Week Two: PRAYER

Written by: Monique Pye

Heavenly Father,

We come before you today, and we thank you for this week’s teaching. We ask that you would help us to put into practice what we’ve learned and apply it in our everyday lives.

Lord, help us to live out the words of the verse in James “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

As we go about our days, may we be reminded of the key points of this week’s study. Help us to know when to not speak too much, not speak too soon, not speak without listening first, and in certain situations, not speak at all.

Lord as we interact with one another, help us to perfect the art of pause. I pray there would be an opportunity to sort out our thoughts before we let out our words. May we hold our tongues to assess the situation before pronouncing any judgement. I ask Lord, that you would help us to really listen and give careful attention to the words and feelings that others express. And may we also learn to listen to you Lord. May we not talk so much that we can’t hear you. Help us to know what we should and shouldn’t say. May we perfect the art of listening, as our tongues can’t get us into trouble if we sit quietly and really listen to what others are saying. May this bring an opportunity to ask you how to respond, and may there be a time to ask you what it is you’d like us to say instead of only expressing our own opinions. Help us to make an effort to really listen to others and may we “pause before we pounce”.

Lord, we’ve learned through these chapters, that more prayer leads to less gossip, so we commit to take time to pray more often. That in every situation and every circumstance, we will find time to quiet ourselves and pray. May we make it our priority to seek you and soak up the truths of your scripture. May we experience a calmed heart after spending time with you. A calm that helps us speak in a hushed tone, and may we not be harsh or easily angered. As we read your word, shape our hearts as it keeps us on the path of knowledge. May we know your truth and your words of instruction and may we not stray from your wise way.

As we prepare for another week of this study, I pray that we ready our hearts to receive more of your word.

I ask all these things in your Mighty name,

AMEN

Chapter FIVE: Tenderhearted and Tough Skinned

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

I like this to a phrase my pastor often used when I was a teenager. He said that most people tend to have hard hearts and thin skins, but we as followers of Jesus should be different. Instead, we should be tenderhearted and tough skinned.Such wonderful advice. When we harden our hearts and let every little offence poke a hole in our happiness, we only hurt ourselves. We are slurping on a smoothie of poison and don’t even know it. But when we soften our hearts with love for others, and toughen our skins against their barbs, we are better equipped to show the compassionate love of Jesus to a watching world.” — Karen Ehman, Keep It Shut, pg. 93

Believing the Best
The paragraph just above the quote I shared with you is such an important perspective to live by. Karen shares a rule that Lysa TerKeurst has implemented in the offices of Proverbs 31 Ministries and it goes like this: “…When a conflict arises or our feathers get ruffled, we shouldn’t automatically jump to the conclusion that the other person meant us ill, but give them the benefit of the doubt. Not assume the worst, but believe the best about their motives.

Now, I don’t know about you…but there are days when I have trouble with believing the best about people even in the absence of conflict. There are just some people who’s personalities do more colliding with mine than meshing, you know? That doesn’t mean that I ever blurt out the worst that my heart conjures up. But, that’s just it. My heart has conjured up the ugliness, and the ugliness is not righteous or Godly.

I know I need God’s strength and help to overcome those thoughts and help me to work towards having a heart that instead believes the best. And, I believe it’s that simple. The bible says that Jesus is as close as the mention of His name. (Psalm 145:18) When I recognize that my heart is believing the worst, I will ask God to help turn my thoughts to the best instead.

We Must Be Diligent to Weigh Our Own Hearts
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
In addition to calling on Jesus when we recognize that our hearts are producing things that are not Godly, we must do our own homework as well. We must, must, must guard our hearts. What we consume when we eat affects our physical bodies. In the same way, what we are (or are not) consuming in our spiritual lives affects our hearts. It is imperative that we spend time each day with the Lord, making every effort to guard our heart. What flows from my heart is certainly indicative of what I have been putting in to it.

Give Grace to Those Who Speak Ill of Us
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Colossians 4:6
If you’ve believed the best but the worst has still been the reality — please, give more grace. It feels backwards, I understand that, but it is truly what the Lord requires of us. And, Jesus lived this example beautifully time and time again. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.

If you can’t remember anything else from today’s message, remember this: Just give grace.

