Certified Lay Speaker Notes
A collection of articles and thoughts by J.D. Baker, United Methodist Certified Lay Speaker
Three Simple Rules
As many of you know, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for work lately. Long plane rides provide an opportunity to do some reading, and one of the books I’ve been reading is Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living by Rueben Job. This is a small book, easily carried, with a big message from the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley.
The first rule is “Do No Harm” which is a lot easier to say than to do. Most of us are more concerned with what we are doing than what we are not doing. Are you donating money to the right places? Are you taking care of your family? Are you driving a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment? All of us have heard the phrase, ‘what have you done for me lately?’ TV has lots of shows about the good things that people do, like Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and my new favorite Holmes on Homes. But there probably wouldn’t be much interest in a show about what we are not doing.
So what kind of harm are we talking about? Most of us are never going to break-in to rob a store or mug a little old lady. But there are other things we do that it might be better not to do. Do you drive aggressively? Even if it doesn’t cause an accident, you’re probably going to annoy someone. If the person you annoy hasn’t thought about doing no harm, then that annoyance can be passed along and the unintended consequence of your driving has caused an expanding ripple of harm. The same thing is true about being disrespectful or any other harmful thing you might do. Intentionally or unintentionally it doesn’t matter. It’s definitely time for all of us to work on doing no harm. That doesn’t mean we don’t continue to try to change things to make them better. It just means we need to do it in a way that doesn’t do harm.
When I wanted to reflect more on what it means to do no harm, I turned to the internet. To my surprise I found the Do No Harm organization and web site – http://www.donoharm.us/index.html. Here are their rules. Think about them, and work on your sense of humor.
The “Do No Harm” Rules
If you think you’re a member,
You’re a member.
If you think you’re not a member,
You’re an honorary member.
There are no dues or fees.
There are no donations.
There is no official language or terminology.
There are no approved or disapproved concepts.
There is nothing special that you must believe.
There is nothing special that you must do or not do.
But . . . do no harm.
p.s: Although not required, a sense of humor is helpful.
Three Simple Rules: Rule #2
Last month we learned about rule number 1 – Do No Harm. Now that you’ve been practicing doing nothing for a month, it’s time to do something and that something is simply – Good.
Now you would think that I would be used to the “coincidental” things that happen to me, but usually when something happens to nudge or guide me in a particular direction, I don’t realize I’ve been nudged or guided until I stop to think about it. Let me set the stage for one of my latest nudges. It’s 7:00 PM at the end of a frustrating week of work in Minneapolis and exactly one day after I had written my article for the June Valley Spirit on the first of the Three Simple Rules. My client had cut the work week short for me so I had nothing to do on Friday, but I was unable to get an early flight out. My frequent flier status had enabled me to book one of my favorite seats in row 6 on an Airbus aircraft – a bulkhead seat on the aisle, with extra legroom and a place to put the stuff I wanted inflight under the seat in front of me. A young woman sat down next to me with a child that couldn’t have been more than 8 months old. I talked with her a little, and made faces at the lovely girl baby. As the last of the passengers were getting on the plane, her husband stood next our row and asked if either I or the woman in the window seat would trade with him. He, of course, had been assigned a middle seat, a couple rows back. I briefly considered how I could say no, and then agreed to changed seats.
You might be thinking that I’m telling you this story so you can see how easy it is to find ways to do good, or you might be thinking that I’m bragging a little about my small sacrifice. But those aren’t the reasons I’m telling you this story. I should have felt good about doing this small thing for a young family, but the truth is that I felt some resentment toward that young man for asking me to give up my choice seat. Every time the man on my left elbowed or kicked me, that resentment flared. I kept thinking about things I could have said or excuses I could have made to keep my original seat. About half-way to Denver the Three Simple Rules finally made their way into my consciousness. I realized how foolish I had been. I had made three people happy by simply changing seats, and it did feel good to do good. With that out of the way, I started to think more about that simple rule to do good.
Was it enough to respond to those opportunities to do good that just came along, or was there more to it? Go to the head of the class if you have figured out that there must be more or this article would be done by now. We need to begin to look for ways to intentionally do good. Often we have a choice in how we do things, although we don’t always recognize those choices. One that occurred to me recently is the way we buy our coffee. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has a coffee project (http://www.equalexchange.coop/umcor) that “is an innovative way to reach out to small-scale farmers in the developing world while enjoying fellowship and an excellent cup of coffee. As Christians we can address a consumer dilemma by buying coffee that is fairly traded.” We can do good simply by deciding where to buy our coffee for the fellowship hour after service. As soon as I figure out who is reponsible for purchasing coffee I intend to get RUMC participating in that program to do good. That is just a small sample of what we can all do if we just look for the choices. How are you going to “do good” today, tomorrow, and all the days to come?
Three Simple Rules, Part 3
I recently did an internet search for “3 simple rules” looking for a study guide for Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules.” The search results included “3 Simple Rules for Building a Wine Cellar,” a web site on behavior management, and another site on financial management. Of course there were some that refered to Wesley’s Three Simple Rules as well, including the study guide I was looking for. So, caution number one – not all rules are created equal, so we need to carefully consider which set of rules to follow.
Recall the first two of Weseley’s rules - 1)Do no harm. 2)Do good. They are straight-forward, easy to understand, and practiced by many people who may not even attend church. It is following rule 3 that sets us apart from those people who are doing good for their own reason. Wesley wants us to “Stay in Love With God.” I think this phrasing is interesting, as it implies that at some point we got in love with God. What does it mean to be in love with God?
Consider 1 Peter 1:22-23.
“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.”
This passage seems to say that our love of God should be manifested in love for one another, with the basis of that love being our faith. Faith that our sins have been expunged through Jesus’ death on the cross as a result of our repentance. But how do we repent? By now you have probably figured out my next move – search the internet, which I did and found http://www.tasteheavennow.net/index.htm. I haven’t had a chance to read it all, but one thing that Barry Hall wrote seem
“Think of repentance as a process of changing your mind—a process of finding freedom to turn to God by changing how you think about your earthly ways and about God. Deep level change isn’t going to happen just because you know something in your head. You have to direct your heart toward God by taking steps to calm your fears and build your faith. Repentance is about training your heart. You have to become a teacher and your own heart has to become your student. You have to work with your heart to make it easier for you to turn and draw near to God.”
So I encourage you to meditate on 1 Peter 1:22-23 or Colossians 2: 6-7 or 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, and consider how you can get backi in love with God if necessary, and then stay in love.
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