Don’t work yourself into the spotlight ...

Don’t work yourself into the spotlight; don’t push your way into the place of prominence. It’s better to be promoted to a place of honor than face humiliation by being demoted. -Proverbs 25:6-7

There is a saying that retorts "the bigger they are the harder they fall". The sentiment is not so much about physical size but the size of the ego. I think that most men and some women understand how ego can cause us to do strange things. The cause of ego seems to always involve sacrificing so-called priorities for the things that stroke our pride. Whether it causes a spotlight to shine on our perfect family or on our perfect performance something is just amiss.

Sadly many of us are attracted to leaders, politicians and all sorts of celebritities who have enormous egos. These seem to feed on our adoration. In contrast, a heart of humility causes the spotlight to shine on others rather than ourselves. I am convinced that the strongest people are the ones who play supporting roles in the so-called success of others. In truth humility is the only path to real success. God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble.

Teach us to humble ourselves Lord. Help us to stay ourt of the spotlight. Lead us to put others first.

Reliable friends who do what they say ...

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, And a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger. Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat—refreshing! Like billowing clouds that bring no rain is the person who talks big but never produces. -Proverbs 25:11-14 MSG

Life is filled with people. Every day we each contact others in different ways. We sometimes speak to the young person getting our coffee or latte like they are a caffeine dispensing machine. Going past a coworker in the hallway we grunt a hello. When we get to our desk we open up the lid on our coffee and sigh a bit of relief. Often it is difficult dealing with people. Yet it could be argued that people are the reason we exist - why we arise from bed each day.

In the midst of this sea of people there are people who we call "friends". Our relationships with these vary from Facebook friend to close friend - from acquaintence to someone who "gets you". And apart from all of these is the friend who is there for you. These show up when you need them. They do what they say they will do. Their presence in your life feels like a gift - an eccouraging and refreshing force in your life. Such is the influence of a reliable friend.

Help me to be a friend who can be trusted Lord. Teach me to love the way that you love.

That man who thinks he’s so smart ...

See that man who thinks he’s so smart? You can expect far more from a fool than from him. Loafers say, “It’s dangerous out there! Tigers are prowling the streets!” and then pull the covers back over their heads. Just as a door turns on its hinges, so a lazybones turns back over in bed. A shiftless sluggard puts his fork in the pie, but is too lazy to lift it to his mouth. [Proverbs 25:12-15]

I wonder what Solomon observed that caused him to write these verses? Do you think that he had family members that relied on the King's wealth and refused to work? Or perhaps he saw such behaviors growing up in his fathers palace? The words are quite an indictment against laziness and reminds me that inventor Thomas Edison once said:
Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.
An old preacher once said that waiting on th Lord is not like waiting on a bus. Good words. Sometimes I think that religious people can get caught up in analysis paralysis. Fearing failure they are immobilzed until they "hear fom God". These do not understand that waiting on the Lord is not about inactivity. Our work must accomapny our prayers.

Help us Lord to be fruitful in both our labors and our prayers. Teach us how you work in our work.

Updating the old Blogroll ...

I updated my blogroll yesterday and hope I did not leave you off. You can see it by clicking the Orange Blogger logo on the right.

Let me know if you would like to be added to it by leaving your blog's URL in the comments section. All I ask is that you are a regular reader of my blog and An Eye for Redemption is displayed in the blogroll section of your blog. Hope you have a great weekend!

Don’t jump to conclusions ...

Don’t jump to conclusions — there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw. In the heat of an argument, don’t betray confidences; Word is sure to get around, and no one will trust you. -Proverbs 25:8-10 MSG

Reading these verses I am reminded of the many times that I have rushed to judgment about something or someone only to change my mind later - it is foolish to act before you have all of the information. So why do we do it? What is there about each of us that judges before we have all of the information? I wonder if sometimes we project ourselves into a situation and we discern a person's actions based on how we might have acted in a similar situation?

Solomon tells us that a consequence of rash behavior, acting before we have all of the information, is that people will have a hard time trusting you. Such is the nature of people who rush to judge others. Consider how little you trust those who feel free to gossip to you about other people - do you ever wonder what they say about you when you are not there? In contrast there are some who can listen to our heart and never break the confidence we have shared.

Help us Lord to be people who listen, really listen, before we act. Teach us to be people of integrity.

God-loyal people don’t stay down ...

