The Power of the Tongue

I was getting ready early one day recently. There was somewhere I needed to be. This would normally be one of those occasions where I would treat the children on our way, since I made them get up extra early. But I didn’t. What used to be a special bonding time for me and the kids now only smacks of judgement. You see, probably over a year ago now, someone made a remark that in essence suggested that I was misusing my resources to do such a thing. Of course, they didn’t fully understand and it was an offhanded comment, one that I rejected as soon as I heard it. However, it has impacted me greatly. I can no longer even consider going to this particular place where we used to go treat ourselves without hearing that remark and feeling the sharp sting of judgement.

I thought about how many times I have done the same thing to others. Not intentionally trying to hurt anyone, but in an effort to be funny or quick-witted or included even, I have said something in haste that I regretted as soon as the words were out of my mouth. And no amount of apology can take them back! I remember one particular occasion many years ago, a friend of mine wore a pink jumper to school. She loved it. She felt awesome in it. And she asked me what I thought about it. Me, being an idiot, said, “well, I wouldn’t wear it (because of the color).” Unfortunately, this girl had the same skin and hair color as me and suddenly felt as though it was awful on her. No amount of explaining that I just don’t like pink could make up for what I had said. She never wore it again. I still feel badly about that.

The Bible tells us that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Prov 18:21a) and “the soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit” (Prov 15:4). I think we can all attest to the fact that this is true. Even in our recent experience of random acts of kindness, we can see that those doing the acts as well as those receiving are blessed – why? Because kindness and love are the starting points of healing.

When you think about it, many of our illnesses both mental and physical can be related to a hurt in our spirit. A wound that never healed. A lie you always believed. But what if we spoke to others with kindness and love. One kind word can ignite a spark in someone that will bring light to a very dark heart. What if we were intentional in letting others know that they are valued, significant, and loved? Couldn’t that give room for God to begin a healing in someone that otherwise would not have happened? Romans 14:19 instructs us, “so then [we] pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” God wants us to be kind. To build each other up – not tear down. To love – not judge. And in Ephesians, Paul writes, “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (4:29). We need to be ministers of grace and healing. Ambassadors of love.

I can’t take back those things that I have said in the past. I pray that those I have hurt will forgive me and find healing for the pain I caused. I forgive those who have hurt me. But today is a new day. God’s faithfulness is new everyday and I will begin today to focus on using my tongue to speak life into others. Won’t you join me?

PS. And Tammy, if you happen to read this – wear pink, it looks awesome on you! 😉

 

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Wrong Way

There was a time in my life that I was going the wrong way. It was a difficult time. I was headed in the wrong direction and I knew it. I also couldn’t stop it. I felt compelled to continue down this path. Even though I knew intellectually that it was completely irrational, completely illogical, and not at all me, I HAD to do it. There was no way to stop or to turn around. I was going down a path of self destruction that was not going to end well. I knew I was in trouble and sought help. I knew I needed God to help me, but I didn’t know Him as One who would be able to actually intervene in my life. When I sat with God, my one question was, “Do You love me?”

It was a question that had been in my heart for a lot of my life. I often felt unloved, unlovely, and unlovable. To protect myself from the hurts, I built a very large wall around my heart. I didn’t let anyone in. I kept everyone, and their love, at arms length. Although I heard people, and God, when they told me that they loved me, I didn’t let it sink into my heart. I never really felt it. Or believed it. The only one behind this wall was the devil himself who continued to tell me lies, tear me down, and beat me up.

And now here I was, acting on the lies that I had been told for so long. Being pushed into places I would never have gone or even considered. It was a full on assault and I was powerless to stop it. I remember throwing up a prayer saying, “God , You need to do something, because I can’t stop this!” Thankfully He did. God Himself intervened and pulled me from the quicksand that I was in. That rescued me from the immediate danger, but it still didn’t address the issue that drove me there. It took a very long time for the Lord to crack through the walls surrounding my heart and finally allow me to feel love. First He had to show me the lies that I was believing, and oust the devil from his place in my heart. Then God, with His gentle hand, began dismantling that wall brick by brick. It took a while because my heart had to become adjusted to the light and the warmth that accompanies love.

