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Posts Tagged ‘new way’

I don’t want to sound like Master Po from the popular television show, Kung Fu by saying, “Grasshopper, wisdom is the highest level of understanding.” And then a chime dings. But maybe, just maybe, wisdom is just another word for character or plain authenticity?

Ephesians 5:15-16
Be very careful, then, how you liveā€”not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

For me, it’s still a challenge to live wisely: I have thought about wisdom for a long time. I even had a bible study group for a time, seeking wisdom, studying the words of wisdom, and the promises from operating in wisdom.

I’m putting the cart before the horse, as they say. Wisdom, or character, evolve as a by-product from our individual days and choices. There are no wise children. Their life experiences are not fully formed.

And yet, it’s not about the age of a person. It is our responses to life, to people, to God, that grows wisdom.

I’ve become so caught up in Solomon’s request for wisdom [I Kings 3:1-28] and the scriptures that encourage me to “ask” for wisdom [James 1:5], that I keep thinking of it as an anointing. If I ask, God will answer and wisdom will drop onto me like a mantle.

In verse 18b of this chapter in Ephesians, Paul says, “. . . be filled with the Spirit.” This is more likely the true foundation of all things wise.

Potentially, anyone can have wisdom from life’s challenges, sorrows, and successes. This kind of wisdom is rooted in the mind. But God’s way of wisdom involves the Spirit. And when Paul speaks of making the most of every opportunity, it’s about our relationship with Spirit. Historically, I have thought about being filled with the Holy Spirit as a “swooshy” kind of thing. I had that initial experience as a young Christian and I know it does happen. It’s a kind of anointing, an empowering presence, a wind.

But, Paul is talking about a different kind of filling here. I believe it’s part of this journey of the inner way, keeping all avenues open by avoiding those things, situations, and people that block the light and draw veils over the soul.

Most people know the proverb passage that says, “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. . . ” [Proverbs 9:10] but we sometimes forget that this word for fear is closer to reverence than anything else. And where and when do we experience true reverence for God?

Photo by Irm Brown

In my mind, the desire for “places of reverence” encouraged the initial designs of beautiful churches and cathedrals. Intentionally, they were created as places where people could feel awed almost immediately. I can appreciate this reasoning today so much better than I could before. Our contemporary churches have lost this aspect of the worship experience.

In that first study group, I asked them, where do you experience that kind of reverence or fear of God? Their answers were varied but clearly, their answers were all choices to be in those places, with those things or people, and there we are filled with the Spirit.

What conscious choice can I make today to enter the wise way, to be in a place of reverence?

(FD6)

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Photo by Mark Dodge Medlin

Paul refers to the “old self” as those behaviors, those superficial external actions that cloud and deceive the person within. I think of this old self as wavy glass, that glass we can sometimes see in the windows of historic houses. It’s beautiful in some ways, but truthfully it distorts, both looking as well as looking out.


Ephesians 4:22-24a
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, . . .

Wavy glass is transparent enough to be able to see what is on the other side, it’s just not clear. There are people all around me who are presenting this distorted self, yet unaware that they are doing it. With just a little extra effort, I could see the truth of what is there, just no detail.

It is not for me to break the glass, as though I know best because I am in relationship with the Christ. I think it better to say, “I see you” through acceptance and understanding and patience. Too often, I look at behaviors and appearance and language and thereby “write off” the other. Jesus was our model here: eating and drinking with “sinners.”

Jesus was/is clear glass. Everyone could see inside. That was the draw, the attraction.

I wish I could say that I was clear glass. But I’m getting better. Slowly. It’s a process.

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I know God is trying to get my attention: sometimes through people telling me of roadblocks ahead while other times through circumstances. But, like a bull in a china shop, I tend to charge right in. On occasion, the china escapes unscathed. But too often, there’s a great sound of shattering glass.

II Corinthians 12:20
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

My independent streak started at a young age. My father died when I was only nine and I was a latch key kid for several years. My mother was a difficult woman who suffered from bipolar disorder (we only figured that out much later). She was unpredictable and ultimately, for me, unsafe. I told her as little as I could and I made many of my own decisions. These choices included getting married at eighteen (I was already a Junior in college), because I was sure I was ready to be out on my own, divorcing 5 years later, moving to New York City to be come “rich and famous.” These early years set up lots of walls.

It’s hard to hear or see warnings when a person is so doggone “capable.”

Somehow, I have allowed myself to believe that warnings are a negative thing. They are restrictions. They are penalties. But today, I have a new view.

God’s warnings are actually lighthouses. The beams of light give instruction and information: be careful, danger is nearby, be alert, watch! Everything is fine, just be on guard for challenges. Avoid unnecessary consequences. Change course if necessary. There is always another way to get there. I love you. I care about you.

As a parent, I have tried to be a lighthouse for my children. And don’t I do this out of my love for them? Would God do any less?

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It’s been 2000 (+/-) years since the Christ died and rose again and Paul wrote his epistles, and yet, Christians are still struggling with the “new way” of the Spirit. I am no different.

Romans 7:6
But now, by dying [in Christ] to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The struggle is caused by the domino design: one piece depends on the other. In order to do anything by the Spirit, one has to be in tune with the Spirit, that is, able to hear/feel/see the Spirit within. Another word for this is “abiding.” And in order to abide in Christ, we must know Christ. And to know Christ, we must spend time with Christ.

To serve in the “new way,” I must respond to the promptings of the Spirit to act. Service is action, love, and generally, outside my personal space. Service implies work that benefits “the other.”

One irony is that I am already serving. I mean, I am busy! My daytime job is service-based and I am spending 40 plus hours a week helping patrons and staff get the information and materials they need or want. I am a volunteer and serve on several committees and Boards. I am a Bible teacher and serve at my church. I am a mother/wife and serve my family (sometimes with joy but too often with that “unappreciated” feeling of irritation).

Am I serving in the new way? I don’t know. I don’t think so. There isn’t much room for serving at the prompting of the Spirit. Either I am too busy to hear or just too busy to add another task to my calendar.

I don’t want to drop into the “shoulds” of service. That’s not my intent. But I am saying I might be missing something better, sweeter, and more meaningful. There is freedom in the Way but there is also guidance. It’s not the rigidity of the law but wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” [James 1:5]

So be it. Give me wisdom oh God, that I might hear your still small voice and respond to the needs of others with grace and sensitivity. Guide my service.

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