Happy Valentines Day to Every Woman!

On this day that celebrates romantic love we women can find ourselves sad, depressed, and feeling left out or “less than enough.” If we don’t proactively handle our thoughts as Philippians 4:8 tells us to, we may find ourselves flooded with feelings of loneliness, disappointment, and grief over what is not. Not there, not the way we wish it were, not perfect.

So today I tell you honestly: You are loved! You are enough! You are beautiful! You are treasured and adored! You Father in Heaven has a good plan for your life!

Instead of looking at romantic love today, let’s look at real love.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

Instead of looking forward with expectations of what you want to get, look with generosity to what you will give today.

Instead of focusing on what you expect to happen, give up those expectations and make a plan to shower love on friends or family or co-workers.

Instead of looking back with guilt or regret or a sense of loss, look forward to what your Father will make of your life in the days and weeks ahead.

Instead of desiring to get the roses, give the roses.

Instead of looking at what love you don’t feel you have today, look to The One who loves you just the way you are and His love that you do have this very moment.

 

Childish Whimsy: Puppies and Kittens

In women’s ministry we frequently read and discuss the stories of Mary and Martha presented in the Gospels. Sometimes I’ve felt proud of the woman I was and at other times I’ve felt judged by the lesson presented. There is great wisdom in studying these two women, each of whom had her own strengths and shortcomings.

But today we will view the principles of this story through a childish lens.

Here’s a little background to set up the article. When I was an elementary school child I thought that all puppies were boys and all kittens were girls. To me, the rough and tumble life of dogs seemed more like the boys I knew, while the prissy, picky catlike behaviors seemed more girlish. (Weird, I know. Don’t judge me.)

So let’s look at dogs and cats for a bit.

Dogs. Man’s best friend. Loyal companions. Rambunctious. Full of life. They come when  they are called, obey commands, and are happy just to be in their masters’ presence.

And then there are felines. They look at you when you call them as if to say, “How dare you disturb my repose?” They sniff at their food and turn up their noses, plop into your lap or onto your computer keyboard at the most inopportune times, and seem to exude an aura that all the world is about them. Cats are caught up in their surroundings. They are in charge and don’t always have the will to come when their master calls, nor do they do his bidding or find all their joy in just being his. Cats are out for number one. If what they want makes their master happy too, then good. But if not, so be it.

English languageday-2But dogs love and obey their master with their whole tail-wagging, tongue-hanging-out being. He is their joy and focus. All their life, their sheer existence is tied up in their master. He (or she) brings them joy. They follow him around, sit beside him or on his lap, and jump and lick and bounce around his feet the moment he gets home. The Master feeds them good things and takes care of their every need. Their whole desire is to be at their Master’s side; their life is intricately tied up with his. Dogs get it: they understand the “one thing” that they have been put on earth for.

This characteristic of dogs is very much like the most vivid lesson to be gleaned from the story of Mary and Martha: Jesus wants us to have a mind and heart focused on Him. In Luke 10 Jesus stated, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Only one thing, Our Master. Is He all that is necessary to us today? Do we simply desire to be with our Master, to know Him and please Him? As women we wear many hats and are pulled in many directions. But to have our hearts firmly settled in Him is the only thing that matters. That alone will bring us peace and give us direction.

We see a very similar lesson in the Biblical account of Mary & Martha, as we can see through the lives of dogs and cats, a focus on the one import thing: the Master. So instead of bringing on thoughts of self-condemnation and judgment by asking if you are a Mary or a Martha, may I ask may I ask a rather innocent question, are you a cat or a dog at heart?

Construction Zone: Edify

The last several months our ladies ministry has prepared for a year-long study that focuses on building our homes and lives God’s way. We’ve started off in the book of Proverbs seeking to grasp what is revealed there about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. At the same time, my discipleship group was finishing up an in-depth study of First Thessalonians.

As I was studying through 1 Thessalonians 5, I came upon verse 11. In the English Standard Version it reads:

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Encouraging verse. Easy to glance over and tell yourself, “Oh I do that. I’m pretty encouraging.”

But the focus of the study that day was to do 4 things to gain more insight. To

1) observe 1 Thess. 5,

2) ask questions about it,

3) find cross references, and

4) use some Bible tools (concordance, dictionary, atlas, etc.) to find deeper meaning.

