Tag Archives: Proverbs

An Apple a Day

We were in a restaurant eating lunch with our son and his family. As usual we tried to split the grandchildren up so we could be sitting next to all three of them. One of our granddaughters ended up next to my wife who, therefore, helped her order her entree. On this day our granddaughter did not want a selection from the Kids Menu; she was determined to order something from the adult selections. So that’s what she did, with grandma’s permission! A short time later the waitress brought the food to our table. After she was done our granddaughter looked down at her serving and said, with a brilliant smile, “I have an adult plate!” Whether or not she would enjoy the food didn’t matter – she felt like an adult.

I was reminded again that such simple things – like allowing a child to order as an adult – mean so much. We all crave positive encouragement; we long for anything that raises our self-esteem. And more often than not our simple, well-chosen words offered to someone else accomplish this for them. Consider Proverbs 25:11 – “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  As Prov. 15:23 adds: “What a joy it is to find just the right word for the right occasion!”

It sounds so simple, but it is not. It takes discipline to offer the apple regularly. In fact, as Paul was teaching the Ephesian church about new life in Jesus, he mentioned the critical nature of words and speech. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (4:29) He continued by explaining that this meant that they were to “…get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Still later (5:4) he said “Nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” A Christian’s speech should be clean, clear, uplifting, encouraging, and enabling – especially when addressed to children. (It is especially important in this time when adults all around them and in the media are not living by that standard – but that’s another blog for another time.)

I can testify to the power of the apple. I still remember receiving so many apples as a child and youth – words and notes of encouragement. They came from Sunday School teachers, pastors, youth leaders, school teachers, parents and other family members. One of my most vivid memories is, following a speech I gave at my High School graduation, receiving a note of commendation, appreciation, and encouragement from a local judge who was in attendance. His note, along with all the other apples, prepared me to answer God’s call to ministry. Their apples have profoundly influenced my life, and the many apples I have opportunity to offer.

What were some of the apples in your life? Whose words influenced and impacted you? And to whom are you giving apples? Who has Jesus placed before you? I truly believe an apple a day is a powerful way to positively influence our children. What apples can you give out today?





Oh That Crazy Bird!

It was a fascinating yet frustrating experience. We had a beautiful but crazy red-winged blackbird (1) visiting us very regularly – multiple times a day, in fact. He watched us and even sang to us. But it wasn’t all that nice. Now before you start thinking I’m a bird-hater, I assure you I love watching birds – just not this one.

Here’s the scoop. For some reason, out of all the houses around, he decided to stop by our back porch for a rest. The problem is he spotted our patio door – and in the patio door he saw a reflection of himself. But he didn’t know it was just his reflection. He thought it was a rival male blackbird invading his new territory. So he sat on the railing, spreading his wings, and squawking in an effort to scare this ‘other bird’ away. (It appeared like he was watching our every move! Kind of creepy!) But when this ‘other bird’ didn’t fly away, he made a beeline for our patio door. Of course he crashed – but when he bounced off the door he went back to sitting on the railing, only to repeat the scenario over and over again. I played a blackbird squawk on my computer, hoping he’d be frightened by an invading sound. It didn’t work. We put chairs up against the window hoping to break the view. He began flying to the patio screen door and hanging on to the screen. So we hung paper bags on the outside of the patio doors to deter him. It didn’t work. “Get a life!” I screamed. It didn’t work. So we hung bigger bags on the inside to wipe out his image (and our view of the outdoors!). He finally stopped crashing and sitting on the railing. But I knew he was still hanging around – I kept hearing his familiar squawk. (2)

I wondered, “Why is he so persistent?” I concluded it was because he was selfish and wanted his own territory – he wanted what he wanted and no one else could have it. As I thought about that, I realized there are people just like this blackbird. They see someone they believe is a threat to them, or who opposes them, or who stands in the way of getting what they want and they become obsessed with them. They will try to attack and scare off the ‘enemy’ or opposition at every opportunity. And why? Because they’re selfish and want their own territory – they want what they want and no one else can have it. It’s their way or the highway. It doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong or in the minority – just get out of their way; only then will they leave you alone. Does this describe anyone you know?

