What Comes out of my Mouth

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A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45

The server didn’t deliver my food as I had ordered. I wasn’t too upset… I mean, he left the bacon on my salad! I love bacon! But I was trying to eat healthier that day. I chose not to say anything about it and go on. Surrounded by some of my favorite people, we were meeting to discuss ministry matter with two of our Pastors, and the ReEngage leadership team – a marriage ministry that my husband and I help lead.

When everyone had their food and after we had given thanks, one of our Pastors made a comment about how amazing the server was, that he had remembered everything we ordered without writing anything down. There were 10 of us so this was quite a feat! This next moment I keep replaying over and over in my mind, as I blurted out “He didn’t remember everything!” while oozing contempt if only for a second. My friend next to me kindly pointed out that he was right behind me, with the dressing I had asked him to bring.

Open mouth, insert foot.

I’m certain I turned all shades of red as I realized what happened and everyone at the table just sat there momentarily in silence, not knowing what to say or how to react. My stomach was sick and I was stunned at my outburst. I didn’t think about it before I spoke. I just spoke.

Management found out about it and came to apologize, offering desserts to our entire table. I politely declined and explained that I was not in the least bit upset. I’m not certain anyone believed me. In fact, I wasn’t certain what I felt at the time either. After our lunch meeting continued on, I struggled to focus. I genuinely felt bad for the server. I’ve been in those shoes and that job is NOT easy. So near the end of the meal, I excused myself from the table and talked with him, apologizing for what I said and explaining that I was not mad and he had, in fact, done a fantastic job serving us.

Fast forward 12 hours to smack dab in the middle of the night. I was awake after only getting 2 hours of restless, dream-ridden sleep. As I lie in bed staring at the ceiling, I start thinking about it again. I pray, asking God to show me why I was so critical. You see, God’s Word states that what you say flows from what is in your heart. I said a very critical, piercing statement about the inadequacy of our server. It may seem to many of you that it isn’t a big deal, but I’ve been generally working on finding out what’s in my heart and how that is a direct correlation to what comes out of my mouth.

I wrestled with it for a little while before finally crawling out of bed and heading to my chair – the chair where I spend time with God most mornings – the chair where I write and study writing – the chair where prayers have gone up for my family and many of you. As I sat and prayed, then listened, I felt God working on me and my critical spirit. Critical spirits come from being arrogant. If you feel you would do a better job, then you can easily become critical of others when things aren’t done as you think you would do them. So as God spoke to me about my root of criticism, I prayed. I prayed that He uproot it, that He remind me of the grace I need every day so that my first response anytime someone else messes up is also grace.

What comes out of my mouth is a direct reflection of what is in my heart. I don’t want to simply watch what I say, even though at times that is needed. I want the contents of my heart to be so pure, kind, humble – that the first words that come out of my mouth are filled with sweet goodness and grace.

What I’m learning is this: It is good to control my tongue, but what if my focus switched from trying NOT to say something to focusing on the cause of it so that the thought never crosses my mind? I think I’d rather spend the time necessary searching out the root of ugliness and allowing God to pull it up so I don’t have to continue trying to watch what I say.

Every time I say an unkind, inconsiderate comment that slips out, I’m going to seek God in understanding why I said it so I can allow Him to get rid of it. I may never be perfect but I can continue to keep going back to Him, seeking His guidance, and living within His grace.

If we can focus our attention on the root of the matter, rather than only controlling our tongue, we will make strides to not only keep from saying something ugly (that we actually want to say) to being a person above reproach, full of grace, authentically showing the love of Christ to others. Don’t you want that too?

Stop Telling What God Has Done Through You

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I sat there as he talked about how great God was and all He had done through him. Story after story, I heard of how He heard the Holy Spirit, followed His direction, and how God had worked through him.

What I felt surprised me. It made my story of transformation pale in comparison. And I wanted to shrink into my seat. I felt as if I had nothing to contribute to the conversation.

