in Him, not people, careers, husbands, children, church, financial success, a carefree life, or dreams that come true.

Disappointments will always happen. With God, however, we can turn those disappointments into God's appointments to trust Him. The first step is exercise our faith over our feelings.

Dear Lord, You know the hurt in my heart and the sting of disappointments I have experienced. Please help me trust You, instead of being consumed by feelings. Empower me with a faith that is stronger than my emotions. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Reinventing Your Rainbow by Tracie Miles

An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell

What to do in the W.A.I.T: Finding Contentment in God's Pauses and Plans (CD) by Wendy Pope

Visit Tracie’s blog

Love’s Perfect Plan, a free Everyday Life article, is a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness

Application Steps:
Consider the disappointments you have experienced recently, and ask God to help your faith be more powerful than your feelings.

Unpack Psalm 25:1-5 and apply it to your situation, with open ears to hear God's voice.

Am I allowing my feelings to guide my actions, or relying on my faith to help me move forward?

Have I asked God how He can use my disappointments to strengthen my faith in Him?

Have I sought God's direction in my situation?

Power Verses:
Psalm 78:7, "That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments." (KJV)

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Luann Prater

"The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him." Exodus 15:2 (NIV)

"He's really big and tall," she said.

This six year-old had never heard of Superman before visiting the towering blue and red 200 foot figure in Metropolis, Illinois. She didn't know that he was an action hero; he just looked like a rigid statue to her. She didn't know that millions before her had watched him rescue Lois Lane again and again. She didn't know he was from the planet Krypton and could fly. The tall, rigid statue was her reality of Superman.

Then it hit me – we often view God through the same limited vision. Even though His Word tells us He is:

El Elyon - God Most High
El - The Strong One
Jehovah - I AM
Jehovah-Rapha - The Lord Who Heals
El Shaddai - the All Sufficient One

…we often just imagine Him as a statue. If we have never trusted Him to supply our needs, heal us, or be our strength, we just don't get it. We see one angle of Him, but not the whole picture.

I pulled up a photograph of the Superman statue on Google and stared at it for several minutes. I saw a family standing at the base of this larger-than-life monument. Have you ever looked at God as a cold, uncaring statue? Wondering if He even notices you're down here? I have.

There is nothing cold or sterile about our God. He is multi-faceted! As today's verse says, He is my strength, my song, my salvation, my God and so much more! Just because we may not have experienced His healing, doesn't make Him any less the Healer. Just because we may not have sensed Him shower peace on our turmoil, doesn't make Him any less the Prince of peace. As we trust Him, obey Him and seek His face, He will reveal more and more of Himself to us.

We gals may not be Lois Lane, but there is One who can rescue us from any situation. Jesus Christ is His name. And man, is He super!

Dear Lord, thank You for being all we need and so much more! Grow my vision of You Lord to see past my limited knowledge. Open my mind to see beyond my reality. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know My Strength, Song and Salvation?

Hang out with Luann on her radio program, Encouragement Café, and her blog!

Embraced by the Father: Finding Grace in the Names of God by Susanne Scheppmann

When Self-Rescue is Not an Option, a free resource offering more encouragement

Application Steps:
Ask others to share their testimony with you. Find out how God has shown Himself in their lives.
Ask Him to grow your vision of Him.

What causes me to put God in a box?

When was the last time I looked at God from a different angle?

How can I trust Him in every area of my life?

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 10:17, " For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes." (NIV)

Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (NIV)

© 2010 by Luann Prater. All rights reserved.

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Mean Mom, Kind Mom
Lysa TerKeurst

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.'" Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

Yesterday we were driving back from the joy called the beach vacation. All total we logged over 20 hours in the car. It was family bonding at its finest.

So, this is what I hear from the backseat:

Ashley: "Mom, Brooke just licked my hash brown! Ewwwwww!"

Me: "Brooke, why would you lick your sister's hash brown for heaven's sake?"

Brooke: "Because my arm hurts."

Me: "Oh. Well that just makes complete sense."

There may have been 127 other instances where the soundtrack of my life was, "Mom…she poked me and she is on my side and she just spilled her drink and she took my book."

My kids were getting on the last good nerve I had and I could feel an emotional eruption bubbling to the surface.

Do you ever struggle with the mean mom trying to come out? Or the mean girl? Or the mean sister? Or the mean wife?

