Wisdom’s value

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The verses that originally inspired this blog are Ephesians 5.15-17.

‘This causes you to realise that you will have to be very careful about the way you live; to be wise, not foolish.  Make use of every opportunity to please God by the way you live, especially as there is so much evil in the world around you.  How much better to understand what God wants of you than to live in a sinful, foolish manner.’  (The Truth Bible version.)

I keep a bookmark there in my Bible so I can revisit this passage regularly, gleaning all the goodness from it for my life.

Today my eyes settled on a phrase.

‘Be wise, not foolish.’

So often when I need wisdom, (God’s way of doing things, God’s perspective for a situation), I think of James 1.5 that tells me that if I need wisdom, I should ask God.  This is a good thing to do and I can testify to the fact that God always answers that prayer.

But it isn’t the only way to obtain God’s wisdom.  In this verse in Ephesians, we are told to be wise, not foolish. The Greek verb used here for ‘be’ means to become or to generate something.

So, it is possible to generate wisdom in my life.

I can ask for wisdom, and God loves that, but I can also live life in a way that is producing wisdom too.

This is a far less passive approach, isn’t it?   While daily asking my Heavenly Father for His heavenly wisdom, I can also be busy making the conditions of my day to day life conducive for this wonderful gift.

And the Bible is very clear what these conditions are.

Proverbs 9.10 tells us that, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’

Knowing God’s will for me in every situation starts with an understanding of who God is and who I am.  There is a wonderful humility that comes from knowing I have the potential, even the tendency, to be wrong about quite a few things, quite often.

 

Fearing the Lord means dreading the idea of living one minute of my life outside of God’s loving will.  It means loving His ways because I love and trust Him.

I believe that I cannot produce wisdom from a heart that is unteachable or proud or independent.  It is like trying to grow a beautiful olive tree in a bucket of cement.

When I really know God and how good He is, I will value every word He has spoken.  I will treasure every instruction and command and warning.  I will love what He loves.

Read Proverbs chapter three today.  See how beautifully God’s wisdom is described.  It is compared to gold and silver and rubies.

I wonder if, in 2018, wisdom is a bit out of fashion perhaps.  We live in times where doing things my way and figuring it out for myself are greatly admired.  We pride ourselves on not living life like the previous generation did.  We can treat their advice and input like family heirlooms we don’t want to inherit,  preferring to head down to Ikea instead.

But what about God’s ways?  Are we too independent for those too?

I don’t have a lot of valuable jewellery but I have a few pieces that are precious to me.  I have a string of pearls my parents gave me for my high school graduation and a gold locket that belonged to my grandmother.  And of course, I have my wedding ring.  These are precious to me.  They are precious because they are made beautifully from valuable materials but mostly they are priceless to me because of who they are from.

God’s ways, His Words of life to me, should be priceless.  His wisdom is like expensive gemstones, rubies and diamonds that are set in gold.

And yet, so often I think I know best and I make myself a pasta necklace like the ones my toddlers used to make for Mother’s Day.  Instead of the family jewels in my jewellery box, I wear it, admiring my independence and self-reliance.

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But the only way to cultivate Godly wisdom in my life is to value it.

When I can see just how beautiful God’s ways are compared to my human logic, I am in a good, safe place.  It is the place where I can hear what God is saying and see what His is doing and make choices and decisions that produce life.

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Summer’s rest

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For as long as I can remember I have been head-over-heels in love with summer.

All my vivid childhood memories are summer ones.  Even now I can remember the taste of the blueberry ice cream I enjoyed while watching ocean sunsets and the fresh corn on the cob my grandmother would make for dinner.  I can smell the pine trees that framed our Colorado camping spot and the pink calamine lotion that calmed my poison ivy rash.

One unforgettable summer we had a month-long road trip and we visited several national parks.  Each day’s driving would end in a different KOA swimming pool before I would fill a scrapbook with ticket stubs and postcards.

As a teenager, there were hot July days spent floating down the creek behind our house, baseball games and endless attempts to tan freckly skin.

Becoming a parent only deepened my love affair.  Maybe it is because I am not naturally a routine person, but I could hardly wait until my children were done with school for the year.  I just loved the lazy days of August with pyjamas until lunchtime, trips to parks and pools, and backyard shenanigans until the light faded.  No homework or school uniforms, just lemonade and flip-flops.

