What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Today is Christmas Day. As you all know. I’m not sure how many of you will read this today since you will probably be busy with family and friends. I know I will be.
I wanted to have a nice Christmasy article for you to read, however, I already wrote about my Christmases past and have talked about what this holiday means to me. So I thought I’d just share from my Quiet Time today in 1 Timothy 1:12-17. This passage is Paul telling Timothy his credentials for sharing the gospel. Paul said he was the worst of sinners and yet that made God’s mercy and grace even more remarkable.
That mercy and grace only came about because of Christmas Day and the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul talks about how it was the Lord Christ Jesus that did everything for him and allowed him to be a minister of the gospel of salvation. The passage reads as follows (from the NASB):
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those [a]who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory [c]forever and ever. Amen.”
So all of Paul’s ministry was possible only because of Christ Jesus. That same truth is what makes my life and ministry possible today. It’s because Christ came into this world as a human being and lived and died on the cross that we have God’s mercy and grace available to us.
I especially like how Paul ends this passage, with praise. Today, as I think about Christmas and all that Christ Jesus did for me, I am able to praise God in the same way: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory, forever and ever. Amen.” Let’s celebrate Christmas with the thankfulness and praise it deserves.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Psalm 136 Thoughts

I have no ideas for a blog article for this week. It’s been a rough week in my household with lots of turmoil and unrest, and that makes me less verbal than I usually am. So as I sit here trying to think of something to write, I’m drawn to the Psalms. Particularly Psalm 136 comes to mind because it reminds me that we should “Give thanks to the Lord . . . His love endures forever.”
I need reminders that His love endures forever. I forget and get caught up in my own worries and concerns. I forget that God is involved in my life in so many ways that are for my benefit. Every verse in Psalm 136 ends with the reminder that “His love endures forever.” So I repeat that phrase to myself when things seem to be out of control. For the few moments I’m repeating it I feel some relief from my worries and concerns.
Verse 4 says, “to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.” So when I’m doubting that things will work out or be okay, I turn to that verse and recognize that He can and will do great wonders in my life – even if I am having trouble seeing where or how those great wonders are happening, He is at work.
Verse 23 says, “to the One who remembered us in our low estate, His love endures forever.” So no matter how low I go in my emotions, He remembers me and will build me up. No matter how I sin and fail to live up to God’s expectations, He remembers me and will forgive me. He will always recognize me and call me His own child.
Verse 25 says, “and who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.” This says more to me than just having food on the table. It says He will take care of all my material needs because I am part of His creation. Every creature is guaranteed to have their needs met through His provision. I’ve seen that to be true in my life.
So, today as I’m feeling kind of down and depressed, I recognize that God’s love endures forever and even in my depressed state, He is looking out for my interests. He is able to meet my needs and improve my state in life. Today I praise God for His love that endures forever.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

More December Thoughts

Last week when I said there would be more December thoughts I had an idea. However today, as I sit to write, I don’t remember what I was thinking. So I decided to write about some memories from December 1978. That was probably the first time Christmas ever really made sense to me.
I was struggling with my alcoholism back then. I was probably drinking everyday and every evening and had been for at least a half of the semester of college. I was only a freshman but being free from my parents made drinking in excess even easier and I took full advantage of the freedom I had. That’s not to say that I hadn’t drank to excess in high school; I did on many occasions. And I hid it from my parents but not from some other adults who tried to help but didn’t really know what to do.
In college, I had made some friends who didn’t drink but most of the friends I made did partake of the alcohol available at parties. But I drank even when there weren’t any parties. I didn’t really realize that it was a problem until I tried to stop and found out that it was not as easy as I thought it would be. One of my non-drinking friends confronted me about my life and my beliefs. Another one sent me Scripture passages about the Christmas story throughout December.
One verse I remember to this day, because it made an impact on my life then and even now. “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11. I memorized that verse because it spoke to me. It told me what Christmas was all about. But it didn’t stop me from drinking. That happened as a result of being shared with about the saving power of Christ and that it required a decision on my part. The verse that was shared with me at that time was Revelation 3:20 which says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” I realized that there are only three possible responses to a knock on the door. 1. Ignore the knocking. 2. Ask who it is and then not let the person in. 3. Ask who it is and invite them in. Christ had been presented to me and was knocking on the door of my heart. I had a decision to make about how I would respond to His knocking. It was too late to do the first option and ignore the knocking so that left me with a choice between keeping the door shut on Christ or letting Him in.
I realized that was a big decision. So I tried to stop drinking to make it sober. That’s when I realized that I had a problem. I had nightmares and shaking and felt sick – and really wanted another drink to take the edge off. I managed to not take a drink and made a sober decision to invite Christ into my life. I told God I’d give Him some time to make my life better. I think I mentally gave Him two years because that’s the longest anyone had been my friend and God would have to work in those two years to make me believe He could make a difference.
Well, things didn’t get automatically better for me. There was a struggle with depression and relationship issues. I needed help from a lot of people; friends and professionals. And things still, thirty-six years later, are not always perfect and without troubles, but without Christ in my life I’m pretty sure things would be worse and less hopeful. Telling you this story reminds me of the hope that I have in Him and gives me encouragement for the day. I hope it encouraged you also. Happy December.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December Thoughts

