Words

We were having a casual conversation about a couple of people.  About people who didn’t see eye to eye and tried to stay away from each other when they should be trying to get along.  We weren’t saying anything that wasn’t true.  We weren’t being mean.  We were just talking about other people.  Behind their back.  When we thought it was safe to say those words.

Then I turned and there she was.  One of the people we were talking about.  She was sitting there the entire time.  Did she hear our conversation?  We were saying her name.  Talking our truth about her.  We were whispering.  I think.  Does whispering make it ok?  Am I guilty only if she heard me?

I don’t think so.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.  ~Psalm 19:14

I’m guilty of saying the words.  I don’t want to be guilty of getting caught.

I said the words behind her back that I wouldn’t say to her face.  They weren’t mean words.  They were words pointing out someone’s weaknesses.  What I thought were their weaknesses.  I said the words because I thought I wouldn’t get caught.  And now that the person may have heard my words, I’m sorry.  I feel guilty.

I know how I would feel if I heard others talking about me.  Especially if they weren’t singing my praises.  And we weren’t singing anyone’s praises.

I wouldn’t have given the conversation a second thought if she hadn’t been sitting there.  I’m as guilty as those people who make public apologies because they’ve been caught.  Are they sorry for what they did or said?  Or are they sorry they got caught?  I always wonder.

Now I’m walking in their shoes.

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you—for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.   ~Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

Accept this Gift

I have a friend who has the gift of evangelism.  She is eager to share her love for God with anyone and everyone.  She does it with such ease.  It’s just natural for her to bubble over with the message of God’s love to everyone she meets.  She has a burning desire to see her loved ones, her students, her co-workers, her neighbors have a close relationship with God.

She remembers her life before God.  She knows what she was missing.  She knows she’s been forgiven and made new.  She wants the same for everyone.  She’s a bright light shining in a dark world.

I want to be like her.  I want my love of Jesus to just roll off my lips.  I want to want everyone to know my Jesus.  I want to share with others the gift of eternal life that I’ve been given.   Why do I find it so hard to do?

I have a friend who has the gifts of knowledge and faith.  She journals.  She prays behind the closed doors of her closet.  She spends intentional time alone with God.  And he speaks to her.  He gives her specific words to let her know that he has got her in the palm of his hand.  He lets her know that he protects her and her loved ones when she is fearful.  He has answered specific prayers in just the way he has told her he would.  He has provided her with words of truth and encouragement to share with others at just the right time.  When she had no idea what the words meant to the other person.  She knew the words were from him.  They were bigger than her.  But she was faithful.  At times, she’s seen the results of those faithful words and knew that it was God alone who gave them to her.  They were words of God.  Not of her. She believes the words he gives her and waits for him to fulfill his promises.

I want to be like her.  I want God to speak specific words of encouragement and faith to me.  I want to then share those words with those who were meant to hear them.  I want to see God working specifically as he has said he would.  I want to hear God speak promises and reassurances to me.  But that isn’t the way God speaks to me.  Why not?

I have often wondered if I have gifts.  Why would God create me without gifts?  What was he thinking?   Am I the only person God made who has no gifts?  Or are they just buried really deep within?  I’ve tried to find them.  I’ve compared myself to others and didn’t find their gifts hiding inside me.  I never measured up to them and their gifts.

What if you have God-given gifts and He wants to turn you loose with them?  ~Jennie Allen

If I can see others’ gifts, why can’t I see my own? Am I too focused on my own weaknesses to see my gifts?  I’ve taken spiritual gifts tests, personality tests, strengths finders.  I know what they say.  They’re words on a paper evaluating my answers to too many questions.  Questions that are supposed to be answered quickly without much thought.  Problem is…I like to think.  I like to ponder.   I like to roll thoughts and ideas around in my head and then make the decision.  I’m not indecisive.  I’m just not spontaneous.  Is that my gift?

What is God’s purpose for me?  He said that he knew me before I was born.  He knows my name.  He even knows the number of hairs on my head.  He made me and He planned for me.  He gifted me.

