[Guest post by Stephanie Rawnsley: February is the month of Valentine’s Day, so I thought we would kick off the month with Stephanie’s great post about God’s love stories!] Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, ours or someone else’s, we all love a good story. Look at how …
[Guest Post by Jenee Day: I honestly used to think gossiping was okay, even though I was a Christian. As I got older, I realized, like Jenee, gossip is not a harmless sin. Here’s why.]
Today I contributed to the destruction of a relationship.
Contributed is probably the wrong word. Comparing the relationship to a skyscraper being demolished, I would be the person who provided the explosives. Not directly, not intentionally, but with a little bit of ‘harmless’ sin.
I was having a difficult day, and I called my friend to talk about it.
Disclosure: Gossip is a sin I struggle with. It’s easy for me to rationalize and honestly, it feels good. It feels good to have a laugh at someone else’s expense, when that person has hurt or angered me. Gross, right?
Gossiping is also a way for me to feel justified about my feelings while showcasing my mind-blowing sense of humor. Nothing wrong with a joke or two, right? Besides, if it makes me feel better, and the person being talked about never hears it, then I’m not really hurting anyone, am I?
Here are some verses from God’s word:
Be careful with your words. James 3:5 “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”
Speak nicely. Ephesians 4: 29 ”Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Let your words be pleasing to God. Psalm 19:14 “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Your words will be judged. Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”
(Wow! Clearly God frowns upon this kind of behavior.)
When I hung up the phone, I felt lighter. My frustration gone, I felt unburdened and free. Sadly, by not giving my frustration to Jesus in the first place, all I did was transplant it. I caused my friend to sin on that phone call, and then she continued to struggle with the thoughts and frustration I had suffered from. How irresponsible of me!
So, let me ask again: If I feel better when the conversation is over, and the person being talked about never hears it, then I’m not really hurting anyone, am I?
Wrong! First, I hurt God. I hurt him by disobeying, and by saying ugly things about one of his children, who he adores. Second, I hurt my friend by leading her to sin. I hurt myself by sinning and tarnishing my witness. Finally, I hurt the friend I was convinced would never find out.
Well, as I mentioned before, when the phone call was over, I felt great. Sadly, my friend was now burdened. She allowed our conversation to replay her mind, until finally she picked up the telephone, called our other friend, and LET HER HAVE IT.
Later that night, my phone rang. It was my gossip buddy, calling to rejoice in her victory. After hours of deliberation, she had decided to call our other friend and unload on her. Convinced she had acted righteously, she recounted every word, and how she had let our friend know “what we were all thinking”. Immediately, I thought, “what have you done?” followed in quick succession by “What have I done?”
I hung up the phone and got on my knees. I begged God’s forgiveness for the role I played in destroying this relationship. I repented of my disobedience in the moment I chose it. I cried. The friend I gossiped about does not have a relationship with Christ. Oh, Father, what have I done? My ‘feel good’ sin left the bond between two friends in shambles.
Proverbs 18:21 says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” So we are instructed to “speak life” to others, that we might be a blessing to them.
As followers of Christ, we must love the lost more fervently and sincerely. A slip of the tongue – a harmless joke – could push someone away from salvation permanently. There’s nothing funny about that.
Jenee Day is a freelance writer and researcher and published poet. A member of the Spiritual Writer’s Association, she has written for textbroker.com and various regional publications. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two kids, and her heart belongs to Jesus.
[Guest post by Takiela Bynum: Do you struggle with self-harm? Are you ready to take the scarless pledge? So glad God brought Takiela to Devotional Diva to share this!] Some people cut for relief, I cut because I wanted to die. She’d taken several pain killers …
[Maggie is on vacation so I thought I’d jump on and encourage you all with the three people you need to meet to achieve your dreams. My newest book, Dream Devotional, just released this month. Pick up a copy on Amazon for only $2.99!]
Dreaming together is important because we are designed, commanded, and encouraged into a loving relationship with God and each other.
I’ll never forget the day I was sitting at the front desk as the office receptionist when a woman walked in for an interview. She thought I was pregnant–say what??–and asked me when I was due.
I was completely shocked and mortified. She felt really bad too when she found out that I was in fact, not pregnant. My boss and I joked that she probably wouldn’t get the job because of her comments, but I’m so glad she did because it wasn’t until after she got the job that I found out she was a Christian and had heard a word from the Lord for me on why she thought I was preggers.
She told me, “God wants to birth a ministry through you — if you’ll let him, not to say that your future husband isn’t important.”
Anyone who knew me when I was single, knew how important my future husband was to me. I desperately wanted to be married, and for whatever reason God prolonged that dream until I was almost 30.
God knew the plans and purposes He created specifically for me. He knew if He brought my future husband into my life too soon — I wouldn’t have risked so many dreams with Him.
Friends, God created you for an individual and unique purpose as well. You have a divine destiny that only you can fulfill.
Don’t believe me? Just read the Scriptures full of men and women of faith who entrusted their lives to God in the most courageous circumstances. Sometimes, we don’t see until afterwards why God gives us the dreams and visions He does because He doesn’t want to scare us or hinder us from fulfilling our mission.
It wasn’t until afterwards that Joseph realized why he so arrogantly shared his dreams to all 12 of his brothers…after he was thrown in prison (not once but twice)…and after he was summoned into the courts of Pharaoh — did he see why God placed him in his prison cell for such a time as this.
Friends, you may be the catalyst for someone else’s dreams. If it wasn’t for the many brave women in my life — I wouldn’t be where I am today!
