Friday, July 31, 2009
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." Prov 31:28-29 (NASB) I have read Proverbs 31 so many times. Sometimes I have been greatly discouraged by it. Sometimes challenged. Sometimes there has been a longing in my heart to be so much more than I am now - to grow and truly be the P31 woman. But, reading this familiar chapter this month brought a new thought. To whom am I seeking to be the P31 woman? Certainly I want to be honorable in the sight of God, but what about my status here on earth? Essentially through this entire chapter, there is nothing here to indicate that the P31 woman was necessarily honored by her society. Her husband was honored because of her, but that is a different story. This woman was honored by her husband and her children. They were the ones who saw her beauty and who benefited from her excellence. Not society. Not people outside her household. All through Proverbs we are taught to seek wisdom. We are taught to give of ourselves rather than to try to promote our own reputation. We are not to seek honor and glory for ourselves. Instead we are to chase after wisdom and understanding. Proverbs 31 is the culmination of the lessons taught throughout the book - the lessons of being who we are to be before God. My goal is not to seek the respect of society. My goal is to build up my husband. My goal is to raise my children to honor and glorify God. In doing so, I am to gain the approval of my God and the respect of my family and no others. That is to become my mindset.
Posted by Ann at 8:27 AM
Thursday, July 30, 2009
This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, and says, "I have done no wrong." Prov 30:20 (NASB) Okay, so I'm not an adulterous woman, but there are days when I am no better. Why? Because I move along in my happy little life and do not acknowledge many of the ways I grieve the Lord. The truth is, some of the things I do, think, and say day in and day out are wrong, but I just don't acknowledge them. I brush them aside and go on about my life. I need to confess rather than just continuing on my merry little way, convinced that I've done no wrong and my habits do no harm. After all...
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:9-10 (NASB)
Growth only comes when I put more of myself to death allowing more of Christ to live in me.
Posted by Ann at 9:51 AM
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
O God, arrogant men have risen up against me, and a band of violent men have sought my life, and they have not set You before them. But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. Turn to me, and be gracious to me; oh grant Your strength to Your servant, and save the son of Your handmaid. Psalms 86:14-16 (NASB) Very frequently when David was feeling the oppression of His enemies, He called for God to strike them down. Frequently his pleas even seemed a bit vicious! But this one is a bit different, and it actually brought a thought to my mind this morning. When I face troubles, from whatever source, what is my response? In all honesty, my response typically is to come up with a solution and then explain it to God! Brilliant, isn't it? In this passage, David didn't offer a solution. He didn't create a plan. He didn't even really continue to complain. He instead turned all of his attention to God. He articulated what He knew about God and drew comfort from that knowledge. God is the only one who has the definite answers. He knows what's coming. Even if I try to make plans, they are still reliant on His fulfillment of them. And frequently He adjusts my plans to fit His own. Wouldn't life be easier if I would just turn to Him immediately? No planning, no scheming, no plotting, and no begging God to do it my way. Just utter and explicit trust in Him. Seems to me that is just the better path!
Posted by Ann at 3:15 PM
Monday, July 27, 2009
Make glad the soul of Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. Psalms 86:4 (NASB) I realized this morning just how many things I try to chase after for gladness. A good night's sleep, a piece of chocolate, or a project completed make me happy. Clothes fitting better or a lower number on the scale always bump me up on the gladness scale. Time with my hubby and peaceful days with the kids are times of gladness. But, I was challenged this morning by what I try to lean on for gladness. All of those things are environmental. They are circumstances that can change so quickly (especially considering that too much of that chocolate can cause trouble with the clothes fitting and those pesky scale numbers!). Doug has to go off to work, so I can't always be with him. Kids will be kids, and there are days that just aren't great! Circumstances cannot be relied upon for gladness. They just can't! This morning the Lord reminded me of another favorite verse - Psalm 94:19 which reads, "When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul." This morning He blessed me with beautiful consolations. I wasn't even worried about anything, but thoughts just kept tossing back and forth in my mind, jumbling up and distracting me. In those moments, He gave me little consolations that literally brought tears of delight to my eyes! Only the Lord can truly grant me gladness. He may grant it through my family or certain circumstances, but if it doesn't originate with Him, it's not lasting gladness. I'm challenged to seek Him and Him alone for my gladness. I'm challenged to delight His heart and feel His heart delight mine. He alone has the perfect ability to delight my soul!
Posted by Ann at 11:08 AM
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me; for I am afflicted and needy. Psalms 86:1 (NASB) It dawned on me as I read this verse for the umpteenth time that I frequently do not see myself as needy. True, there are some mornings when the first thing in my journal is, "Lord, I need you so desperately today!" But, if I don't feel needy, I don't always acknowledge my neediness. The truth, though, is that I am needy on a daily basis. I just cannot do it on my own. I fail miserably every time I try! I need to acknowledge my neediness to the Lord on a daily basis. I wonder sometimes how much more clearly I would hear His voice, how much more readily I would see His hand, and how much more powerfully I would feel His presence if I would just acknowledge off the bat each morning that I cannot even take one step into the day without Him. How much stronger would I be if I would just begin my day acknowledging my weakness and need for Him?
