Money, Money, Money . . . Becoming One and Finances

Preface: This is part two of two posts regarding oneness in marriage. The first post, What’s Yours is Mine . . . What’s Mine is Yours . . . Two Becoming One, hits on a few things that can be very divisive and hinder the process of two becoming one (which is about far more than just physical intimacy). This post will focus more on finances and how proper management of finances within marriage can build unity while improper management will divide and destroy. As I said before, I am obviously no expert, and I really thought about not writing this post because I feel so unqualified to address this issue. But it has been on my heart for weeks, and usually, if a topic keeps coming back to me over and over it means I need to address it. So here you go. Take it, or if it’s not for you, feel more than free to leave it.

In my previous post I briefly addressed finances and the importance of sharing bank accounts . . . accounts is plural here because we learned early on in our marriage that in some instances, especially if you’re self employed or own a business, it works better and is wiser for you to have multiple separate but shared accounts where you both have full access in order to avoid any confusion . . . that is not the same thing as keeping your money separate, and I was incredibly resistant to even the idea of multiple accounts at first, but thankfully, I was able to see the wisdom in it after talking to people with a bit more experience. Having said that, sharing a bank account(s) is just the beginning of financial unity. Financial unity means that we understand that there is not only a tangible but also a spiritual side to our finances, and no matter what our current jobs/careers are, God is ultimately our provider and our source. And there are a few principles we have put in place to ensure that we are in unity when it comes to finances.

Principle Number One . . . tithing (10% of our income to our home church) and giving (no set amount but however and wherever God is leading us): These are non negotiables in our marriage, and I firmly believe are an integral part of a healthy marriage. Wait? What? What does tithing have to do with marriage? How are those things even related? I know tithing can be touchy subject, and within a marriage it can bring up a lot of conflict if you’re not in agreement on it, but the bible is very clear about the command to tithe. Tithing was established with Abraham (Genesis 14:20) before the law, and it continues to be a command we are to follow in the new testament church whether we’re married or single. But in marriage, I believe that it unifies us in trusting God as our ultimate source and provider no matter what may come.

Yes, there are have been those occasional panicky moments in regards to finances in our marriage. I no longer work outside the home, and Patrick is a self employed, business owner whose income can fluctuate drastically from month to month so we’ve definitely had to learn to be disciplined with putting money aside for the proverbial rainy day. At the very beginning of the pandemic when everything shut down, that included our real estate business. We had a long stretch of time where not much was happening, and in that time we had a choice, we could trust that God would see us through, or we could have a breakdown. Either way not much was going to change and the events of the world were out of our control. But without fail, we are able to always come back to what God has promised us, because we are faithful and obedient (which I’ll admit obedience is not always easy) to tithe and give and seek Him for wisdom with our finances, He will always provide:

“‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ ‘In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ says the LORD of hosts,'” Malachi 3:8-11

Here’s the thing. Tithing is about money, but it isn’t just about money. At its most basic level, tithing releases the hold and power money has over us. I see people that have more than enough, some would even say they are wealthy, yet they are always struggling and striving to get more, constantly afraid they don’t or won’t have enough. And I see others, who live much more humbly, resting in the fact that God will continue to provide if they are faithful and obedient. Tithing and giving are not just about throwing money at a church or a ministry although they are the means that God has established in order to physically fund ministries on this earth. When we tithe we are giving over to God the control that we think we have, it’s really somewhat of an illusion, over our finances.

Further, I believe that tithing is an essential component to a healthy marriage because it helps us to release control in so many different areas of our lives. If we can trust God with our money, I think it’s much easier to trust Him across the board. It’s not just a smart financial move but an act of obedience that will open the windows of blessing in our marriages and our families in areas far more important and meaningful than just finances.

Principle Number Two . . . making wise choices when it comes to spending, saving, investing, and giving: We do our best to live within our means. I like to shop y’all. I particularly love shopping for shoes and clothes, but sometimes I just have to reign in the shopping because it’s either not within our means or even if it is, it’s excessive. Y’all know what I’m saying, just because I can doesn’t mean I should. At different times in our marriage what is within our means has looked different. In the beginning our means were far more meager and our ability to save wasn’t huge. We just weren’t making enough money to put much, if any, aside. But one of the most important things I was taught and took to heart regarding the use of credit cards, in particular, was don’t run up credit cards on things you do not need and then not pay them off monthly. I understand that at times credit must be used to cover expenses that are insurmountable and unavoidable. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about using credit to buy things that fall solidly into the want rather than need category. Credit cards can be a fantastic servant and a horrible master. Use them as a tool, if you can, but if you can’t, if they control you and are a constant temptation, then cut them up.

When it comes to investing, if I’m totally honest, it can be hard for me. I tend to be the brakes and Patrick the gas when it comes to investment projects. In the not so distant past, I haven’t always reacted in the most Christlike way when he broaches the subject of tackling certain investment projects. This tends to be an area where I let fear get the best of me, and I will sometimes react in a way that is anything but helpful. However, I am learning, albeit slowly, to take a moment, pray, and ask God to guide us and give us wisdom on what to do and how to proceed. I promise it works far better than completely freaking out.

And most importantly, we also continue to seek God on how and where He wants us to give above tithing to our local church. I don’t like to talk a ton about our personal giving, but I’ll say this, there’s a rather cliché saying that “You can not out-give God.” And I can fully attest to that. One of our goals in marriage is to be generous givers above and beyond tithing. And in order to do that we must always act with prudence and wisdom in our spending, saving, and investing.

Principle Number three . . . become financially independent from extended family: If you thought tithing was a touchy subject . . . I sincerely hope this does not come across as offensive. I promise that is not my intention in any way, but I’ve asked God to guide me in what to say, and this is something that I think is vitally important. If we’re not careful this can cause huge marital issues, and so what I’m saying is not said in a way that is judgmental but rather a way that is protective.

