Monday, January 31, 2011

Proverbs 31- to the needy

Hello! I'm back from a weekend anniversary celebration with my hubby in the Texas hill country! We had a great time and I'll post some pictures later. But I'm excited to be back home and back into Proverbs 31 this morning.

Today I want to focus on verse 20.

She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.

I had a funny conversation with my dad on the phone Saturday morning. I was telling him about tutoring at Reagan High School- which is in a poverty-stricken area of Austin. He told me about the spoof Stephen Colbert had done on Wake County Schools in NC. If you're unfamiliar with that situation, watch this: (you'll have to copy paste because I can't get the URL to link correctly)

Ok, Stephen Colbert and the Proverbs 31 woman might seem like completely opposite entities. And, I am not here to talk politics. But I am here to talk about personal responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ- which means whatever way you vote- you cannot do what Stephen Colbert is poking fun at- you cannot ignore the poor and needy. You can't go and live in a gated community, home school your kids, drive an SUV and shut your eyes to the needs of others. Most people aren't trying to shut their eyes, they just become so focused on themselves, what they have worked so hard for, their kids, their homes, that they cannot see outwardly anymore. And, no matter how good you are, mo matter how moral you may be, you simply cannot do that and accurately represent Jesus Christ.

I watched a Francis Chan sermon when I was home for Christmas. Here it is, if you want a spiritual kick in the pants. It's kind of long, but I encourage you to watch at least the first five minutes for some much-needed perspective:

Francis' main point in this message is that the MAJORITY of the world lives on $2 a day. His point is that Americans, though we often complain about our financial problems, are incredibly rich.

For a while now, I've noticed a trend in the American church regarding finances. It goes something like this- "Take care of your needs. Get out of debt. Save a bunch of money- because the bottom might fall out at any time. Then, once you're financially secure, give away a bunch of money. That's good stewardship." The problem with that kind of thinking is that it doesn't match what Jesus said. That kind of thinking is money-focused. Look, it's not that it's not practical. It's very practical. It even matches a lot of what is written in Proverbs. But, the problem is not with the logic, it's with the focus. It's about you, your money, your stewardship. And that's the kind of thinking Jesus said would cause us to hate God. (Matthew 6:24)

Jesus told us not to worry about anything because our Father would take care of our needs. Never did He say that we needed to store up six months wages in case of disaster. Jesus commended a poor old woman for putting everything that she had into an offering plate. We get really freaked out about having to add in that 10% tithe column on our budget spreadsheet. Look at Acts 2 and you'll see that the first group of believers shared everything and even sold their personal possessions. If someone asked us to do that today, we'd say they were trying to "take over" and probably quote something about our "rights". But the early church didn't care about their rights! They were intoxicated with the Holy Spirit to the point that they no longer cared about this worldly place. The result? The church grew like a weed! Jesus- and the Proverbs 31 woman- are not focused on themselves, their jobs, their possessions or the government. They're focused on the Lord.

One of God's names is Jehovah-Jireh, "The Lord provides." To be like the Proverbs 31 woman, we have to see God as our provider, which might require some re-wiring of our thinking. We're not our own providers, no matter how hard we work or how good we are at storing up. The government isn't our provider- nor is it meant to be ignored. Government is a man-made institution that God uses divinely to carry out His purposes. Read Romans 13. Governments are corruptible for the same reasons people are corruptible- because they are made up of people- yet we seem to have such unreasonably high expectations for governmental systems. How often I encounter people who have much to demand from or complain about in regard to the government while they have very little to say about God. It's no wonder they are disappointed and disillusioned. They are looking to the wrong place for their needs to be met. This is true on both sides of party lines.

When we start to see God for who He truly is, we start to see ourselves for who we truly are. God is Jehovah-Jireh. There's nothing you or I, your employer, or the government can do to change that. But what most of us (myself included!!!) demonstrate to the rest of the world is this- God is "Jehovah-maybe-will-provide-but-only-if-I-take-care-of-myself-and-my-family-first." If you believe that, though it might make common sense, you are lying to the world about God. To accurately represent God to the world, we have to demonstrate the freedom we have to give generously- to the point of taking risk. Give generously of your money. Generously of your time. Generously of your knowledge. Generously of your emotions (within the relationships that God has purified only!!!)

Need is everywhere. Spiritual, financial, emotional need. You don't have to go to a poverty-stricken community to find people in need, but you certainly shouldn't avoid poverty-stricken communities- here in the U.S. or in other parts of the world. People need the gospel. They need the good news about Jesus Christ- news of renewal, reconciliation, and for goodness sake, HOPE. Real hope. Hope for Heaven, hope for life beyond this one- not simply better life here.

If you focus on money- saving it, spending it, lack of it- that's what you will worship. And you won't love God or the people that He loves. But if you focus on Jehovah-Jireh, He will provide you with vision to see what He sees- the needs of those around you and around the world. And He will give you the love that He has for them, the passion to demonstrate to them who He really is.

So, Proverbs woman, here's my challenge to you (and me): What has God provided you with? Has He given you more than $2 a day? Has He given you a home and a family? Has He given you a job? Who do you see around you who is in need? How will you meet those needs with what He has given to you?

When you are in need, who do you turn to? Who do you blame for your economic trouble? Who are you turning to for help? How much money, time and energy are you currently giving to the Lord's work in your community and throughout the world?

Christian, if you are looking for financial freedom, it doesn't start with cutting up credit cards, padding your savings account or listening to a weekly talk show. It starts with faith- the faith that is the hallmark of a Proverbs woman. Know your God, Jehovah-Jireh, so well that you do not doubt in His provision. And I promise you, you will be free to give.

Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Friday, January 28, 2011

Proverbs 31- Fear the Lord

I was going to save this one for the end, I really was. I wanted it to be sort of a "save the best for last" sort of thing. But something was given to me last night that I am bursting to share.

In all of the verses we've already looked at, we see how hard this Proverbs woman is working. She's taking care of her husband, her kids, the people she works with. She's adding to the GDP and using her skills.She's got her heart open to the needs of the needy (v20) and she makes doing good look good by taking care of her own personal appearance (v22). I'm not finished looking at the Proverbs woman yet, but before taking a break for the weekend, I want to leave you with something valuable that was given to me this week.

If you're like me, you might have glanced over Proverbs 31 in the past and thought, "Ugh. It's her again. I don't want to read about her!" Or maybe you know a Proverbs 31 woman personally and you hesitate to grow in relationship with her because she intimidates you. Why do we feel like that? I confess that in the past the reason that I have skimmed by the Proverbial women in my life- both figuratively and actually is because I feel intimidated. I know they're up to things that I feel like I cannot do or that I know that I'm not willing to do. What I want to talk about briefly today is freedom from that kind of thinking.

First of all, if you're reading Proverbs 31 as a check-list or to-do list, you're bound to leave it feeling either drained or puffed up. What's changed in my life that makes the Proverbs woman approachable is the reality that the purpose is not about who she is as a woman- it's who she is as a worshiper. She's not giving of herself and taking on every task and opening her arms and her heart to those around her so that she can earn a coffee mug that says "World's Best Mom" and get taken out to brunch on Mother's Day. She's not striving at work so she can get promoted. She's not taking care of her husband's every need so that she can boast to the other wives about how her man would never dream of leaving her. The only reason that she does all that she does the way that she does is because she is not worshiping any of those things. She's not beholden to them. She's beholden to God alone.

Read verse 30.

Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Why does she do what she does? How does she have the strength and dignity and love she needs to accomplish so many tasks? Because she doesn't worship her tasks. She worships Jehovah.

This is what I want to share with you today. It's a challenge to look at your life and consider what or who you worship other than God. If you think, "I am a Christian. Of course I worship the Lord," please think again- solemnly. The Israelites thought they were worshiping Jehovah throughout their history but they constantly created other idols to worship in place of Him or "alongside" Him. The reason that I am so passionate about this is because I've seen the grievous repercussions of what happens when you worship other things- people, tasks, etc. instead of the Lord. But... let Him tell you.

"Of what value is an idol, since man has carved it?
Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation;"
Habakkuk 2:18

"The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary."
Isaiah 46:1

"The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
eyes but cannot see,
they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who put their trust in them."
Psalm 135:15-18

The reason that I'm writing this now is because Psalm 135: 18 haunts me, warns me, breaks my heart- for myself and those around me. Because idols are NOT a thing of the past. Nor are they just the materialistic things "spiritual" people like to think don't apply to them. Our hearts are made to worship. It's in our DNA. We are worshiping something. But, I look around me and see few people living the abundant, joyful life that the Proverbs woman had and that Jesus is offering. It's not a problem with our to-do list. It's a problem with our hearts.

The real question for us, women, is not what am I doing and how can I do it better? But, who am I worshiping? So I'm going to close out this blog with some questions. I've answered them and been deeply convicted. But I'm also now swimming in freedom. Because the result of worship is that we become like the object that we worship- do you see that in Psalm 135:18? When our worship is focused on things- even good things like spouses, children, good works, etc. we become like them- which is not what God made us for. We end up focusing too much on ourselves and one another, our hurts and wants and needs. We devour each other, spoil and ruin one another. But when we focus on the Lord, we are like a well-watered garden, a spring whose waters never fail. Because He is unfailing. He is the eternal source of all good.

