Excerpts for Speak Love : Making Your Words Matter


Speak Love


By Annie F. Downs

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2013 Annie F. Downs
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-74287-6


Contents

Foreword from Jamie-Grace..................................................9
Introduction: Words Matter.................................................11
Part 1: Conversations with God.............................................
Chapter 1: The Power of Words..............................................21
Chapter 2: An Apology......................................................31
Chapter 3: God Speaks Love.................................................43
Chapter 4: Talk to God.....................................................63
Part 2: Conversations with Others..........................................
Chapter 5: Your Family.....................................................89
Chapter 6: Your People.....................................................103
Chapter 7: The Mean Girl...................................................121
Chapter 8: Your Online Life................................................139
Chapter 9: Celebrities Big and Small.......................................153
Chapter 10: Talking about God..............................................171
Part 3: Last but Not Least? You............................................
Chapter 11: Believe Truth..................................................191
Chapter 12: Love You.......................................................209
Conclusion: Speak Love.....................................................225
Appendix...................................................................231
Acknowledgments............................................................237
About the Author...........................................................255


CHAPTER 1

The Power of Words


"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

—Proverbs 12:18


God Spoke

Before there was Earth as we know it, there were words. God spoke long before we ever even took a breath. "And God said, 'Let there be light.'" Genesis 1:3—the third verse in the whole Bible. That's pretty early for God to start using words. But He did. God spoke. And the world began. That's it. He spoke and there was an ocean, and He spoke and beaches blocked the water from overtaking the land. He spoke and giraffes poked out their long necks, stars shined, dogs wagged their tails, trees blossomed, humans breathed.

God could have created any way He wanted to, right? I mean, He could have coughed out clouds or molded hippos with His hands; He could have merely thought about mountains and they would be there.

But He chose to use words to create. And it was good.

Every time God speaks in the Bible, things change. You can see it throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. Whether it is a circumstance, a heart, or a weather pattern, things change when the Father says it or Jesus commands it. Remember? It was THE WORD that became flesh (see John 1:1).

And we are made in His image, modeled after Him. The One who creates life with words, that is our makeup, our DNA.

We do the same thing.


Create

We have two options when we use our words: we can build or we can destroy. The Bible puts it even more seriously than that:


Proverbs 18:21

The tongue has the power of life and death. (NIV) Words kill, words give life. (The Message)


And that's true for you too, isn't it? I know it is true for me. I can tell you story after story of how someone's words gave me life, built me up, strengthened me. And I can tell you stories of how words have broken my heart.

They. Are. Powerful.

I know this because I've felt it over and over. But this one time in seventh grade left a defining mark on my heart. Words changed me forever.

That year, my social studies teacher was Mr. Samson. His classroom was the first one on the left. It had lots of windows and the desks were squished together. I sat between two boys and behind my best friend. I watched, one day, as one of the boys borrowed a tiny green piece of paper from my friend Jessica and began to make some sort of list. I don't know how I knew, but I knew that list was about me. I couldn't see it, but watching him write told me everything. I was equal parts worried and curious.

Class ended. Mark ripped the green paper into tiny squares, and as he walked out of the classroom he dropped them in the trash can. After the classroom cleared, I slowly packed up, and with Mr. Samson's eyes following my every move I knelt down and scooped up those tiny squares from the trash and shoved them into the left front pocket of my acid-wash jeans.

(The 90s, y'all. You missed some great jeans.)

I rushed out of the room. I never looked back. I didn't want to acknowledge what my teacher and I both knew: I was going to regret digging in the trash.

I got home that afternoon, and after dinner I went upstairs to my room and spread those squares out across the carpeted floor. Like completing some type of evil puzzle, I mixed and matched pieces until the frayed edges met and the words began to come together. I taped the pieces as they lined up, and since the pieces were so small the paper started to feel laminated with Scotch Tape.

I began to read the text in that classic middle-school dude chicken-scratch handwriting. It was a list of every girl in our class with one word to describe them.

I zeroed in on my own name. And my line looked like this:


Annie = Flabby

It's not even that this was necessarily untrue—I've been overweight a long time. But what hurt my feelings was that of all the words my friend could pick to describe me, THAT was the top one? Seriously? How about "funny" or "kind" or "silly" or "smart"? Those were true too. But "flabby" was the one he wanted to label me. And so it was.

I can still see it. In one instant, I can pull forward that mental image of that piece of paper; probably because I kept that paper until I finished high school. Tucked safely under a box of costume jewelry in the top drawer of my dresser, this ratty green piece of paper survived far longer than any of those middle school friendships or most of the information I learned in that social studies class. (Sorry, Mr. Samson.)

I don't know why I kept it. Maybe it was just to be mean to myself (something we'll talk about later), or maybe I just felt like I had earned it or that it was a prize for my sleuthing. Either way, it broke my heart every time I saw it, whether I pulled it out of the drawer or simply saw a corner peeking out from under the stacks.

In my book Perfectly Unique, I tell the story of how I once duct-taped myself in high school to try to fit into an outfit I wanted to wear. Because of the words others had said to me, like in this note—and, honestly, because of the words I had said to myself—I hated me and I acted out of that.

You see, words lead to actions. Words change things.

It was words that wounded me. And words that healed me.


