The guys in our dorm are some of the funniest people I’ve ever met. They crack me up all day, and at night when I get into bed (much too late, because they’re also some of the biggest night owls I’ve ever met), I recount all their funnies to Andy, and we laugh ourselves to sleep.
One such funny happened the very first Friday of the semester. Many of our guys serve in various churches and ministries, especially on the weekends. I was impressed at how many of them were leaving town to serve as preachers or youth ministers–and it was only the first week of school! Their service moved me. That night, I went out to the little white board in the dorm lobby and left them this message:
Be salt! Be light! (I saw that on Pinterest.) (And yes, I think they secretly appreciate my marker board hearts.) These were my boys, going out to serve the Lord! I prayed for them.
Saturday morning, I woke up to find their addendum:
Funny boys. I laughed for ten minutes.
Be salt! Be light! And be Batman. Always be Batman.
A scripture I’ve been stuck on lately says to “be” something, too.
But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
In short, Jeremiah says, be a tree!
This isn’t the only place where scripture talks about being a tree. Psalm 1 says that the man who delights in the law of the Lord is like a tree. Ezekiel 47–my favorite tree passage–talks about trees that line the river flowing from God’s presence in the temple. Ezekiel’s trees are always in season, with fruit “for food and for healing.” Isaiah 61 also talks about trees. That’s the passage that Jesus claimed for himself (Luke 4:14-21). “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me,” he said, and Isaiah goes on, “…they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Oh, I want my life to display His splendor! I want to be a tree.
I want to be a tree with deep roots–roots of trust and confidence (v. 7). I’m not exactly known for trust and confidence–in myself or in others–but it’s that faith that will keep me firmly established, able to withstand hardships. Unfortunately, hard times make roots go deeper, but what do trust and confidence in verse 7 lead to in verse 8? No fear, and no worries! And so, I’ll pray for deep roots–deep faith, grounded in Him.
I want to be a tree that’s well-watered. I want to send out deep roots of faith to the stream of Living Water. I’ve seen what comes out of my heart and mind when I’m not constantly nourished by the water of His Word, and it terrifies me. How I need His presence! I must be well-watered.
And finally, I want to be a tree that bears fruit. Trees don’t have to work at being fruitful. If a tree has good roots and stays well-watered, the fruit just comes. Too often, though, I work at making my own fruit. I work hard for approval and worth and goodness. But God says to be, not do. He says to remain in Him, and He’ll bring much fruit–and fruit that will last (John 15:5, 16).
Maybe tonight on the marker board, I’ll draw a tree, next to a stream and full of fruit. There’s no telling what the boys will have added by morning. “Have a good weekend, boys!” I’ll say. “Be salt, be light, be Batman…and be a tree!”
“You know, Amy,” my sweet friend said one day, “you really are the Proverbs 39 woman.”
She meant, of course, the woman in Proverbs 31—that “wife of noble character” we hear so much about. There aren’t even 39 chapters in the book of Proverbs.
I just smiled and thanked her. But later, I wondered if her mistake wasn’t actually right on. Really, I’m not much like the woman in Proverbs 31. She buys fields and plants vineyards, but I can’t even keep a houseplant alive. She “sets about her work vigorously,” but I can waste an entire afternoon on Facebook and reality TV. And I’ve heard what my kids “arise and call” me under their breath, and it isn’t “blessed.”
So what if, instead, I’m the Proverbs 39 woman? What is she like, eight non-existent chapters later? Who is this extra-biblical woman who doesn’t exactly fit the mold?
Well, for starters, she’s rather lost in the kitchen. Every Easter eve, she Googles, “how to boil an egg,” and every Easter day—“how to make egg salad.” The Proverbs 39 woman plans a menu and grocery list, but her good husband makes most of the meals.
She hasn’t touched her sewing machine in 15 years, and she has only a vague notion of the phrase, “wind the bobbin.”
At the moment, her bed doesn’t even have a “covering”—let alone a homemade one. (Her basset hound stunk up her comforter so much that she threw it away.) (The comforter—not the basset hound.)
The Proverbs 39 woman does have other talents, though. She can drive a car on “E” longer than mechanically possible. She can’t shoot a basket to save her life, but she can throw a candy wrapper directly into the trashcan—while lying flat on her back in bed—every time. She can carry all the grocery bags inside at once, just to avoid two trips.