But now, life has new meaning. I give and receive love.

I am loved.

My heart is full.

John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The Bear

The Honeymoon Stage. You know it. You remember. Back in the beginning of your relationship with your husband when everything was easy. Love flowed just from looking at each other. The passion was written on your faces and expressed regularly without effort. Joy overflowed by the mere mention of his name.

The same thing happened when you came to Christ. The realization that He loves you – that He has always loved you was overwhelming. Joy was new every morning. You spoke of Him to everyone you met. You longed to know Him more.

The same thing happened when you started that diet. Those first ten pounds just came flying off. You really didn’t have to do much of anything. It was easy. You start to believe that you are on your way.

Then it happens. The honeymoon ends.

Children come and work gets stressful. Trying to juggle bills and playdates and sports leaves you tired. Passion is now about sleep. The physical part of your relationship dissolves into decisions of whether you should even bother to take your clothes off or just leave them on as you need to get up soon anyway.

You go to church on Sundays and the worship which used to bring you to new heights with the Lord now just seems to bounce off of your forehead. Reading the Word becomes a chore. Knowing that Christ loves you is understood, but the joy is gone.

You hit that plateau in your weight loss. You did the same things you did the last few weeks and now you not only didn’t lose anymore, but you gained back a couple.

Everything suddenly seems so hard.

It is at this moment, like when Jesus was in the wilderness, that the enemy arrives. He smells your feelings of weakness and doubt. He is ready for his assault.

He asks you the questions: if the passion is gone from your marriage, then maybe he was not the right guy? Shouldn’t it be easy? If your husband really loved you, he would know that you are needing him right now. Clearly this was a mistake. It’s time to pull back and start guarding your heart against the hurt that he will bring you.

He continues: Church isn’t doing anything for you anymore. Maybe it really didn’t do anything in the first place. Maybe you just got caught up in the hype. It was just a feeling and nothing of substance. Why don’t you just sleep in today? It will do you so much more good than pushing yourself to go to church, wasting two hours and then being so far behind in the things you need to do.

And finally: Of course you aren’t losing any weight. You are not meant to be healthy. You don’t have it in you to look good and feel good. Isn’t this good enough? You’ve been like this forever. Why change now? Just accept it. You are fat and ugly and nobody loves you.

And there in the background you feel it. That heavy blanket of self-loathing and doubt. Depression. Fear. All of the characteristics of your old man. Right there, pouring in to smother you in darkness. You find it hard to breathe. Your body aches. Nothing is good anymore. The habits of your old man are there too. I should just lay down here and accept my fate. I am alone. In the dark. There is no hope. I will just close my eyes and sleep. Maybe then I won’t have to face it.

Is that the end?

My father used to tell me about a dream he had as a child. Many nights he would dream that he was being chased by a bear. Just as the bear was about to overtake him, he would wake up. Over and over again he spent his nights running from this bear. Finally, one night in his dream, he stopped running. This time he turned around to face the bear. He beat the tar out of it and never had the dream again.

This story taught me that I do have the power to change things. I could spend my life in despair or I can say, “Wait a second devil! Just hold on here. I belong to God. You don’t have any hold on me anymore!” I can push back against the darkness and see the light.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 5:12-14 that we can’t continue living on spiritual milk. We need the meat. We need to mature. We need to search for the Lord with all of our hearts (Jer 29:13) and seek Him like silver and gold (Matt 13:44-46). The most precious gems are not on the surface, they must be mined. It takes a mountain of effort to uncover one precious stone, but once you have found it – how precious it is!

It is after the honeymoon stage that marriage moves into something much more precious. When love goes so much deeper than the surface stuff and can grow roots into each other. When “oneness” really begins to flourish.

