Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love Covers a Multitude of Immodesty

The email came several days after our annual family gathering with my sister and her family and my dad and his wife. I really wanted to be offended, but for some reason, I couldn’t. I don’t have the email any more. Didn’t save it. But I’ll never forget it. It served to put me on alert. Heightened my sensitivity. The subject was modesty. Mine. The area of concern, my décolleté, otherwise known as the chest. The email pointed out how revealing some of my shirts were, especially since I’m short, which sometimes gives those who are not a straight shot down. It went on to suggest that even small chested women (like me) need to be careful with revealing too much of the décolleté. Sitting in front of my computer a little caught off guard, I reflected on what I’d worn while we were together. A few selections came to mind, ones I wouldn’t have given a second thought. But as I did, I could see what she meant. One wasn’t terribly low, necessarily, but because the neckline was relaxed, it easily exposed its contents with a bend of the waist or a glance from a taller person, which most people are. Another was a dress that criss-crossed from the shoulders to an empire waist line. I thought nothing of the fact that the “V” plunged into the area where most women have cleavage. I simply have skin and bone. Nothing sexy about that! But on second thought, it was low.

I thought about the guts it took to send the email. It was a gamble. I could have been offended and angry. It showed true love. So I responded. I couldn’t resist a little bit of humor, explaining how offended I was that the person thought I had a small chest! And then I thanked her. In the months that have passed, I’ve offered a prayer of appreciation to God for giving me a sister willing to speak truth in love. Willing to take a risk to protect the men in her life and me. I thank God that something so simple as an undershirt can bring such a sense of security and rightness. And that’s all it’s taken. A few different colors and styles, and I dress with no nagging doubts as to whether or not something is questionable. No bothersome gapping to worry over every time I lean forward or sit down. Secure. Right. Free!

So are there hard and fast rules we can follow? First Corinthians 10:23-24 tells us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being.” Then in verse thirty-one, it says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If all things are permissible, but not necessarily beneficial, the question becomes: How do we dress to the glory of God? I’m sure there are dozens of lists to find and follow, and if you discover one that lines up with the principles of scripture, I say go for it. Use it as a guideline. Monday, I’ll share “Ten Modesty Makers,” and if you find the list helpful, you are welcome to use it as a guideline in your home. Since there aren’t specific scriptures that set forth exacts, such as the proper length of a skirt of pair of shorts or the proper height of the front of a shirt, we can find out what the Bible says as to how we should conduct ourselves in principle. What we’ll find is even how we dress is a matter of the heart. A matter of what is most important to us. Who or what we worship. Are we putting a higher priority on our outer beauty than our inner beauty?

First Timothy 2:9-10 is an oft-quoted passage on modesty: “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” Yes, we are to be modest, seemly and well arranged, in the Greek, dressing in a way that does not draw attention to ourselves, is not extreme or excessive, but rather simple and reserved. This speaks of our attire and that with which we wear on the outside. But then Paul goes on to say we should adorn ourselves with good works. What people see of us and therefore know of us shouldn’t be how cute we dress or great we look, but how we act and what our insides project on our outsides. First Peter 3:3-4 expands on the subject: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” I don’t interpret either passage to mean we shouldn’t style our hair, wear jewelry, or wear nice clothes. He’s saying this shouldn’t be our only adornment as he establishes what should be our utmost priority: beauty on the inside, which He defines as a gentle and quiet spirit.

All the way back to the time of Samuel and David, God reveals what matters most to Him: "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). That is where our true beauty exists and from where it exudes. As such, it should hold a place of greatest importance, especially in light of the fact that “He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).

Modesty is also a matter of loving our brethren. Whether it is our deliberate intention or not, when we dress in a manner that draws attention to our womanly features, or we allow our daughters to do so, we take the risk of causing men of all ages to stumble. Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.” By making modest choices, we can refuse to be stumbling block that causes men to fall. It is not breaking news that men are visual. Their desire is stimulated by what they see. If they see sexy in you and me because of careless or intentionally sensual attire, and it produces lustful thoughts, we share responsibility. Matthew 5:28-29 explains, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Lust is serious. First John 2:16 explains, “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.” Our world appeals to this weakness all the time everywhere. It’s hard enough for men to remain pure in their thoughts when they’re visually assaulted with immodesty everywhere they go and every direction they look. We have the opportunity to guard their eyes and hearts by appropriately covering areas of our bodies that might stir desire. First John 2:10 says, “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” Let us abide in the light with our dress so there is no cause for another to stumble. Romans 14:21 confirms, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” I propose that “do anything” would include how we dress. Love covers a multitude of sin (I Peter 4:8). As we love and cover ourselves, we are covering a multitude of sins.

