Listening to words can fuel many a passion. We are always listening, aren’t we? As I type this, I am listening to the words that are forming in my mind. They are tumbling out as if I was back in New York City, tawking with my New Yawka friends, fast paced conversations that are quick, brief, terse and pointed.
Slowing down to reflectively listen was not always an option. Living in the Midwest for many years slows the pace down, of course, but life still goes by very quickly. Still, the building blocks of any day, my day, your day, are words. Fast or slow, big or small, words fire the engines of our actions.
Listening to a speech from the Huntington from Ronald C. White Jr., I came away impressed again about how careful Abraham Lincoln was with words. White reminded me about Lincoln’s wordsmithing through several stories of Lincoln’s exercises in writing Inaugural Speeches or the Gettysburg Address. Those words are indeed works of art, worthy of reflection. Let me add, the history of how those words came to be penned is fascinating. I found White’s speech through iTunes university but some of his speeches are easily found on youtube. Click on the youtube link and you can get a start or whet your appetite for some of these speeches(although this first one is an interview where communication is talked about, with an unruly cellphone).
Back to words though. We are caretakers of words or language. Paul in Colossians 4:6 counsels us, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
It seems that the busier I get, the more people ask me about things or for things. Paul suggests that I should have a response for those questions. And it seems to me that he is also suggesting it to be a careful, well worded response, full of grace.
The Colossian church no longer exists, but you and I can still benefit from Paul’s letter to them. We can take up his counsel and make our words a priority. In fact, the word for Poet is the word for Make in Greek. The poet is a maker of sentences of words or word images. In the Contemplative Pastor, Peterson has a final chapter on using words. He writes on page 155;
Poets are caretakers of language, the shepherds of words, keeping them from harm, exploitation, misuse. Words not only mean something; they are something, each with a sound and rhythm all its own.
Peterson, like Paul is intent on handling words carefully, even skillfully. Lincoln, intended the same. Pastors and teachers, writers and readers all must handle words with care. Poets and Preachers are not the only ones crafting words though, are they? We all get a daily shot at crafting our speech and conversation.
I don’t remember when it started, but I began asking God for conversations. That he would set them up, make my day properly filled with them. I ask each morning that God would be sure to send person x through my life today. I have no idea who it is going to be, just that I need to be aware that they are out there. Some days I am amazed at what happens. Other days are quiet, speechless in fact. But all of them involve words, spoken or otherwise. I can’t wait for the words God will offer to me this week so I can share them with others.