Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. Proverbs 17:1
I’ve never understood the fascination with the show Real Housewives. You watch as a group of glamorous women gather week after week to go on vacation together, dine in expensive restaurants, shop for beautiful clothing. And fight. And gossip mercilessly about each other. And cry and scream. I suppose it’s like rubbernecking. Watching a disaster unfold seems to hold our attention. Anytime one of my adult children has turned that show or similar ones on at our house all I can hear is bickering and complaining. It feels so stressful just watching it. I have to go to another room and close out the strife.
While we may not all bounce around with the rich and glamorous each week in our real lives, how many of us maintain friend groups that cause similar chaos? That one friend who always picks a fight with the waiter. The friend who demands to have the group plans change to accommodate them. The two friends who revel tearing up each other behind backs. It’s understandable to feel the need to invite a close relative to an all family event who acts this way. But why do we insist on voluntarily bringing that lack of peace into our lives?
Maybe we worry about our social status, being left out, not being “in the know.” Or maybe we keep these folks around because we think it helps our children or spouse. Stepping back however, any strife we purposely allow into our midst will affect the rest of our lives and family.
As I’ve grown and matured, God has pruned out a lot of people from my life. One’s I called dear friends at the time. Some of that pruning felt painful. Now, I look at the beautiful women He has brought into my life because I have learned from His Word about humility, pride, trustworthiness, and sacrificial love. I ate a lot of “dry crust” for a bit waiting for His work in me to show me what was important in who I choose to spend my valuable time with.
Friend, your peace should not be up for sale to people who cause strife. Bring the people in your life to God in prayer and asks Him to show you where you need pruning.
Heavenly Father, reveal to me the people and areas in my life where strife abounds. Help me to prune those areas, even it means eating dry crust for awhile. Amen.
“Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.”Romans 4:20
Holy God, everything I have belongs to you — my home, my car, my food, my marriage, my family. Help me to use them in service to you each day so I can proclaim Your glory and the wonderful work you have done in my life. Amen
I’d have to say one of the first obvious signs that I was submitting to God and giving Him authority over my life was years ago when my brother-in-law came to visit us and wanted to bring his girlfriend. We had two small children and my husband and I decided we needed to model God’s morals by telling his brother that although she could come, they couldn’t sleep in the same room together. He laughed, thinking we were joking. But when we affirmed our decision, he asked how we could decide that when we, ourselves, had lived together before marriage. It’s an easy answer actually. We were now Christians with children to whom we were responsible for modeling God’s will.
Here’s the thing, Christian, it’s ok, even necessary in God’s act of progressive revelation, to change our minds. To grow in our faith. To set up new boundaries. Especially in our own homes. For Abraham, mentioned in our first verse today, he struggled to align his entire household with God. He made bad decisions about his wife, he had to make peace among his family, he was faced with the prospect of sacrificing his son to the Lord. But He kept moving forward in his faith. With each step he learned more about God’s expectations of him and he guided his family and home toward God’s promises. He set history on the right path by giving glory to God over and over. Joshua carried this forward when he assembled all the tribes of Israel.
"15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Our home spaces are the perfect place to glorify God. Why? Because when we stand in our home, every blessing we can see belongs to Him. The home, apartment, tent, condo, all belong to God. The food in the cupboards, the furnishings, the beds, the indoor (or outdoor) plumbing – yes, all belong to Him and should be used in His service to glorify Him.
My two oldest friends are unfortunately not believers. And over these last few years I’ve had the Holy Spirit convict me of my behavior when I’m around them. I need to show them the work God has done in me. When they are at my house, I must model God. That means I shouldn’t allow certain behavior or speech within the walls of my house. I fail at times when I let myself be pulled into the world of unbelievers. Sometimes I forget to pray over our meal, I drift into outraged political discussions, and I gossip. My first step was realizing what I was doing doesn’t honor God. My second step is to be more consistent in application.