I’ll never forget my mom handing over my car payment, insurance, cell phone . . . basically any bills I wasn’t yet covering . . . once I graduated from college. At first I was like, “Hey?! I just walked across that stage!” but the reality is our families (parents and grandparents) had helped us out immensely, financially and otherwise, up to that point, to get set up and ready for married life (we were married just a couple months after my college graduation), and it was time for us to start moving toward a place of independence financially. I’m incredibly thankful that my parents did not continue to pay all my bills but helped me to understand that allowing them to continue to have that role in my life would be damaging to my marriage. I’m so glad they set those boundaries early on. Believe me, our families most definitely did not hang us out to dry and were very much front and center and continued to help us in many ways . . . Patrick was finishing up college and worked for my dad during the first couple years of our marriage. We lived on my parents land in a single wide mobile home that his family lent us the money to purchase, and his parents continued to assist us with a few of the bills that carried over as he finished college. But our ultimate goal was financial independence. So we worked hard, with God’s guidance, to make wise choices in those early years, to save and invest and build our credit, in order to achieve and maintain financial independence within our marriage.

As a married couple, you will have to decide exactly what your financial relationship with your extended family will be and what financial independence means for you. Some families are far more intertwined than others and the sharing of expenses does not necessarily mean there is a lack of independence. Whether you are willing to seek out and accept personal loans from family members (we have when it is mutually beneficial for both sides meaning we pay interest on those loans . . . we see them as a basic business transactions and are always sure to make our payments), financial help (we haven’t since early in our marriage and barring a major catastrophe have no future plans to do this), and even gifts (we graciously accept and are thankful for gifts but definitely do not seek them out or think we are owed them) from your extended families is something you will have to work out and need to discuss. But ultimately, we cover our own expenses and maintain financial independence because we believe that allowing family to provide for us financially or otherwise blurs the boundaries in an unhealthy way. No matter how great the intentions it can swiftly become an area of contention and division within a marriage. If we are allowing our family to cover our expenses and provide for us on a regular basis, then, whether they choose to exercise it or not, they do have every right to have an opinion on our day to day spending habits. And that’s where I’ll leave that. Like I said no judgment. No offense. Just sharing what I’ve learned.

As a married couple you must decide how your financial situation will look, and sometimes that might change day by day, month by month, or year by year. But the one principle I encourage you not to compromise on is that of tithing and giving. I promise, no matter where you are financially, you will only see blessings and benefits in your marriage and family as you are obedient to tithe.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

What’s Yours is Mine . . . What’s Mine is Yours . . . Two Becoming One

Preface: This is part one of two posts regarding oneness in marriage. This first post hits on a few things that can be very divisive and hinder the process of two becoming one (which is about far more than just physical intimacy). The next post will focus more on finances and how proper management of finances within marriage can build unity while improper management will divide and destroy. I am obviously no expert. Make no mistake, I mess up on a regular basis, but I’m determined to continue to learn and grow in this area, and with that, I am also determined to share what I’m learning.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

There should be no other relationship, outside of our relationship with Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit, that as is close and as intimate as our relationship with our spouse. We aren’t just a partnership or a team. We enter into a covenant relationship (an oath that establishes a lifelong binding relationship) with our spouse and with God when we get married. We leave our family of origin and we cleave to one another. Every other earthly relationship and thing moves into second place (or third or fourth as the case may be), and we are literally two joined together as one.

Yet, it seems more and more often, I see couples entering into marriage wanting to maintain their independence and some degree of separation. Sometimes it’s unintentional, and they just don’t know quite how marriage and the transition into married life should look. But more often than not, they are intentionally setting out to maintain a state of independence within the marriage relationship. It’s as if they’re always hedging . . . just in case the whole marriage thing doesn’t work, they want to be able to move on with as little collateral damage as possible. Here’s the thing, it shouldn’t be easy to move on from a marriage. It shouldn’t be something constantly sitting on the shelf as a possible option one day in the future . . . you know . . . just in case. If it is, then you’ve already failed. If you’re not all in, then I’ll go so far as to say, you’re not in at all.

The further I get into my own marriage, the more I learn about the effort and intention it takes to have a great marriage, and it does take effort and intentionality and hard work. But it’s worth it. I’ve recently had a few conversations regarding marriage and independence and what it means to “become one” as well the downfalls of maintaining independence within marriage. There are a number of ways this drive to maintain independence in marriage can play out. There is no way I can cover all of them so I am going to hit on just a few lessons I’ve either learned personally or by watching others navigate certain boundaries and even mistakes they have made (it’s always beneficial to learn from the mistakes of others y’all). Anything, no matter good it may seem, that hinders the growing together of two separate individuals within the marriage relationship needs to be looked at and evaluated and at the very least, reworked because ultimately that is the goal, two becoming one. And make no mistake, it is both an instantaneous and life long process . . . the process becoming one.

Perhaps it’s allowing other family members (your parents, your siblings, or even your kids) to occupy the place in your heart and in your life meant only for your spouse. This can be a huge struggle for young married women in particular. I know it was for me. While my parents, thankfully, understood the importance of encouraging independence in marriage, we literally lived next door to my family which, make no mistake, was a huge blessing in so many ways, but I (not my parents . . . I) struggled with pulling back from the constant family life in those early years. It can be immensely hard in those early days of marriage to adjust and set appropriate boundaries with extended family. We love our parents, siblings, grandparents, and so on . . . as we should. We honor and respect our parents in a Godly and biblical way, but once you are married your mama and your daddy (or grandma and grandpa . . . whomever fills that role for you) are no longer in first place behind Jesus. They get moved down the line. It’s not that you cease to love, honor, and respect them (do not hear me wrong . . . they are an integral part of our lives), but you are no longer subject to or supposed to be in obedience to them. Sometimes you’re going to have to say “no”. Sometimes you’re going to make decisions and choices they don’t like. Regardless of how they feel (unless they are financially involved . . . more on that in the next post), they should respect your decisions as a married couple and should never dictate to you what your married life is to look like nor should they should take precedence over your spouse. And ultimately the intimate details and decisions of your married life are between you and your spouse and God. You should not be sharing intimate details of your life with your parents, siblings, etc. that you aren’t sharing with your spouse first and then only share with their permission.

