learnin’ how to talk from Sirach (1)

 

As a spiritual discipline during the month of February, I’m focusing on my habits of speech and use of words. The leverage for that exercise is a single verse each day from the book known as Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus).

If you enjoy the book of Proverbs, you’d enjoy the book of Sirach, a book in the Apocrypha. Sirach has a great deal to say about communication, listening, speech, and words and I’m harvesting some of what it says on that subject for myself.

Following are the nine verses I’ve locked in on thus far this month. Perhaps you’ll find this list helpful, too.

“Do not be a hypocrite before others; keep watch over your lips.” (1.29)

“Listen to the poor, and reply with peaceful and gentle speech.” (4.8)

“Don’t keep from speaking in a time of need, for wisdom will show itself in one’s speech …” (4.23)

“Listen carefully, and utter a patient reply.” (5.11)

“If you know what to say, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand over your mouth.” (5.12)

“Don’t get a reputation for being a slanderer, and don’t set traps for people with your speech.” (5.14)

“Pleasant speech gains more friends for itself.” (6.5)

“Don’t desire to tell a lie; continuing in a lie results in no good.” (7.13)

“Don’t fight with talkative people, adding fuel to their fire.” (8.3)

I plan to post the rest of this month’s texts on speech in two more posts later on this month.

why am I still on Facebook?

 

Why is anyone on Facebook?

This is the question that I hear often, from all ages and sorts. Some ask that question as if to say, “I would’ve hoped that Facebook had died by now.” Others ask it meaning, “How I wish everyone was on Facebook!” These are only two, of course; no doubt the answers are Legion.

Why are you on Facebook?

Such is the question that is sometimes asked of me, and asked for a variety of reasons.

Why am I on Facebook?

I know this is the question I ask myself daily. Actually, with every single Facebook post. Literally.

So let me field those questions, particularly the latter two, right here. And why? Because I see myself as utilizing Facebook in a way different from most, and I do not want to be misunderstood.

I perceive a great many Facebook users as making use of it for the sake of (1) distraction, (2) delight, (3) the “different,” and/or (4) debate. Add to that list, (5) “the news.”

I make very little use of Facebook for distraction (e.g. – random, stream of consciousness posting, etc.). More so for delight (e.g. – pics of the grandkids, nature photography, etc.). Similarly in regard to “the different” (e.g. – a song that’s busted into my head and won’t leave, pics of odd things going out thru the church pantry, etc.). And add to that, some scrolling for “the news” (e.g. – prayer requests, matters of great joy or grief, etc.).

Now perhaps you noticed no reference to the word “debate” in that preceding paragraph. That was, significantly, quite deliberate; as in with a will. For I generally loathe debating matters in front of nearly eight hundred different people (my friends list) of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, bias, burdens, etc. And why is that? Because I have found nearly no constructive good, and only a great deal of harm, typically coming from such activity, and so I like to sidestep such whenever possible.

The words of Ephesians 4 come to my mind often:

When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need — words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. (Eph. 4.29 NCV)

Which leads me to a word that describes my intent behind the lion’s share of my Facebook posts: direction. That is the word that I keep in mind as I operate on Facebook.

As in I seek to steer my friends towards resources they might have otherwise have missed or merely scanned that could be helpful to them (e.g. – articles that can sharpen our thinking, links to discoveries related to Bible places, etc.). I try to raise awareness and the level of conversation (e.g. – good things happening at church, world events through another’s eyes, etc.). I try to guide us in talking with God (e.g. – a prayer for the day) and to walk with words of insight or thoughtfulness (e.g. – quote for the day). And I want to direct folks toward good things they can do (e.g. – memorizing Scripture, an exercise for the day). Etc.

Direction. This is why I remain on Facebook – in an often confusing, chaotic, and crushing world, I deliberately seek to give some direction toward strength, structure, and sanity. To maneuver people away from pollution and the putrid toward higher purpose and purity. To channel our thoughts and energy toward healthy, productive ways and away from ways that, to be honest, do little more than fritter away time. Direction.

