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Ask Father Paul – Smart vs Wise

2015 May 29

Paul MasseyDEAR FATHER PAUL:

I am a 41 year-old woman. My teachers always told me, “you are so smart,” but I am beginning to wonder. I am a professional with two college degrees and an IQ of 137. Last week a friend asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. She said, “if you are so smart, why is your life always in such a mess?”

Truth is I have made lots and lots of very bad decisions over the years. I recently divorced my third husband. All three were jerks. I have made tons of bad financial decisions as well and have bankrupted twice. Add to this substance abuse, “wrong” friends and “turning over a new leaf” every few months which never seems to last, and you get the picture. My dad died when I was seven and I need some “fatherly” advice.

Thanks,

Jane (not my real name)

DEAR “JANE”:

Don’t despair. There are untold millions of people on planet earth today who are exactly like you. Pastors meet these people every day in counselling sessions. I know exactly what is wrong and I know exactly the cure. Its simple, but often not easy for “smart” people like you to accept.

Your problem, in a nutshell, is that you are indeed smart, but you are not wise … and the two are not, I repeat, not the same thing.

“Smart” means that you can learn readily and easily, that you have a “quick” mind, that you have innate curiosity and that you can quickly grasp difficult and complex concepts. Your 137 IQ (your Intelligence Quotient) is not “genius,” but it is indeed in the higher range.

But again (and this is important), “smarts” and wisdom are not the same things.

From what you tell me, up until now at least, it sounds like you may have been smart, but you have not been very wise. College degrees do not guarantee wisdom. Look at it this way. Being wise, or possessing wisdom means that you can make good decisions … decisions that turn out well for you and well for others. In other words, a wise person makes “wise” (not foolish) decisions … decisions that have a good, not a bad outcome, both short term and long term. Good decision outcomes are not merely a matter of luck … they require wisdom.

Secular psychologists and counselors will often tell people like you “just be more disciplined,” or “consider the consequences before you make a decision.” This advise sounds reasonable and good. The problem is it just doesn’t go far enough. Why? Because it stops short of bringing you all the way to “wisdom” which is what you truly need and must have before you can get to the place where you actually practice discipline and consider consequences in advance of decisions.

So the all important question becomes, “How do I get wisdom? How do I become wise?”

The answer is found in the Bible which is God’s instruction manual for the human race. Since God made us, he knows everything we need and he tells us how to get these things (again) in the Bible. Simple.

Job 28:23 & 28 says this (New Living Translation) “God alone understands the way to wisdom; he knows where it can be found. And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘the fear (reverence) of the Lord is true wisdom.’”

King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, concludes his written life story in the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes with these words (New Living Translation) “That’s the (my) whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: fear (reverence) God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.”

Basically, if you, or anyone else, wants to gain true wisdom in your life, you must establish a close, personal and ongoing relationship with the author of wisdom … God, and you do that by hanging out with his son, the Lord Jesus Christ who is the living personification of wisdom in the flesh. In short, when you truly know Jesus, you will truly know and have wisdom.

My advice to you then Jane is to receive Jesus as your personal savior and become an active part of a good, Bible believing church. I promise that you will gain wisdom and see an immediate, positive result.

Do You Have A Question? Send it to me at paulmassey@earthlink.net and I will try to answer it in the paper.

Father Paul Massey is Pastor Emeritus of Church Of The Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com for more information, directions, service times and recorded Sunday messages.

Cancer Care Ministry Training

2015 May 27

IMG_1506Karen Romano-Taylor, Commissioned Minister in Hospital Ministry, and Bishop David Epps, both of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA, completed training for establishing a cancer care ministry in the local church. The training was offered by Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Atlanta.

Adjusting to the New Normal

2015 May 25

Bishop David EppsI used to wonder how in the world the Israeli citizens survived the ever-present threat of shootings, bombings, or terror attacks. I got a small taste of that experience when I was in Africa in 1998 for three weeks and Al Qaeda had a $10,000 bounty on American heads. For the first several days, there was the feel of a threat in the air. We were on full alert all the time, checked under the vehicles for bombs, and generally never relaxed our guard. After a time, one just continues to function. It’s not that one gets used to the threat—it’s rather knowing that, sooner or later, the threat will manifest itself and one will have to deal with it at that time. In the meantime, one goes about one’s business. One learns to live with the “new normal.”

