Another Look at Proverbs Thirty One

From the time I was pronounced as a bride, I have been admonished to live up to the character of this woman. Not that that is a bad thing, but it can be quite intimidating and daunting a task, even for a woman that feels guilty for resting. One of the most peaceful words of advice I have ever received regarding this woman, and by a mother of 4 and consummate wife, were these: “It’s important for us to remember, that this was over her lifetime, not in the course of one day.” Sighhhh. Can I tell you what a relief that was to a mom that was stressed to the limit trying to make every day look like a “successful” day as it lined up with that woman!

 

Then, yesterday, I was reading the Proverb again. Try as I might it always convicts me to be better, to do more, to give more, to love deeper. Only, as I was soaking in the gargantuan challenges, God whispered to my ear, “This is a look at My Bride.”

 

So I read it again, this time not as woman failing, but as the Bride of Christ striving to make my Groom proud. I challenge you to read it and do the same:

 

 

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
 She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!

 

I’ve heard a lot of attitude about service lately. Some of us are of the mind that it doesn’t matter, that it shouldn’t drive our actions, and the smallest offering we give should be enough. We don’t want to be bothered in our selfishness to actually “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And, we don’t want to be treated as we treat others. I challenge us to think past ourselves. To see our “husband at the gates” as our Father in Heaven, our eternal Groom. Is He bragging on us? Is He, like with His beloved Job, able to point us out and say, “Look at him/her! Look how well they love me, how obedient they are to reach out to others, to serve with their whole hearts.”

 

Can He trust us with the work? Can He be assured that we are taking care of the affairs of the home while He is away? Do our actions and words prove that He is a good Father, a loving God, a generous and gracious Groom? I pray so. And, that is what I am living my life for…not to gain respect or admiration or the praise of others, but so that He is praised and respected and worshipped for the amazing One that He is!

 

I will do my best to live up to the character of the Proverbs 31 woman as a wife and mother, but I will give my all to be the Bride of Christ that is worth far more eternally than the accolades of any human being, because what I do in this life needs to mean more, do more, and inspire more to find the Groom that so desperately loves us all. My effort is not to gain His love, I have that without trying, my desire is to kneel at His feet with arms full of crowns that I did not attain on my own and hear the words, “Well done….enter your rest.”

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For the love of them…or us?

I recently read a great article about Toms. The shoes. But more so the real purpose of the company.

It’s a great idea, right? You buy a pair of shoes and they will give a pair of shoes to kids who don’t have them. I’ve seen kids with bare feet and gone on medical clinics to see them treated for hookworm and other things because of it. By golly, I will pay $50 for a pair of canvas shoes for a good cause! Who wouldn’t?

But, the article I read made a point. Even though this is a good cause (it is, no one is disputing that). It’s not really solving any real problems. Why? Because the company works from outside of the countries that are in need. They make the shoes, consumers buy them, and they are delivered to countries that need them. Who feels the best about what they do? The consumer. It’s a company model built around a good cause, but in the end it’s meant to make the consumer feel good about what they buy.

What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Intrinsically. But it isn’t solving the real problem…the reason the kids don’t have shoes isn’t that they aren’t available. The reason the kids don’t have shoes is that they are in poverty stricken countries where they can’t afford shoes. So, they get shoes. They also get rice and beans from a charitable aid organization, shoe boxes filled with well-meaning gifts once a year, but they are still living in poverty. Have we fixed the problem or have we simply made ourselves feel better?

I’m not saying any of those things are bad. In fact, quite the opposite! They are good things! Don’t stop supporting organizations that help underprivileged countries! They need all the help they can get! But is our help a momentary fix or a solution? That’s all I want to ask.

I recently read a post on my brother’s wall that basically said that sometimes it takes a cold cup of water from a person’s hand before you will accept the Living Water from their hearts. I get that. Meet a physical need to gain access to meet their spiritual need. Christ exemplified that. There is nothing wrong with that. But, the old Chinese proverb holds some truth, too – “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.” So the question I’m pondering today is this, in my good deeds am I simply making myself feel better for the day, or will their lives be different?

