Decluttering

young-scientist

It is not spring yet, but I am having a clear out of stuff that is no longer useful to have in my life. Some of this is physical clutter such as old lecture notes that I haven’t looked at in over a decade, some is digital stuff like the 2,000 web clippings in Evernote about blogging that I’ve deleted. Books I’ve kept but obviously will never read again, clothes no longer fitting, hobbies not pursued.

Then there are the old dreams and ambitions that have lain mouldering for decades, a few more recently shelved and now accumulating dust. These are taking longer to sift through, many need to be reckoned with before tossing them into the fire:

Why did I ever think that was a possibility?

How did I forget about this one?

Can I not keep a few, just in case?

Just in case of what? In case I get younger? In case I can undo the wasted years? In case these weaknesses, this personality, this life I’ve lived, is not really all I’ve got?

No. They have to go, despite what has been spent on some of those dreams in the past. Time and events cannot be undone, I am not a redeemer – these illusions need to be put to rest and space made to live and breathe in the life I currently have.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
(Ecclesiastes 3:6 ESV, emphasis mine)

It may sound overly dramatic, but what I’m doing is looking at my inner life of desires, motivations, dreams, anxieties, worries, priorities, fears, insecurities and assessing whether they fit who I really am. Are these the things I want to define me or am I wearing a life that is a few sizes too small (or too big)?

Childhood is many years ago for me now, yet plenty of childish things continue to influence how I think and act. I have been a Christian for 27 years but in some ways still think as an unbeliever. I lived single and without responsibilities for a long time, now I consider my wife and children first when faced with choices.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20 ESV)

At a superficial level, social expectations enforce a certain level of maturity in adults. Yet many childish ways can endure and I think God expects us to do the work of identifying these to replace them with maturity and wisdom based on His revelation in Christ.

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. (Titus 2:2 ESV)


Image:iStock
The significance of this image is that one of my childhood dreams was to become a scientist. In reality I partially fulfilled that dream but not in the way my child self imagined.

Olamic eyes

olamic-eyes

I encountered the phrase ‘olamic eyes’ in a poem and had to drag out my dictionary to understand what it means. (The poem is: Digging for Now by Ruth Mowry)

Olam is a rarely used noun of Hebrew origin meaning ‘a vast period of time, an age of the universe.’ Olamic is the adjective.

A website about ancient Hebrew word meanings describes the meaning as being ‘in the far distance’ in the sense of being difficult to make out or so far away in time that it is difficult to know.

When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out. (Ecclesiastes 8:16–17 ESV)

In a sense, all Christians should look upon life with ‘olamic eyes’, searching out that which is barely discernible beyond the edge of this world and this time. Pondering this idea led me to a couple of conclusions to bear in mind when looking into the dim future or realms beyond this mortal coil:

Find a good lookout

When trying to interpret what is far off and indistinct, it helps to have a good vantage point – on the mountain tops rather than down in a valley of despair. If I am down in such a vale where my sight is even more restricted than usual, it is probably wise to be cautious in how I interpret what appears to be off in the past or future.

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19 ESV)

Avoid pollution

olamic-eyes-antarctica
In Antartica, where the air is too cold to hold much water vapour and the pollution of the industrial world has only a minimal impact, it is possible to see much further than most of us are accustomed to. There are reports of explorers making navigational errors not realizing that distances are further than they appear due to the clarity of the atmosphere on that continent.

I too have become accustomed to breathing, living and looking through a polluted atmosphere. My vision of God is blurred and obscured by the smog of the world, confusing me when I think I can see clearly but actually cannot.


Images: Veer, Gordon Wiltsie 

Seek wisdom as gold

seek-wisdom-as-gold

How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
(Proverbs 16:16 ESV)

Last week I wrote about listening to advice in order to gain wisdom. An obvious question in response is, “why should I even want wisdom?”

Fair question, here we have an answer – it is better to gain wisdom than to possess gold. My old High School used this proverb as it’s motto. Given the current price of gold is NZ$2,214 ($1.824 US) this is saying something significant.

