Integrity of the Tongue

   Integrity: 
1. (n.) moral soundness; 

As addicts and people in denial of truth and reality, we can manipulate what is means to have moral soundness. We justify, we lie to others, to ourselves, we compare and grade on a curve. Even as christians we pick and choose what the bible says and what we believe based on what is easiest for us to get as close to sin without sinning as we can get. To live a life of integrity is complex, here are some of my thoughts on integrity for today:

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. (James 3:2-12 NLT)

1. What three things does James compare the tongue to? What point is he trying to make through these illustrations? A ship who is guided by a small rudder, a fire that sweeps through the forest and a poisonous animal that cannot be tamed. he also talks of a horse being led by the small bit in its mouth and a spring that cannot hold both fresh water and spring water. Words are powerful, we taught our kids to say sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me, which is ridiculous and not biblical! Words are powerful, our tongues can be like poison, killing everything it slashes with our bite, or it can be a small rudder or bit guiding us and those around us. It can be contagious like a wildfire and it can either destroy or it can rebuild growth depending on the control of it.

2. Why is the relationship between what a person says and what a person believes so important? Much of our human expression is through words. If you want to know someones heart you need to listen. Too often we are on the defense in life and we are not out to listen, we are out to protect what we are really feeling. We may be dishonest so we don’t hurt feelings, or making sure that other people who we don’t trust don’t figure us out cause if they figure us out then they will not like what they see. We don’t like what we see in ourselves so we may assume they will not like the authentic true self either. We haven’t fully surrendered our position as a child of God, so we take on responsibilities we were not intended to take on, identities we were not meant to carry and it steered us so far away. A big fear is we will never get back so we fake it. 

integrity, say what you mean, do what you say. 

Do not over analyze, stay focused on God and you will bear fruit in your life. You will feel healthy, fulfilled, and your purpose will be shown by simply say what you mean, do what you say.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13-18 NLT)

One last thought. Let’s look at the second definition of integrity.  

2. (n.) an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting;  

The God-sized hole we either currently or used to try to fill with drugs, sex and rock and roll still left us feeling divided, broken and incomplete. With Jesus, we find integrity of this proportion, a completeness with nothing wanting. Better than any other high, any other idol any other solution. 

When we can admit our wrongs, when we can own up to the past and our pettiness, our responsibility in our irresponsibility, we are practicing humility. We gain wisdom and integrity in the process. And though he came to scoff, may he remain to pray.

 

Just Call Me Toots

I grew up identifying humility with humiliation. I had it in my head that when you became too prideful God came down from heaven to put the smackdown on you and take you down a notch or five. 
Who else grew up thinking of God this way? That whenever you were getting “too big for your britches” He would knock you down? 

 I tried really hard to stay under Gods radar so he wouldnt have to teach me any lessons since I was so scared of being embarrassed and making mistakes.  I think it all stems from my most embarrassing horror that ever happened to me…

It was the 6th grade, during math class.  My math class was right after lunch and at the time it was my favorite class.  I looked forward to it all day, every day, even test days. No, not becasue I loved math, in fact I hated math.  It was because I got to sit next to my 6th grade crush, Jeff Hopner. His freckled nose, his mouth full of braces, Jeff was the coolest boy in 6th grade. I was the chubby girl in our grade so I knew I had to win him over with my charm and wit and brains. Only, I was so shy around him and since I wasn’t all that great in math, I didn’t have too many opportunities to impress him.   Until that day.  It was a pretty ordinary day, the highlight so far had been italian dunkers for lunch.  Since I am a carb freak, I loved italian dunkers, those big slabs of garlic brad and the sauce in the little syrofoam cups to dunk them in, dee-lish! I always knew how to con my skinny friends into giving me their extra bread, they didn’t like italian dunkers because then their breath smelled like garlic the rest of the day.  I said, I don’t care, garlic gives me the farts, but I love it anyway, I’ll take yours!  And down the hatch my extra slices of garlic bread and sauce went.  Fast forward to math class.  Tummy gurgling, breath smelling and brain foggy from all the carbs overload, guess who gets called to the front for problem solving at the board? This girl!  And of course, since I was concentrating on holding in the garlic gas, I hadn’t been paying any attention and had no clue what problem I was supposed to be working on. But that isn’t the impressive part.  I’d like to say I figured it all out and impressed everyone including the teacher and Jeff Hopner with my mad skills on the board.  As I stood to walk to the front of the room after the teacher had to call my name twice, I let out the loudest fart in the history of farts, and not just loud, but long. So long I toot-toot-tooted my way to the front, each step immortalizing the moment with another toot.  I tried to hold it in. I tried to pinch a penny. But it was no use.  I was powerless to stop the toots.  And as I got to the front and picked up the chalk, Jeff said what they were all thinking. I’d like to remember it being said with reverance or approval, but it was said with a crinkling of that freckled nose turned up in disgust as he pinched his nostrils closed and immediately yelled, “EWWWW! Jeni sure knows how to toot her own horn- she farted!” I was mortified. And as any normal kid would do, or at least in my book of working hard not to be humiliated, I tried to deny it.  “I did not!” That sealed my fate for the rest of the year.  Not only was I that girl who farted, I was that girl who farted and then lied about it, which made it ten times worse.

