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Archive for July, 2019

I haven’t met many mornings that I didn’t immediately love.

I love the excitement of the sun rising, of a fresh new day (with no mistakes in it, as Anne of Green Gables would say), the fresh energy that courses through my body and the reminder of walking with God in the very beginning.

In Proverbs (8:17), we are told:

“I love them that love me:
and they that in the morning early watch for me,
shall find me.”

As my day begins, I am eager to connect with God.

For hubby … not so much, or, more specifically, not so early.

I am pretty certain that hubby has never and will never see God early on any morning. Just a few days ago, as we were listening to a speaker, he reminded us of another Proverb (27:14):

“A loud and cheerful greeting
early in the morning
will be taken as a curse!”

Hubby heard it too and raised his eyebrows at me … I think I am going to be hearing this verse quite a bit.

As we have been vacationing at the coast, going to sleep and awaking each day to the sounds of the surf and the seagulls, my love of mornings has reached new heights. I simply cannot wait to peek through the blinds to see the waves crashing against the sandy shore. Each morning here I rise with the song it’s A Beautiful Morning playing in my brain.

The aesthetic beauty here is awe inspiring and it provides ample opportunity for creativity, renewal and rejuvenation.

But it is that morning glow … of my soul, that awakens a part of me beyond the typical dawn. This is a benefit that comes from experiencing summer sabbath rest, away, in the midst of beauty, and solid teaching, and good friends, and good food. It is like having the freshness of a new day, on steroids.

The other day someone reminded me of something from the creation account, that I had not thought of, before. Adam and Eve were the end of God’s creation week activities, truly they/we are his pièce de résistance … his greatest work. The day following that human creation was the day of rest, the sabbath.

Before Adam and Eve had to work, they rested. Imagine how spectacular their first morning, after their sabbath, felt for them! It made me realize we do not rest to get over our day, but we rest, in preparation for the new day.

“It’s a beautiful morning
I think I’ll just go outside for awhile
And smile”

“Every morning
he makes me eager
to hear what he is going to teach me.”

Isaiah 50:4

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I have a great dad. He has been the best reflection of God the father that I could imagine, that I could need. Perfect? no, but perfect for me (one might think that was in the plans all along).

Recently hubby and I have been plowing through a show on Netflix called The Blacklist. We (and by ‘we’ I can at least confidently say ‘I’) are fully addicted. It is a violent crime drama that can leave one with might terrors. To give you a synopsis, without spoiling it, it is the story of an undercover FBI agency who, seek out the world’s most wanted, with the help of one who was the most wanted on the FBI list, himself (Red). He only works with one, brand new, inexperienced FBI agent (Lizzy). The parallel story to the crime fighting and criminal hunting is this relationship between Red and Lizzy and the mystery of Red’s need to be in her life. There is a hint to a parental connection, but …

Recently, as I was writing, the lyrics of a song were penetrating my concentration until I just had to stop writing and see those lyrics. To see them is to acknowledge that they are as we think we hear them, to acknowledge the truth of them. As I listened to the song Rescue (below) I had initially thought it is a song that should be used in an episode or season of the The Blacklist, for it’s message of one who, like a bodyguard, looks after those who they take full responsibility for.

Then …

I thought of our Father God, who does not slumber, but is always overseeing us, protecting us, rescuing us. We don’t even need to yell for help … just a whisper of SOS will bring his army to rescue us … even in the darkest night, the hardest fight.

CS Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity has said,

“His (God’s) love for us … is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

It is daunting to think that God is willing to wait for our SOS. For some, we come quietly to him, for others there is much kicking and screaming before we exhale in forfeit, maybe not even truly believing that rescue will come.

The idea that our Creator and Savior loves us throughout our lives, no matter the choices we make, the thoughts we think, the behaviors that we inflict on those around us … on ourselves is far beyond our human understanding. Add to that the fact that he took it to the point of the greatest self sacrifice … the sacrifice of his own child. That is God’s definition of Father love.

His pursuit of us is lifelong … that is the heart of our heavenly father. But he is a gentleman … and he will not force his ability and desire to rescue us, on us. We have to choose it.

Rescue – Lauren Daigle

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Hubby and I … well, it is probably best said that opposites attract.

We have differing points of view on everything from coffee shops, to music, to movies, to politics, to child rearing, to chocolate (he says milk and I say dark). These different perspectives can leave us frustrated, angry and even with hurt feelings. What they don’t do is ignite hate for each other.

