Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday slowdown

I hope you will enjoy and be blessed by this song. I know that I needed this, this week!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Proverbs 31:31 Goin' to Disneyland?

Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

This is a companion verse to Monday's passage, for it mentions once again that a Spirit-filled woman is deserving of praise.  And it's the final verse in our studies of this amazing woman who does not eat the bread of idleness. These studies have been inspirational to me, and I hope that one or two posts have blessed you, as well.
(I plan to make this series a tab on the Bible Study blog, so that everyone may access them easily.)

Have you been cheering for this Spirit-filled woman as we have studied? Have you admired her strength, her tirelessness, her faith in her Lord? 
I think an appropriate reward for her would be a nice, relaxing day at the spa . . . or maybe she should have the top billing as "Church Volunteer of the Year," maybe she could be featured on a television show. . . or maybe she should just look at everyone and announce, "I'm going to Disneyland." 


Back to reality. They didn't have spas or amusement parks in the ancient world, and they sure as the world would not have paraded her as the preeminent church worker, either. In fact, women were (as we've studied before) not valued then as they are now. Many times their only claim to fame was that they had produced an heir. Many others were simply considered a part of the household - something akin to a piece of property.  Oy.

What a contrast is this woman! This virtuous lady not only completed her duties to her family with amazing results, she also made wise investments and cared for the needy. She showed herself to be trustworthy, industrious, supportive of her spouse, wise, and kind. She relied on God for her strength, and modeled a reverence for the Lord for all to see.

These last few verses have shown what the rewards for her diligence would be . . . first, recognizing her godly influence and virtues, both her husband and their children praised her. 
Wow. Her reward is the praise of her closest loved ones. Some people may think that praise is not much of a reward, but I believe many women would join me in saying that praise from a spouse, a child, or even our own elders is a sweet trophy, and a heart-warming reward.

Secondly, her reward came from those outside the home, as well. . . "her works bring her praise at the city gates."  We've seen her diligence in caring for those she loved, and we've seen the results. Her family (and others) have been well cared for, clothed for the season, fed physically and fed spiritually, and her husband has been able to become all that he has potential to be, since she is handling the household with such finesse! He has become a sought-after citizen at the important meetings of the city, at the gates where judicial and community matters are settled.  And it's known that she is the reason he is able to give of himself and his talents to the community. So now, we see that others, outside the family, praise her as well.

Lastly, we know that God praises her. Verse 10 of this chapter compares this Spirit-filled woman to a ruby -- actually it says that she is worth more than rubies! In God's eyes, a Proverbs 31 woman is a treasure!
Whether we are single or married, whether we minister to parents, spouse, or a house full of children, we need to rely on His strength as we love and support those for whom we are responsible.  We are rare, and He considers our worth to be far more than any earthly treasure.

Goin' to Disneyland? Not me! I'm needed right here!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Proverbs 31:30 Today's beauty tip

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Ahh, the commercials on the television promise everything from weight loss, to unwanted hair removal, to banishing wrinkles . . . all to be a more beautiful you. Whatever happened to the old saying my grandma used, "real beauty comes from within"?

In the past weeks, we have studied the Spirit-filled woman of Proverbs 31. We've seen that no matter whether she is single or married, she shines with her devotion to God and to others, serving with every bit of strength and love that she has.

In this verse, Lemuel's mom is cautioning her son to avoid the trap of "judging a book by its cover" if you will. She is telling him that his perception of a lovely woman may not be accurate -- that outer beauty is not always the real deal. Some women (and men) are oh, so charming -- using the virtues of agreeableness, kindness, and affection to "hook" a spouse, and then when the marriage is official, watch out! The real person comes out, and the deception becomes clear! By the same token, beauty can be a fleeting, temporary thing. We all have hair, eyes, and bodies that please our spouse, but is that handsomeness the lasting virtue that will make a loving marriage possible? In a word, no!

You see, we need to look at the inner person, just as God does. Consider what He told Samuel, when He passed over Saul and chose David for the king:
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7
The world that we live in tells us to focus on the outside. Women may be tempted to focus their time and energy on a great figure, a glowing tan, the current lip coloring, and more. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look our best. But our Father would rather we looked "drop dead gorgeous" on the inside -- a woman who talks with Him daily in prayer, and reads His word, too. Besides, God sees each of us as another one of His masterpieces. David said:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
What we know to be true about snowflakes is also true of us -- no two are identical! Each time you look in the mirror, tell yourself what David will come to know it "full well" indeed!

