Monday, July 13, 2020

To Speak or Not To Speak

In the book of James chapter one verse nineteen we are told this - "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

Oh, how convicting are those words. I have often done just the opposite. I am working toward getting that under control, but am certain I'll never perfect it. 

I am left with a question. When is it appropriate to speak out?

In these days of Covid-19 and political unrest passions run high. And with the availability of social networking we have an avenue where we can be heard. However, being heard may be more limited than we might think.

This "speaking out" issue is something I struggle with. 

I am able to respond to a post if I choose, but should I? I have no qualms when posting encouraging or supportive words. But what should I do if I truly disagree with a post or the writer has stated something that is patently untrue?

I've heard people say God doesn't need us to speak up. Really? Then why did God raise up the voices of his saints throughout the ages? Some of those voices were truly harsh. The Old Testament Prophets could be downright terrifying. And even the Prince of Peace called the Pharisees hypocrites and said they were like "white washed tombs." That's strong speech.

So, what do we do? We're scrolling along on Facebook or Twitter or some other online network and we come across a statement we feel compelled to respond to.

Let's go back to James. He says first, to listen. I'm thinking we need to be thoughtful and not fire back with the first response that comes to mind. Maybe we should consider why we feel we must speak. What do we want to accomplish? Will it be of benefit? 

Then James says be slow to speak. Clearly we should take time to examine our hearts and to temper our responses with God's wisdom and grace. And perhaps we will come to the conclusion that a response is not in the best interest of others in the conversation. Just take time to consider it.

He goes on to say be slow to anger. That's pretty clear. We should be careful not to go off like a firecracker and attack. I've seen so much of that in recent years, and especially the last few months. It is rarely helpful and more often than not it causes hurt followed by more mean spirited postings or replies. It's not the best way to find common ground. And in the end those who might benefit from a rich and congenial conversation will simply tune out.

So, does all that mean we need to remain quiet and keep our thoughts to ourselves? Maybe. Sometimes. But I'm convinced God wants us to be speaking truth and love to the world. We've been commanded to tell others about Christ and the gift of eternal life that he offers humankind.

We have been given the gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells us. He gives wisdom and understanding and we have instructed to rely on him. Christ would not have told us this if the Holy Spirit were unreliable. With caution and good will we should speak out. The world is dying for the lack of the knowledge and truth. 

As we step out, remember the fruit of the spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Wouldn't the world be a more beautiful place if more of the spirit were evident in our daily lives?

Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Maybe if we keep that in mind the next time we feel we must contribute God's truth or our opinion or perspective on a topic there may be a better response.

Keep praying for one another. Love one another.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Monday, July 06, 2020

Father Knows Best

Life is filled with big decisions. How often do we move ahead with some plan or other without taking the time to stop, contemplate, pray, and then wait for God's direction?

Do you remember the television show from the 60's called Father Knows Best? I loved the show, though in hindsight I can see its many flaws. In its day the father, Jim Anderson played by Robert Young, his wife Margaret, oldest daughter Betty, son Bud, and cutie pie Kathy played out what we all hoped and even believed was what a real live family should look like, a father at the helm who could be trusted to always do the right and best thing for his family.

Those were good days, full hope.

Fast forward to  2012, with Father Knows Best so far in the rear view mirror it was barely remembered. My mother had been very ill after going through open heart surgery, which was followed by a life threatening staph infection. While still recovering we moved Mom here to Roseburg.

Part of the process of getting reestablished in a new town included finding physicians to help care for Mom's health. A cardiologist was one of those on the list. We got into one of the best in our area. We really like him and he clearly knew his job. However, something he said back then caught my attention in recent days. When he learned that my mother had open heart surgery the previous year at the age of 87 and the terrible recovery she endured afterward he was angry and said that her surgeon should never have done such a procedure on a woman my mother's age, even though not doing it meant she would have died in a few short months. I agreed with him, but now looking back I think he was wrong in my mother's case. I'm grateful the doctor who performed my mother's surgery took the risk.

It's true, Mom did suffer through a five month recovery, but she was resilient and continued to love life and was thankful for each new day. And those of us who love her were also grateful. She made a difference in the lives of those she touched during those six additional years.

Mom having fun at her 80th birthday party.

We, humans, think we know best. Certainly there are times when we are fearful and uncertain in our decisions, but all too often we step forward with more confidence than we ought to have. There is only one who knows what's best every time. God knows best. Our Father knows best.

I once told a woman, who had been diagnosed with a very serious cancer and had been working through some of the decisions she needed to make, that perhaps she should consider simply making the most out of what time she had left. That's not what she wanted. She wanted to live and to spend all the time possible with her loved ones. And that's what she did. We had that conversation about twenty years ago, and she is still a vibrant part of her family. I was SO wrong. Every time I think of that moment when I stepped out with advice that couldn't have been more wrong for her I feel ashamed. I didn't take the time to check my plan with The Father's. 

When faced with consequential decisions we need to listen to experts and to our loved ones ... but we should never, ever leave out God. He's the one who knows the whole story. 

So, what can we do that will help us make better choices?
  • Wait - Don't be in a hurry.
  • Pray
  • Go to God's Word - Read it. Contemplate on it.
  • Pray
  • Imagine what might be.
  • Dare to hope.
  • Pray   
  • Worship - Music - Dance - Nature - Beauty.
  • Remember there is a big picture.
  • Steer clear of Eeyore thinking.
  • Pray
  • Trust God

There is more that can be added to this list. And I'm sure you noticed that I included prayer more than once. It's something we can't do too much. If you have something you'd like to include let me know in a comment.

We are imperfect human beings and no matter how hard we strive to get things right, sometimes we won't. But that doesn't mean God will desert us. He'll stay with us, catch us when we fall, set us back on our feet and continue to breathe life into us.

Even in dark days, life is good and God is good.

Grace and peace to you from God,