Sunday, March 29, 2015

Being "That" Woman

I appreciated a reminder the other day that humility is not about me--it's actually about someone else. The less I think about me (my failures or successes; my choices, words and actions) the more I'm thinking about someone else. That's what Jesus did--He lived a life focused on pleasing His Father and meeting the desperate need of others. Like carrying a full cup of liquid, the less I look at it the steadier it travels.

I've also been pondering the passage about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31--and the fact that it was given to a young man by his wise mother. This is a "Son, when you're ready for a wife..." And the combination of humility and the Proverbs 31 wife is this--it's really not about me. I can try and try, but working to be a good wife only backfires.  This woman lived with her eyes focused outside her needs and wants to the needs and wants of others. Because of that, Proverbs 31 has a larger application than just wives and mothers.
Once upon a time I told my son to look for a wife with 2 qualifications. "Find a wife 1) that loves Jesus more than she loves you and 2) that has a heart of joy." I figured that was a good place to start. King Lemuel's mother gave it more thought--and God inspired it for eternity.

The woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 was not concerned with how to become a virtuous woman. Instead, she lost herself in serving others and accomplished much. Like Jesus, her love for others was evident in her actions. There is very little about her expectations, her likes and dislikes, the help she received or the sympathy she inspired. What we know is that she loved her husband, her maidens, the poor, the needy, her household, and the tradesmen. She looked for ways to do good to those in her care, fill her days productively, help those in need and fill a niche in the market.

How and why? Because she feared the Lord. Her eyes were fixed on Him. Her words and deeds were motivated by worship and devotion--not to others, but toward God, the Giver of all good gifts. How life would change if my focus was on those around me instead of myself! How much happier I'd be and how much more peace I'd have if my eyes were fixed on the Lord instead of my tipping cup.

By God's grace, my needs are met. Now to walk in faith, watching and seeing; serving and loving!

The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him:
An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:1, 10-31)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Because I'm Basically Wicked

It was a grumpy week. My husband couldn't get it right. I went off on a two-day silent rant due to a simple inconvenience (or maybe it was 3-4 days). God just wasn't enough--and the busier I was the more I stewed. It was one of those weeks.

Although I wanted (really wanted) to blame the world for my funk, I knew better. Sure, there was pressure, loss, and things didn't fit my plan, but that didn't excuse my behavior or attitude. The junk that mars my life doesn't happen on the outside, it happens on the inside.
Jesus said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." Matthew 15:19 (NASB).

Evil thoughts come from my head--not my circumstances. Murder and anger result from not getting what I want (James 4:2). I'd like to think I'm not alone--that it's true for all of us--and Jesus' list continues: sexual misconduct in my thoughts and actions begins in my imagination, not anyone else's. Wanting what others have is my problem, not theirs. Accusing and speaking against another's reputation come from my mouth, not theirs.

And that was the blessing of last week. As I looked at the irritants that crept into my world, it wasn't what was happening on the outside that created impatience, unkindness, complaining, and slander. It was bitterness and discontent in my own heart that erupted out onto the lives of others.

The good news is God loves me enough to show me my imperfection. He put His finger on areas I kept for myself--that's mine; oh, yes, and that one too, and I'll keep this one for later--and reveal them. I may not know the depths of the depravity in my heart, but God does (Jeremiah 17:9) and He sent Jesus.

Jesus will forgive. Jesus will cover. Jesus will help. Jesus will restore. I remain broken, desperate and needy. And it's okay. It's okay to go back to my husband, my friend, my family confessing my sin and asking forgiveness. That's just the way it is. That's life in the raw. But through it all, Jesus loves me. And that's good news. Jesus brings forgiveness, hope, life, joy and peace.

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, “Let them come to Me.”

Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.

v. 1 by Anna B. Warner, 1860
v. 2-3 by David R. McGuire

ref. by William B. Bradbury, 1862

Monday, March 2, 2015

Time, Time, Time, Time....

Parts of the United States will turn their clocks ahead this weekend as a means of enjoying longer sunlit days. It's a reminder that time--while it can be rearranged--cannot be gained or changed.

Time. Time slips through our fingers. Time is precious. And how easy it is for me to confuse the importance of time and the importance of people! I get in a hurry, grow impatient, push and shove my way through tasks forgetting that time is not precious for its own sake, but for people's sake. We don't outlast time. A person comes. Presents a need. There is a moment, a precious moment to choose authenticity, to be real, to reach out. Boom wallah. The person is gone, taking their need with them. The moment has passed. And I must remember that time is precious, not because it is limited, but because time with people, for people, is limited. Temporary. Fleeting.

You may remember the story of my friend who shared Christ with a child at Vacation Bible School. That child responded to God just days before his life ended. "There's not enough time," she'd said. And while God is the Keeper of time, the One who knows all; we make choices. We spend time. Waste time. Keep time. Use time. Watch time.

Today I need the reminder that time is a tool to be used and managed and spent, not for its own sake, but for others--and, ultimately, for God Himself. It is a gift worthy of stewardship. I will be held accountable for my use of time: harnessing it for God's use and glory or hoarding it for my own.

Time. It's a gift.

He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap. Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.

Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good....

Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting. 
Ecclesiastes 11:4-6, 9-10 NASB

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.

For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Do return, O Lord; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands. (Psalm 90)