The book of Proverbs has an abundance of helpful life advice. And conveniently, there are 31 chapters..perfect for one each day of the month! (And on short months, we can double up on some days). This is also a great start for those who are trying to make daily Bible reading a consistent habit. Instead of just checking off a to-do list each time a chapter is read, there are many benefits of reading and re-reading to really soak up all that is being said. Distractions aside, find a comfortable place and pray for guidance and wisdom. Ask that God will help you to apply what you are reading to your own life, as He would have you. Take notes, highlight, and really get into and I believe you will find that your love for the Bible and God will grow and grow.
Some of my favorite verses from the book of Proverbs:
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.”
“The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”
“Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”
“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.”
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet ofyour heart.”
As long as I can remember, I have wanted to learn to play the piano. I began lessons when I was 8 or 9 years old, but my piano teacher was very stern and my desire to learn piano was trumped by my desire to avoid my teacher. For my birthday this year, my husband, Dale, got me a new keyboard. I couldn’t have been more excited, as my dreams to play the piano were finally within reach! However, I was sorely disappointed when I realized mastering this new instrument wouldn’t be as easy as it looked on YouTube. I’ve watched and listened to many people play piano over the years with wonder. They make it look so easy and sound so beautiful. So of course, when I sat down for the very first time and couldn’t play Mozart within a few hours, I was disappointed, to say the least.
In reality, I knew that it would be hard. It would take a lot of patience, determination, and consistency. I had to decide, and still do, that it would be worth the effort. I have gotten frustrated when my hands won’t follow what my brain tells them to. I have wanted to give up. But I have decided to keep trying (partly because I want to be good at piano one day and partly because I want Dale to know how thankful I am for this gift). Some days when I practice, it seems that at the current rate, it will take approximately three hundred years until I will be successful at this new hobby. But some days, I learn something new and can see that the time I have put in is paying off. It’s such a rewarding feeling and keeps me excited to continue on. My goal is to learn and be good at playing the piano. The only way to get to this goal is to never give up.
In many ways, this is similar to our walk as Christians. We all have the goal of spending eternity in heaven with our Creator & taking as many people with us as we can. Some days, we may feel like we’ll never get it right. But if we keep putting one foot in front of the other in the direction of heaven, we will find that no matter how hard some days may seem, we will be rewarded greatly and every hard day will be more than worth it. The only way to reach our goals, whether earthly, or more importantly, eternally, is to NEVER give up!
At the end of our days on this earth, may these verses be able to define our own lives:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
There are several variations of a quote that goes something like, “People can inspire you or they can drain you…choose wisely.” Sage advice if it’s true that we become like the people we spend the most time with. We need to invest in relationships that will bring out the best in us, and be careful around those whose disagreeable traits could rub off on us.
Don’t you think it’s pretty easy to tell the difference? When I think of those who inspire me, I can rattle off several reasons why. The same goes for those who drain me (that sounds harsh, I know). Here’s how that looks to me:
looks for the positive
instills courage in others
sees the good in others
brings people together
tries new things
speech reflects a Phil. 4:8 mind
points out the negative
always a victim
puts others down
doesn’t do anything they don’t want to
With as much grace as possible, you can probably think of the people in your circle and see which list they tend to fall under. It’s a fairly easy discernment to make, right?
Okay, having said all that…it wouldn’t be very fair for this quote to be so one-sided. Otherwise it becomes a selfish exercise.
You’re good for me. Let’s hang out.
I’m tired of your constant griping. Buh-bye.
The rest of the quote should be something like, “Youcan inspire others or you can drain them. Choose wisely.” Perhaps this should be our greater focus. Instead of inspecting the strengths and flaws of others, what if we looked a little closer at ourselves in light of those two lists? Ah, but this is not as easy to discern because I know the excuses behind my complaints and criticisms. I know I’m exhausted, or in the midst of a trial, or disappointed, or having the worst day ever… Whatever the reason, the effect is the same. My attitude impacts those around me. With every encounter, I am defining myself as an inspirer or a drainer, and I am the only one who chooses which it shall be.
