A couple of days ago I mentioned on FaceBook that I was going to start a 40-day speech challenge based on this book and thought it'd be good to give a little more background information on this book, it's author and the ministry that she works for.
Karen Ehman is a blogger, author and speaker who works for Proverbs 31 ministries - which was founded by Lisa TerKeurst. I first came across TerKeurst and Proverbs 31 6 years ago - almost to the day - when I started a study with a few women from my church. This was the first time in 15 years that I'd been able to participate in such a group and it was a real treat.
Karen Ehman's on-line home can be found here and the first banner item is her book Zip It. Zip It is a follow up challenge in response to the book Keep It Shut - which resulted from Karen - a self-reported "bossy girl" who "landed in trouble" due to her words - and worked to turn that habit around. Her blog posts on that topic before - and especially after that book came out resulted in an even deeper awareness of the many facets of the problems we can speak our way into - and Zip It is the result. I've read through a few of the blog posts on this - but they're way back in the blog-o-clock - so the book makes the content much easier to access. I just checked and the Kindle edition of Zip-It is still just $2 on amazon and the Nook version is just $2 from Barnes & Noble. I'm not making a dime on any of that - it's all just FYI. Karen Ehman is a wife, mom and minister - all of which is reflected in her blog which is full of recipes and devotions, things you can do with your kids, discussions on things relevant to family and marriage - so if you're looking for inspiration on those topics you might want to check it out.
The first couple of days of Zip It's 40-day challenge are intro-ish. Each day's challenge point ends with a specific task. No surprises there.
Here's the thing about speech ... it requires so little thought to just blurt things out - but once out there - they are just gone forever - released into the air - and hearing of all those around us. There's no undo-button or delete key - to real those words back in - a syllable at a time. Once spoken - they just kick around.
I've been thinking lately - have I ever been hurt by someone - who's hurt was perpetrated without words? There are precious few such incidents in my life. 99.9% of the times in my life that someone hurt me - it was with their words.
And - as for my words - the picture is grim. I learned from an early age how to hurt with my words. As a kid I was always small for my age - physically - it was no contest - but when it came to words it was clear pretty early on that if you put the right words together and aimed them at someone just right - it didn't matter how small you were.
All of my adult life I've been engaged in ministry in one way or another - and have most of that time wanted to use my speech to work good for Christ. Sitting here today's sunshine and looking back - it's easy to gloss and disparage - but I will say that in the past I didn't take to heart the power of words to heal, bless, encourage, and uplift nearly as much as I could have. It's not just enough to not say awful things - there are scores of opportunities we have every day to bring light, hope, healing, peace, gratitude - and so much more.
Day 1 of Zip It is really Ehman's own version of the above - and the take-away for day 1 is to vow to learn to "align our words with God's holy word". Vow - is a pretty weighty word - but given what words' potential - good or bad - I do believe at a minimum a commitment is warranted - and a vow is not ridiculous - though I sure do not use or even mention that word lightly. The thing about speech is - I have a sneaking suspicious that it's our words that Satan repeats back into the ears of those we've shocked, slighted, or slain with our speech - and once our words fly out of our mouths and land on someone's ears - we've lost all power over them. We can back-pedal - but it's up to our hearers to release our words from their memories.
Day 2 looks at Psalm 139:4 - which says that "Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely." ... and the reality that God knows what we're about to say - as we're thinking it - and knows the impact of those words completely before they've even finished forming in our conscious minds. I don't know about you - but the amount of time between when I think about saying something - and when it actually starts to come out of my mouth isn't even as long as a blink. One of the things I've actually been practicing since starting the Salty Speech project is lengthening that bit of time. It's hard. Good or bad - speech comes easily to me - so the more I can draw that time out the easier it is for me to use my faculties for speech for the good. Ehman also talks about - even when we don't utter those "zingers" - when they make us smirk at our own wit or shoot a look towards a friend that says "boy have I got a good one!" - God's still profoundly interested in what's happening to our hearts in these moments.
Day 3 is titled "Shutting Down the MotorMouth" examines Proverbs 10:19 which says "when words are many transgression is unavoidable". (FYI - Proverbs 10 is chock-full of verses on speech, the tongue and the power of words.)
I do not plan on giving a blow-by-blow of Zip It - and am reviewing the first few days here to give a fuller picture of what the book is about and what it's like. You could use any Bible search reference book or on-line tool to create your own challenge (likely - far more than 40 days!) by just writing down the verses your search pulls up and meditating on them one a day until you're through that search and go onto the next one. I also want to just encourage us all to be mindful of our words. This pursuit - on first glance - may seem too basic or simplistic - especially if you know your way around the Bible or have done this before, but in my experience it's not the esoteric and mysterious aspects of my faith that I falter on regularly - it's the absolutely most basic things - especially the basics that deal with what's currently going on in my heart.