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We’re Signing Off . . .

A thousand thanks to our dear, faithful readers of thewisejourney.com 

over these past years!

We have loved spending time with you through these blogs, sharing life experiences from our own personal journeys, as well as those from guest writers who have recounted their journeys.

We hope you have enjoyed Mary’s recipes, her tips for home design and organization, and her Bible teaching. We hope, too, that you have enjoyed Sharon’s essays and reminiscences, and have been encouraged from God’s Word through our shared Hope for the Journey section.

This will be our last blog post, but we are far from retiring. Mary continues to teach Bible study groups to women known as God Chicks, and also to a men’s Bible study group (both via Zoom, for the time being).

Sharon continues to write, and has recently completed a novel, Stolen Dreams, 

and a non-fiction book on marriage, How to Fall in Love with Your Husband…All Over Again.

You can find both of us on Facebook, and if you would like updates on our projects or information about a possible future blog, please send us your email address to shepshar5@gmail.com.

And last, but not least, we could never have done this blog without our faithful and patient blog master, Brad, who has hung in there with us throughout all of these years. 

Meanwhile, don’t forget the Secret to Happiness:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

Mary Zigan & Sharon Sheppard

The “Gift” We’d All Love to Have If It Was Free: Self-Control

By Sharon Sheppard

The day I caught my toddler drinking out of the toilet—using his shoe as a ladle—I knew I had my work cut out for me. 

This was a child who insisted on putting everything—edible or inedible—into his mouth. Whenever he heard me opening the refrigerator door, he came running, and, with lightning-quick hands, he grabbed and gobbled. One day as I removed an item from the fridge, he latched onto a bottle of codeine cough medicine, quickly cranked off the lid (this was in the days before child-proof lids), and bolted down some of the strong prescription medication before I was able to grab it out of his hand.

Frantic, I called the clinic, where the nurse assured me that he would sleep for quite a while. “Wake him every 30 minutes to make sure he’s not in a coma,” she instructed.

This was only the beginning of a very scary pattern for our two-year-old, who was busy and curious and apparently loved the sensation of exploring tastes and textures in his mouth. Self-control is not something we normally expect a lot of from toddlers. However, as we mature into adulthood, as believers in Jesus Christ we are expected to demonstrate quite a lot of this spiritual “fruit” called Self-Control.

As we’ve come to this last trait in our study of the attributes the New Testament calls Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), it seems the Apostle Paul (maybe not wanting to scare off his readers) has left this most difficult fruit until last on the list.

And, if we’re honest with ourselves, self-control is an issue probably most of us struggle with in one or more areas of our lives. Whether it’s indulging in unhealthy quantities of food or drink, carelessness in our use of money, or squandering inordinate amounts of time on technology, most of us could use a healthy dose of self-control.

But because we live in an out-of-control, “if-it-feels-good-do-it” culture, we may not be in the habit of exercising a lot of restraint. Most of us are pretty good at rationalizing our behaviors. 

If it’s any comfort, the problem is not new. Fifteenth-Century poet John Milton said, “He who reigns within himself, and rules his passions, desires, and fears, is more than a king.”

Self-Control has never come easily to us mere mortals. However, the Bible lists it as one of the nine signs that Jesus Christ lives in us. It is a trait that reflects a believer’s ability to show restraint and patience in the face of trials in such a way that God can be glorified in our lives.

Clearly, we cannot achieve this in our own strength. That’s why these attributes are called the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Only as we consistently ask for His help can we ever hope to meet any of these lofty expectations. But thanks be to God, if we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have the Holy Spirit living in us. And He’s on call 24/7.

By the way, the Tasting Toddler mentioned at the beginning of this article did eventually, by the grace of God, grow into a delightfully normal, healthy adult who now exhibits a great deal of Self-Control.

Has Gentleness Become a Thing of the Past?

Has Gentleness Become a Thing of the Past?  By Sharon Sheppard

Because music has been one of the grand passions of my life, I’ve surrounded myself with musical instruments. The piano, which was my first love, is still my instrument of choice, and I play it every day. My skill is only mediocre on the other instruments, but they still give me pleasure in spite of my limited performance capabilities.

