Saturday, June 2, 2007

Finding Joy in Your Strong Willed Child

By Sheila Wilder

Very few people understand the challenge of a strong willed child. These children seem to come in to the world determined to challenge you on every point. They can sap your energy and have you on edge within fifteen minutes of getting out of bed in the morning. They are feisty, determined, and unnerving. The biggest challenge I have encountered with my strong willed child is the strength and energy to purpose to like her. Loving her is never in question, but liking her takes some persistence on my part.

That sounds terrible doesn't it? How pitiful that you would have to make it a point to like your child. But mothers of strong willed children are nodding their heads and some are relieved to find out that they are not alone. When you are constantly being pushed to the edge, dislike is a normal reaction. At times, we may be unaware or unwilling (for kind reasons) to admit that we just don't like being around this child. If we are not careful, we can unwittingly let those feelings of dislike dominate our relationship.

It takes more energy and determination to find joy in your relationship with your strong willed child than it does to operate in the norm. You must persevere; however, because the rewards you will reap from this persistence are immeasurable and invaluable. So what can you do to find joy in your strong willed child?

Look at the unique and special purpose God has planned for your child.These kids are the Joshuas and Calebs of the world (Numbers 14). They can stand alone. And when God chooses to use them for His purpose; they are the Noahs (Genesis 6). They have awesome tenacity; pursuing and fighting for a God-given vision even when every shred of evidence should discourage them. You have a gem in your midst.

Look at the role your child plays in your family and how God uses them to shape and mold you and others in your family. My daughter's personality is forcing her compliant younger brother to develop some assertiveness that he would not have developed this early on his own. It will serve him well. Likewise, my daughter's unique personality has forced me to grow closer to the Lord. Lisa Welchel stated my experience so well when she reflected on her son: "raising Tucker has taught me more about stepping outside the box, being non-judgmental and longsuffering, controlling my anger, throwing myself on the Lord, and listening to that still small voice than anything else I've done in my life."1 These kids can change us for the better if we will continually fall on the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:11).

Carefully consider how your own parenting style plays into your feelings toward your strong willed child. I have learned that if the issue is not safety, modesty, or obedience; it need not be an issue. Sometimes that means dealing with things inside of me that make unimportant things an issue. I have learned that it was my pride that made going to the store with my daughter dressed in polka dots and stripes an issue (after all, who wants to be seen out in public with a child dressed like that!)

Look carefully at the root cause of some of your issues. Can any of them be put to rest? (Philippians 2:3-4) Cynthia Ulrich Tobias wrote a book, You Can't Make Me…But I Can Be Persuaded, about dealing with strong willed children that has helped me tremendously. Don't let the title fool you, it is not a book about cajoling your child into behaving. It is about the parent being in control and removing opportunities for resistance to your parenting style.

Make a commitment to pursue a joyful relationship with your strong willed child. Try to always focus on the positive while in the midst of disciplining the negative. Make a list of your child's positive qualities and reflect on them daily during your prayer time (Philippians 4:8). Make it a point to connect with your strong willed child. They act like they don't want or need our acceptance, but in truth they have a strong need for a deep connection with us. It takes resolve, determination, and grace; but you must commit yourself to actively seeking an enjoyable relationship with your strong willed child. It will be worth everything you have, and everything you are. After all, that is all He asks of us (Luke 9:23)!

"Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose." - Philippians 2:21

*Courtney, Camerin. "The Real Facts - and Fun! - of Life." Today's Christian Woman May/June 2004: 44.

Feeling Alone

By Rachel Olsen

As we go through life, we all experiences times of feeling lonely. Sometimes we even feel alone in the midst of a large crowd. Are any of these situations familiar to you?

Being the new girl in school.
Being the only one of your friends to not make the team.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Being the first of your friends to have babies - and no social life.
Being the only one of your friends not to have babies.
Being new to town, new to the neighborhood, or new to the church.
Having a spouse on the road - or the battle field.
Having a child with disabilities.
Feeling misunderstood.
Feeling different.
Marital Trouble.
Empty Nesting.
Terminal illness.
Death of a loved one.

Loneliness is often a desert-like experience. Our first reaction to feeling alone is usually sadness. Additional reactions may be fear, self-doubt, anger towards God, or full-fledged depression. Loneliness is a dry, barren place no one likes to frequent. Yet many of us find ourselves there repeatedly.

While we have limited control over whether we enter the desert of loneliness, we have much control over our reaction to it. Time spent in the desert alone with God can actually be a season of strengthening and growth.

Author Cindi McMenamin writes in her book When Women Walk Alone: "I wonder, my friend, what would happen if you embraced that Stranger of Aloneness, seeing him not as the Stranger who has come to take something from you, but as the Blesser who has come to bestow on you something wonderful!"

Perhaps we should not be concerned with finding the fastest way out of the desert, but with finding the most rewarding way through it.What can we learn through our times of aloneness?

  • That God is strongest in our lives when we are the weakest (2 Cor. 12:9).
  • That Jesus sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).
  • Just how Jesus felt (Isa. 53:3).
  • That He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
  • That God comforts us, and prepares us to comfort others(2 Cor. 1:3-4).
  • That we are becoming perfected and complete (James 1:2-3).
  • That His ways are not always for us to understand (Isa. 55:9), but they can be trusted (Jer. 29:11).
  • That we can be content no matter our current circumstances (Phil. 4:12-13).
The woman who has learned these truths, walking in the heat of the desert with her Lord, will be stronger and more fruitful than the woman who flees the desert each time she feels its dry heat on her cheek.

When you notice the cool breeze of togetherness has faded, do not despair. When you look and find the green grass on which you had been walking is turning to dust and to sand, do not fear. When you feel the heat of the Son intensifying, rejoice. You just may be receiving a great invitation to "Come Higher." Call out to Jesus, He'll be right there. Embrace the lessons and blessings He has for you as you spend time together in your season of aloneness.

Dealing with A Strong-Willed Child

By Van Walton

P.R.A.I.S.E. God for the strong-willed child, He has given you as a blessing from Him. Life with this child will never be boring. There will always be adventure built into every day! This is a child who wants to make decisions. (S)he will grow up to lead and make choices that will affect others' lives. In the hands of a Godly mother the strong-willed child will learn God's ways. We would all agree that the world desperately needs Godly men and women who aren't afraid to lead.

Pray daily for yourself and your child. God knew what He was doing when He handed your baby to you. Ask God for wisdom, strength, and endurance. Ask for protection. One way or another your child will be a leader. Pray that your Christian walk will be a transparent and credible one, one that your child will admire, respect and emulate.

Pray with your child. Pray at all times. Never let a day go by without bringing it to a close in conversation with each other and your heavenly Father. Get on your child's bed and talk about the day. Model a prayer using the ACTS guideline. You praise God and then let your child do the same. Then you confess your sins and, when finished, tell God that your child has some confessions to make. Let your child speak to God. Thank God, especially tell Him how grateful you are for your child because of his qualities. List and name your child's attributes and then ask God to hear your child's words of appreciation. Tell God that the two of you are going to pray for people you know and then take turns praying for friends, neighbors and family. Finally pray for yourselves. Intimate evening prayer is an activity that will take you into the teenage years and if never broken will be the most special memory you will ever construct. Don't miss it!

Remember that God gave this child to you and He has a purpose for both of you to grow closer to Him and develop deeper Christian character. Your role as a mother is to be a leader for your child. He is totally dependant on you for his well being and future success. Be strong yourself. Set guidelines and stick to them. Confidence and trust are built where there are clear and consistent boundaries in the home environment.

Remember that the work you do when your child is young will pay off when he is older. As he grows up he will want more and more independence. Good teenagers learned obedience at an early age.

Allow opportunities for her to exert herself. Be firm and consistent in the areas where you must be the final answer and do not give in. Pick and choose your battles. Try to say "yes" often. Responses that promote communication and patience are, "Yes you may, but later when…" "Would you let mommy think about it?" "Why do you want to do this?" "That sounds like a good (fun, adventurous, interesting, etc.) idea. Can I ask some questions first?" Learn to anticipate where your major battles erupt and discuss the potentially volatile circumstances before the problem occurs. For example before going to the grocery store remind, "You may choose one cereal and one snack. We will do your shopping first." This shows respect and trust in your child's decision. Remind your child that there are never purchases in the check-out lane. If that is where she wants to go first to pick her snack or treat then do that first.

A church service is often a place where a child chooses to assert herself. Bring along activities and take a bathroom break immediately before worship begins. If children can sit in school for an entire hour they can do so for a church service.

"No" means no. Once you have said "no," do not make it a practice of backing down. That is why it is very important to weigh your "no's" and say "yes" often.

