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Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 145: Shavah and Damam

Today's Reading: Psalms 131, 138-139,143-145

I have shavah and damam my soul.

This past week, I attended a prayer retreat.

One of the forms of prayer we practiced was silence.

The prayer of silence takes great discipline.

We learned there are many voices speaking simultaneously and conversationally with one another at any given time in one's mind.

We can hear the voice we speak. This is usually a very cultured voice which has been properly and culturally filtered.

We can hear the voices of others who are speaking on the outside of us, whether they be actual present voices, voices over the television, radio or other media, or voices from the written page.

But there are internal voices. My mother's and dad's voices speak though both are dead. I can hear their instruction and tendencies on a regular basis.

I can hear friends' voices of encouragement and truth but I can also hear the critical voices of people who have not loved me.

I can hear the voice of my emotions. Sometimes this voice booms forth and demands my attention.

Despite being a believer for quite some time, the voice of my carnal nature exerts itself on a regular basis.

And then there are the voices of darkness which I try to turn off completely.

In the midst of this cacophony of conversation, there is the polite voice of the Holy Spirit. This voice speaks, but often waits for a break in the conversation.

This is a break I must provide as the moderator of the conversation.

Moderating all the other voices so I can hear the Holy Spirit takes shavah and damam---leveling and quieting.

The discipline of shavah is the same discipline Jesus exercised when he calmed the sea. Instead of splashing and tossing about, Jesus commanded the sea to "be still." The choppy-ness leveled out and calmness followed. The sea became a crystal mirror of leveled calm.

The discipline of damam is a shushing of the voices who have had enough air time. It is the discipline of telling them, "Enough! You have taken more than your share of my time. It is now time to listen to the true commander and lover of my life, the Holy Spirit."

The Psalmist declares the best "position" before God is one of a shavah and damam soul. This is a soul that has put aside rebellion, arguing, anxiety and pride. It is a soul open to listening, which, in the Hebrew language implies obedience.

Day 144: Talk about a Building Committee!

Today's Reading: 1 Chronicles 23-25

It's time to pass the blessing and authority to Solomon. David's reign is coming to a close. His last task is to organize for the building of the temple. So, like any good faith community, a building committee is formed.

And talk about a building committee!

David commands: "Twenty-four thousand are to supervise the work of the temple of the LORD and six thousand are to be officials and judges. Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose."
1 Chronicles 23:4-5

Can you imagine 24,000 supervisors? I'm not sure there is wisdom in so many but the number must suggest the magnitude of the task. There were more Levites serving the LORD than soldiers serving the king. Perhaps that is wise..

I'm guessing the officials and judges served as the religious counselors. Quite the political system, I'd say.

Four thousand gatekeepers guarded against enemy invasion. It is so very wise to have the ones who are faithful to God guarding the gates. Not only were physical enemies halted but spiritual ones also.

But to me the most surprising number is the number of musicians whose sole life purpose was to praise God. Talk about an endowment for the liturgical arts! What would a 4,000 member orchestra and praise band sound like. The music was continuous, lifting continuous praise to God.

A 24 hour/7 days a week symphony of praise. I imagine that was the real wisdom of the building committee. Such praise would inspire and bless all in the community. Such praise would provide all the necessary courage and daring needed to place God not only in the center of the community, but in the center of each life.

Talk about a Building Committee!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 143: Footstool

Today's Reading: Psalms 108-110

The Psalms today sound like a walk through a furniture store.
Moab is my washbasin,
upon Edom I toss my sandal

Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.

I never really thought of myself as a piece of furniture, but in God's house, it seems entire nations are addressed as utilitarian domestic pieces.

To make enemies a footstool is to lower them, to dishonor them.

I have a footstool. I use it every night when I am resting. It has the job of holding my aching tired feet.

I wonder what piece of furniture I am in God's house? Am I something in which God delights, like a good book or a piece of pottery? Am I something God uses everyday, like a bar of soap or a teakettle? Do I help out, like a towel or a rake? Or am I a bother, like a leaky faucet or a weed in the garden?

I've never thought of myself as a piece of furniture or household furnishing before, but if I was one, I'd like to be something that either entertained God or gave God pleasure. I'd also like to be useful and something God picked up or employed daily.

How about you?

Day 142: Swift Punishment

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30

For God's anger lasts only a moment,
but God's favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

I had never heard of being grounded until I went to junior high and found out my friends were being grounded all the time for disobedience. It is not that I was not disobedient; it was that my parents didn't believe in grounding a person for a week or a month. Oh, no. They believed in swift punishment.

