Thank-You

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They were a despicable lot.  Outcasts of society that had found comfort in being together, rather they had no choice but to stick together since no one wanted to be near them, they had to stick together.  They could not see their families, they could not perform their jobs, they could not move amongst their towns and villages as any other citizen.  They had to remain separate, they had to remain distant and standoffish, and they had to be exclusive in their little tight knit group allowing only those that were like them to be a part of them.

 

One day this agonizing situation changed.  No longer were they ostracized.  No longer were they in physical and emotional pain.  No longer did they have to shout at the top of their lungs “unclean, unclean, unclean” when they walked about.  The sun rose on that seemingly uneventful day, that seemingly mundane, ordinary, ostracized day.  They were milling around when in the distance they spotted hope.  They had heard what Jesus could do, but the question was would He do it for them?  They could not go near, their disease prevented them from being part of the large crowd that was always following Jesus, so with a loud voice they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:13).

 

What happened next was a miracle.  All Jesus told them to do was to show themselves to the priest.  He did not pray over them, He did not lay His hands on them, He did not make any mud to put on their sores.  Rather, they were to walk to see the priest and show him their skin.  So they obeyed.  They walked.  At some point in their walking, one of these men looked down at his skin and it was clean.  No longer was there pain, no longer were there deformities, no longer would they be ostracized.  One man…ONE man out of ten men….he turned around.  Praising God in a loud voice, he found Jesus and bowed before Him thanking Him for healing him.  One man out of 10…10% of the men said “thank-you.”

 

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  We know we are to be thankful.  We teach our children to say “thank-you.”  We have come to expect people to say “thank-you” when a service is performed or when there is an act of charity.  My question for us to ponder this thanksgiving is, “Do we mean it?”  When we say “thank-you” do we really mean it or is it a phrase that leaves our lips but never touched our hearts?  When I am out being served by waitress, the grocery clerk, the car wash attendant, I try to use the person’s name in my “thank-you.”  It makes it more personal and feels more heartfelt to me.  It makes me take notice of the person and not just the service they were obliged to perform.  I also try to notice something about the service that was performed and comment on it.  Again, it makes me notice the person and their heart behind the service not just the service.

 

With this thanksgiving, notice things about others and thank them.  Write them a note about what you noticed or tell them in person.  I bet it will make their day.  Jesus knew only one man would say “thank-you.”  Yet, it did not keep Him from healing the ten.  Our motivation for service is not what we get, but what we can give.  However, a “thank-you” encourages us to not “grow weary in well doing.” (Galatians 6:9).  Be a thankful noticer this year.

Respect

 

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RESPECT…we all want it and according to Aretha Franklin it is “what you want… what you need,” and if you do not get the respect you want or need, “you might walk in and find out I’m gone.”  Aretha understood how important a “little respect” to any relationship is and when we do not get it, we have a hard time staying in the relationship no matter who the other person is….whether a husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, acquaintance, or a business relationship. According to Webster (1984) respect means “to feel or show deferential regard for: esteem. Willingness to show consideration or appreciation, polite expressions of consideration or deference.”  This definition does not contain any aspect of whether the other person is deserving of the respect, but rather what is involved in giving someone else respect.

 

The first verse I taught our girls when they were young was Ephesians 6:1-3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”  As I taught them this verse I would ask them questions about the verse to be sure they understood.  I would ask them, “who are the children?”  They always knew who they were…Danielle, Denise, ad Delaney.  We had to learn what the word obey meant.  It certainly comes in handy around the house when we teach our children Scripture and they can put it into practice.  Then I would ask them “who are the parents?”  They knew the answer to this one pretty easily too…you and Dad.  We also had to learn the word honor.  According to Danna honor means, “To do what you are told with a happy heart and a smile on your face.”  Obey was the “doing what you are told” part of the definition, but as a young child showing your parents honor was “doing it with a happy heart and a smile on your face.”

 

In other words honor is respect.  The thing about this verse that I like to point out is that we are to honor or respect our parents even when they do not deserve it.  I tell my girls that even when I have dementia and they have to take care of me, they still have to honor me for the simple fact that I am their mom.  This is a hard to pill to swallow for some as they have had a difficult relationship with their parents.  They have abused them, not taken care of them, or been selfish and not acted towards their children as a parent should act.  I talked with a man who was full of regret over how his alcoholism ruined his relationship with his children.  Even though he had been dry for many years, his children could not get past the hurt he had caused them when they were young.  Yet, these relationships could be healed if Ephesians 6:2 became real in their lives and they honored or respected their father in spite of the pain that had been caused.

 

Respect for someone does not involve being a doormat, but rather how we treat them.  Even in the midst of a discussion with another who may not deserve our respect, when we show them respect the tone of the conversation can change.  The men Jesus chose to be His disciples were part of the lowest class of society.  They did not deserve respect and as we read about their lives with Jesus and how they responded there is even more reason to question His choice.  Yet, Jesus respected them.  He was patient with them.  He taught them.  Through His investment in them, because of His respect for them; the world was transformed by the Gospel.

 

So what are we as Christians called to do?  Show a little respect.  If it is what you want and if it is what you need, then it is safe to assume that it is what someone else wants and needs also.

What is your Reward?

Lilly 15 weeks

Our family is raising a sweet puppy, Lilly, for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  We keep her for about a year and train her in various things.  She has to learn how to sit, lay down, stand, stay, come, but most importantly how to walk on a loose leash.  She is a black lab and this breed of dogs is highly motivated by food.  While working with her during her training times when she does the appropriate behavior she is rewarded with food.  If there is a distraction that pulls her attention away from me and her training, we know that that distraction had more value to her than the food that I am trying to entice her and treat her with.

