“As a writer, I play with words all day long. I toy with them, listen for their overtones, crack them open, and try to stuff my thoughts inside.”
― Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace
If you’re new here, you should know straight up that I’m a Word Nerd. My idea of fun is a morning spent with a dictionary, concordance and my etymology app. And coffee. Organic, fair-trade pour-over coffee. I’m not a total nerd.
Advance warning: a lot of these posts are loaded with definitions, word origins and Greek or Hebrew translations. I like to dig deep and I want to supply others with the tools to dig deep, too. If I could, I’d hand out shovels with every blog post.
I’ve been shaped by words and I bet you have, too. Words of encouragement, words of life, compliments, advice, instructions. But along with those, there have also been words of discouragement; words that felt like death, insults, advice I didn’t ask for, and even words I longed to hear, but never did.
If I’m honest, I’ve shaped others by my words as well. In both positive and negative ways. And sometimes, by my silence.
Words are the tools that shape the heart. We either create, shape life through our words or we destroy it. I am to sow words like seeds to bring a harvest of fruit, the blessings of God. Intimate Allies
We're to sow words like seeds, not toss them like grenades Click To Tweet
My husband has often told me it’s not so much what I say, it’s how I say it. I may have been compared to a freight train once or twice. When Roger was in the hospital after his pulmonary embolism, I knew how fragile he was, so I was careful to speak softly and gently; totally unlike me, by the way. I made sure the TV stayed off, would sing to him or read the Word out loud; it was a very tender time.
One night after he started to improve, I joked with him in my old, offhand sarcastic way. I’ll never forget the look on his face. Crestfallen. Crumpled. It was a poignant lesson to me about the power of my words.
We’ve all experienced the effects of hurtful words and we’ve all inflicted hurtful words on others. But what about the hurtful words we tell ourselves?
We say words like:
I’m too old (or too young)
I’m not good with numbers, crowds, public speaking
Nobody likes me
I’ll never be able to change
I could never afford that
I must have been a terrible mother/father.
I’ll never have a big enough platform to get a book deal (ahem)
We think these things, we journal them, we even say them out loud, stringing them together like a choker necklace that threatens to, well, choke the life out of us.
According to Caroline Leaf, author of Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health, “Research shows that 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical, and behavioral illness comes from one’s thought life.”
Please understand, I’m not suggesting we walk around babbling, “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful,” like Bill Murray’s character in the movie, What About Bob, when in reality we feel more like, “a dirty old dishrag” as my friend’s kindergartner used to say.
When I need to get things off my chest, to put into words the, Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day I’m having, I shut the door and grab my journal. But I’ve learned not to leave it at that. I hope you won’t either. Puke on the page if you must, but then put truth on the page.
I’ve learned to write the WHOLE truth. God’s truth.
God’s a big fan of words, although He, too, can be maddeningly silent at times. He knows when to speak and when not to, but He’s pretty verbose when it come to the topic of words. Especially when they’re His words.
Give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Prov 4:20-22
He’s talking about reading His Word on a regular basis, often enough that it becomes an integral part of our spiritual and physical health.
Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart Jer 15:16
What are you hungry for? Junk food? Or WHOLE Food? If you regularly devour junk food, feed your flesh on negativity, that’s what will come out of your mouth. But when you consistently feast on God’s Word, you will begin to speak truth… over yourself, your situation, your loved ones.
You really can rewire your brain!
6 Ways Words Can Rewire Your Brain
- Get out of your head and into the Word – read it!
- Read it OUT LOUD
- Write out Scripture. Choose a verse and write it out in several different translations
- Turn Scripture into prayer. Personalize it. Insert names, situations; be specific
- Look up definitions and word origins; it helps to see a verse you’ve read for years in a new light
- Ask God for a word.
I asked Him for a word and He gave me RE-words. Renew. Restore. Redesign. Repair. Refresh. Relieve. Rescue. Praying them daily for five years rewired my brain and God rebuilt my life. Don’t believe me?
Dr. Leaf says, “The primary success of capturing your thoughts will be to focus on God’s way first, not the world’s ways. And science is showing that meditating on the elements of Jesus’ teachings rewires healthy new circuits in the brain.”
Those are the kinds of words I want to speak and write. Words that build up. Words that are constructive. So, if at times it seems like I’m hammering hard, well, that’s why.
We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. 2 Cor 10:5
Words are a matter of life or death.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose. Prov 18:21 MSG
The most powerful song I ever wrote was composed of just twelve words: “I choose joy, I choose happiness, I choose trust, I choose hope.” We make those choices with our thoughts and with our words.
My propensity is to focus totally on words and be blind to everyone and everything around me. A couple of years ago the Lord spoke to me and said, “I am teaching you to see.”
He opened the eyes of my heart – to people, to beauty. Might He not open your heart and eyes to words?
I can’t make you love the Word. But I’ll never stop trying.
I’ve got a spare shovel. Come dig with me?