My Tongue Needed a Fire Escape

I have a confession to make.

Believe me, it’s not an easy confession. It’s confession of a sin I’ve never heard other moms confess—which leads me to think I was a really, really bad mom. Can you tell how hesitant I am to admit it? But in learning to deal with this horrible habit, I learned a very important lesson I’d like to share with you.

My confession: I used to swear at my kids. (Cringe.) Because I still feel the need to protect my image a little bit, let me clarify. I never used that one really, really bad word. I hate that word! To me it sounds like verbal rape. Also, … well, I suppose I could spend time trying to paint an accurate picture here, but the truth is, it just isn’t pretty no matter how much I try to dress it up.

Aug 7 lemuel-butler-515Photo by Lemuel Butler on Unsplash]

I wanted to blame my kids or the situation. I wanted to justify myself with, I can’t help it; the words just pop out of my mouth before I can stop them. Though it felt that way, I knew it wasn’t true. After all, I didn’t talk that way at church. I also knew God held me responsible for the things I said. Having memorized 1 Corinthians 10:13 as a teenager, I was convinced that He had built into me the ability to control my tongue.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

One day I was doing an assignment for a women’s Bible study group. The passage we studied included James 3:10.

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, THIS SHOULD NOT BE.”

I knew it was time to deal with my tongue.

So I had a little conversation with the Lord. Lord, I keep failing at this. I believe your Word and know there’s a way for me to muzzle my mouth. But I need your help in figuring out how. Right here. Right now. It’s time to get to the bottom of this.

Then the Lord taught me a simple little trick. It starts in your mind long before you ever get into a heated situation. …

You have to prepare.

Then He suggested I pick other words I could use. I needed to choose those words when I wasn’t angry so they’d be ready to grab and use when I was. Sort of like having a bag of tools handy at my side.

I never came up with a list of appropriate words. It was enough for me to realize that the way I could control myself in irksome situations was to prepare before such an incident ever arose. Frankly, it was enough for me to realize I really could keep bad words from popping out

In fact, this led me to a deeper realization. Any thoughts I had given attention to would eventually find a way to sneak out of my mouth when I least expected it. The key was to …

Not allow ungodly thoughts to loiter inside my head in the first place.

I learned that when an inappropriate thought or word passed through my mind, to say (sometimes out loud), Nope, that’s not landing here! I then intentionally replaced that thought with what God would think. I still do this.

A friend recently reminded me of a quotation from Martin Luther our former pastor once shared:

You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.

We all have sinful ways.

Yep, we need to call it what it is—sin. Ungodly impulsive reactions: words, facial expressions, or other behaviors. The time to replace these responses is in calm moments. It’s during peacetime we should identify our poor responses, create good ones, plant the new ones deep into our brains, and, practice, practice, practice.

When we’re in the middle of a firefight, smoke keeps us from seeing the escape route God has for us. So before the battle ever begins we have to acquaint ourselves intimately with that route. We need to be able to turn to it blind—even in our sleep.

Aug 7 Escape Route

When it comes down to it, the best way to prevent curses from flowing from our lips is to plant praise deep in our hearts.

I don’t know about you, but that’s something I can do.


Family, the Beautiful

What comes to your mind when you think about Independence Day?

I think about …

  • The brave who’ve fought, and died, for our freedom;
  • The stars and stripes swaying proudly at front doors;
  • Sizzling hot dogs, watermelon drenched grins, and homemade ice cream;
  • Parades, glow sticks, bug spray, and fireworks;
  • And a kaleidoscope of people from sea to shining sea.

July 3

We’ve so much to be grateful for. Don’t we? Abundant resources. Awe-striking landscapes. Amazing people.

We’re not perfect. Not by any means. But we sure are beautiful. Yes, we are!

What a great picture of our families.

We’re not perfect. Far too frequently we display our shameful ugliness: unyielding division, stinky attitudes, embarrassing ineptness, agonizing failures.

But ever so often we need to put all that aside and throw a party. Celebrate what we are together.

Rescued. Redeemed. Renamed.

Merciful. Hopeful. Strong.


July 3 R&A citizenship

There will be more battles to fight, mountains of litter to discard, sturdier bridges to build, and necessary paths to clear.

But today is a good time to stand. From table-end to table-end, stretch wide and grasp tight. It’s a day to raise our anthem: God bless and guide our home sweet home … our family, the beautiful.

July 3 United.jpg

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Psalm 133:1 (ESV)



I Often Don’t Like Easter Services

I often don’t like Easter services.

I don’t. I like parts of the service—usually. But I often come away less than satisfied.

The Easter story is packed with lessons:

The prophecies of Passover fulfilled
“Not my will but Yours”
Peter denying Christ
Christ bearing the punishment for our sins
By Christ’s stripes we are healed
The crushing of Satan’s head
Light in our deepest darkness
The defeat of death and the grave
Eternal hope
And so on, and so on, and …

It must be rather difficult for preachers to decide what to focus on. Most usually choose a topic that will speak to those who rarely attend church. (I think that’s a great idea.) And for those who want to break the story into meditation-size pieces, many churches offer several services the week preceding Easter Sunday. (Another great idea.)

But if I was the one planning the Resurrection Sunday service …

Continue reading “I Often Don’t Like Easter Services”

Recognition for a Heart Overlooked


You know what? God sees you! Yes, you there hiding in the shadows. You who really didn’t want to put on the dress-up clothes and pretty face and go to church today.


