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What’s In A Word?

images2XQ68WIQI remember having to learn how to diagram a sentence.  It started around 7th grade, perhaps earlier.  I can still picture my English teacher — a constantly smiling, red dyed-haired, bright red lipstick wearing woman whose slip sometimes peeked from under her dress.  I can see her standing over the projector, smiling and instructing us.  I can remember learning how to write papers properly.  I remember stacks of 3×5 cards with subjects for each paragraph that was to come.  I remember red marks on those papers noting my errors: missing punctuation, misused punctuation, improper sentences, run-on sentences, paragraphs lacking a direct subject, and the like.  Needless to say, I learned much from this English teacher.  I had her for 7th and 8th grade at the private school I attended.

And then I moved to the public school for high school.  Sitting in English class, I bemoaned the fact that we were spending an extraordinarily long time on the basics of sentences.  Hadn’t these students also been subjected to the rigorous (slightly boring, but so important) tasks of tediously diagraming a sentence?  As I talked to my sister one day as we waited for the bus home, I commented on how much time we were spending on what a noun was.  A girlfriend standing near, two years my senior, heard us and stated, “A noun?  I don’t know what a noun is.”  I was astounded.  I remember that day distinctly.  How did a junior in high school not know that!

And then I went to college.  I was decent at writing papers, still had errors, but for the most part after my own proof reading as well as another friend reading through it briefly, I got average to above average marks.  Then one day a friend asked if I’d help her proof a paper she had to write.  I read it.  Line after line I got more and more discouraged.  I was tearing her paper apart due to the lack of organized paragraphs and the grammatical mistakes.  I finally suggested she take her paper to the learning lab, a place set up by the school for free basic tutoring and homework help.  I didn’t know what to do with her paper, and I wasn’t sure I could help!

Thus, though we use our language every day of our lives — reading and writing, we all need a refresher sometimes in correct writing.  In fact, don’t look too closely at this article (especially if you are an English teacher!),  for I’m sure that I have my own disorganization and grammatical errors!  Yet I was thinking the other day how important words are.  How important each function a word has within a sentence. There are the basics, of course.  A sentence has to have a subject and a verb.  For instance, “I ran” is a short sentence.  I (the subject) act out the past tense form of “to run” — so in the past I ran.  Basic.  But then you can add an adverb (in case you’ve forgotten, an adverb describes a verb, or an action, and often answers the question how).  So, “I ran quietly” becomes a better sentence … more descriptive.  Or, try this – “I ran to the bed quietly.”  Now, my sentence gives details, provides interest, and is more than just a basic sentence.  When reading this new sentence you can imagine where I was running and how I was running.  But now, the finale:  “I ran to the bed quietly, jumping into it just before my parents checked to see if I was still sleeping.”  You know know why I ran to the bed quietly.  I added interest with my words.

A word is vastly important.  Authors choose their words and then editors pour over these with a fine tooth comb.  Editors have the job of helping an author correctly use words, and make words the best they can be.  It’s a hard job!

Why does this all matter?  Well the other day, as I read my Bible, I was reminded of the value of a single word.  All scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).  Meaning, each word of Scripture is ordained by God.  Different versions may have various interpretations of the original language, since English is a translated version of the original Greek or Hebrew.  But if I believe that all scripture is ordained by God, and that it is without error, then every little word matters.  We sometimes read our Bible and ignore key words in the sentence.  For example in 1 Thessalonians 5 we read, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  It is very tempting to skip the word all.  In our minds we tell ourselves something to the effect of: in the circumstances we choose, give thanks.  Or again, “Wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24).

As a newlywed, I am tempted to read the words in everything with a blind eye, so to speak.  I don’t want to submit in everything.  I want my own control.  I want to have him submit to me sometimes.  I want the words in everything to have an out, so I don’t have to obey.  Of course, with all verses the context matters, and scripture should always interpret scripture, and the whole counsel of the whole Bible provides the answers to anything confusing.  So in submitting to my husband in everything I am not to follow him into sin, or turn a blind eye to him when he sins (such as abuse).  That being said, if I were to diagram that sentence I’d see myself (a wife) as the subject.  The verb (or action) is to submit.  The phrase in everything clarifies what I’m to submit to my husband in.  The sentence is pretty clear.  The wording is important.

