A Modern Kingdom-Woman

Is it an oxymoron to talk about a modern kingdom-woman? After riding out the ups and downs of my career over the past thirty years, I find myself at a place in my life where I am thinking more than ever about living my life in accordance with God’s will and plan for me. To that end, I have been reading a bit about a God’s desire for women, which brought me to the book Kingdom Woman by Dr. Tony Evans.

Dr. Tony Evans
Dr. Tony Evans

For years I’ve enjoyed listening to Dr. Evans’ entertaining but hard-hitting sermons on the radio. He frequently preaches about family life and raising children, perhaps topics that are less applicable to me now that my husband and I are empty-nesters. Still, when looking for reading material, I always turn to teachers that I know to be faithful to the biblical message. Hence, I am reading my first book by Dr. Evans.

Like many Christian women, I’ve spent many an hour studying Proverbs 31. I’ve attended seminars built around it. Still, I found something new in Dr. Evan’s treatment of it. While Proverbs 31 represents the model or goal for women, it is still overwhelming to read through the long list of ideals and wonder how I can ever hope to achieve them. In his book, Dr. Evans has distilled the goals down to arrive at what seems to be a more attainable list of the attributes of a modern day Proverbs 31 woman:

  • Honor and respect her husband,
  • Feed and clothe her family with the healthiest and finest she can afford,
  • Invest the use of her skills in a personal business,
  • Speak wisely and kindly to others,
  • Dressed attractively, and
  • Help the poor

The only item with which I would presume to differ with Dr. Evans is “dress attractively.” As a woman in America where the notion of “attractive” female dress is a topic of much interest and consternation, I would go with something along the lines of “paying attention to one’s dress” or “dressing appropriately”.

To my way of thinking, these goals are s appropriate for modern women as they were for a women living thousands of years ago.

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Proof

“I’m not saying there isn’t the possibility of ‘God’, but I want PROOF…” This is a comment that was posted in response to a blog post by a self-proclaimed atheist. When I read that comment, my first thought was “Sure, who doesn’t?” As I have mentioned, I came to God later in life and, I believe as a result, I struggle tremendously with doubt. My daughter-in-law was raised in a Mennonite community and says she cannot remember a time when she did not believe. She tells me I’m lucky because I don’t take my faith for granted. Still, I long for the peace that I imagine must come from never having doubted.

Sometimes I think about the Apostles. They looked into his earthly face of God almost daily and after three years still did not know who they were looking at. At one point, Philip looked Him in the face and said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (John 14:8) I can imagine Jesus staring back at him in amazement and then shaking His head. He answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9) So, I think maybe it is not an easy thing to recognize God, especially later in life.

In another blog post, I read a comment in which an individual described praying a prayer of redemption as “an experiment” to see if “anything would happen.” I remember distinctly when I prayed a prayer of redemption and believe me, something happened. I was trying to get through A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Everyone was reading it at that time and I was having a second go at it. The first time I put it down because I just didn’t find it very inspiring or insightful. This time I made it a little further into it and came across a prayer of redemption the author had included. I prayed it. I prayed it earnestly, after all I was reading Mr. Warren’s book seeking answers. Whatever happened after that is hard to describe and I feel like a ‘crazy church lady’ just writing about it. Suffice it to say that my life is almost unrecognizable to me now.

At any rate, the point I’m try to make is this: the proof of God’s existence is not something we can show to someone else. It’s not a thing they can look at or study and say ‘Oh, yeah, now I understand. Of course God must exist. That proves it.’ No, we have to look for that proof ourselves. God seeks a heart that seeks Him. We cannot just wait for some ‘proof’ to be shoved under our noses because even if it was, we wouldn’t recognize it. But if we look for it, then we will find it.

Simplifying Christmas: Giving as the Wise Men Did

I have long been trying to figure out a way to simplify Christmas gift giving, with no luck. This year I was toying with the idea of leaving town and pretending I forgot it was Christmas. This idea is a much better one. Merry Christmas!

The Artistic Christian

Wise Men Star

As families grow larger, buying Christmas gifts for everyone can become increasingly complicated – not to mention expensive! In our home, we’ve found a way to simplify Christmas and keep the story of Christ at the center of it all – including the gifts!

When Janelle and I first got married, a middle-aged woman in the church took us aside and explained the way her family always handled Christmas gifts. “It may not seem like a big deal now,” she told us, “but once you start having kids you’ll be glad you kept it simple!” Now, as a proud father of two, I’m glad she helped us get this thing started on the right foot!

Here’s the key to the whole thing. No matter how many people are in the house that year…

Everyone Gets Three Gifts.

