Gracious Speech: Why It Matters

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I watched a home renovation show recently where the homeowner, a woman, found fault with everyone she came in contact with: the designer re-designing her home, the realtor who was showing her new potential homes, her husband for not speaking up about “their wants” in the house hunt. Her words were sharp and uncomfortable to listen to. Words like:

I wanted an eat-in kitchen. Why did you bring me here? I thought I said we were looking for an open floor plan. I don’t even want to see the rest of this property. This won’t work for me.

Each word that came out of her mouth was a pointed dagger, endangering everyone in her path. And I realized how unattractive a loose mouth was on her. The verse from Proverbs 21:9 came to mind: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

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Although easier to detect in someone else, I realize that my own mouth could match hers at times. Rather than greet my husband with a hug when he comes home from work, I greet him with a list of complaints about how the kids have been acting and what needs to be fixed in the house. Rather than compliment my daughter on everything she does right, I nit-pick on the toys she left out or the mess of towels she left in the bathroom.

The Bible cites speech as an important indicator of one’s character and spiritual state, and here are three important ideas to take note of:

1. My speech should be gracious.

I was reminded the other day how ungracious my own speech can be at times. I was standing at the bus stop talking to my new neighbor and her boyfriend (who was visiting from out-of-town). He introduced himself as the woman’s daughter’s “daddy” — but as he was talking I realized that he had identified his home in another state. I had remembered the woman telling me her daughter’s father lived in our state. So I thoughtlessly asked him, “Her daddy? I thought her father lived here.”

He got a little flustered for a moment and repeated that he was the girl’s daddy and not her father (i.e. the one who had raised her but not her biological parent), and I realized that the most gracious thing for me to have done in that situation was most likely have closed my mouth. In my confusion, I bumbled around trying to work out the complicated family dynamics, and I clearly made them uncomfortable. A little self-control helps me to push the pause button on those probing questions that are perhaps not the best for the moment.

According to Colossians 4:6: “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

I never know who I may be witnessing to unawares, and as a Christian, people are watching me and what I say to determine what they may think about my religion and Jesus Christ. I represent Him everywhere I go, whether I want to or not, and my words need to reflect my life in Him.

2. My speech should be controlled.

A verse in James that is personally hard for me to read is James 1:26: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” I find this verse so difficult because I have such a hard time keeping my mouth shut! Apparently, I am not the only one.

A quick scroll through my Facebook feed reveals comments and sharp opinions made by Christians that belie their religion. I, too, have been guilty of posting a comment in haste, only to regret it later. Not too long ago, I got angry after reading an article on anxiety circulating on Facebook. In a moment of fury, I posted a rant on Facebook. I realize that my words were rash and ill-timed and may have hurt people suffering from anxiety.

I can only imagine the damage. There are some people who can’t trust me anymore or my religion — because everything I said went so clearly against it. However, what I can take comfort in is another verse in James 3:2 that says this: “All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn’t make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does” (God’s WORD® Translation).

God extends grace and helps us become better in this area — even if we feel we struggle to keep our tongues in check. However, I can work on controlling my speech by letting the Holy Spirit have control of me. I am not talking about a weird, spooky control. Rather, when I spend time with God daily and let Him have access to me, the fruits of the spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control — start flowing out of me. I am suddenly able to better harness a tongue I find so difficult to control by myself.

3. My speech should be edifying.

I can still trace back to my childhood and recall negative words spoken over me that helped me along on my own path of self-loathing. I got teased for being really skinny (I went through a growth spurt in the summer of sixth grade and went from being the shortest kid in the class to my full height as an adult. Needless to say, my body took some time to catch up). I got called “anorexic” a lot even though I ate all the time. The way those words were spoken, I felt like I must be some sort of disease. Those words helped to shape damaging thoughts. Thoughts like: No one likes you. Something is wrong with you. You’re different.

The careless words of a few had a devastating effect on my fragile psyche. Unfortunately, there were more negative words spoken than positive words, so in many ways, I didn’t stand a chance. Those words were literally curses that I unfortunately adopted and began speaking over myself.

