Archive | July, 2013

Short and to the Point

10 Jul

This is a wonderful song of praise.  I can’t ever remember reading this psalm, but it is beautiful.  The writers speaks of God’s power and might and ruling presence. The imagine that is used is water.  Considering the effects that water has had on a number of areas in our country this psalm may not effect everyone the way it does me.

1-2 God is King, robed and ruling,
God is robed and surging with strength.

And yes, the world is firm, immovable,
Your throne ever firm—you’re Eternal!

Sea storms are up, God,
Sea storms wild and roaring,
Sea storms with thunderous breakers.

Stronger than wild sea storms,
Mightier than sea-storm breakers,
Mighty God rules from High Heaven.

What you say goes—it always has.
“Beauty” and “Holy” mark your palace rule,
God, to the very end of time.

No matter how floods or storms have effected individuals this is a song of assurance and praise.  The Divine presence has brought into being a wonderful creation – our planet can fill us with awe.  Yet, as with much of our lives, it is never predictable.  The promise is, in the midst of the most difficult storms of life God is there.  Yea! 🙂


No Need for Viagra

8 Jul

OK, so do I have your attention?  Psalm 92 is a song of praise.

From the 1st verse to the last verse the writer is enjoying the opportunity to praise the Eternal Divine.

1-3 What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks,
    to sing an anthem to you, the High God!
To announce your love each daybreak,
    sing your faithful presence all through the night,
Accompanied by dulcimer and harp,
    the full-bodied music of strings.

I think this feeling should be at the center of every church choir; just wanting to sing praises to God all day and all night.

You made me so happy, God
    I saw your work and I shouted for joy.
How magnificent your work, God!
    How profound your thoughts!
Dullards never notice what you do;
    fools never do get it.
When the wicked popped up like weeds
    and all the evil men and women took over,
You mowed them down,
    finished them off once and for all.
You, God, are High and Eternal.
    Look at your enemies, God!
Look at your enemies—ruined!
    Scattered to the winds, all those hirelings of evil!

I like that the psalmist says that dullards and fools don’t get it, they can’t see what God is doing.  I love Richard Forster’s Celebration of Discipline where he talks about studying nature.  I spent an hour on my front porch one day just watching the squirrels and birds and bugs and praising God for the beauty and wonder of God’s creature.  I think if we slowed down, we would find more reasons to praise God.

But you’ve made me strong as a charging bison,
    you’ve honored me with a festive parade.
The sight of my critics going down is still fresh,
    the rout of my malicious detractors.
My ears are filled with the sounds of promise:
    “Good people will prosper like palm trees,
Grow tall like Lebanon cedars;
    transplanted to God’s courtyard,
They’ll grow tall in the presence of God,
    lithe and green, virile still in old age.”

The ones who praise God are strong, strong like a bull, strong like a tall tree.  The ones who praise God are so strong, they are still virile in their old ago.  No need for Viagra, just praise God.

Such witnesses to upright God!
    My Mountain, my huge, holy Mountain!

Find your strength – Praise God!!

One of my favorite psalms

6 Jul

Psalm 91 is one of my favorites.  Every evening at Mount Saviour Monastery the monks sing this in there final service of the night.  It is a wonderful way to go off to bed.  The first time I heard about this psalm was at a Christian gathering in 1977.  It was described as an Insurance Policy for the faithful.  I don’t remember ever reading in The Message, but I like it.

1-13 You who sit down in the High God’s presence,
    spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
    I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
    shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
    under them you’re perfectly safe;

I love the imaginary of these verses, of course, taking it literally is a problem.  I think in the presence of the Divine there is a sense of wholeness and holiness that makes me feel secure.  It is not that nothing can harm me, it is that there is nothing in this life that God and I cannot handle together.  The apostle Paul wrote, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” in the 8th chapter of Romans.  I think it is the same kind of feeling.

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
    “I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
    if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
    I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
    give you a long drink of salvation!”

What I like most is the instruction to trust God with our whole lives.  It makes sense; if God created us, gave us a planet to sustain us, and a redeemer to give us a way to live a whole/holy life, then why wouldn’t we trust God with every part of our lives.

Rest well in the presence of the Divine.

This one is a bit whinny

5 Jul

I takes a couple of times reading through Psalm 90 to get what the writer is trying to say.  At least it did for me. 

It starts by praising the eternal nature of God and how God has been our dwelling place.

