Do Men Sometimes Submit to their Wives like God Told Abraham to?

Frequent commenter, Richard P, has given a lot of strange biblical interpretations over the past few months at a site made for women who are trying to learn truth.  From claiming that menopausal women can’t control themselves due to their hormones (which leads them to divorce), to claiming older women shouldn’t be teaching younger women Scripture (going directly against Titus 2), to now finally claiming that sometimes husbands should submit to their wives… like Abraham did.

Here’s his actual quote, “Sometimes the guy submits. Like Abraham, when God told him to do what Sarah said.

It’s hard for me to see something like this and not try to at least point out how it’s being taken out of context.  At a casual glance, Richard P is right in a way, God did tell Abraham to listen to his wife and to do whatever she tells him to.  But it was only in a very specific moment when God knew Sarah’s advice lined up with His plan and that it would still prevail, and certainly not applicable to the topic of biblical submission when applied to the span of their marriage.  There were a few times where Sarah told Abraham to do something wrong that ended up in sin and complicating God’s plan.

RP is using a very specific example from Scripture when Abraham was incredibly emotional and distraught about needing to send Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, away because together they had each 1) disrespected and mistreated Sarah and 2) were caught mocking Isaac at a celebration for him, the son God promised His blessings would come through.  I’ve heard many pastors claim they were probably sent away for Isaac’s own safety and preservation, as they both had already shown treacherous attitudes toward Sarah and Isaac at different points in time.  It may have been like a “last straw,” moment for Sarah as Isaac’s mother, having to watch their malicious attitude and actions toward him.

Here is Matthew Henry’s Commentary on that verse for more insight:

“Ishmael’s conduct was persecution, being done in profane contempt of the covenant and promise, and with malice against Isaac. God takes notice of what children say and do in their play; and will reckon with them, if they say or do amiss, though their parents do not.

Mocking is a great sin, and very provoking to God. And the children of promise must expect to be mocked. Abraham was grieved that Ishmael should misbehave, and Sarah demand so severe a punishment.

But God showed him that Isaac must be the father of the promised Seed; therefore, send Ishmael away, lest he corrupt the manners, or try to take the rights of Isaac.

The covenant seed of Abraham must be a people by themselves, not mingled with those who were out of covenant: Sarah little thought of this; but God turned aright what she said.”

In any case, God reminded Abraham of the plan of the covenant coming through Isaac, and assured Abraham that it would be “ok,” to send them away, and also that He would take care of them.  Richard P, however, applies this one very peculiar example to all men in any amount of circumstances, saying matter of fact that, well, “sometimes the guy submits.”

Richard P then argued with me for calling it out as blaspheme, which in this case would be adding to God’s Word by saying God told Abraham to submit to Sarah –

@Stephanie: The verse gets kind of lost in the multiple verses that Larry G posted, so here it is by itself. And it is this verse to which I was referring.

“Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” Genesis 21:12 (English Standard Version)

Your response to me is why I throw this verse out there every once in a while. Folks know that Sarah called Abraham “Lord” – and use that as part of their submission meme. Unfortunately, your response to me is not all that uncommon. Many folks only know those parts of the Bible that support their meme – and either don’t know, or ignore, the other parts that might suggest that things are a bit more complicated than their favored meme might suggest.

And, for that reason, I find it useful to ask from time to time: What did God actually say? It is troubling how many people are taught their favorite meme’s and then go to the Bible to find those verses that support what they’ve been taught. The reality is that it should be the opposite. The Bible admonishes believers to take in the whole counsel of God – and then from that whole counsel can meme’s be derived. Unfortunately – too often the memes are derived first, and then supported by part of the counsel of God, but not the whole counsel of God.

I don’t want to hijack this thread, so I will stop after making this one more comment.

Another issue that exists alongside what I’ve discussed in the previous paragraphs is the meme that women are not to teach men. That is spoken in support of a favorite meme – but only by folks who have no idea of how learning actually takes place. Women teach men all of the time – because men watch what women do and say and learn from it all the time (yeah, the bad parts discussed in the manosphere – but also the good parts and the neutral parts). That is how learning occurs – for boys and girls and men and women. We all watch each other and listen to each other and learn. To say nothing of the fact that part of her being to him the help that God made her to be is teaching him things that she knows and he doesn’t. So – when Paul said he didn’t permit … the meaning is much more targeted and precise than is generally presented by those who think women shouldn’t teach men.

(Emphasis mine)

I pointed out to him that I was actually taking into account the other verses from all over the Bible – from the Old to the New Testament – that have to do with direct commands or examples of wives submitting to their husbands (or rebelling and suffering the consequences), and that his verse (in light of the rest of the Bible) was still clearly taken out of context (and does not even include the word “submit” like he was claiming).

In fact, the biblical verses on wives submitting to their husbands are recorded as commands several times in the New Testament in regard to how we are supposed to be living today.

Let’s look at where it says this command in the New Testament, specifically – 

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18

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“(older women should teach younger women) to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”  Titus 2:5

*

“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”1Peter 3:1-6

*

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:22

I’m not even including the myriad of examples where, through the context of the story or the biblical passage, it is clear that wives submitting to their husbands’ leadership brings about what God desired and intended for marriage.  Even the way the Proverb’s 31 woman’s relationship with her husband is shown – how his heart safely trusts in her, and that because of her, he will have no lack of gain, and how it says she will bring him good and not harm, all the days of her life – we can be sure he is the confident leader in his home, and doesn’t feel emasculated by his wife’s desire to control him or rebel against his leadership.

It’s ironic that what Richard P was accusing me of doing – using “one verse” to support my “meme” of submission (which I never did), was actually what he was doing using his literal quoting of only one verse (Genesis 21:12) and applying it to husbands in general (while ignoring all the other verses and examples in the Bible that prove otherwise God’s design for marriage).  Perhaps it was projection?  I’ll let the reader decide.

***

This topic of submission has been a “hot controversial topic” for close to 200 years now.  It’s never been really popular to use the good examples from Scripture, and try to apply them to our modern day lives – in fact, it’s usually opposed.  And women (and I suppose some men like RP, like to find “loopholes”).

When I wrote on the subject of the Proverbs 31 woman, I saw how even Christian women tried to say I was being a Pharisee for pointing out how beautiful verse (15) is when it says she rises early to provide food for her family and servants!  Isn’t it amazing how even Christian women regularly rebel against the simplest of biblical points – like the Proverbs 31 woman waking up early to make breakfast!  And this was Elspeth we’re talking about, not someone openly in rebellion like Joyce Meyers.  Covert rebellion or snide mocking and attacking fellow believers as “Pharisees” for simply writing out the verses of Proverbs 31 as the ideal a woman should try to eventually attain, is just as bad as Joyce Meyers being a female Pastor, because it’s still promotes an ugly attitude of rebellion against God’s Word and toward Christian women who truly are trying to honor and follow it.

 

I’m curious to see what other people think about how Richard applied this one verse in general to men submitting to their wives? Keep in mind that Richard P stuck the word “submit,” in there, when it isn’t actually in the verse itself.  Is this representative of the other verses in the Bible regarding marriage, or is it something that only happened at a certain point in time and under circumstances where God decided His plan would prevail?

 

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The Principle of Sowing & Reaping

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“Do not be deceived:

God will not be mocked,

a man will reap what he sows.”

Galatians 6:7

I love how often God speaks to us in the Bible about the importance of reaping and sowing while we are here on earth.  This is possibly one of the most powerful spiritual principles to understand, because it impacts almost every area of our life and even into eternity!

And side note: I’m currently reading these books pictured.  Two I’ve read before, but commenter Earl suggested a new one, “Ungodly Rage,” and so I picked it up ASAP.  All three have to do with this principle of reaping and sowing – very interesting to see it applied to our modern day.

