Traits of a Godly Person: Knowledge

What is it about knowledge that makes us feel powerful if we have it, stupid if we don’t and causes us to pursue it like a wolf seeking its prey? Webster’s online dictionary defines the word knowledge as:

- the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association

- acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique

- the fact or condition of being aware of something

- the range of one's information or understanding

- the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning : COGNITION

- the fact or condition of having information or of being learned

- the sum of what is known : the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind

There are two older meanings of the word which include a branch of learning and sexual intercourse.

Image by  Nino Carè  from  Pixabay

Image by Nino Carè from Pixabay

Here are a few quotes from other people on what they believe knowledge to be:

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
— Socrates
The Seven Social Sins are:
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.
— Frederick Lewis Donaldson, sermon at Westminster Abbey March 20, 1925
Any fool can know. The point is to understand.
— Albert Einstein
No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.
— L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
— Daniel Boorstin

One of the wisest men in recorded history, King Solomon, had this to say about knowledge.

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
— Proverbs 18:15 (ESV)

I could share with you the forms of knowledge, but rather than get bogged down in philosophical terms and definitions, let’s just say for this study there is head knowledge and heart knowledge. Obviously, our head was designed for the purpose of obtaining, storing and using knowledge, in addition to all of the things our brains do, that we actually don’t have to think about like blood circulation, breathing and blinking. The question then is, does the heart think?

The heart, as a muscle in our body that regulates blood flow, does not, itself, think. The brain is still the control center, even when it comes to the beating of our hearts. What then do we mean by heart knowledge? I often associate heart knowledge with our conscience, or for us as Christians, with His Spirit in us. Heart knowledge is that voice of right and wrong that we often hear, telling us to do or not do a certain thing. Heart knowledge also embraces the relationship we have with the Almighty.

We’ve all heard the quote from those sappy sweet Hallmark movies, “Follow your heart.” Or, “What is your heart saying?” But those are just movies. What about in real life? Often people get in trouble for following their hearts, rather than their heads. When it comes to the Christian life, what is the best way to live; by head knowledge or heart knowledge? I think King Solomon had the right idea. Let’s break down that verse in Proverbs into two parts.

1 - An intelligent heart acquires knowledge:

Solomon, himself, shows us in this verse, that our hearts can obtain knowledge. I think heart knowledge has to do with what philosopher’s call procedural or tacit knowledge. This knowledge is obtained through experience. When you first start working a job, you may have no idea how to use the new computer system. Maybe you are familiar with it, but you haven’t actually used it and had it become a regular part of your knowledge base. Once you learn the system, that head knowledge has become heart knowledge and is as easy as breathing (except for the fact that it is technology, which doesn’t always work as it should! Ha, ha.)

Image by  Bob Dmyt  from  Pixabay

Image by Bob Dmyt from Pixabay

Another example of this heart knowledge or experiential knowledge would be a little child. A child knows he/she is not to touch the flame on a candle, because they were told by their parent, but that knowledge does not become heart knowledge until he touches the flame and learns that it hurts. Heart knowledge comes over time and is learned gradually.

2 - and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

The mention of the ear makes me think that this part of the verse is referring to the head. The ears, eyes and mouth, along with our sense of touch are the ways that we obtain what philosopher’s term, propositional or explicit knowledge. This knowledge we can learn from a book, a speaker, a video and other forms of communication that express or share knowledge. Nurses learn about taking blood pressures, making diagnosis and treating patients. They can translate this knowledge onto a test and pass an exam, but this head knowledge does not become real until it is experienced on the floor during their clinical.

Image by  travisdmchenry  from  Pixabay

Image by travisdmchenry from Pixabay

Now that we understand the two different types of knowledge, we can move on to why it is important to have both and how this can help us to become more Godly Christians.

There are those who believe head knowledge is the best knowledge. It is only through reading books, studying history and understanding philosophical ideas that we truly have knowledge. This camp does not see the necessity for experience, or at least the necessity for emotional experience. Head knowledge followers actually like to read or listen to podcasts. They love to watch the news and keep on top of all that is going on in the world. Many head knowledge types are walking sources of factual information. Heart knowledge is often looked upon as weak and changing with every whim. Head knowledge without heart knowledge is sterile and lacks compassion.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The other camp says that heart knowledge is best. These are the people who love to experience life to the fullest. You’ll find heart knowledge adherents going to concerts, movies and for long walks in the woods. These types have relationships with their pets and are devastated when a favorite character in a book or movie is killed off. Yes, these are the ones who cry during Hallmark movies and good books. Head knowledge is looked upon as unbendable and critical. Heart knowledge without head knowledge can be lead astray and is easily manipulated.

Pixabay - woman in field

Obviously, most people do not just fall into one knowledge category or the other. Most of us operate somewhere between head knowledge and heart knowledge, although most of us have a leaning one way or another. My spouse is a head knowledge type of guy. He has a Master’s Degree in philosophy, for crying out loud! Me, I’m a heart kind of girl. I cry at kids movies, love books with complex settings and even more complex characters. For years I lived by my emotions, but I’ve learned that I need to have both head knowledge and heart knowledge to be a well rounded adult.

What does all of this have to do with our walk as Christians? Just as we learned from Solomon, we need to have both a heart and a head that seeks knowledge. I’ve broken it down into two lists, just to keep it simple and to keep this post from getting two long.

Head Knowledge - Read the Bible regularly. Listen to good preachers. Study the Bible more in depth (there are plenty of on line helps for studying scripture more in depth - https://www.biblestudytools.com/library/ , https://www.blueletterbible.org/ , https://bible.org/ , and plenty of others.) Read other sources of Biblical knowledge, such as Andrew Murray, A.W. Tozer, D.L. Moody, Oswald Chambers, and a plethora of others. Just make sure that the things you are reading and listening too are Biblically sound (another reason to be in His word and know it).

Heart Knowledge - Worship. I don’t believe there is anything that more quickly connects our hearts to His than to worship in Spirit and in truth. Sing, pray, praise, thank, on your own and with others. Take action. Don’t just read and obtain the head knowledge, but let that head knowledge spur you on to do things. Help out at a soup kitchen, get involved in your church’s children’s ministry, take food to that elderly neighbor who just got home from the hospital, invite people over for dinner to have fellowship. Meditate. Meditation on God and His word was condoned by King David in the Old Testament. This is not some modern, New Age activity. It’s all about where you are placing your thoughts and your heart. I find the best place to meditate is when I am taking a walk, especially on a beautiful fall day or even on a snowy day out in the woods.

I hope that this post will help you and give you understanding of how we are all different and how we, as His people can grow in the Godly trait of knowledge.
















Traits of a Godly Person - Goodness

I am skipping from 2 Peter 1 to Galatians 5. I thought it would be useful to talk about goodness while we were still mulling over the idea of virtue. A question comes to mind when looking at these two words side by side. Can a person be virtuous without being good? Can a person be good without being virtuous? It seems to me these two words are very closely related, almost like two peas in a pod. Each one is distinctly its own thing, but they are two parts of a larger entity, which I will call morality. Can we truly have morality without having virtue and goodness?

Image by  Ruslana Babenko  from  Pixabay

Image by Ruslana Babenko from Pixabay

Websters Online Dictionary defines the noun goodness in this way:

1 - the quality or state of being kind, honest, generous, helpful, etc

2 - the quality or state of being useful or effective

From a philosophical perspective, the word goodness and the word virtue are two distinctly different things. A person can be virtuous, meaning they have the qualities of courage, diligence, chastity and so on without being a good person. A person can also be virtuous, but not necessarily good at it. For instance, if a person bravely runs into a burning building to save someone, we would say he has the virtue of bravery, but if he trips and falls and dies in the fire and never saves the person, we would also say he wasn’t very good at following through on that bravery. Even though, I am married to a philosophy professor, I have no desire to go any deeper into the intricacies of virtue and goodness, other than to point out they are two distinct things and one does not necessarily depend on the other.

For this post, I want to stick to the idea of what goodness looks like as a state of being and as a state of doing.

1 - Goodness as a State of Being

It is my personal opinion that in order to be good and express acts of goodness, we must first be good inside. Think about acts that we would deem good: things like kindness, helpfulness, honesty and generosity typically grow out of thoughts that revolve around kindness, helpfulness, honesty and generosity.

Of course there are people who are deceptive and are not truly doing things out of goodness. They are manipulating the world around them by being good, in order to get something, even if it is the satisfaction of feeling like a good person. For this series, I am speaking to people who truly desire to be good and do good things for the sake of the gospel, or for the sake of doing good.

