Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Power of Words

“Pleasant words are as honey, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.”
~ Proverbs 16:24

I watched him take the two strike call:
He hadn't tried to swing at all.
I guess he'd had all that he could take,
He walked away, for goodness sake.
His father's voice was loud an' mean:
"You won't amount to anything."

That little boy quit tryin',
He just walked away.
There were teardrops on his face.

Tell me, how would you feel?
You'd probably give up too,
If nobody believed in you.
“If Nobody Believe in You”

~ recorded by Joe Nichols

“Sticks and stones, may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Not! Words can hurt – and do hurt! And they leave lasting scars, too. The English author and clergyman, Robert Burton once said, “A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword.”

I am a firm believer in the power of words – those we speak to others and those we speak to ourselves. Joyce Meyer says that words are containers for power; they carry either creative or destructive power.

When Keen and I got married, a friend of ours made us a mirror with the above Bible verse etched into the glass. We still have it hanging in our home. It makes me wonder, if pleasant words are health to the bones, then what are negative words? I truly believe that negative, critical words have the opposite affect and are detrimental to the emotional and physical well being of the hearer.

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

~ Proverbs 12:18

My sister’s former husband was admired and beloved by everyone at work because he was always so charming to them. Mr. Wonderful. But when he got home to his wife and kids, it was an entirely different situation. A marriage counselor once told my sister that she needed to “teach” her husband how to act nicely. But I pointed out that he obviously knew how to act nicely because he didn’t treat anyone at work the way he treated her! The words we speak and the way we act are a personal choice.

They say “hurting people, hurt people”, but that’s no excuse to take our frustrations out on those around us. Words that belittle and humiliate can wreak havoc on one’s self image.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge it shall eat the fruit of it (for death or life).”
~ Proverbs 18:21

The damage caused by negative, critical words reminds me of the devastation caused by fire or war. The definition of devastation is to “lay waste; to reduce to chaos, disorder or helplessness; to cause great damage.” Everything in its path is destroyed and the rebuilding process can take years.

“Every word you speak boosts someone’s hope a bit, or kills it just a little.”
~ John Ortberg

I’ve been thinking about writing this column for quite some time, but after reading the letter to the editor from Lana G. Allen in The Prairie Post two weeks ago, I was inspired to put my thoughts into words.

I couldn’t agree with Ms. Allen more. I, too, have often been shocked by the behavior of coaches (and parents) during sporting events. Sports is a great form of entertainment for the players and fans alike, but it is not a matter of life and death, as some people make it out to be. It’s an opportunity for our children to learn how to work as a team, give 110%, and how to show dignity in both victory and defeat. But to watch some coaches sacrifice a child’s self esteem on the alter of a football field or basketball court is indeed disturbing. Much to my dismay, I have heard parents humiliate their children by calling them demeaning names from the stands. I’ve heard coaches tell their football players that they are wimps who should put on cheerleading uniforms. I have never understood how they could possibly think that this type of rhetoric would ever inspire anyone.

We’re building up or tearing down, in everything we do;
Are you on the construction gang, or on the wrecking crew?

~ Anonymous

I would also like to commend Ms. Allen for having the courage to express her opinions on this very delicate subject. Most of us are reluctant to confront a coach for fear that he/she will take it out on our child. So, year after year, the players are subjected to the irrational tirades of an out-of-control coach simply because no one has the guts to tell them that their coaching practices are unprofessional and damaging to the kids.

Recently, one of the children my sister works with came to school with the word “Loser” written in ink on her forehead. My sister was appalled and immediately reported it to the school counselor. She tried her best to convince the little girl that it was not true, but the little girl replied, “Yes it is. My mommy calls me that all the time.” Now, who in their right mind would call their child a “loser,” much less brand it on their forehead?

"Self esteem in children hinges on nearly every word uttered by significant adults in their lives. Children watch how adults look at them....they draw conclusions from adult’s reactions to them and treat these conclusions as truths."
Dr. Louise Hart, Psychologist and Author of The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem in Your Children and Yourself.

In closing, I’d like to share a poem written by Lester Gale Rogers from Effingham, Kansas. Gale is a published writer and frequent contributor to Reader’s Poetry in the Kansas-Plus section of The Topeka Capital-Journal. He is also a new friend.

By Lester Gale Rogers

As early morning light
pushes hard to break the night.

Moments past come to me
and clearly they I do see.

Wishing some I might regain
to replace a word or refrain.

