Wise, Foolish, or Evil




It can be so easy for us to connect with someone and start a relationship with them believing we have come to know who they are, their values and beliefs, and that we can trust them. Many times we are right, but there are also times when we miss it somehow and we get stuck in a relationship that upends us and leaves us doubting not only that person, but also ourselves.


A few years ago I was blessed to read one of those books I used to tell my clients is a “must read” for everyone because of the wisdom and sound information tucked inside. The book? Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud.


One of the most insightful chapters of the book is: “The Wise, the Foolish, and the Evil: Identifying Which Kinds of People Deserve Your Trust.”


Recently, I was in a conversation with a friend about the issue of trust and character in a person whether they were a close personal relationship, a business relationship, ministry relationship, or any other relationship you might have. As we talked, I began to review some of the things I had learned in the chapter I just noted and as I did I thought it might be helpful to share in this post for those of you who have not known about this material. This is not truly a “book review”, but I want to hone in on the key elements of what Dr. Cloud shares in this insightful chapter.


How would you define a wise person? Some of you may be wondering if I am talking about the spiritual gift of wisdom, but I am really focusing on what it means to be a person of wisdom versus the gift.


I think we all would like to have at least one or two wise persons in our lives. They are those in whom we can place trust and to have such a person or two in our lives is indeed a gift.


I am going to use Dr. Cloud’s definition of a wise person and let’s see how that fits with your own definition:


“When truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments.”


Wise doesn’t necessarily mean the smartest, most charismatic, gifted, charming or talented even though some of these things may coexist in a person who is wise.


I love what Dr. Cloud also adds:


“The mature person meets the demands of life, while the immature person demands that life meet her demands.”


 What are some of the traits of a wise person based on this chapter?


  • They listen, take in, and adjust their behavior accordingly


  • When you give them feedback, they embrace it positively


  • They own their own stuff (performance, problems, & issues) and take responsibility without excuses or blame


  • Your relationship grows stronger as a result of the feedback shared and received


  • They express concern for how their behavior affects others


  • They show remorse


  • The feedback they are given propels them into problem-solving mode


  • They don’t allow identified problems to become patterns


I love that list! It ‘nails the jelly to the wall’ with its specificity and allows me to be clear on what can help me know if I am looking at a wise person.


Let’s now add a bit more to our knowledge of people and look at how Dr. Cloud defines a img_2086foolish person.


“The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.”


 Remember how the wise person took in feedback positively and adjusted. The foolish person rejects, resists, and tries to explain away his or her behavior. This person is never wrong and has an excuse or reason for everything.


What are the traits of a fool according to the chapter I am sharing with you?


  • Defensiveness is the immediate response to feedback


  • Any mistake pointed out results in excuses or blaming others


  • When you try to discuss the issues with a foolish person, rather than the relationship being strengthened, conflict and alienation or a breach in the relationship occurs


  • Sometimes they blame the messenger who gave the feedback


  • Minimization is a favorite tactic if outright denial or blame is not the choice


  • Rationalization and excuses are the norm


  • Anger rather than remorse is their usual emotional response


  • Little empathy is shown or expressed about pain they may have caused and often try to frame themselves as the victim (many times of YOU)


  • They live in a world divided into good guys (those who agree with them) and bad guys (those who disagree with them)


  • Talking with them doesn’t help


One more category of persons needs to be defined as help for your discernment: evil people. I know we can certainly look at the biblical definition, but l want to share some practical evidences by looking at the chapter definition:


“Evil people are not reasonable. They seek to destroy. So you need to protect yourself.”


What are a few of the traits of an evil person (even though this is more likely someone we spot a bit more easily)?


  • Likes to take others down


  • Is intentionally divisive


  • Delights when someone else fails


  • Envy is a common emotional response in these people


  • Patterns of deceptiveness are common


Looking at the differences as Dr. Cloud discusses in this chapter helps us to better discern and determine who is trustworthy and what kinds of boundaries we need in our relationships to be or become relationally healthy.


If I have intrigued you with the descriptions, I want to add that the chapter also looks at strategies for dealing with each type of person.


Proverbs 22: 3 (New Century Version)


“The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get into trouble.”


 Proverbs 24: 19 (Good News Translation)


Don’t be envious of evil people, and don’t try to make friends with them.  Causing trouble is all they ever think about; every time they open their mouth someone is going to be hurt.


