Thursday, December 5, 2013

"My One Word" revisited

"Kind words are like honey; sweet to the soul and healing for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

If you have been reading this blog or received an e-mail from me in the last 9 months, the verse above will be a familiar one.  It's the verse I chose that includes my word in a way that is significant to me.

My word is HONEY!  I know, it's kind of an odd word, but I'm kind of an odd person when it comes to words :)  I love everything about this word: from it's literal state of a food to it's symbolism in Scripture.  I even like that there is a not-so-nice side to honey, because, well, there's a not so-nice-side to me.  But I am getting ahead of myself... let me go back and tell you how I chose that word.

When I first heard of My One Word, by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen, I went onto the website (click here to visit it) to see what it was all about.  I decided I would choose a word before I read the book, based on what I read and listened to on the site.  That didn't work out too well - I completely forgot the word I chose!  To this day, I don't remember what it was.  For me, that was a confirmation that what I thought was something I had to 'work on' wasn't what God had in mind.  I chose a word based on what I wanted to fix about myself and it was a good one (I do remember that), but without God's Word to build upon, it wasn't going to stick!

So, I started reading the book during our study.  I followed the advice of making lists and refining my list, though again, I didn't quite do it in the order suggested.  In the end it was the word honey that appeared.  My description of honey (and it's makers) was everything I felt I should be/wanted to be: translucent but not transparent, natural,  slower moving, sweet, healthy, useful, food for others, rely on God (scientifically, bees shouldn't be able to fly, but they do by the grace of God).  I want to be like that!  Even the not-so-nice things about honey spoke to me: chewed up-spit out & still beautiful, made & protected by bees that can sting, a hidden treasure, it's not for everyone.  Discovering my word was a process (just as making honey is) and I felt drawn to this idea of being like honey.  I was surprised by the number of times the word appears in scripture, but my area of need was in relation to words.  I use them, I love them, but too often I misuse them in hurtful ways.  THAT is not what God intended.  God intended that I use my gift with words in a kind & nurturing way.  Armed with my one word and it's corresponding Scripture, I started moving towards the person God created me to be.

As Mike suggests in the book, I put my word in front of me daily.  At first I ate a spoonful of honey every morning.  I added it to my tea and on my toast.  This was a very physical way to ingest the Word and make it real.  Soon after that, I added it as my e-mail signature.  This has served to remind me with every e-mail I write, to be kind.  One of the ways my word has morphed (chapter 7) is that I am also reminded to be kind to myself.  When I am dealing with someone who has hurt me or my family, I am as kind as I can be, without being false.  I guard my heart by saying how I feel without being cruel.  How others choose to interpret my words is up to them.  And in the same manner, I squelch that critical inner voice that can be my biggest opponent.  Using kind words to heal myself has been a soothing balm.

Here's a few more ways My One Word has influenced my life:

It causes me to rethink how I respond to people & situations.
I choose a slower path when making decisions.
I rely on God to change me.
My view of how others use words & react has been enhanced.
I choose my words more wisely.
I try, really hard, to be kind.
When I am overwhelmed or at a loss for ideas, I focus on my word, and I am inspired.

Am I completely transformed?  Do I never say mean things?  Am I unendingly supportive & encouraging?  Do I control all my reactions to people & situations?
Not by a long shot!!  It is an ongoing process.  But I am moving forward, improving how I use my words every day.  Even when I have a moment, day, or week where I seem to be going backwards, I am reminded through my word, that there is beauty in things that have been chewed up and spit out, as long as those things are created and nurtured by God.

How has your word changed you, your view of the world, and your faith journey?  I am sorry to have to miss our gathering this Friday and hear how your One Word has worked transformations in your life.  I would love to know how this is going for you - please share in the comment section below.

"The eyes of our heart, once enlightened - to borrow a phrase from Paul - show us a reality that our physical eyes cannot see.  A reality based on the words and promises of God. "  Mike Ashcraft, My One Word p. 107

"Change is possible.  Focus is required.  And depenence on God is absolutely foundational." Mike Ashcraft, My One Word p 40-41.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey; sweet to the soul and healing for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Week 6 - A Confident Heart - Chapters 11 & 12

"Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." Romans 15:4

Welcome to our final week of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart.  I am so glad you are here with me!  We read this book at a faster pace than previous studies, so congratulate yourself on a job well done.  With our busy lives, I know it wasn't easy, but I suspect that you will agree with me when I say, it was worth it!

In chapter 11 Renee reminds us of a few points that I think are very important.

She says, "I want you to know that living in  the power of God's promises isn't a one-time thing... return to every truth..., again and again." (pg 204)

This is a reminder to stay in God's word.  It is how we come to know God: His promises, His forgiveness, His love.  We cannot know or believe something if we don't take the time to read it, learn it, and live it.  When it comes to learning, repetition is the key!  When it comes to relationships, time and attention are vital.  To know God's promises, read them over and over. In order to have a relationship with Him, spend time together.   There are wonderful examples of people, just like us, in the Bible.  People who are not perfect, who need coaxing & convincing, who are broken, lost, and struggling.  People who are called & chosen by God, but still stray or disobey.  God does not give up on them and He does not give up on us.  Learn the promises He has for us by reading the Bible daily.  That is where we will find the answers to our most troubling questions and a guide for living a Saved life in this fallen world.

Renee also says, "As we live in the power of God's promises, we will still have struggles... As we become the women we want to be, and more importantly the women God created and called us to be, we will still go through times when we have questions and doubts.  Sometimes we may even ask, Is God enough?" (pg 211).

This second point is a tough, but obvious one!  Of course Christians have struggles.  In fact, some of the most faithful people I know have some of the biggest life struggles!  "But why?!", is what I hear from others and often ask myself.  'Why would a faithful Christian still face hardship or disease or broken relationships?  Doesn't God bless His children and aren't Christians nice people that everyone gets along with? ' These are questions for the ages!  As I read the Bible, I see that I am not alone in the asking of these questions.  And yes, the answers are in there, too.  The short answer I have come to, for my own understanding, is that blessings and hardships surround us, believers & non-believers alike.  The difference being who we go to for comfort and strength.  Who we look to in times of doubt. How we view ourselves when trouble is standing before us.  Whose hand we hold when we are walking through darkness.  Christians cry out to God for help; we reach for Jesus' hand to guide us.  No matter what, we know that we are loved and will not be abandoned.  We face no challenge, take no journey, stand against no enemy alone!  Our God is with us! 

It was no accident or happenstance that the stories of the Bible were passed down through generations and written in many languages, for all to read.  As Paul tells the Christians in Rome, "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." Romans 15:4.  God knew we would face many difficulties and would be in need of continued reminders of His love & faithfulness.  He knew we would need role models and guidance.  I encourage you to return to the Word again and again to look for answers, gain perspective, and draw closer to God.