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This year has been unusual for the UK with little or no rain for months.  We have had weeks of humid, hot days that start before we wake up and end long after we have gone to bed.  And I have loved every minute. 

You see, my kids are all grown up and I am counting down to my daughter’s wedding in October.  My husband has been facing the toughest work pressure of his entire career.  The days are full, the emotions are high and the temptation to worry is relentless.

But there is something about summer, something about the sunshine and the long days that remind me that there is a remedy for mother-of-bride fretting.

The remedy is rest.

And really isn’t that why we love summer so much?  Isn’t that why vacations are so often the highlight of our year and our sweetest memories often involve sand and swimming and bare feet?

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It is because deep inside our hearts, we long for rest.  Not a nap or a late morning start, but God’s rest.  His rest is an inside-your-soul kind of summer where life feels carefree because daddy has got it all in His hands.  It is permission to laugh and to play and to let go of what you can’t control.

It is an invitation to enjoy being a child of God every day, in every circumstance.

We were, of course, created for that kind of rest.  Adam and Eve tasted it in the garden and they didn’t appreciate what they had until they lost it.

We know that one day we will enjoy again this God-given gift.  And it won’t be a harp playing, floating-on-clouds rest.  It will be an ‘it is finished’, death-swallowed-in-victory rest.

But what I so often forget is that this victory rest is actually available to me now, even as I sit in my garden writing wedding to-do lists and dreading my empty nest.

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When life wears me out, when the future looks scary or when decisions overwhelm me, there is a place underneath God’s wings that is forever summer.

I will find that place today, put my toes in the sand and enjoy being His kid.

 

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Its OK to stop

A few years ago our family decided to hike up to the top of Mount Snowdon in North Wales.  It was a beautifully warm August day and the conditions were perfect.  The path that we chose gently inclined and the scenery was beautiful.  It was all so pleasant, so easy.

243529_608306497399_1559077759_oThen our way took a turn and I found myself hiking/scrambling straight up a verticle trail.  I needed all my strength just to keep up with the others and within an hour my legs just gave out.

They felt like jelly and I couldn’t take another step without risking a fall.  At this point, a little panic took over.  My teenagers had jogged to the top already and were looking down wondering what was going on.  I could see the end of the trail and the top of the mountain but I couldn’t think of any way to get myself there.  Unfortunately, going down the mountain was also out of the question.  I was well and truly stuck.

So I did the only thing I could do, I sat down.  I drank some water and had my protein bar and laughed a little.  And do you know what?  In half an hour I was at the top.

To live life carefully in this world, we need to know when it isn’t safe to take another step.  

We need to know when to be careful with ourselves.

There are times when disappointment or loss leave us wobbly.  Shaky souls need time to recharge in God’s presence and refuel in His Word.  Life decisions can wait. This is not the moment to try and figure everything out!  Worship first and then you will be ready to walk.

Know yourself well enough to recognize spiritual and emotional fatigue so that you make time to rest and recover.

Allowing ourselves to stop means that before we know it we will be back on our feet and hiking to the top of that particular mountain.

If this is you today, if you need rest and encouragement and renewed hope, please know that it is okay to stop as long as you know where to sit.

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Tending Treasure

 

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As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My mom, Barb, and I share many qualities.  We both love to read and write.  We are deep thinkers, life-analysers and daydreamers.

Unfortunately, that means we are also both serial pot-burners.

Both of us, on more than one occasion, have left a pot simmering on the stove before leaving the house for the day.  Both of us have had the awful discovery of opening the front door and being greeted by a cloud of decimated-stew smoke and both of us have had to look up ‘how to get rid of the smell of smoke’.

So, as you can imagine, I am now an enthusiastic owner of a slow cooker, or as Americans call it, a crock pot.  This is the stew-making gadget for dummies.  I don’t need to worry about stirring or turning down the heat or leaving the house.  I just put everything in and forget about it for hours.  Perfect.

But not all of life is this simple.

In Genesis 2.15, God gives Adam responsibilities in Eden.  Notice that even before sin has entered the picture there was already important work to do.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.’ Genesis 2.15

We were created to tend.  Other translations say work, take care of, cultivate.  God created a world where humans would have responsibility.  His will is that we would know Him as our God and then partner with Him in tending to things that matter.

And by implication, we see that God has created a world that needs cultivation.  Things can’t be just left.  Our relationships, our walk with Jesus and our own hearts need to be carefully treasured and cared for.  They need our time and attention.

