Interviewed by: Cindy Morrone
Amy Howson, Child of God. Married to Walter for 25+ years, Mom to four kids. Amy divides her time between being a Homeschooler Advocate, Wellness Advocate, and a Mental Health Advocate.
Luke 6:45 “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Words. The things that we say. It’s been a recurring theme lately in my life. Especially in the last week or so. It’s an area where the Lord is dealing with my heart. How many times when we have been hurt have we lashed out and said something in return just as hurtful? I think that this is especially true if it’s someone we are close to. Maybe it is a friend. Perhaps it’s our child or our spouse. I think it is human nature to want to defend ourselves. But then we end up causing more hurt, more pain. And the thing is…once those words are spoken out loud, they can’t be taken back. We can’t just shove them back in our mouths like we never said them. They are forever engraved upon the heart of the person they were spoken to.
Our words can bring life or death. They can heal or destroy. Tear down or restore. Bless or curse. I am sure all of us can think back to a time where someone said something damaging to us and years later we still remember. It can shape who we are, and who we become. I remember things said to me by some bullies in the classroom when I was twelve years old. Thirty five years later. Because words have a way of sticking.
We learn in the book of James that if we could control our tongue we would be perfect and would be able to control all the other areas our lives.
James 3: 2 (Msg ) We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person in perfect control of life.
A truly wise person uses few words. A person with understanding is even tempered. Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent. With their mouths shut they seem intelligent.( I love that last part!)
This week, I am ashamed to say that I failed miserably in that area. I was on the receiving end of someone’s frustration, and when I was attacked and treated unjustly, I reacted. When the words spoken to me were mean and hateful, I responded out of emotion. I blurted out what I was feeling in that moment because I was deeply hurt. Then I ran off and cried my heart out in the laundry room. I cried over the things spoken to me, but especially the things I said in return.
I think at times it is better just to be silent. Zip the lip and not say anything in return. Even though on the inside we are hurt or angry, or feel unjustly treated. When we in turn respond in anger, things will get worse, emotions will escalate and get out of hand. There is a saying I heard in our small group some time ago that I reminded of. “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but two lefts do.” Pastor Andy Smith,
Perhaps the best thing to do is walk away.
1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to be good to each other and to all people.
I was thinking about Jesus. Is he not the greatest example of this? When the leading pastors and elders of his time made their accusations against him, what did he do? He remained silent. He didn’t try to justify himself or prove his innocence. Would we be able to do the same if we were misunderstood or under attack from our Pastors and those in authority? Jesus knew when to be quiet.
Matthew 27:12-14 But when the leading priests and elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to the charges much to the governor’s surprise.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
In life there are going to be times when people say things to us that we will want to respond to. Maybe there is someone intentionally trying to get us riled up to get a reaction from us. What should our response be? What does the bible say about this?
2 Timothy 2:23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.
Life and death are in the tongue. Oh that we would choose life!
Recently, I was thinking about something that I have been praying about for quite a while and was having difficulty understanding why it was taking God so long to at least acknowledge that He heard my request…
Why do we find it so difficult to trust God?
This morning, I stepped into the shower without fear. I believed that the water would be both clean and warm. I never worried that the water was contaminated, never worried that the water would cause me disease or physical harm, and never worried that the temperature would be so hot that it would scald or burn my skin. I simply trusted that the water would serve its purpose and warmly cleanse my body— as it does every day.
When I jumped into my minivan to travel to the cafe where I am writing these thoughts, I did not even think twice about whether the tires supporting the van would safely get me here. I simply trusted they would fulfill their purpose and keep me safe— as they always have.
A few years ago we learned my youngest son is very allergic to peanuts. While I diligently read every single food product label before giving him anything at all to eat, I can’t help but recognize the fact that I place a great deal of trust in the companies that manufacture those product labels. I trust that they are diligent in acknowledging every single ingredient that they include inside that packaging.
When I put money into the bank that I have chosen to service my accounts, I trust that the bank will keep it’s commitment to keep my money safe and sound until I chose to withdraw it or use it. The bank has never stolen any money from me, nor has it given me any reason not to trust it’s promises to remain morally upright. I simply trust them.