It’s hard. Honestly, I enjoy feeling sexy. It feels good to know I look attractive in a particular outfit. Sexy is aggressively promoted as synonymous with desirability in our culture, and who doesn’t want to be desirable? And there’s nothing wrong with longing to be desired. It’s natural, in its biblical context. In marriage. I can be sexy and desirable all I want, in the privacy of my relationship with my husband. It’s not that the desire is wrong. It’s not that it’s wrong to want to be sexy and to do something about it. It’s doing so in the holy and pure context for which God designed it: marriage. So it’s not a NO or a DON’T. It’s a YES! And an amen! For marriage. For your husband’s eyes only. One read of Song of Solomon strongly illustrates such passion and desire.

As is His way, the Lord is moving beyond my décolleté to my jeans. How tight is too tight? When someone asks if I painted on my jeans (as happened to me the other day), perhaps that’s a first clue they’re a bit too snug!

Lord, “whatever we do in word or deed, (let us) do in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:7). Help us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Romans 13:14) as we become wholly Yours in our fashion and dress today. Even when it’s difficult. Even when it means getting rid of clothes we love. Even when the cost is high.

Happy, holy dressing.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Obituary, the Now and the Hopeful

Someone once told me to become who I wanted to attract. To make a list of everything I wanted in a man, and to become all those things. It was a time in my life when I was not walking with God. The most natural way I knew to fill the void was to find someone to complete me. Someone who had what I so desperately wanted but couldn’t quite attain. A man. So I made the list. Much of that time in my life is somewhat obscure, but I’m pretty sure I worked to attain the characteristics I desired in a potential husband. I’m working on a different list now. The one for my memorial. An obituary of sorts. A bit morbid, maybe. But attending three funerals in as many months deposited a lingering question unanswered in my mind: How will people remember me? More than that, how do I want them to remember me? What message does my life preach? Not just my “public” life, but the one no one sees. The one of my heart. The one before my family.

One funeral was for a church elder our family had come to love. Humble, a man of few words but overwhelming love, wise, and gentle. He walked the word. His life preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. He lived it in the way he prayed – I mean really prayed – served, led, did what he said he would do, stood for truth, but did so in love. And he adored his wife. Tenderly. Sweetly. Boldly, as Christ loves the church. His life made a lasting impression for Jesus, which begs the question: Is mine?

Katie, the young girl who died tragically in a car accident about a month ago, if even that. Her funeral celebrated her love for Jesus. Her devotion to His word. The light that radiated from a heart fully devoted to Jesus. Her love for others. It begs the question: What do others see of Jesus in me?

Self examination. Brutal honesty. Truth, as God sees it. That’s what I desire as I consider what might be said of me now. How desperately I want the monologue to change knowing what I do about my insides. What you see may look pretty good, but what I see reveals the degree of my need for a Savior every day. The motives of my heart. God keeps exposing how misguided they are, even when I’m “doing good.”  And the good that you see, is it God’s good or good by the world’s standards?

I want to stand before my heavenly Father blameless and harmless, a child of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom I shine as a light in the world (Philippians 2:15). I’m not talking about performance, or good works, or achieving some ideal by sheer will, determination, or my own effort. It’s not Jesus “plus” that saves us. It’s just Jesus. I’m talking about reaching an ever deeper level of absolute surrender. An all consuming love for God. A love that motivates obedience. Experiencing His grace in sanctification to the point of transformation from the inside out.

So here it is. The memorial or obituary as I hope it will one day be written:

Shauna Wallace loved the Lord her God with all her heart, mind, strength, and soul (Deuteronomy 6:5). She humbled herself and was obedient, even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). She loved her neighbor as herself (Leviticus 19:18) and was willing to lay down her life, and even more so her lifestyle for others (I John 3:16). The heart of her husband trusted her; “she did him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:11-12). She was submissive to him, honoring him in private and in public. She was a wise steward over all God entrusted her. She watched over the ways of her household and did not eat the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27). Strength and honor were her clothing; she opened her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue was the law of kindness (Proverbs 31:25-26). She trained up her children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), holding God’s word in her heart and teaching it diligently to her children, talking to them of God’s word when they sat in their house, walked by the way, lay down, and rose up (Deuteronomy 6:7). Her children call her blessed, and her husband praises her (Proverbs 31:28). Her beauty was not the outward appearance, but rather the hidden person of her heart, “with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:3-4). Even on bad days, her love for God showed in her love for others, both those close to her and those who didn’t know her at all. She was quick to listen and slow to anger, abounding in love that covered a multitude of sins. She was kind, did not envy, did not parade herself, was not puffed up, did not behave rudely, did not seek her own, was not provoked, thought no evil, and did not rejoice in iniquity. Rather, she rejoiced in truth, bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things. Her love never failed (I Corinthians 13:4-8). She was full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). She was crucified with Christ; it was no longer her life to live, but Christ lived in her; and the life she lived in the flesh, she lived by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). By His amazing grace, God saved her, by faith, and revealed Himself to others through His work in her. Today, her children love the Lord with all their heart, mind, strength, and soul, and the Lord used her to draw others to Himself because of the ways she loved unconditionally and sacrificially with the love of Christ Jesus.

