What Do You Find?

It seems that the whole world in incensed and offended these days. We see all that is insulting and rude, all that is vile and insensitive, and everywhere you turn you hear about how this thing or that is wrong. But the truth is this: It’s not what others say or do that really sets us off, but how we perceive what they say and do, what we think about it.
One thing I know about humans is that we are seekers. We are continually searching, for a good deal, a new idea, a better way, or for something more. We can’t help it, it’s in our nature, it’s how God created us. And something else I know, whether we realize it or not, we ALWAYS find what we looking for. So my question is this: What do you seek, and more importantly, what do you find?
We are told in Matthew 7:7 to “seek and you will find,” but I don’t think we really take the time to understand what is meant by this. We think it means that if we seek God, we will find Him, and this is certainly true, but it’s more complex than this, more intricate. When we are told to “seek and you will find,” we are being tutored in a school of thought, which encompasses an entire universe of possibilities and what we make of them. It is both an instruction and an admonition, and the surest way to know just what it is we are seeking is to examine what we find. It’s an instruction, because it tells us that to be happy, we must seek, and it’s a warning, because it tells us that we must be mindful of what we look for in others and the world around us, how we perceive the events of our life. You see, what we seek is evidenced by what we find, and what we tell others we have found, also tells them what we have sought. If we find discord and strife, hatred and racism, disrespect and inconsideration, we have been seeking it, and likewise, if we find joy and delight, honor and integrity, love and compassion, these are the things we have also sought.

~SLM

Our Way

Sometimes everything in life seems to be such a fight, a struggle, when nothing seems to go the way you’ve planned it, and obstacles start flying toward you faster than you can duck. When the shit hits the fan, it’s so easy to get off course, get depressed, and wonder just what the hell God is trying to say. It’s funny how we automatically assume that God wants to thwart our plans, to knock us down and show us His displeasure, but is this really God’s way, or is it our way of looking at it?

In Mark 8:34-36, Christ tells us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  And, it occurs to me (in the midst of my own struggles) that maybe the obstacles, the road blocks, are really God’s way of checking our faith, of testing our resolve to play it out in God’s time and in God’s way, giving us the chance to lay down our selfish desires and follow.

~SLM

What Now We Harvest

Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing in the world, focusing on the harvest. It’s so easy to get mired down in the drama of everyday life, to get our feelings hurt, if things don’t go exactly as we want them to, and that’s when the temptation to scatter just any old seeds is the strongest.  It’s so much easier to put others down, to puff up our chests with self-righteous indignation for an imagined slight or insult. Matthew 7:8 tells us that whatever we seek we will find, so if we are looking for indignation, we’ll find it, if we’re looking for hate, we’ll find that, too, but, by the same token, of we seek love and compassion, that’s what we find.

It’s so easy to criticize others, to hold them accountable to a standard that we ourselves haven’t the discipline or courage to live by. We are told, “Do not judge, or you, too, will be judged in the same manner that you have judged, and with the same measure that you have used,”(Matthew 7:1-2.) Yet, that doesn’t stop us from looking down on them, from judging them for not leading the exemplary lives that we ourselves are unable to lead. We are, indeed, all hypocrites, aren’t we? We feign outrage when someone else acts in precisely the manner we do. We wail and lament that we find no respect, no honor, no happiness or love, all the while forgetting those seeds we scattered so carelessly, so imprudently – what now we harvest.

~SLM

Bigger Than The Box

Sometimes, because of human nature, and how we assimilate external stimuli, we tend to categorize things, sort them out and stack them up in nice, neat little piles, containing them within a certain space. We even do this with God. We box Him up in a proper little package and define Him in our terms, how we think He ought to be, but we cannot limit God in such a way. Mark tells us that Christ said to his disciples as they questioned him about salvation, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). God is bigger than the box we make for him. He is more than our rudimentary grasp of Him; He is everything and nothing at all, He is every possibility, and He cannot be neatly filed away into our definition of whom and what He is. Sometimes, God’s message for us is not what we want to hear, or how we want to hear it, and we simply cannot afford to close our minds, because we don’t like the message or the messenger.
In the search for truth, we must be ever-vigilant in our quest to recognize the voice of Wisdom. We cannot pick and choose how and when God will give us guidance. He speaks to us in many voices, and not just the voices we know and love, agree with and respect. He uses every means at His disposal to share His truths with us, and it is up to us to have eyes to see and ears to hear.
~SLM

