I have a friend that has a daughter who struggles with anxiety.
It is unreal anxiety, like worrying that her sister will get hit by a car. The mom speaks wisely to her. She tries to get her to understand that her worry does not help; rather it only brings bad with it. The daughter says she knows that but is still anxious. The mother is feeling helpless to help her; she cannot speak peace into this child’s heart.

 Another friend is dealing with her husband being on the edge. He
has been out of work for several months now and the little things are starting to become big to him. Understandably he is anxious, yet, his anxiety is overtaking the rest of his life too. The wife wants to encourage him, but walks the fine line of not coming across condescending to him. She realizes she cannot speak peace into his heart.

 Still another friend has a husband that is running from God. He
is seeking his own pleasure and not even desiring peace with God. He has stiff armed any attempts she has made to speak peace into his life. She is unable to even get his ear to speak peace into his heart.

 We can be there for our loved ones. We can desire to be vessels
God uses to build them up. In the end though, the work of peace is between them and God. God’s peace is available in every situation, yet we cannot make anyone receive it. When circumstances are the focus then God shrinks in His place of
power. He is still available, the focus must be returned to Him.

 When we walk along side someone struggling to find peace, our job is to keep speaking Truth while praying for them. The real battle is in the spiritual realm and what we cannot do in the physical can be won in the heavens. 
If you want a visual of how the spiritual battle may work the
books Piercing the Darkness and This Present Darkness are two novels that give a great picture to help our human minds comprehend the power God has given us in pray.

Tree Devo:  Day four

 Ice Breaker: Share what makes you laugh.

 What do you know about a tree’s fruit? (write down answers)

 1) A tree is judged by its fruit. Look up: Matt. 7: 16 Often as Christians we judge each other by what we do or have done. This is not always an accurate measure of a person’s life in Christ. At the same time, like the verse says, if we love the Lord our life WILL show it.

 2)  The fruit of a tree is how it reproduces.  The fruit itself does
not guarantee it will reproduce not every seed lands in fertile ground. Look up: Matt. 13: 4. Our fruit will produce more of our same kind. Christians share in order to bring others into God’s kingdom. Our ultimate desire is to share the love of Jesus with the whole world. Look up: Gen. 1: 12.

 3)  In order to bear fruit the fruit is dependent on the overall health of the tree. Fruit is a product coming out of the tree being healthy, as well as the tree being in a healthy environment. In order for us to bear the fruit of the Spirit that lives in us, we must be in touch with the spirit, as well as controlling our environment. In order for the fruit of the Spirit to develop in our life, it requires both sensitivity to God’s leading and obedience to His commands. Look up: I Peter 1: 2, II John 1: 6, Romans 8:6, Gal. 5: 22, Romans 11:16

 4) The fruit of a tree is not the only proof of the health of a tree. There are normally three out of four seasons that a tree does not bear fruit. The overall tree is healthy and rebuilding for the next fruit bearing season. We too may have seasons of much fruit and seasons of rebuilding.

 5)  Fruit does not show on a tree until it matures. Actually, a tree may bear a little fruit right away, but the real harvest comes with maturity. Look up: Eph. 4: 13-15

 6)  The fruit of a tree does not benefit the tree. Fruit is a gift, it is given freely. Unlike the tree, God often allows us to benefit from the privilege of bearing fruit. Yet, our goal is not to benefit. God wants us to freely give of the gifts He has given us. Whatever God wants to do with the fruit He has developed in us is up to Him. He
is the source of anything good in our lives.

 7) Read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and discuss it.

 Lastly, ask, “What is the most important part of a tree? (roots
and trunk) It is the more hidden parts that are most important. Just as with a Christian, being well rooted is the most important. The beauty of the crown and fruit will come out of the roots and trunk being healthy.

 In the alone time read: Romans 12: 14-21 (handout verses in The Message too)

 After 10-15 min. come back together and discuss how these verses spoke to each person and how the verses relate to bearing fruit?

