Archive | January, 2014

Easy as 1, 2, 3

31 Jan

We are up to Psalm 123, so I couldn’t resist the title for this post. I have also written in this blog over 160 times. It is amazing.
This morning I am sitting in the room we use most during the day with a little space heater running full blast. We have run out of heating oil and hope that more will be delivered today. Mom and Dad are snuggled under their electric blanket in bed [I hope they are behaving themselves.] But, as I sit under my blanket I am thankful for all that we have today. During these cold days I have often given thanks for all I have each day and pray for those who do not; those who do not have a warm home, those who do not have a car that works reliably, those who do not have warm coats and hats and mittens. I enjoy so many blessings and I pray I can help those who struggle on the margins of life.

This short psalm speaks elegantly of our attentiveness to God. Probably you have not been a servant, but the idea of complete focus on another, awaiting their instruction is a powerful one. I took my Dad to see “12 Years a Slave”. It is a powerful and difficult to watch, mostly because it is all true and, most painfully, there are still those who are in similar circumstances today. I think of those slaves watching “the masters” for every nuance of emotion trying to avoid wrath and get safely through one more day.

1-4 I look to you, heaven-dwelling God,
look up to you for help.
Like servants, alert to their master’s commands,
like a maiden attending her lady,
We’re watching and waiting, holding our breath,
awaiting your word of mercy.
Mercy, God, mercy!
We’ve been kicked around long enough,
Kicked in the teeth by complacent rich men,
kicked when we’re down by arrogant brutes.

So, we all await God’s mercy. Also I pray we can be a living example of God’s mercy in this world, keeping watchful for God’s commands.

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Pilgrims Have Arrived

30 Jan

Yesterday song was one used as pilgrims traveled to Jerusalem for festival days. In today’s psalm they have arrived and sing a song of joy for Jerusalem. Muslins, Jews and Christians all revere the city of Jerusalem. It is sad that because of this it have often become a battleground.

A Pilgrim Song of David
122 1-2 When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,”
my heart leaped for joy.
And now we’re here, O Jerusalem,
inside Jerusalem’s walls!

3-5
Jerusalem, well-built city,
built as a place for worship!
The city to which the tribes ascend,
all God’s tribes go up to worship,
To give thanks to the name of God—
this is what it means to be Israel.
Thrones for righteous judgment
are set there, famous David-thrones.

6-9
Pray for Jerusalem’s peace!
Prosperity to all you Jerusalem-lovers!
Friendly insiders, get along!
Hostile outsiders, keep your distance!
For the sake of my family and friends,
I say it again: live in peace!
For the sake of the house of our God, God,
I’ll do my very best for you

Let us join in the stream of God-worshipers and continue the prayer for peace for Jerusalem.

Also, this day reflect on the place that has become sacred for your worship of God. I have lived in a number of different places and worship in many sanctuaries; yet I think the chapel at Mount Saviour Monastery is a place that calls me to return on pilgrimage.

Peace be your journey this day.

Traveling is Dangerous

29 Jan

Psalm 121 was used by pilgrims as they set out on a journey. Usually they were traveling to Jerusalem on a holy pilgrimage. Have you ever wonder that we spend our opportunities to travel on vacation to places to be pampered and in ancient times their opportunity to travel was to honor God and walk to and through dangerous places??

It is said that the group of pilgrims for the holy city would gather in their town square and begin to sing this psalm. You may be more familiar with the translation, “I life up my to the hills – from where will my help come?”

121 1-2 I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

3-4
He won’t let you stumble,
your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
Guardian will never doze or sleep.

5-6
God’s your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.

7-8
God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.

This is the song of assurance and hope that the pilgrims sang along the way. In a dry and arid land, God protected them from sunstroke, even from moonstroke. I enjoy how many ways the psalms finds to tell of God’s protection for the people of God.

This word of assurance is our again today. God will guard you when you leave and when you return, God guards you now and guards you always.

Alfred North Whitehead said, “Creation is a continuing process, and the process is itself the actuality, since no sooner do you arrive than you start on a fresh journey.”

Enjoy the journey this day and KNOW that God goes with you. Blessings and peace as you travel the dangerous byways of life.

Life in our World

28 Jan

This is another psalm of lament. It starts out with the standard calling to God for help, but what strikes me about this song of pain is the writers distress that people always seem to be at war.

120 1-2 I’m in trouble. I cry to God,
desperate for an answer:
“Deliver me from the liars, God!
They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth.”

God is asked for deliverance and the wrongdoers are promised punishment.

3-4
Do you know what’s next, can you see what’s coming,
all you barefaced liars?
Pointed arrows and burning coals
will be your reward.