Friend, if the Lord has blessed you with a comfortable place to lay your head each night, a place to make a life for your family, a home to provide hospitality to others, we need to remember it was all given for a purpose. If we struggle to honor God in our home, how can we be expected to receive further responsibility from Him outside our homes? So today, stand in the middle of the place you call home and proclaim it is all for His glory.
“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” Hebrews 3:6
“Jesus, you know every single thing about me. I cringe at times that you know the parts I try to keep hidden. When I realize you still love me and want the best for me it brings me great joy. I know your thoughts are higher than mine and your ways can be mysterious but I want to know you as best I can to bring up my end of this relationship. Help me to get as close to you as I possibly can so that when I am faced with standing for your Name, I can fully glorify You. Amen”
I asked them what they would do if an acquaintance or stranger told them something horrible about another member of our little Bible study group. That this sweet, kind woman we know from meeting with her each week had been terribly unkind to a child. And without hesitation they all were willing to stop this gossiper in their tracks. “That doesn’t sound like her.” “That’s not the friend I know.” “Are you sure you have the right person?” They responded. I asked how they knew their friend would never be unkind to a child. And they all said because they know her character from spending time with her.
And then I said to them, “Now, a family member or friend comes up and says to you, ‘Jesus would be ok with an abortion.’ What would you say? “ Some hemmed and hawed a bit. Another said firmly, “No He wouldn’t.” For the former I asked them why they wouldn’t be so sure. They didn’t want conflict. They were a bit unsure if scripture was thrown at them what to do or say.
For the later, I asked how she could be so sure. And her response was perfect. “Because I know Jesus.”
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" Matthew 7:21-23
Jesus recognized that there will be plenty of people who call themselves followers. Who attend church and appear to be in a relationship with Him. But He knows who is making a real effort to know Him as much as He knows us. For my friends who struggled a bit with my question they work hard at knowing who God is and His character. They KNOW the answer to probably every false statement said about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it just takes practice being able to stand up for what we know to be true and good. And that’s exactly why we meet weekly to talk about God – who He is, what He has done and will do and how much He loves His creation.
Friends, the next time you are at church take a moment to look around. Is your church one that encourages everyone to bring their Bibles, open them up and take notes? One that makes Bible study a priority? A church whose focus is squarely on getting to know God – not being your personal counselor? Because I don’t know about you but when I was in college and even high school, that’s how I learned the subjects well. I studied, diligently. And when we are given the gift of having someone either ask us a question about God or the chance to correct a falsehood about Jesus we need to be prepared so that we can speak of the glory of God, of how He knows us and loves us.
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
A few years ago, God put my faith listening ears and my trust in Him to the test. He asked me to step outside my well-built comfort zone based on the pride of working. For an unknown period of time, He directed me to feed the homeless with 100 lunches once a week. He told me what to make and where to take the food. He tested and challenged me week after week to put my complete faith in Him. To stand resolutely with Him. For almost a year I experienced a relationship with God like no other.
As I wrote the other day, sometimes God asks us to stay silent. Other times, like during His 100 Lunches Project, God asks us to step up and say, “Yes!” And if we aren’t paying attention, aren’t tuned in to His character, aren’t sure that He is directing us, then we miss out on great gifts of intimacy with Him.
The actual making of the first few weeks of lunches wasn’t so far out of my comfort zone. I had enthusiastic helpers and a husband who supported my venture. But as time passed and God kept calling, I was faced with having to be resolute in following Him. For one, my husband thought this would be sort of a “one and done” activity. Not a financial investment and something that would take up room in our already full garage. He also was concerned for my safety as I ventured into potentially dangerous areas, at times alone. I could have easily agreed with him on all counts and shut the program down. But I knew God wanted me to stand firm. So, as I explained to my husband, God was directing this project, not me, he relented with a few requests. One being that if I didn’t go with someone that I would regularly check in via text.