I put this before the Lord as a prayer. That by the working of His Holy Spirit in me, according to His good pleasure, He will complete the good work He started in me until the day of Jesus Christ. That He will work together all things for good in order that I might reflect the character of Christ in my life. In all ways. All days. In every area.  That people, most especially my family, my children, will remember Jesus in me.

Sadly, if I had to write this same obituary today, it might read more like this:

Shauna Wallace really wanted to love God with all her heart, mind, strength, and soul, but many times fell short when it got tough. She wanted to live a life of no compromise, but when culture made it hard to take a stand, she sometimes wavered. Her desire was for inner beauty to be her priority, but she spent a lot of time trying to achieve the perfect body, hair, skin, and look. She was 43, but would try anything to look no older than 29. Even though she tried to do all the right things, she was impatient and many times intolerant with her family. Her desire was to serve others, but she found herself putting herself first. She lost her temper when she was interrupted, and what she wanted often took priority over others. She didn’t really know her neighbors, and she mostly served only those who she already knew. She was a great hostess, making those she knew feel welcome in her home. She accomplished a lot, but many times at the expense of relationships. She did all the right things to have a relationship with God, but struggled to just worship Him and spend time in His presence. When she read the Bible, she many times saw herself in the lists of things God hates. When she had a lot on her mind – and that happened a lot as she took on more than she should – she’d miss things right in front of her, giving her plenty of opportunities to seek forgiveness. She had great intentions, but didn’t always have great execution. Her kids knew she loved them, but she didn’t always show them with her time. She was working on it, though, and she had a good heart.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Whatever the case, my hope for progress cannot be in me. I fall so repulsively short of the goal. My only source of hope is Jesus – that He will accomplish His word in me. The magnitude of my hope is equal to the depth of my despair because HE CAN DO what is impossible for me. Thank God for His grace! Thank God it isn’t my performance that saves me. Only Jesus. Thank you, Jesus!!!

Not too long ago, I ran across that list I compiled of what I wanted in a man. I have no idea where it is today, but I remember looking over it, amazed. Many of the things I desired, God had achieved, both in me, and in my man, as Jesus filled our voids and became the third strand in our marriage. Perhaps in several years I’ll happen across this obituary, amazed.

How would your obituary read today? What would your family and those closest to you remember most about you? What would neighbors say? Coworkers? Church acquaintances? Friends? Other parents? How do you want it to read? Take a few minutes to consider how you might answer. Find some scriptures you want to define you. Write them down as part of your own “obituary,” then commit it to prayer, knowing God will complete His good work in you, too.

I am humbled and moved by God’s love as I become more wholly His today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Unruly LIttle Bugger

My tongue is an unmanageable adversary, giving me the mightiest of fits in the battle for control. Even James 3:8 clearly establishes the challenge before us: “No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Yet, I believe God’s word that I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37), so I press on in His grace! For His glory. That what He does in me may be evidence of Him. Lord, send Your Holy Spirit to empower us to do what Your word counsels us with regards to our tongues.

Here are the remaining “Ten Steps to a Tame Tongue.”

6.       Trust God, and be honest.

This cuts to the core. Gossip can result when we don’t trust God. When we don’t want to do hard things because we fear people. When we don’t believe His word. When we despise God, not with our intentions, but with our actions. He truly is all we need. Psalm 118:8 stresses, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in a man.” When we believe He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, we can trust Him. And when we trust Him, we can deal honestly with others. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we do, we can do No. 7.

7.       Do hard things.

Have hard conversations. Go to the source of the information or offense. When God told Samuel the judgment that was coming upon Eli and his sons because Eli didn’t discipline them, Eli didn’t go and discuss it with friends and colleagues. He didn’t share it as a prayer request. He didn’t seek the advice of others. He went directly to Eli and told him exactly what God said (I Samuel 3:8-18). When the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin with Bathsheba, Nathan didn’t first talk to all his friends or other profits to see what they thought. He didn’t ask for prayer as a cover for gossip. He went directly to David. We need to do the same thing. I realize we’re not prophets delivering a word from God, but we do receive instruction directly from God’s mouth – all scripture is God breathed (from the Greek meaning of 2 Timothy 3:16) – and we are equally as wise to take God’s word directly to heart, and take information directly to the source. When you do, be sure you take the time to let your emotions settle first. Highly charged confrontations rarely end well. Proverbs 16:32 explains, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”

8.       Choose counsel carefully.

Sometimes, we will need to talk a situation through with someone else. Just as fear and pride can be the root of gossip, they can distort how we see things. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to help us see our fear and pride, as Proverbs 13:10 explains, “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” Well-advised being the key. If we do seek the counsel of others, which is biblical, we must be cautious and particular. Is the counsel going to be godly? Is the person going to consult scripture when offering advice? Are they going to pray? Is the person prone to high emotions and knee-jerk reactions? Does the person tend to have a loose tongue? Proverbs 20:19 warns us, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore, do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.” If someone talks to you about others, you can be sure they will talk to others about you. A good first choice is your pastor or someone in a trusted position of leadership in your church. Be extra careful when sharing things with family that will affect the way they may treat the person who is the focus of what you share, especially if you’re struggling with your spouse and what you say may affect how family treats him or her.

