Pentecost 61

Pentecost 61
My Psalm 61

Strength

In what was probably the locker room of the athletic department at Southwestern Oregon Community College, Jeremy David Jones presented a PowerPoint presentation about strength. His formula for such was simple: “Talents + Knowledge + Skills = Strength”. Jones quotes a white paper based upon a study done in 2003 by Donald O Clifton and James K Harter entitled “Investing in Strengths”, commissioned by The Gallup Organization although Clifton and Harte themselves drew their summations and quoted from a number of studies and research efforts.

Simply stated, talent is a particular aptitude a person might possess for a particular thing. In 1955 a statewide survey was done in the state of Nebraska regarding reading levels of students. Programs were initiated to improve the reading levels of students. They discovered that those with a talent or aptitude for reading did better, much better. The elevation of those with poor reading skills, however, was not as great. They also discovered that some teachers had a talent for teaching while others, although giving it the same effort and using the same materials, did not and those classes were not as successful as the classes of the talented teachers. Although both sets of teachers were similarly trained and had the same knowledge, they did not achieve the same results nor did their students in their studies.

Knowledge is an understanding of a subject or item but theories of knowledge have been debated and contested ever since man first began to think. Mentioned in the Bible as one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, knowledge is a familiarity of a subject… and much, much more. In their research, Clifton and Harter noted the importance of the various types of knowledge in determining strength. The facts or information that comprise knowledge are acquired by experience or education, development or acquisition of skills, discovering which leads to critical thinking and review and acquired knowledge via communication and perception.

Sociologist Mervin F Verbit describes knowledge as one of the key components of religiosity. He breaks religious knowledge into four concepts, similar to those advocated by the athletic training coach Jeremy Jones. Both feel content, frequency, intensity, and centrality to be important elements.

Skills are the abilities a person possesses and, generally, these have been developed and improved upon through a person’s life. On the world stage, countries devote a great deal of resources to presenting their strength. They tend to exploit the talents of their citizens, and brag about the knowledge their culture has given to the world. However, the only skills they deem valuable are those regarding military might. They completely ignore the soft skills – the people skills that include emotional intelligence, optimism, communication, social graces. They forget that a country needs life skills as do the individual citizens. Life skills are problem solving skills (those that do not include military might or violence), responsible management of resources for the present and the future.

There are almost five hundred Bible verse about strength and being strong. As Mark Twain once said, “Spirit has fifty times the strength and staying-power of brawn and muscle.” Ask most people what the strength of their faith is and they will tell you, whether Jewish, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, etc., it is that their faith is based upon eternal truths.

Eternal truths are values or bits of information that are valid for all time, unchanged by the passage of time, the effects of weather, or the ravages of man. For example, a square has four sides. That is an eternal truth, provided one agrees to the definition of the geometric figure. Rene Descartes, born at the end of the sixteenth century and living through the middle of the seventeenth century, questioned everything. He especially questioned how knowledge could be accepted as truth. Perhaps the key to strength lies in his most famous quote: “Cogito, ergo sum!” or in English, “I think, therefore I am!”

Descartes decided to prove the veracity of the known knowledge at the time and threw out believing in anything until it was proven. He quickly found that to prove something required a baseline, a foundation of certain eternal truths or accepted facts. It is this baseline that nations seem to have forgotten.

The strength of a nation lies in its people. The people must be healthy, feel valued and respected, and allowed to thrive in order to be strong. The Old Testament or Torah word for strength was “chayil” which translates as power or capable. In the New Testament, amid the teachings that advocated loving thy neighbor and helping all, the word for strength became “ischus” or ability. To strengthen was seen as increasing something or “endunamoo”.

When a nation seeks to increase its ability, it will become strong. When its people are capable of gaining knowledge and their talents are fully appreciated and utilized, abilities will increase and the strength in union will be felt. Together our strength will be in a tower of humanity, thriving and growing together to build a better world.

My Psalm 61

Guide us, dear Father,
Creator and Guardian of souls:
We glorify your strength and offer prayers to you.
Lead us to the rock of truth;
Let us stand on the tower of your love.
Help us when confronting the enemy.
Give refuge to our souls
As we serve the mighty.
May we dwell with the Almighty Father forever.
We will work to do your will, O Father,
Singing your praises for all our lives.

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