Lemuel's mom was giving us a beauty tip!
"A woman who fears the Lord....."
We're not talking about fear and trembling here, or a dread that the Lord we serve will squash us like a bug if we don't "behave." We are talking about an awareness that we are in the presence of a holy, just, and all-powerful God Who will hold us accountable for our thoughts, words, and actions. But He is also a loving, compassionate, merciful God, and fearing Him means that we wish to live in harmony with His standards and honor Him in all that we do.
So, a woman who fears the Lord will be aware of God's presence, and will work tirelessly to create a home filled with peace, comfort, and contentment for her family --whether that is a husband and children, or it's parents and relatives who depend upon her. When she is taken for granted by parents or spouse (or children) she remains rock-solid in her faith and the knowledge that God loves her and she is serving Him. That's how she presses on through difficult times, and that is the secret to her inner beauty.
Our faith makes us beautiful -- our faith makes us praiseworthy. Our faith makes us desirable, noble, gorgeous, and rare. As women who fear the Lord, we are truly beautiful!
This is a truth that we must pass on to the young people that come after us. True beauty (whether you are a male or a female) comes from the heart . . . a heart that serves God.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday prayers

I look forward to these posts every second week . . .

It is a real blessing to me to be honored with the privilege of praying with you for requests that you share. Others have noted that they cherish the opportunity to give praise to the Lord for answered prayer, and to ask others to join them in asking for help in situations that only our Father can resolve.

If you have a request, please let us know in the comment section. If it is very personal, consider asking us to remember an unspoken request for you. Our Father knows the situation, and will honor that request and your faith in asking.

If you have an answered prayer that will encourage others, please leave a comment so that we can rejoice with you in the care the Lord has provided.

Let's go to the Lord and thank Him for all He has done, request His forgiveness for our sins, and ask Him to work in our lives this week.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Proverbs 31:28-29 Single or married . . . You are a ruby!

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

Alrighty now, we have studied verse after verse that outlined what we should be doing as moms, wives, and even singles, in this life of a Spirit-filled woman.  We've talked about the fact that we could read this passage and cringe under the comparison, but instead we should use this as a guide, not a recipe for guilt! If you look at marriages and other relationships that have lasted through the years, one common thread can be seen -- each person in the relationship values the other more highly than themselves. I think that is the whole point, the goal of the writer of Proverbs 31. We may not exemplify ALL of the virtues here, but I bet that we are doing well on many of these points.

Now we get to a verse that says "Hey! You will get something special in return!"  Well, we know that we will receive blessings from our Father, as we grow and mature in Him, but this is something different. It seems to say that we will receive some kudos from those to whom we are ministering, and those that we love.

Motherhood is a demanding job; it requires skill, grace, love, sacrifice, and willingness. It's been said that the rewards are great (but then, so are the challenges!).What did this woman do to gain the respect of her husband and the blessing of her children? It seems that she simply loved them by what she said and by what she did for them.

"Well, I'm doing the best I can, for my kiddos, my husband, my mother (insert whatever you need to, in the blank) and I don't hear them pouring out the praise for me!"  Is that what you are thinking?

I certainly can understand that feeling. I have been there. I've done that. I even bought the franchise so that I could sell the T-shirts. (Grin)
I've had those days when I didn't feel motherly to the kiddos that were cranking out the whines and pushing all of my buttons. I've been there when an elderly parent seemed to take for granted the time and attention that was given. Those are days that are filled with growing pains -- and I'm talking about MY growth, not the kiddos!
It seems a lot easier to get praise outside the home, have you noticed that? Pats on the back for work in the office may come more quickly from your boss. Kudos for a ministry humming smoothly may come more easily at church, than "thank yous" inside the home.
What to do?
Here are some opportunities that you may already use, or maybe you have overlooked:
  •  Praise your kiddos - Even on days that they are pulling the levers and pushing your buttons, find just one thing to compliment or praise them for. (Believe me, on some days you will think there is NOTHING that you can find but if you look, you can!)
  •  Be available - This is for the kiddos, or for a parent or relative to whom you minister. You may not be able to drop everything when they holler, but make sure that the time you spend with them, they get the feeling that you are truly there just for them.
  • Try to make time for something (and this can be inexpensive!) that they enjoy doing with you. This is just as much for our own parents as for our children. Playing board games or cards, grilling a supper, the possibilities are endless, and don't have to cost an arm and a leg.
  • Love your hubby -- this is for the kiddos; there is no better example for them to see, than that of their parents loving and praising one another!
I was blessed to homeschool our three, and it was an additional full-time job. Motherhood and helping elderly parents can put a full schedule on you, but when you add the responsibility of teaching? Wowser! I spent many, many hours planning studies, working with them on hard subjects, grading papers, and then because we wanted them to enjoy their school years, we also joined a cooperative. There I taught other classes, coordinated field trips, supervised the yearbook publication, organized fundraisers and was "senior class mom" three times -- planning every detail of a graduation attended by hundreds!
I had several moms who told me that they felt they were "just" moms with a mini-van, shuttling kids to co-op and soccer, and grading papers at midnight! When my kids heard that, they rolled their eyes, sighed exasperatedly, and told me that I was NOT "just a mom, like that."
You want to guess who went to bed that night with a heart full of love and contentment? Uh-huh. I did!
Here's the key -- you need to look for those praises, and appreciate them! Our kiddos (and our parents) may not be eloquent, and they may not praise us often, but they do. The praise may not come as often as that from a vocation outside the home, but it is often much more heartfelt, and absolutely priceless!
Yes, you are a ruby, Christian lady -- single or married, you are striving to be what God wants you to be, and you are a gem!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday slowdown