It’s already the first week in December 2014. It doesn’t seem like the year is almost over, but it is. There have been a lot of things that have gone on in our lives in the last year. Some of the events have been causes for joy and some have brought heartache. But every year, as December begins, I remember back to other Decembers and think about significant events that happened in several of them.
In December 1963, my baby sister was born. I was almost four years old and I don’t remember anything about that event. Yet it is significant because my sister and I have grown close over the last few years. I treasure having her in my life and wish we lived closer together so I could go see her more often. We talk weekly and over the last year, we’ve been communicating regularly using Facebook messaging. There’s nothing like having a sister on your side through thick and thin. She’s been a great prayer-warrior for my family. That has great value to me as sometimes I just don’t know what to pray for. She always seems to have a perspective that I am unable to see.
In December 1978, I met Jesus for the first time face to face and became a believer in His salvation. When I think of that event, I think of the people God placed in my life to help me meet Him and make a decision. Some of the people I only recall by the role they played in my life, like the woman on my dorm floor who sent slips of paper with Scripture written on them as part of her Secret Santa gift to me. Others, I remember by name for the roles they played were significant in big ways. Jill (Spalding) Slater was the person God used to actually share the gospel message with me that December resulting in my turning to God in faith. And there were people who were praying for me: Diana (Keim) Schultz, Jean (Hayes) LaPlante, Mark and Mary Bonham, to name a few. It seems like such a long time ago, but those people are still very dear to me.
In December 1989, my son was born. He was actually born on December 13th, which is the same day of the month that I accepted Christ on in 1978. He was born two weeks early and at the time I didn’t link together the two “birth” days, but I have thought about it many times since then. My son will be 25 this year. Where has the time gone? I cherish every day I’ve had with him over the years and still cherish the time we get with him now. He lives in Chicago now so we don’t see him much but we do talk on the telephone – sometimes it seems like it’s daily. I guess our relationship is changing from parent and child to friends. That’s a good thing . . . and it reminds me to hurry up and get his birthday present in the mail.
In December 1997, one of our daughters was born. She wasn’t born to me and I wouldn’t meet her for another 15 years when she would come to live with us. We didn’t know her when she was born, but we get to celebrate her birthday with her now in December. Our lives would be so very different, and less somehow, had she not come into our lives. There are challenges, but there are also moments of joy. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her as part of it.
So December is a special time of year for me. There are memories from past events and events happening now that will become the memories of the future. December is worth celebrating for oh so many reasons . . . more next week.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving and Praise

From 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers; Day #28: “I exult in the free, confident access You have provided, so that I can come into Your Presence for warm fellowship, for refreshment, for mercy when I’ve failed, for grace when I’m in need. What a joy to know that I can draw near to You at any moment, wherever I may be . . . that I can come boldly to Your throne of grace, assured of Your glad welcome – not because I’m worthy or because I’ve served You, but because You’re a God of grace, a God of unmerited, unlimited favor – not little dribbles of favor reluctantly measured out, but overflowing, super-abundant favor. I’m so glad that You welcome me just as I am, simply because Jesus is my risen Savior, and I am alive with His life and righteous with His righteousness!”
Today, that grace and mercy from God is what I’m most thankful for. Without it I would be living in fear and guilt, unable to rise up and be glad in my circumstances. I don’t always believe I’m totally forgiven and free from the guilt of my sin, but Scripture tells me I am – just because of what Jesus did and because He’s my Savior.
I’m without fear of eternity and that only comes from having a relationship with God. But, my faith wavers and sometimes I have to rely on sources outside of my own thinking to regain a sense of being totally forgiven and loved. Sometimes I turn to various books, like the 31 Days of Praise quoted from above, to help me focus on the truths of my relationship with Christ. Sometimes I rely on friends to remind me. Sometimes it’s my therapist that says the words I need to hear to put me in the right mindset to have the faith I need to turn to God.
On this day, Thanksgiving 2014, I could focus on the many blessings in my life, but I’m choosing to focus on the ultimate reasons for thankfulness: Salvation, grace, and mercy because of Jesus. My you find the same thankfulness in your lives this holiday season.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 15

Today will be the last look at the thirty sterling principles. I know I haven’t covered every one of them but I’ve looked at the ones that have struck me in some way. Sometimes, like last week, they’ve been encouraging to me in very personal ways. Other times they have just been good principles to think about and meditate upon.
Today we will look at principle #29 found in Proverbs 24:19-20. It says,
Don’t bother your head with braggarts
    or wish you could succeed like the wicked.
Those people have no future at all;
    they’re headed down a dead-end street.”
There have been times in my life when I’ve said, “Look at how easy so and so has it. I wish my life could be that easy.” However, those people often live like there’s no God, making them “wicked.” I dream about how easy my life could be if I didn’t follow God’s instructions . . . like taking care of the less fortunate than me or tithing to the church. How much money I would save if I didn’t do those things!
However, would I be any happier? I may not even have the blessings I have in my life now. God rewards those who follow Him. So if I wasn’t following God, it’s quite possible that my life wouldn’t be easier but would be less somehow. I just can’t say for sure what my life would look like if I didn’t follow God and try to obey His instructions.
This passage tells me that the ones I may be envying have no future. It says they are headed down a dead-end street. So if I was like them, I would not have a future and I would be heading down a dead-end street. So maybe I can imagine what my life would look like if I was “succeeding” like the wicked. I would not have the hope and future that God has promised me. I’d not have the direction and a wide-open road to walk down. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I lived as if there was no God. This passage tells me that I might appear to be succeeding, but in reality I would not have a future and would be walking on a dead-end street.
So when I wonder what my life would be like without Jesus in it, I can look at this passage and remember that with Jesus I have a hope and a future. I may not know what that future is . . . except I do know what the ultimate future holds: eternal life . . . but I definitely have one. That’s worth following Jesus for.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 14

