When I was growing up, a downtown Kress store was one of my favorite hangouts, mainly because it carried ceramic model horses that I could afford to purchase with my babysitting money. Lining the top of my bed's headboard, each horse was part of a priceless collection.
I loved horses. As summer neared, I would sit on my curb and hope a cowboy or cowgirl trotted by so I could beg for a ride. At fair time, it was no secret where I would be -- walking amongst the horse stalls, petting any mare or gelding I could reach and, once again, mooching rides from kind owners.
When I turned 15, my uncle Kermit loaned me a horse for the summer. It was my responsibility to find a place to stall it and take care of it. There was no saddle --only a bridle -- but that was okay with me. I could always find a stump or a bench to assist me in jumping on Flicka's back.
Every day when I left Mercy Hospital (where I worked as a nurse's aide), I would run home, change clothes and hurry over to the pasture to bridle my new best friend and practice for the Kentucky Derby. I was in horse heaven. One of my saddest days ever was when autumn ended and Flicka had to return to my uncle.
My son, Adam, now owns horses and this past week he called and asked if I would like to go riding with him, his friend and ranch hand Charlie and my grandson Drake. I jumped at the chance. Leaving dishes in the sink and unfolded clothes on the bed, I raced to his ranch to relive my childhood fantasy.
This time, however, something had changed, (and no, I'm not talking about my ability/inability to get into the saddle). Probably because I am older and wiser and recognize the power of the beast under me, but I no longer rode with reckless abandon.
When Adam had to work to control his horse that was itching to run, I prayed mine didn't mimic such behavior. Charlie offered some advice: loosen the reins, and as the horse starts to run, jerk back on them quickly. Repeat until the animal obeys. It worked. Adam's thousand-pound steed quickly submitted to his leading.
James, Jesus' brother, compared the use of a bit in the mouth of a horse to that of our words. Both might seem of no account, but both can accomplish -- or destroy -- nearly anything.
Galations 5:23 admonishes us to have a spirit of gentleness that tempers the words we speak. The Greek word for gentleness is prautes and suggests a wild horse that has been tamed.
In the message version of scripture, James issues this warning: "By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right form the pit of hell."
It's true. That little muscle in our mouth can control the entire direction of our life.
This week I saw its effect. My husband Dave and I began the arduous task of staining our deck. A few hours into it, my wrists hurt. Plus, it was stifling hot. It's no wonder I was a tad bit cranky. I began looking at Dave's area. "Do you see all those drips? Would it be possible for you to try and catch them before they dry?"
A few minutes later: "Gee, Dave! At the rate you're going, we'll need sandpaper to get the drips off of those boards."
You get the picture. There was no prautes in my words. My unbridled tongue was turning harmony between Dave and me into chaos.
It didn't take long before I felt the Lord jerking my reins, and this time, instead of pointing out Dave's mistakes, I quietly came alongside him with my paint brush, cleaning the stain as it ran off the railings.
I've decided that after comparing the task of staining a deck to the task of keeping my mouth shut, perhaps an aching wrist and a little sunburn aren't such a big deal after all.