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KaleidoscopeSeeing God's Wit and Wisdom in a Whole New Light
By PATSY CLAIRMONT
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Patsy Clairmont
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Tube of Mirrors
The other day I stepped into a whimsical toy store ... alone. Yes, I confess I'm just a kid disguised as an ancient artifact. I use the excuse that I'm a nana to peruse the playful offerings, when really I'm fascinated by the cleverness of so many of the designs. Who thinks these things up?
For instance, I saw a paunchy mouse. When you cranked its curly tail, it spit plastic cheese. Now, please, who wouldn't want one of those? Or what about the sinister talking dinosaur who threatened to eat your mother? Excuse me? Obviously the creator hadn't worked through his issues! Or my favorite, the calico cat that purred lullabies over her babies. Aw.
I started down an aisle, when my attention was drawn to a girl who looked to be about seven years old, standing near a display of puffy, pink kangaroos. She had just unearthed from a basket of action figures a kaleidoscope. It was a small one without much outer appeal, but she evidently was experienced with kaleidoscopes and seemed excited to investigate the surprise within it. First, she surveyed the cylinder from both ends; then she shook it; finally she pulled it up to her face as she turned toward the light. Her little facescrunched up in absolute focus as she rotated the tumbler and drank in the sights.
When she finished her visual tour, she set aside the kaleidoscope, which is when I inched my way toward it. I don't know if you're like this, but if someone sees something I can't see, I'm willing to pay extra for the view. Subtle as a semi in my attempt to reach the cardboard tube, I stumbled over a wagon full of iridescent sea lions. I'm grateful that the girl's attention was pinned to a bin of rubber lizards and light-up snakes, which gave me the opportunity to casually pick up the petite kaleidoscope and have a look-see for myself. And no, I didn't have to scrunch up my face to focus; mine came that way.
What is there about a kaleidoscope that tilts our world? I mean, who knew that a simple tube of mirrors filled with beads or pebbles that catch light and make geometric designs could captivate so many for so long? And yet they have. If you're like most of the population, you find it hard to pass one by on a store shelf without at least, like me, taking a quick peek. Probably because we know that, with one spin of the tumbler, we will see dynamic patterns transform again and again, creating our own art gallery that we help design by our touch. I'm sure our involvement is part of the draw, knowing that with each additional turn the view is new and mesmerizing, like a rainbow refracted in ocean waves lapping across white sands.
Every child delights in a visual roll through the world of wonder, but the enjoyment doesn't stop in childhood. I'm proof. I remain fascinated with the explosive color show twirling about inside a cylinder that offers me a private viewing of my own hand-held universe. It is no wonder to me that we adults meticulously design, fervently collect, artistically display, and passionately sell kaleidoscopes of all intricacies and sizes.
In fact, the largest one is circling in space over us at this very moment: the Hubble "kaleidoscope" captures the panoramic patterns of the heavens and tumbles them back to Earth. Through it we can explore the cascading bits and pieces of the universe via its eye and witness the most dangerous, spectacular, and mysterious depths of the cosmos.
The most expensive "earthly" kaleidoscope recorded was sold in 1987 by London's auction house, Sotheby's, for $75,000. (My husband and I bought our first home for only $21,000.) It is a brass cylinder mounted on a tripod and inscribed with these lines:
Who could from thy outward case, half thy hidden beauties trace? Who from such exterior show, guess the gems within that glow! Emblem of the mind divine, cased within its mortal shrine.
The word kaleidoscope means "beautiful shapes to look at and examine." I think my favorite feature of kaleidoscopes, though, regardless of their beauty or collectibility, is their eclectic potential. Probably because, quite honestly, I'm an eclectic person. I dress as though I have tumbled out of a color wheel; I decorate my home in mixes of styles and hues; I like to cook without rhyme or reason. (My hubby refers to me and my in-kitchen escapades as "she who experiments.") My propensity for such diversity probably explains why I'm drawn to not only the fragmented somersaults within a kaleidoscope but also to the varied flurry of the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs is like a four-mirrored kaleidoscope that gives a parade of images. On first glance, this book appears to be an unorganized shopping list for a myriad of professions: parents, counselors, teachers, singles, wives-why, there is even a list of verses cautioning one from becoming a full-time, card-carrying fool. But in truth the parade of topics helps us see reflections of divine yet practical insights for daily living, regardless of profession.
What I personally find helpful when I twirl the proverbial cylinder are the verses on "mouth" that I often need to roll around in my head before my words spill out all over someone. For instance ...
