Tuesday, January 28, 2014

speak life

It's easy for me to control my actions. I'm not one who's prone to get into fist fights or to get into trouble for acting out impulses. I may have to clench my fists from time to time, but my temper doesn't flare that way. I don't throw things or punch things--although every once in a while the tendency to slam a door carries over from my teenage days.

But what I do have a problem with is controlling my tongue.

It's not "bad words," per se. I've never been one to have that habit and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've said a cuss word in my life.

But too often, my words cut people down. And not just any people--the most important people, my family-people.

We are told in James that the tongue is like the rudder of a ship or the bit in a horse's mouth. It's this tiny little thing, but it's capable of steering everything else. It's also said to be the most difficult thing to control (to which I can attest, unfortunately).

"All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of a deadly poison." (James 3:7&8)

There's a saying that a lot of kids use:  
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me! 
In my day, it was usually recited in a sing-song voice and followed by a tongue being stuck out. If you think back, though, which hurts are the ones you remember?

Do you still feel a twinge of pain over that knee that got banged up when you tripped and fell, or over the words that were spoken when others pointed and laughed?

I'm a logophile. To be honest, I had to look that up just now--but what it means is a "lover of words." It is amazing to me that any thought or feeling you want to convey can be woven with 26 little letters. I pour words out onto paper almost daily, writing with the hope that one day someone else will get something from my words.

On this blog I use my words to encourage and to challenge and to tell my story. In the notebook I carry with me almost everywhere, I use my words to tell a different kind of story, a fantasy, but if I'm honest I'm trying to do the same thing with those words.

Words have the ability to lift people up, to drive them to do the impossible, to inspire.

But words also have the power to tear down, to wound, to break hearts and spirits.

Too often, my words to my husband and kids have the negative attributes instead of the positive. I snap and complain and gripe, and I can see in their eyes that my words have done damage. Instead of affirming them, I've knocked them down a notch.

And after, we all feel worse.

"With the tongue we praise our LORD and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." (James 3:9&10)

We were created to praise, which means our tongues were created to speak praise. Sometimes (more some days than others), we need to bite our tongue before we speak--maybe that's why God surrounded it with teeth, you think?

When we speak with kindness--
when we encourage and inspire and uplift--
we have the ability to speak life into those around us.

Will you join me in a challenge? For the rest of this week, bridle your tongue. When you're tempted to say something that will wound someone, use that row of teeth as a fence to hold back the negative. This week, try to speak love and life to those around you. I'll do the same, and maybe next week you can let me know how it went for you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

your story

As God's people, we are called to reach out--we are commanded to go and tell others:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go" (Matthew 28:18b-19a)

We all talk about spreading God's Word. After all, we want others to come to know Christ and to experience the grace we have been given.

But what are we doing to make that happen?

That's not to say that each person is called to take off to a distant land, to give up everything else and become a missionary. While it is an honorable calling, it isn't everyone's calling.

What it does mean, though, is that you are called to take your spot. In 1 Corinthians 12, we are given a picture of the Church being a body.

A body is a strange thing--really, take a good look at it. Any one part on its own is rather awkward, don't you think? What would it be like if a body was made up of lots of copies of the same part? I don't know about you, but I don't think I would want to see a body made entirely of mouths.

And yet, it seems we as Christians tend to think that we should all be identical. We look around and see other people and what God has called them to do...
 
...and we get intimidated and shrink back into ourselves.

We look at the person reaching thousands, that incredible man of God who can stand up and speak and watch as hundreds pour to the altar, and think, "If only I could speak like that..."

We see the mom whose kids never misbehave and whose house is perfectly put together and always clean and think, "If only I didn't stink at this mom thing..."

We look at the missionary holding the sick babies and ministering to their families and think, "If only I could do something so meaningful with my life..."

And to make it worse, those statements are usually followed by something like, "...then I would really have a testimony worth telling."

It's easy to look at others and think that what we have just isn't enough.

"But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be." (1 Corinthians 12:18)

Do you realize that means you?
You see, God has given you something He didn't give Billy Graham or Max Lucado or Joyce Meyer or your pastor or that mom with the perfect kids and spotless house.

