KNOWLEDGE/INTELLIGENCE/WISDOM

And Wisdom Grows

And Wisdom Grows

© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Knowledge to know when to and when not to:
keep your mouth shut, walk away,
step forward, speak up,
duck, dodge, bend, jump, run:
these are all marks of wisdom.

Some have enough intelligence to add up
a column of numbers,
or reprogram a computer,
but seem to spend much of their time
trying to get feet out of mouths.
Some pray without ceasing for
peace/change/needs but never quite seem
to do anything other than pray,
while talking/acting/voting in ways that do not help.
Some claim to have faith in a God of power and might
and all comfort, yet live in fear of life itself.

Wisdom is knowing the difference between
can and can’t, possibility and probability, faith and fear,
and the unique subtleties found in the concept of hope.

Wisdom comes long after we think we know everything,
when we finally understand
the immense space to be discovered within the
time and distance and silence
that grace occupies
within our hearts.

# # #

Wisdom is hard won. I would like to think that in my years I have attained some of it, but now and again I do something that lets me know that I have not got it quite yet. And yet I have come to understand that when I remember to just let myself be alive, not try to be larger than life, and just sort of float on the sea of grace that God has created within me, I do just fine in the wisdom department.

Wisdom is not so much about what and how we are, but about who we are. I’m not writing about appearances here, or how we perceive others perceive us. I am writing about the “us” that is at the heart and soul of our knee-jerk reactions. This is to say, what mode is it that you default to when stress, bad stuff, tragedy, the worst-case-scenario happens? Do you jump straight into your fight mode? Do you duck-and-cover? Is fear, and a sick feeling in the pit of your gut, where you go? Or do you go straight to a place where you can sense the grace flooding into the situation—where you know that there is more than whatever just happened at work?

For me, wisdom is knowing there are things to be done, and knowing that we can be part of the doing. Our faith allows God’s grace to filter into whatever is going on in our lives and facilitate a positive solution. This is not to say all will be just sweet and lovely with no pain, but that through whatever is happening, God’s will will prevail.

In this sense I am gaining wisdom. I remember my father once telling me that since he turned his life over to God, he had never worried about the outcome of any bad thing that might be happening to him or his family. At the time I was too young to understand what he was implying. Theologically we were usually at odds. He a Fundamentalist Christian. Me, a Liberal everything. Yet, as I have grown, in spirit, in my theology, and in wisdom (?) I have gained some understanding as to his meaning.

He knew. He actually knew that God was at work—in his life, the lives around him, and in the world in which he lived. He believed this. He trusted this with his life. He once told me that he did not believe in miracles. When I said, “HUH?” He said that these things seem like miracles to us, but they are just the everyday workings of God, and as such we can simply know that God will do what God will do on an everyday, regular, even casual, basis. This is the kind of grace in which we can place our trust. It is also a place that grows and nurtures wisdom. The place where God is at work in us.

Sometimes we just need to be clear that wisdom is not actually about us, but about intelligence. Not ours, but God’s. The question is, and always is, will we choose to trust the intelligence of God working within us, or will we just go on reacting to life’s happenings as we always have? I’m going to try for a little wisdom, myself.

# # #

Proverbs 8:1-4 & 22-31 — New Revised Standard Version

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

A MEMORIAL DAY REFLECTION—2013

Don't Forget the Hot Dogs!

Don’t Forget the Hot Dogs!

AND THEY JUST DIE
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
And I remember
that they just die.
In my name
because it is a democracy
and I voted
for the decision-makers
because I live here.
I am told that they die
to protect me from
the horrors on an
invading army,
and yet it is a rare thing
that invaders come
armed at our borders.
I remember, and my heart aches
with the grief of loss
because of the potential
we seem to throw away
on our cause of what we term
freedom
which is really a
code word for
economic recovery
which itself is a code word for
a justifiable reason to act on our
hatred of others and the unknown.
I am not against a war
that has meaning
and offers true hope
for the oppressed
but the wars I have witnessed
seem to all be about
the oppression of us all…
AND I will remember this, too.

# # #

ON MEMORIAL DAY—REMEMBERING WHAT?

Remembering to bring enough beer and chips to the tailgater? Remembering to bring the Hot Dogs! Remembering the mindless, senseless losses so many families face day to day? Remembering to ask forgiveness?

To begin let me state that I am not a pacifist, nor have I taken any pledge of non-violence. I have guns, I am well trained in gun handling and safety, I am a good shot, and I would defend my family in a heart-beat if I had to with gun, knife, fist or club if the need ever arose. BUT I HATE MINDLESS VIOLENCE!

