Life in the Mouth

While working as a dental hygienist, I looked into a lot of mouths.  Although at that time  it didn’t seem funny,  I remember two particular patients that I chuckle about now.  Of course, the humor might only be appreciated by those who have worked in a dental office.  One day I was running late with my afternoon appointments. I looked at the book with encouragement, noting that my next patient was a teenage boy, and not an adult. Adults generally take longer because of possible issues with gum problems. So, I was beginning to relax, thinking I could get back on schedule. Well, I was wrong.  Words can not describe how I felt as I looked into this young man’s mouth. Not only was he wearing full orthodontic metal braces, but he had decided, just before coming in for his dental appointment, that a juicy orange would be a good snack. Without being too descriptive, taking orange pulp off metal brackets takes a long time.

Another time, an elderly man came in as a new patient. I introduced myself and seated him in the chair. I then turned my back on him, as I began setting up the paper work to record his patient history.  However, he had decided it was time to begin work right away, because as I turned in my chair to ask my first question, he had already dislodged his upper denture and it was resting on his extended tongue. He sat there, in that position, with his eyes closed waiting on me to retrieve his denture and start cleaning his remaining teeth in his lower jaw.

I’ve learned to appreciate a healthy mouth, after seeing so many afflicted by tooth aches, disease, malformations, or injuries. This is not an appeal to brush and floss your teeth, although that isn’t a bad idea. 🙂  I want to focus on the mouth because there is an important link between a healthy mouth and our well-being, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Regarding physical significance, when food enters the mouth, the digestive process begins. The mouth contributes to our musical ability, as we sing, hum, and whistle.  By using our lips, we can kiss, blow, bite, and spit.   A damaged or malformed mouth can cause someone to battle with how they view themselves. Dental health impacts the cardiovascular system, our immune system, our ability to support healthy weight, and our enjoyment while dining.

Emotionally, our words, and the tone of those words, display to the world, what is inside us. I heard it said  years ago, and I say it often, to remind myself of this truth, “what is in the well, will come up in the bucket”. If there is anger in our hearts, it will slip past our teeth with the least provocation. If there is bitterness, it will ooze out of our mouth like slime, covering those around us, our situation and our environment. If there is unforgiveness,  our words will sound harsh, brassy and sharp. When hatred is felt,  there is potential for violent, harmful thoughts to be propelled by our tongue, and out of our mouth. People will often interpret our personality by observing our mouth, labeling us with terms like friendly, shy, quiet, loud. Our mouth can show when we are fearful, stressed, in pain, or in trouble.  We can frown and pout and do various other forms of expressions to convey our emotions.

Getting to the spiritual aspect of the mouth, a heart where the love of God resides has the potential to offer words of  love in many flavors : merciful, gracious, forgiving, healing, comforting, affirming, encouraging, edifying, uplifting, blessing and understanding.  The  words we speak change lives, ours and others.

Scripture gives us some promises about the words we utter:

Proverbs 18:20-21 (AMP)20 A man’s [moral] self shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied [whether good or evil].21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life].

Proverbs 11:11 (AMP)11 By the blessing of the influence of the upright and God’s favor [because of them] the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.

Proverbs 12:18 (AMP)18 There are those who speak rashly, like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

How many blessings are we missing by speaking with hopeless, faithless and lifeless words?  How many times do we experience lost opportunities to see God’s favor surround us, when we need it the most, because we speak with unbelief? How would our world look if we spoke the words God leads us to speak, with His wisdom, His heart, and His compassion? How many times have we failed to speak in a way that would encourage, uplift or bless others?

Biblical guidelines for speaking are not merely suggestions to be taken lightly.

Ephesians 4:29 (AMP)29 Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.

Ephesians 5:4 (AMP)Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting or becoming; but instead voice your thankfulness [to God].

James 1:19-27 (AMP)19 Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.

Healthy life, physically, emotionally and spiritually begins in our hearts, and is evidenced by our mouths. We, His Body, can impact the world by allowing Him to reign in our hearts and letting His words flow from our mouths. We all face this battle with our tongue, and James states that no man can tame it. These verses urge me to weigh my words more carefully.  By allowing the Holy Spirit to reign in our heart, we are filled with Him and He enables us to speak words that bless and heal.