Don’t worry.  I know my gifts.  I just have trouble seeing them as gifts.  I focus more on my weaknesses than my strengths.  Why do I try to hide my gifts while at the same time easily spotting the gifts of others?  Jennie Allen says that we often find it easy to encourage the people around us and recognize their gifts and talents, yet we deny the gifts God has also placed on our lives.  It’s time to celebrate God’s unique work called Me and the gifts he has placed in me.

Can you recognize your gifts?  If not, check out this tool to get you started.

Mean Girls

She used her words to belittle me again.  Others heard her.  One of them spoke up.  Then she mean giggled.  As if that made her words ok.   As if she was joking.   Is joking just truth put to laughter?  She was the only one laughing.

When she wants her way and tries to intimidate you into doing it, she says mean words. Unkind words.  Insulting words. Not just to your face, but in front of others. Making a spectacle out of herself.  Really.  And calling attention to what she perceives as your shortcomings.

She’s an adult. Not a child. Not a teenager. She’s someone who knows better. She does it anyway.  She isn’t always like this.  She can be very kind and generous.  That’s why it’s so confusing.  And the funny thing…she calls me friend.  She trusts me.

The other thing.  She doesn’t do it just to me.  I’ve heard her words when they were directed at others.  Cutting words.  Sharp tone.  Wanting to get her point across.  Because it’s her way or no way.  It’s about her.  No one else.

I’ve wondered what caused her to be like this.  I know part of her story, but only the part she wants to share.  There’s always a part of the story that isn’t shared.  We all do it.  We keep it close.  She does.  I do. We fear judgment and rejection by others.

That’s when I know she needs to feel loved. Not condemned. But it’s hard to turn the other cheek. It’s hard to pray for her. It’s hard to even look her in the eye.  It’s hard to stay silent.  I want to say mean words, too.  I want to get even.  I want her to feel pain.  But I know that’s not the words God wants me to say to her. I know she’s already felt rejection.  I know she’s built up walls.  Self-preservation, it’s called.  It must be a heavy load to carry.

He wants me to be Jesus to her.  Even though she knows him.  He wants me to love her as he loves her.  Even when she’s unlovable.  Even when others come to me and say they notice her actions.  They’ve heard the stories about her unkind words.  How am I supposed to respond to that?  Share more stories?  Compare hurt feelings?  Gossip?  Give a thin smile and stay silent?  Or speak God’s love to them, as well?

I try to see her through God’s eyes.  What does he see when he looks at her?  What does he hear when she speaks unkind words?  He sees her pain.  He sees the scars.  He hears her need.  He hears her hurt.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

I think of Jesus and his sacrifice.  Giving his life for us.  For her.  For me.  For anyone.  For everyone.

And I think of her, because she’s included in whosoever.  I think of her standing in front of God on judgment day.  I want him to welcome her into heaven.  I want him to look her in the eye and say, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  I want her to want heaven.

Then I remember another scene from this week.  Someone told me a story.  I thought it was funny.  So I laughed.  They didn’t think it was funny.  They didn’t laugh.  I haven’t heard from them since.  Did I offend?  Was I guilty of the same offense that had been thrown at me?  Was I careless with my words, too?  Intentional or unintentional, words matter.  For they come from the heart.

I want to be welcomed into heaven, too.  So my words and my actions and my thoughts must also line up with God’s word.  My offender is not the only one who needs forgiveness and grace.  I’m whosoever, too.

Years of Plenty

I was talking to a friend at work, and she asked if I had plans for the weekend.  I said I’m planning to sleep in on Saturday, because I was feeling a little under the weather.  “Oh, that’s nice,” she said.  Then she told me that her mother, who is on hospice, fell breaking her rib and puncturing her lung.  She had been at the hospital off and on with her mom for the last couple of days. Yet she still managed to make it to work every single day.  Her husband who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, was going to the hospital the next day for his chemo treatment.  He may have to spend the night. She also babysits her grandson every Saturday.

