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Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

 

 

A number of years ago and for the span of a decade, I commuted a half hour each way to and from the school where I taught.

Needless to say I saw all kinds of drivers: the speed demons and poke-alongs, the weavers and squeezers, the distracted and multi-taskers—each one an accident waiting to happen, each one confident that he or she was not.

One day a young man on a motorcycle whizzed by, darting between vehicles left and right in search of the fastest lane. This was not in near standstill traffic; it was on a stretch of Florida Turnpike where the speed limit is seventy.

Oh, Lord, I thought. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. That boy has no idea the danger he’s creating for himself and everyone else in his path.

 

 

A few minutes later I reached my exit and gasped aloud. Lying in the grass in the middle of the cloverleaf turn-off was that young motorcyclist, far separated from his twisted bike.

A few people were already hunched over him, perhaps from the nearby tollbooth area. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw his leg move.

Every now and then that scene comes to mind. I imagine that young man as he straddled his cycle that morning, anxious to be on his way for another exhilarating trip of engine revving, speed, and clever maneuvering.

No doubt a trip to the hospital never even crossed his mind.

The young often do live in a fantasy world of invincibility. And those of us with a bit more life-experience shake our heads at their carelessness.

But fast-lane living isn’t the singular domain of speeders and teenage boys on motorcycles.

Even a retired schoolteacher like me can forget: life is fragile.

 

 

Not that I drive recklessly or take foolish chances.

But I am very capable of rushing through a to-do list and missing an opportunity to provide joy in someone else’s life. I can breeze right past the blessings-of-the-moment because I’m focused on something down the road.

I can even forget the values I hold dear, including attentiveness to God and loving compassion for others.

It is downright foolish of me to live in a fantasy of invincibility, as if there will always be plenty of tomorrows for attentiveness and compassion, while cruising along in the fast lane of frenzied activity.

Instead, I’d rather cup my hands around each day and:

 

 

  • Find the wonder in the common. “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribable, magnificent world in itself” (Henry Miller).
  • Take note of the everyday miracles. “Looking is the beginning of seeing” (Sister Corita Kent).
  • Hug often. “Hugs are one of the reasons God gave us arms. So stretch out your arms to someone today…It will warm the heart of the giver and give light to the soul of the recipient” (Unknown).
  • Laugh easily. “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God” (Karl Barth).

 

 

  • Value every person. “The way we treat others is more about who we are, not who they are” (Unknown, emphasis added).
  • Forgive quickly. “Forgiveness isn’t about letting the other person off the hook. It’s about keeping the hooks of bitterness from getting into you” (Gabrielle Bernstein).
  • Avoid negativity. “Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity” (Unknown).
  • Choose joy. “True contentment is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it” (G. K. Chesterton).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Lord God, I have so much to be thankful for, including this cloudy, cozy day and the welcome chill in the air. I thank you for this moment, complete with winking candle, hazelnut coffee, and soft music to keep me company as I write.

Thank you also for the designated purpose you ordain for each person.   Because I am still alive, you still have plans to fulfill through me, especially to bless others. And for that I am grateful as well.

Keep me mindful, I pray, that fast lane living is not only foolish, it is dangerous to my soul.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 19:21; Ephesians 2:10)

 

What will you cup your hands around today?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.lawofficer.com; http://www.medienwerkstatt-online.de; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.quotesvalley.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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Yes, the title is a bit of word play, generated by the discovery of this quote:

 

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(“Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books.

Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.”

–St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

M-m-m. Spiritual lessons in the woods are relatively easy to extrapolate.  The Bible offers several inspiring metaphors/similes from trees (1).

But stones—lifeless, drab stones? What can we learn from them?

 

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So began my query into stones, and a bit of research turned up the following:

There are at least 120 different sub-categories of rocks, within the igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic groupings. Another thirty-one types make up a group of their own, not fitting those three common categories.  One website stated there are over 700 varieties of igneous rocks alone.

Geologists and rock collectors will tell you:

There is delight in diversity.

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(Beach stones washed in the surf of Lake Huron

near Kincardine, Ontario)

 

That goes for people, too, doesn’t it. A planet inhabited by identical beings would be painfully boring.

But even similar, ordinary stones can generate interest. For example, take this little pebble:

 

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Rather dull and ordinary, right?

But what if you put it with numerous, similar stones? What then?

 

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We discover that:

Many ordinary stones together can provide breathtaking beauty.

Within the church that truth applies to people. Regular folks become remarkable as we join together and serve under the power of God. Someone put it this way:

When a river sings, it is thanks to the stones.

