All posts by tunemyheart

Mark Browning lives on 60 wooded acres in the Greater Bates City, Missouri metropolitan area. For over a quarter of a century he has been wed to the lovely Penny with whom he shares four children and four grandchildren. In his spare time, he teaches English at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.

The U-Word

James 3:9-12

Purify your language to purify your life.

I’m not a foul-mouthed person. It’s not that I don’t know the words, and it’s not as if they haven’t escaped from my mouth a number of times over the years. But throughout my adult life, I’ve decided that it was pointless to clutter up my language with words and phrases that do not reflect well on me and the God I serve.

As a teacher of English, I reject the idea that there are words that are somehow “dirty.” Words, by themselves, are just collections letters or sounds. What makes a word “dirty” or “impure” is what lies behind it. And when you think of most of the so-called “dirty words,” you’ll find that they’re mostly hurtful to people.

Sure, there is probably somebody who is driven to distraction by the word “person,” because it has the male-suggesting “son” in it. I can’t please that person, but I can try to avoid the words and the phrases and the sentences that clearly offend a wider range of people.

We have words that put down people because of their age or their race or their gender, because of their politics or their family situation or a dozen other things. We have them, and they can hurt. They’re ugly words, and the world has enough ugliness already.

  • What careless language do you allow to lurk in your speech?
  • Do you have a problem with words that offend the people with whom you share your life?
  • Pray that God will open your eyes to the changes that need to come into your language to edify rather than tearing down.

A Kind Word Keeps Giving

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage others for what they are and can be.

It was in the spring of 1988 that I taught my first class, a single section of Composition I at UMKC. Other than the fact that I had pretty much no idea of what I was doing and got very little support from the person who was supposed to be shepherding me and the other graduate teaching assistants, everything that semester was great.

Somewhere along the line, each of us exchanged a set of papers with another teacher so that we could grade each other’s students and sort of regulate our evaluation. When I got my students’ papers back, I couldn’t believe the savaging that this other teacher had inflicted on papers that I saw as fairly decent. Suddenly, I found my confidence shaken. Did I have any idea of what I was doing? Did I really have any business in front of a college classroom?

Somehow I wound up in the office of Joan Gilson, one of the school’s more seasoned teachers. Joan looked over those papers. She was probably overly generous, but she assured me they were not as bad as my colleague had painted them.

I’m not sure I’d be completing my twenty-ninth year of teaching English if Joan hadn’t taken that twenty minutes out for me. Sometimes a simple act of encouragement can have a momentous effect.

  • Do you naturally see the weaknesses and failures of others or their strengths and victories?
  • Look around your life. Who can you encourage today?
  • Resolve to pray that God will open your eyes to the people who need your positive words in the coming weeks.

Bigger than the Newsboys

Psalm 145:2

Praise God for what He is.

Last week, the Newsboys visited our church, playing a sold-out concert on Thursday evening. Because I didn’t have the sense to say “no,” I wound up volunteering for the show and spend a couple of hours in close proximity to the band, first for a photo session and then in an autograph session. Literally hundreds of people, many of whom had paid a premium ticket price just to get this opportunity, waited in a line to have their moment of exposure to the guys who put “God’s Not Dead” on the radio.

There are better musicians in this world–probably in this city–than those four guys, but there’s something about them that draws a crowd. Is it the skill, the songs, the aging good looks? I’m not sure, but there is certainly something.

Maybe you’re not bowled over by musicians, but you likely have somebody who, just because of who they are, renders you a bit tongue-tied. I hate to admit it, but I think that if I found myself in a room with Salvador Perez, I’d have a tough time sounding normal.

But do we get as excited about who God is, about what He is? Do we spend time focused on the amazingness of the God who created the entire universe, who planned for DNA and photosynthesis and nuclear fusion and everything else that makes life what it is? Do we? Do you?

  • How much time do you spend focused on the great qualities of God?
  • Which of those great qualities means something special to you today?
  • Can you spend some time in prayer today, not thanking or asking, but simply praising God for who He is?

The Net Effects of Gross Tithing

Click on image to go to the Media Center page for the series.

Proverbs 10:16

The wise give back to God.

For years, I have tithed on my paycheck, the actual net amount that popped into our checking account twice a month. It was simple, and I rationalized it to myself somehow. After all, if I never get to touch it, then why should I have to tithe on it? Right?

Something Brandon said in a sermon last fall convicted me of my folly. Maybe it’s what he said Sunday on the question of a gross or net tithe: “Which one do you want God to bless?”

Penny and I resolved to tithe on our gross earnings. We also determined to become very deliberate about including every little extra bit of cash that passes through our hands. Since we made our “Multiply” pledges last fall, I’ve been keeping track of my gifts and finding it exciting to see the amount rise.

I’d love to say that a long-lost uncle bequeathed thousands of dollars to me the day after we made that decision. It hasn’t happened. We haven’t even had spectacularly easy sailing. As I write this, I’m a bit annoyed at how low the checking account is.

But we have not suffered. We have been blessed, and we’ve been able to translate that blessing to others. Just last week, Penny took $100 she’d earned and dropped it off at First Baptist-Oak Grove for help with the tornado relief. And we’re not missing it.

I’m excited to see what God does through our small act of obedience.

  • Do you trust God sufficiently to tithe and give sacrificially?
  • What obstacles prevent you from being a bolder giver?
  • Can you pray this week that God will help you to recognize the way around those obstacles?

Lessons from the Buffet

Click on image to go to the Media Center page for the series.

Proverbs 21:17

The wise enjoy what they have.

I have a saying when it comes to buffets: “The food wasn’t very good, but there sure was a lot of it.” Yes, there are a handful of good buffets, who actually put quality food on a steam table without killing it, but generally the appeal of these places is that you can cram enormous amounts of food into your mouth.

I’ll confess that I’ve been known to overindulge at Chinese buffets and that I possess an inexplicable attraction to Pizza Street. But in my heart, I recognize that I’m indulging an appetite for food to an unhealthy degree.

Probably everyone has an appetite that simply never gets satisfied. What is yours? Food, clothes, shoes, antiques, a bigger house, a fancier neighborhood? You’ll probably do your budget more damage, if not your waistline, by running amok with most of those.

Why did God not make me as rich as Warren Buffet? I don’t know, but He didn’t. Why did He not make me as rich as–you name someone you know who has more than you?

Perhaps in eternity we’ll understand why we have what we have, but for us to live lives that suggest that God was stupid in not giving us millions, if we run up credit cards and borrow as if we were Warren Buffet, then we’re essentially telling God how badly He has failed us. That’s not the way to live.

The wise learn to be content with what God has provided, making the most of it.

  • In what area of your life do you find it hardest to be happy with what you have?
  • Do you find yourself more easily drawn to complacency or contentment?
  • Will you spend time just dwelling on the amazing riches that we have in God in the coming days?