Michael Hyatt, a blogger, consultant, and former publishing company CEO, shares in a recent podcast about a conference where an author friend came up to him and began to unload in a highly negative fashion how bad his life was at the moment. The friend complained about a bad book deal, a bad publicist, a terrible editor. On and on he rambled. Hyatt notes in the segment that all he wanted to do during that conversation was get out of there. The negative words of the friend literally started to suck the life out of the room. His words not only were having a sour impact on the friend’s happiness and outlook — they were having a negative impact on Hyatt as well.

On the other hand, words well chosen can have the opposite effect on a person and the people we converse with. Note what the Bible says about tasteful speech:

“The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin” (Proverbs 10:14).

“The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value” (Proverbs 10:20).

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction” (Proverbs 16:21).

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).

I want to be a woman who builds up and edifies the people around me with what I say. And even though some verses in the Bible remind me how far away I am from hitting the mark, James 3:2 reminds me that I am in process. I don’t always do what I want or say what I want — and if I never messed up, I would be a “perfect [wo]man.” And that is impossible this side of heaven.

So I ask God for help and grace, apologize when I offend, and continually keep in mind that my words say so much about who I am: they are the snapshot of my soul I give to other people.

What about you? Do you struggle sometimes to keep your speech gracious? Share in the box below.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.

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An Argument With God: How I Am Overcoming My New Mommy Fears

overcoming new mommy fears

I have done a few things in my life that people have deemed “scary.” I have gone scuba diving with sharks many times and traveled to a foreign country completely alone. I married my husband with the intention of moving to Africa with him shortly after our wedding, despite having never lived more than 45 minutes from my childhood home. I love to go to the local pet store and cuddle the snakes. I think they’re cute. Truly, I can’t think of many things that scare me, except one.

All my life, I was absolutely terrified of being a mother. Being responsible for a fragile, innocent human life without somehow screwing it up in a major way seemed impossible. Even now, with a 7-month-old, I am absolutely terrified of being a mother. I love my daughter more than words can describe. Prior to having her, I miscarried three babies, so her mere existence is miraculous. She is my most precious gift from God. And I’m scared of her.

She was born 3 1/2 pounds. She lived in the hospital for a month, and during those weeks I woke up at night to “feed” a breast pump instead of my baby. We visited her every day, gingerly cradling her tiny frame. We became accustomed to sharing her with the doctors and nurses and learned how to hold her as closely as we could without tangling the wires attaching her to the monitors that told us she was alive.

And then, one day, at 4 1/2 pounds, she came home. No more doctors, no more nurses, no more monitors. I had been scared while she was in the NICU, but the fear was intensified with every visitor to our house, every hand that touched her, and with every noise she made. How could we care for such a tiny baby? How could we keep her alive? I knew nothing about babies. One of our daughter’s nurses had to teach me how to change a diaper. At home with the tiniest human I’d ever seen, I panicked over every spit up, every tummy ache, and every cry. I begged my husband not to go back to work. I wanted someone else to take care of her. I couldn’t do it.

She weighs 14 pounds now, and I’m still afraid. Afraid of her getting sick, afraid of dropping her, afraid she will stop eating. Sometimes, I don’t even know what I’m afraid of. There are times I feel like I’m hitting my stride, like everything might be OK, but most of the time, I feel ill-equipped and totally incapable of being her mother. She’s perfect and precious, and how could I ever be qualified to guard and protect such a treasure?

My prayers largely consist of desperate cries to God. “I can’t do this! I’m going to fail! I’m a terrible mother, and I’m not good at this! Why did you choose me?”

One of my favorite animated movies is The Prince of Egypt. The story of Moses and the burning bush can be found in the third chapter of Exodus, but I love the depiction of that event in this movie.

In the following scene, Moses has been commanded by God to deliver an entire race of people from slavery. And not just any race of people — God’s prized, chosen children. It’s an impossible task to Moses, and naturally, he argues:

God: So I have come down to deliver them out of slavery and bring them to a good land. A land flowing with milk and honey. And so, unto Pharaoh, I shall send … you.