I love my country and my flag is emblematic of the values and virtues that idealize the very best to which my nation is capable of rising. Unfortunately, my nation and its people rarely, rise to that ideal. We seem addicted to war, to fear, to hate, to pettiness, and are as I write leaning strongly toward being a nation of xenophobes.

I value the lives of the troops who have fought and died for my freedom. Yet I wonder how much freedom it was for which they actually died, and how much more it was for the profits of some faceless tycoon making literally a killing off of lives valiantly given?

Outside of WW II, I am not sure there has ever been a “just war,” but if there were it would not look like any occurring in my almost seventy years of life. Many of those wars were not even “legal” wars. When I consider the horrific loss of daughters/sons/sisters/brothers/fathers/mothers the term canon fodder comes to mind. To my thinking, the causes at which we have thrown our young men and women in this century have mostly been events manipulated for profit, some general’s promotion, or a president’s sense of personal glory.

We have convinced ourselves as a nation that we need to kill to survive, but I do not think that this is true. I think for the most part it is a lie—a grand manipulation. Lately I have come to suspect that the wars I have known are simply to feed a rapacious Wall Street. Investors need profits and war offers that very thing.

So today, on this Memorial Day, I will remember. I will remember: how most sacrifice is needless; how many have died for me when they probably did not need to; how I am constantly being manipulated to believe in the need for violence; how many lives I will someday need to account for that have died, they thought, for me.

All that is left for me, today, is to ask whomever will listen, whomever might care, whomever, for forgiveness for my role in all the killing.

In conclusion let me add that I am a Christian, or at least that is my claim. I try to follow in a person’s steps who walked on this earth around two thousand years ago. I also live in what is euphemistically termed a Christian Nation, but what that seems to mean is much different than what the person Jesus has called me to be. First Jesus was not a Christian, he was a Jew—a very good and deep thinking Jew. His call/mandate for his followers was the Jewish mandate, tikkum olam, which simply means, repairing the world. On that first Synagogue appearance in Luke 4, we read about Jesus:

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (NRSV)

If we can repair one person, if we can help facilitate healing to just one bad situation, if we can change one thing about our one self, we are repairing the world . This is what tikkum olam is about, this is what repairing the world is about, but Jesus did not mention going to war to do it.

DADDY, MOMMY, OR WHAT…?

Reaching Out

Reaching Out

Romans 8:14-17
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

The one Jesus knew as Father
and in the familiar, and familial
sense of Daddy—God.
God the one we know as, what?
How do we know God?
What do we know God as?

The Big Guy?
Mother? Mommy?
Spirit?
1st Person of the Trinity?
Great-Giver-of-Favors?
A kind of strange and holy Celestial Parent
a Sacred-Sugar-Daddy?
The Director-of-Traffic-in-the-Sky?
Doling out favors and special treats
in a kind of arbitrary way
like Christmas presents to the good little
girls and boys,
and lumps of coal to those who are bad?
Do we see God as the Great-Giver-of-Tests,
sending us trials and tribulations
to check to see if we are up to
getting any grace?
A deity to take the fall whom
we can conveniently despise and hate
when things do not go our way?
Or, do we see God as the one of absolute love
giving us companionship in our loneliness,
comfort in our sorrow and loss,
walking with us and meeting our deep needs
on our life’s journey?
I think that while God cannot be and will not be
wheedled, bullied, or bargained
or told how to manage time,
or hoodwinked into
giving us our own whimsical way,
or getting us out of our
various predicaments,
God is more than willing, eager even,
to inspire us to find our own way,
help us to make right choices,
offer us salvation us in ways
we will never understand salvation
should we be willing to be inspired and saved—
or even truly loved into a new existence.

ONE IN CHRIST?

One in Christ?

One in Christ?

John 17:20-26 — New Century Version
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

What in the heck is wrong with us?
Why don’t we get it?
Who do we think we are to think we are the ones?
Why do we choose sides,
and force others to choose sides, too?
Somehow there1 is a right and a wrong
way to worship God,
the right way being our way, of course.
Jesus prayed for us
that we would not become as we have turned out to be,
and in spite of it all,
we still refuse to do this one thing—to be one.
There are Liberal Christians, Conservative Christians,
Protestants, Catholics,
not to mention their various subcategories and strains,
all finding some self-righteous doctrine
by which to feel superior and separate,
fractured and cut off from the rest of us,
and with a strong sense of their own superiority.
AND if you are reading this and somehow think
that I have missed the point, and you are, against all odds,
the righteous one, scratch deeper.
Think of it this way,
if Jesus is in us—all of us—
then Jesus is in them, too—
no matter how much THEY make us
itch and scratch and squirm!
If we are one, then they are us and we are they!
I know, sometimes Jesus
just goes on one of those things of his,
but it’s still true.