The Whole Truth

Any quest for wisdom, sooner or later, has to address truth, a concept which seems rather elusive in our modern society. It seems funny to me how we think about truth in the “information” age.  Our pop culture sends us many mixed messages, messages that mutate with every new “cool” thing or errant thought, giving us the impression that truth is mutable, a relative notion, an ever changing moving target, evolving over time into what we want it to be.

What is truth and how do we come to it? The Merriam-Webster’s defines truth as: the real facts about something: the things that are true. The noun form of the word true, it means agreeing with the facts, not false, real or genuine. In actuality, truth is the real facts, and as such, the whole truth is all the facts, while half-truths are just certain facts.

When we say things like “that might be true for you, but it’s not true for me,” we are really saying that the facts aren’t realities for us. The facts are the facts, and if we say they aren’t valid for us, we are simply saying that we cannot accept the truth, we are deceiving ourselves. Likewise when someone says, “the truth lies somewhere in the middle, ” it presupposes that neither party is in possession of all the facts, therefore all parties are lying, and it occurs to me that only a liar would presume  everyone is lying as a way to muddy the waters, to deflect guilt, to convince others to share in their lie. And, when we say “there are many paths up the mountain” in an effort to accept all ideologies as equal, we delude ourselves with a half-truth. For while it is, indeed, true that there are many paths which can taken, not all paths lead in the same direction, nor do they all lead to the summit, and most are frankly dead-ends.

The X-Files had it right – the truth is out there, and it is our job to seek it out diligently, consciously, setting our delusional and corrupt egos aside so that we may hear the voice of Truth, recognize it, and as difficult as it may be, accept it, willingly, fully and without adulteration. The whole truth is easy to find, but hard to come by. It’s not relative or variable, it isn’t good for some, but not for others, it doesn’t lead down wayward paths, and it does not change – it is what it is. We are what changes, not the truth; we change in regards to how we see it, how we react to it, how we understand and accept it.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”    John 8:32

~SLM

Proverbs 12: The 3 P’s of Discipline

Proverbs 12 starts with this simple thought:  “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” Wow, if ever there was a mantra for the pursuit of Wisdom this would be it; the idea that accepting and even loving discipline produces knowledge, and those who cannot, or will exercise it are fools. It is knowledge and understanding that lead us to Wisdom, and it’s through discipline that we gain knowledge. Discipline is the key, and it occurs to me that discipline should be spelled with 3 P’s.

The first P is pretense, the act of deception. Fools pretend to know, they make up answers to sound more important, more impressive; they are sanctimonious in their opinions, clinging to them stubbornly. But, when we pretend, we lie, we give false testimony, we give bad advice and eventually we become trapped by our tongues. Luke 6:45 tells us, “a good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Discipline has no use for deception. Not knowing the truth of a situation doesn’t make us less, it doesn’t mean that we are not smart or that we are worthless. It simply means that we do not know, and all the nonsense in the world will not change the truth.

The second P is prudence, the act of discretion. Fools rush to judgment, and that rarely turns out well. When we are not judicious with a situation, our reckless words and deeds inflict pain and suffering that we cannot take back – once the thoughts are verbalized and the deeds are done, the words and actions are out there forever, and no amount of back-peddling, no amount of contrition can change it. Matthew 7:2 tells us, “in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Discipline demands discretion, and if we approach life with humility, deliberation, and wisdom, when situations do arise, we can persevere, using the “measure” we would have given unto us.

