When Words are MORE Than Enough

It started out as merely two friends in deep conversation. Two friends sharing their hearts and their struggles. Yet slowly, it developed into sharing more than just personal struggles, it evolved into sharing the struggles of others. The shortcomings of those who were not privy to our intimate conversation. And while it began innocently enough, with words expressing true concern for another’s life, it subtly turned to something more. It became a platform for conjecture, a discussion of what might possibly be within the heart of others that would prompt such actions from them. Slowly, twist by turn, what began as an innocent conversation between two friends became a platform that set the stage for gossip to rear its ugly head.

I daresay, we’ve all lived there more often than we care to admit. Expressing concern… that became conjecture… that became gossip. How easily our hearts can be fooled. How subtly Satan invades the corners of our conversations, slipping in unawares until he has wiggled a slimy toehold and turned it into a foothold that, if left unchecked, can quickly become a stronghold. All in the guise of expressing “concern” for another.

Gossip. A sin that seems so trite in comparison to the atrocities of evil that haunt this world, yet a sin that overpowers so many of us with its glib tongue. And while I know that gossip is a sinful destination that I would do well to avoid completely, nevertheless, I find that I’m still so easily tricked into being led there along a pathway that stems from a heart of care and concern. How can cares become so insidious? How can concern give sway to gossip so easily? More importantly, how can I protect myself from walking that path at the next given opportunity?

Perhaps the best defense against so sly and crafty a foe is to pray the words of Psalm 141:3-4a — Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing…

For as surely as the tongue leads, so shall the heart steadily follow. How quickly the pure streams of living water become muddied with the additives of loose lips. The psalmist here seems to get that. He understands that he who holds the tongue holds the heart, and he who holds the heart holds the man. And that is why his plea is placed before God; that’s why his prayer entreats the King to not abandon him to his own inclinations. For if left to ourselves, history has proven that we will soon leave the right.

While freedom of speech is a portion of  independence I value greatly, it does not give me the privilege to accuse or slander others with my words, even words expressed as prayer concerns. (Did anyone else cringe with that sentiment?) But let’s be real here: All too often, Christians attempt to excuse our gossip by turning it into a prayer of concern for others, expounding on the “details” so that everyone can join us in praying more “effectively.” The truth is, we would do best to pray a prayer asking God to bless us with the grace of silence. More often than not, that is really the only prayer that needs to be implemented.

The next time you sense your conversation is about to be hijacked by that sly foe called gossip, I encourage you (and include myself in this charge) to implement the grace of silence. Exercise caution and ask the Lord to keep the doors of your lips. For in most cases, silence really is golden. Especially when talking with friends with whom we have a tendency to overshare. Proceed with care and be on guard, only opening the gateway to words when something good and true is to be said. 

Otherwise, we would do well to stick to our mothers’ sage advice: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Let’s join the psalmist in committing our mouths and our tongues to the Lord.

For if the tongue and the heart are under God’s care, all is safe.

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Overflowing

How can the ocean be so full?
Ounces and pints upon multitudes of
Untold gallons of sea water.
Always moving with the fullness it contains.
Sometimes violently thrashing,
Other times gently caressing the shores.
But always in motion.
Always full.
Never lacking.

Lord, make me an ocean of Your presence.
Fill me with the glory found in knowing You.
Move me
To brush against others
With the waves of Your glory
Rising within.
Never stagnant.
Always flowing.

Erupt Your glorious presence from the
Depths of my being.
Move me with purpose,
Steadily closer to Your heart
And to others
With wave after wave
Of Your glory poured forth
Upon dry, sun-baked souls.

Release the glory
Contained in earthen vessel
For Your glory.
Caress the world
With violent grace
Poured forth from this life
Overflowing with You.

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With Hearts Poured Out

I was thrilled to have my adult daughter home for a visit during the recent Christmas holidays. This morning, before preparing to return to her own home several states away, she took a few moments to sort through some of her items still stored in a cedar chest at our house. In her searching, she stumbled upon some diaries from her early childhood (by early, I’m referring to her life as an 8-10 year old). Through smiles and tears, she read aloud line after line of scribblings from a young girl’s heart poured upon diary pages. The range of emotions disclosed were as random as the thoughts being shared:

My brother is a pain. I mean it.

My friend’s birthday is in two weeks and I haven’t heard anything about her birthday party. I wonder if I’ll be invited. Good grief!

 … I’m going to a birthday party today. I was invited!

My little sister is lying in bed beside me. She said “kitty” today. 

Nobody fills my heart like Jesus.

Today me and Lisa made pretzels at Grandma Pat’s house. They had icing with sprinkles.

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We went to my brother’s ballgame and I made a new friend.

I just got home. Lydia hit me. Micah pushed me. And I had to get a bath.

My best friends are mad at me and I don’t know why.

As much as I hate to see my grandma in pain, I know she hates to see me in tears.

I went on a day out with Mom. I had so much fun. We rode up and down on the escalators. I like days out with Mom.

Grandma looks like she won’t live to tomorrow. I love my grandma. I keep asking God to help her, but I think He wants to bring her home.

We went to visit Grandma. She was lying in her bed. I watched as she suffered. Then I crawled up in bed with her. Her eyes started to close and she made a weird noise, then she went to be with God. I love her and I miss her very much. But deep down, I’m happy for her because she has seen God.