Image by  skeeze  from  Pixabay

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Let me interject here, that the Bible is clear on our goodness:

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become
worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
— Romans 3:9-18 (ESV)
Image by  Sarah Richter  from  Pixabay

Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

Paul was writing to the Jews at the church in Rome, however, he included everyone in this group, both the Jews and the Greeks, or in other words, Gentiles. Anyone who wasn’t a Jew was a Gentile. So, you see, we are all sinners. No one is righteous. No one is truly good. Sure lots of people do good things and live their entire lives with honesty, kindness, helpfulness and generosity, but for the sake of this study, the trait of a Godly person is that it is a trait that makes him/her Godly, or in other words, more like Jesus. The only one who can truly make us more like Him, is Jesus Himself. That is part of why Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Spirit. This goodness is His fruit. In order for us to live in a state of goodness, we must immerse ourselves in Jesus; in His words; in His spirit.

You might be asking yourself, “How in all of creation, then, are we really supposed to be this goodness? How are we supposed to live in a state of being good?”

I am so glad you asked, and I am even more glad that Jesus, through His spirit and His inspired Word, gave us a clue. Let’s look two more verses.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4-9 (ESV)

God has given us clear direction on how to get our mind going down the goodness track. Every word and action begins in our minds. What we spend our time thinking about will show in our actions. If we think about how many things are wrong with the world, with other people and even with ourselves, we will be anxious and frustrated. If we think about past mistakes and wrong choices, we will be consumed with guilt. However, if we think on these things, as Paul encouraged us to do, we will be more likely to be good people.

2 - Goodness as a State of Doing

Frankly, what good does it do to be good and not act on it. If we are truly good, this should lead us to take action. Those actions will include three areas: goodness towards our God, goodness towards others and goodness towards ourselves. Let’s look at each of these briefly.

Goodness Towards Our God

How is it that we can be good towards God? Just as we choose to commit wrong, we also can choose to commit good. Doing good towards God, would be refraining from choices to sin, committing time to prayer, study of His word and worship. In addition, doing good towards God would include the simple act of thankfulness. Have you ever tried to worship or pray when you are angry and upset? It does not work. However, as soon as we humble ourselves and begin to nurture a thankful heart we change and we bring honor and glory to our God.

Goodness Towards Others

It is easy to be good to people who are good to us, but what about people who are negative, ungrateful and demanding? Does that sound like anyone in your life? I think we all have at least one person in our lives like that. It is easy to hold a grudge; to begin to not like that person, and eventually to not do good to and for that person. God’s Spirit in us, is able to produce good acts, even when we don’t feel like it or want to be good, but we have to choose to let Him have his way and bring to mind verses like those in Philippians and others. A big chunk of exhibiting all of these Godly traits we have been talking about is yielding to His Spirit in our lives and in our circumstances. As we think on good things, acting with goodness towards others, the choice to be and do good will become more natural and Spirit driven.

Goodness Towards Ourselves

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

In all honesty, this is probably one of the areas I struggle with the most. For me, it is easier to be good to others: customers at work, my family, friends, and others, but when it comes to myself, I am my own worst critic. My husband has this problem too. I have definitely softened towards myself over the years as the Spirit has brought me light on the topic of who I really am: created in His image, a royal priesthood, beloved and other wonderfully descriptive words. I still have days where I look in the mirror and am convince I am a cartoon character and should be residing in a comic book. I also have days where I feel so completely inept and unworthy, but these thoughts are not from God. (See my fiction piece The Tower, for a look inside my own struggling soul).

It is important that we give ourselves grace on a regular basis. We are not perfect. We are on a journey, just like everyone. It is also important to treat ourselves with goodness. Look in the mirror and thank yourself for getting rest the night before, showering to get clean and drinking lots of water. Make a mental list of your good traits; those beautiful eyes, pretty collar bones or shapely legs. Give thanks to the One who made you with an incredibly creative mind that desires to please Him.

There can never be enough good in the world, so let’s be sure we are doing what we can to make goodness, not only a state of being, but a state of doing.

Have a great day!



Cats and Dogs

I want to apologize that I have not been as consistent as normal with these faith posts. Writing a faith post is much more time consuming and in need of focus, than when I am writing a post about an outfit I put together. When I am writing a faith post, I want the information I share with you to be as accurate to the truth of God’s word as possible. I wish I could say that all I have to do is pray and I am infused with God’s spirit speaking through me, much like the original writers of the Bible were inspired to write the words, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

Image by  Pexels  from  Pixabay

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Once in a while I get a shot of inspiration, that is like an injection of caffeine straight into the blood stream. It is as though I am suddenly awake and all that has been foggy becomes sharp and in focus. It is amazing when that happens. I feel more alive than normal, and my pen or keyboard moves at new speeds. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

My husband and I joke, that in the animal realm, he would be a cat and I would be a dog. His cat-like tendency is to pounce or attack whatever the task is to do and then take a nap. My dog-like tendency is to keep plodding along, trying to do everything that has to be done and keep trying to smile and wag my tail while I do. Ha, ha.

Image by  Rohit Tripathi  from  Pixabay

Image by Rohit Tripathi from Pixabay

Have you ever thought about how many tasks in life take dog-like perseverance? Women, especially, keep going, until they collapse at the end of the day. We get up, usually earlier than anyone else. We get ready for the day, get everyone else ready for their days, go to work, or start our tasks at home, like dishes, laundry, cleaning, decluttering, organizing, meal planning and prep. In addition to all of those activities, women are most often responsible for the smooth running of their homes, their families’ lives and their work environments. It can get a little overwhelming at times.

If you take a look at those two cuties in the above picture, you will see a pretty similar picture in my husband and I. My husband has ADD. He was never clinically diagnosed, but when our younger daughter was tested as an adult, we saw amazing similarities between her and my spouse. My daughter regularly takes Ritalin to be able to work and study for her college courses. My spouse does not, but he has had students with ADD in his classes and they have asked if he had it, as his teaching style is so well suited for people with this learning disability. That cat in the picture looks ready to chase something. My husband’s mind is often working at a million thoughts a minute, taking him down all sorts of rabbit trails and squirrel holes.

I, on the other hand, just keep plodding along. The look on that little pup’s face, is often how I feel. I never feel that I am doing a good enough job. I always worry that I could be better, prettier, thinner or smarter. I often wonder what I might have done that made my masters upset. I would, in a confrontational situation, run away and hide. However, dogs also have many wonderful traits. They are loyal, trustworthy, hard working, loving and hopeful. Most dogs are also fiercely protective of their flocks.

Image by  coffy  from  Pixabay

Image by coffy from Pixabay

In Colossians 3 Pauls discusses things we are to put off and things we are to put on. He reminds us that we are to focus our minds on things above, not on things on this earth. He ends the chapter with a call to work on our relationships with one another. One verse stands out to me.

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
— Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)

Whether you feel like a cat, a dog, a human or something in between, we need to remember that what we do is to be done for Him, not for our spouses, children or even our boss. I often find myself feeling let down and unappreciated, because no one say’s thank you, when I do all the things I do, but I need to remember that I do it for Him, not to be thanked. The verse says that from Him I will receive the inheritance as my reward. Having an inheritance with an almighty God is a pretty big deal.

I’ll continue to plod along, in dog-like fashion, but I will have hope, because I do everything for Him.

Have a great day.

Traits of A Godly Person: Virtue (Moral Excellence)

It is time to get back to my Traits of A Godly Person, series. I have spent several weeks dwelling on other topics and working through my own discouragement over the circumstances of life. There are still bad things happening out in the world, but in order to walk upright through the difficulties we need to remember whose we are and what is expected of us.

Image by  Andrew Martin  from  Pixabay

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Superheroes are usually looked at as individuals who are virtuous. We usually look up to them as examples to follow for goodness towards humanity and of course saving our butts when we are in a bind.

This week I would like to look at the characteristic of virtue. We do not hear this word very often any more in the world we are living in. In order to understand why this is, let’s look at how Webster’s Online Dictionary defines it.

1 - conformity to a standard of right; a particular moral excellence

2 - a beneficial quality or power of a thing

3 - a commendable quality or trait

4 - a capacity to act

Let’s take a look, once again, at how virtue is used the 2 Peter passage.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
— 2 Peter 1:5 (KJV)

If you remember when I did the study of 2 Peter 1:1-11, I mentioned that there was a logical progression to the list of Godly characteristics. In the original study, I used the New American Standard Bible. In that version, virtue is called moral excellence. I actually like the idea of moral excellence better than virtue, but there are some things about the term virtue that give us added insight into the idea of moral excellence.