No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces. Don’t laugh when your enemy falls; don’t crow over his collapse. -Prov 24:15-17

There is one constant in life that wise people understand - failure is necessary to succeed. People who understand this get up when they fall - they do not let a setback cause them to stop pursuing their dream. Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before he made the first light bulb - invention is often a process rather than an event. He once said:
"Many of life's failures are experienced by people who did not realize
how close they were to success when they gave up."
It speaks to me about how we always need to persevere and not stay down when we fall. Many people in the bible understood this. Jesus told a parable that teaches us to pray and not give up. The book of James tells us that this kind of prayer is effective. Often getting up is about praying when we are down. Sometimes success is a prayer away.

Help us Lord to always pray and not faint. Renew our strength when we are down. Teach us to get up when we fall.

Respect ... the father who raised you ...

Listen with respect to the father who raised you, and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her. Buy truth — don’t sell it for love or money; buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight. Parents rejoice when their children turn out well; wise children become proud parents. So make your father happy! Make your mother proud! -Proverbs 23:22-25 MSG

What is it about the parent-child relationship that seems to transcend life itself? Why does the success or failure of a child impact the parent so much? Is it simply a matter of proximity in our childhood years? Is is societal norms or genetics? What is it that creates such a bond between these familial generations? I suggest to you that it is the idea of love and more specifically love that involves sacrifice - from the day that we are born our parents sacrifice.

This kind of parental sacrificial love is worthy of respect and honor. Yet so many times in life it is maligned and criticized - especially when the child strays from the narrow road. I can remember a parent once telling me that she thought I was the worst parent she knew because my son (who had just lost his mom) got in trouble. People can be so judgmental and we can be made to forget the sacrifices that we have made for our children. Even so, we continue to love.

Today Lord, we remember your call to love, sacrifice, deny ourselves, pick our cross and follow you.

Too Much

Oh listen, dear child — become wise; point your life in the right direction. Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk; don’t eat too much food and get fat. Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row, in a stupor and dressed in rags. Don’t judge wine by its label, or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor. Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with - the splitting headache, the queasy stomach. -Proverbs 23:19-21,32-33 MSG

These verses speak to me about the importance of moderation in all that we do. They accent the words "drunks and gluttons" and teach us that there really can be "too much" of a good thing. Yet who cannot relate to having that last cookie or piece of pie? The temptation to overindulge is often great and the affect on our taste-buds intoxicating. Yet these verses warn us of the after affects of undisciplined behaviors and failures to control our appetites.

On the flip-side I think that Solomon is also teaching us about the power of self control. Drunkenness and gluttony are symptomatic of struggling lives that seem to be out of control. Often one self-medicates by over indulging in booze and food - sometimes this behavior is simply a response to deep unhappiness and pain. Such people are in need of the help of friends. It is why groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are able to help people gain self control again.

Teach us Lord how to live disciplined lives that are able to say no when we are tempted to overindulge.

Meekness and Fear-of-God

The payoff for meekness and Fear-of-God is plenty and honor and a satisfying life. -Proverbs 22:4 MSG

Ever wonder who wrote that Moses was the meekest man on earth? Tradition says that Moses himself wrote it in the book of Numbers. Even so, I think that someone else probably penned it. Yet I do find Moses to be one who fits the description above - I think meekness is mainly about our relationship to God. Moses showed us meekness in the way that he followed God with diligent obedience - someone who is meek cares more about the will of God than their own.

When I think about the fear of the Lord my mind travels back to my childhood and my relationship with my dad. When I was young I had a healthy fear of his discipline but as I got older that fear turned into a deep respect and love. The example is imperfect but speaks to me of how my relationship with our Heavenly Father has grown over time. The initial fear of judgment morphed into awe and a respect for his love and sacrifice. Perhaps meekness grows over time?

Teach us to be meek and humble Lord. Help any fear we have towards you to mature into a loving relationship.

Generous hands are blessed hands ...

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped. Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor. Be generous to the poor — you’ll never go hungry; shut your eyes to their needs, and run a gauntlet of curses. -Proverbs 11:25;22:9;28:27 MSG

The thesaurus includes these synonyms for the word generous: bighearted; greathearted and kindhearted. It reminds me that generosity is an issue of the heart. Being generous will never make sense to the head because it is often not logical. Generosity is based on grace not merit. Tipping generously is not about a waiter going above and beyond their duties - such behavior merits a greater tip. Being generous is about our tipping going above and beyond.

