learnin’ how to talk from Sirach (2)

 

“Converse with intelligent people, and talk constantly about the Law of the Most High.” (9.15)

“Don’t answer before you listen, and don’t interrupt someone who is speaking.” (11.8)

“Happy are those who haven’t slipped in their speech and who haven’t been stabbed with pain for their sins.” (14.1)

“Look! Doesn’t a word exceed a good gift? And both come from a person who is gracious.” (18.17)

“… those who are reticent to speak diminish wickedness.” (19.6)

“Don’t trust everything that is said. There are those who slip and it wasn’t intentional.” (19.15b-16a)

“A slip on the pavement is preferable to a slip of the tongue.” (20.18)

“A thief is preferable to someone who continuously lies, but both will inherit destruction.” (20.25)

“The character of liars is dishonorable; their shame is continuously with them.” (20.26)

“If those who understand hear a wise word; they will praise it and add to it.” (21.15)

“Fools say whatever is on their minds, but the wise remain mindful of what they say.” (21.26)

“Don’t grow accustomed to saying coarse things … to do so is to engage in sinful speech.” (23.13)

“A curse on slanderers and the deceitful, because they have destroyed many who are at peace.” (28.13)

“Happy are those protected from the tongue … The death it inflicts is a wicked death …” (28.19,21)

“Keep your word and be trustworthy in your dealings and you will find what you need every time.” (29.3)

“… the heart … poses four possibilities: good and evil, life and death, yet their ongoing master is the tongue.” (37.17-18)

“Tell of the greatness of his name, and give thanks when you praise him …” (39.15)

“… this is what you’ll say when you give thanks: All the works of the Lord are very good.” (39.16)

“… now, sing hymns with all your heart and voice, and bless the Lord’s name.” (39.35)

“A flute and a harp make sweet melodies, but better than both is a pleasant voice.” (40.21)

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

Here are links to six articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading:

Affirming, communication, freedom, respect, tolerance, welcoming & words: Slippery Words— Tolerance, Respect, Welcoming, Affirming, Freedom

“What of course has happened in our American society is that as the culture has changed, the semantic range of a whole series of words has changed as well.”

American Sniper, cinema, discernment, film, movies, military service, perspective & war: I Was An American Sniper, and Chris Kyle’s War Was Not My War

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking the hit movie captures the truth of the Iraq conflict. I should know. I lived it. … If you really want to be a patriotic American, keep both eyes open and maintain 360 degrees of awareness. Don’t simply watch American Sniper. Read other sources, watch other films about the conflict. Talk to as many veterans as you can, get a full perspective on the war experience and the consequences. Ensure the perceived enemy in your vision is what it seems.”

Bible interpretation, misappropriation, misunderstanding & promises: 2 Ways We Misinterpret God’s Promises [essential reading]

“Over my years of ministry, I’ve discerned a tendency among conservative Christians to assume that anything in Scripture that looks like a promise is in fact something that God promises them.”

Church decline, culture & religion, history, perceptions, time & United States: Religious Decline in America? The Answer Depends on Your Timeframe

“Did the twentieth century see a rise and fall of religiosity within a larger pattern of stability? Or does the late 20th-century religious decline shrink to insignificance when compared with the religious rise since the founding of the nation?”

Church life, generation & peace: 3 Ways to Encourage Peace Between Generations in Denominations

“The fact is, each member within a family has a tendency to find their own style and way in life. But as each individual develops their own unique identity, they should not develop a spirit of pride over the others in the family.”

Choices, consequences, corporate worship & legacy: 15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret

“Dividing congregations along age and affinity lines. … Eliminating choral expressions in worship. … Worship leader ageism. … Elevating music above Scripture, Prayer and the Lord’s Supper. … Making worship and music exclusively synonymous. … Trying to recreate worship with each new generation. … Ignoring the Christian Calendar and adopting the Hallmark Calendar. … Worshiping like inspiration stopped with the hymnal. … Worshiping like inspiration started with modern worship songs. … Not providing a venue for creatives to express their art as worship. … Allowing songs about God to supersede the Word of God. … Elevating gathered worship above dispersed worship. … Setting aside traditionalism around the world but not across the aisle. … Worshiping out of Nostalgia or Novelty. … Worship services at the expense of worship service.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to four articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Church, expectations & values: Is Your Church Okay With You? [essential reading]

“What if, when it’s all said and done, there’s nothing cool about your church? Would that be okay with you? … If not, maybe it’s not Jesus or his Church that you’re really in love with after all.”

Depression & emotions: Do You Ever Feel Down .. But Don’t Know Why?

“… working with God seems to be somewhat of a conflict. I must continually remind myself to believe in His ability; not in mine. Inadequacy has always been my strong suit so that part is most natural. The friction may be that I’m trying to constantly yield my inadequate self of me to the quite adequate Holy Spirit … within me. I don’t know if you all find this to be a snap. Me? Not so easy.”

Genocide & Holocaust: Photos: Children of Auschwitz Share Stories of Survival

“They are among the survivors of the Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland, which has come to symbolize the horrors of the Holocaust. Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of that liberation day. These portraits capture 20 survivors, many of whom were children and teenagers during their time at the camp.”

Lust, manhood, objectification, parenting, purity, respect, sex & ‘the talk’: To My Preacher’s Kid, about Becoming a Man

“Brass tacks time, son: If you see a pretty girl, in real life or on Instagram, and from that point on that’s all you can see in them or that’s all you can think of them…that’s YOUR fault son NOT the girl’s fault. I hold you responsible and I’m damn sure your Mother will, too. … You can choose to objectify others or you can choose to treat your neighbors as your self.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to several posts that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Ancient world, archaeology, children & toys: Ancient Toys

“It is often easy to forget that the characters we read about in the Bible and in the history books were real people, and lived much like we do today.”

Bible, culture, faith & reading: * These Are the Most Godless Cities in America; * Actually, THESE Are the Most Godless Cities in America

* “The American Bible Society measures ‘Bible-mindedness’ by how strictly survey respondents read the book and believe in its accuracy. … The American Bible Society found that only 27% of Americans are Bible-minded. The data was based up on telephone and online interviews with 62,896 adults …”

* “In response to the ABS study, the popular Bible-searching website BibleGateway.com has released a study of its own with some striking findings. Based only on how often people in a given city use its Bible-searching software (and controlling for population size) … Bible Gateway’s different methodology—which, perhaps most significantly, does not take into account whether or not a reader considers the Bible to be literally true—yields some remarkable differences from the ABS study.”

Fear & idolatry: The Greatest False Idol of Modern Christianity [essential reading; spot-on!]

“Parroting the politicized talk show hosts and reposting the latest terrible news stories, we perpetuate the now comfortable, Evangelical Christian narrative of impending destruction, and we make it clear at every opportunity: The sky is falling.

“Though we will loudly, repeatedly and confidently proclaim Christ as Lord, in reality, many of us no longer practice faith in a God that has any real power, any true control or inherent God-ness. We seem to have little more than a neutered figurehead Deity, who doesn’t seem to be able to handle much at all anymore. He’s lost His Old Testament swagger.

“The truth is, Fear has become a false God, one too many of us worship with complete and undying devotion.

“Dig just beneath the sunny ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Bible covers, and the ‘God’s judgment is coming’ bullhorn warnings and you’ll find that much of America has imagined a powerless God who’s mostly just keeping Heaven tidy until all the Christians get there. In the meantime, we live in perpetually frightened freak-out mode.”

Fear, manhood, men & respect: The Problem with Men and Why We Ignore It/Them at Our Own Risk

“…  human males crave respect. For most males, boys and men, respect is somewhere near the top of their hierarchy of needs. I would go so far as to say that, if they were to be completely honest, when asked which they would prefer if they had to choose one over the other most males would take respect over love. And, perhaps unfortunately, part of that craving for respect is desiring to be respected for their maleness. …

“… “when boys and men conclude they will not gain respect they turn to fear. That is, for many, creating fear of them in others becomes a substitute for respect. Fear feels, to them, like respect or at least is an acceptable substitute. Boys and men who feel respected rarely turn to fear as a substitute. They are satisfied with respect (or the real prospect of it). However, boys and young men who believe respect is out of their reach often turn to implied violence if not real violence such as intimidation.

“Nothing I have said implies this is how things should be. However, I have concluded that this male habit of the heart is so deeply ingrained that it is unlikely to be changed by social engineering or anything else. We ignore it at our own cost as a society.”

God, providence & sports: Aaron Rodgers: God Probably Doesn’t Care Who Wins Football Games

“‘I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome,’ Rodgers [quarterback for the Green Bay Packers] said. ‘He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.’ …

“… [meanwhile,] Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — an outspoken Christian — told reporter Peter King that a divine influence made Sunday’s barnburner so exciting. ‘That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,’ Wilson said, according to King.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles I believe to be interesting and helpful reading.

Bible interpretation & John 3.16: Red Letters in John 3:16?

“In John 3, where do the words of Jesus end and the words of the John begin?”

Correction, mistakes, proofreading & typos: What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

“The reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart …”

Dehumanization, labels, respect & stereotypes: The Convenience and Dehumanizing Nature of Labels

“There is a certain arrogance when it comes to labels because it assumes that you are not to be labeled but it is perfectly fine to do it to anyone else you please. It is hard to label and not simultaneously be disrespectful on some level…as we demand to be understood in full but refuse to give that honor to the other. Labels dehumanize, often very subtly.”

Santa Claus & St. Nicholas: What Ever Happened to St. Nicholas?

“St. Nicholas was born into a wealthy Christian family in the third century. His parents died in a plague, and having inherited the family fortune, he decided to obey the radical call of Christ and give it to the poor. So he became famous for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

“Bishop Nicholas was exiled and imprisoned during the persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian, and after his release, attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 where he famously lost his temper and slapped the heretic Arius in the face. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church. Legends grew up about his generosity, and throughout the Middle Ages he became one of the most popular and wonder-working saints across Europe.

“Now ‘jolly old St. Nick,’ aka Santa Claus, is a secular figure used to promote godless good cheer and commercial consumerism. What happened?”

Spiritual gifts: Spiritual Gifts: 5 Fallacies

“If it is my spiritual gift, then it must be something I always find easy to do. … If it is my spiritual gift, its outworking should be inexplicable by natural reasoning. … If it is a spiritual gift, then it should not require other formal means of enhancement. … Since it is a spiritual gift, I should confine its use to the church or else it is misappropriated. … Spiritual gifts are about what we do.”