Wisdom for the Trenches


How to Recognize a Fool

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 1

Upon hearing P. T. Barnum’s famous quote, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” someone asked, “If so, where did all the rest of them come from?”  As societies stray from honoring God and His Law, there is a progressive increase . . .  (CONTINUE READING)

Adultery – No Laughing Matter

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 2

A story going around Hollywood is that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he gathered the Jewish men together and said, “Guys, I have good news and bad news.  (CONTINUE READING)




Anger – The Nuclear Emotion

Wisdom for the Trenches, Principle #3


Fred (not his real name) was a professional associate in Christian service and an angry man.  He was angry at the boss, angry at the board of trustees, angry at organizational policies, and was uniquely able to generate ad hoc anger toward a host of other things. . . (CONTINUE READING)


Lying – the Self-made Trap

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 4


“Inhale. Lie. Exhale. Lie.”  This was the title of a front page article by David Shaw in The Los Angeles Times about the chronic lying that goes on in Hollywood.  Shaw declares, “In Hollywood, deception is a frustrating fact of everyday life . . . (CONTINUE READING)

Gossip – The Hidden Dagger

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 5


It was the perfect setup.  Ehud gets permission to have an audience with Eglon, King of Moab, on a request to present tribute to him.  After the presentation, Ehud whispers that he has a secret message for the king, a word from God. Eglon clears the room, and Ehud pulls a hidden dagger from his clothing and does him in.  Inscribed on the handle of the dagger were the letters G-O-S-S-I-P. (CONTINUE READING)


Reproof and Character-Building

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 6


My godly father had a slogan on the wall of his den that said, “It’s better to give someone a piece of your heart than a piece of your mind.” True. But, is it possible that giving someone both could be in their ultimate best interest? (CONTINUE READING)



Insults as Unsolicited Instruction

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 7


As a 27-year-old college president with no little amount of arrogance and a lot to learn, I got a number of insulting, and often anonymous, letters.  Since my godly father always taught me, “Don’t ever write anything to anyone you’re not man enough to sign,” I trashed the unsigned missiles. (CONTINUE READING)



God’s Channel for Personal Growth

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #8


People from other cultures have one devastating observation about Americans: we are lousy listeners. If this is true, we are also lousy learners. (CONTINUE READING)



Mockers Beware!

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #9


What an embarrassment it was to discover that the Book of Proverbs had a specific category for one of my main character weaknesses: mockery! (CONTINUE READING)



“Lasting Beauty”

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #10


Ah, the media biz.  Is it not the world’s “Beauty Obsession Center?”  Cosmetic surgery.  Endless makeovers.  Outrageously-priced clothing and hair care.  Rodeo Drive and Fifth Avenue with “personal shoppers” who seduce the gullible through promises of everlasting attractiveness.  It’s the place where “You’re looking great (or beautiful)” is said before “Hello.”  (CONTINUE READING)



Changing People’s Minds

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #11


“I just can’t figure out where he’s coming from.”  “The two of us just can’t seem to get on the same page.”  “The way she thinks . . . it’s so weird, that I just can’t seem to get through to her.” . . . (CONTINUE READING)



Using God-Given Authority

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #12


All professionals recognize that people at the top of their industries possess significant power and influence.  Stories of the use and misuse of this power are everywhere.  Sometimes, the lust for this power becomes an intoxicant — a seductive potion to the powerless.  And the misuse of this power destroys lives . . . (CONTINUE READING)



The Rise and Fall of the Proud

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #13


Years ago, when I hosted a Donahue-style TV talk show syndicated in Canada, the producer told me, “We can make you a household name in ninety days.”  I noticed that my head swelled slightly at the thought.  Celebrity can do that . . .  (CONTINUE READING)



“A Cure for Spiritual Heart Disease”

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #14


On February 14 of each year, we celebrate Valentine’s Day, and stores are filled with a seemingly infinite variety of items that are red, heart-shaped, or carry messages of love – everything from bon bons to boxer shorts.  It’s a celebration of the motivations of the heart.  (CONTINUE READING)