Yes, you who wipes a thousand runny noses, washes sinks full of dishes, and regularly stares down innumerable loads of laundry tossed onto your utility room floor. You who just wants to be loved, scruffiness and all.

God hears your cry for quiet after your ears have been flooded with incessant preschool chatter, nonsense jokes, and sibling arguments. He travels with you as you’ve taxi kids to various activities; He leans close as you sit in doctors’ offices; and He girds you up as you stand in line at parent/teacher conferences.

He understands your loneliness when nobody else can fathom the daily battles with kids who can’t attach or who are impacted by fetal alcohol exposure. He gets your silence at gatherings because sharing what’s good seems too shallow and what’s bad seem too unbelievable.

He knows your pain and how hard you try, how selflessly you give, how much you pray, and the counsel you seek. He doesn’t condemn you when disappointment yields a sharp retort, exhaustion produces a measly effort, or worry sets up residence on your pillow at night.

Yes, God sees all you do. He hears your deepest longings. He understands how much you hurt. He notices how much you’ve sacrificed. And He knows.

He knows YOU. Inside and out, upside and down. And He’s blessed.

He’s blessed by your determination. He’s blessed by your servant’s heart. He’s blessed by your honesty, your teach-ability, and your trust.

And He’s there. Right there with you. Right now. He didn’t flee the room when you yelled at your kids. He didn’t bail when you said you were done. He wasn’t threatened by your angry demands. He’s always been there and always will be.



Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31, NKJV)

He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young. (Isaiah 40:11, NKJV)

And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20, NKJV)

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV)

Rescue for a Mind Distracted


I wanted to kiss that Northwest Airlines captain who pulled his airplane out of line for takeoff in order to rescue my family from a stupid situation. Let me just tell you right here, whenever my husband and I switch drivers in the car, we also switch keys—even in the deep cold of a Minnesota winter.

It was one of the rare occasions my husband had to travel for work. With three elementary age kids I homeschooled, and two more soon to arrive into our family, the timing for this travel was not the best. However, I planned ahead for some fun times (you know like eating TV dinners) and decided to make the three days he’d be gone an adventure.


We picked him up at work so the kids could enjoy a visit to the airport. I decided to let him drive the rest of the trek. It was a cold January day so I left the car running and climbed over the gear shift to settle into the passenger seat. We parked in a short-term parking spot as I quickly exited the car in order to keep control of three curious, energetic scamperers. My husband grabbed his luggage and a small hand as I clasped two others and headed to the terminal. Who thinks of car keys when your traversing a busy parking ramp? We didn’t.

This was during the day of low airport security and four of us could accompany a lone passenger to the gate. My children enjoyed seeing the airplane their dad would be flying on. In short order we hugged and kissed goodbye as I tried not to thing about the days of single parenting. We stood at the window and waited so we could wave as the airplane pulled away (even though he likely wouldn’t be able to see us do so). It was a delayed wait but fun to watch the ground crew change a tire. Hmm. I guess airplane tires get flats, too.

Finally, the plane began backing away from the gate and my children and I turned to make the long trek back to our car. Gratefully, I’d had a long-held habit of grabbing my keys as soon as I’m ready to exit a building, even if it’ll be long before I get to the car. It was a safety measure I’d learned back in high school to have keys—a potential weapon of self-defense—in hand, looking confident and moving quickly in public parking arenas. In this case, it was one less detail to tend to while herding my threesome into the car.

But we were not going to be entering that car so easily, as I searched my purse and found no keys. Panic turned to horror as I realized my keys were in my husband’s pocket. I spun around and saw the plane driving off. My husband had been a trans-Atlantic flight attendant for several years and I recalled him telling me that under no circumstances will a pilot return to the gate once they leave the blocks.

I’m sure I was blanched white as I approached the gate agent, pointed out the window, and said, “My husband has my keys and he’s on that plane right there.”

She looked out the window, looked at me and my three kids, thought for a few seconds and said, “Let me make some calls.”

My mind was spinning, How will we get home? No, not home; we can’t get in the house. Maybe we could taxi to a friend’s house and stay with her. Three days? No clothes. No clean underwear. No toothbrushes. No food. This would be an adventure and we could make it work but … ahhh! Lord, we need your help!

Meanwhile, my husband is comfortably reading in his tight little seat, taxiing toward takeoff. A flight attendant approaches him and quietly asks, “Are you Robert Johnson? Do you have your wife’s keys?”

That question did not fit his I’m relaxing on an airplane while my wife and kids are heading to fun at home scenario, but he reached in his pocket and discovered two sets of keys. I can see his look of mortification as our two worlds collided together in his pants pocket.

“Just hand them to me and I can get them to her,” she reassured him. So what did she do? She took them into the cockpit, handed them to the captain, who in-turn opened his window (What? Windows in the cockpit can be opened?), and hands them to a ramp agent standing on his truck. Moments later that agent walks up the ramp and hands me my keys.

I’m so glad the pilot never said a word to the other passengers about the reason for their second delay. Hours later, as my husband and I shared our versions over the phone, we laughed at the ways that story played out. What an embarrassing situation for us both, but we learned some valuable lessons.

One, be super possessive of your car keys.

Two, pilots (and airport personnel) have soft hearts for mothers with young children.

Three, God has an even softer heart and …


And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)

If God can use the sins/errors of others to accomplish His purposes in our lives, then why wouldn’t He use ours?