Sunday, October 31, 2021
Most of the Proverbs 15, which we began looking at last week, is made up of individual segments of wisdom, with a few repeating themes. Solomon notes the importance of perspective, which is more influential than wealth when it comes to happiness. Careful planning, seeking advice, hard work, and righteousness are all commended. Laziness, impatience, arrogance, and hypocrisy are condemned. The chapter ends (Proverbs 15:13–33) with three proverbs echoing the recurring theme that sensible persons listen to godly wisdom—and this only comes through a reverent honor of God.
14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
A high intelligence doesn’t equate to having true knowledge, just as a fast processor on a computer doesn’t equate to having lots of data stored on the hard drive. Real knowledge comes by those who study the world with a mind towards helping others. Some people, who claim to be very smart people, end up saying very dumb things and creating foolish theories because they lack wisdom to look at how they can help others. They ignore the what the Bible says to twist God’s Word until that they come up with ideas that align with their own hateful ways and are actually useless and even harmful. Their foolish hearts cause them to want to feed on error, so they study other people’s error and further advance error. Thinking they are wise, they have become fools (Romans 1:22), for they loved the wisdom of the world which is foolishness before God (1 Corinthians 1:20). They preferred the approval of man rather than the approval of God.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
Jesus said that we will have trouble in this world. Some Christians spend much of their life in pain, depression, anxiety, or any number of forms of suffering. Much that is bad characterizes their lives. Yet, even so, their hearts can have a continual feast and celebration that this life is not all that there is. The believer has Jesus Himself in his heart in Whom there is fullness of joy and eternal pleasures and treasures. What is earthly affliction compared to that? In the heat of the battle and in the depth of affliction, that may be tough to remember, but it is something we should keep in our thoughts because God is always with us.
18 A wrathful man stirs up strife,
But he who is slow to anger allays contention.
This verse corresponds to verse 1 by emphasizing that those who are quick to anger add fuel to the fiery rampage of violent men. Those who don’t get worked up quickly and easily because they don’t like fighting and prefer to be peacemakers tend to calm disputes and help leveler heads prevail (Matthew 5:9). Christians are to do whatever they can to live peaceably with others, not to stir up strife (Romans 12:18).
21 Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment (heart),
But a man of understanding walks uprightly.
Fools like their sin and doing dumb things. They like to try to get others to approve and validate their foolishness and idiocy. Their passion and desire are for dysfunction, sinful pleasure, and destruction. Those who have understanding hate sin, error, and the devastating effects of sin because they know it grieves God’s heart and saps their joy. They long to see others understand the true nature of God and begin to take His Word seriously. But fools enjoy the error of their ways, and it is very difficult to make a person who is happy being stupid see joy in being wise.
23 A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word spoken in due season (in its time), how good it is!
26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
But the words of the pure are pleasant.
It is an offense against God to ponder wrong thoughts and start plotting evil deeds. Rather, we should meditate and reflect upon the pleasant words of Scripture, for they will help us to purify our hearts and not be double-minded (James 4:8). Christians are to think on what is good, noble, right, and pure, not on what will defile our minds and consciences (Philippians 4:8). From a pure heart come good and edifying words that please God.
27 He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house,
But he who hates bribes will live.
Those who gain by illicit means will often suffer as a result. Obviously, there are eternal consequences, but when committing crimes and cheating people out of money, one should not underestimate the wrath of other evil people. Even family and loved ones can be harmed on account of taking shortcuts and stealing. Taking a bribe means entering a world of deception, lying, and looking the other way when evil is committed. If somebody thinks that the bond of secrecy is broken, it might cost a person his life. Wickedness doesn’t pay, even if people get away with it in the short run. It is not a peaceful way to live, but it is a life of fear, bondage, and looking over one’s shoulder.
28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
Being a wise person doesn’t mean that we always have the right answer. It may mean that we need to slow down, meditate, and think through what the best solution is. A fool is quick to open his mouth and give dumb advice that will likely have some rather adverse consequences. Sometimes we need to keep searching things out according to the Scripture until we know for sure what we must do. God promises to give wisdom to His children who ask Him in faith without doubting. God will never hold back wisdom from those who need it and ask Him for it (James 1:5-7). He wants us to know what we should do, but sometimes we must be patient.
