“When I was about eight or nine, my mom burnt some toast .
One night that stood out in my mind is when she had made dinner for us after a very long and rough day at work. She placed a plate of jam and extremely burned toast in front of my dad. Not slightly burnt but completely blackened toast. I was just waiting to see if anyone noticed the burnt toast and would say anything. But Dad just ate his toast and asked me if I did my homework and how my day was. I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember hearing my mom apologizing to dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said:
“Sweetie, I love burned toast.”
Later that night, I went to tell my dad good night and ask him if he really liked his toast burned. He put his arm on my shoulder and said,
“Your momma put in a very long day at work today and she was very tired. And besides, A burnt toast never hurts anyone but you know what does? “Harsh words!”
The above story was in an article I read after praying for the best way to illustrate the verses this week. I am unsure where it originated but think it helps to clarify this week’s message. The old sing song phrase heard on the playground when I was little, “sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt me” couldn’t be more untrue. Ask anyone who has ever been belittled by a spouse, discouraged by a parent or bullied through school. Words last forever.
James 3:7-12New Living Translation (NLT)
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
When I saw that these verses were the ones assigned to me for this week, it almost made me chuckle. Well played, God. My husband assures me he was not specifically praying for this. I have been told since I was young that I had a way with words. Unfortunately my word’s ability to inspire, encourage and touch people’s hearts also comes with the burden of being able to suck the spirit right out of someone. It has given me plenty of practice deep breathing and apologizing. It is not one of my finer qualities.
The only thing I’ve found that helps is to consistently connect my heart to Jesus’. That can look many different ways, but for me, that includes reading His word, listening to worship music, and prayer. Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45 speak about ‘out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ For this flawed, all-too-human momma that is true. It is why I have to put my relationship with Christ first in my life. It is when my heart reflects His that I am my best self. It is then the words of encouragement, kindness, spirit-building truth pour out. When the world takes over and I allow it to steal time away from God, the ugliness of an impatient, irritable, worn-down-woman of the world spew out leaving battered souls in the dust.
I’ve also seen words change a day around, heal the hearts of the broken, encourage the defeated, bring hope to the disenfranchised, offer love, distribute forgiveness, and empower people to action. Words have power. They can start war and solicit hate or they can spread the love of Jesus. We are responsible for what comes out of our mouths…when someone cuts you off in traffic, when the referee at your kid’s game makes the wrong call, when you are exhausted and worn thin and your child asks you the hundredth question of the hour. That is why it is so important to stay connected to Christ. So that in our moments of weakness, the beauty of Christ shines through.