Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Remember the Spirit

For me, there's a fine line between wisdom and cynicism. Wisdom says, "If I walk under that tree, a bird might relieve itself on me." Cynicism says, "The bird will." (Kind of a Murphy's Law way-of-life.)

I've struggled between the two lately. I've often waivered dangerously close to pessimism, preferring to call myself a realist. But when the well is as dry as it's been for me spiritually over the last couple of months, I find myself less realistic and more un-optimistic.

I can't really put my finger on when or why this drought started. Definitely after Easter. Maybe that's the way the disciples felt. The glory and thrill of Christ's Resurrection was followed by the cold reality of living without his daily presence. Jesus knew how desperately they (and we) would need the Spirit. He said, "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:26).

My problem is failing to remember he's even there -- which is an indictment on myself. Paul was writing to the Galatians and to me when he said: "Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?" (3:2-4).

Unfortunately, in my life and practice, too often the Spirit is waiting for me to surrender to him, let him take my thoughts and make them practical, Christ-like actions. Instead, I'm trying to muster up "holiness" in my own efforts. How vain, how foolish.

I think it's interesting that Jesus' next statement after assuring us of the presence of the Spirit, is, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

I doubt Jesus' statements were coincidental in arrangement. Probably if I'd remember have the option of consulting the Spirit and let him have control of my thoughts about and reactions to life, then maybe the line between wisdom and cynicsm wouldn't be so fine for me and peace would be much less elusive. And even if the bird in the tree relieves itself on me, I'll receive it with laughter and chalk one up for the bird (and immediately go shower).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Aside from the obvious, boys are so different than girls. Darin teases me about the "rules" of women's relationships, but I think males have their own standards, too. Particularly in matters of etiquette.

Case in point: Out on the ball field, a boy on Little D's team belched an obscenely lengthy and disgusting burp and quickly apologized.

“Excuse me,” he said.

A teammate immediately replied, “There ain’t no girls out here; you don’t have to say that.”


Pondering a Why

God has a thing about humility. More than 90 references throughout Scripture mention it. Whether it's an admonishment for us to be humble, or the plight of individuals who choose pride, it's clear he "saves" and "hears the desires" of the humble (Job 22:29; Psalm 10:17). He leads, teaches and gives them grace (Psalm 25:9; James 4:6).

None of that really surprises me; it's only logical a humble person should be more appealing. We are certainly more likely to offer aid to or desire to be around people who aren't insistent upon having their way. And it's certainly easier to teach someone who's actually willing to be taught.

But Proverbs 11:2 has me a little stumped. It reads: "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom" (NASB) or "Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom" (NLT).

The first part, I get. I can't count the number of times I've spoken with great assurance that something "will" be, only to have it blow up in my face, or never even materialize. In those times, I felt deeply "dishonored," or "disgraced." (I've come to realize that's part of the process of maturity. Adding "maybe" or "perhaps" to statements you're not sure about or can't control helps minimize the number of egg-on-the-face moments!) But what about the second part of the verse? "Why," I ponder, "does humility bring about wisdom?"

Humility comes from the root word humilis which means "lowly, insignificant, on the ground." As in humus: the dark organic material in soils, produced by the decomposition of vegetable or animal matter and essential to the fertility of the earth. Not a pleasant thought at first; but did you catch that last part? "Essential to the fertility of the earth." In other words, when the natural part of something (or someone) is brought or broken down, a rich environment for growth is created. Wow, that speaks volumes, not the least of which is that fertile soil is for those who follow me, not for myself.

I've always understood wisdom to be distinct from knowledge in that it's knowing when and in what manner to do something, not just the mechanics of an activity. This seems to be on par with the roots of the word wisdom which include: "wits" or "to see," or "to know" (as in a vision).

So, back to my original question: "Why does humility bring about wisdom?" Since humility is deference to another and wisdom is a broader vision, I've come up with three possible theories:
1. Humility brings a deeper knowledge and understanding of human nature, thus enabling the humble to know what to expect from people--their behaviors, reactions and emotions, whether good or bad--because the humble genuinely listen and observe with open hearts and minds, and therefore know how to respond in times of crisis.
2. Humility brings a vision toward the future that's bigger than oneself or one's cluster of friends. Humble people expect their lives to be broken and spent for the sake of the Kingdom, so they choose to say "no" to the temptations to assuage their desire for the comfortable and familiar. In doing so, they recognize they're only saying, "later" to their desires, not "never."
3. Humility recognizes one's own inabilities, frailties and incompetences, and in wisdom allows God and others to help and aid when needed. The humble realize they don't have it all together, their lives aren't perfect and being "strong" is a facade. They show their wisdom, then, by admitting their inadequacies and weaknesses and allowing others to "invade" their lives with compassionate love, further strengthening the testimony of the believers and the bond of discipleship.
What I love is the fact this Proverb is an illustration of how practical and realistic the Word of God really is. It applies to real life and real people. It's not just a book of theory and conjecture. God really does want us to know how to function effectively in the world he created. I know I need all the help I can get.

Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; the humble will inherit the land, and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity (Psalm 37:3-7, 11).

If you have any thoughts or examples of why humility brings wisdom, please comment.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What Does That Mean?

I just finished mixing up some lemonade from a powder mix. As I placed the lid back on the plastic container, some surprising words caught my attention: "Contains no fruit juice."'s lemonade...emphasis on lemon (i.e. fruit). Isn't it? I even checked Wikipedia. A lemon is definitely a fruit. So what's in lemonade mix if not lemon?

Regrettably, I decided to read further: "Naturally flavored with other natural flavor."


That's like using a word in its own definition. Something my teachers forbade throughout my educational career. Somehow, food production companies can speak "Twisted-ese" and get away with it. The only step left was to examine the nutrition facts to try to satiate my curiosity.

The ingredients are as follows:
Sugar (surprise!)
Fructose (isn't that sugar, too?)
Citric acid (oh, there's the "lemon")
Natural flavors (yes, that's really what it says) . . . and
Artificial color (to disguise the ugliness of the natural flavors, I suppose).

There are actually a few more, but I'd misspell them if I tried; and since I was proud to simply pass chemistry my senior year, I won't pretend to comprehend their meaning.

Needless to say, I still don't know what's in my lemonade, but..."Bottoms Up!"

Thursday, May 7, 2009


He's gone home. The man I eulogized in song only last year at his 90th birthday will soon be eulogized at a funeral service. Death took its hold, but even still, victory is clear. My Grandpa, age 91, now stands with his Lord and Faithful Friend, his precious wife, and countless others he led to saving faith in Christ. And he no longer knows weakness, pain or weariness. He's now experiencing the greatest peace and joy known to creation, and that's incredibly comforting.

All my life, he preached and sang of God's holiness and mercy. Now, he knows it up close and personally. And I fully believe he's singing at the top of his lungs--'cause he didn't whisper when he worshiped! He wasn't quiet about the love he had for his Savior.

Nor was he quiet about the love he had for his family. He expressed it in so many ways: playing board games, sharing home-grown tomatoes, waking at the crack of dawn to make doughnuts for the whole clan, driving countless miles to visit our homes, praying with us and for us.

I have a couple memories that will stand out forever in my mind. At one family get-together, when they lived in White Oak, Grandpa and Grandma agreed to switch bedrooms with (his son) my Uncle Dale and Aunt Dot. My Grandparents would sleep in the guest room and my Aunt and Uncle would sleep in the bigger Master bedroom. Now, my family plays board games late into the night when we get together, and this evening was no exception. Long after Grandma and Aunt Dot had gone to bed, Grandpa, Uncle Dale and several others continued to play ("Risk," I think the game was.) When Grandpa lost all his countries, he decided to turn in and let the others continue. (Apparently, Uncle Dale was controlling the eastern hemisphere and closing in on world-domination.) Grandpa headed for the guest bedroom, and getting in, he rolled over to say goodnight to...Aunt Dot. Unbeknownst to my Grandpa and Uncle Dale, the ladies changed their minds and went back to the original plan - Grandparents in the Master, Aunt and Uncle in the guest room. Grandpa jumped out of bed and ran screaming down the hall trying to find Grandma: "Lula!"

One of my other favorite memories is a silent one. My senior year of college, I was honored to be elected Homecoming Queen. The school photographer took pictures of the coronation and gave several to me. I, in turn, sent one to my grandparents. I'll never forget how happy and loved I felt that Christmas when I walked in and saw the picture displayed in the dining room where they sat for every meal and every morning for their devotional/prayer time. In some way I felt a closer connection knowing they "saw" me every day.

Grandma passed away in July of 2000. I'm the only grandchild (of 18) who was blessed to have her at my wedding in May of that year. Grandpa's passing is disappointing, because he never got to meet Little D, but now he's part of that great cloud of witnesses, so I suspect he'll be checking on all of us! And that makes me smile.