I left with a spirit I can’t explain. It wasn’t positive and uplifting but like a dark cloud hanging over me. And I wondered why.

Why was it I didn’t celebrate and joyfully accept what God had done through him? There was something that didn’t set right and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I prayed, asking God what I could learn from the experience. He gently whispered, “Daughter, your story, your testimony, should be more about what I’ve done inside of you than what I’m doing through you.” As I begin to think about that, it made perfect sense. There’s a humility that comes with admitting how God has worked in your life, chiseling the sharp spots and fine tuning me into the woman He created me to be. People respond to humility, identify with the struggle to truly follow Christ, and they can put themselves in that same position.

Telling of how God has used you to reach others doesn’t necessarily have the same positive influence. If done in a spirit of haughtiness, it actually can turn people away even though it’s not our intent. Or it makes them wonder why God isn’t doing the same through them.  If God is working THROUGH your life, others already know it, they SEE it. The fruit of His hand is on display for all to see and rarely does anything need to be said about it.

Many times, when God is working inside of you, it isn’t seen. There’s an intimacy in this relationship experience and some of these moments are meant to be private, viewed as a personal experience with God that only you share with Him. For instance, in your relationship with your spouse, if you shared every meaningful moment you had together with others, it would cheapen the value of your experiences together. What makes a relationship truly intimate are those personal, private moments that only the two of us share. I view that to be true in our relationship with God as well.

But I have no doubt there are times when He wants us to share with others what He is doing in our life. He wants us to be vulnerable and real with them in a way they can relate. When this is shared with a spirit of humility, everything you say points back to the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

There is significantly more power in a testimony that is wholly about God and His hand in your life than in a testimony that is about what you have done.

I’m not saying that I think you should never tell others what God is doing through you, but I believe there takes a considerable amount of wisdom when you do. This is not at all about us and there never needs to be any hint that it is.

God has worked both inside my life and through my life. But what I have learned recently is that I am going to focus on sharing what God has done inside of me. I’m going to use my life stories, experiences, and heart talks with Him to show others what a deep relationship with our Father can be. I’m going to admit my shortcomings and tell of times when God used scripture, other people, or situations to speak directly to my heart and what I learned from these experiences. And in an effort to protect against pride, both real and perceived, I’m going to pray and seek His wisdom before I talk about what He has done through me.

Before you speak, always ask: Is what I’m about to say going to focus so much on my life of obedience that Jesus is overshadowed? If so, Stop. Tell them instead about what He has done inside of you.

The Much Needed Facebook Break

I made a decision several weeks back to deactivate Lance’s and my Facebook account (with his approval of course). There are several reasons why I did but I am so glad I made that decision. Here are the reasons:

1. I was on it way too much.

I didn’t want to miss what was going on in any of my friend’s lives so I checked it often. In the line at the grocery store, waiting at the doctor’s office, on my lunch break, at home at night, first thing in the morning, and basically any opportunity I had to open it and read status updates.

One of the saddest aspects of this problem was that my eyes were down everywhere I went. If there were someone sitting beside me in the waiting room having a bad day, I would have never known. My mind was on my virtual world, which isn’t exactly real anyway. It saddens me to think of missed opportunities to be an encouragement FACE TO FACE to someone in need and to share God’s love with them.

2. I became tired of reading passive aggressive comments as well as ugly comments made.

Many of them related to other people that perhaps I knew a bit of the story (enough to recognize passive aggressive behavior) and some of them were about me. I decided long ago that I did not want to know what negativity was being posted about me and told my family and friends that if they noticed something ugly being posted to please refrain from telling me. It worked well for the most part and though they might slip and tell me something was posted, I rarely knew what it was. I set a boundary for myself and I stuck to it. These were things that I had no control over and if all it did was upset me, then I didn’t need that in my life. I wish I were stronger. But it’s really hard for me to handle criticism. Especially now, when my relationship with God is stronger than ever, my heart more right than ever, and my decisions based on many hours of prayer and seeking God. Deactivating Facebook so that I could focus on these issues was definitely the right decision to make.