First of all our Webster’s definition says that virtue is conformity to a standard of right, or a particular moral excellence. If anything has become skewed in our world it is the idea that there is a moral center or standard that we are to adhere to. We now live in an age where morality is about being a good person, but then people have their own definition of what a good person is. How can we even define things like truth, morality, or goodness if we have no standard against which to measure it?

Image by  Wokandapix  from  Pixabay

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

If we take a look at the physical world we see that there are standards that define it. We measure length in inches, feet and yards. We weigh physical objects in ounces, pounds or tons. We have formulas to define volume, mass and even things like statistics and interest rates. We learn about how animals migrate, mate and live in herds or prides. We have standards set by scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and others on how to building bridges, skyscrapers and jumbo jets. We even have standards to which our children and grandchildren are to adhere in order to pass each grade and eventually become members of the adult community. Why then are we so willing to give up the standards by which to live life?

Pixabay - HOmework

Second, Webster’s says that virtue is a beneficial quality or power of a thing. For something to be beneficial it has to be good. In other words it has to have benefits. Often when we speak of virtues we think of things like courage, honesty, faithfulness and so on. Certainly, those things are beneficial to all beings, not just a chosen few. Wouldn’t all humanity be better off if each of us were courageous, honest and faithful? Virtues of this nature (and others) have a power to help, and to lift others up.

Image by  Military_Material  from  Pixabay

Third, Webster’s states that virtue is a commendable quality or trait. Similarly to the last definition, we have to ask ourselves what is commendable? If you surveyed the general population you would probably find that most people find faithfulness, honesty, courage, kindness, generosity and others commendable traits. Why then, do we have so much disparity when it comes to what people really want and how people really live?

Why, if people want honesty, do so many live lies? Why, if people want courage, do so many struggle with anxiety? Why, if people want kindness, are so many fighting and bullying? Why, if people want generosity, do so many only spend what they have on themselves without any regard to others?

I personally believe the disparity exists because so many are trying to live without Jesus. That leads me to the last definition I listed from Webster.

Fourth, a capacity to act. As with all things, growth comes through practice. We do not obtain virtue, by merely sitting on our bottoms and talking about it. We need to be doing something.

Don’t just discuss the benefits of honesty…BE honest.

Don’t just wish you were courageous…do things that will make you BE courageous. (This does not necessarily mean running into a burning building to save a life. This might mean, calling your local representatives about bills that go against a Godly standards, or telling someone about Jesus, or taking that position on your church’s worship team. Courage comes in many forms.)

Image by  Dennis Gries  from  Pixabay

Image by Dennis Gries from Pixabay

Don’t talk about that lady that was mean to you….BE kind in return, or pay it forward to someone else. God told us in His word, to be kind to one another. (Ephesians 4:32)

Don’t talk about maybe you’ll give…BE generous. Give your money, your time, your love, your life. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did and wants us to do?

I didn’t spend any time delving into the scriptures for this post, because each area of virtue, and there are many more than just the ones I listed, has its own verses to back them up. In addition, many of these will be covered in future installments in the Godly Traits series.

For now, focus on a virtue that you struggle with and just BE.

A Lesson in Weaving

She watched her through the open window that looked down on the small balcony. The young girl looked out over the river that lazily wandered past the castle. The child was hers, but she was no longer looked like a small girl. She had grown in those years she had been held captive by the enemy lord. She felt a lump in her throat that she could not swallow. The girl, her girl, didn’t want anything to do with her, her very own mother, nor her grandfather, the King.

Image by  DarkWorkX  from  Pixabay

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

When they had first found her in the enemy’s castle she was like a caged animal. The room they found her in was filled with waste and squalor. The girl did not recognize her mother at first and when she tried to take her in her arms, which ached to hold her again, the girl screamed. That scream had pierced her soul. They were finally able to get her out of the castle by coaxing her out with sweets. The thought of it still made her shudder.

Eventually, the girl saw that they were not going to hurt her and in fact were going to provide for her pretty clothes and good food, things that she hadn’t gotten when she was a captive, but still, she kept asking when she could go home. It galled her to think her only child thought of his palace as her home, even after how she had been treated.

A noise from behind her caused her to turn. Her father, the King, approached. He put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

“Father, I don’t know what to do. I feel absolutely helpless…I know she is hurting, and probably angry at me. I let it happen. I let her get caught by that evil man. I am to blame and now, I can’t even look at her without feeling utterly hopeless.”

The King took in a deep breath and let it out very slowly. She often saw him do this when he was thinking before he spoke, a practice he always thought wise.

“Daughter, you know how very much I love you, so I can understand those feelings of helplessness and even hopelessness. Did you know that I could not sleep at night when you were being courted by your late husband? It terrified me to let you go, knowing each step you took towards independence took you further and further away from me. But, I had to learn to trust the One. I knew that He would always take care of you, no matter where you were. Even when I eventually sent you into battle.”

Image by  Enrique Meseguer  from  Pixabay

She pulled away from him, suddenly feeling angry. “This is not a simple courting session that my daughter went through. She was beaten, starved and we don’t even know yet, if he did other vile things to her. She was just a child. Was the One with her, when that was going on, or has He abandoned her…has He abandoned us?”

The King sat heavily in a chair that stood near the fire burning cheerfully in a brazier. He pulled the footstool in front of him and patted it.

Once again, he wanted her to sit, to listen, to learn from him.

As she did so often, she began to pace. “No! I am not going to sit at your feet, like a little child and have you explain to me, how I need to trust the One. He let my little girl get hurt. He let her get caught by that vile enemy.”

“Now wait a minute. Is it your fault, or is it His fault?”

She stopped and stared. “Well…I….I….I don’t know! All I know, is that little girl is not the same person I knew before she was taken.”

“Are you the same person you were before she was taken?”

She inhaled, trying to practice the same technique he did, not speaking until she was sure she was in control.

“No. I am not.”

He patted the foot stool again and smiled.

Reluctantly she sat.

He leaned forward and took her hands in his own large ones. She could feel the callouses there. He was no show piece. He was a king who fought and bled beside his own men for the causes he believed in. How could he keep his calm demeanor? He always seemed at peace, no matter what.

“How do you to it? How did you send me into battle, knowing full well, I might never return?”

“Do you remember how your mother used to love to weave tapestries?”

Image by  MrsBrown  from  Pixabay

Image by MrsBrown from Pixabay

She smiled, remembering her mother, the Queen working tirelessly into the night weaving various colored threads together. “She used to hang it, so that when we came into the room, we could not see what the finished picture would be.”

The King let out a chuckle. “Oh yes. Once time I tried to sneak in when she was away and she had the loom booby trapped! I suddenly found myself doused by a bucket of honey mead. I couldn’t get the flies away from me for weeks.”

She laughed, remembering her father taking bath, after bath, after bath, but unable to get the sweet ale completely washed out of his hair.

He squeezed her hands. “Your mother always had a purpose for everything she did. Why do you think she presented the tapestry to us only from the back side, until the work was done?”

She shrugged. “I had always assumed she just loved the surprise on our faces when we finally saw it.”

“Oh there was definitely that! However, in addition to that she wanted to remind us of what real life is like.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Life is made up of all manner of threads, some beautiful colors and others dull and even ugly. If you didn’t know that the front of the tapestry was going to be made into a beautiful work of art, you would have thought the piece merely an ugly, jumble of random colored threads and knots where the threads had been tied off. It is that jumbled mess that makes up our lives. The ugly threads and the beautiful ones are all necessary to make the completed picture.

The One is weaving those threads. He is making all of it, even the threads we don’t understand or want to understand into a picture of such great beauty that it will be declared a masterpiece, when we finally see the finished product.

Your mother was an artist and she taught you those same skills before she passed on. What are you going to do with your threads? You can use them to create beauty, or like our now dead enemy, you can use them to weave chaos.”

The King leaned forward and kissed her forehead, then he rose to his feet and quietly left the room.

She stared into the fire, that slowly claimed the fuel it was burning. The fire was chaotic, yet it served a purpose to provide warmth and cook food. It was even beautiful in its dance of flame. Could it be, her father was right; that beauty could come from the chaos of life?

