Monday, October 25, 2010

Taming the Tongue...Are you up for the Challenge?

I've been thinking a lot about words lately -- my own and those of others. Beautiful words are like exquisite music;, misspoken ones are like fingernails screeching across a chalkboard. Appropriate speech heals; abusive speech destroys.

Like many people who love to talk, I've opined when it would have been better for me to be silent. I've sent more than my share of needless syllables into the universe. Some of those have been hurtful. It may not have been my overt intention to cut someone's heart, but my inappropriate speech reflected something inconsiderate within me. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Why am I so focused on words right now? As the November elections approach, there are a lot of words flying around right now. We hear about tiffs between various pundits, between pundits and their bosses, and between politicians. We hear pundits and politicians hurl insults at voters, and we hear voters hurl insults at politicians and pundits. We've hear "comedians" and other public figures state that anyone who believes in God must have a deficiency in intelligence. We see people violate the privacy of the grieving by using funerals as a platform to express political and religious statements. We listen to "news" which consists of someone in the public sphere making a "statement" of some kind, which is followed by hours and hours of people judging and analyzing the statement,which is followed by hours of people judging the words of the people who were judging the statement, and so forth, until we forget what the original statement was all about. We watched political ads that attack opposing candidates and hear analyses of these ads. Just to keep things interesting, we are fed our doses of celebrity gossip.

All of us are involved in the "public dialogue" in some way. We chat at work. We blog. We talk to spouses and children. We shoot the breeze with neighbors. We fellowship with friends at church. We vote as members or officers of organizations. Even if we keep our conversations apolitical, as I try to do, we influence others in the topics we do talk about.

Whether we talk to one person at a time or whether we broadcast to millions, our words build others up up or they tear others down. Gossip is gossip whether we dish the dirt about our neighbor or whether we cluck about the a famous celebutante. We do harm when we lash out at our spouse and we do harm when we lash out at political opponents, rather than engage in respectful dialogue. On the other hand, we encourage and influence others through positive, reasonable conversation.

Positive speech is not synonymous with sweet speech. There are times when it is necessary to speak truth, even though someone does not want to hear it, and, rarely, there are times to speak with truly righteous indignation. However, even in these times, we can do our best to communicate our respect and concern for our listener(s).

When under pressure, it's not always easy to engage in speech that both conveys one's own conviction and yet that also communicates respect for someone of an opposing view. It's also not easy to speak always in a way that inspires, ra

rather than in a way that brings others down. I don't think that I could withstand the constant scrutiny that public figures are under today without at least once episode of foot in mouth disease. Even in my small, private life, I've blown it enough to know how easily it is to misspeak. Yet, shouldn't we all aspire to inspire and convey conviction with respect in our communication? To that end, we will need help in taming our tongues.

So, I ask myself, what would happen if every person in the United States, myself included, paid more attention to these three perfect pieces of advice?

1) Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. James 1:19

2) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4: 29

3) If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging is patient; love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. it is not proud. It is not rude. it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protect, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13.

What do you think? What would our lives be like if we all always kept these commands in mind? Would the results be more peace in our world? More love? More respect? Of course, these three verses are from God's word -- not God's word as people imagine it in order to fit some personal or political agenda, but as He actually inspired it.

Taming the tongue isn't easy. I know that from experience. But, it's our only hope if we want to speak in ways that yield results, rather than to create more tension and turmoil. How about you? Are you up for taking the challenge for me? Are you willing to spend the next thirty days thinking about these three commands from God's word and letting them be guides for your heart and your tongue?


Friday, October 22, 2010

“It is a good idea sometimes to think of the importance and dignity of our every-day duties. It keeps them from being so tiresome; besides, others are apt take us at our own valuation.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let's Get Organized --
Otherwise Known as "Save This Messy Traveler"

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently found myself struggling to find things in a messy suitcase. Though I had packed in what I thought was an orderly fashion, my system of order was no match for the following:

1) During part of our trip we had no room to hang things or put things away in drawers.
2) I packed around the "core wardrobe" theory, which meant that I needed to use key wardrobe items more than once on the trip. So, even though I packed in approximate order of when I would wear outfits, it was impossible to do so completely.
3) We stayed busy (a happy busy), and I fell into bed at night without taking the time to tidy my suitcase each night.
4) My husband and I ended up re-distributing things between our two suitcases a) to make room for a very few gifts we brought back and b) to avoid a baggage charge going back. We incurred on coming down because we were one pound over the limit.
So, what could I have done to have improved things? I'll suggest a couple of ideas. If you have some tips for me, please comment, as well.

1) I could have used dividers, travel bags, packing cubes, or even pieces of cardboard to separate the layers in my suitcase. That way, when I needed to retrieve a garment from a lower layer, I could have set the top layers aside. I could have taken out the item I wanted. Then, I could have simply lifted the top layers back in. Everything would have stayed in its place.
2) Even though I was short on time, I could have found five minutes here and there tidy my suitcase and other cases. When traveling, tidying one's travel bags is the daily routine of life that tidying the kitchen and other daily chores are back home.

Some things that do work well for me:

1) Some time ago, I bought pink flannel and sewed several shoe bags. I use those to not only protect my shoes from scuffing, but also to protect my clothing from shoes. My luggage does have pockets specifically for a pair of shoes, but not enough for a second or third pair.
2) Some experts suggest rolling clothing rather than folding items. I use a combination system in which I roll some knits and fold some other things.
3) I make a packing list for each trip. I plan by the day. I consider what items of clothing I will need, what accessories, shoes, outerwear, etc. I think through what I will likely be doing each day of the trip. If I do not know what I will be doing, I pack items that can be dressed up or dressed down. Of course, I also consider climate, whether we will be outdoors or indoors, etc. I also consider the trip as whole and work each day into a core wardrobe. In that way, I can mix and match key pieces and take as few items as possible.

Happy Traveling!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Let's Get Organized...

In the midst of having fun, I met the organizing challenge that got away from me. My husband and I were presented with the opportunity to extend a necessary business journey in both time and distance in order to visit church friends living far away from us. This required packing for two continents and three climates, counting the one from which we started. For some reason, I was indecisive about what to take, but I finally came up with what I thought was a fairly minimal packing scheme. I organized it all into layers as I planned to wear items and toiletries into makeup cases and the like.

Four days into our week long trip, my scheme for organizing my clothing, accessories, and toiletries had gone away. I ended up with a jumble of things. Though I attempted to re-pack a few times, I never got it all put back together the way I had organized it.

Obviously, when we travel, we operate from a small space. Most often, we have room to do some unpacking. We can hang up items and put other items in drawers. Sometimes, we may have to literally live out of a suitcase. We do not, however, usually have as much space as we have at home.

This works in some people's favor. They thrive on the need to pare down to essentials and to keep those essentials in tight order. I'm not the world's neatest traveler, however, and this trip wasn't my finest hour in organizing. So, next time, we'll explore ways I could have avoided making a suitcase mess.