lessons in love

The Tongue

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In our small group Bible study, we are covering the book of James. We have covered more than half the book now, and I just love it. James is such a practical book, with a TON of things we can all apply right now where we are in any stage of life. I have really enjoyed working through it, learning some of the background of the author, and really just seeing how I can be better in my Christian walk.

The things we are discussing and learning about in our small group I have learned since I was very young. Growing up in church means you hear many of the same lessons from the Bible over and over. As a kid, this can seem boring and cause you to daydream and not really absorb much. Then, fast forward to my adult life as a Christian, and I really have not applied anything I have been taught or read, which means I don’t have much to strive to work on. And then I think I am doing ok

Until…

I am a mom and realizing I have never really gotten a lot of my vices under control. I won’t go into detail on how ridiculously sinful I am, I do want to share something I have never truly worked on and have (yet again) begun to regret.

My words.

If we have never talked in real life, you may not know this. BUT, if you have ever spoken with me, you probably know I am no good with words. I speak faster than I think, I am not really witty, I often make jokes at others’ expense. I have never been great with words. Encouragement is NOT my spiritual gift, and I think that has caused me to never really focus on controlling my tongue. My gift isn’t in encouragement, so it doesn’t matter what I say or how I say it. I would never come out and say that, but that is pretty much how I live. I have worked on how I speak to my husband, and I feel like I am growing in that area. I have worked a little on how I speak and what I say to the kids….aaaand, I still need to be working on that one.

The one thing I have not ever focused on is how I speak to other people. I just say things, and then I regret them. This past weekend, I attempted a joke at one of my sisters and it was horrible. First, it wasn’t even funny because….I am awful with words. Second, it struck a nerve with her and caused her to cry. I cannot remember the last time I made one of my sisters cry. (Mom, no need to jump in here with the date. I am aware I did it a lot when I lived at home.) 🙂

I felt so bad as soon as I saw her face. Thankfully, no one around even understood my attempt at the joke; I guess I can be thankful that words do not flow well out of my mouth. But, the point is, I said something stupid and hurtful without even realizing it while I was saying it. I apologized, and she forgave me….but, I can’t go back and put a filter on my mouth. I can’t go back and stop myself from sounding stupid.

James tells us in chapter 3 verse 8 “…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” 

Proverbs 21:23 says “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” 

Proverbs 18:21 states “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

There are many passages in the Bible that talk about our tongues, our words, what we are saying. Obviously it is a serious matter if the Bible has covered it so extensively. I searched online for verses about the tongue, and one of the results showed 84 verses! Clearly the tongue is a challenge and something I need to pay better attention to.

I have a desire to be liked, and one of the ways I find people like me is if I am funny; however, I am not great at being funny. My mom and dad are funny. My siblings are funny. Me? Not so much. I am better at cleaning and baking than being funny. 😉 I should probably just stick to what I am good at, honestly.

So, while I have heard and learned about the tongue many times growing up and even as an adult, I still am so awful at doing it. No filter. No thought before I speak. No control.

James says no one can control the tongue. He says it is like a small spark that sets a whole forest on fire (3:5). Think about that – one small spoken word can ruin someone. One lie. One mean statement, whether true or false. One word to describe someone. The tongue is powerful enough to ruin someone’s entire life. Bullies use words to demean and ruin their victims. And here I am using words without thinking first, which I guess makes me a bully by default.

After starting this study with our small group and now the incident from this past weekend, I have learned a couple of things:

1.I need to STOP and think before I say anything.

Giving myself some time to think through what I am going to say, BEFORE I say it, is always a good thing. I can decide if it is even worth saying.

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2. I need a filter.

We have a sign posted in our kitchen to remind us of what to consider before we speak. Apparently, I need to pay better attention to it!

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3. I have to remember the power of my words. I can either build someone up or tear them down.

There is no point in trying to be funny if it is going to hurt someone’s feelings. I have heard “your child’s inner voice will be whatever they hear from you, the parent.” That is kind of scary, when I think of how hurtful I can be with my words. And when James compares the tongue to a fire, it is a strong reminder (ok, slap in the face) that our tongues can literally ruin a life.

