Although it is not true that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body, it could be argued that it is one of the most versatile. It is essential for jump-starting the digestive process by serving as a guide. It keeps food between the teeth until it is chewed or masticated and sent on its merry way. Here the tongue is a capable manager.

The tongue is also what scientists call a peripheral sense organ in that it helps us perceive the sensation of taste. As Quaker J. Brent Bill reminds us, "taste is a way that God's presence comes to us." Think of all the magic moments in your life when your palate was introduced to a sweet, sour, pungent, or spicy taste. I can still remember the first time I tasted a piece of moist carrot cake or when I reveled in the exquisite taste of guacamole where the avocado had been laced with just the right mixture of garlic and cilantro. In both these delectable treats I was grateful to the presence of the Divine in my taste buds. Here the tongue is a gifted master-of-ceremonies.

The tongue is an erotic organ. A French proverb goes "Lovers can live on kisses and cool water." The joint dance of lips and tongues leads to an endorphic high. Kissing, according to health experts, is healthy too; passionate kissing burns 6.4 calories per minute and produces lots of saliva which helps combat plaque. Thank you, Mr. Tongue, for serving as a go-between, looking after my best interests.

In the Bible (James 3: 5-6), we read: "So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire." How easy it is for us to set blazes here and there by criticizing our spouse or gossiping about our neighbor.

In the Benedictine monastic tradition, there is a spiritual practice called keeping custody of the tongue. It is a type of self-care and a path toward goodness. The idea is to consciously pay attention to what you say at all times. One way to begin is to say this prayer in the morning:

"Dear Lord, please help me today to use my tongue in your service by uttering words of love, kindness, praise and encouragement. Help me to take custody of tongue so I do not utter words of hate, disrespect, criticism, gossip, or slander."

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