Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Power of Words

I am learning to really value the power of words. It may sound hokie, but I really believe the words we speak about ourselves either strengthen the Spirit's work, or quench it. God created the world by speaking it into being...and I believe He highly values words because He knows the power of words.
In the New Testament, the majority of Jesus' miracles take place because He speaks healing to a person, or deliverance. He doesn't get on the ground and wrestle demons out, massage sicknesses from a person's body, or do a dance to raise someone from the dead. He uses His words. I think this is also why God puts so much emphasis on calling Satan the father of lies. The devil speaks lies to us, and his words have the power to enslave us if we're not listening for the Good Shepherd's voice, and dwelling on His word, and words about us and who we are. If I've not convinced you that words are powerful, go read for yourself, and if I'm wrong, feel free to correct me.
Over the past few months I keep finding so many verses that emphasize the power of the spoken word.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" proverbs 18:21

"if any of you love life and desire to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies." psalm 34:13

"If anyone does not stumble in what he SAYS, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity, the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets fire on the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." James 3: 2,6

And so I've been praying about and trying to apply this lesson in large and small instances in my every day life.

Exhibit A: When Chad asks me if I want a Dairy Queen Blizzard, instead of just saying yes, I've been trying to say, "Actually Chad, I am not really a sweets kind of person. Sugar and desserts just aren't for me. I actually don't enjoy blizzards." Inside, my innerself is gawking at me in disbelief. She's reminding me that I drink sugar in the morning, with a few scoops of coffee...but I keep trying to talk myself out of my sweet tooth. Okay so maybe this isn't the best example, as I have yet to really break myself of a sweet tooth.

A better example is trying to speak against insecurity. Chad and I spent the better part of our engagement collecting marital counsel from every godly couple who was willing to share with us. Some of these couples listened to me cry my eyes out about a bunch of lies I had believed about marraige, about Chad, about myself. One man in particular began to always address me by saying, "Charis, because you are insecure..." and he would go on from there. A few months into marriage we were still hanging out with this couple a lot, and he would continually tell me how insecure I was. One night, on our way home from their house, I was feeling really bothered by it. And I felt like in my heart the Lord just said, "You're bothered because he is not speaking the truth about who you are." Jesus did not die so that I could waver back and forth between insecurity and security. I turned to Chad and announced, "I am not insecure." He was suprised, and laughed a little bit, and then agreed with me. I started to really take care to not call myself insecure, even if I felt a little insecure every now and then...because in reality, insecurity is not who I am. Its probably been a little bit over nine months, and I can't tell you the last time I spent even an hour wasting my time over insecure thoughts. Praise God.

This whole emphasis on the power of words has really been taking a toll on my wit, sadly. I can't be as self-degrading as I would normally. I can't call myself lazy, untalented, unathletic, flakey, a terrible friend...etc. I actually have to really watch my tongue. And guard my mind. But what I've noticed is that I really feel better most days. When the laundry has piled up around the house and I am sitting with Eden on the floor thinking about how little motivation I have to actually work, I say out loud "I am made to be productive, and I am not a lethargic human. I love to work hard and be diligent." And the funny thing is, no lightening strikes me. In fact, I feel more motivated. Maybe its because my words become little cheerleaders, rather than little doom-bringers. (And I probably sound insane to anyone who happens to be listening to me, but if anyone is listening to me talk to myself while I am inside my own home, they probably are a little cooky too)

Taking my words captive has even helped me in relationships: A few months ago there was a situation in my life that was so difficult for me, that even the mention of someone's name brought up so much emotion in my heart that I had to literally stop talking about it. I began to just tell the Lord when I was bothered, and I started trying to speak life back into my heart towards this person. I started saying how much I enjoyed this person, how much I valued them, how I wanted to love them. And in just a few months, I began to realize I really did love them. My heart had changed. My words had paved a way for my emotions to follow. My dad always told me when I was younger that God's word at work in our mind should be the head of our train, and our emotions should be the caboose. We don't follow our feelings, we follow the reality of God's words and basically turn our back on emotions until they line up with what God says about us and towards us. Its amazing how effective positive words are.

Someone once suggested that the enemy can't read minds, but he can hear our words. If that's the case, I am going to walk around telling him exactly who I want to be in the Lord. Shouldn't we all? Speak a little bit of life back into our lives.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"How would you treat someone who has lied to you as many times as your fears have?"

I spent this afternoon attempting to breathe life back into the limp branches and flattened needles of our fake Christmas tree. Half way through arranging Chad's childhood ornaments (most of them some sort of candy icon) I remembered my experience putting up this same tree last year, albeit it was less limpid and neglected at the time. I was alone in our house, a week before Thanksgiving, watching Father of the Bride 2 on TV and blubbering like a lunatic. When Chad got home and found me, most likely mascara-streaked and covered in fake pine needles (the genius of having a fake tree is that it mimics a real pine's uncanny ability to lose as many needles as possible in the shortest amount of time). I told him I was just really touched by the movie. A week and three pregnancy tests later, I was a crumpled mess on our bathroom floor...so much for movies touching my heart.

