Written by James E. Bruce |
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
In disputes, whether in a deliberative assembly or in everyday life, referring back to what was said becomes crucial. Having accurate minutes helps. (If only we had accurate minutes for some of our everyday conversations!) Because Robert’s Rules requires the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, everyone has an opportunity to reflect on, and endorse, what was decided. Good minutes hold people accountable for promised performance. If someone, especially an officer, fails to fulfill a directive, approved minutes can make clear what that person should have done. Good minutes also serve as a to-do list for the future.
I rise in favor of Robert’s Rules of Order. Often criticized as arcane and cumbersome, it actually serves as a marvelous guide to how people should engage in healthy debate when they gather together.
One objection to Robert’s Rules is that it doesn’t allow people to be themselves. It’s seen as jilted, stilted, and wilted; it doesn’t promote casual, conversational engagement.
This objection is unfair. First, for small gatherings, its committee rules make the structure less rigid and more conversational.
Second, for large assemblies, casual conversation is impossible. So the alternative to Robert’s Rules — or something like it — is not friendly engagement but chaos. In fact, Robert (the man himself) wrote his Rules after seeing a Baptist church try to have a congregational meeting. As an extrovert, I don’t mind talking over people to get my point across. However, a free-for-all gabfest fails to ensure that all positions, especially those of the minority, are heard. Robert’s Rules addresses this issue by providing a way to ensure that all voices are heard — even quiet ones.
Another advantage of Robert’s Rules is its facilitation of quick and easy consensus, when appropriate, and the ability to resolve thorny issues, when things get more complicated. Rules seem arcane and unimportant . . . until they are essential for the smooth functioning of a meeting. Then we see how necessary they are.
Let’s consider calling the question, which sounds strange to unpracticed ears. What is a question, and why is anyone calling it? Calling the question is a request to vote on the main topic under consideration. But this explanation just raises another question: Why should anyone vote on whether to vote?
I’ve got this one for the team: Stopping debate limits the freedom of members to speak on an issue. As such, there is a higher, two-thirds threshold for calling the question than there is for the simple majority vote on a topic at hand.
Sure, this rule may seem strange, but it makes sense: In faculty meetings or Presbytery meetings, I find that even professors and pastors find it difficult to stand before their peers and speak on an issue. And that’s people who speak for a living! Imagine a homeowner association, composed of many people who do not speak for a living.
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By Trevin Wax — 8 months ago
We should be less focused on the personality stereotype of a test or survey and more concerned that we showcase the glory and grace of God, no matter what our inclinations may be. These tests can help us see the unique ways we can bring glory to Christ, but in the end, finding myself isn’t the goal. Following Christ is what counts.
I enjoy personality tests. Some are more helpful than others, but at their best, surveys tell you something about yourself and the people you live or work with. (I’ve discovered I’m an extrovert in a family of introverts, although the jury’s still out on our youngest!) I’m partial to the Myers-Briggs, but I’ve engaged in multiple tests over the years, at work and for fun.
The problem with personality tests, though, is we can sometimes dismiss or diminish clear biblical standards that don’t align with our self-perception.
A Christian’s Talk
Take, for instance, what James 1:19–20 says about a Christian’s talk and temperament:
My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness (CSB).
In our cultural context, it’s never been easier to speak and to be heard. The internet, social media…all these new technologies have made it possible for us to say more things publicly than in any other time in human history, to the point some cultural observers wonder out loud, Is this even good for us? Should we be taking in this much information or putting out so many words? Were humans ever intended to speak so much?
Everything in our world makes it easy to speak quickly. There’s nothing out there designed to help you learn to listen well. The way stuff is set up online, the way people climb the ladder socially or professionally, the way people debate—everything is set up for speech. Say something! But Proverbs 17:27–28 says,
The one who has knowledge restrains his words,and one who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding.Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent—discerning, when he seals his lips (CSB).
In other words, if you’re wise, you won’t talk as much. You’ll restrain your words. You won’t vent all your frustrations. You won’t say everything you feel.
Some will say, “Hey, I’m a talker! I’m just being real! That’s just my personality. I blurt things out. I just say stuff without thinking. It’s my Myers-Briggs. That’s my Enneagram number. Have you seen my StrengthsFinders? I’m just keeping it real.”