For a long time, I never really considered that words mattered. After all, everyone is entitled to say what they think and feel. Yes, this is true, but is everything I think and feel honoring to God and to those around me? This has become such a tangible lesson for me.  God has allowed me to see the hurt felt by others from my words, and to experience how other’s  words have hurt me. There is overwhelming frustration as I reflect back over all the useless and unloving words that have come out of my mouth. My only encouragement is knowing the Lord’s forgiveness, and that He is able to redeem and restore. It is never to late to learn what the Holy Spirit is willing to teach, and to expect Him to change, within me, what is not pleasing to God.

connecting, with love


Salty Grace

Job 6:6 –  (GNT)  But who can eat flat, unsalted food?…

Throughout history,  the value of salt has ranked high in commerce and daily living.  Salt adds  flavor to food;  it is a cleansing agent, and a resource to promote health and healing.  Salt represents purity, hospitality, durability.

For anyone who has experienced a salt free diet for any period of time, you understand why Job compares the counsel he has received from his three friends with unsalted food. It isn’t palatable to his soul anymore than unsalted food is palatable to our taste buds. He has just experienced some of  life’s most dreaded losses, the loss of his children, his health, his possessions and his livelihood.  In the face of all this grief he also has lost his honored place within his society. As Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, his friends, attempt to comfort him, the ineffective, graceless words they use, even with elements of truth, cause Job more pain. His three friends are unable to encourage, offer hope or point him toward a restorative, redemptive God, even to the point that all three receive a rebuke from God. Job is cast down, judged, criticized, misunderstood,  and patronized. He is left defensive, graceless, without hope.  Job declares in chapter 6 verse 30 (AMP), “Is there wrong on my tongue? Cannot my taste discern what is destructive?”

Finally, when the three men and Job can find nothing else to say,  a fifth man, Elihu begins to express his thoughts. He is a younger man, who has sat quietly listening to all the dialogue between the four men, Job, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.  Spiritually, the number five symbolizes grace. With this fifth main character, Elihu, grace is factored into the equation. Elihu’s name means “He is my God” and his father’s name, Barachel, means “God blesses“.

In chapters 32-37, Elihu repeatedly offers grace to Job. He affirms Job’s place before God 33:6.  In 33: 7 (AMP), Elihu declares to Job, I shall not make you afraid, neither shall my pressure be heavy upon you. Numerous times in Elihu’s dialogue, he encourages Job to trust in God, while correctly presenting a clear insight into God’s gracious heart. Obviously, Elihu knows God, has had time to become acquainted with His character, and can share  from a genuine overflow of his own experience with God. Elihu teaches, corrects and challenges Job’s self-righteous thoughts, while lovingly encouraging him and directing him to trust God. Balance is the key to fruitful ministry of reconciliation. Too much salt in the soil prevents or retards any type of plant growth, while  gracious words are never flattery. I once heard someone say the best way to correct a child or offer corrective counsel is to mimic a Oreo cookie, a sliver of corrective insight sandwiched between two encouragements. Elihu didn’t exactly follow this pattern, but  his words of correction are often surrounded by words of comfort and hope.
Elihu declares in chapter 32 :17-22 – (NKJV)

 17 I also will answer my part, I too will declare my opinion. 18 For I am full of words; The spirit within me compels me. 19 Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent;It is ready to burst like new wineskins.20 I will speak, that I may find relief;I must open my lips and answer.21 Let me not, I pray, show partiality to anyone;Nor let me flatter any man.22 For I do not know how to flatter, Else my Maker would soon take me away.

In Jewish culture, the meaning of names holds great significance. I do not believe it was accidental that Elihu, whose name reminds that God is my God, speaks to Job just before God speaks to him. It also was not  coincidental that Elihu’s father Barachel, God blesses, was also mentioned at this precise time.  God called Elihu to speak words that would focus Job on a correct representation of His character. Ultimately, God’s own words lead Job to a yielded place of rest and a better understanding of himself before God. The final outcome is that Job receives abundant blesses from the Lord. He experiences restoration by the Restorer Himself.
Consider two side of pain.  One side is seeing the pain that someone else faces. The other side is experiencing the pain ourselves. A prepared heart stands ready to deal with life, come what may.  The world, and those around us, need words of grace that are, like salt, healing and restoring, and we also need that same grace for our own issues. We need to know the Lord so intimately, that our faith in Him does not waver. A prepared heart is ready to accept, even in pain, by faith, that God is my God, and that He blesses.There should be a readiness to love with His love, through His power, so that grace is always the automatic response.

There is so much more I don’t understand about the Book of  Job. However,  I wanted to share what He has taught me….so far. I have been on both sides of pain and have come to appreciate grace so very much. It truly is amazing. There is still at least one more blog about Job, but I am waiting on the Lord to help me understand it more clearly 🙂

connecting with love