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.”

guest post: relationships & responsibility

 

The following is a guest post by my friend Virgil Fry. In it, Virgil addresses two proverbs rarely commented on, and he does so with deep insight. Thank you, Virgil!

If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end. (Proverbs 29:21)

Do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you, and you will pay for it. (Proverbs 30:10)

This 21st Century reader lays no claim to understanding fully the context and content of these two proverbs. A lot of commentators throughout the centuries are equally unclear on the concise meanings.

Both verses refer to a servant/master relationship that is not as readily practiced in our current American setting. That said, there are certainly class distinctions and practices that do permeate our society (for example, being a Caucasian male can open doors of opportunity that others may have to fight for).

Two issues that do permeate these verses are: overprotecting another from responsible living, and the high cost of character slander. In human relationships, one person in power can over-shelter another (whether it’s one’s child or some other relationship). In parenting, the current vernacular coins the term “helicopter parenting.” That phenomenon is seen when a parent refuses to allow any part of a child go unsupervised, smothering the child with hyper-vigilance. In addiction recovery, families often learn that covering up destructive addictive behaviors actually enables, rather than assists, the one dealing with addiction. When we take on all responsibility for another’s foibles, in the name of trying to avoid conflict, all pay a heavy price for the lack of responsible behavior. That is part of the “grief in the end” I read in this proverb. Entitlement living, of which we are all capable, is not healthy living. We are at our best when we take responsibility for our own actions, and allow others to do the same.

Then to consider the high cost of slandering another: we all know the destructive carnage that character assassination reeks. There is a fine line with truth-telling about another’s weaknesses or taking great pleasure in bolstering my own ego by vilifying another’s faults. Jesus spoke clearly to this issue: Judge not, that you be not judged. Tearing down another person without taking it up with that person directly is a human relationship disaster. We are called by God to be more than character assassins: we are to be bridge builders, those who encourage one another.

So let us be mindful of overprotecting those we blindly idolize. And rather than indulging in relational sabotage, let us be those who help build healthy relationships.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Benevolence, poor, poverty, prosperity & work: There’s No Such Thing as the Worthy Poor

“There is no such thing as the worthy poor. Don’t get me wrong. I see how the book of Proverbs is strewn with verses that trumpet the virtue of work and warn of the dangers of sloth. Hard work is indeed a virtue. And we should be leery of scams.  But the problem is that too many of us assume that because a person is poor, then that must mean he or she just isn’t working hard enough.”

Capital punishment & the death death penalty: The Biblical Case Against the Death Penalty, From a Former Supporter

“‘Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.’ (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)”

Divorce: Mourning the Destructiveness of Divorce

“One must have a heart of iron to pretend that all is fine, when children must suffer so badly for the selfishness of their parents; when children must be “grown up,” so that their parents can persist in behaving like self-willed children. The real harm, however, cannot be captured by numbers. No human thing can ever really be. What the divorce regime has done is to infect with transience what ought to be the most intimate and enduring of human bonds. It has eradicated from our minds the very idea of a complete and irrevocable self-donation.”

Genocide, martyrdom & persecution: Leader: ISIS is ‘Systematically Beheading Children’ in ‘Christian Genocide’

“‘They are systematically beheading children,'” Arabo repeated slowly. ‘And mothers and fathers. The world hasn’t seen an evil like this for generations. There’s actually a park in Mosul where they actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick … this is crimes against humanity. They are doing the most horrendous, the most heart-breaking crimes that you can think of.'”

Turkey: The Pilgrimage: Turkey [a 22-part series by Ben Witherington about his recent trip to Turkey; part 1; part 22]

“Touring Turkey after touring Israel is like touring Texas after touring Rhode Island. The difference in size, scope, and amount of things to see is enormous. … I suggest you sit back in your easy chair with your laptop, get a good cup of coffee, and prepare to be surprised by what amazing things there are to see and do and be edified by in Turkey. Let ole Uncle Ben be your guide …”