Sorry, but if you’re a Christian, that’s not what “keeping it real” means. James doesn’t say to be quick to listen and slow to speak unless you’re extroverted. Unless you’re talkative. Unless you have a big following on TikTok or Instagram. No, what he says goes for all of us.
By Peter Mead — 1 year ago
Christians seem to feel a pull in one of two directions — both of which are away from the reality of the Spirit’s work. Both directions negate that the Holy Spirit is a divine person rather they portray him as a mere impersonal force. Both distract believers from a beautiful and central element of the Christian life.
Some years ago, I wrote about a blind spot in contemporary theology. In our church, we have just enjoyed a series about the Holy Spirit. In preaching this series, my mind has returned to this apparent blind spot. Yes, we know that Satan hates Jesus, marriage, and evangelism. But perhaps we should also consider his hatred for the Holy Spirit.
There is a logically obvious connection here. Satan hates God. The Holy Spirit is God, so therefore, Satan must hate the Holy Spirit. But it will be helpful to move past the obvious and ponder the specific reasons.
In the World
We see the enemy’s work as we look at the world around us. For example, we see cults, and we see secular society. In the cults, there is always an undermining of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. So, God gets twisted from a gloriously loving tri-unity into a solitary and monadic power broker. As portrayed by the cults, God can even seem devilish and antagonistic. Thus, the Holy Spirit becomes just an impersonal force.
In secular society, the idea of God is also twisted into a perversion and caricature of reality. As society bombards the population with elevated notions of personal autonomy and a corrupted morality, the convicting work of the Spirit is directly opposed. People are coached not to feel guilty for sin, yet many are convinced they should feel hopelessly guilty for who they are.
In the Church
We also see the enemy’s work as we look within the church. It would be nice to imagine that his attack would lose energy once people become followers of Jesus. Reality reminds us that this is never the case. Does the enemy stop attacking marriage once people know Jesus? Are we no longer tempted to sin once we are believers? Of course not. We must then assume the enemy’s antagonism to the Holy Spirit will also continue within the church setting.
By Pete Hurst — 2 years ago
By the time we reached the shore, taxied to our cottage, and unpacked our bags, I was in a full-blown state of great anxiety; and though I was wishing hard for it to leave me, I knew it was going nowhere anytime soon. This was not the first time I had ever felt this way. It had been some years since it was this bad, and I was thankful for that; but right now, all I could think of was how to get rid of it. Before I came on the trip, life was good; now, on the trip, I wanted life to be good. But it wasn’t.
An Unexpected Journey
My wife and I had just returned from a most relaxing vacation when our Friend came by and engaged me in a conversation. You need to understand that He’s not your average friend. He’s the most special Friend we have ever had, and we have learned to trust Him completely, even when we have doubts about some of the things He says to us.
“Pete, we’re going on a trip.” He said.
“Okay,” I said, “whatever you say; let us get our things packed and we’ll be ready to go.”
“Your wife isn’t going,” He replied; “it’s just going to be me and you.”
It all seemed a little mysterious to me, but over the years I had learned to trust my Friend, and I knew He always had my best interests at heart; and my wife said that this was fine with her; she was happy for me and our Friend to have some alone time together.
“We’re going to an island,” He said; “I will pick you up late tomorrow afternoon. There’s an overnight ferry boat we will catch, and we’ll try to get what sleep we can on it, before we get there in the morning.”
An island, I thought; maybe it’s like one of those private islands the cruise lines own in the Bahamas. Sounds like fun. Swimming, fishing, lying out in the sun and soaking up all that good vitamin D. I was ready to roll.
Sleep wasn’t the greatest on our trip over to the island, but I eventually fell asleep around 2 am and woke up just as we were approaching the island at daybreak.
“What’s this island called?” I asked my Friend.
“This is Anxious Isle,” He replied.
The island was covered with a dark cloud that seemed to smother the place and showed no sign of lifting anytime soon. There was no hint of a breeze to blow it away.
“Boy, it sure looks depressing,” I said.
