Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Principle of Being Energetic


Usually, when I think of this word I think of my 4 and 6 year old children. I often think that if I could just bottle up even a fraction of the energy they possess in their small bodies I could make a fortune selling it to mom's all over the world. But it seems this woman found at the end of the book of Proverbs has found a way to tap into that energy and use it to it's fullest potential.

Defining Energetic

Here we are again turning to our trusty friends Miriam-Webster to see what they have to say about energetic. They define energetic as "operating or being marked by vigor or effect" I think that can go a bit further by adding in "strength or power efficiently exerted."

There is an important word in that second definition. "Efficient" can be defined as 'production without waste."

I think that fits the woman we are talking about in Proverbs 31. We see, peppered all throughout these 21 verses, examples of this woman's efficient nature. 

Proverbs 31:13-16, 19

She selects wool and flax and works with willing hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions for her female servants. She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings..... She extends her hands to the spinning staff, and her hands hold the spindle.
This woman knows her talents and knows her limitations. She knows what she can physically accomplish and she is willing to do the hard work. However, she is also aware that she can not do it all, all the time. This means she has to delegate tasks.

In our culture today we like to look at this particular passage and think to ourselves that we don't have female servants so there is no way we could do all she does. While it is true that we don't all have actual people in our home doing daily tasks, what we do have are appliances that have taken the place of the need for those extra hands. We have things like washing machines, dryers, electric or gas stoves, and dishwashers. All of these take the place of a person that at one point would be found completing the designated task. Rather than having to hand wash each piece of clothing we can delegate the task to our washing machine and trust that it will get the job done.

Proverbs 31:24

She makes and sells linen garments; she delivers belts to the merchants.
Here we see her using her energies to provide income for her family. She is out in the community providing a service. She knows that she can put her energy toward activities outside of the home as well as doing what she needs to do for her family. She uses the materials that she constructed in the passage earlier to create a product for not only those under her roof but also for those within the community. This is an area that she is skilled in so she ensures to place her energy toward the activity.

We can do the same things. If we are skilled in an area we can use it to better our family. This may not mean being out there in the marketplace bringing in income, but that might just be what you can do. If you bake, provide a service for parties and get-togethers. If you sew, offer to hem pants and skirts, repair damaged clothing, or make alterations. If you are drawn to children, open your home to a family that needs childcare. We can use our talents if we know where to focus our energy.

Proverbs 31:27

She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle.
 She watches over her household. This points back to her delegations. She doesn't try to do it all but she is an overseer. She is alert to the things going on around her. If she is needed she is available. She knows what is being accomplished and what still needs to be done. She jumps in and helps with tasks. She is a worker, not a shirker. She is willing to teach and train and allow some to make mistakes to learn from them.

Do you oversee the activities of your home or are you too busy doing all the things in your home? I know I am often guilty of this. I have 2 children, with one on the way. My 2 are absolutely old enough to be getting in there and helping out with the daily tasks of the home. Chores can be done by all in the home allowing me to focus my energy to the areas I need to be focusing them in and not stretching myself too thin. It is my responsibility to teach and train, just as this woman did. And even though it may appear (and often times is) easier to just do it myself to make sure it is done right, I have to be willing to step back and allow things to not be done perfectly in order for learning to take place.

Final Thoughts

Being energetic is more than just mainlining a bunch of caffeine each morning and running around getting things done as quickly as possible.  The principle of being energetic is about knowing your talents and your limitations then using those to direct your day. By taking time to accept the areas where you are limited and seek assistance in those areas you are more able to maximize the areas you are talented in. We are not designed to accomplish everything, everyday all on our own. We are community people and we need each other to make sure tasks are accomplished and things get done. If we focus on efficiently exerting our power and our strength we are able to be productive without waste each and every day.

How can you exert your power and strength efficiently each day? What are your talents? What are your limitations? Join me next time when we talk about the principle of being physically fit.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Principle of Being Trustworthy

Turn on the Television and you will see show after show all about couples seeing the need to hire individuals to follow and take notes on their spouse's daily activities. There are hidden cameras placed through out homes and offices, secret apps installed on technological devices to gain access to social media accounts and communication records, and a constant lingering question of whether or not a husband can trust his wife or if a wife can trust her husband.