So I started with step one and began observing and asking questions about the scripture. My thinking followed a winding course that yielded some neat conclusions.

“Encourage” and “build up” sounded the same to me. You encourage someone to build them up, right? So I looked it up in a couple of other versions to see if it would shed some light on the meaning. And the KJV of verse 11 read –

“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”

Edify? Hmmm. Does that mean the same as encourage? I thought. I’d heard the word edify in church but had never really had it firmly defined in my mind. Surely it didn’t mean the same as encourage, because then Paul would be saying, “Encourage each other and encourage each other.” That sounded redundant. But sometimes scripture repeats something for emphasis, maybe it was just that.

As I reached for a dictionary, I was reminded of the word edifice (like a big building). I wondered if the terms were connected or were from the same root word. 

I looked up the words edifice and edify in some online dictionaries. Edifice did indeed refer to a large imposing structure, concrete or abstract, and to a complex system of beliefs.

For the word edify the primary definition was an expected one: “to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge : uplift : enlighten: inform.” Its synonyms included, educate, illumine, inspire, and nurture, among others. 

But then the second definition, listed as an archaic definition, really grabbed my attention.

  1. archaic a: build b: establish

architecture-build-building-209266It comes from the Latin noun aedes, meaning “house”or “temple,” which is the root of aedificare, a verb meaning “to erect a house.”

Wow! How neat. My other study is on Homebuilders, and here in a random verse in 1 Thess. 5, God is bringing up the idea of building again.

So naturally I did a quick word study. I looked up the word in a Strong’s concordance and a Greek lexicon that told the original Greek meaning. (If you are unsure how to study your Bible in this way check out previous articles here and here.) The Greek word was Oikodomeō, which reminded me of a yogurt, however, the lexicon I was consulting defined it this way:

(a) usually signifies “to build,” whether literally, or figuratively;

(b) is used metaphorically, in the sense of “edifying,” promoting the spiritual growth and development of character of believers, by teaching or by example, suggesting such spiritual progress as the result of patient labor.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defined it as: to be a house-builder, i.e. construct or (figuratively) confirm, and went on to further say…

a. properly, to build (up from the foundation): to build upon a foundation laid by others, to carry on instruction begun by others. (Luke 11:48)

b. contextually equivalent to restore by building, to rebuild, repair.

c. metaphorically, Since both a Christian church and individual Christians are likened to a building or temple in which God or the Holy Spirit dwells,  the erection of which temple will not be completely finished till the return of Christ from heaven, those who, by action, instruction, exhortation, comfort, promote the Christian wisdom of others and help them to live a correspondent life are regarded as taking part in the erection of that building… .

It’s the same word that’s used in Matthew 7:24 about the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and in Matthew 26:61 when two men claimed that Jesus said he was able to tear the temple down and rebuild it in three days, as well as in Mark 12:1 where it talked about a man building a tower. All of these uses of the Biblical word edify were about physical structures.

The huge revelation in that moment was that in God’s eyes we are building each other! Just as the builders across the street from me are putting together a house, you and I have a part in helping each other become a spiritually strong well-built house. We help build character and habits, spiritual understanding and homes and marriages! We are built up by others throughout our lives and in turn have a role in building others’ foundations on Christ. We need each other – we don’t need to be Lone Rangers!

Isn’t it amazing that our Creator gifts us with the ability to procreate and to be creative in our lives just as He is? Our wonderful Counselor allows us to counsel and encourage others. Christ Jesus calls us to be imitators of him, “little Christs,” Christians, living out life as He modeled it. And God the architect and builder spoken of in Hebrews 11:10, allows us to participate in that aspect of Himself as well! We get to build, to edify, alongside Him! Isn’t it amazing?

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(Dictionary definitions are from Merriam-Webster.)

Best Laid Plans…

Our routine was changed. Sunday morning would have to be altered a bit. An afternoon family outing would require us to be somewhere promptly at a specified time. We would have to be intentional about our worship. We are chronically late and we chronically run behind. I used to never be late, if I were late it actually meant I was on time. That was until I had children and a husband who moves at a slower pace than I.