Continuing in the same vein but extending outward a bit, perhaps it’s desiring to maintain friendships and relationships in a way that is unhealthy for your marriage . . . unpopular opinion: be very careful with friendships with those of the opposite sex especially if your spouse is not, at the very least, an equally close friend of that person, and even if the friendship is a shared one, always do whatever you can to maintain appropriate and proper boundaries. . . like I said . . . unpopular opinion . . . your best girlfriend or guy friend is not more important than your spouse. They should not be privy to the intimate details of your marriage nor are they a sounding board . . . i.e. there to listen to all your griping and ranting and raving . . . for all your marital issues.

If you are having issues or struggles in marriage you need to seek objective, Godly counsel from someone who has a stable marriage that has been doing this a minute (or two) longer and will encourage you and give you wise and objective and most importantly, Godly advice regarding your relationship with your spouse. Your mama, your sister, your BFF . . . they love you dearly, but they are not objective . . . going to them with your marital conflicts will only hinder and not help the issues.

And then there are work and hobbies and social and church events that can all too easily interfere with time that should be given to your spouse. All of it good and necessary in our lives. But if it’s creating a wedge in your marriage, you need to take a pause. We live in a workaholic society that does not know how to set boundaries between work and family life. Likewise we often idolize our social calendars, our girls’ and guys’ nights out (which are fine in moderation), sports and school events, even church activities and ministry, while placing our marriage on the backburner. We put far more effort into work and social relationships than we put into our marriage relationship. We are constantly connected via email and text and social media, and we need to be able to put all of that down and aside and focus solely on our spouse for a period of time every single day.

I’ll add this, if every activity . . . vacation . . . date night . . . involves family and friends . . . if you cannot do fun things with just the two of you without other people there to be a buffer or to help keep the fun and conversation lively and flowing . . . you need to take a step back and evaluate why that is. You need to work on that. You should value and covet time with just the two of you, not just at home (if you happen to currently live alone) but also in doing things together that build a bond and a relationship. Another lesson learned from watching others, is that of seeing “empty nesters” that are at a loss when their homes are no longer full of children and all the activities that go with raising children. They don’t know how to be together without constantly having kids and family and friends around because they didn’t build that bond over the years. And it’s so easy to see how that happens. Kids are demanding, and as Jimmy Evans* so often says, “They just want to possess your soul,” and they will suck the life out of your marriage if allowed to. Your children are not, nor should they be, number one in your marriage. Likewise, extended family, friends, church, work, and all the other wonderful things in life can and will dominate your time and marriage if allowed. And believe me, even the best and good things in this world will divide you if you aren’t intentional in maintaining oneness.

Having said all that, and I know, I’ve said a lot, one of the most divisive areas in a lot of marriages is the area of finances. So many couples want to divide and separate rather than consolidate and share when it comes to money, and this specific thing has been the main topic of recent conversations with a couple other married couples.

As soon as we were married both of our names went on all of our bank accounts. There was no division of money. We have, at various points in our marriage, traded places on who is bringing in more income (not necessarily who is doing more work and side note: I bring in zero income now because I do not work outside the home), but the second that money hits our bank accounts, it doesn’t matter who earned it, it’s both of ours. There is so much to say and cover on the topic of finances that I’ve decided to create a completely different post regarding that topic, but I also, felt it was important to briefly touch on it here.

The motto in marriage should never be yours, mine, and ours. If it is you’re going to find yourself struggling more often than not. Instead you should always be working toward oneness and living continually by the motto what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine in every area of marriage.

* https://xomarriage.com/

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Don’t Discount the Process . . .

“Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees, walking.’ Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And He was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, ‘Neither go into town, nor tell anyone in the town.’ ” Mark 8:22-26

“Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests,’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.” Luke 17:11-14

Throughout the gospels we see Jesus healing instantaneously . . . with just a word . . . a touch . . . in a millisecond lives forever changed. And then we see these accounts . . . and they stand out because they’re just a bit different.

The blind man brought to Jesus at Bethsaida . . . it’s possible he had heard the stories of the healings . . . blind eyes that saw . . . deaf ears that heard . . . and it was what he wanted more than anything . . . to be granted the miracle of sight. He begged Jesus to touch him as He had touched others. And yet, Jesus’s response was to lead Him out of the town. I’m sure the blind man wondered what was happening, but being that he desperately wanted to see, he went along. Then Jesus starts putting spit in his eyes. Can you imagine? You think you’re going to get healed like so many others, but instead you’ve been led out of town and now have another person’s spit in your eyes. Maybe he felt like the situation was getting pretty weird. Maybe he was incredibly confused. Maybe there was even a bit of panic and frustration rising up in the man. What was Jesus doing here? The process wasn’t making sense. It wasn’t what he expected. Then Jesus touched the man, and he began to see . . . only it wasn’t really clear. His vision is fuzzy, and he tells Jesus, “I see men like trees, walking.” You know what Jesus didn’t do? He didn’t lecture him or tell the man to try a little harder . . . to conjure up a little more faith. Did the man believe completely? Did He have doubts? It doesn’t say, but I do know we will all struggle with doubts and unbelief at times . . . the disciples did . . . John the Baptist did (Luke 7:18-23) . . . for many that Jesus healed and delivered their faith was immense . . . still others, we have no idea what or how they believed . . . and then, the bible also shows us that some who sought Jesus for healing and deliverance struggled to fully believe (Mark 9:23-24), but Jesus helped them in their unbelief. He had deep compassion for them. In Mark 1:40 the leper comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, You can make me clean”, and the bible tells us in the next verse that Jesus was moved with compassion and said, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And so when the blind man tells Jesus everything is blurry, Jesus doesn’t lecture him. He just reaches out and touches his eyes once more, and the bible tells us, “And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.”

Then there are the lepers. When they cry out for healing, Jesus doesn’t do what He’s done so many times before. He doesn’t simply say, “Your faith has made you well.” He doesn’t seem to even acknowledge they are seeking healing. Instead He tells them to go . . . specifically to “Go show yourselves to the priest.” I’m sure the thoughts and conversation were full of questions. What good would going to the priest do them? He had never been able to help them before, and they had been ostracized and rejected because of their infirmities. But in the process of going, they are healed. Sometimes we’re going to have to move forward and take actionable steps to see our healing. God can and does heal instantaneously, but He also uses things and processes here on this earth at times.

