Proverbs, how to get wisdom, instruction, good judgement, wise action, live well, wellbeing, embodied wisdom, learning, personal development, generative wisdom

Proverbs: How to get Wisdom, Instruction, and Good Judgement

For the past couple of years, I’ve chosen a Word of the Year – one value which I wish to embody in my life. It’s always been one of my values, but there’s always one that stands out more than others. For 2022, that word is Mastery:

  • the mastery of self (self-awareness and the resulting self-control) as well as
  • knowing more (knowledge and understanding) and
  • putting that new learning into practice.

Because to know anything is to do things differently from before.

Life management is about being well adjusted. … being able to stand against the wind of disappointment.
Time is not really the important element. It is what time represents that matters.
Time management is not about a list of things in order of priority that must be completed… Time management is about life management.

Given that life is mostly about intangible things, does it not make sense to learn to control them – things such as thoughts, desires, anger, curiosity, ambition, motivation, sadness, hurt and sorrow?
Althought we live in a tangible world, life itself occurs within our mind, spirit and soul.

Jonar C. Nader, How to Lose Friends & Infuriate People, a controversial book for thinkers.

For me, this is the essence of what I am reminded of when I read Proverbs – self-awareness and then the option for self-control.

The wisdom of Proverbs

One of the many things that I’ve had on my “I wish I had time to do” list is to deep dive back into Proverbs. Of all the books of the Bible, this is one of the two that most resonates with me. The other one is the book of James.

Proverbs has a special place in my heart because I remember my dad reading it to me every night before bed. Occasionally, we would talk about what a verse meant. But more often than not, it was just a reading of a chapter or a portion of a chapter.

I was left with many more questions than answers.

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from dictionary.com

Of course, many times, we try to read Proverbs literally, and not all of it can be understood with a literal meaning.

My experience with Proverbs is that different ones “jump out at me” at different moments in life. Moreover, I’ve interpreted them differently, depending on what I’ve been learning at the time.

As with any proverbs, many of them take time to digest and understand.

The usefulness of Proverbs

In the very first chapter of Proverbs, there is a small introduction, although there is debate as to how much of the book of Proverbs this introduction applies to.

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Proverbs 1: 1-6, Amplified Bible

I find it irrelevant who the author of Proverbs was: I don’t read the book of Proverbs because of who wrote it.

Throughout my life, I’ve turned to Proverbs when I’m in turmoil. And these last three years have had their fair share of inner (and outer) turmoil.

Consider how other translations present the introduction to Proverbs:

proverbs 1, the message, wise sayings, Solomon, live well, understand, learning, right, just, fair, wise men
Proverbs 1: 1-6, The Message
proverbs 1, wisdom, instructions, words of understanding, justice, judgment, equity, knowledge, discretion, a wise man, learning, a man of understanding, wise counsel, understand a proverb, words of the wise, kjv
Proverbs 1: 1-6, King James Version

These are the wise sayings of Solomon,
    David’s son, Israel’s king—
Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
    to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
    for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
    and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
    still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
    the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

The place of Proverbs

Proverbs is one of the five books of Wisdom of the Bible, together with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.

I find it interesting that two of these books are poetry and psalms, rather than writings of wisdom, per se. And yet, all five of the books offer unique perspectives on life and the experiences of life.

But, as you will have noticed from the introduction to Proverbs, it has lofty goals:

  • wisdom
    • wise behaviour
    • the discipline of wise thoughtfulness
    • good judgement
    • astute common sense
    • intelligent discernment
  • instruction
    • a manual for living
  • knowledge
  • understanding
    • to understand what life means
  • insight
  • righteousness
  • justice
  • integrity
  • lead others to the truth

The road to wisdom

So, over the coming weeks and months, I intend to take a new journey through Proverbs and re-examine how it impacts my life. What new wisdom can I glean from these pages?

Where do you go for wisdom?

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God is enriching every aspect of your lives

Lectionary reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9

In this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians, he reminds them that not only is he designated by the will of God, but rather that all of them are also called.

Leaving aside my personal bones to pick with Paul, I cannot ignore the deep learnings that are available to us from reading this passage. Each of us, even today, has a calling. These verses remind us that we are up to this task – the task of fulfilling our purpose – because the Divine enriches every aspect of our lives.

I want to explore:

  • What we are invited into?
  • Consider the tools and gifts we are each given to fulfil our life mission.

Your Divine purpose

Every tree, every blade of grass, each bird fulfils a purpose on this planet. When we take the time to simply sit and notice, we see how each living being on earth, whether plant, animal or human, fits into the bigger scheme of life.

