October 31 – The Old Root Cellar

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.  Proverbs 15:4

We have a wonderful old cellar here on the farm.  I love the damp smell of historic moments that seeps through the cement walls.  I wonder exactly how my grandpa built it and wish I could ask grandma how she was able to fill it full of canned goods every summer.

You can see on the outside a tiny window as you stand on the first step past the cellar door.  My dad recalled watching my grandpa looking out that window during a vicious thunderstorm. As a little boy, dad said he would never forget the tears rolling down grandpa’s face.  He was watching the storm tear his wheat crop to shreds before his very eyes.  I know that moment must have made a deep impression on my dad because he still remembers it to this day.

I’ve had them, and you’ve had them.  Life-altering moments when we think no one sees or understands.  Back more than fifty years ago, with no other provision for his family in sight, I know grandpa must have been feeling like that.

But God knows.  Regardless of our feelings and in spite of gut-wrenching circumstances, He will never leave or forsake us.  Nothing and no one can pluck us out of His hand.  And our belief in His goodness and mercy makes His presence during tragedy even more real.

The cellar is still here.  Still holding me and my family warmly and safely through the worst of storms.  And God still sees, and He still knows.

Jennifer 🙂

October 30 – The Mess of Progress

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14:4 KJV

When you have the privilege of managing a corporation of individuals whose ages range from 9 months to eighteen, mess is a daily occurrence. And rather it’s your family, a place of business, or a farming operation, those who have experienced gains in productivity have more than likely seen their fair share of mess.

Anyone who knows me knows my family is my life. And whether it’s my tribe of thirteen, including Jen and me, or dear friends and loved ones serving various “family friendly” endeavors, I gravitate toward the dynamics that ensue from healthy operations.

And one of the healthiest elements in a well-functioning family unit is mess. It may appear in the form of dishes, diapers, or distress. They are all a part of job security, because without people and their people-ly ways, there is no productivity.

So I go overboard and encourage others wherever I can to do the same in what I call The Mess of Progress Fertilization. Basically it’s a fancy way to say make compost out of all the mess you can…especially the really stinky stuff. Don’t run from it…run to it with godly guidance from above and pile it, stir it, use it and keep on growing.

Remember, mess doesn’t come to make you messy. It comes to validate your message. And that message is what the world around you and after you reads…Caution! Construction Ahead!

October 28 – Gentle Persuasion

He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early. Proverbs 13:24 AMP

This morning, my boys and I loaded some calves. One was ready for the butcher and a couple of others were on their way to the vet for a little “male maintenance.” These calves were bottle-fed and have been handled much of their lives, so they move around rather tamely.

But when it comes time to load them in the trailer, persistent persuasion is necessary until the job is done.  My oldest son makes fun of me, respectfully, because I tend to lean toward a more gentle approach, while he’s all about the task at hand. He’s naturally gifted when it comes to farm and animal activities, but I am a dad. So, when it comes to using pressure, I have learned application requires a sensitivity to the will and nature of the individual. This is tantamount for a desired outcome that will be achieved regularly and successfully.

One description of discipline is controlled behavior resulting from such training. In other words, the word “rod” has as much to do with guidance and direction as it does corporal punishment. Diligence is the key to discipline (I totally believe this) because when I have been able to put the time in early on with my children, as they grow, guidance works a whole lot better. We can communicate because we have an understanding.

Fear is never what you want from anybody when you are training them, especially your kiddos. Unfortunately, because of misunderstandings of the broader insight of this Proverb, those who shy away from corporal punishment have tossed its wisdom aside thinking, “I am not going to whip my kid to make them mind. I don’t want them to be afraid of me.” I agree!

Discipline, however, is all about relationship and clear boundary lines. God designed our universe with absolutes and order. Therefore, if we navigate outside the realm of the absolute of gravity, things get dangerous in a hurry.

The same is true when little Johnny doesn’t abide by the absolute of mommy said “no” and tries to go down the steps by himself too soon and takes a tumble. For a while, mommy may have to use the rod of “holding little Johnny’s hand” a bit firm for a while so he doesn’t wiggle away until he truly understands how to go up and down without harm.

At the end of the day, discipline and training is this: yes, no, who’s in charge, and . . . I love you.

October 28 – Enduring Principal

A good man leaves an inheritance [of moral stability and goodness] to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner [finds its way eventually] into the hands of the righteous, for whom it was laid up. Proverbs 13:22 AMP

Loans are commonplace and have been throughout human history. And any that I’ve known about had two things in common, principal and interest.

For instance, in buying a house, most folks put up a certain amount toward a down payment and seek a lending institution in borrowing the rest. When they make that monthly payment, a portion goes to the principal and the rest to the interest.

For some, it’s common knowledge that this payback is not a 50/50 deal. As a matter of fact, in the early days of the loan, most of that monthly payment goes to the interest category. But for the unsuspecting first-time home buyer, this can be quite a wake-up call.

