Life and death are in the power of the tongue. (Proverbs 18: 21)
Sit in my office for a day, and hear the stories of horrific memories of words that still bring a red flush to the face of the teller. Listen to the demeaning labels imposed by a thoughtless, name-calling persons – words that are planted deeply in minds and that resonate over decades in low confidence and damaged relationships. Harsh words can pierce the spirit and brutally beat and rob the receiver of the attack.
If ever there was a time that parents, teachers, leaders, and all people of influence (that includes us all) have a responsibility to teach and model kindness and civil behavior, it’s now. Whether the words come spewing from a foul mouth, a damaging text or email rant, or a demeaning tweet from (gulp!) the President of the United States – they are all destructive, and they are all beneath a person who wants to be a real leader. Politics and platforms, family cultures, and supposed provocations aside, I’m talking about choices of behavior.
A question I ask the leaders in my seminars is, “If every team member in the organization replicated your attitudes and behaviors, what would the organization look like? What would it feel like? What kind of work culture would be created?”
Values and approaches to resolving problems are reflected in words and learned by demonstration. Parents teach their kids by their own words and actions “how we do things” and “how we treat people.” The words and attitudes of a teacher in the classroom are reflected in the words and actions of kids on the playground. The way the boss encourages or demeans shows up in cooperation or divisiveness within the team. And the way our political leaders from the top on down manage themselves and their words is reflected in a national culture.
God often speaks to us about our words for good reason. He also takes it a step further. If our words are toxic, He advises us to check our hearts. That’s exactly where our words originate.
For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Luke 6: 45)
My own heart is heavy about this hateful trend I see reflected in so many levels of our culture. This must be turned around. It can be turned around if each of us take our own responsibilities seriously.
- Guard your heart! Don’t let anger and bitterness settle down in there and take root.
- Control your emotions! Yes, you are responsible for that, no matter what others are choosing to do. The Holy Spirit, when given free reign, will produce the fruit of self-control within you.
- Watch your mouth! If it’s hurtful, demeaning, and mean – don’t say that! No matter what your means of communication – don’t verbalize it, write it, tweet it, or text it!
- Pray for leaders and people of influence everywhere! Don’t just shake your head and let your own words get out of control through a habit of criticism. Take this issue of the alarming disease being spread by harmful words to God in your intimate prayer time. This is crucial.
A long time ago, I had a sign hanging on my wall that read, “O Lord, help my words be gracious and tender today, for tomorrow I may have to eat them!”
God, please help us turn this cultural destruction around! May kindness begin with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer!
Each of you should give whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (I Peter 4:10)
Just before you pull out the straight jacket and call in the white coats, hear me out.
Wednesday was another day in the moving process for our team. Unpacking boxes, which are reproducing like rabbits. Having blinds cut to the right size. Trying to logically organize as I put things away. Cleaning up the mess when one or two things got broken. Beginning to figure out how to arrange pictures on the walls, and which of them to go here, and which from home would fit better there, and which of them worked just fine at the other office but don’t fit these wall spaces at all. I’m sure you’ve been there.
For some reason, and I have no idea why, this thought passed through my weary brain: “It’s O.K. I can change them around any way I like. They all belong to me.” Don’t know why I thought that, but the minute I did, God nudged me.
I heard a whisper in my spirit, and I’m convinced the still small voice was God’s Spirit: “Everything you have is Mine. I’ve enabled you to use it, and I’ve made you steward over it. But it all belongs to Me. I can arrange it any way I feel is best because I own it all. I know what fits where, and what you need at each ‘new location’ of your life. Some things, you still believe you need to continue. However, I know what’s best for you. I can see future I have for you, and I am putting all the right pieces in place for it. So why do you complain so much when I rearrange things?”
(Just so you know, this wasn’t given to me in one intense paragraph as I’ve written it above, but in various thoughts as I worked and pondered this truth throughout the morning. As Christ did when He taught on earth, His Spirit often shows me principles in metaphors. He probably does the same for you, or He will if you ask.)
It’s true. I do often grumble when parts of my life shift without my permission. (The nerve! Does He think He’s God or something?) I have trouble opening my hand and letting go of roles and experiences when apparently God thinks it’s time. However, I see that some aspects of life that were perfectly good, useful, and fitting at “an old location” may not be needed or suited to where God is taking me.