Tell stories about strong-willed people and ask questions about their character, behavior, choices, affect on others, and appearance before God. Point out strong-willed people doing good and talk about it. Then point out strong-willed people making bad choices and discuss it.Don't forget to be loving, gentle, patient, and consistent.

Instruct him in God's ways. Daily prayer, devotionals, good reading and viewing materials all are tools that can be used to bring children up in the way they should go. Look around you and encourage your child to become aware of God's creation. Be willing to give praise to God when an opportunity presents itself. Be a model for your child. He will imitate your relationship with Jesus. Introduce your child to Christian activities like choir, dramatic productions, church sports leagues, AWANA. A child who knows the ways of God is more likely to make good decisions.

Select circumstances where your child can be a leader in the family. Questions you can ask are, "Can you give me directions to the store? What should we do today? Go to the park, library, movie rental store, or shop…How would you like to organize your room? You tell me and I will help you. When should we walk the dog? You set the timer, OK? What would Daddy like for dinner?"

Following through with your child's ideas are huge confidence builders which begin your child's march toward knowing how to make good decisions. If she doesn't choose well, tenderly question her, offering other solutions. Be willing to back off so they can learn from mistakes. Failure is a good teacher. Of course only allow failure in non, life- threatening circumstances. You always want your child to be safe and respectful.

Endear yourself to him. Love, hug, affirm, encourage, play, smile and laugh. Create fun in everyday activities. Stop at the park while running boring errands. Grab a milk shake on the way home from school. Make chores fun and rewarding. The strong-willed child does not want to be told what to do, so ask for help and be willing to work along side him.

Yes! You have a strong-willed child. Praise God, and praise your child!

Are You Struggling?

Complied by Rachel Olsen

Here are some selected Scriptures by topic to look up, write down, pray and memorize as you chart your course towards renewal.

Deuteronomy 8:18
Psalms 102:17
Psalm 132:15
1 Timothy 6:17-19

Matthew 5:11-12
Matthew 12:36
Isaiah 51:7Job 5:21

Genesis 28:15
John 15:13
2 Corinthians 6:18
Proverbs 18:24

Romans 10:11
Psalm 119:80
2 Timothy 1:12
1 Peter 4:16

Exodus 15:26
Jeremiah 17:14
Matthew 9:6-7
James 5:14-16
2 Corinthians 12: 1-10

Remember Mark 10:27 - through God all things are possible!

Purposeful Living

Purposeful living requires planning. As the old saying goes, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." How will we reach any goals if we fail to make any? Setting priorities and reaching goals are pathways to a successful life.

Setting Priorities
To aid you in setting your priorities, here are the Seven Principles -taken from Proverbs chapter 31 - used by Proverbs 31 Ministries as a guide for everything we do.

1. The Proverbs 31 woman reveres Jesus Christ as Lord of her life and pursues an ongoing, personal relationship with Him.
2. The Proverbs 31 woman loves, honors and respects her husband encouraging his leadership in their home.
3. The Proverbs 31 woman nurtures her children and believes that motherhood is a high calling with the responsibility of shaping and molding the children who will one day define who we are as a community and a nation.
4. The Proverbs 31 woman is a disciplined and industrious keeper of the home who creates a warm and loving environment for her family and friends.
5. The Proverbs 31 woman contributes to the financial well being of her household by being a faithful steward of the time and money God has entrusted to her.
6. The Proverbs 31 woman speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction as she mentors and supports other women, and develops godly friendships.
7. The Proverbs 31 woman shares the love of Christ by extending her hands to help with the needs in the community.

Notice that the foundation of our hierarchy of priorities is the fact that God desires to be first in our lives. Then and only then can we set right goals. Then and only then will we make choices that bring glory to Him. Then and only then will we make choices that value our families over work, hobbies or friends. Since the needs of our families will change as children grow, as parents age and as we mature, we must regularly review our priorities and re-determine how best to live them out.

Reaching Goals
Living a life guided by clear priorities and clear goals is living a life with a clear life plan. Perhaps you are asking why we really need a life plan. In the book Living Life on Purpose by Lysa TerKeurst, Lysa shares:

A Life Plan
* Helps add value to our lives.
* Helps me see life from an eternal perspective.
* Helps me move past my mistakes.
* Helps me to see my potential.
* Serves as a filter for my decisions.
* Helps point me in the right direction.
* Will help me to be able to give an account on the Day of Judgment.

We must not look to the world for purpose, but to God and His Word, the Bible. Our primary goal should be to accomplish God's will for our lives. But, in order to know the will of God, we must have a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. This is not simply knowing we should trust Him, but transferring that knowledge into action, asking Him to lead our lives.

It's great to have goals, but we also need to have a plan to meet those goals - a plan from the Lord.

Acts 5:38-39 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men: you will only find yourselves fighting against God. (NIV)

Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (NIV)By taking each priority or goal and breaking it down into specific actions, we get a plan.

Say, for example, I want a closer relationship with God. How can I reach that goal? What is going to be my plan of action? It may look like this:

A closer relationship with God

1. Start by reading through a book of the Bible, perhaps 1-2 chapters per day if I've already been reading. If I'm new at reading the Bible, 3-5 verses a day may be where I start.
2. Then I'll pick some Scripture to memorize - a few verses that speak to my current situation in life, or maybe a passage that is meaningful to me.
3. I'll spend time in prayer talking with God. I'll also ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand what I'm reading.

The more we know God, the more we will look to Him for our priorities, and rely on Him to help us reach our goals. For He is the one who places noble goals in our hearts. For more great help with in-depth life planning, get Living Life on Purpose and the accompanying Life Planning Journal by Lysa TerKeurst, available through this website.

A New Year, A Better You

by Rachel Olsen

While we should strive for improvement and growth through out the year, January is a time of renewed commitment for many. It's a fresh beginning - a period of renewal in the midst of winter. Here are some tips to better you -- mind, body and spirit. Pick a couple from each category and aim to implement them this month.

●Make sleep a priority each night - sleep is memory fuel.
●Become an optimist, and you'll think more clearly.
●Take some "down-time" during busy periods of life. When stressed or working extremely hard, stop and take three "cleansing breaths" by breathing in through your nose to the count of five, hold it for a count of three, and blowing out through your mouth to the count of five.
●Improve your memory and build your mental strength by memorizing scriptures that assure you have wisdom and a sound mind in Christ.

●Add an extra glass of water to your diet - our bodies are over 60% water!
●Take a quality multi-vitamin.
●Eat something fresh each day - an apple, carrot, orange, avocado or broccoli sprouts for example.
●Increase your daily movement by taking the stairs rather than the elevator, parking far from the building and walking, taking your dog out for a run, or - my personal favorite - turning up the music and dancing in your room.

●Read some portion of your Bible each day - any amount is beneficial!!
●Subscribe to Proverbs 31 free "Encouragement for Today" devotions.
●Nurture your spirit while you wait. Choose a Christian book or tape - you can find some on this website - to keep in your purse or car to pass time waiting at the bank, dance studio or practice field.
●Plan a 5 minute "Spirit Break" for the middle of your day and spend that time praying, reading or singing to some worship music.

Making just a few small changes to your routine each week or month will keep you from becoming overwhelmed with your to-do list. As they become habit, however, you will gradually become a wiser, healthier, and happier woman. Here is to a better you!

Oatmeal Christmas Pancakes

by Karen Ehman, author of Homespun Gifts from the Heart.

Below is a simple but tasty holiday project from Karen's book. Wake up your family on Christmas morning with the tantalizing scent of these home-made pancakes, or bottle the mix and give as a gift to neighbors and friends.

The Mix:
4 cups of quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons cinnamon
5 teaspoons salt½ teaspoon cream of tartar.

Run oats through blender to make powder-like consistency. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Fill gift jars and attach directions below for making the batter. Yield: 5 pint-sized jars of mix, or 2 quart-sized jars with one pint left over.

The Batter:
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup of oil
1 cup of water

Add the above ingredients to 2 cups of the mix, and stir well- alternating the addition of oil and water. Pour batter by ¼ cupfuls onto a slightly greased skillet at medium-low heat. Flip after 2 minutes and cook until brown. Makes 10 pancakes.

Into the Word

By Rachel Olsen

The holidays are a wonder-filled, yet extremely busy time of the year. For many, the eventfulness of the season causes time spent in bible study to fall to the wayside. This is such a rich time of year, however, to study God's Word!

Did you know, for example, there are over 300 Old Testament prophecies about the birth and life of Christ? At Christmastime I love studying the various ways Jesus has fulfilled the prophecies of old. It creates in me a renewed sense of awe and appreciation that God came to Earth as a vulnerable babe, and died as a guiltless yet persecuted man so that we could be redeemed.

