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The beautiful potential of words

Clouds3“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Proverbs 20 5:1

I don't know of any more beautiful words than these words spoken long-ago and preserved for us faithfully over the years. Because they are so beautiful, these words are also profoundly true.

The other evening JoAnn was feeling very tired, and she retired to her room just across the hallway to rest before going to sleep. I was reading a book when I felt a little nudge within myself which said, "JoAnn needs a bit of comforting. Go in and comfort her."

I perched on the edge of her bed and found a way to lie down with one hand around her head and another arm around her back. I didn't say anything, because there wasn't any need to say anything. I just lay there beside her, thinking to myself how grateful I am for the unique spirit of caring and love that she brings into this world and into my life.

I'm not sure how long we spent like this. Maybe 20 minutes. Possibly it was half-an-hour. In any case, after awhile it felt as if I had done what I needed to do. I gave her a goodnight kiss, told her to have a good sleep, and went back to my own room.

Next morning, while I was eating breakfast, JoAnn stopped for a moment as she was walking by and put a hand on my shoulder. "I especially loved when you came in to see me those few moments last night," she said.

That was it. She didn't go into a long speech or anything. She doesn't do long speeches. But I felt a new sense of love and appreciation for her as she expressed her gratitude for my simple gesture the previous evening. It was in that moment I was reminded of the verse from Proverbs that I quoted at the beginning of this post.

We are barraged these days with words that are anything but “fitly spoken”. The world is filled with words that are hateful, angry, bitter, and very, very divisive. Do you really want to be happy? Do you really want to stay sane and effective and productive and live a worthwhile life in the midst of a world in turmoil?

Take to heart the words of an unknown elder many years ago. When you speak, speak words that are positive and creative and kind.

There is a time for firmness, of course. But we reap what we sow. It always has been so, it always will be so. Putting this another way, we experience what we express, as my wife likes to say. If we speak ugly words with an ugly spirit, ugly is what we know – ugly is what we become, ugly is what we have to live with.

When we express what is beautiful and true, to the highest of our vision, we are blessed. We are being true to our own timeless self. It's what we came here to do, after all.

I'm taking the liberty of including a poem that I wrote two or three years ago which I hope will fit in with this post. It was entitled "Character." Here it is:

An ancient song stirs in my memory

like wildflowers shouting

on a hill, and it says:

“Not a leaf astir upon the tree,

Not a ripple on the surface

of the shining pool.

Silence is the cornerstone

of true character.”

I guess the mountain thinks so

as it breathes out its majesty with every breath,

and the prairie also,

stretching forever beyond gray city walls.

Yet there are times

when silence is not true character,

and life makes a strong wind blow

on the prairie or in the human heart.

It demands that a human mouth speak,

maybe yours, maybe mine,

and say the thing that must be said

if truth and love and kindness are to have their way.

What is it,

this thing called character?

Only my heart knows,

as it turns to a light so close

and yet so ineffable

I’m not sure it really has a name.

Christopher Foster

2006

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Noel Gaughan August 18, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Dear Chris I love this post, to me it is about what we used to call in religion Holy Communion. Oneness with God, oneness with Higher love. I have found that simple love is Higher love, there is no greater one to worship and adore. This is the core substance of eternal life. When we respond to His call we know this and at least the essence of a joy so full that we will do anything to serve this One. I very much appreciate the beauty and the delicasy of your poem “Character” also, dare I say loudly and yet gently that you do have a true name for this ineffable One and that your heart knows that His name is Love and that also this is yours and mine true name

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Jill Campana August 19, 2009 at 6:59 am

It’s so interesting Chris…I didn’t read your blog until this very moment. My blog that I posted earlier this morning is about truth — the truth of oneself (http://niainnerjourneys.blogspot.com)

Divisive thoughts create divisive words and divisive words create divisive actions. There is not a place in the human world today where divisive thoughts do not exist. (A good example would be the political arena — in the U.S. the lines have been drawn).

The world will always be divided as long as I see it and believe it to be. The insanity has to
stop with me. It is only from the truth of who I am that I can speak with clarity; from any other place the lines continue to be drawn.

Your poem is lovely Chris. Your words comes from that place of truth. Until we individually (and then collectively) come to the point of living them in our daily lives, they remain but beautiful words from an equally beautiful spirit.

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Linda Baran August 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

I especially love this article. It does seem to me that many people today don’t appreciate silence and feel compelled to be constantly chattering in one way or another, whether through email, twitter, or just talking. I like to be careful with my words and make sure that they are worth saying so that I’m not littering the airwaves. My husband and I enjoy just being together quietly and often say very little when we go out for coffee on weekends. We don’t need to talk. One of the most powerful spiritual experiences I ever had was a 3 day silent retreat.

But, words can be useful, especially if they are “fitly” spoken, as in your blog. I’m working right now on a book about my home town. At first my greatest challenge was to talk about only the good and positive. Once I began to focus on the good, the book started to come together quite easily and I developed a much deeper appreciation for my family and the little town where I grew up. I wrote the book slowly, bit by bit, in a coffee shop where I go in the mornings before work. As I finish each chapter, I send them to my family and I think they are very much enjoying reading about themselves and their town in a more positive light.

Your words in this blog encourage me to keep going (persistence) and help me remember that the book I’m writing is a true gift for my family because it is a collection of “fitly” spoken words.

Thanks for your own persistence with your blog.

Linda Baran

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