Posts Tagged ‘discernment

18
Oct
21

The Voice Speaks!

“Are you edgy?”

There I was… out in my back yard the other day, tidying up some ragged borders with my battery-powered string trimmer. 

That’s when I heard The Voice… 

… And The Voice seemed to be asking me a weird question.

“Are you edgy?”

I paused in my work and looked around. Who had spoken? And what did they mean by that?

For the life of me I could not locate where The Voice had come from. But I knew I had definitely heard it, loud and clear. And to deepen the mystery a little and add some intrigue, I recognized that it was a woman’s voice. 

As an avid student of the Bible, I have read numerous accounts of heroes and heroines of the faith who heard the disembodied Voice of God… usually inviting them to undertake a Great Quest. Noah and the ark, comes immediately to mind. There is also Moses and the Burning Bush… or Paul on the Damascus Road, just to name a few. 

And every time I read one of those stories – or others – I ask myself the same question: “When will it be my turn to hear the clear, distinct voice of God steering me on to The Path I need to be following?”

So, score one… I finally heard The Voice. But also, bummer… the words I heard made absolutely no sense to me at all. Why couldn’t I have heard something like, “Set my people free!” (Exodus 3:10), or “Go preach the Word all over the Fertile Crescent area and start, like, a zillion churches,” (Acts 9ish). 

All I got was this stupid question: “Are you edgy?”

But let’s stop and think about that for a moment instead of complaining. Maybe this is EXACTLY the message I need to hear from God right now. Maybe God has watched me as I have sort of oozed into retirement, goofed around with a hodge-podge of volunteer activities, taken naps in the middle of the day, and been thoroughly unimpressed. 

Maybe my own, personal, Russell Brown-specific Burning Bush moment is meant to be a CHALLENGE! Maybe it is meant to wake me up somehow! Maybe God is saying, “Hey! Lawn Jockey! I didn’t call you to collect your pension and pretty up your yard all day while gaping at the beautiful mountains and the aspen trees! I called you to get out there ON THE EDGE! As long as you’ve got breath and health, I expect you to actively USE the gifts and graces I gave you to help build my KINGDOM! 

“So get out there, bub! Go make a difference! 

“Um, excuse me?”

I heard the voice again. Only this time I was facing in the right direction. It seems the source of the voice was my neighbor across the back fence. She had been momentarily obscured by the nine-foot-tall hedge between our yards, but now I could see her standing there, quizzical look and all.

Suddenly I understood. 

She looked at me and said, “I heard the noise from your yard and was curious what it was.”

OK. I get it now. My neighbor heard the noise from my weed-whacker and called out to me to ask if I had been EDGING

“Oh! Yes. Yes, I am edging. Sorry… did the sound bother you?” I asked.

“Oh no, you’re fine. Sorry to interrupt,” she replied, and then turned and went back into her house.

So… not the Voice of God after all. Just a neighbor wondering what all the commotion was. Not to worry. 

And with that, I returned to my chores, confident that God had definitely NOT used the voice of my neighbor to spur my soul and ask me challenging questions about the direction and purpose of my life. 

As if that would ever happen…

Abundant blessings;

04
Oct
21

Augmenting the Toolkit

King Solomon… with head shown actual size.

Of all the tools that currently reside in my personal Toolkit of Life, the one that seems notably lacking is the one called WISDOM. 

In my better moments, I’ve been called clever, or bright, or intuitive… once someone even called me sharp. But danged few people in my life have ever accused me of being WISE. 

This struck me as a serious deficiency in my Tookit. I mean, when you get to be my age – especially with this new, grey beard I’ve grown – WISDOM should be something you should regularly expect from me. Shouldn’t it?

And so, to shore up that weak spot, I picked up my bible and turned to that timeless book of wisdom – allegedly written by one of the wisest people who ever lived – the Book of Proverbs.

I read the first three chapters and then put it down… somewhat frustrated by what I found there.

In case you aren’t familiar with chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the Book of Proverbs, let me quickly summarize the three lessons I found there:

  • Lesson #1 – Wisdom is good.
  • Lesson #2 – Go get wisdom.
  • Lesson #3 – Avoid un-wisdom.

Excellent! Thanks for that insight, Proverbs. Problem solved!

But risking a moment of seriousness here, I DID find it very helpful to be reminded of the supreme importance of the acquisition of WISDOM in life. Turns out it is a whole lot better than, say, the acquisition of Facebook “friends,” or LIKES, or shares of a blog post you wrote one day. 

The thing that really intrigued me though was the concept of “unwisdom.” Of course, the bible never uses that word. It speaks of “foolishness,” or “complacency,” or perverseness,” or “deceit,” but the idea is the same. In its disquieting, patriarchal way, the Proverbs author equates unwisdom with a “loose woman” and warns the reader not to be seduced by her “smooth words.” (Proverbs 2:16, NRSV). 

“Stay away from THAT STUFF, and seek the OTHER STUFF,” is the main message here.

And so, I wondered; where do I encounter the allure of “unwisdom” in my life? And how successful am I in avoiding it?

POPULAR OPINION might be one of those seductive sirens. I’m talking about those concepts everybody knows are true and no one dares publicly question… such as the proposition that money makes us happy, or bigger is better, or that GETTING something is always better than GIVING something. For the biblical, counter-cultural rebuttal to each of those nuggets of popular opinion “wisdom,” I direct your attention to 1 Timothy 6:10, 1 Kings 19:12-13, and Acts 20:35 .

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM is another, related, suspect. Heck, it even has the word “wisdom” in its name! Conventional wisdom is that voice that tells us to be strong… to be independent… to be utterly invincible in the face of life’s challenges. And yet if we pause just for a moment, we see that the Man who drew the dividing line between B.C. and A.D. in history was a sacrificial servant. He willingly gave up EVERYTHING, including his very life, on behalf of others. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul quotes from a conversation with God in which, “’…he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’”

And so then, what about those IMPULSES that can seem to take control and rule one’s life from time to time? Are impulses an example of the unwisdom we are admonished to avoid? 

We have the impulse to EAT, for example… an impulse that can lead very quickly to gluttony, obesity, and poor health. On the other hand, if we ignore this impulse completely, we will surely die. And dying would very quickly curtail our usefulness to the world.

What about the SEXUAL impulse? As we have seen, this is an impulse that has caused incredible damage to humans over the centuries. And yet without the sexual impulse, life on this planet would grind very abruptly to a halt.

Certainly, unconstrained impulses can lead any of us into areas of great harm. But I am not convinced that impulses – in and of themselves – are all bad. They just need the application of a lot of WISDOM to keep them in check. 

And so, the quest for wisdom continues. 

Maybe the best thing to do at this point is to ask the age-old question: WDJD… “What DID Jesus Do?” and then follow that example. 

Now THAT would be a truly wise move, wouldn’t it?

Abundant blessings;

06
Jan
20

Too Long Coming

Asbury flagsIt is good to see the United Methodist Church finally “grow a pair,” as they say, and take an unequivocal stand on the side of justice and inclusion.

It is just sad that it took them so long to do so.

According to news from the denominational communications folks, a document called the Protocol Of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation was agreed to and signed recently by a significant group of United Methodist bigwigs and poo-bahs.

The gist of this Protocolis that the United Methodist Church will formalize plans for a divorce when its global General Conference meets in May this year. This divorce will involve the people who oppose same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ leaving the United Methodist Church and forming their own denomination.

The name of that breakaway denomination has not yet been decided, although rumor has it that The Church of Narrow Mindedness and Exclusion has been officially rejected as an option.

As a person with firsthand experience of divorce, I can tell you that divorces are never good. For anyone. Even the smoothest and most amiable splits cause pain, stress, regret, and bitterness that lasts a long, long time.

Sometimes though, divorce is the only way for both parties to move forward and fully become who they are called to be. I believe this is the exact crossroads the United Methodist Church faces today.

On the one hand, I have to credit the leaders who finally arrived at the conclusion that it was time for the parties to go their separate ways. Some of the details of the split seem designed to minimize the hardship for either group that will result from this de-merger.

 

On the other hand, the length of time it took to finally arrive at this decision is inexcusable. Failing to bite the bullet and split the United Methodist Church YEARS AGO caused untold levels of suffering for untold thousands of good, faithful people. Although this metaphor is probably overstated by several degrees, I liken it to dragging out the decision to divorce in a marriage involving child and spousal abuse.

The longer it takes to decide to split, the more injury keeps being inflicted on the aggrieved parties. Sometimes trying to “stay together for the sake of the children” does more harm than good.

So today, I am really not sure how I feel about this news.

I am now officially retired from United Methodist ministry, so I am not faced with leading a congregation through the morass of discernment in the coming months. I am praying for my pastor pals who are still in the trenches and striving to hear all voices, including God’s, in this challenging time.

As a cradle United Methodist though, I am mostly embarrassed by the church’s foot-dragging and failure to lead. I am not sure it is any longer possible for UMs to march under the banner of “Social Justice Advocates” in any credible way.

So… I guess congratulations to the United Methodist Church for finally taking a stand and doing the right, no matter how painful, thing.

But shame on you for taking 20 years too long to do it.




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