Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Temperate? No.

Well, after the last three postings, I decided that it was time for confession. I want to remind you that although I have definite opinions, and beliefs about what is Biblical, I still fall short - often. I know that I have a tendency to look at authors and think that they have it all together; whether they are writing about marriage or child rearing or patriarchal living. So, I think it's a good reminder that we are all sinful human beings in the process of being refined by our Creator.

Because of time constraints, my last post took several days to write. God is good to convict us when we need it, and unfortunately I need it more often than I would like.

My Beloved is my floor man. Several years ago, he asked me what one thing he could do around the house that would be of the most help. Because of the way he was raised, he's pretty picky about the floors, so they are "his". I still sweep, and vacuum, and I do mop up spills; but when it's time for a real cleaning, and waxing of the wood floors, he does it. Well, by the time I got up the other morning, my floors were done, and he had moved on to other things in the kitchen.

The day before I had washed my gallon jar that usually contains choc. chips, but it was still wet by bedtime, so it was still sitting empty. I had also emptied out my noodle jar the night before. So, when I got up, noodles were (are you ready???) in my CHOCOLATE CHIP jar! How could he have done that??? Instead of being thankful for having a wonderful, thoughtful husband, I was irritated that he put them in the wrong jar (which, by the way, looks JUST LIKE the right jar!). He went outside and started on other projects. So, I began to empty the noodles into the "right" jar. As I got to the bottom, there was still water in the jar, so some of the noodles were now wet. Instead of just finishing, and drying out the jar and moving on, I had to go tell my Beloved that he had put dry noodles into a wet jar. Now, in all fairness, had I just put a lid on the jar and placed it on the shelf, those noodles would have molded. The point however, is that I had to go and tell him what he had done "wrong". Not because I was concerned about the potential loss of noodles, but because I had to be right. :-( Being the good-natured, loving man that he is, he took it all in stride. As I walked away from him, I felt that distinctive "prick" of the Holy Spirit, but continued on my way. After stewing a while (fighting with the Holy Spirit - you know, there could have been a waste of noodles, after all!), I had to agree with Him, and go and apologize to my husband.

I am so thankful to be a daughter of the King! I am so prone to attitudes like I just shared, and if my husband and I were not Christians, I would probably have brought my house to ruin long ago. However, I have learned over the years, to be "mostly" quick to apologize when I have been wrong, and I have truely been blessed with an easy going man who is always quick to forgive and move forward.

It's not about "getting it right" everytime, or being perfect. Yes, we are to strive toward it. We should desire to be as godly as we possibly can be. But where the rubber truely meets the road is how we respond when we have behaved in an ungodly way. Are we sensitive to the Holy Spirit? Do we shove Him in a corner and ignore His promptings? Or, when He pricks our conscience about wrongdoing, do we repent and apologize - making atonement if necessary? This is where the godly woman distinguishes herself. By the way, that part is totally not fun; so it is by far better to behave in a godly way to begin with! Praise God there is hope for us when we fall short.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Makings of a Godly Wife Pt. 3

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-contolled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." Titus 2:3-5

"to be self-contolled" - The KJV says to be discreet. It means to be moderate in opinion or passions. To be self-controlled, temperate. I am a very opinionated person, but according to Scripture, I don't need to make all those opinions known! It doesn't mean that I can't be opinionated - that is the personality that God gave me - but I do need to moderate that and be selective of when I let my opinions be known. I know that for me, often the reason I share my opinion is so that people will realize how smart I am, or that I am right. :-) It is probably wise of us to think about our motivation in sharing our opinions. Have they been asked for? Do we really need to speak our mind, or should we just remain quiet?

"pure" - Or chaste. This means to be innocent, modest, or perfect. To go even further into the root of the Greek it means sacred, pure, blameless, consecrated, or holy. That is a tall order! And yet, as daughters of the King, we are already positionally all these things. Obviously, in this life we are not going to be perfect, but we certainly can be innocent, and modest. We can do our best to live a blameless and consecrated life. But, what would that look like? Realizing that I cannot give you an exhaustive list, I think that some things that would be a part of this would be refraining from participating in gossip. We've already talked about that, so I won't belabor the point, but I will reiterate that I would include listening to as well as speaking gossip. Our dress will be modest; we want to dress in a way that is attractive and beautiful for our husband, but we do not want to dress in a way that is going to cause other men to lust. We will try to avoid hurting people - physically, emotionally, and spiritually - we are to be blameless. We won't be pot stirrers. I think we probably all know at least one woman who seems to thrive on strife; do any of the above adjectives come to mind when you think of her? Probably not. We will do everything as unto the Lord, and worship of the Lord will permeate every aspect of our lives. Whether we are changing diapers, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, teaching our children or making love to our husband, there should be an attitude of worship and joy about us.

