Today’s Proverb: A fool’s mouth is his devastation, and his lips are a trap for his life.** Enjoy the story below on the hazards of running your mouth.
Click on link below to enjoy the birds singing in Dry Creek, LA at The Old House:
**Uncle Quincy’s Goose
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” . -Proverbs 21:23
From the third book by Curt Iles, Wind in the Pines.
I’m writing this story while hiking on the Appalachian Trail. This morning I’m sitting in a hiker’s shelter on the side of a mountain. It is a mild mid-month May afternoon. The birds have been singing and so is my heart.
Yesterday, I walked all day without seeing one person. I saw chipmunks, spring wildflowers, and great mountain vistas… but no hikers. I heard voices sing all day: turkeys gobbling, the call of hawks, and the sounds of my panting climbing over two mountains… but I never heard a human voice.
Arriving at Deer Park Shelter right before dusk, no one was there. I had it all to myself… I could put my gear down wherever I pleased and do as I wished.
Walking alone all day gave me time to think… Many problems and tough situations began to bubble to the surface of my consciousness. Initially this troubled me… Here I am nearly 800 miles from home and I’ve brought along my burdens. Walking alone these problems began to untangle themselves and one by one were able to deposit them in their own little worry-proof compartment.
I recalled the Latin saying I have on my desk at work,
“Solivator Ambulando -”
The difficulty is solved by walking.
These difficulties are truly often solved by walking. Tough situations and challenges also seem to shrink down to reality… No longer do they seem mountain-sized but now appear as a simple easily climbed hill.
The quietness, the loneliness, the crisp mountain air, and the grand vistas have all conspired to clear out my mind… I’ve found that it often takes two to three days to reach this relaxed state.
One of my favorite verses, which I quote often, but sadly do not always live by, comes to mind,
“…Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalms 46:10)
This walking time has surely been a time of fellowship with God… As I’ve walked, I have thought about quietness, the “friendly loneliness” of spending an extended time alone. After more than a day alone, it is even startling when speaking out loud to yourself.
This gift of human communication is a wonderful thing. But the corresponding trouble this ability to speak gets us in is not very wonderful or good. Walking along, several really funny stories concerning our tongues (and their misuse) come to me.
Solomon in his book of wisdom called Proverbs makes a statement,
“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent.”
We’ve all had experiences where we learned the merits of keeping our mouths shut. It is a sad and true fact that words, once uttered, cannot be taken back.
You are probably familiar with the old story of the gossip who was confronted for spreading an untruth throughout the community. The offending “tale-bearer” apologized and volunteered to go back to everyone to whom she had told the lie.
The offended person, who was also very wise, took the gossip out on the front porch and tore open a tattered
feather pillow. The wind blew the small downy feathers in every direction. Looking at the gossip, the wise person said, “Trying to track down everyone who has since heard your story is like trying to gather back all of these
feathers is impossible.”
This “featherweight story” is a good thing for all of us to remember – Once our words are spoken, they are “recorded.” The following illustration from my school principal years is a good example:
School administrators hate phone calls from between about 4:00 to 6:00 PM. The chances are it is an unhappy parent who is ready to “raise Cain” about some incident with a teacher, bus driver, or another student.
So arriving home this particular evening, I cringed when I saw that there were several messages on my answering machine.
Sure enough the first message was from an angry parent. A loud voice screamed into the phone:
“Curt, this is Tommy. I want you to know that I’m mad about what happened on Bus 6 today and I’m going to get hold of that bus driver, and when I get through with him, I’m going to come after you. You’d better call the Sheriff’s Department to come protect you because…”
You get the drift, don’t you? He continued on his tirade and promised to do several things to me that were anatomically impossible.
It made me mad. Tommy, a former classmate from high school, didn’t even tell me what the problem was. I sure couldn’t quite understand why I needed a butt whipping too.
Angrily, I then made a mistake… I erased the message.
After hearing the next message I knew the two combined recordings could have brought me fame and an
appearance on one of those “craziest moments” type of shows.
The second message, left about an hour after the first, was much more subdued. Sure enough it was Tommy again. Clearing his throat nervously, he said,
“Uh… Curt, this is Tommy again. Well, I found out a little more about what actually happened on the bus. Just, just… uh, disregard that first message.”
I was so hacked off that I erased this message, too! Minutes later I realized that I had lost a jewel in the recordings of Tommy’s two calls.
