“What a great story to illustrate my point,” I thought as I prepared for a sermon. Then the meddlesome voice of Charles Spurgeon came to mind, “As far as you can, make sure your illustrations are true stories.”

Seriously? Couldn’t I have let that slip my mind until next Monday?!?

I went to lunch and while stuffing my face tried to stuff that thought deep into the corners of my mind. Didn’t work. Sitting back in front of my notes the thought popped out like a button on my shirt after I had indulged in an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“Fine, I’ll check it out.”

I typed “Armenia earthquake 1989” into the search bar and hit “Enter.” Tons of hits. All different versions of the story I wanted to use. No sources. “Thanks a lot, Charles Spurgeon!”

Not wanting to give up quite yet, I clicked on a couple links. Then I found it: sourced, cited, and hopefully legit. Speaking of the Armenian earthquake in December 1988 which  registered 6.8 and caused untold destruction killing tens of thousands, Pierre Verluise in his book Armenia in Crisis: The 1988 Earthquake wrote,

One week after the earthquake, an Armenian, like many others, continued to dig with only his hands and a pick axe for tools. His fingertips were badly torn up and bloodied. A doctor told him, “If you continue to dig, we will have to amputate.” He answered, “What do my hands matter, everything I cherish is under there—my son, my daughter, my wife, my mother.”

Not the story I was looking for, but a powerful picture nonetheless. The loss must have been unimaginable. Yet look at the courage, commitment, and clarity of priority! Makes me wonder if what we cherish and pursue can bear the weight of our lives.

May it not take a tragedy to show us that we’re missing what’s really important; where life is really found. Instead, let us take every opportunity now to pursue what is bigger than us, better than us, and will live beyond us.

“Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.”
Psalm 63:3

Searching for the Source

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Words matter. Words have power. As much as we may want to discount this truth, it remains. No matter how often we forget, it’s still true that words matter. Just take minute and listen. Listen to how the people closest to you talk, hear the words and phrases they use. Now listen to how you talk. Did you catch it? Some of those same words and phrases that you heard from those around you pop out of your own mouth.

I confess that I minimize this truth too easily in my own life. I’m pretty sure that there is not much profound that issues forth from my mouth. What I say is mostly forgetable. Just ask my congregation on Sunday after the sermon:) Yet neither pastoring or parenting will let me forget this truth.

Often I find my daughter repeating phrases that I never realized I spoke. When she was two, my daughter was sitting in her car seat when she dropped her hands in frustration and yelled at the driver in front of us, “Dadgumit!” Needless to say, she didn’t get that from her mother. I know my daughter hears and repeats what I say. Even knowing this, I’m still a bit surprised when I hear her do it.

It also still catches me a bit by surprise when I hear people in my congregation begin to use phrases and words that I commonly use. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me (Just because they look like they’re sleeping doesn’t mean they always are) but it still does a little bit.

So I continually remind myself that words matter. This helps me to follow the old children’s song, “be careful little lips what you say.” But it also helps me to work at intentionally using words that have positive, worthwhile meaning and are worth repeating. I especially want people to hear words that stress the importance of prayer, the character of God, the mission of His church.

What about you, what words are you repeating?

The Power of Words