"working at home" - This has been written on by folks much more knowledgable than myself, but I know what I believe the scripture to say. Women are to be at home. This is not demeaning! We are given a high and holy calling - and one that is not fit for wimps! :-) It takes someone with strong intestinal fortitude to be a homemaker. We have to be continually defending our conviction of staying at home. We have to be able to manage our time and resources wisely. We need to be able to teach our children, and all that entails from choosing curriculum to teaching reading, writing, and arithmatic! The Greek word translated "keepers" means a stayer at home, or domestically inclined. It also has a facet to it that implies guarding. Isn't that what we do? We guard our home - during times of conflict or war, women are often the ones defending the homefront. But everyday, in many ways we guard our homes. We guard our children's hearts and minds, we guard our finances, we guard our time, we guard our husband's good name. While our beloveds are out fighting the battle to provide, we are the guardians at home.

"kind" - Here the King James translates this word "good". It means to be good. :-) Strong's Concordance gives a second word as a comparable word, and it means beautiful, valuable or virtuous, fair, honest, worthy. These words all flesh out "kind" pretty well. Someone who is kind is virtuous, fair, and honest. She is worthy of her husband's love; he believes her to be valuable. She is beautiful. Have you ever known someone who was not that physically attractive when you met them, but as you got to know them, and discovered their godly character, you began to see them as a beautiful person? I think that this is the kind of beauty that would be referenced here.

"submissive to their own husbands" - The King James says "obedient". We are our husband's subordinate. Much like a captain to a major; both are important and needed, but one has more authority, and so, more responsibility than the other. The husband wife team is made of two equally important and needed positions. However, one is higher "ranking" than the other. God has given our husband the authority and the responsibility of leading. We are to submit to him and follow. It really comes down not to whether or not we trust our husband to lead well, but if we trust God to lead through our husband. I have known many women who will tell you that they are submissive to their husband, but what they really mean is that they are submissive if they agree. If they disagree with their husband, he still may make the decision, but she will make him miserable for not choosing her way. She may talk poorly about him and the decision he has made, or she may flat out be rebellious to the decision he makes. None of that is really submission. I need to be able to joyfully submit to the decisions my Beloved makes because I trust that God is leading him in his decision making. Even for those who are not married to believers. The scripture doesn't say that God is only the head of the believing husband, but that He is the head of the husband. Period.

"that the word of God may not be reviled." - What great incentive this should be to us! If we are godly wives, it speaks well of our Lord. If we fail, the word of God is reviled. May God give each of us the strength and wisdom we need to live a godly life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Makings of a Godly Wife Pt. 2

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." Titus 2:3-5

Today we're going to look at verse 4, "and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,". This may seem silly. Why would we need to be trained to love our husbands and children? Doesn't this come naturally? Well, yes and no. A self-centered kind of love, based on 'what can you do for me', and warm fuzzies is natural. However, godly love, that is sacrificial is not so natural.

"to love their husbands..." Paul is not just talking about romantic love here, although that is very important as well! He is talking about a friendship kind of love. You should be your husband's best friend, and he should be yours. That's right. Sis down the street shouldn't be your best friend, your husband should be. How? Well, the simple answer is to take an interest in the things he likes.

"But, but, he likes fishing! Football! Mechanics!"

Yes, often our husbands like things that we don't. They like things that we don't understand, and within ourselves don't care to learn about. However, we are to love them in a friendship kind of way, and so, that means being with him and being interested in what he is interested in. We are to be one flesh with our husband. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Genesis 2:24 (emphasis mine) This is more than just the physical aspect of marriage, we are to be one. That means in life purpose, physically, and spiritually.

If you take the time to learn about his favorite sport, or agree to do something with him that he loves, he will appreciate it so much. Be willing, be agreeable - don't do this in a grudging way. If he likes to work on cars, ask if you can help by handing him tools or bringing him a tall glass of tea or lemonade and a plate of cookies. Show him that you enjoy his company and that you desire to be around him, and be enjoyable to be around yourself! It is ideal if you were good or best friends before you were married, but if not, you can start now: today. It might take some real effort - you might have a big learning curve, but if you make the effort, he will notice.