I know which one I want to be. How about you? No one’s going to perfectly live out the inspiring list, and I know for a fact that there are some doozies on that drainer list that I need to work on. Let’s commit to bringing out the best in each other, okay?
I have always been a hugger. Even as a child, I hugged everyone in church. I enjoyed it and naturally assumed that everyone else did, too. A few years ago I learned that some people aren’t crazy about it. In addition to hugging, I have always been a hand-holder during prayers. Whether in worship, fellowship, our home table, or at a restaurant, it was a very natural thing for me to grab the hands of the people next to me. It never dawned on me that some people don’t care for that. I now know that there are many who are so uncomfortable if someone grabs their hand that they can hardly focus on the prayer itself.
I’m ashamed to admit that my initial reaction to these discoveries wasn’t great. My first thought was, “What is wrong with them?” I could hardly fathom the idea of someone not liking a hug because to me, hugs equaled warmth and affection. My second reaction was selfish and resentful. “What about my wants and needs? Surely my soul will shrivel up in such a sterile, non-hugging environment!” And then my pride reared its ugly head. “Fine. See if I ever offer warmth and affection ever again.” After all, I felt a bit foolish. How many people had I hugged through the years without realizing my actions made them uncomfortable? Yes, I let Satan have a heyday with my heart.
How many lessons have I heard (and taught!) about the “others above self” mentality of Philippians 2? Or the kind of love that leads to unity from Romans 12? Or the “love for one another” that Jesus said identifies us as His followers in John 13? Yet there I was wrestling with it all when surprised by another point of view. Apparently it’s all well and good for us to have differences until it affects me personally or calls for me to make a change. I wish I could say that I recognized my self-problem as quickly as it took me to acknowledge it in these couple of paragraphs. But I am grateful for a couple of things I did finally see through the process.
Growth. Learning that there are some who don’t like hugs forced me to step out of my comfort zone. I’m an introvert and find it way easier to express love, joy, concern, or sympathy through hugs than through words. It also gave me an opportunity to see my unintentional self-centeredness. I realized I have to actually learn about others in order to know how they need to receive love. I need to pay attention to them instead of assuming they think, feel, and act like I do. Imagine that!
Jesus said, “Love one another even as I have loved you” (John 13:34). He had just demonstrated that love through the humble service of foot washing. He said, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (v. 15). He also said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (v. 17). Knowing and doing are two different things. How easy it is to get caught up in our rights and our feelings, to swallow Satan’s lie that our own happiness reigns supreme! But when we do, we make ourselves miserable. Jesus knows what’s best for His body, including each individual part, including me. Focusing on self doesn’t lead to happiness. The blessed life comes from caring more about others. It causes growth, stretching, learning, and experiencing in ways that we can’t when we’re wrapped up in ourselves.
Grace. I learned about the folks who don’t like hand-holding in a social media thread. Someone posted a question about it and I was amazed at all the comments. My eyes landed on one comment about a woman’s complete discomfort with having her hand held and I thought, “Oh no…I know for a fact that I’ve grabbed her hand during a prayer!”
It took me a while to realize that people have been extending grace to me for a long time. I was in my 40s before I learned that some people don’t like hugs or hand-holding. Why is that? Because no one ever rejected a hug from me or pushed me away or embarrassed me by saying, “I’d rather you not do that.” Even though they didn’t really care for it, they cared for me. That’s just the way I am and so they put up with it, at their own expense. I’m humbled by the realization.
Jesus poured water in the basin and went from one set of dirty feet to another. I put myself in His place as He came upon the feet of Judas. I imagine I would whisper, “Nope,” and move on to the next disciple. But the next disciple is Peter. It blows my mind that Jesus knew they would soon betray Him and deny Him but He knelt down before them anyway. He offered grace in advance.
I rarely reach for a hand during prayer unless it’s immediate family, and I’m a lot less likely to hug someone when I see them. But you’ll be relieved to know that my soul didn’t shrivel up after all. I’ve learned that people express warmth and affection in lots of different ways, and they’re good ways! I could’ve saved myself some heartache if I had been more like Jesus with grace in advance. Intentional grace. Others will not always understand me and I will not always understand them. But I can determine ahead of time how I will respond when this happens. With love and grace, we can grow through this.
