Dandelions are out; Tulips are in

A confession.

Until we put our house up for sale last year, I can’t say that dandelions ever bothered me very much.

So they were weeds.   So others didn’t like them.   So what?

I barely noticed them.  When the grass got cut, the dandelions got chopped down, too, and that seemed like enough.

When I wanted someone to buy our house, though,  I suddenly felt motivated to keep  my yard weed-free.

That’s when the war started. and I’ve brought the battle from the old house to the new, only this time I refuse to give up any territory.

These dandelions have overrun yards all over my new neighborhood, but not my yard.  Not this time.

I  pop those dandelions out by the root every time I take a walk or get the mail or just  head out the door to  the minivan.

But while I’m warring against the dandelions, I’m also choosing to fight for something else.

The whole time I’m digging out weeds, I’m cultivating tulips, watching over them like a mom does a newborn baby.  I marvel at every single hint of growth. I point out the first sprouts of green to my kids, and I wait expectantly for the first blooms  to appear.

In my old house, I planted tulips nearly every fall because I love their vibrant colors. They didn’t grow, though.  In the 13 years we lived in that house, I probably only had tulips bloom two of those years.

They were eaten. That’s why.   Apparently tulip bulbs are a high-class delicacy to voles, who tunneled all through the yard and snacked on my plants through the winter.

I’m determined, though–determined to keep the dandelions out and determined to keep the tulips in.  So I clicked my way through Google searches to find some tulip- growing remedies.   Then I headed out to the garden with a bag of crushed oyster shells and containers of garlic powder and  chili powder.  I mixed that fragrant little concoction up and dumped  it into the holes before I dropped the tulip bulbs in the soil.

The garden smelled like garlic for at least a week.

Now,  it’s spring. The tulips are about to bloom and I finally see the results of all that effort.

I have fought against and I have fought for.

Maybe that’s what I need to know spiritually, too.  That battling against is fine and well and good, but it’s incomplete if we aren’t also cultivating what is beautiful and right and enduring in its place.

James wrote:

16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace (James 3:16-18 CSB). 

We dig out envy, pride, and evil.  We grow peace, gentleness, and mercy.

Paul told the Galatians:

 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy,outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (Galatians 5:19-21 CSB). 

But that’s not the end.  It’s not enough to be rid of the flesh or pull out the sin; we need the Spirit to do a new work within us, and the fruit of the Spirit is:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB). 

I can deal with sin, take it seriously, talk about sin, focus on sin, try to conquer sin, determine not to sin, read about sin, listen to preachers preach about sin, recognize my sin, and constantly declare that I’m a sinner.

But I’m still missing out.  James moves past that.  Paul moves past that.

It’s fruitfulness they describe and it’s fruitfulness I really want.   I want more than a yard without dandelions.  I want the beauty of the tulips.

And that doesn’t happen if I’m focused on myself, my own efforts,  my own failures.   Fruitfulness requires abiding in Christ, lifting my eyes from my self to my Savior.

That’s when my life begins to bear fruit, His supernatural peace, not just the absence of worry, but a heart that loves peace and pursues peace with others.

That’s when He helps me to love even when it’s hard.  That’s when He grows gentleness, mercy, kindness, and goodness within me.   That’s when I have an abiding joy that isn’t determined by circumstances.   This is the Spirit’s work.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5 NIV).

 

 

I’m giving up on perfect and just doing some good

psalm-37-1

Shhhh…don’t tell my daughter, but I let her down in January.

She just doesn’t know it.

Six years ago, I committed to having lunch at the school with each of my daughters every single month.

Pretty soon, I had three girls in elementary school,:that’s three lunches a month or 27 lunches a year, plus an occasional extra lunch thrown in for a birthday or other special occasion.

My kids are typically on top of this, too.  If I haven’t had lunch with my youngest daughter within the first week of a new month, she starts nudging.

Mom, you know you haven’t had lunch with me this month, right?  When are you coming?