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
And a good report makes the bones healthy (fat).
True joy is contagious, and people who are encouraged in the Lord are the best encouragers of others. Being a Christian is not about the power of positive thinking and just trying to always put a rosy spin on life. Joy is sourced in truth and the promises of God, and it is the gospel, the Scripture, and the testimony of believers as they have seen God deliver on His promises that provides the best encouragement (Psalm 32:11, Psalm 35:9, Philippians 4:4).
31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life
Will abide among the wise.
Those who are humble enough to have ears to hear the wisdom from God will turn from their sins, love Jesus, and seek to grow in wisdom according to His Word. John 10:10, says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
Wise people respond to the teaching of Scripture. To refuse to humble oneself before God’s Word and His authority is not just to hate God but to hate oneself because sin always destroys. The result of heeding sound teaching, and reproof is growth, joy, wisdom, and understanding so that a person can be ready for every good work that God has for him to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:10).
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Friday, October 29, 2021
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I
[Round about the cauldron go]
By William Shakespeare
The three witches, casting a spell.
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
The Three Witches, also known as the Weird Sisters or Wayward Sisters, are characters in William Shakespeare's Macbeth. They have always been one of my favorite parts of the play. I used to love teaching Macbeth and reading the witches' parts aloud. The witches are one of the most striking and memorable aspects of Macbeth. However, many of the witch scenes in the play were most likely not written by Shakespeare at all. They were taken from another play, by Thomas Middleton, and added to Macbeth by Shakespeare's acting company after he had died. They draw heavily on the conventional theatrical stereotypes of Shakespeare's time, giving us witches that are sometimes scary, sometimes silly, which is how they’ve been played since then, although often directors try to make them as frightening as possible.
Shakespeare's historical source for the events of the play, Holinshed's Chronicles, says that the witches who appeared to Macbeth and Banquo looked like "creatures of elder world," and that many people thought they were "the goddesses of destiny." This is in keeping with the way the witches refer to themselves in their dialogue: they call themselves "the weïrd sisters," where "weïrd" comes from the Old English term wyrd, meaning "fate" or "destiny." And the primary power that the witches have in the play is indeed the ability to prophesy about what will happen in the future.
Shakespeare's Macbeth was written not long after King James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603, and James' interest in the subject of witchcraft undoubtedly influenced the play. Of all the plays that Shakespeare wrote during the reign of James I, who was patron of Shakespeare's acting company, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwright's relationship with his sovereign. Scottish history and legend contain a real life King Duncan, who was really murdered by Macbeth (the real Macbeth apparently was a decent king— that wouldn’t have really worked for Shakespeare’s play though). Banquo, too, was apparently a real figure. King James claimed descendance through him, so in Macbeth, when the Weird Sisters tell Banquo that “thou shalt get [beget] kings, though thou be none,” Shakespeare was really trying to help legitimize James’s place on the Scottish throne— he was saying that Banquo’s descendants deserve to be king, therefore James has a rightful claim to the throne.
Macbeth contains many supernatural elements, including the witches. James I was an avid scholar of all things strange, weird, and superstitious. In 1597, the king published a book called Daemonologie; it was a study of witchcraft, necromancy, demons, werewolves, vampires, and all sorts of other spooky things. In fact, much of the witchcraft in Macbeth was actually taken directly from Daemonologie, probably as a form of flattery to the king himself. It goes further than that, though. Witchcraft seems to have been a real obsession of James, as he was heavily involved in a series of witch trials in 1590. James had become convinced of the danger of witchcraft when he sailed to Copenhagen in 1590 to marry Princess Anne, sister of the King of Denmark. During their return to Scotland, they experienced terrible storms and had to shelter in Norway for several weeks before continuing. The admiral of the escorting Danish fleet blamed the storm on witches. Several nobles of the Scottish court were implicated, and soon more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick in Scotland were arrested. Supposedly, James believed a coven of witches were trying to personally attack him, which was high treason, so James had them tracked down, forced them to confess to witchcraft, tortured them, and had them burned at the stake. So it’s no wonder that the witches in Macbeth are so demented and evil! Shakespeare wanted to make it clear that he was on the king’s side in the whole witch debacle.