Now I certainly make no claim of perfection toward direction. But, I do claim real and sincere effort in that work. And, I do know the Author of all good guidance.

So, I seek to conduct myself so every day on Facebook. To the end that at least my wee portion of the Facebook world does not merely exist as a place of frivolity, for fight club, or feverish futility. With an eye on the One above and all those around us.

That is why I am Facebook, still. And why I still prefer private conversations, not the social media stage, for discussions of differences, etc. I see social media as a great place for starting thought and conversations; I see face-to-face as the place for having those two-way conversations. For the sake of understanding and development, accountability and civility, and just generally measured, non-knee-jerk response.

Let me speak plainly. Someone wants to talk with me face-to-face, hey, I’ve got time for them. Someone who wants to make a dustup and solve the world’s problems through a few texted words on my Facebook page, not so much. Discussion and debate isn’t the problem, but the general, abysmal lack of civility and respect that I find across the online experience. And so, I try to avoid enabling such behavior.

In some forms of online life, one can turn off comments (e.g. – as I have done with my blog). This forces people to talk with me in some more private means … where the odds of true understanding and productive interaction go way up. Facebook doesn’t offer such so … I need to be realistic about what can/will occur there. My blog is a billboard; my Facebook page is a coffee table … that I wish I could make more into like a billboard. Ha!

And now the words of an old song are busting my brain …

“Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

VIVE LA REDIRECTION!

 

Donald Trump.

Do you see him as a savior? Then I say to you:

“Trust in the name of the Lord.”

Do you view him as the enemy? Then I remind you of the command of the Lord:

“Love your enemies.”

Are you somewhere inbetween or elsewhere? Then I say to you:

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord.”

And so, to us all I preach the words of the Spirit of the Lord:

“Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Have respectful fear of God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.17)

And how then shall that be done? It begins with honor. Donald Trump is not God, nor is he Satan. He, like each and every one of us, is made in the image of God, and is a victim of Satan.

And so, let us redirect our hearts from veneration or vilification of him. Let us redirect our knees to the ground and our hearts no longer to Washington, but to the throne of heaven instead. Let us redirect our misguided and misled spirit and so, invite every Christian to unite in prayer with me and say with faith in the Lord and with the will of the Amen:

“O Lord, open the President of the United States’ eyes!”

honor everyone … honor the emperor

 

He is virtually worshiped by many. He is, simultaneously, vilified by many. And by many others, something in between.

He occupies an exceedingly powerful position. His choices and actions affect the lives of billions. Billions. And who, I ask, is adequate in themselves for such a task?

Now I don’t care on which side of the aisle you sit – if either – but, as Christians we do take God at his word, don’t we?

“Honor everyone. … Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.17)

And so, how exactly can/will we, Christians, “honor” Donald Trump?

If in no other way, we can do this: we can honor Trump by holding him up before God in prayer. Deliberately and regularly.

Not in reaction to matters we see or hear in the news. Not motivated or filtered by our own personal, political perspectives.

And if our prayers are heard by others, we will not pray in any way “to the gallery,” as if to make a point, get in a jab, or to stimulate a mocking laugh or sneer. Nor will we pray in knee-jerk response or with a “Monday morning quarterback” air about us concerning his attitudes, behaviors, policies, or Tweets.

But, simply to pray for a fellow human being made in the image of God, Donald Trump. A man who is just like each of us: a being in desperate need of God and so, the prayer of others on his behalf.

“Honor everyone. … Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.17)

Imagine. Imagine every Christian in this land praying for Trump on a regular basis. What might happen? What could happen? For Trump? For ourselves? For the world? For the church families of which we are a part? If we pray in faith?

And so, let talk to God, with trust, for Trump, laying aside any and all sense of human politics within us.

For our Lord has sent his Father’s to us through his Spirit and his will says to us:

“Honor everyone. … Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.17)