They haunt me, these words lost
as now alone I pay the cost.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord…my Rock and my Redeemer.”
~ Psalm 19:14

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Joanne and Joann

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”
~Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV)

I have been blessed with two people in my life named Joanne/Joann – one with an e, and one without; one I have known my entire life- my sister, Joanne – and the other one I have never even met (in person) – the editor of The Prairie Post, Joann Kahnt.

My sister, Joanne just celebrated her 50th birthday on January 14th. She’s the fourth sibling in our family to reach that major milestone.

Joanne is so special. She has a heart of gold and more gifts than I can count. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from The University of Minnesota. She is married to her husband, John and they have two children, J.P. and Amy. Joanne is the best listener I’ve ever known. While Mary and I talk incessantly and compete for conversation, Joanne will just listen. If you want to know what she’s thinking, then you will have to stop to take a breath! If you don’t, then you’ll miss out on a wealth of understanding and wisdom. I’ve always told Joanne that she would make a great counselor. She has such a gift of gentleness and kindness – and she is extremely non-judgmental.

Joanne has also been gifted with a beautiful singing voice and a talent for writing songs. She has written many songs, but a few that stand out in my mind include one she wrote for our grandmother, Agatha Higgins and another one she wrote for Keen and me when we were dating. But my all time favorite is the one she wrote for our firstborn son, Jared, shortly after his birth. I still remember some of the words to that song:

Little baby, little one
We celebrate the birth of a son
Enter in, and welcome

A precious gift –
a child of the King
Bringing joy
and endless blessing
Enter in, and welcome

Your family’s large
And their love is strong
To keep you growing healthy
Your whole life long
Enter in, and welcome…Enter in… enter in and welcome

Tears flow readily when Joanne picks up a guitar and sings one of her songs from the heart. She sings with such passion that you can’t help but be moved.

Joanne’s talent has been passed on to her children, too. John Paul (J.P.) is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota and is a very talented musician and songwriter. He sings and plays several instruments. He is also a member of a band called Civilian and they’ve even released their first CD called Our Social Upbringing. Amy, a senior in high school, is also a talented artist and performer. She’s acted in countless plays and has won many awards for her singing.

I have a dream that one day I’ll have enough money to be able to help Joanne produce a CD with her own collection of songs. A woman at my sister’s church in Carson City wrote a beautiful song that seems to sum up my feelings about Joanne’s special gift. The woman’s name is Terri Bond and the song is titled: “If you’ve been Blessed.”

If you’ve been blessed with the voice of an angel
God wants you to sing
Sing when no one can even hear it
Let your music ring

If you’ve been blessed, if you’ve been blessed
Don’t question anything
If God gave you the voice of an angel
God wants you to sing

I don’t know the “other Joann” as well as I know my sister, but she also has a very special place in my heart. Her birthday is coming up next month on February 16th.

When I decided I’d like to start writing a weekly column, Joann Kahnt responded, “If you keep writing, we’ll keep publishing.” After that, I sent an email to the editor of the Alma paper to see if he might be interested as well. Unfortunately, he had space limitations that prevented him from printing my column. So if it weren’t for Joann, I wouldn’t have anywhere to share my poems and stories. Consequently, I will always feel a debt of gratitude to her for giving me space in The Prairie Post where I can spread my wings as a writer and as a person. I must say, I never knew I had so many thoughts and opinions until I started putting them down on paper!

Sometimes my column is sentimental and other times it might be considered controversial. Still other times it may be viewed as a little “too religious” for some peoples’ taste. But the great thing is that Joann gives her readers and columnists the freedom to express any view they’d like, whether she agrees with it or not. For me, that has been a wonderful gift.

A man named John Peter Altgeld once said: "Freedom of thought and freedom of speech in our great institutions are absolutely necessary for the preservation of our country. The moment either is restricted, liberty begins to wither and die..."

I’m also grateful to Joann for giving me this opportunity because I firmly believe that the growth I’ve experienced since writing my column has helped jumpstart my book project. It’s given me the confidence I needed to take the next big leap of faith as a writer. (Although she may not want the credit/blame for that!)

I thank God for both of the Joanne/Joann’s He has placed in my life, and I’d like to wish them both a very Happy Birthday.

Make the Most of Every Day and Celebrate All That You Are
By Douglas Pagels

Live by your own light, shine by your own star
Do what you always wanted to do with your life
Envision the gift that you are

Climb up the hills of your hopes and dreams
Take whatever steps you need to take
You can’t get to the top if you don’t try,
And it’s a journey you should definitely make.

