Growing up in a Christian family and in church, I often heard people pray a “hedge of thorns” around someone. This type of prayer could be prayed on behalf of a person that might be wandering off track or pursuing things or people that may not be good for them. For some reason, it always makes me picture the scene in Sleeping Beauty where Maleficent makes a forest of thorns appear around King Stefan’s castle to block Prince Phillip. Of course, Phillip DID make it through that hedge of thorns…but then again that hedge was made by evil forces, not God. 🙂
The Bible gives an example of a hedge of thorns built by God:
“Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’” Hosea 2:6-7 (ESV)
So when should we pray for a hedge of thorns? Here are a few examples when this prayer might be helpful…
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)
It seems like lately there has been so much awful, negative stuff going on all around us. There have been numerous devastating hurricanes and storms one right after another. Tragedies, attacks, murders and threats are happening both on grand scales and at individual levels affecting families all over the world. Suicide is wreaking havoc on the families and friends of its victims. Racial tensions are causing division. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. A lot stuff going on in the world lately just really kind of sucks to be honest! It’s dark. It’s broken.
The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.
On a side note…I have a friend that’s endured a lot of dark and tough times throughout the course of her life. No matter what she has gone through or continues to go through, she continues to stay positive even during some of the toughest times. She consistently remains a light in the darkness and a beacon of hope. This year for her birthday I got her a bracelet that reminded me so much of her that said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” More Christians need to follow her example to be a light in the darkness.
Just this past weekend my pastor did a message on “What Difference Does God Make…In the Face of Evil?” One of our pastors pointed out that in dark times it’s an opportunity for Christians to shine even brighter. One of my devotions this week also emphasized the importance of sharing hope and bearing witness of Jesus. It’s kind of been a theme that I’ve seen repeated lately—that we need to be a light.
Now, how can we practically do that?
Practical wisdom on how to be a light in scripture
You hear about people that have done things to hurt or wrong others and then apologize and immediately relationships are restored. Then, that same person may turn around and repeat that same offense only to cause further hurt and damage trust in their relationships. The offended may feel frustrated and confused because the offender apologized, and they truly felt it was genuine. So what happened? Did they restore relationship too quickly? Was the offender really sincere in their apology? Was there really true repentance?
Unfortunately though, sometimes people deliver apologies or want to restore relationship without having true repentance. There are some gauges we can use to discern whether or not a person is indeed fully and completely repentant. There is some evidence that we can look for as well as some indicators that they may not be at a place of full and true repentance yet.
Let’s take a look…
Genuine apologies are offered in true repentance
Previously, I wrote a post about how to apologize effectively. In that post I mentioned a book that Dr. Gary Chapman co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Thomas titled When Sorry Isn’t Enough: Making Things Right with Those You Love
in which they detail the study of apologies and how people give and receive them. The goal of their book was to help people “learn the techniques to effectively recognize and deliver apologies and watch relationships thrive as a result”.
The five basic languages of apology are:
Accept Responsibility—this is basically just admitting you are wrong and accepting full responsibility for your actions
Expressing Regret—this is a genuine “I’m sorry” and show of remorse for causing pain
Make Restitution—in this form of apology you commit to making things right
Genuinely Repent—this shows the sincere desire to modify your behavior and future actions
Request Forgiveness—in this apology language you recognize the need for forgiveness, and you physically ask for forgiveness
A genuine apology that contains all five of these aspects may be an indicator of true repentance. However, words can only go so far, and as the saying goes…actions speak louder than words. So there are some other things to look for as well. Continue reading →
God gives us promises throughout scripture. We can apply these scriptures to our situations and circumstances to give us peace, to build our faith, to encourage us, and sometimes to even turn the situation around. God also tells us to remind Him, or put Him in remembrance, of His Word. When we remind God, we remind ourselves too! (Here’s a great post on the subject by Victoria Osteen.)
“Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right.” Isaiah 43:26 (ESV)
In order to remind God, we have to find and know the verses first to be able to use those scriptures for troubling times. It’s helpful to make a list of some go-to verses to access when those times arise. I’ve put together just a few of my personal favorites here.
God has been impressing upon me lately about the importance of multigenerational learning. I think He especially wants all of us to grasp the importance of learning and gleaning wisdom from people older, wiser, and more experienced than us. I think this is extremely important for upcoming generations. (I’ll talk more on this in future posts.) My mom and I were just discussing this concept not long ago, and we started talking about how much I’ve benefitted from something as simple as the Craft Club at our church.
Several years ago I decided to get involved at the Craft Club at my church. To be completely honest with you, I have NO IDEA why!! I am NOT crafty. At all. Not even a little. My mom, Jacki, and my sister, Shawna are the highly talented, crafty people in our family. Maybe I was just excited about Christmas (that, however, IS TOTALLY me!), and the Craft Club was making Christmas decorations for the church and for our Christmas Train event. I figured as long as they didn’t put me on sewing and they showed me what to do I’d be fine.
I think I benefited more than they did!
Well, I really think they got the raw end of the deal, but I had a GREAT time! Except for maybe scalding my hands one too many times with a hot glue gun. I’m sure they never ceased to be amazed at how long it took me to complete a project. Those ladies, especially my mom, ran circles around me with embroidery too. I think my mom finished 4 embroidery pictures in the amount of time it took me to complete one. They can’t say I didn’t warn them though! Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my projects were lovingly “redone” or repurposed after I left! Ha!
Even if they didn’t get as much benefit from me, I sure will treasure the amount of wisdom, love, patience, empathy, fun, and knowledge (and I could go on) that I gained from my time with all of the amazing ladies that I worked with there. I will never forget some of the life lessons and multigenerational friends that I acquired over the years in Craft Club.