And then there was my work schedule. At the time I was a long term substitute in a school office. I prided myself on always being on the schedule to work at one school or another. It was my source of “happiness” that people needed me. The direction I was getting from God was to give out lunches in the middle of the week. Doing that would require me to tell the school I currently worked I couldn’t be there that day for an unknown period of time. My fear was they would let me go. And so, I prayed to God. Asking Him to guide me and bolster me. The day I spoke to the office secretary I told her, “I’m doing this lunch project, directed by God. And I can’t work Wednesdays anymore.” A weird thing to say, for sure. Especially in the more liberal area that I live. The response? “Sounds good. We will take you any day you can work for us.”
That’s how the year went. Door after door opened. And some closed as needed. I watched and listened for His Word. And I did His work in His name. It was glorious!
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
The greatest lesson I learned that year was about trust. Trusting in that when God speaks to us and gives us a challenge He will provide. And any obstacle that is put in front of you, you can stand firm in who has your back. That year I had many people scoff at what I was doing. Family, friends, policemen, strangers. But when you know that your mission is God-sent nothing should stop you. You can be resolute.
So many of us Christians are sitting and waiting for God to call us to something special and yet we haven’t taken up the directions already laid out before us in God’s Holy Word. We don’t need another whisper to tell us to be kind or forgiving. We don’t need a tap on the shoulder to know how dangerous our gossiping tongue can be. It’s all there in the Good Book waiting to be lived out. We just need to take a stand for God.
The process of sanctification starts with the basics and moves on toward more and more challenges of trust. When He sees we are obeying the small things He places more of His banquet in front of us. But like the process of knowing when to stay silent we must be able to discern it is God, not our flesh, directing us. I knew it was God asking me to embark on this grand project because it asked me to do things so in opposite of my own desires and yet followed perfectly His.
When you act for God you will have detractors. You will have people that call you crazy. You might even have people who get angry with you. You might have to ask God to confirm you are on the right path. And I’ll tell you, brothers and sisters, when you are on that path, the work you do for Him will be seen by people who need to see it. You just may never realize it.
There were so many lessons for me in that year of 100 Lunches (which grew to about 300 per week!). And one day in December of that year God said to me, “You are done. It’s time for something else.” He closed that door and told me to stop. Even then I needed to be resolute. People chastised me for not continuing. Someone got quite angry with me. My response? “This wasn’t my project to begin with, it was God’s. He told me to be done so I am done. But you are free to serve in my place.”
I mentioned in my last post about the story from Sparkling Gems from the Greek and listening to God’s voice. I’d like to share with you the prayer from that day.
Lord, help me follow the Holy Spirit’s leading whenever He impresses me to do something. I know there have been moments in my life when the Spirit was leading me to do something. But because I didn’t understand it, I didn’t obey – and later I was always sorry. Please help me become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to trust Him when He speaks to my heart. I want to be obedient and to experience the supernatural life that He wants to give me! I pray this in Jesus’ name!
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I don’t think I’d be too off the mark in surmising that so much of human bad behavior stems from a need to be loved. We seek fame and fortune to be noticed, to be loved. We have affairs to feel needed and loved. We engage in all sorts of sexual immorality in seeking love’s bliss. We get petty and petulant because we feel slighted or unloved. We gossip to draw others into our inner circle to feel important and adored. When we feel lacking in being loved or even loving ourselves the doors open for the devil to whisper his sweet nothings to us.
It’s love we so desperately seek in so many wrong ways from the wrong sources.
Praise God that He first, created love. How could He not? The earth, sun, oceans, and garden were a thing of overwhelming beauty created for man to enjoy. A gift like that can only be made out of love. God is Himself love. He gives Himself freely to us, even when we reject Him. He waits patiently in this time of grace, for us to turn our eyes to Him.
