Let My Words Be Few

 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.  

Proverbs 21:23

How many times have you said something you immediately wish you could take back? Over my lifetime, I would say probably countless times. In the past couple of years, the answer would regretfully be the same. Not all of my carelessly uttered words have led me to calamity, but sometimes they cause me instant discomfort because I know I've said something out of my flesh and not of my spirit. By speaking, I also mean posting, and I've admitted before that I got a little carried away on Twitter, and I deeply regret the things I said in my height of emotion over the election. In hindsight, I should have never allowed myself to get so upset over things that are so media-driven and I was very influenced and inflamed by the things I was reading and seeing online. My flesh was all in. 

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 

Matthew 26:41

Over the past couple of years, I finally stopped talking and reacting, I've had a chance to think about a lot of things. Mostly because the solitude has caused me to have a lot of alone time, but also because it has been a time of significant change. Whenever significant changes are happening around us, we should be thinking more than we are speaking. I'll go even further and say that our thoughts should lead us to prayer. Though introspection is normal, it can't be trusted! Taking our concerns to God and leaving them with Him is the only way to make it through a time when our words don't seem to be making any impact at all. 

It's been a target-rich time of hearing about what negative things others are "against" and not enough positive things of what they stand "for". Every day we are hearing and sometimes regurgitating about the world's problems and negativity and not enough talk of solutions and positive changes. I sometimes feel I'm living in "opposite world", where good is seen as bad, and bad is seen as good, and quite honestly, being alone has been my refuge from it all. 

 I've sat and thought about people whose lives I've poured into by way of attending their important events, investing in  them, or spent time in deep conversations about sensitive and emotional topics, who disconnected with me over political differences. I've remembered how they once declared how my devotion to them was unmatched, yet was derailed in an instant, and left me questioning everything I thought I knew about friendship and love, and what I've been doing all these years. I am now left with higher boundaries, maybe a wall or two, and a very guarded sense of who even belongs in my life. 

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool. 

Ecclesiastes 5:2-4 

Friends, we are letting this happen when we let our flesh dictate our spirits. When we are not only listening to fools, but we are repeating them, and then sounding like them too. Let's "let our words be few". We need to get quiet. Let the Lord speak to our hearts, tell us what to say, if anything at all, but we should know who and what is more important without having to be told, shouldn't we? That is what has been plaguing my thoughts all along. We should all know better that people are more important, but results prove otherwise. 

We decided to let what we are "against" represent who we are instead of Who we are for, and who we love.  

We stood on a platform and said, "If you don't agree with me on this one temporary, singular, changeable, worldly thing, you're not my brother, sister, friend, mother, father, son.." Even though you were the ONE person who stood in the gap for me. People, why did we do this? Hey, I know there are some pretty big issues out there, and I've been disappointed in some opinions and ideas around me too, but if we can't have conversations and we can't talk like reasonable people with the people we love, then there is something seriously flawed in us. And that needs to be seriously changed.  This is not why we are here. Politics, economics, business, school, success, yes. All of that is of the world, important ,but it's temporary, and it's still not why we are here. When we elevate those things above people, we will fail as people. 

When people leave the friends and family that they said they loved and turn and bond with others, especially strangers,  over the things they hate together, that is a problem. It's a flesh problem. While they may think it's a sign of unity and strength, it's the most common sign of weakness and flesh failure I can even imagine. It's a cop-out, and if that person would stop and listen to their spirit speak, their flesh would shrivel on the spot. 

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Galatians 5:13-15 

The strongest I've had to be is trying to relate to anyone I love who is completely opposite of me! As much as you are tired of me pushing my olive branch at you and bored of hearing me say this, we are to love one another. (John 15:12) It's not always fun. It's not always easy. I don't wanna do it sometimes either, okay? People can be complicated and I'm sure I'm not a barrel of fun either at times. But there is a reason it's a command and not a suggestion. I have opinions, I have judgments, I have my own mind too. But none of that is more important than peace in my relationships. 

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

Proverbs 10:12 

All hate does is causes more hate and more fighting. It does nothing but prove that the flesh is weak. It's easy to sit around and talk about the things we all "hate". But let's talk about the things we love and see how the conversations change us. Let's see how short those social media scrolling times would be!  Love covers all offenses. All of them. That's interesting, isn't it? Because it's true. What the Bible says is true. 

