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.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Care, communication, considerate, counsel, empathy, sensitivity & sympathy: The Semantics of Sympathy [essential reading]

“… by using ‘but,’ we invalidate them—we shrug them off as if the harm they’re causing isn’t worthy of our concern. We use the word carelessly in conversations that feel crucial to the suffering person, and we send the often unintentional message that ‘Hey, I know it hurts, but that’s not really meaningful because there’s this other happy stuff you should be thinking about.'”

Civility, kindness & social media: 12 Ways Christians Can Be Less Mean [essential reading]

“It seems to me, we’ve lost some of our civility when it comes to what we post on social media. … The web has made it much easier to be a critic. … It all has to hurt our witness as Christians.”

Health insurance & Medicare: * Why I’m Jealous of My Dog’s Insurance; * Medicare: A Quiet Sea Change in Medicare

* “I was envious. My 11-year-old brown Labrador was getting the kind of treatment that I could only dream of. I wanted to go to PetCare. I wanted pet insurance.”

* “The change may have the most far-reaching impact on seniors who want to avoid institutional care. People with chronic conditions may be able to get the care they need to live in their own homes for as long as they need it … if they otherwise qualify for coverage.”

Hobby Lobby & the Supreme Court: Church of Christ Member Serves as Counsel for Hobby Lobby

“Lori Windham, a member of the Fairfax Church of Christ in Virginia and a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Texas, serves as counsel for Hobby Lobby in a closely watched religious freedom case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Cats, language, learning & Spanish: I Can Haz Spanish Lessons: Cat Pictures Now Have A Purpose

“It’s no secret cats rule the Internet. Now, just flipping through cat pictures can be an educational experience. A new iOS app called teaches 1,000 basic phrases by showing you flash cards of cute cats. ‘It’s the most ridiculously silly, but yet ruthlessly effective way of learning conversational Spanish,’ says , founder of , the group behind Cat Spanish. For example, when learning the phrase ‘I need help,’ the app shows a cat tangled in a tree. Users memorize the phrases through repeated tests.”

Children & parenting: To The Mamas of Littles During the Holidays

“Lower your expectations for what is humanly possible in one day. Now think about how many toddlers you have and lower them again.”

Civility, disability, respect, sensitivity, speech & words: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who Uses a Wheelchair

“Most people definitely mean well, but some sentiments aren’t received the way many able bodied people might expect. In the disabled community, it’s not uncommon for us to joke with each other about some of our interesting conversations with family, friends and strangers that often involve some off putting statements.”

Culture & family: The Changing American Family

“American households have never been more diverse, more surprising, more baffling. In this special issue of Science Times, Natalie Angier takes stock of our changing definition of family.”

Pope Francis: * Ten Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Read Pope Francis; * Evangelii Gaudium [essential reading]

* “While evangelicals and Catholics will continue to have their theological differences — differences that stem back 500 years or more — we just might find some common ground in the words of Francis.”

* “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”

Self-deprecation: The Trouble With Self-Deprecation [essential reading]

“… all of us are good at something and lousy at something. And if we could only get that through our skulls, we would be freed once and for all to speak comfortably of our strengths and faults, and those of our brothers.”

Thanksgiving: * Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So; * When I Had Beans for Thanksgiving; * Thanksgiving By the Numbers [infographic]

* “The Lord is good. His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations. So, let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

* “Am I really thankful? Can I be thankful even for what I don’t have? Can I be thankful even when it’s not what I asked for? Can I be thankful in all circumstances, as the Apostle Paul commanded us?”

* “What was the menu for the first Thanksgiving? How many turkeys are consumed each year at Thanksgiving?”