Upside Down and Turned Around

57443063_5-feet-on-scale

I find myself so frustrated and even depressed by the weight battle I find myself fighting every day. Every. Day. Literally. Some days I lay my head on the pillow at night and feel great about how the day went. I know that I made wise decisions and took the best care of my body that I possibly could have. But there are so many days when that isn’t the case. Instead I lay down with regret and disgust that, once again, I was so weak.

Quite frankly, this battle has been a great source of discouragement to me. I want to be at a healthy weight. I want to look thin and attractive. And yet when faced with a temptation, I cave. When challenged with the daily habits necessary to lose the weight that I say I want to, I fail.

Now, I need to keep fighting. We can’t give up. It’s against the very nature of our Christianity to do so. And victory is possible! But I wonder– when we are in the midst of a battle that feels like it will last for all eternity– is there any other way of looking at it instead of with depression and discouragement?

As I was thinking about this the other day, it hit me–

Perhaps this battle is a blessing.

Yes, I said blessing.

And here’s why–

Because I can’t seem to conquer this battle, I am continually reminded of my weakness and so it keeps me humble. And because I haven’t conquered this yet, it helps me to be constantly aware of my need for dependence of God in this area of my life and, therefore, reminds me of my dependence on Him in every area of my life.

Think of a battle that you face. It may be weight but it may be something totally different — some temptation that you just struggle with on a daily basis. Are you allowing this to develop humility in your life and draw you closer to your Savior? Or are you stuck in a pit of despair?

While I seem to lack lasting victory in this area of weight in my life–at least for now, I am thankful that at least something good can come out of it, if I choose to look at the battle from a different perspective.

Long-Term Benefits

texting

We were on the highway, headed back to our campground after a fun day of sight-seeing, when we came upon this extremely slow car in the passing lane. I find slow cars in the passing lane rather frustrating. I don’t care if someone prefers to drive slow, I just appreciate if they stay in the appropriate lane for their speed.

As we scooted to the right lane to pass them, I glanced in the car, expecting to see an elderly person.

Instead, what I saw confounded me. It was a young woman intently texting on her phone. In the passing lane. On a busy highway.

How dumb do you have to be if you are texting in the passing lane?? (My apologies to you if you have done this. I am not trying to be unkind, but common sense tells us that we shouldn’t text and drive at all, much less in the passing lane of a major highway!)

She is so typical of this day and age, where we just do not think through the possible consequences of our actions.

We are so focused on the present and what we want to do, that we care little for our own lives or the lives of those around us. And this is true in many other aspects of our lives, as well.

My husband and I were having a conversation with friends the other night and the subject of friendship with our kids came up. We are now at the stage where we are beginning wonderful friendships with our kids. But if we had tried to be their friend ten years ago, we would have sacrificed the friendship we have now. We had to delay our present desires (our kids to like us) for their future benefit (and our future benefit, as well).

Delaying gratification is not a popular concept these days. Think of all the dumb stuff we do on a daily basis because of the immediate gratification we receive–

~Eat when we aren’t hungry to fulfill the “appetite” of our eyes.

~Choose processed foods and mixes to save ourselves time.

~Give in to our child so we aren’t embarrassed or so they will like us.

~Buy something we don’t need or go into debt to “keep up with the Joneses”.

~Watch something crude and profane to get a few laughs.

Honestly, when it comes right down to it, many of us choose immediate gratification over long-term benefit all the time.

So what do we get if we decide to choose future benefits instead of immediate gratification? I can think of a few, very worthy things that you will probably receive (although there are always exceptions, of course)–

~We will not be haunted for life by the image of killing another human being because we were texting and driving on a major highway (this one is guaranteed, by the way–if you don’t text and drive, you won’t kill someone while doing it!)

~We will have a healthy body.

~We will stay out of debt.

~We will have obedient and respectful children (instead of the little tyrants I see running around everywhere these days! I shudder to think about what this world will be like as these undisciplined, self-centered kids grow up).

