Archives For words

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Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.

Napoleon Hill

You may never know the influence you have on others.

Our words and actions matter, and they have an impact on others even when we don’t know it.

Let me show you what I mean.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a complete stranger.  I want to share the email with you with names removed.

Hi Jon,

I was cleaning out my desk at work yesterday and came across a highlighted note on my bible study notes pages from last year. It had a note out to the side that said “contact this person and tell them that they have made a difference.”  I made this note after walking out of a lunchtime bible study with a man [from another country].  He mentioned that this blog (Jon Stolpe Stretched) was introduced to him by a friend in Philadelphia and was one of the reasons he was interested in learning more about Christianity. He also mentioned the kindness his friend in Philadelphia showed to him was an influence. Our conversation never went into details, I just asked him what influenced him to come to the bible study. He left the company that I work for in San Antonio, Texas shortly after this encounter so I was not able to follow-up more with him. This man is now back in [in his home country] and I have lost track of him but I will always wonder if he ever turned his life over to Christ or influenced others to do the same.
I had no idea what your blog was about but I did know that it positively influenced someone that I met and caused them to want to know Christ.  Thank you for that influence and sorry for not telling you sooner.
After work yesterday, I pulled up your blog and really enjoyed reading the content. If you lived in Texas, I think you would fit in really well. When I clicked the “parenting” section, I saw a nice article about sending your child off to college and this hit home with me because I just sent two of them off myself. I have a daughter that is a senior at Texas A&M University and she wants to be a full-time missionary when she graduates.  My son is a freshman this year at Messiah College in PA.  When I saw that  your daughter was also going to Messiah, I could not believe it.  I promise that my original intent was only to write and encourage a brother in Christ to keep up the good work but I also thought it was neat that our kids go to the same school.  Maybe we can meet sometime at a parent event in Grantham.
God Bless,

Xxxxxx Xxxxxxx

When I read this email, my heart warmed inside.  I’ve been writing my blog for over 9 years.  While I write the blog in part for me, I also hope my words will encourage others.  Admittedly, there are times when I wonder if anyone reads my words and if my words are really stretching anyone.  This email reminded me to keep writing – to keep sharing my reflections here for others and for me.

My words matter.  And so do yours!

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

What words are you holding inside of you?  What’s stopping you from sharing them with others?  How have you been impacted by the words and actions of others?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Measure Your Words

June 14, 2016 — 5 Comments

MEASURE YOUR WORDS

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

Nursery Rhyme

What a lie!

Words have tremendous power to lift people up and encourage them.  They have the power to inspire and motivate.  They have the power to paint a beautiful picture.  Words can take you to the places of your dreams.  And they can take people with you if used correctly.

But there’s also a dark side to words.

Words have power to tear down and destroy.  They have the power to mislead and misrepresent.  Used incorrectly, words lie and even kill.  Words can take you to very dark places.  And they can take people with you if used incorrectly.

There’s a lot of talk about guns and immigrants lately.  People want to bring control to these two areas.  This isn’t a commentary on these debates.

What if we started by bringing more control to our tongues?

Words matter.  Don’t waste them.  Don’t use them as weapons.  Instead, find ways to be constructive when you speak and when you write.

If you want to be a man, measure your words.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

How have the words of others impacted you?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you are interested in talking about issues like this with other men, consider signing up for my men’s mastermind list.  I don’t have all the details right now, but I’m looking to see who might be interested in a group to help you become a better father, a better husband, and a better follow of Christ.  Sign up below, and I’ll keep you posted.

stretch quote thick skin

It would be a terrific innovation if you could get your mind to STRETCH a little further than the next wisecrack.

Katharine Hepburn

Words have the power to build up or destroy.  While I wish I always had thick skin when someone wrongs me with their words, it’s not always so easy.

On the other hand, I’m sure I’ve said hurtful things to others, and this makes me sad.

Let’s commit today to speak life into those around us.

What words have impacted you recently?  Tell me about it in the comments.

The Power Of A Post

September 20, 2014 — 3 Comments

We live in a world of quick posts and status updates.

Social media is filled with short blurbs documenting our experiences, our thoughts, our observations, and our reactions to life.  For the most part, I love it.  There is something incredible about connecting with people from your community, your country, and your world.  I truly believe social media can be used for good.

