Monday, March 05, 2007

Word Count

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” ~Prov. 17:27-28

This past weekend I made a blunder with my words that reminded me of how powerful words can be and the positive – and negative – affect they can have on others.

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

Although I didn’t mean what I said the way it sounded, that didn’t seem to matter.

“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).” ~ Poverbs 18:21

That’s why it’s so important to think BEFORE we speak!

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. . . .” ~ James 1:19

I know this column is a little heavy on Bible verses, but this next section from the third chapter of James addresses this subject so thoroughly. And since I don’t think I’m the only person who has trouble controlling their tongue, I decided to include it.

“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.

See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. . . .

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Finally, since I’ve been trying to “count my words” in another way by limiting my Reflections columns to around 1,000 words, I’m going to close by sharing two letters which illustrate the positive impact our words can have on the lives of those we love.

My niece Mimi wrote this first letter to her younger sister Jessica:

Dear Jessica,

I never thought writing a letter like this would be so hard. There's so much I want to say, but will I be able to find the right words?

I can't even begin to describe how happy I am that we have become such good friends. I finally learned to let go of whatever was keeping me from knowing the most amazing person I have ever met and will ever meet. You truly do amaze me, Jessica. You are the only person I know who is capable of anything. You're so full of talent, charisma, and kindness, I don't know how you do everything you do. You just have this energy about you that glows. I know that you'll always be that way, helping others, and just being yourself.

Jessica, I want you to know that I am who I am today because of you. Even though you may not realize it, you helped me open up and showed me that it was okay to express my opinion, and it was okay to actually have a personality. (Imagine that!) I look up to you more than you'll ever know. You're smart, funny, beautiful, someone I can tell anything to, but most of all, you're my friend. No, you're my best friend. If I could somehow find my way to becoming even half the person you are, I would consider my life to be a success. So this letter is to you, Jessica... my hero.

Love always and forever,


Mimi & Jessica (Then and Now)

Our third son, Keen II, wrote this next letter to his younger brother Kirk after Kirk found out that he didn’t make the basketball team:

Hey bro, what’s up man? Well I’m sure you’re sick of talking about it and everything but I gotta do what big brothers and family do. I just wanted to write you a little something to tell you that today life is full of disappointments but we show our character when we are able to handle them like a man. We’re Umbehr men and we handle our disappointments like men and move on. Why? Because we have something that not all your friends have in their lives. We have a God that loves us and wants what is 100% best for us. BE EXCITED KIRK! If God didn’t want you to play on that basketball team it is only because he has something 100 times better waiting for you. I don’t want to get preachy on you bro, but you know there is that verse that says “The eye has not seen, the ear has not heard, nor has entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love him.” Seriously bro you can’t even imagine what might happen. Maybe you’ll end up taking this off season to get in contact with some serious paintball sponsors and look into hooking up with some semi-pro teams in the nation. Teams who will PAY YOU to play paintball instead of you paying them! Who knows what has been prepared for you, but it’s something special.

Love you, Bro -


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

Keen and Kirk Van (Then and Now)