Are You Demolition Debbie?

 

Thank you Lisa Morrone for today’s message…

A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. ~ Proverbs 14:1

In the past, whenever I’ve read the above verse, I’ve always thought of it in the context of the maternal head of a family, or of a wife. But truly, this “Demolition Debbie” role could belong to a big-mouthed teenaged girl, a disagreeable girlfriend, a disrespectful coworker, or even a dismissive adult sister. Scripture takes care not to label this woman beyond “wise” or “foolish,” giving each of us the opportunity to slip ourselves into this descriptive warning.

How, exactly, does this foolish woman tear her house down? Well, knowing (and being) a woman, I have a strong hunch: Her tongue, Ladies. Most of us have been said to possess the ‘gift of gab.’ And a few of us, myself included, have even been accused at one time or another of having “verbal diarrhea!”

All that tongue wagging can get us in deep trouble. Especially when our speech is sarcastic, full of condescending tone, or littered with insults or complaints. Growing up in a home where sharp tongues reigned and verbal arguments filled the air, I was well-trained to use my tongue as weapon.

Whenever I was frustrated, my tongue would come out in full force. This was an area where the Lord had to deal most pointedly with me, as I was accustomed to tearing down the people in the home of my upbringing. My husband—then fiancé—helped me to see how insulting my words could be one day after receiving a verbal outburst from me. He calmly interrupted me and said, “Hey, I don’t deserve to be spoken to that way.” And he was right, he didn’t.

Over the past three decades, I have made great strides in this area, although I do still, from time to time “have a tone” as my husband would say. The way Jesus began to work on this for me was to show me that out of my heart, my mouth speaks. My heart needed to get right for my speech to reflect the Lord’s grace. Second, I had to realize I was not the Holy Spirit to others, meaning, it wasn’t the job of my comments to reform the behavior of those in my life—it was the job of my prayers and of my God.

Once I filed down my sharp tongue I was able to speak to my children, not scream at them, overlook the insult of a friend, and rather than sharply rebut something my mother, husband, or brother said to me, I could simply chose be quiet. I’ve come to adopt this new slogan: A wise woman once said – nothing!

Friends, I have watched more than a few of my friends and acquaintances tear up their marriages, their relationships with their children, their parents, their siblings, all because of the wild fire that burned within their mouths—their tongue.

A thought occurred to me as I was reading the Book of Job this past summer and thinking about this truth: Maybe the reason Satan didn’t wipe out Job’s wife along with his children was that keeping her and her biting tongue alive was another facet of his torture.

Girl, let’s NEVER allow ourselves to be used by Satan as his weapon in another’s life!

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

So You Have a Past

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message:

The New Testament begins with the book of Matthew and showcases more drama than a Hallmark movie. The book starts off with a genealogy trail that leads from Abraham to the birth of Jesus. This list of names might make you yawn, but it’s actually really important – and even exciting. (Yes. You read that right!) It’s fascinating because it gives evidence to a family line that shows Jesus was a descendent of both Abraham and King David, thus fulfilling what the Old Testament predicted about the lineage of the Messiah.

Scandal steps onto the page in verse three of Matthew chapter one when a woman’s name shows up. (Traditionally, only the names of men appeared in these family lineages.) But this wasn’t just any woman, it’s one from the shady side of the family tree … Tamar. She had a past, and any Jewish scholar worth their salt would know about it. She was used and abused by men that should’ve loved, protected, and provided for her. Once scorned, she schemed for revenge and ended up having twins to her father-in-law. One of the twins, Perez, is an ancestor to King David.

As the list goes on we see a few more eyebrow-raising names…

Rahab’s name is listed. Remember her? She was the prostitute who “turned good” when she helped Joshua and the Israelites capture Jericho. Bathsheba’s on the list too, but they don’t even mention her by name. She’s recorded this way, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” (Matthew 1:6) Nice. Archived as the woman who had an affair with King David while she was married to a soldier named Uriah.

All three of these women were known, but not necessarily for cleaned up good things. Seeing these women listed among the relatives of Jesus seems very… messy. It seems to me that historians would want to hide those names, not put them out there for everyone to see! But that’s not God’s way.

He doesn’t sweep things under the rug and pretend they aren’t there.

And strangely enough, I’m encouraged by the presence of these women in the lineage of Jesus.

Why?

Because they are powerful displays of His grace.

They are proof that God does not require perfection from us in order for His will to be done through us. The apostle Paul summed it up nicely in his second letter to the church of Corinth. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

So you have a past. So did Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba. I do too. Who doesn’t?

