Monday, October 31, 2016

TGIM Reflection 10/31/2016

Good morning, visitors! And welcome to a new feature on my blog, called the TGIM Reflection.

TGIM, as in THANK GOD IT'S MONDAY. This came about because I began to notice that during my prayers at the start of the week, I'd say something to the Lord like, "Well, I thank You for this day, even if it is a Monday, Jesus." LOL!

You ever do that? I kinda stopped myself (at last!) and prayed, "That's silly of me, because You made this day, too, just like You made the rest of the week."

This is the day that the Lord has made--let us rejoice and be glad in it!

To be honest, rejoicing over Monday didn't happen overnight, and I still have to remind myself. But I now find myself looking at poor, little Monday, the day everybody dreads and even hates, with new eyes, and treating it more gently. Best of all, it is the start of a whole new week, and it brings with it all new adventures, all new memories to be made, all new opportunities.

So for today, our first TGIM reflection, remember that while you're having that first cup of coffee of the day--well, of the week--that no matter what is going on in your little corner of the world, there is nothing that will happen today that you and Jesus can't handle together.

"With God all things are possible." Mark 10:27

Enjoy your Monday! TGIM!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Heroine of Proverbs 31 -- PART III

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. - Proverbs 31:23-25 NAS

Welcome back to our study of the Heroine of Proverbs31! You know, when I first began, I envisioned it being in three parts. However, there's so much to cover, and I'd rather we savor these verses together, reflecting on them and savoring them. Why rush through God's Word? So I've decided there will be a Part IV.

That said...let's begin!

Her husband is known in the gates,when he sits among the elders of the land. Since Proverbs 31 focuses more on Mrs. Excellent, there's not a lot written about Mr. Excellent here, but it is understood that he is known and respected. While he is tending to his business, his wife is tending to hers.

This is a simple passage within the text, but one that says a lot about the Excellent Wife. The husband has his role and the wife has hers, and you can almost put them into a modern context, seeing them at the dinner table, each discussing their day.

She works independently of Mr. Excellent, and yet they have the common goal of caring for each other and the rest of the family. (Of course, some husbands and wives may work together, as in a family business. Even then, they each have their own roles in which they work.)

Mrs. Excellent doesn't only tend the house and care for the children. That's true of the stay-at-home mom, too. She may not have a 9-to-5 job like the working mother, but she may have a little part-time at the mall or freelance work, or even her own small business, that contributes to the finances of the household, or she volunteers at church or within the community. Some Mrs. Excellents are similarly busy with being a caretaker for a special needs child or an elderly parent. In other words, there are a lot of facets to the Heroine of Proverbs 31. She and her husband are one, yes, but she has her own, God-given identity, as well. And she puts into practice Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."

The Lord God has given each and every one of us not only a purpose, but also a talent, a gift, or a passion. You may be saying, "Not me! I think God forgot me when it came to handing out talents."

This is a good time to interject that our Father, the One who created us, who knew us even when we were in our mother's womb, never forgets His own. He never forgets, period! His memory is impeccable. The discussion of personal gits and talents is a great topic for another study, but here are a few things that God's Word has to say about work in general:

* "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men." - Colossians 3:23 NAS

* "So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof; for the people had a mind to work." - Nehemiah 4:6 KJV

* "For the laborer deserves his wages." - Luke 10:7  ESV

* "Morever, that every man that eats and drinks sees good in all his labor--it is the gift of God." - Ecclesiastes 3:13 NAS

She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.

Mrs. Excellent is certain of her talent because she puts it to use. Besides creating beautiful originals for her husband, children, herself, and the rest of her household, she makes fine garments and belts that she then sells "to the tradesmen." Now that is an enterprising lady! No wonder she burns the midnight oil. You can almost see her sitting and getting lost in her work at night, with her husband asking, "Honey, you comin' to bed?" She replies, "Oh, babe, I've got an order from the tradesmen for these to fill in the morning. Give me ten more minutes!"