The constant knowledge that if she does the right thing, she will be rewarded is always on her mind.  Our last puppy, Ashley, tried to figure out constantly what she could do in order to earn her treat and if I did not deliver how or when she thought it was necessary she would bark at me or try all of her tricks to see if this is what it would take to get her reward.  The reward of food is an ever present thought in their minds.

Some of my favorite verses are Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

God’s Word is so important we must do everything we can in order to remind us what it says and also remind our children what it says.  These verses were inspired by God and Moses recorded them to remind the children of Israel to talk about all the things God had done for them and teach all of these things to their children so they do not forget.  Just like Lilly, in the heat of the moment we forget the right behavior we are to exhibit and are distracted by the many things that Satan or our own flesh entice us with.

God says in Deuteronomy 6 we are to talk about God when we are “sitting and standing and walking by the way.”  In other words, there is not a time in our life that God should not be a part of.  God and His principles are not something that are good for Sunday morning only.  They are to be a part of our everyday lives and we should be anxious to talk about God and His word at all times of our lives.  Sometimes we need reminders, just like it says in Deuteronomy 6. “Bind them on your hands, put them on your eyes, write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.”  I took these words to heart and tried to do just that.

There are certain words or characteristics that I felt were important for our family to focus on.  I took these words and hung them around our kitchen, the center of our home.  These are a reminder of the characteristics that we need to practice in our everyday lives.  Sometimes, many times, one of us needs a reminder and the word that is needed is pointed out.  Over the next weeks these words will be the source of my weekly blog posts.

Just like my sweet puppies, we get distracted by our own selfish desires or something that seems more appealing than the reward for right behavior.  We must constantly be reminded that though our treat for right behavior may not be immediate, the long term benefits of right behavior are seen as we work diligently at practicing them in our lives.  When Lilly pulls too hard on her leash, she chokes herself.  Yet the appeal of that distraction seems more alluring than a loose leash.  So we also are drawn away by our own sinful desires and though there may be pain involved that distraction has more appeal than right behavior.  Study with me over the next weeks characteristics that will help us be the people that God would have us to be so we do not “choke ourselves” on the chain of sin that so easily can entangle us.

The Fruit Tells the Story

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“Give her of the fruit of her hands,

And let her works praise her in the gates.”

Proverbs 31:31

The conclusion of this chapter and also the conclusion of Proverbs finds us reading Proverbs 31:31.  There is controversy among theologians as to the meaning behind Proverbs 31:10-31.  According to various theologians, this passage could be referring to wisdom which is referred to as a “she” in the book of Proverbs.  We can easily relate to this as a person of wisdom is a willing worker, cares for her family, cares for the poor, and has the “teaching of kindness on her mouth.”  (Proverbs 31:26).  However, if this were the meaning behind these verses, King Lemuel’s mother would have been more direct in her counsel letting him know that these are the characteristics of wisdom, since she was direct in her opening comments of Proverbs 31.  Others have said this is the make-up of many women and not just one women.

Why is it as Christians we try to put God and His commandments into a box?  Why do we seek to take the commandments of God and make them doable in our own strength?  Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned these words, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:10).  Why is it that Paul says “when he is weak then he is strong?”  We must look at Jeremiah to find the heart we must desire, “Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23, 24).  Paul later elaborates on this in I Corinthians 1:27 “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”  In essence, living the Christian life in our own strength is not doable.

God wants us to be dependent on Him to accomplish great things, because then we have no other choice but to give Him the glory.  In our own strength, Proverbs 31 living is not doable, but with the strength, wisdom, and proper fear of the Lord living out these verse is not just probable but very much within our reach.

The last three verses of Proverbs 31 are spoken by the King about his wife, and he understands that without giving his wife some of the fruit from her hands she will become discouraged and want to give up on the daunting task before her.  She is still a woman with needs, both physical and emotional.  Though she does not seek a reward, praise, or compensation for all of her good deeds, her husband realizes that without some fruit and praise she will become weary.  He must do his part as a husband by encouraging her with his words, actions, and gifts so she continues to make such a valuable impact in her family and her community.

The praise she receives at the gates would not fall on her ears, as the “gates” were a place for the men to gather and discuss business matters or make judicial decisions.  As the wife fulfilled her responsibilities, the more praise and honor would fall on the husband’s ears and be bestowed on his character.  It would be the husband’s responsibility to relay this to his wife which would provide encouragement for her to keep leaning on God to fulfill all she was asked to accomplish.  “A word fitly spoken, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11).  “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” (Proverbs 12:4).  No matter how our husbands treat us, we must strive to be the virtuous woman God asks us to be.  In the end, we alone will stand before God, and how we were treated is not what God will judge.  How we responded and what we did with what God gave us is how we will be judged.   My dear sisters, “Do not grow weary in well-doing for in due season, we will reap if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9).

Questions:

  1. Is it wrong to seek praise for the sake of praise or for the intention of building ourselves up?
  1. Do we need encouragement?
  1. One of my favorite things to make in the kitchen is fruit pies. If I made a pie and was not able to enjoy a piece of pie, I would not be as apt to make a pie in the future.  “Give her of the fruit of her hands.” (Proverbs 31:31).  God understands the needs of us as women and understands we need some of our fruit to enjoy in order to encourage us.  What fruit do you need to encourage you?
  1. One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to notice things about people such as qualities or needs and send them a note encouraging them with what I have noticed. I try to notice the little things that may go unnoticed.  How would this be an encouragement to others if you did this?  How would it be an encouragement to you if you received this type of encouragement?