Archive for July, 2017

Proverbs 11: Losing and Finding Our Way

Monday, July 31, 2017

We often stumble when our circumstances are positive; lack of stress or worry tempt us to believe that life holds no traps or obstacles. Yet despite the positive environment, we might easily lose our way.

God hates cheating in the marketplace;
    he loves it when business is aboveboard.

When our comfort zone shrinks, we look for assurance and predictability. It is all too easy to run toward the familiar as we look for advice and consolation. Yet despite our care and attention to detail, we still might easily lose our way.

The stuck-up fall flat on their faces,
    but down-to-earth people stand firm.

In all circumstances, in all days and at all times, it is important to maintain open and honest communication with our creator. The writers of Proverbs prepare us for both easy and difficult days, for both tranquil and troubling nights.

The integrity of the honest keeps them on track;
    the deviousness of crooks brings them to ruin.

The verses in this post are from THE MESSAGE translation of Proverbs. When we compare this translation with others, the practical advice of Proverbs shows us how we might prevent the dangers that arise when we lose our way.

A thick bankroll is no help when life falls apart,
    but a principled life can stand up to the worst.

When we spend time with this advice, we discover that we are never alone, and we will never truly lose our way.

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Proverbs 10: Honesty, Discipline and Expansion

Sunday, July 30, 2017

God won’t starve an honest soul,
    but God frustrates the appetites of the wicked.

Sloth makes you poor;
    diligence brings wealth.

The writers of Proverbs focus on practical advice that speaks of life honestly.

Make hay while the sun shines—that’s smart;
    go fishing during harvest—that’s stupid.

Blessings accrue on a good and honest life,
    but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.

These verses point to truisms that make us smile.

Honesty lives confident and carefree,
    but Shifty is sure to be exposed.

An evasive eye is a sign of trouble ahead,
    but an open, face-to-face meeting results in peace.

These words remind us that discipline paves the way of a happy life.

The road to life is a disciplined life;
    ignore correction and you’re lost for good.

 Liars secretly hoard hatred;
    fools openly spread slander.

We remember that balance and compromise are basic elements of discipline.

The more talk, the less truth;
    the wise measure their words.

The speech of a good person is worth waiting for;
    the blabber of the wicked is worthless.

We reflect on our acts of kindness and realize that they return to us a hundred-fold.

God’s blessing makes life rich;
    nothing we do can improve on God.

The nightmares of the wicked come true;
    what the good people desire, they get.

When we are patient, forgiving, and open, we arrive at seeing the reality of the Kingdom.

When the storm is over, there’s nothing left of the wicked;
    good people, firm on their rock foundation, aren’t even fazed.

The aspirations of good people end in celebration;
    the ambitions of bad people crash.

When we are faithful, hope-filled and loving, we join others who look for the expansion of the Kingdom.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore different translations of these verses, we begin to see that honesty and discipline bring about the expansion of the Kingdom.


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Proverbs 9Folly or Wisdom

Saturday, July 29, 2017

There are seven columns on the front portico of Notre Dame Preparatory. The design is not casual; it is meant to evoke the columns upon which Wisdom builds her house where all are invited to sit at the feasting table of instruction, where we learn of, about and in God.  Wisdom also sends out maidens to call others into her house of training.  From the HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE: Poems on Woman Wisdom (9. 1-6) and Woman Folly (9.13-18) frame a central collection of sayings (9.7-12).  The focus on the houses of the two women continues familiar themes [seeking and finding as a quest for Wisdom, seduction of worldly things, choosing which house to enter, the ideal wife] and also seems to expand upon the proverb in 14.1 [The wise woman builds her own house but the foolish tears it down with her own hands]. (Meeks 954)

This description is followed by a description built of opposite parallels, with more typical themes for living an ordinary life in an unordinary way.  If only we choose the portal of wisdom, we will see which way to go when the road of life bifurcates to the right and left.

There are seasons when we have enter into a holy period of spiritual quiet and anticipation much like a mother about to give birth; but this quiet and virtue are juxtaposed against the clamor of the commercial world in which we exist.  When we open our eyes and ears each morning, what is it we see and hear?  When we step out the door and move to the car or the bus, what are we thinking?  As we breathe and move through the day, what do we do?  As we interact with others, what do we intend?

Wisdom calls us from the heights of God’s instruction.  She invites all to feast and relax with God.  She prepares a banquet, readies the house, and serves as the handmaiden of God in a plan that is too wide and too amazing to comprehend.