So, please consider these questions seriously, if you will. Following the questions is a list of common idols that people- especially Christian people- have a tendency to worship. It was created by Tim Keller and given to me by the Austin Stone. Please read through them prayerfully and seriously. If you find that something else is stealing your heart, your worship- I urge you to repent. Read Ezekiel 14:1-6 for further insight. And, dear Proverbs woman, go in freedom into the weekend and further still.


a. What is your greatest nightmare?

b. What do you worry about most?

c. What, if you failed or lost it, would cause you to feel like you did not even want to live?

d. What keeps you going?

e. What is your greatest joy?

f. What do you rely on to comfort self with when things go badly or get difficult?

g. Who do you turn to in times of need?

h. Who do you turn to in times of excitement?

i. What/who do you think most easily about? Where does your mind go to when you are free to think?

j. What/who makes you feel the most self-worth?

k. What/ who are you the most proud of?

l. What do you really want or expect out of life?

m. If someone gave you $1000, what would you do with it?

n. What would make you really happy?

Idolatry adapted from Tim Keller:

Power idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if I have influence over others."

Approval idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if - I am loves and respected by _______

Comfort idolatry: life only has meaning/I only hae worth if - I have this kind of pleasure experience, quality of life.

Control idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I am able to get mastery over my life in the area(s) of ________________

Image idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I have a particular kind of look or body image

Helping idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- people are dependent on me and need me

Dependence idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if someone is there to protect me and keep me safe

Independence idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone else

Work idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if - I am highly productive and getting a lot done

Achievement idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- I am being recognized for my accomplishments

Materialism idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom and/or very nice possessions

Religion idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- I am adhering to my religion's moral codes and am accomplished in its activities

Individual person idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- THIS ONE PERSON is in my life and is happy there or is happy with me

Irreligion idolatry: Life only has meaning/I only have worth -if I feel I am totally independent of organizes religion and with self-made morality

Racial/Cultural idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- my race and/or culture is ascendant and recognized as superior

Inner ring idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group let's me in

Family idolatry: life only has meaning /I only have worth if- my parents/children/siblings are happy/respected and happy with me

Relationship idolatry: life only has meaning /I only have worth if- Mr. or Ms. Right is in love with me

Suffering idolatry: life only has meaning/ I only have worth if- I/people who are important to me are hurting, in a problem, only then do I feel noble or worthy of love or am able to deal with guilt

Ideology idolatry: life only has meaning/I only have worth if- my political or social cause or party is making progress and ascending in influence or power

You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Proverbs 31- working hard or hardly working

As of this week, I have been without full-time employment for one year. If we had chatted before I moved to Texas, I would have told you, "I'm sure I will get a job of some sort." I did for a little while. But I felt like God was calling me to do something else full-time. I would have told you six months ago the thing I was called to do full-time was "write." Now, I would tell you the thing that I've been called to full time is "trust."

One of the main reasons I wanted to write a book about identity in Christ was because I could see all around me and within me that our culture defines itself by what we do. How many times have you seen an interaction like this?

A group of people meeting for the first time. Someone in the group will inevitably ask, "What do you do?" Someone will say, "I am an engineer" "I teach kindergarten." "I'm a nurse." "I am getting my Master's." As long as we have an answer to this question, we hold our heads high, and subsequent questions usually follow. "How long have you been doing that?" "Do you enjoy that?" "Oh, your office is just down the street from such and such." But, have you ever watched an exchange like this and seen someone respond to that question in one of these ways, "Oh, I stay at home with my children." or "I am unemployed." While the employed people responded with confidence, oftentimes someone responding in one of the ways just mentioned will turn a little sheepish and/or follow up with something like this... "but I used to be a teacher.." or "I have an interview next week." And very often the conversation ends awkwardly or changes to another subject.

Why is that? Why are we so preoccupied with what we do? Why are we so quick to define ourselves by our occupation? I think it's very interesting considering that Jesus never did that. In His whole ministry, no one recorded a single time He said, "I'm a carpenter." And I don't think that after He made statements like "I've come to seek and save the lost" He felt the need to round it out with "..but I used to own my own wood shop." Jesus always identified Himself by His relationship with His Father and with other people. But I don't think that anyone would ever consider that Jesus was not a hard worker. He taught, He preached, He traveled and He healed a lot of sick people. He was not a lazy man. He was a hard worker, on assignment from His Father.

When thinking about being a Proverbs 31 woman, I think she's got the same idea that Jesus had. It seems that her "work" is all around her. She's active in her home, caring for her family- she provides them food (v.14,15) clothing (v. 13, 19, 21) and oversees daily activities in her home (v.27)But she is also quite the little career woman. She's a saleswoman and investor in verse 16. A trader in verse 18. And a clothier in verse 24. I think that this passage holds so much encouragement for today's "working" women, and by "working" I mean all of us who are actually doing work- regardless of whether or not you are bringing home a paycheck at this particular point in time.

Let's be honest, there are a lot of people out there with jobs who "work" less than moms who spend their days changing diapers and loads of laundry. I've heard Proverbs 31 so many times as Biblical basis for working in or out of the home- people have their different angles. But who can read this and not agree on at least one thing- wherever she is- at home or out buying and selling- this woman is working hard wherever she goes.

And that's more the issue for me at this point. Let someone else argue with you about where you ought to do your work. I'm challenged by how I ought to do my work. The book of Proverbs has so many words of warning for "sluggards." Here are a few...

"The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth."

"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-
and poverty will comes on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man."

"Diligent hands will rule,
but laziness ends in slave labor."

Every man, woman, child in Christ Jesus is called to do work. Consider Ephesians 2:10 "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." What an uplifting verse! I love it because no matter what you are doing, there is work that God has already prepared. So, if you are raising children or teaching school, solving problems, or selling shoes, God has a purpose for you. Another wonderful truth derived from this verse is that the works have nothing to do with whether or not God is going to claim you as His own. You're given the works because you are already His. You're a member of His family, and that means that you've got a kingdom-building to-do list tailored to who you are. You may not have the job you want. You may not have a job at all. But you do have work to do.

I hope that really encourages some of you. It's encouraged me in this past year, as I have not "worked" as a teacher, which is what I love to do. There is always a challenge to us to work diligently, and to the glory of God, no matter what we are doing. We wear many hats in our lifetimes, occupations and workplaces change, but what does not ever change is our charge to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. When we do that, we can receive from Him the personal works that He has created for us to do, and His power to complete them.

A challenge to you- consider who you are, and the work that God has called you to do. Are you a mother? A teacher? A grandmother? A mother-in-law? A student? How are you reflecting the truth about God in your daily tasks? Or, are you so "busy" with your "work" that you haven't even taken the time to consider that God has called you to "good works" in Christ Jesus? What if God asked your spouse, your mom, your best friend for reference for you? Would they be able to tell Him honestly that you've done your work diligently, for His glory? Or would they have to confess to Him that you've been neglectful, selfish, lazy or have taken the glory for themselves and forgotten to mention His name at all?

I'm challenged, because I know that the Proverbs woman is a hard worker, and that, in the end the Lord gets the glory. (v. 30) So, are we working hard? Or hardly working? And who is pleased with the work that we do?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Proverbs 31- strong for her tasks

It might seem like we're skipping over verse 16 today, but I promise to get back to it. We'll take another look at all the types of work- both at home and outside the home- that the Proverbs woman is doing. But before we get there, let's look at how she does what she does.

Consider verse 17. It's one of my favorites in this chapter-

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

As I'm writing this, my arms do not feel strong. Andy and I were up "while it was still dark" this morning doing a p90x video for back and chest. I don't think I've ever done so many push-ups in my life. But I gotta admit that feeling of exhaustion I have right now is very apropos for this message.

I don't think that the Proverbs 31 woman ever did p90x. Or yoga. Or pilates. But she is described as having physical strength. Her strength was gained through the work that she did. Back in the day, there was no need for WeightWatchers and Gold's Gym because women used to burn more calories preparing for their family to eat than they did eating the meal themselves! She didn't need free weights- she was probably picking up children all day (I know some women today who have some serious upper body strength from the same task!) Life has changed a lot over the millenia. Right now, my dish washer is running, and so is my heat. Yesterday I vacuumed my whole house, and currently I am looking at a day of "work" sitting on my bum in front of this computer. If I lived during the Proverbs woman's time, I would have washed dishes with my hands and would probably then go out and chop some wood for a fire so I can keep warm this morning. Yesterday I would have swept my floor alongside my servant girls, and today my "work" would consist of similar back-straining, sweat-inducing tasks.

I'm not against advancements in technology (I think I'd give away my kidney before I gave away my Dyson), and I'm planning on talking about work in another blog as I already mentioned. The subject for today isn't really work, then, it's strength.

Though the type of work today's women are called to might be different in some aspects- though many are the same- we need to be strong for our tasks. I think that verse 17 is such a wonderful word to women from our Sovereign Lord. He's called us to femininity- but here He's saying that strength is a part of that call, ladies! I LOVE that! He doesn't want us feeling like the weakest link, like we can't get things done, like we've got nothing to offer, and are of no use. No way! He wants us to set about our work with vigor. And in order to do so, we need to be strong.

