Wisdom for Wives

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks …"

All Dressed Up for the New Year!

Team Singapore fireworks display from Singapore Fireworks Festival 2006

Singapore Fireworks Festival, image credit: Ngoh Seh Suan (Creative Commons)

Happy 2016!  I hope you enjoyed your celebrations of our Savior’s birth.  I myself did have a merry Christmas.  However, even though it’s only the second day of the new year, our decorations are already down. I’m pretty sure this is a record for me. I took them down this morning, quite happily. With each string of lights unwound, and every ornament returned to storage, I was putting 2015 behind me.

It’s not that 2015 was a bad year, really. Sure, there were challenges, but the year also brought many, many blessings. Still, I found myself struggling with sadness throughout the year. Come December, I had little appetite for decking the halls. I have to confess that my kids had to drag me into the Christmas season. (I thank God for them!!) Pretty much the only reason the Christmas tree made it up is because they started begging to decorate as soon as Thanksgiving dinner was over. So, the first weekend in December, I relented and brought in the decorations from the garage. I left the kids in charge, but I have to say, once they got started, I did start to feel more festive. I pulled up last year’s Christmas playlist and danced around the living room while my elves adorned the tree.

But not every night leading up to Christmas was so jolly. To be honest, celebrating Advent was a struggle. One night when my daughter came looking for me, I tried to negotiate:  if we could skip Advent that night, I would make it up to them with jumbo deluxe activities the next night. Well, she wasn’t having it.  :D  But I’m glad she did not take no for an answer. (And I’m extremely glad for the list of Advent activities that I so cheerfully posted back in 2014; also somewhat incredulous that I had the energy to cut and paste 25 little red and green envelopes.  Fortunately, some activities require little to no planning, which came in handy on the nights where I had the least energy. I also gave myself a break and did one hands-on/food activity per night, instead of two).

Anyway, I’m so thankful that we took the time to read the Scriptures about the birth of Jesus, even when I did not feel like it. It did me well to sing, “Joy to the World” and “O Holy Night,” when my preference was to stay in bed.

Things started to turn around a few days before Christmas. I was alone in the car, listening to a news program on the radio, and a song that played briefly during a transition caught my attention. I intended to check the station’s website to find out the name of the song. It was a melancholy tune, and I realized that the reason I wanted to download it is because it would make great wallowing music. I could picture myself listening to it loop over and over again. And it seemed to me like I was making a plan, a conscious effort, to reject joy. I was choosing despair. It’s not merely that I was overly focused on my problems (though I probably was). Or that I needed to focus more on my numerous blessings (though it probably would have helped). The joy of the Lord is independent of my problems and my blessings, and I was paying no mind (literally) to joy.  Joy depends only on Him.  Along with love, peace, gentleness, and more, the fruit of His Spirit—that lives within me—is joy. And here I was selecting a playlist for an anti-joy party.

But God has my clothes picked out for a much better party:

I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Isaiah 61:10

This is not to say that I merely flipped a switch that afternoon, and I expect to be sadness free forevermore. Or that every day of 2016 I will feel as hopeful as I feel today. I know that some days, I will have to make a conscious effort to choose joy. But I don’t ever have to find joy, conjure up joy, or create it.  It is always available to me because He is in me.  And He will never, ever, ever forsake me.

Thank you for stopping by,

Susan

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Hide-the-Word Wednesday: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Like many people, I paid a great deal of attention to the news this past weekend.  It was a lot, even for me.  On Saturday, I consumed news in one form or another for almost the entire day. That night, I watched the Democratic debates and went to bed shortly after.
My first waking thought on Sunday, was of the candidates’ statements about recent events.
I was saturated.
I can think of much better things to saturate my mind with.
Slide1

Orange River, Upington, South Africa; Image credit: Paffy under Creative Commons

Is there anything taking up too much space in your mind?
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Hide-the-Word Wednesday: Consider the Source

You know what is not fun?  Spending half an hour on the phone with the bank, then spending an hour at the local branch on each of two visits.  Not to mention calling creditors to explain why your bill payments haven’t gone through.  That is what is going on at our house this week, since I noticed a fraudulent transaction on our checking account Monday. It was an electronic check in my name to “Premier Web Systems.”  (My experience is similar to this gentleman’s.)  When I called the number on the check, the woman who answered the phone gave the name of a different company, “Billing Solutions.”  I asked several questions, but she couldn’t tell me much about what the charge was for.  She did say that they would give me a refund and delete my information from their system.  She also warned me that if I called my bank and received a refund from them, that second refund would be illegal.

So, then I called the bank.  By now I had texted my husband about it.  He looked and found a similar transaction from July.  (Both amounts were small enough—under $35—that they were easy to miss).  I told the bank representative what Billing Solutions said about getting an illegal refund.  She said that she was not going to wait and see whether Billing Solutions/Premier Web Systems/whoever was going to keep their word.  So she gave us a refund for both transactions.  (“If you get two refunds, you get two refunds.”)  After all, she said, consider the source of the statement.   (The bank also strongly recommended that we close the account.)

