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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Favorite Gift

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Me: “What was your favorite gift you got for Christmas?”

She said nothing, she just smiled and pulled out of her gifts a folded piece of paper. As she unfolded it she smiled, more like beamed. When she had received it nearly a week prior she had cried. She was speechless, but she wept with joy.

As she turned the paper to face me, I knew what it was, I could see the crease marks beginning to show signs of repeatedly being opened and folded back up again. I wondered how long it would remain in one piece. I marveled at how overjoyed she was and at the simplicity of her gift.

She rubbed her hand across the words and said, “It just makes me so happy.” The favorite gift was a gift to others, strangers across the world whom she has never met and ones who will never know her name. It was the gift of food and nourishment for a Mama and her baby for a month. Starvation halted and salvation offered. It was what she wanted more than anything. All I can say is I am not worthy to have been given such a precious child, yet I have been. For reasons that will forever boggle my mind, the King chose me to be her Mama and I am humbled that He would do it and I am privileged to witness what He is doing with her

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25:40 NIV

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Discipling: A Tribute and a Challenge

Disciples – disciplers. Learners – teachers. Mentees – mentors. We all have these relationships, whether they have been formally declared or not. We all teach many and are taught by many people in life. Those around us display examples before us from the time we are born, and we begin early on to mimic, to follow, to adapt to the ways of these wise, or not so wise teachers, depending upon the family or community into which we were born.

In God’s word we see this concept of discipleship being held up as an appropriate way to live out the Christian life. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you….” 

He didn’t just instruct us to go share the Gospel, but to go further and to teach and guide. Later in the New Testament, Paul instructs Timothy in the same way. He tells him to be both a disciple and a discipler. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul writes to his young mentee:

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 

To be able to say those words as Paul did requires that we have learned how to live so that we may honestly and in good conscience say to others in essence, “You can trust what I say. I base it on God’s word. Follow my example.”

mentor-3563661_1280.jpgAs a girl I was blessed to have had this kind of people in my life. I was discipled by many wonderful Christian friends and mentors.

The Kirkleys, a man and wife who were my choir director and Sunday School teacher, taught us more than just music and random Bible stories. They systematically taught us behavior altering principles upon which to base our life, and they lived it out. They weren’t perfect people, but even in the ups and downs they taught us impressionable young people how to walk through even hard things in a godly manner. They showed us what a beautiful marriage was and how to serve humbly and effectively.

Then there was Laura, a generous-hearted older girl in our youth group. She was off in college by the time I was in high school. She was being discipled through the Navigators, a Christian organization active on her college campus. In turn, she chose to invest in us entrepreneurship-3822492_1280.jpgyounger girls. She faithfully came home every weekend to attend church and while there would meet with our small group of chatty girls to walk through scripture and help us answer the questions we had and build a foundation for life based on God’s word. Even today some 40 years later, I refer back to those Design for Discipleship books, the verses and illustrations they contained, and the principles they taught me.

Then there was my iron-sharpens-iron friend, Joan, who was, and is still to this day, the  godliest woman I know. I was mouthy, flighty, and immature. She was a rock, full of fun, yet grounded in godly wisdom. She walked beside me as a friend my age going through similar circumstances and always shining the spotlight of God’s word on what was going on in life.

There were many others. Mr. D, a favorite school teacher and deacon in our church who opened his classroom each day for Morning Watch and acted as a role model and the Heavenly Father’s guide through those tumultuous high school years. Mrs. Latham who taught me in 3rd grade and started me on the path of scripture memory, and her daughter Fran who invested in us in college and challenged us to live pure, holy lives as she was doing herself. Marcie who challenged this anxiety-filled teenage girl to memorize an important scripture verse with her (Philippians 4:6-7 because we were volleyball-team-1586522_1280both worriers.) And there are a string of others too numerous to mention. What would I have turned out to be without their wisdom and guidance? Every teen in our youth group at church was impacted by these people. Today, those grown up youth from the 70s are pastors, teachers, moms and dads, doctors, engineers and god-fearing members of society in many other fields.

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You have probably had similar people pour into you. As an adult, you are now aware of and thankful for the impact of these people upon your life. But what are you now doing with what you were given?

As society has progressed the world has changed. Commitments, electronics, busyness, as well as work and hobbies among other distractions have morphed us into people who are less connected and therefore have less influence for good on the world around us. Are you today offering the same kind of discpling and teaching to younger Christians around you that you were given growing up? It is so easy to not get involved, to not teach, not disciple because of our lifestyle, and to choose to leave it up to someone else.

As 2019 is dawning on us, I challenge you today to start fresh and make these words of Paul a cry of your heart this year. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Take what you have been given and pass it on. Invest in the next generation of Christians. Grow. Multiply. Share. Invest. Do it intentionally.

help-2444110_1280What do we teach them?

God’s word.

How to live it out.

How to study it.

