Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

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.

Wisdom Is Right Out There In The Open Beckoning All

January 2, 2018

They were small ads in out-of-the-way publications and even major publications. The secret societies promising to share the secret wisdom they have unlocked. Just send money and join.

Some of you may know of secret societies–or those who maybe are trying to live down that esoteric past.

Or maybe you have dabbled in New Age mysticism–rocks, gems, pyramids, vortices–similarly promising wisdom knowledge unattainable by common people. Anyone up for a trip to Sedona, AZ? I felt more vibrations standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona than I felt in Sedona. But that’s another song.

As a matter of fact (not fake-fact), wisdom is not a secret. It’s right out there available to all.

Yes, it’s January and time for my annual trip through the Proverbs. 31 chapters, 31 days.

I recommend it at least once a year in order to stay grounded.

Ever name your computer? Your car? Your RV?

Well, humans like to name things. In the Proverbs, we find wisdom–that which has existed from the beginning–personified as a woman named Sophia.

In the opening chapter of Proverbs, we find Sophia standing at the busiest intersections of the city. She is shouting out to people. Not secretive. Not mystical. But out in the open inviting people to listen. Especially she calls to young men who seem to be quite susceptible to the calls of evil friends and licentious women.

Yep, even today that is a problem for young men. Although in that day they were probably 17-18. Today more likely 17-35.

Immediately we meet the three types of people who don’t listen–the simple, scoffers, fools.

Hint: don’t be one of them.

And we meet the theme: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.

If you have not read Proverbs, I highly recommend it. If you have, read it again.

Be Wise In The Way You Act Toward Outsiders

September 11, 2017

“Well, isn’t it just a matter of law?” he asked. “After all they (immigrants) are here illegally.”

He was a man I respect. He was trying to be respectful while still embodying the typical rural Midwestern values he’d grown up with. It only just made sense to him.

I understand.

But, still, if only life were simple. If only everyone just followed all the laws and rules, life would be great, many think.

Many have always thought. If only everyone were like us and if only they followed our rules and laws, then the world would be perfect.

Except–that didn’t even work in the villages that many of my contemporaries grew up in. Of course, I was an outlier. In a predominantly Lutheran town, I was Methodist. In most of the villages, “everyone” was of the same Christian persuasion. The eastern half of the area where I grew up was Lutheran; the western half Catholic. Much like where all the ancestors came from–Central Europe, principally Germany.

But even the villages in the area are admitting “outsiders” at a growing rate. There are protestants in some formerly 99% Catholic villages. I remember the first time I saw a black person walking unafraid down a street in a local town. I asked, does he live there? Yes, my friends responded, we are changing.

I’m reading about this phenomenon occurring globally. It’s still difficult in a lot of areas where people still sometimes pick up weapons and drive out or kill outsiders.

But Paul, writing in a different time and place, understood this mixing of people. People of different religions, tribes, skin colors, all lived in the same city. Then some became Christ-followers. And Paul advised them, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

That’s in his letter to the Colossians. He understood. How do you help people find a new life with Jesus if you talk about them disparagingly? How do you help one person find that eternal life that begins right now if you don’t speak kindly to them? How do you serve other people as James instructs us if you don’t act wisely toward outsiders–that is, those who are different from us?

How many opportunities for help or for our own growth have we missed by disrespecting people who live around us yet are not like us?

I’m guessing, based on my own experiences, way too many.

If Only You Paid Attention To My Commands

August 14, 2017

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:18, NIV

We have been discussing Jesus’ discussion/debate with “the Jews” as John called the group of adversaries in the Temple.

Jesus kept telling them that God sent him and that what he had been teaching was directed by God. And Jesus said his truth would set us free.

So, I asked, what is free?

Free did not mean libertarianism–that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, to whomever I want. That would be sort of an American response, right? I am free from constraint.

However, we would be hard pressed to prove that from Jesus’ words. He immediately begins talking about sin.

We can be free from a life as a slave to sin. Drifting from whim to whim, emotion to emotion. A life of feeling guilty and trying to drown that guilt with drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever.

We can be free to live with “peace like a river” and “well-being like the waves of the sea.

So, I asked, what is truth?

It’s not a proposition that I agree with and force others to agree with. It is a relationship with the living Jesus who lived, who died, who lived again.

We keep forgetting about living with God in relationship, not in fear of a God of eternal punishment if we don’t measure up to his rules.

An email came this morning with this quote from Isaiah. I like that thought. Sounds just like something Jesus said. Sounds like something I can live with.

And you?

Defining Your Emotions The First Step In Dealing With Them

July 11, 2017

My granddaughter noticed something about me. I forget just what at the moment. But she asked if I were disappointed about it. I said, no that doesn’t describe the emotion. She proceeded to ask about six other emotions that were similar yet different.

For an eight-year-old, that is a good vocabulary of emotions. One of many indicators of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to define an emotion with greater depth than just “bad” or “good”.

Defining terms for problem solving has played a large part in my career. I’m in a meeting (or worse these days is getting caught in an interminable email chain) and find people talking around a problem. I’d attempt to shift the focus first to defining the terms. “What do you mean by that?” I ask. 

I might be interviewing someone. I move among many different technologies with many different buzzwords. Sometimes I just have to call a time out and ask, “We’d better make sure I understand how you’re using that word. Just what do you mean when you say that?”

It helps when we are emotionally out of balance. I love how the ancients treated emotions like a family tree. Something like insecurity is the mother of anger, for example.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify just what it is that causes the emotional pain or reaction.