There’s no magic formula or check to write for this true love. Even when we are acting out in our most sinful ways, He gives us yet another opportunity to let Him love us. Yes, let Him love us. Too many of us push God away – possibly out of shame or guilt or a feeling of worthlessness. I, myself, have stood harshly judging my reflection. I have struggled accepting God’s love. My past can sit like a demon shadow in front of me, pulling me into darkness. But more often lately I’m looking at the face in the mirror asking God to help me love myself as much as I know He loves me.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”Hebrews 13:5
My greatest hope for my daughters is that they won’t take as long as I have to look in the mirror and know how well they are loved by God. He will never leave them. He won’t gossip about them or betray them. He won’t judge them harshly. He will love their fresh, young faces the same as He will love their old and wrinkly ones.
Love is an emotion that has drawn thousands of poets and scribes to try and describe. It’s not a simple thing. It seems bigger than all the other feelings we have at our human disposal. It’s complicated and beautiful. Just like God.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
“We are pretty much the only hope that God has for reaching people who need him.”
On a recent visit with my daughter back in St. Louis, Missouri, she invited me to her friend’s 50th birthday gathering. It was to be just a small group as her larger party had already taken place. My daughter, who is 23, is blessed to have a number of women in her life who are not only mature in their marriages and in life in general, but in their faith. As I sat listening to them, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God. He, once again, put me right where I needed to be.
I listened as these Christian women of varied ages shared memories of shared events and the joy of being disciples to younger women. You see, their church encourages all ages to seek being discipled by more experienced Christians – something I haven’t experienced in the 20 years I’ve been an active Christian.
The birthday girl’s good friend suddenly announced we were to all take turns expressing what we loved about the newly christened 50 year old. She turned to me and said, “You don’t know Renee well so you don’t need to say anything.” I disagreed. I definitely had much to love about this woman that I had just met.
As each woman spoke, I felt the love flow throughout the group. It was sweet and brave and authentic. And at my turn I’m sure they all wondered what I would have to say.
“As a mother I miss my daughter terribly. She’s so far away. She has no family for hundreds of miles. And now with a baby on the way it grieves me that she is alone out here. But I realize she isn’t. I am so thankful she has Renee as her friend and godly counsel. A mother couldn’t ask for anything better besides being here herself,” I said.
You see my daughter’s friend, Renee, has taken her under her beautiful wings. She provides wise counsel about marriage, faith, motherhood and more. I could be jealous when I hear my daughter talk about her relationship with Renee. But my faith progression has brought me instead to a place of thankfulness. My daughter is incredibly blessed to be surrounded by Christian women who are prepared and ready to offer Biblical counsel.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" Luke 4:18
That’s Jesus in the above verse. Jesus our wise counselor setting us free from our prisons. And He trained up His disciples to spread His message of salvation and freedom. Like the old shampoo commercial goes, “and they told two friends and so on and so on.” Which brings us thousands of years later to this little group at a café in Missouri.
Here’s what I noticed about those six women I sat with that night. 1) They didn’t gossip 2) They lifted each other up with genuine compliments 3) They showed love and concern for each other 4) They were confident in expressing their faith and 5) They were eager and willing to take up being disciples.
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
These women are living the Great Commission. Teaching and guiding and loving Jesus’ flock. I sat there like a fan-girl marveling at being in the midst of ordinary women who were so extraordinary. Yes, ordinary women. They aren’t pastors or scholars although one is in fact a trained Christian counselor. They are students of Jesus. It gave me hope of what I could achieve with faith and the blessings of God.
I took the opportunity to ask a few of them a Christian counseling question.
“If I find myself in a situation with a fellow Christian who is struggling with an issue, what’s your best advice?” I inquired.
Without hesitation three of the women, including my daughter who herself disciples young women, said: “You need to really get to know the person. There needs to be a sense of trust that you come from a place of love.” And the birthday girl? She emphasized my old favorite, truth plus love. Not being afraid to speak God’s truth into someone from a loving perspective. Remember that Jesus trait of having a warrior spirit? Renee takes it to heart. She knows the end game – saving a soul.
