The Fine Art Of Speaking Truth In Love . . . .

A quote posted on social media weighed heavy on my heart last week:

“Don’t waste your words
on people who deserve your silence.
Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say
is nothing at all.”

It struck me that the perspective of not wasting words on those who deserve our silence, reflects a haughtiness of attitude that is lightyears away from God’s call to love.  In fact, to say nothing at all, effectively denying the worth of the other individual, underscores the chilling observation of Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel,:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

The truth is, silence is never golden when love is absent.
Instead, silence combined with the absence of love kills
and has great potential for hardening hearts–
yours, mine and the one being ignored.    

God calls us . . . .

The problem is not new. The Apostle Paul wrote about conflict in relationships and how Christ’s followers were to handle such:

“We are no longer to be children,
tossed here and there by waves
and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men,
by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
but speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in all aspects
into Him who is the head,
even Christ . . . .”
Ephesians 4: 14, 15

So what does it mean to speak truth in love?  Is it to follow wisdom of Thumper in the classic movie, Bambi? 

If you don’t have anything nice to say,
don’t say anything at all.”  

While that may be a sweet notion, God calls His own to go deeper in our relationships . . . much, much deeper.

To speak truth in love is not about niceties.  It often requires:

  • Sacrificial kindness–a willingness to risk being misunderstood for the good of the other.
Speaking truth in love is a process that requires intentionality. The key to working out that process is given us in Ephesians 4:22-25,

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self, which is being corrupted
by its deceitful desires . . . and to put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and
speak truthfully to your neighbor . . . .”
  

Speaking truth in love becomes an art form over time when we remember Christ’s call to us:

“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12
It is when we take our focus off ourselves and look to Christ as Sovereign and Good, that we begin to understand the value of words.  It is when we begin to choose our words prayerfully that we will bless our friends, neighbors and even that irritating individual we would otherwise be tempted to ignore.
Yes, relationships ARE hard and and at times even draining.  But when we keep Christ’s call in the center of our thinking as we use words to bless others, life becomes an adventure that is interesting and full of meaning.
All to His Glory!

With Every Problem . . . .

The first time I read the opening declaration of James*, I was a new Christian:

 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many 
kinds . . . .”  

I was terrified!

Even now, four decades later, when hit  by the twists and turns of life, my first response is rarely to embrace hurt or disappointment with “joy.”  Even so, I committed to live out the wisdom of James and determined to test the promise that follows his declaration::

“The testing of your faith produces perseverance,
and perseverance must finish its work so that
you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything,”

 With that, I have embraced this truth:

Opportunity to trust God more . . . .

“With every problem comes opportunity . . .
opportunity to trust God more.”

Of course this commitment has not only impacted my personal outlook, but also how I counsel others.  From the onset, my goal in building a relationship with each Client has been based on my conviction that:

Biblical counseling
is more than fixing problems.
Biblical counseling should be about strengthening our relationship with the Shepherd of our hearts.

When people seek counsel, they often perceive God as being very distant and assume the worst of Him. To circumvent this, we rely on prayer and the Scriptures to bring God into every conversation that takes place in the Counseling Room. This “conversation” between God and Client continues as Clients are encouraged to do their Journey Notes outside of the Counseling Room two or three times a week. Those who follow through are the ones who do the best overall, as they learn to trust God not only with details of their lives but also their eternal future.

One passage that is a favorite with Clients is found in Isaiah 30. In it God urges His people to resist the temptation to run from their problems–but to run to Him instead.  The passage begins with this prescription:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength. . . .”

Meant to calm the heart and mind, the passage goes on to acknowledge what we are more likely to do:

. . . but you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift
A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
(Verses 15-17)

It then reassures us with this beautiful picture of a caring Shepherd:,

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!

Isaiah 30:18

Did you catch that? “He will RISE UP to show you compassion.”  A perfect illustration of God being ACTIVELY concerned when it comes to the lives of His children.

The passage continues, with this assurance of God’s faithfulness in seeing us through dark valleys, as it challenges us to reject the things we cling to instead of God:

“Although the Lord gives you
the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
your teachers will be hidden no more . . . .
Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.”
Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver
and your images covered with gold;
you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth
and say to them, “Away with you!” 
 

No matter what we face, God calls us to come to Him with problems large and small.  I especially love the encouragement of Jesus’s invitation to all,

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:28-29

It’s all true:

With every problem comes opportunity . . .
opportunity to trust and love God more.

How to begin?  Give thanks to Him for His love and mercy as you rely on Him to provide the wisdom and perspective you lack.

So . . . what are you waiting for?!!!

All to His Glory!

*James 1:2-4

When Sin Replaced Love . . . .

