Delicious Gossip

“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” 
~Alice Roosevelt Longworth
“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
   they go down into the inner parts of the body.”
Proverbs 18:8 ESV
This week we will concentrate on gossiping—sometimes described as America’s pastime. Looking at the number of celebrity gossip shows and magazines, I am inclined to agree.
Why do we like to gossip?
Sometimes gossip has a positive motive:
  • I an interested in people. I want to know what is happening in their lives.
But usually gossip has negative motives.
  • Spreading news about someone else makes me feel important. I know something you don’t.
  • Finding out something sordid or embarrassing about someone else can make me feel superior to them.
The dictionary defines gossip as, “to spread rumors or tell people the personal details of others’ lives, especially maliciously.” Our motives in sharing details about our friends are usually not very pure. And the results are usually not positive either! Friends are hurt, relationships are damaged, our reputations for trustworthiness are sullied.
In the end, gossiping doesn’t benefit anyone. Look at Proverbs 18:8 in the paraphrase of The Message:
“Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy;
   do you really want junk like that in your belly?”
This week make it your goal not to listen to or share any gossip.

Be Grateful for You

photo by Duy’s Photo Shoots
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Psalm 139:14
Last night I happened to get out my copy of Simple Abundance. You may have read or heard about this book that was very popular some years past. This book popularized the idea of keeping a gratitude journal.
The entry that I read last night greatly challenged my gratitude muscles. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote:
Tonight, set aside an hour to celebrate how marvelous you really are…Gaze approvingly into the mirror until you find ten things that you absolutely love about your face and your body…Write all ten down in your gratitude journal. Now think about aspects of your personality that you like…Do not stop until you have at least ten things about your personality for which you are grateful. 

Really, Sarah, an hour? It won’t take me more than ten minutes to come up with my list–which might have two things on it if I really think hard!

For most of us this is difficult! It’s much easier for me to complain about my fine hair that wilts in humidity about my poor eyesight that requires strong eyewear prescriptions. It comes more naturally to wish that I were more outgoing or more talented.But as I thought about Breathnach’s challenge and my propensity to  complain about my faults instead of offer thankfulness for my strengths, I realized that often what I am doing is telling God that He made some serious mistakes when He created me. Being thankful for the way God made me brings acceptance. Being grateful for my positive attributes moves me away from envy of others and complaining about myself. Being appreciative to my Creator praises Him for His creation.

So let’s take Breathnach’s challenge:

Thank God for 10 things you like about your physical body and face. 
Thank Him for 10 things you like about your personality and abilities.
Share some of your positive attributes here!

An Extreme New Diet

Do everything without complaining or arguing.
Philippians 2:14
This month our Mouth Makeover calls for a diet. We need to restrict our words, come up with an abstinence plan.
Maybe you started a diet at the beginning of the year. Perhaps you tried a sugar-free diet or a fat-free diet. Maybe you tested a simple-carbs-free diet. My sister is a vegetarian and consumes a meat-free diet. These diets all have their merits, but what our mouths need is a complaint-free diet!
This probably sounds a bit extreme and if you are like me you are probably wondering, “If I can’t complain, what will I talk about?” It’s so easy to grumble because it seems so very few things in our lives ever go our way. It seems logical to gripe about all the mishaps in our days:
“The waiter at the restaurant didn’t get a single part of our order right.”
“The line at the grocery store took forever!”
“Traffic was terrible and some nut in a pickup cut me off!”
During March all those comments are forbidden! We are going to give them all up. The complaint-free diet means no more indulging in grumbling. It involves weeding out whining. It means giving up griping and cutting out carping.
It’s going to be difficult, but there are benefits. In Philippians 2:14 Paul gave the instruction, “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” but in verse 15 he outlines the benefits of a complaint-free diet:
“so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”
I see three benefits to a complaint-free diet:
1.    We will become blameless and pure. Blameless means without fault; when we give up complaining, our lives will not be open to criticism. Pure means our lives will not be a mixture of good and evil.
2.    We will be children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation. If we are not complaining, other people will be more likely to recognize that we belong to God. We will stand out in a perverse and corrupt society.
3.    We will shine like stars in the universe. Without complaining, our light will shine brighter, we will be more able to point people to the Light of the world. Complaining will only dim our brightness.
Hopefully, as we concentrate this month on eliminating complaining from our vocabularies, we will make this a life-long practice. This new habit will clean up our characters, purify our attitudes, and polish up our witness.
So take this month’s challenge:
Do everything without complaining.
This month will have just one Lip Log. Click here for a copy. Print one up and post it on your fridge or bulletin board. Give yourself a gold star for every day you don’t complain!
Click here for a postcard with this month’s focus verse—Philippians 2:14. Print several to post around your home or office.
Let me know how your diet is working!

Encourage Your Friends–Week Four Challenge

Free Two Happy Girls Holding Hands Walking to School at Sunrise Creative Commons

photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
My friend, Linda, is an Excellent Encourager. If they gave grades in encouragement, Linda would get an A+. Once she sent me a card with two women in 1920s garb, sitting together, arm in arm. 
The first woman says to the other, “You’re intelligent, talented and a fabulous shopper. Your turn.”
The second woman replies, “You’re sensitive, a good listener and you dress well. Your turn.”
Inside the card the first woman continues, “You have a beautiful body, a positive attitude and a great personality. Your turn.
The second woman continues, “You have lovely skin, you’re generous and nice to be with. Your turn.”
The card concludes, “We turn to each other for a lift, a laugh, and to remind us how really great we are!”
Linda added, “So true!” And it is. Linda has been there for me during long periods of waiting for dreams to come true. I tried to be a shoulder to cry on when she was going through tough times. We have comforted each other when we have been missing our daughters who have moved away.
Solomon knew too how important friends are. He wrote in Ecclesiastes, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” When the seams of our sanity seem to be fraying, friends stitch us back together. When our courage is cracking, friends are the glue that keep us from completely falling apart. When our lives seem to be one huge unfinished jigsaw puzzle, friends take the time to put us back together piece by piece.
So this week’s challenge is to be an Excellent Encourager for your friends:
Choose five friends to encourage this week.
Today make your list of five friends then each day do something to support or thank one of them.
Tomorrow I will give some encouragement tips. But get started today.
Please share how you plan to spread some encouragement!
Click here for this week’s Lip Log to keep up with your Makeover Your Mouth challenges and here for February’s postcard with our focus verse.