~We will become more like Christ.

As we grow more mature in Christ and exercise self-discipline in these areas, the decisions become easier because they become habits. The first few times we say no to that dessert or to buying something that we can’t afford, it hurts terribly. The first time we hold our ground with our kids and provide consequences for their fits, we will feel just awful inside. The first time we turn off that TV show or radio station, we will feel disappointed. But, if you can stick with it long enough, it gets easier because it becomes a habit. And before you know it, you have taken some leaps and bounds towards a better life.

I don’t know if the girl who was texting will ever have to pay the ultimate price for her stupidity. It seems that oftentimes many people get away with the Russian Roulette game they play every day. But we need to do the right thing, even if we never experience negative consequences.

And one final thing–of course, sometimes we fall back into our old habits as we strive to make good choices. That is where perseverance comes in. If you are reading this and are at a bad place and ready to give up, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue on! We can’t give up! Perfection and perfect rest will come soon enough, but for now we are here to labor on in our quest to become more like Christ, to share the gospel, and to glorify God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better and Easier Are Not Synonymous

Easy≠ Better

Did you know that Better and Easier are not the same thing? They are two different words with two separate meanings. What got me thinking about this was something my pastor said in church a couple of weeks ago– if you follow Christ, you would most definitely have a better life, although you wouldn’t be promised an easier life.

Let’s start with a few definitions from Dictionary.com–

Better–1. of superior quality or excellence;2. morally superior; more virtuous:3. of superior suitability, advisability, desirability, acceptableness, etc.; preferable

Easy–1. not hard to do : not difficult; 2. free from pain, trouble, or worry

I wonder if this culture of ease and instant gratification has led us to become a little confused about these two words as they relate to the Christian life?

We believe that easier is better and harder is worse.  And that may be true in some instances. But it’s certainly not true when discussing our salvation transformation and subsequent growth in Christ.

I remember having a conversation several years ago with someone about this topic. The conclusion that this woman had come to was that Christians could expect a better (i.e. easy) life after turning to Christ. She believed that the verses in the Bible that talk about the joy, blessing, and peace of the Christian life translated into the word “easier”.

I believe we have become so focused on immediate reward that we have lost sight of future gratification.Let’s examine a few real life examples of other ways we have fallen prey to this temptation–

 

Parenting first comes to mind. Many of us really struggle not giving in to our children’s every whim. We don’t want them to hate us or be mad at us and so we do the easy thing by giving in to their desires. But this choice does not lead to a better life for the parent or the child. This is definitely a case where easier is not better.

 

Food preparation also comes to mind. We want to eat healthy food but we do not want to take the time to prepare it. And so many of us have resorted to the easy use of prepared mixes, processed options, etc. But we are finding out more and more that this is certainly not the better way to take care of your body.

 

I wonder if we will ever be able to comprehend how large a part the change in technology has played in this thinking? We have gotten very used to fast internet speed, text messaging, and having GPS and cameras and calculators available at all times. Perhaps our smart phones have led us to expect –or even demand– instant gratification, making our lives easier and, oftentimes, better.

 

Whatever the reason, many of us have started equating these two words in our mind.

But if we study scripture we will see that they are not defined the same way.

I Peter 3 comes immediately to my mind, as does John 16:33. These passages talk about the trials and tribulations we should expect as believers. These trials do not sound easy to me.

And then we have passages that talk about the battles we will have with Satan (Ephesians 6:12; I Peter 5:8-9) and with our flesh (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:21-25). Again, verses that make Christianity sound like a battleground. So if it’s not easy and it’s not {always} pleasant, how can it possibly be better?

That’s a great question. One that needs to be looked at from a spiritual perspective instead of a material, carnal one.

God has promised in His Word to–

Give us peace (Isaiah 2:3)

Give us joy (John 15:11)

Answer our prayers (Matthew 7:7-8)

To supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19)

But if we can step outside of our short-term, earthly view, and study scripture, we will find out that God’s peace comes in the midst of trials, joy is not dependent on our circumstances, our prayers are only answered if our hearts desire what the Father desires, and our needs are defined by God, not by us.