It’s not as though gold is under-valued in the Bible, it is mentioned 455 times – more than heaven (422 times), money (123 mentions) and salvation (122 times). Knowing how much we covet gold, God has gone and paved the streets of heaven with the stuff! (Revelation 21:21).

Even if gold is not your thing, there are plenty of other reasons to seek wisdom:

  • Wisdom protects better than money (Ecclesiastes 7:12).
  • Wisdom preserves the life of the person who has it (Ecclesiastes 7:12).
  • Wisdom and discretion give life to your soul (Proverbs 3:21-22).
  • Wisdom will deliver you from the way of evil (Proverbs 2:12).
  • It delivers a man from adultery (Proverbs 2:16).
  • Wisdom gives strength (Ecclesiastes 7:19).
  • It is better than strength (Ecclesiastes 9:16).
  • Wisdom brightens your face (Ecclesiastes 8:1).
  • Blessed is the person who finds it (Proverbs 3:13).
  • Wisdom brings hope to your soul (Proverbs 24:14).
  • Whoever gets wisdom loves their own soul (Proverbs 19:8).

With reasons like this to encourage us, it is obvious that only a fool would disdain wisdom.

So what should we do? Get wisdom! (Proverbs 4:7).


Image of gold bar: BullionVault

Are you lost on the road to wisdom?

Listen to advice and accept instruction,that you may gain wisdom in the future.
(Proverbs 19:20 ESV)

To seek wisdom is necessarily to look to the future. Any young (or relatively young) person claiming to be wise is more likely to simply be arrogant.

A clear sign of such arrogance is not heeding advice from others. This needn’t be restricted to important, profound or religious things. Accepting instruction is as simple as actually doing what the person in the hardware shop told me was the best way to do a job. Listening to advice extends even to a man asking for directions when clueless regarding where he has transported his family to.

Notice also that this proverb exhorts face-to-face verbal learning. Technology may have changed a little over the 3000 years since Proverbs 20:19 was written, but they certainly knew how to read and write. Yet it says “listen to advice and accept instruction”. An important element in learning wisdom is the humility to admit to others that I am ignorant, to actually ask for instructions (or directions).

I’m often too proud to admit I don’t know what I’m doing so have become proficient at finding information on the internet or in books to help me feign wisdom. But all I actually gain is knowledge (which puffs up, 1 Corinthians 8:1), and feed my pride.

The seeker after wisdom asks another person for advice, not a book or website. They accept their limited knowledge, accept instructions and sow the seeds to gain wisdom in the future. Wisdom encompasses all areas of life. What will I do today to lay the foundations of wisdom?

Think of wisdom like good coffee – instant just won’t do!


Image of lost male driver: iStockphoto

Interpreting the times

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37 ESV)

It is rare nowadays to find anyone able to proclaim the correct Biblical interpretation of current events. Peter does so magnificently in Acts 2:22-41, and given his track record I would argue that it is spending 40 days in fellowship with the risen Son of God and in prayer that gave him the background understanding to be able to do this.

It is good to know what is going on in the world but without an ongoing, deep fellowship with Jesus through the Bible and prayer it will all lead me to emptiness and despair.


Image of newspaper: iStockphoto

You are deceived, O wise one

Even the wisest man in the Bible (aside from Jesus) could not understand his own heart well enough to avoid it deceiving him. King Solomon had 700 wives to whom he clung in love, and in his old age they turned his heart away to other gods (1 Kings 11:1-4).

In fact, he did not even need to be wise to know the folly of clinging to those whom God had put off-limits, in Exodus 34:12-16 there is warning enough for even a simple man to understand. In his wisdom perhaps Solomon created a fine sounding argument for himself justifying why it was okay for him to sin and not heed the warning from God. He did not seem to realize that his own heart was divided, yet this is so obvious. We so easily deceive ourselves once we stop paying attention to God’s word (Jeremiah 17:9).

The final state of Solomon’s heart is a frightening reminder of the dangerous game idolatry is, and that it can start from just liking something a lot and being reluctant to let God take away our beloved toy.