Thursday, January 30, 2014

Don't (Do) Tell Me, Mama - The Power of Words

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 18:21 (ESV)

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11 (ESV)

We're in the kitchen. Zay is nibbling the edges from his toast.

"I have an idea, Isaiah," I say. "How about you make the music for family worship tonight?"

His eyes go round. He smiles a peanut butter smile.

"Really?" he asks.

I nod.

Lonny and I are new to the family worship thing. We set aside time, years ago, when the big boys were small. But somehow, with the smaller ones, we lost the beat. After Christmas, the desire to resurrect family worship became strong. We want learning and praise to be a  priority in our home.

Zay is quiet for a moment. Then he places his toast on a plate and looks at me straight on.

"Gabe did pretty good last week," he says.

I agree. He did. Gabe can't play hymns on the piano yet, but he pounds a mean "Yankee Doodle". We wrote a praise chorus to fit.

"Do you think I'll do okay on the recorder?" Zay asks.

"I know you will," I say.

But he doesn't look convinced. Worry washes over his smile. He bites the corner of his lower lip. "If I don't do well," he says. "I don't want to know. If I really stink, please don't tell me, Mama."

For a moment I'm not sure what to say. Of course we won't tell him that he stinks. Even if his recorder shrieks and our heads hammer as he honks out "Jesus Loves Me", we won't tell him that he stinks. But his concern, his fret over some unkind spoken imagined thing, weighs on me.

It's a reminder of the power of a word.

I read once that it takes ten positive remarks to begin to erase the stain of one harsh remark. And I've been both the giver and receiver of such blows. Words hold weight. God's Word tell us that great forest can be set ablaze by a small fire and our tongues can be like that, too. Small but mighty.

Words can bless.

Words can bruise.

They can bring pain and hurt or give grace and life.

Isaiah still stands there, waiting, looking up, searching my face to find his peace. And it seems a good time to pull my small son to my arms. We fold into one another, over toast crumbs, Zay on my lap, right on the kitchen floor.

"Isaiah, we love you. God loves you. You'll do great."

And no, baby, even if you stink I won't tell you.

But I will tell you how wonderful you are.

I will tell you how pleased God must be with your song.

I will tell you that I'd listen to you make music, good or bad, straight til the end of time. 

Isaiah gives me a peck on the cheek.

"Love you, Mama," he whispers.

Oh, the sweet power of words...

Lord, help me to use words to bless others today. Guard my mouth against words that would do anything less. Amen.


  1. Amen! This is a post a lot of people should read. And remind ourselves not to speak ill words ABOUT ourselves - which is me all the time. Beautiful as always.

  2. Oh, Kathy, that is so true! I struggle with that, too, in spoken word and thought. And of course, as soon as I posted this, I messed up. Now to remember sweet grace! Sending warm hugs to you.