It is in the search for the Lord that we begin to understand that love is more than a feeling. We learn His heart for us and that in turn changes our hearts toward others.

It is in the work that is required to lose weight that new healthy habits that can last a lifetime are born.

Everything requires work, persistence and the unwavering belief that what I am working for is worth it. Your marriage is worth it. Your health is worth it. Knowing Christ is worth it.

It is time to face the bear. Time to stand up, roll up your sleeves and say “no more!” When you stop running and hiding, when you look the enemy in the eye, when you realize that you are not alone in your fight as the Lord’s armies are with you, you will see, the bear is not as big and scary as you thought. In fact, it is nothing more than a flea with a big growl.

Remember who you are, and fight!

The Buzz

I get included in group chats fairly regularly on social media. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to leave a  group chat. This means that every response from every person results in a “buzz” on my phone. This can become really annoying after a while! I have grown to dislike being included in these conversations for this reason.

Recently, I was included in another group chat that was a prayer request. The phone was “buzzing” so much it nearly fell off of the counter. I was shaking my head at it when I realized something: each “buzz” represented someone who believed that God could intervene! Each one had had at least one experience with God that proved His power and His love! What a testimony! And it would include more than just those responding, as there are some, like me, who don’t respond but do actually pray. All of a sudden the “buzz” which a minute ago I was finding annoying, was now a beautiful song of praise to our Almighty God! As I marveled at the realization, I began to praise God for all of the ways He has impacted those respondents; thankful that He is so generous with His mercy and grace and miraculous power. God is good!

It underscored again the simplicity of our faith. We are in a relationship with a living, caring, powerful Being. Our faith is not based on rules and religion, but on experiencing the love of God through a relationship with Him. If knowing God results in a “buzz” praise song, then religion would be a “buzz” kill. Jesus came because He loved us. He died because He loved us. And He lives because He loves us! It need not be any more complicated than that.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

One Day Too Late

A couple of days ago I went to visit a lady who was dying. I didn’t know her very well and I asked her how she was feeling and if there was something I could do to make her comfortable. So, I fluffed her pillow and straightened her blankets as she asked. But there was something inside me that said I needed to do more. She looked scared, and anxious. I started to converse about our mutual friend and it seemed to lighten her spirit. But still I felt that I needed to ask her about Jesus. There were other people around and I didn’t know if she was open at all, so I didn’t go there. I said to myself, “I will come back tomorrow.”

Well, tomorrow came, and I went to visit her again. However, now she was not able to respond to my questions. She simply stared blankly. I knew she was near death and I thought, “Oh no!” I started telling her about Jesus, that He loves her, that He died to save her, that He wants to give her new life, that He is waiting for her. No response. I started to pray that God would help her to hear my words and accept Jesus before it was too late. As I watched her light start to dim, I prayed that God would give her peace. Then I held her hand as she slipped away.

Overwhelmed with the sense of regret and shame, I hung my head and cried as I asked God to forgive me for not listening to His prompting the day before. Really, what did I hold back for? Was protecting my pride more important than her eternity? How many people would get upset if someone told them that God loved them? Really.

Later that same day, I had a friend challenge me about my faith. This time though I knew that this moment was important. I prayed silently that God would give me the words that they needed to hear. I ignored the attack and presented God’s love as well as I could. This time I felt no regret. I pray that God will use that seed to change their life.

Tomorrow is not a guarantee and a second chance may never come. So, in the words of this song, “stop saving your best for last.” Make each moment count.

Free to Love

Now that I have been filled with the Spirit, I am experiencing levels of freedom I have never known before. I am enjoying physical freedom in the wearing of scarves. For me, the scarf represents a final release from bondage that has lasted more than 25 years. But there are also other bonds that the Spirit is releasing me from – ones I didn’t realize I even had.