Before I go further, let me clarify a couple of things that I do NOT think that God is in favor of. Though I loved it so much when I was a little girl because of all the lace and the roses and the illustrious decor, I don't think God was a giant fan of some of the things ladies put up with and/or put on during the Victorian era. I'm throwing that era out there as one example, but the basic idea has reoccurred throughout different cultures throughout history. I don't think that a woman who straps herself into a corset to the point of breaking her ribs and restricting her lungs from fully inflating is Proverbs 31ish at all. The idea of emphasizing physical beauty to the point that it incapacitates a woman's strength is not Biblical according to this passage. God doesn't want us to just "sit there and look pretty." Nor does He want us feeling sorry for ourselves or like we can't do what He's called us to do. He wants us to be women of strength.

But I also don't think that God is a fan of the idea that women can or really, maybe a better word there is should do what men do. We are different creatures, called to different work, and that is really a beautiful mystery. I am NOT saying that the Bible tells women to be silent, to only work from home, and to remain barefoot and pregnant for most of their lives. That would also be against Proverbs 31. But what I do believe is that a woman should be strong for her tasks, not his tasks. That doesn't mean that women don't need to be strong enough to take the reins from time to time. I know way too many Army wives who have to run the ship and run it well during deployment to make a statement like "just let your husband take care of that sort of thing." But, what I do think is that you can learn to walk alongside your husband, letting him assume responsibility for His God-given work, but watch and help because you need to be ready to step in at any time. I'm saying you don't have to do everything, but you probably need to have a decent idea of how to do everything, the complete nuts and bolts functioning of your household.

What I see a lot is that women fall a little too far to one of those sides. Sometimes, we can take on a "I can't do that!" mentality because we've convinced ourselves that we're not strong enough, don't have what it takes, etc. Sometimes we take on a "I can do that and everything else!" mentality because we've convinced ourselves that if we don't, no one else will. Everyone has their own circumstances that contribute to the type of work they're called to do, but I hope that as women, we are striving to do the work that God has given to us with strength. Why? Because our God is a mighty God. He is a God of incredible strength, and like we've already said, as women we are called to the noble task of representing Him accurately to husbands, families, and the rest of the world. God is not a wimp. He's not going to sit back and pout and say, "I caaaan't. It's tooo haaaard!" What a praise! If God was a whiner, I don't know what I'd do... But He's also a God who lets us participate in His plans. He's not taking all of the reins just at the moment, He delegates His kingdom work to His kingdom people- you and me! He is the Boss, and He is definitely in charge, but He's not excluding you from working alongside Him simply because He is able to do it all Himself. That's what we are supposed to represent to our husbands and families, coworkers and neighbors- a God who is strong and yet calls us co-laborers.

So whatever your task, Proverbs woman, ask God to help you become strong in it. Are you raising children? You will need physical strength to be sure- stamina, endurance, and joy! Are you keeping your household in order? Do the best work that you can do (Dysons help) and don't give in to that cluttered closet because it seems too difficult to even begin putting it into order. And in the workplace, work to the glory of God. We'll talk more on that subject later... Whatever task God has given you, remember that you represent Him in it. He would not say that something is "too hard" and then put it off forever. And He would also not consider everything only His to do. So seek His help, delegate, work vigorously, with strength. Don't quit. And certainly don't "not start" because you think it's out of your league. You're not a victim. You're not a wimp. And you're not a power woman. But you are a woman of power.

A final word- I do believe that physical health and strength are a part of this calling. We are called to steward our bodies well. But beware of falling into the trappings of vanity over physical appearance. It is absolutely true that a fit, strong body is able to do more work. I can prove that scientifically. But our culture tells us that that same body is an idol we need to show off, dress up, feed only certain foods and lord over others. It's not. It's a body made for a purpose. Keep it healthy. Keep it strong, but keep it humble. Ask God to help you to learn to discipline yourself so that you can take care of your body- and hopefully have fun doing it! But also ask Him to help you not become an image-worshiper. Besides, I don't care if you're a p90x graduate, you'll never be as strong as the Almighty- no matter how many push-ups you can do.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Proverbs 31- for her family

Today, I just want to focus on one verse from Proverbs 31. Seems that after the wife rises early she gets to work taking care of the day's business. Later in the proverb, we'll take a look at this woman's work outside the home. I've heard people use Proverbs 31 to convince people that all married women need to stay in the home, and to be honest, I don't know how they get that message out of this passage. I mean, this girl is fairly entrepreneurial, but we will get to that later.

But what I do see in this Proverb is a call to to family first.

She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family.

Andy and I are going through some training at our church so that we can be more effective partners. At the class we went to Thursday night, I was really fascinated by one of the questions asked on the hand-out they gave us. It said, "How does your relationship with your earthly father affect the way you see your Heavenly Father." Way to cut to the chase Austin Stone! The reason that they asked the question was because they're trying to ensure that each partner has a true understanding of the Gospel.

The true Gospel message is that Jesus Christ died in our stead so that we sinners could become children of God. We received sonship instead of damnation, and we didn't have to do anything but believe that His sacrifice was sufficient to accomplish this. His blood is the signature on our "adoption papers." Now God is Abba, our "Daddy." But human relationships can distort the way we see Abba. For so many people, disapproving, neglectful, preoccupied or abusive family relationships have made it difficult to see our Heavenly Dad as Someone we can completely trust. We might have a superficial relationship with family that looks okay from the outside but deep down, the wounds still ache and we have a hard time trusting.

I believe the root of the reason this woman gets up while it's still dark and then tends to her family is because she understands that God has entrusted her with representing Him to her children, before the rest of the world ever gets a chance. Think about the magnitude of that calling.

Children are so precious but so needy, and yet they can't meet any of those needs on their own! They need food, clothing, shelter, and lots of hugs and kisses. They need attention, approval, someone to tell them they did a good job. They need someone to discipline them when they've done wrong, and they need someone to teach them that the love they receive isn't based on the way they perform. But consider that Jesus told His disciples that they needed to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:17) We need to recognize that we are just as needy, and always will be. No matter how "self-sufficient" and "independent" we think we become, really, everything we have is given to us from God. But it's not just material things that we need. Even into adulthood, we so desperately need love, attention, approval, discipline and someone to teach us that the love we receive is not based on our performance. When we recognize our deep need for those things, we are becoming child-like in the way that Jesus was referring in Luke 18.

The call to family first is not because family is above God, or to be put before God. Family is not more important than God, and if it is ever elevated above Him, He is faithful to take it right back down, and usually that is a painful process. The call to family is all about God, it's because of God. It's the amazing privilege and responsibility of being able to reflect God to a human being before any other human being gets a chance. How precious and how challenging a calling!

Of course, in order to reflect God to another human being, you need to know Him yourself. And the Proverbs woman does. If we want to be like her, before we get the lunches ready, before we give the hug and kiss goodnight, and God help us! before we discipline- we need to know who HE is, how HE feeds us, how HE loves us and how HE disciplines us. If you don't know who He is, I really recommend you read the book of John. Jesus tells us so much about Himself and His Father's kingdom. Then read Matthew- more insight into our Abba and His kingdom.

Motherhood is both fleeting and continual. Fleeting because children grow up so quickly. All you moms out there- my heart is for you! I pray that you reflect His perfect love to your little ones. He will be faithful to help you! Your calling is so sacred and so serious. Cherish it, take nothing for granted. What you do makes SUCH a difference! But also continual because we are all always children. Whether your children are 5 or 35, they still need to see Abba through you. And if you don't have children, oh my goodness, there are so many out there who have never even been told that God wants to adopt them into His family.

A last word on this verse, ladies- the Proverbs lady has been called to feed her family. Of course, this is a literal call. Which is why I've got to go to the grocery store later. But it is also so much a spiritual calling. Those fruit of the spirit ought to be growing in you so that your family can eat them. Here's a challenge, if you'll take it. Ask your children what kind of fruit they are "eating" from your life- if they're old enough to understand. Ask your husband, your mother, your sister, your brother. Are you able to satisfy their hunger for patience, peace, joy? Are you kind? Are you generous? Are you self-controlled? What are you really "feeding" your family? Will we all take a moment, before the grocery store, or on the way there, or while we're cooking dinner or somewhere in between, to ask God to cultivate the spiritual food our family desperately needs and to represent Him in truth to the precious ones that He's given to us before He's given them to anybody else.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Proverbs 31- While it is still dark

I'm going to move forward a few verses today. Yesterday was a discussion about demonstrating God's love toward husband by making sure he has things of true value. Let's look forward a bit today...

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.

As I'm writing this, it is still dark outside. But I confess, I do not get up every morning before the light, so this verse is convicting to me!

A step by step look at these verses shows that the Proverbs woman is a busy girl- she's busy valuing her husband and making sure she meets his needs. She's making clothing for her household- from scratch. She's going to the grocery store- sort of. And she's making sure that her family and even the people that she works alongside have plenty to eat.