Maybe your husband isn't interested in any of the things that you are. It might be difficult to maintain a good attitude if you're making an effort and he's not. But, the scripture says for the wife to love her husband - you have to be concerned with your responsibility before the Lord, and not concern yourself with his responsibility. Pray and ask the Lord to enable you to keep your eyes on Him. Concentrate on this as service to the Lord. "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." Colossians 3:23 Interestingly, this verse is in a section that is labeled as "Rules for Christian Households" in my Bible. If you find it difficult to be your husband's friend, do it anyway, and do it "as for the Lord" with a cheerful attitude.

"to love their...children" This too is a friendly kind of love. While I don't think we should be worried about being our children's "friend", we should enjoy being around them and we should have a close relationship with them. Our society would tell us that we should be their friend, and so, we should not discipline them, or really, act in any sort of "parental" way. This is foolishness. Of course we should act like their parent! That is what we are. They have one Daddy and one Mama, and that is what they need you to be. You need to have clearly defined lines of order, however that does not negate a close, loving relationship. Discipling - which includes discipline - will build close ties. We need to spend time with our children. The quality vs. quantity debate is a bunch of bunk! Quantity is quality. When they're little, take time and just sit and read books to them. Tell them stories of when you were little or stories that you have made up. Sing to them; play. As they begin to get bigger, begin to incorporate them into the things you're doing. Even little children can help. A toddler can begin helping in the kitchen by unloading the dishwasher. Mine begin with unloading silverware, which they hand to me so I can put it away in the drawer. As they get bigger, there are more and more things they can do. They can do many things as long as we are working alongside them, teaching. Don't just work with your children though, it's important to have fun with them. Play wiffle ball, pick flowers, have a picnic, go horseback riding, sing, read, just be silly once in a while. As we work and play alongside of our children, we will build ties that are not easily broken; and they will learn the value of relationship.

Part of loving them that parents seem to have a difficult time with is discipline. Scripture is clear that children need discipline. "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." Proverbs 13:24
"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives is far from him." Proverbs 22:15
"Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol." Proverbs 23:13
These are just a few verses that speak to the importance of disciplining your children. One of the things that is important to remember, and hard to be consistent with is that they need you to be on top of things. They need to be disciplined the first time they are disobedient. We were recently at the Christian Heritage Homeschoolers conference and one of the speakers was saying that, "Mom, it's not disobedience once you're angry, it's disobedience the first time they disobey." That really hit home for me. I had gotten lazy in my discipline, and I would get after them and get after them until I was upset, and then I would discipline. By that time, I am being disobedient to the Word of God myself. So, the first time your child is disobedient, get up, and discipline. It takes effort; it means that I am loving my child more than I am loving myself. I desire for them to grow and be godly individuals. I want them to be people that others enjoy being around. If they are wild, and disobedient, neither of those goals are attainable. And, if they are disobedient to you, you can't teach them anything.

It is easiest to start the process before they are even a year old, but even if your children are older; it's not too late. I have found that my older children respond well to change - as long as I explain to them what is going on. When we came home from the conference, I explained to my children that I hadn't been discipling them in a godly way, and that from that point on they would be required to obey the first time they were told something, or they would be chastised. If I have to discipline them, I sit down with them and ask them if they know how they have been disobedient. We talk about the scriptural principle involved (honor others more highly than yourself, children obey your parents, encourage one another, etc.), and how they have broken it, and then the discipline is administered. Then we work on restoration. We will pray, we might talk some more, we will hug and get back to our normal activities. It is important that justice be swift. It's all a matter of training. We train them not to listen to us, by not expecting first time obedience. They know just how many times they can disobey before you've had it. Isn't it better - isn't it more loving to expect them to obey you the first time?

Both of these loves can be strenuous! It is not easy to love someone in a truely godly way. It means that we have to be willing to sacrifice, to place others above ourselves. It means that I may not have time to do some of the things that I want to do. It means that I may have to put something aside to take care of a husband or children. However, the rewards for doing things God's way are innumerable!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Makings of a Godly Wife Pt. 1

Of late, I have been thinking (a lot!) and reading about courtship. Our sons are getting closer to that stage of life, and I have some researching to do. This has led to me also thinking about what makes a girl a good candidate for courtship and further, what makes a godly wife. The answer is probably (or should be) obvious: godly character.

Let's start in Titus and look specifically at godly characteristics as they are given for wives. I am going to try to put some "feet" to this, and not just write about principles in general, but to show some practical application. Obviously, I am not going to hit on every aspect, but hopefully, it will be food for thought and a springboard for further conversation and application.

