The Wisdom of Leaning

Yes, leaning.

Who are the people we tend to look up to, admire, want to follow? Generally, it’s the strong; the leader; the successful entrepreneur or the woman who always appears put together.

And yet, sometimes the wisest, and strongest, thing we can do is recognize our weakness and lean in–to Jesus, to others–for help, support, guidance.

The apostle Paul recounts asking God several times to heal him of a physical affliction. In II Corinthians 12:9-10 he shares the message he got back. “Each time he (God) said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s ways are so opposite of our North American “can-do” mentality, our focus on independence. When something in our lives isn’t working, we try harder, like the little train that could. Only sometimes we can’t. And God doesn’t want us to try apart from Him. I sometimes find it a challenge to step back from my own striving to say “I can’t do this; can’t help this person; can’t change this situation. Only You can, so help me lean into You and allow You to work without my getting in Your way.”

We’re instructed to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:17 (NIV) God never planned for us to carry our burdens alone. He has promised to guide, instruct, counsel and love us. We have this great resource wholly available to us. But how often do we forget, or neglect, to call on Him for help?

Sometimes wisdom is just leaning into Jesus, trusting His heart even when I can’t see His hand at work. There was a time when I couldn’t see the next step ahead, when I felt devoid of hope, unsure of what to do, in a mire of despondency, confusion and despair. While I trusted God, I had no strength left with which to hold onto Him. But scripture, and truths I’d learned from His Word, assured me that He would not let me go even when I couldn’t hang on even by the tips of my fingers. During that time He gave me a song, to which I clung.  I listened to it every night for at least three weeks before going to sleep. Here are the lyrics, and a link to the song as sung by the Gaither Vocal Band.

 

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,

While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place.

‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try,

For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”

But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise

Where the storms never darken the skies.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more,

Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore;

In that land where the tempest never comes, Lord, may I

Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

Chorus Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

I want to be wise enough to lean into my Lord and Savior, trusting Him through the storms and joys ahead; and to rejoice as He leads me through this new year. Won’t you join me?

The Wisdom of Words

         Golden apple by krzysiu                    “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me” was wrong–way wrong. Sometimes the deepest wounds are those caused by the sharp blade of hurtful words.

When I was around ten years old, a neighbor said I was “pleasantly plump.” Those words, meant well, have never left me. Who wants to be “pleasantly plump?” Words can cower a woman, destroy her spirit.  An abusive husband can tell a woman she’s worthless, never affirm her in her business or homemaking skills, or tell her she is important to him. A husband whose wife degrades him in front of others shows by words and actions that she doesn’t respect him. A child’s parents may tell him he has big ears, is lazy, stupid, uncoordinated.

Words can be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes I ask God to give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. Proverbs 10:19 warns against too many words: “Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” (NLT) A tremendous gift given to me after my first husband died was the attentive ear of a dear friend, who spent several hours sitting on the floor while I poured out my heart, talking about Jerry’s last day and his death. Her words were few, but precious. “Mmmmm ….”, “Oh my”, “I’m so sorry.” Sometimes listening in silence is the greatest gift we can give others.

Gossip destroys people and reputations. Lies and flattery hurt by raising false hopes; perverse or crude words bring others (as well as the speaker) down. And angry words destroy. It’s been said that the one thing you can never take back is your words. Once they have left the mouth they are always out there, never to be pulled back in. Thankfully, we can repent, we can ask those we’ve hurt to forgive us; but the damage can never be erased.

Another close friend ministered to me through words. A nurse, she told me how to read Jerry’s vital signs on the monitor and what each meant; how to know when his health was getting critical. So both silence and words can be a tremendous gift to others.

Wise words are a blessing. Proverbs 16:24 says it beautifully: “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (NLT) With our lips we praise God; and with our lips we encourage and influence others.

It was my eighth grade civics class. Our amazing teacher, Mrs. Goolsby, returned the graded tests to each of the students in the class, except me. What could have happened?

“Carol, I’d like you to stay after class for a few minutes.”

Mrs. Goolsby told me, in private, that I had failed the test. I was a reasonably good student, so this didn’t make sense to either of us. She questioned the process I’d used in answering the true/false questions and together, we figured out I had crossed out the right answer rather than crossing out the wrong one and leaving the correct one showing. When she re-graded the test with this criteria I had passed. But her words were kind, her heart discerning to understand what had gone wrong, and I knew she believed in me. Words of honey! And with her words, she influenced me for good.

The bottom line, as Pastor Val said last week, is that our words reveal our hearts.

Do you recall a time when words were either a curse or a blessing to you? How has that impacted your life?