So you have a few people in your family with rusty reputations. So do I. So did Jesus.

So you have some shame or pain regarding things that were done to you… things that were or are beyond your control. You’re not alone.

God’s mercy reaches beyond the muck and mire of our pasts to recreate us in the grace and love of Jesus. He lifts fallen heads, purifies rebellious hearts, and places slippery feet on solid ground. Nothing about having a “past” or “complicated associations” can keep you from walking out the freedom and hope of Jesus.

God uses the broken to showcase His beauty.

Believe it.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Unlocking the Power of Praise

Thank you Rachel Wojo for today’s message….

My 21-year-old daughter, Taylor, stares at me as she sits propped up in her hospital bed. Not many young adults would ask for a hospital bed in their room, but she hasn’t been able to ask me for anything in 15 years. I attempt to read the communication in her eyes and will her body language to reveal her needs and desires. She’s been a frontline disease fighter since birth and since age 4, we’ve faced the eventual outcome of no cure and no treatment. My thoughts turn to prayer, an instinctive reflex I’ve cultivated for all these years, but somehow, I can only be silent.

Though I can find no words in the moment, I long for God’s presence. Just as my girl will move her leg over to touch mine so she can simply know that I am here, so I find myself seeking moments to be still and know that He is God and yes, He is here. I remind myself that prayer begins with praise. Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name.

How do I find words to praise God when my child, my heart existing outside my body, is suffering? Limbs that once ran everywhere have withered down to skin and bone. Hands that once grabbed with lightning speed can barely hold a sippy cup to her mouth. Voice box that once chimed “Mom-my” is lost, never to be returned on this earth. Though together we’ve practiced gratitude day after day, frankly, we are running out of things to be thankful for.

But Jesus didn’t begin His prayer with thanksgiving. And the praise didn’t begin with things God has given. Nor did it begin with God’s work. Jesus first reminded God of Who He is. With this epiphany, the prayer that I couldn’t begin starts to form as I grip my girl’s hand. Just as Jesus began his prayer with words of adoration, so my prayer reflex is stimulated to follow his model.

Praise is the most powerful tool in our prayer arsenal. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. (Hebrews 13:15, NIV) As today’s truth explains, the blood of Jesus sacrificed on the cross provides our direct access to God. As a result, we are privileged to enter the presence of our Father and whisper praises directly to Him! When we stand before the Almighty God, we come as we are. It doesn’t mean we have a complete understanding of His work in our lives. It simply means our hearts are trusting and believing Him to be the ever-present, never-changing God who loves us beyond our comprehension.

When we can’t find praise in our hearts because we don’t understand what God is doing, we can always praise God for Who He is. He is the God Who never changes and has loved us since the beginning of time. Praise Him!

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

The Hope Button

Thank you Arlene Pellicane for today’s message….

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a hope button? Something you could just press when you felt pessimism and misery weighing you down?

Friend, you have a button like this available for your use. It’s nestled in between despair and the dawning of hope recorded in the book of Lamentations. The writer, Jeremiah the prophet, is utterly broken. Jerusalem, the City of David, had been attacked and destroyed. Jeremiah sees no hope of restoration, wholeness, or safety.

He cries out to God with many complaints such as “he has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship” (v. 5), “he has weighed me down with chains” (v. 7), and “he has trampled me in the dust” (v. 16). Jeremiah is remembering all that went wrong and his soul is depressed and despondent.

Yet somehow, he reaches for the hope button in verse 21 and it becomes his turning point:

“Yet this I call to mind and there I have hope…”

What is the “this” that Jeremiah is calling to mind? We find it in verses 22-23:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Jeremiah is shifting his focus from the rubble around him to the fact that he is still standing. He remains unconsumed because of God’s great love. “Compassions” is plural illustrating how God showers us with new compassion every morning. Even though Jerusalem laid in ruin, the Word of God lasts forever.

When Jeremiah pressed the hope button – recalling God’s great love and compassion – he could say in the midst of grief, “I have hope. God is my portion and He is enough.”

Have you felt hopeless in a particular area of your life lately? It’s time to press the hope button. You’re still here. God’s mercies are for you today, and they are waiting to bless you tomorrow.

When I went away to college, I was discouraged and miserable because I felt lost without my family, friends, and all things familiar. I cried most days for the first few weeks. I did however have a Christian roommate with a flair for art. She painted our dorm room walls with Bible verses. Guess what she painted? Lamentations 3:22-23 which reminded me every morning when I opened my eyes that God’s compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.

