They Said What???

It has been a very busy week of swimming lessons, work, and working during swimming lesson. Through all of the “busyness”, one thing that has stood out in my mind – and has been repeated in several forms – is the power of our words. I have, unfortunately, witnessed more time than I care to count the fact that “sticks and stones” do not break bones – they break hearts instead.

Proverbs 18:21 says that the power of life and death are in the tongue. Interesting thought…. Does that mean I believe I could kill someone with my words or bring them back to life with the same? Not necessarily, at least not in the physical sense (although I will not discount the possibility of a miracle being performed because our Lord is still in that business), but emotionally and spiritually, it is not only a possibility, it is a regular occurrence. It is so easy to spew hurtful words out of our mouths and kill another’s spirit, crush their dreams, break their heart. Listening to the way in which people speak to each other and about each other, I can only image how it breaks our Father’s heart to see and hear how often we trample on others with our words. Matthew 12:34 (KJV) tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What then does this really say about the condition of our hearts?

As Christians, we have a peculiar challenge that faces us, especially in the unique environment in which we now live. Yes, we are to live a life that is holy, set apart for Him alone. Yes, we are called to be in the world and not of it – to not be conformed to it. We are called to be Salt and Light to a world that is drowning in darkness that seems to grow darker by the day. The challenge then becomes how do we do this? How do we reach the ones who need Him the most, the ones who appear to be falling ever further into darkness? The answer is love. We must reach them with the love of Jesus first and foremost! If we do not reach them with love and look at them the way Jesus does, how will we ever find their heart?

We must also keep in mind that we do not know the road another has traveled or that their heart may contain secrets known only to God. Careless words thrown about may cause hurt and harm to another who will never say a word. Instead, they will just walk away. They will cry on the inside yet again where no one ever sees. They will fall before the feet of Jesus yet again and beg Him to hold them just one more time. An opportunity to be a blessing to someone who is desperate for a kind word uttered in love has been wasted – again.

You will never know what kind of difference you can make in the life of another just by choosing to season your words with grace. Being Salt and Light is so much more than helping bring the lost home – it is caring for hurting members of the Body, it is caring for our own, it is being Jesus to those around us. How can we fulfill what Jesus called the first and foremost of the commandments, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves if we are continually trampling others with our words? Before you open your mouth to speak, ask yourself if you would like to be on the other end of your words? If you would not, then respond as Job did when he was speaking with the Lord, “… I put my hand over my mouth.” Job 40:4, NIV

Season your words with kindness. You never know what secrets of the heart someone may have that hear them or what hurts can be unknowingly inflicted by them.

2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
3 A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin….
7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-3, 6, 7, NIV

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:33-37, NIV

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One for Five!

Provision from the Lord can come in many forms that, if we are not watching, it can be missed more often than I care to acknowledge. Often times, at least in my life, it tends to be so subtle that I don’t realize He has taken care of it until after the moment has past.

Having spent so much of my life withdrawn from the world, when I moved to a different state and transitioned from being a traditional employee to a self-employed/independent contractor, the solitude seemed to envelope me some days. Not that I had a lot of friends left behind in the move, but I did at least know people. In the new location, while it is more beautiful that I could have hoped for, was more solitude. During this time, I found great comfort in writing and continued to add to my files of poetry which appeared to have no purpose or destination whatsoever beyond an intimate moment with my Lord.

During this time, I joined some poetry and Christian writing groups on FaceBook, but wasn’t really “involved.” Yes, I would scan through to see if anything caught my eye, but I did not share any work or really comment on much. One day the Lord placed it on my heart to share a little poetry – and a “little” is what I posted. I think it was one of the shortest ones I had written, but I went out on a limb and hit the “post” button. I was surprised to see that people had actually read it – and even more surprised when I received some positive feedback. I was “brave” and shared another – and with a similar response. Then I stopped.

The “what’s the point?” argument came up…which was followed by the “they are just saying nice things about the poem to be kind” lie. I am ashamed to say that I listened to both of them – but only for a while. The Lord then reminded me that nothing done for Him, for His glory, for His honor, out of obedience to Him is ever wasted, worthless, or pointless. Even if I did not see immediate results or have people knocking on my door (or inbox…) wanting to publish my poetry, if even one person was blessed by an inspiration He provided, then it was worth it and its purpose fulfilled for that moment.

Being one so accustomed to solitude and remaining in the background, it can be a struggle some days to share the words He has laid in my heart. There are some pieces that contain so much of my heart I don’t know that I will ever share them with anyone for fear of exposing some of the deeper parts of me. I have struggled to overcome the fear of exposure, trusting the Lord to show me what pieces to share and when to share them. I have also struggled to expose the lies the enemy speaks to me against the kind words given regarding the work, to not search for the hidden meaning behind them, but rather to take them to the Father as what they really are – His! (My lack of ability to accept a compliment for the longest time was brought to my attention in a very pointed manner by a friend – and she nailed me with it. I had listened to the lies for so long that I didn’t even realize it was happening.)

Along this rather interesting – and rather exposing – leg of the journey, the Lord has provided some very encouraging, uplifting, God-centered friends whom I have never met. These five people have impacted my life more in the last few months than any of them will ever realize. I have been challenged to think beyond the box and “churchy” responses/statements, to open up and let some of this poetry out into the world, to express my heart without fear, to share words I had not shared before, to banish lies from my mind that had been long rooted and entrenched, and to enjoy poetry more than I ever have.

