Slow to Criticize and Quick to Pray

Years ago, 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 a hollow, pat-her-on-the-back kind of friendship that feels bad, but doesn’t really offer the full covering of 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.)

As long as we’re quiet about it, after all, there seems little harm.

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.)

Originally published 3/9/2016

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.)

What I Said and What I Was Thinking

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2)

She 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 remember being partially sympathetic and somewhat compassionate, outwardly consoling her and sharing words of encouragement as other shoppers pushed their way past our carts.

But inside, in the secret places of my mind and heart, that compassion wasn’t genuine.  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.

in fact, the all-business side of me was passing unspoken judgment.

Forgetting, missing, losing, making mistakes? It didn’t sound like an attack from Satan to me.  It sounded more like a too-busy schedule and an absent organizational system.  Somehow I thought a few files and a day planner could save the day.

Two weeks later, I was crying 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 Department of Motor Vehicle paperwork.

For someone generally in control and on top of things, the week had been a devastatingly humbling reminder of just how flaky I can be.

An attack from Satan?  Suddenly it seemed possible.  Or even a tool God was using to challenge my heart and burn away the hidden places of self-condemnation and then smother the flames with His unconditional love and grace.

We so quickly stumble into a world of silent judgment, assessing, evaluating, and categorizing 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).

And maybe we think we’re justified, that our own success in these areas qualifies us for positions of authority.  Or maybe we’ve memorized a list of Bible verses that prove our position.  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.

Sure it might spill over occasionally into snarky remarks and private jibes among our like-minded friends, but mostly we control the collateral damage.

Yet, isn’t that the picture of the pharisees in Luke 5, solemnly and silently sitting off on their own, overlooking Jesus’ ministry and remaining stoically untouched by His compassionate healing?

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 and the four friends carrying a man on a mat and lowering him down through the ceiling.  Jesus saw the faith of the friends, their determination and selflessness.  He saw the paralyzed man, so dependent on others even to carry him to the feet of the Savior.

And Jesus healed him by saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).

Maybe the crowd marveled at the miracle.  Perhaps the man who had been confined to a mat danced a jig and hugged his faithful friends.

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).

It likely seemed safe, passing silent thoughts of judgment.  They were, after all, just “thinking to themselves.”  They didn’t hop up on a soapbox or try to steal the show.  They didn’t argue with the crowd or publicly condemn the healed or the Healer.

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.   That’s why Beth Moore, in her book, Jesus, the One and Only, asks: “How do I silently judge?”  Because judgment that doesn’t appear on protest signs or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds or in pulpits is still judgment.

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.

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 upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

The Sound of Silence

When I was pregnant with my very first daughter, my husband and I prayed the normal prayers of soon-to-be parents.  We asked God for her health, her character, her faith, and her future.

I threw in a prayer asking that she be a good eater and sleeper. The Bible says we can ask, right?

Then we bowed our heads together and prayed something truly bold. We asked that God would entrust us with a child who had something different than us—a talent, passion or personality trait that set her apart from her mom and dad.

After that prayer, we thought we’d give birth to an athletic superstar. I imagined soccer practices and track meets far into my future life as a mom.

God, however, rarely fits into the boxes we create for Him.

As she grew older, we realized that she was no sports prodigy.  Yet we’ve discovered many ways that she’s different from us—how she’s such a people person and how she spends hours on art projects and how she loves to be fancy.

Still, there’s one way God answered our prayer that I absolutely can’t miss.

God gave my daughter the heart of a dancer.

We don’t understand this.  I never in a million years expected to be a ballet mom.

My husband and I didn’t even slow dance at our own wedding, not because of some super-spiritual anti-dance philosophy.  It’s because we . . . . can’t. . . . dance.  At all.

Victoria, however, puts on a ballet performance at outdoor concerts along the beach and to the soundtrack of every movie we watch in our home.

She also dances at church.

That, my friends, is the rub.  The first time she pointed her toe and began stepping out of her pew to dance to the worship music at church, my palms grew sweaty with nervousness, which is kind of a problem when you’re the church pianist.

I know what Scripture says.

Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!  Psalm 149:3

 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!  Psalm 150:4

Still, while I agree that dancing is part of the Biblical description of worship, I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about my daughter being the dancer.

After all, this isn’t just a gentle swaying to the music.  She throws her head and her arms back and swirls, twirls, and pirouettes.  It’s total abandon and absolute passion.  She’s not ashamed or afraid to dance for God.

When we arrived home after her first praise dancing session, I chatted with her about it.  I hinted that it might be better to stand still and try to sing the songs, just like everybody else.

She stared at me for a moment.  Then she announced:

“The Bible says we should dance for God.
I’m dancing to make Him happy and Jesus likes it.
I think it makes Him smile when I dance.”

Alrighty then!

After being put in my place and given a Bible lesson by my five-year-old daughter, I really didn’t have anything else to say.

Most of the time, after all, silence is the only appropriate response to unmistakable truth.

This is difficult for me because I’m an excuse maker and a justifier.  If you tell me I shouldn’t have done that, I’ll give you 20 reasons why it was necessary.  I feel the need to explain myself all the time.

