Chasing Fantasies

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
     But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!” ~Proverbs 28:19

What kind of friends do we keep? Do they lift us up or drag us down? Do we interpret lifting up as making one happy and encouraging a continual party? Or do our friends encourage us to strive for the best in ourselves and develop Godly goals? The friends we keep help develop our character and our future. The words that fill our ears affect our thought patterns. When we follow friends who are frivolous and live in a continual party mode, we begin to slip into those same patterns. After all, how hard is it to work a full week while receiving continual message requests to skip off to the mall, salon, or the beach? We put our job, as well as any advancement, at risk of collapse. We find ourselves in poverty.

I like how the NIV puts the second half; “But the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” This version is a great analogy of the get rich schemes of today. Advertisers take advantage of lazy people (who in their greed want something for nothing) by promising high returns for very little input, whereas the scheme rarely brings profit for the participant. Many marriages have been wrecked from a spouse who secretly spent savings on get rich Money Trading and Wall Street ventures. Anything hidden from your spouse is not of God, for God is light. If you don’t trust the Lord to be your provider, your faith is in the temporal. If you believe your worth is established in wealth, you will end up chasing fantasies.

“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
     Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” ~Proverbs 28:6

Money in and of itself is not the enemy. However, the love of the world’s money for our own pleasure is where destruction lies. To prosper in earthly wealth is not the satisfying prosperity God has to offer. As with everything else, God looks at the heart. If your heart is clouded with unforgiveness and selfishness, you will not have the peace and joy of His prosperity. God desires his children to have all he has to offer. Wealth is already his. He created the earth! But how we obtain our material possessions and the friends we keep determines the quality of our heart. When we promote ourselves by befriending the rich, or that popular friend, for our own benefit, we are living in self-centeredness without integrity. James 2:5-6 says, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?” Are these the kind of friends you want? But, to have friends of integrity, you must have integrity. The best way to check your heart is to look at how you treat others on your way up that ladder. What kind of prosperity do you desire? Do you desire the world’s wealth or to prosper in all that God has for you?

“Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,
    but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.” ~Proverbs 28:27

The concept of giving to others so God can give to us is all too foreign. Acts 20:35 says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  To be rich with God’s wealth is a blessing, to be rich with that which we did not earn righteously is a curse. An old saying that is proven trusted and true: “If you take care of the things of God, He will take care of you.” This comes from Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Do you trust Him to provide? Will you be satisfied with the Lord’s provision? In His hand is the only place true contentment is found.

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**If you enjoy devotionals with beautiful artwork that you can doodle as you read…check out my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles journal which can be found through The Thinking Tree Publishing Company on Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles. The above is an excerpt from Day 28 of Proverbs!

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Comfort & Healing Journal

Do you or someone you know need a little encouragement today? Are you or someone you know, experiencing the pain of loss? The holiday season can be very tough for those of us who are grieving. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or the loss of a marriage, we all grieve. Journaling through that process helps us to grow and not get stuck. Here is my latest endeavor with Thinking Tree Publishing Company. This journal helps give encouragement from others in the same situation, and helps point to the hope God gives.

Don’t give up on hope. Don’t give up on life. You are loved!

Click here: Creative Journal & Coloring Book for Comfort & Healing

Here is an excerpt:

A Letter From Nora :

When Sarah asked if I would put this book together, I thought to myself, “Sure! This one will be a piece of cake!” And then life hit…and death hit…

About three quarters of the way into this project, a close family friend committed suicide. Her death was a shock to most people because of the way she lived her life. She lived as a committed Christian, always the first to help others, and at almost 70 years of age she was a devoted grandmother. And yet, she suffered from devastating depression most of her life.

Consequently, we are all left with nothing but the “why” questions. Some things in life are unexplainable. Why would an innocent baby die? Why would I lose that perfect job? Why would my husband decide he didn’t want to be married anymore? Why did my dad leave? Why did my adult child reject me? Why would a natural disaster wipe out a lifetime of memories? Why didn’t I notice my friend was suffering before committing suicide? And the resounding question of all time: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Book written by my good friend, Mark Tabb

And…we grieve.