Throughout A Confident Heart, Renee gives us tools to help us use Scripture to drive away the shadows: "When-Then" statements (pg 60), inserting our name into Scripture, praying God's word, remembering who we are in Christ (chart on pg 107-108), "AM/FM" statements (pg 113), discovering our spiritual gifts (pg 147), creating time & space to spend with Jesus (pg 175), and learning who God is through His names (pg 194).  All of chapter 12 is a chart of Scripture to combat our self-doubt and help us "live in the security of God's promises".  Hopefully one or more of these practices resonated with you, that you can use them in your everyday walk with the Lord.

I pray that as you read this book and studied Scripture, you started to uncover your Confident Heart.  And as you go on from here, you will continue to grow in faith.  Keep this book handy!  It is a wonderful resource and one that can be read multiple times.  I've read it twice in the last year and a half and discovered something new in every chapter. 

Now, it's your turn!!!
What spoke to your heart?  Was there something in any part of the book that made you say, "Ah-ha!"  A revelation?  Something that you have started doing to reveal your confident heart and start becoming the woman God created you to be?  Whatever you would like to share, I would love to read!

What a blessing it is to be on this journey together!!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chaters 9 & 10 Continued

"We will only overcome our fears by walking through them, holding God's hand and trusting His heart to lead, protect, and preserve us."  Renee Swope in A Confident Heart (p. 197)

I can't believe I forgot my favorite part of the blog!!  YOUR FAVORITE QUOTES & IDEAS!!
That's something else we lose when we give in to self-doubt, worry, and fear: our mind!

Not that it makes us truly crazy, but when we are occupied with negative thoughts, it's easy to forget other, and often, more important things.  Things that don't require as much energy to keep in check.  Negative thoughts are like the proverbial squeaky wheel: they demand our attention!  And steal our peace.  And prevent us from being focused, productive, and truly alive!

I've been dealing with worry & fear over the last few weeks.  Nothing much, but I was treading lightly with a new person in my life.  Every time I had to communicate with her, I was concerned that whatever I said would be taken wrong.  I was careful how I "spoke" to her, limiting most of my communications to e-mail so I could cafefully craft what I was saying.  Something that was suppose to be a fun, collaborative endeavour had become a project filled with stress.  After an especially disturbing encounter, I prayed for wisdom & compassion in my attitude.  I felt my confidence grow with every future encounter and thought things were going well.  When she came at me with fear and control, I thought I was offering peace and information.  Then yesterday more hurtful and accusing words from her filled my head & heart with self-doubt!  Did I really do what she accused me of?  Am I that obtuse that I didn't see that I was causing her misery?  How could I do so much harm, when I thought I was doing good? 

Through prayer (y'know, the kind where I just open the top of my head and let God in because I'm at such a loss for words), friends, & loved ones I regained my perspective.  I was reminded of who I am in Christ.  I was reminded that I cannot control how people react and I cannot let their defeating words enter my heart.  Paul tells us, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all the has done.  If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7.  As long as I am living in Christ Jesus, God is guarding my heart and if God is with me, who can stand against me!?  NO ONE!  

So I followed Paul's advice, and did what I knew would bring me peace; I offered her an apology.  Whether or not she accepts it is up to her.  My heart is healed through Jehovah Shalom, the Lord my Peace (Judges 6:24).  Through this, I was inspired to make cards with the Names of God on them, so that I could keep them with me and be reminded of the promise of who He is.   When I figure out how to publish them, I'll share them here on the blog!  Until then, you can find a list of God's names and corresponding Scripture on page 194 of A Confident Heart.

NOW!  Tell me, what are your favorite quotes from chapters 9 & 10?  I look forward to reading all of your comments!!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Week 5 - A Confident Heart - Chapters 9 & 10

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, because I worry!  I used to worry a lot - about everything.  My mom worries, my great-grandmother worried so I assumed it was 'in my blood'.  Some people are wired to worry!  Right?  
Sure, we all handle things differently.  But some of us are overly concerned about life, we play it over & over in our heads, we "over think" our words & actions.  This is especially true when we are overwhelmed or find ourselves in a stressful situation or with people who make us uncomfortable. 

For years I had read "don't worry" in the Bible and could not understand what it meant.  How does one not worry about: the dangers in life, being accepted, finding a job, making right choices, saying the right thing, being good enough, being happy, being safe, not making any big mistakes?!  I had no idea!  I read the words, but could not grasp their meaning.  

As I studied God's word I began to see a pattern.  He tells his people (those in the Bible and me & you) "do not be afraid" and "don't worry", a lot!  I take comfort in this because it means I am not alone in my worry.  And I should look to those people in the Bible as my example of how not to worry.  

Another favorite passage about worry is in Matthew 6:25-34.  In the NLT translation, Jesus says "don't worry" three times and asks "why worry".  He also asks, "Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?" (vs. 27) and answers, "Of course not." 
Wow!  If you worry, go back and read Jesus' words again.  When I read that & it's meaning finally sunk in, it was life changing!  Worrying about something does not make it better or add anything good to my life.  In fact, Renee has an acronym that I love: Worry Only Robs Rest from You.  Take a moment to recall a time you were worried about someone or something.  Do you remember how you felt?  Did you sleep well, were you unfocused, tired, feeling alone?  All of these feelings can lead us further down the path of worry, fear, and doubt.

How do we stop traveling down that dark road?  We turn towards the light!  We read God's Word and believe what he says.  For a reminder, go back to the chart on pages 107-108.  What a great list of scripture that tells us who we are in Christ!  We hold on to the promise of Grace and trust that we don't need to understand everything, because God does, and that's enough.  He is leading us - we just need to trust Him enough to follow Him.  Renee has some great tips on how to spend more time in God's word on pages 176-177.

Is one of your worries that you can't follow God consistently?  It's one of mine!  For a long time I felt God tugging on my heart to guide a Bible study.  But how could I, with all my shortcomings?!  It's the very reason I don't have an Ichthys magnet on my car.  I don't want others to know I'm a Christian when I'm being less than Christian-like behind the wheel!   And oh boy, could I relate to Renee's story about the day she spent at her mother's house - it started out beautifully and ended in a mess!  I know that feeling of going from a serene place to anger & disappointment in a very short time.  Then in comes worry, doubt, and feelings of failure and guilt.  I use to spend days beating myself up when I failed spectacularly, but that's not what God wants for us.  Instead he offers us grace & mercy (Hebrews 4:16).

All we need to do to receive it, is ask!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Week 4 - Confident Heart - Chapters 7 & 8

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."   ~ Howard Thurman

Hello again!  And welcome to week four of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart!

As a nod toward Halloween, I want to do my blog a little differently this week.  Hang in there!