I could keep going. You could too, couldn't you? We could sit here and swap stories until my mug of chai was empty and the coffee shop workers began to sweep the floors and turn off the neon OPEN light. Because if you are a girl, you have experienced the pain of words firsthand.

I know you have.

I know because I've been a girl my whole life. Yes, all thirty-three years of it. And I've known a lot of girls. And I've talked to a lot of girls. And I've been mean to girls.

So. I know you know.

The question is, what do we do with that?


The Plan

We are a new generation. A loud generation. You are communicating all the time. Whether it's talking, or texting, through Facebook or Instagram or other corners of the Internet, you are using your words. So let's chat, for the next few chapters, about how we can use our words to impact our world for the better.

Because, hi, you can.

So here's how we're going to do this:

First of all, let's focus on how you talk to God and about God. Because really, friend, that's what it is all about. Maybe you know Him well or maybe you don't. But my prayer for you, by the end of this book, is that you will see Him more clearly and love Him more deeply and speak differently to Him and about Him. Also, God is always speaking love—are you hearing Him? He is our model, He is our example. How God uses His words is how we can learn to use ours.

As I told you, I've been a Christian since I was five. I remember the day I got saved, and I was serious about it. But throughout my life, I haven't always been good at talking to God. I worried that I was saying too much or not enough. Even harder for me as a teen? Talking about God. The pressure, OH THE PRESSURE, to get my friends SAVED! Everything I said mattered in a life-or-eternal-death way.

It's different now for me. My relationship with God is different, deeper, truer, and talking about Him is like talking about one of my favorite people. Because He is my favorite. I'm learning every day how to speak love because I see how God speaks love to me and to others.

Speaking of people, isn't that who gets the brunt of our words? The people in your world? I think of my two sisters, bless them, dealing with my word struggles for so many years. In anger, I would jab and stab with just the right words to hurt them. On purpose. You see, constructing sentences and finding great words have always been tools in my toolbox. I just used to use them to hurt, not help. To lie instead of tell the truth. To break instead of heal.

(I'm grateful for my sisters' forgiveness. And God's.)

So we're going to spend a chunk of this time together talking about other people: your family, your friends, BOYS BOYS BOYS, celebrities, enemies, teachers, those in your real life and your online life. You're using a lot of words these days, sister.

And we're going to talk about her. The Mean Girl. She uses her words, doesn't she? I have strong feelings toward her and how we should treat her and, to be honest, I want to get rid of the mean girls of the world.

I think we can do it.

There's another girl who gets our attention as well. You know her. You are her. Believe it or not, the words you use toward yourself are powerful and defining. It would be wrong of me to talk with you about every other person who gets your words and leave off the one who is often the victim ... you.


I believe in the Bible. It is true. I find hope in it, this massive collection of God-breathed words. And the more we can fill our minds with those words, the deeper our relationship with God goes and the more our words come out of that place. So each chapter of this book is going to have a memory verse. I'm not the boss of you, so I can't make you memorize them. But I hope you will. I really do.

This one has been following me since that first Girls of Grace event in Phoenix. And as I've worked to memorize it I have grown to love it and believe it and breathe it.


Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.


Memorize it, my friend. And live it. May the Holy Spirit press on you when you are stabbing someone—or yourself—with a reckless word. And may you see the healing, feel the healing, that comes from the tongue of the wise.


The sun has set outside Portland Brew. I'm about thirty minutes from meeting two of my best friends for dinner at the barbeque place across the street. But this is one of those conversations that I wish could keep going. You know, the kind where you see the clock ticking away but you wish it would stop?

I wish it would stop.

Thanks to the magic of words on a page, our conversation can go on. So let's keep talking and work through how we will change this world by using our words to speak love.


Your Words Matter

At the end of each chapter, you're gonna see this section: Your Words Matter. Because they do. After you read my words, you should use some of your own. This is when I think you should maybe grab your journal, head to a quiet spot, and think through some of what you've read. This will also give you some verses to read, a reminder of your memory verse, and some things you can do to speak love into your world.


Memorize the Word

Some suggestions: Write this verse in your journal, write it on a note card and stick it in your locker, or use dry erase markers to write it on your bathroom mirror!

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

—Proverbs 12:18


Read the Word

Here are the verses I talked about, and a few others. I've listed them in the Bible versions I use the most—if you use a different one, that's cool. Check out different translations and see what God speaks to your heart!

• Joshua 4–5

• Genesis 1:3

• John 1:1

• Proverbs 18:21

• Zephaniah 3:17

• 2 Corinthians 5:17


Journal Your Words

These are just a few questions and/or thoughts that you can use to jump-start your journaling.

• What part of using my words well do I find the most challenging?

• When can I remember someone being unkind to me with words?

• What does it really mean to me that words have the power of life and death?

• How do I want to be different when I'm done reading this book?


Use Your Words

Each chapter will offer you a little challenge—a way to use your words to speak love. Whether it is talking face to face, writing a note, or communicating online, you'll get practical ways to do what the chapter talked about.

• Tell someone that you are reading Speak Love and tell them why. Maybe it's your parents or your small group leader or your soccer coach or your best friend. Just let someone else know why this book and this topic are important to you.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Speak Love by Annie F. Downs. Copyright © 2013 Annie F. Downs. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.



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