Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Have You Allowed Facebook to Ruin Your Day?

"Social networking" is a term that didn't even exist prior to the mid-1990s. Social network sites (SNS) have now surpassed or even replaced previous forms of communication. Today's blog came about because I've spoken with several women who have been hurt by something they've read on the most popular SNS: Facebook. For the rest of this blog, we will refer to it as FB.

This is not an "anti-FB" tirade. I am a FB user, and without it, I've been told that readers would have taken much longer to find this website. So don't worry: I'm not going on a rant that will end in "Everybody Off Facebook Today!" I'm only asking you this: Have you allowed FB to ruin your day? 

 If so, you may be suffering from tool abuse. No, the tool didn't abuse you; you abused the tool. Tools don't sin; users do. When tools are used correctly, they help us. When tools are abused, it's like leaving an electric staple gun on the floor in a room full of toddlers: Somebody's going to get hurt. Here are a few ways that FB abuse could throw your day out of balance:

1. Reading a negative post. If you're reading things that are hurtful, don't be surprised if you get hurt! "A prudent man forseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished." (Prov. 22:3 and 27:12) If someone on your "news feed" is constantly posting things that are not beneficial, remove them from your news feed. Here's how: And if you're roaming around reading pages that are known for negativity, you can expect to feel like you've been rolling in the dirt.

2. Frittering your day away. "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psa. 90:12) It's not fair to your family for  you to spend two or three hours on and off FB, while the house goes to seed, projects fall behind and your real live family can't converse with you because you're busy updating your "status" with the details of what you had for lunch! If you feel like you don't have enough time to get things done, maybe your FB visits need a time limit.

3. Getting into online debates (or arguments). "Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbor hath put thee to shame." (Prov. 25:9) One idle comment can cause a cyberspace nuclear war! It would be better to let the other person have the last word than to go back and forth with someone who is not even in the same room with you. There must be someone in your own time zone that you can have a good quarrel with before sundown.

Many people use FB regularly without any problems, and if you're one in those ranks, bravo! This blog was devoted to those who have fallen into the FB traps listed above. If you've ever been upset by a FB post, reduce the chances of this happening by being more selective. What you don't read can't hurt you.

"The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going." (Prov. 14:15)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Little Birdie Told Me

Has anyone ever told you something that you didn't need to know and would have preferred not to hear? If so, you've been hit by the GR: Gossip Reporter.These reporters live for a "scoop," and pride themselves on being "in the know." Is this a good practice? Not according to Scripture. Consider these problems with being a "GR," also known as a "talebearer:"

1. The GR is betraying someone. "A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter." (Prov. 11:13) It's becoming more and more difficult to find a trustworthy person. In matters of an extremely private nature, the GR is not a good counselor. You may find that your personal information has been "leaked," adding a new layer of problems to your situation. Due to a lack of character, the GR just can't keep a confidence.

2. The GR is stirring up trouble. "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth." (Prov. 26:20) Bad news travels faster these days, thanks to computers, smartphones and other hand-held devices. People can even hide behind fictitious names, keeping their identity a secret while revealing secrets. These birds are really big chickens.

3. The GR is hurting people. "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." (Prov. 18:8 and 26:22) Telling things to people who are not part of the problem nor part of the solution is flat-out gossiping. Unfortunately, there will be disgraceful or shameful events in life, but we don't have to provide the gory details. A desire to repeat information that has nothing to do with us is morbidly twisted, and brings untold pain to the hearers.

4. The GR will give an account to God. "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord." (Levit. 19:16) When God says not to do something but we do it anyway, a chastening is coming. The GR has a countdown clock ticking, and payday is on the way.

This is a very hazardous area, and if you have been a GR, you are reading this so that you can confess, repent and forsake this bad habit. Gossip Reporters are not only hurting others, but they are also providing a poor example for any young people who are listening and observing. Here's the faulty message we send when we gossip in their earshot: "When you grow up, you can gossip just like I do."