I believe this is called selfishness. The Bible (3) has something to say about this. “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment. A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:1-2) Ever met anyone like that? In contrast, the Psalmist wrote, “Turn my heart towards your statues and not toward selfish gain.” (Ps. 119:36) And Jesus told us to lose our lives for His sake – to stop being selfish and self-centered and seek to live Christ’s way. That, He said, is how we truly find our lives. (Matthew 10:39)
Apparently there were those who caught the vision. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Are you more like a blackbird or like Jesus?

(1) Photo by Syed Ali on Unsplash
(2) Photo by Adam Muise on Unsplash
(3)Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Answer the Question!

As I was browsing some folders while doing some research I came across an old blog that grabbed my attention. I’ve reworked it for this week. In a time when leaders – and others – are masters at avoiding or changing the question, this is an important issue.

The blog resulted from a ‘news feature’ – and I use the term ‘news’ loosely – which focused on a mother and her 6 year old daughter. Mom was proud as a peacock of her entertainment star daughter. That’s right – six years old and already pouring hours of time and most all her energy into being a stage star. She does energetic, wild routines on stage – in performances and competition. While that raises a number of issues for me, I want to focus on just one aspect of the story.

The report revealed that mother, in order to give her daughter adequate energy for her performances, had concocted a special ‘juice’ for her. The juice was composed of two parts – Mountain Dew and Red Bull energy drink. In other words, pump her full of caffeine and sugar.







I have no doubt that it would give her energy! I also have no doubt that there will eventually be potentially long term, negative consequences. Both caffeine and sugar, in large amounts, destroy the body. My heart, in fact, was pierced when the video showed the young girl raising her shirt and grabbing onto the rolls of fat on her stomach – all with a smile on her face and a giggle in her voice.

Not surprisingly this issue became the focus of the report. When asked by the reporter about health concerns, the mother calmly, and defensively, replied that there are many moms whose daughters aren’t on stage performing who give the same to their daughters – so why, she mused, should anyone pick on her. A nice sleight of hand – or of voice – but she never answered the question. Now there are only two reasons not to answer a question. One – you don’t know the answer. Two – you don’t have an answer that is right or makes sense. So if you don’t know it, admit that maybe you should find out; perhaps there’s a good reason it was asked. And if you don’t have a good sensible answer, then perhaps it’s time to find one.

It appeared to me that this mother really knew the reporter might have had a legitimate concern but was not ready to let go of the popularity of her daughter for the sake of her daughter’s health and future. But if something is harmful, it’s harmful whether we want to admit it or not. So I say “When you’re asked a question, answer the question.” It’s for your own good.

While it would be appropriate to launch into Paul’s admonition about the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit, I’d rather stick to the point about a mother’s careless disregard for her child’s health and well-being. Proverbs says it best. (10:10) “…a chattering fool comes to ruin.” (12:15-16, 23) “Fools are headstrong and do what they like…fools show their annoyance at once…fools broadcast their foolishness…” (14:24) “…foolishness leads to more foolishness.” “When you’re asked a question, answer the question.”

I felt sorry for this mother – I’m sure she loved her daughter. But either she didn’t get it – which is truly sorrowful – or she did and didn’t care – which is even sorrier. But I felt even more sorrow for her daughter – she was the victim in all of this. Unless things changed, she paid the price for mom’s refusal to seriously answer a fair and serious question. That’s why it is so important that “When you’re asked a question, answer the question.”

So what questions have you been avoiding or failing to answer lately? Perhaps it’s time to stop being foolish and answer them. After all “…a wise man listens to advice.” (Prov. 12:15) Such listening might just be good for you – and for those you love and influence. “When you’re asked a question, answer the question.”

It’s Not My Law

I’m sure you’re familiar with the scenes.

  • Someone smokes where it is forbidden
  • While driving there is always that driver that just has to speed past everyone else
  • The driver treats the stop sign as a yield sign
  • A person cuts a few corners on their taxes
  • A witness commits perjury
  • A group of friends set off fireworks after posted hours
  • Parents let their underage teen host a party where alcohol is consumed

This one may not be familiar but it fits. From the Detroit News: “Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday she would not enforce a state abortion ban if federal protections are overturned…” (1)

While there are many more examples these, hopefully, raise the question of the day. Why do people feel it’s okay for them to break the law? Why do they feel they can say and act as if “It’s not my law?”

I believe the answer is quite simply “Pride.” To knowingly and willingly break the law is to say, in essence, “I’m special. This law doesn’t apply to me.” “I think it’s a stupid law – I know better so I can ignore it.” Pride puts us in a position of feeling superior, better than and different from others. Pride allows us to make laws and set boundaries as we see fit. After all, it’s not my law.