A Babe (or Dude) to Avoid

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 15


Hollywood is known for its beautiful and seductive women. They are everywhere – from the Playmates circling the Playboy mansion in Holmby Hills, to the sirens who walk the red carpet dressed in scant nothingness on Oscar night, to the bare vixens who sell their bodies and souls to the world’s largest “adult entertainment” industry. (CONTINUE READING)



Impulse Control and the Key to Character

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 16


As Armand Nicoli, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, looked back on his lifelong career as a psychiatrist, he noted a striking pattern shift. When he began his career, he says, the maladies facing him in his practice dealt a lot with the repression or suppression of impulses . . .  (CONTINUE READING)



Danger – Eyes That Do Not See

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 17


It was horrific! A motorcyclist was speeding toward my car at about fifty miles an hour when I first saw him, and there was no place to go to avoid the crash . . . (CONTINUE READING)



For Adult(erer)s Only

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 18


Lucifer could make great money in Washington or Hollywood as a “spin doctor.” In fact, some of his agents already do so by playing word games to make deadly evil sound like pleasant privilege . . . (CONTINUE READING)



“Rebuke – 10, Flatter – 0”

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 19


Hollywood, and much of the entertainment industry, has a really seductive cultural practice. I call it “vain praise.” It sounds like this: “Hey, baby, you have what it takes to be a star.” “Oh, Dahling, you look gorrrgeous.” “With your looks/body/talent, you’ll be a household name in no time.” . . . (CONTINUE READING)



You Can Tell a Person by His Cover

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 20


Comedian George Burns said of entertainment, “The secret to success in this business is sincerity. And, if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” . . . (CONTINUE READING)



Your Money and Your Slave Master

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part 21


In this age of easy credit – a dollar down and a dollar forever – even followers of Christ get snared into the folly of borrowing. It seems that some have followed the philosophy, “Borrow big and pray for the Rapture!” (CONTINUE READING)



“Somebody, Anybody Give Me A Hand”

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #22


My godly, 94 year-old father has an expression which pretty much “nails it” in describing people who are filled with themselves. He says with his wry smile, “I’d like to buy ‘em for what they’re worth and sell ‘em for what they think they’re worth.” Big profit margin there!  (CONTINUE READING)



“Why Laughter is NOT the Best Medicine”

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #23


Someone has said, “Everybody lights up a room – some by entering and others by leaving.”  One would think that Christians, of all people, would light up a room by entering.  Yet, a friend of mine is convinced that some Christians are so dour they must have had special surgery: a “humor bypass.”  (CONTINUE READING)



Other Names for Treachery

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #24


An executive at a huge, New York media company felt threatened by the arrival of a new company chairman. So, she sowed false stories in the press to leverage the publicity in protection of her own job and agenda.  (CONTINUE READING)



Nuclear Sticks and Stones

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #25


The elementary school playground is hardly a repository for profundity, of this we can be sure. Between the jungle gym and the teeter totter we hear inane comments like, “I see Germany, I see France; I see Johnny’s underpants” or the utter falsehood, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Calculated to be the world’s most clever defense for name-calling and other types of verbal abuse, this puerile maxim declares a frighteningly misleading principle. (CONTINUE READING)



Plan the Work and Work the Plan

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #26


A godly family member has been successful in the lumber business in Nebraska. After taking over the family enterprise, he expanded the original location, opened a second lumberyard in a nearby city, and grew the business substantially.  (CONTINUE READING)



For You, I Have a Special Deal!

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #27


Soon after my wife and I married, a securities dealer challenged us to invest in some over-the-counter stock.  This, our first experience in “investing” a little of our hard-earned money, turned out to be painfully unrewarding.  (CONTINUE READING)


Plans from the Ultimate Planner

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #28


“Wanna give God a good laugh?” asks a friend of mine.  “Tell Him your plans.”  And this answer is not making mockery of planning.  Let me explain . . . (CONTINUE READING)


Friends in Low Places

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #29


There’s a fun country and western song written by Dewayne Blackwell and Bud Lee and sung by Garth Brooks that – without intending to – describes one of life’s riskiest entanglements. Called “Friends in Low Places,” the ballad proclaims: . . .  (CONTINUE READING)