Maturity is the ability to take the next step and not only define your own emotion but also to deal with it. Reading the news, Facebook feeds, watching people in public places, I’d say that most of us could use a good dose of emotional maturity.

What Or Who Is Your Savior

July 6, 2017

You know the song about the guy standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizonza, right? I stood on that corner once. No girl in a flatbed Ford, though.

C’mon baby, don’t say maybe, I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me.  — The Eagles

Rolla May, psychologist and author of a number of books including Love and Will and Power and Innocence, wrote that throughout history men have harbored the idea that a beautiful woman will be their salvation. 

They all didn’t understand the thought of that social philosopher from the early 60s, Jimmy Soul, who sang, “Never make a pretty woman your wife…she does things that causes his downfall.”

Think of the things you think will save you.

Everything will be alright if I can just get seven figures in my bank account, or if I just had that house in that neighborhood, or if I just had that car, or if I could have had that guy (or girl).

This isn’t new thinking.

More than 4,000 years ago a guy named Abraham had conversations with God. It wasn’t belief–he continued doing things that revealed a lack of complete trust in God. But he had those conversations where God spoke and he spoke back. It didn’t seem to surprise him that this special god spoke with him. 

But he’d slip into these moments when he thought his own ingenuity would save him rather than dependence upon God.

Think of all the other heroes in the Bible–Adam, Samson, David, Solomon, King Saul–who failed at crucial times.

Is it time for a gut check? What thing or person have you been focusing on for salvation? Time for a change in focus?

Choosing To Live Past Temptation

May 24, 2017


“Choose your temptation.” At first glance, I missed the “breakfast” in the sign’s headline. I’m in queue at the Starbucks at the hotel where I’m staying this week. 

I think, “Interesting. Choose your temptation. I bet Jesus would have fun with that play on words.

I suppose we can choose that which will tempt us.

The real question is how do we recognize and respond to temptation.

I recognized that advertisement as a temptation to overeat. Now that I recognize the emotion as a temptation, I can make another choice. Maybe for health and keeping my waistline down. (I ate a nutrition bar in my room along with my Americano).

Some temptations are more difficult to recognize. It may take a while.

Wisdom is letting experience teach us to recognize temptation sooner.

Or we could pray “Lead me not into temptation.”

Misunderstanding Can Lead To Distress

March 21, 2017

“I swear I don’t know that woman.” Man to wife at restaurant

An attractive woman who knows me stopped and waved Hi to me at the restaurant. Between us was a couple at a table. I waved back. Just a friendly greeting.

But the woman turned to me, “You know her? I saw your arm go up.” Her husband, worried (I guess), had protested innocence.

Cute. But those things happen.

We misunderstand. Make assumptions. Get confused. Make accusations. Become angry.

“Never assume maliceĀ if it can be explained by mere stupidity,” said a guy recently.

Someone makes a comment. We misunderstand and blow the whole exchange out of proportion.

We misunderstand a leader and go off and do something counterproductive.

Think of how often Peter, the apostle, misunderstood his teacher. Well, basically all the time. It caused him distress time and again. Especially at the end, when he denied even knowing him.

Between the thought and response is a gap. Do we shorten that gap and say something foolish? Or do we pause in that gap? Take a breath. Thought flashes in that gap–did I understand? Should I ask for clarification.

Between the thought and response lies our future.

Knowing And Doing

March 17, 2017

To be is to do – Socrates; To do is to be – Sartre; Do Be Do Be Do – Sinatra

I first heard that old joke in grad school years ago. Sometimes it’s good to poke fun at serious thinking that gets too serious.

The suggestion has been made by various people (including me) that instead of making new year’s resolutions or setting goals, determine what sort of person you want to be in the coming year. Who do I wish to be?

The value of an idea lies in usingĀ it. Thomas Edison

We then have to act on that vision of who we want to be in order to actually become that person.

Merely sitting around and wishing doesn’t make it.

The same holds for knowing and doing. Knowing how to fix a car or a leaky faucet has no value unless you actually fix the car or stop the leak.

When Jesus gave us his commandment, it wasn’t to know something–“Love the Lord your God … and your neighbor as yourself.”

How many people have spoken those words and yet their lives bear no resemblance to them?

How many times do I have to not do what I should before I can incorporate what I should do into my daily life?

And sometimes we just go through a day singing. And that’s not all that bad.

A Wise Person Lays Up Knowledge

August 8, 2016

Reading through the Proverbs this morning while reflecting on a recent conversation I was involved in. “A wise person lays up knowledge.” Then I saw that saying a second time. Then there was this, “Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold.”

The discussion began as a political discussion, but it broadened into how so many people form opinions with so little knowledge.

One way to gain wisdom is to broaden our experiences. It is easy to hate people when it’s theory. They are not people, they are just concepts in our minds. When we think of them, we think of only a generic stereotype that exists only in our minds.

Then you go out and actually meet people. It should open your eyes.

When you hire the group of Mexican men to put a new roof on your house (because they will work hard in the hot sun and get the job done in a day, when you can’t find anyone else to work) and you talk to them. And find out about their families. And how happy they are to work. And discover that they are real people, not just words on a paper.

Seeking knowledge makes us less susceptible to baseless sales pitches–whether from politicians or the used-car guy. Or the woman on the Internet who desperately wishes to give you $1.5 million.

In my entire life, I don’t think I ever had a goal of being rich. But wisdom and knowledge–that was always something I coveted. Knowledge comes from asking; wisdom from experiences. Never stop.