And thus my fear of humility was born.

Being overly concerned with the approval of others. 

The need to lash out in anger or lies when embarrassed. 

Blaming others. Blaming God.   

Isolating. Not allowing my weakness to show.   

I shared all of this to say, breaking down the reasons for our behaviors, breaking apart the moldy facade to get to the real mortar and reinforce our foundation…all of that is meaningless and will cause us to spin our tires unless we keep this in mind…

True biblical humility implies that we see ourselves as God sees us. 
Not as others see us, not the identify our parents or friends, or peers or even Jeff Hopner puts on us, but that God puts on us as His children. It is putting ourselves in proper perspective in light of God’s plan. It does not matter what others think of us. What matters is, who are we modeling life after?

Appropriate humility is seen in Christ’s life, who emptied himself to obey God’s will, to serve others and to fulfill Gods plan for His life.  

We can do all the self analyzing we want to…read all the self help books we can get into our amazon account, but it isnt gonna make a world of difference unless we are willing to place ourselves under Gods control and submit to His will and plan for our lives.   Start today by reading the book of John.  It may just be the identity changer you need today.

Escaping the Bermuda Triangle

  When I first began practicing the twelve steps, I really identified with the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous’ explanation of barriers we self inflict in the chapter, We Agnostics. 

Particularly, “We know how he feels. We have shared his honest doubt and prejudice. Some of us have been violently anti-religious.” 

That was me. Full of doubt. Full of prejudice. And chock full of anger. I was fully anti-religious. I was a woman of the world. Independent, self-sufficient, I had the snottiest I can do it myself kind of an attitude you can imagine. I didn’t date. I didn’t tie myself down to a career and I didn’t pay attention to my health, my finances or my relationships. The further down the rabbit hole of self neglect I went, the heavier I became, the heavier I was, the angrier I became and the more excuses I made up. The fat gene. It’s my parents fault. It’s my thyroid. Whatever the excuse, it became clear I did not want to be the way I was. I was living a lie. A facade. The self-righteous anger and closed mindedness of my thoughts painted me into such a tight corner and I ate even more to escape. And I blamed God for the bulk of it. If He made me, and He made me fat, He must be a cruel, ruthless God. “What did I ever do to deserve this?” I thought to myself time and again.  

I made it to a meeting through a loved one. I received outreach calls and felt supported for the first time in my life. I could relate and understand the language of recovery. By the third meeting I realized, the reality was, I wasn’t allowing God into my life. I was running. Running to food, to spending, to gossip magazines and partying, caught in the Bermuda triangle of fridge, couch, tv. My cycle of dysfunction, my spiral into the abyss, my boxed in self, whatever geometric shape you want to call it-I needed changing. And I couldn’t change myself. I was too weak. I wasn’t a strong independent woman. I was a scared, selfish little girl who had been deluding herself for years.

My journey is a spiritual one. It involves recovery, discipline, sacrifice. It revolves around love, hope and healing with faith. We need not be held back by doubt, prejudice and anger. A wonderful future can be had by recognizing God’s power and recognizing we are weak.

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Where do you need to admit weakness?

Forest for the Trees

I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, (4) for His time.- Andrew Murray

How do we know when a defect of character has been set aside? How can we tell if we are different now that we are clean and sober? An important reminder I tell myself is that I am so close to the source, it is okay if I don’t notice right away.  I mean, HELLO!, I am with myself ALL the time!  It is hard to see progress and growth when I cannot get away from the forest or the trees for that matter. Especially when I have days in the dumps. The times when I slip into wallowing.  The moments of woe is me, it’s my party and I’ll have a tantrum and throw a fit and whine and cry and try to make your life as miserable as I feel kind of party. 
But truly, when we are living life in a program of recovery, those days are so few and far between anymore, we can allow ourselves to celebrate. To say, hey, I have grown and to see growth with humility, not in a look at how awesome I am kind of a way. Having an inflated ego never did much good, just like have a deflated sense of worth doesn’t put us in positions of purpose. Acceptance of where we used to be, gratitude at where we are at now and constant thoughts on grace, keeps life into proper perspective.  We can recognize the blessing of God’s grace in our lives, and then the next step can be a willingness and even desire to practice forgiveness. it is much easier to practice forgiveness when you have a framework to solidify the foundation of a truly changed life.  

