It was a lovely morning yesterday. Seth and I tried a new LaVazza variety (falling off the wagon a bit on this aspect of Zero For Six-ing, but more on that later) on the balcony. We likened the rustling of the Aspen leaves to the feel of clean cotton sheets, the breezes in the pines and the birdsong to music.
The conversation went and wound its way here and there, and somewhere in there I had a fantastic idea–a doable, practical example of how to remind our government that indeed, they work for us. I won’t go into the particulars of the idea, because I want to talk about the power of conversation.
We’re meant to have it, and it’s meant to produce ideas, solutions, revelations. It’s meant to connect hearts and minds and put us in the creativity zone. So, if our conversations aren’t producing this magical marvel, especially when we’re talking with our adult children, we can examine ourselves.
Do we listen carefully and thoughtfully? Do we interrupt? Do we have to be right? Are we taking a parental role when our family members are not asking for that? Just as we’re extra polite and considerate in our conversations with non-family folks, are we also with our beloveds? Do we remember that sometimes hearts simply want to be heard–not to hear our opinion?
When we don’t know the answer do we simply say, “I don’t know, but I will pray for wisdom, and I will pray for you to have wisdom, and all will be well”?
It’s helpful to remember that those who talk the most and loudest are often drowning out the words of those with the deepest and best thoughts. Just in case you’re like me, and maybe are a bit chatty, it could be time to put some art into our conversation.
The question: Is it perseverance or pig-headedness, initiative or insanity?
The answer: It depends on whose behavior I’m trying to change, whose revelation I’m trying to get.
The tried but not true way of living is to beat my head against a brick wall, yet again. Maybe if I phrase it just right, wait for just the right opening, pick my timing – maybe this time that thick-headed soul will see the light!
But this morning I decided I just really didn’t want the resultant inevitable headache of the brick wall encounter. And so . . . believe it or not . . . I kept still and silent. When John finally asked me, “What are you thinking?” I didn’t jump at his throat like a hungry piranha.
How did this miracle occur? Because I waited and prayed and thought of what truths I knew, beginning with: Is this love or is this fear? I know enough to know that when I’m fretting, frustrated, or consumed with some unpleasant thought pattern, I am in fear.
And so, as I thought of what revelations I wanted John to get, I was reminded that I need not fear, that even if John NEVER sees it my way, God is certainly big enough to get around that. And so, when he asked me what I was thinking, I said, “I’m thinking that even when we make a mistake, it’s not a mistake.”
And then I went to be alone and pray. I asked God for a specific word, and I opened my Bible up to Jonah. I got lots out of that story that I never saw before, and I finished with God telling Jonah, in brief, “Don’t you think I know a few things you don’t know, don’t you know you can be wrong even when you’re absolutely sure your way is the only way?”
In short, “Be still and know that I am God.”
I took that literally. Sit still. Don’t move. Don’t be frustrated with the lie-abouts in your house. Rather be glad they’re all still abed so you can have time and peace. Stop trying to change others so God can change you. So you can be still. And know. He is God.
“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4
“Beverly has got her a good man.”—Leona Webb, my grandmother, upon watching John do his usual stellar job in changing Rebekah, using his perfectly folded cloth diaper. I store up and call on such memories any time the enemy of my soul tries to make me discontent. And, what’s more, I share such stories. I brag on my man.
3 – Them Positive Confessions
First Words Count Bigtime
Her name was Sharon, and she was an obvious and victorious Christian. She was my beautiful and joyous neighbor, striding across the parking lot on her husband’s arm. When she asked how things were going, my litany of defeat was the wrong answer. “Oooh, Girl,” she said, “Quit makin’ them negative confessions!”
Your first words, in any situation, set the tone; they give the invite—either for blessing or breaking, for life or for death. Deuteronomy 30:19 tells us, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
Look at the following two scenarios and then determine which one sounds more like my friend Sharon’s probable response to any marital discord:
- “That’s it. I’ve had it. I don’t have to listen to this crap.”
- Long and deep breath, concentrated thought and internal prayer. Father, you promised me wisdom. Help me to understand what’s really going on here. Help me to see my mate as you see him. Give me the words. Speak through me, Holy Spirit.
Incidentally, Sharon had a special place in my heart simply because she was the wife of an OU football player.
“Who cares?” you say. “How is OU football relevant?”
Do you not know? Have you not heard? OU football is relevant to all things, especially my and John’s first argument.
