Construction Zone: Illumination

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4

The focus of our women’s ministry this year “Rooms Full of Riches,” is based on the verse above from Proverbs. The purpose is to equip us to build our lives and homes on Biblical wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. In our winter session we dug into the wisdom of Proverbs, applying God’s Word to building our homes and lives. (In fact, that concentrated study on home-building is what prompted this series of “Construction Zone” blogs.) So, if you are reading this and find yourself desperate for wisdom and instruction in your day-to-day life, the collection of wise truths from the book of Proverbs will most likely have something to illumine your situation. scripture tells us in the book of Psalms that His word is a lamp for our feet and a light on our path. (119:105) dark_street_195913

According to dictionary.com, a proverb, in general, is “a saying popularly known and repeated, usually expressing simply and concretely, though often metaphorically, a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of humankind.” The book of Proverbs from scripture does just that, it expresses God’s truths simply and concretely. And since we Believers accept God’s Word as The Truth, sayings from the book of Proverbs carry much more weight than secular proverbs we hear in life, such as “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

The introductory words of the book of Proverbs explain its purpose this way: 

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:1-7

 

I want to gain wisdom. I need wisdom. Life is hard, and sometimes I just don’t know what to do. I need insight and understanding. I want to receive instruction for how to know what is right and to help me figure out how to live in this fallen world. Don’t you? And I want the real stuff – real wisdom – not the “wisdom” we get from well-meaning acquaintances telling us what we want to hear that’s not necessarily the truth. Wisdom that will help me dig out from under my junk and really deal with life instead of adding more confusion or complications, that’s what I want. You know what I mean?

Currently, I’m reading through Beth Moore’s Portraits of Devotion each morning this year, and this verse from the book of Proverbs popped up:

light_lamp_196504For a command is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective discipline is the way to life. Proverbs 6:23 HCSB

That’s what I want: instruction that lights my way as I journey through life. The kind of wisdom that comes from scripture and is lived out in those obedient to His Word. We can have that wisdom! How? James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. If we do that wisdom will be given to us. Have we asked for wisdom lately? Or are you like me? Are you more apt to ask God to rubber stamp your opinion of what you wish would be done in a situation? If we get to the point we really want what’s best more than we want our way, all we have to do is ask, because “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

Have you ever prayed, “Lord just write it out on a sign and tell me what to do?” I have. But I’ve never had a real billboard show up with it spelled out for me like my friend Amy has. What I have experienced most often is one of those Proverbs 6:23 flashlights shining on a dark, scary path and illuminating only about 3 steps in front of me at the most. But guess what? When I take those three steps, the illumination spreads on ahead of me to show the next 3 just like our verse above talks about! And it doesn’t just shine light for that path, but it teaches me and corrects me so that the next time I’m on a dark path I’ll remember the lessons learned and walk through that path with more peace and strength. So maybe it’s best for me NOT to get a road sign. Maybe I learn more how to live. Then it’s not just a temproary fix, but a teaching, growing experience.

dark-forest-landscape-1.jpgI’ll never forget one particular family trip to Virginia. We had left Alabama in the wee hours of the morning and found ourselves exiting the interstate at dusk. Darkness came on us quickly as we drove up the winding road to the cabin we had reserved online. There were other cabins along the deserted road, but they were spaced far apart on mountain peaks just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. By the time we reached the gated, dirt road to our cabin it was near 9pm and pitch black. My husband jumped out, unlocked and jumped right back in the car, the thought of bears and rattlesnakes unspoken between us so as not to alarm the kids. A mile of steep, bumpy clay “driveway” and we were at our destination. No lights. No moon. 4 kids. Luggage. The unknown. The fears. We managed to get all of us, and items necessary for the night, into the cabin and collapse into bed within the hour.

