Of Ships and Fires

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,  and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 3:2-12

One thing we all have in common is the misuse of our tongue. Either overuse, underuse or inappropriate use. Perhaps the tongue runs ahead of our mind and the spirit of God spewing words that wound, words we often wish we could put back inside us. On the other hand, there are times when we know we should speak up and speak truth, but nothing comes out. We quench the spirit. Then there are the words that just make us cringe, not from evil, but from insensitivity, error, or just not thinking. In our scripture James warns us about our words.

We would all be careful with a match in dry woods. We’d be cautious using our grill during a drought, we wouldn’t dump the used charcoal in dry leaves, and most likely we’d follow Smokey the Bear’s instructions and douse it with water as we would a campfire. James says we should be equally on guard using our tongue. Are we careful where and when we use our words? Do we sum up each conversation and determine if it is the season for that word? Do we douse the spark with water when we do say something that incites another or injures them? The water of a apology, explanation or whatever action it takes to resolve our misuse of this muscle in our mouths?

James also compares our tongue to the rudder of a ship. The rudder directs the course the ship will take. Depending on how the rudder is handled, the ship may sail safely into calm seas and arrive at its destination in a timely manner. Or it could flounder in shoals, run aground or plow into another ship doing irreparable damage. What about the ship of our lives, how’s the trip going? Perhaps you find yourself always at odds with a husband, mother-in-law, co-worker, or even a stranger. There seems to be tension, a war of words or constant misunderstandings. Our tongue often is the rudder that has steered us into the situation, and it will take some careful steering to get us out.

So how do we handle the tongue?

First, we handle the heart. Words that come out of our mouth flow from the peace or chaos going on in our hearts. James says words are simply the fruit of the tree – if we’re a fig tree we grow figs and if we’re an olive tree we grow olives. What kind of tree are you? An anger tree? A fearful tree? A frustrated tree? An insecure or lonely tree? Our solution for issues with our tongues is to allow Jesus to heal our wounded hearts and turn us into Blessing trees or Kindness trees or Joyful trees or something similar. To have a heart change it takes going to see the Great Physician, spending time in His Presence and allowing Him to work on us and make the necessary repairs. As we are recovering we begin bearing the fruit we see in the verses below, good fruit, from a good tree – a healed heart.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:22-24

Second, we obey. We exercise self-control even when we would feel more justified in making a smart remark or saying something hateful derogatory. Obeying the call of scripture to put others before ourselves, to walk humbly, to control our tongues is difficult. It takes a constant awareness of where our heart is leaning and a minute by minute decision to submit to God’s ways. But Girls, we can do it. God is at work in us, empowering us to live Holy lives, we simply follow through and do what we know to do.

So today we are challenged to be tongue-tamers! Which is even more challenging than being a lion tamer! We can do this. We want the ship of our lives to take a peaceful voyage that uplifts others as we travel on. We don’t want to be arsonists running around setting fires! Take it one day at a time. No wait, one minute at a time! We can do this!

Hidden But Still Seen

We sat around the table discussing the logistics of the days to come, hashing out details and making plans when our host began to apologize for the perceived annoyance behind us. 

“It’s the dog. She wants in.” 

All of us around the table were pet owners so we encouraged our host to let the girl in. She scratched at the door and whined on the covered porch but as our host walked toward her, the fifty pound pup began to jump in excitement. Her big paws echoed as she did so, and she made no hesitation in coming to investigate the semi-strangers seated around her dining room table. She sniffed and prodded, she nuzzled and nudged. She shed a bit and our host apologized again.

I laughed.

When we spoke to her and acknowledged her presence, all of our voices, with the exception of our host, became elevated. 

We welcomed her to our meeting.

Her name is Scout, the dog not the host, and she captures what a Southern canine is. She is heavy footed and clumsy, slightly overwhelming and full of love with no shortage of kisses. Our host scolded her and attempted to shoo her away from our glass table top work space. 