When you think about relationships and the memories that go with them, what comes to your mind?  Being a “glass-half-full” kind of gal (and slightly corny), when I think about relationships and the memories that go with them, I initially think along the lines of Barbra Streisand singing, “The Way We Were”: 

“Memories
Like the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were . . . .”

I enjoy remembering childhood summers at Pismo Beach with family and how my dashingly handsome husband watched and waited as my dad guided me down the church aisle 47 years ago. I still cherish the delight that filled my heart the first time I spoke of, “my daughter”, as I walked down the hallway to the hospital nursery to retrieve her.

But if we are honest, life is not full of “misty watercolor memories” because relationships are frequently painful, confusing and confounding.  At times we are tempted to isolate ourselves from God and other people to avoid that pain.  The problem is that when we do, other pains emerge–loneliness and depression.

One of the things I appreciate about the Bible is how it provides glimpses into the dramatic shift that took place in our relationship with God and with others when sin replaced love in the Garden:

“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden.
So they hid from the LORD God among the trees.
Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid.
I was afraid because I was naked.’
‘Who told you that you were naked?’ the LORD God asked.”
Genesis 3: 8-11
New Living Translation

God made us first and foremost for a relationship with Him.

Casually fellowshipping with God, without the turmoil sin creates is difficult to imagine.  But deep down, I believe it is what we long for. From the very beginning God created us for loving relationships. When sin entered the Garden and became the “new normal”, love was lost along with the deep fellowship enjoyed in the Garden.  Jesus affirmed this when He responded to a question about what He considered to be the greatest of God’s commandments:

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind’. . . .

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 22:37-39

  • God made us, first and foremost, for a relationship with Him.
  • Secondarily, He made us for relationships with one another.

Where sin creates chaos and disunion, the basis for meaningful relationships (love) has never changed:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us
and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

I John 4:10

In fact, truly meaningful relationships are rarely formed in a vacuum of pleasantries and ideals. The truth is that the challenges of pain and disappointment in our relationships, when addressed with God’s love and the wisdom of Scripture, provide greater opportunities for spiritual growth than anything we might conjure up for ourselves.    

The wisdom and perspective offered in Romans 12 directs us to keep our priorities straight as we relate to others, even when disappointment threatens:

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” 
(Verses 
10-12)

As we dedicate ourselves to being “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” we discover the sweeter path to His Hope and Light penetrating even the bitterest of relationships.

But what are we to do with those memories that seem to stalk us, like shadows that grow larger over a distance?  The words of the Apostle Paul, written while in a stinking Roman prison cell, lends the sweetness of wisdom that has transformed even the most heinous of memories for two thousand years:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8

Feeling defeated by sin and yearning for love?  Are you stuck in a prison cell of unforgiveness?  Perhaps you have been hurt and feel forgotten?  Are you frustrated with life and your relationships?  Perhaps you are so filled with regrets that you can see no way of making things right?  Then follow the wisdom of Scripture and the law of loving sacrificially by trusting and honoring God in the NOW.  Repent of the selfish turmoil that has overtaken you and give thanks to God for His love and mercy extended through the sacrifice of His only Son.  As you do, I guarantee that He can and will clean out the sludge of your bitterest memory as you determine to trust and walk in sweet fellowship with Him..

All to His Glory!

Christmas Peace . . . .

It started this past fall.  Friends had told me about a struggling young woman who occasionally showed up at our church.  Professing faith in Christ yet full of doubt, anger and self-recrimination, I began to pray . . . .

When I finally did meet Sonia (not her real name) I appreciated her honesty in expressing her struggles and was slightly intimidated by the intensity of her passion. Most of all, I was impressed by Sonia’s goal for counseling:

To be healthy, happy, whole
and God-minded,

 even as she lamented, PEACE is what I want–and do not have.”  

Seeing that she had left a question blank on the Intake Form all Clients fill out before our first meeting, “Do you have a favorite saying?”, I recommended a favorite I use when I’m struggling,

“THANK YOU, GOD, THAT YOU LOVE ME.”

With every Session that followed, Sonia unfolded her story of heartache, disappointment and resentment.  Week after week we dove into the Scriptures:

  • To see God as a merciful Shepherd in both the Old and New Testaments.
  • To gain wisdom and perspective into how God uses the hard things in life to draw us closer to Himself.
  • To talk about how pride and resentment separate us from God, and how humility before God brings us peace.

As we searched, Sonia appeared appreciative of what the Scriptures said, but invariably every Session ended with this roadblock:

“Why would God allow me to suffer the pain of hurt and rejection,
if He is truly a loving God?”

