Category Archives: Refined by the Word

How it starts <3

Someone who reads this fairly regularly asked me what I read; as in, who I would recommend as solid faith writers.

It was an interesting question and given the fact that we currently have five open book shelves and some unknown number of hidden book depositories in various closets and boxes that I am too embarrassed to show my husband…

and perhaps an order or two on the way as we speak…

just kidding…

it was fun to think about what my answer to that might be.

As I continue to gather my thoughts on that…

because…

never in a hurry to actually answer in a concise way and I am still formulating my response…

I thought I would just give you my current ingredients for an “ideal quiet time” these days of summer 2017.

And by ideal, I mean that I don’t have to rush around to get out the door and be somewhere before 9 AM.

First off, I do rise early and start in with…

I have done this for years and gone through gallons of coffee, a forest worth of Kleenex, multiple pairs of readers as the eyes have dwindled in strength…

and enough notebooks to…

well…

fill a bookshelf or two.

In all of them, there is nothing routine about the entries except the date.

I always start with the day and the date..and then some days I pour out what’s on my heart.

Some days I start right in with notes from what I read.

And some days…a lot of days in this season…all that is there… is just the day and the date because words have never formed.

It’s called a dry season, people.

And when we have them…we just keep doing the thing until the drought ends.

So in my summer stack of 2017, here is where I connect with God and get fed from the words and writings and thoughts of others on a daily basis…

<3 Current devotional reading is including a “girlfriend” devotion, that two other friends are also reading, called…

The biggest value to this…

besides what God might say on a particular day that I need to hear, in a way I might not think to say it…

is the connectedness I experience knowing my two friends are somewhere reading the same thought.

We don’t talk about it every day, but from time to time will share a text comment or thought about how it hit us.

We are busy, my friends and me…busy with house maintenance and responsibilities of ministry and work and tending to our families that are now navigating adult years as well as loving and caring for extended family.

So sharing a study with a friend or two is a sweet way to embrace a deeper level of friendship as you grow closer to Jesus together. Even if it is long-distance.

<3 I am also reading a collection of daily devotions from A. W. Tozer that are exerts from some of his longer writings.

Tozer was a pastor in the early 1900’s and yet his words are relevant as they inspire me to a deeper level of love and devotion to Jesus.

I do believe he was a coffee drinker and journal writing kind of guy and his words challenge me each morning and lead me from study into worship.

<3 For actual Bible reading and focus, I am continuing to visit and meditate and chew on those Proverbs from earlier this summer.

I was delighted to discover a treasure on our book shelf called Ancient Wisdom The Book of Proverbs with Devotions for Today by James MacDonald. Thirty days of thoughtful applications based on various themes of Proverbs.

Each day ends with a few questions to help me respond and apply the teaching.

It has been encouraging and also a bit painful…

for example…

the teachings on “laziness” have revealed some areas where I have allowed circumstances to overwhelm me.

This morning I had to face a hard truth that I have slipped into an attitude of numbness about things.

He writes, “It’s also very easy to lose the will to care about God and other people when life gets hard and the burdens of the day seem too heavy to bear.” page 39

I may have written “OUCH” in the margin.

<3 Which brings me to the final ingredient of my “dailies” …

I have been using my beloved Prayers that Avail Much collection of Scripture based prayers compiled by Germaine Copeland.

I wore out paper back copies of Volumes 1, 2 and 3 YEARS ago…so eventually purchased the leather bound set of all of her prayers.

Lately, when I realized my prayers had just become venting, griping and whining…

I pulled this old friend off the shelves and have literally been reading through the prayers to end my daily quiet time with God.

If His Word is a sword, then this is one powerful weapon because Copeland has simply taken line after line of God’s written word and woven powerful, mind-changing, attitude transforming prayers that renew my soul to be God-aligned.

And as only He can do…today’s entry was about casting my cares and burdens on Him…

which tied beautifully with the conviction I received in Proverbs.

<3 And then I close up my books and lay down my pen and listen.

This morning the Spirit led me to sing what I can remember of Blessed Assurance and since I love music but am ill-equipped to produce it, I pulled up Third Day’s version on my iPhone and just sat with tears streaming down my face and let them sing to the glory of God while my soul rode along with them.

When I opened my eyes, a little bunny was snacking on our petunias and I felt God smile as I opened the door and the critter just kept munching as he gazed over the top of the pink bloom at my bed-head hair and mascara streaked cheeks.

So that’s how I start my day.

Tomorrow I will give you some other resources I have found to be good food for spirit and soul.