What we share together is far greater than on what we differ. Oh, the differing can be immensely challenging and even hurtful, but we share a life-guiding principle …

we love one another

The concept of loving one another came from the mouth and heart of Jesus, himself. It was while sitting around a table with his eleven (Judas had already stepped away … in more ways than just physically stepping away), that Jesus commanded them to love one another.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

This loving each other was as foreign a concept then, as it is now. Like today, when people eliminate or unfriend people who think differently than us, society in the time of Jesus was also more about about assimilation than about community or love.

The Matthew Henry Commentary (MHC), on this love one another passage says,

“Laws of revenge and retaliation were so much in vogue, and self-love had so much the ascendant (superiority), that the law of brotherly love was forgotten as obsolete and out of date; so that as it came from Christ new, it was new to the people.”

So when Jesus delivered this command (not a suggestion, but a command) it was counter culture, odd and new. It could have been dismissed completely had he not given them a model to follow … himself.

Jesus told them to love each other “as I have loved you.”

Each one sitting there, listening to him speak would know, by their experience and intimate knowledge of life with him, how high the bar was that Jesus had set for them.

As the MHC says, of his example of what it is to love one another:

“He spoke kindly to them, concerned himself heartily for them, and for their welfare, instructed, counselled, and comforted them, prayed with them and for them, vindicated them when they were accused, took their part when they were run down, and publicly owned them to be dearer to him that his mother, or sister, or brother. He reproved them for what was amiss, and yet compassionately bore with their failings, excused them, made the best of them, and passed by many an oversight. Thus he had loved them, and just now washed their feet; and thus they must love one another, and love to the end. “

This is what we are called to, as well.

None of this would have been a surprise to the disciples, anymore than it should be a surprise to us, today.

Jesus did not give up on his disciples. He did not unfriend, nor did he cease to love each and every one (Judas included), right up to the end … his end on the cross. For he died for us all, even if we do not choose to accept his leadership in our lives.

To differ does not have to mean that we hate. If we declare that we follow the example of Jesus, there is not place for hate if we are committed to love one another.

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Like an unexpected, fast moving storm cloud, threatening to rain down torrents of water and even hail, I was growing increasingly disturbed within my soul.

It was a sunny, warm summer’s day, with nary a cloud in the sky, a demand on my time, yet …

I kept asking of myself,

why am I downcast?

I could think of a conversation that didn’t quite go the way I had hoped. I could think of situations in my life that were not where I desire them to be. But …

why such
disturbance within me?

As I asked the questions over and over, I realized they were questions asked by the Psalmist.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?”

Psalm 42:11a

Psalm 42 is one of the laments of the Psalms. These laments give us permission (maybe even direction) to be downcast, disturbed within our souls. They remind us that the human condition is not all wine and roses.

This particular lament from the Psalms is an interesting one, indeed. A song sung by the Sons of Korah, the descendants of those who died when the earth opened up and swallowed them for their dissension against Moses and Aaron’s leadership (Numbers 26:8-11). These musicians … they personally understood lament … but they also personally knew of God’s offering of grace and mercy.

David knew of these as well. His life was a testimony to the grace and mercy of the God who looked on him as a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

This Psalm, starts out so very peaceful, delightful.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.”

Then the lamenting continues for much of the following eleven verses, interspersed with acknowledgements of examples of when Gods protection and presence were keenly felt and experienced. It is as though there is this zigzag of self talk, or, in my imagination the Psalmist is dealing with an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, each fighting for the attention of downcast one.

Why am I downcast,
oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?

I found the answer to my question the day following that downcast day. The Wonderdog and I went for a walk around out neighborhood. I have been discovering new trails this summer that go throughout wooded areas, where we are shaded from the sun and where the walk is more quiet, more relaxing. It was more hot than I realized and we were both soon hot and dehydrated.

When we arrived home, I poured a glass of water for myself and replenished the water in the Wonderdog’s bowl. As it was filling I was pretty certain that his panting was making the entire room vibrate. He couldn’t wait to get to that bowl of refreshing water.

And that was when I realized that I had been reading the first verse wrongly.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.”

This isn’t a peaceful image at all. This is the image of a creature (the deer, ourselves) desperate for refreshment, panting, struggling for breath from being so parched. The creature does not stop until it finds the streams of water … the only thing that would bring true refreshment.

In the same way we are desperate for God, the only one who can truly, completely refresh us. We often know that we are parched, but we seek to refresh ourselves with anything but God. We go to entertainment, food, relaxation, activities, pampering, to friends or family or even to church thinking that if we are renewed physically, mentally, socially, or even theologically we will no longer thirst.

But there is only one who quenches this thirst in our souls, and it is the one who formed them. It is our souls cry for us to be satisfied in God alone.