Friday, July 24, 2009
(Several posts will show up today, dated throughout the weekend - I didn't get them posted because of our weekend schedule, but I wanted to come back to them. So, here they all are!) If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. James 1:26 (NASB) I have shared before how I love words. I love to talk, I love to write, and I love to read. When I write, I make it a point to go back and re-read everything to make sure I've worded it well. Sometimes I still say things I shouldn't, but it happens much less frequently when I write than when I speak. Speaking is, well, a different story. I get in trouble so often with my words. I think I'm alright in my walk with the Lord, and then I go and say something that totally denies that. According to James, if I'm not careful in my speech, my religion is worthless! Wow! That's just powerful. I have to take control of my tongue. It's pretty obvious that the Lord's been dealing with me a lot in this area, and the more I learn, the more I long to be patient in my speech and more of a listener than a speaker. I hunger for that. I'm working on that!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
But some of the poorest people who had nothing, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard left behind in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at that time. Jer 39:10 (NASB) Then all the Jews returned from all the places to which they had been driven away and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and gathered in wine and summer fruit in great abundance. Jer 40:12 (NASB) As I read these verses this morning, the thought popped into my mind, "Man, poverty can be good!" Think about it - one of the ways the Israelites had been disobedient was in their treatment of the poor, the servants, and the land. But here, the poorest people are the ones that don't get hauled off into captivity. Not only that, but now they suddenly have an abundance! I always struggled with the concept of poor in spirit from Matt 5:3, wondering what it really means. I think I'm finally beginning to learn. When we are poor in spirit we are free from stuff. The reason Scripture comes down so heavily on the wealthy (James 1:9, Prov 13:8, Luke 16:19-31, Matt 19:16-26, are just a few examples) is because they are so attached to their stuff and their wealth! It's so easy to be distracted by what we have and what we want. We can be dirt poor and have nothing and still not grasp what it means to be poor in spirit. There are things I'd love to have. I would love to be in a different house - one where I'm not constantly worried about my kids hurting themselves or getting sick due to the mold, mildew, and bugs. There are occasional days when I'd really like a second vehicle, and sometimes when I'd like one with fewer than 185,000 miles on it. And, right now I'd love to just go out and buy Doug a brand new computer because he relies so much on his for work, but it's almost to the point of uselessness. But, you know what? We've been in this house for over a year now, and God has protected us through every moment of it. We've been without a second vehicle for over a year now, and He has always provided every bit of transportation we need, either through the generosity of a loaned car or the wisdom to work out our schedule. He's also kept that van working like a dream and provided the money when we had to get it fixed. And, when we are diligent to ask that God provide everything Doug needs to perform his work, He takes care of the computer problems in a perfect way. I wondered the other day how I would feel if a tornado whipped through and took our house or a fire burned it to the ground. I mentally walked through the house wondering what I would mourn the loss of. I've done that periodically through my life, and to be honest, the list is shrinking. Yes, we'd have to replace stuff with insurance money, but it's just stuff, and that's what insurance money is there for. There are some documents and files, some financial things, and some information on the computer that would be a headache to retrieve, so it would be easier if those were protected. I'd miss some of my collectibles from around the world. I'd grieve the loss of precious family photos. But, the list of stuff I'd grieve is shrinking. I know this is a much longer challenge than normal, but I also know it's more about hashing out what I've been challenged with than sticking to a blogging formula. And, as I've typed it it's dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, I'm learning to be poor in spirit. I hope so! Because when I truly get there, nothing will be more important to me than that I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Posted by Ann at 8:47 AM
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25 (NASB) Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, to make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who sent you? Prov 22:17-21 (NASB) I know I have been inconsistent on here, but there has been a reason for it - although I'm only just now really articulating it. You see, I was falling into a bit of a bad habit. Instead of really studying and interacting with the Lord on these verses, when a verse stood out to me I began plotting in my mind how that would write up on the blog! It wasn't a daily battle, but it was more frequent than I cared to admit. It's not about writing on here. It's about conforming this selfish, hardened life of mine into something that looks more and more like Christ. So, I've been trying to refocus. Trying to just have my time with Him without a thought of the blog, and then go back through my notes to see if anything jumps out to post on here. And believe it or not, this all goes with the passages for today. The precious, amazing, incredible, personal Word of God is not just for me to spout to satisfy my love for writing. It is for me to read, learn, memorize, apply, carry with me, and live by. I must, without excuse, stay in the Word of God. It must be a part of me. It must be what I continually lean on and rely on. If I don't live what I write in my journal and type into these blog posts, then the words in the Bible are just words rather than being the living, breathing Word of God in me. I have so much growing left to do. The only way I can do it is to stay firmly in the Word, not just reading and learning, but applying and doing!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
For the sake of Your name, O LORD, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble. Psalms 143:11 (NASB) What is my focus when I go to the Lord with my troubles? Why is it that I want Him to bring me out of those troubles? Is it for His name's sake and the furtherance of His kingdom, or is it for my own comfort? I say very often that it is because I want to give Him the glory, but that's not always the truth. Today I believe it is the truth as I sit here in almost tearful praise over the thunderstorms that are sweeping through our area - and are supposed to continue all day. The Lord has taken what was supposed to be an unbearably hot day and cooled it off. And imagine the "coincidence" - our air conditioning went out yesterday. I am so excited about the idea of sharing the story of His faithfulness and goodness! But, I think one thing that is striking me right now is that I cannot say that the attitude that I've had yesterday and today is my consistent attitude in times of trouble. I want it to be. And that's the commitment I want to make - to desire to see His hand move in my troubles not for my own comfort (although I know that will come), but for His glory.