Here is the rest of the passage in Galatians 6:7-10:

“Do not be deceived: God will not be mocked, a man will reap what he sows, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

So we must not get tired or weary of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we do not give up.”

It amazes me that we are warned here, “God will not be mocked!”  We have to take this principle seriously, and live as though we firmly believe that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction in this life.  When we sow things in the flesh, we are going to, for certain, reap the consequences of that later on in another season of our life.  This is something that has the capacity to be a beautiful opportunity to sow into the hearts of others around us, however, we should also have a healthy fear of the potential for negativity and darkness coming back to us, and conduct ourselves accordingly.

The Bible actually has many examples we can learn from where people sowed sin in another’s life, and then had to reap that same sin coming back onto their own heads later on.  It’s a mysterious Jewish principle from the Old Testament, that God will bring back someone’s actions onto their own heads if they’ve wronged or even planned in their heart to wrong someone.

“Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster and do not appropriate their possessions in the day of their disaster.

For the Day of the LORD is near, against al the nations.

As you have done, so it will be done to you;

what you deserve will return on your own head.”

Obadiah 13:13b, 15

So we see this in the Old Testament (and in many more places than just Obadiah), as well as in the New Testament in Galatians (the opening verses).  Modern churches, you could even say modern “Christianity,” teaches that this principle of reaping and sowing, especially the negative aspect, is only relegated to Old Testament earning of God’s approval.  In truth, it is more like a timeless Truth, which is why we see it both in the Old and New Testaments, because regardless of whether or not we are saved, we are still bound by earthly (and even spiritual) ramifications for our decisions.

In other words, even if we’re saved, Galatians tells us, “God will not be mocked,” we’re still going to reap what we sow.

***

Think about all the biblical examples of traps that so many people in the Scriptures left for others they were trying to harm.  They ended up falling into their own traps, and what was intended to harm others, actually ended up happening in the exact same manner to them!  This is not to say that God-fearing people cannot be harmed by evildoers, though.  Here are just a few examples off the top of my head:

  • Haman in his hatred and envy of Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, ending in being hanged on the very same gallows he had built for Mordecai to hang on!
  • Nabal in his treatment of David, ending in Nabal’s death because of his insults!
  • Daniel’s accusers getting him thrown into the lions’ den, then being thrown in themselves after the truth is finally outed!
  • Hagar treating Sarah (her mistress) with contempt when she thought she had the upper hand, then being subject to Sarah disciplining her extremely harshly (and God commanding Hagar to go back and submit to that mistreatment as part of her reaping what she had sown in Sarah’s heart).
  • Saul’s treatment of David, his envy and trying to kill him, ending up losing everything he was trying to keep – his kingdom and his life – being killed himself, but not at David’s hand.

And many many more.  God has an extremely accurate measure of justice.  He admits this several times to us in His Word, and that He cares very much about seeing that justice is done.  This simple, yet profound principle of reaping and sowing, is a way He carries out His justice here on earth.

There’s also a extremely important point we should be aware of and that is that: we will often reap MORE than what we have sown!  This is both good thing and a bad thing, depending on if you’ve sowed good or bad things in life!

If you’ve sowed good in the way of giving and generosity, the Bible does tell us that you will reap more.  I should note that doesn’t necessarily mean you will reap more financially, more in the way that you will be lifted out of living under a curse, and will reap more blessings in your life because of your faithfulness to sow.

“By not making the payments of 10 percent and the contributions, you are suffering under a curse, yet you – the whole nation – are still robbing Me.  Bring the full 10 percent into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house.

Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts.

See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.

I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your ground, and your vine in your field will not be barren,” says the LORD of Hosts.”

Malachi 3:8b-12

And from the Parable of the Sower –

“Consider the sower who went out to sow seed….

other seed fell on good ground, and produced a crop: some 100 times, some 60 times, and some 30 times what was sown.  Anyone who has ears should listen!”

Matthew 13:8

But if you sow bad things (sin), the Bible also says that, when the time is right, you will reap MORE of that sin than what you actually sowed.

“Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love;

break up your untilled ground.

It is time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.

You who have sowed wickedness and reaped injustice;

you have eaten the fruit of lies.

Because you trusted in your own way, and in your large number of soldiers,

the roar of battle will rise against your people, and all your fortifications will be demolished in a day of war.”

Hosea 10:13-14

In the book Earl suggested, Ungodly Rage, which is about the “hidden face of Catholic feminism,” it is clear that “you have eaten the fruit of lies,” is directly linked with these Catholics in the book sowing wickedness.  The truly unfortunate fact of this spiritual principle is this reaping more of what has been sown, especially in this case.  They sow wickedness and eat the fruit of lies, and reap an entire war.

“Indeed, they sow wind and reap the whirlwind.

There is no standing grain; and what does sprout fails to yield flour.”

Hosea 8:7

Wind may be annoying (and in truth, is sowing literally nothing), but look how much more was reaped!  A whirlwind came back on them, increasing dramatically the force and consequences of what they sowed.

And we also know that when we sow sin, the end result, the final reaping, is death.

“Then after desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

James 1:15

 

So what should we do?

Sow in righteousness, sow in mercy, sow in good deeds, sow in repentance, sow in Bible reading and prayer.  Sow goodness and gentleness into the hearts of family, friends, and enemies.

And always remember that bad things can be sowed… lusts, sins of all kinds, fear, envy, pride, etc. and when you sow something, you WILL reap it later on, and with a terrible increase of more than the sin that you sowed.

Every person is actually a sower and a reaper!  Whether you want to be or not, your actions are extremely powerful spiritually, and they not only have real life consequences, but spiritual consequences that are deep and mysterious and hard to comprehend.  You do not have control over those consequences and what they’ll be or look like!  So this is a critical warning about how important it is to understand this and avoid sowing sin into the lives of others.

What is often sowed in tears, will be reaped in joy-

Sometimes doing the work of sowing good things faithfully, is hard and tempting to give up.  Raising children could be a good example of just how hard it can be sometimes to see our end result.

Nevertheless, we need to sow in faithfulness, trusting in God’s will and ultimate decision on what to do with what we sow.

Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.

Though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed,

he will surely come back with shouts of joy,

carrying his sheaves he’s gleaned.”

Psalm 126:5-6

I’ve personally found that this is true.  What is sown in tears, will be reaped in a later season (sometimes years after the fact) in joy, as you’ve been given the gift of seeing it redeemed.  Sometimes this is doing a work God’s given you to do, sometimes it is finally seeing vindication.

The Reaping of Your Righteousness Shining like the Dawn-

For me personally, standing on God’s promises remind me of how powerful He is, and how trustworthy He is.  We can faithfully sow, and never worry that He doesn’t notice.

Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.

For they wither quickly like grass

and wilt like tender plants.

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Commit your way to the LORD;

trust in Him, and He will act,

making your righteousness shine like the dawn, 

your vindication like the noonday.”

Psalm 37:1-2,5

Stephanie

Things I Want My Daughter to Know: You Will Have Deep Roots to Withstand Persecution

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Strength and honor are her clothing,

and she can laugh at the time to come.”

Proverbs 31:25

I keep referring to the series I wrote on the Proverbs 31 woman a couple of years ago, because I just can’t get over the messages I discovered when creating the book for our family.  This verse in particular, just shows the incredible amount of boldness of faith this kind of attitude requires!

Its hard for me to put this topic into words, but I feel it’s necessary in encouraging not only my daughter and women of my own family, but all spiritual daughters and sisters doing a good work for God.  This kind of boldness of faith, this kind of staying focused, it requires you as a woman to not be disturbed or shaken, even in extremely hard and difficult times.  It amazes me, the strength behind that kind of woman.  How I so long to become a woman that strong in the Lord – like Sarah who obeyed and  had “no fear.”   I want the ability to look at something that may seem to be too much to deal with, have the wisdom to put things into perspective, and to look at things with a degree of humor and mirth!