 Take prayer requests and pray for the person on your left.

Tree devo: day three

 Ice breaker: tell your happiest memory

 Today we will look at the branches and leaves of a tree.

 What do you know about branches and leaves? (write down

 1) Branches spread out and reach for the sun. The branches reaching out are like our reaching out for the Son when we praise Him. And branches also look like us holding our hands up in surrender, which is what we do when we allow the Lord to be the lead in our life. Look up: Acts 17:27

 2)  Leaves take in carbon dioxide and give back oxygen. Sort of sounds like our being told to give a gentle answer in response to wrath. We are also like leaves when we listen to a friend’s problems and give him back encouragement. Look up: Romans 12: 21, Prov.15:1

 3) Through photosynthesis leaves create food for the rest of the tree. This is like the work the Holy Spirit does when we meditate, ponder and journal on His Word. As we ponder God’s Truth the
Holy Spirit turns our knowledge into something we can live out. Look up: James 1:22

 4) The branches and leaves form what is called the crown of the tree. This crown is the focal point of the tree. Our reaching out, our actions are the focal point of first impressions. What we
do or don’t do is what the world around us first sees.

 5)  The branches and leaves must be connected to the trunk. Without the trunk they die quickly. Look up: John 15: 5 Apart from Christ we can do nothing. We can give the allusion of living, but we have nothing to give on our own.

 6) The crown of the tree cannot outgrow the roots without major problems. In order for a tree to stand firm it needs a strong base; a base that well anchored and able to with stand the weight of the crown. We too must not allow our outreach to outweigh our time with God. In order to remain strong we must walk with Him not just for Him.

 7) The crown provides home, safety, comfort, shade and refuge for creatures of the forest. Our reaching out to others brings them comfort and strength. Our life is to be a gift to others; we are to edify and lift each other up. Look up: Mark 4: 32, I Thess. 5: 11

 8)  What happens to the crown of two trees if they grow up right next to each other? Unlike the roots of trees, including the big Sequoia trees that intertwine their roots to help hold each
other up, the crown of two trees will grow two different directions. They grow in such away though that from a distance they look like one tree. (feel free to draw a picture to show this concept) How does that relate to our reaching out? We are to complement each other, not compete with each other. Look up: Romans 12: 4(-21)

 9)  Lastly, a tree lives to create its crown. We live to one day receive a crown. Look up: I Cor. 9:25, II Tim 3: 10, Rev. 4: 9-11

 Today in our alone time read Romans 12: 6-13 (hand out papers
with The Message version too)

 After 10-15 mins come back together and discuss how these verses  spoke to each person and how they related to branches and

Take prayer requests and pray for the person on the

Tree Devotion—Day two:

 Ice breaker: Tell your favorite thing to do with free time.

 Today we are going to look at the trunk of the tree.

 What do you know about the trunk of a tree? (write down the

Discuss how these points about a trunk relate to us as a Christian:

 1) At first trunks grow quickly, it is obvious to all. Then as they mature they always continue to grow but it is not as visible from the outside. We too often take giant steps as a new believer. We make obvious changes that others see. Then our growth seems to slow down or at times even feel like it has stopped. But, we are still growing, like the rings on a tree, it is just not always easy to see from the outside.

 2) The trunk is the support for the rest of the tree. We must keep out faith strong; it is what supports the rest of our life. Faith is believing in what is unseen, being sure of what we hope for. Wavering faith is like a rotting tree trunk, slowly getting weaker.
Look up: Matt. 7: 24-25.

 3) The trunk is a highway that transports what is needed to other parts of the tree—from roots to leaves and back. It is important for us to keep the highway open between our head and our heart and back again. Faith without knowledge is foolishness and faith built on emotions is dangerous. Faith stuck in our head doesn’t allow us to experience life change or to reach out to others. Without the heart involved we will hurt people with our facts.

 4)  Bark on a trunk is its protective layer. This layer protects the tree from pests and disease. We have a protective layer we are told to put on every day, it is the armor of God. Look up: Eph. 6:13.

