You Never Know…..

Not to be morbid, especially at this joyous time of year, BUT….

None of us were born with an expiration date printed on our skin. We NEVER know what day will be our last day, what words will be our last words.

A few days ago on my drive home from Thanksgiving break with my Mom in Florida, I had to stop for two hours and put my car in park on I-95. Thousands of cars were backed up in a stand-still at the Georgia/South Carolina border waiting for a crash to be cleared. It turns out it was fatal. Those people had no idea when they woke up that morning that it would be their last. I wonder if the last words they said to their loved ones were good ones?

Upon my return to Charlotte I found out that my godson’s 35-year old baseball coach had a seizure, fell and hit his head and died – on Thanksgiving Day. He left his wife and two young children with no warning. None of them woke up that morning thinking it would be his last. I hope their last moments together were positive ones. What an unexpected tragedy.

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

I have failed at this at times, as we all have. But, my Mother engrained this in my mind and my heart, and for the most part I do not allow myself to go to sleep or to part ways with loved ones after an argument or disagreement without at least agreeing to talk later and letting them know I love them. For we must always be prepared. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

The election has been a time of division among many families and friends, and now we are in the thick of the holiday season. The holidays bring joy and many people together, but they are also times of grief, pain and isolation for some. Let us remember to speak life to all we meet – and especially to remain in good relationship with those closest to us, regardless of our differences in opinion.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

Speak life today. Forgive. Do not hold on to the things that bring bitterness. Be kind and do good. For you never know what day will be your last.

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I’m Offended. You’re Offended. Let’s All Be Offended Together!

I'm offended

Everyone’s offended. All. The. Time.

It seems that way, doesn’t it?

Sometimes, there’s a great reason. A true offense has taken place that must be faced head on and reconciled.

Sometimes. But most times it feels like our politics, religion and choice of coffee have to match each other, or we take offense.

I cannot deal with this. Literally. Can NOT. I shake my head when people comment about this or that terrible difference in someone else. I shudder at comments on social media by those who act like it’s perfectly okay to tell someone what they’ve said on their personal account is wrong. Their personal account. Personal, as in, it belongs to them. “I know this is YOUR Facebook post and all, but what you’ve said here is stupid and it really offends me, and I think you should not think this way or be this way or have this opinion because it’s stupid and you’re stupid. But hey, we can still be friends, right?”

Don’t believe me? Just tonight this popped up as I scrolled through Facebook:

“My friends,
I can see the things you like or comment on.
When I see you liking racist posts, gun nut posts, anti-LGBT posts, sexist posts, pro-right wing religious impingement, I will unfriend you.
No discussion, no bickering. Done. Simple.
I have zero tolerance for bigotry and
uneducated, fear based views.
I wish you all a beautiful evening.”

Ouch. I’m guessing we won’t be “friends” for long. Who could possibly live up to not offending this person?

The more I see people being offended at every little thing, or giving me the cold shoulder because I said something the wrong way, the more I worry about the future of our culture. Sadly, we Christians are not immune to this. As Christians, we are to bring light to the world. But how can we, if all we ever do is complain that everyone else is doing it wrong?

The world will be offended by us. That’s just the way things are. But we are called to more.  

The way I see it, offense is the enemy’s trick to render us ineffective in business and in ministry. In life, really.

When we hang on to all those times someone has hurt us, intentionally or not, we are trapped in a dark den of feeling sorry for ourselves, unable to release love into the world. And that, my friend, will be the beginning of the darkest days our planet will ever see.

“And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another.”   Matthew 24:10

Let me be blunt: being offended is a daily happening.  Staying offended is a choice, and a dangerous choice.

In his book, The Bait of Satan, John Bevere points out, “Anyone who has trapped animals knows a trap needs one of two things to be successful. It must be hidden, in the hope that an animal will stumble upon it, and it must be baited to lure the animal into the trap’s deadly jaws.” He goes on to say, “One of (Satan’s) most deceptive and insidious kinds of bait is something every Christian has encountered – offense. Actually, offense itself is not deadly – if it stays in the trap. But if we pick it up and consume it and feed on it in our hearts, then we have become offended. Offended people produce much fruit, such as hurt, anger, outrage, jealousy, resentment, strife, bitterness, hatred and envy.” I would even add depression to this list.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law.”   Galations 5:22-23

My mother, Gladys, was all kinds of awesome. I learned first hand from watching her how to be unoffendable. We had a family friend who was a gruff and grumpy old guy, who filled the air with swear words and cigarette smoke whenever we were with him. Although it may have made her cringe inside and she could’ve said, “not in front of my daughter, please…” or berated him about how he wasn’t behaving the way a former Bible college student should, she never said a word. She just loved him. Consequently, she was the only preacher he ever darkened the doors of a church to hear.

I watched her befriend the local teenagers in the 1970’s and instead of condemning them for their pothead behavior or the way they dressed, she created a coffee house called The Turning Point – a place for them to hang out on the weekends and hear some music, and just maybe learn something about love and Jesus while they were there. While other preachers of the day were busy being offended by these kids and condemning them to hell, my mom was planting seeds of love into their lives.

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”  Romans 14:13

Let me be clear: I am not some superhuman who doesn’t feel the sting when a friend neglects to invite me to a fun event, or when I am brushed off as not being important when I feel like I have some really great news to share. When I see blatant blasphemy in socialmedialand I know it must hurt God’s heart even more than it hurts mine. Ouch. But I truly have learned and chosen that the best way to deal with offenses of all kinds is to let them go. I still need lots of work on this, but fortunately today’s culture of offense gives me plenty of practice!

