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.