When I was disobedient or when I had messed up one way or another, I was punished immediately. Usually I was spanked or expected to right the wrong.

My parent's got mad at me, but their anger did not burn against me for long. They believed punishment should take place and then we should all move forward. They believed the "sun should never set on anger." They dealt with the problem and then it wasn't mentioned again.

This was probably one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.

They did not "pussy foot" around with discipline.

In our reading today, David was given the option of an extended period of lesser punishment or swift harsh punishment. He leaves the decision to God and God chooses the swift punishment.

It is often easier to deal with something swiftly. A bandaid hurts less when quickly pulled off than when slowly peeled. A surgical incision is best done quickly with a sharp blade. To nip a problem in the budding stage is better than to let it flower and seed.

Jesus told Judas, "What you must do, do quickly."

There is wisdom in this. Letting any conflict or dreaded thing go on and on is often the worst way to handle something.

Nike says, "Just do it."

Disciplinging God,
Just do it.
Be angry
and then let your favor return.
This is your mercy to me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 141: SingingYour Heart Out

Today's Reading: Psalms 95, 97-99

In God's word today, we are told to SING!

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD!

Singing is one of the most wonderful things you can do for your health.

It boosts your immune system by increasing concentrations of immunoglobin A and hydrocortisone. It relieves stress and allows quicker, deeper and better sustained sleep patterns. So you not only are healthier, you feel healthier!

Singing improves your posture and decreases chronic pain by releasing endorphins into your system, the same hormone released with strenuous aerobic exercise, making you feel energized and uplifted. Singing strengthens lungs, tones the abdomen and diaphragm, and increases the circulation of highly oxygenated blood to distant cells due to deep breathing.

Singing is also known to prolong life. Lifelong singers have fewer bouts of depression and make fewer doctor visits.

Singing increases your mental capacity, building bridges between the right and left brain and increasing memory.

Singing is also a great way to meet people and to build wonderful, harmonious friendships.

No wonder God gave us this incredible gift of song!

It is the ambrosia of life!

So sing your heart out in praise to God.

Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.

Day 140: Rock God

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 22-23; Psalm 57

During the times of David, huge boulders and rocks were the main advantage in battle.

One could hide out in the rocky places, finding shelter from enemy eyes and weaponry.

Stones were used in slingshots as the major bullet-like devise of attack.

Arrows, tipped with carved stone, could be shot from a distance into enemy flesh.

And large boulders were catapulted to destroy fortresses.

It is not strange, then, that David calls God his Rock, his Fortress and Defender. Being a man of war all his life, David knew the gift of rocks. It was stones in his slingshot that saved him from bears, lions and Goliaths. It was boulders that hid him like a fortress from Saul's army. It was caves that were his home all the years he was being pursued.

O Lord, you are my Rock.

This makes me consider the names I use for God in prayer. My most common is "LORD" or "Father."

I wonder how my prayers would change and be molded by praying to God and calling God "Rock."

As I ponder on this metaphor, I think of huge boulders that cannot be moved without heavy equipment. Rocks are steadfast and immovable, just like God.

I think of playing "Hide and Go Seek" as a child in the "Garden of the Gods'" boulders. No one could see me or find me when I hid in the crevices, a perfect hiding place.

I think of a picture that hung on my Grandmother's wall of a big St. Bernard who had rescued a drowning child and was clinging to a rock as the waves splashed around him, a safety in the time of storm.

Faithful, sturdy, true.

How wonderful to ponder this rocky quality of God, especially when times are hard and friends seem scarce.

Rock God,
Hide me from all that would attack me.
Let me squeeze into your clefts.

Rock God,
Allow me to cling to you
When all around is giving way.

Rock God,
Defend me from the mocking giants
And pierce all that is false and dangerous to me.

You are faithful, sturdy and true.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 139: Oxymoronic

Today's Reading: Psalms 5, 38, 41-42

My daughter is a musician.

One of the things she has taught me is this: the hardest time for a performer is after a wonderful performance. That's seems strange, doesn't it? But it is true. "In fact," she said, "this is why so many performers struggle emotionally."

When we are striving for something, battling a challenge or putting our energies into a project, adrenaline is flowing like crazy, giving us energy and acute awareness. After the stress is over, our body naturally tries to balance out again, putting us into a "rest and repose" mode. Often times, this decrease in adrenaline leads to depression, sadness, apathy and malaise.

