Words, Words, Words

Shiloh Photography©

Words, words, words. We either use them like healing drops or killing poison. We all try hard to say less words, to keep our mouths shut, to use our words wisely, but we need to realize that we won’t succeed unless we abide in the Word of God.

The prudent woman not only speaks fewer words than the fool, but she knows when to speak wise words that bring healing and joy (Prov.12:18; 15:23). This kind of words, words that edify, words that bring healing and joy, words that tell the truth, can only come out -naturally- from our heart through our mouths, when the Word of the Builder, the Word of the God who heals and brings life, the Word of the God of all joy and perfect peace, the God of all Truth is dwelling in us. Remember that Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45) and that His Word must abide in us (Jn.15:7), do you see the connection there?

Reading the Word, memorizing it, meditating on it, listening to it, is really the only way for us to fill our hearts and minds with the kind of words that will build up and encourage others. Only when we make it a habit to have the Word dwelling richly in us, is that we will start winning our fight against the problem of having a loose tongue and foolish talk.

The Word of God dwelling richly in us will sanctify us (Jn.17:17) -including the way we use our words! The Holy Spirit through the Word of God dwelling in us, will remind us when we should keep our mouths shut, when we ought to speak, and what words to say and not to say. The Lord alone can put a guard over our mouths (Ps.141:3), and it is through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit that He does that.

“Let the Word of God dwell richly in you.” Col.3:16

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

A Poem by Jean Fleming

“At ninety-seven, will I be able to write a poem capturing the scaffold of my life? How would I want it to read?”

 

Vermeer, The Kitchenmaid Commons

 

Old woman, keeper of a house,
Keeper of her heart,
Lover of one man.
Her life a scaffold of discipline and creativity:
Morning after morning: Jesus.
Her heart Bible-bent.
Prayers rise.
Every day an offering of various-sameness:
One hour of exercise (Oh, I wish!),
Dishes washed, laundry hung,
Generations welcomed,
Fed.
A good book, read.
Art made life,
Life made art.
Preparation made forever.

Praying that we will live well the week ahead of us,

Blessings,

Becky

Throw Yourself Under the Wings of Your Redeemer and Into His Promises

Ruth is a woman who came boldly, and importunate before her redeemer, and she was not rejected but welcomed with steadfast love by him. Ruth is a woman who found safety under the wings of Boaz, because she knew he was a merciful and kind redeemer. There is so much we can learn from her, throwing ourselves under the wings of our Redeemer is one of the most important ones.

This is an excerpt from pastor Ben Merkle’s series on Ruth*. I pray you will find in these words encouragement and that you will fear not come under God’s wings and aim to be, by God’s grace a woman of faith, a Proverbs 31 woman.

“Ruth shows us what it looks like to embody the attributes that are in Proverbs 31. What is the most striking thing about Ruth?

Ruth’s loving-kindness, her faithfulness, her steadfast deep devotion and commitment to the promises of God. She throws herself with complete faith, headlong into the promises of God and in particular, she throws herself into the promises of God with respect to the relationships and trials that God has put her in. So she has this deep confidence in Yahweh. And it is so funny because why would this woman from Moab have this confidence? Why would she have that?

But God gives her this deep faith that she is able to take God’s promises and utterly commit herself to them and live out that commitment through her relationships, through her marriage, through her relationships as a wife, as a daughter in law, ultimately as a mother as well as she has children. She is somebody who looks at her relationships and her covenant commitments around her and sees what faith will look like in those relationships, and she does it after trial after trial gets thrown at her. She does it in the context of those sorts of trials that will make every one around you say, “Why are you still here? Why are you still committed to this? Clearly this is a dead end, just quit and go home. Or as Job’s friend would say “Just curse God and die because this is ridiculous.”  And yet Ruth will continue to throw herself at that.

And if you think about that all of the descriptions in Proverbs 31 start to make sense. This is a woman who is devoted to her husband, to her family, to everybody who is around her and she is spending herself on their behalf because of her deep faith. Ruth shows us what that would look like. Ruth shows you how to do this even when heavy trials come on you and every one is saying quit… Ruth hangs on because of her deep hessed, this loving-kindness that just keeps getting better and better the more the trials come at her. That is the virtuous woman. That is the one who that is described in Proverbs 31. That is a woman of valor who is a fitting wife for a man like Boaz, for this mighty warrior. And then when you see that, when you start seeing it that way, you start seeing that the virtues of the virtuous woman are all the natural implications, the natural result of being a woman of faith. If you are a woman of faith, if you have a deep commitment of God then these are the works that are going to flow from that. Faith without works is dead; if you have a living faith you have living works.”