I do not think that the result of Proverbs 31 is to make us busier women. Most of us are busy enough! We juggle full time jobs and families, church and Bible study commitments. Some of us are devoted to our children's activity schedule, some of us to our own physical activities! We have to do the laundry and go to the store and make dinner and pack our children's lunchbox. We've got to balance the budget and file the taxes and make sure that the dogs get their shots. Life is busy. And this is not an appeal to add on to anyone's already busy schedule.

But I do think it's a good look at how she's doing it. She's getting up while it's still dark. But you know, it never says exactly what she's doing during that time. I like to think she's got her BSF lesson and her Bible out. Or maybe she's REAPing? Maybe she's singing songs of praise to her God, or maybe she's laying out her anxieties before Him before the sun ever rises. I'll never forget Jan Bentley saying that "prayer is more important than sleep."

I know that my problem with getting up early really lies in not believing a statement like Jan's. I think that the rest my body craves is more valuable than the time with the Lord my spirit needs. But it's really not. Whether I need rest, assurance, conviction, energy, strength, peace- He can provide that if I spend a little time with Him.

Look, I hate legalism because it steals everything good from the Lord, so please don't hear me saying "You must get up when the clock strikes 5AM and spend exactly one hour with the Lord doing the following..." You, me and the Proverbs lady have enough chores to do, time with the Lord doesn't have to become another one of them. BUT, what we can do is pray about how God would have us learn to discipline ourselves so that we can make this work in our lives. God loves to help us out with this sort of thing!

On Wednesday night, I got to pray for one of my girls in community group to be able to wake up and spend some time with God in the morning (she had asked for that) The next morning, I got a text saying that He had woken her up! God is so faithful to help us overcome our desire to roll back over and stay cozy under the covers, and I believe He blesses us throughout the day for having spent that time with Him.

I am not speaking out of mastery. But out of conviction because I want to be able to do all that this lady does- for the glory of God. And apparently it takes a little extra time. God was faithful to wake me up this morning to spend some time contemplating Him and His word.

I'll end with this- a couple weeks ago, we had a sermon on sowing and reaping. If you sow to the Spirit of God, then you will reap that Spirit's good fruit. And in case you've forgotten, the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If you think about your to-do list on a daily basis, I bet you need every single piece of fruit on that list. I know that I do! I bet Proverbs 31 woman does too. But expecting to accomplish all of the tasks described on her to-do list or your own without sowing to the Spirit is like walking out into your backyard in the middle of winter expecting to find a garden full of fresh fruits and veggies. Not gonna happen because at this time of year, you haven't even planted. So it is with these fruit. Why would I expect to be able to get through my day and all its challenges with patience and peace when all I did was get up in the morning, fold laundry, pack lunches, do some sit-ups, try to throw on make-up and get out the door. But a lot of us are living like that.

I'm not saying that life is less demanding than you think it is so you should add this thing on too. I'm saying that life is so demanding that you can't NOT make daily time with God a priority in your life. I don't want to be rigid or legalistic, so I know a lot of ladies just can't do the morning thing. I am not here to judge. But I do know that starting the day with the Lord is a constant theme throughout the Bible, and I think that it's significant here in Proverbs, as well. To begin your day with God sets the day on a fruitful course. But between you and the Lord, figure out what works for you. You've got plenty of work to do, that's for sure. God's not calling you to more work. He's calling you to rest- in Him, and He will help you tackle the rest of the demands life and family and work will put on you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Proverbs 31- valued

Before moving on from Proverbs 31, verse 11, I want to hone in on what this lady is doing for her husband, who, as we looked at yesterday, matters so much because he is a representation of God's great, complete multi-faceted love. Here's the verse again.

Her husband has full confidence in her, he lacks nothing of value.

Value is a word I have contemplated so much over the past year. When I took on the challenge of writing Snapshots, I had no idea how much God would allow me to be put on trial so that I could experience one of the fundamental truths from His Word that is a focal point of that book! That truth is- no matter what the world says, every child of God is precious, loved and valued by Him.

MercyMe has written a fantastic song to express this truth, and there are days when this line from "Beautiful" plays on repeat in my mind-

You're beautiful, you're beautiful, you are treasured, you are sacred, you are His.

But why does MercyMe need to write a song like "Beautiful"? Why have I been burdened with Snapshots? Because people tell us that we're not beautiful. That we're not worth anything. That we're not wanted, we're not important, we're not valued. And for so many of us, that message is going on at home. Either it was the father who criticized, the mother we couldn't please, the husband we married who soon started valuing images from the computer more than his wife's real beauty or some other voice that communicate through actions or words, "you're not worth anything to me."As Christians, I think we have this idea that the "big bad world" is out there making people feel worthless. But, what I encounter time and again are people who have been hurt at home, by people who often claim to know and love Jesus, but who have not communicated His love well.

So before we go letting ourselves off the hook thinking, "Well, I certainly don't make people feel that way! Whew!" Let's really consider what the Proverbs 31 woman is teaching us. This woman is challenged first with making sure she communicates to her husband that he is greatly valued. I see this as a challenging, but life-giving truth that I just praise God for today.

God does not want anyone to feel worthless. Nor does He want them to feel like their worth lies within their efforts, their talents, their background. Being a Christian means carrying the light yoke of communicating that through Jesus Christ everyone is considered worthy. Proverbs 31 is a clear message we need to put on that yoke and do that work for the Lord within the closest, most intimate relationship you'll have in this life- marriage. But how easy is it to go the opposite direction! It can be so easy to treat a total stranger as if they are valuable, worthy of our time, our patience, our money when we ignore those closest to us, or even heap abuse on them because we just think we can. If there was ever evidence of how sin completely dupes us it's thinking that we can treat our family- particularly our husbands- like trash and think that won't affect them spiritually. We treat strangers better than those most precious to us, when really, it's those precious ones to whom Jesus has called us first. We are to communicate clearly to our love, our friend, our family, our husband- "You are worth much to me because you are worth so much to Him!"

Proverbs 31:11 is a clear call back to this most amazing relationship to be our mission field. Yes, we should look outward- to the poor, the needy, the hurting in the world. There are people, even entire nations who are treated as if they were worth nothing at all. Social justice is most definitely an implication of the Gospel, and it's a part of this Proverbs lady's job description. But before she ever gets to that, she's to regard her husband as a man of worth and value every single day.

Notice that the Proverbs lady is going to show her husband how much he is valued by making sure he has every valuable thing. He lacks nothing. And the result is that he has confidence in her. I like that. I would like Andy to feel confident in me all of the time. And I would think it would be pretty easy to put your confidence in someone who supplies you with every thing of value.

So here's a challenge to you and me on how we can become women who are not just worth much to the Lord, but are also worthy of confidence from the husbands that He's provided.

1. Share what the Lord values. Above all else, study and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ. Know His life story. Beg Him for understanding, seek His heart. He will help you value what He values- His truth, His Word, His people. And then share those things readily with your husband. Nothing is of greater value than the Word of God- immerse yourself in it, and let it flow from you to him on a daily basis.

2. Share what he values. Here's a sure-fire indication that you're treating someone as if they are worth something to you- you know what they value. Think of the person or thing that you know the very most about- chances are good that person is the very most important in your life. You know all about them, and you probably go out of your way to talk to them and to others about them. So, if you're a married lady and you answered that question with the name of someone other than your hubby, do a little digging. Ask your hubby questions- what does he like to eat? What would he like to do this weekend? What would he want to learn? What book has he been wanting to read? Make an intentional effort to find out what he values and then, as much as you are able, and as long as it gives God glory, give it to him!

For you single gals, this can be fun, if you're willing, and I know a lot of you are. You might not have met Mr. Right yet, but I bet you can imagine the kind of valuable things you want to be able to give to him when you do meet him. If you want to be able to cook him up his favorite dish, practice cooking now! Think you might like to be able to go hunting or camping with him? Find a group who does that sort of thing now. Be intentional to develop the kind of skills you want to be able to bless your husband with and make time to practice them now. I'm not just talking about domestic skills like cooking and cleaning, but practice patience, being a good listener, thinking before you speak, etc. You're smart, creative girls. Chances are, you've got a million ideas already about the kind of wife you want to be. It's never to early to start putting into practice those valuable gifts you want to be able to give your husband some day.

3. Share what you value. Quick anecdote: I've been tutoring at Reagan High School. If you're not from Austin, think of one of the worst high schools in your area- you're now thinking about Reagan. I'm there to convey that message the Lord's put on my heart this year- everyone is valued by Him. But, in the time I've been there, I haven't seen someone come alongside them and tell them they value them too much to allow them to waste valuable learning time texting or listening to their iPod. So I was a little nervous to throw down the gauntlet and say, "No phones on my time." (Which is really their time) I developed a plan. I bought a wire basket and a bag of peanut butter Snickers. I went to tutoring today and said, "You can put your electronic equipment in this basket and when we're done, you can get a piece of candy OR you can keep it in your pocket, but I don't want to see it." I was shocked at the speed at which those phones and iPods made it into that basket. Candy- the universal motivator! I'm telling this story because those kids and I come from different parts of the city and are different in a lot of ways, but I shared something I value- chocolate and peanut butter!- with them, and they responded with willingness and even excitement! I didn't really know how that was going to go, because I wasn't sure that they would value a piece of candy over 45 minutes apart from their cellular device. Fortunately, they did. My point is- share with your husband what you would want shared with you. A hug, a backrub, fifteen minutes just listening. Granted, giving your husband a mani/pedi might be taking it a little too far, but you never know! ;)

The important thing is to ask God to help our hearts value this work that He has given to us. We reflect His love to the world- we are His hands, His feet, His mouth and His heart. He's telling us to start that mission at home- to our husband. Don't think that all your good work outside of the home is going to make up for neglecting your husband. It won't. God, your husband and your kids won't be fooled. Instead, what they will learn that rather than being able to have confidence in you, they need to look outside of your marriage/family to feel valued. And that never leads to anything of any value.

