Introductory Note:

Time to wise up! Or, at least, it’s time to engage in the wisdom tradition in a personal way with a few praxis suggestions from Richard Foster.

From putting on Proverbs to singing Solomon’s Song, from observation of the human scene to exploration of New Testament themes, there is something for each of us to experiment with in this series of exercises and ideas.

Renovaré Team

Wisdom’s lessons are found through­out Scrip­ture and through­out life. Here are a few exer­cis­es to get you going.

• Find one to three say­ings from the book of Proverbs that you can mem­o­rize and use to guide your deci­sions and actions for the next six months. As an exam­ple you might want to take the coun­sel of Proverbs 15:1 (“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”) and allow it to guide your inter­ac­tions with peo­ple at work.

• Take a one day retreat to slow­ly read through the Song of Solomon. Pay close atten­tion to its paean of praise to human love. Now con­sid­er why this most sen­su­al and earthy book would be in our Bible, and what that says to us about the essen­tial good­ness of the mate­r­i­al world. D. Elton True­blood in The Com­mon Ven­tures of Life writes, Chris­tian­i­ty is the most avowed­ly mate­ri­al­is­tic of the great world reli­gions. There are reli­gions which are almost pure­ly spir­i­tu­al’ in their out­look, large­ly ignor­ing the body and the whole mate­r­i­al order, but the Chris­t­ian faith is not one of them. Accord­ing to the Gospel, the true func­tion of the spir­it is not to deny mat­ter, but rather to glo­ri­fy it. The Word, we believe, was made flesh.” With this under­stand­ing con­sid­er your life and those around you. Prayer­ful­ly choose an action that reflects your com­mit­ment to the good­ness of the mate­r­i­al world.

• Take into your heart and home the words of Proverbs 24:3 – 4, By wis­dom a house is built,/ and by under­stand­ing it is established;/ by knowl­edge the rooms are filled with all pre­cious and pleas­ant rich­es.” If you are mar­ried and have chil­dren, con­sid­er two appli­ca­tions of the proverb: one to your spouse and the oth­er to your chil­dren. (Adjust the appli­ca­tions if you are sin­gle or with­out chil­dren.) What atti­tude and action of wis­dom and under­stand­ing and knowl­edge would be appro­pri­ate for your spouse and for your chil­dren? An atti­tude and action of affir­ma­tion per­haps? Of ten­der­ness? Or kind­ness? You decide. Then make it an atti­tude and action for an entire year.

• For a time watch what peo­ple do with a view to what gets them into trou­ble. Is it talk­ing too much and speak­ing out of turn? How about impul­sive deci­sions with­out regard for the con­se­quences? Sure­ly more things will crop up. Next, take one of these and see if you can com­pose a proverb that will help you avoid a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. If you can­not make one up just skim through the book of Proverbs and no doubt you will find one already writ­ten down that speaks to that sit­u­a­tion. This then can become your per­son­al proverb for avoid­ing trou­ble this year. At least that spe­cif­ic kind of trouble!

• Think about what keeps peo­ple today from fol­low­ing the coun­sels of wis­dom. Are they too busy? Too dis­tract­ed? Rebel­lious? Angry? And for you per­son­al­ly, are there cor­ners of your life where wisdom’s teach­ing needs to penetrate?

• Study the New Tes­ta­ment book of James. Do you find teach­ings in it that remind you of the Wis­dom Tra­di­tion? Com­pare it with Jesus’ teach­ing in the Ser­mon on the Mount (Matt. 5 – 7). Do you see sim­i­lar­i­ties of thought? Take one of the teach­ings and own it for yourself.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Per­spec­tives, 2003.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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