Page 269 began with another beautiful star-filled sky overhead as I headed to work. As I went about the morning prayer, cleaning, and building prep the word respect kept coming to mind. It seems everyone wants it, but far fewer are interested in giving it. Respect is work because the only way to receive it is to earn it. As much as people may want or attempt to make it happen, respect will not be obtained through legislation or by demand. In fact, efforts to force respect will generally end up building walls with the result being a further deterioration of whatever seeds of respect may have been present. These morning thoughts directed my prayer time to the words from James, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” When we mix up the quick and slow parts in the instructions God gives, we soon find ourselves wrapped up in a deadlocked relationship because neither side cares why the other thinks the way they do.
I believe social media is a neutral tool, that like most other tools can be used for good or for evil. Unfortunately, its design tends to make it easy to be slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry — the exact opposite of God’s instructions. When we fail to listen, not just to the words people use but also to the reasons behind the words, we often respond hastily and in anger instead of understanding. A few rounds of that behavior and it isn’t long before the attempts to be heard become more frantic and desperate, but by then the ears and minds on both sides of the issue have been turned off and the battle lines drawn. Yes, it doesn’t take a very careful look to see this being played out in public situations around our country. But this isn’t limited to national politics or societal issues that blanket a country, it takes place in workplaces, in churches, and in homes more often than most care to admit.
The solution is simple, but it isn’t easy. It starts with you and I putting into practice the things we say we believe. It includes repentance and forgiveness in quantities too great to measure. It involves asking questions to understand the why and not just the what. It means we will work at earning the respect of others while being generous in giving respect to the people around us. It requires humility to recognize real differences as you speak and act in ways that benefit others according to their need. It continues as we daily surrender ourselves fully to the Lordship of Jesus in all things.
Well, that’s not what I thought I was going to write when I sat down to type out today’s page. The rest of the day was a fairly normal workday that included a lot of prayer time, some reading, some sermon prep, some maintenance work, and some retreat work. At home this evening, I headed back outside to see what I could photograph and this sunflower caught my eye. Most of the sunflower blossoms have matured and the finches have done a good job of picking the seeds out, but there are still a few late blossoms that continue to add their brilliant color to the evening sky. They serve as a good example of the beauty one life can add even when everything around it seems to be dying.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- Light overcomes darkness as long as the light isn’t being hidden — let your light shine!
- Sometimes I have a lot of things on my mind that I am praying about, and sometimes there is just a single word that my prayer time grows from.
- God calls us to come into relationship with Him willingly.
- Doing things God’s way is always the best policy — and the most effective policy.
- If we don’t take the time and make the effort to understand the why, we will likely never understand the what.
- Failure to listen will usually build walls between people.
- Hasty words will destroy even the seeds of respect that God wants to see grow.
- A quickly angered person will often act in ways that dishonors themselves even more than the person they are angry with.
- Earning respect often begins by learning to give respect.
- When the world is full of death, decay, and ugliness, it doesn’t take a lot to be able to add a splash of beauty in its midst.