Elizabeth–An Excellent Encourager—Week 3 Challenge

photo by stefike 13

Imagine you’ve just discovered you are pregnant. You are engaged to be married, but your fiancé is not the father of the baby and you’re quite certain that when he finds out you will no longer be engaged. You have not done anything improper but no one believes your story. You really need some encouragement, but where can you go for support?

Of course this is Mary’s story. Who needed encouragement more than she when faced with being an unwed mother in the first century? Mary ended up going to her relative Elizabeth who was also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy.
As we read this story, we can see that Elizabeth was an Excellent Encourager. What can we learn from her?
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1:39-45 NIV
Here are 6 Principles of Encouragement from Elizabeth’s example:
  1. Use your experiences to encourage people going through similar circumstances. Mary went to Elizabeth because the angel had told Mary that Elizabeth was also pregnant.
  2. Rely on the Holy Spirit—do not offer comfort or advice on your own. Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v.41).
  3. Speak God’s blessing on others. Elizabeth told Mary, “Blessed are you among women!” (v.42).
  4. When encouraging others, put the focus on them and not yourself. Elizabeth was the elder, but she declared she was honored to have Mary visit (v.43).
  5. Tell others the positive effects they have on your life. Elizabeth told Mary how her own baby leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice (v.44).
  6. The most important encouragement is the encouragement of someone’s faith. Elizabeth told Mary she was blessed because she believed God’s Word (v.45).
How can you use these truths of encouragement this week?
One way would be to take this week’s Encouragement Challenge:
Write a letter to someone telling them the positive effects they have had on your life.
Did you have a teacher who greatly influenced your life? Do you have a close friend that is always there for you? Is there a specific person who shaped your faith in God? Take time this week to tell them!
Click here for this week’s Lip Log and here for our February postcard with our focus verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Encouragement Challenge–Week Two

Sailor writes notes of encouragement with student.

photo by official US Navy imagery
 
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.
Romans 12:6a and 8a NLT
Do you know someone with the gift of encouragement? I do. My son, Nathaniel, has always been a super-encourager, able to give awesome support in single comment!
Now those of us who are not natural encouragers may think that we are off the hook. After all, Paul told the Romans, “If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.” So if we don’t have the gift, we don’t have to bother to offer words of support, right?
Wrong! Paul told the Corinthians,
Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
Paul commanded everyone to be encouraging! We all need to be diligent in building others up. We all need to offer comfort or consolation to those who need it. So what do we do when we don’t have the gift of encouragement? We work at it.
This week I have a challenge that should help you develop the skill of supporting others even if you don’t have the gift of encouragement.
  • Write out the names of the key people in your life—your family, friends, co-workers. 
  • Beside each name write one or two ways that you could specifically encourage them. 
  • Choose one of those actions to do each day.
Click here for this week’s Lip Log and here for the February postcard with 1 Thessalonians 5:11, our focus verse.
Father in heaven, I may not have the gift of encouragement, but I want to become an excellent encourager. Show me meaningful ways to support my family. Give me awesome ideas for cheering on my friends. Thank you for the support and grace that you constantly pour into my life through your Spirit. Help me to be a conduit of that grace to the people in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.   

28 Days to Become an Excellent Encourager

Thank you for joining me on the 2011 Make Over Your Mouth Project! This year I am exploring the hidden super-power that God has given each of us. The mighty force of our mouths!
During the month of January we concentrated on becoming aware of what came out of our mouths and praying for God’s help in this area of our spiritual makeovers. During February we will focus on the power of
Encouragement
Calvin Miller, the author of The Power of Encouragement, wrote,
“All of us possess a wonderful power to touch other’s lives. It is the power of affirmation! Why don’t we use it? The world is waiting to be renewed, and we hold the power of renovation.”
The simple tool of encouragement can cheer someone up, fuel their determination, and strengthen their faith. We all have access to this potent ability yet we tend to ignore it.
But no more! This month we will all become Excellent Encouragers! We will learn how to offer a word of support to the discouraged, refreshment to the tired, and confidence to the lagging. The people in our lives need cheerleaders to spur them on. And by the end of the month we will all be on the varsity squad!
Our focus verse this month is 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Find a printable postcard of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 here. I suggest you print a couple copies and post them in prominent places in your home or office.
February’s Lip Log is a little different from January’s. Find it here. It is a simple chart listing resolutions to accomplish each day. This week’s resolutions are:
  • Pray Psalm 19:14
  • Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11 out loud
  • Encourage someone today
Give yourself a check mark (or gold star!) every day you accomplish each resolution. This will help keep you accountable and also demonstrate your progress as your chart fills up with gold stars!
During the week I will be giving you specific ideas on how to encourage, but I hope that you will all share how you have cheered someone on—not to toot your own horn—but to give the rest of us new ideas in the art of encouragement.