Solomon's words here reminds me that Jesus once told us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. In light of the verses above I am compelled to consider that the giving that Jesus speaks of is more about giving to the poor than to religious institutions. For sure, many of these institutions share a small percentage of their income with the poor - but I have to wonder if the blessed return on donations to the poor is greater than those given in religious places.

Open our eyes to the poor in our cities Lord. Help us to be bighearted, greathearted and kindhearted people.

They refuse to use it to help others ...

The wicked get buried alive by their loot because they refuse to use it to help others. If you stop your ears to the cries of the poor, your cries will go unheard, unanswered. The rich and the poor shake hands as equals — God made them both! The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power. Don’t walk on the poor just because they’re poor, and don’t use your position to crush the weak, Because God will come to their defense; the life you took, he’ll take from you and give back to them. -Proverbs 21:7,13; 22:2,7,22-23 MSG

From the very beginning man has faced the question "am I my brother's keeper?" Solomon seems to answer that question in these verses and frankly the topic makes me a bit uncomfortable. Of course our response to the needs of others might be how we care for them with our donations to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. We might also reply by saying that we pay taxes to care for the poorest among us. Yet I wonder if such thinking isolates us from the poor?

In the gospels Jesus called the poor, "the least of these", his family and commanded that we care for them. Yet somehow we do not think that it is necessary that we get our hands dirty with the business of visiting the inmate or the infirmed. Caring for the widow and orphan has somehow become another person's "ministry". God has given us all that we have and expects us to share it with his family - which is actually our family too. We are our brother's keeper.

Lord have mercy on we who are blind to the needs of the less fortunate. Make us compassionate. Help us love.

God examines our motives.

We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives. Mixed motives twist life into tangles; pure motives take you straight down the road. -Proverbs 21:2,8

The gospels are filled with stories of how Jesus challenged the motives of religious people - interesting how the motives of the so-called sinners never seem to be confronted. In almost every encounter with a Pharisee the Lord seems to point out their impure motives. He often teaches his followers to not be like the Pharisees telling them to not seek attention by offering public prayers, telling friends they are fasting or drawing attention to themselves when they give.

It is difficult to follow this teaching - our pride is often in conflict with Christ's call to humility. It is hard to remember that the true issues of life are those which are invisible and sometimes it is hard to get past appearances. I struggle daily with superficiality and have to fight to be a person of substance. Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount cause me to weigh my motives and live life from the very depths of my being instead of my superficial flesh.

Teach us Lord to discern our motives. Help us to keep our motives pure. To you belongs the Glory.

You find a good life ...

Find a good spouse, you find a good life — and even more: the favor of God! Better to live alone in a tumbledown shack than share a mansion with a nagging spouse. Better to live in a tent in the wild than with a cross and petulant spouse. Proverbs 18:22; 21:9,19

It is written that Solomon shared his royal mansion with 700 wives and 300 concubines - that seems to put these verses in context a bit. Perhaps the king had a better understanding of a nagging, cross and petulant spouse than any other person that has ever lived. Even so, it strikes me a bit odd that the purported wisest person that has ever lived did not understand the concept and blessings of monogamy. Maybe his ignorance of this caused many of his problems?

In contrast, Solomon indicates that there is blessing and favor from God in marriage. When I think about marriage I consider how much I have had to change for the better because I have had a spouse and children to think of. Family life causes a person to adopt a selfless and loving attitude. Perhaps a focus on the nagging of a spouse is evidence in both partners of a need to be selfless. Could it be that "a good spouse" and "a good life" is about how we see them?

Help me Lord, to always see, and focus on, the best in my wife and my children.

Many claim to have unfailing love ...

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure. -Proverbs 20:6,28 MSG

In a world filled with erotic images and mushy Hollywood love Solomon seems to speak loudly about the true nature of love with the words unfailing and faithful. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote to the Corinthians saying true love never fails. It begs the question of what unfailing and faithful love looks like. Consider these words spoken by the Moabitess Ruth in response to her mother-in-law Naomi's advice to stay in Moab and take care of herself:
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
Apart from this kind of faith-filled commitment love is fairly narcissistic and is only concerned with being loved. In contrast, Jesus commanded his followers to go past the idea of loving neighbors as themselves telling them to love others as he himself loves them. It reminds me that Jesus told us that he would never leave or forsake us. In truth this kind of love, the love of Christ, is the only kind of love that will never fail.

