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!

We Did It! Now on to 2000 Games!

Those who have been following my blog for awhile know that my husband and I are Scrabble addicts.

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

We have actually got out of bed at 3 am, played a game and then went back to bed!

We began keeping score in 2008. We have the score books from all these years. My husband keeps score and he keeps tab of the total of games we each win – by how many points and even the seven-letter words we play.

At the beginning of 2020 we realized we were close to playing 1000 games – so we set a goal of doing just that. And with the year it has been cooped up at home – it was a good thing to keep us from going crazy!

We have the official Scrabble dictionary and after several challenges by me, my husband uses it a lot to make sure he is spelling the word correctly so I don’t challenge him again.

Being totally crazy, we even have a list of all the three-letter words in the dictionary – and we allow ourselves to use the list to help us make more points.

As we began the last game of 2020 I was one game ahead of my husband and I wanted to win this game and end this 1000 game stretch ahead. However, it did not start out too good for me. These were the letters I had – no vowels.

My husband’s hand was not much better. He had no vowels also but he did have a “y” which he could use. After playing the word “sty” I had to take a “0” for my first turn because I could not do anything with these letters. So – the game did not start off in my favor.

I gained the lead quickly and when we were about two-thirds done, I was ahead 487 to 434. However, it game turned to his favor when he was able to spell a seven-letter word which gave him 50 extra points and he won the game with a score of 711 to my 692.

So – after 1000 games in 12 years we ended all tied.

We each have won 498 games and we have four tied games.

A friend told me she found it hard to believe we were tied after all these games. She said she thought one of us was letting the other one win. Clearly she is not a very close friend because if she were, she would know we are too competitive for that.

Since it took us 12 years to reach 1000 games, I seriously doubt we will ever see 2000, but we can have fun continuing to challenge each other – and keep our old brains active.

My husband fell earlier this year and was rushed to the hospital for surgery following a brain bleed. I worried if he would still be able to compete with me in Scrabble. The doctors told us that one of the possible side effects of this injury was damage to his ability to speak or read and communicate. It was such a blessing to see that he recovered quickly and could keep me on my toes. We both think getting right back to Scrabble was a big help in that recovery.

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

Well – I did want to end ahead of him – but such is life. I’ll just have to put on my big girl pants and go on.

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.

A Time for Self-Assessment

Dr. Tanya, at Salted Caramel, asked four questions about blogging.  She calls the questions “retrospective introspection.”  Reading your own work, she says, is sometimes called a form of narcissism but she thinks a better description might be self-evaluation or self-assessment.

With that in mind, I have responded to her questions.

Here are her four questions:

How old is your current blog/website? 

Do you ever look back at your site i.e. read through your old posts?

How long ago did you update your about page ?

If you were to start a new blog today, what would you do differently?

 

And my answers:

I started my blog in October 2014 but never really was consistent in regular posts until last year.

Occasionally I will look back for a particular blog when I am posting again on a similar topic.

Five months ago I updated the picture of me.  I was a redhead and after losing all my hair from cancer I still wore a red wig.  After turning 71 I decided it was time to go with grey so I updated my picture then.

I would be more consistent with my posts.  Since I became more consistent in 2019 my response has been much better – gaining more followers and getting more comments to my posts.  I would engage more with other bloggers.  Since I have started doing that I have made some great friends and have enjoyed hearing/seeing other places/countries and enjoying other viewpoints.

Check our her website at:  https://saltedcaramel670.wordpress.com/

Seeing the World of Rabbi Jesus with New Eyes

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think “what in the world does that mean”?

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think “that doesn’t sound right?”

Do you ever read something in the Bible and wonder “how does that fit in today’s society?”

Well – I have done all of the above.

Recently I read a book that really help shed light on why I do not always “get it” when I read God’s Word.

The book is called Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus.  Written by Lois Tverberg, I highly recommend it if you want to gain a better understanding of what you read in the Bible.  After earning a Ph.D in biology and teaching in college she started learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel and searching for more knowledge of the first-century Jewish world in which Jesus lived, died and rose again.

What she discovered was that not only are we thousands of years from the time the Bible was written but an even greater obstacle to our understanding is we are from a different culture.

She listed a few of the differences in our culture which I found very interesting and eye-opening.  (The following is copied from her book.)

Our world:  Thin is beautiful                                    Biblical world:  Fat is blessing, wealth

Our world:  Youth is attractive                                 Biblical world:  Age is wisdom

Our world:  Does God exist?                                     Biblical world:  Whose god is greatness?

Our world:  Me – personal goals                              Biblical world:  We – family legacy

Our world:  Sunshine – happiness                          Biblical world:  Rain – utter joy

Our world:  Logic and reason                                 Biblical world:  Parable and prophecy

She pointed out that Bible translators have found that many cultures today have less difficulty understanding the Bible when it is translated into their language than we in the Western world do.

often the cultural issues we have with the Bible are not a problem for people elsewhere in the world.  They’ve struggled with the Christian message as they’ve heard it filtered through the perspective of Western missionaries, but when it’s explained in its original non-Western setting, it makes much more sense to them.”

Perhaps the problem is not the number of years between us and the writers of the Bible as it is the number of miles between our Western culture and the Middle East culture.

I found a lot of her points in the list above to be true when I spent some time in the Philippines.  Over and over people I met would say “you are fat.”  (I am actually fat now but at the time no one in the USA would have considered me overweight.)   Until I understood their culture I felt insulted and that they were the rudest people I had ever met.  Only after living there a few months did I understand they meant that as a compliment.  Clearly by not being very thin I obviously had plenty of money to buy food and was therefore a successful person.

Tverberg also explains how many Jewish words have so much depth and multiple meanings than our English words.  Recognizing that really helps when we read things that tell us to “fear” God or when we forgive we must “forget.”

After reading this book, I am ready to do more studying on the Hebrews meaning of words and delving more into the Mid-Eastern culture.

Interested in learning more too?  I highly recommend this book and follow her on FB at Our Rabbi Jesus (Lois Tverberg) where she breaks down the meaning of many Hebrew words to help us get a better understanding of exactly what the Bible means.

Check it out!

 

 

 

 

Where Are the Peace Makers?

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.  

Those words are from Jesus as He spoke to the crowds about what it meant to be a part of the kingdom of God.

Where are the peace makers?

We are so divided as a nation today. So many divisions.

  • Democrat vs. Republican
  • liberal vs conservative
  • Trump is “God’s Anointed” vs Trump is evil
  • CNN’s version of news vs Fox’s version
  • pro-abortion vs. pro-life
  • “We need more gun control” vs. “You ain’t taking my gun!”

These divisions in and of themselves are not wrong.  That has been one of the more amazing benefits of being an American.  Freedom to think – and to speak – as you feel.  May that freedom always be.

But over the past few years there has entered a very ugly element in our conversations.

Growing up in the America of the 50’s and 60’s it seemed to me when people disagreed the attitude toward the other party was basically ‘ “you are wrong, you don’t have all the facts, your logic is faulty .”  But there remained an element of respect for the person with the different opinion.

Today it seems when two sides disagree there is no debate on the reasoning behind the different opinions.  There is no trying to understand where the other person is coming from.

The answer to disagreement now is to call the other person names.  Names that imply the other person is stupid – or even worse – evil.

I grant you when I find myself debating an issue with someone sometimes that thought of “stupid” or “evil” does enter my mind also.

But what bothers  me is how Christians are falling prey to that temptation to call those with whom they disagree names and belittle them instead of debating the actual issues.

I see it so much on Facebook when a controversial post is made.  How quickly the two sides end up not really debating the actual issue itself but saying the other person is “crazy” or “evil.”

What ever happened to the peace makers?

No matter what the “other side” does or says, as Christians we must remember who we claim to follow.

Years ago there was a saying “WWJD”  (what would Jesus do).   It got a little overused, but I wonder if we should not revive it.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In the volatile political season coming on us as we enter into the 2020 election, may I ask my fellow Christians please remember that Jesus said the sign of a true disciple was not which side of the political fence they walked, but rather was

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

By all means share your opinions, your ideas, vote as you please, but remember that Jesus died for liberals and conservatives.  He loves Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi both – as much as He loves you!

And also remember Jesus said:
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

Not Following the Guidelines

I love to write.  For years I have kept a journal.  My entries range from routine, boring comments about the weather to reflections of my feelings during a battle with cancer.

A few years ago I entered the world of blogging.  Really having no idea how to have a successful blog, I have read other blogs, articles and books on the subject.

Most have said that you need to “find” your audience, to write for them.  A lot recommended that your blog stick to one idea or theme.  Reading other blogs I have seen many seem to follow that pattern.

  • Blogs writing about travel
  • Blogs writing about mental health
  • Blogs writing about raising children
  • Blogs writing about the Bible

I started out thinking my blog would be sharing stories from the years I was a pastor’s wife.  There were stories that were funny and others that I thought might be inspiring.  I named my blog Grandma’s Ramblings because I also wanted to share stories of my beautiful grandchildren.

But after writing a blog since late 2014 it seems my blogs are all over the place.  My husband and I love to take road trips and I enjoy sharing pictures of those trips.  A Christian who loves Bible studies I also share thoughts from my devotions.  An history nut I love to research and share stories about our country’s history.  Then my family gives me much to write about.  From one blog to another I often have no idea where I am going until I start writing.  I just have this need to write.

Being concerned that I seem to have no “theme” I went back to the tag line I made when I started this blog.

Stories of a lifetime to make you laugh, cry and hopefully walk away encouraged!

That really has been my purpose – just to give someone a good laugh, maybe a challenging thought or words that might encourage.

My idea of success?  It’s encouraging to see the number of those following my blog increasing, but the real success I find is when someone comments that I did make them laugh, cry or be encouraged.

