Friday, September 19, 2008

By These Stripes . . .

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
” Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)

My head began to pound, my palms became sweaty, and a deep ache flooded my heart. At once my hands began to shake and I found myself wondering if I would be able to complete the project that I was working diligently to finish.

The project that I was working on was a kitchen remodel. I had spent hour upon hour looking at paint chips, planning matching fabric for draperies, picking out coordinating tile for the back-splash and just the right blend of artwork to display upon the walls. I had decided to paint the kitchen and adjoining dining room utilizing three deepening shades, the first was called “Crescent Moon,” an almost off-white color, with a subtle undertone of yellow. The second shade is called, “Aztec Gold,” and very much plays off of its unique name. The third and final shade is called, “Wheat Bread,” and is almost the shade of a beautiful milk chocolate.

I worked diligently to develop a design plan that would tie these three color choices neatly together and bring a unified look to the space. Part of my design plan included painting an accent wall of vertical stripes on one of the kitchen walls using my three paint colors in varying widths.

An interior decorator I am not! So, I was so pleased with my ingenuity and forethought.

At this point one of the things you should know is that in my marriage my husband and I have worked out a deal when it comes to any household remodeling projects that need to be completed. This deal was hammered out over time when we began to realize that for us to maintain marital harmony it would be important for us to never work on any remodeling project together.

Our deal is this: “Whoever is in charge of a particular aspect of any project has the right to complete the project in any manner that they deem necessary and appropriate; and the other party (the one not in control) will not give advice, criticism, or critique while the project is being completed.” In effect this deal says, “If I am doing the work, I am totally in charge of the project and have the final say on color selection, decorating style, etc.” The same holds true if he is in charge of the project. This deal has served us very well over the years. We now take a look at any potential project and determine who will be responsible for the completion of which portions of the job.

On this particular kitchen remodel project, it was decided that my husband would be in charge of the demo on the dining room ceiling and hanging the new sheetrock to replace the ceiling that had been damaged by a water leak. He was also responsible for hiring someone to come out and apply the sheetrock mud to fill the joints and prepare the ceiling for paint. All of which he accomplished with my support and my tongue kept safely tucked into my mouth; with no coaching or suggestions on how to accomplish the project from me.

Once my husband’s portion of the project was complete, we had agreed that the balance of the kitchen remodel job would be my responsibility. This seemed very logical as my husband has never had much interest in decorating or design, he doesn’t enjoy stripping wallpaper or painting, and has always trusted my judgment when it comes to color and style. He is usually very happy with the outcome of a project, just as long as I stick to our agreement and do not ask for his help.

As with other projects I shared my design plans, decorating thoughts and color choices with him prior to purchase of materials. Because I shared my plans in advance of beginning the project, and he was pleased with my choices, I was of the opinion that this project would proceed to completion without any foreseeable issue.

So, what transpired that was the cause of the symptoms I related to you that threatened the completion of this project?

During one of my discussion sessions about the project with my husband I relayed to him my plan to paint one accent wall in the kitchen with vertical stripes. At that point he said to me, “I wish that you would reconsider painting stripes on the wall. I have never really cared for stripes.”

I told him that I would take his suggestion under advisement. However, he was to remember our agreement, that if I am doing the work, I have the final decision.

After my husband made his comment about the stripes, I pondered his request. I ran through many scenarios in my mind as to how I could accomplish my design goals in a manner that would produce the designer look that I wanted and would tie my three paint color choices together, without the vertical paint stripe treatment. Finally, I decided that my entire plan was based around those stripes, and I just “had to have them!”

As things worked out, the first opportunity that I had to resume work on my kitchen project was a Friday evening, and my husband just happened to be out of town attending a meeting. I saw his absence from the house as the perfect time to tackle the stripe treatment. I reasoned, my husband would not be around to second guess my math skills and my methods for marking the wall in preparation for paint application. And, maybe in small part, thought that once the stripes were on the wall he would like them, or at least would not be mad that I had not taken his suggestion.

Everything was going along according to plan until I had completed approximately one-half of the paint treatment. It was at that time that my head began to pound, my palms began to sweat, my heart started to ache and my hands began to shake.

After a few minutes of feeling baffled as to the origin of these physical symptoms, I realized that God was speaking to my heart. I realized that I was falling under conviction from the Holy Spirit; conviction that I should NOT be painting the stripes on my kitchen wall.

Suddenly, I realized that even though my husband and I have our very successful remodeling agreement in place, and even though we have agreed that the person in charge of the project has the final decision and vote, I, as a Christian wife, should honor the request and wishes of my husband.

If that were not bad enough, my mind then rolled over the thought, “How would I feel if I asked my husband for a similar consideration and he dismissed my request?” Of course my answer to that question was, “I would feel hurt and rejected, and as if my opinion did not matter to him.” OUCH!!!

As further complication to my newly acquired attack of conviction, I had just started teaching a new Bible study class at church on marriage and issues relating to how “A Wife is to Respect Her Husband.” This study began on Wednesday and my painting conviction was occurring on Friday. How in the world was I to look my class in the eyes and teach about “respecting ones husband” when I was failing so miserably at doing so?

I stopped painting and thought to myself, “God, couldn’t you have spoken to my heart several hours ago, before I started this project? Did you have to wait until I was this far into it?” My next thought was, “Now, what do I do?”

I took a break to consider my options and to pray. Option one was to let the paint dry, sand everything down and paint over the stripes returning the wall to a solid color. Option two was to stop where I was and wait for my husband to come home and ask for his opinion to see if he truly didn’t like the stripes. Option three was to finish the project.

