Not A Christmas Fairy Tale {but maybe a tangled tongue tale}

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The holidays. 
You prepare, anticipate, agonize the details and hope all will go smoothly on the day all come together to celebrate. Often we see people we may not see all year, but through family or friendship we find ourselves in their company once, may be twice a year. Although we love our family, there may be one or two people who just challenge us. Like nails on a chalkboard, they offer the opportunity to smile and not cringe, despite the level of discomfort they bring us. Well, this is a story about one of these. Bear with me if you will, and I will share a bit of holiday pain, which may turn out to provide a lesson for you as it did me. Unless of course you are already so pious. If so, move along, move along. I am here to be authentic, and those of you who know me already know, sometimes it just ain’t pretty. But God can work with the mess of me. And you too… if you will allow Him.
As we drove home from visiting family this Christmas, the words I wanted to speak about a certain person were swirling around my mind just waiting for the opportunity to emerge. I knew these words would not have passed the Ephesians (4:29) or Philippians (4:8) litmus test for proper conversation, so I tried to keep my tongue. You know that thing behind the lips that speaks murderously and betrays the heart. Our words reveal our heart AND furthermore, if it is in the mind, it is as good as said aloud. However, this is one of those things that if it’s not said you can confess and deal with it discreetly with God before you damage and poison those around you. Unfortunately, I was not wise with my tongue and I went ahead and gushed forth my complaints about the person before my family. I was stopped when my daughter called me out. I knew she was spot on, too, especially after my defensive response was spoken. The fact was, even if what I said had some validity, it was not loving. It was not kind. It certainly was not gracious, to the person spoken of nor to my family, who had to hear it. Oh, I was guilty as charged and I did not like it…I knew I had chosen poorly and sinned. My tongue had turned against me and now I was tangling with my own child over it!
 I was reminded this holiday that God loves those who I might otherwise find rude, annoying, difficult or just plain mean. I know this, already, right? Yet apparently I needed yet another reminder. 
How about you? Can you think of anyone for whom you can relate to what I am saying?
God has called me to a life of prayer, not complaining about the un – lovliness of others. He has called me to kindness, not criticism. Even, if at first glance it appears justifiable. Jesus spoke the truth, in love.The truth should not be spoken, when it is not laced with grace, but instead accusing attitude and critical spirit.
One of the ways I glorify God is by sacrificing my preferences for His, through yielding my will concerning others. There is no greater challenge to the core of my Christian faith than when I say not my will but Yours, Lord. This is the first and final battle in the walk of faith. It does not come easy, but it has already been won, for we who believe.
What is God’s will for me concerning this person? Firstto recognize that despite my annoyance with the person, that Jesus loves them completely and is pleading for them before the Father. He wills that they should not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus calls me his friend. Friendship requires humility, grace and submission. I must consider that my “friend” Jesus,  laid down His life that I might not only gain eternity but learn to live life with a holy order, rising above petty annoyances which distract me from His divine purposes and  plans. SecondlyI need to pray for this particular family member and ask God to change my heart attitude, which is wrong, and let God deal with it through the intimate time we share in holy conversation. When I do this He may lead me to pray more specifically, once I get beyond the superficial, raw prayers like:
“I confess I can’t even stand this person, Lord…but you tell me to pray for others and because I love and esteem your will more than my own – or at least desire to- I confess my lack of love and likeness to you and ask you to allow me to pray with your heart and mind for this person, teach me your ways, Lord.”
Yes, I really sometimes start there. I’m honest with God because he already knows my yuckiness. Now you know. Aren’t you lucky! If you can’t be real with God, dear one, I fear you are not real with anyone. And that is much worse than just being a little rough around the edges. He knows all, friend. Keep it real with Him. He will take care of the rest!
We talk in cliches all through the season.
The fact is that Christ came that lives would be transformed, and that we would be born into a Kingdom of Righteousness, one heart at a time. 
By His Grace, for His Glory.
Amen.
PS: On a side note I apologized and was forgiven by my family! My daughter patted me on the shoulder after I reluctantly admitted my sin and told me so.
God is good. 

Originally shared on December 26th, 2011 as A Twisted Tongue Tale.

*This post is the final of The 12 Days of Blog Posts, Weekends and Wednesdays in December!*

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When To Speak Up & When To Shut Up by Dr. Michael D. Sedler {Book Review}

Would it be too forward of me to say, every Christian should read this book? Well let me take it one further, then. I think everybody should read this book if they have a mouth and intend to use it. Dr. Michael Sedler has clearly and sensitively articulated guidelines, steps and practical solutions for using that tiny little member of the body called the tongue in a manner which fosters growth, understanding and clarity. The title of the book absolutely grabbed me, but then it also delivered. The principles that are shared in this book are simple, concise and powerful. The examples he gives are authentic and he goes on to share not only wisdom but a few personal hard earned and learned lessons.

The opening dedication of the book includes this statement: “I pray this book will encourage each reader to be a to be a voice in the wilderness of life: a voice of reason, of passion, of encouragement of leadership, but most of all, of love and grace.” I believe Dr. Sedler does a good job of communicating, coaching and exhorting how to make this happen in real life.

