Originally presented at the 2009 Treasures retreat
A few weeks ago we traveled to Nashville to visit our son, Ben. For those of you who came to one of the first five years of this retreat, you will remember him as the guy with the curly blonde hair who did all of the sound for us.
Well, this past summer he graduated from Full Sail University with a degree in sound engineering and now he is completing an internship at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. There is just about nothing he would rather do than record an interesting sound, so while we were visiting him, he took us on a tour of the recording studio.
Room after room was filled with all sorts of amazing equipment…walls that were lined with wooden pegs arranged in such a way as to create a place that would record and play “perfect” music, at least as perfect as it can be made on this side of heaven. We watched as he took us into a room where many of the big names in country music have cut albumns…Martina McBride, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift. He explained how the room can be rearranged and redesigned for each individual artist by lowering or raising speakers, pulling in unique microphones, and adjusting the ambiance of the room with dimmer switches and even candlelight.
Of course, the highlight of the tour was seeing the massive sound boards where Ben tells me he could even make me sound sing like Dolly Parton if I wanted to. I watched as he explained the dials and knobs, the bells and whistles. The delight on his face and the excitement in his voice was almost more than I could stand. Finally he looked around and described the whole operation in one word: sweet!
Miriam’s dictionary defines “sweet” as being pleasing to the mind or feelings. Today I think that the word “sweet” has now replaced the word “awesome” which probably replaced other words like “cool” or “groovy” or phrases from my day like “far out.” Sweet really is the perfect word to describe what I want to celebrate today…the sweet life of the homeschooling mom.
It IS a sweet life. We have the amazing privilege of spending our days with precious little children who think we hung the moon! We get to be the ones who see those learning light bulbs go off. We get to be the ones who have all the answers, well, at least we have the answer books. We are called homemakers because that is what we do, we make homes. And is there any more wonderful word in the English language than home? We are available to bandage little knees, cuddle away big hurts, listen to dreams and are sometimes invited to dream along, too. We can make life all better with a plate of spaghetti and a cupcake. We are the ones who can, at the end of the day, tuck everyone into clean sheets and a soft bed before we collapse ourselves only to do it all over again the next day. If we step back and look all around us, at our husbands and at our children, at our homes, even at the lap book or science experiment clutter, all we can really say, if we are honest, is “sweet.”
As I began praying about this retreat and considering what I believe the Lord would want me to share with you as a devotional today, I kept coming back to two thoughts that initially didn’t seem particularly related to each other: wisdom and kindness.
As I have listened to homeschooling moms and moms who are considering homeschooling for their own children, share their struggles, I am struck by these two needs: wisdom and kindness, for you see, I believe that they are two of the “most essential” oils that we must have to keep the wheels of homeschooling running smoothly in our homes. And as I have heard grown homeschooled children share the impressions their mothers have left on them, the memories they have written in the wet cement of their lives, I believe nearly every good and bad action or attitude from moms that they remember could come under the heading of wisdom or the heading of kindness, either times their moms exhibited both wisdom and kindness in amazing ways or times when their moms lacked these qualities and left their marks on their children, often in profound ways. Then, as I began to look at the passages of Scripture where the word wisdom is found and then at those passages that address the topic of kindness, I was amazed to find this verse in, of all places, Proverbs 31: “She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Proverbs 31 has always been an amazing passage to me on a number of levels. There have been many times when I heard that a teaching or a Bible study was going to be taken from that passage and I cringed because I have spent so much time wanting and trying to be this Proverbs 31 woman but have fallen short. Just the thought of listening to one more sermon preached about this icon of Christian womanhood, and usually on Mother’s Day, made me tired! It is the guaranteed mom guilt passage of Scripture! So before I share some thoughts on this wonderful verse, I want to put Proverbs 31 into context for you so from now and forever more, it will be a portion of Scripture that brings encouragement and delight to you rather than an overwhelming sense of failure!
First of all, we have to remember that these verses describe the various seasons of a woman’s life. It is not suggesting that one woman do all of these things at one time in her life. That could not be possible and the passage also talks about older children and a husband who is older and has achieved some authority. So remember that.
