_Faith like Esther.
1 Timothy 3:11
"In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything."
As I read scripture this morning, this verse spoke to me. As a woman of faith, there are expectations of conduct and character that I need to possess and strive for. Maybe the reason this verse spoke to me is because all too often I miss the mark.
In what ways would I need to present myself to be worthy of respect to my husband, my daughter, my family...my dad? But does it stop here? Is it in just a matter of presenting oneself to exhibit those characteristics and attitudes? Or is it something more? For a life fully devoted to Christ is one that is ever present, not just one that shows up and speaks “Christianese” amongst fellow believers. Consistency, authenticity, and most of all love are the ingredients to living out a faith filled life to be worthy of respect.
Many times I think it would be so much easier if my 3 year old listened the first time when I told her to do something. Or I would like to hear “you are right” from my father instead of engaging in multiple discussions of opposing views. So while it is always easier to know exactly what we want, it is usually harder to be the person we need to be in order to get the desired results from others that we want.
So what would that look like?
What types of heart tools do I need in order to initiate different outcomes from my relationships? While I am newly wrestling with this thought, I have learned (the hard way of course) that the only person you can truly control is yourself. (Sometimes I even want to escape from that responsibility and blame something or someone else). But at the same time, this concept gives freedom to the recipient. While I think it would be great to be a master puppeteer and orchestrate conversations, tasks and relationships the way I think that they should go- there is freedom in knowing that this is not a task that could be handled by any human. Even God himself is not a “puppeteer”. He doesn’t want us to blindly follow him or move when he says to move or speak when he says to speak. Instead of focusing on the strings which move our bodies, he is more concerned about what moves our heart strings. He gives us the ability to choose. And I think much greater peace and joy is found in this place when our free will aligns up with what God desires for us. This is when the heart strings begin to produce a melody that God can hear.
Revelation 5:8 says “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”
The first time I was shown this passage I was in awe. I am glad that I still feel that when I read it today. I have been dying to put it in a blog post and it seems to fit here.
How awesome is it that in the middle of some glorious worship jam session, our prayers are brining a sweet aroma to Jesus in the throne room.
When I quickly googled incense, an article by James Smith came up titled Incense 101: History and Products. While I already knew what incense was, I found it interesting that the actual definition refers to an “ aromatic biological material that produces fragrant smoke when burned”. In my mind I had always thought that incense referred to the actual aroma. This clarification is not life altering but as I sat and pondered the definition, and applied it to that verse; it made more sense.
Our prayers come from within us. Who we are determines what type of aroma is emitted into the air. For it is not the prayer itself, but rather the condition of my heart which determines the aroma of my prayers to God.
So now I will try to circle this back to where I started this post. Being a woman worthy of respect. How easy it is to slip into using words that tear down instead of build up. Poking fun at someone else’s expense seems harmless and sometimes offers humor, but what is the motive behind the laughter? I personally like to put myself in the judgment seat. Yup, I think I know exactly how someone else should make choices in their life and just because I don’t share it with them directly, I think I am off the hook. The definition of malicious includes the intention to do harm. While I think most of us (including myself) would say we don’t typically intend to do harm to others when we speak about them… but aren’t we intending to build ourselves up while we discredit their life decisions or choices? If I intentionally talk about someone that I disapprove of, what good am I bringing to the situation? What love is in my heart when I choose to engage in that topic of discussion? I doubt that the aroma coming from me at that time is anywhere near sweet.
So instead of initiating or participating in conversations that I wouldn’t have in front of the individual, I need to practice self-restraint. The verse uses the word “temperate”. So much of what I see in our corner of the globe is “speak your mind no matter the cost” and “your opinion matters”. And while opinions should be respected, sometimes I see the costly outcome of said opinions being shared. I have read posts and think to myself- I wonder if that person would really have said their comments directly to the person vs typing it on a smart phone or computer? We think the virtual wall of the internet is so thick that it can’t possibly let our words penetrate someone else’s soul on the other side. I feel like I may be digressing.
But I want to bring my best self to each conversation so that the recipient does not have to try to respect and trust me. If my heart is centered where it should be, shouldn’t it be more likely to be a natural byproduct?
I am going to close with an illustration about one of our favorite children’s books by Max Lucado titled “You are Special”. In this book, there are wooden people named Wemmicks. All of the Wemmiks were created by a woodcarver named Eli. Each of the Wemmicks were all different but what they did was the same. All day, every day they would give each other stickers. Gray dots would be given to those that had chipped paint, made mistakes and any other reason of disapproval. Other wemmicks received gold stars if they had smooth wood or just “excelled at life”. The star of the book, Punchinello never got stars. After being discouraged repeatedly by all of his dots, he met a Wemmick who didn’t have any stars or dots on her. The other Wemmick’s tried to put the stickers on her but they just didn’t stick. Her reason; everyday she went to visit Eli. She encouraged Punchinello to do the same and he did.
Here is part of the conversation that Punchinello has with Eli.
“Eli stooped down and picked him up and set him on the bench. “Hmm,” the maker spoke thoughtfully as he looked at the gray dots, “Looks like you’ve been given some bad marks.”
“I didn’t mean to, Eli, I really tried hard.”
