Archive | February, 2014

Taking a Breath

27 Feb

In times when life is moving too fast, for whatever reason, I tell myself to breathe. One calming breath after another does amazing things for a moment in time. For me, it allows me to focus on God’s spirit, quiet my mind, and embrace whatever is before me.

I think Psalm 131 reflects this kind of calming of ourselves to remember that God is the one who will lead us through our lives.

God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.

2
I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content.

3
Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.
Hope now; hope always!

Imagine if we really placed all our trust in God and let God lead the way. If we were willing to be content with our lives, like a baby in its mother’s arms. Maybe all the stress and madness of our world would ease up a little and people would take a breath – calm their mind and spirit and be open to God’s peace.

What I se in my world is people determined NOT to do just that. Recently on NBC Nightly News they have been doing a series of stories on the legalization of marijuana. One of the people interviewed is a 70 something woman who said she recently discovered the relaxing effects of pot. She says her mind could be racing with all the details of her work and life and then after she smokes a joint it’s just, whatever. So, apparently, pot is the way to slow our minds and relax. Of course, when you come out of the “smoke daze” you have no more skills to handle the stress of your life than before. But, whatever, there like, legalizing pot, right!!

Just when I think the world can’t get weirder or try more ways to avoid the peace that God brings, I find I am so wrong. But I wait with hope, hope now; hope always. I think I will chill with God for awhile. Check you later. Peace.

When Life Crashes

19 Feb

I have said a number of times in this blog that I am a happy person; I really am. Yet, a few times in my life there has been despair. I think it was hard when I was young and felt like everything was going wrong and nothing would ever be good again. I remember one night in my twenties when I just wanted to die; close my eyes and never open them again. In recent years life has also changed in ways I would have never expected; a sense of loss and pain and a life that will never be the same. But, I like Process Theology because it says that life is not suppose to go on the same. There are changes, some we like and some we don’t, but all can be opportunities for growth.

My spiritual journey has helped me to put one foot in front of the other, even when it seems impossible. And, what I know is, that each time life seemed to come to an end, there was another, different life I had the option to embrace. In recent years [maybe since I turned 50], my motto has been, suck it up, figure it out, get it done. I am glad the young girl I was in my twenties didn’t give up. I am this old lady hasn’t given up either.

And that is my introduction to the psalm of the day. Psalm 130 begins with the well known line, “Out of the depths I cry unto you, O Lord”. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way:

130 1-2 Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life!
Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy.

3-4
If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
and that’s why you’re worshiped.

It is God’s way not to count the wrongdoing of our lives and offer forgiveness. Should we do any less for one another? If there is forgiveness, there is hope. If we can accept God’s forgiveness and forgive others than the brokenness of the past will not distort our present or our future. If we can look at our lives through God’s eyes and see the healing and new possibilities God’s love brings, then we can continue to bring light and blessings to others.

5-6
I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning.

7-8
O Israel, wait and watch for God—
with God’s arrival comes love,
with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel,
buy back Israel from captivity to sin.

It is the power of God to bring new hope out of the despair of a life that has crashed. If we truly believe that God has created our world, that God has raised Jesus from the dead, that God is with us in every moment of our lives, then surely God can raise our lives from the ashes and create a new life with different joys than we expected.

But remember, it is up to us to suck it up, figure it out, and get it done!

For Those Who are Angry

17 Feb

Psalm 129 speaks of the pain of abuse. The systematic abuse of the people of Israel and the angry that is caused when life is fundamentally unfair. This has not been an experience in my life, but as I read through the psalm I think of so many people who have lived and continue to live in unjust and inhuman circumstances.

I took my Dad to see 12 Years a Slave because he really wanted to see it. Where he was born in the late 1920 they had workers who were black who helped to work his family’s farm. I think he wanted to see what the movie portrayed about the life of a slave. It is an incredible film. I found it extremely difficult to watch because I knew how true it was and that there are still people today who live in that kind of painful and hopeless reality. So, when the psalmist says, “their plowmen plowed long furrows up and down my back”, I can only think of the many scenes in the movie where human being are whipped repeatedly.

129 1-4 “They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young”
—this is how Israel tells it—
“They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young,
but they never could keep me down.
Their plowmen plowed long furrows
up and down my back;
Then God ripped the harnesses
of the evil plowmen to shreds.”

The psalmist looks with hope to God destroying the evil plowmen. For those who have experienced systemic evil throughout their lives, God often is the only source of hope.

Finally, the psalmist takes out their pain on “those who hate Zion”, i.e. those who have persecuted the people of Israel. The imagines are ones that agrarian people would know well; crops that withers before they are harvested – life giving grain that cannot bring life.

5-8
Oh, let all those who hate Zion
grovel in humiliation;
Let them be like grass in shallow ground
that withers before the harvest,
Before the farmhands can gather it in,
the harvesters get in the crop,
Before the neighbors have a chance to call out,
“Congratulations on your wonderful crop!
We bless you in God’s name!”

The angry in this psalm is for the oppressors who have stolen the hope of a life with dignity. God is the only hope to bring this evil to justice. For me it is important to remember that our requirement of God is to “Seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God”.