Week Two: HEART VERSE


Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Welcome back!  I hope you were successful in memorizing last week’s verse and that as you prayed for wisdom in all your spoken and digital interactions with others you achieved an outward flow of grace and love.  For anyone joining our study this week, our Weekly Heart Verse from last week was found in Ecclesiastes 10:2.  Feel free to add it to your memorization of scripture for this week.

Today, let’s head over to Page 75 of Karen Ehman’s book, “Keep it Shut,” where we will find our Weekly Heart Verse listed on the “Top Ten Verses to Help You Watch Your Words.”

This week’s heart verse is found in Psalms 141:3 and says:

“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

This is a great verse to START each day with!  An important reminder from the moment our feet hit the floor, as we roll out of our cozy beds, to set our mouths in the right direction before we utter our first words of the day.  James 3:5-7 says this:

“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.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

Wow!  James just really comes out of the gate and tells it like it is!  And he is right!  Our tongues get us into so much trouble!  We, in our own strength and with our good intentions, cannot tame our tongues and need divine help from our heavenly Father.

A great way to tuck Psalm 141:3 deep into your heart and mind is to scan/photocopy a headshot of yourself and blow it up to almost life size.  Affix the image to your bathroom mirror and over your mouth, on the image, put a sticky note with this week’s verse written on it.  When you enter your bathroom each morning, which is usually the first pitstop right out of bed, you will see this tangible reminder.  Pray the verse out loud as you look at yourself in the mirror and ask the Lord to set your mouth on the right track for the day.  Couple this with asking for the wisdom we learned about last week and you are good to go!

Chapter FOUR: Prayer Requests and the News Feed

Written by: Nathan Hill

Have you ever taken a look at the prayer bulletin at your church? I am not sure if your church still does this, but many churches will have a comprehensive list of all the prayer needs associated with church members and adherents printed in their bulletin each week. The idea behind this is to help the congregation know how to pray for each other and to help the prayer team and prayer meetings to be more focused.

I wonder, however, if anything would change if we called this list the weekly news feed instead of the prayer bulletin? If you have an account with Facebook—almost 2 billion people do—you will be familiar with the concept of the news feed. Each time when you log on to Facebook, you get to see a detailed list of everything that your friends have posted throughout the day. And, by some complicated algorithm, Facebook just seems to know what content will draw you in the most. For many people, even people savvy with the Internet and their time, the Facebook news feed can draw them in and keep them captive for far longer than they realize.

My point is this—does the prayer bulletin function as an information update on everyone’s lives that will then pass through the daily conversations of many people, or does the prayer bulletin function as a tool with which we actually sit down and pray? I’ve noticed that prayer bulletins are usually vague and centre around requests for healing from physical conditions. Rarely would I read, “Mr. and Mrs. B request prayer for their marriage” or “Mr. M requests prayer for his struggles with pornography.” These are valid prayer requests, but we would rarely see them in a prayer bulletin. I understand the desire for privacy, but I also wonder if this is because the prayer bulletin might function more as an information update and weekly conversation tool than an actual prayer tool.

Karen Ehman encourages us this week to zip it and pray—talk with God before others. That may be easier said than done. Some of us like to share other people’s news under the guise of a “prayer request” because this helps them to feel justified in sharing the information. Be careful about this:

Proverbs 10:19 “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”

Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” Daniel was a man of prayer, and we see in his life that he was able to maintain a strict diet and religious routine even while living in a foreign country. Moreover, he had the peace about him that God would deliver him from all adversity…and even if God did not, he would not relinquish his faith.

There is a place for talking with others—the Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. But here is something wise that I often share with my children when they are prone to tattling: Tell me about you, not about someone else. I challenge you to share your deepest prayer requests with others before you share news about other people—I bet this will help you to zip it and pray more often.

Week TWO Teaching: Cyberspace Playground Rules (Ch 4-6)

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Good morning and welcome to week two, WAHD OBSers!

In the case you are just joining us, let me first say that we are journeying through the book “Keep It Shut” by Karen Ehman in our little online community and there IS still time to join us. Last week (September 4-10) we discussed chapters one, two and three. This week (September 11-17) we will take a look at chapters four, five and six!