Sometimes I feel like the writer, “My whole life lived camping among quarreling neighbors.” This is not the experience of local neighbors, but of international ones. There never seems to be an end to people fighting for power and wealth. And those who live on the margins of life just wanting food, shelter and security. It is amazing the reasons we find to kill and destroy one another. I find myself, with the psalmist, wanting peace and finding war.

5-7
I’m doomed to live in Meshech,
cursed with a home in Kedar,
My whole life lived camping
among quarreling neighbors.
I’m all for peace, but the minute
I tell them so, they go to war!

Join me in praying for peace for our world today and protection for those who suffer most because of war.

Beginning and End

27 Jan

Hello Friends, at the beginning of this new week, we will be ending Psalm 119. If you have read parts 1-3, this section will be more of the same. The psalmist praises God for God’s wonderful instructions, pleads with God for release from his enemies and plans to continue to travel God’s path.

The first line of this section talks about “the word” God gives. Joan Chittister did a video series on the ancient practice of God’s Words of wisdom and grace given to the desert mothers and fathers and passed on to the seekers on the journey. This type of word is something that is conveyed with a deep humility and gentleness; it truly becomes a “miracle word”.

129-136
Every word you give me is a miracle word—
how could I help but obey?
Break open your words, let the light shine out,
let ordinary people see the meaning.
Mouth open and panting,
I wanted your commands more than anything.
Turn my way, look kindly on me,
as you always do to those who personally love you.
Steady my steps with your Word of promise
so nothing malign gets the better of me.
Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women
so I can live life your way.
Smile on me, your servant;
teach me the right way to live.
I cry rivers of tears
because nobody’s living by your book!

It is a frustration that so few seem to be seeking God’s way. If you had the opportunity to tell some how to live by God’s book, what would you say. When asked what was most important, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might and love your neighbor as yourself.” I think that covers it.

137-144
You are right and you do right, God;
your decisions are right on target.
You rightly instruct us in how to live
ever faithful to you.
My rivals nearly did me in,
they persistently ignored your commandments.
Your promise has been tested through and through,
and I, your servant, love it dearly.
I’m too young to be important,
but I don’t forget what you tell me.
Your righteousness is eternally right,
your revelation is the only truth.
Even though troubles came down on me hard,
your commands always gave me delight.
The way you tell me to live is always right;
help me understand it so I can live to the fullest.

God’s way are always right. This is of course true, because if God created us, knows us, then it makes complete sense that God’s ways are right for us. Remember, this means forgiveness for everyone, even those [particularly those] who do not deserve it.

145-152
I call out at the top of my lungs,
“God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.”
I called to you, “Save me
so I can carry out all your instructions.”
I was up before sunrise,
crying for help, hoping for a word from you.
I stayed awake all night,
prayerfully pondering your promise.
In your love, listen to me;
in your justice, God, keep me alive.
As those out to get me come closer and closer,
they go farther and farther from the truth you reveal;
But you’re the closest of all to me, God,
and all your judgments true.
I’ve known all along from the evidence of your words
that you meant them to last forever.

153-160
Take a good look at my trouble, and help me—
I haven’t forgotten your revelation.
Take my side and get me out of this;
give me back my life, just as you promised.
“Salvation” is only gibberish to the wicked
because they’ve never looked it up in your dictionary.
Your mercies, God, run into the billions;
following your guidelines, revive me.
My antagonists are too many to count,
but I don’t swerve from the directions you gave.
I took one look at the quitters and was filled with loathing;
they walked away from your promises so casually!
Take note of how I love what you tell me;
out of your life of love, prolong my life.
Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth.
Your righteous decisions are eternal.

In this next stanza the psalmist says that seven times each day I stop and shot praises. The Benedictine monks and nuns take this seriously and meet 7 times a day to recite the psalms and worship together. I have been on retreat in a Benedictine community several times and this tradition creates a wonderfully blessed rhythm of the day.

161-168
I’ve been slandered unmercifully by the politicians,
but my awe at your words keeps me stable.
I’m ecstatic over what you say,
like one who strikes it rich.
I hate lies—can’t stand them!—
but I love what you have revealed.
Seven times each day I stop and shout praises
for the way you keep everything running right.
For those who love what you reveal, everything fits—
no stumbling around in the dark for them.
I wait expectantly for your salvation;
God, I do what you tell me.
My soul guards and keeps all your instructions—
oh, how much I love them!
I follow your directions, abide by your counsel;
my life’s an open book before you.

169-176
Let my cry come right into your presence, God;
provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word.
Give my request your personal attention,
rescue me on the terms of your promise.
Let praise cascade off my lips;
after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life!
And let your promises ring from my tongue;
every order you’ve given is right.
Put your hand out and steady me
since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel.
I’m homesick, God, for your salvation;
I love it when you show yourself!
Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,
use your decrees to put iron in my soul.
And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me!
I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.