But January zipped right past me with days off school, half days with weird schedules, and what felt like endless doctor’s appointments.

My husband says—You’re eating lunch with them at home on the days off.  Doesn’t that count?

No.  That does not count.

Finally, on the last day of January I resigned myself to the truth:  I’d failed: A five year streak of faithfulness broken by a wacky school schedule and a packed calendar.

 

At the beginning of this year, I set some goals in four areas of my life:  Marriage, Parenting, Ministry, and Self-Care.

I’ve been replacing soda with water or green tea.

I’ve been exercising and listening to podcasts while packing my kids’ school lunches.

But there’s one that’s harder to do. It’s not a box to check off or a physical habit to create.

IT’S THIS:  CHOOSE TO BE GENTLE WITH MYSELF.

It means not letting Mom Guilt terrorize my like the tyrant it is.

It means not listening to my self-criticizing internal dialogue.

It means putting a Lunchable in my kids’ lunch box every once in a while.

It means not beating myself up if I occasionally have to order pizza for dinner or go for the quick-fix like boxed macaroni and cheese.

It means laughing instead of berating myself if I forget, and cutting myself off from chores in the evenings so I can spend some time with a cup of hot tea and a book.

AND YES.  THE STRUGGLE IS REAL TO LET GO AND CHOOSE GRACE.

I still have this nagging sense of guilt that I didn’t make it to the school for those lunches in January.  It’ll probably plague me for a long time because I can’t go back and fix it. I can’t make it all perfect.

Then I read what the Psalmist said:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalm 37:3-5 ESV).

Trust Him and do good. That’s what it says.

It seems I spend a whole lot of time and effort trying to “do perfect” or “do all.”

But that’s not what God asks of any of us.

God doesn’t expect perfection because He knows we’re imperfect.

He simply asks us to trust Him, “do good” and keep doing good.  Choose the right things.  Show up day after day.  Be faithful.

Even more than that, don’t try to figure it all out or make it all work.

He’s not going to give us the desires of our heart because we worked like mad-women to make them happen.

HE GIVES US THE DESIRES OF OUR HEART WHEN OUR GREATEST DESIRE IS FOR HIM.

And after Jesus, what is it that my heart desires?  It’s to love my kids to Christ.  One missed lunch isn’t going to change that.

You cannot be perfect today.  Neither can I.

But we can trust God and do good and leave everything in His hands.

AND WE CAN CHOOSE TO BE A LITTLE GENTLE WITH OURSELVES TODAY.

SHRUG OFF SOME SHAME AND STEP INTO SOME GRACE.

LET GO OF SOME EXPECTATIONS AND CLING TO THE FREEDOM CHRIST OFFERS.

Originally published February 26, 2016

Bible verses and a Prayer About Gentleness

verses about gentleness

  • Deuteronomy 32:2 ESV
    May my teaching drop as the rain,
        my speech distill as the dew,
    like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
        and like showers upon the herb.
  • Psalm 18:35 ESV
    You have given me the shield of your salvation,
        and your right hand supported me,
        and your gentleness made me great.
  • Proverbs 15:1 ESV
    A soft answer turns away wrath,
        but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 15:4 ESV
    A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
        but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
  • Isaiah 40:11 ESV
    He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
        he will gather the lambs in his arms;
    he will carry them in his bosom,
        and gently lead those that are with young.
  • Matthew 11:29-30 ESV
     Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
  • 2  Corinthians 10:1 ESV
    I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—
  • Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
  • Galatians 6:1 ESV
    Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
  • Ephesians 4:2 ESV
    with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
  • Ephesians 4:15 ESV
    Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
  • Philippians 4:5 NIV
    Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:7 ESV
    But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
  • 1 Timothy 6:11 ESV
    But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-25 ESV
     And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone,able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth
  • Titus 3:2 NIV
    to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
  • Hebrews 5:1-2 ESV
    For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
  • James 3:17 ESV
    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV
    Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
  • 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
    But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

prayergentleness

Be Gentle. People Break Easily.

proverbs 15

“Be gentle,” I told her.

