Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Not Your Fight, Not Your Business~ March 8, 2014

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How many of you have heard the expression, “I don’t have a dog in this fight”?  For those of you who haven’t a clue what that means, you are basically saying you have no vested interest in an argument, debate or issue.  So, in other words, there is no reason for you to put your two cents in because the outcome has no bearing on your life.

With that being said, why is it that we often feel compelled to place ourselves squarely in the middle of a disagreement that has absolutely nothing to do with us?  I remember being in High School when every quarrel between two “friends” quickly evolved into a teeny-bopper version of gang wars as both sides rallied innocent bystanders into their tiff by sharing the details of their dispute.  The intent was to get as many people as possible to share the feelings of contempt for your foe so that you could feel justified and somewhat self-righteous when your “troops” outnumbered theirs.  The more people you could get to validate your side of the argument, the more right you must be.  Oftentimes facts were distorted in order to paint the most hideous picture as possible of the opposing party.  Before you knew it, half the school, at the very least, had taken a stance on one side or the other…of a disagreement that started between two people in which the end result would not be life changing for a single one of them.

I used to think that once we grew-up and matured into responsible adults, these petty situations would dissolve.  As much as it pains me to admit, once again, I was wrong.  I am now in my 30s and the “choose a side” mentality is still raging on among my peers.  Proverbs sheds a little light into the danger of placing yourself in the middle of fight that is not your own:

“You grab a mad dog by the ears when you butt into a quarrel that’s none of your business.” (26:17 MSG)

While I can relate to feeling defensive when someone hurts those near and dear to your heart, it is not our place to involve ourselves in the squabble nor should we cast judgment.  Want to know why?  We are getting one side of the story and we are hearing it from a hurting heart.  Their version of events will likely vary greatly from the other side of the fence.  Your vision will be skewed as you see the hurt in your friends eyes so you will most likely have no desire to hear the offenders position.  If you do attempt to be diplomatic, it may prove difficult as you’ve already formed your opinion based on what you heard first.

How can we provide a listening ear to the one seeking counsel without forming a calloused heart towards the opposing side?  We can form unbiased opinions, no matter the circumstances, by seeing all parties through the eyes of Jesus.  He knows we all fall short, abuse one another’s trust, disappoint others and ourselves with our shortcomings, and yet His love & ability to forgive remains unchanged.  If someone starts to confide in you and you can tell instantly that you are not going to be able to remain neutral, stop the conversation and recommend a trustworthy 3rd party they can reach out to.  In taking this approach, you protect yourself from being drawn into a dispute that can bring damaging consequences into your life.

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*Day 26 of our 31 day reading challenge of the Book of Proverbs.  If you haven’t joined in, you’ve missed out on one of the easiest to read, life application books of the Bible.

 

~Navigating Grief~ March 7, 2014

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griefHow people deal with grief is varied based on the individual and the source of their pain.  There is no road map for how we are to cope with the many different types of loss, nor is there an instruction manual on how to comfort the one who’s hurting.

It used to be my nature to always try to cheer people up when they were down.  My initial reaction to someone crying was to attempt to make them smile.  I was a fixer.  However, after experiencing some life, I have learned that’s not the best course of action.  Walking with someone through a struggle means taking cues from them on how you can help them process their feelings and eventually move beyond their pain.

Offering to take a recently widowed woman on a singles cruise, probably is not the wisest idea.

While your friend is going through a nasty divorce is not the time to set them up on a blind date.

When your baby gets their heart broke for the first time, that whole “more fish in the sea” saying is not comforting.

For the parents who are experiencing the devastating loss of a child, chances are they’re not going to be much fun for a while so refrain from trying to force the social scene.

“Being happy-go-lucky around a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing his jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in his wounds.” (Proverbs 25:20 Living Bible)

Even in the above scenarios, no two people will grieve the same.  One person may savor a distraction that allows them to temporarily forget their pain while another prefers to sit and cry in silence while you hold their hand.  Again, that is why it is imperative to let the Holy Spirit guide you and be sensitive to the individual.  Trying to rush someone through the stages of grief may be detrimental to your relationship.  It may be that you only desire to see them smile, and your intentions are definitely in the right place, but taking too much of a lighthearted approach may cause them more pain.