That got me thinking about other information we receive from questionable sources.  Satan specializes in lies, so like it or not, we can fall for them if we are not vigilant (Ephesians 6:10-17, 1 Peter 5:8).  Sometimes the lies are so small that we don’t even notice them.  They remain in our mental accounts for months … or decades.

Our emotions are not always reliable sources of information.  They can alert us to spiritual issues that we need to take before the Lord; or they can lead us astray, into selfishness or self-pity.

Even well-intentioned, Jesus-loving friends and family get it wrong sometimes. There’s really one Source who gets it right every single time.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

North side of Sgùrr na Cìche Mountain, Highlands, Scotland; image credit: Tony Ferrie (Creative Commons)

Have you checked your transactions lately?😉
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Hide-the-Word Wednesday: Of Polls and Pundits

Do you know what’s happening tonight??  You might think I’m referring to Game 2 of the World Series.  But it’s also the night of the third debate of the Republican candidates for president.  It’s likely to last at least three hours, and I will be firmly planted in front of the TV for all of it, as I was for the previous two, and as I was two weeks ago for the Democratic debates.

It was just about a year ago that I professed my love for political punditry.  My second favorite thing about Sundays is listening the Sabbath gasbags (a term I use affectionately) dissect the news on the morning talk shows. And I’m not sure which I enjoy more—hearing the journalists and analysts talk politics, or doing the talking myself.  Once I get going, it’s hard to shut me up!

Imagine if I were always so excited, so enthusiastic, so passionate when talking about Jesus!

And while politics have some importance, how much weight will tonight’s debates carry in eternity?

Two podiums on a stage, with a gold-starred and blue background

image credit: washingtontimes.com

Do you ever find yourself more passionate about your hobbies and interests than about Jesus?

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Help My Unbelief

I believe in God.  I do.  On an intellectual level, the vastness, complexity, and sheer unfathomable-ness (I know that’s not a word😉 ) of the universe point me to an intelligent Designer.  Then there are all the prophecies that were written centuries before Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled them in the flesh.  In my own life, there have been the answered prayers, the clear sense of His leading and guiding at times, and circumstance-surpassing peace when I needed it most.

But still, I doubt.  Is all of this God stuff and church stuff really real?  The questions come every once in a while.  Maybe more than once in a while.  But God always finds a way to remind me that He’s real.  It’s not always in something “big” like an incredibly gorgeous night sky, or something big-to-me like my marriage.  He shows Himself in small things, too.

Two weekends ago, I was in Pennsylvania in the idyllic foothills of the Alleghany mountains (the beauty of which is another testament to our majestic Creator) for my church’s women’s retreat.

White Sulfur Springs Conference Center, Manns Choice, PA

White Sulfur Springs Conference Center, Manns Choice, PA

During a time of prayer on the second day of the retreat, I pictured myself clinging tightly—much too tightly—to people and things that are important to me.  Out of love, sure. But also out of fear of letting go. Seconds later, one of the worship leaders shared a prayer that, in a room full of women, felt directed right at me. “Disturb us, O Lord” she prayed, “when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the water of life. Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity …”

OK, God! OK!!!! After I screamed internally, the worship leader shared encouragement for those who don’t quite feel ready to pray the whole prayer.  😄

I could dismiss it as no big deal.  I know for a fact that the prayer ministered to other women in the room.  But I had just prayed about holding on too tightly to my abundance of things!  How did God minister to all of us, and each of us, all at once?

Another recent weekend, I woke up very worried about the week ahead.  To the point that I did not want to get out of bed.  (I mean, I usually don’t want to get out of bed, but this time it wasn’t because of cozy covers.)  After grumbling for a while, I remembered to pray.  It was a Sunday, and later, at church, I did not sit in my usual spot during the service. Nowhere near it, in fact.  I sat near a woman I’ve met but don’t know well; I greeted her but hadn’t planned to chat. Still, we ended up talking, and she (not I) brought up the very issue I was worried about, and answered my unspoken concerns with perfect encouragement!  I hadn’t told anyone else about the problem—only God. But He heard me, and answered me through a woman that I hadn’t planned to talk to.

How does God do that? How did He get us two free-willed (right?) women next to each other so I could hear EXACTLY what I needed to hear that morning?

And how did He get Joseph to a position of power and authority in Egypt years after his brothers sold him into slavery?

How did Esther get away with going before King Xerxes without being summoned, when everybody knew that was punishable by death?  Not only was she not punished, the king offered her whatever she wished.  And she went on to save her people who were on the verge of destruction.

How is it that Jesus was born in little ole Bethlehem, just like Micah 5:2 foretold, even though his earthly parents lived in Nazareth?  He just happened to be born while Mary and Joseph were in their hometown for the census instituted by the (pagan) Roman emperor.

How does He work in everything for our good (even when we ourselves seem intent on our own destruction)?

And on, and on, and on.

How can God do that????

Because He’s God, and there’s no doubt about it.

White Sulfur Springs Conference Center in Pennsylvania

Thanks for stopping by,

Susan

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