Tag Archives: wisdom

Let Go

landscape bookcase

Several years ago, I started giving away my books.  Early in my ministry, I took pride in the collection of theological and ministry-related books I had in my personal library.  I had various Bible translations and commentaries.   Using books, I earned a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry.  I thought that if I had all the right knowledge, I could discern God’s path for myself and my congregation.  If I could fill my head with the right ideas, concepts and principles, I would succeed.

I discovered the knowledge path can be a dead-end. Though I did learn many wonderful and helpful things, I found less and less deep satisfaction in knowing ideas, concepts and principles. Knowledge did not equal wisdom.  I needed to learn to “let go.”

For over a decade, I taught a course called BeFrienders which trained lay people in my congregation to do basic pastoral care through the practice of active listening.  At the beginning of each new training course, I and my co-leaders would tell an ancient story about a young man search for wisdom.   He traveled to a wise elder and began to tell the elder all that he knew about wisdom.  As the young man talked, the elder poured tea into the young man’s cup.  The young man kept talking and as the elder continued to pour, the tea cup overflowed.   The young man looked in horror at the overflowing cup and shouted, “Stop, my cup is already full.”  The elder stopped pouring and says, “Yes, it is.  The cup is like your mind.  Your mind is so full of itself that it cannot take in anymore.  You need to empty your mind in order to receive wisdom.”  It was several years before I  caught up with the story’s full impact.

The scripture that guides my path towards wisdom is Philippians 2:5-7

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

I have thought a lot about what it meant for Christ Jesus to empty himself. Emptying is a way of letting go.  Since Paul is talking about the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, it makes sense that Jesus gave up being “all-knowing,” an attribute that many Christians give to God.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus was not all-knowing, but rather asked questions (Mark 2:8-9, Mark 5:30, 10:51).  Furthermore, Jesus strongest rebuke was for the religious know-it-alls: the Pharisees and scribes (Mark 7:1-13).  Now I understand Jesus more as a “love-it-all”  rather than a “know-it-all.”  A big part of love is letting go.

In the next few weeks I plan to write more on this theme of letting go.  Letting go of my past, letting go of words, letting go of status and pride.  It hasn’t been easy, but as backpacking has taught me, “a lighter pack (or mind) creates a more pleasant hike.”

 

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The Wisdom to Know the Difference

Growing up I confused wisdom and knowledge.   My grades were always at the top of the class. I loved the attention teachers and pastors gave me when I had the right answer.  I knew everything and I knew I was RIGHT.  But I was clueless in how this attention caused classmates to resent me.   I was not wise in how to keep friendships thriving.

7K0A0478In the Niebuhr’s Serenity prayer a key petition is to have the wisdom to know what can and what cannot be changed.  This is particularly true in human relationships.  I might desire my spouse, child or co-worker to change in some way, but I cannot make them change.  What I can change is how I interact with them.  I can choose to have the serenity to listen carefully to what the other is expressing.  I can have the courage to “speak my mind” or “to hold my tongue” depending on the context.    I will need wisdom in each situation in what I say or how I act.

IMG_3289I confess that at times I am unwise in my desire to be right.  I think I have the right perspective and the other person must be wrong.   And if I simply repeat myself enough time with varying intensity of voice, the other person will finally hear my perspective and agree.   I KNOW I am right, but I am not WISE in how I interact. Really, at time I can be clueless.

Jesus had the wisdom to know the difference.  He had the courage to confront the self-righteous Pharisees, but the tender compassion to heal a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6).

Slowly I am learning to let go of my need to be right.   I think the stronger, wiser course is to learn how to love the other, to listen and to be present to the other.  Wisdom grows one day at a time.

What kind of wisdom do you seek?

Lord Jesus, give me the wisdom to know how to act in love.

Running Lessons

One key aspect of running is its simplicity. All I need are a pair of running shoes and workout clothes to go for a run. I don’t need any other equipment, gym or teammates to have a quality run. I simply need to get myself dressed and out the door.

Of course that simplicity can turn running into a stale routine, even a rut. I can run the same route at the same pace at the same time everyday. (One reason I avoid treadmills is that I find them to be so boring.)

To break up the routine, I enjoy running with a group on Saturday morning. For years the St. Andrew’s Running Club has blessed me with great running companions. Most of the runners are not members of the congregation and even though I have moved on to a new and wonderful congregation at Resurrection Lutheran, the Running Club welcomes me back on occasion to run with them. What I appreciate during these run are the lessons I frequently learn. This morning’s run was especially rich.

Lesson #1 dress properly: The weather has turned colder in Minnesota this week and overall I had the proper gloves, hat and running tights for the chilly morning. However as we started out, I noticed that my neck and chin were almost numb. I also notice nearly everyone else wearing either a turtleneck or neck gaiter to stay warm. Over the years my running mates have taught me several lessons about shoes, socks, tights, shorts, shirts, jackets and hats.

Lesson #2 change of pace: One of the reasons I like to run with others is that it is a change of pace. Sometimes slower, but often faster as it was this morning. Our six-mile run challenged my aerobic system, even as we chatted about films, marathons, books, children and life.

Lesson #3 companions: In recent months I have discovered that I have occasional episodes of tachycardia where my heart rate suddenly jumps 40+ beats during exercise.  I have discussed it with my doctor and together we developed a plan so I could continue running. Today I had two episodes; I immediately did my standard treatment of lying down and the heart rate dropped to normal exercise parameters in less than a minute. Each time my friends stopped to see if I was all right and even when I told them to go on (they know about my tachycardia), someone waited. I was never left alone.

Lesson #4 expert advice: This morning Shannon Maixner joined the group. She is the physical therapist who greatly aided my injury recovery over a year ago. After the run, I was showing her some of the exercises I continue to do to stabilize my hip and she graciously shared with me some expert advise on how to do the exercises more effective. Her encouragement and wisdom was one of the highlights of the morning.

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding (Proverbs 3:13).

Lord Jesus, teach me your ways.