Say One Nice Thing First


When I was in 6th grade I was a bit of a snit.

I liked what I liked and I didn’t like what I didn’t like.

I’m not so sure this is uncommon for middle schoolers. Part of building independence and developing past ego, ego, and more ego, is to experiment with all kinds of wants, needs, desires, and compassions, trying them on, getting them straightened out, and embracing them as our own. The question we should ask adolescents isn’t what they want to be, but who they want to be?

My mom was pretty wise. She knew I didn’t want to be someone selfish, hateful, and ugly. So standing by her bed one evening complaining about whatever unfairness occurred in my day, she stopped my words, looked straight into my eyes and said,

“Heidi, I want you to say one nice thing…

Not one nice thing right now, not one nice thing in a few days. I want you to say one nice thing before you say anything else, every time you speak.”

She proceeded to keep me accountable for three whole months –

“Did you say something nice first?

Did you think something nice about that person?

What went well? What was nice in your day?”

Common sense, right?

But not to a twelve-year-old, and not to most of the world before us it would seem.

I’m not saying that one nice thing will change everything in an instant, the way we communicate, the darkness of struggle, the intricacies of relationship, but it does change perspective that’s for sure.

Think of it another way, God disagrees with us all the time, but still talks nicely to us. What if we completely agreed with one another at all times and in all places and spaces of our lives. Sounds like world peace, but it also sounds like very little room or need for grace.

Instead we can partner with one another through words, words that sound different from one another, words that have different messages and different agendas. I super love words, but if we’re ever going to share in genuine conversation, genuine affection, genuine relationship, we’re going to have to disagree occasionally. Because I don’t look like you and you don’t look like me.

And isn’t that a really, really nice thing?

 

I’m over faking it, bring on the genuine. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s have opinions. Let’s do so nicely.

One nice thing, thought, spoken, shared, before every conversation. I think it may go a long way in loving each other and this great big world a little bit better.

One nice thing.

For more on this topic of Using Genuine Words see episode 14 of the I Love My Shepherd podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or the link below.

If you’re interested on more about Erikson’s Stages of Development, particularly ego-identity v. role confusion, here’s a helpful, simple link: https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

 

Set the world ablaze

Yesterday, we talked about making waves.

Today we’re going to talk about setting a blaze.

Read James 3:5-8, below:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Notice the connecting piece between our segment yesterday and what we are studying today. One tiny verse –

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Write that verse out somewhere if you can. What is the connection between the tongue and boasting? How does the tongue find trouble on it’s own sometimes without our help? Our friend, the tongue, needs to be steered or bridled.

James points out another reality – our tongues can also set the world ablaze. The Greek word for unrighteousness in our translation is adikias, from the root word adikia, meaning unrighteousness, but also injustice, and hurt. That hits the nail on the head. How is our tongue down right hurtful sometimes? Fires can be glorious and also destructive.

Let’s look at another passage that speaks similarly about waves and wind, selfish words, and growing out of them.

Ephesians 4:14-16:

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are not tossed by waves, but we are driven by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. In Christ, we are not left to idle in a sea of doubt and chaos. We have Hope. Let us start a fire, a fire for Christ, firm in the Holy Spirit and the Word that we are given!

God’s Word says that 2 things ignite – truth and love. So we can ask ourself this question before we open our mouth…

Am I speaking truth in love?

It sounds too simple. But God knows that it’s just so easy for us to speak one without the other.

Am I speaking truth with no love?
Am I speaking love with no truth?

Brothers and sisters, if we are aiming for setting the world on fire for Christ, we are intended to speak both as one.

I fail miserably at this. Dear children, pick up your toys! Dear husband, plan a date night! So many necessary commands, that definitely speak truth. I unfortunately forget to include the love. It’s easy when we are in a conversation with a friend about their struggle with sexual sin to speak only love and care – “It’s ok! It’s no big deal!” – without the truth that they so desperately need in order to see Christ’s forgiveness and love.

Where do you have the hardest time sharing truth with love and love with truth?

We’re in this together. Reread James 3:8 and hear the comfort there…

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 

Did you find it? Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Dear friend, you are not the first, nor will you be the last, to struggle with tongue taming. It’s a daily work of sanctification. Christ’s mercy was given to us on the cross. It works in us every day, to set fires that point to His Life, rather than death and destruction. We will daily struggle with this, but it’s a good work, a good walk with our Savior who knows boundless grace.

Work that good Grace in us today, Lord. Truth in love and love in truth – we leave it at Your feet every day. Set some fires around us in Your name, for Your glory. Amen.

 

Discussion:

What areas of your life do you struggle with your tongue the most?

What examples can you point to of speaking the truth without love?