There is a time and place for every purpose under heaven. Solomon drives that point home. But, there are organizations that are making permanent solutions in war-torn and poverty stricken countries not just momentary fixes but hard core “We see this need and we are going to fix the problem not slap a bandaid on it.” I want to see more of this.

Toms could do more to make a difference, a permanent difference. They could teach the locals how to make their shoes (honestly, it can’t be too hard!). They could buy the canvas, the leather, and the cork from those people, and sell them very cheaply so that the poor make a profit… then those leftovers that don’t sell…they could be given to the kids that desperately need them. That’s just a thought. But the point is, one pair of shoes at a time is only going to last at the most a year. Whereas teaching them how to make the shoes and sell them, that could make a lifetime of difference to ailing countries. Like, Digging wells. This is a permanent solution. This makes a complete and total difference in the areas that get this privilege. We take for granted our easy access to water as we fling another bottle in our purse as we leave the gym, we don’t even think about famine or drought or the fact that the animals bathe and leave waste in the one stream we might share as a village…which is like 3 or more of our subdivisions combined. Organizations and missionaries that teach a trade in order to help villages to support themselves, not to live off of temporary handouts, these people are heros…life savers…fixers. Artists that take their time to teach African women designs for necklaces that they can make and sell to raise money to invest in their families and communities, this is life-changing work. Funding goats and livestock and corn and seed and feed, these are donations that are going to make a failing community prosper! These things will feed and clothe and aid multiple families and pass on hope and knowledge and wellness to the next generation. And, these are just a few roles of amazing organizations from medical to agricultural that are making life-restoring differences!

I will probably still buy Toms. And I hope you will, too. I’m not out to sabotage good works. I just want to ask the question, “Am I doing this for the love of them…or me?” I am not leading a crusade to fight economic injustice; I just want to ask myself the tough questions, the raw questions that get to the quick of my motivation because I want to see their lives changed for the better for GOOD not just for the moment. I don’t want there to be any doubt that the work that is done IS for them and not for me, and that the One that sent me provides not just for a day but for all eternity.

Carving out monuments

The minute I walked in the doors of the church his presence was felt. Or was it the Holy Spirit? They echoed the same. I walked forward in a line when someone extended a hand, “Here, you first.” I smiled. Knowing. This person had been touched by the life of Robert Ammon Warner as well. He had been touched, and in that small gesture, was showing homage to a life lived well.

Today I started the day by contemplating my epitaph. Strange yes, but not random. I am going through a Bible Study that asked it of me. But, I realized it was fitting as I walked into a room of people that I didn’t know. I may not have known their names, but each held meaning and purpose and a destiny whether they were aware of it or not. Each life touched in one way or another by an extraordinary man of God, a man we affectionately referred to as Brother Bob. He was revered and loved and remembered, and this memorial was more of a testament to the work of Christ than any other I’d been to.

Bob Warner was a saint. No doubt. But he’d never say it. He was a kind man, prone to emotion, and filled with love. I will never forget our first encounter as he handed me a book, “The United States of America was built on hope and faith!” He said with a loud and passionate voice. He was so convinced of this that he asked each and every member of our church to read that book, “The Light and the Glory”. He evoked passion for our country for the founders and for its purpose in the Kingdom of God. I admit with a frown that I never read through the book. In fact, it still sits, collecting dust, on my bookshelf, dog-eared about a fifth of the way through.

I will also never forget the sincerity in his voice as he shared how Jesus met him in the cockpit of a fighter plane in World War II and how his life was never the same. It was with great grief that he shared of the many friends that had lost their lives, and the eternal question of “Why me?” was whispered in his heart as he still possessed his life. It was out of that deep understanding that he then gave his life over to God, and that is the place that God took an ordinary man to the man of distinction that we remembered today. He wasn’t proud of the violence of war, but he never insulted his military. One year, a missionary woman from Japan came to our church, and with her she brought one of the native pastors. With tears in his eyes and love in his voice, Brother Bob spoke: “I am so sorry for what we did to your country and for the bomb. Please forgive us.” All that were there that day were touched by two things: his repentance and the acceptance of the Japanese man that represented a country that had been ravaged. It exemplified the heart of Christ, and the truth of the Body that sees no lines of distinction.