The Book of Luke is another great place to spend some time, curled up before the flickering light of the fire or the tree. The early chapters of Luke contain the account of Christ's birth, often referred to as The Christmas Story. I suggest reading it in several different translations to deepen your grasp of this precious miracle. If you don't own multiple translations, they can be freely accessed online at

Have you made resolutions for the New Year? Is more time spent in bible study one of them? Here are some ideas for where to dig in come January:

The Book of John:It can be especially good for new believers, or anyone seeking to understand the claims of Christ.

Proverbs:It's practical advice in short chapters that can be read one-daily for each day of the month.

Philippians:It reveals Christ as the true source of lasting joy and unity.James:It could be considered a "how-to" book on Christian living.

The Book of Esther: It's the only book not to mention God by name. Featuring a woman as the main character, it reveals God's divine oversight of our life and families.

Whether you dig in at the beginning of a specific book, or tackle a topical study on a subject close to your heart - like marriage, perseverance or prayer - engaging in in-depth bible study can make 2005 a very enriching year.

Celebrating Christ at Christmas

by Sharon Jaynes, author of Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas

Are you looking for ways to remember the reason for the season? Here is one idea, excerpted from Sharon's book, for keeping Christ at forefront of our holidays: The prophets of old anticipated the coming of the Christ-Child. Simeon and the prophetess, Anna, waited their entire lives in the Jerusalem temple to see the promise of His coming fulfilled.

We too can create an atmosphere of expectancy in our homes by setting out a nativity scene but leaving the manger empty. Each day of December, as the children walk by the empty manger, they will ask, "Where's baby Jesus?" And we can reply, "He's not here yet. But He's coming soon."To enhance the idea of preparing for His arrival, have the children add a few sprigs of straw to make Jesus' bed cozy.

Then, on Christmas morning, before little feet make their way to the crèche, place the baby Jesus in His manger bed. The children will bound into the room with cries of, "He's here! He's here! Baby Jesus is here!"But one word of caution: Don't forget where you put baby Jesus!

An Intentional Thanksgiving

By Rachel Olsen

Do you ever find Thanksgiving to be a stressful event whose main purpose seems to be to overeat and then fall asleep in front of the TV? Do you long for a more enjoyable day? What you may be in need of is an intentional Thanksgiving.

Webster defines intentional as: "done, made or performed with purpose or intent." An intentional Thanksgiving is one that is planned in advanced and carefully carried out with clear goals in mind. Here is a three-pronged approach to an intentional Thanksgiving.

Determine Your Needs and Goals

I'll never forget my first Thanksgiving at my in-laws' house after becoming Rick's finance. My father, a widow, came along with me on the trip to North Carolina to meet Rick's parents. On Thanksgiving morning we all congregated in the kitchen. My future mother-in-law waltzed in, looked in the pantry and nonchalantly said, "I'll make the shopping list, who wants to go to the grocery store for us?"

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I agreed to go along on the grocery shop. It was simply astonishing to me that we had to get all the necessary fixings ON Thanksgiving morning, but several of us went to the store as a group and had a blast doing it. When we arrived home, each of us were given a recipe card and became in charge of making that dish. We talked, laughed and cooked together that Thanksgiving, having a great time as well as a delicious meal. The family has photos of the fun (and sometimes chaos) that ensued blown up and framed on the wall to this day.

While I thought my future mother-in-law's lack of preparedness bordered on blasphemy at the time, I came to realize that this was her way of: 1) not getting overwhelmed by doing it all, and 2) bringing the family together to do something as a team. Not all Thanksgivings at her house have been that way. Some years the meal was cooked almost entirely by her, other years we each brought a dish to the event, and for yet others we ordered the complete meal catered - Thanksgiving dinner arrived in cardboards boxes!

We've had Thanksgiving at her house, at my house, delivering with Meals on Wheels, and even once at a hunting lodge followed by an afternoon of riding four-wheelers through the woods together. Each year the meal has been yummy, memorable and more importantly, it met it the needs of our family at the time. We never quite know from year to year what our Thanksgivings will look like, but we always know we'll have turkey, sweet potatoes and lots of fun.

If the food and its preparation has become the sole, overwhelming focus of the event, you may need to set some different goals for this year besides cooking and cleaning for a group of twenty! Shift the goal, for instance, from "me cooking all the traditional dishes" to "getting everyone to participate by cooking or bringing a favorite dish."

Turn Hearts Toward Home

Many a woman has gotten caught up in trying to prepare the moistest turkey, the tastiest dressing or the most-like-Mom's gravy. There is nothing wrong with any of these goals, as long as they don't overshadow or even prevent you from drawing nearer to God and family on this day.One thing my family has become good at is valuing how fun and easy the holiday is for everybody over how perfect the food turns out. We look forward to talking, joking and playing cards or board games as much as we do eating the turkey or the pumpkin pie.

Is there something your family would really enjoy doing together this Thanksgiving? What can you do differently this year to bring your family together in fun or meaningful ways? Play games? Go for a walk together after the meal? Reminisce over photo albums or watch old home-movies together? Find ways to bring family back to the forefront of your celebration.

Give Thanks to God
We've always said a heartfelt prayer before the meal but several years ago I decided we should step-up the purposefulness of our giving thanks. I provided small pieces of paper and pen at each place setting and encouraged everyone to write down 3 things they were thankful for that year. The papers were then read aloud (but anonymously) by my father-in-law. We laughed and we cried as we listened. Another year, I created a "Thanksgiving Tree" - that's simply a dead tree branch stuck in a clay pot! We each wrote and hung what we were thankful for on construction paper leaves.

I love what Proverbs 31 speaker Zoë Elmore does with her family:
Tom & I have hosted Thanksgiving for both our families for several years and began the tradition of verses of thanks. Since our home does not accommodate everyone dining together in one room, we found Bible verses that had the theme of being thankful, typed them up and then placed a different verse in each napkin at each table. Everyone takes a turn reading their verse and then sharing one thing they are grateful for from the past year. After lunch, we see who can remember their verse and/or what things those at their table were grateful for. The winner gets extra pie!"

Our beloved P31 leader Renee Swope also has some terrific ideas for making the holiday more meaningful:

One year we created "Thankful Turkeys" for the dinner table centerpiece. The week before, we gathered two large pine cones and added features to make them look like turkeys without feathers. Then we cut out feather-shaped pieces of red, green, yellow and orange construction paper to hand to each person as they arrived on Thanksgiving Day. The kids asked each guest to write down one thing they were thankful for on the feathers. The kids gathered feathers and stuck them in the turkeys for table decorations. Before dinner, we had them "pluck" the feathers and my husband read out loud each person's reflection of thanks. Then we held hands and prayed. It was very sentimental and it brought more spiritual emphasis as well as personal sharing to our time together.

Last year we started a new tradition by creating a "Thankful Journal" on Thanksgiving Day. We entered something for each person each evening before bed. On Christmas morning at breakfast, before we open our presents, we gave God our "gifts of gratitude" as we read each entry out loud to Him and each other.

There are many ways to appreciate God's profound goodness and celebrate the blessing of family on Thanksgiving Day. I encourage you to spend some time in thought, prayer and conversation deciding the goals you'd like to set for this holiday season. Look for intentional ways to emphasize family togetherness and to express gratitude to the Lord for His provision in your lives. Your best Thanksgiving ever could be just around the corner!

An Attitude of Gratitude

by Micca Campbell

Did you know that out of an estimated one million adults God delivered out of Egypt, only two made it into the promised land? Once freed, the Israelites experienced great blessings from God. He provided food, water and victory in war. So why did only two people out of a million make it to the promised land? Could it be that we are making their same mistake in our quest for an abundant life?

In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul warns us that the Israelites had two problems that angered the Lord. One, they craved evil things that God had forbidden. Two, they desired good things that the Lord had not yet provided. Not only did they want what God had not given them, but when the children of Israel didn't get it, they grumbled and complained. They were discontent with what they didn't have and ungrateful for what they did have. (Sounds a lot like me at times.)

The bad news is this is the sin that kept a million people out of the Promise Land. I believe this same sin is the reason so many Christians today are wandering around a dry spiritual desert instead of enjoying the promised land Christ came to give them.If we want to please the Lord, get out of the desert, and live the abundant life Christ came to give us, then we need to heed the example given to us from the children of Israel. The natural solution to an unthankful heart is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

First, We Must Cultivate a Thankful Heart
Have you ever noticed that thankful people are thoughtful people? They recall the sacrifices God has made for them through out the year. They are always grateful for their salvation, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. Thankful people also never forget the kindness that's been shown to them. As a result, they become more attentive towards the needs of others. Thoughtfulness is the fruit of a thankful heart.

