Getting used to the new normal

Spanish news, American news, British news … they’re all talking about “the new normal.” Of course, no one has a clue what that means. There’s not one definition and not one recommendation, but we’re all supposed to get accustomed to things being different.

I had to laugh about a month ago when the climate activists were rejoicing about no smog in major cities like Beijing, Rome, Madrid, etc. where there were major shutdowns. Great. No pollution.

People are all shut up in their homes.

They cannot work.

People cannot drive anywhere unless it is critical to their wellbeing.

Look how it’s helping the climate. Animals in our streets. More bees.

We saved a lot on fuel for our car these past months. Of course. We couldn’t go to church or anywhere.

Is this the new normal? Forbidden to do anything or go anywhere?

“People aren’t spending extra money on clothing,” one news medium touts. “Isn’t that wonderful?” Well, when people aren’t allowed to leave their homes and the clothing sections of supermarkets are roped off, it’s not exactly a hard choice.

Then, we have the new social distancing normal. No one even knew what social distance was until recently, but these guidelines are hilarious, too. Some think it’s a meter (yard) and a half. Some say six feet. I heard a polititian say twelve feet today on the news. Where’d he get that?

Social distancing means we can’t hug, kiss, or touch. Our old people can’t have visitors. If you ask me, that’s just distancing, nothing social about it at all.

We went to church for the first time on Sunday. Our people sat a little farther apart than is prescribed by law. All of us wore masks. We sanitized our hands as we walked in. I waved to the others. There was no mingling, no fellowship, and no talking or hanging around before or after the service. It sure beats virtual meetings, and we’ll accept it for now.

But, the new normal?

Not normal. Not at all. Spanish society is all about touching, warmth, and relating to each other. Friendships. It’s one of the things I love about living here.

I have yet to go to the grocery store—after ten weeks—and I haven’t been in any large town. I am only now allowed to ride with my own husband in our own car. Woo hoo!

New normal.

No one would accept this forever, and I don’t think it will be forever.

Plexiglass divisions at restaurant tables? Puh-lease!

Yes, be careful. Wear a mask, if need be. Take care of others and yourself, and please wash your hands often and well.  If anything becomes a new normal, I hope it’s the handwashing thing. Just saying….

People were designed to relate to each other. Even before Adam was made from dust, God had planned a helper for him. God wanted the world populated and full of people. He wants us to care, fellowship, Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15).

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing (Ecclesiastes 3:1-5).

Sounds like today, doesn’t it? This is one of those times to refrain.

God knew all about pandemics in the past, and He wasn’t taken by surprise by this one.

As to a new normal?

I sincerely hope we learn to value what’s most important—especially our families and church gatherings—and we cut out some of the extra time-eaters. I hope people wash their hands more and contaminate less.

But, I also hope the new normal is close to the old normal … if normal even exists.

Guest post: Pluckers!

My friend, Charity Woon, wrote some encouraging posts for women. I liked them so much that I asked her for permission to share them as guest posts with you. They’re based on this verse and go well with my series on Proverbs. Of course, we want to be builders, not “pluckers.” Enjoy!

Proverbs 14:1, Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

Really… I don’t want to be a plucker….

But there are behaviors we women do that come so easily to us, and they damage our marriage relationship. For example:

Plucker Behavior #1: Competing with my husband

I’m not talking about a friendly game of Uno. I’m talking about the need to prove I am better than him at things: speaking, time management, leadership, planning, packing, driving….

Pride motivates our need to be recognized for our abilities. We belittle others and exalt our superiority. We point out their faults and weaknesses—areas we thrive in. But our home isn’t corporate America. We aren’t clawing to the top of the ladder. Competition between a husband and wife damages. We aren’t competing. We’re supposed to be helping each other. We are supposed to be lifting each other up. This world tears my husband down enough on its own without me joining the wrecking crew. I don’t need to point out his weaknesses—and certainly not publicly!

So what if I am a better planner or speaker or whatever? If I want to be a plucker, I will make sure he knows about it often. But if I am a builder, I will be his biggest cheerleader in his areas of strength as well as when he grows in his areas of weakness.

***

Some behaviors seem harmless, but they can weaken a marriage one small piece at a time.

Plucker Behavior #2: Dressing nicely for everyone except hubby

Isn’t it funny how, before marriage, we wanted to look our best every time we were going to see our sweetheart, but then after marriage we run around all day in pjs or sweatpants, no makeup, hair a disaster … until we need to go out somewhere? What message does that send? Do we now need to look nice for everyone except our husband?

One day I put this to the test. I had nowhere I needed to go, but I got up and got dressed nicely. It was nothing fancy, but it was nice enough that I would feel pretty while still being able to get things done in the house. I put on a little makeup and fixed my hair. Did my husband notice?

“What are you all dressed up for? You going somewhere?”

“Nope. Just wanted to look nice for you.”

It was already programmed in his mind that I only look nice when I go somewhere—not for him.

“You look nice.” Yes, he noticed, and it mattered.

I had sent him a new message, a new way of thinking. He is the one I need to look nice for, not the people at the grocery store. Getting dressed each day even if I am not going anywhere let’s him know I still want to capture his attention. He is worth a little extra effort.

