10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies...
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
This is one of the most memorable moments of my marriage. There are hundreds of other more mundane moments which are imbedded in my memory from the more than 29 years we have been a couple. I think about the birth of our son Josh, when she once again proved what a "trooper" she is. There are lots of times I've put her into uncomfortable situations and asked a lot of her to support me. I haven't always been the best I could be at supporting her publicly or privately. Still, she's proven her character over and over. She is the epitome of a Proverbs 31 wife, a strong, professional woman, an accomplished wage earner who has made possible so many sacrifices my calling has required. An able administrator and organize who takes care of her family and home far better than her men would on their own.
Today's passage exhorts husbands to "honor her for all her hands have done...". This may not be the public gates of our city, but it is as public as I can make it. I'm so thankful for my wife Kimber. I'm blessed and fortunate, and I don't ever want to taker her for granted.
Covid-19 is putting pressure on our household in every way imaginable. We're in it with so many of you. Our college-aged son is home for the duration. My congregation is staying at home for the duration. Kimber is going to work at the hospital. It makes me anxious; which makes me prayerful. It makes me grateful.
This post (if she reads it) might make her uncomfortable. She doesn't like to be an illustration or the center of attention. But I needed to brag on her and ask you to pray for her and all of her fellow health care and hospital workers.
The Old-Testament book of Proverbs has long been source of daily inspiration and wisdom in my life. All during the month of April I'm going to post a Proverb or a passage from a Proverb on my @hucrestcog Facebook stream. I hope you'll click and like that stream each day. Some day's an extended reflection will likely appear in this blog as well.
If you find these post encouraging or helpful, please spread the word!
Grace and peace,
I'm not a doom and gloom guy, but I'm increasingly convinced the Covid-19 pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. I don't say that to depress or discourage you. In fact, quite the opposite. While I'm no prophet, and I'm not in the business of making predictions about the future, what I want is for us to be prepared for the suffering we may experience in the difficult days ahead. And, I want to equip us to cope in healthy, faith affirming ways!
We call it the Nuthouse and I have amazing views from my front deck. When the weather is nice (in the summer) I spend a lot of mornings watching the sunrise thru the trees while I do my devotions or work on messages or other writing projects. But in the long wet season, I needed a dry and warm place, and one where the library (or at least the pre-digital and critical resources) could be easily accessible. So, the Writing Shack was born! Over a year ago I started working in earnest to convert a large toolshed into my he-shed. It's a pay as you go project, and I'm not really an finish carpenter, but the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to dawn.
The Covid-19 stay-home order makes it all the more imperative and I can retreat from the family and have a quiet and organized work space. Soon all the shelves on the left will have the books on the right transferred to them and more. I'll be able to reposition the smaller cases and sort many volumes still boxed away onto the old cases. Maybe sometime all my cases will match! But I'm excited about it. I feel really accomplished because I've never tackled this big a construction project by myself. I'm grateful to the guys from church who loaned me tools, and came out to do wiring, and helped drywall. I have a lot of ideas about what I can do to make the space even more functional. And, I have a lot of ideas for writing, recording, and video projects. it will take some time to recoup my investment, but in the long-term I think it's really going to be worth it.
The best part of the project? It's a separate work-space. It's a very short-walk out the backdoor of our house, but I because I actually have to go to work I can actually leave my work at work. I've had home-offices before. The danger for me is to always be working and never be home. Covid-19 is revealing that tendency once again as I've been putting in long hours trying to make our virtual and online experiences the best they can be, as well as spending extra time on the phone, calling and texting people I can't see or haven't seen now in weeks.
So, I'm working at home and working on my home. In the coming weeks there will be lots of projects to complete, burn piles, gardens to plant and mulch, grass to mow, garages to clean and paint to put on walls. Despite being home I'm really grateful for a place work while I'm there.
7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
8 Even those who live many years should rejoice in them all; yet let them remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.
9 Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
10 Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:7-10)
The wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes wrote "to warn against placing our hope in anyone or anything other than God." (Tremper Longman, The Life with God Bible).
It's a temptation we're all faced with in life. It's the idea that we can trust our "sound investment strategy" to carry us through an economic crisis. It's the notion that hard work is always the answer to providing for ourselves.; that, the only person we can depend upon is ourself. Or it's the idea we will always be healthy because we are at the moment.
These temptations are magnified in our youth and inexperience. We believe, "Things are the way they are because we've never known anything different." But unprecedented circumstances and crisis events reveal our naivety. The lay bare our basis assumptions, lay waste to our unrealistic expectations, and expose our underlying anxieties .
The wisdom writer brings perspective, encouraging us to brace for reality, but more importantly to banish our anxiety by accepting the truth of our circumstance and acknowledging the transient nature of our existence. We aren't in control but neither do our circumstances control us.
Life is to be enjoyed! God made us with desires to be fulfilled, dreams to be pursued, and yes difficulties to be endured. But there is something beyond our current circumstances, a greater reality than a brief life lived to the fullest on earth. Eternity stretches beyond! Our ultimate responsibility ,and our ultimate hope rests in God who made us. If we live in view of his judgment, we'll remember to hope and trust in him.