 

 

Now some stones appear dull and plain on the outside. The casual observer passes them by. But the trained eye detects a hint of the splendor within.   And when such a rock is split open, a colorful, gleaming wonder is revealed.

 

LagunaAgate1

(An agate)

You have to open up some stones to discover their treasures.

Agates of a different nature are all around us—in our neighbors, coworkers, church acquaintances, etc. What if we reached out with a friendly question or two and gave them opportunity to open up? Perhaps gleaming treasure awaits.

Beauty in stone can occur in other ways, too.  For example:

A stone in the hand of a master sculptor becomes a new creation.

 The genius of Michelangelo gives us a glimpse of such transformation. Out of nondescript marble he chiseled exquisite, life-like statues.

 

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(Madonna from the Pieta)

 

Praise God that even dull, ordinary people of stone can become works of art when we give ourselves over to him.

God, our Rock, is Lord of stones. 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

I praise you, oh God, for being a Rock of constancy, stability, and protection. You graciously build us into a spiritual house—individually and corporately– where the Holy Spirit can reside.  As “living stones,” we too become everlasting and durable, united together with the One Living Stone, your Son, Jesus (1 Peter 2:5).

 

(1) For metaphors/similes of trees, see Psalm 1:3, 52:8, and 92:12; Jeremiah 17:8; Micah 4:4.

 

Photo Credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.free-pictures-photos.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.freephotosbank.com; http://www.hdwallpapers.com; http://www.bhmpics.com; http://www.d.umn.edu; http://www.italianrenaissance.org.

 

 

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“Teach us to number our days,

that we may present to you

a heart of wisdom”

–Psalm 90:12 (NAS)

 

I did the math and numbered my days: over 24,000 so far. That means I’m well past the half-way point of the average earthly life. And such a sobering thought would surely weigh heavy on my mind, if I did not have heaven to look forward to.

But I’m certain Moses (the author of Psalm 90, above) wasn’t asking God for a multiplication lesson.

Perhaps in learning how to number his days Moses wanted to: 

  • make each day count by accomplishing worthwhile tasks, or
  • live mindfully so steady growth and learning took place, or
  • dedicate himself to the well-being of others, or
  • look for God throughout each day, worshiping and praising, or
  • revel in the positive instead of grovel in the negative.

Perhaps Moses was thinking of all those things.

According to two commentators, Numbering our days means:  1) living in such a way that each day has value, and 2) living intentionally in ways that bring glory to God and blessing to others.

Then notice what Moses indicates will happen when we live with those supreme purposes:

We’ll be able to present to God a heart of wisdom—a heart with “the ability to see life from God’s perspective, and then to know the best course of action to take” (p. 1055, Living Application Bible). 

That seems to me a lovely gift to present to my Heavenly Father—accepting his perspective and acting upon it.

 

Charles-Spurgeon-Quote-Wisdom

 

But learning to number our days and grow in wisdom are such abstract processes. It’s difficult to determine progress. So how might we know that we’re learning and growing? These ten questions may help; they’re based on the Book of Wisdom, Proverbs. Try answering in the context of the last ten—maybe even twenty—years:

  1. Am I more aware of God’s daily gifts and more grateful to him for these blessings (15:13)?
  2. Do my thoughts frequently turn to God during the day? Am I continually turning to him for guidance? (2:1-6)
  3. Do I express trust in God more often than worry about circumstances (3:5-6)?
  4. Am I pursuing biblical instruction (8:33-34a)?
  5. Do I take great pleasure in building up others (10:11)?
  6. Am I able to think before I speak (10:19b)?
  7. Do I give people the benefit of the doubt (19:11)?
  8. Am I becoming more patient and kind–especially toward challenging people (25:21-22)?
  9. Do I thoughtfully consider the advice of those who are knowledgeable and wise (19:20)?
  10. Am I able to do what’s right even when there’s no one around to notice (10:9)?

 

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Scripture tells us that when Abraham died, he was “satisfied with life” (Genesis 25:8, NAS).  Surely satisfaction with life includes the development of a heart of wisdom, which Abraham demonstrated by his life of faith–in spite of challenges, disappointments, and uncertainties.

But the pinnacle of satisfaction must have been presenting that heart of wisdom to God Almighty on the day he entered heaven’s gates.

My prayer is that I’ll be able to do the same.

You, too?

“What we weave in time

is what we’ll wear in eternity.”

– Mart DeHaan

 

(Photo and art credits:  www.faithgateway.com; http://www.quotesgram.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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Depressed young woman

 

“I don’t understand why this is happening,” Kelly cried. “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?”