As Christians we know we are supposed to look out for those less fortunate than us. Principle #25 addresses that and speaks to our lives for the last year and a half. It’s found In Proverbs 24:11-12. It says,
Rescue the perishing;
    don’t hesitate to step in and help.
If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,”
    will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know—
    Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”
This last year and a half, my husband and I have taken in two high school-aged girls. Their situation may not have been life or death, although we believe it was close to that, but it was dire and they were in need of a more stable environment in which to live. This verse told us we were doing the right thing by stepping in to help in the situation. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. We spent many hours in prayer over it. But it often came back to this passage telling us to get involved any way we could.
It would’ve been easier and less heartbreaking to say, “Hey that’s none of our business.” But Someone was watching us closely. God was watching to see how we would use the resources He’s given us and the gifts He’s given us. God is not impressed with weak excuses and we could not give such excuses and expect to please God.
That’s not to say there are not times when I wonder if we did the right thing. But I’m drawn back to this verse. It tells us not to hesitate to help. So when those momentary doubts come up, when I wonder if we did the right thing, when I wonder if we are continuing to do the right thing, this verse comes to mind and I stop my questioning and turn to God. God would not expect us to step in and help if He wasn’t going to give us what we need in order to be of help. He’s met our spiritual needs, our emotional needs, our mental needs and our physical needs throughout this situation.
God doesn’t tell us to do something, like stepping in to help the perishing, and then not give us what we need in order to follow through. Today, I’m worried that I don’t have what it takes to meet the needs in this situation. But God has said He will supply us with all our needs (Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”) So I choose to trust Him and press on in helping as best as I can, for His glory and for the benefit of others.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 13

Skipping ahead a few principles to #24. Principle #24 is found in Proverbs 24:10 and says,
“If you fall to pieces in a crisis,
            there wasn’t much to you in the first place.”
This is a thought-provoking statement. When I think back on my life and try to isolate the crises in my life-story, I don’t really have that many of them. Once I was in a severe car accident where there were deaths in the other vehicle. At the time, I didn’t know there were deaths, but I knew things weren’t good. But my daughter was with me in my truck and I had to remain calm for her sake. I was able to check her out physically while we waited for emergency personnel to arrive, I was able to use my cell phone to call my husband, I was able to take account of my injuries, and I was able to assist the firefighters in getting both my daughter and myself out of our flipped over vehicle. I didn’t panic. I was possibly in shock to some degree, but I didn’t “fall to pieces.”
Another crisis in my life was when my daughter was born. She had pneumonia and was very sick. The doctors and nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) didn’t know if she would make it or not. They prepared my husband and I for the worst. However, I was able to remain calm throughout the five days she was in the hospital – in large part because I had faith that God would work everything out according to His plan including whether she lived or died. I didn’t fall to pieces in that situation either.
There have been other crises in my life of a more minor sort ranging from disagreements with my husband to situations requiring disciplining our children. In all of them I did not fall completely apart. There was something to me in the first place. I believe that what I had was a faith in God and an ability to trust Him no matter the outcome of the situation. That’s what there was in the first place.
Even in times when I was severely depressed and thinking about taking my own life, I didn’t fall to pieces. I was able to think rationally enough to know to get help from therapists, doctors, and even the hospital when necessary. What caused me to seek help? I believe it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God and His Spirit in me is what “was to me in the first place.”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 12

Principle #21 addresses having wisdom over strength. From reading Proverbs 24:5-6 it seems like both wisdom and strength are important, but that wisdom and strategy ultimately are more important for winning a battle. The verses read as follows:
“It’s better to be wise than strong;
            intelligence outranks muscle any day.
Strategic planning is the key to warfare;
            To win, you need a lot of good counsel.”
In my life, I see that being wise is a great asset. For one thing, I am not physically strong so relying on my physical strength to survive each day and each obstacle would probably not end well. When I’m asked to list my assets or strengths as a person, intelligence is one of the first things I think of.
I’m not bragging about my intelligence. It’s a God-given asset, something God granted to me upon His forming me in my mother’s womb. It is something for which I am thankful. It has seen me through a lot of nerve-wracking situations from schooling to parenting. My intelligence has allowed me to think through situations and come to rational conclusions about how to proceed in various situations that have come up in my life.
I think part of my intelligence has been to seek wiser counsel. I recognize that there are many circumstances that I’ve been confronted with where I just don’t know how to proceed. Seeking the good counsel of others has allowed me to overcome some very tricky situations in my life. Some of those situations are currently going on in my life and my husband and I have sought the counsel of others to give us sound advice on how to proceed.
Intelligence and wisdom need to be cultivated in our lives. Even being born with a certain amount of intelligence doesn’t mean we will learn to use it to the best of its advantage. We need to seek it and pray about situations, and trust in God’s Word to give us direction. I know many intelligent people who think they know everything they need to know. By not being open to cultivating their intelligence, they make some bad decisions. I want to avoid being like those people, so I make sure to spend time in God’s Word, examining the principles in Scripture, and trying to apply them to my life.
Having intelligence is not enough. Applying God’s principles to our lives is exercising true intelligence. I think we need to humbly turn to God and ask Him to give us the wisdom we need in every situation. Prayerfully approaching God and His Word is one way of using the intelligence He has given us.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 11