The next time a GR comes flitting up to your shoulder and starts sowing the latest weed seeds with a "Did you hear about..." introduction, interrupt the flow of words with this sentence: "I don't need to know." Then change the subject. You will be removed from the "callling list" of the little birdie, and you'll be protecting your spirit from becoming a garbage dump for gossip. There are some things in life that we are better off never knowing. Don't we all have enough problems of our own?

"He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips." 
(Prov. 20:19)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Cool Head or a Hot Head?

Are you Mrs. Hot Head?

"A cool head and a warm heart is an 
admirable composition."
--Matthew Henry, Bible commentator

How would those closest to you describe you: As a cool-head or a hot-head? Are you calm in the face of unexpected events, or do you blow up all over people and just expect them to take it? Do your responses lean more towards over-reactions? Is it a scary thing to live with you? We need to be reminded now and then that God is watching, listening, and even knows why we're behaving as we do. Where did these hot-headed reactions come from?

They're UDCs: Unresolved Daily Conflicts. As we allow the seeds of UDCs to pile up on the soil of our hearts, all it takes is for someone to come along and hurt us again, watering these old seeds and causing them to spring forth into a bitter, reactionary crop. Nobody is angry over nothing; there's a root cause underground somewhere, and it needs to be unearthed, examined and dealt with appropriately. This takes time and patience, but it's worth the effort. What's eating you that is causing you to chew on others? Get to the bottom of it.

 The world would have us believe that we have "anger management issues," but when you take the word "anger" and pair it with the word "management," you have the old Sesame Street song coming to life: "One of these things just doesn't belong here." A more accurate phrase would be "anger expression issues." We have not learned how to appropriately express or rule over our anger. And so we end up hot, bothered and ready to blow! "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth over his spirit than he that taketh a city." (Prov. 16:32)

We wouldn't have so many UDCs if we'd just handle matters wisely and not let old hurts pile up.  Granted, some conflicts may never be fully resolved on this side of heaven, but we can still choose to forgive and move on. "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Prov. 16:20) What does this mean? It means that we'll seek the Lord in prayer for wisdom in handling difficult people problems, rather than allowing them to sit and cause us to stew.

Do you have pain clenched in the fist of your heart? Don't embrace old hurts like they're dear friends! Let them go.

And if you've exploded in anger recently, go and make things right. People are fragile. Don't you just hate it when someone is insensitive towards you? All right then. Other people feel the same way, so go and apologize. Then ask the Lord in prayer to help you learn how to properly express your frustrations so that others won't get hurt just because you're hurting. Treat people like it's the last interaction you'll have with them on this side of heaven.

"He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exhalteth folly." (Prov. 14:29)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Envy Problems

ENVY: To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account. (Webter's 1828 Online Dictionary)

Do you struggle with envy? Take this little ENVY-test to determine if you have this problem:

1. You are territorial with your friendships. If a friend is paying too much attention to someone other than you, it makes you feel threatened or even angry. 

2. You say negative things about people or their work. By trying to make others look inferior, you feel superior. Criticizing the work of others usually stems from insecurity rooted in envy.

3. You treat people as "suspects" until you have decided that they're "safe." In your point of view, "safe" means they are no threat to your current relationships.

4. You resent others when they are selected for positions that you want for yourself. You have thoughts like this: "Why did they pick her? I could do a better job!"

5. You are rarely happy when someone else has something good happening in their life. Whether it's a new car or a new position, you just can't seem to rejoice with others when they are blessed.

Envy is a joy-robber. It causes a person to become hyper-focused on the lives of others, leading to multiple people problems. Nobody has to live like that. Are you struggling with the "green-eyed monster" called envy? Consider these verses carefully:

"A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones." (Prov. 14:30) God is giving us a choice in this word-picture: We can either have our sanity in the form of a "sound heart," or be sick to our stomachs with the constant discontentment of envy. 

"Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?" (Prov. 27:4) Envy is so repellant that it makes a person next to impossible to be around. Scripture tells us it is worse than being around an angry person! Envy is also visible, because not many people are able to hide their dislike for others very well.

