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.”

Dastardly Distractions, Nuisance Noises!

We are here to do what only we can do–not to be going down every rabbit hole coming our way via media. We are here to pray and praise like never before, to seek Him FIRST. And last. And between times.

In reading the Word of God Himself this morning there was/is so much. For me. Realignment, repositioning, renewal, refreshing. We simply do not get those things from focusing on the nonsense and chaos available and in our faces from every direction. Rather, we become addled, confused, and diminished. Impotent.

Yes! Of course you agree and you’re going to tell all those other folks in your house all about it. Or not. Maybe it’s time to spend a good two or three hours with your Creator and see what He has to say. To me, He’s saying, “Stay in your lane. Go where I lead, and let me do the leading of those around you. When I need your verbal input (other than in prayer, which is always needed) I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, let patience possess your soul.”

Patience is not my strongest and most prolific Fruit of the Spirit. But I’m learning! And oh, the benefits of keeping still, being at peace, because I can. Why? Because I’ve been hanging out with the Lover of my soul. Focusing on what puts everything else in perspective, what makes life work. Amen!

What Can I Create?

With this evening’s attitude, not much. Once I start thinking about what’s not perfect, I’m on the way to griping about it, and here it comes–the Biblical “spirit of heaviness.” And who needs more of that?

Well, no matter how many times I try sad, I never like it. It never works for me. And it’s always rooted in choosing doldrums over delight. As someone who, over 40 years ago, chose to join the revolution started 2000 years ago by a really great guy named Jesus, I simply have no business thinking it’s about me.

I know (this I’ve tried as often as I’ve tried sad) that when I start doing the selfish it’s not going to end well. Ah, but when I read the beautiful Word of Life, when I pray, when I repent of my disobedient self-absorption, the very atmosphere of my life begins to change. What a difference a moment makes.

What a difference a bit of good preaching (this evening it was Creflo Dollar talking about the “sin” of selfishness, the miserable life therein); last week it was Bill Johnson saying, “When at war, create.”

Create. I’d no sooner finished listening to Creflo, than John asked me to watch and listen to the story of a businessman turning Central Park into something marvelous for New Yorkers. Create. We’re all born for it, created for it.

Just in putting out the maple syrup and making plans for homemade waffles, scrambled eggs, brats, peaches and tea for a late breakfast tomorrow, I have begun creating something marvelous in the sight of my beloveds.

In writing my evening pages (I scribble my thoughts morning and night to see what’s in my brain) I create a list for tomorrow–assuring that it will begin as it should–first with thanks for the Author of all Beauty and Creativity, and then with the getting to it.

What can we create tomorrow? Why don’t we let it begin with smiling at ourselves in the mirror and remembering we’re created in the image of the The Creator. Who knows what we’ll get up to (I might start a book, or at least another blog post, do a YouTube thing. I might even clean the junk drawer!). Or maybe I’ll just create joy by giving smiles and good words to all.

Thanks for letting me share with you!

P.S. You can still get The Maker’s Marriage (on Amazon) before Christmas–if not for Christmas, by New Year’s Night.

Did I Say Enough About Respect?

I’m wondering if I said enough about respect in The Maker’s Marriage. And did I say enough about the personal blindness engendered when we look at others’ (our husbands’) faults? Most of all, did I get across the bottom line: It’s not about me, you, our mates–it’s about our relationship with Jesus.

Do we respect the Lord of all good and glorious gifts? Or, do we disrespect Him, and thereby assure that our marriages are not good or glorious or gifts at all?

Apart from Him (which is where I live when I choose my own stupidly selfish way) I not only can do nothing worthwhile, I have nothing worthwhile, and can therefore give nothing worthwhile.

This Christmas, why not give the gift of respect.? I mean to, for sure and for certain. Amen.

Takin’ Out the Paper and the Trash

When we take out the kitchen trash at our house we get the bathroom trash, John’s office, and anything else that needs taking out. I was thinking of that this morning as I had my Quiet Time.

If I forget Who loves me I will live in contact with the one who hates me–in the dumpster with the trash. If I focus on what’s wrong I will be blind to what’s real and right and true. If I harbor (shelter and hold in my arms and heart) unforgiveness I will have no peace. When, through disobedience and ignorance (“my people perish for lack of knowledge”) I go my own way, I fail. Every single time.

It’s all trash and I choose to take it out, all day every day. It’s not going to be in my house.

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.