During this time, I have found myself wondering what to do with my downtime, when I would normally be on my phone. I have found more time to read other blogs and devotionals. I have found more time to read my Bible. I have been more open to God using me in my daily life to encourage others and have conversations. I have realized opportunities every day to look someone else in the eyes and have meaningful conversations. I am less inward focused and more outward focus.

Here’s my dilemma. Facebook really was an avenue to reach others and offer an encouraging word. It was a place to post my blog entries through which I try to be real and encourage others. I tried to make it a positive place for others and post statuses that lifted people up rather than tear people down. I had many people private message me stating that I have been so encouraging to them and share with me things in their lives that they wanted me to pray about. I wrote every one of them in my prayer journal and still pray for them. It CAN be a good place to reach people, to let others know they aren’t alone in their struggles, to reach out to the hurting and show God’s love. It can be a good form of reaching others. The problem is when you are so technology focused that you don’t even see people,  real “reach out and pinch them” people, around you. When Facebook replaces Face-to-Face connection, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate the role that it is truly playing in your life.

Also, there will always be people who will criticize me. I cannot continue to hide from it and I must figure out a way to not let it control my mind. I have been on a journey out of this mindset of being concerned with others’ opinion of me and this is just one more step I need to take. God is the only One whose opinion matters and though I will never do this perfectly, I am striving to seek Him in every decision.

So where does this leave me today? A break from Facebook is needed, maybe even scheduled breaks in the future. Or just when I find myself misusing it or obsessing over it. Everywhere I go, I observe people on it, scrolling through feeds. I’ve been that person. It’s ok in moderation. But it’s not ok when that’s the first thing you think of doing every time you get a spare second. It’s not ok to ignore your family, your kids, your friends and even strangers who may need a smile while checking facebook. Ironically, we ignore those we are face to face with in order to read about facade’s of lives that many times isn’t even reality.

I’ve needed this break to remind myself of these facts. I’ve needed this break to analyze the root of the problem and break the addiction.

In the last several weeks, I’ve realized how much I was on it and the influence I let it have over my life. I realized how damaging it was to my emotional and spiritual health as well as my family. I want to do a better job of not letting Facebook be such a influential part of my life.

I will most likely be back on Facebook at some point but until then, if you could join me in prayer over this matter, I would appreciate it. I am seeking more guidance and more strength before I return. I want it to be used in a positive way without it taking over my life. Will you join me?

~Keeping it Real

Overwhelmed with God’s Grace

There have been some terrible things happen to me in my life; however, I also have made many many mistakes of which the responsibility rests completely on me. I have a past of which I am not proud. Poor choices have caused me much heartache and the consequences of those decisions will follow me around. However, I am forgiven of my past! The grace that God has shown me overwhelms me and I cannot find the words to explain how I feel. In church one Sunday, the following scripture was read. I felt like I was hearing my story. I was once again reminded of God’s forgiveness and could not stop the tears that flowed. As a woman with much to forgive, I believe I realize more fully the magnitude of the grace of God and what it means for me.

If you have a past that you aren’t proud of and struggle with forgiving yourself, read each of these words carefully, as if it was about you. Let Jesus’ words sink in and wash over you like a fresh breath of air. 

A Sinful Woman Forgiven: Luke 7: 36-48

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Thank you Jesus for your deliverance! I give you the glory for the place I am today in my life. I give you the glory for the deliverance of my oppression as well as my own sins. I pray that I will never again return to the depths of sin that I resided in for so long. Because of Your love for me, I will serve You all the rest of my days. Please protect me and keep me from being deceived.

I know that where I have been allows me to be in a place now that I can help others and I pray that you use my painful past to guide others to You. I am chosen by You to be Your daughter. Thank you for making something beautiful out of something so very ugly.