This is why I love the witches in Macbeth. There is so much history and intrigue in the play, though exaggerated and twisted to fit the purposes of Shakespeare. So remember, when your standing around your cauldron this Halloween:
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Monday, October 25, 2021
Sunday, October 24, 2021
I’m going to do a different post than I usually do on Sundays because I want to discuss some of the sayings in Proverbs 15. I will not go through all 33 pieces of advice given in this chapter, but many of them hold some good advice. Proverbs 15 is a long string of short expressions of commonsense wisdom, aka “proverbs” which are said to be written by King Solomon and gathered in the Book of Proverbs. Solomon begins (Proverbs 15:1–5) with several statements commending self-control. Cautious, gentle answers not only prevent additional strife, but they also reduce whatever tension already exists. A wise person carefully chooses their response, rather than babbling out whatever comes to mind. Closely connected to this is the need to humbly accept correction.
Next (Proverbs 15:6–12) are several contrasts. These compare the righteous with the wicked, using the parallel ideas of those who are wise and those who are foolish. These proverbs echo themes such as the life-giving nature of godly wisdom, the disastrous consequences of sin, the importance of humility, and the value of seeking advice.
1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
When somebody is trying to get a rise out of us, we far too often fall right into their trap especially when we react with a quick temper, with violence, or with an angry outburst. A harsh word in response to a person who likes to pick fights only stirs up anger by adding fuel to the fire. We are better off giving a gentle answer to show that a person is better off picking a fight with somebody else who will make a better sparring partner. Other times, we are best to just walk away or say nothing.
2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
Part of wisdom is trying to convince and reason with others to show them what is the best way. Bad people are blinded toward the truth of morality and virtue, and there are times to reason with them to show them their ignorance and foolishness. They need to see that what they are saying and how harmful it is to us all. We have seen this so much during the pandemic as people have followed political cruelty and greed all in the name of “personal freedom.” If personal freedom comes at the cost of the good of humankind, then they do not deserve personal freedom. They are a menace to the public good. Wisdom comes as people come to see the truth, not those who blindly follow other fools.
7 The lips of the wise disperse (spread) knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not do so.
Wise people want others to understand wisdom because they recognize that its value is far beyond anything this world has to offer. They want others to have the joy and hope that they have. They want to teach others the ways of goodness and light. Fools could care less about following truth about God and wisdom. Ignorant and selfish people delight in their hatefulness, they could care less about the welfare of others. Fools are unable to offer others the help of valuable knowledge and insight even if they wanted to because they do not know wisdom in Christ, whether they claim to or not.
10 Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way,
And he who hates correction will die.
Those who hear the truth of the gospel and accept it and follow it will find their reward, yet those who reject it will find only punishment. Those who do not respond in faith and humility to the revelation of God to man (God has revealed Himself through the conscience (Romans 1:32), through Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2), and through the creation (Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:18-21)) will pay, for they have made a mockery of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Those who are unwilling to respond to the truth when it hits them squarely in the face will suffer and pay the penalty. On the other hand, those who seek the truth and practice it will find the Light in Christ (John 3:21).
12 A scoffer does not love one who corrects him,
Nor will he go to the wise.
The fool scoffs at truth and hates to be confronted with correction. He is not going to seek out wisdom from the Bible or from people who could share with him wisdom. He enjoys his folly and error and the company of other scoffers and mockers of truth. We see this far too often in American politics (i.e., Republicans), hate groups, and religious leaders who preach only hate and fear.
13 A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance (face),
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
It is possible to force a smile even when the heart is sorrowful, but a joyful heart leads to a true, full, and genuinely happy and uplifted countenance (Genesis 4:7). A sad heart breaks the spirit by draining us of energy, hope, and passion. There is a time to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep so that they can be comforted and encouraged to continue. It is not wrong to be sad as a Christian or to feel discouraged at times. It is how we respond when we are in the valleys of life that counts. We need to remember that Jesus traverses the valleys of death with us and comforts us with His presence (Psalm 23:4-6). It is by His strength that we can endure, His mercies are new every morning, His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:22-25), He exceeds beyond all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), and He is an expert at turning sorrow into gladness and weeping into joy (Esther 9:22).