Why did Jesus choose to heal differently at different times?

I have no hard fast answer, but I can’t help but ponder the lesson in this . . . and maybe that’s the crux of it all. To teach us.

How I would have responded? How do I respond?

When Jesus takes my hand and leads me out of familiar territory, do I trust Him?

When He starts to rub spit in my blinded eyes do I turn away?

When I can’t see clearly do I think something must be wrong? With Him? With me?

When He tells me to “go” rather than saying the words I think I should hear do I willingly start moving?

When the process isn’t what we’re expecting . . . when we find ourselves at one more doctor’s office . . . one more meeting . . . one more interview . . . on our knees one more time . . . what do we do?

The church is often full of platitudes and clichés . . . Christianese, if you will . . . when you’re not the one in the thick of it, it is easy to have all the words. . . when you’re not the one facing the diagnosis, the struggling child, the loss of a job or a relationship, just trying to get through each day, it’s easy to say all the cliché things and sound spiritual. But here’s what I’ll promise you, while the church may be full of all the platitudes and all things cliché, the word of God absolutely is not. Not a single word in the bible is cliché, and all of it, cover to cover serves to help us. It serves to strengthen us. It serves to heal and deliver and set free.

When I read about the men and women who were imperfect . . . who sometimes struggled with doubts and fears and unbelief . . . who messed up and sinned and like Peter, went so far as to even deny Jesus . . . yet Jesus was filled with compassion for them . . . He was filled with forgiveness and grace for them . . . I’m reminded that the same compassion, love, forgiveness, and grace extended to them is there for me and for you as well.

In instances where Jesus knew that faith was lacking and those seeking Him were struggling, He still intervened . . . He still healed and delivered and set free . . . as long as the people were seeking Him, He answered. In Matthew 13:58 the bible tells us that when Jesus went to His hometown He couldn’t do many mighty works, “Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Unbelief . . . apista – unbelief, unfaithfulness, distrust. The people didn’t just struggle to believe they could be healed or set free. There was no internal struggle happening here . . . a desire to believe that Jesus was able to heal and deliver wrestling with doubts trying to rise up in the flesh . . . no, they were offended at Jesus. They ridiculed and mocked Him. They didn’t just struggle with faith. They struggled with believing He was anything other than a poor carpenter’s son. And so He could not do many mighty works. They didn’t want them. They didn’t want Him.

Too often we have faith in our faith rather than faith in Jesus. Too often, rather than being moved with compassion, as Jesus was, we shame those that are struggling for lack of faith . . . instead of coming alongside them and holding them up, as we often see in scripture where those suffering were brought to Jesus by their friends and family, we make them feel as if they did or are doing something wrong. Too often when the process doesn’t look like we think it should, we discount it. We live in a fallen world. A world where sin and sickness run rampant, and sometimes bad things happen to those around us . . . sometimes to us. But in those moments of tragedy we have an opportunity. We can shame those that are struggling. We can tell them to “have more faith”, or we can come alongside others with compassion, holding them up when they’re struggling, leading them to Jesus when they cannot find their own way. Rather than judge those who are struggling, we can pray earnestly for them . . . pray for their doctors, their bosses, their marriages, those who are giving them counsel, their families . . . whatever the need may be . . . pray for strength and peace and wisdom on all fronts. And encourage and support them both spiritually and physically in actual, tangible ways. And if we have to drop a bed through roof of a house every now and again, then we need to do it (Mark 2:1-12). If our friends and family are in a place where they need to be carried, whether literally or figuratively, we need to do some heavy lifting.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Setting Up Camp

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

I am a realist. I don’t live in the land of denial. I don’t sugarcoat or pretend. I call things like I see them because like I said, I am a realist. And I firmly believe God created me that way, but there is a huge difference between being a realist and ruminating, meditating, and dwelling on things that steal my joy and my peace.

And so I regularly must ask myself, “Where am I setting camp? Where am I dwelling?”

Is it true? Is it noble (honorable)? Is it just (right)? Is it pure (holy, sacred)? Lovely (pleasing and agreeable)? Of good report? Does it have virtue (excellence) and is it praiseworthy?

It’s not multiple choice y’all. I don’t get to pick and choose to place my focus on a couple of these things while ignoring the rest. I think a lot of times we pick truth but stop there. We fail to ask ourselves if the truth upon which we’re dwelling is noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, filled with virtue, and praiseworthy. Is it worthy of our praise? Because, like it or not, we are giving our praise to that upon which we are dwelling. On the other hand, some of us camp in the land of denial, and we latch onto things that we feel are of “good report” not really caring if they’re true or not. But they all matter. You cannot pick and choose.

We live in a world and society that is constantly bombarding us with information and entertainment . . . some of it good . . . some of it not so much. There is literally no “off” switch in today’s society. We have a 24 hour news cycle, never ending social media streams, millions of websites full of information (both accurate and inaccurate) at our fingertips, and the opportunity to binge almost anything we want at anytime. You cannot, nor in many instances should you, shut it all out. It is not wrong to know what is happening in the world around us nor do I think it is wrong to enjoy watching a show or listening to a podcast (or whatever floats your proverbial boat). I don’t believe we’re called to live the existence of a recluse. But if we do not set limits then we will quickly find ourselves dwelling on (I’d even go so far as to say idolizing) these things.

News and information sites/shows . . . social media . . . public and political figures . . . streaming services . . . podcasts . . . pick your poison. Not all are bad. Some aren’t and serve a good purpose if used properly, but I’d venture that most of us dwell in places we should only visit, and it’s giving us everything but the peace of God. It’s stealing our joy and our peace and our ability to live in a way that honors and serves God because we’re giving praise and worship to all the wrong things.

We live in what may be one of the most mentally and emotionally unhealthy societies of all time. Even as Christians, it seems we are continually chasing peace, but it alludes us at every turn. We are constantly connected yet hugely disconnected. And while a number of things contribute to that, I think it can all be traced back to where we’re placing our time and attention . . . on that upon which we’re meditating and where we are choosing to dwell.