When we can start to view things with a spiritual perspective, we start to realize that easy does not always mean better. And, while a life lived for Jesus Christ, isn’t always easy, it is certainly always better.

 

 

Daily Blessings

Blue-Night-Sky-Stormy-Beautiful-Dark-Lightning-Nature-65348

How often we forget just how blessed we are as believers, resting in the shadow of the Almighty God. No storm can blow or fire burn that removes us from His protection. No trial can touch us outside of His will and nothing can separate us from His love. This knowledge should fill us with praise and gratitude each new morning.

I share with you today a poem written by Amy Carmichael. While I do not have a big love for poetry, I find Amy’s poetry profoundly beautiful.

Daily Blessings

For the love that like a screen
Sheltered from the might-have-been;
For that fire could never burn us,
Deeps could never drown or turn us;
For our daily blessings, Lord,
Be Thy name adored.

For the gentle joys that pass
Like the dew upon the grass,
New each morning, lighting duty
With a radiance and a beauty; 
For our daily blessings, Lord
Be Thy name adored.

Many a storm has threatened loud,
And then melted like a cloud,
Seeking to distress, confound us,
Met they great wings folded round us;
For our daily blessings, Lord,
Be Thy name adored.

By Amy Carmichael

The Best Testimony

may your life

 

I happened upon some information the other day while looking up some books for a friend. Information that shed quite a dark shadow on an actress who had been quite vocal about her faith in Jesus Christ some years back. She had faded from the limelight awhile ago and I never thought too much of it. After all, if I was famous, I’d want to melt into the background too. Unfortunately, what I found out is that the happenings of her life since that time have been a sorry, selfish mess–which basically negates the good things she wrote and spoke so long ago.

It made me realize, anew, how incredibly important a self-sacrificing and holy life lived for Jesus truly is as a believer. We can say all the right words, speak in front of thousands, or write a Christian best-seller but if our lives do not match our words we have done great damage. This actress, and many more like her, are the reason why so many unbelievers cry “hypocrite!” It’s why so many aren’t attracted to Christianity.

Quite frankly, if I concentrated on the failures and downfall of these people, I wouldn’t be all that attracted myself.

And, once again, I realize that our lives are our greatest testimony. Our priorities, what we buy, who we hang out with, and what we do on the weekends tell people about us. The lives our kids lead — their priorities, their language, their respect for authority, and their entertainment choices also say something about us.

What is your life telling others about you?

We can tell others about Jesus all we want. But if it isn’t back up by a life lived for Him– a life dedicated not only to loving others but to holiness and purity–we may as well just keep our mouth shut.

As the church has changed over the last thirty years or so, we have swallowed a couple of insidious lies. Lies that have greatly affected our testimonies.

First, we have been sold the lie that the only thing that matters to God is love and acceptance and that He doesn’t care at all if we just keep on living in sin. If you believe that, I would suggest that you start reading your Bible. This is absolutely not scriptural. Here are a few verses that prove that this isn’t true–

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Luke 13:3  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

I Corinthians 6:9-11  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

The Bible teaches us that we are under the wrath of God until we repent and accept the amazing and incredible sacrifice of Jesus. If you have been taught a gospel without repentance, it is not the true gospel. Please, read the Bible for yourself to find out the truth. Don’t follow the modern day popular preachers and authors without discernment, for many are not preaching truth!

The second lie we’ve been sold is that victory in the Christian life isn’t possible. Yes, life is hard and happy endings are few, but I want you to know that if you do things God’s way and live a life of humility and obedience to Him and His Word, He is SO FAITHFUL. It is a hard and arduous way, full of difficult and painful choices. It is filled with postponing instant gratification for the hope of something better in the end. It is filled with going to the right, when the whole world–including the church– is going left. It is filled with anguish and questions and hard work.