“My happiness or yours” sounds like something that could foster a begrudging mindset. “One of us must lose and so I guess as a Christian I should let you win and have your way.” Satan would love that. There’s no love there or compassion or grace or unity. Just keeping track and keeping score. Jesus taught a different mindset: lay aside yourself for the good of others. And followed that up with His promise, “You will be blessed.”
It’s hard to believe there’s only two months left in 2021. The holidays always seem to fly by and before we know it, the new year will be upon us. This is when we usually start to decide on resolutions…things we want to try, give up, or finally accomplish. Many habits are hard to break and there’s something about a new year that gives us hope for a fresh start. When it comes to our spiritual lives, thankfully, we don’t need to wait (and really, shouldn’t!) for a new year to start a new habit.
I can think back to certain Bible studies and ladies’ classes I’ve been to and can remember listening to some ladies who I knew without a doubt had a strong faith and knowing that it didn’t happen by chance. I knew that they didn’t just wake up one day and have a strong prayer life and disciplined Bible study habits. My first thoughts tended to be, “They’re probably way more disciplined of a person than I am,” or “maybe one day I’ll be as strong as they are,” or “I don’t even know where to start to develop habits like they have,” and would be a little discouraged that a mountain was ahead of me that I really didn’t know how to climb. But what it is important after thoughts like those are to recognize that they are not true. Those are thoughts that Satan wants us to think so that we won’t even try. But as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
As a southerner, I’m ashamed to admit that I really don’t like vegetables. Like, any of them. And I never have, especially as a kid. I mean, I will eat them and they’re not that bad but I would rather have cake. However, I know that to be healthy, I need to eat vegetables and the more I eat them, I find that I enjoy them a little more than I used to. If I want them to be part of my meals every day, would I start by cooking 5 different vegetables for every meal and expect to enjoy them? Probably not the best way to start. But, if I decided to have one vegetable a day for a week, and then add another the next week, while finding different ways to cook and season them, over time I would find that they’re much more enjoyable and would become a daily habit that is part of every meal.
If I expect to become a strong Christian overnight, but never work to add daily prayer and Bible study to my daily habits, I will be in for a disappointing reality. Small daily changes will lead to big, lifelong results. But, we must put in the effort to reap the benefits, now and eternally.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”
For someone who doesn’t listen to modern country much, one of my favorites is Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw. The tune is lovely, but I mainly appreciate the reminder.
I’d like to believe that I don’t really need the reminder because this isn’t a problem for me. I think I’m a very kind person! I don’t think I’m prideful, so I’m already humble? As much as I hate to admit it, I am humbled very often. It mainly shows me that it’s my attitude and my mindset that is flawed. Now, it’s just up to me to learn from it.
The most recent event happened while I was at work. I run a small cafe in a medical building and normally, I close at 4 pm but I decided I wanted to leave just a few minutes early. I figured I could have everything finished and leave around 3:45. It’s only a 15 minute head start to get home, but that sounded nice! A little after 3, a woman came up and started asking all kinds of questions. She was alone, around 60 years old and in a wheelchair, so she couldn’t see the displays very well. She started asking about the drinks, the lunch items, the snacks, the whole nine. She wanted to know what they were, the ingredients, the sugar content and I was totally fine with that! But the minutes started to drag on and I was getting a little annoyed. Like come on, I want to leave a little early! How dare she.
Well, this conversation unfolded like they usually do. We started to learn more about each other, like where we are from and what brought us here. We’re both transplants, so we talked about how much we liked our town and enjoyed living in the south, her being from the north and me from the west. Talked about how crazy we thought the world was and we just wish we could be united again, live in peace with everyone. At some point in the conversation, she asked me “Are you a woman of faith?” I told her I was. She didn’t go much into detail, but what I gathered is that she is very spiritual. She kept telling me to “never lose faith.” She told me about her life and the health issues she had when she was very young and how that led her to where she was. She had cancer and diabetes in her early 20s, but she was grateful and said she was blessed. She beat the cancer, she lost all her weight and even though that put her in a wheelchair, she felt blessed.