How is it I can be marching along to the sweetest tune and then veer off so suddenly into a bad attitude?

I wish there was one simple fix-it plan where if we follow three steps all tendencies toward emotional eruptions would vanish. But that's not reality. If all we needed to follow was a plan, we'd have no need to follow Jesus.

And ultimately isn't that what life is supposed to show us - that we need to follow Jesus? So what does Jesus say about this? He says we must do three things. But these aren't three easy steps. They are three attitude shifts of the heart.

He says we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

Deny myself…

I have to look beyond the emotions begging to erupt and use self-control. I have to deny myself the momentary satisfaction of the quick comeback, the rude response, and the full out yelling.

Deny myself. It's hard. But it is the way with Jesus.

Then I must take up my cross…

My cross. Stop the blaming and finger pointing and wishing everyone else would change…and see my sinful reaction as a negative contribution to the problem at hand. I must take my issues to His cross and see my sin for what it is - sin. And I must be disgusted enough by my sin to truly want to do something about it.

Take up my cross. It's hard. But it is the way with Jesus.

Finally, I must follow Him…

Really follow Him. Follow who He is and how He is. I must close my mouth, pause long enough to let Him interrupt my eruption, and let His Spirit redirect me. Yes, my children need to be corrected but I can let the consequences scream so I don't have to. Only a calm mama can think of rational, reasonable consequences that instruct.

Follow who He is and how He is. It's hard. But it is the way with Jesus.

It's amazing how quickly my mean mom vanishes when I deny myself, admit my sin, and choose to let Jesus interrupt me.

Just don't be messin' with my hash brown if your arm starts hurting. Okay? I have to draw the line somewhere you know.

Dear Lord, please interrupt my natural flesh pattern today. I desire to change. I need to change. I realize and admit that I need You, Lord. Help me to stop the blaming and finger pointing once and for all. Help me to follow in Your footsteps today. I want to seek You with all of my heart. For I know that those who seek You will find You. Thank You for this promise. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s interactive website today for an article every mom should read, plus a chance to win a free book!

Lysa is speaking in over 40 cities this year and she’d love to meet you! Next month she’ll be in Atlanta at Charles Stanley’s church and in Seattle with Jennifer Rothschild at Fresh Grounded Faith.

And if you’d like to transform the mean girl inside you, consider getting a copy of Lysa’s Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl.

The accompanying Bible Study workbook and DVD teaching series, which contains six sessions 15-20 minutes each, are perfect for your Bible Study group or Book Club.

Application Steps:
Do you struggle with your mean girl trying to come out? Ask a faithful friend to hold you accountable to change. It may be difficult to share this personal struggle, but having this honest accountability can make all the difference in the world.

Pray and record verses of God's promises and truths.

How do you deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him? Begin each day admitting to the Lord that you are dependent on Him. Ask Him to help you guide your words, your thoughts and your reactions in a way that would be pleasing to Him.

How do you begin to shift the attitude in your heart? The Lord promises to help those whose hearts are seeking Him. Are you seeking Him?

Power Verses:
Acts 17:28, "For in him we live and move and have our being." (NIV)

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7, "Remember him – before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." (NIV)

Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Move Over Myrtle
Lynn Cowell

"Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed." Isaiah 55:13 (NIV)

I could never figure out why my crape myrtle trees didn't look like "that."

When I drove my kids to school on those hot back-to-school days, I would see gorgeous myrtles all over the neighborhood, heavy laden with puffy flowers in hot pink, deep purple or pure white...but my myrtles never looked that.

One friend said they needed heavy pruning in the winter. So when the temperature dropped and all the leaves fell, I drug out my loppers and chopped away. There! That should do it! I thought. Summer came; summer went. No flowers.

Crape myrtles are not one of those trees that still look great without flowers. In fact, I grew tired of them in my front garden where they gawked at me, flowerless, day after day.

So, I called in a professional gardener. He informed me that crape myrtles need sunlight, so it didn't really matter what I did to those trees; they were not going to bloom in my cool, shaded yard. My choices were: put up with the lack of beautiful blooms, or pull them out. I opted for change.

Life can be a lot like my myrtles. Sometimes, we are just not blooming. We might try the recommendations of friends. You need a hobby. You need a different job. You need a man. Wait until this season is over and then make a change. Often, though, what we really need is Sonlight. The Professional Gardener will tell you getting in the Son is the only thing that is going to bring beauty.

