Tag Archives: Proverbs

I Will Rise

I will rise
When He calls my name…
I will rise
Before my God
Fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise  (Chris Tomlin)

I feel like I’ve been sitting for a long, long time – waiting for God.  And now, He has told me to rise and go to Haiti.  It is extremely unexpected.  I’m not a social activist with a heart that bleeds for people I don’t know.  My heart bleeds for people I do know and I’m willing to turn myself inside out to help them.  God has to hold me back at times and remind me that He is the rescuer, not me.  Yet I need to go to Haiti. 

God is cutting all the fat, the excess, out of my life.  I’m learning what is important and what isn’t.  I carefully consider each decision before I spend money, before I commit time, before I put food in my mouth.  This careful consideration is also new for me.   My parents are frugal, responsible, conscientious people who hate debt, fat, and laziness.  They went a bit overboard at times and while I learned a lot from them, I saw what others had and couldn’t understand why I didn’t deserve it too.  I resented it when we got to go to amusement parks and couldn’t buy a soda there, but had to hike back to the car parked 16 miles away to eat soggy sandwiches and Capri Sun from the cooler.  I resented it when told not use paper towels excessively and to buy clothing on sale.  My parent’s taught me good lessons, but I didn’t appreciate them.  As soon as I had money and credit, I rebelled.  I used as many paper towels as I wanted, left the refrigerator door open while I made a sandwich, and bought my clothes at full price from the best stores.  And the only one I hurt was me.  Today I am paying for my excesses, and it’s about time I learned. 

It sounds terrible.  It isn’t fun to drastically cut your spending, your food portions, your entertainment, and more.  However, it’s worth it.  Freedom comes through simplicity.  Freedom comes through discipline and sacrifice.  It embarrasses me that it took so long to realize this truth.  My self-regulator broke, or turned off, or just got ignored?  The joy that I feel right now, the sense of accomplishment, is more than I can say.

What has changed me?  What has given me the strength to finally do something I wasn’t able to do before?  It’s simple:  Scripture.  I’ve read the Bible all my life and can tell you most of the stories and quote much of it by heart.  But I wasn’t feeding myself with God’s Word daily.  I wasn’t feasting on it.  I didn’t know how.  And then someone taught me about the daily readings in The Book of Common Prayer where you read about 4-6 chapters a day, about 30 chapters per week.  I committed to it and within a few months I was a different person.  A year later, I’m beginning not to recognize myself, and the change is good.  Right now I’m reading The One-Year Bible with my church and that’s still about four chapters a day.  It doesn’t really take that long.  You don’t have to do any kind of extensive study.  Just read the portions of Scripture each day, reflect prayerfully on them, and jot down some notes about what they mean to you. 

It. Will. Change. Your. Life. 

Proverbs 5:22 -23 (NLT)
An evil man is held captive by his own sins;
      they are ropes that catch and hold him.
He will die for lack of self-control;
      he will be lost because of his great foolishness.

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Ignorance is Bliss?

In a conversation I had with a woman in her late 50s who was describing the abusive childhood of a loved one, she repeated a commonly used excuse for the irresponsible behavior of the parents.  How often have we heard this phrase: “They did the best they could with the knowledge they had”?  That phrase is usually followed or preceded by a horror story of child abuse or some other atrocity.  I decided a long time ago that I despise that phrase, that excuse. 

I do realize that we often do things out of ignorance and on some level that will always happen and cannot be helped.  No one can know everything or understand any situation fully but God.  Perhaps that’s why God is infallible?  He knows everything and sees each situation from all sides.  But I don’t mean to get into a theological discussion of God’s perfection, so moving on…  As I was saying, I do understand that each person will make mistakes out of ignorance and this is to be expected.  The reason I so despise the phrase mentioned is because it’s often is used to excuse behavior that is reprehensible.  When a small child is beaten with a board full of nails for saying a curse word he’s heard his father use a million times before, then forced to “confess” by repeating that curse word and is so frightened he can’t remember it, is then forced to guess what curse word he said then beaten for each incorrect curse word he guessed until he’s nearly dead – that is inexcusable.  Don’t tell me the father didn’t know any better.  No one is that stupid.

