Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

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 malice 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 using 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.

Spiritual Discipline: Overcoming Emotions

July 6, 2016

…if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. — Jesus (Matthew 5: 22)

Emotions are neither good nor bad. They just are. How we handle them, well, that’s the subject of many books, advanced degrees, time spent in therapy, time that should have been spent in therapy.

I wrote a series of posts a few years ago based on the book, Emotional Intelligence. I’ve spent a lifetime overcoming some of the emotions I was exposed to as a child–anger, anxiety. I bet you all have your own set of emotions that, when they capture too much of our energy.

When it’s time to grieve, grieve. And when your friend grieves, grieve with her or him. When it’s time to move on, move on. And so it is with other emotions. Sometimes it is right to be angry.

But out of emotions riding unchecked, come things that hurt others and ourselves. We say things we shouldn’t have said. We expose our lack of maturity.

Don’t we all see things, read things, hear things that can ruin our day–or at least set us back a little? The other person was just giving vent to unbridled emotions.

I was on the Internet before there was a Web (yes, there was such a time). And there were groups (called UseGroups) where people gathered to share information on a topic. And, lo, there came “trolls” who would say hurtful things. And then came the Web and blogging. And people shared information and thoughts. And, lo, the trolls followed to the new medium. And hurt people deeply. It’s so easy when it’s late at night and your emotions are riding high, and it’s just words on a screen.

And then came new ways of sharing such as Facebook and others. And lo, we could all become trolls in general, venting forth our anger, fear, hate.

And people have not changed despite teaching, research, books.

2,000 years ago, Jesus dealt with this:

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.’

Keeping your peace when you feel like venting is a Spiritual Discipline. It’s that moment between the urge and the keyboard or mouth when you have the opportunity for a deep breath. In the pause, you can reflect, “Of what use is this that I am about to say? Does it uplift? Or tear down?”

In that pause, we have the opportunity to show the true status of our hearts.

Dehydrated

May 10, 2016

The wind blew across the soccer complex at a nearly constant 20 mph. Sun was shining.

Even just standing and walking, dehydration overtakes you before you realize it. When you begin feeling thirsty, it’s almost too late. Especially if you’re going to be running in a bit.

I suddenly realized that I had been so busy that I had not had anything to drink all morning. Put away 80 oz of water in the afternoon. Came back from the brink of dehydration.

Even if the dehydration is not severe during your normal days, you may notice a little less energy and enthusiasm. Maybe concentration isn’t quite there.

We become dehydrated spiritually, too.

One pressure follows another. Another decision needed. Another report to write. Another irate customer. Another employee situation to calm. Illness–your own or a loved one.

It’s hard to relax. Mentally step back and take a physical breath.

It’s spiritual dehydration.

I think of Jesus who met the woman at the well. Picture a hot, dusty day. Constant wind coming down from the mountains scraping across the plain. She needed water. He needed water. But she needed more.

Her life had gone into a spiral. One defeat after another. Trying to find salvation in a man, any man. It didn’t work. She was drying up spiritually. Outcast, tired, dispirited (in many ways).

Jesus asked for water. He was dry and  wanted to avoid physical dehydration. But then, maybe he just wanted to talk. So he asked for water.

Then he tells her that he can give her water that will always quench her thirst. She’ll never dehydrate wandering from affair to affair. Lost. Dry.

We, too, can know about a source to keep us from this dehydration of loss. It’s spiritual. We get in touch with it by reading and through right relationships. That’s our discipline. Quench our thirsts and live live fully, with energy, enthusiasm, purpose.

On Becoming A Whole Person

May 9, 2016

Isn’t it a joy when you hear about someone or maybe have heard them speak and then you meet them and they are just like they seem?

And maybe you develop a relationship where you see them somewhat frequently in a variety of social settings, and then they still are that same person?

I was thinking about so many people I know whose words are so far different from their actual lives.

Their political philosophy says one thing (“I hate taxes” for example”) yet they have had jobs working for the state (paid by tax revenue) and retire with a pension (which many people don’t get and by the way also paid by taxes). I’ve seen people vote anti-union yet are union members and then complain about losing income and benefits.

But that’s trivial.

How about someone who speaks often of Jesus’ love, yet seems to love only self? How about someone always preaching “family values” or “Christian morals” and whose life is a shambles of moral decay?

Why do we run into so many people who are so clueless about themselves?

They can read the words of Jesus and other teachers on the subject, yet they do not see the irony that their lives do not come close to reflecting those values.

Jesus actually saw those people. And then he set the bar even higher for them. He saw people try to define morals such that they could achieve them yet still be able to point to others their shortcomings.

Matthew has a long passage of reporting Jesus’ teachings. (Chapters 5-7) It’s good–not for reading which is challenging but as a mirror.

Jesus said, for example, that it’s easy to talk about loving. Especially those who are like you. But, he said, the real test of love it to love and pray for those who are opposed to you. He raised the bar too high to be attainable. Especially when he said to be perfect just as your father in heaven is perfect.

But when the way we live reflects those values we preach, people see. And they will respect us.