Today’s principle, #20, spoke to me about what it means to have a healthy, happy, stable home. It’s based on Proverbs 24:3-4, which says,
“It takes wisdom to build a house,
    and understanding to set it on a firm foundation;
It takes knowledge to furnish its rooms
    with fine furniture and beautiful draperies.”
The key elements are wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Those are the same things that God told us about for living successful lives. Those are the same things that we are told elsewhere in Proverbs come about because we focus on God and His Word and ways.
I have tried to live a wise life, one filled with understanding and knowledge. In some ways I succeeded and have adult children who are independent, self-reliant, and successful in their endeavors. I’ve talked about them before. However, there is always room for improvement.
I can’t depend on the wisdom I’ve had in the past. I have to keep trying to learn and seek God’s wisdom in my daily life. I strive to use understanding in my dealings with the people who live in my house although sometimes I just don’t understand what is going on and don’t know how to gain the understanding needed in some situations. Sometimes all I can do is throw up my hands, fall to my knees and pray that God would show me what to do. Even when I’m thinking I’m doing or saying the right things, I sometimes find out that I am not.
Again, there are many situations that come up where I just have to rely on God’s grace and His protection to furnish my house with the right furniture and furnishings. In other words, to make my house the right environment and atmosphere for raising healthy children and maintaining my own sanity I need to turn to God and ask Him for His guidance. I wish I could say I do this with knowledge and wisdom. However, many times I have to backtrack and change the way I’m doing things so they get in line with God’s ways of doing things. Ultimately, all true wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are centered on God’s ways of doing things. I just don’t know what the right ways are all the time. So I have to ask for forgiveness from God and other people, and change my approach to do things the right way the next time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 10

Today’s passage of Scripture brings up the question, “How do we know if someone is a bad person?” The passage, Proverbs 24:1-2, Principle #19 tells us:
“Don’t envy bad people;
            don’t even want to be around them.
All they think about is causing a disturbance;
            All they talk about is making trouble.”
I guess one way of telling if someone is a bad person or not is to evaluate their actions and words. Do they try to cause a disturbance or are they always talking about making trouble for others and themselves?
I know some people like that. This passage tells me not to envy them or want to be around them. Sometimes that’s harder to do than it seems like it would be. No matter how hard I try to avoid people who try to cause disturbances or make trouble, sometimes those people end up being a part of my life anyway.
Elsewhere in Proverbs it talks about fools and avoiding them. Are fools bad people? I think that sometimes they are, but other times they are just misguided and confused people who need direction. Unfortunately, sometimes a fool doesn’t take the advice given to them and, as a result, makes a poor decision. That poor decision might have an effect on me or on those I love. Their actions and/or words might cause a disturbance or trouble for others. So sometimes it’s hard to determine if a person is just a fool (who should be dealt with carefully) or a bad person (who should be avoided).
Sometimes it’s hard not to envy bad people. For instance, sometimes they seem to have all the comforts of life while I struggle to get through each day. However, I have a walk with God that can’t be taken away from me and that’s worth everything that a bad person might have. Most of the time, I’m content with what God has given me, so envying others, whether good or bad people, doesn’t come into play.
Today I want to focus on God and trusting Him to show me those “bad people” that should be avoided and the fools that should be handled with care. I can’t always tell the difference between them, but through the Holy Spirit’s working in my heart I may know how to deal with each person as the need arises.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 9

Who are the people who are always crying the blues?
    Who do you know who reeks of self-pity?
Who keeps getting beat up for no reason at all?
    Whose eyes are bleary and bloodshot?
It’s those who spend the night with a bottle,
    for whom drinking is serious business.
Don’t judge wine by its label,
    or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor.
Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with—
    the splitting headache, the queasy stomach.
Do you really prefer seeing double,
    with your speech all slurred,
Reeling and seasick,
    drunk as a sailor?
“They hit me,” you’ll say, “but it didn’t hurt;
    they beat on me, but I didn’t feel a thing.
When I’m sober enough to manage it,
    bring me another drink!” Proverbs 23:29-35, Principle 19
This principle spoke to me due to my struggles with alcohol. I especially like the reminders of what it’s like to be under the influence of alcohol. When I was drinking I was “always crying the blues” and reeked “of self-pity.” My eyes were bleary and bloodshot as was my mind. This passage reminds me that the result of a day of heavy drinking is a hangover, a splitting headache and a queasy stomach.
It’s been several 24 hours since I took my last drink and it’s easy to forget the effects alcohol had on my life. This passage brings all the distress and trouble back to the forefront and I’m reminded why I do not choose to drink. For me it was not a matter of having one drink and enjoying the taste. One drink always led to getting drunk. Scripture clearly says we should not get drunk with wine for that is a waste of time and energy (Ephesians 5:18). This passage gives a bunch of other good reasons for not getting drunk.
I remember seeing double and having my speech slurred. I remember reeling and being seasick. I remember waking up with bruises and having no idea where they came from. I remember when all I could think about was my next drink. After 15 years of sobriety, I need the reminders this passage of Scripture brings me because I have a built-in forgetter that makes remembering the effects and problems alcohol brought to me difficult on my own.
I’m always amazed at Scripture and how it addresses each of my needs. This is one passage that I can turn to when I start to think that a drink sounds good (which still happens from time to time). I don’t have to try and remember what drinking (and getting drunk) was like. It’s laid out for me in clear terms. Life was miserable when I was drinking. Life still has its struggles, but at least I don’t have to deal with the effects of being drunk on top of everything.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 8

