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Chicken Chopping and Other Lessons in Wisdom

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My mother appears to have very few regrets in life. Not the least of which is my departing home unable to cut up a raw chicken.

Jamaican stew chicken with rice and peas were a constant presence every Sunday evening of my growing up years. The preparation began the night before when my mother chopped up and seasoned a raw chicken readying it for the oven the next afternoon.

On a random Sunday in August of 1997, I ate my last staple Sunday meal. A few days later, I left for college. After that my occasional return visits home were to an altered home environment that no longer held the consistency of my familiar Sunday family meal. I can’t say that I was really disappointed as the meal was never a particular favorite of mine.

Ten years later, I was living in South Africa and longing to share some of my Jamaican heritage with my friends. Jamaican stew chicken with rice and peas seemed like the perfect meal to prepare.

The only problem?

I had no idea how to even begin cooking the food. The taste was familiar but the preparation was foreign. A lifetime of eating the same meal week after week, and I wasn’t even sure where to start except with the knowledge that I needed a chicken.

A quick phone call across the ocean yielded the cooking wisdom of my mother. While she patiently listed the ingredients and explained the method, I soaked up the knowledge she provided. The only thing she couldn’t explain over the phone was how to actually chop up the chicken. So, I easily substituted store cut pieces in place of chopping my own whole chicken.

In the middle of taking the skin off raw chicken parts and trying to estimate seasonings in just the right quantities, I started wishing that I had somehow paid just a little bit closer attention when I was growing up. Maybe if I’d paid slightly closer attention and been slightly more intentional about learning, maybe in this moment I would know better what I was doing.

The reality of life is that wisdom is constantly calling. At every turn, there is knowledge to be gained, lessons to be learned, and even chicken-chopping to better understand.

The one thing that often separates me from acquiring this available wisdom is my very own self. Sometimes it’s a lack of time or a lack of interest (as was initially the case with the chicken) or even perhaps a general dislike for the person giving the wisdom. Even more sobering is the reality that the ability to learn from situations or others doesn’t last forever. Due to the forward nature of life, there will be a last time that I will have an opportunity to learn from someone or some situation. How was I to know that meal in August 1997 would be the last time I saw it prepared with any kind of regularity? Perhaps in my mind I assumed that Jamaican stew chicken with rice and peas would always show up, and I could learn to prepare the meal whenever I finally discovered an interest.

The book of Proverbs continually makes reference to the importance of wisdom. Proverbs 2:1-6 states:

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

As I reread that passage, the verbs seem to become bold and italicized in my mind: turning, applying, call out, cry aloud, look, and search. All these words indicate action that a person is taking in order to develop wisdom. It doesn’t appear that wisdom is something I absorb just by living. Rather, wisdom is something that I am commanded to look for and fervently seek out.

And it just might not be simple.

I have never really experienced searching for silver or for hidden treasure, but I am sure that the process isn’t easy. Part of the reason both are considered valuable is the effort that it takes to find them. Yet, people continue to search knowing that what they find is worth the challenge of looking.

That is the attitude I need to have as I look for wisdom. Wisdom is valuable and worth the effort of looking past my own interests, past my interest in a situation, past even the personality of the person who may have wisdom to share. Instead I need to recognize that the wisdom that I can glean from a situation or circumstance will not be around forever. The truth is that there will be a last time for me to have access to that wisdom.

Several years ago, I attended a presentation on wealth management. The principles were valuable but the speaker’s tone and delivery felt somewhat condescending and short on grace. I squirmed in my seat from frustration at listening to the disagreeable attitude of the presenter, I decided to leave. My justification was why should I listen to someone who is so irritating and annoying?

Looking back, I wish I had fine-tuned the ability to see past the presenter and focus on the wise principles that he was trying to share. The presentation was a few hours out of my day. The wisdom I stood to gain had the potential to be useful over a lifetime.

The church I grew up in had very few people my age. I spent years longing for more teenagers to invade our congregation (and complaining to my parents that perhaps we should go someplace else). What I missed were the opportunities to reach out to the young moms in our church and seek wisdom since I hoped to be like them one day. I was unable to see past my own needs and recognize the gift of wisdom that abounded in my own church family. I didn’t realize when I left that church, it was to be the last time I would be consistently around young mothers until I gave birth to my own child.

Now as a mother, I occasionally reflect back about a missed opportunity to seek wisdom and learn from the experiences of other mothers. Perhaps if I had taken advantage of the chance to learn, I might be more familiar with the challenges and struggles that come with raising a child. I might even have more perspective on some of the fears that can crop up while caring for a baby.

The last part of the Proverbs passage discusses how the Lord gives wisdom. Wisdom is a gift that God provides, but it is my responsibility to actually take this gift recognizing that the opportunity to learn will not always be available. Sometimes that may mean looking past overbearing personalities or my own personal preferences regarding what I want to learn.

Instead it involves a heart that is willing to dig deeply for wisdom in the midst of a variety of situations. A heart that is willing to dig deeply knowing that God’s gift of wisdom is not dependent on situations or circumstances. God’s gift of wisdom is dependent on the heart of the receiver.

And the skill of chicken-chopping? The opportunity to learn is still there. This year, I will be visiting my mother for a week. At the top of my list will be asking her to show me the art of cutting up raw chickens.

Wisdom is constantly calling, and I am striving to seek out its truths.

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Patrice Gopo lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and her daughter. She enjoys glimpsing God’s divine hand in the everyday moments of life. She is passionate about writing, community, justice, and poverty alleviation. Each year that passes she is amazed to see how God connects these passions in ways she could never ask for or imagine.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Chicken Chopping and Other Lessons in Wisdom

by Patrice Gopo time to read: 5 min
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