How Living in Grace Helps Us Guard Our Words

Man holding hand over his mouthMy words have gotten me into a heap of trouble. I’ve initiated and meddled in arguments I shouldn’t have, fought to be right rather than understand, and wreaked destruction in the name of self-defense.

Considering the consequences wrought from my careless, and often damaging, statements, one would think I’d have learned to guard my words. But though I’ve memorized, prayed, and recited verses addressing this issue numerous times, I continue to stumble.

Here’s why: I’ve been fighting the symptom instead of the cause.

Whenever my mouth (or keyboard) runs a muck, my pride’s at fault. The solution, then, is surrender—making Jesus, obedience to Him, and the intimacy that follows (rather than man’s opinion) my treasure.

Let me explain using Proverbs 18:2 as an example: “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.”

Because we believe we know best, need to defend ourselves, or prove our point.

Often, this is triggered by fear (which, 90% of the time is rooted in pride)—fear of losing face or not getting something we want or hope for. But in our desire to elevate or defend ourselves, we can miss crucial unspoken “heart talk.”

Let me give an example. A while back, I engaged in a somewhat heated discussion with someone, one that revealed considerable miscommunication—things that were heard that were never said, statements taken out of context, and others extrapolated in confusing ways. Focused on the miscommunication, I attempted to unpack each one.

Remaining oblivious to the insecurities and wounds underlying it all and therefore only exacerbated the problem. Had I focused on the person’s heart more than their words, I could’ve responded with more wisdom and grace.

Reading through Proverbs 18, I thought of this interchange, and as I often do, of my propensity to talk myself into trouble. Only this time, I went deeper, to my heart. How, I wondered, could I respond differently the next time when, so often, my words tumble out before my brain catches up?

Evaluating the whys behind my behaviors, I came up with a list:

  1. Recognize I don’t need to defend myself. When someone criticizes me, if their complaints are valid, acknowledge this and prayerfully consider two women friendsways I might change. Because living in grace means I’m in need of it. I’m broken and prone to sin and nowhere near who God would have me to be, and yet I’m accepted and deeply loved. This disarms my pride with humility as I recognize my need for Christ, and this in turn gives me the courage to grow.
  2. Recognize God’s opinion and my obedience to Him is more important than man’s perception of me. When I base my identity in Christ and treasure intimacy with Him more than “saving face,” I don’t need to defend myself or prove a point.
  3. When I begin to feel defensive, uncover the fear beneath, and then remind myself of who I am in Christ. He’s my defender, protector, perfect guide, and the One who holds my future in His hands.
  4. Don’t own whatever’s not true. Simply disregard it, reminding myself of action steps one through three.
  5. Finally, listen for the fears and insecurities behind my “opponent’s” words and address those before attempting to resolve anything external.

Relational conflicts can be messy, confusing, and cloaked in emotion and false perceptions. To resolve them grace-fully, putting a guard rail on my tongue in the process, I need to take time to go deep—to my and my opponent’s heart, surrendering my pride and resultant emotions to Jesus so that He can love that other person through me.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to guard your tongue? When considering times your words have gotten you into trouble, can you see similar “root causes” as I mentioned in my list? In the above, I suggested pride is often the root of our fears and fear is often the root of much conflict. Do you agree or disagree, and why so? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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The Danger of Words

It’s interesting how vehemently the Christian community come against some sins while others are tolerated. Almost expected. Entertained even.

When we lived in Southern California, our church went through an ugly split. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew people were hurt. I could hear it in our pastor’s voice, when he spoke to the congregation. I could see it on his wife’s face, when her tears flowed during worship.

Though I was ignorant to the issue, I could feel the toxic tension every Sunday.

I wonder if this was what Timothy felt whenever he stepped up to speak. Did he sense the tension that arose from the false teachers who, though small in number, had such influence over the congregation? And what was going on with the women who appeared to be jockeying for position and fighting for prestige. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

What did their conversations look like?

You’ve probably encountered women like them—ladies who are so consumed with pride, in impressing others and gaining power, they don’t care who they hurt. Under the guise of venting, they gossip and slander, creating an infectious mess that hinders the work of Christ.

When you read 1 Timothy 3, you may notice, verse 11 is directed specifically to women. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps because we tend to sin with our tongues?

Paul tells Timothy the women “must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do” (NLT).

The Greek word translated as slander (or slanderer) here means an accuser or one who makes charges that bring others down.