*     *     *

“I’m not sure what God is doing, but business is bound to pick up soon,” Dave asserted. “I’m working harder than ever—like seventy hours a week. God helps those who help themselves, right?”

*     *     *

“I thought I was where God wanted me to be, but that loser job was not a good fit—such boring work and for such a lousy salary,” moaned Erika. “I just had to quit! But I’ll be OK. God loves me; he’ll take care of me.”

*     *     *

Ever hear comments similar to these? Each one represents a misunderstanding about God. The truth is:

  • God’s primary concern is our welfare, not necessarily our happiness (Philippians 4:19). The two are not synonymous.
  • God has not promised to help those who help themselves. That proverb is not in the Bible.
  • Neither has God promised to take care of us if we live irresponsibly (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

So, I’m sorry, Kelly, Dave, and Erika. Somewhere along the way you’ve heard these ideas about God’s ways which were misrepresented as truth.

But how can we know the truth of how God works in our lives? (They might ask!)

By becoming better acquainted with God’s Word. Within its pages we find such wonders as perfect wisdom, inspiring encouragement, hope-giving promises, and practical instruction.

For example:

Kelly, God loves you too much to grant everything you want. Over-indulgence leads to spoiled children. Discipline demonstrates true love; permissiveness demonstrates foolishness. Sometimes God exercises tough love in order to develop our characters, grow our faith, and prepare us to serve him in greater capacities.

 

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(“The Lord disciplines those he loves”–Hebrews 12:6a).

Dave, God is compassionate and good to his people (Psalm 103:4-5). He has promised to be our help, but it has nothing to do with our effort prompting him to come alongside. It’s the person who trusts in God wholeheartedly and follows his ways who may anticipate divine help:

“You who fear him, trust in the Lord—

he is their help and shield.”

–Psalm 115:11

and…

 

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(“May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts” –Psalm 119:173.)

 

Erika, God certainly does care for you (1 Peter 5:7), but he does not condone irresponsibility. A wise course of action would include prayerful assessment of the current job as well as other possibilities, while asking God for his guidance. Meanwhile:

“Do your best.

Work from the heart for your real Master, for God,

confident that you’ll get paid in full

when you come into your inheritance.

Keep in mind always that

the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.”

–Colossians 3:22-24 (The Message)

To all of us: When our corner of the world is rocked by challenges and disappointment, our best strategy is to turn to God’s Word. We can steady ourselves with the truth about his character and his ways, even experience joy and peace as those truths soak deep into our hearts (Psalm 119:35, 165).

“It is only when we understand who God is

that we begin to understand what he does.”

– Selwyn Hughes

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *   *

Thank you, Father, for the precious gift of your Word, for the way it continues to minister afresh, day by day, year after year, with reliable truth and uplifting encouragement. As if that wasn’t enough, you reveal yourself through its pages, allowing us to know you, the King of the universe. Open my eyes that I may see even more wonderful things in your Word (Psalm 119:18)!

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(Art & photo credits:  www.med-health.net; http://www.kristamcgeebooks.com; http://www.biblepic.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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FORTUNE COOKIE WITH BLANK FORTUNE

‘Cracked open a fortune cookie not long ago and discovered this bit of wisdom:

“It’s not the years in your life,

but the life in your years

that counts.”

Come to find out, that’s not from Confucius or any other Chinese sage.  It’s from a beloved, former U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln.

Many folks might interpret this proverb to mean:

Live each day to the fullest; a full life is a meaningful life.

But what brings fullness to the day? And what makes a life meaningful?

The answers to those questions lie in another collection of proverbs, not found in fortune cookies, but in the Bible:

  1. A meaningful life comes from finding favor with God and with others (Proverbs 3:4; 21:21). 

Proverbs 3:3 names the qualities that garner favor: faithfulness and love.

It’s true.  Those two character traits play out in goodness, generosity and grace. Without fail, that kind of person experiences great satisfaction in her relationships. After all, that’s how God designed us (Acts 20:35).

“A full life cannot be measured by the quantity

but rather the quality of one’s relationships

with others and with God.”

–Warren Mueller

  1. A meaningful life comes from living wisely (Proverbs 8:35).

And just how do we do that? By applying integrity to our actions, discretion in our conversations, and prayerful, Spirit-led discernment in our decisions.

“Wisdom is the power to see

and the inclination to choose

the best and highest goal,

together with the surest means of attaining it.”

–J. I. Packer

And wisdom leads to peace of mind, contentment, and a clear conscience—important foundation stones for a meaningful life.

