October 19- God’s Right Hand Man

I Samuel 3:12-13 As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him, and everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. And all Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.

God wants to be our source. He wants to be our salvation. It is not considered irresponsible to Him when we live our lives in utter dependence on His guidance and direction. As a matter of fact, this sort of life alone brings joy to His heart. And when God gets happy, look out! Heaven comes down and earth and all its woes are changed in a moment. Samuel, the last and arguably greatest Judge of ancient Israel, lived this way.

In the days of Moses, hundreds of years before Samuel was born, God expressed His plan to forever be the people’s protection as they journeyed to the land of promise. There job was to simply obey His basic commands, i.e., respect Him as Holy Father and God. The goal was for Israel to never need a king to rule over them like the other nations. God would be their king. Unfortunately, human tendency prevailed over time and God’s people wavered time and again. And during those times, when they would cry out, He would answer their cry by way of a helper known as a judge.

The purpose of the judges was to lead the people back to God and His original plan, but often that was not the case. Many of them were plagued with personal character defects and these flaws impeded their ability to effectively govern. Then along comes Hannah’s miracle, Samuel. Dedicated to the service of God before birth, this man of God served faithfully all the days of his life. During some of the darkest days in the land (The death of Eli the Judge and High Priest and his sons, the capture of the Ark of The Covenant, and relentless persecution from the Philistines), his faith and dedication became the rock of safety for His people. And because his devotion had stood the test of time, he was able to get the people to lay down their evil ways and turn wholly to God. As a result, God routed all their enemies and restored peace and prosperity in the land (I Samuel 7). God is truly the Master of “the turn around.” It matters not how bad things get, if anyone will rehearse His promises, He will reverse their problems. And if He did it for Samuel and his generation, He can and will do it for you and me!

 Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

October 12- The Measure of a Moment

Make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:5 

It seems like much time is spent on things that are limited in their ability to weather the test of time. Somewhere along the way I picked up the phrase, “Is this duplicate-able?” (That’s technically not an official word.) This word reminds me to invest in those things that will carry on long after I’m finished with whatever it is I’m doing at the time.

The other night there was a sporting event on the television I really wanted to watch. But as I watched I couldn’t help thinking about other things I could be doing with this precious block of time that would have true significance in the grand scheme of life.

I am not telling you what to do concerning your TV, cable, or favorite sports team, for that matter. What I desire to communicate is that each of us should aim toward making the most of the time we’ve been given. Don’t waste moments you can’t get back doing a whole lot of nothing. Make every moment count. One day each of us will stand before the One who gave us our lease on life. We will give an accounting of how we spent His time, tools, and talents. He’s gracious, but He also rewards faithfulness. So, make the moments of today count for tomorrow.

December 16 – “Bent” Toward Perfection

Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 AMP

We have eleven kiddos on the ground to date and not one of them is like the other. Similar in ways, but different as night and day in sleeping, eating, ears and feet.

Early on, I thought we had it figured out with the first three. First came the girl, then the little man, and then baby sister. That bunch was the main “gang” the longest and it appeared the girls were very much alike and the boy was just…all boy!

But as the other tribe members graced us with their presence and we had more variety, man, did we see the unique flavors in our crew.

That’s when we discovered this version of a very familiar proverbial nugget. The light bulb came on and we got on our knees for some “guidance.”

It appears that we all have certain gifts that bend us toward a divine purpose that was established before we drew a puff of air. I still find the thought rather staggering.

Needless to say, as we began to guide and direct the members of our family in the way we believed to be in line with their “bent,” life made more sense and would-be struggles became worthwhile investments in the future.

So if you’ve got little tiny tots, spend a bit of time with the Originator of the design and see what He had in mind. Then start applying what you get. If your kiddos are up and at it, no worries, you can still see who they really are on the inside. Ask God to give you a little light so you can encourage them rightly.

And for those whose have grown and gone, it’s not too late to speak what you see. Yeah, maybe you didn’t know this stuff when they were growing up, but God did. He will show you things about your child even when he or she is old and grey. And it still applies. With God there is no such thing as “too late,” as long as there is this phenomenon called time!

So, there’s nothing wrong with you…you came bent toward perfection!

October 16 – Can I Get a Witness?

