Note To Mature Women: To Teach, We Must Be

Young women have been on my mind a lot lately.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent selah* in Titus, Paul’s letter to the young pastor he assigned to the Greek island of Crete. As I read slowly and contemplatively, and as I hear our pastor teach on this portion of scripture, I’m struck by some verses in Chapter 2, where Paul gives Titus advice on how to guide different segments of his congregation. Regarding mature women (my age group), he says this:

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:3-5

Any woman who has sought God’s plan and will in each season of her life has been told she should strive to become a “Titus 2 woman”. The weight of that calling is especially profound as I realize Paul places responsibility for teaching younger women squarely in the lap of mature women.

Paul tells Titus to instruct mature men “to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” He also tells him to “encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned….”

But not a word on how Titus should instruct younger women. Paul leaves that role to the mature women.

In his letter, he makes it clear that the best way mature women can teach younger females godly character is by example, “to be reverent in the way they live.” Only then, after they have “walked the talk” are they qualified to give instruction to the younger ones, “to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands.”

Some days, I fall far short of the call to reverence issued in Titus. I may not be “addicted to wine” but I can be impatient, self-centered, slothful and, yes, a slanderer.

But I also know I am formed in Christ’s image and I live under God’s grace. That is what I can offer to young women the Lord has brought into my realm of influence, even as I strive to live out Titus 2. I stand on those truths as I heed the call to “teach what is good.”

When I hold the hand of a young mother who struggles in her marriage, who is trying to be a good Mama and a patient Wife, but is overwhelmed by the challenge of it all, and we pray and speak of God’s grace.

When next to me on the church pew, tears are streaming down the face a new friend, broken and lonely and regretting so many mistakes as she tries hard to press in to the grace and forgiveness and glory of this God who’s captured her life. It is so real to her, and still so very hard, because she knows her choices have hurt the very fruit of her womb, the ones she loves beyond understanding. I remind her she is created in the image of Christ.

Photo credit: davidewart
Photo credit: davidewart

And on a late summer evening when I serve coffee shop customers alongside young women giddy with the prospect of future husbands, children and LIFE, I remind myself of Paul’s instruction. I offer encouragement and gentle counsel, perhaps not with words, but with presence.

While I can’t offer these young women the perfection of a fully mature, completely reverent woman of God, I can extend to them the hand of experience, the counsel that all strength is found in faith and in scripture, and the gift of knowing God’s grace will cover it all.

* The word “Selah” occurs seventy-three times in the Psalms, and is found also in Habakkuk. The exact meaning of the word is unknown, but it’s believed to be a command to “pause, or reflect.”

Thought-provoking-thursday-banner_NEWSharing this post today at 3DLessons4Life

 

When Life Sings a New Tune, Dance

I usually don’t mind change, but it’s funny the things you miss once they’re gone.

Things like the “boom, boom, boom” of a dump truck at 6:30 a.m.

Or the air brakes of a semi tractor as it slows down outside our front door.

Or the loud buzz of a wood grinder, turning scrap lumber into sawdust.

And those dusty footprints across my kitchen floor, left by a husband or son who’s taken a break from his busy day to get a cool drink of water and say “Hello.”

Over a month ago, we moved our agriculture-related business from the farm to a larger location about 10 miles away. It was a well-calculated move and one I had eagerly anticipated, especially on days when I didn’t want to get up at 6:30 and when I was tired of noise and of cleaning up sawdust.

But now, the quiet is almost deafening.

Like the quiet of a household once teeming with the laughter and music generated by four teen boys, the noise once it’s silenced leaves a vacuum.

Each of our sons worked alongside their dad doing the many tasks required to make and sell animal bedding. This livelihood that has put food on the table and a roof over our heads for most of the past 15 years required all hands on deck as soon as they were able. The boys learned to run machinery, drive heavy equipment, make repairs, deal with customers and bear up under the heat of Indiana summers and the freezing cold of Midwestern winters.

All those things still happen in our small, family-run business, just not here, outside my back door, or with my own young men joining in the work.

