Monthly Archives: March 2014
I stood in the plumbing aisle of the hardware store, trying to decide which kitchen faucet to buy:
chrome or stainless steel finish?
sprayer in the main faucet or separate?
longer warranty or lower cost?
As I debated, I noticed the words on a faucet box that transported me from the plumbing aisle to my high school Spanish class:
“escutcheon plate optional.”
I was having trouble remembering a new set of Spanish vocabulary words, one of them escuchar, which means “to listen.” I found a way to associate a word I knew with the Spanish verb that was new.
Escuchan means “they listen” in Spanish, which reminded me of the English word “escutcheon” (an ornamental or protective plate around a keyhole, drawer pull, light switch, or faucet). So I imagined someone listening to a conversation behind a closed door by pressing their ear to the keyhole set in the escutcheon.
While the words “escutcheon” and escuchan are somewhat similar in pronunciation, they come from different Latin roots:
- “escutcheon”–meaning “a shield”
- escuchar–meaning “to listen to, to heed or obey, or to overhear or listen secretly”
It was a complicated way to remember one Spanish verb, but it worked, and I still remember it these many years later.
* * * * *
For the third week in a row I’ve been thinking about what God has to say about taking care with the words we speak. I’ve studied Bible verses and written two posts: Careful and Fragile Wings: Careful, part 2, but I guess I needed to hear more on the subject.
Last Sunday I was surprised to learn that the text for the sermon was James 3:1-12. Our pastor spoke about the influence of the tongue and how powerful words can be. Wicked words can be like a spark that sets a whole forest on fire. Our tongue can “run wild” and be “full of deadly poison.” Our words have the potential for evil or blessing.
A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
James 3:5 MSG
Kind words are balm for our souls. We need to both give and receive kind words.
Too often I find myself going about my day so quickly that I miss opportunities to extend a simple kind word. Perhaps you do the same?
Have you heard the story about the pastor who preached the same sermon Sunday after Sunday? When confronted by a member of the congregation, the pastor explained that he would move onto the next topic when the people started living out the current sermon. Maybe that’s me–hearing the same message repeatedly until I get it.
God keeps leading me–again and again–to pay attention to my words and be careful what I say and what I write. I don’t have to press my ear to the keyhole to hear what He has to say; God’s words have been pretty plain.
But I do need to listen and heed what God is saying. I need to obey.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 1:22 NIV
Escutcheons may be optional on my kitchen faucet, but listening–followed by obedience–is not. I need to remember Jesus’ words (in Spanish and English).
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28 NIV
Él contestó: —¡Dichosos más bien quienes escuchan lo que Dios dice, y lo obedecen! Lucas 11:28 Dios Habla Hoy (Spanish)
linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee
linking with Michelle DeRusha
I love it when I see a theme developing–a God prompted theme. Since I posted Careful about taking care with the words we speak to others (and ourselves), I’ve noticed other bloggers and websites have had something to say about the subject, too. Sometimes it wasn’t their main point, just peripheral, but I heard the still, small voice.
I think God is still trying to teach me something. Join me as we look again at the effect our words can have on hearts–hearts as fragile as butterfly wings.
Words matter, and they should edify.
What will you contribute to your world today? Endless-mindless chatter or pontifications or soliloquies or slams against anything or anyone with whom you don’t agree? Or life-giving words that build up and challenge and leave the hearer wanting more?
“Edify” means to instruct or benefit, to uplift. The Latin source words are aedes “a dwelling, temple” and facere “to make.” So when we speak edifying words to others we have the privilege of helping to construct the dwelling, the temple for the Spirit of God in another human being.
Watch your tone or Lessons from a lab
I watched our trainer use positive vocal tone and food rewards. She never once used physical force or harsh words.
Maybe if I spoke words of love more often than complaints and demands, my family and friends might respond differently.
Rose obeyed her trainer. Why?
Because she associated the call to come with good—with pleasure—with reward.
Warning: Fragile Hearts Ahead
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 NKJV
What if occasional hurtful words become a pattern of humiliation and abuse?
Focus on the Family recently did something out of the ordinary. Due to the huge response to a show on emotional abuse, they aired it again only a few months after the first broadcast. The show’s guest, a licensed clinical social worker and author, Leslie Vernick said
The Bible is quite clear that reckless words pierce like a sword …. God validates the reality of our harsh words on someone’s soul, spirit and body. And I think we as Christians need to validate that, too.
Need to learn more about emotional abuse?
By reading this article series [on the Focus on the Family website], we hope you will help you learn to listen to your friends’, neighbors’, relatives’—or maybe even your own—waspish, hurtful words. And if you are a recipient of this type of domestic violence, first hold yourself in high esteem, re-evaluate your relationships and then ask for help.
Handle With Care
Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience shares The 1 Thing You Have To Stop Doing If You Ever Want a Harvest and talks about mudslinging and angry words. We need to remember to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Read all the angry and sign up for the culture wars and pump your angry fist and you sign up to take down the very people that Christ took nails for.
Read all the angry and go ahead and sling a bit of mud and you find yourself the one going a bit blind. Been there, done that: You forget how to see people as souls, you forget that you’ve never once talked about a mere person, but always and only about God-fashioned souls so handle with care.