If we want the peace of God and the God of peace then we need to seek the face of God. We need to put Him at the top of our list. We need to dwell on His word, His character, His goodness, and His grace before we give anything else our time or attention. We need to start and end and walk throughout our day with Him. The world is going to throw things at us . . . good things . . . bad things . . . but ultimately it’s all just temporary noise trying to drown out the eternal . . . where our true focus should be.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Matthew 24:35

*On a very personal and practical note . . . one of my goals for the year was to reduce my time on social media which I did very well for quite some time. However, I realized over the past couple of months I've been slipping into spending more and more time on social media sites and mindlessly scrolling without really thinking about it, especially on Facebook. And the reality is, as my time on social media increases so does my lack peace. So I went into my settings and set limits for myself because I needed help with discipline and self control in that regard. Can I override those limits? Yes, but when the limits come up it stops me and makes me ask myself if I really need to be here in this moment, and 90% of the time it's a resounding "no" so I put down the phone and move on to real life whether that be spending time in prayer and reading my actual, not on my phone, bible or playing a game with my family or even taking care of things that need to be done around the house. I refuse to let technology steal my time or my peace. 
Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Throwing it Back . . . What Would Jesus Do? What Did Jesus Do?

What Would Jesus Do?

The original question was posed in the late 1800s in a series of stories and subsequently, a novel written by minister Charles Sheldon, but the resurgence and the rebranding, if you will, started in the late 80s and early 90s with a youth group out of Holland, Michigan1.

WWJD?

I was in college at the peak of the movement. If you ran in any Christian circles at the time, you couldn’t miss it . . . the bracelets . . . t-shirts . . . bible studies . . . all circling around the question, “What would Jesus do?”

Such a great question to ask ourselves. How would Jesus handle this situation? What would He say or not say, as the case may be? How would He treat this person or these people? What choices would He make?

But then it morphed, from WWJD to . . . what would Jesus drive . . . wear . . . eat???

And what was meant to make Christians stop and think before speaking or acting, quickly became a joke. Jesus cares far more about our hearts than our cars, our clothes, our homes, or what we’re eating. He cares far more about our motives and our mindsets than our outward appearance. I keep circling back to Matthew 23 where Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” (vs. 27-28). I keep asking myself if I look clean on the outside while I’m filthy on the inside.

The roots of the movement, the original intent, the actual question WWJD is one I think we need to revisit. We need to ask ourselves, not only, “What would Jesus do?” but “What did Jesus do?”. We need to crack our bibles and study our Savior . . . His actions . . . His words . . . you cannot determine Jesus’s course of action if you’re not willing to study His word, in its entirety.

Jesus had the ability to display deep grace, kindness, and gentleness toward sinners while never excusing the sin. He was firm yet caring. Unrelenting when it came to right and wrong yet accepting of the person behind the sin.

I feel the church is deeply confused and in many instances double minded when it comes to sin. We call out sins that offend us personally, but then laugh at others that don’t really ruffle our feathers. We respond with grace when it suits us but are filled with hatred and fueled by rage when it doesn’t. We excuse certain behaviors in ourselves and others . . . behaviors that are more covert and not as in your face . . . backbiting, hatred, meanness, jealousy, manipulation . . . all while losing our minds at the more overt behaviors of the world.

And I’m here to say, that is not who we are, and that is not who Jesus was or is.

What would Jesus do? What did Jesus do?

He never gave ground when it came to sin, we do seem to forget that and progressive Christianity does not want to acknowledge that, but He always called out sin from a place of deep love . . . from a desire to see people’s lives transformed. He didn’t go after sin for the sake of rules and regulations. He stood the ground against it . . . He went to the cross for it . . . He sacrificed His own life because He knew that if we continued to live in sin, without the covering of His blood, it would not only damage us but utterly destroy us.

If you read Matthew 23 in its entirety (which you should definitely do) you’ll see that Jesus calls the Pharisees and the scribes, the church people, “hypocrites” more than once. He does not go easy on them, but then He ends with these words . . .

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate, for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” Matthew 23:37-39

When I read those words, I can tangibly feel the deep burden Jesus carried for those around Him. Jesus’s motivation was always, is always, love for His children. He wants nothing more than for us to come to Him so He can love us, redeem us, heal us, and protect us. He was fully God and fully man, and His heart was broken at the sight of those rebelling against His father.

I look at a world around me, both in and out of the church, sometimes in my own life as well, that is going, pedal to the metal, full force toward pleasure seeking to the point of destruction . . . trying to fill the emptiness with anything . . . politics, news, social media, relationships, conspiracy theories, drugs, alcohol, money, fame, notoriety, gossip, success, thrills, even serving and ministry . . . some of it bad . . . some of it (very) good but twisted and misused . . . but none of it the one thing that will really bring contentment and peace . . . none of it will do what Jesus did for me and for you.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:6

That’s it y’all. Those letters are written in red . . . the words of Jesus Himself. He is it . . . the only WAY. He didn’t come just to give us a ticket to heaven. He is the way, the truth, and the life for life on earth and eternity in heaven.

So I ask myself not only, “What would Jesus do?” but “What did Jesus do?” and then I acknowledge there is no way I can live this out in my own power. There is no way I can get this right without the help and enabling of the Holy Spirit, and I come back to the cross time and again to ask Him, not myself, but the One and only Way, “What is it that I am to do with this situation, in this world, and with my life?”

WWJD???

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

1 WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) | Encyclopedia.com

Fortune Cookie Faith

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” Psalm 119:9-16

I unwrapped my little piece of dark chocolate . . . careful, as always, not to tear the foil wrapper so I could read what it said inside. You know the ones to which I’m referring? Those little bite size Dove chocolates with a fortune cookie saying on the inside of the foil. I always read it. Sometimes it gives me pause. Other times, like yesterday, I thought, “Well that’s kind of silly and unhelpful,” as I threw it away and went on with my day.

But as was heading on to the next task, on what often seems to be the never ending merry-go-round of Things to Be Done to Keep Life Running Smoothly, it occurred to me, or more likely the Holy Spirit whispered to me, this how a lot of us try to survive . . . on fortune cookie faith . . . snatches of scriptures and wise words here and there . . . sometimes they give us pause . . . other times they seem silly and unhelpful . . . not because they truly are, but because they’re only snatches.

