A Mother’s Wisdom

Well here we are at the end of our journey through the book of Proverbs. I’m hoping that it’s been a bit eye-opening for you.  My desire in writing these posts is that you have been able to take away at least one thing and massage it into your life. You’ll be a better person for it…and may I suggest that Wisdom will always welcome you back to ‘snack’ on a morsel of common sense.  Think of the Proverbs as nutrient packed vitamins…make sure that you get enough everyday.

So with that in mind, let’s see what Proverbs is saying to us today.  So as I ponder this final chapter I discover that it is rich in words to the wise.  I’m going to make it a two-part post because both sections have some valuable insights for us.

The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his mother taught him.

O my son, O son of my womb, 
O son of my vows, 
do not waste your strength on women, 
on those who ruin kings.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. 
Rulers should not crave alcohol. 
For if they drink, they may forget the law 
and not give justice to the oppressed. 
Alcohol is for the dying, 
and wine for those in bitter distress. 
Let them drink to forget their poverty 
and remember their troubles no more.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; 
ensure justice for those being crushed. 
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, 
and see that they get justice.   Proverb 31: 1-9

So who is this King Lemuel?  Scholars don’t really know, and that’s okay.  But you have to love his mother who instructed him in wisdom.  By the way, this should be eye-opening for women and mothers, as well as for men, and those who consider themselves to be people of importance.  It’s eye-opening because it’s not a great leader, scholar or sage that is instructing King Lemuel, rather it is his mother.  There’s something about mothers, eh?  I think about my own Mom.  Her name was Grayce (spelled with a ‘y’, and you dare not get that wrong!).  While she wasn’t a perfect mom, there are many jewels of wisdom that she not only seeded into my life, but also lived.  These became apparent in the her last few years, and it was clear that she did her best to live according to wisdom.  As I grow older, I am discovering that she was right all along!

This last chapter of Proverbs speaks volumes to the reality that of all the people to give wisdom to our world’s leaders, it’s mothers.  What does that tell you?

Lemuel’s mom has some words of wisdom for her son, the king, and here they are…

First… His mom warns him of falling for the trap that free sex with anyone and everyone is anything but free.  This speaks to one of the main themes from Proverbs that says, ‘just because you desire it, doesn’t mean you should’.  Unrestrained sex outside of marriage actually removes the sacredness and the mystery of the physical union between a married couple.  Restraint and self-discipline are necessary character traits simply because they keep our desires in check.  Mom knows that an undisciplined life comes to ruin.  Smart mom!

Speaking of ‘unrestrained’, Mom’s second bit of advice has to do with drinking alcohol.  Whether it’s liquor, beer, wine, or legal drugs…too much of a good thing is not a good thing.   The nasty thing about alcohol is that if you don’t place restraints on it, it will definitely put restraints on you.  Meaning…it will weaken, dull and lessen you in more ways than one.

And Mom’s final word of advice: look out for your fellow human being, especially those who are the victims of injustice, the homeless, the poor, and the marginalized.  A society that cares for the least is a society that cares for all.

While these are words from a mom to her son, the king, they are also words of wisdom to you and me.  I find it peculiar how I can think of innumerable ways that YOU should live your life in order to make MY world ‘happy’, while at the same time I give no thought to the way I live my life.

So today I raise a cup of tea to Mom and all the mom’s out there who through their actions and words, plant seeds of wisdom into hearts of humanity!

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To Spank or Not to Spank!

A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction.

Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.      Proverbs 13: 1, 24

So now that I have your attention, stick with me through this short journey into this ‘touchy’ subject (no pun intended) of child discipline.

It’s unfortunate, but true that many of us assume that these two proverbs are endorsing parents ‘spanking’ or ‘punishing’ their children. And you know what they say about ass-u-me… 😉 . What these two proverbs are talking about is the wisdom of accepting discipline and the responsibility of giving discipline.

Forms of child discipline vary from generation to generation, and culture to culture. I am of the belief that humanity shifts and changes as each generation learns from the previous one. The hope is that we see continual improvement as we become more knowledgeable. However, there are times when because of the fault of one generation, the next generation throws the baby out with the bath water. I think when it comes to the responsibility of parental discipline, we have done just that. I belong to the ‘Boomer’ generation and we did learn from our parents the HARD way…that beatings and strappings, etc are a tad archaic! But the Boomers (not all, but many) and the generations following (not all) have thrown out discipline along with physical punishment. Bad on us.

In doing that, we have reaped a much weaker and fearful generation. The beauty of growing up as a child is that you have this belief that you are invincible, and so you are willing to try and do anything. But trying anything without a sprinkling of wisdom can take you down the wrong path with not-so-nice consequences, and that’s where discipline comes in. Parents have a responsibility to discipline or correct (redirect to the right path) as their children are growing up. Why? Well because while learning via the school-of-hard-knocks is effective, it doesn’t even come close to the loving correction from a parent.

