Tag Archives: Proverbs

Wisdom & Winnowing

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When we look at the wise, they die;
    fool and dolt perish together
    and leave their wealth to others.

Psalm 49:10 (NRSVCE)

Over the past few years, I have watched, and assisted, as my parents’ lives have gotten significantly smaller in footprint. From a giant ranch home where grandchildren hung out together and spent a week each summer at “grandma camp,” to a townhouse, a two-bedroom apartment, and now a smaller apartment. With every subsequent move, there is a winnowing of life’s material possessions.

“Does anyone want this?”

“What should we do with that?”

Somebody might use that. Let’s give it to the Many Hands Thrift Store.”

Seriously. Nobody wants that. Throw it in the dumpster.”

Some time ago I was listening to a teacher who encouraged listeners to perform a virtual winnowing of life in your head. Think about everything you own. Not just the big items like homes, cars, and furniture, but the boxes of stuff in storage rooms, attics, and garages. Think about the collective contents of junk drawers, closet shelves, and storage bins. Having taken an exhaustive mental inventory, now consider where it’s all going to end up, and who is going to own it, when you die. Note: Someone else will own everything that doesn’t get pitched into the dumpster. And believe me, for many of us there will be a dumpster.

Today’s chapter continues a string of ancient Hebrew song lyrics written for a specific purpose. Psalm 49 is one of just two songs in the anthology of 150 songs written as “Wisdom Literature.” Across antiquity, sages throughout the Near East created proverbs, songs, parables, and literary works intended to teach and pass along wisdom.

As I shared in this chapter-a-day journey through the book of Proverbs (a classic example of “Wisdom Literature”), even in the Great Story wisdom is personified in a woman often referred to as Sophia. Wisdom Literature is typically marked by a calling out to or from wisdom as the songwriter does today in verses 3-4:

My mouth shall speak wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb;
    I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.

The songwriter then challenges us as listeners and readers to consider the fact that rich-and-poor, wise-and-foolish, good-and-bad all end up in the same place and leave everything behind. Even the Egyptians who packed King Tut’s tomb with stuff for him to use in the afterlife only ended up lining the pockets of Lord Carnarvon and the displays of various museums.

Of course, Lady Wisdom calls out to me to think about this in relationship to what it means for me today, and I hear the echo of Jesus in my soul:

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Matthew 19-21 (MSG)

In the quiet this morning, I hear Wisdom, Jesus, and Holy Spirit whispering to my soul. The exercise of virtual winnowing needs to lead me to actual physical winnowing, or else they have simply wasted their collective breath.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

A Beginner’s Guide to the Great Story (Part 6)

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In this episode, we’re going to talk about metaphor and the books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs). From “Why do bad things happen to good people?” to a healthy expression of the God-given expression of sexuality, this episode is an entry-level introduction to ancient Hebrew poetry and how it continues to resonate with us today.

Previous episodes in this series:

Part 1: Mystery, Context, & Metaphor
Part 2: Decoding & Diving In
Part 3: Meta-Themes of the Great Story
Part 4: Books of Law
Part 5: Books of History
Part 6: Books of Poetry

Getting Away from Crazymakers

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife;
    gossip separates the best of friends.
Proverbs 16:28 (NLT)

With the entire world in various forms of quarantine, the past couple of months Wendy and I have uttered repeated prayers of gratitude that we actually enjoy being with one another at home. I’ve thought long and hard about what effect “sheltering-at-home” has meant both for those who live with a crazymaker and for those who may have finally had an excuse to escape a crazymaker for a time. This post, originally from April 23, 2013, has generated quite a bit of interest over the years. I thought now would be a good time to put it back out there again.

Over the years I have learned: Just as important as choosing good companions for the journey, it is equally important to avoid sharing life’s sojourn (even for a season) with “crazymakers.”  Like the troublemaker in the proverb above, crazymakers plant seeds of strife wherever they go. They waste our time and suck us into the black hole of their neediness. They passive-aggressively pit people against one another and stir up dissension.