Bearing one another’s burdens is a privilege and a way that we can honor the Lord by fulfilling this requirement.  In order to minister effectively in these super-sensitive areas, we must be willing to adjust our approach to suit the needs of the grieving rather than do what we think is best.
 

~Dust Yourself Off & Get up!~ March 6, 2014

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If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place. (Proverbs 24:10 The Message)

Ok, so this translation is a bit of toe-smasher but it’s also an attention-getter.  (Don’t judge me and my made up words, you know I’m from the South and that’s how we do things.)

We are guaranteed to be met with adversity so long as we’re living in this fallen world.  A true judge of our character and our faith & trust in God is how we respond to life’s trials when they come barreling in out of nowhere.

Will you rise to the occasion and face opposition head on with the attitude of the victor that God says you are?

Or are you going to cower in the corner and suck your thumb, singing “whoa is me” while your problems overtake you and destroy your life?

I’m going with option #1.  I’ve never been much of thumb-sucker and I don’t see any reason to start now.  Besides, Scripture assures us  that “the godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.  But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.” 

I’m not wicked, are you?

try again* Our study of the Book of Proverbs is winding down.  I hope you all are willing to see it through to the end with me!

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~Wise Child, You Bless My Soul~ March 5, 2014

“My child, if your heart is wise, my own heart will rejoice!  Everything in me will celebrate when you speak what is right.”
(Proverbs 23:15-16 NLT)

As a momma, I can truthfully say that nothing brings me greater joy than realizing my kids “get it.”

We have 3 pre-teen/teen children, 2 boys 1 girl.  Our girl is our little evangelist.  She will tell anyone and everyone about Jesus and try to lead them through the sinners prayer before they even realize what’s going on!  Her and several of her Jesus-girl friends have started a Bible club at school where they talk and share prayer requests….IN SCHOOL!!  Go girls!  They are shining their lights so bright and out in the open that there is no doubt in my mind that they are absorbing every bit of what we and the church leaders are pouring into them.

Now my boys are a different story.  Most of the time they seem so checked out and goofy that I’m pretty sure they haven’t heard a word of the sermons preached, lessons taught or correction given at home.  Then the little jokers surprise me.

Just the other day, one of my boys randomly walked in the kitchen and announced, “It just gets on my nerves.”

“Ok, son, what exactly are we talking about here?”

“Well, when kids at school talk about how much the looooove Jesus then turn around and cuss or act rude to someone.”

I kept my cool but inside I was doing my go Jesus dance!  Not only did he disprove of the immature behavior of some of his peers but he immediately recognized that their actions didn’t line up with what they claimed their beliefs were.  And it made him ill.

An overwhelming sense of pride washed over me as I watched the aggravation cover his face as he talked about how annoying it is to listen to people say one thing and then live in complete opposition of what they just said.  My boy is listening and receiving what we’re preaching.

This isn’t the only time they’ve melted this momma’s heart.  Boy #2 is my macho, tough guy, joke playing little sneak.  He thrives on trying to make people laugh regardless of how foolish he looks in the process, he is his father’s son.  So I tend to think there isn’t a serious bone in his body.  Until the day he came to me about a little girl in school who is struggling and had opened up to him and another friend about her self-deprecating thoughts.  You could see the tenderness in his expression and the compassion in his voice.  He was truly concerned about this girls well-being.  I just wanted to burst into tears and hug his neck but again, not cool, so I listened intently while my heart was bursting with the realization that we must be doing something right.

Being a parent in the days that we are living in is painfully hard even on its best day.  Our kids are faced with issues and temptations that we can’t even fathom.  It is scary.  Most parents think they are failing miserably at the job of raising confident, godly children, but when they give us those little “aha” moments, what joy it brings to our souls.  Keep at it, weary mom & dad, I promise you they are hanging onto your every word & looking to you for an example.  That’s a heavy load, and one that I pray you and I will take seriously.  If you want your children to live a life that honors the Lord, check yourself and make sure that there aren’t some changes you might need to make.what you teach

 

~Integrity in Business~ March 4, 2014

“A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.” (Proverbs 22:16 NLT)

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I don’t know too many people who don’t desire to have more money.  Most of what we want and need requires moolah.  The problem lies with those who put financial gain over all else, including morality.

There are some who will stop at nothing in order to achieve wealth, even if it means crushing someone under their heels to reach their goals.  We’ve all seen cases where the rich get richer by taking advantage of the unsuspecting.  Most of what we hear of are those who have been caught, but what about the smaller scale schemers that are slipping under the radar?