My baby girl was four years old and on her way to show-and-tell day at preschool.

There she sat in the minivan, cradling this tiny wind-up caterpillar toy, purple with polka-dots, in her four-year-old hands.   She’d rediscovered it in the toy bin the week before and declared it worthy of a trip to the school to show her classmates.

I had slipped that tiny $1 caterpillar into her stocking two Christamases ago and he was a survivor, more or less intact after all this time with only one missing antenna.

But was he up for the trip to the school?  Was he hardy enough to face one four-year-old and her 19 classmates?

I tested him out on our coffee table.  Wind, wind, wind and then I let him go.  He inched across the wood quickly and my daughter giggled at the sight.

That morning, we had scrambled out to the minivan, and I said it to her because I’m a mom and I have to say certain things, “Be gentle.   He will break easily.”

She nodded like I’m such a worrier.  Silly mom.  As if I didn’t already know that. 

I heard that toy buzz, buzz, buzzing during the drive.  I heard her tossing that cheap plastic around in her hands.

And then I heard those words:  “Oh mom, he broke!”

Sigh.

I refrained from “I told you so” and mom speeches.  I chose grace.

We arrived at the school where we gathered up the pieces of her toy and I hoped my English-major brain could figure out the engineering difficulties of a wind-up toy.

Somehow I managed to snap those pieces together. Success!  And then I carried him into her classroom and set him on the show-and-tell table.

She flashed me a smile and I knew I’d earned my Super-Mom cape for the day.

Later, she told the whole story to her big sisters: How mom saved the day by fixing him just in time.  She paused for dramatic effect and then said, “Really, Mom did that.”

But she left out one little part of the story….how he broke in the first place.  How she hadn’t been gentle enough.

This gentleness with others, isn’t it what we leave out so often?

Paul writes:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5 NIV).

We can make excuses about how we’re just “honest” or we “just tell it like it is.”  That’s just who we are.

We can assume the worst, lose patience, rage, condescend and degrade into sarcastic mocking when others disagree with us.

Or sometimes we have this way of being gentle to strangers, but that harshness, that short temper, that criticism oozes out to the loved ones sitting at our own dinner table.

Our husbands.  Our children.  We are their protectors.  We should be the healing salve to the hurts, treating wounds with tenderness and grace, overlooking failures, encouraging strengths, applauding efforts.

When we’re hurt, angry, frustrated, impatient, though, we tend to stab where it hurts most, highlighting faults and bruising the same feelings again and again.  It’s our self-defense; we wound others when we’re wounded.

Yet, gentleness isn’t a God-request.

It’s not a Holy Spirit suggestion or an option for good days, but something we can ignore on bad days when we’re stressed, tired, overwhelmed, or haven’t slept all night because we are, in fact, moms.

Paul tells us in Colossians that gentleness is the garb of Christ:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12 NIV).

Gentleness is part of living Christ to the those around us, in our home and out of it.  We are to wrap ourselves in gentleness so others see Jesus in us.

“Be gentle.  People break easily.”

That’s the message I remind myself as I put that wind-up caterpillar back in the toy bin after his show-and-tell adventure.

A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Proverbs 15:4 ESV).

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18 NIV).

Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24 NIV).

Choosing Words that Heal

proverbs 12

As a girl, my dream height was 5 feet 8 inches.

I didn’t quite make it.

When I eventually made it to oh, about 5 feet 6 inches, though, I thought that was a nice, comfortable height, not tall, but not short either.

Then in my early 20’s, a doctor measured me for the first time in years.

Turns out I’m only 5 feet 4-1/2 inches.

That rocked my world a bit. That’s short.  Not extremely short.  But short.  It’s not tall or even a comfortable in-between.

I walked in and out of that doctor’s office exactly the same, but my perception of myself changed, and it felt a little disheartening.

Now, I have one daughter built long and lean and another daughter built more like me.