I have all the head knowledge, but still, I grieve. I know all the pat answers, but still, I grieve. Grief is messy. Each of us grieves differently, for we are all unique. Some people cry outwardly, others internalize. Some will hide from life, while some will busy themselves with every activity available. Experts say we experience at least two of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. In my own grief, I simply could not pick up this book on grief. Every time I wrote a sentence, the words sounded dry. I shut down my social media. I wouldn’t talk about it. I wouldn’t cry. I felt paralyzed. I just needed time. I needed time to process our loss. God allows us that time to grieve. He allowed the Israelites to grieve for 30 days after Moses died. Then he instructed Joshua to tell them to pull up their boot straps and move on into the Promise Land. God allowed Job to ask all the “why” questions when he endured suffering upon suffering, and did not count it against him.

In my processing, I remembered that as long as we live in an imperfect world, with imperfect people, bad things will happen to both the good and bad. But…good things will also happen to both the good and bad. In those times, both good and bad, I remembered that God is always good. It’s ok to be mad at God, as our children are mad at us when things don’t go their way. His grace allows us to grieve. I don’t believe God causes the bad things to happen in life, it’s simply the consequences of life in an imperfect world. Though we may never understand why /he allows bad things to happen, He always works everything out for our good. (See Romans 8:28) Though we may feel all alone in our grief, we have a creator who understands our pain and loss more than anyone.

Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes He will calm His child in the middle of the storm.

When did I start functioning again? When I got out of bed in the morning. When I put one foot in front of the other. When I took a walk with my camera, forcing myself to see God’s beauty through a different lens. When I smiled at the check-out lady because she was stressed and watched her smile back. When I took dinner to a friend who was suffering their own loss.

I was able to begin functioning again when I found that in life’s changes, I still have purpose. We are needed. We all have value and worth. We are loved by the One who created us.

In His Love,
Nora

A Grief Observed By: CS Lewis 

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Example of Journal Pages

** If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you read with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; the above excerpt from Comfort & Healing in Times of Loss can be found on Amazon here: Journal for Comfort & Healing: also, my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles Journal can be found on Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles.

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Keep the Dogs Out! Proverbs 19

Day 19 ~ Proverbs 19*

“Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers,
   but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” ~Proverbs 19:14

Does our world respect the marriage union? An antonym for prudent is reckless, which is a lack of self-control based in self-centeredness. To be prudent is to be careful, cautious, and wise.

God said in Genesis 2:24 “the two shall be one.” How can a couple be “one” unit if their Love Tanks are being filled outside the marriage? Love is to want the best for the other person and leave our desires aside. Paul said in Ephesians 5:25 (NLT)For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.” Now, I don’t believe he meant for husbands to physically die, but rather to give up his desires, dreams, and wants; to replace his personal (self) desires with a desire for his marriage as a unit. And, yes, that’s easier said than done…especially in our world. It’s no different for women. Our first priority is to God, then our family…our immediate family. (God also said to leave our parents!)

How can we identify a lack of respect for the marriage union? When interacting with your married friends, are you showing the most attention to your friend’s husband? Do you seek private conversation with him? Do you call your friends’ husband to plan events? Do you seek out married men on social media? Do you continually come up with things which we need “the husband’s help” (i.e. change a light bulb)? Do you show up at your friend’s house when she’s not home and end up spending time with her husband? Are you confiding in a married man and sharing your heart with him? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I would highly question what’s happening in your heart. In today’s world, more than half of marriages will suffer through an affair. Most affairs begin with friendship, a counseling situation, or a work relationship. The most likely person to be an affair partner is a close friend of the opposite sex. But, isn’t our spouse supposed to be our best friend?

Affairs begin with dissatisfaction in the mind. Too many marriages have been destroyed by men who transfer their desires to a young air-brushed fantasy on-line, in a magazine, or in sleazy movies. When a mind is focused on physical perfection, will an aging bride ever satisfy? Too many marriages have also been destroyed by a woman who is not satisfied with her position in the home, expecting her husband to give in to her control. Decisions become one-sided. When respect is lost for a husband who cannot fill a need for satisfaction that only God can fill, she turns her focus outside the relationship. The illusion is that the grass is always greener on the other side; the truth is that the grass is only green on the side that is watered.

We need to water our side of the fence. Your marriage is like a garden to water, protect, nurture, and cherish. Keep the weeds and the dogs out! Guard the sanctity of your marriage. Too many of us live with the destruction of divorce. Before we become reckless, shall we be prudent? If God gives you someone, why would you not cherish them?

