A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe

Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"If Man Made It, Don't Eat It"

It's January and the weight loss gurus are in their glory.  As people who over-celebrated and those who made a New Year's resolution to lose weight are deciding what weight loss program they are going to use, magazines, t.v. shows, and the Internet are flooded with information on the best exercise program, the best diet program, what foods to eat, and what foods to avoid.  I pay little attention to any of this.  I do want to lose a little weight, but I think that when the rubber hits the road in the weight loss world the simple truth is that we have to burn more than we eat.  In other words, eat less, move more.  This is assuredly a sure fire way to shed those extra pounds. 

I don't have some grandiose plan of having a rock hard body that sports 2% body fat in 6 months.  I exercise because I want to be healthy.  My first grandchild is on the way and I want to do all I can to remain mobile and cognizant so that I will have lots of quality time to spend with them.


I understand exercise pretty well.  I was, after all, a college athlete.  So the exercise regimen is no problem for me, except the occasional I-don't-feel-like-getting-up-off-the-couch syndrome that we all suffer with from time to time.  On the other hand, I've never been knowledgeable at all about food unless we are talking about what tastes good and what tastes bad.  LOL!  I don't understand the chemistry behind it or how all that chemistry works in the human body.  This is the major reason that I gave up the idea of medical school.  To me, an element has always been a brand of clothing that I buy on occasion at the mall and nothing more.

So the other day, I thought I would educate myself about foods.  I'm now officially more confused than ever!  One article said to avoid fat and carbs.  Another to eat fat but avoid carbs. Another to eat certain carbs and avoid fat.   Another to eat certain kinds of carbs because they will actually help you lose weight.  One said to cut out all vegetables except green leafy stuff which means that I will have to throw away the only vegetables my kids will actually eat!  Some say don't eat eggs, others say eat eggs.  Don't drink milk, drink milk  .All these people claim to be "experts".    So how do I know who is telling the truth?

The man responsible for all the fitness craze, Jack Lalanne,  passed away this week at age 96.  One of his most quoted remarks is "if man made it, don't eat it."  He claimed to be an expert too. Not only did he claim to be an expert, he proved it.  Any man who can swim 1 mile, handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents, while towing 70 rowboats, one of which is loaded with people at age 70 has a lot of credibility in my way of thinking! After 60 odd years of preaching health and fitness, he proved that his ideas were true.   He also said, "if it tastes good, spit it out!"  He was certainly of the philosophy that we "eat to live" as opposed to "living to eat".

Later that day, I received a Christian Book Distributor catalog in the mail.  In it were all kinds of books offering all types of advice on living a healthy, productive, and extended Christian life.  Pages and pages on how to have a better marriage or a better family life, how to break bondage and addictions, how to prosper, how to succeed, letting go, giving in, getting free, surrendering, and the list goes on and on.  All these authors  present themselves as experts too.  So I had to ask myself, how do I know which of these books is good?  How do I choose a book?

It was then the voice of Jack Lalanne came thundering through my mind.  "if man made it, don't eat it."  And I thought to myself, "that's good spiritual advice too!"  If God didn't write it, don't read it."

I am an avid reader.  Right now I have a John Kennedy book, an A.W. Tozer book, an Andrew Murray book, and another book given me by a friend waiting on my night stand to be read.  I'm always reading something.   I'm very picky about who I read. I don't read just anything and certainly not everything that's out there.  I don't assume that just because a person is published proves that they are an expert.  After all, Adolph Hitler wrote a book.  No, the people I read have to have certain qualifications.

1)  First and foremost, they have to base their writing on the practical working out of Biblical doctrine, used in it's proper context.  When I read something that uses a Bible verse out of context, even if what they are saying is right, it just ruins it for me.  If there's not enough integrity to use verses in context to prove what you say, then your writing has very little integrity at all. 
2)  They have to have "provable", tangible results that what they are writing is absolutely true and trustworthy.  Jesus taught and then he demonstrated.  There are so many fly by night ideas about Christianity and ministry out there, many of which have not been time tested.  You can draw a big crowd and cause a big stir with a new idea but when the results of that idea are examined 25 years later, what evidence is there that it was true or effective?  Many in recent years have claimed to have revival, yet there is no evidence that real change occurred as in the revivals of earlier years.  I tend to read the writings of those men and women who caused a stir that was a genuine move of God, not some highly publicized method or new idea.
3) They have to have stood the time test in their personal and ministry life with evidence of prolonged and consistent character.  If you're going to preach it, you better live it.  There is nothing that has hurt the name of Christ in the world's eyes more than people who have written books and then been found to have some moral failure or flaw.  I don't mind people having quirks.  That's what makes us all unique but a man or woman who preaches or teaches one thing and lives another is simply a hypocrite.  So if I'm going to open my heart and mind to the writings of another person, I want to know for sure that they were consistent in their character and daily living.  Otherwise, I might just fall prey to the failings of others.  There is much wisdom in the statement "time will tell."

