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Tears

But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

I know the text doesn’t say it but I can only imagine the tears flowing from the father and mother in the story of the prodigal son.  In fact, the King James version says “he fell on his son’s neck” in a dramatic display of joy and love.  Awhile ago, my family brought me to tears of joy with a surprise visit from my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in months.  I heard the front door open and thinking it was my older daughter I made my way toward the front of the house to tell her hello.  When I realized it was my younger daughter I was overcome with tears and unable to speak.  I stood there sobbing in her arms.

It may seem strange to be thankful to God for tears but without them our world would be so vanilla.  I’ve laughed until I have cried with friends and family.  I’ve cried out to God, thankful for His grace and salvation.  I’ve wept at the birth of my daughters.  And yes, I’ve cried those tears of sorrow, of loss, of anger, of desperation.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5

So often we must weep, live in hard times before we can experience the full glory and blessing of God.  It’s why James tells us we should consider it joy to experience trials.  Because those trials produce good fruit in us.  And that fruit becomes something for us to share.

I have a friend whose 90 year old mother confesses to not remembering the last time, if ever, that she has cried.  What that means is she hasn’t participated fully in the gifts of life.  With each winter season in our lives we are so often rewarded with the spring, a time to bring  us great joys.  I want to go from this life knowing I have cried many tears from laughter, thankfulness, joyous surprise, beautiful surroundings and more.  I heard a Christian teacher say, “If you want the joy of Sunday’s resurrection you must first have the tears of Friday’s crucifixion.”

I’m so very grateful to God for giving us the outward ability to show our emotions.  To show those we love how much we love them, even after they are gone.  I’m looking forward to the day I can cry tears of joy when I see Jesus’ face watching for me from a long way off.  I know that when I get close enough, I will fall into His arms weeping, filled with joy.

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Brain Power

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

It’s a sad state we find ourselves in where you can get more sympathy for killing cows than human babies.  According to the American Life League more than 61.8 million children have been aborted since 1973.  The elevation of animals over humans sees countless protests for using animals for food as “good” yet protests in front of an abortion clinic as “bad.”  Any Christian who has submitted themselves to the Word of God can easily read God’s directives in Genesis where He has given man, not only caretaking responsibility but also the use of animals and plants as sustenance.  

To be placed in this position by God required making humans unique.  Not only did He give us the concepts of right and wrong along with various emotions but also higher brain power.  While I dearly love my dog Tucker, he will only ever reach a certain level of intelligence.  He’s pretty smart —  kinda like a two year old child.  Which makes him smart and dopey at the same time!

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15

Even someone who we might consider to be the least intelligent among us or someone  with a mental disability excels in mental capacity from the beasts of the earth.   As humans we can be ever thankful for God giving us brains that create and understand justice, morality, empathy, love, anger, sadness, our mortality and beauty.  Our ability to not just dream of the future but to create a path to that future, be it a new building,  a new method for delivering products, designing a rocket, or figuring out how to explore the  depths of the sea, sets us on top of the list of the living things on this planet.  God created a brain so unique in this world that it even knows how to analyze itself!

What a great gift He has given us humans!  I’m so thankful for the responsibility He has given us because with it comes the tools to be great stewards of His creation.

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Slow to Speak

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 
But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.  Mark 14:61

I sat in that meeting surrounded by men.  I was the only woman on the coaching staff and that alone put me at a disadvantage.  But I never have had an issue with being “the only one.”  I frequently have found myself in the position of being the youngest, the woman, the questioning, the sober, the only one to say “no.”  So that evening was no exception.  What was uncomfortable was the man in front of the room threatening me.  He also threatened to have the softball program thrown out of the community center if I remained a coach.  

Something inside my head told me to do something I rarely do – keep silent.  I typically will speak up and defend myself but it was almost as though tape were placed over my mouth.  Partially out of a sense of shock and fear that this man might physically attack me and partially because of that voice I remained quiet as he ranted and raved.

