No Wood is Good Wood

A few years ago my husband installed a wood-burning stove/heater in our basement. It’s a very efficient way to heat a home but it requires quite a bit of preparation. Months before there is ever a need for heat, trees are chopped and/or trimmed and kindling is collected. Pallets of stacked logs become an early indicator that cold weather is well on its way. Brrrr!! wood pic 2

It’s a terrible feeling to get halfway through the winter season and realize the inventory is getting low! Yet, when that same philosophy is applied to gossip, it’s actually a positive thing that the wood supply is inadequate. This is the wisdom found in Proverbs 26:20 “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”

A talebearer is synonymous with one who gossips or stirs up contention with their conversation. It requires an eager participant to stoke its embers and fuel its intensity. A fire like this relies upon a consistent dose of “wood,” and can burn endlessly with no regard for its surroundings. The damage is usually irreversible, leaving charred cinders of pain, hurt and confusion in its aftermath. The best prevention? Silence. Like a fire that isn’t being fed, a one-sided discussion will quickly fizzle out.

Our boys didn’t like being reminded that the wood heap needed replenishing. It was a chore that became a necessity for survival (or at least warmth!). The next time you’re approached by an individual whose language is going to tear down or tattle incessantly, remember this illustration. Your response to withhold the energy source will smother any smoldering blaze!

Welcome to my world!

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4

I was reading Proverbs 14 today, (since it is the fourteenth day of the month) and this one verse sort of jumped out at me. Why is that tucked into this section?…I questioned. Most of the other verses in this 35-stanza proverb dealt with contrasting the actions and attitudes of those who are foolish and those who are wise. Titles are given to symbolize the deeper issues at hand: the backslider, the wicked, the simple, the scorner. Yet, there are those who strive to please God and are tagged with a “nice” description: the prudent, the upright and the righteous. How does the comparison to an ox in its barn relate to my life? 🙂

oxen barn pic

My Life Application Study Bible had this observation: “When a farmer has no oxen, the stable will be clean, but he will be unable to make a living. The only way to keep your life free of people problems is to keep it free of other people. But if your life is empty of people, it is useless; and if you live only for yourself, your life loses its meaning.”

Relationships can be tricky. We aren’t all cut out of the same mold so we certainly cannot expect others to always understand our viewpoints and intentions. What would be a “people problem?” Probably any kind of misunderstanding or disagreement –verbal or otherwise–which causes strife and separation. It’s sad when the division become permanent, lasting for years!

Is it possible that some individuals choose to be isolated, free of someone else’s influence or confrontation? Yes, it is. But that person is probably a very lonely man or woman. By distancing oneself –emotionally or physically–that person is keeping a tidy living space, not invaded by intruders; but the area is dry, dusty and silent. Does that sound like an appealing way to live? A neat freak may like the lack of clutter, but will eventually begin to resent the monotony.

One may be quite comfortable being in control of their domain and keeping it clean, but they are missing out on unexpected blessings. God wants us to reach out, love others and have an affect on them. Jesus’ ministry, albeit short on earth, was filled with companionship, confrontation and choice memories with people. His life exemplified one which had purpose and joy! I want a life like that!

Our lives have so much more depth and meaning when we include others in it and accept the baggage that comes along with it. The world is full of people–how crowded is your barn?

Are you from New Jersey?!

new jersey map2I recently attended a one-day Ladies Conference in Eden, New York with my pastor’s wife, Barb. The speakers were encouraging and spoke on very familiar topics…relationships, trials and heart conditions. As a writer and a blogger, I am always on the look-out for an illustration that can be used, specifically for spiritual application. Well…I found one–during the lunch break!

Picture this.Close to 300 women are confined to a downstairs area, where a good-sized spread of a lunch menu is offered. Tables are full, the atmosphere is lively and full of “chat”–it’s a perfect setting to make friends and enjoy the luxury and harmony of the day’s events.