This is something that every person who takes a stand for God must grow through to spiritual maturity over.  It’s what Paul described when he talked about how he persevered, having full confidence in the Lord’s giving him competence (excellent ability to minister) in his ministry, and was able to endure some of the harshest forms of persecution.

From Paul:

“We have this kind of confidence toward God through Christ: not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God.  He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit produces life.” 2 Cor. 3:4-6

Our confidence in God reinforces our competence to be ministers of His Spirit through reaching His people.  It’s interesting to me, how many times Paul talks about not giving up.  He endured so many afflictions, it is incredible how he soldiered on in his calling.  We must emulate him and his reliance on God for his strength and perseverance, or we will lose our influence by giving way to fear or discouragement.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not give up.  Instead we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but in God’s sight we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth.

So again, he says, “we do not give up.”  It must have been extremely tempting to give up doing the very hard, but very necessary and good things he was doing.  We have to keep in mind that his entire physical and mental being was subject to hardships and persecution that’s hard to imagine.  He suffered not only physical beatings and shipwrecks (three!) where his life was endangered, but also the psychological trauma or continued and relentless persecution, extreme criticism, and slander and false accusation from powerful religious leaders of his day.  We shouldn’t underestimate how much he went through, and the cost it was to him, as well as the great reward he received personally and spiritually, for doing so much for the Kingdom of Heaven.

And Paul also says that he and his followers commend themselves “to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth,” – you can’t do that unless you are completely 100% open with people, and therefore, opening yourself up to extremely harsh criticism, persecution, and being hated like Paul was.  Some of it will be right!  Most of it may not be, but it’s very important to have like-minded believers, mentors, family members even, willing to criticize you to hold you accountable to continuing on in your goal and keeping on the course.

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Let’s go back to the Proverbs 31 woman again for a moment.  We know she doesn’t easily give way to fear because of another verse as well:

“She has no fear for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed.”

Proverbs 31:21

We are instructed that she had “no fear” for her household because she not only was doing what she needed to do to provide for it (making their clothing and extra bed coverings vs. 22, never being idle but carefully watching over all the activities of her household vs. 27) but she was also relying FULLY on God for her provision.

It’s not talked about very much in our modern churches, but usually in the Bible (except for a few instances) fear is actually a sin.  In most cases, giving way to fear was shameful because it revealed a lack of trust and faith in God.  Even when you look at how many times the Bible commands us not to fear, it’s over 365 times, and “fear” itself is spoken of over 500 times in the Bible.  Fearing man is also a great sin; we are supposed to live for an audience of One.  Remember how Sarah was praised in the New Testament by Paul… for not giving way to fear but persevering by Abraham’s side in obedience.

In fact, we are supposed to view our trials with joy!! (James 1:2-4).  We are supposed to view it as being effective and attaining the same treatment that the prophets of old received.  Having an attitude of a victim or “poor me, I’m being ‘harassed’!!!” is not godly and doesn’t produce anything good in you or anyone else.  Acting like a coward is never good… for a man or a woman.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity,

she can laugh at the time to come.”

*

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

So we are to view trials and persecutions as good for us ultimately!  Because we know that God will work all things according to His will, for the good of those called to Him (Romans 8:28).  We have to view it not as cowardly women who give up too soon, but as women “clothed with strength and dignity,” who do not give way to fear or playing the victim, but instead choose to view it as a purifying process of discipline, meant to develop us into further maturity and completeness!

That change in mindset, amazes me so much!  It’s the difference between cowardly resentfulness or pride in expecting to be above even the prophets or Jesus Himself in how you’re treated, to humility and gratefulness for the opportunity to grow deeper and bolder in your faith.

***

The Virtuous Woman has Mirth

I’ve written another post specifically talking about the second phrase of this verse, that she “can laugh at the days to come,” and how it means the ability to have mirth.

You can read the entire post if you’d like, it’s short but full of the different facets of what that quality of character implies for a woman.

It doesn’t mean not ever feeling the depth of tragedy in a family, or mourning, but it does mean to keep things in perspective with a healthy attitude of what truly matters in eternity, so that we’re not rattled by hardships and trials or even persecution here on earth.

Again, the only way to have this attitude is to be continually focused on God and His opinion of us and rely on Him to set all things right when He sees fit to do so.

Women of WEAK (Selfish) Faith vs. The Proverbs 31 Woman-

There’s a big difference between the way human nature prompts us to react when hard times come, compared to how the Proverbs 31 woman was said to respond.  Women who have a weak faith and get scared off too easily, typically are focusing on the wrong things altogether, and not keeping their eyes on Jesus for their strength and peace

The Bible says that women like this, those who put their trust in people and lose sight of how powerful God is even in hard times, are actually cursed womenThey end up “living in a salt land where no one lives,” completely lose their influence over others for good, because they’re swayed by fear of people, rather than in fully trusting in the Lord.

Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord.

He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord.

He will be like a tree planted by water; it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes and its foliage remains green.

It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.

I, the Lord, examine the mind, 

I test the heart 

to give each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.

Jeremiah 17:5-8,10

See these two examples contrasted together?  One woman is cursed and loses their influence altogether, because she sinned against the Lord by giving way to fear in hard times.  The other is blessed because the Lord is her strength; she doesn’t worry or fear when hard times come, and her “foliage remains green.”  Her confidence is in the Lord, she has deep roots that she sends out toward a stream.  She “doesn’t worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit,” which means she continues in the work God has for her, producing fruit in her life and in the lives of others.

When we start to take our eyes off of God and His goodness and promises for us, we falter in our faith like Peter did when he tried to walk on water, but then was scared when he saw the terror of the waves around him.  If we allow ourselves to be like that, we’ll get scared, and end up not finishing what we said we’d start.

We want to have the kind of faith Paul described when he talked about keeping his eyes on the prize and running the race with endurance… not giving up even though he had tremendous hardships and beatings and shipwrecks, or giving in, even though he also had tremendous temptation to after going through so many trials and tribulations!

I’m even reminded here of Hebrews 11 where it talks about the heroes of faith in the past.  But remembering that passage would be remiss, if I forgot to include the very next passage of Hebrews 12, and how the entire purpose of Hebrews 11 (reminding us of those great heroes of faith) was to encourage us today to think about them as a “cloud of witnesses” encouraging us on to be bold like they were.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.  In struggling against sin, you have no yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:

‘My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly,

or faint when you are reproved by Him;

for the Lord disciplines the one He loves,

and punishes every son whom He receives.’

Endure it then, as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.  …

No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead.”

Hebrews 12:1-7; 11-12

One of the main reasons why I’ve continued writing even though I’ve come under attack or harassment (even to the point of fellow Christian women supposedly on “our side” calling for Child Protective Services to get involved and possibly take my children away based on false accusations), repeatedly throughout the years, is because I’ve been encouraged by reading Paul’s descriptions of staying the course, even though no one was in his corner at the time, or came to his defense when his enemies were opposing him verbally.

I want to be like the woman who has the deep roots, so that when the “heat” comes, she’s able to suffer it but with endurance and perseverance, allowing it to better her character over time.  Her foliage remains green even when other plants (with lesser root systems) get scorched by the sun, or wither away completely.  She still bears good fruit even while enduring difficulty or painful times of suffering, all because her confidence is in the Lord, and she continually trusts that He will give her competence through working in her.