There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. (Proverbs 12:18)
Ouch! Are your words cutting-edge? When you slice through to the bottom line of an issue, is it at the expense of someone's feelings? I know I'm guilty. I'm thankful that, in this comparison, we are reminded that we have a choice, that our words can have life-giving potential.
Recently, a new friend on my Facebook page dropped me a note. In it she shared that she was a teacher and a cancer patient. As an educator, she had successfully used word boards in her classroom to teach a subject, so after her diagnosis she decided to start a word board for herself. This one would hang on the wall at the foot of her bed and be filled with words that nurtured and encouraged. On awakening, she would see those uplifting words.
I loved her idea and then had one of my own. I put out a request to my Facebook friends to send a word that they felt would add light and life to her project. It would be our way of helping to jump-start her get-well card for herself. A couple hundred women did just that. Life-giving words that promoted health poured in: held, grace, wings, overcomer, belonging, chocolate, balm, hallelujah, safe, release, nurtured, refuge, and steadfast were among the sweet words offered.
When, as a young adult, I first cried out to Christ to rescue and forgive me, I soon after recognized my need to study the words in the Bible. Life-giving words tumbled out: peace, prayer, power, and provision, among others. I was a desperate woman with a tumblerful of brokenness and not enough light to know what to do with it. So I did a lot of word studies in the light-bearing Scriptures during those emotionally spinning years as I searched for steadying answers. Initially my study style was splintered at best, but because of God's heart for His seeking children, He helped this wobbly lamb find pasture in His stabilizing Word.
It took me years of grazing to realize God's Word was its own commentary. The more I read and studied, the more I saw how one portion (bit) of Scripture was defining other portions (pieces). I found that exciting. That isn't to say I'm not aware of the benefits of researching what others have learned through their lifetimes of education and efforts in biblical studies. I'm a fan of Spurgeon, Chambers, moody, et al.
One of the things I found so appealing about Proverbs was how direct it was. I didn't have to struggle to get it. Proverbs is an in-your-face kind of book. No easing you into truth, but bottom line, there it is-truth in its barest form:
He who hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1b)
See what I mean? No easy way to hide from that tumble with truth. Or how about ...
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool. (Proverbs 28:26a)
Nope, I don't need to search through commentaries, wondering what those verses are trying to say. One twirl of the Proverbs cylinder and I get the gist.
I've struggled most of my life with a fragile emotional makeup. I identify with all those broken bits getting tossed around inside of kaleidoscopes. The inner repairs on the bits and pieces in my life have been ongoing, and I imagine that will continue until I dispose of this clunky earth suit and step through the veil. I'm almost certain my new suit will be svelte and won't jiggle when I walk. Until then I continue to search God's Word and hide it in my heart.
I'm not a Bible scholar; I don't know Greek or Hebrew. In fact, sometimes I make up words that don't even exist-you'll note that from time to time as you read. And don't squeal on me, but I can even forget to read my daily devotional. Yet here is what I know for sure: my heart has been changed through the straightforward counsel of Proverbs. And that is what these kaleidoscopic readings are about.
If you would like to join another lamb in search of good pasture, please come graze with me on the hillside of His love.
I hope you find the joy of these colorful verses with their direct wisdom, clear understanding, and their snappy offering of divine instruction. I will approach them in a hither-and-yon way, rather than numerically, staying with the kaleidoscopic design of spin and view. The questions at the end of each chapter, in the "Bits and Pieces" sections, are meant to help you personalize each chapter's opening proverb for yourself or within a group. The verses that follow, in the "Held to the Light" sections, support the chapter's topic, and when read in conjunction with the devotional thoughts, can add additional dynamics.
I pray that Christ will give you a heart full of wisdom to face the choices that come at you daily. Life is textured. May we be sturdy people, up to the task of living with joyful integrity.
So together let's survey some verses from both ends, give them a shake, and pull them up to our faces as we turn toward the light. Then we'll scrunch up our focus and drink in the sight. Whether you choose to spin the Proverbs tumbler alone or with a kaleidoscope of friends who gather together to capture patterns of God's ways for their lives, the result will be spectacular art!
Chapter TwoWeighty Matters
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. -PROVERBS 27:1
The day had come for me to address the weight I had added on after an indulgent year of culinary delights-the Dairy Queen, to be specific. It might have been the way the scale groaned when I stepped on it that alerted me, or the mocking numbers that shuffled up to the arrow and spelled out "tractor-trailer," but this was the day. My goal: lose twenty pounds.