We were having Thanksgiving at my dad’s and we ruined it for everyone, arguing over Oklahoma vs. Arkansas football. When John started badmouthing the Sooners and I came right back with cut-to-the-bone remarks about the Razorbacks (to which John said I was just as obnoxious as any other Sooner fan). We knew nothing about the power of first words. We were simply focused on having the last word.
Recently John and I got a little tiny bit crossways over the care and cleaning of wooden cutting boards. When he responded to my learned wisdom with an unbelieving “Who told you that?” my mind instantly went into turbo-charged overdrive. But right in the middle of the thoughts, I think I know a little more than you about a few things, and I am not the village idiot, and I don’t have to give you chapter and verse, I put on the brakes and started trying to see things his way. He does not think I’m the village idiot. After a few moments wherein he picked up his book and began pretending to read as I watched and tried not to grin, he looked at me and grinned back.
Who, really, gives a flying flip about the care and keeping of wooden cutting boards? I do, I do, I do. I’m right. Go find the info on the Net and prove it to him. Or just shut up, give him a hug and let God handle it.
If it turns out John is right (using harsh soap and hot water and scrubbing my lovely boards) I will simply smile and say, “Well, Honey, I should have known you were right. What was I thinking? Where do I sign up for the Germophobe Club?” He’ll then give me a bear hug and call me a smartass and wonder why he ever thought he could have the last word. I just can’t lose, really. And neither can he.
Oh, you want to know the details, so you can see who’s right and who’s wrong? After all, you say, “There are different protocols for cleaning up after raw chicken as opposed to chopped walnuts!” The point is simply, “Are we really going to get crossways over this?” If pride’s on board (giving Satan legal access) then yes, we will get crossways. Two people cannot live together in real harmony of spirit when pride is in operation. Pride’s presence will result in both people thinking and saying “I” and “me” thoughts.
John and I once cooked dinner for a young couple with two little ones (one a newborn), and were enjoying their company immensely. But when the toddler got stinky there was an immediate battle about who would change him. I empathized with the stay-at-home mom who, when the husband said it was her turn, came back with, “I’ve been changing him all day. It’s your turn.”
In John, I am blessed to have a husband who wanted his turn, who was smart enough to know I had gotten my fill of “turns.” But still, when my babies were wet or dirty, I just handled it. Whoever found it, whoever was closer, took care of it. We looked at caring for our children as a duty and a privilege, and as a joint and joyous effort. It was not a competition in laziness.
Of course, I wasn’t always so sharp. In fact, I was more than a bit overwhelmed with my firstborn, Vann. My dad came by to check on us when Vann was three weeks old. He found Vann crying in my arms as I wailed and dropped tears all over my baby’s sweet head. “One of you,” Dad said, “is going to have to be an adult.” Not me, I immediately thought. I looked down at my child. Oh.
In those days I was truly on my own, except for the blessed weekends when Dad bought my gas so I could go home to Mom. It was a tough job, but there was no alternative. One of us, as a wise man once said, had to be an adult.
What does that look like? First of all, let’s establish the fact that adult behavior very often has an inverse relationship with age. I have numerous memories of adult and responsible behavior as a child and as a teen, and even more memories of being a brat at age 45. Adult behavior begins with yielding to Jesus, and therefore operating in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Childish behavior whines, “I want what I want and that’s the end of it.” Adult behavior has the sense to know that first words set the tone, that first words are irretrievable, that the other person (remember, that mate God gave you to love, honor, cherish, bless, and fight for?) will be affected for good or for evil, depending on the words chosen.
First words go along with first actions. You will not get good actions in tandem with bad words. You will not rub your mate’s shoulders at the same time you say, “I hate your sorry self.”
Oh, you know all this, but you just can’t seem to stop with the harsh and hurtful words and ways? Jesus is the only permanent and complete solution to evil. And words that invite the devil to come on in and take up residence in your home are evil.
Again and as always, Jesus is the solution. To be more specific, the unconditional love, grace, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, and mercy of Jesus in you, will cause you to pass these things on to your mate. If Jesus doesn’t have your heart, if you haven’t accepted the gift of His love for you, if you aren’t spending time with Him every single day, then every time a problem or issue comes up, you’re in for it.
How much time with Jesus? That depends on how skilled you want to be in the fine arts of love and marriage. How much victory do you want?
Maybe your marriage is a battlefield. Change your weapons. In order for there to be Strife (remember Strife’s attendant putridness—confusion and every evil work?) you must be using the wrong weapons and fighting the wrong enemy. Repeat after me: “My mate is not the enemy. My mate is my mate.”
