Saturday, January 28, 2012

The teaching of kindness is on her tongue

Proverbs 31...  the one about the excellent wife who is up before dawn, still burning lamp oil while prospering the house at night, and doing amazing things in business, real estate, household management, making fine clothing, helping the poor, and making the heart of her husband trust in her in every way... always makes me a bit nervous.  It helps to remember that she (probably) didn't do all these things every single day.  And also she had those maidens to help her.  I remember thinking when I had four kids, ages seven and under (and no older children), "That's it! I need some maidens around here! Where can I get some maidens?"

That chapter was part of my regular Bible reading today–so I opened the Bible to bookmark number 4, found Proverbs 31 waiting for me and began to read with a little sigh. I read all those things I just talked about and wondered if she was very likable (and yes, I know she is most likely a composite of a person, an ideal) or if she was the type of woman that other women stand back from with envious admiration mixed with a bit of fear of what she would think of them.

Then I came across a verse I don't remember ever seeing before. End of verse 25, and 26.

"...She laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."

The type of woman I always want to spend more time with.

That also reminds me of some other verses that have stuck with me over the past few months. Verses that make me want to have this type of mouth and tongue.  I went back to find them in my journal . . . I have a little note with the prayer, O Lord, grant these to me! before a listing of these verses.

A gentle tongue is a tree of life. 
               ~Prov. 15:4


The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. 
                ~Prov. 10:11


For with you is the fountain of life, in your light do we see light. 
                ~Psalm 36:9


The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.  
                ~Prov. 13:44


The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. 
                ~Prov. 14:27


Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it. 
                ~Prov. 16:22

And reading through those again today, I remembered that I was thinking about these tree of life and fountain of life verses during Thanksgiving weekend. And I found that I had recorded in my journal an image that formed in my mind of the beauty of these verses. An image of gratefulness and thanksgiving dripping from our cupped hands, merely holding up and giving back to God a tiny portion of that very fountain of life that we have scooped up... that He is providing.

And I found a prayer that I had completely forgotten. A prayer I wrote for me and all of us as mothers... the type of mother we want to be, but how can we be? This trait of the Proverbs 31 woman that I admire the most is one we cannot gain except as a gift of His grace. A mother with wisdom, with the teaching of kindness on her tongue, a fountain of life and a tree of life for her children by the mercy of God...

"...with gratefulness and thanksgiving dripping from our cupped hands.  Our feet like roots standing in the stream of the fountain of life. Our arms outstretched against the winds that come, laden with fruit, laden with fruit. Our mouths speaking forth as a fountain of life. Grace held up in our cupped hands, overflowing and dripping back to the stream at our feet.  A fountain of life is a gentle teaching tongue ~ making brave the fearful, making beggars and ragtag children into heirs of the King. O Lord make our desire be for your fountain of life!  May we thrist for it as if death were near for lack of this fountain!  May we not drink to our death, but to Life in You.  By your Spirit, send us your gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Let me laugh at the dawn after sleepless nights. Show my hands and feet and weak knees how to work. And for my children, I ask that their souls be filled with your Spirit - a teacher and helper in all things. Let not one be darkness to your light.  May they see light by your light. True. Piercing joy. Beauty seen and cherished. True beauty as in You. Loving Your glory and desiring to know You, know You, know You. O God, make me a faithful witness to these things ~ may I pour out my life to this task. Renew me though your everlasting living water, a fountain of life welling up and flowing out of my mouth in gentleness - a tree of life to those around me. Make this true of me and my Sisters, too. Show me what to shed and what to put on. In all gentleness, I beg.  Amen."  


                                 ~Sara~

Thursday, January 26, 2012

O, weary soul ~ Rejoice!















Sparkling, frost-dressed trees this morn;
     Sun breaking through the mist.
Winter beauty whispers, "glory..." in this still-life season.
      
          O, weary soul - Rejoice!
                              
                              ~Sara~


Sunday, January 22, 2012

You fill me with joy in Your presence











You make known to me the path of life;
     in your presence there is fullness of
        joy;
     at your right hand are pleasures
          forevermore.
                ~Psalm 16:11~


This is the memory verse I've been pondering this week.  It is one of my favorite verses–reminding me that it is in His presence that there is fullness of joy–even though in my tired flesh and amnesia of spirit, I try to pursue joy in other things again, and again, and again.

This is also one of the few verses that I memorized years ago that I can remember easily word for word.  Back then, it was a different version than the ESV that I have settled on as "my" version of choice for reading and memorizing.

I have a distinct memory of standing in my old, small, cozy kitchen in the house we lived in for seven years in downtown Minneapolis.  At that time, all of the kids were young and it was up to me to copy down the verses each week and I enjoyed decorating them with simple colored pencil designs and scrolling around the edges. Then I would tape them up in the kitchen or the kids' room where a few times a day I could read them over and try to work the memorizing into my day whenever I happened to look at it. This wasn't something that usually led to worship. It was more like brushing my teeth or checking the weather, by habit, to tell the truth. That day I was leaning back against a counter, looking over at the words I had written and taped up on a cabinet, and repeating them a few times. My highly systematic method for learning Bible verses...