When I began Clinical Pastoral Education training at Piedmont Fayette Hospital (under the auspices of The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy) some 13 weeks ago, it wasn’t as a new minister or a rookie that was unfamiliar with hospital routines. Yet, in the 44 years I have been visiting hospitals, it has always been as a guest, an outsider, coming to visit people with whom I have a relationship. But this was different. This was as an insider. I quickly discovered that the hospital is far from routine. It is, in fact, unpredictable.

In the beginning, I dreaded the “codes” that would come. I thought, “How will I respond? What will I do?” And, come they did: Code Stroke, Code Blue, Code Stemi, Rapid Response Team, even a Code Red. Sometimes, the code wouldn’t be called at all but the hospital operator would call and direct one to a floor where a tragedy had happened or was in the making. After a time, one knows that the codes or calls are coming and no one can predict when or what one will face. The only certainty is that they will come every day.

It’s not that one gets “hard,” or unfeeling…there is always an underlying compassion felt for those whose lives have fallen apart. It’s more that a “new normal” is in effect. Once, a phone call after midnight signalled that something bad had happened to someone I knew and cared about. Now, a code can come at any time, day or night, and I am about to enter into the lives of people I have never met. People whose lives may have been forever changed.

There is always the pressure to do the right thing or to say something that will, at the very least, not compound the sadness and grief people are experiencing. A good job done by a chaplain might be forgotten in an hour while the memories of a bad job will linger in the minds of the families for years. Yet, at the end of the shift, as best I can, I put them out of my mind. I have done what I could do and no amount of ruminating will change what I did or did not do. I do try to learn from my experiences and those of others. But, so far, I have not carried the problems home—for the most part. There have been exceptions. The exceptions still come to me in the night.

I can easily see how one could experience burnout. There’s a great deal of emotion that is expended in sorrows or emergencies. I suppose that learning to deal with that reality is also part of the new-normal. Hopefully, I am learning to do so.

This is not to say that I understand living under the threat of attack or invasion or terror. Knowing a code is coming and responding to that urgent need on the floor, or in the emergency department, or in the ICU, is not in the same league as going to the supermarket knowing that a suicide bomber might enter at the same time.

Still, it has been interesting adjusting to the “new normal,” For the most part I am at the hospital from 5:30 – 8:30 a.m. during the week and, when I can, I serve on the weekends. I still have my normal responsibilities as a priest and as a denominational official. I have discovered anew that people do what they must – whatever it takes – to survive and even to thrive. We are a resilient species and are capable of doing much more than we imagine. We can meet nearly every challenge and overcome most every obstacle. We only have to adjust to whatever “new normal” life brings us and move forward.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

Sermons Presented at Christ the King

2015 May 23

Deacons at CTK April 2015Several ordained deacons in training for the priesthood in the Diocese of the Mid-South presented timed sermons during training held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA. The sermons were each critiqued by six experienced ministers and the deacons met one on one with one of the ministers for personal evaluation and advice.

From left to right on the front row in the photo were the sermon presenters:

Joseph Liptak, Fayetteville; James Gardner, Tyrone; Anthony McGee, Newnan; Justin Allen, Canton; Paul Dickinson, Sharpsburg; and Andy Ellis, Tyrone.

Those serving as advisors and evaluators were, left to right on the back row:

Rev. Kim Holman, Fayetteville; Father Dan Hale, Peachtree City; Dr. Robert Wills, Woodland; Father Charles Shores, Hogansville; Dr. James Taylor, Peachtree City.
Not pictured- Bishop David Epps, Sharpsburg

Milestone or Miracle?

2015 May 21

Bishop David EppsSome time ago, I was doing visitation in an area hospital and spotted an elderly woman sitting in the lobby in a wheelchair and covered with a blanket. She was by herself and I wondered if she had come to the hospital to be seen by someone or if she was waiting on someone. So, being a curious sort, I stopped to talk. She had indeed been seen and was waiting on the result of tests. Later in our conversation, she leaned in and said, “This weekend, my husband and I will have been married 65 years.”

“Wow,” I replied. “That’s quite a milestone.” “Son,” she said. “That’s not a milestone. It’s a miracle!” She was dead serious as she said, “Why, in fact, we have almost nothing but our children in common. We don’t like the same food, the same TV programs, or the same music. I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of person and he’s a ‘glass half empty’ guy. Nope, nothing in common. It’s not a milestone. It’s a genuine miracle, that’s what it is.” I smiled and offered my congratulations.

It could be, of course, that this couple has a deep love that has seen them through 65 years in spite of the lack of commonality. After all, they would have come through the Great Depression, World War II, and countless difficulties and struggles together. Even when she was going on about how they had nothing in common, she had a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face.

