Stand In Awe Without Analyzing

January 23, 2018

Standing on a mountain overlook seeing mountain peaks and tree-covered valleys. We just take it in. Without analysis.

Watching the sun descend over the ocean horizon with swaths of color painting the sky.

Some things we just take in with awe without analyzing good or bad.

I saw this quote this morning in my Plough daily email. We could with just such an attitude take in the commands of Jesus and just do them. No arguing. No rationalizing. Just doing and obeying.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Humanly speaking, we could understand and interpret the Sermon on the Mount in a thousand different ways. Jesus knows only one possibility: simple surrender and obedience, not interpreting it or applying it, but doing and obeying it. That is the only way to hear his word. He does not mean that it is to be discussed as an ideal; he really means us to get on with it.

Source: The Cost of Discipleship

Loyalty Lacking Discernment Leads Astray

January 22, 2018

Loyalty is extolled in the Proverbs.

What spouse does not value loyalty? What friend? What employer does not value the loyal worker?

Without wisdom and discernment, however, we can be foolishly loyal.

Who has not been loyal to the employer who takes advantage?

Who has been loyal to the straying spouse?

Who has not been betrayed by those thought to be friends?

Wisdom and discernment lead us to those to whom we should be faithful. And then we are to be loyal to the end.

Some thoughts from reading through Proverbs 20.

What Breaks Your Heart — Church As A Club

January 19, 2018

Sometimes news comes to me in bunches of related packets. Most likely described by the mathematics of the Fast Fourier Transform. (Sorry, just had to do that.)

This week’s bundle of news seemed to relate to organizations called churches who proclaim to be following Jesus who draw dividing lines among human beings. It’s like a club. Yes, you qualify as a member. No, out with you. Your kind doesn’t belong here.

What pride we have as humans that we think we can know the mind of God and make those sort of proclamations!

I’m reading in the Proverbs today, “The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.”

Andy Stanley suggested that in lieu of self-improvement new year’s resolutions instead we ask what breaks our heart. I wrote about that last week. Have you contemplated your own response.

One thing that breaks my heart to hear these stories of churches that are so divisive. They don’t ask “how can we help you” instead asking “do you agree with us”.

Bill Hybels led a group that grew into the Willow Creek Community Church to replicate the Acts 2 church. Then he discovered that even that was not intentionally inclusive.

Read about that early church. Study the list of leaders that Paul often includes in his letters–women, men, rich, poor, free, slaves. Everyone who was a spiritual seeker was welcome. And leaders grew up due to character and talent. Paul’s writings (especially if you just pull out one verse from amongst everything he wrote) are often used for justification of divisiveness. But if you study Paul, you discover that he did not intend that at all.

I don’t think I can fix that. But if I had a magic wand…

Role Model

January 18, 2018

“A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot.”

Proverbs is more that just a huge collection of Henny Youngman one-liners. Read chapters 14-18 not so much for the punch lines but for the picture of a wise human–a role model, if you will.

Here is a person whose spirit is well grounded and runs deep. Who is not tossed from emotion to emotion, unstable, and foolish. Whose words are soft and thoughtful. Who is, in a word, tranquil.

We pick up in chapter 16, “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty.”

Have you ever hung out with a friend whose anger is quick, hot, and ready to explode? Life can be interesting and also harrowing.

We read in chapter 18, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinions.”

Just when did Solomon live? Was it 3,000 years ago or this year? How did he know what would pass for conversation and social media posts in the year 2018?

Christianity has brought many, many improvements to civilization, but the heart of a human is still the same as 3,000, or even 4,000 years ago. Ancient wisdom is as modern as if written today. That is one reason why the wise study it and make it a part of them.

Better to Keep Quiet

January 17, 2018

When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man come on the radio

He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information

Supposed to fire my imagination…

I can’t get no satisfaction.

The Rolling Stones nailed it more than 50 years ago.

In my 20 years of driving to Chicago, I’ve occasionally had the misfortune of hitting a call-in radio show. It amazes me how many people are do eager to prove the old proverb in the negative, “Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.”

When I was a kid, I was quiet. People thought I was intelligent. Now my writings reach 10s of thousands. I, also, have proved the theory in reverse.

Solomon tells us, “Even fools who keep silent are considered wise.”

Maybe it’s time for me to be silent for a bit and let us consider our day.

I Have Written These Things So That You May Believe

January 16, 2018

Jesus did many other signs in our presence, John told him.

But I can’t believe that those things could really happen. Was it just a magic trick? Some sort of sleight of hand? Something we can explain away?

I understand that it’s difficult. That’s why I wrote about so many of them. I was even honest about it. Even when Jesus fed all the people on the side of the hill by the shores of the lake, we couldn’t figure it out. Then he was walking on water. We still couldn’t figure it out.

You see, none of us started out as believers. We knew he was a powerful man with new teaching the likes of which we had never heard. Not even from John the Baptizer.

You mean you were with him, saw those signs, and you still didn’t believe?

Yep.

We just couldn’t figure it all out. Even in the garden when he was arrested in the evening. Even during his trial. We kept expecting him to stare down Pilate and do something to strike down the Jewish ruling council. Yet he did nothing.

