Have you been having extraordinary days this week? I know it may sound like an enormous task today, but turning ordinary days into extraordinary days takes some practice. I have to tell you, I went to the district’s kickoff meeting with little enthusiasm, but then something extraordinary occurred—we had a motivational speaker.
This speaker, Dr. Kern, was a 72-years-old retired professor from Columbia College who has written a book and makes the round as a motivational speaker especially to educators. Now I have to be honest, I was one teacher who really did not think I needed to be there, but I am glad that I was.
Dr. Kern introduced himself through storytelling, which I enjoy. But he had a purpose. He was brought in to create a mindset, one that is positive, student-focused, and hopeful. What had been running through my head was just that ordinary thinking that was making me drag my feet getting to that meeting.
You can see that living the Christian lifestyle is something that permeates your entire being, but as humans we tend to think we should be in control. The media has hammered our district in the past several months and it has damaged the mindset of the staff. Bringing in the motivational speaker was a very wise move. When I left that meeting, what was running through my head were very different. In fact, what Dr. Kern said turned the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Interestingly enough, his message was exactly what Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 15:10:
“Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s moth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ”
That mini-lesson may be confusing, but when Jesus was asked to explain what he meant, the answer explains what was running through Jesus’s head:
“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and that makes a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ‘”
Our speaker Dr. Kern used the illustration of a young man who never considered trying out for the 7th grade operetta, but one teacher asked him to do so. He did and she gave him three small solos to sing. His dad was so proud of him and told him so as they arrived at the performance and again after the operetta. With that encouragement, the young boy sang and was confident as he tried out the next year for the 8th grade operetta. One difference, the teacher who encouraged him had died so a new teacher was there.
When the young man stood up on the stage and began his audition, he still felt confident and assured that he could sing. The first thing the new teacher said to him was. “Who told you you could sing.” The boy was crushed and never sang again. One person, one set of negative words destroyed the proud words of a father’s and a teacher’s words the year before. What in the world was running through that new teacher’s head?
Fortunately there was a happy ending. At his wedding, his wife told him he had to sing to her as she came down the aisle or she would not marry him. Sing he did; and he continued to sing after that. Dr. Kern’s point is that what comes out of our mouth can ruin a young student’s life. Now isn’t this almost exactly what Jesus was saying: the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’
How do we keep the unclean thoughts away? That is our Christian responsibility and we can do that by focusing on what is going on in our head. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Rev. Emmanuel Cleaver, III, said we need to think like God. Where do we learn that? We learn it from the Bible. We must learn to read the Holy Scriptures in order to know what God thinks. We need to listen to what he has told us and that can be very difficult with so much swirling around us each and every day.
This week during my emailing, I was learning about Tom’s hearing aid issue and Nancy shared a couple of thoughts that started me thinking: “When he does not wear the aid, everything is very quiet. I guess after being use to the quiet for so long, then it is hard to adjust to the noise.”
Think about the quiet. Do we really know the quiet? It takes listening to hear. It takes listening to learn. It takes listening to feel. Can we read the Bible and listen in the quiet?
I suspect that being in the quiet makes it a bit easier to hear what God wants us to hear. Unfortunately we are living in a culture that does not allow us to function in the quiet. And I can assure you, once more, that I am terrible about finding quiet. My life, like so many of you, is wrapped up in all kinds of noise: the TV, the radio, my CD, my internet, and my cell phone. I have so much input around me just from the electronic age that finding quiet it almost impossible. Then there are other forms of noise: the dogs, the family, the job, the neighbors, and I could keep going.
Finding quiet is hard, but I suspect there are advantages at times. Tom’s experience is that once you reintroduce noise, it is hard to adjust. Let’s take that in reverse. WE are living in a world of noise, can we find some way to find quiet? If we find quiet, I bet we can hear what God is thinking. I bet if we read the Bible in quiet, we can understand how to develop the thoughts, the actions, and the means to think like God.
And what would the result be: I think we would rejoin the noisy world refreshed and able to think like God before thinking like humans. When preparing for the Purpose Driven Life campaign at church, I found some quiet. I read the book as quickly as I could that early summer sitting on the front porch in my antique chair with the birds singing, the water sprinkler running, and very little other worldly noise. As I read, I shed noise in my head. New thoughts began running through my head and some really old ones were pushed out.
By the time I had finished that first reading, I came to realize that I was adjusting to a new quiet. I discovered that life was so much less complicated if I used more Christian thinking. I really think I began looking at this world more like God does. I think I began thinking more like God does. And I can even give you a very concrete example of this new mindset: road rage.
When I first moved to Warrensburg, my kids were about 12 and 10. We took a trip to California, and as we were returning to Warrensburg down I-435. As I pulled into that left lane to get on I-70, I apparently pulled in front of another car. I drove for about five minutes of the scariest drive I have ever made. That driver went nuts. That driver kept pulling in front of me, suddenly slowing down, and so on. Just as I reached the exit ramp, that driver pulled right in front of me again before suddenly jerking to the right and taking off on down I-435. I was frightened. I had a cell, but I could not call because of her erratic nature. I was upset and not feeling very Christian toward that driver. I really wanted her off the road. I wanted her to pay for how she was scaring me, not to mention the kids.
The noise in my head at that time was screaming at me. Now I am not hearing that noise. After reading the Purpose Driven Life, I suddenly discovered that I no longer felt road rage. Instead, I almost immediately think what could possibly cause that driver to cut me off or not see me. I have discovered that I now feel compassion and concern for those drivers rather than rage. And remember, I am not perfect. Sometimes my first reaction in fear lets out a scream in my head, but once I am safe, the thoughts change and I hope God takes the thoughts he hears and knows it is a prayer.
Have I lost the point? I hope not. I hope that as we have set here the noise running through your head has quieted. I pray that you can put the noise in your life aside, listen for God in his words and in the quiet. Practice thinking like God because it quiets your soul as much as it quiets the noise in your head. Practice using the devotions to fill your mind with God-like thinking. You will discover that soon what is running through your head is all good. You will discover that the ordinary thoughts running through your head are now extraordinary Christian thoughts. You will not risk hurting friends, family, or even fellow workers because the loud, noisy thoughts of the non-Christian world will no longer run through your head and out your mouth.
Dear Listening Father,
Help us learn to listen to your words. Help us to replace the noise in our heads that allow us to utter unkind, un-Christian words. Help us to find the quiet to fill our heads with the Christian language you have taught us. Let the words running through our heads become extraordinary as we demonstrate God’s love to others. –Amen