We’re trying to live off the sermon we heard a month ago . . . the Instagram post we read last week . . . that one scripture our friend shared ten days past . . . but we’re not seeking God, both His will and His truth, for ourselves. We’re looking for God’s word and instruction to fit into our lives rather than molding ourselves around it. We manipulate the meanings . . . grab it out of context . . . try to make it work the way we want it to, and then we take it or leave it . . . depending on our mood or our circumstances . . . before we’re off to the next task to be completed.

And we’re frustrated, and defeated, and don’t understand why growth and transformation aren’t happening. There are days when I survive on snatches of scripture and prayers tossed hastily heavenward. When I’m doing good to just read the scripture of the day on my YouVersion App. But I’ll be honest, those aren’t the greatest days. They’re, at best, like surviving on a diet of fast food. It’ll do, but not for long. And if I don’t take the time to really dive into the word and prayer, I’m not only not going to experience healthy growth and development, there are going to be both damage and deficiencies. I’m going to become sluggish and lazy and unhealthy. I’m going to start misusing, misinterpreting, and flat out not learning from God’s word and His instruction. As we used to say, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt,” and I’d like to think I’ve learned that I cannot glean from what I’m not consuming.

Fortune cookies and Dove Chocolates are fun and funny . . . those silly little witty sayings that are perfectly fine to look at, laugh, never take too seriously, and move on. But God’s word . . . His divinely inspired scriptures . . . absolutely is not a fortune cookie. My bible is far more than a bunch wise sayings with a few good laughs thrown in. It is not something to be read and left. It is life and breath, and as a Christian, it is literally my nutrition, my sustenance, and my survival. It’s not optional. And the same truth applies to anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

The last thing I’ll add, because it occurred to me as I was writing this, is that I never want to take for granted the amazing gift I have in being able to get up each morning, grab my coffee and my bible (or pull up an App on my phone), and dive into what God has for me. I am not blind to how blessed I am to be able to do that as a Christian in America. Likewise, I’m not ignorant to the fact that there are many places around the world where the scriptures are passed only by word of mouth and to be found in possession of a physical bible can mean imprisonment and even death. I am well aware of how little persecution we truly suffer here. The privilege of that is not lost on me, and I know I’ve often failed to appreciate how deeply blessed we are.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Give No Offense . . .

The last post I wrote, Moral Absolutes and Personal Convictions, was in regards to taking our personal convictions . . . convictions that aren’t biblical moral absolutes . . . and placing them on other people. It was about holding others to standards that may be right for us, but that God never set up for all of mankind. If you haven’t read it, I encourage to read it.

This evening I want to discuss something that appears to be almost opposite but absolutely isn’t. It would seem that if we aren’t to hold others to our own personal convictions then we should not care if our behaviors and words offend them or even cause them to stumble . . . after all we’re not responsible for the sins and struggles of others, correct? As long as what we’re doing is not forbidden in God’s word then we don’t need to worry about what others think, right? That’s a big nope. What we do . . . what we say . . . and yes, the image we put in front of others does matter. It matters because we are representatives of Christ. It matters because we are supposed to point others toward Him . . .I’ll be the first to admit that I daily mess this up, and He, in turn, daily covers me with His grace. This is not about being perfect. Please do not read this wrong. This is about being His hands and feet on this earth.

There is no doubt that many people are offended by the cross . . . that’s not the issue at hand. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I am not speaking of the offense brought by the cross of Christ. I am speaking of offending others without care or conviction for how it affects our witness or causes them to stumble.

When I was young I remember one of my Sunday school teachers telling me that I “may be the only bible a person may ever read”. And in my own power that’s too much pressure to get it right. As a human, I am going to fail. But there is so much grace and forgiveness and numerous lessons to be learned at the foot of the cross, and it’s only through power of the Holy Spirit that I can truly be the representative for Christ that I should be.

Having said that, there are certain personal convictions that I most definitely do NOT hold, but because I know others do hold those convictions, I try to be respectful of that. I try to be aware of the company I am in or as the case may be, especially with social media, my audience . . . how what I’m doing and saying and the image I’m presenting might affect others . . . not because I’m putting on a performance or being a fake, but because I either (1) don’t want to be a stumbling block or (2) don’t want to bring unnecessary offense. I’ve said time and again, I will not apologize nor will I back down from my belief in Christ and all that entails, but I want to be sure that the I’m doing all I can to draw others to Him not push them away.

Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13. He is speaking of eating the food offered to idols in this particular passage, but we could easily substitute any number of things here.

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols. And because of you knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

Just fyi, Paul isn’t saying we all have to become vegetarians so no one panic. We have so much liberty in Christ, but we also have to be so very careful that we don’t abuse that liberty to the detriment of others. There are a number of other scriptures that discuss this, but bottom line . . . we need to proceed with caution when it comes to what we do, what we say, and what we put out there for others to see. We need seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and ask Him to fill us with the power to make the best choices.

Not holding others to our personal convictions and not using our own liberty to cause offense and stumbling amongst others are not mutually exclusive. They actually go hand in hand, and we always need to remember Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Moral Absolutes and Personal Convictions

When I say I believe the bible is the inerrant word of God, I believe that with everything I am. When I say I take it literally, cover to cover, that’s the truth.

I’ve recently seen a plethora of arguments trying to justify certain moral stances (or lack thereof) based on whether or not the English translations (KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, AMP, etc.) of the Bible have been correctly translated. If you pull up the original meanings . . . yes, meanings plural because most of the words used have multiple meanings . . . of the text and look at the original words in context while comparing them to other passages of scripture using the same words, you will find that they absolutely were and are translated correctly. You can’t just grasp one obscure word out of a list of multiple meanings and make it work out the way you wish to justify sin. That’s not how it works.

This doesn’t just happen with controversial moral stances and the justification of sin however. The “it wasn’t translated correctly” argument also often comes into play when people want to pass judgment on things that are personal convictions rather than moral absolutes. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum but is still damaging. It’s the need to create standards and rules that don’t exist in the bible, or were for a certain time and/or place, in order to get people to come into line with your own personal convictions. In short, it’s legalism.