"The hardest time for a soldier is after a victory."

This is oxymoronic.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which opposite or incongruous thoughts stand side by side. For example, "deafening silence" or "jumbo shrimp."

One would think that David, after finally having victory and reuniting the kingdom would be jubilant. But during this time he wrote his some of his most desperate Psalms.

"Why are you so downcast, Soul?" he asks. "Why are you so disturbed within me?"

It is the wise person who observes her own life and notices the patterns of her emotions. It is the wise person who acknowledges his feelings, yet continues to look to God for hope and strength.

It is the wise person who realizes that life is oxymoronic, and yet continues to be loyal, faithful and true to covenants, duties and relationships.

Put your hope in God, the Psalmist tells us. Continue to praise God even when life seems desperate.

Rejoice in the Lord always.

It might seem like an oxymoron, but it is the truth.

Day 138: Confused Loyalties

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 19-21

There is the luxury of objectivity when one is reading an account of history that is not present when events are actually happening. The saying goes, "Hind sight is twenty-twenty."

As we read the continuing story of David, we see all of his mistakes very clearly. We see his tender heart and compassion toward his enemies, but we also see his seeming lack of attention and gratitude toward his friends.

When his army defeats his enemy, he cries over his enemy instead of cheering on his men.

When he is reuniting the kingdom, he places an enemy captain in the position of commander instead of giving the honor to his loyal captain, Joab.

Joab challenges and warns the king: "You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You are about to lose all your support. You are shaming all who have fought for you."

This all seems ironic until one realizes that the wars between Israel and Judah are wars between tribal families with the same grandfather and grandmother. Though the present battles seem to have easily drawn lines, God is trying to unite God's people under one king against the true enemy, the Philistines.

But because of civil war, God's people are weakened.

Jesus' prayer before his crucifixion was that all believers would be made one, just as he and the Father are one.

It is a sad thing to think that we might suffer from the same condition that David and the people of Israel and Judah suffered: Confused Loyalties.

There should never be discord among brothers and sisters in Christ. We all have the same "father" and "brother." Our goal is to be united in Christ for the sake of the gospel.

Warring with one another is always a sin. It brings shame upon the Body of Christ and weakens our witness.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 137: The hairs on my head

Today's Reading: Psalms 26, 40, 58, 61-62, 64

"For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me."
Psalm 40:12

As a child, I was fascinated by the saying of Jesus where he asserted that God knew how many hairs were on my head. I would ponder how much attention God was giving to the details of my life while my mother combed and brushed my hair, leaving strands in the grooming tools; or when the hair dresser would cut my hair leaving strands on the floor. I imagined an angel with a pencil and tablet assigned to add and subtract, minute by minute, this obscure detail of my life and it made me feel special and attended to by God in a personal way.

When I lost all my hair with chemotherapy, I imagined the huge table of subtraction going on as clumps of hair fell to the ground in one day. In that sobering moment, I was reminded that God was watching over me, even on that day of sorrow, and I was not to worry.

After doing a little research, I found these numbers: blondes have about 140,000 strands of hair; brown - 110,000 strands; black - 108,000 strands; and redheads - 90,000.

But here's the kicker: this morning as I read God's word, David used the strands on his head as a metaphor for the number of sins he had committed. Now, if you have been reading God's word closely, you know David's family had a genetic tendency toward thick hair! David says, "sometimes my sin is so thick, I can't see."

I'm reminded that as a teenager I wanted my hair to hang over my eyes to create some sort of mystique! My Dad would hand me a head band and say, "Get your hair out of your eyes; I want to see your pretty face."

I'm wondering, what if Jesus was citing this passage from the Psalms when he was talking about the hairs on my head being numbered.

I wonder if Jesus was saying to me, "Little sister, God sees the sparrow fall and God sees when you fall; and God keeps track."

It is true. I'm sure my sin is as numerous if not more numerous than the number of hairs on my head.

And I'm sure it is true that God does keep track of all my wanderings from his righteous path.

But I am glad that it is my merciful and righteous brother, Jesus, who put this truth together for me this morning, because he tells me not to worry. He speaks of my value to my heavenly Father.

And as I get older, my hair is thinning.

Perhaps that is a good sign...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 136: Vanity, Vanity all is vanity

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 16-18

Today's story marks the end of some of the most sad and worthless years during the reign of David.

