Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Enough Is A Feast

September 26, 2022

Enough is a feast.

Everywhere you look or listen, others tell us we Americans must pursue more. This is no doubt true in many other parts of the world. Messages from advertising, TikTok, YouTube, friends tell us we need more clothes, more cosmetics, more money, bigger house, new car. If you are not seeking a promotion at work, you are a failure.

A man came to Jesus and asked him to tell his brother to give him more of an inheritance. Jesus replied with a story. A farmer had a bountiful crop. He had so much that he planned to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to hold all the grain. Then God said to the farmer, “Fool, today your soul will be demanded of you. Now, of what use will the bigger barns be.”

Jesus offered the point of the story. “This is what happens when you fill your barn with Self rather than God.”

When we know where are true priorities are, then striving for more is a waste. Enough is a feast.

Truth

September 9, 2022

As far as I can remember I have been on a journey seeking truth. I had not idea what it would be when I found it. But “it” had to be out there somewhere.

Even studying the sciences, that was in the back of my mind. When I describe God in terms of quantum physics, my poor Reformed friends just shake their heads. They know what truth is and have no need to explore.

I wasn’t satisfied.

I wrote a paper as a freshman in university about the concept of truth revealed in Henrik Ibsen’s play/poem Peer Gynt. It’s stuck with me ever since.

Truth isn’t a statement. A belief. Something that separates me from other people such that I can feel justified hating or killing them.

Truth was a journey. Sort of like the peeling of an onion. Layer after layer. Day by day. I live today for the day. I learn something new today. I serve someone today. I grow a bit today. Some days I’m closer to God; some days I’m farther away. But God is always around me.

When You Are Empty, Then You Can Be Filled

August 16, 2022

I’ve been reading the Christian Bible, the New Testament, in a different translation. I like to do that. The new choices of words open my mind enabling deeper insights into meaning. These sentences are the first two “Beatitudes” or the opening words of the way Matthew presented what we call The Sermon on the Mount.

  • You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
  • Your blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the one most dear to you.

Both of these speak to our condition. When we are too full of ourselves, too full of our competence, importance, possessions, people, then we have no room for God.

The presentation seems to prepare us for all the teaching that follows throughout Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7.

We should not have the hubris to dive in and just read those teachings as if we can easily pick up the meaning. We must begin, much like the 12-step program, by recognizing our limitations, by emptying our self-importance. Then we can appropriately approach what Jesus is trying to teach us.

Scholars, both professional and amateur, miss the next point which is the conclusion of of the sermon:

Whoever hears these words and does them…

What Are We Doing With Our Time

July 18, 2022

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’

Into the future

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’

Into the future

Steve Miller Band

My morning reading took me to the Stoic philosopher who sounds almost Christian at times. Seneca talked about how we easily allow others to take our time. We rush to meetings. Take trips we didn’t need. Say yes when no was a better answer.

What are we doing with that most precious of resources?

We must determine what is a waste of time and what is valuable. Sometimes just sitting is valuable. Sometimes listening overrides talking. Working on the most important task has become a time management proverb–but, make it what is most important to us, not to someone else.

Pete Seeger composed a song laden with meaning from the Hebrew book of Ecclesiastes popularized by The Byrds

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)

There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)

And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

Pete Seeger

Know our time.

Know our season.

Know our purpose.

Maybe like the Steve Miller Band in the next chorus of the song

I want to fly like an eagle

To the sea

Fly like an eagle

Let my spirit carry me

I want to fly like an eagle

Till I’m free

Steve Miller Band

Productivity Misconceptions

July 15, 2022

I still remember the theme of the first personal development speaker at the first management conference I attended–TRY…EASY.

Try to do a good job. Try to get it done. But don’t kill yourself doing it.

This was probably 10 years before Yoda told Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not. There is no try.” But that’s a different story.

That speaker gave all the attendees a DayTimer planner. I’ve been through so many different systems over the following 40 years, I should have saved them and started a productivity museum. The last thing I used was computer-based called Nozbe, loosely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. I even have a category on this web site for productivity.

Some people, perhaps many people especially in Silicon Valley of the 90s and aughts, following productivity guru Frederick Taylor thought of productivity as “how much more can I get done in my 70-hour work week”.

Tim Ferriss published The 4-Hour Work Week in 2007. It was sort of an anti-productivity book in the sense above. Cal Newport somewhat later published Deep Work. Both of these talked about getting the important things done while leaving time for hobbies, family, leisure, and the like. That is, until they were co-opted by the “how much more can I get done in my 70-hour work week” crowd.

These days I have a list of things I need to accomplish. I work on these for a set number of hours a day, then set aside other time for other things–reading, guitar, whatever.