In Isaiah 55:13 the prophet says that instead of briers, the myrtle will grow. Do you have any briers that need to be exchanged for myrtles in your life? Are you effective and are you living what the Bible refers to as an abundant life in Christ? Just as other trees in my yard cast too much shade for my myrtles, is there something in your life that is casting a shadow, blocking your Sonlight? If so, it is time to make the move into the Son.

Getting into the Sonlight, like moving a tree, is no easy task. It often involves change; sometimes a dramatic change. A change in habits, a ridding of addictions, a move in friendships, a laying down of dreams, or a picking up of one that you have feared. Part of soaking up the Son also includes spending consistent time with Jesus in prayer and reading His Word each day.

Don't be afraid of change, friend. The Psalmist said that pain comes in the night, but joy comes in the morning. In the end, the blooms that follow will tell the tale of the power of life in the Son.

Powerful Jesus, that is what I need You to be today. Powerful Jesus. I see the shadow on my life and often I fear that it will overtake me. You have promised that in You, with You, all things are possible. Show me where to move today Jesus, so that I position myself in Your Sonlight. Give me the discipline to study Your words so that my life will be for Your renown and an everlasting sign to others of life in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley

Have you ever had to move in order to get more light from Jesus? Stop by Lynn’s blog today and be encouraged by others who have done the same!

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

Intimacy with God: Establishing a Vibrant Quiet Time and Prayer Time by Tara Furman

Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst

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 that are casting shadows in your life.

What areas in your life do you currently feel are blocking out Jesus' truth?

Do you have a friend that you could ask to pray for you on a regular basis in your struggle for victory in this area? Honesty is a powerful weapon in breaking the power of Satan in our lives.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 55:6-9, "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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A Place of True Belonging
Amy Carroll

"Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you -- better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away." Proverbs 27:10 (NIV)

As we sat around the table with the sun setting behind us, I breathed a deep sigh of contentment. The faces of my dear friends glowed in the fading light, and our voices were low and intimate. The conversation had turned to matters buried deep in our hearts; laughter pealed, tears were shed and our faces reflected concern and caring as the conversation ebbed and flowed. With darkness deepening around us, we reluctantly stood, said our good-byes and returned to our waiting families and beds.

Pulling the quilt up to my chin that night, I thought, "There's nothing on Facebook as good as that."

Please don't get me wrong. I love the social networking craze as much as anyone. I've enjoyed reconnecting with old friends, staying connected to friends I meet as I travel and connecting to my children in new and fun ways. It's entertaining and enjoyable. It's fascinating and engaging. It's educational and inspiring. It's not a place that I intend to abandon, but it's a place that I need to recognize for what it is and what it isn't. One thing that it's not is a place of true belonging.

Facebook is just one vehicle for social networking, but since it's my favorite, I decided to do a little investigating. From its inception in 2004, Facebook has grown from 1 million users to an astounding 103 million US users by the beginning of 2010. During 2009 alone, it had a growth rate of a whopping 145%! And it's not just for kids any more. The 35-54 years old demographic is now the largest population of users with women leading the pack. Amazingly, it's the 55+ group that is growing the fastest at a rate of 923% growth in 2009.

Wow! I've been wondering about the cause of the overwhelming growth in social networking. I haven't studied it in-depth, but I have some ideas of my own. Our culture has become increasingly insulating over time. Everything from industrialization when families began to move away from family farms, to air conditioning which drives us off our front porches and inside our cool homes, has made it more challenging to find a place of true belonging. Instead of joining churches for a lifetime, we're either moving to another town or another church. Instead of walking next door to ask our grandmothers for parenting advice, we're turning on our TVs or opening a book. Instead of meals around tables in our home, we're driving thru and eating on the way to the next activity.

If this sounds scathing, please excuse me. I'm writing with a broken heart out of my own experience. I am that woman. I'm a woman who has turned inward and turned on my computer instead of outward with open arms and an open life. I'm a woman who has settled for "friending" instead of friends because of some recent hurts. It's easier "out there" instead of close by, isn't it?

I was reflecting one day about the time and space into which Jesus was born. God could have sent Jesus into any time of His choosing. Why didn't He send Jesus during our day? Surely using television and internet would have been a more effective way to get the Word out. I confess that I don't know exactly why God sent Jesus into a day and age with no telephones, television or internet, but maybe, just maybe, His choice of time sends us a message. Jesus chose deep relationships as the way to transmit His message forward in time until He comes again.

