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Sorting through the mess

Maybe it's just me, but I've had to develop a system for sorting through the mail every day. What with junk mail, solicitations addressed to Sonny Holmes or Current Occupant, keys to the new car the dealer has reserved for me if I win, burial insurance promotions, reverse mortgage offers, discount coupons in periodicals, and a few pieces of legitimate mail we'd be covered up in a couple of days if I didn't have a way to sort through it all. So, between the mail box and our condominium I separate mail into two piles for special handling. The real mail goes inside. The rest hits the trash barrel before I walk in the door. What this means is I've had to develop an eye for what is good and what isn't.

It's almost the same with telephone calls. These slick people with the lower interest rates on a credit card call every single day from telephone numbers spread around the country to fake us out. Caller ID let's us know they are in Ware Shoals, South Carolina; Sanford, North Carolina; Tupelo, Mississippi; or, Decorah, Iowa. Most are from "unavailable", a tongue twister for the caller ID voice. A good many of the hokier ones are about deals or cruises we've won or the recent recall of a vehicle we've never owned. It's another learning curve, the discernment to take the calls we want and let the other ones go to voice mail or never-never land.

It's the same with news media, television programming, columnists, political wonks, sports talking heads, and just about every other human venue that may light my fire. Somewhere in the process of finding adulthood I've had to learn what edifies, encourages, and builds me, and what ignites my afterburners. Most of us are in that same predicament. We have a worldview, ideals, values, a framework for life, opinions, prejudices, political leanings, and a favorite toothpaste. If we're to believe the researchers we're all different. Some people, ideas, editorial pieces, television shows, news commentaries, sideline interviews, and political essays resonate with the principles that I claim as my own. Others ignite the worst in me. Yes, it would be good if I could learn from them and grow in the areas of personal immaturity or simple ignorance. But, and you know it's true, they usually make me angry, and put flame to the fuses that life often places under us.

So, I've expanded my concept of evil. Yes, there is objective good and evil in this world. My heart is also a habitat for evil, And, like it or not, somethings out there, while not actually meeting a literal definition of evil, can explode those evil inclinations in me so that the works of the flesh are manifest, even if briefly. And you know what they are----

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,

idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,

divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

Galatians 5:19-21, ESV

And, yes, I do know the end of that verse. People who live like this don't inherit the Kingdom. So, they should not characterize my life.

Paul wrote it. "Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good" (Romans 12:9, ESV).

And, that's why I sort through the mail, screen telephone calls, closely monitor what i read and watch on television, and avoid certain subjects when talking to certain people. It is the silly discipline of distancing myself, at least to some degree, from those things that would incite evil in me. Let me repeat this very clear side-bar. None of those things---mail, telephone calls, television, advertisements, politicians, talking heads, or the rest---are actually evil. They just often trigger the worst in me. For that reason, they are most often off limits.

Sorting through the mess is a necessary life process these days. Every single day we must decide the value of so many things that could influence us one way or another. Some inputs are worth whatever we have to invest to make them part of our learning and daily process. Others can and should be discarded. It's always startling how many small, incidental things can complicate or irritate our lives. And, when we're engulfed by things of little consequence, the effects can hurt the people around us, sometimes people we really cherish.

Paul reminded the Corinthians that, "Bad company ruins good morals" (1 Corinthians 15:33). Sorting through the mess taught me that bad company is not always another person, but can be those other things that influence the worst in me.

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