However…

Social media also provides a “danger zone” for all of us who fail to think before we hit post.

In 140 characters or less, you and I have the power to build up or destroy.

If James were speaking to us today, I think he would say this:

Be quick to think, be slow to tweet (or hit post), and be slow to react.

This is a lesson we all need to remember.

Have you ever posted something on social media or on a blog that you regret?

 

3 WAYS TO RESPOND WHEN SOMEONE IS UNKIND TO YOU

What do you do when someone says something unkind to you?

What is your natural tendency when someone bites you with their words?

If you are anything like me, you probably have a less than honoring reaction.  You bite back with unkind words.  Your goal is often to put the person back in their place with words that sting.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Someone says some unkind to you.  You return it with more unkind remarks.  It goes back and forth until relationships are damaged often beyond repair.  Feelings are hurt, and emotional scars have been left as permanent reminders of the pain inflicted by someone’s tongue.

You are guilty of it, and I am guilty of it too.

So how do we stop the cycle?

I think we can learn a lot from Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”  Jesus (Matthew 5:38-40)

Here are some things we can learn from these words:

3 Ways To Respond When Someone Is Unkind To You

  1. Resist the urge to respond in kind.  I know you want to snap back, but you must resist this temptation.  This takes practice, patience, and persistence.  When you respond in a similar manner, you are only throwing kindling on the fire.
  2. Take it, and take it again.  Expect more unkind words from the verbal perpetrator.  In fact, welcome these words.  Sure it will hurt, but you will put the fire of unkindness out by avoiding a response.  A fire needs oxygen to be effective.  Unkind words are like oxygen on a fire.  When you decide not to add unkind words to the exchange, you are helping to put out the fire.
  3. Respond with generous kindness.  It’s hard to frown at someone who is smiling at you.  Similarly, it is hard to keep throwing unkind words at a person who is lifting you up.  Decide today to be an encourager.

How do you respond when people treat you unkindly?  What is one thing you can do to improve your response?

Have you been following the news in the NBA this week?

I’m not talking about the playoffs, wins, losses, or Lebron James.  This week, the news has been filled with reports and opinions about Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling.  I don’t know all the details, but Sterling apparently made some significant racial comments that were caught on tape and broadcast across the country.

His comments set off a firestorm of calls for him to be removed from the NBA.  His own players protested before their last game by taking off their Clippers shirts and wearing black wristbands and socks.  Sponsors have quickly been pulling away from the Clippers organization unwilling to be associated with a team owned by such a bigot.

Clearly, Sterling’s remarks were completely wrong, and the NBA has dealt swiftly by banning him from the NBA for life and fining him $2.5 million (which is the maximum fine permitted by the league constitutional bylaws).

Do you think Donald Sterling would like to take back his words?  Do you think he was really thinking when he spoke?

It’s easy to point the finger at public figures like Donald Sterling – after all, leaders are expected to be above reproach, and they should know better.  And they are easy targets.  Upon further thought, I know we’re all guilty of this kind of speaking without thinking.  Hopefully, we don’t say things with such hatred, but I’m sure we say things we regret.

I was reminded today of a time when I was in junior high, and I was at a dress rehearsal for a musical that I was in at our church. Believe it or not, I was selected to sing a solo (who would have thought).  As a result, I was equipped with a wireless microphone. During one of our breaks while I was in the men’s room, I said some things that I later regretted.  When I returned from the break, I discovered from one of the sound people that my initial words were shared loud and clear in the sanctuary thanks to the wonders of wireless technology.  Thankfully, they quickly muted my microphone.  But it didn’t stop the feeling of embarrassment and regret that swept over me when I found out.

In all the cases above (including mine), the regret came after being caught.  Did we ever stop to think that God can hear us even if no one else can?  Did we ever stop to examine our hearts?  I’m reminded of two passages that speak to this. First, in the first few verses of Psalm 139, we’re told that not only does God know our words, but He even knows our thoughts:

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  Psalm 139:1-4

Secondly, in the first chapter of James, instructions our given that we should be slow to speak:

My dear brothers, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  James 1:19-21

Sounds easy?

I’m not so sure.