In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julie Cameron nails it with her description of crazymakers:

  • Crazymakers break deals and destroy schedules. They show up two days early for your wedding and expect you to wait on them hand and foot. They rent a cabin bigger than the one agreed upon and expect you to foot the bill.
  • Crazymakers expect special treatment. They suffer a wide panopoly of mysterious ailments that require care and attention whenever you have a deadline looming.
  • Crazymakers discount your reality. No matter how important your deadline or how critical your work trajectory at the moment, crazymakers will violate your needs.
  • Crazymakers spend your time and money. If they borrow your car they return it late with an empty tank.
  • Crazymakers triangulate those they deal with. Because they thrive on energy (your energy), they set people against one another in order to maintain their own power position dead center.
  • Crazymakers are expert blamers. Nothing that goes wrong is ever their fault.
  • Crazymakers create dramas – but seldom where they belong. Whatever matters to you becomes trivialized into mere backdrop for the crazymaker’s personal plight.
  • Crazymakers hate schedules – except their own. If you claim a certain block of time as your own, your crazy maker will find a way to fight you for that time, to mysteriously need things (you) just when you need to be alone and focused on the task at hand.
  • Crazymakers hate order. Chaos serves their purposes. When you establish space that serves you for a project, they will abruptly invade that space with a project of their own.
  • Crazymakers deny that they are crazymakers. “I’m not what’s making you crazy,” they will say, “It’s just that … [add something else to blame].”

I have found that the only path to increased levels of life, growth, and understanding is the one path that leads me directly away from a crazymaker.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Poison on the Team

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
    so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

Proverbs 26:21 (NIV)

There is a client of mine who had a team that had been struggling for some time. While other teams around them were making great strides in their service performance, this one particular team languished in mediocrity. My quarterly training sessions with this team were sometimes painful. Silence. Arms crossed. No eye contact. No participation.

There was one member of this team who was, by far, the worst performer of the group. His performance on the phone calls we regularly assessed were so bad, that one almost had to willfully try to be that consistently awful to their customers. Over several years, the management team tried just about everything to motivate a change in this person. They tried offering cash bonuses for better performance, they provided remedial coaching (I had the joy of conducting many of the coaching sessions…ugh, also painful), they wrote him up on multiple Performance Improvement Plans with HR, and they made threats to fire him. Nothing worked. The longer this went on, I believe the more convinced he was that he didn’t really have to change and the more stubborn he became.

Coincidentally, I was asked at one point to mentor this team’s new supervisor. The newbie had been a member of the team for a long time and was promoted to his first managerial position. I watched him go through all of the same efforts as his predecessor trying to motivate behavior change in the team’s entrenched curmudgeon.

“What am I going to do with him?” the supervisor eventually asked me directly.

“Fire him,” I responded just as directly.

The supervisor seemed shocked by response. I explained.

Look,” I said, “Your management team has wasted their efforts for years trying to get this person to perform. There is a well-documented track record of a bad attitude, poor performance, and an unwillingness to do any more than the very least that is required to avoid getting fired. His attitude has poisoned the entire team and your team will never be healthy until you get rid of the problem at the source.

I had made this same suggestion multiple times to the supervisor’s predecessor and managers, but they could never take the final step of terminating his employment. I actually expected nothing different from the new supervisor, because he was new and firing a team member went against this client’s corporate culture.

I was, therefore, surprised to learn that my managerial protégé took my advice and fired the team member a short time later. Wouldn’t you know it? That year the team that had been mired in mediocrity reached their service quality performance goal for the very first time. I handed out more year-end performance awards to members of that team than ever. The team that had been so painful to train for so many years was laughing, cheering, clapping, and celebrating.

In today’s chapter, Solomon wisely says that a quarrelsome and contentious person is like adding wood to a fire. It spreads. My client’s entire team was stuck in their contentious mediocrity and poor performance because of one team member’s poisonous attitude. I wish I could say that this is the only example I’ve seen in my years of helping my clients improve the quality of their customer service, but it’s not. It’s actually fairly common. What isn’t common is a client’s willingness to do the right thing for everyone (especially their customers) and decisively extract the poison from the system whether it is firing the person or moving them to a different job with a different team that might be a better fit.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about other poisonous team members I’ve encountered in my vocational journey and the reticence, even in my own company, of confronting it. What I’ve observed over time is that these individuals really don’t want to be in their positions. Sometimes getting rid of a poisonous team member actually frees that person to find something better for themselves. I have followed the careers of a few fired team members on social media and it appears that they are much happier after finding a job that better suits their talents, desires, and personalities. And, some appear to be tragically angry and contentious people in any role no matter where they work.

At least a company can fire such a person. When the contentious and quarrelsome individual is part of a family system, it’s a far more difficult situation. Solomon had another proverb for such tragic circumstances:

To have a fool for a child brings grief;
    there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.

<— Click on Solomon for an indexed list of previous chapter-a-day posts from this series from Proverbs!