John MacArthur says, “It’s a title frequently given to Satan.” (Matt. 4:5, 8, 11, 13:39; Luke 4:3, 5, 6, 13; 8:12 …)

That doesn’t surprise me. Satan is a destroyer bent on thwarting God’s plans, causing confusion and disunity, and shattering the most sacred of all relationships.

In Southern California I had a friend with a child my daughter’s age. We’d meet on occasion, at the park, her house, or mine. Most of the time, our conversations remained surface level, until one day she started to “vent.”

She’d gotten herself swept up with whatever was going on in the church and “verbally processed” her feelings and conclusions to me., much of which involved not facts but her opinion of our pastor.

I left confused and concerned. I still didn’t know the full situation—only this one woman’s perceptions. And even though I didn’t want to be involved, even though I had no business being involved, I began to question.

Was our pastor really like she said? As I was driving home processing all this, a thought emerged: This is how Satan works. This is how he destroys churches and relationships.

That ended my “musings” immediately.

Granted, there are things we should investigate and get concerned about. We must protect truth. We should lovingly confront sin. But not through “venting,” or gossip or trying to pull everyone else into the mess. Jesus laid out clear instructions for how we should handle conflict in Matthew 18:15-19, and if you’ll read them, you’ll notice, never once does He tell us to stir the pot or spew our feelings to whoever will listen or even to our besties. We’re to go directly to the individual.

Our tongues can speak life or death, can foster unity or disunity, can create healing and reconciliation or hurt and destruction. If we want to verbally process, may we go to God. He’s the only One who knows the full situation—and solution—anyway. And in everything we do say, may we follow Paul’s commands in Ephesians 4:29:

“No foul (unwholesome, useless, rotten, or of poor quality) words come from [our mouths], but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

Can you sense God’s call to love in that verse? Not self-love that focuses on our feelings, the offense done to us, or our need to verbally unload, but rather what is good for the body of Christ and God’s kingdom. Rooted in a love that is other’s focused—a love that comes from “a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

What are some things can you do when your in a conversation where a person or the group begins to gossip or slanderous things?

dependent-441408_640Never under estimate the power of even the smallest acts of grace. A smile given to a lonely old woman, a five minute conversation with the cashier at the pharmacy, an unexpected compliment to your spouse. Many of you are probably familiar with TobyMac’s song, “Speak Life.” You can listen to it here:

Today’s guest, Joi Copeland, reminds us to use our words to sprinkle grace, no matter where we are, how busy we are, or how we’re feeling. Because people matter.

imgresAND… as a fun bonus, she’s giving away an e-copy of her novel Sheriff’s Bride, Rob’s Story to one lucky reader randomly selected from comments left on today’s post. (You can see the rest of her novels HERE.)

Words Matter by Joi Copeland

As I write this, my family and I are sitting at the All Star Music Resort at Walt Disney World. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and began our Disney Adventure here in Orlando for the very first, and probably last, time.

While I am having a great time, I’m remembering how very important the spoken word is. I’ve watched people walk around these theme parks, tired, grumpy, and done after a long day. I get that. However, my life is more than just a theme park for a week. I want every person who I come in contact with to receive love and grace, and a smile for their work.

That’s been my goal over the last 3 days. I will smile at someone who is ringing up my order and speak to them by using their name. After all, they have a name tag for a reason, so why not use it? I ask them how people-431943_1280their day is going and once again, give them a smile as I thank them for helping me. Each time I do it, I find the cast members more willing to help because they are appreciated and someone has taken time to ask how they are doing.

This morning, I woke up wiped out. Orlando is doing something wicked to my allergies, and I’ve been having watery eyes, sneezing like never before, and just plumb tuckered out. When I went to the restaurant to get my breakfast, the last thing I wanted to do was talk to someone. But the lovely woman from Africa looked like she needed a smile, so I gave her one and asked her how she was doing. She told me she felt like crying for the last few days because her life is a mess. I told her I was so sorry, but I was glad she was here today so I could see her beautiful smile. She got teary eyed, thanked me, and sat a little straighter.

I don’t write this to toot my horn. I fail more often than not at caring for those who I come in contact with. But this week, I’ve noticed on more than one occasion how much people like it when I use their name, when I smile and say thank you, and when I tell them how much I appreciate them.

That may be my theme for this year. Or better yet, maybe that needs to be my theme for the rest of my life. Give encouragement when I can, put others above myself, smile, even when I don’t feel like it. Go on. Give it a try. You’ll find the reward is far greater than anything you’ve experienced yet.