Lords Jesus, empower us by your Spirit to love like you love.

The Lord weighs the heart.

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart— the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin. -Proverbs 21:2-4 MSG

It is said of King David that he was a man after God's own heart. What do you think that means? I think that the prophet Micah had a glimpse of such a heart when he said that the Lord desires a heart that embraces justice, mercy and humility - in a sense the first two cannot be walked out apart from the last. Perhaps the heart that God desires most is a broken, contrite and humble one that seeks to live justly and mercifully? The Christian's goal is to have such a heart.

In contrast to this humble heart, Solomon writes of a heart that is likened to unplowed ground - hard and unproductive. Such a heart is proud and is revealed in the haughty ways that it's eyes look upon life. Such a heart does not seek to do justice or mercy for others but only wants what benefits it's selfish desires. The proud heart is the opposite of one after God's own heart because it does not seek out what He wants. Such a heart will not hear God's voice.

Help us Lord to keep ourselves from the things that harden our hearts. Help us to have soft and humble hearts.

Can anyone understand their own way?

Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way? It is a trap to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows. The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.
-Proverbs 20:18,24-25,29 MSG

As I read this proverb this morning I thought about the somewhat diverse ways that the Lord leads and directs us. In a sense God's interactions with us are a mystery - as one verse says, 'How then can anyone understand their own way?" Yet I find that there are principles in the scripture that will help us know God's will. When I read about the trap of snap decisions I think of how patience has helped me understand God's will in a matter - not that it is easy.

I smiled when I read about gray hair being a splendor. Yet I understand that Solomon is teaching us that wisdom sometimes only comes with age. Often the strength and strong willed determination of youth cannot grasp the lessons that only life experiences can teach us. So I wonder if one teaching in these verses might be one of mentoring - perhaps God's plans are best established when the strength of youth is mixed with the wisdom of age?

Lord, sometimes we follow you best together. Help us to build mentoring relationships with others.

Who among us can be trusted ...

Leaders who know their business and care keep a sharp eye out for the shoddy and cheap, For who among us can be trusted to be always diligent and honest? Switching price tags and padding the expense account are two things God hates. God hates cheating in the marketplace; rigged scales are an outrage. Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. -Proverbs 20:8-10,23,28

There is something about work that lifts the human soul. God is interested in not only what we do but how we do it. I suspect it has always been that way. Even the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis speaks of farming and tending sheep - and one brother appeared to do his work a bit better than the other. I wonder if God rejected Cain's offering of his crops because of the way that he worked his farm? Could it have been that his offering was"shoddy and cheap"?

What do you think of when you read "God hates cheating in the marketplace"? Many of us have been tempted to overlook an error on a purchase when it benefits us - sometimes a waiter forgets to include the charge for your coffee and it is so easy to overlook it. Yet woe be to that waiter if they overcharge us. In both cases only one party was involved in cheating - it is one thing to make a mistake on a bill but another to knowingly and willfully cheat another.

Lord help us to be diligent and honest in our dealings in the marketplace. Cause love and truth to form us.

Like deep water in the heart ...

Knowing what is right is like deep water in the heart; a wise person draws from the well within. Drinking from the beautiful chalice of knowledge is better than adorning oneself with gold and rare gems. -Proverbs 20:5,15

The book of James defines sin as not doing what you "know" is the right thing to do. Sometimes life is about being wise with regard to the knowledge that you all ready have. Sometimes it involves not buying that thing that you "know" that you cannot afford or spending time with people who you "know" will drag you down. Sometimes being successful means following that irrational inner part of you that wants to overcome your rational proclivity to do what you "know" is wrong.

The imagery of water being drawn from a well and drunken from a beautiful chalice speaks to me. It reminds me that Jesus once spoke of how rivers of living water would flow from within those who believed in him. Deep waters are meant to give life not only to us but to those who are in the sound of our voice. Spiritual wisdom and knowledge are meant to be humbly drawn out like water from a well. Yet sometimes we are too proud to drop our spiritual buckets into the well.

Lord, we need your life giving water. Teach us to draw from your well today.

Indulging them destroys them ...