I try on these Friday posts to bring many different types of music to you; after all, we don't all worship God in the exact same ways. I hope that you enjoy this traditional hymn, delivered in an untraditional manner.....I found it moving.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Verse 2:
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Verse 3:
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

 Verse 4:
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Proverbs 31:27 Not idle, just resting

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

"Oh, no, here she goes again! Doesn't Snoodles know when to quit? She keeps laying out all these things we need to do, and plan, and accomplish!"

Au contraire . . . I have something else in mind altogether!

We have learned in this passage that there definitely are things that we should be doing; there are things to make; there are things to accomplish. But as we noted in another verse, we must also take special care of the bodies that our Father has given us. Proper nutrition is one important facet -- proper rest is another.

This verse tells us that a Spirit-filled woman, be she single or married, watches over the affairs of her household (a re-statement of some of the previous principles) and that she is not "idle."

The dictionary makes this distinction about the meaning of the words "idle" and idleness:
  . . . to pass time without working or avoiding work, wasteful, lazy, without purpose
Rest, however, is not idleness. We rest with a purpose -- to rejuvenate, to recover our strength, to be able to keep on going. It is not wasteful; in fact, our attempting a task when our strength is exhausted can be wasteful. We should not feel guilty for taking a moment to relax and put our feet up, to rest.
We even find verses that point out the need for us to rest.
Mark 6:31
And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while." For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
Exodus 33:14
And He said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light."  

We serve an all-powerful God -- He did not NEED to rest on the seventh day of creation, but He did, to set an example for us. 
Hebrews 4:9-11
There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.

It's not idleness -- it's resting! And it's important!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Verses that speak

I hope that I'm not the only one, but I certainly get a lot from the comments on these posts. I especially like to hear from those of you that tell us about verses that have meant a lot to you recently.

If a verse has blessed you, comforted your heart, or inspired you in your walk with Christ, please leave a comment and let us know.
You never know just how many other people will read that verse and be blessed, just as you were!

Recently, I re-read this verse, and I wanted to share it with all of you:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  (Isaiah 41:10)
I hope we will hear from you today!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Proverbs 31:26 Is my tongue faithful? Is it wise?

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Ohhhh, here we go again . . . sometimes these verses really smoosh my toes . . . (Grin)

From Job 19:2:
“How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? 
From Psalm 55:20-21
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. 
Psalm 64:3-4
...who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. 

We can learn a lot from these verses and others; we can examine our own speech and see if we are tormenting others like Job's critics, or if we are being deceitful as the person in Psalm 55, or even using bitter words like the people in Psalm 64.

These (below) are verses that show us how we should speak. They are so very familiar, but how many times do we find the Spirit reminding us that we need to do a little better in this department?
Proverbs 10:11a
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
Proverbs 16:21
The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.  
Proverbs 15:23
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! 
Ephesians 4:29
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  

