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Entries in Proverbs (9)


It isn't by hammer and nails alone

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Proverbs 14:1:

The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down.

A wise woman will build her house.

This is not referring to hammer and nails, although, I suppose it could begin with that. My aunt and uncle lived in a very old, inconvenient house for many years. When my uncle built a new one, it was enjoyable for my aunt to be involved in how it was set up, which side of the house would have windows, and how high or low the kitchen counters would be.

These verses refer to much more. They address the relationships a woman has in her home. Building a home where there is children involves love and discipline (Prov. 6:20) and providing for their needs (Prov. 31:13-15). It involves serving her husband (Prov. 12:4).

Building a house involves industry and commitment, and it is not confined to the married woman. Women who are single have homes, and they build them, too. Many single women have children, so the way it looks for one woman may not be the same for another.

What does it mean to build my home? My children are grown and mostly on their own. Does that mean I get a pass on building my home? No. I still have a husband, and I still have a home. My home can be used for more than just chasing toddlers around or hosting sleepover parties.

Building a home means it is my priority. Whether my vocation is to be home full-time or perhaps working outside the home, my home is still my priority. Certainly, having work outside the home means one must juggle more, but home is still important. In my position, with no children and no career, it could be very tempting to just plop down on the couch and read all day, or knit or crochet all day. I've done that. Even those of us who continue to find our primary vocation inside our homes need to make a priority. 

Building a home means making it a place people want to be. And I don't just mean in elaborate decoration, although if that's your strength, by all means, make it lovely. I'm not a decorator. The attractiveness of a home extends beyond appearance. It involves hospitable owners and warm and loving conversation. One of the best times I had with a friend not long ago was a simple cup of coffee at her dining room table. I wanted to be there, and I knew she wanted me there by the way she welcomed me.

If I want to build my home well, I need to like being home myself. When I was growing up, some years my mother worked, and some she did not. She preferred to be at home full-time. We loved it when she didn't work, because her attetion to the house was greater. She had more time for us, and was less stressed out. The house ran smoothly. Knowing I had a mother who wanted to be home with us meant a great deal to me, and it set an example I was determined to follow. Working mothers cannot be at home as often as they would like, but when they are not working, they can definitely communicate to their children that they are glad to be home when they are there.

Building a home means reducing conflict. There is nothing more disruptive and more off-putting than open conflict in a home. When you were a child, did you ever leave a friend's house because there was always arguing and bickering? Did you ever leave your own home because there was too much arguing and bickering? Was it nicer to stay with a friend than go home to arguing and quarreling parents? Proverbs has a lot to say about quarreling (Prov. 19:13; Prov. 26:21; Prov. 27:15-16). That is one way to tear down our homes: being argumentative, petty, and bickering. My husband would not tolerate that kind of thing when we got married, and I'm glad. Quarrelsome parents often beget quarrelsome children.

I am a homebody. I love to be home. It's the place where I can, as my mother used to say, "let my hair down." For our families and friends, it should be also. That means building a comfortable environment. If home is important to us, it will show. If we neglect our homes, that, too will show.

I feel very fortunate for my home. God gave it to me. With gratitude, I want to be a good steward of that. 


Birds of a feather talk together

Have you ever found yourself adopting someone's speech habits? When my husband and I were much younger, we had a pastor from Oklahoma. His wife used the phrase "y'all" frequently. I found myself using it, something she found amusing. Likewise, I have occasionally adopted some of the lingo my kids have come into the house with. I admit to using "sweet" to describe something that isn't candy or food, but thankfully, I have resisted the temptation to call something really great "sick."

The Power of Our Words

Our speech can be profoundly influenced by what we expose ourselves to because ultimately, the words we speak are an overflow from our heart (Matt. 12:33-37). If we use a regular litany of complaining and grumbling, it can be evidence of an ungrateful heart, or a bitter heart. To utter words of encouragement and praise is an indication of a thankful heart.

Words have power. The old saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword," applies not just to the written word. An ill timed word can bring life or death (see Prov. 18:21).