Words, particularly first words, are weapons, for good or for evil. Make up your mind for once and for all that your words will be weapons for good. And since we know from the Book of James that no man (in his own strength) can tame the tongue, you must harness yours to the Holy Spirit and get out of God’s way.
Yes, I know the pressure, the temptation to say what you’re feeling, is almost unbearable. I know when you manage not to go ballistic on your mate, you feel you have to tell someone. But resist! This is hazardous to the health of your marriage. The only one you can always safely tell is Jesus, and even then you must muzzle your tongue.
Satan can and will use everything you say against you. He’s the one pressuring you—endlessly, maddeningly—pushing, taunting, and provoking.
I remember once, long ago, when I decided to have a TV fast (the kids were little and I was beginning to use TV as a sitter) and I put the TV in the garage. The reactions were interesting. John didn’t care, the kids didn’t care. I, however, was consumed with a desire to watch all the Rocky movies. I couldn’t think of anything else. Well, I was smart enough (if barely) to recognize where this pressure and temptation came from, and to laugh at it. Note: If you laugh at the demons hissing in your ear, they will cease.
When I recognize fearful and untrue thoughts as what they are—lies, and refute them aloud with the truth (scripture), just as promised, the devil flees (“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7). When I eat half a jar of fudge sauce straight from the fridge and thoughts of defeat, recrimination and disgust come at me, I say, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” I’m choosing to believe II Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” This doesn’t mean I particularly approve of my behavior, but let me tell you this one thing: If I’m going to speak someone else’s words about me, that someone is not going to be Satan.
Who’s Using Your Words?
Remember, the words you speak will determine your actions. You’d better make sure they’re words of life and love and light. The words you speak will be used by God to make a way for His will, or they will be used by the Great Deceiver. First, he will pressure you into saying them (“Go ahead and leave, see if I care,” is a good example of words from Hell), and then he will convince you of your right to say them, and soon you’ll actually believe them. Of course, when the inevitable regret sets in, he’ll get you with shame and condemnation.
But if you know Jesus, if you meditate on His Word, you will be strong in His love, and able to refuse the enemy’s guilt trip. You will understand how guilt strengthens sin’s power over you.
I rejoice when I read Paul’s words about this shame-obliterating love in Romans 8:38, 39 – “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Eventually, as you spend increasing time in the Word and in prayer, you’ll recognize thoughts that aren’t life thoughts, and when you feel the pressure to say what should not be said, you’ll be able to say life words back to the death words—you’ll know in an instant to take those thoughts captive (Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ – II Corinthians 10:5). You’ll be so in tune with the Holy Spirit that at the first hint of stress, you’ll be able to recognize and deal with its source.
The Fruits of the Spirit will become your weapons, your antidotes. When hateful thoughts come, you’ll counter and defeat them with Love (the really big gun!). When sorrow comes you’ll regain your strength by calling on Joy. Peace will annihilate worry, and impatience will give way to the formidable force of Patience. Rather than driving your mate away from the love of Christ with unkind words, Kindness will make both of you victorious! And rather than being a “control freak” (who is actually someone out of control), Self-control will rule you to such an extent that you won’t even notice the misbehaviors of others (except to pray POWERFUL prayers for them). Your weaknesses will become strengths.
The enemy of our souls attacks us when we’re weak, and in our weak spots. But we can look at these attacks as signposts, pointing us to the areas needing our attention, our nurturing, and concentrated prayer efforts.
Take Joy, for instance. The joy of the Lord is our strength, as we know from the Word, and from experiencing the power we feel when we’re joyous. Because I’m naturally a happy person, I don’t accept a lack of joy as normal. Do I still have to fight for my Joy? Absolutely! Because Joy is so important to a Home Maker’s success, the enemy will steal it if at all possible.
Do I walk in the Fruits of the Spirit all the time? I am there sometimes, in some areas. Other times, I feel myself getting all bent out of shape, and that’s my warning: Wait just one minute, Sister. What’s really going on here? Jesus, are you trying to tell me something?
Whadda Ya Say? Let’s Praise Our Mates!
There’s only one human whose opinion really matters to me. Recently John got up feeling terrible (an entire night following three entire weeks of coughing all night) and growled at me at the breakfast table. Because I’d given up sleeping next to him, and spent my night on the couch, I was not my usual wise and charming self. I snapped right back, slammed my uneaten breakfast in the sink and went on a walk.
In days of old I’d have stayed gone an hour or two—let him stew, right? This one took about five minutes. After asking God for wisdom (how did Satan get at us?) I thought of two things immediately: 1) I didn’t have my Quiet Time; and 2) just before our little tiff I said some very dangerous words—words of judgment. I judged people for judging people.
