Lay Your Burdens Down

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

I recently read a book that encourages us to unlearn the patterns we have established as adults – things like being self-sufficient, educated, busy, apathetic and private. The book is Growing Down by Michael Kelley, and it includes some fascinating points that fit within the idea of Proverbs 3:5-6 – rely on God and not on yourself.

Kelley’s main argument is that we become adults when we learn to be self-sufficient, and it is this self-sufficiency that runs counter to what Jesus asks of us – to come to him as little children who rely on him, wonder at him, rest in him, trust him, and let our real selves be known to him and to others.

There’s no doubt that adulthood changes us from carefree kids to burdened adults with worries and disappointments that we accumulate over time. But Jesus calls us to lay our burdens down at his feet, rest in him and trust him (Matthew 11:29-30), which comes more easily when we have those childlike qualities of dependence, excitement about everything, and a carefree attitude that does not worry about what others think of us.

Proverbs 3:5 says we are to trust God with our whole heart, and to do that we must clean the clutter from our heart and make it singularly focused on him, which brings us back to complete trust and dependence on God.

Do you trust God with your whole heart? Or is your heart divided by other things in your life? Have you laid your burdens down, or do you continue to carry them with you over the miles and years? These are questions that came to my mind after I read Kelley’s book.

I really enjoyed Growing Down and found the points thought-provoking and relatable. Kelley covers several practical areas of life where we can apply the changes he suggests, such as moving from self-reliance to dependence, complexity to simplicity and apathy to passion. I particularly enjoyed the examples he used from his own life to illustrate some of his points. Kelley has a great sense of humor, and if you are a parent you will particularly enjoy his stories.

While I was intrigued by most of his points, especially those in the chapters on self-consciousness to innocence and education to wonder, I think there are points in other chapters, especially the one on busyness to rest that I’m not sure I agree with. He supports his points with Scripture but I think there are places where his points can be clarified and strengthened. Regardless, this is a great book to inspire you to consider whether you have a childlike faith and how you can grow down to attain it and grow up in Christ.

Folly, Folly, Folly, Get Your Adversity Here!

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’”

Proverbs 9:16-17 (ESV)

Think back to your English 102 class. Do you remember the literary term personification? It means giving human qualities to an animal, inanimate object or abstract idea. Solomon uses personification in Proverbs 9 to illustrate the differences between Wisdom and Folly. Because this chapter concludes five chapters of Solomon counseling his son against the perils of adultery, Wisdom and Folly represent faithfulness and adultery. But they can also represent wise and foolish ways in a broader sense.

The first half of chapter 9 describes Wisdom as a woman who is hard-working (v. 1), prepared (v.2), persistent, available and visible (v. 3). The benefits of following her are long life and understanding (v. 6, 10, 11). She welcomes all to her home, especially those who are “simple” and who lack understanding (v. 4). That means everyone is welcome. We don’t go to Wisdom already knowing the answers.

The Lady Wisdom lives in a large house (it has seven pillars according to verse 1), so there is enough room and wisdom for us all. So, why is it that so many ignore Wisdom and are more attracted to Folly?

Folly sits atop a hill like Wisdom, but she is described as loud, undisciplined and without knowledge (v. 13-14). She promises fun. The party’s at her house, but she did not prepare a meal like her opponent Wisdom did. Instead the food she promises is stolen (v. 17). There are no benefits to following Folly, and the consequence of following her is death (v. 18), which her guests do not learn until they are already in her presence.

What do Wisdom and Folly look like in modern times? Wisdom is God’s way. I think of Wisdom as God’s word and friends who give us godly counsel. If Wisdom were a store like the School House Rock store of adverbs (Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here!), we could choose from items like faithfulness, humility, love, peace, joy, patience, goodness, honesty, mercy, and generosity. When you find yourself in any situation in your life where you need wisdom, see if one of those things would help the situation. Wisdom is God’s way.

Folly, on the other hand, is shown by listening to the lies of the world and following any advice that is contrary to God’s word. Folly’s store offers selfishness, pride, hate, anger, impatience, dishonesty, and discontent as her valuable items. They are disguised as ways to find happiness but in the end they bring misery because the items are stolen goods, quick fixes, shortcuts or counterfeits.

How could Folly’s harmful items look like something we would pursue? Remember Folly is loud, and she offers treats that appeal to our humanness – those things we think will make us happy. Consider some of Folly’s enticements:

“Love and security”: My husband/wife hasn’t been paying me much attention and that man/woman over there seems to like my company, so I’ll pursue him/her.

“Riches”: The government doesn’t need all my taxes. A slight change in the numbers will really help me. My money is my money.

“Self Love”: I will never forgive that person for what he/she did to me. Never!!!

“Self Pride”: That person makes me so mad I’m going to tell everyone about it and ruin his/her reputation. He/she deserves it!

Folly’s enticements only end in adversity. When we follow Folly, it might be fun for a while but eventually we find ourselves in a world of hurt, disappointment and broken fellowship with God, friends and family. So avoid Folly’s call and resolve to listen to and follow Wisdom. She has plenty of room at her house, and she’ll be glad you came!

 

 

Wisdom Over Wealth

“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

Proverbs 8:10-11 (NIV)

Someone once told my husband work wasn’t really work if you enjoy your job. Over the years, I’ve had three careers: marketing and public relations professional, college English professor, and my current job, a stay-at-home mom. In this third career, I occasionally struggle with thoughts like, “Am I doing enough? After all, I’m not making any money.” As CEO of the Gangl household, I manage and keep all inventories stocked – food, clothing, school supplies, cleaning items, entertainment, and the list goes on. Going back to the quote at the beginning of this post, I can say I really do love my job so it doesn’t feel like work. But this nagging thought occasionally creeps up, “Why aren’t you out there making money? Using your college degrees? Contributing to society?”

