Monday Memo: Cluttered

Terry Walton



I was thinking...

My thinking this week is cluttered. Have you ever experienced cluttered thinking? I’m guessing you have, and I’m not alone in my cluttered thinking. I’m thinking of the people of Ukraine and the unthinkable decisions that they are having to make: stay or leave, send wife and children to be refugees while husband/father stay and fight, where is it safe to shelter, where is food for my next meal, where are the necessities of life to be found, what about medical needs, why is this happening? I’m quite certain that these few listed dilemmas do not even scratch the surface of the Ukraine people’s concern. And what about the Russian people? Are they caught in the middle of something that breaks their hearts and minds as well? It can be easy for me to dismiss the struggle as “that’s on the other side of the world, so what can I do that would make a difference?” It can be easy to find excuses to dismiss my responsibility to care in helpful ways. My mind is cluttered.

My thinking is cluttered as I ponder the United Methodist Church and its desire to have General Conference. How difficult in this pandemic world it is to ensure that United Methodist from all over the world have a voice to participate and thus have General Conference. The criticism and blaming and the vitriol that so readily is cast from one perspective to the other. My mind is cluttered with the sadness that comes from watching posturing and then the misinformation that is so readily tossed back and forth. I certainly have an opinion, while others have a different opinion… yet opinions are no longer bridges for discussion, they have become walls of defense. It is not the mind nor heart of Christ, of that I’m convinced.

My thinking is cluttered, and you may think this ridiculous and/or silly, over what is happening in my beloved sport of Major League Baseball. The owners blame the players for the lockout. The players blame the owners. All of it has to do with money…we might even say greed. Mark Bradley of the AJC has described as “It’s millionaire players against billionaire owners. Fans, the majority of whom are “thousandaires,” just want to see baseball played…. Owners see players as ingrates. Players regard the owners as misers.” (Atlanta Journal Constitution, Thursday, March 3, 2022, P. B6) So who is right and who is wrong? Does greed ever have a ‘right side’?

I enter this season of Lent with a cluttered mind. Sin seems to be everywhere. We cloud our own sin by pointing out the sin in others. Yet the purpose of Lent, at least for me, is to stop looking outward for signs of sin and look inward. For if we all looked inward, it would make a huge difference in how we look at others. Sin is an expert deflector and distractor. And one of its greatest weapons is blaming. If I can blame you, then the pressure is off me. Then, therefore, confession and repentance become distant friends.

This is not a call for faith to be only about ‘personal faith’… it is a call for faith to also be ‘communal faith’. The beginning of healthy communal faith is found in one’s own personal acknowledgment of sin, confession, and repentance. From this beginning comes a new insight into self and others. We are all companions helping one another find bread… the bread of life.

Decluttering the mind takes work. I’ll be working on it across these next days of Lent. Perhaps your journey needs a focus on de-cluttered thinking as well. The promise we all have is found in these words of Jesus, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14 NRSV)

Always Thinking…

The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

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