I was talking about the rampant divorce in the Church and saying that one major reason is because of how judgmental many Christians are about divorce. “What you judge will come on you,” I had said with just a bit of satisfaction.
You see, I was one of those divorced women who felt she had a huge red “D” branded on her forehead every Sunday. And when those family members who once judged me ended up with children who had their own marital issues (including divorce), perhaps I had been a bit smug.
Had I evaluated my own behavior, judging myself (For if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged. – I Corinthians 11:31) maybe I would have recognized I hadn’t quite forgiven those who judged me.
But God is patient, and always working with me, bringing me gently along. So, after my little walk and talk with Him, I went back to John, determined not to have my say and get my way and make him see the errors of his ways. I went back determined to join with him in kicking Satan in the teeth (and elsewhere).
Meanwhile our children were joined in prayer for us, and later told us they prayed almost exactly what we prayed. We prayed for additional issues (unbeknownst to them) that were uncovered through this event, and God grew us rather marvelously.
My “Ha, ha, ha’s” are now aimed at the enemy. And added to my never-to-be-missed-again Quiet Time is ever more fervent prayer for freedom for the Body of Christ.
Perhaps most satisfying of all is the sure knowledge that it will be a long, long time (I declare never) before I receive ugly thoughts, much less speak ugly words, to or about my darlin’.
What do you say about your mate, about your marriage, and about yourself? Do those words line up with scripture? Are your words builder’s words or breaker’s words? Beware! Your mind will shut down to hear what your mouth has to say and will then act on it. If you say you’re sick and tired, you’re not putting up with it, it’s not fair, your marriage was a mistake, there’s no use in trying, your mate is a pig from Hell who gets to have all the fun, he doesn’t know how hard you work, etc., then your life, and you too, will be one big drag.
Suppose, however, that your words line up with scripture and you count your blessings all day long, always including that God neither gets fed up with you nor gives up on you. If also, you pray and read the Word morning, noon, and night, then your words will be life words, and your life will just get better and better and better.
Do you want your words to bring life? Do you want wrath long gone from your home? Find and memorize the following scripture from Proverbs 15:1—A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.
Yes, memorization sounds formulaic, and therefore suspect—perhaps not exactly what the Holy Spirit has for your individual situation. But here’s the beauty of it: the more time you spend with Jesus, even if it begins simply as a habit and/or because someone else suggested it, the sooner you’ll get to that place where you love being with Jesus, and it will just be who you are—someone who listens, hears, trusts, and obeys; someone who is blessed and highly favored by the Most High.
Relish, guard, and look forward to your blessing time with Jesus, where you learn what He has to say about you, your mate, and your marriage. Tuck those words and thoughts away in your heart. Soon, those words—life words—will be what come out of your mouth. You will be a blessing to yourself and all others in your sphere of influence.
Yes, you have influence, and yes, you want that to be a good influence. Everything you say to and about your spouse is powerful. Get this. Your words count (“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof .” – Proverbs 18:21) and your thoughts count, as they determine your words.
It’s Not That Complicated
So how do you change your thoughts? The Word fills the heart, which fills the head, which fills the mouth. (“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”– Matthew 12:34). It’s as simple as that: move in close to Jesus and keep the Word before your eyes, and coming in your ears. When you fill your heart with the Good Word of Jesus, you will speak good words.
It’s your choice. Are your words going to bring life or death to your marriage? Are you going to build your mate, or tear him down?
Spare yourself the grief of knowing you let the enemy use your words to hurt those you love, those whose hearts God has entrusted to you. Remember, this doesn’t only happen in an all-out battle. You can deeply wound that heart so attuned to you—the one so desperately in need of your absolute and always-faithful love, respect and kindness—with seemingly inconsequential words (no such thing). Just a tiny little whine about something they were “supposed to” do, or something they “should” be, will wound a weary heart.
God wants your marriage to be beautiful, so get your eyes off your mate’s issues and onto Jesus. If you don’t think there are areas in your heart He would like to heal and clean up, you have a pride issue. Repent! Otherwise, you are bound to wound your mate.
Warning: “Supposed to” goes right in the trash can with “should.” You are under grace. Refuse law, and stop trying to be the law. Your name isn’t Sheriff Wife. Your name is Lover Girl. (Think in fives: See Romans 5 and Galatians 5.)
The Builder Lady
Proverbs 14:1 speaks to me every time I read it: “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” The word “house” in this verse is translated from bayith, meaning “a house, especially family.”