The Missing View




So much of our life is colored by what we see. Despite our wondrous gift of sight, it can be so easy to forget that we miss a great deal. We sometimes miss it because we aren’t looking. We also can miss it because we look through lenses impacted by our lived experiences, our beliefs, and our values.


I think the Lord recently used two different experiences to remind me to look beyond or look again at what I am seeing or think I see.


The first of these was a short course on photography. Those of you who follow me or read many of my posts know that I enjoy and delight in taking photos that capture something in a way that gives us glimpses of more than we might have seen. I want to give us “a new lens” by both photos and words. Most of the photos I take with my digital SLR camera catch the images through the camera’s automatic settings of the scene I sense and want to share. My professional and ministry life before recent retirement never seemed to have room to take a few classes to see what else the camera could do.


My four photography classes exposed me to what seemed like a foreign language, but I have begun to see a little more of what the camera can do and in some of the posts ahead and even a few behind, you might notice subtle differences. One thing the instructor said really stood out. He asked us, “How many of you look at the photo you took and are disappointed because it was not what you thought you saw through the lens at all?”


I certainly have had that happen and most people have. There are many reasons for that, but there is one thing that is key to remember when we put the camera to our eye whether it is a great digital SLR or the latest iPhoto camera.


Our eyes see three dimensionally, but the camera doesn’t.


img_1052The knowledge of that one thing can begin to alter when you click to take a picture and what you try to capture.


The second experience happened at a theater presentation presented in 1,000 theaters across the United States to encourage Christians to vote in this general election. The organization that sponsored it (#MyFaithVotes) did not talk about any specific candidate or position, but called Christians everywhere to first of all pray, then think, and then vote. It was a great time of worship and prayer with Miss Clara from The War Room closing the prayer time asking God to raise up a mighty army of prayer warriors.


At the close of the evening, a picture of the map of the country came on the screen, one taken from space at night. It was, of course, dark, but then a small light came on to mark each city where another theater was praying. They came on one at a time and suddenly the map and the perspective changed when we saw ourselves as His children, shining forth His light, interceding for this nation according to 2 Chronicles 7:14.


That pictorial presentation reminded everyone that we are not alone and even small lights scattered over an expanse of darkness can make a great difference.


No matter where we live in the world, much darkness seems to be afoot. The shadows that would try to overtake us also seem to be steadily bringing about division, not only in our society but also within the body of Christ. The latter is the more dangerous response to evil in our time.


I think it can be far too easy to lose track of the big picture or the view from the helicopter, but it isimg_3430 also key that we look more closely and zoom in to be sure of what we are looking at.


 We need to be able to discern the difference between what is wise, what is foolish, and what is evil. Such discernment will point the way to our response.


You may be thinking you don’t have the gift of discernment or it can be very hard for you to discern such things, but as daughters and sons of God when Jesus lives in us He is able to lead and guide us with the light that only He brings to our lives and this world.


In my next post, I will give you some tips on how to differentiate some of the differences between wise, foolish, and evil.


Good Morning from the International Space Station

Tell Me Again: The Gift of Storytelling




My husband is a great teller of stories. If you don’t believe me, ask our grandchildren. He has several stories he has told to each of them over time that were truly of his imagination and he told them so well that when they were very young, they thought they had actually occurred. I chuckle as I recall how engaged they were with the story as they listened and asked questions.


The favorite of them all was about a winter when he spent time on his own with the Eskimos. Oh, the adventures he had! He seemed to never tire of creating new little details in response to their questions. Another of the stories that was a favorite of our oldest granddaughter was more of a dramatic play called “Save Princess”. In the story he played both the role of the villain and the role of the hero who came to save her just in the nick of time.


A good storyteller knows that a story is not just reporting a sequence of events, but rather the telling of meaningful and often extraordinary actions of the characters in the story that take place over a period of time. Some people say it requires a certain craft or skill. That is likely true, but I think it is most of all a gift.