9.       Share sparingly.

If it does become necessary to seek godly counsel, many times, details aren’t necessary. Share as generically as you possibly can to get the help you need, and then say no more. Stick to the facts and try to remove your emotions and opinions.

10.   Remember, love covers all sins (Proverbs 10:12).

“He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Proverbs 17:9). This is where the rubber meets the road. God’s love for us through His son Jesus, when we are saved by grace through faith, covers all our sins. If we have received that love and forgiveness, who are we to hold anything against another? The first and greatest commandment is to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), and the second is to “love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:39). Neighbor in this case is any other person! By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to extend God’s love to every other person around us, no matter who they are and what they’ve done. According to I Corinthians 13:4-8, this means we suffer long and are kind. We do not envy or parade ourselves. We are not puffed up, do not behave rudely, and do not seek our own. We are not provoked, and think no evil. We do not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoice in the truth. We bear all things, believe all things (as in the best in others, not the worst), hope all things, and endure all things. This kind of love never fails. It is the love of Christ. In Christ, it is ours to give.

I pray we will love and let the Holy Spirit convict.

Let us “put away perversity from your mouth, (and) keep corrupt talk far from your lips” (Proverbs 4:24, NIV), for “He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known” (Proverbs 10:9).

Lord, my prayer for myself and those reading this blog today is Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” By the power of Your Holy Spirit, equip us to guard our mouths and tongues that we might keep our souls from trouble as we become more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fight Fire with Love

As we apply the antidotes for Loose Tongue Syndrome, what do we do when we’re genuinely struggling in a circumstance or a relationship? What do we do when we’re not sure what to do or what to say, yet we genuinely desire to handle things God’s way? Is it okay to seek counsel from a godly friend? Is there any room to talk about it with others who can help us work it out? When is it okay? When does it cross the line?

As we saw Thursday, the second half of Proverbs 11:2 tells us: “But with the humble is wisdom.” When we are modest, reserved, and unassuming – submitted to God, His will, and His ways – we will have the discretion we need to cautiously handle the practical matters of life and relationships.

“That’s all fine and good, Shauna,” you might say. “But what do we DO?!?!?!” Pain is a motivator, and in the weeks following the incident with my family, I talked with God… a lot. I prayed…a lot. I asked God for answers. For specific scriptures. Jotting His answers down, I ended up with “Ten Steps to a Tame Tongue.” It’s sort of like a self-improvement program for the tongue. It’s truth He is instilling in my heart so it will affect my lips. I pray it is a help to you as well.

Here are the first five.

1.       Go to God first.

So many times, when we’re hurt, angry, or perplexed, or even just opinionated about something we’ve heard or learned about another person, the first thing we grab is the phone. If you’re like me, you call the person who will tell you what you want to hear at the moment. We might call any number of people before the thought occurs to talk to God about it, yet He’s the FIRST person we should contact! If we feel the need to gossip, let’s take it to the Lord first, and ask Him about it, following His wisdom in Proverbs 11:13: “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” My first response needs to be to conceal not reveal. When I need to talk, I need to talk to God. If I need to vent, I need to vent to Him first.

2.       Grab the word, instead of the phone.

Find out what scripture says about what troubles you. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” He will light the way as we hold up His word to the things with which we struggle. Use your Bible’s concordance or an online resources like or to search for verses that can give you the direction you seek. Ask others which scriptures help them in similar relationships and circumstances (see No. 8 and 9 first; coming Thursday).

3.       Get to the heart of the matter.

Ask yourself: Why am I so upset? Why am I feeling compelled to talk? Taking my eyes off everyone else involved, what is it in me that is reacting so strongly to what’s happened, is happening, or has been reported to me? Is pride rearing its ugly head? Am I afraid? Fear is a terrible distorter. So is pride. Am I hurt? Am I offended? If yes, why? Do I have a right to be hurt or offended? Do I need to reexamine for pride? Am I judging someone? I find writing things out really helps me process and see inside. I like to write in my journal as if it’s a letter to God. Talking directly to Him. Physically seeing my words expose my heart. Pray before you do, and ask the Lord to search your heart, to test it, and to reveal any wicked ways that He may also lead you in the way everlasting. Proverbs 20:27 tells us, “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the inner depths of his heart.” He sees, and He will answer the sincere cry of your heart for His truth. His help. His deliverance.

4.       Consider the hidden.

John 7:24 tells us,  “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Is there something more than meets the eye? If we look beneath behavior with a heart of compassion, we might find a compelling reason for offense. I hate it when I criticize someone else, what they’ve said or done, only to find out they’ve been through something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and their behavior is simply an expression of deep, tragic hurt.  Not to excuse wrong behavior. But that we can have compassion for others. That we might be slow to anger and abounding in love, just like our heavenly Father is with us. Full of grace.

