Words have the power to change your life.
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About the Author
Linda Gilden is an experienced writer, speaker, editor, writing coach, and Certified Personality Trainer. She is a prolific writer and the author of several books and over a thousand magazine articles. She speaks nationally many times throughout the year, is a frequent radio and television guest, and welcomes the opportunity to help others become better communicators. Dalene V. Parker is an English and Creative Writing teacher who also loves to speak and write. Her work has appeared in Focus on the Family, Home Life, ENCOUNTER, WarCry, Journey and more. She is also the author of Christian Teachers in Public Schools by Beacon Hill Press. Dr. Parker recently earned her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with minors in Bible and Professional Writing.
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Words to Live By
52 Ordinary Words that Lead to an Extraordinary Life
By Linda J. Gilden, Dalene V. Parker
Worthy Publishing GroupCopyright © 2016 Linda J. Gilden and Dalene V. Parker
All rights reserved.
Communication is important but we sometimes forget it involves two elements — speaking and listening. We become so focused on what we want to say that we don't listen for a reply. Jesus challenged people to really listen to those around them, to Him, and to God.
This week observe the listening styles of those you are communicating with. Look at your own listening styles as well. Be intentional about being a good listener. Recognize the gift of listening is important to developing close relationships and meeting the needs of others.
ARE YOU LISTENING?
"He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught."
The Bible is full of examples of important listening: Mary listened to Gabriel's announcement about being chosen as the mother of Christ. She accepted what she heard and made herself available. The shepherds listened to the angels proclaim Jesus' birth. They began to worship long before they ever saw His face. Joseph listened to the dream which warned him of impending danger for baby Jesus; he fled with his new family to Egypt until it was safe to return. Of course, every writer of the Old and New Testament listened to God before setting His words in ink.
New learning standards emphasize the importance of active listening. Teachers and students alike need practice developing these skills in the classroom. Too often teachers do not allow students enough time to collaborate and listen to each other's ideas. Too often students do not really listen for instructions.
Two methods I use to encourage listening when I'm communicating essential content to my students:
1. (Interrupting their conversation) "You'll have to forgive me. I have this ridiculous notion that what I say might be important. Please humor me and listen."
2. (Whispering) "I hope you can hear me because what I'm about to say will be on the test tomorrow. " This method I learned from my high school teacher who refused to talk over her students. Instead, she reduced her voice to a whisper as she communicated essential information.
Whether through a dream, angelic proclamation, or a whisper, may our ears be "wakened" today to listen like one being taught!
SIGHT OR SOUND?
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
Nancy and Gary consider their blindness a nuisance, not a disability. They compensate for lack of sight by listening well. Gary determines a coin's value by listening to it plink when thrown onto a hard surface. When asked if they could choose between sight or hearing, Nancy and Gary quickly reply: "Hearing!"
Listening helps them imagine all the faces, places, and details they cannot see. Hearing means being able to sing beautifully. For this couple, it would be a shame not to hear the nuances of music, nature, and voices.
In contrast, my husband's cousin Tomi, blinded in an automobile accident, would choose sight over hearing. Fiercely independent and determined, Tomi finds her blindness creates "layers of complication" in situations. Because she had sight until her late twenties, Tomi remembers how people and places looked decades later. The first time I drove to her house, I got lost and called Tomi for help.
"Where are you?" she asked.
I gave her the street name and nearby landmarks.
Plugging that information into her memory, Tomi directed me to her house where I sheepishly admitted that her sense of direction was much keener than mine, even though I could see.
Nancy, Gary, and Tomi are inspirations and reminders to soak up all the sight and sound we can — and never to take either for granted. What do you see or hear today that you want to thank God for?
LISTENING IN THE STORMS
"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
The beautiful set of wind chimes my husband gave me ranks as my "best ever" present from him — it calms my soul and makes me smile to listen to their melodious harmony.
Of course the harder the wind blows, or the greater the storm, the more likely I will be to hear those chimes. Since emotional "storms" have been threatening my relationships lately, that means now is a very good time for listening to the wild, sweet harmony of the wind chimes — and listening for the wild, sweet harmony of understanding that often comes after the storm.
After all, it's in the storms that we are forced to listen more closely. It's also when we need the most assurance that we are being heard.
Today my friend Pam asked me how I was doing, and I told her — all of it. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't uplifting. It wasn't what I meant to come out of my mouth. But I needed someone to listen, and she did.
And guess what? Pam told me she had promised to do one thing each day that would show God's love to someone else. Today it was listening.
