September 30 – Show Me the Money

My fruit is better than gold, yes, than refined gold, and my increase than choice silver. Proverbs 8:19

My granddad had a collection of special money. He kept coins that are now considered valuable today because they are not in general circulation. One day I got to look in his “money chest.” As he gave me a wheat penny for a job well done, I saw a few stacks of two dollar certificates, a few jars of Eisenhower silver dollar pieces, some buffalo nickels, a bunch of Kennedy half dollars, and more wheat pennies than I could count. In my ten year-old eyes, my “big daddy” was rich!

My goal that day was to one day follow suit; I would have my own money chest…like big daddy. And as time progressed, I was well on my way, hustling odd jobs at a very early age and cultivating a healthy shrewdness about my spending habits. But the more I made, the more attention I paid to the meticulous caretaking of my earnings. That in itself wasn’t all that bad, but I found myself thinking almost exclusively about money or the ability to make more of it. Something was out of balance.

That’s when God and wisdom stepped in and began to guide me toward the ageless balance between God, People, and Things. Money is a wonderful tool of assistance in any of the three areas. But if it ever becomes the master of any one, it will wreak havoc for the whole. And without Godly wisdom, the soul who possesses it has no way of knowing if the money and the power it wields is taking possession of him or her.

One of the best things wisdom taught me is the act of giving. Instead of looking at the money I make as mine, I view it as a harvest God has allowed me to help him steward. Therefore, He gets the first slice as a token of my appreciation and then wisdom gladly helps me administer the rest.

I still like the special coins and I do have a few here and there. But my highest hope is that the treasure I’ve laid up resides mostly in heaven. And never would I have imagined how rich that kind of money management could make me feel. So grateful!

You’ll recognize this as true—you with open minds;
 truth-ready minds will see it at once. 
Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money, and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.
For Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth;
 nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her. Proverbs 8:18-19 The Message Bible

September 29 – You’re So Bad

Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.  Proverbs 8:6,7 KJV

I was a new momma, feeding my baby in our church’s “cry room” at the back of the sanctuary.  Being the serious and practical girl that I am, I was learning something every day about my new special position.  (i.e. I was only 22 years old and I didn’t know a darn thing about it.)

That morning, a little two year-old boy suddenly shot in the door dragging an exhausted and disheveled momma behind him.  As I mentioned, I knew I didn’t know much, so I just watched the drama unfold and promised myself I could gain a little wisdom.

As the frantic momma tried to get a handful of the little guy’s shirt, he continued to elude her and run as fast as he could all over the small room.  Up on the couch, right by baby Hannah’s head, over the top of the couch, underneath the changing table, you get the idea.  And here’s what she did.  Over and over.  She kept saying, “You’re so bad! Do you hear me little boy? You’re so bad, so bad!”

Yep, I was learning, and fast.  Because it occurred to me that morning, as it was happening right before my eyes, that frantic momma was a prophet.  Now I’m not trying to spiritualize this; I do mean it in a most literal sense.  Essentially, she was “getting” what she was “saying.”

It was such a cool thing that God allowed me to see and ponder such a moment before my first little one could even walk.  And thankfully I happened to “happen” upon a scripture not long after that confirmed my deductions. Check out Genesis 17 and Romans 4. These scriptures tell the account of God calling Abraham “father of many nations” when, you guessed it, he had no children!

Even if it took awhile for God to orchestrate the birth of Isaac (along with some detours on Abraham and Sarah’s parts), what God said DID come to pass.  Whoohoo!!

There’s a lot of reasons to be very excited about this. Though at times it can be difficult, our tongue is most definitely something we can control. There is joy in realizing we can say something good and the harvest of our words should be a lot better to stomach.

As a side note, don’t be deceived into thinking I’ve got this “glass half full” concept under wraps.  On the contrary, it’s still one of my biggest challenges.  But let’s just say this: When I mess up and say something I really don’t mean or really don’t want, getting back up again is my only option.

(So, I do take this mighty seriously. If you hear me saying to our babes “you’re so good,” even if they appear to be giving me a run for my money at the time, now you know the rest of the story!)

Jennifer 🙂

September 26 – Erasing the Scarlet Letter

Proverbs 7:4,5 MSG

Talk to Wisdom as to a sister.
 Treat Insight as your companion.
 They’ll be with you to fend off the Temptress—
that smooth-talking, honey-tongued Seductress.