But make no mistake about it; we’ve all been similarly prideful and willingly broken laws at some point in time. And I believe it stems from our rebellious, sinful nature. We saw it with Adam and Eve when, because their pride placed them above God and rejected His law, they ate the forbidden fruit. The reality is every time we sin we are saying to God “It’s not my law.” The testimony of Scripture is clear.

First, there is law. God has firmly established His law within the world He created and “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure… Your statutes, Lord, stand firm…”  (Psalm 93:1&5) “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved…” (Psalm 96:10) “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” (Psalm 111:7-8) The truth is it’s not now and never is ‘my law.’ It’s God’s law.

Second, we all break God’s laws. (2) “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:9-12 & 23)

Third, there are consequences for breaking the law. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) A basic theme of the book of Judges is that when everyone does what is right in their own eyes, there is chaos in the land.

Fourth, the power to obey comes from loving Jesus. He proclaimed, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17)

Fifth, there is great reward in loving Jesus. Jesus said “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:10-11)

Why this brief overview and summary of Scripture? Because the bottom line is that obeying God’s laws compels and enables us to better obey human laws and to live with joy. The better we understand it the better off we and our world will be; because, after all, “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved…”


No Smoking Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash


Gavel – Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash


Mother’s Day 2019

In honor of the day this blog is published I am taking a break from my normal blog style. From my files her are two of my favorite resources for Mother’s Day. The first is a light-hearted look at mothers from the eyes of elementary age children. The second is warm-hearted, soul-filled inclusive tribute. The final word is God’s.

Some Humor

Why did God make mothers?
To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We’re related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
They say she used to be nice.

What’s the difference between moms and dads?
Dads are taller & stronger, but moms have all the real power ’cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend’s.
Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.
2. I’d make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her back of her head
Read more at https://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/2005/05/why-god-made-moms.aspx#ZxR1mvdrtfZbAKKC.99

The Wide Spectrum of Mothering

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be – we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

By Amy Young    https://www.messymiddle.com

Proverbs 31:30-31

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”


Slowing Down the Speeder

My wife and I recently spent a lot of time traveling in our car (60+ hours – but who’s keeping track?) It was over the course of 2 weeks and much of it was on the highway. And I smiled as ‘it’ happened again.

We were on a stretch of 5 lane highway. I was in the middle lane doing the 70 mph speed limit. (Well, okay. For transparency’s sake I was doing 75. That’s still within the spirit of the law isn’t it?) Suddenly, over in the far left lane a car went speeding by at – my estimate – 90 + mph. There’s always someone who just has to do it.

As he went by I wasn’t smiling – I just shook my head. But then ‘it’ happened. About 15 yards beyond us he (or she) suddenly slowed down significantly. At the next curve in the road I saw why – about 15 yards ahead of us in our lane was a state trooper. That’s when I smiled.

(By the way, I estimate the trooper was doing about 75 mph!) For the next 15-20 miles the speeder maintained the slower speed. Then the trooper exited and in a moment, ‘in the twinkling of an eye’ to use a Scriptural phrase, the speeder hit the gas and was quickly out of my sight. I smiled again.

I smiled because I’ve seen it before and will see it again. These speed demon drivers base their mph on who’s watching. They’re daring enough to be disobedient but not daring enough to be disobedient when authority is watching. My smile indicates my theory that they are not as daring as they think they are.

Yet speed demons are not the only ones who behave this way, not the only ones who are disobedient when they think authority is not watching. Children are disobedient when parents are not watching. Students are disobedient when the teacher is out of the room. Employers are disobedient when the boss is not around. Adults have affairs as long as they believe no one is watching. I’ve certainly been disobedient when I thought no one was watching (that’s all you’re going to get! That’s where my transparency ends!) And I suspect you have been as well.

It’s sad that often the basis of our actions is who’s watching. It’s a pretty flimsy foundation for life. But you know what? It can be a good foundation if we remember one thing: God is watching – always watching. We need to recover the awareness that God’s people had.