She knew what she had to do. She would teach her daughter the loom. She would teach her the dance of light and flame, darkness and chaos and pray the One would bring healing and beauty for them both.

This is a fiction piece by Amy D. Christensen

In 2010 Ravi Zacharias wrote a book titled, The Grand Weaver. It was this book and the images he shared of God being the grand weaver of our lives that inspired the imagery revolving around the tapestry in this story. If we can grasp His divine plan for our lives, in which He uses all the good, the bad and the ugly, how much easier would it be to let Him have control. I hope you enjoyed this story.

You can see the previous parts to this story by clicking on the links below:

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father’s Perspective

Part 3: Waiting

Part 4: Ready to Die


Traits of a Godly Person: Patience

Have you ever said a prayer, in a whispered rush, because you didn’t know what else to do; you had reached the end of your string and thought you would lose your mind or at least your cool?

“Lord! Please give me patience!”

What were you thinking?

I used to pray that prayer too, but then I realized something. Every single time I prayed for patience, things got oppressively worse. Why was that? I finally stopped praying for patience because I realized life, by its very chaotic nature, requires a camel’s hump worth of patience.

Image by  Wolfgang Inderwies  from  Pixabay

Since we looked at diligence last week, it seemed fitting to peer at patience as the two of them go hand in hand. Practice is an extension of diligence. If we want to learn a musical instrument or a language, we must diligently practice. In the same way, patience is required when we are trying to be diligent. We must be patient with ourselves. To think I will be able to play Beethoven after only a few hours of practice would be an error. Indeed, it might take a month, a year or a lifetime, to really master something, and that takes patience.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

The Bible tells us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. In order to fully grasp this idea we must look at what patience is not.

Patience is not getting my own way.

We might like to think that if everyone would just fall into line, my line, that all would be well and I would never have an impatient moment. How likely is that?

Image by  Dhamma Medicine  from  Pixabay

Image by Dhamma Medicine from Pixabay

As moms we know how hard it is to get the miniature people in our lives to fall into line, let alone the full sized ones. We are born with a desire to be individuals, and God is okay with that. He made us all uniquely different. God also created us with a desire to know Him. It is only in following Him, and getting into His line, that we will truly understand what patience is, and become partakers of it.

Patience is not being perfect.

How many of you have had thoughts like this, “If I was just more…..”? You can fill in the blank with words like pretty, skinny, smart, rich, sexy, outgoing, bold, and so on. Wouldn’t it be easy to be patient with ourselves and others if we were all perfect? Honestly, I think that would get a tad bit boring. Perhaps that is why God made us so differently; different colors, different languages, different approaches to life, different likes and dislikes. Perfect? No. Different? Yes.

Image by  Gerd Altmann  from  Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Patience is not practiced.

This might seem counterintuitive, but think it through for a minute. You can practice the piano. A child can practice riding a bike or tying his shoes. A teenager can practice driving a car. The only way to really practice patience is by placing yourself in a situation that would require it and who it their right mind would want to do that?

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

“Hey, I think I’ll go to my doctor’s appointment an extra two hours early, just so I can practice waiting.”

“I think I’ll get on the highway at rush hour, so I can practice not getting angry.”

“I need an extra dose of patience, so I’m going to have the dentist put crowns on all my teeth!”

I mean really. Who thinks that way?

What do we do about patience? We all know we need more of it, especially in our chaotic world. Politics, racial issues, religion, family life; everywhere we turn we need patience. How do we obtain more of it?

Since patience is a fruit of the Spirt it makes sense that in order to have it, we need to be in close contact with the One producing the fruit. As I have said other times in this Godly traits series, being in close contact with the Almighty is the only way to truly obtain all of these traits. These are Godly traits, or characteristics that He has. In order for us to have them, we need to be walking in fellowship with Him. Prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other believers, are all part of the formula for becoming a more Godly person.

In addition to that, here are a few real world things you can do, to help raise your patience level. I have found these most helpful when faced with those situations that make you want to scream, stomp and pull your hair out, or at least use a few very naughty words.

Take a deep breath.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Swimmers know that it is important to breathe. In addition to knowing the precise strokes, having strength, and practicing, knowing when and how to breathe is also important. When you are swimming through life and the waters get turbulent, remember how to breathe. Sometimes when I start to feel anxious I will take a deep breath in and then slowly blow it out. A simple practice could be the next time you are stuck in traffic, take a deep breath in and think about Jesus, a verse or a prayer. When you exhale, imagine you are blowing away the bad feelings, including those naughty words you were thinking in your head. Ha, ha.

Distract yourself.

Pixabay - smart phone/waiting

Having appointments, where you have to sit and wait are pretty common, especially as we age and have to spend more time at doctor’s offices. It is so much easier these days with our smart phones to play a game, get on Facebook or even listen to music, while we are waiting. It makes time go so much faster. The plus to this is, you can even listen to or read the Bible. There is really no reason to be impatient while you are waiting in our tech savvy society. However, do not use your phone to distract you while in a traffic jam! The results could be disastrous.

Think about others.

This attitude has often helped me in the retail business. When a customer gets cranky, I always try to remember they might be going through something difficult. They might be having their patience tried in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.

Image by  WikimediaImages  from  Pixabay

Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Walk a mile in his moccasins.” I didn’t know until I looked it up that this actually originated with a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap (1838-1895), who was an American poet, Methodist Episcopal preacher, prohibitionist and suffragist. You can see more on her and the poem in full on the blog, James Wilson - Writing & Things. Here are the first three stanzas from the poem.

“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.
— Mary T. Lathrap from Judge Softly

Trust Him.

If you read my faith post regularly, you will see a pattern. I always want to direct you back to our Creator. We know what it is like to be impatient, but there are times when life becomes so overwhelming we no longer feel the ability to wait for the Rescuer to come. These are the times I must choose to trust.

Image by  Gerd Altmann  from  Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Bible, God’s inspired word says,

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

This is a promise and when life gets to much to bear we must claim it. Paul said he was confident about this. He knew that God was working to perfect us in Christ Jesus. All the waiting, the hair pulling and the struggles are for one purpose, to make us like Jesus. If we do not believe that, then it all seems for naught.

I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
— Job 42:2 (NASB)
Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain? Or can the heavens grant showers? Is it not You, O Lord our God? Therefore we hope in You, For You are the one who has done all these things.
— Jeremiah 14:22 (NASB)

If God can do all things and has done all things, won’t He most certainly give us the patience we need when life becomes a waiting game?




Mulling it Over - Part 9

Once again I am looking at 2 Peter 1:1-11. Over the last number of weeks I have been walking slowly through this passage, desiring that you and I ruminate on the verses each week, much like a cow chewing on his cud. We want to read, reread and reread again. Not only read, but really think about the words that God inspired His chosen ones to write in the Holy Scriptures.

Image by  blende22  from  Pixabay

Image by blende22 from Pixabay

The context of this passage written by Peter was to encourage believers that were scattered throughout the areas of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. His readers were mainly Jews who had become believers. Seeing as it was a large area Peter was writing to, it makes sense that he was trying to cover the main points of what a walk with Christ would look like. Let’s look at the whole passage again.

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

As we have learned in our study, the eight qualities that Peter lists are ours to have because of Jesus’ great and magnificent promises. They are to be increasing in our lives, meaning we need to be putting in the effort to focus on these qualities and determine, how we can allow God to bring them to fullness in us.

Today we are going to finish the passage, by looking at the last two verses.

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:10-11 (NASB)

Therefore, brethren…

Once again, we are reminded that these letters were written to believers. In the Christian community we look at our fellow believers as our brothers and sisters.

…be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…

I believe in eternal security, meaning once you make the decision to accept Christ as your Savior, you are always saved, however, there are decisions made when emotions are high, that aren’t necessarily real. I grew up in a Bible believing church and was taught that asking Jesus to be my Savior was a decision I had to make. While my Sunday School teachers did an excellent job to teach me how to make this decision and what and who exactly I was believing in, it wasn’t until I was twelve that I fully committed my life to Christ. That decision was real. I knew exactly who I was talking to, when I prayed that prayer, on my own, in my bedroom at home.

Image by  reenablack  from  Pixabay  

Image by reenablack from Pixabay 

When Peter says to be diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you, He isn’t saying you might have lost your salvation along the way. He’s saying, make sure that decision was real when you made it. I also think that he is encouraging us to go back and ruminate on what, exactly Jesus did and why He did it. With Easter just around the corner, what better time to be certain about His calling and choosing. Did you make a decision to follow Jesus? What it real? Has it changed your life? That brings us to the next phrase.

