Daily Archives: December 5, 2011

A Resolution to be a Blessing

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

For out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

I recently completed the fifth resolution, which speaks of blessing others with our time, concern and full attention. I also read James 3:1-12 this morning and God has dutifully Gibbs’ed me on the back of the head. I’m getting it…slowly, but surely, I’m getting it. Finally.

Note: For those of you who don’t watch NCIS and do not have any inkling as to who Gibbs is, watch an episode and once you see the dynamics in his relationship with Tony Denozo, you’ll completely understand. Guaranteed.

Now, back to James. According to him, the tongue is a tattletale that tells on the heart and discloses the real person behind the matter.  And the misuse of it is the easiest way to sin. Chapter 3 goes on to explain that the genuineness of a person’s faith will inevitably be demonstrated by his speech.

True believers will possess a sanctified tongue, yet they must maintain it. We must learn to control it for three reasons: it’s potential to condemn, its power to control and its propensity to corrupt.

Jesus also refers to our speech in Matthew 12:33-37 – read it here. Jesus states that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (same as the scripture above). We must remember that we will one day give account of, not only the things we did with our time, but what we said. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:37)

Nowhere is the relationship between faith and works more evident than in a person’s speech.

He who speaks with an ill tongue about his neighbor has an ill heart; rest assured of that. Let us engage in our Christian career with the full assurances that we will have a great deal to forgive in other people, but there will be a great deal more to be forgiven in ourselves. Let us count on having to exercise gentleness, and needing its exercise from others. Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. – C.H. Spurgeon

Wisdom also comes in knowing what to say and not saying it. How many times a day do we constantly wan to be proven right? How many times do we seemingly put someone else in their place? There is a time and place for that, and it is not always in the moment. How many times in my life have I wished to be the wise woman at the head of the table or near the outskirts of the room, not saying anything until the moment is right? How many times have I wished I had the grace of my grandmother?!!

I know now that this comes with time. It’s called life and God uses its circumstances to mold us into His likeness, so that we can carry out His good and perfect Will in His time.

We shouldn’t be boastful of our own knowledge. We should speak with humility and wisdom, knowing when to speak. The book of Proverbs teaches us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

Did you know that the greatest gift you can even give anyone is the gift of your own time? If you set aside your agenda, needs and wants to give one person your undivided attention for 15 minutes (or more), that time will mean more to them than anything in the world. It’s greater than any object you can give or any amount of money you can hand over. The time means they matter, whether it be to you or to someone else.

We are in that position every day – the opportunity to envelop ourselves in someone else’s conversation, to suppress the clamor of our own thoughts and schedule, to focus our full attention on other people, giving them an offering of the rarest kind. The gift of ourselves. The gift of our time…the gift of listening. – Shirer, pg 114.

Jesus knew the power of this blessing. He was a pro at it. He made a habit of setting aside time for the most insignificant people in His day. Take the woman at the well for instance. Not only was she a woman, but she was a Samaritan woman. Men didn’t speak to women in public (not even their own wives), must less communicate with a group of people seen as less than Jewish. Jesus chose on many occasions to stop, to wait, to listen, to given attention to before speaking Himself, even when the other person was misinformed or even spouting blasphemy. He listened to the disciples indignantly boast that they would never deny or desert him (Matthew 26:31-35). He heard the call of a blind man over the roar of human need on a crowded street near Jericho (Luke 18:35-43). Scripture is full of examples like these.

Listening is one of the most significant ways God blesses us. Therefore, it is one of the most significant ways we bless others.

We must also watch over our hearts, for from it, flows the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). This will ensure that we do not allow our hearts to become polluted by anything that will hinder our mission of being conformed into the likeness of Christ. The more we soak in His Word and His truth, the more we can expect to have a deep reservoir filled with all the treasures needed to temper our conversations with wisdom, kindness, and humility.

We must guard our hearts so that do not become hardened (Proverbs 28:14), deceptive (Psalm 12:2), prideful (Proverbs 21:4), or unclean (Psalm 51:10). We must seek to have a heart that is always sensitive to the prodding of God’s Spirit (Romans 8:5), single-mindedly devoted to Him (Psalm 86:11), drenched in humility (Proverbs 22:4) and pure before God (Matthew 5:8).

A person whose heart is full of gratitude and humility, who is certain of God’s love for them, and who genuinely prizes the worth of those around them will release a steady stream of graciousness that will refresh others through their conversation.

Have you ever truly experienced that?

Week 39: Personally, I Think My Spiritual Gift Should Be…

The entire Vine crew took their spiritual gifts and personality tests this past week and, while I wasn’t surprised by my results, they still baffle me.

My highest scores ran the gambit with hospitality, encouragement and mercy. No surprise there.

But my personality…mainly Choleric. Leadership. Control freak…

I’m baffled by that…and yet, I’m not. I enjoy being in lead positions at work and in some circles at church, but I don’t have to lead everything.

My question, though, is why not spiritually? Is this something I need to strengthen in?

I’ll probably be posting on this topic again in the near future. Until then…be baffled with me.

