9/26/07

Carefully-Chosen Words

Some of the funniest signs I’ve seen deal with communication. A favorite, on a poster at Fight Illiteracy, said, “Are you an adult that cannot read? If so, we can help!”

The words we speak will impact how we feel, how we are perceived, and how we affect others, so we must learn to choose our words wisely. Certainly, developing a wider vocabulary is important, but we can all make better choices with the vocabulary we already have. Carefully-chosen words help us describe our emotions, experiences, desires, goals, dreams, and most cherished beliefs.

One simple word choice can change how we view our entire day, or how others respond to us. When I stopped using the word “overwhelmed”—as in “I feel like a chicken with its head cut off. I’m so overwhelmed”—and instead substituted the phrase “time challenged,” my blood pressure went down and my thoughts cleared. I can deal with a time challenge, but how can I deal with “overwhelmed”? I made another choice to answer the question, “How are you?” with “Great!” instead of “Fine.” It really colored my day! A friend in a church I attended as a newlywed used to answer that question with, “Excellent!” Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Public speakers, pastors, lawyers, and other professionals cultivate a colorful, persuasive vocabulary, but good word choices are a skill everyone should develop. The scriptures are full of references to the tongue that give insight into word choices. We grieve the Spirit of God when our words do not edify (Ephesians 4:29-30). We don’t want our words to destroy people, cutting them like a sharp razor (Psalm 52:2).We need to guard against bitter words (James 3:10-12). We want our words to minister life (Proverbs 10:11a) and grace (Ephesians 4:29), to heal (Proverbs 12:18b), and to encourage others with joy and gladness (Proverbs 12:25).

Listen to your words today. What are you saying to others? What are you saying to yourself? Choose words that build, encourage, challenge, and motivate.

9/19/07

Spending Your ‘Time Account’

clockTime is so daily. That’s the good news...and also the bad.

Because time is daily, we can always anticipate fresh seconds, minutes, and hours tomorrow. But since time is daily, we can only spend it once, and sometimes we don’t make smart choices in managing our time.

I read about an unusual “bank” that credits every person on earth with 86,400 seconds of time, every single day. There is no balance of time carried over from day to day in this generous account, but every evening the balance we do not use (or wisely invest) is deleted. And we can’t draw on tomorrow’s time.

How does that make you feel? The first time I heard about this ‘time account,’ years ago, I actually sat down and wept with regret. I sensed God urging me to use my time more effectively, and I determined to examine my life and manage my hours better, seeking God’s will for each day.

A catchy lyric written by Pete Seeger and popularized by The Byrds is based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The song—Turn! Turn! Turn!—reminds us that “to everything...there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” God has purposes for our time—sometimes work, sometimes rest, sometimes celebration, sometimes grieving. We need to be keenly aware of how we use every minute, because, as an unknown author wrote, it’s “just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.”

My clock is running today and so is yours. Your “time account” is so freely supplied. Make the most of your 86,400 seconds as you seek God’s will (Ephesians 5:15-17).

9/12/07

'Normal' Eating

I can choose what I eat. Well, "duh!" But the truth is, while knowing that fact is good, acting wisely is crucial to my health.

J. Ron Eaker, MD, author of Fat Proof Your Family (Bethany House), opened my eyes to the foolishness of my "normal" eating patterns. "Normal," he says, is the typical American diet, which does not lead to health. "Normal" is supersized, fat-laden, gorge-according-to-your-feelings eating. Eaker's challenge is to think abnormally by the world's standards, and to instead follow the absolutes of the Word of God and make wise, healthy choices. When we fully embrace the reality of consequences, we're better armed to stop falling into the trap of the media-driven "distorted sense of normal."

We all compromise with nutrition. I once went through the grocery checkout with a stockpile of nutritious, low-fat, low-calorie foods...and three half-gallons of ice cream! As the grocery clerk scanned my items, she looked up at me and grinned as the ice cream approached. "For the kids," right? I turned red. She saw the inconsistency. The on-sale ice cream was my (sabotaging) reward for "being good." Who was I fooling?

Although the main meaning of Galatians 6:7-8 is spiritual, we do reap what we sow when it comes to nutrition. There are consequences; even if most of us don't want to deal with them until we hear, "Doctor's orders!" In Genesis 1, God created all things and declared them "good," so we have an incredible smorgasbord of healthy food choices. But God also expects us to be smart and to practice discipline, not gluttony. We must keep our bodies, the dwelling place of God’s Spirit, "blameless" (I Thessalonians 5:23-24) until Christ's return.

So … why be "normal"? Ask God to help you be abnormal when it comes to nutrition, so you can make wiser choices.

9/5/07

Fresh Joy

Joy is a choice - a conscious, focused, look-beyond-your-circumstances, keep-your-eyes-on-Jesus decision. We need fresh joy every day.

My dear girlfriend Nancy recently attended a Memorial Service and funeral - not "happy" circumstances. Her son Ryan, a Marine recently returned from Iraq, died in an accident two miles from her home. It was both ironic and tragic. She walked through the understandable struggles of a saint. She acknowledged God’s sovereignty one moment, and wondered "what good can come from this?" the next. Her assurance in God, her confidence in His love and goodness, and her belief that God’s purposes are greater and wiser than her own have sustained her, even though she still grieves...deeply. One might say that her joy is sustained in the midst of her grief as God’s Spirit works supernaturally in her spirit. Joy is, after all, part of the fruit of the Spirit.

One of the best definitions of joy I’ve ever read was by Kay Warren, wife of Dr. Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life author). She wrote, "Joy is the unshakable assurance that God is in control of all the details in my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything will be alright; and the determined purpose to praise God in all things." Unshakable assurance ... quiet confidence ... determined purpose. This is a lot more substantial than a "happy face" mentality.

Joy has healing properties (Proverbs 17:22). It is the highest expression of a life saturated with God’s love and grace. A joyful heart looks for reasons to be thankful. It looks for God’s hand of blessing in the messes, absurdities, and even tragedies of life. Unlike happiness, which is unreliable, joy wells up from within. When we "lose our joy," we forget God; we forget His promises, faithfulness, and sustaining grace. There is joy in God’s presence (Psalm 16:11) because He is the source of all we need. We can even face down temptation with joy (James 1:2) because of His strength within us. We truly rejoice in Him (Philippians 4:4).

You can choose your focus today. Will it be on your challenging circumstances, or will you look beyond your circumstances to God’s promises and presence?