1-2 God, it seems you’ve been our home forever;
    long before the mountains were born,
Long before you brought earth itself to birth,
    from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”—you are God.

After this brief opening of praise comes a lot of begging for God’s patience.  The psalmist says God should have a lot of patience since time really doesn’t mean a lot to God and our lives are short.

“So don’t return us to mud, saying,
    “Back to where you came from!”
Patience! You’ve got all the time in the world—whether
    a thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you.
Are we no more to you than a wispy dream,
    no more than a blade of grass
That springs up gloriously with the rising sun
    and is cut down without a second thought?
Your anger is far and away too much for us;
    we’re at the end of our rope.
You keep track of all our sins; every misdeed
    since we were children is entered in your books.
All we can remember is that frown on your face.
    Is that all we’re ever going to get?
We live for seventy years or so
    (with luck we might make it to eighty),
And what do we have to show for it? Trouble.
    Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.
Who can make sense of such rage,
    such anger against the very ones who fear you?

So, have you ever felt that way about life, “toil and trouble and a maker in the graveyard.”?  I think it is akinda whinny to me and not really anything I have ever felt about my life.  Of course, I am constantly aware of the ease of my life – flush toilets alone are a great invention.  Anyway, the psalm writer is obviously not doing well.

Then comes the request; for instruction, for better days, and affirmation of the work that is done. 

Oh! Teach us to live well!
    Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
    and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
    then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
    we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
    the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
    confirming the work that we do.
    Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!

I like the line that says, “Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we will skip and dance all day long.”  Would that be a great phrase to have running around in your head all day long.  Well, better than the whining anyway.

The Orioles are playing the Yankees.  I hope there will not be any whining tonight.  Peace

A long and somewhat schizophrenic psalm

3 Jul

Psalm 89 begins as a hymn of praise and ends as a song of woe.  The psalm begins as a song that praises God for creation, for God’s faithfulness, and for the leadership of King David.  Immediately after saying that God will never abandon the line of David, it says that you have abandoned Israel.  As I said, kinda schizophrenic.

I read the first verse of the psalm and thought, this is my kind of text.

1-4 Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it!
I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are.
I’ll never quit telling the story of your love—
how you built the cosmos
and guaranteed everything in it.
Your love has always been our lives’ foundation,
your fidelity has been the roof over our world.
You once said, “I joined forces with my chosen leader,
I pledged my word to my servant, David, saying,
‘Everyone descending from you is guaranteed life;
I’ll make your rule as solid and lasting as rock.’”

I think the idea of continually telling everyone how faithful God is and how God’s love is greater than anything on this earth, or in the cosmos for that fact.    I enjoyed and identified with the line “Your love has always been our lives’ foundation your fidelity as been the roof over our world.”

The psalm lulled me into a happy state of mind.  The next 33 verses are a re-telling of Israel’s history, of course Egypt is mention and there is more praise of David’s rule.  There is a confident assertion that God will never, never ever leave the line of David.  Verse 37 says, “His family tree is here for good,
his sovereignty as sure as the sun,
Dependable as the phases of the moon,
inescapable as weather.”

So, imagine my surprise when verse 38 says that God did go off and leave the people!!

But God, you did walk off and leave us,
you lost your temper with the one you anointed.
You tore up the promise you made to your servant,
you stomped his crown in the mud.
You blasted his home to kingdom come,
reduced his city to a pile of rubble
Picked clean by wayfaring strangers,
a joke to all the neighbors.
You declared a holiday for all his enemies,
and they’re celebrating for all they’re worth.
Angry, you opposed him in battle,
refused to fight on his side;
You robbed him of his splendor, humiliated this warrior,
ground his kingly honor in the dirt.
You took the best years of his life
and left him an impotent, ruined husk.
How long do we put up with this, God?
Are you gone for good? Will you hold this grudge forever?
Remember my sorrow and how short life is.
Did you create men and women for nothing but this?
We’ll see death soon enough. Everyone does.
And there’s no back door out of hell.
So where is the love you’re so famous for, Lord?
What happened to your promise to David?
Take a good look at your servant, dear Lord;
I’m the butt of the jokes of all nations,
The taunting jokes of your enemies, God,
as they dog the steps of your dear anointed.

The line that says, “You robbed him of his splendor, humiliated this warrior, ground his kingly honor in the dirt.”  The next phrase sounds like a disgruntled spouse; “You took the best years of his life and left him an impotent, ruined husk.”

