Sunday, October 25, 2015

I Love Words!


Words are immensely powerful and the Bible cautions us to use them well and wisely; “let your conversation be sprinkled with salt”, it says in Colossians 4:6.  I have loved words as long as I can remember; in fact, more than a few times the people who have loved me the most have remarked about my many words!  (Ahem…)

I have an elderly aunt who loves to tell the story about my trek to the woods when I was really little, looking for blueberries with my mother and wonderful grandmother. (Sweet memories!)  Aunt Dorothy loves to remind me that I once sat on an ant hill, having no clue there were aunts crawling all over me, because I chose that moment to be so loquacious (a fancy word for talkative).

Last night Charlie and I babysat for one of our pastor’s children so he and his wife could have a night out.  We love these 4 darlings and the youngest talked nonstop.  We couldn’t understand everything she said but it was apparent that Emerson had discovered words, and that she was going to use them to the max!

I have always loved to play the board game, Scrabble and, much to my delight, I can now play it online through an app called, “Words with Friends”.  I hate to admit it but….it’s almost an addiction.  At this moment I am playing with 3 different people, one whose identity is a mystery but he/she knows words!  Every time I hear a “ding”, I head to my device to see how many points I can get.  In all seriousness, I do believe it is a great way to increase my vocabulary and challenge my brain, as long as it doesn’t become an obsession.

I love this season of life and how God has called me to a new ministry…..using words!  More and more opportunities are presenting themselves for me to speak to women’s groups; the focus of my words/message is to tell them about how God rescues, redeems and restores us through a relationship with His Son, Jesus.

I have worked hard on my testimony so I may tell my story with just the right words…words that will reach tender and open hearts.  I had my testimony critiqued over and over (and I am so grateful for the input) so my words would be clear instead of confusing.  I have practiced it over and over so my voice tone, body language and timing all contribute to the impact of my words.

Our relationships are profoundly impacted by how we speak as well as how we receive the words of others.  In our Sunday night “life group” we are studying the book of James which invariably leads to much conversation.  We have discussed how a tone of voice will give meaning to words…or facial expressions….or voice volume….or body language….and even the eye contact we make with others.  It all seems so complicated!

We have a grandson with Down syndrome and although he communicates beautifully with sign language and understands our words, he has not yet put multiple words together in a meaningful way (age 4 ½).  We are all looking forward to that time when Jacob will express himself using sentences. 

Our daughter-in-law has an advanced degree in speech and language pathology. She teaches in a university and has also done therapy with children who struggle with speech and language in a variety of ways.  You see, Kerry knows the power of words/language and her passion for communication has led her to her work.

James 3 discusses at length the power of the tongue.    James even describes it as a “restless evil”. That’s pretty intense!  But when I really stop to think about all of the broken relationships I have observed or experienced myself, almost always it is related to words said in haste, without grace, without truth, in bitterness, unguarded, etc. 

If we go deeper still, we realize words are, foundationally, a reflection of the condition of our hearts.  As I observe my own life and the lives of people around me, it is obvious the work we do to “tame the tongue” must be done at a heart level. When the heart is in sync with God’s purposes, grace filled words will follow. 


As the Psalmist (19:14) wrote:  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Staying Inside the (Imaginary) Lines


It was a very dark night with little traffic and an absence of star/moon light.  But let me start from the beginning.

A little over 4 years ago our sweet grandson, Jacob, came into the world.  We knew his due date but because we knew he would be born with Down syndrome, we were prepared for him to potentially arrive a bit early.  Factoring all of that in, we planned a trip south to visit friends in NC, expecting to be back in plenty of time.

Before we left, Charlie and I agreed that if anything unexpected occurred, we would immediately head back home.  And that is what happened.  We had been with our friends for a day or so when Charlie got the call that our daughter-in-law had gone into labor early, the birth had been complicated and Jacob was in the NICU.

Then and there we gathered our things together, beginning our return trip early afternoon.  We have made this 14 hour trip in one day but always had started very early in the morning.  Driving that plan allowed us to arrive home in the wee hours of the morning, enabling us to sleep in our own bed before daylight poked in under our shades.