Scout was beside me checking out my bag. I was petting her behind the ears at the time when the scolding and redirective came. She made a move away from me and attempted to hide. I started to laugh at the irony.

“We used to have a dog that would hide under our glass table and look up at us thinking she was hidden” my friend across from me said to the group. 

I began to laugh even harder. 

How many times have I been like this, like that dog? Doing my dead level best to hide when my idea of a hiding place is completely transparent. I will be wallowing in sin and trying to hide that from the Lord, from myself even. How many times do I think I can hide from Him, and truth is, I might as well be a 50 pound shedding, slobbering, retriever, beneath a glass table top. 

There is nothing in all creation hidden from him, (Hebrews 4:13) but how many times do we attempt to hide ourselves from him. How many times have I held close those secret things that He alone can sort out, make right, and heal?

As we all laughed at the absurdity of this pup’s reasoning I acknowledged there are times when I am no different and just as irrational.

The whole experience also reminded me of my children. When they were little they would cover their eyes thinking just because they couldn’t see me, I must not be able see them. Hide and seek was always a bit less challenging back then. 

It would take years for them to realize that their not being able to see did not negate my ability to see them, much like the Lord I reckon. Just because I do not always see Him working doesn’t mean He isn’t, and just because I think He can’t see me, doesn’t mean he can’t.

Your View of the World

How do you see the world? Do you see all your life as happenstance? Or do you see the world as created and ruled over by God? Do you look at each person you interact with as a unique and loved being? Do you realize that you, and they, are here for a purpose? Do you get in a situation and feel like you don’t know what truth even is any more? Do you wake up each morning and face the day based on the Bible or the latest news or social media issue? Do you understand that we have a real enemy in the spiritual realm, or does the Devil seem like a superstition to you?

How you react to each of these questions reveals your world view. A world view can be secular or religious, faulty or true, helpful or harmful. It matters how you see the world.

What has shaped your view of the world? The family who raised you contributed to your world view. So does your church, school, or friend group. Society as well as the books you consume or movies and shows you watch also impact your perspective of the world. Living life in a sinful world impacts the way we see the world as well. We can become jaded, our faith can be whittled away, and we can find ourselves in the middle of a sea of doubt.

What are we to do? We need to first see if our view of the world is true. Is it based on truth? 

Do you personally have a biblical worldview? The following questions from the Barna Group research will help you see if you do. Think about and answer in your own heart the following questions. Try not to give a rote Sunday school answer, but examine your heart and evaluate what you truly believe in your heart of hearts.

  1. Do absolute moral truths exist?
  2. Is absolute truth defined by the Bible?
  3. Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life?
  4. Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule it today?
  5. Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned?
  6. Is Satan real?
  7. Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?
  8. Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?

A Biblical worldview is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe there is an absolute moral truth and that the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do. The only foundation worthy to build a world view on is the word of God, the Bible. It is our only source of truth.

But according to Barna Researchers, only 14% of all American adults read their Bibles daily. The rest of them/us, the 86%, the majority by a long shot, go spiritually hungry those days they are not in God’s word. Where are you in this data? Where are you today? Have you gone off to your day’s challenges spiritually nourished for what the day may hold? Or are you starving yourself spiritually?

Making It Home: What is a Home?

What is a home anyway? Is it the house? Is it the people who live in it? No, I guess that’s the family. Maybe it’s the atmosphere within a family’s house. Or maybe it’s your community – you know how when you are driving back from a vacation there is a point you get to where someone in the car says “It’s good to be home.” Perhaps it’s your people, even beyond blood relatives. When you are with them it just feels like home. But what is that feeling?

In the book of Ruth, the idea of home had several slightly different meanings. In chapter 1 verse 6, home was Naomi’s country and people. In verse 8 it was Ruth’s “family home,” the household she grew up in. In verse 9 home indicated marriage and family. By chapter 3 verse 1, Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, are back in Naomi’s hometown, and she implies that Ruth’s home would be a place she could be provided for, find protection, and the ruins of her old life could be redeemed. Finally, Chapter 4 verse 11 shows Boaz’ home as his household, but also as a place of hope and possibility where love can come and children will be born.

Whatever your heart definition of home is, let us remember what home is not. It is not your physical house however big or small, fancy or rundown, quaint or sprawling that may be. It is not your belongings. It is not stuff to be acquired in a building. It is not made by other people, it springs from our own heart. It is not the sum of all our past successes and failings, nor is it a list of all you’ve done. It’s not the mess of dirty dishes and laundry, nor is it the pristine perfection of the magazine photo. Home is what we create.

How like our loving God to allow us as His image-bearers to also create as He created! So as you create your home, know that it starts in your heart. A heart full of peace, joy and love can only come from a relationship with Jesus. Otherwise our hearts will be discontent, searching for something better, and longing for more. First Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” This is where home is born, in a godly heart full of contentment because it rests in Him.

Working Out

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

It’s week four of a renewed effort to work out here at our house. There have been several days of aches and pains, lots more water drinking and some planning and setting alarms to make it happen. We are finally hitting our stride and the initial torture is becoming a welcome routine. We are seeing results: toned muscles, increased stamina, and endorphin triggered feelings of well-being. Everyone knows the results do not come with only 1 day or even 1 week of beginning to work out. We realize it is a process. Muscles develop over time. The heart muscle is strengthened over time. Weight loss and overall fitness accrues over time.

Why is it then that we don’t apply some of those considerations we know about physical fitness to our spiritual fitness? Let’s paste the physical truths over into the spiritual realm.

The Preparation. You have to plan to do it or you won’t.

  1. Set the alarm for an earlier time to do physical or spiritual discipline!
  2. Have the gear ready. We lay the workout clothes out for physical fitness. Spiritually we need to have all our “gear” ready: Bible, notebook, and pen at a minimum.
  3. Expect resistance. Muscles ache and bodies are weary, tired, or we feel lazy that day, but we fight through it for physical exercise because we are working for a future long term goal. Spiritually we won’t want to get up and do it some days. We all have to fight against tiredness, weariness, laziness and the enemy! Fight through it for that long term goal – spiritual health. We are building faith muscles!
  4. Have your Go To place! For me it’s the track at the soccer field on sunny days and the treadmill or bedroom floor on really stormy/cold days. Spiritually, it’s my back deck, or my big cushy livingroom chair if it’s rainy or cold.

The Procedure.

  1. Begin gently. I didn’t run a marathon my first morning out. And we don’t decide to outline a whole book of the Bible our first morning into developing a habit of time with the Lord. Stretches and light exercise for the first day physically equals prayer time, reading a verse or paragraph, and journaling one (1) truth the Lord touched my heart with through those scriptures.
  2. Build up over time. After a month a faster pace, longer time and heavier weights are in order, as are more intense prayer, a longer time, deeper study of the Word, and finding a way each day to apply what you learned or share it with someone else.
  3. Vary the routine. Everyone who counseled me on starting back exercising said, “Find something you like to do and do it consistently. But when you feel bored and tired of it, throw in something new for variety.” Same with the spiritual. Keep that routine going, but throw in something new. Instead of just reading the Bible try these: *Listen to it! – on 1.5 speed – while you walk on the treadmill! *Study it with your Strong”s concordance beside you to look up the meanings of Greek or Hebrew words. *Hand copy a verse, paragraph, or chapter. *Memorize a verse. *Outline a chapter. *Paraphrase it in your own words. *Draw it out with symbols. *Or my favorite – Underline key words asking your self 3 questions 1) What do I see? 2)What does that mean? 3)How do I apply it / What should I do in response?
  4. Ride that wave. When you find your sweet spot and it has become a habit, ride that wave! Let the normalcy of it or the joy of it or the after-effects of it be a force to propel you to keep on – physically or spiritually!

The Payoff.

  1. Toned muscles. Our faith is often small because we do not work it out. As you grow and have faith in small things you will have the spiritual strength to have faith in the more challenging things we face.
  2. Increased stamina. We will find a desire to go further with the Lord, not get winded and overwhelmed by our time with Him, and we will be fit for the long haul in life spiritually.
  3. Weight loss. The weight of this world that we carry will begin to seem easier over time – but remember how slowly that happens physically – the weight seems to come off in tenths of an ounce some weeks! It happens very slowly spiritually too. But look back in one year’s time and you’ll be amazed.
  4. Feelings of well-being. As we spend time with the Lord and lay our worries in His hands to handle, and as we immerse ourselves in the truths of scripture, we gain a sense of well-being in knowing that God is for us and will go with us.
  5. Increased overall health and fitness. Just as a year of consistent physical exercise yields surprising results in overall fitness (BP down, diabetes under control, joints stronger, easier breathing, coming off medicines, etc.), spiritual exercise yields results we can’t imagine: peace, wisdom, contentment, relief from worry and fear, growth, etc.

So the challenge to you today – Get Spiritually Fit! Go after God like you go after your exercise program! Or for some of us, go after God first and He’ll help us with that desire to go after physical exercise. How do you do it? Plan ahead each night – set the alarm – be prepared. Expect resistance at first, but Do It Anyway! Find your place and make it a sacred place for you and Your Father to meet. Begin gently – build up over time – vary the routine – then ride the wave! You will gain more than you can imagine!

I Saw It Coming

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Psalm 143:8


A crow sat cawing above me, that usually puts me in a bad mood but even the incessant noise couldn’t ruin my disposition. The gentle fall breeze blew and the cool was a welcome reprieve. The last of the knockout roses left dropped a few petals, fall was definitely making its way in.

I love fall and the beauty it brings. Almost all the good things in my life have happened in fall so I welcome it when it arrives in Alabama. 

That morning as I sat in the cool, I remembered the night before. I’d been sitting at the kitchen table, when my husband had interrupted my thoughts, calling me to the front porch. Supper was done and after a long but good day of ministry, I was tired. I sat doing some before bed things as my teenage children completed chores and homework assignments. My husband who was standing at the front door implored me again,

“Come here you gotta see this. All y’all c’mere.” 

We halted out activities and did as he’d asked. He was standing in the yard pointing to the heavens. He does that a lot. Sees things in the clouds with a clarity no one else sees. I often feel like I’m taking a heavenly pop quiz for which I am utterly and completely unprepared. 

The sky was full of clouds, streaks of purples, blues, and dark pink. The sky looked majestic, yellows gave way to oranges and the beauty of it all was stunning. Surely he was pointing out the beauty of the sunset. 

This one would be easy. 

He pointed again and asked, “You know what that is?

“A sunset.” 

Surely he doesn’t think I’m so ignorant of the skies that I do not recognize a sunset. I followed up with a compliment of the sky.

“It’s beautiful! That is amazing!” 

His upward pointing hand fell to his side, “No Baby, that’s the cold front.”

How had I missed this one?

“Tomorrow will be a beautiful day and the temps are going to be amazing. Fall is on its way Baby!”

He patted my shoulder, perhaps out of sympathy for my inability to see what he had seen and interpreted, perhaps because he is no stranger to my affinity for fall. 

He then began to outline the push of cold air that had formed a roll cloud, the skies above were made up of waves of clouds and you could literally see the front that was bringing in the cool of the following days. 

As I sat that morning and felt the breeze I realized the night before I’d literally seen the cool on its way in. My husband had literally pointed out cold air, something previously unseen by my eyes, as it altered the atmosphere in such a way to create a thing of beauty. 

There are times when I don’t see it coming, the change in the atmosphere, life circumstances. I get blindsided by the unknown and unforeseen. However, I can rest in knowing that I know the One who knows all: the beginning, the end, the in between. I recently was reminded of a quote by Corrie ten Boom, which put that reality into perspective for me. She said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” She is correct, we can absolutely trust the One who is never caught off guard and never guilty of saying, “I never saw it coming.”