Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Power of Return

Leslie Basham: When you're criticized, what does a humble response look like? Here’s Mary Kassian.

Mary Kassian: So if someone says something nasty to me, if my heart is humble, I will take it before the Lord and I will say, "Lord, is there truth here? Is there something I need to learn? I may not like the way this message came or the way it was delivered through this messenger, but is it Your message for my heart? What do I need to correct?" 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How would you describe your conversations? Does the word "peaceful" come to mind? 

Last week, Mary Kassian began showing us how to use our words to promote peace. She’s written a workbook called Conversation Peace and she’s been going through it in a guest teaching session here on Revive Our Hearts. If you missed any of the sessions in this series, you can hear them at ReviveOurHearts.com

Let’s listen as Mary continues showing us how to use our words for God’s glory.

Mary: Each autumn, farmers reap one of the harvest's most beautiful and healthful gifts, cranberries. How many of you like cranberries? Massachusetts and Wisconsin are the world's largest producers. I don't know if you knew that—there's some trivia for you. The cranberry is one of only a handful of fruits native to North America. Native Americans used it for making pemmican, dried meat cakes, medicines, and dye.

Lore has it that the Pilgrims served cranberries at the first Thanksgiving and today, cranberries are found in more than 700 food and beverage products on the market—from cereals to salad dressings, muffins to salsa. I bet you didn't know there was cranberries in salsa, did you? Last year, farmers in Massachusetts and Wisconsin harvested more than eight million barrels of cranberries. That's several pounds for every man, woman, and child on the planet.

Harvest is the culmination of all of the farmer's labor. It is the reward for a job well done. It must be very satisfying for the farmer to hold the fruit of his labor in his hand, knowing that the bounty of his harvest will bring food and financial blessing to his family.

The Bible teaches us that the words we speak will bring us to a point of spiritual harvest. If we have labored well, our harvest will be bountiful and will bring us blessing. We will be satisfied. That's the final element we are going to talk about in regard to the power of transformed speech. It's the power of return. Proverbs 18:20 captures this concept: "From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied" (NIV84).

His lips, his words, what he speaks, what he says, that produces a harvest. Each of the past six programs in this series has focused on one element of transformed speech. Today, we're going to review what we've learned and see how these elements work together to produce a bountiful harvest.

The first element we studied was the power of navigation. A navigator accepts responsibility for the direction of his ship. He understands that it is up to him to put his hands on the wheel and steer. It's his job. He can't blame someone else if his job is not done well.

If we grasp the power of navigation, we accept responsibility for our words. No one can "make" us criticize, complain, shout, swear, or retaliate. The words that come out of my mouth are my choice. The direction in which I steer my ship is my responsibility.

Do you ever find yourself saying:

  • "He makes me so mad!"
  • "It's her fault! She gets me all worked up!"
  • "When he talks to me that way, I have to defend myself!"

Do you blame others for the words coming out of your mouth? If so, you have not yet harnessed the power of navigation. With the power of navigation:

  • We set our hand to the wheel of our vessel.
  • We look to God for help at the helm of the control center.
  • We rely on His navigational chart, the Bible, to show us where we ought to go.
  • We take our bearings; we evaluate where we are at.
  • We make adjustments.

We accept responsibility.

When it comes to cranberries, only the committed, dedicated growers reap the bounty of the cranberry harvest. Growing cranberries is a long-term commitment. Farmers don't become rich overnight. Investment is high, averaging nearly $30,000 per acre. And it takes from three to five years before the cranberry field starts producing a proper crop.

Accepting responsibility and being committed to the process is the first step for cranberry growers. It is also the first step towards harvesting the fruit of our lips. We want to stay committed to the process, and we want to invest in it, and we want to stay in it for the long-term.

Cranberries are grown on low-lying vines in bogs that are a mixture of a certain type of soil. It's a mixture of sand and peat moss. When a farmer wants to start a cranberry bog, he has to remove all the wild growth from the land, level it, and adjust the composition of the soil to ensure the correct mixture of sand, peat moss, and nutrients so the cranberries can flourish. The process of preparing the soil can be compared to the second element for transformed speech: the power of cause and effect. 

