When our girls were much younger, we were grateful to be far from our hometown, if anything to be away from some of the negative influences at home, the ones I grew up with. My dad liked to tease, though he did so not maliciously. It was just his way.

He would call the girls “uggie babies.” Even if they had been ugly, we wouldn’t have called them that. (Of course, they couldn’t be ugly, not with mine and their mom’s genes.) He would say things like, “You’re so ugly you need to tie a porkchop around your neck just to get your dog to play with you.” His teasing was hardly original, I would discover later in life.

Dragons and Fountains

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote about the incomprable power of the tongue. We can be like a fire-breathing dragon or a refreshing fountain. Dad was never much of a fountain, more often like a dragon.

Proverbs 10:11, 20-21 (ESV)
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. …
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.

When I think of changing my family tree from my generation forward, it’s this type of thing I’m intent on changing. For our home will be a place of safety, where disparaging words will not tolerated. We will not crush the hearts of our children, nor allow them to crush one another, the way my brothers and I did my sister when we unrelentingly poked fun at her chubbiness.

I love to tease. It can be endearing between a father and his kids, especially when they tease back — as when Jacque makes sport of my grayish hair. (I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase “make sport.”) But there is a line that can too easily be crossed, and where it lies is different with each child.

With our words we can not only defeat but we can lift up; we can refresh. It’s something I’ve given much consideration to over the past couple years of blogging. Honestly, my Scripture-focused posts have tended to be the least read, yet they are some of my favorite to write. Why? Because I can refresh others with how I’ve been refreshed. I have the ability to share truth and give encouragement, not offer pat answers and trite advice but to really help others in their need.

Something to Talk About

Proverbs 10:19 (NLT)
Too much talk leads to sin.
Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

Back to the negative aspect of the tongue. Another way we can tear down others is with gossip. I’m not sure the Proverbist (is that what we call him?) was getting at this, but it’s what I’ve taken from it. This is something we’ve repeatedly shared with our girls, especially as they’ve neared the age when gossip potentially becomes a primary aspect of life. We encourage them to speak less, which would be some kind of feat for junior high girls. Speaking less involves not having a cell phone. Without such a device, speaking less becomes sort of the default. Speaking in not just audible words but with text messages, as well.

We can break, or at least hinder, the chain of gossip when we speak less. To say nothing of refusing to listen to gossip. I suppose that’s for another post.

Pressed Down, Shaken Together

Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV)
24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered

The church I went to as a kid featured the offering sermonette. This was when someone other than the pastor scheduled to preach, which would normally have been the senior pastor, would get up and share a devotion on giving. It was the same few sermons repeated every week, ones that spoke of giving as an investment, how tithing would produce rich dividends for the giver. God would open up his storehouse and pour blessings into our laps. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Whatever that meant.

Aspects of this are true. God does bless those who bless others. Of course, I don’t remember the sermonettes saying much about the ones receiving the gifts. I don’t remember much about giving to the poor either. But God does indeed provide for those who help to provide for others.

It’s one of the many paradoxes of the gospel, like how to gain your life you must give it away and to be first you must be last and to live you must die. Similarly, to grow “all the richer” you must give freely. In the world’s economic system, it doesn’t work this way. You get richer by keeping your money and investing it wisely. God’s economy says to give it away and you’ll receive his blessings. (It’s this paradox, by the way, I set out to teach in my class Money Map.)

So, let’s talk less, watering instead of breathing fire. And let’s give more freely.