Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Time To Grow Up

April 29, 2021

The same or similar observation from different sources often hit me at the same time. My first thought is about how it applies to other people. There is a momentary feeling of superiority if it is one of those moments of self-awareness. Followed, of course, by the convicting thoughts–what does it say about me?

Author/philosopher Mark Manson was on the Guy Kawasaki podcast. This podcast is released on Wednesday mornings. My ritual is to listen to this podcast while I’m cleaning floors. Makes the time go.

Manson said, “We have become a nation of babies.If we don’t get our way, we go on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram and complain.”

Later in the day, I’m reading in Greg McKeown’s latest book, Effortless. His first book, Essentialism (which I highly recommend) sold more than a million. McKeown (pronounced mc-kune) wrote, “We live in a complaint culture that gets high on expressing outrage, especially on social media, which seems like an endless stream of grumbling and whining about what is unsatisfactory or unacceptable.”

He is the second writer I’ve run across recently who talked about trying to change his own habit of complaining by adding a habit of saying something of gratitude to counteract the complaint. And was shocked at the realization of how much they complained seeing that they both thought of themselves as positive and upbeat people.

I’ll pause while you and I ponder on how much complaining we actually do.

Back to Manson. Kawasaki followed up on the comment about how we seem to be complaining babies by asking about how to become an adult.

“You become an adult when you give a shit about something beyond yourself,” Manson replied. (You have to realize he wrote a book where the title drops the “f-bomb”.)

I think he’s on the track with Jesus and John and Paul and the gang who talked about becoming spiritually mature when you love (action verb) one another.

I guess it’s past time for all of us to grow up.

Getting A Reboot

April 27, 2021

I am writing this on my older iPad Pro, because my new MacBook Air is getting a software update and is rebooting.

That sort of means going back to the source and starting over—only with new or updated software or operating instructions.

Sometimes I go in for a reboot, too.

I’m currently reading a book that made an impact on me 2-3 years ago. If you are curious (and I highly recommend the book), it is Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. He is answering the question, what makes the American Christian church so resistible in our culture?

Reading the book of Proverbs from the Hebrew Scriptures every January is a form of reboot for me. As is going back to read Matthew chapters 5-7 from time to time.

You have to return to the source from time to time for refreshment.

Then you must venture forth to practice what you preach in the world.

There is a rhythm to life. We must find it for ourselves. A rhythm from silence and solitude to service and love—not love in the sense of so many American religious and political leaders, but love in the agape sense that Jesus, John, and Paul talked about. It’s a doing for others as Jesus did for us.

Find your rhythm. There is one for daily life. There is one for yearly life. It takes practice.

The Gate is Narrow and the Road is Hard

April 21, 2021

We’ve all seen it, I suppose. We are out in public, maybe at a grocery store with its overstimulating array of lights and products. And the small child who can’t take any more of the experience. The child starts screaming and crying. And the parent yells at the child to be quiet.

The parent’s yelling just adds to the level of sensory overstimulation. And things escalate. Threats and maybe a smack of the hand ensue.

The easy thing is to yell at kids to behave. The hard thing is to suck it up (literally suck in a deep breath) and tend to the child. The first is easy, yet not productive. The second is hard, but produces more quiet and a better relationship.

How often in life do we find ourselves with a similar choice? We can take the easy way of least amount of energy expended. We can suck it up and do the hard thing.

As Jesus was building to his climax in his teaching on the Galilean hillside, he taught, “The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life. Few take it.”

It’s a challenge to us. Think of all the times in life where we took the easy way out. And then we were left to wonder, “What am I doing here?”

As we think about all the teachings in the message Jesus had just given, we know we are left with a choice. It’s all up to us to decide. We can suck it up and do the hard thing. The difficult thing. The thing that works out better in the end. That is the best way to life.

Do Not Hold Others In Contempt

April 19, 2021

I am once again deep into Matthew 5-7 popularly called the Sermon on the Mount. I am not a professional Biblical scholar, but I have to believe this wasn’t a one-and-done talk. Jesus probably taught this whenever he had a crowd of 10 or more. Based on some research, I also think that this is not a random collection of sayings that Matthew heard during his time with Jesus. It fits together too well and leads to an obvious conclusion.