…for as long as you practice these things you, will never stumble…

Do you believe this? There is a connection here between the two phases. Practice is essential for not stumbling. The passage doesn’t say, “…for as long as you read about these things…” Nor does it say, “…for as long as you occasionally do these things…” The word is practice. You all remember the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Of late, there is a new movement towards a different mentality of “Practice makes permanent,” which actually might make more sense. We want what we practice to become a permanent part of who we are. If I am practicing brotherly kindness, I want to practice it and practice it, until it becomes a natural response for me.

So what exactly does it mean when it says, we will never stumble?

If we were truly practicing all of the qualities listed in this passage, and it was a practice that made permanent, I think Peter would be right, we would never stumble. Unfortunately, how many of us are practicing these qualities until they are firmly embedded on our minds and hearts. Sure we might be really good at brotherly kindness, but when it comes to self-control, we trip up. Yes, we might make a regular practice of moral excellence, but when we have to be diligent we fall short. I do believe we can become better and better at every single one of these qualities, and we may even get to the point where we no longer stumble, but again, it is only Jesus and his Spirit that gives us this stumble proof ability.

For in this way, the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

If we don’t really pay attention, one could say that this verse is a proponent of good works theology. This is theology that says, we gain entrance into heaven by our good works. But the Bible is clear on this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
— Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)

i believe this verse is speaking as a matter of degrees. The Bible says,

...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

If we believe in Jesus we will be saved. We will get into Heaven and dwell with the Almighty forever. What this verse seems to be suggesting is that it can be even better than that. It says that entrance into the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied to us. Abundance implies wealth and resources. Maybe for those who have been practicing these qualities and striving to be diligent and remember God’s precious and magnificent promises, they will receive a ticker tape parade. I really don’t know, but I find it interesting that the point was made that the entrance into the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied.

Image by  Dimitris Vetsikas  from  Pixabay  

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay 

I hope you have enjoyed this look at 2 Peter 1:1-11. Next week, I hope to do an Easter post. After that I might return to the eight qualities listed in this passage and start looking at those in depth. Until then, have a great week everyone.




Mulling it Over - Part 8

I love to watch British mystery shows. I’ve worked my way through several and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I often think of reading and studying the Bible as a mystery investigation. We have many questions in life that we want answers for. The Bible gives us understanding as we learn to investigate its depths and trust God to teach us from it.

Image by  M W  from  Pixabay

Image by M W from Pixabay

Just as a child has an immense sense of curiosity, in the same way we need to be curious about what God says in His word. Reading it, is a good start. Studying it, is even better. Mulling it over and ruminating on it is best. This is how we have our curiosity satisfied and it is how we learn.

Today we are looking at 2 Peter 1:9

For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
— 2 Peter 1:9 (NASB)

For he who lacks these qualities…

Peter is, once again, referring back to the qualities that were listed in the previous verses. Let’s review them as they are listed in the verses 5-7.

5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
— 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NASB)

We can draw the conclusion from the beginning of verse 9, that not everyone was practicing these qualities. This letter written by Peter was specifically for Christians, people who already believed in the death and resurrection of Christ. We can better understand this if we look back at the book of 1 Peter and the beginning of this chapter.

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen
2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
— 1 Peter 1:1-2 (NASB)
1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
— 2 Peter 1:1 (NASB)

It would seem, then, that not all Christians have these qualities. That may give us added insight into why Peter wrote these two letters in the first place, aside from the Divine Inspiration, aspect. God inspired him to pen these words, because there were Christians who were not exemplifying these qualities.

…is blind or short-sighted…

Talk about a slap in the face! What Peter is saying is that those who are not exhibiting these qualities are unable to see. What exactly does that mean? Obviously, there are lots of people who call themselves Christians, because they have accepted Jesus as their Savior, but they are not showing the qualities that Peter lists above.

Image by  OpenClipart-Vectors  from  Pixabay

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Let’s stop for a minute and talk about this. All of us fall short. I believe I have mentioned this before. None of us is perfect. As I have mentioned I struggle with things like self-control, diligence and love. However, struggling with doing these on a regular basis is different than not exhibiting these qualities all together. If you ask my kids and my husband, they would tell you I love them. If you ask my boss at work, she’d say I am diligent. The fact that I have chosen to not drink alcohol or smoke, tells you that I have some self-control. So what does Peter mean when he says that those who are not practicing these things are blind?

I believe that when we do not practice these qualities we become insensitive to the movement of God’s spirit in our lives. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, when we accept Jesus’ work, life, death and resurrection, is the string that connects us to the Almighty. The Holy Spirit’s work in us is to make us more like Christ.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
— John 16:13 (NASB)

The Spirit’s job is to guide us into truth. He teaches us about diligence, knowledge, brotherly kindness and all the other qualities that we are to be practicing. When we don’t pursue these things, we become blind or short sighted to what the Spirit of the Living God wants to teach us.

…having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

Sin is not something we spend huge amounts of time talking about or thinking about, but we should. When we forget sin, we forget the whole reason, Jesus had to die on the cross. We begin to forget that we were and are sinners, saved by God’s grace and mercy. We buy into the lies that the world puts out there, that sin is a bad word and all the bad things in the world are a result of bad luck or the choices of others. We are playing a long, drawn out version of the blame game and in the end it leads to destruction.

Image by  ErikaWittlieb  from  Pixabay  

Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay 

As we begin to think about Easter, which is only a few weeks away, I hope that each of us will spend a little time in self-reflection asking these questions:

Am I practicing the qualities Peter lists in verses 5, 6 and 7?

Have I forgotten why Jesus came to die on the cross?

Have I stopped believing what God says about sin?

Have I really taken a look at myself lately to see where I am sinning, and where I need to confess and receive His forgiveness?

Let’s keep practicing these qualities. Not only will it draw us closer to Christ, but it will make us much better human beings.

Mulling It Over - Part 6

It is always refreshing when we can learn something new. It is also good for our brains. As we age things in our bodies change and that includes in our brains. That is why I like to do this blog. It has helped me learn many new things, such as how to build a post and actually get it out there where you can see it. It also has given me the opportunity to go back to Scripture and learn new things. I am a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. I was brought up in a Bible believing church where the word was preached every time the doors were open. My husband and i brought our children up in a Bible based church where both of our daughters were involved in Bible quizzing. To say that God’s word is important to us is obvious.

Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/stempow-4705662/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2110439">stempow</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2110439">Pixabay</a>

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However, that doesn’t mean life has been perfect. We have walked through some very difficult times and probably will walk through more, but then that is the beauty of a life walked out with Jesus Christ. He is always there, through every difficulty, and with each difficulty He brings new light and depth to our understanding of Him. It doesn’t matter how many times I have read through the Bible. It doesn’t matter that my education revolved around the Bible. Today, I still learn new things from God’s word, and that is exactly why I like to do this series.

Let’s review by reading through this passage in 2 Peter 1 again:

1 To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 2:1-11 (NASB)

Today we are concentrating on verse 7:

7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
— 2 Peter 1:7 (NASB)

…and in your godliness…

Last week I spend some time discussing what it means to be godly. We looked at how godliness enables us to persevere. You can read that full post here.

I’d like to take a closer look at this idea of godliness; what it is and is not. Let’s look at some verses:

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these
— 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NASB)

We are told in this passage that in the last days difficult times will come. If you look at the descriptions that follow, we would probably agree that these times are already on us. The words that describe these “men” are, unfortunately, words that paint a picture of the daily news. Words like unloving, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, conceited….all describe people we either know first hand or that we have read about or seen on various forms of media.

The point I want to emphasize is in verse 5. “Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…” How many people do you know that say, “I believe in God,” but their lives show no evidence that they really know who that supreme being is? Their form of godliness goes under the guise of good deeds, kind words and harmony. There is nothing wrong with those things, but those things do not make us godly. Those things do not have any power.

It is true, that being kind and doing good deeds are beneficial. What a better world we would be living in, if everyone actually did those things, but it is God who makes us godly, not the things we do. As much as we don’t like to hear it and as much as we want to be the good guy, the Bible tells us that we are wicked.