The bible certainly has a number of moral absolutes . . . I believe and agree with every single one of them . . . life begins at conception . . . God created marriage as sacred between a man and woman (and that entails a lot) . . . tithing (that one does not get the love it deserves) . . . hatred and ugliness, gossiping and slandering, lying and backbiting, they’re all wrong . . . Jesus is the only way . . . this is just the briefest of samplings of what God has set up as moral absolutes, given to protect rather than control us, and because I am a bible literalist, I believe them all. You don’t have to like that or agree with me . . . that doesn’t mean I don’t love you, or that I’ll treat you badly and without respect, and I never take any of these stances in order to hurt those I love. But I also won’t debate the moral absolutes or give on these things. You’ll have to take those arguments up with God. He’s our creator, and He knows what’s best for us.

Having said that, we all have personal convictions, shaped by our experiences and our own backgrounds. In some cases those personal convictions are part of our personal walk with God. Meaning they’re given to us by Him as we learn and fellowship and grow with Him and through Him . . . they will never contradict God’s word, but they aren’t absolutes laid out in His word either. In other cases, our personal convictions change as we learn and grow . . . we’re all wrong at times, and it’s fine to realize that and change. But because we are all unique individuals, created by a loving Father who knows what is best for us, we are often going to have personal convictions that are just that . . . personal to who we are.

And while I believe it’s always important to clarify where I stand on the moral absolutes, the crux of this is actually personal convictions . . . on passing judgment on others using my own standards and not God’s.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

The NASB translation actually says “by your standard of measure” in verse two. People, in general, love to throw around the whole “judge not lest you be judged” line followed closely by “who am I to judge?”. And here’s the thing, you and I, we don’t get to judge based upon our own standards. But if it’s something that God has set up as an absolute then that judgment is not our own. However, if it’s our own personal conviction then we must be very careful in how we present that. It’s fine to share what you know to be true for yourself, but that is also exactly when it’s most important not to judge others by our own standards . . . whatever those may be.

This is purposefully vague because I could give a list a mile long of personal convictions that people try to present as moral absolutes . . . from clothing choices and personal adornment, length of hair, etc. (piercings and tattoos anyone?) . . . to roles within marriage, the church, and so on . . . to medical decisions (vaccinations being a hot button issue at the moment) . . . to what to eat and drink (or not eat and drink as the case may be) . . . to what age to allow our kids to wear make-up, date, drive alone to another city . . . or for that matter, whether or not to even have kids . . . whatever it may be, the list is endless . . . some seem trivial . . . some very important . . . but if there’s not a clear guideline set out in the bible, these are own personal convictions.

I’ve been very convicted recently about standing strong on the moral absolutes while at the same time treading carefully with my own personal convictions. I am often prompted to share my personal experiences as a wife and mother and a follower of Christ, but I have found that I need to be very cautious not to present my personal narrative as the only right way. As long as we are not causing others to stumble (Romans 14:13 . . . and that chapter of Romans deserves an entire post in and of itself about respecting the personal convictions of others when in their company), we all have a different story to write within the guidelines set up by God, and that’s what makes this brief, earthly life so beautiful. We’re not robots all designed to live the exact same life, but unique individuals with different callings and purposes given to us by God. And so, because of that, our lives and our personal standards will all present just a little differently.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

The Sound of Silence

852,000 . . . that’s how many questions my youngest asked me yesterday. . . give or take maybe five.

500 . . . that’s how many questions she’s asked me this morning, but not to worry . . . give the girl some time. As I write this it is, after all, not even 8:00 a.m. on this fine Saturday morn.

Don’t get me wrong, I thank God daily that she can and does express herself verbally . . . this child who at three years of age had almost no expressive language . . . I mean it is a beautiful thing. But y’all, I kid you not, she says all the words, all the time. We’re just one month into summer with two still to go, and quite honestly, my ears are tired.

“Mom . . . what’s 30 + 40?”

“Mom . . . you’re 40! What’s 40 + 40?” And then she answers her own question because she knows the answer . . . “80!” Followed by boisterous laughter. Thanks for taking the time to point out I’m halfway to 80, kiddo. Appreciate that.

“Mom . . . what’s for supper . . . tonight . . . tomorrow . . . on Thursday?”

“Mom what time is it?” She can look at a clock and tell.

“Mom . . . when do we go back to school?” Also, knows the answer to that.

“Mom when is my dentist appointment? In July? What day? What time?”

You get the gist . . . some of these questions are repeat offenders. Some are not. She knows the answers to probably 75% of them, and honestly, it’s a whole lot of nonsense talk. Her way of feeling secure and making sure I’m still here and ready to communicate. I get the reason behind it so no need to write me about that. It’s neither abnormal nor unusual for a child with a traumatic past to ask tons of questions or talk incessantly. Especially when things are different and our schedule is a little less predictable as it tends to be during the summer months. It’s hard for her to lean into the whole go with the flow feel of summer . . . well, as go with the flow as I can be. We’re not going completely off the rails here.

Plus both of my kids are talkers . . . and they’re both more like my husband . . . social and extroverted . . . I’m neither. I love when I have stretches of silence with no one speaking words to me. It’s nice. It energizes me. But alas, my family members, not a one of them, grasp the need for silence. I mean even my teenager still recounts every. single. second. of his day. At least once, but usually twice, to both my husband and myself. Most of the time, I get to hear both since I’m typically present for both accounts one and two. Yay me! He’s been volunteering at a day camp this week so for a few hours each day the words are cut in half . . . maybe . . . I may have just realized that Anna is making up for Andrew not being present by upping her game. But I digress . . . as I was saying . . . then there’s basketball . . . don’t even get me started on the never-ending basketball stats. He can talk basketball for hours completely oblivious to the fact that my eyes are crossing, and I’ve totally zoned out. More power to him though. It’s quite impressive.

So yeah, my ears are bleeding from all the talking. Still I want my kids to talk to me . . . I really do . . . and I’m here for it so I walk away, silently scream, take about 50 deep breaths, and return to listen. But sometimes . . . just occasionally . . . I tell them to give me five . . . five minutes of glorious silence. And then I look at the clock and the calendar and realize, “Only a few more hours until bedtime . . . for the youngest anyway . . . and only two more months of summer. You’ve got this woman! Your ears will survive . . . maybe.”