There is so much being written today by people who don't meet any of these criteria. 

Most of what I read is either out of print or has been recommended to me by someone I know personally that meets the above criteria.   

I don't want to be fooled into trying the latest Christian fad because it's exciting, it's unique, or it's considered the latest, greatest thing.  Just as new medications come with a list of warnings, I think Christian books should too.  Something like" if you read this book you may experience temporary inspiration that will fade as soon a thin layer of dust accumulates on the cover; there is a real possibility that reading this book will fail in accomplishing the ideas set forth in the following pages; the ideas presented in this book have not been tested and there is no research that says they will produce results in every case or in any case for that matter."   Many "new" Christian ideas keep us very busy but on a shallow level, working, working working, but spending little quality time developing our character or spirituality.  Some of them are just plain dangerous to us spiritually.  This usually becomes evident over time and then a whole new string of books are written telling us how to counteract the effects. 

Which brings me to one conclusion.  If God didn't write it, don't read it.  First and foremost, we MUST be students of the Word of God.  People throughout all the ages of the church made it on much less information than we have today.  All they had were portions of scriptures.  They didn't have myriads of books, teachings on DVD or CD, the Internet or even their choice of churches and pastors.  They didn't have Christian political groups, Christian ecological groups, or any Christian "interest" groups.   They just had the bare bones, as we might say.  Funny, they were so much more productive and effective than the church today.  Do you think there's any correlation?

Am I saying don't ever read anything other than the Bible?  No!  Of course not!  God has given teachers.  Very often, teachers write.  But just as you would not go to any class before examining the credentials of the teacher, don't read whatever book you see that sounds interesting.  Be sure that the author has some tangible credibility in the area that has caused you to be interested in the first place.

Many years ago, I resolved to not make any more new year's resolutions.  I'm going to break that resolution and resolve that three months out of  2011, I'm going to read nothing but the Word of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to provide the practical illustrations and applications to what I read.  As much as it will hurt, the Puritan writings will wait, Andrew Murray will receive a much overdue hiatus, and A.W. Tozer will be stored out of sight (because I'm not sure I could resist the temptation otherwise).   I can't wait to see what happens.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Moldy Oldie Christian

I've reached another milestone in the this journey we call life.  I'm going to become a grandparent!   For the life of me I don't understand why people don't like to think about being a grandparent.  Maybe it's because they have to face the fact that they've lived out a lot of their years already, I don't know.   I only know that I am thrilled and can't wait to get my hands on that little baby!  I can't wait to fill that child up with sugar and a sack of new toys and send them home to their parents!  I can't wait to play in the sand, go to the park, cuddle and rock that little babe.   For me, it's like a breathe of new life!  A new era of excitement.  I feel all revved up and ready to embrace grandparenthood with all the vigor and gusto that I embraced parenthood.  In no way do I want to slow down or retire to a rocker, nor do I think I should!

For years, I've wondered about something.  Why do old Christians retire to Florida?  Why do missionaries Why do some missionaries come off the field physically AND spiritually?  Why do older people think that when they retire from a vocation, they've retired from the kingdom of God?

I've never understood this mentality.  I've been in churches filled with older people who mostly just take up space and criticize the Pastor.  They aren't involved in ministry.  They aren't engaged, except with each other.  They sit at McDonald's and talk about their ailments and all the things going wrong in their lives and in their churches.  But they don't seem to be part of any solutions.

Now, don't get me wrong.  This is not ALL older people.  But there is a significant number of moldy oldy Christians that need to get with the Kingdom program!