This wonderful provision of the Lord was slowly being brought together and I never saw it coming! I was a little sad the other day thinking about friends who seem to have forgotten me and wishing there was a way to “fix” things when He gently reminded me that He had provided above and beyond what I thought I was missing out on. It may not be the way in which I would like things to be or more convenient for me, but He provided the way in which He did for a reason – and the blessings are more than I could have imagined! Besides, that is some awesome math when you lose one and He replaces it with five!

Look beyond the obvious to see what resides underneath – often times that is where the Lord is working the most in our lives. Don’t miss out on what He is REALLY doing just because you are looking for what you WANT Him to be doing in your life. Keep your heart open, your eyes focused on Jesus, and hold on – you never know what is around the next bend!

A Return to the Cross

This week has been one of repentance, renewed focus, redirected ways of thinking. There has been a need to get back to the basics, to the beginning – and that is Calvary. The cross is the beginning of everything.

In light of that, I wanted to take a different approach to this week’s moment from the River. Rather than discuss what the cross means to me (which, by the way, is everything) or the importance of redemption (which, is essential) or the miraculous gift given to us that day by Jesus (debt paid in full, access to the Throne of Grace, adoption into the Family…), I would rather share with you a picture painted with words. He is the inspiration, He is the picture, He is the reason, He is the poet – I just merely show up and hold the pen.

A HEART’S GETHSEMANE

Sobs of anguish, cries in desperation.
Heart breaking prayers of agony.
Alone, darkness all around.

Three times prayed, three times acknowledged, sweat falls as drops of blood.
Foreknowledge of the future weighing heavy.
Toward His final work He must continue. It is the Father’s will.

Alone again, morning light around. The beating continues, whips fly their task.
Flesh dangles free, body ripped and torn.
The question remains, is this beaten, bludgeoned mass even human?

Forced to bear the burden himself, continuing on alone.
The beating continues, the scorns rain down.
Torment from all around, no mercy in sight.

Nailed in place, suspended in air. Loving hands secured, feet that brought peace now stilled.
Every breath brings pain. Back ripped open by beating, forced against rough-hewn wood.
His mother weeping, watching, witnessing.

“I thirst.”, “Why have you forsaken me?”
“It is finished.”
Death.

Creation reels in agony. The rocks cry out, split open.
Darkness falls all around. Could this really be?
Spear thrust into the side, precious blood spills on this now sacred ground.

Three days in the grave. A stone rolled away. Only grave clothes left behind!
Death defeated!
Life purchased and free.

Sobs of anguish, cries in desperation.
Heart breaking prayers of agony.
Alone, darkness all around.

The revelation’s astounding, mind overwhelmed.
Heart-rending truth from the depths of the soul,
“Oh Lord, those were my nails! It should have been me!”

A quiet knock, a quick reply. Cries of hope and peace.
Gazing at the cross once more, an attempted understanding. Incomprehensible.
Grace! Pardon! Mercy!

Alone no more. Darkness no longer surrounding.
Darkness dispelled, light has entered, peace has come.
It truly is finished for mercy ran to me!

A Legacy? How Will You Be Remembered?

The recent passing of a friend has caused me to stop and think about perspectives and priorities. More importantly, though, it has brought back to mind the concept of our legacy. When we are finally called home and the pain and trials of this earthly life are over, what will those left behind have to say about the life we have lived? Will they be able to say that their lives have been better for having known us or that – even more importantly – they know Jesus just a little better, see Him just a little clearer because of His working in our lives? Is this something we can leave behind us while we still walk the earth or something that is only realized after we are gone?

To those of you blessed enough to have children, do you tend to overlook or take them for granted? Children are a blank canvas given to us by the Artist of Time Himself. He provides the colors and brushes but leaves the art of putting brush to canvas to us. The work of art they become depends on how we allow the Master Artist to guide our brushes and color selection. When the masterpiece is finished, it is our legacy. It is the evidence of His faithfulness in our lives and how we lived out our faith – laid out in living, breathing color.

To those of you with friendships that are cherished, when was the last time you told that person how you felt about them? Do you just assume that they “know” how awesome you think they are and why they are such a valued and treasured part of your life? Friendships are the Lord’s way of touching our hearts in a special way. They are a gift directly from the Father’s heart to help us along the journey. Let us never take for granted the colors they add to our lives, the ways in which the Father will use them to shape us in His image, or miss the realization that a true friend from the Father gives us a glimpse into His heart for us if we will take the time to look. The friendships we leave behind once we are gone are another part of our legacy. May we love enough, be honest enough, and faithful enough to be of use to the Master Artist in adding color and shape to another’s life as their canvas becomes a part of ours and His legacy becomes the dominant feature of the work.

In much the same way, we are Jesus’ legacy. When we accept Him as Lord and Savior, we take the brush that is in our hands and place it in His. We allow Him to color our lives with His love and to contour and sculpt us with His grace. When we think we know what color should come next, it is usually then that the work of art takes a turn for the less-than-admirable. What He does with our hues once we hand the brush back to Him is beyond expectation. He takes our mistakes and stubbornness and uses them to His glory – and our growth. It becomes a beautiful segment on the portrait of grace painted over our lives.

Through the Word, we are able to know Jesus’ legacy and all He has touched, but what about you? What legacy are you leaving behind? If you were on trial for living a life washed in the blood of Jesus, guided by grace, and painted by the hand of the Master, would there be enough evidence to convict you?