February Favourites

I got this idea from Crystal Stine’s Friday Favorites post. I thought I’d share a few things that stood out from this month:

Podcast: I’ve just recently started subscribing to these on iTunes, and a takeaway from February was Gary Chapman’s interview with Lysa Terkeurst – author of “The Best Yes”. Wise words in there.

Discoveries: Did you know Moses had a brother-in-law? And one he must have liked very much, because Hobab wanted to go back to his homeland, but Moses was very persuasive and talked him into travelling with the Israelites (Numbers 10:29-33). I’ve also put the Goodreads app on my iPhone. I hadn’t found their website very accessible with my screen-reading software, but a friend suggested the app instead and it’s brilliant. You have shelves for books you want to read, have read and are currently reading, and you can see your friends’ choices too.

Blog-Post: I’ve had a real treat this month with all those posts from the Dominican Republic. I really liked this one from Ruth about how a young boy preached on the Bible-reading she ‘Just happened’ to have read that morning. I don’t believe in co-incidences, but I believe in God-incidences.

Quote: “Do not ask God to feed the hungry if you have enough food in your pantry.” That seems so characteristic of God. After all, how did Jesus feed over five thousand people? With five loaves of bread and two fish that someone gave. He used what was already there. I don’t think He would expect one person to solve world-hunger, but each person can share their provisions with another.

Bible-Verse: Haggai 2:4 – “Take heart, … and begin to work. For I am with you”. Someone shared this days before my appointment with the job-centre, when I was told there was no more help they could give me. Of course, God’s work doesn’t have to be paid employment. There are many things we can do for the kingdom of God, in and out of the workplace.

What’s stood out for you this month? I’d love to know.

Beware Your Words

“Spoken words can be like deep water, but wisdom is like a flowing stream” (Proverbs 18:4).  What we say can be as dangerous as being thrown in to the deep end of a swimming-pool, but a flowing stream?  A flowing stream’s not dangerous at all.  It’s pleasant to listen to, and you can spend hours being soothed by it.

 

“The words of fools start quarrels” (Proverbs 18:6).

 

“The words of a gossip are like tasty bits of food” (Proverbs 18:8).  If I’ve eaten smoked bacon in a sandwich, or some nice potato dauphinoise (sliced potatoes baked with cream and garlic), the flavour tantalises me long after I’ve finished eating.  A sobering thought, but gossip can be just as lasting.

 

“The wise person listens to learn more. …  The person who tells one side of a story seems right, until someone else comes and asks questions” (Proverbs 18:15, 17).  Words are important – other people’s, and the way you use yours.

 

“A brother who has been insulted is harder to win back than a walled city” (Proverbs 18:19).  I know the truth of this one.  I’m not very likely to want to spend time with someone if I know they think badly of me.

 

So, remember the longevity of your words, and be careful what you say.

Build and Prepare

“Wisdom has built her house …  ‘Come and eat my food and drink the wine I have prepared’” (Proverbs 9:1, 5).

 

Proverbs 9 compares wisdom to foolishness.  The main difference I saw was the planning and preparation on Wisdom’s part.  There’s no mention of the fool building her house; only sitting at the door, and no mention of wine either.  I’m not an expert in winemaking, but I do know the grapes should be left to ferment and it’s a lengthy process.  The fool would have none of that, but chose to steal somebody else’s water instead.

 

Likening foolishness to a loud woman is less about the volume of her voice and more about her spiritual condition.  If what’s precious to God is a gentle and quiet spirit, surely a loud and impulsive spirit is just the opposite.  Wise people are careful planners, counting the cost, working diligently with the end in mind.  Impulsive people grab what’s in their reach and only think later about the consequences.

 

It’s good to have ideas and dreams, but if those dreams are going to come to any good, they need to be built on a solid foundation.  That foundation is prayer – giving it all to God and persevering, knowing that as we follow Him, He’ll make us successful (Proverbs 3:6).

Wisdom’s Greatest Delights

“I was like a child by His side.  I was delighted every day, enjoying His presence all the time, enjoying the whole world, and delighted with all its people” (Proverbs 8:30-31).

 

Proverbs 8 – a beautiful chapter on how wisdom was present before even the dust of the earth (verse 26).  And wisdom’s greatest delights?

 

God’s Presence Always:  Although the Bible says we’ve been brought near by the blood of Christ, sometimes we can feel closer to Him than others, but however we feel, the wisest thing we can do is to enjoy His presence all the time.

 

The World God Made:  Somebody told me once that she thought God would want me to see because He’d made such beauty on the earth.  As someone who can’t, I suppose it’s difficult to take as much of a delight in nature, but I do like birdsong, the smell of lilies, the smallness of daisies, and the sound of a babbling stream.

 

All God’s People:  I feel like I haven’t perfected any of these, but verse 31 says wisdom delights in all His people, even the ones I’d struggle to spend a couple of hours with.  The truth is that God made man in His image, so in every person, there’s something to delight in, and God takes great delight in us.

Treasure Hunt

“Cry out for wisdom, and beg for understanding.  Search for it like silver, and hunt for it like hidden treasure” (Proverbs 2:3-4).

 

This reminds me of a story Jesus told.  He said the kingdom of heaven was like treasure hidden in a field, and when somebody found it, they’d bury it again and give everything they had to buy that piece of land (Matthew 13:44).

 

We need to search for God’s wisdom with everything we have, because knowing Him is the most valuable thing there is.

 

And what’s the result of this treasure hunt?  Wisdom will come into our minds, and knowing what God wants will be pleasing to us (Proverbs 2:10).

 

So, let’s join the search party.

