Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wisdom in Thinking

There are times in our lives when a single fleeting thought can shake us to our core. Our child wanders off and we immediately think about what would happen if they've been kidnapped. Our spouse is 10 minutes late home from work and we begin to think about how we'll react when we hear the news of the accident they've been in. Or our Doctor calls with our test results and leaves a vague message and we are sure that he is going to tell us the worst. We tell ourselves not to worry, after all worry is a sin, right? We are just preparing ourselves just in case. Instead of spending our time allowing our worries to guide us, we need to remember what the Bible tells us.

In Philippians 4:8, we're told, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." So applying this verse will help you when you're tempted to let your mind wander in a direction that will lead to worry.

First, ask yourself, "Is what I'm thinking about true? Are there facts to back up my concern?" Yes, your spouse is 10 minutes late, but is there traffic or did they get held up at the office? What are the facts? It's easy to get caught up in the what if's and a lot harder to stop once that train of thought has started. So stop at the first thought and ask, "Is what I'm thinking true?" If it's not, stop. And pray that God will take the thoughts away.

Second, replace the thoughts that lead to worry with those that are noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. In 2007, I was sent to have a biopsy of a lump that was found in my breast. The time between the mammogram and the biopsy was about a week, but it felt like it was forever. I found myself overwhelmed with thoughts of what I would do if I had cancer. How would I continue to be a foster mom to our baby girl? Who would come to help me? Where would I need to go to seek treatment? All of these questions swirled around my head. The day after being told I would need a biopsy a nurse from my doctors office called me. She told me that most of the time lumps turn out to be nothing more than a cyst. She said that I needed make sure I didn't worry about this. She also reminded me of this verse. She said, "Right now, what we know to be true is enough to pray about." She also reminded me that I needed to fill my thoughts with my husband, daughter, those who loved me, but mostly of God. He is noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.

I would like to say that her pep talk was all I needed to overcome the worry I had at the time. It helped and when I caught myself, I was able to remind myself of what I needed to fill my thoughts with. The lump turned out to be a cyst, just as she said. Since that time I have had other times when I have had to choose to think on what was true. And given the choice to change my thought pattern. It has not been easy, but I have found that during times of worry I can do what 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." It is not easy to do. But a person of wisdom knows that right thinking can reduce our worries and fears. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Grace is Very Light.

Matthew 11: 28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We walk into church with smiles on our faces. When asked, “How are you?” we say, “Fine. Doing well. How are you?” We take our seats. Read the bulletin. Talk to our neighbor. We sing with the praise band and listen to the pastor. All the while our hearts are breaking and our burden is too much for us to bear.

Along the journey of our lives we have become rock collectors. As we walk along we pick up rocks that seem to be placed especially for us. We place these unhealthy rocks of remembrance into large packs that we carry on our backs. If we could see others the way that God sees us we would be able to see the large packs that each of us shoulders around. A pack filled with the rocks of our past mistakes and current sins. The rocks read, “Lost my temper and yelled at my kids. Worst mom in the world.” “ Was feeling lonely and unappreciated so I looked at online pornography. Worst husband in the world.” “I took money from my work. Worst employee ever. ” “ Lied habitually. Horrible sinner.” The pack grows heavier every day. The burden too much to carry. We think if anyone knew what I had done they would kick me out of the good Christian club. So we smile and volunteer in areas we are not gifted in hoping that maybe, just maybe, some of the rocks will disappear if we just work hard enough. If we just prove to God how serious we are, how sorry we are, then some of the rocks will disappear. We try over and over to stop sinning, stop rock collecting, but each day fills us with deeper despair. 

In Pilgrims Progress, when Pilgrim gets to the cross, the pack that he has been carrying filled with his sins and past mistakes, suddenly falls off his back and rolls away. We believe that the cross takes the sins we have committed up until the moment of our salvation and washes them away. But what we sometimes forget is that the blood of Jesus washes away all our sins. We don’t have to carry the pack. We don’t have to carry the rocks. The wonderful grace of Jesus means that we get to rest. We don’t have to continue to carry the guilt and shame. Nothing that we can do will ever take the place of the work Jesus did on the cross.  We can’t add to it with our works and can’t diminish it with our sins.

Jesus’ burden is light. His yolk does not include strangling us with shame, guilt, or sorrow. His yolk is light because he has taken off our packs, emptied the rocks, and filled it with grace. Grace is very light.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wisdom in Dealing with People

Proverbs 31 teaches us about wisdom in dealing with resources and in dealing with people.  So today, I would like to discuss the practical implications of using wisdom when dealing with people. 

Mr. Fred Rogers used to tell his wife, “Everyone would be easy to love if we knew their story.” We don’t often get the chance to learn a person’s story when we have brief encounters with them. We are often left to deal with the aftermath. Remembering that makes it easier to deal with a rude clerk or the guy who just cut you off in traffic. 