You may not see these things on social media, which is not a place where things are necessarily trustworthy! If you are reading Facebook more than an hour a day, then you are most likely way more influenced by what you are reading than what you even think. We are influenced by what and who we spend the most time with each day. If you are spending time with a toxic person or a place that shares a constant flow of toxicity every hour of every day, you can be affected by that. That is the main reason I go to the Bible for my news. The more I know about God, the less I trust the world, and that's the way it's meant to be. You are most affected by the person you spend the most time with. Let that person be the Lord, who knows you and loves you best.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 

Romans 12:2 

It has been a challenging time of hearing and seeing things that can get our blood boiling, no matter what it is that upsets us. The news alone can get me so upset that I can feel my body tensing up in a way that promotes pre-seizure activity. Since seizures thrive in stress-rich environments, I really have to allow God to take over my life. I can't allow my mind or my body to take on that kind of burden anymore. The truth is, even if it doesn't look like it, God is in control of the world and the situations that seem very dire. All of my stressing and worrying won't change a thing! 

And that includes dealing with people who stress me out! We don't have to engage in stressful conflicts, conversations, or even relationships that completely drain us of our spirits. In fact, it's foolish for us to do that. 

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 

Proverbs 12:18 

You and I have a choice every day to either be part of the problem or the solution. We can't control another person's reactions to the state of the world, and to try would be out of our wheelhouse. All we can do is stay at peace, continue to ask God into any and all situations, and let our words be few unless God asks us to speak into it. I will add that "letting our words be few" includes watching what we read and post on social media. Sometimes we get all ramped up on things we see that aren't even true, and arguments are based on someone else's misguided opinions and non-facts.  I will state here again that unplugging from social media over a year ago has given me a peace that has certainly passed understanding!  We can be our own peace, and we can be a source of peace for others by simply being peaceful. Who in your life is a source of peace? For me, that is Norm Sawyer. Thank you, Norm! You're a rock who knows how to rock PEACE. Whenever I find myself out of sorts, I think to myself, "what would Norm think?" And I already know. He would keep his peace about it, because he trusts the Lord, so that's what I will do too. 

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. 

Proverbs 17:27 

You in the Mirror

 There is so much to get "worked up" about these days and in these tumultuous times, isn't there? I don't know what gets you all upset and bothered, but all I can say is that I've had enough. I'm tired of angry people, mostly arguing about things they don't know everything about, and things that they can't control, which is why they are angry in the first place. 

I've had enough of hearing all about it, feeling one way or another about it, getting upset about it, or being subjected to the constant barrage of opinions and news pieces about this, that and the other thing about whatever is going on here, there, and everywhere. All I know is that God knows the outcome of ALL of this, and no matter how it looks to us, it all has a purpose to God, and somehow, some way, if we manage to stay peaceful and kind and open throughout this, we will be USED for His good purpose. But we really can't lose our cool! We just cannot!

The truth is, what I think I know and how it all makes me feel, has no bearing on the outcome of any of these events. Wars, fires, shortages, viruses, floods, storms, politics, and on and on. These things will continue until the end of time, and have been around since the beginning of time. No one's opinion has ever changed that. Not one person's opinion- whether hate or rage-filled, self-righteous, indignant, and full of vitriol for all who disagree, or gentle, peace-minded, intelligent and full of factual information. Opinions don't change outcomes.   

 According to Scripture, there are seven things that God hates- haughtiness (looking down on other people), killing the innocent (people who can't defend themselves), plotting evil (thinking in advance how to hurt others), racing to do wrong (full of revenge and feeling right to plot evil), a false witness (lying about other people), sowing discord (dividing groups of people by creating tension and causing uproars). Proverbs 6:16

All of those things have one thing in common-All the stuff we do to HURT OTHER PEOPLE. He doesn't want us running around like half-cocked, selfish, loose-lipped idiots, because it puts us in a position to sin, and further separates us from HIM. We are to love God and love others above ourselves. Matthew 22:35-40

So how do you do that when you feel like "plotting evil" against those "false witnesses" sometimes?? I mean, I have a few rotten tomatoes in my garden that could really splaaaat, ya know what I'm saying?? Okay, I'm just kidding, but it can get really frustrating when someone's outlandish actions affect your territory. I mean, they do warn you at Sea World to not sit in the front row if you don't want to get wet. Some people will still blame Shamu for swimming in water and splashing them. It can get pretty dicey if you try to fight it, friends. Sometimes you just have to put the two things at the ends of your arms over your ears and close your peepers to the things that make you wonder if aliens are among you. 

These days I choose peace over making a statement because it's more important to reflect who God is than who I am. It's gonna be okay. Not today, but someday. If you want to choose peace but you just find those lips a bit loose, stick a Tootsie Pop in there. It worked all throughout our kids' sports years. (insert smile here) 

God guarantees that someday it will be okay, but not here on earth. John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." It can't be good here, because we're all doing detestable things to each other with blatant disregard.  We're living out of God's Will, treating each other poorly, and disregarding the knowledge and wisdom we were given instead of taking care of each other the way He intended. 