Thank You, Lord. Now I'm ready to hear what You are trying to teach me through this storm.
Is there someone or something you need to listen more carefully to today? May you find that listening helps you hear the harmony your soul longs for.
THE LESS YOU SAY, THE MORE YOU HEAR
"I said, 'I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.'"
Remember how Jesus responded to his accusers? With silence. No pretending. No defending. He just listened to what they had to say and said nothing in return. Although saying nothing might be the very best response, saying as little as possible is the next best.
Dr. Kirk Neely, pastor and counselor, gives excellent advice regarding how to deal with critical, negative people. When confronted by an undeserved tirade or caught up in a blame game, he suggests using this simple response: "I'm sorry you feel that way." Most arguments and accusations are built — and sustained — on feelings rather than facts. By using this verbal response, you acknowledge the accuser's feelings, but do not agree with his interpretation — or misinterpretation — of the facts.
Acknowledgment does not imply agreement and usually ends an argument swiftly. There's nothing in that statement that can be disputed or that requires further discussion. Basically, it shows you were listening, that you heard what the other person had to say, but not that you agree. It's a great way to honor someone's feelings without compromising your own. When the conflict dissipates, chances are you can work together to reach a mutual agreement. If not, at least no lasting damage has been inflicted.
Next time you find yourself confronted with someone who strongly disagrees with you, try saying, "I'm sorry you feel that way." Then listen for what that person and the Holy Spirit really need to communicate.
LISTENING WITH THE HEART
"Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance."
The lady sitting on a bench as I exited the airport undoubtedly noticed my tearstained face and wobbly smile. My daughter had just left for another long stay overseas. Without knowing or asking the reason for my sadness, she listened with her heart and her eyes. Her only communication was a smile and "God bless you." But that was enough to make me smile, too, this time with no wobbles.
Annette is a single mom who listened with her heart instead of her head and adopted two boys with multiple learning disabilities. She did not listen to those who foresaw trouble for her. Instead, she did her best to provide a stable home filled with love and laughter for precious but unwanted children.
Listening with the heart is an art. It requires a deliberate disciplining of the tongue and a training of the mind and eyes to search, sense, and supply other people's needs. That's what the lady at the airport did for me. That's what Annette did for the sons she adopted.
One of the ways I get my students to think about the importance of listening is by posting this pun on the board: Here to learn? Then learn to hear! But paying attention with our ears is only part of listening.
Today let's focus on listening not only with our ears, but also with our hearts.CHAPTER 2
Life requires many choices. Some easy and some not so easy. But all require some degree of thought and many a great deal of prayer. Be attentive this week to the number of times you must make a choice and commit to asking God's guidance as you weigh one thing against another.
YOUR NAME HAS BEEN CALLED
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."
Red rover, red rover, send Linda right over!" One of my favorite recess games at school was Red Rover.
Red Rover requires two teams. It doesn't matter how large the teams are as long as each side has at least three players.
The children on a team hold hands to form a human chain. Then they call out a friend's name on the other team to be "sent over." They chant, "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Sara right over." The chosen person runs as fast as possible to try to break through the chain. If the defenders' hands separate, the one who has come over chooses a person to take back to his team with him. If the defense holds, the challenger joins that team.
The excitement and anticipation of waiting to hear whose name would be called was tremendous. I remember the thrill of hearing my name called and being chosen to represent my team.
Each of us has been called by name by the One who created us.
He has left the choice up to you as to whether or not you will serve him. What will your response be when you hear him say, "Send [your name] right over?"
"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Life is full of choices. Some are easy. Some are hard and many are in between. But no matter what your choice, it requires weighing two or more options and committing to one of them.
The easy choices are fun. Would you like chocolate cake or pecan pie for dessert? Should I wear my black or brown pants today? Should I sit at the front or the back of the room in my club meeting? Which movie shall we see on Friday night?
The hard choices are just that — hard. They are life-changing. Whom should I marry? Do I choose eternal life with Jesus or a life in hell with no hope? Should we add another round of chemotherapy or enjoy the remaining time without enduring more side effects? When something bad happens, do I choose to be a victim or an overcomer?
Everyday choices affect our lives. Every morning when we wake up, there is a choice. Are we going to live this day in a good way or a bad way? God gives us new perspective when each day begins.
Each day provides a clean slate, full of the Lord's compassions. So if you have a bad day, when your head hits the pillow, thank God the day is over and wake up with a fresh, new start.
"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you."