According to Matthew 2:11, the three wise men presented Jesus with three gifts:…

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Wolves and Vipers

I’m not gonna lie; I didn’t always read the Bible much (or at all). I became a Baptist at the tender age of 35 and would read the Bible on occasion. Or maybe I’d start one of those ‘Read the Bible Through in a Year’ programs that kick off on New Year’s Day. I made it up to 1 Kings. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get much out of the meager amount of time and effort I spent with God’s Word. As shocking as it is to say, I just didn’t understand the utility of it.

Wolf SnarlingI bring this up because this morning in my WordPress feed I read a post about Christianity and (or versus) Feminism. The post drew on a number of different sources and provided thoughts on what Feminism is or isn’t and, of more interest, on what Christianity is or isn’t. This post was an illustration of one reason reading the Bible is important—and useful. We know the way is hard and the gate is narrow. We know there are few that find their way through. What is the effect of this? The effect is that there are a number of professing Christians running around “lost as a goose,” as the preachers use to say. How can we are we to identify these people or groups that misrepresent biblical teachings, either intentionally or through ignorance? The answer is that unless we read and understand the Bible, we can’t. The Bible is the measure by which we determine whether a particular teaching is sound. Snake (young)The Bible tells us that we are “sheep among wolves” and exhorts us to be “as wise as vipers” in response (Matthew 10:16). To recognize the wolves, we must have the wisdom that comes from knowledge of God’s Word.

So, how did I come to be a person that reads the Bible? Oddly (or perhaps not), it happened almost without me knowing it. As I have mentioned, I experienced a major step forward in my faith when I was 50. At the time, I was experiencing some pretty serious trials at work. I turned to God’s Word for answers and found that the more I read, the more I wanted to read.

Now, keep in mind that research is second nature to me. I never met a footnote I didn’t like. At work, I joked that I was paid by the pound of paper documents I produced. Although it may seem perfectly obvious, it took me fifteen years to understand that my primary spiritual gift is the pursuit of knowledge. I believe it is this spiritual gift, received (but insufficiently used) when I first became a Christian, that ultimately led me to desire to read the Bible. While the means by which each individual is drawn to the Word may vary according to gifts or circumstances, of one thing I am certain—knowledge of the Bible is a Christian’s protection during our earthly journey.

Little Pieces, Big Picture

Mosaic CloseupToday I listened to a speaker that likened our lives to a beautiful mosaic. In the midst of our everyday decision making, problem solving, advice giving, comfort seeking lives, we are pressed up closely to the mosaic, which is made up of all the events of our lives. We see only the small section of the mosaic that is directly before as us we wonder how the events and challenges we are working with today can ever fit harmoniously in with the tiny bits and pieces we see in front of us.

Of course, we all know that we must step back from a mosaic to view its image. When we do that, we no longer see the individual chips and pieces but rather the beautiful overall image created by the sum of the pieces. Yet even knowing this, stepping back from one’s own life to glimpse the big picture is so much easier said than done. The everyday happenings that demand our attention keep our noses firmly pressed against the small section of the mosaic on which we must focus today.

Some time ago I wrote a post about my crazy-strong desire to be able to play a musical instrument coupled with my complete inability to do so. Sometimes when I listen to the radio, the beauty of the music or words or both is so powerful and the disappointment that I cannot play or sing so strong that I have to turn it off.

mosaic purple flowerRecently, I went to the hospital because of a sudden blinding pain running down my left arm from my shoulder to the tips of my fingers. Eventually the fingers of my hand became numb and lost feeling. Doctors diagnosed degenerative joint disease of the spine causing the branch of nerves that runs from the spine down the left arm to be pinched between the bony vertebra of the spine and the disc. With treatment that included injecting a steroid into the root of the nerve where it branches from the spine, the worst of the pain is gone but I am left with a constant painful tingling and lack of feeling in the index finger and thumb of my left hand. Whenever I touch anything, be it the keys of a keyboard or even the running water when I wash my hands, I feel a buzzing jolt similar to when a leg or arm has fallen asleep, as we say, and is inadvertently knocked up against something. Of course the doctors cannot say for certain what will happen, but this condition frequently recurs and often progresses over time as the discs continue to degenerate. There is no known cure.

Now, in light of this condition, my inability to play an instrument begins to seem like a blessing. I cannot image having such a wonderful gift and developing it over years of practice only to suddenly lose it. Further, I now consider myself fortunate to have been given the desire to play because it led me to take music lessons with my sons, something I very much enjoyed. Finally, the big picture emerges. At long last I realize that I did gain something valuable from a lack of ability that caused me so much consternation over the years.

Does this mean I am now at peace with my everyday challenges knowing that they all contribute perfectly to the mosaic that is my life? Not at all. I have this insight for a moment, but soon it will be gone again. In the very near future I will again find myself with my nose pressed up against the mosaic, studying the interplay of the many tiny pieces in my search for direction. I comfort myself by thinking that having seen the big picture this once, the next time I may see it more readily. Perhaps, in time, I will come to know that the link between my current struggles and the good that comes from them is always there, whether I see it or not.