He gave you your story.

And though we may not all be able to stand up and speak in front of hundreds and explain the Scriptures in a way everyone can relate to and understand, we can tell our stories.

You can be yourself and tell your story, because it is part of His story and His story needs to be told.

He gave you your story, and that's enough.


***
Just as an aside (and a plea for prayers and understanding when my posts seem scattered and sparse), I've realized this myself lately. I can't tell anyone else's story, but I can tell mine--including all the messy parts--and let other people see how God has worked in my life...So that's what I've started working on. Hopefully I'll have something relatively complete and ready to put out there before too long, and I hope you'll hang on with me until then.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"do not neglect your gift" in 2014

2014 is here--and it has been for a couple of weeks now. Did you notice?

As I did in 2012 and 2013, I planned on taking part in the blogging world's replacement of new year's resolutions with "One Word." I even had a post all written out, ready to go for the Faith Barista's link-up on January 9th.

It was a good word, too--one I picked out somewhere around Christmas after I heard a song that really stuck with me. I was excited, mostly because for the first time I had a word in advance. I hadn't put it off until the last minute (or even a little later!). I was ready.

And then January 9th rolled around, and I couldn't post it.

My word, chosen in advance, just didn't seem like the right choice. I struggled with that for a few days, to be honest. I really wanted "One Word" and I really wanted to post what I'd written. After all, that was the whole point in writing it.

No matter how I tried to convince myself, though, I just couldn't make myself type it up. I tried to come up with a different word, with a bunch scrolling through my head like that old screen saver:

broken...grace...beauty...strength...patience...love...

all good words, but still not right.

Then Sunday morning I came across a verse. Paul was writing a letter to Timothy, a young leader needing encouragement. It wasn't a whole verse that stood out, to be honest. Instead, it was the first five words of 1 Timothy 4:14
"Do not neglect your gift"

The words stood out for me.

Lately, there's been a lot of attention on "God-sized dreams." There's even a website that has sprung up out of it, along with the book that started it off in the blogging world. I've even written about it myself, throwing my dream of writing into the mix.

It's an amazing community of women who are purposing to encourage one another to follow their dreams, reminding each other that our God is the Creator of dreams.

For me, though, something important got lost when I started focusing on the dream.
"Do not neglect your gift"

In Romans, we're told that as believers we have all been given gifts. In James we are reminded that "every good and perfect gift is from above" (1:17). In 1 Corinthians we're told that the gifts we have been given are for us to use--for others, and for God.

The gift God has given me is not for my own personal enjoyment; it's for the fulfillment of His plan.

That's not to say we shouldn't chase dreams. I fully believe that God places certain dreams in our hearts to guide us in the right direction. For me though, my dream of writing has become just that-- mine.

So for 2014, my focus is going the be on using the gifts God has given me for His purpose.

"Do not neglect your gift"

How about you? What gifts have you been given, and how can you use them for God in 2014?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

10 crazy beautiful years


Look at us--we thought we knew what we were doing, that we knew what love was.

I know nobody could've told me then, but a 19 year old really doesn't know anything!
 ...not that I know anything now, mind you. But then, maybe that's the difference between then and now.

Now, 10 years in, I realize how little I really know. So instead of a post on how much I've learned in 10 years of marriage, how about something different?

I present: What I don't know
I don't know how...
...one person can so quickly learn to push your every button--and sometimes delight in doing so.
...you can know so much about one person and yet at times feel like you know nothing.
...you can feel like another person is part of you--inside your head and under your skin and in your blood.
....something as abstract as love can be strong and concrete enough to stand against anything.
...one person believing in you can make you try to accomplish what would otherwise seem impossible.
...10 years can seem like both a lifetime and the blink of an eye.
...two people can be so different yet still fit together so perfectly.
...one person come into your life and turn everything upside down and inside out and change your entire world in such and unbelievably amazing way.


So, Nathan, thanks for 10 crazy beautiful years--here's to 100 more!