Second, We Must Cultivate a Trusting Heart
People who trust God are contented people. They have learned to say in troubled times, "Lord this is not what I would have chosen or what I had planned, but I look to you in love and trust; knowing that You have my best interest in mind." Psalm 61:8 states, "Trust in Him at all times, O people. Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us." God is not only on the job during the holidays, but on all days. "He is our ever-present help in times of trouble." Our Father desires us to trust His heart when ours is breaking or unsatisfied with His provision.

Third, We Must Cultivate a Humble Heart
Humble people are happy people because they rely on God, through prayer, for everything. A humble heart runs to God for daily strength. "O Lord, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou will strengthen their heart. Thou will incline your ear." We don't capture the ear of God by grumbling and complaining. God is eager to listen to our cries when we humbly depend on Him through prayer. Here is an easy tip for praying with a humble heart.P-praise Him!R-remember and thank God for everything. A-ask God for His provision for others.Y-pray for yourself.

Purchase a journal and begin recording every time God provides for you, answers your prayer, or reveals Himself to you. Then, when you're tempted to complain, read your journal and thank God for all He has done for you.You don't have to struggle in the desert anymore - your Promise Land is waiting! An attitude of gratitude is the path that leads the way.

Helping Your Husband Through the Storms of Life

By Zoe Elmore

Over our 25 years of marriage, I've enjoyed the privilege of being a helper to my husband each and every year. I had no idea, however, how important my role as helpmeet would become in our marriage until his job of twenty-eight years was eliminated earlier this year. As many months have passed without employment in this difficult economy, I have learned much about what it means to support your husband in good times and bad, for richer or for poorer. Allow me to share some of my tips with you.

Creating an Oasis
Creating an oasis to come home to has always been important to me as a wife. I want our home to be a place of refreshment, renewal and restoration. Now that we are in this time of transition, I make a special effort to pour life into my husband as the world seems bent on draining it from him.

First, I give my husband time and space to be alone with the Lord every morning. I also willingly leave his "meeting place" (our dining room) untouched.

Second, I love telling my husband that God's choice for an employer will appreciate all of the gifts and talents he possesses. It brings me great joy to fill my husband's face with kisses before he leaves the house, telling him that he will be a blessing to everyone he meets with today.

Third, I try to be home when my husband returns from his job search in order to greet him with a big hug and a kiss; to begin filling up the empty places that the world has stolen with their rejection. Remembering that it takes ten positive statements to undo one negative statement, I relish this opportunity to be my husband's biggest cheerleader.

Finally, it is critical that I remind my husband with my actions as well as my words that he is my beloved - that he continues to be a valuable and desirable mate in my eyes. I look for opportunities to practice the "art of being a newly wed."

Bearing and Sharing Fruit
The best way for me to be the helper my husband needs is to be reading God's word and be in constant prayer. The Lord has lessons he wants to teach me during this difficult time and the best place for me to learn those lessons is on my knees.

I want my life to bear the fruit of those lessons learned, and I try to be sensitive to know when to share those lessons with my husband - in conversation versus lecturing tones of course.My goal is to listen to my husband twice as often as I speak; after all, the Lord did give me two ears and one mouth. The more I listen, the better equipped I am to "speak" the love language my husband responds to best.

When "storm fronts" of grief approach, I gently remind my husband that this is normal and temporary. We have been told by a grief counselor that both of us would circle in and out of the first six stages of grief until my husband "lands" his new job. This has been helpful information; to be reassured that it is normal and expected to have feelings of denial, anger, guilt, depression, forgiveness, and acceptance before we reach the final stage of recovery.

Being my husband's cheerleader is exciting and exhilarating. It could also become exhausting if I'm not careful. I learned early on in our marriage that if I'm going to pour into the life of my husband, I must drink from the fountain of spiritual strength and energy on a daily basis. The living water I receive from God's Word and the Holy Spirit not only quenches my thirst, but allows me the joy of fulfilling my husband's desire for a true helper.

Being my husband's cheerleader is exciting and exhilarating. It could also become exhausting if I'm not careful. I learned early on in our marriage that if I'm going to pour into the life of my husband, I must drink from the fountain of spiritual strength and energy on a daily basis. The living water I receive from God's Word and the Holy Spirit not only quenches my thirst, but allows me the joy of fulfilling my husband's desire for a true helper.

Thoughts, Quotes and Scriptures on Mentoring

By Barbara Goodroe

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.- Titus 2:3-5

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.- John C. CrosbyMentor defined is an experienced and trusted friend and adviser. - Webster's Dictionary 1988

Sandwich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise. - Mary Kay Ash

The first task of a leader is to keep hope alive. - Joe Batten

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. - Ecclesiastes 4:9

You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within. - Bob Nelson

The word "mentor" comes from a character named Mentor who was a friend and tutor in Homer's classic book the Odyssey. Mentoring is relational interaction in which one person empowers another by sharing their God-given wisdom, experience, and habits of obedience to God's word. - Rachel Olsen

In 2 Timothy 1:1-8 we see Paul's mentoring of young Timothy. Paul thanks God for Timothy (3a), he prays for Timothy each day (3b), he longs to be with him (4), he is intimately familiar with Timothy's life and family (5), and he speaks encouragement and direction into Timothy's life (6-8).

Millennials (people born after 1982) are longing for connection and meaning, and there's no better way for older people to help them find those things than by mentoring them. - Whitney Hopler on Mentoring Millennials: Shaping the Next Generation, by Dr. Daniel Egeler

If you want one year of prosperity,grow grain,
If you want ten years of prosperity,grow trees,
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.- Chinese proverb

The good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth as a sign that we should listen twice as much as we talk. - English proverb

No matter what you are teaching the younger woman - how to sew, know sound bible doctrine, be godly in character, or to serve the Lord through some sort of ministry to her family, church or friends, God wants the older woman to teach and encourage the younger women.- Martha Peace, author of Becoming a Titus 2 Woman

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. -Ephesians 4:29

Mentoring is a dynamic relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in her/his life. - John Mallison, author of Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders

All you need is a home, a date and time, a few young people and a few older Christians. It's a great mix for a night of sharing and encouragement. You never know, it might lead to some one-on-one mentoring long term! - Robyn Claydon of

Watch over one another in love. - John Wesley

It is essential that mentors be loving enough to correct (Proverbs 27:5-6) and caring enough to affirm (Hebrews 10:24).

Christian mentoring isn't about being intensely spiritual all the time, it's about building relationships. - Mary Jane and Chris Konings

Trouble with Learning

by Rachel Olsen

Is your child having trouble in school? Do you suspect your child may have a learning disability? Each year thousands of parents around the country answer, "Yes, what do I do about it?"

According to the National Institute of Health, a learning disability (LD) is a disorder that affects a person's ability to interpret what they hear or see, or to link information from different parts of their brain. Signs of a possible learning disorder may include: difficulties with spoken or written language, limited coordination, limited self control, or limited capacity to focus attention.

If your child is displaying a significant delay - such as 2 years behind for grade school level - in any of these areas, professional testing is recommended. Dr. Bill of Focus on the Family's Weekend Magazine suggests getting a referral from a doctor you trust such as your family physician or pediatrician. Testing can also be arranged through most schools. Once testing has provided a diagnosis, parents need to create a family plan for getting the needed help - be it educational, medical, practical or emotional.

Some families choose to homeschool their child with LD. In the home, curriculum can be personalized to the child's strengths and challenges. Other families keep their child in school but work closely with the child's teachers and provide ample homework help in the evenings to ensure successful learning. Still other families utilize professional tutoring services. Regardless of the schooling option chosen, participation and encouragement by the parent is a key to success.

As you form and carry out your family's plan, draw not only on the expertise of LD professionals but also of fellow parents "in the trenches" of LD with their own children. A local or online support group can provide a wealth of information, ideas and needed encouragement.

Here are five online resources for reading more about LD, asking questions, or seeking some needed support:
1. Schwab Learning's Guide to Helping Kids with Learning Difficulties:

2. LD Online's extensive web site, including a section for parents:

3. Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, an empowering web site for parents of children with LD:

4. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder's web site:

5. Articles and advice from parents home schooling children with LD:

Hearing God

By Rachel Olsen

Do you find wondering why others seem to have a direct line to God? Do you desire to hear God speak to your heart? I am confident He has specific things He'd like to say to us from time to time (John 10:2-5). So how can we begin hearing God's voice, and be assured that we're hearing Him correctly?

First, let's check our motives. Our motives for wanting to hear directly from God may be a clue as to why we aren't hearing Him much. Do we want a direct word because we are unwilling to stop and read the scriptures for guidance? Will we not seek wise counsel from others because we wish to appear to "have it all together?" Do we think hearing directly from God would validate us as an extra-spiritual person? We learn in James 4:3 that wrong motives can shut down the exchange between us and God. Our desire to hear from Him should flow out of our love for Him and a desire to please Him in all we do.