This is difficult.

My daughter complains about her lack of height all the time.  How she’s the shortest.  How EVERYONE in her WHOLE class is taller than she is.

I’ve navigated this body image issue for years, but it’s a tempestuous journey.

I ask her—So, you’re built like your mom.  Is that terrible?

I remind her she’ll grow.  It just takes time.

I tell her God made her beautiful, just right, totally lovely.

But this is the tender part of her soul, the soft-skinned place where Satan wreaks havoc and she’s easily bruised.

Any hint whatsoever about her size sends her into a 5-minute diatribe and withers her spirit.

A friend tells me what she said to her own daughter and I hold onto these words of wisdom until just the right moment.

It’s at church.  My daughter launches into another session of, “What’s wrong with me and why am I so short?”

I step in close, look into her eyes and say the words I’ve been storing up:  “The best things come in small packages. Diamonds come in the tiniest of boxes and yet they are a treasure.”

She blinks in surprise.  She never expected those words, this new thought to take hold of her heart.  It changes everything.

I haven’t mocked her or ignored her. I haven’t reasoned and rationalized.

I’ve cradled the most tender part of her soul in my hands and shown gentleness and unfailing love.

This is what we need to give and to receive from those we love most: our husbands, our children, the dearest friends whose secrets weaknesses we’re privileged enough to see.

They entrust us with their messes, weaknesses and failures.

We know their most honest struggles and their most common sins.

We know when the gray hairs arrive and when the scale numbers rise.

We know the flaws and the blemishes.

We know them at their grumpiest and saddest.

We know the things they dislike most about themselves and the things they wish other won’t see.

In fits of rage and bursts of anger, right in the most intense point of conflict, we have to choose:  Use our knowledge as a weapon and wound them where they are most sensitive….or lay it aside, choosing to protect the most tender parts of their soul.

Proverbs says:

Rash language cuts and maims,
    but there is healing in the words of the wise (Proverbs 12:18 MSG).

Our words can wound or they can heal.

Let us be healers.

We are the ones who can say: I  see you.  I love you.  I think you’re beautiful.

Jesus made that choice.

He was abrupt and forthright when necessary, confronting pharisees and those who lacked faith with blunt firmness.

But when he cradled a broken heart in the palm of His hand, it’s what He doesn’t say that is striking.

A sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed Him with ointment from her alabaster box.

The pharisees criticized.  Jesus could have done the same.  Instead, he defends her, saying:

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little (Luke 7:47).

Her sins—her many sins—are forgiven.  He didn’t list them.  He didn’t drag them out for public examination.  He  protected her honor and gave her dignity.

He did the same for the woman caught in adultery and dragged out for public stoning.  She was likely thrown onto the ground naked, exposed, humiliated.

Jesus saw the weakest, most vulnerable moment of her life.

Instead of capitalizing on it and sermonizing about her sins, he covered her shame with His gentleness and grace:

Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more (John 8:11).

When we entrust our hearts to Jesus, weak as they are, sinful as we are, He covers us with His gentle grace and unconditional love.

He sees the ugliest parts of our soul and says, “I love you.  I forgive you.  You are beautiful to me.”

How can we show this gentleness to those we love?

What to do when I’m tempted to criticize

ephesians 4-32

My friend was crying and telling me she felt like a total flake.  Life had been crazy, filled with mistakes and missed appointments, misplaced papers, forgotten promises, everything lost and mixed up and wrong.

I love my friend and I got it. Truly, I did.  I nodded my head and encouraged her while other shoppers pushed their carts past us in the grocery story.

But inside, in the secret places of my mind and heart, that compassion wasn’t complete.  It was hollow, pat-her-on-the-back kind of friendship–the kind that is sorry she had a bad week, but fell short of true understanding or free-flowing grace.

The truth was, deep down, I was judging her as much as she judged herself.  And it was ugly.

Forgetting, missing, losing, making mistakes? It sounded like a too-busy schedule and an absent organizational system.  Maybe a few files and a day planner could save the day.

