Monthly Archives: August 2017

Developing Wisdom

Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from making bad decisions.  – KB

There are two sorts of wisdom, the gift of the Spirit, and experiential.  Excepting when you’re serving and God whacks you upside the head to give you insight into a situation, it’s hard to sort the two out, at least in the life of someone who gives full credence to the Word of God.

Wisdom is part of the suite of gifts that I was given as someone who counsels.  I asked for it when I was just out of high school, with no idea what that would mean, other than that when Solomon asked for it, it greatly pleased the Lord.  I wanted to please God (and I wasn’t opposed to the goodies that Solomon got for being a good bunny).  Well, I didn’t know how some of the wisdom was going to show up.  Asking for wisdom is about like asking for patience, really.  **

You gain experiential wisdom by paying attention to what life throws at you, how it works out, and all the introspective stuff around that.  If you’re me, and people tell you their problems on days ending in Y, you also get to gain wisdom from the data they give you.  And there’s reading.  And listening to good teaching.  Even fiction, from time to time.  Pretty much any input can increase wisdom, so long as you’re paying attention and integrate it with the whole.

(Integrating with the whole means you have to sit quietly and be patient while things filter and sift sometimes, which means you can’t always instantly analyze a situation or expect yourself to come out with new insights at the speed of social media.  You have to use wisdom to develop more wisdom – by giving yourself the space and time to sit on things and wait.  Wisdom and patience are intertwined).

Spiritual wisdom comes through reading the Word, learning about God, trusting and obeying Him, and increasing in faith.   It also comes from listening to and obeying His Spirit.   I’ve never not been able to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit.    (This makes me terrible at apologetics, by the way).  Paying attention more and more of the time is a learning situation, but on the big stuff?  Always.  I’m not saying I’ve always obeyed, but I’ve always known.  (It also means I’ve spent a lot of my life arguing with God, as ridiculous as that is).

The gift of wisdom is integrated with that listening – sometimes I’m told to do something or say something that isn’t my idea.  Or to shut my mouth/take no action, which is more often the case.  Sometimes I get feelings or images or insights.  Not all the time, very much on an as-needed basis.  But it happens.

And the gift of wisdom is integrated with the gift of faith.  It is wise to trust God and have faith in His promises.  But it takes patience to wait on His timing.  It takes practice to learn to trust.  It takes obedience to put any of that into shoe leather.  And it never stops.  The process of spiritual maturation increases wisdom, giving more opportunity for experience, more opportunity to grow closer to God.   The process of physical maturation gives one the strength to hold fast.

Wisdom is, by the by, not the same as knowledge.  Whereas one must have a great deal of knowledge to grow in wisdom, those with the gift of knowledge organize their information so as to disseminate it to others.   My mental encyclopedia looks like a Chinese medicine cabinet organized by drunken butterflies.  *I* can see how it’s all connected, but trying to explain it to someone else?  No.  Usually they run away screaming before I even get warmed up.

It’s always a little weird to write about your own gifts, but I needed to write this for myself – I organize the drunken butterflies by forcing them to cough up some text.   Hopefully it helps someone else, or at least gives you some information for your own Chinese medicine cabinet.

 

*KB is one of the coaches at my gym.

**All of y’all who have been around the church for a lifetime know about “never ask for patience!”.  I did, actually, under the counsel of one of the ladies at my church, with some trepidation.  I don’t know that I’ve gotten it, but I have more than I started with.  That’s not saying much.

***Credit to Pastor Dan Leitz for putting together a set of sermons on the gifts of the Spirit, which started me chewing on the difference between wisdom and knowledge.  If you’d like to listen to that set of sermons, it’s here:

http://subsplash.com/ccoceanside/s/ef6fjcx/

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It’s not always about you

Els pulled up one of my old posts (one of the few that got a long conversation going) and after reading the comment box, I was hit with something … well, it’s something that God’s been working on me about, so I thought I’d talk this over with y’all.

It’s not always about you.

I’m a serious “make other people happy” junkie.  I do NOT like it when the people near and dear to me are unhappy, when they’re stuck in a rut in their lives, when sunshine isn’t positively radiating from their pores at all times, day and night.  As my husband would say,  I “have issues.”