For your own spiritual gifts testing: http://buildingchurch.net/g2s-i.htm

Day 5: Memories of Christmases Past

Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance – each beautiful, unique and too soon gone. — Deborah Whipp

Christmas memories. How they, along with so many others, have shaped the woman I’ve become. Christmas is, by far, my favorite holiday. I love everything about it. The festiveness, the “magical” feeling that seems to permeate the air, the closeness of family, writing my annual Christmas letter…all of it.

I found the following quote while browsing quotes on Google…quite true:

The merry family gatherings– The old, the very young; The strangely lovely way they Harmonize in carols sung. For Christmas is tradition time– Traditions that recall The precious memories down the years, The sameness of them all. — Helen Lowrie Marshall

Each year brings a multitude of family traditions. We would set aside one Sunday night to drive around one of the local towns and look at Christmas lights. One Saturday would be set aside for baking  Christmas cookies and putting gift baskets together containing dairy products for the neighbors; a Christmas tin full of cookies would also be shipped up to my Uncle Phil, who was in the Air Force, wherever he was stationed at that time.

The kids in my Calvinettes/Gems club group would gather one Thursday evening to sing carols at the retirement home in Edgerton. I remember going to my great-grandfather’s room to get him so he could join in on the fun. I don’t remember much of my time spent with him, but I do remember that he was more of a grandfather to me than a distant relative, a few generations back. He loved that old-fashioned Christmas candy and candy ribbon and would share a piece each time we came to visit. He also made certain that I would get my turn at the old, out-of-tune piano in the cafeteria, just so he could hear me play. Memories like those make me miss him even more.

I also remember planning Christmas pageants that my siblings and I would host each year. That stopped when I turned thirteen…probably because I didn’t think it was cool any more.

Every year, Cheelogna’s (a combination of Cheeze Whiz and bologna on buns) reappear during our Christmas parties with the VandenBergs (my Mom’s side). We had plenty of family time and each Christmas Eve, we  read the true Christmas story before reigning in our anticipation for Christmas morning when we would get up, work, go to church, have Christmas dinner and then, finally, open the gifts that had been stock-piled beneath the tree.

Some years, however, were different. When the markets weren’t the greatest, milk price was at an all-time low and the ag prices weren’t that promising, Dad and Mom opted instead to get us simple stocking stuffers (usually the mock-booklets full of LifeSavers candies) instead of piles of gifts. We would spend those years playing board games until either our sides hurt due to too much laughter or we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. Christmas Eve and the afternoon of Christmas Day would be filled with Scattergories, Scene It, Connect IV, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Phase 10, Yahtzee and more. We had a roof over our heads and we had each other. That was what mattered. Those years mean the most to me and probably serve as an answer as to why I love board games so much.

You may be wondering if Santa Claus ever played a role in my childhood. He didn’t.

Santa was never a part of our Christmas. My parents did an excellent job in telling us who he was, but then reminded us the reason we celebrate Christmas. 

That didn’t mean that jolly old St. Nick wouldn’t make an appearance. Every year, when we went over to Grandpa and Grandmas on Christmas Day, he would appear only when our notorious uncle Wayne or Veryl disappeared. I won’t forget the year the rest of my cousins rightfully dubbed him butt-crack Santa. Apparently, last year’s Thanksgiving hadn’t worn off as of yet and the Santa suit was a bit snug.

I called my mom to see if she could shed light on anything memories or traditions I may have missed. She mentioned Christmas of 1994/1995…such a long time ago!

We had just returned from gallivanting across the country side, seeing the light displays in Luverne. It was Christmas Eve. 9 PM. Time for the Christmas story, read from the new picture book Mom had picked up for Adam, my youngest brother. It was to be shared by all of us kids.

I remember the manger-scene quite vividly. Baby Jesus lay in the center of the page and all of the animals surround him, on bended knee. After the story, Mom asked what Christmas song we wanted to sing before we all went (walked, waddled or crawled) to bed. Away in the Manger won, hands down.

I remember laying there in my room and staring at the ceiling, my sister, sound asleep on the bunk beneath mine. I was pondering the words to the second verse: The cattle are lowing… and I remember thinking back to that picture. Was that what they meant by all of the animals bowing down?

Apparently, somewhere in the midst of all of that, I got the idea that all of our own cows would be bowing down at midnight and I wanted to see this thing happen!

I lay there, staring at the clock until it read 11:45. Then, I tiptoed downstairs. Mom and Dad were putting the finishing touches on our Christmas gifts. I didn’t care as I had only one thought on my mind.

I immediately stated that we needed to rush out quickly; that there was only a matter of time in which we could catch this phenomenon. I rushed to get my boots on; Mom had my coat. Once my arms were in the sleeves, I was out the door, my parents following after me.

We made it to the barn on that cold clear December night and, with the stars shining brightly over head, saw two of our own Holsteins KNEELING….before they lay down completely.

Note to reader: All cows do that…kneel before they lay.

As an adult, I’ve long known that lowing means to bellar (or to speak, in cattle terms). I’m sure you can see the humor in this. I’m even more sure you can see how a 9-year-old would make the connection between lowing  and kneeling (even though lowering would have been the more correct term).  And although, I feel I should be dying of embarrassment, I’m not. I’m at peace with my childish ways.

Even now, I still hold that same spirit, wonder and anticipation for Christmas Day each year. I pray that never goes away! Thanks be to God that it never will!  

Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence. — Joan Mills