He was the one who created us in His own image with an inescapable need for face-to-face, heart-to-heart relationship. Maybe a place of true belonging with God and others is the only way to satisfy the longings of our souls.

Dear Lord, I know that in You I will find a place of true belonging. Help me to build that relationship with others too. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

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

Visit Amy’s blog

The Friends We Keep: A Woman's Quest for the Soul of Friendship by Sarah Zacharias Davis

Check out this moving devotion, God’s Design for Community, for more inspiration

Application Steps:
Examine how you spend your time. Is the majority of your time being invested in face-to-face relationship with friends and family?

Pay attention to your true feelings after interactions on the computer or in person. In the end, is the interaction fulfilling or hollow?

Where do I find my place of belonging?

Is the belonging that I feel true or artificial?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (NIV)

Romans 12:5, " in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (NIV)

© 2010 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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Shoot High in Prayer
Glynnis Whitwer

"'I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.' And he worshiped the LORD there." I Samuel 1:27-28 (NIV)

As a mother of five teenagers, I find my prayers for them have a resounding similarity: "Father, please protect (insert child's name) at (insert location)." I usually elaborate on why that particular child needs protection, and move on to the next request for help.

You might call me a worrier. Statistics don't help to curb my worry. I know that if 99% of people don't get hurt walking to McDonalds, there is 1% that do. And, you guessed it, I'm certain someone I love will be in that 1%.

Over the years, God has addressed this issue in my life, and revealed my lack of faith in His ability to protect. God has also brought miraculous healing over paralyzing fear. Nevertheless, I still found my prayers focusing on keeping my children safe. Until I heard a pastor challenge parents to shoot high for their children in prayer.

It didn't take a detailed self-assessment to realize I'd reduced my prayers to the common denominator of safety. While that is critically important, I realized I had replaced my vision for their futures with worry about their presents. I've been caring for the needs of children for 18 years, and I find myself consumed at times with just making it through the day.

While I know I should be praying for more than that, I sometimes find it hard to rise above the daily needs and routines, and cast a vision for the future. Thankfully, the Bible tells the story of one mother who had a wonderful vision for her child's future. Her name was Hannah.

Hannah's story is told in First Samuel. She was the beloved wife of Elkanah, but she could not conceive a child. Hannah prayed for God to give her a child, and promised to give her child back to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1:11). God heard that prayer and promise, and blessed Hannah with a son, whom she named Samuel.

Hannah kept true to her oath to offer her son to the Lord, and after she had weaned him, she took Samuel to Eli the priest for training. Hannah continued to bless her son's calling, and every year made him a linen ephod (robe) and took it to him when she and her husband offered sacrifices.

Hannah could have stopped her prayers at the gift of a baby. Anyone who has ever struggled with infertility knows that it can be all consuming. Yet Hannah wanted more than a baby to treasure and love. Her plan wasn't for a child she could keep to herself. Hannah had a vision for a child who would serve the Lord all the days of his life. God heard and answered that prayer.

Praying like Hannah pushes me out of my routine. Most nights as I fall into bed, I'm thankful my children have made it through another day. I've lost a niece in a car accident, and so I'm particularly grateful for every breath. And yet, I'm missing a powerful opportunity to partner with God for their futures when I stop my prayers at protection.

As we start a new school year, I'm challenged to expand my prayers for my children. I want to re-dedicate my three sons and two daughters to God for His service. I'm committing to pray boldly for God to use them in a mighty way, and for them to be lights in the darkness. Oh, I'll continue to pray for their safety. But I won't stop there. Once I've taken the limits off my prayers, there's no telling what God will do.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for inviting me to approach You in prayer. Sometimes I forget that You are willing and longing to do more in my life and the lives of my children. Help me to remove the limits I've put on my prayers and to allow Your Spirit to lead and guide me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
When Your Child is Hurting by Glynnis Whitwer. This is a great resource for ideas on areas in your child’s life that need prayer.

Visit Glynnis’ blog where she shares some ways to pray for our children at the start of school.

Divine Prayers for Despairing Parents by Susanne Sheppmann

Application Steps:
Take a moment and dream about the future for a child you know. It could be your own, a neighbor or someone at church. Don't let "reality" hinder your dream. Now pray for that child, asking God to use him or her.