As we move from place to place today, as we greet and say good-bye to others, and as we return to our own houses to lay our burdens down before we put tired heads upon pillows, what do we see as the path of our day?  And what do we imagine for tomorrow?

Do we choose the House of Folly . . . or the House of Wisdom . . . ?

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on December 1, 2009.

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Proverbs 8: Armloads of Life

Friday, July 28, 2017

Wisdom and Creation, A Reprise

Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling?
    Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?
She’s taken her stand at First and Main,
    at the busiest intersection.
Right in the city square
    where the traffic is thickest, she shouts,
“You—I’m talking to all of you,
    everyone out here on the streets!
Listen, you idiots—learn good sense!
    You blockheads—shape up!
Don’t miss a word of this—I’m telling you how to live well,
    I’m telling you how to live at your best.

We have visited this chapter of Proverbs before, and today we look at it again with fresh eyes as we consider . . . the gift of creation in each of us, and in the micro and macro-universe we inhabit. Today we reprise our reflection on the wisdom of God’s creation (https://thenoontimes.com/2013/09/07/wisdom-and-creation/) as we consider again the mystery of God’s love for us.

 I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out.

These words are an invitation we will want to accept.

My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary;
    the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus.
You can find me on Righteous Road—that’s where I walk—
    at the intersection of Justice Avenue,
Handing out life to those who love me,
    filling their arms with life—armloads of life!

The verses cited in this post are from the MESSAGE translation of Proverbs. To compare other translations, use the scripture link and the drop-down menus.

To watch life on a reef off the Maldives, click on the sealife image or visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1oGyZL0qjM

For an interesting take on the multiverse, click on the image of planets above, or visit: http://www.chattanoogapulse.com/columns/just-a-theory/living-your-life-in-a-multiverse/ 

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Proverbs 7: Lady Wisdom

Titian: Wisdom

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Infidelity, A Reprise

Who or what is Lady Wisdom? When have we seen her? Where does she reside? Might she visit our hearts and homes for even the briefest of moments? Is she willing to take up residence with us?

We have visited this chapter of Proverbs before and today we look at it again with fresh eyes as we consider . . . who are the seducers and co-dependents in our lives; what are our addictions? What is it we cannot resist? And why do the writers of these ancient, sacred texts take us back to examine our own infidelities and loyalties? Is it possible that we deceive ourselves too easily? Might we prefer the forgetfulness of denial and reject the discomfort of recognition? As always with God, the ogre we fear is nothing more than a tiny image of our worst anxiety blown out of proportion. So today we reprise our reflection on infidelity (https://thenoontimes.com/2012/10/16/infidelity/) as we consider again the mystery of God’s love for us.

Not that God created us in God’s image.  Not that God loves us; but that, despite our constant turning away, God remains a faithful, ardent lover – always calling, always wooing, always calling to life.  Always calling to true and lasting joy.

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Proverbs 6:12-35 and 7: Something Nasty

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God is perfectly aware that not all creatures understand the goodness and generosity of creation’s gift. Having that in mind, the writer of Proverbs reminds us that the riffraff and rascals who plot and scheme will always – in God’s time and in God’s economy – wind up suffering the consequences of the chaos they plot against others. In a literary context, we refer to this as irony, the end of the twisting plot twisting back on the antagonist. We often believe that in reality the outcome is different: he who plots and schemes becomes rich and powerful; she who plots against the innocent escapes destiny’s karma.

Riffraff and rascals
    talk out of both sides of their mouths.
They wink at each other, they shuffle their feet,
    they cross their fingers behind their backs.

If we live in a timeline of the physical world, we might see ourselves as correct in thinking that the spiritual world holds out false hope. When we live in God’s eternal time, we find that we have misunderstood God’s plan for the kingdom. When we ignore God’s time and plan, we find that we have become like the riffraff and rascals we deplore. We have given in to something nasty. We will have rejected the advice of Proverbs that the final total smashup will arrive at our door, and we will become the hypocrites who cross our fingers behind our backs.

Their perverse minds are always cooking up something nasty,
    always stirring up trouble.
Catastrophe is just around the corner for them,
    a total smashup, their lives ruined beyond repair.

In the following verses, we hear about human actions that induce God’s ire; these items are laid out clearly. Various translations present differing translations but this interesting list is always the same, a litany of easy signs that we might look for in our own daily actions.

