Fear This.

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver! Proverbs 16:16 (NIV)

I think what fascinates me about wisdom is that it is non-discriminatory. You can have a Phd and lack wisdom, but you can be illiterate and be wise. The pauper can obtain it, but the wealthy can’t buy it. And the strong can’t take it from the one who is weak. It would seem wisdom can be obtained by all. The only advantage in obtaining wisdom is time. The longer one lives the more opportunities to amass it, but age is only an advantage, it’s not a guarantee.

So how do we get it?

It seems that humility is one accelerant to obtaining wisdom.

Proverbs 18:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”  What could be more humbling than recognizing the character and nature of God and our position to Him? The wisest of people I have encountered do not have even a smidge of arrogance or haughtiness in their person.  Jesus, who had every right to power, became nothing, serving his own creation to the point of death. Humility has probably been the most difficult of postures to acquire and greatest of personal struggles I’ve faced throughout life. Every time their is pride, wisdom is absent. Two practices have been significant in my life as I’ve sought to replace self centered arrogance with humility that leads to wisdom.

1. Silence

“Even a fool is thought wise if he remains silent” Larry King, maybe one of the best interviewers in the country has said, “I never learned anything while I was talking.”

In my line of work as an author, communicator, counselor, and consultant I’m paid to “speak up”. But I never realized how much this “lack of silence” had become an occupational hazard in my quest for wisdom. I love to talk! I love to give my opinion. I even get paid for it! But as Larry said…

2. Solitude

Henri Nouwen speaks to the relationship of solitude and humility in The Way of the Heart:

“In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me – naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, depraved, broken – nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something. …That is the struggle. It is the struggle to die to the false self.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that way being alone. I love solitude. People don’t believe this about me, but I am introvert. I enjoy being around people, I just get exhausted in the process. I’m a “people oriented introvert”. It takes me days to recover from our National Youth Worker Conventions. So solitude has never been hard for me to experience, but maximizing that alone time so it produces results has been. So I’m alone? What is the result?

I believe there is a difference between being alone and practicing solitude with intention. When I practice solitude I try to examine my life, replay past experiences and conversations and look for patterns that work, and patterns that are destructive. Standing naked in front of a mirror for a long period of time can be humbling too. Try it sometime.

But probably the most productive time in solitude is spent “in the fear of the Lord”. Measuring my heart, my motivations, my character up against the standard of His glory. Sometimes the humility lasts only for that moment, until the phone rings, and sometimes it sticks, and alters the course of life.

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Can You Measure Wisdom?

It has been said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

I don’t want to believe such a corporate management bumper sticker, but it does ring true. Even if something improves organically without intention, we still note its progress by some measure of comparison to it’s intitial  state and how it has progressed over time.

The challenge is making sure we are using the right standard of measure for the outcomes we desire.  If you sell pizza, you may want to produce more pizzas in a shorter period of time. You could develop measures to improve performance and crank out pizza, faster. But what if they tasted awful as a result of the improved production and no one wanted the pizza? That would defeat the objective. So you could develop measures that evaluated the quality of the pizza. Perfect! But now the pizza may cost too much to produce and still yield a profit. So on and on it goes until the right standard of measure is discovered that meets all the desired outcomes.

So if I want to grow in wisdom, and ultimately, accelerate the acquisition of wisdom in another person’s life, measurement may be needed. But I have to have the right measure. So right now, I’ll share what I have and it has to do with those piles of index cards I told you about yesterday.

If you have attended any of my seminars that talk about wisdom formation you most likely have seen the 7 Marks of a wise person. Those were derived from the original piles of proverbs I sorted in the summer of 1995 . At the time there were six “Wisdom Domains”.

They were:

1. Relationships

2. Speech

3. Self Control

4. Seeking Counsel

5. Resource Management

6. Inner Motives/Drives (Which was later changed to Contentment)

Over time and with many discussion with friends like Michael Novelli, Jim Hancock, and interns Aaron Giesler and Josh Meares, we formed new language around the piles.

A Wise Person:

1. Trusts God (this wasn’t initially a pile it was “given”)

2. Walks In Healthy Relationships

3. Seeks Good Counsel

4. Speaks Carefully

5. Manages Resources Well

6. Exercises Self Control

7. Keeps Balanced (This was formerly contentment)

This list in no way seeks to be exhaustive in defining what wisdom is, but it seems like a great start at giving definition to an elusive concept. The first two marks mirror the two commands Christ gave us to love God and love others, followed by the next four that specifically look at domains of life that contribute to living well, and the last (Keeps Balanced) is the sum total of the previous six. If you survey Christian literature and curriculum you’ll see these 7 themes pop up quite a bit, and in some instances there are very close similarities to lists others have developed. I want to keep these posts short, so I won’t dive into each mark in depth (but I will at some point).