And sadly, in most of those television show scenarios we find that there was just cause for the tracking down of a spouse. Trust is lost and often times the relationship is ended in an ugly and bitter manner.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Today's passage, Proverbs 31:11-12 tell us that a marriage can and should be the exact opposite.

Proverbs 31:11-12 says,
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good. She will reward him with good, not evil all the days of her life.

This woman is trustworthy. She is worthy of the trust that her husband has in her.

Defining Trustworthy

So what does being trustworthy mean?  Again we start by turning to Miriam-Webster to see what the basic definition of the word means. Miriam-Webster says that 'trustworthy' means 'worthy of confidence; dependable'

Not a bad way to describe this concept but I think that we can probably do a little bit better.  My professor, Dr. Pat Ennis, defined 'trustworthy' as
A firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, and justice of an individual. 
Wow! There is so much packed into that little sentence. So let's break it down.

First of all lets look as "confidence." Confidence can be described as the quality or state of being certain. That is a great word picture. This means my husband can be 100% certain that he can trust me. Looking at the verse we see her husband's whole heart trusted in her. He was certain, completely.

The next word that needs to be unpacked is "integrity"  Integrity is best known as being complete, unimpaired, or perfect condition. It is also known as uprightness honesty, and sincerity. So again, looking back at our focus verse we see this woman's husband is 100% certain in his wife's unimpaired honesty and sincerity. He has no reason to question the things she says or the activities she participates in because she is walking in uprightness.

 The Character of a Trustworthy Woman

What does a trustworthy woman look like? 

First of all, her past dictates that her husband's trust in her is a reflex reaction. He doesn't even have to think or process through the trust he has in her. It just happens because there has never been any reason for him to not have his full faith in her. He has only ever received good things from her and the reputation that she carries in the community.

Secondly, because he has a reflex reaction to completely trust his wife there is no need to make provision for 'checking up' on her. He doesn't have to sneak around to see what she is doing, He doesn't feel the need to ask friends or others when out and about what they might have seen his wife up to. She knows that her actions have an effect on the character of her husband and children. If she is out roaming the town being untrustworthy she will be starving their character. On the other hand, if she is continually walking in uprightness she will feed their character and help to make them into the people God has intended them to be.

Developing a Trustworthy Lifestyle Within The Home

There are seven key areas that we can focus on to work toward cultivating a culture of trustworthiness within our homes. Those areas are security, service, encouragement and affirmation, nurturing a lifestyle of affirmation, nurturing a lifestyle of love, setting boundaries and limits, and nurturing a lifestyle of faith. Each one of these areas, when applied properly within the home, can instill a culture of trustworthiness for our husbands and families. When we provide security and put other's needs first our family knows we will always be there for them. When we nurture our culture of affirmation through encouragement and love our family is aware that we are their biggest cheerleader, knowing they can accomplish anything with God's strength. When we set boundaries we teach others that there are lines that can't be crossed. And lastly, when we nurture our lifestyle of faith others around us see that we can only accomplish any of these principles is through the faith we have in God.

Characteristics of Integrity

Integrity is a big key of this idea of being trustworthy so lets take a closer look at what the characteristics of integrity really are.

First of all, you have to have an attitude of excellence. You have to make it a priority to strive to have an attitude of excellence. When you are serving your family you have to remember that it is your ministry and we are to serve in our areas of ministry excellently.

Secondly, you are in a season of life. At some point that season will change, but no matter what we are to walk in diligence and faithfulness within that season. We need to be 100% present in the season not looking back longingly at what once was or looking ahead dreaming of what is to come. Planning for the future is fine, but not if it means that your entire focus will be drawn away from the present and the things that are happening now.

Third trait is is to make a choice for personal purity. And often times this requires finding a level of accountability. Having those people in your life that will hold you accountable helps to build and establish the trustworthiness that we are trying to cultivate.