Moses: Me? W-who am I to lead these people? They’ll never believe me; they won’t even listen!

God: I shall teach you what to say.

Moses: But I was their enemy. I was the prince of Egypt, the son of the man who slaughtered their children! You’ve chosen the wrong messenger! H-how can I even speak to these people —

God: WHO MADE MAN’S MOUTH? WHO MADE THE DEAF, THE MUTE, THE SEEING OR THE BLIND? DID NOT I? NOW GO!

A pause. Once stern and intimidating, God’s booming voice becomes tender.

God: Oh, Moses. I shall be with you when you go to the king of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not listen. So I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all my wonders! Take the staff in your hand, Moses. With it, you shall do my wonders.

Then, the God of creation whispers gently to His precious child.

God: I shall be with you, Moses.

I identify with Moses here. Not because I have ever been given the task of leading an entire nation, but because I have felt the crushing, hopeless feeling of inadequacy.

How often do I argue with God? How often do I try to convince Him that I am not worthy of the calling I’ve received (Ephesians 4:1)? How often have I tried to convince Him to find someone more qualified?

The real truth is that there isn’t a woman on the planet more qualified to raise my daughter than I am. I came into this knowing nothing about caring for a child, and yet, there is no one more fit for the job of Mellie’s mother than I. That’s the way He designed it all. She grew inside my body, she was born from my body, she was fed from my body, and when her eyes meet mine, the sparkle there speaks of a bond no one else will ever have with her. We are connected. Forever. Our Creator planned it that way.

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So, when I cry out to God that I just can’t do it, that the weight of this responsibility is more than I can handle, perhaps what He says sounds something like this:

God: WHO MADE YOU? WHO MADE HER? WHO FORMED HER IN YOUR WOMB, AND YOU IN YOUR MOTHER’S? DID NOT I? NOW GO!

And then, maybe His voice softens.

God: Oh, Sharon. I will be with you as you raise up your daughter. Give your aching hands to Me. Give your tired feet to Me. Give your fearful heart to Me. With them, you shall do My wonders. I will be with you, Sharon.

The fear doesn’t dissipate immediately. The anxiety doesn’t totally disappear. But the truth remains. Mellie needs me, not another mother. And I need her. God doesn’t tell me how it’s all going to work out. He just tells me to go. God doesn’t tell me the work is going to be easy. He just tells me to be strong and do it (1 Chronicles 28:10). Yes, I’m lacking. Yes, I’m weak. But according to His Word, His power is activated, made perfect, by my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I just have to go.

God didn’t give Moses all the details, but He walked before him, showing him the way, doing the miraculous just when things seemed the bleakest. And hasn’t God always done that for me? Didn’t he already save Mellie’s life and mine seven months ago when things spun far out of our control? What reason have I to doubt Him now, to question what He is capable of? Or what He is capable of through me?

Is there something you’re arguing with God about? Is there something you are convinced you just can’t do? Are you convinced you’re not worthy of the calling you’ve received? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon Early

With a bachelor’s degree in English, Sharon Early did not actually put her English background to use right away. She began a job as an animal trainer out of college and then moved on to become a marketing writer. Her latest role is now stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter, Mellie Christine. Married for almost 3 years to her pilot-husband, Sharon has lost 3 babies to miscarriage and is currently pregnant with a brother or sister for Mellie. A Lord of the Rings fan, Sharon once tried to learn Elvish, and dreams of visiting New Zealand where the movies were filmed. She also loves musicals, particularly Phantom of the Opera. Over the course of her life, Sharon has struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and promiscuity before coming to Jesus at the age of 23. Because she still struggles with many of these things, Sharon believes that the worst thing she can do as a Christian woman is pretend like these issues do not exist. Because she has been the recipient of judgment and criticism from other Christians for battling these demons, Sharon is passionate about letting other Christian women know it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s only when we admit we are not okay that we can begin to fully rely on God’s grace. Sharon firmly believes that we defeat the lies of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

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How to Worship in the Waiting

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I remember going on trips with my family as a little girl. I was always in the middle seat in the back, with one brother asleep on my lap and one on my shoulder. Even today, it’s hard for me to fall asleep when someone else is driving, in case my lack of vigilance is the cause of our plunging down a ravine. (Or maybe I’m just a control freak?)

