Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Need to be Right

Readings: Proverbs 3:7-8

We all have a need to be right. We like it when, during a discussion, someone looks at us and says, "You're right." We smile to ourselves and do a little imaginary back-patting.

It just feels good to be right. 

Sometimes, however, the need to be right overrides good sense and disassociates itself completely with wisdom. At that point in time, our need to be right does us (and others) more harm than good. And, nine times out of ten, the victory is quite a shallow one at that.

Proverbs 3: 7-8 tells us, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones."

Needing to be right impedes healthy bones? Proverbally speaking...yes.

Think of wisdom as absolute health. When we are purring along through life and are keeping everything in check, we are indeed healthy. However, we seldom just purr along through life anymore; we are constantly in interactions with people, with machinery, with too busy schedules. Study after study has proven that as much as 95% of disease these days is from the debilitating effects of stress. Much of that stress comes from confrontations with others--yep, on needing to be right. It's difficult to fold to someone when we just know they're wrong and we just know we're right. It's frustrating to work at a computer that we just know is working incorrectly and we're doing it right. It's irritating when others don't see just how valuable our limited time is. Stress, stress, stress...and, of course, we're right about how we live our lives. We have good reasons for every mistake we make. 

The cure? We don't always have to be right. We don't need to waste all that time and energy arguing our side of the case in the car to ourselves after a confrontation with someone--we don't need to "be wise in our own eyes". 

Our biggest goal is to shun evil--evil thoughts towards others when they don't see things our way. Just give it a try for a day, then for a week. See if your overall health will, in essence, be giving "nourishment to your bones"...stress won't be tearing you apart.

It's actually quite a relief not needing to be right all the time. It takes a great deal of burden off one's back. Give it a try...we can all use more healthy days.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Making the Simple Complicated

Readings: Proverbs 2: 6-11

I feel sorry for kids these days. But not for the usual reasons I see and hear online and out amongst folks. I feel sorry for them because we continuously make the simple complicated.

Growing up in the 60's and 70's was not exactly a non-happening time in the world. We were involved in a highly unpopular war, women were leaving the traditional home in droves for the world of work, kids were finding themselves with baby sitters more than their own parents, TV shows were getting more gritty all the time with their content, people were protesting in the streets about most everything imaginable, drug usage was rampant in the country. is it different from today?

From one point of view, it's just more of the same. From yet another point of view, it's a different world altogether. 

When I was a kid, our parents didn't make the simple complicated. At our house, when the news was carrying every bloody detail of Viet Nam at supper time, the TV was turned off or down so as not to interrupt our meal...and yes, the TV was in a different room. If it was something my dad saw as important, he got up, went and listened for a couple of minutes and returned to our meal and our mealtime conversation. I was a fortunate kid who had Mom at home during the day, so I had supper from the stove most every night. Fast food or eating out was the exception, not the rule. There was no status in being the first to eat at a new restaurant; it just didn't really even make sense when there was a good cook at home. I kept busy with school, church, and community projects and events, but they had a time and place. If we had been told we were expected to travel all weekend for an event or to be at said event practically every night of the week, I think the laughter from my and other parents would have drowned out the idea. We were, after all, kids. And TV shows? If they were not good for me to watch, I was told to go play in my room or something else was found. In my house, the "talk about drugs" didn't happen--drugs were something the doctor prescribed that you took only if you were sick and sick was not something anyone wanted. Sick was a quick bout to be tolerated and gotten over as soon as possible. Healthy was prized. Healthy meant you could re-join the fun. Didn't feel good? Stay home. Period. That made healthy a serious we ate our vegetables and went to bed at bedtime. It was a simple remedy.

We've become a society that goes to great measures to make the simple complicated. We have mopped ourselves into those proverbial corners where we feel compelled to the point of misery if we're not on the run to the newest restaurant, to the newest gadget, to the newest whatever it is. We spend way too much money on things that we feel we need, which oftentimes gets confused with want. We fall for that "you deserve this" line more often than not. We share too many details with little ones about world events--they didn't create this mess, how are they supposed to understand it? We share too many details of our adult lives with kids--once again, they didn't create the mess, so they won't understand it and they will get overwhelmed...and quickly. That's just not "kid brain" territory. Ditto for the TV shows that push this message to them. It may be the cool thing to watch these shows, but I've found the old standard rule to work...would it embarrass  you to watch this with your grandmother? If so, don't watch it. 

We can take the wind right out of the sails of complicated and bring it back to the calm of simple. It's going to take effort, because our ways have become habits...not good habits, mind you, but habits none the less. Turn the TV off or down during meals; have meals at home; join less and spend more time with one another--remember, these kids are supposed to be having fun with the extra stuff they do, it's not going to be their life's work. Keep the content in check--kids need kid-level info. Trust me, they'll enjoy watching otters romping around much more on the nature channel than the Kardashians romping around on the gossip channel. Keep them healthy--inside and out. Good food and good environments. 

And for goodness' sake, keep it simple. Adults don't need to wear themselves out keeping kids entertained or happy...nine times out of ten, just letting kids be kids works. Let them play--no fancy play dates--let them figure out how to play with their toys and games. They don't need a cruise under their belts by age ten--unless that cruise is an imaginary one in a big cardboard box. Now that's having fun...and keeping it simple--blissfully simple.

