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Monday, August 30, 2010

Sticks and Stones

My grandfather used to say “Insults and encouragements are only comments until you own them, then YOU give the words power.”

Many would argue that there is power in words. Although words can be used to make things happen, the true power is not in the words themselves, but in the ownership of the person receiving the words. My grandfather’s statement addressed a vast spectrum from the discouragement of insults, to strength of encouragement. It is not as much what is said that counts, but what action is applied to the words that makes the true difference.

I remember growing up; we would play the “snaps”, which was nothing more than an insult contest. No one was safe and any imperfection that you had or were perceived to have was exploited for the amusement of anyone within ear-shot. It didn’t matter what was said about me or even my “mama”, every comment was laughed off in jest and rebutted by a more stinging comment back to my opponent. However, when a snooty little rich kid in my school called me a derogatory name…well those were fighting words. Believe me, there were more vicious insinuations in the words I heard playing the snaps, but I didn’t give the words any power – they were just comments. Granted, there was a different intent from the other kid, but it was still me who gave his words power by owning the insult.

On a different side of the same line of thought, growing up I heard a lot of encouraging words. Even the wise constructive words of wisdom my grandfather would impart - were only comments - unless I owned the action that gave them power to make a difference in my life. I wish that I could say I don’t make mistakes, especially when I know better, the truth is that I could even read the bible from cover to cover, but unless I follow the wisdom in James 1:22 and be a doer – mistakes are inevitable.

My post back in February titled “What Did You Say” focused on the action behind the words you say. This post is the reflection in thought of that concept and addresses the power in the words that you hear. The consistency is that we can’t get too hung up on words positive or negative; it is that action that we apply to them that give them the ability to make a difference. So what do you do with the words you hear? Do you empower them to positively affect your circumstances, or do you buy in to the degrading comments that people use to try and bring you down? My prayer for you is that negative words are taken with a grain of sand, like sand on a beach it is everywhere, and has little value. However when you receive words of encouragement, you take them with a grain of valuable salt, own them, and use them to flavor your life. Be Blessed.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Be Still

My grandfather used to say, “There is a major difference between being still and doing nothing.”

One of the greatest examples of this concept occurred during a visit to my child’s Pediatrician. I don’t know many children who like getting shots, in fact, I can’t think of a single one. The mere sight of a needle tends to send children in a panicked frenzy. While other children were crying, squirming and wriggling in their chairs, I noticed one little girl sitting calmly in her father’s lap. Other parents were directing their children to stop moving or to be quiet, the father of this child calmed her with five simple words – “it’s OK, just be still.” When she received her shot, she cried briefly and then returned to her calm state as her father carried her out in his arms.

Like any of my grandfather’s sayings, this icon of wisdom has the depth and width of the Grand Canyon, when you consider its truth within your circle of circumstance. Whether you are in a tempest of life or enjoying one of life’s moments of pleasure, understanding the difference between the absence of action and stillness will enable you truly understand the meaning of words like trust, relax and even faith. You see, doing nothing is about your level of activity, but being still is about your state of mind and the peace in your heart.

Doing nothing is unproductive when the circumstances of life cause anxiety and stress. Like the lesson in my post “The Ratio of Life” doing nothing is a waste of time and time is something that you can’t recoup once it is gone. On the other hand, a lot of activity such as worry, pressure and frustration are just as unproductive because it is “doing nothing” to assist in the resolution to your concern. However being still is vastly different. When you are still, you have done what you can do to affect your situation and now it’s time for patience, for reflection and positive focus, or simply, time to apply your faith. Maybe you are not in a challenge of life, maybe you just need to take a moment to be still and count your blessings, enjoy the majesty of God’s creation or the peacefulness of a moment, before continuing with the demands of daily life.

The gospels tell a story of Christ calming a tumultuous storm on a boat with His disciples with three simple words, “Peace, be still”. Do you find it curious that he didn’t direct the wind to stop blowing, or for the waters to calm down? The “awe” in the power displayed is that He affected nature’s state of being, not merely what it was doing. What do you do when you have turmoil in your life and you have done all you can do? Where do you search when peace is what you need to find most? My grandfather’s quote brings to mind the words in Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” Knowing that God’s track record of love and faithfulness is my hope for an uncertain future, it allows me to climb up in the lap of my father, take a deep breath – release a slow exhale and just be…still.

Be Blessed.