The next time you find yourself sitting in a heap of discouragement, press the hope button. Surround yourself with the promises of God. Recall His faithfulness and refresh your faith.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

How to Be Enough, When It Feels Like All Eyes are On You

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message:

One evening, while on a getaway with my husband, Steve and I splurged at a fancy restaurant, complete with a four-man band playing music from the ’40s and ’50s. We had taken a few ballroom dance lessons, and Steve was itching to see if we could remember the foxtrot.

“Come on, Sharon,” he urged. “Let’s take a spin on the dance floor.”

“No way,” I said. “Nobody else is dancing.

I’m not going to be the only one out there with everyone staring at me. And suppose we mess up? I’d be embarrassed. It’s been a long time since we’ve practiced, and I don’t remember all the steps. Let’s wait until some other people are out there so we won’t be so conspicuous.”

After a few moments, the first couple took their place on the parquet. They squared their shoulders, pointed their toes, and framed their arms. In one fluid motion they graced the dance floor with perfect dips, sways, turns, and twirls. They looked good, and they knew it.

Nope. I was not going to embarrass myself. I hunkered down in my seat with renewed resolve. I was stuck there. I refused to budge. Then couple number two joined couple number one. Their steps weren’t quite so perfect, but they looked pretty good too.

“Okay, I’ll go,” I said. “But let’s get in the back corner behind that big ficus tree so nobody can see us.”

Off we went to try to remember the slow-slow-quick-quick of the foxtrot. The whole time I was hoping all eyes were still mesmerized on the polished artistry of couple number one.

As I dared look at the crowd, I noticed they weren’t looking at couple number one, number two, or even wobbly kneed number three. All eyes were fixed on a fourth couple approaching the dance floor. The husband was in a wheelchair. He was a middle-aged, slightly balding, large-framed man with a neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper beard.

His dapper attire included a crisp white shirt, a snappy bow tie, and a stylish tuxedo. On his left hand he wore a white glove—I guessed to cover a skin disease. With a smiling wife by his side, the couple approached the dance floor with a graceful confidence and fashionable flair.

Suddenly everyone else faded away, and they seemed to be the only two people in the room.

As the band churned out a peppy tune, the blithesome wife held her love’s healthy right hand and danced. He never rose from the wheelchair that had become his legs, but they didn’t seem to care. They came together and separated like expert dancers. He spun her around as she stooped low to conform to her husband’s seated position.

Lovingly, like a little fairy child, she danced around his chair while her laughter became the fifth instrument in the musical ensemble. Even though his feet never left their metal resting place, his shoulders swayed in perfect time and his eyes danced with hers.

My heart was so moved by this love story unfolding before my eyes that I had to turn my head and bury my face on Steve’s chest so no one would see the tears streaming down my cheeks. As I did, I saw person after person dabbing linen napkins to dewy eyes.

This portrait of love and devotion transfixed even the band members, now misty-eyed as well. Finally, the music slowed to a romantic melody. The wife pulled up a chair beside her husband’s wheelchair, but facing in the opposite direction. They held each other in a dancer’s embrace, closed their eyes, and swayed back and forth, cheek to cheek.

Surprisingly, I no longer worried about whether anyone was watching me.

I didn’t care if my steps weren’t perfect. I wasn’t even concerned about being compared to and falling short of perfect couple number one.

The Lord spoke to my heart in a powerful way. Sharon, I want you to notice who moved this crowd to tears, He seemed to say. Was it couple number one, with their perfect steps? Or was it the last couple that had no steps at all? No, My child, it was the display of love, not perfection, that moved the crowd. If you obey Me, if you do what I have called you to do, then I will do for you what that man’s wife did for him.

As Paul said, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

God isn’t looking for perfect people with perfect children, perfect marriages, and perfect lives. He is not searching for men and women with perfect steps to do great things for Him.

He is looking for courageous believers who will rely on His power to work in and through them to accomplish all He has planned for them to do.He is scouting for followers who will obey Him regardless of their present fears or past failures.

He is looking for men and women who know they are good enough because of His power working in them and through them.

Simply put, God had sent a lame man to teach me how to dance.

God chooses to do extraordinary work through ordinary people who will bring glory to His name.

Men and women who know they are not good enough in their own strength but are incredibly powerful in God’s strength slay the giants of this world.

Today, I’m thinking that’s you.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!