Becoming a Marriage Expert – Romans 12:9-13

The author of an insightful blog post explains that much of the hard work we do is only practice, preparation for a masterpiece to come. He cited the book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, when he said it takes 10,000 hours to become the best at something, like 10,000 hours of singing or shooting basketball hoops or teaching or knitting.

PaulDelores crop 9-2012
My parents, Paul and Delores Sheldon

“Most artistic ventures, including writing, require you do most of it for practice.” – quoted from Dan Balow’s post on The Steve Laube Agency site.

Growing a great relationship with anyone takes work, but the effort to maintain a lifelong bond requires unending diligence. Like my garden has taught me, the weeds will come. If I don’t continually deal with them, aggressive plants will encroach on the strawberry and clematis vines and rob them of vital nutrients.

As a child I thought nothing could come between my parents. They certainly did not have weeds to pull to keep their union healthy, did they? I don’t remember seeing weeds, probably because they grew proficient at removing them before I was old enough to notice. They are good at marriage, but their union of 61 years is still a work in progress.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13 NIV).

The key words show action: sincere loving, hating evil, clinging to good, staying devoted, honoring others more than self, keeping spiritual fervor, serving God; being joyful, patient, faithful, generous; practicing hospitality.

It might take me more than 10,000 hours to become an expert, but I will keep practicing.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

When your Life’s Work Gets the Dreaded Pink Slip – Job 1:21

Does God fire people who work for him? I don’t know about being fired, but I received a pink slip terminating me from my life’s calling several years ago.

When I attended a staff meeting at church, I observed the discussion about how the different ministries should be managed. It was insightful.

The first to give a report was a youth pastor who passionately shared his plans for reaching teens before they graduate from high school. He asked the other leaders to support him.

Another pastor, whose focus was on adult education (helping people move on from their past) brought up how family trees could be changed if everyone took his class. A third, the leader of the worship ministry, was just as convinced worshiping God with music should be the church’s priority.

Each leader felt his was the most valuable part of the church’s work, and it soon turned into a lively discussion. The temperature seemed to rise in the room when they were unsuccessful getting the others to agree with their point of view.

How do we let go?

I listened and inwardly criticized. Couldn’t they see they were holding on to their ministries too tightly? If God gave them their particular “callings” then he might also reorder things or even take them away. It’s all his business, after all.

But when it happened to me it wasn’t so easy.

My life’s work

Following the birth of our first child I threw myself wholly into parenting and managing our home. By the time my third arrived, I was sailing in my mothering ministry.

I’d never been more confident of God’s direction and blessing on my efforts. Wasn’t I doing the most important work–teaching others by example to be followers of Jesus, giving them the love and instruction they needed to navigate their lives?

And I was good at it.

I had a list of excellent reasons why my fruitful ministry should continue indefinitely. I volunteered to drive my friends’ children to Christian school, had a childcare business in my home, oversaw children’s ministries at church, sponsored orphans in other countries. I even home schooled three of our foster children.

Accepting the pink slip

Can you imagine my shock when I got my pink slip? Yeah, I thought about stalling the termination of my work with children by taking in more foster kids, but even then I wouldn’t be able to escape the truth. My cup was running dry. My Lord was inviting me to willingly move on from a vibrant, productive ministry, and to follow him in new ways.

Eventually, after a time of prayer and soul searching, I clutched my pink slip and watched it change into a boarding pass for my next adventure with God.

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21 ESV

We can skip along in our blessings and say the Lord did this or the Lord did that, but what will we say when those good things come to an end?

Hopefully, it’s blessed be the name of the Lord!

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

Up from the Rabbit Hole – Proverbs 4:20-23

I don’t always realize when the filters of my mind need cleaning.  I feel I’m pretty good at watching what goes into my brain, but when I read Dorcas Smucker’s blog this week I decided I should do some scrubbing.

rabbit costume. ryanmcguire. free pixabay

She wrote about how she “followed the rest of this country down this rabbit hole of insanity” this week when she got overwhelmed by stuff dominating the media. Dorcas even found herself griping about Caitlyn Jenner, that he should have instead transitioned to a gray-haired, saggy-bellied woman in the throes of menopause.

Was that a rant?

I have high regard for Dorcas Smucker’s writing. Like her, I steer clear of going deep into social trends and politics. But here she is, a Mennonite minister’s wife, mother of six, columnist for the Register-Guard and author, and she finds a way to meet most any subject with grace and objectivity. All without adding to our already maxed-out brains.

She delivered just the encouragement I needed this week when she said she dealt with craziness by feeding her hunger for the Bible. She also counsels the discouraged young people in her life by telling them they need more Jesus and more talking with “real people with real voices who speak real words” and less of looking to digital friends.

Like my son would say, “BAM!” I think he means that’s the point!

What a perfect way to describe the thought-cleaning I do. It’s like keeping up on my computer’s maintenance. I don’t wait till it gets sick and performs poorly before I defrag or chkdsk. And I don’t wait till my mind gets gunked up before I scrub the filters with good dose of words of truth from the Bible.

My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:20-23 NIV

by Kathy Sheldon Davis