If we use the Proverbs 31, Spirit-filled woman as a guide, an ideal to emulate (not a model to increase our guilt), we need to utilize the discernment that we are cultivating. You are cultivating that, aren't you? I know I am trying! Just like Paul told the Philippians....
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,(Philippians 1:9-10)
.....cultivating discernment and wisdom is an important part of our daily time with God. In our studies we can find and internalize truths from the Bible, and we can pray that He will bring those verses and concepts to our mind at the times that we need them.
Discernment will help us to assess a situation and speak to the needs of the person -- not jump to a conclusion and turn the person off with ill-chosen words.
Wisdom will assist us when we are asked for guidance, and we suddenly freeze with the knowledge of the responsibility in our answer.  Instead of looking at the questioner like a deer staring at headlights, we can offer a silent prayer and calmly try to help them, with what we've learned in our times with the Lord.
"Thinking on your feet" is an ability that some have, and others do not. Personally, I don't have it! But I still try to offer words of testimony in my workday world, and in other situations that God brings to me, and I sincerely hope that seeds for good are planted.
There is one more time that our speech needs to be seasoned with wisdom, and needs to be faithful. It's in our times with our Lord. When we pray, are our words like the torrent released in a summer thunderstorm? Do we besiege the Lord with "many words" and "vain repetition" because we are so sure that we know what we need, and we simply must convince our Father?
Sometimes we need to be faithful, full of faith, and have the quiet confidence that He will solve the problem, right the wrong, and settle the score.
Habakkuk 2:20
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.
Zephaniah 1:7a
Be silent before the Lord God!
Psalm 46:10
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

Father, please help me to be honest with myself, and know if my words are wise and faithful. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Proverbs 31:25 Tis to laugh

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.

It is a time-worn stereotype of women that men discuss repeatedly. It's the image of a woman standing in front of a closet that is bursting with clothing and shoes, and wailing, "I haven't a thing to wear!"

Ladies, I'm not going to fuss at anyone about shopping too much or too little. I'm headed in a different direction, and this is for our single readers, too, not just those of us who are married!

I like how this is translated in the Septuagint; "strength and honor are her clothing". . . we saw in verse 17 that her arms were strong for her tasks, and we've also noted that her strength came from the Lord, as ours should. We must not only rely on God for the strength for each day, but also fortify ourselves with correct and ample nutrition, too. Honor, though, is a virtue which can give a woman (single or married) a moral force and dignity. It can arm her against care and worry. It can give her a strength of will that will be revealed in her behavior, her posture, and her outlook on life.

A woman of honor is not afraid of what "may" happen, for she knows in Whom she trusts, and has also done her own duties to the best of her abilities. Because of this knowledge and preparation, she will rejoice in the time to come, or, she laughs at the future. Another verse that conveys this concept is Job 5:22. You may want to take a moment and look it up, and read it in context. The speaker, Eliphaz, is detailing the security and peace of a person whose mind is "stayed on Him." (Isaiah 26:3)

The Greek and Latin translations both take another route with this verse, and indicate that this Spirit-filled woman can "rejoice in the last days," as in the day of death. While it's true that having the comfort of God's mercy and peace can push away the fear of death, there is so much action in this chapter that I think Lemuel's mom is referring more to the cares and distresses of life here on earth. Though we are weak on our own, in Him we are strong, and we have strength and honor to withstand our enemies --- and persevere in doing good.  As Paul told us, we have the . . .
. . . belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   (Ephesians 6:10-18 for the full passage)
I can't think of a better way to dress ourselves. We can certainly smile at the future, full of confidence that He is with us.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Slowdown

This is an old Shaker hymn that is featured in Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring. It has always been one of my favorites, so I hope that you will humor me and at the same time, receive a blessing by listening.
I have embedded two videos here: the first will give you the essence of the song, a capella by a men's group, so that you can hear the lyrics and reflect on those words. The second is sung by children in period costumes, amidst the simplicity of a Shaker homestead - their sweet voices truly offer an offering to God as they sing of the "simple gifts."


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Proverbs 31:24 When only the best will do

She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

This verse had me stumped for a while.

Sometimes I need to search and pray for longer than usual - I want to provide us with an application to our lives today, from these verses. Sometimes they elude me; either they seem to say the same thing another verse told us, or I need extra help from other translations.

This verse has some alternate translations for the ancient Hebrew text you see here. I think I found us two clues. 

First, the word translated "garments" above, is actually noted as "body garments" in some texts. This is a phrase that denotes a "girdle" -- an ancient garment that was two-fold in purpose: it held one's garments at the waist, much like today's belts do, and it also allowed men to easily carry a weapon. A sword or knife could be tucked into the girdle and was easy to reach for and use. Because of that, we can see some Scripture references that use the word and denote readiness, or preparation.
The girdles of the ancient world might have looked to us like sashes of fabric or leather, and would be simple or ornate, according to the position of the wearer. Many were decorated with fine embroidery and couched with beads and ornaments.

So, the Proverbs 31 woman made these. Now, for our second clue.

