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God's Hemmings

I once saw a lady at a conference tacking up her loose him with strips of cellophane tape.  "Isn't she clever!" I said to a friend.  "I would never have thought to do that."  This woman knew what every classy lady knows -- a gal looks really tacky when her hem is dragging.

Young gilrs begin to learn the art of sewing by putting in a hem; it is basic to all garment sewing.  We hem sleeves and skirts; we face a shirt, blouse or jacket front; we bind or over-stitch seams inside a garment to keep the raw edges of especially soft material from fraying.

Psalm 139:5 (NIV) says that God, who knows how I was made, and is aware of all my weaknesses -- God "hems me in."  How does He do that?

God keeps me from unraveling.  To prevent fabric from wear, three thicknesses of fabric 'pad' places where a garment is particularly stressed, such as the bottom of a skirt or sleeve.  One thickness of fabric with a raw ege would soon fray away, thread by thread, leaving the dress looking untidy and tattered.

Every woman experiences stress.  She starts supper while she finishes the last of the ironing, separating two sqabbling siblings and mediating a truce between teeagers all in the same half-hour.  Why is it that the biggest crises of the day happen at the end of a woman's multi-tasking day, when she is the most tired?  If she works outside the home, her stress is increased.

A woman's day has many turnings.  One harried mother put BCKN4TH on her license plat -- back-and-forth, back-and-forth.  It helps to know that God is by my side to keep me from unraveling.

God protects me.  To "hem in" can also mean to confine or restrict.  When I hear this term, I think of frightened sheep, which, in their terror, want to dart out of the flock, actually exposing theselves to even greater danger.  We hold a frightened child's hand at the street-side, so that when a car whizzes by, he won't dart out into its path in alarm.  God protects us in the same way.  Psalm 91 tells us that we needn't fear diseases; "stones" in the path the Lord has set us on;  "lions" that roar to terrify; "cobras" with venom in their mouths. 

'"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him,"' (verses 14-16).  Deliverance and protection are God's gift to me today.

God beautifies me.  Ethiopian women hem their traditional white dresses with colorful woven borders.  Red, gold, orange, blue and green shine brightly on the hems of dresses and the filmy shawls that cover their heads and shoulders.  If they are short of funds, they may only border the front of the skirt, the back having a turned-under finish.  They prefer to border the whole skirt and shawl and the wider the border, the better; that way, no matter how they turn, the lovely borders enhance their striking beauty.  Knowing that God "hems me in -- behind and before" (Psalm 139:5b) allows His glory to beautify the physical and spiritual aspect of every woman who trusts in Him.

God wants to own me.  Store managers deliberately place their goods where shoppers will touch and handle them.  We touch the things we possess with gentle fingers because we cherish them.  In the fabric store, we touch the cloth that we wish we could own, letting it trail through our fingers as we pass by.  We're more likely to buy what we touch.  The selvage hem on the long side keeps the fabric intact.

The Psalmist said, ". . . you have laid your hand upon me," (Psalm 139:5c).  He wants to own each of us.  Does God own me by the inch, by the yard or by the bolt?

Will I allow myself to be blessed by God's Hemming?

Our Closest Friend

"Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable," Louisa Mae Alcott said.  Friendships don't just happen.  Usually, they are forged between people who enjoy the same pursuits and have similar tastes.

When we marry, our bond with single friends is no longer as close, even when we still like them.  Our marriage changes the interaction.  We become closer to married friends than when we were single.

The same sotr of thing may happen in our spiritual lives.  When we come into right relationship with God, all other friendships are affected.  Our closeness with people who walk with God may be strengthened while others friendships may wane.  The rock of a new relationship with God, tossed into the pool of our lives, causes ripples and waves, making the reflections of other's lives on our own to waver and dance.  Once our relathioship with God is made right, what criteria can we use to forge new relationships and strengthen old ones?

Loyalty.  "The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong.  Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right,"  (Mark Twain).  A true friend will stand with her companions even when they in trouble.  It doesn't mean that she agrees with what the friend did; only that she is fiercely loyal to her friends.

Leadership.  Of course, we need to maintain friendships with our old buddies, but the leadership may have to change.  Before, we might have been a follower, doing whatever our friends chose for the group to do.  Our new close relationship with God may caution us about going some places and doing some of the things we did before we knew Him.  Whose leadership will we follow --  our old friends' or God's?  We may need to lead our group to help steer unbelieving companions into activities that please God.

