When You Don’t Know What to Say


As the elevator doors shut, a hand darted in between and stopped them. The doors slid open, and I saw my college roommate and her mother. “Oh, hi!” I chatted “How was the funeral?”

They got on the elevator, and I pushed the 7th floor button so we could head back to our dorm room. At my question, my roommate and her mother shared a look. I could almost feel her eye roll as she told me, “Sad. It was a funeral. What did you expect?”

I shut up quickly knowing I had done something drastically wrong. We had a long awkward walk down the seventh-floor hall for me to think on it. I opened the door to our shared room and held it for her and her mother to come inside. I darted over to my desk and busied myself shuffling through notebooks and folders for Monday’s classes while my roommate and her mother spoke in hushed whispers.

Soon, her mother left. I would throw out an occasional “Do you want some popcorn?” or “Are our suitemates back yet?” just to test the waters. She mostly answered with one word replies.

I knew she must be sad as her young cousin had just passed away. She found out the week before – from me. Our suitemate, who lived in her home town, got the news before my roommate’s mother found out and could call her. When our suitemate came through our shared bathroom to tell her the news, she wasn’t there. Just me. So, I was put in charge of letting her know. After I told her, she quickly called her mom and headed home over the weekend for the funeral.

When finally I worked up enough nerve to ask what I had done wrong, my roommate let me have it. “My cousin died in a car crash, and I had no clue. So, when you told me, you said it just like that, ‘Your cousin died.’ You could have shown some sympathy or let my mom tell me or something.”

I tried to dig my young self out of the hole where I stood. But there was no use. The damage was done. I hurt her. In my concern for myself (“You mean I have to be the one to tell her?”), I spit out the words like I was giving a weather report and didn’t consider how it would sound. Then when she returned, I asked, “Well how was it?” Not in a hushed calm, “Did everything go okay?” way. Instead I asked like you’d ask someone who attended a wedding, in a “Okay, give me the details” kind of way.

I can tell you this now, as a forty-three-year-old woman, and see the error of my ways. But at nineteen, I was completely clueless. My roommate eventually forgave me, and we moved past it. But God used it to teach me something – what we say is important. And it’s important to say something.

So, as I’ve been watching the news and reading the news feeds over the events that happened in Charlottesville, I’m reminded of the importance of my words. What I’ve learned over the years since that experience, as I’ve walked through the deaths of family members and friends, is the best thing to say is, “I’m sorry. I am hurting with you.”

Instead, we second guess what we say because we’ve seen how people respond on social media, and we are worried we will be attacked. We are concerned for ourselves. But the focus is never supposed to be on us. It’s supposed to be on others.

Friends, people are hurting. They are afraid. They feel unheard, unseen, unimportant. And all of those are contrary to what God’s Word says. God sees us, hears us and we are chosen by Him. We are to treat each other with love and mercy. MERCY!

That mercy should extend both ways. For those who are speaking out and are wondering why their brothers and sisters are silent, show them mercy. For those white supremacists who spew hate? And some of them even claim to be Christ followers – know they are not. “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20 NIV) But we must show them mercy, too.

Sometimes showing mercy means keeping your mouth shut. But other times it means opening it up. When you want to say something, and you just don’t know what to say, open your mouth and say, “I’m sorry. I’m hurting with you.” And leave it at that.

Friends, we need Jesus. All of us. Let’s start lifting each other to Him.

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:13-14 NIV

Carol

How You are Slowly Killing Your Marriage

My son begged me to play a video game with him. I’m not even certain the name of it, but we could call it “Everybody Shoot Everybody,” and you’d probably get a mental picture of what it was like. You pick a weapon, point and shoot at the bad guys. I figured, “How hard could it be?”

Umm. Hard.

I picked the biggest gun and tried to figure out how to make the guy walk. I pushed a variety of buttons until my man started to move forward. Only in pushing all those buttons, I accidently pushed the “put your gun away in your oversized pocketbook” button. Okay, so maybe they didn’t have purses. Backpacks perhaps?

Before a full sixty seconds had passed on the game, I found myself blinking. No, not my eyeballs. My man on the television screen.

“What just happened?” I asked my son.

“Mama,” he couldn’t hold in his laughter. “You just got killed. Now you are regenerating.”

Sixty seconds. I was dead in sixty seconds.

When I wasn’t looking, the enemy snuck up and shot me dead.