With the kingdom torn between father, son and old king descendants, people are plotting, running, hiding, killing and starving all over the place. And to what end? Even when the enemy is defeated, the enemy is "us." In order to "win," a father must kill his son, someone saved must kill his savior, and friends deny friends. This is all worthless and extremely empty.

What is the lesson in all of this? Who can help me with this blog?

All this struggle for power and wealth, fame and fortune comes at too great a cost as far as I concerned. I could not imagine destroying anyone in my family for any reason.

I guess that is a blessing.

But is anyone else mourning today as they read this tale of the Davidic line? Are we all the recipients of these generational curses of greed, power-lust and vanity chasing?

God help us!

Day 135: Stop, Look and Listen

Today's Reading: Psalms 3-4,12-13, 28, 55

"When you are anxious, stressed and disturbed, do not sin, but ponder on your bed and be still."
Psalm 4:4

As children we have all learned that when you come to a crosswalk, before you step into a street you stop, look both ways and listen for oncoming traffic.

Today the Psalmist is cluing us into a way to deal with stress--that natural bodily response that occurs during those times in our lives when we are venturing into changes or challenges.

When you are anxious, stressed and disturbed...STOP.

Most of us respond too quickly to stress. We fight or fly, becoming either people who can't hold their tongues and begin to clench their fists, or we run away and avoid the situation completely. Either of these responses might lead us into the temptation of sins of commission or sins of omission. Step back and access the situation. The Psalmist tells us, "Do not sin." Don't lash out, don't get angry, don't become negative and don't run away from something God might be calling you to address.

Instead we are told to LOOK...ponder what is going on. Take time in a restful place (the bed) to reverse the natural carnal effect of stress and consider what is actually happening. Is the stress due to a relational problem? Is the stress generated by a lie? Is the stress occurring because our priorities are out of place? Or is the stress a God given opportunity to grow and serve?

Then, instead of opening our mouths, we are to be still: LISTEN. God might tell us what he told the Psalmist in verse 2 of Psalm 4. "Why are you shaming my honor by going after vanities and believing lies?" Perhaps God has a word to move us in a direction we never considered. Or maybe the silence is just what we need until our busy brains wear themselves down and finally the silence can be the place of calm we need.

Stress is the source of about 82% of all illness. It can destroy cells, increase blood pressure, cause digestive problems, not to mention all the emotional, mental and social symptoms.

If we can wisely discern the stress in our lives and turn it to good, we can enter into the restful, peaceful sleep the Psalmist claims for the faithful.

At a crossroads today?

Remember the kindergarten lesson...Stop, look and listen.

O, and one more thing...hold hands when you step off the curb!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 134: Every boy needs a father

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 13-15

The other day as I was scanning through a magazine, I saw in bold print these words.

"Every boy needs a father."

Now you and I know, every boy has a genetic male parent, but not every boy has a mature and honorable man in his life to teach him integrity.

David, distracted by his own sin and guilt, has lost control of his household. His teenage sons are out of control. They have inherited their dad's good looks and, having grown up in the palace, seem to have an arrogant, gluttonous swagger which translates into poor personal boundaries. They believe anything and anyone they want is theirs.

And thus continues the destruction of the house of David.

David's daughter, Tamar, is raped by her step brother, Amnon.

Where was David?

Just like Jacob before him, David seems unable to control or respond to the mishaps of his sons.

So, just like Jacob's sons, David's offspring take things into their own hands.

Handsome, shrewd and passionate Absolam takes action and kills his step-brother to avenge his sister, Tamar's honor.

Instead of dealing with the issue, years of silence between father and son ensue.

Anguish, disrespect and deep hurt lead to contempt and soon son has turned against father.

David, why didn't you have the wisdom to see Amnon's lust?

David, why didn't you comfort your daughter and reconcile your children after the rape?

David, why did you ignore the problem which built up anger in your son Absalom?

David, did you not see the seething anger rising up in Absalom's heart?

David, why didn't you immediately address the murder of your son Amnon and work to be an ambassador of reconciliation?

David, why were you blinded to your son's contempt for you?

David, I weep for you. All parents of teen aged children weep with you as we mourn our own lack of wisdom when it comes to raising our children.

Absalom needed you to be his father; to protect his sister, to be the priest of the home, and to be the strong example of integrity needed.

Dear LORD, forgive us when we parent poorly, when we do not respond appropriately, when our own sin gets in the way of our caring for our children responsibly. Everyone of us needs you, Father, to parent us into the ways of righteousness so that we might remain unified in your household.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 133: Fess up!

