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 http://www.womenoftheelca.org/filebin/pdf/resources/SpiritualGifts.pdf 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 Amazon.com (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