Henri Nouwen on “hope far beyond” and changing my heart

Compassion born in solitude makes us very much aware of our own historicity. We are not called to respond to generalities but to the concrete facts with which we are confronted day after day. A compassionate man can no longer look at these manifestations of evil and death as disturbing interruptions of his life plan but rather has to confront them as an opportunity for the conversion of himself and his fellow human beings. Every time in history that men and women have been able to respond to the events of their world as an occasion to change their hearts, an inexhaustible source of generosity and new life has been opened, offering hope far beyond the limits of human prediction. – Henri Nouwen

Proverbs 14 – The Wise Woman Builds . . .

If you read the Proverb of the Day you’ll see today’s first verse (Proverbs 14:1) tells us that the wise woman builds her house. Digging into this we find “house” referring not only to a physical dwelling place, but also meaning “family.” The rest of the verse tells us that a foolish woman pulls her house down with her own hands, but let us now talk about how to build, how to be wise.

It always begins with humble and yet ferociously faithful prayer. Would you see your house as a strong and sure shelter for the hearts of all those you’ve been given to love? Do you want to build, nurture, partner with God Himself as a grace architect? Pray first. First pray. Pray, intercede, fight the good fight of faith for those you’ve been given to love. To Love.

This is serious business, this Love. This is God. We hear and say, “God is Love” and we go on and act like He’s a tyrant, not to be trusted. Well, there is one way out of that destructive thinking, and it begins with a determination to build, to obliterate the lies of the enemy, to be as Paul, “not unaware of his schemes.” In short, (this is too simple) read the Word of God.

You can begin with the Proverb of the Day–today’s the 14th, so read Proverbs 14, then get lifted with Psalms, taking your sweet time with sweet Jesus. Read some of His words in the Gospel of John, maybe try some GE Power from Galatians and Ephesians (I can’t ever read too much of Ephesians). And back to Proverbs for some scriptures on the power of the tongue, maybe . . . then full circle back to that house building.

Proverbs 14:11 tells us ” . . . the tent of the upright will flourish. Flourish–I like the sound of that, and find it defined thus in Strong’s Concordance: pârach, paw-rakh’; a primitive root; to break forth as a bud, i.e. bloom; generally, to spread; specifically, to fly (as extending the wings); figuratively, to flourish:—abroad, abundantly, blossom, break forth (out), bud, flourish, make fly, grow, spread, spring (up).

So, let’s go back to that “upright” business, as we surely want our tents to flourish. Again, from Strong’s: straight, upright, correct, right. It is straight, upright, correct, and right that we wise women build our houses–our beloveds–with faith-filled, Word-based prayer. We don’t need to talk about it, or plan ahead and dress up for it. Just do it right this very minute. Now!

“Father, I thank you for those you’ve given me to love. Let me Love as You Love. Show me how to build my house. Reveal any place I’m tearing it down. Teach me, reveal to me the glory and privilege of being Your ambassador to my beloveds. Help me to be wise. In You. Amen.”

Money for Things We Don’t Need

In the life-enhancing, joy-bringing book, An Italian Journey by James Ernest Shaw is this truth: “Spending money for things we don’t need also makes us think we can’t afford to pay a fair price for things of precious value–like healthful food, great art, and inspired entertainment that celebrates mankind’s creative spirit.”

This can be seemingly insignifcant purchases, but oh, they are not! The curious thing is how we think we’re saving money at the big box store where tomatoes are half the price of those at the farm stand, not noticing that the big box tomatoes aren’t edible, while the farm stand tomatoes call our names with their scent before we can even see them. Everything about shopping at the farm stand satisfies. The price is only a part of good money management.

We think it’s good money management to choose the BOGO sale and yet wonder how we come home without what we need and after spending well beyond what we planned. We wrongly equate a full pantry with prosperity, even though it’s full of things we’d be better off without.

Things. Things can be groceries. Right now my pantry and freezers are each mixtures of things we’ll eat and things we’ll throw out. It is the old case of careless spending, rather than careful, focused, thoughtful purchasing of quality goods. It’s the rewarding of the bigger-but-not-better at the expense of the purveyors of quality, and at the expense of ourselves.

This is a big deal. I’m not at all talking about big business vs. small. I’m talking about quality vs. quantity, about the huge expense of going cheap, about cheating yourself and your family via spending your money on fluff.

And fluff makes us fluffy. Fluff is energy bars, instant oatmeal, dry cereal with cheap skim milk, microwave mac-n-cheese, corn syrup and sugar-filled drinks, 30-ingredient “snacks” and “treats” and other such fakiness. Expensive on every level. The richest people in the world can’t afford this.

If my husband reads this, he will likely hope I’m taking my own words to heart. Well, I am. This is a big deal.

P.S. For more on the subject of marriage and money, stay tuned (and buy!) The Maker’s Marriage, available October 12, 2021. Thanks!

Intimacy is Personal

My hair lady told me the story of her pastor asking how many people in the congregation had “been intimate” in the past month, and she said there were only a few people who raised their hands.

I wish I had been there. I would have (I like to think, anyway) stood up and told him that intimacy between married couples is precious, private, and none of his business. I would say that anyone who did raise their hands and put their relationship issues on public display was unwise, as they cheapened it by so doing. I would say that he himself doesn’t understand intimacy or he wouldn’t be discussing it and encouraging others to do so, as if he were asking something as mundane and common as, “Who among you are morning people?” or, “Raise your hands if red is your favorite color.”