You are the One true God who has the power to save us from a life of repetitive mistakes and sinful nature. When I fall, help me up. When I succeed, help me to give You the glory. In everything I do, may I always seek You and point others to You. Despite my pain, THANK YOU. I do not know how I would handle life without You. You give me reason to live and purpose and I love You from the depths of my heart.

Cleanse me and make me whole. Help me see others through Your eyes and be patient and graceful. I praise You for being the God of second and third and fourth chances. I praise You for never leaving me nor forsaking me.

Remind me of my worth in You. Remind me of my beautiful soul and help me to in turn encourage others in their walk with You. You are my reason to live and I pray Your love radiates through me like a beacon of light in a dark world. I pray Your grace flows through me like a free flowing river of hope. I want to serve you in all I do and I need You to show me the way. Your child forever,

Angie

The Key To Being Strong

‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (Jesus). Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (Paul).  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

If there’s a single passage of scripture that describes what it’s like to live transparently, this one is it! It has been my theme for almost a year now yet I only stumbled across these verses just recently. Oh, I knew of them before, but during my years of not studying I had forgotten and even when I had read them or heard them at church, I didn’t know what it was like to let it sink in. My heart was too hard for it to land there and be soaked up.

What does this mean to us? Can it really be that our weaknesses and troubles are the key to having Christ’s power?

Living transparently means being honest about your weaknesses. AND IT IS SO VERY HARD TO DO THAT! You are opening yourself up to criticism and admitting to others that you don’t have it all together. It’s hard on our pride and scary.

However, living transparently (sharing weaknesses and difficulties in life)  is the avenue through which Christ’s power can be shown! 

Paul says that “he delights in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties.” Delights?!! Can this really be?

You know what I do during all those things? I sulk. I cry. I feel sorry for myself. I wonder why God is allowing this. I pray for it to be over, for it to come to an end. In short, I’m a big baby who acts like a spoiled brat. (Hey wait just a second… did I just admit my “weakness?” 😉 ).

How many times do I stop for a moment during a hard situation and praise Jesus that I am becoming a stronger person? How often do we think about how God’s power can be shown through our difficult situations? How often do we “delight” in our shortcomings and hardships because we know that God has a plan and is being revealed
through us if we choose to allow it?

I don’t know about you, but I sure do want to be more like Paul in this moment! Our lives would be so much more peaceful and content if we learned how to showcase God’s power through our storms.

So the next time you are facing something that is hard, even if it is the hardest thing you’ve ever faced, remember these words in I Corinthians 12:9-10. Let it encourage you that God is using YOU (yes, YOU!) to showcase His power!  Trust that He is working things out for the good of us and the glory of God. And know that when you are weak, then you are strong.

Finally, read verse 10 again, out loud. Instead of this being Paul’s words, claim them for your own. And repeat them any time you are going through a difficult situation. I’m certain he won’t mind us borrowing his words! I think he’s a pretty cool guy… 😉

God Whispers “Be Transparent”

I’m struggling today.

God whispers “Be transparent”

I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

I am angry and fighting it.

God whispers “Be transparent”

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

Proverbs 29:11

I am tired and want to quit.

God whispers “Be transparent”

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

My faith is wavering. I do not feel strong.

God whispers “Be transparent”

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29

I am crying more than I care to admit.

God whispers “Be transparent”

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

I am being controlled by fear.

God whispers “Be transparent”

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Satan is attacking me from every angle.

God whispers “Be transparent”

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. I Peter 5:8-9

As I write these words, scripture is coming to my mind. It is the only things that comforts me. God in all His wisdom has laid out for us encouragement and instruction in His word. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow. It’s a constant reminder of my failures and weaknesses. I usually know what I am supposed to do but my emotions lead me other places, off the track of what God and His word tells me.

Life is tough. But I know it could always be worse. So then I beat myself up for not being grateful enough for the life I do have. However I look at it, my mind can see the negative if I let it. And I do let it sometimes.

Most of the time, I am strong and confident and full of faith.

Other times, like today, I have to work hard to replace my negative thoughts with God’s thoughts.

