Happy Songs Not Allowed

Proverbs 25:20

“As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.”

Country Songs

banjoConsidering how I was born and “raised” in Tennessee, I know a little about country music. Believe it or not, I have written a country song (to prove I could), played and recorded music in Nashville, and even toured Brenda Lee‘s house when I was a kid (I helped her daughters with a lemonade stand).

Country music (at least the stuff before Kid Rock) was earthy, blue-collar music that spoke of real life, or at least what was left of it after one spent too much time hunting, fishing, or drinking in a bar. The lyrics were usually sad, depressing, and great reasons to stay drunk. For example…

“Hunting Dear”

I came home late from hunting deer / My wife drank all my favorite beer / And then before the night was even done / My fishing poles were broke in two / And as she said, “I’m gone – we’re through / She took my dog, my truck, and my gun!

So I’ll walk down to the bar / I can stumble along that far / A country boy don’t need a cheetn’ girl / I’ll drink away my pain / Till my dog comes home again / Then we’ll both go out together…huntin’ dear.

– by Anthony Baker (just now)

Heavy Hearts

The reason why country music is so loved is the same reason the blues are so popular: heavy, broken hearts. Some say it’s impossible to really play the blues if you’ve never been heartbroken. I believe it.

I don’t know what version of country or blues Solomon had playing in his chariot, but he evidently understood that people with broken or heavy hearts hate to hear happy songs. He implied that playing cheerful music for a heavy heart is about as smart as taking one’s coat off in cold weather, or pouring vinegar on soda.

It’s Like This…

Imagine the feeling of already being chilled, but then having your coat taken away. It’s like going from bad to worse. When a person is down and depressed the last thing he really wants to hear at the moment is, “I am happy; you can be too!” Saying (or singing) that just makes the cold even colder.

The word nitre comes from the Hebrew word נֶתֶר (nether), which is what we would recognize, today, as carbonate of soda. Have you ever seen what happens when you pour vinegar on baking soda?  Not only does the soda become worthless for cleaning, but it will explode! That’s what can happen when a sad person hears a happy song.

Just Listen

In reality, besides listening to country music or the blues, the one with a heavy heart needs someone to listen, to nod a head, and be a friend. Singing a happy song to a hurting friend, although well-meaning, may seem like you don’t care, or worse, like you haven’t heard.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities…” – Hebrews 4:15

Sometimes the best encouragement for a hurting friend or loved one is to cry along with them. That’s one reason why Jesus came.


Unnecessary Pain

Proverbs 25:19

19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

Hiking the Trails

I enjoy going on hiking and camping trips. I find them relaxing and refreshing.

Those long walks and getting away from it can be a relief to a weary mind and soul. Making simple meals over a fire (or out of a bag) is such a joy.

However, if I were to slip and twist my ankle, my hike would be more of a bother than a time of relaxation.

If I in my slip I fell and broke my tooth, my meals would be a time of anxiety rather than of joy.

A “friend”

On one trip into the wilderness with a college group, we had been out hiking and camping for three days. We had a great time.

On the hike out, a couple of the hikers grew quite tired and had run out water. One of our friends, who had decided at the last minute to join our group, did not even slow down to help. When all but those two were at the meeting point for almost half an hour, we got worried. The one mentioned seeing them, and then he started walking on ahead toward the exit.

He did not help us locate our friends, and he did not seem interested in helping in any other way, either. All he managed was to cause unnecessary pain through more grief and tension!

The Golden Rule

Followers of Jesus are expected to help others, for we may in fact be helping Him increase His Kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46).

What kind of friend are you?

If you see someone in need do you find out if you can help, or do you carry on your way with little thought about the matter?

Do bring relief or cause more pain?

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:9-12, NIV

Lord, help us to love as You love. Fill us with Your compassion and grace, that we may not cause unnecessary pain on others in their time of need. Help us to be Your faithful servants to this lost and hurting world.


Sticks and Stones

Proverbs 25:18.

“A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.” (KJV).

Playground Lies:

Calvin & Hobbes - sticks and stones

Do you remember that old adage you used to repeat on the playground when someone called you names? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Or there was the oh-so-smart, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” As clever as those phrases may be, unfortunately, neither of them is true. Words hurt!

In today’s Proverb, Solomon teaches us about the power of words. In the New Living Translation of this Scripture, he says, “Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.” Words hurt!

Deep Wounds:

I’ll be honest. I would rather have someone punch me in the face than lie about me, gossip about me, or slander my name. If you punch me or kick me, I’ll get a bruise that will go away quickly. But words are wounds that go deep and have lasting repercussions.

I had a situation once where a person started telling all sorts of lies about me. He began gossiping about me to anyone who would listen. One of the first responses was that several people believed his lies, and they left the church. That was one of the external effects of his words. But internally, the words began to affect my heart as well.

I have always been a very positive and optimistic person. The glass is always half full, and I always believe the best about people. But as this person’s lies about me began to spread, I found myself getting overwhelmed emotionally by what he said. He was trashing my reputation, and ruining friendships that I had with people.

I started losing my joy, and his words started taking a physical toll on my body as well. I started having restless, sleepless nights. I started experiencing many migraine headaches, stomach problems, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and more. I started losing weight; I had little appetite, and had a hard time keeping anything down. I even had to take some stress leave from work – something I have never had to do before or since.

The point of today’s Scripture is simply this: Words are powerful! Think very carefully before you speak a negative word about someone else – whether it is true or false. Words hurt!

Check out this great 30 second ad that shows the power of words…


Get Out!