I know that my thoughts and words are not always what they should be. So where do I go from here? I think it starts with being more in tuned to God, becoming more aware of times we think and say things that aren’t appropriate, and seeking God to help make a change.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Have you tasted shoe leather recently?  How’s it taste?  What did you do to get that taste out of your mouth?

Proverbs151

Today, I’m guest posting as part of The Network for Chris Vonada at his blog, I’m Just Thinkin’.  In my post (When Words Sting), I share 5 suggestions for responding to insults.  Here’s an excerpt to get you started.

When Words Sting

“If I get a 1,000 compliments and one insult, guess which one I listen to?

The insult, of course.

I have an unbelievable ability to ignore a swarm of positive words and camp out on the one negative.”  Jon Acuff (http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/quit-giving-the-haters-phds/)

It’s probably happened to all of us at one time or another – someone says something to us that absolutely stings.

Maybe they call you names.  Maybe they are just rude.  Maybe they insult you.

Words can hurt!

Words can sting!

Words can leave a gash on our hearts!

So how can we respond when this happens?  How can we move past the pain of words?

If you’re visiting from Chris’s blog, I’m glad you stopped by.  I hope you’ll check things out and become a regular part of The Stretched Community.  You can sign up to receive daily blog updates by adding your e-mail on the main page (I promise not to send you spam).  To help you get a taste of my other writing, here are a few of my favorite posts:

How do you deal with words that sting?  What step do you need to take today to get past wounds that have been caused by words?

I was looking through my journal and notes from about a year ago, and it seems like God was hitting me over the head with a message.  Following Christ and sharing His love is so much more than words – knowing words, memorizing words, and studying words.

While I think it’s important to read, study, and understand the Bible, I think it’s so much more important to put these teachings into action – into following Christ with our hands and feet.  This message has been hammered home in a few different but obvious mediums.

First, I was catching up on my blog reading one August Saturday morning last year when I came across this video in a blog post by Ryan Tate at Discipulus.  In the video, Francis Chan shares some simple but obvious thoughts about discipleship – what it is and what it is not.

Next, I was finishing up Love Does by Bob Goff on the same week (I shared about this book on my blog here).  Towards the end of the book, Bob offers his thoughts on Bible study:

What’s up with equating “Bible study” with knowing God anyway?  Wouldn’t it be a horrible thing if we studies the ones we loved instead of bonding in deeper ways by doing things with them?  I’d never want to get married to a girl no matter how much I studied her.  I’d rather take her sailing or fishing or eat cotton candy with her on a Ferris wheel.  I don’t think knowing what her name means in Greek is going to help me love her more.  In fact, they have a name for guys who just study things about a person they like but don’t do anything about it – they’re called bachelors.

So I started getting together with the same guys each week and instead of calling it a Bible study, we call it a “Bible doing.”  We’ve been at it for fifteen years now, and I’ve found there’s a big difference between the two.  At our Bible doing, we read what God has to say and then focus all of our attention on what we are going to do about it.  Just agreeing isn’t enough.  I can’t think of a single time where Jesus asked His friends to just agree with Him.

Finally, I was in church that Sunday morning when our guest pastor, Paul Williams, asked the question in his sermon – “What if we loved our neighbor as ourselves?”  In Paul’s sermon, he used the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to point out that anyone and everyone is our neighbor.  Then he used the story of the Rich Young Man (Matthew 19:16-30) to remind us that we’re to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and part of this is learning to love ourselves.  Finally, Paul turned to Matthew 22:15-40.  In this passage, the Pharisees and Sadducees are having a conversation with Jesus.  (These men were known to have the Bible (The Old Testament) memorized knowing every single law that was supposed to be followed.  At the end of this passage, Jesus answers questions thrown out with a famous passage, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  It’s that simple.  It doesn’t matter how much we know about the Bible if we’re not loving God and loving others with all we’ve got.

Bam!  Bam!  Bam!

Three times nailed over the head in a matter of 24 hours.  Do you think God was trying to tell me something?

