August 29 – The Cause of the Effect

For the Lord shall be your confidence, firm and strong, and shall keep your foot from being caught [in a trap or some hidden danger]. Proverbs 3:26

I don’t ordinarily take a fancy to reading instructions. Though times of avoidable catastrophes have influenced me otherwise, I still had to make myself stop and read the “how to” manual for our garden tiller when we bought it.

What a sad commentary that is when almost every single time I have made myself stop, look and listen to the wisdom of the ones who made the doggone thing, the thing worked as designed.

But stubbornness and laziness takes on a pride unique to the individual. Then the derelict twin brothers, assumption and presumption take center stage on a not so funny comedic routine. The end result is usually a blame game toward the manufacturer. If that’s not insanity, I don’t know what is.

That’s why today’s Proverb requires a backwards look at the proceeding “instructions.” Otherwise it looks like all the doing is randomly up to God. Here’s my part of the “cause and effect”:
My son, let them not escape from your sight, but keep sound and godly Wisdom and discretion, and they will be life to your inner self, and a gracious ornament to your neck (your outer self). Then you will walk in your way securely and in confident trust, and you shall not dash your foot or stumble. When you lie down, you shall not be afraid; yes, you shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet. Be not afraid of sudden terror and panic, nor of the stormy blast or the storm and ruin of the wicked when it comes [for you will be guiltless], Proverbs 3:21-25 AMP
It is up to me to not let wisdom and discretion escape me. My part is small in comparison to God’s, but still, it is required.

May today find us nose deep in the manual, mining out the wisdom and discretion. Then, when it’s time to do some “tilling,” the acts of “brother assumption” and “brother presumption” won’t be necessary.

August 28 – He’s Got the Whole World . . .

The Lord by skillful and godly wisdom has founded the earth; by understanding He has established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up and the skies distill the dew. Proverbs 3:19-20 AMP

I had a conversation with a dear friend recently about the “way of the world.” As it stands right now, leadership, world-wide, seems to have lost touch with reality and thus taken their brains out with the morning trash!

How in the world are you going to blow up your neighbor without putting a hole in your own vital existence? This little fragile ball is just that; fragile and one complete ball hanging out in a delicate balance.

And for the record, king, queen, president, or prime minister doesn’t possess the universal right to dictate what ultimately goes on in the grand scheme.  God alone founded mother earth. She is his creation and she answers to Him. To forget that is to find oneself frustrated and confused as she rolls on. Proverbs tell us God alone established the functionality of the heavens above and the deep below. And in order for her subjects to understand how to grasp and govern her, they have got to be possessed by the wisdom and knowledge of her Master and Creator. And that, my friends, is often the missing link.

But for the willing and humble soul, she will yield her bounty in time of famine. For she was created to respond to God-inspired direction. If love for your fellow man and patience with your faithful Father consumes the depth of your being, Mother Earth, Sister Sky, and Brother Water will gladly lend their assistance to your noble efforts.

August 27- Skill Set

Skillful and godly [a]Wisdom is more precious than rubies; and nothing you can wish for is to be compared to her. Proverbs 3:15 AMP

Skill is the ability to do something well. And it matters not how old you are, if you have the “how to,” opportunity will find you.

At the time of this writing, my eldest daughter is operating her own baking and food catering enterprise. And her younger brother (by eighteen months) continues to be sought after for his craftsmanship in wood.

Yes, they are young, but in the area of skill, they have been “practicing” their unique crafts for almost a decade.

Early on, when they were seven and eight, we allowed them to cook and fix stuff. Indeed, there were many messes to clean up and mistakes to correct along the way. But that allowed their confidence to blossom. This is where godly wisdom kicked in, because until you or I or anybody else has our heads and hands in the game, with our necks on the line, wisdom makes no sense to us.

That’s why as a father today’s Proverb makes me smile. It assures me my kiddos will always have what they need. No matter what happens in the world, as long as people need food and shelter, I know at least two people who will always have plenty of work!