It sure seems marriages have been playing the same game. Everywhere I look, the enemy has taken out another marriage – another covenant before God has been broken. He’s sneaky, the devil, and will come after your marriage, too. I don’t mean to freak you out, but he probably already has you in his sights.

And the crazy thing is, so often, we reach into our hand bag or backpack, whichever you prefer, and hand him the ammunition. I know you think I’m being a little overdramatic right now. But hear me out.

Let’s play out a scenario that happens in households all across the nation. The husband does or says something to upset his wife. It could be anything from leaving the toilet seat up to not finishing the home project he started weeks ago to focusing more on his job than his wife. The wife, frustrated, calls her best friend to vent. After getting off the phone, she doesn’t feel better. She actually feels worse.

So, she gets on Facebook. As she scrolls through her feed, she notices all the vacation pictures, anniversary pictures and date night pictures from all her friends. Seeing how wonderfully perfect those husbands are make her even angrier at her own spouse.

She gets off Facebook and calls her mom. Again, she recounts all her husband’s annoying habits, looking for justification in her anger. Her mama, of course, gives it to her. It is her mama after all. She temporarily feels better, until she hangs up.

By the time her husband walks in the door, she is brewing for a fight.

Is there anyone who can relate?

So, how does that kill my marriage, you ask? Thanks for asking. Let me explain. You see, no one is perfect. NOT you! And NOT your spouse. Two imperfect people can not have a perfect marriage. It is impossible. There are going to be times where your spouse gets on your ever-lovin’ last nerve.

Consider the irritated thought about your spouse a small spark. Every time you recount that irritated thought to a friend or family member, or even just to yourself in your mind, you are adding fuel to the fire. That one small irritation grows. With each time you tell it, your feelings of anger grow. By the time you are finished “venting,” you’ve created a fire bomb.

Satan is using that, friends, to destroy our marriages. When your significant other does something to frustrate you, satan is the one who whispers in your ear saying, “Did he do that again? Why do you put up with that? You should go call a friend to talk about it.”

But you see, every time you re-tell the wrong that’s been done to you, it only upsets you more. So how should you handle it?

1. Take captive your thoughts
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV

Lock the bad thought away and replace it with truth. You might say to yourself, “Yes, my husband works a lot, but I know he does it to help provide for the family. He works out of his love for me.”

2. Find an iron-sharpening friend
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV

While you don’t need to run to tell every friend what your husband did to upset you, you may need to go to a godly friend to get biblical advice. For the most part, when we share our story, we are looking for someone to tell us we are right and the other person is wrong. Iron sharpens iron by rubbing off the burrs. Find a friend that isn’t afraid to rub off your burrs with the Truth. But even then, be careful what you share.

3. Take it to God
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

God knows every single thing about your spouse and every single detail about what has gone on between you. If you need to vent, vent to God. He will always listen and you will walk away from time with Him feeling better.

What do your friends know about your spouse? Are you continually bad mouthing them to anyone who will listen? If so, you are slowly killing your marriage. You are handing satan ammunition, and trust me, he will use it to destroy your relationship.

I have friends who are currently struggling in their marriages or are in the process of divorce. I am not pointing the finger and saying that they are the cause of the demise of their relationship. But sometimes all of us, me included, can fall into the trap of focusing on the negatives. I don’t want to lose my husband. I don’t think you do either. Let’s not give satan a foothold in the covenants we made before God.

Marriages are falling right and left. Don’t let yours be one of them because you failed to do something as simple as keeping your mouth shut (says the lady with the biggest mouth of all). My quick minute playing “Everybody Shoot Everybody” taught me a life lesson for my marriage. Always be looking over your shoulder and walk with a big gun – God’s Word.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Carol

Are You Bold Enough?

Do you consider yourself bold?

Yesterday I was reading in Acts about Peter and John. After Jesus went back to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, the apostles did some amazing things. Peter healed a beggar at the temple gate. When the Sadducees and the priests heard Peter and John speak and saw the power of their words, they felt threatened and put the two in jail.

The next day after questioning the men, the rulers and teachers of the law couldn’t solidify any accusations, so they told them not to speak any more in Jesus name and let them go. Upon the release, Peter and John went back to their own people and prayed what I like to call the “Boldness Prayer.”

“Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29

They had just been released from prison, but prayed for God to help them speak with great boldness. The next verse says, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the world of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31)

In the very next chapter, we find them arrested again for sharing the gospel. But God sent an angel in the night to lead them out and direct them to go in the temple courts and tell the people the good news of Jesus. Now consider this – they’ve been arrested twice. The second time, an angel led them out and told them to go and do the very thing that caused their arrests.