Old age is heralded in scripture as a time of life when you can be the most effective in areas that younger folk cannot.  Gray hair is heralded as a crown, not a curse.  Sure, you don't have the energy nor the stamina to go the mission field or do campus ministry, but you do have the time, the wisdom, the experience and the finances to help those who are in the trenches do it more effectively. 

When my husband was in seminary, we were at the "home base", so to speak, of our denomination.  The church we attended was known as the "mother church".  Attending there were older missionaries and ministers, now retired, but surely not unemployed by the Kingdom of God.  Sunday service was their favorite time of the week.  They would seek out seminary students, take them home for lunch, and then after filling their stomachs, they would feed us from their vast knowledge and experience.  We left their homes full in every respect.  They would pray for us, talk to us about practical ministry skills, share funny and hair raising stories of ministry experience and how God brought them through it all.  We left inspired and challenged. 

But since being in ministry for 25 years now, what I mostly see is people whose ministries must truly have been just a vocation for them.  Being in ministry and knowing the call of God that comes when one enters ministry leaves me with the feeling that we never retire from the ministry.  We either die in it or we'll get raptured out of it.  The call of God has no expiration or retirement date. 

This doesn't just apply to vocational ministers either.  What about lay Christians who have retired from a secular job that God used to finance ministry?  Is Florida really a good reason to bow out of teaching Bible study groups, discipling younger believers, ministering to single moms, orphaned children, or the cast down?

My husband and I have talked extensively about this. We will someday, perhaps, retire from pastoring. However, we will never retire from ministry.  As long as we have breath, we will choose to be a blessing somewhere to someone.  We will teach and talk with whomever is willing to listen.  We will use what God has blessed us with to help those who are younger to achieve even a higher level of success in ministry than we were ever able to obtain.  When the vocational part of ministry is through for us, we will simply sign up for re-deployment in the Lord's army and continue on until we die in it or the war is over.

In a piece written by Albert Mohler he states "The Bible dignifies both labor and age, but the modern American ideal of retirement is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. Instead, lives of useful service to the Kingdom of Christ are the expectation, all the way to the grave.

The economic crisis of recent years has forced many Americans to rethink and redefine retirement as a matter of necessity. For Christians, this represents an important opportunity. The ideal for Christians should be redeployment, even after employment. There is so much Kingdom work to be done, and older believers are desperately needed in this great task. There are missionaries to be assisted, ministries to be energized, young couples to be counseled, boys without fathers to be mentored, and wisdom and experience to be shared. The possibilities for Christian redeployment are endless.

There is room in the Christian life for leisure, but not for a life devoted to leisure. As long as we have the strength and ability to serve, we are workers needed in Christ’s Kingdom. Given the needs and priorities all around us, who would settle for life in Leisureville"

I say AMEN!

 Scripture tells us that God provides us with a sabbath rest as we walk in Him daily, we find rest for our souls.  This rest is in the midst of and in spite of our current circumstances.  There is no rest that can be found anywhere like the soul-rest we have as believers in Jesus Christ.  Look at Paul and Silas.  Beaten, chained to a wall, looking forward to a probable execution because of their work for the Lord.  Yet, they were at peace.  Peace that brought songs of praise from their lips.  I dare say that most of us have never been in such a situation as that, but what is our response to trials in the work of God? 

Some think that we will rest in heaven, but  I don't see that in scripture.  God likes His people to be busy working at something.  Even in perfection, Adam and Eve worked, tending the garden.  This tells me that the labor of and for the Lord is not like what we normally associate with "toil".  That was only added as part of the curse for their sin.  It does take our time, it does consume our lives, but when we are consumed with God's purpose and His work, there is a satisfaction and peace that is ours that no earthly vocation can give us. 

So if our work today that is of and for the Lord seems like toil, then maybe we need to step back and figure out if we are where we should be.  We need to make sure that we are doing what He asked us to do, for if we are then we are assured that the energy, wisdom and provision is available to us to do it with joy-even in the tough times.  And every minister knows that there are tough times.    We must examine our thinking and attitudes toward work and make sure that we view work as what scripture tells us it-a gift from the Lord.

Is your work from God a gift?

Are you at peace in it?

Are you looking forward to retirement or redeployment?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mr. Dependable--Hubby's January Valentine

It just CAN'T be the middle of January already.  All the sudden I realized that I haven't blogged in awhile and it was time for my hubby's January valentine.  Sorry I'm late honey!  (Believe me, he's not surprised!)

