Are You Ready for Battle?

By Erin Bishop

Are you ready for battleMy daughter and I have been butting heads since she started her senior year of high school two days ago. (I know. Two days? It’s been a long two days.)
Her countenance was different when she came home from school than when she left in the morning. She was downcast, snarky, and I could tell she was ready to get into an argument with me.

Today when she came home from school we talked about her day. Somehow we got onto the topic of spiritual warfare and I told her that I have the gift of discernment, which means I pick up on certain things that may not be obvious to others. The more we talked about discernment, something clicked in me, and the Holy Spirit imparted some timely wisdom.

 

“Grace, how many kids would you say attend your school?”

“About two thousand” she answered.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

“Grace, you share space with 2,000 other kids, all of whom, whether they know it or not, are in a battle. The enemy is waging war against these kids and their families. Most of them are walking around in spiritual oppression and don’t even know it. Darkness dwells where there is no light. You can’t see them, but spirits of depression, deception, eating disorders, suicide, anger, addictions, pornography, sexual sins, and many more, are like a thick, but invisible fog in the hallways of your school and if you don’t outfit yourself in the full armor of God, you’re going to get pinged, weighed down and feel defeated. The same thing happens to me if I don’t have a full tank of Jesus in me before I go to Wal-Mart.” I told her.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” 1 Peter 5:7-9

Before soldiers go to battle, they have a plan. They do reconnaissance, collect intelligence and plan accordingly. Going into a battle without these tools is planned defeat.

So as it is with soldiers, we, too, must know our enemy, how he attacks, and develop a strategy to defeat him. So it is with prayer and our Christian walk. We must arm ourselves with God’s Word and plan for victory.


Scripture References:
Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:7-9

5 Battle Readiness Tips: Be sober (serious), be vigilant (watchful/attentive), resist the enemy (ignore/be wise to his antics), be steadfast in your faith, and know you are not alone.

Related Resources: It’s not too late to join us for #WhenMomsPray, our 2015-2016 prayer challenge. Click HERE for more information and to join us on the spiritual battlefield.
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Preparing Her Heart for Back to School: Using Proverbs 31 Ministries “First 5 App”

By Lynn Cowell

Preparing her heartMany of us are experiencing it, but in so many different ways.

Some are preparing their lessons to homeschool. Others are shopping for the supplies on the public school list. The private school is hosting their ice cream social. And a few of you like me are dorm shopping and moving your kids to their school.

No matter what back-to-school looks like, we can all do one thing to help our kids prepare for their school days.

Teach them to start their day right.

When I stopped homeschooling my kids (my son was a middle schooler and my daughters in elementary), my heart started to ache because I no longer had the free time to teach them Jesus’ truths like I once did. For a least a year I simmered, thinking that was just the way it was.

Then I got the idea for what I called “Breakfast and the Bible”. I had my kids all come to breakfast at the same time, even though they left for school at different times. It only lasted 10 minutes, but these moments together allowed us to connect with each other and with Jesus before the rush of the day. When they were really small, I read them devotions. When my girls were in middle and high school, I wrote “Devotions for a Revolutionary Year” for us to use.

This school year, my kids will begin their day at three different colleges, but I am still encouraging them to start their day in God’s word using Proverbs 31 Ministries First5 app. This new app is actually an alarm clock on their phones. All they need to do is set their alarms each day in the app. Then, when their phone goes off in the morning, there is God’s word. First thing. They can simply lay in bed for a couple of minutes and start their day with Jesus in His Word.

Although I have taught my kids the power of opening God’s word for themselves each and every day, we all know this is a hard disciple to create. With the First 5 app, it couldn’t be any easier.

Even better, we can talk about the content together because we can each be reading the same thing each day.

Give it a try – Breakfast & the Bible. Gather your tribe a few minutes earlier than last school year or share the app together. It’s a beautiful way to grow closer to God and closer to each other!

Why be the Smart Girl?

By Hanna Chaffin

Why Be the Smart GirlLet me be clear, being smart is powerful. I am sure you have witnessed those girls in school who twirl their hair as they pretend to not know the answer. Or, they act dumb to get the attention of the cute boy sitting next to them. If you think that getting a guy’s attention entails flipping your hair, showing puppy dog eyes, and loudly saying, “wait, what?” after every joke, or question asked, you’re wrong. I mean sure, you may look unthreatening, and somewhat cute, but for the most part it is just a tad air headed!

In high school, I remember thinking that girls shouldn’t have to dumb themselves down in order to be less intimidating to guys. It seems that in today’s society more emphasis is put on being the center of attention for negative reasons, rather than having confidence in the woman you have been created to be.

Why would we pretend to be something we are not for the sake of a crush that really doesn’t deserve our time? Some women say they are looking for a man who is smart and confident. Why can’t we want the same thing for ourselves?

Having a keen intellect should be something to strive for, not run from. The right guy should not be intimidated by your strengths, but rather work alongside you and challenge you to become better. He should never keep you down.

The right guy should not be intimidated by your strengths. When you get up in the morning and head to school, have confidence in who God created to be. Surround yourself with people who don’t make you change or act different just to fit in. Be YOU, and remember that God wants us to be who He created us to be.