You forget that the person you’re slamming is a person who Jesus loved so passionately for, He busted open His heart and bled for.
In a Facebook conversation about these words from Ann Voskamp, I read of my friend Berny’s desire:
Constraint of pen and mouth . . . and keyboard.
I pray for grace and gracefulness.
I don’t want to harm . . . only bless.
* * * * *
Photo of dogs and trainer by Heather MacLaren
Photo of cross and shadow by Barb Briggs
I skim. I read titles, headlines, and first sentences quickly and go back later to fill in details. Usually this allows me to summarize a post or an article before reading, but sometimes my first, cursory glance isn’t accurate and has startling results.
Skimming the name of a post featuring a ground beef recipe, I misread the title (“Frugal food – savoury mince”) on Donna Hetzel’s blog, Down to Earth. I left out the “n,” making the title read “Frugal food–savoury mice” and then went on to see this in the first paragraph: “This is a good dish that uses a small amount of meat but it’s still very tasty.” Hmm . . . perhaps a little too frugal for me.
I need to read more carefully.
Sometimes my lack of care in reading titles leads to letters added. Piercing The Fog: How To See Past The Gloom Of Despair in Of Dust and Kings became “Piercing the Frog” in my slapdash scanning. T E Hanna’s serious commentary on despair and the life of David turned into a puzzling mix in my mind of amphibian cuisine, meat forks, and depression.
I need to skim with more caution.
Recently I saw this news story title: “Wisconsin Town Uses Explosives on Frozen Creek.” I misread one word, however, and accidentally turned the The La Crosse Tribune’s story into “Wisconsin Town Uses Expletives on Frozen Creek.” I presumed it referred to citizens in Wisconsin venting their frustration with a long, cold winter. Words can be powerful, but I don’t think they’ll have much effect on icy creek beds.
Words really are powerful, though, and we should be careful with them.
A letter or two can make a big difference.
* * * * *
A few weeks ago we visited a glass house conservatory with a butterfly wing. Before entering the butterfly area, the docent warned us no plant material was allowed; neither were food and drink, large bags, or strollers. She explained that we shouldn’t touch or grab the butterflies to prevent their fragile wings from being broken and the scales from being rubbed off. Unfortunately, some of the butterflies we saw did have damaged wings.
We also needed to watch where we stepped because the butterflies often sat on the walkway. Before leaving we were to make sure we had no butterfly hitchhikers. In short, we needed to be careful.
* * * * *
Look at the people around you. Walk carefully; watch where you step. There are many fragile hearts needing a kind word, a sweet and healing word. Words are powerful.
Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:24 NIV
Words are full of power, and we should be full of care and consideration as to when we say them.
The right word at the right time
is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,
Proverbs 25:11 MSG
Words are able to build up hopes or dash down dreams. Remember the children’s Sunday School song? “Be careful little mouth what you say.”
Just as a letter or two inaccurately read changed the whole meaning of a story, a single word or two can hurt or discourage.
Speak instead words that encourage, that build up to your family, your friends, the people in your pew at church, the stranger in line at the grocery store. Speak them to yourself. Words that comfort, that cheer, that console.
So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 MSG
Speak the words of the God who loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), who will never forsake us, who loves us enough to die for us.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NIV
My prayer for us all:
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NIV
linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee
linking with Holley Gerth
The white shed doors reflected the cotton-candy pink and baby blue of a February dawn. Although an imperfect reflection, it was still a glorious way to start a winter’s day.
The setting sun is sliding north along the western horizon as we near the calendar boundary of winter and spring. White garage door panels were transformed one evening by echoing the day’s last golden and rosy rays.
Windows do a better job at reproducing the image of the sunset. Hints of clouds and brush strokes of branches paint the glass, but the picture is warped and imperfect.
The side mirror of my car captures the glowing clouds just minutes after the sun has dropped over the snowy horizon. The picture is clearer (and would be sharper still if I’d cleaned the surface of the mirror), but still flawed and incomplete. The image comes with a warning: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now. 1 Corinthians 13:12 LB
As Christians, we are living “images,” reflections of the character of Christ. The word “reflect” means to bend back. However imperfect we are and whatever substance we’re made from (metal, painted wood, glass, or mirror), we are to “bend back” the love and glory of God so that others may see glimpses of His nature and pictures of what the Good News can do in our lives.
It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. 2 Corinthians 4:6 MSG
When we gaze on a reflection, despite the beauty that may be there, we’re missing the original. We have to change our perspective and find the source of the light.
And who wouldn’t want to turn around and see this,
the source of the machine shed’s glow?
Or this gorgeous sunset reflected in a mundane garage door?
Or the broad, cloud-spashed sky above darkening fields,
painted with gold and lavender and aqua
that was incompletely captured in a jumbled likeness on a west-facing window?
Or the grand beauty of the whole of the western sky lit bright,
cooling jet trails and lavender clouds alike?
How exquisite your love, O God! . . .
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.
Psalm 36:7, 9 MSG
linking with Jennifer Lee Dukes