5.       Get the whole story.

Proverbs 18:17 cautions, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.” When someone shares information about another person or situation, remember, there’s always more than one side. As a mom, we face this reality every day, and most days, many times over! If we react without due diligence, we are likely to be the ones shouldering regret. Go to the source (see No. 7 Thursday). Get the whole story. Be sure that if you do take action, it is based on the facts and not on one skewed version, no matter how convincing it might be.

In the interest of keeping things short, I’ll share the remaining five steps Thursday. In the meantime, I pray the Lord will take the time in between to let His word sink deep in our hearts. To the place where it changes how we think and what we do.

Lord, as You promised Your people in Ezekiel 36:26-27, give us new hearts and put Your spirit within us. Take our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. May Your Spirit move in us to walk in Your ways and obey You as we become more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fire in the Hole!

Days into our Proverbs study on speech, a real-life lesson presents itself. A last straw that opens wide my eyes to Loose Tongue Syndrome run rampant in my home.

“You can’t say anything,” the conversation starts, “but…” And the person launches into an emotional discourse that someone outside our family told someone in our family something bad someone close to our family said about some members of our family. Someone in my family carried the news home like a secret weapon to exact justice on the someone who talked about us behind our back. What starts as dust devil reaches tornadic proportions as news of the unflattering comments spreads through my home. Feathers ruffle. Tempers flare. Pride puffs its haughty chest. The heated moment produces fiery vows of blacklisting a friend, and God’s word proves true: “A whisperer separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

Sifting through the aftermath, I become increasingly troubled. It’s hard to confront what my family reflects of my own sin. As I talk with the Lord about how to handle what’s happened, the Holy Spirit brings specific scriptures to remembrance. The effect of sin elevates the importance of God’s word. Why He says what He says. Why He gives us guidelines for living and loving. And He brings to remembrance specific instances when I did not heed His word with my words. Ouch. Grief over my own actions mixes with sorrow over the circumstances I’m sorting.

What is at the heart of gossip? Judging another has to be high on the list of possibilities. Not to beat a dead horse, but if we’re honest with ourselves and with each other, gossip usually starts when someone reaches an opinion that someone or something is right or wrong. A judgment is made. Perhaps offense is taken. Pride is the culprit. Elevating oneself over another in one’s own estimation. Thinking another has no right to act a certain way. In order to judge, pride must be present. “When pride comes, then comes shame” (Proverbs 11:2). And then we share our opinions. The problem is, anything that leaves our lips is likely to return and bite us on the back end. Shame us. Like water that has spilled to the ground, we can’t recapture our words. Once pride’s opinion is shared with someone else, it can’t be taken back, just like God says: “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Proverbs 17:14).  

I am the guiltiest of all. I am deeply convicted. I know of several friends reading this who could lodge complaints against me for this very offense. If you are one of those women, I ask you now, please forgive me. Oh how I desperately need God’s grace to train me in righteousness!

So what is the answer? God takes me to Matthew 18:15-17:

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Regardless of who did what, here’s the bottom line: A person, apparently unhappy with the behavior of someone in our family, took their complaint to someone else instead of straight to me or the person whose actions were rubbing them the wrong way. In an arson case, this would be called the origin of the fire. Unfortunately, the confidante wasn’t so confidential. In this instance, the damage was contained within my family. The fire was extinguished. Relationships preserved. This is not always the case.

I wish the person had come directly to me. In the instances for which I now must confess face-to-face and seek forgiveness, I wish I had done the same. Obeyed God’s word. Done things His way. There is now damage to repair.

This is a big deal. An important life lesson.

Proverbs 16:18 issues a warning for today’s Loose Tongue Syndrome symptom: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

The rest of Proverbs 11:2 offers the antidote: “But with the humble is wisdom.” When we are modest, reserved, and unassuming –  submitted to God, His will, and His ways – we will have the discretion we need to cautiously handle the practical matters of life and relationships. The discernment to follow the counsel of Proverbs 13:3: “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.”

So what do we do when we’re genuinely struggling in a circumstance or a relationship, when we’re not sure what to do or what to say, yet we genuinely desire to handle things God’s way? Can we not seek counsel from a godly friend? Can we not talk about it with others who can help us work it out? When is it okay? When does it cross the line?

Read more Monday!

Lord, in the precious name of Jesus, please forgive us for the ways we despise You with our mouths, hanging onto pride and allowing destruction to come through our loose tongues. Help us to guard our mouths as we become more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Sunday, March 11, 2012

LTS #3: Who Can I Judge?

“You are so judgmental!” a child declares. “I am not judging you,” I reply. “I am your mother, and it is my job to correct you when what I see does not line up with what God desires from you,” I explain.