“As you being the process of bringing correction into someone’s life, put yourself in his shoes. If you were the one sitting there, would it be easy or difficult for you to hear what is about to be said? If the person you are correcting acts closed at first it may be that he’s just embarrassed or reacting out of insecurity. Therefore don’t stop the conversation unless you can see that he’s just being combative. You need to be patient and slow in judging their reaction to your correction.”
Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek
Isn’t this the reaction we worry about the most when we need to speak truth to our Christian friends or family members? A fear of making someone angry or embarrassed? But here lies the reason why “Wise Counselor” sits at the end of our faith progression. Without love, without a sense of serving God, without courage, without knowledge of the Lord’s will, we will probably fail at being what our friend, child, sibling, co-worker, or sister in Christ truly needs.
So, when Jesus asks us to “follow” He isn’t just offering Himself up to save us from eternal damnation which by itself is a pretty amazing gift. He’s saying “join me in a journey.” He’s saying, “we’ve got work to do together.” And if we stop partway on the journey and decide we are “fine” where we are at, we miss the opportunities He wants to put in front of us to free more captives.
I don’t know about you but I need wise Christian counselors in my life. And if I could be like Renee and be a blessing in other’s lives, I know it’d make Jesus smile. My imperfect progress, as my friend Betsy likes to say, is still progress. I want to know and live out having the mind of Christ. I’m not where I was when I started and I still have a ways to go. Thankfully, I can trust that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are my guides and cheerleaders.
When we started this journey, I invited you to say a prayer of confession I found in Sparkling Gems from the Greek. And true to God’s ways He put another in front of me to close out this series. Please join me in this prayer and confession. I pray that you seek love, humbleness, courage, and wisdom on your journey.
“Lord, I ask you to help be kind and patient when it is essential for me to bring correction. Help me to not be offended if the person I’m trying to help doesn’t respond at first the way I wished he would have. Help me put myself in that person’s shoes and to sympathize with how he might feel. I ask You to give me wisdom to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. I also ask that You give the other person the grace to hear what I am telling him so he might see that I have his best interest at heart and that I am only trying to help him. I pray this in Jesus’ name!”
“I confess that I have the mind of Jesus Christ! When it is needful to me to speak correction to someone else I do it with love, kindness and patience. I refrain from allowing anger to rise up inside me. I am careful about the words that come out of my mouth, and I refuse to participate in vain arguing. I remain in control of myself as the Holy Spirit works mightily inside me. My words bring life to all who hear and receive them! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”
Be on your guard; stand firm in the
faith; be courageous; be strong.1 Cor 16:13
Isn’t it just like us humans, when dealing with multiple leaders, to try and take sides? Whether it be a job, a volunteer position, in our families, a group of friends, or at our churches so many of us seek to align ourselves with the best and strongest. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Survivor, you’ll see how drawn we are to this concept. But alliances and divisions lead to others being on the “out” and others being “in.” And so often if our seeking of alliances has anything to do with our church it only serves to erode our faith.
We see behavior that is ungodly. We, ourselves, take to gossip or manipulation. We celebrate the uplifted position of who we follow and revel in the failures of the “other side.” All along its our own relationship with Christ that is suffering.
When Paul wrote this letter, he was working with the up and coming faith leader Apollos. Within the Corinth church people had created a division amongst the two men. Who was the better leader to follow? It doesn’t appear that Apollos had anything to do with the strife taking place. In fact, Apollos seemed to try and head off any favoritism issues by telling Paul he wasn’t ready to return to Corinth.
In Jesus’ world everyone has the opportunity to be “in.” And as Christians, we are to fight against our tendencies to divide and conquer. We are to be always “on our guard” when we see these types of rifts arise around us. It takes courage to stand up to gossipers and the pull of others to align ourselves with the “right people.” It is faith-strengthening whenever we turn our backs on how the world wants us to act and turn toward how Jesus expects us to act.