  1. A meaningful life comes from internalizing God’s ways (Proverbs 11:28, 21:21). 

These proverbs, (11:28 and 21:21), provide a corollary to the previous one. A wise person follows the course of conduct established by the Father of Wisdom and revealed in the Bible.  He made us; he knows the best way for us to live.

Countless millions have devoted their lives to the accumulation of stuff, the pursuit of fame, and the climb to a position of power.

Yet King Solomon (who had it all) proclaimed: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).  Did you notice that four words out of seven in that verse are the same?   “Meaningless!” I hear a bit of frustration in Solomon’s voice, don’t you?

Wouldn’t it be wise for us to avoid the mistakes he made? Maybe we should post that verse on the fridge, to keep us grounded in what really matters: God’s purpose for our lives.

“No real meaning exists

apart from linking our lives

to God’s purpose.”

–John Maxwell

  1. A meaningful life comes from reverencing God (Proverbs 14:27; 19:23). 

And reverence includes honor, respect, adoration, and awe. Embracing these attitudes toward God leads to deep satisfaction, complete peace, and true joy, because:

“The man who has God as his treasure

has all things in One.”

–A.W. Tozer

  1. A meaningful life comes from trusting God (Proverbs 16:20b).

God alone knows me better than I know myself. He alone is aware of what’s going on in the lives of those around me. And he alone can see into the future. Why do I think I’m capable of moving ahead on my own?

Even when trouble comes to call, I can rest assured that such experiences have purpose and meaning (Romans 8:28).

I would do well to remember: 

“Relinquishment is a prerequisite to fulfillment.”

–Eugene Peterson

  1. A meaningful life comes from an attitude of humility (Proverbs 22:4).

Humility is the proper perspective of oneself, especially in relation to God. He is all-powerful, all-wise, all-seeing, and more. Reminding ourselves of his magnificence is one way to foster humility.

Another way is to be thankful. A full, satisfied life is grounded in humble gratitude.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving,

turn routine jobs into joy,

and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

–William Arthur Ward (italics added)

M-m-m. Living thankfully, joyfully, and blissfully aware of each blessing. Yes, that does sound like a highly satisfactory way to live.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Service, Wisdom, Obedience, Reverence, Trust, Humility, and Gratitude.  That’s a long list, Lord.  Perhaps the full, meaningful life is out of reach for me.  Oh, but if I consider the interrelatedness of these qualities, the reach is shortened considerably.  Obedience includes service, and reverence naturally leads to humility.  Humility includes gratitude, and trust leads to wisdom.  Most important of all, YOU want all of your children to experience life to the fullest. Oh, how  I praise you for your direction and provision to make that happen! 

(John 10:10; Philippians 1:6; 2 Peter 1:3)  

(Photo credit:  www.kitchendaily.com.)

 

 

 

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“Oh, what a beautiful tree!” my mother-in-law exclaimed with enthusiasm. Her comment referred to a tall bush, planted near the house and visible outside our kitchen window. “What’s the name of it?” she asked.  Being from Ohio, Mom wasn’t familiar with some of the unique foliage of our area in south Florida.

“That’s a sea grape,” I told her. “It’s actually a shrub, but they can grow quite tall.”

“Well, it’s lovely. Such big leaves!”

Now clearly there’s nothing remarkable about this conversation, until you know that Mom had asked the very same question with the very same enthusiasm every morning of her visit. And each morning I supplied the same answer.  Mom was in her late 80s, and her dementia was becoming more and more noticeable.

Mom’s fresh outlook each morning reminded me of Lamentations 3:22-23: 

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

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Just as Mom brought new enthusiasm to each morning, so God brings new mercies for each day. Yes, the challenges we faced yesterday required wisdom, strength, and perseverance. But today we’ll need a fresh supply.   Praise God he never runs out of such gifts; he is always able to provide.

In the same way, God’s new mercies for today are not meant to be sufficient for tomorrow. In other words, we shouldn’t expect to feel confident and in charge this morning for the potential challenges of the future—much as we’d like to. (Who hasn’t wished to know now exactly how the next day or week will unfold, and how best to respond?)

Instead, our wise and loving Heavenly Father has chosen to lead us one day at a time. And just what is so wise and loving about keeping us in the dark?  So as to protect us from being overwhelmed, easy prey to depression, and paralyzed by fear.

No, our best course of action is to avail ourselves of God’s mercies for this one day. As for tomorrow, we can trust God to supply new mercies, more than sufficient for whatever we might face when the time comes (Matthew 6:34).

I’m remembering Corrie ten Boom. (Maybe this post brought her to your mind, too.)

