Riddle: What was the first thing God created?
Tag Archives: wisdom
I’m not a very experienced parent — my first daughter, Baylor, is just over 16 months old. So I don’t claim to have heaps of knowledge when it comes to bringing up the little ones. [See my questions on corporal punishment.] But every now and again I do realize that I’ve figured something out — that I understand yet another truth about children and/or parenting. I thought I might as well start keeping record. Here is Brett’s Parental Wisdom #1:
There is a direct correlation between
a child’s current disposition and
that child’s susceptibility to mishap.
or, in other words:
The grumpier the baby,
the more likely she’ll trip while walking
and land on her head.
It’s been a quiet week in Lake Snow-be-gone,* my hometown, just under the edge of the earth.
It’s summer here in the abyss, and I’m beginning to think it always will be. The scorching sun isn’t showing any sign of letting up. She’s beating down on the residents of Lake Snow-be-gone like an angry mother kneads dough. Everyone knows good women vanquish sorry days and suppress rage by making buttermilk biscuits. It’s Mother Nature’s way of making all things right at the end of a day — for mother and child. The result is a plate of warm biscuits presented by a mother who has once again successfully overcome the displeasure of a poorly run PTA meeting or the bad-mannered remarks of Sabrina, the teenage supermarket cashier.
It was the smell of momma’s buttermilk biscuits that got me through long school days when I was young, and later through long days of work. Not that I could actually smell the biscuits from Mrs. Watson’s 3rd grade classroom, but I imagined them — almost as much as I imagined yanking one of Penny Moore’s pigtails. Penny’s pigtails were long and brown — like the curtains in my granny’s parlor — and I felt as if those beautiful bundles of hair were calling out, pleading me to pay them attention by yanking just a little. And I did a time or two. Little girls all over the world are taught that boys pull hair when they’re in love. Asian girls, Russian girls, even little Lake Snow-be-gone girls. I suppose I did have a certain affection for Penny Moore in Mrs. Watson’s class. There was more to like than just her pigtails, though; she could run as fast as any boy and climbed on the monkey bars like a — well, like a monkey.
I have to wonder today if Penny makes biscuits for her 3rd grade boy at the end of long days. I can see her now, in her red-checkered dress that compliments so well her freckled face, turning to offer a plate of warm biscuits to her son, her pigtails hanging all glorious like two braided chandeliers, still waiting to be grasped or maybe even climbed like monkey bars. I wonder if her son has a particular affection for pigtails and freckles. I wonder whatever happened to Mrs. Watson — no doubt she’s down here somewhere, torturing school-aged children with her big wooden paddle. I took many a beating from Big Red. That was the name of Mrs. Watson’s paddle.
But it’s the sun and the heat that beats a boy here in hell. And we’re not given the aroma, nor the promise, that biscuits await us at the end of the day. And there sure as heck won’t be a tall glass of cold milk from the fridge. The only milk I’ve seen here was what those Stalin boys stole from the rich man’s farm. You know the rich man. He’s done here just like he did in Luke 13 — he built himself up some big barns to store all of his most prized possessions. He’s got a milking cow named Bessie and enough corn meal to last an eternity — ironic, isn’t it. But there’s worms in that corn meal… and the milk turns before you can even put a stool up to ol’ Bessie. For sure those Stalin boys must have known that stolen milk wouldn’t be good for drinking — but it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks. And it’s even harder to teach evil souls to use reason.
Reason and logic don’t seem to be as common as they once were, and I think any wisdom any of us had was checked at the door. It’s been replaced with intelligence — or it never was wisdom, and was always just intelligence. There’s a big difference between the two, you know. Wisdom isn’t just knowing something, but it’s trying that something on for size, and finding a good fit. For instance, I can know the Hades Infernos are down three games in the race for the penant. But that knowledge doesn’t become wisdom until I trade our nervous southpaw pitcher for someone who can hit 3rd in a lineup. Or better yet, wisdom is when I finally quit paying current ticket prices to watch Infernos’ games — it’s a whole lot hotter watching baseball at the ballpark than it is watching a film in this movie theater we’ve got. All that ever shows here are Jim Carrey movies, but the popcorn’s not bad. At least the butter’s melted.
Oh, for a big plate of buttermilk biscuits with melted butter and a little maple syrup.
