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Archive for the ‘Prudence’ Category

Wonderment is a valuable thing. It causes you to ask questions and seek answers. But where might one find answers? For meaning and life, the best and reliable source is the Bible. For beauty and function the best source is the second book of revelation, nature (see “Two Books” for why).

I have been contemplating the idea of wisdom lately. As a grey headed grandfather of seven, I reckon I am supposed to have a bit of that. I have a bit perhaps but feel woefully lacking. By contrast, Proverbs 3:19 says, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens.” Certainly He has no lack of wisdom and did not have to acquire it, deepen it, or perfect it. Out of His abundance of perfect wisdom “the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) Therefore, belonging to Him, I have hope of obtaining a measure of wisdom.

But what is wisdom, why do we need it, and how do we get it?

As I began to look in Proverbs, I observed in chapter two the use of four words in rapid succession, as if repetition meant they were different words for the same thing: wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and understanding. I wondered, how they are related and how they are different. Do they build upon one another or are they different words for the same idea?

I like to come to some level of completion or satisfaction in the study of an idea. I looked up definitions and key passages. I checked the Hebrew words for the various words. And that was when I realized that I was beginning a study that I will not soon finish. The same Hebrew word was frequently translated as different English words. Knowledge seems to be separate, but the other three somewhat interchangeable. I like for words to have exact meanings. Of course, language develops by usage and exact meanings are never going to happen. Even if someone prescribes a meaning, say Noah Webster for instance, the common misuse or connotative use can destroy any simple, straightforward use of a word. So I set out first of all to define terms as would be helpful in my study of them. Following are definitions I am developing for these four words drawn from dictionaries, the Scripture, and experience. 

Truth is information that aligns with reality. It is the basis of all pursuit of wisdom. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Proverbs 12:17) I have added this word because of its foundational status. If there is no truth then seeking wisdom is a fool’s game never to be accomplished. We live in a culture that argues that there is no truth, but then all other discussion becomes meaningless. No one actually operates on the basis of no truth as seen in the fact that most people do life preservative avoidance moves to continue living (you know, things like stopping at red lights and not jumping off of cliffs without aid of parachute or wingsuit).

Knowledge is awareness and familiarity with truth, facts, skills, and propositions. Proverbs 18:15 says, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Prudence is acting now in a way that prepares for the future. Knowledge is useful for the future.

Understanding is the ability to grasp the meaning and value of knowledge and its relationship to other ideas. Proverbs 9:6 says, “Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.” It is the man of understanding who may acquire and act by wisdom. Contemplating knowledge and how it should be applied leads to understanding. For this reason, it is rare for those who do not consider and muse to gain understanding.

Discernment is the process of evaluating the causes and outcomes of an event. Proverbs 1:2 says, “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding.” Instruction is a word meaning discipline and is part of a disciple’s knowledge. In the verse, discernment is making use of understanding.

Wisdom is appropriate action fitted to the situation based on consideration of prudent and right judgement. “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her. ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.'” (Proverbs 8:10-12) Wisdom is the goal because it helps the wise and those under the wise person’s care and gives glory to God, the Author of wisdom.

I have defined these terms in this order because I think that they build upon one another in this particular order. Truth is the basis of knowledge which may lead to understanding, allowing for discernment in a situation, upon which wisdom for action is developed.

Or more simply      T -> K -> U -> D -> W

Obviously, these skills develop in fits and starts and various orders as a situation, study, prayer, or illumination occurs, but I think they are well thought of in this order because of increasing complexity and need of the preceding ones to accomplish.