The truth is, we are simply stewards, managers who are responsible to the Owner. We’ve been entrusted with resources, opportunities, and certain people – often for a season. This world and all that’s in it belong to God. He can arrange it any way He likes!
And when something gets dropped and broken? The Potter is right there to mend the broken pieces and create a work of art out of those broken pieces. He is so very good at that!
So as I rearranged my pictures and other possessions, God spoke to my heart. I hope that I can get the message. Maybe God even spoke to you through a picture on the wall this morning, too!
God, You are so real and practical. Thank You for speaking to me through everyday examples. I shoose to give you full “permission” to arrange my life however You know is best. All that I am and have is Yours.
I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. (Philippians 4: 13)
Well, the last couple of days have been challenging. As you probably know, we’ve been moving into our new office. All in all, it’s gone smoothly. However, the best of moves are stressful and tiring. It seems the boxes have babies! We are not done. We hit it again today. Deeeep breath! (After a quick trip to the chiropractor!)
I’ve thought of this verse more than once! It’s one of my favorites, and unfortunately, it’s often misued.
Some believe this scripture issues a license and a power pill for anything. Doesn’t it say, “all things?” Wait. Add the next part of the phrase. “through Christ.” God’s not in the business of empowering us to destroy ourselves or to head down the path of folly. My wish list is not necessarily God’s wisdom list.
So the key words are, “through Christ.” Is what you are planning to do something you can pray about in confidence, knowing with certainty that it does not clash with God’s Word? Have you sought God in prayer for His direction and His timing? Have you prioritized so that you are working on the best thing for right now and not one of a gazillion “good things?”
If the answer is “yes,” then pray away in confidence, knowing that He will empower and strengthen you to achieve what He Loves. If the answer is “no,” then pray away in the confidence, knowing that if you are open and honest in your conversations with Him, He will provide wisdom you did not possess. He will point the way to His projects for you, and He will provide not-your-own strength and power for them. You will succeed in Christ’s “all things.”
So I go into another day of moving, confident that God opened the way for this building purchase and renovation and knowing that He has big plans for us to help the people He Loves at The Hope Center.
He has big plans for you, too!
You just have to believe it. You just have to believe HIM!
Lord, please give me discernment about “good things” vs. “God things.” Then when You point the way, give me strength to go after Your work in full force and the power to sustain the effort until the tasks are complete. I want to walk in Your will, Lord. I know that I cannot do that on my own! Like the old hymn says, “I need Thee every hour!”
The moving got to me, and I have overslept! I have to rush now to get ready for a 7:30 meeting – the more moving! So sorry. Devotionals will resume tomorrow.
Dr. Bev Smallwood, one tired cookie
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal. But I press on to take hold of that which Christ took hold of for me. (Philippians 3:12)
Seriously. It’s moving day! The Hope Center is relocating to our new building at 2013 Hardy Street in Hattiesburg. This morning I’m donning a new style of work clothes – shorts and a t-shirt. (I could get used to that.)
Today we move furniture. Tomorrow, we put things away and try to regain some sense of equilibrium in the new location. We’re moving.
However, this move did not begin today. Last week and the week before (oh, my heavens!), we waded through the swamp of cleaning out and packing. How does one accumulate so much “stuff?” The decision to leave and the process of leaving can be difficult!
Life is made up of a series of transitions. Transitions go way beyond mere circumstantial changes. Changes are situational; events and conditions change the landscape of our lives. Transitions are tougher. Transitions involve the psychological, mental, and spiritual reactions and adjustments to those changes.
A transition has 3 stages: endings, the wilderness, and new beginnings. Often it’s “endings” that are the most difficult, even when it’s a change you want. Simply deciding to change is often not simple. You’ve become “comfortably uncomfortable” where you are. You’re a little anxious about how you will fare in the unknown of a new location, a career move, a new relationship, or no relationship. Maybe you even do what I’ve often done, to my detriment. I take on more and more new things without leaving and letting go of anything else. The result is that I’m often overwhelmed and unfocused.
To succeed and to grow, you have to know how to leave. I experienced a taste of stage 1 last week as I put my hands and eyes on object after object, document after document, and picture after picture – each of which contained a memory. Some made me smile. Some made me wince. Some brought a tear. Endings are like that. Even transiitons that you choose, those you wished for – contain nostalgia, sadness, and the anxiety about the future unknown.