Today's Reading: Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122

"Confession is good for the soul."

That's what wisdom teaches us.

So why, then, does it take so long for us to do what does us such good?

It sounds like not confessing causes all sorts of problems: groaning bellies, thinning hair, increased blood pressure, headaches, overeating and all around bad health.

It sound like confession is not only good for the soul, it is good for the physique!

So, today is another good day to practice those two simple phrases:

You are right.
I am wrong.

Not too complicated, is it?

Imagine all the sleep you'll recover, the laughter that will return and the blessings of God that will pour forth.

So stop moping around and fess up!

Do it today.

Do it now.

Quit reading this blog and apologize!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 132: O brother!

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20

It was Spring. David was not where he was supposed to be. He sees. He sends. He sleeps. And, O, brother, what a mess is born!

It is Spring. Uriah is exactly where he has been called to be. He comes when called. He is loyal. He is faithful. He is killed. O, dear Brother, how we weep for you!

It is Spring. Joab is where he's been sent to be. He is obedient. He becomes an accomplice to murder. He is mad. O Brother, what were you thinking?

It is Spring. David, dear Brother, how could you!

No matter how many times I've heard this story, it still cuts to the deepest part of me. Such absolute sorrow I feel!

With that sorrow comes condemnation, anger and indignation. With that sorrow comes my own realization and recognition of myself in every one of the characters.

And I mourn.

I roll my eyes and proclaim, "O brother!" at the stupidity and senseless path of pain sin took David on.

I wipe my eyes and proclaim, "O, Brother!" as I weep and grieve.

O brother!

O, Brother!

And my only hope; my only way to make any sense of any of this is to cry out to yet another Brother of mine and at His feet, through tears of sorrow, pour out the pain.

O, Brother, where art Thou,
When our eyes wander,
When we send ourselves where we should not go,
When we commit heinous crimes which we should not even begin to ponder.

O, Brother,
Save us from ourselves.

Day 131: Taking in strays

Today's Reading: Psalms 65-67, 69-70

Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
Psalm 65:4

Two days ago, we received a desperate phone call from a young man who had been "kicked out" of his home and needed a place to stay. We brought him into our home, made a bed and place for him and have taken him in. We are dedicated to help him in anyway we can.

The best dog we have ever had and still have was "kicked out" of some home. We found him thin and flea infested. We took this stray in, fed him, found him a place in our home, paid vet bills and now he is part of our family.

Now before you think I'm bragging or wanting to put myself for some humanitarian award, think again.

First of all, I don't consider myself a very compassionate person. In all honesty, I'm as selfish if not moreso than the next person. But I can't stand to see anyone or anything destitute.

Secondly, I am practical and I understand the cost of taking strays into my life, whether the stray is an animal or a person with great need. It takes a lot of commitment. It demands from me something I don't necessarily want to share--my time and my resources.

But the third reason is the real reason I must take in my fair share of strays, and that is this: I, too, am a stray.

I am a spiritual stray.

The Psalmist today declares the shocking reality that we are all strays, and God chose to bring us near to God's courts, God's house, so that we could be filled with good things from God's household.

It's hard for us to imagine ourselves as destitute strays, after all, any of you reading this blog have at least access to a computer which puts you in the upper 1% of the world as far as wealth is concerned. And since you are reading this blog, I can assume you have been educated to read and write, which also means you are the "privileged" of this world. Most of us are also either employed, retired or have adequate income to eat everyday, have shelter over our heads at night and indoor plumbing. We probably have the where-with-all to know how to drive, own a car, answer an alarm clocks call to get up, take care of our own personal hygiene and keep a close network of friends and family to support our emotional needs.

If the Psalm today was written by David, he was probably the richest member of his society, too. Yet he realized his poverty.

Without God he had nothing.

The same is true for me.

The same is true for you.

God chose to bring us near to the abundance of his courts so we could be filled. Whether you or I acknowledge that fact is irrelevant to the truthfulness of the statement.

It is a humbling thing to realize one's own poverty.

It certainly has been for me.

I am usually so overwhelmed with my own life and my own desires and plans, that I forget the commitment God made when God and the church took me in. To imagine the resources of time and energy spent for my good is beyond my comprehension.

Is the same true for you?

Here's one thing I do know.

When we found the young man on our porch, made him a sandwich and gave him a bed, he couldn't stop thanking us.

