Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.” Now I should be the last person to write about a soft answer. I’ve always had a big mouth, not just in words, but in volume. Growing up, it was more common for me to hear “Heath, turn the volume down” than “Heath, eat your vegetables.” I guess that’s why I made a decent cheerleader, but a terrible bookkeeper. In the bible, God not only challenges us to use a softer voice, but He used one Himself. Especially in conversations with really messed up people. He was good like that. What’s the appeal to a soft voice? To illustrate, let’s compare soft things with their counterparts: a Sealy Posturepedic bed with a Down Comforter or a hard cot with a wool blanket? Soft cotton boxers or burlap underwear? Lavender Softsoap in a pump or a bar of Dial? Soft-upholstered LazyBoy recliners or hard benches? Soft things are appealing to us just like a soft voice is appealing to others. If you (like me) have the tendency to shout, yell, scream, roar, clamor or bark, we need to add a PAUSE button to our brains. Before we RESPOND in our usual loud way, press Pause in our heads & in that pause, adjust pitch & volume. THEN press play and speak forth. 🙂
I used to be so full of it. Full of what, you ask? Full of drama! My crises were world-halting events that devastated me and sucked the life out of those around me. Two events happened in my 20s that caused me to take an embarrassing look at myself in the drama mirror. One, was a good friend of mine just up’ed and walked away. She quit talking to me, returning my calls, etc. Through my investigative stalking, I learned that she was so worn out from my drama that she just couldn’t keep up with me any more. Whoops! The other event was a mentor who pulled me aside and just shot straight with me that if I wanted to be a leader I needed to learn when and where to let my drama show (and in most cases, that’s home or a counselor’s office). Drama is basically taking a hardship in your life and amplifying it with your emotions. And it IS controllable…as this former drama queen can attest… 🙂
There’s an old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” And I totally disagree with it! Words can hurt. Words do hurt. If you have ever had anyone speak insulting, bullying or vengeful words over you, you know it can hurt almost (if not more) than a stick or a stone. One time, a person spewed these words to me: “You’ll never make it in Florida! When you get there and people learn who the real you is, you’ll have to move back!” Unkind words from an unkind friend, just weeks before I moved by myself to Florida. Her words were not only hurtful but unforgettable. I still remember them. I remember where we were standing, I remember the look on her face as she said those words & I remember how they almost took me down. I have learned that sticks & stones can hurt the body, but words can hurt the soul. If you are a person who spouts off, pray for self-control. If you are a person who’s been spouted off to, pray for healing. The person who said those words to me spoke them over 15 years ago. True, I haven’t forgotten them. But you know what else is true? Unlike what she tried to foretell, she was wrong…cause I’m still in Florida. 🙂
There are people you put in our lives, to which we are honored.
There are miracles you have given, to which we are speechless.
There are prayers you’ve answered, to which we are grateful.
There are things you did that we didn’t notice, to which we are relieved.
There are things you didn’t do that we thought you would, to which we remain faithful.
God, we’re just one of the flock–moving in one direction, at different paces.
But you always keep pace with each of us, making sure we make it.
We have fallen behind, but you didn’t let us stay there.
We have followed other sheep down the wrong path, but you steered us back in the right direction. We’ve led other sheep astray, & your rod & staff lovingly corrected us. God, we aren’t bad sheep, we just make bad choices. We need you. We’d be lost without you.
one of the flock
My kids and I used to play this app on my iPhone called “Would You Rather.” At restaurants, it was a good time-waster as we waited for our food. But I got to thinking about this funny game in a more serious way and:
1) Would you rather stand in God’s shadow or in your own sunshine?
2) Would you rather be a real screw-up or a perfect fake?
3) Would you rather forgive someone & walk free or not forgive them & be imprisoned?
4) Would you rather keep your blessings in an open palm or a clutched fist?
5) Would you rather climb a mountain & experience the summit or avoid the climb & never know?
These five “Would-You’s” are not random. They came to my mind because I’ve had to face them in my life. Maybe take a sec to consider them today in case these “would-you’s” become your realities tomorrow!
“…for He is our God. We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care. Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!” (Psalm 95:7) In the bible, we are often referred to as sheep. For good reason! Sheep are limited in many ways. And when compared to God–we, humans–are too. And God’s OK with that. He doesn’t want know-it-alls who don’t need Him. He’s looking for sheep who want to join Him. In this verse we learn the Shepherd speaks to His sheep. His voice speaks with conviction when we do something wrong. His voice speaks with wisdom when we don’t know what to do. His voice speaks with comfort when it hurts so bad. He uses His voice to whisper to our soul. God never stops “voicing,” it’s just that we sometimes stop listening. Man, who would want to miss the voice of God? When we can admit we’re dumb sheep in need of a Shepherd is when we’re really…at our smartest.
We all have a “comfort-tank.” And mine was never so close to running out ’til I became a mom. It wasn’t that long ago when I was jockeying back and forth between a newborn who needed comfort for feeding & sleeping, and a toddler who needed comfort for boo-boo’s & temper-tantrums. Back then, I would tap into that comfort-tank a dozen times a day. This could be such a discouraging cycle! What if my tank ran out of comfort?! But with God, it never does. In Isaiah 66:13, God promises, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Whether we are moms needing comfort for our kids, teachers needing comfort for our students, friends needing comfort for our hurting friends, we will NEVER run out of comfort for others because God will never run out of comfort for us. Whether we have one who requires gallons of comfort, or ten who require a pint each, God promises to put His comfort right back into us. I had a long day today, as I write this, I feel depleted. But I will go to sleep tonight knowing that God works through the night–filling our tanks with comfort because He knows tomorrow He will need us to give others more. He’s good like that.
I met with my kid’s teacher last week to discuss his recent behavior. Beings that he came from the loins of me, I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that he was having some “talking” issues: talking too much, interrupting others, interrupting the teacher, and so on. So I sat him down and gave him the “no words challenge.” The challenge is to NOT have to say something just because somebody else does. It means not having to justify, excuse, brag, boast, explain, defend, rationalize, pardon or interrupt just because you like to be heard. It means letting your response sometimes be silence to another’s noise. It means understanding that there are times when LESS is MORE with the tongue. That God can speak through our SILENCE as well as our WORDS. And as all of this percolated in my head and regurgitated itself in bite-size pieces to my kid, I realized I was learning something too. (God’s good like that, eh?) I’m not sure if you have an issue with this, but maybe you know someone who does. I’ll end with this GREAT bible verse that I put to memory & taped to my steering wheel several years ago, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19.