Sometimes reframing a question can be the biggest help to moving toward a solution.  In Sonia’s case, we began to look at why she blamed God for her suffering, when it was people who had sinned against her.  We turned to Genesis to consider the first instances of blameshifting:

“And God said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?
Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’
The man said
, ‘The woman YOU put here with me—
SHE gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”’*
Genesis 3:11,12

We then talked about how, as Christians, we are to break old sinful patterns by going to God in confession and in faith.  We turned to the New Testament for direction and Sonia began to read:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above, where Christ is . . . .
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed . . . .
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things
as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language . . . .
Colossians 3: 1, 5-7

We talked about the beauty of humility before God and the ugliness of pride.  We considered the example given to us by Jesus, as in humility He bore our sins rather than shifting what was due us from Himself:

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the Cross,
so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
‘by His wounds you have been healed.'”

I Peter 2:24

Sonia continued to read, more softly in tone as we drank in each word:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another  . . .
forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:12, 13b-14

I told Sonia that every time I heard that passage read, the deep rumble of closet doors being opened sounded in my head and I imagined beautiful robes of “compassion, kindness, humility’, gentleness, patience and love” waiting to be taken out and worn–to cleanse our hearts and make us whole.

As Sonia read the concluding piece of the Colossians passage it was as if the words had come alive,

“Let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to PEACE.
And BE THANKFUL.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom
through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
GIVING THANKS to God the Father through Him.”

(Verses 15-17)

As the room was engulfed by quiet, I wondered if the Scriptures had ministered to Sonia’s heart as they had to my own.  There was nothing left to be said so I asked her to close us in prayer.  I remember little of Sonia’s prayer except for these heartfelt words:

THANK YOU GOD THAT YOU LOVE ME.
THANK YOU FOR SENDING YOUR SON
TO SAVE ME FROM MYSELF . . .
FOR YOURSELF.”

No matter where you’ve been in your life, God has a plan of blessing for all who come to Him through Christ in humble faith.  As I have chosen this path of humility in the most difficult of times–as well as in seasons of ease–He has proved Himself to be faithful.

May His Peace be your greatest gift this Christmas as you pray,
“Thank You God that you love me . .  .
help me to love others as You have loved me .”

All to His Glory!

*Emphasis mine.

 

 

Principle #4: The Bible Is Not A Cookbook . . . .

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to help others–myself included–is to use the Bible as if it were a cookbook. You know . . . having a handy list of Bible verses to fix problems such as fear, anger, depression, anxiety, and the loss of a loved one with a Bible verse or two.  Oh, there are times when hearing the right verse at the right time, can do wonders to give Light and even Hope to someone in trouble.  But to use the Bible to fix problems, rather than to minister to the heart is JUST PLAIN WRONG!

Principle #4:

Rejoice Always!

The Bible is not a cookbook meant to fix problems,
but is God’s means of extending Endurance and Encouragement
and Hope to the hurting,
as well equipping us to do good works. 

I confess that when I began counseling I looked for verses that hit problems head-on with answers that would get my Clients up and going.  Over time, however, I realized that using the Scripture as if it were a bandaid, rarely penetrated the remaining infection lurking deep inside.

As I prayed for wisdom, I discovered blessing through the example of the Apostle Paul:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11b-13

It was Paul’s testimony of living a life full of heartache and disappointment (as well as blessing), that changed my approach to helping others.  Instead of looking to the Scriptures for answers, I looked for the light of God’s perspective that ultimately yielded an unflagging faith.  Romans 15:4 speaks well to how God intends the Scriptures to be used:

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us,
so that through the Endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the Encouragement they provide we might have Hope.”

Romans 15:4

Instead of immediate answers, I learned to:

  • Admit that I don’t know why God allows hurt to enter our lives.
  • Offer the kindness of listening as God has done for me when I have been in dark places
  • Extend meaningful Scripture passages (rather than a single verse) knowing that God uses what He will in ministering to the broken heart.

Are you in a hurting place today, looking for answers to your problems?
Do you know someone you want to help, but don’t know how?

We live in a culture  focused on self-esteem yet we are miserable. It may seem counter-intuitive to address problems as God calls us to, but might I suggest that:

It takes far more courage and determination to live out a Faith
that yields an Eternal Hope in Someone outside of our ourselves.  

As we shift our focus from viewing the Bible as a cookbook, we find Endurance, Encouragement and Hope in a faithful God who Shepherds our hearts.   With that discovery, we can gratefully yield to the gift God means for Scripture to be:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”
II Timothy 3:16

All to His Glory!

Godly-Discipline: Stubborn, Steadfast, Grace-Centered Love . . . .

This is the sixth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to urge you, to trust in God no matter what your circumstance may be. ❤️

WORDS TO GROW BY:

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

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud,
abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love,
unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good . . . .”

II Timothy 3:1-3

Are we in the last days?  We do not know, but certainly we are closer than the Apostle Paul was when he wrote his letter to Timothy 2,000 years ago.  What we DO know, is that God gifted us with the Scriptures to equip us with everything we need to navigate through life.