Secondly, by giving my child the discipline that he or she needs, I am also instructing them in the way of life, cultivating a sense of security within themselves, protecting them, and teaching them the importance of self-restraint and self-discipline. When we practice those two things – with ourselves and with our children, we are building character within ourselves and our children.

Thirdly, while I believe that we live in a beautiful world, I also know that it’s a tough one. Discipline lovingly given instills within a child a sense of self-confidence, wisdom, and the opportunity to fully enjoy life. But when we bought into the notion that saying ‘no’ to our children, or giving guidance in all areas of their life as being ‘mean parenting’, we now have a generation of children and young adults who lack confidence in themselves and fear the world outside their door. In essence, I believe that we have robbed them of the joy of life.

Solomon was correct when he wrote, “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.”

The Destroying Angel

destroyingAngelMushroom

The Destroying Angel mushroom

So listen to me, my sons, and pay attention to my words.

Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her.

Don’t wander down her wayward path.

For she has been the ruin of many; many men have been her victims.

Her house is the road to the grave. Her bedroom is the den of death.

Proverbs 7: 24-27

I know, these words are not really the cheery type.  But then since when are warning signs supposed to be cheery?  They are there to get your attention…NOW!  

This morning after our worship service I was having small-talk with a couple of guys, and we shifted into mushroom picking (of which I have zero knowledge of). Patrick mentioned about this one mushroom that will literally kill you if you eat it. It’s name is The Destroying Angel. The beauty of giving it a name such as that is there is absolutely nothing appealing about it. There is nothing in that name that would even tempt you to eat it. It’s name says, “I’m out to kill you.” And in fact, if you eat it, within five to twenty-four hours, it will have destroyed your liver and kidneys, and yes, your body!

It’s too bad that the name, immorality, didn’t have the same effect on us. In fact, the name is so innocuous that people just nonchalantly walk right into it. In the seventh chapter, Solomon zeros in on sexual immorality, but let’s not forget that we can find immorality in money and power, as well.

Immorality is seductive, plays on our insecurities, our weaknesses, and couldn’t give a rip about us afterwards. And so Solomon implores us to not just stay away, but to run from immorality, because much like The Destroying Angel mushroom, in the end it will kill you.

His advice is straightforward:

RUN!

And like the Destroying Angel…in the end, it will kill you.

I suggest we rename immorality for what it is…The Destroying Angel!

Do not eat it…don’t even lick it!

Dear Lazybones…

LazyAntTake a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!  Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.  Proverbs 6: 6-11

Tax season is here and the commercials for RRSPs can be heard on most radio stations. So do you save for a rainy day? Are you someone who has squirreled away an emergency fund (‘they’ say you should save anywhere from 3 to 6 months salary)? How about that nasty ‘B’ word…and no, not that one. I’m talking about having a budget. Do you have one? What about saving for retirement, or have you resigned yourself to working right up until the day you leave this fine world of ours?

The ‘winter seasons’ of life. Some call these the ‘golden years’, or the ‘twilight years’, or as my Mom called them, the ‘rusty years’. If you’re planning on living a full life, then you need to factor in that at some point, those ‘winter years’ are going to come. Will you be prepared for those years, or is your idea of a retirement fund, moving in with your kids? If so, I would suggest you check with them to see if they share your future vision.

Now on this note, I need to add that I have spoken to some Christians who question the whole concept of saving for retirement…that’s it’s not a very ‘Christian’ thing to do. Their perspective is that you could give that money to the poor, to a good cause, to missions, etc. Their argument is that Jesus will provide for us, therefore, a retirement fund is not necessary. I get why one could have that perspective, and I know that Jesus instructed his followers to store up treasures in heaven. But alas, I digress…this post is not about that.

In these six verses you have wisdom Scripture instructing people that it is most wise to consider the humble ant. The ant diligently works at preparing for the winter season that is about to come, otherwise, that ant will wake up one day to find that it’s too late.

Scripture is not telling us to hoard, nor is it instructing us to just think of ourselves, but it is telling us that when it comes to the money that we do have, we would be most wise to exercise self-discipline.

Yes, provide for yourself today and trust Jesus, but remember that winter IS coming.

On Your Mark…Get Set

runnerFrom the 5th!

23 He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.

Have you ever wished you could hop in a slick sports car, throw the top down, forget the seat belt, no brakes, and with unlimited speed?  Oh to cruise down the road, blasting through intersections ignoring the colour of the lights, pass when you felt like passing, drive on any side of the road of your choosing.  Talk about freedom, right?  NOT!!!  Who in their right mind would even consider driving in such a careless manner?  Talk about a terrifying nightmare.  Not just for you, but for every other person using the road!  We would applaud the courts for permanently revoking the drivers licence for life!  Who would want such a person on the road?  Not me, that’s for sure!

But there are so many people who live their lives like that, day in and day out.  Which is what the wise old king talking about in the fifth chapter of Proverbs.  Now he is speaking specifically to those who choose to live sexually immoral lives, and if we could put it into today’s language, it would be comparable to driving a car with no brakes at an insane speed down a roadway with other motorists and pedestrians using that road.