Proverbs has a lot to say about words. We are exhorted to be controlled with words because it can lead to sin (Prov. 10:19), ruin (Prov. 13:3) and shame (Prov. 18:13). Words, used badly stir up anger (Prov. 15:1) and crush the spirit of others (Prov. 15:4). Dishonest words are destructive. Proverbs 25:18 says "A man who bears false witness against his neighbour is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow." Think of that; words are like weapons. Dishonest words can be like weapons, meant to harm or kill. Lies can kill friendships and marriages.

Proverbs 25:11 says "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." That word "fitly" is rendered "aptly" in the NIV. An "apt" word is a word that is the exact right word for the situation. Have you ever been discouraged and someone has said the exact right thing you needed to hear? Such words are precious, valuable.

Words have the power to heal (Prov. 12:18). The gospel is proclaimed through words. Is there anything more healing than the proclamation of the gospel, which calls sinners to new life?

Cultivating Sweet Words

Yet we are not always careful with our words, and sometimes, we don't fill our hearts in such a way that we have the ability to speak healing words. If you sit around with bitter, complaining people, eventually, you might sound just like them.

Psalm 119:9-16 gives us a practical way to fill our hearts with words which will overflow from us. I've italicized the verbs:

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
    all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight  in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word.           

Speaking words which reflect the nature of God requires being well-versed in His word. That means filling our minds and hearts with it. It may mean making a choice to stop filling our minds with other things. We may have to stop partaking of one thing in order to partake of His word. It is worth it, though. Words are important. They're more than a combination of symbols. They have power. May we use them in a way that reflects Christ, the power and wisdom of God.


Super Smash Brothers or Twitter?

I confess that my sons play video games. We allow them to do so in our house. 

I've heard a lot of commentary about young men not growing up and how it's related to video games. I will admit to not understanding the appeal of video games. I don't play them, and I don't have any plans to do so in the future. However, my sons have always liked games. Whether it was Yahtzee with me or chess with their dad, they liked games growing up, and they still do, especially ones that require a lot of thought and strategy. Axis and Allies and Risk are favourites here.

I have seen where boys who play video games are considered immature and silly. Instead, they should be out shooting squirrels or perhaps engaging in football. Since my boys don't like tight pants or own B.B. guns, that isn't happening any time soon.

I've heard that young girls aren't going to find video game playing an admirable quality in a search for a spouse. Does this mean my boys are never going to find wives?

My boys are 21 years old and 19 years old. They're growing up to be young men. They aren't as mature as a 40 year old man (unless that 40 year old plays video games?), and that's to be expected. While they still get a little crazy when they're home together, they're growing up. Playing video games may relegate them to the "future unappreciated men of the universe" category some day, but I can say this about them:

My boys don't get on Twitter and get into arguments with total strangers and then refuse to let someone else have the last word. Neither do they tour blogs and stir up debate in comments boxes. They don't feed the trolls.

My sons use social media, but they don't become consumed with the latest controversies. They recognize when they're not informed, and don't feel the need for everyone to hear their opinions. As far as social media goes in this house, the person who is most present on Twitter and Facebook is yours truly.

They are hard workers and well thought of by their teachers and employers. They are well-liked by their friends, and are respectful and kind toward their grandparents. 

There is any number of ways to waste time. Video games is one of them, and so is my sitting at my computer partaking of social media.

Yes, I believe there are certain dangers with a kid playing video games obsessively. And yes, I think that social media may be deterimental to how our kids communicate. Time will tell. But I also think it's problematic when a grown man (or woman) behaves badly and then chalks it up to "speaking truth." I am firmly in favour of speaking forth truth, but please do so without the hurling insults online at one another. Some of those exchanges remind me of the times when the cat from three doors down appears in my yard and my cat immediately rushes around marking his territory on the shrubs.

And of course, not all people behave this way. I'm thankful for men and women who conduct themselves well online. I learn from them, and I recommend them to others. I'm also thankful my husband is a model of discretion and self-control. Given a choice, I'd rather have my sons sitting in front of Super Smash Brothers than getting online and throwing insults at total strangers. If being mature means they have to become obnoxious, maybe I'd rather they stayed immature.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov. 10:19)


Fearful old ladies

Today, I  turn 49 years old. I have nothing special planned. My 19 year old son is having his wisdom teeth removed. How's that for a celebration?