I find that simply asking people to score each mark on a scale from 1-10 they immediately have “handles” for identifying areas of their life they need to develop to grow in wisdom. This isn’t a perfect measure, but it is a start.

I’m in the final stages of a project I contracted to Dr. Todd Hall at Rosemeade School of Psychology and CEO of Alidade Research to psychometrically validate an instrument I developed to measure wisdom, so more on the subject of measurement as the research unfolds.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on measuring something as elusive as wisdom, as well as any thoughts on the 7 Marks.

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In The Beginning There Were Index Cards

It was the summer of 1995. I had just made a decision to leave Shepherd Ministries the organization that produced The Student Conference With Dawson McAllister to go out on my own.  But go where to do what? I had no idea. At the time Acquire The Fire, Student Life, and Dare To Share were just beginning to grow as  conference ministries. Dawson’s conferences were the best attended nation wide student events, there really wasn’t anywhere “up” for a guy like me to go. But “up” was exactly what I was not interested in.

Most of my ministry to that point in time was as an illusionist. I was typically brought in to give a clever presentation of the gospel using “gasp” magic tricks. Sure Dawson had allowed me to teach a few conferences on my own, and I enjoyed working with my ministry team which included Todd Proctor and Chris Tomlin with whom I had travelled the country. Going it alone would be lonely for sure without their companionship. But the decision had been made and I only had 8 months before I would jump out of what had been a comfortable ministry environment.

I had always thought that the person who separated evangelism and discipleship should be shot and hung for creating a false dichotomy in the mission of the church. Whatever I moved on to do had to focus on making disciples, but at that time, most discipleship work for teens focused on reading the Bible, praying, and regular church attendance.  I was looking for a more robust model for spiritual formation.

As I read Luke 2:53, the only verse in the canonized scripture that provides insight into Jesus’ maturation from childhood to adulthood, a word popped out that I had only given face value to in the past. The word was “wisdom”.

“Wisdom” is a word we respect quite a bit, something we all hope to acquire in life, but  rarely is “wisdom” something we actively seek to obtain. What if we did?

The WWJD movement was at a highpoint, but students across the country kept scratching their heads and asking me, “I can ask the question, but I really don’t know what he would do??” I knew that wisdom was needed, because it was bigger than facts and data alone. Wisdom was a way of seeing and living in the world that produced beneficial results.

I cracked open the Proverbs and began reading the book over and over again. There was so much practical insight that appeared to be overlooked in spiritual formation. Yes, Billy Graham reads a chapter every day, I knew that, but what about the larger idea of “wisdom” do any of us really understand it? Could the acquisition of wisdom be more than reading the Bible?

I purchased a shopping cart full of index cards and spent the first week of summer writing each proverb individually on a card from chapter 10 up to the sayings of Agur. When I was done I started sorting the proverbs into piles, looking for the essence, the elements of wisdom.

By the end of the summer, I had managed to put the cards into 7 piles first, then got them somewhat comfortably into 3. The nature of those piles has changed somewhat over the years but that was the beginning of a search for Wisdom that I hope to document here in the annals of WisdomHacker.

My journey has taken me into the fields of theology (what does the Bible say about wisdom?), anthropology (how is wisdom viewed in other cultures?), psychology (how is wisdom learned, and held in the mind), to neuroscience (is wisdom biological?) and artificial intelligence (can computers be programmed to be “wise”?).

Recently I’ve been intrigued by the “wisdom of crowds” and thought it was time to open up some ideas and thoughts I’ve had to a larger community of people so that they can be discarded, refuted, question, or built upon. Sometimes these posts will be long, other times short. Sometimes boring and other times insightful (at least I hope).

I’m just foolish enough to try this, thanks for being willing to journey with me. (and if you are wondering what labels I put on those piles of index cards, hang in there, I’ll be posting about them soon).

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FAQ About The Dec 6 UnConference

So far there has been great response to the Youth Ministry UnConference we’ll be hosting in Dec, including youth ministers in several other cities wanting to do the same in their communities. Many questions have come my way about this event, so I’d like to answer them now (please ask more if you have them).

Is this only for youth workers in the DFW area?

No. Absolutely not. In fact, we already have registrations from youth workers coming in from other states to join us on this day. If you can make it to DFW please come.

What is an “unconference”?

If you’re like me when I go to conventions some of the best moments are not the general sessions and seminars (although I do believe they have value). Often I find the real energy at a convention to be the “in between” spaces like meals and breaks when paths cross and spontaneous meetings happen. That’s when the sparks fly! The “unconference” format attempts to build an event that is made primarily of “coffee break” energy.