I heard that phrase many times while I was growing up in the form of, “I’m sorry I hurt you.  I did the best I could with what I knew to do.”  And I decided I hated it.  I was not the one beaten with boards, thank God!  But in a pastor’s house, you hear horror stories every day.  People bring their problems to their pastor and I paid attention.  Ignorance was sometimes an excuse, but it struck me as totally unreasonable.

I made a decision somewhere around the age of fourteen that I would not let that be an excuse for bad behavior in my life.  If I didn’t know something, I would find out.  And I have built my life on that concept.  I’m a researcher.  It may appear that I make quick decisions and don’t take the time to think them through.  I am a decisive person.  But what many don’t realize is the number of hours I’ve spent searching for answers to questions I don’t have to answer yet, so that when the day comes that I do have to make a choice, I can choose wisely.  I rarely decide anything without much research and forethought.  When I do, I usually regret it. 

Ever since the day my brother was born when I was nearly eleven years old, I have known that I want to be a mother.  I began to research parenting and did all I could to apply the principles I learned to the children around me.  When I was in my early twenties, I finally put down the parenting books because I realized I was driving myself crazy with all this theory and no one to practice on.  I haven’t picked up another parenting book since then, but I’m a really good babysitter and aunt! 

The point is, I didn’t want to make parenting mistakes out of ignorance when the time came.  I haven’t picked up any more books since then, but I’ve been a diligent student of my friends with children.  I’ve watched how they do things, asked questions, and made mental notes for myself. 

In my mid-twenties, a friend challenged me with a unique understanding of Scripture as it relates to the end times and Christ’s return.  She walked me through the Scriptures to prove her point of view.  As she did this, I realized I disagreed strongly with her, but I couldn’t articulate why.  I KNEW she was wrong, but I couldn’t walk her through Scriptures myself to show her why.  I became furious and had to walk away from the conversation before I lost my temper.  I wasn’t angry with her, but with myself for not knowing more so I could discuss it with her.  I’d been a Christian all my life, was a pastor’s daughter, the product of several Christian schools, and had even spent a year in Christian college.  Yet I was mute before her argument.  That realization drove me nuts.

A few years later I enrolled in seminary.  The major paper I did for my last systematic theology class was on this very subject.  I was determined to understand it and refute it.  When I finished that paper, I felt such a sense of accomplishment!  I went back and talked to her about it and was finally able to explain why I disagreed with her.  I didn’t change her mind (darn it!), but I was no longer ignorant either.

Proverbs 13:15 says, “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.”

What good would it have done for me to have yelled and shown my anger toward my friend that day when I didn’t know what to say to her, just knew I disagreed with her?  I kept my mouth shut until I had good understanding.  She had no idea I had been so worked up by what she said.  When I went back to her years later, we had an intelligent conversation about it and she was touched that I cared so much about her ideas that I went and studied the matter out to be able to answer her.  We are still great friends to this day and every once in a while have to acknowledge our different opinions on the end times.  This is done with no animosity, but respect.

Proverbs chapter four is full of admonitions to get wisdom and to make sure we understand things. 

Proverbs 4:5 Get wisdom! Get understanding!
      Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
       6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
      Love her, and she will keep you.
       7 Wisdom is the principal thing;
      Therefore get wisdom.
      And in all your getting, get understanding.
       8 Exalt her, and she will promote you;
      She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
       9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
      A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”

We often do shameful things out of ignorance; things that embarrass us later.  We can’t explain why we did them except, “I didn’t know any better.”  But Proverbs urges us to seek wisdom and understanding.  Instead of shame, it promises that we’ll have an ornament of grace, a crown of glory on our heads. 

I try to live my life by the words of Proverbs 4:13, which states, “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.” 

What would the world look like if we all sought after wisdom and understanding?  If we all tried to understand the best way to do something before we did it?  What would the church look like if just the Christians did that?

There’s no way I’ll ever know all the things I’m interested in, curious about, or need to know.  I wish I could, but when would I sleep?  I realize how little I know, which drives me to learn more and apply myself to getting instruction.  Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power.