We benefit from lamenting, but we also need to remember the grace and mercy of better days, when our panting was met with refreshment.

“A lot of times my tendency is to go into a depression looking into myself which only spirals me further down. The song is meant to preach to myself and call me to remember the times when I experienced the glory and goodness of God which can help bounce me out of that vicious cycle. It’s meant to get my eyes off of me and be satisfied in God alone.” Brian Eichelberger

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Do you sing in church?

It amazes me, when I look around on a Sunday morning, that so many people do not participate in the singing part of worship. Despite that fact that many people write or talk about the decreasing participation in the singing portion of worship (and often relate it to new, unfamiliar, difficult to sing, theology light worship songs) I don’t find that it has decreased since I was a child.

Some will say they do not sing because:

  • they do not know the songs
  • they do not like the songs
  • church people do not need to hear me sing

If we were to switch from the singing part of worship to the financial giving part of worship, would similar rationale be accepted?

I don’t give financially because:

  • I don’t know what my money is going to be used for
  • I don’t like what my money is going to be used for
  • the church does not need my money

Here’s the thing (and isn’t it always the thing?), whether it is our financial giving or singing in worship, it is never about us, me, my.

Our giving,
in worship
is not our offering,
but our returning to God
what he has given to us.

When we give financially, we are returning to God a portion of what he has given to us. When we give in song, we are returning to God a portion of our breath, our humility. In both cases, he has given us what we need, as an investment in our lives. We, in turn take his investment and multiply it, returning the dividends to him …

not because he needs it,
but because
we need to give it.

“The Savior has rescued us that we might sing the song of the redeemed. May we sing it well. May we sing it constantly. May we sing it passionately. May we sing it for his glory and the advancing of his gospel until the time comes when our songs will never end.” Bob Kauflin

“Let everything (everyone) that has breath
praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!”

Psalm 150:6

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Sitting in a coffee shop recently a song came on and my fingers froze on the keyboard, my eyes lifted up from my screen and I could feel that uncontrollable smile form across my face. It was the song Unforgettable by Nat King Cole.

Unforgettable
That’s what you are,
Unforgettable
Tho’ near or far.

Like a song of love that clings to me …

I had a similar experience sitting in a church sanctuary, awaiting the start of a memorial. As I was reading the life story of the deceased, the pianist played Your Song, by Elton John and my attention was fully and completely on the words that were going through my head.

Oh I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do 
My gift is my song 
And this one’s for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song 
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done 
I hope you don’t mind 
That I put down in words 
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

What is it that causes a song to so reach into our being that we stop what we are doing and thinking, just to hear it more clearly … even though we know it so very well?

Within all humans is a natural beat, which we all walk to, within the confines of our chest and it courses throughout our bodies, from head to toes. Our heartbeat has a rhythm of it’s own and we are moved when we hear our own heartbeat in the heartbeat of another’s song. That reminder that another feels as we do, that we are not alone.

That is what I think Psalm 139 is all about. Here are a few of the first verses:”

“You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely”

In this an intimate knowledge of the psalmist, by his Creator, is acknowledged. In this is not only the intimacy of the Creator acknowledged, but also declared … as though the psalmist had made a conscious realization that he is not alone … as though one day the lightbulb came on, and the psalmist was stopped in an instant when he heard his own heartbeat … in the heartbeat of God.

Our father sings the song of our heartbeat,

telling us that we are never alone.

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There’s that verse … the one about a prophet not being accepted in his hometown (Luke 4:24). That may be true, but at least someone knows their name.

The writers of the TV series, Cheers, had it right about humanity in the lyrics of their theme song:

“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name”

I admit that I have always gotten a surge of adrenaline when I encounter a new setting. That is … until more recently. Now I find walking into a new setting, with new people rather daunting. I struggle with having to push myself into circles, conversations and volunteering at events. I struggle with having no one know my name.

There is a passage of Isaiah 43 (v. 1-3) that I have … paraphrased a bit, for times when I am struggling with being the new kid, in whatever situation I might be:

“Right now, this is what the Lord says …
Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through the doors of
a new job,
a new church,
a new family,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the crowd of strangers,
who don’t seem to want to get to know you,
this will not destroy you.
When you walk in, shaking in your boots,
you will be okay;
keep going, it’s the only way to build a new future.
And remember, I am the Lord your God,
and I know your name.”

Isaiah 43:1-3

Cliche it may seem, but what lies ahead is far greater than anything we leave behind … but we have to keep moving forward … ’til we are in a place where it seems that everyone knows our name.

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