***

CopelandphotoJoi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, She is living the dream in beautiful Denver, Colorado. Joi loves being a wife and mom and also enjoys spending time with friends over a good cup of coffee or tea. She’s been a Christian for over twenty years. She’s the author of two books, Hope for Tomorrow and Hope for the Journey, and three novellas, Christmas Rayne, Letters of Love, and Sheriff Bride, Rob’s Story. She and her family are hoping to be missionaries in Ireland in July of 2016 where Joi will continue to write novels of hope and redemption.

Let’s talk about this! I think we’d all agree, words have power–the livingbygracepic.jppower to encourage or discourage, to heal or to wound. When has someone said something to you that inspired you, comforted you, or made you feel valued and loved? Share your experiences in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace. (And while you’re on Facebook, make sure to connect with me, because I love making new friends! You can find me HERE.)

Sheriff’s Bride, Rob’s Story:

This is the fourth book in the series. Make sure to read about Rob’s other sisters in Sheriff Bride. Sheriff Bride Jo’s Story, Sheriff Bride Dan’s Story and our final book Sheriff Bride Christmas (The Inside Man)

Sheriff Rob Hardin has a tough job. With her three sisters no longer acting as sheriff along with her, her brother-in-law insists the town hire a deputy. Rob agrees, but reluctantly. Leslie should be a huge help, and it brings her some comfort to know another female will be sharing her living quarters.

imgres

Leslie arrives in Waterhole, but is nothing like Rob expected. Nothing at all! What will happen between the two? Only God can take an unexpected situation and turn it into something neither Rob nor Leslie ever dreamed.

You Know My Words Before I Spill Them

shutupSometimes I think I’d do well to bind my mouth with duct tape before going out. From blurted inconsideracies to complaints and arguments over trivial things that, when pointed out, reveal more about me than the actual issue.

Why, oh why is the tongue so hard to tame? Or am I the only one eating my feet a good chunk of the time? footnmouth-1

If only I’d remain safely behind my computer with its delete key.

My biggest problem? OJM disease–overactive jaw muscles and a very me-centered brain that likes to believe I have the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and necessary input for every debate.

The problem with this? Proverbs 10:19 puts it so well: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (NLT).

I suppose it’s a law of averages thing–you spew enough words some of them are bound to be sinful, hurtful, not productive or effective.

So what’s the solution? Invest in duck tape? Hide out in my bedroom? Throw up my hands with the concession that this is who I am?

None of those options progress the gospel, which is a huge problem, me being Christian and all as quite frankly, it is for the sake of the gospel I–and other Christians–are still here. On earth, I mean.

So once again I ask, what’s the solution?

Gritting my teeth and proceeding with the utmost determination won’t solve this, not long-term, anyway, because the moment I relax or get distracted I’ll revert to my old, verbose ways.

PrayerwThe best, the only solution is to continually draw near to God, allowing Him to work in and through me.

Pausing to acknowledge Him while I wash the dishes.

Praying while I fold the clothes.

Singing songs of praise, out loud or internally, while I go about my daily tasks.

Checking negativity and consciously focusing on my Savior and all He’s done instead.

For Christ-like behavior comes not from me but from Him.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 139:4 “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD” (NLT).

In other words, God knows, the moment you sit down to read your Bible each morning, when you’re going to flub it in the day ahead.

And He’s already got a plan in place. More than that, He’s ready and able to communicate that plan, to guide you, your thoughts, and your words to those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. (Phil. 4:8)

God is true. God is honorable. God is right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

See where I’m going with this?

What’s the solution to a wayward tongue? To fix our eyes–our thoughts and focus–on God, checking in with Him throughout the day, pausing to acknowledge His presence when we’re stopped at a stop light or waiting in a check-out line. Listening to His soft, gentle whisper that guides us throughout the day and continually draws us to Himself, the only place we’ll receive the strength and peace needed to speak words of love, grace, and truth.

Because living the Christian life isn’t about trying harder but rather, drawing closer to our Savior.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. What is your greatest struggle? How might checking in with God throughout the day help you in that area? How might centering your thoughts on Him fill your heart with praise and peace?

How much room is there for angst, frustration, or ungodliness in a heart filled–saturated–with praise?