I’m adjusting to this change in my environment, and most days I appreciate the quiet, the clean air, the lack of hustle and bustle in our barnyard. I can see that this change has been for the better. Our business — and our sons — are thriving.

But some days, I miss the chaos. All of it.

To make sense of life, I usually turn to scripture or to words of writers who have gone before me. I tracked down a few comments on “change”:

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.” British Philosopher Alan Watts

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” British Statesman Winston Churchill

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is awareness.” American Philosopher Nathaniel Branden

And my favorite:

“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” American Author Hugh Prather

What is life if not a series of changes, of new days, new beginnings, better plans, more purpose? Living with and accepting change reminds me that there is only one static, constant presence in my life — the love and grace of my Creator. I pretty much count on that.

When You Stand in a Circle of Quiet

The cicadas are singing. Like clockwork, they began trumpeting their end-of-summer tune on the first day of August, just as the first golden walnut leaves drifted to the grass.

Every year, I’m surprised at how swiftly, yet gently, nature makes her moves.

Black-eyed Susans line the pond, and as I walk to the cabin I want to gather a bundle to fill glass bottles on my kitchen sill. But they are so much more beautiful here, where God planted them, with green leaves and blue sky as their backdrop.

I sit on the porch of that cabin, pen in hand, engulfed in the cacophony of cicadas, and yet quiet is all around me. In me. Words that would pierce the quiet are elusive. Silence.

“I’m apt to get drunk on words” said writer Madeleine L’Engle. I know that feeling. There are times when I thirst for them.

But it’s as if I’ve over-indulged. I’ve lost my taste for words.

Words, not thoughts, because my mind is ajumble with so many thoughts, so many questions that fight one another to get to the head of the line.

Of my parents, leaving their home for safer surroundings. Is it truly time?

Of a dear friend walking in her diagnosis of a debilitating illness. “What do we do now?” a loved one asks. “We live,” she says. And I ask God, “Why?”

Of children, sons dear to my heart, who are beginning new adventures, struggling to cope, learning to love. Did we give them enough?

Of tugs at my heart, challenges from my God. ” Would you?” “I’m calling you.” “Are you listening?” Where are you leading me, Lord?

Of prayers for a gentleman whose name I do not know, who loves strong coffee, and who submitted his cancer to surgery this week. Will this treatment be enough, soon enough?

But the words that dissect and intersect with those thoughts? Words that make sense of the cacophony of questions? They fail to come. I want to write answers, impressions, profound thoughts, deep insights. I want it all to roll off my tongue, onto the page, into space. Instead, there is silence.

“The minute we think we have all the answers, we forget the questions,” she said. In her Circle of Quiet, Madeleine declared that standing in the quiet pondering questions with no answers is a perfectly fine, necessary place to be.

I have no answers. Only questions. And so I stand in silence, ponder and wait.

 

 

Try :: More Than a Summer Soldier

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

American philosopher, patriot and founding father Thomas Paine penned those words nearly 140 years ago. Some days, I feel as if he wrote them for me, not for the soldiers fighting to create a new, free nation.

Because some days are easier than others. They just are. The days the sun is shining and it’s summertime in my heart, it’s easy to stand on the front lines, strong in the fight.

Then there are those days — often drawing out into weeks — that seem to present one challenge after another. You overcome the first grief or battle, and another arrives on its heels. One storm after another.

You not only try. You conquer.

When our souls are “tried” we know that it’s not enough to just try, to simply cope. Victory comes in finding the good and the truth in the battle. What good can come of this? With God as our Commander, much good can come and usually does.

Our challenge is to have “ears that hear and eyes that see — the Lord has made them both.” Proverbs 20:12

In choosing to stand strong on the battle front — in choosing to keep trying in trying times — we declare that God is the victor.

And we are more than summer soldiers.

Five-Minute-Friday-4Linking up today at Five Minute Friday to write for 5 minutes on the prompt “Try”

What’s Brewing? In Search of the Perfect Blend

What's Brewing- Blog badge. (2)On a recent trip to Chicago to visit my son and daughter-in-law, I visited two coffee shops. In the same day.

