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The Life Less Traveled


November 05, 2014
Has your mouth ever gotten you into trouble? Maybe it's something you've said that you later regret, or maybe your biggest regrets are words you should have said but didn't. Or, if you're like me, you're plagued by an unhealthy dose of both.

It's no wonder King David once desperately prayed, "Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips" (Psalm 141:3 NLT).

Yes, our words can get us into trouble, and with the holidays right around the corner, we can magnify that trouble times 10. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with beloved friends and family and say things you wish you hadn't. Whether it's an insensitive comment over turkey and gravy or an intentional jab about past hurts, it's easy to get tripped up by our tongues before we've even finished the pumpkin pie.

So, what are we supposed to do? Where do we go for help?

Why, to the Thanksgiving experts, of course. The balloon handlers at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The way I figure it, if they can keep those massive balloons under control for a three-hour parade, maybe they can help me do the same thing with my big mouth.

Think I'm crazy? Think again. Here are three lessons we can all learn from the Macy's balloon handlers that will help us keep a tight rein on our tongues this holiday season.

They practice.

Months ahead of time, the Macy's volunteers have the opportunity to take their balloons for a test spin in a field where no one can get hurt.

Maybe we should do the same. Practice in your day-to-day conversations before the pressure is on for the holidays. Hey, practice in front of the mirror if you have to. Just think it through before you're in the situation where you're tempted to say something or not say something you'd regret.

They work as a team.

The largest balloons require 50 to 100 people to steer them through the streets of New York. It's a complete team effort. No one could do it alone.

The same thing is true for taming our tongues. Tell people about your struggle. Ask them to pray for you. In fact, you could even take them to Thanksgiving dinner with you, and they could create a diversion if you start to get yourself in hot water. Feigned choking or yanking the tablecloth out from under the plates are both effective.

They know when it's too dangerous to go out.

If winds are above 23 mph, the jumbo balloons get grounded. Parade officials learned the hard way that, when the conditions are bad, accidents happen.

That's good advice to remember. If you find yourself in a conversation that's pushing your buttons, it's best just to end it before things get out of control. Know when to ground that balloon and just walk away.

So, there you have it. Whether you're leading a 70-foot Snoopy down 38th Street or just trying to use your words in a positive way this Thanksgiving, applying the wisdom of the balloon handlers is sure to help you have a safe and happy holiday.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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    "Joining forces for public safety"
    November 06, 2014 | 07:51 PM

    Thank you for the very informative article about small town police forces. Ms. Spieth-Saylor did a good job. Like to see more of this kind of reporting.

    Sharon Byerly
Barbara Shaw
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