In the meantime…God bless and I would love to hear what YOU do to start your day <3

Day 4 When we are clueless about what we really lack

Are you a Mary or a Martha?

That’s a good discussion question for a women’s small group.

We can spend a fair amount of time bouncing around self-analysis as we ponder the account of the two sisters welcoming Jesus into their home as recorded in Luke 10: 38-42.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”   verses 38-40

Now men, you actually can participate in this as well without losing one ounce of your man-ness. But since you may not have ever gotten to study Mary and Martha at one of your men-meetings, let me give you a hint….at various times and in various situations, we can be one or the other.  We all have a little bit of both of these sisters in each of us…male and female.

Because the real issue with Mary and Martha falls on a level of humanity that we can all relate to.

What Martha “lacked” was not only an extra pair of hands but a deep need for someone to notice all the effort and fuss she was going to.

We see in the scripture that SHE welcomed Jesus into HER home.

Can’t you see her all full of good intentions to be the hostess with the mostest?

We know Jesus wasn’t traveling alone so all his posse would have joined Him, plus any neighbors and locals that were gathering around to hear His teaching.

And all of a sudden Martha’s vision of this lovely Pinterest-worthy gathering became more than she could handle and where in the world was that useless air-head of a sister?? Sitting at the feet of the Teacher, for heaven’s sake…literally.

So Martha interrupts the actual Word of God speaking forth, in flesh and blood, sitting right there in her living room to whine…..

“What about me, Jesus? Don’t you care about me….and all my hard work and all my preparations that I am so busy and consumed with? And why does she get to just sit there amongst all the men folk and do nothing?????”

Ok

We don’t really know how she said it, but if it was me when I am in full-on Martha mode, that is what it sounds like.

Because when I have taken a good and godly idea and then promoted it to a level that was never intended nor necessary, I get overwhelmed and then I start looking around for the slackers in my lack.

And I can grow resentful that I am doing all the work because they are not doing their part.

But God…

said to Martha…

Martha…Martha…you are worried and troubled about many things…but only one thing is needed…and Mary…Mary has chosen that good thing…that one thing…that will not be taken from her.  verses 41-42

It turns out when I am all out of whack because I am lacking the support, recognition and acknowledgment I think I need for the effort I am putting forth on a project…perhaps what I am really lacking is proper perspective to see the ONE THING I should be focusing on.

Because…

With God we lack nothing <3

 

 

 

It would seem we need no instruction in how to cheat…

I have continued to puzzle over one of the Proverbs passages from last week…the one in Proverbs 19.

An interesting couplet of thoughts that at first seemed unrelated in the NKJV.

What is desired in a man is kindness…and a poor man is better than a liar. V 22

Kindness and how it relates to sacrificing truth to gain wealth.

So I have been “watching” for this parable in real life.

Because the point of the Proverbs is for us to SEE with our spiritual eyes and understand the TRUTH of these statements, so they TRANSFORM us.

And yesterday I got my AHA! moment.

I was helping Rachel yesterday with corralling the band of brothers as she continues to heal and care for Sweet Caroline while Zach returned to work.

They had given the boys a Monopoly Junior game and so I got invited to join the fun.

At six, Graham has gained the skills to play this kind of game. Emmett…not so much.

I give Graham credit for his patience with his brother who tends to roll the dice in a way that scatters all the pieces on the board.

Every. Single. Time.

And it didn’t seem to bother him one little bit that Emmy counts four squares by choosing any four he would like instead of four in a row.

But I also noticed that Graham was able to manipulate the game in such a way that he could engineer extra turns for himself and find ways to decrease our stacks of paper money while increasing his.

I spent a lot of the game pointing and counting squares for Emmett while keeping my eye on Graham and reminding him about the honesty factor.

Not gonna lie…it hurt.

It was love at first sight for me with this little goober.

And I thought for the first two years that we finally had seen the birth of a perfectly faultless human.

I know.

Forgive me Lord.

But love is blind until the eyes are open.

As it turns out our little people are 100% human, just like every one of us.

Graham, Emmett…Joel and even, sigh, Sweet Caroline…will not have to be taught how to cheat to win.

Their mommy and daddy, supported and loved and backed up by an army of family warriors, teachers, church leaders and mentors will prayerfully instruct them…

in every arena from board games to boardrooms…

It is better to have been fair and just and lose the game than to win through dishonest means.

Correction is hard and it hurts…but when we realize that we ALL have the same weakness…we can administer the needed correction with love and grace and confidence because we KNOW it is God’s way…

and His ways are always best.