  • A proud look.
  • A lying tongue.
  • Hands that kill innocent people,
  • A mind that thinks up wicked plans.
  • Feet that hurry off to do evil.
  • A witness who tells one lie after another.
  • And someone who stirs up trouble among friends.

As Easter People, we share the Good News Jesus brings to creation that God’s merciful patience and generosity are always waiting in hope to redeem us. God’s persistence and wisdom are always presenting in faith new lessons for us to learn. God’s justice and consolation are always bringing us new opportunities to love as God loves.

The final verses of this chapter reprise the hazards of adultery and we might wonder why the writer brings this theme to us again. Besides the obvious danger of wanton men and women, might we also need be wary of addiction to lusting after power, wealth and fame? Might we need another practical warning to steer clear of riffraff and rascals lest we becomes one of those who ignore God’s call away from something nasty?

Even so, when the dust settles, we find that despite our recalcitrance, despite our rejection of truth, despite our haughtiness and ego-driven behavior, God’s compassion is awaiting us with Christ’s open and holy love. We are invited today to become one with that sacred heart.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to find different versions of these verses, we explore God’s transparent plan for our good, and the good of all creation.  

The original definition of hypocrite is “actor”. (See Merriam-Webster at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/hypocrite-meaning-origin) For interesting thoughts on hypocrisy, click the image of masks above. 

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Proverbs 6:1-11: The Deer and the Ant

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

“Cut your losses,” the writer of Proverbs tells us. “Run from the corruption in which you find yourself. Maybe you knowingly followed the path into darkness; perhaps you stumbled into it unwittingly, but whatever the case, remove yourself from the influence of the evil one. It is never too late to return to the path of light, integrity and honesty”.

“And then consider the story of the ant who instinctively works to do as she is called to do. She does not laze around on hot summer days,” we read. “She stores up. She measures out. She preserves and takes care. This is an example worth emulating”.

Scripture is of full of allegories and parables; they give us simple lessons to imitate. What stories do our own lives teach? Are we the ant or the deer? What legends do we establish? What values do we validate? What knowledge and beauty do we find that instruct us so simply and so well?

When we compare different versions of these verses, we discover the story of our own life that we might share. 



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Encyclopedia Britannica: Sor Juana

Proverbs 5: Duplicity

Monday, July 24, 2017

In ancient cultures, the institution of marriage was an important glue that held society together; families relied on a patriarchal paradigm in which men served as leaders with women as their helpmates. Wise men realized that their service as the head of the unit did not relegate women to an opposite role at the foot. Wise men and women then and now understood – and understand – that families operate best in an atmosphere of trust, respect and dignity.

Today’s reading warns young men about the wily ways of female prostitutes, women who serve as sexual tools for those who hold power. Today, we have a better understanding of the plight of sexual slaves and in some parts of the world, sexual slavery is unacceptable, and even illegal. Not all cultures hold this standard but today’s citation reminds us that personal integrity is a hallmark of solid Christian living.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Mexican Carmelite who wrote the famous piece, Hombres necios, or Stupid Men, points out the hypocrisy of men who both seek and scorn women as prostitutes. More about her life work is worth exploring at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sor-Juana-Ines-de-la-Cruz The influence of this cloistered nun was felt in Baroque-age Mexico and Spain as she interacted with scholars, leaders, and other poets. Like Lady Wisdom, Sor Juana points to the way of integrity and honesty despite the environment of hypocrisy surrounding her. Like Lady Wisdom, Sor Juana is not afraid to speak truth to those who enjoy duplicity.

For the Spanish and English versions of Sor Juana’s poem, visit: https://zocalopoets.com/2012/07/11/sister-juana-ines-de-la-cruz-stupid-conceited-men-hombres-necios/

Comparing various translations of these verses, we re-examine the problem of duplicity.



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Proverbs 4: Admonition

Sunday, July 23, 2017

We can never be too cautious or prudent. Learn the ways of wisdom by heart.

We can never be too vulnerable and open to God. Keep vigilance over our hearts.

We can never forget the practical advice of Lady Wisdom.

Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth;
    avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.
Keep your eyes straight ahead;
    ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
    and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
    leave evil in the dust.

Wisdom admonishes us to take care, but she also reminds us that small, practical guidelines bring us serenity and joy.

Comparing various translations of these verses, we realize again the importance of small practices.


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