If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following helpful:

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

Don’t Try Harder, Love More

Cultivating a Thankful heart

Oh, and since my book launch is but a few days away, and since some of you aren’t on Facebook, I thought you might want to know where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Yesterday I chatted with the editor of Family Fiction about my book, where the story came from, and what I hoped y’all would gain from it. You can read the interview here.

On July 4th and 11th, fellow ACFW writer Janet Sketchley interviewed two of my characters from Beyond I Do. You can get to know Ainsley here and Richard here.

On July 7th I chatted about books in general (and my addiction to them) on Writing For the Soul. You can join the discussion here.

On July 28th, I was honored to be on June Foster’s Author Spotlight. You can join me here.

My sweet friend Jennifer Hallmark was interviewed regarding her contributions to Sweet Freedom, the book itself, and her writing journey. You can read about all that here.

Next month, book launch month, I’ll be all over the web, but unfortunately, I’ve run out of time for link posting. 😉

As a fun aside, I recently finished plotting book three in my Midwestern Romance series, two stories that continue where Beyond I Do leaves off. Here’s hoping my publisher loves the plot and premise for books two and three as much as I do! I should also add, with my books release but days away, the pre-release discount will soon be over. So… if you were planning on buying the book, now’s a great time.

 

 

Sowing With Words

I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I love words. Not just stories or articles girl-on-phone-489957-mor devotions, but words in and of themselves. And everything–everything–has a backstory… Including the backstory. 😉 But sometimes, I’m so wordy, things spill out of my mouth before I’ve allowed them to swirl through my brain long enough to come out with coherence and effectiveness.

 

sydauthorphoto_smallThis is unfortunate for the words we speak truly do matter. They have the power to tear down or heal, to bless, to encourage. Today, Hope Spring Books author Sydney Avey shares her thoughts on sowing with words.

Sowing Words

Sydney Avey

Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge the bounty we receive daily from God in the words He whispers to us. The seeds we receive to sow in His service vary according to the talent He has given us. Seeds that yield a harvest can be time or money, but they can also be words. Knowing my words have been used to challenge someone to think differently or feel blessed brings me joy. Words are my store of seed.

What do you see when you look into your seed bag? Have you stored up treasures that need to be scattered so they can root and grow in the hearts of others? Seeds are tiny things—words you write, notes you sing, pennies from your pocket or minutes of your time contributed to someone else’s success in life.

A blog subscriber emailed me and said, “I used your ideas in a devotional I shared with my church choir. The idea struck a chord across the generations.”

My pastor used these lines from my poem A Desert Meditation to illustrate a point in his sermon about priorities:

Like the Saguaro Cactus

Know that your roots in this world are shallow

let your reservoirs tap Living Water

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Seeds, small bits of wisdom that sow thoughts and ideas in others; how are they come by?

Spiritual Practice

In addition to spiritual insights, the Gospels offer wisdom that has practical applications. Consider this verse:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

The context for this verse is judgment. It tells us that as we show mercy, mercy will be shown to us. I also see in this verse a process for gathering words into thoughts that will bless others.

Writing poetry is a way to measure our experience by compressing thought, shaking together disparate ideas and watching words expand into new meaning. When we suspend judgment-conclusions we jump to about others or words we understand in limited context, we open our hearts to see and share the world in a new way, God’s way.

In the same way, singing old songs to new rhythms may feel awkward at first, but as you yield to the Holy Spirit’s teaching you may renew the vigor of an ancient word. Watch that word float on an unexpected note, like a parachute seed, to bless the listening ear of a hungry heart.

You may think you don’t have enough talent to write a poem, or join the choir, or mentor a child, but God promises to increase your talent and your influence as you take this step of faith and sow your seeds.

Here is a lovely verse for the season:

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

2 Cor 9:10 (NIV)

***

Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her workhas appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life. Her novel, “The Sheep Walker’s Daughter,” ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6 will be released from HopeSprings Books on December, 2013.

Her novel is called The Sheep Walker’s Daughter (available Dec. 3rd!):

bookcover400x600A Korean War widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of Dee’s father. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency?Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that heisn’t telling? The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with onewoman’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.

livingbygracepic.jpPaperback ISBN 978-1-938708-19-0 Kindle & Nook ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6

Let’s talk about this! Join the conversation here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Pause to consider some things that have been said to you, in person, through a text message, perhaps in a card or letter. Were any missives so special, you saved them? Tell us about it! How long might it have taken for the sender to craft the message? If a text, a few minutes. A card, maybe five. Five minutes that can mean the world to someone.