Again, let me encourage you from Paul’s own words about what he went through.  To me, it is a very great reminder to not be so proud, that I believe that I should be spared things even Jesus went through and did so with grace:

“We give no opportunity for stumbling to anyone, so taht the ministry will not be blamed.  But in everything, as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves:

by great endurance,

by afflictions, by hardship,

by pressures,

by beatings, by imprisonments,

by riots, by labors,

by sleepless nights,

by times of hunger,

by purity, by knowledge,

by patience, by kindness,

by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,

by the message of truth, by the power of God;

through weapons of righteousness on the right hand and the left,

through glory and dishonor,

through slander and good report;

labeled as “deceivers” yet we speak truth,

labeled as “unknown” yet we are recognized;

as dying and yet look – we still live;

as being chastened yet not killed;

as grieving yet always rejoicing;

as poor yet enriching many through our work;

as having nothing yet possessing everything.

You are not limited by us, but you are limited by your own affections (emotions).”

2 Cor. 6:3-10;12

If you’re a young woman reading this, remember, this is not only for my own daughter’s benefit, but to also benefit you.  Like Paul said, you are not limited by outside factors when being called to endure, instead you are limited by your own emotions and lack of faith and strength to endure and run the race and fight the good fight.

She sees her situation through open eyes:

A big part of being able to endure like this, is having a clear picture or clear mindset of what the end result is.  It’s also being aware of Whose you are, and how supported you are.  You can only “see” that when you are in step with the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to reveal these things to you through Scripture (and being poured into daily, like I referenced before).

Again, let’s look at how Paul stayed the course… what was his secret?

“Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.

For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.

So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen for what is seen is only temporary, but what is unseen is eternal and forever-lasting.”

2 Cor. 4:16-18

His secret… his ability to persevere with such BOLD and lasting faith through so many ridiculous hardships, is:

  1. Being renewed in his inner person, day by day (again, what I talked about here)
  2. He knows this is only a “momentary light affliction” and that it is producing in them an “absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory!”
  3. He chooses not to focus on what is seen, but focuses on what is unseen

It’s that simple really.  It’s what I’ve been trying to say for years now here on this blog as I was going through my own trials and false accusations and harassment and threats to have my children taken away based on false accusations to CPS, or get my husband fired (and lose our sole income) etc.  How could I have endured all of that for so many years if it wasn’t God supporting me and me going to Him daily for crucially needed spiritual renewal?

Something I heard a couple of years ago that helped me through those times of pressure and being slandered and falsely accused, was the story of Elisha when he was about to be attacked by the King of Aram’s army.  He was with his servant, and his servant wasn’t able to see the “unseen” like Elisha was – and therefore, his servant lacked the courage that Elisha had.

 

“When the servant of the man osup and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”

Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

2 Kings 6:15-17

Hopefully this rather long post sinks in deep to your heart, Little One.  May you never fear man, but always put your hope and trust in the Lord, who will sustain you while you pass through the fire or the waters, and who will develop your faith into this kind of bold faith that lasts through your lifetime.

May you be like Paul, and focus not on what is seen (that may be admittedly terrifying), but on what is unseen, and remember the “cloud of witnesses,” surrounding you, encouraging you to run the race with perseverance.  We do not fight this fight alone.  The entire mass of heroes of faith are hoping that you will persevere and not give up.

Reread all these Scriptures as often as you need to, to give you the ability to keep on pressing on.  The Word of the Lord is your strength, as well as the joy it is to experience these things like the prophets of old did.

You will have victory if you persevere and do not grow weary doing good, for the Bible says that you will reap your reward in the proper time.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, a man will reap what he sows…  So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.”  Galatians 6:7,9

By this I know that You delight in me:  my enemy does not shout in triumph over me!  You supported me because of my integrity and set me in Your presence forever.”  Pslam 41:11-12

 

 

 

Giving God Your First Fruits – Early Morning Quiet Times

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About two years ago I wrote a very long – probably too long  – post centered on Proverbs 31:15, which was part of an even longer series that became a book now in our living room, on the virtuous Proverbs 31 woman.

“She rises while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and makes portions for her female servants.”

To me it was such a beautiful verse, like each verse in that short passage is!  BUT… it actually was one of the posts that got a lot of interesting negative posts & comments from a few sites, as even fellow Christian women tried to accuse me of being “malicious,” a “shill,” or a Pharisee “tying heavy burdens onto the backs of wives,” while myself not being able to do what I wrote about.

Here’s Elspeth’s comment back then accusing me of such, from here:

“On seeing your husband off: It’s another one of those issues where our goals can be out of step with what our husbands require. Just yesterday I was scrambling around, behind schedule, not getting it done at the pace I wanted. My husband, who is used to- and fully comfortable with- being waited on said to me, “You know, I can iron my own shirt and pack my lunch today. Chill out.”

And we don’t even have any toddlers underfoot. I have a hard time believing that other husbands are not understanding, patient, and willing to assist their wives when they are doing the best they can while living on less sleep and chasing toddlers. I am reminded of something Jesus said to the Pharisees as it relates to all the things a wife is supposed to do perfectly with no rest and little relief:

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. Matt 23:4″

***

I ended up taking the series down, but the post may be available in the wayback machine for looking up.  I do remember taking great pains in that post and in the comments to tell women to do what one’s husband wants his wife to do.  There was even a female commenter who asked us (my husband and I) if this verse was to be applied to her, since she worked overnight as a nurse, and we both told her it’s whatever her husband wanted.  It’s the principle behind each verse that matters.

But also I didn’t skirt around all the research that shows that being an early riser is actually a very beneficial thing, and may be connected to why it was mentioned in the Proverbs 31 passage as being something the virtuous woman would make a habit.  Study after study has seemed to prove the this principle in the Bible is correct – that being an early riser, being prepared for the day ahead or spending time with God in the morning – really does help in all kinds of ways in benefiting one’s life.

Here’s an excerpt from that post from my paper version:

“In taking the time to look through each of these verses, it has really amazed me how beautiful this woman’s character is.  Everything she does is motivated by the desire in her heart to be a woman of God, to love her husband, and to care for those who are in her life.  In verse 15, it’s like we get to peer through her window, and watch how she quietly contributes to her household management through the efforts of something simple, and yet profound, her morning routine.   …

When writing this post, I found myself wondering if there really were any benefits to waking up early, aside from just getting a head start on the day, or some quiet time in before your children are up.  Those are great things to pursue!  But I’ve often heard and thought  myself, that quiet time could be done even in the evening if that suited a person’s schedule better, and that it doesn’t take waking up at 5am in order to get a “head start” on the day – some women would much prefer to wake up only 30 minutes before they have to leave, and even more prefer to sleep until their children wake them up.  We like to equalize everyone’s preferences or lifestyle in order to not offend people, but what I found was that there really are some great advantages that come with early rising, that we’ll miss out if we choose to sleep in!

The early riser increases their productivity –

Waking up early shows our virtuous woman values productivity, which is a cornerstone to leading a successful life or even business venture.  When interviewing over 200 of the most highly successful people of the world, Forbes Magazine was surprised how many focused on their morning routines as being their “secret” to success.    … [examples cited in the post]

Not only does nurturing your mind in the morning with prayer and Scripture reading give you inspiration for the day, just the practice of waking early can give you more control and motivation in your life.  According to a Journal of Applied Social Psychology study in 2009, early risers were more likely to confidently assert things like: “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself,” and “I feel in charge of making things happen,” (2).  They don’t find themselves living a life of constant crises and urgent situations, but feel a healthy assurance of some control of what happens.  This same study found that “morning people are more likely to anticipate problems and minimize them.”  When we wake up early and have time to think and plan in solitude, we find ourselves foreseeing possibilities that may crop up during the day (or week).”

I then rambled on for a few more pages about Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People where he breaks down time management into a quadrant, then I wrote on the importance of getting enough sleep (sticking to a good bedtime), the effects on health and weight related to sleep schedules, the importance of discipline in our lives, how oversleep actually contributed to depression in women, etc.  Again… it was probably too long, the whole post was more like a “chapter,” but I did try to cover multiple aspects of why the verse made sense logically, even in our modern day culture.