“Listen with respect to the father who raised you,
            and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her.
Buy truth – don’t sell it for love or money;
            buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight.
Parents rejoice when their children turn out well;
            Wise children become proud parents.
So make your father happy!
            Make your mother proud!” Proverbs 23:22-25, Principle #16

This principle has several parts to it. The overall theme has to do with children listening to their parents and as a result, making the parents proud and happy. There is some instruction hidden in the middle of the passage: Buy truth . . . by wisdom, buy education, buy insight. These are instructions to children but I think they apply to all of us.
As I look back on my life, I wonder if I made my parents proud and happy. I can’t ask them any more since they are passed away, so it leaves me wondering. I think that in general they were proud of the choices I’ve made and proud of how I live my life. I remember a few things my parents said to me that lead me to believe they were proud of me. I think they were proud of my desires to live a truthful life. I’m pretty sure they were proud of my educational accomplishments. After all they did come to my graduation ceremonies: high school, undergraduate, and graduate school. I think they saw me using my resources to buy wisdom, education and insight.
I know that I am proud of my older two children for they continue to choose truth, wisdom, education, and insight as they go about their adult lives. I’m proud of my youngest daughter as she struggles to figure out what is truth in her life and tries to apply herself to her studies. In many ways my children make me a happy mother.
This passage, because of its focus on what children should do, caused me to pray for my children. I prayed they would seek truth, wisdom, education, and insight in their lives and desire to become proud parents themselves when the time comes. I prayed they would eventually have kids of their own that turn out well. I prayed they would be wise children who become proud parents. I am trusting God to work in my children making them into the kind of wise adults that will produce wise grandchildren for me. I am praying this on a daily basis this week.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 7

Today we will look at Principle #15 from Proverbs 23:19-21. It says,
Oh listen, dear child—become wise;
    point your life in the right direction.
Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk;
    don’t eat too much food and get fat.
Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row,
    in a stupor and dressed in rags.”
There are several of the thirty sterling principles that talk about the dangers of over indulging in drinking and eating, but this one starts with a warning to the listener: “become wise and point your life in the right direction.” This is in direct contrast to the alternate way of living highlighted in this passage. There’s a contrast between drinking and eating too much and ending up in dire straits (on skid row in a stupor and dressed in rags) and living a life in the right direction avoiding those things.
This passage was a good reminder to me and a challenge to me. Whereas the drinking has not been a major attraction in my life for over 15 years now, eating too much is still a present danger. I thought it was interesting that both forms of overindulging lead to the same desperate situation. I know the hazards of drinking to excess. I’ve been there and I’ve fallen into an emotional skid row many times as a result of the excess drinking. I don’t want to return to that place. So I choose to not pick up the first drink today, the drink that, in my situation always leads to many more.
However, eating is another issue all together. Yet when I think of the despair I feel when I overeat (or under eat) I recognize that food has the potential for driving me to an emotional skid row, too. The problem with food is that we need some. We can’t cut it all out of our diet like we can the alcohol. So a balance is needed. I’m not very good at finding that balance in my life – in any area. I tend to overeat one day and under eat the next to “make up for it.” What I need is balance, moderation, every day. I haven’t quite figured out how to achieve such balance in my life. But, I am working on it. I do know that I don’t want to end up in a spiritual or emotional stupor. That requires some effort from me to eat in moderation.
There are several ways I can achieve moderation. One way is to be accountable to myself, to God, and to another person (actually an AA principle based on Step #5). So today I choose to record my food intake and report it to a friend. That is something I can do each day and I need to be faithful to do it. Today starts a new round of accountability in my life.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 6

Proverbs 23:17-18 give us the 14th sterling principle. I liked the way The Message put it, but I also liked the way The Amplified Bible said it. Both are quoted below for you:
The Message: “Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels; soak yourself in the Fear-of-God – That’s where your future lies. Then you won’t be left with an armload of nothing.”
The Amplified: “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord all the day long. For surely there is a latter end [a future and a reward], and your hope and expectation shall not be cut off.”
I especially like the idea of “soaking” in the Fear-of-God. What does that look like? I wondered about that for quite a while until I decided to look up the verses in different versions of the Bible. That’s when I found The Amplified versions explanation: soaking in the Fear-of-God is continuing in the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord all day long. Exactly how one does that is as individual a thing as there are people. For me, it means keeping an attitude of thankfulness in mind as I go about my day.
I’ve been doing a study on the Grace of God. One of the key things I’ve learned in this study is that it’s God’s grace that saved me and it’s God’s grace that allows me to live life now. Everything is by God’s grace. The Holy Spirit’s working in me on a day by day basis is part of the grace of God. Living my life, aware of God’s grace in everything I do and say is part of soaking in the Fear-of-God. It’s being in awe of Him and what He’s done for me and is doing for me each day.
I need a lot of help to soak in the Fear-of-God. It’s not something that comes naturally to me (or to anybody). I have to work at it. I have to involve myself in regular prayer and thanksgiving. I have to seek knowledge from God’s Word. I have to be open to the wise counsel from others. And I have to be willing to submit humbly to God’s instructions in my life. Sometimes I’m more willing than other times to involve myself in those four areas. If I want to follow this principle from Proverbs, I have to avail myself of as much of God as I can each and every day. I have to soak in the Fear-of-God.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 5