Tommy’s calls, especially the first one, are indicative of how we need to think before we talk… because our speech is being “recorded.” Maybe not on an answering machine, but just as importantly, by the ears around us. And many times these are little ears that are learning from our words.
Over and over we are confronted about the importance of our words. Once out and “recorded” what we say will bless or curse others, but they cannot be taken back.
We get into trouble when, no matter how well meant, we begin to open our mouths and attempt to impart our knowledge.
I close with what is probably my favorite story on our words and the folly they can create:
My great-great uncle Quincy died before I was born. All that I knew of him came from his niece, my precious Grandma Pearl.
She loved telling stories of her mother’s family and their lives in the Cajun community of Oberlin. Mama Pearl had many good stories, but the one she loved telling
best was how her Uncle Quincy escaped from Angola Prison by swimming on the back of a mule across the Mississippi River.
Mama’s beautiful blue eyes would sparkle as she told of his visit a few nights later to gather some items he needed. She related that was still dressed in his prison clothes after hopping a series of freight trains and car rides to get back home.
As I became older, it amazed me at how the Godliest person I’ve ever known – my grandma, could be so proud of her uncle who had escaped from prison. But she loved her family and was always glad to tell the story one more time.
She told this specific story about a goose hunt Uncle Quincy went on. He and two other men were hunting in the rice fields near Oberlin. They had an extremely successful hunt, shooting down many geese.
Laying out their collection of dead geese they were surprised to see that one of the birds had a large metal band on its leg. Closer scrutiny revealed the band had a number and instructions on how to forward this number to the National Wildlife Service.
A further count surprised them that they were one goose over the limit. A quick recount confirmed the fact they had one too many geese to be legal. They were not about to leave a goose behind, so they picked up their geese, tying their legs of the geese together and hoisted them over their shoulders.
Nearing the edge of the field and their vehicle, they decided to leave behind one of the geese at the fence corner. This would mean they would be right on the limit of geese. Their plan was to come back and get the lone goose if they didn’t encounter a game warden at their vehicle.
It was a good decision because a federal game warden was waiting for them in the bushes near their vehicle. Together the men laid their geese in a line for counting, placed their guns on the ground for inspection, and took their licenses out of their wallets. Federal game wardens are pretty picky and are not beholden to the local politics that state wardens must endure.
It took a while for the inspections and counting to take place. There just seemed to be need for a little small talk to make the time move quicker, so Uncle Quincy decided to liven up the conversation with this innocent remark, “You know one of those geese we killed had a metal band on its leg.”
The federal game warden stood up from his inspection. It was evident he was very interested in Uncle Quincy’s statement. He asked, “Really, I’d like to see it and record the number for our study.”
(Reader, now I know you are probably getting ahead of me here, but I’m peddling as fast as I can!)
The hunters and the game warden began to look for the goose with the metal band. After several attempts sorting through several dozen geese and finding no leg band, the warden looked up quizzically at Uncle Quincy.
Now, you already know what Uncle Quincy and his hunting buddies knew: the goose with the leg band was “hiding” back in the weeds at the fence corner.
Finally, after the four of them searched through the geese once more, the game warden’s stare met Uncle Quincy’s eyes. Uncle Quincy couldn’t think of but one thing to say,
“Well, I guess it must have fallen off between here and the blind.”
With that the game warden snorted disgustedly, abruptly stopped his inspection, and left without saying another word.
After the game warden got out of earshot, Uncle Quincy made a classic statement to his hunting partners,
“Well, they’ve never sent a man to the pen
for keeping his mouth shut!”
I often think of Uncle Quincy’s goose when I get in a bind due to excessively running my mouth.
The wise writer of Proverbs said it well, “Where there is abundance of words, sin is not absent.”
Even James, the brother of Jesus said it so well, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
Jesus best summed it up:
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
It is good to remember that our words are recorded by those around us . . . And most importantly they are both heard, and “recorded” by the very ears of God.
The Proverbs reading plan:
Several times in the story above I have quoted from the wonderful book of Proverbs. It is full of short, wise sayings written especially to inform and educate young men and women.
I’d like to encourage you to read a chapter a day from this book of wisdom. Because of its’ length of thirty-one chapters, you can read the chapter that corresponds to the day of the month, reading through the book each month.