A sponge soaking up wisdom
I often say that I love being around older people and listening to them because I just feel like a sponge soaking up all of their wisdom. At the Craft Club we had women of all ages. However, we did tend to have a larger number of more “mature” women. Typically, we went to Craft Club during the daytime so it was really convenient for retired women. Each and every lady that I encountered there had a different lesson to teach me. Continue reading →
This past week my family and I took a vacation to Colorado. It was amazing! Believe it or not, it was the first time I’ve ever seen the mountains up close and personal. Talk about amazing and inspiring…I could stay in the mountains for a LONG time and write and study and write and study… I’ll post a few of our pics on Instagram. In addition to sightseeing, hiking, and fishing, we participated in some pretty adventurous undertakings too! We did some summer alpine activities on a mountain in Breckenridge. We ziplined through the mountains (in the rain!), and we also went white water rafting.
While we were there, we also had an opportunity to attend a church bible study in Canon City with some family. The kids weren’t quite as excited as I was about this activity, but I sure enjoyed it! Call me crazy, but I eat that kind of stuff up. It’s super fun for me. I especially love gleaning wisdom from older, more experienced people. However, the coolest bit of insight I gained at this study was from my 15-year-old cousin. And of all things…her insight was about dust.
We are like dust
One of the passages we studied was Genesis 28:10-19 about Jacob’s dream at Bethel. My young cousin focused on verse 14 in this passage:
“Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions–to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” Genesis 28:14 (NLT)
She explained how this made her think of Christians being like dust, pointing out that dust spreads in all directions and gets everywhere. Then another lady brought up a verse that came to her mind which also indicates that we are like dust:
“For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:14 (NLT)
Their conversation got my wheels turning about the qualities of dust and how we are to exhibit some of those same qualities as Christians. This also reminded me of when I studied salt and wrote previously about the qualities of salt and how we should be like it.
“A kind and gentle woman gains respect but violent men gain only wealth.” Proverbs 11:16 (ERV)
We must be KIND and GENTLE to gain the respect of others and win people over. When I read this verse a short time ago I thought of the mean ol’ bitty lady at the family reunion I attended recently. Actually, Eric and I had just been discussing how mean she was and how she has a negative impact on people because of it. She could have a lot more influence if she’d only be nicer and less harsh (i.e. more kind and gentle…like the verse says!). She goes on and on about the family reunion dying out and the lack of attendance as the older generations are passing away. Her continuous reprimand each year is that the young people need to take over so the family, its stories, and the reunion will live on.
However, she then proceeds to belittle the younger people and act condescending toward them lashing out constant insults. She’s bossy and harsh with her mannerisms and words. Quite honestly, she’s really just flat-out rude. Because of this, she’s turning and driving the young people away. She’s losing her influence. More than likely, she’s having the exact opposite effect of what she wants. After all, who wants to keep a family tradition of meanness, rudeness, and condescension alive?
On the other hand, if she would do as Proverbs 11:16 says showing kindness and acting more gentle, she would earn the respect of the younger generation to whom she is trying so hard to pass the reigns. They would probably bend over backwards to help out and keep the family traditions alive if only she would be kind and gentle.
A bad first impression of this less than kind and gentle lady
Proverbs 31 is one of those chapters that I think a lot of women sometimes read and then feel deficient. It’s almost like we can never measure up to her. I mean, really, who can do and be proficient at ALL of the things that she does? Talk about a Renaissance Woman!
However, recently I had some different insights while reading Proverbs 31 in The Message translation. As I read through the verses about the Proverbs 31 woman, I jotted down her characteristics in my journal. It dawned on me that it’s not necessarily the activities that she does that matter, but the character and traits she possesses are what are truly important. That should be our primary takeaway from the reading. Thank goodness because I don’t think I’ll EVER be proficient at sewing!
In Proverbs 31, verses 10-31 form an alphabetic acrostic, used here as a type of Hebrew poem about a woman who exemplifies godly character and wisdom from A to Z. J.A. Motyer says, “In the common form of acrostic found in Old Testament Poetry, each line or stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order. This literary form may have been intended as an aid to memory, but more likely it was a poetic way of saying that a total coverage of the subject was being offered — as we would say, ‘from A to Z.‘” So in this case, the Proverbs 31 woman exemplifies godly traits and wisdom throughout and completely. She’s the full package.
Proverbs 31 is not just for women
In part of my recent study of the Proverbs 31 passages, I came across a really good article by Rachel Held Evans. In her post, she mentions that the “target audience” of Proverbs 31 is actually men. I did not know this! Rachel mentioned that she learned from a Jewish friend of hers that in the Jewish culture, it’s the men who memorize the passage, not the women.
In fact, the men actually sing or recite it to the women as a way of praising and blessing them! This special “EshetChayil” song is typically done each Friday night before the Sabbath or Shabbat meal.
Here is a video of a traditional Eschet Chayil song with the Hebrew lyrics and English translation shown:
I LOVE this English rendition by Ari Lesser as he sings to his wife:
I also realized these are NOT just characteristics that a woman should possess. Men should possess the Proverbs 31 characteristics too. These same character traits this passage praises the Proverbs 31 woman for having are also desirable for men. They are not gender-specific. ALL people, men and women alike, should strive to have this type of character.
Below is a look at my takeaways about character from the passages. I use the feminine pronouns “she” and “her” when describing her characteristics, but read through them keeping in mind that we should all endeavor to display this type of character in our lives. Continue reading →