Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sparing Your Words

He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”Proverbs 17:27-28

Have you ever desired to be wise and have a mouth full of wise words? I sure have and I still do. As I began to acquaint myself with the Bible soon after surrendering my life to the Lord, my first favorite Bible character was Solomon. Even today, he holds a special place in my heart. I love how when asked by God for any wish, he asked God for an understanding heart to rightly judge God’s people. And God gave him that and more. (1 Kings 3)

It could be said that because of this prayer request, we have the book of Proverbs, which was largely written by him. Tradition also ascribes the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes to him as well. In thinking about that, those portions of Scripture don’t even account for a large section of the Bible. In that, we can see the truth of these words above. 

Knowledge and wisdom are not necessarily found in grand words, lengthy speeches, or long pontifications about this or that point but are found in salient and direct thoughts that apply to all generations. Or in silence.

Think of it this way. Have you ever thought to yourself that the Bible should be a bigger book? The last verse of the Gospel of John even alludes to this thought: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25)

Wisdom, knowledge, and truth do not need large shelves or many volumes in which to be placed. It’s a beautiful thing that we have many books written from different perspectives to help us understand truths better. But I believe all we need to know can be found in Scripture, which has just the right number of pages and just the right amount of words to accomplish God’s desire to pass His wisdom to His children.

In application to my own life, Lord, help me to understand my own thoughts and words in light of this truth, that sparing my words – and holding my tongue – is often the wiser and more knowledgeable choice.  

Sibiu, Romania (December 2005)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Encouragement

It’s funny how little things encourage me. A sudden, sneaky joke from my husband, that just makes me laugh over our dinner table. When all seems so somber and serious and quite frankly, a little dull, in came my husband with a statement that just made me laugh and laugh.

Or how about when I go upstairs to get my daughter from her crib. The way she looks at me as I walk through the door, with a kind of gleeful anticipation, and how she will be silly or serious, depending on her mood, and hand me her blanky, because you know mom, I can’t go anywhere without this.

Or how a simple thank you from your boss, because he knows he’s been so busy the last several weeks, and how I may have allowed some insecurity to creep in and wonder, are we okay? Which I did ask him, and he said yes, and then he said, he must be busier than he should be … and so today, a deliberate thank you from him to me.

Or a verse and how it will sing gloriously off the pages of Scripture when you are waking up with your tea and your daughter is faithfully watching the morning cartoons, with the sound off, as mommy needs to “hear” her Savior … and how that verse just lifts off the page into your mind and down into your heart.

Those things, and more, are great examples of encouragement in my life.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

He Crowns Our Years with His Goodness

“Thou crownest the year with thy goodness.”Psalm 65:11a

My heart is not always effusive with joy. What I mean is, sometimes it is not easy for me to be thankful to God. Of course, in the general sense, I am thankful for Him and what He’s done in my life. I am even thankful for the hardships He has allowed me to go through because, not only has He brought me through my hardships, but He has taught me beautiful truths through the trials that are etched on my soul today.

But a general sort of thankfulness? No, that is not my natural state. I tend to examine the flaws of myself and of others, and study our deficiencies and what the Bible says are the solutions for them to satisfy my need to feel correct in my judgment.

While going to Scripture is a wonderful thing, the purpose I use Scripture for may not always be used with a “1-Corinthians-chapter-13” kind of love. You know, a love that is long-suffering and not prideful. A love that is not self-serving. A love that is hopeful. A love that is kind.

Truthfully, when I examine myself, I know I could use more of this kind of love toward myself and others. I know I could have more of a hopeful viewpoint from which to see the world.

This verse above simply says God crowns the years (and I believe we can rightly say “our” years) with His goodness, and what follows is how it speaks to my heart about thankfulness. I believe it is through the lens of God’s goodness from which I need to view the world. So, instead of seeing faults and getting bitter about those faults in myself and others, I see Him and His goodness. In everything.

See, He really does have the power to turn every situation into His glory, albeit for those that love Him (Romans 8:28). He can turn the ashes of our lives into a beauty we would have not thought possible (Isaiah 61:3). I believe these statements are true because they are found in Scripture, but I also believe these are true statements because they have happened to me.

Where I falter, and where my fears and doubts begin to arise, is in trusting that they will happen to me in the future, and prayerfully, in the lives of my loved ones and others I may be praying for. This is the essence of faith, really. A faith in Him that He can and will perform these truths. And is that not one of the major truths of Christianity? That we have a God Who we trust in not only for our salvation but with our lives—past, present and future?

My sweet, precious and loving Savior, as this verse says above, You crown the years with Your goodness, and it is not always easy for me to see Your goodness. I often fear, falter, and doubt that Your Hand is moving in my daily life. These are sins of my heart, and I confess that to You. Please cleanse me and heal me of these sins and then lead me to see things through Your goodness so that I may be thankful to You for all You have done, are doing, and will do.