I pray you can recognize God’s voice as you travel the path of God.

The Longest Psalm – Part 3

23 Jan

This is the more whiney part of the psalm. The writer is beset by an enemy and asks for God’s help. I know in my life, I have been my own worst enemy. I think holding on to God is the only way through. I understand the writer’s feelings, “they’ve pushed and pushed – they never let up – but I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel.” God’s wisdom is the only hope in a world filled with pain, distraction, and difficulties.

I’m homesick—longing for your salvation;
I’m waiting for your word of hope.
My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise;
how long must I wait for your comfort?
There’s smoke in my eyes—they burn and water,
but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post.
How long do I have to put up with all this?
How long till you haul my tormentors into court?
The arrogant godless try to throw me off track,
ignorant as they are of God and his ways.
Everything you command is a sure thing,
but they harass me with lies. Help!
They’ve pushed and pushed—they never let up—
but I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel.
In your great love revive me
so I can alertly obey your every word.

89-96
What you say goes, God,
and stays, as permanent as the heavens.
Your truth never goes out of fashion;
it’s as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up.
Your Word and truth are dependable as ever;
that’s what you ordered—you set the earth going.
If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so,
I would have given up when the hard times came.
But I’ll never forget the advice you gave me;
you saved my life with those wise words.
Save me! I’m all yours.
I look high and low for your words of wisdom.
The wicked lie in ambush to destroy me,
but I’m only concerned with your plans for me.
I see the limits to everything human,
but the horizons can’t contain your commands!

One of the wonderful paradoxes of the nature of God is that God never changes and God is always new. God is as enduring as the orbit of the earth and as new as each new morning. It is an amazing nature filled with love for God’s creation.

97-104
Oh, how I love all you’ve revealed;
I reverently ponder it all the day long.
Your commands give me an edge on my enemies;
they never become obsolete.
I’ve even become smarter than my teachers
since I’ve pondered and absorbed your counsel.
I’ve become wiser than the wise old sages
simply by doing what you tell me.
I watch my step, avoiding the ditches and ruts of evil
so I can spend all my time keeping your Word.
I never make detours from the route you laid out;
you gave me such good directions.
Your words are so choice, so tasty;
I prefer them to the best home cooking.
With your instruction, I understand life;
that’s why I hate false propaganda.

I must say, that even though I tried to watch all my steps, I don’t always avoid the ditches. It has become easier, as I have grown older in faith. The journey becomes a way of life that transform life. God’s words are like the best home cooking OR the best batch of fudge. YUM!

105-112
By your words I can see where I’m going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back
from living by your righteous order.
Everything’s falling apart on me, God;
put me together again with your Word.
Festoon me with your finest sayings, God;
teach me your holy rules.
My life is as close as my own hands,
but I don’t forget what you have revealed.
The wicked do their best to throw me off track,
but I don’t swerve an inch from your course.
I inherited your book on living; it’s mine forever—
what a gift! And how happy it makes me!
I concentrate on doing exactly what you say—
I always have and always will.

113-120
I hate the two-faced,
but I love your clear-cut revelation.
You’re my place of quiet retreat;
I wait for your Word to renew me.
Get out of my life, evildoers,
so I can keep my God’s commands.
Take my side as you promised; I’ll live then for sure.
Don’t disappoint all my grand hopes.
Stick with me and I’ll be all right;
I’ll give total allegiance to your definitions of life.
Expose all who drift away from your sayings;
their casual idolatry is lethal.
You reject earth’s wicked as so much rubbish;
therefore I lovingly embrace everything you say.
I shiver in awe before you;
your decisions leave me speechless with reverence.

121-128
I stood up for justice and the right;
don’t leave me to the mercy of my oppressors.
Take the side of your servant, good God;
don’t let the godless take advantage of me.
I can’t keep my eyes open any longer, waiting for you
to keep your promise to set everything right.
Let your love dictate how you deal with me;
teach me from your textbook on life.
I’m your servant—help me understand what that means,
the inner meaning of your instructions.
It’s time to act, God;
they’ve made a shambles of your revelation!
Yea-Saying God, I love what you command,
I love it better than gold and gemstones;
Yea-Saying God, I honor everything you tell me,
I despise every deceitful detour.

The phrase “showing up is 90% of the job” often floats through my head. I think just trying again and again, in all circumstances, to life our faith will bring us to a deeper place of dwelling with God. To draw deep from God’s word and from our own energy to life each day will bring us to a place with the psalmist to say, “Yea-saying God, I love what you command, I love it better than gold and gemstones.” It is God’s word that has directions for the way of life. I pray you cling close to those words today. AND STAY WARM! Peace,

The Longest Psalm – Part 2

21 Jan

We are getting a big snow. It is a great day to stay tucked up in bed and blog about this wonderfully long psalm.