It takes more than a few people doing things right to turn things around. It takes all of them-all of us, in fact, and we all know that won't happen without God's eventual intervention. We are to live at peace with one another, loving our neighbors, being slow to anger and (James 1:19), quick to forgive, and that is not happening in many nations and many situations in our own lives, families, and  little towns. We need to make better choices, as I used to say ad nauseum to my girls as they were growing up. Better choices lead to better relationships and better outcomes. 

 Sadly, a year and a half later, people still can't even agree on a simple piece of fabric! I will say here that I am grateful that for the past many many years, all of my surgeons and health care providers have worn face coverings, and in my doctor's offices, pre-pandemic, they were encouraged and provided for cancer patients, immune-compromised individuals, and otherwise unhealthy patients for protection of others' or their own airborne germs. Back when it was accepted as a fact, that is. 

 But like I said, our "opinions" are changing nothing and seeming to cause a lot of division and discord, which God despises. I can really see why God would despise discord. It really is annoying. I am praying for those who have children in schools right now, for those who are in the healthcare profession, for those who are having to make decisions in these fields, and for those who are still fighting this virus every day in one way or another. Prayer does a couple of things. It helps us to see things the way God sees them, and it helps us to shoot down our own opinions and solutions to problems, understanding that we don't have all the answers to everything. If that makes me a "sheep", then so be it, as God calls me that, and it's an honor. 

If I am to try to see this as God does, then my own opinion doesn't count for much, does it? As I approach many other social situations with a heart for God, this one is no different for me. If I am loving my neighbor and putting my neighbor and their children first, then I would want to do them no harm. For me personally, I ask God to show me what that looks like to HIM. How does God want me to protect others, to love others, to show them I respect them, and to be a part of society that listens, cares, and seeks to be productive and not stuck in my own opinions to the point of causing others' harm or distress. How do I go about my life loving God and being a reflection of that love and not just being a "Christian" and a "bible thumper". I have never been the latter, by the way, but I have bumped into my bible a few times and knocked it on the floor. Klutzy, I am. 

We can ask God for the insight that we need that only He can give to help us invite the change needed to turn this around, but if you don't want to change because you always think your way is right, then your scenery will always look the same. That's all I can say about that. 

Blessings to you, and stay away from all the news and the articles that make you want to toss your rotten tomatoes. It's just not worth the extra energy! Spend time in your garden thanking God for the tomatoes that grew. 

Going Bananas

 A quick check of the headline news and a few stories in, and I'm already shaking my head. I saw a quote that summed up my feelings on most individuals in the stories I read- "It's like we're dealing with a 2-year old who puts their hands over their eyes when they're playing hide-and-seek. They think because they can't see you, you can't see them." 

The problem is that it's adults in places of power with their hands over their eyes. I sit here wishing they would place their hands directly over their mouths and open those two things on the sides of their heads called EARS. The things we were given by God for the purpose of hearing and listening.  There doesn't seem to be a lot of that going on these days, from the contents of these news stories. 

And while I'm on the topic of using senses, why are so many people willing to stop using theirs when it comes to such important things? Try as I might to be all patient and graceful, there are days I just want to go bananas on people who act like they graduated from some top medical school with a political science degree and have somehow become fluent in all things biomedical, with a top of their field medical- political science -I -know -it- all -and -no one -else- can- tell -me -any- different -law degree, and they are now holding some kind of prestigious office in the government of which I've not ever heard of or will ever become aware. Somehow we are all privy to the outward actions and complaints of many and solutions of none, though all of this "knowledge" is powerful, correct, new, but "hidden", and these actions are "right" and "justified" and everyone must utilize them because they are the "truth". What in the actual weird Al Yankovich are they talking about?? See what I mean, it makes me bananas! Lord, help me put my hands over my eyes, my ears, and everything else! Calgon, take me away!  Something do something! Anything! But is that the answer? What even is the question?

I'm not here just to complain, although releasing my banana nut thoughts here does make me feel a bit better. We all get a little nutty after awhile. The world is a bit of a mixed bag right now, and let's face it, people are wild, fickle and crazy sometimes! I'm here to attempt/offer some solutions/peace, and I'll get there eventually. I heard another analogy awhile back, and I use this one often and for many situations. My kids are probably tired of it, and now it's your turn. 