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While I cannot go back and un-say all the stupid or hurtful things I have said, I can go forward and work on stopping myself, filtering myself, and reigning in the power of my words. Obviously, this will not be something I can do on my own. I will need to go to God for overcoming this. Here’s how I plan to stay on top of it:

1.Be in the Word every day and work to memorize more Scripture.

Knowing what God’s Word says about my words and my tone and my tongue are a good start. How can I know how to act if I don’t know what HE says?

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2.Share my struggles.

Whether I talk to my husband (which I usually do first) or my mentor or my mom or my sister….I need to share what I am struggling with to have some accountability for my actions and words. I am really good at assuming I will figure stuff out on my own; I don’t like to be told what I am doing wrong or how to fix it. That is not a good way to live. Marriage and mentorship have really helped me start to correct that. I tell you what, my mom is full of wisdom…but for the longest time I just viewed it as something moms say. Then I grew up 😉 and realized she really does pray for us kids and is pretty wise when it comes to the Bible. The things I used to see as her just telling me what to do were, in fact, godly counsel. It just took me foooorrreeevvverrr to realize it. If you struggle with something, tell someone. Find a godly mentor and share your struggles. They can steer to you Bible passages to help you curb a bad habit or get control over an area in your life with the Lord’s help. They can also pray with and for you, which is such an encouragement to me personally.

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3. Put it into practice…NOW.

I have this habit of reading something in the Bible, thinking of ways to apply it to my life…and then never applying it. Knowing what I know about the tongue and my words really makes me responsible to APPLY it. I can’t say I didn’t know. I can’t say I have never heard of controlling my tongue. I know it, I have heard it, I have studied. I must DO it. I can’t wait for the perfect setting or a calm moment or a sunny day. I have to get into the habit of stopping and filtering and praying and controlling this tongue. I have to make it a habit to rely on the Lord to help me….starting this next time I open my mouth. Waiting til my kids’ runny noses are gone or until I have had a good 8 hours of sleep just won’t do. Putting it into practice should start as soon as I learn it. Reading the Bible and sharing my struggle should propel me into action now. So, I need to get to it. Hurting my sister’s feelings this weekend really opened my eyes to how much I slack in that area and really how much more I need to be aware of my words and the power of them. I have the tools to do it; I just have to use them!

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Do you struggle with your words? Do you have trouble with stopping, filtering, and understanding the power of your tongue? Please tell me I’m not alone! 😉 

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Homeschool · Household

Good Reads

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(image courtesy of http://www.digsdigs.com)

Look at that bookcase! I would LOVE to have that!

We love to read in our house. Every single day, you can find at least one of us snuggled up in a chair or bed reading. It was not always that way, though. My husband was never much of a reader, but as we are older and wiser (ha!) we are devouring all kinds of books about the Bible and Christianity. And now that he is in Bible school, we are the proud owners of a million books to aid his studies. 🙂

I have always liked to read. I remember when our family would take trips, all of us kids would bring a bag in the car of stuff to play with or do. My sister and I always brought a couple of books each to read; we were big readers. I also love word puzzles, but I don’t want to give away too much of my nerdiness.

My husband and I joked the other day that although minimalism has seeped into every area of our lives….it has not yet touched our collection of books. We have many, many shelves of books – homeschool books, Bible books, fiction, non-fiction, books from my mom’s house (you should see her collection of books!), and so on.

We just love books!

The past few months, I have really taken up this thing of reading several books at once. Most of the time they are all different genres or at least different topics. But, right now I am kind of in a lull with good books. I have decided that every year I will probably read through The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson. I read it last year and have started it again – it goes through month-by-month how we can breathe life into our homes and families. Highly recommend it! It has a workbook, too, that helps make it all applicable in your own home. Love it! Last year, I also read Own Your Life….another by Sally Clarkson. Such good stuff about understanding our life in Christ and how to fully live in that. I just started that one again, too. Those books are just so full of great biblical wisdom, that I feel like I missed a lot and need to reread them.