I used to just leave him in the dust, be about my business and leave him to his own devices. I used to literally sit in the car and honk the horn incessantly until he finally made his way toward me. By the time he arrived I was aggravated at his insensitivity and he was annoyed with my impatience. That was until we both realized that if we were ever going to make this two becoming one marriage deal work we were both going to have to learn to give a little grace.

Now, despite the fact that it still bothers me to be late (aka just be on time), I can compromise, and in doing so I’ve learned to communicate clearly the actual time we need to leave factoring in unexpected traffic issues, potty breaks, and forgotten things. This seems to work, some of the time anyway.

That particular last Sunday of the year I knew we could not revert to our normal plan. We would never make our destination on time. I devised a foolproof plan, Dad would do his thing (a long ago weekly commitment of playing in the worship band) and duck out early. I along with the children would do something altogether different. We would attend a favorite first service, albeit further from home, it is noted not to “run over” as much. We would worship with friends and meet Dad at the coffee shop promptly after our far from home nearer to our destination Church Service. At promptly 10:30, we would depart together, thereby ensuring our scheduled arrival on time.

As we prayed on the drive in, the kids and I thanked our King for different things and things the same as well. I told them that as I had prayed for our word for the year, the King had graciously given, and it was actually a phrase rather than a word. I giggled as I told them that He had imparted it through the Book of Acts. We have been studying it together this school year and the thought of carrying Acts with us into the next must have made me giggle. I wanted them to know I would be praying it and saying often through the coming year. Pay Attention

“Pay attention.”

“Huh?” almost at once the three of them questioned. Irony At its best I mused.

“Pay attention.” That’s our family is word this year.

In our world of perpetual distraction, when days go by I wonder how I’ve even made it to the end of it, time flies by at breakneck speed and it feels I’ve just had breakfast and it’s time to kiss everyone goodnight. I need the daily reminder to pay attention.

“Pay attention.”

As we arrived on campus, pulling in to see the constant, larger than life, picture of Grace, the Cross before us, the drizzle had become more steady and the clouds heavier. I commented on the choosing of a parking place and pulled into a spot I felt certain would guarantee us a ride on the dry bus. I never turn down curbside service even if it means afterward I have to walk a bit extra. Also despite being married to a meteorologist, I rarely know the weather or have a working umbrella. Again, irony at its best.

As I chose my space and pulled in my Martin progeny protested.

“Mom there are so many like way closer!”

“Mama where is everybody? I thought we were late.” I knew we were right on time, (I’ve intentionally set my car clock up a few minutes. They have yet to catch on and I’m not telling them. It aids my getting there on time cause.)

Admittedly I was puzzled though. Usually by this time those front row parking spaces had long ago been captured by the early-in-enough-time-for-two-cups-of-coffee-and-a-doughnut people.

I still hadn’t caught on as we opened the door and I hugged a beloved greeter friend, and she handed us one of the many worship guides she was distributing. Usually by the time we arrive most of those had already been dispensed. I still hadn’t caught on.
It wasn’t until we entered the worship center, few seats were occupied, we had our choice of seats, (that never happens I thought) and the praise band appeared to be practicing that I began to question how on-time-slash-early we actually were.

It was just as we settled into our choice seats that I looked at the long ago and just as forgotten email I received weekly outlining the events of the coming week. I had assumed it said what it should: this week would be good, it would be a great way to end the Old year and step into the next by coming to church, don’t forget year-end tax things. Business per usual.

As I opened my email, the subject line caught my eye. “One 10:00am service this Sunday” I literally laughed out loud.

I broke the news to my children, who for a moment thought I would make them leave. They loved worship here. How could I? I recalculated my painstaking plan and travel times. About that time they all began to contribute just how we might make it work. We were already walking toward the door when their pleas yielded results. I decided we would stay. Cheers reverberated in the mostly empty building. Charlotte leaned over and said, “Mama what was that word?”

“What word?” I said

“Pay attention.” she said softly in my ear.

Had I paid attention I would have known. Had I paid attention I would have known ahead of time that the timing might not work out as well as I had planned. As is customary with the King, He used that reversed tardiness to teach me to yield to Him and to pay attention even in the small things and as is always customary, His plans are better than my best laid ones and for His Word declares it so.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 ESV

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