Two weeks later, I was sobbing at my kitchen table.  It had been a week of misplaced papers and missing items—not little insignificant things—BIG things, like legal documents and DMV paperwork.

For someone generally in control and on top of things, the week had been devastatingly humbling.

Then, I felt the deeper challenge.

God never lets me get away with passing silent judgment or criticism on another.  Never.

Nor should He.

The very moment I start internally critiquing another mom or putting another friend in a labeled box based on her mistakes and weaknesses, I know God will be at work in my life, bringing me to my knees to ask for forgiveness.

Because I need a Savior.

Because I’m a mess, too!

I’m not perfect and my life isn’t perfect and the thing we all need as moms and as women and as flaw-filled humans is heaping loads of grace and compassion, not quiet judgment or silent criticism.

We stumble into the judge’s seat so easily, thinking we know the people around us:

The frazzled-looking momma with the crying baby in Wal-Mart.
The parents whose teenager disappeared from church.
The couple who met with the divorce lawyers last week.
The husband and wife holding the bankruptcy paperwork.
The family with the nice new car and large house.
Those who homeschool (or don’t).
Those who have large families (or small).
The mom who commutes every day to work (and the one who doesn’t.)
The highly fashionable woman next to you in church, with perfectly polished nails, a size 4 waist, and a wardrobe that looks like it costs more than your house (or the one in jeans and a t-shirt).

As long as we’re quiet about it, after all, there seems little harm.  It’s only in our heart, only our own private thoughts of criticism.

Maybe it spills over occasionally into snarky remarks and private jibes with like-minded friends, but mostly we control the collateral damage.

Yet, isn’t that the picture of the pharisees in Luke 5?

Scripture tells us: “One day Jesus was teaching and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there” (Luke 5:17).

They had front row seats, a privileged view of the hurting crowd.

They watched four friends carrying a man on a mat and lowering him down through the ceiling.  They watched as Jesus healed him, saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).

While the man and his friends rejoiced and the crowd marveled, others remained unmoved:

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).

They were just “thinking to themselves.”  They weren’t gossiping or heckling Jesus.  They didn’t hop up then and there to condemn Him.

It was just an internal dialogue, a private moment of judgment and condemnation.

But, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?‘” (Luke 5:22).

Even our most secretive judgments of others have an audience—Jesus Himself.  

Would He also be disappointed about what I’m thinking in my heart?

After all, judgment that doesn’t appear on protest signs or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds is still judgment and it still hurts.

Instead of criticizing or labeling others when I see them struggling or hurting, I should be drawn to intense and consistent intercession, praying for them rather than picking at them.

As Oswald Chambers wrote:

‘God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.’

I should be slow to condemn and quick to pray for others.

The truth is I’m desperately in need of the grace Christ has poured out on me, and if I need that kind of grace, then I need to show that kind of grace: unhindered, unqualified, unmarred by an undercurrent of criticism and condescension.

Just grace.

Beautiful, pure, deep down honest grace.

(Author’s note: Of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t discern or judge right from wrong, sin from not-sin, etc.)

Taking the Tenderness Challenge

Colossians 3-12

Here’s the challenge:

Your child spills her cup of milk at dinner.

She wasn’t being bad.  It certainly wasn’t malicious.  But she was a child who was being…childish.  Not quite paying attention.  Acting a little clumsy, a little distracted, and a little too caught up in being silly and not paying enough attention to the distance between her hand and the cup on the dinner table.

You know…this is how accidents happen.  We make mistakes.

Do you:

  • Sigh.  Big.  Maybe roll your eyes.  Make a big body language statement about how fed up you are with childish behavior.
  • Lecture.  Give a grand ol’ parental speech about paying attention, maybe even covering topics such as physics, human behavior, and child psychology.
  • Yell.  Call the child names and shame them.
  • Give them the silent treatment.
  • Place your hand on their back gently as you hand them some paper towels and whisper the reminder that mistakes happen.