The “Dumb Dog” Syndrome

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #30


On more than one occasion, my godly and very profound wife and I have discussed a mutual insight about human behavior. It is this: some people do not possess a “consequence module” in their brain. (CONTINUE READING)


A Place Called Hope

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #31


It is fascinating to me that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama built their political campaigns on the theme of “hope.”  Clinton’s 1992 nomination acceptance speech was titled “A Place Called Hope.”  Obama’s HOPE poster became a cultural phenomenon and, at one point was selling for $2,000 to $3,000 on eBay.  I saw the artwork reproduced on the side of a Washington, D.C., inner-city building. (CONTINUE READING)


The Tragedy of Unteachability

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #32


The rural farm family in which I grew up shared a lot of maxims, figures of speech, and proverbs that no doubt had been handed down for generations. “Stewing in your own juice” and “having to lie in the bed you have made” were two which described the inevitability of having to live with the consequences of your own decisions. (CONTINUE READING)


The High Cost of Gloating

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #33


Scene #1: Word comes to the thugs in a Los Angeles street gang hideout that a police sting has just netted twenty-two members of a rival gang in a drug deal gone bad. Their bitter gang enemies appear to be headed for the slammer for some serious hard time. Rejoicing ensues at the news with beer-can toasts, high fives, and cheers . . . for a fate they themselves deserve.  (CONTINUE READING)


The Futility of Hiding

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #34


In an event at Calvary Baptist Church in New York City ― one focused on reaching the cities of the world for Christ ― prominent evangelicals discussed why there is so much spiritual darkness in cities. Among the theories proffered, no one struck on one I think is key: in the urban masses, people think they can hide their sin.  (CONTINUE READING)


The Fool and His Money

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #35


When someone heard the maxim, “A fool and his money are soon parted,” he responded, “How did the fool get any money in the first place?”  Good question.  If there is any truism that is economically sound, it is that “wisdom is a more significant factor in wealth acquisition than stupidity.”  (CONTINUE READING)

Long Live the Righteous!

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #36


The entertainment industry seems preoccupied with youth and the beauty and strength associated with it. This preoccupation has percolated into the entire culture as evidenced by the ubiquitous advertisements for products that (1) keep you young, (2) make you look young, or (3) extend life and vitality. However, the entire “youth culture” typically overlooks one key ingredient in retarding the effects of aging ― righteousness(CONTINUE READING)


The Rise and Fall of the Proud

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #37


A maxim declares, “A good man is hard to find.” The same goes for a good woman, I guess. Having been in management all my adult life, I’ve noticed an increasing lament among fellow managers over their inability to find dependable people in today’s hiring market. As a counselor to younger people, I hear the continuing agony of not being able to find trustworthy, high-integrity potential marriage mates.  (CONTINUE READING)


The Divine Right of Kings

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #38


For all their benefits, democracies cheat their citizens of valuable life lessons. One is learning to relate to absolute authority. Human nature ― bent as it is toward rebellion ― is taught submission only through the discipline of dealing with authority against which there is no appeal. When a king speaks, it is a final answer.  (CONTINUE READING)


The Tenderizing Effect of Godliness

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #39


The guy who sat the table with me was a giant of a man, and his looks were, well, scary. Tattooed and body-pierced, the guy who went by the nickname “Tiger” had all the marks of a hard, high-mileage human being. He had been head of the Hells Angels . . . (CONTINUE READING)


The Cunning Human Mind

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #40


I love the story of the mother of six children who discovered that cookies were missing from the kitchen cookie jar. Polling all six revealed nothing; all denied any knowledge of the theft. So, she lined the children in a row facing her and announced, “It is quite obvious to me which one of you stole the cookies. That person has a feather on his nose.”  (CONTINUE READING)


Haste Makes Waste

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #41


The Ohio farm family in which I grew up passed on many generations of instructional proverbs, some even from the Good Book. Those maxims keep resurfacing in my brain as the distillation of wisdom from the past—figures of speech like “a loose cannon on the deck,” “a bull in a china shop,” and the directives, “Measure twice; saw once,” and “Haste makes waste.” (CONTINUE READING)