The truth was, it didn’t just look that way; it was starting to feel that way. As we got nearer to the shore, my feeling of depression only increased, and I could feel my blood pressure rising, as my anxiety seemed to explode within me in a matter of minutes.
By the time we reached the shore, taxied to our cottage, and unpacked our bags, I was in a full-blown state of great anxiety; and though I was wishing hard for it to leave me, I knew it was going nowhere anytime soon.
This was not the first time I had ever felt this way. It had been some years since it was this bad, and I was thankful for that; but right now, all I could think of was how to get rid of it. Before I came on the trip, life was good; now, on the trip, I wanted life to be good. But it wasn’t.
Another similarity between the anxiety I was having now with what I had experienced on previous occasions was that the anxiety was tied to some current crisis going on in my life, or else fear of something that might happen to me in the future, or even had happened in the past. It could concern my health, a legal matter, a financial concern, an employment issue, a regret for something I had done in the past, or something else. But here’s the weird part–looking over the past times when I had been overcome, the fear of what might happen relating to various things which brought on the anxiety– these things never materialized; or, at least, when there were unpleasant consequences, my mindset had been reprogrammed to overcome the anxiety, so I accepted any consequences with contentment.
My Friend and I sat in the living room staring at one another.
“We’ve been here before,” I said.
“We sure have,” He said.
“I guess there’s no chance we could go back home right now, is there?” I asked.
“Not a chance,” He responded.
“Okay,” I said. “I know the drill; I guess I’d best get started.”
The cottage was adequately furnished, so we were very comfortable. In my bedroom, the living room and the enclosed porch there was a copy of the Book. The Book was a collection of some of the things my Friend had said about all kinds of subjects. The Book informed about everything from the creation of the world to how to address personal problems in one’s life. Right now, it was the latter I needed; I had the personal problem of overwhelming anxiety, and the Book would be most important to get me straightened out, just like it had been so instrumental in the past.
The first two days, I studied everything the Book had to say about anxiety. There were commands about not worrying, and, while I could agree that was a good thing, the problem was, I couldn’t quit. There were directives to let my Friend have my anxieties, and direct instructions not to be anxious, because my Friend was going to be with me in all the messes of life, and therefore I should not be anxious. I agreed all this was good, but it just wasn’t getting through to me. I needed help.
So during the first couple of days, I approached my Friend and asked for help. If He was in the living room, I’d ask for help there. If it was in the middle of the night and the anxiety was keeping me awake, I would go where He was and ask for help. He was always available to me, and He always heard what I was saying; and He even had a compassionate expression when I begged for His help; but for those first two days, He had very little to say except to encourage me to keep studying the Book for what help I could get.
Besides directives about anxiety, the Book also gave me examples of other people who had gone through this before, and how they had not only survived, but came out much better people on the other side. I realized my experiences of overcoming anxiety episodes in the past were just like many of these I read about. And I knew that all the promises of help and the love of my Friend for me were true as well, but the problem remained; the anxiety wasn’t going away. I would have times of relief, and then something would trigger another anxiety attack, and the downward spiral was set in motion.
By the third and fourth day, it seemed like I might be starting to make a little progress, but it did not come as I had expected. My friend was ready to talk to me now, but the way He explained it was that now I was ready to listen. Two days of anxiety agony, night and day, had humbled me to where I was ready to listen and learn.
My Friend began, “You’ve been moving along in life like you have the world by the tail and now all of a sudden you realize you don’t.”
“Yes,” I timidly responded.
He continued, “There’s a story in the Book about a King David who grew overconfident in himself as well, and had to be brought down a notch or two.”
“I know,” I said; “I was reading that this morning, and I’m ready to receive whatever you have to say to correct me.”
“Good,” He said; “I’ve got a list here. We might as well get started on it.”
“First, I’ve given you some success in some areas of your life, and I think you could do a much better job of giving credit to where credit is due.”
“I agree, and I’m sorry; please forgive me. I want to definitely work on that.”
“Second, the root cause of your anxiety is your concern for yourself. You are concerned that nothing bad come of the situation you’re in right now, for your sake. There’s nothing wrong with trying to protect yourself, but you’ve blown it up to where you are what everything is about, and that’s no good.”