Peace

Life Inside a Snow Globe

13 Feb

Good Morning Friends, I hope you are safe and warm. Here it looks like I woke up in the middle of a snow globe and someone keeps shaking it. Yet, I am warm and dry and do not have to go anywhere AND there is enough food in our house to last for weeks; a typical grandma house.

The psalm for the day is one more praise song that centers on family. It is kind of like the Hallmark greeting card of the psalms.

128 1-2 All you who fear God, how blessed you are!
how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!
You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming.
Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness!

3-4
Your wife will bear children as a vine bears grapes,
your household lush as a vineyard,
The children around your table
as fresh and promising as young olive shoots.
Stand in awe of God’s Yes.
Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!

5-6
Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem
every day of your life.
And enjoy your grandchildren.
Peace to Israel!

The psalm repeat again; God, good work, family; what more could one want in life.

Take a moment to consider people who seem very content, centered, god-filled. Do those people look like this picture. Blessed for praising God, working hard and enjoying the family they have in this world. There is an old, old song that sometimes runs through my head, Count your many blessings, count them one by one, count your many blessing see what God has done.. I think that is true. If we can see the blessing in our lives, our lives become blessings for others.

I hope this day you enjoy your millennia old greeting card and the blessings God shares with you today.

God’s Best Gifts

11 Feb

Psalm 127 is a praise psalm that runs through all the stuff God has given us; good work, good rest, and kids. These are universal to our world no matter what century in which we live.
The first line of this psalm is often used for Habitat for Humanity work sites. It is the perfect line to describe the blessing and God centered of that movement to provide homes for families. Did you know the concept was born at Koinonia Farms when Millard Fuller was trying to pull his life back together. He was on retreat at Koinonia Farms in Americans, Georgia, when during a Bible Study on the book of Deuteronomy he hear of God’s desire for all people to have the basics of life. I just think that it is really cool that this wonderful movement that has touch so many lives, both who worked for their homes and those who helped them, came from thoughtful reading in of the scripture in a place that was started as the “proving ground for the Kingdom of God”. It is clear that it illustrates that if God does build a house it multiplies the blessings over and over again.

127 1-2 If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?

This psalm also talks about rest. It says that God enjoys giving us rest. Think about how often you take a rest not only from your work, but from your worries. I truly believe we can trust God with all of it… there is no need to worry while God has got our back. The final gift the psalmist talks about are children.

3-5
Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.

Children are a wonderful gift – and in our generation, making it through the teen years is another gift. But, I think about the culture in which this was originally written. Children would have grown up as working hands in the family business. They would have become part of a clan that protected the livelihood and the land of the family. All I can think is Duck Dynasty. So that the family could stand together against any foe and prosper in even the most difficult of circumstances.

Well, that’s what this psalmist thinks are the best gifts from God. What do you think?? I know I have received lots and lots of great gifts. . good work to do, rest in God’s peace, and family and friends to travel with me on the road.

Mondays are great!

10 Feb

I have always loved Mondays. They I usually been my quiet day to catch up on mindless chores and enjoy the sense of worship completed before planning begins again. It is a great time to praise God.

In Psalm 126 I am reminded of the old sayings, “You get more flies with honey”. The Psalm begins as a praise song, but by the second stanza it becomes a psalm of request. But, I figure that is the best way to go about any request; first say something nice that indicates that you have been appreciative in the past and then make the request.

1-3 It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations—
“God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
we are one happy people.

4-6
And now, God, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Come to think of it, this is the way my sons always got what they wanted. It got to the point where I was always suspicious when they were being too nice or complimentary of me. I wonder if God ever feels that way??

Well, I hope you take time to praise God today. Even in the midst of the cold and snow there should be something to thank God for today. I am grateful that there is a high school student in the apartments nearby earning money by shoveling driveways and he came by last night and took the latest inch away. God is good.

I hope you find yourselves today coming “home laughing, with armloads of blessings”. Peace

Always Has, Always Will

7 Feb

Psalm 125 is short and to the point, and Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase is wonderful.

1-5 Those who trust in God
are like Zion Mountain:
Nothing can move it, a rock-solid mountain
you can always depend on.
Mountains encircle Jerusalem,
and God encircles his people—
always has and always will.
The fist of the wicked
will never violate
What is due the righteous,
provoking wrongful violence.
Be good to your good people, God,
to those whose hearts are right!
God will round up the backsliders,
corral them with the incorrigibles.
Peace over Israel!

Do you know people who really trust in God. . not just give lip service. As I think about those people in my life who do trust God, I see that they are like Zion Mountain; nothing can move them. Trusting in God means not having to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow, or what people think about you, or if you will have people you love around you. God is there, period. God is caring for you, period. God can show you a way through, period.

Even when things are not what you expected them to be, or people you depended on aren’t there, God is and always will be. It is trust in God that sees us through the rough time and let’s us see the joy and beauty of life at all times.

So now think about those people who you know who don’t trust God; pulled in every direction, worry about everything, try to control the uncontrollable [which is most of life].

God offers us a way to live a deep, full, whole and holy life by trusting in God at every step of our lives. AND, if we are trusting God to guide our steps, then we can look around at the beauty that is there and enjoy the ride.

Here’s to trusting God and enjoying the ride. Peace