A church I was at for almost 20 years was ruined by this type of behavior. It was reduced to almost ashes by people gathering up others to “their side.” And it’s sad to say it started within the pastoral and elder level. What we needed were a few courageous and strong faithful Christians to speak the truth and say “enough is enough.” The destruction of many people’s faith was truly one of the most disturbing things I have witnessed in a church.
“And yet, what are some Churches but semi-religious clubs, mere conventions of people gathered together? They have not in them that holy soul which is the essence of unity.”
We can’t take a stand for our faith if we aren’t willing to step outside of our worldly, envious, fearful ways. When we go along and try to play the game of “who’s the best” and then try to align ourselves with them we fall prey to the devil’s divisiveness.
But when we stand firm in our faith and are courageous against those who wish to divide, God stands beside us cheering us on. And our faith is reignited when we walk with closely Him.
“May I continue to find favor
in your eyes, my lord,” she said.
“You have put me at ease by
speaking kindly to your servant—
though I do not have the standing
of one of your servants.”Ruth 2:13
A prayer to always speak kindly of others
Merciful God, so often when I think of sinful behavior, I rarely attribute my own tendency to gossip and tear down others. And yet throughout Jesus’ time here on earth he reminds us to love one another. Help me to remember to love not just with deeds but with my words. You speak so kindly of me, LORD, and I have many, many flaws. Not only do I need your help in not speaking unkindly, but also in being your servant to exalt your people. I know that a kind word is all that is needed to cure so many of our world’s ills. Guide me in controlling my lips so that they drip with kindness rather than bitterness. In Jesus’ name I lift this up to you. Amen
“The problem with youth sports is the parents,” my husband loves to say. And he’s not wrong. If you’ve never stood on the sidelines of a soccer, softball, baseball, football or any youth sport let me paint a picture. There’s the pacer – that parent that has so much anger or anxiety they can’t sit still. There’s the cheerleader parent and the coaching parent – yelling out to their kids instructions of how to play better. There’s the sideline referee – yelling at the refs for every call. The peek-a-boo parent stands off to the side trying to shield themselves from their anxiety, only peeking to check out the score or why everyone just cheered so loudly. And then you have little groups of parents huddled together gossiping.
I have been every single one of those at some point. And guess what, so has my husband. He may be hesitant to admit it but I have seen him be the actor in each of those roles.
During my youngest daughter’s last season of high school field hockey, I decided to take a different tack. I knew my mouth wanted to speak so I figured, why fight it. But instead of anything negative I would cheer positively for every girl at one point or another. Afterwards, I would seek out parents and pay their daughters’ compliments for a job well done. It’s amazing how much better I felt after games.
My command is this:
Love each other as I
have loved you.John 15:12
I know for some, speaking kindly comes naturally (looking at you Betsy!). But I have found that not to be the norm in society. We seem to feel the need to seek out the flaw, the screw up, the mistake. “The movie was good, but I’m not too sure about that choice of an actor.” “She’s lost a lot of weight, but she really needed it didn’t she?” “He’s a good leader but I don’t like his hair.” “She always looks so nice, but of course she likes to impress people.” And on and on. The “buts” in our sentences erase any good we intended. We just need to get that extra little dig in.
“‘Do not go about spreading
slander among your people.
“‘Do not do anything that endangers
your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:16
I was listening to a podcast by a well know Christian speaker. She told a story of how she would listen to other talented speakers and upon leaving start dissecting all they had done wrong. And yet, she hoped people wouldn’t do the same to her.
Speaking unkindly, gossiping, or even slandering others is sinful behavior. It is like an amoeba that slowly eats our heart and mind. And the cure is to offer the kind word. It’s not enough to remove something from our behavior, that’s only half the work. God wants us to actively love our friends, family, neighbors and strangers with kindness.
