Clematis & Honeysuckle

Two years ago, my husband and I purchased our current home. For months we discussed and debated what each of us wanted in a new house, and we narrowed down what was critical for our family size, what was important to each of us individually, and what we could realistically afford. We spent months house hunting and despaired of finding a place we could agree on. We were facing a time deadline and we grew impatient. We even nearly put in an offer on the wrong house – twice. But one day the timing was just exactly right and we came to this house. It only took us five minutes to walk through the property and, with practically no discussion, we agreed this was HOME.

It was early March when we made our offer on the house and there wasn't much blooming, although we had noticed a heavily vined plant in one of the flower beds. I immediately mentioned that I hoped it was a clematis. I have always loved all varieties of clematis but in almost 20 years of marriage had never owned one. My husband said he hoped it was a honeysuckle, as he had grown up with honeysuckle and loved the heavy fragrance. So, we waited to see if either of us had gotten our wish and, on the day we took possession of the home, we discovered it was BOTH. A clematis and a honeysuckle had been planted side by side. Both plants were well established and mature -- the desires of both of our hearts, wrapped cooperatively together, forever entwined. For me, it was nothing short of God's rainbow.

Fast forward two years.

We still love our house and we are continually making small upgrades and adapting it to our needs. But we both have missed living in the country, and I am a rather restless sort. During our original home search, I discovered I am fascinated by real estate. So, two years later I still check Zillow daily to see what is coming on the market. I find myself analyzing trends, comparing home values and acreage, each time mentally holding my own home up for comparison. Is there a better home out there for us? Am I looking to move right now? No. But for months I have had this growing feeling of discontent. Until this morning. This morning, I stepped outside and for the first time this season the clematis and honeysuckle are blooming in unison. And what was originally God's promise was now God's reminder that we are exactly where He has placed us.

Just like the clematis and honeysuckle, we are in a season of our life. Sure, we might enjoy living further out in the country, but in this season of our life we have two young daughters. Our home is less than a three-minute drive from either of their schools, my work, their after-school extracurriculars, church, or the grocery store. Our home allows us to easily host large family get-togethers and our back porch is the gathering place for many friends and family. In this season of our life it is exactly where we need to be, and God knows that even when my restless heart doesn't.

Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

It is very easy to be influenced by the world and forget what God has given us, where God has placed us, and what mountains God has moved on our behalf. If you find yourself feeling restless and like things aren't moving or progressing fast enough to suite you, ask yourself if God has placed you in the place you are. If His answer is no, then begin to ask God where you need to be and MOVE with His direction. If He has placed you there but you find yourself restless, consider the possibility that this is just a season in your life and trust that when you need to move He will guide your steps.

Most of all, don't forget to stop and enjoy the season you are living in now. It has purpose even if it's a struggle to see it right now.

Cinderella, Cinderella!

Am I the only one who reads Proverbs 31 and starts humming "The Work Song" from the movie Cinderella? You know the one…

"…Cinderelly, Cinderelly
Night and day it's Cinderelly

Make the fire, fix the breakfast
Wash the dishes, do the mopping
And the sweeping and the dusting
They always keep her hopping…"

I'm gonna be real with you. The woman that is described in that chapter sounds like an exhausted wreck to me. I'm just sayin'. It would be impossible to be that woman!! I've actually heard people use this passage of Scripture to try to encourage – (clears throat) browbeat – a woman to be more like the woman she's expected to be.

When something hits me on such a discordant note when I read the Bible, I just have to dig a little deeper. I have to study what was really meant by the author or what needs to change in my thought process or belief system. Here's some of what I've found in this case.  

First of all, in reading the full chapter of Proverbs 31, and doing my best to set aside the preconceived ideas I had formed, I noted something I hadn't before. This chapter is written to men, not women. I checked into it, and found out that in some cultures men are actually expected to memorize this chapter – not because they should form an unreasonable goal in finding a good wife, but to make sure they keep in mind what's truly important. Verse 30 says, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (NIV)

These verses are actually a poem written in celebration of the wisdom of a woman of noble character. I think of it as showing us a picture of what wisdom in action looks like. Verse 31 says to "give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!" (MSG)

This really has changed my perception of that chapter. It lines up much more with what I feel from Father. He's not raising an eyebrow and putting checkmarks beside the verses of Proverbs 31 that I still need to work on. Instead, he's urging me to draw closer to Him and hear what he has to say about me –  his creation, his friend, his daughter. He wants me to be the woman he created me to be, not the woman others expect me to be.

So yes, there are still chores that need to be done. There is life to live. There is an office to work in. There are meals to cook. But, that's not who I am. That is just one part of what wisdom in action looks like in my life. I am determined to hear from God who I am. I am a woman of valor. I am His creation. I am learning more and more about who He is and becoming a woman who reflects Him more clearly.

That takes away some of the pressure I’ve been putting on myself. I can dust off the cinders and raise my head high. I can say of God, "Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it." (Psalms 139:14)

Why? Because I am a Proverbs 31 woman.

And It's A Big But!

I am a learner. Plain and simple. As a lifetime student, I study all kinds of history, both biblical and otherwise. With all of that exposure to our world's history, I wish I could point back to a time when men had “done it right.” Yes, folks. There is a way to do it right. Don't get caught up in our world's lies that try to tell us that everyone has their own right and wrong. God has a right way for each of us to live and affect generations!

Some historical figures have come closer to doing it right than others. But, since Jesus came to live among us as a man full of grace and truth, no one has lived life in a way that changed a thousand generations. We do have that promise, you know! We have the power to change not only our own lives, but the lives of generations!

I think Father knew it would be this way. He staged the most massive intervention in the history of the world when he sent his Son to earth. He sent him knowing it would be a long journey. After all, it had taken years and years for men and women to become as lost as they were when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Humanity had to get to a place where they would accept a Savior. It did not need to be all of mankind who was ready for Him at that moment, but there did need to be a group of people who were aware of their need, a group whom Almighty God had called his own, to accept that The Answer dwelt among them.

Observing our world today and considering the past history of this planet, I cannot find a time when God’s people have been as aware of their need for a Savior as they are right now! That fills me with excitement! Yes, it means we are at a crisis point, but that's when people realize their need. People with any spiritual perception at all know that we need another intervention if we intend to fulfill the plan of Father on this earth. This creates great opportunity for men to be men and women to be women! No wonder the powers of darkness are raging as the psalmist declared in the first psalm. Those who do not know Father are in an uproar trying to have their way.

But. BUT…

…to quote one of my friends, "…and, it's a big but!”, He who sits in the heavens is laughing at their effort. The powers of darkness and those who do not know Father cannot – ever – stop the work of God from going forward! Our Father still has a group people on this earth. It's true that these people might be just barely touching grace and truth, but they are moving into the fullness of it. God has determined that His King will rule and that is the final word.

Now, we must stand! Who and what are we created to be? Forget about the accusations of hate speech when we say that God created us as he wants us. We all know that alone is not hate. Even the accusers know that!

When we exercise our will to be men and women according to Father’s plan, we are showing love in its purest form. We're doing it right.

What it means to live in that plan is being identified more and more fully all the time. What a purifying force we can become if we will hear His voice and respond according to His Word. There is no shame in that! It is not intolerance! It is tolerance at its best! This is why the apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “I want men to lift up their hands and pray!” and, “Do that without wrath and doubting.”

Men, just pray and follow God. Allow Him to lead you in ways that are right and good – AND powerful! Don’t doubt your manhood and don’t get angry with those who do. Just search His Word, respond to His voice, and watch your world begin to change as you touch grace and truth. Yes, I'm going to say it. Be the big but!

Not in My Town, Stranger

I have always enjoyed old Westerns. It seems that there is always at least one point in the story where the sheriff steps out into the dusty street and stops. You can almost see the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. The music is ominous. He slowly turns and scans all around to identify…danger. There has to be a reason why he feels uneasy. There's something, or someone, threatening his town.

Sure, those scenes can be a bit melodramatic, but men can identify with that guy. At the core of who we are created to be is the ability to sense and respond to the life-giving breath of our Creator. That same ability equips us to sense danger lurking in the shadows. It is there to protect the life and light that we bring into this world.

Lately, I feel like I sense a cry in Father's Heart. I sought for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the breach! (Ezekiel 22:30) He is crying out for men to recognize and respond to Him. He seeks men who will resolve to place boundaries that protect the life to which we have committed. Anything that threatens to separate us from our Source of life can be shut out by men who build strong and stand firm.