The truth is I grew up in a pastor’s family.  I was known as the Bible geek in my freshman English class for knowing all the answers to the Bible questions.  I’ve even prided myself on the knowledge I’ve gained and retained along the way.  Knowledge is okay (and is important for maintaining a sound doctrine and for reminding us of Biblical truths and standards), but action is even more important.  James states it well:

Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:17

I get so tired of all the political back and forth that ebbs and flows and is especially loud during the key election years.  One side is trying to find the candidate who is the most Christian.  The other side is trying to find a government who will fix everything and create programs for our neighbors.  Wouldn’t it be a different world if Christians actually stepped up and loved their neighbors with action and not just words.  I think this is a challenge for all of us – including me.  And that’s how I’m being stretched right now!  I want my faith to be more than words.

How about you?  How are you loving your neighbor?  Is your faith and love for others based on words or based on action?

I have a confession.  I’m addicted to Words with Friends.  It’s a game I can play on my phone, on my laptop, or on my iPad.  It’s like Scrabble, and I can play with people all over the country.  I currently have games going with friends in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania.  Feel free to look me up and challenge me to a game.

This past Sunday at youth group, our youth pastor (Adam) preached about words.  He challenged the teenagers (and adult leaders) with a reminder that our words matter.  What we say has the power to lift someone to the highest heights or drop them to the lowest valley.  Our words are a heart issue.

I’ve thought a lot about Adam’s message over the past few days.  There are many times when we seem to speak way before we think.  Do we realize that our words have power to change someone’s life?  Or are we just moving our lips in hopes that we will get noticed?

The Bible talks about how we should (or shouldn’t) use our mouths:

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.  Psalm 141:3

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”  Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.  What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”  Matthew 15:7-11

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.  Proverbs 18:21

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being 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 human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  James 3:3-10

I’m sure there are other verses I could reference.  Hopefully, these help you see what I’m talking about.

I want my words to matter.  I want to praise God with my lips and with my actions.  I want to lift others up and to point them towards Christ.

Jon Acuff talks about critic’s math.  “One insult plus a thousand compliments equals one insult.” 

When we insult someone – when we use our words to tear someone down, we are wiping out whatever other compliments we may have shared.  We need to be careful with how we speak to others and about others.

And so, I stretch on.

How have words changed your life?  What has someone said to you that made a positive difference in your life?  What do you need to say to someone today that will change the course of their day and maybe even their life?

This week, I’m going on vacation with my family. I thought I’d take this opportunity to republish some old posts from the archives. Feel free to leave comments here or on the original post. Enjoy, I’ll be back next week!

Today’s post was originally posted in September 2009.  The post references some events that were current at the time, but the underline thoughts remain the same.

There are many examples of public figures speaking before they think. Last night, Republican Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina put aside political appropriateness when he was quick to call President Obama a liar during his televised speech on health care reform to Congress. Several weeks ago, President Obama was called on the carpet after he accused the Cambridge, MA police force of acting “stupidly” in the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. I’d like to think that both of these men regretted opening their mouths before thinking after they said these things.

It’s easy to point the finger at these public figures – after all, leaders are expected to be above reproach, and they should know better. And they are easy targets. Upon further thought, I know we’re all guilty of this kind of speaking without thinking. I was reminded today of a time when I was in junior high, and I was at a dress rehearsal for a musical that I was in at our church. Believe it or not, I was selected to sing a solo (who would have thought). As a result, I was equipped with a wireless microphone. During one of our breaks while I was in the men’s room, I said some things that I later regretted. When I returned from the break, I discovered from one of the sound people that my initial words were shared loud and clear in the sanctuary thanks to the wonders of wireless technology. Thankfully, they quickly muted my microphone. But it didn’t stop the feeling of embarrassment and regret that swept over me when I found out.

In all the cases above (including mine), the regret came after being caught. Did we ever stop to think that God can hear us even if no one else can? Did we ever stop to examine our hearts. I’m reminded of two passages that speak to this. First, in the first few verses of Psalm 139, we’re told that not only does God know our words but he even knows our thoughts:

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

Secondly, in the first chapter of James, instructions our given that we should be slow to speak:

19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Sounds easy? I’m not so sure. I know that my thoughts and words are not always what they should be. So where do I go from here? I think it starts with being more in tuned to God, becoming more aware of times we think and say things that aren’t appropriate, and seeking God to help make a change.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Have you tasted shoe leather recently?  How’s it taste?  What did you do to get that taste out of your mouth?