I realized that not only was I having problems speaking about others unkindly but also about myself. I discovered this while at the gym. When I would get tired and worried I wouldn’t perform well I found my inner “but” speaking – “Come on you lazy so and so, you showed up today but now get it in gear!” How many of us really need one more person saying something negative to us? And yet, how many of us are that one more person? I decided to flip the script and start saying, “Come on! I know you can do this! You are stronger than yesterday!” I’m thankful for a few less bruises on my soul.
When I head out on my errands now, I say a little prayer asking God to help me say something that brightens someone’s day. I put a sign up in my prayer room that says, “Kindness and Grace Matter.” With His help I will remove the “buts” out of my vocabulary and rest in the compliment. I’m doing that not only for others but also for myself. I will speak kindness into my own heart so that it is full. And with fullness of heart, I will spread His fruit of love and kindness.
If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!
My dear brothers and sisters,
take note of this: Everyone
should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to
become angry.James 1:19
A prayer to speak only when needed
LORD, I would like to make this brief but I seem to have an issue with words. They flow freely from my mouth without filters. At times I gasp at myself for the words that exit me. James is so right when he shows me that my mouth is like the rudder for my ship. And I want to be on the right course with you, God. Sometimes I need the entire trinity to help me grab hold of my rudder. But I know with practice, your grace and the urging of the Holy Spirit I can and will be the quiet captain of my ship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
At my first professional job after graduating from college, I found myself in a new position in which the company heads wanted me to help get the entire company on a new course. I was only 23 years old and immature in many ways. The job entailed me meeting with the directors of each division of the company and educating them and guiding them through this new direction. One particular gentleman was one of those types that doesn’t say much in meetings. He needed to ruminate a while – go take a walk and a “secret” smoke – and then give his input. He made me very uncomfortable.
After I would bring up a topic and give my input we would sit in silence. That is, until I couldn’t bear it anymore and then I would start babbling. And the more I babbled the deeper, as they say, into the weeds I would get.
Avoid godless chatter, because
those who indulge in it will
become more and more ungodly.
2 Timothy 2:16
When we feel the need to fill empty spaces with words we can find ourselves making promises we can’t meet, contradicting ourselves, confusing the issue, giving bad advice, or revealing more than we should. I found myself doing all of these things in those meetings until one day a friend gave me the good advice to stop talking and let the man catch up.
You would think that lesson alone would’ve trained me in the art of being ok with silence but it hasn’t. Just the other day I had to apologize to someone for interrupting her while she was sharing a difficult issue. One of my walking buddies, with whom I have a very trusting relationship, has taken to saying, “That isn’t helpful for me right now,” when I am talking at her too much.
The root of this babbling seems to stem from a need to make sure people know my opinion. So many of us want to make sure we are “heard.” When in actuality God places more importance on the kindness of listening.
I am getting better at this thing called silence. My prayer life now includes the request of God to help me keep my mouth shut when I need to and speak only when I need to. I have a feeling I’ll have that as part of my prayers for a long time. Until I get it right, my ship will tack back and forth a bit until I can get it to smooth sailing.
If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!
As I sit here typing I am enjoying the sounds of my neighbor’s roof being ripped apart by workers. Yes, enjoying. You see my new neighbors moved in about two months ago. And then they moved out. I haven’t seen them much over the two months because they had their flooring all re-done. And then re-done. The person they originally hired to install their beautiful reclaimed wood floors did a horrible job – when he showed up. So, they had to fire him and hire a new installer. And now the roof. They’ve been told for weeks the new roof would be installed any day. Last week they were told it would be on Thursday. Then Friday. Then Monday. So today the roofers finally arrived. I like my new neighbors and I know how frustrating this has been for them. So yes, I’m enjoying the noise knowing the work has finally started. It seems that there are so few people and companies we can actually rely on today who make their “yes” mean “yes.” It may sound harsh, but when we don’t make our “yes” mean “yes” and our “no” mean “no” that’s called lying.
