The Wisdom of Words

         Golden apple by krzysiu                    “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me” was wrong–way wrong. Sometimes the deepest wounds are those caused by the sharp blade of hurtful words.

When I was around ten years old, a neighbor said I was “pleasantly plump.” Those words, meant well, have never left me. Who wants to be “pleasantly plump?” Words can cower a woman, destroy her spirit.  An abusive husband can tell a woman she’s worthless, never affirm her in her business or homemaking skills, or tell her she is important to him. A husband whose wife degrades him in front of others shows by words and actions that she doesn’t respect him. A child’s parents may tell him he has big ears, is lazy, stupid, uncoordinated.

Words can be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes I ask God to give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. Proverbs 10:19 warns against too many words: “Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” (NLT) A tremendous gift given to me after my first husband died was the attentive ear of a dear friend, who spent several hours sitting on the floor while I poured out my heart, talking about Jerry’s last day and his death. Her words were few, but precious. “Mmmmm ….”, “Oh my”, “I’m so sorry.” Sometimes listening in silence is the greatest gift we can give others.

Gossip destroys people and reputations. Lies and flattery hurt by raising false hopes; perverse or crude words bring others (as well as the speaker) down. And angry words destroy. It’s been said that the one thing you can never take back is your words. Once they have left the mouth they are always out there, never to be pulled back in. Thankfully, we can repent, we can ask those we’ve hurt to forgive us; but the damage can never be erased.

Another close friend ministered to me through words. A nurse, she told me how to read Jerry’s vital signs on the monitor and what each meant; how to know when his health was getting critical. So both silence and words can be a tremendous gift to others.

Wise words are a blessing. Proverbs 16:24 says it beautifully: “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (NLT) With our lips we praise God; and with our lips we encourage and influence others.

It was my eighth grade civics class. Our amazing teacher, Mrs. Goolsby, returned the graded tests to each of the students in the class, except me. What could have happened?

“Carol, I’d like you to stay after class for a few minutes.”

Mrs. Goolsby told me, in private, that I had failed the test. I was a reasonably good student, so this didn’t make sense to either of us. She questioned the process I’d used in answering the true/false questions and together, we figured out I had crossed out the right answer rather than crossing out the wrong one and leaving the correct one showing. When she re-graded the test with this criteria I had passed. But her words were kind, her heart discerning to understand what had gone wrong, and I knew she believed in me. Words of honey! And with her words, she influenced me for good.

The bottom line, as Pastor Val said last week, is that our words reveal our hearts.

Do you recall a time when words were either a curse or a blessing to you? How has that impacted your life?

“May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

The Beginning of Wisdom

New Year. New challenges. New hopes and dreams. And questions about what the year ahead holds for each of us. I don’t know about you, but I feel like wisdom may be my biggest need for 2018, and so, I choose it as my word. I’m sometimes unwise; my words can hurt or wound. I may ask questions when all someone needs is to be listened to, or know I’m praying for them. So where do I begin?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NKJV) Since the book of Proverbs mentions the fear of the Lord being the beginning, or foundation, of wisdom four times within the first ten chapters, it must be important. This kind of fear is not a quaking mentality, afraid something bad will happen. Instead, it is a reverence for God, an awe or respect, knowing He is holy and righteous and knows what is best, not only for me but for those in my circle of influence.

Several years ago I was offered something seemingly good, something that could open new doors, provide additional income, and be fun and exciting. But suddenly, in the middle of the conversation, my spirit revolted and I felt a loud, inner “NO!”

So I spoke the “No” aloud.

“Are you sure you don’t want to pursue this?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

And that ended that opportunity. But I believe the Spirit of God was letting me know, with great certainty, that this was not God’s best, and not a wise choice for me.

 

In order to experience God’s wisdom and direction, we need to know Him, to know how He works and what wisdom looks like. The apostle James described that kind of wisdom: “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” (James 3:17 NLT)

If wisdom starts with reverence for God, we need to spend time with Him. Romans 12:2 says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” We are transformed as we focus on Christ through time in the Word and in prayer.

And the good news is, it’s not all up to us. Our generous God promises to give wisdom as we ask in faith (James 1:5-6). So I plan to ask, to see, to rely on my loving Father for wisdom, trusting Him to provide what is needed as I lean on Him. How about you?

QUESTION: Do you have a word for the year? I’ve not done this before so would love to hear of your experience and learn from you.

 “Choose my (wisdom’s) instruction rather than silver, and knowledge over pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can be compared with it.” Proverbs 8:10-11 NLT

Love, Commitment and a New Year

The gifts have been unwrapped, wrapping paper has been cleaned up, joy-filled Christmas carols have been replaced by Easy Listening radio and Bowl games, and turkey leftovers are in the freezer. Today we’re taking down the tree.

