Pencils, Pens & the Mishaps of My Friend Ron

All the way through elementary school, I did my writing with pencils. Each year, “#2 Pencils” were on the top of the school supply list.

But when I arrived in middle school, we were expected to use ink pens instead. The writing experience was certainly better with the pens, but there was one major problem: Ink is difficult to erase.

Eventually, some clever marketers came up with “erasable” pens. But that was false advertising, because they were still  hard to erase. More than once, I ripped a hole in the paper while trying to erase the ink from my pens.

Recently I’ve found myself lamenting the demise of pencils. The pens are now better than ever – and I absolutely love  writing with the new gel pens. But the pens still can’t be erased very well. And White Out usually isn’t a good option either for covering mistakes.

Here’s what I’m going through on this: I miss the days when every mistake seemed easily erasable. Oh for the carefree days of elementary school…

Of course, most people now use emails and social media to do their writing, not pens. But that has made the problem even worse! Have you ever tried to retract  an inappropriate email you sent (such as sending a “Reply All” when you didn’t mean to)? Or perhaps you’ve posted something stupid on social media and then tried to cover your tracks. Good luck on that.

It turns out that once things are in cyberspace, they are even more  difficult to erase than ink pens.

Let me share story about this from my good friend Ron…

A few months ago, Ron met a nice Christian woman on an online dating site. They seemed to really hit things off when they chatted on the phone one night. He could tell they both loved the Lord and had much in common.

Ready to take the next step, a few days later Ron asked her out for dinner that weekend. To his surprise, she sent a text message declining the invitation. The reason? She said he was too old for her!   

Ouch. Yes, Ron is in his 60s and this nice Christian woman was in her 50s. But should that age gap really matter?

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with pencils and pens…

Once again, Ron was greatly surprised when this same woman contacted him a few weeks later, asking if they could keep in touch as “friends.” Although he was open to the idea, there was a problem: Ron couldn’t ERASE the memory of her previous comment that he was too old. Like permanent ink, her evaluation seemed to be forever etched onto his brain.

What a reminder that words are powerful things, capable of imparting “death and life” (Proverbs 18:21). No matter how they are communicated, our words don’t erase easily. And sometimes negative words cause lifelong scarring of the psyche.

However, God can help us heal from people’s words – especially when we spend time listening to HIS words to us instead.

Nevertheless, painful words from people are likely to keep coming from time to time. Right when Ron was beginning to heal from the “You’re too old!” feedback, he met a woman who said he was too fat for her…

Fortunately, your Heavenly Father has a very BIG eraser, capable of removing countless mistakes, flaws, and emotional wounds. As the apostle Paul described, “He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14 CSB). Isn’t it good to know that your debts, liabilities, and blemishes have been erased by the amazing grace of God?

So I encourage you to take time to look into the mirror of His Word today. You’ll discover that you look a lot better than what people have said about you.

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My Own Hot-Mic Moment

trump-hot-mic

In case you haven’t heard, Donald Trump lost a lot of votes recently when a 2005 video surfaced of his vulgar comments about women. Trump’s campaign wasn’t going so well anyway, but he seemed to have a chance. Barring a miracle, his hot-mic moment has now made victory extremely unlikely.

I once had my own hot-mic moment, so I’m pretty sensitive to this sort of thing. I don’t make lewd comments about women, so my personal hot-mic episode had nothing to do with anything like that. It happened more than 20 years ago when I was a pastor going through a nasty church split.

If you’ve never gone through a church split, you are very fortunate. All I can say is that Christians seldom act like Christians when a massive split is underway.

One of the disgruntled members of our church had once been a very good friend of mine. I’ll call him Ralph to protect is identity, because I don’t think he would want me writing a blog about him.

One day Ralph came, unannounced, to my office at the church and said he wanted to talk.

“Jim, I know the source of the problem that’s been causing the church’s disunity,” he told me quite earnestly. “You’ve been operating under a Jezebel spirit, and the disunity has been coming from you.”

If I had been having a better day and was full of the Holy Spirit, I may have reacted with more grace and humility. Or perhaps I may have even chuckled a little that he would make such an unfounded accusation.

But I was weary that day…frustrated…and irritated that this once-upon-a-time friend would now be one of my greatest adversaries.

“Ralph, you may be right about that Jezebel thing,” I shot back at him. “But I’m not the one it’s coming from.”

The conversation quickly degenerated as I listed three or four people who seemed to me to be operating in a divisive spirit. Defending myself as a man of peace and integrity, I slammed those I saw as troublemakers.

As you can imagine, Ralph left even more agitated than he came in. He was convinced I had stubbornly rejected the heaven-sent message he had brought me in the name of the Lord.

Within 24 hours, I learned that Ralph had secretly recorded our unseemly conversation with a hidden recorder. He played back the recording for his disgruntled friends as clear evidence that I was slandering members of the church.

Although more than 20 years have passed since my hot-mic moment, the memories still hurt. I’ve long since forgiven Ralph, and hopefully he has forgiven me as well. But I was disappointed at him, and even more disappointed in myself.

What a painful lesson. And what a reminder that we probably should treat every conversation as if it was being recorded for public consumption.

In fact, everything we speak is being recorded, as Jesus warned: “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36 ESV).

Have you ever had a hot-mic moment? Have you said something that did great damage to other people or to your own reputation?

Ironically, Hillary Clinton has had her own problems with unwise words. While she seemed to take great delight in Trump’s problems with the hot mic, WikiLeaks is now releasing hacked transcripts of her Wall Street speeches and confidential email communications of her staff. Some of her top staffers have written derogatory things about Catholics, evangelicals, Hispanics, Bernie Sanders’ supporters, and just about everyone else you can imagine.

The leaked emails from Hillary’s campaign make it clearer than ever that she is a very dishonest person, taking completely different positions in private than in public. And the emails demonstrate that the Clinton Foundation undoubtedly was involved in pay-for-play access to Hillary’s connections while at the State Department.

It’s a bit troubling that privacy is apparently now a thing of the past for any of us. Yet this wouldn’t be such a problem if we were heeding Jesus’ warning: “There is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light” (Mark 4:22).

So very true. And at times so very painful.

The apostle Paul said it this way: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT). Let’s never forget that our words are incredibly powerful, able to impart either life or death to others (Proverbs 18:21).

If anything good can come out of this election, perhaps it will be a reminder to each of us to be careful of what we say or write. You never know when someone may be watching, listening, or even recording.

And even if no one on earth hears our words, we can be sure the tape recorder in heaven is running 24/7.

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