For homeschooling moms, I definitely recommend Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. It is a Bible-based book, but it is about being your best in teaching your children, while doing it from a state of rest. Another oldie but goodie is Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore; it is a few decades old but such an encouragement for homeschooling families to follow your child’s developmental leads and not push information on them before they are ready to actually learn. I am not reading that one straight through right now, just kind of skipping around to the chapters that seemed applicable to us.

I was so blessed with great books to read last year, that I feel like I am out of ideas. This led me to start those three books again, while deciding what else to read.

My husband is lending me Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) book to read. That one is absolutely amazing, but it is so full of information that I can only read a chapter a day. There is an incredible amount of depth in each chapter that I feel it is one of those books you need to read, set it down, then let the words stew in your brain for a few hours to really break down and release the goodness. That C.S. Lewis was one incredibly gifted writer. This book is the “complete signature classics” of C.S. Lewis, and my husband is reading The Screwtape Letters (another meaty book) from it, so we are passing it back and forth each day. 🙂

Just yesterday, I added a bunch of books to my Amazon wishlist, but we agreed not to spend money on books right now….so they will sit on the wishlist for a while. 😉 But, I am headed to the library soon to see what others I might find!

Are you reading anything spectacular right now that you’d care to share?? It can be any genre! I am not a huge fiction fan these days; I don’t know why, it just doesn’t appeal to me right now. BUT, I am open to suggestions for some good fiction.

Homeschool

Character Study – The Real Lie Detector!

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Yesterday, we started our Character Study back up. I had found free printables a few years ago and thought they’d be an excellent addition to our school day. We could learn about one positive character trait every week or so and memorize a Bible verse that correlates.

Well, that only lasted about three weeks. I forgot to change out the character trait, so I kept saying “well, we’ll study this same one a little longer.” AND, I was not exactly working to incorporate the trait into my own daily life…which made it even less of a priority. The study quickly fell off the radar.

After seeing some major bad attitudes from the kids (and myself!) the past few weeks, I decided we should start the study again. And this time, I told myself, I would work to make sure I was displaying these attributes as well. Since we seem to have extremely short fuses around here, I chose Patience as our first study.

Yikes! Talk about conviction!!

We sat down to talk about it yesterday, and after reading the definition the kids did not appear to completely understand what it meant. The definition is “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.” I could tell that, for sure, the boys (ages 3 and 5) did not get it. The girls seemed a little unsure, too. So, I thought we’d give some examples.

“When we are waiting for the bathroom and we are banging on the door and jiggling the handle and yelling at the person using it……is that patient or impatient?”

“IMPATIENT!”

Ok, so they totally understood. 😉

But then our examples got to be a little too personal for me. And we were describing MY talk when I am trying to get everyone out the door. Or when I am putting them to bed. Or when we need to sit down for group school work.

Nameless child: “What about when you are yelling at us to hurry and get our shoes on? Or when you tell us something one time and then start yelling?”

Whoa. That was a bit eye-opening. I sound AWFUL when I am in a hurry (and not even in a hurry for a serious reason – just because I want to be in a hurry). The kids thought it was a funny exercise, but I was quite ashamed. Almost embarrassed in front of them. We talked for a while and discussed the correct way to respond to people and situations and what actions we could take that day to be more patient.

And then we went grocery shopping.

(I could probably end the post there because I know you moms understand the amount of patience needed to shop with children. And not just walk through the store and grab items, but when we need to price compare and figure out our coupon situation and cross off list items and figure out where the sale item is when it is not in the normal spot.)

Why does mom always have to be the one to lead with the correct attitude and reaction?! Why can’t the kids just do the right thing while mom acts impatient and sulks? 🙂 It was a rough shopping trip, I must say. I did catch myself several times before I said something snippy or sarcastic to the kids, but I still failed multiple times with the rest of my patience attempts. The one thing that was different was at the end of the trip – we were all in the car driving home, and one by one the kids apologized for their bad behavior. And then I apologized for losing it on them. They weren’t even that bad in the store; it just wasn’t what I expected out of them. That tends to amplify the slightest misbehavior in my eyes.

While our actual shopping time was just awful (as far as my actions towards them), we did make up in the car pretty quickly….which is new for us. We will be reviewing Patience again today, and I am a little nervous at the opportunities God is going to bring for us to practice using patience! I am praying we tackle it much better than yesterday. And I am thankful for the turnaround time in making things right with each other. Baby steps, right?

As much as the Character Study really shines a light on our (ok, mostly MY) flaws, we should probably keep it around and see how much we can grow from it!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Ephesians 4:2

Book Review

Book Review: My Bedtime Story Bible for Little Ones

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My Bedtime Story Bible for Little Ones, written by Jean Syswerda, is a cute little bedtime book. Each story in the book goes through a day in the life of a Bible character and ends with a little “Tuck In” section that offers something for your little one(s) to think about as they go to bed.

My boys read this with me; some of the stories we read at night and some during the day because they wanted to know what the next story was and could not wait for bedtime! I appreciated the simple wording for each story, as well as the illustrations. I think their most favorite character story was Noah; my guys liked to tell Noah “good night” in the ark. 🙂 Each story ends with a “good night” to the character discussed. It is a simple, yet meaningful way to connect the Bible characters with your children. Definitely a keeper for us!

(I received a copy of the book to read and review here on my blog. While the book was free, I was not paid for my review and all thoughts and opinions about the book are my own.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Homeschool

A Surprise Bible Curriculum!

I did not plan out a Bible curriculum for this term (duh me!), so I was just going to rely on our Bible memorization and copywork for Bible lessons. Then, I took a trip to the library at the end of last week and found this whole series of Character Builders from Alpha Omega! I had considered purchasing this last Fall but decided against it because of cost. Lo and behold, our library carries it. Boom! Free Bible curriculum. 🙂

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I checked out the 1 DVD, which has two episodes: obedience and self-control. We just watched them yesterday, and all the kids seemed pretty engaged. I even enjoyed the little songs. The episodes are only about 20 minutes long….which is perfect for my boys’ attention spans!

While scoping out the series at the library, I also noticed they carry the Children’s Heroes of the Bible DVD’s! I checked out the Old Testament Heroes, but we haven’t watched it yet. It is put out by the American Lutheran Church, and it seems pretty great. The DVD I picked covers Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Esther. I was happy to see Esther in there, as I think she gets left out of the Bible hero category often. 🙂

So, if you are ever looking for curriculum…be sure to check your library! You never know what things you’ll find….even Bible-centered education!

Homeschool · Household · lessons in love

The Abundance of the Heart

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(Photo courtesy of buildfaith.org)

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good,

and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil,

for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:45

One of my biggest struggles is my mouth. I find it, sadly, too easy to use a nasty tone with my husband and children. I am so easily annoyed by whining children, and my mouth spouts off angry, hurtful things so often. It is extremely difficult for me to hold my tongue when I am upset about something.

It isn’t until after I have hurt someone feelings or said things I regret that I realize how big a jerk I can be. And then I have to find some humility and go ask for forgiveness….another huge struggle! I do not like to admit I am wrong; I would rather just be right all the time. 🙂 But, I am learning to ask my kids for forgiveness. They have never said no, but I wonder what they are thinking when I ask.

“Again?! Man, mom messes up a lot!” or “Is she ever gonna get this right?”

I can only imagine how annoyed they get with me being so mean or hurtful when things don’t go my way!

So, I have been really considering Luke 6:45 and how I can work on what comes out of my mouth. I understand it is related to my heart, which makes me more upset….my heart must be full of anger or discontentment for me to sound like that with my family!

Working on my heart is going to be a lifelong challenge, I know. But, I decided to work on filling my mind and my day with things that will help me focus on Christ, in addition to my Bible reading and prayer. I want my focus to be on the Christian God has asked me to be, the wife I should be, and the mom my kids need me to be.