Maybe today would be a perfect day for us to read Proverbs 31 and the book of Ruth all in one sitting.

Let’s pray that we will learn to throw ourselves under God’s wings, into His promises with deep faith. A faith that will be manifested in living works toward those around us even in the midst of trials.

Blessings,

Becky

*You can listen to the whole series on Ruth entitled, The Lovingkindness of God, by Pastor Merkle here. This particular excerpt comes from part three which you can listen here.

 

Prayer and Battles

I just finished reading -again- Douglas Wilson’s book, Standing on the Promises: A Handbook on Biblical Childrearing, and I have to say that this is the one book I most recommend on the subject. In one of the last chapters Douglas Wilson writes about parenting teenagers, and says that we need to pick our battles carefully and prayerfully.

Now, that is a phrase that struck me, because it is not only true when we are talking about childrearing. It is true about every battle we face.

As Christians we face many opportunities every day to pick battles not only in our home, but with our brothers and sisters in Christ, our close friends, and our fellow believers in social media: these are battles that call us to stand for the Truth, to say the right thing, to do the right thing, to expose lies, to confront sin, to ask the hard questions, etc. But we must learn that the fact that there are many opportunities for us to pick a battle every hour doesn’t mean that we are responsible to fight every battle.

We must learn to carefully and prayerfully (that is the key word!) discern when when are we supposed to do or say something. We must resist the temptation to react before praying to see if we are indeed called to do something more than praying for that particular person or situation. have you considered why do we so easily forget -in a very practical way- that the effectual prayer of the righteous man availeth much (Jas. 5:16)?

Some other women may face the temptation of never picking up any kind of battles, they never leave their comfort zone, and are always afraid to stand for the Truth, they are never willing to do and say the right thing, to expose sin, to deal with it. This exhortation is also for them. We all need to learn to pick our battles carefully and prayerfully. We all need to learn to live this.

Picking up our battles carefully and prayerfully will help us grow into more mature Christian women who can rest knowing that the Lord is Sovereign and uses pastors, elders, deacons, parents, professors, husbands, etc. to keep His people from going astray and make the Church even more beautiful.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Nine

Thank you, Friends, for coming again to our weekly meeting to discuss the book, We Never Stop Being Parents.

This week it is an honor and a great joy to introduce you to my friend Angel Warner. We met a few years ago when we left our sons in College, and we can honestly say that our sons have been blessed by this family. The Lord has given them grace to raise godly children and many of us are now enjoying the blessings of their hard labor. God is good!

Thank you, Angel.

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Chapter Nine.

Our Dreams, Their Dreams, though unsure of the source, I have often heard it said that the most important decision after choosing to serve God with one’s life is the answer to the question: Alongside whom shall I serve Him? 

For parents, even of children who have been given grace to rightly choose God as their master, the potential answer to the second question can be the source of much concern, and rightly so. As married people themselves, parents know firsthand the pitfalls of being joined into one flesh with another sinner. Moreover, married couples are joined to new families who are likewise comprised of sinners. The potential for conflict and trouble grows exponentially, but so do the opportunities for all involved to grow in wisdom, maturity, humility and grace. In chapter nine, the authors do a wonderful job of demonstrating some of the ways in which parents can fall off the rails if they are not seeking to guide their adult children by biblical principles. Deferring to preference when our children are selecting life mates has the potential of doing serious and long-lasting damage to our relationships. But, as in all stages of parenting, we have God’s Word to guide us toward prudence.

