Wisdom Speaks

Think of the wisest person you know. It may be a former teacher, a grandparent, or your kindergartner. People who have the ability to quickly assess a situation and thoughtfully speak truth into a subject are a blessing to know.

A wise woman once counseled me to wait at least 24 hours before responding to a hurtful comment or email. This was very hard to do at first, as my hurt feelings needed to be expressed and validated with my angry, self-righteous response…and I needed that validation right away! But I respected her and admired how she handled herself, so I made it a rule. Guess what? About 75% of the time I realized that I didn’t need to respond at all after waiting a day. The other 25% of the time I did respond, but in a much more thoughtful and considerate way than I had originally planned out in my mind (one hundred times).

I also learned that when I ignored her advice and immediately shot off my unfiltered and ill-considered response, I regretted it 100% of the time.

What is the best piece of wisdom someone has shared with you?

Our lectionary this week focuses on different variations of wisdom literature. The Old Testament book of Proverbs is known for its nuggets of good advice and wise sayings. We use the phrase “proverbial wisdom” as an homage to this collection of writings by King Solomon.

In the second half of Proverbs 1, Solomon presents wisdom as a woman who speaks loudly in the streets, but apparently nobody listens. If you’ve ever been the parent of a middle schooler, you can probably relate.

Proverbs 1 (Contemporary English Version)

20 Wisdom shouts in the streets
    wherever crowds gather.
21 She shouts in the marketplaces
and near the city gates
    as she says to the people,
22 “How much longer
will you enjoy
    being stupid fools?
Won’t you ever stop sneering
    and laughing at knowledge?
23     Listen as I correct you
    and tell you what I think.
24 You completely ignored me
    and refused to listen;
25 you rejected my advice
and paid no attention
    when I warned you.

The language in this passage is a little startling. Solomon is not playing around. He draws a clean line between those who are wise and those who are stupid fools. His plea is for everyone to LISTEN. Do you ever feel like God is shouting that at you sometimes? ”Listen, my child. Just be silent and LISTEN to me, and I will get you through this.” Wise people pay attention.

26 “So when you are struck
    by some terrible disaster,
27 or when trouble and distress
surround you like a whirlwind,
    I will laugh and make fun.
28 You will ask for my help,
    but I won’t listen;
    you will search,
    but you won’t find me.
29 No, you would not learn,
    and you refused
    to respect the Lord.
30 You rejected my advice
and paid no attention
    when I warned you.

Those who hear God’s command to LISTEN and refuse him do so at their own peril. When we refuse to respect the Lord, reject his advice, and pay no attention, we reap what we sow.

31 “Now you will eat the fruit
    of what you have done,
    until you are stuffed full
    with your own schemes.
32 Sin and self-satisfaction
bring destruction and death
    to stupid fools.

But mercifully, God provides a way out. If we change our attitude and listen to him, we will be safe and secure. We need not fear:

33 But if you listen to me,
you will be safe and secure
    without fear of disaster.”

So listen. What is God saying to you today?

Listen by Janet Owen

Listen Up

God gave us two ears and one mouth. Do you think that might be a hint that we should listen twice as much as we speak? I think this applies to everything we do with our ears…our conversations, our arguments, our discussions with our family, our debates, our prayers…there is nothing we do that wouldn’t be improved by more listening and less talking.

Listening is a way of God. Did you ever think about that? No matter what you take to him, he is guaranteed to listen to you. There is NOTHING you can say, no evil or destructive behavior you need to confess, no grudge so petty, no angry word expressed, that he won’t hear with loving concern.

As the psalmist says, “He didn’t hide his face from me. No, he LISTENED when I cried out to him for help.”

Psalm 22 (Common English Bible)

All of you who revere the Lord—praise him!
    All of you who are Jacob’s descendants—honor him!
    All of you who are all Israel’s offspring—
        stand in awe of him!
24 Because he didn’t despise or detest
    the suffering of the one who suffered—
    he didn’t hide his face from me.
    No, he listened when I cried out to him for help.

For this alone, God is worthy of our praise. He inclines his ear to our suffering. He is found by those who seek him. He is worthy of the worship of all nations.

25 I offer praise in the great congregation
    because of you;
    I will fulfill my promises
    in the presence of those who honor God.
26 Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
    Let all who seek the Lord praise him!
        I pray your hearts live forever!
27 Every part of the earth
    will remember and come back to the Lord;
    every family among all the nations will worship you.
28 Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord,
    he rules all nations.
29 Indeed, all the earth’s powerful
    will worship him;
    all who are descending to the dust
    will kneel before him;
    my being also lives for him.
30 Future descendants will serve him;
    generations to come will be told about my Lord.
31 They will proclaim God’s righteousness
        to those not yet born,
        telling them what God has done.