I noticed a few months ago we had a lot of time with no background sound during our day. (Other than the screams and giggles that come with having five kids or the TV when I cave and give in to their screen time requests.) When I was talking about getting in some quiet time with the ladies at my moms’ group table at church, some suggestions that came up had to do with what music or radio we listen to. They all seemed to listen to their own music, not just the kids’ music. I always seem to have a kid music cd or Veggie Tales story cd going in the car…even though half the time they aren’t even paying attention to it!

So, I came up with a few ideas for things to listen to that have REALLY helped me throughout the day. Things to listen to at any time in order to help me stay focused on Christ and how I am acting toward those around me. I do not get to listen to something every moment of the day, but while I am in the car or typing blog posts or during nap time or even while cooking dinner I can turn on something just for me. I am not always able to sit down and read through my Bible (besides in my morning quiet time) to help me focus, so having something I can listen to is important.

Here are some helpful audio ideas:

  1. Moody radioMoody Bible Institute in Chicago has a local station, but they also have an app and a website you can use to hear their current programs. They have preacher after preacher all day long, just teaching from the Bible about different topics of passages of Scripture. And they are not boring, at all (in case you were thinking they’d be these old guys droning on and on about Leviticus, like I always thought when I was a kid and had to listen to it in people’s cars. Ugh…it was so boring to me as a child.). Tony Evans, John Piper, John MacArthur, and a bunch of other pastors are all on Moody. I love to have it on in the car and while I am cooking dinner. And my husband even listens on his way to/from work, so we can chat about what we heard and discuss!
  2. Spotify – I recently discovered Spotify, even though it has probably been around for a while. You can listen to different albums or songs of a TON of artists and add them to your own playlists. I have added many albums of different Christian singers/groups to play on the computer while I work or cook or whatever. I do not buy many cd’s or iTunes songs/albums, so Spotify is great because it is FREE!
  3. YouTube– I don’t necessarily use YouTube for the video part of it, but I enjoy listening to different pastors’ sermons via YouTube. Matt Chandler (amazing guy!), Tim Keller, John Piper, James MacDonald, and so many more.
  4. Podcasts – I am fairly new to podcasts as well. (Go head, call me old. It’s fine. Really.) But, I have really enjoyed all the mom and/or homeschooling podcasts I have found. They are all Bible-based, which was so important to me. The men and women that share on the podcasts have really encouraged me so much to be more committed to my ministry here at home. I really want my children to love Jesus, and a lot of the podcasts give lots of great ideas for changing my attitude and ways to start my day well. A few I have found and loved are Sally Clarkson (love, love, LOVE her), Revive our Hearts (they have an app with all their podcasts, too), Inspired to Action– Kat Lee, Cultivating the Lovely – MacKenzie Monroe, and the God-Centered Mom Podcast. And one thing about the last one, God-Centered Mom…I absolutely LOVE the latest podcast about anger triggers. I have listened to it twice now. 🙂 I also really love episode 69 with Kirk Martin; he talks about the strong-willed child and handling them well. I have (I think) 3 strong-willed kiddos. One is a girl, and she and I can usually handle the difficulty together pretty smoothly (not always, but usually we can work it out ok) now that she is a little older and we can talk more in-depth. But, both of my boys are strong-willed, I believe. Going out in public is such a challenge any more. I really appreciated how Kirk Martin explains in a Bible-focused way to show them the love and correction they need. I do not believe either or my boys has any serious issues, but they definitely have strong wills and do not just go with the flow or change their minds instantly. I absorbed a lot of information in that podcast episode with how to change MY action/reaction and diffuse or alter situations. Very encouraging and helpful!

Those are a few things that help keep my mind on the things of Christ throughout the day. Now, I don’t want you to believe my days are 100% awesome because of what I am listening to. 🙂 BUT, constantly filling my mind with Bible truths in my morning quiet time and listening to pastors preach the things I need to hear definitely helps me stay on track more often. I still respond with angry words some times, but I am noticing how much quicker I am with confessing and repenting. Baby steps! 🙂

Do you have anything you use throughout the day to help you keep your focus on Christ? 

lessons in love

Thirsty

 

I absolutely stink at drinking enough water throughout the day. Don’t tell my husband, but I rarely drink more than 20 ounces. I know, it is bad. I have really good days and I chug half my body weight, or whatever amount it is. For the most part, though, I stink at it. But, water often reminds me of the Bible (you know, that verse about the living water…John 7:38), and for the longest time I could say my actual water drinking habit was comparable to my Bible reading habit. I just wasn’t thirsty…

I grew up reading the Bible.