There are no speakers or seminars. The event is based on a loose set of principles  that allow the event to take shape based on who shows up and what is important to them. Rather than a person or committee planning the direction of the event from the top down, the event “self organizes” from the bottom up. You’ve probably never experienced anything like this, so you need to come.

What is the advantage of doing this?

The idea behind this gathering is to get around some of the limitations at other events that hinder innovation. One of the primary beliefs driving this format is that the whole of people in the room are better than one person in front of the room. So together we identify problems and find solutions rather than one person doing this from the top down. Having a diversity of experiences and talents in a focused environment allows for inovations and breakthroughs. Come prepared to be surprised.

What does the room look like in an “unconference” setting?

Chairs are arranged in circles that fill the room, people are moving from circle to circle, people are having animated conversation, others are listening, some are taking notes to share with everyone. It’s electric.

Why two days?

Sometimes the best ideas come after “sleeping on it”. So we want to be sure we give ample time to collaborate, think, play and rest too.

What happens Monday night?

I realize some people will live close by and want to go home, others may choose to stay in hotels. But many of us are planning on eating together and hanging out to keep conversations and relationships moving. If you have to go home, that’s fine, we’ll see you Tuesday morning. If not, we’ll be hanging out. Several youth pastors and local church families are hosting others in their homes so there aren’t hotel expenses. If  you’d like to host or be hosted let us know.

What do you hope happens?

One focusing question will launch our work together for the day: “What do we need to learn, share, or create to meet the spiritual needs of teenagers?” My hope is that we leverage the wisdom of those attending to answer this question. While I imagine we will solve some problems on location, our time together may be the trigger for results in the days and years that follow.

Is it really free?

Yes, you must register as space is limited, but the event is free. There are no pitches or marketing messages from sponsors of any kind. Obviously any gathering costs something (including your time to attend). Irving Bible Church is graciously letting us use their building free of charge, and many people are donating their time to organize the event. So for some it isn’t free, but their gift is making it free for those who attend (meals, lodging, travel of course is your responsibility). You can register here –> http://www.eventbrite.com/event/981743421/Email

More questions? Ask away.

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Youth Ministry UnConference December 6 Day Of Dreaming

In my quest for wisdom, I’ve been learning about collaboration and the structures for gathering people to leverage their collective wisdom. Open Space Technology is one such method, and we will be using it here –>

About a month ago Youth Specialties hosted a gathering of youth workers in the Dallas area for lunch to share with them some of the programs they were bringing to the DFW area.

Close to 70 showed up.

The events YS were bringing to DFW were exciting, but when it was over many felt we had missed something in all of us being in the room together. An opportunity had passed us.

A few of us who hung around after got to dreaming and discussing where youth ministry is going and what God might be doing in our area.

The conversation was positive. The conversation was stimulating. We wanted more conversation and more dreamers.

So let’s do this! Let’s come together with one question in mind…

What do we need to learn, share, or create to meet the spiritual needs of teenagers?

Join us as we pray and dream together.

December 6th and 7th DFW area youth pastors and workers want to invite you to join us for a day of prayer and dreaming.

There will be no advertising, marketing, or pitches. Our purpose for gathering is straightforward: We want to come together to pray for the youth in our communities and dream about how God might use us to help them know Him more deeply.

Here is how our time will be spent. We ask that you come into the meeting Monday having fasted, at 10 am Monday Dec 6th we will open with a concert of prayer.

Following that time, we will enter into group conversations using an “unconference” discussion format called Open Space. Anyone can propose a conversation; you’ll be able to choose which circles you want to join.

At noon we’ll serve lunch breaking our fast and around 12:30 our first conversations will begin.

We’ll continue until 5-6 that evening, and then break for dinner. We’ll resume at 8 am the next day to finish conversations and have a closing circle that will end around noon.

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO COST TO ATTEND. The only funds you will need is for meals and housing. However, you need not spend money on a hotel unless you want to, area youth pastors have agreed to put up people coming in from out of town in their homes, if you need a place to stay, or have a home others can stay in contact Mary Ann Connor at mconnor@irvingbible.org .

When? December 6 at 10 am thru noon Dec 7

Where? Irving Bible Church

Registration? It’s free, but space is limited. Register here -> http://www.eventbrite.com/event/981743421/Email

Hosting Team: Mark Matlock, David Grant, Rawd Jones, Lars Rood, Shawn Small

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Wisdom Hacker Goes Live Nov 1

Because I wanted to get the word out about the Day of Dreaming, I went ahead and made this blog live a week earlier than planned. Technically, my first post will begin November 1st.

Thanks for your continued interest.

Mark

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