What’s Your Story?

One of the assignments in the Solomon Says study is to write your testimony, the story of how you decided to become a Christian. Remembering how God drew us to him is important because it reminds us of what God has done for us, and when we tell this to others we can encourage them and offer them a hope that the world cannot give. Recently, my co-teacher and friend, Katrina, and I talked about the importance of sharing our testimonies and she played the Matthew West song, “Next Thing You Know,” for me. The lyrics of the song reflect his testimony and his request for each of us to consider, “What’s your story?” Katrina and I have written our stories to share with you.

My Story

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (NIV).

So, what’s your story? Share it with someone today!

Thank You!

Last week our class completed the 11-week Solomon Says study. It was amazing, and I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to teach this class. Our group was diverse and ranged in age from 20s to 80s, with every decade represented. It was a perfect first class. Not only did I learn Biblical wisdom, but I also found great encouragement from these sweet ladies and am so blessed to call each of them friend. I would like to thank each of these women for taking the class and for showing me such a clear example of faithfulness to the Lord!

Blessings to

Sonjia, Kathy, Barbara B., Katrina, Stacey, Michelle B., Michelle D., Liz F., Barbara G., Krystal, Leanne, Hope, Liz H., Sue, Diana, Ruth, Kelli, Lucy, Jane, Donna, Kailyn, Christina, Doris, Janet, Nancy, Kim, Bobbie, Pat, Lydia, Elizabeth, and Janie.

 

Defining Friendship

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

Sometimes friends come into our lives for a season and other times they remain there for life. Regardless of the length of time we have some friends, all friendships have a purpose, usually meeting our needs for companionship, help, fun or refreshment.

As I’ve thought about the friends I’ve had over the years, floods of pleasant memories rush through my mind. When I was growing up, my family moved several times, and my circle of friends changed with each move, but the memories with my childhood friends are all the same – playing after school at each other’s houses, enjoying the toys in someone else’s room (I particularly remember liking the Strawberry Shortcake collection one of my friends had), running from yard to yard to play hide and seek, and riding bikes for miles around the neighborhood.

As a teenager, I enjoyed long phone conversations with my best friends (much to the annoyance of my brother who wanted the phone to talk to his girlfriend), going to the lake with one friend each summer, and writing letters to my best friend from ninth grade when she moved across the country. In college, I enjoyed friendships made through my classes, school-related activities and Bible studies. These friends encouraged me through tough class schedules, heartbreaks and career decisions.

As a young single woman, my friends were mostly in the same station of life as I was, and we encouraged each other as we waited for our Prince Charming. When I got married, my husband became my best friend, but I also developed other friendships with women both younger and older than myself. These ladies helped me to be a better wife and mom.

Reflecting on all of my different friends through the years and how they helped me through seasons of life, I believe they shared some common characteristics that help me define the word friend:

F aithful                                                                                                                                                    “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

Refreshing                                                                                                                                                “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9

I ntercedes for us                                                                                                                                    “My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.” Job 16:20-21

E ncourages us                                                                                                                                        “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. ” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

N udges us to be our best                                                                                                                        “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

D iscourages wrong behavior                                                                                                              “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:5-6

My lifetime friendships have one thing in common: God. Because friends are usually brought together through a common interest, when faith in God is that common interest, he becomes the glue that holds them together. Proverbs 17:17 reminds us that true friends know our ugly side and still love us and gladly help us in our times of need. As you remember your closest friends today, thank the Lord for them!

 

Strength and Dignity

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)

When my daughter was five years old and completely enamored with all things Disney Princess, I wanted to make sure she would understand that her beauty wasn’t dependent on her looks. In her princess world’s eyes, beauty consisted solely of tiaras, fancy dresses, elaborate hair dos, and makeup. And, because her favorite princess was Ariel, beauty also required a mermaid tail!

I explained to her that while dressing up was fun and it was okay to make ourselves look pretty, even more importantly, we want to make sure our “heart” is dressed beautifully. This meant having the godly characteristics of honesty, kindness, respect for ourselves and others, and love. I put all of this in a letter so she could look back at it any time, especially when she became a teenager, and I’ve taken it to heart myself.

Living in a world where we are bombarded with images of “worldly beauty,” it is easy to get caught in the trap of making our identity synonymous with our looks. But, when we keep ourselves grounded in the Biblical view of beauty, we can be like the Proverbs 31 woman who adorned herself with “strength and dignity.”

The idea of dignity in this chapter describes someone deserving of respect. Proverbs 31:25 says a person with dignity (strong moral character) has the joy of the Lord and does not fret about the future. Before the attribute of dignity could be applied to the Proverbs 31 woman, she first had to live out Proverbs 11:3: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (NIV)

How did the Proverbs 31 woman attain integrity? She did so by reading and practicing God’s word daily. She realized that her life should be based on the truths found in the Bible and not on worldly ideas because, as Solomon noted, duplicity destroys. This principle of keeping our focus on God’s word as our guidebook for life and not gravitating toward worldly views should apply to everything we do. You simply cannot pick and choose the rules and ideas you like from God’s word and mix them with other ideas from the world to create your own system for living. You must choose to live by Biblical truth or else destruction is promised, as Proverbs 11:3 notes.

