Month: June 2010

Some Things Are Better Off Left Unsaid

I am about to tell you something about myself that I have been hiding for years.

It has been such a guarded secret that even now I struggle with sharing it with you.   There have been periods of my life when it has more evident than other times.   It is something that I have had to deal with my whole life.  I don’t talk about it much because it is something that I have had to work very hard at not doing.   I have learned to mask it even from my own family.   Many times I have to avoid certain situations to keep myself from doing it.   Make no mistake, I am not making it up (do your own research) it is a very real and difficult situation.  Unless you experience it or have the problem yourself, you cannot fully understand the gravity and challenge it is to have what I have. I only reveal it now because it is something that taught me a valuable lesson this week.

I am a stutterer.

Doesn’t sound too bad or serious when you just write the words down.  However, the experience of having the problem is much worse in reality than I ever could have imagined.

Again…I am a stutterer.

Not in sense that I repeat certain syllables called “repetition” like “to-to -to – today” or carry the consonant called “prolongation” like “bbbbbbb butter”.    I suffer from a problem called “involuntary hesitation” which basically means that I have to force myself to speak words  or force myself to stop speaking when I am in certain situations.

Let me try to explain to you what it is like to have this problem.

I am sure that everyone, at one time or another, has lost their train of thought in the middle of a conversation.  You are talking and suddenly your words trail off and you have no idea what you want to say next and cannot even remember what you were talking about in or the point you wanted to make.  My problem is exactly like this but it happens all the time.  It never really stops.  You just learn to control it at times.  You have to plan certain responses for certain questions.   It is easier if you control the direction of the conversation.

Some of the symptoms of people who have my problem are as follows:

  • They are slow or appear hesitant to respond to questions.
  • When they do respond, they tend to talk very fast.  The reason is because they want to say everything that is on the tip of their tongue  before they “have” to hesitate.
  • They often appear to be overly excited in their response to a question.  Shortness of breath and louder than normal voice level is common.
  • They will suddenly stop in mid-sentence and appear to  lose their train of thought.  This is not the case in  most circumstances…they just can’t formulate the words to say it out loud.  In their mind, they have already said it.
  • They tend to repeat certain words or phrases as “filler” in sentences.  This is done to mask the fear of “prolongation and repetition” of their speech.  For example,  in less severe conditions a person may use the term “like”, “you know” and “uh”.  I personally use the word “thing” as one of my filler words.  Don’t know why and yes, it is very strange.  Most people either don’t catch it when I say it, or they act as if it is natural because no one has brought it to my attention.  It took a recording of me talking on tape for me to really hear it for myself.  Strange…indeed.
  • They will tend to blurt out responses and interrupt conversations.

I always have to be on guard to make sure I control it when it happens.

However, there is a time when I have absolutely no problem responding  or showing any signs of hesitation in my speech.   I have no symptoms when I am angry.  I have clarity of speech, clarity of thought and I do not stumble over one single word.  Like Mel Tillis, who doesn’t stutter when he sings…I do not stutter when I am angry.

Let me explain…

A few days ago I received an email from a co-worker.   He was writing a note to me complaining about one of  my employees.  He was upset and wanted me to know that he did not feel that this employee was performing all of the tasks that pertained to their job.

I opened the email and slowly started to read what he wrote.  As I continued to read, I started to feel irritated about his perspective.  The more I read, the more upset I was getting.   I was feeling that he did not know what he was talking about and that this letter was just a way to take a cheap shot at one of my hardest working employees.

I immediately started to put together a response.  I was gathering all the information I needed to address his complaints and was just about finished when he walked into my office and started to ask me if I had received his email.   I told him that I had received it that I was putting a response that I would send to him.  He continued to push the issue with me and I was trying to avoid a conflict but then he said the magic words that got me to react.

And man…did I ever react.

I  could probably tell you all of the reasons I responded to him the way I did.  I am sure in many ways I could really use them to justify why I reacted the way I had….but in reality they are not an excuse to justify my behavior.  When I needed to “hesitate” the most in my response…I blew it by having a very sharp tongue.