Love.  I have old classmates who, even after a long separation, take up our conversations where they left off.  Love's bond between fast friends is strong enough to weather any storm, able to take the buffeting of any gale.  We will speak to unbelieving companions about their relationship with God, not in a preachy way, but out of love and concern.  Although accepting Christ as Savior is a personal decision, and we can't force them to make peace with God, we can love them and hold them dear to our hearts before God's throne.  Love is shown in expressing true concerns for our chums.

Once in awhile, we may have to make a choice between our friends and God.  Even though we may experience the pain of rejection by our closest friends, our bond with God will be deepened and strengthened.  Our fellowship with Him will be sweeter than ever before.  He will become our closest Friend.

Beauty Secrets

"Beauty is only skin deep," they say.  "Ugly goes clear to the bone."  Most of us are not so concerned with the bones, as we are with the padding and skin that goes over our frame.

Every woman wants to be beautiful.  Millions of dollars are spent each year on beauty products.  We buy lotions to smooth our skin and even out its color; powders to brighten cheeks and make our eyes more alluring; wax to soften and color lips.  We purchase sprays to hold hair in place and improve our bodies' scent; shoes to heighten it; the latest clothes to flatter our figures; jewelry for the final touch of glamour.

Surgeries to beautify those parts of our bodies we think are ugly cost a lot in time, effort and money.  We spend hundreds of hours on our bodies so that we will look our best for those we want to impress and for those we love.

How God must long for us to be this lavish about spending time on the condition of our souls.  Our culture focuses on having a beautiful body -- even though it is temporal;  it will fade and die.  Our spirits, internal and invisible, are more important.  They will either live eternally in God's presence or live cut off from Him in an eternal hell if we fail to recognize and accept the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary to cleanse our sin.

What beauty secrets can we apply to the development and growth of our souls?

*  A Joyful Heart.  I will put a sparkle in our eyes, lift our spirits, and put a spring in our steps.  A joyful heart is a woman's best cosmetic.  It will keep us outward-looking and upward-looking rather than inward-looking.  Nehemiah admonished, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength," (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV).  King Solomon's description of the ideal woman implies a joyful and enthsiastic heart (Proverbs 31:10-31), even though the word 'joyful' is not used.

*  A Gentle and Quiet Spirit.  Peter also describes the ideal Christian woman -- one who is beautiful in God's sight.  He cautions against concentrating on "outward adornment," (I Peter 3:3).  It is the "gentle and quiet spirit" of a godly woman that will influence an unbelieving husband to make his heart right with God (I Peter 3:1-6).  Paul urges both Timothy and Titus to admonish women in gentleness and quietness at home and in the community (I Timothy 2:9-11; Titus 2: 4-5).

*  A Holy Influence.  Peter encourages both men and women in holiness ( I Peter 3).  He says:
          Guard your minds ( I Peter 3:8-9).  A mind that is in harmony with others, sympathetic compassionate and humble will please God.
          Guard your tongues (I Peter 3:9-10).  No exchanging insults.  No arguing or complaining (Philippians 2:14).  The KJV terms it "murmuring and disputing."  We may not audibly complain, but it is easy to mutter under our breaths or murmur in our spirits when we are crossed.
          Guard your actions (I Peter 3:11-15).  No retaliation or back-biting.  Will my actions reflect Christ to those who do not know Him?
          Guard your consciences (I Peter 3:16-17).  By doing so, we will not be ashamed.

Young women seem to be physically beautiful without much effort.  As we age, it takes increasingly more money, time, and effort to keep up a beautiful facade.  However, every woman who knows and loves God, can be beautiful in His sight and to her loved ones by developing her inner person -- her spirit.  Life may be a painful business, but every woman can be a gorgeous specimen of God's grace by following His beauty secrets.


"I'm worn out! My spirit feels mutilated and frazzled. I desperately need God's help!" Many of us have said something like this.

Exhaustion may be caused by a medical condition that we need to address. However, much of our tiredness comes from the stresses of modern-day living. We dash here and there and then feel exhausted and depressed. We fail to recognize the energy that God has for us. Every believer has access to His storehouse. What kinds of power does God possess?

Creation power. "The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary . . . He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak," (Isaiah 40: 25-20 NIV).

We may feel that the Lord has forgotten us or has ignored our needs. He hasn't. He has creation power to infuse into those whose knees are weak and whose energy is low.