I will continue my discussion of Proverbs 15 next week as we look at more of the wisdom of Solomon
Saturday, October 23, 2021
Labeled “Young Man Posing for Polaroid, 1959,” this photograph from the Cherry Grove Archives Collection and a gift of Don Steeple is part of the New York Historical Society’s exhibit “Safe/Haven,” showcasing photographs of LGBTQ people in Cherry Grove, New York, a popular vacation getaway for the community in the mid-century.
Curator Confidential: Safe/Haven: Gay Life in 1950s Cherry Grove
Thursday, October 21, 2021
I often say, “Only in Vermont,” and when I say it, I am often rolling my eyes. While I said it this time, it was a very good and heartwarming statement. Vermont is a unique place. The state is 49th in population among the 50 states and ranks below Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. It only beats out Wyoming among the states and the territories of Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa among the territories. The state has the smallest state capital, Montpelier. While it may have a small population, it’s a very vocal population who loves a good cause to get behind. The state also loves its eccentricities, which is evident by the number of “Keep Vermont Weird” bumper stickers you see on cars. While the state ranks third in the largest percentage of LGBTQ+ adults at 5.3 percent (higher than the national average of 4.5 percent), there are no gay bars in Vermont, though there are plenty of gay-friendly establishments.
So, it is not surprising that a crowd went wild at a Vermont high school homecoming football game as they cheered on a halftime show that transformed the field into a fabulous drag ball. Both faculty and students from Burlington High School strutted across the field as drag queens and kings. They wore colorful wigs, sparkly ensembles, feather boas, knee-high boots, and more. For the highly anticipated event (it was all over the news in Vermont), the spectators packed into the stands were dressed head to toe in rainbows and waved Pride flags as they excitedly chanted, “Drag Ball.”
Each of the approximately 30 performers had their moment to spin and twirl for the crowd. The group also performed a lip sync to “Rainbow Reign” by Todrick Hall. “Things went amazing,” Ezra Totten, student leader of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance, told The Associated Press. “The stands were completely packed. … It was just so heartwarming to see.” The drag ball was the brainchild of English teacher Andrew LeValley, an adviser to the Gender-Sexuality Alliance.
“I was just really hoping to give our students — who are both out and the students that were in the stands who are not out — a moment to shine and feel loved and know that there is a place for them in public schools,” LeValley said. LeValley felt it was important to hold the event at a football game to send the message that everyone should be welcome in all types of spaces. “We have to assume that there are LGBTQ folks everywhere, which include[s] really masculine spaces,” LeValley told local Vermont publication Seven Days. “Why does this space have to be one way or the other? It can be both, and there’s beauty and benefits in having it be both.”
Adalee Leddy, a student at Burlington High School who attended the game, told Seven Days the show was “absolutely amazing.” Totten added that now that they have seen the joy it brought, the group hopes the drag ball will happen annually. “It shows the Burlington community is there for each other,” Totten said.
Vermont loves their drag shows, as evident by the number of people who pack in to attend the annual Winter Is a Drag Ball. The Drag Ball is the social highlight event of the winter season. Bringing in drag queens and kings, musicians, dancers, and performance artists together raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support local HIV/AIDS-related organizations. Though it was virtual in 2021, a lot of Vermonters are hoping it will be back in-person in 2022. Until then, I was happy to see that Burlington High School put on their own successful Drag Ball. I’m happy that I live in a state where a Homecoming football game featured a much appreciated Drag Ball, and that the highlight of the winter social season is also a Drag Ball. Let’s not forget, the Burlington area also elected one of its most popular drag queens, Nikki Champagne, aka Taylor Small, to the state legislature where she has done a remarkable job representing all of Vermont.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
If you have Twitter and you follow many gay men, then you have probably seen the image below. It’s obviously all in good fun, but I have to say, there is some accuracy there. I’m not going to say which one I fit under, but it is remarkably accurate for me. I wear a variety of styles of underwear, but one of these is my preferred choice. I’m not asking you to tell what underwear you prefer, but I’d love to know in the comments how accurate it is. I’m also going to put an anonymous poll at the bottom, just to see where everyone falls, if you don’t mind clicking on the underwear that you often wear.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Fall Leaves Fall
By Emily Brontë - 1818-1848
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
About the Poem
Here in Vermont, the height of fall foliage has passed and “stick season” is encroaching on us. I chose this poem today because most of the fall leaves have fallen here. The higher elevations of central Vermont have some trees hanging on to their foliage, contrasting with the dark green evergreens, and the soft gray hillsides where the leaves have fallen. The most foliage color right now is found in the rolling hills of the Champlain Valley, including the Lake Champlain Islands and the Burlington area, and in the valleys of southern Vermont.