Newlywed or not, you and I are to read the Bible with an understanding of each word’s value.  Rejoice alwaysGive thanks in all circumstances.  Forgive each other as in Christ God forgave you.   Be completely humble.  Each word or phrase I’ve highlighted are words we like to ignore when reading scripture.  We want to rejoice sometimes, give thanks when we feel the circumstance is good, forgive only when we feel someone deserves it, and be humble when the occasion merits.

Oh sisters, let’s be women who understand the value of a word.  Let’s read scripture with the pen of an English teacher, seeking out each word that we may mine the richness of the Word of God.  We know that God’s Word is inerrant, it can not be false in any way.  When you see a word believe it is purposeful.  Each tiny word tells the extreme details of God’s design.  Submitting to my husband only when I feel like it, or giving thanks only in happy times, would make me miss out on the beautiful character building truths that God wants for me.  Submitting when I don’t like my husband’s way teaches me to let go of control and learn to trust.  Thanking God in the midst of trials reinforces what I believe about God, that He is sovereign and in control.

So you see, a word is extremely valuable.  Just like an editor helps an author write in such a way that each word is purposeful, descriptive, and necessary — the words that God uses in His Word have been carefully chosen.  The littlest detail is intentional.  Enjoy the Word of God, it is living and active, down to the last in, but, and all!

 

 

Marriage Busters Anonymous

addiction-selfishness

Hello, My name is Selfish.

Hi Selfish!  Welcome to Marriage Busters Anonymous!

Oh, no… not me. You see, I’m just here observing.  I don’t have any problems.  Really.  Wrong person.  I’m not actually a marriage buster!

Knowing glances around the group and then the leader announces, “Well Selfish, we are glad you are here.  Maybe you will have a better view of your need after our meeting.”

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Of course I’m being tongue-in-cheek.  Yet there is a grave reality in this little sarcastic story .  It’s called “me.”   Entering marriage, most people do not believe that they would ever have need to participate in “marriage busters anonymous.”  However the sad reality is that most of us are addicted to self and in need of this group, and on a daily basis at that!

I have now been married for three (short) months!  And I would have said I was pretty giving, pretty content, pretty non-demanding, pretty stable emotionally, and overall pretty nonchalant.

But I have a confession.  On a regular basis Selfish rises up within me.  I try to silence her.  I tell her she is not welcome. She needs to go sit in a marriage busters anonymous meeting and get help, because left unheeded, she will ruin my marriage!

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Selfish, do you want to tell us about you?

Oh no, I already told you… I’m not a problem to my marriage.  I’m just observing you all.  I’m not like Laziness, Discontent, or Rudeness.  They ruin marriages.  I don’t.

Oh no?  Hmm, Selfish do you listen more to yourself or to your spouse?

Ummm… myself I guess.

Selfish, does your spouse appreciate you when you insist on doing things your way?

Well… no.  But you don’t understand.  His way was not thought through, his way took longer, his way was harder, his way was just not how it’s done in my family! It’s not my fault that he sided with me in the end!

Selfish, did you pressure him into doing things your way?

No not at all!  I simply told him my side over and over.  And then I whined a bit when he had a different idea.  But he said he wanted to know my opinion!  I just told him plainly!  It is not my fault.  I’m still not a marriage buster!

Selfish, who do you wake up thinking about?

Well, me…

Selfish, would you be able to go a whole day without voicing your opinion?

Me!  Are you serious!  No way!  Why would I have to do that!?  My opinion is best after all!

Selfish!

Ok, alright!  I guess I do talk a lot!  But really, I am not a problem!

Selfish?

Ok, ok.  I guess I might have a tiny thing to do with busting a marriage.  Are you sure I’m just as bad as Rudeness?  I mean she really gets her spouse’s goat!

