Aunt Ruth (who was neither my aunt, nor was she named “Ruth”) used to love to catch preachers with their foot in their mouth; it was something of a hobby to her. Nothing could penetrate her sometimes-sharp exterior and produce uncontrollable laughter like hearing that a prim and proper “man of God” had just said something stupid. And she was cruel with it! One little snafu from you-know-who, and I’d hear about it for weeks. And between guffaws, as she would gasp for air, she’d always sound the same warning. If I spelled it the way she said it, it would read like this:
“You gotta watch them woids!”
Rather than get offended, I played along. We often entertained each other with stories we’d heard of other preachers. Like the time a preacher friend of mine said three times in a sermon, “I’m praying that God would make our church a cesspool of His love! A cesspool of His grace! A cesspool of his power!”
He was thinking artesian well. But that’s not what his folks were smelling at the moment.
Aunt Ruth loved it. “I bet they already was a cesspool!” she said, holding her sides. “You tell your friend what I told you! You gotta watch them woids.”
“Why is that stuff so funny to you?” I asked her one day.
Because you preachers are always so serious, and always so right,” she said. “But the Bible says that if anybody can talk as much as a preacher does and not put his foot in his mouth, he’s as good as perfect. So you know that sooner or later, it’s gonna happen. And when it does it’s usually worth it.”
“But sometimes it hurts people, and we don’t mean to do that.”
“True. But it helps you in the long run. Keeps you humble. And believe me, you need it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped.
“It means, you gotta watch them woids!” she said with that silly grin. “And if you don’t, I’ll be glad to watch ‘em for you.”
“Thanks a lot, lady,” I said with mimicked disgust.
Sometimes I told Aunt Ruth a few of my own verbal blunders. Like the time I was about four years old and said to my grandparents’ pastor: “Brother Combs, I like you and everything, but you just preach too long!”
“Boy did those woids ever come back to haunt you,” my laughing friend said. “Somebody shoulda told ya, you gotta watch them woids. Sometimes they come back and sneak up on ya!”
Then there was the time when I got my foot so stuck in my mouth, I nearly fell over trying to get it out. What I meant to say was, “Don’t just tell your kids it’s a sin to drink. Show them principles in the word of God they can build their life convictions upon, and teach them why it’s wrong based on those principles.” (This was in a place where teetotaling was the only acceptable practice with regard to alcohol.)
What I actually said was, “Don’t tell your kids it’s a sin to drink.” Period.
I spent thirty minutes trying to dig my way out of that hole, and only seemed to get deeper into it.
THEN the next day our newsletter came out, and in my article I made a casual suggestion to take a break and go drink a mint julep. Dopey me – I didn’t know ‘til a week later that a mint julep is made with Kentucky bourbon whiskey!
“Sounds like,” Aunt Ruth gasped, “you’d been sippin’ a bit yourself! Watch them woids, watch them woids!”
Okay, so yesterday I was on a roll. I was talking about the fact that God and the people in our lives need us more than they need or want our money. I was trying to make the point to dads about their kids.
What I meant to say was, “If all your kids get from you is a $20 bill, you’re no father. You’re just a vending machine.”
What came out was, “If all your kids get from you is a $20 bill, you’re no father. You’re just a sugar daddy!”
You had any thunder or rain in your neighborhood lately? It wasn’t God rearranging His furniture, as my children used to say. It was Aunt Ruth – falling on the floor laughing until she cried.
Boy. I gotta watch them woids.
(Glad I’m not the only one…)
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