What can we do in response? We can listen to people in his name. We can incline our ear to suffering. We can come back to him with repentant hearts. We can refuse to hide our faces from people who need help.

We can hear the way God hears.

Find someone today who simply needs to be heard, and offer them the gift of your time and your presence. There is a teenager with a broken heart, an overwhelmed business owner, an anxious school mom…somebody out there needs to talk. Incline your ear toward their hurt.

And remember to listen twice as much as you speak.

God Speaks by Michelle Robertson

The Art of Listening

In a sermon I recently preached on the subject of prayer, I reminded the congregation that God gave us two ears and one mouth, which perhaps might be a hint that we should listen twice as much as we speak. I was applying this to prayer, but I think it could apply to everything else…our conversations, our arguments, our discussions with our family, our debates…there is nothing we do that wouldn’t be improved by more listening and less talking.

Listening is a way of God. Did you ever think about that? No matter what you take to him, he is guaranteed to listen to you. There is NOTHING you can say, no evil or destructive behavior you need to confess, no grudge so petty, no angry word expressed, that he won’t hear with loving concern. As the psalmist says, “He didn’t hide his face from me. No, he LISTENED when I cried out to him for help.”

Psalm 22 (Common English Bible)

All of you who revere the Lord—praise him!
    All of you who are Jacob’s descendants—honor him!
    All of you who are all Israel’s offspring—
        stand in awe of him!
24 Because he didn’t despise or detest
    the suffering of the one who suffered—
    he didn’t hide his face from me.
    No, he listened when I cried out to him for help.

For this alone, God is worthy of our praise. He inclines his ear to our suffering. He is found by those who seek him. He is worthy of the worship of all nations.

25 I offer praise in the great congregation
    because of you;
    I will fulfill my promises
    in the presence of those who honor God.
26 Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
    Let all who seek the Lord praise him!
        I pray your hearts live forever!
27 Every part of the earth
    will remember and come back to the Lord;
    every family among all the nations will worship you.
28 Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord,
    he rules all nations.
29 Indeed, all the earth’s powerful
    will worship him;
    all who are descending to the dust
    will kneel before him;
    my being also lives for him.
30 Future descendants will serve him;
    generations to come will be told about my Lord.
31 They will proclaim God’s righteousness
        to those not yet born,
        telling them what God has done.

What can we do in response? We can listen in his name. We can incline our ear to suffering. We can come back to him with repentant hearts. We can refuse to hide our faces from people who need help.

We can hear the way he hears.

Find someone today who simply needs to be heard, and offer them the gift of your time and your presence. And remember to listen twice as much as you speak.

Listen Well by Michelle Robertson

Dry Bones

The upswing this week in the number of virus cases and the subsequent death toll increases have taken hold, and we are now riding a steep, upward curve. An image of George Clooney’s fishing boat riding up a treacherous wave in the movie “The Perfect Storm” keeps flashing through my mind as I see the projections. The idea of the ocean’s power has always TERRIFIED me. What’s happening now also terrifies me.

This wave is not under our control, and it will result in dry bones. We will have these bones scattered all around us for a very long time: a dry-bones economy, a dry-bones social life, a dry-bones educational system, a dry-bones health care industry, and tragically, so many dry bones in hospital morgues all over the country. Dry bones everywhere.

Let’s take a dive into Ezekiel and remember a time when he encountered dry bones:

Ezekiel 37 (The Message)

 1-2 God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.

He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Master God, only you know that.”

He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’”

5-6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”

Oh, the HOPE! God says to the dry bones, “I’m bringing the breath of life to you and YOU’LL COME ALIVE.”

I believe with all my heart that we will come out of this with more flexible sinews, meat on our bones, and the breath of life in our lungs. These dry-bone days are a unique opportunity to really internalize the Word of God and become the people that we were designed to be.

God himself will breathe life into us. When the season of dry bones is over, we’ll come alive in a new and completely altered way. We will hope more fervently. We will love more deeply. We will APPRECIATE more fully. And we will serve more gladly.

There are two important things to do in the meantime.

  1. LISTEN. “Dry bones, LISTEN to the Message of God!”
  2. REALIZE. “You’ll come alive and you’ll REALIZE that I am God!”

Get ready. God promises we will come alive.

And guess what? We are one day closer to the end of this thing.

Dem Bones Gonna Rise Again Photo by Michelle Robertson