Selfish, in this group, Marriage Busters Anonymous, we all strive to recognize our own part in damaging relationships. None of us are healthy. That is why we are here!  We want to change!  We don’t want to be a marriage buster!  Look around this group.  We have Rudeness, Laziness, and Discontent (who you’ve already noticed).  But look who else is here admitting they bust up relationships: Loudness, Demanding, Jealousy, Unforgiveness, Pretense, Resentment.  We are all here, because like you, we actually came to Marriage Busters Anonymous seeking help.  I think you actually do realize you are a problem in your marriage.  That is why you are here.  Hang out with us for awhile … next week we have a special speaker coming to share with us how to not be a marriage buster.  Her name is Love.  She may bring her friends Grace and Unity.  Be sure to come!

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I recently watched the animated movie, Inside Out.  And guess what? I loved it!  The whole time I watched I said to the girl next to me, “Maybe it’s the psychologist coming out in me, but I really like this movie!”  I liked how it depicts a person, from the feelings within her head! And I liked that as the girl grew she learned that all the feelings had a place, but that they needed to work together.  If you haven’t seen it, I actually recommend that movie!  But truly, in any relationship, marriage or otherwise, when we place ourselves on the throne of our lives, problems occur.

Let’s be women who spend time with God, asking Him to be on the rightful throne of our lives.  Let’s be women who seek love and grace and unity above self, resentment, rudeness, or any other harmful attitudes that vie for attention within our hearts.  Joni Erickson Tada wrote once that after her accident she started to learn that even the tiniest irritation could be a chance to respond with righteousness.  Marriage is showing me that I am very selfish in ways I never even knew!  I am learning afresh that this is a time to respond by seeking God first!  My husband is not responsible for my attitude. I am.  And honestly, often it is my selfishness that fights for priority, when he has neither said nor done anything wrong!  I was reading a book recently and reminded of James 4:1 – “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”  Passions in other versions is stated as lusts, selfish desires, or pleasures.  Dear ladies, it is that within us (the god of self) that causes problems in any relationship.  Press on to master self, and let God rule!

 

 

Wedding Day!

TodayWeld-Howitson wedding-068 is my wedding day!  Today is a day dreamed of long ago, and now a reality.  Today is a gift!

Over the last year, I’ve studied some things about covenants.  Today I’d like to share a list of some of the essential things that make up covenants, and the corresponding ways marriage is a covenant. If you read this, and you know me, would you say a prayer that I’d be faithful to my covenant vows?  If you are married, would you prayerfully ask yourself if you are upholding your covenant vows, and commit in prayer to upholding them afresh?  If you are single would you pray that your mind would grasp covenant deeper in preparation for your own possible future marriage?  And if you don’t plan to be married or have experienced deeply the wounds of an ended marriage, would you still pray for marriages in general (friends, family).  Marriage is supposed to be a beautiful picture of Christ and God and the Church.  By design it points to the gospel.  But Satan brutally attacks marriage.  Some of you know from experience the pain of covenants not upheld.  And as you will see, covenant faithfulness is more than just physical faithfulness to a spouse.  Marriage is hard work, and if you are in the midst of a painful marriage, please seek help from a godly counselor.

From the study: Covenant by Kay Arthur

CovenantWeld-Howitson wedding-103

– Between 2 or more parties

–  A promise or agreement with conditions to be kept by each responsible party

– Gifts and feasting were often part of the covenant

– Witnessed by God and by others

– A visible sign or symbol was often in place for both parties to see/serve as a reminder

– A record of the covenant made was kept

– Total oneness and commitment required

– Equality mindset: all that’s mine is now yours

– To “touch one” is to “touch” the other

– Often requires sacrifice – often blood sacrifice

– Requires giving up self for the sake of the other

– Take the others identity on yourself … what you do reflects them and vice versa.

I was dating Brad seriously when I studied covenants according to the Bible.  So I compiled a list of how marriage is a covenant.  I’ll share a few with you.

