Tag Archives: wisdom

Certainties for 2023, Part 1

Futurists and prognosticators, social influencers and trend-setters are all making their predictions about the new year. From color palettes and wardrobes, to political battles and economic fortunes, there is no lack of “data” available as we surf the internet.

In these essays, I want to share some certainties about the year ahead that can inform our personal decisions and influence our communities. I am not claiming divine revelation, but I hope they reflect divine wisdom. I have considered biblical principles and historical insights, the inputs of women and men I trust, and observations of the human condition informed by reflection.

These certainties can change, if key players in particular dramas make foolish or wise decisions. While I trust the overarching providence of God, I also believe that humankind’s freewill introduces contingencies that alter the trajectory of both persons and nations. For example, a child with few prospects and raised in abuse and poverty is mentored by a caring woman or man and learns wise decision making. What was “inevitable” is now forever changed for the better.

Here are seven certainties as we enter 2023, and ideas for thoughtful responses:

First, many will keep defending their ideology-driven narratives, despite facts and information challenging their assertions. The public square will continue being a contentious place and many will engage in projection as they accuse opponents of “disinformation.” Thoughtful women and men must humbly investigate, reflect, and offer principled responses, regardless of the noise around them.

Second, economic uncertainty and opportunity will continue. We are in the midst of epoch- changing global and local upheavals, with the rise of the gig economy, a generation of frustrated college graduates, and changes in the types of jobs that pay sustainably. The “great resignation” is real – and many will have to re-enter the workforce with lower expectations. These harsh realities are offset with opportunities as our global and local economies continue supporting creativity and innovation. If we are people of character who know our charisms and are willing to gain new competencies, the future is challenging and encouraging.

A third certainly in our world will be the rise of histrionic and irrational antisemitism as protest groups go beyond critiques of Israeli policies (which are part of Israel’s own contentious public square) and morph into historical eliminationism and anti-Jewish screeds. “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” does not mean a peace settlement with states living in harmony. It means the destruction of Israel and extermination of Jews. Fortunately, Israel is a robust democracy, a “start-up nation” and a dynamic partner in energy and technology. She will weather these storms.

Next week, we will share four more certainties. For now, it is vital that we decide ahead of time to turn our hearts toward our Lord, keep our heads, and be slow to speak. Thoughtful persons take time to process reactions and consider responses.

Winsome Wisdom in an Age of Anger

People of conscience and conviction who still believe in the pursuit of truth find themselves in a quandary in our age of instant reaction, relativism, and subjectivity. Resisting evil and promoting the good become complex as those who differ from us quickly label and libel, projecting their own inadequacies and subjectivities on others. Adding to this is the abandonment of objective facts and reality. How do we navigate these shark-infested waters of personal relationships and the public square, as we aim for interpersonal harmony and the common good?  Here are five insights that have proven helpful over time.

Insight One: We decide ahead of time that our communication will never include personal insults and vulgarity. No matter how ill-treated we are or unfair the accusations hurled against us or those we respect, we will not descend to the lowest level of conflict. Yes, this is really hard. There are some people that open their mouths and instantly we are on edge! We must process our first reactions and choose an opposite disposition.

Insight Two: Before making declarative statements, we ask probing questions aiming to understand what is behind the opinions of those we disagree with. Asking for definitions of terms, essential guiding principles, and what might be the consequences of such thinking are entirely appropriate. Clarifying questions are not confrontational, but sometimes we will be perceived as mean just for asking for definitive answers. Be ready for more challenges here, especially when aiming for the truth of matter. For many, their narrative always triumphs over facts.

Insight Three: We must research the issues from as many perspectives as possible and become familiar with the “groupthink” that overtakes many networks of ideologues. For example, opposing the apocalyptic declarations of climate activists will lead some to call us “deniers” even as the research is quite varied and the most sympathetic scientists do not think our world ends in a decade or a century. Research data must be scrutinized for sample quality and size, as well as the philosophical positions of the researchers and writers. 

Insight Four: After asking questions, doing research and deciding ahead of time to be winsome and wise, we pause for reflection and ask this question: How can I communicate what I think (notice this is NOT, “what I feel” if we are dealing with serious issues) in a way that begins building a principled middle ground and leaves room for learning? Just venting feelings or restating our favorite talking points will not change hearts and minds or build the common good. At the same time, we cannot compromise our essential beliefs and principles.

Insight Five: We share our ideas with humility and hope, and accept the fact that no matter how carefully worded, someone will oppose us. This is the price of the pursuit of objective truth as opposed to the anarchistic “my truth.” When I share about environmental stewardship – good ecological practice means a good economy for future generations – and the need to consider the poor and working classes in energy policies, activists will oppose me because I do not hate Big Oil enough or I am unwilling to “pay the price of change.” These are elitist euphemisms covering a callous disregard for those who need reliable energy. We will never please everyone, but perhaps we can convey compassion and concern that makes a difference.

Be encouraged friends! In the long run, love and truth will triumph over hate and subjectivity. Let’s be winsome and wise, and may we will help others find the courage of their convictions and learn this process of thoughtfulness.

Two Prayers for America

America is not a chosen nation, but she has many chosen people praying and living with integrity that have helped her be a blessing to the world. Our story also includes horrific compromise of our highest ideals, especially our treatment of the indigenous peoples and African Americans. We can love our land and lament our sins. We can improve our nation without destroying her ideals. And prayer must be underneath the laments and longings for justice.

Prayer is God’s invitation to participate in his divine mission to reconcile and redeem, renew and restore all things. Our almighty, sovereign Lord has decided that our humble petitions, compassionate intercessions, and persevering supplications matter in fulfilling his will on earth as it is in heaven.