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
— Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)
Pixabay

Pixabay

I found it interesting as I looked for this verse. I memorized it in my younger days in the King James Version, so that is what I was looking for. As I looked at various translations it was interesting to see the condition word that was used to describe the heart. These were some of the descriptors: desperately wicked, exceedingly corrupt, mortally sick, desperately sick, incurable, beyond cure, desperately corrupt. How does that make you feel? These are words God inspired to describe our hearts. So when it says that men are holding to a form of godliness, yet there is no power in it, it makes perfect sense. We cannot be godly without God, and it seems that the One True God is being shoved to the back seat, as an after thought, rather than a priority. For many, He is not even an after thought, except to take His name in vain.

…brotherly kindness…

I just got done saying that only God makes us godly, so why then is brotherly kindness attached to godliness? The Bible is full of examples of what modern day philanthropists would title a social gospel. Before there was a politically correct way of looking at the world, the God who created the heavens and the earth, had already put into motion a social system that took care of those who had to do without. If you are ever interested do a study of the complex social system God places on the Jewish people. This system did not allow the unseen to fall through the cracks. People were taken care of, either by family or by the community in general. If they didn’t have food, those that did were instructed to leave their excess for the use of those without. Brotherly kindness also transcends the bounds of our immediate community as it is an attitude that we can take with us any where.

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What does this have to do with godliness? The ability to extend brotherly kindness, reminds us of who we are. We are created in the image of a God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. When we look beyond ourselves to the needs of others we are doing what God Himself did when He offered His only son, Jesus, for our redemption. We cannot be godly, if we are not trying to become more like Him, by living our lives in the service of others.

…and in your brotherly kindness, love.

Many of you who regularly read God’s word are familiar with the 1 Corinthians 13 chapter on love. The chapter, which is all about the characteristics of true, godly love, ends with this simple culmination:

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

— 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

How fitting that this list of characteristics of Christian virtue, ends with love. As Paul said in his famous chapter, anything I try to do without love, means nothing. All those acts of brotherly kindness will only reach as deep as our love for the people we are serving. Many acts of brotherly kindness have been done in the name of self. After all, doing things for others, makes us feel good. However, only real, godly love will make the acts that we do last. We can take water and food to people who have none, but if we leave having done, only that, the food and water will run out and the difference that was made will only be temporary.

Love fuels brotherly kindness. Without love we are a noisy gong or a clanging symbol; making a lot of noise, but not making an impact on people’s lives.

As you go about your week, this week, think about what you are doing. When you are serving someone else, is it a reminder to you of your position before God? Are you extending brotherly kindness, but doing so with love?



Stopping the Train Wreck

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been looking at how are thoughts can easily sabotage our efforts to form new habits, and be better people. Many of us, when we enter a new year want to reboot. We want to try again to tackle those extra pounds that we have cumulatively put on each holiday season. We want to go at those piles that pervasively appear in each and every room of our house. We want to be better people; more giving, kind and loving. Many of us begin a new regimen of exercise and dieting, clutter control and clearing out, and even invest in pod casts, books and other things to help us think and act differently. Why then, is it so hard to stick to it? Why after a few days, a few weeks, or if your are really good, a few months, do we typically fall off the wagon?

In my post of two weeks ago, When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck, I examined three mentalities, I believe, contribute to our inability to stick to our new habits. These three thought patterns include being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring. I’d like to reexamine these patterns and discuss ways to change our thoughts.

Being self-absorbed

As I mentioned in the original post, taking care of ourselves is not a bad thing. We need to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and stimulate our minds to give ourselves the best life. Being self-absorbed revolves around a preoccupation with certain ideas about ourselves. These can include thoughts that we do not measure up to some invisible standard that we think other people have set for us, and self-degrading messages like, “I’m too fat,” “I’m not good enough,” which can lead to self-destructive behaviors like cutting, addictions and even suicidal thoughts.

We all have self-absorbed thoughts from time to time. It is easy to get into that mind-set when life is hard and things are not going well. It is also easy to dress in this mind set when your past holds tragedy and pain. However, life cannot be lived to the fullest if we allow those things to imprison us.

I am not a professional counselor, but I’d like to suggest a few things that can help us to get out of the self-absorbed mind-set.

1 - Get Moving

This is partly about exercise and partly about behavior modification. Often when we get into an anxious or self-absorbed circuit, we are unable to get out of the loop. Much like a hamster running on his little wheel, our thoughts keep coming back around to the same loop. We revisit the destructive thought, the let down feeling, the disappointment in ourselves or others and round and round it goes.

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Pixabay

It is a well known fact that exercise has good effects on our brains. From increased oxygen flow and release of hormones to antidepressant effects that reduce stress hormones, exercise really is beneficial for the brain. Movement helps to get us out of the loop. It doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are standing still, move. If you are going north, turn around and go south. Every time those thoughts come creeping back in, move.

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Pixabay

I find walking very cathartic, when I am stressed. As I walk I do deep breathing and I purposefully force myself to look at the world around me, the neighborhood, the people, the trees, the snow, the icicles hanging from the roof tops. These simple things get me out of my self-absorbed loop and help me to think about other things. It also reminds me that the world is not coming to an end, even if it may seem like it today. As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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Pixabay

2 - Get help

You don’t necessarily need professional help, but if you do, or if others who care about you are recommending it, then do it. Otherwise, find a group of people to keep you accountable. Get an exercise and dieting buddy. Find someone who is going to accept you, but also encourage you to do better. Find an older person, who’s got life experience and ask them to mentor you and help you get out of your self-absorbed box. Or if you are an older person, who doesn’t have much human contact and your are still able to get around, volunteer at a dog shelter, a newborn unit at the hospital or a school. All of these things get us outside our own boxes.

3 - Seek and Speak Truth

You know all those side effects you think you have because you got on the internet and looked up the medication the doctor gave you?

“Stop it!”

In reality, the side effects that are put on medications are put there to keep pharmaceutical companies from getting sued. The reality is the statistics on people who die or have severe reactions to medication are rare. It is an exception, not the norm. The same is true for so many aspects of life. As the saying goes, “Sh-t happens.” This is true, but most of the bad things that we think are going to happen, don’t. In addition, many of the bad things that happen to us we bring upon ourselves. Start researching what is true.

In addition start speaking truth:

“I am not perfect, but I am beautiful.”

“I don’t have a college degree, but I am smart.”

“I haven’t published a book yet, but I am not a failure.”

“I got mad at my husband, but I am a good wife who has bad days.”

“I yelled at my kids, but I am a good mom, even when I my hormones have me off kilter.”

Keep it real.

Demanding Our Rights

Once again, having rights is not a bad thing and an ideal that our founding fathers believed was very important for communities and nations to survive and thrive. However, the thought that the world owes us something is not truthful or beneficial. The mentality of, get it all and get it now, is also not an accurate way to approach life. How do we cope with these entitlement feelings we all have struggled with and still act like a caring, giving individuals?

1 - Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

There is no greater preventative to a rights demanding mentality, than to put yourself in someone else’s place. Being in the service industry I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I don’t even think people realize how rude and obnoxious they are at times. I have had helicopter parents demand that their child’s book be given to them free because it wasn’t on the shelf when they came in to purchase it. I have had people accuse me of racism because when I explained the parameters of their rental book I told them they couldn’t spill their lunch on it. I tell this to every individual I rent a book to. At the end of the day, I am just another person trying to make my way in the world, just like everyone else.

When I feel like my rights are being infringed upon, or that I am being taken advantage of, I try to look at things with new glasses; someone else’s glasses. Thinking about where another person is coming from, not only enables us to view the world differently, but it may even move us to have compassion on another person. You never know what another person is dealing with in their life. They might be dealing with deep hurt or disappointment, or they may be experiencing grief, illness or pain. Having compassion and empathy gets us out of our rights loop and enables us to be better, more understanding individuals.

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Pixabay

2 - Recognize Rights Mean Responsibility

Having a right, does not give us a free pass to do whatever we want. In fact, having rights, means having responsibility. People who are for the right to bear arms, understand that owning guns means they are responsible to handle those guns safely and teach others that gun ownership requires safe handling and being responsible to use them wisely.

Many people think that demanding rights is a way to guarantee their freedom to choose to do whatever they want. The opposite is, in fact, true. Having rights means we are enslaved to the responsibility of using those rights for good, not merely personal gain.

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So what does this have to do with our thought patterns and becoming better people. My daughter and I have both struggled with our weight. We both love food, especially things that are full of carbs. Bread, sweets, chips are all on our radar of things we love. At one point my daughter said she wanted to be able to eat whatever she wanted. You might think that being able to eat whatever you want is true freedom. However, true freedom lies in the ability to make the better choice. Even if we were able to eat whatever we wanted and never gain weight, does that make it right?