Lastly, cultivating a consistent walk with the Lord. If your heart, mind, and lifestyle is tuned in and focused on the things the Lord has given you there will be no time, desire, or opportunity for the trust that has been built to be destroyed. When your walk with the Lord is strong and consistent it is easy to remain walking uprightly.

Final Thoughts

While this particular areas focuses a lot on the marriage relationship it is important to remember that you don't have to be married to develop a principle of trustworthiness. Bosses in the work place, individuals in leadership positions over you, and other types of relationship also need to have a level of trust in you. Your boss should know without a shadow of a doubt that you will perform your job duties to the best of your ability all the time. If you are under someone's leadership in church or other ministry organizations that person should know you are there to do what needs to be done. Trust is principle that is valuable no matter what your marital situation. 

Have you cultivated a lifestyle of trustworthiness in your life? Can those around you trust you completely? If not, how can you begin to develop that principle in your life today? Come back next time when we talk about the Principle of Being Energetic.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Principle of Being Virtuous

Last week I started sharing about my new perspective on the Proverbs 31 woman passage. It is so easy to just see this beautiful poem as nothing more than a laundry list of tasks that I will never be able to live up to. However, the more I am able to dig in and study the more I realize that is just not the case.

Today we are going to dive into the first of the twelve principles that are found weaved into the verses and lines of these 21 verses.

The first of the principles is VIRTUOUS,  and it's focus verse is Proverbs 31:10

To begin looking at the principle of virtuous first we have to know what the word means. The Miriam-Webster website defines virtuous as:
Morally Excellent

I really like that, but it's still a bit broad. To me, being virtuous means:

A character trait of value found in individuals that displays an attitude of moral excellence as well as right thinking and action on a consistent basis.

Being a virtuous woman is a standard of living. Really, it's a lifestyle choice. Not an action that we decide one moment to possess and the next moment forget all about. This type of living lends itself to  a growing respect from those you come into contact with. It goes deeper than just being liked. To live off the hope of being liked by all it is too easy for beliefs and standards to waver. What may seem like a bad idea will be over-looked or sacrificed on the alter of 'being liked'. However, living a life of virtue means you will stand on your convictions, firmly rooted in the word of God, and won't waver. While it may mean at times you are not liked, and perhaps even despised, others will be watching and they will find a respect for you. Ultimately, being respected is worth far more than being liked in the long run.

An Example of a Virtuous Woman in the Bible

When I think of a woman who holds the characteristics of a virtuous woman in the pages of Scripture, the first woman that comes to my mind is Ruth. Ruth's story is one of the sanctity of marriage and the importance of family as well as God's providence in the face of tragedy. Ruth found herself as a widow as a young woman. With no children to her name and only her sister-in-law and mother-in-law left to call family she had any number of options for how to live out the rest of her days. However, instead of thinking of herself and the tragic state she was in, it was her mother-in-law that she was concerned about. 

This woman, Naomi, the mother of Ruth's late husband, was not from the land where they were living and it only made sense once her husband and son's had died for her to make the long journey back to her home land. The logical thing for Ruth to do would have been to return to her father's house and seek a new marriage. Surly, her father would have been able to find a suitable man for her to marry and finally have the family she couldn't get before. But that was not in Ruth's desire. Instead, she remained faithful to Naomi and to the ways of her husband's family.

Ruth's love and devotion for her mother-in-law is a picture of respect that everyone can learn from. You see, no matter what you are doing, someone is always watching. This was true even for Ruth. Before Boaz, the man she would eventually marry, even spoke one word to her he was watching her from afar, learning her character and knowing who she really is. 

Questions to Ask Ourselves

Is living out the principle of being virtuous something that can be achieved in today's world? Some would say no, but I believe that with some guidance from the Holy Spirit and some intentional decision making living a life as a virtuous woman can easily be accomplished. Here are a few questions to ask yourself on your journey of becoming a virtuous woman:

1) What is my behavior when no one is watching? 
2)   What is my moral constitution? What biblical standards do I embrace that constitute my moral constitution?
3)  What self-discipline do I have?
4)   How can I move my reputation into my character?