After he talked about how various people among his hearers would be blessed through his introduction of the nearness of the kingdom of the heavens (as Dallas Willard likes to say), he tackles what we would call Root Cause Analysis–anger that leads to murder and contempt.

It is becoming socially acceptable in many cultures today to openly hold people of different races, tribes, and religions in contempt. A paper is openly circulating in the US Congress right now upholding this. It is even acceptable in many places around the world by some people to openly discuss and act on killing those whom we hold in contempt.

What spiritual disciplines could we bring to bear to counter such thoughts and actions?

It always must begin with self-awareness. Whether we read in the Bible or other spiritual writings and biographies, circumstance must conspire to bring us to the depths of realization of how we have fallen short of God’s expectations. Then coming to the realization of how the kingdom of God is right here around us.

As we meditate on the nearness of God and his teaching, we can begin to recognize and act on our fears that drive anger that drive contempt.

Jesus closed his talk with a call to action. “Whoever hears my words and acts on them is like a wise man who builds his house on a solid foundation.”

We must hear; we must act. Each of us. Wherever we are.

Pride and Power

April 16, 2021

Power seems to draw out the latent personality tendencies within us.

Think of people you have known or read about who achieved some level of power–political, organizational, familial–and whose basic personality came out.

Some leaders use the power to satisfy sexual lust that had lay hidden and eventually caused a downfall. Some have seen their pride cause them to lose their way and alienate those around–even to the extent of losing power and even winding up in jail.

On the other hand, sometimes power draws out hidden strengths. Think of people who have been thrust into powerful leadership positions whether in government, business, church. They stepped up to the challenges often surprising all but their closest friends.

Self-awareness becomes important. We must see those tendencies. We must deal with them before the negative ones cause our downfall.

Sometimes I think that Wisdom literature such as the Proverbs or the letter of James lead me to believe that there is no hope for the prideful. I hope not. Although I’ve seen many prideful people in positions of power who seem unable to come to grips with their own pride following a fall.

A lesson for us. In our daily meditations, take some time regularly to do a self-check. Have people been dropping hints that perhaps our worst tendencies are showing in our leadership? Or have our strength and vision and humility come through?

When The Pieces Come Together and the Image Pops

March 5, 2021

My wife likes to work jigsaw puzzles. I view them as a waste of time–until I get obsessed with the problem-solving aspect. The photo is the last one we completed. 1,000 pieces. We have one laid out on the kitchen counter now. When I close my eyes, I see puzzle pieces. When I woke up this morning to lie in Yoga corpse pose and meditate, I saw puzzle pieces fitting together.

Have you ever worked these?

Isn’t it fascinating when you have concentrated on finding the right piece with the exact fit one at a time and then suddenly the picture just pops out at you?

It happened to me last evening as I put the last piece in a building and suddenly it was almost as if the building came to life.

It’s the same with spiritual formation.

You may study, read, pray, meditate, think.

Then maybe you sing a song and–pop!–there it is. A piece of understanding. Part of the spiritual life just seems to come together. You thank God for the vision and understanding.

You bring that piece of growth into your life.

And then go on to the next section. There are stories about people who put it all together while still living. I’ve not met one. Not even when I look in the mirror. Especially when I look in the mirror. I see a picture partially complete but with more to go to finish the puzzle.

More and More Useless Information

February 4, 2021

When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man comes on the radio
He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination.
I can’t get no, oh no no no, hey, hey, hey
That’s what I say
I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction.
–Rolling Stones

It was 1965. I was 17 sitting in a pub across the street from the University of Cincinnati campus. Upstairs was a big room with wooden picnic tables for the patrons. Bunch of nerdy guys. We sang out to “I can’t get no” and “Hey, you, get off of my cloud…two’s a crowd.”

We grew up. But some of us Boomers tried to overthrow the government. We’re still living the Stones of our youth. And we’ve become more and more gullible about the man on the radio (TV, Internet now) telling us more and more about some useless information.