Growing up and working on my dad’s construction sites gave me a good sense of what’s involved in building a house. Long before the homeowner served a lovely Thanksgiving turkey in her walnut-paneled dining room, there were plans, bulldozing, and slab pouring, plumbing, well drilling, and so forth. And this was just the beginning!
For the contractor, it was the beginning of headaches. Subcontractors didn’t show up and in some cases that was a blessing in disguise. Lumber store trucks delivered the wrong products, slabs resembled mountain ranges, rain never stopped, and the homeowner changed her mind about details almost daily.
But the contractor expected these little blips and even if there were times when he packed it up and went home early in hopes of saving his sanity, he always showed back up the next day. He was there for the duration. He was the “contractor”—he had a contract, an agreement, and he had a responsibility. And of course, he had the rewards: a beautiful finished product, a healthy amount of cash in the bank, and the satisfaction of a job well done.
More Than a Contractor
You, however, have much more than a contract. You made vows pertaining to a covenant. Even as your mission and calling are so much higher than that of a builder’s contract to construct a physical house, so are your potential rewards.
You won’t easily, magically, or instantly attain a strong and sure marriage and family. But if you are wise (and God promises us all wisdom for the asking) you can and will build your house, your family, your mate. With good words.
Suggested Reading: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell illustrates how great differences can be great strengths if we will let love have say-so; The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
Keys to Victory: Praise God that your tongue is a weapon for good; be the kind of woman your in-laws can brag on, because they love how you build their boy with your words; daily declare, “I take a stand against my enemy. My mouth is off limits. My words bring life!”
OUT WITH THE JUDGMENT, IN WITH THE JOY!
“Take the word ‘should’ out of your vocabulary. Don’t say ‘should’ unless you’re looking in the mirror.” A wise woman once said these words to me, and I took them to heart. Or tried to. No easy feat, this.
I want to talk today about the dangers of “should” and those of “supposed to” as relating to marriage, or indeed, any relationship. I will try to avoid a rant, especially when I begin discussing my least favorite of all “supposed to’s”–“The man is SUPPOSED TO be the spiritual head of the house.” Oooh, I feel my blood pressure rising already, so let’s just back up and talk about “should” dangers.
We each and every one have full plates–plenty, plenty of things to work on in our own selves. But, alas, when a lass begins focusing on all those shortcomings of her mate (friend, sibling, parent, co-worker) her eyesight is adversely affected. She looks right over the running-over pile on her plate. To put it another way, worrying yourself about someone else’s faults will make you blind to your own. You will personify that person admonished in the Bible to get the giant plank out of their own eye instead of worrying about the speck in someone else’s (Matthew 7:3,4). Sounds like looking at someone else’s little faults actually gives our own room to grow.
And if this is not bad enough, when we zero in on another’s faults, their eyes become wide open to our faults! I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t need that.
Should-ing people is, however, a fine and sure way to decrease your popularity, in case you are that rare person who prefers being unpopular, who likes to be thought of as an ill wind or a foul odor. While I’m not overly concerned with popularity in general, I am quite concerned about being popular with my mate. It just makes sense to me.
OK, here we go with a cousin to should: supposed to. The statement, “The man is supposed to be the spiritual head of the household,” has caused misunderstanding, anger, and disappointment in more than one relationship. What in fact, does that mean, anyway? It depends on who you ask. These words, tossed about from preacher to congregation, from husband to wife and from wife to husband, mean something slightly, or radically, different to everyone. Often, however, they aren’t owned words–words taken in by the man and developed by God. Rather, they are thrown words–words accusing of shortcoming, of failure.
Wife and husband rarely see that statement in the same light, but neither do they communicate about their respective perceptions. So, as they become frustrated with each other, and as the children see their dad failing at this obviously all-important mandate, the water of family life circles the drain.
Like “should,” “supposed to” is a boomerang. When you tell someone else what they should do (unless of course, they ask for, respect, and desire your opinion, which they rightly trust will be delivered in love) you become blind to your own duties of love and responsibility, and you focus the eyes of your accused on your own shortcomings.
These behaviors put you in a place of chaos, a place where you step out of touch with God’s voice and plan for yourself, even as you interfere with what He may be trying to say to your victim. That’s right, I said VICTIM.
The bottom line is you are judging, and as promised, you will be judged, you will have a sad and sorry outcome. Just as a wise woman once said, “Take ‘should’ out of your vocabulary.” And as another wise (at least in this instance) woman adds, “Take ‘supposed to’ out at the same time.