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And So The Story Goes, Part 2

Three years earlier I had gone through a time of intense prayer and fasting to determine what future God had for me.  I felt God speak to me very clearly that I was to go to seminary because He was calling me to full-time ministry.  This thought had never occurred to me before and it took some time to wrap my mind around it.  The school I was interested in had a distance education program, so I assumed that was the way I was to attend there.  I would not consider leaving Nashville. 

My job required me to travel extensively and I was often out of town Tuesday through Saturday for weeks on end.  With the hours I worked and the demands of travel, I wasn’t able to focus on school work.  I spent several years applying for other jobs, trying to find something that would pay a little more so I could afford school and stay in town.  With nearly every job opening, I made it to the final cut only to lose the job to someone else.  It was very frustrating and I couldn’t figure out what God was doing.  When I got engaged, I truly hoped that we would go to seminary together, which made a lot more sense to me than going as an unmarried female. 

When my engagement ended and everything else fell apart, I knew that God was telling me to GO to seminary – in Virginia Beach.  He was going to get me there, even if He had to kick me out of Nashville by force.  We moved around a lot while I was growing up: I went to 2 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 high schools – and then I changed colleges three times in four years.  All this transition made stability and security very important to me.  I don’t like to move.  I wanted to live in Nashville for the rest of my life.  Leaving didn’t appeal to me, except that I knew a change of scenery would probably do me some good. 

There was also the huge financial issue of going to school.  I still had debt from my undergraduate degree, plus credit card debt.  I’d worked hard to reduce it significantly, but it wasn’t gone.  I had no idea how I could pay for graduate school, but I applied anyway and prayed hard for financial aid.  I asked God to prove Himself and if He really wanted me to go, I would get a 100% scholarship.  The financial aid letter came back with news of a 20% grant.  I was beyond disappointed, but I knew the minute I read that letter that God was not releasing me from the call.  I had to go.  God led me to the book of Proverbs and showed me many times how Solomon commanded us to get knowledge, get wisdom, and get instruction – and that it was worth any price.  With fear and trembling, I decided to take out student loans.

One thing I had learned well in Nashville is, “It’s all about who you know.”  I knew our church’s senior pastor was friends with the dean of the school.  I tried to set up an appointment with the senior pastor to ask him to let his friend know I was coming to the school.  But our senior pastor was in the middle of writing a paper for Oxford and couldn’t meet with me.  I was devastated, but God reminded me that I knew Him and He is the One who opens and shuts doors. 

My mother and I scheduled a trip to Virginia Beach in July to check the area out and look for a roommate, housing, and a job.  The university hired writing coaches, so I applied for that job.  In the interview it came out that I was a professional meeting planner.  The person interviewing me stopped the interview and took me to meet her co-worker who was trying to hire a graduate assistant to help him plan student workshops.  My background and experience were perfect for what he needed and I got hired.  I was one of the only students who went to school with a job already lined up.  It was such an encouragement to me. 

Not only did that job suit me, but I was put in a cubicle in a large room with other people my age.  We all got along great and had a blast working together.  I used to go in on my days off just to say hi to the friends I worked with.  It also led to a secondary job as the newsletter editor for the university.  Almost everything about that job was a blessing to me and I relished the good atmosphere after what I had just left.  It was healing to my soul.

I had a hard time finding a place to live because housing is so expensive in Virginia Beach and my cat was not exactly a positive thing to perspective roommates.  I prayed and prayed about what to do, not wanting to leave Moses the kitty behind but unable to find a place to live.  Several days before I was to leave for school, I got a call from a woman who rented me a room in her house close to the school and let me bring Moses – all for a really good price. 

After being out of school for six years and struggling with severe depression in college, I was also terrified that grad school would be too hard for me.  I wondered if my brain still worked like it used to or if I’d have to study 2 or 3 times harder than everyone else.  I worried that my professors wouldn’t be interested in teaching a girl.  I was full of fear.  Thankfully I had a few friends who encouraged me and believed in me.  They listened faithfully and repeatedly told me that I could do it.  After all that God had already done to pave the way for me, two weeks before classes started I panicked and seriously considered not going after all.  Through the prayers and encouraging words from my friends, I finally accepted that this was the time I was to go and nothing was going to stop me.  Once my mind was made up, I dove in and gave it everything I had.

