SEASONED WITH KINDNESS

I signed into my WordPress account the other day and was looking through the blog feed.  From time to time, interesting things pop up, new stuff can be learned, and I find new blogs I want to read.  As I was scrolling,  “The Courage To Be Open”, the title of this blog really caught my attention.

As Christians we are called to be salt and light, but we are also called to be kind, compassionate, gracious, and loving – in other words, to be like Jesus.  Throughout the four gospels, I do not recall Jesus speaking harshly or in a condemning manner to anyone else besides the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious “authorities” of the time.

I know that there are very strongly and passionately held beliefs regarding the subject matter this blog talks about, but I would challenge each of us as Christians to take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul:

“Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you].”
Colossians 4:6 (Amplified Bible).

Despite our personal feelings and opinions, we should always speak with grace first.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,],”  II Timothy 2:24-25 (NIV)

What do we accomplish by speaking out so quickly in judgment?  What right do we have to inflict so much damage with our words?

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”  Proverbs 18:21 (Amplified Bible)

Our words, when they are not spoken with grace but rather with judgment and condemnation, bring about a death in the heart of the hearer.  How many of these “deaths” does it take before the spirit of the hearer is irreparably damaged?

People of God, let us show the love of Jesus to all that we meet.  After all, according to the Scriptures,

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23, NIV).

There is no disclaimer included…ALL have sinned and ALL fall short.  While this does not nullify our right to have a strong or differing opinion, it also does not give us the right to judge the heart of the person or to tear them down with our words.

29 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… 32  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 
(Ephesians 4:29, 32)

If you come across a fellow believer who is hurting or a person whose orientation or lifestyle you do not approve of, take the time to care for that heart.  Regardless of who we are, where we come from, or what we have done, we all want the same thing – to be accepted for who we and to be loved.  Perhaps, through your love, their heart will be opened and, if there is work to be done or things in their life to be corrected, the Holy Spirit will then have a willing vessel through which to work – you.

Dare to be open.  Dare to be the one who makes a difference, even if it is in just one life.  After all, for that one person, the results of your kindness can change their whole world.

In case you would like to read more, the following verses would be good to look into as well.

Proverbs 15:1
Romans 14:10-12
Proverbs 10:12
Galatians 6:1-3
Luke 6:38
Luke 6:31

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SWEET MEDITATION – a good way to battle depression

As I was reading my Bible the other night, I landed in Psalms (which is normal for me).  I was reading along and found a familiar passage I had read many times before, but, this time, I saw something in it that I don’t believe I noticed before.  I found the word “sweet” written in a group of verses talking about singing and praising.

Most of the time in my writing, I use the NIV for Scripture as it is easy to read and understand.  However, there are some passages in which the beauty of the King James Version cannot be matched.  This is one of those passages – a passage where the word choice paints a richer picture that the heart seem to connect with just a bit more.

Psalm 104:33-34  (KJV)

33 I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.

“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live…”
There is no disclaimer here. There is no mention of situation in which we are not to praise Him.  It does not say that I will sing to the Lord on days when I feel great.  Nothing is mentioned of only singing when the weather is great or things are going well.  It simply states that “I WILL sing unto the Lord as long as I live…”

“…I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”
As long as there is breath in my lungs and my heart continues to beat, I am to praise Him. So long as my sanity remains (which is questionable some days), I am to praise Him.  Regardless of whether or not my “being” is what I want it to be, how I want it to be, or how I think I should feel in my “being,” I am still to sing praises to my God.

“My meditation of him shall be sweet…”
MY meditation of Him shall be sweet.  Oh how I love that line!  While I certainly want the Lord to be pleased with my thoughts toward Him (which is how the NIV translates that line) and the way in which I praise Him, my meditations of Him don’t just affect Him, they affect me as well.  They should be pleasing to my soul.  They should be beneficial to my mind.  They should be healing to my heart.  MY meditation of Him WILL be sweet – and it is because of Him.

“…I will be glad in the Lord.”
Such a simple statement with such wide reaching effect – and it is a choice.  We must make the choice every day to be glad in the Lord regardless of what life throws our way.  We must be determined.  We must make up our minds to be glad in Him.

We must choose to sing to Him.

We must choose to sing praises to Him as long as we possess the physical/mental ability to do so.

We must choose to be glad in the Lord.