Nonetheless, we also see a lot of confusion – internally and in society – about our purpose and callings. Many of us are merely “staying alive” and struggling to survive.

Growing up in a very evangelical church, I was brought up to believe that my purpose would be “a cross to carry”. I was terrified of discovering my purpose, hoping it would not be a calling to go to Africa as a missionary. In churches, we talk about “knowing the will of God in your life”, but most of the time it’s put on us as “you’re called into missions” or “you’re called to preach the word of God”.

But if we take a look at most of the “heroes” of the Bible, we find that they were ordinary people with ordinary jobs. They simply happened to be in the right place at the right time. And when they were asked to step into doing something “big”, their lives had already prepared them for this.

Consider Deborah, for example. While she was considered a prophet, she was busy doing her day-to-day responsibilities of being the local “judge”. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t see her job, most days, as anything out of the ordinary. Especially if you watch any episodes of traffic courts or have ever spent a couple of hours in your local magistrate’s court, you will see the everyday complaints that people bring. There was nothing remarkable about her calling — until there was.

Knowing your Divine purpose starts with recognising that we were already given the necessary gifts to fulfil our mission. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this:

“you are not ill-equipped or slighted on any necessary gifts”.

If you are unsure what your purpose and mission are, a great place to start is looking at your talents and natural gifts and abilities. You have everything you need to fulfil your purpose in life. Because a bird has wings, it flies (or if it’s a chicken, it tries to).

I doubt cherry trees complain to each other that they wish they were able to produce oranges, and yet we waste so much of our time lamenting the gifts and talents that we don’t have.

cherry trees, enriched, loved, divine love, loved by the divine, purpose in life

Today I want to invite you to do an inventory of your natural gifts and talents, and consider your calling and purpose in this light.

Set apart for service

Think for a moment of when you are arranging a table for dinner: you go to the cupboard, and you pick up the plates. If there are four of you for dinner, you don’t choose six plates, but only four. You set them aside for service: the ones that you need when you need them.  The rest of the dishes sit in the cupboard, waiting to be shown when they will be required.

Know this: you have been set aside for service. Perhaps you feel like you are sitting in the cupboard – always on the shelf rather than in the game. I wonder if Deborah thought that she was on the shelf as she worked through listening to all the petty complaints that were brought before her.

But Paul reminds us that our purpose will be revealed.

General callings

There are two other callings, apart from our life purpose. We are called to be saints, and we are called into community.

Called to be saints

While Deborah might have been “a saint”, the first description of Deborah was that she was the wife of Lapidoth. I wonder if Lapidoth considered her to be “a saint”; probably not in the way that you and I imagine the word to mean.

So, today I invite you to rewrite your definition of what it means to be a saint!

The calling to be saints is about how we live our day-to-day lives. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say it’s compassion: 

  • Love for the Divine, with a constant connection that we are overflowing with love and compassion
  • Love for our neighbour as ourself

Compassion allows us to be kind and patient. It will enable us to live with love in our lives, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:

  • not envious, proud or boastful
  • not self-seeking or dishonouring others
  • it keeps no record of wrongs and is not easily angered
  • protects
  • trusts
  • hopes
  • perseveres

We are all called to live in this place of being fulling aligned with Divine Love. What is your personal definition of what it means to live as a saint? Make it realistic for you, rather than something so out of reach that you could not aspire to live each day in sainthood!

Called into community

You are also called into community: that we cannot live in isolation. Take a moment and consider what your community looks like:

  • family
  • friends
  • work colleagues
  • hobbies and activities that you participate in
  • volunteering & community activities
  • your neighbourhood where you live
  • your spiritual community

What does your community look like?

spiritual community, volunteering, charity, neighbourhood, family relationships, social life, professional relationships

God is enriching every aspect of your life

You are promised that nothing is lacking because you have all the gifts that you need. Paul describes this as

God is enriching every aspect of your lives.

He then goes on to explain what he means by this.

You are enriched in speech

This means, when you are in touch with the Divine and that deep inner knowing, you will have the right words to say. Enriched in speech is knowing what to say and when to say nothing.

Most of us want to think about what to say. We make up scenarios and speeches in our head, failing to listen to the still small voice of Spirit.

Consider silence and just going within to listen, confident that you are enriched in speech.

You are enriched in knowledge

Everything you need to know, you will know. Can you trust this?

My first “real job” at sixteen was working as a cashier at McDonald’s: “Would you like fries with that?”. Later in life, I have come to cherish what I learned from “would you like fries with that?” – because it is a lesson in upselling. McDonald’s sells millions of fries every year because of this simple phrase. The client is already there, and they have their wallet in their hand, ready to buy something. The cashier doesn’t know what the client wants, and often the result of the question is “no, but I will have…”. While they didn’t sell the fries, they got an additional sale from the client.

