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I was never very good at math. Actually, I was really awful at it. From my earliest elementary school memories through to high school the struggle was real. When it became important to keep track of wins and losses my math scores were consistently below par. I’m talking about 20, 30 and 40%. I’m convinced I moved forward in math only as a convenience to the system and the fact my other marks were above average. Thus, I found myself taking high school math. Granted I was repeating grade 10 math in grade 11, but at least I was in high school. 

The class did not go well. The teacher favoured those who excelled in his class. He had no patience for those of us who struggled and as often as he could he let us know that. To add insult to injury, he used to hand out our completed tests by reading our names aloud followed by our test score. To make matters worse, we had to parade to the front of the class to get our papers. 

A particularly dismal class is burned into my memory. As befitting my score, I was the last one called to get my exam. Between the desks, I trod the aisle of shame. His words were crushing and for all to hear, “Smith! 28%! How the hell can you do that?” It mattered little that I was passing all my other courses or that I had never skipped; in that class, I saw myself as a lost cause because I was told over and over, I was one. Ever been there? 

Needless to say, I failed the class. But then came a life preserver. I was “strongly encouraged” to join a class called Math 10T. The “T” stood for terminal. Not a word I am liking much these days, but when I learned it meant that I would never have to take another math class again I was ecstatic. Our new teacher breathed life into us the second he guaranteed the class that no one would fail! Surely, we thought that meant mercy marking or a blind eye to the truth. Nope, all we needed he said was 51% to pass. We collectively began to lose hope. Again, he repeated the guarantee, no one would fail, and no one would circumvent the system. Then he began to “speak life” and his words seemed to literally lift a long-settled darkness. “You are not stupid; you can do this, and you will do better than you think you will.” In essence, he reminded us not to believe the naysayers of our past but to believe better. That semester was so full of life speaking, we actually began to look forward to the class, not the numbers so much, but the life, the hope, the truth. 

And he was right, no one in the class failed and almost everyone surpassed the required 51%. My final grade was a whopping 67%! We were jubilant. Even so, leaping forward in my math skills wasn't the big win for me that semester, it was experiencing the power of words of life. 

Earlier I asked if you had been there; at the end of charged and calibrated words meant to take you out at the knees, leaving you to believe the worst of yourself. A nobody, stupid, worthless, of no import; unfortunately, you can probably fill in the blanks. Words spoken in childhood; words spoken yesterday. They are not true. Hear instead the real truth: you can do it, you are bright, loveable, capable, you have purpose, and you make a difference. How do I know? You’re knit together by the maker of lights who never makes a mistake, who has intention for your good and through you for those placed around you. Do not believe the naysayers of your past but believe the better.

The Apostle James reminds us of the power of the tongue. Like a small rudder, it can change the direction of the biggest concern. When we choose to become intentional life speakers, lives change for the better, confidence arises, and naysayer fires are doused because we believe the better. We owe it to ourselves and to those around us who in a world of negatives need to hear life.