In some texts, "selleth" is replaced by "delivereth" or even "giveth." I think we just uncovered a jewel here! This Spirit-filled woman would give these to others. These items would provide a way to control the flowing garments of the day, so that the wearer was ready for any task. They would also provide a natural place to carry a weapon - the wearer was prepared for any eventuality. 

Ladies, it matters not if we are married or single -- this verse applies to us!  What can we freely give to others, that will prepare them for any task?

What can we give them that will furnish them the "weapons" that they need to live for His glory in this world?

This is what we can give -- the message of His gospel, His love for them, and the knowledge that life in Him can be an adventure like no other! Our hearers will be ready, prepared for anything.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17

These are truly the best gifts we can give. Let's spread them around freely!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Proverbs 31:23 At the Gate

Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

What do you think of, when you hear the word "gate"? Do you imagine a vine-covered gate at the edge of a garden? 
In this verse, we are talking about an entirely different type of gate!

We've mentioned before that the gate of the city was a place where courts of justice were kept, and causes heard and tried by the judges. The judges were the elders of the land; they were the older, mature, wiser men who would listen to the particulars of a case and render an impartial judgement to the (possibly) impassioned participants. The gate was a place where serious discussions of the day's issues and problems were held, and this is where we find the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman.

We talked in earlier verses about how this Spirit-filled woman handled things for the household, so that her husband could be all that he could be; she allowed him to fulfill his potential. I think that is what is noted here, too. He is known, and even has a certain amount of celebrity, not because of the beautiful garments that she makes for him, but instead because of his discernment. Because of the wisdom of his wife, he had no cares for his domestic affairs, but was at leisure to conduct business and public judgements, and to do so with a sterling reputation. By his careful leadership, the citizens of the region, and his wife, could go about their business each day, knowing that the community's affairs were in good hands.

Christ is the husband of the church in general, and of every individual believer. He loves us and is a kind, tender and sympathizing friend to His church and to His people. He cherishes us and provides for us. He is known by us -- we can trust Him for His leadership, for He has shown His mercy, grace, and love to us, time and time again. We can rely on His decisions and judgements to be wise and fair.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.   Proverbs 2:6-9

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Proverbs 31:22 Tis a gift to be simple

She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

There is a way of thinking in some Christian groups, that followers of Christ should be clothed in extremely simple, even dated apparel. They shun the current styles; they seem to want to look as if they are very, very poor.
Then there are the folks who appear very ostentatious; their clothing is the best and most up to date, and sometimes is very showy. Sometimes their apparel is gaudy, but always expensive.

Isn't there a happy medium in there somewhere? (My grandma used that term . . . it is not describing a gleeful leader of a seance, but describes the middle ground that can lead to satisfaction and contentment!)

Let's dive in and see if we can find that middle ground!

Purple was a color much coveted in the ancient world. Only the most wealthy could afford clothing in that hue, and many times it was reserved for royalty.

Purple thread was used in the construction of the fabrics for the Tabernacle in the book of Numbers; this was a color which was associated with luxury and divinity in the ancient cultures.

In Luke, we find, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. (Luke 16:19)  And in Revelation, we see that "fine linen" is reserved for special occasions and uses, "Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Rev. 19:8)  White linen was of a very fine texture, and was highly esteemed for apparel.

I think that we can see here that the wife of Proverbs 31 dresses herself in a way that becomes her station -- she is avoiding the extremes of shabbiness, or assumed simplicity, and the alternate extreme of ostentatious luxury. She didn't think she would appear more spiritual because her clothes were super simple, and she didn't wish to flaunt her wealth by being showily luxurious. She found the middle ground!

I found a quotation from the late 1500's that summed up what I am stumbling around trying to say:
 "For my own part," says St. Francois de Sales, quoted by Lesetre, "I should wish any devout man or woman always to be the best dressed person in the company, but at the same time, the least fine and affected, and adorned, as it is said, with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. St. Louis said that every one ought to dress according to his position, so that good and sensible people should not be able to say you are overdressed, nor the younger under dressed" ('Vie Devot.,' 3:25). 

My grandma always told me that it didn't matter if I had a new dress to wear to church, as long as it was clean and not "hole-y".....that God looked on me to see if I knew and loved Jesus, and that made me "holy."  I think she was right.
We should try to dress in ways that reflect well on our testimony, I believe. We should avoid long faces and purposeful shabbiness in the same way that we avoid purposeful showiness. Our countenance, a happy face and spirit, is what makes us "best dressed."
We wear the purple fabric of royalty, no matter if we are wearing green or yellow or polka dots or plaid. God looks at us to see if the blood of Christ has cleansed us. He makes us fellow heirs by bestowing His righteousness upon us.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  Romans 8:17

Monday, August 12, 2013

Proverbs 31:21 Red is my color!