Anyway, when you can’t sleep and have two people lying on you, all there is to do, besides play the alphabet billboard game with yourself, is wonder that quintessential childhood question: “Are we there yet?” Such a question drives every parent to drink (sweet tea) as the answer is clearly that if we were there, we would have already stopped. Obvious enough?

Not to a child, apparently.

Not to us adults either. God makes us so many promises, and He is always so faithful, but all we seem to want is the fulfillment of the next promise — and now. We ask our Heavenly Father the same question I used to ask my earthly one so many times: “Are we there yet?” And with that question, we show that doubt has taken root in our hearts.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on our finances. Our bills are paid, but that beautiful budget that my husband and I never seem to actually implement stares us in the face.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on this fix-Suzy’s-personality-thing. I remind Him that I called a whole blog “The Beam in My Eye” and have drawn attention to every flaw I can think of about myself, but yet, my issues are still there.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on Dusty’s and my future. Kids or no kids? Leadership or no leadership? World change or television-channel-change? Is this it for us?

In all of my searching and asking and nagging and are-we-there-yetting, I forget that God is the King of all this “stuff,” and He wants my worship even if my proverbial car in the game of life stops right where it is and I never get the answer to anything I’ve asked.

Because I don’t deserve these answers. What I deserved, Jesus took on the cross, and thank God for that. However, I know that because God is gracious, all the important wonders of my life are going to be resolved by a loving Father. I just have to embrace His time and remember to worship in the waiting.

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I feel like God has made some huge promises to me in my lifetime, and He will fulfill everything He’s said. However, in the day-to-day, I often struggle to actively believe the promises, thinking instead that maybe I conjured them up or misunderstood God. Even so, I am comforted that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. Two Bible men, David and Elijah, had incredible lives and ministries; however, they both also went so far as to shrink from God’s promises by hiding in caves.

In 1 Samuel 22, David has already been anointed king, as I shared in another post on this blog. However, he finds himself in the Cave of Adullum, a fortified cavern usually populated by a different clientele — criminals. God proved His love to David when He allowed the young shepherd boy to kill a lion, a bear, and an inhuman giant. He proved it again when He had Samuel choose David from out of a stock of what the world would consider superior brothers.

Most recently, he had proven it when he allowed David to form a covenant with his enemy king’s son. Didn’t David believe that God would provide victory for him over that same king, Saul, whom God had rejected? Why, then, was he hiding in a cave? Because he found that to trust while he waited on a promise he considered unlikely just was too risky. David was so very human that he doubted the fulfillment of God’s promise.

And what of Elijah’s doubt in the downtime? He is truly one of the biblical greats, a prophet whose amazing life is recorded in 2 Kings. A man who would later perform more than double Elijah’s miracles, young Elisha thought so much of his hero that he followed him around even to his catching away by the Lord in a chariot of fire.

Elijah was known for stopping the rain, raising the dead, multiplying food in a famine, and even calling fire from Heaven, just to name a few. Did you catch those? Despite all these displays of God’s power, though, Elijah succumbed to depression and found his own cave. Wanting to rest from his seemingly solo task of taking on evil personified in King Ahab, Elijah came to a point where he was ready to give up and even die.

But God appeared to Elijah in that cave in 1 Kings 19:12: “And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (KJV).

At that moment, He showed up to prove a point to Elijah that He also proves to us today. God is very faithful and very present. He has not said one thing He will not do. When He said David would be king, king he was, and no Saul could stop him. No adultery could stop him. Not even the death and rebellion of his children could deter him.

