Our Tongue

Sword – Mighty weapon to defend from harm
… Or lethal rod to destroy and cut

Log – Strong support to build and shelter
… Or battering ram to pummel and rend

Pen – Words of encouragement and knowledge
… Or scathing ridicule and lies

Hammer – To join, unify, and bind
… Or offer violence to break and tear

Brush – Smooth and untangle woeful thoughts
… Or jerk and beat and cause only pain

Paint – Beauty flowing from careful application
… Or sprays of anger and frustration

For help or harm
… We have that choice

Think first, ponder greatly
Seek wisdom and grace

Before wielding
that powerful tongue!

Reflection on Soot

• Watch what you touch as it may stick to you
• Accumulated experiences shape and form us
• Heated words can burn up friendships
• Act wisely and think to avoid spreading harm
• Pain and struggle can contribute to unhealthy buildup
• Uncontrolled anger spews hurt upon all around
• Miscommunication causes frustration and estrangement
• Covering up mistakes reflects insecurity
• Honesty and humility help to clear the air
• Tough things in life require hard work to overcome
• Uplifting music covers encourages and soothes
• Caring acts grow from compassionate hearts
• Daily prayer is like a good cleaning
• God is our chimney sweep

From “Reflections from the Everyday”
Charlotte-Anne Allen

Care

“I’ll be back in a little while,” my mom would say, as she headed out the door to check on some neighbor. They would often call on “Ms. Marge” with questions or concerns about their health, perhaps needing their blood pressure checked, and my mother was always attentive. With her nursing background, we sometimes referred to her as “the neighborhood nurse.” She would make sure they were alright or encourage them to get to the doctor’s office, often taking them herself. My mom was a very caring and giving person.

We are each a part of “community,” and it is by reaching out to each other, using our unique abilities or interests to support and encourage, that we find fulfillment. Whether in times of unrest and difficulty or in everyday routines, how will we rise to the opportunities that we encounter? How will we give and receive care, and so allow God’s light to shine?

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he spoke of his own ministry. “…But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”

I think of my family, friends, and church who have offered their presence, resources, fellowship, practical help, and prayers. What an encouragement! How overwhelmed, humbled, and thankful I have been for them. In big and small ways, we care for each other. It can be hard not to compare ourselves to what others are able to do, can’t it? I’m glad to be able to offer what I can and to express my gratitude when that care is offered to me.

Paul, this time to the Galatians, reminds us, “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all…” May our words and our actions speak God’s voice, and may we receive and offer grace when we fall short.

My prayer is that we do not miss those opportunities amid the rush and whirl of our daily activities… God bless. Be content.

*1 Thessalonians 2:7b-8, Galatians 6:10

Nurture

“Wow! Look at that! … and there’s another one!” We smiled as we checked out the growing produce from our summer garden. Careful planting, tending, and watering was producing bountiful crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, corn, squash, and much more. A lot of work had gone into the garden and there was much satisfaction and hope for plentiful provision, both for us and to share with others.

Whether tending a garden, caring for others, or looking after our pets or other animals, nurturing is a part of our daily life. When offered in love and compassion, it is an expression and reflection of our Creator, God. A helping hand or an encouraging word can gladden a heart and bring a smile when exhaustion or stress threatens to overwhelm and reaping benefits of hard work and dedication is rewarding.

God nurtures us, both physically and spiritually. I like this passage from the book of Psalms which expresses thanks to God. Think about it in terms of God’s care in our life as well:

You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it. The river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty. Your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow. The hills gird themselves with joy. The meadows clothe themselves with flocks. The valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy. Psalm 65:9-13

Comforting an upset child. Cuddling a pet. Feeding a hungry family. Sitting with a loved one. Protecting those in our care. Being present to support or to share in sorrow. The many small or large acts that we encounter daily offer opportunities.

As we nurture and are nurtured, we can… Pray for those in our care. Rejoice in provision and growth. Rest in God in times of sorrow and drought. Offer thanks and gratitude for His sustaining presence through all things. Acknowledge God’s provision and thank those He brings to us, as we care for each other.

God bless and sustain you through each day. Be encouraged.