Also, the entire chapter was initially written from a mother to a son. This son’s name was King Lemuel and we do not know much about him. In fact, no one really knows who he was since he is only mentioned in the Bible by this name in this passage. Some scholars believe Lemuel is another name for Solomon, others believe he was a true king outside of Israel. What we do know is that he was a young man who listened to the counsel of his mom and the Holy Spirit guided both her words to him and his writing it down because it is included in the canon of Scripture.
Secondly, there are really three aspects of her counsel to him. The first she warns him that if he was to be a leader, he ought to abstain from the use of alcohol because it could pervert his judgment. The second is the admonition to be a just man, someone who speaks up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, the poor and the needy. And then she describes what character qualities, what virtues, he should look for in a wife.
The word virtue is interesting…it is the same Hebrew word used to describe David’s might men of valor. Mother Lemuel was not suggesting any wimpy woman for her son. On the contrary, she lists character quality after character quality that she believed a man would need in a wife, qualities that would make her a woman of valor, a mighty wife, a mighty mom. And two of those attributes she lists are wisdom and kindness and they are even placed together in the same verse.
So, with this context in mind, I would like to take a few minutes this morning to talk about wisdom and then when we come back this afternoon we will also be looking at the word kindness because I believe a woman who is wise and a woman who is kind will find herself living out the sweet life of a homeschooling mom every single day!
Wisdom ~ Proverbs 31:26 states “she opens her mouth with wisdom.” The Hebrew word for wisdom means exceedingly wise in mind, word, or action. The dictionary gives these definitions of the word wise: having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion,having knowledge or information as to facts, circumstances, etc.: Astute, prudent, sensible, judicious
So why is it so important for a virtuous woman to have wisdom? Why is it important for a homeschooling mom to have wisdom? Let me share with you four of the things we need to know about wisdom that I believe the Bible gives to us.
Wisdom is to be valued above all else.
Scripture tells us that it is better than rubies, is more valuable than all gold and silver, and should be desired more than wealth and power. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, wealth and power were dangled in front of him. We later are told that Jesus was tempted in all ways that we are tempted, assuring us that we have an advocate with the Father who understands these temptations.
Perhaps these are areas where homeschooling moms do tend to struggle. 10 summers ago when our son got married and we traveled to Miami for the wedding, we stayed with our daughter-in-law’s family. Their home was quite large and they had a maid who took terrific care of us, though she spoke no English.
One day my son who was 11 at the time, came walking down the hallway with a basket full of clean and freshly ironed clothes and a starry look in his eyes. “She did my laundry!” he said. I just looked at him. Who did he think had been doing it the past 11 years? But it did make me wonder what it might be like to have my own maid and to fanaticize about living in a tropical paradise with swarthy men dressed all in white bringing me exotic mango salads and iced tea.
For the most part, we are average women who will never be part of any jet set, flitting around from a fashion show to a party at some upscale establishment. Our idea of fine cuisine is something that doesn’t come in a box with a toy. We wear something called “mom” jeans! And even if we did win the lottery, we would probably shop at Amazon for even more used books! Every once in a while, perhaps when we are discouraged or disappointed or tired, we might wistfully think about what it would be like to live in the world of the rich and famous.
And then there is the notion of power. Boy oh boy, wouldn’t that be something to possess? One day my grandson was playing super hero and decided that he would create his own new character. As he was flying into the room he announced to his brother “My superhero name is Whatever. That is because my super power is that I can do whatever I want.” Don’t we all wish we could be that character? Especially as our children get older and more autonomous? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just “make them” do whatever we would want them to do rather than to counsel and encourage them as they make life choices?
But wisdom would tell us that that is not possible nor desirable and that we are to concentrate on building them up in the faith, teaching them, opening our mouths with the same wisdom we, too, are pursing.
When we choose the career of homeschooling mom, we trade in all the dreams of wealth and power for the opportunity to spend our days pursuing truth and wisdom and relationship building with little people. We embrace the choice of reveling in the days of small things. We seek wisdom and knowledge that far exceeds any earthly wealth or kingdom. We trust that a sovereign God will give us all we need for life and godliness!