Be wise. Be careful. Be prudent.

“The foolishness of a man twists his way,
And his heart frets against the Lord.” ~Proverbs 19:3

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**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine on mission for nearly a year in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you study God’s word, with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my devotional journal can be found on Amazon here: A Proverb A Day ~ Devotional & Doodles Journal.

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Unfaithful Lovers, Family, and Friends

Do any of us know what unfaithfulness really is? Is unfaithfulness relegated to marriage only? What actually constitutes adultery? What is the root cause? Just how truly faithful are we…and can we find forgiveness and restoration? (See my blog on forgiveness here: Unconfessed Sin ~ My Thoughts on Forgiveness)

Proverbs Devotional Day 5

“That you may preserve discretion
   and your lips may keep knowledge.” ~Proverbs 5:2

The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Proverbs primarily deal with the subject of adultery. I’m sure a lot of readers tuned out right here. But, being physically unfaithful to your mate is not the only form of adultery, for God looks upon the heart. How faithful are we in all our relationships? Are we a faithful friend, employee, or neighbor? Do any of us know what unfaithfulness really is? What actually constitutes stepping out? What is the root cause? And just how truly faithful are we…? God is a faithful God, yet we continually fall into our old self absorbed nature. Oh how thankful I am that He is also a God of grace, continually ready to forgive our unfaithfulness!

Adultery is a symptom of a much deeper problem; it’s a matter of the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery begins with an ungrateful heart, long before the physical act. Ungratefulness leads to dissatisfaction, which leads to unfaithfulness. When we fail to keep our hearts satisfied with that which God provides, we fall into a host of sins: envy, covetousness, jealousy, etc. Paul says in Romans 13 the Ten Commandments “are all summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love wants the best for others, and lives in gratitude for that which God has given us.

“lest strangers feast on your wealth
  and your toil enrich another man’s house.” ~Proverbs 5:10 (NIV)

Consequences always follow a wandering heart. When one or both in a relationship begin to lust for something outside of God’s shelter, trust is broken and the relationship is fractured. Does the wandering always have to be physical? No. Pornography is an epidemic across the globe, destroying marriages and families, for it creates a dissatisfied heart.  That aging mother with all those stretch marks, varicose veins, and sagging breasts can never compete with the airbrushed young perfection on the screen. When divorce follows, so does the division of entire families, friends, and your finances.

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets? Your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, Never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, And may you rejoice in the wife of your youth, a loving doe, a graceful deer. May her breasts satisfy you always; May you ever be captivated by her love.” ~Proverbs 5:15-19 (NIV)

Our selfish nature has us believing the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Yet, in reality, the grass is only greener on the side that is watered. Do you feel dry and disconnected from those close to you? First, water your soul with God’s Word, for His Spirit will bring peace to the deepest holes in your heart. While we have no control over the other person’s decision to water the relationship, we are responsible for our own heart’s faithfulness.

When we seek wisdom in every thought and action, the Holy Spirit is faithful to keep our thoughts pure and our hearts satisfied with His love. No matter what the temptation, be it sexual, chemical, or even shopping, pray for His Spirit to protect your heart. Gratefulness negates selfishness.

“He will die for lack of discipline,
    Led astray by his own great folly.” ~Proverbs 5:23 (NIV)

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**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine on mission for nearly a year in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you study God’s word, with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my devotional journal can be found on Amazon here: A Proverb A Day ~ Devotional & Doodles Journal.

 

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Proverbs Procrastination Day 3

The Proverbs. Day 3. Chapter 3. It’s packed full of great little nuggets! Several verses have been popularly quoted throughout the millennia, especially the 5th verse…the one about leaning on our own understanding. It always amazes me when we do that since we obviously don’t know everything. But, after all, we are control freaky humans!

Two verses on this day seem to be tossed in the background:

At first glance, the verses are saying to be sure and pay our debts. Don’t be stingy. When we are diligent to pay everything we owe, not only do we show our good character, but we show honor to God in our trusting Him to meet our needs. Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:25-35 that worrying is for the birds, “…Are you not of more valuable than they?” Figuratively: He loves us so much more than we tend to believe, so why do we hold onto our finances and not trust God to provide?