When our outward appearance belies the torment inside, it’s a good time to seek out some healing for the wound hanging onto an offense can cause. An offense that is coddled starts like a little scratch that gets infected and is allowed to grow. Soon, that scratch becomes a festering wound, taking up all your time and energy to try and fix it, but now it’s gotten out of control, and may even land you in the hospital; far greater consequences can occur, even to the point of losing a limb or death. (Truth. Believe me, my best friend is an ER nurse and I’ve heard all the stories…) So, just as you wouldn’t want to hold on to an infected wound, don’t hold on to that little scratch of a hurt feeling. It will grow into a festering wound.

Grace is the salve that heals the wound. Let’s spread a little more of it around, shall we? GRACE.

 

From Tami: I have learned that holding on to an offense can wound us deep in our soul and keep us from doing the work God has set aside for us to do. If you’d like to dive deeper into this concept of becoming unoffendable, I invite you to check out these resources: 

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Identifying ANGER

The destruction of deep seated anger is life changing. It changes you in deep places that only God knows about.

You know, when a cat (or dog) gets a wound, its defense is to close it up within hours. That would seem like a good thing, right? NOT! The wound has taken in bacteria and becomes swollen and festered. It requires repeated opening and cleaning by the owner of the cat until the infection is gone and the skin can heal. The healing process is slow, from the inside out.

That is what happens to us when we harbor anger and unresolved issues.

It is deep….so far down inside our heart, our spirit and our thought processes that it affects our whole being, inside and out. Oh yes, we try to hide the hurt, the anger, the loneliness and disappointments of life, but it is doing damage.  And the enemy of our soul, Satan, uses that to slowly destroy us, and sometimes even our belief in God.

photo: alphaspirit/shutterstock

photo: alphaspirit/shutterstock

Our church showed the new movie “GOD’S NOT DEAD” to the community last Friday and Saturday as an outreach.  The storyline is mainly about a professor of philosophy at a University who requires the entire class to individually write on a paper, God is dead, and turn it in to pass the course.  One young man could not do that!  The point is, the professor has a deep hatred of God because He didn’t think God answered his prayer.  It’s a great movie and I suggest you see it.

There are many people we come in contact with who have this destructive anger against God.  Or, maybe you are questioning God.  You think He really doesn’t care about what you are going through.  HE DOES CARE!  He does answer, but often not in the way we want Him to answer.  Since He is Soverign God He knows what is best for us. We have a short period of life on this earth, and God has given us the free will to choose whether we believe in Him and His Son Jesus Christ.  That faith to believe is a gift from God……do not take your faith in Him lightly.  Allow Him to heal the deep hurts you harbor that make you angry with Him and others.

The REWARD is ETERNAL LIFE with a LIVING, LOVING GOD!!!

“………..pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus……”
I Timothy 6:11-13

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Speaking Life Without Saying a Word

When I encounter an angry or hurt person, I find myself shying away from them.  It’s a form of self-protection, I suppose.  If I don’t talk to them, I won’t get hurt by the angry barbs that come flying from their mouths.  In spite of my avoidance, I’m kind of famous for letting other people’s pain roll right off my back without a second thought.

We’ve all been burned by those who have spoken hurtful words out of their place of pain. Often, even an attempt at a loving response is met with more angry words. More pain. More hurt feelings. We talk about speaking lifewords into a person’s situation, but sometimes it’s just not possible.

I was reminded of that at the gym this morning.  The teacher of my group spinning class was having a bad day, to say the least.  It was reflected in his angry tone and his choice of even angrier music to get us all moving.  Some of us started grumbling about the negativity, but then it hit me – pray for him.  Speak grace over him.

photo

my view of the ground during spin class

As I was fiercely pedaling to keep up, I spoke words of life into the air – God, release him from his anger. God, heal his pain. God, show him you love him. As I prayed those words of life over this hurting man, something changed. In ME.

I realized that sometimes it’s not the time or place to hit someone over the head, so to speak, with words of kindness.  In those moments, we have the great opportunity to pray and let God work out the details.  Perhaps He will send someone else to that person at a time when they will truly listen and be healed.

We don’t need to try and fix everyone, and we need to stop pretending we can. We just need to be faithful.

I wish I could say the instructor today instantly changed his demeanor and played happy music for the rest of the class.  He didn’t.  From all outward appearances, he was still suffering inside, but I believe God began to work on his heart.

…And something changed in me this morning; I gained a new understanding of what it means to speak LifeWords into someone’s life ~ without them ever hearing a sound.

 

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FEEDING THE WOLVES

Picture this….A wise, old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves…..one is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other wolf is good….He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, benevolence, empathy, long-suffering, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The wise, old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

wolves

Each one of us has been given a free will by our Creator, God. In that free will we can choose to be abusive with our words and actions, or we can heal with our words and actions. Yes, we are just human after all, but controlling our tongues and our actions is a discipline that builds character. Even Paul the Apostle had difficulty controlling his thoughts, words and actions. (Romans 7:14-25) He was honest in admitting it, but that should not give us an excuse!

When you explode with anger you cannot take back your words or actions. A runaway temper can cause depression, especially when you create a circle of resentment. You become angry at yourself because you lost your temper; that adds new guilt, you then become angrier at yourself…..it’s a vicious circle.

In the book of Proverbs much is written about anger…
for example Proverbs 14:17 says, ” A person who quickly loses his temper does foolish things.”

Paul told the Christians in Ephesus, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are angry.” If you stay angry, the anger turns into bitterness and hatred, and that, Paul says “will give the Devil a foothold.” That is when anger becomes a sin.

Therefore, take a lesson from the wise Cherokee….
Do NOT feed anger. STARVE that most destructive part of human nature. Anger starts in the heart and mind.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it.”

Since I know that about myself, I pray this prayer every day. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

WHICH WOLF WILL YOU FEED TODAY?

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