I think my husband has that gift even though he would insist he is not good with words. I think it is a gift because he sees into the character of the people in the stories. The actions in the story flow through them. He managed to get our grandchildren caught up in the story of his life with the Eskimos one winter through the development of his character, what he did, how he felt, and how he responded to the challenges and adversities of the long, bitter, cold winter. img_2085


Stories help us to make sense out of our present experiences as well as those of the past while giving us glimpses of possibilities for ourselves for the future. My husband’s experiences as a Boy Scout and his boyhood exploits served as grist for the stories he told as well as how to become an effective problem-solver throughout his lifetime. I doubt our grandchildren will forget these stories because of the memories they created of not only the story, but also the man who told it.


The stories we choose to listen to are significant. Each character we meet, each adventure we explore, provides a certain challenge to us and may well change us in some ways we may never even see or recognize.


Wayne Booth has put it this way:


“The stories we choose to spend our lives with are a reflection of our values and, therefore, our character.”


 I think that points to why it is so important that we not allow ourselves to get caught up in small stories. Small stories never seem to reflect good characters or characters of good quality, but rather take us down a yellow brick road away from truth, virtue, and light for the path ahead. Our minds and hearts get caught up in shadow and deception instead of light.


I love what Daniel Taylor says in Tell Me A Story:


“We will be defined, as individuals and as a society, by the stories we choose to live and by those we value enough to pass on to the next generation. This is perhaps our ultimate responsibility as characters acting freely. What stories will we tell our children and why? What stories will they choose to tell in turn?”


Of all the great and gifted storytellers, likely the stories that have stood the longest test of time have been those that Jesus told and left for us during His life on earth. Generation after generation they have been passed on. The characters in the story never fail to point to or show us something about themselves that allow us to learn something about ourselves as well. They challenge us to be better than we would be without them. They inspire us and show us the way to go.


Jesus undoubtedly knew the power of stories. He used them often when He was teaching or just hanging out with His friends/disciples. He knew they would be remembered and that remembrance would show us Him long after He returned to His Father.


He wanted us to remember. He knew our stories were and would be broken stories that would potentially discourage and defeat us. He came to heal the brokenness of our stories and did so through giving us another story, His story.


As I heard a pastor say this morning:


“The world says we are defined by our past, but God’s focus is on the future and who we will be.”


 That gives us hope and His stories are the ones we should remember and live out.








What Story Has Captivated You?




I love stories. I think most of us do.


I still recall some of the very first stories that were read to me or told to me. I actually recall the illustrations in some of the books and how they captured my attention. (This was long before Dr. Seuss and so many others that became a part of my children and grandchildren’s lives.) The stories that were read to me gave me a view outside my own small world at the time and took me on adventures from the safe haven of the couch next to whichever parent was reading to me.


I was blessed to have many Bible stories in the mix of stories I heard others read to me as well. How grateful I am to have been given the gift of parents who took moments to read to me very early. As a result, I was drawn to love and enjoy stories and books at such an early age that I looked forward to reading my own and developed a lifelong love and habit of delving into the pages of books.


Even though I sometimes read from my iPad and computer, I still love the feel of a book in my hand and enjoy the quality of good paper in the pages as I turn them.


Some of my favorite stories are also ones that were told to me. Some were funny that had been truly ‘made up’ and made me laugh and giggle, but others were ones that became increasingly precious to me. These were ones my parents would tell of other times and places from their own childhood that gave me a better sense of who I was and where I came from in addition to learning who my parents were before they were my parents!


There are certainly many reasons to read and I think I have delighted in or used reading for any and all of them at different points.


Reading, reading stories, can give us information, expose us to truth, challenge us to think or to gain a new perspective, take us on adventures, and encourage us to dream.


img_3645I think the stories we love most are the great stories.


Great stories take us beyond ourselves and offer us a vista of the larger purposes of life, the larger battles being played out, and the larger visions beyond our own front door. They inspire us. They give us hope and we return to them again and again.


Too often we can get caught up in smaller stories. We are bombarded by small stories, but great stories are unfolding all around us. Small stories discourage us, but great stories inspire us.



What do I mean “small stories”? I think small stories are things like the workplace dickering and politics that wear us down or the nuisance things that happen when we are handling the necessary details of life like carpool snags, last or minute demands that happen at the worst times.


Small stories are a part of life, but most often they cause the focus to be on what we are feeling, thinking, or doing. These are sometimes very important to attend to, but we can easily get mired down in them and lose sight of the larger story we are a part of and the role we play in that story. We start looking at the ‘seen’ story as the only story and can easily lose hope of anything ever being different, better, or more. We lose sight of the unseen story.


