The Beginning of Wisdom

I am grateful for the book learning I’ve received, mostly because I found to my great relief that the existential questions I struggled to solve had already been grappled with for centuries, that  I was not alone.   Professors challenged us to temporarily suspend our beliefs so that we could appreciate new perspectives.  This flexibility gave us  freedom to explore, and opened a door to lifelong learning.

When I think of someone “smart,” the image that comes to mind is that of the stereotypical absent-minded professor, surrounded by book-covered desks and chalkboards covered with mathematical formulas.   But as time goes on, you learn to  appreciate that intelligence comes in many forms, and from many different places.  And that it’s often informally acquired, without ever earning a diploma.

Spatial intelligence, the street smart learning that taxi and bus drivers acquire while traveling the streets of a city is a valuable navigating skill.   An avid collector catalogues all his treasures, and is always in pursuit of a coveted item.  Pre-literate storytellers told tales from memory that had been passed down from generation to generation.   There are those with intuitive or instinctual knowledge, and those with mental disabilities who make a vital contribution to society in their unpretentious simplicity.   Children view the world with wide-eyed wonder and are willing to experiment with new ideas.

Being smart is a good goal, but being wise is a better one. “The fear (reverence, respect, awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10).    We can learn from the lives of others in the ancient wisdom literature of Scripture, and from those who are daily placed in our path.   We can learn to apply knowledge in practical daily life, and in our relationships.  We can be aware, use our senses fully in our environment, but also use the “third eye” in witnessing our own internal and external reactions to different situations.

God grants us life in all its abundance, a world in which we can learn every single day.  What a gift!

This Is Not A Popularity Contest

One of the things I have been most grateful for in my life was the opportunity to be out in the workplace.  Sometimes it was a chance to see behind the scenes, a glimpse into something of what it was like to be an owner of a large bakery, a professor, a doctor,  a farmer, or an engineer.    I could see a wide spectrum of life’s challenges in a day when I would go from providing child care for a toddler to housekeeping duties at the home of octagenarians.  Later it was the opportunity to work with others in ensuring enough inventory for plant production.   In our daily tasks, the work itself molded and shaped us.

The workplace offered opportunity to learn and grow, to learn coping skills from many different people.   There was the company-sponsored Dale Carnegie course that pushed me past the fear of public speaking, the everyday contact with all kinds of people, the opportunity to attend employee seminars.  A personality assessment seminar tagged me as among the “amiable” group.  We value people first and work second, in contrast to the other personalities in my work environment who focused on the job first and people second, such as analytic or driver.  It was helpful to know that when you worked together.

“Amiable”  sounds like a good designation.  You want a good team that’s happy to work together, that complements each other’s strengths.   There are times, however, when there’s no getting around having to make some tough decisions and holding a firm line.  As Lee, our operations manager, once chided when I was trying to keep everyone happy in my job as logistics coordinator:  “This is not a popularity contest!”  Because I like to make people laugh, my retort was “What?  It’s not??”   But Lee was a good man.  He genuinely cared about doing things right, about doing his job well, more than he cared about people liking him.    And often the kindest way to treat people is to be honest in your assessment of a situation, even when it initially may bring difficulties to the surface.  If you are traveling, you want a mechanic who is painstakingly thorough in his assessment of the plane you will be flying on.  If you are responsible for a group, you want to prayerfully consider input when making decisions.

I’m retired now, and any work is now volunteer work.  But every day is still an opportunity to learn how to be kind and caring, honest and courageous.  To do things conscientiously and well.  Life itself is our workplace environment, and our task lifelong.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”  Colossians 3:23

Thank You for the Music

“So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me.”*

We recently traveled the Alberta highway from Jasper to Lake Louise,  so beautiful with its mountains and waterfalls and lakes.   Further down the shore away from the crowds at the edge of Lake Louise, I heard music and followed it to its source, a college choral group from BYU recording in the national park.  It was a musical gift, an extra measure of grace for a cup that was already full of gratitude, a marvelous setting for their music.  When we are overwhelmed with its intricacy and grandeur, nature calls out praise.
Our human nature also thrills when we praise God.  I have also been part of choral groups in arduous and painstaking practices, and felt the joy as orchestra and singers come together in the final dress rehearsal.  Music can draw your heartstrings to be in tune with hymns that exalt or mourn in lament so that a congregation experiences itself as one body.
In Romans 15 (MSG) Paul recognizes how each Christian, in response to a great Conductor, becomes a part of a symphony of rejoicing.  “May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you, so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all.  Then we’ll be a choir – not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus.”

*Songwriters: Benny Goran Bror Andersson / Bjoern K. Ulvaeus Thank You for the Music lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, ABBA