But if you stick to it and follow it through, victory is possible! No, we won’t be perfect this side of heaven, but we should be getting more like Jesus every day. We should be experiencing transformation and sanctification. Don’t be sold the lie that victory is unattainable and that we must wallow in the scum of our brokenness and dysfunction forever. That’s just not true. We can break the chains of sin through the help of the Holy Spirit or Jesus died for nothing.

Why is it that when we start talking about righteousness and living a holy life that we hear cries of “legalism!”?  I believe it is because so many people do not understand the genuine desire that fills the heart of the true believer. A believer’s heart doesn’t feel weighed down by a set of rules. Instead, the believer’s heart truly desires to do what’s right and spends much time at war with their worldly desires. We don’t choose to do the holy and pure thing because we have to. We do it because we want to.

Life is so confusing these days. People call themselves Christians who obviously aren’t. People who don’t call themselves Christians are often nicer than people who do. We hear pleasant messages in our ears that preachers claim are from God. Meanwhile, we see families and churches falling apart. Put on your armor, my dear friend, and stand strong in the power of His might in these perilous times (Ephesians 6:10).

And let’s pray for those in leadership. Satan would like nothing more than to render them ineffective. Let’s support and encourage and pray diligently for the godly men and women who are standing up for the Truth.

 

When You Can’t Fix It

toolboxAll of us are faced, at one time or another, with a situation we just can’t fix--

 

-Someone who won’t forgive us

-A child who has chosen to rebel against God

-A church situation that is beyond our control

-A health crisis

-A strained or broken relationship

-A political leader who systematically destroys a country

The list could go on and on…and on. Life is so full of “unfixable” situations.

The older I get the more I realize that there are so few happy endings in real life. For the life we live here on earth is full of strife and sin and sorrow.

We all handle these situations differently, don’t we? Some of grow angry and explosive when we lose all control over our circumstances. Others of us grow withdrawn and depressed. And still others of us worry and fret and complain.

But how should we face the uncertainty and frustration of a life we can’t control?

But before we talk about how we should respond, I just have to mention this–I think the thing I find almost comical (if it weren’t so sad) in my own life is that I have actually spent many days thinking I can control my life–until God makes it very clear that I can’t. When things are going smoothly we often forget to be thankful for the ordinary, don’t we?

Okay, back to how we should respond to these situations we can’t control. As I have grown older, I have learned (and am still learning) some things about this–

1. I have zero control over the events in my life. Let me write that one more time– ZERO control. Our uneventful lives hang delicately by a thread. At any moment they can be disrupted by any number of events. And I have no control over these events.

2. God has full control over these events. He knows exactly what He is doing. He is good and loving and merciful. We can rely on Him. If we are a genuine child of His, born again through the blood of Jesus Christ, He offers us peace and strength in the midst of every trial. We are not alone.

3. Trying to manipulate situations and people usually makes it much worse. I have found this to be true on many occasions. When I try to “fix” someone else or manipulate circumstances, I usually just fall flat on my face or end up in an argument. I have found the best response to be prayer and a concentrated study of my own heart– How can I change? What should I learn through this? How should I respond as a believer?

4. God is all-powerful, but sometimes He chooses to say no. We know that God can do anything.  And many of us have seen the evidence of a miraculously transformed life. We have heard of the extraordinarily disappearing tumor or health issue. He is Big and sometimes we see that in a supernatural way. But sometimes we don’t. And that’s okay. I like to think of our lives as this big tapestry, in which we can’t see the design of our lives but God, the master weaver, knows each and every thread — whether it be dark or light. We are just the canvas.

5. I need to submit to the sovereign will of God. And so we come back to this lesson I have been learning all of my life and continue to learn. I find that this lesson is a hard one whether I am suffering from an event that changes life permanently or just a small trial that is inconsequential in the scope of life. God knows best and He is good. I will only experience the peace and love and joy He has to offer if I submit my will to His.

