Comes Out Sideways

There’s a giant hole in my basement ceiling, situated below my kitchen. A plumber ripped out the drywall ceiling in search of a leaking pipe. Sure enough there was a plastic vent pipe with three holes, compliments of a rat we’d caught in the crawl space two years earlier.  

DSCN3014The plumber said we wouldn’t have known there were holes in the vent pipe, if it hadn’t been for a blockage in a different pipe.

Instead of the water backing up into the kitchen sink, it found the holes of least resistance and flooded the ceiling.

What does that scenario have to do with eternal significance?

Because the image of those exposed pipes in the ceiling flooded my heart, reminding me….

When I don’t deal with hidden sin in my heart, especially a grievance against someone, foul words will eventually pour out of my mouth.

The problem isn’t my lips or mouth, it’s my heart.

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” (Matthew 15:18)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Un-confessed sin towards others creates the perfect environment for bitterness to take root. Like the blockage in my water pipe, my thoughts and attitudes fester, clog my arteries. I may not be aware of my heart’s condition until, BAM!

Someone triggers my emotions.

Releasing a barrage of unkind words, or a barb.

Exposing my unhealed wounds like the holes in a pipe, and all because I had a blockage in my heart called un-forgiveness.

Once spoken, hateful words are like releasing a bag of feathers into the wind. There is no getting them back.

But sometimes, unkind words are subtle. People have to read between the lines.

 “Sideways,” a friend told me. “When we’re not forthright, everything comes out sideways.”

Like a verbal slap that comes from left field, but aimed to hit home.

Grumbling or murmuring behind someone’s back.

An “innocent” intentional action to make a point.

Passive aggressive is another label for not dealing honestly with others when we’re offended, or upset.

Fortunately, my heart was exposed last week along with my kitchen pipes. Now, everything is cleared, clean, in working order.

And the drywall man is here to repair the gutted ceiling.

Should I tell him what I learned, even in this?

Truth Be Known

243Woke up depressed, but I have to go to jail, share the “hope that lies within me” with women inmates.

Can’t give what you don’t have?” Satan taunts me.

I get on my knees where the battle is won, and pray God’s Word aloud. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)

Then I go out of obedience, not because I feel like it.

The jail tank is empty. Most of the women are asleep in their cells. I sit at the metal table and pray until a young woman joins me.

I confess my foul mood; explain I had to pray for the desire to come to jail. But I’m confident that as we read God’s Word and fix our minds on Him, our moods will change even if troubles remain.

Tears trickle down her cheeks. Woman admits she woke up thinking she should read her Bible, but didn’t “feel like it” which made her feel guilty. Knowing I struggle helps her know she’s not alone.

I assure her that Jesus struggled with mental anguish just before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had to pray and focus on God’s will rather than his own feelings.

So we open our Bibles to Luke 22: 66-71 and read about the trial.

The Council of elders confronts Jesus, ““If you are the Christ, tell us.”

Just like Satan tempted Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Just like Satan taunts me. “If you’re a jail chaplain, where’s your hope?”

Just like Satan accuses the inmate: “If you don’t read the Bible, you’re bad.”

How does Jesus respond to Ifs.

Sometimes He quotes scripture.

Sometimes He asks questions.

During the trial, He states facts. “If I tell you, you will not believe.”

Again, they ask Him, “Are you the Son of God?”

“Yes, I am.”

Jesus condemns himself with his own words,

Because they feel that anyone who claims to be the “Son of God” is a liar or a lunatic.

They don’t believe Jesus is telling the truth when He claims to be Christ the Lord.

But disbelief doesn’t change the facts.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Believe it, or not.


What Am I Covering Up?

A large, purple plastic bowl lay upside down on the cement slab of our back patio. The bowl had been there for several days, untouched like the pile of discarded, mud-caked sneakers next to the back door.

Assuming the old bowl had toppled from the patio table, I stooped to pick it up.

My stomach lurched.

Beneath the purple bowl was a wet mess of rotting … cat puke.

My cat pleads the Fifth Amendment, but Someone covered the puke rather than clean it up.

“I didn’t want anyone to step into the mess,” Someone later explained.

Covered it up? Were you ever planning to clean it up?   

But even in this ….disgusting cat puke hidden beneath a purple bowl, I had an AHA moment about SIN.

Shuddered to think people, even those closest to me, might look “beneath my bowl” and see my disgusting sin.

Lips sealed, fingers crossed, do I hide sin behind good works? Masquerade as a good Christian, wearing blinders rather than confront my sin?

Out of sight, out of mind, I fool myself.