Even when we stared into the open and empty tomb it took a bit before our understanding began to open.

Then we met him–risen. Alive, not dead. And it all came together. We just didn’t know what to do next. It took a few weeks for us to put all the story together and discover our lives’ mission–to go out and tell people about what we experienced.

And in so doing helping others believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the provider of true life.

So, what is this life?

That you may know the one true God, now, and Jesus his Son.

You see my child, none of us started out as believers. We grew in understanding and belief. And we found true life. He changed our lives, and he’ll change yours.

I am finishing a long reading of the Gospel of John. The conversation came to me about people not just jumping into belief. Don’t criticize them. Understanding takes time, but eternal life begins now.

Today We Remember, Hopefully To Change

January 15, 2018

Remember when there were laws at the local, state, and federal levels that specifically called out people with darker skins spelling out a list of rights they did not have?

I am old enough to remember the same attitudes toward Jewish people.

Heck, mom had some small degree of prejudice against Lutherans and Catholics. But that’s another story.

I remember the first Jewish people and black people I ever met. And talked with. And became friends with.

It was at the university. They were just people. Like me. Trying to get through school, get a degree, and make the families proud.

But institutional things had to change.

Martin Luther King, Jr. became the leader of the leaders. The preacher of the movement. The teacher of non-violence.

And change did happen. Laws have been changed.

This past year’s conversations show that the world still has far to go in terms of attitudes.

Most likely I identify with the Christian church in the US because of the witness of the civil rights movement.

Education and travel are keys to changing attitudes.

And so are teachers in the mold of Dr. King who hold the ideals in front of us.

Secure or Insecure, That Is The Question

January 12, 2018

I think Hunter is here.

No, not a dog. Or a guy. A “storm”.

In order for The Weather Channel to raise hype about potential weather, executives felt the need to name winter storms such as has been done for years for hurricanes.

So, Hunter is the next one. Get us feeling like it’s the next “Blizzard of ’78” so that we will stay glued to the TV and app. Oh by the way, ratings go up, advertisers are happy and sign up for more spots.

Accuweather has been hyping 8 inches of snow for several days while other services have suggested 1-3 inches. Where I live, three inches of snow means shovel it off the drive and walks and go to work. Eight inches will slow travel for a day. We dig that out and go on.

But I did gas up the snowblower for the first time in a couple of years and start it so that it’s ready to go tonight or tomorrow.

Feelings of insecurity?

Reading in Proverbs in my “chair time” this morning, I was struck by how often the security of the wise is contrasted with the insecurity of the fool or wicked. The writers don’t always use those terms, but it’s buried in the meaning.

Today I was reading about how the wise and righteous grow roots and therefore are not blown away by the wind.

I was thinking about all the times I’ve written on leadership and how an insecure leader is one of the worst to follow.

Insecurity in our personality is one of the worst emotions. When we have no rock of faith. We lash out in anger.

I had to delay writing this post today. There was a “badge” on the icon of the Settings app. iOS needed to be updated. For security reasons. We have insecurity everywhere around us. I hope not within.

Silence Is A Spiritual Discipline

January 11, 2018

Sometimes we say something with more meaning than we intended.

Sometimes we walk away from an encounter with others muttering to ourselves, “That’s what I should have said…”

Such is the state of today’s chapter of Proverbs–Chapter 11.

Traditionally attributed to Solomon, the wisest person to have walked the face of the earth, so they said, it says in the 11th chapter, “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Solomon died. His son became king. He was faced with an important decision about the direction of his rule almost immediately. His father’s advisors, who had served faithfully and well for many years, offered advice. He rejected that advice in favor of his friends who, like him, had grown up in the wealth and abundance of Solomon’s castle.

The people rebelled. The kingdom split.

Solomon’s son. Who should have grown up listening to the sayings of his wise father. The kingdom didn’t even make it through the first generation. Of course, a remnant of the kingdom lasted for a long time. But it was never the same.

I thought that this offered an ideal opportunity to comment on today’s political situation in America.

But then I considered a saying just above.

“Whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent.”

Many are the times I said something and regretted it. Rare are the times when I kept my mouth quiet and regretted it.

There is a time to speak up, #MeToo. Mostly not.

The Prudent Are Restrained in Speech

January 10, 2018

“But when words are many, transgression is not lacking.”

The 10th chapter of Proverbs begins the collection of Solomon’s proverbs.

Many, if not most, will not get this illustration. But my thoughts went to Eddie Haskell.

Who?

He was the well-dressed, blonde, good-looking friend of Wally. Wally was Beaver’s older brother in the 50s TV show Leave it to Beaver.

Eddie’s speech was smooth, ingratiating–and devious. He could use many words designed to remove himself from any suspicion of wrong doing implicitly blaming someone else.

We all rooted for him to be found out as a liar.

Have you ever caught yourself piling word upon word hoping that the resulting cloud of confusion would hide your transgression?

We certainly see it too often in the newspapers and TV news shows.

We should wait to speak and add weight to our words. Say what is necessary, and no more.

I think I’m done for today.