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." Titus 2:3-5 ESV

We are used to reading this passage in context of what older women should be doing, but it speaks to every woman, not just the older ones. Implicit in the passage is that a godly wife must be teachable. If we are not, then it doesn't do any good to tell the older women to teach, because who would learn? So, we must have a tender heart, a desire to grow in godliness, and a willingness to listen to and learn from those further down the path.

Although speaking directly to older women in verse 3, I believe that younger women should also strive for being "reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine." The King James says, "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things." v. 3 Reverence in behavior, or behavior that becometh holiness, means that her behavior is proper, and appropriate; showing that she is holy and set apart for God. I Peter 3 speaks of "respectful and pure conduct" v.2 ESV and "but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." v.4 ESV But what does that look like? Specifically in reference to being a wife. Again, I think I Peter gives us some great insight. "For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. Any you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening." v.5&6 ESV (emphasis mine) Wow. I feel like this is the first time I've ever read that. Do not fear anything that is frightening. Sarah obeyed Abraham in saying that she was his sister. Because of that, she was taken into two different men's households. How frightening that must have been - lots of unknowns. And yet, God protected her, and honored her submission to her husband. Am I willing to be submissive to my husband even when I think or know that he's wrong? Or, am I going to justify my stiff-necked rebellion against his leadership? Am I willing to trust God to undertake for me in those situations? Reverent behavior would be submission to my husband, and trust in God.

Other practical ways of showing reverent behavior would be: I am not going to talk over my husband when he is speaking. I am not going to correct him on minor details when he's telling a story, just for the sake of correcting; it shows disrespect to my husband, and it makes others uncomfortable. I am going to be reserved in giving my opinion. I don't really need to let my opinion on everything be known. This would apply in all kinds of areas from conversation with my beloved to Sunday School. I am not going to speak poorly of my husband to others, again this is disrespectful, and it is not appropriate. I will make an effort to speak well of him - genuinely - I'm not going to make up good things to say.

I am going to dress modestly. To be dressed modestly does not mean that I am dowdy or frumpy looking. It also does not mean that I am dressed androgenously - I should be easily recognized as a woman. I still need to be attractive for my beloved. However, my dress should not attract attention to myself. I am a child of the King and a married woman, so I am not going to dress in a way that is going to draw sexual attention from other men.

Reverent behavior can probably be summed up with the word: self-control.

"not slanderers", or "not false accusers" The godly woman is not a gossip - she doesn't carry tales from one person to the next. I was recently reminded that we don't need to be the ones carrying the tales to be guilty of gossip. We might never be the ones to say something, but if we enjoy hearing the tales others tell, and give them our rapt attention, we are just as guilty. "A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends." Proverbs 16:28 ESV A godly wife would not want to be known as dishonest, or as one who is always keeping things stirred up.

"..or slaves to much wine" or "not given to much wine" She is not a slave to much wine, or given to much wine. While fully acknowledging the varying views on drinking, I do not believe that the scriptures prohibit it. The text says she is not a slave to much wine. She is not to be a drunkard. The godly woman should not be relying on a manmade substance to dull her senses. I believe that this same principle can be applied to drugs as well; both legal and illegal. I believe that today, the problem of prescription drugs, particularly anti-depressants is more of a problem in the church than alcohol. Many, many women who would never let alcohol pass their lips have no problem with taking a drug that dulls their senses, and makes their problems seem smaller, in much the same way as an alcoholic. Where is the difference? I am not saying that women are not dealing with real problems, but why are we not turning to the Lord? Where are we drawing our strength from? Is God not sufficient?

A godly woman is to be a teacher of good. This means that she teaches what is right. The text goes on to tell us what she should be teaching the younger women, but a godly wife also needs to keep this in mind as God blesses her with children. As a Mama, I need to teach my children what is right - that means I must know the Scriptures myself. As a parent, I have been charged by God with the discipling of my children. This is all-encompassing. They need to be with me for me to be able to disciple them. If they are gone for 8 or more hours 5 days a week, who is disicpling them? "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher." Luke 6:40 ESV I need to be especially careful, as a Mama, who I allow to be a teacher in my children's life. Not only who is teaching them, but what. What they read, listen to and watch will all teach them. Are they being taught good? Is it scriptural? It is of utmost importance to teach our children well. We are to raise up a godly children. "Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth." Malachi 2:15 ESV (emphasis mine) We have a serious charge to teach what is good. And if we fail with our own children, what do we have to offer younger women later? Teaching born from grief and regret, instead of the grace and wisdom that comes from doing well.