Here are two short prayers for our nation. There is no pretense here that just the right words will somehow manipulate God – that would be pagan superstition. Instead, our prayers, in alignment with Holy Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit, become a force for good in a world enmeshed in evil. In these days of pandemic and polarization, political passions and personal animosities, humble prayer may make the difference between mercy and judgment for our land.

Prayer for Peace of Mind and Divine Presence in Our Land

O God, you are transcendent and immanent. You are totally other; totally different from us. But you are also Immanuel, God with us. You were delighted to dwell among us in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ. What grace! You are the God who comes close. Lord, come close to our national leaders. Come close to the justices that sit on the Supreme Court. Come close to those in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Come close to our local leaders – our police departments, mayors, and governors. Come close, dear Master, to those in laboratories that are feverishly developing a vaccine for this virus. Come close, Dear God, to peaceful protestors, the abused, the hungry, the bewildered, the outraged, the motherless, the fatherless, the dying, the mourning, the widow, the disabled, the oppressed, and the immigrant. Lord, come close to us, in cul-de-sacs, hamlets, towns, rural areas, cities, and suburbs.  Come close, dear Lord, to those who are easing back into the workplace with trepidation. Omnipresent Lord, please share your closeness with all of us, everyone on the face of this globe. In Jesus’ majestic and mighty name, Amen.

Prayer for Humility and Wisdom

O Lord, you are infinite and intimate, and the Source of all that is good. You promised wisdom for the humble who seek you and search for truth. You promised wisdom as we pray and trust you. Your wisdom is pure, peaceable, and leads to peacemaking and righteousness. Lord, we need your wisdom as we confront the injustices all around us and the unrighteousness in our own hearts. We need wisdom to lament and repent well. We need your wisdom to cultivate new relationships across all the barriers in our world. We need wisdom to reform social structures that keep millions from flourishing. We need wisdom for our businesses, churches, families, communities, cities, and nation. We humbly plead that you will grant wisdom. We also accept your wisdom from the mouths of the marginalized and oppressed, the voices of history, and the prophets calling us to holiness. And we thank you in advance for your generosity toward us, even when it means surgery in our souls. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Becoming Thoughtful in a World of Emotionalism

We need a rediscovery of thoughtfulness in a world afflicted by a “dearth of depth and surfeit of superficiality.” (John Blanchard). The immediacy of experiences and information inflate human arrogance and make everyone a pseudo-expert. We have three tyrannies working: 1) experts competing for power; 2) the ubiquity of information that people confuse with true wisdom; and 3) a public square paralyzed by polarization that devolves into personal alienation instead of civil debate and learning.

We live in a world of instant information. This can be deceptive, because access to data and opinions is not the same thing as accurate information or insight. The other phenomenon is that a rumor or storyline is repeated so often that it becomes “fact” in the minds of many. And when it is later found to be partially or wholly untrue, a belated retraction cannot undo the damage to public knowledge. Information flows, but insight leading to integration of thought and practice is harder to find.

It is time for biblical thoughtfulness, for a fresh understanding of what the Apostle Paul refers to as the transformed mind of the follower of Christ. Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 4:22-24, building on the foundations of OT wisdom literature and the instructions of Jesus, offer hope for inner transformation leading to practical actions that honor God and serve our neighbors. The key word in both passages is transformation. The word is metamorphosis in the Greek and its underlying meaning denotes total change, reorientation, and a new mind.

Instead of unreflected and unfiltered reactions to life, here is a summary of a pathway to thoughtfulness:

  • We receive events, inputs, inner intuitions and thoughts that create and refine the “lenses” through which we understand our world. We all have conscious and unconscious influences that affect our thinking. The thoughtful person recognizes these and takes time to absorb (not repress or suppress) the experiences.
  • Instead of reacting immediately, we reflect on our feelings and thoughts and pause before saying or writing things we might regret.
  • This reflection is then united with research, with the goal of understanding the different perspectives on the issues at hand.
  • Receiving, reflecting, and research are all done subject to God’s revelation found in his two books. The first is Holy Scripture. Our question must always be, “How does God’s Word speak to this experience or issue directly or indirectly? The second book is God’s common grace or natural revelation. This consists of the best empirical and rational thinking in various fields.
  • Finally, the thoughtful woman or man responds to the situation with as much grace and truth as possible.

May we be people of reflection and research, submitting to revelation and responding with love and wisdom in a world awash with emotionalism and irrationalism.

Wisdom in Chaotic Times

As we converse, we need to include complexity and nuance as we aim for understanding. I am not qualifying any forms of evil or injustice but aiming for wisdom. There are two (among many others) critical thinking errors that often emerge as we aim for civil debate in the public square: The first is over-generalization, especially about groups of people. The second false combination, where we assume because a person thinks a certain way about one issue they will align on several others in a particular manner.


People vary greatly and do not always fit in tidy political categories. For example, as someone deeply concerned about protecting the vulnerable from conception to coronation, I want to see better gun control laws, more access to medical care and mental health services, and reform in our educational and economic policies so access, equity, and opportunity improve.


Racism in any form is a moral evil, calling for personal repentance and systemic change. Such transformations require humility and listening by those historically in power. And solutions that actually work will not fit neatly into ideological boxes. With the help of many friends and mentors, I am listening to many voices, most of which are unheard in a world of clickbait and “gotcha.” Business leaders and laborers, parents and clergy, academics and authors, social service workers and local public servants are all helping me grow in wisdom. 

As we respond to this moment, one message I am hearing can help. These are not my wisdom or words, but sisters and brothers on the frontlines. Their message to all well-meaning folks: Take time and find out what the people in the communities and neighborhoods desire and need and invite local residents to forge the solutions. Listening to parents and local business owners about education, work, housing, and other issues will yield wisdom.