Some of the topics covered (listed on back of book):

•    the cost and purpose of silence 
•    why to check motives when talking to friends, family and authorities
•    how to ask good questions 
•    ways to deal with anger and resentment 
•    how to overcome pressure to remain silent

Drawing directly from specific instances in Scripture and the lives of well known Bible figures, he extracts useful directives which we can concretely put into action in our own lives. I loved the examples of communication effectively or ineffectively explored with reference to David, Abraham, Nicodemus, and Jesus. I also appreciated his use of other examples from history and his professional and personal life.

At the end of every chapter there is a “One Final Thought…” which captures the essence of the take home for personal application. This is followed by two pointed questions for personal reflection. Just enough to bring it home! One of these from the end of Chapter 9 really stood out to me and reflects the power of these brief but well thought out statements. It says, ” Before approaching an individual regarding a problem or area of frustration, take the time to pray and be sure you have a right spirit. If you do not have time to pray, you do not have time to communicate with others. (emphasis mine!) Talk about a take home lesson which would benefit all of us!

I appreciated how he also pulled from the pages of history to make the points about speaking out and keeping silent and the impact to others. Dr. Martin Luther King, Corrie, Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Churchill as well as Hitler, Stalin, Khomeini and bin Laden. We see the power and possibility expressed when people speak out for good or evil. We see the importance of wisdom, courage and hope that must speak out for truth and what happens when fear silences the voice of righteousness and reason.

I found this book to be one of the best I have ever read on communication, and highly recommend it.
Not only does Dr. Sedler have a clear grasp on scripture and  a background in Social Work, he is an Ordained Minister with varied experience which shines through in this work. In addition to all this his own personal testimony is an inspiring journey of one Jewish man’s pilgrimage for truth. I so appreciate hearing ho God reveals himself to individuals and Michael Sedler share his journey and conclusion in the final section of this book.

Simply put, you will not regret owning your own copy of When To Speak Up & When To Shut Up – Principles for Conversations You Won’t Regret.

Visit the author’s website: www.michalesedler.com
I received a copy of this book from Chosen Books in return for a Review. 
All opinions expressed are my own.

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Your Tongue {The Power of Life or Death?}

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21
I have been thinking a lot about my words lately. I have been learning to let the words of others hold less power over me by responding with grace. And prayer. I really am being challenged within as I consider the impact of words and the motivation behind them in some recent situations. As I listen to others I am sometimes amazed at what their choice of  words actually reveal about what they believe despite what they are saying. God has used my own words to reveal the same of me. 
I want to share something with you, friends. 
I grew up in a home where words were not always gracious. 
Where cursing was common.
Where put downs, negativity and sarcasm were steadily portioned out as nourishment.
I was always inextricably drawn to words and their power.
It is not surprising that I took a pen to paper and scratched out poetry at a young age.
I would scribble song lyrics on paper because words intrigued me. 
I wanted to see them, study them, grab hold of them.
Many of the words I wrote were not beautiful.
They reflected the ugliness that was within and without.
But the One who made me planted within me, intricately, delicately 
a longing and love for wisdom, truth and words.
It is nothing less than perfection that the One who is The Living Word that became flesh 
drew me to Himself. 
In His time He drew out of me that which He planted from the beginning.
As I am sure you can understand, much weeding needed to be done. 
When He redeemed me, my words were witty at times.
Sometimes my words were well timed and even poignant.
I learned to use them to hide inadequacies and I also would wield them to cut someone right in two.
I realized that words, well used could do much…for good or evil.
Our God, the One whose own words begat life, 
wants to redeem our words.

He gives us opportunities daily to choose life or death with the words we choose to let loose.
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!
Deuteronomy 30:19
Oswald Chambers said, “Sarcasm is the weapon of the weak man.”
I love my husband’s paraphrase, “Sarcasm is the devil’s pitchfork.” 
 I believe America has been blessed with a freedom that is grossly abused. 
The public tearing down and humiliation of others is glorified.
 I am not going to even mention the names of those who people exalt for the blunt,
 rude manner with which characterizes the words they speak. 
But, I think that it is getting harder to discern grace and truth for onlookers when 
Believers are laughing at the same sarcastic banter the unbelieving world is gorging themselves on. 
Somebody pass the salt, please.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, 
seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6
Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying I have mastered all of this.
I am not saying I am sinless.
I am saying that I do struggle and so appreciate being with people who are real and honest about wanting their words to be God honoring, a reflection of His grace and truth, to believers and unbelievers alike!
I also think that we need to carefully think about the words that casually drop from our lips.
That we need to recognize Christ with us at all times, so that we can be sensitive and available 
to His Spirit to measure our words according to His will.

Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society’s own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender.
~A. W. Tozer

Would you consider leaving a comment in answer to one of the questions below? 
Have you ever come away from a group of Believers and felt afterwards “dirty” from 
the conversation even though you did not necessarily say anything negative or wrong?
Have you ever felt a familiarity but discomfort at the banter taking place in a Christian group? 
Have you ever been around others who you thought were trustworthy and discovered that they were an “unsafe” group to be around although they were Christians?
So the Word became human and made his home among us. 
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. 
And we have seen his glory, 
the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NLT)
Jennifer’s:


Emily’s:

Jen’s:


Duane’s:


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