When the ranter was out of steam, the president of the league stood up and with his large physical presence made it clear the man was done and needed to leave.  A vote was taken and I stayed part of the coaching staff.  When the meeting came to an end I was shocked again when the other men, many who had rarely given me the time of day, approached me and congratulated me on standing strong and being so “tough.”  As I walked to my car that night my legs turned to jelly and I collapsed in my car in tears.  The ranter’s words were painful but the words of congratulations also overwhelmed me.  I had finally done something they could all respect.  And it was all because I listened to that small voice to keep quiet.

Even though I experienced success that evening with my silence it can drive me bonkers reading how Jesus took the abuse from the Pharisees.  Of course, unlike Him, I couldn’t rain hellfire down on my accuser and work a miracle.  But Jesus knew exactly when to speak and when to stay silent.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry... James 1:19

And that’s my topic this week on being resolute in Christ – when to act or speak and when to rest or be silent.  Because frequently doing the exact opposite of what the world expects is exactly what we need to do to serve God righteously.

But how do we know?  It can be difficult to discern between our wants, needs and fears and the Word of God. I have found over the last few years, however, that God does make things clear when it is important.  Plus, knowing the character of God and Jesus and what is expected of us is tantamount in making good decisions.  God never speaks to our fleshly desires, encouraging us to indulge.  He is prudent, loving, kind, careful with resources, seeks justice and forgiveness, and above all He is holy.

Study the three main traits of Christ (justice, goodness, holiness) for thirty days, begin to practice them in your daily life, and see what God does…you won’t be disappointed.

Joyce Meyer, God’s Character

I’ve found it fascinating that people who want clear answers from God aren’t willing to actually know the character of the “person” from whom they are seeking answers.  Yet, I won’t go to a friend who clearly has difficulty with their finances and ask them for financial advice!  And I won’t seek fashion advice from someone that looks like they’ve just rolled out of bed every day.  

So much of obeying God’s and His Holy Spirit nudgings must start with knowing the road signs to even look for.  And then when we have accomplished that we must start paying attention and actually acting on those directives.

I love reading Sparkling Gems from the Greek each morning.  It’s a yearly devotional that takes scripture and studies it in the original Greek meaning.  Recently, the author wrote of how he was to attend a gathering of fellow pastors whom he hadn’t seen in awhile. He and his wife travelled to the city where the event was to take place.  As they were about to the leave the hotel a clear word came to him to not attend.  He first told his wife he felt the need to stay in the hotel.  But he went anyways not wanting to miss out on the fun.  Each step along the way he was told over and over to not go.  While at the event the message became almost overwhelming.  He left his wife to keep visiting and he returned to his hotel.  Upon entering his room, he realized they had been burgled.  All their passports, computers, important papers, jewelry and more were gone.  And he realized his fleshly desires overtook that warning voice.

How often have we stood in the midst of a situation that calls us to be an outsider, a dissenter, the weird one, the one to step out of line and answer the call of His voice?   And how often have we brushed it aside thinking we know better?  When we don’t know the character of God that will happen frequently.  But when we do know the character of God there’s no excuse.  We repent and tell God to give us another chance to serve Him rightly.

God will frequently call us in our everyday lives to do something that may help us or help others.  That cashier you want to be rude to because she is talking to another co-worker about her personal life? Ya, God might be telling you to say something incredibly kind to her or just keep silent.  That neighbor who yells at you because he doesn’t like where you put your trashcan?  God might be telling you to keep your mouth shut.  That trip you are about to take? He may be saying, “cancel it.” You won’t know if it’s your own worries or desires unless you know Him and His ways.

“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Zachariah 7: 11-13

God calls us to action and He calls us to inaction.  He calls us to speak and calls us to stay silent.  But if we worry too much about the world and what they will think if we obey those words, then we are sure to be judged.  We must stand resolutely when we hear that voice and through knowing His mind we will be assured He has our backs.