This trip, as it turned out, was so much more difficult because we had to drive all through the night.  We were thankful for the GPS but somewhere in the midst of its directions and some confusing signage, we ended up on an unfamiliar stretch of highway (somewhere in Ohio).  Not only was it unfamiliar but it was new, had no center line and no guiding lines on the edges of the highway.  Because we entered this highway at such a late hour, there was very little traffic.

I was driving and it was scary!  Seriously.  Night driving always requires more concentration but this was really a stretch.  This highway did have traffic lights, spaced miles apart, so occasionally we would see some light but I was very thankful when we finally got off that road.

That journey got me to thinking.  What if I had to wander through life with no rules, no guidelines and my journey took me through very difficult (dark) places?  What if I had nothing to help me pick the right direction or warn me when I was getting into danger zones?

Praise God for His Word!  It is my roadmap through life and even when life’s circumstances make no sense, God ALWAYS shows a way through it.  The Bible comforts me when I am overwhelmed, provides those “lines” when I am wandering off course and encourages me when I feel like I am just out there in the middle of the darkness.

In my weekly women’s Bible study we are studying about the exodus of God’s people.  In Exodus 20 God gave Moses the 10 commandments to teach the people how to honor Him (God) and how to live with one another.  Leviticus provides insight into the many Levitical laws put in place to protect them (with Jesus being the fulfillment of those laws).  In Exodus 13: 21 we experience a rather dramatic picture of God going ahead of the people in a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night which allowed the people to travel by night or day.  They had a very important destination…THE PROMISED LAND!

There are so many stories of how God provided safe passage.  For us, that night on the highway was pretty undramatic….mostly scary.  But even something as ordinary as our car lights provided a way to move forward.  It was an arduous journey and we would not choose to drive through the night again, if avoidable.  Thankfully, we arrived home in time to see baby Jacob later that next day and, eventually, the whole family was safely back at home.

Are you going through a “dark night” right now?  Does it feel like there is no “center line” or that your boundary lines are non-existent?  In that darkness there is One Who is a continual source of light and provides all the guidelines needed.  And God has written it all down.  I encourage you to pick up His book; I promise, it is more than sufficient.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Loss . Pain . Grief . Hope

It’s been a week.  It’s been a week I’d rather did not happen, at least the way it played out.  This weekend I had the humble but sad privilege of speaking at a friend’s funeral; she died at age 48, unexpectedly.  Earlier this week I saw Sheri’s picture staring back on me on FaceBook and the postings told me what I did not want to know.

The small country church was “standing room only” and the community came to love on the family of one of its own.  It was one of those breathtaking beautiful autumn days with mild temperatures, trees brilliant with color and clear skies.  It was far from the Hollywood version of the rainy, dark day where everyone wears black and carries umbrellas to the grave site.

I made the 1 hour drive through the countryside of the U. P. to find cars parked up and down the road, filling the parking areas of the Felch Mountain Bible Chapel.  By the time I arrived, there was nowhere to sit so I decided to stand… until a wonderful, kind gentleman offered me his seat.  I was grateful for an aisle seat as I was scheduled to be a speaker.

The room was warm reflecting the warm fall day.  It was also a room filled with people and emotion.  Sheri’s family and friends represented a variety of faith backgrounds, life experiences and ages.  They united at that service to honor Sheri and, in many cases, to honor God.  My heart was overflowing with thanksgiving that God had allowed me to walk with this very beloved woman through some challenging times in the last 3 years of her life. Her obedience to God’s call on her life meant impacting others with her major life changes.

As if this were not enough, this week brought others I love into difficult places:  a friend had a heart problem and was rushed to the hospital (now doing well, praise God!), a first child/grandchild born with lung problems, an acquaintance who told me to not bring a pre scheduled meal because her cancer stricken husband had taken a bad turn and who knew what was next?

And then there is the teen girl whose daddy died, the friends struggling with marriage issues, the dear lady whose cancer has returned.  It’s been a week of sorrow and sadness.

OK, ok….you have had enough of this heaviness, I’m sure.  I wanted to declare a war on bad news myself this week.  But no matter what I did or said, life continued to throw some punches at people I love.  And putting my head under the covers did not help for long. 