How Jesus would have us treat others in these volatile times.

Open your heart and life to those coming along behind you, and let them learn by watching you live. It is the most generous, life-changing gift you can give. You’ve been issued a challenge. Do you take the challenge?

“Find Us Faithful” by Steve Green

We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to God’s sustaining grace.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion
light their way.
May the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.

Adventurous Eating

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 CSB

We had planned to have a low-key day, I was scheduled to work so we had not planned on a large family meal or visits with extended family. We had resolved that we would celebrate that Day’s events the following day. When the unexpected surprise came that we could spend our time together we opted for Chinese Cuisine for our family lunch. We dressed casually. I donned my “Go Jesus it’s your Birthday” shirt and jeans, and out the art-bokeh-bright-1455985door we went. Our favorite Chinese place is about a 20 minute drive away, we sang together loudly with the radio and saw only a few passing cars. It was obvious it was Christmas.

When we arrived at our favorite eatery the parking lot was already filling with vehicles. We pulled our tired ol’ minivan into a spot and I chuckled at all the surrounding fanciful, luxurious, cars dotting the perimeter. As I am prone to do, I imagined my ol’ minivan attempting to converse with the other transportation vehicles and the awkwardness of it all made me giggle out loud.

“Why you have an actual key for your ignition?” (In my head I imagined the Beamer parked adjacent with a female slightly foreign voice.)

“What do you mean you don’t have a backup camera?”

“You mean your seats are torn and sutured together with duct tape?”

When asked what I was laughing about, I knew I would have to explain, so I just said, “Nothing.”

Our wait time was minimal and as is customary we perused the adjacent oriental market. I said repeatedly to my Martins, “Look with your eyes only! NOT your hands!”

When we were seated we were placed in a large corner booth. We “selfied” and chatted and decided on our lunch cuisine. To each his own. Some simple. Some came with a warning from our waiter, Jack, “It very authentic. You sure you want? Lots of tofu?” My adventurous eaters grinned and nodded in affirmation. Jack relented and wrote it down on his notepad, I figured he might be saying to himself, “That’s not going to end well.”

As we waited for lunch to arrive a family was seated next to us in our big booth. The mama was giving seating directions in English and then would speak in brief segments of what I assumed was Mandarin Chinese. She sounded as most Mamas do, instructing where to sit and ordering drinks. She would answer questions and was as good at deflecting any melt down inducing answers as any experienced fencer might be in warding off blows from an equally skilled opponent. As they sat, the youngest boy was brought a cup with a lid and straw.

boy-child-drink-332091.jpg“No! I want a big-boy cup like you! I’m not a little kid! I can do it by myself!”

The bilingual Mama shushed him as she ordered something and then clarified in English, “Roasted Snails.” I thought I might fall over. None of our table occupants even flinched except for me.

The smallest in stature again protesting his drink cup.

“No!! I can do It ALL BY MYSELF!”

His wise bilingual Mama continued to busy herself with Mama-at-the-table tasks: Ordering for the non-bilingual people at the table, spreading out napkins, placing silverware out of reach, moving the mid-table carafe of enticing temptations. She looked like I have before, and even like I do now, a universal maternal meal time standard of operating procedures.

As the meal meandered on, ours and theirs, I was replaying the conversations in my head.

The “I can do it all by myself!” mentality spans the world of age and geography.
I’ve said it myself a time, or ten. I say it often actually. I do not like to be dependent, to ask for help. I do not like to need help. Yet by that very mindset I’m in direct contrast with what the King desires for me. He wants me to give my burden to Him, to come to Him. His Word says,

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

As we left our favorite place and I imagined my tired ol’ minivan having made friends with her upper class neighbors (perhaps she vowed to see them soon), her occupants were full and happy having spent time together. This Matriarch occupant was especially grateful for having remembered, in the King’s economy, it takes more resolve and strength to be dependent on Him than it does to do it all by myself, and in doing that, knowing He will sustain me.

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In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6

A Day of Remembrance

As we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. today, my favorite quote of his springs to mind.

“The end of life is not to be happy, nor to achieve pleasure and avoid pain, but to do the will of God, come what may.”

What a very important concept to grasp. Life readily lures us to seek to achieve happiness, pursue pleasure, and lead a life focused on self and our own desires. We do anything we can to escape pain, whether it’s pills for physical pain, or hobbies, distractions and trips to escape the emotional pains. Comfort at all costs seems to be society’s mantra.

How different our lives would be if “To do the will of God, come what may,” became our guiding principle of life!

Today as you remember Rev. King and are thankful for all he contributed to our world, let’s not reduce him to a secular hero. He was a man of God, and his faith led him to take the steps he did. Let’s do likewise and allow God’s will to be our driving motivation.

church-348806_1280Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

 

 

 

What’s Your Watchword?

Definition:

watchword – a word or phrase expressing a person’s or group’s core aim or belief; a word or motto that embodies a principle or guide to actions of an individual or group

Do you have a watchword?