The Sunday we found out we were pregnant, a man got on stage at the church we were going to and said he felt like he had a word of encouragement for someone in the congregation. "There is a door that is opening in some one's life, and it is going to be ushering in a whole new season and circumstance in that person's life. And this person is going to feel like it cannot be of God, and will be tempted to believe God is not in the situation. The truth, however, is that God is right behind the door, and this new circumstance is part of His perfect plan for your life." With those words, the man sat down. And literally I heard in my heart, "You are pregnant". I rebuked the voice, went on listening to our pastor, and spent the rest of the day unsuccessfully trying to repress this strange sense in my heart that perhaps that word was for me. At about eight that night, I asked Chad if we could go get a pregnancy test...you know, just for fun. He indulged me, rolling his eyes the whole time. I didn't mention the feeling I had in church, or the strange urgency I felt to see if I had heard correctly. The minute I saw those little blue lines appear, I slumped to the floor, and felt a huge weight of fear fall onto my heart. What would happen to Chad and I? Where would my youth go? How was I supposed to be someone else's mom when only a few years ago I was sobbing about going to college on my mom's bed, begging her to read me Green Eggs and Ham just once more?

The minute all of those memories flashed into my mind today, I turned around to see Chad carrying my little brown-eyed nugget down from her afternoon nap, and she was staring right at me like she knew what I'd been remembering. That tiny little bundle of life and joy is last year's greatest fear, incarnate. I almost laughed out loud.

Of course, a few days after taking those pregnancy tests, the Lord basically told me that whatever I had fear about, I had permission to believe the opposite would be true regarding having a baby. So I spent the next nine months believing the this baby would bring joy, intimacy, peace, youth, and new life into our home. Eden is all of those things and more. The day she was born, after the tests were performed, the nurses had checked in for the last time, and the family had gotten their fill, Chad and I were finally alone in the hospital room just looking at Eden. Out of nowhere, Chad said, "God knew something we didn't. I wonder how many other good things God has for us that we're just too afraid to say yes too."

What is ironic about the timing of all of these memories, and the haphazard way Chad and I decided to just put the darn tree up today rather than when we get back from Texas, is that I was sitting in church today and felt the Lord start to address the things I am afraid of now.

Lately I have been realizing how much of my life I live in reaction to things I am afraid of, rather than in response to God. I have an audience in my mind that I consult (in my imagination only) about nearly every decision in my life. (if I'm alone in this, I may or may not be outing myself as insane) They are a particularly dreary bunch, full of criticism, cynicism, and bitterness. They represent all of the people who I assume are judging my life. And with their rather vocal opinions on my every decision, they keep me walking a very fine line. At the end of the sermon today I felt like the Lord asked me to just hang up the proverbial phone on them. I gasped and grimaced and second-guessed. I feel badly, really I do. I am ditching some of the finest critics in the world by doing this, but I guess the Lord knows better than I do. With that said, I am going to be keep this blog updated more frequently. (The voices in my head are shaking their heads, raising their eyebrows, sighing those deeply disappointed sighs.)

Nearly every day, I feel like writing about something the Lord has laid on my heart or convicted me of, some sin area I have just realized is in my life, but the audience in my head reminds that most people might assume that I'm writing because I'm pretty impressed with myself, or that I'm pretty super-spiritual and arrogant, and that I think everyone wants to read my blog, or that I'm really a shabby writer and nobody has time to entertain thoughts from a person who spends her days entertaining a three-month-old. And in fear of seeming this way to people, I usually just let those urges to write slip by.

But for some reason today I thought about the people I love in my life, and how much I want them to walk out into their callings, not matter what they are. I want Jackie Blankenship to decorate and be crafty as much as possible, and dance her heart out on stage because it blesses me all the way to my toes. I want Meredith Smith to make as many friends as possible, and be the sweetheart of every fraternity because she is so good at making people feel at home. I want Alissa Mazzenga to keep painting, because every time I see something she's done, I want to pass on to Heaven and Glory. I want Shaylee Simeone to keep singing, because there is something about the liquid clarity of her gift that makes me want to die. I want Jess Graham to keep taking pictures because she manages to photograph the life in a moment. I want Morgan Pilcher to keep travelling and loving every minute of a new life, because I somehow vicariously go with her. I think you get the idea. Everyone brings something to the table, and some people bring a lot more than others. I am not sure if writing is what I bring, but I do know that stuff gets put on my heart and when I don't share it I feel like I am word-constipated...(lovely Charis, just lovely). I feel like I have to get it out somehow.

And so, instead of being afraid of myself, of how I might seem, of how others might hate it, I just want to let you know that I will be trying to be obedient to overcome those fears, and just write when it comes upon me. And whatever you do, just go do it. Don't sit in fear, wringing your hands over every one's opinions and worrying about your own self-concept. So what if there are nineteen million people in photography already? Be the number nineteen million and one. Even if you're not the best, just offer it up anyway. And God isn't the voice in your head. He never asked you to be the best, He just wants you to use what you've got to whatever capacity He asks. Fear never keeps you safe. It keeps you stuck.