She doesn’t like pink, or butterflies, and especially not pink butterflies.
From time to time, she even rolls her eyes at the Proverbs 31 woman. But that’s okay, because the Proverbs 31 woman rolls hers right back.
The point is this: thankfully, Proverbs 31 isn’t a to-do list for Christian women, anymore than the non-existent Proverbs 39 is. If it were, we’d all be sunk—and I, most of all. Quite simply, a Proverbs 31 (and 39) woman loves the Lord. She seeks after Him, and knows Him through His word, and does her best to obey Him in all things. She uses her talents—however unconventional they may seem—for His glory. She is honest, humble, diligent and faithful. She’s a woman of noble character, indeed.
It’s true for the woman in Proverbs 31, and 39, and every chapter in between: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
A friend asked recently if I’ve taken a break from blogging. My first answer was, of course, no, but then…yes would be more accurate, wouldn’t it? I’m a neglectful blogger, indeed.
I suppose that’s what comes when you spend 40 days in an RV, plus 13 more days to drive across nine states. We stayed in six hotels and even got one speeding ticket on our very last stretch of highway. But, finally, here we are, in our new home in Joplin, Missouri. And the Lord was faithful every step.
It’s His faithfulness that made me sit down to write today. Enough boxes have been unpacked that I don’t even feel guilty for it. Just now, I’m rather overwhelmed by God’s goodness and sweet favor to my family and me. I’m so thankful, and, like David in Psalm 103, today I’m telling my soul to “forget not all his benefits.”
Thank You, Lord, for safe travels, and for so much family fun along the way. My heart is full of precious memories. Thank You for a great apartment here. I told Andy that this is my favorite place we’ve lived yet. (We’ve had eight houses in 16 years of marriage.) Thank You for family and friends who supported us with prayers and generous gifts. We wouldn’t be here without them! And thank You for our new jobs–new ways to serve You. Let us bear much fruit for Your glory in this place. Amen.
So until next time, dear reader–which, let’s be honest, could be a very long time–remember that the Lord is faithful, even when we’re neglectful. And for that, may we be truly thankful!
“Have you been waiting long?” I asked Molly when we picked her up from school a little late. She was standing under a tree, watching all the other parents who got their kids on time.
“No,” she answered. “Just 85 seconds.”
But who’s counting, right?
I hate waiting, and not just waiting in the doctor’s “waiting” room, where I can at least bring a book or get something done. I hate waiting when there’s nothing else to do but wait—when my only option is to stand under a tree and count the seconds.
Waiting is hard. My friend is waiting to hear big news that won’t come for a few days, and I wish I could speed up the clock for her. My family is waiting right now, too—waiting between jobs, between houses, between churches. We’re waiting in an RV to finish the school year. Waiting to begin our cross-country trek to Missouri. I even dreamt a few nights ago that we’d arrived at Ozark, but couldn’t go in yet. We kept circling our dorm, around and around, but it wasn’t time. Even in my sleep…I’m waiting!
There’s always a reason for God’s waiting season, like when Joseph had to wait in prison before the cupbearer finally remembered him, or when Israel waited in slavery until God brought them out of Egypt. Waiting, to God, is about preparing and perfecting, and He accomplishes His purpose at just the right time.
And, biblical waiting isn’t about impatience or anxiety. In scripture, waiting isn’t just standing under a tree, counting seconds. Often, to wait is to hope. The Hebrew word qavah means, “to wait, look for, hope, expect.” For example:
“Wait—look—for the Lord,” wrote David, “be strong and take heart and wait—hope, expect—in the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).
Qavah is also “to bind together, to twist”—as the strands of a rope are twisted together to make a strong cord. Like if I cross my fingers when I really want something, I twist them up together in hopefulness. Waiting, then, is wrapping myself up in God, and attaching myself to Him. It’s this:
“Those who hope in the Lord—who bind themselves to Him and twist themselves up with Him—will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).
Waiting, then, is a good thing. It’s a chance to experience the Lord like never before—to come to know Him in the stillness, and become deeply rooted in Him, like the tree where Molly counted.
God, let me not just count the seconds until You arrive. Let me rest, trust, expect…hope. Bind me to You so securely that the wait becomes for me an assurance of Your tight grip. “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:5). Amen.
