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)
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