There are many ways that one can be guilty of dishonest gain.  It is not exclusive to the big wigs who use their positions in finance to rob you blind.

  • The used car dealer with in-house financing who jacks up the price of a sub par vehicle because he knows you’re desperate for transportation but your credit prevents you from getting a better deal.
  • How about the electrician who claimed to rewire your entire house when in reality he only replaced that which you could see and charged you more than double for labor he didn’t complete?
  • Ladies, have you ever been dupped by a mechanic who assumed since your were a woman you would take their word for it and have unnecessary work done?
  • Then there is the small business owner who gives generous discounts to the “upper-class” while showing no mercy to the one who could use the break because the former has more clout than the latter.

“If you must choose, take a good name rather than great riches; for to be held in loving esteem is better than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1 TLB)

If only everyone would embrace this message for truth.  The good news is that most of the time, those who are unjust in business will eventually be found out.  Living in a small town, I can attest to the power of word-of-mouth.  Those who do right by their customers are far more likely to receive repeat business and referrals because they value their integrity over their wallets.

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~Nag, Nag, Nag~ March 3, 2014

Ladies, I hate to do this to you but if I didn’t write about the quarrelsome wife at some point during our Proverbs study then it really wouldn’t have been an accurate depiction of all that the book covers.  I’m going to make this easier on you by focusing on my own experience as a nag.

I have a happy and fulfilled marriage….now.  Let’s just say that hasn’t always been the case.  Now I was always an excellent homemaker.  My home was never dirty, the laundry was done daily, my cupboards were never bare and meals where prepared right on schedule.  I was taking very good care of my man and providing for most of his needs.  But, and you all knew the but was coming, I was not doing any of these things with a cheerful heart.  My husband was coming home to a picture perfect house with a not-so-picture-perfect wife living in it.  When it came to him, I was unpleasant.

However, I was a different kind of nag because I rarely vocalized my complaints.  I preferred the make-him-read-my-mind-method.  He knew I was agitated but I liked to mix things up by making him play a continual game of “guess what you did wrong today?!”  Doesn’t that sound like a fun time?  Even though I knew I wasn’t exactly being a good wife, I felt comfortable with the fact that I was a good enough wife by keeping up my home.

Wanna hear when my revelation came?

We had a marriage conference at our church and Joe McGee made a simple statement that was profound, convicting and freeing all at once:  “You are your husband’s wife, not a house wife.”

“It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” (Proverbs 21:9 NLT)

And all the homemakers say…OUCH!!

Here I thought I was doing a bang-up job by providing a well-kept, comfortable home when truthfully I was tearing it down little by little with my own hands.  A house is a home because of the people who live in it, not because of it’s appearance and I was neglecting my people.  Yes, they were well taken care of but my little people could see and feel the tension between me and my spouse.  What kind of example was I setting for my girls- So long as you take care of your ‘job’ then it’s ok to neglect your husband’s physical, spiritual and emotional needs?  That is not the life I desire for my kids and I realized it was no longer acceptable for me either.

Both my husband and I made some changes in how we treated one another.  Perhaps one day I can convince him to share with you but for now, I will let you in on what I did.  First, I made a conscious decision to focus less on my to-do list and make my get-to list my priority.  In other words, my chores took a back burner to conversation with Jamie, story time with the girls and rainbow tag with my older kids and their friends.  Then I decided that rather than fuss about what my husband was not doing, I would praise him for the ample things he did for which I should be thankful.  Lastly and most importantly, I stopped clamming up when I was upset.  Ladies, our guys cannot read our minds!  If you aren’t willing to speak up about what bothers you, then you really don’t have a right to be angry when it doesn’t improve.

Marriage is a gift and a treasure.  Yes, there will be times in the valley but if we nurture our relationship we will survive the trials when they come raging in.

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*This is day 21 of our chapter-a-day study of Proverbs.  If you wish to read from the beginning, search 31 day in the tool bar to the right and go from there!  Happy learning!

 

~The Lord’s Searchlight~ March 2, 2014

“The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.” (Proverbs 20:27 NLT)

In God’s infinite mercy, He has equipped each of us with a gift.  It’s the part of the mind that makes us acutely aware of whether our actions and behaviors are morally right or wrong.  It’s a feeling deep within that acts as a warning when we’ve stepped outside the bounds of our moral standards.