Reflections on Mouths

We choose to build up or to tear down
• Consider your words before you speak, and you will not lament the after
• Criticizing in condemnation shuts the door on growth and grace
• A careless tongue is like a roaring volcano
• An open mouth without consideration often spews flames of hurt
• Words of encouragement sweeten the most bitter
• What you say or don’t say reveals your character
• Wise instruction is a great treasure
• The words of others which you eat and drink, will come back up in your own voice
• Harsh words shred our soul and tear our heart
• Restraint is a strength, so cover your mouth when needed
• Fresh air breaths light into a day like songs of praise
• Friendship and respect welcome all words shared
• Give heed to the eternal Word which is full of grace and might

Oink Oink, Moo, Vrrmm … Oh God!

pigs two piglets-by skeeze_Pixabay

“Oink-oink, moo, woof-woof, meow!” As the toy animals bound about the room, I smile and watch the interaction with the parents. “Vrrmm” they exclaim as another toy bounces off the couch or across the floor. Are you smiling too as you see this in your own mind’s eye?! Perhaps you too see the pig, the cow, the dog, or the cat. Here comes the toy car or favorite truck! The joyful play of a young child is a thing of wonder.

In my work with preschoolers, as a speech-language pathologist, I have seen that great communication is possible even without words. The process of learning to use words to communicate can be a challenge for them and their families. Sometimes a single simple word – a name, a “wow,” or an “uh-oh” – says it all! Having options other than their voice is important too. A gesture, a picture, or an electronic voice can also give assistance and success.

There have been times in my own life when I simply had no words to express my deepest feelings. Whether faced with unexpected joy or with great sorrow or hurt, I could only feel. When I see a magnificent display of God’s world, perhaps a sunrise, a rainbow, or a grand vista, my whole being lights up… “How beautiful!” In times of tragedy when the hurt and grief is too great, my mind and body are torn.

Some moments I treasure for myself. Some moments I am not ready or able to share… Some moments I want to and need to share, but I just have no words.

How, in our need, can we communicate what we are thinking or feeling when our insides are so scrambled up, especially when we are hurting or angry? Just as a young child expresses themselves, a simple “wow” and “uh-oh” can convey a lot. The parent or caregiver, who knows and understands their child, can supply the needed words. Silence speaks as well.

We too have a Helper, someone who speaks for us to God, who knows and understands us. I am reminded of a verse from the book of Romans. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (NIV) *

Isn’t that encouraging?! We have a voice and an Advocate*. We do not have to stress over expressing ourselves to God. A simple “Oh, God” or just resting in silence as He hears our heart is sufficient.

I am so thankful to God who understands us all. We are His children, sometimes joyously bounding about the room with our “oink-oinks” or “vrrmms” or other times curled upon ourselves in voiceless pain. Whether our words pour out to Him in great torrents, with simple utterance, or are voiceless… He gets it!

My prayer for us today is that we may be encouraged that He hears us and knows us, and that we can come before Him as a little child.

*Romans 8:26, John 14:16-17

Summer’s Waning

bench water sunset_mood-4269040_1280_pixabay

As summer begins to wane here, there is a new feel in the air as thoughts shift and activities focus on the changing season. The cycle of hot days and storms is slowing, although the cool touch of dew in the evenings through the mornings continues to refresh the ground (and bare feet!). The hum of lawn mowers, kids playing outdoors, and voices of those out and about in various summer activities will also continue for a short while. School has already started back for some teachers and students and buses rumble past in their journey to further the education of their charges.

For some, there is anticipation of cooler temperatures and new beginnings and for others there is perhaps a small sigh and a determination to enjoy the last of this season as long as possible. Isn’t that so like all of our lives?

I am reminded of life’s ebbs and flows, like the seasons of the year and waxing and waning of the moon. Difficult times, changing times, happy times, and growing times are all part of our own experience. The familiar passage in Ecclesiastes 3 says it so well, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

What will we do with our own seasons – as we move from warmth to cool, to freshening or to dryness, to relaxation or hard work, or from trials to celebration – in an ever-moving rhythm? For good or bad, we hold on to some things and never fully experience or enjoy other things.

Struggling through the waning of things we hold dear is hard! Waiting, letting go, and wrestling with churning emotions is unsettling, a difficult or uncomfortable place to be!
Will the light grow again? Will happiness come? … But I don’t want to say “good-bye”! Even moving through new and positive seasons can be a challenge. It’s so easy to miss the goodness in the sometimes-mad rush of life!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made a resolve to intentionally enjoy those positive times, to catch myself in those moments. It has taken some practice! Perhaps it is a satisfying opportunity to help someone else… a new word spoken by a child I’m working with… encouragement or a positive comment from a friend… time to rest and relax after a long day of work… or moments with my family.

There’s so much to be thankful for, whether the season is ending, beginning, or even in the difficult waiting and changing times between them! We can be assured of God’s presence in them all… as we are looking back, looking forward, and taking time for the now.

My prayer for us today is that we will know God’s presence through all of our seasons and find comfort and joy in Him.

*Ecclesiastes 3:1-13, Psalm 23