  1. Between 1 man and 1 woman, and God
  2. Conditions (vows) to be upheld
  3. Wedding parties (feasting/gifts, witnesses)
  4. Witnessed by friends/family, not only the ceremony, but also the actual marriage bears testimony to the covenant made
  5. Rings, certificates = visual reminders and record of promise made
  6. One flesh – physical, mental, emotional — all that’s mine is yours (body, heart)
  7. Fighting spiritual battles together and life trials together
  8. Defend spouse (How I talk about him or to him either defends him or doesn’t)
  9. Taking on each others weaknesses, burdens, problems
  10. His joys and sorrows become mine
  11. To “touch him” is to touch me… if it bothers or bugs him or is a trial for him, I’m involved
  12. Partner in covenant comes before family (he becomes my new family… and my priority)
  13. Breaking covenant profanes God’s name (lust, adultery, emotional and physical affairs, not upholding vows, acting selfishly, etc…)
  14. True love practices selflessness
  15. Sex demonstrates oneness
  16. Marriage requires death to self
  17. Name change/identity change.  I represent him. I have a new identity.

 

 

 

And the Bride Wore White

brides-magazine-december-january-2013-cover-412 I am attending a wedding tonight.  I am full of anticipation over the event.  I have known the bride briefly – in my 2 years of dating Brad, she has also been dating a member of his family.

She is a beautiful girl.  I’ve seen pictures of her dress and it’s gorgeous.  I’ve seen the bridesmaid dresses, by picture only.  I look forward to actually seeing the wedding take place.  The event is formal.  The colors are gold and black.  She has very nice taste in design and clothing, so I get the impression that the wedding will be incredible.

I too am planning a wedding.  Today I also get to get my dress fitted and start the alteration process.  I have had my dress hanging in my room for about two months… patiently waiting.  I’ve tried it on a total of three times… just because!

Kassie and my weddings will be as different as night and day.  Literally, one is evening time, one is in the middle of the afternoon.  One is formal, one is fairly informal.  And yet, there are some elements that are very distinct, common, and similar for not only us, but all brides.  We both sought out the “perfect” dress.  Hers is white.  Mine is ivory.  Hers has beading and a glitzy mid-line.  Mine has lace overlay.  We  both found accessories to accompany our dresses — the stand out dress being made even more lovely by the earrings, necklaces, shoes, and even the hidden (but oh so important to “proper fitting and shape”) undergarments.  We both found ways to wear our hair; makeup is being experimented with to find the best look for the event.  Lots of planning, effort, and time go into the appearance of the bride!

Trust me, the details of weddings can be crazy, overwhelming, and expensive! I don’t want to even tell you the price of veils!  But, the final look is a beautiful bride, decked out for her groom.  And to be honest, I’ve yet to meet a bride who is not stunning!

So in the midst of wedding planning, preparing to attend a wedding, and thinking over all the changes that come when two people marry and become one, I was reminded of some verses I studied when I learned about covenants in the Bible.  God teaches all about covenants in the Bible because they are important!  But one key aspect of a covenant is the exchange of “selves.”  In other words, “what’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.”  Conceptually most brides and grooms think of this: our cars, our stuff, our money, our things.  But, in essence it goes deeper.  His joys become hers.  His struggles and trials become hers.  Her insecurities matter to him.  Her worst fears become important to him.  And deeper still, God says, “the two become one flesh.”  Aside from the obvious physical celebration in marriages, each couple “belongs” to each other.  Each couple becomes a representation of each other, both for good and bad.

If a person has asked Christ to save them from their sins, they enter a covenant with God. This is Christianity. And the incredible thing is, that essential to covenants is the exchange of each other.  Christ Jesus became flesh and blood.  He took on humanity!  He walked life.  He knew physical pain, tiredness, hunger, emotions, joys, feelings.  He enjoyed eating, laughing, and perhaps even fishing!  He knew achy muscles (he was a carpenter after all, and he did walk everywhere he went.)  We are told he knows death. He does not just understand the hardship of losing a loved one, Jesus himself had nails pounded into his wrists, a crown of thorns jammed into his forehead, and his back was whipped.  He knows pain.  He knows death.  He knows humanity.