What limits you from praying bold prayers for others? Or for yourself?

What are some specific things you could begin to pray for a child you know?

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:27, 33, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (NIV)

Psalm 103:17-18, "But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts." (NIV)

© 2010 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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Damaged Goods
Carol Davis, A She Speaks Graduate

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17 (NIV)

I walked down the aisle of the discount grocery looking for a bargain that I couldn't live without. It's always hit and miss in this store...and I had missed...again.

But, I passed by a bin that caught my eye. "Damaged Goods." It was filled with dented cans and missing real rhyme or reason, just random items that were not shelf worthy. And suddenly, I knew just how they felt.

Life sometimes delivers the unexpected. Lessons learned in the school of hard knocks bruise us, dent us and remove the label that defines who we are. We feel as if we have been tossed into a bin, no longer worthy of a place on the shelf. Some people substantiate the lie that we are second class failures and all hope is gone.

So, I leaned over and intentionally chose a dented can with no label from the bin. I got it home and placed it on the can opener with anxious anticipation. The whirr of the can opener finally penetrated the metal lid to reveal....peaches!!! I let out a school girl squeal! I love peaches!! What a treat to open this can and be greeted by one of my favorite fruits. The can was damaged but the contents were still good...and sweet.

God must have smiled...because at that moment the sunshine beamed in my kitchen window. I knew in my heart there was a lesson.

I have been damaged. We all have to some degree. I am not living the life that I dreamed about when I was a kid. However, the damage that I have suffered has made the contents of my heart so much sweeter, so much more compassionate, so much more in pursuit of Jesus. I have been looked down upon and judged by many who have seen my label missing and slapped on their own.

I've wanted to say, "Don't judge too quickly. My damage has not defined me...but, it is refining me." I may be at the bottom of the life's bin, but Jesus paid as high a price for those of us at the bottom as He did for those that are proudly displayed on the top shelf.

Look around you. Is there someone in your life, your family or your church that you consider "damaged goods"? Don't miss an opportunity to reach out to them, to love them. You just might find a friendship that is good...and sweet.

Dear Lord, my life hasn't turned out exactly turned out like I thought it would. But, I know that You can still use me. Please forgive me for labeling others and judging them by their outside circumstances instead of the work that You are doing in their heart. Help me realize that we all have dents but that's what keeps us desperate for a Savior. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Treasured: Knowing God by the Thing He Keeps by Leigh McLeroy

Thin Places by Mary E. DeMuth

When a Woman Meets Jesus: Finding the Love Every Woman Longs For by Dorothy Valcarcel

Connect with Carol on her blog

Application Steps:
Write down all the life circumstances that have 'dented' your heart. Ask God to use your dents and scratches for His glory.

Is there someone you are judging unfairly? By their circumstance? Or life situation?

What can you do to reach out to that person today?

Have you been judged unfairly? How did that make you feel?

Power Verses:
Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (NIV)

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

© 2010 by Carol Davis. All rights reserved.

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Do You Have a Dream?
Lysa TerKeurst

"If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones…" Luke 16:10 (NLT)

Do you have a dream to do something? In my early twenties, I started and failed at five different jobs before helping start Proverbs 31 Ministries. Lately, I've been getting many emails asking how I helped start this ministry. I always wish I could reveal three well defined steps that led me to this place where I'm at today doing what I know I was made to do. But my journey was not well defined nor were there easy steps. I stumbled here.

My friend who asked me to join her in getting this ministry off the ground named it. I was with the ministry for close to four months before it occurred to me that maybe I should read Proverbs chapter 31 in the Bible. I had never done that.

I had an argument with God after reading Proverbs 31, telling Him all the reasons He had definitely called the wrong gal to be part of a ministry named after a woman who truly had it all together.

At that point in my life, I had one child who made me cry every day with feelings of being completely overwhelmed and a struggling marriage.

But God.

I love those two words when you put them together.

He makes a way where there is no way. He loves to use unlikely people so He gets all the credit for any good that comes from their frail and faulty efforts. I'm convinced He wasn't looking for the most qualified person, He was simply looking for a woman who would dare to say yes to Him.

So, how in the world did God ever grow this ministry from the tiniest seed to where it is today?