In the last verse of the section of scripture above, we're encouraged to "banish anxiety from our mind." That's a powerful message in these unsettled times. It begins with facing reality about our circumstances. Very few things in our lives are certain and under our control. Dark days are ahead. We grow old. We suffer. We die. We grieve. We mourn, but not as those without hope!
From the youngest to the oldest may we learn to banish anxiety by heeding Paul's counsel:
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12 NRSV)
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
2 Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
3 If the clouds are full of rain,
they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4 He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb[a] of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
8 So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:1-8 ESV)
As a pastor and a public-safety chaplain I've has some training and experience with disasters. It is the unfortunate reality many people are ill-prepared to handle them. Just navigating the day to day pressures and problems of ordinary life can be overwhelming for many people. To have the wisdom, prudence, and discipline to make preparations for unpredictable but inevitable disasters just exceeds many people's willingness to do.
In one chaplain's training I attended a few years ago, it was asserted that upwards of 70% of people are in some sort of crisis before a tragedy or traumatic event happens. Already in crisis, people's normal coping methods are overwhelmed by these precipitating events, sometimes they aren't even major or particularly tragic. It's just the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back."
Covid-19 and the associated disruptions could very well be the overwhelming event that sends and people in crisis over the edge. If we're not careful, prudent, and proactive, those of us who aren't particularly overstressed may actually find ourselves slipping into coping behaviors that don't serve us well.
The wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes isn't typically viewed as having a particularly positive outlook. And, while the close of the book ends with a faith affirming, positive twist. It seems like an appended portion, or an attempt to resolutely affirm a faith-filled perspective to wrap things up. That said, the above passage is actually extraordinarily insightful and helpful to those who catch its drift and heed its direction.
To cast our bread upon the waters is a metaphor for generosity and diligent investment. Verse one and two taken together are a picture of a farmer or business person sending ahead their finished product, the produce of their labors to far flung markets or to places where it is valued or in demand. It can be viewed as either an indiscriminate sharing, or as a careful choice of diversifying as a hedge against disaster. Which ever way we understand it, the key application is in the actual sending it away from ourselves, of resisting the temptation to simply hoard it, or hold it back.
The author reminds us we can't know when or where disaster will strike. The best we can do is to be prepared to share what we possess or to have invested well what we produced. To be able to live generously toward others or to invest aggressively in difficult times is evidence of a person who has taken seriously their responsibility to be a good steward.
I hope you find yourselves in a place where you can heed the counsel to 'cast your bread on the waters." Trusting God to provide has many levels, and if you have walked faithfully saved carefully, and invested broadly, now is not a season to become self-centered or to run scared, it's a time to share! It's a time send!
Hucrest Community Church like most if not all churches in our community will be called upon to do more not less in this season of disruption and potential disaster. If you can, and with prayerful discernment, would you please consider making a gift to our
General Fund or to our Care Fund. It is not our intention to simply store up your gifts, but rather to put them to work in our community for its good and blessing. Our community partners are already calling upon us to step up and our regular expenses continue.
To make a gift visit: www.hucrestcog.org/give
Thanks! Grace and peace!
I'm at an undisclosed location on the southern coast of Oregon sheltering in place. From the windows of my AirBnB rental I can see the tidal influenced mouth of one of our beautiful rivers. I've been up long enough to see the shroud of heavy fog lift to reveal the sparkling hues of the sun kissed and wind blown blue currents Today, the river isn't very still on the surface, but neither is it still below. There is so much about this picture that is true of life, and especially in the Covid-19 era.
Kimber and I had plans for today. While we've kept them private, they would have been in very public places enjoying very touristy pursuits as we reconnect and restore our own souls as the first quarter of 2020 winds down. Life for us in busy. But busy isn't a badge of honor. Over the course of 25 plus years of ministry and her 25 plus years of professional employment we've always tried to prioritize some private down time. We literally have to escape in order to re-engage and re-energize. We could not have anticipated this long calendared mini-vacation would occur on the leading edge of a pandemic. Our plans have been altered. I don't mind so much. We'll still be outdoors. We'll still be together. And, what's more, we may benefit more from the slower, more private time we have together.
In the bigger picture of things, what lies ahead for us is still shrouded in fog. We don't know what's out there. It's hard to predict where the currents of our current circumstances are taking us. On the surface of things, the wind is starting to whip up some waves. The temptation is to become reactionary instead of prudent and responsive. A run on toilet paper? Come on!
What's more disconcerting, perhaps, is what's happening below the surface in our hearts. Are anxiety and fear getting the best of us? Are we becoming unsettled, whipped back and forth by the winds and waves of doubt and confusion?
I'm not any different than you. I have concerns, worries, fears, and doubts. I wish I could wave a magic want and erase all the negative impacts, the distress, death, and disruption Covid-19 is causing. But I can't! What I can do is decide to trust the One who created the rivers and established their courses. I can rely on the One who tells the wind and waves to be still when it suits his purpose. And, I can try to discern how the current is flowing and rather than fighting against it, find a way to harness its power and produce something life-giving.
I'm praying this morning for your peace and the prosperity of our community and beyond. Economic challenges loom, health concerns are growing, and uncertainty about tomorrow is expanding, but we know God's purpose will ultimately prevail. May we cling to this assurance, and partner in His plan
"Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,[a] with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations...“Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life." (Revelation 22:1-2,17)