Now, the astounding thought: If we exchange ourselves due to the nature of covenant, what do we get if Christ got our humanity?  The incredible thing is, we get righteousness! (That is simply a fancy word for being in right standing before God!).  Isaiah tells us: ” I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness. As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10).  We can rejoice because we’ve been clothed with salvation and wrapped in righteousness.  That is the beautiful exchange.

But, look at that verse again. It says “as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland” and “as a bride adorns herself with jewels.” Remember I was talking earlier about the wedding dress, the preparation, the details of brides here on this earth.  This verse greatly encourages me.  When we enter covenant with God, He doesn’t halfheartedly grant us righteousness and salvation.  It is as a bridegroom/bride.  The analogy is one of great precision, care, and effort.  No bride or groom throws on wrinkled clothes, wears faded pants, or doesn’t brush their teeth!  Rather, each detail from the color of the cummerbund and bow tie, to the type of undergarments needed to make the dress fit best, as well as shoes shined and jewelry chosen are exact.  The bride and groom are two examples of perfectly groomed, picture-ready people!

If this is the amount of care taken when getting ready for a wedding, isn’t it an incredible thought that that is the analogy used to describe how God clothes us with salvation and righteousness.  Entering covenant with Him is incredible!  We get to have the Holy Spirit dwell within us, and that is the source of us being in right standing before God!  When we cultivate righteousness in our lives with the same enthusiasm as a bride getting ready for “the big day,” we are getting ourselves ready for the ultimate wedding — the bride of Christ (that is the term used to describe the church or the collective group of people called Christians) and Jesus himself.  When He returns, will his bride be ready?  Let’s press on to ready ourselves, perfecting holiness out of fear of God!

Extravagant Love

Today a dream came true.  A man got down on his knee and asked me to be his wife.  I said yes.  Extravagant love!  Let me show you the gorgeous flowers he got for me just for today!  4 doz roses, red and one batch of yellow, and 2 bouquets of mixed flowers. He outdid himself, and I’m happy he did.  My brother took a look at them and shook his head.  I smiled broadly and stated, “He loves me!”  He spent time and money to make the day special.  And what a thing there is in my heart that is unexplainable — knowing this love.  I am admittedly a little giddy.  I’m excited.  I’m nervous — it’s a change, it’s a commitment that I can only uphold with God’s help.  But mostly, I’m delighted by God’s great love.  This is a prayer that has been a request for years.  Seeing the man God has given me and how those prayers have been answered is a gift.  Thank you Gracious God!

But as I took the trash out tonight, piled with flower stems and wrappers, I looked into the sky and marveled afresh at how human love is a mirror to God’s love.  God’s love for each of us is outlandish.  It’s extravagant to the highest extreme.  His love poured out blood upon a cross.  His love displays itself in numerous ways — flowers, birds, children, oceans, mountains, hugs, puppy dogs, laughter, relationships, time spent making cookies with Grandma, and so many more.

WIN_20150613_233749 What ways do you see God’s love today?  You might have to look closely.  Sometimes when life is at a tough spot and our focus is on the trials, sorrows, and unfairness of life, we forget God’s love and complain instead.

But Christ died on a cross for you.  While you and I were sinners, Christ died for us… because He loved us.  That is extravagant.  Any thing else is an added blessing.  I’m thankful for my added blessing of this special man, and this special time of engagement. But I want to learn to be a woman of godliness in whatever season God takes me into.  I need to practice grace, forgiveness, love, selflessness – all of which I am quite incapable of on my own strength.

So in finishing this day I whisper a thank-you to this God of love who I call Father.  Who I know is good.  Who I believe demonstrates extravagant love in ways I can not even fathom.  Do you see His goodness today?  Do you feel His love?  Please know if He is not answering your prayers as you had hoped, or if He seems far away, that the truth is that He is near to the brokenhearted and that He has unending love for you.  If you can’t see Him today, may you press in all the closer because He really does care.  He is our God of extravagant love!  Oh, Precious Daughter of God – you are His beloved!

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