As has been pointed out in the other chapters we’ve read so far, our relationship with our adult children must shift from authority to counselor. The same holds true as our young adults select spouses. Because we want the best for our children, Christian parents begin praying early that God will be preparing godly spouses for them. As we pray, we naturally begin to envision the ideal characteristics we’d like to see in our future sons and daughters-in-law. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. The problem comes when we create idols: phantom men and women who will be members of our particular church, children of our dearest friends, skilled and witty conversationalists, gifted musicians or artists, on it goes, even down to physical features. As the authors so wisely point out, the problem is that these are our daydreams, and our children have no biblical obligation to make our dreams come true. For parents to try to impose such an obligation where none exists is to usurp the authority that belongs to the Lord as the sovereign over our lives and those of our children. In some Christian circles, fathers have been taught that they are the supreme authority even over their children’s marital choices. It is true that, for a season and to illustrate heavenly realities, fathers act as prophets, priests, and kings in their homes. However, this temporary authority is designed to help fathers point their children to the Lord who is the true Sovereign. Fathers who can see themselves and this temporary authority rightly should delight in relinquishing their adult sons and daughters into the care of a King whose judgments, mercy, and leading are without error. Thereafter, parents must trust their children and all their decisions into His care. Our dreams are not as important as God’s will. 

We have been through this process four times now, and I can say without reservation that it can be challenging. We have one son-in-law, two daughters-in-law, and one daughter-in-law to be. We dearly love each one of them, but we have had to confront our pre-conceived notions each time. I have to admit that this was most pronounced with our daughter, not because of her choice, but simply because she was a daughter. We had taught her (and all her brothers) the principles of biblical roles in marriage and male headship. It is one emotional milestone to marry off a son; it is quite another to walk one’s baby girl down the aisle and place her into the care of another man who will become her head. My husband and I found that it required us to exercise a new level of trust in the Lord’s care for our daughter. In contrast, when sons marry, there is something very humbling about watching the father of a young woman walk down the aisle and place his baby girl into the care of your son. This has been a summons for us to pray fervently that our sons will be godly, merciful, tender, strong, and faithful servant-leaders who will love these women who have been entrusted to them. In either circumstance, trusting God to lead our adult children in our stead is both freeing and sanctifying. Our children are called to their own journeys and their own struggles. They may choose spouses who surprise us. They may handle their trials in ways that we would not. Yet, if we truly believe that God is sovereign, we can trust that God is using these things to mature them in grace. We have seen this at work in the lives of our married children and have been amazed at the refinement that is being produced through trial. Likewise, we can see how God has used our relationships with our married children and their spouses to refine our own growth in grace.

One thing I most appreciated about this chapter was the continual exhortation to exercise love, even if we are disappointed in our children’s choices. It is so easy to be critical and narrow in our definition of who warrants our love. The biblical principle, however, is that we are to exercise love toward others—no qualifiers. There are times when adult children may enter into relationships that go beyond mere preferences crossing the line into sin. In the section “We Are Free to Love and Welcome”, the author states:

“By remembering the gospel message, that we are both sinful and flawed yet loved and welcomed, we can welcome this uninvited visitor warmly. When you keep the doors open, you’re helping your own cause because the uninvited visitor will view you as a friend and perhaps even a counselor. No one wants to take counsel from someone who really doesn’t like them. If you openly welcome your child’s new friend, you will remove the pressure of disapproval, and your child may then actually invite your counsel.” (p. 144)

Of course, there is a distinction between loving a sinner and enabling sin. True love does not make provision for the practice of sin. I believe this makes the author’s point above more poignant. It’s a fine line to walk, but when we are warm and loving, our children are more likely to be understanding of our refusal to facilitate immorality. Here again, obedience to the biblical principles, in this case exercising love and upholding righteousness, may not be easy, but God plainly tells us that He will bless faithfulness to His commands. Thus we have another opportunity to take Him at His word and show our children that our faith is genuine.

Finally, after reading this chapter, I found myself reflecting on two underlying theological aspects of the larger discussion. The first is indicated in the initial illustration about the father who refused to embrace his daughter’s romantic choice simply because the young man held doctrinal positions that were different than his own. While his reaction was extreme, if most of us were honest, we’d probably have to admit to this same type of bias in our own hearts. Of course, we would prefer that our children marry people who embrace our theological leanings. It certainly would make for fewer potential landmines in table conversations. Yet, to look askance at someone who does not is evidence that we are not discerning the body of Christ as we should. His church is much larger than our particular segment of the Christian faith, and we should embrace opportunities to exercise grace toward our Christian brothers and sisters. How much more so when they are part of our own families?