In the program on the power of cause and effect we learned that our words are connected to the unseen attitudes and beliefs of our hearts. Looking under the surface of my words is an essential element for communicating well. What is in my heart? What is my underlying attitude or belief? I need to examine that if I'm going to be a good communicator.

Shortly after we were married (and we've been married now coming up to thirty-three years), Brent and I had plans to go out for the evening. I got dressed and made myself pretty and came out of the bathroom. Brent took one look at me and said, "Mary, I don't like that dress." I was mortified. To me, his statement communicated, "You look fat and ugly. I'm embarrassed to be seen with you, and I regret that I ever married you."

My newlywed husband was confounded! He couldn't understand my reaction. He didn't like the dress—plain and simple That's all he said; that's all he meant. But now, instead of enjoying a nice, juicy steak, he had to deal with a tearful, sobbing woman locked behind a slammed bathroom door.

Afterwards, when we talked about it, I saw that my interpretation of his words was based on my underlying insecurities and my belief that words always masked a hidden agenda. Brent, on the other hand, revealed his belief that being forthright was always the best policy. We both learned from the interaction.

Our attitudes and beliefs affect what we say, how we say it, and how we interpret the words we hear.

  • Do I distrust authority figures?
  • Do I believe that in order to be a good mom my children must be perfect?
  • Am I insecure?
  • Am I feeling stressed?
  • What is my conflict style? Do I run and hide? Or am I a biter, growler, or attacker type of conflict dog?
  • Am I believing things that aren't true?

All these things affect my communication. That's why it's so important to be aware of what is in my heart. Many communication programs refer to this element of communication as "self-awareness."

Self-awareness is helpful, but disciples of Jesus take this concept a step further. We understand that our hearts are deceitful. We know that our perceptions are blurred by sin. So when we examine our hearts, we look through the corrective lens of Scripture. The power of cause and effect teaches us to expose hidden assumptions and agendas and false beliefs so that we can communicate with clarity. It teaches us that good plants require good soil, but we need to get the bad soil out of the depths of our hearts.

Cranberries are started from vine cuttings. Each five-to-ten-inch-long cutting must be spaced and hand planted. It takes more than one ton of cuttings to plant just one acre of a new cranberry bog. 

In our third program we learned that it isn't enough to clean our hearts of bad attitudes and beliefs. We need to harness the power of exchange to intentionally fill them with new, healthy beautiful things. Remember Jennie's beautiful garden? She believed in filling it up with good things.

Through the power of exchange we establish new patterns like:

  • thinking the best of others
  • being a grace-giver
  • expressing gratitude 
  • expressing appreciation
  • learning how to forgive and asking for forgiveness

God wants us to filter our thoughts and attitudes that we keep in our hearts. There's a little test that I like to call the P-48 test. P-48 stands for Philippians 4:8. Philippians 4:8 has a whole list of good things that you want to be thinking about, speaking, and planting in your heart.

I arranged the words in an acronym that makes it easy to remember. The word ends up being: PRE-PLANT. Pre, before you plant. Before you put something in your heart, you want to be sure it is good quality. So pre-planting this, the adjectives in Philippians 4:8, you can take those and ask yourself: Is it pure? Is it right? Is it excellent? (PRE). Is it praiseworthy? Is it lovely? Is it admirable? Is it noble? And is it true? (PLANT)

So before you plant something in your heart, you do the P-48 test, and you ask, "Is it all of those things? Do my thoughts, my words, my attitudes line up to that standard? Is this something I should be planting in my heart?

Establishing new patterns takes time. It involves staying off the old path and repeatedly walking a new way.

We have a small gate connecting our backyard to our neighbor's backyard. When a boy moved into the house behind us and befriended my son, he came through the gate and across our lawn to our back door. Then he began to use our backyard as a route to get to his other friends' homes. Then he started using it as a route to get to school. At first, we didn't notice a difference in our yard, but over time, he started bring the other boys in the neighborhood and they all started using our backyard as a route to get to school.

They walked the same way again and again. You know what happened, they wore a path right through our backyard. We had to ask them to stop doing that. Eventually, we had to lock the gate, and they had to walk around to get to school before we could get the grass to grow in again.