So, for whom are we trying to look nice?

***

Plucker Behavior #3: Frivolous spending and discontentment

I remember one day my hubby came home from work. When we sat down to talk, he began thanking me.

“I just really appreciate that you aren’t high maintenance.”

Then, he began explaining how some guys at his workplace were talking amongst themselves about how their wives spent money frivolously, wanted expensive trinkets and luxuries for birthdays and Christmas, were often shopping for new clothes and spending lots of money on beauty parlor services, and would settle for nothing less than nice cars, nice houses, and more. The husbands complained about working so hard to make a paycheck only to have their wives blow it. One man turned to my hubby, expecting him to join in on the wife-bashing huddle.

“You know what I mean?” he asked.

“No. No, I don’t.” At that moment my husband realized how much he really treasured my tight-wad, penny-pincher nature.

“You are so content with what you have, and it felt good to tell them how virtuous you are.” Apparently the wife-bashing session stopped with his praise.

Honestly, it felt great to hear my hubby had bragged on me to his coworkers, but there was also a part of me that was grieved for those marriages. It’s never … never ever … justified for a husband to talk badly about his wife, but these wives didn’t realize how their materialism and discontentment were impacting their marriages.

Finances are one of the biggest issues in a marriage, and disagreements on money are a major contributor to divorce. If you want to be a builder instead of a plucker, give your hubby a reason to praise you in the area of finances instead of reason to complain.

Proverbs 31:28, Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Is your appetite whetted yet? Thank you, Charity, for allowing me to share your Plucker Behavior challenges with my friends. Readers, stay tuned. Look for more Pluckers guest posts in the future. Charity Woon has written several books, sold on Amazon.

Worshiping in the valley

At the beginning of 2020, I chose a theme word. A message I heard at Christmastime moved me profoundly. It wasn’t about choosing a word or anything like that. Instead, the sermon was about worship.

After the message, the music minister led the church in worshiping quietly however each person wanted. We could kneel, remain seated, or whatever.

It was a beautiful time of corporate worship and met a need in my heart. As a result, I chose the word worship as my key word for this year.

So far, this has been a valley year. I don’t want to bother you with the details, but it has been one of the most difficult years in my life. Many uncertainties, awful trials, the passing of a loved one, and isolation in Spain because of Covid19 have turned me to the Lord, clamoring for help, praying with groans, not knowing even how to trust—not understanding what is happening.

I have quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 to myself probably more than a hundred times, and I may make it two hundred before the year is out.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Lord, I acknowledge You. I know you’re in control, and you know exactly where You’re leading us, even when we are clueless.

How is your year going? Is it a valley?

Be encouraged.

God is still the awesome One who spoke and created the world. He is still the miracle working, history making God. He’s the One who loves you. He died for you. He rose from the grave, conquering death, and gives us hope and purpose.

Worship is praise.

Praising God for Who He is.

Just worship.

My friend, Jane, shared this poem. I asked the author, Nicole Madaus, if I could share it with you. She graciously gave me permission.

  • When you have been hurt and life is far from fair,
  • When your heart is breaking, choose to worship there.
  • When you’re overwhelmed by the burdens that you bear,
  • As you struggle neath the load, choose to worship there.
  • When the secrets that you carry hurt too much to share,
  • When you’re suffering in silence, choose to worship there.
  • When it feels like there will never be an answer to your prayer,
  • In the time of waiting, choose to worship there.
  • When you are grieving over an empty chair,
  • Even in your sorrow, you can worship there.
  • It may not change the trial, but it will change your point of view.
  • It may not change your suffering, but it can change you.
  • Worship can bring healing; it can set you free.
  • Move your focus off your problems, and put it back on Me!
  • Worship will remind you that I am in control
  • And that knowledge can bring comfort to your troubled soul.
  • Worship offers hope in the midst of deep despair,
  • So whatever you are facing, choose to worship there!

Let’s bless the Lord today. He is worthy.

*By Nicole Madaus

A ring in a hog’s nose, pluckers, and much more: Proverbs 11

Proverbs 11 provides a comparison-contrast in every verse.

According to this chapter, what pleases God?

  • honesty in business
  • humility
  • integrity
  • righteousness
  • knowledge
  • understanding
  • someone who refuses to gossip
  • using a multitude of counsellors
  • hating co-signing to strangers
  • showing mercy
  • being upright
  • desiring good
  • liberality
  • winning souls

What things absolutely don’t please the Lord and might be labeled abomination, shame, etc.?

  • cheating in business
  • pride
  • perversity, perverse heart
  • wickedness
  • hypocrite
  • he that destroys his neighbor with words
  • unwise
  • someone who tells secrets
  • someone who doesn’t seek counsel
  • co-signing for a stranger
  • cruelty
  • deceit
  • evil
  • an unjust tax collector
  • those that won’t sell/distribute what they have for the poor
  • seeker of mischief
  • those that trust in riches

Besides these, I’d like to share some thoughts from several individual verses not covered above.

