Wednesday

Haircuts and Holiness -- How Patient Endurance Makes Them Possible

I remember the first time I saw my mother-in-law giving my soon-to-be husband a haircut. 

“I didn’t know you were a beautician,” I said, surprised to see her wielding her scissors like a pro. 

“I’m not, but I’ve learned a few things over the years.” She then demonstrated how to give a haircut. “When y’all get married,” she said, “you can cut David’s hair.” 

Whaaaaaat? 

In my family, haircuts were off-limits to amateurs. Only someone with a certificate and a special chair touched our heads. And if they didn’t have a jar of assorted combs soaking in green liquid on their counter top, uh uh, ain’t no way they were lifting a pair of scissors to our locks. 

That’s why I knew David’s mother was joking—until our bridal shower. 

After opening a dozen boxes containing cookware, Corning Wear, and underwear (yeah, someone got confused and thought it was a lingerie shower), I peeled the paper off a small, flat package. The box inside said, Professional Hair Cutting Set.   

“Now you won’t have to borrow my tools,” my almost-mother-in-law said with a smile. 

Oh my, I thought. She honestly thinks I’m going to give David a haircut. 

I carried the gifts home and tucked the hair cutting kit in the bottom of a box. There it lay, forgotten, until about a month after our wedding. 

“Lori,” my new husband said, “my hair’s getting a little shaggy. Would you give me a haircut?” 

“Are you serious?” I practically screeched. “The only hair I’ve ever cut was my Barbie’s, and that didn’t turn out so well. I can’t cut your hair. People go to school for years to learn how. What if I make a mistake? There’s no gluing it back on, you know. Remember that school picture from kindergarten when your sister took a pair of scissors to your bangs? Do you really want to go back there?” 

But there was no convincing him. His mom always cut his hair, and when I signed the marriage certificate, she passed the mantle to me. The thought of going to a stranger for a haircut was foreign and distasteful. 

“Think about how much money we’ll save,” he reasoned. “I trust you. You can do this.” 

And so I did. 

Keep in mind that these were the days before YouTube. My best hope was to check out a book from the library, study the instructions, and give it my best shot. 

Some haircuts came out fairly decent. Others not so much. 

I had the hardest time figuring out how to keep David’s hair from falling straight down like Mo on the Three Stooges. Several times, as I cut along the neckline and around the ears, I cut a little high, leaving him with whitewalls of scalp that hadn’t seen the sunshine in years. Other times I failed to compensate for the cowlick at his crown, giving him a haircut that would have made Alfalfa proud. 

Through it all, my husband was patient, gracious, and encouraging. “You’ll figure it out. You’re doing a great job.” 

Thankfully, most of my mistakes were in the back, where he couldn’t see them. But I could. 

Every time I looked at one of those botched haircuts, I cringed. I had made the mistake, but he was wearing it. 

It occurred to me recently that sometimes, in marriage, we wear each other’s shame in other ways. 



A husband’s poor social skills embarrass his wife at a work event. A wife’s tinder-box temper erupts at the neighborhood pool, causing her husband to squirm as heads turn. A person’s impatience, coarse language, or ignorance reflect on their spouses too, because, for better or for worse, they are a couple.  

After almost 35 years of marriage, I like to think of myself as mature, self-controlled, and patient. But one afternoon, like the choppy haircuts of our early years, my husband had to wear the results of my less-than stellar behavior. 

It had been a long day. A thunderstorm had awakened us at 4:30 in the morning, disturbing our sleep and leaving us without electricity. We’d stuck it out in the house until the heat became unbearable, then we sought refuge at our daughter’s home. 

Grateful we’d made plans to eat out with friends for dinner, we were finishing up our meal when a text from a neighbor lit up my phone. Hooray! The power’s back on. 

After being a vagabond for most of the day, I was ready to go home. But my husband had one more story to tell. I patted him on the leg, our signal for I’m ready to go. He finished the story, then launched into another one. I nudged him with my elbow. He still didn’t get the message, so I nudged him again. Less gently this time. 

My impatient rudeness was obvious by that point, and my husband experienced the shame of it in front of our friends. Because everyone knows pastors and their wives never fight, right? At least not in public. 

My prideful self tried to justify my actions by mentally listing the things my husband has done that have embarrassed me, but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me rest. I apologized, remorseful about how I’d treated him and ashamed that others had witnessed my poor behavior. 

Later, the Holy Spirit consoled me with the truth—we’re all works in progress. 

In progress. 

If we’re believers, the Spirit of God lives in us, gradually conforming us to Christ’s image. But the work takes time. Our path to holiness climbs upward, but isn’t immune to detours and backslides. When those around us behave in less than stellar ways, and we respond with grace, we take a giant step along our own path of Christ-likeness. 

