Archive for June, 2015

Here’s yet another reason to be quiet: survival.

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. (Proverbs 18:6 ESV)

Loose lips not only sink ships. They also account for a disproportionate percentage of bar-room brawls, spats between neighbors, boardroom eruptions, and fisticuffs in the Walmart parking lot.

Only a fool insists upon flapping his gums every time a thought occurs. (more…)


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Someone has placed in my possession two immaculate white business cards containing a mere pair of words written in a neat, understated black script:

Stop talking.

Whether whimsical, mean-spirited, or sagacious, the identity of the donor remains unknown to me. The cards travel with me, mostly for the humor of them but also because—in tormented moments—I wonder whether they mean what they say and were given to me with resolute purpose. (more…)

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Sorrow flows up and down the generations like greased lighting.

One begets a dullard to one’s own grief; The father of a villain has no joy. (Proverbs 17:21 JPS)

By contrast, paternal admiration and filial delight move at a slower pace. They grow incrementally, are nourished by passing showers rather than drowned by monsoons, they linger and satisfy like a slow-moving front of cool air that trundles in imperceptibly yet refreshes. (more…)

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We seldom imagine that our purpose lies in a relative’s misfortune.

Characteristically, biblical wisdom asks us to re-think:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 ESV)

Given that most readers of this blog are daughters and sons of a culture that has nuclear-ized our understanding of family, we probably need the invitation to imagine the ‘brother’ in question as something wider than a son of the same father and mother. ‘Kin’, though slightly archaic, does not fit badly as a translation of the Hebrew word. ‘Close relative’ loses the proverb’s poetic brevity, but communicates the essence. (more…)

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We say a lot by the little words we choose as short-hand for large and complex things.

The biblical Book of Acts spins out its eventful story of the early Jesus movement, pausing from time to time to summarize. It abbreviates with the dense little expression the word of God.

But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24 ESV)

Murder and intrigue, desperation and redemption, bold public confrontation and the quiet joys of new family formed and flourishing. Luke the historian compacts this into five syllables, just four in English: the word of God. (more…)

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You don’t have to beat a wise man up to get him to correct his course.

You can talk quiet sense to a woman who needs to think again and, if she’s wise, she’ll listen and act.

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. (Proverbs 17:10 ESV)

The wise have thin skin, in the best and uncommon sense of the expression. They’re correctable, eager to fix what’s wrong, responsive to the hard word of a caring friend. (more…)

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We take ourselves  so seriously.

Our wounded pride feeds our memory and makes it strong.

Unless, that is, we have learned to seek love as more precious than the satisfaction of our selective demand for justice.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 ESV)

True to its instinct, the proverb does not treat an offense as a remote possibility. It stands before us, this injury a friend has done to us. We have been hurt, perhaps humiliated.

There is no other way to say it.

But the one wise enough to ‘cover’ an offense, to respond as though it had not occurred or as though it is of no consequence, seeks love.

If it were not for the moving current of realism that flows ceaselessly down the stream bed of biblical wisdom, we might get this proverb wrong in the other direction. That is, we might conclude that injustice and injury are never the weighty matters that the biblical witness calls them out to be. Proverbs 17.9 does not dispute that fact.

Rather, the saying speaks to the day-to-day humiliations and losses that we inevitably suffer in the milling about of fickle friends, insensitive neighbors, and dumb relatives. We can dwell on these things as though life and death swings in the balance.

Or we can choose to overlook such slights, secure enough in ourselves and the constancy of those who genuinely have our back that we are free to pursue love instead of insisting on justice.

To do otherwise, the proverb instructs us, is to ‘separate friends’. You can dwell on such small-ish pains, the proverb would have us understand, but you’ll be alone in the end if you do.

Biblical wisdom is easily misunderstood by the more righteously absolutist among us precisely because it traffics in nuance and requires a sense of proportion. The proverb before us is particularly vulnerable to misunderstanding.

‘Get over yourself …’, would not be a misleading abbreviation. Seek love, get back in there with your clumsy friends, look forward not backwards.

Let it go.

It’s not the end of the world.


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Family dynamics are not so hard to figure out, according to biblical wisdom: more love and respect make everyone better, inside the family and in the reverberations from family to community that are the primary motor of a flourishing society.

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents. (Proverbs 17:6 NRSV)

The proverb concedes to grandparents the status of royalty. Their chief crown is the young ones, not seen as competition for resources but as the best thing in the life of the aged. The inter-generational dynamic pulses with the joy of interacting with those who will outlast us. We teach them, they entertain us. We tell them we love them, they give us their hugs. We patiently instruct them in the craft we know best, they make our vocation their hobby, then their work, then their specialty. (more…)

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It is not only the New Testament’s explanation of grace that presses home the counterintuitive reality that no human being is beyond the reach of God’s grace. It is also its story.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1–2 ESV)

The Jesus’ movement’s archetypal apostle to the nations casts a long shadow over its pages. Paul—or Saul, as he is here identified by his Hebrew name—travels extensively, writes expansively, ponders well beyond conventional boundaries, shapes the Christian mind as no other New Testament author. If Peter, James, and John leave their fingerprints across the New Testament corpus, Paul pushes a large foot and a broad hand into its wet cement. (more…)

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Shout it from the rooftops!: Things are not as they appear.

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city. (Proverbs 16:31–32 NRSV)

The infirmity of old age, the stumble, the lapsed memory are to be neither denied nor desired. (more…)

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