I'm challenged! Are you? What can we do in the next few days to communicate to our husbands (or husbands to be) that we value them?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Proverbs 31- why hubby matters most

So yesterday was a discussion about nobility as the Daughter of the King, and today is a discussion about being the King's bride... only within the Trinity is that possible and not at all creepy! And that's really the gist of today's blog about verse 11.

The wife of noble character has already been identified as a woman of great value. She's been assigned that value because of her position in the Lord. Now, the proverb begins the detailed job description given to the King's daughters.

When I started teaching, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I'd been hired, and had the "qualifications" (I could coach and had a degree in Biology) but I didn't have any experience! I'm sure that when you started your occupation- whether in corporate setting, or as a new mom or a medical professional, you were in similar shoes. You might have read the books and gotten the training in school, or asked the experts, but reading and seeing is different than doing. But think how lost you would have been had you not had people to come alongside you and say, "I've been doing this forever. This is what works for me. Learn from me and then add your own personal touches." I was blessed enough to have three amazing Biology teachers do that very thing for me. They are most certainly women of excellence, and I'm naming names because theirs are worth remembering- Janice Daniels, Anita Castle, and Danielle Steinhauser. When it came to Biology, they had it going on! Highest test scores in the state of North Carolina, a near-perfect pass rate on those tests, not to mention their incredible heart for their students. There is no question in my mind that when I learned how to teach, I learned from the best of the best.

That's kind of what the rest of Proverbs 31 is- not a to-do list, like we said (And Mrs. Haley agreed with me, so I must be on the right track) but an opportunity to look at the "expert" on womanly and wifely matters- the best of the best- and see how she does things. Learn from her, her way is tried and true, and then put your personal spin in there to fit the life the Lord has given you.

So, one of the things that I think is important when learning from the expert is to see where their priorities lie. What's first on this lady's heart and mind? Like so many things in the Bible, I believe that the order in which things are presented gives insight into their significance. For example, when names are listed in the Bible, they are generally an indication of age and/or honor. The eldest/most honored names are often at the top of the list and so on and so forth. So, I think it means much that the first person who comes to mind for this excellent wife is her husband.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. vs.11

If you're single, don't quit reading yet. There's something muy importante here for every woman because, like I said yesterday, really, when it comes down to it, we're all wives. I began to think about why it would be that husband comes first. Is it that he is that special? That needy? Why not children first? Why not career first? Why not poor people living in filth first? I look at my hubby and he's a pretty sturdy guy- he can definitely take care of himself in a pinch, so why is it that God has commanded me to consider my husband before I consider any other human being or any other task He's given to me?

I think a clue can be found in one of my all-time favorite verses- Isaiah 54:5, "For your Maker is your husband- the Lord Almighty is His name- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth." There are lots of identities that God assigns to Himself so that we can understand our relationship with Him. He says He's our family member (Father and Brother), He's our Teacher, our Master, our King, our Shepherd, our Friend... and here in Isaiah He's saying He is our Husband. The same idea is repeated throughout the New Testament through the imagery of the church as the Bride of Christ. We daughters of the king aren't just waiting for a family member and/or a Mighty Warrior, we're waiting for a husband- a lover of our hearts and souls! One who we will know in the most intimate, exclusive way. That's why hubby comes first- because marriage is the only human relationship in which we are able to experience the fullness (albeit only a shadow) of God's love in purity and holiness.

A little background: C.S. Lewis wrote a famous book called The Four Loves. I've never read it, but I heard an excellent sermon series on it. In that series, the pastor described the loves written about in the New Testament- storge, (family love: the love between parents and children and brothers and sisters) philia (friendship love) eros (romantic, intimate, sexual love) and agape (God's perfect love that expects nothing in return). I think that the reason that husband comes first on this wonder-woman's priority list is because an earthly husband is the most complete reflection of who our real Husband is. Marriage is such a unique relationship because it's the only relationship we have on Earth that incorporates all of the four loves, and, in fact, requires all four to grow healthy and strong. Andy is my family, my friend, my love and my spiritual partner. I believe that God intends for the marriage relationship to be a shadow of the intimate relationship we will share with Him in eternity. I've thought of this a lot recently as I've studied Jesus' remarks to the Sadducees who asked Jesus about "marriage at the resurrection" recorded in Luke 20:27-40. Jesus tells the Sadducees that people won't be married at the resurrection because they will be God's children, and will be like the angels. I've heard that explained a couple of different ways, and I guess we won't really know until we get there, but it just makes sense to me that when we are untied at last with our the Bridegroom, Jesus, our earthly marriages will no longer be necessary.

This gets me to my main point for today. From this lesson, I've really thought about what it means to put hubby first. There's a lot of application there. First of all, I think that whether you have a husband or you're waiting for one, it's good to pause for as long as it takes and remember that why God has exalted marriage above other human relationships. Marriage is a gift, but is only a reflection- a tool God uses to help you understand Him better. That makes me stand in awe of my Maker- to think that He wants to be my family, my friend and to know me intimately and purely. Why does God want us to put husband first? Because He is Husband- He is all four loves in perfect unity and harmony, and we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Every other relationship flows out of that.

The next thing that really gives me pause is realizing that how I treat my husband is a symbol of how I treat my Husband. I really do think that the relationship is meant to reflect His perfect union with His bride, which means when I treat my husband in a dishonorable way, I am really showing the world that it's okay to treat God that way. And, world, it's not okay to treat God with dishonor- not at all. This is a huge challenge to me- to see my husband, not as a god, that would be idolatry- but as a symbol of my true Husband, for whom I am still waiting, and to treat him with honor, respect, attention and care, as I would treat my Husband in heaven.

Another thing that has had my brain ringing for two days is that teaching young ladies, and I'm talking from like three years and up- that hubby comes first is a very important lesson. Andy and I have talked about how if we have children, a daughter in particular, that we want to honor God by asking Him to help us prepare a place in our hearts and our family for their spouse-to-be before they are ever born. I know that is sort of counter-cultural because we don't want little girls growing up thinking they need a man, but we do want them growing up knowing and believing that God is their Husband, and if He decides to bless them with a husband in their lifetime, then that relationship comes before any other. We want to preserve the woman's heart that will grow out of the little girl's longings. We want to teach her that God is her Husband first and that He is able to provide one special man for her in her lifetime, and we want to guard that young man's heart and protect their marriage before they ever meet. How to do that, I am not sure, but I will say that kids learn from what they see, I know that much from experience. Though I remember my dad saying things to me from time to time about how my mom was the most important person in his life, I don't think that marriage was something talked about a whole lot in my household while I was growing up. However, exalting God through marriage most certainly was and still is. To this day, I know my parents choose one another above all others. They love, honor, respect and serve one another and that their marriage comes before any other earthly relationship, and they do this because this is what God has commanded in His Word. Andy and I want to be faithful to speak and act in truth, if God gives us the opportunity in the future, which means demonstrating our own exclusive love for one another and protecting it, as well as speaking words of truth into the next generation's life- "Your Maker is your Husband. Preserve your heart, your mind, your body for that relationship above all, and for the marriage that He may provide, if it's His will."

The thing that I've seen happen in my own life and other's is that when young women do not understand or choose not to believe that "hubby matters most" they can give themselves over to relationships that don't reflect God's glory, and, in fact, dishonor Him, others and their own hearts, minds & bodies. Of course, physical impurity through dating relationships is quick to come to mind, but I've also seen this happen in sibling relationships, friendships, and even when parents elevate children above their spouse. The result is always the same- broken hearts, broken relationships. It's not that any of those other relationships are bad. They are a blessing! And they reflect God's love, to be sure. But none of those other relationships- dating, which is glorified friendship and should therefore be rooted in philia, sibling relationships, which ought to be filled with storge and philia, and parenting, also storge and maybe a little later on in life some philia too (hopefully all reflect agape!)-encompass all four loves. Marriage only should cultivate and bear the fruit of all four loves. Trying our hand at cultivating the four loves in any other relationship bears bad fruit that leads to destruction- every. single. time.