"Then you will understand what is right and just and fair -every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul, Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you."

Peace be with you.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Father (and Mother) Know Best

Reading: Proverbs 1:8-9

Our society has become somewhat upside down when it comes to children's respect for their parents. Granted, sometimes that respect is anything but earned, but nevertheless, it seems more often than not that the kids tend to be running the show these days. Watch any sitcom and you see the kids with razor-sharp retorts that leave the parents looking like stooges. No guidance, no wisdom...just a complete role reversal.

Wonder if this has any effect on "regular" kids? Just be an observer at the local department store, restaurant, or school event. I'm thinking you'll be overwhelmed by kids' lack of respect toward their parents.

In a former job, I became more aware of this when I would witness an attitude developed by even small kids in their relationships with adults. What seemed to be just plain bad manners on the kids' part quickly became visible as their own difficulty in dealing with a double identity--as a regular kid and as an "adult in kid suit".

How does this happen? Look to the adults. As the traditional family structure continues to erode, loneliness becomes an unwelcome guest in adults' lives. Kids are a ready audience to hear the problems. The initial idea of the younger being a sounding board turns into the younger becoming a confidant. Questions are posed to the kids--the kids try to formulate answers on topics that are not in their league. The traditional parent/child bond turns more into a relationship of trusted friend. Then, when discipline or advice is needed, it becomes a very awkward situation for other adults to contribute. All of a sudden, a  teacher who would normally tell a student to discontinue an inappropriate behavior and be met with no retort, is instead being met with an argument from the child. Why? Simply because this child now sees him/herself as an equal on the adult/child playing field. He/she is, after all, one of the adults in the home. Why not everywhere?

There's also a phenomena happening in our society where the role of the child in the home is moving to a different plane. For ages and ages, the children in a home were somewhat in the background, thus allowing them to be kids, learning through watching adults' interactions in different social situations, to grow into people who could contribute to society. This takes time...and neural development. Some take more time than others. However, now kids are thrust into the limelight so early on and, although I can safely imagine that no parents intend for it to make the child feel awkward/uncomfortable, all that attention many times has a detrimental effect. The "adult in a kid suit" problem arises yet again. Add to this the oddity of parents who more or less publicly declare their love and devotion to their children through social media, i.e. Facebook, etc., it becomes a perfect storm of the magnifying glass being upon kids who truly need some time in the societal shadows to figure out how to just "play nice" with their peers--literally. Wisdom comes with time...throwing kids to the lions of society too early can only have less than pleasing consequences.

Wisdom is what Proverbs is all about--and wisdom comes from age and living life. Therefore, the verses that follow give strong instruction to children:

"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck" (verses 8-9).

Our family structure is not one where the kids give the orders. Our family structure is where Mom and Dad, through their own experiences in life, can give guidance and counsel to their children. Parents are given a sacred trust to lead their children in the right direction; children are given an equally sacred trust to follow the direction of their parents. Once this is done, the family bond grows stronger as does the Family of God.

Peace be with you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Book of Proverbs: The Prologue

Readings: Proverbs 1:1-7

I have always been fascinated by the Book of Proverbs. It is indeed timeless. So, for the next several blog posts, I'm going to take a stroll through the Proverbs. I hope you'll enjoy the journey.

Verses 1-7:
"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young--let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance--for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

Anyone who has ever sat in a Sunday School class, attended Bible School, or listened to a church sermon has more than likely heard of Solomon. "The wisdom of Solomon" is something we strive for in our lives. When we think of the word wisdom, many times we think of Solomon. So, it stands to reason that looking to the words of Solomon would be good advice indeed.

Even in the prologue of the Book of Proverbs, we already see a the good advice beginning--suggestions on how to live our daily lives. The words discipline, understanding, doing what is right and just and fair...good recommendations to us all. There is little discipline, it seems, in our world today. People tend to do or say whatever comes to mind without weighing the consequences--as a result, there is a great deal of hurt between couples, between families, between friends, between neighbors. It is a shame.

Understanding words of insight is another piece of advice that seems to escape many these days. How many times do we truly not listen to the person speaking to us? Are we instead much too occupied with formulating the perfect comeback in our responses? Misunderstandings seems to rule the day.

Doing what is right and just and fair is rare. We have so very many laws these days that it is next to impossible to follow them all. On the other hand, more and more people seem to ignore all laws altogether--whether man-made or sacred. We have lost much of our trust in one another; we have lost confidence in the long-honored handshake; we swear left and right and don't take it seriously.

Giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young--the young among us are always in need of direction (no matter what they think). Young people can be easily misled by many things and many people. It's difficult to see through deceptions when life experience is the only teacher...and that experience has not yet had a chance to be learned. So, we try to achieve that delicate balance between being the wise teacher and the old know-it-all.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance--for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline--I'm going to hope that most all of us are smart AND wise enough to listen closely and carry with us a healthy fear of the Lord. From time to time, we act the fool, despising wisdom handed to us in the form of being put into our places for our best interests. There doesn't seem to be an age limit on this; thankfully, it does seems to lessen as we age if we've paid attention along the way.

Solomon's proverbs are as ageless today as they were centuries ago...we would all do well to read and practice them in our daily lives.

Peace be with you.