Amy Carmicheal, a missionary in India long ago (if you don’t know her story, you should look it up- it’s amazing!) was a beautiful poet. I want to leave you with this short verse, written by her–

“And shall I pray Thee change Thy will, my Father,
Until it be according unto mine?
But, no, Lord, no, that never shall be, rather
I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.

I pray Thee hush the hurrying, eager longing,
I pray Thee soothe the pangs of keen desire—
See in my quiet places, wishes thronging—
Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire.”

Lessons from a Shattered Screen

damaged_iphone_screen

It was a beautiful sunny day. I was doing something a bit unusual for me– I was actually on a job rather than behind a desk. A customer had called asking that their summer containers be replaced with plants for autumn. My husband thought I was the best person for the job and so I found myself getting my hands dirty that day.

As I gathered the plants and tools I needed, I actually gave a brief thought to getting my Otter Box case. I keep it for days I’ll be mostly outside or traveling. But I decided not to.

A dumb decision. I can see that now.

It happened as I was walking to my car for something. I heard the text message sound. It couldn’t wait until I was at the car (I am not exactly sure why??) and so, as I usually do, I pulled my phone from my pocket as I walked. Somehow I lost my grip on it and it fell face down onto the concrete sidewalk.

Now, at this point, I wasn’t really that worried. I have dropped my phone countless times and it has always remained unscathed. I was expecting the same thing this time.

I was in for a big disappointment.

As I picked it up, my heart sank. The screen wasn’t just cracked in a corner, it was completely shattered, and yet the glass was clinging tenaciously to the screen.

I gingerly pressed on the center button. It lit up. I pressed on an app. It responded. I carefully put the phone in the car in a horizontal position and went back to work, berating myself and trying to figure out what I was going to do about this unexpected turn of events as I worked.

I went home, put on the Otter Box cover so I could still use it, and mourned (well, not really, but almost…).

This all happened last Friday. It is now Monday and my phone screen is still a shattered mess. It doesn’t respond real well and so any texting I do is almost cumbersome. It has become my “emergency use only” phone.

My very clever son has offered to replace the screen (he’s already replaced the screens on two other phones) and so my new screen has been ordered and is on its way.

Of course, I can’t have something like this happen to me without thinking through all of the lessons that can be learned from it. I thought of several and just can’t narrow it down to one–

LESSON #1

My shattered screen was really a blessing in disguise. About a month ago I had actually removed some of the apps I tend to press whenever I have a nano-second to look at my phone. I had started to habitually pull my phone out of my pocket in all situations and I knew it was a very bad habit. And so I had removed the apps in an effort to break myself of this behavior. This new turn of events really gave that effort a big boost. Because now my phone isn’t even a temptation because it doesn’t work right.

And–believer it or not– life continues on even without a phone. I know some of you might not believe that but I tell you the truth: Life is not about your phone and the world that is held within it.

We need to pull ourselves out of this tiny-screened world so many of us find ourselves in and make a conscious effort to embrace the world we live in—the living, breathing, shining world that is right in front of our faces.

And so, while it is inconvenient, I am not really unhappy that this happened to me.

LESSON #2

I find it interesting that the phone is shattered but it still works. iPhones remind me a little bit of that Timex commercial (it was Timex, wasn’t it?) from so long ago–

It takes a licking but keeps on ticking.

I was certain when I saw that shattered screen that my phone wouldn’t work. But it did.

I think it is a little representative of people. We can deal and put up with a lot. We are hindered and hampered but we keep taking the next step. Our dreams are shattered, our worlds cave in and yet we have no choice but to keep going.

But so many of us choose to keep living with that shattered screen. Instead of turning to the Lord for complete healing and a changed life, we toil through life with grief and shame. How sad, when we could turn to the Lord for a new heart and walk with Him. How tragic that so many of us live under the shadows of heartache, bitterness, and envy, never turning to the One who can help us step away from our past and provide healing.

