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

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…

theology from the margins: God of Hagar

Our contexts have major implications for how we live our lives and engage with our world, that much is obvious. However, we sometimes overlook how much they inform our concepts of God. For those of us occupying the central or dominant demographic in society, we often associate God with power and truth. As a result, our theology is characterized by confidence, certainty, and an expectation that others should be accommodating. For those of us living on the margins of society, our sense of belonging stranded in ambiguity, God is seen as an advocate for the powerless. Our theology leans more toward inclusivity, and we talk less about divine holiness and righteousness and more about a God who suffers. On the margins, the priority is merciful and just action, not correct beliefs. 
There are significant theological incongruences between Christians who occupy the mainstream segment of society and those who exist on the margins. The world of theology has been dominated by Western male thought…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…