How do you think I feel when *he’s* not happy?

But, it’s not always about me.

Our society runs on the theory that the mating relationship is the most important relationship there is.  That romantic love can conquer all – that a good spouse can make your day shiny even if it’s pouring rain, and that it is, in the end, their responsibility to make you happy, no matter what.  Not true.

We* raise our romantic relationships to the level of idols as a culture.  We whine and moan when “we aren’t happpppy”, and we self-flagellate when *they* aren’t happy and we can’t fix it.   Of course it’s more pleasant to live with a happy person, and to be a happy person.  Some of this urge is simply selfish.  Some isn’t, but it’s a pointless exercise in naval-gazing to figure out which is which.   How, then, shall we go forward?

The answer circles back ’round to the same place that all my answers do, of late.  Put your relationship with God first.

I have found that God is faithful – if I ask, “am I doing right by this person (or in this situation)?  Please help me live as You want me to live”, He’s right there to correct me and keep me in line.  Sincerely seeking righteousness is a search that *will* be helped along.   How that operates might be different from person to person – but it will operate.  God doesn’t leave His children stranded.

That prayer requires me to set aside my ego.  I have to not be ‘being good’ because I’m me, but because I’m responding to the urges of the Spirit.  It’s not me, it’s God.   That’s not as much fun as when it’s me.  I enjoy being the driver.   Sort of.  I enjoy being the driver when the road’s clear and the weather’s perfect.  When the storm comes up in rush hour traffic, it’s much nicer not to be the one behind the wheel.

And that brings us around to the original  point.  Sometimes the storm is because of something I’ve done or not done.  Then that’s on me – the storm is about *my* behavior, so it’s my behavior that has to change.  But sometimes the storm hasn’t anything to do with me.  Sometimes the person to whom we are yoked is going through stuff that has nothing to do with us!  A lifetime is a long time – stuff happens!

There lies the rub.  If the situation isn’t related to me, then it’s likely out of my control.  All my jumping up and down and rolling around trying to be “better” isn’t helpful.  But I do need to keep myself at my best – the last thing that my beloved needs when he’s going through storms is me to add difficulty.   How do you even do that?

God.  That’s it.  Just God.  I *don’t* know when to speak and when to be silent, when to stand on my head to get a grin and when silliness is going to be irritating.  But God does.  And so, if I relinquish the control over “I must make him happy” and just chill out – God will take care of things.  He’s always happy to drive, it’s me that keeps insisting that I am just fine now, I can handle this.

Moreover, if I plug into God, I can get my needs met and not flip out.  In my own strength, I can chill for a bit, nails biting into my palms.  If I put my eyes on Jesus, I can walk on the water – I can let go, and let God, and my time limit is based on how long I concentrate on Him.  I can relinquish the dual need to please my husband and to be found pleasing – if the One I’m trying to please is Christ.

Everything in everyone’s life isn’t about me.

Weird, in’t?

 

*If you haven’t figured out that “we” very much includes “me”, and that this is written at least half to the woman in the mirror, let me clarify – I might be broadcasting this message, but it’s a message I need to sit with and take to heart.

Moving on to the next lesson

I’ve been struggling lately to let go and get on with the lessons that God wants to teach me right now, and I’m struggling because I am clinging on to the lessons that I learned in seasons past.

My lessons-to-learn center on faith – I’m supposed to be chilling out with my eyes open, waiting to see what God will do.   I’m supposed to actually tell him what I want, and be honest about emotions as they come up (or as they emerge from the soil in my psyche where I’d buried them).

That’s not an easy thing for me. I don’t do waiting very well, and I actively enjoy working for my goals.

But I get “wait” – even though I find being goal-less (for the moment) very discomfiting, I get it.

The hard bit is being asked to be honest about wanting the things I still want.  I learned, veryveryvery thoroughly, the lesson about giving all your desires to God, and if something was becoming an idol, dragging it up to the altar and leaving it there.   I learned the lesson about submitting my will and my desires to God’s plan, no matter how I felt about it.