True freedom is the ability to not be bound by our appetites, whether it be food, sex, money, popularity, alcohol, Netflix or any other thing that can become an obsession.

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
— Virginia Wolf

Not Caring

It is easy to get into the mindset of not caring. When life gets busy, or overwhelming, sometimes it is easier to just give up. Who cares if I eat that whole bag of Twizzlers? I don’t care if my coworkers like me? I’m failing that class, so what?

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Pixabay

Take a look at a few of these quotes:

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
— Margaret Mead
Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.
— Anthony J. D'Angelo

It is important to care. Often, we just need to revisit the why behind the what. In other words, ask yourself why you should care.

Why should you care about your health? Because you are a valuable person who probably has others depending on you and who care about you.

Why should you care what your coworkers think? Because you are part of a team. You can have a positive impact on the people you work with if you care.

Why should you care about your grades at school? Because every choice you make now, will affect the choices you make in the future.

Start thinking about why you should care and maybe that will reignite your ability to care.

Next week will be the final installment in this series on New Year, New Mind. I’ll be looking at setting goals and how to realistically keep them. I will also have some spiritual insights as well. I hope you like this look at renewing our minds. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have a fantastic weekend and to all my northern and midwest friends, stay warm!

Just Stop It!

The past two weeks I started looking at how our thoughts have an affect on what we do or don’t do. I wanted to specifically examine this connection since the beginning of a new year is typically when we are trying to get back into shape, form new habits and reset ourselves to do and be better people. I have always felt that it is easy to start something new, but to keep at it is where the difficulty lies. To me it seems that our minds need rebooting as well as our bodies, so that we think differently about the habits and changes we are trying to adapt to.

Last week I looked specifically at three mentalities that most often prevent us from continuing a good thing. I call them Train Wreck Mentalities due to the fact that these mindsets often derail us from embracing a total life change. Being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring go a long way in causing us to crash and burn, rather than continue and thrive.

This week I want to give you two little words, but before I do, please watch the following video.

You heard the man. Stop it!

I hope that brought a smile to your face. Let me just say, this is not meant as an insult to people who struggle with mental illness. We know those things are a reality. Anxiety, multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, are all very real and most often have to be managed with counseling and medication. There are many of us however, who simply don’t think right and that is where our problems lie.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.
— Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

This verse actually has to do with a ruler having you to dinner, but then begrudging every bite of food and every drink you take. He is a selfish person, only thinking about the cost of the soiree he is throwing and completely unable to enjoy it. The ruler says to eat and drink, but he doesn’t really mean it.

We are often the same way. We make grand proclamations.

“I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”

“I’m going to exercise 5 days a week.”

“I’m going to work on cleaning out clutter every day.”

“I’m going to become a millionaire by the time I’m 30.”

“i’m going to floss my teeth every night before bed.”

“I’m going to eat healthier.”

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Pixabay

We make these proclamations, never really considering how much work and effort it will take to succeed. In reality, we can not succeed if our hearts, like that ruler’s, is not really into it. Here in lies the problem. Our minds can create all sorts of ways to succeed. We can make lists and draw up diagrams of how we are going to get it done, but if our hearts do not agree with our minds, success is going to be long in coming. In fact, if you are anything like me, you will just give up on certain things all together.

So, how exactly do we get our hearts to agree with our heads? The first step is to combat the train wreck mentality. In other words, just stop it!

Let’s first look at train wreck #1 - being self absorbed.

Stop it!

Wow. Wasn’t that simple?

Train wreck #2 - demanding our rights.

Stop it!

Whoo, hoo! See how easy it is.

Train wreck #3 - don’t care.

Stop it! Start caring.

Obviously, if things were really that easy we would all be doing much better and I wouldn’t be writing this post. The struggle is real folks and I am in there with you.

Next week I am going to delve into ways to stop the train wreck mentality, but for now, I want you to burn those two words on your brain…STOP IT.

When you want to give up the good habit your are trying to start; when you want to eat that second bowl of ice cream; when you want to yell at your kids or husband; when you want to bring home another hand bag, pair of shoes or sweater that you don’t need or you don’t really love, then think about those two little words.

Stop it.

Run them over and over in your mind and see if it helps you to make a better choice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me your experiences and wisdom in the comments. I appreciate it.






Gray

There are times where I feel gray. Being a fashion blogger I talk a great deal about color. Color is an important piece to the outfit equation. We usually don't say that an outfit has a non-color. Colors are colors and they all have names, whether it be orange, blue, pink or brown. We don't usually think of black or white as colorful, but they are made just as other colors from the absorption or refraction of light particles. 

It is interesting that colors have come to have certain associations. When we see red we might think of anger, as in a red head temper; or romance as in Valentine's Day. The color black can be classic and slimming in a pair of pants or hardcore and dark as in Goth. Yellow is sunny and elicits a feeling of summer. Light blue makes me think of the sky on a beautiful fall day, while red, white and blue remind us of the sacrifices many have made to give us freedom. 

But gray? What does that make you think of? What feeling does it draw from you? Sadness, depression or just a vague feeling of non-color. I actually own a number of gray tops, pants, shoes, bags and skirts. Gray is a wonderful color to pair with so many other colors whether it be classic and understated with black, or chic and elegant with yellow or purple. But gray as a feeling? Yeah, it's real. I feel gray. 

Gray day, water's edge

Some days, the gray is everywhere. The sky, the water, the land, my life, full of gray. Work, relationships, daily tasks, become a blend of various shades of gray. These are not shades of bad feelings, rather a lack of feeling. In some ways it is like being in a void, alone. They gray is not bad or good, it just is…just as I…am.

The gray becomes my focus, rather than remembering that gray is only a color. It doesn’t actually change the color of anything else. The trees are still green, my husband still loves me, my grandson is still a cutie, even when I feel gray.

Gray sky, rough water, sand

Other days, the gray is rough, gritty and cold. It pierces my being like the gray steel edge of a knife. This gray is unyielding, demanding I bend to its force. Driving me to my knees. Down here, nose to the gray, hard, ground, I remember, once again to seek His face. The gray drives me to Him, searching, wanting, begging to feel anything other than shades of gray.

Sunset behind gray clouds over water

He brings light to the gray. He opens a tiny window in the heavy expanse of gun metal sky. He raises a flower of light from the flat gray beneath my face, reminding me this gray will not last. It will be blown away by the breath of the Almighty One. He chases away the gray, raises me to my feet and breathes light and color back into my gray soul.

A gray day provides the best light.
— Leonardo da Vinci

So, it’s okay to feel gray, once in a while. It is normal, just like the gray fog, dark clouds and leafless trees are all part of the progression of life. Today, I choose to be thankful for the gray. God is still there being the light and soon He will again break through the gray, waking me up to His beautiful color.

Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.
— Psalm 112:4 (NASB)
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.
— John 8:12 (NASB)
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
— Psalm 27:1 (NASB)

Mulling It Over - Part 5

It is that time of month again, where I take a look at a particular portion of scripture and ruminate on it by tearing it apart verse by verse. For those of you who following me regularly you know I have been wading through 2 Timothy 2:20-26. The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy a young pastor of a growing group of believers in the early church age. The books were written to encourage Timothy in the face of disgruntled church members. Not only were there members who looked down on Timothy because he was young, but there were members who were living a less than moral life style.

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20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

You can see my musings on the first four verses by clicking on each of the links. Week 1 - Verse 20, Week 2 - Verse 21, Week 3 - Verse 22, Week 4 - Verse 23. Today I'll be discussing Verse 24.

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
— 2 Timothy 2:24 (NASB)

Before we look at the traits of a bondservant we should take a moment to define what a bond-servant was in the New Testament time period. Note the following quotes from an online article regarding the role of a bondservant. 

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The term “bondservant” in the New Testament (bond-servant or slave in some translations) is a translation of the Greek word doulos. Unlike perceptions of modern slavery, bondservant or doulos is a relatively broad term with a wider range of usage. In the time of the New Testament a bondservant could refer at times to someone who voluntarily served others. In most cases, however, the term referred to a person in a permanent role of service. A bondservant was considered the property of a Roman citizen, holding no right to leave his place of service.
— from an online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth. org
In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle”
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org
The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org

If you are a committed Christ follower, then you could say you are His bondservant. It is something I struggle to be, in all honesty. I want to be committed 100% to my Savior and yes my Master...I am not afraid to use that word. We live in a world where the idea of calling someone Lord or Master is not pleasant and truth be told, there is no master that is worthy of our life's commitment other than Jesus. However, there is a disconnect between saying I want to be a bondservant and actually being one. Let's see what the qualities are of one who calls Jesus Master.