Me?  I’m generally a lecturer.  In fact, my speeches take on a life of their own at times. I know I should stop lecturing my child and driving home deep life lessons at such a moment, but it’s like I just cannot stop my tongue and hush my mouth up already.

What about you?

I’ve been reading and re-reading this story about Martha, grumbling and complaining in the kitchen and then running to Jesus to tattle-tale about her sister, Mary.

Maybe during the summer months when my own kids are devolving into spats and squabbles and then come running to me for judicial rulings, I’m totally interested in how Jesus responds to sisters fighting.

First, I notice what He doesn’t do.

He doesn’t shame Martha.

He doesn’t heave His shoulders up and down in a big, audible sigh.  He doesn’t roll His eyes or nonverbally scream that He’s oh-so-tired of Martha’s childish behavior.

He doesn’t call her names.

He doesn’t bully her, abuse her or lecture her.

Jesus responds with tenderness.  Right in the middle of her chaos and conflict, right where she is in sin and ugliness, right when you’d think she merited punishment or admonition , Jesus chooses the loving response instead.

He starts off by saying:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41 ESV).

Only then, after He’s gentle assured her of His attention and care, does He address the greater need of her heart.

And then there’s Peter, of course, sitting with Jesus after His resurrection and likely feeling desperately afraid of what Jesus might do or say.

Peter was the denier.  The one who promised to stick by Jesus no matter what and the one who betrayed him at the earliest opportunity.

How would Jesus react to Peter?

Duck behind the aisles of Jerusalem’s Wal-Mart in order to avoid Him?

Un-friend him on Facebook?

Stop answering his phone calls?

Would he yell or scream or turn away or belittle Peter, such a failure of a disciple?

No, Jesus shares a breakfast of newly caught fish with Peter and over the crackling of a seaside bonfire, restores Peter and commissions him for leadership within the new church.

Jesus reflects God’s heart for us, just as the prophet Isaiah wrote:

 Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you… (Isaiah 30:18a ESV).

He chooses to be gracious.  He doesn’t give us what we deserve; He gives us compassion.

Of course, it’s not natural.

Lectures are natural.

Frustration is natural.

Annoyance and even anger are natural.

When someone else fails, we can default to what’s natural or we can choose what is Jesus.

As a mom, a wife, a friend, a woman….I want to choose Jesus, not just when it’s easy, but when the pressure is on.  When my heart is racing, when I’m hurt, when I’m annoyed or even angry, choose Jesus.

May my instant reaction, the one unfiltered by niceties and good Christian girl facades, be deep-down compassion and grace.

Gary Smalley wrote:

Remaining tender during a trial is one of the most powerful ways to build an intimate relationship (Love is a Decision).

He also said,

At the moment of vulnerability, and particularly in the midst of the crisis itself, what a person needs first is tenderness (Love is a Decision).

Character-training can come later.  Loving boundaries or correction can come later, quietly, privately, gently.  There’ll be plenty of time for that.

But right there when there’s mess all around and their heart is hurting, people need tender mercy not condemnation.

So, I can build up relational walls and spout off words I’ll later regret, or I can reach out a gentle hand, place it on the small of their back and take the tenderness challenge by learning how to love others like Jesus loves me.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12 ESV).

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

 

 

When Christians Eat Their Own

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We didn’t know the guinea pig was a girl, much less a pregnant female, when we carried her home from the pet store.

The pet store left out all that info.

I remember my mom instructing us kids not to look into our new guinea pig’s cage one morning because our new pet had given birth in the night.

And she had started to eat her own young before we discovered it and could rescue all of them.

It’s a harsh truth for a child: Nature can be cruel.

It’s not any easier as an adult.  We civilized adult human beings—Christians even—are sometimes just as cruel.

Because we Christians sometimes eat our own, too.