So I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing – and we will see where it all leads.

For those of you who follow my blog – thank you.  For those of you who have shared comments, thanks for your encouragement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Good Enough – I’m Not Good Enough

My husband and I are reading the book of Isaiah this month.  Chapter six is one we are very familiar with.  Anyone who grew up in church has no doubt heard the story of Isaiah’s vision of God.

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
    The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke…..Isaiah 6:1-4

 

Isaiah

Isaiah’s response is one I think most of us would have if we saw such a sight!

His immediate reaction was one of total sense of unworthiness.

Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”….Isaiah 6:5

Interesting to me that he saw his sin as being connected to his lips and the lips of the people he lived with.  Why his lips?

There are probably many different takes on that, but here it is mine.

Words matter.  With words we can hurt, damage people’s reputations, discourage others, create division and hatred.  The Bible has much to say about our tongues.

James wrote that:

the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison….James

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless….James 1:26

Jesus told us:

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person….Matthew 15:11

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks….Matthew 12:34

Isaiah’s response is one we all should have when we recognize our need of forgiveness.  Sadly, many people never reach this conclusion.  They think they are “good enough.”  But if our standard for goodness is based on who God is, we cannot measure up.  Do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that people who do not believe in God are not good.  I actually know some who are atheists that show more “goodness” than many of my fellow Christians.

But the standard is not how good we are compared to others.  It is how good we are compared to God.  Based on that gold standard, we are not good enough.

An illustration of this thought:

A group of people are going to see a movie.  The price of entrance is $5.00 When they get there, many are very short of the price having only a dollar or two, or maybe just fifty cents.  Clearly they will not get in.  Along comes someone who is sure they will get in because they have $4.99.  But the price is $5.00.  Although they are much closer to having the price of the ticket, they are still short and will not get in.

But wait!  God did not leave Isaiah bemoaning his unworthiness.

He had a solution.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”….Isaiah 6:6-7

Thank God for Jesus.  There is a solution.

So now we come to the second group of people’s response to the goodness of God.  Unlike Isaiah they never move beyond that initial sense of unworthiness.  Although many claim they know they are “not good enough” and question how God can love them, they are just like the first group – relying on their own goodness.

In this case they feel their own goodness is not enough, but they still are relying on it.  Because they continue to say they are “not good enough” they are judging themselves by their own goodness – or lack there of.

They have refused to accept the gift that God has given us though Jesus Christ.  We are not “good enough.”  That is the whole point of Christianity.  Because we are not “good enough” Jesus came and He gives us His goodness.

To continue to insist how unworthy we are, we are denying the whole message of the cross.  We are still relying on our goodness, or in this case, our lack of goodness.  We are rejecting the very Word of God that tells us through Him we are made worthy.

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him….John 3:16,17\

To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name….Acts 10:43

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness….1 John 1:9

Going back to my illustration of the movie tickets:

The group are all standing there realizing they do not have enough to get in.  Along comes someone who offers to give them what they lack.  Those with only a dollar or two will probably jump at the chance to get some help.  But the person with $4.99 may very well think if they just look though their pockets again, or search in the car they will be able to find that penny they are lacking.  Sadly, some who are lacking the full price will probably refuse the stranger’s offer of help because they do not think they should taking something for which they have given nothing.

Only when we recognize our need of a savior and also realize how much He loves us – not because we somehow deserve His love, but because He just loves us, can we have the response Isaiah had.

After his lips were cleansed, he answered the call of God.

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

I said, “Here I am. Send me.”….Isaiah 6:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Bad Can It Get?

I have often shared how my husband and I love Scrabble.  For us it is almost an addiction.

For those who follow my blog you have already read about this, but if you are new and interested, here are the links to my stories behind our addiction.

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

I Owe My Scrabble Addiction to an Out-of-work Architect

My Addiction has Returned

This past weekend we realized how much we do love Scrabble!

Our power went out this past weekend.  After fifteen hours without any electricity, service finally came on again, only to go out again in three hours.  We had planned to play a game of Scrabble after supper.

When we started the game it was still light out and with the curtains all open we had no problem seeing the board.

Most Scrabble games take anywhere from one to two hours depending on the number of players.

But not for us!

Our games go on forever.

First, we have a “super Scrabble” board.  This board is much larger than the normal game and it has twice as many tiles.

scrabble 3

Second, we are very competitive and not only want to win but want to get as high a score as possible.

scrabble

So each play may take minutes as we rearrange our tiles over and over trying to find the right word to get the most points.

We also play defensively so we need to play where our opponent does not have a chance to play on a triple or quadruple spot on the board.

So as the evening proceeded the sun slowly descended in the sky until it was dark both outside and in our house.

Did that stop us?

Not at all!

Out came the candles and the flashlights and we continued on in the dark.  This only slowed our game down more as we could hardly see our tiles.

DSCF0018(1)

Over four hours later we finally finished the game and used our flashlight to find our way to bed.

Oh – by the way – I won!