The next morning when the elders gathered together and sent for the men in jail, they discovered the jail doors locked and no one inside. When the apostles were discovered at the temple, the rulers seized them once more.

This time the priests and teachers of the law were out for blood. However, a well-respected Pharisee named Gamaliel made a convincing argument that if the apostle’s purpose was from man, it would eventually fizzle out. But if their purpose was from God, it could never be stopped. So the chief priests and rulers flogged and released the men. Here’s the part that got me. After the disciples were flogged, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” They REJOICED! These men had been arrested again and again and were severely beaten, but rejoiced. When released they were told not to speak in the name of Jesus. But do you think they stopped?

“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 5:42

Let’s take a closer look at that last verse. First, the apostles have just been flogged. Flogging wasn’t like a spanking; it was much more brutal. After the flogging, they were told not to talk about Jesus anymore. But they did it anyway – day after day. Not once. Not twice. Continually! The verse says they never stopped.

If I was flogged for talking about Jesus, IF (and that’s a very big if) I was bold enough to speak about Him again, I’m sure I would be secretive about it. But the apostles did it in the temple courts where everyone could see. But there’s more. They also went from house to house! They continually shared the good news of Jesus. When God answers a prayer, He goes all out. They prayed for boldness, and they certainly got it.

There are two huge lessons that stand out to me in this story. First, when you pray for boldness in Jesus name to further the kingdom of Christ in any way, God will answer in a big way. Then, as Gamaliel said, “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men: you will only find yourself fighting against God.” (Acts 5:39) If God is in it, there is no stopping it.

Do you need a little boldness to accomplish what God has put in your heart to do? Just pray and ask. You just might be amazed at what God can do through you.

Carol

I Don’t Want to Be An Easy Christian

It’s easy to be a Christian when things are good. I can wear my sparkly cross bracelet to church among people just like me and feel at home. When I’m headed to a women’s conference, I can wear my Christian t-shirts and walk in a group of women who love Jesus just like me, and I am safe in my Jesus bubble.

I proclaim how much I love Jesus on my social media profiles. I quote scripture and share graphic quotes, but it’s easy. Click, like and share. It’s just that simple.

But this morning, I was reading the story of Jesus’ betrayal in Matthew 26, and I feel like someone has slashed me with a knife. You see, I’m like Peter. I’m full of emotion and quick to tell God that I will never deny Him.

Let’s go back to the story and let me bring you up to speed. Jesus is having what is called the “Last Supper” with his disciples. He is breaking bread and drinking wine with them and telling them it is like his body which He would later offer up on the cross. They drank the wine, while Jesus told them it was like His blood which would be poured out for them. This is where we get “communion.” But let’s face it, the disciples still didn’t get it. They didn’t fully understand what Christ was saying or the meaning of what they were doing.

Jesus even said one of them would betray Him, and all of them would “fall away” on account of Him. In other words, they would turn their backs on Jesus. Peter was somewhat of a hot head. And he was full of emotion about what Jesus told him and said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And the Bible tells all the other disciples said the same.

Of course, they did. They were sitting in a room with Jesus and men just like themselves. They were all His followers. No one was busting the door down. They were having a meal together. They were in a safe space. It was easy.

But then they left the room where they ate, and Jesus took a few of them to a place called Gethsemane. The Bible tells us that Jesus became “sorrowful and troubled.” He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)

Jesus went up a little farther to be alone to pray, but the disciples stayed to wait on Him. And they fell asleep. Their Lord asked them to pray but it was hard because they were tired. It was night, and they just had a meal. Jesus came back and woke them. He was a little frustrated they couldn’t stay awake to pray. After waking them, Jesus left again to speak to His Father. The disciples once more fell asleep! This time when He found them sleeping, He left them and returned to pray.

I must ask, where was the enthusiasm from dinner time? Where was the high emotion? It wasn’t as easy anymore because they were tired, but it still wasn’t hard. Not yet.

The third time Jesus woke the disciples, it was to let them know people were approaching. Judas came with a large crowd armed with clubs and swords. He walked to His Teacher and kissed His cheek, the secret signal to the soldiers to identify the right person to arrest. Jesus told them He would go peacefully, because He said, “This has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” (Matthew 26:56)

The situation was a little scary, but Jesus agreed to go with the soldiers. The next lines of this verse had me in tears this morning. It says, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” ALL THE DISCIPLES DESERTED HIM AND FLED! Did you get that?