The challenge with that is that we have to trust God completely. While we wait for marriage, it's so tempting to strive for the intimacy and romance that eros offers- how our heart and body longs for it! But to taste and see before God has given us a husband defiles us and dishonors Him. Even with friends, brothers, sisters, and children- our heart can crave the significance, attention or intimate love that eros offers. Rather than having a, "the more the merrier" attitude that storge and philia should always produce, even these God-given relationships can become selfish and entitled, producing the "we need to be alone" or "I am entitled to privacy with this person" attitude which is an indication of eros. What I am saying is that we will always crave all four loves. We were made in God's image, and He is love, complete love- we will want all four. But all four is exclusive- only the husband can meet the desire for each and every love, and only through the love of our true Husband can he ever do that.

So wait in faith, sisters who are waiting to experience all four loves in an earthly relationship, but know that He is already your Husband, and He loves you every moment of every day with the fullness of all four loves. And that if it is His will, then He will be faithful to bring you a husband who will be your family, friend and lover- with whom you can delight in all of God's love in purity, with great joy! Please, let's all be faithful to protect our hearts and one another's- to refrain from cultivating intimacy and exclusivity bordering on eros with anyone other than the husband God provides. And, if we are happily (or otherwise) married, let's remember that husband comes first because he is the reflection of the King- and all of the love that He pours out to our hungry hearts. So be thankful! Elevate and honor him, because of Christ Jesus, our Bridegroom, for who we are making our hearts pretty, even today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Proverbs 31- Where that noble girl be?

Okay, so the reason that I stepped out a limb yesterday and claimed that Proverbs 31 is for every woman is because of the very first verse.

A wife of noble character who can find?

I like what Webster's dictionary has to say about the word "noble." It can mean, of high rank, birth or title, and also means choice, excellent, of good character. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ- you already are "noble" in one sense of the word and you're given the opportunity to become more "noble" in the other sense day by day. Here's what I mean- you are of high rank, title and birth. But before you get an online pedigree, your noble title doesn't have anything to do with your physical heritage. In fact, those are the sort of things that can cause people to become more arrogant and less noble in the other sense. But you are given a noble title as a Daughter of the Might High.

I met this night manager at Waffle House one cold evening who shared with me the most profound spiritual truth. I was studying my Bible and he came over and started chatting with me. He was so excited to get to talk about the Lord during his Waffle House shift! (He was also going to school to become a pastor) Anyway, at one point in the conversation, he said, "See, I'm a royal child...a child of the King!" I've never forgotten that expression. Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly low, beat up, rejected by the world and the people in it, I'll think to myself,"Well, no matter. I'm a royal child, a child of the King."

So each of God's daughters are therefore, noblewomen, in the sense that we belong to a royal family- God's family.

But we are also noble in the other sense of the word- choice, excellent, of good character. Look at what Hebrews 10 has to say about us.

By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

How about that? Our royal Big Brother- King Jesus- has already made us perfect through the sacrifice of His own body. And now, we are being made holy. Meaning that, we are becoming more set apart, more choice, more outstanding because we are becoming more like Him! With Him as our example, and His Holy Spirit bearing fruit in us, we have the power and ability to develop the character of Christ.

So what's the problem, then? Why is King Lemuel (writer of Proverbs 31 and probably a Nom de plume for King Solomon) saying these ladies are hard to find? I know a few myself who some fella could stumble upon and find some sweet treasure there! But I suppose that's the problem, these noble ladies don't get stumbled over. Lemuel says that such a woman is like a ruby- a gem you have to go digging for. A noble woman like this has to be looked for.

I say this with all respect to my single sisters, because singleness is a trial of great magnitude- but, ladies, your role is at least defined for you. You know who you are- noble women, daughter's of the King- and who you can continue to become- more and more Christ-like in your character, because God has already set you apart. He has "hidden" you, as His own treasured possession, so that when you are found, you will be treasured as He intended you to be.

And for those of you who are already wives, be encouraged, as well! Maybe it's been a while since you saw yourself as treasure, but you most certainly are. You may have been married for thirty years, but you're still a treasure to the Lord, and you're still called to develop more and more Christlike "nobility."

Proverbs 31, I believe, can be misconstrued to a "do and do" list. And, I'm saying, if I've got to do the exact same stuff this woman does, then I'm not ever going to be considered a "noble" wife. But I don't think that it's meant to be a check-list. I don't have to do all the things she does so that I can be a good wife. I am a good wife, so I can do the things she does. Do you see the difference? It's my high calling, my position in Christ Jesus that enables me to believe that.

I think another verse that supports this position is Proverbs 18:22.

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.

See, when this man (who is also of noble character, hopefully) finds this noble woman, he is finding something that is already good. It's not that she was no good, worthless and then he found her and now she's worth something. And it's not that he found her and now she can spend the rest of her life trying to check off the proverbial list so that she can become good. No, she is good. She is a considered a part of the Lord's favor.

No matter where you are in life- married, single, divorced, a mom, a career woman or a combination of those things- if you are a daughter of the King, then you are already noble, already perfect, because He has made you that way. So the rest of Proverbs 31 is for you! It's a way to become more and more like Him, more and more holy. More excellent, of great character- His character. But good news, you don't have to do it in your own power. Don't start getting anxious or arrogant (sometimes Proverbs 31 can make some women feel like they've got it all together!) but we'll get to that later...

I'll end with a word of encouragement. If you are a married woman, remember that being a good wife begins with your position as God's noble daughter and if you are a woman waiting to be married, then you're in the exact same position! You are a royal child, a noble woman, a child of the King!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Proverbs 31

My one-year anniversary is coming up! I'm excited to celebrate this event almost as much as I was excited to get married in the first place. Excited because God is so faithful to make all things new.

There will be a special entry dedicated to God's glory through our marriage closer to the actual anniversary date, but I wanted to do something a little differently on here leading up to the anniversary for a couple of reasons. It seems that God has given me a few encouragements lately about evaluating where I'm at as His daughter, His servant and Andy's partner. I felt like the encouragements came in the following ways:

1. Through community. Our missional community is going through some transition, and we're looking to God and to one another to sharpen and refine one another as believers. Part of that involves a pursuit for greater transparency and accountability within our group. Accountability has always been sort of a scary idea for me, but this past year, I've been more grateful for it than ever. I've become aware of the effect that sin has on a life, and on every relationship that comes out of that life. Even a little sin, left alone, can fester into a life-stealing wound of the soul. Accountability gives, no- requires- that no sin get swept under the rug to ferment there and make the life, and therefore the entire body, putrid. Confession is a sweet release, a chance to expose and cleanse, an opportunity to begin renewal- and I've hungered for it and taken advantage of it when it's been available to me this past year. But we're looking at starting to make accountability a routine part of life- a "no, seriously, how are you sinning?" meeting is going to become a part of my regular agenda, so I am challenged to pursue God for awareness of where I am sinning and also wisdom concerning His standards, so that I will know the bull's eye, as I aim to please Him.

2. Through BSF. Personal Evaluation seminar is on Saturday, and so far, it's my favorite BSF seminar. It's a 2 hour time to spend with God, seeking Him as His daughter and His servant, and asking Him to help you understand how and where He wants you to strengthen, change or let go so that you can represent Him the way that He wants you to.

3. Through the women in my life. This year has brought a lot of change for a lot of the women that I know and love. There have been marriages, divorces, babies, break-ups, career changes, funerals just to name a few. And I'm astounded at how so many of the women that I know continue to seek God in new ways, continuing to yearn for greater relationship, greater dependence, greater joy- regardless of their circumstances. As an onlooker, I'm amazed at how these women press on and continue to become the women that He has made them to be.

So, what I want to do for the next couple of weeks is spend some time devoted to being a woman. So I'm going to break down Proverbs 31. When I was single, I knew this Proverb, but to be honest, I didn't love it because I wasn't a wife. But what I'm realizing is that the Proverbial woman is not just for someone with a wedding ring on her left finger. I'm beginning to see that all women are called as wives, mothers, workers, care-takers, life-givers. We're all called to this high and noble station as God's daughters- whether we marry or have children or work outside of the home or not. And what I want to do is spend some time on here looking at how we can build up one another, rather than tearing each other down. How we can appreciate one another, rather than fearing and despising each other. And how we can understand one another, though we are intentionally, magnificently different.

More to come...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Growing up, I was taught to esteem Dr. King's work, mainly by my dad, who has always been (praise God) void of racial prejudice, and an advocate for justice. I couldn't help but link what we learned in church yesterday with one of my favorite of Dr. King's writings. Jeff Mangum taught from Philippians 1&2. Paul is writing from prison, boldly telling the brothers in Christ that his suffering is already being used to further the Gospel.

Jeff laid this out for us in an incredible challenge, but with great humility. He admitted to his own struggles with anxiety and depression, and confessed that when suffering comes, he likes to withdraw, to become a "lone ranger." And yet, he challenged us to consider that behavior for what it truly is- a vacation with self into what he called the "porta-potty of suffering." When hard times come, we so often like to retreat from others, pushing them away, claiming internally that there is no way that they could understand our pain. We think we are entitled to our silence, to the self-preservation that seems our only hope at the moment.

And yet, the result is always the same- pulling away, retreating into your suffering causes disunity and division in the body. Not only will you suffer, but you will cause others to suffer, and potentially lead them into sin by withdrawing, considering them unable or unworthy of knowing the truth, of sharing your suffering, or of rebuking you in love and truth.