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1. Not quarrelsome.

Okay! I am disqualified already. How about you? As a wife, do you ever find yourself quarreling with your spouse? I think most of you know what the word quarrel means. It is not just a matter of disagreeing with someone. We often disagree with our bosses, other employees, our parents and people we are following on social media, but we don't necessarily quarrel with them. When we quarrel we are trying to make our point, not only heard but adhered to. 

Why do you supposed Paul brought up this particular characteristic with Timothy? I personally do not believe Timothy was a quarrelsome chap. In fact, I think it was because people in his congregation were opinionated troublemakers that Paul encouraged Timothy...don't even go there. It won't get you any where. Just like we looked at last month to refuse ignorant and foolish speculations, so too, we should not allow ourselves to become participants in quarreling. 

I find this is incredibly hard with our significant others. We often feel, that we have a right to spew at them, because, after all we are married and they have to take the good with the bad. I hate to tell you ladies, as the Lord's bondservants we are not to be quarrelsome, end of discussion!

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Pixabay

2. Kind to all.

Does that mean everyone? Yes. Does that mean that person at work that I absolutely can't stand? Yes. Does that mean that teller at the bank who is always grumpy and scowling? Yes. Does that mean that person I thought was a friend that talked about me behind my back? Yes. 

Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

What that means is we have the ability to be kind, all the time, to everyone. Once again, the fruit of the Spirit is His fruit. It grows in our lives as we become better and better at abiding in Christ. As His bondservant we must be kind to all. 

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3. Able to teach.

We could argue on this point that not everyone can be expected to teach, because not everyone has the gift of teaching. However, I would like to interject that we are all capable of teaching by example. You may not be gifted to stand in front of people and give a lecture like my husband is. You may not be good at leading a small group and explaining to others what a Bible passage means, but you can be an example of love and kindness to your children or your grand children. You might be able to teach a younger woman how to cook, take care of her first child or patch a hole in her husband's sock. The point is patience and willingness. We can all be teachers of this type by merely being willing to take the time to show others love and kindness. 

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Pixabay

4. Patient when wronged. 

This is right up there with not being quarrelsome in the hardness factor. We live in a society based on rights. If you hurt me, I have the right to seek retribution whether by payment or incarceration. I am not saying criminals should not be punished. However, there are times that we as the body of Christ are just as hard or harder on our own brothers and sisters when they have wronged us as the penal system is on a criminal. 

I am sure Timothy, as a young pastor had to endure a plethora of wrongs done against him by his own flock. Paul's advice to him is just as pertinent to us today. It is not easy to be hurt or wronged and then patient in the face of it. We want an instantaneous fix. We don't want to be mercy showers and wait for God to move in, not only the other person's life, but ours as well. God is on our side. He is just and merciful and we need to trust Him when faced with this sort of difficulty. It is never the case that only one person has been hurt. 

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

If you feel a tad bit convicted after reading through these four characteristics of a bondservant of Christ, then know you are not alone. I am walking this journey with you. I am glad that He is long suffering and He keeps working on us, after all we call Him Master. 

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

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20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

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Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

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Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

We go through seasons in life, just like the earth goes through seasons as it travels around the sun. Spring, summer, fall and winter, all have their presence on the earth, even though they can look quite different depending on where you live. I follow a few fashion bloggers who are based in Australia and it is winter there. It seems odd to see them talk about enjoying their sweaters and heavier weight outfits, even though their pictures still show sunshine and no snow!

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Pixabay

Seasons in our lives can manifest themselves differently for each person. When you are a young adult, you might be going to college, checking out the party scene and figuring out what you want to do with your life. I wasn't a partier. I was studious, but I also liked to go out to eat with my friends and walk the streets of Chicago down to Lake Short Boulevard and the beach or State Street and the Gold Coast. That season of my life, helped shape who I am. I met my husband during that season and discovered I was more interested in getting married than in becoming a missionary overseas.

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Pixabay

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NASB)

After college, my husband and I got married and it wasn't long until we started a family. I wish when I had been in the throes of that season of life, I would have had an older woman come along side of me and tell me, "This is just a season. Before you know it, in the blink of an eye, your children will be grown and gone. Enjoy it while you can." So often when we are in a particular season of life, we think, "When will this be over? When will it get easier?" The problem with that mind set is that we miss so much. 

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Pixabay

The writer of Ecclesiastes was Solomon, considered the wisest king of all time. I think he pretty much summed up the complexity and simplicity of life in those first eight verses of chapter 3. He knew that every season would come to an end and be replaced by another season, which would then be replaced by another season, and so on, and so on.

What season of life do you find yourself in right now? Is is a time of planting or a time of uprooting? Is it a time of laughter or a time of weeping? Or is is a time of being silent or a time of speaking boldly? The inevitability is, the season you now find yourself in will change. How do we handle the seasons we are in and the busyness and difficulties that come with each of those. 

1. Recognize that it is God who changes the seasons.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
— Genesis 1:14 (NASB)

God, the Creator, is the One who designed the seasons to change. We often think that fall and winter must be a result of the fall, but it says in the above verse that God's intention from the beginning was an earth that changed on a regular basis. So many of us don't like change, but change is a part of God's plan. 

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2. Don't be afraid of the changing seasons.

There is plenty to fear in the world we live in. Watch the news on a regular basis and you'll get a boat load of fodder for an anxiety storm. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

I grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible. I decided to use the New King James Version as it is the one most true to the version I memorized. Many versions use the word timidity instead of fear. I am not a Bible scholar so I am not here to argue which version is closer to a word for word translation. I prefer the word fear, because I feel it is closest to what we feel on a regular basis. 

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Pixabay

I am preaching to the choir here, friends. I regularly have to combat my fears. I don't think that fear is wrong, but I do believe that dwelling there or as Timothy put it, having a "...spirit of fear..." is not what God wants for us. I am sure the numbers of people in our country who are taking anti-anxiety meds is staggering. Yet, what is anxiety but a fear - fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of illness, fear of any and everything you can imagine. 

It is normal to face fear, when the seasons of our lives are changing. It is scary to face an illness like cancer or the death of a spouse or child. It is terrifying to lose your long time job and have to suddenly be out there looking for a new position in a sea of people in their 20's. Yet, God knows these seasons are changing and as the Psalmist realized, we are precious to Him. 

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
— Psalm 17:8 (NASB)

3. Look for beauty in each season.

Every season that comes and goes has something about it that I love. Spring ushers in new growth, returning birds and an explosion of green. Summer abounds with laughing, playing children, a chorus of lawn mowers and the clinking sounds of glasses filled with iced tea and lemonade. Fall, which is perhaps my favorite, throws an amazing party of color and smells during which the trees undress themselves as they prepare for winters' long sleep. Winter, in areas of snow becomes a white backdrop for red sleds and even redder noses and cheeks. 

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Pixabay

Yes, every season has its difficulties. Spring can be full of torrential rains and often the temps don't climb as high as we would like. Summer can be a time of drought and the ebb and flow of crowds vacationing and squeezing in to fairs and summer festivals. Fall brings early darkness and winter seems akin to the time of the dead, especially for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

However, just as any transition in life brings change we need to focus on all that is lovely and beautiful, even in the sterility of a hospital room or the stifling sadness of a funeral home. Where else in the world can we get 24 hour quality care? The sadness of loss also brings with it the memories of lives journeyed together and moments of love and laughter. A diagnosis of long term illness allows us the opportunity to stand before our Creator and claim the promises He gave us in His word, that He would never leave us or forsake us and that He would give us peace and strength. 

Beauty exists in the form of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and He never changes, no matter what season we are in.

4. Have patience.

Remember what Solomon pointed out in those verses? The seasons change. Our lives are in constant flux. Knowing that God is orchestrating our circumstances allows us to lean back on His strong arms and wait for Him to do what He is going to do. The sooner we realize the reality of this next  two verses, the better. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

God is at work and will never give up on us! Isn't that amazing? It drives me to my knees to realize that the Almighty God who created us from dust, loves that same said dust to the point of sacrificing His only Son, Jesus, so we might be able to have a relationship with Him.

I don't know what season you are in. I hope it is a season of reaping and praising and planting, but if it is a season of tearing apart, war and great weeping, don't forget He is with you. Always and forever. 

Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

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Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley.