"Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues." Proverbs 10:19
I was tempted to not write anything for this verse. It surely speaks for itself. It’s a lesson I should have tattooed on my wrist so I never forget it! When I am nervous, angry, excited, or joyful, I talk. I babble. I had to apologize recently to a fairly new friend about my babbling. She introduced me to her friends and I found myself a brook overflowing with silly words. I walked away praying, “I did it again! Why can’t I just be normal and stop talking??”
The Holy Spirit, boy does He deserve a medal in trying to help me with this. I think He sees progress. I am being more discerning about keeping my mouth shut when others share their difficulties. I’m not always jumping in and giving my personal or political opinion. I’m also refraining from feeling the need to lash out when offended. I’m seeing the fruit of zipping my lips. Shocking, isn’t it, when we take God’s Word to heart how it seems to actually work?
So today my friend, here’s a challenge, unless asked for your opinion, don’t give it. If someone is sharing a story, don’t add your own. If you are confronted by a stranger, as Dr. Laura used to say, “smile and wave.” Zip your lips for a day. You just might find a bit more peace.
Holy God, although I know you enjoy a joyful noise on occasion, I also know you appreciate the beauty of silence. Help me today to be silent when needed. Amen.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”John 15:13
Jesus sees you. The first lesson of this miracle is a welcome one. You and I aren’t invisible. We aren’t overlooked. Jesus spots us on the side of the road, and he makes the first move.
There are three women in my life that I count has having a significant influence on me. Two of the three will probably never know me. That’s the power of having an outlet to reach millions of people either through the radio, books, television, etc. My long commutes as a young working woman were filled with life wisdom dished out with a borderline harshness by Dr. Laura. She made sense to me and helped me to see different perspectives in relationships both personally and professionally. Later, my faith life received a much needed injection of God’s truth from the formidable Joyce Meyer. Her devotional, “Power Thoughts,” was Dr. Laura on faith steroids. But again, these two women and I will probably never cross paths.
The third woman God placed in my path couldn’t be more opposite in personality than the other two. She and Jesus share a beautiful character trait. They love all. They have compassion for all. They know just what someone needs at their darkest hour. When Jesus was asked how the masses would be fed, He stepped up to the plate. And so does my mother-in-law, Bev Shetter.
When I first would visit Bev in her hometown of Longmont, Colorado about 30 years ago, I would find myself frequently annoyed. You see, like people surrounding Jesus on His way to an official’s home, Bev couldn’t get through one aisle at the local grocer without multiple people approaching her. A quick trip for a loaf of bread turned into an hour.
This was so foreign to me. How could one person, not only know so many people, but know so many people so well? She wasn’t some famous tv personality. She didn’t write a book. She didn’t operate the local bakery, or any business for that manner. She wasn’t even head of any organization. She was a housewife who occasionally worked part time at a flower shop here or a dress shop there. And, a faithful member of her church.
She knows everyone’s name, their children’s names, their parent’s names. She knows who is sick and injured. She can share a joke with old and young. She lets people know she’s praying for them regularly. And at the end of a “short” trip for a few groceries I felt a bit like Peter, annoyed that we might be late for our next engagement because Bev needed to say yet another kind “hello” to an elderly woman.
She makes you feel loved, special, remembered.
“It’s funny how God leads us to just the right person to guide us through life. Bev has been that trusted loving spiritual friend to me for some 40 years. She has modeled the commandment of Jesus to love one another putting into action all the teachings of Jesus. We have shared laughter, faith, tears, fears, and all that life gives us and I am so grateful to her for walking beside me and revealing Jesus to me.”
Longtime friend, Jane Nelson
Jesus did that. You knew you were in the presence of someone special because He made you feel special. The disciples knew that when Jesus said, “Follow me” they would be well-loved. They would be remembered. He wasn’t famous when He first called His disciples. He was an unknown. Not a rich businessman or even mildly successful tradesman. Yet He made sure to make people feel known and loved.
“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9
Even in His last physical days on Earth He remembered His friends. Not just the disciples. You’ll notice in the verse above He is praying for everyone that the Father sent to Him – that’s you, me, Peter, John, the tax collectors, the adulterers, the gentile and the Jew. Everyone who has turned their lives over to Him.
When I committed myself to my husband, I was given the gift of moving into Bev’s large friendship circle. It wasn’t easy at first. We are also opposite in personality. I was angry, unsettled, untethered to God. I welcomed outrage in my life, judged harshly and forgave reluctantly. But the thing about Jesus is when He steps into a relationship with a Saul He transforms the Saul into a Paul. And when someone like a Bev enters your life, you can’t help but come out changed.
And so I watched and listened. I saw the peace she had in her life that I did not. I watched her minister to the homeless, the shut in, the sick, the needy, the hurt, the lonely. I listened to her words of compassion and quiet, unassuming advice to her friends. She opens her home to visiting missionaries, childhood friends, family and anyone else that needs a pillow to rest their head. And I said, “I want some of that.”
Isn’t that what we do when listen to Jesus talk to a hurting person? “I want to be able to love like that.” Isn’t that what we pray for when we watch Jesus stop and pay attention to one person on the street whom nobody sees? “I should stop and help them.” Isn’t that what we long for when Jesus tells us He will never leave us? “I want to be loved and be remembered.”
“My grandma doesn’t wait around for approval, compliments or appreciation. She has a keen eye for what people need before they may even know it themselves. She is one to show up with a warm meal before your stomach starts to growl or a blanket before you start to shiver.
Granddaughter, Haley Shetter
Jesus and people like Bev show us how to love and be loved. They show us how to be the faithful and loving friend. They aren’t looking for 10,000 “likes” on Facebook. They stop in the grocery aisle and say, “Hello, friend, how is your mom feeling today?” They give their time and prayers one person at a time. And from that, Jesus and Bev have gained a multitude of loving and faithful friends.
“My sister Bev cared for my blessed mother for many years. Her dedication in honoring God through love and service is selfless and enduring. Many times her faith has been tested but never paled.”
Sister, Kathy Pisano
The people like Bev, who live out this Jesus character trait so well, don’t work hard to make friends. They don’t work hard at keeping friends. They work hard at loving people. They look for ways to show compassion. They know that even doing their little part will mean something for somebody. People like Bev are remembered wherever they go, because the people they touch feel something special.
“From her I have learned to watch and listen to her ways. This is not something you develop overnight but attributes you gain over time. She surrounds herself with people who also have these qualities so they can act as a tribe, a community, to build and share their love.”
Granddaughter, Haley Shetter
Bev and her “tribe” are truly special followers of Jesus’ command to love one another and be faithful to others. I’m a living example of someone who can learn to imitate Bev and Jesus. I may never achieve the level of her success but God knows my efforts.
It’s important for us that aren’t more naturally inclined to be like her to know that Jesus still expects us to work at it. I won’t be Bev2.0 but with her example and the guidance of Jesus I can be transformed into someone new.
Do your best to present yourself to
God as one approved, a worker who
does not need to be ashamed and who
correctly handles the word of truth.2 Timothy 2:15
When I quit working full time about 25 years ago, it was hard for me to accept that I no longer contributed financially to our little family. My identity was wrapped up in working. I had earned money since I was a kid collecting cans and newspapers and turning them into the recycler. In college at one point, I had a job, a paid internship, a full load of classes, and was the president of a professional-based club. Work was what I knew and work was what defined me.
Not long after I decided to stay home with our 2-year old daughter I found myself face-to-face with my identity problem. My daughter and I were walking home from a neighborhood park. We had to cross a very busy street. When we got the “walk” sign we made our way across in the crosswalk. In one of the cars waiting for the light to change was an obviously very angry and impatient man. He yelled out the window to me, “Hey loser, why don’t you get a job?”
Instead of being angry I was mortified. You see, I agreed with him. I wasn’t seeing myself as first a mother and wife then someone who could, if I wanted to, get a job. I saw myself first as a jobless loser.
What do you see yourself as first these days?
As my faith journey has progressed my answer to that question has evolved. Once my second daughter came along, I threw myself into motherhood. I even placed being a wife much farther down the list for a bit. Being a Christian was way down on the list. In between I was a “coach,” a “PTA president,” a “school volunteer,” a “Girl Scout leader.” And now, looking back, had I placed “Christian” as my primary identity I would’ve made a number of different choices along the way.
Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you’re a Christian. I can go sit in the garage all day and it doesn’t make me a car.
I love this quote by Joyce Meyer because it speaks to the heart of this issue of identity. We may say what our identity is but how do we act? What do we base our decisions on day in and day out? Do we decide what’s best for our kids based on their happiness or based on God’s direction? Do we treat our spouses based on where we place our marriage on our identity list or on God’s expectation of us? Do we hold dear the income from that job more than we do our relationship with our Lord?
It’s taken me awhile to truly accept the identity hierarchy God wants for me – 1) Jesus Follower 2) Wife 3) Mother 4) Whatever else He directs me to. And in our verse today the priority for us is to be a “God Approved Worker for Him.” Not ashamed of following His Word as best we can in every decision we make.
I used to listen to the famed Dr. Laura quite a lot. One day she was talking about divorce. She said that if you go into a marriage with the option of getting divorced you will always find reasons to not work on your marriage. But if you go into it (having made a healthy choice of spouse) with the priority of staying together no matter what, you will always find new and creative ways to work out problems. Our faith is a lot like that.
When we place our faith as our primary identity it changes who we marry, who we spend time with, what type of job we want, how we use our money, how we treat our families and friends, and more. We are God’s co-workers. And we are tasked with being proud of that identity.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters,
stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always
give yourselves fully to the work of the
Lord, because you know that your labor in
the Lord is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:58
So again, I ask, what identity have you placed at the top of your list?
If it’s not “Christian” why not? What’s holding you back? God is waiting for you to put Him first. Because when you do then, I believe, He claps His hands and says, “Great, now let’s get down to business!”
This is a great except from C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity that might help spur you on to your new identity.
“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”