March 28, 2016

Many years ago I took a group of mostly Middle School aged kids to New York City and southern New Jersey on a mission trip.  We worked in a soup kitchen in NY and planted flowers in a park in Jersey… in over 100 degree heat, I might add.  We had numerous other adventures during that week that I might communicate at some point in the future… or not.  Before we pulled out of the parking lot of the church I had to lay down a few “laws” for the trip.  Most of them were basic things like: 1. Do whatever I tell you.  2.  Read # 1 again.  3. Review #1`and #2.  Part of the instructions related to certain phrases that kids are wont to say.  I told them that there were 3 things that REALLY bothered me and if they said them they would have to stand (wherever we were) and yell at the top of their lungs, “I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY!”  You might be interested in knowing what the three phrases were?  They were, in no particular order of importance, “Oh God”, “Shut up”, and “Stupid.”  I especially recall one student on the Staten Island Ferry screaming “I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY, I’M SORRY” for all the other passengers to hear.  The short of it is this… I find those phrases to be immensely disrespectful.  Did I happen to say “IMMENSELY?”…Unless of course they are used “tongue in cheek.”  Hold that thought.

Occasionally, I hear folks lament the fact that “things are not what they used to be.”  I find myself doing that as well, at times.  One of THE more popular laments, “You know, when I was younger everything was closed on Good Friday from noon to 3:00 and NOTHING was open on Easter.”  Implied in the lament is the notion that “we were more religious then and we ought to return to that level of respect for the Faith.”  I don’t really know what to say or think about that but I do know this:  There were at least two Good Friday services in our immediate vicinity last week and I didn’t see many folks at either one.  And I saw very few “lamenters.”  I should add that Wal Mart and Giant Eagle were bustling.  I’m inclined to say, “Listen, if you’re going to fuss about things and do NOTHING constructive to change them then just ‘SHUT UP’.”  Whoops, did I just write that?  Some folks might need to head for more compassionate “safe spaces.”  I’m sure I meant to say something much kinder and gentler like…  uh… um… nope I guess I said what I meant.

Truth be told… many of us are great at “talking” about things but not always so good at “doing” them.  Yours truly included.  Honestly it can be really guilt producing!  It’s one thing when we fail to complete certain tasks for a day or a week, but when we find months, years and even decades passing and we still haven’t gotten too ______________, well, that can be just downright demoralizing!  We might even begin to wonder if we will EVER get certain things completed?!  Or if we will EVER discipline ourselves to do ______________?  Or will we ever take a stand on things that we have proclaimed to be important?  I know many Christians, for example, who have started Genesis with the greatest of intentions only to get bogged down within a few days or weeks; or folks who have made a financial commitment to the church or some other organization and then “life” happens.  “Life” as in a hot water heater goes or someone runs into their car.  There goes the “commitment.”  Or maybe there are some reading this who have verbally taken a “social” position but have done absolutely nothing in support of it.

Why do we do that?  Why do we say things that in our heart of hearts we don’t really mean?  Or on which we don’t act?  I’m not sure either.  Here are a few possible explanations:

  • When we say things, we do mean them… but the flesh really is weaker than the spirit.
  • We say certain things because… well… it’s the thing to say.
  • We say things without counting the cost.
  • We say things without thinking them through.
  • We say “yes” because we’re often not good at saying “no.”
  • We lack discipline.

There must be a thousand other reasons.

You know the Bible is very clear about being careful regarding the things that come out of our mouths.  It normally refers to saying things that are hurtful or blasphemous but I suspect saying things that reflect badly on our integrity are probably not good either.  Ponder these verses:

Hezekiah 2:2

Consider what you are saying before putting your tongue in gear lest you say something you regret.  Just “shut up!”

Psalm 34:13

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

James 1:26

 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

 James 3:5-6

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Matthew 5:37 (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

33-37 “Again, you have heard that the people in the old days were told—‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord’, but I say to you, don’t use an oath at all. Don’t swear by Heaven for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth for it is his footstool, nor by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great king. No, and don’t swear by your own head, for you cannot make a single hair—white or black! Whatever you have to say let your ‘yes’ be a plain ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ a plain ‘no’—anything more than this has a taint of evil.


P.S. There is no Hezekiah in the Bible.


4 thoughts on “Follow-through

  1. Very nice, Bill. And I remember that trip!

    Christopher Fay
    Executive Director
    303 S. Maple Avenue
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    Homestretch has earned many honors including the Governor’s Best Housing Program in Virginia Award, the Blue Diamond Award from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce for Outstanding NonProfit, and awards from Leadership Fairfax, Volunteer Fairfax, and the Washington Post; and Homestretch has been selected three times for inclusion in the Catalogue for Philanthropy. Homestretch is a member of the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign.

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