To combat this thought I find encouragement in Proverbs 8:10-11 which tells me that wisdom is much more valuable that wealth. In my life, wisdom tells me that taking care of my husband and raising my daughter full-time is what is best for our family – they flourish when I’m available to help them, and their happiness actually makes me happy.

When I think back on all the good times my daughter and I had when she was a preschooler at home all day, I am so thankful for those memories – times like having a picnic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, juice boxes and fruit snacks on a beach towel on the back patio; running down the neighborhood sidewalk with our arms straight out in front of us while we wore a garbage bag tied around our neck for our superhero capes; pulling her in the wagon around the Botanical Gardens; and watching hours and hours of Sesame Street, the Wiggles and Dora the Explorer together. From her elementary school days, I cherish memories like sitting on the back porch swing to talk about her school day while we ate popsicles; doing homework together; experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen; and creating our own spa, green mud masks, nail polish and bubble bath all included. You may ask, “Where is wisdom in that?” Wisdom was time invested in my daughter that fostered our close relationship built on trust and love, and most importantly a love for God.

By choosing God’s wisdom to trust him in this stage of my life as a full-time mom, I have been blessed with a beautiful godly daughter who will one day be my best friend. I have invested in her so that she may bless others and be a light shining for God. That alone will produce a larger investment than any salary I could have ever imagined receiving from any job (Proverbs 8:19). Seeing my daughter bring joy to others is a fruit more valuable than rubies to me.

So, full-time moms (and dads), if you feel like you’re not doing enough, remember wisdom wins out over wealth every time. Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3) and they are your blessing. While the days can be long, the years are short, so invest that time in your family and rest in the decision to choose wisdom over wealth.

Like a Tie Around Your Finger

“Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Proverbs 7:2-3 (NIV)

Solomon repeatedly emphasizes in Proverbs the importance of studying God’s word and incorporating his commands into our daily lives so that we can live close to him and glorify him. With our busy schedules, it can be hard to find time to read God’s word daily which is why some people choose a devotional book to make it possible to read a portion of Scripture each day. I currently read Scott Patty’s Words of Grace and found it a refreshing devotional book.

Words of Grace is organized into three sections: Our Great God, God’s Work in Our Lives and Responding to God in Faith. Instead of providing a daily personal anecdote as many devotionals do, Patty instead explains a passage of Scripture and then provides personal questions or thoughtful statements for the reader to consider. All of the devotions point to Christ and will help you grow in your Christian walk.

The layout of the book is elegantly simple – Scripture is written on the left page and the devotion on the right page, so if you did not have your Bible close by the passage is written for you. While the devotions are short, they include a wealth of detail and the personal questions will give you things about which to pray.

The devotions in the book are one good way of “binding [God’s commands] on your fingers,” as Solomon says to his son in Proverbs 7:3. They are like the tie you put on your finger to not forget something.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes and the opinions I have expressed in my review are entirely my own.

Guide, Guardian and Counselor

“When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.”

Proverbs 6:22 (NIV)

When we first brought our daughter home from the hospital, Bert and I would check on her constantly – at least once every hour, we would peer into her crib and just watch her. Sometimes we peeked in to simply watch in awe, and other times we did so to make sure she was still breathing. We watched over her diligently, marveling at our precious gift and making sure she was safe and well.

Each night when we put her in her crib and got ready to go to sleep ourselves, we played contemporary Christian music in her room as she fell asleep. We thought it would soothe her and impress godly wisdom upon her thoughts, even at such a young age. It may sound silly, but it was our way of beginning to share our faith with her and to instill our love for God in her. As her parents, we wanted to make sure our daughter would know the importance of wisdom.

In Proverbs 6, Solomon continues to remind his son of the importance of wisdom. He instructs him to keep his father’s commands and not forsake his mother’s teaching (Proverbs 6:20). In this chapter, both parents are mentioned in bestowing godly wisdom upon their child, and the child is encouraged to keep and follow this wisdom (Proverbs 6:21) because as verse 22 says, it will guide him, watch over him, and speak to him.

Wisdom can be found in and touches all aspects of our lives — when we’re walking, sleeping and going about our daily business.

1. When we walk, wisdom is our guide. The idea of walking implies movement or heading toward a destination. Often, there are many ways to get from one place to another and the route we choose can greatly affect our experience along the way. Have you ever tried to take a shortcut and found yourself lost, or worse, in a bad situation? Wisdom is like a road map to help us know the safest routes and the pitfalls along the way. Wisdom is found in God’s word (Psalm 119:105, Proverbs 6:23a).

2. When we sleep, wisdom watches over us. I love this idea of wisdom as my guardian, even while I’m sleeping. My story about Bert and I watching over Caroline is the closest illustration I could think of to show how attentive God is to us (Psalm 121:5-6 and Zephaniah 3:17). In the same way, when we heed wisdom, we are kept safe at night and can sleep sweetly (Proverbs 3:24).

3. When we are going about our day and need counsel, wisdom speaks to us. Wisdom is our counselor. How often do you consult your Bible when you have a problem? How in tune are you with the Holy Spirit, the counselor Jesus left with us (John 14:16, 25-26)?

Wisdom is always available to us, and we, as Christians, should embrace it. If you don’t know where to begin, consider what Moses told Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (NIV)

Like Solomon, Moses knew that no matter whether we were walking, talking or sleeping, we should love God with all our heart, soul and strength. This is our wisdom, and what a comfort to know that through this wisdom we have a guide, guardian and counselor to help us.

 

 

 

Oh, Happy Day!

“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

Matthew 28:5-6a (NIV)

I wish you a blessed day.

Happy Easter!