Say What Now?

OH, BE CAREFUL, LITTLE HEART, WHAT YOU SAY!.png
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
— Psalm 15

In the above passage, the psalmist begins by asking a single question worded in a couple of different ways: who can abide in the Lord’s presence? Then, he continues the passage by answering his query. I think we can all agree, based on the rest of the chapter, the one who can dwell in God’s presence is one who is upright, good, and seeking to do God’s will, right? It’s pretty straightforward.

Still, as I read through chapter 15, a single phrase jumped out and practically slapped me in the face. It’s a simple group of words, easily overlooked, but God used it to remind me of a powerful truth—truth itself. “Speaketh truth in his heart.” Notice, it doesn’t say this man (or woman) speaks truth from the heart. It plainly states in the heart. Upon recognizing that, I was forced to examine what things I was speaking in my heart, and I was shocked to discover more lies than truth.

“I’ll never get better. No matter what I do, my health will continue to get worse until I waste away.”

“I’m such a loser. Look at what everyone else is accomplishing and look where I am.”

“We’ll never make it to the mission field. People don’t care enough to give to missions anymore.”

“I might as well quit while I can. This road is obviously far too difficult for me.”

“I’m supposed to be a helpmeet to my husband, but I guess that’s just one more thing I’m failing at.”

I wish I could tell you the list ends there, but it doesn’t. And the saddest part is these vicious lies spin about in my heart and mind day after day. . .and night. Is it any wonder then I often feel so far from God even though I’m spending time with Him daily? I read my Bible. I spend time in prayer. I also spend quiet time just resting in Him, trying to dwell in His presence.  Of course, that time is often interrupted with a flurry of lies that threaten to drown me with their constant outpouring. So, I go about my day, hoping and praying to find some peace and joy in the midst of what feels like a defeated life.

On the one hand, I’m doing the right things to live a life in step with my Savior, but in this area, I’m missing the mark. I’m not speaking the truth in my heart, especially in what I have to say about myself. I’m a harsh and cruel critic, and the enemy tries to convince me I’m only being honest with myself, but he’s a liar and cannot be trusted.

There are many verses in the Bible I can claim to replace those lies with truth. One of the most powerful and far-reaching ones is Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. That means I can get better. I can accomplish what God has called me to do. We can make it to Wales. I can continue to travel this road. And I can be the helpmeet God desires me to be. I can do these things and much more through Christ working in and through me. That’s the truth, straight from the mouth of God.

Dear one, perhaps like me, you’ve been speaking lies in your heart. If so, I urge you to replace those lies with the truth. No matter what you’re facing, God is big enough to handle it. And no matter how worthless you feel, God assures us, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. If we want to spend more time in God’s presence and less time in the dumps of despair, we would do well to guard our hearts against the lies we say and believe. It makes all the difference in the world!

Rejoicing in the Small Things

The Bible has a lot to say about child-like faith, but I think we would all do well, too, to have a child-like appreciation for the little things in life.-2.png

I don’t know about you, but I tend to save my celebrations for the significant moments in life. The big promotion. The new baby. The summer vacation. The sizable financial donation. Big things. Good things. Things that make me want to praise the Lord, sing a song, and maybe even dance the jig (though I’ll admit it’s not pretty).

But this morning, the Lord reminded me that every moment on this earth is precious. Every person is a blessing. Every event is momentous. This revelation occurred on my morning prayer walk.

As I typically do, I passed by the Swamp Rabbit Cafe, which has a small play area for children. Except in harsh weather, the area is filled with parents and small children, climbing on the various equipment, riding small tricycles, or playing with their toys. Today was no different, but as I walk by, I noticed a little girl playing alone in the corner of the fenced area. At first, I felt bad for the young girl, fearing she was being shunned by the other children and even that she may be crying about her loneliness. But as I drew closer, I realized nothing could be farther from the truth.

This sweet child was jumping. Not jumping rope or jumping over obstacles. She wasn’t aiming for a target as far as I could tell. No, she was jumping for the sheer joy of it. Arms pumping as her little legs propelled her into the air. And with every landing, she giggled and shook her blonde curls. Then, she jumped again and again and again—each jump eliciting a joyous response.

As I walked, I marveled. This dear child was content.  Truly content. She didn’t need toys or equipment or fancy games to bring her happiness. Instead, she found joy in the simple act of jumping.

The more I walked, the more I realized how much I long to be like that little girl. I want to find joy in the little things. I want to make a big deal about all the good things in my life. The scale this morning said I'd lost a pound. Let’s celebrate! I received a $20 check in the mail yesterday for a survey I completed. Let the songs break forth. After several days of a very rough detox, I finally feel almost human again. Let’s do the Hokey Pokey (because honestly, that’s the only “dance” I know how to do.) But I think you get my meaning.