One day when a friend and her three-year-old stopped in, I could see him eyeing the ukulele that leaned against the hearth.

“Would you like to play it?” I asked. “You can play if you’re gentle with it,” I said.

Because a ukulele looks like a miniature guitar, I’m sure he expected rock and roll volume. But after a few strums, he handed it back to his mother. “Needs a battery,” he said.

We’ve become accustomed to a lot of noise and bravado in our culture. We’re urged to be assertive, make our voice heard, and to “Look out for Number One.”

  • Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator, Massachusetts; prominent presidential candidate:

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

  • Bryant McGill, Best-selling author on Human Potential: “Choose to be pro-active, assertive, and self-defining.”
  • Nathaniel Branden, Canadian/American psychotherapist (now deceased) specializing in the area of self esteem: “To live assertively—which means to live authentically—is a high act of courage…”

There is certainly a case to be made for assertiveness (in the right setting and for the right  motives), but it often involves trading gentleness and humility for our own self-aggrandizement. 

Oswald Chambers, a Scottish evangelist who preached throughout the U.K., as well as the U.S. and Japan, died at the age of 43 while a chaplain to British troops in World War I, but his influence lives on through his classic book, “My Utmost for His Highest.”

In it he asks this question, which expresses the epitome of a person who is gentle: “Am I getting nobler, better, more helpful, more humble as I get older? Am I exhibiting a life [that reflects] having been with Jesus, or am I about getting more self-assertive, more deliberately determined to have my own way?”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) 

Trading Anger for Gentleness

Trading Anger For Gentleness   By Mary Zigan

“I’ll never forgive you!” my daughter yelled at me.

At the moment, I didn’t care. I was furious about her behavior, and to teach her a lesson, I let her know it by strapping her legs with her dad’s belt.

Though that was some 40 years ago, I can still feel the sting of regret when I think about my outburst. I was an angry woman back then, a rough and tumble hothead who had lost her way. I had been violated, a victim of abuse myself, and I was volatile. I didn’t trust anyone, and yet I wanted someone.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I was trying to find what I had lost, and I was looking for it in other people, in my work, and in excess food, but none of these could fill the emptiness.

Shortly after that incident with my daughter, I vividly remember sitting with a cup of coffee in the living room one morning, looking out the window and asking myself, “Is this all there is to life?” Then I cried out: “God, if you are real, come into my life and take up residence. I am a mess, and everyone and everything around me is a mess.”

The transformation didn’t happen overnight, but I have since learned that the opposite of anger is gentleness, which is the Fruit of the Spirit we are featuring in our blog this month. Gentleness means, in part: restrained behavior toward others. 

What a contrast! We can act in ways toward others that either help or hurt. And with our words and actions we can choose what influences will inform or misinform. Gentleness constrains and channels that power.

To be gentle is to recognize that God’s ways and thoughts are high above our own understanding (Isaiah 55:9). This change is not something we can make in our own power. It is the work of God in us. The gentleness of Jesus is bestowed on those who open their heart to Him. It’s a wondrous working of grace and transformation. And this gift is for all who will completely submit to God as Lord of their lives.

God’s gentleness places our willfulness under His guidance, and in its place, He gives us His help as a powerful tool in learning to love others. What a precious gift!

Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing By Sharon Sheppard

A couple of years ago, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of my husband’s death, I invited my son and daughter and their families to my condo for an evening of tacos and reminiscences. I wanted our five grandsons to know the family stories—the fun and funny and serious—so they would never forget who their grandpa was and what he was like.

The grandsons joined in with their own stories about what they remembered and loved most about their grandfather, and at the end of the evening, I asked my son and daughter to tell their sons one thing they had learned from their dad that they wanted their children to know.

My husband was a can-do person, and our son said he learned so many varied skills from his dad because he instilled in him the idea that he could accomplish whatever he set his heart and mind on.

Our daughter said one of the most important things that has helped her in life and in managing her own business was her dad’s philosophy: Do the Right Thing: don’t cheat on your income taxes, don’t take unethical short-cuts. Be trustworthy.

During these past few months on the thewisejourney, we have been reflecting on the biblical Fruits of the Spirit (from Galatians 5:22-23). This month we are focusing on the trait of Faithfulness.

What comes to your mind when you hear the term Faithful?

An old and trusted employee? A favorite dog? A geyser in Yellowstone National Park?

Think of some of the characteristics you value in a close friend, a spouse, or an employee.

Probably words like loyalty, trustworthiness, and dependability come to mind. A faithful friend or family member is someone you can count to keep a confidence when you share personal concerns. Someone who will stand by you when things fall apart. Someone who always has your best interests at heart.

Certainly in a spouse we look for someone who takes wedding vows seriously, and who will be faithful “in sickness or in health, for better or worse. . .”

And ultimately, if we belong to God, we will take His Word seriously and try to apply it to our daily living.

As you think about how you might measure up in the area of faithfulness, how do you think your spouse, your boss, your kids, your friends, and God would rank you on this one?

What it pretty much boils down to is this: Do the Right Thing.

The Faithful Favor of God

The Faithful Favor of God – By Mary Zigan

We can’t ignore that we are STILL in lockdown from this horrible pandemic! In my little downtown that is usually bustling, streets are nearly bare, schools are still closed, church is by livestreaming only, retailers and salons have CLOSED signs on every door. And I need a haircut badly!

Sorrow hangs over us like a thick cloud as we grieve the loss of so many lives that have been taken. Fear, anxiety, and uncertainty still plague us. We would like to help, but we feel stuck and out of touch with NORMAL. But do we really want our normal back as we have known it? Someone recently said to me, “I don’t want to get back to normal. I want to get back to NEW . . . a life where we are more aware of others.”

In this cosmos we live between good and evil. How can we become more consistently aware of our faith walk?

  • Do we want Jesus only if He provides the American Dream for us?
  • Do we want God’s blessings but not Him?
  • Do we want His provisions and promises . . . but without the persecution?
  • Do we want Him to follow us instead of the other way around?

What if faith is putting God between us and our circumstances? 

Scripture states, “Everything we can comprehend through faith’s vision belongs to us.”

All we long to do for God is within the possibilities of faith. No desire will ever be placed in us by the Holy Spirit unless He intends to fulfill it. In Philippians 2:13 the Apostle Paul says, “It is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose.” All this happens through the power and love of the Holy Spirit.

By faith we get to choose between life and death. God loves us so much that He died for us that we might live for Him.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” How great is that?!

If you feel weak and wounded today, take hold of God’s promises and provisions. He is faithful and will never fail you.

Peace vs. Pandemic

Peace vs. Pandemic By Mary Zigan

As I write this month’s blog post we are undergoing a pandemic with the coronavirus.  Fear is rampant, people are frantic, groceries are flying off the shelves, public places, are closing by the minute. We have had plans one day, and the next day they are gone, taken away from us.  Strangely, or not so strangely, this month we are looking at the character trait of peace, and we look to Jesus Christ, who is Perfect Peace. I recall today the promise in Isaiah as I remember memorizing this verse as a child from in my King James Bible:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is 

stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

What does it mean to “have our minds stayed?” Webster defines it like a strong rope, a support to steady us, to keep up in the race, to fix or rest in reliance. We keep up in the race by remembering whose we are. Fear cannot overwhelm us when we are filling our minds with this truth, Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, our support to steady us. He can rest in this promise.

If you are not in the habit of lifting up your heart in prayer, I encourage you this month to begin the habit. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God, that He will do as He has promised in His Word and bless our lives abundantly more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in others’ lives. We have His promise that the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16-18). Another good reminder if you happen to feel inadequate in prayer is, (Romans 8:26) which states; The Spirit helps us in our praying. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us.

May God glorify His name in your lives as you go on your way, may Peace go with you.

Mary Z.

Life Is Filled with Unexpected Events

Life Is Filled with Unexpected Events . . .