If I develop clarity on how they are differentiated and taught in Scripture, I will try to share that here. Until then, may God give us wisdom for the living of these days so that we might be like “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times.” (I Chronicles 12:32)

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Experience is supposed to make us wiser and more prudent. Sometimes we heed lessons learned and sometime we don’t. It began with a seemingly innocent change of plans: “Oh, I can’t go overnight. We’ll just have to figure it out.” Next up was not taking a map. Then there was the part where I should have asked what the actual plans were. The trails are not well maintenanced, that is, cleared, so they can be hard to find. A new trail had been cut that was not on the map I had nor had I seen it, so we wasted some time going the wrong way. About 1/3 through the trip leg cramps ensued which caused us to change our route to avoid uphills that increased the cramps and pain, which then resulted in perhaps an extra 5 miles of hiking. We attempted to traverse a trail in the dark we had never been on. The trail passed through a field. In retrospect there were probably two exits, maybe more, from that field. After too much walking, we ended up on a road and knew where we were, which was about five miles from our vehicle. So we called in a rescue from an in-law. The final result of these multiple missteps was an estimated 25 miles in rough terrain, having left the house at 8 AM and returned at midnight.

On the up side, it was a beautiful day with cooler than usual June temperatures, partly cloudy and mostly tree covered to shield us from all day sun exposure. The river was cold and relaxing. The conversation was pleasant. We succeeded in hiking the length of the Gorge from Cabin Trail all the way to the lake and seeing several trails we’d not been on before. I took some good pictures and felt the beauty of God’s Creation. The stars shone brightly as we awaited the pick-up. My son asked me at one point how I could still be talking about plants. I had a two part response: 1) That’s just who I am, and 2) When you are hurting and in too deep, it’s best to focus your mind away from the difficulty onto more pleasant thoughts.

A few examples of Providential** assistance included finding a laminated map propped up against a tree at a campsite, a clean water source along the way, and an answer to prayer for assistance. I had told my son earlier in the day that I had prayed in the form of a daydream that a person would be standing in the river, fishing, who knew where to cross and would be willing to point out where the trail was on the other side. In actuality, the answer came in the form of two people who were camping and were just stepping out of the river after swimming. The man walked about a 1/4 mile up the river to show us where to cross and gave a detailed and accurate description of the turns to get on the trail we desired. The end of his description was as follows: “I don’t know what happens after the field because I haven’t gone any further.” (Reference earlier sentence about the two exits from the field for a small chuckle.)

Am I wiser for the experience? In one respect, no. I knew all of those things to do and had regularly done them in times past, except when I didn’t. In another respect, yes. For hopefully a long time, and perhaps permanently, I will ask questions of preparedness of my self and others before attempting something more than moderate. And, the moderate can become the strenuous, so take heed there, too. Now, a few of you are thinking how foolish the whole adventure was. I suspect you don’t have much adventure in your life. Some are saying, what’s the big deal since no one was hurt. Your adventures will likely be short-lived. The balance is to take calculated risks. That involves foresight, preparedness, physical and mental vigor, and a willingness to ask for help. I resolve to be better prepared next time rather than just stay home.

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Father-Son Outing

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Ferns have such a feel of richness

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Never seen Galax so profusely blooming as on this trip

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Mountain Laurel

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Steep, poorly marked trails

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Do you see the fisherman?

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Sourwood sprouts and Table Mountain Pinecone

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Steep terrain and sharp meanders

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The reason the trail doesn’t always follow the river bank

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Raccoon Tracks

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Hawksbill

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1 3/4 liter was not enough

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Wild Ginger (Asarum sp?)

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Refreshing

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Chimneys

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Japanese Meadowsweet. What is it doing here?

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Solomon Seal with seed pods

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???

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Fire Pink

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???

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Indian Pipe

*Last lines of “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

**Answer to prayer is a Providential assistance, too, but is more direct, so I classify it differently from common grace (Matthew 5:45). God oversees all things in our lives.

 

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I had another few moments of reflective insight upon waking this morning. All kinds of things bubble up when the pressure is only released for a few moments. It works for uncapped sodas and beleaguered minds alike.

Yesterday was an odd day for me. I was questioning my long-term purpose continuing where I am, doing what I am doing. For many years that was not a question as I felt confident as to my whereabouts and ‘whyabouts’. On top of that, my lesson plans were not the most gorgeous pedagogy, rather boring to be frank, and not having the time or creativity to fix it this time around. Add to that the fact that for some reason, for which I had no clue of at the time, I didn’t feel well. In this state of mind and body I experienced what is not an uncommon pair of interactions with two students.