If you are currently experiencing the death of a vision or a dream — I encourage you to partner up with people who believe in you. Seek out trusted partners and ministry relationships to foster the dreams God has placed on your heart because they are strong enough to save not only your souls, but the lives of many others (James 1:21).
If you are wondering what kind of relationships I am talking about, I want to encourage you to connect with three different kinds of relationships to accomplish your BIG dreams:
1. A Mentor in the business — someone who has been there, done that, and can help guide you through the obstacles to become a expert person of business and integrity.
2. A Life or Dream Coach — someone who believes in you even if others including your family does not believe in you. Someone who will stand by you and lift your arms up like Moses when the battle becomes too weary.
3. Prayer partners — someone who can pray for you when you can’t pray for yourself. I never endeavor to write any books or speak at any function without asking for prayer covering. Prayer is the most powerful form we have against spiritual attack, so use it (James 5:16!
I feel like I am at a point in my life right now where I can look back and see God’s hand and His many answered prayers.
Question: Who cheerleads your dreams? Who’s dreams are you currently cheerleading?
I believe my physical assault at work led to my downward spiral into depression and anxiety. But it also taught me about my own courage. I was already depressed. I had already suffered trauma. I was still physically sick. But I was trudging on. I tried …
[Guest Post by Bonnie Gray – I was surprised to find the answers I was looking for in her new book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. I think all of us at some point in our life think we just have to try or pray harder. Do more. I love, love, love her story. If you’re stressed out today, I know you’ll be encouraged by Bonnie’s fresh word!]
Can we ever be free from stress? Stress seems to be so embedded in our modern lives, we’ve come to breathe it like oxygen.
Emails, Twitter, doctor appointments, and a to-do list filled with growing unchecked boxes are all part of my reality.
Is it realistic to expect a stress-free life?
I’ve lived a lot of my life hiding from my heart, reducing everything to a minimum. I did do less. But paring down to the bare essentials made me lose a sense of wonder.
Introverts or extroverts, we were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, renewed by a sense of adventure, engaged with community, and soul-fed.
Without these elements of creativity, adventure, community, and soul care, we experience a different kind of stress.
I don’t want to make a reentry into striving a stream of new endeavors either, like stepping into the California rivers for whitewater rafting. Everything looks calm on the outside, but the underlying currents threaten to pull me under.
Are we left to choose only between inactivity or overactivity? As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress.
We pursue the opposite.
We pursue rest.
After PTSD entered my life, I couldn’t socialize with people like I used to or do life like I once did. I could hardly keep track of my car keys.
I look out from my post-PTSD life and all I see is desert. I see nothing.
What do I do with my life? What do I do with these empty spaces? You’d think the concept of whitespace came through some inspiring moment walking through a ﬁeld of wildﬂowers. But “feeding my soul” sounded too right-brain. Too touchy-feely. So God prompted my ﬁrst steps through what was initially most accessible:
my left brain.
God knew this about my personality: my desire to pursue. So he put me on the journey to rest by pointing me to a new ambition. It’s ironic. The idea of spiritual whitespace came to me while reading a blog on business strategies and innovation.
I was reading an article written by Matthew May called “Break Through by Taking Breaks.” It offered scientific evidence that down time is required for creativity and new thinking. Archimedes discovered volume displacement while taking a bath. Einstein’s theory of special relativity came while he was daydreaming, and author J. K. Rowling sat traveling on a train when the Harry Potter character “flashed in her mind.”1
Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?
When you look deeper into these brilliant ﬂashes of insight you can see they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away played a part.2
It was fascinating to learn that “putting pressure on ourselves to try and work harder, more intensely, or more quickly may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights.”3
If this is true in the worlds of art and science, what would be the implications for our relationships with God—in spirituality and faith? The biggest lightbulb moment struck me. I had been desperately trying to connect with God by doing the same things. I thought I needed to try harder.
What’s wrong with me?
Nothing. I needed something different.
I typed in rest into my computer to do a word search in the Bible. What I found stunned me to the core.
Rest. It sounds inactive, doesn’t it?
I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. The other two are preaching the gospel and pleasing God.4
We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet [restful] life. (1 Thess. 4:10–11)
Turns out hesuchazo—the Greek word used for quiet and rest— is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God. The more I’m able to enjoy rest, the more others will see God’s life in me. When my soul is at rest, I am free to please God right where I am.
I was intrigued. I had always centered my thinking on pleasing God and preaching the gospel through what I did. But now, suddenly God put a big spotlight on hesuchazo. God was asking me to excel—“still more”—by making it my ambition to lead a quiet and restful life.
My heart skipped a beat. This is what has been missing. Rest.
Hesuchazo became the match that ignited the ﬁre of the Holy Spirit in spiritual whitespace.
We were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, engaged with community, and renewed by a sense of adventure.
As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress. We pursue the opposite. We pursue rest.
Our ambition is spiritual rest.
Bonnie Gray is the founder of Faith Barista, a contributor to Crosswalk.com, and a featured writer for DaySpring’s popular (in)courage blog. Her writing is nationally syndicated and has been spotlighted in Christianity Today and McClatchy-Tribune News Services. She has served as a missionary, a ministry entrepreneur, and worked in high tech as an engineering and marketing program manager. A passionate speaker who inspires audiences to find God in everyday life, Bonnie lives in Silicon Valley with her husband, Eric, and their two sons. Learn more at www.faithbarista.com.
[Excerpt taken from Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray, published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2012. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.]