As a woman, I know that there is power that comes with being smart. Don’t be afraid to stand on your own, and have your own opinions.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever acted like someone else to get a guy’s attention?
  • What are some benefits of owning your intelligence?
  • Do you want to spend time with a guy you can’t be yourself with?

God’s Truth to Stand On:

God created each of us for a special and unique purpose. He has great plans for our lives.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Putting It Into Practice:

  • Move beyond negative thoughts, capricious emotions, and others’ opinions as you gain unshakeable confidence.
  • Limit the draining affect of “girl drama” so you can invest your time in becoming the best you.
  • Replace the agonizing frustration of wanting to be noticed and liked with a deep assurance that you already are.

As you live out nine amazing characteristics—known as the fruit of the Spirit—you will not only cultivate an inner and outer beauty, but you will also hold an irresistible appeal for godly guys. Shift your focus from a guy to the Guy and become the magnetic young woman God created you to be.

Magnetic coverPurchase “Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants” by Whatever Girls contributor and Proverbs 31 Author and Speaker, Lynn Cowell.

Authentic Community… FOR REAL

2015.01By Ginger Ciminello

Most of us have plenty of friends on Instagram and contacts in our phone, but how many of us can honestly say that we have deep and authentic community right now in real-time? It can be easy to want to stay with the familiar relationships from childhood, but what happens when we feel God calling us to love the people we interact with on a weekly basis? What if that feels uncomfortable? How do we move from acquaintances to friendship?

What brings authentic community? I’m sure there are a ton of answers to this question, but I’m just going to touch on three today.

  1. A humble heart.The opposite of a humble heart is a prideful heart. When I have judgment in my heart, I stop listening and begin doing all the talking.I have all the answers. Or I shut down and begin making my grocery list – determining that I’ve heard this before, thank you very much.

Instead, I should focus on listening. A good listener…
-asks intentional questions
-leaves space for an answer
-responds with interest
-remembers

Are you struggling with how to move a friendship from surface level to one with depth? Try out this set of 5 questions below:

-Who are your Heroes? (Who do you admire?  Who has shaped you into the person you are today?)
-What is your Heritage?  (Tell me about your family, your life growing up and your heritage of faith.)
-What are your Highlights?  (What are the high points in your life story? – the things that thrilled you, still put a smile on your face)
-What are your Heartaches? (What has hurt your heart in this life?)
-What are your Hopes? (What are your hopes, dreams, goals, or vision for the future?)

  1. A willingness to share.Sometimes I just don’t want to describe the blackness in my own heart. Five other people have already spoken and I find myself thinking, “Ginger, no one needs to hear what you have to say.”And yet, I know that in order to feel connected to my groups I am going to have to be vulnerable with my heart. I can’t live in the land of “I’m fine.” The best times of community that I’ve experienced this past year have come about when someone is willing to say, “I’m not fine and I need you guys to pray for me.” Vulnerability hastens connection with others.
  1. A patient spirit.I want things to run on my timeline. They should begin and end as I see fit. This leaves little room for God to move in HIS timing. This also leaves little room for connecting, listening, and growing closer as a community. This can also refer to how quickly I want community to be created. When things don’t happen the way I want, I begin to think thatmaybe this group isn’t for me. False. Maybe I’m the very reason that things don’t feel complete!

These three items tend to be huge roadblocks for me when it comes to deepening relationships. Relationships are messy and require a lot of effort and energy. I’m not going to get super close to ten people all at once, but I can take steps to know more about the people in my small group than just who is flying out-of-town this weekend.

Random suggestions for making friends…
1. Ask someone to lunch.
2. Be intentional when you see them. “How was your trip to see your family? I remember you mentioned that the last time I saw you!”
3. Compliment and encourage.
4. Take the first steps to share in your small group.
5. Text or call someone from your Bible Study and follow-up on mentioned prayer requests.
6. Offer up an “extra” ticket to something. “We just happen to have two more tickets to the ball game on Saturday and wondered if you guys would be interested in going?
7. Find common interests and run with it. You better believe that the next stranger to mention their love for Public Radio is going to be my new BFF. 😉
8. Pray that God would bring important relationships into your life this year.
9. Be AUTHENTIC.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. (Romans 12:9-21, MSG)

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5 Principles About Acceptance and Friendship

By Brenda Yoder

People will fail you, but God never will.

It’s easy to talk about accepting yourself and having confidence, but how do you really do that in relationships with friends and peers?

It’s important to have friends who accept you and with whom you feel comfortable. How do you feel around your friends? Here are five things to consider in relationships as you grow in confidence and authenticity.

1.   Being comfortable and confident in who you are draws others to you, making you a leader rather than a follower.

2.   Rather than changing your interests to fit in, find peers who have similar interests with yours. Get involved in activities in- or outside of school where you can find friends who have similar interests and hobbies.

3.   Don’t be friends with just anyone. Find one or two friends who accept you, are loyal and share your interests and values. Spend time with them outside of school—if your parents approve. Don’t be friends with someone who puts you down or disrespects you. Be picky about your friendships.