I even found research studies that followed students and their daily habits, which showed that early risers earned a full point higher on their GPAs (3.5’s compared to 2.5’s), than those students who called themselves “night owls” (5).  Rising early – the principle at least of taking care of what needs to be taken care of and preparing for the day ahead – I do believe it is part of having a “Spirit of Excellence,” where we consciously decide to do the best at whatever it is God has given us to do.  Sleeping late – sleeping in – if it’s a part of our daily routine, may not have the same mental and psychological effects, and therefore have different life results.

Rising Early … with babies?

Throughout the years of our marriage, even with having multiple children – babies nursing at all times of the night, I still find that waking up early (5am or 5:30am) to spend that quiet time with God is so crucial to my faith longterm – and it impacts my entire day!  I’m just not the same without it.  He literally changes my perspective and helps me deal with the day ahead with a much better attitude.  I’m definitely not perfect or always want to follow through with this goal.  There are some times when I’m not able to get up early, but I do notice a difference in my heart and attitude if I miss a couple of days in a row.  I need God all day, but especially in the early mornings before anyone else has woken up, so that I can spend time alone with Him and reading and studying His Word.

There’s also the principle of giving God your “first fruits.”  For anyone who has ever seriously studied the Bible, it’s apparent that God wants our best – and yes, that usually means we are required to sacrifice in order to give it to Him.  He wants our “first fruits.”

The first 10% of your pay (the normal tithe), the firstborn of your children (an Old Testament Jewish custom), the first day of the week devoted to Him (the Sabbath), even the first of the people’s grain (their food) was to be given to the Lord – before they were allowed to harvest anything for themselves!  It makes total sense that a woman’s early morning time should probably be first devoted to God, no matter when she wakes up. 🙂

In fact, Jesus Himself spent time alone with His Father early in the morning.  There’s something just very mysterious about that early morning time that even I can’t put my finger on.

 “AND IN THE MORNING, RISING UP A GREAT WHILE BEFORE DAY, HE WENT OUT, AND DEPARTED INTO A SOLITARY PLACE, AND THERE PRAYED.” — MARK 1:35

It’s not that I’m trying to be a Pharisee.  It’s more that I find simple beauty in the verse, “she rises while it is still night to prepare food for her household….”  The beautiful sacrifice she gives, the caring for others first, the being a good steward of her time and of running a household.  It simply touches my soul.  And yes!  I do try to do this in my daily life!

Giving God the first of my day, everyday, it has given me immense blessings over the years.  It’s kept my faith strong, even when I felt weak.  It’s given me courage and fortitude, even when I felt afraid or exhausted.  He has been my Rock in some of the most trying times!  I really don’t think my faith would have persevered the way it’s done without prioritizing that time with Him in the morning to replenish my spirit.  There have been countless times that I woke up with a desire to read His Word, but with heavy emotions in my heart, and I came away with gladness, praise and joy!  I’ve found the meaning of “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.”  This is part of why I believe that God leaves these choices up to us in deepening our faith and growing spiritually.

He fills my cup – He makes it overflow (Psalm 23)… it’s better than even coffee!

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From His Word, I draw my strength in the mornings, before I have to do anything else.

Stephanie

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

Related Reading:

Bible Verses for Spring!

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This little guy – every Spring – he builds a little nest inside the edge of our house where it opens somewhat to the attic with his mate.  And then he sits in this tree, always in the same spot for years now, and chirps and chirps and chirps to his little hearts’ content!

I saw him again for the first time in months and ran back inside to grab my camera and take this shot.  I adore him, and I talk to him (and probably look like a crazy lady LOL) and he stops his incessant chirping to look down and cock his head at me (likely wondering why this crazy woman tries to talk to him) and we have a moment 😀 .

He’s just so handsome!  Look at his perfectly designed, defiant and proud little bird-face!  He may be small and fluffy, but he is stout at heart I assure you!

Anyway… we always seem to have the same birds each year, at least, I think they may be the same ones.  There’s the sparrow family who produce babies under the edge of our roof, always in the same spot, there’s the red bird (cardinal) and his mate, who two years ago I caught a shot of them “kissing” as they fed each other from our makeshift feeders.

However this year I discovered a new little one when I was out early gardening.  It’s a male mocking bird – and oh what a songbird he is!

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Springtime. ❤  Here are some verses I found that stood out to me recently when savoring this season:

“The heavens declare the GLORY of God, and the skies above proclaim the work of His hands!”

Psalm 19:1

***

 

For behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.”

Song of Solomon 2:11-13

***

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.”

James 5:7

***

Spring Rain Free Printable 1

It always fascinates me how the cycle of the new life occurs and grows so suddenly from what seems like deadness or barrenness around it.  Each year I remember the music from The Secret Garden (1993), when everything is coming alive again, and baby animals are being born.  It’s just so beautiful.

I grew up in the country, on land that was wild and breathtakingly beautiful to my childlike eyes.  I used to pretend I was inside my own secret garden 🙂 it was heavenly.

This is the song I hear in my head every Spring, though.  I’d love for you readers to listen to it.

It still gets me every year… the intricate beauty and joy of those notes!

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Stephanie

Overcome Evil with Good & Romans 12:19

This will be another post on the things my husband and I talked about this weekend on our long drives.  Although it’s a not really a “feel good,” romantic post, I thought it was a good spiritual growth topic to cover here.

How do you overcome evil with good, especially when someone has done something truly evil against you or someone you love?

How do you deal with Christians like that – true believers who engage in character defamation, spreading slander about you or your family, or worse, who make false accusations against you or your family members, and then go on to feel zero guilt over it?  So disturbing right?  And rightfully angering.

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s much better to trust that God will be your Defender against such people, that He will help “set the record straight” when the time is right for things to be exposed.  And I do believe things are always eventually exposed.  It may take a long time, but God is a just God, and He brings to light that which people would want to be kept in darkness.  You can be sure He doesn’t let evil doers get away with evil acts.  Even more so His own children (Christians), as the Bible warns He punishes those He loves… because it’s the right thing for Him to do.

It’s good to trust God knows what He’s doing.  I personally find so much peace in resting on that promise.  And if you’re going through persecution for speaking truth, you can also rest on the promise that you are suffering through something that will ultimately be a blessing to you.

 

      11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 

12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

To me, this is a beautiful promise… we have hope through persecution, and can trust that God will deal justly with those who do insult us, slander us, and falsely accuse us of all kinds of evil.

It’s God’s job, ultimately, and it’s our job to trust He does right by us.

When we run around and try to “correct” any and every person who is mocking or insulting or even spreading falsehoods about us (which I definitely tried to do in the past… unsuccessfully), we’re more concerned about “people-pleasing,” and protecting our reputation than in trusting God.  I don’t think it’s always wrong to try to confront someone falsely accusing you of something, but in trying to, you take on the risk of being more tempted to sin.  So in my opinion it’s best to stand back and allow God to deal with ALL of it, I’ve found it’s much easier to have peace that way – which is what He would want. 

I have found I am able to trust that not only will He provide protection (and He has, God is so faithful!), but He also gives us the promise that He repays and takes vengeance for us.  As unChristian as that sounds, it’s right there in the Bible for a reason (probably to scare people away from doing evil):

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written,

‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’

said the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

Some commentary from Barne’s Notes on this passage and verse:

“For it is written – Deuteronomy 32:35.

Vengeance is mine – That is, it belongs to me (God) to inflict revenge. This expression implies that it is “improper” for people to interfere with that which properly belongs to God. When we are angry, and attempt to avenge ourselves, we should remember, therefore, that we are infringing on the prerogatives of the Almighty.