But beyond that, my prayer is on behalf of the masses that have never seen themselves as having any valuable skill. May God open a door of enlightenment and development so that each and every person on the planet will see themselves as part of the solution and not just a helpless case in the wake of a torrential down pour of chaos. May we all be infused by God, with the assurance that when the storm is over, we can and will be the skill and wisdom He uses to put it all back together once again.

August 26 – Tough Love

My son, do not despise or shrink from the chastening of the Lord [His correction by punishment or by subjection to suffering or trial]; neither be weary of or impatient about or loathe or abhor His reproof, For who the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12 AMP

Oh, how my heart breaks when the media uncovers yet another would-be legendary athlete who lost his credibility by way of a violent temper tantrum. So many have come and gone in my lifetime, yet each of them has at least one thing in common. When it came to rules and regulations, they lacked the integrity of character to adhere to and abide by the ones that “cramped their style.”

Honestly, that is the main difference I see between the Hall of Famers and the Hall of “Shamers.” To be great you have to be able to receive loads and loads and loads of correction and direction.

Beyond the sports arena this fact bares truth, even in practical living. In light of today’s Proverb, I’ll share a moment in my life where I was out of alignment with God in an area of my thinking and desperately needed some help.

My wife and I felt very strongly about having children when we married. And God blessed us with three beautiful babies in the first five years (eighteen months apart)!  And though I was overjoyed they were here and healthy, I was unpleasantly caught by surprise when in that fifth year, my sweetie informed me of the soon arrival of our fourth child.

Not wanting to disappoint or upset her, I began to internally worry about the future. I felt it was my responsibility to figure out how to feed, clothe and shelter all of these people. So, as the days ticked on, my heart became more calloused and cold toward God, my wife and my kiddos.

But that all changed on December 5th, 2000, when my wife called me at the office to tell me I needed to come home right away. Hours later, we said our goodbyes to our baby.
To date, that was one of the hardest things I have ever lived through. You talk about broken, I was indeed a shattered mess of a man that day. It took me all of eight months to seek God about what happened. Regardless of the “whys,” I knew my worries about future provision consumed me all the way up until that dreadful day.

I could say what I wanted (or what everyone else was saying), but our baby was not feeling loved and welcomed or appreciated by his Daddy. Therefore, I got just what I deserved and couldn’t handle the truth. And this is where God stepped in and applied needed direction, with just the right amount of mercy and love, to get me back up on my feet and back in the game.
That’s been eight children ago. But every single time I known someone’s coming since then, the first thing I say before I do anything else is, “Welcome to the Dunford Clan. We’ve been expecting you!”

But without God’s “chastisement,” I could have grown bitter and blamed Him for the unknown and never put the focus where it truly belonged all along: on my fear-filled heart.

August 25 – First

Honor the Lord with your capital and sufficiency [from righteous labors] and with the firstfruits of all your income; So shall your storage places be filled with plenty, and your vats shall be overflowing with new wine. Proverbs 3:9-10

I have to say, there are a lot of things I do now that I’m over 40 that made no sense whatsoever when I was in my 20’s.

Take for instance, my shoes. When I was 20, cool was all I cared about. And if I could get cool and a good price, well that was just more money to burn on gas. But at 40, there is definitely a word that starts with the letter “c” that’s at the top of my list when looking for shoes . . . and “cool” ain’t it! “Comfort” is my friend these days and I will pay about any price to secure her for as long as I can. Because time has taught me, I only have one pair of feet!

This old-world word found mostly in Biblical culture also meant nothing to me as a young man. “First fruits,” in my estimation, reflected a day gone by when the world was just a big ol’ garden. But today, I can shed a little light on what I believe is a spiritual principle that yields incredible benefits in any generation when properly applied.

Today’s Proverb seems to suggest that in the eyes of God, the “first” of anything is reflective of the “whole thing.” And when I am willing to put Him first, particularly in my livelihood, He showers the rest with blessings.

Now, there are some out there like me that also thought this was just a Jewish thing (an understanding between God and His chosen people). However, I recently came across this Genesis account of a story many of us are familiar with, yet may have never put two and two together.

And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering, But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed (Genesis 4:3-5.)