First Corinthians 13:7 reminds us love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

While there are limits to bearing and enduring—no one should remain in a dangerous, abusive relationship, most of us come nowhere near this scenario. The worst we experience are small annoyances that fall short of perfection or cause us embarrassment. 

I’m so grateful for Christ, who’s the epitome of patience and kindness. His example challenges me not only to be patient with myself when I act in less-than-godly ways, but to be grateful for my husband, who faithfully bears with me through my spiritual growing pains. 

Someday, I pray, he’ll wear my behavior (like my haircuts) with pride, knowing that his longsuffering commitment to my growth in holiness helped make it possible. 

Now it's your turn. Who has God used in your life to encourage you in the paths of holiness? Leave a comment below and share your story. If you're reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment. 




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Was Job's Wife a Loser?



I’ve always thought Job’s wife was a loser. A loser with a capital L. 

To be honest, I try not to ponder Job and his wife’s story too deeply. I’m afraid if I get too close I might catch the plague that ravished their lives. So I keep my distance, skimming the book that bears Job’s name instead of stepping inside. 

But today as I breezed past the land of Uz in my Bible reading, Job’s wife opened the door and invited me in. 

I considered slapping on a mask and gloves and running the other way, but instead I took a deep breath and accepted her invitation. 

Heartbreak was everywhere. A series of tragedies had robbed Job of almost everything he held dear. His ten children had died in a catastrophic accident. Bands of raiders had ravaged his flocks, stealing thousands of animals. Pus-filled, oozing boils covered his body, disfiguring his skin and making him wish he’d never been born. 

Imagine what it would be like to be married to Job. 

Scripture records the two lines that immortalized Job’s wife: "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). 

Wow. What a woman. 

Instead of reminding Job of the goodness of God in the face of tragedy, she encourages him to jump off a cliff. “How can you believe in a God who has turned his back on you?” I can imagine her saying. “Spit in his face and return to the ground from whence you came.” 

Some of the women in the Bible inspire me with their bold and courageous faith, but not Mrs. Job. Her faithless, bitter words make me squirm. 

Ready to judge her and move on, I glance her way. And for the first time, I see—really see—the woman behind these gut-wrenching lines. 

Somehow, she looks different up close. It’s interesting how our perspective changes when we look into a person’s eyes instead of down our noses at them. 

Gazing into her grief-ravaged face, I realize three things: 

Job’s ten dead children were her dead children, too. 

The valuable animals that rode off into the sunset behind the bandits? Her defense against hunger and poverty also. 

And that deathly-ill man oozing with infection? Her beloved husband. 

No wonder her words sound bitter and faithless. They erupt from the depths of her grieving soul. Like the suffering Psalmist, she voices the question every believer asks during times of tragedy, but few dare to say aloud, “Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?” (Psalm 73:13). God, have I wasted my life serving you? 

Pastor/Teacher John Piper calls words like these “words for the wind.” 

“There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil,” he writes in the online article, “When Words Are Wind.” “But not all grey words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by the pain, the despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within. There is something real within where they come from. But it is temporary—like a passing infection—real, painful, but not the true person.” 

Asaph, the Psalmist agrees. He explained the hurt that spawned his faithless words. “When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was a fool and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward You” (Psalm 73:22). 

Yet Asaph returned to the faith that held him when he was too weak to hold himself. I believe Job’s wife did, too. “Yet I am always with You;” Asaph declared to the God he had doubted. “You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up in glory. Whom do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever” (Psalm 73:23-26). 

Looking deeply into Job’s wife’s eyes, I lowered the gavel I’d been prepared to strike in judgment and draped the mantle of mercy over her grieving shoulders. 

I believe this is what God did, too. 

Unlike Lot’s idolatrous wife, whose backward glance revealed her true heart condition, Job’s wife suffered no judgment from the Lord, only healing and restoration. When God blessed Job again with health, wealth, and family, I believe Mrs. Job was standing right there beside him, a testimony to God’s goodness and mercy. 

“So the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the earlier. He owned 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. . . . Job lived 140 years after this and saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. Then Job died, old and full of days” (Job 14:12-13, 17). 

What should we do when we encounter someone staggering under the pain of tragedy? 

Piper suggests we pray for discretion and wisdom. “Let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind — spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul, not reproving the sore, is the aim of our love.” 

I left Job’s house that day with a new opinion of his wife. I realize now that she isn’t a loser. Only a woman who bowed low under the weight of sorrow and grief, struggling to make sense of it all and desperate for hope and compassion. 