I’m spending the night at my great aunt’s house with my grandpa. We went in a canoe on the lake. Grandpa is sitting up in the chair late at night. I think he does that a lot.

The Lord is my strength and my salvation.

I love Jesus. Jesus is Lord.

As we sat together on the bedroom floor, we laughed at the silliness of her comments and the now-funny irritations with her siblings. We cried together as she struggled to read through the grief-filled thoughts of a ten-year-old granddaughter praying for her dying grandma. And we wiped those tears as we saw the script “Jesus is Lord” written as the final words on the inside cover of a little girl’s diary.

As I watched my daughter climb into her car and drive away, I couldn’t help but smile at the treasure she had shared with me from her diaries of long ago. The memories that she stirred have stayed with me throughout the day and have prompted me to dwell upon the past – both the blessings and the sorrows. And I found my thoughts turning toward this reminder from Psalm 62:8.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;

Pour out your heart before Him;

God is a refuge for us.

As much as I enjoyed hearing the thoughts of my daughter’s heart shared from long ago, I can only imagine how God wants us to come to Him much like that once 8-year-old girl approached her diary. No secrets could not be shared. No thoughts could not be penned. They simply poured out like water upon the pages.

I love the psalmist’s idea of pouring out my heart like water before my heavenly Father. Allowing myself to be so softened by His grace that whatever is within me flows out easily as a liquid, not clogging or catching with hard flecks of bitter sediments. All my emotions, with their sorrows and their joys; my desires, those that are mere wishes and others that are true callings; my prayers for myself, for loved ones, and for strangers; my hopes and dreams of things to come; my frustrations and pain over private history that has already occurred and has been received as less than desirable in my life.

Pouring out my heart to God while holding nothing back can be hard. Because it requires trust. It requires that I have a trust in Him to receive my offerings and to sort through my thoughts, storing up those that are worthy while discarding or refining those that are so much less than what they should be. In trusting God, I am also entrusting Him with everything that is in me. Sharing those deep, abyss-like secrets that I withhold from all others. Pouring out the good, the bad, and the downright horrid. Casting myself before a love that knows no bounds as I confront the issues within myself and fling them before the mercy seat of the Most High.

Trusting, always trusting that there is nothing that can not be made known to my Father. No thought too appalling to expose, no longings too deep to be shared, no sorrow too heavy that it cannot be borne by the Lover of my soul.

Indeed, God is a refuge for us. For one. For all.
But He is so much more than just a refuge – He is all the refuge that we need.

As we approach this New Year of 2013, may we do so with liquid hearts. Hearts soft enough to pour out before the One who already knows everything that is within them. Hearts strong enough to trust that our Father will receive those thoughts that we treasure and those pains that we process. But most of all, may we have hearts determined to love Him through it all – from the smallest of cares to the greatest of needs. May we repeat the childlike refrain from hands that penned these words of truth, “I love Jesus. Jesus is Lord.”

No matter what tomorrow holds, we can trust that He holds our tomorrows.

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Almost Free

Even when it hurts, even when it’s hard,
Even when it all just falls apart,
I will run to You, ’cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul, Healer of my scars.
You steady my heart.
You steady my heart.

Over the past few days, these words from the song recorded by Kari Jobe have been playing on a continuous loop in my mind. After hearing this melody for the first time, my thoughts turned to the familiar lines from Psalm 57, My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.  And being the word freak that I am, I had to pull out my concordance and dig up the original Hebrew definition. In short, the meaning of steadfast is: to be erect (standing perpendicular); fixed; confident; prepared; ready.

Hmm… how often am I really steadfast in praising God? That’s the million dollar question. Unlike the psalmist who resolved to stand firm in the midst of all troubles, my heart is more likely to faint at the first whisperings of doubt. Instead of being wholly bent to give God praise, I’m more likely to bend under the weight of my fears or insecurities. Wavering, inconsistent, weakened, distracted – now those are words with which I can relate. And yet, God desires that I lean into Him and become resolute in trusting that He is the One who holds “each and every moment; what’s good and what gets broken.” In essence, He is continually inviting me to accept His invitation to steady my heart.

When I looked at the Free Online Dictionary definition of the word “steady,” it had the expected meanings that were similar to my concordance’s rendering for “steadfast”- firm in position or place; fixed; unfaltering; sure, etc. But one of the definitions listed gave me pause: Free or almost free from change, variation, or fluctuation.
Almost free.

Those words sprang from my computer screen and burrowed into my heart as I realized that, all too often, I live according to the world’s standard of freedom. I live in the spiritual condition of being almost free.

Instead of clinging to the truth of John 8:36 which states, Therefore; if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed, I settle for being almost free.  While I do allow God to steady my heart and fill me with His hope, I can’t say that I do so without stipulations. Without reservations. Without holding on to a few of those niggling doubts. I stop short of living God’s promise of complete freedom and fall for living the world’s lie of almost free, instead.

The sad realization is that Almost free = Still enslaved.

But I’m awakening to Satan’s schemes. While I may not yet be fully conscious, I’m not completely snoozing any longer, either. And in this state of awakening, I’m determined to accept the invitation that my Savior offers. The invitation to live with a heart free indeed because of His steadfast love and mercy. Free to love and be loved by the One who holds me in His hand and steadies my heart so I can steadfastly praise Him.
Even when it hurts.
Even when it’s hard.
Even when I’m tempted to believe that I am only almost free.