 “Oh God, you know my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from you (Psalm 69:5).

 “He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28: 13).

King David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murder. When David covered his sin, he suffered.

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:4)  

When David came to his senses, he humbly came before the Lord.

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my heart” (verse 5).

Heaven forbid I cover my sin by comparing myself with others; pat myself on the back. I’m not as bad as….  

“Our Lord taught repeatedly that sin bottled up on the inside, concealed from everyone else’s view, carries the same guilt as sin that manifests itself in the worst forms of ungodly behavior (Matt. 5:21-30).” ~ John MacAuthur

The only remedy for sin involves uncovering our guilt.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us ours sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Who Can Tame the Tongue?

Picture - poisonous tongue.<br /><br /><br />fotosearch - search<br /><br /><br />stock photos,<br /><br /><br />pictures, wall<br /><br /><br />murals, images,<br /><br /><br />and photo clipartShell-shocked, I watched the battle unfold.

Someone made a casual remark. In response, another person commented with just a word…one careless word.

No offense was intended.

But instead of ricocheting off the eardrums, the thoughtless word detonated on impact like a grenade. The blast cut deep, pierced the heart, and drew blood.

Like a mad dog, the injured soul retaliated; inviting a rash of venomous words.

This wasn’t an attack from the enemy. This was friendly fire wounding its own.

“No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

 With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.

My brethren, these things ought not to be this way (James 3:8-10).

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

I sang those words as a child whenever I stood in the line of fire. My feeble attempt to mask the pain, pretend it didn’t hurt.

As a teenager, I gave up childish rhymes and suffered the pain; tried to forget. “You’re ugly, the teenage boy told me years ago. I doubt that he remembers, but I do.

Now I stoically remove the arrows that sting. Dodge verbal bullets as best I can. Feel my heart thump whenever I hear youth tease and taunt each other with tongues sharp as swords.

“A sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with constant use.”~ Washington Irving.

But who am I to speak?

Hasn’t my own tongue lashed others, criticized, and gossiped? Used playful sarcasm to camouflage offensive truth? Sometimes, I fool myself. Believe I’ve bridled my tongue, when in fact I spoke behind the person’s back.

“My brethren, these things ought not to be.”

What’s the problem?

MY COLD AND ROTTEN HEART Image

Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34).

So when the tongue is out of control, I can wash my mouth with soap, or go to the Heart of the problem and …

Search my heart, confess my sin.

Read the words Jesus spoke which “are spirit and are life” (John 6:63).

Pray that “no unwholesome talk comes out of (MY) mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”(Ephesians 4:29).

Amen?

Why’d You Do it?

The dark-haired woman sees me enter the jail room. Standing up, she flings her cards on the table and tells me, “Don’t even ask.”

We go to another table and sit across from each other. I study her downcast eyes, and wait for an explanation.

 “I couldn’t do it. I got lonely and anxious. So I went back to my old friends and habits.” She covers her mouth with her hand while she speaks. But it doesn’t hide her missing upper teeth. I never realized she wears dentures.

I touch her arm, remembering her joyful mood the previous month. We had praised God because she was clean of drugs, leaving jail, and determined to follow Jesus instead of her peers.

She’s not the exception. I’ve watched too many women leave jail with great intentions only to return again and again. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is the culprit. Ruined lives, and families ripped apart, are the collateral damage.

I leave jail despondent. Will these women ever break free of the lifestyle they’ve chosen? Where’s their will power?     

Days later, I come home after a long day. I’m alone. Hungry, I open the refrigerator. I don’t want to cook. I’m tired of salads. Looking for leftovers, I open a container of homemade onion dip. My mouth waters as Will Power shouts “Put it back.” But the onion-flavored sour cream lures me like a Greek Siren.

 Why not? I’ve been on a strict diet for a month. I’ve lost weight.  A few bites shouldn’t hurt.

Instead of spooning small portions of dip and potato chips onto a plate, I grab the bowl and a half bag of chips on my way to the couch.

Will Power warns, “You’ll regret this tomorrow.”

“But it tastes so good tonight.”

One bite, another. I’m hooked. Soon, I’m craving nachos. I cave into desire and smother tortilla chips with melted cheese and fresh jalapenos. If it weren’t midnight, I’d order a pizza.

At bedtime, my breath reeks of onions. I must chew Tums.

Disgusted, Will Power shakes her head. “You knew better. Why’d you do it?”

Groaning, I rub my stomach….

And weep for the dark-haired woman.

  “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do; but what I hate I do. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:15,18,24,25)  

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