Yet, these verses also bring up another underlying thought. Procrastination is an all too common enemy. A definition of procrastination is to put off or to delay. Why do we put off that which we are capable of accomplishing today? Sometimes, we procrastinate out of pure laziness. Most often, we put others off out of our desire to control our situations. We believe our schedule, our money, etc. is more important than anyone else. Both procrastination and laziness are rooted in self-centeredness and pride. Most of us never thought of procrastination as a sin. We excuse ourselves with our good “intent” of giving, but only when it is convenient for us. One of the first companies I worked for had a saying, “Five minutes now will save five hours of cleanup tomorrow.” That concept is not only true in the business world; it is true in our relationships.

Gardening…Lots of hard work!

Do you have unresolved conflict with anyone? Time is not the healer; God is our healer. Ephesians 4:25-27 says to not let the sun go down on our anger, followed by saying not to give the devil a foothold. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Taking that step toward reconciliation doesn’t always mean the other person will respond, but it’s our responsibility to do our part.

We need to take an honest look at ourselves. Are we withholding money, forgiveness, or restoration from anyone? Let’s give where the giving is due, and trust the Lord to take care of the rest.

The hard stuff of discipline, forgiveness, and restoration only lasts for a moment…the rewards last an eternity.

“My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” ~Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT)

 

What are you procrastinating today?

 

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**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine on mission for nearly a year in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you study God’s word, with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my devotional journal can be found on Amazon here: A Proverb A Day ~ Devotional & Doodles Journal.

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17th day Devotional…

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, below is an excerpt of the 17th devotional of my book I wrote about in my last post. I love Saint Patrick’s Day! Not just because I am of Irish descent, but because of the heart of the holiday. While most here in America use the holiday to drink whiskey and green beer with the intention of getting plastered, the holiday actually began with a slave from Wales, England, whose parents were from Rome, to bring good deeds and hope to a pagan bound culture. I hope you like today’s devotional…

Day 17 ~ Proverbs 17

“Better is a dry morsel with quietness,
Than a house full of feasting with strife.” Proverbs 17:1

At least six verses of Proverbs 17 speak directly to the family. King David is my hero! I love reading in 1st and 2nd Samuel the account of David’s life. My spirit is lifted and heightened every time I read David’s Psalms. More than anyone who ever lived, David was attributed as a man after God’s own heart. Yet, because of King David’s own sins (2 Samuel 12:10), the sword never left his house. His was one of the most dysfunctional families in history. His wives were…well, he had way too many cooks in the same kitchen. His children lied, cheated, stole, raped, and murdered…each other! Absalom, his oldest son, conspired to overthrow the kingdom and kill his own father. If Hollywood were to film the actual events of David’s life the movie would be released with an “R” rating or worse! His children grew up in wealth, yet had more drama than a soap-opera!

“A foolish son is a grief to his father,
And bitterness to her who bore him.” ~Proverbs 17:25

Though King David saw his children make horrible decisions, even unto death, he grieved for his children. David recognized in 2nd Samuel 16:5-14 that the calamity he experienced was due to his own sin; calamity prophesied by the Prophet Nathan in chapter 12. The Apostle Paul admonishes fathers in Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Children learn as the example they are given, not the words spoken. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary states: “The fathers are specified as being the fountains of domestic authority. Fathers are more prone to passion in relation to their children then mothers, whose fault is rather over-indulgence.” Fathers, do you project anger or ridicule your children? Then you can’t be upset if they show outbursts of anger. Mothers, do you belittle or lie to or about your children? Then you can’t be upset when they despise you. Do we project indifference to our children? Then we can’t be upset if they show indifference to our beliefs. This is what King David experienced. He was busy elsewhere. He showed his children contradiction. As a result, they rebelled, bringing humiliation and destruction to their own family.

“He who begets a scoffer does so to his sorrow,
And the father of a fool has no joy.” ~Proverbs 17:21

The dictionary describes scoffer as; someone who expresses mockery, derision, doubt, or derisive scorn; to jeer. We all occasionally fail. Do you fall into that category? Out of your own insecurity, do you make fun of others in hopes to elevate yourself? When your derogatory jabs are questioned, do you laughingly claim the recipient of your mockery is too sensitive and you were only joking? I don’t believe people realize their own divisiveness. When a family falls into the habit of squabbling, no meal is joyful. Sometimes, the test of Christian love is greater within our own families. Oh to love with the love of 1st Corinthians 13; “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” What would happen in our families if we took just one of these attributes? Kindness? Hope? Love?