Am I not supposed to judge my children? How do I correct behavior and train them if I can’t judge them? Monday we talked about a critical tongue. Plucking out our planks before we judge, which in reality stops us in our tracks. Yet I have been genuinely stumped when it comes to addressing obvious needs in my children without judging them. Then I attended a workshop on prayer. I wasn’t going to attend. My family was visiting churches, and I received an email about a women’s event at a church we had attended only once. I normally would have dismissed it right away, but the Holy Spirit clearly prompted me to go. No excuse would stand up against His nudge. So I registered and went. Not only did the Lord provide some desperately needed confirmation for a portion of my book with which I was struggling, but through the speaker, He solved my conundrum. I am so thankful for this simple gem shared that day:

We never have the right to judge another person’s character, only God can do that; and the only time we have the right to judge another person’s behavior is if we are in a position of authority over that person.

What does this have to do with curing Loose Tongue Syndrome (LTS)?!?! It has everything to do with the tongue, which has to do with the heart, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). As such, my words do a pretty good job of revealing when I’ve crossed the line from behavioral correction to character judgment. Words that follow openers like, “You are so…” or “You are always…” or “You should…” or “Will you ever…” or “Your heart is so full of…” All a loose tongue.

So I’ve pondered. How do we know the difference? For me, it boils down to this: behavior has to do with specific actions; character has to do with the heart. Above all, we have to genuinely agree with God’s word that only the Lord judges righteously, testing the mind and heart (Jer. 11:20). As much as we want to think we can, we cannot know what’s in a person’s heart, even if we gave birth to them. Only God searches and knows the heart, theirs and ours. If I have authority over the person, and an action needs correction, then I can judge and correct the action. If not, not only can I do nothing, but really, I need to say nothing.

Blurring the lines are the motives of my heart. Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” If my every way is right in my own eyes, how can I know when I’ve crossed the line from correction to condemnation, or when I’ve crossed the line and am judging someone over whom I have no authority?

FILTER ONE: If I have determined, in my opinion, that you are guilty or right or wrong, I am judging.

Luke 6:37, clearly instructs: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Judge in the Greek means “to pronounce an opinion concerning right or wrong” (, Strong’s G2919, krinō). Condemn in the Greek means to “pronounce guilty” (, Strong’s G2613, katadikazō) by means of passing judgment on that person. Therefore, filter one.

FILTER TWO: If the guilt I’ve assigned addresses a person’s integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting, I am judging character.

Philippians 1:11 (NLT) exhorts, “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ – for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” In the King James Version, character translates righteousness, which in the Greek means “integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting” (, Strong’s G1343, dikaiosynē). Therefore, filter two.

FILTER THREE: If I have the authority to correct, is there a scriptural basis for my correction?

Am I holding my crooked stick up to another’s crooked stick, as my pastor would say, or am I letting the straight stick of the word of God reveal crookedness? “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  This filter can be challenging, because it requires knowing what God’s word says and where to find it. However, it is worth every bit of effort.

I have found that sharing what GOD says makes it about His expectations and not mine, and through His word, He corrects character issues that are at the root of the behavior problems.

If I can hold scripture up to the behavior, and scripture condemns it as right or wrong, then it is God who has judged. When it comes to integrity, virtue, purity of heart, rightness and correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting, only the Holy Spirit can convict and change the heart. Proverbs is a great place to start! There are also scripture books you can buy at any Christian bookstore that catalog scriptures by topic. Coming soon, my book, Holy His: Hope for a Life and a Nation Wholly His, offers this type of catalog, as well.

So we correct with grace and let God do the rest. We put on “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). And we check our motives. Jesus said in John 5:30, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” When we have the authority to judge another person, are we seeking our own will or the will of the Father? In John 12:47, Jesus said, “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Is our goal salvation? Is our goal to lead others – those under our authority and those not – to the cross with every interaction we have with them? If Jesus didn’t come to judge, then what makes us think we can? He came to save. Through grace. Unmerited favor. Am I extending that same grace to my children, others under my authority, and even those who are not?

Today’s LTS symptom: condemnation.

Today’s antidote: correction with a humble heart and an enormous measure of the grace that’s been given to us.

Thank You, Jesus, that you came not to judge but to save. As we seek to be more wholly Yours today, Lord, please transform us by Your Holy Spirit, searching our hearts and correcting our errant ways.

Shauna Wallace

Holy His

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Curing Loose Tongue Syndrome

Wretched groans of despair spew from an upstairs bedroom. Cries for help mingle with guttural moans of disgust. Big sister arrives on scene to evaluate the situation. “What is that???” she gasps. “I don’t know!” the room’s occupant replies. “That is just disgusting!!! What are you going to do?” sister asks. “It’s all over the bathroom and my bed. I can’t stay here!” the other declares. “I’ll never sleep in my room again!”

