To the addict of the unkind word...


 Today's Daily Thought: To the addict of the unkind word

 James 3:2, 9-10, "We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check...With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be."

The most powerful muscle in your body is not your arm or even your leg. You may be able to lift a heavy weight or run far and yet may not be truly strong. True power, true strength, is found in your mouth. It's by the control of your tongue a person is shown to have power and strength.

He or she who can control the muscle of the tongue can control all of themselves. By the control of their tongue they can control their behavior and the very direction of their lives. (James 3:3-4)

On the other hand, by the power of the tongue great evil is accomplished. Like a fire that burns and destroys, the tongue can bring horrible destruction (James 3:5-6). Lives can be ruined by the things we say. Very often our own life is engulfed in the blaze of our words.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, has lectured throughout this country on the powerful, often negative impact of words. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying "Yes." Others laugh, and quite a few call out, "No!"

Telushkin responds: "Those who can't answer 'yes' must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you can't go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you're addicted to alcohol. If you can't go 24 hours without smoking, you're addicted to nicotine. So if you can't go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you've lost control over your tongue." [Mark Mitchell, "The Life-Giving Tongue," Qoheleth blog (11-15-13)]

Have you lost control over your tongue? We are often so flippant in the things we say. We become addicts of negative words and malicious banter. We give our words so little thought. What would happen if we spent as much time training our tongues as we did training our bodies? What would happen if we changed our negative words into affirming positive ones? How could it change our lives and the lives of those around us?

Here are words to live by: "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..." (James 1:19).

You want to change your life? Start with what you say and the rest will follow.

 Prayer: Our Father God, forgive us for our weak tongues, unguarded words, inappropriate speech, unkind gossip and malicious banter. Bring to us words that praise, that affirm, that build up and bring You glory. Be the Lord of our tongues. In Jesus name, amen.

The Power of a Word...

Today’s devotional thought:

Proverbs 12:18, "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

During the 2015-2016 NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings place kicker Blair Walsh had made an NFL-high 34 field goals. Before the Vikings' playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, he had converted 33 of 34 kicks inside 30 yards in his career. So when the Vikings were down 10-9 with 22 seconds left and Walsh lined up for a 27-yard field goal attempt, it looked the Vikings would win. But Walsh's kick sailed wide and the Vikings season came to a crashing halt.

In the midst of the social media storm directed against Walsh, a group of first graders in Minnesota set out to encourage the broken-hearted kicker. First grader Allie Edwards said, "Blair was really sad, and we wanted to make him feel better." One of her classmates, wrote, "Dear Blair Walsh, I think you shood keep trying. Don't give up! We still love you! Git better by practicing." Tyler Doffin filled a whole page for Walsh: "Dear Blair: I fell bad for you. Don't give up. You're still #1. Practis more so that you can get better at cicing. You're so good at cicing. So don't give up! Keep trying! We still love you."

The kids' act of kindness got his attention. He was so touched to hear from children who didn't know him that he pushed his flight home back a day to visit the classroom. After the visit he said, "It was very touching to me. … A lot of [the cards] were very pretty and creative. … I will cherish them forever." [sources: Susan Elizabeth Littlefield, "First Graders Aim to Cheer Up Vikings Kicker Walsh," CBS Minnesota (1-12-16); Kevin Seifert, "Blair Walsh is human, so let's treat him that way," ESPN (1-11-16)]

The greatest power you posses is in the words you choose. It's with your words you can build up or tear down. With your words you can encourage or destroy. James says that in this way the words you choose can be like a small spark that starts a great fire (James 3:5). On the other hand, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

But what your words are really saying is what kind of person you are. For it is your words, more than anything else, which tells of what is in your heart. As Jesus said, "...What you say flows from what is in your heart." (Luke 6:45). Our words show just what kind of hearts we have. When it comes to your words, choose wisely, encourage, build up.

What will your words say today? 