Discipline your children while you still have the chance; indulging them destroys them. Punish the insolent—make an example of them. Who knows? Somebody might learn a good lesson. Kids who lash out against their parents are an embarrassment and disgrace. If you quit listening, dear child, and strike off on your own, you’ll soon be out of your depth. -Proverbs 19:18, 25-27 MSG

I grew up in a family of six, a brother and two sisters, on Staten Island in New York City. My dad sometimes worked three jobs to make ends meet. The only indulgement that I can remember was the occasional pizza on Saturday night. Life seemed different then - rules were clearer and we usually knew when we were stepping over the line. My brother was a bit rebellious but it was so obvious that he loved my parents. He struck out on his own but later came back home.

In contrast, the county where I raised my children was very affluent. It seemed that the lives of my children were so very different than my childhood. Compared to my youth kids in our area lived indulgent lives. Even so, it seemed obvious who the disciplined kids were. Discipline knows no societal boundaries. Rich and poor parents alike can either indulge or discipline their children. And in the end, teaching a child discipline prepares them to strike off on their own.

Give us wisdom Lord to know how to discipline our children and prepare them to be disciples.

Even your best friends wish you’d get lost ...

Wealth attracts friends as honey draws flies, but poor people are avoided like a plague. Lots of people flock around a generous person; everyone’s a friend to the philanthropist. When you’re down on your luck, even your family avoids you— yes, even your best friends wish you’d get lost. If they see you coming, they look the other way— out of sight, out of mind. -Proverbs 19:4,6-7 MSG

These verses speak loudly to me about how relationships can be so superficial. Can you relate to the notion of fair-weather friends? I sometimes wonder if the people I once called friends were really friends at all or if they were just acquaintances that I once worked or attended church with. For sure some of them were friends but many of them were just acquaintances. What do you think is the difference is between these two types of relationships?

It seems that these verses show us that an acquaintance is someone who knows you at a somewhat superficial level - they are attracted to you because of the car you drive, the place you live, the church you attend or the job that you hold. In contrast, a true friendship begins in those places but goes to deeper levels as a shared situation progresses and the connection moves from the head to the heart as the sharing becomes vulnerable and transparent.

Dear Lord, we so need each other. Help us to drop our guard and transparently reveal our hearts to our friends.

What can you do when the spirit is crushed?

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. A healthy spirit conquers adversity, but what can you do when the spirit is crushed? -Proverbs 17:22 ESV, 18:14 MSG

When I read about "a crushed spirit" I think about the day in 1972 that Ellen, my first wife, told me that she was going blind - I am not sure that I can express the way that the news of her blindness crushed me. I also remember the day that I walked into Ann's hospital room to find her experiencing some sort of stroke or how she became paralyzed as we were cruising the Caribbean. There are traumatic things in life that can crush your spirit and challenge you deeply.

So what do you do in crushing times? How does a believer in Christ deal with a broken heart and crushed spirit? I can only speak for myself when I say that my life has been transformed by hope. Consider what Isaiah wrote: "those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength". This kind of hope has caused me to persevere in faith when I have been crushed and devastated by hard times. God has used hope and trust to make me a stronger man.

Thank you Lord for the faith, hope and trust that you have authored in my life.

God’s name is a place of protection ...

God’s name is a place of protection— good people can run there and be safe. The rich think their wealth protects them; they imagine themselves safe behind it. Pride first, then the crash, but humility is precursor to honor. The poor speak in soft supplications; the rich bark out answers.-Proverbs 18:10-12,23 MSG

Laying in bed this morning I was thinking about a phrase from the first sentence of the Lord's prayer - "hallowed be thy name". When I ponder what it means to hallow the name of the Lord I think of honoring it. When we honor God's name we live in a place of safety. When we are tempted to behave badly we will be protected by a deep desire to honor the Lord. There is protection and safety in this kind of humility that puts the honor of God before our own honor.

Yet those who trust in wealth have different priorities. Many times these are those who hallow places of honor in society and try to find peace in material things. Many times these are those who seem to be rich but in truth they are poor. Money can never satisfy. Wealth cannot protect you. The supplications or prayers of those who are poor in spirit, those who are humble, will be heard. And in the end pride will crash and humility will lead to honor.

Once again we bow Lord. Once again we hallow and honor your name. Let your humble kingdom come in us.

Overlook an offense ...

Overlook an offense and bond a friendship; fasten on to a slight and—good-bye, friend!
Those who return evil for good will meet their own evil returning. -Proverbs 17:9, 13

The stark contrast in these verses points us to the power that we have in the way that we react to the actions of others. It reminds me of this story from the gospel of Luke:
A woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
Does not this woman melt your heart? Does her repentance not drive you to prayer? Can you read of her tears falling on Jesus' feet and not be moved to tears yourself. Consider Christ's reaction:
I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Is it possible that we struggle so much in overlooking an offense simply because our love is too small. Could it be that our struggle in returning good for evil is because our hearts cannot love as Christ loves? Perhaps our response to an offense would be different if we really understood the depths of God's forgiveness and love for us?