When we moved to Louisiana, I had a friend who often sent me unexpected cards. They were simple in content: “I enjoyed spending time with you today.” “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.” “Hoping you’re having a great week.” And yet, they touched me deeply, because they showed me she’d been thinking of me, and she valued me enough to take the time to send me a note. (A big wave and shout out to my sweet KC friend, Sandy, who’s sent me cards, texts, and emails on numerous occasions as well. 🙂 )

Now consider, how can you be more intentional with your words? Might you send an occasional card to a friend far away or someone enduring difficult circumstances? What about your spouse or your child? Could you slip a note in their lunch or under their pillow letting them know you’re thinking of them and that you love them? Try it.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Love Letters

Taming the Tongue

Resources you might find helpful:

Woman to Woman by Edna Ellison and Tricia Scribner

Hope or Hazing?

Have you ever said something then wished you hadn’t? Sent an email that made your stomach knot the moment you released it into cyberspace? Other times, something seemingly innocent slips out that, without us knowing it, negatively affects our listener. Today Jamie Wright reminds us to choose our words carefully, because our words do matter. In fact, if used correctly, they may even matter for all eternity.

I’ve been hazed. Did you realize the power of words extends beyond your writing, beyond your conversation, and into the mental psyche of those who hear/read your words?

When I was expecting my first child, I experienced “hazing” that cut me deeply and drove a knife into my heart. Here’s a bit how the conversations went:

Me: Wow. 11 hours of sleep last night rocked. I love sleep on a cold Autumn night.
Other Person: Enjoy it while it lasts. You’ll never sleep again once the baby is born.

Or ….

Me: I can’t wait to see my little girl smile when daddy walks in the room.
Other Person: Ha! Then burst in colicky fits of screams that you can’t solve and break your ear drums after 4 hours of non-stop sobbing.

Or – is this one better …

Me: I love 24. It’s my favorite TV show … Jack Bauer … yeah! I can’t wait for January.
Other Person: January? JANUARY!! You’ll never watch anything but Dora the Explorer again. Maybe you can catch the seasons of 24 that you missed when you enter retirement in 2040.

WHAT IT FELT LIKE THE “OTHER PERSON” was REALLY trying to say in all those scenarios was: The demon child will soon come with pitchfork in hand and skewer any sense of earthly paradise you may have left in your soul. Beware. Your personal hell is about to begin.

Aren’t children a gift from God? When did they grow horns? I’m not sure. And, if I was one of those annoying new mothers who just rolls with it even when my baby keeps me up for all hours and I still have a smile on my face and my hair looks good … why throw darts at me? Maybe … I just saw a few more blessings. Or maybe I’m delusional. Sometimes delusion is a beautiful thing.

The written and spoken word is a POWERFUL thing – it can be hazing or instill hoping. As a writer, I pray that my words either written or spoken, bring with it the hope of the Lord’s beautiful creation, amazing grace, and supernatural sense of peace (laced with my sinful sense of sarcasm, I suppose). lol

Have you experienced your own hazing of sorts spurred by words? I’d love to know. Because I really hope that in the midst of my own personal hazing, I haven’t been hazing someone else in another way … my apologies if I have.

Jamie Wright, the Writer of Historical Romance Stained With Suspense

Professional coffee drinker, Jaime Wright, resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing historical romance with a distinct emphasis on suspense. Her day job finds Jaime directing an HR Office and developing her employees and their training programs. She’s wife to a rock climbing youth pastor, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl and a bottle-drinking baby boy, and completes her persona by being an admitted Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogspot junkie. Jaime is a member of ACFW, enjoys mentorship from a best-selling author, and has the best critique partners EVER! (yes, that’s an exclamation point)

In her “down time”, Jaime reads voraciously, socializes incessantly, drinks coffee addictively, and overuses “-ly” words excessively.

Visit her online at:  http://coffeecupsandcamisoles.blogspot.com

Contact her via Email at: jaimewrightbooks at gmail dot com
Like Jaime on Facebook 
Friend Jaime on Twitter
Meet Jaime on Pinterest
Jaime’s old blog/archives – The Jaime Reports

We’d love to hear from you. Life is hard. Surrounded by negativity, it becomes even harder. Have you found this to be true? And do you find it easy to speak hope into people’s lives? Why or why not? I know as a mom, it’s easy to fall into a “constructive” rut where I’m spending more time training and correcting than building up and nurturing. When that happens, God normally reminds me to step back and open wide my hugging arms. 🙂 What about you?