We don’t need more. We need enough. Or, as a retired US Navy SEAL taught me, “Slow is easy; easy is fast.”

TRY…EASY

Right and True

July 14, 2022

If it’s not right, don’t do it;

If it’s not true, don’t say it.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic

Preacher and teacher Andy Stanley teaches this simple thought, “Pay attention to the tension.”

There is a moment, often fleeting, between the impulse to do something and the action.Sometimes in that moment there arises a tension within us. This may not be the right thing to do. How often we ignore that tension, do the deed, then regret it.

If it is not right, do not do it. How, by paying attention to the tension.

The Apostle James teaches how the tongue is the mightiest muscle in the body. Just like a small rudder steers a great ship, the small tongue guides us causing all manner of mischief. Sometimes just before we hit “post” on social media when we are passing along something we heard, Stanley’s tension pulls at the back of our mind. If we pause before we post, we can save ourselves grief.

If it is not true, do not say it. Or post it on social media.

Motives

June 24, 2022

People who lived prior to 1890 or so described emotional/psychological issues as caused by spirits. Or demons. In “Discernment of the Spirits,” the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing describes someone driven by the spirits of wrath, malice, and wickedness.

“For that wicked accursed wretch will sometimes change his likeness into that of an angel of light, in order that, under the color of virtue, he may do more mischief. He leads them on…always under the pretext of devotion and charity, not because he takes any delight in works of devotion or of charity, but because he loves dissension and scandal.”

Does that describe anyone you know? Church leader? Politician? Neighbor? Yourself?

Discern carefully the spirit of those you meet. Some will be genuinely full of the spirits of love (charity) or devotion. Others may be masking anger, anxiety, fear, or just plain wickedness.

Always be aware.

Freedom From Anger

April 8, 2022

Anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.

John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 8

Anger. Could that be the theme of this era? In America, some white people are angry at people with skins of different colors or with those who are not like them. Leaders of nations worldwide are angry at each other or at their followers. Adherents of one religion or sect within a religion are angry with those not aligned with them.

Humans can easily nurse grievances until the anger bursts into flame causing sometimes irreparable harm.

Are we doomed?

No.

Many find the way through anger. John of the Ladder gives guidance.

The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.

John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 8

I heard three great questions on a podcast during my morning walk this morning. Try them.

Does this need to be said?

Does this need to be said now?

Does this need to be said by me?

I wish you calm today. Namaste.

Wisdom, Or Be Careful What You Ask For

January 3, 2022

Solomon as an adolescent knew he would be king after his father, the famous King David. He talked with God, who told him he would grant a wish. Solomon asked for wisdom.

I often recommend reading the book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament) during the month of January in order to set off the year with good momentum. It’s the writings of Solomon’s wisdom teaching. 31 chapters—31 days in January. Read a chapter a day.

But, the story of Solomon didn’t turn out well. He lived a dissolute life. Many of his wives brought pagan gods into Israel. His son was barely king when he caused a split in the kingdom due to his lack of wisdom. The huge kingdom was gone in an instant.

Think about this. What if…what if he had asked God to help him act wisely instead of just to have wisdom.

We can know a lot, but we can still act like a fool. We can be a couple of lengths short of a PhD, yet we can live wisely.

I don’t care how much of the book of Proverbs you have memorized. What matters is what you do after you rise from bed tomorrow morning. Ask God to help you live wisely and with kindness this year.

The Whole Thing and its Parts

December 29, 2021
Entrance to Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Gardens

We visited Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Gardens last evening. Various artists transformed groves of plants and trees into light and music experiences.

We had our first significant snow of the year yesterday. Even with temperatures above freezing (38F or 3C) causing some melting, the vestiges of the white snow perfectly enhanced the experience.

The highlight for me was a laser light show across a small lake. Dancing lights to a festive piece of music. In contemplation just in the moment, I de-focused my eyes and absorbed the experience. Yet all the while part of my mind was thinking of the technical intricacies of the lights themselves and the programming required.

Listening to s symphonic orchestra is the same experience. I listen to the whole piece while also noticing the work and movements of each instrument and how the composer and then conductor has brought them altogether for a beautiful whole piece.

Similarly, one should read a great book including Scripture. You must absorb the whole of the main argument of the writer while yet enjoying the parts. One errs by picking out sentences while yet missing the whole thought.

Yet, how often readers of spiritual texts do just that. And not only Christians. Check out how often you also see that trait in the Hindu and Islamic traditions. A human trait, this is, as Yoda might have put it.

And a human trait we can learn to overcome with awareness and practice.

Just don’t think so much that you miss the beauty of the whole.