The first interaction happened about noon. This class has informed me that they don’t want me to say “Good morning” when they arrive in class at 11:35 AM, but instead, “Good mid-day.” In the middle of lecture, I stood off to the side preparing to interpret what was on the screen in front of us all. I felt slightly nauseated and when I looked at the screen my eyes were sufficiently blurry to not be able to add memory (1) and read what it said. I took my glasses off to see if they had some outrageous smudges on the lenses and clean them anyway since I can’t really see them. The students were still copying the screen so that there was not an awkward moment. One student nearby looked up at me, having had me a previous semester, had read my facial expressions many times, and said, “Are you OK, Mr. F?” Rubbing my eyes and replacing my glasses I quietly said, “No.” She replied, “Maybe you should sit down.” I was struck by the utter kindness in her words and tone of voice. I was also secretly chuckling at how old a grey-bearded 59 year-old must seem to a 16 year-old. I was able to recover by using my peripheral vision to discern the screen and continue and a few moments later at my instruction the students were working away quietly on a worksheet practicing the concepts that we had just gone over. I went and sat down and the girl came up to my desk and asked if “maybe you need to go see the nurse”, followed by “did you eat breakfast this morning?” (2) There was nothing but concern in her face, demeanor, and words, and I thanked her several times before the period was over.

After lunch, blurriness gone, I entered my last period of the last weekday. Students filed in to and with “Good Afternoons” and other comments about the day. One surly student entered at the last minute, wearing his hood and plopping down demonstrably at the bell. I don’t allow hats and hoods on heads in my classroom and he regularly pushes this rule and grunts when I would say, “It’s not raining in here, ___”. This day I could tell that he was in a particularly bad mood, so I thought to wait and ask privately or let it occur to him from my sideways glances. I know that this expectation is considered deeply old-fashioned and inexplicable to most people, but I think that it is a matter of respect. (3) Once again, upon reflection, I figured out why this student was non-verbally resisting. He had been told, no doubt moments before, of his lunch detention for a fourth tardy to my class yesterday. If this were the only or rare exhibition of disrespect toward me from this student, I could have totally ignored it, but I had also had him another semester, and this was the regular fare he serves up. I try to be patient because he is under significant pressure I believe from parents and siblings and friends to “make something of himself” through success in education. He has a good mind but not an excellent ability, so to succeed he must struggle and work hard. Interpreting what I see, I’d say his bad attitude results from much extrinsic motivation but little intrinsic motivation, daily lessened by the pressure of the extrinsic forms. I am probably among his least favorite teachers because my expectations require either that you prove through testing that you know the material or work and organize hard enough and consistently enough to convince me of your learning. Either one will garner a B, but only both precipitate an A. Therefore, his extrinsic motivations get turned up a notch because he is not willing or able to live up to my expectations, though more effort on his part would solve the problem.

These two deeply contrasting interactions within the span of an hour and a half have triggered my reflection on interaction between people. And in fact, I had intended to comment on this previously (“Review of what we should have learned” #2), and am self-chided for not completing that thought. So, in quick fashion, I intend to say what I believe to be several GLUES (Good Lessons Underpinning Effective Society) of Society. Society here means “a voluntary association of individuals for common ends”, and in particular I refer to that kind which is “an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another”. (4)

These two students teach us what we already know to be two required underpinnings of society: respect and kindness. We will forever battle, literally and verbally, if we do not hold these two expectations of ourselves and our fellow citizens. Respect should be for a minimum of two reasons: 1) All people deserve it because they are made in the image of God (5), and 2) Those in authority: a) government servants including elected officials and police, to name a few, b) those who work for our good such as teachers and preachers, fathers and mothers, and c) elders (6). Without interacting layers of respect a society cannot function with civility.

Kindness and mercy, which includes forgiveness, are the only ways past the juggernaut of hatred and fear that propels us to quarrel and be defensive even when there is no offense real or intended.

Additionally, a society must be characterized by truth in order to long endure. I fear our society will not long endure into the future owing to the fact that we have shed all modicum of truth either as a concept or in practice.

