Words from Another World

“Sticks and stones might break my bones but words will never hurt me!” Wrong.

As an adult I’ve long since conceded that the childhood nursery rhyme we sang to protect ourselves couldn’t be further from the truth. I no longer deny that words can inflict lasting pain but my fascination is with their power to change the world.

This ability of ours to communicate, it’s combustible.

fire

Picture if you will the disciples of Christ sitting in an upper room waiting and praying, praying and waiting. Before leaving in the clouds, Jesus had promised to send them power to take His message to the ends of the earth. He didn’t tell them what this power would look like or how long they’d have to wait for it, only that they must.

Finally, after days and nights of waiting, after all the anticipation and questions surrounding this mysterious force Jesus had spoken of, after weeks of wondering what this supernatural aid might be and how they would wield it, God’s promised fire fell “as cloven tongues of fire.”

How interesting. Fiery cloven tongues of an other-worldly origin.

I find it fascinating that out of all the body parts the writer could’ve used to describe this amazing scene when God’s fire power fell on man, he chose a human tongue. What a visual of God’s plan to employ these fleshy instruments of ours to speak from the understanding of one human to that of another, each witnessing of the consuming fire lit in his or her heart.

In light of such a mission, is it any wonder that we’re so strictly charged to monitor our tongues and the power of language? How can we allow ourselves to use whatever words we want with whomever we want whenever we want-–knowing that God has chosen these same tongues as holy messengers to take His gospel into all the world?

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. James 3:10

For those of us who feel called to write, these questions should weigh even heavier.

My prayer is for our words and our tongues to have fire power because they’re yielded to His will instead of our whim.

Hugs, Shellie

Watch Your Words: A Mother’s Day Reflection from Nature

Photo/KarenJordan

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  (James 1:9 NLT).

I glanced up the hill behind our home, and I had eye contact with a doe as she watched over her fawn. As I continued to water my wilting tomato plants on my wooden deck, the doe stepped closer to check my reaction to her movements.

I remained painfully still while watering my plants. Any sudden movement from me would have caused the doe and her fawn to scamper beyond my sight.

A few minutes later, I turned my head to redirect my hose toward another plant. When I looked back up, I saw the deer walking quietly away from me, grazing on the grass and plucking leaves from the low-hanging branches.

Without any words, I understood this message from nature, loud and clear, “We feel safe here if you don’t make any sudden moves to threaten us.”

Reality check. As I observed the doe and her fawn, I recalled a recent conflict with my daughter Tara, mother of five children.

How many times have I chased away my children with my impulsive words or quick temper? Too many to count.

Without outlining the nitty-gritty details of my personal life, I’ll “plead the Fifth Amendment” here—on the grounds that my answer may be self-humiliating.

Good word. So, I’ll just quote the wisdom of the Bible.

And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice. (Eph. 6:4 LB)

Am I cautious with my movements and reactions as I relate to my own children and grandchildren? I’m working on that one.

After I expressed my concerns and expectations to my daughter about a situation with one of her children, I regretted my hasty response and unsolicited advice. So, I offered a heartfelt apology, hoping and praying for her forgiveness. I realized that my emotional reactions often bring unintended consequences.

Reflection. Sometimes our silence speaks more clearly than our words. I know my voice can scare away an animal or bird, but sometimes I forget that just one inappropriate word can also repel a child, friend, or loved one.

We often use our written and spoken words to express our thoughts and feelings. But at times, we fail to guard our choice of words or listen to others. As a writer, I know the importance of editing my words. But often, I forget to consider the power of my spoken words, and I fail to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (Jms. 1:9 NLT)

When the doe appeared in my backyard again, I knew to be quiet. Opening a squeaky door or stepping on the dry, parched leaves would propel her to run to a safer place with her fawn.

As I watched the doe scamper away with her young a few minutes later, I thanked God for the lessons He sends me in nature for my own family and for my writing life. I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for being exposed to His truth expressed in nature and in my everyday life. Then, I asked Him to help me release my children and all of my expectations once again.

What concerns and expectations do you hope to release to God? 

Reflection on the Writing of Books

After a conversation with a Catholic friend the other day, I got to thinking about the nature of revelation. My friend and I believe the same exact good news—that God orchestrated his son’s human birth and death and coming back to life so that we humans could live forever—but we come to it so differently: my friend through tradition mainly, beliefs passed down and solidified over the centuries since Jesus’ time, and I mainly on the basis of what Jesus’ friends and their followers wrote down long after he left them.