What examples can you point to of speaking love without the truth?

 

I hope you’ll join us for Good Gifts Live at its special time today, 2pm CST, on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page. The topic for tonight is I Am Covered. Find out more tonight, and if you can’t be with us live, catch the archive tomorrow morning right here or on the I Love My Shepherd Youtube channel.

Making waves


I love the ocean’s roll.

Sitting on the beach, with my feet dug into the sand, the waves reaching up to lap my toes. Waves are calming and predictable – coursing in and out, in and out.

Waves aren’t just pillowy and pretty. They are powerful and majestic. They are driven by an unseen force, governed by gravity and the laws of physics. However, we’ve all seen instances where even the laws of physics can’t contain the ocean’s power. They are ruled by Someone greater. Someone who even the wind and waves obey.

Let’s explore what waves have to do with James.

Open to James 3:2-5:

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

If you peek at James 3:1 in your own Bible, you’ll note that these instructions from James are actually given to those who teach the Word in the church. I didn’t include this verse because I didn’t want to trip you up. It’s easy when instructions are given to one group to think – “Eh, I don’t teach, so I’m just going to skip over that part.” But let’s be honest – we all have someone to “teach”, someone to influence, someone with whom we share wisdom, life experiences, and God’s Word.

James never actually talks about waves, he actually talks about rudders. Rudders make waves. Ships make waves. When boats pass through the water they churn up all kinds of stuff. We are foolish if we believe that we impact no one as we move through life. Your impact, my friend, I guarantee you is bigger than you think!

We each have reach and possibility and many relationships in our lives. Our tongue guides so much of it. How do we even begin to steer it in the right direction? How do we find a direction that creates safety and spreads the message of Hope, instead of fear and the message of judgment?

The question is not, are we making waves with our lives and words? Rather, it’s –

What kind of waves are we making?

Are we drowning others? Are we saying what we want, when we want? Are we letting emotions of the moment and satisfaction in our “rightness” steal hope from someone else’s soul? Are we ruled by our tongue, or do we let the Spirit guide our words, even when we are hurt, angry, tired, or hungry?

Are we slowly eroding the beach? Are our words not often harsh, but edgy, sarcastic enough, selfish enough, to tear down rather than build up, over time? Do we avoid, rather than seek opportunities to speak up for others?

Or are we moving change in a dark world? Do we give care, affection, or grace, through our words? Do we let the Spirit speak to whomever He brings into our life? Do our words roll up and reach out to someone’s shore, lapping their feet with the warmth and love of Christ?

We won’t be perfect. Our words won’t be perfect. But we are learning to entrust the refining to Him along the journey.

Lord, show us where You are leading us and show us where our ship is plunging ahead without Your mercy and grace. Thank You for Your wisdom and truth, as well as Your forgiveness, always there for us.  Fill us with Your Spirit, for the adventure of each day. In Christ, we give all our words to You. Use them for Your glory alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

*photo credit to pexels.com

Embracing slow


We all value fast.
Fast internet.

Fast service.

Fast travel.

Fast responses.

We have people to see and places to go, work to be done. Productivity and ingenuity travels at light speed.

I am beginning to see more awareness and appreciation for slow. I see more articles and news media about the health benefits of slowing down, taking a moment, and embracing rest for the benefit of our minds and bodies.

What I don’t see, yet, is media and awareness about slowing down in another way – slowing down our words.

Some of us, like myself, have a lot to say and it all just comes gushing out. This seems to be encouraged in our culture, particularly with the advent of the social media posting platform-

Say what you feel!

Get it off your chest!

You’ll feel so much better!

I have had the devil whispering these very things in my ear. He placates our consciences to shove thoughts about how to say it well, how to speak considerately down deep. These false promises are keeping us from looking for the best perspective, speaking in love, and with the listener in mind. Until the deed is done and the words are out and the guilt and shame begin. He pours that on thick too.

James gives us a simple and direct suggestion, that we would be wise to heed.

We can be bold, to stand up for what matters, but we also need to slow down.

Let’s start with James 1:19-20 and hear James’s simple command:

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…

Look at the order of the words in the text. We often start with a simple discussion. We are listening and sharing. Then the discussion gets going and the words come faster. We hear less, we speak more. Then our blood starts to boil.

Slow to is such a simple concept, we could miss it. God also shows us slow to by the very compilation of Scripture. The words of the Bible, were offered slowly, over the sands of time, not hastily through one individual. Our God does everything perfect, completely righteous. James’s words are part of that Holy Book, breathed out by the Trinity.

What other wisdom on this does James offer us then? Let’s look through a few more passages in James, keeping them in the context of slow to.