Open our eyes dear Lord to the depths of your forgiveness and love. Help us to honor you by the way that we love.

As silver in a crucible ...

As silver in a crucible and gold in a pan, so our lives are assayed by God. -Proverbs 17:2 MSG

There are several illusions in the scriptures about our lives, our hearts and our faith being tested and tried in the furnace of affliction. It reminds me of how Paul once said that our attitude in trying times should be joyous because the end result of testing is endurance - faith refined, like silver in a crucible, is purer because all of the impurities come to the top and are skimmed off. Yet who among us really ever rejoices when the heat of life is turned up?

It reminds me that life is all about the heart. In times of trouble, when we feel that our faith is being tested beyond its limits, we can only rejoice when we are fully trusting God with all of our heart. Devastating situations have the ability to do what nothing else in life can do - purify our hearts and cause us to trust the Lord in ways that we thought that we never could. Embracing this truth is truly the only way that anyone can ever rejoice in suffering.

Turn our hearts toward heaven Lord. Open our inner eyes to the glory of a purified heart.

A fool hellbent on folly ...

We don't expect eloquence from fools, nor do we expect lies from our leaders. A quiet rebuke to a person of good sense does more than a whack on the head of a fool. Better to meet a grizzly robbed of her cubs than a fool hellbent on folly. What's this? Fools out shopping for wisdom! They wouldn't recognize it if they saw it! Having a fool for a child is misery; it's no fun being the parent of a dolt. The perceptive find wisdom in their own front yard; fools look for it everywhere but right here. Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; as long as they keep their mouths shut, they're smart. -Proverbs 17:7,10,12,16,21,24,28 MSG

Solomon writes profusely about fools sharing many proverbs about the behaviors of foolish people and foolish actions of those who think themselves to be wise. He usually contrasts foolishness with wisdom and speaks plainly to us about how to avoid acting like a fool. In these verses Solomon tells us that lying is a foolish act and teaches us that wise people will receive a rebuke. He opines about foolish children and compares fools to dolts and dunces.

When I consider what it means to be a fool I remember how King David described a fool, in two different psalms, as one who says in their heart that "There is no God." It speaks to me about how foolishness, like wisdom, is a matter of the heart and not the head - some of the most brilliant people are fools. These who profess to be wise reveal their foolish hearts when they spout atheistic drivel. For these it is true that they seem wise when they keep quiet.

Help us Lord to live from our wise hearts. Keep us from foolish words and foolish acts.

Self-control better than political power.

Gray hair is a mark of distinction, the award for a God-loyal life. Moderation is better than muscle, self-control better than political power. -Proverbs 16:31-32 MSG

I find it interesting that so much of my life has been spent trying to control that which is not meant to be controlled – namely my life. Life is about living it from the heart and not controlling it with the head. In a sense self control is all about the dominance of the heart over the head - the inner self controlling the actions of the outer self. It speaks to me of my need to nourish and strengthen my inner self so that it can control the outer self.

Interesting that Solomon speaks of gray hair - I began to understand this paradox of the inner and outer selves fairly late in life. It was then that I began to see the wisdom found in moderation. It was then that I began to leave my extreme views - age has a way of teaching you lessons that you cannot seem to embrace when you are young. Early in life I can remember wanting external or political power when what I desperately needed was inner power.

Help us today Lord to care for our inner self by feasting on and obeying the words that you speak to us.

The bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

First pride, then the crash — the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. It's better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous. It pays to take life seriously; things work out when you trust in God.
-Proverbs 16:18-20 MSG

When I think of the word "ego" in a unhealthy way (there is a healthy aspect to the word) I think of someone who loves themselves too much. Such people tend to be narcissists and see everything in light of themselves. We all know such people and, to a degree, we are those people. It is why Jesus commands us in the gospels to go past the notion of loving our neighbor as our self and to love them as he loves them. Interesting how little that command is quoted.