So, again, why is it so difficult to trust God?
My wise friend recently shared a very simple but incredibly true statement: Learning to trust God is a journey.
Trusting God is not something that happens overnight. God is so very intentional with how He guides us and teaches us to trust Him. It doesn’t take me very long to think of the many ways in which God has proven His faithfulness and sovereignty in my life. Sometimes God has intervened in big, memorable ways— other times He has knocked on my heart in more subtle and quiet ways. But, the part to really make mention of, is the fact that I can not think of one single time that I have called on God and He has not answered. Sure, the answer might not have come as quickly as I wanted. And, sure, the answer may not have been exactly the solution I was seeking. But, God has always, always been faithful to answer me when I call on His name.
1 John 5:13-15
My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening. And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.
It really boils down to you and me. Are we willing to make the choice to pursue a life devoted to trusting in God and His perfect ways— to acknowledge both the subtle answers to prayer, as well as the big, memorable ways in which God’s presence is made known in our lives? As we choose to find the unique ways in which God speaks to us, I believe we will truly embark on a trust in God that is so much more than intentional— but instinctive.
Recently I was reminded of the story of a missionary who spent decades reaching out to a cannibal/head-hunter tribe half-way around the globe. He shared a fascinating experience known as “The Pineapple Story”, in which he had to learn the hard lesson of giving his rights of ownership to God.
In the story, the missionary planted a pineapple garden, only to find that as soon as the pineapples were getting ripe, the natives would come at night and steal them; he didn’t get to taste a single one. Angry and frustrated, and selfishly wanting the pineapples for himself, he tried everything to get the natives to learn the lesson that stealing is wrong. And still the natives kept stealing the pineapples.
Then one day, the missionary stumbled upon the biblical concept that we must give everything we own to God. According to the Bible, if we give, we will have; if we keep for ourselves, we will lose. If we give our things to God, He will see that we have enough (e.g. Matt. 16:25). Suddenly it clicked in his mind – he had fought for that pineapple garden tooth and nail, to no avail, thinking he had the right to own and eat the pineapples. With that realization, he decided to give the garden to God, and if God wanted to bless him with pineapples, great; but if not, he would be content with that as well.
A little while later, the natives started noticing the change in his behaviour. They noticed that he wasn’t getting angry with them any more for stealing the pineapples, and they became curious. In their mind, the missionary had now become a Christian, because he was loving them instead of being angry with them, and “practicing what he preached”. When they heard that he had given the pineapples to God, they became afraid because they had noticed a change in their villages. Their hunting had become fruitless; their babies were getting sick; their wives were not getting pregnant; things were going badly in every way. And so they stopped stealing the pineapples! But even better than that, they started believing in God and coming to faith in Christ! All because one man learned the lesson of giving up everything to God.
Another missionary, Jim Elliot, put it this way: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
What pineapples are growing in your garden? What do you think you have to hold on to and fight for? What gets you fired up? Is it your possessions or money, your job, your family and friends, your health, your reputation, your time and hobbies, your plans for the future? The Bible is clear that God wants us to let go of it all. He is the proper and rightful owner of everything, even our very lives. But somehow, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we can walk through life tight-fisted and entitled to what we have or want.
Let’s learn a lesson from this missionary and give our pineapples to God. Let us intentionally choose to open our hands and let go, so we can become channels of blessings to the people around us. God will honour that choice and bring glory to His Name by transforming us and impacting others through us in a positive Christ-honouring way.
I came across this quote the other day and found so much truth in it!
“No one is as confident in their life as a five-year-old wearing a princess dress in a grocery store.”
The author of this little nugget of truth is unknown, but they sure hit the nail on the head! I am sure you have seen it too and know it to be true. The Spider-Man costume at the dentist office; the Unicorn headgear at church; the oversized rain boots and ladies purse at the mall. Little kids are just so uninhibited! So free! So sure of themselves!
It is truly refreshing and keeps life in perspective to see them live their lives to the fullest, free of the confines of the adult world and fully immersed in the realm of their imagination. It gives us a glimpse of our former selves before we got all grown up and caught up in what others think of us. Before we experienced the hurt and alienation of another’s harsh words. Before judgement and hostility sideswiped our innocence.
