Week of Oct. 2: Allow God to guide us as we set priorities in our lives
By VICKY BRANTLEY
Scripture: Proverbs 29:16-27
Dear God, give your structure to my chaos, and let my order be your vessel. Amen.
John Wesley and his group were teased and nicknamed “Methodists” because of the ordered way in which they lived. The Methodist way is one of discipline, organization and structure. The opposite is disorganization. A university student was seen with a large "K" printed on his T- shirt. When someone asked him what the "K" stood for, he said, "Confused." "But," the questioner replied, "You don't spell confused with a K." The student answered, "You don't know how confused I am." Chaos Theory in science and mathematics is about finding the underlying order in apparently random data. A man had been a bookkeeper for several businesses and organizations. When he died unexpectedly, people tried to make sense of an apparently chaotic office with several overflowing trash cans. After discarding much of what they found, they discovered that each trash can was a file drawer for a particular account.
Start teaching order early
Researchers tell us that many adults learn languages slowly because their brains have absorbed all the information that they can handle. Children, however, are quite the opposite. Their brains are thirsting for knowledge, and they can learn languages with an astonishing rapidity. That is why it is wise to teach children when they are impressionable. If we establish bedtimes, safety rules, ethical choices and health instructions as soon as possible, children are more apt to make them lifelong habits. The writer of Proverbs is admonishing parents to discipline their children. Without clear boundaries, we all flounder and drift without an anchor.
The African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child” encourages us to all take responsibility in providing order and discipline for the children around us. In that regard, it is best for us to teach by example. We can be sure that children and youth are watching us and considering how we act and respond.
The witness of our actions speaks with authority
Tommye McCoy, our mother and grandmother respectively, had a host of proverbs that she instilled in her children and grandchildren. One of her favorites was “What you do speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you say.” She certainly lived in such a way that we could learn from her actions and her words. Someone once gave advice to a group of new preachers. He suggested that when you were less sure of what you were saying, to speak louder and with persistence. Unfortunately, some ministers adhere to that counsel. Oftentimes those who talk the most at church, including laity, have the least to say.
“Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.” This is a proverb attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, though its origin is unknown. There is however, truth in that advice. C. H. Spurgeon said, “A man's life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him, they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree, the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.”
Anger, pride and fear
Struggle is certain in our broken and sinful state. The wise person chooses to be prepared with ordered living rather than bouncing from chaos to crisis to calamity. Our unique heritage as United Methodists was formed through the well-ordered disciples of a systematic “holy club,” thus providing the frame and backbone to face the evils of the world.
In his book Harvest of Humanity, John Seamands told this story: “A German soldier was wounded and ordered to go to the military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, For the slightly wounded, and the other, For the seriously wounded. He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, For officers, and the other, For non-officers. He entered through the latter and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, For party members, and the other, For non-party members. He took the second door, and when he opened it, he found himself on the street. When the soldier returned home, his mother asked him, ‘How did you get along at the hospital?’ 'Well, Mother,' he replied, 'to tell the truth, the people there didn't do anything for me, but you ought to see the tremendous organization they have!'"
Order alone is not the heart of our calling. The proverb teaches us to order our lives by God’s heart. This means allowing God to set the priorities of our lives.
Take Action: Our charge is to make the “wicked” uncomfortable. What will you do this week to shine light on what is evil in your community?
“There's not a plant or flower below, but makes thy glories known, and clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from thy throne; while all that borrows life from thee is ever in thy care; and everywhere that we can be, thou, God, art present there.” The United Methodist Hymnal