The two areas of the practice of truth that I think are a minimum requirement are the rule of law and integrity. I don’t say justice because human government may not even be capable of that in any real and balanced way. Rule of Law it seems to me is a consistent, that is, not fickle, determination to approximate justice in the black and white and gray areas of human ignorance on what constitutes real justice. (7) Some will argue that if we merely follow God’s Word, justice will always be done. I retort that God’s Word is absolutely true and just but our laws are evidence that He did not illuminate us on every detail of how to carry out His justice, though the principles are all there. It is most certainly due to our blindness and rebellion that we do not carry out His law, but that is where we are nonetheless.

Integrity is a term that seems vague to most people I talk to. They simply say it means honesty, or the more astute say it means honesty when no one is watching. Though true, these two definitions fall short of the deeper meaning that a society needs to function. Integrity involves an internal consistency of thought and action based in worldview that makes honesty the unassailable default mode. To put it simply, a person of integrity can’t lie (8) because his/her worldview comes unglued. As an illustration, a student told me that she was telling the truth. In reply, not really questioning her honesty but questioning her integrity and view of herself, I asked, “Do you ever lie?” She thought a moment and slowly replied, “I have.” I pointed out to her that she must, by in large, be an honest person, therefore, because she admits to the human condition that we all lie. (I John 1:5-9) Without integrity there is no good reputation, so where do I take my car to be worked on and do I ever receive change from a cashier without counting it?

How could I make such a list without love. “God is love.” “Without love I am [we are] nothing.” “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (9) Love holds together everything: self, family, friends, communities, nations. It stems directly from God’s nature and is the greatest need of mankind.

And there you have it, my ideas about the GLUE of Society: Kindness, respect, rule of law, mercy, truth, integrity, and love.

Now this list could go on and I hope the reader will comment with your candidates and reasonings for including other ideas, but I think these seven GLUES can be reduced down to two found in Proverbs 3:3: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” And these two are not dichotomous in nature, whereby you can’t hold one while entertaining the other. Instead, they are two sides of the same coin, whereby you cannot truly have one without the other. As a fellow citizen, yea human being, I cannot truly be kind to you if I do not tell you the truth. And I cannot really be true if I do not communicate and interact in kindness, because you cannot accept it and real truth is always kind by instructing us for our good. And these two can be further be reduced to just love, because it is an essential attribute of God, but not the only one. And that last little clarification is the the reason I think we need to discuss seven or more GLUES for our life together (10) and stop here.

  1. “add memory”- For those of you with good eyesight that means looking at something blurry but being able to discern from size and general shape what it must read.
  2. I told her that I did not know what was wrong and that I had had a good breakfast. Upon later reflection her prompting caused me to realize a possible cause of the episode. I had eaten eggs, sausage, almond meal pancake spread with almond butter missing one ingredient I usually eat that brought carbs to about zero. I have hypoglycemic tendencies from my father. When I ate lunch at noon the blurriness subsided in minutes.
  3. Few know its real meaning. Even this balanced article only hints at the real reason in ignorance: https://www.thespruce.com/etiquette-of-hats-indoors-1216685 I will likely get push back for communicating the real reason, but here it is: I Corinthians 11.
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/society
  5. Ah! there is a sticking point and reason for decay in our society: lack of respect for and subsequent acknowledgement of Creator God.
  6. I am saying more in the footnotes than in the article, but putting it here hopefully prevents bogging down the main points of the article: Romans 13, I Timothy 5:1,17
  7. Victim’s rights balanced with mercy is something I am seeing more that only God can pull off both because of His omniscience and His omnipotence. (This is getting fun to see how many legit. footnotes I can make.
  8. A person of integrity cannot lie ultimately or consistently and will at some level come back around to admit to any lie stated or acted out.
  9. I John 4:8, I Corinthians 13:2, I Peter 4:8
  10. But since this is not a theological treatise on the character of God, I will leave that for your Scripture reading and systematic theologies.