This mundane, everyday job taught me a skill that has served me well over the past thirty years. Am I always open to adding more value to someone else’s life?

You, too, are enriched with knowledge. You have life experiences, abilities and life lessons that you possibly haven’t tapped into. You might not be aware of everything you know.

But trust that you know everything that you need to know when you need it.  You are enriched with knowledge.

Enriched with God’s grace, peace & faithfulness

Today I want to remind you that you are enriched with grace, peace and faithfulness. I don’t mean that you show others mercy, but instead that you accept grace, be open to a peace that transcends your understanding, and that you experience Divine faithfulness towards you.

“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)

It is said that the grace of God is the opposite of karma – it’s receiving the good that you do not deserve because you are a child of God. You are loved and cherished. In my life, I can see where I have blocked grace, continuing to believe that I deserve punishment and the consequences of my decisions and actions. Nonetheless, we are enriched with grace. Are you willing to accept more grace?

enriched with grace, peace that passes understanding, peace that transforms, faithfulness

We are also enriched with peace: that peace that while we are waiting, we will be sustained emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s the peace that we hold within us, even in the middle of the storm. This inner peace does not depend on what is happening in our environment. While we are aware of the situation and in touch with it – we are present – but we also connect with the Divine. It is that Divine that allows us to say

I am not overcome by the storm, because I am one with the storm.

Sometimes storms clear our path. Can you recognise this inner peace which sustains you while you wait?

Finally, the Divine is faithful, constant and true. When I say we are enriched with faithfulness, I am not referring to your faith in God, but rather how the Divine relates to you! It doesn’t matter how small your faith is, but rather that we know that Divine Love is faithful. We can trust that all things are working for our good and that we are enriched with all good things.

Thanksgiving

Our response to this is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.

If you are struggling to discover your purpose, consider a daily practice of gratitude, where you each day you focus your attention and thanksgiving on your talents, gifts, strengths and abilities. Start to notice the patterns and what you genuinely enjoy. Be grateful for the desires of your heart and the wisdom and insight that you gain from being present.

Take note of the times when you receive grace: when in spite of the natural consequences of your choices and decisions, you get a second chance! Practice thanksgiving for all those opportunities.

Start to notice when you are filled with peace, in spite of the situations and challenges you are facing. Be grateful for those moments.

Notice the presence of the Divine in your life in each moment of the day. Sit in silence and be thankful.

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self-help, the best self-help book ever written, metaphorical interpretation, reading the Bible, understanding the Bible, interpreting the scriptures, building a relationship with God, understanding God

The best self-help book I’ve ever read?

Someone was asking, recently, for the best “self-help” and personal development book that others had read. One of the group members suggested “The Bible”.

I admit, I initially responded (internally) with “no, definitely not“. (Possibly even more along the lines of a visceral response of “hell no”).

A few days later, I was reading a post (somewhere on the internet) about how self-help books are no good and that if we are truly interested in transforming our lives – what we really need is more stories.

Read More »
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Contentment or the pursuit of happiness?

A few weeks ago, Kain Ramsay – a coach and trainer that I follow online – asked this question:

What do you think might happen if everyone in the world stopped defining themselves by their vocational roles, how they feel, what they believe or their personal preferences?
Also, if pursuing happiness was no longer an option, what might many people devote their lives to instead (and how might this be even better than happiness)?
Let’s get this week off to a reflective start…

Read More »

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Why does the Spirit feel so far away?

A couple of days ago, I read this by Madisyn Taylor

We all experience periods where we feel separated from the loving ebb and flow of the universe. These times of feeling disconnected from the source may occur for many reasons, but self-sabotage is the most common cause for us choosing to cut ourselves off from the flow of the universe. We purposefully, though often unconsciously, cut ourselves off from this flow and from the embrace of humanity so we can avoid dealing with painful issues, shun the necessary steps for growth, or prevent the success that we are afraid of achieving from ever happening.
When you choose to disconnect from the source, you block the flow of the universe’s energy from passing through you. You become like a sleepwalker who is not fully awake to life, and your hopes, plans, and dreams begin to appear as distant blurs on a faraway horizon.
Universal support has never left you, but if you can remember that you became disconnected from source by choice, you can choose to reconnect.

And I couldn’t agree more – how often do we distance ourselves from God & our Source?

Read More »

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The practice of gratitude

How do you practice gratitude?