Both men brought an offering. But Abel brought the “first fruits” of his livelihood. Matters not what it is I’m bringing. It just matters what order I’m bringing it in.

I know most who read this will relate this truth to their monetary “fruits” and that’s definitely alright. But my prayer is that we will all see the deeper picture laden within the first fruits explanation . . . Us!

Before we do anything, to God, WE are “first fruits.” And if we will just roll over, look up, or stop where we’re standing and just say, “Good morning God! Here I am…my “first” belongs to You,” then I think we could expect the unexpected response of a lifetime, every day, and all day.

August 22 – The Little Heavyweight Champion of the World

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 

Love is one of those words that carries a lot of weight…well, at least it should. For some of us, cultural trends and television shows play a huge role of distortion in our concepts.

By the time I found my soul mate, “love” mishaps had me gun shy. Yet, in a funny sort of way, I’m glad some of what I thought was love proved to be a horrible impersonation.

Consequently, I didn’t use the word to describe my feelings for my wife now of almost twenty years, until our wedding day. And I must say, I learn on a daily basis a bit more about this little “heavyweight” term.

But today’s Proverbs wields a word that even love has to bow to. Wherever it shows up, it sucks the air out of the room and causes one or two specific responses.

When I hear the word “all” (“with all your heart,” “in all your ways,” see scripture above) I either stop and ponder my responsibility now that I am aware it is a part of the decision, or I run right past it without a second’s consideration of its presence only to pay a huge fine later.

All is a tough one. It leaves no grey and guarantees no bottom. Its boundaries seem invisible, yet it demands visible devotion.

This is one of my life-long scriptural confessions (something I try to say every day): Today, I choose to love God with all of me; my heart, my soul, and all my strength. Then He will empower me with the love I need for my fellow man.

The truth, the way I see it, is this little word all makes the little word love function at its maximum potential. Then love turns and showers all with undeniable evidence of gratitude. I call that real romance!

I waited to say “I love you” until I was willing to say, “I Do.” But all of my heart was the foundation stone by which the commitment was made. And eleven children later and a host of other “lovely life endeavors” fulfilled, with more to come, this little big word continues to be worth its weight in gold!

August 21 – How the Big One Got Away

 Let not mercy and kindness [shutting out all hatred and selfishness] and truth [shutting out all deliberate hypocrisy or falsehood] forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them upon the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

A dear friend told me about a man he did business with years ago. For all practical purposes, they were what you’d call “business friendly.”

The man was in custodial service and decided to expand his company. So he bought a couple of vans, doubled up on his machinery, and increased his employees.

He wasn’t a newcomer to the industry and he provided a good service, so with the “growth modifications,” business took off.

But somehow, in the area of bookkeeping, he failed to pay the proper amount of worker’s compensation for three years!

Because business was so good, he hired an accountant to make sure everything was on the up and up…and that’s when he got the news.

It rocked him. All of a sudden, the strides he’d been making looked an awful lot like a prison cell. He could see no way to pay the money back and stay in business.

To make a very long story short, with the help of his accountant, a good legal defense, and prayer, “grace” was extended by the government, fines were reduced considerably, and incriminating charges dismissed. Life was good.

However, when my dear friend related this story to me, he dropped a bomb that I was not expecting. You see, the businessman who experienced grace for his mistake and was forgiven this huge debt, sued my friend for just $150 worth of charges that he accidentally overlooked on his office cleaning bill he pays once a year. The businessman had raised his rates after a few years and my buddy just wrote the check habitually for the normal amount without reading the bill.

But instead of calling and extending mercy for what was obviously an oversight by my friend (his loyal customer), he let the grace he’d been given “get away.”

As I listened, I initially sided with my friend, yet in an instant, I realized I was that guy! God only knows how many times I had been shown mercy in the midst of a mistake and still turned right around and was unwilling to “let it go” when I was wronged.

Wow! My prayer today is a binding one. Yes, I want to walk in truth. And yes, I want to call black, black, and white, white. But I desperately need to be able to recognize when to “be okay with the grey” because many times in life “grey” will play a part.