“Lord, we knew You were faithful,” Andy prayed the other day, “but now we know You’re faithful.”
Ever moved from knowing to knowing? Sometimes, do you just get washed over again with a sense of God’s faithfulness?–Of how He orchestrates every detail, and provides things before we even know we need them? We recently experienced one of those moments–an encounter that moved us from knowing to knowing–and it knocked us to our knees.
“My ears had heard of you,” said Job, “but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). Now I know.
At times like that, all you can do is praise.
But. Knowing doesn’t happen every day. Some days…months, years…are spent in the darkness, asking why God has left the building, and questioning if He really is who He says He is at all. It’s a place of wondering, not knowing, and I’ve lived there before, too, in the not-so-distant past.
“Why is this happening, God? Why won’t You intervene?” King David said it this way: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
And at times like that, all you can do…is praise. Praise, because He is good, even in bad circumstances. Praise, because He is at work whether we see Him or not. Praise, because recalling His faithfulness in the past reminds us that He’ll be faithful in the future, too. Praise, because sometimes praise is an act of faith, and faith always pleases God.
Where you are, dear reader? Today, do you wonder, or do you know? In the comments, maybe you can leave one of two words: wondering, or knowing. Wherever you are–whichever word describes you today–thank Him for it. Trust Him more deeply because of it. Worship Him through it. Because in wondering and in knowing, all you can do…is praise.
Over Christmas break, our family played a lot of Hedbanz. What a fun game!—Guess the word you wear on your forehead, with clues from everyone else who can read it.
We wore everything from “bottle” to “Barack Obama.” Turns out, though, that the words are hard to guess if the clue-givers don’t explain the right word. For example, when one wears “Pamela Anderson” on her forehead, and one’s husband confuses Ms. Anderson with Anna Nicole Smith…well, one can be sent down an unfortunate path of many wrong guesses.
Although, I suppose those ladies do have a few “attributes” in common.
Which reminds me, the highlight of the game for me was when Andy wore this:
“Can I fly?” he asked as we all rolled with laughter, and “Do I fit in a pocket?” But what question isn’t funny, really, with “bra” on your forehead?
In all seriousness, though, playing Hedbanz made me wonder what “words” I show to the world. What do I present to the people I encounter every day? Do I wear “gracious”? Or “kind”? More likely, I show “impatient” and “insecure.”
Maybe, as with the game, we don’t even know what words we wear. Maybe our words spring from such deep, unconscious roots within that we don’t even realize what we show. “Unloved” or “ashamed.” “Conceited” or “controlling.” Do we see in ourselves the words that others read so clearly?
King David wrote, “Before a word is on my tongue,”—or, in this case, on my forehead—“you know it completely, O Lord.” David prayed to the One who knows all, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:4, 23-24).
Or in other words…God, You read the words I display. You’re acquainted with every anxious, disquieting thought that doesn’t trust You, and every offensive, idolatrous thought that dethrones You. You see them all, so search me, and change my words. Be glorified by what’s on my mind. Amen.
Not shifty, as in, tricky or deceptive (like the word actually means). But shifty, as in, shaky. As though the earth beneath me wasn’t solid, and things were unstable and unsure. Shifty!
Poor Andy hated that word. “I feel shifty,” I’d complain, and his eyes would glaze over slightly as he tried to figure out what I meant, and even more, what he could do about it. Around the time we got married, I quit saying “shifty,” because really, what could be more unattractive to a man than a whiny, insecure woman? I stopped saying it because Andy disliked it…but inwardly…I still felt shifty.
And I still do. In many areas, I’m shiftier than ever! But, the shiftiness is leading me to a sure foundation. Peter, whose nickname, incidentally, meant “rock,” knew the importance of building life on the Rock, Jesus Christ. In one of Peter’s letters, he quoted the prophet Isaiah, who foretold the coming of the Rock this way:
Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes in me will be unshakable.” (Isaiah 28:16 HCSB)
This week, I printed that verse, framed it, and put it on my desk. I’m working to memorize it now, and more importantly to come to know Christ as my precious cornerstone. So if you see me, will you please ask me to say Isaiah 28:16? I need the practice. And, if you catch me acting a little shifty, please remind me of the Rock!
A prayer from a shifty woman: Lord, what if this is the year I trust You as a sure foundation? What a rich life that would be! Oh, find me among the ones who believe, God. Move me from shifty to unshakable, and be my very Rock. Amen.