No, life does not become perfect. Please don’t hear me saying that. But the peace and joy that comes when we surrender our lives to the Lord cannot be measured. These are not just empty words. I am living proof of this, as are many I know. Find someone who genuinely loves the Lord and is living a life in surrender to His will and just ask them. I know they will attest to this, as well.

LESSON #3

“If only” is a phrase that can haunt us, if we aren’t careful. If only I had put my Otter Box case on my phone. If only I hadn’t dropped it. If only I had just left my phone in the car to begin with.

The phone incident is so minor in life, but much more serious “if only”s haunt many of us, don’t they?

If only I wouldn’t have had that affair.

If only I would have married a believer.

If only I would have disciplined my child when they were a toddler.

If only I wouldn’t have gone there that night.

If only I wouldn’t have said that.

If only he or she wouldn’t have gotten cancer.

But the world of “if only” is a shattering, heart-breaking world where we feel hopeless and helpless. It is a world in which we can’t change a thing.

Somehow, with the grace and mercy of God, we need to pull ourselves out of it. We need to submit ourselves to the perfect will of our heavenly Father and forget the “if onlys”. They just serve as an avenue of discontentment and dissatisfaction.

 

Whew. That’s a lot for one day. Hope I didn’t overwhelm you. Perhaps I should have broken this into several posts. But I hope that some of these lessons I have learned may help you, too.

 

If you have appreciated this post, I would be very honored if you would share it with others. Thank you!

Making a Choice

sad-woman

The woman was always down. And, for sure, she had a good reason. When I met her many years ago, her husband had already been gone for five years, a victim of cancer. Our daughters were the same age and got along well together so it naturally led to some conversations. Conversations that always centered on her horrible life and how hard it was. She was forever the victim of awful circumstances and– from what I could see– was content to wallow in despair for the rest of her life. I found it terribly sad for her and for her kids. She had been given very difficult circumstances and had multiplied the pain with her “woe is me” attitude.

I just can’t help but contrast her with another woman who also lost her husband. This woman, while not denying the heart-wrenching pain and overwhelming struggles, refused to give in to self-pity. Even through her pain, she was always looking out for the needs of others and ready to offer her help and resources in any way possible, always aware that she wasn’t the only one struggling in life. Her reliance on God’s strength and her focus on Jesus has been an amazing testimony to all around her.

Two women.

Two totally different responses.

I am not judging the first one, because, honestly, I have no idea how I would react in those circumstances.

But the second one? She has taken something horrible and has shown how God walks with you baby-step by baby-step through the drudgery of long, painful days and never-ending, sleepless nights if you stay focused on Him. She has been a shining example of the strength that God’s grace provides when we turn to Him.

You know, when we sin, we will often blame our circumstances.  Difficult finances, trouble at work, or health issues give us the excuse we need to become full of self-pity, anger, or bitterness.

But, as I think of this second woman, I can’t help but realize–

It’s not the circumstances but how we react to the circumstances that really matters.

No one can force us to pity ourselves, to be filled with angst and despair, or to give way to anger and frustration. They are choices.

As I write, King David comes to mind. Many times he was crushed by despair, surrounded by enemies, and yet he often turns his anguished cry to praise. Psalm 69 is  a good example of this. The first few verses say this–

Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me.
I am weary with my crying;
My throat is dry;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.

But by the end of that very same Psalm, David is praising God–

Let heaven and earth praise Him,
The seas and everything that moves in them.
35 For God will save Zion
And build the cities of Judah,
That they may dwell there and possess it.
36 Also, the descendants of His servants shall inherit it,
And those who love His name shall dwell in it.

He would give voice to despair, but he would always turn his eyes to God and the hope of salvation.

Voicing our despair, hopelessness, and frustration isn’t the problem–It is dwelling in that place of despair–taking up residence in that dark place– for all of our days. It’s never turning our eyes to God and letting Him meet our needs in the way He chooses. It’s growing like a petulant, spoiled child in the face of our trials, instead of submitting ourselves to God’s Sovereignty.

