Sticks and Stones


Just the title alone conjures up memories for many of us. I remember my parents telling me when I was very young and someone had said something cruel to me that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Even now I can picture myself reciting it to the person with a sassiness that let them know I didn’t care what they said to me – it was just gonna roll right off my back and have no effect any more. But the truth of the matter was, it did still hurt. I didn’t realize until many, many years later how much an impact not just those words, but all of the negative and hurtful words that had been spoken over me had shaped who I was.

There is power in our words – power to speak life into someone by encouraging them and building them up or power to speak death when we criticize and tear down. As I think back over my own life and especially in the beginning years of my marriage, words have played a huge role in determining the direction of my life. Early in life hurtful and discouraging words caused self doubt and insecurity in me. The words that others spoke to me were played over and over in my thoughts until they were no longer just words to me, they became truths that I believed about myself. It didn’t matter if they were true or not, they wielded the power to change my thoughts about myself which in turn affected my actions. I allowed those words to consume my thoughts. I was beaten down and defeated simply by the words that I had given power to. And in turn I used words to tear down and hurt everyone around me.

The bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that life and death are in the power of the tongue. And the Message version says it like this “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” God’s Word makes it very clear. Words are extremely powerful. They have the ability to completely transform how people see themselves, how they react to you, how they respond in a situation and how they treat others.

Think of the impact that these words have had in the history of our country:

“President Kennedy has been shot”.

“A second plane has hit the building.”

“I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

“Challenger, go with throttle up.”

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!”

Most of us see those words and know exactly where we were when we first heard them. We can remember the emotion we felt and how those words changed the world we live in.

Now think about the words that are personal to just you. The words that someone may have said to you years ago that you still remember exactly how you felt the moment they were spoken. Words of criticism, words of judgement, words of gossip or hate. Words that had the power to destroy.  Words that may have shaken your confidence, caused deep, unhealed wounds or even changed the course of your life.

“You’re fired.”

“I hate you.”

“You can’t do anything right.”

“I want a divorce.”

“You didn’t make the team.”

“Why are your ears so big?! You look like Dumbo!”

You may be someone that words have torn you down and caused you to doubt yourself. But just as there are words that can cause damage, there are words that can repair and build you back up. Later in my life when I began to follow Jesus and study the Word, I began to understand how words spoken over me may have affected me in very negative ways. But I also learned that what God’s Word says about me is truth. And that when I began to play those negative words in my mind, I needed to stop and begin to play the words of affirmation my Father in heaven has spoken over me. When I found myself replaying damaging words that had been spoken to me, I began to pray and ask God to renew my mind. I quit being defined by what others said I was and began to believe the words that described who I really was – child of God, forgiven, highly favored, an overcomer, blessed, chosen, accepted and loved.  And just like when I was younger, when I thought about these words they had the power to change my thoughts about myself which in turn affected my actions. I allowed God’s words to consume my thoughts.  I was built up, reaffirmed and confident simply by the words that I had given power to.

Although words have power, we have the control over what words we speak to others and how we respond to the words that they speak to us. We must choose our words wisely. I recently challenged my friends on Facebook to join me as I made every effort to use my mouth to build up, not tear down, to bless and not to curse and to not judge, gossip, criticize or give my opinion when I hadn’t been asked to. The response was remarkable. People want to be positive with their words but they are also extrememly aware of how difficult it is to refrain from speaking negatively. It has become so prevalent in our world that it takes great effort to keep our words and our thoughts upbeat and encouraging. The best way to ensure this is by spending time each day reading God’s word. God instructs us to fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. To think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8). And when our hearts and minds are transformed by our thoughts the bible says “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34). We will use our words to bring healing and nourishment to the broken and thirsty souls we encounter. The words we speak will have the power to encourage, build up, cheer up and inspire others. Think about the impact each of these simple words have on you when someone you love says them to you:

“Please forgive me.”

“I’m proud of you.”

“Can I help?”

“I believe in you.”

“Don’t give up.”

“I love you.”

So each day think about the words you are using – are you speaking life into others or do your words speak death? What are the words that consume your thoughts – are they words that build up or words that tear down? If the words your thoughts are fixed on are causing damage ask God to renew your mind and remember who you are in Christ.  And if words have been used to bring you down and you feel defeated, think of the greatest words ever spoken: “He is not here; He has risen!” (Matt. 28:6). You have a Lord and Savior who is alive and right by your side whispering words of love and affirmation to you. Let His words be the ones that define who you are.

