What Are We Saving It For?

“Aw, save your breath!  They’re not listening to you anyway.”

The inexperienced freshmen in the marching band were gathered around their squad leader, a seasoned senior, all of three years older than they.  As the other senior in the group glanced around the group, he noticed the expressions on their faces and realized they were far too confused to follow the instructions the leader was droning on about.

The leader, cut off short in her spiel about lifting the knees waist-high and pointing the toes to the ground, looked as if she wanted to kick him hard with one of those pointy toes at that moment.  Nonetheless, she asked the question.

“Well?  What do you suggest?  They have to learn this stuff.”

The other upperclassman looked frustrated and then blurted out, “Stop talking and just show them what you want.”

Imagine!  What a concept.  Show them.

It worked.  Within minutes, the entire group was lifting their knees in front of their bodies, toes pointed to the ground, and moving forward, exactly eight steps to every five yards.  Well, perhaps it wasn’t as skillful as all that, but they had the general idea and were well on their way.

The bossy senior saved her breath–for the moment.  There would be more yelling, but the process went much easier if there was a demonstration instead of a lecture.  She would remember that.

I remember it.

I was one of those freshmen who couldn’t quite grasp the verbal instructions, but I could look at the action and figure out how to duplicate it.  It was a lesson I would remember for many years.

JesusintheTempleI haven’t always heeded the lesson, much preferring talking to action. However, with a few more timely reminders to save my breath, I think I’ve got the concept firmly in mind now.

My old friend, the Bible professor, made the point years ago, with these words:  If you don’t strike oil in the first half-hour, quit boring

I won’t tell you he lived by the words, but I am finally beginning to learn to do just that.  But, I’m wondering. . .

What are we saving it for, if we actually are saving itOur breath, I mean.

Oh, I’m aware that many aren’t.  I read page upon page of arguments and diatribes in social media.  Everywhere I go today, I hear people shouting–either into the phones glued to their faces, or into the thin air using head-worn devices digitally connected to the phones in their pockets. 

Restaurants are so loud, quiet conversations can’t be heard.  Talk radio and television are filled with non-stop breath-wasting. 

When everyone is talking, no one can listen.  No one will listen. 

But more and more, I’m beginning to notice that not everyone is shouting.  I saw a bunch of folks get together a few weeks ago and plant a garden for the community.  It’s a place where people who can’t afford groceries will be able to get fresh vegetables to put on their empty tables. 

Those folks weren’t shouting.

I see the local preacher who builds ramps up to handicapped and aging folks’ houses at no cost to them.  He’s the same one who visits the shut-in folks at the nursing care centers. Every day, he visits them.

Not much shouting going on there.

Then, there are the volunteers who run the food pantry, along with the ones who keep the crisis pregnancy center going strong.  And yes, I see the ladies who bake bread and arrange flowers for their hurting friends, along with the men who do odd-jobs for widows in their spare hours.  The list is expanding. 

None of them are shouting.

What’s the old saw?  Actions speak louder than words.

What a concept!  Don’t just talk about it.  Do it.

Funny thing, though.  As a general rule, when we do what we’re intended to do, people start listening to the words we have to say.

I’ve heard many people quote the witty saying:  Preach the gospel always.  If necessary, use words.  It’s a little silly, actually.  Obviously, for the gospel to be communicated accurately, words must be used.  That said, if there is a clear change in one’s life and actions, the words will have more impact.

I’m just now realizing that the breath utilized will be as much for exertion as it will be for explanation.

Walk the walk and talk the talk

Oh, I’m just full of adages today, aren’t I?  But, they make the point adequately this time.  If we want folks to hear what we are saying, they must see that we believe it so much, we will live it out.  Even if they never stop to listen to the words, we’ll live out the truth we know.

Even if they never listen.

The thought almost takes my breath away.  A lifetime, spent in living out the love and grace God has placed in our heart.  In our interactions with neighbors and strangers–failures, dead ends, rejection–each one must be overlooked as we walk the narrow road we have claimed as our pathway.

We need to be reminded the breath within us isn’t ours.  Job knew it.  How did he put it?  Oh yes–The breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Somehow, I don’t think it was given us to hoard. 


Ad infinitum.

What are we saving it for?






“Action is eloquence.”
(William Shakespeare ~ English poet/playwright ~ 1564-1616)


“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
(Hebrews 13:16 ~ ESV)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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