About ten years ago, I sat at a dinner table with new acquaintances, Christian women gathered for an evening out.  One woman casually mentioned that it was her husband’s ‘hobby’ to be a sort of doctrinal police for all of Christianity.  He scouted out mis-steps by any and every Christian pastor or teacher and then publicly and scathingly denounced them on his website.  Apparently, it was ‘fun’ for him.

Look up any current public Christian figure and you’ll see the accusations fly: Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Rick Warren, Priscilla Shirer.  They’ve all taken a beating.

Some pastors and teachers do distort Scripture.  They are false teachers.

But not all of them.  Probably not even most of them.

Yet, there are some who use their own pulpits and blogs to mock and condemn as many others as possible.

I’ve seen it myself.  I’ve read a book and then heard the author denounced for things he didn’t say, for quotes lifted entirely out of context and twisted to take on deformed misrepresentations of the author’s intent.

The author hadn’t said that, didn’t mean that, never even implied that.  But he was condemned anyway.

When in doubt, read the book yourself.  Listen to the sermon yourself.  Check the context.

Does it mean when there is real un-truth, real manipulation of Scripture, real abuse that we should just let it go?

Not at all.

But it shouldn’t be ‘fun.’

It should break our hearts to see Scripture mangled, God’s character misrepresented and His people deceived.  And we should hold ourselves to the highest standard of Biblical obedience by actually obeying God’s Word ourselves.

Respond with gentleness. 

The Bible is unmistakable about how we should defend truth:

  • Galatians 6:1 ESV
    Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
  • Ephesians 4:15 ESV
    Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-25 ESV
     And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.
  • Titus 3:2 NIV
    to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
  • 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
    But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

Show gentleness, respect, patience, and love, particularly when confronting opposition.  Do not be quarrelsome.  Do not slander.

So, when that preacher mocks another Bible teacher from the pulpit or that blogger rails with unconcealed anger and rampant name-calling against another author, we can ask:

Are they correcting with gentleness, respect, humility and with a broken heart? 

If not, then aren’t they also abusing Scripture and their platform under the guise of protecting their followers from deception?

We Christians eat our own.

We mob-attack best-selling authors.  We categorize any preacher with a large church and a podcast audience as tainted.

Yet, in the book of Acts when Priscilla and Aquilla heard the popular preacher Apollos speak, they realized he was missing part of the truth.  He was teaching in error (Acts 18).

Did they take to the streets of Athens to make fun of his latest book?

Did they rip him apart in an Amazon review or blog-attack his message and question his own personal faith?

Did they put him on some spiritual blacklist, mock him, call him names, and shame anyone who ever listened to one of his sermons?

No, they brought him into their home.  They cooked him dinner and shared truth somewhere between the main course and dessert.

Apollos humbly embraced their instruction because they talked to him with gentleness and respect instead of using it as a platform for division and judgment within the church.

Paul said,

Let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5 NIV).

It should be a sign of our faith.  People should not look at Christians and see spiritual cannibals waiting to devour the next poor victim who publishes a book or grows his church.

They should see Christ’s gentleness—strength with restraint, truth with humility, always driven by love.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

That Time When She Ripped Me To Pieces on Facebook

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She ripped me to pieces on Facebook.

This person I didn’t know called me a “so-called Christian” who demonstrated absolutely “no love” in my answer to her question.

I read over what I had written that pushed her buttons.  It seemed pretty straightforward.  Something like, “If you click on this post here, you’ll find everything you need to know about what we’re reading this month and how to join in.  Hope that helps!”

So-called Christian?  No love?

Even if she didn’t like my answer, I’d say attacking my personal faith seemed pretty out-of-line.

I’m a people-pleaser.  My love language is words of affection.  So, when someone vomits criticism all over me like that, I’m pretty much a mushy puddle of disaster on the floor.

Clean up on aisle 5.  That’s me.

This time I at least had the gumption to try to let it go.  But it’s been a few months since that post and it still gets my heart racing when I think about it.

Sadly, we’ve entered some bizarre dimension of space and time where we can hack at people from the distance and anonymity of our computer.