If I posted his picture, you wouldn’t know his face, most likely. But if you took that picture to a group of people who were uneducated and poverty stricken, those he taught to read and thus gave them hope, they would most likely weep. He was an educator by design much less than occupation. He believed that every person had a chance to an education and that education would bring them confidence. He offered tutoring at no cost. He hosted it for a few years at our church with others of our congregation, and it was a blessing. In fact, he was so committed to education he also taught in the prisons and fostered a ministry there. I will never forget the time that I joined them. Yes, me. A young woman in her early twenties went into a men’s prison and ministered. I sang. They listened. And I remember quite keenly that I had no fear. Brother Bob also invited my husband to go. We each went once. But, they were remarkable memories. Sadly, the ministry fizzled out and others came in and we never had the opportunity to go again, or maybe it is that we didn’t make the opportunity.

As Brother Bob’s son gave the eulogy he said that more than any other characteristic his father exemplified love. Yes. He didn’t live his life worrying whether or not he was in the Father’s will or if he was a part of the right group or wondering what anyone thought of him. He simply walked this earth giving out love. No one had to ask him, “Are you a Christian?” With one look at his outstretched arms and the smile on his face, the answer was clear. This man was a follower of Christ.

I left the church thinking. Seeking peace and understanding in my own circumstances and the ministries that I am a part of…when I heard the Voice that governs my days and my nights say, “Peace. Live. Love. This is what I ask of you.” And, the realization hit me, if no one speaks another word about me on the day of my memorial, may the love of God ring out! May it fill up the room, and may the truth of my life be exemplified in my love for God and others, and may my gravestone read, “This woman was a follower of Christ.”

I don’t wanna gotta!

My “gottas” are taking over my life.

I just gotta do so much stuff! I gotta do the laundry. I gotta do my devotion. I gotta do homework with my kids. I gotta go to church. I gotta write. I gotta cook dinner. I gotta go to Bible Study. I gotta tweet. I gotta update facebook. I gotta spend time with so and so. I gotta make sure my kids are lice-free (that’s a blog for another day). I gotta get it together! Suddenly, the other day I threw my hands up in surrender and yelled, “I don’t wanna!” And there was a moment of silence.

The words “wanna” became music to my heart so I had a dialogue with it. (David had a habit of that, too.) “Heart. Why don’t I wanna?” And it came back so clear, “Because I gotta.” Ever been there? And then my heart whispered back, “Remember the freedom of just wanting to?” And I did. It washed over me like a montage of memories. SItting at my computer, smiling, writing out a novel to my daughters and other daughters of the King not because I had to but because I wanted to. I wanted to make a difference. That picture was replaced with me sitting at the table with my daughter, laughing while we worked on homework, not because it was a chore but because it was a moment that we had to share. Then, I watched as that picture folded into another picture of me newly married, humming as I folded my precious husband’s pants, careful not to slant the seams. Then there was a vision of me joyfully pouring over cook books so that I could find something new and adventurous so that my kids would have an advanced pallet of taste, not because I felt they had to but because I wanted to introduce them to a world bigger than Mac-n-Cheese and hotdogs. And I enjoyed each moment.

I wanna feel that again.
I don’t wanna gotta.

So, I asked my heart, “How do I get back to that?” Then slowly it dawned on me…by removing the “gotta”. Sounds easier than it is, actually. Just replace a word or a feeling, but maybe it really is that easy. Maybe it is enough to simply say, “I don’t wanna gotta!” Instead I remind myself that I want to because I realize what a gift, pleasure, joy, service it is! “Gotta” sounds like a chore, a hardship, a task. But “wanna” implies a gift, a privilege, a fullfillment. So that is my challenge to myself this week: “Let go of the gotta and embrace the wanna.” It might be easier said than done, but I have a feeling that it’s gonna feel a lot more productive! Like now for instance, I needed to blog…but I didn’t have to do it in my house at my desk…that’s why God invented laptops. So, I’m doing what I gotta do where I wanna do it, in the sun on my porch as I watch my dog scamper around the yard. Sighhhhh. Now, THIS is something I wanna do again!