With the choice made, the issue decided, and determination set, our meditation of Him truly will be sweet.  It is at that point that we can begin to understand more fully just how deeply the river of His heart flows, a river that flows with love beyond description, joy beyond belief, and peace beyond comprehension.

To Be Found At His Feet

Rather than write about a segment of my journey or a particular place I am at in my life, I thought I would share some of my praise, some of my heart. This is the heartbeat behind my journey and, regardless of all else, the journey is for Him. I long “To Be Found At His Feet.”

To Be Found At His Feet

At His feet, we humbly fall –
in reverent adoration.
At His feet, we humbly fall –
our burdens tumbling down before Him.
At His feet, we humbly fall –
Laying down our dreams.

At His feet – the place my heart most longs to be,
So humbling,
full of mercy,
unending grace.

To lay myself,
my dreams,
my all before Him –
I am speechless, my Lord.

Tears of gratitude flood my eyes,
rivers form within my heart.

I pour out my all,
my praise,
my heart –
all before you, my King.

Mercy unending,
grace undeserved,
love unfailing –
All found at Your feet.

A Closed Off Heart – Can It Still Be Of Use?

I found myself in a situation recently that really perplexed me and has caused me to examine the way in which my heart functions in relation to people in my life. A friend I have known for many years had been sharing with me how different her life was, how happy she was, and that she felt like she had finally become who she was meant to be all thanks to the inclusion of a certain person in her life. Now you have to understand that when I first met her years ago, she was not a very happy person. She was torn, confused, and struggling to find a path for her life. Fast forward many years ahead and she is now a completely at peace, loved, cherished, and very happy. An amazing transformation – and due to acceptance and love. I have been so amazed by this that I decided to express my gratitude and told this wonderful person in my friend’s life how much I appreciate all that has been done and the unconditional love that has been shown. I, personally, did not find this conversation to be of any significance beyond an expression of gratitude. However, my perception was not correct. This wonderful person showed my friend the things that were said and my friend, in turn, expressed her gratitude for what I had done.

This conversation really kick started my brain after I finished laughing about the fact that I had been “ratted out” in my expression of gratitude. I relayed the conversation to another friend and expressed my surprise that the conversation was passed on. Her reply was “Well, wouldn’t you do the same?” My answer to her surprised me. I said, “No. Why would I?” Really…..? Something nice said to me or done for me and I wouldn’t share that with anyone? Yep, that is how I tend to be…

My upbringing was one of strictness and emotional control. You were to never “wear your emotions on your sleeve.” After all, allowing people to know how you really felt would give them an edge, give them leverage. Stoic was the motto and “never let them see you sweat” was the theme. Yes, I have always been short. Yes, I got picked on a lot as a kid. Yes, some of these theories of emotional control helped in not giving those who picked on me more fodder. However, they did start a pattern of compartmentalization and created a struggle within of how to express what I feel – or sometimes even understand it. Compartmentalize it and put it away became the standard method of walking through life and, while it is less painful, existing rather than living became the norm.

A heart that is of use to God is one that is open to His leading and to His love. How does a compartmentalized heart fit into that? If my heart is not open to much at all besides another passageway in the maze or another hallway leading to yet another closed off room , how can He find something of use inside? Better yet, how can His love get through the maze so it can be displayed to others? The answer to this heart-wrenching question (at least for me) came from a simple comment from one I have known for more of my life than I haven’t. It is a simple answer that took me a while to comprehend (even though I didn’t admit that at the time…) – paper.

Yes, the answer was simply “paper.” I was given a love of words and of writing as a way to work around the compartments inside the heart. On paper, I can express what my mouth is unable to utter. I can “perfect” the phrasing until it says just exactly what I want it to say. It can be re-worked, re-worded, re-written, or thrown away. The backspace button and delete key are my friends as they can erase and remove that which makes no sense at all. When the piece expresses what it is I want to say, it can then be presented to whomever without the need for waiting for my mouth to work or the words to try to come out right or for me to apologize when the words do not.

The Father so graciously provided a way around my heart so that I can still be of use to Him even though my heart is a maze and so many things and memories seem to be lost inside. So long as I yield my pen to His leading, my heart to hearing His voice, and the purpose for His glory, even a heart as broken, complicated, and scrambled as mine can still be clear, understood, and of use to Him. To think that He loved me so much that He provided a “detour” for me such as this is beyond amazing. On paper, I can express the thoughts and feelings that my mouth would screw up every time. On paper, I am able to better understand how He moves and flows in my life and heart and the journey He is taking me on.