If we claim to be without sin, we decieve ourselves and the truth is not in us. -1 John 1:8.  

Pray for the willingess for full disclosure at your defects of character and they will be revealed. Truth can be at our fingertips.  Faith can be our understanding. 

Free[duh]m

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭31-36‬ NLT)

I understand being set free. Only because I understand sin. By the grace of God, I am free of many things that used to hold me bondage. Oh I knew sin alright. I could somehow take anything of this world and turn it into an idol; food, money, selfishness, smoking, drinking, approval-seeking, you name it, I was chained to it. And I made decisions based on fear. I was not free in any sense of the word. It wasn’t until I admitted powerlessness over my life, that I could begin to accept that, as petty as I felt, or as silly as my idols seemed, I had issues that needed working out. It isn’t until we are willing to admit complete defeat that we create space for God and allow the power of the spirit to replace our fear.  

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭25‬ NLT)

As Christ followers, we can hold tight the truth that the spirit’s leading is pure and strong and wonderful and will lead us to the freedom we so crave.  

Is there any freedom from bondage you need today? Pray for it and let faith replace fear. 

  

This Little Light of Mine

“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3

People who can’t or won’t be honest with each other are people who will never experience the kind of nurturing fellowship God desires among His people. Repentance isn’t a shampoo commercial, we are not supposed to wash, rinse and repeat. We can repent all we want, but if we keep doing the behavior and then repent, and then do it again, and then repent…guys, that isnt repenting, we are taking advantage of gods grace when we simply repent then repeat. Repentance of sin, letting go of that which takes you from the kingdom perspective of Gods purpose, Gods process and Gods promise for your life, means changing behaviors, not just recognizing right from wrong.  To have a spiritual awakening means to have the willingness to be courageous and change.  To change takes honesty. To be honest means to be marked by truth.

Honesty is a process from God.   When God’s around, the lights are on! Walking in the darkness means we will probably bump into each other, but that doesn’t equate true fellowship, with God or with each other. 

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:6-9 NLT)

When we see ourselves and one another clearly under God’s clarifying and purifying light, there are three ways in which we can see with the kindgom perspective:

  1. We can appreciate one another.  
  2. We recognize God working in someone’s life, rather than being jealous of what they have. 
  3. We can experience the common ground that creates fellowship rather than seeing our differences in one another.

Authenticity requires honesty—not putting on a mask; not showing up and pretending everything is okay when it’s not. It is weeping with those who weep; rejoicing with those who rejoice; bearing one another’s burdens, and in so doing, fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. This is the happiness that comes with honesty. Will you let the light shine in you?
  

Majesty Over Mountains

I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. (Psalms 121:1-8 NLT)

Is it the mountains that gives us breath? Look past the mountain. Look beyond the mountain, further than those purple mountain majesties, just for a moment. No matter how majestic, how ginormous, how impressive a mountain view is, how powerful the force of an avalanche or the eruption of volcanos, none of that power can compare to our Lord, who created those impressive masses. And if He has the power to create something so powerful, His power can help us in any and all of our situations.  

What is so encouraging about this passage of scripture is the idea that God does not sleep. Let that sink in for a moment. He isn’t like the picture of a stereotypical TV dad, who after a hard day at work, just wants to relax and sit in a chair and we (his children) are sitting there buggin’ saying,

 “C’mon dad, lets go play! C’mon dad, can we go get ice cream? I need help with my homework, so and so is being a pain, will you tell him to stop!”

 And he is just sitting in his chair, saying, 

“Oh, for the love of Me! Can’t you see I have been slaving away all day creating the universe and making sure the tides go in and out!? Your fellow man has been filling up the streams with their all their garbage and now I have to re-adjust the ecosystem so y’all don’t implode! I really don’t have time for whatever your little problem is right now! Figure it out yourself!”

God doesn’t say that. Scripture says He will not let you stumble. He doesn’t need to rest, therefore we are always protected. This doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to us, things we don’t expect or events we would rather not have to go through. All experiences, good and bad, are a part of life. But these verses are clear promises from God. He stands by us as protective shade.  

 “The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.” 

 Do you ever have moments when thinking back to your teens or 20’s and all the stupid stuff you did and think, I should be dead right now, why aren’t I dead, all the dangerous stupid stuff I did, I really should not be living right now. Yet, here we are, with God watching over our life. And even if we come and go, even when we take our self will back, He keeps watch over us now and forever. Outside of time, outside of space, outside of our circumstance.

What is it you need help with today? Pray to Him, the Maker of Heaven and Earth and He will supply all your need.