I will repay … – This is said in substance, though not in so many words, in Deuteronomy 32:35-36. Its design is to assure us that those who deserve to be punished, shall be; and that, therefore, the business of revenge may be safely left in the hands of God. Though “we” should not do it, yet if it ought to be done, it will be done. This assurance will sustain us, not in the “desire” that our enemy shall be punished, but in the belief that “God” will take the matter into his own hands; that he can administer it better than we can; and that if our enemy “ought” to be punished, he will be. “We,” therefore, should leave it all with God. That God will vindicate his people, is clearly and abundantly proved in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10Revelation 6:9-11Deuteronomy 32:40-43.

The part that my husband assured me of this weekend was so comforting to know.  That if someone does need to be punished, God will do it in His own time (or maybe He already has and you just didn’t witness it).  We don’t need to worry about infecting our souls with the poison of bitterness or hatred – although is it ever tempting to feel those feelings when you see someone get away with evil against someone you love!
My husband said that when someone gives in with actions to those toxic emotions and desiring revenge on their enemies, it affects them and makes them stoop to the same level – even disqualifying their witness.  It’s ok to desire justice, even through a legal system if need be, but it’s not good to take pleasure in seeing someone suffer more than they deserve.  Which is why it’s best to leave vengeance up to God – only He can truly understand “how much” punishment is deserved for someone who has wronged you.  There’s no way we could make that call, although I think it’s totally human (and biblical – think David in Psalm 109 where he asks for God to destroy his enemies in the cruelest of ways possible) to have those feelings.

My husband had me read some verses this weekend along these lines while in the car, and it was so good to hear his opinion on my questions.

One of the passages was David asking God to make his enemies ashamed and disgraced for what they’d done to him.  It’s so comforting to know how human King David was 🙂  I totally relate to his passage of desiring to see enemies be disgraced and ashamed of their actions.  It’s nice to know that he felt those feelings toward his enemies, and yet He was called a man after God’s own heart.  God doesn’t seem to hold our humanity against us regarding our strong emotions, ❤ but He loves us too much to let us stay in those emotions to the point where they would destroy us (and others).

Which brings me to the second passage my husband had me read with him 🙂 which was Jesus’ thoughts on loving our enemies:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor(fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, [n]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. 46 For if you love[only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers [wishing them God’s blessing and peace], what more [than others] are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles [who do not know the Lord] do that?48 You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I seriously laughed at how these two passages seem so at odds with each other… and told my husband outright that I much preferred David’s response! 😀  I knew of both of them, but it’s always wonderful to hear my husband explain these things and talk it over him candidly. ❤

They do seem at odds… one calling for your enemies to be ashamed and disgraced for how they’ve treated you, and the next claiming that if you don’t also love them, you haven’t achieved spiritual maturity.  In reality, the second passage also lines up with overcoming evil with good in Romans 12:14-21.

14 Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. 17 Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap [e]burning coals on his head.”21 Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

It ALL makes sense when you view it through trusting God to be the ultimate Judge and Avenger of wrongs.

We are supposed to be able to overcome someone’s evil toward us that may have truly harmed us by not allowing their actions to destroy our peace and love in our own lives.  The only way to do that is to be able to FULLY rely on God that He will repay, that we can be kind to them (which heaps burning coals on their head), and understand they are in God’s hands and that we don’t have to concern ourselves with their punishment.

He is just, and like He said… He will repay.

Stephanie

 

Things I Want My Daughter to Know: Your Beauty Will Fade & That Will Be Beautiful

growing old together

I just caught up with Lori Alexander’s post on beauty fading from a Christian (Proverbs 31 wife) perspective.  You can find it here (it’s great)!

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I do think about aging quite a bit, to me it’s nice, but I’m also aware that maybe it hasn’t really “hit” me yet.  When I’m sleep deprived, which is more often than not these days 🙂 , I DO feel like the Crypt Keeper lol.  But when our baby girl actually goes the full night sleeping (very rare), I wake up and feel fresh again.

But I’m getting older, there’s no mistaking that.

To me, aging is a privilege.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.”

Proverbs 16:31

elderly

Seeing my husband get older is actually quite sexy!  I love knowing we’re “growing old together.”  It’s very fulfilling in a way that’s hard to describe.

Seeing elderly couples who you know, are actually still in love, touches my heart!

elderly love

I think I’m lucky I married a man who is a dreamer ❤ and together we regularly talk about our plans for when we’re older.  The hopefulness of grandchildren, where we’ll take them, how much we’ll just enjoy having (hopefully) a lot of family around us during the holidays.  The real test of our parenting and relationship with our children will be when they’re finally adults and whether or not they want to spend time with us.  Our oldest son has brought up pretty often that he loves being with us and will be devastated when he moves out – I’m sure he won’t be as devastated when he becomes that age 🙂 , and I do assure him he’ll be “ready,” but at least right now, he tears up and says how much he loves living with us.  Everyone gets older whether they want to or not… as sad as it seems, at least it brings new chapters in life to explore as adventures.  I’d rather embrace these things than run away screaming from them.

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But even with saying all that, we still look pretty young – which is good and bad.

Just today a woman at the playground I was at with my children was talking to me, then suddenly actually asked me out of the blue, how old I was lol!  This does happen sometimes, and I don’t get it… it’s a little strange to ask a complete stranger how old they are in my book!  But I told her, and she was surprised and said how it was because I look so young and yet I have 3 kids.  She told me I don’t look older than 25.  A couple of months ago an elderly woman with her grand-daughter saw me grocery shopping alone, wearing my husband’s high school football shirt (where her grand-daughter just graduated), and thought I was probably from her graduating class!  When I told her how we’d been married 10 years, and had 3 kids, her mouth literally fell open.  Still shocked, she told me I looked 18.

I do sometimes wonder if the very cushy life I’ve lived, being married to a good man, having his babies and being able to stay home with them, has led to me still look younger than I would have if I had chosen a different path.  We definitely don’t have much stress aside from his job and some financial tightness of me not working.  But overall, we both feel very comfortable and happy – we have so many blessings we feel guilt over them at times.

But this is something I want my daughter to know and understand.  Even when you beauty does fade, and you start to really show your age (whenever that magically happens), I want her to enjoy it.

Part of enjoying it is enjoying (like Lori A. said in her post linked at the beginning) the relationships you’ve built up over the years with your husband and children.

I do think a large part of why I’m not afraid of growing older is because I feel so secure in the life we live together.  The Bible does say perfect love casts out fear.  My husband’s love for me, his enjoyment of growing older together with me, is probably the source of the happiness I can feel when I imagine being a grandmother myself.

It’s like the ultimate reward for a life well-lived.

Stephanie

Criticism & Being a Stumbling Block

stumbling block

A couple of years ago, one of my mentors told me that you’re never more tempted to sin, than when you’ve been sinned against.

I think it makes a good quote deserving of all caps…

 

YOU’RE NEVER MORE TEMPTED TO SIN,

THAN WHEN YOU’VE BEEN SINNED AGAINST

 

I went to her after I had gone through a time when I was being criticized by a woman running a gossip/slander blog that has now since become private.  Every post I made, this woman found a way to turn it into something to mock… right down to attacking my husband and children.  Other women, even Christian ones I looked up to previously, jumped in on the mocking and gossip, and it was weird to see that even the supposedly Christian ones were doing this.  It lasted for a good half a year before I confronted her at her blog source, only to have the confrontation end in more pain and frustration.  Talking about it being sin with other people was labeled as “gossip.”  It was a very interesting time as I tried to figure out how to handle slander (being called a whore, slut and a bitch by a Christian man) as well as this being tailed for half the year by this Christian woman.  What was even stranger were the other Christian women who regularly commented on these posts mocking what I was writing, yet they couldn’t see they were doing anything wrong.