“You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”  ― G.K. Chesterton

I’m 23 days through the 28 days of “The Magic”, by Rhonda Byrne. You can say what you like about “oh, it’s New Age” or whatever you want, but I have loved the practical application of gratitude in my life this month!Read More »

For God so loved the world…

Readings:

  • John 3: 16-21
  • Ephesians 2: 4-10

For God so loved the world… that over two thousand years ago, Jesus came to this earth in human form to show us what this love truly means. Through his life, his teachings and his example, we find a new way, a better way. He gave what we may consider to be the ultimate sacrifice, his earthly body, in a painful and excruciating death, so that we might receive the gift of Oneness of our spiritual bodies with God, no longer separated but as Children of God. Through this, we might fully understand the meaning of eternal life, as spiritual beings living continually in the presence of God.  Not waiting for our earthly death for eternity to start, but recognising that we are already living eternity.

Jesus came and taught us humility, as he lived as a refugee in Egypt as a child, much like Syrian refugees live today in Jordan and Lebanon. Do we treat our refugees any better than we have treated Jesus?  How do we treat the refugees from Venezuela? The refugees from Haiti, from Africa? If we imagine that each of these refugees was Jesus, how are we doing?

‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 40)

In Matthew 18: 1 we find the disciples discussing “Who really is the greatest in the Kingdom of the heavens?” He calls a child, stands the child in the midst of the disciples and tells them:

“Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the Kingdom of the heavens. Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one who is the greatest in the Kingdom of the heavens; and whoever receives one such young child on the basis of my name receives me also.”​—Matthew 18:3-5.

As we consider how we are treating the sojourners and refugees among us, then we known how great we are in the Kingdom! Before the last supper, we find Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

Because God so loved us… Jesus showed us the importance of reading the Word, as a twelve year old when he read and discussed in the temple the scriptures. Luke 2: 47 says that “all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” At twelve years old. He not only was willing to read the Bible allowed in the temple, but to answer questions and explain it. And yet, we seem to struggle each week for participants to read the scriptures aloud in church each Sunday.

Jesus showed us dedication and patience, as he worked as a carpenter, under his father’s tutelage. And yet we reject the authority of our parents, failing to honor our mother and father as we are called to do.  We push our way forward for honor and rewards, seeking the limelight, rather than being willing to work in the background.

Because God so loved you… Jesus showed us how to handle the temptations that arise in our day to day lives. Through his temptations of hunger (lust of the body), egoism (misuse of our power) and materialism (kingdoms and wealth) we see what is means to be a child of God, holding fast to that identity, and still standing strong in the knowledge of what that really means. In these temptations, we see the challenge to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God” – are you really a child of God? Prove it.

Through these temptations, we see how the ego wants to use our spiritual power and gifts to satisfy human cravings. This is attempting to turn stones into bread, the attempt to find gratification in using spiritual power to satisfy human, personal desires.And yet, Jesus shows us the better and higher way. Are you fully secure in your identity as a child of God? Can you, like Jesus, respond: “It is written”?  Our human nature wants to demonstrate prosperity and success or healing and “prove” that it works. We think some outer achievement will make us happy and successful. But Jesus teaches us a higher way: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”

Most importantly, Jesus showed us what it really means to have a relationship with God, to have the indwelling of the Spirit. Jesus showed us, in his every day living and loving, what it means to truly be One with God the Father.

John 14: 4-7 promise us:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
…7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We are reminded of this again in John 17: 21-23

As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 …  so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

For God so loved the World that he sent us Jesus… who taught us what it means to be a child of God (as each one of us has already been called to be). Paul says in Colossians 2:9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” The Message says “Everything of God gets expressed in him, so that you can see and hear God clearly”.”  Are you living out your life as a son or daughter of God?  Is every quality of God fully expressed in your life and living and loving?

Psalm 82: 6 says in a stunning way:

You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.

The same calling to greatness and Oneness with God that Jesus had, each of us has.  To be the Son of God is to be of the same nature as God. The Son of God is “of God.” We were created by God, in God’s image, to do God’s will on this earth.  And God so loved each one of us, as sons and daughters, that God sent us Jesus to show us the way home.

Jesus reminds us of this in John 10: 33-38:

33 The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”
34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 … know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Like the Prodigal son, we have lived our lives without authority, power, belonging and sharing at the table of the feast: but God loved us. And so today we are reminded of this rich mercy, of the great love with which we are loved. We are made alive in Christ, seated with him, shown the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us! If we are living in separation from God, then we are throwing away the gift of love that was given to us.

And because of this great love that we have been shown, we are all challenged today to love each other! The test of how well we have overcome that which separates us from God is how well we love our brothers and sisters:

John 13: 35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”