Well, that’s the news from Lake Snow-be-gone, where all the women are hot, all the men are mid-cooking, and all the children are burned from amperage.
* Full credit for inspiration needs to be given to Garrison Keillor and “Lake Wobegon Days.” For those of you who don’t know, Keillor is one of my heroes of storytelling. Any likeness this post has with his writings are intentional and out of admiration; this is not a satirical stab at Minnesota or strong women or above average children.
In my last post, I suggested we ought to spend time with nonbelievers, even extending our friendship to them. But that doesn’t go over so well in all Christian crowds. Growing up, it seems the topic of every teen devotional was either abstaining from alcohol or choosing your friends wisely (so that we could abstain from alcohol). I’m not suggesting high school students need to be going to keg parties in order to witness concerning God’s kingdom. But I do believe having non-Christian friends can be wise — and Christlike.
To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to others:
“We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” But wisdom is proved right by her actions. – Matthew 11:16-19
“Wisdom is proved right by her actions.” The actions of John and Jesus were completely contrary to what religious culture would expect and require. But Jesus explains that the wisdom of an individual is not judged by appearances or even popular opinion. It is that individual’s actions, and the results of those actions, that demonstrate his wisdom or lack of it.
To be clear: Jesus never refers to himself as a “friend of tax collectors.” That is what others were saying about him. But we do know that he defends as wise his decision to spend time with that subset of people. Is it always wise for me to spend time with drunks and cheats? No, of course not. But if my ministry is going to look like that of Jesus’, I will discern when it is the right thing to do.
It might be suggested, “You can’t be friends with nonbelievers, because that is hating God.”
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. – James 4:4
James is not writing about being friends with people in the world. He’s writing about being a friend of THE world — its way of thinking, its motivations, its goals and aspirations, its selfishness and pride. It is entirely possible to be friends with people in the world, without becoming a friend of the world. That’s what being salt is all about. We accept individuals as friends, and even enjoy our time together — but we reject those worldly ways in them. We exercise the wisdom Jesus spoke about, refuse to adopt or defend the ways of the world around us, and we especially don’t live like the world. Our sharing of the gospel requires that we live blatantly spiritual lives among these friends, not living our lives just as they do.
Christianity is largely
rarely about lines.
One of the keys to this entire conversation is how we view the people of the world. When we see individuals as IN or OUT, saved or lost, we have drawn a firm line — and it’s easy to suggest true friendships should somehow be constrained by this line. But when we see salvation as a process, and not a single point in time, we begin to see others as part of a larger story, as individuals on a journey. And that line of potential friendship begins to get very blurry. Christianity is largely about direction, rarely about lines.
When Jesus befriended “sinners,” they were forced by his lifestyle to make a decision. They could not remain the person they had been. They either would draw nearer to God, or they would live as they had, but forever with the knowledge of a better option. If I’m living the life to which God has called me, anyone who would desire to have a friendship with me is “worthy” of being called a friend. It goes back to that direction idea. There were some lepers healed by Jesus that didn’t want anything to do with him — and so, they never spoke to him again, not even to say thanks. I believe Jesus, though, would have gladly counted them friends if they’d returned — he would have seen and welcomed their life direction. No God-hater who full out hates God without question is ever going to want to be friends with me. But a God-hater who is secretly searching for a greater power might. No over-sexed, alcoholic frat boy who is happy and content with his life is ever going to want me as a friend. But if he’s questioning his meaning in a world that seems to have none, he might. I would offer these people my friendship. If they ever decide they don’t want any part of God, I believe they’ll withdraw it.
I worry that our aversion to extending friendship to nonbelievers stems from a fear that Christians are going to start hanging out in bars, drinking, dancing, cheating on taxes, and doing everything non-Christians do… because I’ve about had my fill of fearful Christianity — slippery slopes and concerns about what might happen down the road — how about we do what’s right, because it’s right? Will people abuse their freedoms? Yes. Will people excuse their disobedient lifestyles as being mission? Probably. But wisdom is proved right by her actions. If I minister as Jesus did, with wisdom and out of the empowering of the Holy Spirit, I will never slide an inch down that sinister slippery slope. Christ was friends with tax collectors and prostitutes, without ever once extorting money or paying for sex. I happen also to know he never even got drunk at their parties. Instead, they saw his lifestyle, and had a desire for their own lives to be changed. His friendship was, in essence, their salvation.