Proverbs 11:7When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth. This is an extremely sad Bible verse. Contrast it with Titus 2:13-14, Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. In the Bible, hope is used to express “hope of glory.” It is “the confident expectation of what God has promised.” It isn’t just wishing or maybe-so, but it’s confidence in the Lord and heaven. In our verse in Proverbs, wicked people don’t have anything to look forward to. That is truly sad.

Proverbs 11:10-11When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. I am not sure what city this refers to, but look how a whole community is affected—with joy when good people prosper, and shouting when wicked people die. Even a city with upright people in it gets a special blessing from the Lord.

Proverbs 11:16A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches. Here we have the first part of the verse about women, and the second is about men. There are several like this in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 11:22—As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion. Is a jewel of gold in a pig’s snout appropriate? Of course not. No one spends that kind of money to put a ring in a pig’s snout. A woman without discretion is just as silly.

Proverbs 11:29He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart. This verse goes with another from Proverbs 14:1, Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. The person (man or woman) that messes up his own home is foolish and “inherits the wind.” How would we like air for an inheritance? Not at all. Messing up our homes is one of the worst things we can do as Christians. It isn’t wise. Back up to Verse 29, the fool shall be servant to the wise. This has been true all throughout history. My friend Charity has written a series on social media about “pluckers”—and how they destroy their homes.

Proverbs 11:30The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. At first, this verse seems to be talking about two totally different concepts. A tree of life and a soul-winner? Look again. It is talking about fruit. The fruit is a tree of life—the symbol of everlasting life. A wise person wins souls—points them to Jesus, the Giver of eternal life. The fruit of the righteous are souls led to Christ.

Proverbs 11:31Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner. Both good and wicked people will pay for their bad deeds. The habitual sinner, of course, will pay more for his.

There are so many teachings in this Proverb. If I were to comment about all of them, it would take many pages. Look back at the first list. This is how a Christian should act. Remember, we are rewarded according to our actions.

For women, let’s not be inappropriate. Instead, we can be gracious. Let’s build up our houses instead of being “pluckers.” Let’s bring blessing and not trouble into our homes.

God bless and keep you.

Is it okay for Christians to beg?

Not too long ago, several of my friends were in dire straits. Each had health limitations, money problems, and other difficulties in their lives. They reached out for help—and people were more than happy to lend a hand, a vehicle, bring a meal, and wash some laundry. When the need was known, Christian friends were there for them.

I know it must’ve been humbling to say, “I can hardly move, and I need help,” but it was the right thing to do. That’s what the body of Christ is all about. We let our needs be known, and our fellow Christians take up the slack for us. They have the opportunity to minister. Someday, when we feel better, we can do the same for them.

Letting needs be known is different from begging. Begging is asking for charity and not going through the proper channels.

When King David was an old man, he said, I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread (Psalm 37:25).

God indeed promises to provide all our needs.

But, the truth is, sometimes Christians suffer.

Many years ago, I found out that a widow in our church had been eating watery soup for more than a month because she had no money. The church could have helped her, had we any idea at all. But, she was ashamed, and we didn’t know. Therefore, she suffered.

Others are disobeying God, and sometimes God chastises. Of course, we aren’t God, and we can’t tell when it’s chastisement or not, but there are times I wonder. Not too long ago, someone called my pastor husband, saying they didn’t have anything at all in the house to eat. Knowing the backstory, it was sadder than the simple need for food. Was this God’s trying to get this person’s attention, so he would do right? I don’t know.

Some Christians refuse to work, because they like welfare, and the work they’re qualified to do doesn’t pay much. They would prefer to sit back and let the government take care of them—and complain it’s not enough. The Bible says (talking about those who are physically able), For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

It goes further. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8). The Bible has harsh words for those who are lazy.

I personally admire someone who advertises, “Will work for food.” Good for him!

Do you have a need?

Have you prayed? Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:7, 11b)

Did you let your pastor know? Speaking about the relationship between church members and pastors, the Bible says, Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17).

Hudson Taylor, George Müller, and other godly men of the past purposed in their hearts to depend upon the Lord alone and not publicly announce their needs. They prayed, and God answered. For Taylor, who lived in China, the help was often on the way before he actually prayed. Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him (Matthew 6:8b). Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).

If you don’t have pressing needs at this time, and you can share with others, see who you can help. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).

Sometimes, a person only needs a hug and encouraging words. But, some people need the use of a car for a day or two, or a meal, or a helping hand at home, or someone to watch the children for a few hours. You can make someone’s day by helping others.

If you don’t know who needs help, ask your pastor.

Is it okay for Christians to literally beg? I don’t think so.

Can you let your needs be known? Yes, absolutely, and you should at least let the Lord know about them in prayer.

Should you offer to work for pay? Of course, if you are physically able.

As a church, should we be looking out for others? Yes. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27).

God has met our needs many times when we prayed about them. At least some of those answers were miraculous. God burdened others to help us in the amount we needed at the right time. He is a loving Father and delights in hearing His children’s petitions.

May He use you to meet others’ needs—and your own.

If you’d like to share a personal testimony about how God met a specific need, please feel free to comment.