4.   If someone doesnt accept you as you are, don’t take it personally. People who are critical of others struggle with their own insecurities and put others down to make their confidence bigger. In these cases, it’s their problem, not yours.

5.   If your friends make you change to be accepted, find other friends. It’s that simple. Friends should be people you have fun with and can be yourself with, not ones who make you feel unworthy, awkward, or bad about yourself.

Most kids you hang out with won’t be significant people in your life when you’re no longer a teen. If you change your character, interests or personality to hang out with a certain group now, you become a different person and will have heartache along the way. Don’t change who you are just to be accepted. Rest in your strengths, personality and interests and find others who understand and appreciate you. And see your confidence soar!

What things pull you down in friendships? Are there friendship struggles you have questions about? We’d love to help answer them!

Brenda YoderBroken and Beautiful: Brenda has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and a BA in Education. As a Parent, Counselor and Educator her ministry is helping moms and daughters navigate the tough stuff of life. Have a question for Brenda? Email her at AskBrenda@thewhatvergirls.com

Dear Ginger: What if my friendship isn’t Friendly?

2014.11By Ginger Ciminello

Dear Ginger,

What do you do about friends that aren’t really good friends to you? I have a friend that is mostly negative and bitter. He gets mad at me often and says some mean things because he’s lonely and hurt. I always forgive him and try to stay his friend and encourage him. Sometimes he stays mad at me for days, weeks, even a month and then says he misses our friendship. I get so confused as to whether to end this friendship or keep trying to encourage him. I eventually do miss him after a certain time. Should I cut him off completely?

Thank you, D

D, Thank you so much for your note. This sounds like a very frustrating situation. I’m so sorry that your friendship is in a cycle that seems bent on repeating itself. While I do not know your friend or exactly what he says to hurt you, it doesn’t sound like he is treating you like much of a friend at all.

I know that the Lord is honored by your willingness to forgive this guy. It’s clear that you have done everything in your power to provide multiple opportunities for him to change his behavior and responses, all to no avail.

I suppose I want to remind you that the Jesus who said to pray for those who persecute us and to forgive as we have been forgiven is also the very same Jesus who told the disciples to shake the dust off of their sandals if they were not welcome in a city or home.

Good friendships are life-giving and sharpening

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIrV)

Negative friendships and relationships tend to have the opposite effect.

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV)

From what you have described, I don’t believe you’ve found yourself in a sharpening friendship. So how should you respond?

Continue to forgive. 

“Forgive the things you are holding against one another. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13b, NIrV)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the other person to die.” -Anne Lamott

From your letter it sounds as if this is something you are attempting to do each time you are wronged. Forgiveness is for our own protection, it releases us from bitterness and the need to hurt back. Dr. Less Parrott III says, “Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. One may forgive the violations of another person yet not continue a relationship with the offender… While forgiveness is an indispensable prelude to reconciliation, it does not require a continuing relationship with the violator.”


Yes, we are called to love everyone, but that doesn’t mean we have to be friends with everyone. That may sound like a harsh reality, but I believe that sometimes it’s simply better to take a step back from a friendship. If a relationship displays repeated patterns of hurt, it may be time to reevaluate the situation. The Bible says that for the sake of the Gospel we should be prepared for hardships and persecution, but I don’t believe that’s something expected of you in close friendships. Here’s what I mean…

Loving our friends means being willing to say the hard truth.

It is “…a mistake to confuse forgiveness with excusing. Excusing is letting a person off the hook. Forgiveness keeps people accountable for their behavior. Nor is forgiveness tolerance. We do not have to tolerate what people do just because we have forgiven them for doing it.” (Smedes, Forgive and Forget.)

As I read your letter I couldn’t help but imagine how I would respond if you told me this was a dating relationship. If you were writing in about a boy you had been seeing for a few weeks I would encourage you to let this relationship go. In the book, “The Art of Rejection” by Hayley and Michael DiMarco, they write, “Two people can destroy each other in ways other than abuse. If you find that your spirit is weakening, your heart is breaking and you don’t know why, then maybe you are in a destructive relationship. If you can’t say that this person makes you better emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, you need to think about changing the situation. Relationships should make you both better, not worse.”

I believe that principle can easily apply to friendships with the opposite sex. I’m not here to tell you that those aren’t possible; I just want to check in and make sure that you aren’t taking on a role that one of his male friends should fill. (I do hope this guy has close male friendships.) If this is a pattern of behavior in all of his relationships, this man has a true heart issue going on that will require time, energy, prayer, and even counseling. Long story short: I don’t believe that you are the one to fix him or this friendship.

My advice, and I am not a pastor, counselor, expert or psychologist: Lay out your feelings clearly. Express what behavior you expect from a friend and how he continues to betray the trust worthy of a friend. Explain that you are willing to be friends if he is willing to act as a friend. Anything else and you will have to step away from your friendship.

May you have the courage and tact to move forward with peace and without anger. Please know that this response comes humbly your way.

Following,

Ginger

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