It’s the people-pleaser in me, hoping to convince others through my combative defensiveness that I was right, even when I was wrong.  Because I don’t want to be wrong, not ever.  I don’t want to mess up, not at any time.

Life would be so much easier for me if I was just perfect.

When God speaks truth to us, our response shouldn’t be excuses and explanations.  It should be the humble bowing of the head and the submissive silence of repentance.  Because we’re not perfect, not any of us.

Even the Pharisees knew that arguing with Jesus was impossible.  When He challenged them on issues of healing, the Sabbath, resurrection, and faith, “they were silent” (Mark 3:4, Luke 14:4).

Later on in the early church, Peter presented his case in favor of Gentile believers to the Jerusalem church elders.  When he finished reminding them of Scripture, his own personal testimony, and the evidence of faith they’d seen as Christianity spread, “they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18, ESV).

Then there’s Job.  For forty chapters, Job and his friends had debated about God, discussed, dialogued, and orated.  They had yapped and yapped.

Then God showed up.  He finally decided to speak up for Himself.  Job “answered the Lord and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer You?  I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5, ESV). 

The truth stings sometimes, I know it.  It requires that we admit mistakes and demands we take the often difficult steps to change.

But He’s a gracious and merciful God, who only speaks truth to us because He loves us.  So, instead of arguing with Him, let’s choose to place our hands over our mouths and bow our heads in silent obedience. Like Samuel, we say, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10, NIV).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com 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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

One Thing

Today, my to-do list keeps growing instead of shrinking. It’s like a monster from a sci-fi movie, a speck of a bug that everyone scoffs at until it morphs into a gigantic beast who crushes unsuspecting humans underfoot.

This is frustrating.

I’m running around, working frantically at each item on my list.

But I’m hopping from the laundry to picking up beads to cooking, back to laundry to writing to playing puzzles with my toddler to more writing to cleaning up more beads and then reading my daughter a book.

Unfortunately, as I wash and scrub, I’m discovering more cleaning to do along the way.  Open up the refrigerator.  Good grief—how long since I’ve cleaned in there?  Open up the microwave.  The inside looks like a modern art painting.  Yeah, add “clean microwave” to the list.

I’m working. I’m active.  But I’m not getting anything officially done. I’m bouncing too much from project to project.  There’s so much to do, it’s hard to pick a starting point.  It’s difficult to shut my eyes to the rest of the mess and just scrub the spot I’m on.

Isn’t that the way with life?  There’s so much to take in.  So much to do.  So many activities and so little time.

So maybe after a little hyperventilating, a big cup of tea and a generous helping of chocolate, I’m ready to do one thing.

One thing.  That’s really all we need sometimes.  We’re trying to do it all, and God asks us just to do one thing at a time.

The morning show at our local Christian radio station, KLOVE, reminds us of this every January.  They say, “Don’t get bogged down in a dozen New Year’s resolutions.  Pick one word that you want to define your year and just stick with that.”

One word to bring all my of life into focus.  One word to ask God to cement on my heart and mind.

My friend, Andrea Anderson did just that in her blog, Live With Laughter.  You can read about her word for the year here.

That’s kept me thinking this week, not just of the one word that will define my year.  I’m wondering:

Who is the one person I need to encourage today?
What is the one main thought or verse I need to take away from time in God’s Word?
What’s the one issue I need to make top priority with my kids today?
What’s the one conversation God wants me to have?
What’s the one thing God wants me to learn today?
What one lesson does God want to teach me in this circumstance?

If I get more than that one thing, it’s a bonus!  A little bit of super-blessing from God.  But, it’s enough to hold onto the one thing and trust God with the rest.

In Psalm 27, David brought all of His prayer requests into focus with just one definitive heart’s desire when he wrote:

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple (Psalm 27:4).

Jesus told Martha that all the frantic cleaning and cooking shouldn’t be her focus.  He said, “One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).  Mary had found her one thing—time with Christ trumped everything else on her to-do list.

When the rich young ruler sought salvation from Christ, he declared that he had followed every rule, every bit of the law and fulfilled all of its requirements.

Jesus cut through all of the excess and said, “You still lack one thing.  Sell all that you  have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22).

There was one issue, one lesson, one attitude of the heart that Christ needed to address with this man.  Unfortunately, even though the rich young ruler was willing to take on the cumbersome burden of the law, he wasn’t willing to do the one thing Jesus really wanted.  Material goods mattered more than salvation to him.

When Jesus healed a man who had been blind since birth, his family and friends pestered him with questions.

How did this happen?  Who healed you?  Where is this Jesus guy now?

Then the Pharisees heard about the healing and asked questions of their own.

Who is this healer?  Why does he have such power?  How can a sinner perform this miracle?

Tired of it all, the man finally said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (Luke 9:25).

That was enough.  Sometimes we want to know everything.  The reasons for the past.  The destination of the future.  How God is going to work it all out and certainly when it’ll all happen.

What if instead of trying to know everything, we stick to the simplicity of truth?  I know God’s in control.  That’s enough.  Maybe that’s my one thing.

What’s the one lessons God’s been teaching you?  What’s the one word that you need to focus on this year?  What’s the one truth you can hold onto when life gets confusing and crazy? 

What’s your one thing?

You can read more devotionals on this topic here: