Your paper plate is about to fold from the weight of glazed carrots, stuffing, turkey and gravy, and cranberry sauce, so you quickly sit down across from those relatives you only see about once every 365 days. You make eye contact . . . and your brain goes to mush—just like those mashed potatoes piled high in front of you.
You know you should talk about something deeper than who just got the boot on Survivor, or who sang what on The Voice, but you’re about as empty as that basket of your aunt’s award-winning croissant rolls.
That’s when you either:
Stare at your plate while shoveling pumpkin pie into your mouth to the tune of strained silence, or
Whip out your iPhone and ask a few meaningful (but not too awkward!) questions I cooked up for ya.
Your pick. (Just prepare to answer these questions yourself! It’s not terribly fair to ask others a question you’re not willing to answer as well.)
What’s one of the most meaningful ways someone has thanked you? (Ever, or this past year—you pick.)
What’s one of the most creative ways you’ve thanked someone else?
What difficulty from this past year are you most thankful for, and how did the lessons you learned through it change something about your life?
Who’s one of the most consistently thankful people you know? Tell me about them.
What’s one of the most meaningful gifts you’ve received? (Ever, or this past year—you pick.) How did you respond?
What’s one thing you’ve found yourself saying thanks for over and over and over and over? Like, you just can’t hold your thankfulness in—it insists on oozing out!
What’s something you struggle to thank God for?
Tell me about a time you pretended to be thankful but really weren’t.
What’s one thing that you think keeps you from expressing gratitude more often?
Is there anyone you’ve been meaning to thank, but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Who? (Can you do it today?)
Let me know how it goes! Did you learn anything new about your relatives? Have any meaningful conversations? I hope so!
I got some mail this week that I can’t keep to myself. Read on to hear what one young mom has to say as she looks back on her own singleness from the other side of marriage and motherhood. Then, would you post a comment below thanking God for one tangible gift of singleness today?
Can’t wait to read what you share,
PS: As a little extra credit, is there a young, sleep-deprived mom you could offer to help today?
I am writing this to you while it is still dark out because it is my only time of the day when the house is quiet and I have time to myself.
A few minutes ago I was reading in Exodus about how Moses found himself serving in Midian as a shepherd after having lived in Egypt in Pharaoh’s household. The devotional I was reading pointed out that these years of serving as a shepherd in the desert were also years of God preparing Moses to shepherd his people Israel through the desert for forty years.
I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.
I found myself wondering if though Moses may have despised being a shepherd at the time, in retrospect as he struggled to lead the Israelites if he often looked back on those shepherding years as “golden” and “restful” compared to the struggles he faced with the Israelites.
I found myself thinking of my own life as well and wondering what I would classify as my “golden years,” my years of “rest and preparation.” I think I can honestly say they would be my single years.
Please don’t misunderstand. I absolutely LOVE being married to my husband and raising my precious children. I would not trade this time in my life for anything. And yet, I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.
Today I don’t know that I will use my Keurig to brew a single cup of coffee. Today I will probably pull out the old coffee pot and brew a full pot. I have been up most of the night with a toddler who has a croupy cough and was struggling to breathe in the middle of the night.
By the time I finally got him to sleep my baby woke up and refused to go back down. Ten minutes before my alarm was to go off at five in the morning, I rolled into bed beside my husband and asked him to do whatever it took to get our baby to sleep so I could just sleep for ten more minutes before I had to get up for the day.
These are days that are hard, and I find myself looking back on those single years realizing I did not savor those moments as much as I should have: uninterrupted sleep, awakening truly refreshed and eager to serve the Lord, enjoying an uninterrupted cup of hot coffee while reading God’s Word without distraction. There was nothing wrong with longing for a husband and family of my own, and my God so generously blessed me with them. However, I was foolish not to fully embrace my singleness at that time and treasure it for the sweet gift from God that it was.
Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.
Sometimes in the middle of the night when the moon is out and I am rocking my baby while everyone else sleeps, I can see a shadow of myself on the nursery wall holding and rocking my sweet Ellie. In those moments it is as if I hear God speaking deep in my heart and saying to me, “Savor this. You will not always be rocking babies in the middle of the night, and one day you WILL miss this.” Oh, how I wish I would have heard His voice saying those similar words to me as a single person. “Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.”
Like I said, please do not misunderstand how much I love my husband and children and our little life together. It is so sweet and so precious! But like singleness, it has its moments where it can be rough. However, that does not mean that it should not be cherished as God’s perfect gift for me in this moment, just as I should have cherished more God’s gift of singleness to me as His perfect will for my life at that time.
This was heavy on my heart to share with you this morning, Paula, and I pray you can use it to encourage the hearts of other single people who may need to be reminded of how perfect and precious God’s will is for our lives.
We don’t want to miss out on enjoying His perfect gift for each of us today, because today will not last. Tomorrow is coming, filled with new gifts of its own for us to enjoy. But we can never get back today.
For the past three weeks we’ve been talking about words, words, words. Is all this talk just a good suggestion?
Nope, it’s a lot more serious than that. Turns out your future is at stake, according to Jesus:
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37).
Umm, question! Doesn’t that sound like we’re working our way to heaven?
Nope. We’d never be good enough to get to heaven on our own. It’s just that our words reveal our hearts like a thermometer reveals a fever or snow reveals cold.
Our words clearly show our true heart condition. God doesn’t miss a thing, and He says we’ll give an account to Him one day soon of every single word we ever spoke (gulp!). I’m gonna guess that also includes words we type, text, etc.
Like I said a couple weeks ago, we all desperately need a heart transplant (because our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem).
But how? Do you have to fill out a bunch of paperwork? Get stuck on a waiting list for years? Save up thousands of dollars?
Nope! God wants to give you a new heart. His heart.
When you confess to God the sin in your heart and ask Him to give you a new one, He will generously give you His Holy Spirit. And it won’t cost you a penny; it’s a gift! It wasn’t free for the Son of God, mind you; it cost Him His life. But it’s free for you.
Check out His promise in Ezekiel 36:26–29:
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. . . . You shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.”
By the way, this isn’t a get-out-of-hell-free-and-then-live-any-way-you-want card. If you really understand your need for a heart transplant and God’s crazy incredible grace in giving one to you, you will be forever changed.
And the proof will be in your new words.
You’ll begin to serve a new Master now with every single word you speak. He’ll own your tongue, your body, your life.
If you know you’ve never truly received a heart transplant, would you agree with God about the condition of your wicked heart and ask Him to replace it with His righteous one? If so, He’ll do it immediately!
If, on the other hand, you’ve had a heart transplant but when you take the Are Your Words Nasty or Nice? quiz you still see sin coming out of your mouth, would you:
Confess to God the big ways you’re sinning with your mouth and choose to turn from them.
Ask God how you can begin to store up good treasures in your heart by practicing the opposite of that sinful tendency.For example, if you struggle with lying, ask the person for forgiveness each time you lie to them. Do this until you begin to speak only the truth.Or if you regularly tear others down—even just in your thoughts—begin to intentionally encourage those people.
Share your top struggles and commitments with a friend for prayer and accountability.
Before social media, my junior high friends and I used to write each other old-fashioned notes using lined paper and pencils—the kind they make from real trees! I still have some of those notes, so I’m going to share two of them with you today: the first from 6th or 7th grade and the second from college.
As you read these notes, look for the fruit (did their words build someone up or tear someone down) as well as the root behind the fruit of their words (what’s obviously in these girls’ hearts).
Will you go with me to talk to Megan? I want to tell her why we won’t tell her why we’re mad (because she’ll tell her mom and then we’ll get in trouble).
Her clothes are ugly.
She flirts (and denies it).
She thinks she is awesome.
She brags about her grades.
She brags about her brothers.
She brags about the ugly cars they have.
She said she has only gotten spanked once.
She thinks she is cool because she has a silver trumpet.
She tells her mom everything.
She copies us.
She thinks she is talented at running, drawing, and school work.
She thinks she is pretty.
She thinks she is cool because her dad is the preacher.
She thinks she is a good babysitter.