Thanks to paper, I am able to understand even better now why this blog was started. You see, I had created this blog several months before I ever posted a thing. I created it, was terrified of it, and walked away from it. Eventually, the Lord did prod me back to it and I posted one entry or so, but nothing more. I still wasn’t even sure of what direction needed to be taken with the blog. Then one day I found myself engaged in a rather one-sided conversation with a wonderful friend from California who was proceeding to let me know exactly what it was, how it was, and that I needed to get off my duff and get to work for the Lord. She very poignantly suggested that I blog about this journey the Lord was taking me on and restoring me through. She suggested that, as I moved through the various healing stages and places where He would put more of the puzzle inside together, I should share the journey.

When I created this blog in the first place, I had no idea just how appropriate the title would grow to be…but He did. He had a purpose in mind for this all along – I just had to be patient and wait. He had a use for my closed off heart all along. He knew how I was, how I would survive some years of mess emotionally, and prepared a use for me anyway. He provided a way that I would be able to glorify Him in spite of the brokenness I had become – and He would get the glory and the praise for it all.

Do you have a closed off heart? Is it damaged, broken, compartmentalized beyond comprehension? That’s okay. Even in our jumbled and scrambled state, the Father still has a plan and we can still be of use. Are we intact vessels that can contain the living water He will pour into our lives? No, we are too cracked and broken for that, but I think He uses those cracks and chips to allow that living water to seep through our pain, to weep through the cracks, and to saturate the dryness around us. Through our flaws and defects, which keep us from being a seemingly useful vessel to the world around us, He is able to work and move and flow to those He brings into our paths as the living water He pours into us flows from the cracks in our hearts and into people He has placed around us – or onto paper.

Any heart, regardless of condition, when yielded to the Father, can become a vessel fit for the Master’s use and become a heart through which He can work and move. Don’t just step into the River of His heart, allow that river to flow through yours for His purpose, for His glory.

A Walk Through MY Bible

I wonder how many people are like me in terms of their relationship with their Bible (the sentimental value that the physical items has to them). I was about to start reading my Bible the other day, but, before I opened it up, I really stopped and looked at it. It would appear as though I had not actually “seen” my Bible in a long time even though I read it every day. If you will indulge me, I want to share my “anchor” with you. Please join me on a walk through My Bible and I pray that as you read this you might find some encouragement along the way – and perhaps something you can tuck inside your heart.

As I picked up the Word of God that night, I actually stopped to look at the physical, touchable representation of God’s love for us that I call my own – this book that, although printed and bound by man, contains the Words spoken by the Almighty, the history of His Chosen People, and the ministry/passion of Jesus Christ. Just as I call Them my own (My Father, My Jesus, My Savior, My Adonai, etc), I call this Book my own – my name is even embossed in gold letters on the front cover.

My, the stories this book could tell if it could speak of things external…. I received this Bible as a gift in 1989. Despite the years of wear, a tattered cover, and broken edges, it is irreplaceable. I have thought about buying a new one from time to time, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to even shop for another one. There are notes in the margins, highlighted passages, underlines here and there, and several notes and mementos tucked inside the pages. It has survived being dropped, melted candy bars, small children, desperate grasps during times of heartache, tear stains, and having the cover and spine taped back on/together on more than one occasion.

If you open the cover, you will find names and dates of people I have care about over the years. Marriage information, births celebrated, and deaths mourned are contained within the pages that have required the application of carefully placed tape in order to keep this well-used section together. Further within the pages, you will find notes, poetry, a picture, a little music. What amazes me about these tidbits of paper that I find tucked inside is not only the content of the paper, but also the passage it resides beside.

The first stop flipping through the pages is II Samuel 15. This is where Absalom wins the heart of the people of Israel, basically takes over the throne, and King David runs away. In this place resides a poem written for me by a dear friend many years ago:

Just a reminder of the job you’re to do
To keep His light shinning – bright and true.
His love is so deep, so vast, and so wide
Just open your arms and there you’ll abide.
Whenever you feel the need to waiver of fall
Just look to His light and send out a call.
He’s always beside you and never you cry
Because even though you might fail, He loves how you try.
Always praying for you. —

But it does not end there. After all, what would a piece of paper be without notes on the back? Notes regarding healing from sickness and sin as well as Scriptures relevant to things I was going through in my life at the time this poem was given to me stand as a reminder of how, even though sin had taken over the throne of my heart, God was victorious in the end.