Try to find more time in your life,
do it just for you
The people you love and care about
will be rewarded with your happiness, too

When the calendar is far too full,
keep the days from flying by
Remember your youth when time took forever
Rediscover that child inside

Spend part of every day just doing something you’d like to do
Today will never come again, and yesterday is through
The secret (if you’d like to know) to finding happiness
Is knowing that it’s all around and that your life is blessed

By being in this moment and living a day at a time
You have access to every gift that will make your sunlight shine
Brighten your world with friendships and love and wishes on a star
Make the most of every day, and celebrate all that you are.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

More Blessed

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
~ Acts 20:35

“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy,
I woke and I saw that life is all service.
I served and I saw that service is joy.”
~ Mother Teresa

Last week I talked about how good works alone don’t get us into Heaven, but that’s not to say that good works aren’t good – and important!

In Matthew 7, it says: “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit…Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” If we truly love God, then I believe that will be reflected in our lives. The natural byproduct of a “good tree” will be the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:23)

Today I’d like to talk about the rewards of volunteering. Wilfred Grenfell once said: “The service we render others is the rent we pay for our room on earth.” If we have been blessed with happiness and good health, then we should try to find the time to share our good fortune with others. There are so many ways to bring joy into others lives. Sometimes it involves money, but in many cases it only involves time.

The Bible says, “This is pure and undefiled religion…to visit the widows and the orphans.” (James 1:27) When my daughter-in-law Lisa was still attending K-State, she volunteered at nursing homes and gave up her spring break to travel on a mission trip to Mexico to work with orphans, AIDS patients and the homeless. In the past, Keen and I have volunteered at the Women’s Crisis Center. (Keen mainly donated his strong back when they needed one.) We went through the training because we both feel great compassion for women who have been abused by the person who is supposed to love them. I’ve also worked with crime victims through Victim Services, a division of the Department of Corrections and with pregnant inmates at the Topeka Correctional Facility.

All of this work has been extremely gratifying, but sometimes I wonder if my motives are right. Am I doing these things for the right reason, or because of the rewards I receive from bringing a little joy into someone else’s life? Whenever we reach out to another person who is going through a difficult time, we get back so much more than we ever give. It truly is more blessed to give, than to receive.

Here’s what Thomas Jefferson had to say on the subject:

“It has been said that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bind up the wounds of the man beaten by thieves, pour oil and wine into them, set him on our own beast and bring him to the inn, because we receive ourselves pleasure from these acts….These good acts give us pleasure, but how happens it that they give us pleasure? Because nature hath implanted in our breasts a love of others, a sense of duty to them, a moral instinct, in short, which prompts us irresistibly to feel and to succor their distresses. The Creator would indeed have been a bungling artist had He intended man for a social animal without planting in him social dispositions. It is true they are not planted in every man, because there is no rule without exceptions; but it is false reasoning which converts exceptions into the general rule.”

I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine who has these “social dispositions” planted in him more than anyone else I have ever met. My friend’s name is Larry Welch. In 1984, Larry retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant (Limited Duty-Cryptology), and is now employed as a force protection analyst with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). In 1996, he became the first recipient of the National Race for the Cure Volunteer of the Year Award; and he was presented the 1997 Jill Ireland Award for Voluntarism by The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Dallas, Texas. In 1998, his employer presented him a Department of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his leadership in community relations.

Larry currently lives in Singapore – which is how I happened to make his acquaintance. One day I was reading an article in Toastmasters magazine when I noticed that the author of a book review lived in Singapore. Since his email address was listed, I decided to drop him a short note telling him that I lived in Singapore once and met my husband there while attending high school. God truly works in mysterious ways when bringing people into our lives that we never would have had the opportunity to meet.

Larry writes an insightful newsletter for positive thinking people called “On the run….” He is also the author of a book titled, Mary Virginia: A Father’s Story, which is a memoir he compiled for his young daughter. It contains heartwarming stories about the fun father-daughter times they spent together.

Many of those memories included times Larry and Mary spent volunteering together in worthwhile causes such as feeding the homeless and ringing the Salvation Army bell at Christmas time. Such wonderful values to pass on to his daughter!

When I read more about Larry’s philanthropic activities in the “note from the publisher” on – I was truly impressed. “Larry Welch is the father of Mary Virginia Welch, a position he has held for 10 years. A humanitarian, Larry feeds the homeless, promotes programs to find a cure for breast cancer, and runs marathons to raise money to help those suffering from spina bifida, kidney disease, Downs syndrome, and leukemia. He has organized marrow donor drives, recruited bell-ringing teams for The Salvation Army, promoted Toys-for-Tots, helped jail inmates develop self-esteem, listened to the elderly and watched over children.” He has even offered to donate one of his kidneys to a perfect stranger.