James 2:16

…and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

How is it helpful at times to not always rush to mercy in the moment, but to think for a minute about what we can and are willing to offer? Slow to

James 3:2-5,8-9

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things…but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

How is so much in our lives driven by our tongues? How can it affect big decisions and close relationships? How can it impact even the smallest decision and brief relationships?

James 4:11a

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.

When have you seen it words poison and when have you seen them bless? How has social media and our rapid communication abilities impacted and amplified the consequences of this?

James 5:12-13

 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

How can we slow our yes-s and no-s? What benefit might there be in that? How do prayers and praises affect our speech and our perspective?

Slow to…

may look a little different from the world around us, but isn’t God’s way always like that?

May your ways be slow and your words be filled with His praise today!

 

Discussion:

Which passage sticks out to you the most? Choose one segment, from what we just went through, and reflect on the questions.

Let’s pray for one another today and ask for guidance for our words and actions. Any prayer requests in particular?

Mending with Words




Day 5 – Mending with Words

Our words matter. We know it. We just have a hard time making the transfer from what matters deep down to a life lived in it. It’s the reality of the sinner/saint condition. We know it. He helps us move to living it. It’s an imperfect growth process.

The Bible speaks all kinds of Truth about our words, which we would be wise to heed. It also speaks all kinds of grace over every single area of our lives. Jesus lived perfect, so that we don’t have to. To remain teachable, it is helpful to remember that now I know in part. He is working on me, every day, every hour, perfecting and discipling, until the day I see His face and know in full (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Today, I want you to hear a balm of truth held deep in the book of Proverbs 16:18-25 –

Pride goes before destruction,
    and a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
    than to divide the spoil with the proud.
20 Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
    and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
    and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
22 Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,
    but the instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
    and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
    sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
25 There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death.
Let’s look at 3 specific pieces of wisdom found in these verses:

#1 – Pride leads to destruction. (v. 18)

Pride will always hurt ourselves and our relationships. Things spoken with pride, even when it is not consciously intended, chip away and destroy others bit by bit. Paul recommends that when we boast we boast in the Lord, not ourselves, not our children, not our ethnic group, our home town, or any of that. This sounds kind of harsh, but when we speak we can ask ourselves this question…what space was taken up by our pride that wasn’t speaking Life and Jesus to someone? Even when I hop on Facebook to tell everyone how awesome my life and my 4 kids are, how can I shape my words to give glory to Him, honestly and authentically, instead of myself, or even my little ones?

#2 – A wise heart uses judicious speech, sweet speech, discernment, and persuasiveness. (v. 21,23)

Notethis: persuasiveness is different than manipulative speech. Persuasive speech that is discerning, is concerned with what God thinks of things. It doesn’t persuade for the sake of the speaker, but persuades because of the value placed on the individual to whom they are speaking. This value comes from a loving God and does not change in any condition.

What in the world is judicious? It is speech that has good judgement and sense. It has good timing and concern for those we speak to. It is sensitive to a person’s culture, maturity, and life situation. It is sweet and gentle. Not sticky sweet, but it is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). The question to ask here is “How can the person I am speaking to best understand the message I am sending?” Not “I must get them to understand my message, whatever it takes!” Sometimes the words that seem right, do not speak Life, and Jesus is always Life. (v. 25)

#3 – Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul, health to the body. (v. 24)

Forgive me if you feel that the following is taking these words too literally. Listen to the Life wrapped around them, especially in light of what we have learned in this century. Research shows that children who have been abused and/or neglected are more likely to have chronic illnesses, asthma, colds, and reduced immunity. Abusive words are often cited by survivors of abuse as the worst part of the traumatic experience.

Words can bring Life and health or Death and destruction. Jesus speaks health and sweetness into our lives with His Word. He tells us we are loved, we are chosen, we are valued, we are forgiven, we are free. He also tells us that we are in need of forgiveness, that we do mess up, that our life without him resembles a pit, but even the knowledge of all that is balm to the soul when you know a God who runs down the road, reaches into the pit Himself, and lifts your head up to His praise and honor. Our words of grace and truth are worth speaking to those around us There is a hurting world, desperate for the honeycomb of Christ Jesus.

Girls, today I pray especially for our homes, where so many of our words are exchanged. Lord, you fill us up and tend to our every need. May Your Words flow out of us at the proper time in all Grace and Truth. Use us, Lord. Give us Your wisdom. We stand as vessels. Empty us of ourselves and fill us with the Sweetness of Your Spirit. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Discussion questions:
When was a time that someone’s sweet words gave you health and life?
What are some of your favorite words of sweetness in scripture? What are some of your favorite words that may not be directly written in Scripture (quotes or family phrases handed down, whatever!)?
In our current culture, what do you think is one challenge in sharing Truth as well as Grace?