Last week in my post I shared some practical ways in which keeping an appointment with Jesus every day has helped me to live a life that is fuller and more at peace. I shared some face-to-face moments with you in a video that I recorded from my bathroom because my house was booming with the laughter of over a dozen children (No, not all mine) thus proving the reason I very much need to be intentional about claiming my time with Him.

This week I would like to draw your attention to chapter six, specifically. Starting on page 102, Karen shares with us ‘Rules for the Cyberspace Playground’ and they are SO good, I wanted to make a point of going over a few of the ones that have grabbed my attention personally.

First of all, let me start by saying that I believe the internet and social media has and does serve as an invaluable tool on such a large scale. The people my team and I have been able to reach with the messages that God has given to us would not have been a possibility if it weren’t for both of these resources. But of course, if not used wisely, the internet and social media can be as dangerous than the largest and most powerful weaponry – or worse.

Our words. They hold great power and responsibility, friends.

Let’s review what Karen shares with us in chapter six about the rules for the cyberspace playground:

  1. Pray before you post
  2. Imagine the recipient sitting next to you
  3. Remember when you’re online, you’re also on stage
  4. Ask yourself if you’ve earned the right to address the subject at hand
  5. Ask yourself if you have a close enough relationship with the person to warrant offering your opinion
  6. When you do speak, let your speech be laced with grace

Let me zone in on number two for a moment. Imagine the recipient sitting next to you. I think that thinking otherwise is where so many of us get into trouble. It is so much easier to have your speech laced with grace when you are face-to-face. Just having the person in front of you provides a sense of accountability of its own. Likewise, it seems we get careless and clumsy when speaking to each other online. Intention and tone are missing when we speak via a screen, so we need to be ever-mindful of our reactions when responding to others online.

Number five really resonated in my heart as well. Ask Yourself if you have a close enough relationship with the person to warrant offering your opinion. Let me say this as kindly as possible: Being Facebook friends does not give you permission to speak into someone’s life. It just doesn’t. There has got to be a greater depth before you offer your opinion. If you spend time with the person on a regular basis, then perhaps your opinion should be voiced, but do put a voice to it. Take the person out for a coffee and share your heart in person, not online.

Karen has hit a home run with these six cyberspace playground rules. Thank you, Karen. If you haven’t read them over yet, PLEASE do! They are useful for anyone who uses social media or communicates via a screen.

In the comments below, please share TWO things:
1.  Which cyberspace rule you plan to work on?
2.  Which cyberspace rule you find is most often broken in your online community?

CHALLENGE ONE: Overcome A Challenge

 

Written by: Cindy Morrone

As we now meet with Jesus regularly in our own personal sanctuaries, enveloped in His Word and by the convictions of the Holy Spirit; amazing things start to happen.

This is just the start, my friends!  Let’s not just be attentive to the leading of God during our intentional times with Him but at all times; all throughout our day.

Karen, in Chapter 1, urges us to “…do it all with an attitude of openness that continues throughout the day. Be attentive to the Holy Spirit’s whispers to you—keep silent if that is the Spirit’s leading.  Or open your mouth and allow the words he is whispering and urging you to say to come out in your own sweet little voice.  It isn’t easy. It takes effort.”  (page 19)

Ready for Keep It Shut, Challenge #1?

Let’s read over pages 30-37 and take our cues from Joseph.  Notice Karen’s 8 learning points she has taken from Joseph’s life story.

Identify which one of these cues is your biggest challenge.  And in your meetings with the Lord, ask Him how He can help you with this challenge.

My page 39 is highlighted and underlined from the top to the bottom with Karen’s teaching on how to help us, Keep It Shut.  One word, my friends, one word……Grace. Grace. And more Grace!

Resist our urge to lash out? Yes! Bite down on our tongues? Yes! Do the right thing? Yes! Show Grace?!! Yes, and Yes!

Why?

“When we lace our words with grace, healing happens.” (page 39)

Post it!  We love to hear from you!  Share your biggest challenge from the cues from Joseph # 1-8 and how God helped you address and overcome this challenge this week!  There is so much learning in the sharing!