The other theological principle is that of generational faithfulness. If we truly believe that we and our descendants are in a covenant relationship with God, then we ought to be thinking in terms of how we are part of God’s plan to pass on the truths of the covenant to future generations. There is simply no way we can be part of this plan if we jeopardize our influence by ungracious behavior toward the parents of our grandchildren. Any hard-heartedness on our part will prohibit our witness. We must earn the right to be heard; we must demonstrate that we can be trusted; we must humble ourselves taking on the attitude of servant-hood to our adult children, loving them and showing them respect. Only then can our message convey a sincere love for our Lord and His covenant.

May our Lord help us to live with grace as we seek to be a blessing to the next generation.

Angel Warner

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Angel Warner is married to her best friend, David. They are parents of eleven (7 by birth, three by marriage, and one by engagement). Their greatest earthly delight is their family, which now also includes a grand-daughter, their first grandchild. More than anything, Angel lives in wonder and gratitude for the continual faithfulness, love, and mercy of the Father. She, her husband, and youngest daughter live in beautiful Geneva, Illinois, and are in the process of restoring a 1927 home—their third historic restoration project.

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Five

How was your week? Mine has been a mixture of everything: wonderful moments (visiting our dear friends in Las Vegas for a long weekend) and busy moments (having to catch up with all my papers to grade). But each day I have seen that I have been given more grace than what I’d have ever expected. God is good.

We are now in chapter five (half way through our book!), a chapter that mainly deals with three issues: being productive, financial responsibility, and living in community.

In this chapter the authors stir us up to consider how are we to live in community in our homes with our adult children when they are staying home for a season and for the good reasons. Newheiser warns us that “we might be tempted to micromanage their day or fly off the handle…” I agree. And even through distance, even if our children are off in college, we may face this same temptation because we are only a “text away” from them.

The authors recognize that not all the children of parents reading this book are Christians, so they remind their readers that “through common grace even a non-Christian can learn how to work hard and live productively in a community.” However, he also reminds us that we should never “lower our household standards to a level that would displease the Lord.

If we could summarize the suggestions the author gives us in the next part of the book we would have these main points:

1. Develop an open friendship with your children, so that they will be open to hearing our wise counsel when they ask for it (p.71). Maybe you can review your notes on chapter one as this was an important principle Newheiser laid clearly at the beginning of the book.

2. Parents must set expectations and make them known (p.72). And I particularly love that the author reminds us that “laying out these expectations is both wise and loving.

3. Expect them to be productive (p.72). Being lazy is a form of stealing, and not making the best use of our time is a sin. This sentence, in my opinion, summarizes the principle in a clear way:

“Rather that seeing a schedule as enslaving or as thwarting their creativity, our kids need to embrace it as the good means God has given, so that they might know the joy of accomplishing much for him (Prov.21:25).”

4. Young adults living at home should do an adult share of the housework (p.74). We have seen -and heard- this many times: children demanding to be respected and treated as adults but at the same time don’t want the full package of what it means being an adult. They want the privileges only but not the responsibilities.

“One twenty-one-year-old told us that he had learned that “nothing kills work ethic and discipline more effectively than the welfare state of parental indulgence.”

5. Establish reasonable moral standards (p.75). The reason, the motivation for this should be that we want to honor the Lord in our home. (Remember Eli and the way he neglected honoring God in his household?)

“We want to help our young people understand the difference between our negotiable house rules and timeless, biblical standards.”

6. Nothing is more important for living in community with others than trust (p.77).

7. Failure to meet expectations must result in consequences (p.78). I have found through many conversations with friends that trying to avoid the consequences we, parents, find ourselves tempted to overlook the lack of meeting of the expectations we have established beforehand. We are may times so much like Eli. We forget that God cannot be mocked, sooner or later the consequences of all our sins will come.

6. Follow through (p.80).

“Discipline is hard work and often unpleasant. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet those who have been trained by it afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” /Heb.12:11). But we continue to discipline our children in the hope that God will work in their hearts to make them wise.”

7. Get good, godly counsel from your pastor or trusted friend and cry out to God for the courage to do the best, most loving thing for your young adult (p.81).

I purposely left out the point in which the author says that, forcing or not an adult child living at home to go to church is a matter of personal conscience on the part of the parents. And I did so because I think that in this particular issue, the godly counsel of the pastor would always be necessary.

What about you? Thoughts?

May God give us grace to parent well each one of our children through all the different seasons of their lives.

God is faithful and good, and in Him we can fully trust,

Becky