Next let's check our execution. Are we obeying what we have already heard from God? Imagine your son or spouse asking you, "What do you want me to do today?" You reply, "Mow the lawn." They walk away, thrilled that you answered them, but they do not mow the lawn. This scenario repeats day in and day out. Would you bother giving them additional directions to plant a flower bed when the lawn is knee-deep and still growing? Our obedience keeps the conversation flowing between God and us.

With our motives and performance examined, bible study is a great place to begin listening for God's voice. During your bible study time ask God to lead you to scriptures relevant to your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth as you read. Mull a passage of scripture over in your mind, waiting for God's Spirit to bring you fresh revelation as you do.

Regular reading of the Bible enables us to more intuitively understand how God operates and what He expects of His people. This familiarity with Him and His principals will increase our ability to hear Him and to discern if something is "of Him" or not when we hear it. Always compare what you believe may be a word from God with the scriptures, as God will not contradict himself.

In addition to grounding ourselves in the scriptures, we need to develop an active ear. By the end of winter I long for spring. I'll open my windows in the morning and listen for the sound of song birds returning from their Southern wintering spot. After a couple weeks of this ritual, the bird's chirping are pushed to the background as my focus centers back on my muffins or my work. While they're still singing within earshot, it doesn't really register because I'm not listening with focused attention anymore.

Hearing God requires that we go about our days actively listening for His voice. Too often we send up a prayer requesting God to speak to us about a given situation and when it doesn't come instantly, we loose faith and carry on with life obliviously. To hear His voice we must attune our heart to His, and remain so, with an expectation to hear from Him. We want God's voice to break through our busy, self-absorbed lives but God's voice is still and small - it requires right motives, quiet practice and expectant patience to hear. However, as the late evangelist Charles Finney assures us, "The inner ear of the soul can hear his whispers."

SPIRITUAL GIFTS: God's Dynamic Provision for His Church

By Barbara Goodroe

Do you recognize your own spiritual gifts as your study each of the gifts? Let's cover several and examine their basic characteristics. We need to remember it is our responsibility to understand not only our own gifts, but also to understand the gifts of others. The reason is clear. Our Lord gave each believer his or her gifts that we might be His hands, feet and words to our brothers and sisters in the Lord! We are a family. God expects His children to live in peace and love with one another. We must also remember that we need to receive God's ministry from others, not just exercise our own gifts!

There are three major lists of spiritual gifts found in the New Testament - read Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30 and Ephesians 4:11. These three lists might be classified into the following groups: speaking gifts, service gifts and signifying gifts. It should be noted that almost every one of the speaking and serving gifts are given as imperatives for every believer to obey.

For example, we are all to give, show mercy, serve one another, etc. This, however, is not true of the signifying (or sign) gifts. They include: miracles, healing, tongues and interpreting tongues. The gifts which are essential to every believer are the focus of the following material.

1. APOSTLE - Sent one (function, not office). The office of apostle ended with the ministry of the twelve, including Paul, in terms of authority. However, the New Testament does show a functional extension of the ministry of this gift in the lives of men like Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, etc. They are all referred to on occasion as 'apostles'-special sent ones given by assemblies to establish new local assemblies in addition to continuing to strengthen those already established. We refer to them today as church planters, and missionaries. Remember that the office of apostle included only those twelve men personally chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and as John said in his first letter to the church: "That which we have seen and heard and handled of the Word of life . . . and bear witness . . ." 1 John 1:1-3.

2. EVANGELISM - One given by the Lord a strong interest in non-Christians knowing the Way, the Truth, and the Life and a willingness to speak when and where the Spirit directs. They are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2 Cor.2:15-17). A person with this gift will not 'hold back' for fear of offending, and will be caring and careful with their presentation of the gospel message.

3. PASTOR/TEACHER - Shepherding with instruction. The under-shepherd has a strong instinct to protect people from harmful influences and to see those in your 'flock' mature in the faith. The Word is your passion.

4. TEACHING - Systematic presentation of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). You find that people are constantly coming to understand truth as you teach the things from the Word you have researched, studied, meditated upon, and personally applied.

5. KNOWLEDGE - Systematic understanding of truth. You have ability to organize and systematize seemingly unrelated material so that it is easily understood by others.

6. RULING - Leading others. You have the ability to see the overall picture, to clarify long-range goals, and set short-term goals to accomplish them. You tend to assume responsibility if no leadership structure exists.

7. DISCERNMENT- Ability to discern the false. You have ability to sense when something is presented from a human source, powers of darkness, or divinely inspired. You often claim the enemy's defeat when you discern he is using someone for his purpose.

8. WISDOM - Application of information to concrete needs. You have an ability to relate the truth of the Word to the needs and problems of everyday life. You offer practical application of the Word of God to problems and needs.

9. EXHORTATION - Motivating others to action. You love to share truth from scripture and its practical application.

10. PROPHECY - Declaring God's truths. You have the ability to identify, define and hate sin. You rely heavily on Scriptural truth to validate your authority. You are eager to have others discover their sin and show real repentance.

11. SERVING -- Meeting practical needs. You are alert to detect and meet needs of others. You are motivated to meet needs as quickly as possible, and do so without regard for your personal weariness.

12. GIVING - Supplying materially for others. You have strong desire to give quietly to assist people and ministries, and an ability to make wise purchases and investments.

13. MERCY -- Extending emotional support. You are attracted to and understand people in distress. You have strong desire to minister to hurting people and bring healing and joy to them.

14. FAITH - Turning vision into reality. You have a strong reliance on the promises of God, and conviction that God will do as He has spoken.

15. ADMINISTRATION - Getting work done through others. You have a keen feel for the people and resources available to you when you are responsible for a task and are able to effectively organize and utilize them.

Hopefully you've identified yourself in some of this description, as well as others you know and love. Applying your understanding of gifts should help you serve, and be served better when operating within the family of God.

Spiritual Warfare and Praying for Your Kids

By Jennifer Leigh Ryan

A few years ago a gorilla escaped his cage and bounded out of nowhere to snatch a toddler from his mother's arms. So much for a breezy day at the zoo! As the mother struggled to free her child, the beast flung her across the walkway. She watched in horror as the monster bit her baby's body. The police shot the gorilla just in time. The child was released relatively unharmed.

Can you imagine how that woman wrestled to free her son from the grip of that animal?Well Well friend, put up your dukes! Spiritual warfare is waging on the home front. Like that rabid gorilla, or a roaring lion, our enemy is seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is eyeballing our kids. Our only hope is God. But God is counting on us to stand-up, fight and pray. As one evangelist said, "God does nothing on earth, but by prayer." We've got to pray or be prey.

What is Spiritual Warfare? Spiritual warfare is not about looking for a demon under every bush or casting out devils. It's about power. It's praying without doubting that we are shaping our world (James 5:16). It's an offensive stance against sin and wickedness. Saying, "No devil, you're not getting my child!" We're wielding the power of the Cross and Christ's blood, saying, "In the Name of Jesus, every demon must flee!" (Luke 10:17) It is winning souls, living righteously and setting a good example. It means understanding who we are in Christ, and praying proactively rather than when we've reached dire straights.

The Battle Don't underestimate this war. True, we wrestle against "principalities, powers and rulers of the darkness of this age" (Eph. 6:11). But our most formidable foe is ourselves. Our flesh is at war with our soul (1 Peter 2:11). Only by walking in the Spirit can we overcome our flesh (Galatians 5:16). As far as the dark forces, we don't have to worry. The devil was defeated on Calvary. Our job now is to pray in accordance with that defeat and serve as co-laborers with God in effecting our kids' lives. If we aren't praying, we're falling behind.

It's time to advance the Kingdom of God; to stand and fight. Paul tells us to "take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, having done all to stand" (Ephesians 6:13). This armor is our Christian virtues of truth, peace, holiness and faith. Our sword is the Word of God. Our prayers link us to God who does our bidding and abolishes our strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3).

Why Pray for our Kids? Mama began praying for Ray before he was born. Though he grew up in church, as a teen he rebelled and grew into a wicked thug when he reached adulthood. Still Mama prayed earnestly for him without wavering.

"Ray," Mama said. "Me and my household will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
"Right, Mama!" Ray laughed.
"Face it. I'm happy doing drugs and stealing. Give up!"
"Somebody's lying." Mama said. "Is it God?"
"No, Mama," Ray said, shaking his head, amazed at his mother's dogged persistence.
"Well, somebody's lying," Mama said.