This is a hard conversation. I know that very well. But trials and difficulties are when the “rubber meets the road” so to speak. It’s when we really get to show the world that God is always good and provides for our every need. And it’s when, if we choose to humble ourselves and live obediently to His word, we truly understand the faithfulness of God in a much deeper and fuller way.

The two women, both professing Christians, responded to the same circumstance in totally different ways. One setting a shining example for fellow Christians to follow and the other one alienating even the most loving souls by her constant, self-centered despair.

 

 

Powerful Words

 

tween and mom

The girl stood taller than the rest of the children. She was older than they were and she felt awkward and even ugly next to all that adorableness. This was a tough time for her, as that stage between childhood and adulthood often is for many of us.

As the children played, the adults talked. And she felt like she didn’t fit anywhere. She would be glad when the evening was over. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the family that was visiting her home. She just felt like she didn’t belong.

As they gathered together to eat, the mother of the visiting family unobtrusively whispered in the girl’s ear, telling her that she would be so happy if her young daughter would grow up to be just like her.

To a struggling twelve year old, these words were some of the most encouraging she could have offered. The young girl, now in her 20s, has never forgotten that moment of encouragement during a challenging time of her life.

My daughter told me this story only yesterday. I am not sure I had ever heard it before. But as she expressed her gratefulness for the woman and her wise words, I again realized the power of words.

We forget that words have the power to break someone down or build someone up. And so many of us are in the habit of  sharing the negative and never sharing the positive. We feel very comfortable saying what we don’t like, what we think someone should be, what improvements are necessary, and how someone isn’t meeting our expectations.

But when things are going well or there is something we really appreciate, so many of us tend to keep our mouths shut.

Many years ago, during a time when I was playing piano solos in my church, I realized the encouragement that could be given with just a few words.  I would work hard at a song and would feel rather deflated if no one told me they appreciated my hard work. And yet, if even just one person took a brief moment to thank me, I would feel like the work was worthwhile.

Now, God used this to teach me a myriad of lessons, the most important being that I should not long for the praise of men (I am still learning that lesson, by the way). But another lesson I learned during that time is that if I appreciate something about someone, I need to let them know.

Whether you talk to them in passing, take them for coffee, or write a short note to express appreciation, taking the time to share your positive thoughts is always a good idea.

God has dedicated a good portion of James 3 to this topic of the tongue. James tells us that–

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (verses 6-8)

This passage shows us that our words have great power, doesn’t it? As much as we have power to use it for evil, we also have the power to use it for good.

I heard a testimony the other day of a man who had come to know the Lord as an adult. As he talked about his faith in Christ, he mentioned that before he was even beginning to think about Christianity, someone had planted seeds of life in his heart. It would be several years before those seeds came to fruition, but that wise person had planted them, just the same.

Encouraging others and planting seeds of the gospel– now that is what I want my words to do. Don’t you?

Why do we find it so much easier to use our tongues to express irritation, to gossip, to argue, and to belittle? Why do we find it so much easier to close our mouths shut tight and not say anything?

Scripture is so clear on this, speaking to this very topic directly in a multitude of verses–

Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 18:21, Matthew 12:36, Proverbs 16:24, Proverbs 16:23-24, Proverbs 15:23, I Thessalonians 5:11

And there are many more.

Let’s use our words today to build up and encourage. Let’s use our tongues to plant seeds for the gospel. And let’s wisely consider each word before it is spoken.

 

 

Mama on a Mission

house finch

The noise in the tree next to me was getting annoying now. The bird chirped constantly as I sat there reading. It just didn’t stop. It sounded like it was really angry about something. When I went out to the porch swing the next morning, it did the same thing again–just sat in the tree and chirped madly. Actually “chirp” may be too musical of a word. This bird was yelling its little heart out about something.