Ok, I should clarify – as a child, I read the Bible to earn points in AWANA at church, to earn money for church camp scholarships, to earn good grades in school, and whenever I got in trouble as a teenager and my Dad made me write out Proverbs.

I was not good at reading my Bible daily for the pure joy of getting to know God. I mostly only did it when I absolutely had to. My parents read the Bible, but I just did not form the habit.

Fast forward about 18 years to 2015. I am a mom to five beautiful (yet ridiculously energetic!) children God has entrusted to me, a wife to a man after God’s heart, and I still am not in the habit of reading God’s Word daily. I would go in spurts – a week or two of daily reading then fall away and fill my mornings with other things, then a week of two of not reading before realizing I need to start again. But, when I would be reading daily I was not really focused on the content. It was more or less to check it off my daily to-do list.

And then my husband started online Bible classes. He jumped right in with studying how to read the Old Testament, and he absolutely loved it! (If you speak with him, he’ll probably do the ol’ complaining about how much reading he has to do and how tough the teachers can be, but when I see him working on it at home I see his heart is SO into it.) He was digging into God’s Word to write a paper about Old Testament covenants, and we’d have these late-night discussions of our viewpoints on different things. I would spit out what I learned as a child, and he would eagerly share what he had read….on his own, outside of any schoolwork, just because he wanted to know more.

I was watching and listening and feeling really ashamed at how much he craved learning God’s Word. Here he was, a Christian of 8 years, just absorbing everything he could about Biblical history.

And there I was, a Christian of over 20 years….and I really didn’t have anything to add to the information he was giving me. I could only share what had been told to me so long ago; I had never researched it on my own.

Yes, I had looked up what the Bible says about homosexuality and sex outside of marriage and women preachers and things relevant to today’s headlines. But, I didn’t know anything about the New covenant (didn’t even know there was one named that!).

After watching my husband learn and get excited, I began to thirst for more. I wanted to know some background; I wanted to know why I believe what I believe….about everything! Not just the major controversial topics. I wanted to know why we aren’t bound to the Ten Commandments!

(by the way, I did learn why…it has to do with the fact that Jesus died and we aren’t bound to the Law in the old testament. there’s so more to the explanation, but I actually know why!!)

The past several months have been so amazing for my Bible reading. I have stayed rather consistent with reading in the mornings. I am working to read through the Bible this year, but I am also so incredibly thirsty to read! I keep wanting to know more. I have a lot of “why’s” I want answered, and I have this strong desire to find out.

After feeling ashamed that I have never really been craving the Bible, I am feeling very encouraged by the fact that God led my husband to take that online course, which led me to desire to read His Word.

Every day is not perfect with my reading – I still get distracted if the boys are up with me. I grouch at them that I need to read my Bible (a little counterproductive really), but I try to help them understand I need to do this. I pray before I start, asking for wisdom and understanding of what I am reading. I also ask for focus because my mind wanders to breakfast and the rest of the day, if I’m not careful.

I am so excited to dig into God’s Word and know more. I am actually wanting to read, to understand what I am reading, and finding how I can apply some part of it to my daily life.

My sister is my accountability partner…..even if we go a week or two without checking in. 😉 I know she is reading, too, which is a huge encouragement as well. We get to share what we’ve been reading and what we are learning. Even the smallest bit of wisdom from her really brightens my day. I am not going to say she’s my favorite sister, but I am certain she is the only one who reads this blog…so she is definitely my favorite! 🙂

I am not sharing all this to brag. I just wanted to share in case you’re an “old” Christian like myself, who feels a little blah about reading your Bible. We all go through dry spells, I totally get that. But I would encourage you to just open your Bible and read anyway.

That dry spell could turn into a serious thirst.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37