I thrust myself into a new regimen. Exercise began early in the day on my treadmill, followed by a fruit smoothie for breakfast and enough water to moisten the Sahara. Lunch was a sawdust disk using the alias of rice cake. I smeared it with peanut butter and decked it with wafer-thin banana slices. Dinner was mostly fresh veggies, with a snack of no-salt, baked chips to close out the day. The number of chips consumed: six. Not seven, but six. Woo-hoo!
After a week and a half of this punishment, resulting in a two-pound weight loss, I was ready to tell other people what they ought to do to lose weight. No kidding. I was thinking, exercise video, diet books, movie contract ... Give me a hint of success, a dab behind one ear, and I puff up like a member of the Tetraodontidae.
Who are they, you ask? (Please ask.) They are a family of fish that includes my personal favorite, the puffer fish.
You probably have seen this fish swim by on the National Geographic channel. He's a medium-sized fish that, in the presence of a threat, puffs up to make others think he's bigger than he is. A strategic intimidation? A scaredy-cat maneuver that gives him time to get away? A quick weight-gain scheme so his predators can't gobble him up? Or one more example in nature that reveals truth? or perhaps all of the above?
We all have puffer tendencies. Oh, it might be for different reasons-hoity-toity about our kids; heady over grand children; snobby over a job promotion; snooty over a new home; haughty over a fully loaded, hot-shot vehicle; inflated over weight loss ...
For me, my weight-loss puffer-moment didn't last long because I hadn't counted on what a day would bring. I mean, how could I have known that at a Women of Faith event Marilyn Meberg would announce from stage that she loved lemon meringue pie? And then that a generous attendee would buy said pie and have it sent to the green room? And how could I have predicted it would arrive at the lunch table just as I had completed a dry salad complemented by stale croutons?
There it sat, like a work of art, smack-dab in front of me. Mile-high, shiny meringue piled into peaks and lightly browned, settled over yellow, almost transparent, lemon filling that hugged the edges of a flaky crust. Then Marilyn, generous person that she is, announced, "Would anyone like some?"
To say I flung myself face-first into this sea of delight would be an overstatement. Almost. People stared as I quickly coaxed an enormous piece out of the pan and onto my plate.
Halfway through this extravagant encounter, a young man nearby inquired if it was good.
I replied with downcast eyes, "Don't bother; it's not worth the calories." I peeked up and noticed his eyebrows suspiciously arched into his knit cap. Minutes passed, and the invasive fellow pointed out that for someone who was unimpressed with the offering, I had done everything but lick the platter. Harrumph.
That pie incident slung open the swinging doors of my appetite, and over the next four weeks, I ate wildly. I not only found the two pounds I had lost, but I also gained three more.
Do not boast ...
Seems simple enough. Three little words. They aren't even big words until you try to live them. Do we not understand? oh, we might not like the parental tone of it, but we aren't confused by "don't do it!" So it must be the boast that trips us.
Boast: to speak with excessive pride, to brag, to crow, to swagger, to gloat, to exaggerate.
Boasting is interesting because we can detect it in a hot minute in another person, and I can safely say, it's usually off-putting unless, of course, you have two puffer fish attempting to outpuff each other. Then it's downright nauseating. Yet that same quality isn't as easy to pinpoint in our own behavior. It tends to dive down into our ego to gloat.
Of course, we live in a time when swagger and gloat are lauded. One week on American Idol, Simon Cowell announced to one of the young contestants that he should be "done with humility." Cowell's statement suggested that an inflated ego would make the guy better star material. Hmm.
The theory that only the swagger-filled confident people succeed seems rampant in our society. It's a puffer-fish theology of "fake it until you make it." But here's the problem: We don't have a clue about what tomorrow might bring. Tomorrow is already full, but we didn't pack it.
It reminds me of a trip my hubby and I took years ago. actually, Les was a stunned participant on this particular adventure. I kidnapped him from his job, and I had packed a suitcase for him that awaited in the car's trunk. Everything in his luggage was new and unknown to him; so when we arrived at our destination, he was surprised by the case's contents. He couldn't have guessed beyond a general theme what was inside. The details were revealed upon the arrival.
The same is true for us. We don't know until a day is unpacked how it will look. None of us could have foreseen the tragedy of 9/11, or that a fierce storm could hit our rich country and that we would not immediately be there for the victims, or that our investments would be wiped out, or that banks would close, or that young people across our land would riddle their classmates with revenge. Who knew? Not us.
Only puffer fish can exaggerate their size without consequences. The rest of us need to take heed, as The Message Bible states, "Don't brashly announce what you're going to do tomorrow; you don't know the first thing about tomorrow" (Proverbs 27:1).
Excerpted from Kaleidoscope by PATSY CLAIRMONT Copyright © 2009 by Patsy Clairmont. Excerpted by permission.
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