My dearest "E",

While thinking of what to write to you this month, two things crossed my mind.  One was that I was writing these for you, but not addressing them to you, so hence, the change in format.  (that's a computer term that you may or may not understand, but it's all good baby!)

The other thing that I thought of was how much your life has taught me valuable Biblical lessons.  Knowing something in my head, reading it in a book or even in scripture is good, but seeing it fleshed out really brings a truer understanding of the practical application of it in daily living and I am challenged to "step up" more in my Christian walk.

I was thinking about how dependable you are.  Now, we all know that when you are watching a gun show or reading a book, I could tell you to please turn off the stove when it beeps or the sky will fall and the world as we know it will end forever and you would say "okay".  And subsequently the beeper would beep and the sky would fall and the world, as we know it, would end.  But when it comes to doing the things that you, as a Godly man, have been commissioned by God to do, there's no equal. 

This month, being that this is always a lean month financially for us, made me see just how dependable you are in the area of providing.  I love that you have willingly laid down several lucrative opportunities to follow the call of God on your life.  I know that at times, you must think how different things could have been if you hadn't.  And even this month, you knew that we were going to come up really, really short, but you never said a word, except to God in prayer and somehow everything got paid AND we got groceries too! :-)  In all the years, through all the financial trials, God has never once failed to answer your faith with not just provision for the need, but extra as a blessing.  I trust in you and in the God you pray to.  And in a very large way, you have enabled that trust.  I know that God is my provider, but I'm so glad that He uses you to drive the delivery truck of those provisions most of the time.  I never worry that we won't have a place to live, food to eat, cars to drive because I know that you and God have this connection that makes sure all the provision for your family is in place.  And in a good way, I believe, I depend on you and that makes my life so much richer.  Just knowing that I can trust you without reserve is comforting to me.

I love that you work multiple jobs to provide even though it's exhausting for you.  I love that you notice when one of the children needs new shoes without me having to mention it.  I love that I can tell you of a need of something that needs fixed or something that needs replaced and you don't forget, but as soon as you have the money, it gets taken care of.  I love that you always put others before yourself even when it means that you may go without something that you need.  I love that when you say you will do something, you do it (as long as I don't ask you while you're watching a gun show or reading a book).  LOL!  I love that I can always know when I have a need or a question that the answer I get will be full of God's wisdom, mercy, and concern.  I love that you always treat me the same, that you don't hold any pettiness in your heart, and that you always look past what needs work in me to the work that God has already accomplished. 

I also realized something else.  Just as I love depending on and trusting you, you also look to me in the same way.   No, I don't supply finances, I know.  I like our arrangement of  you-make-it/I-spend-it.  But you do depend on me for other things like ironed shirts, meals on the table, computer skills, and eyesight when you forget your reading glasses.  And I realized too that need to "step up" to your level of dependability.  Of all things that I want you to be able to say about me, the most important is that you can say that your heart "trusts in me."

I may need to work on increasing my ironing frequency, but I just want you know that I'm on your side-totally.  Thank you for showing me faithfulness, in the flesh.  Because of it, it makes it so much easier to understand and expect faithfulness from God.  King David prayed and asked the Lord to make him the kind of man that when people looked at him that they would have a sense of awe and wonder of the God he served.  I feel that way about you.  You make God real to me in so many ways.  And from watching your life I'm even more convinced of His goodness.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Place Value Happiness for Women

I've had place value on the brain lately.  I'm teaching it in my homeschooling adventure.  And since the Lord knows that I am not the greatest multitasker when it comes to cognitive exercise, He used it to teach me a lesson of great value.

Luke 1:28-38
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?  And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Each Christmas I take some time to examine Mary, the mother of Jesus.  She fascinates me on many levels.

She was in her lifetime the most blessed woman to ever walk the earth.  She was the one woman in all of history to be picked to mother the Messiah of the World. 

She was also one that suffered probably the deepest hurt a woman can suffer.  In becoming a believer in Christ, she had to come to the realization that it was her sin that caused her son to be born and her sin that caused him to die the cruel death on the cross. 

Luke 2:35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Why did God pick her?  Why not some other woman?