Proverbs 25:17

“Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.”

“Let’s Go to Bed…”

My mom and dad used to have some friends that we visited a lot. One time, after staying late watching television (we didn’t have one at the time), the man of the house stretched…yawned…then said to his wife:

“Honey, let’s go to bed so these people can go home.”

What a nice way to tell your friends to leave! Talk about shifting the blame, huh? It’s like saying: “These nice people feel obligated to stay here because we are awake. They must be tired of our company by now, so why not give them a way out?” In reality, it was a humorous way of telling someone “go home.”

Lingering Guests

Every once in a while people lose the ability to determine when a party is over. Some people, because of a host’s hospitality, feel they are more wanted, more part of the family, than they actually are. These people for get that the host has limited resources, both in food and patience.

Even those of us with close, intimate friends have times when we want to be alone. Good friends recognize this and are careful not to wear out their welcome. Selfish friends invite themselves over to ever family dinner, every game night, every outing, and never seem to get the message. When someone suggests going to bed so they can leave, they just say, “No problem, I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Loving others requires us to respect them, so be a good guest and a respectful friend. 


Trust Him, Honey

Proverbs 25:16

“Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” 

Honey

Believe it or not, I have mixed emotions about honey. I love the flavor and everything about it, except the fact that it is made by insects. Just thinking about the legs and mouths of tiny little bugs preparing my food is creepy. But on the other hand, I try not to think about where milk comes from, either.

But wherever we get it, honey is a wonderful food. It is super sweet, yet healthy. It has anti-bacterial properties and can keep for a long time. It’s good for a quick pick-me-up, or to soothe a sore throat. It’s uses are many. Yet, even with honey, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Sufficient

Western society has a problem knowing when to say, “no.” We eat far more than is sufficient for us, and our waste lines can prove it.

However, some people are starved for good things. Even simple pleasures like honey may be hard for some to get. Therefore, when they do manage to lay hold of them, they eat like there is no tomorrow. They eat until they get sick, which leads to vomiting. They eat more than what was sufficient to meet their need.

Faithless Waste

Why do we eat more than what is sufficient? Most of us overindulge because our bodies allow it. We have grown accustomed to eating more than is sufficient, so we normally have no food left before we reach the point of throwing up. But why do we do it?

Maybe fear (a lack of faith) has a lot to do with it. Like a dog starved of food will gulp down everything it is given in just a few bites, we sicken ourselves on good things like there is no tomorrow.

In Exodus sixteen we can read of how God gave the people of Israel manna in the wilderness. Yet, God told them only to collect enough for each day, and no more; the rest would spoil. There was no need to worry, for God was faithful. Could it be that we have no faith? Could it be that we have trained ourselves to take more than is sufficient because we don’t trust God to provide what is sufficient for tomorrow?

What a waste, especially since all the extra will end up on the ground.


Patience

Proverbs 25:15 

By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.
Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones. (NLT) 

Patience is a virtue, or so they say. The problem is that patience is a difficult virtue to acquire. Patience cannot be purchased, but has to be learned, perhaps over a lifetime. Children are especially known for their impatience, but are adults any better? Consider the behavior of motorists where impatience creates danger when drivers fail to wait, give way, or take their turn. Running red lights seems to be a sport in my small town, where for the sake of about ninety seconds drivers risk putting their foot down to squeeze through when the lights have gone amber, or even red. Every now again there is a collision, but my fear is that one day an impatient driver may kill a pedestrian.

There are examples of impatient men in the Bible. King Saul waited seven days for the prophet Samuel to arrive at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13:8-14). Boredom eventually got the better of Saul and he took it upon himself to make a burnt offering. Samuel arrived soon after and told Saul that because of his impatience he would lose his position as king. Eventually Saul did lose his kingdom to David, but David was patient and wise in his dealings with Saul, waiting for the moment ordained by God and not aggravating Saul during the waiting.

The challenge that many of us face is waiting for the moment ordained by God. Our timing is not his timing. Rushing ahead and trying to do what we think God wants is crazy when we know what we know about God. The phrase ‘all in good time’ should perhaps read ‘all in God’s time.’

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV)


Padded Résumés

Proverbs 25:14

“Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.”

Résumés

There are a few things I hate to do in life, such as flossing (but I do it, anyway), hanging blinds, changing diapers, and moving. I also hate writing résumés – about as much as I despise licking a cheese grater.

Résumés (also spelled resumes, but looks like it would sound like re-zooms) are so difficult because of the desire to boast. For those of us who have less to boast about, filling out a résumé can be even more challenging. There is always the temptation to “pad” the résumé with skills not quite developed, like saying you’re a “lion tamer” when all you’ve tamed is your pet cat.

Expectations

The problem with a padded résumé is that while it may get you in the door, it won’t guarantee you can do the job for which you are hired. When employers hire people based on the skills they are supposed to have, the expectation is that the employees use their skills, or “gifts,” when called upon.

Sadly, many people have been let go from high-paying, high-pressure jobs when their “boasting…of a false gift” became evident. Examples include Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, RadioShack CEO Dave Edmondson, and Notre Dame football coach George O’Leary.

No Water

Even more tragic than being found out is the negative effect lying about one’s abilities can have on others. When Solomon compares boasting about a false gift to clouds without rain, we might imagine thirsty people, or hungry people looking at withering crops. How cruel it would be to promise them water but never deliver!

Don’t be a cloud without water. Don’t boast about gifts and abilities you don’t have. Be the best you can be and live up to the expectations others rightfully have of you.