Posted by Ann at 7:15 AM
Monday, July 13, 2009
I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You, as a parched land. Psalms 143:6 (NASB) I've seen a parched land. I've lived in a parched land. Growing up in a desert, I know what the ground looks like at the end of a long dry season that started a month earlier than it should have and has stretched two months longer than normal. Having spent a significant amount of time in regions of Arkansas and Mississippi that rely heavily on farming, I've seen times of drought when the crops and soil are so thirsty that no amount of irrigation can make up for the lack of pure, thirst-quenching rain. Those are mental images of true longing - true thirst. Do I truly thirst for God that way? Do I live like nothing matters beyond communion with Him? When life crowds in, do I long for problems to be solved, or do I long to be closer to my God and Savior? I know the answer to those questions - I do not long for Him that way. But, that's where I desire to be. Today as life's complications stare me in the face, my desire is to long so greatly for my Savior that I see those complications as simply as way to draw me closer to Him. Lord, Your presence is all I need. Teach me to truly desire You!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so the slacker is to the one who sends him [on an errand]. Prov 10:26 (HCSB) I made my to-do list early in my quiet time this morning as I prayed over how I needed to organize this day. As I looked at it, I saw all of the things that I'd rather put off. I can do them later, can't I? It will be okay! Then I read this verse. The truth is, I am depended upon to complete these tasks. Some by my family, some by people outside my family...and some of it is just between me and my Lord. Unfortunately, I do tend to be a slacker when it comes to certain tasks, especially tasks that I don't really enjoy. If I am a slacker instead of being diligent, I have a pretty negative effect on those around me. And as my children have slacked this morning, I've seen that one of those negative effects is that of setting a bad example for my kids! So, here I am, working through my whole list. Even though there are several things I'd love to skip and replace with other, more enjoyable tasks, I am not going to do it. I am going to be diligent. I am not going to be a slacker. I am going to honor my word. And, just for the record, this blog post was on the list!
Posted by Ann at 11:18 AM
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Doesn’t Wisdom call out? Doesn’t Understanding make her voice heard? Prov 8:1 (HCSB) It's amazing the ways God challenges my heart. It might be through an interaction with someone, a passing phrase in a book, an email, a thought that seems to come from "nowhere." He is quite creative in the ways He reveals Himself to me. But, the one consistency is this...He always confirms it through His Word. Always. Without fail. I'm reading aloud a book to the girls about a Wycliffe missionary to the Philippines. During her time working on translating the Bible for a mountain tribal group there, she was continually confronted with the reality that she did not regularly take God's Word at face value. As I read her story, I see much of the same truth in my life. God makes His wisdom and understanding readily available to me - they are clearly outlined in His Word, and He uses His work in this world to make them very real to me in day to day life. I am so humbled as I realize how much wisdom and understanding I am lacking. How I must take His Word at face value and accept that He is true! He is right! He is wise! He has perfect understanding! I am so challenged to grow in this.
Posted by Ann at 1:47 PM
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Over the past week, my challenges somehow haven't made it from my planner to the blog. Although I'm not going to go back and play catch-up here, I hope to incorporate many of the ideas into posts on my thoughts blog. Thanks for reading! Keep my commands and live; protect my teachings as you would the pupil of your eye. Tie them to your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”and call understanding [your] relative. Prov 7:2-4 (HCSB) When I first started reading through Proverbs every month, I was sure that at some point I would get tired of it. I know the Word of the Lord is alive and powerful, but I also know that I can read a rut into just about anything. But instead of reading a rut into Proverbs, I seem to be learning more and more each month. As I read the verses in different translations and as the chapters are read in the midst of different circumstances, the message comes alive in such beautiful ways. Today these verses grabbed my heart. The Word of God - His wisdom and teaching - is such a precious, precious gift. But, do I live my life as if it is precious? I do a great deal to protect my eyes. When something is important for me to remember, I make sure I have it in my planner - something that is always near me and available to remind me of whatever I might forget. And, although in our society today we may have lost a bit of the concept of the closeness of relatives that was expressed in Scripture, I still can grasp the concept of wisdom being my sister and know the intimacy that should express. Do I hold the Word of God in such regard? Is it that important to me? That is my challenge - to have a conscious and high regard for the teaching of my God. To guard it in my heart as my most prized possession. To live in familiar intimacy with His wisdom.
Posted by Ann at 7:46 AM