GRACIOUSNESS AND BLESSING

When Life Gets Weird, Rise up in Praise

When Life Gets Weird, Rise up in Praise

Graciousness and Blessing
Psalm 67
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
How can I ask for what I have?
How dare I act as if
the abundance surrounding me doesn’t exist?
Did the Writer-of-the-Psalm
not know how much of God’s
graciousness and blessing we already have?
It seems almost impertinent
to ask over and over for what
has already been given—
over and over and over and over…
But then there is the question
of whether or not
we are actually capable of noticing,
taking in, all the
graciousness and blessing
we are constantly given.
It could be we are de-sensitized to grace,
and in our human-state of self-recognition
we have become numb to blessing.
Maybe the prayer should be,
Awaken my awareness and
let me discover the grace I know not,
let me embrace blessings I pass by,
let me rest upon the hope I struggle so much to get,
and, oh God,
allow me to recognize your graciousness
and blessing as it is manifest in others as well.
AND help me to truly learn to revere you.
# # #
Psalm 67 — New Revised Standard Version

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and may God’s face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere God.
# # #
Trying to think beyond my own needy self for a moment or two, and imagine what my life would like if God was not gracious to me, and if God withheld blessings from me. It would be a pretty ghastly scenario. A total disaster. The point is clear to me that regardless of how much carping and whining and complaining I do, I still exist saturated in God’s graciousness and God’s blessing. If I weren’t, I would plain and simply be dead. So would we all.

We sometimes convince ourselves that life is bad. AND, yes, there are horrible things going on in the world and sometimes to us. But the kicker is that I know people for whom life is a living hell, and at times ongoing torture, who are still able to find good in the midst of their fractured living. These people would somehow find God’s graciousness and blessing in the middle of a curse! I am not kidding.

I do not mean to suggest that they just looked at their tragedy through rose-colored glasses and acted as if there was nothing wrong at all. As if all was just ducky. No, they looked at their predicament and acknowledged it, but, instead of stopping and focusing solely on the bad, they found some small good thing and focused on it while dealing with the rest of it. This is a practiced mind-set. They have somehow learned the mental and spiritual joy coming from this kind of life-style as opposed to one of carping, complaining, and crying.

Folk singer, John Stewart writes, “Devils and angels belong in the church, we try for the best and we deal with the worst…” What do we do with the bad? How do we act after horror strikes? The answer to this is, of course, that while we may have no choice about the random things life brings, we do have choices as to how we will deal with them and the actions we take. What we do and how we act after a horrible event is always up to us and what quality we choose for our spiritual and psychological existence.

We can allow the stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) to work themselves out, by seeking counseling and help through this emotional time and allowing healing to take its natural course, or we can shut down, close up, turn off, and let whatever happened run our lives there after. Is there a “should” that we should do after we or a loved one is stricken? No. There are no right or wrong ways to deal with grief, except if we choose a course that is destructive to us or our loved ones or both. I find that if a person is to get stuck in their grief, they usually get stuck in either the Anger Stage, or the Depression Stage.

I suggest that when we perceive that some tragedy happened to us, we should stop for a moment and apprehend whether or not it actually is a major tragedy or if it is something lesser. Let me make clear that I am not writing of losing a loved one, or developing a terminal illness, or sustaining a severe, debilitating injury, to all of which what I am writing might apply, however I am writing about day-to-day events. Those things that seem to get blown all out of proportion making us vent our rage and think violent thoughts. We tend distort much smaller events in ways that make them seem more extreme than they actually are. It seems our being thwarted in our daily lives, can almost destroy us. I do believe that nurturing a bad attitude and a negative mentality is key to a succession of failures. I also believe that nurturing a good attitude and a mentality of overcoming-the-odds is key to success. It is also good practice for when things get really, really bad.

God’s grace and blessing are always surrounding us. I believe that even if we choose to maintain an attitude of grouchiness, God’s grace is still pervasive, still saturating us all unbeknownst to us. If we rise up in praise, we open ourselves fully to that grace. God is always working in us. Sometimes we are closed off to that work and do not experience it. Sometimes we do. For me, I want to experience as much of God’s graciousness and blessing as possible. Because I want this, I try to keep myself ready for that experience by keeping the door as open as I can. Sometimes I succeed.