Many years passed, but she never stopped praying. She stood on God's promises about her son. One day, she got a call from the hospital. Ray had been shot. He was dying on a gurney. Mama said, "No sir! My son is not dying. God made me a promise!" The doctor thought she was crazy. She didn't care. She marched to her prayer closet and wrestled with the enemy. Mama won. Ray came back to life after dying from multiple life-threatening gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Five years later, when Ray was in his late-thirties, Mama's prayers were answered. He gave his life to the Lord and was gloriously saved. Now this ex-convict travels the world preaching the gospel and testifying of the power of a praying Mama. Hopefully your children will never be like Ray was, but if they are God will be faithful to you like He was to Mama.

Pray the scriptures over your children daily. Once you start, you'll be hooked for life. Repeating scriptures on behalf of your kids is powerful and moving. You'll become a better mom. Here are just a few of the many scriptures you can pray over your children, the list is endless:
I pray that ________ (child's name) will have faith in God. (Romans 10:17).
I pray that ________ (child's name) will walk in humility (Titus 3:2).
I pray that ________ (child's name) will have a good self-esteem (Ephesians 2:10).

How to Pray for Your Children:
1. Praise God first. (Psalm 100:4)
2. Make sure there is no unconfessed sin in your life that would hinder your prayers. (Psalm 66:18)
3. Acknowledge that you don't know what to pray without the Holy Spirit directing you (Romans 8:26)
4. Deal aggressively with the enemy in Jesus' name with the "sword of the Spirit" which is the Word of God. (James 4:7)
5. Die to your own self and the urge to pray what you feel you should pray. (Romans 8:26)
6. Wait upon the Lord and listen for His direction. (Psalm 62:5)
7. Believe that you are hearing God when you pray (John 10:27) and that he is guiding you. (Psalm 32:8)
8. Ask the Lord to give you confirmation in the Bible. (Psalm 119:105)

Jennifer Leigh Ryan is a Freelance Writer, Youth Pastor and Women's Speaker from Dallas, Texas. She graduated with her Diploma in Practical Theology from Christ for the Nations in Fall 2004.

Keep Communication Open with your Kids

By Leigh Gray

No matter the age of the child, they must know they have your trust if you are to keep lines of communication open. That means they must feel confident that you are not going to cut their sentences off in midstream with a judgment. Here are ten tips to help foster open communication:

1) Make sure your child knows that their words are worthy of you stopping everything to listen to them.

2) Get on your knees for small ones (even stand in a chair for older ones if you must!) so that you can look them in the eyes when they talk.

3) Ask your child to draw you a picture of what they are feeling. Your older child may want to journal you a note. Remember, feelings are hard even for adults to admit.

4) Whenever possible, get one-on-one with your child. Lie in bed with them and just talk, play "make believe" together, or go for a ride in the car.

5) Get in their world. Go to the batting cage, go window shopping, go swimming, go bug hunting. This will say to them that you value them and are interested in what they are interested in.

6) Ask them how you can pray for them.

7) Never tell their secrets - they must know they can trust you.

8) Don't make fun of them when they've unsuccessfully tried to do something on their own. Their pants may be on backwards and need "fixing", but gingerly try to accomplish that goal without criticizing or squelching their attempts at independence.

9) Encourage, encourage, encourage. Be their biggest fan, even when they are "ignoring" you!

10) Ask forgiveness quickly. Children must see a model of seeking forgiveness in order to seek it themselves one day.

Bottom line: Communication flows freely when love abounds!

Tips for Avoiding "Ministry Madness"

By Rachel Olsen

Many a woman, myself included, has drawn comfort from the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus and his entourage stopped at their home for a respite from their travels. Mary was thrilled with the opportunity to learn from Jesus and plopped herself down at his feet to listen to his every word. Martha too was thrilled about the company she was keeping that afternoon, and she busied herself in the kitchen trying to make all the food and accommodations "just so." Growing resentful that her sister was not jumping on board the hospitality committee, Martha insisted that Jesus instruct Mary to help her in the kitchen. Jesus indicated that he would not instruct Mary to leave his side to help. He made it clear that "doing what needs to be done," is not always doing what needs to be done. Before we venture off into ministry and service, we need to ensure we are keeping our priorities properly aligned and that we are keeping in touch with the heart of the Father. Here are four tips to help:

1. Determine your spiritual gifts. You need to know what types of things God has gifted and called you to do. Ask the Lord to reveal these to you. Ask other Christians what talents they see in you. Take a spiritual gifts questionnaire - you can find some in your local Christian bookstore.

2. Pray before saying "yes." Whether you are asked over the telephone, over email, at your front door, over a cup of coffee, by your best friend, by your role model or by your pastor, always pray before you reply. If you need some time to pray and consider it, simply smile and say, "I will pray about that and let you know my answer at such and such time."

3. Ask your husband. If you are married, run any ministry opportunities (or other large time commitments) by your husband first. You will need his blessing and support to minister well. Sometimes my husband can tell better than I when I am getting over-extended. We also need to protect that quality time we spend connecting with him each day. If you are not married, this paragraph still applies to you and your heavenly husband, Jesus.

4. If you find yourself over-extended, feeling outside of God' will for your life, say so! Do not be afraid to pull back from things you are already doing in order to spend more time with God and your family. We have limited time and resources ladies, let's make sure we are investing them in the best possible way.

As a personal example, I was once leading a women's ministry I had been involved with for years, but I no longer sensed the Lord's anointing to do so. Like never before I found my service to this ministry disrupting to my family life. After much prayer, I withdrew as the group's leader. It was very hard to stand before the ladies and say: "I'm serving but it's not flowing well, and I'm growing resentful of my work here. I sense the need to step down and spend more time with my family and at the Lord's feet."

I did so and experienced immediate personal revival. It wasn't long before God lead me to another, greater ministry opportunity I would otherwise have missed.Jesus said between housework and heart-work, Mary had chosen the better thing. Given the choice between working for the Lord and working with Him, I'd rather work with Him any day. Mary had made the right choice and so can we. Friends, let us not grow weary in well doing (Gal 6:9) by trying to do too much.

Be Your Child's Greatest Cheerleader

By Van Walton

Here are ten ways to become your child's greatest cheerleader:

1. Mail a letter of encouragement with a coupon for ice cream or an extra 30 minutes of electronic game playing. Ask your child to get the mail that day.
2. Decorate their bedroom door or bathroom mirror. Include an appropriate Bible verse. A picture of your child is a nice addition. Use words like "A winner resides within" or "I'm a champion!"
3. Fold down his bedspread one night, like in a posh hotel, and place a note or a mint on the pillow.
4. Prepare her favorite meal the day she turns in a difficult project.
5. Greet your child after school with a ready-to-play game on the coffee table. Give undivided attention for 30 minutes of Old Maid or Monopoly.
6. Bring out the "YOU ARE SPECIAL" plate for an after-school snack.
7. Take warm cookies and milk, or a bowl of popcorn and lemonade, to your child while he is studying.
8. Buy a key chain with a frame and place your child's picture in it.
9. Award a blue ribbon (craft stores stock them) at the dinner table.
10. Tell your child that, although you are delighted with hard work, you value your child and love her because she is yours. (Always rewarding good grades and hard work creates a salvation-by-works mentality.) And remember to always greet your child with a happy face, give lots of hugs, and say, "I love you" often.

Healing the Wounds of Abuse

By Mary Nash with Rachel Olsen

In this month's issue of P31 Woman, Mary Nash told the touching story of her experience with childhood abuse and the way she came to know healing through Christ Jesus. Mary also offered five tips for abused women in need of restoration. Each tip is reprinted here, with additional resources added.

Share your feelings with a caring friend, pastor or counselor. Choose a counselor who has worked with abused women. It is a special field requiring special understanding. Here is a link to an article on how to choose a Christian counselor:

Join a support group. Churches with recovery groups are great sources of information and help. Try looking in the newspaper, or on local churches web sites to find a group meeting near you.

Pray. Only God can fully understand and completely heal your pain. The book Survivor Prayers: Talking with God About Childhood Sexual Abuse by Catherine Foote may be helpful as you get started.