In my quickness to judge, perhaps I was the loser. 

Now it’s your turn. When have you misjudged someone, only to discover later that there was much you didn’t understand? Leave a comment below and share your story. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and share your thoughts. 



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Sunday

Waiting for a Bus that Never Comes


My watch read 10:58 and the 11Y bus was nowhere in sight. According to the electronic sign that tracked the bus’ progress, it was due to arrive in three minutes. 


Two minutes. 

One minute. 

The flashing display announced: ARRIVED. 

Except it hadn’t. 

Five minutes ticked by. Then ten. 

Should we be worried that the 10:58 bus is twelve minutes late? I texted my son-in-law, an Alexandria local. 

No. Sometimes they get behind. I’ll check the transit schedule. . . Hm. That’s strange. It says it’s already come. 

Not good. Especially since my husband and I had tickets for a tour of Ford’s Theatre at noon. In the city. Thirty minutes away. 

I’ve never lived in a place where I had to depend on public transportation, so standing on a street corner waiting for a bus that never came was a new experience. As the minutes ticked by, we realized we had a choice to make—continue to stand on the corner, abandon our plans for the tour, or explore other options. 

I just checked with Uber, my son-in-law texted. They can have a car there in 5 minutes.

Let’s do it, I responded, and soon we were on our way. 

Thinking back on the experience, I realized it wasn’t the first time I’ve stood on that street corner. Figuratively at least. You’ve probably been there, too. 

You made your plans, and they were good ones. You prepared, worked hard, and did everything you could do to ensure their success. But the bus never came. 


The recruiter didn’t call you back. 



That first date didn’t lead to a second one. 

The email that should have said Yes said No. 

The promotion, project, or pregnancy never happened. 

You had a choice to make. Cling to your dream, give up, or explore other options. 

Unfortunately, exploring other options is a little more difficult than opening the Uber app and requesting a driver. It begins with knowing your dream.

• Is it from the Lord? 

• Does it agree with Scripture? 

• Is it a natural progression on the path God has been leading you? 

• Can you look back and see how past events and circumstances have brought you to this place? 

• Has your dream been confirmed by godly people? 

• Has your desire grown stronger as time has passed or wavered or waned? 

No one can answer all these questions for us, but I believe if we earnestly seek God’s will, he’ll reveal it to us. 

Two years ago, God planted the idea in my heart to write a devotional book. Knowing God can’t guide our steps unless we’re walking, I crafted a book proposal, sent it to my agent, and began to write. 

From time to time my agent would forward a rejection letter. Lord, I’d pray, am I supposed to keep writing this book? Every time I asked, in the deepest part of my heart, I’d sense God’s response: 

Write the book. 

So I kept writing. Before long, every publisher had rejected it. The bus didn’t come. 

But instead of shriveling up and dying, my desire to write the book grew stronger. And stronger. 

Lord? 

Write the book. 

I prayed. I read God’s Word. I brainstormed with other writers, consulted with my agent, and talked to professionals in the industry. 

Out of the ashes of my first proposal arose another one. A better one. Stronger and more true to the calling God had given me. My heart leapt with excitement, and my mind exploded with inspiration. 

Within two months, Discovery House had extended an offer to publish Refresh Your Faith – Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible

During the long wait, I continued to obey the voice that urged me to keep writing. Because I had, the manuscript was complete and ready to submit before I’d even signed the contract. Not the normal order of events for a non-fiction book, but right on schedule with God’s timeline. 

And while the first bus to publication didn’t arrive, an Uber driver waited in the wings, ready to take my new and improved book idea where it needed to go. 

If you’re standing on the street corner watching for a bus that hasn’t come, I urge you to sincerely and humbly examine your dream. Stop telling God what you want, and listen with an open heart to what he wants for you. Surrender your will to his, knowing you can trust him. 

Then ask yourself, is this dream from the Lord? You can never be completely sure, but if it satisfies the questions above, it probably is. 

"I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).

Unless God closes the door and/or removes the desire from your heart, you have a choice to make. Are you going to continue to stand on the corner and wait, abandon your plans, or explore another option? 

Receiving 16 rejection letters could have been the end of my book dream, but God’s calling was clear to write the book. At the time, I didn’t know why. Maybe the process was for my own growth. Or to create material to share on my blog. Or maybe he called me to write the book because he intended for it to become a book. 

Regardless, God had given me a dream. My responsibility was to do everything within my power to make it happen. After that, the results were up to him. 

Now let’s talk about your dream. Are you standing on a corner waiting for a bus that hasn’t come? Is it time to give up on your plans? Or maybe it’s time to explore other options. Whatever the Lord tells you to do, do it. 

