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    Entries in Wisdom (6)

    Sunday
    Feb262017

    Living Skillfully

    The King James Version of the Bible still has its uses. In Proverbs 4:7 we read, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."

    Eugene Peterson writes, "Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves."

    To get wisdom we must first concede that we do not have it. The teachable heart is a prepared field for the seeds of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. This is horrendous English, but: with whatever getting you got, get wisdom. Once you have it, live a life of skill. Be an exceedingly sagacious engineer, brewmaster, or civil servant. Play the piano with all your might. Raise up students who will surpass you.

    Do not long for others to look upon you and say, "That person is wise." Rather, hope for this awe-filled whisper: "They are a blessing."

    Saturday
    Oct312015

    Prayer, Personhood, and Possibility

    Often when I have prayed I have asked for what I thought was good, and persisted in my petition, stupidly importuning the will of God, and not leaving it to him to arrange things as he knows is best for me. But when I have obtained what I asked for, I have been very sorry that I did not ask for the will of God to be done; because the thing turned out not to be as I had thought…Do not be distressed if you do not at once receive from God what you ask. He wishes to give you something better--to make you persevere in your prayer. For what is better than to enjoy the love of God and to be in communion with him?

    - Evagrius the Solitary, The Philokalia, vol. 1, as quoted in Tell it Slant by Eugene Peterson

    When we say the word God, we refer to a personhood, known in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As it is when we relate to persons, so it is when we relate to the Person of God. We may ask for those things we think good. And God, being the Person that God is, patiently bears with us, even when those things we ask for would not tend toward the good, either for ourselves or for all people. This God, being patient, kind, and loving beyond measure, so uses our petitions to refine our character, and to bring us nearer to the person God intends for us to be.

    The end of prayer is not the answer to our prayer, but God, which may in fact be the longing underneath all of our longings, that being, union and communion with our Creator.

    The Christian story claims that such communion has been made possible in Jesus Christ.

    Wednesday
    Jun182014

    Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

    Those are some wise words, James Bryan Smith.

    Thursday
    Dec292011

    Book Review :: 25 Books Every Christian Should Read

    Christianity is a treasure trove of wisdom.  But, as the book of Proverbs tells us, wisdom must be sought.  And, again as in the book of Proverbs, it is helpful when we are supplied with father and mother figures who would point us the way, who would instruct us in wisdom so that we might learn, develop, prosper, and grow.  25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics is a guide, compiled by wise and thoughtful Christian leaders, who seek to introduce us to those who have helped countless Christians be spiritually formed in the way of Jesus.

    The structure of 25 Books is simple.  After a word of introduction concerning methodology and the layout of each chapter, as well as a helpful, critical exposition concerning the logic of how and why each work is selected, 25 Books proceeds chronologically from Athanasius to Henri Nouwen, providing historical background for each work or its author, a justification for why that work is essential, guidelines for reading the selection, an excerpt, and discussion or reflection questions that can be used by individuals or small groups.

    The selections that are included are all strong recommendations--I have read 12 of the 25 books from start to finish myself, and am familiar with the other 13 selections, having read parts or quotations from each in other works.  The books also reflect a diversity across the Christian tradition.  There are books compiled by Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox.  There are theologians (Calvin) and philosophers (Pascal) and practitioners (Brother Lawrence).  There is both story (Bunyan, Dostoevsky) and poetry (Dante, Gerard Manley Hopkins).  There are men and women (Teresa of Avila, Julian or Norwich), though more men than women, not including the anonymous texts.  There is also more ideological and geographical diversity than might be supposed--though many of these authors might come from the "Western tradition", many preceded globalization and cultural homogenization.

    "Best of" or "Should Read" or "Must see" lists are notorious for being incomplete, and their compilation always leads to debate, as it should.  For as soon as the cut off line is established, it is inevitable that a number of selections will be left waiting near the precipice, looking on and wondering why they have been excluded so that another might be included.  What differentiates one from another?  Why is this book or record or movie or experience deemed worthy, while that one has not?  And oftentimes it is the case that this type of debate can be just as productive and fruitful as the discussion of those authors or artists or works that have been included.

    I make this point only to say that there are fair and unfair criticisms that have been levied regarding 25 Books.  There are those that may say that the selections given do not represent enough diversity, even among the contemporary authors included at the back.  In addition to recommending lighting a candle before cursing the darkness by providing their own recommendations, I would note that among those listed I see Russians and French and Spanish mystics.  I see British, German, and American authors.  I see Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox voices.  And I also see a number of women on the editorial board who compiled these selections, and were surely afforded by the board itself a great deal of sway.  There are also a number of "Top 5" lists scattered throughout the book from voices like Emile Griffin and Brenda Quinn, in addition to Ron Sider and Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith.  There are men and women that helped shape this book, from a number of different traditions.  The inclusion of The Desert Fathers and Augustine also allow for ancient Eastern or African voices to be included--Hippo, or present day Annaba, is located in Algeria.

    A dear friend of mine has noted that this list "skews contemplative."  But of course!  The list has been compiled by Renovare, an organization that is known for pushing the church toward soul transformation, mining the riches of the Christian tradition for all it is worth, and sharing its treasures.  And while there is some truth to this charge, it is hard to say that Augustine or Calvin, Bonhoeffer or even C.S. Lewis have been favorites of contemplatives.  Granted, Confessions has been read as more of a devotional book, but Augustine's prose has been invaluable for the intellectual development of the church on doctrines such as human anthropology and sin, God's sovereignty, and grace.

    There are books that I would have preferred to be included, such as selections from the Standard Sermons of John Wesley, or excerpts from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas.  I'd also contend that Brian McLaren does not merit conclusion on the list of contemporary authors who should be read, having read and discussed in detail most everything he has ever published.  But as I've noted above, these lists must stop somewhere, and the exclusion of some provides a good contrast for the inclusion of others.

    I recommend this book as a "library builder", a helpful companion that points toward resources that are indispensable for every Christian library.  It is not an "end all" list, but a beginning point for conversation.  The discussion questions are solid, and the historical background is helpful.  The underlying point that Christians should read for spiritual formation is undeniable, and all that is discovered within this book's pages is worthy of passing on to other Christians, or even those considering the Christian faith.

    Solid resource, excellent selections, worthy of discussion, and trustworthy as a guide to authors and books that will build your soul.

    Saturday
    Jun112011

    Need Action! Do? Don't.

    Adam Dachis at Lifehacker says, "If you feel compelled to act, hesitate first."

    What?

    In response to Tony Schwartz of The Energy Source blog, Dachis writes:

    If you see yourself about to make a decision too easily, don't do it. Hesitate first. Give yourself a moment to reality test your actions in your mind. Be your own devil's advocate. If everything checks out, proceed. If it doesn't, don't.

    This is great wisdom, though it is nothing new.  This sounds kind of like something in the New Testament.  James 1:19-20 says:

    My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

    Yet, this is a hard lesson.

    Do you have the discipline to slow down when faced with a situation that demands a decision?  How do you maintain this?  How have you learned this skill?  What advice would you give to others in exercising wisdom?  What advice do you give yourself?