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14 NKJV

I am a talker and I married a talker. That seems to be pretty unusual. However, we differ in our styles of communication. To describe our styles using traveling terms, I would be more of a world traveler and Jenny is the direct flight type.

But over the years and in the process of raising a few children, we have become aware of the fact that even though we communicate very differently, often we are saying the same thing. And that provides a more balanced counseling approach when assisting friends, family, and loved ones (and ourselves) in decision making endeavors.

As the Proverb states, multi-counsel has an element of safety woven throughout, because, when you have more than one view point, you’ve got more than ONE point of view. And time and testimonies galore shout out, “Get a second opinion!”

A perfect example is studying what Jesus said by way of the Gospels…Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For the sake of time here’s one account when Jesus made a statement about the price and benefit of following Him (discipleship):

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Matthew 10:40-42

For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. Mark 9:41

He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” Luke 10:16

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” John 13:20

I think Matthew was kind of like me and the rest of the guys were like my wife (she’s straight to the point). Nevertheless, when you listen to the four points of view, you come away with a more balanced foundation on what Jesus was truly saying. Then, application, if any is necessary, can be approached with a bit more confidence and assurance.

The Lone Ranger is a classic western story, but, in my estimation, not one to be emulated in real life. None of us have it all together or are without need of outside direction and encouragement from time to time. Let the wisdom of the wise provide you direction and guidance. There is safety to be had!

October 2 – Constructive Criticism

Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Proverbs 9:8

I was a bit of a feisty girl growing up. (Not that I’m not now! <wink>) My husband tends to blame it on all of my small-town girls basketball training (thanks, Coach), but it’s probably a bit more than that.  Yes, I know it’s the original cop-out, but Adam and Eve messed it all up for everybody, right?!

I remember clearly a conversation my daddy had with me one evening.  He always liked to talk to us in his living room chair when an “issue” came up.  I sat on the living room steps right by him, expecting that I was in for a long talk. Now I can’t remember what the entire discussion was about, but the crux of the matter stayed with me.  There was a flaw in my character that was creating a problem for me, and dad wanted to get it nailed down.  Though I recall distinctly that he continued to focus on this ONE area, all I could hear was “Jennifer, you’ve got LOTS of BIG problems! You can’t do anything right.” Looking back, I see how calm and insightful he was, and how utterly patient with my consistent rebuttals of “why this,” and “why that.”

Let’s face it.  (It’s taken me awhile.)  I was horrible at receiving constructive criticism.  I think my dad probably held his breath watching me grow up those last few teenage years, because he obviously saw it.  And to this day (don’t ask Lorenzo) I struggle with responding to even a syrupy-sweet corrective comment as a “wise man.” And frankly, I’ve only gotten somewhat better because I now have young adult children who stink at the same thing occasionally. (And they always feel free to call me on it, of course!)

So, reading this Proverb, I am challenged. I want to hear direction and correction from friends, family, or God, and be able to say, simply, “okay.” “Okay, I hear you.” “Okay, I see that.” And “okay, wow, so glad you love me so much!”

We are the “wise one” to heed and receive instruction, because it only makes us better and stronger!

Since I might be the only one needing this pep talk, put me on your prayer list.  “Feisty” meeting “Okay” is no small feat!

Jennifer 🙂

September 17 – I Thought I Knew

For the ways of man are directly before the eyes of the Lord, and He [Who would have us live soberly, chastely, and godly] carefully weighs all man’s goings. Proverbs 5:21 AMP

God knows! I forget that, even still, on those days when life seems so real and so out of control. I have plans, you know? “See this schedule you helped me write, Lord? Why did you let me go this way when you knew differently?”

Right, it’s not fair. Nothing about you and me being here being allowed to live these lives and make these decisions is fair. The many, many would-be souls who are never conceived because the sperm and the egg didn’t connect probably think the same. Different egg and same sperm equals somebody else. Same egg, different sperm, you guessed it. Not you and not me. (Maybe a little too much information but you get my drift!)

No, this existence is strategic and ordained, but not fair. And though that sounds harsh, Love is at the center of this “unfair” reality. Because when I embrace the fact that I am a part of a story that possess elements I don’t quite understand, my role in it emerges with its unique contribution.

Step by step, the way becomes clear and moment by divine moment His will for our lives comes into focus. And one day, sooner or later, the last chapter and verse will be written…That’s when we say, “Oh, now I get it!”

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.