I'm convinced my job all along was never to figure out how to grow the ministry or how to run a successful ministry. My job all along was to simply be obedient to God. My job was obedience, God's job was results. That's true no matter what we're pursuing - be it a job, a spouse, a calling or a dream.

I had to be obedient to God in the small things and the big things. Some days as a woman in ministry my big job was to change diapers with a good attitude and apologize to my husband for acting so stubborn. Other days it was to have coffee with a woman and simply listen to her heart. Still other days it was to write an article that would only be read by 35 readers of our small little newsletter at the time.

You see God never let this ministry outgrow my capacity to be obedient to Him.

As I put together a team, I looked for people who had the same passion to say yes to God. As He found me and my team faithful with the little things, bigger opportunities came. It hasn't been easy and we certainly have not been found to be obedient every day, but we've been determined to never give up.

Proverbs 31 Ministries unfolded very, very slowly. This ministry has been 17 years of waking up each day, lifting up our willingness to be obedient to God that day, and simply following wherever He leads us with a "yes" heart.

If you feel a tug at your heart to pursue some sort of a dream, let it unfold slowly. And realize you can start today. Simply ask God to place that one obedience-assignment in front of you today and say yes. Who knows what could possibly start from there…

Dear Lord, no matter what the dreams are that You've placed on our hearts, may we be found obedient in the small things first. And help us to remember our job is to be obedient to You and then You will take care of the results. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Lysa’s interactive website today for a list of three crucial things every woman following a dream should know…click here.

Lysa is speaking in over 40 cities this year and she’d love to meet you! To check for a city near you, click here. Next month Lysa will be in Atlanta at Charles Stanley’s church and then at the Fresh Grounded Faith conference in Seattle, WA. Click here for more information on Atlanta and here for more information on Seattle.

And if you’d like to move from just going through the motions with God to having a thriving relationship with Him, consider getting a copy of Lysa’s latest book, "Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl" by clicking here.

Application Steps:
If you are following a dream, keep track of the things God teaches you along the way either through a journal or another remembrance marker.

What are you hoping to gain by reaching your dream? If your ultimate goal is a richer relationship with God, you will never be disappointed.

Power Verses:
Proverbs 3:1-3. "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart." (NIV)

© 2010 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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Beauty Wounds
Shari Braendel

"God heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

A few girlfriends recently confided to me about past wounds that still hurt. One sweet friend shared how she has worked for over 20 years to heal from the wounds inflicted by harsh words. "My mother always thought I was too heavy and called me her elephant. She was constantly making comparisons between my much smaller sister and me. She even went so far as to accuse me of being bulimic, which was a crushing blow to a 13-year old girl."

My other friend confided, "My mom's friend asked me what it was like to have a sister who was so pretty and then said how difficult it must be growing up with her, so beautiful and tiny, and me not being that way. I wasn't fat; it's just we are built completely different. I remember being surprised that someone would actually say that to me and wondered WHY she would say it. That one comment defined me for many years and still hurts when I think about it today."

Beauty wounds. Every single one of us has them. Some inflict deep pain and others prove to be a little nasty pinch that bothers us from time to time; regardless, all of them hurt.

There are many things that need to take place in order to heal our innermost being and assure we don't get caught in the habit of repeating this behavior with those we love or even those we don't know well.

It is important to extend grace and forgiveness to those who have wounded us. I know this can be easier said than done, but through Christ it is possible. Often the one who brought us pain has no idea the heartache they have caused. I often wonder whom I could have hurt without meaning to, and I hope and pray they forgive me for my thoughtless actions.

The Bible tells us words are powerful, but so are our thoughts. We often give too much value to the destructive dialogue that runs in our head from past wounds. We listen to the hurtful thoughts that play over and over like a broken record. The moment these thoughts pop up, we need to put an end to them by taking them captive. We need to immediately replace the wounded thinking with something more powerful and loving.

One thing that has helped me is to have scripture verses ready in my mind to shut down those damaging head games. For instance, when a critical thought about my beauty or my weight comes into my mind, I try to realize it and immediately say, "The king is enthralled by [my] beauty" (Psalm 45:11,NIV).

I want to encourage you to not allow your heart to dwell on ugly thoughts. God is a big God and He's crazy about you. You are a treasure to Him. He did not make a mistake when He created you! I pray you will believe and stand on that truth my friend. For if I know one thing for sure, it is that Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and bind up every one of our wounds, including our beauty wounds.

