Mighty Fortress

The name of the Lord is a strong fortress

the godly run to him and are safe (Proverbs 18:10)

Proverbs 18(5)

Copyright © 2013 Uwana

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Proverbs 21: Injustice Anywhere is Injustice Everywhere

Image courtesy of bulldogza / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bulldogza / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hate, anger, rage … is it ever okay to harbor these sentiments? Yes, against injustice at least.

Anger is ordinarily not a good thing, but righteous anger is important; it is required for action. Feeling angry in the face of injustice is necessary. Even Jesus got angry over how the temple of God was being abused.

Injustice makes my blood boil. It enrages me. It makes me want to scream, to do something. It’s harder still when you experience, witness, or hear about acts of injustice and feel powerless.

  • Racism
  • Gender inequality
  • Violence against women
  • Child abuse
  • Religious persecution
  • Poverty
  • Health disparities
  • Environmental abuse
  • Animal cruelty…

We are reminded in Proverbs 21:13 that “whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” How scary is that? Doing nothing has its consequences.

So today, I want to start giving a voice to those who don’t have a voice. A friend recently told me that writing letters against injustice is very powerful and cathartic. It articulates a problem and calls for action. Is this effective you ask? Amnesty International certainly thinks so: they take up human rights issues through letter writing.

The promise we have is that when justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous, but terror to evildoers (Proverbs 21:15). We don’t have to feel discouraged or powerless in the face of injustice. Our actions count for something. They  facilitate change.

How do you fight injustice?

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ~ MLK

Proverbs 20: Merciful Love

Lance Armstrong giving keynote address at the 2012 World Cancer Congress

Lance Armstrong giving keynote address at the 2012 World Cancer Congress (Montreal, Canada)

In August 2012, I had the opportunity to witness Lance Armstrong deliver a keynote address at the World Cancer Congress hosted in Montreal. His introduction was memorable:

My name is Lance Armstrong, I am a cancer survivor, I’m a father of 5, and yes, I won the Tour de France 7 times.

This was one of Armstrong’s last public appearances before he was stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles and his subsequent fall from grace.

During Armstrong’s keynote presentation—Survivorship: Changing the Way the World Fights Cancer—I was moved by his sincerity and the charitable work accomplished through the Livestrong Foundation.

Lance spoke passionately about his experience as a cancer survivor and noted how the Internet has emerged as a powerful tool for patients desperate for cancer information. When Lance was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, he scrambled to get information. He reminisced:

After I left the doctor’s office I was grabbing every pamphlet and flyer I could off the wall. You know what we did after that? We went to the bookstore—remember those things?

This is a far cry from the wealth of information we have today!

Lance Armstrong also spoke about the importance of survivorship. Cancer survivors are often left thinking, “I survived cancer. Now what?” They find themselves struggling to redefine “normal” and how to navigate towards a healthy, productive, empowered life after treatment; the Livestrong Foundation addresses this need through educational and support programs, such as Cancer Transitions.

While I firmly believe that Lance Armstrong must answer and be accountable for his lies and deception, I find mercy and forgiveness lacking from the numerous articles reporting his fall. To be honest, it’s difficult to reconcile the value Armstrong has added to the fight against cancer with the pain and hurt he has caused countless people.

As is often the case, I sought the Bible for wisdom regarding this subject matter. I was drawn to Proverbs 20:28 and read translations from the New International Version (NIV) and King James Version (KJV) to gain better insight.

28 Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure (NIV)

28 Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy (KJV)

Here I’m reminded that successful leadership is founded on love and mercy.

All too often, love and mercy are considered mutually exclusive. Love is sometimes described as a form of reward for good deeds, while mercy is usually issued with bucket loads of condemnation and judgment.

From Proverbs 20, we learn that strong, successful leadership requires a full understanding of merciful love and integrity. A meaningful legacy is a product of good long-lasting leadership centered on the principles of love, mercy, and truth.

Loving through disappointment, failure, pain, and defeat, while still showing mercy, cultivates a culture of honor and loyalty. Granted, this may be difficult to accomplish in situations like Armstrong’s where people feel deeply disappointed, wronged, bullied, and cheated. To this, wisdom responds:

20 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”  Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

To reiterate: Love and mercy form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on merciful love and integrity.

Read more:

Proverbs 19: To Curry Favor or Carry Favor?

As I was reading Proverbs 19 (NIV), I came across the following verse:

6 Many curry favor with a ruler,
and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

On scanning the first portion of this verse, the grammar mafia in my head started screeching

“Isn’t there a typo? Shouldn’t it be, ‘Many carry favor’ and not ‘Many curry favor’? What does spicy food even have to do with this scenario?”

So diligent me proceeded to draft a message notifying BibleGateway.com of this “typo.”

Proverbs 19 typo

Before clicking “Submit,” it occurred to me, what if this isn’t a typo?

Not wanting to look the fool, I googled the phrase “to curry favor” and lo and behold, it’s a legitimate idiom … English is clearly NOT my first language!