Obviously, this is a psalm written during the years of Israel’s exile, when the leadership had broken the covenant of God, gone after foreign gods, and left the people in horrors enslaved by another country.  Yet it is interesting the way the psalm begins.

Then the ending: Blessed be God forever and always!  Yes. Oh, yes.    How weird is that? It is like the last 13 verses never happened.  Well, if you can figure it out, let me know.

For now you can choose the part of the psalm you enjoy; the praise part or the sense of abandonment part.


Having a bad day?

2 Jul

O.K. even if you are having a bad day, it is not as bad as the writer of Psalm 88.  Everything is going wrong, everyone is against them and God is not helping.

1-9 God, you’re my last chance of the day.     I spend the night on my knees before you.  Put me on your salvation agenda;  take notes on the trouble I’m in. I’ve had my fill of trouble;  I’m camped on the edge of hell.  I’m written off as a lost cause, one more statistic, a hopeless case. Abandoned as already dead, one more body in a stack of corpses, And not so much as a gravestone— I’m a black hole in oblivion. You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit, sunk me in a pitch-black abyss. I’m battered senseless by your rage, relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger. You turned my friends against me, made me horrible to them. I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out, blinded by tears of pain and frustration.

The passion of these first verses describe utter despair.  The psalmist is “camped on the edge of hell.  Have you ever felt this way?  I remember one night in my twenties, after a number of really stupid choices that twenty something folks tend to make,  I laid in a bed and truly hoped it was my last night on earth.

9-12 I call to you, God; all day I call.     I wring my hands, I plead for help. Are the dead a live audience for your miracles?     Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you? Does your love make any difference in a graveyard?     Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell? Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark,     your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory?

So, the question is. . . is God present in those horrible moments in our lives.  Well, since I believe the Divine Presence is always with us, my answer would have to be yes.  But, I think in my worse times it is very difficult to feel/experience that Presence.   For me that is the importance of faith over feeling.  That is, believing by faith that God’s love and grace is in the darkest pit and can enable us to step into a better reality.  Of course, I did not have this maturity of faith in my twenties.  But is was probably living through that experience that help to grow my faith.

13-18 I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help,  at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak. Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear?     Why do you make yourself scarce? For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting;     I’ve taken the worst you can hand out, and I’ve had it. Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life;     I’m bleeding, black-and-blue. You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side,     raining down blows till I’m nearly dead. You made lover and neighbor alike dump me; the only friend I have left is Darkness.
So, with your faith, stand your ground, even if your only friend is Darkness.  And, while you are standing your ground reach out to a friend in faith. . . give me a call.

We are have way through 2013 – just throught I would let you know

1 Jul

It is a new month, and I am in hopes that I can get back to blogging.  Of course, no one out there is really begging for it, but I feel compelled to at least finish the Psalms.

Psalm 87 is an interesting one, and I can’t ever remember reading it.  It is a short song of joy for the dwelling place of God, Zion, the Holy Mountain.  As far as I know, this was not an actual place, but more of an idea of where the full of God was present and real.

1-3 He founded Zion on the Holy Mountain—     and oh, how God loves his home! Loves it far better than all the homes of Jacob put together! God’s hometown—oh!     everyone there is talking about you!

I name them off, those among whom I’m famous:     Egypt and Babylon, also Philistia, even Tyre, along with Cush. Word’s getting around; they point them out:  “This one was born again here!”

The word’s getting out on Zion:     “Men and women, right and left, get born again in her!”

God registers their names in his book:     “This one, this one, and this one—born again, right here.”

Singers and dancers give credit to Zion:     “All my springs are in you!”

So, I think what the psalmist is talking about is a place where the presence of God is felt.  And a place that when people encounter it, they feel reborn.

Is here a place for you like that?  A place where you feel God’s presence so strongly that you feel refreshed and renew in body and spirit? I think that place for me was Mount Saviour Monastery in Pine City, NY.  There was such a peace there among the monks and the sheep and the chapel that I always felt renewed in body and spirit when I visited.

Yet, I don’t think that the psalmist is writing just about a place, but a state of being with God.  Often times going to a particular place can make it easier for us to be open to God, but it can just be a designed place in our house or our yard or even sharing time with a ‘soul friend’.

I have begun to learn yoga.  It is really an interesting experience.  We do a lot of breathing and body awareness and I know when I go home from class I feel calmer and more at peace.

God is always hunger for our company and openness and praise.  I pray this day you will feel that hunger for God’s presence and peace.Mount saviour