As long as time has been, the grass has had a tendency to look greener on the other side of the fence. It’s “human nature,” as Michael Jackson once sang, but still, NOT okay. If you’re wondering if our present national divorce rate and number of wandering spouses is something new, check out the Old Testament and look for David, Solomon, and Gomer (more about her later.)

Even though Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines, he still was obviously inspired to write these scriptures warning against the “seductress.” (Check out all of Proverbs 7 for a clearer picture.)

And this is refreshingly encouraging! Since we can easily identify with making mistakes, sometimes very serious ones, it is so sweet to know God still loves us and cheers for us . . . much as He did for King David of old.

No, this is not to say that the consequences won’t be severe. But as we’ve been seeing this past week in Proverbs, God hates a gossiper or a haughty look just as much as a murderer (Proverbs 6:16).

Hang on, I’m going somewhere here.

Look at the following verses in Proverbs 7:

Proverbs 7:19, 20 KJV For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.

After we are heavily implored to stay away from the “harlot,” verse 19 and 20 says the goodman is away from home on a journey and he will come at an exact and special time. Hmmm. My thought is that the “goodman” represents Jesus. And the rest of this chapter’s instructions about the harlot are for everyone, no matter what the distraction might be.

As with Gomer (the consistent adulteress married to Hosea – their story is the book of Hosea), God’s message is abundantly clear: WE are the adulteress. WE are the unfaithful. But HE is faithful, and unconditionally forgiving!

Yes, Jesus the Good Man is returning. And the distraction level is at an all-time high. So no matter the sin or level of depravity, He is willing and able to erase it all and restore us.

And just as importantly, it’s the time to offer mercy and forgiveness to those around us who are knee-deep in the distractions.

Because, but for the grace of God, there go I.

Jennifer 🙂

September 25 – Truth and Consequences

Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry; Proverbs 6:29 AMP

When I got mad and hit my good friend James one day in the hallway of our high school for teasing just a little too much, I went to the office and spent a couple of days at home. It didn’t matter what James did at that point, the bulk of the consequences fell on my shoulders. He talked, but I struck!

Today’s Proverbs gives demands on thievery. Suffice it to say, theft is a universal action that can be carried out in a multitude of ways. And even when it is a result of hunger pains, there is still a just requirement for repercussion and restitution.

When I say I will meet you at a certain time and I don’t, I just stole some time if I didn’t first let you know I would be late. (OUCH!) And that means if you decide to lock the door and go on about your day, or fire me (like one of my bosses did), what can I say? “I apologize and I understand. May I have a second chance, please?” Maybe…

It’s sobering, but so necessary for a generation of us who are at times clueless of this simple profound law of conduct toward our fellow man. There is mercy and grace woven within, and we all do well to remember this during our journey. Maybe then we won’t be tempted to require a “pound of flesh” instead of fair acceptance of personal responsibility.

But if he is found out, he must restore seven times [what he stole]; he must give the whole substance of his house [if necessary—to meet his fine]. Proverbs 6:30 AMP

Verse thirty does apply. But weigh it with Jesus’ reaction to the woman caught sleeping with a married man (John 8:1-11). Some may know it, but the rest of us do well to search and seize it. May we balance the consequences with truth.

September 24 – Judge Not

These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: Proverbs 6:17 AMP

The other day, my five year-old Abby came running in the house all up in arms about Libby Nell’s latest “misbehaving” moment. Apparently her little sister wasn’t playing by the rules and she needed correction, in her professional estimation.

However, at the dinner table, this same sweet herald of copious conduct eloquently falsified information concerning a dinner she didn’t prefer. It mysteriously found its way into the wastebasket, but she assured us it was accidental. Thankfully, little Miss Joan of Arc ain’t our first rodeo!

The truth is, all of us find it more natural to look out rather than in. Even when we battle self-esteem issues, passing judgment on how people are treating you and the reasons why is “hair-trigger easy.”

That’s why today’s Proverb grabs me. Check out the order of the things God can’t stand…note, murder is third on the list:

A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren. Proverbs 6:17-19 AMP

How about that proud look? Guilty, right…every last one of us?! And without knowing it, most of us are guilty of number seven, stirring the pot of discord among kinfolk. And we justify it in many different ways.