Wisdom is given to us by God to enable us to perform our duties as moms and promises to even increase our knowledge.
The word wisdom is used in Exodus to describe the knowledge that the Lord gave to the skilled artisans so they could make Aaron’s garments for worship. We are told that these workers “were given wisdom and understanding in knowledge and all manner of workmanship.”
I have never had to sew any garments for a priest to wear for worship. I have not had to sew any draperies or build any walls or prepare any inner sanctuary as per the Lord’s instructions. But I have been called to give all I can toward the goal of building up children in the faith, preparing children for life outside my home, children whose bodies we are told are called the very temple of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes that has been a terribly difficult job. There have been so many academic things that I didn’t know before we began homeschooling. And now at this point there are still many things that I do not know. But I am confident that the Lord gave me the wisdom to learn and increase my knowledge in the specific areas He knew my children were going to need to know.
One of the great fallacies that those who hate homeschooling would like to promote is that homeschoolers cannot possibly teach all subjects to their children, that homeschooling moms can’t know everything. I am the first one to admit that this is true. In fact, at least I am honest and can admit that I will never possess all the knowledge available today. The sheer amount of information that there is to know in the world today increases regularly and exponentially. No school, no one can teach EVERYTHING. But, by God’s grace, we can learn all we need to prepare our children to learn in the future, as they pursue college or career paths that are specialized. We need to trust that the Lord will continue to give us wisdom as we need it, as we teach our children. James 1:5 tells us: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him.” And then in Psalm 37:30, we are told that a wise man (or woman) will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” Which brings me to the third truth about wisdom that is so crucial for homeschooling moms.
Wisdom in not found in man’s ways, no matter how great those ways seem or how lovely and pleasing the person is who presents them.
The Bible says that there are two kinds of wisdom, God’s wisdom and the wisdom of this world, or fleshly wisdom. I Corinthians refers to this as the wisdom of the age and it comes in many forms, some of them unexpected.
We only have to go as far as our living rooms to take in the best of fleshly wisdom. We just need to turn on the TV and listen to the advice of Oprah and her new age counsel. Or we can go to the bookstore and scan the titles of what seems like limitless numbers of self-help books to learn that most who offer wisdom call upon their own experience or the sage advice of pagans.
Recently we watched Ken Burn’s latest documentary series on the National Parks and learned that much of the credit for the protection of these amazing places around our country can be given to a man by the name John Muir. Muir worked tirelessly to bring an awareness of the need to set aside wilderness lands for the enjoyment of future generations. A dear friend of Teddy Roosevelt, he devoted his entire life to teaching and inspiring government leaders so that a national park system could be put in place.
John Muir was raised in a Christian home, the son of a pastor, and had memorized all of the New Testament and 2/3 of the Old Testament. Yet he rejected the one true God of the Bible and, believing that he had found God in nature, he promoted pantheism until his dying days. His love affair with nature, drew him into the same false religion we see growing in our own time.
As I listened to the various historians describe Muir’s version of Christianity, as they called it, I remembered this passage from Job:
“From where then does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; And the sea says, ‘It is not with me. Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.”
Over the summer I spent some time reading a couple of books that have analyzed and evaluated the Barna research and the studies by Christian Smith that have been done to understand why so many young people are leaving the faith and leaving the church. The statistics show that roughly 80% of young people who were raised in Christian homes fail to maintain that faith into adulthood and some of them even abandon it during their teen years. As alarming as the numbers are, to me, the most sobering fact they discovered is that less than 10% of Christian adults, the parents of these young people, even have a Biblical worldview. In other words, they do not possess the wisdom or the ability to think Biblically or to even do what a Christian ought to do.
The book of 2 John has an interesting and particular message to us as moms. It was written to a Christian mother and warns her to be aware of those who would deceive her and draw her away from the faith. John knew what was at stake…the very spiritual lives of this woman’s children. He emphasized that the way to avoid being deceived is to place all confidence and faith in the person of Jesus Christ, on His finished work on the cross, on the very message of the Gospel that we are saved by faith in Jesus and not in our own works.