Like the First Easter, for Example.   By Sharon Sheppard

This morning I pulled on my sweats, poured a cup of coffee, and without taking time to put on makeup or give a second thought to how I looked, I attended our Sunday morning worship service.

It was a whole different experience because today I participated while sitting at my kitchen counter, staring at the screen of my Mac, as our church’s Sunday morning service streamed live. Due to the coronavirus restrictions imposed by our Governor, it had just become illegal for more than ten people to assemble in one place—a law we never would have dreamed of three short months ago.

I was pleasantly surprised by what an uplifting, worshipful experience it was to sing along from home to Martin Luther’s words from “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”: 

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. 

The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still. 

His kingdom is forever.

Luther wrote these words in 1529 following the lethal bubonic plague (a disease far more deadly than the coronavirus, since it claimed millions of lives throughout Europe.)

As we look forward to Resurrection Sunday, we can only imagine what an astonishing worship event took place after Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James came to anoint the body of the dead Jesus with spices. These were women who had followed him and believed he was the Messiah—only to have their hopes dashed to bits as they watched him die a slow, agonizing death on the cross.

They were stewing around about how they were going slide that huge stone away from the entrance of the tomb, when a couple of men in dazzling garments quietly said to them, “Don’t be alarmed. He’s not here anymore. Remember how he told you he was going to be crucified by evil men, but that he was going to rise from the dead on the third day?”

 Then they remembered.

“That same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, 

“Peace be with you.’”  John 20:19, NKJV

 This was and is the pivotal event in all of history. It’s the event that gives us hope for our own life after death if we embrace what He offered when He gave His life as an atonement for our sins.

Happy, HAPPY Resurrection Day!

Creamy Lemony Vegetable Pasta Salad

March is the month most of us are really, really, ready for Spring.  And, in Minnesota, it is often a long time in coming! We are anxious to shed our three layers of clothing and enjoy some of the wonderful warm days ahead. Also, we find ourselves digging out our healthy recipes that will help us face the drudges of what the brutal long winter sometimes does to our bodies. Therefore, I thought I would share this delicious, nutritious, recipe full of veggies and a cinch to make. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Pasta (any variety) 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • Garlic clove minced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • Veggies of your choice, I like peas, corn and broccoli
  • 1/2 cup nuts (optional) I like almonds

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta as directed on the box
  2. Whisk the mayo, oil, and lemon juice and zest, salt & pepper in a large bowl
  3. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water until completely cooled.
  4. Add the pasta and vegetables of choice to the mayo mixture. Taste and adjust your seasonings to your liking.
  5. Can be refrigerated up to four days or enjoy immediately!

JOY: My Word for the Year

JOY: My Word for the Year By Mary Zigan 

Like many of you who have adopted the “ONE WORD’ concept-choosing One Word you hold dear for a year, then seeing how that one word weaves itself into many circumstances of your life throughout the year–this is something I have personally practiced for several years. 

And since we at The Wise Journey have for the past months been featuring The Fruit of the Spirit: Attributes of God that we would like Him to develop more fully in our own lives, and since this month’s attribute is Joy, which is the one word I had chosen for the year, it seemed like a good time for me to reflect on Joy. 

The noun JOY is defined as gladness not based on circumstances. Joy comes from a deep conviction within us and is eternal. 

For the Scripture declares: “When the glory of the Lord rises upon us, our hearts are radiant and will throb and swell with joy.” How exciting it is to be a part of spreading joy all around us. I encourage you to read the 60th chapter of Isaiah. I also encourage you this month of March to feed on Scripture verses pertaining to joy or choose one or two of the following quotes I’ve included here to hold close to your heart. You will find yourself radiant with joy! 

  • Find a place inside where there is joy, and Joy will burn out the pain.
    -Joseph Campbell 
  •  Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. 
    -Mother Teresa
  • If you carry joy in your heart, you can heal any moment. 
    -Carlos Santana 
  • Joy is the serious business of heaven.
    -C.S. Lewis
  • Find ecstasy in life: the mere sense of living is joy enough.
    -Emily Dickenson
  • To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide Joy with.
    -Mark Twain