Dear God, I know You see the deepest places of my heart and know the lies and words that continue to haunt me and hurt me. Will You take that hurt away, please? Heal me and help me to accept and understand that You didn't make a mistake with me. You made me perfectly wonderful. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Enter a national makeover contest with Shari Braendel! Multiple winners will be chosen for additional give-aways including a $500 Visa gift card, a Skype fashion session with Shari, a webcam and more! Find out more at

Good Girls Don’t Have to Dress Bad by Shari Braendel

Visit Shari’s blog for more encouragement and some fun fashion tips.

Do you know the One who calls you Beautiful?

Application Steps:
1. Print out Psalm 139:13-14 and post it on your mirror. Let it be a daily reminder that you belong to God. Read it every day until that is what you hear inside your heart and mind.

2. Pray and ask God to help you forgive those who have inflicted pain upon you.

3. Choose this day to begin the healing process.

Would you want to be granted the forgiveness that another may need from you if you were in the same situation?

Is there a time you can remember being forgiven whether you deserved it or not? There is freedom in forgiveness that touches all parties involved.

Power Verses:
Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV)

2 Corinthians 6:18, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters," says the Lord Almighty." (NIV)

Psalm 139:13-14, "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well." (NASB)

© 2010 by Shari Braendel. All rights reserved.

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Wendy Pope

"Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil." 2 Kings 4:2b (NLT)

It had been almost one year since my husband began having serious health problems. We followed the correct protocol in regards to doctors. First we went to see his general physician, followed all his instructions but nothing changed. The general physician sent us to a specialist. We followed his instructions. Nothing changed. For months we rode the roller coaster of uncertainty, hoping each new physician and medication would give us answers. All efforts were to no avail. My husband continued to have problems without solutions. My faith wavered. I believed God for a miracle, but doubted one would ever come.

The process wore us down physically, mentally, and spiritually. There were people literally all over world praying for us. Why didn't God, the Great Physician, hear the cries of His people and answer them? Why couldn't my husband have a miracle? In a last ditch effort for answers…for a miracle…my husband prayerfully went to a specialist in another city. I was unable to make the trip with him. Little did I know God had a miracle for me right here at home.

That week, I read in the Bible of a woman who was long on sorrows and short on faith. She was desperate. I saw my own story between the lines of hers. This widow's husband had accrued a debt the widow was unable to pay; authorities were coming to take her sons as slaves in order to satisfy the debt. She exercised what little faith she had by bringing her sorrows to the one person she believed could help, the prophet Elisha. Elisha instructed the woman to have her sons collect empty jars from her neighbors and, from the one flask of olive oil she had left, fill the jars then sell the oil to pay the debt. The women obeyed. Miraculously there were enough full jars of oil to pay her husband's creditors.

As I pondered on this widow's desperate plight, God instructed me to follow her example. He asked me to bring my empty jars (figuratively) to the altar at the close of the church service the following Sunday morning. I did not understand nor did I want to obey. I was long on sorrows and short on faith. Throughout the week I felt His nearness and His prompting to bring my empty jars to Him. Throughout the week I continued to tell Him no. I was scared. I did not want others to make a fuss over me at the altar. I did not want to be disappointed again.

Sunday morning came, I was still arguing with the Lord. Imagine my surprise as I heard the pastor say, "Open your Bibles to 2 Kings 4:38-44." God had arranged a miracle for me. The miracle wasn't to heal my husband, but to heal my faith, to fill my emptiness with a new faith that I would carry throughout the journey of my husband's uncertain future. At the close of the sermon, with fear and trembling I took my empty jars to the altar. The moment was personal and precious. It was as if I was the only one in the sanctuary with the Lord. He met me there and made me faith-full.

Do you desire to be faith-full today? Are you long on sorrows and short on faith? Gather your empty jars and take them to the only One who can help you. The Lord will meet you there. It will be personal and precious. He will fill your jars with enough faith to get you through the known and the unknown. Only God can make you faith-full.

Dear Lord, sweet Jesus. I believe in You. Today, help me believe You. I bring You my empty jars of faith asking You to make me faith-full. I don't want to be a woman long on sorrows, short on faith any more. I know You are the only One who can help me. Help me know You are good. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Click here for a variety of teachings on CD by Wendy Pope

Visit Wendy’s blog to hear the rest of the story.