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The Midol Woman

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5

I love watching the British tv show Midsommer Murders.  I’m a detective fan since my young girl days of hiding my Nancy Drew books inside my school desk and sneaking it out when the teacher wasn’t looking.  I pay extra on my Amazon Prime account to get these shows.  Recently however, they’ve added commercials – dropped in at odd places in the show.  One such commercial keeps popping up, show after show, day after day.   It’s for Midol, the pain reducer typically suggested to relieve cramping and pains due to menstruation.  

The commercials themselves are a testament to where we are at in society.  You see, each of the women are portrayed as victims.  Not necessarily of having a period but of having to deal with the pain and therefore their related behavior.  I call them the Midol Women.   One actress states, “If I don’t stop apologizing for my period behavior (apparently she’s quite a bear during this time) then it’ll never stop for future generations.”  Another states, “I’m not going to keep apologizing for being a ‘mad black woman’ just because I’m on my period.”  Period.

The message conveyed is “whatever I’m feeling today the world had better watch out!” And, “don’t make me apologize for what I’m about to unleash!”

Isn’t that the loud and clear message we hear so much today?  I’m not required to keep my mouth in check because (fill in the blank – my truth, my pain, my socioeconomic status, my race, my sexuality, my whatever) but YOU had better keep your mouth in check.  It all creates a bit of a neck whiplash.  And the result? Pain, hurt feelings, swelling pridefulness, torn relationships, violence and more.

James 3:10-11 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 

When it’s a Christian acting in this way we get the giant stamp of “hypocrite” placed on, not only us as individuals, but the faith as a whole.  It’d be better to live by the wisdom of the Proverbs.

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.  Proverbs 29:11

This concept has really hit home for me these past few months as I’ve battled constant pain in my ears and head.   I want to lash out at my husband at the end of the day when he’s being, well, just a man.  Normally I could laugh and tease him.   But it takes all the strength and patience out of me each day to not give in to the pain.  So when someone close to me does something annoying, my strength needs to come from somewhere else.   Because my tank is empty.

I don’t want to ruin a beautiful weekend by constantly gripping about how I feel.  I may always feel this way if my doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong.  So I have to ask myself, do I want to be the Midol Woman and demand that everyone around me accept my emotional bombs?  Or do I draw on the strength of God which the apostle Paul wrote when he spoke of his constant thorn in his side (2 Cor 12:7-10)?

Believe me, I want to be cured.  And I don’t like that women must suffer during their periods.  I hate that people, like my mother in law, have to deal with the effects of chemotherapy. Migraines, back pain, knee pain, the list goes on and on.  When we lose sight of who we belong to and what is expected of us we fall prey to being the Midol Woman.  We lose control of our tongue and its ability to “set great forests on fire by a small spark.” (James 3:5)

Dear Christian, we are held to a higher standard than the Midol Women of this world.  And yes, it is okay to be weak and cry.  It’s okay to lose our cool once in a while and have a bad day.  But to say we shouldn’t apologize for lashing out in those weak times is of the flesh and we are called to be better.  God expects us to be better, and most of all to be humble.  The world says it’s ok to rant, rave, slam doors, curse others – as long as it doesn’t happen to you.  God says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

It’s at our weakest times that our decision to be resolute in our faith is tested.  Not on the good days, not on the days our pain is masked, not on the sun shining days.  No, throughout the Bible we see we are almost sure to be tested on the bad days, the days we want to stay in bed, the days it takes a full tank and we are living on just a quarter.  It’s those days that when people say to me, “God is just a crutch” that I say, “Great, give me two.”

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Retire From Self Care

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

“I believe Jesus died to deliver ourselves from ourselves.  How many of us are just fed up being ourselves all the time?”

Joyce Meyer

The darkness, fury and despair of the young woman sitting next to me grew with each passing minute.  We were so close I could feel her shoulder touching mine.  Sitting on the airplane we found ourselves in that strange world of invading each other’s personal space while pretending neither existed.  Her billowing cloud seem to want to seep over the dividing line of the armrest to pull me in.