Psalm 119:89 assures us that God’s word, whatever it is, is “forever … settled in heaven” (KJV). Doubting God’s promises may not falsify them, but doubting will certainly delay the sure word’s fulfillment and discourage us too. Had King David known what an example he would be of knowing the Father’s heart to us living in the new covenant, he would have come out of the cave of hiding to wait confidently on the Lord’s provision for his kingdom.

And had Elijah only realized that God’s promise for him was more than death by the way of other prophets, maybe he could have seen that chariot of fire in his mind before it came in reality to translate him straight from this world to the next.

I have many unfulfilled promises in my life, but I don’t want to just hide in a cave and wait for them to come to pass. I want to believe God in the waiting stage. I want those who see the fulfillment of the promises to know that they were birthed out of seasons of trust and hope from a woman of faith who chose to embrace God in her weakness and seek Him until her strength came.

And as I ask God many more times in my life, “Are we there yet?” I want to trust that for each and every promise, we will reach there just in time.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Why God Considers You a Refugee

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Throughout the Bible, there are numerous names given to followers of Jesus.

We are God’s children. We are brothers and sisters. We are bond-servants and co-heirs. We are His priests. We are a peculiar people and vessels. We are witnesses and temples. All of those titles provide us with encouragement as, over and over, the Bible reassures us that our identity as God’s people is a position of stability and peace. We are sons and daughters of the King of all things, and that is a place of honor. But there is another word to describe Christians that the narrative of the Bible infers — a different side of the coin. And given current world events, that word is becoming increasingly more relevant and meaningful.

That word is “refugee.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines a “refugee” as a person who flees his or her home to avoid and to escape persecution or danger. In my lifetime, there hasn’t been such a clearly demonstrated illustration of this word as there is right now. The millions of Syrian citizens who are quite literally running for their lives has been called the biggest mass exodus of refugee people since the Holocaust. Similarly, the Syrian exodus is a stark reminder of the darkness in man’s heart.

And as we watch our news stations and keep up with the headlines, we see more and more visual proof that the life of a refugee isn’t an easy one. Yet, while this label in reference to Christ-followers is more implied than directly stated in Scripture, natural theology leads us towards a clear understanding that God, in all of His abundant understanding and knowledge, says that is exactly what we as Christians are. And while it’s hard for most of us to relate to it, there is a reason why God chose to attach that particular characteristic to us.

I have never been in a position where I have had to cross country lines and rely on the hospitality of others in order to survive. I have never had to run to escape persecution or death. But I do know what it’s like to be on the outside. I do know what it’s like to feel other and strange and looked down on.

Now, please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I am in no way suggesting that my experiences of being excluded on account of my religious beliefs are in any way similar to what millions of displaced Syrians are experiencing at the moment. I am not naïve enough to suggest that. But according to the Bible, we are sojourners. We are exiles. We are refugees. So there must be something to that idea.

There must be a reason that God chose to describe us that way. And I believe the reason is that being a refugee, a noncitizen, a sojourner, and an outsider is as much a part of our identity as Christians as being children and priests and co-heirs are. When we accept God’s call on our lives, when we exchange our will for His grace, we become all of those wonderful things. We become God’s children.

We become heirs of His inheritance. We become the righteousness of God. But as we draw nearer to Him, all of those things pull us further and further away from our own sinful nature. As we become more like Christ, we become less like the world. And the less we look like the world, the more we will be hated by it. The plain and simple truth is that we are refugees.

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We are foreigners and aliens. And we have a responsibility to recognize our citizenship and to remember that where we were is no longer who we are. I am God’s. You are His. He is ours. And this world is not our home.

Hebrews 13:14 says, For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

So, in that regard, while I have been fortunate enough to never have had to suffer the hardships of a physical refugee, the Bible is clear in that I do have to live the life of a spiritual one. And just like the Syrians are having to flee their homeland and are having to make do in a land that isn’t theirs, we have had to adjust to life in a broken world — a world that is not for us. Our citizenship is somewhere else. We will never fully fit in. The day that we do fit in is the day that we have lost our sense of identity and purpose.