“Oh, you don’t have to defend yourself to me, child. I don’t care what the other Wemmicks think.”
“No, and you shouldn’t either. Who are they to give stars or dots? They’re Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello, all that matters is what I think, And I think you are pretty special.”
Punchinello laughed. “Me, special? Why? I can’t walk fast. I can’t jump. My paint is peeling. Why do I matter to you?”
Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on those small wooden shoulders, and spoke very slowly. “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me."
Punchinello then asks about the girl who told him to see Eli. “Why don’t the stickers stay on her?”
The maker spoke softly. “Because she has decided that what I think of her is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them”. The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers.”
This story is such a beautiful picture for children and adults alike. While the main message is about seeing your value and worth in how God sees you instead of how others see you (don’t get me wrong- this is a very critical and necessary message!). I started to think about how it applied to the verse from 1 Timothy.
If we are women of God, chosen specifically to do the purposes and plans he has for us- why do I waste my time handing out stars and dots when it wasn’t my job to begin with? Funny how God doesn’t even sit there and hand out stars and dots, even though he would be more than justified and qualified to do this. Instead, he just gives us love, whether we deserve it or not. He values us regardless of our performances and decisions. He wants to spend time with us so that we know that we matter to him. Friend, maybe you need to hear this today. YOU matter to God. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks- and the stickers only stick if you let them.
So I am going to work on myself. I want to be like the girl who told Punchinello to go to his maker. Instead of judging and agreeing or disagreeing with the choices of others; I am going to simply point people to the maker, speak kindness and give love regardless of worthiness. It’s not easy to do this and I won’t be perfect. But it brings me great joy to think that my prayers may bring a smile to Jesus’ face as he smells the sweet aroma.
Praying for you friends!
_Faith like Esther.
This past week it snowed. Not really that unusual seeing that I live in Wisconsin. However, what was unusual about this snowfall is that it happened prior to the leaves falling off of the trees. The result was snow on the ground and colorful leaves on the trees. And then the leaves started to fall onto the snow. I can picture the leaves feeling as if they weren’t ready to fall onto damp, wet snow. They still had beauty to display themselves on the brown tree branches. They hadn’t clapped enough in the crisp cool air to be ready to fall into the next season.
Have you ever felt like the leaves? Did you feel like things were going great and perhaps you were clapping and singing a song with the way your life or current situation was turning out to be?
And then it snowed?
You didn’t have a choice. No matter what you tried to do and how you attempted to manipulate the circumstances you just couldn’t hold on any longer? Have you been forced into a winter season that you weren’t prepared for? I am sure this isn’t a one time thing in our lives. Actually, I don’t know if we are ever really prepared for winter. We think we have the warmest coats, the best accessories and the Christmas decorations to keep us happy...but ultimately, isn’t cold...just cold. How do we alleviate our sufferings in seasons of trial? How can we truly prepare for the unknown? How can we embrace a season that we weren’t ready for?
Shawn Deane from Bethesda Senior Living Communities said this “The consistency of the earth’s seasons is a reflection of it’s Maker and the steadiness of his character”. I do agree with this statement and I have thought of this before when thinking of the consistency of the rising and setting sun. Even those that don’t believe in God believe that the sun will rise and set each day as it has always done. But I also know that when it snows before the leaves fall- it hurts. Perhaps you have been in the place where you doubt God and his goodness when things don’t feel good? It is so hard to trust when things don’t feel like they are right and true. Perhaps someone did something else to you and the wounds are so deep you can’t even imagine them turning into scars one day that just represent a wound that once was. But let’s also remember that even when people choose things that are not good and make us feel hurt and bruised- God can still be good. He is good and wants different things for you. He doesn’t always cause things to happen, but I believe that he can use whatever happened to still bring us goodness.
I hope I am not rambling and I don’t really have all of the answers friends. But what I can tell you is that while I was contemplating the strange weather phenomenon I couldn’t help but see the beauty. I stopped. I took pictures. Many of them. The color of the leaves shown even brighter against the white snow than it did against the green grass or against the brown of the branches in the trees. The vibrancy of the oranges, reds, yellows and greens almost sang a chorus straight to my heart about how God still gives us beauty even when we weren’t ready for the trials that surprised us.
If your heart is aching, if your days are longer than you would like them to be, if you worry about how you’ll make it through or wonder if your season will ever change to Spring...this post is for you. Friends, I am praying that even amidst your deepest pain, God shows you something beautiful. Perhaps he has shown it to you but you haven’t admired it long enough to take a picture? Do you have loving friendships that keep you encouraged? Do you have the provision of good finances? Do you have a solid faith foundation? Do you have a team of nurses and doctors who show care and compassion while your child is undergoing treatments? Do you take moments to ponder the beauty before you?
While I’d like to say that once you find the beauty in the suffering, that your tears will stop and your season starts to change. Oh friends, I don’t know how long your season will last or what is to come for you. But I do know that this is where God changes us. This is where we are stretched. This is where we are pulled nearer to his heart and the lover of our souls. Only he can satisfy these deep longings of our inner selves… and it is here where he plants beauty that only he can grow.
WIll you ask him to show you the beauty? Keep consistent praying the prayer and open your hearts to the still, small voice.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
May this season draw you closer to the heavens friend.