Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reflections on Proverbs: A Slack Hand

Many of the Proverbs deal with wealth, money, work, and poverty. Let's start with a very straightforward one:

A slack hand causes poverty,
   but the hand of the diligent makes rich. Proverbs 10:4

On the literal level, this proverb seems fairly accurate to life, don't you think? If you're lazy, unwilling to work, you will certainly have a hard time paying your bills, and if you willingly work hard, you are much more likely to have what you need and probably a lot of what you want.

We can, of course, think of exceptions to this rule...especially in today's economy. Think about the children of the very rich. Their hands may be as slack as dead fish, but they will never want for wealth. Think about the hard worker who suffers a disabling accident. She may be as diligent as she can be, but her disability will likely drag down her economic situation.

Still, as a general rule, Proverbs 10:4 works pretty well.

What happens, however, if we stretch beyond the literal with this verse? Doesn't its advice not to be lazy apply to all sorts of endeavors in life? Think of the divorce rate. How many divorces come from "slack hands" in a marriage? Certainly not all divorces--plenty result from truly bad behavior or legitimate differences. But I've watched several marriages fall apart over far, far less than infidelity or differences of opinion about having children.

Some couples just get lazy, take each other for granted, let love slip into mere tolerance or even open contempt, and then toss in the towel.

A slack hand causes poverty of love and partnership.

Those of us who've been married a while know how much hard work it is to overcome irritation at petty things, to compromise and to pay attention, to forgive and to encourage, to work through troubles and to keep moving forward. Two diligent hands--or hearts--working at maintaining love cause marriage to be richer and more stable.

Other areas of life follow this same advice quite neatly, especially our spiritual life. Get slack with prayer and your prayer life suffers. Work diligently at serving others, and you will certainly be rewarded.

Over the next week, think about the many areas in our lives that suffer poverty when we get lazy about them. Think about those areas that stay rich when we give them due diligence. Where do you need to be more diligent in your life?

An Invitation to Share: If you feel moved to do so, please share your reflections in the comments. You never know when your thoughts will spark someone else to deeper understanding or discovery!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Computer Crash

Just finished reading Ecclesiastes, and find that I'm living the Teacher's belief that all is vanity. Well, perhaps not all, but counting on your computer not to die certainly is silly.

I hope to be up and running again soon. My functioning mini-laptop is sssslllloooowwww and awkward for longer typing sessions. But I WILL BE BACK ASAP!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reflections on Proverbs, Introduction

How It Began

I am currently taking a Disciple 4 Bible study with our pastor, and last week we read the second half of Proverbs. When the discussion started, I said, "I think Proverbs would best be read one proverb per day to give you time to digest each one. Reading a lot at once is overwhelming. It would be a good iPhone app to have."

Pastor replied, "Well, you do have a blog."


So here I am, starting a series of posts on the book of Proverbs. The wisdom books, I think, particularly benefit from contemplation and balanced reasoning. Is that not, after all, part of their intent?

What We'll Do

I've always appreciated pithy aphorisms, and as I read Proverbs, I found myself nodding or shaking my head, seeing holes in the reasoning and seeing how some were more universally true than others. Some are specific to the times in which they were written; others are as true today as then. Some are useful and wise in certain situations, but it is easy to see other situations in which they wouldn't apply well at all.

Let's explore them together!

The plan is to move around the book as the spirit moves me, focusing on a single proverb or a cluster of related proverbs in each post. I will quote a proverb from the Revised Standard Version translation, and then reflect on what it might mean to us today.

An Invitation to Share

I strongly encourage you to share your own feelings on each proverb in the comments of this blog.* Being heavily steeped in the Methodist tradition, I'm a big believer in the importance of using one's Christian community to gain deeper understanding of Scripture. I hope you learn from what I have to say, but I'm no expert or Bible scholar. We can learn so much from each other, no matter what denomination we belong to or how long or short a time we've been Christians.  Everyone brings a valuable--and different--perspective to the conversation! 

Even if you are a complete newcomer to Bible study, you have much of value to share. You never know when your basic question or observation might spark someone with years of study to deepen in insight. And by reading the comments of those who have studied in depth, you will learn as well.

I hope you will join us on a proverbial adventure.

May God richly bless those who study His Word!

*A word of peace: I will delete any comments that do not follow a spirit of mutual respect and lovingkindness. Hateful speech, insults, partisan politics, or rudeness will not be tolerated. Differences of opinion, when respectfully expressed, are very much appreciated, as are expressions of denominational differences.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hangar Time

Rest. Recuperation. Rejuvenation.

Sabbath rest was meant to be a blessing to God's people (although the sentence of death for its violation always struck me as a tad harsh). Modern medicine shows how important rest is, reinforcing that which God knew from the beginning. If children don't get enough rest, they don't grow well, their brains don't develop properly, they don't do well in school.

In today's stressful, busy world, we don't get enough rest, and our brains are forced to put too much on auto-pilot. As we fly through life, we miss so much happening right under us, even in our own brains. Habits develop without our conscious brain knowing...until something blows up in our face and then we realize how careless we've become. Our flight becomes uneven, bumpy, hazardous.

We crash and need repair.

Gratitude steps in with a hydraulic lift and blow-torch to fix our self-inflicted mess.

Cultivating gratitude means we protect and respect our blessings so they can be shared with others. To love your neighbor as yourself you have to love yourself. Punishment, recrimination, self-loathing...these are not usually helpful.

Hangar time is critical when you have crashed. It allows you to love yourself, nurture and recuperate, regain your strength to take flight again.

But to keep from crashing in the first place, schedule your hangar time regularly.

When you take regular hangar time for routine maintenance and self-care, you'll be much less likely to crash in the first place.

Contemplating, savoring blessings so you can move forward with sharing them...that's what hangar time is all about.

Do you need hangar time? Perhaps you just need five minutes of it, sipping coffee or tea on your back porch while birds sing in the trees. Perhaps most of your life is flying smooth and level, but one area of it is falling apart on auto-pilot. You might only need hangar time for work, or home, or a single relationship that's become more about resentment and irritation than loving kindness.

Take the hangar time you need regularly. You'll fly better for it.