Larry is living the truth of Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s words: "Whatever you have received more than others - in health, in talents, in ability, in success, in a pleasant childhood, in harmonious conditions of home life - all this you must not take to yourself as a matter of course. In gratitude for your good fortune, you must render in return some sacrifice of your own life for another life."

Larry is a remarkable human being and I consider it a privilege to know someone who has given so much of himself to others.

"During your life, everything you do and everyone you meet rubs off in some way. Some bit of everything you experience stays with everyone you’ve ever known and nothing is lost. That’s what’s eternal, those little specks of experience in a great enormous river that has no end.” ~ Harriet Doerr

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Until We Meet Again

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” ~ John 14:1-3 (NKJV)

Somewhere out there,
if love can see us through,
then, we’ll be together,
somewhere out there,
out where dreams come true.

“Somewhere Out There”
~ performed by Linda Ronstadt

Last Saturday, January 3rd, our uncle, Keen Umbehr, passed away after suffering for a year and a half with complications from open heart surgery. His devoted wife of fifty plus years, Helen, has been by his side the entire time. Uncle Keen was 79 years old. He lived a full life, but it wasn’t long enough for those who loved him.

Keen was educated at Kansas State University as a geologist, and spent his life as a farmer and rancher. He was a loving father, husband, grandfather, brother, and uncle. Keen and Helen had three children; Carol, Jack and Iris. They have five grandchildren; three boys and two girls.

Keen was preceded in death by his son, Jack, who was fatally injured in a wood cutting accident on New Year’s Eve seventeen years ago. Uncle Keen was with Jack on the night of the tragedy, and I believe he’s with him again in a better place called Heaven.

About four years after Jack’s death, my husband, Keen, had a very vivid dream about Jack being in Heaven. He saw Jack standing by a horse in a beautiful green pasture. Jack had leather chaps on and looked so happy. Keen gave him a hug and told him he missed him. Keen described the scene as “Jack heaven.”

I’d like to share this tribute I recently wrote for Jack.

Husband, father, son
By Eileen Umbehr

I still remember, the sound of the sirens
on that winter night so long ago
But I never imagined the person in need
would be someone that I did know

It was our cousin, his name was Jack
the night was New Year’s Eve
He was just about ready to call it a day
when he cut down one more tree

A freak accident ended his life that night
when he was only thirty-five
He left behind a wife and a five-month-old son
wondering how they’d survive

Jack was such a hard worker, holding down two jobs
he never left a project undone
But the most important roles he played in his life
were husband, father and son

Jack talked of plans to teach his young son
to farm the land and fix the fence
but he left this world far too soon
and never got the chance

Now his boy is a senior, soon to graduate
he’s bright and handsome, just like his dad
I know Jack would be so very proud
of the fine young man that he and Barb had

Jack has been missed – as cousin, brother and friend
and by countless other loved ones
But none miss him more, than those who knew him as
husband, father and son.


Today’s Bible verse tells us that mansions have been prepared for us in Heaven. But many wonder how we can know whether we’re going to Heaven. Well, I’m not a religious scholar, but I know the Bible says that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” ~ John 3:16,17

That seems pretty straightforward to me. Simply put, if we believe in God’s Son, Jesus, and accept the forgiveness of our sins that He died to give us, the Bible says we have the promise of eternal life. When we die, God isn’t going to ask us what church we belonged to, He’s going to look into our hearts to see if we truly believed in Him and received His free gift of salvation.

The Bible says we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so without His forgiveness, none of us could ever be “good enough” to get into Heaven. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)

I’d like to share the following poem I wrote on an actual conversation I had with an elderly friend of mine several years ago.

He Who Believes
By Eileen Umbehr

I have a friend
who lost her son
in a tragic way
at age twenty-one.

"Do you believe in Heaven?"
I asked her one day.
She shook her head no,
then turned away.

"What do you believe happens
when we die?”
"I think that's the end,"
was her reply.

I said, "When I lost my mother
seven years ago this May,
It brought me great comfort
to know I'd see her one day."

"If you believe that is true,
you surprise me," she said.
"It just makes people feel better
to think that in their head."

“Well, I know the Bible says
that he who believes
Jesus is the Son of God
will live eternally.”

So my friend and I
will agree to disagree,
but I'll keep on praying,
that one day, she'll believe.

Then maybe someday,
we'll meet again in the sky
where we'll continue our visits
in the sweet by and by.


“Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”