In the ancient Babylonian and Asyrian cultures and even in the Mayan and Aztec nations of Central America, men built temples to worship their Gods through sacrifice. These temples were called ziggurats and were built in receding tiers on a rectangular or square or sometimes an oval platform with a place to make sacrifices on their summit. Ramps or stairs allowed access to the top, sometimes as many as 7 tiers on any given ziggurat. They believed that these were stairways they could climb in order to reach their gods to offer sacrifices, works they could perform in order to please their deities.
In Genesis 28, Jacob dreams of a similar stairway into heaven but in his vision, angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Jesus explained Jacob’s dream in John 1 when he said “you will see heaven and the angels of God descending and ascending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus is saying that He is our ziggurat, our stairway, our only means to reaching God.
Sometimes I think that we, as homeschooling moms, build our own stairways to heaven, our own versions of good works, actually believing that they are the means by which we can find approval from God. We have a vision in our minds of what a perfect homeschooling situation would look like, a line-up of clean and perfectly obedient children who perfectly complete the perfect assignments we give them from our perfect lesson plans. We write mental checklists of what we need to do in order to be acceptable and worthy of our salvation, lists that define biblical or godly womanhood. We believe that our worth to God is measured by how many of those items we can check off on our quest to become the perfect combination of Martha Stewart and Elisabeth Elliott. Our celestial stairways are steep and polished and somehow we can never get to the top of them.
It isn’t always the secular world that introduces fleshly wisdom into our lives. Often this wisdom is introduced to us by those who profess to be Christians who seek to add to the word of God. It is often a difficult task to recognize deceivers because they may still maintain a form of godliness but they will deny the power of the one true God.
In a letter to Timothy, Paul warned the young pastor that those who deceive the saints are “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, dishonoring to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Deceivers, in essence, do not love God or others, they love only themselves and they use others to their own advantage, they love the world and the cravings of sinful man, they lust with their eyes, they continually boast.
I always think of Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry when I read this passage of Scripture. The fictional character Gantry was raised in a Christian home and studied at a seminary, eventually becoming an evangelist, but his love for the things of this world…sex outside of a one man/one woman marriage, power, and money….all became his undoing and he used religion as a cover to acquire these things. He was a charlatan of the worst sort. He was a deceiver.
I would beg you to be alert and not passively accept just any teachings as they come along. Do not be fooled by those who turn the narratives of the Bible into commands for all of us to keep. Do not be lead astray by those who might elevate the value of the family above proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with him. Keep your Bible beside you at all times and measure all words by THE WORD of God. And that brings me to the 4th reason that wisdom is so important in the life of the homeschooling mom.
Wisdom is only found in one place: in Jesus Christ.
Believe it or not, we are only 48 days away from Christmas! Soon I will begin holiday baking, freezing dozens of cowboy cookies and loaves of cranberry bread and there will be enough pecan pies to feed an army. I know that my family associates certain yummy foods with our home and I want to be ready to nurture them with the comfort food they look forward to having.
In the past couple of years, the book of Colossians has become my Scriptural equivalent of comfort food, the place I come to again and again to be encouraged and nurtured in the faith. Paul describes for us Jesus, in whom, he tells us, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
I would like to ask you this morning….do you have a personal relationship with this Jesus Christ? When you die, will you go to heaven? Why will the Lord let you in? Because of the good works you have done? Because you have been a homeschool mom? No!!! We need to examine our lives and honestly recognize that even one sin we have committed violates God’s standards and will send us to hell. We must believe that our only hope is to throw ourselves on the mercy of God, trusting in the blood of Christ alone to save us.
Proverbs 14:1 tells us that a wise woman will build her house, but a foolish woman will tear it down with her own hands. Let us purpose to be women who build our homes upon wisdom, wisdom that is more valuable than all the wealth and power the world has to offer. Wisdom that empowers us to accomplish the tasks before us. Wisdom that is based on God’s eternal truths rather than man’s ideas. Wisdom that is found only in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe if we do, we will enjoy the sweet, sweet life of the homeschooling mom.