It is our conscience.

A man’s conscience is the Lord’s searchlight exposing his hidden motives. (same verse, different translation)

Nothing we do is kept secret from the Lord and if we are to be honest with ourselves, it is no secret to us either.  It is easy to attempt to justify our choices based on the wrongs we think we’ve been done or the influence of those around us.  We can completely convince ourselves that our sin of choice is acceptable because it is in response to an injustice that’s been done.  Then that little voice inside corrects you.  It could be a feeling of nauseousness that overtakes you when you think on it.  It could be an overwhelming sense of conviction that sounds like a screeching alarm inside your head.  Maybe your conscience sounds like mine and calls you names when you start to get out of line.

Regardless of what your conscience sounds or feels like, it would be wise of us to heed it’s warning.  It is your moral compass that keeps you from wavering in your faith and self-discipline.  conscience

Someone is looking…you and God.  Even if no one else ever knows what you do in secret, you do and the weight of that should be enough to convict you and cause you to repent and seek forgiveness from the Lord.  He desires to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and set our feet on a firm foundation that won’t ever pass away.  Take advantage of the gift He has given you and listen to the warnings so that you may be found pure and blameless in His sight.

A clear conscience is peace to the soul and brings rest to the body.

 

 

~Spare the Rod~ March 1, 2014

We have all had those moments as parents when we’d like to crawl in a hole because of embarrassment from our children’s behavior.  My personal best came in the middle of a very crowded superstore.

It’s been a couple of years ago now, but boy do I remember it clearly.  My sweet little Emma was going through a fit-throwing stage like I have never witnessed before.  Truthfully, I thought that type of behavior was a myth or at least something that only happened to other people.  My children would never pitch a fit in public, I trained them better than that.

Wrong.  Seriously, I was wrong.  I suppose I underestimated the power of the flashy toys & sugary treats strategically placed at toddlers eye level at the front of every store in America.

My mother and I were attempting to get my 5 children to the checkout line when Emma spotted something she desperately wanted.  I said No.  Cue the meltdown of epic proportions.  She flung herself down in the floor and screamed like I had just beaten her within an inch of her life.  People started to stare as I tried to talk rationally to my little “princess.”  That’s when it happened, I smacked her little behind, right there in front of everybody.  For those of you who have done the same in public, you can imagine the looks of disgust that were thrown my way.  The fact that she has a face like a doll and had crocodile tears rolling down her cheeks was not helping my case.

Thankfully my momma handled the rest of my children while I dragged Emma out to the car and attempted to strap her in to the car seat.  It was not going so well for me as she was still writhing and screaming at glass breaking decibels.  Finally I managed to strap her in and stood leaning against my mom-mobile as I waited for the rest of my brood.  The screaming continued from inside the vehicle as concerned passers-by looked on with mixed emotions.  Most of them wore looks of judgment as if I had somehow failed as a parent because my 3 year old was uncontrollable.  For all I know, they were the same ones who had witnessed the “whooping” inside the store moments before.  But I was cool with it because I know what the Bible says about discipline.

“Discipline your children while you still have the chance; indulging them destroys them.” (Proverbs 19:18 Message)

You see, I could have easily given into my crazed child in the store when she demanded the toy “or else” and completely avoided the embarrassing fit.  However, my logic is that it would be more humiliating to see that child grow into a disrespectful adult with an undeserved sense of entitlement because I didn’t parent them while I had the chance.  I want to give good gifts to my babies, too, but I have learned that those things need to be earned to teach them ethics and build their character in the formative years.

I know it’s hard to punish your children, especially when it has to be done in front of others.  It is natural that we are concerned how outsiders will view our choice of correction, but they are not going to be held accountable for the upbringing of our kids, we are.  Proverbs 13 reads : “Those who don’t correct their children hate them.  But those who love them are careful to train them.”  While it is difficult to explain to our children that we are disciplining them out of love when we are in the midst of doling out punishment, point out to them that God also disciplines the one He loves and we are following his leading.

One day, when they turn out to be well-rounded, respected adults, they will likely thank us for not catering to their demands but instilling in them biblical values and moral standards that they would have otherwise missed out on had we chosen to “spare the rod and spoil the child.”parenting