This seemingly quiet, unassuming young woman opened her computer and began pounding on her keyboard like the devil itself was trying to escape her fingertips.  My eyes drifted to her brightly lit screen.  I couldn’t help but notice the many words in all caps.  And I was drawn to know what was causing her so much angst.  It appeared she was writing a complaint letter about a work environment.  As her fingers marched like Roman soldiers across the keyboard, pounding and erasing and pounding some more I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away from the battle.  She was hurt and outraged.  She felt betrayed and abused.  Her past hurts served as the basis of why her employer should’ve known better.  And then those pounding fingers suddenly slammed the lid of the smoking computer closed.  Her fury still burned.  You could almost see the sparks coming from her.  

Over the course of three and half hours I watched this woman join the battle numerous times, editing, adding and pounding.  And then she started in on an email to her family.  I kept praying that she, once there was internet service, would have a change of heart and not send off the bombs she composed.  But alas, before deplaning, she picked up her phone and started, with the same fervor, sending off salvos via text messages.  I have never seen a person’s finger move with such speed and aggressiveness.  Like driving pass a car accident I couldn’t seem to look away.

I’ve come to realize that God puts me in all types of situations to test and teach me.  I was learning a valuable lesson.  You see, my tendency to get outrage over “unfair” situations is something I’ve battled with forever.  As I watched this young woman blow up at probably everyone in her life, I realized how much I need God to lead me out of my sin.  How much I need God to provide me with a different perspective.  How much I need to rely on God for peace.  What I wanted to do was turn to her and ask if she knew about Jesus.  I wanted to wrap Jesus’ love around her.  To somehow snap her mind off her problems and look up to God.  I could turn and look at this woman and see my own face looking back at me.  And I didn’t want to be “that girl.”

In 2019 there were more than 18 million self-help type books sold in the United States.  The number of unique titles rose nearly three-fold from 30,897 in 2013 to 85,253 in 2019.  That’s a lot of people trying to fix themselves!  Isn’t that, so often, what we turn to our friends, co-workers and professionals for – advice on fixing our problems?  

Aren’t we exhausted yet trying to fix ourselves?  As the world drifts farther from God it shouldn’t be surprising that so many people are working so hard to fix their own problems.  Jesus came to save our souls but I believe He also came to save us from ourselves.

“The only way we are ever ready for a change in our life is when we are tired of “me.”  When we say we cannot continue to do the work of trying to make ourself happy.  We are fed up.”

Joyce Meyer

When we stop striving, stop trying to control what other people think of us, stop trying to please everyone, stop shaming ourselves for our past, stop playing victim, and start putting God as our King, our Creator, our Lord we can release the yoke of our fleshly life.

"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35

And follow Him.  Retire from our self-care routines.  Self-care as in trying to fix ourselves.  Certainly we take care of ourselves, our minds and bodies.  But God always calls us to take a new perspective in every aspect of our lives.  When we take time to mediate, what do we mediate on?  When we decide what best to eat or how to stay in shape, who do we do it for?  Why do we word vomit all over our family or friends trying to get them to see “our side?”  For ourselves?  Or for our Heavenly Father?

I’ve heard the evangelist teacher Joyce Meyer make this statement many times: “I was always on my mind.  I was so selfish.”  To change that she created these three steps:

Live to please God, not yourself.  You are making a Kingdom investment.  And you will always get a great return on your investment.

Refuse to have “me” on my mind all the time. I’m not thinking about what’s wrong with me all the time or how I can get people to do things for me.

Always use money and things to bless people.  Don’t use people to get money and things. 

Jesus frequently took the focus off Himself and placed it on God. He prayed for help in times of pain and trouble. He told the disciples to look to the Father. He guided new believers to putting away their shame and accepting forgiveness from God. The times He had to solidify His place as the Savior He seemed almost reluctant. The focus for Jesus the man was always God and how to best please Him.