Proverbs 12:4 says that capable wife is a crown on her husband's head. This should be the desire and goal for every woman who strives to live a life as a virtuous woman. Proverbs 31:10 asks who can find a capable wife. The answer should come easy when people look in on your life. 

Are you living out the principle of being virtuous? Does someone who falls into that category come to mind pretty quickly? Let me know what you think in the comments, and join me next time to learn about the principle of being TRUSTWORTHY

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Virtuous Woman

More times than I can count I have sat in a church pew on Mother's Day as I watched woman after woman shrink down in their seats a little farther with every passing minute. The good-hearted pastor happily preaching a sermon with the intent to encourage mothers in their roles only to actually be grinding those guilty feelings in just a little bit further.

As each verse of Proverbs 31:10-31 are highlighted, rather than feeling empowered, it feels more like a longs list of items that women everywhere are failing at. There is just no real way to meet all those standards. It's unrealistic and impossible.

I'll be honest, even before I became a wife and a mother I went into life thinking that the one main area that the Bible held unrealistic expectations was in the are of marriage and motherhood. I had resolved myself to always being second rate no matter how hard I tried because that women described in the pages of Scripture just did not exist.

And I entered into my Seminary career with the same mentality. Each semester I had to sit through a class where there would be discussion on the Proverbs 31 passage I would consider being sick or having an appointment so I didn't have to sit through that class. But then, slowly, I have come to learn more of what that passage is really trying to say.

This semester I am taking a class titled "Fundamentals of Biblical Womanhood". Each session so far has taken the what of living life a a "biblical woman" and provided the how to go with it. And so far we have been walking through a new to me interpretation of the Proverbs 31 woman.

The Virtuous Woman: Is She Relevant for Today?

The first question that often comes up is how the description found in the pages of the Bible can really be relevant to the culture we live in today? I mean, no one makes their own clothes anymore (at least not often), I don't know anyone who has servants to look after, and there is no way that I am going to get up early and stay up late just cleaning and looking after my house. 

To answer that question we have to first remember that the description for this particular woman comes from deep within the pages of Scripture. And those words, penned so very many years ago, were inspired by God. The God who is immutable. He is never changing and that means that his word is never changing. So no matter if it is 2000 years in the past or 2000 years in the future, the words found in these pages will always and forever be relevant.

A Literary Photograph of the Ideal Woman

So what is the message behind these 21 verses found at the very end of a book of the Bible chalk full of words of wisdom and instruction? To begin with this is a composite picture of the virtues that are to be found in a woman who carries the banner of Jesus Christ. Within this passage we see her inter-personal relationships, how she responds to her husband, the wide view of her life both within and outside of her home, and a close up picture of her mentality toward her life. Ultimately, what we find in this passage is a list of principles to live by, based upon the specific abilities, heritage, and talents God has bestowed upon each and everyone of us.

12 Principles found in the Proverbs 31 passage.

Alright, so if this passage isn't a laundry list of tasks I need to be completing each and every day, then what is it? What are these 12 principles that are found within this pretty poem? 

The 12 principles are: Virtuous, Trustworthy, Energetic, Economical, Unselfish, Prepared, Honorable, Prudent, Lovable, God-fearing, and Rewarded. Over time, I hope to take the time to share what each one of these 12 areas means and how they can be applied to our daily lives, within the culture we currently live in.

However, before we can begin to break that down there are a few questions we need to ask ourselves; They are

o   What are my specific abilities? What can I do?
o   What is my heritage?
o   What are my talents?
o   What makes me unique?
o   What is a population of people that I can reach that others can’t reach?
o   What are my motivating forces? What motivates me to action?

One we begin to break down all those areas we can begin to see how each of these 12 principles will fit into our daily lives

Becoming a Wise Woman In Progress

As we continue our in depth look at this Proverbs 31 passage a one key thing to remember is:

We need to possess an open heart to learn from the experiences of others, even when those others are far beyond our reach (1 Corinthians 10:6; Titus 2:4-5)

What is your perception of the Proverbs 31 passage? Have you found yourself 'turned off' or 'overwhelmed' when looking at the list of her accomplishments? Stay tuned to see how we break down these 12 principles!