But the Word of God is living and active ~ it does not return empty, and as I repeated this verse over and over by routine, I became aware that I was in tears, amazed by the truth in these words. God in his mercy had pierced through my distracted, fuzzy mind with the presence of His love right there with me in my kitchen with the piles of dishes.  Here are those words that went out of my flesh as plain English words and at the same time by the power of the Holy Spirit, rose up in my soul as the living Word of God–indeed filling me with Joy.

You have made known to me the 
       path of Life;
   You fill me with Joy 
          in Your Presence.
With Everlasting Pleasures 
          at Your Right Hand.
                    ~Psalm 16:11

Peter also echoes this verse, quoting it in his sermon as recorded in Acts (verse 2:28).  The Old Testament verses that are quoted in the writings of the Apostles of our Lord Christ Jesus always make me sit up and pay attention.

I thank you Lord that it is You who fills us with Joy in your Presence. For surely, we would not have Your joy any other way.
               
                        ~Sara~

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Bookmarks Bible Reading Plan

For those who want "Just the plan, please!" -  here it is:

The no-dates, you're-never-behind...
Bookmarks Bible Reading Plan:

Sara’s Five Bookmarks • 
Read one chapter per day, per bookmark. At the end of a book, start the next book on the bookmark. At the end of the bookmark list, go back to the beginning.  Use all five bookmarks, or pick one or two for now - just keep moving the bookmarks a chapter at a time. If you miss a day or more… no catching up! Just find your bookmarks and dwell in the Word right where He has led you.

1. Gospels and Acts •  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts ( 117 chapters) 

2. Books of Moses and Psalms • Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Psalms • (337 chapters)  
Note: I recommend starting with Psalms if you are beginning this in January and you've tried many plans over the years - just to avoid reading Genesis again first, in the dead of winter.

3. Poetry and Prophets • Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi  • (312 chapters) 

4. Wisdom and History • Proverbs, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther • (280 chapters) 

5. New Testament Epistles • Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Revelation • (145 chapters) 

Note:   One thing I have found helpful in using the bookmark system is to make a tiny dot (.) at the end of each chapter when I finish it, so that if the bookmarks fall out or if I miss several days of reading, (or if they are taken out and chewed up by a baby–as happened more than once to mine), I can easily find my place and get going again. I like to read a paper rather than digital Bible so the tiny dot markings work well for me.
            
My goal is NOT to get through these lists in one year, but simply to read widely and consistently in the Bible. (Although if one did read these five bookmark lists consistently, one would get through all the Bible at least once, and the New Testament books at least twice- even skipping 28 days entirely.) One of my own personal rules is "never try to catch up," just pick up the Bible and read where the bookmarks are, and abide in the Word that day by His unmerited grace. 

By the grace of our Lord Jesus, may we all be eager to enjoy the privilege of reading and dwelling in the Word – for our joy and His glory. Blessings!    
                     
                                        -Sara-                    

If you'd like the Sara's Five Bookmarks .pdf  (and these instructions)
to print and cut out at home. . . 
E-mail me at sara.junkdrawer@gmail.com 




















Note: Sara's Five Bookmarks adapted from: 
Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System (The Ten Lists)
(Which I highly recommend if you can read ten chapters a day in this season of your life!) His system is fully explained in this document…. He encourages the sharing of his system and his bookmark lists: http://www.scribd.com/doc/12349985/Professor-Grant-Horners-Bible-Reading-System

*Nothing special about “Sara’s” bookmarks . . . just The Ten Lists combined in a way that makes sense to me. All books of the Bible are included on one of the Five Bookmarks. Read 1 - 5 in order, they start and end in the NT, vary in genre, and over time the readings line up in different seasons and with different scripture passages.


Why FIVE Bookmarks, where the original idea came from, and my thinking on it... here.

Tips on using the plan here.


Monday, January 9, 2012

How beautiful are the feet...


For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? 
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? 
And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 
And how are they to preach unless they are sent? 
As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
                                   ~Romans 10:13-15~


The first time I heard this verse referenced, I didn't realize it was a verse at all. 

I was just out of college and we'd been married two years (no children in sight) when we moved into married student housing at Southwestern Seminary for Kevin to begin working on a music ministry degree. One of the first people we met was Joe.  Joe was a big guy and he was building bookshelves in his front yard the day we moved in. In fact, we bought a bookshelf from him that we call "Joe's Bookshelf" to this day. Designed to be the largest standing bookshelf possible that could both go through the front door of our duplexes and be maneuvered into an upright position, dozens of "Joe's Bookshelves" were to be found throughout the neighborhood. Twenty years later, it's still the largest and sturdiest bookshelf in our home. Joe (who did not look like any Pastor I had ever met) was the Pastor of a church serving the homeless in downtown Ft. Worth, Texas––and the ministry he worked with was called Beautiful Feet Ministries. 

Laugh at me if you want, but not knowing the Romans passage above, or the Isaiah 52 passage containing these words––I had a vague impression of Jesus washing the (beautiful?) feet of the disciples and encouraging his disciples, likewise, to serve others. It's funny now, but I clearly remember puzzling a few seconds over the name of the ministry and I wondered what a church for the homeless would be like. For some reason I still have a mental image of Joe and his wife serving hot dogs under a bridge somewhere. Obviously, I had a lot to learn about the Bible...and about non-traditional ministries and churches.

In more recent years, this passage (fortunately now familiar to me) has been sweet in my mind as I daily pray for dear friends of ours who are serving as missionaries in a place so closed to the preaching of the Good News that I hesitate to mention even the initials of their names–and certainly, I can't mention the remote town in the country where they are serving–because I am afraid that to do so might endanger their lives and the lives of their small children. The path they are walking while following the Lord Jesus and sharing His good news in this dark land is hard. Daily... it is hard.

Their dusty, bruised, and weary feet are indeed beautiful.

This passage from Romans is the memory verse that our church is working on this week, and inspired by a new resolve to memorize scripture as a family (as well as a new, super-amazing USB microphone that works with Garage Band on his iPad to create and record truly amazing music right here in our living room...ahem...) my husband has put the memory verse to song for the second week in a row. And, since I now have the ability to easily and quickly post the song on this blog, I will.

Because this song is another new favorite.

You can Listen Here.

Kevin had our friends in mind when he wrote this song.  You'll hear our love for them in the chorus about the beautiful feet.

                                          ~Sara~


For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? 
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? 
And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 
And how are they to preach unless they are sent? 
As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
                                   ~Romans 10:13-15~


How beautiful upon the mountains
     are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
     who publishes salvation,
          who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
                      ~Isaiah 52:7


Memory Verse Resources: For those who are interested in the memory verse program that our church has designed and uses, information can be found here...Fighter Verse Program. A list of this year's suggested weekly verses can be found on this page on our church's website (our family prints that list, which includes the scripture texts, and we make our own resources out of it). For professionally designed curriculum resources related to the program, go here...  Fighter Verse Resources.  If you are interested in using songs to help you hide the Word of God in your heart, CDs from the Fighter Verse Song project that my husband has been involved in can also be found on that resource page.  The songs (some in the early production stage) can also be found for FREE, posted week by week, at the Fighter Verse Songs blog.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Word of Our God Will Stand Forever



The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the Word of our God will stand forever.
              ~Isaiah 40:8~

Isaiah 40:8 has been a favorite scripture of mine for a long time.  When we began homeschooling thirteen years ago, this was the verse we chose to capture our vision of what would be most important to pass on to our children among all the many things I found exciting and beautiful to share with them.

On those long days when all the children were little–homeschooling the oldest one, with a pre-schooler, a toddler, and a baby–I would literally whisper this to myself....

   ...the laundry piles will fade, these dishes will be ground to dust ~ but the Word will not return empty...the Word we teach to our children will stand forever...

Over the years, when the light was just right, I would stand in amazement, struck with the beauty of a sunset over a field, the flowers dazzling in the light, the colors of the grass shifting and seeming to praise God with their dance and I would remember... The grass withers, the flower fades but the Word of our God will stand forever... and have a moment where awe struck deep in my soul.

Last Summer, the same day I really looked at the grass of the field, I discovered that Peter declares this Word to be the very Gospel of God...it was as if the light of the glory of the Gospel just pierced into my heart.

....love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for 

“All flesh is like grass 
and all its glory like the flower of grass. 
The grass withers, 
and the flower falls, 
but the Word of the Lord remains forever.” 

And this Word is the Good News that was preached to you. 
                       ~1 Peter 1:22-25

This truth puts my life in perspective, sifts my priorities, and causes me to humbly and joyfully bow in worship.

So, what better verse to start off a year of recommitment to memorizing scripture.

Each week our church is encouraged to memorize a verse or passage of scripture.  This week has been the beginning of a new cycle of verses... a fresh start... and the verse for this first week of 2012 has been Isaiah 40:8 ~ which was especially nice for me as I have been stumbling in recent years with only half memorizing and then forgetting the verses and I already have this one memorized! So a bonus gift for me.

And another gift, is that my husband put this verse to song this week... and I love it.

I really, really, love it. I love it so much that I have spent hours figuring out how to use HTML formatting on this blog (which I assure you is not my gift) to share it right here with everyone! So here it is... (Now edited with an Official Link to the song! Aug 2014)

Listen Here!

May the Lord cause us all to cherish his Word this year and always.

                                                   ~Sara~


Memory Verse Resources: For those who are interested in the memory verse program that our church has designed and uses, information can be found here...Fighter Verse Program. A list of this year's suggested weekly verses can be found on this page on our church's website (our family prints that list, which includes the scripture texts, and we make our own resources out of it). For professionally designed curriculum resources related to the program, go here...  Fighter Verse Resources.  If you are interested in using songs to help you hide the Word of God in your heart, CDs from the Fighter Verse Song project that my husband has been involved in can also be found on that resource page.  The songs (some in the early production stage) can also be found for FREE, posted week by week, at the Fighter Verse Songs blog.  Blessings to all of you in 2012.
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Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)