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“Write it down so that you won’t forget.” My son replied, “You write it down for me. You’re better at making list.” I had never thought about it. I just write lists because I have to get chores done and fit in recreation. So, it is true that I have developed somewhat of a list making procedure. It is not complicated or profound, for if it was, it would only make getting things done less likely. I understand calendars, planners, cellphone notifications and the like, but for various reasons they don’t quite work for me. Mostly they don’t work  for me because they are cumbersome and elsewhere when I need them.

I make lists on little pieces of paper that I cut from recycled paper. I have the privilege of using a paper cutter and a little filing box in which to store blank ones that sits on the kitchen counter. I have three types of lists: daily, weekly (mid-range), and long-term. I don’t always have all three or even two, depending on what is happening, but frequently I do. Now, you may not see the wisdom in this separation of lists, thinking, “How does that exclude complexity and facilitate availability and convenience?”  Well, I make the list on the run, stick it in whatever pocket of whatever pants or shirt I happen to be wearing and update it as tasks are completed, change, or need to be added. Just as you transfer keys and wallet when you change clothes, I move the list, too. For easier viewing of the list, so I don’t overlook an item, and in order to show progress and completion, I bullet the items with a blank. Additionally, I indent sub-items with a blank, “grocery lists” and the like.

I give an example by way of a recent daily list in the picture below. As an item is completed, I place a check in the blank, as shown for weeding, P, and going on a run. If an item is in progress, for example, an attempted phone call or message left, I place a tally mark in the blank. You can see that on the second attempt I mark complete and the time of the appointment, which I transferred to the family calendar on the kitchen counter at the first available opportunity. The same sequence occurred for the e-mail. I must have wanted a reply before I marked it complete. Zeph had two tallies on this Monday, as I was in the process of studying for a sermon (which you may listen to at “The Day of the Lord in Zephaniah” ). I had one tally mark next to comfrey,  because I had begun to root a cutting so that someone else could benefit from the healing properties of comfrey by having a plant just outside their door as I do. I am not a slave to my lists. I did not continue to tally this item because the circumstances quickly enabled me to remember to water the cutting daily. In two weeks it was standing upright in the pot and I took it to its new owner with instructions for planting it. It rained that day and I was not able to mow, so I decided to try again on Wednesday. I could not make an appointment with Dr. O because she was out of town for the whole week. 

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A Daily List

By the end of the day, I had more items on the list completed, but rarely do I complete all items. On occasions when I do finish a list, I celebrate. I’m not into purposefully making short, easy list so I get to celebrate more. I simply have too much to accomplish. Therefore, to reduce clutter, I make a new daily list that will include the few items that did not get done. Items like Dr. O get put on a mid-range list for later completion. Bills that need to be paid by some due date, perhaps within a month or longer, and maintenance items are listed on the long term list, part of the infamous “honey do” list, which is either the calendar or a slip of paper with the calendar. If very little of list is done, I just add a few items and reuse it the next day.

Some readers of the this blog entry will think the whole idea of writing about lists is silly. However, a few people may pick up some hints about how to organize their lives. It is not the exact method that is the point but what works efficiently for you. Use what you can; ignore what you can’t. Secondly, I decided quite some time ago that I would blog about what interested me and about daily life. This blog entry satisfies both ends. Thirdly, I intend my blog to be a journal and open book of who I am and who I am becoming. I frequently give glory to God in my blog entries, not because I think it is an “ought” or “should”, but because I am so thankful for God’s work to regenerate, redeem, and reform me. Becoming a a disciplined, efficient, thoughtful person are characteristics I hope He is working in me for His glory and the mutual good of my neighbor and me. A life well thought out is well lived, and that is best done with a starting point of “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10 

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Time to graduate some students. It is a time for smiles and celebration and happy tears. The education we give our young is too focussed on knowledge and understanding devoid of moral evaluation, too lacking in wisdom for living and discernment for awareness of various dangers. I hope that I may be a mentor in thoughtful and careful living.

Knowledge leads to understanding
This path will serve you very well
To your mind and heart rewarding
In interactions it will tell

Acquire wisdom in your youth
Always prudent to do what’s right
Acting kindly along with truth
With wisdom overcoming might

Many deceived by false knowledge
Seek that you may discernment find
That at home or work or college
By truth delivered, sharp of mind

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