That is why He gave us His Spirit and His Instruction to guide us and protect us from unnecessary correction. He doesn’t hate us, He hates the things that keep us from enjoying life as He intended for our us and our fellow man.

May I be found looking in and judging myself and not so much the mistakes of my brethren.

September 23 – Smooth Operator

A worthless person, a wicked man, is he who goes about with a perverse (contrary, wayward) mouth. Proverbs 6:12

There was a season of my life when my work had me traveling the Midwest quite a bit. And one of the joys of the journey was those occasional eating establishments along the way with their down- home cookin’!

So, one day I come upon this rustic joint on the side of the road with junkyard relics plastered everywhere. I walked in and there were autographed portraits of nearly every “somebody” in the country and their mama all over the walls. And I thought, “Oh, heck yeah!”

It was a midweek night after eight so I just looked past the emptiness of the place. I mean, the layout had me sold that this was the “jack” of all jackpots.

I get to the counter and nobody’s there. TV’s were on round about, so I just waited. Finally this fast-talking “gentleman” came to the counter telling me how lucky I was to be in his joint and in his presence. “Didn’t you know this place is famous?” He bellowed.

At first, I was agreeable…until I looked at his prices. Even for premium eating, they were ridiculous! So I said, “Um, are these prices legitimate, or am I reading the menu wrong?”

“What do you mean, my man? Those are bargains! But I tell you what, I’m in a generous mood tonight and about to close, so, (the door sign said ten o’clock and it was just a tick after eight…I was the only one in the place!) I’ll cut you a deal.”

To this day, that night was one of those moments I refer to when I should have gone with my gut and RAN out of that place. When that fork-tongued fella got finished with me, my trip funds were almost depleted.

For a few days, I was pretty upset at how he took advantage of me over some sub-par food. Then I remembered a moment from my childhood when I, too, took advantage of an unsuspecting soul. Lord, forgive me.

May today find us focused and aware of the slimy and deceptive, and yet still be merciful in our judgments. We might be reaping a little harvest from days gone by.

 

Riffraff and rascals
 talk out of both sides of their mouths.
 They wink at each other, they shuffle their feet,
 they cross their fingers behind their backs.
 Their perverse minds are always cooking up something nasty,
 always stirring up trouble.
 Catastrophe is just around the corner for them,
 a total smashup, their lives ruined beyond repair.               Proverbs 6:12-15 Message Bible

September 22 – Borrowed Time

Do this now [at once and earnestly], my son, and deliver yourself when you have put yourself into the power of your neighbor; go, bestir and humble yourself, and beg your neighbor [to pay his debt and thereby release you]. Proverbs 6:3 AMP

When you run in debt you give to another power over your liberty. Noah Webster

Indebtedness is common place and will be as long as the earth exists and people do the business of living. And there will always be benevolent men and women who leverage it kindly. On the other hand, somebody will also be right there making sure they get the upper hand on their fellow man in need.

I can’t get away from the fact: if I borrow, I owe. Regardless of how able I become, as long as there is a debt with my name on it, my plans and actions have to revolve (in some degree) around that obligation.

There are many ways to “be in debt” but the most common is financial. And in this Proverb, the writer instructs his son to quickly eliminate the situation and steer clear of future transactions, even with a neighbor!

Believe me, I’ve got a good-sized family, and have the responsibility to make sure there is food on that table and clothes on those backs. And for me, that’s the point. When I had debts swimming around us, born out of temporary comfort, I couldn’t rest well. Somebody else dictated the table, in a behind-the-scenes kind of way.

Don’t misunderstand, it is not my place to tell anybody how to conduct their affairs, financial or otherwise. But it is my heart to share areas like this in light of ancient wisdom from God’s Word.

Debt, by definition, has enslaving possibilities for persons or nations. And to be free of them is to suggest personal solvency and diplomatic frugality. If there was ever a time for a “debtless” atmosphere, it’s now.

I pray, today, for those of us who struggle to make ends meet. I pray that wisdom might come and an answer to the dilemma be realized. And for those of us who could and should do more with less, may the motivation to do so be overwhelming.

And may the chains and shackles be broken.