Like flower beds and pots on the stove, areas of our lives that we neglect can end up overgrown or burnt.

But the problem is that when life gets crazy, tending is often the first activity to drop off the to-do list.

That is because the urgent always shouts louder than the important.  Before we know it, we have neglected the areas of our lives that we know are a priority but seem to be okay.  As the saying goes, it is the squeaky wheel that gets our attention and our oil.

It is so easy to take for granted our good marriages, happy children, close friendships or a strong faith.

But, if we can learn to tend the most precious areas of our lives we will save a lot of trouble in the long run.  It is much easier to just give the pot a stir than to get the smell of smoke out of our curtains!

Take a moment today to think about what most matters to you and then give it a stir.

Hug one of your kids, call a friend, kiss your spouse.

Make time for the people that you love. Eat with friends.  Laugh with kin.

Fill your days with thoughts of gratefulness and worship.

Believe God for big things.

Pray.  Forgive.

Be generous with your time and your money and yourself.

Treasure what you have and live life in such a way that everyone around you is in no doubt about what most matters to you.

 

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Unattended thoughts

 

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There is a verse in the Bible I am in the daily habit of disregarding.

It is a very well-known verse.  Walk into any Christian bookstore and you will see it on bookmarks, coffee mugs and t-shirts.

Philippians 4.8 says, ‘Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.’

How lovely and inspiring!  What a wonderful verse to write out and put on my fridge.

What an easy verse to completely ignore.

Because so often thoughts are like the mouse in my attic.

A few weeks ago I went up into our loft space to get our summer clothing down and I discovered to my horror that a mouse had been living up there, making a nest and eating my favourite handbag.  I didn’t know he was up there until it was too late.

Unattended lofts attract mice like unattended gardens welcome weeds.

Unattended minds are vulnerable to similar intruders.

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If I never listen to my own thoughts and question their truthfulness, I am probably making a home for ideas that are contrary to God’s truth and they will be destructive in my life.

I need to decide to set high standards for what I think about because my thoughts become my beliefs and my beliefs become my actions.  Like a burly bouncer standing outside a nightclub, I must be discerning about what I let into my mind each and every day.

Because lies always entangle and confuse us. Truth brings freedom and fruitfulness.

 

Whether we believe it or not our thought life is strongly influencing us.  It is affecting who we are and how we see everything and everyone around us.

Psalm 51.6 is a powerful verse.  In it, David writes that God wants truth in our innermost being.

One of the commentaries I read described this as being so full of truth we are incapable of self-deception.  I don’t know about you but I need a whole lot of this kind of truthfulness in my life.  I need God’s truth to reach every part of my soul.  I need it to touch my mind, my will and my emotions so that pesky vermin are caught, weeds are eliminated and the good stuff can grow.

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Because I know I am capable of believing lies and even lying to myself. 

I do it all the time.  Sometimes I lie to myself about why I don’t like someone.  I justify my feelings in all sorts of ways when the truth is I am offended or envious or just entertaining unforgiveness.

Sometimes when I really want to do something I decide it is God’s will before I have even prayed about it and then I take the happiness I feel as God’s confirming peace.

Sometimes I am dead wrong and I manage to convince myself that I am right.

Sometimes I accommodate doubt, fear, anxiety or judgementalism.  They come and go like lodgers with a key to my front door.  Before I know it they are sitting at my table and dictating the conversation.

Have you ever really listened to your thoughts?  Try it if you dare.  Pick a day when you are not working and set your phone alarm to go off every hour.  When it does, stop and listen to your thoughts.  What are you preoccupied with?  What keeps replaying over and over again?  What are you dwelling on?

Be honest, what is the soundtrack of your life?

Tune in.  Listen with an objective ear.  Be honest with yourself.

I tried this a few months ago and it has changed my life.  I discovered that my life, that was marked by anxiety, had a soundtrack of untruths.  Why was I surprised?

Do you know that anxiety, fear, anger, worry and bitterness all have something in common? They all start with a thought.

Something will happen in your life, something hurtful or scary or difficult and then a thought arrives and we either invite it in or send it packing.

Decide today that when it comes to your thoughts, you are not a pushover.  If it isn’t good or true or lovely or honest, it is not coming in.

It is your garden, your mind, your life and you decide what lives there.

 

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