When you are approaching a red light at an intersection at 2 or 3am, do you stop? I mean, there are likely no vehicles coming, right? It's not like any police officers would see you just driving through without stopping. So why do you stop?  I stop because I'm a law-abiding citizen, for one thing, and for another, I stop because it's the RIGHT thing to do. I stop because I don't want MY careless actions to hurt or kill another person just because I may THINK it doesn't matter. I sense that my contribution to this earth or lack thereof directly affects another person; whether someone else is watching or not, another car is coming, or even if I don't agree that I should have to stop. Our actions matter. We affect other people, whether we like to admit it or not, whether it's convenient or feels good to do or not. Even if it doesn't seem to make sense at the time. Our choices can and do affect other people, like it or not. 

There is always a bigger picture even when we are seeing a very small piece of it. When we are all jammed up in our minds, angry and twisted up about an issue or a situation, we tend to be very tunnel-visioned about it. We can only see OUR side of it, and very little anything anyone else says has any bearing on changing that view. Trying to change a behavior like this is like trying to medicate a dead person. You will get absolutely nowhere. It won't change a thing! (I heard this somewhere, though I can't recall where) Hence, all the arguing, complaining, negativity, and "getting nowhere" we are all experiencing pretty much everywhere. If I don't want to stop at a red light at 2am, why should I? It's not "hurting" anybody! Until it kills someone. And even after it kills a lot of someones, there will still be someone arguing that a red light at 2am is ridiculous. Because there are always a lot of someones who don't think their actions affect anyone but themselves, and that is actually not true. 

 How on earth can we shut it down? Turn off that infernal noise of hearing people complain and the incessant arguing around us, the negativity of the news and the world? I've been accused of wanting to wear "rose-colored glasses" when I choose not to discuss bad news in my home during a holiday or any time, for that matter. This is not so. But I do think we all have the right to decide what kind of mood we want to set in our homes  when conversations start, and if I don't want the people in my home to feel stressed or upset by the latest bad news, I will change the subject respectfully. It certainly doesn't mean I "put my head in the sand", thank you very much for yet another analogy of what I don't do. There is a time and a place. We can all take control of our own lives, and setting an example of living out our peace, even while a war of sorts rages on in the world around us. It doesn't mean we don't care! Rather it means we know the difference between what we can control and what we can't, what we should react to and what we should respond to, and the kinds of toxins we need to keep from rotting out our hearts. 

 I have a couple of methods for dealing with my disappointments with life and people at the moment. I'm not sure how great it's going, but with a chronic medical condition that thrives on stress, I have to do what's best for my mental health and my body. So here are my tips for survival: 1. Avoid social media (no Facebook, no Twitter, not even Instagram, and let me tell you, I don't miss it one bit!) 2. Limit news to a short period per day (most of it is biased, and slanted toward whoever the president of that broadcast company supports politically. We all know this) 3. Lots of prayer for God to show me how to love others better, humble myself more, be more understanding, and be patient and kind. (I'll let you know how that is going) 4. Bible study, writing, reading, and quiet time in nature.  5. focus on the bigger picture. This too shall pass! I'm trusting God for the outcome.  I am believing for a full and healthy life that I never thought was possible, including a  healthy body and healthy, honest friendships. (Independent voters who love God, dogs, nature, and very very light to no political talk need only apply! see #3 LOL)

One thing to remember in this time of great division and destruction in our world is that God is still God. He's still the one who relentlessly pursues us and the people we are most at odds with every day. He won't forget us or the ones we have concerns about. We can trust Him with our worries and with the actions of those around us. We can ask God to help us love as He loves, understand as He understands, see as He sees, be humble like He is humble, be patient as He is patient, and be concerned about the state of others' hearts more than the quality of their opinions and actions. (and our own as well!) We can deposit people at the feet of Jesus, ask Him to care for them, and go about our business, nut and bananas free! Remember, we may see "them" as the problem, but they see "us"' as the problem, and until we all realize that we are all a part of the problem, the problem stays very well fed. Only trust in God followed by action can starve the problem. 

Blessings to you as you navigate this crazy world.  Maybe you're trying to forge different relationships with your family or reestablish wayward friends or looking to find some new friends. Maybe you're the one who caused a rift and you're looking to mend the fence you've blown. Whatever you have been forced to face, just know you will always have God at your side and on your side, facing it with you. 

Truth, Unfiltered

  "Everyone loves the honest person until the honest person strikes a chord with a truth they weren't ready to receive."

Isn't that the truth? Have you ever tried to extend help to a complaining person and it turned out they really didn't want help at all, but they just wanted to keep complaining? Your "help" became an intrusion into their narrative of "poor poor pitiful me", and how dare you try to give them any kind of solution! 