I am finished with my soup, sandwich and salad and still have room for dessert. I confiscate a piece of chocolate cheesecake (yum!)and with a purpose, head for the coffee table. There’s a woman blocking my way, seemingly confused on whether to choose a hot or cold beverage. I, politely, tell her that I am there for the coffee and, sensing that I can get away with sarcasm, tell her that “I’ve already made up my mind on what I want.”

Then, her comment-or should I say response-stopped me dead in my tracks! “Are you from New Jersey?” she asked, quite pointedly. I think my jaw dropped! I was quite amused with her dead-on diagnosis and slipped right into a stream of dialogue that confirmed it even more. We laughed together and exchanged our first names. It was a priceless moment, which got me thinking…

Philippians 3:20 tells us, “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” I sometimes get confused with the language of the King James Bible translation, but when I spend more time doing a bit of research on the Greek/Hebrew origin of a word used in the Scriptures, I usually am enlightened by its true meaning and intent of use. When the apostle Paul uses the word “conversation” in this passage, it is assigned to mean our citizenship. We may live and reside in a particular city, state or country, but if we are Christians, our home is “in heaven.” It’s where we came from, and it is where we will return. That is so exciting!

I thought of the question presented to me, “Are you from New Jersey?” That stranger could tell from my accent where I came from. She was able to pinpoint it and identify it quickly once I began to converse with her. It made me wonder if our (verbal) conversations reflect the Savior? Do we possess a vocabulary that points others to our supernatural home? Do our words stir up this observation: “Are you a Christian?” When we strike up communication with individuals, are we making deliberate attempts to credit God for all that happens? Wouldn’t that be one way that shows your place of birth? 🙂 Everyone should be able to hear your accent which identifies you as a citizen of heaven!

Yes, I am from New Jersey; I am also from Philadelphia and from West Springfield too. But my true residence is in eternity with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I hope that, despite the accent I have here on earth (which marks me as a native of the Garden State), that others will see/hear that my citizenship is in heaven!

Have You Hugged Your Teenager Today?

Ha! Did this caption catch your attention, Moms? In this fast-paced, technology-saturated age we live in, it becomes increasingly difficult to pause and pamper the young adults we have been entrusted by the Lord to raise. Was your most recent physical contact a high five or a quick pat on the back as they hurried out the door? Have you complimented them lately on a job well done, or have you consistently focused on a flaw which gets under your skin?

The awkward passage rites of adolescence seem to erect walls within a home….sometimes overnight (or at least it appears that way)! The need for privacy, the sullenness (a fancy word for brooding) and the hormonal mood swings could be some of the primary culprits that cause the upheaval and tension. This same young person, who raids the kitchen pantry and forgets to feed the dog, is the same child you cradled in your arms, the one who sought you out on stormy nights for comfort. snoopy hug

When was the last time you showed some sign of affection to the terrific teenager who will carry on your family legacy? Will his/her memories of these influential years bring to mind an era of gentleness and playful interactions or an image of brusqueness and detachment? The balance is a tricky one to maintain at times; however, God has equipped us with the perfect Guide: His Word.

Psalm 86:5 tells us: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” If our goal as a Christian is to be Christ-like, then this verse should describe us as well! Other citations from the Scriptures reveal God’s character as: slow to anger (Psalm 103:8), faithful (1Corinthians 1:9) and forgiving (Ephesians 4:32)—just to name a few. It is our responsibility to develop the same qualities and exemplify them in our lives as mothers.

Full of wisdom and direction, the Bible will provide us with all the knowledge, discernment and guidance we need for parenting effectively. Allow your son/daughter to see that your dependence is upon the Lord. Pray daily that God will equip you with patience, understanding and a listening ear. Too swiftly the years will be spent, and our task of training-up completed.

Years ago, I read a poem which depicted the fleeting phases of youth into adulthood. Notice how accelerated the duration of development becomes in these six stanzas:

My newborn babe
Struggles from my arms
And toddles off to school.
A tall young man accompanies her home.
Their child brings me
My glasses and shawl.~~taken from Children Are Wet Cement, Anne Ortlund.

The sentimental years of child-rearing need not be affiliated with growing pains—namely yours. Take time out today to thank God for your children-whether they be young or old.

P.S. Make sure to give them a hug!