Aging is a natural process that we don't give a lot of thought about until someone we know gets ill or dies, or we feel and see the physical effects of aging. And while there is any number of proucts and services intended to help us stave off the inevitable, for the Christian woman, an undue focus on the external is not sufficient. When the changes come, it won't matter how pretty our faces are or if we're still wearing a size 7. Aging reminds us we're moving closer to being with Christ, and what will such trivialities mean there?

Aging brings changes. We cannot predict what they are, and we need to be prepared for anything. Whether it is the illness and loss of parents, there are our own physical challenges as well as the changing of family dynmics, and for those of us who are married, the aging of our husbands. What will prepare me best for the changes old age brings?

A growing fear of the Lord.

The word "fear" is a transitive verb; that means it takes a direct object. We fear something. We fear the God of the universe; the God who is revealed in Scripture. To know whom we fear, we must look into the word of God.

I've been studying Proverbs. Dan Phillips' book God's Wisdom in Proverbs has an excellent chapter on the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the essence of the book, beginning with it (1:7) and ending with it (31:30). Fourteen times throughout the book, it is mentioned. That means it's important.

In his book When People are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch talks about a continuum of the fear of God. At one end of the scale, where the unbeliever is, there is terror, but as we move along the continuum, and we believe, it results in worship. As we mature in Christ, the fear of the Lord should drive us to worship daily.

We cannot fear what we don't know, and we cannot know God unless we are in His word and learn about Him. As we get older, just becase we've been reading the bible for years does not mean we've figured it all out. Most older women I know feel the same way: the more I study, the more I realize how little I know. As women get older and have more freedom, it's not a time to stop studying God's Word. In fact, as we get older, we will need it even more as life brings change.

Of course, aging can be difficult. We want to stay attractive and healthy; that's to be expected. A friend, an older lady, said this to me in regard to beauty and older women:

Older women are beautiful when they maintain joy through the tough times that they will face in this life. When kindness and love are bound in the heart of a woman who loves and serves God through the seasons of her life she will radiate beauty.

Is that not eloquent? As I age, that is the kind of woman I want to be. That is a woman who fears the Lord.


It will cost you

In his book Proverbs: Wisdom that Works, Ray Ortlund comments on Proverbs 4, highlighting that the only path to life is Christ.

Ortlund breaks the entire chapter into three sections: verses 1-9, how to get going; verses 10-19, how to keep going; and verses 20-27, how not to get lost along the way.

In verses 1-9, there are some powerful imperatives: get wisdom, get insight. The writer says, "whatever you get, get insight." There is an urgency in these verses.

Ortlund points out that the NIV translates v. 7 this way:

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.

Ortlund continues:

If you want God's wisdom, it will cost you. It will cost you all your preconceived ideas about how life is supposed to work. Why pay that price? Because God's wisdom will make you alive (v.4), his wisdom will "keep" you and "guard" you (v.6), his wisdom will "exalt" you and "honor" you and crown you with beauty (vv.8-9). This is how life really works, and that is a life worth living! Who else can promise you that? Every day we are being told that, if we want to live, we need to be young, thin, tanned, sexually active, rich, and smart-mouthed. There is our cultural ideal, the wisdom of our age. Just one question. Is it working? If you actually got a hold of all that, would you walk away from it a complete human being? 

Jesus is so gracious. To follow him, you do not need to measure up to a cultural ideal of youth and cool. But you do need to become decisive.

I've never thought of wisdom as being something that will cost me. It's something I want very much, but more often than not, I've assumed that it just comes to me, as if just rubbing shoulders with Scripture is enough. The urgency of those verses indicate that it is a decisive action to get wisdom and insight, and in order to get it hard choices will be involved.

To be decisive about seeking wisdom means leaving things behind. It means choosing to be silent when I want to speak; choosing to focus on Christ rather than myself; choosing a path of righteousness, not a path of self-indulgence. It will often cost me my preferences, my privileges, or getting my own way.

If I want to live -- and I do -- I need to choose wisdom. I need to feel the sense of urgency that the writer does. Christ became wisdom for us. In Christ, through His Spirit, I can get wisdom; I can get insight. There are some things I cannot choose for myself. Wisdom is one thing I can choose to get.