Friday, August 5, 2016

What’s in your wallet?

             The slogan for a Capital One credit card dates back at least to 2003 and the ads featured marauding Vikings before they morphed into touristy Vikings. More recently the question is asked by Samuel L. Jackson in his hip, yet authoritative, way.
            What’s in your safe?

            Obviously a spin off the wallet question, the safe question has us accompany veteran actor William Devane as he rides a horse or drives a golf cart or plays with towers of gold coins and encourages us to worry about the economy and the national debt.
            I discovered this morning in Proverbs 3 that those are flawed financial questions. The best question is, “What’s in your heart?” And the answer you want to be able to give is “wisdom,” because it yields a better return than other investments. Wisdom “is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” (Take that, Rosland Capital.) Wisdom is “more precious than rubies.” Wisdom’s other payoffs include long life, riches, honor, peace, and blessing.
            So if wisdom brings such success, I have two more questions:  What exactly is wisdom?  And, how do I get wisdom?
If you are "skilled at living,"you will not
put tomatoes in a fruit salad.
            The Hebrew word for wisdom, chokmah, means “skill in living.” Using the Hebrew Scriptures’ poetic technique of synonymous parallelism, I conclude from Proverbs 3:13 that “understanding” is a synonym for “wisdom.” Find and gain, verbs highlighted green, are parallel. Wisdom and understanding, nouns highlighted blue, are parallel.
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
            (My former English students will remember how much fun we had color coding verbs, nouns, and adjectives in our Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshop books. I used the same colors above. That was a happy bunny trail.)
            Other phrases in the third chapter of Proverbs identify the source of wisdom. The writer says in verses 1 and 2 that his teaching and commands will bring long life, peace, and prosperity. Since those are the same yields attributed to wisdom, I conclude wisdom is found in those teachings and commands.
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
            So, now that we’ve decided wisdom is a good thing to have in one’s heart and more important than what’s in one’s wallet or safe, what’s the first step? Is there a toll free number to call for an application or a free DVD to be mailed to my house?
            No, but three Scripture verses relay the same advice:  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10) And that phrase begs for a definition, if not its own blog post.
            It’s a phrase I’ve pondered on and off for many years, and a passage in Isaiah gave me some insight. In chapter 1, God warns the prophet not to fear what the people of Israel feared, but to fear God instead. God even uses the word “dread!”
            Dread God? Sounds harsh!
This is exactly how I dress to disinfect my bathroom.
            But I think of it this way:  What I fear or dread controls me. Think of all the phobias out there:  If I have agoraphobia, I won’t leave my house. I dread public places and all those people. If I have misophobia, I’m going to always be disinfecting things. I dread germs. If I have peniaphobia, I will be consumed with what’s in my safe. I dread poverty.
            If I have agora-miso-penia-phobia, I fear a germ-infested mob will invade my house and steal my gold, leaving viscous slime in my safe.
            Wouldn’t it be better to fear God (who happens to love me) and let him control my life? I think it would be the beginning of wisdom.
            Thank you for staying with me to the very end of this rambling blog post. I can be concise, but not today.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Alternatives to the Proverbs 31 Woman

Is that a spot for a floppy disk?

            I wrote this essay a long time ago; it was last saved to my computer on June 10, 2000. Not this computer, but several computers ago, years before I purchased my very own laptop. 
             Go ahead and read it. Maybe it will give you a chuckle before I add some serious thoughts I’ve had lately.

The Virtuous Woman vs. Me

            I have a problem with that Proverbs 31 woman—the one you’re always hearing about on Mother’s Day. What’s with that dame?
            She is worth more than rubies. Maybe we’re not all that different. I’m always telling my husband there’s not enough gold in the world—or  chocolate—to pay for what I do.
            She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. My hands were eager to sew matching dresses for my daughters. God sent me a houseful of sons instead. I patch jeans. Does that count?
            She is like the merchant ship, bringing her food from afar. I just stop at Weis Markets since it’s on the way home from work. I guess that’s okay, since all the merchant ships deliver there.
            She gets up while it is still dark and provides food for her family. I too get up while it’s still dark, but the boys are too grouchy to eat breakfast. “You never buy any good cereal. I’ll just get a donut during my second period study hall.”
            And portions for her servant girls. Hold on, honey! She has servant girls? No one gave me any servant girls! No wonder I can’t keep up.
            She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She’s into real estate. Wow. All of my money is tied up in precious metals—the braces on my son’s teeth.
            Her lamp does not go out at night. Neither do my washer and dryer. Not when someone remembers at 10:00 p.m. that his track uniform is dirty. 
I wish!
             She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. I don’t know if they’re poor or needy, but every day my home is filled with neighborhood children playing video games and munching snacks that the merchant ships brought from afar.
            When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. Of course she has no fear when it snows. She’s not the one surrounded by boys eagerly watching the school cancellations on TV. Their snow gear, not necessarily scarlet, is lying in soggy piles all over the kitchen floor.
            Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. Is that where he is? I’m keeping his supper warm in the oven.
            She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. I had a yard sale once.
            She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. My tongue, too, but nobody can hear me over the TV.
            Her children arise and call her blessed. I can hardly get mine to arise in time for the school bus.
            Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. The only reward I want is a few more hours of sleep. And maybe some chocolate.

            Okay, now it’s July 2016, and time for a few serious thoughts. In the five translations I checked, Proverbs 31:10 is phrased as a question. (In two of them, it’s phrased as a question asked by Yoda. Sorry. Even my serious thoughts won’t stay serious.) Feel free to check the other forty-nine versions available at yourself. 