Whenever I’m traveling, I love checking out coffee shops, soaking up the unique ambiance, people-watching and, of course, snagging a good cup of coffee.

A coffee shop that stands out in recent memory is Headquarters, a tiny sliver of space on Charlotte Pike in Nashville, TN. I met a sweet young friend there last summer for a cup of stout coffee loaded with cream and sugar, and a nice, long chat. I like that the proprietor says she is “committed to carrying only local vendors, because we believe that doing so creates jobs, revenue and our neighbors’ success.”

That coffee shop visit is memorable as much for the company as for the coffee.

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My friend, Robin, in an outdoor nook at Headquarters in Nashville, TN.

My recent Chicago coffee stops were about as different from one another as they could be. The first was discovered on an early morning walk. A quaint corner shop on Lincoln Avenue, Red Eyes Coffee is run by a very cute Asian couple. The shop appears to be a popular hang-out for writers and students. The owner was occupied in the back when I stepped in, but a call-out from one of his customers brought him scurrying to the front, where he poured me a delicious cup of dark, rich Guatemalan brew and wished me a good day. If I’d had the time and my laptop, I believe I could have spent a couple of pleasantly productive hours in a quiet corner. Instead, I pulled a chair up to an iron table in the outdoor seating area and watched other early morning walkers.

My second stop was a quick “fuel-up” before my drive home. Just down Lincoln from Red Eyes, this chain with a well-known name was chosen for convenience — which is about the only positive take-away from that visit. When I asked the kid behind the counter to make a change in my order, he expressed dissatisfaction, then made the change without adjusting my price. The lady behind me in line leveled an impatient gaze in my direction while I waited for the frozen drink the “barista” was quickly blending up behind the counter. It was crowded and noisy. Even if I hadn’t been in a hurry, I wouldn’t have been inclined to stay.

Working at my favorite local coffee shop, I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to offer not just great coffee, but also an atmosphere that’s conducive to conversation, contemplation or creativity. Throw in convenience, and you get the perfect blend.

 

 

Ten :: Putting Gratitude at the Top of my List

I read that book some years back. Just devoured it, actually. “One Thousand Gifts” — counting all the ways the Lord blesses and actually THANKING HIM for the blessings.

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So I began my list: ten things I am grateful for every day. My goal was a thousand, and beyond.

Where is that list today? Haven’t a clue. When did my striving to stir up thankfulness — “eucharisteo” — fall by the wayside?

Was it when our children became adults, left home and the house became silent?

Thank you, Jesus, that they are healthy and safe.

When our business grew and my work load increased and my husband worked late?

Thank you, Jesus, for financial security and success.

When friends presented needs and prayer became a necessity?

Thank you, Jesus, for cherished friendships.

When God pointed me toward work outside our home?

Thank you, Jesus, for new friends and coffee.

When the absent sons could no longer tend our lawn and it became my job?

Thank you, Jesus, for the beauty of our hillside home.

When my parents called and asked “please drive us here”?

Thank you, Jesus, that my Mom and Dad are still with me.

When the need to update our home stirred me to buy paint and brushes?

Thank you, Jesus, for the health and strength to do simple tasks.

When the writing projects came and I began feeling overwhelmed?

Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of words.

When good books and Bible studies consumed my time?

Thank you, Jesus, for Your Word and words that inspire.

When long walks became prayer walks.

Thank you, Jesus, for never leaving my side.

Ten, and more. The “gifts” just keep piling up.

Thank you, Jesus.

Linking up today at Five Minute Friday to write for just 5 minutes on the word “ten”.

 

 

 

 

What’s Brewing? Knowing Which Hat To Wear

What's Brewing- Blog badge.The internet has been down at our house following a patch of stormy weather. In some ways, the outage has been a blessing, but being disconnected has also been inconvenient. Hence, this late post on “What’s Brewing” is brought to you from my favorite booth at Great Lakes Chocolate and Coffee (where the Pandora station is down but the Wi-Fi is free.)

