I was invited some years ago to give a devotion and prayer for the Georgia General Assembly. I used Proverbs 25:11 as the biblical text, from the New International Version: A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. In “The Message,” Eugene Peterson says it this way: The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.
This summer during my renewal leave, Delphine, the kids, and I went to Philadelphia for her family reunion. We decided to tour the downtown area of the city. The tour guide was a knowledgeable person who shared some interesting facts about William Penn.
illiam Penn, of course, is known as the founder of Pennsylvania. He is also known as a Quaker and for his “Great Treaty” with Delaware. What is not known, however, is obscured by myth. In fact, Penn did not name his colony after himself (as he feared would be assumed), but after his recently departed father. Penn wanted to call the colony “New Wales” or “Sylvania,” but King Charles II intervened, suggesting instead “Pennsylvania.”
It was the father, after all, who left Penn his
wealth, including the king’s debt to him – which Charles II paid in
full with a chunk of New World land. Penn became a Quaker in his 20s,
shortly after posing for his only painted portrait (the one with the
lad in a full suit of armor). Yet peace is what William Penn was loved
and memorialized for, especially for his treaty with the Indians of
Delaware. “I desire to gain your Love and Friendship by a kind, Just
and Peaceable Life,” he wrote to them from England. He followed up with
that desire with his “holy experiment.”
Penn’s holy experiment was firstly his plan and secondly
idealistic to the point of utopianism. He wanted to establish a society
that was godly, virtuous, and exemplary for all of humanity.
Fortunately, Penn was adept at convincing people. By 1681, when he
received the charter for the colony, Penn had been a proponent of
Quakerism and had written several political pamphlets. He was a
persuasive speaker and was fond of politics. Penn was both idealistic
and practical, and he operated by trying for the best he could conceive
while pragmatically retreating from impossible heights.
William Penn was quoted as saying, “I expect to pass through
life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any
good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not
defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”
In the book, “When Words Matter Most,” author Robyn Freedman Spizman writes: As we pass through this life, each of us has an opportunity to identify meaningful moments with our unique signature. We use words as tools to accomplish this. Our word choices are endless and offer great potential for us to embellish every occasion. No matter where we go or what we do daily, the words we use help us connect in large and small ways with each other.
What does your unique signature tell others about
you? Every word you use in writing or communicating to those in your
company or your circle of influence indicates the kind of person you
are. Proverbs 25:11 (King James) tells us, “A word fitly spoken is like
apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
My brothers and sisters, choose your words wisely. The American
philosopher William James once said, “The art of being wise is the art
of knowing what to overlook.” Jesus spoke of those who strain at gnats
and swallow camels. Seek to discern what is important – and what does
not matter. A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in
settings of silver.