"But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming." (Acts 13:45) If we allow envy to take root in our hearts, we eventually become paranoid, imagining that people are taking things from us that don't even belong to us. Over time, envy becomes so consuming that a person trapped in this perilous snare begins to see almost everyone as "the competition."

"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." (Titus 3:3) In the bad old days before we were saved, envy was just another part of our operating system. We didn't see anything wrong with petty rivalries, and even today, the world encourages the "every man for himself" mentality. This didn't work when we were unsaved, and it is even less effective after salvation.

Envy does nothing for us, but it does plenty to us! Envy keeps us from enjoying relationships that God has given us, and can even cause us to hurt others with our selfish immaturity. Why live like this when we can live in freedom? If you've been struggling with envy, confess it as sin, repent and forsake it. Envy is not doing you any favors, but it is causing you to live a flawed existence wrapped up in fear and self-inflicted grief. 

Envy is selfishness wrapped in pride, hidden behind a flimsy wall of insecurity. We will never grow up as long as we allow ourselves to stay in the sandbox of envy, clutching our fears like toys.

"Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Gal. 5:26)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Survive an Explosion

 NOTE: Both my husband Norman and our Pastor, Dr. David Clear encouraged me to write this article in response to several questions regarding what to do when there has been upheaval in the ministry. This is written mainly for those who are wondering how to help.

Have you ever read a description from a survivor of an explosion? Soldiers in battle are very familiar with this experience, as they are frequently faced with the possibility of stepping on land mines or having a grenade tossed their way. Consider this description of a grenade explosion (collected from several articles, edited for general audiences):
  • Shrapnel (pieces of metal, glass, or flying debris) from a fragmentation grenade would be driven with a piercing force into the body at an enormous rate of speed. The heat from this explosion would be felt almost immediately. Soon, the severe burning sensation changes to coldness, particularly as shock sets in. The closer a person is to an explosion, the greater the harm...

Bad news is like an explosion; immediately painful and abruptly shocking, knocking people off their feet. The cold numbness it leaves behind is a side-effect that takes time to resolve. Explosions in the ministry have been happening for years now, and are a sad reminder of our perilous times.

What can a Christian do after something has happened to cause the earth to feel like it is crumbling underneath their feet? What can we do when tragedy strikes, leaving us dazed and wounded? There are some things that we can do:

1. Turn up the prayer to the maximum level. Walk around praying, sit down and pray, kneel and pray, fall asleep with prayer on your lips, wake up and pray, and pray as if you were the only one on duty! "Pray without ceasing." (I Thess. 5:17) Make a list of the names of everyone you can think of, then pray for them specifically. Pray for everyone involved. We will never pray too much, and God will never get tired of hearing from us.

2. Offer to help. If you are close to the situation and able to help from the inside, help with actions and few words. People in shock need reassurance that God has not abandoned them, that they will be all right, and that not one item of Scripture has been changed by the temporary upheaval. Be consistently loving and steadfastly reassuring. Don't be surprised if you can't find the words to say. Just be there. "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Prov. 17:17)

If you would like to help in some other way, administer good wherever you can. Any good deed done to hurting people will make a difference. Just be sure to keep your motives pure. Nobody needs an "ambulance chaser" after a crisis, but a person whose desire is to deliver aid is a welcomed relief. "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men." (Titus 3:8)

3. Do not panic! Bad news is not the end of the world; even though it may change the face of a ministry or a family. "Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken." (Prov. 3:25-26) Remain calm in the face of all the billowing smoke and crumbling structures. As many a Grandmother used to say, "This too, shall pass."