She had to take medical transport to get to her appointment and the reason she was “talking my ear off”, was because she was waiting for her ride and boy, how they were making her wait. She never complained, she was extremely pleasant, she was so positive and excited about everything we were talking about. Once 3:45 hit, she decided to call her ride again, get an ETA on the driver. I knew I needed to start closing up so I told her it was lovely talking to her, but she quickly got on her phone call. I wanted to give her her privacy so I stepped into the back for just a moment, but when I came out, she was on her way out the door. Then I noticed that she had left me a gift, right by my register. It was a beautiful necklace, a cross with small heart wrapped around it. Cue the humbling.
I genuinely enjoyed our conversation and I just couldn’t believe that I was annoyed, inconvenienced even. Here was this beautiful soul, having a conversation with me, but that’s not how I saw it. Not at first, anyway. I realized just how selfish I was being, like it wasn’t worth my time. I have loved getting to know people at my job for the last year and a half, so you’d think I’d know by now. But at times, I need to be reminded. Especially as Christians, it’s important to not only see the person, but the soul and treat them as such. In a sermon, Hiram Kemp said “Every time we look at the face of another human being, we are seeing an extension of God’s love.” That really stuck with me, especially after that day.
“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.“ Galatians 6:10
She was still waiting outside as I left. I made sure to stop, tell her how much I appreciated the sweet gift and appreciated her. Once again, she told me to never lose faith. I will remember her and try my absolute best to keep the mindset that God wants me to have for His creation.
“Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
Most people will admit to you that marriage is hard. If someone has told you marriage is easy, they’ve probably never been married. Many married couples will also readily admit that they are still learning after 15, 20, even 30 years of practice. That’s because marriage is just plain hard sometimes. Think about what you’re called to do as a spouse…
*Become one with another person
*Love your spouse unconditionally and selflessly
*Help your spouse grow spiritually
*Submit (as the wife) or lead the family (as the husband)
These responsibilities can be daunting but, aside from our own relationship with the Savior, I can’t think of a more rewarding and God-glorifying relationship than a godly marriage. My husband, Carl, and I have only been married for 4 months. So, I am by no means an expert on marriage, but there are 4 marriage-altering lessons that I have learned through trial and error (mostly error) in the short time we’ve been married.
1. Sharing is caring.
Opening up with one another about our deepest struggles and most shameful moments is something Carl’s and my personalities are naturally resistant to. The fear of disappointing your spouse or shame of admitting mistakes/temptations is crippling for many. However, the husband-and-wife relationship is called by God to be unified (Gen. 2:24). A key ingredient in growing as one is knowing your spouse and being known by your spouse. A strong line of communication between a husband and wife eliminates and simplifies so many problems. If you truly care for your spouse, you will work to share every part of life with them, and you will provide the safe space for him/her to communicate openly with you. As brother and sister in Christ, spouses are also called to speak the truth with one another (Eph. 4:25). It is possible to discuss uncomfortable and/or tense matters with your spouse. Hiding matters that need to be shared will hinder unity between you and your spouse.
2. Silence is powerful.
The power your words have over your spouse’s spirit is humbling. It is also easy to abuse. While honesty is always the best policy, being too honest is possible. If you are an opinionated person (like me), it is so tempting to blurt out advice or correction at every turn. While the peanut gallery comments don’t usually come from a mind of pride and hostility, they are discouraging and demeaning to your spouse. We all need correction at times (Gal. 6:1). That isn’t the point. The point is you married your spouse because you love who they are, and you like the way they think. Micromanaging their dishwashing method, the way they brush their teeth, or correcting them in front other people is destructive. In James 3, the tongue is compared to a small fire that can set an entire forest ablaze (James 3:4-6). The words your spouse hears from you can make them or break them. Don’t nag. Even if your spouse is wrong, it doesn’t mean they need you to tell them (James 4:11). Chances are, they already know and would admit it if you gave them the chance. The world is full of judgment and criticism. Your spouse needs you to build them up, not knock them down more (1Thess. 5:14).