The word “refugee” isn’t a positive one. However, it wasn’t meant as a death sentence when God inspired Bible authors to write it about Christians in general. Yes, we are outsiders, but we are not without hope. Unlike the Syrian refugees, the life that God offers us shouldn’t look like displacement. It shouldn’t feel like running and hiding. We shouldn’t come across as a people with nowhere to call home. Just because our home isn’t in this world doesn’t make it any less real. And that is the light that we have to extend to this world.

This world is full of people without a home because without Jesus, that is what we are — homeless. God is our place of safety. And that is the truth that we ourselves must be convinced of. Because our hearts belong to Him, while we are exiles in a foreign land and strangers in a world that isn’t ours and foreigners who will never truly belong, we are not without a safe place. The Bible may say that we are refugees, but it also calls God our refuge. And there is no way to separate those two words.

“LORD, you are my fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble” (Jeremiah 16:19).

“This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety” (Psalm 91:2).

“Those who fear the LORD are secure; He will be a refuge for their children” (Proverbs 14:26).

“But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4).

Over and over, God assures us that He is our safe place, our hiding place. Whatever you are going through, wherever you are, however hard life is raging against you, God is your shelter from the storm. You may be a refugee in this world because of your faith in the Lord. You may be an outsider and foreigner. You may be hated because of who you are. But you are not hopeless. You are not at the mercy of this world. You are not storm tossed like the millions of Syrian refugees currently without a home. You have a refuge. His name is Jesus.

In Him, we have hope. If the life of Jesus taught us anything, it is that a life consecrated to God isn’t one that follows worldly convention. It isn’t one that is accepted by man. It isn’t one that is rewarded in the typical sense. In fact, a consecrated life is increasingly looked down on and hated. And in so many countries, a consecrated life even leads to harsh persecution and death.

But Jesus was hated. He was rejected. He was even put to death.

So we are in the very best of company. A Christian life is a contradiction. We are refugees with a home. We are simultaneously rejected and accepted. We are hated by the world, but we are also envied by angels. That is the price we must pay to be His children. Actually, I take that back. That is the price that we are blessed to even have the chance to pay.

If you aren’t praying for the Syrian refugees, I encourage you to do so. The majority of them are Muslims which means that they don’t know the grace of God. They have been deceived. But He loves them. Salvation is for them as much as it was for us.

Whatever you think about the current situation, they need Jesus. On that, we should all agree. They are in a desperate situation, and I pray that God intercepts them as they wander. And I encourage you to relate to them in their wandering. They are refugees. And so are we. We are outcasts, foreigners who don’t belong. But, we can remember, every day, every breath, every beat of our hearts brings us closer and closer to home.

 

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard

Adriana Howard describes herself as "sort of a mess in pursuit of a great story." Adriana spent a year teaching high school English, and currently, she is teaching theater after school at a local elementary school. She also serves with her husband as a youth pastor at her church. One day, Adriana hopes to be a published author. For the time being, she wants to travel the world, adopt children, learn how to really love people, maintain a garden, go back to India, and work alongside her husband in ministry. Other passions of Adriana's include love war films, cooking, bulky typewriters, crowded airports, winter’s first snow, Elizabeth I, and books of all shapes and sizes. Last but certainly not least, Adriana has a passionate love for Jesus. You can connect with Adriana on her blog where she dabbles in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

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Why I Am Letting Go of Bitterness

Why I am Letting Go of Bitterness

My former senior pastor gave a story once of his young daughter refusing to jump from the diving board into the pool. Only a few years old at the time, she was taking swimming lessons at the local pool and part of her final exam for the swim class was to jump from the diving board.

She was never able to do it until the last day of swim class. On that final day, her parents prepped her, and her dad took her to the pool. To his amazement, he watched his once petrified little girl jump off into the deep end and swim to the side.

“How did you do it?” He asked. “How did you overcome your fear?”