It’s really sad that we humans operate this way, myself totally and thoroughly included.  It’s part of our “normal” sin nature, but it’s so ugly and harmful, I surprise even myself with how easily I can give in to this temptation.  And rest assured, I’m talking about myself here, having a sin nature is not fun.  It is kind of shocking how bad we can be when we’re not actively guarding our mouths and minds and spirits.  It reminds me of Paul in Romans 7:18-22, where he wanted so badly to do good, but would sometimes find himself backsliding into the flesh behaviors that he hated in himself.

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

I think it’s crucial to be honest that everyone has these feelings and temptations from time to time, even a man as godly as Paul.  I believe that, ultimately, it’s how we choose to deal with the temptations that matters in the long-run.  We have to strive to be like Paul and avoid and flee temptation, repent when we do give in to sin, and then allow for enough grace for ourselves and others when or if we backslide.

Last week I was wondering why someone would focus so much energy on giving in to sinful temptations… specifically, the temptation to engage in destructive criticism about another person (aka: Gossip & Slander).  I did an experiment to try to get someone engaging in it to see what they looked like, and to understand it within myself.  I succeeded in making them understand how bad it looked, the experiment definitely worked.  Overall, it was enlightening… and scary at how once you start (even if you think you’re only going so far) it can quickly go down hill.

I think I’ve found the answer… the root of why criticism can lead to being a stumbling block, and it comes from this quote at the beginning of the post that was told to me by my mentor:  “You’re never more tempted to sin than when you’re sinned against.”

 

Being a Stumbling Block through Criticism

stumbling man cartoon illustration

Romans 14 has always fascinated me.  I’ve written on it before, here , but I wanted to look at it again from a different perspective.

There used to be a pretty benign young woman who commented fairly frequently here.  I always had a feeling that she was trying to get me to change my views on each post I made – she was always so full of constructive criticism and gave it out freely.  Everything about me was up for criticism from this young woman – from the way I dressed to my diet and breastfeeding.  A lot of it was good, and I’d take it and make necessary changes, or try to see if I was getting it truly wrong, but overtime, it started to feel more like purposeful fault-finding or destructive criticism, and I felt myself changing inside toward her as well.

It got to the point where I would find myself starting to see flaws in her posts and arguments, whereas I’d never argued with her before over her writing.  And instead of minding my own business (something I’ve written about before!), I’d feel rightful in pointing them out to her publicly – in a “constructive” way like she did though 😉 .  I knew it was probably not the right thing to do, even if I couched it in “constructive criticism“… it’s a little much to be “correcting” someone all the time so why was she doing this?  I justified my fault-finding habit at her blog by telling myself that well, SHE was doing it to me, so why can’t I do it back to her?  Let’s just say being criticized by her nearly every week affected me lol.  I actually still try not to go to her blog because all I see are the flaws and faults in her biblical arguments.  It’s amazing how the way we act toward others has so much power over the way they in turn feel tempted to deal with us.

Why are humans like this?

I think Romans 14 holds the key to this.  Criticism, especially over issues that don’t really matter that much, make us become stumbling blocks.

“Therefore let us stop criticizing one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”  (vs 13)

Why does the Bible warn us that criticism can be a “stumbling block” to other believers?  I think the answer is that when it’s not done in love, or even when it’s done over and over again in a constructive way, it’s actually sinning against the person you’re criticizing or leading them to exasperation with you.  So when you SIN against that person, you’re TEMPTING them to sin back.  Or if you’re trying to just constantly correct someone on their convictions (which Romans 14 tells us blatantly not to), you’re going to make them tempted to view you negatively.  This is especially true if you’ve been overly harsh or engaged in sinful destructive criticism, you’ve just become a stumbling block for that person, making it harder for them in their spiritual walk.

stumbling block2

Wow, right?  Pretty scary how criticism, even when we think it should be “constructive,” can be so hurtful and harmful to our Christian brothers and sisters in damaging their walks with God.

Pretty serious stuff.  Now that I carried out my own psyche experiment on this topic, I think I understand even more so just how important this post was in the past.

Instead of being a stumbling block, why not become a stepping stone to helping build others up on their spiritual journies?  I’m talking to my own inclinations here 😉

stumbling block3

Good food for thought.

Stephanie

 

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How Can We Know That We’ve Truly Consecrated Ourselves to Him?

In January, I embarked on a journey to read a few enlightening books on past Christians’ spiritual thoughts and books on spiritual journeys.  One such book was Stepping Heavenward, by Mrs. E. Prentiss, a book that is written in a journal style following a 16 year old girl’s spiritual journey into womanhood, and finally, old age.  It was such a fascinating little book, with a multitude of great timeless lessons to learn regarding faith, marriage, and the role of a wife and mother.

It was like a breath of fresh air to dive into this timeless wisdom written in the 1800’s.

I bought this little book at the promptings of Mrs. Sharon White, author of the Legacy of Home blog, grandmother, and daughter of a revival preacher.  She has on her site a complimentary study guide to go with this book, written by herself!  I encourage every young woman to read this book if they are wondering about the role of a wife or mother, or wondering about the impact faith can have on their life.  

I am saving it to present to the next girl in our family,

be that a daughter or grand-daughter, this is one of those rare books that will be passed down in

our family legacy.

Here is just one excerpt where the minister is writing to the young girl about her progression in faith that I found quite wonderful:

***

“Now He never leaves His work incomplete, and He will gradually lead you into clear and open vision if you will allow Him to do it.  I say gradually, because I believe this to be His usual method, while I do not deny that there are cases where light suddenly bursts in like a flood.  To return to the blind man.  When Jesus found that his cure was not complete, He put His hands again upon his eyes and made him look up; and he was restored and saw every man clearly.  Now this must be done for you; and in order to have it done, you must go to Christ Himself, not to one of His servants.

Make your complaint, tell Him how obscure everything still looks to you, and beg Him to complete your cure.  He may see fit to try your faith and patience by delaying this completion; but meanwhile you are safe in His presence, and while led by His hand, He will excuse the mistake you make and pity your falls.  But you will imagine that it is best that He should at once enable you to see clearly.  If it is, you may be sure He will do it.  He never makes mistakes.  But He often deals far differently with His disciples.  He lets them grope their way in the dark until they fully learn how blind they are, how helpless, how absolutely in need of Him.

What His methods will be with you I cannot foretell.   But you may be sure that He never works in an arbitrary way.  He has a reason for everything He does.  You may not understand why He leads you now in this way and now in that, but you may, nay, you must believe that perfection is stamped on His every act.  …

Many persons never get beyond this point (of making their whole business to study their own case to see whether they are really in a state of grace).  They spend their whole time in asking the question:

Do I love the Lord or no?  Am I His or am I not?

I beg you, my dear child, if you are doing this aimless, useless work, to stop short at once.  Life is too precious to spend in a treadmill.  Having been pardoned by your God and Savior, the next thing you have to do is to show your gratitude for this infinite favor by consecrating your self entirely to Him, body, soul, and spirit.  …

And now if you ask how you may know that you have truly consecrated yourself to Him, I reply, observe every indication of His will concerning you, no matter how trivial, and see whether you at once close in with that will.  Lay down this principle as a law – God does nothing arbitrary.  If He takes away your health, for instance, it is because He has some reason for doing so; and this is true of everything you value; and if you have real faith in Him, you will not insist on knowing the reason.  If you find in the course of daily events, that your self-consecration was not perfect – that is, that your will revolts at His will – do not be discouraged, but fly to your Savior and stay in His presence till you obtain the spirit in which He cried in His hour of anguish, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42).  Every time you do this it will be easier to do it; every such consent to suffer will bring you nearer and nearer to Him; and in this nearness to Him you will find such peace such blessed, sweet peace as will make your life infinitely happy, no matter what may be its mere outside conditions.  

