Friday, June 8, 2018

Life and Death are in the Power of the Tongue. Are you Speaking Life?

Today, someone I really admire gave me some encouragement.  It wasn’t prompted by anything I said or did; it was just given to me freely, without anything expected in return. And you know what? It was nice to hear.

I spend the majority of my day focused on others: my high school students, my husband, and my kids.  I pour out and don’t really stop to expect anything in return because it’s my job to tend to the needs of others. Encouragement doesn’t come often, but when it does it’s like taking a bite of chocolate cake.  I don’t really crave it, but when I take a bite, it’s like I should have been eating it all along.  Loving, kind, encouraging words just feel good. Maybe you can relate.

Words have power. They can build someone up or they can do major damage. Scripture is full of encouragement to use loving words, but also warnings to keep watch over our tongue because it is the most difficult member of the body to control. Sometimes the words just fall out of our mouths and before we know it, we’ve wounded someone we love.  James 3:5-6 tells us the tongue is a fire. “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” How do we keep more control over this dangerous weapon?  How do we use the power of words for good and not evil?

Hiding His word in our heart by memorizing scripture is a wonderful way to keep our words loving and positive.  Luke 6:45 tells us out of the abundance of our heart, our mouths speak. Speaking truth to ourselves, especially in times of stress or hurt, can help to keep us from setting fires with our tongues.

Speak Praise

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. (Psalm 71:8)

Sometimes I forget how big God really is.  It’s easy to think of God as a loving, gentle Father, because He is. But we also need to remember this is the same God who created all things, who is yesterday, today, and forever, who is holy, is good, owns the cattle on a thousand hills, who made the lame to walk and the blind to see, and sits on the throne. Psalm 147:5 reminds us, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.”

When we acknowledge His attributes, it puts our own lives in perspective. He is so much bigger and holy than we can fathom yet loved us first and sent Christ to die for us.  Speaking words of praise exalts Him and reminds us to love Him, which in turn helps us to love others.

Give Thanks

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples. (Psalm 105:1)

Over and over we are encouraged to give thanks. There is no one more deserving of our thankfulness than the One who gave us life and every good thing. If our mouth is full of thanksgiving it is harder to speak unkind words and when we remember that God’s grace has covered our sin, it is easier to show grace to others.

Speak Life

The soothing tongue is a tree of life. (Proverbs 15:4)

Throughout our day, we have so many opportunities to build up by speaking truth and life into another. Take some time today to speak loving words to your spouse, your child, your friend, or a stranger.  A small gesture can make a significant impact.

Speak Peace

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

When something annoys us, or conflict arises, our first response can be to lash out.  You know as much as I do that no good thing ever happens as a result of hurtful words.  One of our roles as a Christian is to be a peacemaker.  Notice I didn’t say peacekeeper. A peacekeeper avoids conflict, but a peacemaker will resolve a conflict using truth, respect, and kindness. A soft word can diffuse a tense situation so we must use self-control and gentleness.

Love God and Love Others

Part of loving God and loving our neighbor includes watching the words we speak.  We must give our praise to the only One worthy of that praise, we should have hearts of gratitude that express thankfulness to Him who is exceedingly good, and we must be careful that our words build others up and not be used for destruction.  It is not an easy task to control our tongue, but having a mind and heart full of scripture plus a desire to seek His face everyday can help to ensure that our words are “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

How can you speak life into someone today?

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Teach Us to Number Our Days

Today, I found Amy’s obituary.  As I unfolded the black and white clipping, her smiling face looked up at me from the page.  My eight-year-old daughter leaned over to see and asked, “Isn’t that the lady that was at your wedding? The one who helped you get ready?  I remember her picture from your wedding book.” 

Reading the small clipping, I did the math and realized it’s been almost 14 years since Amy passed away. She was 38. 

In a week, I’ll be 38. 

There are a handful of parallels between her life and mine and the truth is, she had a substantial influence on me as a foundational branch in my spiritual family tree. As a prodigal coming home to my Father, she gave me guidance and love. For that, I'll forever be grateful.

Life is hectic, so I don’t think about her as much now as I used to, but there are parts of her woven into the very fabric of who I am.  She came into my life at just the right time and left so suddenly that I never really had a chance to tell her how influential and important she was in my development as a young woman and a young Christian. 

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14

The most sobering aspect of life is how it is but a vapor.  We are here one day and gone the next.  Every day we live, every breath we breathe, is a gift from our sovereign God.

I may only have today.

I may only have this moment.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

We have the opportunity to live our days with intention, to squeeze the goodness out of every moment, and to love the people He places around us and sometimes right in front of us. 

Enjoy His big and little gifts.

Get up early to see the sky painted in various shades of orange and pink as it awakens to the sun. Watch a bird make a nest and listen to her sing. Walk barefoot in the grass. Sit back and watch the clouds float by.  Run in the rain. Eat a crispy apple.  Smell a spring flower.