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Proverbs (Feb/Mar 2020)

Each photo below corresponds to a chapter-a-day post for the book of Proverbs published by Tom Vander Well in February/March of 2020. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Chapter 1: Lady Sophia
Chapter 2: Wise Companions
Chapter 3: Play Ball
Chapter 4: Embodying Wisdom and Love
Chapter 5: Sex and a Larger Wisdom
Chapter 6: A Common Complaint
Chapter 7: Sister Wisdom
Chapter 8: An Observation
Chapter 9: On Media and Personalities
Chapter 10: My Secret to a Good Night’s Sleep
Chapter 11: A Generous Confession
Chapter 12: All Worthwhile Things
Chapter 13: False Fronts
Chapter 14: Moving Upstream
Chapter 15: Footnote to a Proverb
Chapter 16: Plans and Purposes
Chapter 17: Sad Endings
Chapter 18: Words of Life or Death
Chapter 19: Silly Things I Could Be
Chapter 20: Spiritual Seasons
Chapter 21: The Pursuit
Chapter 22: Panic, Prudence, and a Prediction
Chapter 23: Because I Can, Doesn’t Mean I Should
Chapter 24: A Friend’s Example
Chapter 25: Up for the Fight!
Chapter 26: Poison on the Team
Chapter 27: Remember: Getting My Head and Heart Aligned
Chapter 28: The Adult Version
Chapter 29: More Than Words
Chapter 30: Crisis Through Agur’s Eyes
Chapter 31: A New Take on “The Proverbs 31 Woman”

You’re all caught up! Posts will be added here as they are published. Click on the image below for easy access to other recent posts indexed by book.

Click on the image above for easy access to recent chapter-a-day posts indexed by book!

Chapter-a-Day Posts by Book

Click on an image to access a summary of posts for the book. I will slowly be going back and adding book summaries. Please bookmark and keep checking back.

Exodus (May-Jul 2020)
Ezra (Aug/Sep 2019)
Nehemiah (Sep/Oct 2019)
Esther (Jul/Aug 2019)
Psalms (2020)
Proverbs (Feb/Mar 2020)
Song of Solomon (Sep/Oct 2013)
Tom Vander Well's chapter-a-day posts for the book of Jonah published in June 2019.
Jonah (June 2019)
Haggai (October 2019)
Mark (Mar/Apr 2020)
Luke (Dec 2019 – Jan 2020)
Romans (Feb/Mar 2019)
1 Corinthians (Nov 2018-Jan 2019)
2 Corinthians (Jan-Feb 2019)
Ephesians (Apr-May 2019)
Philippians (May 2019)
Colossians (May 2019)
1 Timothy (June 2019)
2 Timothy (June 2019)
Titus (May 2019)
Philemon (May 2019)
1 Peter (November 2019)
1, 2, & 3 John (Apr May 2020)

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Hollywood Moments of Decision

Hollywood momentBut when they stopped for the night and one of them opened his sack to get grain for his donkey, he found his money in the top of his sack. “Look!” he exclaimed to his brothers. “My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!” Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, “What has God done to us?” Genesis 42:27-28 (NLT)

What a Hollywood moment when the brothers who beat-up Joseph, plotted to kill him, then sold him into slavery arrive in Egypt hungry and desperate. Joseph had every reason to feel resentful, angry and to get even with his brothers. At that moment he had all the power and could easily have exacted his revenge. His initial reaction to throw them all in prison and send only one brother back home leads me to believe that he was at least struggling with some of those old feelings of resentment. But, after three days of mulling it over, Joseph changes tactics and extends undeserved favor to his brothers at every turn.

Human nature being what it is, most of us have individuals in our lives with whom there are ill-feelings, bad blood, or old resentment built up around ancient wounds. It may not be as grand a Hollywood moment, but from time to time we are all faced with the ironic opportunity to bless or curse those who have wronged us. We all stand in Joseph’s sandals now and then. Joseph chose against his initial instincts and blessed his brothers rather than curse them.

I found the reaction of the brothers fascinating. Rather than feeling as though they got away with something when they discovered their payment returned, their feelings of guilt and shame multiplied. Had Joseph responded with curses and followed through with his initial inklings of retribution, they might have eventually felt justified in their youthful assessment and actions toward their little brother. “You see,” I can hear some of them saying, “I knew that kid was bad news! We should have killed the runt when we had the chance.”

Joseph’s blessing, however, added fuel to the fire of the guilt and shame that God was already stirring in their hearts. King Solomon hit the nail on the proverbial head when he observed the same truth:

If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat.
    If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads,
    and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22 (NLT)

God, the next time I have a little Hollywood moment and the opportunity to “get even” with someone I don’t like, please remind me what Joseph did when he had his own Hollywood moment of decision. Thanks.