Twelve Days of Christmas – Follow Through – Two

Twelve Days of Christmas – Follow Through- Two

My second of the extended Twelve Days of Christmas came on February 17th which is the date I have chosen for each month. I am happy to report that I did follow through and it does feel good.

I have marked my 2015 calendar for each of the twelve months as a way of extending the wonderful spirit of Christmas throughout the entire year. My hope is that others will join in the spirit and make it a wonderful time for all of us. It does not need to be a grand gesture. Just make it something simple. Something you will do.

I am writing this as a part of my accountability to myself to remind me to follow through. Please join me as we go through the year.

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Communication as Blessing

Good conversation like good music or a good book nourishes the soul. Good communication builds relationships. Nothing says more about a person’s caring than his or her willingness to listen without judgment or interruption. Sometimes our greatest ministry is simply to be one hundred percent present and to listen without judgment or interruption.

There are times when there are no words capable of conveying what is in our hearts, but there are no times when being one hundred percent present with another is not effective. Raymond DeSchazo, former professor at Mars Hill University, was fond of saying, “The way you know when you really love another person is when you can be in a room together for hours and neither of you says a word.” Just being present is enough.

We all need and search for connectedness. We know how it feels to be in a crowd and yet feel utterly alone and isolated. We need and want to belong. We need to touch and be touched. We can be warmed by another person’s smile or simple acknowledgement.

The ability to communicate is a gift. We can bless others by the way we use our gift to heal, to build-up and not to harm.

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Consider How Your Words Can Heal or Hurt – James Gordon – Ethics Daily

Consider How Your Words Can Heal or Hurt | James Gordon, Speech, Civility, Lent

I am persuaded that an ethic of language, a care for the words we speak and for the words we hear, is a crucial aspect of Christian witness, Gordon says. (Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The first clause of the theological masterpiece, which is the Gospel of John, proclaims “In the beginning was the Word.”

The first words of God at the beginning of all things, according to that equally remarkable meteor of theology, the creation story in Genesis, are “And God said, ‘Let there be light.'”

For Christians, those two moments of divine articulation should be enough to teach us respect, indeed reverence, for words.

Whether written or spoken, words have performative power. They make things happen, they have an impact, they influence for good or ill, persuade of truth or lie, affirm or diminish, enlighten or deceive, liberate or oppress, heal or hurt.

As a Christian, I have a responsibility to give an account of my words. Indeed, Jesus warned that the day would come when we will give an account of every word we have spoken (Matthew 12:36).

Now there’s a warning for the biblical literalist self-righteously ramming their words of truth down other people’s throats.

Elsewhere in the gospels, there’s a quite different scenario – a Roman centurion, a man of few words and most of them were orders to other people (Matthew 8:5-13).

His personal servant is about to die, but he has heard Jesus is a healer, someone who speaks with authority. So he uses his networks and his influence, he sends Jewish elders to bring Jesus.

To cut a short story shorter, the centurion gets a message to Jesus, “Say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Now there’s a man who knows what words are for, who understands the power of the spoken word, someone used to seeing the performative power of words.

We live in a culture buried under words and blinded by an endless supply of new or familiar flickering images.

We hear so much, we are losing our hearing; we see so much our sight is blurring from image overload.

But staying with words for the present, Marilyn Chandler McIntyre, in her book, “Caring for Words in a World of Lies,” states with prophetic frankness, “Like any other life-sustaining resource, language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded and filled with artificial stimulants.”

I am persuaded that an ethic of language, a care for the words we speak and for the words we hear, is a crucial aspect of Christian witness.

From the praise songs we sing to the texts we send; from our conversations at work to the confidences we hold in trust for others; from the jokes we tell and laugh at to the lies we refuse to tell; from the clever put downs of those we dislike to the caring affirmations of other people’s worth; language carries with it obligations to which the follower of Jesus has to attend.

That’s why this Lent we should consider the nature of language – what it is that we do when we speak words to each other, how to endow words with sacramental significance so that speech becomes a means of grace, a strengthening of the soul in ourselves and others, and an influence for good, compassion, truthfulness and conciliation in our society.

I’m tired of cliché and spin, of the conspiracy, not of silence, but of unworthy words spoken in half-truth – evasive rather than clarifying, cruel rather than compassionate, empty of human communion rather than full of attentive human presence.

At a time when the Western world near absolutizes freedom of speech and expression, it’s time to examine much more closely the proper constraints on speech and expression.

It is time, too, to recognize the power of language to dehumanize and diminish other human beings in the interests of our own agendas, prejudices and unacknowledged as well as confessed enmities.

James Gordon is part-time minister of Montrose Baptist Church in Angus, Scotland, and the former principal of the Scottish Baptist College. He is on the advisory board of the Centre for Ministry Studies, University of Aberdeen, and continues as an occasional lecturer on practical theology and areas of ministry. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Living Wittily, and is used with permission.

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Forces Outside North America Will Impact Our Worship in the Future Dockery Says in Charleston

Dr. David Dockery traced the major changes in worship over the last two thousand years starting with synagogue and temple worship and then anticipated future changes as great shifts in the Christian community are unfolding. He was speaking at the 20th Annual John A. Hamrick Lectureship held at First Baptist Church of Charleston on January 18 and 19.

He said that very few Baptist churches maintain the formal worship style practiced at First Baptist Church of Charleston and that guitars, drums and pianos have replaced organs in most more contemporary churches. The Pentecostals have had major sway in recent years, but that the future will be shaped by religious forces outside North America, especially Latin America, Asia and Africa. Secularism is outpacing Christianity three to one in North America.

He encouraged his listeners not to lose heart and suggested that the church needs to refocus on worship of God as its major function and that there needs to be an emphasis on the reading of scripture and enlightened preaching.  “The head is neglected in much of contemporize worship where emotion is the major component and that needs to change in favor of a more balanced approach.  Worshipers need to prepare for worship. Denominationalism as we know it is giving way to other types of structure and is becoming less and less important. The type of revivalism demonstrated by Billy Graham will no longer be effective even though Dr. Graham is my personal hero, “he said.

David Dockery is president of Trinity International University in Chicago and former president of Union University in Tennessee.

Dr. Dockery was introduced by Dr. Don Gardner and Dr. Doug Hunter, Executive Director of the Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership at Charleston Southern University. David Templeton, Minister of Music and Worship at First Baptist Church, provided special music.

The lectures honor the memory of long time pastor and the founding president of what is now Charleston Southern University, Dr. John A. Hamrick.

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