When it comes to disciplining/discipling older children (pre-teen, teen and young adult), the challenge for us is often to resist being run by fear, anger or resentment.  Instead, Godly discipline endeavors to provide the stubborn, steadfast love (GRACE) we otherwise lack.

Godly Discipline: Stubborn, Steadfast, GRACE-Centered Love . . . .

In this post Godly discipline, as it relates to GRACE, will be our focus as Insights #8 through 12* (posted 5/8/17) are expanded.  The following are the Insights touched on in that post:

  • Insight #8:  The key to effective Godly discipline is PRAYER.
  • Insight #9: Speak truth in love–relying on the Scriptures for the best means of ministering to the mind and heart. 
  • Insight #10:  When dealing with sin, resist the temptation to minimize it.
  • Insight #11: With older children/teens, resist using long-term restriction as a weapon.  
  • Insight #12: Problems seldom occur at convenient times.  Check your attitude by giving thanks that God’s timing is always perfect. 

When it comes to connecting GRACE to Godly discipline,
stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centered love is key.

One of my favorite examples of a parent extending stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centered love in the Bible was a parable told by Jesus.  The story begins with the youngest son demanding his inheritance from his father.  The father gave it to him and, soon after, the son left to squander his inheritance on everything that went against what his father had taught him.

Jesus does not comment about what the father knew or thought, He only says that the father did as his son demanded of him.  Almost predictably, this is what happened to the son:

“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine . . . and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out . . . to feed pigs.
He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating,
but no one gave him anything.
“WHEN HE CAME TO HIS SENSES, the son said,
‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare,
and here I am starving to death!
I will set out and go back to my father
and say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

I am no longer worthy to be called your son;
make me like one of your hired servants.’”
Luke 15: 14-19

A thought to ponder: Repentance inspired by conviction is beautiful in God’s sight.  

Most certainly, the father who thought he’d lost his son forever, saw such beauty in the face of his son . . . even at a distance:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him,
and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

(verse 20)

 

But there was a second son, the older brother, who was less than delighted to hear music and dancing when he came in from the field.  When he learned that the festivities were in honor of his “low life” brother, well . . . suffice it to say, he was extremely unhappy:

“‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you . . .
I have never neglected a command of yours;
and yet you have never given me a young goat,
so that I might celebrate with MY friends;
but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes,
you killed the fattened calf for him.’
 “

Luke 15:29 & 30

Humanly speaking, most of us can relate to the older brother’s anger. But jealousy combined with self-righteousness is as ugly as the sins of the younger brother.  The father’s reply reflects God’s call to forgive as we have been forgiven:

““And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead
and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”
Luke 15:31-32

In these times of uncertainty, when children raised in Christian families are denying the faith they were raised in, do not give way to despair–God is absolutely worthy of your trust.  Insights 8 through 12 are especially meant to encourage you:

  • Insight #8:  The key to effective Godly discipline is PRAYER.  The older my children, the more precious the gift of PRAYER became.  There is no greater weapon when applied in stubborn, steadfast, grace-centered love that rests in God’s Sovereign Goodness.
  • Insight #9: Speak truth in love–relying on the Scriptures for the best means of ministering to the mind and heart.  Lean on God and the Scriptures to know when to speak and when to be silent.  Remember that the spiritual battle for souls has been ongoing since the Fall–trust God to help you stay on His path.
  • Insight #10:  When dealing with sin, resist the temptation to minimize it . . . but also resist the temptation to make a mountain of it.  Learn from the father who, after all had been said and done, let his son go his own way.  (You can bet that in the weeks/months/years after his younger son left, prayer became his greatest ally as he watched for his sons return.)
  • Insight #11: With older children/teens, resist using long-term restriction as a weapon.  (Review Insight #6 for my perspective on this.)  If grounding is necessary to keep them safe, do what you can to draw that child closer by spending time with them.  I taught one of my daughters to sew during such a season and looked for ways to build good character by serving others with all of them.  Attending church worship and youth group activities were maintained as part of our regular routine.  Lastly, encourage them to get into the Scriptures for themselves by making Journey Notes entries.  (See Journey Notes Praise Journaling page).
  • Insight #12: Problems seldom occur at convenient times.  Check your attitude by giving thanks that God’s timing is always perfect. 

Along the pathway of raising children, prayers such as, “Lord, I didn’t know it was going to be so hard”, are common.  It is my prayer that blessing will abound in your life (no matter what the season), as you seek God’s wisdom in applying His stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centerer love to those He puts on your path.

All to His Glory!

*The Key to Godly Discipline
**To read the story in Luke 15, PRESS HERE.