Archive | October, 2013

Forgetfulness

18 Oct

Psalm 106 focuses on the forgetfulness of God’s people and once again tells the salvation history in a different slant. Israel’s escape from Egypt was always a central theme of telling the God story much the same way that the story of Jesus is central to our salvation story.

As I said, this time the psalms describes the forgetfulness of the people and the faithfulness of God. Again, this is a common theme in scripture and in our lives.

1-3 Hallelujah!
Thank God! And why?
Because he’s good, because his love lasts.
But who on earth can do it—
declaim God’s mighty acts, broadcast all his praises?
You’re one happy man when you do what’s right,
one happy woman when you form the habit of justice.

I like the language for those who are happy. The strength of doing what is right and ‘forming a habit of justice’ is the way to find happiness. I think of the recent stupidity on Capital Hill and think that it proves that not doing what is right or just causes UNhappiness for lots of people

4-5 Remember me, God, when you enjoy your people;
include me when you save them;
I want to see your chosen succeed,
celebrate with your celebrating nation,
join the Hallelujahs of your pride and joy!

6-12 We’ve sinned a lot, both we and our parents;
We’ve fallen short, hurt a lot of people.
After our parents left Egypt,
they took your wonders for granted,
forgot your great and wonderful love.
They were barely beyond the Red Sea
when they defied the High God
—the very place he saved them!
—the place he revealed his amazing power!
He rebuked the Red Sea so that it dried up on the spot
—he paraded them right through!
—no one so much as got wet feet!
He saved them from a life of oppression,
pried them loose from the grip of the enemy.
Then the waters flowed back on their oppressors;
there wasn’t a single survivor.
Then they believed his words were true
and broke out in songs of praise.

The thing that the psalmist says is wrong with the people is that they have forgotten God’s faithfulness in saving the people. One of my favorite quotes from Richard Foster is “Noise and distraction is not of the devil, it is the devil”. I am not big on talking about evil or the devil, but I think when we allow ourselves to live distracted lives that are not grounded in God, we distance ourselves from God and the grace and peace God wants to share with us.

13-18 But it wasn’t long before they forgot the whole thing,
wouldn’t wait to be told what to do.
They only cared about pleasing themselves in that desert,
provoked God with their insistent demands.
He gave them exactly what they asked for—
but along with it they got an empty heart.
One day in camp some grew jealous of Moses,
also of Aaron, holy priest of God.
The ground opened and swallowed Dathan,
then buried Abiram’s gang.
Fire flared against that rebel crew
and torched them to a cinder.

The line that stands out for me, is that they only cared about pleasing themselves. It is sure fire way to be unhappy and unlovable to focus on ourselves, our wants, our wishes, our own way. Perhaps it is the truth of being a social people that we must be aware and accountable to others to be truly fulfilled ourselves.

19-22 They cast in metal a bull calf at Horeb
and worshiped the statue they’d made.
They traded the Glory
for a cheap piece of sculpture—a grass-chewing bull!
They forgot God, their very own Savior,
who turned things around in Egypt,
Who created a world of wonders in the Land of Ham,
who gave that stunning performance at the Red Sea.

The psalmist says that the people traded God for a cheap imitation. We the holidays fast approaching, I wonder if we substitute all the frantic holiday preparation, for the longer of the Messiah alive in our lives. We forget which one is the authentic gift.

The next 22 verses tell of God’s anger with the people and Moses continuing to try to lead the people. These psalms have been long, detail attempts to get the people to understand that the mess that they are in with other countries having rule over them stems from their forgetfulness of God’s saving power. I often wonder how much misery and pain we bring on ourselves and others because we forget the power of God to redeem us and love us and sustain us.

The psalmist ended this ‘history lesson’ with the affirmation of God’s faithfulness. The Psalms tell us again and again and again, no matter what kind of trouble we have gotten ourselves into, no matter how long we have forgotten the power of God which has given us life, God is ready to remember us and the covenant God has made with the people. As with any parent, God’s overwhelming desire is to have a loving, growing, and meaningful relationship with God’s children. You are one of those children of God. Enjoy God’s presence today.

44-46 Still, when God saw the trouble they were in
and heard their cries for help,
He remembered his Covenant with them,
and, immense with love, took them by the hand.
He poured out his mercy on them
while their captors looked on, amazed.

47 Save us, God, our God!
Gather us back out of exile
So we can give thanks to your holy name
and join in the glory when you are praised!

48 Blessed be God, Israel’s God!
Bless now, bless always!
Oh! Let everyone say Amen!
Hallelujah!

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Happy Birthday to Dad

16 Oct

Good morning friends, It is my dad’s 87th birthday today. So, I am taking the occasion to catch you up on my life, since he is a good part of the reason that I am living this life right now.

Mom and Dad are about the same, but getting a little weaker all the time. They are not able to do as much as they have in the past. I keep track of Dad’s pills (about a dozen difference prescriptions) which he takes five times a day. I also take Mom and Dad to their doctor’s appointments. Usually, they have at least two a month. I get groceries in the house and, if Mom is feeling up to it, I take her shopping for an hour or so. My Mom does most of the cooking, because, let’s face it, that is not my gift. But, I do bake goodies which all the diabetics and pre-diabetic people in the house enjoy.

Mom recently gave up her car and gifted it to my brother, Henry. Henry was very generous and gifted his car to my son, Nathan. Who in turn gave the car he was using to his brother. A couple of weekends ago was the great car switch, as I call it. The interesting twist was that I had been using my Mom’s car because my car was hit by a woman in a ‘big, old Jeep’. My Prius, which I love, is still in the shop, so I am driving a rental. Actually, my Dad still has his van, but it is really big and hard to park. I am bad enough at parking already, I don’t need the extra challenge of maneuvering a BIG van.

On the YMCA front, I am go longer Aqua Zumbaing, which makes me really sad. The instructor I had had for the past year left over the summer to take a job for ‘real money’. The new instructor was not the same and it became frustrating and unenjoyable. I wonder if this is the way some people feel when a pastor who has been helpful for them leaves?? I am going to a yoga class on Monday nights which is really just stretching and meditating – which I can handle. When we do harder positions, I just continue to stretch and breath.

OK, so true confessions, I play way to much Candy Crush. I beat all the levels and now I am going back through so I have three stars on all the levels. My excuse is that this time at my parents is really about being present to them, so doing something brainless, yet challenging works. Also, now the Orioles are done playing baseball, I need sometime to do. I do enjoy scrabble in Words with Friends for anyone who wants to play me. I am thankful to those who have continued to play games with me, it helps me to feel connected.

I also pastor a little church. They have been through a hard time in the past years, so having someone half way competent has been nice for them. It is a little discouraging because anyone who comes to visit on Sunday morning doesn’t come again. Did I mention that me and one other lady are the “special music” most Sundays? Just as success breads like success; a little church with almost no program really has a hard time attracting people. Please pray for me and my folks as we journey together. I really do miss my friends at VUMC and particularly the music program.

I am healthy and well. I did my first wedding in over a year this past Sunday. Just to let you know how different this life is, I wore cowgirl boots with my robe, since every women in the wedding party, including the brides, was wearing cowgirl boots. The couple was very young and sweet and it was a nice wedding. The best laugh of the day was at the reception. I was trying to move into place to get introduced and a large man with a black Harley Davidson T-shirt was blocking my way, as I was trying to gracefully move around him and not succeeding very well, he said to his lady friend, “well they can just kiss my ass” in a very authoritative voice. Since he and his companion still were not moving at all, I said, “OK”, which made them finally realize that I was standing behind them and unable to get through. They apologized and I laughed.

Well, that’s my life. Please continue to pray for me, this is an interesting journey. I know God is with me, which gets me through the harder days and helps me rejoice on the better ones.

I pray this day is finding you well and healthy with someone to love and a God to serve. Peace

The simple version

15 Oct

Psalm 105 tells the salvation story of Israel written from a distance of time and location. The salvation story, repeated many times in the scripture, is the people of Israel journey into and out of Egypt.

The psalm is an instruction to praise God for what God has done. When the people of Israel remember what God has done they usually talk about this story of freedom. This story also become a powerful image for the slaves in this country. God breaks the chains of the oppressor and guides the powerless to freedom through God’s power. It is a great story for Israel. However, I always wonder about “the other guy”.

Well, here’s the psalm,

1-6 Hallelujah!

Thank God! Pray to him by name!
Tell everyone you meet what he has done!
Sing him songs, belt out hymns,
translate his wonders into music!
Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs,
you who seek God. Live a happy life!
Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works;
be alert for signs of his presence.
Remember the world of wonders he has made,
his miracles, and the verdicts he’s rendered—
O seed of Abraham, his servant,
O child of Jacob, his chosen.

I like this first stanza talking about translating God’s wonders into music. I think we do that all the time and words added to music make a particularly emotionally witness to who God is in the world and in our lives. Also, there is a great instruction to keep yourself open to what God is doing around you. This is always a great idea. It makes for a more interesting day anyway.

7-15 He’s God, our God,
in charge of the whole earth.
And he remembers, remembers his Covenant—
for a thousand generations he’s been as good as his word.
It’s the Covenant he made with Abraham,
the same oath he swore to Isaac,
The very statute he established with Jacob,
the eternal Covenant with Israel,
Namely, “I give you the land.
Canaan is your hill-country inheritance.”
When they didn’t count for much,
a mere handful, and strangers at that,
Wandering from country to country,
drifting from pillar to post,
He permitted no one to abuse them.
He told kings to keep their hands off:
“Don’t you dare lay a hand on my anointed,
don’t hurt a hair on the heads of my prophets.”

16-22 Then he called down a famine on the country,
he broke every last blade of wheat.
But he sent a man on ahead:
Joseph, sold as a slave.
They put cruel chains on his ankles,
an iron collar around his neck,
Until God’s word came to the Pharaoh,
and God confirmed his promise.
God sent the king to release him.
The Pharaoh set Joseph free;
He appointed him master of his palace,
put him in charge of all his business
To personally instruct his princes
and train his advisors in wisdom.

23-42 Then Israel entered Egypt,
Jacob immigrated to the Land of Ham.
God gave his people lots of babies;
soon their numbers alarmed their foes.
He turned the Egyptians against his people;
they abused and cheated God’s servants.
Then he sent his servant Moses,
and Aaron, whom he also chose.
They worked marvels in that spiritual wasteland,
miracles in the Land of Ham.
He spoke, “Darkness!” and it turned dark—
they couldn’t see what they were doing.
He turned all their water to blood
so that all their fish died;
He made frogs swarm through the land,
even into the king’s bedroom;
He gave the word and flies swarmed,
gnats filled the air.
He substituted hail for rain,
he stabbed their land with lightning;
He wasted their vines and fig trees,
smashed their groves of trees to splinters;
With a word he brought in locusts,
millions of locusts, armies of locusts;
They consumed every blade of grass in the country
and picked the ground clean of produce;
He struck down every firstborn in the land,
the first fruits of their virile powers.
He led Israel out, their arms filled with loot,
and not one among his tribes even stumbled.
Egypt was glad to have them go—
they were scared to death of them.
God spread a cloud to keep them cool through the day
and a fire to light their way through the night;
They prayed and he brought quail,
filled them with the bread of heaven;
He opened the rock and water poured out;
it flowed like a river through that desert—
All because he remembered his Covenant,
his promise to Abraham, his servant.

The covenant story is told in the last stanzas. I often wonder what we highlight in our stories of God’s grace in our lives??

43-45 Remember this! He led his people out singing for joy;
his chosen people marched, singing their hearts out!
He made them a gift of the country they entered,
helped them seize the wealth of the nations
So they could do everything he told them—
could follow his instructions to the letter.

Hallelujah!

Because this week’s scripture was about the 10 who were cured of leprosy and the one who returned to give thanks, I told my story again. I truly believe I am a “preacher” because I kept turning around to give thanks to God for my life. And I notice that as I tell this story through the years I emphasize different parts of the story. It is the same story, I just spent more time on some details more than others.

Also, because this week was another low attendance week, I find myself feeling discouraged. I repeat to myself that those feelings should not have center stage in my life, but I acknowledge that they are there. So, here’s my affirmation. God is good, life is hard, let’s try together one more day. Peace

The Source of Things

8 Oct

Here’s the thing about our world. People don’t think. People don’t think about the big stuff – the God stuff every often. At least the people I talk to, and even what I talk about is small stuff; how’s the weather, how was work, what are we going to eat, how are you feeling today. It is nice conversation, but I think we need to spend at least a little time thinking about the source of our lives, the source of what we eat, and work at and even how we feel.