Journey has become one of the central imagines for our faith life. This imagine, like this psalm, reflect the concept of a lifetime of growing in God and learning the ways of god. The first stanza talks of this journey and asks that, “my whole life [be] on long, obedient response.” It is a wonderful thought. This living will lead to a person, “bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot.” Just think about how much time we spend piling up loot. Christmas has ended, but the shopping continues. So I ask with the psalmist, Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way.”

33-40
God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways!

The psalm continues this the affirmation that the way we make it through this life’s difficultly is by being shaped by God’s love. It was an interesting weekend for me. I saw “12 Years a Slave” with my Dad, because he really wanted to see the movie and then we celebrated Dr. King’s birthday. For me, Dr. King was enable to do what he did by God’s strength. He embodied the line, “Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery because I trusted your Word.” Dr. King took us to the mountain top with him because his life was shaped by God’s love and justice.

41-48
Let your love, God, shape my life
with salvation, exactly as you promised;
Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery
because I trusted your Word.
Don’t ever deprive me of truth, not ever—
your commandments are what I depend on.
Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me,
guard it now, guard it ever;
And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces
as I look for your truth and your wisdom;
Then I’ll tell the world what I find,
speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed.
I cherish your commandments—oh, how I love them!—
relishing every fragment of your counsel.

49-56
Remember what you said to me, your servant—
I hang on to these words for dear life!
These words hold me up in bad times;
yes, your promises rejuvenate me.
The insolent ridicule me without mercy,
but I don’t budge from your revelation.
I watch for your ancient landmark words,
and know I’m on the right track.
But when I see the wicked ignore your directions,
I’m beside myself with anger.
I set your instructions to music
and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way.
I meditate on your name all night, God,
treasuring your revelation, O God.
Still, I walk through a rain of derision
because I live by your Word and counsel.

My favorite line from this last stanza is, “I set your instructions to music and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way.” I have learned a number of scripture passages set to music and know a lot of hymns. It is a wonderful day when these are the words singing through my head throughout the day.

57-64
Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise
to do everything you say.
I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile,
be gracious to me just as you promised.
When I took a long, careful look at your ways,
I got my feet back on the trail you blazed.
I was up at once, didn’t drag my feet,
was quick to follow your orders.
The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out—
but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me.
I get up in the middle of the night to thank you;
your decisions are so right, so true—I can’t wait till morning!
I’m a friend and companion of all who fear you,
of those committed to living by your rules.
Your love, God, fills the earth!
Train me to live by your counsel.

The line, “I get up in the middle of the night to thank you;”, is why Benedictine monks I visited get up at 4:30 am for their first worship service. It was one the first one of the day and one of my favorites. It began with the call and response, “O Lord open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise,” said three times. I have often thought what a wonderful day it would be if the only time I opened my mouth was to declare God’s grace and love and praise God’s name. And as the Benedictines and the psalm remind us, this kind of life takes training!

65-72
Be good to your servant, God;
be as good as your Word.
Train me in good common sense;
I’m thoroughly committed to living your way.
Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place,
but now I’m in step with your Word.
You are good, and the source of good;
train me in your goodness.
The godless spread lies about me,
but I focus my attention on what you are saying;
They’re bland as a bucket of lard,
while I dance to the tune of your revelation.
My troubles turned out all for the best—
they forced me to learn from your textbook.
Truth from your mouth means more to me
than striking it rich in a gold mine.

This stanza is artfully true. The psalmist asks to be trained in common sense; what a wonderful and rare gift these days. If we are not on God’s path, we are wondering all over the place. It is on God’s path that our lives have meaning and purpose and direction [pointed towards God]. Again, that are great insights into our human life in this song, without God, our lives are as, “bland as a bucket of lard, while I dance to the tune of your revelation.” It is in God’s presence and power where meaningful creativity abounds. AND, even the bad time turn out for the best because we learn deeper the truths of God’s way. I know this is true for my life It is an amazing journey.

73-80
With your very own hands you formed me;
now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you.
When they see me waiting, expecting your Word,
those who fear you will take heart and be glad.
I can see now, God, that your decisions are right;
your testing has taught me what’s true and right.
Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised.
Now comfort me so I can live, really live;
your revelation is the tune I dance to.
Let the fast-talking tricksters be exposed as frauds;
they tried to sell me a bill of goods,
but I kept my mind fixed on your counsel.
Let those who fear you turn to me
for evidence of your wise guidance.
And let me live whole and holy, soul and body,
so I can always walk with my head held high.

I pray you continue to dance in God’s revelations this day, with the scripture singing in your head. Peace.