The tradesmen rely on her. They give her their business. Notice how this is in direct contrast to the world's claim that the Bible teaches oppression against women. The tradesmen see that the Heroine of Proverbs 31 does good work. That she's reliable, she's honest, she's pleasant and professional in all her dealings. She takes pride in her work.

That describes a lot of women that I know. Maybe they don't know what their talent is yet, or they aren't doing a job connected to whatever true creative passion God has given them. Take heart--maybe the time and the opportunity for that hasn't been presented yet. That doesn't mean it won't.

Nevertheless, a real-life Mrs. Excellent does good work. She is reliable. She is honest. She is pleasant and professional in all her dealings. She takes pride in the work that her hand has found to do. She works as if her boss is the Lord and not man.

Because strength and dignity are her clothing, she is like Mrs. Excellent. She smiles at the future.

First, what a lovely thing to be said about you! "Because strength and dignity are your clothing." My mother came  to the U.S. from Cuba with only a third-grade education. When she and my dad divorced, she went to work as a housekeeper in a hospital. To the human eye, her clothing was a dull, blue uniform, with plain, padded white shoes. In God's eyes, and in mine as someone blessed to have been her daughter, strength and dignity were her clothing.

That is the way God sees us, because unlike man, who looks at the outside, God looks upon the heart.

And she smiles at the future.

Do you smile at the future? A better question is, who holds your future in His hand? And not only yours, but the future of your loved ones?

These are very desperate times in which we live. We don't know what's going to happen from one day to the next. We're not even promised tomorrow.

A woman was on her way to work recently. Expecting that day to be just like any other, she said goodbye to her family that morning and went off to work. Through circumstances that have yet to be explained, a train came barreling into the station at a horrifying speed, coming off of the tracks and onto the platform. That young woman was killed instantly.

That is a heartbreaking tragedy. When we hear stories like that, it has a way of putting things into perspective for us. We all want to come home and get to do, once more, those simple things that we often take for granted: Kiss our husband hello, make dinner, hug our children. When we hear about these things, what is truly important in this life becomes crystal clear.

It is natural and human to worry about the future. Yet we can rest in that, "Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off." (Proverbs 23:17-18) And "For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

When we walk with our sweet Savior, when our hand is firmly planted in His, we know that we can smile at the future. No matter what happens in our lives, He has promise to never--never, never--leave us nor forsake us.

And His Word is true and faithful.

To read or review Part IV of the Heroine of Proverbs 31, click here.

To view or review Part II of the Heroine of Proverbs 31, click here.

To review or review Part I of the Heroine of Proverbs 31,click here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Heroine of Proverbs 31 -- PART II

She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple." - Proverbs 31:17-22 NAS

Welcome to Part II of our study, "The Heroine of Proverbs 31!"

Let's start off with that first verse of our text. From where does our strength come? Make no mistake: running a home is not a job for the faint of heart. Proverbs 31 speaks of all of Mrs. Excellent's works, and she's one busy woman, but her main job--no, her main ministry--is creating a loving and welcoming home for her family. That is a task that requires strength, energy, and much devotion.

I want to also interject here, because though I know this text refers to the Excellent Wife, it must be said that it also takes strength to run a home when you're a single mom. Having been raised by an exceptionally brave and strong single, working mother, I know what trials can come upon that Virtuous Woman, too.

These promises would apply to both ladies:

* "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped." - Psalm 28:7 KJV

* "I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me." - Philippians 4:13 KJV

* "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31 KJV

That is the sort of strength that is available to us through faith in the Great I AM. He is never further than a prayer away.

Dwell on those promises, Excellent Woman. There are more just like them; these are only the three verses that I chose. Meditate on those promises. Embrace them. Rest in them.

Let your heart remember them when you read Proverbs, the part about girding yourself with strength and making your arms strong. That strength gives our heroine confidence because, "she senses that her gain is good." She knows that her gains is good because she has confidence in God's strength. That's something that we can have--and His guidance is also available to us!