P number 3 is patience, the act of imperturbability. Fools are easily annoyed – they over react and fly off the handle, act rashly and make snap judgments. In essence, they lack patience. Discipline requires patience, lots of patience, patience to wait for the right timing, to dig a little deeper, to contemplate our next move, to listen to the voice of God. We are wise when we look past the apparent, practicing forbearance and tolerance, looking behind the curtain with consideration and understanding, and acting judiciously.

Correction is a gift from God.  When we are so mired in our own self-righteousness, we are operating from a place of arrogance, a place where we are so filled with ourselves and our own opinions that there is literally no room for a divergent thought.  When we’re in that place we can’t even hear the wind blowing let alone the promptings of Spirit. Verse 14 says, “From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward,” and if our goal is to live life in His Wisdom, then we should welcome discipline, be thankful for it, realizing that sometimes fine-tuning is just what is needed for our growth and happiness.

~SLM

Deuteronomy #2: Love is the Answer

If we could summarize God’s law in just a few words, those words would be this: Love is the answer. In Deuteronomy 6:5 we are told, “and you shall love the lord your God with all our heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength,” and this is the heart of the law, the foundation, the fulcrum upon which all else balances.  1 John 4:16, states, “And so we know and rely on the love that God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him,” and Christ tells us this in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

It’s by following God’s laws, we show our love, we tether ourselves to Him, giving over our hearts, trusting with total abandon, and in return we experience His faithful and steadfast devotion. Romans 13:8 states this; “let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.”

The song “Love is the Answer” is stuck in my head, and like a broken record that keeps skipping and repeating these words keep playing in my head:

Light of the world, shine on me

Love is the answer

Shine on us all, set us free

Love is the answer…

And when you feel afraid…Love one another
When you’ve lost your way…Love one another

When you’re all alone …Love one another
When you’re far from home…Love one another

When you’re down and out…Love one another
All your hope’s run out…Love one another

When you need a friend…Love one another
When you’re near the end, love
We got to love, we got to love one another

Funny how god uses whomever he wishes to bring his Word to us, and I wonder how quickly Todd Rundgren wrote this song, and if he felt the power of the Spirit upon him when he did.

~SLM

And in case you’ve never heard, or don’t remember it…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QZjJU-mtFU

Proverbs 11 The Handbook for Life Part IV: Karma

Any handbook for life worth considering is bound to have a healthy chapter covering Karma. As defined by the dictionary, Karma is the concept of “action” or “deed” understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect. It’s the prevalent “hip” expression for payback, but, Karma is more than just “what goes around comes around,” it’s about the law of attraction, about actions; how we act and thereby live our lives dictates what we attract unto ourselves.

 

It’s funny to me how we like to pick and choose the attributes of Karma that suit us at any given time, and we are more apt to apply it to others than to ourselves. We are quick to point out how we think the actions of others are bound to return “bad Karma” to them, while completely ignoring our own actions. Saying things like, “well, maybe I’m so-and-so’s karma,” or “Karma’s a bitch, man. Maybe you should think about what you are saying [to me],” meaning that if what is said is egregious enough, we’d be justified in meeting out our own brand of Karma. When we take matters into our own hands, avenging a real or perceived wrong, then our revenge is met with further revenge, and the cycle continues to spiral downward until only hate and prejudice remain. And, if you think about it, the idea that we have the right to make someone pay for what we believe is wrong, is the height of arrogance. It’s the ego throwing a temper tantrum, because someone dared to be thoughtless, unkind, or unjust to us, and, in our own hubris, we are determined to punish the offender.

Karma is a concept that involves consciousness, the thoughtful awareness of one’s actions, and the realization of how we impact others, and to me, it is synonymous with the idea of turning the other cheek. Not reacting to a situation takes strength of will, it takes courage. It’s the ultimate state of being mindful of our actions and their consequences, allowing us the opportunity to treat others as we would be treated, no matter what the situation, creating a positive charge, and giving the responsibility of retribution to a power greater than us, which frees us from the cycle of cause and effect.