How I have seen this very thing happen- how I have watched this retreat into self, this entitlement to pain cause relationships to completely die. It breaks my heart. But not only that- when we're in the porta-potty of suffering, whether we are silent there or moaning about our sufferings, God receives absolutely no glory, and the Gospel gets no further. In fact, people who do not know the Lord Jesus might look at Christians as we cower into ourselves, reject accountability, or bemoan our situation and think, "if that's all that you get when you know Jesus, then He's really not worth knowing."

I am not talking about abandoning transparency. What is "witnessing" if not telling a truthful account of what Jesus Christ has done in your life, through your difficulties and hardships? God's not asking you to "put on a happy face" for Him and other people. He's commanded you to cast your cares upon Him, and trust Him to supply every need- not just the physical and financial needs, the emotional ones too. He's saying, "Let others see your belief when the waters are raging. Let them see your hurt. Confess the sin that you have committed. Continue to speak the truth to one another. Continue to trust me." Sometimes that means being truthful about your hardship, being transparent with your struggle, but maintaining a firm belief in God's strength.

Retreating is such an indication of when belief is running on empty. People like to justify it as something very noble, "I needed time alone to think, to pray." But when that time turns into days, weeks, months, even years- what it demonstrates is that you do not trust God to work through your pain, you do not trust Him to work in the lives of others either, you trust yourself. And that does absolutely nothing.

Paul had another option for us believers. He said, "consider others more significant than yourselves." Your suffering is not greater than others, and it is certainly not greater than Jesus Christ. So Paul said that we should dwell on Him, think like Him, have an attitude like Him. Consider Jesus Christ, who never entered the porta-potty of suffering, never withdrew into His pain and wouldn't let anyone access Him there. Who suffered so that His Father could be glorified and grace could be ours.

So, in that vein of suffering, suffering that promotes God's glory, that says, "NO!" to the pride that tempts us to curl up and feel so sorry for ourselves, I want to share a part of Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." What a testimony to continuing to stand for the truth about Jesus Christ, in the face of suffering, even when people are telling you, "this is too much, back down." The letter is chock-pull of wisdom and truth, and I'd recommend you make the time to read the whole thing some day. But, I've chosen this particular excerpt because I believe we still fight this fight- the fight for freedom. True, authentic spiritual freedom that does not see color, that does not hoard sin, that does not fear death- physical or emotional, that rejoices in truth, that overcomes every obstacle through the grace and power of Jesus Christ.

In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom.

Christian, how are you suffering? Are you suffering unto death for the cause of Jesus Christ? Death to self? Or are you still coddling your pain in selfishness? That life is no life at all. But to Him be the glory. No suffering exists that is too great for Him. No wound too deep for Him to heal. No matter what the cost, all that will remain is the insurmountable truth that He is God.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ who... made Himself nothing... and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January joys

It's been raining for something like 36 hours. Last week, almost every day was cloudy and gray, and the weekend topped off the drabness with legitimate rain.

I'm not bothered by it. Actually, it's been fun. Last year during this time, I was getting ready for end of course tests with my Biology students, anxiously anticipating the wedding and was dreadfully sad about moving to Texas. With all of that going on, I didn't really notice the winter. There were a lot of other things on my mind.

After the honeymoon skiing in Idaho, and the weeks of joyful but strange transition into married life- "oh! you live here too! ha!- it seemed like spring sprung quickly in Texas. Either I was preoccupied with change or the weather fooled me, I can't remember accurately, but I don't remember weeks of gray, cold, rain in 2010. In any event, it's been sort of a challenge this week to stay warm and dry and bring color and fun into our home.

I won't go into every detail, but will just highlight some of the new things we've been up to. Here are some favorites from the past few weeks:

1. Soup: I didn't like soup much for years past, but now that I am the primary feeder and budget-organizer, soup and I are becoming pleasantly well acquainted. This week's favorite was from the January issue of Better Homes and Gardens- New Year's Dumpling soup. It was really easy to make- frozen potstickers, vegetable broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, carrots and green onion and was delicious and warm going down.

2. Color: BHG's February issue is all about color. I liked looking through the pages a lot, but had already started incorporating color into the house just after Christmas. I've got some healthy house plants- two luscious cabbages, deeply purple at the moment and another leafy plant (I can't remember the name) that's striped with pink! And of course there's Calvin, my long-time house-plant that I think is a philodendron, but I'm not really sure. While Andy and I were purging our bookshelves on New Years Day, we came across an old book from the 70's called 200 House Plants in Color. It's fantastic! In there, I found a plant called Rhaphidophora aurea and it looks a lot more like Calvin than the philodendron pictures that I've seen. In any event, I learned all about houseplants, and am especially excited to pursue the following options for next year (didn't get a quick enough start this year) tulips and/or crocus, narcissus, and an indoor orange tree! But aside from the foliage, I'm also a big fan of wearing color when it's gray outside, so I've been donning my hot pink scarf when I head out, and I've got my favorite table cloth on the kitchen table. It's a French provincial style with lots of colorful blossoms. I got it at the Holly Day Fair a few years ago and is one of my favorite purchases I ever got from there. I'm also trying to keep lots of colorful fruit out on the counter- both good to look at and good for us!

3. The Idiot. Nothing is much better than curling up with a good book in weather like this. I've been wanting to read Dostoevsky's The Idiot for years, and haven't made the time. I'm not even 100 pages in, but I'm enchanted already by the Christ-like Prince Myshkin and the parallels to social "normalcies" that Dostoevsky bravely mocks in this book that will surely be a life-changer.

4. Date night. Even though it's been cold out, Andy and I have gotten to go out two nights this past week. One night was a planned date-night, and we went with the tried and true movie night option. We saw "True Grit" which was well worth the 9 dollars. I loved Maddy Ross's character- bold and candid and on a mission- and I adored the language. Whoever wrote that script deserves a slap on the back. It was thoroughly enjoyable language- something that's hardly encountered at the movies, which is a shame. The second date night came as a surprise from my friend Toi, who graciously offered us her Friday night tickets to the symphony because she and her husband were unable to make it. It was an unexpected surprise in many ways because not only did we get to do something out of the ordinary, but apparently the event itself was different for the Austin Symphony. The first half of the performance was a historical look at Dvorak's 9th symphony, and included details about the influences on this most unique and beautiful piece of music. The historical details were read by three actors, and there was a slide show that depicted pictures from Dvorak's muses for this piece- his own Bohemia, Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha, Negro spirituals, and even the bird songs of whippoorwills and robins. After intermission, the symphony played the 9th symphony which was a truly rich experience, having just had the historical background explained so eloquently. But, as always happens, I ended up getting lost in the music- which is as it should be- and I was carried away into my own memory rather than to Bohemia or the American West.

5. Quality time. My favorite for this week has been the time I've gotten to spend with my person. Andy and I intentionally stayed in all day yesterday, after we both got home from leader's meeting. We played the playstation 3 that Grant gave us for Christmas (thank you, Grant!) and watched episodes of the Office on the Netflix stream. We ate pizza and then tried to "work it off" by laughing our way through P90X cardio. We talked about Jesus and what we've been learning and even sang some of our favorite songs from the Stone and our leader's hymnal. And this morning, we've spent cuddled under covers and Cocker Spaniels, reading and making a list of the things we want to learn and the places we want to go. This afternoon we're on a mission to get Andy a new book and Grant a record, then church and spaghetti night with friends at our apartment.

One of the lessons that I learned from Hezekiah this week was that when showing off the blessings that the Lord has given, be sure to give Him all glory. And so, I just want to say that I am thankful to God for soup and color, beautiful words and music and my sweet friend, Andy. To God be the glory for the things He has done! There are too many blessings to recount all of them, but the greatest blessing of all is to know that His love is mine to behold and nothing can separate me from that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hezekiah's second chance

Ok, I gotta go back and give Hezekiah some credit. Apparently, there was quite a bit of "little old lady" in him. Like I said yesterday, I hadn't read the rest of the story yet. This is a good story and I wanted to stretch it out a bit. But what I had read was a little historical background from 2 Kings 18. I'm not a scholar so I'm not 100% sure of this but it seems that Hezekiah had been intimidated by the Assyrians prior to the field commander's smack talk.

If that's the correct context, then I love this story even more! In 2 Kings 18, Sennacherib made his threats and Hezekiah sent this word back- "I have done wrong. Withdraw from me." Then he went to the temple, the temple- of all places- and stripped if of its riches and handed them over to the king. Poor Hezekiah. I can soooooo relate. Stealing God's glory to pay off scoffer, mockers, intimidators. Ugh.

Some of you know I used to keep another blog. It was titled, "Whatever You Think", and on that blog I kept track of the way God led me and taught me while I was a single girl. There you could find the stories of my heart's longing for a husband- and God's fulfillment of that longing! I told the truth there- the truth about God and His faithfulness to me through times of loneliness, confusion and great joy. Then someone came along and talked some trash about it- made some false accusations, put me down. My response was just like Hezekiah's- "I have done wrong." But rather than saying, "withdraw from me" I withdrew and didn't write for a while. A friend lovingly rebuked me- and I'm thankful to her! So I began to write "The Pen and the Sword."