Chapter Three: Perfect the Art of the Pause

Written by: Angela Mercer

Chapter 3

I have never been good with pausing. Whether it is thinking through a solution or pausing in a game for the right strategy. In fact, I am so not good at pausing that my co-worker has called me “shot-gun Ange” at times, and we have joked that “it is a good thing that shot-gun isn’t loaded”! I can be trigger-happy. I like to make snap decisions and “get it done”.

I also like to talk. If I could bring you back to my childhood you would say that I have learned the art of the pause more then I think I have. I used to talk A LOT.

Early on in our marriage my mom once asked me if I was doing OK. She noticed that I just wasn’t as talkative as I used to be. I was actually doing just fine. I had just learned to not monopolize all the conversations. But compared to some people, I still do talk a lot.

My closest friend is very quiet. Until I get her in a car, for a long drive and we get talking about something she is passionate about, she is very quiet. This has been really eye opening for me to understand that people can just be less talkative. They have fewer words to speak in a day. At one time this would have made me very uncomfortable. I feel like people are having a good time when there is lots of conversation. During youth ministry days if I was in a carload of kids and it was quiet I would have assumed they were not having a good time and try to do something to encourage chatter. Now, I realize that chatter isn’t necessarily an indication that people are having a good time. People can be having a good time AND be quiet!

What my friend has also taught me is that if I want to hear her heart, know more about her and what is going on in her world, I need to pause. People who talk a lot and always have something to say can be very quick to monopolize conversation. When there is a pause it makes us uncomfortable and we feel we need to fill in the gap. However, when we do that, we may never really get to know our friends. I love how Karen Ehman references “heart drops”. One of her leaders taught that heart drops are “when someone drops a hint about something deeper going on without coming right out and saying it”. That really impacted me. I wonder how many times I have missed something a friend was trying to tell me because they didn’t have the courage to come right out with it. If I was really listening I may not have missed it.

What’s even worse is we take this same approach to our relationship with God. We get so good at doing all the talking we forget to just listen. To pause. And if I want to know His heart, and what He wants me to do, I have to perfect the art of the pause so that I can hear Him.

Just recently I was driving to someone’s house for coffee and I knew that conversation was going to get heavy. I was already starting to rehearse some of the conversation in my head and I was getting ahead of myself. I began to pray and ask God to guard my mouth. To keep it shut unless I was supposed to say something. I asked him to give me grace and mercy and that I would only say what He wanted me to say. We had such a great conversation that day and God totally clothed me in His grace.

I am learning that at the end of the day, my opinion doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that the people I am with know my love and support. I pray that I will learn to approach every conversation this way. It is a beautiful thing and I believe God is honoured when we do this. I would hate to miss something my friend has to say because I was going on about something that doesn’t matter – just to fill a gap of awkward silence. We need to get comfortable in the silence. We need to become friends with the pause. We’ll never know what we may hear next.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion. Proverbs 18:2 (NRSV)

Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak …  James 1:19

Week One: PRAYER

Written by: Monique Pye

Heavenly Father,

We come before you and we thank you for the opportunity to be able to come together and study this book as it teaches us your truth about how to use our words.

We know that the power of the tongue can be death and life (Proverbs 18:21), so Lord, we ask you to help us each day to use our words well and wisely! Words are powerful and they have consequences, so I pray that we are not quick to speak. Help us Lord, to take a moment before we open our mouths and to reflect on what we are about to say. We know that “it only takes a spark to get a fire going”.

Your word tells us in Luke 6:45 that the mouth speaks what the heart is full. Our words are intentional and come from the heart, so Lord I ask that you would give us wisdom and help us use our words in a way that will encourage others and please you. From our hearts, to our lips, may it bring you glory. Remind us that every word spoken has an impact and that we need to learn to speak in love, truth, and may it honor you. Be at work in our hearts as we continue to work through this book and learn all about what the bible teaches us on how to speak to one another.

I’m reminded of your word in Philippians 2, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Lord, may every word that comes out of our mouths please you! In our homes, at work, at school, at church, wherever we are, in every situation we want to honor you. May our words be a “sweet sound in your ear”.