As of late it has become trendy and fashionable to have a “word for the year.” Have you chosen one? Or maybe more accurately, has a word chosen you?

It seems that each year about this time, fall through early January, a word or theme starts popping up in connection with the theme of my life at the time. One year it was live. Another year it was grace. And still another surrender. Each word had to do with something I was going through, and each became the guiding principle of my life that year.

I encourage you to seek the word the Lord has for you. Maybe it’s just one word like mine, but perhaps it’s a phrase or a scripture verse, a guiding principle God is planting in your heart for this year. A word that gives you vision and purpose. One that challenges you.

How do you find your word?

  • Pray.
  • Read God’s Word and meditate on it.
  • Journal some thoughts and prayers, reflecting on your current situation, desires, and concerns.
  • Listen as God speaks in a still, small voice to your heart.
  • Seek the Father.

Proverbs 29:18 tells us that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Do you have a vision, a word, a guiding verse from the Lord? I challenge you to seek out a specific word for this year from the Lord, a word to give life focus and direction. As children of God we need to be arrows that are properly aimed and fly straight to hit the mark and accomplish all God has for each year of our life.

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Letter Box

“Mama, why does this box keep moving around your house?”

Over the course of a few days and visits to my Mama’s I had noticed the small wooden box in a couple of different places. A long while ago it was a candy box, one of the very few gifts my Grandmother (known to me as Mam-Maw and I to her as Mamie) had ever received. I knew the box well, its family lore made its way through generations of stories. Once one of my Aunts pitched a regular ol’ hissy fit because she wanted the box. My Mam-maw had very few things that actually belonged to her and while she would literally give away the shirt off her back to someone who needed it, she wouldn’t part with that box for the sake of a whiny child’s demands.

I always giggled at that one, partly because I know all I’d have really wanted was the art-blur-box-208974long ago consumed candy it held more than the actual box. Upon my Mam-Maw’s passing, my Mama inherited the wooden box with a hinged top and fading decoupaged landscape scene. It measures no more than 6 inches wide by 18 inches long. It is no more than 4 inches deep. And it is not what one could refer to as a priceless heirloom. To be honest I hadn’t given it much thought until it started to move around her home.

She lives in a small bungalow type garden home. The first day I noticed it I had made a pit stop in her guest bath. It was sitting on the edge of the counter. I wondered if she were planning to incorporate it into her bath decor, maybe a new container to hold hand towels. I shrugged the thought off and gave it merely a momentary thought as I made my way out of the bathroom. A few days later, I was in the living room and noticed the candy box not-so-family-heirloom sitting on the coffee table. I had nearly forgotten the presumed hand towel holder and deduced she must have decided against that. Again a fleeting thought, again no more than a momentary notice. Its final resting place at the kitchen table was when I asked my Mama that question.

“Mama, why does this box keep moving around your house?”

She was standing at the stove, baking cookies. She does that. Bakes cookies. Her Grandchildren love it when she bakes cookies. They have an arrangement, she bakes the cookies; they eat themwooden-box-2552370_1920.png

She laughed as she placed the cookies on a rack to cool.

“Look inside it. There are some letters in there that are old. Mama wrote some and her mama too. Some of them are pretty funny.”

I grabbed my reading glasses, a warm cookie, and I settled down at the table to read. Opening that candy box was like opening a treasure trove for this vintage-world-loving, word oriented gal. She was right, some of them were hilarious. Some of then not-so-much. Those letters were a part of my history. As my Great Grandmother, Lillie penned them, I wondered if it ever crossed her mind that her Great Granddaughter would one day be reading them. As I gingerly unfolded and read those letters I was awestruck. Here in faded writing on tattered soft, hundred year old paper were words of mundane and everyday life, a time gone by and hardly remembered today. One of the letters commented on a bad haircut leaving an unfortunate teenage boy with the repercussions of a novice barber, dull scissors, and poor economics.

As I pieced together some long forgotten history I pondered on the art of letter writing and was reminded of one who wrote letters that I had just been studying. Paul wrote letters, many of them. His last letter prior to his execution at the hands of Nero was written to Timothy. I read 2 Timothy with a new perspective. Timothy was Paul’s mentee, protegé, and those words were the last ones Paul would share with Timothy. I suppose if I were writing a letter knowing it were my last one, I would chose the most important things to say to the reader. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit would have likely done just that.

My Great Grandmother Lille and my Great-Great Grandmother Bertie may have chosen to write about something else had they known a century later my eyes would be reading the only part of them that I would ever know.

God wants us to know Him and He penned a beautiful letter to us in the form of the Bible. A beautiful work that tells us His character, His will, His Grace and His love for us.
His word, like that little candy box is a treasure trove of words written centuries ago and unlike that candy box of letters, the Writer is just as real and alive as when the words were penned.

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