So here's what I'm getting from Hezekiah today, and I'm as pumped up about this as I was the little old lady from yesterday- maybe even more so. He was given a second chance. If it did happen that he had caved to Sennacherib once, God was so faithful to give him another chance to demonstrate his belief and God's awesome power! What an amazing principle about God- one that gives me so much hope because I have failed so many times. Where would I be without God's second, third, fourth and even fifteenth chances! But there's also something here to be seen about the nature of those who refuse to revere God. They are never satisfied. Sennacherib had already received from Hezekiah the choicest gold and silver in the land, and yet, he wasn't through with his intimidation.

But the second time around, Hezekiah did a wonderful thing. You can read it in 2 Kings 19:14-19 or in Isaiah 37:14-20. Hezekiah took the threatening message that he had received and he laid it out before the Lord. I love that he literally laid it out before the God of the Universe, as if to say, "Do you see this! I know you do!" What an amazing thing to do- what a demonstration of Hezekiah's belief that the Lord cared about him and would be concerned with these threats against Himself, this righteous king and His people. Then Hezekiah acknowledged the Lord's power- "O Lord Almighty!"- he said. How different this is from my prayers, which so often are filled with doubt. Hezekiah seems so confident that not only is God completely able to handle this Assyrian army and its vicious threats but that He would want to do so! Though Hezekiah calls Him the Maker of Heaven and Earth, he does not consider the Lord too busy out there in the cosmos to take interest in every word spoken in this intimidating message. Instead, Hezekiah beckons the Lord to see and hear every insult made by this enemy.

Then comes my favorite part, the part that I have never prayed before and never really thought to pray. The part that shows belief so great, security so strong that I'm intimidated- not by threats- but by Hezekiah's faith! He says to the Lord, "It is true, O Lord, that kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands...Now, O Lord our God, deliver us." What absolutely blows my mind is that Hezekiah acknowledges the truth- the force of evil that Assyria was and the wake of destruction they left behind and he says, essentially- because you are my God, I am asking you to make an exception. Do you get that? The nerve, right!? Here's Hezekiah, the guy who gave away God's gold, asking God to make an exception and spare him and his kingdom. Why should God do something like that? The same reason He does anything- for His own glory.

God cannot share His glory. And in this situation, it was His own name that was being threatened. Assyria was calling God a wimp and a liar. Hezekiah saw this, and responded by asking the Lord to take notice and not allow anyone to confuse Him with the false gods of the nations that Assyria had brought down to destruction. It's not arrogance on Hezekiah's part- it's actually humility. He is in the right position because he is looking to the Lord for deliverance and expecting the Lord to defend His people and uphold His name. We look at Hezekiah and say, "Wow! What belief! That's commendable." But we look at believers who are doing this today and say, "What arrogance. What condescension!" What is arrogant and foolish is to not consider yourself in a position to receive the Lord's help. If we respond to the intimidating threats of others by backing down, essentially, we reveal a belief that says that we are not "worthy" of God's help. And why not? Probably because we think we're not "good enough" for it. That's what happens to me a lot. Some person comes along and insults me and rather than standing confidently in God's grace through Jesus Christ, I back down, "withdraw" and grow bitter inside. But there's no need for that! Whether the accusations made against me are true or false, what difference does it make! No one is given the authority to judge except God Himself! No one knows the truth but Him. And to Him- I am worthy, I am clean, because I am Christ's.

God knows where the heart is- hardened, unbelieving, haughty or confidently seeking His grace. In Hezekiah's case, the heart was in the right place, and God responded with what the Bible calls, a "mighty hand and outstretched arm!" He sent the angel of the Lord to slaughter 185,000 of Sennacherib's soldiers. The rest of the Assyrian army turned back and Sennacherib himself was killed by his own sons.

What encouragement there is to all of us who have given in to intimidation before. Dear friends who love the Lord as I do- let our hearts not be troubled. What a beautiful lesson the Lord has given! We can be believe in Him, sure in our position as His children, humble in that we are only here because of His grace, cautious to confess our sin daily so that we stay close to Him- but confident that His glory and our good are His business. (Romans 8:28) We can ask to be the exception. Even when patterns have gone of for years that are frightening, threatening, and seem impossible to stop. We can, like Hezekiah, petition the Lord Almighty, who has authority over all things to make an exception, to deliver us and display His glory, because simply- He is our God.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Talkin' Trash

I have one biological brother, it's true. But, when I think back on my childhood, I feel like a lot of the time, it was more like I had three brothers. That's because I spent so much time with the Haley boys, Brad and David. There are a lot of wonderful life lessons I learned from this dynamic. Lessons like, if you're slow, get faster. If you're weak, get stronger. If you're whining, suck it up. If you're a tattle, you're not to be trusted. And if you have a problem, be prepared to duke it out and then get over it.

That might sound rough, but I think that as I get older and realize the complexity of people, I really miss the simplicity of this way of life. Go one round with a passive aggressive female, and you'll be aching for a fist fight just so you can move on with your life.

I don't regret the lessons I learned from my "brothers" and I don't think it messed me up too much. :) In fact, I'm really thankful for some of the hard knocks. It made me stronger, and made me learn to persevere. But one thing that I have apparently forgotten is how to deal with a little trash. Verbal trash.

Whenever I think about talkin' trash, I go back in my mind to memories of my brother and his friends and their obvious physical superiority in all things athletic. Not only were my "brothers" older (well, Brad and Grant were) and stronger (I swear David was always stronger than me, too, even though he's seven years younger!) they were all incredibly athletic. Not that I was a clutz or anything, but I stood no chance when it came to sports. But that didn't mean that I backed down without a fight. How many games of 1 on 1 and H-O-R-S-E did we play? Millions. It had to have been millions. Not to mention the Nintendo games, roller hockey, soccer, kickball...

What I learned from these boys is that trash talk is a normal part of boy behavior. I say boy behavior because I'm not sure that I ever quite got the knack of talking smack (though in recent years I've met some girls who are quite gifted) at least I never really felt comfortable or like I could really throw down an authoritative insult- not that I didn't try. I just always felt like a phony. But the boys- they were naturals. I can see in my mind right now Brad, dribbling a ball in one hand, uttering threats and announcing total devastation to his opponent- before the game had ever begun.

Well, apparently my "brothers" were only carrying on a millenia-old tradition amongst males (and probably some females too). I read a pretty fantastic story about a gifted trash-talker in Isaiah 36 today. What was going on was King Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, sent a field commander to Judah to talk some smack to the Hebrews. And the guy was good! It's really a funny story- you should check it out. He probably had the Israelites shakin in their thong-sandals. He even told them they were going to eat, well, you know what... Seriously, it's in the Bible.

Now I've purposefully not read the rest of the story yet, but I know that the King of Judah caves in to Assyria. However, I know that God used this story to help me consider something that happened in my life a couple of months ago in new light.

A while ago, someone talked some pretty serious trash to and about me. It was mean and nasty, much worse than anything Brad ever came up with on the basketball court. And it hit me like a punch in the gut. But, it was about as ridiculous as the field commander's threats in Isaiah 36, and just as unholy. But, the thing they have in common is that both the field commander and the person who taunted me tried to confuse the audience about the Lord. The field commander told the people of Judah that the Lord didn't have the strength to save them from the Assyrians and that, in fact, the Lord had sent him to destroy the people! The person who talked a lot of trash to me did the same sort of thing- saying that they were a Christian and interested in Christ-like relationship, throwing out Christian keywords in between their attacks and false accusations. And, though I can't say that I totally fell for it, I can say that it made my knees knock and my stomach sick.

But what I have learned as an adult that has changed since I was a child is that I do have to tattle... sort of. When threats are made and there is injustice, I have to go to the Judge. When I was a kid, I stood my own ground. I fought back till I was black and blue and exhausted. I tried doing that as a grown up and learned pretty quickly that grown-up battles are too much to face on my own.

So, before knowing exactly what King Hezekiah and the people of Judah did in response to the trash talk from the Assyrian field commander, I know that I have been encouraged by the Holy Spirit to act like a little old lady. That's right, the little old lady from Luke 18. Do you remember her story? It's called the parable of the persistent widow. She lives in a town with a sort of dead-beat judge. He doesn't care about God or people. But the widow keeps going to him over and over again and saying- "Grant me justice against my adversary." And finally, the judge is so fed up with her asking that he grants her request. Jesus said that God would deal with our persistent prayer in an even more effective, compassionate way than the dead-beat judge in the widow's town. Because He does care about justice, and He loves His people.

I wonder if Hezekiah had gone to the Righteous Judge about the trash talk from the Assyrians if he wouldn't have given in to the Assyrians at all? In any event, I'm challenged, and I hope you are too- because more than likely somebody somewhere- whether it's an actual person you know or just images that you see projected through media are "talking trash" and making you feel like you are less than what God has said that you are. If so, you don't have to retaliate, just take care of that trash- old lady style. Go talk to the Righteous Judge and have faith that He will set things right in His timing. I'm challenged to do so, and to steadily believe that He loves me enough to care about even these details of my life, and loves you enough to care about the details in yours.

"God, grant me justice against my adversary."