My goal has always been to try present myself in a professional manner at work.  I also strive to make sure that people know that I am a believer in Jesus Christ and that I want to respond in such a way that would promote and show what Jesus Christ has done in my life.  In mere seconds, I had damaged my testimony and possibly stopped any opportunity of having a positive influence over those who witnessed my outburst for Christ.

We may not realize how much our ‘talk’ tells others about our ‘walk’ with Christ!

Each of us needs to constantly remember that our words speak much louder to others about who we are.  The way we react to the crabby clerk in the store, the ‘inept’ server in the restaurant or a co-worker that you’re upset with is a testimony of what Jesus means to us.

The same lips that sing praises to God on Sunday should never ridicule or verbally attack others during the week!   Guard what you say and how you say it. You never know who may be watching and listening to you.

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”  (Proverbs 21:23)

Such wise words!  All of us have had to “bite our tongues” at one time or another.  Sometimes it’s just not worth letting what pops into our minds slip out of our mouths.  We really hurt others, or even ourselves, by saying the wrong things.

The Bible clearly tells us,

“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)

So basically, we should always strive to speak words that are uplifting and beneficial to others; not words that tear down, degrade, or corrupt.

However, this is not such an easy thing to do.  Our ability to control what we say is pretty much summed up in chapter 3 of the New Testament book of James.

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

So, what’s a person to do?  How can we control our tongues and keep ourselves from saying something we’ll regret later?   That is something that is weighing heavy on my mind.  I am trying to figure that one out.

Perhaps the next time I am about to say something in anger that I know could be considered rude, or just plain taken the wrong way, I need to stop myself,  ask God for the right words and then say it in a way that would be kinder and more acceptable.  If  this is not possible, then I should follow the advice i was told many years ago…

And that advice is,

“Some things are better off left unsaid”

Quit Looking for God’s Will and Look for God

I have been taking what I have called a BLOGCATION.  A vacation from my blog if you will.

I refused to write.  I refused to read any other blogs, books or newspapers.  I intentionally avoided all talk shows on the radio and tried my best to avoid TV.   Other than checking my email, I stayed off the computer.

It was wonderful.  I recommend it to everyone.  Take a “media free week” and see if it recharges the batteries in your heart and in your head like it did for me.

I guess that probably the best thing that happened to me this past few weeks or so that I was on my blogcation was that I started talking to people again.  I mean really talking to people again.  I have always talked to those around me but I never really engaged in a real conversation about something more than the ball game last night or the weather.  It is funny how you can feel like you talk to people all the time but never really have true conversation.

One conversation that I had this past week was about God’s Will for a person’s life.  Like many of us,  I have been challenged by Sunday School teachers, Youth Leaders and Pastors to “find” God’s will in my life since I became a Christian at the age of 10.   Over the past 30…errr… 40 years since I accepted Christ into my life, I have been taught so many things concerning the topic.  God’s “perfect Will vs. His permissable Will…all kinds of “STUFF”.  What I have found is that most of it was “baggage” that really hindered me and kept me back from really living a fulfilled Christian Life.

Let me explain.

I was raised in a “Fundamental Independent Baptist Church”.  For those of you who read this and do not know what I mean by that statement, I will try to explain it the best I can.  I was raised in a very “legalistic” environment.  Which basically means that I was raised in an environment that taught a strict adherence to a list of rules (absolutes) of do’s and don’ts.  Any violation of those rules in the slightest way would be evidence of “losing” my good standing with God.  A short list of rules that was promoted during my time spent in this movement is as follows:

  • Hair Length – Off the ears, off the collar…not in the eyes.  It was a sin and a sign of rebellion to have my hair touch my ear.
  • Music –  Anything (I mean anything) that had a drum beat to it was unacceptable.  Secular music in all forms was evil and not permissible.  Contemporary Christian Music was not acceptable in any form or genre.
  • Clothes – Suit preferred,  shirt and tie minimum required for Church attendance.  Girl’s could not wear pants at any time and dresses and skirts had to be (at least) knee-length.
  • Swimming – There was no such thing as ‘mixed” swimming.  Meaning , young men and women could not swim together at any time.
  • Movies – You were not allowed to go to the theater…EVER.
  • Education –  A Christian Education was the only way.  Elementary, Jr and Sr High School and College Christian education was the only acceptable way.  If anyone would attend a “public” school, they were treated as if they were “not as good” as the other students that attended a “Christian” school.  As far as college was concerned, any determination to go to a Non-Christian college were grounds for people to believe that you may have lost your faith.
  • Baptist Only –  We were taught that “Independent Baptists” were the only one’s that preached the “true” Gospel the right way.  There might be other churches that led people to the Lord, but the true and most accurate way was through the Independent Baptist Church.
  • The Bible –  The King James Version was the ONLY version that was permissible to use.  Any other version was inferior and peppered with errors.

The list could go on, but I think you get my drift.

Now, I am sure, some of you that read this are asking yourself how can anyone really believe that this way of life is the best.     Trust me…there are many people who still believe these same “rules” and I know that most of these people are generally good people with good intentions.  Many of those in this movement are very successful and have remained faithful to their convictions.  My problem is that if you grow up in that kind of  environment, it is easy to be convinced that this was the only way of life.  Any deviation would mean that you failed as a believer.   As an adult I completely understand their perspective and I am not writing this to say that everything they have done is wrong.  What I am saying is that this lifestyle is not the only way.   From my perspective these rules and regulations actually did not make me a better Christian at all.  In my opinion, it actually made me a weaker Christian.   The standard to live this way just always set me up for failure.  I could never measure up to meet all the requirements.  I could not pray enough or do enough Bible study to really “find” God’s will for my life.   So instead of living a victorious Christian life…I always seemed to struggle so much at times I just gave up and did my own thing because I could never be “good” enough for God to use.

As a teenager, this elusive task of finding “God’s Will”  for my life always seemed like winning the lottery or hitting a game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth…the ODDS and possibility of it ever really happening were slim-to-none.    I became so focused on trying to find God’s will that I forgot to simply look for God.   I was convinced that God’s will was somewhere other than Oak Harbor, Ohio.  I was sure that God’s will was somewhere where I could build a big ministry.  It was where I could teach thousands…it was speaking to large crowds…writing books and really “making it” as a Christian.    God’s will was always something that I would have to “find”.

After 40 years of being a Christian, I have learned that most of what I was taught and most of what I once believed was wrong when it came to finding or knowing  God’s will for my life.

Here is a little of what I have learned over the years…

1.  Grow where you’re planted.  Teach, sing, minister in nursing homes, youth groups, at church, anywhere anyone will let you.   If you’re any good, they’ll ask you back.   If they don’t, do something else.

2.  Don’t listen to your mother.  Mother’s always think you do stuff “good”.

3.  What does ‘make it’  mean to a Christian?   If to ‘make it’ as a Christian means getting to teach a large Sunday School class or be featured on national stages and churches, the majority don’t ‘make it’.   But, that is ‘making it’ in the eyes of people.   I don’t think that is ‘making it’ in the eyes of God.   Do you really think God is more proud of you if you minister to thousands at a time than if you minister at a nursing home for a few?  Probably just the opposite.  You MUST be faithful in small things.

4.   God’s will isn’t easy.  It requires being content where you are at today.  Be thankful for today…tomorrow will take care of itself.  Trust me.   If you’re fortunate, you’ll go through hard times.   The hard, doubtful, scary times are what make you strong and help you to be grateful when and if the ‘big’ times show up.

5.  Follow after God with your whole heart and “God’s will” for your life will take care of itself.  God’s will may be something totally different than you even imagine.  It is not mystical or something unattainable.

The last thing I’d like to add is to post, please don’t put so much time and effort into what you believe is God’s will, that you forsake getting to know the One who saved you.   As a believer it is absolutely crucial that you be in the Word, and in it often.   The Word is alive, and it is life and people changing from the inside out.

Quit looking for God’s will and look for God wherever you are at.  God will give you opportunity to grow…even if that means the biggest crowd you ever minister to is a small group of people in Fremont, Ohio.

That may just be more of God’s will than you will ever know.