4. Stay on track for the Lord. Stay in church, and maintain your Bible study and prayer habits as close to normal as possible. Hand out extra tracts. Be especially kind to strangers, never knowing which one may be your next soul winning opportunity. People may change, and situations may seem utterly devastating, but our job description of "laborers" doesn't change. Even after an explosion, we still have work to do. "Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray he therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest." (Matt. 9:37-38)

5. Recycle good news. There is a sickening tendency to keep bad news alive by discussing and analyzing situations over and over again. This has been made easier by today's technology, but what good does it do? The focus should be on repair; not on rehashing. "A talebearer (scandal-monger) revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter." (Prov. 11:13) We have seen fallen soldiers before, and their pain is not entertaining. Go back to item number one (prayer) and practice it earnestly, fervently, and diligently. Do not fan the destructive flames of gossip by participating in useless discussions about "what happened."

Consider this closing piece of related advice for How to Survive an Explosion from*:
  • "Remain in a covered position throughout the initial blast, and expect to experience a momentary loss of breath, as a great deal of oxygen may be displaced, varying in intensity by the force of the explosion." (eHow contributor, 2078042)

Staying in the Word and in prayer is a way of remaining "in a covered position." Of course, if you were at the "epicenter" of the explosion, you have taken a direct hit and will need time to heal. It is unlikely that someone who has been directly hurt by a scandal is reading something like this article, but in case you are, realize that the force of the blast will leave you feeling painfully dazed and disoriented for some time to come. Your heart may even literally ache as you process everything that has changed in your life in a virtual moment of time. The Lord knows your pain, and will comfort you like never before. "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (Psa. 23:4) As soon as possible, seek godly counsel and allow someone to help you.

Explosions often leave many wounded, but they also have a tendency to bring out the morbid spectators with their armchair observations and opinions. Once an explosion has happened, running around and talking about how big it was accomplishes absolutely nothing. Run to the Lord and cry out to Him, but say very little about the catastrophe to others. People have been hurt, and they are in breathless shock after the force of a life-altering explosion. As the wounded are uncovering their heads and trying to figure out what happened, they need our help, not our opinions. 

"The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses." (25:17)

*Keep the Heart does not endorse everything found at The source was cited for crediting purposes only.

Say You're Sorry, Mommy

Motherhood. Sometimes it includes the word, "Oops!" Especially if you accuse a child of doing something without first having all the facts...

I can still vividly remember when it was raining indoors. The water was coming down from upstairs into the basement through the ceiling, and I was not singing in rain, sister! One of our creative children wanted to see what would happen if he plugged up the overflow hole in the bathroom sink. So he pushed down the stopper, then plugged the hole with wadded up toilet paper and left the room.

"Austen Henderson Taylor," get down here right now!" I said with my "Here comes your funeral" voice. "What on EARTH were you thinking! Look at all this water! Now start helping me clean up. Hillary, Collin, Josh, you too! Would you just look at this mess? After we clean up, everybody is going to their room..."

This wasn't for a "time-out," but it was so that I could have a cooling-off period as I determined the appropriate discipline. As we were cleaning puddles and dodging raindrops, little cousin Josh, who happened to be spending the weekend with us, spoke these unforgettable words:

"Auntie Frauntie, Con do dat topper. Con do dat water, Con do dat. No Austen. Con do dat." And then he repeated himself like a little old man (or maybe so that he could be sure that I understood him).

Translation: "Auntie Francie, Collin did the stopper (in the sink). Collin did the water. Collin (did) do that. Not Austen. Collin did that."

I was frozen, and then I was smitten. I turned and looked at my three children, who were also frozen (two with relief; one with eyeballs popped out of his head in fear). I said the wonderful words that I recommend so often: "Austen, I was wrong. Will you forgive me?"

"Yes ma'am, Mommy," Austen said, relieved that his name had been cleared. Austen, Hillary and cousin Josh went back to cleaning up the water, while I left the room with THE CON to have an important business meeting. Josh didn't speak clearly as a toddler, but he spoke with power just the same.

Have you accused your children wrongfully? When you realize your "Oops," tell them you're sorry, and try not to do it again. To paraphrase an old saying, "The only exercise some parents get is jumping to conclusions and running down their children." Don't let that be true!

"He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him." (Prov. 18:13)

Do You Know What You Have?

Someone out there may be struggling with this holiday called Valentine's Day, and I can relate.  This is my third Valentine's...