Is that guidance only for church pastors? For music ministers? For missionaries? For all those "on the front lines," as they say? No, that guidance is for us, too, in the every day tasks that we perform in our every day lives. If we are trusting the Lord for His help, then we can have confidence that He works all things out for our good.

This passage goes on to say that her lamp does not go out at night, that she works with her hands. She's very diligent; she's focused; she keeps her eyes on what is important. Not only does she work for her household, but she remembers the poor and the needy, too.

You don't hear about this as much anymore, and thank God for that, but there was a time, years ago, when we women were being told by our fast-paced, consumer-driven society that we could "have it all." Besides chasing our dreams at the workplace, we could simultaneously be "Supermom." By the world's definition, Supermom is a career woman, a fabulous homemaker, and a mega-mom, all rolled into one. Becoming a woman who could "have it all" means doing whatever it takes to compete on the corporate ladder, plus having the perfect home and providing all of the best "things" for your kids. Conversely, about that same time, the classic stay-at-home mom was looked upon (and still often is) as archaic, old-fashioned, and according to those who pushed the life-size Supermom action figure, a woman who was unfulfilled. As if it's even necessary to pit the average working mom against the stay-at-home mom. Both are hardworking, both love and cherish their families, both are to be honored and respected. And both need the Lord's help.

Perhaps because I'm a Christian who has slowly begun to pare down over the years, who has also suffered from anxiety and stress, but I don't believe we are called to be "Supermom." We can "have it all"--but we're not called to strive only for the treasures of this world. (I promise to talk more about that in a future post.)

Maybe I'm stepping on toes here, but neither a man nor a woman should be so busy with the things of this world that there is no time for fellowship with the King of the Universe.That there is no time for compassion and helping someone else. Let's face it, as women, homemaking and raising precious children are full-time jobs in themselves. I'm not saying a woman can't have a career and be a good wife and mother, or that there is anything wrong with chasing your dreams, because I began my career as a writer when my kids were little, too.

But we are not meant to be busy, busy, busy, filling up our schedules with the pursuit of obtaining earthly successes and earthly possessions. You don't find that mindset in Proverbs 31. That way of thinking has only brought women the same ailments that men had back in the 1950s and 60s, like strokes and heart attacks, because of the pressures of careers and climbing the corporate ladder. There should be time for fellowship with our Savior and Best Friend, and for seeking His purpose for us. There should be time for reading a little one a bedtime story. Time for calling a friend just to hear her sweet voice. Time for gazing at the fire pit while sipping coffee and chatting with your husband.

We are meant to do our work, yes, and to do it with love and delight, taking pride in what we do. Yet God expects us to have time to pack up our kids' clothes that have been outgrown and give it to children who are in need. To stretch out our hands to the poor, as Mrs. Excellent does. He expects us to have time for compassion, no matter what shape or form that compassion takes. Whatever God puts upon our heart, whatever need we see that we can fulfill, stretching out our hands to the poor and the needy when it is within our power to do so.

That is the Lord's version of Supermom. A woman who doesn't seek the world's version of success. She doesn't need the world's approval. Her identity is found not in how busy she is or how much money she makes, or who she is in the world's eyes, but rather who she is in Christ. And she even makes time to reach out beyond her own family to "love thy neighbor." Sisters, I know we're all not there (neither am I), but that should inspire and challenge us!

God's success was detailed in Jesus' words, when He told us to, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:20-21 KJV)

We conclude this study with these words: "She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself: her clothing is fine linen and purple."

This is a woman who not only provides for her home as best she can, but she takes pride in her family and all is done with love. Again, our Father in Heaven takes pleasure in these things! The fine linen here is especially interesting. Fine linen is found in other parts of God's Word, and it symbolizes the righteous acts of the saints.