Prayer: Holy Father, we commend to You our words. We ask that You will be Lord of our lives and thus Lord of our words. Fill our hearts with Your love so that these tongues of ours, which praise Your name, may also be instruments to encourage others. In Jesus name, amen.

Mythbuster's cannonball rampage...

Today's thought:

James 3:2, "We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check."

A crew from the TV show Mythbusters was staging an "experiment" in the town of Dublin, California. They were trying to fire a cannonball into some large water containers at a bomb disposal range. Unfortunately, the Mythbusters crew seriously underestimated the dangerous power of a stray cannonball.

According to a newspaper report, "The cantaloupe-sized cannonball missed the water, tore through a cinder-block wall, skipped off a hillside and flew some 700 yards east." But that didn't end the damage. The cannonball "bounced in front of home on [a quiet street], ripped through the front door, raced up the stairs and blasted through a bedroom …. [Then] it exited the house, leaving a perfectly round hole in the stucco, crossed six-lane Tassajara Road, took out several tiles from the roof of a home on Bellevue Circle and finally slammed into [a family's] beige Toyota minivan in a driveway on Springdale Drive."

Regarding the power of the stray cannonball, the owner of the minivan said, "It's shocking—anything could have happened." A spokesmen for the local sheriff's department also commented, "Crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy. You wouldn't think it was possible." [Demian Bulwa & Henry K. Lee, "Mythbusters cannonball hits Dublin home, minivan," SFGate.com (12-7-11)]

Stray words also have tremendous power to rip through communities and lives. Like a cannonball, they create "crazy" damage that you wouldn't think was possible. A stray word shot from an uncaring tongue can penetrate, rip apart, and leave a huge hole in others. Words are powerful things. With that power comes the potential to hurt, maim and destroy. 

Consider the most power man has ever hefted in his hand—atomic power. When given power there is always the potential for evil and the potential for good. Atomic power has the potential to wipe whole cities off the face of the planet or supply whole cities with energy which leads to prosperity. The nature of power is the potential for good or evil. If words can make such a powerful impact for good or evil the tongue has a kind of power. The tongue has the potential for good or evil.

James, as he calls our attention to this truth (see James 3:1-12), uses illustrations that point to the good and evil power of the tongue. The tongue can be like the bit in a horse's mouth. Or, the tongue is like the rudder of a huge ship. Both illustrations say the same thing—the tongue has the power to control our direction. Man has such little control in his world. He can impact but never control life. External control is an illusion. But the tongue can be controlled, be fitted with a bit or rudder. Our control over the tongue is how we navigate through life. We don't control the wave coming at us but the direction of our own ship in order to pass over the wave. Without control of the rudder, our tongue, the wave will hit the ship side-to-side and tip her over to sink. James point: the tongue is serious power in a small package.

And like all power it can be used for more than steering your ship into safe harbors. The power of the tongue can be a spark, a spark that ignites a roaring and racing forest fire. 

A child is told that they are stupid by their parent. That word has power over that child. It can literally shape their potential. Tell them enough and it becomes a fire inside them consuming self worth and potential and leaving nothing but ash and ruin in its wake. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me," is the first lie we told ourselves as children to try and inoculate ourselves against the power of the tongue. And we knew even then, it was not true, and could do nothing to put out the fire.

Like the trepidation a father has as he drops the keys to the car into his teenaged son's hand, we too should have a certain fear, a certain heightened awareness when we enter into times when we will speak. We have to have a certain respect for the power of the tongue before we take it out for a drive. If you don't have complete control you will crash.

As my Dad often asked me when I was young, "Don't you think before you speak?" I learned that question was rhetorical, as he already knew the answer. But isn't that the beginning of learning tongue control? We think before we speak because we know the incredible power we wield and the devastation that power can cause.

How do you keep a cannonball from carving a path of destruction through a city? Don't fire the cannon.

Prayer: Father, we acknowledge the power that is inherent in words, and in concern come to you to ask help in learning control of our rudders, our tongues. We seek to keep our tongues holy because with our tongue we bring praise to your name. May your name be forever praised! In Jesus name, amen.