When you look at the original wording of this passage of Scripture, a more accurate translation of "breach" would have been "gate." Why does it matter? Well, a gate is an entry point formed with purpose; it may be opened or closed at the will of those who guard the enclosure.

In my opinion, a man is never more fully a man than when he is making decisions that guard the life that he has helped create.

When a man works with those Father has placed alongside him, he will recognize his worth. He will realize that we are made worthy by the blood of our Savior. There is great value in His mandate to build boundaries and stand in the gate, taking any enemy that might be standing in the dusty street, threatening the life and light within us.

But, don't think that we are forced into this role! I was greatly impacted recently as I listened to Bill Johnson talk about the value of the human soul. Our mind, will, and emotions are so precious to our Father. He determined in the beginning that the will of man would not be violated. That ability to decide who and what to embrace would determine man's thinking. And then, through man's emotional reaction, how a man lives is formed.

Man must decide! Will I form a life without boundaries, living out from every wind of teaching that might blow in a fallen world? Or, will I live in the life and light that Father prepared from the foundation of the world? In truth, Almighty God only empowers one choice. Any other choice opens the gate of our life to the darkness of men empowered by the opinions of other men. Suddenly, that dusty street in the Old West has more bad guys than we can handle.

I have decided that I'm going to build strong and stand firm. The bad guys won't be coming through the gate I've been given to watch over. I'll be that sheriff with hard eyes and firm resolve, saying, "Not in my town, Stranger."

Do You Feel Lucky? Well, Do Ya?

Can we all just agree for a moment that it feels like a huge risk to be a man in today's world? It has probably felt that way to many generations of men, but it seems that for a few decades now there has been a concerted effort to remove masculinity from our culture. Or at least to remove what people perceive masculinity to be. So, that explains the Dirty Harry reference in the title (in case you were wondering).

I am convinced that the deep need in a man to be of significance to others' lives was a part of the original creation. I am also convinced that it was placed there by God because the masculine influence would be key in the mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing of humanity.

Finding that significance isn't always easy. In the midst of that struggle, we find ourselves missing the first point of reckoning in the call of God. It is so simple. It is so defining. It is so profound. The reality of the call of God has been available for us since Father first called to Adam in the garden, "Man, where are you?" It has been ringing out through the various gardens of our lives all of this time. What do I mean by the gardens of our lives? All of the places where men are placed by our Creator for the purpose of cultivating, keeping, and producing. In the midst of it all, God continues to say, "Who/what has taken you from the life you were created to live? Shaming accusations did not come from Me!"

For some, significance is defined as the call of God. Those three words are loaded in today's culture. It's been written and preached about over and over, with lots of hype connected with the "call." It leads us right back to that superhuman ideal we find ourselves thinking we need to fulfill, and all the while we're overlooking reality. That hype has caused many a man to struggle to be the greatest man of God, to jockey for position and be recognized on a world stage – and then, feeling less than fulfilled when they don't meet their own expectations.

Then, what is the call of God?

First and foremost, men are called to reflect Father's presence in the earth. We are made in His image and likeness! That is exciting! God is Spirit. He can be sensed, heard, and can give us some sense of His touch. However, He CANNOT – yes, you read that right! – He cannot hold you in His arms or allow you to look upon His face and visually comprehend His pleasure and satisfaction. He has limited Himself to demonstrating that pleasure through men and women. No wonder this world system wants to twist that up into a perversion of wicked accusations, thoughts, behavior, and confusion!

As human beings, we were created to need and respond to physical touch and connection. As men, there are people in our lives who need the physical touch of a man who knows that Father has called him to Himself. Don't run scared about that thought. I know what this world has done to make us afraid to share appropriate touch. But, remember – the fathered father. Loved people love people.

Jesus gave Adam the job of naming the animals. Today, he is still asking us to provide identity to people through that masculine touch that comes from a deep knowledge and awareness of the presence of Father.

So, back to the call. First, we are called to know Father, to be filled with His breath, and boldly work out from that. All other facets of man's "call" will come out of that as we labor together with Almighty God. Now, that's significance!

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty lucky. Do you? Well, do ya?