nancy williams

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Archive for April, 2008

Choose Your Words, and Listen – With Care

How often do we find ourselves hearing something and not understanding the meaning? Speaking, only to realize we’ve been misunderstood? If we are using our cell phone, we quickly blame the service provider for a distorted connection. Sometimes that’s the case; sometimes it’s not. It just may be that we’re not clearly giving our message, or we are not hearing what’s truly intended. Whatever the source of the problem, the result can be harmful to our connections with each other.

How we communicate is an integral part of how we relate. Words have the power to edify, encourage and lift someone up. They can just as quickly knock someone down, cutting like a knife and wounding the spirit. They can draw two people closer together, and they can tear relationships apart. Other times, they can leave us confused and wondering…yet we tend to use them so freely, often without realizing how they will be taken.

How frequently do we impulsively blurt something out, only to regret it later? Or we say something, and the response doesn’t make sense to us at all. Then we ask, “Were you even listening?” Sometimes mistakenly, we assume the meaning is understood, but that’s not always the case. And, if the words are taken out of our intended context or the setting in which they are spoken is not clear, well…we know how the end of that story can read!

Take the following phrases, for example. They are found in our conversations and sometimes in print. While you can probably assume the context in which they are used and their intended meanings, imagine if they were to be taken literally. I solicited the aid of fellow writers to gather some examples – referred to in our writing circle as “floating body parts.” (Oh my, just think of the imagery with that description itself!) Ok, here we go: see if any of these have a familiar ring.

Would you give me a hand over here, please?

She hung her head in dismay.

Her tongue got away from her.

He was coughing his head off.

His foot flew out from under him.

His eyes dropped to the floor.

I don’t know where my head was when I did that.

If you give her a chance, she’ll talk your ear off.

She threw up her hands, as he tossed his head.

OK: the above examples are amusing perhaps, and your mind is probably now ‘bouncing around’ with other examples; but the point is worth considering. We do need to realize the power of the words we use. They are tools given to us to express what is in our mind and heart; and we need to use them with care. We are likely to choose our words deliberately when talking to young children, as we teach them how to communicate. We pause to consider our words when speaking to someone not familiar with our language. When communicating with a person who suffers from a hearing problem, we talk slowly, clearly, repeating if necessary, and then question to be certain we were understood.

Our goal? To get our point across correctly. We want to know the listener captured our message clearly. Yet, we often lose sight of that focus in our everyday communications – blurting out whatever comes to mind without realizing how it might be interpreted. Firing off that e-mail and hitting the ‘send’ button without reviewing what was written. Oh… the value of editing!

Listen to the observations of these wordsmiths:

“I just wish my mouth had a backspace key.” – Author Unknown

“Foolishness always results when the tongue outraces the brain.” – Author Unknown

“The words you choose to say something are just as important as the decision to speak.” – Author Unknown

Calvin: “Sometimes when I’m talking, my words can’t keep up with my thoughts. I wonder why we think faster than we speak.”

Hobbes: “Probably so we can think twice.” – Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

My word of encouragement? Choose your words with care and remember: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” – The Bible.

Watch Out for Those Weeds!

This morning I spent time with some cheerful spring flowers. Trimming, shaping and arranging them into a delightful bouquet filled with color and a hint of whimsy to offer a ‘welcome’ at the front door. I enjoy designing with silk and dried flowers, and I can arrange fresh-cut blooms to please the eye, but please don’t put me outside in a flower garden and expect anything positive. God just didn’t bless me with a green thumb. I do so enjoy the vibrant displays of color in the yards of others. I just haven’t worked at cultivating the skills needed to create that look myself. As for my husband, now there’s a man who can work wonders with soil, seeds and fertilizer, along with some time and effort. His mother always had a prolific garden overflowing with luscious flowers and tasty vegetables, and he and his siblings all seem to have that same gift. Indeed, I married well!

Hats off to those of you who put time and effort into gardening-not just in the planting, but also in the caretaking. That’s where I get off track. I can start well by selecting young plants with great potential and placing them in the ground; but, then I seem to turn my focus to other things and the maintenance suffers, leaving me with plants that don’t meet their full potential, if they survive at all. Not to mention the weeds.

No sooner do I clear an area than I turn around and new unwanted sprouts are working fast and furiously to take over. I’m left with a mental battle: get in there and fight, cry for help, or declare defeat and let the weeds take over. My husband, on the other hand, blends wisdom, patience and determination to achieve the results I want but don’t accomplish myself. He knows how to deal with those weeds and not let them rob us of the pleasure the plants can bring.

A recent devotional has been lingering in my mind since I read it, creating a great visual as I consider God’s design for our lives. Picture, if you will, our hearts as a garden with God as our Master Gardener. When we accept his invitation and develop a personal relationship with him, he begins planting seeds in the garden of our heart, where we live. In particular, seeds of love, joy and peace. Unfortunately, there are weeds growing there as well: pride, worry, selfishness, doubt, guilt, unbelief. It’s God’s desire to get rid of those weeds so his seeds can grow, and that happens as we spend time with him. His light shines directly into our hearts, nourishing the seeds he planted while prompting the weeds to shrivel up. That process happens also when we face challenges in our lives. The more we turn to him and choose to rest in the light of his love for us and his promises to guide our steps and guard our hearts, the more those weeds die away, making room for his love, joy and peace to root deeper and grow stronger.

If we’re going to win the battle with the weeds in our gardens, we need to take steps to prepare the soil, choose healthy plants and then tend to the garden with time and nourishment, removing any weeds that would crowd our plants and limit their growth. ‘Same with the garden of our heart. We need to ask God to prepare us for the seeds he wants to plant. Then we need to look for weeds that might crop up and ask him to shine his light in such a way that those unwanted weeds will shrivel up and die away, leaving us with the beauty and fruit he designed for us to enjoy and to share with those around us.

I don’t seem to have much success when I tackle gardening on my own; but, I do believe if we’ll consult with a Master Gardener and know we have the best quality seeds, and if we’ll plant in the direction to capture the light and not let the weeds take over, who knows what might grow in my garden – and in yours?