Skip to main content

know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em

I have been playing poker quite a bit with my friends lately and one would think that I should be getting better at it, but sadly, too often I can be read like a book and so can my strategy and my cards.

I made some bad decisions this week. One of them was opening my mouth when I should have kept it shut. We all (at least I assume we all do) have this dialogue inside our heads that tries to figure out what is going on in our lives, or work through choices, or resolve issues, or explain feelings, or analyse situations, or think and plan ahead. This week, when someone asked what was going on with me, I proceeded to verbalise that internal dialogue and as soon as I did, I realised that it was the least helpful, gracious or appropriate thing I could have done.

A few years ago, I worked at a job with a meeting planning company whose controller was a no-nonsense, abrupt, and by reputation unpleasant at times, person to work for. She called me one day to ask me to extend my contract with the company, and I replied that I wasn't sure if this situation would work out for me longer term as I had moved and blah blah blah blah. I heard a bit of a "humph" at the other end of the line and she told me that she would expect my answer the next day and hung up. I realised that she was not interested in (nor had the time for) all the things I was thinking about regarding the situation - she just wanted a decision. Overinformation irritated her and wasted her time. I learned my lesson and in any further conversations with her, always got directly to the point and supplied only the information she asked for.

Here are a few guidelines I worked out this week as I learned another lesson about when to speak and when to be silent:

1. When the situation is not about me and should not become about me, I should not unload my thoughts or feelings or struggles and even if directly asked how I am doing, graciously keep the focus on the person or matter at hand.

2. When I am in the middle of working something out in my life, it is probably not a good time to talk indepth about my inconclusive struggles to anyone else (except a trusted confidant or counselor).

3. Very often when I am learning a life lesson, I will encounter someone else who is in much the same situation. If I wait for God to open up an opportunity to dialogue respectfully and openly about it, most times there is some measure of healing that comes out of it for both of us. However, when I am premature or force the conversation, it is unproductive and sometimes harmful.

4. Being a vulnerable and transparent person does not mean that everyone gets to see and hear everything I am thinking. It means I do not withhold myself from those that God places in my life, give myself fully to the situations and lessons he brings my way, and most of all be fully surrendered and available to him.

This photo was taken in South Africa during a round of poker.


Popular posts from this blog

what does the cross mean?

Words which we use a lot can sometimes become divested of their depth of meaning. In the Christian tradition, we talk about the cross a lot. We see visual representations of the cross in prominent places in our gathering spaces, we wear crosses around our necks, some get crosses tattooed on their bodies. The cross is a ubiquitous symbol in Christianity, so lately I have been asking myself, what exactly does the cross mean? For the most part, the cross as portrayed in contemporary Christianity is a beautiful thing, festooned with flowers and sunsets and radiant beams of light (just google cross or cross coloring page). But in the first century, the cross was a symbol of disgrace. To the Roman empire, this ignoble instrument of death was for those who were traitors and enemies of the state. We are many centuries removed from this view of the cross as the locus of torture and death and shame. The fact that Christianity has made the cross a symbol of hope and beauty is a good thing, but p…

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.


When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…