 5) The trunk is also the source of lumber. The variety of trees provides the beauty available when we want to build something. The differences are cherished. Often the more unique patterns
are formed out of injury or pain to the tree. Although we are all children of God, it is our differences that make us each perfect for a specific work. It is often those difficult times that teach us the greatest lessons that prepare us for helping others in their time of need. Look up: Hebrews 2:18.

 6)  Show a picture (you can draw one, it doesn’t have to be fancy) of a single tree standing in a field and another of a tree in the midst of a woods.  Ask, which tree is in a better environment and why.  The single tree is more vulnerable to lightening, wind, erosion and tipping over. Surrounded by other trees the tree is protected and helped by all the other trees. We too do best in community, with others to support us, help protect us and sharing solid ground together.  

7) Read The Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt. Talk about the story, namely God’s plans for us are bigger than we can imagine. It is fine to dream, yet we must always trust God is moving and in control of our lives.

 In alone time today read: Romans 12: 3-5 (papers with The Message version handed out too) 

After 10-15 mins come back together and discuss how Romans 12
spoke to each individual and how it relates to the trunk.

 Take prayer requests and pray for the person to the

Quote of the day: by Pastor Jason

"If we want to rise above our circumstances, we must live for something bigger than our circumstances."
Day one:
Ice Breaker:  If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be? And why?

 This study is going to teach us how to become that strong healthy
tree you want to be.

 There are four key parts of a tree that we are going to look at.
Each part has its own function, needs and uses. We will discuss one part of the tree each day. The four parts are: roots, trunk, branches/leaves, and fruit. 
Today we will look at ROOTS:

 Let’s make a list of what we know about roots of a tree:  
(write down ideas given)

Now let’s look at how our being well rooted aligns with these
 1)  Show three drawings you have drawn previously—half of a set of roots ie:
  • left side only                                              
  • shallow roots                                                                                    
  • full roots with long center (tap) root

Ask : can roots look like each of these? Why or why not?
Which root system is strongest?

 What is wrong with 1 and 2? (easy to tip if wind comes)
Application: if we focus on only one truth about God we
become unbalanced and unable to stand against the world. We cannot just focus on His love, for example, we must also know God is just. Without seeking to know all of God’s character we will become imbalanced.
If we are content to remain shallow in our Bible knowledge, prayer life or seeking application, we will be easily tipped over. A shallow understanding is no safe guard against the winds this world billows against us every day.
A key part of being well rooted is to be still, spend time in God’s Word listening—soaking in and then applying His Truth through
journaling and prayer. This is how we send nutrients on to be used throughout our day.
2)  Roots have to be big; larger roots are needed for larger tops (we talk about this more on day three)
3)  Roots are hidden, The ones seen are not the strongest. The roots buried deep are the most effective.  Look up: Mark 1:35, Ps. 119:11 It is our life hidden in Christ that keeps us strongest.

 4)  Roots stretch out for water. Water is essential for a tree to live, so the roots go get what they need. Look up: Jer. 17: 8 We must be desperate for life giving water. Like roots we need to
stretch out each day to get what we need from God’s Word.
5)  Roots absorb nutrients from the ground and send it throughout the tree. Where do we get out nutrients? --from God’s Word and through prayer. We cannot stop with absorbing God’s Truth, we
must send it to the rest of the body. Journaling can help bridge the gap between knowledge and application. As we write we can see how God is speaking to us personally.
6) The strongest trees have a deep tap root. This root runs down the center of the root system and goes as deep as it needs to find water. This root has water even when the others are dry. It is this root that makes a tree nearly impossible to uproot. Look up: Eph
3: 17, Col 2: 7 Our tap root is praying without ceasing and having God's Word hidden in our hearts through memorization. When we go through life in constant fellowship with our Savior, then there is nothing that can trip us up or make us fall.