I didn’t like option one, as it would have been very labor intensive and I did not feel as if I would be able to complete the project before my husband’s return home on Saturday. Option two didn’t seem to be the correct response either. So, I ended up choosing to finish the project.

While finishing the project I realized that when my husband returned home, I must offer him my apology for not respecting his wishes. I would tell him that even though I had operated under our remodeling agreement, I felt convicted that as a Christian wife, I should have honored his request as head of our household.

On Saturday when my husband returned home, I did just that. He graciously accepted my apology. He even offered that maybe he “should have taken the time to understand my plan better before passing his judgment.”

Through this project I have gained a better understanding of what it means to truly respect my husband. I have learned that even if I believe that I am entitled to do things my way because of an agreement that has been put in place, my responsibility will always be to err on the side of honoring my marital relationship over my desires or freedoms.

If I fail to honor and respect those who are near and dear to me, I am failing to honor God and in fact I am committing sin. When this happens, as it did to me in the case of the kitchen stripes, “My guilt overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” I must remember that sin is always crouching at my door. Sin desires to have me and the devil does not want to see me or my marriage succeed. But because of the sacrifice of Jesus, and the pain he endured on the cross, by His stripes I am healed. I praise His name and I thank Him for the power of a humbled and convicted spirit.

Post log: After a period of time, my husband decided that he actually likes the stripes! He said, “I have to admit that the stripes look good; although, I would not have wanted them painted on all the walls.” What a happy compromise! Score one for the home team!

“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” Psalm 38: 4 (NIV)

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." Genesis 4: 7 (NIV)

Friday, September 5, 2008

In Search of Wisdom

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” ~ Francis Bacon

“A single conversation across a table with a wise man is worth a month’s study of books.” ~ Chinese Proverb

“A single moment of understanding can flood a whole life with meaning.” ~ Author unknown

What is your opinion about the quotes above? Do you agree or disagree with them?

What is wisdom? What does wisdom mean to you? How is being wise different from being smart? Do you think that it is important to God that we obtain wisdom? defines wisdom as: 1 ~ the quality or state of being wise; (Thanks Mr. Webster that clears things up!); knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action. I like the second half of that definition. There is no way to learn or know truth apart from God. There is no just judgment apart from God and we cannot put our faith to work without action.

Many people believe that gaining knowledge is the same as having wisdom. But, knowledge is the accumulation of facts. All that you learn in school, in the Bible and through other experiences in life is knowledge. Every day that you go to school, you are learning knowledge. Scholars have much knowledge because they often spend their entire lives studying and researching. Yet knowledge is worthless if it is not correctly applied.

So, how about understanding? Understanding is a critical aspect relating directly to knowledge and wisdom. Understanding is a step beyond knowledge. It is the ability to evaluate the knowledge. This requires seeing the big picture, to see how the knowledge fits. To understand knowledge is to see the meaning or significance of the knowledge.

So that brings us back to our question; “What is wisdom?”

Very basically put, I believe that the Bible teaches that wisdom is, “A knowledge of God that brings about the skill to live God’s way.” Let’s take a look at some scripture verses together.

Proverbs 1: 1 – 6
“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young – let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance – for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.”

The proverbs were given to us as a tool for obtaining wisdom and then applying it toward living a disciplined life for God. The writer of proverbs gives us words of insight into the characteristics of God, so that we may be better equipped to understand His words.

Proverbs 4:5
“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words, or swerve from them.”

We are to seek wisdom and understanding and then bury the truth in our hearts.

Proverbs 2:6
“For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

Who gives wisdom? We may seek wisdom, but unless God is involved we will not gain it. Let’s go back to page 1 and read again about knowledge and understanding. “Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. “To understand knowledge (or gain understanding) is to see the meaning or significance of knowledge.” Isn’t it amazing that apart from God, there are no facts; there is no meaning or significance in anything that we learn? This verse tells us this is so, “. . . from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Apart from God, there is no truth. In the absence of truth, is there a point to learning?

Proverbs 8: 10 – 11
“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

Am I seeking the right kind of instruction? The kind that is more precious than rubies, is better than gold?

Proverbs 2: 33
“Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it”

If we desire to be wise, we must become students of the word. And, not ignore what we learn. Have you ever heard it said, “You may hear me, but you are NOT listening? I say that to my 3-year-old frequently. I believe that quote could be a good paraphrase of this verse in Proverbs.

Psalm 111: 10
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”

What does this verse tell us is the beginning of wisdom? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? If not, fearing the Lord is a good starting point.

James 3: 17 (MSG)
“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others.”

The only way to have a holy life is to know God, and the test of your connection to God as described in this verse is, do you “get along with others”? This verse is further backed by the teaching of Jesus himself, where in Matthew 22: 37 we read, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Did you see a recurring theme in these verses? Not only are we to study God’s word for knowledge and understanding, but we are to then put our learning into action. Wisdom comes through gaining understanding about how God wants you to live and then applying that understanding by putting it into practice in your daily life. If you do that over the course of your life, you’ll be wise! And as our verses tell us, being wise is better than being rich, popular, and famous, a great athlete, or any of the other earthly goals we set for ourselves.

So, as our thoughts turn to a new school year, I encourage you to focus on obtaining knowledge through the instruction in God's word as you seek true wisdom. As one who is suffering from the mental confusion and mind robbing effects of dealing with the progressive effects of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease, I can tell you that the things I have learned in a classroom are not things that bring real value to my life, nor are they always easy to recall. However, the truths of God that I have buried in my heart over the past years, never leave me and they are the things that sustain my life. I encourage everyone to spend some time daily in the study of scripture and in prayer. Pray that God will bless you with wisdom as you study His word and that He will help you to apply the things that you learn to daily living.