Sweet, Sweet Fragrance

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”

Pr. 27:9 (NIV)

“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”

This Shel Silverstein quote echoes an important aspect of friendship: giving.

In friendship, we can give love, support, help, a listening ear, and wise counsel. Solomon describes how beautiful wise counsel is to a friend by comparing it to sweet perfume.

What is your favorite scent? Maybe it’s freshly baked apple pie, newly cut grass, chimney smoke on a cold evening, Chanel  No. 5, the top of a baby’s just-washed head, gardenias, steak sizzling on a grill, new car smell? Consider your very favorite scent and how it makes you feel. That is how our wise counsel feels to our friends with whom we share it.

In the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Pr. 27:9 says, “Oil and incense bring joy to the heart, and the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel.” The wording of this translation gives us another perspective on this verse: advice from a friend is better than our own self-counsel. Often, when we try to solve our problems on our own, the solutions we come up with aren’t always the best ones, since we may only be seeing one side of an issue or trying to justify something that we know is wrong. The counsel from an objective party, like a friend, is safer. This idea is found in several proverbs:

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Pr. 12:15, ESV).

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Pr. 15:22, ESV).

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Pr. 11:14, ESV).

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Pr. 19:20-21, ESV).

Wise counsel from a friend is important! It is like a life-giving oil that refreshes our souls. In the Psalms, David mentions the beauty of being anointed with oil:

Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (NIV)

Psalm 141:5: “Let the righteous man strike me; let his rebuke be an act of loving devotion. It is oil for my head; let me not refuse it. For my prayer is ever against the deeds of the wicked.” (NIV)

So, as you consider the worries of today, remember to seek guidance from the Lord and from godly friends. Accept the sweet fragrance of their wise counsel and be the fragrance of Christ to those around you as well!

As Vast as the Ocean

“I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.”

Pr. 8:27-29

Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. The rhythmic sound of ocean waves rolling in is one of my favorite sounds. I’ve always loved that constant sound of water, whether it’s coming from never-ending ocean waves, the trickling of a fountain at a park, or even the pitter-patter of gentle rain on a spring day.  The last section of Proverbs 8 is filled with poetic nature imagery that describes how Wisdom was there at the beginning of creation. One of those creative moments was when God created the oceans.

Proverbs 8:29 tells us that God sets the boundary for the sea. I love that this verse also says that the waters cannot go further than he commands. This is a great reminder that God is in control. If he can control the vastness of the ocean, he can control anything! Think about how immense the oceans in the world are. For me, just a glance at the Gulf of Mexico is mind-boggling. All I see is water that stretches beyond the place where I see it meet the horizon.

When I’m at the beach and get to see this amazing site, I like to imagine what it must have been like for the sailors and explorers who rode the open seas not knowing when they might see land again. That took courage, for sure! They had to trust their captain would guide them to their destination.

When life brings troubles that feel as vast as the ocean or a situation in which no solution or safe place to land seems to be in sight, remember to trust our captain, God. He is in charge of the sea and all that is in it. Meditate on Pr. 8:29 and remember who marked the boundaries of the ocean and to whom the ocean answers: God, our Creator and father in heaven. Rest in him. Trust in him. Ask for his wisdom.

Wisdom was there at the beginning of creation, and wisdom will always exist. We just have to be willing to seek God’s wisdom in all things. If we ask for wisdom, the Lord says he will grant it (James 1:5). Seek wisdom through prayer. Seek it through God’s word. Embrace the vast ocean of God’s wisdom.

Be a Shower of Blessing

“Like clouds and wind without rain is one who boasts of gifts never given.”

Pr. 25:14 (NIV)

Have you ever been promised something and not receive it? It’s disappointing when we look forward to something that never materializes, isn’t it? Proverbs 25:14 describes this same situation poetically: when a promise is not honored, it is like clouds that do not bring needed rain.

Because we know how disheartening it can be when someone tells us they will do something and then they never do it, we should also consider the promises that we make to others. Do we boast about giving and doing things that we have not done? How often do we say we will do something, and then forget to do it, or worse, never have any intention of doing it?

It is important for us to keep our promises and speak sincerely. Boastful speech is abominable to God (Pr. 8:13) and to others. How many of us have heard someone take credit for something he or she didn’t do? Sincere speech requires humility, which is always honored by God (James 4:6 and Luke 14:11).

This past year in North Alabama, we have experienced plenty of clouds, wind and rain (in fact, torrential rain), so the idea of clouds promising but not delivering rain seems foreign. But, think back to a few years ago when we experienced a draught. Water usage was limited – remember the rules of not using irrigation systems or water for anything other than the bare necessities? Back then, any time a cloud came over, we prayed for rain. This is the image Solomon depicts for us in Pr. 25:14.

Keeping a promise and speaking sincerely is like a beautiful cloud that produces rain on a parched land. Don’t be like a draught to others, but instead be like a rain cloud that gently sprinkles grace and peace on those around you when you speak sincerely and keep your promises.

 

Spinning My Wheels

“Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.”

Pr. 12:25 (NLT)

Have you ever seen a car peel out? If you have, then you know that while this is happening the car tires are still spinning rapidly, but the car isn’t travelling forward.

Some days I wake up with a clenched jaw, feeling terrible due to lack of sleep caused by worrying all night about something. Running the same problem through my head over and over is like a car constantly spinning its wheels without ever getting anywhere — a dead-end process that never provides a solution to the things that trouble us.

Are you a worrier? Do you spin your wheels thinking about something so much that it not only doesn’t solve the problem, but also makes you sick? The Proverbs below show us that worry is a like a weight in our hearts. It brings trouble, it can break our spirit, and it can ultimately be a trap for our soul:

Pr.1:33: “But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” (NLT)

Pr. 15:13: “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” (NIV)

Pr. 29:25: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (ESV)

In the New Testament, Jesus encourages us not to worry by pointing to several exquisite images in nature. He tells us, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns… See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Mt. 6:26, 29, NIV)

Of course, it’s easy to say the birds and flowers don’t worry – they’re not human with all the problems of life. Even so, they serve as wonderful images to remind us that we can rely on the God who cared enough for us to send his son, Jesus, not only to save us but also to help us through the hard times we are bound to face. Matthew 11:28-30 tells us:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

My dad used to restore old cars as a hobby, and one of those cars was a 1965 GTO. I have to admit, I wasn’t much of a muscle car girl (1955 Chevrolet was more my style), but riding in the GTO was a lot of fun. One time, my dad and I peeled out on an old country road. It was scary and thrilling at the same time.

As I focus more on the birds, the lilies, and Jesus, I would like to let go of worry and to make the only time I spin my wheels a time when I’m in a car on an old country road with my dad.