As your word says in Psalm 86, “You Lord are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Let that be an example to us of how we are to act and respond to others. Let our conversation always be full of grace (Colossians 4:6) and may we lavish love through our speech. Help us to mirror you in the way we communicate with others. May we be an example of your love and may all that comes from our mouth be laced with grace.

As we continue through this book, open our hearts to receive all that you have in store for us.

I ask all these things in your Mighty Name,

AMEN

Chapter Two: Squabbles, Spats and Such

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Before we open our mouths, we need to think about not only to whom we’re speaking but also what they may be dealing with at the time and how the news may impact them.” — Karen Ehman, Keep It Shut, pg. 31

In chapter two Karen reminds of of the story of Joseph and how simply sharing his God-given dreams with his brothers caused them to stumble. She shares some incredibly wise points to think about when sharing our dreams and failures with family, friends and other necessary people in our lives. To recap those points:

  1. Beware of bragging — and the impact your good news could have on others.
  2. Say what honours God, not what other people want to hear.
  3. Realize that lies are the minuscule snowflakes in a monumental snowball.
  4. Give God credit where credit is due.
  5. Watch your words in the workplace.
  6. Just because you have a reason to retaliate does not mean you’re justified in doing so.
  7. Don’t be God.
  8. Do be nice.

The quote I shared at the beginning of this post is something I have had to learn myself over and over again. I’ve learned the art of obeying to the Holy Spirit on whether to share or not to share a piece of information with the person I am speaking to. There have been times when God has placed something incredibly exciting on my heart, but I was not given the green light to share for a time. Other times, when I have had personal struggles, he also has impressed on me specifically who is safe to share with and to whom I must steer clear.

Three things I know to be true:

1. You need to know who you are speaking to.
Yes, it is true. You must know your audience. If you’re telling information that is not supposed to be shared, simply put — don’t tell someone with loose lips.
“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” Proverbs 26:20

2. You don’t know what the person is dealing with or how your news will impact them.
Be so careful to share only as the Holy Spirit leads, friends. Even good news can crush a person’s spirit. Be in tune with the Holy Spirit in such a way that you know when He is giving a green light to share as well as when He is giving the red light to withhold.
“They are dismayed for they have heard bad news. Their courage melts because they have heard bad news.” Jeremiah 49:23

3. You may never know what a person is dealing with, and you need to be ok with that.
The Holy Spirit may not give you the ok to share your news with someone because of a personal struggle that only He knows. We need to do better at being ok with not knowing all the details of others lives and simply following the leading of His Holy Spirit.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own within them. In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11

Let’s use our mouths to honour God and our people. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment but let’s do our best to be better. Being intentional about first checking with the Holy Spirit on what or what not to share could make all the difference in someone’s life.

Week One: HEART VERSE

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Each week I have the honour and privilege of sharing with you our Weekly Heart Verse.  An opportunity to highlight a scripture in our study of Karen Ehman’s book, “Keep It Shut,” and share scripture memorization techniques with you.

King David wrote in Psalm 119:11, “Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against you.”  To hide God’s Word in our hearts is so key when it comes to the topic of this study, as our goal should always be to speak with wisdom, purity and to uplift.  Actively and intentionally memorizing the scriptures to follow will help you in moments when you are tempted to speak out of turn or with sinful intent.

I would like to draw your attention to Page 75 where you will find the “Top Ten Verses to Help You Watch Your Words.”  Each week we will focus on one verse from this list and I would encourage you to use the scripture memorization techniques I share to help you tuck these scriptures away in your hearts.

So, let’s get started!

This week’s heart verse is found in Ecclesiastes 10:2 (see Page 75).

“Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.”

I felt this was a great place to start; to focus our minds on the importance of using wisdom in all our spoken/digital interactions with people.  We need to know when, what, and how to speak and when, what, and how not to speak.  The book of Proverbs, on countless occasions, implores us to pray for wisdom and shares that God will give it to us when we ask.  We need to begin each day by asking God to help us in our communication with others.

A great technique to learn a short, but important little verse like this, is to simply write it out each day in your prayer journal and underneath it write a small prayer asking God for wisdom in your speech and that it will be filled with grace as you interact with others.  Writing out scripture repeatedly will help to reinforce it in your mind.  At the end of the week look back over the scripture and prayers you wrote out each day and record how God helped you through the week!