She thinks everyone likes her.
She thinks she is a tomboy (pink, teddy bears, mama’s girl, likes dresses).
She thinks she has a perfect life.
Oh yeah, when her mom asked what was wrong she said, “Are you jealous of Megan because of something she has or can do or does?” I stood there thinking, Yeah right!!
I’m kinda scared too because she’ll tell her mom, and then her mom will tell my mom, and I’ll get in trouble!
PS: Write back.
10 Things I Love About Paula
10. She delights in simple pleasures.
9. She gives great advice.
8. Her iron will when it comes to resisting sugar. 😉
7. She loves people.
6. She makes me laugh.
5. Her curiosity about people and life.
4. She’s my sister Resident Assistant.
3. Her beautiful smile.
2. She gives great back rubs.
1. Her boast and confidence is in Christ.
How about it? Did exhibit 1 and 2 build up or tear someone down? What can you tell about the writers’ hearts based only on their words?
And, more importantly . . . are your words more like exhibit 1 or exhibit 2? Maybe you say, I would never write a letter like Kelly wrote. But before you let yourself off the hook too quickly, take this twenty-question quiz from Mary Kassian.
Then, write someone a note (yes, on real paper from actual trees!) with the goal of building them up. Let me know you did so below by Friday, October 3 for a chance to win one of two copies of Mary’s Bible study Conversation Peace in our Freebie Friday giveaway.
“Two Letters; Two Hearts” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
I’m crazy about fruit: plump blueberries, juicy peaches, Honeycrisp apples . . . it’s one of the main perks of living in Michigan—they grow some mean fruit here!
In Matthew 12 we catch Jesus, probably as He’s walking by some fruit trees, using fruit to teach the cream-of-the-crop religious folks an important lesson about their words. Let’s join them now:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (v. 33).
(This isn’t rocket science. What’s the best way to recognize an apple tree? Right . . . by its apples!) Jesus continues,
“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34).
(Paul David Tripp says it like this: “The heart is the control system. Change doesn’t need to take place first in your words; change needs to take place first in your heart.”) Jesus goes on to explain,
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (v. 35).
Let’s break that down from the top.
Jesus is using an analogy of a fruit tree. For our purposes, we’ll call it an apple tree. Jesus is explaining that our words are connected to our hearts the way apples are connected to their tree.
Hockey Puck Apples
Pretend with me that there’s an apple tree growing in your back yard (and thank you, Paul Tripp, for the following illustration!). Every year the tree grows hard, brown, nasty, shriveled up apples you would never dream of eating. This happens year after year after year: the apples turn out as hard as hockey pucks. Finally you’ve had it; you decide to do something about it.
If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.
So you head for the garage and collect a ladder, branch cutters, and a nail gun. Then you drive to the local farmer’s market and buy three bushels of Honeycrisp apples. Now you’re ready. You climb the ladder and carefully cut off all those hockey puck apples. Then you nail three bushels of Honeycrisp apples onto the tree.
From a distance, people will think your apple tree looks lovely, right? But not up close! And time will soon reveal the truth. They’ll rot cause they’re not hooked to the life-giving source of the tree, and next year that tree will continue to produce hockey puck apples.
Paul Tripp comments, “Most of what we do in the name of Christianity is just apple nailing.” We try to maintain nice(ish) words on the surface but never think we have a big enough problem that would require us to dig down to the root issue.
We Need a Heart Transplant
But Jesus tells us clearly in v. 34 that we have a deeper, underlying problem than simply our words,
“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Here’s the deal: Our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem.
Jeremiah 17:9 says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
(By the way, when Jeremiah talks about our hearts, he’s not referring to our blood-pumping organ but to the very core of who we are. Our insides—the part of us no one but God can see: the home of our desires, decisions, thoughts, and feelings.)
We’re told that our hearts are 100% polluted from the day we’re born. All of us need a heart transplant. Because only when we have new hearts will we have new words.
Jesus throws in a second analogy in v. 35:
“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Jesus says our hearts are either like spiritual treasure troves . . . or garbage dumps. Each of us can only “bring forth”—fling out—whatever treasures or junk is piled up in our hearts.