If you leave a comment below, I'd be honored to pray for you. 



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Wednesday

Trust God's Timing: Don't Put a Period Where God Has Put a Comma, and Likewise . . . A Guest Post by Jean Wilund

Today's it's my pleasure to welcome my dear friend, writing buddy, and resident theologian, Jean Wilund to Hungry for God. Read deeply, think carefully, and be encouraged. And follow the link at the end to subscribe to Jean's inspiring blog.



Punctuation Matters “Don’t eat, Gigi.” OR “Don’t eat Gigi.” 

Big difference. Punctuation matters. 

Punctuation also matters when it comes to trusting God’s timing.

Don’t put a period where God has put a comma. 

And likewise . . . 

Don't put a comma where God has put a period. 

Commas pause us and encourage us to wait. And rest. They mean God’s still working in the situation. Keep walking by faith. God has not given His final answer. 

Periods stop and turn us. It’s over. Move along. They mean God has spoken. We don't need more information. We need to obey. And rest. We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight. 

When we're in a waiting and wondering phase, figuring out God's timing can feel like navigating a fog-covered road. You have no idea if you're almost at your destination or still far from it. God sees what we can't -- He sees the end from the beginning. 

We, however, must walk by faith through the fog of our future. Our sight doesn’t go even a millisecond beyond the next step. 

But we don't walk in blind faith. God has given us 1,189 chapters of His wisdom and instruction within the pages of the Bible to guide us. And He's given Christians His Holy Spirit to help us understand God's Word and to lead us in all things -- including divine punctuation. 

How Can We Know if God Has Given Us a Period or a Comma? 

One of the surest ways to know if God has given you a period or a comma is to ask yourself if your situation/decision agrees with the Bible. 

If not, there’s your period. 

If it does, rest in the comma. 

Actually, rest in both. If that seems contradictory, let me explain. 

Don't Put a Comma in Marriage Where God has Placed a Period And Vice Versa 

Imagine someone who's not married meets a fascinating guy. They really like him, but he’s married. Period. Done. Move along. There’s no comma on that path. Only a period. 

God may be in the process of bringing them the perfect husband (comma), but it’s not going to be someone else’s (period). 

Embrace the period (it's a good thing) and rest in the comma (it's a good thing.) 

Likewise, don't assume if you're single that you'll never get married. Don't put a period where God has placed a comma. 

God created and blessed the wonderful institute of marriage. A single person has every right to assume they’re living in the comma. Some commas just have longer tails. 

BTW, singleness isn't a curse. It's as much a blessing as marriage. If God calls you to singleness, He will bless you in it. It's not a curse. 

Vice versa, marriage isn't a curse -- in case some of your experiences made you think it is. 

If You've Trusted in Jesus, Don't Put a Comma in Salvation Where God has Placed a Period 

If you've trusted in Jesus Christ for the payment of your sins, your eternal salvation is sealed. Period. It's done. Or as Jesus said, "It is finished." God will not remove the period. Rest in it. Don't put a comma where God has placed a period. 

A comma wrongly says I've trusted in Jesus, and now I must also be baptized or I won't be saved. Or something like I've trusted in Jesus, and now I must do good works or I won't be saved. Rest in the period of the assurance of your salvation, and enjoy the comma phase between when you received your salvation to when you'll see the Lord face-to-face. 

If You've Never Trusted In Jesus, Embrace the Comma of Grace, But Understand a Period is Coming 

If you've never trusted in Jesus for your salvation, you're in a comma. A comma of exceeding grace. But please understand: a period is coming. There's no second chance to trust Christ after we pass from this life. Period. 

Take advantage of the comma and trust in Jesus now before the time comes when the period will settle your destiny with an irrevocable and horrific period. Praise God for the comma He's given you now and turn to Christ. Embrace the period of salvation before the period of judgment makes you long for the comma again. Got it? 

For he [God] says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:2 

Listen, Obey, and Rest: God's Timing is Perfect Life happens every day. 

Profound, I know. But it does. And sometimes what happens jolts us and threatens to send us into a tailspin. But it doesn't have to. The truth sets us free when we:

Listen to what God has to say in His Word. 

Obey Him in whatever He's shown us to do. 

Rest in God's faithful timing. Period. 

(Oh, and don't eat Gigi. Ever.)

PS -- If you're living in an exclamation point -- and your shrieks aren't from delight -- seek help. God has commanded us to care for each other. Reach out to your family, friends, church, and even medical professionals if needed.


Jean Wilund is passionate about coffee, comedy, and chocolate, but mostly about sharing God’s life-changing truths through writing, speaking, and teaching. She lives in Lexington with her husband. Their children live scattered around the country. Visit Jean at www.JeanWilund.com.
 