Today I will look at Principle #13 from Proverbs 23:15-16. The passage says,
“Dear child, if you become wise I’ll be one happy parent. My heart will dance and sing to the tuneful truth you speak.”
I like this principle because it reminds me to be joyful over the success of my children. Both my son and my first daughter have become wise in many ways. They are kind and considerate of others. They are generous in spirit and in action. They are successful in their endeavors (my son was successful in school and now is on his job, and my daughter is doing well in college and performs her various jobs with excellence). This principle is true in my experience. My children have become wise in many ways and I am one happy parent.
However, there are areas where I still pray for my children (all three of them). I pray they would become wise in the ways of God and desire to serve Him. I pray they will be honest and upright in their dealings with other people. I pray they long for true wisdom and truth that only comes from knowing God the Father through Jesus Christ. I pray they would live lives that are pleasing to God and full of truth. I long to dance and sing to the tuneful truths they speak because they are speaking God’s truths.
So while I am truly thankful for the good in my kids, I’m also keenly aware of their shortcomings and pray for them on a daily basis. I think many of us have children we are proud of. However, there are still many things I pray for my children. Mostly I pray they will have discernment, understanding, and revelation pertaining to the things of God and His Word. If they learn to live their lives according to the ways of God, I will truly be dancing and singing for joy. At this stage of the game, especially with my two older children, sometimes all I can do is pray. My goal is to be faithful in praying for them on a regular, daily would be good, basis.
It’s never too late to pray for our children.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 4

Principles #8, #9, and #10 are the subject of today’s article. Principle #8 is found in Proverbs 23:6-8 and says,
“Don’t accept a meal from a tightwad; don’t expect anything special. He’ll be as stingy with you as he is with himself; he’ll say, ‘Eat! Drink!’ but won’t mean a word of it. His miserly serving will turn your stomach when you realize the meal’s a sham.”
The underlying message here is that the miserly will grudgingly give you a meal and you will leave the meal feeling like you have taken something that wasn’t freely offered. This passage challenged me to not be a tightwad; to offer a meal or my resources willingly and not grudgingly. In general I think I do a pretty good job of that, but there are times when I question my spending. There’s a line between being a tightwad and being responsible with the resources God has given me. I need to evaluate each expenditure and figure out if I’m giving grudgingly or meeting a true need.
Principle #9 is found in Proverbs 23:9 which says,
“Don’t bother talking sense to fools; they’ll only poke fun at your words.”
Sometimes, when dealing with young people, you have to talk sense to them whether they are being foolish or not. They might poke fun at your words, but we have to attempt to talk sense to them. I find myself praying for the “fools” in my life; that they would not dismiss wisdom when they hear it, but take it in and apply it to their lives. Sometimes it means being patient and withstanding angry or illogical rebuttals from the fools. 
However, there are fools in my life that are adults and have developed a life long habit of poking fun at the sense talked to them. I think this verse is saying that we shouldn’t try to argue with them or discuss with them because they will not listen and it will be wasted effort. Such wasted effort will just bring unnecessary frustration into our lives.
Finally, for today, Principle #10 is in Proverbs 23:10-11:
“Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines or cheat orphans out of their property. For they have a powerful Advocate who will go to bat for them.”
This principle is a similar warning to Principle #4, which also speaks to moving the boundary lines. As I thought more about this, I realized that some of the boundary lines I move on the unsuspecting have to do with my standards for others’ behaviors. If I make a rule and don’t follow through on enforcing the rule or change the rule without clear notification I’m stealthily moving the boundary line. I have done that when making rules for my kids to follow. I have failed both to hold them to the standard I set and to changing the standard without telling them about it. That is not fair to them and I need to work on it, trying to be more consistent and fair in my rule setting and enforcing. I also need to make sure I’m not setting a boundary line where I can’t enforce it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 3

Still reading in Proverbs about the thirty sterling principles. Today I will look at principles #6 and #7.
Proverbs 23:1-3 states the 6th principle:
“When you go out to dinner with an influential person, mind your manners; Don’t gobble your food, don’t talk with your mouth full. And don’t stuff yourself; bridle your appetite.”
This sounds like very practical advice, and it seems like common sense to me. However, if a rich person is paying for dinner, someone might be tempted to order the most expensive thing on the menu, something they might not ordinarily order because they couldn’t afford it. This passage warns us against doing that. It doesn’t give us a reason why, but politeness sounds like a good enough reason to me. I wonder what the customs of the day were that would make this one of the highlighted principles in Proverbs.
Proverbs 23:4-5 states the 7th principle:
“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich; restrain yourself! Riches disappear in the blink of an eye; wealth sprouts wings and flies off into the wild blue yonder.”
Most jobs these days won’t get a person rich, so working so hard that you wear yourself out seems pointless. But are there other things, besides a job, that we might work so hard at and wear ourselves out? We need to evaluate all our activities and make sure that we are only giving our best to the things that matter to God. Wealth and riches are not as important to God as they are to us, so working towards those things is a waste of our efforts. What God wants is our worship, praise and obedience. Those are the things we should put our efforts into.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 2