In my study on Revelation, I was asked the question, “How does the fact that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords affect our everyday choices and decisions?” In other words, getting ourselves, off our own minds and onto the Creator.   I’m finally leaning more on Him as my wise counselor.  He is my exercise coach, my nutritional advisor, my mental wellness guru.  When I see my mind and body as belonging to Him, I realize the responsibility I have to keeping myself focused on what He wants for me.  I fail frequently.  And when I do I come to Him seeking and receiving forgiveness.

I encountered the young, angry, hurt woman at the end of my trip.  Before it had even started however, I failed to grab on to God’s promised peace by my favorite method of failure –outrage.  The TSA officer and I had a bit of a confrontation.  I blustered and was rude.  As I walked away, I realized I was wearing my silver cross around my neck.  I may have flushed in embarrassment.  I failed to show grace and patience and forgiveness.  I took the situation personally.  It was all about “me.”

The difference for me at that moment was instead of adding it to my Vault of Shame I lifted it up to God.  I had a counseling moment with Him.  I felt His disappointment and His love.  It set me on course to be more aware of my behavior choices while in the crowded airport.  

“We are in the middle between hating sin and sinning.  When we aren’t accustomed to making good choices it’s hard.  The devil is working against us.  The more often we make those good choices it becomes easier.”

Joyce Meyer

And so, on my return flight, as I sat next to the woman with fire bursting from her fingertips, and like lava flowing out on her family, friends, co-workers burning bridges left and right I wanted to be like Jesus.  To be able to look her in the eye and know her hurts, her overwhelming pain and say, “follow me.”   

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Cor 5:15

It wasn’t a counseling moment for her.  Although I prayed for her.  It was a reminder message to me.  To live for Jesus.  To place my thoughts on Jesus.  To release my pain and hurts to Him.  To stop trying to defend and take care of myself.  To trust that He wants the best for me and will guide me to whatever that looks like.  To take my mind off me and have the mind of Christ.


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Jericho Walls Are Shaking

She remembered that night when she laid in her bed waiting and expecting.  Waiting and expecting her father to enter the room and sexually assault her, again.  But as she lay there she thought, “One day I will do something great.”  And great she did.  In 2005, Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” ranked her as 17th.  She is known all over the world by her ministry and volunteer work.  Joyce Meyer overcame constant sexual abuse as a child because of hope and faith in God.

This week we looked at just one chapter in the Book of James.  Chapter one brought us front and center in how to deal with trials.  He spoke of spiritual wisdom and the wise act of listening and controlling our anger.   In just 26 sentences He stands in front of us in admonition to wake us Christians up. And show the world what trust in Jesus Christ, our savior really means.

Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves.  DO WHAT IT SAYS.

James 1:22

He goes on to say that when we leave church, after we pray each morning, or read our devotional each day we ought not to then turn out into the world and forget who we are.  We are not like everyone else.  Isn’t that what our parents told us when we wanted to go hang out with the “cool kids?”  There are expectations and responsibilities to accepting Christ.

When I was a “baby Christian” I had a conversation about church with my mom.  She is the daughter of a Baptist minister.  She hasn’t regularly attended church since she was a child.  She doesn’t pray.   She says she believes in God but anyone that knows her couldn’t tell that to be true.  She told me that when she was a child at church, she would watch all the ladies attend church dutifully.  And then, they would gossip, hate each other, complain endlessly to her father, lie, cheat, and all other manner of sin.  My mother had and still has a dim view of “Christians.”   

When we leave the doors of church or our home we mustn’t forget who we are.

How many of us live our lives fully realizing that not only is God watching how we handle trials and temptations, but our non-Christian friends and neighbors?  Do they see you getting angry and yelling and gossiping?  Do they get a sense of peace from you during difficult times?  Are you easy to talk to because they know you will listen without judgement?  And are the words you speak back coming from a Godly place?  Do you turn down offers of socializing with friends and tell them it’s because you have a Bible Study you are committed to?  Have they heard you speak about your quiet time you spend with God, praying for others?  Do you tell others you will pray for them and do it immediately, with them?  What was the last book or movie or tv show you settled into?  Was it something where you could gain wisdom of God’s ways?