To me, children make home worth the investment. And no matter how much you are able to pay on that mortgage a month, the most important payout will be the daily sort. Because long after that house is paid for and leveled to the ground, the moral coins you filled those “precious human coffers” with will be paying interest in a generation you will never see, but will thank you just the same.

Stop hustling so hard to give them everything in style and on television. It doesn’t last (look at the pictures of when you were in school and see what the style police told you was “in”). Nice things are nice, but if they jeopardize right being right and wrong being wrong, or love being love and hate being hate and their proper place in life, they are not so nice in the end.

So never send “stuff” to represent you in your absence. Chances are, you could wind up bankrupt when it’s all said and done. Never forget, there is no substitute for YOU in your children’s life.

October 27 – Trouble in River City

Become wise by walking with the wise;  hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces. Proverbs 13:20 MSG

One of my favorite musicals is “The Music Man.” I’ve almost convinced our children that a musical is a work of art, but it’s an ongoing process. The life lessons available through a few ingenious songs are simply invaluable (the catchier the tune, the better . . . thank you Rodgers and Hammerstein)!

Well, if you know this story, you know that the townspeople of River City, Iowa, are mighty concerned about their young people.  Professor Hill has given them a hint about the town’s new billiard parlor and the trouble brewing as a result of it.  The whole musical centers around the community working to steer their youth towards the positive endeavor of a band.  Even though the Professor turns out to be a phony, his feeble efforts do help the kids make better choices and the band makes a debut. And amazingly, the kids influence the Professor to come clean and tell the truth for the first time ever.

Our lives will be the result of our associations.  How wise the Proverbs continue to be, thousands of years from the time they were written.  Though the trouble in River City seems small in comparison to our world, the concept still rings true.  The wise man looks perceptively at the one he calls “friend.”

The influence of those we hold close and dear can make or break the hopes we have for our days on earth. If we surround ourselves with fools, then fools we will become.  But walking with the wise means wisdom is on her way to meet us.  And that beats trouble any day.

October 24 – Pass the Salt

The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. Proverbs 13:4

We used to have a large, older-type swimming pool when we lived in Oklahoma City.  Though it was not modern, it was a great size for lap swimming and we really enjoyed having people over to swim.

After dealing with lots of little girls’ curly hair and chlorine (and tears), I started doing some research on how we could keep up the pool without chemicals.  We ran into a company that used salt to naturally maintain swimming pools.

Wow, we loved the salt treatment for the pool.  It was like being transported to the ocean in our own backyard.  But, here was the catch.  We had to consistently keep a certain amount of salt going in the pool, or, you guessed it.  Green pool.  How do I know that? Well . . .

That one time we lapsed on the daily salt treatment taught us well.  The salt had to continue to flow through the pump to stay on top of the entire volume of the pool.  Just a little bit of slacking caused the whole thing to go south.  It wasn’t impossible to get on top of it after that, but doubly hard for awhile until consistency gave the results we wanted again.

Our hearts are like that. Proverbs 4:23 says we must keep our heart with all diligence because the issues of life flow from it. We have to stay on top of our heart with the “salt” of the Word of God. It clears away the trash and keeps the fountain flowing. Literally and figuratively, maintaining our hearts with consistency leads to life, here and beyond.

Pass the salt, please . . .

Jennifer 🙂

 

October 23 – God IS Watching

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25 AMP

Susan, affectionately known as Grandma Susan to the Dunford Clan, was one of my visitation buddies back when I worked at a church in Oklahoma City. Her mother was in assisted living and we checked on her pretty regularly.

One day, while we were visiting, I noticed this sweet elderly lady sitting at a table with some other ladies that seemed to be deliberating over all the cares of the world. I was so drawn to the twinkle in the darling lady’s eyes, so I moseyed on over to her table and introduced myself. I said, “Ma’am, I just had to meet you…there is so much joy around you!”

And she looked at me like she had known me all her life and broke into song;

Why should I feel discouraged
And why should the shadows come
Why should my heart feel lonely
And long for heaven and home

I couldn’t help myself, so I joined in and we sang on;

When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is He
His Eye is on the Sparrow
And I know He watches Me

Oh, did we sing! And before we could get into the chorus, the rest of the table had left their “deliberating” and joined in the celebration. I witnessed the power of encouraging words through song over an otherwise gloomy, anxiety-riddled atmosphere. I didn’t stay to take a survey, but I doubt the conversations prior to the singing were regained after the fact.

When the pressure’s on, sing if you have to. I have found if I will start singing a positive or even a downright goofy song, my mood shifts to encouraged rather than discouraged. Don’t let the “weight of the world” rest on your shoulders. And definitely don’t let the “gloom monster” get your tongue…God can bring light though the dark clouds in record time.

October 22 – Living From Hand to Mouth

From the fruit of his words a man shall be satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hands shall come back to him [as a harvest]. Proverbs 12:14 AMP

Old Zan and I quickly became friends. Every couple of months or so he would come by the church hustling a “few dollars.” Most of the time we would give him enough to stay out of too much trouble and send him on his way.