Do you ever feel like this? My guess is that all of you have at some point or another. It’s my desire that we open up and share this side of ourselves. Having it all together all the time is an illusion and is not what God intended when He designed the “church”. We were created to do life together. To “mourn with those who mourn” and “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15)

Do I put myself in a vulnerable position by sharing these thoughts and feelings with you? Absolutely, I do. And I know what it’s like to have vulnerabilities thrown back in your face and used against you. It hurts. Deeply.

But I believe so strongly in the shift that needs to take place in the church towards transparency, that I’m willing to put it out there.

The church needs transparency more than ever. We are a hurting people and hiding it only hurts us. Sharing with each other is part of God’s plan towards healing, in the right way, at the right time. Will you join me?

~Keeping it Real

The Spirit of Transparency

Transparency

I will talk about it often. I will use the word frequently. It is my calling. And when I write or talk about transparency, I am referring to who we are as a person, not the external appearance.

And… We should be real. We should stop pretending to have it all together all the time. We, ALL of us, struggle during life and true Christian community only comes from authentic relationships with each other. It is within this community that we should be free to open up our insecurities, fears, hurts, and failures.

However… being transparent with everyone about everything is not always advised. There are some people, sadly, that will only take what you have shared with them and use it to launch an attack on you. They will use your vulnerability to hurt you.

There are 2 major ways in which you can be transparent.

1. You can be transparent about your past. If your past is painful, whether it be how you were hurt by someone else or your own destructive behavior, you should consider talking to someone or a small group of people that would show you understanding and grace and be trustworthy.

However, you would need to pray long and hard before you shared on a public platform. It would be a brave step and could be used for God’s glory, but only when you are ready and under the right circumstances. God knows where you’ve been and He understands if you are not ready.

Being transparent in this matter is important but you don’t have to share with the public in order to “be transparent”. It is your PAST and ultimately needs to be let go. It is only after letting it go and the effects it has had on you as a person, that you can find true healing. Then, maybe you can share with the public, for the right reasons.

2. You can be transparent about your present failures, inadequacies, and weaknesses. I think this is important within a Christian community of trustworthy people. Because of the nature of some struggles, it is usually best to find a community of people within your own sex. (Vulnerable conversations should never be held with someone of the opposite sex unless it’s your husband.)

 It is comforting to know that other women have the same struggles as I do and that I am not alone and I want others to feel the same. It is through these authentic relationships that we can draw closer to Christ and work on the things in which we struggle.

Living as if we have it all together in front of everyone is pretending to be someone we are not. However, we don’t have to share all of our struggles with the world in order to “be transparent”.

 The Spirit of Transparency

 The spirit of transparency deals with your heart. You are being transparent if, in general, you are being authentic about who you are with others. This does not mean that you should air all of your dirty laundry and share all your struggles with the world. This does mean that you readily admit that you are not perfect, that you fail at times, and that you do have weaknesses and things with which you struggle.  It really depends on your story and it details as well as your position in the healing process.

 There will be times that God calls you to share specifics with certain people. Listen for His calling and His lead. Your story and experiences might be the story that could lead someone to the healing waters only God provides and you should never let your fear of sharing hinder those conversations. There may be a time when He wants you to make public your story. This is between you and God and is about using your experiences to help others.

 For me, today, I can share some of my life story with you, the public.  I am at a point in my life that I could personally share more than I do, but I choose not to at this time because of the nature of my story and the other people involved in it. I am praying about how and when I should share more and waiting for the undeniable approval of God.

 Maybe someday, I will be able to share more. But until then, I admit to you that I do not have it all together, I make mistakes every day, I have made poor decisions that have had a huge negative impact on my life, I have fears, I struggle with thoughts of inadequacy, etc…. and the list can go on and on. I can also confidently share that I have never been more determined to be a better person, wife, and mother and to follow Christ more diligently. I am, after years of hiding behind secret doors, doing my very best to live transparently.

And THAT is what Christ wants from me.