The Forgotten Virtue

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #42


A famous TV and film celebrity was being interviewed on network television, and I was fascinated by her vulnerability and apparent honesty. Then came the question about her sexual relationships. With total transparency and no shame, she said, “I don’t consider myself promiscuous. I’ve only had a dozen men.”   (CONTINUE READING)


The Folly of Heart-Tracking

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #43


The game has ended and the microphone near the lips of the athlete is poised to record an explanation for the awesome performance just witnessed. The star pulls himself up to his full stature and explains, “I just believed in myself.” (CONTINUE READING)


God Knows What Happened in Vegas

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #44


In recent years, Vegas’ city promoters have adopted the slogan, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” It’s a powerful marketing idea ― a place where you can sin with the stops out, and nobody outside Vegas will ever find out or hold you accountable for your behavior. I have news for everyone who believes this: you could not be more wrong. (CONTINUE READING)


Poverty: The Malady With a Cure, Part 1

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #45


In our world, poverty is often viewed as some cosmic curse visited on totally undeserving victims, and government taxation and the dole are perceived as the rightful remedy for this horrible injustice. Solomon and his sages held a different viewpoint. In a book in which a score of passages deal with poverty, key principles are set forth to cure this malady.  (CONTINUE READING)


Poverty: The Malady With a Cure, Part 2

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #46


Picture the rebellious teenager, the gang-banger, the arrogant and unteachable know-it-all, the criminal recidivist, and the prodigal child. All possess one trait which will pretty much assure their poverty―refusal to accept correction and discipline. 



Building a Legacy

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #47


When you learn for the first time that my name is Larry Poland, I assume nothing particularly wonderful or horrible comes to mind. You may never have met anyone named Poland before. There are no famous Polands that I know of, and none that have achieved infamy. Even a search of my ancestors discovered no horse thieves or axe murderers, on one hand, but no kings or presidents on the other. (CONTINUE READING)


Seismic Moral Situations

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #48


I’ve lived in earthquake country for four decades . . . I mean real earthquake country as in “San Andreas Fault land.” I know the terror that can overtake a region when the earth starts to shake and move. I’ve seen the devastation of the 1994 Northridge, California, quake when it shook so hard that loaded file cabinets punched holes in the ceiling and overpass pillars poked through the freeways.

I’ve also witnessed moral earthquakes, times when the upheaval and destruction are caused by the upending of societal righteousness by those driven by the seismic power of unbridled evil.  (CONTINUE READING)


Seven Things on God’s “Hate” List

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #49


The Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 have become “controversial” in the U.S. recently. There are movements of radicals who want them removed from schools and public places. Far be it from any society — much less one founded on Judeo-Christian virtues — to decry publicly behaviors like stealing, lying, adultery, atheism, covetousness, and murder!

But, focus on the Big Ten sometimes removes attention from the hundreds of commands, exhortations, principles, and guidelines the Scriptures contain outside of Exodus and the Torah. (CONTINUE READING)


“Home Sweet Home . . . or NOT”

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #50


I heard of a woman whose husband complained that “he needed his space.” So, she locked him out of the house. Obviously, that residence was a house, not a home. There is so much strife in families today that homes with tranquility, trust, love, and respect are in the three percent range. With the pace of life and work, family members pass like trains in the night taking little time to communicate, share, love, and bond. The result is not a “home,” but a motel with relatives. (CONTINUE READING)


“Stop Yelling at Me!”

Wisdom for the Trenches, Part #51


The church custodian was cleaning the platform after the weekend services and discovered the pastor’s notes still on the pulpit. Curious, the custodian read through the notes until he came to a scribble in the margin which read, “Point weak; shout louder.” Interesting.  (CONTINUE READING)



America’s “Wisdom Downgrade”

There was a great hubbub nationally over the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard and Poor’s. The impact of this decision had far-reaching national and global impact. It hurts not to have a AAA credit rating!  (CONTINUE READING)



The Link Between the Holy Spirit and Human Conscience

Seldom is there a link made in common perception between the work of God the Holy Spirit and human conscience.  Yet, there seems to be pretty clear biblical evidence to support this link.  Following are some biblical references that make the point.  (CONTINUE READING)