Your first word of gratitude may be met with skepticism, but as you express appreciation over and over again, you will establish a new pattern in your speech. You'll establish a new path. Your garden will become increasingly mature and beautiful. It takes repetition and effort. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes you setting out those new paths over and over and over.

The lifeblood of a cranberry bog is its irrigation system. Water passes through a series of canals, flume gates, and holding ponds. It passes from bog to bog, grower to grower, field to field. For every one acre of cranberry bog, growers maintain four acres of wetland to ensure and regulate that the water flows in the right way. If the channels are clogged, the water can't flow, and without water, cranberry plants will wither and die.

An unhindered flow of water is vital to the cranberry growing process. Likewise, an open gate, an open channel is vital to communication. With an open gate we drop our defenses and interact with humility. When the barriers are gone, we are able to reach out and welcome others in. That's the power of the open gate.

Pride, on the other hand, causes us to put up a high gate and assume a battle posture:

  • I want to be proved right, and you to be proved wrong.
  • I justify my behavior and condemn yours.
  • I have expectations and demand that you conform.
  • I conquer, and you concede.
  • I am the victim; you are the culprit.
  • I am innocent; you are guilty.
  • I am doing my best, and you are obviously not doing your best.
  • I understand the situation; your point of view is misguided.
  • My motives are good; yours are bad.
  • I am 99.9% right and only .1% wrong.
  • You are 99.9% wrong.

That's the attitude I have if my heart is filled with pride.

A proud person wants to control others. They do not have ears to listen because they feel they know it all. Pride puts up gates of assumption, contradiction, and haste. Pride is the biggest barrier to effective communication. God wants us to have a humble heart. 

  • A humble person does not need to be proved right. She recognizes that she does not know it all. She might be wrong.
  • A humble person values others. If I am humble, I realize that if I attack you, I am attacking someone whom God loves dearly. If I malign you, I am maligning God's workmanship. The insult is not just toward you, it is toward God.
  • A humble person assumes a cooperative posture. If I am humble, I am for you and not against you.
  • A humble person is unafraid to take an honest look at herself. She is open to examination. When criticized, she seeks to discern God's truth and make the necessary correction.

If someone says something nasty to me and if my heart is humble, I will take it before the Lord, and I will say, "Lord, is there truth here? Is there something I need to learn? I may not like the way this message came or the way it was delivered through this messenger, but is it Your message for my heart? What do I need to correct? If my heart is humble, I will be teachable. 

  • A humble person is motivated to make others a success. She rejoices when others are recognized.
  • A humble person is quick to see and admit her own error, even if my error is like a splinter and the other person's error is like a massive log. I will be quick to be the first one to the cross to confess it and repent.
  • A humble person listens carefully and is eager to understand.

We open our gates when we bow down in a posture of humility, and that helps us to communicate with one another.  

Back at the cranberry bog, farmers are concerned with promoting the growth of the vines. They add fertilizer, sand, and weed the beds, trim off dead runners, and protect the plants from insects. They do everything in their power to help the plants grow and flourish.

In our program on the power of construction, we learned that we need to to do everything we can do to build up people so they will flourish. We need to lay tracks of faithfulness, tracks of honesty, and tracks of tenderheartedness so that we can connect.

Imagine that your friends and family all live in cities several hundred miles away over the mountains. There are no existing roads to reach them. Imagine that you are building with your words railway tracks from your city to the cities where they live. Each time your speech says something good to them or toward them or about them, whenever your words are welcoming, wholesome, helpful and beneficial, it's like you lay down a piece of track toward their city.

I've heard it said that it takes seven positive comments to counteract one negative comment. So imagine that with every negative or critical comment a rockslide destroys seven sections of the track you have laid. Think of the relationships in your life: your friends, spouse, brother or sister, son or daughter . . . Who would you connect with first? How long would it take? And based on the record of your past conversations, are you ever going to build tracks to connect with that person?

Are the things coming out of your mouth positive? Are they building? Are they wholesome and beneficial? Are you laying those tracks to connect?

The Bible tells us that Job knew how to build with his words. I love this verse. It says, "My words fell gently on their ears. They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain" (Job 29:22–23).

Wouldn't it be wonderful to know that people benefit from our words? That our words were like spring rain and showers and nourishing and healthy and good? Wholesome, helpful, and beneficial words build others up. They harness the power of construction to move you closer.