Zombies!  They are the latest craze of "scary".  They're in the movies & on TV; my son and husband recently ran a charity race where they had to avoid "zombies" on the course.  It was fun, even as a spectator, and for a good cause, so in this case being a zombie or running from the zombies was a positive experience.

But, do you ever feel like a zombie?  Like you're going through life, from one responsibility to another, but not really living life?  With so many things to do, people to please, and obligations vying for our attention, we can quickly feel overwhelmed and lost in our own lives.

I feel like a zombie when I've taken on too much!  For me, it happens in cycles.  Things are going smoothly, so I take on one more thing.  That's not too bad, so I think,  'sure I can do one more little thing, it's only once a month'.  Throw in a crisis or two along the way and the next thing I know I'm in Zombieland!  I'm running from one thing to the next, I have a list a mile long of things I need to prepare in order to do that one little extra thing, etc., etc!  I have a feeling you can relate.  I look around and wonder, "what the heck happened!?  Where am I?  Who am I?"

It's at this time that I realize I have been moving through life; doing, going, keeping up, but not really living my life as God wants.  When I'm busy with everything I have to do, there's no time for remembering who I am and whose I am; what it is He made me for and I realize it's been a while since we've had a conversation!  When I'm caught up in all of this stuff,  that's when I notice my fear of failure creeps into my thoughts: I don't want to fail at anything I've chosen to do or disappoint anyone I offered to help.  But why did I offer to help in the first place?  Out of prayerful consideration or was it because I wanted to feel important in a certain group of people?

All of this running, doing, fearing, and wanting to be special is draining!  Renee says, "...we have God-given emotional needs.  When those needs are left completely unmet, we become depleted and tend to operate primarily out of our weaknesses." (pg. 141).  WOW!  No wonder I sometimes feel like a Zombie - alive, yet not living.

When I feel my inner zombie creeping in, I've learned to stop.  I turn from saying "yes" to everything, to asking 'what does God want me to do?'.  I turn from wondering how I stack up compared to other moms, to seeing myself from God's perspective.  I turn my hurtful words against myself, to God's promises for me.

Zombies may have their place - in folklore, scary movies, and on a 5K charity race!  But God calls us, His children, to a full life of peace and hope and joy!  

God's promises are my weapons against my inner zombie!  It is with God that I can truly come alive!  You can, too!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body!"  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Week 3 - A Confident Heart - Chapters 5 & 6

Jesus said to the people, "I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."  John 8:12

Welcome to the third week of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart study!  I am so glad you are here and can't wait to share this time with you.

How are you doing?  It has been, as always, a bit of a crazy week at my house.  A little less crazy than some weeks, but with company over the weekend, meetings, extra phone calls & e-mails, a half-day of school in the middle of the week and my computer acting up, it's become a bit less serene than I had planned!

It's times like these that I am so grateful for you and our study.  Especially this weeks' chapters!  Chapter 5 discusses focus and perspective.  The first time I read this chapter, a few years ago, my focus was on my defects about 70% of the time, sometimes 100% of the time!  It was dark in there - in the shadow of my doubts about being a good wife, mother, daughter, friend, and Christian.  Can you relate?      

Paul says, "the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6), so I had to change my perspective.  
We need to turn toward the light; turn toward God; turn toward truth (pg. 93).  Maybe it seems obvious, but it's not always so easy.  It's something we have to chose to do, but first we have to realize that we have turned away from the light.  This is the part that sometimes catches me by surprise.

Comparison, Conflict, and Criticism pave the road to doubt.  These three C's creep into my day and often I don't even realize it!  They are sly and can trigger my doubt in a matter of minutes.  Have you been there?

What are we to do when we find ourselves on the road to doubt or living in the shadow of doubt?  Jeremiah 29:12-13 tells us to, " on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  And if you wonder, 'well, how do I do that?',  chapter 3 introduced us to Renee's "When, then" statements.  They are a wonderfully practical thing we can do to remind us of God's promises, to help us turn toward the light, and see ourselves from His perspective.  

The "D" word: doubt!  When it's used to stir up negative feelings and thoughts about ourselves and others, it can be very destructive.  It's even suggested that sometimes 'doubt' disguises itself as 'worry' or 'fear'.  Oh my!  I have always been a worrier!  However, I am learning that the more I stay in God's word and believe His promises, the less I worry.  I didn't say I never worry; I still do, but I also pray, so the worry & doubt no longer overshadow my joy!  God's promises have turned me from a "worrier" to a "warrior"! 

Throughout the book, Renee has some suggestions on how we can remind ourselves of God's promises.  The "when, then" statements on page 60 & in chapter 12, the chart as compiled by Dr. Neil Anderson on pages 107 & 108, and "AM/FM" statements on pages 113-114.

And now I'm going to borrow an amazing idea from Stephanie Clayton over at Proverbs 31!  She is also leading a Bible study of A Confident Heart and she has come up with a "No Fail Pail!"  
"What is that?" you ask.  It is a great way to USE all of these Biblical reminders of God's love & promises!  Check out her short video here!  I will have a copy of her beautiful "when,then" statements to get you started on your own "No Fail Pail!"  

Finally, we have come to the part where I get to hear from you!!!  
What was your favorite thing(s) in these chapters?  Post them all in the Comments.  Do you have a "when, then" statement that you've been using this week?  Would you like to share it?  I'd love to read it!  I know, I know: many of us get together and talk about this on Friday, but not all of us get to do that.  Post your comments to stay connected to everyone in our group!  Remember, if you are reading this in your e-mail, click here to go to the blog to make your comment.

Praying that your shadow of doubt shrinks as you turn towards Jesus, who is Light!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body!"  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Week 2 - A Confident Heart - Chapters 3 & 4

"I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called.  I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people."  Ephesians 1:18

Welcome!  I am so glad to be on this journey with you!  Grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and dive in to Chapters 3 & 4 of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart, if you haven't already.

There are several ideas, phrases, and one particular word that Renee uses many times throughout these chapters.  Do you know what they are?  I have them underlined, sometimes 2 or 3 times, in blue, black, & red ink; I've made notes in the margins & taken notes on paper about them.  What do they mean for you?

As Renee's very personal story unfolds, do you find yourself identifying with any part of her situation?  I certainly identified with the notion of defining myself through the eyes of others:  parents, friends, teachers, my husband, and my children. I calculated my worth based on who I was to them and through their eyes.   As I started down the journey of discovering why I hurt, because I did despite the wonderful life I lived, I realized it was because I chose to let negative thoughts dwell in my heart.  The doubt grew, my failings grew (even if some were just in my head) and my self-worth dwindled.  Like Renee, I had heard that "God loves me" many times, I knew that my parents loved me unconditionally, but for some reason I allowed self-doubt to live in me.  I sought fulfillment in trying to be the perfect daughter, wife, mother, crafter, home maker, and entrepreneur!  I enjoyed discovering all the facets of doing those things, but there was still an emptiness inside my heart.  I was busy, but not fulfilled!  And, as Renee points out on page 55, I was the one who was not allowing Jesus to look into those parts of my heart where I most needed Him.

What can we do when doubt and uncertainty start to creep into our hearts?  Renee's "When..., then..." statements are a wonderful way to help us "stop and ask Jesus to help us see the worth we are placing in other things and the worth we are seeking in other people."   A few examples can be found on page 60.  I encourage you to write some of your own "when, then" statements, tuck them in your car, your purse, and anywhere else you might need a quick reminder of God's unconditional love.

We continue with "Sam's" story, too.  She shows us how Jesus can take us from "mess" to "messenger" by allowing Him into the broken places in our hearts.  And although Sam's transformation takes place within a few lines of Scripture, Renee reminds us that "...finding satisfaction in Christ and living in the security of His promises is a daily process." (pg.61).

Here is a list of a few other points that I am still absorbing from these chapters!:

*"unfailing love" is mentioned 32 times in the Bible and is only ever attributed to God

*falling into the patterns of this world's thinking, losing sight of Jesus as my confidence and completion, can happen over a period of minutes!  Oh my, that has happened to me and afterwards I wonder, "What the heck just happened?!  How did I get to that low place so quickly?"

*Jeremiah 29 sounds a lot like Jeremiah 1!

*The "sin of my unrealistic expectations" - ouch! 

*Ephesians 4 - we meet again, and I am so glad for it!

Our new challenge for this study!  
Whether you can attend on Friday morning or are doing this at your own pace through the blog: Please post your favorite quote from this week's reading in the comment section below. It can be something that inspires you, that made you say "ah ha!", or any thing that struck you as you were reading.  If you have more than one, list them all.  There were some real treasures this week! It is a great way to stay connected throughout the week!   No need to wait to receive my post, either.  Add your comments whenever the spirit moves you by visiting
I can't wait to read your comments!!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Confident Heart - Week 1 - Chapters 1 & 2

"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence."  Jeremiah 17:7

Welcome to week 1 of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart!  

I am so glad that this book comes on the heels of our study on Spiritual Gifts.  Just because we know what our Spiritual Gifts are doesn't mean we automatically have the courage to use them.  That's where studying God's Word, living in it daily, and being in a faith community comes in to play.  We live in a broken world, one where doubt can take hold of us and keep us from being who God created us to be.  As we read through this book and spend time with the questions is raises, we'll uncover what "doubt" really is, where it comes from and how to move from doubt to confidence.

In chapter one, Renee tells the story of how she discovered "the shadow of my doubts" (p.22).  I can relate to many of her questions, fears, and doubts!  But then she moves into God's Word and the promises He has for us.  This can be a trans formative process if "you are willing to have honest, soul-searching conversations about where you are, how you got here, and where you really long to be." (p. 24).  That is where real change happens!  Renee is a wonderful writer, able to relate, entertain, and lift up God's word.  But faith is a personal journey.  God knows us and he desires us to know Him.  The best way to do that is to study His word and be honest with Him & yourself. 

Chapter two talks about the "P" word: Perfect!  It can be both a blessing and a curse.  I used to struggle mightily with this idea of being perfect, but then I learned that God's perfect love was the only true perfection there is and my attempt to be perfect (in the world's eyes) was destructive to me and those around me.  God's perfect love is a blessing; being a perfectionist in this world can be a curse by raising self-doubt and hiding behind a facade of "I'm fine!".   This chapter is filled with stories & Scripture, you'll even meet a character you may know from the 1st Century, the Samaritan woman!  Find out how her story relates to our 21st Century lives.

We are moving at a quicker pace than in the past, but I know you can do it!  Most chapters can be read in 10-15 minutes.  The questions at the end are the place where you will need to spend some quiet, thinking time.  This is also where you will make the most profound discoveries!  Take the time - Do the work - You will not regret it!

Because we are reading more material each week, we will not be able to discuss each question.  Choose a favorite quote or two from each chapter and a question you would like to explore.  These are the things we will talk about in person each Friday.

Below is a new request I'd like to try for every week of this study!
Everyone: whether you can attend on Friday morning or are doing this at your own pace through the blog: Please post your favorite quote from this week's reading in the comment section below.  It can be something that inspires you, that made you say "ah ha!", or any thing that struck you as you were reading.  It is a great way to stay connected throughout the week!   No need to wait to receive my post, either.  Add your comments whenever the spirit moves you by visiting I can't wait to read your posts!!

"Stop doubting yourself & live in the security of God's promises"

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healing for the body."  Proverbs 16:24


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Respond by reaching out to each other and our community, in love and support"

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to perservere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. "  Herbrews 10:35-36

I am very excited about our gathering this week!  One of the "Re's" that our Re: group stands for is "Respond".  We respond to the needs of our community by doing something to help those in need.  There are many ways to do this indivudually, but there's something about coming together to serve others.  The beauty of Faith Kitchen is that it offers both an individual way to contribute (donating food) and a more social way (group cooking).  There's also the opportunity to Serve (Oct 10), offering a chance to physically get out into the community and share God's love in a real & pratical way.  We have been talking about spiritual gifts and it seems that no matter what your gift is, you can find a way to use it in the Faith Kitchen Ministry!  Please keep those who coordinate, contribute to, and benefit from this ministry in your prayers.

There have been a few e-mails regarding the cooking we will be doing on Friday, but if there are any more questions, please reach out to Tammy, Paula, or me.  If you don't have contact information, please leave a post and I will get in touch with you privately.

A reminder that we will start at our regular time, 9:15am, with a snack & beverages, but we will be meeting in the big kitchen!  We will be baking the meatloaves & then freezing them, so we need to start as close to on time as possible, so that we can finish within our time limit.

While we cook up a storm, we will continue to talk about how we can use our Spiritual Gifts.  Come with ideas, questions, and suggestions!  Amazing things happen when we share our thoughts in open, loving, and trusting ways!  To quote Mahatma Gandhi, "In a gentle way you can shake the world".  I look forward to the gentle ways in which we shake our world.    

I am also very excited about the next book we will be reading!  A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  This book changed my life!  And I cannot wait to read it again, with you!  If you don't have it yet, pick it up this week!  We will be reading at a faster pace than we have in the past - 2 chapters a week.  Please have the first 2 chapters read by October 11.  There is so much we can talk about in each chapter, so our discussions will hit the highlights.  We all come to this book with different experiences, so it will be beneficial if we are all on the same page (literally & figuratively) for our weekly discussions.  

The blog is a great place to post queries & comments about what we're reading throughout the week!  A notebook and the willingness to write in your book is a good idea for this study, too.  The reflection & discussion questions at the end of the chapters are for your benefit, we will discuss only a few of them each week.  As we learned in "My One Word", journaling, slowing down long enough to really process our thoughts through writing them down, is extremely beneficial.  You owe it to yourself to spend quality time with your thoughts and God's Word.  And like most everything in life, you will get out of this study, what you put into it.  Unlike many things in life, you will actually get more out of it, because as we live in the Holy Spirit, he will bless us with the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I can't wait to respond to God's love by reaching out to our community and to reveal our confident hearts through Renee Swope's book!!!  The next few weeks are going to be Remarkable!

Thank you for being a part of this group!  New friends are always welcome!!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

P.S. My youngest brought home her first school library book, Love is a Handful of Honey.  I hope your One Word continues to be an influence and blessing in your life every day.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"The Plan - God's Word About Gifts"

"Be humble and gentle.  Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love."  Ephesians 4:2

This week we continue with the WELCA study on Spiritual Gifts, "The Plan - God's Word About Gifts".

Last week we took an assessment to determine our gifts.  Since then I have been given some more resources on Spiritual Gifts, including another assessment that uses 80 Questions and identifies 25 Spiritual Gifts, noting that these are not all the gifts listed in the New Testament.  It also doesn't include gifts that were on the list that we used, like Music & Writing.  Discerning your Spiritual Gifts is an Art, not a Science and scholars often have differing interpretations of the text.  There are also different uses and depth to each assessment or inventory.  If you would like a copy of this second inventory, I'd be happy to give you one.  I may take it, just out of curiosity, to see what is the same and what is different between the two.  I'll let you know!  Maybe I do have some Artistic gifts! :)

Have you considered your passions & areas of need in relation to your gifts?  That is the next step after discovering them, but the study doesn't give a specific week to really discuss this.  It's a good idea to do this on your own, gathering a list or some ideas and then get together with others to talk about it.  We do not use our gifts alone, "A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church."  1 Corinthians 12:7  We cannot keep our gifts to ourselves!  We are called to share them & use them for God's purpose!  Often times your gifts can be applied directly to opportunities within the church.  Sometimes you have to be a little more creative and flexible!

This week our study looks at 3 readings that talk specifically about the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives and how to use them.

Read Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.  Follow the directions in the study guide on using the READIT method of analyzing the text.  Please read these texts before Friday, as I would love to get right into discussing them and how we can apply Scripture to our everyday lives. 

Of all the scripture I read this week, the opening verse of this post struck me to the core.  The first part about being humble, gentle, & patient is definitely meant for me!  While I continue to work on these, I still find my patience wearing thin and my nature giving way to harsh words and judgement, often times to those I love most.  I thank God that He offers those very things to me that I forget to offer to others.  Especially when I so often require of others the last part of the verse, "...making allowances for each other's faults because of your love."  
Oh, how I hope and pray that on the days when I speak before my brain & heart catch up to my mouth that whomever I have hurt or offended makes an allowance for me!  On the days that the best I have to offer is less than my best, I hope that those I disappoint or make weary will make an allowance for me!  And on the days that humility & gentleness seem lost to me, I pray that those who know me on that day don't judge my whole character on that slip of the tongue or bravado, because that's not who I am.  It is human nature to do stupid stuff, to let slip something you wish you could suck back in at the very moment it comes tumbling out, to be less than our best self 24/7!  But that is the beauty of being a Christian -  of being loved by the One who created us and loves us and gave His Son to die for us.  That we are Sinner and Saint; that we can offer humility, gentleness, and make allowances for our Brothers & Sisters out of love one day and be the one in need on another.  

Even when we are using the Gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us, we are not perfect.  We are not perfect in knowing how to use them or in their execution.  This is probably why Paul says in Romans 12:12 "...Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful." and why he explains the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control." Galatians 5:22-23.  We cannot do any of this on our own, but with God as our designer (Jeremiah 1:5) and the Holy Spirit giving us gifts and the fruit, we can boldly do His work.   When we confess that we are in need, ask forgiveness and offer forgiveness, we are filled the the fruit of the Holy Spirit and are able to use our Spiritual Gifts with reckless abandon for the good of the Kingdom of God!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Friday, September 20, 2013

Spiritual Gifts: Gifts from the Holy Spirit

"But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere - in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Acts 1:8

Spiritual gifts are gifts from the Holy Spirit, but they are not the Fruit of the Spirit.  If you want to read more on the Fruit of the Spirit, visit October-December 2012 on this blog and read Galatians 5:22-23.  I just wanted to mention that in case there is any confusion.  They are different, but they work together!

A few other things to remember about Spiritual Gifts (directly from the study guide):
*They are Biblical
*Given to everyone
*Essential to discipleship
*You cannot choose or trade the gifts you receive
*Exciting to discover
*Not about you
*They bring unity to the body of Christ, but not uniformity

Do you know what your Spiritual Gifts are?  Are you wondering how you can find out what they are?  In our study we took a "Spiritual Gifts Assessment", a series of questions that we answered on a scale of 0-4, '0' being "rarely true" and '4' being "consistently true" about ourselves.  The numbers are tallied, added together in a specific way (with a final number from 1-12) and charted on a bar graph. 
There are many assessments out there, but if you'd like to take this one visit for a free copy.

Some things to keep in mind about Spiritual Gifts:
*One is not better than any other
*Many people can have the same Spiritual Gift, but it will look different for each person
*Spiritual Gifts are validated by others
*They are confirmed through prayer

Once you know what your Spiritual Gift is or have a picture of your Spiritual Gift cluster (a main gift surrounded & supported by other gifts) what will you to do with them?!
Hide them under a bush? 
Jesus says to his disciples, and us, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  (Matthew 28:19-20).    That doesn't mean that teaching or preaching is more important, it means that whatever our gifts are, we are to use them to spread the Gospel.

So what might that look like?  Well, you can be sure that it looks as unique as every person's fingerprint.  Here's a for instance: if someone's gift is music they might do some of the obvious things like sing or play an instrument; but they might also be gifted in teaching which may lead them to volunteer to lead a Children's choir.  Another person who is gifted in vocal music, hospitality, & evangelism might organize off site singing as an outreach.  Those gifted in hospitality, mercy, or giving will probably find themselves naturally reaching out to others, organizing groups to help others, and always finding a way to give to those in need!

The assessment we took identified 20 Spiritual Gifts, though there is no official number.  This assessment also utilizes Spiritual Gift Clusters, which puts your highest scored gift in the center, surrounded by gifts for which you rated '7' or above.  Every assessment has it's scoring and grouping, but your gifts are your gifts.  That shouldn't change no matter which assessment you use.  However, if you took the assessment at different seasons in your life, you may see your gifts rating slightly higher or lower at different times in you life and certainly would discover different ways in which to use them.

I like to think of the assessment as a frame work on which to build a solid ministry, within the church and personally.  While it points out those things in which we are gifted, it also helps us to see what areas where we are not so gifted, saving us from anxiety, frustration and failure.  It's important to continue with follow up steps, including exploring your passion(s) and assessing where is the greatest need.  Questions to ask are: "Do I have a gift that would fulfill a need in the congregation or the community?  Is there a need that is not being met?"  and "What am I passionate about?"
Exploring where the greatest needs are and our own personal passions in relation to our gifts is where the rubber really meets the road!  It's one thing to discover Spiritual Gifts, but it's what we do with all this information that will produce spiritual growth, both within ourselves and within the body of Christ.

For example, I'm a passionate 'cheerleader'.  Not the kind with pom-poms (ok, sometimes I have pom-poms), but I am that person who loves to see people succeed.  Supporting & encouraging, in my own way, those who are following their call, their dream, or taking on a challenge.  "You can do it!" & "Woo-Hoo!" are two of my favorite phrases!  It's called "Exhortation" on the list of Spiritual Gifts.  It showed up as a 7 on the assessment, but my passion for it would put it ahead of other gifts for which I scored higher.  On the flip side, knowing our Spiritual Gifts can help us focus our energies where they will be most productive for everyone.  Take me, for instance, if there was a need to help with VBS, many of my gifts would fit that ministry, my season of life adds experience, and I enjoy helping with young children.  However, I scored VERY low in the Gift areas of Artistry and Skilled Craft, so it would not be a good fit to put me in charge of crafts or building something!  I would be filled with anxiety, the craft would be pretty lame and it wouldn't be much fun for anyone.  It would be best for the ministry to seek out someone who's Gifts & Passions make them especially qualified for that area of VBS!

It's not all about the numbers!  It's discovering things about ourselves, that which God already knows.  He created us, He equipped, He calls us to be a part of Him; to live in community, loving & supporting each other and sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus.  He leads us to use our gifts, and trust me, sometimes that call can be uncomfortable.  Knowing our gifts does not mean that God will allow us to sit back and only do those things with which we are agreeable.  Being gifted in something doesn't mean it's easy or that we won't be pushed in an unfamiliar direction, just ask Jeremiah and Jonah!

So, when you feel like your gifts are taking you out of your safe-zone, take comfort in the words that God says to Jeremiah, for he says them to us too, "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb.  Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world." " must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you.  And don't be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you.  I, the Lord, have spoken!"  (Jeremiah 1:5-8).

What a blessing to be loved by God, to be lead by God, and to be equipped by God to do His work.

Your Partner In Ministry,
Shelly Housel 

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gifts & Hospitality & Promises for You!

"Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body.  We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do.  And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.  God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well."  Romans 12: 4-6

Summer's scattered schedule leaves me feeling like I'm missing a part of me... You!  I miss seeing you all regularly and am so happy I've been able to see some of you on the few occasions I've made it to church over the last few weeks.   And thank you to those who've told me they've stayed in the Word over the summer months and have been encouraged by the blog posts.  It is uplifting to hear the blog is helpful and encouraging to others, through the Grace of God.  It is something I've felt called to do, even if I'm not doing daily or even regularly, and your kind words are a reinforcement that this is an area where God is leading me.

Do you hear God calling you to do something in particular?  Do you feel His leadership in your life?  Do you think people are hearing voices in their head when they say things like that?!  (You can laugh here - it's so hard so add inflection in type!) 

Way back at the beginning of my exploration of my faith journey, I don't think I actually believed that someone was being led by God to do one thing or another.  I figured it was just their way of saying, "This is what I'm good at & what I want, so it must be what I am meant to do."  Part of me didn't believe their faith and part of me was jealous that they were so convicted.  As a young person I really didn't know what I wanted to do in life.  I knew I was good at some things, but did not have a clear goal or path; nor did I feel like my gifts mattered or were important.  A few years into my faith journey, I was given a Gifts Assessment.  It was a part of a larger study our congregation was doing at the time, but it was the best thing I've ever done to personally assess my life.  It was through this Gift Assessment, along with studying what God tells us about our Gifts, that I started to understand and believe what I first thought was unbelievable. 

Fast forward a dozen years and I started attending Bible study regularly and eventually took a leadership role in a Mom's outreach group and eventually began leading Bible study!  In all of these roles I used what I discovered in that Gift Assessment years earlier.  And trust me, it was not a straight and obvious path!  It isn't always easy, either.  But, recognizing that God has asked me to do certain things has allowed me to say "yes" with confidence when asked.  I also tend to focus on doing things that encompass my gifts rather than taking on projects for which I have no degree of competency!  Saving me a lot of guilt and stress :)

In several of our Bible study meetings, talk has turned to our gifts.  What are they?  How can we use them?  Several of us thought it would be a good idea and very good timing to take a Gifts Assessment.  So, our first two weeks of Bible study will focus on a Gifts Assessment and Bible study found on the "Women of the ELCA" webpage.  It is called 'Gifts for You' and you can download your own copy here if you'd like to get started.  I will have printed copies at the beginning of September, too.  This study includes a survey, charts & graphs which I find much easier to view and evaluate on paper.  I will make enough copies for everyone who attended in person in the past.  If you are new - WELCOME!  I am so glad you are here!   Whether you will be doing the study on-line or in person, please let me know so I can print a copy for you!  If you are a member or friend of Redeemer Lutheran Church, I will put it in your mailbox, if not, I can always mail it to you.  This is a free resource from 'Women of the ELCA'.

I am so excited to announce that we will resume meeting live on Sept 20th!  On October 4th we will be cooking for Faith Kitchen!  Then beginning October 11th we will read A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, which will take us up to our Thanksgiving break (either the 15th or 22nd, depending on how things are going).  You can find A Confident Heart at most on-line bookstores or on the 'Proverbs 31 Ministries' website.  The cost of the book varies depending on where you purchase it, and used books can often be found for less on (use the portal on the church's website to support Youth Ministry).  We will be doing 2 chapters a week, but if that's too much reading for you, you may want to buy the book soon and begin reading it to lighten your load during the six weeks we will be doing it together.

Your "assignment" for August is to fully enjoy this last month of summer!  If you are still working through the book of Proverbs, stick with it so that you finish by mid-August.  Check-in with your One Word.  How is it working in your life?  Did you check out their website?  You can also follow My One Word's inspiring posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Your Partner in Ministry,

Shelly - honey

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Friday, July 19, 2013

Congratulations! Proverbs Read-Along Wrap Up

"There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!"  Proverbs 31:29

WOW!  Go ahead, read that verse again, you deserve it.  You have read all 31 chapters of Proverbs over the last month!

What did you think about the last few chapters that seem to repeat earlier sayings and ideas, but often in a slightly different way?  Not much different than today's way of getting an important message or concept across to the general population.  Repetition!! 

For those that don't know, my oldest daughter plays softball.  She's been a catcher for 12 years and has her sights set on being recruited to play in college.  A lofty goal, I will admit (prayers welcomed), but the reason I digress is this: I talk a lot about sports and sport metaphors in my daily life.  I'm not a sport person, I'm a book person, but when one is around something for 12 years, it starts to become a part of you.  So, the other day I was with some dads during a practice.  They were talking about hitting, different techniques, etc. and changing a girls' swing.  At first she doesn't like it - it feels strange and awkward, but with repetition it will eventually become the new normal for her.  The number 1500 was thrown out, in that it takes 1500 repetitions to change muscle memory.  1500 times of doing something new the same way to make it a natural part of what you do!  Let that sink in...

Did you notice the repetition within Proverbs?  I don't think any one thing was repeated 1500 times, but there is definitely repetition throughout the book.   Without doubt King Solomon was not only a wise leader, but a skilled teacher as well.  As we read through all 31 chapters, we read many of the same lessons over and over again.  The more one reads, the better chance the lesson will become a natural way of life.  And if a child is taught these from an early age, it IS his or her way of life. 
Now, I'm not saying we should follow every word of Proverbs, but there is great wisdom within those pages, even for us in the 21st Century, or perhaps especially for us.  

I don't want to forget to particularly mention Proverbs 31, "the sayings of King Lemuel, an oracle that his mother taught him." Proverbs 31:1.  When I was young, I had the idea that the Proverbs 31 woman was a good wife who submitted to her husband, cooked, cleaned, and was a good mother.  I did not want to be a Proverbs 31 wife.  Clearly, I had not read the book at that point!  The woman described in this chapter is a good wife, yes, but she is also a business woman, she's wise, talented,  kind and strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  But most importantly, the thing that sets her apart from others is that she is a "woman who fears the Lord" (P:31:30b),  She is what we would consider a "modern" woman - she can 'bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let her husband forget he's 'the man' (Am I showing my age?).   While some speculate that this is not a single woman being described, I can imagine that she is!   And what a role model!  While I fall short on most of the qualities of a Proverbs 31 woman on any given day, I hope, that when I look back on my life, I can say that I came close to her example over my lifetime.

I hope you have enjoyed this quick read through the Book of Proverbs.  When people say things like, "I need an instruction book for living" or "I wish babies came with instructions" I usually answer, "Read Proverbs!".  It won't solve all the problems or answer all the questions, but it's a pretty good place to start.   
Combine that wisdom with Jesus words, "The most important commandment is this:  'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.  The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these." Mark 12:29-31, and you're pretty well covered for life! 

Being a Christian, I believe that Grace is what saves me, not living by any particular rules.  But, life is about living in this world and doing what's right, making a living, and getting along with others; teaching our children and staying out of trouble ourselves.  And I think that's the role of Proverbs: helping a Spiritual community make sense in the real world of temptations and short cuts and difficulties.  Used as a tool to navigate our lives with the values that God has given us, Proverbs can help lead us down the right path.

Next week I'll post a little something about what's next for "Re: A Small Group Experience for Women" both in person and here on the blog. 

Have a beautiful weekend and stay cool!

Your Partner in Ministry,

Shelly - honey

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day 28 of Proverbs Read-Along

"As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person." Proverbs 27:19

The other day I wore my work out clothes all day!  My intention when I woke up that day was to don these clothes to remind & encourage me to work out.  Having been away for a week and then taking another week to recover the state of the house from leaving 2 kids and the husband "home alone", I realized that it had been two weeks since I stepped on the treadmill or practiced any yoga.  Yikes!  Far too long if I am to lose any weight or try to run that 5K with my son in October.  However, as the day went on, I found myself busy with "other things" that seemed more important or I was distracted by e-mail, Facebook, and Pinterest - all in the name of keeping in touch with real people or researching something.  As I got ready for bed that night, I was disappointed in myself.  Even though I had every good intention of "running" (it's really just a short jog, to those who are actual runners) and even clothed myself for the task, I didn't follow through.  I didn't listen to that inner voice that whispered throughout the day, "You have time - just do a mile or so.  It won't take long."  But it was much easier to push that voice away. 

Have you had days like that -when your good intentions remain just that?  Do you know someone who is full of good intentions but rarely follows through?  Or someone who clothes themselves in something, only to discover they aren't that at all? 
The other day reminded me of people who wear a cross around their neck or hang a Rosary on their rear view mirror for show.  They clothe themselves in the symbols of the church, but aren't really "church people".  I actually had someone tell me that one time, as she wore a large cross necklace (she wore it regularly) and enrolled her son in Catholic school.  She said church was her husband's "thing".  That struck me as odd and put a word of caution in my heart.  But, I did not withhold my friendship or judge her.  Perhaps she was clothing herself in the symbol of Christ with every good intention of making church "her thing."  It was part of her life at some time in her past and maybe she hoped, like I did, that wearing the proper attire would spur the proper action.  And when it did, we'd be ready!!

The next day I put on a fresh work-out outfit and jogged 2 miles!  Boy, did it feel good!  I found it was a similar feeling I get when I've been away from God's word or worship for too long and finally put myself back into His Presence. 
When I'm away from God, forgetting to ask His blessing on my day & my family and not seeking His guidance before I do something, my heart is sluggish, my breathing labored and my efforts are like swimming against a current.  But when I seek the Lord first, study His words, His teachings, and His wisdom my heart is light, my breathing is easy, and my efforts are buoyed up by His life-giving waters.  It is GOOD! 

That pretty much sums up my last two weeks!  My troubles and worries have not disappeared, but they are eased!  The evidence is in a text I received from my oldest daughter.  She said, "There's hope!"  It was a wonderful exclamation from a child who's hope of fulfilling her dreams has been dwindling over the last month and nearly plummeted over the last two weeks.  Just when we were looking ahead to make plans for a 'worse-case-scenario"  (Proverbs 27:12a), she was given a glimmer of hope to hang on and boost her spirits, (Proverbs 18:4 and 25:13).

I think this is part of what Proverbs provides for me: hope.  Hope for those times when I feel like this world is working against me.  When all that I know is right as a Christian seems to be wrong in society.  It tells me that injustice is seen by God, that bribery doesn't really work, and that a life of lazy luxury will only lead to hunger and despair.  It also shows me that these are not just modern day issues.  Mankind has been swindling, ignoring their parents, looking for love in all the wrong places, and trying to get rich quick for a VERY LONG time!  There is an odd comfort in knowing we are not the worse society ever to have existed, nor have we improved that much over thousands of years.  Yet, there is hope!  Hope in Christ!

The other thing Proverbs gives me is laughter!  I actually laugh out loud at some of the verses.  Sometimes it's out of absurdity, sometimes it's out of being able to relate, and other times it seems to perfectly describe people in my life.  Do you find it funny at times or is it just me?  I've been told I have a strange sense of humor!

What do you see or hear in Proverbs?  Does it make you laugh, shudder, think deep thoughts, cry or all of the above?  What does it stir up in you? 

Congratulations on reading 28 chapters of Proverbs!  I must admit, this is the farthest I've ever gotten.  And since I have given you the challenge of reading all 31 chapters, I know I'll finish the book this time - I have to meet my own challenge.  Only 3 more chapters to go! 

Thank you for coming along on this journey.  Taking on a challenge is so much more fun and meaningful when it's done in such good company.

May you have a beautiful week!

Your Partner in Ministry,

Shelly - honey

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 13 of Proverbs Read-Along

"I (Wisdom) love all who love me.  Those who search for me will surely find me.  Unending riches, honor, wealth, and justice are mine to distribute.  My gifts are better than the purest gold, my wages better than sterling silver!"  Proverbs 8:17-19
"Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Knowledge of the Holy One results in understanding."  Proverbs 9:10

Can anyone tell me where the last 13 days have gone?!  With the end of school, 2 on the 20th and my youngest just this week on the 25th; a graduation; softball  tournaments, games, practices & a video session; packing and planning for a week long tournament in Colorado; and getting meals, games, and organizing the house for the rest of the family while I'm gone, there just doesn't seem to be enough time & energy in a day to do everything!  And that doesn't include all the extras that happened this week, like a shredded tire while driving 60 mph down Rt. 80, dogs with upset tummies = a lot of carpet cleaning, and kids cleaning out their rooms resulting in a mountain of laundry!  And that's still not everything that went on this week!

Can you relate?  If not this week, I'm sure you've had equally or more harrowing weeks than this.  And yet, we survive, if not thrive through such craziness.  How?  We rely on God to carry us through.  Just when we think we can't handle any more, that's when God steps in and says, "Thanks.  I was hoping you'd ask for some help."  If we've learned anything from our previous studies, it's that we need to recognize that God desires us to lean on Him every day, not just when we're at our wits end.  When we rely on God, and not ourselves, we can handle even the most challenging circumstances and are often blessed in the process. "He will neither fail you nor forsake you." Deut. 31:6b

As we read along in Proverbs, we discover how we should live, what kind of person we should strive to be, and the reward we can expect.  It speaks of Godly vs. wicked people, humility vs. pride, wise vs. foolish, honest people vs. treacherous people, hard workers vs. lazy people and those who accept advice vs. those who don't. 
Personally, I cringe as I read, because I so often see myself and my actions on the wrong side of the "vs.".  But Proverbs is a teaching tool and I'm grateful that I am a work in progress, that God does not expect perfection and that I am SAVED BY GRACE through Jesus Christ!  And, as the verses at the beginning encourage, all who search for wisdom will find it and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  So, begin with fear of the Lord and continue to search for wisdom to live a life of blessing and happiness.

Do you have any favorite verses in these first 13 chapters?  I have too many to list, but let me begin by pointing out that my Bible breaks the book into three sections.  Chapters 1-9 are "Wisdom for Young People", 10-24 are "Wisdom for All People" and 25-31 are "Wisdom for The Leaders".   Did you notice the change between chapters 9 & 10?  Chapter 10 seems to be written in "fortune cookie" form.  Not to equate Solomon's wise advice with fortune cookies, but I often think these verses would be great to receive in a fortune cookie! 
And I love the word pictures that are painted: turning off the flow of our words (10:19); disaster striking like a cyclone and whirling the wicked away (10:25); lazy people being like smoke in the eyes (10:26); Godly people being described as flourishing like leaves in spring (11:28) or trees that bear life-giving fruit (11:30).  But one of my favorites is chapter 11, verse 22, "A woman who is beautiful but lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig's snout."  Ouch!  I can picture the satirical cartoon in today's newspaper or as a Facebook post!  Yep, Solomon knows how to paint a picture.

Painting such vivid pictures and using a little humor (there's more, this was just one of my favorites) helps us to remember our lessons.  Solomon was not only a wise leader, but a great teacher in substance and method.  We can learn from what he says AND how he says it.

Finally, there are 2 verses in chapter 13 that I love to quote when it comes to parenting.  I'm a mom, so I see these verses through the eyes of a parent, but they also remind me that I am a child, of my parents, but more importantly of God.  While these verses are applicable to me as a parent parenting my children, I cannot forget that I am first a child of God and He is speaking to me as the child.
"A wise child accepts a parent's discipline; a young mocker refuses to listen." Proverbs 13:1  Overall, my kids are good, but there are days and seasons when they seem more like the 'young mocker' than the 'wise child'.  I know God says this about me, too :) 
My other favorite verse on parenting is #24 "If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don't love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them."  Keeping in mind that "discipline" here means nurture, guide, and correct.  I think this should be printed on every piece of parenting material new parents receive!  We all have our days when we just give-in, but it's sad to see a parent ruled by their 3 year-old, their 7 year-old or their 13 year-old.  Children crave guidance and boundaries, which is why they test them.  And why God's followers are also called children - we are always testing His boundaries and thankfully He lovingly teaches, guides, and corrects.  For those of you who are also parents, find a style that works for you and your child (even children within the same family require different styles of parenting), pray for God's discipline for you, and parent on with grace, confidence, joy, and love knowing that you have the best parent role model and partner: God.

How are you doing with your One Word?  I am still "waiting" for my word to take root deep within - to become and exude the sweet, translucent qualities of honey in my personality. I am challenged nearly every day in this area and fail 9 times out of 10!  But it has inspired my time & efforts.  It helped me put together teacher gift baskets as we said good bye to 3 years of preschool!  It has fueled my desire to seek "natural" cleaners for my home and beauty products and "toys" for my youngest.  It's my style to work from the outside in at a slow and steady pace, so that's what I'm going with.  I'd love to hear from you!  How has it inspired you?  How has it challenged you?  How is the Proverbs read-along enhancing what your One Word is doing in your life?

On Monday my oldest and I will travel to Colorado for a week long softball tournament!  Can I ask for your prayers for safe travel and play, for us, her teammates & parents, and all the participants coming from all over the country and Canada to compete, watch, evaluate, teach, and officiate. 

I don't know yet if I will take my computer, so I may not post next week.  But I will be taking my reading, staying in the Word daily.  Please come to the blog to post about what you are doing and how God is working in you.  I will be able to read the posts in my phone, even if I am not able to write.  I look forward to hearing from each of you!

Your Partner in Ministry,

Shelly - honey  

" Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24