Last week I started looking at the important principles laid down in the middle of Proverbs (Proverbs 22 – 24). There are lots of good principles to follow highlighted in Proverbs but these chapters point out 30 that every person should know and adhere to.
This week I will look at principles 4 – 5. Principle #4 basically talks about fooling others into thinking you have more land than you do. Proverbs 22:28 says, “Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines staked out long ago by your ancestors.” So it appears on the surface to be talking about the boundaries of a piece of land. But I think it could also be talking about taking anything of value by stealth and deception. Sneaking money out of my husband’s wallet could be an example of that. Or shoplifting in a store. We are instructed to not do anything by stealth and deception.
Principle #5 is found in Proverbs 22:29. It says, “Observe people who are good at their work – skilled workers are always in demand and admired, they don’t take a back seat to anyone.” Skilled workers are always in demand and admired. That is so true. And, skilled workers usually are employed and valued by their employers. I have the responsibility of trying to raise children to be skilled workers. I think we’ve succeeded with at least one child, but there’s three to go. I don’t know how to teach them the value of being skillful in their studies as preparation for becoming skillful workers. We encourage them and try to get them to do their best work now. That’s the best we can do. They will be observed as they go through school, and if they do their best work, their skills will be noticed and they will be in high demand – by colleges or employers. I think the most I can do to help them become skilled workers who are high in demand and admired is to pray for them.
This verse also has application in my life. I need to strive to be a hard worker in my daily activities, whether it’s meeting with God or substitute teaching. This also requires a great amount of prayer for myself. I can’t be the kind of worker God wants me to be without turning everything over to God and praying for His strength in my life.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thirty Sterling Principles, Part 1

The book of Proverbs is filled with principles for living a godly and upright life. This week I came across a passage of Scripture that tells us outright that the next 30 things we are going to be told are “sterling principles:” [Proverbs 22:20-21 from The Message]
“I’m giving you thirty sterling principles –
            tested guidelines to live by.
Believe me – these are truths that work;
            and will keep you accountable to those who sent you.”
I decided to study and pray over each principle one at a time over the next 30 or so days. If God felt they needed to be singled out, I should give them the attention they deserve.
The first principle was to “not walk on the poor just because they’re poor” and to “not use your position to crush the weak.” I don’t think I do those things. I think I view the weak and poor as those needing help and direction. I prayed that God would open my eyes to the poor and see them as He sees them.
The second principle hit closer to home: “Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious – don’t get infected.” There are many angry people in my life (including myself at times). My prayer was for me to not catch the disease of anger and to not get angry even with angry people in my life. Sometimes it’s not possible to “not hang out with angry people” because of life’s situation, but I can work on not being contaminated by the anger around me.
The third principle was about gambling: “Don’t gamble on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, hocking your house against a lucky chance. The time will come when you have to pay up; you’ll be left with nothing but the shirt on your back.” Fortunately, I’m not a gambling person. I think the key here is to not gamble on what you cannot afford to lose: your house, your clothes, your food. Those things can be very hard to replace and because of the gambling, you won’t necessarily have the means to pay up. You will be left high and dry, and without the things you need most in this life. I prayed I would never fall prey to the gambling bug.
There are 27 more principles that I have yet to concentrate on. You will probably hear more about those in the coming weeks as I read and pray over them in my morning devotions.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Avoiding Grief

From The Message, Proverbs 21:23 says, “Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.” This gave me a lot to think about today.
I need to watch what I say and how I say things. I need to restrain myself from saying certain things. There are many situations in my life where not saying things may come in handy. Sometimes talking at all may just lead to an argument or hurt feelings. I need to be careful about what I say and how I say it.
The problem is communication is an important tool for parenting. The parent needs to communicate with the child and the child needs to communicate with the parent. There are lots of things that need to be said, and things that need to be heard. So not talking is not always the answer. But what is said and how it’s said is important to preventing miscommunication and hurt feelings.
As the parent, I need to model good communication so my children know what it looks like. This verse doesn’t say we should never talk to others; it just says we need to be careful about what and how we say things. The part about watching your words means to pick the words carefully so you are not picking hurtful words. I think the part about holding your tongue focuses on how we say something. For instance we shouldn’t say things in an angry or loud way. We need to be calm and kind, even when we are saying things that might be hard for a child to hear.
A saying I’ve heard around the AA tables puts it clearly: “Say what you mean; mean what you say; but don’t say it meanly.” If I was to follow this in all my attempts to communicate with my children I could do what the second half of Proverbs 21:23 says and save myself a lot of grief. Now to just get better at it and to teach it to the children and the others in my life that need to follow the instructions given in this verse.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

God's in Charge

Today I read a couple of good reminders in Proverbs 20. These reminders tell me that ultimately God is in control of our lives and we can trust Him to work out all the details.
Verse 22: “Don’t ever say, “I’ll get you for that!”
    Wait for God; he’ll settle the score.”
Verse 27: “God is in charge of human life,
    watching and examining us inside and out.”
So, I don’t have to worry about getting my way or getting even with someone when things don’t go as I expect or hope for. All I have to do is wait for God. He’ll take care of the details and settle the score. It may not happen in my timing or even in my lifetime, but eventually, God will settle the score and everything will work out according to His plans.
God can do that because he is in charge of human life. He’s watching and examining each person inside and out. He knows what is best and will work to make everything work out according to the best possible plan, even if I don’t see how something could be the best possible plan.
Both of these verses remind me that my plans may not be the best plans. Only God knows what is best and what the best settlement of the issues may be. I might think I know, but I don’t really know. If I think I know what are the best situations, or course of events, and things don’t work out the way I think they should, I end up angry. I usually end up angry at God. But if I realize that God is in control and in charge, then I can be at peace in the midst of trying situations knowing that ultimately and completely, God is working everything out for the best.
Today I pray God would give me the calm and peace I need to accept life on life’s terms and on God’s terms.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Vacation Thoughts

