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, June 2, 2018

I Love Living in a Small Town (and Why You Might Also)

As a teenager, I had big dreams for life in the big city.  My plan was to be a journalist and eventually an editor of a magazine for women.  I was going to be married to my job and enjoy all the things that city life had to offer.

My, how things change.

On this lovely morning, I am on my porch drinking coffee, watching the cows graze across the road.  This is a far cry from big city living, but I couldn’t be happier.  Who knew living in a small town would be right for me? Who knew this once big-city-loving girl, really had a small-town heart?

Certainly not me.

But God did.  It was his plan all along that I would merge my life into this community and I am thankful for this every day.

It is a privilege to live in a small town and if you live in one also, I’m sure you’ll agree. There are aspects of a smaller community that cannot be matched in larger cities.  The town may be small, but the living is large. Not large in scale, but large in the benefits to those who get to live here: slower living, the beauty of nature not blemished by city life, and the comfort of a close-knit community.

Small and Local

When we first thought of making this town our home, I admit I wasn’t a huge fan of moving here. We do brave things for love, and for the promise of a Super Walmart being built in town.

After being here for 15 years, I’ll keep the love, but I’d trade the Walmart in a second. 

Small towns provide unique opportunities for local business to thrive and events and attractions to become ingrained in the community culture.  In the past few years, we’ve seen a revival in our downtown area mixing new boutiques and a lovely coffee shop with an established pottery shop and tried-and-true restaurant. Our library gives our kids plenty of opportunities to love reading and our bigger community park borders the river that runs through our town. Although our old movie theater is nothing but a lit marquee, it’s a pretty cool backdrop for local festivals and bluegrass bands.

Farther out from downtown, we enjoy legendary shaved ice, an ice cream shop, a local bakery, and every weekend night in the warmer months, the drive-in is open with current movies. If you love the outdoors, you may love our county’s waterfalls, caves, hiking, and camping spots that both residents and visitors can enjoy. 

Our town really is a gem.


We have small town charm and plenty to do on a weekend, but my favorite part of living here is the community. 

When I was young, I attended multiple elementary schools and even spent half a year in Canada.  My family didn’t put down roots until I was about 10 years old, and I was happy to blend in to my city.  We made it our home. 

But there is something to be said for being a long-term resident of a small town.  I have friends who have lived here their whole lives and have maintained solid friendships since Kindergarten. My own kids have been here since birth and we plan on being here forever, Lord willing. What a sweet thing it is to make memories and friendships for life.

Don’t get me wrong, being a part of this community has taken time.  Making friends has its challenges wherever you live and unkind people permeate every town, but there’s certainly a lot to be said for the closeness of a smaller community. My husband has roots here; it’s what pulled us to this town. Many of the opportunities I have experienced are a result of relationships he built prior to meeting me, but now our family benefits from the relationships we’ve cultivated together. 

God is so gracious in giving me a job at the local high school which puts me face-to-face with many of our families and lets me see the needs in our community. I have built solid friendships with fellow educators and have watched our community rally around those with sickness and those who have experienced loss. I have school spirit (sorry Hilltoppers, I’m a Warrior now) and enjoy hating on the town up the road when football and basketball season rolls around. 

He has also allowed us to put roots down in a local congregation where we get to worship and fellowship with people that have come to be dear friends. These friends, no matter if they are life-long residents or new transplants, love both our town and its people. This love doesn’t spread outside the walls of our church unless we are actively loving each other from the inside. We are Believers in community loving our community. 

I Love My Small Town

Fifteen years ago, I had no idea how blessed I would be living in a small town, but God knew.  He knew the Naaktgeborens needed to be here and that we would want to give as much to our community as we would receive. 

This town is as much a part of us as we are of it and there is nowhere else I would rather be.