One way you can choose to live your life by God’s system is by choosing a mate who exhibits the godly traits of trustworthiness, respect (for others and themselves), responsibility, good judgment and faith in the Lord.  Dedicate yourself to being these things as well. Dress yourself with strength and dignity, and you will attract someone with similar “clothes.”

 

 

Forgiveness Equals Love

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”

Proverbs 10:12 (ESV)

 

How hard it is to love those who have offended us! The Lord makes it clear that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45), and we are to forgive others just as he has forgiven us (Matthew 6:12-15). While it’s easy to say, or even think in our minds, “I forgive you,” to truly feel that forgiveness and act on it is a whole other story.

In the past three years, I’ve struggled with two situations in which I was deeply hurt. While I thought that I had forgiven the people involved, my heart hardened toward them when I saw them or heard about them. I realized I had not truly forgiven them and so I began praying to the Lord to help me with this. I think that’s why he kept putting one of the people in my path … daily. As I studied the topics of justice and forgiveness, I discovered:

  • I was being judgmental toward this person. While what they did was wrong, it was not my place to “sentence” them for their actions. Only the Lord is the judge and he will take care of the consequences for their sin (Proverbs 24:12). When I judge others, that also is sin, and sadly, I will be repaid for that.
  • Forgiving a person means wanting blessing for them. The only way I could begin to feel that way is to pray for good things for the other person until God softened my heart toward them and I could be glad that the other person was doing well.
  • Forgiveness equals love. Proverbs 10:12 explains this: forgiveness covers all offenses. Not just some offenses. All offenses. The opposite of love is hate, which only results in strife. This strife comes not only in the form of broken relationships but also as internal pain and anguish, which ultimately results in stress and health problems for the person who harbors unforgiveness.
  • Often, forgiveness does not happen instantly. It is a journey and it takes time. To achieve true forgiveness, we cannot simply withdraw from or avoid an offending party (unless, of course, that person puts you in danger) and hope that our hearts will heal. We must walk through the process, pray through the process and wait on the Lord.

Sadly, over the years how many friendships have been destroyed because someone was offended and never let go of their anger and hurt? How many unforgiving souls have found themselves with chronic illnesses?  Unforgiveness is toxic, and yet it is so easy for many of us to hold on to it.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to forgive another person, begin praying for love in your heart to grow that you may truly be able to wish the other person well. While this is not easy, the benefits of forgiveness far outweigh the consequences of unforgiveness.

 

No Nutter Butters!

“To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.”

Proverbs 12:1 (NLT)

Are you tempted by sweets? I have to admit I love a good chocolate chip cookie, or a peanut butter cookie, or a Girl Scout Thin Mint, or…. well, you get the picture.  Sweets are tempting for me, and this seems to run in my family.

When my daughter Caroline was a toddler, one of her favorite treats was Nutter Butters, those awesome peanut shaped, peanut butter filled cookies. One day, I left a package of them on the kitchen counter and Caroline spied them. While she could see them, in all her toddler height she couldn’t reach them. So, she would stand in front of that counter, point persistently and say, “Cookie, Cookie, Cookie?” My reply was an equally persistent, “No. No cookies right now.” We are both stubborn, so after this went on for a while, finally, to make a statement to end this question-and-answer battle, or maybe I was just hoping for the out of sight, out of mind idea to work, I took the Nutter Butter package off the counter and put it on the top shelf of the pantry.

I went to another room to take care of something, and the next thing I hear is Caroline crying out loudly from the kitchen. I rushed back to find her hanging from the top shelf of the pantry. She had scaled those wire rack shelves and was holding on to the top shelf with one hand and the cookie package with the other. Because she wouldn’t let go of the cookies, she couldn’t climb down. I ran over to get her and placed her safely back on the floor.

This story reminds me of how we often don’t heed the instruction we are given, whether it comes from another person like our parents or our spouse, or from the Lord. Rules and counsel are in place to keep us safe, and when we run ahead in our own “wisdom” especially because of selfish desires, we find ourselves in trouble, just like Caroline did on the pantry shelf. The trouble we bring upon ourselves often results in correction. When we decide to heed instruction and correction and realize that it is for our best interests, we can grow and learn. Otherwise, as Proverbs 12:1 states, we are not very smart and will most likely find ourselves in the same trouble again and, at the very least, at odds with the person who tried to correct us.

Proverbs 1:8-9 explains the beauty of instruction and teaching from our parents:

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
    and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
  for they are a graceful garland for your head
    and pendants for your neck.”

We should view instruction and teaching, even in the form of correction, as a crown for our heads similar to the wreath of victory worn by Olympians and as a beautiful necklace that adorns us with the beauty of godliness.

And, if you’re wondering did Caroline finally get to have that cookie after trying out her ninja climbing skills? Well, my answer to her was,  “No, not right now. ” After more tears and a final acceptance of the fact that she would not get a cookie, Caroline was content with other things until she got to have her cookie…. after dinner that day!