The world is made up of interesting people, and lots of them show up at my coffee shop — on both sides of the counter.

My co-workers are mostly 20-something females. I have many opportunities to relate to young adults in a number of venues (my kids’ friends, for one), so I’m pretty comfortable around them. But I’ve had to remember to leave my “mom hat” at home when I work a shift at Great Lakes Chocolate and Coffee. We’re just co-workers and they aren’t here for parental advice.

However, watching them interact with one another and with the customers, I can’t help but begin to care about the issues they bring with them to their work shift.

There’s the stressed-out single Mom who works this and another job to make ends meet. And the college students who are juggling summer classes while working nearly full-time, wondering just where that expensive college degree will take them. And the girl who hasn’t yet figured out what she wants, but knows she needs a job to get there.

For the most part, they are professional and responsible, and they don’t let “life” infringe on work. They really expect and deserve to be treated like the self-sufficient, competent young women they are.

So I when I walk through the front door, I tuck the “mom hat” into my purse.

But that doesn’t shut down my “mom heart”.

As I prepare today to spend the next several hours working alongside one of these young ones, tumbling around in my head are words that I wish I had heard at their age, wisdom that jumped off the page to me as I spent some early morning moments on my front porch today — just me, God and the birds. And these inspired words:

“If we have found peace, it is only because we have found the end of self.” Steven James

From my vantage point — 60+ years down the road — these words hold a lot of truth. At 20-something, I doubt I would have listened or cared.

But if I shared them with my young co-workers, I would add this:

All that is crazy and seemingly out of control in your world today…

All that seems so important and life-changing…

Everything that appears to hold the key to your future happiness…

All those good and necessary things don’t stand up to the peace that comes from knowing “self” can’t possibly have all the answers. Even the most competent and wise among us will someday figure out that peace — contentment, satisfaction, success — only comes when we demand less of ourselves and pray more.

That’s what my “mom heart” would have them know.

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Free :: The Simple Joy of a Flop in the Grass

Finishing a brisk 20-minute walk to the corner and back, I stepped into the luscious green lawn that needed mowing. On this beautiful summer morning, the grass beckoned. I flopped onto my back and lay gazing into the clear blue sky. Weeks of off-and-on rain made this clear, dry day even more welcomed.

I took a deep breath and images I had seen on my computer earlier in the morning flashed through my mind: dark-haired, brown-eyed children playing in a splash of green, piling rocks, planting seeds. The children were enjoying the freedom of living in a rural compound in the hills of Honduras. Orphaned children I have visited and ministered to in the past when they had been confined to a gated block building on a corner in a very dangerous city, could now safely play in the grass.

Free

Free to run and climb and flop in the grass. Free to grab a soccer ball, stand in the sunshine, play games under shade trees, plant a seed and watch it grow. The long-awaited move from the city to a new orphanage home on a hillside at the edge of Monte Redondo means these orphaned children are finally free.

My own children grew up on a farm with acres of pasture and woodlands to explore, safely and in freedom. My heart swells to know that today, these children in a country almost 2,000 miles away can experience that same feeling of being FREE.

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Linking up today at Five Minute Friday to write for five minutes on the word “free”. 

What’s Brewing? The Coffee in Your Cup Helps Bring Children ‘Home’

What's Brewing- Blog badge. (2)She drew people to her, young and old alike. She just lit up the room. Was it her smile? Her naturally friendly manner? The curly red hair and sparkling giggle certainly caught your attention.

But beyond all that, what illuminated the face of my friend Chris was love — the love of Jesus that she spread all over those in her path.

Before Chris died far too young and with so much more love to give, she “adopted” a passel of street children in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Chris made many trips from LaGrange to Honduras to bring love and hope to boys and girls who had found a home through the efforts of Forgotten Children Ministries. An orphanage established by her home church, LaGrange First Church of God, welcomes missionaries to this dangerous Central American city every year and Chris made the trip often. Her husband and children understood her passion for the ministry and willingly shared her with the street children, traveling to Honduras with her when they could.