“May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

The Beginning of Wisdom

New Year. New challenges. New hopes and dreams. And questions about what the year ahead holds for each of us. I don’t know about you, but I feel like wisdom may be my biggest need for 2018, and so, I choose it as my word. I’m sometimes unwise; my words can hurt or wound. I may ask questions when all someone needs is to be listened to, or know I’m praying for them. So where do I begin?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NKJV) Since the book of Proverbs mentions the fear of the Lord being the beginning, or foundation, of wisdom four times within the first ten chapters, it must be important. This kind of fear is not a quaking mentality, afraid something bad will happen. Instead, it is a reverence for God, an awe or respect, knowing He is holy and righteous and knows what is best, not only for me but for those in my circle of influence.

Several years ago I was offered something seemingly good, something that could open new doors, provide additional income, and be fun and exciting. But suddenly, in the middle of the conversation, my spirit revolted and I felt a loud, inner “NO!”

So I spoke the “No” aloud.

“Are you sure you don’t want to pursue this?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

And that ended that opportunity. But I believe the Spirit of God was letting me know, with great certainty, that this was not God’s best, and not a wise choice for me.

 

In order to experience God’s wisdom and direction, we need to know Him, to know how He works and what wisdom looks like. The apostle James described that kind of wisdom: “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” (James 3:17 NLT)

If wisdom starts with reverence for God, we need to spend time with Him. Romans 12:2 says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” We are transformed as we focus on Christ through time in the Word and in prayer.

And the good news is, it’s not all up to us. Our generous God promises to give wisdom as we ask in faith (James 1:5-6). So I plan to ask, to see, to rely on my loving Father for wisdom, trusting Him to provide what is needed as I lean on Him. How about you?

QUESTION: Do you have a word for the year? I’ve not done this before so would love to hear of your experience and learn from you.

 “Choose my (wisdom’s) instruction rather than silver, and knowledge over pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can be compared with it.” Proverbs 8:10-11 NLT

Love, Commitment and a New Year

The gifts have been unwrapped, wrapping paper has been cleaned up, joy-filled Christmas carols have been replaced by Easy Listening radio and Bowl games, and turkey leftovers are in the freezer. Today we’re taking down the tree.

As we enter a new year, many will make resolutions, many of which will go by the wayside before the end of the month. It is good, however, to reflect on the past year and consider where we might want to make changes.  Some of my goals, not resolutions, for 2018:  to know Christ better; to love and serve my husband, family and others; to build relationships and focus on presence.

And as I think of some memories from this Christmas just past, I am incredibly grateful for family.

It was the anniversary dance at my niece’s celebration of marriage. Don and I, who are not dancers, enjoyed holding each other and swaying to the music. We sat down pretty quickly, at “married ten years or less” (our eighth anniversary is this month).

The DJ kept counting.

“If you’ve been married fifteen years or less, sit down.” Some did.

“If you’ve been married twenty … twenty-five … thirty-two … thirty-seven …”

Of about twenty couples who started the dance, only two remained on the floor: my second oldest and my youngest brothers and their wives. My oldest brother would have been there too, had his wife been able to join us that day. Bob and Sheila left the dance floor at “forty or less”, while Arnold and Carol remained center stage until the DJ said “If you’ve been married fifty years or less …”

Dad & Mom, married 58 years

I loved seeing my brothers and sisters-in law out there, a testimony to the grace of God and to commitment over the long haul.

Bob’s tender gaze as he danced with Sheila touched my heart.

Carol had a life-changing stroke five years ago. Her mobility is limited, despite her determination to regain health and strength, to relearn the use of muscles and processes from walking, to using her hands. So to see the love she and Arn share, the laughter and joy they express with each other, and to see them standing, Carol dependent on Arnold for stability, on the dance floor after fifty years of marriage was especially meaningful. And to have the last two couples on the dance floor be two of my brothers and sisters-in-law touched my heart with thanksgiving. It speaks to the values we have learned from our parents, from our understanding of God’s principles about love and commitment, and to the grace of God in our family’s life. Each of us has faced hardships. We’ve lost family members we treasured. Marriages have gone through difficult challenges. But our commitment to God and family has kept us together, and I thank God for His grace in each of our lives and marriages.

So as we move into this new year, I pray God’s grace on each of us, and on you, my dear readers. Grace for each day, each trial, each joy, each marriage and family. As Tiny Tim so aptly said, “God bless us, everyone!”

Joyful Christmas!

 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

 

God sent His Son, Jesus the Christ, to enter our world so that we might have the incredible privilege of entering His!

May you experience the joy of the Light of the World this Christmas and in the New Year.