Pick your poison, as they used to say in the movies. You can find your favorite flavor of poison without looking very hard.

It is so important to discern what to fill your mind with. It can feed my base emotions and desires for individual satisfaction. It can feed my mind with the kind of satisfaction that only comes from living in the spirit.

Writers for millennia have described the problem and the consequences. Take the story of Rehoboam in the Hebrew Bible, grandson of the famous King David. This happened almost 3,000 years ago. He was just about to be anointed King. He had two groups of advisors. He rejected the wise and listened to his young friends who filled his mind with more and more of some useless information.

On the day of what should have been his greatest satisfaction, he lost most of the Kingdom. What took his grandfather and father years to build, he destroyed in a day. He was seeking satisfaction.

Dignity

February 3, 2021

There’s a word that is little used these days. It’s an attitude rarely seen.

Dignity describes how we treat other people. We can treat other people as the children of God that they are. We can treat people with disrespect and disdain. Cynically. Our choice.

Dignity describes how we treat ourselves. We can stand up like a person of worth. We can let others treat us with disrespect. Or, hopefully, we can leave those behind and choose relationships with those who treat us as they should.

If you are looking for examples, think of Jesus. Other than the time he drove the merchants from the Temple, did he ever not treat people with dignity? Even those who decided not to follow him? Perhaps he was saddened. Even at the end of his life, he chose not to say anything (much) rather than lash out at his accusers and demean them and revile them.

As I get toward the end of Jonathan Sacks’ Morality, he argues that morality and dignity go together. I envision them as walking hand-in-hand like early-teen romantic couples.

Training at the old Ritz-Carlton (now part of Marriott) for everyone no matter what “rank” included this mantra: We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. How do we want to be in this new year? Try being a person of dignity treating others with dignity.

Keep Justice, Practice Righteousness

January 25, 2021

How blessed are those who keep justice, Who practice righteousness at all times!

Psalm 106:3

Scholars tell us that the Hebrew word translated as blessed can also have the meaning of happy. Similar to the Greek New Testament where Jesus talked about the types of people who are “blessed” or “happy.”

Aristotle talked about happiness as related to virtue–living courageously, temperately, nobly, wisely.

We are tempted almost constantly through advertising and social media to believe that happiness comes from getting drunk and having almost non-stop sex. That freedom comes from doing what we please when we want to want to do it with whom we want.

Happiness and freedom are virtues and responsibilities, not the result of licentiousness. My eighteen-year-old self hates to hear me say that. Many “adults” even into their fifties and sixties still refuse to believe that.

Justice means something broader than selfishly seeking justice for only ourselves. In the Hebrew Bible, it sometimes talks about justice for the entire tribe. And sometimes it includes justice for neighbors more generally. Justice for the poor, the stranger, the neighbor.

As Rabbi Hillel (first century before Jesus) is reputed to have said about the meaning of the scriptures, “Love your neighbor, the rest is just commentary.”

How happy we are, indeed, when we seek justice and practice righteousness.

Giving to Others

January 21, 2021

True words are not necessarily beautiful.
Beautiful words are not necessarily truthful.
One who is achieved does not argue,
and one who argues is not achieved.
One who knows the deepest truth
does not need segmented information.
One who knows vast amounts of information
may not know the truth.

One of whole virtue
is not occupied with amassing material goods
Yet, the more he lives for others,
the richer his life becomes.
The more he gives, the more his life abounds.
The subtle truth of the universe is beneficial, not harmful.

There may be no better time in America to read Wisdom literature. One of my disciplines for more than 20 years has been to immerse my mind in it every January. What a way to kick off a year.

But as I sit and contemplate the world, not one place on the globe can I see where such thoughts would not be worthwhile.

Those words were written perhaps 2,500 years ago and ascribed to “the ancients.” How long we humans have known what is the true path–and how little we have followed it.

As Jesus told the religious leader who correctly identified the “neighbor” in the story of the Good Samaritan, “Go and do likewise.”