We were not afraid to say “Hi” to anyone and many of us would have gladly taken the hand of a stranger who responded with a smile. We sang at the top of our lungs, off key, with mixed up words in the middle of a public gathering without a care in the world. We struck up the most interesting conversations with those who would listen, often to the embarrassment of our parents. We would haul up our dresses to fix our tights at a Christmas pageant; in the front row!
Our confidence was simply fearless and unfettered, abounding and unending!
But, somewhere along the way our confidence got knocked down, squashed, flattened. We can all recount these painful moments with complete clarity. Our perspectives changed. We became more guarded, unsure and hesitant. It changed how we approached people and situations. We built emotional walls of protection and distanced ourselves from potential harm. Our ability to step out lessened and our choice to step back won!
Inevitably, we grew up and got big!
But, Daughters, the key to building our confidence back up is actually to place our confidence in Jesus Christ alone! Not in ourselves or people or situations. When we do this, we can again be free to step out, uninhibited, and be who Christ created us to be, to the fullest, no matter where we are in life’s journey. Despite what we have endured, and what is yet to come, we have the strength we need through our confidence in Jesus. We can then sing and dance again, fearless and free!
I leave you with these three verses:
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.”
“Such confidence we have through Christ for God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”
2 Corinthians 3:4-5
“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of unity among Christians. If you’ve listened to a handful of sermons, you’ve probably heard some teaching on how God wants us to be unified as a church, a body of believers representing Jesus. But what does that mean? What does it look like in our daily lives? This has got the wheels in my head turning…
Let’s look back to Genesis 11, to the story of the Tower of Babel. The people came together and decided they would build a tower that reaches the heavens, to make a name for themselves. God saw what they were doing and said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6). So He intervened by confusing their languages so they couldn’t understand each other, thus incapable of accomplishing what they had set out to do. Granted, the people’s intentions were not honourable, but even God acknowledged the power of their unity. He said Himself that they would be able to succeed in anything they decided to do, when they decided to do it together. How much more can WE, as believers, accomplish when we join in unity?
Throughout my life, I’ve heard many conversations about the need to be unified but we often don’t know what to do next. It’s unlikely we will all agree on every theological detail or that we will have the same opinions about various ministries. So how are we to be unified?
There is one thing that we can be undeniably unified about, across all churches and denominations, and that is the need to show Jesus to a lost world.
“I in them and You in Me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me. John 17:23
When we are functioning in unity with one another, the world will see Jesus. When we are not living as a unified body, this presents a confusing Jesus. We may say with our words that Jesus loves and saves, heals and restores, but if all the world sees are Christians arguing with each other, intolerant of differences, and hopeless under the stresses of life, this behaviour will speak much louder. So what can we do? Take some time to read Romans 12. You will find much of the answer there!
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:16
Living in harmony is a great concept. Harmony means to be in agreement with one another and to join different components together to create something even better, such as a musical chord. In a chord, the notes are different but when played in unison they make a beautiful sound. When we look at the common goal of showing God’s love to the world, we cannot forget Paul’s teaching on the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8), and how we are not the same but all part of one body. We do not have the same functions but we work together, using the gifts we have been given, to the show the world who Jesus really is.
“So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13
We may feel the urge to exclude our responsibility from this verse because we are not pastors. We may not be pastors of a church but we are certainly evangelists and teachers for Christ. And as such, we should be looking for ways to encourage each other to use our gifts. Some are great musicians, so let’s be intentional to give them opportunities to use their musical talent to minister to others. Some are great conversationalists and can make anyone feel welcome and loved. Let’s give them opportunities to chat and connect with people! Some love to bake and it does their heart good to whip up something delicious for a person in need of care. Some love to fix things and take care of those that may have repairs they can’t afford. Some are great administrators and would flourish if left in charge of organizing an event for the community. Friends, let’s start to get creative. How do you and your brothers and sisters in Christ want to show Jesus to others? When you think of showing love to another, what are the ideas that come to your mind? They are probably different from someone else’s ideas because they stem from your own passions and how you would serve others best. Let’s start creating opportunities where we can all minister in the ways God has equipped us. Not everyone fits the same mould, and thank God we don’t!
