Page 190 began with a brief stop in the office before heading out to finish the mowing at work. The forecast was for a hot and humid day so my goal was to get the outside work done as early as possible. Even with an early start, the mowing took most of the morning and the heat index rose steadily the entire time. After mowing I got a cold Dr Pepper and spent some time working on display material and workshop prep for an upcoming conference. One of the workshops I will lead is about developing a lifestyle of prayer in the real world. My mowing time is both preparation and a good example of what that looks like. Many of the daily tasks we do in life require our attention, but also contain opportunities to pray if we were to make the most of our time. As I mow, I obviously pay attention to my surroundings and what I’m doing but that doesn’t keep my mind from thinking about situations and people and praying for them. This morning, much of my prayers were focused on praying for a nation filled with angry people.
As I mowed and prayed, my mind focused a lot on the instructions from the book of James that everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. It seems we have lost sight of how to do that in a culture of sound bites, video clips, and fast-paced “news” that is more concerned with being first than being right. We are in such a hurry that we don’t actually listen for truth — we only pay attention long enough to draw a conclusion that fits our own mindset. With the explosion of social media opportunities there is a ready audience waiting to “hear” the words we “speak”. We don’t even have to consider who’s listening, we simply type out anything and everything that comes to mind. It seems that a natural result of our failure to listen and our insistence on being heard, is a short fuse of anger that is always ready to explode. The solution is to not only hear the Word of God but to do what it says. James goes on to say that we must get rid of all moral filth and evil that is so prevalent and then cling to the only thing that can save us — God’s Word.
While it seems easy to see this when it is played out in large scale on the national scene, that only happens because it is happening on a personal level in the lives of each of us if we don’t bring it under the control of God’s Spirit. I know because I have seen it in myself more often than I would like to admit. There are times when I am not quick to listen. In fact, times that I don’t listen at all because my mind is already made up. While I’ve never been accused of speaking quickly, there are times when I have posted things on social media in the heat of emotions without giving adequate thought to what my words will sound like. Once the lack of listening and the quick responses begin, an endless cycle is set in motion that plants the seeds of anger and then fans their flames as they grow to maturity. The only thing that I’ve found that is able to stop this cycle is to recognize I’m in the cycle and repent of the moral filth and evil that I’ve allowed to be a part of my listening, reading, hearing, speaking, and writing. The only way I know of to keep it from returning with even greater force is to constantly cling to the truth that is found in God’s Word.
Today’s photo is of a day lily in the rain. I got my camera out to see if I could catch some shots of a hummingbird that had been flying around but as I made it to the porch it began to rain and the hummingbird disappeared. As the rain fell, the beauty of the raindrops on the flowers caught my eye. Sometimes we miss the incredible beauty of a person’s life because we were expecting something else. In our disappointment we fail to put into practice the principle of being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. When we look through the lens of anger, we will always miss the beauty that God has created in a person who’s not really so different from us.
I pray that you and I would stop and listen. Listen to God. Listen to one another. Listen to the hurting. Listen to the lonely. Listen to people like us. Listen to people who are different from us. Listen to the Spirit of God calling us to be peacemakers. I pray that you and I would guard our words. Guard what we say in public. Guard what we say in private. Guard what we post on social media. Guard what we say to friends. Guard what we say to enemies. Guard what we say to strangers. Guard what we say to ourselves. I pray that you and I would let go of our anger. Let go of the anger from hurt. Let go of the anger from fear. Let go of the anger toward others. Let go of the anger toward God. Let go of the anger toward one another. Let go of the anger caused by lies. Let go of the anger caused by misunderstanding. Let go of the anger toward self. I’m not saying that the hurt, the fear, the lies, the misunderstandings, and all the other sources of anger don’t need dealt with — they do. But they need dealt with by the Word of God in love, not in anger.