Psalm 104 celebrates the source of all things. Since it is in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the writer calls the source God. Do you think about that – the fact that you could rise from your bed today and have an earth to enjoy is because God is. Now I don’t want to get into a scientific conversation, or try to prove or disprove “stuff”, but by faith I believe God is the source of what is and even the source of our intelligence which we use to try to name the secondary source of what we experience. Let me be clear that I think it is essential that we use our intelligence and figure out stuff, but I think daily we ought to take time just to praise and give honor to the BIG BEGINNER of things. Psalm 104 would be a good starting place for that praise. It is a long psalm, but it goes through all of creation, so it takes a little time.

1-14 O my soul, bless God!

God, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps,
made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings.
You commandeered winds as messengers,
appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.
You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever.
You blanketed earth with ocean,
covered the mountains with deep waters;
Then you roared and the water ran away—
your thunder crash put it to flight.
Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out
in the places you assigned them.
You set boundaries between earth and sea;
never again will earth be flooded.
You started the springs and rivers,
sent them flowing among the hills.
All the wild animals now drink their fill,
wild donkeys quench their thirst.
Along the riverbanks the birds build nests,
ravens make their voices heard.
You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns;
earth is supplied with plenty of water.
You make grass grow for the livestock,
hay for the animals that plow the ground.

I like the psalmist affirmation that God made grain and wine to make people happy. C.S. Lewis in his book “Mere Christianity” says that everything that God made is good; it is just our abuse or neurotic hold on stuff that makes it unhealthy for us.

14-23 Oh yes, God brings grain from the land,
wine to make people happy,
Their faces glowing with health,
a people well-fed and hearty.
God’s trees are well-watered—
the Lebanon cedars he planted.
Birds build their nests in those trees;
look—the stork at home in the treetop.
Mountain goats climb about the cliffs;
badgers burrow among the rocks.
The moon keeps track of the seasons,
the sun is in charge of each day.
When it’s dark and night takes over,
all the forest creatures come out.
The young lions roar for their prey,
clamoring to God for their supper.
When the sun comes up, they vanish,
lazily stretched out in their dens.
Meanwhile, men and women go out to work,
busy at their jobs until evening.

I like this “wildly, wonderful world” God made with Wisdom along. There is such a beautiful diversity that makes it so interesting. There is also a artistic balance when humans do not destroy it.

24-30 What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
brimming with fish past counting,
sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.
All the creatures look expectantly to you
to give them their meals on time.
You come, and they gather around;
you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back,
they’d die in a minute—
Take back your Spirit and they die,
revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life—
the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.

It is God that is the source, the life, the breath, of all that is. Maybe today we can say Thank you to God for continuing to breath Life into our world and into us.

31-32 The glory of God—let it last forever!
Let God enjoy his creation!
He takes one look at earth and triggers an earthquake,
points a finger at the mountains, and volcanoes erupt.

33-35 Oh, let me sing to God all my life long,
sing hymns to my God as long as I live!
Oh, let my song please him;
I’m so pleased to be singing to God.
But clear the ground of sinners—
no more godless men and women!

O my soul, bless God!

If God is the source of all things as the psalmist and I believe, and God loves us as wants to be our God, then what do we have to worry about. God has made us, loved us, claimed us, and will be with us through each twist and turn in our lives. YEA GOD!

A Good Psalm for a Rainy Monday Morning

7 Oct

If I read Psalm 103 I start hearing “Gospell” in my head – O Bless the Lord My Soul. It is a great way to start off a rainy Monday morning. And, of course, I love to look at the way Eugene Peterson phrases it.

As humans, I think we are at our best when we are praising God. Hopefully, you had any opportunity yesterday morning to praise God with lots of people around. Our faith history in the scripture tells us again and again to praise God all the time, in all circumstances. I really think it leads to a healthy life and a holy outlook.

1-2 O my soul, bless God.
From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don’t forget a single blessing!

The psalmist tells us to praise God from head to toe and then give a reason upon reason to praise God.

3-5 He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.