The opportunities are endless and I’m getting excited just writing about it! So here’s my challenge, for you and for myself. Take some time today to think and pray about the gifts and abilities God has given you. Do not downplay yourself, friends. You have much to offer in the body of Christ and to those around you. Also, take some time to think about the gifts God has given those around you. There is probably quite a variety and you can rest assured that God has designed it that way intentionally to meet the needs of your community. Start asking the Holy Spirit to show you ways that you can use your abilities to minister to others and how you can encourage your brothers and sisters to do the same. Be prepared! God will likely give you amazing ideas you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. Lastly, when He speaks to you…obey. Have faith and step out. He’s with you, friend.
I believe that having eyes to see each other’s gifts and a servant’s heart to reach those in need will help immensely to unify our church. That unity will break down walls of hurt and isolation and it will allow us to show Jesus to the world, the true Jesus.
Love and blessings,
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you, I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:25
I have probably read it a thousand times but never before did I notice, and really get the meaning, do not let. What struck me is that we have a choice to make. It means that we can decide whether or not we want to be full of peace or to live in fear.
In a movie I watched with my children, they recounted an old proverb about two wolves warring inside of us. In the proverb, one wolf is good and the other wolf is evil. Which one wins? The one you feed. It occurred to me, the same is true with peace and unrest, which one will win? The one that you’re feeding. Always.
The Bible tells us “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) We can choose the way we walk through life by choosing to think on the right things. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are circumstances in life that can completely overwhelm and frighten us, I’ve been through a few. But I can also say, that looking back, it was the thought processes I was going through that “fed the wolf”.
Q: How then do we feed the right wolf?
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
A: By being in constant communication with the One who grants true peace!
We are to praise Him and thank Him knowing that He’s working on our behalf in a realm we can’t see with our eyes, but He can give us assurance in our hearts. That’s the feeling of peace that surpasses all understanding. I’ve known that in some pretty real times. I remember one night just after my daughter’s first open heart surgery, when she was still very sick. A serious ‘code’ was called for the unit she was in, I was in our room trying to get some sleep, and when I heard that my heart was filled with fear. I thought for sure that she was the reason for the call, as she had been the previous night, and that we were once again facing the loss of our five- day old baby girl. I laid down on the bed, completely distraught, and prayed. I told the Lord my deepest fears, emptied myself of the terror I was feeling, and He replaced it with a beautiful peace, one that I could not have manufactured on my own. It was a divine exchange.
“I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
His very desire is to give you peace in rest, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, if you make the choice to let Him work.
Fight or flight.
All throughout the Bible, there are examples of how God’s people reacted when a conflict arose. Sometimes they entered into the battle and fought and sometimes they didn’t.
All around us are reasons to take up a cause. Injustice, neglect, abuse, discrimination and the like. We see it all over our news and social media.
For me, it is the issues surrounding child welfare that I am most passionate about. What are you passionate about?
And when a conflict arises I pick my battles.
Sometimes I fight. Like Joshua and his army conquering the enemy for the Promised Land, clinging to and armed with God’s instructions, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7
Sometimes I don’t. Like King Jehoshaphat, I heed a similar direction, “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ’Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” 2 Chronicles 20:15 “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’” 2 Chronicles 20:17
My engagement in the battle is not based on my passion; for that never seems to change for me.
Knowing which action to take is directed by God’s instructions to me in that specific situation.
Clearly discerning God’s direction is guided by Scripture, like those below and not acted on until I experience His Peace about the direction:
Victories can be lost when we choose to fight battles we are not supposed to and be silent when we should be shouting our battle cry.
Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters. I will be with you. When you go through rivers difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
Last week the world was shocked and saddened by the suicides of two well -known celebrities, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. By all appearances, they had it all; wealth, success, and popularity. But in the end did it matter? Something was lacking and now they are gone leaving their loved ones behind to grieve their loss to somehow find a way to go on and function without them. I think especially of their young daughters, thirteen and eleven. How sad and tragic for them. I would imagine they feel abandoned, betrayed. Alone. It’s a hurt I imagine they will carry for the rest of their lives.
