Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Seven Things we Ought to Say to People

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.  –Proverbs 16:24

I recently wrote a blog post about things we should never say, and so today I bring you my list of what we ought to say at every opportunity.  Each day we encounter people who are probably hurting inside.  No one knows what is truly going on in someone else’s heart, but if your heart is anything like mine you are most likely burdened with all sorts of problems, stresses, and situations capable of producing a level of anxiety.  What a difference when someone speaks kind and gracious words to us in those moments we are down.  The right words, spoken at a time when we are discouraged, are like a healing balm to a troubled soul. 

Speaking words that help and encourage those around us is an intentional practice. We must be disciplined in our approach to how we relate to people.  In light of the negative words we often hear, the following is my list of what we ought to say at every opportunity.

1. Thank you.  These simple words carry great weight and go a long way toward expressing gratitude.  The words are applicable in countless situations ranging from being given a gift, assisted with a task, or told something helpful.

2. You’re welcome.  No doubt you have said, “Thank you,” to someone and the reply was, “No problem,” “Don’t mention it,” or “Don’t worry about it.”  These phrases carry the implication of gratitude, yet leave us feeling short changed.  It’s as if your expression of gratitude was unnecessary.  I know people rarely mean anything negative by such responses, yet an opportunity was missed.  Try sticking with the classic, “You’re welcome,” and see the difference it makes.

3. I appreciate you very much.  Here we distinguish between what someone did and the actual person.  Were it not for the person, what he or she did for us would never have happened.  The emphasis is on the individual rather than on what he or she did for us.  These words have the power to lift up people who are questioning their self-worth.

4. It’s going to be all right.  When going through a trying and difficult time, it often helps to be reminded that the problem, no matter how great, will one day be behind us.  This is always preferable to the negative and discouraging words we hear each day.

5. I hope all this works out for you.  Whenever a friend or loved one announces a plan that doesn’t make sense to us, such as I’m getting married, I’m moving to Nepal, or I’m changing careers, we do well to avoid a knee jerk reaction.  When someone drops a bombshell on us our first instinct is to jump up and say, “You’re going to do what?”  Sound advice, given at the proper time, is beneficial, but in the meantime a kind word of hope is always appreciated.  Letting someone know you hope everything works out well in the long run is usually well received.

6. I’m praying for you.  Having said this, be sure to then follow through with your promise to lift the person up to God in prayer.

7. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.  Never speak these words unless you are committed to being available when the person needs you.  You may have to take the person by the hand and follow this declaration up with, “I mean it; call me anytime if you need me.”  In time, someone may offer his or her help to you and you may  be the one reaching out in time of need.  Such care and kindness may mean life or death to someone.

I trust this is helpful.  Perhaps you are going through a hard time and need someone to pray for you.  I welcome an opportunity to do that.  As always, you may post a comment anonymously. 

God bless you – it’s going to be a great day.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Value of Human Contact

And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.   –Luke 5:16

The other day I was outside and while swatting at what I thought was a bug that had landed on my neck (it turned out to be a leaf), I dropped my cell phone.  And when I say dropped it, I mean I really dropped it.  The fall was from about the level of my face and the phone fell to the concrete patio.  The damage was complete and I ended up acquiring a new phone.  I was able to salvage all my pictures from the old phone, but I haven’t been able to do the same with my contacts.  I will have to reenter those manually.  Having those contacts is important.

I say this because my phone contacts illustrate the need for human contact.  All those names and numbers represent people I know in one way or another.  Relationships can be difficult and at times exhausting, yet we all need them because we need human interaction.  Remove human contact from our lives and we run the risk of becoming lonely and bitter.  This isn’t to say we do not need a little time to ourselves, because we all do.  Someone has coined the phrase “me time” to describe time we spend alone.  Getting away from daily interactions for a while to rest, reflect, and regenerate is vitally important to overall health.  The Bible shows how even Jesus took time to get away by Himself for prayer and personal renewal.  Jesus was empowered then to come back to His relationships refreshed and prepared to minister to and encourage the people around Him.

Happy and well-adjusted people typically have a network of support and relationships built into their lives.  They choose to live within this framework of interaction with others rather than isolation.  Cutting ourselves off from the support of others is dangerous.  Keep involved, continue reaching, out, and keep making a positive difference in the world through helping others.  You might say, ‘What about all the toxic people in my life?”  My answer is work around them, don’t let them get you down, and distance yourself from them if you have to.  Remember the only person you can change and control is you. 

Have relationships burned you out or hurt you?  Is there something you’d like to get off your chest today?  Please let me know how I can pray for you.

God bless you – it’s going to be a great day.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Seven Things we Should Never say to Anyone, Ever

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  -Matthew 7:12

When Jesus spoke of doing unto others, He referred to an attitude of being proactive in how we relate to people around us.  We desire to be treated with respect, dignity, kindness, and mercy.  Therefore, if we desire to be treated this way, we must demonstrate such conduct to the world.  Our words carry great weight.  Consider what we say and how we say it.  Are we tearing people down or building them up?  One kind word has the power to alter someone’s outlook, especially if the person is feeling down.  Sadly, the reverse is true.  One harsh or inconsiderate word can bring someone down from the positive mindset he or she was enjoying.

Many years ago while serving on staff at a church in another state, I was attending a church sponsored fellowship.  Door prizes were awarded, and since I rarely win anything, I was pleased to have won the incredible prize of five free trips to a tanning salon.  I had no intention of using them as wild horses couldn't drag me into a tanning bed, but I remarked to the person next to me about the prize.  The person sitting next to me, an elderly woman named Francis, replied, “Well, you need a trip to the tanning salon; you always look so pale and sickly.”  Ouch!  That still stings.  People make odd statements to each other and sometimes the words are bewildering.  When we speak uplifting words to others, we receive wonderful rewards.  We encourage others, and we come away from the encounter feeling better.

Here are my seven things we ought never to say to others:

1. Are you okay?  You look so sad.  No one wants to be told this.  I have had moments where I felt fine, and someone goes out of his or her way to comment on my sorrowful expression.  Nothing is to be gained from this statement.

2. You look tired.  If you were feeling wide awake before, chances are you’re feeling sleepy after someone tells you this. 

3. Wow, you've lost a lot of hair.  There is no need to ever tell a man he is going bald.  I am one of these lucky men who started going bald in my thirties, and yes, I am reminded of it from time to time.  The next time you’re tempted to say this, stop and remember the person no doubt saw himself in the mirror within the last hour.  He knows he’s going bald.

4. Wow, you've really put on some weight.  This ranks right up there with asking a woman if she’s pregnant.  She may not be.  Someone has sarcastically suggested that we ought never to ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless she is in the actual act of giving birth.  That, or if she’s wearing one of those shirts with an arrow pointing down to her stomach that reads, “Baby on the way.”  As with hair loss, people are fully aware of how much they weigh and how they look.  Few of us appreciate being told we have put on weight.  The only time this might be acceptable would be if the person is a cancer patient who had lost dozens of pounds, is now in remission, and is finally looking healthy again.  Otherwise, the topic is best left alone.

5. You are way too thin. You should gain some weight.  What is a healthy weight anyway?  Unless you are a doctor conferring with your patient, such advice is best left unsaid. 

6. Are you feeling all right?  You look sick.  Why anyone would ever feel the need to utter this statement to someone is beyond me, but I know it happens.  As with telling someone how tired he looks, when we tell someone he or she looks sick, the person might begin wondering about it and start actually feeling ill.  Such is the power of suggestion. 

7. I don't care.  What people need are affirming and encouraging words.  If you have had the unpleasant situation of sharing your thoughts with someone only to be told he or she doesn't care you know how this hurts.  These words convey that you aren't important and I do not have time to listen to you.  

 Compliments, kind words, joyful words, and words that encourage and build people up are always appropriate.  Leave the negative statements alone.  Resolve to speak only what helps others.  You have the power to make or break someone’s day.  Help make it a great day.  Check back later as I'll be sharing my list of things we ought to say to others.  

So, what bizarre things have people said to you?  I would love to hear from you today.  As always, you may comment anonymously. 

God bless you.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Monday Morning Stretching

I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.  –Psalm 34:4 

Spiritual growth is like physical growth in that we have to be stretched in order to grow stronger.  Sometimes I pray and acknowledge that God is stretching me, yet if you are anything like me, you wonder how much more stretching you can take.  Each new challenge, every new obstacle in our path, and each difficulty is an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.  We either grow through the experience or we fall apart.  Growth is always the better outcome.  Since God is the source of our strength, faith in Him results in forward progress with a brighter outlook rather than giving up.

No doubt you are facing difficulties today.  Your problems could range from battling depression, a long term illness, or a rebellious child.  Any of these has the potential to rob us of the peace and joy we would like to have.  Let me challenge you to trust the Lord with the trials you are facing and claim the peace that is ours in Christ.  God has a plan and you are not alone.  Take heart, rise up, and walk forward to a better, brighter day.  Try as we might, we cannot hide from our problems.  A spiritual approach is to face them head on and walk forward in God’s power.

Yes, it is Monday morning, and perhaps you are feeling down.  Pray for strength, claim God’s power, be thankful, count your blessings, and resolve just for today to live life to the fullest.  God has a plan and it’s going to be a great day.

How can I pray for you today?  Feel free to leave me a comment in the comments section and tell me what’s on your mind.  As always, you may comment anonymously.  Maybe you need to get something off your chest.  I welcome the opportunity to come alongside you and encourage you today.

God bless you.