 As we learn the functions of a tree, we are also going to practice each function by studying Romans 12. (I love how this chapter reads in the Message, so I handed out copies of the verses in that version each day for the teens to look at along with their Bible)

 Today we are looking at Romans 12: 1+2

 As you read, journal and pray think about how these verse speak
to you and how they relate to roots.

 Give 10-15 mins to write something down.

 When all are finished, come back together to discuss what each
  teen learned.

 End with prayer request and each person praying for the person on their left.

Hi, this is Sammy, Kim’s daughter again. A few months ago I wrote a blog about waiting on God’s perfect timing http://espcharactertraining.weebly.com/1/post/2013/04/resting-in-gods-plaln.html  
Since that time a lot has happened and I just wanted to tell you how amazing our God is and that His plan is worth the wait.  
The start of my story is about 9 months ago, I had a few months left until I graduated from college and was getting nervous about not having anything to do after I was done. I was looking at
internships because that is what I felt like God was calling me to do.  Being young, finished with college, and having no debt, I had a lot of freedom to go and do without the burden to work and make money.  Well after looking at over a dozen internships that were not the right fit I was getting discouraged and thinking I wasn’t going to find anything.  So I decided to stop looking for awhile.  

After about a week of not looking I thought of Samaritan’s Purse,
which is a surprise that I had not thought of it before because I had thought of most major Christian relief organizations.  So I went on their website and looked up internships, a page popped up and the first thing I saw was an accounting internship!  For those who don’t know my major is accounting and so I clicked on the link and the more I read the more perfect it sounded and I got this feeling that this was it!

 Well I went upstairs and showed the information to my mom and said, “This is it, I think I’m going to do this, I am so excited!”  I talked this over with my parents and I applied with high hopes.  A month after I applied I got a mass e-mail saying that I didn’t get in and asked if I would like to apply for the next 6 month period when they would look at the applicants in April.  
Well I was very disappointed and confused because I thought God
was telling me that I was supposed do this. Also the discontentment and worry of what I was going to do after I finished college returned. Still I agreed to put my application in for the next round. 

Jump forward about 5 months when I was in Greece and God was showing me the process of waiting, that I need to trust Him and that He had a perfect plan for me.  So I had peace that God had a plan for my life and I just didn’t know what.  By this time I had forgotten about Samaritan’s Purse so it was a surprise about three weeks after I got home from Greece that I had an e-mail from
Samaritan’s Purse saying they would like an interview with me. 
That started a long process (which is a whole different story) that ends up with me leaving for South Sudan in the middle of July.  
As my grandparents like to say, “Hindsight is always 20/20” looking back I can see that it was totally the right thing for me to wait these extra six months to get this internship. To start with I
learned to trust God more than I would have if I would have gotten it right away.  Also I was able to visit a far away friend before she married, go to Greece, vacation in Florida with my family for the first time, and be with my family while my dad was sick.  I am sooooo happy with God’s plan for my life and can’t wait to see what He has in store for me in the future.

The views of this post are fully my own and do not necessarily reflect my employers.  Thanks.

My husband has a bestseller sales book on the shelf titled,
Hope is Not a Strategy it is written by Rick Page. I have not read the book, yet, the title has struck me as profound. If it wasn’t already taken, I think it would be an excellent title for a parenting book.

 Yes, we HAVE a hope and a future; this is what we want to pass
onto our children. But, hope is not HOW we pass it onto our

 Hoping our children accept our faith is not enough. We
train them in the way they should go. We must actively give them our hope.

 This is a desperate situation; these are our children’s souls. We
cannot settle for HOPING they “turn out ok”.  If you have heard yourself say, “I hope they grow up to follow Jesus”, then also ask yourself “what am I doing to ensure they grow up to follow Jesus?” 

I am hearing some of you say, “But they have free choice”.That is
absolutely true. But just as knowing a client can choose a different product doesn’t keep a salesman from selling his product, so just because our children have free choice doesn’t mean we should not present the Way, the Truth and the Life as boldly and strongly as we can.