People actually choose to live this way, completely unaware of the risk they are putting their life at, but other lives that are being put at risk.  When that car goes out of control (and it will), mayhem will ensue, and oh the regrets that that crazy driver is going to have.  The interesting thing is, we hear about these things happening all the time, and it’s been happening since the beginning of human history, and it continues to this day.

What’s at the root of the problem?  If you’re a good ol Bible-believin’ Christian, then you would say ‘sin’.  And that’s true…sort of.  You see, when we say it’s ‘sin’, I think there’s a wee part of us that feels it’s not totally our fault – “It’s SIN’S fault!!”

Solomon calls it what it is – a lack of self-control.  In other words…we lack self-discipline.  It’s that common thread that runs through all of the book of Proverbs.  It’s the people who have learned the value of self-control that are the wise ones!  Think about it…

Ignore the Squirrel!!

25 Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.

26 Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.

27 Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

As I read through Proverbs I get this distinct feeling that one of the main threads coursing throughout Solomon’s mind is the principle of self-leadership. The question that seems is being asked is: “Who leads your life?” Now naturally most of us would say, “I do, of course?” But as I think more deeply about this, I don’t think that’s always the case. Whenever I take the time to review my day, I tend to find that ‘circumstances’ have been leading my life, or other people have been leading me(their opinions, words, actions, needs, etc), my feelings play a part in this, my ‘smart phone’ (most definitely!), emails…I think you see where I’m coming from.

Squirrel

The idea of self-discipline is the same thing as leading ones self. If I don’t lead myself, someone or something else will. Think about it? What leads your life? Do you determine what you are going to focus on today, or is it other people, situations, or feelings? I think that Solomon is saying, “I can choose to lead myself.”

I love these words in Proverbs, and they are so relevant in todays age! Are we not a distracted people?? The ‘noise’ of life is so loud anymore, with everything clamouring for our attention, that the second you bound out of bed something is demanding your attention! And how many people do you hear about that are struggling with ADD, and other various disorders that cripple their ability to focus on a task. We tend to call those interruptions, SQUIRRELS. If you’re chuckling to yourself right now, then you know what I’m talking about. These SQUIRRELS (or distractions) are everywhere and can happen at anytime.

Squirrel

I’m having a conversation with someone and my phone buzzes…SQUIRREL!

I’m preparing for a teaching that I have to give and a thought goes through my mind…SQUIRREL!

I’m having a date night at a pub (poor choice) and a sports game is on the TV that’s posted above my spouse’s head. My team scores! SQUIRREL!

Squirrel

Solomon says to look straight ahead and fix your eyes…mark out a straight path…don’t get sidetracked. In other words, focus, and lead yourself.

Sin is much like a SQUIRREL…it’s everywhere trying to distract me from what’s important in life. Sure I can pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” But I must also fix my eyes on Jesus, because after all, I am supposed to following him, not the SQUIRRELS!

Easier Said Than Done

And onto the 3rd chapter we go…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

If you’ve been around the church for as long as I have, then you probably have heard this passage either spoken, read, or have read it yourself, oh…well over a hundred times.  So easy to say, but doing it??  That’s another story.  The stream of Christianity I grew up in reduced ‘faith in Christ’ to saying the ‘sinners prayer’, reading my Bible, and attending church on a regular basis.  But that really isn’t the nitty-gritty meaning of faith!  Faith and trust go hand in hand. To trust or ‘believe in’ something means you place your full weight on it. Here’s a true story that brings the full intent of what it means to ‘trust’.

DDblondin1

Near the end of July, 1859, tightrope walker, Charles Blondin walked across the Niagara gorge, and on his back was his manager, Harry Colcord (see the actual photo).  That summer, Blondin did several crossings wowing the crowds that gathered, and when I say crowds, at times there were upwards of 25,000 people on both sides of the river to watch.  Blondin would cross blindfolded, once with a sack over his body, and another time he cooked an omelette halfway across.

In that same month, he crossed pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks.  When he got to the other side the people cheered him.  He asked the crowd if they believed he could carry a person across in the wheelbarrow.  They roared back ‘YES!’  He asked for a volunteer, and there was silence.  No kidding, eh?  Apparently, that night his manager, Harry Colcord, realized that if he was going to promote Blondin, then he needed to be convinced himself, so the two of them decided that the next day Blondin would take Harry across on his back.

Now here’s what I find amazing.  That next day before Harry climbed onto Blondin’s back, Blondin said these words to Harry, and I quote: ““Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we will both go to our death.”  Harry followed the instructions and they crossed the gorge together.  No doubt a white-knuckle piggy-back!

So when Solomon says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”, he means to put your full weight in the Lord and be one with him!  The challenge is, you only learn this in the midst of the hard stuff of life.  However, once you’ve crossed that first ‘gorge’ forced to lean on God, you will know, without any doubt, that God can be trusted!

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-daredevil-of-niagara-falls-110492884/#8wIxOHxubdOc732s.99
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