What does “currying favor” mean?

Apples

Having accepted my foolishness, I looked up “to curry favor” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and realized it has nothing to do with Indian food; its meaning:

to seek or gain favor by flattery or attention; aka to suck up, boot lick, apple-polish, brown-nose, kiss up … you get the gist.

Currying favor in today’s world

We’ve all seen it happen. People getting recognition or promotions due to “apple-polishing” instead of performance. It started in elementary school and continues into the workplace. It’s pervasive in church and politics. It manifests as favoritism towards the rich and powerful.

What do currying favor tactics look like? Flattery, mimicry, adoration, buying of gifts and goodies, and at the extreme end: bribery and extortion.

Currying favor is part of life, and has its pay offs. In my opinion, if you are to gain favor with your boss and peers, focus on becoming indispensable—add value, help out, work hard, be a person of integrity.

What are your thoughts? Is currying favor good or bad? Ineffective or effective? Do you even use this idiom in daily conversation?

Proverbs 17: Prescription for Joyful Wisdom

Are you hooked on joyful wisdom?
If not, try it.
It’s good medicine, and it’s free … I promise, no health insurance is needed.

I love discovering little nuggets of truth wrapped in humor; it makes me feel smarter and wiser.

On my treasure hunt through Proverbs 17, I unearthed precious gems and jewels. I oohed and ahhed. I chuckled … and I got a hefty dose of joyful wisdom. Here are some truths I uncovered about:

Fools

  • Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs, than to confront a fool caught in foolishness
  • It is senseless to pay tuition to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning

Conflict

  • Better a dry crust with peace and quiet, than a house full of feasting, with strife
  • Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out

Dishonesty

  • Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander
  • If you repay good with evil, evil will never leave your house

Friendship

  • Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends
  • A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity

Silence

  • The one who knows much says little; an understanding person remains calm
  • Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent

Make sure to drink your daily dose of wisdom. It’s good medicine … and it will prolong your life!

Proverbs 16: My Plans – God’s Steps

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps

fool

Proverbs 16 is a cautionary tale of how our plans may not always coincide with the Lord’s. In life, we tend to get ahead of ourselves by overplanning and taking ownership of what belongs to God. With this mindset, pride and self-importance can creep in, and lead to  our downfall, as seen with the foolish.

good

The Lord cherishes honesty. He loves those who seek deep knowledge and understanding; these are fruits of the wise.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our own plans, that we forget to honor the Lord. How many times have you planned and strategized over something only to have the script overturned in the twinkling of an eye?

Proverbs 15: Of Traffic Rules and Conversation

While reading Proverbs 15, it occurred to me that our words and conversations tend to mimic traffic movements. They can cause back up, congestion, gridlock, bottleneck, traffic jams, and/or noise pollution.

Traffic light

It’s a school of hard knocks for those who leave God’s path, a dead-end street
for those who hate God’s rules (Proverbs 15:10)

Just as we are legally required to follow traffic rules, our words can certainly benefit from conversation filters and rules: when is it appropriate to speak, listen, or be silent (yes, silence is an option).

Rules of conversation

Proverbs 15 outlines certain rules of conversation and how to respond to different personalities. Since we’re all familiar with traffic light signals (at least I hope so, I’ve seen many a nincompoop run a red light), I thought it valuable to outline some key principles for congenial conversation.

Red—Stop! End conversation

A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them (15:18)

  • Harsh words: stir up anger
  • Deceitful words: crush the spirit
  • Foolish mouths: belch out nonsense
  • Mouths of the wicked: are sewers of abuse

Amber—Proceed with caution! Weigh conversation

The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking (15:28)

  • Words of discipline/constructive criticism: either heed or reject; your response will determine your level of growth and understanding
  • Words of advice: either listen or ignore; your response will impact your plan’s success or failure

Green—Go! Encourage conversation

A calm, cool spirit keeps the peace (15:18)

  • Gentle answers: defuse anger
  • Kind words: heal and help
  • Perceptive words: spread knowledge
  • Good news: good health

God is watching

Connecting with people through conversation can add joy or misery. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be known as someone who says the right word at the right time, and brings life and healing to conversations?

That being said, a guiding principle to live by is this:

3The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

Knowing that nothing is hidden from God (even death and destruction hold no secrets from Him) forces us to be mindful of our words, and especially the condition of our hearts, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

So, don’t run a red light or make an illegal turn just because you think nobody is watching!

What are your guiding principles for filtering your language? What rules of conversation do you live by?

Proverbs 14: It Takes a Team

True success hinges on collaborative team work. To lead effectively, a king needs a growing population; a prince needs his subjects. To quote Proverbs 14:28:

The mark of a good leader is loyal followers…

Elephant herd

Elephant herd (Maasai Mara, Kenya)

…leadership is nothing without a following.

Cheetah

Lone cheetah (Maasai Mara, Kenya)

Great followers follow by leading. Success happens when great leaders AND great followers work in unison … it takes a great team to fulfill a dream!

For an interesting read: