Holding My Tongue

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In Psalm 39, David addresses an interesting choice he made: to keep quiet, to hold his tongue…to not argue back.

Imagine that…Selah.

We have become a nation of “right fighters” (to use a well-worn Dr. Phil-ism). We argue for argument’s sake. We chose to be right, no matter how ridiculous we sound or how much damage it does to our witness…or our relationships.

David probably felt he had every right to speak. After all, he WAS God’s chosen one. But he opted to put a muzzle on himself.

The problem was, it didn’t solve the problem. What he wanted to say just built up inside until he was ready to burst. He saw issues, problems and he became frustrated by not addressing them.

But when he was at his bursting point, instead of exploding on the person creating the issue, having the problem, making the mistake, or whatever…he didn’t vent or rant all over them. He didn’t go to social media and spill his guts. He didn’t dump on a friend.

No. He turned to God. “I felt a fire burning inside, and the more I thought, the more it burned, until at last I said, “Please, LORD, show me my future (vs. 4-5a).”

He took his anger directly to the place where it could do the most good and then rather than focusing on someone else, someone who he couldn’t change—no matter how much he argued—he pleaded with God to better understand himself.

Imagine that…Selah.

As a pastor, I have talked and counseled with many people who are angry…typically with the behavior or choices of someone else…sometimes with God. And they stew and stew until they finally blow. Usually the eruption ends up falling upon someone totally innocent and unworthy of the volcanic spewing.

When I query as to whether they consider taking the matter to God, they are shocked and appalled. In their minds they have “protected” God from their anger…as if that’s possible and as if God couldn’t handle it—he’s just so fragile, you know?

God’s not fragile. He’s also not afraid of our anger. Paul clearly instructs the Ephesians to “be angry, but sin not.” Remember, Jesus got angry on the more than one occasion—just ask the money changers in the temple, or the Pharisees.

Hold your tongue when you can. Nothing is gained by arguing for argument’s sake. And before you dump your anger on someone else, try taking it to God. He can handle it.

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Wednesday Word: INSPIRING

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These words are meant to serve as an encouragement. When I think of inspiring I think of people and places, times and events. Let’s think about the people who inspire us.

Who inspires you and why?

Who are the people across your life who have beaten the odds, strived for excellence without necessarily seeking attention, or persevered and prospered when everyone else gave up?

Can you see them? Have you told them? Is their picture on the fridge or where you can see it so that when you want to give up their memory or presence spurs you on one more time.

We need these people in our lives. Examples of what can be…what we need to be.

And we need to be these people.

Don’t get all false modest on me, thinking there’s nothing in your life that could inspire anyone. You may not be looking to live an inspiring life. You may be wondering if you’ll just make it to lunch—but the way you do even that might be just the inspiration that someone needs to not give up.

Here’s the truth: people are watching. You know that because you watch others.

Be someone’s inspiration today. Face down your giants. Live large though you’re shaking in your shoes. Don’t let anyone—ANYONE—trample your dream. Do what others say can’t be done. Love. Forgive. Live.

You can do this. We can do this together.

 

Wednesday’s Word: FORWARD!

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Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12, NIV)

Life seems full of road blocks the inhibit our forward progress. And while we try to figure out how we can get around (or if we even want to try), we look up and see so many things undone or done wrong in the rearview mirror. How can we ever move ahead when what’s behind pulls on our attention?

What keeps the believer moving forward? Knowing that what is expected is not perfection in the sense that we never make the wrong move, flub up, or experience what Paul describes in Romans 7: the thing I want to do, I don’t; and the thing I don’t want to do I keep doing. It’s a horrible tug of war.

Paul gets it—gets us. Inevitably, striving for perfection ends in frustration, shame, and defeat. Focusing on moving forward, taking the steps, making one right choice and then another, is progress. Pressing on to become the person God wants me to be is moving in the right direction.

Pressing on is intentional. Pressing on is work. Pressing on gets me to where God wants me to be, to be who he wants me to be.

Jesus is quite clear on which direction we need to be moving. When he invited people to follow him several gave flimsy excuses about taking care of other things first. To them, and to us he states: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62, NIV).”

What direction are you moving in today?

 

Hymn Struggles: Mercy Drops

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Recently I wrote an article about my frustration with a phrase in a familiar hymn being used in a modern worship song: He Never Has Failed Me YET.

