Shut My Mouth!

This past year has been so full of noise. So many voices approving this point of view – attacking that point of view. If the voices had only been speaking of ideas, beliefs, policies, it might have been a good year of honest open debate. Sadly, I have found there was little true debate. It seems we all went into our own corners and listened only to those we agreed with.

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply….Stephen R. Covey

Everyone has a right to be heard, but only if they are willing to listen to others in an attempt to understand….Eric Overby

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen….Winston Churchill

Know these my beloved brethren, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger….James 1:19

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion….Proverbs 18:2

To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people….Titus 3:2

I have been guilty myself of giving my opinion whether wanted or not, adding my own thoughts to all the posts and articles out there. In my devotion today I really felt convicted in my spirit as the Lord reminded me that my primary focus should be on Him and not the craziness around me.

I know many Christians are afraid of the new administration and what that might mean to the Christian freedoms. But looking at the Early Church I want to follow their example.

In Acts 5 we see where the apostles were put in prison for sharing the gospel and then warned not to do it again. Their response:

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Note that they did not argue with the Sanhedrin, they did not complain or start a political movement. They praised God they were worthy of suffering for the cause of Christ and kept on proclaiming the good news about Jesus.

Earlier in Acts 4 after being imprisoned and then released the apostles met with the church and told them of the threats they had received. If that happened today – if my pastor was arrested and told not to speak any more about the Gospel – I imagine the prayer meeting that would follow would be for a cry for protection – for justice – for our rights to speak. However that was not where their focus was. Rather they prayed:

Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them….Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. THEY DID WHAT YOUR POWER AND WILL HAD DECIDED BEFOREHAND SHOULD HAPPEN. Now Lord consider their threats and ENABLE YOUR SERVANTS TO SPEAK YOUR WORD WITH GREAT BOLDNESS. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I know there are times when injustice requires us to speak out. I could also post that famous quote “Bad things happen when good men do nothing.” But to me today I have decided to leave all the discussions and comments to others. Going forward in 2021, this song I have attached is my prayer.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight O Lord!

Life or Death in My Words????

Reading with my husband in the book of James, I thought how much our country needs to heed the words found there. James admonishes us to:

You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires

Wow! Sadly it appears we are slow to listen and quick to speak.

James had much to say about the tongue.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,  but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.  Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!  Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?  Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.

Thinking about controlling my tongue, I realized this would also apply to the social media we use. While we are not using our voice when we post on Facebook, Word Press, Twitter, we are “speaking.”

I have been saddened to see so many doing just what James said was wrong – praising God – then cursing those made in the image of God. My initial response when I listen to others arguing over the virus, the election and all the craziness we have experienced in 2020 is to be critical and wonder why they cannot be reasonable.

Reading in James, I had to take a good look at myself. How many times have I seen a post on Facebook that upset me and just responded without even thinking about how it might effect others?

It really hit me hard when I read:

and If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

While I cannot control what others do, I realize that I must work on controlling that urge to speak so quickly, to give my opinion, to “prove my point.” Thinking more about how I need to control my quick responses, I was reminded that Jesus said

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

A more modern take on that might be:

Garbage in – garbage out.

This makes me realize I need to make sure I control what is in my heart – and listening to all the negative news and arguments is not the way to do that. So I aim to do less listening to news, less scrolling through Facebook and listen to great music, read great books. Fill my heart with good stuff.

My prayer now is:

May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing to you oh LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Idle Words

Reading in Matthew this week with my husband for our devotions I found a statement by Jesus that made me really stop and think about what I say.

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken….New International Version.

Other translations speak of idle words, careless words.

The Greek phrase used here means “careless or inactive or unprofitable words.”

I tried to research how many words the average person speaks per day but there are all kinds of conflicting studies on this subject.  It is clear from all of them that most of us do speak thousands of words a day.  There are studies that indicate women talk more than men (at least we are accused of that) but other studies say that is just a myth.  (For all the women who, like me, are often waiting on their husbands who keep talking and talking, we know that is a myth.)

But of those thousands of words I may speak each day, I wonder how many are really helpful to others.

Taking a closer look at my speaking, I ask myself:

  • How often do I truly listen to others speaking to me?
  • How often do I resist the temptation to jump in and offer my opinion when it is not really needed?
  • How often do I wait until the person is done speaking before I respond?
  • How often do I “think before I speak” or do I just blurt out whatever comes to mind without engaging my brain first?
  • Are my words always kind?

When I read the rest of what Jesus said that day on speaking, it makes me want to be more careful when speaking.

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

How about you?  Do you think before you speak?

 

Good Advice from the Apostle John

In our devotion today my husband and I read the New Testament epistle 1 John.  Written by one of the disciples of Jesus the letter is, of course, giving advice about spiritual matters.

However, in light of today’s constant barrage of information from cable news, newspaper and magazines, twitter and Facebook accounts, I find his advice very timely and practical for our daily life.

His words:

My dear friends don’t believe everything you hear.  Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you.  

Oh, that we would all be careful and examine what we hear.  I see many people on Facebook sharing something they see that expresses their own view on a subject and they post it on their wall without ever checking to see who the post was from and if it is accurate.

Then, sadly, people begin repeating things they heard or saw as if it were true.

Let us follow St John’s advice and check for facts behind what we see or hear.

Something my husband says a lot applies here too:

Be careful of listening to half-truths.  You may have heard the wrong half.

 

Even My Husband Speaks “Southern”

I’m still laughing today!

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All my married life my husband has teased me about my “southern twang.”  There are many words that I clearly do not say correctly – that is – if your standard is the “General American” accent.

Brendan Houdek, a Speech Coaching Associate at New York Speech Coaching and the Head of New York Speech Pathology describes this manner of speaking as:

“this term is typical when referring to a dialect that is clearly American, but has none of the distinctive features that categorize a particular region, ethnic group, or  socioeconomic status. Upon hearing someone speak with this particular dialect, it would be difficult to determine where he or she is from, other than being from the United States of America.”

Although I was born in Illinois (southern Illinois) all my life people have consistently asked me what part of the south I am from.  They usually guess Tennessee or Kentucky.

When I purchased a smart phone and began using the app that allows me to speak my text, it was hilarious some of the ways the app interpreted what I was saying.  One text  repeated a phrase I said – but the phrase came out totally different from what I said and was using what I would call “bad language.”  My youngest daughter who received the text, knowing how much I frown on “bad language,” had to forward it to her siblings with a note that basically told them:

If you get a text from Mom and she is swearing at you, she has not had a stroke or become senile, she is just using voice translation for her text.

They all had a good laugh at my expense.

Following up on that I recently discovered that much of the way I speak can be traced all the way back to my Scot-Iris ancestry.

Check out my story:

Smart Phones and Southern Twang

So, for years my husband has had fun laughing at my accent.  He always has this big grin on his face when people ask me where I was born and comment on my accent.

But this weekend it was my turn to laugh.

We ventured out on a road trip to a nearby town and checked out the art galleries and antique stores.

Entering one store, I quickly found a collection of old books.  I’m a book lover and my attention was all on the books.  My husband, who never meets a stranger, struck up a conversation with the owner of the store.  I had not said a single word when I heard the owner ask my husband where his home was.  Telling her he was originally from Illinois, her response made me laugh.

“It must be southern Illinois.”

She indicated she heard a southern twang in his voice.  He was speechless as he had never been told that he had an accent.

After all these years – I’m laughing at him.

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