When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

Now, before we all go out and purchase red fabric and start sewing up clothes, let's dive into this verse and see how it can apply to us today!

If you can imagine being in the ancient Middle East, you would find yourself doing many of the things that the Proverbs woman is doing in this chapter. We've discussed earlier that the clothing for the family was of linen (warm weather apparel) and of wool (cold weather clothing). Now, if you had to think about wearing the same color of clothing every day, you would get pretty bored with it, right? So you would look for ways to dye your fibers before you spun them into cloth, or you would dye the cloth after you finished weaving it.
Many organic dyes have been known and used since ancient times. Plant matter and other substances have been used to create yellow, brown, blue, green, and other pigments for use in dyeing fibers and fabric. Did you know that "carmine" red is derived from a tiny insect?
The cochineal family of insects is varied, but many of them are about two-tenths of an inch in size. They produce an acid (carminic acid) that can be used to make a scarlet dye. Think about how many insects you would need, and how difficult it would be, to dye clothing for your family in this crimson hue!
This meant that only the wealthy were able to wear clothes of scarlet. 
There is another meaning for the word . . .
In this verse, the word used means a very fine and excellent quality wool cloth; it could be in various colors, not necessarily always red. We can see that the Proverbs ideal woman would not fear the winter weather, nor would those to whom she ministered and cared for, for they would have high-quality clothing that prepared them for the cold weather. 

This verse also has beautiful symbolism in it -- scarlet is a metaphor (symbol) of the blood of our Savior.  Winter is a cold and barren time, a metaphor for our lives before we accept the gift of a merciful God: salvation from our sins.
So, this Spirit-filled woman has no fear for those she loves, for they are prepared for difficult times: they are saved!
Whether we are single or married, we have a responsibility to those we love.  We must share with them the knowledge that we can face the winter-times of our lives because our God cares for us. And for them.
We can find wisdom for living in the Word of God; the Holy Spirit can guide us through life. So, let us witness by our lives and by our words, so that those we love can be "clothed" in the scarlet blood of Jesus.  Only then can they be truly prepared for the tough winters of our lives.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Slowdown

Does it seem to you sometimes that you are continually fighting the same sins? Does the natural person in you rise up and cause you pain, because you sin and you know that you are grieving the Father? Grab hold of the hope that is in the Word . . .

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
 I John 1:9
As far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

"East To West"

Here I am, Lord, and I'm drowning in your sea of forgetfulness
The chains of yesterday surround me
I yearn for peace and rest
I don't want to end up where You found me
And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight
I know You've cast my sin as far as the east is from the west
And I stand before You now as though I've never sinned
But today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
'cause I can't bear to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

I start the day, the war begins, endless reminding of my sin
Time and time again Your truth is drowned out by the storm I'm in
Today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

I know You've washed me white, turned my darkness into light
I need Your peace to get me through, to get me through this night
I can't live by what I feel, but by the truth Your word reveals
I'm not holding on to You, but You're holding on to me
You're holding on to me

Jesus, You know just how far the east is from the west
I don't have to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
One scarred hand to the other
From one scarred hand to the other

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Proverbs 31:20 That cheerful giver

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Here she comes again . . . that cheerful giver!

Our ideal woman in Proverbs 31 is definitely setting the bar pretty high for us, isn't she? In addition to all of the things we've learned from her so far, we find now that we need to be generous. (Grin)

Seriously, I'm sure that most of us are generous people, and have no problem giving of our time, our money, and ourselves to what the Lord brings to our attention. 
I'm wondering if Lemuel's mom put this here to emphasize not only the generous and giving spirit of the ideal woman she's describing, but also to call attention to the fact that all that's gone before -- thriftiness, trustworthiness, diligence, and more -- has made it possible for this woman to give to the poor and the needy.
Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."

Because of the careful attention that the Proverbs 31 woman gives to her household, she doesn't waster the valuable resources that her husband brings home. Because she is trustworthy, she is a careful accountant and utilizes those resources in the best possible manner. Because she is hard-working, and a savvy businesswoman, she is able to add to the family income and be an integral part of the financial plans.