  • “The LORD sees what happens everywhere; he is watching us, whether we do good or evil.” (Proverbs 15:3 Good News Translation)
  • “The Lord… will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8)
  • “Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there. If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me. I could ask the darkness to hide me or the light around me to turn into night, but even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12)

This awareness should be the foundation our behavior. It powerfully impacts what we do and don’t do, what we say and don’t say, where we go and don’t go. It’s not that God is a dictator and we must obey Him “or else!” No – He watches us, as the Scriptures above indicate, so He can protect and provide for us. Our disobedience breaks His heart and blocks much of what He wants and waits to do for us. Our obedience, on the other hand, warms His heart and allows the free flow of His grace-filled protection and provision. What a difference it will make in our lives if we, at the time of decision, remember God is watching. It will stop us from doing and speaking some things and prompt us to do and say other things. It will stop us from going to some places and send us to other places.

And by the way, we have a constant reminder in an unusual place. On our money. No, not the “In God we trust’ motto. Check out the back of a dollar bill.

It’s part of the seal of the United States. Notice the eye. It’s called the all seeing eye. And while there are some varying pieces to its history the point of most agreement is that it represents the providence of an all seeing God. The words “ANNUIT CŒPTIS” is one of two mottos on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. Taken from the Latin words annuo, “to nod” or “to approve”, and coeptum, “commencement, undertaking”, it is literally translated, “[providence] favors our undertakings” or “[providence] has favored our undertakings.” So even in our spending God is watching, protecting and providing!

It’s as the psalmist said: “Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence?” The truth is I don’t want to get away from His presence. It’s what keeps me on the right, healthy and blessed path. It will do the same for you.

It’s All in the Footwork

Proper footwork is important. To dance well, to hit or field a baseball, to be a good defender in any sport, to play soccer well, or to play a pipe organ beautifully takes good footwork. I’m thinking about this because last week my wife Barb and I had the opportunity to help out at the Friendship Camp at Cran-Hill Ranch. She was asked to be the RN for the week and I went along to help out if and where needed.

Throughout the week we were all engaged by the chaplain, John Cleveringa. He did some wonderful presentations on the theme verse from Proverbs 4:26-27 (New Living Translation). “Mark out a straight path for your feet … Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” Near the end of the week Barb and I walked one of the nature trails and doing so actually made the verse come alive even more. Here are a few brief reminders and lessons the verse and trail provided for me.

“Mark out (make) a straight path for your feet…” We are not, at birth, automatically placed on a life path. We either wander aimlessly

through life or we choose a path. When Barb and I decided to take a walk we first had to choose which trail, which path to take. There were plenty of options and none of them came to us – we had to choose. The same is true in life. There are an overwhelming number of paths to walk through life. At some point we must choose which one to walk. John the Baptist was called to “guide our feet in the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79) He did so by pointing people to Jesus who said of Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) While ‘choosing Jesus’ certainly means we have the guarantee of eternal life with Him, it also means He is the straight path for our feet – choosing Jesus is to commit to walk after, to follow Him.”

Don’t get sidetracked…” The reality is there are many paths that can be followed. As Barb and I walked our chosen trail we came across several side trails. We had no idea whether they went to a nicer place or if they led only deeper into the woods. We were tempted to walk some of them. It was easy to get sidetracked. So it is with life. There are always others paths along the way, some appealing and some not. It’s easy to let our curiosity get the better of us and change paths. But the wise preacher reminds us that it is not wise to do so: “Don’t get sidetracked.” Changing paths could lead to trouble, danger or dead-ends. It can lead to delay in reaching our chosen goal and destination.

But how do we stay on track? “…keep your feet from following evil.” To ‘keep’ is to continue or cause to continue in a specified condition, position, course…to continue doing repeatedly or habitually. As we walked Barb and I had to keep our feet headed in the direction of the trail we had chosen. It took some effort and discipline, just like staying on track in life. It is difficult, if not impossible to stay on the chosen path without daily, repeated, habitual disciplines. (1) They help us stay on our chosen course to avoid “evil’ – the trouble, danger and dead-ends. Spending time with God through reading the Word and praying helps keep our feet on the path. Through these disciplines we are shown the steps to take. As the Psalmist put it “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105 New Living Translation)

While keeping our feet on the path is often very difficult, God offers His help along the way. “Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling.” (Psalm 66:9 New Living Translation) And He also offers some very precious promises as incentive for doing so. As The Message states Ps. 119:1-8 – “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.”

In light of these promises the Psalmist reaffirms his commitment to proper footwork and I invite you to do the same. “You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.”
(1) I acknowledge that there are other Spiritual Disciplines but I am focusing here on the ones more apt to be daily.