Nature is surely the most noticeable themes in “Fall, Leaves, Fall.” For the narrator of the piece, presumably a voice for Brontë’s consciousness, the transition from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice is one of the best times of the year, when the days grow increasingly shorter, and the nights grow longer. In each line of the two quatrains, Brontë’s word choice emphasizes her own emotional connection to the season, and its own unique beauty, even as she describes such occurrences as the death of leaves and other plants due to increasing cold.
It is likely that “Fall, Leaves, Fall” constitutes one of few existing commentaries on who Emily Brontë was as a person. In her life, friends and family described her as a shy individual, but most of what is known about her come from the posthumous commentaries of her older sister, Charlotte Brontë, whose neutrality cannot be assured. It is understandable to think that her elder sister would want to paint her in a positive light, especially as her novels and poems slowly cemented themselves within the history of English literature. In “Fall, Leaves, Fall,” Emily Brontë seems to be free to discuss herself, and depict herself as a quiet individual who sees life, beauty, and bliss in things that a great many people do not. Even if all she wishes to say is that she loves fall and winter more than summer and spring, it is something worth saying, especially for someone who can express it so well in such a short poem.
About the Poet
Emily Brontë was born in Thornton, England, on July 30, 1818. She and her five siblings grew up in Haworth, where their father, the Rev. Patrick Brontë, was the church curate. Their mother died in 1821, and in 1824, Emily and three of her sisters were sent to the Clergy Daughters’ School in Lancashire. When her two oldest sisters died of tuberculosis, Emily returned to Haworth with her sister Charlotte.
After leaving school, Emily continued her studies with her two surviving sisters, Charlotte and Anne, and their brother, Branwell. With access to their father’s library, the Brontë siblings read and wrote extensively, producing a family magazine that featured their stories and poems.
In 1837, Emily became a teacher at the Law Hill School, but she left the position after several months. After teaching for a brief period at the Pension Héger in Brussels, she returned permanently to Haworth in 1842.
In 1846, Emily, Charlotte, and Anne self-published a collection of poetry under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. While The Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (Aylott and Jones, 1846) reached a very limited audience, the three sisters each went on to publish novels soon after. In 1847, Emily published her sole work of fiction, Wuthering Heights (Thomas Cautley Newby), which is widely regarded as one of the great novels of the English language.
Emily Brontë died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848. The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë (Hodder and Stoughton), a posthumous collection of over 200 poems, was published in 1923.
Sunday, October 17, 2021
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works.—Psalm 26:7
“Stop and smell the roses” is an idiom that means to relax; to take time out of your busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life. Whether you think of “stopping to smell the roses” as a metaphor, or an actual act of admiring roses, the benefit is the same. Slow down and appreciate the world surrounding you is the message.
Origins of the phrase are not clear. Although the quote, “Stop and smell the roses,” is often attributed to golfer Walter Hagen in the 1956 book “The Walter Hagen Story” but he didn’t mention roses. The quote: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” Some people argue that this passage was soon paraphrased as stop and smell the roses, but this can’t be easily verified.
While this expression refers to roses, it can be anything rather small or even commonplace. These things may seem small but they can give us great joy. The difference in well-being, happiness, sense of elevation, and level of connectedness to other people, can be significantly higher for those who spend time noticing and savoring these moments of clarity and relaxation.
The expression “stop and smell the roses” is not just about flowers or nature, but an encouragement to be mindful, take time for your self and live life with deeper gratefulness for the world around us. It is a reminder to us all to slow down and take notice of the world around us, and to be present in every moment. It means consciously directing your mind to be aware and attentive to the present moment to be able to experience and enjoy more your surroundings.
“Stopping to smell the roses” is a pleasant experience that slows us down, but sometimes there are unpleasant experiences that force us to slow down. Think of those unpleasant moments like a speed bump in the road. While speed bumps can be annoying, they force us to be cautionary and become aware of our surroundings. Don't let your days be like driving on freeways, fast and thoughtless. The next time you go over a speed bump, soak in your surroundings and find one thing that you can appreciate for the day.