When it continued to happen the following mornings, it finally dawned on me that there may be a nest in the hanging basket right beside the swing where I sat comfortably. I pulled a foot stool close by and stepped up to peek. Sure enough, there they were–an over-full nest stuffed with three or four adolescent birds, almost ready to fly.

The twittering bird beside me was not just any bird. She was a mama on a mission.

She was doing everything in her power to protect the babies for which she was responsible. She didn’t know that I wasn’t a real threat and so she chirped away.

In another–rather tragic– example of this, we heard this past weekend of an aggressive little dog that was killed by a bear near the cabin where we were staying. The dog-owners are heart-broken and think that the bear must have been protecting a cub, as they had heard some rustling beyond the bear and the bears are not normally that aggressive. It appears that this bear, too, was a mama on a mission.

We actually call women who fiercely protect their children “Mama Bears”, don’t we? And, unless you are a mama, you probably can’t really understand the urge to protect your young.

And we are called to protect our children. But what should this protection look like?

Many years ago, my daughter was in a class with a young girl whose mama would step in to protect her at any real or perceived hurt. She was there to inflict scathing words or just due on anyone who dared to hurt her baby. I would submit to you that this is not healthy protection. And we have all met these overprotective mamas. We find them in school rooms, Sunday School classes, soccer teams, and playgrounds. They are an intimidating force, these mama bears.

But is this really what we are called to do as Moms? Are we supposed to keep our children from receiving any hurt or disappointment? Are we to view them as perfect and step up to defend for any reason?

NO. Of course not.

This is not in the best interest of our children in any way.

We laugh about it now, but we were one of those families that almost handled things the opposite way. When our kids came home with a story about how a schoolmate or teacher had offended them, our first words would be, “what did you do?”  We always knew there had to be another side to the story.

Of course, there were occasions when I was tempted to step in the middle of dissension between friends or even at school and then I would remember my mom’s wise words to me — Let them work it out.

You see, part of growing up is learning how to handle disappointment. It’s learning how to work with difficult people. And how to deal with our emotions of anger and sadness. If we parents always swoop in to keep our children from learning these lessons, we will greatly hamper them (and their future families) for the future.

Now, while so many parents are busy trying to protect their children from real or perceived disappointments and hurt, I see few parents protecting their children from the real enemy--the enemy of their souls.

Satan is alive and active and roaring about like a lion (I Peter 5:8). He is also masquerades as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and uses subtle ways to deceive us (2 Corinthians 11:3). He seeks to kill and destroy (John 10:10). And most of us allow him into the lives of our children in a myriad of ways–

We allow our children to choose the music we play in our cars. This is often pop music that is filled with explicit lyrics about sex, drug use, and bad language. We may even bop along with them to the catchy beat as the sinful music plays.

We put on the latest tv show or movie and laugh at the off-color jokes and shake our heads at the blatant wickedness — but never take a stand and just turn it off, explaining to them why.

We allow them to go to movies and dances and malls, all under the guise of “all the other kids are doing it”, never really knowing exactly what is taking place with these friends.

Our kids spend hours and hours with headphones in their ears, staring at an ipad screen, or playing video games that would make your skin crawl, and we say nothing. “Kids will be kids” is our motto.

When we do spend some time with our kids, we talk about the weather, the school assignment, or the vacation that’s coming up. We never talk about creation, or homosexuality, or what being a Christian really looks like.

All the while, the devil is making inroads into the hearts of your kids.

Oh, this is where we parents need to stand up and fight! There is an ALL-OUT Spiritual War going on and many of us are sitting casually by, thinking it doesn’t affect us. But, if you are not careful, the casualties will be your children.

This is where we need to step up and protect our young ones. We have a responsibility and we need to take it very seriously.

Let’s turn away from our own screens, clubs, and hobbies long enough to get to really know our children. To really understand what makes them tick and see their weaknesses. Let’s challenge them using the Word of God.

Let’s be like the mama bird, chirping loudly for all to hear, letting Satan know that you are, by the grace and strength of God, protecting the soul of the precious child in your care and this is one battle he won’t win!