It could also be that they are both stubborn and persistent people, refusing to give up. I had to wonder, however, that, if they had been born in a later generation, would they have made it? Her husband (who was at a doctor’s appointment in another part of the building) was 91 and I would guess that she was about the same age. If I accurately looked up the correct statistics, the divorce rate in 1926 (about the year they would have married) was 7%, radically unlike today’s divorce rate of 50%. There was a stigma surrounding divorce in that era. People just didn’t get divorced back then.

If they had been married, say, in 1970, would they still be married? I have no idea, of course, but I do believe that there is something to just “gutting it out.” My wife and I have been married for over 43 years and I sometimes consider that a miracle as well. Like this couple, we don’t like the same music, often don’t like the same TV programs, and we are far apart on many issues. We do have more in common than they did but I was struck by the realization that a great many couples who married around the same time as my wife and I are no longer together. In truth, a great many of my high school classmates have been divorced at least once.

This couple, celebrating 65 years of marriage, would have weathered many storms through the decades. They would have experienced deprivation, low paying jobs, a lack of good medical care (even medicines, vaccinations, and antibiotics), and life would have been hard. Still, they were together. Milestone? Absolutely. Miracle? Perhaps. Or maybe they just never gave it much thought. Maybe they meant it when, so long ago, they said to each other, “for richer, for poorer…for better, for worse…in sickness and in health…until death we do part.”

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org

The Blame Game

2015 May 19

Bishop David Epps

The Cathedral of Christ the King
Second Sunday of Easter
April 12, 2015

Sermon Link: The Blame Game

Grow Up, Step Up, Own Up

2015 May 17

Bishop David EppsFrom politicians to preachers, it seems that few are committed to accepting personal responsibility for their actions, particularly if those actions are wrong. When Republican President Richard Nixon boldly declared, “I am not a crook,” implying that he had done no wrong in the Watergate scandal, the end result was a shameful resignation from the presidency to avoid impeachment. Later, Democratic President Bill Clinton would parse words and look the nation in its collective eye and say, “I did not have sex with that woman…” He, too, would set in motion a process that would result in his national shame, although he was able to survive the firestorm. What these two have in common is that they tried unsuccessfully to evade personal responsibility for their actions.

In the Book of Genesis, in the creation account, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of a certain tree. A serpent came along and basically said that God was selfish and trying to withhold something good from the First Couple. When the two ate the forbidden fruit, they were filled with guilt and shame. When God asked Adam what he had done, he replied that “The woman that you gave to me gave me the fruit and I ate it.” So, in one sentence, Adam throws Eve under the bus and blames God for giving him such a deceitful creature. When God confronts Eve, her response is that it is the fault of the serpent (implied is the accusation that God made the serpent and if He hadn’t, things would be just groovy). Thus was the first game in human history first played and the “blame game” has been played ever since.

Trying to evade personal responsibility didn’t work back then and it doesn’t work today. Today, we have the option of blaming: our parents, society, the government, the majority, political parties, the environment, our heredity, our socioeconomic condition, where we were born and raised, who our friends were, opportunities we didn’t have, and…on and on. I have been attending court off and on for years and the excuses used for bad or illegal behavior are myriad. It all boils down to this: “It’s not my fault!”

But, yes, it is. If we made the choice, if we thought the thought, if we said the thing, if we did the deed, it IS our fault. We did it. Why don’t we just grow up, step up and, own up? In our denomination, we have what we call “confession.” There is a “general confession” which we pray each Sunday as a group. But, even though the prayer is a group prayer, the implication is that the sins we commit “in thought, word, and deed,” against “God and our neighbors,” are our own fault.

In a more ancient prayer, and in the Rite of Reconciliation, which some folks call Penance or Confession, which is an individual action, the prayer is more specific: “I have sinned by my own fault.” How refreshing! When my children were young, if they committed a wrong, they had the opportunity to come clean. If the owned up to what they did, the punishment, if any, was merciful. If they lied or tried to blame others, they got two spankings: one for the deed and the other for the lie. This gave rise to the phrase in our house, “You lie, you die.” Which is all very biblical and theological.

I have heard people say that “God forgives everybody everything.” Well, yes and no. There is a caveat: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us out sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Note the big, “IF.” If we grow up, if we step up, and if we own up, forgiveness is given freely (which doesn’t mean that we don’t reap what we sow). But, if we blame others, point fingers, lie, try to excuse our behavior, then forgiveness is not on the table. The truth is, we made the choice to do or say something wrong. What follows is the choice to “own our own stuff” and take responsibility for what we did or said. As history demonstrates, anything else just doesn’t work.

David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org