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

A Woman Who Fears the Lord - T-Shirt

Application Steps:
Gather your empty jars and take them to the only One who can help you. Go to "the altar" in your kitchen, beside your desk, in the park, or wherever you are. Give Him your uncertain future, your desperate present, and the failures of your past.

What fear are you struggling with today?

Why is it difficult for you to bring your emptiness to God?

Do you believe God can make you faith-full?

Power Verses:
Genesis 15:6, "And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. (NIV)

Hebrews 11:6, "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." (NIV)

James 2:14, "What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions?" (NIV)

© 2010 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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Stinkin' Thinkin'
Melanie Chitwood

"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NAS)

It's 6:00 and you've got a delicious dinner ready for your family. Your husband calls at 6:30 to explain he's running late - he's going to have to grab a quick sandwich, change into his softball clothes and rush to the softball game starting at 7:00.

Softball game? you think to yourself. What softball game?

Before you can even hang up the phone, you find your mind filled with some "stinkin' thinkin'" about your husband and marriage. I am so sick of cooking dinners that he never even eats. I know he probably told me about that softball game, but I forgot and besides, he should be home. Great, I'll be home alone cleaning up the kitchen and putting the kids to bed, same old, same old. I think I'll just make plans for one night this week and "forget" to tell him about them.

Maybe this scenario has played out in your marriage. Maybe the situation is somewhat different but the stinkin' thinkin' sure rings true. You find yourself dwelling on and repeating to yourself destructive thoughts such as:

"He's so selfish. He never thinks about what's best for me, just for himself."

"He should know what I need by now. After all, we've been married five years."

"This marriage is not working out. I was crazy to marry him in the first place."

Stinkin' thinkin' in marriage will allow the dangerous weeds of bitterness and resentment to take root. These weeds will choke out intimacy, peace, and closeness in our marriages. We may find ourselves being irritable, harsh, distant, angry or unforgiving toward our spouse. We may even find ourselves thinking about or moving toward divorce.

If we're battling stinkin' thinkin', God provides strategies to combat these thoughts. First, we need to ask God to make us aware of any stinkin' thinkin' that might harm our marriage. Secondly, we need to confess these destructive thoughts to the Lord. Third, we need to ask God to take our thoughts captive to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). Fourth, we need to replace the lies with God's truth.

Following this strategy in the above situation might lead to these improved thoughts:

"I'm mad and I want to lash out at him. Lord, help me be patient and not provoked."

"I know he needs some time to relax by doing something he loves."

"Give us a time later to talk, Lord, so I can explain to him in a calm way that I need some time for refreshment too. Maybe we can make plans for a date night next week."

Awareness of our thoughts about our husband and marriage is so important because our thoughts lead to our attitudes in marriage, and our attitudes lead to actions. When our thoughts are submitted to the lordship of Christ, we'll react in ways that build closeness with our husbands rather than destroy oneness.

Dear Lord, Your Word says that as a believer I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Make me aware of any thoughts that do not reflect Your truth. Help me not to dwell on stinkin' thinkin' about my husband. Give me Your thoughts toward my husband and marriage, thoughts that help our closeness and oneness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
This devotions was adapted from What a Husband Needs from His Wife by Melanie Chitwood

What a Wife Needs from Her Husband by Melanie Chitwood

Visit Melanie’s blog What Matters Most for more strategies to combat stinkin’ thinkin’.

How is Your Marriage? offers more free encouragement!

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps:
What pushes your buttons causing you to feel hurt, angry, or resentful? Do these situations lead to stinkin' thinkin' about your husband? Plan now to respond in a different way the next time this situation occurs.

Write down the four steps mentioned in the devotion as your action plan. Pray and ask God to give you His strength to think and to respond differently.

In our minds strongholds are developed by repetition. What strongholds have developed in your mind about your husband or marriage? Be especially aware of times you think or say "he always" or "he never." For example, God might reveal to you that one of the lies you repeat about your husband is: "He never listens to my opinion."

Our thoughts can be easily influenced by those around us and key people in our lives growing up. What messages about men or marriage did you hear growing up? What thoughts do other women in your life express about their husbands? Is their stinkin' thinkin' rubbing off on you?

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 2:16, "…but we have the mind of Christ." (NAS)

2 Corinthians 10:5, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (NAS)

Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (NIV)

© 2010 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.

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