On December 28, 2007 I found myself sitting in the airport in Ohio. My husband,our 11 month old daughter and I were waiting for our connecting flight into St. Louis. We were making an unexpected trip to my parent’s house in Moberly, Missouri for my dad’s funeral. Our plans had been that my parents were coming to our house the day after Christmas. They were going to meet their granddaughters for the first time. My dad entered the hospital with severe stomach pains early Christmas morning. He died three days later. I was watching the people bustle around, many on their way home from a Christmas trip and I thought to myself, No one knows that my dad just died. I tried to hold myself together but the loneliness and sorrow overwhelmed me at that point. For the exception of my husband sitting next to me not one person in the airport knew anything about my lose. 
Looking back at that time has made me realize that when I come into contact with strangers that I might not have any idea what they are dealing with. Greeting a clerk with a “How are you?”, saying thank you when someone lets you go through the door first or smiling as you pass down the aisle might not fix anything in their life but it might make them feel just a little less lonely. 

Dealing with people can be hard. Sometimes just remembering that everyone is facing things that we don't know about. Wisdom takes into consideration that while we may not like the way we are being treated by someone, we don't have to react but can always respond with kindness.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wisdom in Love

In today's society we hear a lot about love. I love chocolate, my husband, a good book and my kids. Sometimes it gets hard to decipher what real love looks like. We observe the couple with the seemingly loving marriage file for divorce after 27 years saying,"We just aren't in love anymore." Or the ever popular breakup line I love you I'm just not in love with you. Love, were told, is an intense feeling that should never fade, but when it does you have the right to go look for it in someone else.
So what does love look like for someone striving to live a life of wisdom. The bible gives us some clues. The biggest being I Corinthians 13. "4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8 Love never fails." This all sounds good but what does it look like.

Love is Patient : Even after telling your kids 15 times to pick up the shirt they dropped in the middle of the room, love does not loose its cool.

Love is Kind: It always chooses kind words, and actions. This is not reactionary based on how I am treated but an action choice. I choose to treat my coworker kindly even when they are rude and inconsiderate.

It Does not Envy: Love is not upset when passed up for the promotion again. It does not spend its day wishing for Mr. Smith's boat, Mrs. Fing's big house. or Miss Jones independence.

It does not Boast and is not Proud: In the last few weeks my husband and I have jokingly been starting sentences with, "Not to Brag. . ." Which means we are about to. Love says I do not need to be the center of attention. Nor do I need to draw attention to myself by singing my own praises. If my actions are noteworthy let someone else take note. I do not need to point them out.

It does not dishonors others: In my last blog I talked about honor. Honor is respect and admiration. Love always chooses to respect and admire.

It is not self-seeking: Love is not looking out for their own interest. It is more concerned with the needs of others than it's own. It does not look for self gratification because it is on the look out for how it can satisfy others.

It is not easily angered: Love does not use sarcasm or angry words to cut and hurt. While it might get angry it does not have a short fuse. Those around us do not ave to worry about the slightest thing setting us off. They know that we can take a lot before we become angry. Even in our anger we do not harm another with our words or actions.

It keeps no records of wrongs: This is a hard one for me. I like to keep all those mean things that have been said filed away so I can take them out when I need to and replay them in my mind. I can say see this is what was done to me. This is why I react the way I do. See I am justified. But Love says it does not matter. Let it go.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth: When love hears that something bad has happened to someone who "deserved" it, it is not happy. It does not pass on juicy gossip. It chooses to be happy when the truth is discovered. When the truth is brought to light and lies are not given a chance to grow.

Love always protects, always trust, always hopes, always preservers: Love is in the business of building someone up. Even when they are doing their best to destroy what they have. Love chooses to believe the best about someone. It always believes that truth will win. It always stays no matter what.

Finally Love never fails: This kind of love will always be around when a wise person chooses it.
Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is a decision to chose the best action instead of the worst reaction. True Love is what a wise person always chooses.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wisdom in Honoring Each Other

While watching Prince Williams wedding to Catherine Middleton I was struck not only by the beautiful dress, and elegant bearing of the couple, but by the passage of scripture that Kate's brother read. During the reading of Romans 12 he came to verse 10 which says, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." I began to think what it would look like if I strove to outdo my husband in showing honor. Or if I treated my children or friends in this manner.
Honor according to the dictionary means to regard or treat with admiration and respect or to give special recognition to. In most marriage vows we promise to love and honor each other. So what does a wise person do to show honor? Once we are showing honor how do we then outdo one another in showing honor? In some instances it is easy to show honor. When your husband comes home with flowers for no reason. When your kids play without fighting for hours allowing you a few minutes to work quietly. When your coworkers give your the credit you deserve for a job instead of taking it all for themselves. All of these are easy situations to show honor, after all our desires are being met. But what do you do when you have gotten 3 calls from your kids principal this week and it is only Tuesday? When your spouse will barely talk to you. Or when you know that walking into work is like entering a battle zone.
Honor does not require that you are treated correctly. It does not require that you are honored in return. It does not require that you ever receive respect at all. A wise person knows that showing honor is a choice. Treating other with admiration and respect requires them to do nothing. It is not something that is earned but something that we choose to show to others no matter how they act.
When we promise to love and honor another person just as William and Kate did on Friday we are not putting conditions on it. We are not saying when you do what I want then I will honor you. When you show me respect then I will reciprocate. No, a wise person knows that outdoing one another in showing honor starts with the decision to honor without conditions. Realizing that you may never receive honor in return but you are only responsible for what you do not what others do.