 

The law of attraction compels us to trust in spirit, to strive to do the right thing, even if doing so seems naive or foolish at the time, because it teaches us that we attract to ourselves those things which we seek. If we seek goodness, we find it, if we seek spirit, we find it, if we seek wisdom, we find it, and if we seek trouble, we find it. We are continually seeking every day of our lives, whether consciously or cavalierly, whether fully engaged or on auto-pilot, we usually find exactly what we seek, we reap what we have sown. Therefore we must guard our thoughts, our tongues, and our actions, being ever mindful of the fruit we bring to bear.

 

Luke 6:43-45 tells us “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

 

We eat the fruit of our own choosing, and if that fruit is bad, rotten, then it is we who shoulder the blame.

~SLM

Proverbs 11:1-16: Handbook for Life Part III

…and the interpretations continue…

1The Lord detests dishonest scales,
but accurate weights find favor with him.

Treating everyone and everything with honesty and fairly is pleasing to the eyes of God.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.

Pride is the great downfall of mankind. When we let our pride get in the way, we cannot hear the voice of wisdom, but unpretentiousness opens our ears to God’s guidance.

The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Those who strive for decency have truth and authenticity to guide them, while the false and faithless will be ruined by their deceitfulness.

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.

The accumulated possessions of this world hold no value in times of disaster and crisis, but wisdom, knowledge and honesty provides safety.

The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight,
but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

The very act of living honestly and respectably simplifies our lives and makes them straight-forward, but if we scheme, our schemes become our undoing.

The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

It is our integrity that carries us forward, that gives us rectitude and keeps us truthful, but the dishonest, the devious, the treacherous, are enslaved by their malicious desires.

Hopes placed in mortals die with them;
all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

Faith given over to humans is misplaced faith, because all of mankind’s promise and power comes to nothing, for men die and with them dies all their desires, all their prospects, all their hopes.

The righteous person is rescued from trouble,
and it falls on the wicked instead.

An honest person is liberated from trouble, which falls on the despicable instead.

With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors,
but through knowledge the righteous escape.

With their words, godless people destroy others, but through wisdom and judiciousness the decent can escape the trap of gossip.

10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

When good triumphs over evil, or when the wicked are destroyed, we all celebrate it.

11 Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

Through their blessings, good people exalt others, and through their words, the malicious tear others down.

12 Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense,
but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

Someone who put others down, ridiculing and disparaging them spreads ruin and destruction, while those who are wise do not judge.

13 A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

If a gossip will tell just one thing, he will tell all, but one who is trustworthy will hold his tounge.

14 For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.

It is best for leaders to listen to the points of view from all sides, to consider the advice of many in order to give wise counsel and provide for stability safety.

15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer,
but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.

Vouching for the credit of someone you do not know well is a fool’s errand, better to walk away than to suffer for a bad decision.

16 A kindhearted woman gains honor,
but ruthless men gain only wealth.

Honor and respect are given to a kind and gracious woman, while money only goes to heartless men.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

This section of Proverbs is clearly about how to treat others, about how to live our lives in conjunction with others. It instructs us to live our lives honestly and conscientiously, to think of how our actions, or lack of actions, affect others. Romans 12:17-18 advises us, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Proverbs 11:1-16 serves as a reminder of the laws of physics, which demand that for every action there is an equal and/or opposite reaction. Living consciously is the key; being aware of how our actions produce re-actions, of how our daily lives, and what we choose to do and say, influences all those with whom we interact. We should think of ourselves less and others more, remembering that community is as important as we are.

If we would simply hold our tongues, close our lips, open our eyes and ears, seeking God’s wisdom and guidance, keeping His commands, we would see and understand many things we have never even thought it possible to know.

~SLM

Proverbs 10: The Handbook for Life Part I

So now we come to it, Solomon’s guidebook for living, an “owner’s manual” for life that compares and contrasts wisdom with foolishness, virtue with vice. In the next several posts on Proverbs, I will treat The Wise Sayings of Solomon as if they are a foreign language to be decoded, explained, translated into plain English.  These two-line Haiku style poems, found in chapters 10 through 22:16, and continuing in chapters 27 to 29, represent the wisdom of the ages, condensed and codified, divided into 16 parts (and for my purposes, 32, so as to keep any one posting from hitting the realm of a doctoral thesis!), and showing us how to lead a good life before the eyes of God.