Next morning, we awoke to the sun streaming in. The cabin was delightful. The view was amazing. The fears were gone. Nothing had changed about the cabin and its surroundings, except that it was now illuminated by glorious sunlight. That week was one of our best vacations ever. The funny thing is, after days full of vacation fun, every night we came back to our home-away-from-home about 9pm – in the dark! But guess what! It wasn’t scary any more. Once the dark road had been illuminated, the fear was removed.

As you travel through dark times of life, seek illumination from God’s Word. Proverbs is a good place to start. The book of Psalms works too. The Gospels, Paul’s letters, it all brings light to our life. It instructs. It illumines. It reassures. We are reminded of Jesus the Light of the World, who has conquered darkness.

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Seasons of Life

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved too much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:3-5

Several years ago our church women’s ministry held an event in the fall called “Celebrate the Seasons.” It was a wonderful night out to celebrate the seasons of our lives around dozens of uniquely decorated tables representing different seasons of the year. The fall and Christmas decorations were rich and lavish. The winter tables looked crisp and white. Spring tables abounded in flowers and bunnies and such as you might imagine. For the table I decorated, I chose a summer theme, and as part of my decor used tiny lightbulbs in mason jars to remind us of lightning bugs. It was a fun night of celebration and encouragement.

As I write today my mind is stirred up with memories and rather melancholy. Fall is in the air and my spirit is feeling very fall-ish. I’m in the autumn of my life enjoying my empty nest and the pleasures of adult children and grandkids. But this fall season of life seems to scream at me sometimes, “Winter is just around the corner for you.”

A dear friend and mentor of mine passed away mere hours ago. I met her when she was in the autumn of her life, me a mere summer’s child at the time. I have vivid pictures in my mind of moments of wise advice from her, prayers over me when I was worried sick over a teenage child, and gentle rebukes at how I should treat my husband and my own aging mother. As this contemplative mood overwhelms me today I am not discouraged, maybe just a wee bit sad at the rapid pace my life is taking to its final breath. But I am also spurred on as an older woman to take these thoughts captive and try to share them in a coherent way for your encouragement.

Whatever season you find yourself in today, be thankful for it and make the most of it.

beautiful-bloom-blooming-414160If you’re in the spring, plant your habits carefully so that they serve you well through life. Accept yourself & love yourself because God definitely does. Invest your life in the things of God and in people in your life. Love your husband well. Play with your kids and really listen to them. Don’t stress over anything – God’s got this!

“Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you,… Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:1-3, 6

andaman-sea-beach-beautiful-459252If you’re in the summer of your life enjoy the pleasant pastures in which God has placed you. Put your past behind you and seek Him with your whole heart as He is preparing a new thing for you. Let go of anger, regret, and shame. Confess your sins, make amends where needed, and realize your Father in heaven has truly forgiven you.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

action-bicycle-bike-763398If you’re in a stormy season, hold His hand, trust His great love for you, have faith, and remember that these rains are watering the fertile soil of your life. Learn lessons from scripture: 1) Keep your eyes on Jesus when the waves are high and 2) Your Father is the one who can calm the waves with His voice: Peace be still.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

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If you’re in the winter of life, I can’t offer help from experience. I have not been there yet. I can say Keep on! Keep on pursuing righteousness! Keep on being an example! Keep on loving others! Keep on running the race! Keep on letting His word offer comfort and challenge! Please keep on, I’m watching you and learning from your example.

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” Jeremiah 16:31

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

leaves-2901684_1280For those of you raking leaves in your life, like I am, it’s not over. It’s time for us to get our second wind. It’s time for us to reach back and give a hand to those coming up the path just behind us. Speak out with the wisdom you have learned. Pray faithfully. Keep learning. Love well. Make it more than ever your goal “To know Him and make Him known.” It’s time to harvest what we have planted and tended for our whole lives.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:7-10

There are so many lessons to learn in each season of life. One little blog article can’t really do this subject justice. But hopefully you’ve been encouraged today. In closing I’ll leave you with a few things Mrs. Joyce taught me through her words and by her actions. Here are just a few that spring to my mind:

  • Be confident in who God made you to be. (I remember her making a “throne” of the chairs for herself to get her seat at the most comfortable position for her.)
  • Be kind. (She was. To everyone.)
  • Offer godly advice or none at all. (She did.)
  • Laugh and enjoy friends and be full of the zest of life. (I’m remembering a women’s retreat to Knoxville when she teased our high school daughters telling them they ought to get a tatoo of Beth Moore’s initials! We rolled with laughter!)
  • Study God’s word diligently and share your wisdom with others. (She modeled this constantly.)
  • Love your family wholeheartedly in word and deed. (She adored her family and shared ceaselessly about them. She also made great vegetable soup and shrimp & grits for them and for those of us blessed to eat in her home.)
  • Pray with people God brings into your day. (This she did for me.)
  • Prayer accomplishes much, so don’t quit praying for that child you are so worried over. (She taught me this at a crucial time in life.)
  • The one who cooks doesn’t have to clean up! (My favorite!)

Take or leave any of my advice. What you really need to do is go to the Word of God and follow every single word. I loved you greatly Mrs. Joyce. See you in heaven when I get there!

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(In honor of Mrs. Joyce McCombs.)

Wisdom from Children’s Books

I was on Facebook this morning and ran across an interesting article called “20 Quotes From Children’s Books Every Adult Should Know” from encurious.com. I enjoyed reading as a child, and I read to my children, so I was interested in the concept and I looked to see which quotes were chosen.

“Promise Me you’ll remember you are Braver than you believe; Stronger than you seem, Smarter than you think.” ~ A.A. Milne

The next was, “A person’s a person No matter how small” ~ Dr. Seuss. I have found a lot of wisdom through the years from Dr. Seuss.

The next quote was, “No act of kindness, No matter how small is ever wasted” ~ Aesop

My mind wandered from the article to think of the scripture from Matthew 25:40 NIV that went along with this quote. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” As I looked back to the first two quotes, I thought about what scripture would go with each of these quotes. The quote from Winnie to Pooh brought me to Luke 2:52 KJV “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and Man.” Then the Dr. Seuss quote took me to Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them; the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

pexels-photo-206673As I read through the list, my eyes stopped on a quote from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Braum – “There’s no place like home.”

Home can mean a lot of different things but I consider that Heaven is my home. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3 NIV.

The quote chosen from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery was: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

My scripture thought for this quote comes from Romans 10:10 NIV which says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you profess faith and are saved.”

The next quote was by Shel Silverstein which said,

“Listen to the Mustn’ts, child –

Listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts,

the impossibles, the won’ts.

Listen to the never Haves,

Then listen close to me….

Anything can happen, Child,

Anything Can Be.”

My thoughts went to one of my favorite verses. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NAS.

Then came my favorite Mary Poppins quote: “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun, You find the fun and Snap! The job’s a game.” ~ P.L. Travers

This took me straight to Ecclesiastes 9:10a “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

As I continued to read through the list of quotes from children’s books, I came to another of L. Frank Baum’s quotes but this time is was from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. The quote is: “The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.”

My thoughts turned to Jeremiah 1:8 where the scripture says, “ ‘Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”

When children ask how much they are loved, sometimes the answer is the next quote, “I love you to the Moon and Back.” By Tim Warnes and Amelia Hepworth.

Jeremiah 31:3 tells us “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

poor-2754335_1280Another quote in this list came from Dr. Seuss in “The Lorax.” “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s Not.”

The Bible tells us in Luke 10:33-37 ESV, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

I continued to read the article where Piglet asked, “How do you spell love?” Pooh replied, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.” ~ A.A. Milner ~ Winnie the Pooh.

John 15:13 tells us, “Greater love has not man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The last quote was from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. “Why did you do all this for me?” He asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

My thoughts went directly to my all time favorite scripture, John 3:16 ESV, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As you go through your day, look for God’s word to jump out at you. If God can speak to us through quotes from children’s books, He can speak to us anywhere and through anything. Look for God as you go throughout your day. How is God speaking to you today?

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