I am not as optimistic as the psalmist in believing that God will make everything come out right (human rarely cooperate with this plan), but I believe that when we look at our lives from God’s perspective we can rejoice in the love God shares with us.

6-18 God makes everything come out right;
he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.
Men and women don’t live very long;
like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
leaving nothing to show they were here.
God’s love, though, is ever and always,
eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
as they follow his Covenant ways
and remember to do whatever he said.

The writer reminds us of the shortness of our lives. The older I get, the more real this idea becomes. So, given the brief time we have on the planet, what better way to spend it than praising God and trying to please God. So often my brain is thinking about what to watch next on TV, or what to buy next, or what work I have to do next. And this is more productive than thinking about how to arrange all the stuff I have, or what mistakes I made yesterday, or what didn’t please me recently. How much better to think about what I can praise God for in my life and how my life could be pleasing to God.

19-22 God has set his throne in heaven;
he rules over us all. He’s the King!
So bless God, you angels,
ready and able to fly at his bidding,
quick to hear and do what he says.
Bless God, all you armies of angels,
alert to respond to whatever he wills.
Bless God, all creatures, wherever you are—
everything and everyone made by God.
And you, O my soul, bless God!

So, be alter today. You are God’s children. Your design is to praise God and serve God. Maybe we could try that for today.

Peace

A Cry for Help

2 Oct

As we move to psalm 102, we move from praise of the last several psalms to a cry for help. The psalmist cry is wrapped up in a plead for a place of safe dwelling with God.

One reason I like the psalms is that the people who wrote them took their relationship with God seriously. There is a desire to share everything with God; good times and bad times. Even when the writer doesn’t feel as though God is paying attention, they continue to write.

1-2 God, listen! Listen to my prayer,
listen to the pain in my cries.
Don’t turn your back on me
just when I need you so desperately.
Pay attention! This is a cry for help!
And hurry—this can’t wait!

I always love the images in the psalms, especially when they are paraphrased by Eugene Peterson. I can feel the psalmist pain with lines like, “mournful as a sparrow in the gutter”, or They bring in meals – casseroles of ashes!” I think we should always try to enter the dialogue of the scriptures and the palms make them so accessible. Who had not felt this desolate and alone at some point in their lives?

3-11 I’m wasting away to nothing,
I’m burning up with fever.
I’m a ghost of my former self,
half-consumed already by terminal illness.
My jaws ache from gritting my teeth;
I’m nothing but skin and bones.
I’m like a buzzard in the desert,
a crow perched on the rubble.
Insomniac, I twitter away,
mournful as a sparrow in the gutter.
All day long my enemies taunt me,
while others just curse.
They bring in meals—casseroles of ashes!
I draw drink from a barrel of my tears.
And all because of your furious anger;
you swept me up and threw me out.
There’s nothing left of me—
a withered weed, swept clean from the path.

In the psalm is always an affirmation of who God is – one who rules and loves.

12-17 Yet you, God, are sovereign still,
always and ever sovereign.
You’ll get up from your throne and help Zion—
it’s time for compassionate help.
Oh, how your servants love this city’s rubble
and weep with compassion over its dust!
The godless nations will sit up and take notice
—see your glory, worship your name—
When God rebuilds Zion,
when he shows up in all his glory,
When he attends to the prayer of the wretched.
He won’t dismiss their prayer.

18-22 Write this down for the next generation
so people not yet born will praise God:
“God looked out from his high holy place;
from heaven he surveyed the earth.
He listened to the groans of the doomed,
he opened the doors of their death cells.”
Write it so the story can be told in Zion,
so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets
And wherever people gather together
along with their rulers to worship him.

23-28 God sovereignly brought me to my knees,
he cut me down in my prime.
“Oh, don’t,” I prayed, “please don’t let me die.
You have more years than you know what to do with!
You laid earth’s foundations a long time ago,
and handcrafted the very heavens;
You’ll still be around when they’re long gone,
threadbare and discarded like an old suit of clothes.
You’ll throw them away like a worn-out coat,
but year after year you’re as good as new.
Your servants’ children will have a good place to live
and their children will be at home with you.”

By the end of the psalm the cry turns to a plea and the hope continues; that your servant’s children will have a good place to live and their children will be at home with God. I know it is my hope as well.

Peace