“Children’s children are the crown of old men,
And the glory of children is their father.” ~Proverbs 17:6

**The above is an excerpt from the devotional book I wrote while living in Ukraine on mission for nearly a year in 2016. If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you study God’s word, with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my devotional journal can be found on Amazon here: A Proverb A Day ~ Devotional & Doodles Journal.

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My first book!

So I wrote a book…a devotional…and actually published it! My writings usually sit hidden in a drawer, but while living in Ukraine last year, my friend, Sarah, encouraged me to join her in her publishing company, The Thinking Tree Publishing Company, LLC, and put some of them in print. Sarah is a fabulous illustrator! Oh how I wish I had Sarah’s artistic talent…but then again, God gave me my own talents to use. The difference is…she has used hers greatly while mine have sat hidden in a drawer. But is that what God wants for us? According to Matthew 25 he doesn’t…

So, in my free time, I dusted off my notes and we teamed up to create a devotional that can be doodled!

Since this is the 14th day of the month, here is an excerpt of the 14th devotional. First though, read the actual Proverb from the bible before reading the devotional. Then, if you have a copy of the book (link below), you will enjoy doodling on Sarah’s illustrations! I hope you like it…

Day 14 ~ Proverbs 14

“The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.” ~Proverbs 14:10

How can we truly know another person, except by what we see and hear? Sometimes it’s easy to assess what is in a person’s heart by their countenance. We can assume a person is joyful at that given second by the belly laugh filling the air. We can assume a person is sad, hurt, or bitter when we see buckets of tears flowing down their cheeks. But, can we presume to know the reasons or the source? All too common, seemingly happy people (such as actor Robin Williams) take their own life out of deep depression. We are often too quick to make assumptions about a person or situation before we see all sides of a matter (see Proverbs 18:17 & 25:8). Yet, in our pride, it’s so very easy to assume we know what another person is thinking or feeling. Most of the time, our pride prevents us from simply asking, and therefore our reactions to that person will be unfitting.

“A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.” ~Proverbs 14:5

What happens when we assume to know the heart of another and treat them accordingly? If I see someone come through the door with a scowl across their forehead, should I assume they are angry with someone? And then, to top that off, they complain about the blue skies. Should I assume they are bitter or nit-picking? How do we not know that they simply woke up with a migraine headache or have recently suffered great loss? In our humanness, we are all occasionally guilty of these kinds of assumptions. When we fail to seek truth, we are uttering lies. The old Indian Proverb holds true: “Just walk a mile in his moccasins, before you abuse, criticize and accuse.” (taken from the poem Judge Softly, written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895). Yet, if we walk the same path, even then, do we deeply understand the heart of another?

“A sound heart is life to the body,
but envy is rottenness to the bones.” ~Proverbs 14:30

On the flip side, making assumptions on another person’s joy is just as harmful. How often do we reject people because we believe their lives to be ideal? We become envious of their happiness while not being concerned with knowing the road they traveled to live in their joy. Often times, we are shocked upon hearing a mild-mannered sweet Christian’s testimony to find she has a shockingly checkered past. Jesus says in Luke 7:47, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.” (NIV) Do we rejoice with those who rejoice? Or do we allow our own self-centeredness to prevent us from being genuinely happy for other people’s success and joy.

Our heart knows our own bitterness. We deeply feel emotion when we have loved another. People are fallible beings. When we place expectations on another based on our own desires, we will be hurt. People will always at one time or another let us down. But we are not alone in our bitterness, or our joy. Jesus says in Matthew 6:8, “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Why expect strangers, or even those we know, to share in our joys and/or sorrows when we have a God who knows every deep hurt, feeling, and thought we’ve ever had? A sound heart comes when we let go of our expectations of others and place our hope and trust in God, the one who most knows our heart.

“Those who fear the Lord are secure;   
 he will be a refuge for their children.” ~Proverbs 14:26

**If you enjoy devotionals that you can doodle as you read with beautiful artwork by Sarah Janisse Brown, founder of The Thinking Tree Publishing Company; my Proverbs Devotional & Doodles Journal can be found on Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles.

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