We live in such a broken world. How sad is it that those who take their lives see that as the only option. The only way out…the only escape from their inner turmoil. How sad is that that people feel unseen, that no one cares, that everyone would be better off if they were gone.
Psalm 34: 17,18 The Lord hears his people when they cry out to him. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken hearted and he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.
Life can be dark at times. When things seem hopeless, there IS hope in Him. I think of the children that we minister to week in and week out. If you could see where they live and knew their family life, you would think things seem pretty hopeless. There’s the little boy who was rough housing with his classmates a few days ago when a button popped off his shirt. The tears streamed down his face. Crying….not because of losing a button or two, but for the beating he would receive when he got home. Then there is the six month old baby who lives with his mom and other relatives in a tiny wooden structure on a hill directly alongside the stairs going up to a school. I think of his mom, the sadness in her eyes. I pray for them both, that they come to know the love of their heavenly father who cares for them and whose lives matter to Him, even if by all accounts their situation seems pretty bleak.
Isaiah 49:15,16 Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has born? Even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
These kids, the ones we see week in and week out are not forgotten. God sees them. He loves them. He cares. He cares about their brokenness. The things they face each day. He cares if they are abused or sick or in pain. His thoughts for them outnumber the sands in the ocean. Their names are engraved on the palms of his hands. He is the God who sees. He is the one who made them, the one who formed their hearts and he knows everything about them.
Psalm 139: 17a How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them, they outnumber the grains of sand!
If I am to be completely honest, I have struggled with feelings of anxiety and discouragement, with feelings of not being good enough and at times not feeling heard. I’ve struggled with loneliness on and off since moving to Honduras. And, I don’t know your situation. Perhaps you are feeling alone and at the end of your rope. Maybe you feel like giving up, throwing in the towel. Please don’t. Please reach out to someone. There are people who love you and who care. And God. God is there. Even in our darkest moments, we are never alone. He is always there. He is walking us through the storms and the valleys, through life’s highs and lows and never, ever giving up on us.
Matthew 28:8 And be sure of this…I am with you always, even until the end of the age.
A tribute to my husband, Nathan Hill, the amazing Daddy of our four treasures.
During the long, agonizing years we spent trying to conquer fertility issues, I often wondered what my husband would be like as a Daddy. I daydreamed about being pregnant and how he would be during the labor and delivery processes. Most of all, I wondered what he would do— how he would react, when the doctor placed a brand new baby into his arms for the very first time— our baby.
525,600 is the number of minutes that are in one year. As I mentioned above we had difficulty conceiving. It turns out our patience was tested and over two million minutes passed between the moment my hubby and I decided to start a family— and the moment that we held our firstborn in our arms. That is a lot of time when you are passionately waiting for something to happen.
I remember the day our son Ben entered the world, so vividly. Watching the nurse hand my husband our first little one, this little man that was a piece of each of us, was maybe the very best moment of my whole life.
Most certainly worth the long wait.
About six million minutes have passed since we began this journey called parenthood, and I can say without reservation that my husband has proven to be one of the best dads that I know. Not only does he care immeasurably for our four children, he loves them fiercely, and he extends more patience than most people are capable of.
My husband, my kids Daddy, embraces every moment he has with our children and makes every effort to be intentional with his time with them. Time is fleeting and is often the very thing we take most for granted.
A few years ago my husband purposed we set aside every Tuesday (for date night) and every Friday (for family night). Aside from the fact that he prioritized these weekly events in our budget, the greatest gift my husband has ever given myself or his children is the gift of his time. We never wonder about the next time we will get to spend with him because he is consistent and devoted to each one of us.
While so many of us are wishing time away in anticipation for something great to arrive or an event to take place, or while others are griping away that time stands still, I hope that you’ll be inspired by my husbands intentionality and simply enjoy every single minute that you have with your children. With your loved ones.
Time is truly an invaluable gift.