Just think, my dear Katy, of the honor and the joy of having your will one with the Divine will and so becoming changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory!  …

You can will to choose for your associates those who are most devout and holy.

You can will to read books that will stimulate your in your Christian life rather than those that merely amuse.

You can will to use every means of grace appointed by God.

You can will to spend much time in prayer without regard to your frame at the moment.

You can will to prefer a religion of principle to one of mere feeling; in other words, to obey the will of God when no comfortable glow of emotion accompanies your obedience.

You cannot will to possess the spirit of Christ; that must come as His gift; but you can choose to study His life and to imitate it.  This will infallibly lead to such self-denying work as visiting the poor, nursing the sick, giving of your time and money to the needy and the like.”

Why is Attractiveness in Marriage Important?

Commenter Object of Contempt made a great observation about romance, passionate love, and attraction in marriage being interrelated:

I think, however, that it is part of the vows to do what you can to maintain passionate love. Being attractive is part of that. I also think it is possible to make yourself be in love with someone (having done it myself). There are limits, of course.Romance and passion are often dismissed in christian teaching about marriage, just like attractiveness and beauty are. I suspect this is partially the cause for the attractiveness issue.

His concern that Christian teachings throw out or dismiss the importance of romance & passion, or attractiveness & beauty in marriage are well-founded.  I’ve written before in Men Need an Attractive Wife, that:

Christianity sometimes overstates the importance of inner beauty, making outward care for the appearance to look like materialism and vanity. 

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain [or fleeting], but a woman who fears the Lord she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

If you take the time to really learn about the Proverbs 31 woman, she does not sound like a woman who let herself go after marriage.  She made beautiful clothes for her family using expensive dyes that were usually reserved for royalty or nobility.  She worked from early morning until late at night – and her husband sat with important men, bragging about her, do you think he would’ve bragged about her had she just let her appearance go?  Obviously, she cared about what her husband liked as far as her appearance and presentation.

Taking care of your appearance, exercising and making sure you look your best as a woman is not selfish, in fact, if you’re married, it’s selfish not to.”

Christians do tend to, like Object of Contempt pointed out, act like outer attractiveness is “optional,” and that inner beauty is the only thing that is righteous to work toward.  He wondered if there was any proof that taking care of attractiveness, especially for a woman, was important to God.

I’m so glad someone asked this question, and I’ll do my best to give my own opinion here, but I’d really love for other people who may be reading this who feel they have a greater understanding of this complicated issue to add their thoughts in the comments (please 🙂 ).  So without further ado, this is just one woman’s thoughts and advice, take it for what you will….

 

From Object of Contempt:

“And among Christian blogs, then I find many more posts that make it all about the inner beauty, and tear it (outer beauty) all down. These posts quote Peter and sound more spiritual and biblical, but I think they distort the truth by focusing on one verse.
How would someone show that God thinks visual attractiveness is important? How would someone show that God thinks passionate love is important? Does a woman have a perspective that needs a particular approach for it to be heard?”

I answered his comment below, but would like to expand on some of these concepts now that I have time:

“It really is a balance, but it’s true that the issue is complex – what matters to God. On one hand, when it comes down to it, He loves people right where they are – and every person, no matter what they look like, matter to Him and has great personal value! If a Christian is living their life, and haven’t grown in a certain area, He still loves them and values them.

But on the other hand, God does want us to be growing spiritually and becoming more complete/mature people, and a part of spiritual growth that Christians tend to overlook is how they are taking care of themselves physically.

Making themselves attractive, enjoying that process, nourishing the passionate love and attraction in their marriage are all holy and spiritual pursuits! God wants us to have life and life abundantly – Scripture even states that the reason He died was so that we can have complete joy – joy in it’s completeness. It is very hard to have that kind of abundant life and complete joy when a woman isn’t taking care of her health and fitness, creating a passionate marriage, and flourishing in attraction between her and her mate.

So God does care about those things in the long run, but they are of lesser importance compared to a person’s salvation and having “inner beauty” – which is character and integrity.

Those things always matter more to God, because they are who a person really is, and beauty eventually fades.

In my opinion, real beauty goes beyond skin deep, and is easily seen in the way a woman radiates joy and beauty from within, which has the power to change her outer appearance and have people drawn to her.”

_____________________________________________________

A major part of spiritual growth that Christians tend to overlook is how they are presenting themselves physically, how they are taking care of the body that God gave them.  We are stewards of our body, and although God ultimately cares more about our salvation and character growth and integrity, He does expect us to take great care over the body we’ve been given so that we can effectively do His will in our life.  If we are running our bodies down, filling them up with too much food and not enough exercise, becoming overweight or underweight, we won’t have the physical or mental strength to do many of the spiritual tasks we’re called to do.  Even spiritual things require a well-rested, well-taken care of body, otherwise our emotions (due usually to exhaustion or over-extension) tend to take over and we react out of shortened tempers, grouchiness, and feeling horrible.  When a woman isn’t taking care of herself physically, it often has mental and spiritual ramifications that negatively affect her ability to minister to others God has put in her path, namely her husband and her children.

Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Part of “honoring God with our bodies,” is taking care of them, and presenting them well.

When a woman is married, taking care of her appearance is important because it’s usually important to her husband.  He was more than likely first attracted to her because of her appearance, not her personality… this isn’t to say that he didn’t come to appreciate her personality later on and love her more for it, but Christians throwing out the importance of her attractiveness in catching her husband is clearly short-sighted.  Most single women who find husbands give some thought and devotion to their outward beauty and attractiveness, so it makes sense that the tools they used to catch a husband, should also be used regularly in keeping their husband during their marriage.

What I would want to tell a woman who has set herself as Object of Contempt put it, “against being attractive,” is that this isn’t about trying to change her into someone she isn’t or has never been!  This is about a heart issue of wanting to pursue having a good marriage, caring about her husband’s visual needs of wanting to see her at her attractive, personal best, and doing what she should to create a romantic and passionate marriage!

A good guideline is to look at one’s wedding pictures, aside from normal aging, how far off are you from looking the way you did when you made your vows to do everything you could to make a marriage work?

We as women, usually take care of ourselves very well when single and as a result, we reap the benefits of our men lavishing their attention and romantic efforts on us.  A major part of marriage is learning to work together as a team, caring for each other’s needs, and understanding that our actions are forever now tied to the fate of another person – we are responsible for them to a certain extent, and should live our life caring about how our actions affect them in their own life.  If we clearly do not care about how attracted our husbands are to us, if we let ourselves go and demand he love us for “ourselves,” we are expecting him to feel the same romance and passion toward us as he did when we made efforts we aren’t making anymore.  Of course he may still love us deeply, but God created men to be extremely visual, and if we don’t look appealing to our husband, if our appearance is negatively impacting the level of attraction he feels for us, then something needs to be changed on our part.

Loving our husbands means we care deeply about what he needs.  

Sex and affection are critical to men, it is the way God’s designed them to be able to feel emotionally and spiritually close to us!

If we’ve let ourselves go and are no longer making any effort to be attractive to them or have a good sex life, or be affectionate with them, we are causing them to live in a state of emotional and spiritual torment.

This is serious, sisters, holding on to our “right” to be against being attractive for our husbands is selfish and only causes damage to our marriage, and damages the hearts of our husbands.  It’s putting up a stumbling block in his way to experiencing closeness and intimacy with us – emotionally, spiritually, as well as physically.  

It should remain obvious then, that if we care about our husband’s well-being, if we care about his needs and God-given desires, then we will also care about nourishing a passionate, romantic marriage, and staying attractive to our men.

 

Related: A Woman’s Attractiveness Reflects on Her Husband’s Appeal, Talent, and Ability

Men Need an Attractive Wife

Single Women: You Have the Power in Attracting a Man – Unleash It!