Read. Arm yourself with information from the lives of other Christians who have dealt with abuse. - Door of Hope by Jan Frank - No Place to Cry, The Hurt and Healing of Sexual Abuse by VanStone/Lutzer - The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender - Shelter From the Storm by Cynthia Kubetin and James Mallory, M.D. - Making Peace With Your Past by Tim Sledge - Coming Out of the Dark by Mary Southerland - Broken Trust: Surviving Sexual Abuse video by Dan Allender

Choose to get help. Understand that you are a victim and that the abuse was not your fault. Then make the commitment to deal with the pain of abuse and, through God's healing power, and move forward in life. Here are more resources to aid you: - American Association of Christian Counselors - Christian Counselor's Directory - Christians in Recovery online community - Freedom in Christ forgiveness article

Helpful Hints for Stain RemovalBy

By Rachel Olsen

In this life, you will have stains. There is just no getting around it. Fortunately there are now many stain removing products -- such as Carbona or Energine brands -- on the market for use with specific stains. Sometimes, however, you don't have these products on hand when a stain occurs. So try these tips for removing the spot:

- Treat a stain right away because the longer it sets, the more likely it will be permanent.
- As much as possible, brush or blot off any stain material still on the fabric surface before trying to remove the soaked in material.
- Be careful with your rubbing, folding, or squeezing as it can cause stains to run, or penetrate deeper. Vigorous rubbing may also damage fabrics and carpet fibers.
- Read fabric and product labels first, and pretest stain treatments in an inconspicuous area before using.
- Work from the edges into the center on a large stain: by working from the edges toward the center, you will not spread the stain or leave a ring.
- Try to identify the type of stain, and the type of surface it is on as both will determine how you should treat the stain. In order to identify the type of stain, you need to know the difference between greasy and non-greasy stains:

GREASY STAINS Buttered popcorn, lotion, fried chicken, motor oil -- these are greasy stains. While they may not leave a specific color on your fabric, they will leave a dull mark that will attract dirt. For a washable fabric, saturate the spot with a stain removing agent and then launder. You can purchase a general laundry stain remover -- such as Zout, Shout or Oxiclean -- or you can use a dishwashing liquid such as DAWN. Simply smear on stain, let sit for 5 minutes and then launder as usual. Dawn's new Power Dissolver spray for dishes will also work wonders on greasy fabric stains! If the fabric is non-washable, the stain should be spotted and blotted with a dry-cleaning solution. The in-home dryer dry-cleaning kits contain bottles of this solution. It may take several attempts and the fabric should be allowed to dry completely between attempts. Greasy stains may also be removed from non-washables by using an absorbent such as cornmeal, cornstarch, French chalk, or fuller's earth (mineral clay available at most drug stores). Dust the absorbent over the stained area and let it absorb the grease like a sponge. When it appears to be caked and dry, brush or shake off the absorbent. Absorbents are easy to use and will not harm fabrics.

NON-GREASY STAINS Fruit juice, coffee, tea, food coloring and ink are examples of non-greasy stains. A bit of dishwashing liquid is also handy for getting out most of these stains. However, other treatments can be tried for various stains: - Try getting blood out by soaking in milk, or spraying with Windex, or rubbing with dampened table salt. - Chocolate stains may also respond to being soaked in milk. - Ballpoint ink marks are easily erased with a can of hairspray. - Lipstick stains also often come out with hairspray. If your fabric will withstand laundering in hot water, a ½ cup of baking soda along with your laundry detergent may remove the lipstick stain. - For red wine stains, try using white wine to remove, or sprinkle salt on a fresh wine stain and dust off or vacuum once dried. - For candle wax, put the garment in the freezer or chill it using a baggie full of ice to harden the wax. Scrap off as much as possible. Then sandwich the fabric between paper bags or pieces of white cloth and iron. The remaining wax will heat up and adhere to the paper bag. - For grass stains, try pre-treating the stain with rubbing alcohol or white vinegar before washing. One lady I know uses light Karo corn syrup to get grains stains out of her son's white baseball uniform. If you are treating a non-greasy stain on a delicate washable fabric, first sponge the stain with cool water as soon as possible. You may also try club soda in place of water. If sponging doesn't work, soak the fabric in cool water for a few hours. If some of the stain is still present, gently rub some liquid detergent like Woolite or Dove dish-liquid onto the stain and launder on gentle cycle as usual. Finally, some stains like French salad dressing on the carpet will contain both greasy and non-greasy elements. In these cases, you can try rinsing the non-greasy elements out first using water, club soda or diluted white vinegar. Then follow with an absorbent such as cornmeal to soak up the grease elements.

Supporting Your Husband Vocationally

by Lysa TerKeurst

Proverbs 31 Ministries President Lysa TerKeurst offers these tips for "puffing up" your husband in his role as family provider, excerpted from her book Capture His Heart: - Send a thank you card to your husband's work address telling him how much you appreciate all he does. - Ask him if there is anything you could do for him today that would take a little stress off of him. - Call him in the middle of the day and tell him that you are thinking of him and can't wait until he gets home. - See how much money you can save this month by cutting back on groceries, clipping coupons, making fewer trips to places where you find you spend too much money, and eating out less. - Make it a point this month to determine not to complain about money or the lack thereof, not even once. - Try greeting him at the door dressed in a way that tells him you've been thinking the same thing he has all day

Taming the Tattletale

By Ginger Plowman, author of "Don't Make Me Count to Three!"

Christopher's not letting me play with the ball!" "Sarah's calling me names!" "Tommy won't let me in the bathroom!" Sound familiar? Tattling reigns as one of the most common behavior problems among siblings. Unfortunately, it is overlooked rather than dealt with properly in many homes. Parents often pardon rather than correct the tattler simply because they do not know how to deal with the issue. While some parents are frustrated with their inability to control the problem, others try to rationalize their decision to avoid correction.

"After all," reasons one parent, "if my child is doing something that he ought not do, why does it matter how I find out?" Another parent says, "If one of my children has been wronged by his sibling, I would rather he come tell me than to fight back." While these are reasonable arguments for not correcting the tattler, they overlook the damaging effects tattling has on sibling relationships.

Tattling is typically motivated by one sibling taking pleasure in the other sibling's suffering, which ultimately creates an atmosphere of opposition and conflict. Siblings who are committed to getting one another in trouble will wedge a thorn of distrust in their relationship, disrupting the harmony of the whole family. Parents can tame the tattletale and cultivate peace and unity among siblings by incorporating these four steps:

Step 1 Help the tattler understand his motivation. Parents can teach the tattler how to discern matters of his own heart by asking thought-provoking questions. Ask questions that will cause the tattler to take his focus off of what his sibling has done wrong and onto his own wrong motivation. - Sample Questions - "Sweetheart, could it be that you are taking pleasure in getting your brother in trouble?" "What are you hoping will happen to your brother as a result of your tattling?" - Benefit - By teaching the tattler to determine his own motives, you are teaching him how to "think through" his actions, which will enhance his ability to make good decisions.

Step 2 Help the tattler understand the damaging effects of tale-bearing. Remind your children that they will have a longer relationship with one another than anyone else they know. More than likely, they will be friends long after their parents are gone and long before they meet their marriage partners. Therefore, it is important that they nurture their friendship. Encourage them to be best friends and to seek every opportunity to develop a bond of closeness. Explain how tale-bearing divides friends. - Sample Questions - "Honey, how do you think your brother/sister feels when you tattle?" "Will tattling bring you closer to your brother/sister or tear you apart?" - Benefit - Directing attention to the importance of their friendship helps them to see past one another's wrong doings and develops an attitude of unity in their relationship.

Step 3 Help the tattler replace tattling with encouragement. It is not enough to reprimand your child for tattling. Punishing for wrong behavior without teaching right behavior can frustrate your child. You must teach the tattler how to replace wrong behavior with right behavior. - Sample Questions - "Rather than tattling, what could you have said to encourage your brother?" "When you encourage your brother/sister rather than tattling how do you think that makes him/her feel?" - Benefit - Teaching your child how to replace wrong behavior with right behavior helps him to grow in wisdom for daily life.

Step 4 Teach the tattler to practice what he has learned. Training is more effective when your child is required to put his knowledge into practice immediately. The training will stick better when the child uses it in a "hands on" situation. Have the tattler act out the right alternative to his wrong behavior. - Role-Play - Lead both children back to the scene of the crime. Allow them to re-enact what happened. Require the tattler to encourage his or her sibling to do what is right. Require the sibling to heed the encouragement and thank his or her brother. - Benefit - Role-playing causes your child to put the verbal training into practice, equipping him to respond better to similar situations in the future. Children learn by repetition. Be willing to work with your children over and over.

On those tiresome days, when you become weary from taking the time to teach them, remember Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Exceptions to the Rule Child should come directly to the parent if another child is: - Not heeding encouragement - Endangering himself - Endangering someone else - Destroying property

Strengthen Your Marriage

By Rachel Olsen

Rejection, pain and anger… it's a cycle all too easy to fall into once the honeymoon is over. Allow me to illustrate: wife gets angry about the way husband handled (or didn't handle) something and criticizes him, her harsh judgment embarrasses and hurts so he withdraws into longer hours at work, she feels rejected and lashes out in protective anger, he begins believing he will never meet her expectations and avoids her, sex tapers off or even stops, she nags him about ignoring her and the kids, he never feels truly welcome in his own home, she wonders if he is interested in another woman, he blows off her fearful accusations, and so on the vicious cycle goes. In this month's issue of the Proverbs 31 Woman, author Jill Wagner attests to the power that 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 had in helping her break this cycle.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)

How do we love our husbands with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love? Here are five tips to keep in mind.
1. Be thankful for the husband you have. Spend some time focusing on his good qualities. Make a list of them. Think about what attracted you to him in the first place. Do not look at other men and assume they make for better husbands - simply don't go there!

