I love castles. I suppose I enjoy the feeling of protection they give. They’re often situated on a hill (to give good views of attacking armies!) and have an air of impregnability and impenetrability which make them seem secure and safe. Castles were often draughty, uncomfortable places, but in my mind, they are forever associated with lavish luxury and royal privilege.
Conisbrough Castle is our nearest castle:

This is Dustanburgh Castle:

One of my favourite verses in Proverbs is found in Proverbs 18: “the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Prov 18:10). We sing a children’s song about this verse. Whenever I sing this song or read this verse, I think about the castles and towers of mediaeval history and I can appreciate the idea that a tower is a safe place.
Broadway Castle Tower:

Proverbs 18 deals with lots of other things, though. It has a lot of down-to-earth advice about learning (“wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insight” Prov 18:15) and speech (fools talk too much and their speech often starts fights Prov 18:6-7). It keeps reminding us of the need for humility (eg “humility comes before honour” Prov 18:13) and talks again about the need for positive speech ( “words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose” Prov 18:21). One of the most striking verses in this chapter is verse 9: “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys” . So often when I read Proverbs, a verse seems to take me by surprise: this is one such example. The Message version translate this “slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism.” The first time I read that, I was completely taken-aback. I was working in a community centre at the time that was constantly struggling against vandalism, yet to have ‘slack habits and sloppy work’ put in the same category as broken glass and graffiti made me stop and pause. Are we intent on pursuing excellence in everything we do? Or do we all too easily settle for the ‘easy option’, not really caring? I am reminded of Michelangelo, who worked on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, taking as much care on the parts which would largely remain unseen as on the parts which would draw awe from those who looked at it, because he was aware that God saw everything and deserved the best. He too knew the value of hard work ( “if people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all” ) and of aiming high ( “the greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” ) May we too give God our very best in pursuit of excellence, giving Him all the glory for everything we may achieve.