The Exchange

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

A difference of opinion can lead to a heated exchange of words with another person. Don't believe me? Walk into a sports bar anywhere in the southern United States, between August and January,and shout out either, "S-E-C!"or "A-C-C!" Expect to split the house and to leave with a split lip. People can go crazy when they are confronted by someone who disagrees with them. Warning Alert: On second thought, you will get this same response on the days ending in "Y"...any month of the year in the South.

Even at the lofty summit of a Presidential debate, grudge matches often break out between half wits lobbing verbal grenades at one another. More decorum can be found in a caged monkey fight at the zoo. Shedding more heat than light on any and every issue generates a great deal of perspiration, but very little inspiration.  By the time the "debate" is over, no one is calling for an encore. The mud slinging, and throwing of rotten fruit often misses the intended target, and leaves the audience ready for a hot shower. Watching grown ups behave like children is always a mind-numbing and life-sapping experience.

Talk radio, smart phones, Facebook posts, the blogosphere, internet links and email connections have widened the circle of offense to a whole new world, and raised offensive speech to a whole new level. Now the potential for relentless and meaningless conflict over any issue is virtually endless. Time and space no longer limit the soap box speech or the school yard challenge, "I dare you to knock this chip off my shoulder." The internet highway is grid-locked with heavy traffic and it is filled with road rage.

The arena makes no difference. People only hear what you say, but they are changed by what you pray. Daily conflict often takes place between a parent and a child. The wise person decides early on to take the high ground rather than the low road in these sparring matches. The adult in the room chooses to exchange what is the least effective for the greater good. Shouting down a child rarely raises them to a greater level of appreciation for the louder argument, but it is a short cut to resentment. Enforcing rules that are never reinforced with prayer support usually leads to rebellion.

Children are able to recall, vividly, the phrase their parents would use when they were on their last nerve and about to lose their grip on an argument. It was a desperate grasp at the last straw a battle-fatigued parent could find.  The child immediately vowed never to sink so low to ever say to one of their own, "Because I said so!"  BTW: This may be the most commonly broken vow in the world. "Because I said so" remains the  last gasp and the final refuge of a breathless parent engaged in an endless argument with a relentless child.

Proverbs warns about the powerful impact words can have. They have the capacity to inflict death-dealing wounds or to provide life-giving blood transfusions. The context of Proverbs 18:21 indicates words produce fruit. The difference between life-giving and death-bearing fruit is determined by whether they are used to poison or to prune. Pruning appears to cut a fruit-bearing plant down, but it is actually giving it life. Poison kills everything it touches. Pruning is a necessary part of the development of the nature of the fruit. It only removes what is not necessary for the improvement of the plant. The loss of limbs and leaves makes room for superior fruit.

Training should never be confused with abusive speech that cuts a child down to size or makes them into the parent's own image. Wise words help a child clear away the clutter from their lives, and embrace what God created and intended them to be.

"Train up a child in the way he should go and in keeping with his individual gift or bent and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6 AMP

Parents can be comforted by remembering children are a gift from the Lord.  The gift packages often come with scary paper and strange ribbon that God used to wrap them. It is not surprising that at times even the best parents feel the urge to stamp on their child's forehead, "Return to Sender!" Desperation is often the most powerful preparation for mobilization. Parents who choose to be mobilized to pray for, with and over their children are less likely to be traumatized by them.

Training up a child in the way God means for them to go, means giving up the tendency to live one's life through a child. There is no virtue in treating a child like a pet on a leash, or a pawn on a board for one's own personal amusement, aggrandizement, or fulfillment. God does not intend for parents to live through their children, but to listen to Him. God has chosen parents to raise up the next generation of leaders who need to be filled with His character. He is calling on parents at all times of the day and night to pray for their children. It is never too early and seldom too late for a child to be able to hear from Him. Wise parenting agrees with God's sense of direction for a child. When these world's collide, prayer transforms a parent's good idea into an agreement with God's idea for their child. When Jesus prayed, His time alone with God turned "My will" into "Thy will." It will do it every time.

"Discernment is God's call for intercession, never fault-finding." Oswald Chambers

When children hear a parent talk to them, they hear what they say. When children hear a parent pray for them, they hear from God. Prayer is life-giving and death-defying, and should become the parent's life breath.  The wise parent takes a deep breath and exchanges talking to their child, for praying for their child. There is no perfect time of the day or night to pray for a child. They need it 24/7. It is impossible to start too early and it is never too late to begin. Prayer uses the breath that is available, and seizes the teachable moment. Remember, the best preparation for prayer is desperation. Most people believe they are not prepared to pray, and keep postponing it until they feel better equipped. The wise parent puts prayer into action with the resources at hand.  If there is breath in your lungs, take heart...Your walk with God is the next 20 seconds. When you use up what God has given you, take another breath. Prayer doesn't have to be perfect for it to work. It just has to be done. Keep breathing and keep praying.

 "Halitosis is better than no breath at all." Dr. Bill Hendricks

Before you exchange the gift God has given you, make sure you have read the directions. The next time you are at the "Complaint Department" trade in your talk before you give up on your child. The operation manual is not complicated, and it will show how to turn poison into pruning and death into life.  TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!