“I agree. I’m not thinking of You or others, and I am much too preoccupied with myself. Please forgive me and help me with this.”
“Third, you know the Book talks about particular sins in each of our lives to which we individually are more susceptible. Well, even though you have made a lot of progress, you aren’t working to overcome yours like you should. You need to get more brutal with these, because they are ugly and they horribly offend Me. Plus, I’ve got some stuff for you to do in the future, stuff that may bring far greater anxiety than you are experiencing now; so you can’t be carrying around this garbage with you; it has to go.”
“Done,” I said. “You know in my heart I agree, and by Your help I know I can put these particular sins to death. Thank You for confronting me. And I also know that once we get some progress in one area, another will arise. I’m in for every battle going forward, because I know You will be with me.”
“Guess you didn’t think you were in for a long list like this,” He continued, “but, fourth, unbelief. In some things it’s like you couldn’t have stronger faith, and in other things, you are so weak and wavering. You need to fully believe every promise of the Book, because the One who gives them can be believed totally. And that brings up another thing: sometimes, God blesses you in a spectacular way, and you don’t welcome and receive it. You can thank Him for things other people thank Him for, but then He gives you something that blows your socks off; and instead of being thankful, you start looking for something that will go wrong in what He has given. You need to get a grip. You need to understand that He loves you, and accept His gifts, whether they be small or big.”
“I could not agree more. Often I pray for help with my unbelief, and just being in the Book more these last few days has helped a lot with that. And You’re right about the big blessings too; it is so small of me not to see how big and generous God is, and how much I am loved.”
I accepted everything my Friend told me and spent time praying, reading the Book, and meditating on all I knew that was true, and trying to apply it to my situation.
By now, my time on Anxious Isle was getting a little better, or at least the anxiety episodes were farther apart by the fifth and sixth days. There were special parts of the Book that I would go to often; I spent a lot of time talking with my Friend and working through things and counseling myself with what I was reading and hearing.
The Sun Shines Brightly
The day finally arrived for us to leave Anxious Isle. But before we could leave, it was mandatory for My Friend and me to have a very important conversation. We sat in the living room, as we had on the first day of our trip. Running through my head were all the things I needed to hear and learn and be reminded of. I was genuinely thankful, and I was also more sensitive to others who find themselves on Anxious Isle and how I might help them.
My Friend looked at me and said, “You know, you have been really anxious about messing up something. You have been worried about consequences for yourself, about embarrassing Me and others. You need to realize that God loves you. He has given you all you have; in reality, you own nothing, and you are a steward, sort of an administrator over all He has given. This applies to your house, any possessions you have, and even your gifts and talents, your physical body, everything. Everything is His; you manage it for Him. Now, hear His truth to you: He says, “I love you; I have given you all you have, and all you have is mine. I want you to use what I have given you the best you can. Invest, take risks, use your intellect, your talents, whatever. If something doesn’t turn out okay, that’s fine. If you get in hot water, I will be right there with you. If something succeeds, great. Nothing will change My love for you. You don’t need to get yourself all tied up in anxious knots because you may screw up. Everything will be fine with Me. I love you.’”
I just sat there, silent. I was so overcome with God’s love to me that I just wanted to enjoy the sunshine as it poured into my soul.
The next day, we left Anxious Isle, and I was glad we took the day ferry. I stood on the side of the ship, enjoyed the breeze, and stared at the island we were leaving behind. I realized I’d probably have to come back another day; I hoped it would be later rather than sooner. However, because of the good it had been for me to visit, I could not argue with my Friend’s wisdom for taking me there. Truly, He loves me and has my best interest in mind. Because I’m not on the island doesn’t mean I never have anxious thoughts or episodes now and again; but they are not 24/7 like what I had gone through that week.
Yes, it was an unexpected journey, but it was a necessary journey and good one, and I’m glad My Friend took me on it.
If you find yourself on Anxious Isle, I trust you will seek the help of my Friend and His Book. My Friend is Jesus Christ and the Book is the Bible. God bless you.
Pete Hurst is a retired Minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and associate broker in real estate. He and his wife live in Yorktown, Virginia. He sometimes blogs at GodsFool.com.