Did I Ask For This?

What is it about some people who just can’t help but give you advice, even when you didn’t ask for it? It’s one of my pet peeves. Truthfully, I think we all do it sometimes, it’s a human disorder. I’m going to do it right now. So, if you don’t want to hear my advice, stop reading. When we hear someone share a problem, we often feel it’s an opportunity to dispense our wisdom rather than exercise our listening skills. With limited information about the real situation, we offer advice that can be ill-timed, out of context and usually just wrong. We might be well motivated but that doesn’t mean we have something worth offering. The bigger issue, however, is that we need to listen more than speak. We need to listen to wise counsel. Plenty of proverbs confirm this:Plans are established by seeking advice;    so if you wage war, obtain guidance. Proverbs 20:18Plans fail for lack of counsel,    but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 Everyone loves giving advice but the big question is, who should your advisers be? Who should you be listening to? Proverbs encourages us to find wisdom and reminds us that finding trustworthy people is important. Not every friend is a good counselor, we must choose wisely. We need friends who love us and speak the truth, not just words of flattery. We need counselors who are patient and willing to ask us deep questions. People who have some gifts of discernment. Above all, people who themselves are listening for the guidance of God’s spirit. The book of Proverbs is careful to identify a fool as someone who thinks they don’t need anybody’s counsel, including God’s. The wise person seeks good counsel. Wisdom often lies in the decision about who we can trust to guard our stories and our pain. My advice is this: don’t go through life without those individuals who can speak real wisdom into your life. It may take time to find them, but it is worth it. I hope and pray you have some of those wise counselors and friends around you. If you don’t, then start to pray that they will show up in your life. You are going to need them.

Taking the Right Path

If you have done any hiking in Switzerland, you are probably grateful for those little yellow signs that are ubiquitous. The signs not only point out the direction of the next town or summit but also give you an estimated amount of time it will take to get there. Even when you have done all your planning, it is helpful to have those signs point you the right way. There are times however when we have gotten a little lost. We have been exploring some of the pathways around our new home. It’s not always clear which is the right way even when the labels are there. And more than once we have found ourselves on the wrong path, which usually means everything takes a little longer. Recently, we took a wrong turn and found the path getting steeper and narrower as we went along. It was a tough climb, but we made it to the top. There we discovered a much wider and easier climb would have been possible if we had paid attention to the signs more closely. The Bible uses this imagery of pathways to talk about our choices in life. There’s a path that God has planned for us. And there’s a path that only leads to more difficulty and estrangement from him. Trust in the Lord with all your heart    and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,    and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 If you read Proverbs 3, you’ll see there are some things we need to do to stay on this path. It’s not always the easiest way. Humbling ourselves and giving thought to the needs of others may not come naturally. But God does want to see you on the straight path. You can trust his directions.

Scam Callers

My cell phone rang a week ago as I walked to the church. Although I didn’t recognize the number, I answered. It was a recording from the Basel Police Department saying there had been suspicious activity connected with my Swiss Identity card. We recently moved apartments and I had been showing my card to different authorities, so my first assumption was that it was related to our move. The recording continued. The voice said that a warrant had been issued for my arrest due to this activity. Then I was instructed to press 1 in order to speak with a police officer immediately or I would be arrested today. I hung up. It took me a few seconds to realize this was the beginning of a scam. For one thing, the call was in English. The police department would be using German. Second, I’ve lived in Switzerland long enough to know this isn’t how the police operate. I’m more likely to get a fine in the mail than be arrested for some infraction over my ID card. The call made me angry because I knew these operators would eventually snag someone and demand money from them before the victim discovered it was all a fraud. This is what they call an ‘Imposter Scam’ and versions of this are now among the most popular fraudulent actions. Estimates vary but between 8.8 and 29 billion dollars were lost to these cons last year in the United States. No one really knows how to calculate the worldwide loss. The most frustrating thing about it all is how difficult it is to do anything about it. Authorities can’t seem to shut this stuff down. There are a lot of unjust things in our world. Many of them are far worse than a phone scam. At times, we can despair about the state of our world, the way people behave and whether anyone can help. God’s word assures us that there is justice, and we can expect a proper accounting of these things. Meanwhile, we are to live by honest and righteous standards and not give in to the corruption around us. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,    but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9) There are some issues that will not be rectified in this lifetime. In the end, God’s justice will prevail. We must let him take care of that.