Monday, July 23, 2012

Route 66: InternalChange Ahead

A wife of noble character who can find? 
 Proverbs 31:1

Oh, the dreaded Proverbs 31 woman is in our sights today. Of course we would love to be God's ideal of a woman but in reality her description just makes most of us feel anxious, extremely tired and a bit hopeless.  Where does this woman get all her energy? Up before dawn working all day and well into the night, she completes her check list with a satisfied smile. She sews, she shops, she cooks, she farms, she sells, she spins, she gives, she protects, she interacts with the community, she speaks wisdom, she gives good advice, she keeps an orderly home and she is never idle. How could she be with that list!  And another thing.  Nothing seems too much. She does her job well. So well in fact that others take notice.

What is the secret to this woman's unending pool of motivation and energy? The love for her husband or children? The need to help her friends and neighbors?  The responsibility of being a contributing member of society? These things may play into it but will never sustain the energy it takes to be successful. We find the answer way down in verse 30- "a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

Its not the checklist God is after here. It is the heart of the woman that determines her nobility not her ability to stay busy all the time carrying out prescribed tasks. Does she fear the Lord is the real indicator. Once that is in place the motivation and energy to make a difference in this world will follow.

In case you are a little confused how being afraid of God could provide the positive example we see in Proverbs 31 let me give another definition.

fear [verb] to hold in awe [noun] -respectful fear and wonder [verb] -to think or speculate curiously [adjective] -eager to know [adjective] -full of desire or enthusiasm.

There you have it. I believe that if we follow our English definitions this woman was full of wonder about the Lord. Her mind was on him. She examined him with a need to know more about him and she did it with eagerness and enthusiasm. Enthusiasm [noun] actually means 'absorbing interest' which means she was extremely interested in the Lord but not only that she was engrossed [adj] with him. Her mind and attention were fully and completely occupied with the God. How then could she not be affected by him in everything she did?

There is a story about two other women in the New Testament you may be familiar with.  Two sisters, Mary and Martha, look forward to a gathering where Jesus was to be the guest of honor. Martha became distracted with the preparations for the event. Oh, the plans she made but in the end she grew weary of doing everything herself while her sister seemed preoccupied with their visitor, I can't blame Martha. I know her pain and frustration of trying to pull everything together for a perfect party. But perhaps I, as well as Martha have missed the point on these occasions. Jesus' answer to Martha brings it back into perspective.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Jesus was saying, "The important thing here is we are spending time together and nothing can replace that. And when all that is left of the banquet is a sink full of dirty dishes, you will still have the relationship we have built interacting with one another. That lasts for ever."

Jesus was supposed to be the focus of the get together not the preparations Martha was spending so much time and energy doing on her own. I believe our Proverbs 31 woman likely has that all figured out in her life. Her focus is the Lord and his influence is seen in all that she does and accomplishes. The same is true for us. Our lives should have Jesus at their center and everything else we are involved with will reflect his presence.  A shift in perspective can bring that ideal women well within your reach. Jesus first, then... The noble lady of Proverbs-that 'perfect' woman- simply put is one who fears the Lord.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Route 66: Drive-Thru vs Roadside Diner

OMGosh, it's been a long time since I have have had to sit down and write. As many of you know we have had a wedding in our family. Our youngest daughter married in June to a very generous and kind young man whom we feel very happy to welcome to the family. With all of the activity of preparations along with company of friends and family there just hasn't been time to settle my mind to putting 'thoughts to paper'. God finally used a tiny slip of paper found in a fortune cookie last week to remind me it was time to get back to writing. It said, "You are an adventurer traveling on the highway of life" so today I am ready to get back on the road to see what God has for me to see.

OK...we are now in the book of Proverbs with our travels along Route 66. I do love this book and its lists of instructions, knowledge and wisdom Solomon wished to pass along to his son.

"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:for gaining wisdom and instruction;for understanding words of insight;..." Proverbs 1:1-2

We, too have the opportunity to benefit from the writings of Solomon as well as others from the Bible and since they are directly inspired by God himself we can gain more insight about him every time we read it.

Recently, I was a approached  by a woman from our summer Bible study and was complimented for my knowledge of the Scriptures. She had been encouraged by something I had said which in turn had made her think about God's word all week. (This was a happy dance moment for me because I love to promote God's word in women's lives.) She also admitted feeling a bit intimidated by me and the wisdom I possessed. The last thing I want to be intimidating so I  revealed to her and now, to you that this wisdom/knowledge thing has not always been prevalent in my life.

For most of my adulthood I have lived as a nominal Christian. I guest you can say I just snacked on God from time to time. I attended church services but did not read the Bible outside of filling a few blanks in a study booklet but about ten years ago, something changed. I joined a Bible study and decided to really take on studying the portion of Scripture put in front of me. As I worked through the passages, God revealed himself to me in such a way I never wanted to let go. It created a hunger for something substantial in regards to God. I wanted to know him more and I knew the way to do that was not by hearing what others had to say about him. I needed to discover him, his ways, his thoughts and his desires for myself through his word. Our relationship became personal as I was getting to know him first hand and loving every minute of it.

So, as they say,"The rest is history." I continue to seek his wisdom through his word and I get so filled up I have to share it with others. I am not wise outside of his influence.  I say all this because its attainable in everyone's life. I am no one special. Anyone who wants to have more knowledge about God  needs only to jump in and get started exploring the Scriptures for themselves. I guarentee you will never want to go back to mediocre life of just knowing what others tell you about him. You will want to get to know God for yourself in a way that makes him real and your relationship with him meaningful.

Am I perfect when it comes to daily studying the word? Hardly. I am like everyone else. I struggle to find time, I get distracted by life and its drama and sometimes I just can't seem to find the motivation. I have days, sometimes several in a row when I don't open the Word but I can always tell when I have been away too long. I start to get cranky and critical. I begin to feel shaky and weak. Sounds a bit like hunger and low blood sugar don't ya think. When I have these physical symptoms, that's when I know I need to sit down and have something to eat. So too, when these symptoms are spiritual. I need hardy portion of the Scriptures.

 In  the Old Testament there is in an exchange between God and Ezekiel as Ezekiel prepares for his mission. In The Message it reads like this--

 "He told me, "Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel." As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat, saying, "Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!" So I ate it. It tasted so good—just like honey." Ezekiel 3:1-3

Love it! Eat my words. Linger over them for they are pleasant and they keep you coming back for more. These instructions are good advice to us, as well, especially when its been awhile since our last meal on the Word. Just the thing to put us back on track feeling strong and energized. So pull up a chair, settle in and begin to feast on the best thing you will every eat. And you sure can't beat the company.

 "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." 
Revelation 3:20