31 Days of Song: “This Good Day”

I’ve had the first part of Psalm 127 in my head the last few days.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this is a Psalm by Solomon – the king who asked God for wisdom above everything else.

“If the Lord doesn’t build the house, the builders are working for nothing.  If the Lord doesn’t guard the city, the guards are watching for nothing.  It is no use for you to get up early and stay up late, working for a living.  The Lord gives sleep to those He loves” (verses 1 and 2, New Century Version).  You know when you come home, snuggle up in bed and escape into sleep?  You can do that because God loves you, so I’ve chosen this song today as a reminder that every day is a gift from Him.

The song is by Fernando Ortega.  He does some good songs and has one of those very recognisable voices, so if I hear one on the radio and think it’s by him, it usually is.

Glad to be Different

I went to the gym today.  If you’ve got an iPod, you can plug it into their machines and listen to your own music while you exercise; otherwise, you’re stuck with the stuff they play.  Sometimes I manage to block the music out, but today as I sat on the bike, a song came on the radio – one I remember listening to in the taxi on my way to primary school, so a song I’ve grown up with.  These were some of the lyrics:

“The bachelors phone up their friends for a drink

“While the married ones turn on a chat-show;

“And we’ll all be lonely tonight, and lonely tomorrow.

“And nothing ever happens” …  How depressing!  The only reason I’ve quoted it is that it made me so glad to be different!  Why does it seem ok to let our children grow up listening to hopelessness?  I can think of other songs I used to listen to that were either sad, or had lots of questions and no answers.  Where are the songs about living life to the full – about growing and hoping, because good things do happen after all?  As Christians, we’ve got a Friend who’s closer than a brother; we don’t have to be lonely for the rest of our lives.  Please, let’s think what messages are going into us and our children.

 

If ever you make a comment about how the church should be distinctly different, you might be laughed at.  The world thinks the church should get with-it or she’ll shrivel up and die, but they don’t see Jesus – the one who said “I will build My church”, and they don’t see the benefits of being one of His.  If they walked around every day, knowing God was at their side and believing He had good plans for their lives, they might find themselves choosing differently.  Perhaps they’d even see that when they thought they had their finger on the pulse, they were actually shrivelling up and dying.

Take a Lesson from my Gran

I talked to someone yesterday about a grandmother who delighted in her granddaughter, and it got me thinking of my gran again.  Gran (Mum’s mum) died when I was 18, but lived close by throughout my childhood.  I’d spend whole days with her when I was small.  They always finished with a tea of egg sandwiches, sausage rolls, and cheese-flavoured Hula Hoops in a little glass dish.  I kept the set of dishes to remind me of her.

 

Her middle name was Annie, which she hated, and they gave her the nickname “Gentle Annie” at school because she was such a sickly child.  Gran was gentle; I don’t ever remember her raising her voice, she was very loving, and I think she was wise too.  Once when I was about 13, I was on her settee reading a book.  It was a Danielle Steel book – my favourite at the time, but I wouldn’t recommend it now.  Gran sat across from me and after a while, she said:  “Will you read to me?”

 

I started reading, but I was just at the point where the daughter of the family was out with an Italian and there was a very explicit sex scene.  Embarrassed, I said:  “Oh.  We’ll skip that bit”.  I skimmed over several paragraphs until I found a part I thought was safe to read, but what a clever thing to do.  She really made me think, and I knew that what I was reading probably wasn’t acceptable to a grown-up.

 

If only she’d taken it a step further and said:  “If you can’t read it out-loud, maybe you shouldn’t be reading it”.  Perhaps she didn’t feel she could do that as a grandparent, and I’m not sure I would have taken any notice, but it might have been worth a try.

 

Does anyone stand out to you from your childhood?  What did they teach you?  Can you use their wisdom with your own children?

Who’s Worth Listening To?

“If you have died with Christ to the world’s way of doing things, why do you let others tell you how to live?  It’s as though you were still under the world’s influence. People will tell you, ‘Don’t handle this!  Don’t taste or touch that!’ …  These things look like wisdom with their self-imposed worship, false humility, and harsh treatment of the body.  But they have no value for holding back the constant desires of your corrupt nature” – Colossians 2:20-21, 23 (God’s Word Translation)

 

People do tell us how to live, and we get all sorts of advice – most of it intended to make us the best we can be.  “Keep away from that church!  You’ve been brainwashed” might be said by someone who sees you’re changing and wants the old you back because to them, the old you was better, but if you know those changes are doing you good, you’ll probably choose to stay where you are.  A friend who struggled to control his drinking told some of us that when he saw Christians drinking alcohol, he felt they wouldn’t understand his problem, and that made me think about what was more important; having a vodka in my hand or being approachable?  People might come to different conclusions about that, and I can see both sides – wanting the freedom to enjoy things in moderation, and yet not wanting to trip somebody else up.  You could go round in circles, tying yourself in knots about things, but that won’t do you a lot of good, so how do you decide?

 

Probably the best advice I can give is from the chapter I’ll be reading tomorrow:  “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” – Colossians 3:15.  In the end, these things have to be between you and God.  If you want to follow Him, God will show you His plan for your life by the peace He puts in your heart, and He’ll get you through it even when others don’t understand.

 

It has been suggested that perhaps I’m unteachable, or I don’t take on people’s opinions when they’re honest with me.  I hope I don’t come across as arrogant!  It’s not that I don’t value people’s advice; I do, and sometimes I take it, but not always.  When I stand before Jesus, I won’t have anyone else to answer to for the way I’ve lived my life.  It’ll be Him, and Him alone.

 

Have you been given any advice lately?  Maybe you’ve handed some out.  I’m here for a chat if you want one.