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Posts Tagged ‘words’

Yesterday I gave a kids’ sermon to the children at our small town church. I usually try to come up with some sort of object lesson to help the teaching stick with them. Almost always I get good feedback from the adults in the congregation because, taking a page from “what would Jesus do”, I’ve found telling stories is the best way to communicate truth about God, no matter what age I’m teaching.

toothpasteIn yesterday’s sermon, I used a tube of toothpaste. I had one of the older children squeeze out as much toothpaste as they could onto a paper plate. Then I asked him to put it all back. Of course he told me he couldn’t. None of the other children volunteered to try either, except the one smarty who told me she could with some sort of vacuum. Kudos to the problem solver. She’ll probably be an engineer some day.

The purpose of the lesson was to illustrate that speaking out without thinking is much like squeezing out that toothpaste.  Once those words are spoken, it’s almost impossible to get them back. I encouraged the kids (and the listening adults) to choose their words carefully, and if they speak hurtful or angry words, to quickly apologize. Most of us don’t realize the power we have with our words. I even told the kids their words can sometimes hurt their moms’ feelings. Yes, moms have feelings. There were a few significant looks exchanged between daughters and moms at that gem of truth.

Left that little 5-minute lesson feeling pretty good. I’d passed on some truth, encouraged kids to be kind, laughed a little over squeezed out toothpaste and sat down. This morning I got a little frustrated over some circumstances beyond my control. How did I respond? Did I remember my own sermon? Did I get all spiritual and think, “O Lord – You have prepared me for this moment. I will respond in kindness and compassion, just as Your Word teaches. I will love and honor my fellow man.”? Nope. Not even close.

I lost it. I chose (yes – it was my choice) to pass on my frustration through angry words in a conversation with one of my favorite people on the planet. It took a long walk around my city (and a cold iPhone battery leaving me with no walking music) to allow the Holy Spirit to show me my failure. And I learned a lesson of my own.

I’m not a rock star. I’m not a superhero. I’m not a great Bible teacher. I’m a flawed human being who needs the grace of God to exist in relationship with others. My pride took a hit today…and I really hope I’ve learned this lesson so I don’t have to revisit it again tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. But I know a few things about God and I know He wants me to pass this test so I can move on to something else. So – as I’m trying to cram toothpaste back into the tube, will you give grace to those who may lose it on you today? Most everyone has a story we don’t know. Face value is rarely accurate. And, if you can think fast enough in the face of frustrations, try to choose life-affirming words. Toothpaste is a real mess to clean up.

James 3:4-6 – “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”

P.S. – I apologized and thankfully, I was forgiven. I think the heart emoji helped.

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mom_aunt_nene_dresses

Juanita & Gloria Damon (my mom) dressed for prom (circa 1945?)

 

I don’t know about you, but I had a mom who wasn’t shy about speaking her mind. She was the youngest of three daughters and admittedly, teased and tormented her sisters most of her growing up years. As a teenager, she was a spitfire who boasted about having quite a few friends who were boys. But once she met my dad, it didn’t take long to say “I do.” She had just turned 18, and my dad was just 21, when they tied the knot. Their marriage lasted almost 56 years, though not without quite a few painful twists and turns. Through it all, my mom stood pretty firm. She had a way of seeing the world and expected almost everyone else to see it her way. I loved my mom, but she was a stubborn woman.

As the middle of five children, I was the born peacemaker. I wanted everyone to get along. I didn’t like fighting…between mom and dad, brother to brother, or even with my sister. My usual way of handling conflict was hiding or running, or lashing out with hurtful words. One of the first sayings I remember my mom telling me: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” She didn’t always live by that motto, but it’s one I’ve tried to use, especially since joining social media. It’s an early lesson I heard that I’m most grateful for.

The book of Proverbs is full of advice similar to my mom’s (and I’m sure she didn’t know it at the time) – “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)… “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life…” (Proverbs 10:11a)… “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom…” (Proverbs 10:31a). When I get frustrated with the hate and vitriol spewing forth on television and the internet, I try to keep my mouth shut. I’m not always successful. More than anything, I want my lips to speak wisdom…my words to be encouragement…my mouth to speak life into a world that desperately needs words of hope and grace. O Lord, let me hear my mama’s voice one more time: “Kris…if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

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