Genetic power. God is at work in our lives before birth. David said, "You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb . . . my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place . . . your eyes saw my unformed body," (Psalm 139:13-15).

We may think our birth was an accident or that it took place because of a sinful act. Our conception may be surrounded by a dark fog of sin, but God was there, doing His work, showing His love, forming us to be the persons He wanted.

Saving power. We haven't enough strength to make ourselves pure before God. Sin permeates the very fibers of our being and every characteristic of our personalities. We are saved ". . . through the working of His mighty power," (Ephesians 3:7).

Resurrection power. Paul speaks of ". . . His uncomparably great power . . . like the working of His mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead," (Ephesians 1:19). Since God has power to raise Jesus from death, He can certainly resurrect a broken life, and renew a checkered past. Nothing is too hard for Him.

Teaching power. Paul said, "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me," (Colossians 1:28&29). Sometimes we teach others; sometimes we are the learners. Part of the Holy Spirit's work in each life is to teach us and to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). He will help us to learn spiritual truths and temporal duties when we ask for His power.

Standing power. Paul encouraged the Ephesians to armor themselves "so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes," (Ephesians 6:10). He names the armor pieces: truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, the Word of God. We can't put them on by ourselves; we must ask for God's help. We can't stand by ourselves against the waves of evil crashing about our world -- but we can ask for God's help to stand. "Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then . . . " (Ephesians 6:13&14).

We may lack the energy we need for daily living and for our spiritual health. Our power may drain away, but His power is vibrant and fresh for every assault. He has energy for every exhaustion.


"I always try to start the day with laughter," our dear friend said. His smile beams even on his most miserable days. He's had a debilitating disease since he was eight, and now, in his 60's, he lives with pain and nausea. He firmly believes, along with King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, that "a happy heart makes the face cheerful," (Proverbs 15:14 NIV) and "A cheerful heart is good medicine," (Proverbs 17:22)

Most of us have days -- maybe even months -- when things are not going well. When we are tired, when we are sick or when trouble clouds our days, it becomes easy to let our discontent spill over on others. "I've learned that if you want to cheer up yourself, you should try cheering up soneone else," wrote a 13-year-old, ( Live and Learn and Pass It On, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Rutledge Hill Press, 1991). We may sourly think, "Yeah, right! You're not in my situation."

A lonely missionary's daughter, beginning life in the U.S. on her own and dealing with an American culture and lifestyle that was unfamiliar, began to feel depressed. Shocked at her frowning face when she passed a mirror one day, she gave herself a cheesy grin. "It was kind of silly," she said, "but I found it worked every time. I always felt better when I saw a smile on my face, even if it was a goofy one."

Charles Dickens once said that cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers. Most of us want to be pretty or handsome, and no one is attractive wearing a frown.

Paul, the Apostle, advocated being cheerful. When he was on a ship in a three-day "hurricane-force northeaster" (Acts 27:14), he and his companions weer busy lightening the load and possibly they felt too nauseated to fix a meal. They did everything they knew to save themselves; they even ditched the ship's tackle (vs. 19). Huddled together, they "gave up all hope of being saved," (vs. 20). At this low point, Paul spoke to cheer them. He told them an angel visited him during the night, promising to spare his life and the lives of all who sailed with him. "Be of good cheer . . ." Paul exhorted them. "I believe God . . . ." (Acts 27:25 KJV). Paul had experienced God's encouragement before in his life (Acte 23:11) and he knew Him to be faithful to His promises.

When should we be cheery?

* When we are in trouble: Jesus encouraged his companions to "take heart" (John 16:33 NIV) and to "be of good cheer" in a world filled with trouble.

* When we are sick: Jesus told a paralytic to "be of good cheer," (Matthew 9:2) Even in illness we have a delivering Savior.

* When we are afraid: Jesus walked on the water to His storm-tossed, terror-filled disciples. He said, "Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid," (Matthew 14:27 KJV).

* When we show mercy: Paul exhorts us to do so "with cheerfulness," (Romans 12:8 NIV). Saying "I forgive you" or "Here is help for you" with a gloomy face rarely heartens anyone.

* When we give: II Corinthians 9:7 encourage us to give, "not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver," (NIV). Are we happy when we share what we have?

* When we look: ". . . a cheerful look brings joy to the heart," (Proverbe 15:30 NIV).

Apparently, any time and any circumstance is a great place to be cheerful. We bless people when we show a joy-filled demeanor. Will those who know us best think of us as cheery?