Mysterious noises travel through the ceiling to my office, where I listen in delight, knowing exactly what it is. What is she doing up there? Her desperation escalates as the reality of the substance gains significance. Suddenly across from me, she pleads through eyes and mouth. “Mother, what am I going to do????” Keeping a straight face takes everything I’ve got. She shows me the source of her distress.

“Wow! Do you think it’s a rat? It must be really huge to leave droppings that large! I thought I heard scuffling above me earlier today when you all were gone. I wasn’t sure what it was. I know now!” Somehow my words don’t reassure. Disgusted by thoughts of an unwanted roommate, she sits defeated. She even touches one.

“Gross! Now you need to disinfect your hands with alcohol!” I insist.

She disappears. Moments later, passing through the kitchen, there she stands over the kitchen sink, spray bottle in hand, disinfecting. Self control expiring, it’s time to let her in on the scheme. Just then, she sees it. More droppings scattered in the kitchen sink. Suspicion registers.

“Mother, how is it in the sink too?” she asks.

Gig’s up. Time to confess. Where is the sister behind the prank, anyway?

The story comes out. Peeking in the smoking oven, temptation triumphs. A casualty of the day’s lunch becomes fodder for a sister’s sly schemes. Pine nuts, when burnt, distinctly resemble rat poop.  Sprinkled on bathroom granite and a fluffy bedspread, they become convincing evidence of an unwanted occupant. Relief floods the victim as she falls to the floor, tears of joy pooling as she realizes the excrement is actually an edible pod. In the face of overwhelming gratitude, revenge doesn’t even register.

How do we handle things that appear one way but in reality are something else entirely? Do we take time to investigate before reacting? Proverbs 14:15 instructs, “The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.” Are we careful to dig a little deeper than the obvious? Pine nuts posing as rat droppings are harmless. Decisions based on errant assumptions pose a much greater threat and can cause harm. I think about gossip. The things we hear from others.  The things we believe based on what we hear. Conclusions we make. Annoyances we allow to cloud our vision of others in ignorance of the actual root. The things we chose to share.

The book of Proverbs provides an abundance of wisdom on speech, whether it’s what we hear or what we say. It’s been our focus during morning Bible study with my girls this last month. What is pleasing to the Lord? What does He hate? He sets a high standard. How are we doing? When we look in the mirror of scripture, what do we see? Shortcomings. I see a role model and mentor whose need for God’s grace and transformation is clearly reflected in the habits and behaviors of her children. The habits of their tongues.

I hear it in the comments we make about what someone is wearing. The hairstyle they choose. The color. We like it. We don’t like it. A decision someone made, and for some reason, we don’t agree. Something someone said, and for some reason, we take offense. A way someone acts, and for whatever reason, we feel we need to evaluate them. Tasty tidbits on the tongue. Harmless banter, right? People watching. Criticizing what we’ve heard and seen. Who doesn’t do it? But is it really our place to comment? To even think it?

Matthew 7:2-5 clearly admonishes:

For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
 Am I measuring out what I want to be measured to me? Really, am I ever plank-free? Is there ever a time when there’s absolutely nothing unrighteous in me, and therefore, I am free to examine others and take specks from their eyes? I seriously doubt it!

Thank You, Holy Spirit, for raising my level of alert. Thank You for the elbow when the thought is about to exit the lips. Jab harder. Better yet, deal with my thoughts in such a way that they produce words of life. “Death and life is in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Prov. 18:21). Let the fruit of my tongue be life. A feast from which I and others gorge.

I think I’ll make this the first of a series. Actually, it’s sort of the second in the series. “My Wicked Tongue” was really the beginning, but then God took the next posts in a different direction. I think I’ll call the series “Curing Loose Tongue Syndrome.” LTS for short. It is a serious malady. A cancer. We must take aggressive measures to eradicate it from ourselves and our families!

The disease and antidote are embodied in Proverbs 10:19: “In the multitude of 
words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

The first symptom: a wicked heart.  It’s remedy: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

Today’s symptom: a critical tongue. It’s remedy two…well, it’s actually a few rules by which we can live.

LTS Rule #1: Criticism is welcome when perfection is achieved.

LTS Rule #2: No one is perfect. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

LTS Rule #3: “What is desired in a man is kindness” (Prov. 19:22).

Together, let’s practice these rules as we become more wholly His today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When God Doesn't Fit the Checklist

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a doer. I live by checklists. I write everything down, organized by area of responsibility, and even by area of town. It’s all in my trusty spiral that goes everywhere with me, at the ready to cross something off at any moment. The busier my life, the more I rely on my spiral to “get my back.” It gives me great peace of mind to know that once I write something down, I don’t have to think about it anymore. When I need to do something about it, it will be right in front of me as I review pending tasks. Each day, I review my lists and determine the highest priority items for that particular day, and if I find myself with a few extra minutes, I’ll review my lists to see if there’s something I can get done or on which I can make progress. It’s a great tool that serves me well. Perfect for my Type A personality! Sometimes, if I do something off my list, I might add it, just so I can cross it off! Gross, I know. My compulsive personality can’t help itself at times. It’s that part of me that can be my greatest weakness or my equally great strength. Do you have one of those? Something that when held in check is your greatest strength, but when out of balance becomes a detriment?

