The Power of Words

I love the elementary school where I teach. Each morning in the first and second grade hallway the teachers stand outside their doors to greet the backpack-laden children as they make their way toward their classrooms. My colleagues call out words of encouragement to the kids and often offer up hugs mixed in with their hellos. Of course a warning or two to “Walk!” is thrown in when some over-anxious bundle of energy comes tearing down the hallway knocking over unassuming travelers in their path.

There is one particular little girl I look for each morning. Usually she is one of the last ones down the hall because she has gone to the cafeteria for breakfast, but she routinely stops at my door for a hug before heading to her first grade classroom. Yesterday as I squeezed her tight and kissed the top of her head I told her, “You’re special.” She pulled away from me and looked at me with gleaming eyes and a toothy smile that spread from ear to ear. I knew I had spoken the words she had needed to hear that day and it filled my heart with joy.

Our words have such power, probably far more than we can even imagine. However, if that is true for the positive things we say it also holds true for the negative. The same tongue that sings praises has the power to condemn. How many times have I been caught up in the moment and opened my mouth without thought to the consequences? More times than I would like to admit I have been unkind, rude, self-seeking and thoughtless. Even under the guise of humor words can still pierce the heart and deflate a spirit.  The apostle James writes  in James 3:9-10, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

Taming the tongue is not always easy for me, but it is doable when I allow the Holy Spirit to guide me.  He reminds me to be quick to hear and slow to speak considering the power of my words. Funny how I often get that backwards. Paul tells me in 1 Thessalonians 5 to “encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.” Hmmm…perhaps that primary hallway in North Madison Elementary is just a physical model for what my spiritual journey should look like in this world. A shower of encouragement to those along the path peppered with an occasional reminder to slow down so as not to run over someone else.

Lord, thank-you for the encouragers you have placed in my life. Help me to be like that. Help me to be like You. 

Using My Time Wisely

On any given day if you happen to be outside my classroom door you are likely to hear, “Please use your time wisely.” Multiple reminders to stay on task are just part of the daily routine when you are teaching seven and eight-year olds. It’s no wonder, of course. Potential diversions are everywhere. My classroom itself is an explosion of color, numbers and words begging, “Look at me!” The playground beckons through the window, “Over here!” Classmates are only inches away whispering, “Listen to me.”

I can’t blame my students for being distracted. In fact there are times when I feel that my own attention span resembles that of a seven-year old. Even when I begin the day with a definite purpose in mind, the distracting deluge begins as soon as I enter the school building. Phone calls to be returned, emails to be answered, meetings to attend, reports to be written, papers to be graded – and this all before a single child enters through the classroom door. Everywhere I turn someone or something is saying, “Look at me! Over here! Listen to me!”

It causes me to stop and wonder whether I am “using my time wisely.” Am I being true to the path that God has set before me? If I am not careful, the chaotic world around me can quickly wear me down into a frazzled mess. I waste time worrying about things that I cannot change instead of focusing on what I can do to change my reaction to the situation.

When I feel pulled in every direction, it is my Father’s voice alone that calms my weary spirit and helps me focus on the important things in life. Spending time in God’s presence gives me the power and direction to stay on course that He has set for me. Isaiah 40:31 gives me the promise that, “Those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Oh Lord, on those days when I am distracted by the lesser things that clamour for my attention, help me to keep my eyes fixed on You. Do not let me waste my time pursuing things that do not bring You glory.

Song of Love

I am so thankful for Skype – that George and Jane Jetson type of technology that allows me to see the precious face of my grandson Isaiah each week on my computer screen. Last week as he came into view I was treated to a vigorous ukulele serenade of “Kinkle, kinkle yittle tar”. For those not fluent in toddler speak, that’s the two-year old version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.  To be sung over with such love and enthusiasm blessed my heart beyond belief.

Not so long ago as I studied the scriptures I read that there is another who sings over me in His love. Zephaniah 3:17 tells me that “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Did I read that right? The Lord of the universe is actually rejoicing and singing over me! That knowledge is almost too wonderful for me to fathom.

It is a humbling thought to know that God rejoices over me even in my imperfection. How grateful I am to know that I am loved no matter how out of tune my life seems at times. That kind of devotion stirs a song of praise in my own heart even knowing that whatever offering I lift in response is but a tiny reflection of the masterful music that He has poured out over me. Still I know He hears my song with the ears of love, just as I hear Isaiah’s song, and is blessed.

Oh Lord, I could sing of Your great love forever. Thank-you for Your gift of music in my life and let me lead my life as symphony of love devoted to You.

Living Intentionally

“I did it on accident.” I hear those words several times a week from seven and eight year olds caught in the act. Sometimes it’s true and then other times…hmmm…can you really pound your fist down on a ketchup packet and squirt it across the lunch table “on accident”?

Making excuses is not the exclusive habit of the young; I am prone to do the same. I may not claim every mistake as being “on accident”, but if I am honest I know that I do not live as purposefully as I should. My day may with begin good intentions to follow God’s call and be a blessing to others, but sometimes I deviate from the plan. A thoughtless comment or an unforeseen interruption to my perfectly planned schedule suddenly annoys me to the point of distraction and disappointment and I begin thinking, “How could they do-say-think-or expect that of me? In a matter of moments I have reacted in a way that is contrary to my day’s initial intention.

But soon the Holy Spirit gently reminds me “Love is patient and kind…Love keeps no record of wrongs“. There may be no real excuse for bad behavior, but I am still called to release whatever frustration I feel and refuse to keep score. As God meets me with undeserved mercy so must I meet the challenges of the day not allowing what others say or do be an excuse for my unloving reaction.

Not one of us is guaranteed a certain amount of time on this earth and while I am here I want to live intentionally. I don’t want my life’s legacy to be a series of unloving behaviors “on accident”, but instead be one of love and forgiveness “on purpose.”

Lord, Jesus, thank-you for Your loving mercy. Help me to live intentionally each day seeking Your will for my life, following Your example of love and forgiveness.