My first husband made it very clear that he didn’t love me – never loved me. And living in that reality day in and day out, I learned to build walls around my heart to survive. I told myself that I didn’t need love, I was fine without it. It didn’t matter. I was tough. I built the walls high and fortified them well. The problem is, as humans, we need love. Without it we may be alive, but we don’t live. We wither. Our hearts grow cold. What I didn’t realize was that in all my efforts to protect my heart, I built walls so thick that I made it difficult to express my own love. My emotions became stunted, my outlook – cynical, my humor – sarcastic and my first reactions to anything – defensive and angry. These walls ended up trapping me in a dungeon of my own making.

Since love is one of our basic human needs, is it any surprize that God is described as love? (1John 4:8). A relationship with Him is one of our basic human needs. Without it, we never fully live. We were designed to be loved by Him. That love becomes the rock that we cling to in the storms of life and the cornerstone that we build our lives on. Without it we are in a constant free fall. Ungrounded. Sinking into chaos. Being able to fully experience God’s love and express that love to others is part of the work of the Spirit. In order for that to happen in me, the walls need to come down. No matter how many gifts or fruit of the Spirit I may be given, without love, they are useless (1Cor 13:1).

The Word tells us that “who the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36). I have already been freed from my self-made prison. The habits of cynicism, sarcasm, and anger are fading. But I find myself at a loss. While I am free to love, I am not sure I know how. How do I tell you that I care? How do I show you? I feel like a teenager at my first job – not knowing how to do anything. How awkward! The love I feel is genuine, but I am so inexperienced in the delivery of it. I have started though with the advise of James, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). As well, with the direction given to the Ephesians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (4:29). That in itself with be a challenge! But I draw strength from the Lord each time I sit at His feet and am flooded with peace and experience the depth of His love for me. I am no longer withered, but blossoming. I am free to love and be loved!

I have been getting inspiration for this part of my journey from TobyMAC and his song, Speak Life. Have a listen:

Simplicity

The qualities of God are manifest in His creation. The hope that is in a sunrise. The grandeur of the ocean. The miraculous power in the birth of a child. The message of God is simple. I love you. The Old Testament’s simple purpose is to show us that we need Him. And the New reveals the depths of His love for us in the death of Christ. It is simple. God loves us. He wants us to know that. He wants us to know the depth and breadth and height of His love for us. This is beyond our understanding. Just as the sunrise is beyond the capacity of our mind to take in, as is the magnitude of the ocean and the sky, and the miracle of children. We, because of our inadequate capacity to comprehend, try to break it down to elements that we can understand – we make it complicated. We pollute the simplicity of God’s love. There is no word after the period in the sentence: God loves you. There is no, if, when, but, or only. There is a period. We need to abandon the layers that we add, and embrace the magnitude and simplicity of the fact that God loves us. And our only duty is to communicate that love to others. Nothing more, nothing less. No complications. No conditions. Just love. We need to get back to the simplicity of who God is, and that He loves us. To understand the oceans of love that He has for us. Forget about the sunblock and chairs and snacks, and just see what He has before us.

Love

Love. It is an immeasurable entity. Scientifically difficult to prove. But its existence is undeniable. Love is free flowing, able to fill any space. Limitless. We are not able to box it up, but we can limit it, withdraw it, deny it. We can withhold it from those that need it. It was never meant to be held back, or refused entrance to any area or any person. How often do we though? How easy is it to use love as a punishment where we can withdraw it in an effort to hurt. And it does. Who are we to deny the passage of love through us and all around us? The Scriptures tell us that God is love. God is immeasurable. God is meant to be present in the lives and hearts and experiences of all people. But how often do we limit Him? Withhold Him from others? Deny Him His place? God, love, is yearning to have free access to all who need Him. He will heal, fill, comfort and lead any who welcome His presence. How much of a roll do we play in His ability to reach people? Are we open windows through which His love can flow or bolted doors that deny His access to others?