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.

The Power of Words

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words can never harm me

Growing up I heard this little rhyme many times.  It was said to encourage those who were being bullied or harassed by others.  However, this message is simply not true.

Words have such power.

Power to encourage, power to put down.  Power to make you laugh, power to make you cry.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose…Proverbs 18:21

Spoken words that hurt:

As a young girl I experienced the harm that words can do.  In the sixth grade my family moved in the middle of the school year.  The first day at my new school I was walking up the stairs to my room when two young boys passed me on the stair well.  Upon seeing me, one of the boys grabbed the other one and pulled him to the side of the stairs away from me.  As I passed he said, “Look at her!  She is ugly!” The other boy laughed and I quickly went on to my classroom.

When class started this young boy walked in and sat down in the row next to me.  Every time the teacher would turn her back he would point at me and softly say “ugly.”  This harassment continued on the playground.  Soon he had half of the class laughing at me.

From that day on I felt so ugly.  Only in my 40’s did I start to look at pictures of me as a young girl.  While I would never win a beauty contest, I realized I was not ugly.  But those words took me years to over come.

Unspoken words that hurt:

Then there are the words that we need to hear, but never do.

As a young girl I idolized my father.  He was my hero.  After my parents divorced I was very hurt and although I no longer looked up to him, I still loved him.  But throughout my life I never heard him say “I love you.”  In our relationship, words of praise were never on his lips.  He was quick to point out anything I did or said that did not meet his approval.  Others in the family told me he told them nice things about me, but I never heard any of them.  To this day, as an old woman, I still wish I could have heard those words of love.

Spoken words that bless:

But I am thankful for the words of affirmation I have received from so many others in my life.

My husband who says “I love you” several times throughout the day.

My grandchildren who call to share memories from their childhood.

My sister who still calls me her “baby sister.”

My church family who speak words of encouragement and love every week.

Words that are misunderstood:

Looking back over my life at the old age of 70 I think of the many times that words have been misunderstood.  Times when what I said and what they heard were different – or what they said and what I heard were different.

How sad I am for the times that misunderstanding led to broken relationships, hurt feelings, angry hearts.

How thankful I am for the ability to forgive and to ask forgiveness when those times occurred.

Now that I am writing more I worry about the words I use.  Do I express myself clearly?  Could what I say be hurtful although my intent might be to encourage?

My most recent concern was the post I made about not complaining.  While I wrote that wanting to encourage us to count our blessings and not let circumstances get us down, I fear others may have seen it as implying we should never say we are hurting or we are discouraged.

So I ask God for wisdom in my writing.  My prayer is that my words will be a blessing and that I will be more mindful of what I write and how I write.

This verse is my prayer both as I speak to others and as I write:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer….Psalm 19:14

 

The Power of Our Words

 Sticks and stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me!

Growing up, I heard that phrase several times when I was upset about something unkind that someone had said to me.  Sadly that is not true.  Words have such power – power to build up, power to tear down.

Thoughts from the Bible

Recently in my Bible study I was impressed with how many times God’s Word speaks to us about the power of words and warns us of being careful how we speak.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Proverbs 25;11

Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.  For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.  Ecclesiastes 5:2

Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.  Proverbs 18:8

Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time.  Proverbs 15:23

Thoughts from the famous and not-so-famous

After reading the thoughts I found in the Bible on using our words, I began searching for what others have said about the power of words.

I found some very wise advice from famous and not-so-famous people.

If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, don’t say it.
Earl Wilson

A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Advice I wish I had followed

Looking back over my life, I realize that I have spoken many times when I should have remained silent, have given my opinion when no one really needed or wanted it and sadly, have hurt those I love.  Oh, that I had followed this advice:

Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.  James 1:19

Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.  Orson Rega Card

We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.  Winston Churchill

A time to speak

But there are times we need to speak and unfortunately, we remain silent.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  Edmund Burke

This verse from the Bible really makes me think about my words

Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.  Matthew 12:36-37

My prayer about my words

This is now my prayer”

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.