I understood God’s heart behind this Proverb more clearly yesterday.

I understood how unbecoming the desire to have the most of whatever is available is and how beautifully precious being motivated by kindness is.

The premium is on the heart…not the profit.

I understand that LOVE means we help each other to move away from our natural tendencies and bent AND move toward God’s transforming and restoring love.

Now to turn this lesson inward to make sure that greedy little six year old that still rears her head from time to time in Lola gets called out and continues to receive and apply the teachings from God’s heart.

 

I marvel at the strength of fragile things <3

So we are watching the corn do its thing here in the Midwest and I tell you, if you stood still and just watched for part of the day I am quite certain you could literally see it growing.

Straight rows of it, all shooting up out of nicely tilled and prepared soil.

And sure…we need the rains to come at the right time…not too much and not to little.

But right now, and for miles upon miles, in every direction the eye can see…corn and soy beans are marching across the prairie in a thick carpet of green that just about takes my breath away as we drive the flat ribbons of highway.

And yet, here is what intrigues me.

The power of life forcing itself through solid rock.

Breaking through the barriers of fences made of unbudging steel…

Finding a footprint in a place that is hard and unkind to growth…

a seed will take what little soil is available…

and push its way sunward.

And these brave soldiers remind me of…

the power of God’s creative beauty and breath and redemption.

And how much stronger life is than that which would crush what appears to be so weak.

How can a small green leaf break through rock?

But isn’t it true?

Life is stronger than death.

Light is greater than darkness.

In our weakness, He becomes our strength and we also…

rise up from the hard, dry, rocky ground of adversity.

We, too, can feel as if we will be crushed at times…

paved over by the concerns of this world…

but in Christ, we rise…

living and breathing and beautiful for His glory.

Press on today, sweet seedling of the Lord.

Push through the granite base of whatever you are facing as you continually reach heavenward.

God sent His Son to redeem us that we might be raised up with Him…

beautifully fragile in our suffering and yet fiercely strong in His love.

A planting of the Lord to display His glory and His splendor.

Bloom, dear one, bloom…just the way you were made to do <3

Use your own canteen…

A lot of the Proverbs at the start of this chapter a day adventure have to do with purity and particularly in the area of marital faithfulness. There are many warnings about straying and it is clear that God is very interested in setting boundaries – for our good – in the way we order the most intimate of relationships.

I am truly blessed to have fallen head over heels with this guy…

and so reading through those was kind of like…eh…doesn’t pertain to me…

But God’s word is ALWAYS relevant and ALWAYS has a purpose…and so I took a three way approach to some of those more ick-factor Proverbs.

First, they serve as a standard for us. The give us wisdom so that our conversations with others, whether they are young or old, single or married, are framed safely within the context of God’s Truth. With our thoughts lined up with His, our words are seasoned with wisdom.

We never know the influence and power our words can be on another who is considering a fatal mistake. These truths of God will come out in the way we speak as we work them deep into our spirits.

Second, they strengthen and affirm us IF and WHEN temptation ever does decide to catch us unaware. They help us remember that we can be taken off guard when we are UNGUARDED. Our culture is rife with humor and innuendo and a general lack of accountability. There is no end to the material that the enemy could use to pull even the most solid relationship under the current.

Like all Scripture, getting it in our head and writing it on our hearts helps to shape the way we think and react.

And third, just because I do not have a wandering eye when it comes to my marriage doesn’t mean these Proverbs don’t have a warning for me.

Take Proverbs 5:15.

Drink water from  your own cistern, and running water from your own well. 

As I read that passage, I understood that it is speaking about the fidelity of marriage in the most literal sense based on the context.

But the more I thought about it, because I kept being drawn to that passage in particular…and I had a lovely conversation with God about how this didn’t apply to me….

He gently and kindly reminded me of how I have a habit of desiring to take on what I envy in others.

Perhaps it is a talent someone has, or an area where God has given them influence.

And I want that.

I want it more than what God has given me to do, be, create, bless.

So I wrote this translation of Proverbs 5:15 as my own warning…

Laura….be content with what is yours…don’t satisfy longings of fulfillment with what belongs to other people.

I understand that I will always struggle with a propensity to compare myself with others and think the grass is greener for them.

That somehow their efforts produce better than mine…they do relationships better than I do…they have more class…more talent…more of whatever it is I lack.

But thanks to the Proverbs, I can make the WISE choice to get up out of the swamp of self-pity…

and be content in the provisions of God that He has blessed me with to use for His Glory <3