Un Poco

He always called me “un poco”, Spanish for a little. The first time I met him, his wife proudly told me that he was teaching himself Spanish. His native language is German and he also speaks English and French. He has always had a gift for language, she tells me. He sees her gesture toward his Spanish text, open on the dining room table, and he asks me if I speak Spanish.

“¿Hablas Español?” he asks.

“Un poco,” I reply.

He gets a great laugh out of this and repeats it. He repeats it to his wife although she is standing right next to him and has heard our interaction. I have come to meet him and his wife at their home in Northern Virginia. They downsized several years earlier to a beautiful three-level townhome in a lovely community with lots of long walking paths and beautiful flowerbeds. They enjoy going on walks and I can imagine them walking hand in hand along the paths.

He always holds her hand. Even as they show me around inside their home, he is holding her hand. She anchors him to keep his confusion from pulling him off his feet. I can imagine him floating off like a balloon if she were to let go of his hand. As we walk around their home, she fondly shows me all the wonderful mementoes they have collected during a lifetime together. This is one of my favorite parts of the job, so I don’t rush her. I look at the items and hear the stories about how they found their treasures. They show me a beautifully framed rubbing they made of a stone carving at temple they visited many years ago. He is still holding her hand as they stand in front of the rubbing and I know she is remembering the day they made it. He will wait there gazing at it for as long as she does. He must take his cues from her.

Their daughter is the one that arranged my first meeting with them. She stops by a few times a week to bring groceries and make sure they are both doing okay. She will be out of town for two weeks and needs someone to take over for her. And if there is an emergency, is it okay if they call you? Even if it is in the middle of the night?

When I drop by to visit during the week, he does not remember me. His wife explains to him in their native German that I am there to visit them while their daughter is on vacation. He does not understand, or quickly forgets, and she must soon explain again. Eventually, sometimes as I am moving toward the front door at the end of my visit, sometimes earlier, but always after I have been there a while and his wife has reminded him several times, his memory is suddenly triggered. I can plainly see on his face that he has remembered me. He smiles broadly, reaching out to grasp my hand, and says, “¡Un poco!”

As Children

My husband and I are about to double down on grandbabies. Our two sons, who each have one son already, are both expecting new arrivals in late March. We already know one of the babies on the way is a boy, which is significant because I have six nephews and one niece, two sons, and two grandsons. Hmmm, a pattern is beginning to emerge. We are terrified that the fourth grandbaby will be a girl. None of us will know what to do with a little girl.

Sons and grandsons
My Boys

So, it’s no surprise that children have been on my mind recently. Young children truly believe they can do anything and that anything is possible. My five year old grandson saw a couple playing tennis at a park near my home and said to me “I’m going to go ask if I can play tennis with them.” When I explained that one has to learn and practice to be able to play tennis the way this couple did, he confidently replied that he was “sure” he could do it. He was so sure of it that I was hard pressed to dissuade him from asking them if he could join in. When he received roller skates last Christmas, he was confident that he would put them on and skate off down the sidewalk. Likewise, my younger grandson saw children break-dancing on TV and has been dazzling us with his stunning lack of break-dancing ability ever since.

Just as amazing, they easily believe the things they are told. My daughter-in-law explained to the 2 ½ year old that she had a baby in her tummy, that it would grow until it was big enough, and then out would come his new baby brother! Max accepted this information without question and further assumed that everyone must have a baby in his or her tummy. He enjoys walking up to random people to say hello to the baby in their tummy, much to their surprise.

Years ago I read about a study done in which two groups of students were given a test that was beyond their respective abilities to complete. The first was a group of Kindergarten students. When asked why they were unable to complete the test, they universally responded with “The test was too hard”. When high school students were given a test that was far beyond their abilities, they had a variety of explanations as to why they were unable to successfully complete it. Reasons such as “I didn’t try hard enough” and “I’m not smart enough” were given. The Kindergarten students easily accepted that the test was too hard and didn’t seem to give it much more thought.

Something about the attitudes of a young child must be very important because the Lord says that unless we can be like a little child we cannot reach the kingdom. I’m highly analytic, which leads to what some people referred to as “analysis paralysis”, meaning I get so wrapped up in looking at an issue or problem from every conceivable angle that I lose track of what it is I’m even trying to accomplish. The more muddled I become, the more I feel compelled to analyze. Kids don’t analyze; they just go with it. They are told and they believe. They can discern when something is beyond them—and they’re just fine with it. How can a control-freak like me ever hope to be like that? Fortunately, I know that with God all things are possible. If not for that, I would be lost.