If my friend and I were to argue the superiority of our respective views—which we do not, being content to share the essence of our faith, if not the minutiae of how we came to embrace it in the first place—we would soon reach an argumentative impasse. My friend’s sources are certainly older, since the passing down was already happening when Jesus still walked among us and words still dropped from his tongue and people around him were still being amazed by the miracles he performed in their midst. I would argue that, while my sources are centuries younger, they were surely more authoritative for having been written down rather than left to a millennia-long game of telephone, in which the message changes, often comically, every time it’s passed from mouth to ear. He would surely counter that mindless adherence to an ancient book produces its own, often comical, misunderstandings about God, and I would have to agree. And so it would go. If, that is, we lowered ourselves and risked our friendship to argue in this way. But, as I say, we don’t.

It struck me in thinking about this non-argument, though, how crucial a role words and books do play in my faith—even though, as the apostle Paul rightly asserts, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20 NIV). Even small children, incapable of reading, can know God—as I did when I was little—just as non-literate believers have throughout the centuries.

Faith, in other words, does not have to depend on written words. And yet, for many of us—for me—it does. Or, perhaps not faith itself but faith growth.

And although my friend might argue that my dependence on specific words and passages of scripture surely limits my capacity to believe, I am confident that, in the main, the Bible enlarges my faith, challenging me to see and hear and inhabit the world differently than is my wont and to recognize God in it more readily. So, too, do other books. Something about words, written down, demands reflection.

A melamed (teacher) and his students in 19th century Podolia

So, it seems to me, we writers of books have a significant role to play in the furthering and nurturing of faith. And, though God is bigger than anything we or the biblical writers of old can convey, bigger indeed than the Bible itself, we have a rare responsibility. We govern unseen cities already, through our words, and tutor the very children of God.

Marketing Love

Striding down the endless hallway of the Mayo Clinic, I passed hurting people on all sides.  This wasn’t about being heroic; I simply wanted to make my day about more than a doctor appointment.

“Okay, Lord. Who?”  My book felt sweaty in my hand.

Copy number one went to the sweet lady in a wheelchair. “Oohhh,” she said, pursing  fuchsia lips.  “It looks wonderful.  Thank you, Dear.”

Copy number two returned to me with the cold shoulder of rejection.  I kept walking because I couldn’t shake off the possibility that God might still want to do something. Besides, I was stubborn and didn’t want to go home with the book.  When I got to the end of the hallway, I discovered I’d inadvertently funneled into a large waiting room.

“Okay, God.  What now?”

Doing a three-sixty over a sea of people, I tried to look inconspicuous.  Then, with a puff of a prayer, I picked a pleasant-looking lady.  She’d be the one.  I took a deep breath and plopped myself down with only a chair between us.

After a minute of pretending to read my own book, I cleared my throat.  It worked.  We made eye contact.

“Hi,” I began.  “This may sound strange, but I prayed God would lead me to someone I could bless with this free inspirational book, and I feel it’s you.  May I give you this?  I wrote it.”

Her eyes lit up.  “Oh, bless you,” she said, glazing with tears.  No fanfare, just a simple exchange.  I went home happy and bookless.

Two or three weeks went by and apart from a few imaginations of finding “A Friend in the Storm” in a thrift shop, I basically forgot about my give-aways.  That is, until three days ago, when I received this heart-stopping email from Sara, a friend I hadn’t talked to for months:

Dear Cheryl,

I talked to my neighbor & friend about 2 weeks ago, Krista Flint.  She had an amazing story of being touched by God’s love through a stranger.  And that stranger was YOU!  It gave me goose bumps to hear of how she had been going through so much and that you sat beside her in the waiting room and gave her your book.

She was so blessed by your words, kindness, & the power of your poems. She said that she knew that God was near, but it was so comforting to hear it from someone! So I wanted you to know that your choice to follow God’s nudge to go to the waiting room and give “someone” your book was exactly what God planned for you & Krista!! It was so exciting to hear how God did that for both of you.

Sara’s P.S. explained that Krista was a breast cancer survivor.  Later, the same day I gave her my book, she was in a major car accident.  Although her car was totaled, she somehow managed to make it through it okay.  “A Friend in the Storm” gave her peace and reminded her that God has a purpose.

“Make use of every opportunity.”  Ephesians 5:16

When we ask God to go before us and use us for His glory, He makes a way.

Until heaven, we can’t possibly grasp all the ways God uses us to reach others.  We simply rejoice in these glimpses.

Giving away books is only one of many ways we can be God’s messengers.  We can also share personal notes, Scripture cards, and post cards or business cards with thought-provoking quotes or concepts from our books.

One time, when I gave a waitress a poem card, she threw her arms around me and burst into tears.  The Lord used a simple poem to reach into her heart and start a healing conversation.  Don’t you love how the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes?

How do you share marketing love?  I’d love to hear stories of how God used you and your words.