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The set of our sails

Ever hear the warning, "You better choose your words wisely"?  I found a quote recently, actually a little poem, which I think really puts things into perspective as it applies to our words:

You may choose your words like a connoisseur,
And polish it up with art,
But the word that sways, and stirs, and stays,
Is the word that comes from the heart.
(Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

Probably one of her most famous "one-liners" is the simple quote:  "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone."  She was an American author of poetry, living only a short span of about 69 years on this earth, but leaving us with some great thoughts on the power of words, the joys of passion, and the integrity of our choices.  Another of my favorites is really a very short poem, but it speaks volumes:

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
'Tis the set of the sails, 
And not the gales,
That tells us the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate;
As we voyage along through life,
'Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal, 
And not the calm or the strife.
(Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

Aptly spoken words impart a little life, do they not?  When words are chosen well, we find them giving direction to our souls.  Look again at her last stanza and you will see she directs us to consider the "set of our soul" - for it decides the direction we take, the outcome of our endeavor, and the destination we reach.  The same is true with our words - they determine the course of many a relationship, opening or closing us to endeavors, and revealing the distance we will travel, do they not?

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.  (Proverbs 18:21 MSG)

The book of Proverbs is chocked-full of reminders to be very conscious of our words - to choose them wisely.  This one verse alone presents us with enough "evidence" to chew on our words a little longer, does it not?  Words kill - therefore, I need to be careful which words I choose to speak.  Words equally give life - when chosen well, spoken with integrity, and directed toward those who benefit from their sharing.  

Either poison or fruit - it is our choice.  Now, I have to direct us to look back to the first book of the Bible for a moment.  The first "choice" we see recorded in scripture dealt with "fruit" - did it not?  Two trees sat in the middle of the Garden.  One the tree of life, the other the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Only one tree "bore fruit" which was to be "avoided" - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  What one thing led to the "tasting" of this "fruit"? Was it not a discourse of words between Satan and Eve - a twisting of words to fit the plan of Satan?  In fact, this discourse between them is recorded for all eternity - simply because God knows the power of words and he wants us to learn it well!  They can affect the choices we make.

Fruit or poison - the choice is how the words are spoken, how well they adhere to the truth, and the condition of the heart of the one receiving them.  Words can be spoken with a "bent" toward one position or another.  Schools everywhere teach the students to learn the "art of debate" - the presentation of one side of the story or the other with the intent of "swaying" the hearers to accept or adopt "your side".  In fact, a good debater will learn the very "arguments" which appeal to the heart and mind.  Sound familiar?  Remember, Satan is always going to present the "argument" the way WE want to hear it, not the way God wants us to "remember" it!

The condition of the heart - or shall I say the "set of our sails" - determines the course words will take.  We will do well to choose the "set of our sails" not so much with the prevailing wind, but with the wisdom of directing them into the winds of grace.  Just sayin!


  1. I love those poems, I'm going to look for more from her. You tied it well to Proverbs. Words are so much bigger than we think.


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