Brad shares a message with those waiting for rice and beans.

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A mother and her baby wait to receive rice and beans.

The year after brain cancer took her life, Chris’ family joined the mission team’s annual trip to Honduras. In her honor, they shared gifts Chris had collected for them, including a large bag of marbles for the little boys she loved so much.

Joining the missionaries that year was Paul Smith, a cousin to Chris’ husband and co-owner of Great Lakes Chocolate and Coffee. Paul saw the life-giving work of FCM firsthand and understood the passion Chris held for the ministry. Shortly after this trip, Paul and his brother, Jared, found a way to contribute to the work that meant so much to Chris.

photo (15)My favorite coffee roasted by Great Lakes is Chris’ Blend. It’s a rich mixture of African and Honduran coffee that I brew up at home every day and at our church on Sunday mornings. For every bag of Chris’ Blend that’s purchased from Great Lakes, $1 is sent to Forgotten Children Ministries in honor of Chris.

The next time you stop by Great Lakes and see Chris’ Blend on the menu for the day, order a cup. Better yet, take home a bag. As you sip, appreciate that because of my friend Chris and the guys at Great Lakes, the coffee in your cup helps bring forgotten children “home”.

For more about Forgotten Children Ministries, read my blog series about the ministry here.

 

When Standing in the Stream Is an Act of Faith

A spring-fed creek cuts a quiet path through our valley, rambling over stones and through clumps of watercress and swamp lilies before ducking under the road in front of our home to join a larger creek at the edge of the field. The water that flows from our spring and creek eventually travels into a larger river and dumps into a nearby lake.

Growing up, our sons spent hours playing alongside and inside that creek. Boats made of leaves and sticks were launched from the little wooden bridge. Water scooped up in a discarded glass jar was examined for bugs and tadpoles.

I never cross that creek or stand on its banks without thinking about my children. Those memories are a gift.

The faith that carried me through days and years of parenting our boys is also a gift. I take this steady current of faith for granted, trusting it to keep me afloat, like those fragile leaf-and-stick sailboats of their childhood. I’ve dipped into my stream of faith a lot lately, holding it up to the light for closer examination, as I’ve watched a couple of my sons face personal trials.

Any parent knows that it’s one thing to tap into your faith and trust in God’s providence to sustain you during your own trials, and quite another to stand in faith while the child you love is in peril of drowning.

A dear friend and I have prayed for one another’s children over the years. It was easier when they were young, frolicking in the frigid creek, to believe those prayers were enough to protect them from the undercurrent of life. Now that they’re adults, we know the rocky patches are theirs to navigate and we pray even harder.

I learned a new word this week, one I can’t believe I’ve never heard before, since I’ve lived it with a passion all these 31 years.

“Storge” (stor-jay) in Greek refers to the natural love and affection of a parent for a child, and of siblings for one another. It’s an emotion that creates a familial bond, and it’s laid alongside the other types of love described in scripture — agape, phileo and eros (unconditional, brotherly and physical love).

According to its definition, storge love compels us to put the needs of one another above our own. It’s found in the Greek compounded with phileo; in English it is a call to:

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

Putting a child’s needs above our own is usually not a problem for a devoted parent. We can do it to a fault.

But God showed me something important this week in my quest to figure out how to help, how to rescue, these sons walking a painful path. He impressed on me that perhaps the painful path is exactly where He wants them right now, that it’s part of the journey they need to take to get where He wants them to go — where I want them to go.

Can I accept that there will be wounds? Will I allow that the sharp rocks and undercurrents of life have a purpose — even in the life of my precious child?

The liquid faith I hold in my glass jar is littered with bits and pieces of debris from my own journey, collected in the difficult times and giving substance to the current that carries me now. I know I won’t leave the bank of that creek. In devotion, I’ll continue to put my sons’ needs above my own and to pray for a good outcome. But I can’t step into or block the course of their lives, not if I claim to trust God to bring good out of even this.

To honor my sons means to trust them to the one who created them, the ultimate act of storge.

Sharing this today at Thought-Provoking Thursday