The next piece is one of my favorites. It is a written in the form of a haiku (not my favorite format for poetry), but it is profound. I think I cut it out of a Sunday School lesson many years ago.

Trapped by Mark Weinrich

Helpless
bird, don’t battle
the window. I could show
you the opened door, if you’d just
“Be still.”

I find it ironic that this poem would reside where it does. It has been there so long that I do not even remember placing it inside, but it is at II Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” If we can but allow Him to show us the open door, depending on where we are in our lives, this might just be the very door we need to walk through, the door that leads to repentance and healing.

II Chronicles 20 finds a prayer egg that was prayerfully and randomly dropped into the Bible in 1991. The prayer contained on the tiny piece of paper was answered seven months later in 1992, and was regarding a damaged relationship with a former friend. The first place my eye draws to on these pages is to verse 15 (“…Be not afraid nor dismayed…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”) and verse 17 (Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you….”). As I let the problem go and allowed the Lord to have His way, He did just as He said He would do. The battle for the heart was not mine to fight, but it was mine to stand firm, be still, pray, and watch Him move in the situation. Granted, this was nothing like the situation Jehoshaphat was in, but God still showed Himself to be faithful.

A bookmark with the simple statement that “Even when clouds of pain seem to hide the face of God, we are never hidden from God’s love” marks the place in Psalms that reminds us that God will defend us and we can shout for joy because of that. (Psalm 5:11)

A few more pages into the book of Psalms finds a wonderful verse written out from a different translation (Psalm 27:4, TLB – “The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in His temple, living in His presence every day of my life, delighting in His incomparable perfections and glory.”), and the caring heart penny reminds us that “God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” (Psalm 68:6)

Isaiah 50 finds another note from a dear friend reminding me of the transience of our trials. I am not sure if it taken from a Max Lucado book word for word or if it was something she wrote (it has been way too long to remember), but it is thought-provoking nonetheless. “Our days on earth are like a shadow. Each man’s life is but a breath. You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. It‘s a short journey even though it seems eternal. Just think how good it will be when we get home. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Therefore, we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are becoming renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” What a wonderful reminder of where our eyes need to be fixed up set beside a powerful reminder of just a glimpse of what He endured for us.

Another short, but poignant poem can be found at the sight of a most encouraging passage. Jeremiah 29:11-13 gives us the promise that God’s intentions for us are good, that He will be found when we seek Him, and that He will hear when we pray.

While all of these are inspirational, touching, and contain very fond memories, my favorite thing that I found in my Bible is the scrap of music at Matthew 24:12-13. When I realized where this music was, I was really surprised by the verse. (“and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold, but he that shall endure until the end, the same shall be saved.”) I didn’t really get it for a few – at least until I sat down to write this. It was then that it dawned on me just appropriate it was that I would shove this scrap of sheet music for “Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory” into my Bible in this location. So long as His joy is my strength, His love is my light, and His Word is my foundation, my love for Him will not wax cold regardless of the mess surrounding me. “It is joy unspeakable and full of glory. Oh the half has never yet be told!” And one day, it finally will be. What a day that will be!

The passage regarding the good Samaritan (Luke 10:31-37) is where a picture of my two nieces sits from probably 11 years ago or so. Good memories of a good day….

Many scraps of paper, scribbled notes, Scripture studies waiting to be finished or reviewed are scattered throughout my Bible, but these are the one that mean the most to my heart. These are the ones through which the heart of God speaks to the hurting heart within me. These are things that He has given to me as a gift, as a way of remembering better times when my heart is broken and a reminder of His providence through the dark times when the ways is light and easy. They are reminders that I have been loved, I have been cared for, I have been cherished by people He has sent my way. All of these are reminders located inside the Book that contains the grandest reminder of all.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, NIV

Just to think that our God loves and cherishes us so much that He took the time to inspire men He selected to write down His words, HIStory, and that these very words have been cherished, guarded, and passed down through time to those of us who now stand guard over our own hearts and cherish this gift He has carefully designed, planned, and given to us – a gift of not just salvation, but of His own heart.

I will leave you with one thought. If a complete stranger were to find your Bible, what do you think it would say to them? Would it appear brand new, never opened, perhaps a little dusty? Or, does it look like an old friend, worn from the years, but yet loved and treasured. Cherish His Word my friends. After all, it is His heart in tangible physical form
– a gift from His heart to yours.