But one day, I decided to bring him in my office and learn a little bit of his story. I was serving a church in Oklahoma City at the time as an Administrative Pastor and I was located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in town. Zan was one of many recipients who frequented the doors of that church in need of basic food, clothing, and shelter.

What I learned that day changed my perspective on the poor. For all practical purposes, on the surface, Zan appeared pretty needy. But in all actuality, through his disability check and other benefits he received from his military service days, we were clearing about the same amount. That was a wake-up call for sure.

So why was I working at the church while he was begging from the church? Why was my money feeding and clothing seven people at that time and he wasn’t even covering himself? It was because my friend was a broken man on the inside. I don’t know if there were issues before his accident in the service, but in an effort to heal up, addiction to the meds set in and never let him go.

At the time, that was all new to me. But any more, Zan’s story is commonplace. Though he never let me in deep enough to help with the real “monster,” he did hang around long enough to change some of his conversation about himself and his attitude about using his hands constructively…even if he couldn’t do what he used to could do before he got hurt.

In this life, things happen and sometimes they are life-altering and unfortunate. But today’s Proverb assures that if we will find ourselves saying the right things with our mouths, doing the right things with our hands will happen. And we will look up from the ashes and see a harvest of good things all around us.

October 21 – Everybody Plays the Fool Sometimes

Whoever loves instruction and correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is like a brute beast, stupid and indiscriminating. Proverbs 12:1 AMP

Nobody gets it right every single time. On the contrary, we all have much to learn on a daily basis. No matter how old we are, school is constantly in session. We just have to be willing to admit we don’t know everything and be able to receive constructive criticism, and blame, in some cases.

Back when I was managing retail stores, my boss challenged me one day. He gave me three tasks that would have taken a couple of days each to complete, but he required I get them done in the remaining three hours of my shift. It was nuts!

Up until that part of my training, I was doing pretty well. Nothing I faced was outside the scope of a little hard work and a dab of common courtesy. But the assignment afore mentioned was ridiculous, unfair and absolutely impossible…I thought.

Of course I spent more time on what I couldn’t do because of lack of time and expertise than I did on the three tasks themselves.

The next day, my boss questioned my unsatisfactory results and let me squirm a bit before he demonstrated how to “get the job done!” To date, that moment in my life ranks high on my list of “game changers” because I was so sure that it could not be done and I was so very wrong. I played the fool that day.

I didn’t know how to empower people. If I couldn’t do it myself or hire it done, or boss folks around because I was paying them, I was dead in the water. Empowerment requires skill in the art of personal limitations, confidence in self-worth and wisdom of task individuality.

Before that day, watching my boss walk up to busy associates (that’s how he referred to his employees) and invite them to “take a look” at a little opportunity with him that “we had” that needed attention, I considered such action beggarly and weak. But I also had no clue about running a multi-million dollar enterprise that provided employment for close to two hundred “associates.”

Thank God I had sense enough to not play the fool twice and quit that day. And today, maybe someone will read this proverbial story just in time and let what they don’t know override what they think they know . . .and maybe they’ll play the fool just long enough to get the wisdom and grow thereby.

October 20 – The Angler’s Way

The fruit of the [uncompromisingly] righteous is the tree of life, and he who is wise captures human lives [for God, as a fisher of men – he gathers and receives then for eternity]. Proverbs 11:30 AMP

It finally rained! And now, I can prepare my garden for some late fall planting or winterization for spring. So the other day, my kids were down in the half acre oasis checking to see if the few weeds we had were going to cooperate and extract easily.

In the process, they unearthed an abundance of plump, juicy worms. Normally, we like to keep those little productive guys working on the soil, but with so many, my gang had a brilliant idea. “Let’s go fishing!”

For me, there are three basic keys to catching fish: bait, tackle, and timing. No matter what kind of fish you are out to catch or the location where you are going to catch them, bait, tackle, and timing will either increase or decrease your rate of success.

This has, for me, become a mandatory skill set for about everything I do in life. So, if you are going to get along, move ahead, or bring change, you have to know how to “catch people.”

The first key is bait (food). It represents things of interest to the persons you are endeavoring to reach. It is what makes sense and relevancy in their world. For instance, I have a group of friends who are undergoing some intense training for career advancement. They have a series of tests and qualifications they have to complete before they can graduate from one phase to the next. And for them, when I show up on a qualification day it speaks volumes. That’s the good kind of bait. It’s all about letting others know you care, for real!

Using the same analogy, the second key is tackle. It’s reflective in taking time out of my day, driving my car, and offering a place to train and prepare during the week’s class.

And the final key, timing, is just that, making time at the right time. In the case of my friends, timing is as important as any of the keys. And that is what makes it fishing. You can’t just generically put a schedule together and check off some boxes if you plan on “catching fish.” You have to put in some time and get to know your pond, and . . . love your fish.

The keys work whenever they are “righteously” applied. And a good fisherman lives for the times he or she can do just that…fish!