Obviously there is a problem when people are no longer “intimate” but I submit that the problem won’t be solved by making it a matter of public discussion.

The most important things in life should often be the most private. Talking to God, asking for the courage to be real, the grace to forgive, for renewed desire, and anything else that comes to mind will put you on the road to bliss. Further advancements can be gained in talking to each other, and to God with each other–intimately. It may be that there is additional wise counsel to be sought as well, but let it not be a pastor who thinks this is all for public consumption.

Honor your marriage, and each others’ hearts by being truly intimate–it’s between the two of you. That heart honoring will foster physical intimacy. Psssst! Don’t tell anyone. It’s a lovely secret, just between the two of you and the Lover of your souls.

For further discussion be ready for October 12! The Maker’s Marriage, all expanded and improved, will be ready for you.

Your Favorite Love Song, Please.

Hi,

I’m coming right along with the improved and expanded edition of The Maker’s Marriage (please don’t order from the picture here on the website, as I still haven’t managed to delete it ) and I’m wanting to add beautiful love song suggestions, as music is such a power tool in getting our hearts right, and attuned to love.

So, if you have a favorite love song or songs, or indeed just any favorite beautiful and uplifting music, would you mind sharing via comments, or by simply e-mailing to me at: bevparker@rocketmail.com.

‘I need a song for every chapter (there are thirty something chapters right now) and I don’t want to limit my readers to my tastes only. Also, if you want to include a few lines about why this song is special to you, that might be helpful as well.

Please remember my promise to have this very good (if I do think so, myself) book finished by John’s and my 30th anniversary–October 12, and be ready to buy a copy or several to share.

Thanks very much!

Bev

P.S. If you know how I can delete my current pic of The Maker’s Marriage, I would really appreciate knowing if you can spare a minute or two to share.

Zero for Forty Something?

John and I will be 30 years married October 12! I’m thinking I’m going to do something memorable in these days remaining from now until then. Like stop mistreating my body and forget about a thing or two, or 1,000. And another thing (I’ll tell you in a minute).

It’s like this: there are forty something days remaining until October 12 and that seems like a good amount of time to once and for all forget about sugar (and it’s variants). It’s a good amount of time to forget about losing weight and just eat great food such as the soooo good, almost-make-you-cry strawberries, awe-inspiring sun-cracked tomatoes, and best of all, lemon cucumbers–all from a local farm stand. Most and best of all, forty something days are a great time to forget about past grievances, aggravations, and petty stupidities.

What might happen if one wasn’t sick at heart and body because of sugar; if the SIN of unforgivness was repented of and turned from and absolutely refused? One might do something marvelous, like write a marvelous book about a marvelous subject.

I’m going to improve and expand The Maker’s Marriage between now and October 12 (yikes, did I just promise that?). I”m going to take the original edition off this site, and get to work on the new one today. The mind boggles at all the great ideas it has already come up with, and that before I even begin writing.

Be ready! It’s gonna be good.

The Art of Conversation Creates Art

It was a lovely morning yesterday. Seth and I tried a new LaVazza variety (falling off the wagon a bit on this aspect of Zero For Six-ing, but more on that later) on the balcony. We likened the rustling of the Aspen leaves to the feel of clean cotton sheets, the breezes in the pines and the birdsong to music.

The conversation went and wound its way here and there, and somewhere in there I had a fantastic idea–a doable, practical example of how to remind our government that indeed, they work for us. I won’t go into the particulars of the idea, because I want to talk about the power of conversation.

We’re meant to have it, and it’s meant to produce ideas, solutions, revelations. It’s meant to connect hearts and minds and put us in the creativity zone. So, if our conversations aren’t producing this magical marvel, especially when we’re talking with our adult children, we can examine ourselves.

Do we listen carefully and thoughtfully? Do we interrupt? Do we have to be right? Are we taking a parental role when our family members are not asking for that? Just as we’re extra polite and considerate in our conversations with non-family folks, are we also with our beloveds? Do we remember that sometimes hearts simply want to be heard–not to hear our opinion?

When we don’t know the answer do we simply say, “I don’t know, but I will pray for wisdom, and I will pray for you to have wisdom, and all will be well”?

It’s helpful to remember that those who talk the most and loudest are often drowning out the words of those with the deepest and best thoughts. Just in case you’re like me, and maybe are a bit chatty, it could be time to put some art into our conversation.

The Power of Harmony . . .

After giving thanks and more thanks (when I open my eyes and am still snug under the covers) I read my devotionals: Oswald Chambers, Henri Nouwen, and Faith to Faith by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. This morning’s Faith to Faith mentioned “the power of harmony” and when I hear about power, I listen up. So, please, listen up and let us ponder and consider:

Strife drops the shield of faith, stops prayer results and invites Satan and his cohorts into your midst. Discord is deadly. It paralyzes the power of God in your life.

Don’t allow the enemy to stop you at your own front door by allowing strife in your home. If you do, you’ll be no threat to him anywhere else.

Put the power of harmony to work in your family.

I say “Amen to that!”