Stands to reason, then, that she would want to be generous with what she has, and help those who are less fortunate. I might be walking way out on a limb here, but when I see that she "opens her arms" to the poor, I think she is gifting them with money to get their necessities. Here's where I'm out on a limb: the next portion of the verse says she "extends her hands to the needy."  When someone is down in a hole, or needs help climbing out of a low place, what do you do? You extend your hand for them to grab hold of and pull -- you are giving them "a hand up." I believe that may be what this Spirit-filled woman is doing; she not only gifts them financially, but she helps them in sensible, practical ways. Ways that help them stay out of that tight spot, that low place.
Perhaps she is teaching them a skill or giving them encouragement from her own experience. Perhaps she is giving them what they need to move forward and keep moving. Perhaps she knows of a job for them to apply for and to do. Maybe it is just the example that she sets, for them to imitate.

This Spirit-filled woman is truly challenging us to be the best that we can be!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Proverbs 31:19 No task too small

In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

"But I don't want to do that job, Mommy, I want to do something BIG!"

Many moms hear that impassioned plea. They may smile at the youngster, and then give them a different job to do, or they may encourage them to do their assigned chore. Every job is important, they tell the child.

And they are correct.

Many times in ancient households, the younger girls were given the job of preparing the wool or flax (remember verse thirteen?) for weaving. It was considered to be a job that they could handle, and was also considered a necessary part of their education!
The distaff is the implement held above the head of the girl in the picture above. It usually had a Y shaped end, where the fibers could be placed and held firmly, keeping them from becoming tangled. The job was to pull those fibers in small bunches, lengthening and lengthening until it was like a thread. The hand-held spindle was twirled and put the right tension and twist on the new thread, and acted as a holder until time to weave the thread into cloth.

The older girls and women prided themselves on their spinning and weaving, so it truly was important that the younger ones take care and pride in their own craftsmanship, since they prepared the thread for the weavers. Truly there is no task too small.

And the "ideal" woman of Proverbs 31 is teaching us, too, that there is no task too small. There is nothing that needs doing, that is not worth doing well. She didn't always hand the task of spinning over to her handmaidens, her servants. She was not above doing the menial tasks, the mundane chores that were so necessary to make her household run smoothly.

Are we just as eager to complete the "small" tasks, as we are to take on the larger or more exciting ones? Do we only want to do the jobs we feel are important? The ones that will make us important, too?

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might... Ecclesiastes 9:10a
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.                  I Corinthians 10:31
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.    Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Prayer request day

Once again, it is our privilege to join together in prayer for the needs of our Christian sisters and brothers, for our families, our friends, and others that we know of, who need the help of our Father.

We are admonished in the Word to make sure we are:

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,  Ephesians 6:18

We can make our requests, and we can offer praise:

What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. I Corinthians 14:15

And we can claim precious promises:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:14-15

Please make your requests and praises known here on the study blog, so that we may support you in prayer and rejoice with you in praises.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Proverbs 31:18 Still broadcasting, or, a candle in the window

She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

We just had a verse about getting up early, and preparing for our day....did you think when you read this one, that you have to stay up late, too? Ouch!

Don't worry, that is not where we are going . . .

Are you like a radio station? Or, as the title suggests, are you like a candle in the window? Hold on, I'm not as wacky as you may think . . . let's dive into this verse!

When I was little, I was fascinated on our road trips (we took quite a few) by the tall radio towers that I would see. They were not very noticeable during the day, but at night they twinkled with lights. Our parents would tell us that the lights were to keep airplanes from hitting the towers in the darkest nights; the lights would tell the pilots where the towers were, so that they could avoid them. With a history in amateur radio, our dad would tell us that they served another purpose as well. They indicated that the radio station had a power source for its antenna, and that it was broadcasting its signal into the night.

Nowadays, satellite dishes are utilized by radio and television stations to broadcast their signals, but the concept is just the same. A reliable system is needed to broadcast the information that needs to be shared; day and night, the signal waves must go out.
In today's application of this verse in Proverbs, I was reminded of our responsibility to "broadcast" the message of God's Word to those we love and care for. Those we minister to are in need of His guidance and love, and sometimes we are the only means of conveyance of that important information! We need to be reliable.
We can help those that we minister to in three ways -- first, we can provide casual, yet challenging and deep spiritual truths that our loved ones and friends can apply to their own lives. No "dignified and formal" here, and no need for preachiness.
Second, we can offer them down-to-earth, relevant Biblical principles in smaller, bite-size pieces. We don't need to offer a complete study on an issue, when a person needs a short but encouraging talk. We can keep things down-to-earth, and not overwhelm a friend or neighbor with terms they don't yet understand.
Finally, we can offer real-life solutions for very real struggles they are facing in the midst of their busy days.  The most inspiring and motivating words that we can give are the heartfelt truths that we may have learned while we faced a situation similar to where they find themselves.

