Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Our Mind Is an Imperfect Instrument

June 7, 2018

Why is it that we can be so intelligent and have gained so much knowledge with diplomas and degrees, and yet, we can believe the lies of politicians, preachers, and other people? We can believe with certainty things proven beyond a doubt to be wrong.

John Climacus writes concerning the dreams of novices beginning the spiritual journey, “Our mind is the instrument of knowledge, but it is very imperfect and filled with all sorts of ignorance.”

John was writing about dreams. But another John (Milton) said, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”

Researchers using the scientific method have probed this idea and discovered that our minds will believe anything that we tell it to believe.

That is why on the spiritual journey, or even in everyday life, we must guard against the things that enter our minds. We must have a filter, the filter of discernment. We must be grounded in proven spiritual writing with a mentor to help us understand.

The Tongue Is A World of Evil

June 1, 2018

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

The words of the reckless pierce like swords…

We have known for millennia that it is wise to be responsible and aware of what we say–whether with our mouth or on Twitter. The first quote is from James from about 2,000 years ago. The second maybe from 1,000 years before that. Maybe more.

Once again, many lives are disrupted and many lines of division are drawn by reckless spouting off of unthinking opinion or a crude attempt at humor.

We know better, and yet we let emotion take over our lives, shun responsibility, say things that we cannot retract and later regret.

How often do we hear “I’ve got my rights” versus how often do we hear “I am responsible for how I use my rights”?

There are alternatives.

…but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

We get to choose.

Praying for the Right Thing

February 8, 2018

The interviewer asked his guest who was promoting his book on mindfulness what his teacher thought was the most important thing for people. “Discernment,” he answered.

Reading in Romans (chapter 12), Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Solomon prayed to God upon becoming King of Israel at a rather young age. God looked with favor on him and granted him one wish. “Wisdom,” said Solomon, “I wish for wisdom.” You have chosen well, said God, and so be it.

Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived. Read Proverbs.

However, at the end of his life, Solomon looked back and said that everything was meaningless. Read the end of Ecclesiastes. I think perhaps Solomon regretted not having discernment. He may have been wise, and he talked often of bringing up young men. But his son destroyed the kingdom shortly after assuming power.

Discernment requires the renewing of our minds–constant learning. Being open to changing if we’re wrong. Rejecting old teaching when we learn something new from God.

It requires observing and listening and casting off our preconceived prejudices to allow room for God to speak into our openness. It requires a certain space–time and distance.

And sometimes I think that God does not give us the final answer immediately. Perhaps there are steps along the way where we experience one thing for a season of growth and then God tells us to move on to the next season of growth. We need to be open to discern what God is telling us.

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.”