“Oh, that’s easy, Daddy,” she replied. “I just imagined Jesus was in the water, and I was jumping into His arms.”

When Jesus Wants You to Jump

Lately, I have been feeling like a little girl on a diving board. The problem with me is that I am not sure I can trust if Jesus is there to catch me. Sure, I have a history of walking with Him where I know He is faithful.

But somehow, this time, with a move my family is making to a new place, I am slightly suspicious that when I jump, He’s not going to be there. As ridiculous as this sounds, it feels like He isn’t going to go with us.

But instead of staying behind, maybe He’s already ahead to where I am going, waiting for me. Maybe He’s already in the water, and all I have to do is trust.

I’m pretty sure the disciples felt like me after the death of Jesus. They had followed Him around for a few years, eaten with Him, talked with Him. And then He died. Everything they thought would happen didn’t happen. And they looked around and probably didn’t know what to do, so they went back to doing what they had always done. But Jesus appeared to them — a third time while they were fishing.

Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. (John 21:12)

While they thought they had been left behind, Jesus had actually gone before them and was waiting for them on the shore.

A New Season in My Life

At a wedding of some friends, I find the nearest bathroom stall and hunch down in it. I tell God I am bitter. I don’t want to be but I am. I tell Him that there are relationships that I have to let go of that I am not ready to release. There are things that I had wanted to happen that didn’t. There is a dream dying that I can’t let go of. I don’t want to feel so disappointed, but I can’t get seem to get rid of these feelings.

I feel Him standing near me. His hands are out. There have only been a handful of times when I have felt Him physically near me — and this is one of them.

Music drifts from the welcome hall where people mingle, talking and laughing. Above that sound is another sound — like a blur of voices singing. The sound is not in dissonance with the music — but I can make out no recognizable tune. Perhaps the sound is nothing more than a reverberation of the music playing in the other room, but I feel like for these moments there is another layer of sound. And then a few lyrics from a Colton Dixon song pop up in my mind. The song is not actually playing anywhere near me, but the words are so clear in my mind, it’s almost as if I can hear them:

I let go of your hand

To help you understand

With you all along

Yeah, I was never gone.

Like He is saying to me, Carol, I am here. I was never gone. Nor will I ever be.

I get up from the stall and walk out to join my husband. That tight knot in my stomach. Gone.

That desire to hold on to my old community and a life God is telling me to let go of. Gone.

Just a sense that, yes, I can jump and move on.

An Inspiration From an Unexpected Source

Around the same time I attend the wedding, I read a CNN article about a girl who was photographed while she was on fire. Just a young 9-year-old girl, Kim Phuc was running from a napalm attack — her flesh burning — during the Vietnam War. A photographer captured the moment and then ran to her aid. The article is about the woman now — she is 52 and living in Toronto.

After the awful moment was captured in a photograph, Phuc was embarrassed by the picture. She didn’t like looking at herself in torment — such a horrible moment for her and others to have to remember.

But then she started to realize what the photograph meant to people. The photograph had helped people see the terror of the war — even, some say, help to end the war itself.

As the article notes, “She began to think about what the photograph could give, rather than what it could take away.”

Obviously, I am not a war victim, and a move to another county is not a traumatic event, but after reading the article, a little thought bubbles up and it is this: What if I focus not on what this move is taking away but what it can give?

The phrase “something better” keeps coming to mind when I ask God why He wants me to go. He keeps telling me that there are promises that are going to be fulfilled. But they feel so far away. And it feels painful because there are so many opportunities He has asked me to give up these past few years. Whatever awaits for me in the future feels unreal. But maybe giving up my bitterness over leaving means believing in the promise of something better.

Right now, in this season of transition and confusion, it just feels like God is taking and taking. I want to say, “God, haven’t you taken enough? I got nothing left.” But that’s just the paradox of the Christian life: it is in the giving up that I find it.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25)

Do I want to move? No! Am I believing God has good things in store for me even though it doesn’t feel like it? Do I believe in obeying when God calls? Yes!

And so, I’ll go.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.

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