Pentecost 42/43


Discernment has become a really popular word these days.  You seldom hear people say “I’m gonna have to think about that.”  Instead nowadays they tend to say ‘I’m in the process of discerning how I feel or what I think.”  And that really makes me mad.  We have taken a great word, one considered to be a gift of the Holy Spirit for those who are of the Christian faith, and turned it upside down. 


I am currently doing a study on this topic and I freely admit that it is not one I enjoy.  Today the word has become a synonym for “thinking” or more often, “judgment”.  In its simplest meaning, the word refers to one having an understanding.  In its most convoluted definition, it means to sit in judgement on someone.  It is a subject that is indeed complicated.  Even in the earliest of scriptures it is confusing.  The book of Matthew advises “Judge Not” while in some of his writings and several other books of the Bible, Paul instructs one to “make a right judgement”.


Let’s take an example any reader of this blog can understand, without much “discernment” needed.  This is somewhere around my eight hundred and sixtieth blog to publish consecutively.  I do other things and have other responsibilities.  The numbering of these blogs is based upon how I organize them and like papers in an office, one occasionally gets misfiles.  In my case, that means misnumbered.  That is why in the title of today’s piece it has both the number 42 and the number 43.  If going by yesterday’s post, it is number 42 because yesterday’s was number 43.  If going by actuality, it is number 43 because I incorrectly numbered one a week ago and had two number 37’s.  Actually, neither of those is truly correct because technically today is the fifty-eighth day of Pentecost the way I number them.  I had two periods of silence out of respect for the innocent people killed by acts of terrorism and so the count is off.  By the way most religions count it, because Sundays are not considered as days of the season but as days of celebration or feast days, it is the fiftieth day of Pentecost which is really fitting since Pentecost means fifty. 


If you are still reading you are problem caught in the tangled web of numbering so let me discern it simply for you.  I messed up.  I made a mistake.  My numbering got off because I was being respectful to people who died in Orlando and Istanbul.  It also got off because I am human and ended up with two posts numbered “37”.  The numbering has absolutely nothing to do with my blog or the content of each post.  While I would dearly love more followers and readers to this blog, anyone reading just to gripe at the numbering can unfollow. 


In the light of the most recent attack in Dallas, I posted a picture on Facebook regarding the hope of one day having peace on the earth.  It seemed very innocuous.  I mean, who could possibly protest an innocent picture proposing peace?  The word innocuous is a combination of two words, language at its finest and also most complicated.  It dates back to the Latin word “nocere” from which we get the word innocent.  Since both innocuous and innocent mean not harmful or pure, people are sometimes surprised to learn that “nocere” means exactly the opposite.  It translates as harmful or causing injury.  It is the prefix “in” that changes the meaning and negates the original root word. 


Clearly this is a great example of our needing to pay attention and yet, why protest a picture advocating peace on earth?  What type of discernment ends up thinking peace on earth is wrong?  Is this just a sign of our modern times in which it seems that people’s number one hobby is judging others?  Apparently not because the writer John wrote in the Gospel of John, also in the Bible, chapter seven, verse twenty-four: “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgement.”  In other words, don’t just judge by the appearance of things but by the reality of them.


I have received many wonderful comments from you the reader and I think all of you who labor through my miscounting and typos to read my humble words.  For those who have reposted, thank you.  For those who have asked questions, thank you.  For those who are challenging me to think further, thank you.  Your responses and reading are acts of kindness and support and they keep me going.  You overlook my human shortcomings to discern whether or not there is something you can take from the post. 


Not every post I write I like.  That may come as a surprise but my intent when I began was just to take the plunge, accept the challenge and post every day.  My first two months were not an overwhelming success or so I thought.  Then I heard from another more experienced blogger who thought I was doing great.  Their experience taught them a better discernment of what I was doing because I really knew nothing about it.  Then I realized that if I took my statistics and pretended they were a batting average for a major league baseball player, I’d be getting a better contract.  In other words, I was doing great. 


The RBI statistic in baseball stands for runs batted in when a player is at bat and is one of the biggest tools of discernment for determining a player’s worth or value to the team.  It is based upon one thousand hits but an RBI of less than fifty percent is expected.  What?  How many bosses are happy with less than fifty percent success?  Currently, in this 2016 baseball season, Jose Altuve has the highest RBI at .341.  He has hit fourteen homeruns and been responsible for fifty-one runs that were batted in at his time at the plate. 


The player from Venezuela is a member of the Houston Astros team.  In the last ten games, Jose Altuve has been responsible for five runs but the Astros are not looking to trade him.  Why?  Because they realize it is not just about the player but about who else is in the batting order, the weather, their opponent – a great many things factor into the RBI statistic. 


As we go about our daily living, the most extraordinary thing we can do is respond with kindness.  We all have to make decisions and discern things.  We should.  There is a great need to figure out what actions are correct and positive and will yield good results.  Killing innocent people is not a good discerning choice.  It solves nothing and just creates more havoc and chaos. 


Discerning with kindness is a more effective use of our thinking.  Peace on earth may seem like a silly pipe dream but what if it wasn’t?  What if we all went through today being kind and that in turn created a more peaceful environment? Instead of responding to my post with talk of devils in the world, my commenters had discerned the hope and faith in my post?  Why do we equate judging someone with high thinking skills?  Where has kindness gone?  Where in the recesses of our minds have we hidden it?


We should never stop trying to make things better or right so that all have an equal chance in life.  That requires us to think and decide.  Surely, though, we can do that with kindness and not delight in the negative nor emphasize the evil.  I am not going to close down my blog because I made a mistake.  I am not perfect.  I hope my readers discern my intentions and find their own ways to make an ordinary day extraordinary.  A really good start is to practice kindness.  It is as good as hitting a homerun out of the park!


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