If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.
And if you’ve already been given a new heart but still have junk coming out of your mouth, you need to store up good in your heart, like stocking up your pantry before a big snowstorm. How? By memorizing Scripture, by thinking about things that are “pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).
So I need to ask . . . what are your words telling you about your heart?
Check back next week for a fun, practical exercise to see if you can spot what kind of heart someone has based only on their words. And stay tuned the following week to hear how to get a heart transplant!
“Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
Do you talk too much? Do you babble? Do you spend a lot of time on the phone or in chat rooms? Do you monopolize conversations with your opinions? Do you interrupt? (See Eccl. 10:11; Prov. 15:28; 29:20; Jas. 1:19).
Are you reluctant to admit you’re wrong? Do you fail to ask forgiveness? Do you refuse to admit your error when you feel another’s error is greater? (Prov. 29:23; Jas. 5:16).
Do you betray a confidence? Do you repeat matters that you should keep private? If someone has failed or injured you, do you feel compelled to tell someone else about it? (See Prov. 6:19; 17:19; 19:11; 25:9–10).
Do you criticize? Find fault? Focus on the bad instead of the good? Do you see people’s shortcomings more than their strengths? (Ps. 41:5; Rom. 1:30).
Do you complain? Do you bewail the circumstances you find yourself in? Do you let others know that you resent being inconvenienced? (See Phil. 2:14).
Do you make assumptions and assume the worst about other people’s motives and intentions? (See 1 Tim. 6:3–4; Prov. 29:20).
Do you hold grudges? Focus on past wrongs? Accuse others? (Prov. 11:12).
Are you sarcastic? Do you mock others? Do you use negative humor to put others down? (See Prov. 15:1; 16:27).
Are you malicious? Are your words intended to cut and wound? Are your words harsh? (See Prov. 11:12; 15:1; 16:27; 17:4).
Are you insincere in your compliments? Do you flatter others for your own advantage? (See Prov. 26:28; 29:5).
Is your speech filthy? Do you swear or use foul language? Do you use the latest slang or crass expressions? (See Prov. 4:24; 10:31–32; Col. 3:8).
Do you fail to listen? Do you jump to conclusions before you are sure that you have heard and understood? (See Prov. 18:13; 19:20; Jas. 1:19).
How’d you score? If you suddenly realize you have a problem with your words, come back next week as we drill down to the root of those nasty words.
“Quiz Time! Are Your Words Nasty or Nice?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
Have you ever seen the movie Aladdin? Here’s a short clip where Genie reveals to Aladdin that Aladdin is Genie’s master, and Genie’s job is to grant Aladdin any three wishes he wants.
Can you imagine?! Having a genie that would grant you any three wishes? How amazing would that be? I’ll take . . .
God’s Not Your Personal Genie
Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but unlike Aladdin, you’re not “the king, the boss, the shah.”
God doesn’t exist to grant your wishes . . . you exist to carry out His.
And God is not your maître d’ or your personal genie.
Actually, it’s quite the other way around.
God is “the king, the boss, the shah.”
And you’re His servant.
In Revelation 19:16, we’re told that Jesus is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” It doesn’t get any higher than that. Jesus is the greatest. The highest. The bestest. (Sorry, I know that’s not a word, but I just had to.) As the King of kings, He deserves our respect, our obedience, our honor, and our celebration.
Fact is, God doesn’t exist to grant your wishes . . . you exist to carry out His.
History = His story
Even your life story is His story of rescue and redemption.
Your life is not about you but about God.
We exist for God; He doesn’t exist for us. It even says so in 1 Corinthians 8:6:
Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
We forget this, though, all the time. And instead of remembering that He created us, that He’s our Master and we’re His servants, we shake our fists at God when He doesn’t fulfill our plans like Genie would.
Do you relate, or is it just me? Have you ever wished God was a little more like Genie?
Now that you know the truth, though, will you begin to live for and serve this wise and loving King? Or will you continue to insist on living like you’re “the king, the boss, the shah”?
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Rom. 11:33–36, emphasis added).