When it was easy to be a follower, they were all in. But when the going got tough, they ran away. And I had to ask myself this morning, “Would you have run?”

And I honestly don’t know. I want to tell you that I would have stayed right by Jesus’ side. But I’m so much like Peter, and I have to be honest. Maybe I would’ve run. Y’all have no idea how much that hurts my heart to say. I don’t want to be like that. But I wonder if many of us are the same?

It’s not quite as easy to be a Christian in America anymore. It’s not as hard as some countries where Christians are being run from their homes or beheaded, but it’s also not as easy as it once was. Are you as quick to talk about Jesus at work where you know your friends are critical of Christians? Do you ever hesitate to share Christ because you aren’t sure how people will respond?

I don’t want to be an easy Christian. I want to be a no-matter-what Christian. When my best friend dies of cancer at age 39, I want my reaction to that death to honor God and reflect Him. When someone slams my son’s head into a locker at school and bloodies his ear, I want to show Christ to both the school and the boy who did it. When my non-Christian friends call me narrow-minded, I want to be able to smile and pray for them to understand. When people judge me by how I look and how I vote and say things about me that aren’t true, I want to show grace and learn the tactful art of keeping my tongue in my mouth and my foot out of it.

You see, I want to be a Christian. Period. I want to follow God. Period. Not just when it’s easy. Not just when things are going good. Not just when I’m at church or Bible study. Not just at home. Not just when I’m safely behind my computer. All the time. But I’m stopping today to pause and ask myself this hard question.

Do I claim Christianity only when it’s easy? Or am I truly a Christ follower no matter what?

I challenge you to ask yourself the same today. And then, friend, let’s start living like it.

Carol

Now What? Where Do We Go From Here?

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I’m not sure how to process my emotions over the last week. Every day I’ve gotten on social media and had to get right back off or bite my tongue. People have said some of the most rude and hateful things.

Many Trump supporters have gloated. They’ve called liberals “cry babies” and made memes to mock the other side. Flip the coin and it’s no better. Many (and I mean many) Hillary supporters have called our newest president ugly names, used vulgar language and have shown the same hate they claim comes from the Republicans. Hate doesn’t make “love win.” It just doesn’t work that way. Hate breeds more hate.

I don’t know about you, but I’m emotionally spent. I’ve fallen to my knees and sobbed to the Lord. God, heal this nation. Help us to get through this and get along. But every day the people I’ve seen are more and more resolute they are choosing hate.

Let’s pause a minute. Neither of our candidates was a great choice. We can talk and talk about why each was a poor selection, but that doesn’t matter any more. It’s over. Trump is in office for the next four years. Now what?

God has been very clear with me about how we got into this current state. We walked into it – step by step, sometimes begrudgingly, but more often than not we were happily skipping and running into the mire.

We have made an idol higher than God. And that idol is SELF. We’ve put our own needs, thoughts, and ideas first. It’s time to focus on me. I have to be true to myself. How often do we here those words as we seek to justify a sin-filled life? And if we dare open the Word of God, we are looking for a justification for our actions. We would rather put our self on top and live in sin than turn from our wicked ways and let God change us. How dare we open the Living Word of God and try to make it fit our lifestyle? The Word of God changes us. We don’t change it.

So now what? What do we do to change the world around us? To create positive change? It isn’t yanking people from their cars and beating them to death. It isn’t closing our eyes to the real fear of those around us. It isn’t standing in the middle of streets chanting about how much we hate the president. How does that change anything? All of those things only create more of a divide. The divide that satan started and then let us run with it, because we were doing a better job than he was.

In order to change the world around you, you have to start with yourself. Alan and I have shared this with many married couples in distress. They are unhappy and want to know – what now? I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You can’t change anyone. Not with your protests, your memes, your Facebook posts – not even with this post can I change you. The only person you have the ability to change is yourself. So start there. Start with you.

Get on your knees and ask God to empty you of you and fill you with Him. Spend time reading His Word. It’s powerful and will change you. That, my friend, is where I’m starting. I’m starting on my knees and I’m asking God for revival to start right here in my own heart. You see, revival starts with one. And if each one of us focuses on soul changing, hand raising, life altering revival with that person in the mirror, we CAN change this nation, and we can change the world. Are you willing?

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!

All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.

We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20

 

Carol