I watched an interesting video interaction once where a pastor went up to people and asked if they sinned and had broken the 10 commandments. They all said, “no.” Then he started asking them questions. “Have you ever taken a pen from your work?” That’s stealing. “Have you ever ‘swore to God’ you would do something for someone and you didn’t?” That’s taking God’s name in vain. And on and on. It was fascinating to watch the faces of the people change. They looked humbled.
The Bible is big on trustworthiness. God’s covenant with us is His way of setting this concept in the forefront. He is trustworthy. He is the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Rock we can trust will be with us in times of trouble. And He asks us to work on being trustworthy with our promises. When we are asked by a friend not to reveal something told in confidence, we aren’t to go into that decision lightly. With God’s wisdom by our side we give our “yes” or our “no.” And we stick by it. We don’t need to swear it. We just need to mean it.
I was a PTA president at my daughters’ elementary school for two years. I frequently asked people to help on projects or events. I appreciated those who would say “no” and not be squirmy about it. I, of course, really appreciated the people who gave me an eager “yes” and meant it. The people I had the most issue with were those that said “yes” and then wouldn’t show up, wouldn’t do the work, or gave a half-hearted effort. They would swear they wanted to help. It’s those people that I felt had they said no, I would’ve been better off.
If he is a true man and has plainly said, “I will,” you have him in your hand. He was free before giving it but not free after.
What if we all thought that way when we gave our decisions? Before we answer, we are fully free to pick whichever we wish. But once we say “I will” we are fully committed. Yes, circumstances arise that may be difficult to follow through – a late order from another company, the weather, an illness, something breaks down – but knowing we have made that commitment we will move heaven and earth to fulfill that obligation. We all have experienced situations where a person or company fails in their obligation. It is their reaction to that failure that we most respond to. Are they willing to make up for the failure? Are they contrite? Or do you get a “whatever” response? We will determine then if they are trustworthy or not.
When we enter into that covenant with another person by giving our “yes” we need to be sure we aren’t impetuous. Are we making that decision to impress others or even to impress God? I was involved with a woman through Girl Scouts and PTA for many years who volunteered for everything. People on the outside thought she was amazing! Her name was on all the volunteer lists. The only problem was she never actually followed through and completed the tasks.
That’s Jesus talking. And he’s not just talking about following through with commitments we make and being honest. He’s also talking about saying “no” to things we need to say “no” to. When we are tempted to do wrong, we need to just say a firm “no.” When we are asked to take on a task and have prayed about it and God tells us “no,” we need to say the same to the asker. Not “maybe.” Not, “possibly.” Not, “I’ll see.” We don’t need some long explanation. With His wisdom tucked firmly in our back pocket to be used at a moment’s notice, we can be firm on our “no.” Sometimes it’s difficult to decide which way to turn. If only we had the breastplate described in Exodus 28:15
Included on the tunic was a pocket with a black and a white stone. When a big decision needed to be made, the faith leader would reach in and pull out the stone. Black for no and white for yes. It reminds me of those Magic 8 Balls. Although those always seemed stuck on “Maybe.”
In my post on patience I listed the reasons you should have patience. One of those was for better decision-making. When we aren’t emotional and stressed, we can think through a decision much clearer. As a Christian we have the power of prayer. We have the Word of God. How many of us, when faced with a big decision turn to both of these? And wait for an answer? I used to volunteer for anything thrown my way. Part of it was out of pride – thinking how great it was to be asked. Another part was needing to always be “doing something.” After I volunteered THEN I would ask God to work it out. Yes, a bit backwards.
I learned a long time ago at my first professional, career job that, when making especially difficult or controversial decisions, I wanted to align those decisions with my boss. That way I knew if issues came up, I was supported. That thinking has served me well throughout my working career. And when I finally applied that same concept to the rest of my life it made giving my “yes” and my “no” much easier. God is my boss. When I align my decisions with His Word, I am strengthened by the promises He has made. I know He is working all things for my good.