As I looked at this passage, I noticed two things that Mary understood.   And because of it, she was blessed beyond comprehension, even in her greatest suffering.

1.  First of all, Mary knew her value.  Up until that encounter with the angel, life had probably been pretty normal for this lowly Jewess.  She had grown up in her home, learned of her mother and was now engaged to be married.  Life was progressing as expected.  Now, all of the sudden,  here she was unmarried and pregnant, but not pregnant with  the man she was going to marry.  What a nightmare!  I wonder how many people never believed her story.  I would guess most people.  Miracles in Israel had ceased and for the past 400 years the knowledge of miracles were relegated to stories of their ancestor's interactions with Almighty God.  Besides, common sense would convince many that this "miracle" story was an attempt to save her skin.  How many of us could bear up under the scrutiny that Mary came under without cracking?

Probably the only thing that kept Mary together during that time was the message brought to her by the angel.

"thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."

Mary had an encounter with the God of miracles that she had heard so much about while growing up.   And those few words sustained her in a way that nothing else could have.  No matter what people said to her, no matter what they whispered behind her back, no matter how many condemning stares or looks of disdain she received when walking the streets of Nazareth, the voice in her heart rang loudly in her ears "thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."   Mary had the realization that God had picked her for this special purpose.  He had placed her in this time and place, much like Esther, "for such a time as this".   He had blessed her as He had blessed the mother of the Israel when He miraculously gave a child to Sarah and Abraham.  She too, would forever be the mother of a new people.  She would be the mother of the Saviour of the World. 

2.  Secondly, Mary knew her place.  Mary did not allow the message of the angel declaring her a great woman of faith and power to influence her in a negative way.  She remained humble and submitted, which is why God probably picked her in the first place,

Luke 1:48 "For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."

Even after meeting face to face with a messenger of God, even after being called "highly favoured and blessed among women", Mary's description of herself was "a handmaiden of low estate".  Her own description of herself found her in a place of servitude.  A "helpmate" of the Lord.  She was completely submitted to God, her Father, and Her Lord and she molded her new life around His perfect will and plan although it must have been quite a stretch at times.

As I thought about this story that just never seems to grow old to me, I pictured myself in Mary's position and I came to realize that Mary had the key to living just as God desires for us to live.  Because of it, she had the approval, the blessing, the protection, the leading, and the provision of God alive and active in her life.  Because she knew her value, nothing that anyone else said or did moved her from the path that the one who so highly valued her laid before her.  She did all she did simply to please God, regardless of what anyone else thought.  And because she knew her value, she was happy, content and totally fulfilled in the place that God had put her.  She didn't attempt to follow Jesus around as His right hand man in the preaching ministry.  She didn't attempt to gain any notoriety from being the mother of a person that was literally shaking the known world right before her very eyes.  In fact, Mary remained just where God had placed her from the very beginning-in motherhood.  It was there that she was blessed.  And when the time came for that sword to pierce her heart, she withstood the onslaught because she knew "God was with her." 

Many times I have tried to change the place where God has placed me because I believed that it would make me more valuable.  At times through the years I've bought into the lie that says that we have to be something in man's eyes or in the eyes of society to be found in a favorable place with God.  I've allowed the ideals of worldly success to influence my idea's of spiritual success. 

I remember praying many years ago for God to "make me effective for Him", thinking it a very noble prayer, but feeling it deeply in my heart as well.  Instead, I should have cut that prayer short and just simply asked God to "make me."  When God makes us, He them places us and because we have discovered our value in God through the making, where we're placed really doesn't matter very much as long as we know it's right smack dab in the center of God's will.   

I like looking  at bridges.  Structurally they are astounding.  One day I realized that the most important part of a bridge is the supports that are mostly unseen by anyone except those who  place them there during the construction period.   Without them, the bridge would fail miserably.  But when speaking of the bridge, very little, if anything is said about the supports, even though those supports are providing it's most vital need,  keeping the bridge from falling into the water and being swept away.  It is of great value where it is placed, and it is placed there because of it's great value.