Last summer, a few friends and I studied through Kelly Minter’s book, Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break. (I highly recommend it and all her studies, by the way. Not that you asked. But there you go.) Of the many insights Kelly taught, one was simply this: the name Nehemiah means “Yahweh has comforted.”
How great is that? To remember, every time you said your name, that the Lord comforts you!
So today, dear reader, let’s take a minute to swap stories. In the comments below (click on the word “Comments” just beneath the title of this post), tell about a time when the Lord has comforted you. Maybe in the middle of a heartache, He spoke to you through His word, or encouraged you through someone else. Maybe you faced a health scare or a problem at work, and He made His comforting presence known. Whatever it is–short story or long, recently or years ago–let’s hear it! Let’s comfort one another with the comfort we’ve received from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)
I’m not really sure when my kids stopped looking like this. Wasn’t it only yesterday that they were singing along with “Elmo’s World” on Sesame Street, and sticking their fingers under the door every time I went to the bathroom?
“Doin’ in dere, Mommy?”
But honestly, as sweet as the toddlerhood and preschool days were, I’m happy they’re over. That season, while precious, was also exhausting. Today, I’m grateful for kids who can stay home alone, and fix their own food, and walk down the street to Circle K to buy me a Snickers bar.
My friend’s son went away to college this fall, and even as she cried, she knew. She still said, “This is what is supposed to happen.” Sad for the loss, but happy for all they’ll gain as a result. It’s what I’ve heard Andy say more times than I can count: “We aren’t raising kids. We’re raising adults.” Meaning, the whole point of why we do what we do? Is so they’ll grow up, and go to college, and stop singing “Elmo’s World.”
Spiritually speaking, I’m in another season right now that’s ending, too. Or rather, a season that already ended, quite some time ago, and I’m still hanging on to it, pretending. It’s like I’m gluing leaves back on tree branches, not wanting the autumn to come. I sense God saying, “See, I am doing a NEW THING!…Do you not perceive it?”
To which I respond, in sad and scared tears, “Yes, Lord, I perceive it. I just don’t like it.”
But even as I cry, I know. I know He has my good in mind. I know I’ll love the new just as much if not more than the old. Sad for the loss, but happy for all I’ll gain.
Lord, grow my faith. The whole point of why You do what You do is so I’ll grow up…so I’ll trust You more and know You better. You’re making rivers in the desert! I can hear the water roaring just around the bend. Give me the courage to dive in.
One day as she rode her scooter through our neighborhood, Molly overheard a couple inside a house. Their windows were open, she told me later, and as she went by, she heard a woman cry, and a man say in exasperation, “I do love you, honey.”
Molly’s story prompted two thoughts: first, I should close my windows, because who knows what people hear when they ride their scooters by our place! Secondly, I wondered, “What is it in us that makes us doubt love?”
My heart hurt for the neighbor I didn’t know. Whether or not the man truly loves her–and I hope he’s a devoted, faithful husband!–the fact is, her Father loves her, deeply. Completely. Unconditionally. But something in her still isn’t sure she’s loved, so the man still tries to convince her.
And if she’s like me, she isn’t easily convinced. The truth is, I doubt love, too. Every day, Andy gives me dozens of reasons to know he loves me, and so do my family and friends. But too often, I still wonder. “Do you love me?”
Scripture talks about something else overheard. It’s one of my very favorite verses:
The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
A love song, overheard overhead, sung by God Himself! Steven Curtis Chapman talks about it in a song I added to my “run” playlist last week. I added it, not just because its upbeat tempo makes me run faster, but because I need to hear its convincing chorus, over and over again:
There’s a song being sung over you
by the One who breathes life into you:
You are being loved,
right now, at this very moment
Just like the woman in my neighborhood, I doubt love. I take convincing. But what if I didn’t? What if I listened, and finally overheard what’s overhead?
“I do love you, child.”
Lord, open my ears–and my heart. Let me hear Your love song. Don’t let me miss a note. You do love me, and I love You. Amen.
From “Be Loved” by Christy Nockels:
Have you ever let yourself be loved by the One who made you?
Have you ever told your soul to believe that His heart is on your side?
You could even try to run away, but there’s nothing You can do
So just be loved. Be loved. He loves you.