Archive | February, 2013

Life in Lent

26 Feb

So, I was planning to blog every day in Lent.  That didn’t work out.  I have added a study group in my Baltimore church and one in my Smithsburg church.  Life has gotten busier.  My church in Smithsburg is seeing a few more people.  There has been a lot of hurt feelings and it is hard for people to come back.  The study we are doing in Smithsburg is, “In His Steps”.  It is a classic and easy read.  It’s subtitle is “What would Jesus do.”  So it is a great place to begin a conversation about our faith journey.  There were 5 people who came.

I am still helping my doctoral friend at her Baltimore church.  She had material called, “Know Chocolate for Lent”.  She is very busy, so I have put the study material together for a weekly study and will be leading the majority of the sessions.  Each time we watch a little bit of “Chocolat”, so I am enjoying it very much.   There were 5 of us out last Thursday.

In Smithsburg we are also working on getting the parsonage cleaned up, as well as membership records and other things.

Of course, once my life has gotten busy, my sinuses wanted to let me know that they were still around and ready to cause problems.

Mom and Dad are much the same.  God is good.  Lent is a time to grow.  I pray for all of you.  Peace.

Kum-ba-ya

16 Feb

A friend’s son told her, “Mom, you just want the whole world to hold hands and sing Kum-ba-ya.  Well, I think the writer of Psalm 67 would agree.

1-7 God, mark us with grace
and blessing! Smile!
The whole country will see how you work,
all the godless nations see how you save.
God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Let all far-flung people become happy
and shout their happiness because
You judge them fair and square,
you tend the far-flung peoples.
God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Earth, display your exuberance!
You mark us with blessing, O God, our God.
You mark us with blessing, O God.
Earth’s four corners—honor him!

The psalmist talks about the whole world seeing how God works.  I wonder how the writer thought that would happen.  I know in my youth I thought people would see all that God had done for our lives and our world and be happy to worship God.  That has not proved to be a very accurate line of thought.  Yet, couldn’t we show how God works in the choices we make in our life?  Couldn’t we live lives that convinced people that God is a God of power and grace and hope and creativity.

Couldn’t we all hold hands and sing Kum-ba-ya??

Oh well, maybe for one more day we can find a reason to add our praise to the psalmist’s song, maybe for one more day we could ask for God’s strength to live as a witness to the joy of following God.

It is worth a try.

Remembering what God has done – 100

15 Feb

Psalm 66 is a song of remembrance for what God has done for God’s people.    When we remember what God has done for us, praise is our response.  These songs of remembrance are throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.  I think it enabled God’s people to make it through difficult times, by recalling the times that God had given them life and hope.

1-4 All together now—applause for God!
Sing songs to the tune of his glory,
set glory to the rhythms of his praise.
Say of God, “We’ve never seen anything like him!”
When your enemies see you in action,
they slink off like scolded dogs.
The whole earth falls to its knees—
it worships you, sings to you,
can’t stop enjoying your name and fame.

5-6 Take a good look at God’s wonders—
they’ll take your breath away.
He converted sea to dry land;
travelers crossed the river on foot.
Now isn’t that cause for a song?

This section of the psalm retells God leading the people though the Red Sea to freedom.  This salvation tale of freedom through the sea is central to faith history of the Jewish people.  I wonder what stories are essential to your faith life?  What is the story of God’s grace that you can tell again and again?

Ever sovereign in his high tower, he keeps
his eye on the godless nations.
Rebels don’t dare
raise a finger against him.

Part of the salvation story is that God set the people on the road to life, but also that God trained them in the desert wilderness – put them through the “refiners fire”.  So, now in this Lent are we continuing to be trained by God?  Relying on God for all we need, to grow us into God’s people for this generation?

8-12 Bless our God, O peoples!
Give him a thunderous welcome!
Didn’t he set us on the road to life?
Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch?
He trained us first,
passed us like silver through refining fires,
Brought us into hardscrabble country,
pushed us to our very limit,
Road-tested us inside and out,
took us to hell and back;
Finally he brought us
to this well-watered place.

The response of the faithful people to God’s faithfulness is to present the best we have to God is thanks and praise.  The description in the next verses is how the Hebrew people made offerings to God.  One of the neat parts of this type of praise is that after the ‘choices meats’ were offered to God, the people shared the meal with God in a big party.   Party with God!!

13-15 I’m bringing my prizes and presents to your house.
I’m doing what I said I’d do,
What I solemnly swore I’d do
that day when I was in so much trouble:
The choicest cuts of meat
for the sacrificial meal;
Even the fragrance
of roasted lamb is like a meal!
Or make it an ox
garnished with goat meat!

16-20 All believers, come here and listen,
let me tell you what God did for me.
I called out to him with my mouth,
my tongue shaped the sounds of music.
If I had been cozy with evil,
the Lord would never have listened.
But he most surely did listen,
he came on the double when he heard my prayer.
Blessed be God: he didn’t turn a deaf ear,
he stayed with me, loyal in his love.

So, we bless God, offer our best to God and party with God and God stays with us; it is a great life to celebrate.  And I so celebrate 100 blogs.  It amazes me that I can write this much, but more than that the anyone would be willing to read that much.  Blessings and peace, Mary

Silence, a gift of God

14 Feb
Psalm 65 is perfect for the Lenten season.  Lent is a wonderful time to put some extra ‘silence’ in your life.   I think sometimes we are afraid of what we will hear in the silence.  Yet, the gift of a quiet heart and mind and soul is a lovely way to praise God.  Have you had time for silence lately?

1-2 Silence is praise to you,
Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.

These next verses point us towards another gift in Lent – forgiveness and reconciliation.  The writer points to the reality of our lives; we carry around a load of guilt and regrets and we arrive at God’s doorstep.  Actually, it is the gift of our faith that we can arrive on God’s doorstep with all that weighs down our lives.  The writer proclaims, “but you get rid of them once and for all.”  Yea.  This is the great good news of our faith.  We are forgiven and made whole again by the God who has created us.  This great grace leads us to praise.

Please spend some time to read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the names of God.

2-8 We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
but you get rid of them once and for all.
Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer,
Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser,
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot-
Far and wide they’ll come to a stop,
they’ll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, “Come and worship.”

I love this imagine of “Dawn and dusk take turns calling, ‘come and worship.'”  Just think about every sunrise and sunset being a command to praise God.  It seems the natural thing to do in response to the healing God brings into our lives.  The writer describes all the ways the earth sings God praises.  I pray through the gift of silence and forgiveness you can keep up with the earth in finding ways to praise God.

9-13 Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!

Happy Ash Wednesday

13 Feb

I noticed no one said this on the news this morning.  But, I will share this greeting.  Psalm 64 is attributed to David and is crying out to help from God.  I think this is appropriate for our Lenten journey; certainly we have to reach out to God if we have any hope of keeping a holy Lent.  For this psalm, the request of God is help from those who are talking destructively against the psalmist.

I wonder if you have ever felt this way?  People talking against you and looking for you to fail.  Well, if you have, this psalm is for you.

 

Listen and help, O God.
I’m reduced to a whine
And a whimper, obsessed
with feelings of doomsday.

2-6 Don’t let them find me—
the conspirators out to get me,
Using their tongues as weapons,
flinging poison words,
poison-tipped arrow-words.
They shoot from ambush,
shoot without warning,
not caring who they hit.
They keep fit doing calisthenics
of evil purpose,
They keep lists of the traps
they’ve secretly set.
They say to each other,
“No one can catch us,
no one can detect our perfect crime.”
The Detective detects the mystery
in the dark of the cellar heart.

I like the line, “They keep fit doing calisthenics of evil purpose.”  I have know a few people like this, and mostly I have felt sorry for them and tried to pray for them.  It is a sad life that denies the hope, grace and creative power of God.  These types of folks can bring pain and hurt into our lives.  But, the psalmist looks to God for hope.

7-8 The God of the Arrow shoots!
They double up in pain,
Fall flat on their faces
in full view of the grinning crowd.

9-10 Everyone sees it. God’s
work is the talk of the town.
Be glad, good people! Fly to God!
Good-hearted people, make praise your habit.

Being the old woman that I am, I know the truth of these last verses.  God doesn’t even need to shoot the arrows – life gets these mean spirited people in the end.  I have seen their lives implode with negativity they have tried to spread to others.

Mostly, just “fly to God”, and make praise your habit.  I find the truth is that, you can’t change what people are going to say about you, and if people are going to believe the worst, Oh well, there’s is nothing you can do about that either.  But, you can spend your life doing the best you can to live with integrity and praising God.

Enjoy this first day of Lent.

Preparing for Lent

12 Feb

Tomorrow begins the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday services.  I can’t help, I am excited about tomorrow services and the opportunity to draw closer to God through 40 days of discipline.  What can I say, I have always been a Jesus freak.  

In any case, Psalm 63 is an excellent song to mediate on as we consider the ways that God is calling you to grow in this year of Lenten disciplines.

A David Psalm, When He Was out in the Judean Wilderness

63 God—you’re my God!
I can’t get enough of you!
I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God,
traveling across dry and weary deserts.

2-4 So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open,
drinking in your strength and glory.
In your generous love I am really living at last!
My lips brim praises like fountains.
I bless you every time I take a breath;
My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

I think this is the best way to approach what we will surrender to God during these 40 days.  It is from this relationship of love and passion, where we want to praise and bless God with everything that we have, that God can led us into a wonderful Lenten experience.  So, it is not an experience of pain or sacrifice, but one that can bring us close to the beauty of God’s grace.  So, like David’s psalm, we end up feeling we have enjoyed a wonderful meal.

5-8 I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy;
I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises!
If I’m sleepless at midnight,
I spend the hours in grateful reflection.
Because you’ve always stood up for me,
I’m free to run and play.
I hold on to you for dear life,
and you hold me steady as a post.

I think the best thing about this Lenten opportunity is that it gives us 40 days of a trial to consider the heart of God.  AND, we get Sundays off because we are, after all, human.  Holding on to God for dear life is a wonderful feeling, but, I find it is a difficult thing to do every day.  I guess it is one of the paradoxes of our faith life.  We are at our best and most human when we are emmersed in God’s presence, yet it is difficult for us to do (or at least me).

9-11 Those who are out to get me are marked for doom,
marked for death, bound for hell.
They’ll die violent deaths;
jackals will tear them limb from limb.
But the king is glad in God;
his true friends spread the joy,
While small-minded gossips
are gagged for good.

David ends his psalm with a ‘shout out’ to his enemies.  Oh well, one in his position of power probably had a lot of people out to get him.

For me, not so much.  So I am focused on a blessed Lent.  I am glad for the time to have some God and me focused time.  I pray you will plan for a holy and blessed Lent.

A comfort psalm

7 Feb

Dear Friends,

In the midst of snow and cold and long winter days it is lovely to have a psalm of comfort.  Psalm 62 is a song of assurance; telling us when we call out to God, we are heard.  It is a comforting reminder that anytime we call out to God, God is there.

1-2 God, listen to me shout,
bend an ear to my prayer.
When I’m far from anywhere,
down to my last gasp,
I call out, “Guide me
up High Rock Mountain!”

I like these next verses becomes it reminds me of my favorite monastery.  I know that God is ready to bring us comfort anywhere at anytime, but for me, the monastery is a special place to find the breathing room.  I wonder if there is a special place where you feel particularly safe and relaxed and loved by God?  It is a true gift to be around those love God and will tolerate us.

3-5 You’ve always given me breathing room,
a place to get away from it all,
A lifetime pass to your safe-house,
an open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously, God,
made me welcome among those who know and love you.

I also like in this psalm the understanding that it is more likely that we can find a place of peace with God, if those who rule our lives are righteous people.  Perhaps we can pray that God give us leaders who set their “thrones” in the full light of God, and set up post of “Steady Love and Good Faith” as watchers over the people.

6-8 Let the days of the king add up
to years and years of good rule.
Set his throne in the full light of God;
post Steady Love and Good Faith as lookouts,
And I’ll be the poet who sings your glory—
and live what I sing every day.

So, are up for it!  Up for singing to God’s glory.  After finding the power of God’s peace in that quiet place of comfort we can use that strength to sing glory to God.  It is a great way to live.  Yea! God!