2. Do not drag up old "crimes" in the heat of a disagreement. Not keeping an account of wrongs, means not using his past mistakes as present ammunition against him. In our US court system it is illegal to try someone for the same crime twice. Once God forgives us, our sin is as far removed from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). So it should be in our marriage.

3. Do not allow long periods of fiery anger, or smoldering silence. Ephesians 4:26 warns us not to let the sun go down while we are still angry. In other words, we are to make sure we reconnect relationally after an argument before the day is through. It's not that we shouldn't ever be angry at each other, frustrations and disagreements are a normal part life. However, God holds us accountable for being quick to forgive and eager to work things out.

4. Do not withhold sex, for manipulation or punishment. Paul says in Ephesians 7:3, "The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband" (NIV). The Bible also advises us not to take revenge on each other, but to leave that up to the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35). God designed sex to be the ultimate expression of love and unity between husband and wife. Do not treat it as anything less.
5. Pray for and with your husband regularly. It is hard to remain apathetic towards someone you pray for daily. Pray for your husband's safety and health. Pray for him to have wisdom and integrity. Pray for his success on the job. Pray for his friendships. Pray for his ability to lead his family well. I believe you'll find you also benefit when these prayers on his behalf are uttered and answered. Another sure-fire way to increase marital strength is to regularly pray aloud together - trust me and try it tonight.

The bottom line of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is that we should continually strive to build our husbands up, not tear them down. Adopting a servant's heart towards your spouse, and keeping mindful of these five tips will ensure that your love for one another remains strong.

The Gift of Prayer

Prayer is an awesome gift from God that many people choose not to open. When I contemplate this gift, words vanish and I stand in awe of God. I find it absolutely incredible that the Creator of the universe and all His hands have made, desires to give His undivided attention, lavishing His everlasting love to me through prayer! Isn't it awesome and almost inconceivable that we can come into His sanctuary and bow before His throne and have His full attention! And even more awesome is the fact that you and I and millions of others can have His full attention at the same time!

We have an incredible gift, the gift of prayer. The Creator who stretched out the heavens above us, flung the stars all into place, poured the mighty oceans that rise and fall, and designed the intricate detail of a butterfly wing, wants to spend time with us in prayer. We do not have to have special permission to enter His throne room. We are never sent away to come back later. We do not have to be announced before we enter. We do not have to be escorted by anyone (Christ already did that for us). We can come into His mighty, awesome presence by prayer at any time.

He already knows us. He knows every thread of our every thought and motive, yet He desires we come to Him to speak heart-to-Heart. He has given us full access to His throne room and Himself anytime, day or night. He is faithfully attentive to the voice of His child. All we have to do is come, just as we are.

God commanded in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5) that we love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our strength. Jesus tells us in the New Testament (Matthew 22:37) that this is the greatest commandment. How can we love God to that depth if we don't spend time with Him to fully know Him?

Have you committed yourself to a daily prayer time with God? How I wish I could come into your home, sit with you and tell you of all the amazing ways He has changed my life in such a short time through prayer. Since that is impossible, I encourage you and I challenge you to commit to a daily quiet time and let Him amaze you at all the ways He will transform your life. How do you develop a discipline to daily prayer?

First, repent of any "lukewarm" places in your relationship with Him.-Make a serious commitment to spend daily time with Him, and ask Him to help you keep that commitment. -Then, set your clock 10-15 min. earlier and get up! That is sometimes the hardest part! (I know you have a lot of responsibilities with your family and your sleep is important but 15 minutes is not a huge sacrifice.) I believe we are to follow the example of Christ who awoke early in the morning and went to a solitary place to pray.There is not a right or wrong "recipe" of prayer.

This article will not, nor will any other, teach you the "right way" to pray. Prayer is born out of a need to communicate with the Most High God. How you pray depends on what you are praying about. I will offer some suggestions to help you begin your quiet time, but ask Him to lead you and He will.

1. Use a good devotional.
2. Sign up for Proverbs31 Daily Encouragement devotionals that can come to you through email. If you don't have a computer, purchase a devotional book.
3. Read through a Book of the Bible in short daily readings. Begin with the Book of John or the Psalms.
4. Pray honestly about anything and everything on your heart.
5) Ask for forgiveness for any sins you have committed.
6) Praise Him! Praise Him for who He is and what He is. Your growing love for Jesus will cause your heart to sing His praises all through the day.
7) Listen to anything He reveals to you during this time or anytime throughout the day. Discipline yourself to listen to the Shepherd's voice. (John 10:1-4)
8) Keep a journal of the transformations He makes in your life. This journal will serve as a great faith builder and encouragement to you later.
9) Remember to carry prayer throughout the day even when your quiet time is over. I am already excitedly anticipating all the changes God will make in your life, and I'm praising Him in advance! Be committed. I will be praying for you!

Scriptures and Thoughts for Battling Fear

Are you experiencing fear, worry or hardship? You can combat fear and doubt by speaking truth from the Word of God. Here is a list of bible verses to pray.

Psalm 34:4-6, 8 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

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

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

"If you don't have faith, pray anyway. If you don't understand or believe the words you're saying, pray anyway. Prayer can start faith, particularly if you pray aloud and even the most imperfect prayer is an attempt to reach God." - Cary Grant

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

Philippians 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

"I have found the perfect antidote for fear whenever it sticks up its ugly face is to clobber it with prayer." - Dale Evans Rogers

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Psalm 91:10-11 No harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

"Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden." - Corrie ten Boom

Psalm 23:4-5 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

Hebrews 13:6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91:4-7 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

Isaiah 54:14 In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Proverbs 29:25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.

Psalm 31:19-20 How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.

Psalm 32:7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?

Isaiah 54:17 No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.

Isaiah 51:12-13 "I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor?

Proverbs 3:25-26 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.2

Corinthians 4:13-18 It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

"Courage is grace under pressure." - Ernest Hemingway

*All scripture selections were taken from the New International Version (NIV) and were compiled by Marie Ogram.

Neighborhood Bible Studies

by Zoe Elmore

In the fall of 1998, a neighbor and I both had a vision from God to begin a bible study in our neighborhood. We began praying and building bridges of friendship with our neighbors. Our hearts were committed to providing a place where people could investigate the scriptures, encounter God, and mature in their faith through small group bible studies.

After three months of prayer and intentional bridge building, our neighborhood bible study group began. Within that same group, which has been meeting weekly since January 1999, there are different denominations represented as well as different levels of bible knowledge. But together we have experienced first hand the joy and life-changing power of studying God's Word. Here are some tips to guide a neighborhood Bible study:
1) Start with small groups since they are conducive to adults learning in a safe, comfortable environment where people feel free to ask questions and share their personal discoveries of Biblical truth and its meaning and application to their lives.
2) Share leadership so that everyone owns the group and is responsible to study, participate and develop skills to guide the discussion according to the group's agreed guidelines.
3) Stand on the authority of the Bible. The authority in these small group discussions is God's Word, not a study guide or the discussion leader. The consistent study of Scripture in a time of general Biblical illiteracy will lead people to build their understanding of the gospel story and enable them to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior, and to become mature believers.
4) Rely upon the effective work of the Holy Spirit to bring people to Jesus Christ as Savior, understand the gospel, trusting in Christ for salvation and to keep growing in him.
5) Acknowledge human dignity where all people are created to worship, serve, and enjoy Christ. God is committed to the value and dignity of all people as they study God's Word, giving them freedom to question, probe, and accept or refuse God's offer of salvation.
6) Use informal discussion, not lecture. The objective is to discover the facts, meaning and the life application of each passage.
7) Let the Bible speak for itself. This avoids the temptation to quote outside authorities such as pastors, books or movies; and it keeps religious jargon out of the discussion.
8) Avoid tangents, keeping the group focused on studying the passage of the week.
9) Be courteous. It is important to respect the different cultural and religious backgrounds represented in our groups.

These guidelines follow the inductive study method, where study questions guide you to God's Word as the sole authority for salvation and guidance, versus the deductive method where a teacher or lecturer guides you through the material. Our group has experienced success with this method as we encourage one another to expand personal discovery, and to apply biblical truths in our lives.