So when I find myself feeling that I would be "better" in a different "place", I stop and realize that God has me where I am for a reason-His reason.  And because His grace has been extended to me in such abundance,  I can honestly look into His face and say  "For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden" and I am certainly blessed!  I then can once again get my focus back on Him and not where He's chosen for me to be as if it's something that I need to improve on or get out of because my place in life, easy or hard, does not determine my value at all, at least not in God's economy.  And that's a valuable place to be.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Gift Idea--Follow up to "You Gotta Watch How You Say Things"

I love that sometimes I find a blog written by someone who is actually important that agrees with one of
mine.  I hate that they always say it way better than I do!

I found this blog just two days after writing yesterday's blog and as usual, he waxed eloquent.

A Gift Idea

December 10, 2010 by C.J. Mahaney

Categories: Encouragement

Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity to give gifts to those I love. I enjoy doing all I can to surprise them with a particular gift. I am sure you do as well.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize: too often I can put more thought into the gifts I buy them than I do the content of my conversations with them at Christmas. In fact the content of my conversation can be a gift of greater substance and of more enduring value.

By using words that are carefully and skillfully chosen, we can give the gift of grace to others. And Christmas provides us with many opportunities for conversations with a variety of friends and family. But are you prepared?

The Apostle Paul writes, “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

This promise is stunning! By carefully choosing my words I can give grace to those I care for.

Yet as Charles Spurgeon once noted in a sermon, “I consider that one of the great lacks of the Church nowadays is not so much Christian preaching as Christian talking.” In fact, a preacher may invest more time in carefully thinking about the words he will use in one sermon than most of us will invest thinking about the words that will come from our lips all year.

And the result is that we often waste our words. Corrupt talk is a daily temptation. Rarely do we consider the decay that we spread through our speech. And rarely do we consider the grace-giving potential of our speech. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

So what words fit a particular occasion? Consideration for one we are conversing with must inform our words. So before I speak I must observe and listen. I must ask questions. I must take an interest in them.

•If they are Christians, are there evidences of grace I can draw their attention to?

•If they are not Christians, are there evidences of common grace in their life?

•Is this person experiencing prosperity?

•Or is this person experiencing adversity?

•If they are suffering I want to give them comforting grace through my words.

•If they are weary, I want to give them sustaining grace through my words.

•And to all, when and where appropriate, I want to share the gospel, for that is the most effective way to give grace through my words.

So here is my point. Buying the appropriate Christmas gift for someone requires that we know and study them. But this is no less true of our conversations.

So as you consider certain individuals, and seek to buy meaningful gifts for them, also consider how you can give them grace through your words

Monday, January 3, 2011

You Gotta Watch How You Say Things

I have a new pastime.  Funeral crashing.  At least that's what the checkout lady at Sam's Club now thinks.  

My husband and I attended a funeral for the husband of one of his co-workers.  My husband officiated the service.  After the funeral, we attended a meal with the family. 

On the way home, we stopped at Sam's Club to grab a pizza for the kids because we were stuffed and couldn't eat another bite.  While going through the checkout line, the cashier made a comment about the pizza being dinner.  "Oh no, we said.  We're stuffed.  We just had a huge meal.  This is for our children's dinner."  "Oh, she said, looking at us all cleaned up and dressed up.  You went out to eat!  How nice."  "Well, in a way, I said.  We were at a funeral and they had a huge meal afterward."  "Oh, I'm so sorry, said the cashier."  "No problem, my hubby said, we didn't even know the man."  "Yep, I said, we never even met him."

The look on the cashier's face was priceless.  Based on what we had just said she thought that we had walked into a funeral for someone we didn't know just to get a free meal.  She didn't quite know what to say so she said, "Well, I've heard of wedding crashers but you're the first funeral crashers I've ever met." 

We quickly explained the situation and we all burst out laughing along with the cashiers and the people in line on either side of us who had been listening with interest to the conversation.

It was a good reminder that you gotta watch how you say things. 

A friend of mine posted a question on her Facebook status.  It said, "An encourager is one who brightens up the room when they enter it.  A discourager is one who brightens the room when they leave it.  Which one are you?" 

I stopped to think for a minute.  I decided that the answer to that question was better found in the opinion of others than myself.  I know what I mean to say most of the time.  I know how I mean to say it but the fact of the matter is that it doesn't really matter what you mean if others perceive it in a way differently than what you meant.  

Sometimes people get upset by what I say to them because I didn't communicate it properly so that they understood my intentions.  And as a result, people have gotten upset with me from time to time.  It doesn't feel good when people misconstrue or come to erroneous decisions about what I say.