This is really a cliché but I am not beyond using whatever drives a point home; you’ve heard it said “we can either get bitter or better”.  My version would be more like: we can ask why, be angry and bitter….OR, we can choose to trust a God Who is worthy of our trust.  As the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I don’t know why certain people have cancer, why some people die before they reach old age, why all babies are not born healthy, why a teenager loses a parent, or why all marriages that start strong don’t end with a “happily ever after”.  I do know that sin entering our world hugely impacted everything but that is about the best I can do.

What I know to be sure and true is this: Jesus provided the way to ultimately enter into perfect union with Him through His work on the cross (John 14:6) and we who have surrendered our lives to Him, have that great hope. 

What I experienced today, in that wonderful country church was an unbelievable application of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.  Basically these verses describe the kind of comfort God gives us as we minister to the hearts and souls of each other…..because we worship a God Who comforts us in all of our struggles.

The “why?”question brings us to a dead end with no relief.  But when we examine the Truth of God’s Word we DO get great glimpses into God’s purposes for us, even in the midst of this very temporary existence we call “life”.  Today, amidst the great sadness and grief, there was also joy and hope.  There were hugs and handshakes, soul soothing music and uplifting words.  But best of all, grief was honored, Sheri was remembered, Jesus was lifted up and the sun/Son was still shining. 

For Sheri’s family and close friends, there will be a time of great grieving and the many emotions that accompany painful loss.  I will be praying for them as they navigate their way through the “weeds”.  May they come to know the beauty that only God can bring out of the “ashes” of pain in this life.  May they experience the rainbow that comes only after the storm.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Audience Connection

This week I asked my friend, Carolyn Knefely, if I could share something she wrote.  Obviously, she said yes!  This post is geared toward women who are speakers but there is such a great message here that I wanted to share.  Enjoy:



Rain beat the windowshield as I pushed the pedal to get me to the movie theater on time. Stealing time for pleasure comes at unexpected opportunities.

Trusted friends had told me that I had to see the movie War Room. Therefore, I was battling slick streets, heavy traffic, and the urge to speed in the storm. Clear concentration plus rounds of fire power prayers, I parked the car with five minutes to spare. The umbrella shielded me from the barrage of crystal clear pellets. 

Safe in the dark bunker of the theater room without food or drink, I chose to climb to the second highest row of seats before falling into a comfy seat. Previews allowed me to catch my breath.

Thinking I was there to watch a movie my comrades said was a must see; God showed me more than what was on the screen. He displayed audience connection!

Being a speaker even off stage in a dark theater room, I began to notice the audience and their reactions to impact filled scenes. Even though I was there with strangers, I was struck by their reactions being the same as mine to a power punch scene filled with the female lead actor speaking scripture aloud to weaken the enemy.

My pleasure pause turned into a new awaking for me that only the Good Shepherd would take the time to teach. I became aware that all of us sitting in the dark were there as Christian sisters and brothers to see what a war room looked like, the plans of attack to beat the enemy, and how others fought the battles with hope that we could learn and do the same. The War Room film didnt disappoint.

Nevertheless, the different sounds of joy escaped from people throughout the theater when characters on screen took faith filled action. Sighs also escaped in surround sound when battles were being fought. Without words the live audience around me spoke to my soul. Their moans told of the pains they had experienced on similar battle fields that the movie characters displayed on the screen.

Even though we viewers didnt know one another, we were connected. One of the lessons I learned that day that even though I went to see a movie alone, I was with extended family. Taking time away from preparing for upcoming presentations, I found myself doing my job in the theater off stage while being an audience member.

I was praying for the audience around me. This stolen time wasnt about honing my skills of giving and receiving eye contact as a speaker. It was about listening to His sheeps moans, cheers, sighs, and laughter. Then to pray for them even if I didnt know them. He did.

Not all war rooms need to be in an empty closet. It can be in a full theater room of unknown family members. As a professional speaker and teacher, I was taught I dont need to be at the front of the room to be tuned to the audience.

Beyond an unexpected opportunity to race through rain and traffic, God showered down so many blessings that day in a pause He planned.

Have you experienced audience connection in a unique way? Whats your ah-haaudience connection story?

 
Shine on!

Carolyn

(My words:  Carolyn is Co-Director of the Christian Communicators Conference I attended, has a very impressive business background and has a website related to her ministry of hospitality.  You may find her at: christiancommunicators.com, teacupliving.com and pinterest.com/CarolynKKnefely.)