We need the humility of Christ to love as Christ loved. He did not have an ego that kept him from living in humility with the poorest of men and women. To love and live this way requires us to embrace a seriousness about life and a genuine love for the least of Jesus' family - those who are sick, imprisoned, hungry and homeless. I think the world changes, one soul at a time, when our love for these become greater than our narcissistic love for ourselves.

Help us to embrace the greater love Lord and lay down our lives for the ones that you laid your life down for.

Your business is His business ...

A good leader motivates, doesn't mislead, doesn't exploit.
God cares about honesty in the workplace; your business is his business.
Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation.
Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.
An intemperate leader wreaks havoc in lives; you're smart to stay clear of someone like that.
Good-tempered leaders invigorate lives; they're like spring rain and sunshine. -Proverbs 16:10-15 MSG

I have worked for a few great leaders and many not so great leaders - some were really bad. I have also been a leader of a few and once led many. The principles articulated in these verses work in both secular and sacred venues. The best leaders are most concerned with how business is done rather that just the bottom line results - the end does not always justify the means. Qualities like honesty and integrity speak much louder than quarterly returns.

Yet sometimes the people who lead do not always have a title that reflects their role - often the best leaders are the ones who are leading on the playing field and not on the sidelines. Consider those in the trenches who lead by example - the ones who inspire by their work ethic and their excellence. These trench men (and women) have somehow learned that their business is God's business. These are those who work and lead with excellence when no one is looking.

Invigorate us this day Lord to follow you in our work with all of our heart, mind and strength.

We plan the way we want to live ...

Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good. Put God in charge of your work, then what you've planned will take place. We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it. -Proverbs 16:1-3,9

When most religious people ponder the word sovereignty in respects to the sovereignty of God, the human aspect of the word seems to be lost in the definition. Interestingly though, when the king or sovereign of a nation is being discussed the definition seems to be a bit different. I wonder if the delineation between human and divine sovereignty is all that different? Perhaps they are alike in that the folks being ruled have a role in the sovereign's kingdom?

In these verses today the roles seem clear - we dream, we plan and then trust God to lead us as we go. Our role in life as believers is to follow God trying to discern not how to do something right but trying to determine what is the right thing to do. I love how we are fully engaged in this sort of life - we are not robots taking divine orders but active participants in the divine kingdom. It seems to me that this sort of life brings dignity and meaning to our living.

Lord, help our hearts to be fully alive and engaged with your Spirit in the living of our lives.

A gentle response defuses anger ...

A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. -Proverbs 15:1 MSG
Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim. -Proverbs 15:4 MSG
Hot tempers start fights; a calm, cool spirit keeps the peace. -Proverbs 15:18 MSG
Perceptive words spread knowledge; fools are hollow—there's nothing to them. -Proverbs 15:7 MSG
Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful! -Proverbs 15:23 MSG

One of Solomon's predominant messages in the book of Proverbs is the power of our words. In another proverb he tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. When I think back I am convinced that the kind, encouraging and healing words that I have spoken are the ones that I want to be known for. Sadly, the sinful and condemning words often come to my mind - the ones that I had to ask forgiveness for changed me to think before I speak.

I read something this week about a sign that said that listen and silent use the same letters - so hard to keep my brain silent when I am listening. Perhaps we can only speak gentle, kind and perceptive words when our brains are silent when we are listening? Maybe speaking a "right word at the right time" is being quiet enough to hear the words of God in our hearts? I love that God has given us the ability to "heal and help" with the words that we speak.

God be merciful to me, the one who harms when he speaks. Fill my heart and my mouth with words that give grace.

Friends love through all kinds of weather ...

The person who shuns the bitter moments of friends will be an outsider at their celebrations. -Proverbs 14:10 MSG
Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. -Proverbs 17:17 MSG
Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. -Proverbs 27:6 NLT

When we were young we had people in our lives who we thought would be our BFF - best friend forever. As teens we shared everything with our BFF and trusted them completely. As we grew older our definition of 'friend' changed and we understood that be a friend was so much more than going to the same school or playing on the same team. We began to understand that being a true friend sometimes brought pain to us and challenged our ability to love them.

The verses above cause me to believe that being a real friend involves loving unconditionally. A person who loves this way will hang in there with you when you sin. Such love will cause friends to rally around you when when dark storms are raging. This kind of love will help you give and receive difficult words. Apart from unconditional love we really only have acquaintances that we bump into at work or at religious gatherings. Our challenge is to love as Christ loves us.

In you, Lord Jesus, I can love unconditionally. Please form me into your image and help me to love as you love.