Solomon’s Wise Sayings begin with a simple, yet profound observation;

1A wise son brings joy to his father,
 but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

If you make good choices in life, it’s your dad who is the proudest of you, but it’s a mother who feels it most, whose heart is broken when a child turns out wrong. Dads are more apt to cut their losses and distance themselves from a hurtful situation, but moms suffer for it. They’re the ones who hold out hope, even when all hope seems lost, that some good would come from a difficult situation. That’s why it’s such a joy when a prodigal child to return home, such a blessing when one realizes the error of one’s ways.

2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value,
but righteousness delivers from death.

The things that we hold most dear are those that we have to toil to achieve. If we don’t have to work for something, we have no concept of its worth, its true value. If we are dishonest, take short cuts or take advantage of others to get what we want, it usually doesn’t turn out very well.

3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

God takes care of those who follow his way, his instruction, yet he also frustrates the desires of the nefarious. He takes care of his own. Luke 12:24 tells us “consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

4 Lazy hands make for poverty,
but diligent hands bring wealth.

We are keepers of our families, our homes, our communities, and productivity is the better part of good stewardship. There are things in life that simply need to be done, and when we neglect them, whether it’s our health, our finances, or our spirituality, we find ourselves in situations that can bring us to ruin.

5 He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 we are told that to all things there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Wisdom teaches us the practicality of taking action at the appropriate time, of “making hay while the sun is shining,” but if we are heedless or neglectful of our duties we dishonor ourselves.

6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

When we are honest and decent, living our lives respectably, and treating people with honor, the blessings we bestow upon others returns to us manifold.  But, if we let our mouths over load our backsides, disrespecting and demeaning others, causing them pain and anguish, then we can expect to reap vehemence and cruelty.

7 The name of the righteous is used in blessings,
but the name of the wicked will rot.

We remember and honor virtuous folks, and we use them as examples to follow, to pattern ourselves after. But the wicked are reviled, detested and condemned, and they are irrevocably linked to corruption and perversion.

8 The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

The idea of attaining wisdom is connected to the notion of learning from our own or others’ mistakes, listening for and accepting instructions, taking responsibility for our actions and moving forward. But the foolish never listen, take responsibility, or accept directions. They blabber on, smugly believing they know it all, and their arrogance is their down fall.

9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

If we take the high road, walking in truthfulness and decency, our road is protected, and we can feel confident in our dealings with others. But, if we are deceitful, telling half-truths and twisting the facts, it is our scheming that eventually exposes our falseness and dishonesty.

10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

When we are unkind, making fun and talking behind other’s backs; the consequences are pain and suffering for ourselves and others. When we chatter on without regard to what we are saying, we are the one who ends up with egg on our face, who is disgraced.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

When we speak honestly, have decency and are respectful of others, we become a source for understanding and inspiration to them, but the malicious and contemptuous, disguise their true intent with their words.

12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.

Animosity always precedes conflict, and discord begets more hatred, but love, love is the answer. It erases all wrongs and understanding is its progeny.

13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

You can think whatever you want to, but it’s not very wise to say everything you think; discernment is the key to getting along with others, and those who show no sense inevitably suffer for their lack of judgment.

14 The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

To become wise, we must adopt the habit of listening. It’s through our ears that our knowledge builds upon itself, like a house is built from the foundation up, but those who are foolish attract ruin, because they are incessantly bragging of all they know, rather than listening.

15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,
but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

When we appreciate the blessings in our lives, we recognize God’s abundance, and our blessings become our fortification, but if we are never satisfied, and see only the thing we do not have, then our attitude of ingratitude becomes our ruin.

16 The wages of the righteous is life,
but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.

When we live in an honest and virtuous manner, what we gain is character, spirit, life, but if we are corrupted, dishonest and malicious, then we are as zombies, we are dead inside.

And so ends my translation of The Handbook, Part I.        ~ SLM