It’s that part of me that wants a formula for everything. That way I can write it down, follow it, and yes, check it off! If you give me a formula or I can somehow figure one out, confidence soars because I’m a rule follower. If I just do the formula, I am guaranteed success. In some things, it has worked. Performance is rewarded, and many times, we are conditioned accordingly: excellent performance is rewarded; poor performance is not.  It’s a necessary truth or guideline for school, sports, career, and even hobbies and volunteer work. Somewhere along the way, though, I applied it to my relationship with God, and it became about performance. Quiet time? Check. Church Sunday? Check. Tithe? Check. Serve? Check. Join a Bible study? Check. Head on my pillow, I would evaluate my day according to how I “did” in each of these areas and many more. Did I yell at my kids? Did I respect James? Did I take time for someone in need? If I performed well, it was a good day. Being my worst critic, those days were few and far between, and falling short became an intimacy barrier. The cycle became debilitating. It backfired, really. The craziest thing about it is I didn’t even know. I thought I was doing well to evaluate my life according to the word of God. To strive for spiritual perfection. Yet, doubt gnawed at my spirit and fear became a constant irritant. Was I really saved? Would I lose my salvation if I didn’t do or not do everything in the Bible? Would my shortcomings short circuit God’s blessings in my and my family’s life? I was living by the law, not by grace. I was trying to earn God’s favor and blessing. And if it was something I could earn, it was something I could lose, and according to my evaluation of myself, everything was at risk.  It was miserable!
Here’s the tricky thing for me. God does desire that you and I live according to His word. The Bible is full of guidelines for godly living, things we are to do and not do. There are tons of “if…then…” scenarios that promise certain outcomes based on certain actions and heart attitudes. We should desire to please Him. We should desire to do what He tells us to do, and to abstain from those things that are offensive to Him. We should hold ourselves to His standard and make every effort to not sin. What’s wrong with striving? If God desires godly behavior, and we do what He expects, what’s the big deal?
The answer: Grace. Grace is the big deal. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Our salvation is a gift. Even the faith with which we respond is from God. We do nothing to earn our salvation. We can do nothing to retain our salvation. We have God’s favor and blessing because He chooses to bestow it. Because we are His children. Because of His grace and His love. The law is a taskmaster. Love for the One who saves us is a motivator. We look at standards. God looks at the heart. We measure performance. God measures motive. We apply formulas. God supplies His Spirit.
Trapped in a self-imposed prison of spiritual perfectionism, God set me free. In a moment of concise revelation, He lifted the burden of performance with one directive: Fall in love with Me. Scales fell from my eyes. My heart. I saw. “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). That’s it. When I fall in love with Jesus, that love becomes the motive. I’m no longer earning His favor, I’m loving Him, and because I love Him, I naturally do what He wants me to do. In order to fall in love with Him, I have to spend time with Him. I have to spend time in His word. I have to know Him. When I do the things necessary to know Him, I am in His presence. In His presence is fullness of joy. I am filled with His Spirit. And He does in me the work He desires. He produces that which pleases Him. I just have to fall in love with Him. 
To fall in love, I have to worship. Be a worshipper.
He drives this home at a conference. David is mentioned. A true worshipper. A man with a heart for God. A man whose worship is so public, so uninhibited, that it disgusts his wife. Returning to the City of David with the Ark of the Lord, David leapt and whirled before the Lord. In public. For all to see! No shame in his game, we might say. His wife, Michal, watched  through a window, and “despised him in her heart” (2 Sam. 6:16). After the Israelites set the ark in the tabernacle and David finished offering burnt and peace offerings to the Lord, he went home to bless his household, only to be met by a mocking wife. I would imagine she was thinking of one thing only: what would people think of her after seeing her husband dancing publicly before the Lord? “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” she taunts in verse twenty. So he shuts her up, explaining that the Lord chose Him, and therefore he would worship, even more undignified, in fact, “humble in my own site” (2 Sam. 6:22). By those she was sure would disdain him, he knew he would be honored. “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death” (2 Sam. 6:23). She was barren. And God showed me. More scales from my eyes. When there is barrenness in my life, look for a lack of worship.
So this is my formula. Fall in love with God. Learn to be a worshipper. Practice. Surround myself with worship music. Spend time considering, pondering, meditating on His goodness, His character, His awesome and mighty character. Tell Him. Love Him. Praise Him. And let Him do the rest.
How have you found yourself falling in love with Jesus? What is your favorite way to worship? Have you struggled with living by grace rather than the law? Is there a scripture you can share or a teaching you’ve heard that might help others in their pursuit of Jesus? Consider sharing your thoughts below.
May He cause us all to fall deeper in love with Him, and to fall to our knees in worship, as we become more wholly His today.
Shauna Wallace
Holy His