Behind the Scenes of An Extreme Makeover


For my son’s birthday we decided it was time to redo his bedroom to give it an updated and age appropriate look. So we set out to perform a much needed extreme makeover. We started by removing three layers of wallpaper then painting the room a warm shade of blue. We bought a new bed, new bedding and a new rug. We brought in a floor plant and changed the ceiling fan to a more modern one. And a new lamp and some new wall hangings finished out the job. His room now looks completely different than before. But the thing is, nothing has really changed. If you remove all of the new items from the room, what’s left underneath the surface is still the same. Many people live their lives much the same way. They try to cover up the pain they feel on the inside by changing things on the surface. They change their appearance. They change relationships, jobs, homes, surroundings, and spouses. They do so in hopes that if they make “surface” changes then they will feel a change on the inside that will overcome the wounds and hurts that nobody can see on the surface. But when you strip all of that away, nothing has really changed on the inside. The only option for real transformation on the inside is when we are born again and become a new creation through Jesus Christ. We keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results. But the truth is nothing will change until we surrender our lives to the only One who can bring about real change. Jesus came in human form so that He could die on the cross the death that we deserve. He gave His life so we don’t have to give ours as payment for our sins. So as you give and receive gifts this Christmas, receive the gift of salvation, eternal life and a new life transformation so that you may be healed of the hurts and pains that have held you captive for so long. It’s time for a real change, a below-the-surface life transformation that is found only in Jesus Christ. Ask Him into your heart and to forgive your sins and you’ll have the joy this season of receiving a real Extreme Makeover.

Time Heals All Pain


Time heals all pain, or does it? I am the primary caretaker for my 99-year-old grandmother. Each morning about this time I get up and set the necessary things out in the bathroom for her and then knock on her door to wake her up. Most mornings she’s already awake and responds with a chipper “come in”.  For her age she is in remarkably good health. She is on one medication, she reads the entire newspaper daily and she loves to watch Dancing With the Stars. Of course she is slow in her movement, especially in the morning when I help her out of bed but she walks without assistance. Her body isn’t what it used to be but she has very few limitations considering her age. But ironically it’s her emotional limitations that are most paralyzing in her life. She is gripped by fear – fear of death, fear of falling, fear of someone breaking in the house, fear of not having enough money to pay the extremely minimal bills she has, fear of being alone, and fear of not being in control. I remember earlier in her life she had a fear of flying which prevented her from traveling anywhere beyond a reasonal driving distance. Her fear of driving in snow kept her homebound whenever there was even a minimal snowfall in our town. Her fear of water kept her from enjoying time on the lake with family. And her fear of germs created extra work for her as she felt the need to sterilize everything before it was used. But back then her fears were more of a hassle than a handicap. My theory has always been that over time things would get better – that at 99-years-old and having never had to experience any extreme illnesses or tragedy in her life that she would be living carefree with not a worry in the world other than the obvious physical concerns. I thought she would feel free to not worry about the things in life that caused her such concern when she was younger. Based on her life experiences I assumed she would find enjoyment in her twilight years with a peace of mind that she has lived a fulfilling life, is blessed with family who loves her dearly and with the comfort of knowing all her financial needs are securely met.  But what I have found in not only my grandmother but others, is that over time the things in our lives that go unchecked, unhealed, and unanswered only get worse. The roots begin to go deeper in our souls and take hold of our lives with a grip so tight we become bound by whatever it is that has us held prisoner. For some it’s unforgiveness toward someone who has hurt them, for others it is insecurity and fear of failure, for others it’s the fear of rejection rooted in someone they thought loved them and would always be there for them leaving them unexpectedly. For many it’s a sense of shame and guilt associated with something they did that consumes their thoughts and affects their relationships and behaviors years later. We falsely believe that over time we will feel better – that the hurt won’t hurt so bad, that the guilt will diminish and that the anger will subside – but it doesn’t. We become a prisoner to our past. There is only one option that will bring the true freedom we seek. Only One who can set us free from the things that keep us bound from living life instead of just trying to make it through it. His name is Jesus and He died for your freedom, He died for the forgiveness of the sins that hold you captive and for the unforgiveness toward others that keeps you bound. It’s time to cut whatever it is off at the root before it goes any deeper. It’s time to surrender it to God and let Him begin healing those deep-rooted wounds and hurts in you. It’s time to heal all pain.