Even when we look outside ourselves these days, small stories seem to dominate the img_3627headlines that focus on petty things while so much in the world appears to be eroding more each day in whatever geographic place we choose to look. We wish for a true hero, not the latest athlete of fame or the latest entertainment star. We want someone larger than that, one whose character will not dissolve before our eyes.


Small stories can prevent us from seeing that we do have a hero. He came to earth more than two thousand years ago and His character is spotless. It is His story that we who know Him are a part of and because of Him we have the opportunity to even play the role of hero in different ways and places as we represent Him day by day. We battle with and for Him for the cause of truth and righteousness carrying high His banner of love.


The Bible is chocked full of the very best stories ever written and they are BIG stories. In them we find epic adventures, great battles, and romantic love stories. They offer us clear clues about walking through shadows and dark places. They offer us hope, purpose, and vision in the midst of and beyond the small everyday stories that hold our focus captive.


I love the lines by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers) where Sam is speaking to Frodo in the midst of a dark time to encourage his heart. Those very words serve us well even now:


“It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened.


But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something. “


Frodo asks what they are holding onto and Sam responds:


That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”


 And so it is for us…


Will we turn back or will we hold onto the larger story?


Will we be steadfast in the battle even though it be in the midst of darkness, danger, and shadow?


We are here now, serving at His pleasure, occupying until He returns.


He’s risked it all for us. Will we surrender what He fought to give us?














Looking Back and Looking Forward



The stunning unfolding of fall beauty and final harvests that occur in the northern hemisphere during these months of autumn seem to cause us to look back and also look forward. Those who have planted and tended crops that are finally being harvested look back at their effort in what they sowed, tended, and cared for to bring the very harvest they are now taking into their barns and homes.


Growing up on a farm in Ohio, I recall this season for my dad involved harvesting of the cornfields or soybeans. The oats, wheat, hay, and straw had been completed months ago. For my mother, it was finishing all the things she would do with vegetables and fruit we had grown and were now ready for our use.


img_3513Usually I did not get to help much for these last tasks as I would be gone in school each day, but I still recall the delicious fragrances coming from the kitchen when I would arrive home. In this season, it would most often be that of Concord grapes that she would be making into grape juice or grape jelly. My mouth waters as I even write those words because I also knew she would be making grape pie filling for that most wondrous treat that I always have loved. Since my birthday fell during this time, I would also choose to have a grape pie instead of a birthday cake for my special day.


I no longer live on a farm, but I am very much aware that the farm still lives in me for all it taught me about growing and God’s provision.


As we savor this season with its beauty and special treats, it also causes us to take a peek forward into the months just ahead. The harvest is meant to sustain us through the season of late fall and winter where nothing grows. Those gifts provided by hard work and God’s blessing and provision also stir up thoughts of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays just ahead.


In the midst of this season, few of us will remember that another celebration is happening this very week. We might be thinking it does not pertain to us, but a careful reading of scripture shows it does.


I am talking about The Feast of Tabernacles known as Sukkot, celebrated this week by our Jewish brothers and sisters. It too was also a time of looking back and looking forward.


This seventh and last feast or festival of celebration was and is a celebration of God bringing Israel out of Egypt when they lived in fragile booths in the wilderness and ate from His bounty. So the gratitude of His protection and provision are dominant themes. It was a time meant to bring remembrance, but it is also one pointing forward to the future for those who are Christian or Gentile.


In Zechariah 14:16, the prophet speaks of the time ahead after the tribulation when the img_3570-1Lord has returned and declares that ALL nations and anyone who has survived will go to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast and worship the King. This passage shifts from the Tabernacle of long ago to His Tabernacle among the people and the day when we will all worship as one together.


This feast or festival so rich in meaning is also called the Feast or Festival of Lights to commemorate the pillar of fire that led Israel at night. Huge candelabra would be lit and the priests would wave torches. When Christ came to earth, He became our light and it is His light that will fill the Tabernacle in the passage Zechariah speaks about.


In the midst of the beauty and harvest of this autumn season and the shadows cast by events unfolding around the world, perhaps it would be very good to look forward to that day and to take heart and hope in the One who remains our protection and provision if we are His.


For then we will reign with Him even as John writes in the Book of Revelation 21: 3:


“… And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God…”(Revelation 21:3)