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Sunday

One of the Sweetest Ways to Change the World

When you grow up in a small town in New England, you don’t have much to brag about. Nestled on the shores of Narragansett Bay, the sleepy little town where I was born is home to about 23,000 people. 



But once a year, it goes from obscure to ostentatious. 


On July 4th, Bristol, Rhode Island makes headlines by hosting the oldest continuously-running Fourth of July parade in the world. As a Girl Scout from troop #229, I proudly marched with my band of sisters in this parade on more than one occasion. 

Organized in 1785 by Henry Wright, a Congregational minister and veteran of the Revolutionary War, the celebration attracts more than 200,000 visitors from around the world. It’s not uncommon to see the Today Show broadcasting "The Military, Civic and Firemen's Parade" from a perch on Hope Street. 


In preparation for the celebration, the town paints the town red. And white. And blue. Literally. A tri-color stripe down the middle of Hope Street marks the parade route. Fire hydrants painted to look like minute men dot the main thoroughfare. Bunting, flags, and flowers adorn every home within ten miles of the town center. It’s no wonder Bristol has earned the nickname, “America’s Most Patriotic Town.” 

When my family moved from Rhode Island to South Carolina, I discovered that the biggest parade in Columbia took place in the winter. Smart. Very smart. In a land where July temperatures often reach 100 degrees or more, hosting a grand celebration in one of the cooler months of the year makes sense. 

The Columbia Christmas Parade has all the parade elements I grew up with and more. Because Columbia is home to Fort Jackson, the largest basic training facility in the country, we always see an impressive display of military power. Fly overs by jets from Shaw Air Force base, rolling tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers from the fort, and music by the Army band add a chest-swelling patriotic touch. 

I was half way through my senior year of dental hygiene school when parade organizers invited me to represent the Allied Health Department. Dressed in my white uniform and cap and accompanied by a five-foot wooden tooth, I waved and smiled until my face hurt. 

One of the funnest parts of the parade was throwing candy to the kids along the route. (Ironic in light of my life-long pledge to fight tooth decay, but hey, it was Christmas.) Before event organizers decided it was dangerous and banned the practice, we had the freedom to fling handfuls of candy into the crowds that lined the streets. 

Reveling in the memory of digging into that bucket of candy and scattering sweets far and wide, I realized something. Although safety concerns has ended the tradition of distributing candy at a parades, we as Christians can share a blessing that far surpasses Fireballs, Starburst, and Jolly Ranchers. 

We can scatter prayers. 

God showed me this early one morning as I walked the streets of my neighborhood. What if you scattered prayers the way you once scattered candy? The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart. Fling them far and wide. See how many people you can touch in my name today. 

So I did. 

I prayed for my closest neighbors as I walked past their houses.

Father, bless that hard-working university professor. Help her shine the light of Christ in her classroom. 

Heal that precious friend with cancer and keep her faith strong. Meet her every need according to your riches and glory. 

Protect that young couple as they travel. Give them a restful time away and bring them home safely. 

I also prayed for neighbors I haven’t yet met, flinging petitions their way with abandon. 

Lord, there’s that young girl I pass every morning jogging with her dog. Keep her safe. Keep her pure. If she doesn’t know you as Savior, help her find you. 

And the man who leaves for work every morning at 6 a.m. Bless his home and his family. Draw him close to you. 

And the grumpy lady who never smiles. Help her find joy

Unlike the big bucket of candy on the parade floats, these sweet offerings multiplied the more I scattered them. I prayed for the policeman who lives at the entrance to our neighborhood. For the contractor who parks his trailer in a cul de sac. For the couple whose toy poodle barks every time I walk by. 


The house with a fleet of bicycles reminded me to pray for the next generation that will one day lead our country. The home with a Navy flag prompted me to pray for our military and their families. The house with the handicap ramp led me to pray for the health and safety of all my neighbors. 

Everywhere I walked, I scattered prayers with abandon, knowing God hears every one of them and promises to fulfill his purpose in each person’s life. 

What a privilege to be part of his work in the world. 

Would you like to join me? What if, instead of mindlessly walking, driving, or moving through your day, you grabbed a bucket of sweet prayers and flung them wherever you went? Who knows how God might use your petitions to accomplish his work in the lives of those around you. 

One day we’ll be part of the parade to end all parades. Instead of a red, white, and blue stripe down the middle of the road, we’ll march on golden pavement. The King of kings and Lord of lords will lead the throng, and behind him will walk people from every tribe, tongue and nation. 

How many will be there because of your prayers? 

Now it’s your turn. How have you incorporated prayer into your daily routine? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.



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