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?

Foot in mouth, rams horns, and blessed silence



Day 3 – Foot in mouth, rams horns, and blessed silence


Keeping silent is not in my nature. It is not necessarily opposed to my nature, but we all have things that God asks for us that are a tad harder than they would be for someone else. This is mine.

Patience, gentleness…and silence. These are my challenges.

One time in college, one of my professors turned to me and said, “I want you to count to ten before you answer a question in this class. Let’s just see if anyone else answers first. Ok? Just wait and see.” She was speaking the truth in love, for sure, and at the time, as hard as it was to hear, those words of truth cut straight to my heart and change began. To this day, I usually count to ten before answering anything in a group situation. And I still praise God for that admonishment to grow up. I didn’t get it instantly, but I got it eventually. And I’m still a work in progress.

God tells us there is indeed a time to keep silence. I love the language of the translation. I can picture holding silence as a precious commodity. In a world filled with noise, we have the opportunity, the gift from God, to hold silence close.

The Hebrew verb root “chashah”, for keeping silent in Ecclesiastes 3:7, is an active word. We are not simply silent out of happenstance, but we have chosen silence, we do silence, we choose inactivity even.

In a house full of small people, we try to teach the value of silence every day. My children, like myself, love to fill the void. Most of us, as moms or grandmas, or siblings, understand the value of silence. Noise, laughter, arguing, and daily living all compete with silence. And there is a time for these things as well, which is part of the essence of Ecclesiastes 3. The back and forth, the seasons and cycles of life.

What else does God have to say about the value of silence?

Joshua 6 contains a fun story many of us remember from our youth – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. Read below and see how God worked in the silence and in the shouting.
Joshua 6:8-16 –

And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.
12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of theLord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.
15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.”


Verse 10 above says that the people were instructed not to shout or open their mouth until they were instructed to do so. These instructions may seem odd to us, but God has that right. He has a plan and sometimes surprising, or contrary to our nature. Many times God works in the silence. When we seize the opportunity to hold our tongues in a stressful situation in particular, we let God do His work instead of getting in the way. God may call on us to speak, just as on the seventh day the Israelites shouted, but the time in between can be used to seek God, to pray for the words, to be given wisdom and insight.

Jesus took many opportunities to remain silent. When you read some of the examples, they are just beautiful. When the pharisees charged him, he sometimes answered and sometimes kept silent. Isaiah 53 tells us that He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, but did not open His mouth. And perhaps one of the stories where Jesus’s intentional silence is most clear is found when Jesus comes before Pilate.

Read the passage from Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 27:11-14, below:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Three times, Jesus keeps silence in this passage. Why? I don’t know, but what we do know is that God had a plan and Jesus was walking in and through that plan. Jesus was not looking to testify to skirt around the plan. He chose silence and left pilate amazed.

Finally, I discovered this beautiful verse at a time in my life when silence was my only option. When life itself had taken away my speech, when I was world weary, trampled on, and exhausted from the battle of it all…I could only be silent. Pay close attention to verse 14 below…a balm for the soul, sisters.

Exodus 14:13-14
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

There are battles that are truly not ours. They are God’s. He would have us hand them to Him and let Him do what He does best.

A time to keep silence, it sounds restful to me. I pray today, sisters, that you find some rest in God, a moment to be silent in His presence and with His Word. You speak, Lord, we’re listening.
Discussion questions:
Are you naturally a talkative person or quieter?
When was a time you felt it difficult to stay silent and you should have (insert foot in mouth)?
When have you been blessed by a period of silence?