My dislike stems from what appears to be the implication that while God hasn’t failed the believer in the past, he still might.

Ugh! He hasn’t and he won’t. Period.

Another hymn came to mind which I believe leads believers into an unhealthy relationship with God. You might be familiar with the gospel hymn, “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.”

I like the thought. I want to get all wet in the downspout of God’s grace and mercy. My problem with the song is that it sounds like a petulant, ungrateful three year old is singing.

The chorus goes like this:

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

Mercy-drops round us are falling, but that’s not enough, God. We want more. Super-soak us. Saturation is what we want.

On a daily basis, however, God sends his mercy-drops. They’re all around. They are new every morning. They are timely. They are refreshing. They are God’s provision.

Are we even aware? Do we thank God?

I will confess, I prefer “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” to “Showers of Blessing.” The chorus has a much different feel:

Great Is Thy faithfulness, Great Is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!

The truth of these words comes straight from scripture: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’ (Lamentations 3:22-24, NIV).”

Some might argue we do face times when life leaves us parched and we need God to pour out his grace and mercy in tsunami waves on dry and weary souls.

I agree. I’ve been there.

Those times, thankfully, don’t come every day. But God’s mercies do. And they don’t always come as flash floods. No, there as gentle as the morning dew, and refreshing to our spirit.

Don’t miss the mercy while you plead for the drenching.

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Awe

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So the plan for this weekly post is to have an encouraging word for those extra long days and weeks that weigh heavy and are discouraging.

Today’s word is a great word for that purpose. So many days we get tripped up by the mundane, sabotaged by the pain, or overwhelmed by the struggle. We’re taken down by those things because we lose perspective: the ability to see above and beyond.

A scripture that lifts me to a place of awe is found in Isaiah 40:

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

God can give us the ability to soar above…and that’s pretty awesome. He keeps his promise, gives us everything we need—including the ability run, or  the strength to just keep walking.

That’s awesome and amazing.

 

Wednesday’s Word: BRAVERY!

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I have spent most of my life in the shadow of the Cowardly Lion of “Wizard of Oz” fame. He was afraid of everything. He spent most of the movie working himself into a state of anxiety over all the things that could go wrong.

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I get him. This is my “me too.”

Yesterday, I got a call that a family wanted me to come to the hospital to pray. The hospital is in Cleveland—somewhere I’d never been before—and the sky was threatening to dump a deluge of hurricane proportions. In my heart I was ready to run out the door, but in my mind I was seeing all the things that could go wrong.

I asked a few trusted friends to pray for me, keyed the location into my phone, and with fear and trembling walked out the door.

I don’t consider myself brave. I have to draw on other resources: God, the prayers of friends, the encouragement of my husband to do the things I would otherwise shrink back from.

Courage is not the absence of fear. According to Dorothy Bernard: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Many times in the movie, when the Lion wanted to run, his friends would lock arms and walk beside him into the fearfulness of the moment. God promises to never leave us or forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5ff). So there’s One who is always on our side, and at our side.

But don’t discount the friends who either by their presence or encouraging words will go with us as well.

When the situation calls for bravery you cannot muster on your own, who will you call on to help get you through?

And by the way, the hospital visit was great! There were only occasional droplets of rain. I found the hospital with no problem (parking was a little trickier, but accomplished). The family was a joy to be with. And I came home blessed and encouraged.

 

Hopefully Devoted: While You Wait

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Waiting is inevitable.

What we do with it is a choice.

Already this morning, I found myself waiting before I could go have “before-surgery-prayer” with someone at the hospital. Then on the way home, I had to stop for a school bus loading a dozen children.

Waiting is not only inevitable, it is inconvenient—we always seem to be waiting when we’d rather be doing something else.

So what can we do while we wait?

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We can read. We can pray. We can sing. We can pace (getting steps is always a good thing). We can talk to the others who are waiting around us.

These are the productive things we can do.

But we can also stew, grouse, complain, belly-ache, whine, and generally make everyone around us as miserable with the inconvenience as we are.

I know these things are options, because I’ve gone there way too many times myself.

Tucked away in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he makes reference to “redeeming the time” (5:16). This echos the Old Testament prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have (Psalm 90:12).”

So how will you use your time, especially your waiting time, today?

May we all come to productive and wise usage…we’ll be happier for it…and God will be pleased.

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