People don’t feel personally responsible anymore for what they say because there’s no immediate or relational consequence to verbal abuse.  We just click ‘send’ or ‘reply’ and cyberspace takes care of the rest.

I’d like to say that as Christians we’re known for rising above these drive-by slanders, but we’re not.

Paul wrote, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5 NIV).

And yet, are Christians known for gentleness?  I’d say not likely.

We’re not even known for treating one another with gentleness.

Too often, we’re quick to condemn, mock, judge, criticize, and ostracize one another instead of obeying Scripture and learning how to  correct our “opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:25 ESV).

Maybe it’s because we think gentleness is synonymous with wimpy or weak.  But that’s not the biblical definition at all.

We model true gentleness after that of Christ, who showed restrained strength and self-control even when responding to attackers.

Those who are spewing harshness are the ones who lack self-control.  Gentleness is like holding back the full force of the ocean with quiet determination.

Maybe we think we’re just not gentle people. It’s not our personality.  Other people are gentle; but we’re outspoken and frank and that’s just who we are.

Last year, I interviewed Mary Ann Froehlich about her book Courageous Gentleness and she said

 “the fruit of the spirit is not a personality trait.”

It’s not like God made some people to be loving and some people to be peaceful and some people to be gentle.

The fruit of the spirit isn’t another biblical catalog of spiritual gifts.  It’s what every believer should have at work in us because the Holy Spirit is at work in each of us.

No Christian is exempt from the biblical mandate of gentleness even when handling those with whom we disagree.

In her new book, If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What To Do, Jessie Clemence writes:

Disagreement and discernment are both acceptable. But criticizing people’s efforts to serve God to the best of their ability is totally not fine. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval” (NLT).

Who are we to condemn the service of another?  Who are we to cut down the Lord’s anointed?

But we do it.  Sadly we do just that.

Even in cases of doctrinal error, a private conversation or intense prayer can be far more meaningful than public denunciation and mockery.

In Scripture, David made the choice twice not to lay hands on King Saul.

God had abandoned Saul and anointed David to be King.  Saul was in error.  He was in sin.

If anyone deserved to be confronted publicly, condemned publicly, and punished publicly, it seems like it should be him.

And if anyone deserved to put Saul in his place, it seems like it should be David.

But David wouldn’t do it.  Instead, he told his men

“The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him” (1 Samuel 24:6 NLT).

David trusted God to handle Saul.

God forbid that I attack the Lord’s anointed.

God forbid that I criticize them, mock them, or try to destroy their ministry.

God forbid that I stand on my own platform and use it to judge their offering or pounce on their every word in order to pull it apart, take it out of context and denounce them.

I choose gentleness.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

 

20 Bible Verses and a Prayer about Gentleness

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  • Deuteronomy 32:2 ESV
    May my teaching drop as the rain,
        my speech distill as the dew,
    like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
        and like showers upon the herb.
  • Psalm 18:35 ESV
    You have given me the shield of your salvation,
        and your right hand supported me,
        and your gentleness made me great.
  • Proverbs 15:1 ESV
    A soft answer turns away wrath,
        but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 15:4 ESV
    A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
        but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
  • Isaiah 40:11 ESV
    He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
        he will gather the lambs in his arms;
    he will carry them in his bosom,
        and gently lead those that are with young.
  • Matthew 11:29-30 ESV
     Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
  • 2  Corinthians 10:1 ESV
    I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—
  • Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
  • Galatians 6:1 ESV
    Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
  • Ephesians 4:2 ESV
    with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
  • Ephesians 4:15 ESV
    Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
  • Philippians 4:5 NIV
    Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:7 ESV
    But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
  • 1 Timothy 6:11 ESV
    But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-25 ESV
     And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone,able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth
  • Titus 3:2 NIV
    to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
  • Hebrews 5:1-2 ESV
    For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
  • James 3:17 ESV
    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV
    Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
  • 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
    But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

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