Words…

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

Words have so much power. We can use them flippantly or thoughtfully, and even just a few words can change the course of someone’s life, for better or worse. Yes, words and how we use them are important; heaven knows I’m guilty of using them unwisely and thoughtlessly. Too often, I’ve had to humble myself and ask for forgiveness from people I love  – and hurt – with my words.

Something my mom used to say to me was that if I didn’t want others to read what I wrote, then I shouldn’t write it. Good advice. Today during my junior high writing class, we talked a lot about the power of words, written and spoken. We talked about the importance of measuring them, of choosing them, of guarding them. Of sometimes not saying them, and often keeping them to ourselves. Of venting to God, sometimes written, but maybe more often, not. We talked about social media and how we can use it to divide or to bless, and how we should never ever use it to announce others’ information or tell someone else’s story.

We talked about how words hurt, how we cannot take them back ~ how we should use them in ways where we wouldn’t want or need to take them back. How once they’re ‘out there’, we’d better hope we’re ok with them being out there, because in today’s world, they may always be out there, and we don’t want to regret them.

When I was in high school, I wrote a lot ~ in journals ~ and I truly thought what I wrote was profound and extremely sensitive and deep. And sooo wise! Many years later, when a friend from high school years and I got re-acquainted, we laughed till we cried at some of those profundities. Those high school musings really seemed important at the time ~ but to no one but me. If anyone else saw them, they’d probably slate me for therapy, for sure.

Not too long afterward, I burned those journals. Just doing that was therapeutic. The words I wrote as a high school girl, which at the time seemed to come deep within my soul (and maybe they did), weren’t the words I’d use today, as a person who is learning to understand my Redemption. Now I know how very important it is to choose wisely, carefully, prayerfully.

Another piece of advice, again from a mother, came from Thumper’s mom ~ if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I might amend that just a little ~ if you can’t say something nice — stop — and if it needs to be said ~ really needs to be said ~ say it in a way that will be constructive and part of a solution, and say it in a way that will bless. Or as James 1:19 admonishes, be slow to speak. If we stop and asses the situation well, we may see that listening may be what is needed way more than any of our words.

A true testimony

I love my teenagers…and their friends. I’ve learned a lot from them over the years, and I hope that maybe I’ve taught them a thing or two. One thing I’ve heard more than once from some of them goes something like this – “I’ve just followed the rules all my life, and if I don’t experience things for myself, I’ll never learn, and I won’t be able to help others.” They equate “experiencing life” with having a dramatic testimony, the I-did-drugs-and-now-I-don’t or I-once-had-an-eating-disorder-and-I’ve-been-healed kind of testimony; and they seem to think they need that kind of testimony in order to be effective. And while it’s true that anything in life we experience can be used by God to help others in similar situations, I feel as if there’s an even more dramatic testimony, one that is harder than any other.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He didn’t fall to any of the temptations the enemy tried to hand Him. Nope, not one — He walked away, following the perfect will of the Father. He knew who He was and WHOSE He was, so His ability to walk away showed a depth of relationship and strength of character that anyone would envy. And He had the ammunition He needed for protection…God’s Word. He walked that line unwavering, the line that we as sinful humans just don’t want to follow. We’d rather tell people about how we drifted from it and then recovered our step, thanks to God’s work in our lives.

But how many of us would ooh and aah over someone who actually walked in obedience and didn’t waver? I would, for one. Not that anyone would always stay on track at all times – most of us have chosen badly, paid hard consequences (some harder than others), eventually recovered, and lived to tell about it. And all that is part of life. But the most “dramatic” of all – the one that demonstrates depth and strength and true overcoming – is the one that follows Jesus; the one that stays strong during temptations; the one that walks that straight line; the one who may not have any spectacular worldly events to tell. The one who knows who he is and WHOSE he is, and lives to tell about it…THAT is the true testimony.

Janie

I have a new friend named Janie, who at 26 has gone through more hardships of life than anyone else I’ve known, mostly because of her choices. But the best thing about it all is seeing God’s work in her life…if left up to her or society, she would either be in prison or dead. Instead, thankfully, she is working as an intern in a ministry where she has opportunities to speak to young people about their choices and hopefully steer them in a different direction. Corrie Ten Boom said that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still…and Janie’s life proves it.

But at the same time, while rejoicing that she has been able to climb out of the pit at God’s direction, I wonder about others who have dug themselves in pretty deep and seem to have no light at the top. At least not yet. My prayer for them is that they will find favor, as Janie did, and turn back before it’s too late. I truly believe that God’s love and grace is sufficient…but I have to confess that it would be nice to see it in their lives, like in Janie’s. Maybe the Hope I see from her story is what will carry me…Lord, help me impart it to others…