Another application of this verse is that of the old adage, "Put a candle in the window for me." In olden days, if it was stormy or if it was a moonless night, someone who needed to leave the warmth and comfort of the fireside would ask someone who remained behind, to put a candle in the window.  As they trudged back to the cabin after completing their chores, the light from that candle would shine through the darkness or through the storm, and guide them back to the security and warmth of home. We can be just such a candle to someone -- if we stay "lit" and keep sending out a light that they can see. They can see us, and come back to the security and warmth of His love.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Matthew 5:16
You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light.  II Samuel 22:29

    Friday, August 2, 2013

    Friday slowdown

    I found the story of this song to be very sweet. I hope it blesses your heart today.

    In the early 1900's, a woman by the name of Lela Long heard a medical missionary on furlough from China share the story of his work. Whenever someone came to him for treatment he would always tell them the story of Jesus.

    One morning, before the doors of the clinic were opened, there was a knock at the missionary's door. There stood an elderly woman, stooped with age. He could tell by the dust on her feet and clothing that she had come a long way. He treated her and as always, told her about Jesus. As she heard the beautiful story of Jesus love, she opened her heart to receive Jesus as her personal Savior. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she accepted the gift of eternal life.

    Quite some time had passed and there was a knock at the missionary's door. When he opened the door, he found the same old woman that had come to him several weeks before. She said, "Sir, He has saved me and I know He lives in my heart. He has made my life so happy! But sir, I have forgotten His name. Could you please tell me his name again?" The missionary repeated over and over again the name, "Jesus," "Jesus," "Jesus." Each time the little old lady echoed that name, "Jesus."

    After hearing this story, Lela Long wrote the following hymn:

    1. There have been names that I have loved to hear,
      But never has there been a name so dear
      To this heart of mine, as the name divine,
      The precious, precious name of Jesus.
      • Refrain:
        Jesus is the sweetest name I know,
        And He’s just the same as His lovely name,
        And that’s the reason why I love Him so;
        Oh, Jesus is the sweetest name I know.
    2. There is no name in earth or Heav’n above,
      That we should give such honor and such love
      As the blessed name, let us all acclaim,
      That wondrous, glorious name of Jesus.
    3. And someday I shall see Him face to face
      To thank and praise Him for His wondrous grace,
      Which He gave to me, when He made me free,
      The blessed Son of God called Jesus.

    Thursday, August 1, 2013

    Proverbs 31:17 Take your vitamins!

    She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

    Well, you may have read that title and be wondering about my sanity again . . . Fear not! I'll tell you where I'm going with this.
    The noble woman of Proverbs 31, the ideal woman that Lemuel's mom was telling him to look for, was not a "domestic goddess." That term calls to mind a manicured and pampered woman reclining on a couch, eating bonbons and watching her favorite tv shows.
    Not her.
    The noble woman was a virtual whirlwind of activity -- we've seen (and we will continue to see) so many ways that she was industrious, ambitious, and hardworking. And all of this for the delight of her husband, and the betterment of her family.  So far we've seen her taking care of matters in the home and outside the home, dealing in real estate and horticulture, managing finances, finding deals at the markets, spicing up what she provides for her family, making clothing, etc. 
    She must have had a lot of energy.
    Does she remind you of the Energizer Bunny?

    Well, there is only one way that she could do all of that -- we've discussed that she had to fully rely on God's strength for her tasks. But she had to help out, by taking good care of herself.
    Is that an area that you have not paid much attention to?

    Do you take the time to make certain that you eat well?  Do you ensure that you drink plenty of water and other fluids and stay hydrated in the hot weather? Do you bundle up and stay warm in the cold season?
    Are you as conscientious with your own diet as with those you care for? Do you make certain that you eat foods that have vitamins, fiber, and minerals, so that you can be at the best level of health you possibly can?
    And yes, you might want to include vitamins!
    If we don't take care of ourselves, we will not be healthy and strong -- and we place obstacles in God's way when He wants to use us. Yes, He is all powerful, and can prevail when we are weak. But just think what kind of an example we are setting for those we care for, if we don't follow our own advice about correct diet, restful sleep, and exercise? Hmmmm?
    Yes, I'm preaching to myself here, too.
    Let's make sure that we take care of ourselves. We will have energy and strength for what God calls us to do, and being in tip-top health will enable us to be cheerful about our tasks!