As we enter a new year, many will make resolutions, many of which will go by the wayside before the end of the month. It is good, however, to reflect on the past year and consider where we might want to make changes.  Some of my goals, not resolutions, for 2018:  to know Christ better; to love and serve my husband, family and others; to build relationships and focus on presence.

And as I think of some memories from this Christmas just past, I am incredibly grateful for family.

It was the anniversary dance at my niece’s celebration of marriage. Don and I, who are not dancers, enjoyed holding each other and swaying to the music. We sat down pretty quickly, at “married ten years or less” (our eighth anniversary is this month).

The DJ kept counting.

“If you’ve been married fifteen years or less, sit down.” Some did.

“If you’ve been married twenty … twenty-five … thirty-two … thirty-seven …”

Of about twenty couples who started the dance, only two remained on the floor: my second oldest and my youngest brothers and their wives. My oldest brother would have been there too, had his wife been able to join us that day. Bob and Sheila left the dance floor at “forty or less”, while Arnold and Carol remained center stage until the DJ said “If you’ve been married fifty years or less …”

Dad & Mom, married 58 years

I loved seeing my brothers and sisters-in law out there, a testimony to the grace of God and to commitment over the long haul.

Bob’s tender gaze as he danced with Sheila touched my heart.

Carol had a life-changing stroke five years ago. Her mobility is limited, despite her determination to regain health and strength, to relearn the use of muscles and processes from walking, to using her hands. So to see the love she and Arn share, the laughter and joy they express with each other, and to see them standing, Carol dependent on Arnold for stability, on the dance floor after fifty years of marriage was especially meaningful. And to have the last two couples on the dance floor be two of my brothers and sisters-in-law touched my heart with thanksgiving. It speaks to the values we have learned from our parents, from our understanding of God’s principles about love and commitment, and to the grace of God in our family’s life. Each of us has faced hardships. We’ve lost family members we treasured. Marriages have gone through difficult challenges. But our commitment to God and family has kept us together, and I thank God for His grace in each of our lives and marriages.

So as we move into this new year, I pray God’s grace on each of us, and on you, my dear readers. Grace for each day, each trial, each joy, each marriage and family. As Tiny Tim so aptly said, “God bless us, everyone!”

Joyful Christmas!

 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

 

God sent His Son, Jesus the Christ, to enter our world so that we might have the incredible privilege of entering His!

May you experience the joy of the Light of the World this Christmas and in the New Year. 

Generosity … of Life and Spirit

I walked into her home, my mind and tummy anxious, swirling with confusion, a decision needing to be made. The last thing I wanted was to visit someone I’d never met. And yet, as Ilene greeted me at the front door, I felt a sense of calm settle over me. There was something about her, something I couldn’t even define, that spoke peace. I think it was generosity of spirit, a warmth that took me in right where I was, dark thoughts notwithstanding, and helped me to feel at home.

Have you met anyone like that? Someone whose very presence stilled your soul?

In talking about living a richer life, our church has focused on generosity. So often we think of giving in terms of finances–and that’s important. There are a myriad of needs that go far beyond what I can help; but I can help. I can give to the Food Bank or purchase a gift for a child of a parent in prison; I can contribute to special giving projects, or hand out small food packets to men and women asking for help along my routes to and from the grocery store. I can give to a fresh water project in a third world country; a goat or chickens for a family struggling to make a living to raise something that can bring in income as well as food products for themselves.

And generosity goes beyond that. Ilene’s extension of her peace to my heart was a tremendous gift at that particular time in my life. There is something about a generous spirit, especially one that radiates the love of Jesus Christ, that shines light into the darkness around us. The prophet Isaiah promised that “People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; Sitting in that dark, dark country of death, they watched the sun come up.”

What’s your life purpose? Mine? I love how THE MESSAGE expresses this in Matthew 5:13-16.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth … You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?Shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

Generosity stems from recognizing the free gift of God, celebrated in this holy season when the true light exploded into the darkness with the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of all mankind.

  • He gave us His Son, a gift of unconditional, overarching love from the Creator to the created.
  • He gave us forgiveness through the Cross.
  • He gave us eternal life that starts the moment we receive His free gift of salvation.
  • He gives grace, day by day, for the challenges we face.
  • He gives joy that goes much deeper than happiness, joy that is rooted in knowing Him.
  • He gives peace that stems from knowing He is in control and has our best at heart.

So at those times when resentment creeps into my heart because someone may take my generosity farther than I intended, I want to use the opportunity as a thank offering to God for all He’s done for me, and for stretching me beyond my comfort zone.

Let’s SHINE this Christmas with the light, life, and giving heart of our God.

Question: Is it easier for you to give money or practical help, or to give of yourself with time and presence? I’d love to discuss.