The cranberry blossoms' light pink petals resemble the head and bill of a crane. That's why Dutch and German settlers first called it the crane berry, because the flower looks like a crane. That was eventually shortened to cranberry. Depending on the weather, the blossoms only last a little bit more than a week, maybe ten days or so. If pollination occurs during this time, the plant produces the tiny green nodes, and then they become red, ripe cranberries after a few weeks. So pollination is very important.

Cranberry producers will put beehives and honeybees around their fields so that there are lots of bees buzzing around and pollinating the flowers. The bees ensure the fruitfulness of the bog.

In the program on the power of instruction, we learned that for our words to be fruitful, we need input. We need the ongoing help of the Holy Spirit to direct our mouths. When we value the power of instruction, our hearts remain teachable. We are eager to learn; we're eager to stay enrolled in God's "School of Speech Arts" for our whole entire lives. We need to be willing to be taught.

The one thing that God's students know for sure is that they don't know it all. Those who harness the power of instruction become increasingly dependent on God to teach them. And they are also open to learning from others.

I am ashamed of the number of times I have approached situations thinking that my perspective is accurate and complete. So often I jump to conclusions about people or their motivation and I am unwilling to ask or carefully listen to their point of view.

I am ashamed of the number of times I have hurt those that I love the most by saying things with my words that hurt them and damaged our relationship. And in this, I have turned my ear to God. God often teaches and corrects us through the words of others. Sometimes through the harsh words of others, that's our greatest teacher.

A fruitful harvest is the goal of every cranberry producer. During harvest, the harvest process is quite cool. What happens is that the farmers will flood their fields. They fill their fields with water. The cranberries have little air pockets in the center of them,  and they all float to the surface. Then they are able to skim the surface and bring in all the cranberries and bring in their ripe harvest.

Harvest is the focal point of the cranberry producer's year. All his labor aims towards this end. If he has labored well, he will be rewarded. The power of return—our focus today—brings us full circle. It is the certainty of harvesting the fruit of our lips that motivates us to work hard at improving our communication skills. 

  • With the power of navigation, we accept responsibility.
  • With the power of cause and effect, we examine our hearts.
  • With the power of exchange, we establish new patterns.
  • With the power of the open gate, we drop our defenses.
  • With the power of construction, we build others up.
  • With the power of instruction, we remain teachable.
  • With the power of return, we enjoy the reward and look to the harvest again.

"From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied" (Prov. 18:20 NIV84). Just imagine the floodwaters of the Holy Spirit gushing over the field of your life and a bountiful harvest of beautiful fruit rising to the surface.

The Delaware Indians used the cranberry as a symbol of peace. If you labor well with an eye to the harvest, you will experience more and more conversation peace in your life .

Nancy: That’s my friend Mary Kassian, showing us why it’s so important to invest loving words in others day after day, waiting for a harvest of peace.  

Mary will be right back to pray. She’s our guest teacher this week on Revive Our Hearts. And to follow up on what you’ve heard, I hope you’ll get a copy of her workbook also called Conversation Peace. Peace spelled like the fruit of the Spirit.  

In this workbook Mary will help you study the Scripture and find out what it says about your words and the heart from which those words flow. You’ll have an opportunity to answer questions and to evaluate your life and your words and to see if they are bringing glory to God.

We’d like to send you the workbook, Conversation Peace, when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. When you invest in Revive Our Hearts, you’re investing in the lives of women. You’re helping them to understand God’s will for their speech and every part of their lives.  

Ask for the workbook, Conversation Peace, when you call with your gift of any size. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com

Our guest teacher, Mary Kassian, will be back again tomorrow. When you truly listen to others, you are giving a real gift. Mary will show you how to develop the rare skill of listening, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Here's Mary back to pray.

Mary: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, for Your instruction. Thank You that it is so practical and that You teach us what we need to know, what we need to learn in order to be successful, in order to be image bearers of God in a way that honors Jesus Christ.

I pray that we will look to the harvest and that we will keep looking to the harvest and that we will stay committed to the process of seeing our lips produce an amazing fruit of righteousness. In the mighty and holy name of Jesus, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture was taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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