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Wisdom isn’t Free

A while back, I heard a father talk about how he prayed for his children to have wealth and financial security.  This amazing father is setting up his children to be financially successful.  My first thought was: Brilliant!  What a great gift to his children!  My second thought was: I wish my parents had prayed that for me.

 

As I sulked about it for a few days, I began making notes to pray for my own children’s financial future.  I dreamed about all the things I could pray for my yet unborn children – financial security, health, godly mates, long life, and so forth.  In the meantime, I was feeling resentful toward my parents for not praying for me to have financial stability and wealth.  As it goes with most of these things, God soon opened my eyes to a greater concept and showed me the wisdom of my own parents. 

 

Mom and Dad were always very intentional about teaching me – Scripture, leadership principles, stage presence, respect, thankfulness, concern for the under-dog, and even how to do things that seemed like too big for a little girl.  They especially taught me about wisdom, reading Proverbs to me and teaching me about Solomon.  I’m not sure how many times they talked to me about Solomon, or how old I was when I heard the story for the first time, but it is a story that has remained with me all my life. 

 

As I considered the Solomon story, I remembered that God offered Solomon anything he wanted and Solomon asked for wisdom.  I’ve always been struck by the fact that all this happened in a dream.  If Solomon were awake and had friends around him to consult with when God made this offer to him, it might have taken him a while to decide what he wanted.  He might have asked for more power, to be healthy in every way, to be the most influential man who ever lived, or to have his children be wealthy and secure.  All of these are wonderful requests, but in his most vulnerable and open state, he asked for wisdom to rule the people well.  God was so pleased with Solomon’s request he was also granted wealth, honor, and a long life (I Kings 3). 

 

Mom and Dad taught me if I prayed for wisdom, God would be pleased with me too.  Not only would He give me wisdom (which God promises in James 1:5), but all the other things I need in life would be given as well.  Suddenly I understood why my parents hadn’t spent a lot of time praying for me to be financially secure or wealthy.  They knew if we prayed for wisdom, those things would come as well.  A wise person cannot help but have honor and be financially successful! 

 

The one thing Dad did not share with me during those lessons is that wisdom isn’t free.  Wisdom comes with experience, which is why we typically associate the elderly with wisdom.  Our hair gets gray because the life experience we have sucks something out of us.  Our fashion standards today tell us to hide our gray hair because it means we’re O-L-D, when in fact it represents life experience and wisdom.  It’s embarrassing to be 33 years old and have half of the hair surrounding your face already gray – or is it? 

 

I’ve discovered over the years, as I have prayed for wisdom nearly every day of my life and in many situations, it is a costly request.  Wisdom comes with experience.  We have a choice of how to handle each challenge that comes – will we learn from it or will we resent the hard things and waste our time asking God “why?” 

 

The thing is, knowing the cost of wisdom, I’ve continued to pray for it.  When I was in my early 20’s, I saw marriages all around me either ending in divorce or failing to thrive.  I saw people hurting one another out of ignorance or fear and it made me so sad.  I prayed that God would teach my future husband and me everything we needed to know to have a joyful marriage – before we married each other. 

 

I thought that prayer meant I would learn a lot of things quickly.  I had no idea that more than ten years later, I’d still be in the learning process.  I spent several years regretting that prayer and repenting from it.  But recently God spoke to me during a time of prayer and seeking.  He told me to stop regretting that prayer because He had heard my heart.  He understood what I meant:  I wanted to enter a marriage relationship with tools in place to help me deal with the problems that inevitably come in any intimate relationship.  He heard my heart’s cry and is honoring that request.

 

My parents did not pray specifically for me to be financially secure or even wealthy, but they did teach me to pray for wisdom, which encompasses all those things.  They also taught me through their daily lives how to be a financially secure person.  They taught me to tithe, to save, and to be frugal.  I did not value those lessons at the time, but they gave me a firm foundation to fall back on when I finally came to my senses about financial matters.  Sometimes I am a slow learner, but my goal is always to be learning and growing.  I’m thankful for those gifts they gave me. 

 

The father who prays for his children to have a secure financial future is a very wise man.  He is doing well for his children.  I’m thankful for parents who also prayed for me to have a secure future by teaching me the value of wisdom and praying for God to bless me with that wonderful gift. 

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