3. Respect your spouse’s role.
While the world often describes God’s design for marriage as degrading toward women and partial toward men, anyone who seeks to fulfill God’s roles for men and women in marriage sees firsthand that there are challenges for husbands and wives. While we know this to be true, we still make our spouse’s job harder sometimes by disrespecting the challenges they face in trying to be a submissive wife or leading husband. The bottom line, it’s hard to be the leader (Eph. 5:23), and it’s hard to be submissive (Eph. 5:24). But what makes it easier is dwelling on the different yet often equally challenging commands you are each striving to fulfill. In the midst of an argument or a life-altering decision, remember that you both have difficult roles to maintain. Above all, you are both still in submission to God’s final say (1 Cor. 11:3)
4. Be willing to sacrifice.
A healthy marriage is not without sacrifice from both parties. As a Christian your goal is to love your spouse as Christ has demonstrated love for us in His own life. Christ was aware of what we needed before you and I even existed. Pay attention to your spouse, not just what they say, but their mood or things they may need that they don’t ask for. In order to provide the salvation we needed, Jesus “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7), “humbled himself” (Phil 2:8), and “bore our sins” (1 Pet. 2:24). In other words, Jesus denied His own wants, did so without complaining and fixed a problem we couldn’t fix on our own. Do the same for your spouse. If Christ was willing to endure abuse, mockery, and crucifixion because He loved us, surely we can make trivial sacrifices like helping with chores or letting your spouse pick dinner for once. Christ spent 33 years of His life on earth for us. We can take time out of our day to check on our spouse and provide for their needs.
These are just 4 out of the countless lessons to be learned in marriage. I know Carl and I have a lifetime worth of growing to do together. Praise God for the blessing of marriage!
The topic of truth has been on my mind a lot lately. Seeing where the world is, the confusion and how divided we are, it’s unsettling to me. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because – to a large number of people – there’s no objective truth. Did you know there’s a word for this? I learned this word from Hiram Kemp and it is “post-truth”.
Oxford’s definition of post-truth: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Basically, feelings over fact. That’s your truth but it’s not my truth. I’ve got to speak my truth. We’ve all heard a variation of this and it’s troubling because we know the truth.
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me’” (Jn 14.6).
“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (Jn 8.31,32).
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (Jn 17.17).
“For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth” (2 Cor 13:8).
“Buy the truth and do not sell it – wisdom, instruction and insight as well” (Proverbs 23:23).
We know the truth and we follow Him. Because of this truth, we have purpose and meaning in our lives! People may want to believe that they have their own truth, but they feel that hole in their lives. I believe that we are made with the desire to know the truth, it’s in our code to know our Creator. There are people out there seeking the truth and it’s up to us to show them. While I was looking for verses on truth, I came across Psalm 25. Please take a minute to read it.
“In you, LORD my God, I put my trust….Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Ps 25:1,5).
“I would (fill in the blank with some kind of social activity or event you’ve been invited to attend), but I’ve got to get some sleep.“
Do any of the above phrases sound familiar? (I’m sure Dale would respond with a resounding “yes,” if I asked him.) I rarely get enough sleep and all too often complain of being tired. Thankfully, this is something I can easily change with a little intention and discipline.
In our day and age, there is so much going on and are so many distractions to fill our minds and time that we rarely get enough (good) rest. But we need rest! Not only do we need quality sleep to be able to function and be happy, but we also need rest. If there is any evidence of how badly we need rest, it can be found in Genesis 2:2.
2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”
If our own all-powerful Creator rested, we should definitely be resting too. Of course we need sleep to function. But we need more than sleep. We need rest, to be still. It would greatly benefit us to put away all of our many distractions: TV, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. These things are fine if used sparingly, but not many of us do.
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 46:10,
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
And in the beginning of 37:7,
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him”
We need to slow down and take time to be still before the Lord. To turn off all the noise and just listen. There’s so much to be gained from quiet time spent with God and we won’t come away from it feeling more tired and drained, but just the opposite. This kind of rest isn’t just good for the body, but good for the soul! If daily Bible study isn’t already a part of your normal routine, try it for a week. Start with maybe 5-10 minutes in the morning and at night. And as you begin to make this a part of your daily habits, increase the time and you will find that it’s never enough!