Revelation 19:8 speaks of Christ's Bride, the Church, saying, "She has been given the finest of white linen to wear, for the fine linen represents the good deeds of God's Holy people." (NLT)

"Purple" is said to appear an amazing 48 times in the King James Bible, and it represents royalty. The heroine of Proverbs 31, then, is the righteous--and loving and compassionate AND industrious!--queen of her home.

With that, we conclude this section of our study. Please check back for the next part of the Heroine of Proverbs 31. Until then, may the Lord bless you!

To view (or review) Part I of The Heroine of Proverbs 31, click here.

To view (or review) Part III of The Heroine of Proverbs 31, click here.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Heroine of Proverbs 31 -- PART I

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She also does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard." Proverbs 31:10-16

Okay, ladies, let's be honest: Taking that first verse, "An excellent wife, who can find?", what picture comes to mind?

First, please allow yourself a sigh of relief. We're not looking for society's--especially not Hollywood's--version of The Excellent Wife. That lady eats a leaf of lettuce for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. She wears pearls while she vacuums, drives a late-model minivan to take the kids to soccer practice, always looks like she stepped off the set of Desperate Housewives, and is secretly always seeking to "find herself."

Let's forget that picture. Let's go instead for the one painted by the author of Proverbs 31, King Lemuel of Israel. He does a wonderful job of painting a portrait of her for us, the woman who is excellent in God's eyes.

Now, before we even get started, note that she is the excellent wife. Strong's Concordance translates that word to chayil in the original Hebrew, and the word in English translates to strength, ability, efficiency, wealth, force, army.

Nowhere do we find the word perfect in there.

So we can rule out what she's not. She doesn't always have her hair and makeup done. She runs out in jeans and has a Mets (Yankees? Jets? Panthers?) T-shirt to the supermarket because she forgot the cheese for the mac & cheese. She smudges her nail polish, forgets to charge her cell, and has the occasional argument with That Excellent Husband of hers!

Incidentally, Mr Excellent isn't perfect, either. Yet these two share a relationship that is grounded in faith, trust, and mutual respect for each other.

She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. Further on in our text, it speaks of her relationship with her children, her servants, and other people in her life. First and foremost, though, is her relationship with her husband.

I'm now at that age where my kids have kids. Our two lovable little boys, Joey and Brandon, grew up to be wonderful young men. They moved out, married to two lovable young women, and have kids and homes of their own.

That leaves my husband, Bill, and I back to Square One: Just him and me, alone in this house (that eventually will be downsized, we hope, for a little ranch).

That's a dangerous time for some marriages. A husband and wife sometimes spend so much of their time, along the way, pouring themselves into careers and the kids, that they dread the Empty Nest chapter of their lives. Many couples find themselves almost to be strangers once the dreams have been chased and the children have moved out.

Yet Mrs. Excellent "does him good all the days of her life." Listen, I know that marriage isn't always a romance novel. Still, 1 Corinthians 16:14 tells us to, "Let all that you do be done in love." We also have a promise straight from the Lord, who said, "For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20 NIV)

The woman in Proverbs 31 applies those principles in all that she does. "She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight. She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens."

Before you tell me, "All right, now that's where it gets tough!" Hey--that is the Christian wife and mother. He may be the head of the home, but you are the heart of the home. The heroine of Proverbs 31 knows she is needed. That her home doesn't run quite the same without her, even if she is a working mom and wears even more hats. She also understands that her work, what she does for her husband and family, is of value. That what she does is important to her loved ones.

And, sisters, God takes pleasure and He honors those things that you do every day. God is glorified in those things that you may take for granted, that at times we all may do grudgingly. The Lord is glorified all the little things: in the dusting and the grocery shopping; the picking up of children from daycare; the straightening up of the living room; the tending to pets; the posting of masterpieces drawn with crayon and posted with magnets on a refrigerator; the times that we work late and come home from our jobs, serving take-out pizza to a hungry family for dinner.

He is glorified in the driving of an aging parent to the doctor, since many of us are in "the sandwich generation," where we are taking care of children and elderly parents. He is glorified in the washing and folding of our loved ones' clothes.