Here’s to those glorious moments of silence. May we embrace each one.

Side note 1: Yes, my kids are involved in some activities. No advice needed on how to keep them entertained. I actually don’t believe in offering endless entertainment all summer long. They read. They swim. They build things . . . I don’t know. I tell them to find something to do. That’s how I roll. But they’re good. I promise.

Side note 2 (and most importantly): I love and adore my children. They’re the “bees knees”, if you will. This is written 100% tongue in cheek. Having gone through a long period of “nonverbal-ness” (not an actual word) with my youngest and honestly, not knowing during that time if she would ever verbally communicate or to what I extent, I completely understand how that feels and appreciate the gift that is her sweet little voice. But y’all, my kids are also imperfect little peeps, like their mama, and I’ll never be the mom to look at every single thing they do and say in a saccharine sweet voice, “Oh how wonderful!!!” I say it about 95% of the time . . . okay, maybe 90%. But let’s face it, it’s the other 5-10% that keeps us parents humble. And that’s cool. But don’t come at me . . . I don’t need a comment or an email . . . or whatever telling me how mean I am. 😉

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Sometimes the Answer is “No”, and Sometimes No Explanation is Needed

Over the past year, give or take, I’ve written about learning the lesson of saying, “no”. It hasn’t been the easiest lesson for me. There have been a number of times, one very recently, when I’ve had to say “no” because I knew that “no” was best and right for my family even while a huge part of me was tempted to say “Absolutely, yes!”. This particular opportunity has crossed my path more than once in the past couple of years, and had it been presented to me 10 years ago, I would’ve snatched it up. What I didn’t know then (hindsight and all that) was that I would’ve had to quickly do a complete 180 and walk away from that opportunity when Anna’s adoption was complete.

I feel like I’ve moved into a season where God is making me take on the “no” answers for myself rather than just removing the opportunities altogether. And y’all, that’s hard because it’s a level of maturity and adulting, if you’ll forgive me using that term, that I wasn’t quite sure I was prepared for. You know, most of us would prefer to hide behind our parent and let them do the heavy lifting, so to speak, but there comes a time when children have to be pushed to be independent and confident in who they are and where they’re called to be. And being completely honest, the sense of relief and peace that came with that “no” answer was and is confirmation that I’m doing what is right.

Of course, being me, lover of words, I had to use all the words ever created to just say no. I have a friend that tells me, “No is a complete sentence,” and I’m really trying to grasp that concept. But throughout my rather lengthy and apologetic explanation, I kept saying, “It’s just not the right time.” Which is completely true, it is absolutely not “the right time”. What I didn’t expect, but what I’ve realized, as I’ve continued to pray and ponder on this particular situation, that I was certain was not an if but when situation, is that the “right time” may never come. I don’t know for certain (but I do have a strong feeling regarding this) because sometimes, pretty much all the time, God doesn’t tell us all His plans for us for our entire lifetime, and we have to trust Him to reveal what needs to be revealed at the exact right moment. No surprise, my plans and His plans rarely match exactly, but His are always far better.

Enter Isaiah 55:8, ” ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD.”

All that to circle back to . . . words. I’ve been known to talk too much. I often write too much. I frequently explain too much. Especially, when giving a “no” answer. I know it’s shocking given the three paragraphs it took for me to actually get to this point. But that is the second part of the saying no lesson that I’m now learning. Sometimes, in life, brevity is the wisest choice, and other times you just need to keep your mouth shut (or in this case your fingers off the keyboard) completely.

This past week, I was presented with a totally different “opportunity” to explain myself. Opportunity in quotations because the events that led up to this point were events I had to deal with but would’ve rather not. In the interest of privacy this will be vague, but incredibly long story short, I had to moderate some drama, poor word choice, but I’m grasping for something better, which (1) wasn’t my issue to begin with but I had no other option and (2) drama is not my cup of tea. At the end of the day, I was also forced to make a couple hard decisions. A few days later, I was presented with the “opportunity” to explain myself, and I’ll tell y’all, these fingers were itching to type all. the. things. But the Holy Spirit, as He so frequently does and has no issue doing, said in that still small voice that whispers to your heart, “Nope. Keep your mouth closed and your fingers off those keys.” I struggled, oh how I struggled, and this is just one of quite a few times, He’s told me to keep quiet here recently. The word ignore, is not in my vocabulary, and every time I have to stay quiet, I legitimately think I might die a million times over by not saying anything.

But then I was brought back to Jesus with the woman caught in adultery.

John 8:1-11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

When the scribes came to Jesus, ready to stone the woman caught in her sin, they weren’t wrong. The law gave them every justification for their actions. But Jesus didn’t engage. He refused to talk to them about her but instead, stooped down and started writing in the dirt. There’s a ton of speculation as to what He was writing. Truth is, no one really knows, but what is very clear, is that He ignored them. He actually acted as if He didn’t hear them.

When they continued to press Him, Jesus answered them with the briefest of answers, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Then He went right back to writing in the dirt. And they all just wandered away feeling guilty of their own misdeeds, but also, I’m sure, thinking, as we’re all prone to do when not privy to the entire conversation or situation, “Well Jesus just gave her a free pass.” But He didn’t. He absolutely addressed the situation with her, but He did it privately and with discretion, and I have no doubt, at the prompting and leading of His Father.

And that’s the lesson I’ve taken away from this. There’s “a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7b) , and both are best done at the directing of the Holy Spirit. I’m certainly not Jesus . . . not news to anyone, but I serve Him and follow Him. I’m learning, albeit slowly at times, that taking the time to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, to look before leaping, is never a bad idea. Just because I’m justified in saying or doing something, doesn’t mean I should. Likewise, I’m absolutely certain that there are times when that same still small voice tells me I need to speak up, and in those moments when I’m likely just as justified in staying quiet and doing nothing, far more is accomplished in acting in and speaking the truth with love and grace than maintaining silence. The key is not in speaking or not speaking, in acting or not acting, but in listening and following the guidance of the ONE I serve. And if I’m doing that, I owe no one else an explanation.

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