 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
—1 Thessalonians 5:18

My Street in Spokane, WA
(December 2010)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Evazatu and Its Pictures of Poverty

“Mine eye affecteth mine heart.”Lamentations 3:51a

What follows was part of a newsletter I emailed home to my family and friends, on occasion, while I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania. This was written about eight and a half years ago, and this particular newsletter was about the gypsy community who my church ministered to in Onesti (pronounced “oh-nesht”). I decided to keep this article written in the present tense. The verse above is an apt summary of how God used these pictures of poverty to affect my heart and teach me lessons that I continue to process today.

EVAZATU is the name of the bloc apartment building (above) that is located across the street from the church I am a member of while I lived in Romania. What distinguishes it from the other blocs (as these Communist-era buildings are called) in Onesti is the fact that it houses mostly gypsies. It is also notoriously known as the worst place in Onesti because it is also the location of many thieves and prostitutes, as well as individuals and families who just cannot afford to live anywhere else.

From what I know, the rent for a one-room apartment runs about 200,000 lei, or roughly $6 a month. There are one and two-room apartments, and as of the writing of this newsletter home, I have only seen what a one-room apartment looks like.

I have personally nick-named it the ghetto of Onesti. Many people are afraid to enter the bloc, as it is perceived, with validity, as a dangerous place.

For those familiar with the way many immigrants live together crammed into a small apartment or house in America, Evazatu’s brand of housing is no different. My friend and fellow church member, who is pictured below on the right holding her niece, lives in her room with her five sons, not to mention probably about 100 cockroaches. Two of her boys sleep on the bed/couch with her, and her other three boys sleep on the floor.

You can’t see it very well, but her “stove” is under that black pot of rice soup on the right in this photograph. It is a brick that is wrapped with a piece of metal coil that heats up when plugged in. This is a very dangerous contraption, having already caused a small fire, which burned her curtains in the background, and at the same time, it is a precious commodity, many in Evazatu having to share the use of one to cook their daily meals.

They have one sink in the room, which is also shown below, and that sink is the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry sink, all in one. Above her sink is her family’s “medicine cabinet.”

The toilets are shared in Evazatu and are located at the end of the halls (pictured below).

At the end of the halls garbage is swept into a pile, as if to keep it out of sight.

Many of the children and church members that go to my church live in Evazatu, so I have gotten to know some of its stories very well. Probably one of the saddest stories is about a four or five-year-old boy who would show up to church from time to time. His father has been in jail for a while, and his mom was just arrested for prostitution. He is terribly abused by his mother, the signs of which have been observed in my church frequently. He just stays with a neighbor (I hope), but he should be picked up by the state, as he no longer has parents that live there. He is treated like one of the stray dogs in Romania, abused by both children and adults that live in Evazatu. He loves my dear friend and sister in Christ, who teaches the children’s class at my church, and who also gave him a piece of her cake the night before writing this. It was probably the best thing he ate that day. I have reported him to the authorities, and now we are just waiting, and praying, that he will be cared for soon.

It is my opinion that poverty looks the same everywhere, and Evazatu is only one glimpse into its face—the poor being always with us.

“For ye have the poor with you always, 
and whensoever ye will ye may do them good.”—Mark 14:7a


UPDATE: Many years later, while I was settling back into my American life, tragedy struck the family I featured in this update. There was a fire in her apartment in which two children died, one of whom I know was her youngest son at the time I lived there. We may never understand fully why such tragedies happen, but I thank God that He can turn the ashes of our lives into beauty and that He has faithful servants throughout the world able to minister to the needs of the communities they have been called to serve. The biggest need—salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The little boy in the middle was the one who died in the fire.
One of his brothers is on the left, and his mother on the right.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Fight

If there is one word that represents what I do not want 2014 to be is a year full of “Fight.” This word, unfortunately, has many roots in some memories from a time before I would rather not think on.

So, with the dawning of a new day, a new year, or even a new moment, I have hopes for peace, comfort and rest. I believe I am experiencing all those things and more in each and every day. I believe I receive the opposite of “fight” each time I hold my daughter in my arms. It's the same feeling of when I lay in my husband's arms. It's the feeling of family, of warmth, of closeness, of a general feeling of belonging that I rest in almost every day.

As the years have added to my life these new experiences and warm feelings, I am filled with such thankfulness for a Father in Heaven, Who has walked with me through the winding roads of my past, and Who is straightening those paths in front of me as we walk into a future I only dreamed of before.

I look up at Him, my precious Father and Friend, and I say thank you, Jesus, for leading me out of my “fight” and into my peace.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”—Jeremiah 29:11

Sinaia, Romania (2005)

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