After spending years justifying not having to change by saying things like "but you know I didn't mean it that way", "I don't remember saying THAT", "1  Corinthians 13 says that you should think the best of me",  "you need to be more gracious when thinking of others", I finally decided that I needed to sit down and take a good, honest look at how and what I was communicating.
You see, I want my communications with other people to be life-giving.  I want to have a positive influence on the lives of others and be able to minister to others, but if they always misconstrue or mis-perceive my communications then it is impossible to build a bridge of trust with them which means that I have no access to their lives and my words are said in vain.  I realized that it wasn't the people that needed to change, it was me.

So I began to change how I talked with people. 

Now, I apologize for what ever part I played in the miscommunication even if I didn't do anything wrong.  It's almost inconceivable how much mileage you can get out of a simple "I'm sorry".   Whether you want to admit it or not, you had a part to play just as much as the other person.

I ask questions for clarification before saying anything.  This not only tells the person that I am listening to them but that I truly want to understand what they are trying to communicate to me.

I check my body language, especially my face.  Everything shows on my face.  I can't hide it.  So when I know that my face is not doing what it should, I know that there is something in my heart that needs adjusting.  I so want to have God's heart towards other people and I often pray that His heart would dominate my own.  After being in ministry for a long time, you come to realize that some people are not open to two-way communication.  They just want to tell you what they think and have you agree with them or sympathize with them and take their side.  So when they have a problem, it's hard to communicate anything to them that actually might help them.  My flesh grows weary with that and I just want to tell them to "put their big girl pants on and get over it."  Usually I don't do this, but there have been occasions when I think it's what God would have said too.  LOL!  Even Jesus said to the disiples once, "how long must I put up with your unbelief?"   They should have known better by then and Jesus was letting them know it.

I'm careful how I word things.  Even if it's just a passing comment.  Instead of saying to people "I like your shirt or that sweater is really pretty", I say "you look so pretty in that color or that sweater brings out the pretty color in your eyes."  I don't lie or make something up but when you look at people expecting to see something good, you can always find something.  Way too many Christians always see how other Christians are different from them and become judgemental.  That being said, I am always honest even if I know the person might not like what I have to say but because they asked and I've built a bridge with them, I can usually say it without a major mishap. 

I don't give my opinion unless I'm asked for it.  So many times people will say to me, "why didn't you say something sooner?"  And I tell them "because you didn't ask."  I have lots of opinions that have never crossed my lips that could have saved people from a lot of heartache, but I've found that interjecting my opinion when it's not asked for is usually like spitting in a fan.  It ends up in my face along with the fly it picked up on it's way back to me.  It also gives others the impression that I have way too high an opinion of myself, so they just tune me out or tell me to "shut up".   What's scary is that usually, in these cases, I do have too high an opinion of my opinions and need to show some humility and grace myself.   I have learned the valuable lesson of praying for people when God allows me to see something in their lives.  I only say something if God lets me know in no uncertain terms that I should and provides me with what I am to say.  By then He has plowed their hearts and they are ready to receive sound advice and constructive criticism.

Of course, there are those moments when I engage my mouth before my brain and I end up trying to grab my words out of the air before they hit the listener's ears.  That's just imperfect me.  I occasionally blunder through life with as much zeal as a kid at Christmas, but without wisdom.

Matthew 12:36 says "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."  Idle means slow, useless, barren or unprofitable.  Unprofitable for whom?

Matthew 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. "
So our words either give life and build up or give death and tear down.  I don't see any neutral ones mentioned.  And from the looks of this verse, it affects me as much as others. 

My kids are notorious "kidders".  But I tell them all the time that "unless the person you are kidding knows you're kidding AND is laughing, it's not kidding."   I always tell them that if a person wants to tell of something silly they did so that everyone can laugh, it's up to them, not to us to expose their humiliation.  It's true that sometimes they laugh, but it's only because they're embarrassed, not because they think it's so funny.  This doesn't endear people to us at all.  Love covers, it doesn't expose.  Most "exposers" who use the experiences of others in this way are only trying to make themselves look better because of insecurity.   The "good ole saying" that says "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" fits here.  And if you have to say something negative, say it in private like the Bible instructs! 

So, let me ask you.  Are you an encourager or a discourager?