Even more disruptive are unwelcome changes that life imposes. Your doctor calls to say get back in here today; the diagnosis is cancer. The meteorologist’s dire weather predictions come true, and your treasured possessions are either missing or in shambles. Your heart is breaking because of the choices someone else is making that upend your world. We are familiar with the grieving that accompanies these kinds of life events., and that kind of grieving is a subject for another day.
However, often we fail to recognize the hidden saboteur of deliberate, positive, stretching choices to change. The fear of letting go is the invisible hand that tries to slap us back when we dare to dream.
God knows the importance of leaving. He talked about it in Genesis in regards to marriage. He gave a huge illustration of the importance of coming out of something in order to claim his ultimate blessings. He delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, took them through the unnecessary wilderness wandering, and fought for them as they went in to claim the Promised Land. He reminded us to leave our old life and embrace the new that He paid for dearly.
Do you know how to leave, to let go of where you are to reach for the new opportunities God is offering you? Is fear holding you back? Are you clinging to the uncomfortable comfortable?
One thing is certain about that leaving thing. Even while you’re struggling with letting go and reaching forward, God will never leave! He will be with you every step of the way.
Lord, I’m reaching out today where I believe You have led me. It’s not just about buying the building. So many other challenges and callings I feel, and I wonder if I have time in my weekly schedule or in my remaining lifetime to do them all. I wonder if I’m capable. But I trust Your judgment, Lord. You know me better than I know myself. All that You show me You want me to do, my answer in advance is, “Yes!”
You’ve been brought into the Kingdom for such a time as this. (Esther 4: 12)
Recently I revisited one of my favorite Biblical charachters, Esther. Her experiences are described in a few short chapters in the Old Testament book named for her. Contained in this story that happened far, far away is a major principle for you and me – right here, right where we are.
Esther was a Jewish woman who, at the urging of her Uncle Mordecai, auditioned (OK, I’ve been watching too much talent TV) for the position of Queen to King Xerxes. In preparation, Esther went through a year of beauty treatments. (I could use that!) From the beginning, Esther was a favored contestant among all those who knew her. She had both the looks and the interpersonal finesse that gave her the edge. When she finally went in to the King, it was all over. He fell head over heels for Esther and immediately made her his Queen.
As the story continues, Haman, the King’s right-hand man, an obvious narcissist, got really ticked off at Esther’s Uncle Mordecai, who sat near the royal gate. Mordecai did not “tremble and bow down” like everyone else when Haman passed by. Haman thought, “Why waste my fury on just one man? Why not kill all the Jews in these 127 provinces?” So he got permission from King Xerxes to do so, and the order was issued. (Xerxes did not know that Esther was a Jew.)
Queen Esther found out what was going on. Mordecai pled with her to save the Jews, though going in to the King uninvited could cost her life unless the King lifted his golden scepter to her. It was a big risk. When Mordecai was talking with her about this, he said something that I often think of and the key point of our reflections today. (More about that in a sec.)
After the challenge, Esther did go on to save her people. Haman the Jew-hater, was hung on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai in an amusing twist – if gallows and such can be amusing. Esther remained the beloved Queen of Xerxes. Mordecai rose to power, and the Jews prospered. Very interesting story among the many out of the history of the people through whom God chose to bring His Ston to earth.
But now let’s go back to Mordecai’s words to Esther when trying to persuade her to take the risky move of going into the King to save her people. He said, in essence, “Who knows? You may have been brought to this very place and hour and given the position you have for such a time as this.” In other words, he was wisely telling his niece, “You’ve been blessed. God and man have favored you. What you’ve been given is not just for you. It’s no accident that you are just where you are. You have a job to do, right here, right now. God has positioned you and equipeed you for it. Now what are you going to do with it.?
That challenge rings in my heart this morning, and I believe it is for you, too. It is not accident that you are right where you are this morning. Every experience you have had, every person you have met, every talnet and skill you possess – all these have prepared you for this moment in your time. The quandary you are facing is only the backdrop, the stage setting for something purposeful that God wants to do through you. Don’t see yourself as trapped in the place you’re in. You’re not here randomly. What you choose to do at this juncture can createa a beautiful snowball effect that grows and grows. This is a place of great choice for you, a place of great opportunity.
Can you see it? Can you sense the excitement of it? After all, it just may be that you were brought to this very tight or expansive place – uniquely equipeed to make a significant difference in “such a time as this!”
Lord, I don’t want to miss it! Show me why You’ve brought me right here, right now, and how You want me to make a difference this day right where I am!