God’s creation was made to be enjoyed.  And as you partake, remember to be thankful to the Giver of all good things.

"O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." Psalm 104:24 (Read the rest of Psalm 104. You won't regret it.)

We were made to love.

Every day we have the chance to make an impact on someone’s life.  All we have to do is ask the Lord to open our eyes and prick our hearts.

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Romans 12:10

It’s so easy to float through a busy life without making contact with those around us.  I can go through my day just checking off my to-do list without looking up to see where God might want to use me.  

How many times have we missed a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus?  How many times have we ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit to stop and take notice? How often do we make ourselves the priority instead of being a vessel to pour out His love?

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or a sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:14-17

Seek Him first.

The most important aspect of living an intentional life is time spent with the Lord. It is the foundation to living a life that matters.  The older I get, the more God teaches me about what it means to walk with Him. I know I cannot truly enjoy the people He brings into my life and all that He has provided, without enjoying Him first. 

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live, in your name I will lift up my hands.” Psalm 63:1-4

As I enter another year of life, Lord willing, He will keep teaching me to seek Him first, love those around me, and find the beauty in ordinary things.

Only the Lord knows the number of our days, so we should make each one count.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

See the Good; Be the Good: Why We're Adopting a Family Motto This Year

I love the promise of a new year.

As soon as Christmas ends, my mind starts anticipating the freshness that comes with starting on day one of the new 365.  When the calendar rolls over, I’m ready to make the leap into new adventures and, Lord willing, improvements to my life. 

This year, more than in years past, I’m looking forward to a blank slate and new perspective. It is not unusual for someone to make resolutions in anticipation of starting over, but I'm taking the idea of change and motivation a step further and bringing my family along with me. 

We’re adopting a family motto.

This past year was full of change for the Naaktgeborens.  We finished building our house and finally moved in at the end of summer. For the first time, both my kids were in school which meant more streamlined mornings.  I had the opportunity to write more, but was also bogged down by work woes. It truly was a year of highs and lows and, as a result, I found myself turning more inward.

Time for a change.

This year and beyond, my family will focus on loving God and loving people.  As we pursue God, our hope is He will use us to see the good and be the good in our own family, in our friendships, in our church family, and in our community.  

So, what does this look like?

See the Good

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the good, especially when a situation seems like anything but. It’s easy to get bogged down by trying situations, but much easier to endure when your heart is close to God.   Saturating your life with scripture and prayer gives you the ability to see the good in tough people and tough situations.

We walk through life sometimes with a black cloud of pessimism and defeat raining all over us, but it’s important to remember what Jesus tells us in John 16:33:

I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Jesus has already overcome the world; why do we walk around in our day-to-day lives like He hasn’t? As Christians we know we have eternity waiting for us, an eternity worshipping our perfect, loving, sovereign God.

God has overcome the world.  That gives us the freedom to see the good, the silver lining, in every situation because God works everything for good. 

It also allows us to see the good in the people we encounter every day.  We are quick to judge a person by a particular situation, but one thing I’ve learned in my thirty-seven years is that there is more going on than meets the eye.  Every person is carrying his or her own burdens. We shouldn’t be so quick to throw stones while we have planks protruding from our own eyes.

Part of loving others as God loves us is to maintain friendships and relationships despite all the imperfections.

Be the Good

Loving others also gives us the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  We can live lives where our fruit can impact others. Lives where we are doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22).

I want my family to bear good fruit and, in doing so, learn to look outside themselves.  By creating opportunities for good, as a family we can make a small impact in the lives of others. 

There are two ways to “be the good.” 

1. Doing good in private or secret is desirable.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4

2. If doing good in secret is unavoidable, then ALWAYS give God the glory and the credit.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Here are some ways to be the good in someone’s life:
  • Write anonymous “just because you’re great” cards
  • Gift cards in small amounts (coffee, fast food, etc.)
  • Baked goods to bless others (my husband makes delicious homemade bread)
  • Hand-written notes or text messages to let someone know you’re thinking about them
  • Cards for nursing home residents
  • Family projects like raising money for or serving with various charities
  • Find random acts of kindness ideas on Pinterest and let your kids pick

Remember that putting God first in your family will lead to less selfishness and more selflessness.  My hope is that adopting this family motto and putting it into action will make seeing the good and being the good second nature in the lives of my family members.  And I hope they will pass along this tradition and legacy to their own children.

You’re Invited

See the good; be the good will be our family motto, but our hope is that you will join us in the pursuit of loving God and loving others.  Visit this page to download some simplistic designs to print or use as your desktop wallpaper to serve as a reminder in your everyday life.

Will you join us in seeing the good and being the good in your own families and communities?