Thursday, November 14, 2013

To Do List

He hath shown thee, o man, what is good.  And what doth the Lord require of thee? but to

Do Justly
Love Mercy and to
Walk Humbly with thy God.

That should keep us all busy for a while!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Discipline Is Never Easy

"He that spareth his rod hateth his son : but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." KJV Proverb 13:24

"He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." KJV Proverb 25:28

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." KJV Proverbs 16:32

Discipline is hard to administer.  It is hard to administer to your children.  It is hard to administer to yourself. Discipline is hard.  I don't think anyone would dispute these statements.  So the question discipline worth the effort?

In the above verses, discipline is defined in terms of victory and love, while a lack of discipline is defined in terms of devastation and hate.  Is victory better than devastation?  Is love better than hate?  Then discipline is worthy of our efforts, and the lack thereof worthy of our contempt.

We find it to be so in the natural world.  In athletics, business, and scholarly pursuits, those most admired are often those who exercise the greatest self-control.  Coaches who demand excellence from their players and chastise them for anything else are most often well respected.  Well behaved children are favorably commented on with wonder and praise.  And the opposites of these examples are also true.  Couch potatoes, bums, and dropouts are greatly ridiculed by society.  Coaches whose players run all over them rarely hang on to their jobs.  And everyone cringes to spend time around unruly children.  So to a great degree, even nature acknowledges the benefits of discipline.

But there is something strange happening in our society.  It seems like many think they can somehow evolve above the need for discipline.  They seem to think that pursuing every desire and whim will result is great achievement and happiness.  People who practice self deprivation are considered to be gluttons for punishment.  Children are coddled and babied all of their young lives, and then society wonders why they don't become productive adults.  It is as if our society, in trying to be enlightened, is leaving what works for something that is broken.

As we head into the holiday season of Thanksgiving, and continue into Christmas, I would like to focus on discipline....of self, of children, of emotions.  This is a time of year when it seems as if all discipline is thrown out the window, and we revel in fulfilling every want of ourselves and others.  I am as bad as anyone when it comes to overindulgence, especially during the holiday seasons.  So, I am going to close out this year of Proverbs resolutions by focusing on being disciplined.  Why don't you join me, and let's see together how much better it is to walk the narrow way.  We will meet few on our journey, and the way promises to be hard, but I can't wait to see what is at the end of this road.  Victory and love seem like a perfect way to end the year.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Dreaded Silence

A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.

This will probably be my last post on this particular subject, not because I have mastered this lesson, but because I am ready to focus on another lesson.  But before we leave the subject of how to answer, I wanted to address "The Dreaded Silence."  Now, ladies, we all know how to employ this tactic, and men, you have probably had to endure this at some point.  "The Dreaded Silence" is also known as the silent treatment.  And it is no answer.

Our mothers teach us that if we don't have anything nice to say, we should not say anything at all.  But there are times when we, primarily women I think, pervert this saying into something that can be quite harmful.  We get mad, or our feelings get hurt, and so we clam up.  We don't speak to the offending party, or if we must speak to them, we use as few syllables as possible.  But the fact is, this doesn't solve anything and usually stirs up anger.  Our feelings of hurt, frustration, or irritation just grow as we keep them bottled up and unexpressed.  They mount as the offended party does not read our mind and fix whatever  problem has occurred.  The one who our silence is directed toward becomes angry and frustrated at the admittedly juvenile treatment they are receiving.  Silence is grievous.

Notice that the proverb says a soft answer turns away wrath, not a silent answer.  Usually, when there is strife between adults, a conversation is going to have to take place to solve the problem.  This conversation will happen in one of three ways; a quick, violent eruption, a long fused but equally explosive eruption, or a mature, reasonable discussion.  The Dreaded Silence may stop the quick eruption, but often an eruption still occurs and it is usually more harmful for the time it has had to build.  How much better would it be to quietly and calmly express ourselves to one another.

Friends, this is such an easy thing to type and such a hard thing to practice.  I am prone to the quick and violent explosion.  In my efforts to prevent this reaction, too often  I have swung to the other extreme of The Dreaded Silence.  The eruption that often results from this is hurtful to myself and others.  The days of misery I add to myself are, well, miserable.  I pray that I can have the strength, maturity, and grace to choose to react to strife with an answer.  A quiet, reasonable, godly answer.  A wise, kind, gentle answer.  An answer full of truth and mercy.  In short, a soft answer that would turn away wrath.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Purpose of Answering

"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger"

In thinking about this Proverb over the last few weeks, I have been primarily focusing on the words soft and grievous.  But tonight I was struck by the words answer and words.  Just as soft and grievous are contrasted, so too are answer and words.

Often when we are faced with a situation involving strife, we feel compelled to put our "two cents" in, but we should be careful.  We should ask ourselves if what we are about to say is an answer - a solution, building block, bridge, or guidance - or is our statement just words.  Answers further the discussion in a positive direction, or bring a discussion to a close.  Words just further inflame, or stir up, a discussion.  For example, telling a child "no" quietly and firmly is an answer.  Often this answer is not appreciated, but it does tend to end the controversy fairly quickly.  Contrast this with explaining to a child that they can't have the desire because it is unhealthy, not safe, or just not appropriate.  Taking this approach often leads to an argument between parent and child, each defending their positions, until finally one or the other erupts in anger and the situation rapidly deteriorates into a screaming fit....and then the child starts throwing one too.  Certainly, there is a place for instruction, but sometimes a soft ANSWER will turn away wrath...even if the answer is grievous, like saying no.  And usually grievous WORDS will stir up anger, even if they are filled with soft-sounding "dears" and "sweeties".

This proverb teaches that what we say and how we say it, are of equal importance.  May God help us to judge when and how to speak in all our relationships and conversations.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Public vs. Private Fusses

In trying to keep my answers soft when faced with strife and frustration, I have been made to think about when and where to respond to situations that anger me.  The first thing I must do is to recognize whether or not a situation requires my response.  There are times we must respond; it is our duty, our responsibility, our job.  Correcting the behavior of our children would fall under this category.  Too often, however, we feel like we must respond when in actuality we should just remain silent.  We feel it is our right to respond.....our right- not our duty.  Whenever we feel like giving a response based on our rights versus a response based on obligation, we should be careful.  At that point, we are on a slippery slope and are in danger of pulling others down with us.

Even when we are responding out of duty, we should be careful what we say or do in public.  We should always realize that we are ambassadors of the kingdom, and how we act and what we say will cast a reflection on the Lord we serve.  Loud, angry, harsh, and hurtful words are never to be used, but even soft answers should be tempered in public.  Often a few words spoken privately will have a much more powerful effect on those around us than a long, public speech.  And the internet is rarely, if ever, the appropriate place to air differences.  Just because we can, does not mean that we should.

This thought feels incomplete, but it is all I have at the moment.  Maybe there will be more later.  Or maybe you could finish this thought for me in the comment section below.  I would welcome the input.