While sitting and listening to God to speak through me before I sat down to write this, the song “My Father’s House” started playing over and over in my head.  

The Jericho Walls are quaking

Strongholds are shaking

Love is breaking through

When the Father’s in the room

Cory Asbury, The FAther’s House

When we invite God into our lives during hardship, when we seek His wisdom, when we listen for His voice, and act as He wants us to, we experience His strength and love.  The shackles of sin and anger, the ugliness of self-degradation and self-centeredness give way to freedom.   Freedom to see His beauty in resolving problems.  Freedom to experience joy in even the most difficult of times. 

James pulls no punches.  But he always reminds us, in the midst of admonishment, of the “why.”  

  1. We will develop maturity and perseverance
  2. We receive the “crown of life” that the Lord has promised
  3. We are given the Word of Truth so we can be “firstfruits” of all God has created
  4. We live in the righteousness that God desires for us
  5. When we rid ourselves of immorality and accept the Word planted in us, we are saved
  6. We are given freedom
  7. We will be blessed in all we do

James is not asking us to do anything more than what we ask of our employees, our children or our friends.  If we make a commitment, promise, accept a job, want a friendship, then we must work on it and act in such a way as to say we are all “in.”

My challenge for this weekend it to be fully aware of our actions and words, especially while around non-Christians.  Good luck, my prayers are with you.

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Slow To Anger


My friend Andrea and I walk our dogs every week together.  I typically have my dog on an “e-leash” so I’m very careful to make sure people around me know I have complete control over my dog when it appears he is off leash.  We decided to take a new neighborhood route one day.  As we passed one house my dog stopped to sniff a small sign at the edge of the grass.  It said, “Keep Dogs Off Grass.”  I gave my dog the command to heel and he quickly took up the short distance between us.  The homeowner bolted from the far side of his car and commenced yelling at us.  “Get your dog off my grass!”  We were both taken aback at his aggressiveness.  My first response was to get my hackles up and yell back, “He wasn’t on your grass.” Andrea, in a nicer tone, confirmed this to the owner.  But he wouldn’t let up.  He yelled at us as we walked by.  And I yelled back.  The war had commenced.  Salvos were lobbed.  In the midst, Andrea became the peacemaker.  She had the peace of mind to realize this was not the hill to die on today.  She started saying, “Ok sir, have a nice day.”   He continued to yell at us while we were about 4 houses away.  My anger was apparent.  And I realized I had failed gloriously that morning’s first test.  

James’ admonishment sounds so simple.   And yet I would guess amongst millions of Christians our failure rate in accomplishing this is fairly high. 

“Everybody should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

James 1:19-20.

Think of how much those millions of Christians could change the world if we accomplished just this one act. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”  Now, being of warrior spirit I struggle with this.  But I realized the ingredient that makes a difference – anger.  When God sent out Joshua to take cities he didn’t tell him to do so in anger.  In fact, many of the actions he directed him to take were strangely non-warrior like such as marching around cities in circles and blowing horns.  

Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”  God knows we get mad.  But he also tells us to be careful and not also take that anger and sin.  When Jesus cleansed the synagogues of “thieves” he was more sad than angry.  He wept to see what Israel had become.  Think of the destruction and affliction Jesus could have wrought on everyone!  But instead He cursed a tree.  If Jesus – the most powerful being to grace the earth — could restrain himself can’t we tamp down our anger at the grocery store clerk for taking a bit too long?  Or the person who doesn’t immediately bolt forward at the green light?  All the while our cross necklace dangles around our neck.

But let’s back up a bit.  James first tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  Proverbs 18:13 says, “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.”  How many of us, while someone is talking to us, are working on our own story or rebuttal in our head as that person speaks?  What we miss are opportunities.

