This woman’s blog was one of the first I ever read and she’s never stopped being a mentor to me. Karen Ehman and I have prayed for and cheered each other on as neighbors across the Canada/Michigan border raising kids, loving our husbands, and trying our best to tap out words on the keyboard that will glorify God and help his people. Her latest words are a follow-up devotional to her New York Times Best-Seller about our mouths, Zip It! will empower us to use our speech to bless, not to badger; to encourage, not to embitter; to praise, not to pounce. I’ve invited Karen to pull up a chair on the farm’s porch today. (And be sure to read to the end to find out about her #DoingLentTogether community on Facebook who, instead of giving up chocolate, are giving up using their words wrongly.)
Quick….think about your bedroom closet.
Is it orderly and clutter-free, reminiscent of a Pinterest pin from a professional organizer?
Or does it appear more like a clothing bomb recently went off sending shoes, sweaters, and other apparel flying about?
And how did you select the articles you find hanging inside? Did you meticulously select, buy on a sudden impulse, or inherit an item as a well-worn hand-me-down?
When it comes time to weed out your closet, how do you determine whether to keep something or pass it on to Goodwill? Sometimes these decisions are so difficult that one prominent organizational expert has made oodles of cash giving advice on the sorting process using one pithy four-word question:
“Does it spark joy?”
Thoughts that go into our heart closets are very much like these clothes; sometimes carefully chosen and sorted. Other times they’re rumpled and dirty hand-me-downs that we toss haphazardly into the corner.
In fact, we make additions to our heart closets way more often than we do our real closet.
Here is how it might go:
When we see something on Facebook about a friend, we develop a thought about them.
When we goof up and miss a meeting, an opinion about our self goes into our heart closet. When we read the Bible and soak up the Scriptures, more thoughts take up residence.
Then later, when it is time to verbally respond, something finally comes out of the closet. At this moment, it’s as if we are making a decision on what we will wear.
If you are asked, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” chances are you already have plenty of phrases in your word-robe to choose from.
For decades you’ve been depositing thoughts—both true and false.
The responses you will choose are already hanging inside, defining who you think you are. There’s no time to quick buy something new or toss away an old item. You must respond promptly. And when you do, you’ll select something you added to your word-robe closet at some point in time.
Moses had to select from his word-robe when God told him to go speak to Pharaoh.
God had already spoken to him in a burning bush, turned his staff into a snake and back again, and afflicted—and then healed—his hand of leprosy. These miraculous acts should have deposited grand thoughts of “God is awesome,” “God can do anything,” and “God will be with me” into his heart, but instead Moses pulled out this ugly, faith-lacking response:
“Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10)
He selected an unflattering garment that he’d been wearing for years, adorned with a cut-rate label of “poor speaker.”
He responded by using thoughts about His weaknesses instead of thoughts about God’s strength. His heart-closet contained so many ill-fitting assumptions that he was unable to quickly don the name-brand truths from his Creator and Designer, Yahweh.
So what does God do? God responds to Moses by speaking about Himself. Not about Moses.
“The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11-12 (NIV)
You’ve heard the phrase, “Think before you speak”? This is almost good advice. Many times we have already been thinking before we speak.
The question is, is it a truthful thought you are thinking before you speak?
What good is it to think before you speak if your thoughts are shaped by self-deprecating lies or inaccurate views of God’s power?
Here is what is good and helpful: We must think truth before speaking. Even better, we must think truth about God.
What we think about God (and about our self!) forms a little at a time over a long period of time. Just like our bedroom closet contains items from many different seasons (or sizes) in life, our heart-closet will house a word-robe we’ve fashioned over the course of our life.
Word-robe building begins with all the thoughts we buy into.
Have you gone shopping lately in the Designer department?
Have you had your beliefs tailored by the Master to fit and flatter and shape your unique character?
If you had to reach into your heart closet and put on the very best promise of God during one of the biggest responses of your life, what would it be?
What words would be hanging in there waiting to be worn?
Today, purpose to put on the promises of the Master Designer.
They will be sure to spark joy. They will be tailored to your unique personhood. And most importantly…
They will look fabulous on you.
Karen Ehman is a New York Times bestselling author, Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, and writer for Encouragement for Today an online devotional that reaches over 4 million women daily.
Want help in watching your words? Grab a copy of Zip It! The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge where you will find that each of the forty interactive entries includes a Scripture verse focus for the day, a story or teaching point, and reflection questions with space for readers to write their answers and thoughts. Zip It empowers readers to put into action the advice and commands of Scripture concerning the tongue. And be sure to get the details about a Facebook group where for 40 days during lent Karen Ehman will be leading a group that will be doing Lent together. The members of this community won’t be giving up chocolate or chips, but instead will give up using our words wrongly! A book for this season: Zip It! The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]