During the past week, my focus has waivered. I started off on Sunday facing a medical emergency with my pet, Possum (really my 4-year-old Havanese).
For the first time, I had to take a pet to a vet and leave him not knowing what would happen. Luckily, 48 hours later, he came home—exhausted. Today, you would never know he had been so sick.
This experience has made me think about how much unconditional love we experience with our pets and I cannot miss the lesson that gives me about God’s unconditional love for us. There is no better example of unconditional love of a pet and for a pet. Why, then, do we even question God’s unconditional love for us?
The more I read, the more I learn. I was on line reading all I could on Sunday trying to understand the problems Possum was having. This equipped me with the best words to share with the vet on the phone.
I learned a lot and I am reminded that we all have much to learn about God, too. I ended Sunday studying the lectionary to prepare for the lectionary discussion on Monday. Always reading and always learning even though the verses are familiar.
This week the reading from James seemed to echo words I read in the late 1980s while working to establish a dyslexia program at Wentworth Military Academy.
During that time period, I was fortunate to be guided by alumnus and co-workers to learn more about the business leadership structures. As the 1990s passed, I also learned about educational leadership. The common denominator was the concept of democratic leadership.
No, this is not a political issue; this is a leadership style. Reading James 3:13-4:10, I discovered that even James, Jesus’ brother, shared the same principles of leadership:
True Wisdom Comes from God
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.[a]
Drawing Close to God
4 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
4 You adulterers![b] Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.[c] 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”[d]
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
If all leaders, in all phases of our culture, used these principles, one might only wonder at the changes it would bring to our world.
For years, my reading was limited to professional materials and curriculum demands of the Course of Study. Yes, I was reading all the time in an effort to continue learning all that I could.
But my learning was to streamlined, that I was in a tunnel. Since stepping away from the pulpit, I have broadened my reading. I am also broadening my learning through the reading.
Just like God expects us to read scripture (as well as John Wesley does), we also need to see how it is applied in the real world. Joining the lectionary group has broadened my learning by sharing and listening to others ideas.
Reading is how we learn things that interest us, to entertain us, and to educate us. With the base of knowledge and ideas and skills that we develop, we still need human interaction to take that information into our real world.
My reading during these past two months have included following the KC Star’s opinion pages—stepping beyond the front page news; and I have picked up books again.
I am reading and listening to the ideas and experiences of others. I am reading and learning to think beyond my own immediate life experiences. The reading leads to learning. The learning leads to reading.
Even the fiction reading I have jumped into has shared themes that I find in scripture. I learn how these themes affect our lives and continually intertwine with the themes in scripture.
Whatever denomination to which we chose to align ourselves, the scriptures continue to drive our lives forward. John Wesley knew this. The theological instructors know this. The believers who read scriptures know this. Why, then do we continue to ignore reading scriptures?
Reading a historical fiction novel about the Biblical figure Sarah is teaching me to think about Sarah differently. It triggers a desire to learn more about the ancient cultures that are woven together in the book. It makes me want to read the Biblical story again, along with study notes and analysis.
At the same time, the novel brings up the same principles of leadership in James and in the business and education materials concerning democratic leadership I had read 30 years ago.
Read to learn, but also learn to read. We have a huge responsibility to make sure that we are doing that for ourselves, but also that we are imparting that skill to the following generations.
Thank you for the words so many have written
Creating the scripture through which you speak.
Thank you for the words authors continue to write
Creating books to share ideas in new ways.
Thank you for the ability, the gifts your provide
Creating the learning we gain from reading.
Guide us through the words, but also through the power of the Holy Spirit. –Amen