We are on vacation this week. So there will be no real article this week. I thought I’d write this note so that those of you who check my site regularly wouldn’t wonder what is up with no post. I’m not sure how many people regularly read my blog because I rarely get comments. But I’d like to think there are at least a few regular readers who would miss my blog if I didn’t post something.
Hope you are all having a wonderful summer and that you find time to take a little vacation from your normal activities. Have a good week.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Godly Leader

I’m still gleaning tidbits of wisdom from the Proverbs. This week I read Proverbs 16:10 – 15. In The Message, those verses talk about some characteristics of godly leaders:
10 A good leader motivates,
    doesn’t mislead, doesn’t exploit.
11 God cares about honesty in the workplace;
    your business is his business.
12 Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds;
    sound leadership has a moral foundation.
13 Good leaders cultivate honest speech;
    they love advisors who tell them the truth.
14 An intemperate leader wreaks havoc in lives;
    you’re smart to stay clear of someone like that.
15 Good-tempered leaders invigorate lives;
    they’re like spring rain and sunshine.

I noticed that a couple of the verses talk about leaders being people who motivate (vs. 10) and invigorate (vs. 15) others. I want to be that kind of leader, but I fall short in many ways. I don’t think I mislead or exploit others but I don’t think I’m very good at motivating them either.
There are things about being a good leader that I do try to follow. For instance, in verse 11, it talks about being honest in the workplace. I try to be honest in all my dealings with people, whether it’s in the workplace or in my private life. I also like to think that I abhor wrongdoing of all kinds and that I live based on a moral foundation. I also like to think that I speak with honesty. I’m not sure how that translates to cultivating honest speech from others. I guess by my example of honest speech it might cultivate honest speech by others.
I like the warning in verse 14 about staying clear of intemperate leaders, those who wreak havoc in the lives of others. I’ve known some leaders like that, I do my best to avoid their presence as much as possible. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid such leaders. I’ve encountered them in the workplace and in those situations I try to do what they indicate should be done, without compromising my own personal integrity. It’s a fine line sometimes.
Mostly this passage of Scripture led me to pray about being a good leader, a God-tempered leader, that is like a spring rain and sunshine to those under my authority or guidance. I’m more aware of what it means to be a godly leader now that I’ve read this Proverb. With God’s help I can, hopefully, be the kind of leader He wants me to be.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Prudent Evaluate

I’m still making my way through the book of Proverbs. There’s an abundance of sound thinking in every verse so I could probably talk a little bit about every verse that I read. However, today the verse that stood out to me was Proverbs 14:15 which says, “The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word.” [The Message] Or in the NASB, it says, “The naïve believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps.”
Being gullible or naïve is not a positive thing according to this verse. I know many people who are gullible and believe whatever they read on Facebook or see on television. That can get us into trouble in numerous ways. In my life, it often means getting my hopes up where there should be caution. I want to believe the good I read or hear. I think we all do. However, God’s caution in this passage of Scripture is to weigh and sift everything we hear or see.
The question is not whether it’s true or not, although that’s part of it. The question, for me, is whether it lines up with Scripture or not. That’s how I evaluate the veracity (truthfulness) of the things I hear and see. It means evaluating the source of the information I’m getting. For me, the only reliable source of information is the Bible. There are friends, mentors, pastors, and some acquaintances that are generally trustworthy, but even they can get things wrong sometimes. I don’t think they intend to relay false information, but they just may not have all the facts in a given situation.
Right now in my life, I am weighing and sifting the truths put forward by social system. We have a situation in our lives that demands rigorous honesty, yet the powers that be are unwilling or unable to be totally truthful with some of the participants in the situation. Where is my role in this situation. I want to make sure I am only speaking truth – but I don’t know what the truth is. So I also have to sift and weigh what I say along with what I believe in order to make sure I’m not leading anyone astray.
Whether I’m listening or talking, I need to be sure I am getting to the truth of a situation. The only way to do this is by bringing everything to God in prayer. And waiting patiently for His answers. That takes a lot of trusting. I pray we all can decipher the truth in the situations in our lives.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Power Outage

There’s nothing like the loss of power in one’s life to help simplify your existence. That happened around here this week and as a result, I was unable to use the computer to write or post a blog article in a timely manner. One storm rolled through and the electricity was out for about 35 hours, just enough time to force us to a hotel for the night.
I did not really have time at the hotel to write a blog article while I had electricity. Yet I did find a way to check my email and Facebook page. I found that I really missed the connection to people that I so take for granted in my life. The temporary loss of power reminded me of how fortunate I am to have all the conveniences of modern society. Gone are the days when you have to handwrite a physical letter, address an envelope, put a stamp on it, and take it to the post office to be mailed when you want to communicate with people. I’m just old enough to remember those days. How the times have changed.
We now have almost instant correspondence with those we wish to remain in contact with. Even without power in my home, I was able to text my son, Facebook message a friend, and check my email via my iPhone. I didn’t even need a wireless connection to do it. I’m sitting here debating whether this is a good thing or not. In some ways it makes communication easier and more rewarding. Yet letter writing with pen and paper is becoming a lost art. I cherish the few correspondence I get from friends and family that arrives by traditional mail service. I usually display the cards and notes on my desk so I can reread them and enjoy them many times over. I wonder if others would appreciate such correspondence from me.
The power outage gave me something to think about. And reminded me to be thankful for all that I have. I could look at the loss of electricity as an inconvenience that I’d rather not have to deal with, but today I choose to see it as the reminder it is: we have so much to be thankful for. However, I’m also thankful that we were only without electricity for 35 hours and that we are now safely back in our home.