Words Fitly Spoken

Even though I have written about this topic once before, it would seem as though this is something that we cannot be reminded of often enough, especially as ones who bears the Name and are followers of Jesus Christ. While there are many areas we need to keep in mind as we walk through this journey of our lives in the shadow of His cross (such as showing the love of God), the way in which we walk and the way in which we talk are just as important and the things we choose to speak in our daily lives (you know, that side of life that takes place outside of the walls of the church we choose to attend). After all, being a follower of Jesus Christ is a 24-7-365 adventure and not a twice on Sunday and maybe once on Wednesday excursion or social call.

Rather than pull people apart or tear them down, let the words we choose to speak be seasoned with grace, filled with love, and poured out from the very heart of God.

Rather than criticize, pray for the person with whom you disagree.

Rather than judge or condemn, let us show love.

Build up those around you. Support those who are hurting, bent down, and trampled over.

Encourage hearts that are burdened and help to lighten the load if you can.

Keep an open heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to flow and move through your heart and allow Him to reach out to the world around you through you.

Several times in his letters to the churches, Paul reminds them to be careful of their words, to use them well and to honor God:

*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.
Ephesians 4:29

*And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17

My challenge to you is this: be salt and light to the world in which you live. When you come across someone different than you or perhaps they have a different lifestyle than you, do not judge them based on what you perceive, but rather show compassion. Do not just listen to what they say, but really hear what they are saying (and sometimes listen to what they are NOT saying). Do not make assumptions about what you think is going on their heart, but, again, show compassion. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in what you say and how you say it. When someone you know makes life decisions you do not agree with, pray before you say anything about it and, most importantly, love them anyway. They will most likely receive enough judgment from the world around them when they just want to be accepted for who they are. Dare to be that one – accept them as they are. After all, that is the way the Father deals with us – He accepts us and loves us as we are. It is not our place to judge them. It is not our place to condemn them. Let us rather love the person, pray for them, and allow the Holy Spirit to move and work as He chooses.

Although this was written as Paul’s prayer regarding the church at Ephesus, this is my prayer as well for you who have blessed me by taking time out of your busy lives to stop by and read this humble offering to the Father of All.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp
how wide
and long
and high
and deep
is the love of Christ,
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
forever and ever!
Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21

May you be filled with the love and presence of God – and let it spill over and touch those around you.

All Scripture is from the NIV unless otherwise noted.

He Loves Me

I was listening to some older Christian music this week while I was working. I am a little behind technologically in some ways, but I have discovered the wonders of YouTube and the playlist option. Through this I have found music that I have not heard in such a long time – you know, the stuff you remember listening to as a kid that just seem to hold a special place in your heart and memories.

For me, music has always been a source of peace and a way to help focus my mind on God when things are going in “unique” directions. It has also served as way for me to worship my Lord in my own unique way and to express things within my heart that words cannot seem to convey – through music that glorifies God. I was so excited when I found some music from Evie (love her voice!!!), Amy Grant from the earlier years, and the Gaither Trio. So many good songs, good memories, and beautiful worship…and I didn’t get as much work done as I should have, but that is okay. After all, I know that within my heart, my Lord was glorified and that is what matters the most.

In the midst of my musical stroll down through the memories of my heart, one song sticks out. It is one of my favorites by Evie entitled “He Loves Me!” The lyrics are simple, but they are full of so much truth. I was sitting at my desk this morning knowing I needed to do some work, but that lyric just kept running through my head. It was then I had a “light bulb” moment. It was then that the simple truth of that song hit me. He loves me! That was the beginning of my story and will be the end of it was well – He loves me!

The fact that He has started a work in me that He will be faithful to complete is all because of the fact that He loves me. The chorus of this song repeats that phrase over and over while throwing in the idea that it is a “brand new” story and a “brand new” song. For those of us who have followed Him for many years, it is not necessary a new story, but it most certainly can become a brand new song.

1Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Psalm 96:1-2

Coming out of this season of darkness and this desert place within my soul, a new song is forming and coming to life. No, the season is not over nor have I finished passing through this desert place, but I can see beyond now to the sunrise up ahead. The night will be ending, my sorrow will turn to joy, and the simple truth of that song will lift my spirit up to His. God will be gloried, I will be healed and restored, and He will continue that work He started in me.

Why do I KNOW this, you may ask?

Simple.

It is all because He loves me!