He sees everything we do. Not one act of love that we do, however small or mundane, goes unnoticed by our Heavenly Father.

Jesus knows, personally, the Proverbs 31 Woman in your home. You are known and you are noticed and you are appreciated by that Heart.

For Part II of The Heroine of Proverbs 31, please click here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Letters to the LORD

Got a few minutes? Let's talk about devotional time...and written prayers.

First, I'm not talking about the "Our Father" or any other prayer that has already been written out and recited. I mean you, as a believer, putting pen or pencil to paper and actually writing out, in your own words, a prayer to the Lord. Have you ever thought about incorporating a hand-written letter to the Lord as part of your daily devotional?

Before we go any further, listen: I realize that not everyone likes to write,so this idea wouldn't necessarily be everybody's cup of tea. But just for a little something different, it would be worth a try, no?

I began doing that a few months back when I began volunteering as a counselor at our local crisis pregnancy center. One early evening, before speaking with a client, I saw a stack of thin notebooks that someone had lovingly decorated and asked, "What are those for?" Another counselor replied, "They're prayer journals that we can offer to our clients. Aren't they nice?"

Nice? No, cool idea! From that day forward, I loved offering them and handing them out to our clients. Eventually, I decided that I, too, could use a prayer journal.

Now, I'm sure that's not an original idea, that you'll find a lot of info about prayer journals on Pinterest, blogs, and other places. But have you ever considered writing daily to the Lord? (Or, okay, writing now and then!)

Writing by hand, not on a computer. Actually touching that prayer with your flesh-and-blood hands. Stopping to read from God's Word and writing out scriptures that the Holy Spirit uses to speak to you. Pouring out your heart and soul before Him. Writing Him a love letter.

Personally, I have found it to be a great help in keeping me consistent with my prayer time. Once I decided to gift myself with a prayer journal, I made a trip to the store and found a gold folder. Gold. The color to remind me of God's diety, that I was coming before and writing to the King of the Universe, who is also my personal Savior, my Best Friend.

My Prayer Journal
Along with the folder, I bought looseleaf paper--probably too much for the folder to hold, but that's all right--to write on and a few pens with different colored ink. Because, after all, this is my prayer journal. Just in case I'm out when I have time to grab a cup of coffee, I made sure to keep extra notebooks in my car, the kind with perforated paper, so that I don't miss my time alone with my Heavenly Father. Those pages can then be added to the folder.

In case you're wondering, no...I don't keep those pages and eventually dispose of them. I figure God has the originals! I keep 3 Bible apps (including one in Spanish) and a prayer list on my phone, so all I really need is the coffee and a quiet table. Since I'm writing, that devotional time is private; no one knows what I'm doing, so it's between the Lord and me, the way it should be. Mostly, though, my prayer time is at home.

Of course, writing out your prayers doesn't take the place of corporate prayer with your church or Bible Study group, nor can you not break out in song or meditate or just be quiet and still beforeour beloved Jesus.

Why not give it a try? See if you can squeeze out time for a handwritten love letter now and then to our Savior.

*   First, it's YOUR journal. You decide what it will be! Gift yourself with it. All you need is paper, pens or pencils,and time, maybe a binder of some sort.

*   Decorate it however you wish. Or let it be a simple pad of note paper. God is more interested in your time with Him and the fact that you carved out a portion of your day to be in His presence.

*   You can write one page or fifty. Again, it's YOUR journal.

*    Play some music, if you'd life, preferrably instrumental Christian hymns that won't distract you from what you're writing to your Heavenly Father. There's a bevy of great music you'll find on YouTube just for that purpose.

Above all, enjoy your private time with Jesus. Enjoy Him, being in His presence. Remember that He looks forward to being with each and every one of us. He sees us as His own and always makes time for us. He honors the time that we make for Him.

And if you do give writing out your prayers a try, drop me a note at or leave a message here. I'd love to hear from you!

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." -- Matthew 6:6 NIV