That was a good lesson.  That was an important lesson.  But I can’t get on with learning new lessons until I stop obsessing about this one.  It wasn’t the LAST lesson.

I was reminded of the lesson I am working on last night, at a baptism I wasn’t expecting to attend (prayer answered, -coughcough-), because the lady who was baptized asked for our testimonies, and I remembered the verse that brought me back to church:

Matthew 7:“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Seriously.  I’m sitting here typing this and getting schooled.

The reason I had to drag all my deepest desires up to the altar was because I couldn’t let them be.  I had to fidget with them, daydream over them, and “work” on them constantly.  Yes, I did get my fingers smacked for being grabby.  But that doesn’t mean that forever and ever, I can’t put my hand in the Father’s hand and look at the pretty on the the display and say, “Ohhhh… that’s beautiful, Daddy.  May I have that?”  I got smacked for being GRABBY, not for wanting.  And I’d gotten those things confused.

I don’t think I have them sorted yet, I really really don’t.  But that’s what I’m working on – not working, just waiting to see what God will give me.  And speaking up.

So – for you readers out there, I’m saying this – don’t let last year’s lesson get in the way of learning this year’s lesson.  Don’t let the weirdness of saying, “I’m working on not working” (oh, pride doesn’t like that) get in the way of telling the truth.   I love to learn, but this isn’t learning – this is breaking a paradigm of my life, breaking the way I see reality… and remaking the way I see faith and hope, from the ground up.

I hope for the same for all of you – it’s amazing.

To be forgiving is not to be unfeeling

Christians are to turn the other cheek when we are wronged.

We are to forgive, for we have been forgiven.

That’s not the same thing as excusing the slap.  It’s not the same thing as smiling through the pain.  It’s not an incantation that means you’re not wiping a bit of blood from your lip as you turn your head.

If you wound me, I will hurt.

Because I have the Holy Spirit, I always have solace.  Because I have Jesus, I am never alone.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely.  It doesn’t mean I don’t cry.

I’m not inhuman.

And neither. are. you.

When you forgive a sin against you – you’re forgiving SOMETHING.  It is the fashion of the day to excuse-away sin rather than forgiving it.  But to forgive, there must be a trespass.  There must be harm.

Christians *can* forgive, even the most horrific things, because we are given the power to do so by the Holy Spirit.

Why do we pretend that we aren’t injured when someone deliberately wounds us?

Do we *intend* to reduce the power of the words, “I forgive you”?  No, but our culture which teaches us to do so, that culture doesn’t like the concept of sin.  Of harm.

Yes, you can hurt me.  And yes, you can be hurt.  Christianity doesn’t protect you against tears – it gives you a reason to be joyful in the midst of sorrow.

 

Community requires need

The ethos of “find your tribe” “find your truth” actually kills tribalism.

Why?  Because a tribe (a community) is meant to hold together when times are tough as well as when times are good.

Our tribes are held together by convenience.   When one’s “truth” changes, one can change tribes with no regret – because the larger value in our society is that of being true to oneself above all else.

In the conservative online community, we talk often about the useful effects of community standards, and how soft methods of social control help maintain the community.  And then someone looks at me, a respectable matron, and expects me to trot out the social controls.

But there’s a problem.  No one cares.   In order for social control to work, the person being controlled has to care more about the community than they do about the discipline.  And we’ve all been taught to *not* care, to push back against any authority, anyone that might make us consider changing our behavior.

No one agrees on truth.  This is less of a problem in religious conservative circles, because we can always go back to Bible.  But even so, we argue.  We argue because we don’t have a common tradition, a common, “this is just how things are done”.  (If we did, being Western, we’d decide to throw it away because it was old and outmoded).

We’ve become so individualistic as a society that community is something we put on just for now, just while it feels good, just while it works for us.  Why?  Because we don’t need it to survive.  Give the community the authority it had when our grandparents were young, the authority to regulate “respectable” behavior, and see how fast people leave.  We’re humans, and humans don’t like to be controlled.

 

And that fact is why individuality will trump community until the community is a need, not a want.

Everyone can go somewhere else.