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Corrie and her family suffered cruel hardships in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, as a result of helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

After the war, people would often say to Corrie, “I wish I had such great faith as yours. I could never live through the experiences you survived.”

Corrie would tell a story to explain.

When she was a child, Corrie happened to see a dead baby. A terrible fear gripped her that one of her family might also die. When Papa ten Boom came to tuck her in that night, she burst into tears.

“I need you!” she sobbed. “You can’t die!”

Her sister, Betsy, explained why Corrie was so afraid.

Papa asked, “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

“Just before we get on the train,” she responded.

“Exactly,” Papa replied. “And God knows when you’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”

Papa ten Boom was proven right. When Corrie needed supernatural strength, God did provide. We can rest assured that his mercies will be new and fresh each morning for each of us, as needed.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, Lord God, that we can face each day with fresh enthusiasm, because for each trial, you have prepared for us great mercies like endurance, strength, and wisdom. I thank you that in the midst of trouble, you also provide blessings: a more acute awareness of your presence, peace that defies explanation, family and friends to come alongside, miraculous provision, and delightful surprises to make us smile. You are not just a sufficient God; you are an abundantly gracious God!

(Photo credits:  www.mgonline.com; http://www.coffee4thesoul.com; http://www.myhero.com.)

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 “By myself!” “By myself!” “By myself!” Numerous times each day our granddaughter asserts herself, announcing with much gusto that whatever the task, she can handle it.

But Elena just turned two. Although her confidence is high, skills are limited. When it’s time to go upstairs, “by myself” means down on all fours, one limb at a time. One hand up, and then the other. One foot up and then the other. It is a slow and laborious process.

In addition, the grown-up in her wake must be very sly about offering support. No hand on the back, or even hovering where Elena can see it. She’ll cast aside such safety precautions and announce firmly once again, “By myself!”

Child Washing Hands

Hand washing is another activity she prefers to do independently. But her attempts to pump out a dollop of liquid soap often end unsuccessfully. The soap usually lands in or around the sink—not in her hand.

And once the soap is in her palm, Elena reaches for the faucet. Forget the actual washing. If we try to help, she pulls her hands away. “By myself!” Even when she acquiesces, her scrubbing efforts leave much to be desired. Squeezing is her version.

And rinsing is another issue. “By myself” often results in enthusiastic splattering of water on dry dishes, counter, and backsplash.

spoons

Mealtimes offer more opportunities for autonomy. “By myself” means she will hold her spoon or fork as she chooses, not as the grown-ups have shown her numerous times. Elena has yet to figure out that holding a utensil at the very end of the handle is not very efficient.  (The child in the photo is not our Elena, but is demonstrating the same technique.)

Because of her unwieldy grip, Elena ends up turning the spoon upside down as it approaches her mouth. Needless to say, most of the food ends up on her chin, in her bib pocket, on her clothes, on the tray, or back in the dish.

We shake our heads and roll our eyes. Toddlers!

Then it dawns on me. Sometimes I’m not much more mature than a toddler in God’s family. I’ve been known to proclaim “by myself,” too:

  • “Yes, Lord, I need you to take care of the important matters, but I can handle the small stuff by myself. ”
  • “I’ll make this decision by myself, Lord, because—to be honest–I’m not sure I’ll like your choice.”
  • “I can decide by myself what will make me happy, Lord.”

Yep, I can be as foolish as a toddler, even though great wisdom is available to me.

way of wisdom the_t_nv

Wisdom such as:

“Start with God.

The first step in learning

is bowing down to God.

Only fools thumb their noses

at such wisdom and learning”

(Proverbs 1:7, MSG).

Ouch. But Solomon is right.  God made me; he knows the best course for me. Over and over again he has proven himself worthy of my trust — guiding my way, providing for my needs, empowering me to accomplish his plans.

If I can’t trust the One who died for me, who can I trust?

Any time I’m tempted to approach a situation or decision by myself, I need to remember:

“God always gives the best

to those who leave the choice to him”

–Selwyn Hughes

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Father, forgive me for the times I have foolishly asserted my independence. Help me to relinquish control to you. I’ve lived long enough to know from experience that living life by myself does not result in satisfaction. Help me become a person who turns to you first, and asks, “What do YOU want me to do, Lord?” because you are the all-wise One of the universe.  And I know the benefits of following you will far outweigh any costs.

(Photo credits:  www.motherhood.modernmom.com; http://www.childcare.oxfordcounty.ca; http://www.cleftstories.com; http://www.covedevotions2010.blogspot.com.)

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