Why should we wait for the “big things” in life before we praise God or celebrate? Why don’t we recognize the many blessings we’ve been given, both big and small? Yes, as I thought about that precious child this morning, I wondered how much more I would enjoy life if I’d genuinely take time to appreciate it. Every minute. The sun on my face. The breeze through my hair. The colors of the sunset. The loving embrace of my husband. The nuzzles from my precious pooch. The ability to be, walk, and yes, even jump (though it may not be graceful).  

I’m reminded of the song, “Count Your Blessings,” but even more than that, I’m reminded that it’s more than just a song. It’s an essential ingredient for a joy-filled life. Sure, we can look around and find problems everywhere, but if we’d stop and count our blessings, we’d see they far outnumber the problems. The trouble is, we don’t notice all our blessings—only the “significant” ones. But, friend, that little girl reminded me this morning that every blessing is significant, and none of them should be taken for granted.

The Bible has a lot to say about child-like faith, but I think we would all do well, too, to have a child-like appreciation for the little things. We would all be much happier and much more content if we did.

 For who hath despised the day of small things?
— Zechariah 4:10a

Temperance as a Characteristic of Love

If we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.png

Leave it to the Lord to save the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) for last.  Yes, today, we’re talking about temperance—another word whose usage has been lost over the centuries.  However, if we pinpoint the beginning of the word, we’ll see something we’re all painfully familiar with—temper.

In its simplest definition, temperance means self-control or restraint.  It carries with it the idea of keeping a tight rein on our words, actions, attitudes, and desires.  This is not a popular principle in this day and age where people live to “get what they deserve.”  Between all-you-can-eat buffets, credit cards, and social media, our self-control is tested every day.  Should I go back for another plate, or is three enough?  Should I go ahead and spend the money on that new furniture even though I don’t have the money to spend?  And don’t even get me started on the rants that take place on social media.  Of course, this is only a few areas where our temperance is put to the test.

First Corinthians 13:5 tells us love is “not easily provoked.”  Jason and I joked about this on the way to the grocery store this morning.  He was in one of his playful moods (which translates into seeing how much he can annoy me) and was making this terrible clicking sound with his mouth.  After about ten seconds, I looked over at him, and I guess the expression on my face was comical because he burst out laughing.  “I was wondering how long you’d let me do that before giving me that look.”  I laughed too and told him how my devotion today was on temperance.  I don’t think his clicking truly provoked me but had he continued, I may have become a bit irritable.  So much for self-control, right?

As if that phrase doesn’t make us squirm enough, Paul doesn’t stop there.  He goes on in verse 7 to remind us that love bears all things.  The word “bear” in this verse implies a covering, as in love covers all sin.  It’s not that we excuse the sins of those we love but instead, we choose to overlook their faults and focus on their strengths, and let me tell you, that takes a lot of self-control.  So many times, it’s easier to see the bad than the good.  Dwelling on the negative leads to bitterness which then leads to hateful words and harsh actions.  From there, the downward spiral continues until marriages are ended, friendships are ruined, and other relationships are destroyed.

As I was praying about and considering my word for 2019, one that ranked high on the list was the word “choose.”  Had I decided to use it as my daily motto, it would have served as a reminder that I have a choice in how I think, act, and feel.  Each day, I choose to dwell on the positive or the negative.  I decide whether or not to surrender my will to God fully.  I determine how I act and what my attitude is like.  Each day is full of choices.  I can choose to let my temper get the best of me—to be easily provoked—or I can choose not to sweat the small stuff.  So what if Jason left his socks in the middle of the floor again?  In the grand scheme of things, does it matter?  Isn’t it more important that I focus on the fact that he took time out of his day off to help me with the grocery shopping so the task wouldn’t be too much for me?  Absolutely!

One phrase we carelessly use in our everyday language is the phrase:  “make me.”  For example, “he makes me so angry” or “she made me feel bad.”  Dear one, if we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.  No one can “make us” angry or emotional.  We choose to give in to those feelings, and that’s where temperance comes in.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  When someone says something unkind, my first reaction is to take the comment as a personal insult and give into the painful emotions that accompany that choice.  Instead, I should shrug my shoulders and hold fast to the truth found in God’s Word.  If someone doesn’t like it, oh well!  As long as I’m doing right, that’s all I need to worry about.  It’s not my job to please everyone in the process, and the sooner I get that through my thick skull, the better off I’ll be.

Temperance.  Self-control.  Restraint.  How are you doing today?  Are you easily provoked by someone’s annoying habits or quirky personality?  Do you find it difficult to look past the negative to focus on the positive?  Do you blame others for how you feel, speak, or act?  If so, you may want to talk with the Lord about helping you work on your temperance.  After all, if we—as Christians—lack self-control, how can we adequately portray the love of Christ?

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— II Timothy 1:7