Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Power of Words

Today I had a leisurely morning coffee visit with a good friend. We always laugh a lot but enjoy talking about the serious stuff also. She often chuckles at the way I say things or my choice of words, teasing me that I phrase things like one would expect to read in a clinical report. I am not exactly sure about that, but she is not the only friend who likes to tease me about my "phrase-ology" and that got me thinking about words.

I often hear the line, "you talk funny" or "ooh, where does your accent come from" which always tempts me to want to reply, the same place the rest of my being comes from. But, I resist, and say South Africa politely. "Huh" is what I usually hear after that. Then I explain that we are English speaking South Africans who sounded more British when we arrived in Texas 17 years ago, but now we sound more Australian/New Zealand-ish thanks to the Texas Twang. But, it is not that kind of thing that I am thinking about.

Words have power and we all know that. We have experienced the blessing of good words spoken over us and about us. We have also experienced the devastation of harsh words. One of my favorite things about Mike Cope as a preacher is that he uses words with precision and care. One well picked word can replace a sentence. While I worked for Jack Reese, I would marvel at his love of language and word usage. I think I finally get it. One of my good friends, Adam Gray, is often "accused" of using language that is hard to decipher because it is heart language and not "tell it like it is, git-r-done" kinda talk. I love talking to Adam, because the words make me reach and stretch to see if I am really tracking with him. I always walk away more alive because he challenges me.

Rich words spoken over coffee renew a friendship. Authentic, loving, respectful words spoken in a marriage bring depth and growth. Prayer that is sprinkled with a language of praise and adoration brings us into worship like no other. Song lyrics that are deep and true resonate with our spirits. Words from scripture, made alive in the person of Christ equip us and fill us to live out the mission of God in the world. Words whispered by the Holy Spirit move us.

One can not ignore words. They are everywhere, calling us to consumerism, tempting us to dull our witness to Christ, offering us false hope, promising things that this world can not deliver.
And so, I am more convinced than ever that choosing to fill our lives with words that have real significant meaning can change us.


Frank Bellizzi said...

You're so right, Arlene. We must respect and value and carefully, powerfully use words.

But--going back to that culture question I'm focused on these days--ours is a world dominated by images. So much so that J. Ellul has written about "The Humiliation of the Word" in the modern West. You've probably read it.

Never wanting to condescend, I do believe that one thing that should distinguish the church in today's American culture is a healthy regard for words (and the Word). As Ellul explains, images prevent the kind of abstraction needed in order to convey truth. Only words (again, the Word) can do that. So speak and write on.

-bill said...

Great thoughts on the power of words! In this regard, I heard something years ago that has stayed with me:

A word is dead, when it is said, some say.
But I say, it just begins to live that day.

Bill Williams

la_emi1ia said...

I ate your blog with my lemon creme cake and my hot tea (with milk) and it was all delicious! Thank you!

jeleasure said...

Hey Arlene,
This 'use of words' thing is something I consider everytime I attempt a reflection of my thoughts. It is often difficult to say what you mean to say and have someone understand you for what you are truly conveying. I recall my recent fiasco with a friend (thanks for your thoughts and prayers on this) that has recently been resolved.
In considering what I've been reading quite a bit of today, I'd say the one single most misunderstood word in Christendom is the word "saved". Do you get this? Or, do we need to elaborate?

preacherman said...

Wonderful words for us today.
I have been blessed.
Thank you for sharing this great post with us all and allowing us to participate in discussion. You do such a wonderful job with your blog. Definately one of my favs. Keep up the great work!