#1 Opportunity to Show Empathy

We can tell when someone is really listening to us.  It’s called active listening.  According to Mat Apodaca in his article, “How to Practice Active Listening,” active listening involves using many of our senses.  It means giving your full attention.  You need to show the other person with your body language that you are truly listening.  He says doing this builds mutual trust, it boosts self-confidence, we have less miscommunication, have fewer arguments, and are more productive.  Here’s his steps to active listening:

  1. Maintain eye contact
  2. Don’t fidget
  3. No interrupting
  4. Watch for non-verbal clues
  5. Restate and clarify
  6. Use some encouraging words such as, “and then?”
  7. Probe for more information
  8. But keep your talking minimal
  9. Validate

I had invited a friend out to lunch awhile back.  I wanted to try and recover our relationship.  We had grown apart in various ways and it had come to a head with some back and forth justifying of our hurts.  As we sat across from each other I looked for ways to bridge our gaps.  Topics we could both agree on.  But the entire time she kept looking down at her phone that rested in her lap.  She murmured responses.  I finally asked her if something important was going on that she needed to keep reading her phone.  Her two younger children, around ages 15 and 13 were at home.  They were bickering and sending her text messages.  No one was dying.  No one was hurt.  I realized she not only wasn’t interested in the conversation, she wasn’t interested in our relationship. 

How many times have you done this to others?

#2 Opportunity to Hear from God

When we find ourselves listening to people who are angry, hurt, sad, or fearful we so often want to help.  We might share our own past situations or try to convince that person to think or feel differently.  But we always end up coming from our own view of the situation.  Our wheels are whirling for solutions to their problems, or how to get them to stop being angry at us.  With all that jumbled up thinking going on it’s awfully difficult for the one true voice to be heard.  God can see all solutions.  He knows exactly what to say, and more importantly what not to say. Charles Spurgeon says about praying continuously: “We need to have such confidence about our prayer life that prayer becomes like breathing, effortless, that we do it every moment we are alive.”

How many times have you left a conversation and later thought, “Oh, if only I had thought of that then!”  When we are actively listening, we can be more like a super highway.  Sending your friend’s, spouse’s, child’s, co-worker’s, stranger’s, words straight up to God.   Acting as more of a conduit for God’s instruction, rather than the encyclopedia of all things of how to do (fill in the blank) right.  You might just hear God remind us of Jesus’ words:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

Luke 6:27

Had I been listening to the angry neighbor I would have heard a few things: 1) He has had issues with dogs on his grass.  2) He really loves his grass, a lot.  3) Love him 

Before we build fences let’s first listen to each other and God

#3 Opportunity to Find A New Solution

You really cannot have a relationship with someone you don’t listen to.  That includes God.  If we want to transform our relationships, we need to hear what people and God are saying.  Ecclesiastes 5: 1-2 says:

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.  Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.”

When we offer up our own solutions, based on our own limited thoughts, they are made within a small framework.  But God knows all and sees all solutions.  We so frequently want to hear our own plans and arguments because we still want to control everything – even God.  

In 2 Chronicles 20, the ruler Jehoshaphat was faced with destruction by the Moabites and Ammonites.  He gathered up various advisors to discuss solutions.  You can only imagine the various types around the tent.  The warrior, demanding they strike first.  The appeaser, begging for them to send out an ambassador to beg for mercy.  The fearful, worried they were all going to die.  But verse 3 says, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord.”  He resolved.  He made a conscious decision, after listening to everyone to then listen to God.  And God came up with a solution that not one of those in attendance had even dreamed.  To not fight, but instead to take up their battle positions, standing firm and have faith in God.  The king then appointed men to sing.  Yes, sing.  And they watched God destroy the enemy.

It is our faith that God loves us — God wants the best for us that we must first rest upon.  With that as our anchor we can know when we actively listen we show the same love and empathy we receive from God.  When we are slow to speak it is because we are listening for God’s voice to channel through us.  And when we keep our anger in check we honor the God that thankfully does not condemn us each time we fail.


When was there a time that you either realized you had failed gloriously at this lesson or when you were successful?  How did you feel after?