            My point is, it’s a rhetorical question. says a rhetorical question is “a question asked solely to produce an effect or to make an assertion and not to elicit a reply, as ‘What is so rare as a day in June?’.” As for the definition of rhetorical, the same website provides
1. used for, belonging to, or concerned with mere style or effect.
2. marked by or tending to use exaggerated language or bombast.
3. of, relating to, or concerned with rhetoric, or the effective use of language. “
            Who can find the Proverbs 31 woman?
            No one.
            Because she doesn’t exist. She’s an idealized template of what King Lemuel’s mom (see Proverbs 31:1) wanted him to marry. She’s an idealized template from three thousand years ago. Yes, yes, don’t post angry, hateful comments; I agree there are principles here that can be extracted and applied.
             I’d just like to see Christian women stop beating themselves up over this one chapter.
            The Bible, a big book with lots of chapters, includes some alternatives to the Proverbs 31 template. Granted, most of the Bible’s heroes are men, but there are some heroic women in there, too.
            How about the Judges 4 woman, Deborah?
            How about the Ruth 1 – 4 woman, Ruth?
            How about the 1 Samuel 25 woman, Abigail?
            How about the 2 Kings 25 woman, Huldah?
            How about the Esther 1 – 10 woman, Esther?
            How about the Luke 1- 2 woman, Mary?
            How about the Acts 18 woman, Priscilla?
            I’m all fired up! How about I write about some of these women in upcoming blog posts? I think I will.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Back in Pennsylvania

Sitting in Perkins, Grove City, yesterday morning, one of my friends noticed evidence she was back in Pennsylvania:  Nestled among the grape jelly packets were apple butter packets. Other friends who have lived in a variety of states chimed in with more signs we were in PA.

We drive on the other side of the road. Just kidding! We’re only trying to pass an Amish buggy. 

Heinz, not Hunts

We have 100 varieties of pasta, but no grits. 

We have 50 varieties of cole slaw, and half of the varieties are spelled cold slaw, but that’s a blog for another day.

You can’t find New England Brown Bread, except in a little can in the grocery store.

You may be addressed as yinz in Pittsburgh, and you’ins in Snyder County, but never as y’all. Come to my home state to be called you guys.

Our state animal is the passive aggressive human. Exhibit A:  The tee shirt featuring a bullet hole and blood with the motto “I’m fine.”

There are hitching posts at Dollar General, because, hey, Amish need to shop, too.

Sauerkraut has a rich, full life, not limited to topping a hot dog. It simmers for hours with pork until they absorb each other’s flavors and then it lands atop a mess of mashed potatoes. And you’d better eat it on January 1 or your happy new year will be over before the confetti settles. 

There is no Wa Wa. Waaaah!

There is no pork roll. You have to cross a state line to get it.

Shoo, fly! isn’t something you say to a pesky insect. It’s a pie.

What have you noticed, enjoyed, or hated that is particular to Pennsylvania? Share in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer Bucket List

     The preschool teacher at my school put up a bulletin board called “Our Bucket List” with a beach pail and shovel for each little tyke to express his/her summer plans. says a bucket list is “a list of things a person wants to achieve or experience, as before reaching a certain age or dying: a bucket list for a terminally ill patient” and notes the expression comes from the idiom “kick the bucket,” meaning to die. I started to track down why “kick the bucket” means to die, but decided not to follow that bunny trail today.

     I have never formally compiled a before-I-die bucket list, but if I did, Visit Israel would be number one. However, the bulletin board inspired me to compile a summer bucket list. We can all check back in August when school starts to see how I did.

   Here in no particular order are the items on my summer bucket list.

  • Attend St. Davids Christian Writers Conference in Grove City, Pennsylvania, June 22 - 26. This is a no-brainer.
    How many people can you tag?
    I attend every year. You can, too. And you should. Where else are you going to hear a live performance by St. Davids Sanctified Ukulele Band?
  • Go to Edith’s Kitchen in Danville, Pennsylvania to jam with the other ukulele players. Apparently this is possible every other Wednesday night from 6 to 8.
  • Visit my friend in Olean, New York.
  • Go on a Hiawatha River Cruise. I haven’t done that in many years.
  • Go to the beach. That’s always on my summer bucket list. And my fall and spring bucket lists.
  • Finish my novel, Surviving Graduation. I should have put that first, but didn’t I say the list was in no particular order? I need to get from 20,000 words to 50,000 words and get Laney and friends out of high school. I need to get Daddy home from the Middle East. I need Laney to choose between Calvin and Joshua. I need to choose between Calvin and Joshua. Or find a way to concoct a believable accident that merges the two flawed boyfriends into THE ONE PERFECT BOYFRIEND. If you have read Surviving Meemaw and Surviving Jamaica, feel free to express your opinion of the boyfriends. If you haven’t read them, put them on your summer bucket list.
  • Buy new drapes for my bedroom. This really should happen.
    There will be a public bonfire
    to dispose of these beauties.
    The same gaudy, ugly drapes have disgraced the bedroom windows since we bought the house sixteen years ago. Their continuing presence speaks both of my finances and my ability to ignore what is right in front of my face.
  • Declutter my house. (Cue hysterical laughter.)
  • Clean my house. (Cue frenetic, desperate laughter.)
  • Attend Montrose Christian Writers Conference for the first time.

  • Go to a Williamsport Crosscutters baseball game.
    A flying Crosscutter
    Eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor and at other people.
  • Visit any or all of my siblings in their foreign locations:  New Jersey, Ohio, California, and Pure Michigan.
            Meanwhile, today’s to do-list includes posting this blog. So I shall.