1 Thessalonians 3:12
"Oops! I am so sorry!" Shara looked at the contents of her coffee cup, now all over the front of Wesley's formerly clean, crisply starched, white shirt. "Are you all right? Did this hot coffee burn you?"
Stunned, Wesley looked down at his shirt. He took the napkin Shara offered and blotted the spreading stain. "No, I'm fine. I think the shirt caught most of it."
"I feel terrible," Shara said. "Please let me take your shirt to the cleaners for you."
"No problem," said Wesley. "I have a pile of things to drop off on my way home. I'll just add one more! This should be a good conversation starter at my board meeting in a few minutes."
Instead of letting the incident ruin his day, Wesley made a choice. He chose to react in a positive way to a negative situation, which blessed Shara and turned what could have been a downhill day for her into one that was blessed from the start.
When the mailman doesn't bring your much-anticipated acceptance for admission into college or rebate from a high-priced item, do you thank God that you haven't received a "no" or does it become a dark cloud over everything you do that day?
Regardless of what life spills on you or fails to fulfill for you, choose to walk positively through your day.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye on you."
According to a recent blog, the average person makes around 35,000 decisions a day. It's hard to imagine having time for that many decisions in 24 hours, isn't it? Of course, this includes all decisions large and small — Should I get out of bed? What should I eat for breakfast? Scrambled eggs or fried? The list goes on and on.
Often we make decisions without even thinking about what we are doing. But making a choice not only affects us. Many times there are far reaching and sometimes serious consequences. For every important decision, weigh carefully the options and try these action steps:
Seek God. Pray about your decision. Read your Bible and observe God's direction. Listen to what God has to say to you. Get a notebook, and journal His answers; record your choices to see God's hand at work.
Seek godly counsel. This may come from friends, counselors, or family members. Remember, however, the best counsel comes from God.
Seek information to make the best decision. Gather all the pros and cons of your choice and pray through them.
Ask your praying friends to pray with you. If your decision is really big, form a team to lift you up in prayer.
JUMP OFF THE FENCE
"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. ... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
The greatest choice of all comes when we are confronted by our sin and we must choose whether or not to accept Jesus into our lives. The course of our lives can be changed in an instant: assurance of our eternity is just one simple choice.
In playing Red Rover, the thrill of hearing your name called is great. But greater is the thrill that comes in knowing that for life, the game that really matters, your name has already been called. You don't have to wait and see if it is your turn. God has called each one of us, by name, to come to Him. He loves us from the moment we are born. We need only to choose to respond to His calling to immediately become part of His family. Once you make that decision, all your other choices are made based on the values you hold as a Christian.
You can't sit on the fence. Life is filled with choices and you are in control. Choose to commit. Make good, solid choices. And if you haven't ever dealt with the choice of God's calling you to be part of His family, put that first on your list for prayer and consideration today. Jump off the fence!CHAPTER 3
Those who know Jesus and trust in Him understand that total, unwavering belief is the key to living life. John 10:10 states that is why Jesus came, so that we could live it "to the full."
Are there days when your level of belief seems to be more fragile than others? Perhaps a fresh look at this word will bring new understanding and depth of commitment. We have been given the ultimate reward for our belief — eternal life. This week work on taking your belief to an even deeper level.
I DO BELIEVE
"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
"What's wrong with your mom?" concerned friends asked. Confined to a hospital bed, hooked to oxygen, wired to a heart monitor, linked to an IV, and tethered to a catheter, Mother's hospital stay stretched well over a month.
"It would be easier to say what's NOT wrong with her," I replied. Congestive heart failure, three surgeries, a skin graft, staph infection, unstable blood pressure, diabetes — at 81 years of age, Mother was battling for her life. Several times we thought she might lose the battle. Her only living sister died during this tension-filled time, yet we dared not tell Mother. We didn't want sorrow added to her list of woes.
Excerpted from Words to Live By by Linda J. Gilden, Dalene V. Parker. Copyright © 2016 Linda J. Gilden and Dalene V. Parker. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Every New Years I ask God for 2 words and then I spend the rest of the year learning and focusing on those words. That’s one of the reason I love this book WORDS TO LIVE BY. I love the simplicity and practicality of chewing on one word a week. It expands our understand when we look at intriguing words from different angles and then read short stories to bring those words to life. It’s a great concept, and a lovely book to have by your bedside to give you encouragement and peace before you drop off to sleep. It’s a wonderful book for someone who doesn't have much time, but needs a daily injection of inspiration and a fresh perspective.