I felt so small.  So spoiled.  My life is a piece of cake compared to hers. It’s easy to forget about others’ sufferings when you’re not in the thick of it. It’s easy to be focused only on my easy life. I’m sleeping in tomorrow, because I have a cold. She has no chance for rest, even if she’s under the weather.

I often feel guilty knowing that life is good for me right now. My husband and I are both employed. We’re healthy. We’re saving for retirement. We have a beautiful home.  We attend a great church.  Our life is quiet and chaos-free. Life is good. The troubles that pop up in my life right now are pretty trivial compared to what I know others are facing.  I have to remind myself that I have nothing to complain about.  Really.

In a previous post, I mentioned a period in our lives that was very difficult.  We have recovered and life has moved on in a good way.  Reality tells me that we will most likely face difficulties at some point in the future.  We just don’t know when or what it will be.

But. Right. Now. Life. Is. Good.  And that’s a good thing.

It’s hard to need God when you don’t need anything.

One thing I do know is that I still need God in the good times.  It’s easy to get distracted from needing God when things are going good.  After all, I pride myself on being self-sufficient.  When life is tough, I cry out to God for strength.  When life is good, I think I can handle everything on my own.

In Genesis 41, Pharaoh had a couple of disturbing dreams.  God spoke through Joseph to interpret those dreams.  The land of Egypt would have seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine.  In the years of plenty, they were to prepare for the famine.  Joseph created a plan  to prepare for the upcoming hard times.  When I read Genesis 41:47-49, I see words that speak to me about preparing for my years of famine.

In years of abundance:  Gather.  Store the excess.  Preserve.  Reserve.

I can use these same steps during my years of plenty to prepare for times of need.  I have to intentionally stay focused on keeping my relationship with God a priority.  I need to study His Word to show myself approved.  I need to take time to slow down and listen to Him speak to me.   I realize I need God more than ever in the good times.  During the good times, my relationship with God has to be my first priority.

I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 3, where we’re told there is a time for everything.  A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. During this time of laughter and dancing, I need to focus on filling my cup with God’s word each day. When those days of weeping and mourning come, and they will come, I can reach into my cup overflowing with God’s love and mercy to scoop out the portion I need for that day.  Now is the time to fill my cup, keep an undivided heart and focus on my first love.

 

 

 

Being Broken

I recognized her as soon as I saw her sitting on the couch.  When she spoke, her voice was familiar.  She looked troubled.  Stressed is how someone described her.  I saw it written on her face and in her body language.  She looked like she was running from the past and hoping an uncertain future wouldn’t find her.

I heard her story that night.  I had heard a different story a few years earlier.  Both true.  Both unsettling.

I’ve been thinking about her for 4 days now.  Her story was of someone broken.  Really broken.  Abused.  Neglected.  Used.  Given up.  Sold.  Scarred.  Addicted.  Unloved.  Alone.

Her past is one I don’t relate to, but her need for a Savior is as real as my need for my Savior.

She’s never had anyone who has really loved her.  She’s never known hope.  She thinks God hates her.  And she doesn’t even know what God is capable of.  She doesn’t know that he loved her before she was even born.  She doesn’t know that he had planned out her life before she even existed.  She doesn’t know that His son died for her.  Maybe she knows.  Maybe she just can’t accept that she’s worthy of His love.

Those who should have loved her didn’t.  She has never know a love that’s given freely without demanding something in return.  There’s always been a price.

She thought that when she got clean her family would welcome her with open arms.  They didn’t.

How does a broken person mend if they have no hope?

I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s latest book, “The Broken Way”.  Ann says, “No matter what they’re saying, everyone’s asking, ‘Can you just love me’.

I’ve heard that users use people and hurt people hurt people.  Does that mean we shouldn’t love them?  If those who love God don’t show love to the unloved, who will?

Jesus specialized in helping broken people.  Some broken people didn’t know him.  The woman who had been married 5 times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.  The woman caught in adultery.  The tax collector who kept some of the money for himself.  Jesus helped them anyway.  Even people who followed him were broken.  One disciple denied knowing him.  Another disciple betrayed him.  Jesus loved them anyway.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30