It can be very frustrating to listen to a person continually complain about the same thing, over and over, especially when they do nothing proactive to change. And that same person will flat out ignore any knowledge, wisdom, or resources given to help them along the way. 

Sometimes I sit and marvel at the dummies who had Jesus right there next to them, sitting in his robe and sandals, and they STILL didn't listen or heed his advice. How blind do you have to be? 

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel. 

Proverbs 12:15 

We can tell someone the same thing over and over, but eventually we need to realize that communicating isn't the problem. Their comprehension of not only the problem, but the solution, is the problem. We can't solve other people's problems. As frustrating as it can be to have the same complaint dumped at our feet each time, we have to learn not to pick it up, make it ours, and just keep blowing smoke at it with futility. Some people like talking about their problems more than they really desire to fix them. And I'm quite convinced that people really like talking about the world's problems without offering any intelligent solutions at all. 

I have a few solid people in my life who tell me the raw and honest, unfiltered truth. I need them. I need the truth all the time. I don't want it whitewashed and candy-coated. I need to know when I'm full of malarkey, when I'm fooling myself, when I'm off-base, or off my rocker. I need to know and I want to know the truth, and if you tiptoe around me or you walk on eggshells around it with me, I will know two things about you: 1. You don't really know me, and  2. You probably don't love me. Love equals honesty with me. And if I am able to be honest in return, we've got a deal made in heaven for eternity. 

If I tell you the truth and I'm being open and honest with you, it means I feel I know you and I care about you and love you and vice versa.  If I'm withholding, it means either you haven't allowed me to get to know you, we don't know each other well yet, or there isn't enough love or care between us at that point. Otherwise, the relationship will be sweet and surface, polite, complete with a muffin and coffee.  My least favorite kind. 

I have learned over the last two years that when I have spoken my truth or my heart, it has repelled the people who said they cared about me and would never step out of my life. However, they had felt or said those things because I kept myself at a distance from the topics I knew would cause hurt feelings among THEM. Again, communication can help or hurt, but comprehension is everything, and I knew I couldn't count on either of those things, and I was right.  People will only hear what serves them sometimes, and that certainly does not make for a very productive conversation, does it? An honest conversation really requires the one element that probably hurt me more than any of those interactions: love. A lack of love exposed will crack any relationship wide open and reveal just how shallow it was the whole time.  As the saying goes, the truth hurts. 

The truth people need to be ready to receive is that it's not what is going on in the world, or what people say to us (whether well-meaning, true or not), or even what we are saying quietly to ourselves. We are all under a much higher authority and a much more open mind than any of us can ever possess, and that is God. God works with us and through us, but if we aren't turning to Him every day for the insight and the direction we need for ourselves, then we can offer little direction for anyone else. 

When I even spend my daily 10 minutes updating myself on the US headline news on my Canadian (unbiased) news app, I find myself twisting up inside. When I spend 30 minutes with God and reading what the Bible says, and how I am to be conducting myself and toward others, I feel at peace. It's no wonder that there are millions of angry, unproductive, miserable, prideful, fatigued, and disgruntled people around the world. I am willing to bet there are more people spending their day watching garbage news than filling their minds with what God says about them. Is that a fair assumption based on what you've experienced with people lately? My goodness I'm tired of negative people and negative words and negative actions everywhere! 

One of my truth-telling dear friends, Norm, instructed me to step into the grass in my bare feet and spend some time asking God for my healing. I didn't just brush off his suggestion. I actually flipped off my shoes, as did my husband, and we spent the day in our bare feet up north, basking in the sun, and spending time in the Spirit of God and nature. When is the last time you took a dear friend's suggestion to heart? Do you know how many times I have suggested something to a friend and it gets brushed off? I would guess probably every time. But I value what Norm says because of two things in me: I want to see a change in me, and I believe in him and the results that his life reflects. I want to be more like Jesus, and Norm does too. Does that involve telling me things I don't like to hear sometimes? Yes, but if I'm wise, I'll listen. If I'm a fool, I won't. It's that simple. 

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof, leads others astray. 

Proverbs 10:17

You have to want to change, and part of change is recognizing the truth of the problem.  If you want to know what God thinks about you and what you're doing, you have to be willing to listen, put the time in, and make the changes. If you don't, then don't complain that your life isn't the life you want. God will use other people to tell you the truth sometimes, and maybe you'll strike out at them or not want them around anymore, but eventually if you are ready to listen, you will welcome the honesty and you will take the instruction. In other words, you'll take that humble pill we all need to take sometimes and get busy getting yourself better. 

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. 

Ephesians 4:15 ESV