There's an 'elder' with special wisdom for the new PM

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January25, 2006

This week began by Canadians electing a Conservative government under Stephen Harper. May wise King Solomon's coronation prayer from nearly three millennia ago (Psalm 72, the source of Canada's motto "From sea to sea," which we reflected on last week) provide a lamp for the new prime minister's feet and a light for his path.

Which brings me around to several responses I received to that column.

Longtime Calgary coffee companion Onalee Oakes was most affirming when she wrote, "I hope you sent a copy of this whole article to the office of each of the men running for prime minister!"

To Onalee's sentiments Edmonton writer/historian John Chalmers added:

"I found your column and the biblical quotations quite thought-provoking in making me think about the huge responsibility that a national leader has towards the people. Too often I feel that politicians are more concerned with their own personal glory than with the interests of those who elect them."

It's really about the right kind of wisdom, wrote Calgary dentist Ralph Dubienski:

"Wow, great words, Warren! May our leaders be so blessed with this wisdom. Not just a worldly wisdom, but an honest and righteous wisdom that will be seen and recognized by the world for its truth and one that crosses political and faith boundaries."

Dudley Baker, of Edmonton, obviously feels much the same way but notes also a special responsibility the rest of us bear on behalf of our elected leaders. He wrote:

"There is a saying, that we get the kind of government we deserve. In my view and experience, that saying is oh, so true. The Bible's instruction that we pray for those in authority is, of course, key to what kind of governments we have, not to mention what kind of bosses, business leaders and on and on, we live under. We are told to pray for our leadership. I don't believe we do, or we would have far, far better leadership, men and women standing for office who would govern with the priorities of Psalm 72."

I must add something especially interesting about how Dudley came to be one of the regulars at our virtual coffee table. Last year Dudley was passing through Cochrane and stopped at Coffee Traders. While reading a copy of the Cochrane Eagle, he came upon one of my columns he especially liked, wrote me, and asked to become one of our e-mail coffee companions.

More and more of our distance readers have joined our table in similar ways, and they're all welcome. In fact, their input has a great deal to do with making this column rich in relevance and diverse opinions.

Returning to responses from local readers, I was pleased to hear from Herbert Pietsch, of Redwood Meadows. He wrote, "I just wanted you to know how impressed my wife and I are with your knowledge of the Bible."

Since several of our coffee companions have said similar things recently, I'd like to comment on what the Bible means to me personally.

Perhaps I should begin by sharing an experience I've had over many cups of coffee and tea around campfires and over kitchen tables with folks in the Stoney Nakoda First Nation communities of Morley and Big Horn, where I lived most of my adult life.

As with other First Nations communities, the teaching role of elders is very important. Their wise teaching doesn't usually take place in walled classrooms, however. Rather, they pass their wisdom on in the informal moments of life's journey – in the home, along the trail, at sporting events: wherever and whenever a younger person will take time to observe and listen.

Furthermore, the "final exam" for their teaching does not involve pen and paper, nor do the elders evaluate our learning with judgmental grades. The subject of their teaching is life itself, and life will be the judge as to whether we have passed happily and gratefully through its all-too-short days.

Similarly, from my earliest memories as a child, the Bible has been for me a wise elder. Its words, passed on by a great witness of people over thousands of years, have shaped my values and embrace of life.

And along life's sometimes dark, winding trails, I have paused and reflected on one of the first verses from the Bible I memorized in Sunday School, the words from Psalm 119, verse 105: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

And I have no hesitation now in recommending that wisdom to our new prime minister.

© 2006 Warren Harbeck

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