The Weight of Our Words

When Hurricane Irma blew through south Florida last September, we were fortunate not to sustain damage to our home. But the natural environment did not fare as well. Trees toppled all around us. Hurricane force winds snapped off branches and uprooted trees. Root balls sometimes 6 feet across lay upended on top of the ground instead of underneath it.

Many trees died. Some are still hanging on, shadows of their former, vibrant selves. Still others, with human assistance, have been replanted, pruned, and nurtured, and are now thriving.

But all that pruning cost us something. It cost us in time and labor. And in our efforts to save some of the landscaping surrounding us, other landscaping died. 

We piled tree trunks and branches on the curb for collection. The final mound of dead foliage was 6 feet high and wide, and 15 feet long. By the time it was all picked up, we had an equally large patch of dead grass in our lawn. Five months later, it’s smaller, but still distinctly visible.

The grass that died under the weight of the branches has me thinking about my relationships. How many relationships have I killed with the weight of my words? How many people stuck with me for just so long before they needed to move on, allowing the relationship to die?

It goes the other way, too. How many friendships have I walked away from over the years, because the weight of the other person’s words brought death to my spirit instead of life?

Someone once said, “Be careful of your words. Once spoken, they can be forgiven, but not forgotten.”

So true. I confess to having rehearsed hurtful words, long after I claimed to forgive the person who spoke them. Their words pierced my heart, arrows that found their mark, long after the sender may have regretted speaking them. I said I forgave, but I said it from a distance.

Or perhaps we are the ones consumed with regret for words spoken in the heat of the moment. We attempt reconciliation with the other person, but even years later, their hurt is still raw and they choose remoteness rather than reconciliation.

Of course, healthy boundaries are important. If the other person won’t acknowledge their responsibility for the damage they’ve caused, then it’s not wise to continue the relationship at the same level of intimacy. God calls us to forgive unconditionally, but restoration and reconciliation are processes that may or may not occur.

Still, what if you and I were more careful of the words we speak? What if we stopped those words before we spoke them, instead of asking forgiveness after they leave our mouth?

Winston Churchill once said, “We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”

The writer of Proverbs observed, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 ESV), and “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21 ESV).

It’s easier to maintain a good relationship than to have to repair it. To that end, I want my words to be gracious, even when I’m hurt or angry. It’s worth it because people are worth it. People created in the image of God and people for whom Jesus Christ died.

I know I can’t do this in my own effort. I need the Holy Spirit’s work in my life to strengthen me in this area. So today, my prayer is, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3).

Will you join me in that request?


 
A New Way to Express Kindness

kindnessKindness is a virtue most of us appreciate and many of us aspire to.

You may have heard about the practice of random acts of kindness. It supposedly began in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now there’s a new way to express kindness. Zachary Gibson started the Tiny Mailbox Project earlier this year. Gibson set a goal of 100 tiny mailboxes around Los Angeles earlier this year. But his idea has spread far beyond the city limits of LA.

The Tiny Mailbox Project provides the opportunity to be kind, one person at a time, without ever necessarily meeting the recipient of your kindness.

The concept is simple. Each mailbox contains an encouraging note along with several blank cards. The recipient takes the note, and leaves one for someone else.

In a recent interview, Gibson shared his belief that “trying to restore a little faith in humanity is a good thing.”

I confess, I don’t have much faith in humanity any more. The Bible tells us no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). Even if I didn’t believe what the Bible says, all I have to do is observe humanity in action.

Yet, just when it appears kindness has died out, it shows itself once again–this time in the midst of disaster. Hurricane Harvey is the worst weather event to hit Houston in 50 years. Still, it provided the backdrop for a massive, ongoing act of kindness on the part of furniture store owner, Jim McIngvale.

McIngvale has opened up his 2 showrooms for evacuees, without regard for his immediate profits. His daily losses are estimated at a minimum of $30,000 per day.

So what can professing Christians learn from Zachary Gibson and Jim McIngvale?

We know the Bible tells us kindness is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). This means that the more we surrender to the leading of God’s Spirit in our lives, the more kindness will mark our relationships.

Yet kindness has not marked our conversations and behavior very much in the area of politics or morality. Christians are known more for what we are against than what we are for. Many of us have lost the ability to stand firm for biblical values without trying to destroy those who disagree with us at the same time.

And along comes tiny mailboxes and a furniture store owner to remind us what kindness could look like if we stopped being belligerently self-righteous.

What would happen if Christians spoke the truth…in love (Ephesians 4:15)?

Or if we were so surrendered to the Holy Spirit that our “fruit” attracted those who are hungry for food that feeds the soul?

What would happen if being kind wasn’t just something we practiced with other Christians, but something we practiced regardless of the recipient?

Perhaps it’s time to find out. What do you think?


 
Intentional Choices

ChoicesBeen thinking about the choices that fill our days.

I’d love to say I’m intentional about every choice I make. But that wouldn’t be true. Often, the need for convenience or a sense of urgency cause me to make choices I later regret. Frequently my decisions are motivated by the pronouns me, myself, and I.

The most difficult choices are rarely between the good and the bad. Instead, the most difficult choices are between the good and the better, and then between the better and the best. Is it a good decision or a God-directed decision?

In honor of my desire to make better choices, today I choose to:

  • rejoice as I unwrap the gift of a new day;
  • protect my quiet time with the Lord in the morning;
  • pull up weeds of anger that choke out the fruit of the Spirit;
  • break through the self-centeredness that spoils my relationships;
  • reject the tentacles of depression generating from yesterday’s failures;
  • push past the paralysis of fear preventing me from trying something new;
  • cast aside selfishness that blinds me to the needs of others;
  • refuse the prejudice that isolates instead of unites;
  • throw off the controlling grip of materialism;
  • give to meet a need without being asked;
  • speak words of peace to heal a rift;
  • and rest in the contentment of knowing Who I belong to at the close of the day.

What would you add to this list?


 
Who are You? What is Your Purpose?

What is Your Purpose?Today I contemplate my purpose. What defines me?

In our culture, after we learn a new person’s name, the next question is almost always related to what they do.

Other times we’re defined, not by what we do, but by what happens to us. Rape victim. Cancer survivor.

I am a daughter. A wife. A teacher. An author. For twenty years, I worked as an executive.

But someday my parents will be gone. I may lose my husband. There will come a time when I will no longer stand before groups as a teacher. I may or may not publish another book. And my corporate career ended years ago.

So who am I? What defines me? Do I have a purpose that transcends these temporary roles?

These words recently described a dear friend at her memorial service:

“Cancer did not define her. God defined her.”

And there’s my answer. I can define myself with fleeting descriptions that are here today and gone tomorrow. Roles that will change depending on other people and varying circumstances. Abilities that will fade as my body fades.

Definition

Or I can define myself by eternal measures, as God defines me. Descriptors that will last long after everything else disappears.

  • Chosen
  • Loved
  • Adopted
  • Redeemed
  • Forgiven
  • Sealed

Purpose

And what about my purpose? That, too, must have eternal value. Anything other than eternal is pointless because it will not last. So my purpose is to:

  • live in a way that brings praise and glory to God.
  • know Him better.
  • know the hope to which He has called me.
  • and share that hope with others.

Am I always successful in fulfilling my purpose? How I wish that were true! But my lack of success motivates me to persevere.

By the way, if you’re wondering where I found my definitions and purpose, check out the first chapter of the book of Ephesians in the Bible!

Your turn!
Who are you? What is your purpose?


 
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