And I'll tell you another thing, our stray dog, Buddy, after six years of living with us, is the most loyal and grateful creature I've ever known.

I am a stray.
Thank you for taking me in.
Let me become a person in your household who can't stop thanking you.
Let me become the most loyal and grateful creature you have ever known.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Matthew 5:3

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 130: The cost of misunderstandings

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19; Psalm 20

If today's reading doesn't make one pause with sadness, I don't know what would. Forty thousand, seven hundred men lose their lives because of suspicion and misunderstanding.

David sends a delegation of compassion. Advisers to the grieving prince are suspicious. David's ambassadors are humiliated. A war breaks out.

How often has this pattern repeated itself not only in political and military history but in everyday, social history? Something that was intended for good is read as threatening. Hoping to get the upper hand, a threat ensues and a feud is kindled.

When will this recklessness stop? When will people check out the situation before making rash decisions?

Perhaps this is the thinking of a naive blogger. After all, how many people have been killed because of profiling? How many women and children have been shot because they seem to be a threat to a military division? How many soldiers minds and souls are destroyed because of mistaken violence?

On the other hand, trusting has also killed many. Enemies disguised as friends have blown up entire regiments. Terrorists disguised as gentle neighbors have killed thousands.

The suspicion is well grounded in history. The violence is our inheritance.

When will it end?

And as it filters down to our everyday lives, I wonder how many walls have been built and how many opportunities of friendship have been killed because of misunderstandings?

Today, let us backtrack to some of the rash, prejudicial decisions we have made in the past and let us discern whether or not we have paid greatly for a misunderstanding.

Perhaps someone has been misjudged.

Perhaps someone has been humiliated.

Or perhaps someone else has picked up our bill for our hunger for violence...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 129: The talk of fools

Today's Reading: Psalm 50, 53, 60, 75

The fool says in his heart,
"There is no God."
Psalm 53:1

Why is it, LORD,
that when fools talk
they sound so reasonable?

Their knowledge frightens me
and often leaves me silent
and afraid
to speak of truths
that are so deep.

Perhaps it is because of the depth
of truth
that there are no words
to describe
The Indescribable One.

You tell me
Knowledge puffs up
Love builds up

You tell me
Only a fool
argues with a fool

So what is my response
to those I love
who say
There is no God?

Should I allow your
speechless shouting heavens declare
and say that is good enough?

Should I keep my mouth
silent from praise
and dare the rocks to begin singing?

Should I step back
and let your birds and cattle
have center stage in the chorus?

Or should I risk
looking the fool myself
and speak foolishness to the ears of
the world

And yet,
utter the beautiful words
for those who are being

Open my mouth...
And my lips shall speak forth
your praise.

Day 128: Dead Dogs Rise

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 8-9, 1 Chronicles 18

One of the most wonderful and often unnoticed stories of the Bible is the story of Mephibosheth.

The young son of the king's son is crippled for life as the kingdom changes hands from the house of Saul to the house of David. Normally, the entire household of the previous kingdom would be utterly destroyed to keep an uprising from occurring. While fleeing to go into hiding, the nursemaid of this innocent drops Mephibosheth and he dwells in exile, paralyzed in body and spirit. He calls himself a dead dog.

I cannot imagine his despair.

I cannot imagine his fear.

I cannot imagine his life.

And then comes a summons from the new reigning king. This Dead Dog expects his final execution.

As he trembles upon his crutches, as he cowers on his sick mat, he comes before his judge and king.

My mind immediately jumps to the day of judgment when all of us will stand before our judge and king, with nothing to our credit but a broken and crippled life, and a bloodline of an enemy of the King.

But for the sake of Jonathon, whose name means "Beloved," David bestows upon Mephibosheth an inheritance and a place at his table. David's mercy to the Dead Dog is the direct result of his love for his beloved and faithful friend.

Does any of this sound familiar?

"You spread a table before me in the presence of my enemy,
you anoint my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

The Dead Dogs rise from the valley of bones and become a cherished member of the family.

What a great story!

What a great hope for you and me!

Day 127: Muzzle the mouth

Today's Reading: Psalm 25, 29, 33, 36, 39

I said, "I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth..."
Psalm 39:1

A muzzle is a device that is placed over the snout of an animal to keep it from biting or otherwise opening its mouth.

The Psalmist proclaims, I will put a muzzle on my mouth. In Psalm 25, the Psalmist asks God to forgive the recklessness of his youth. These two concepts grabbed my attention.

Recklessness often has to do with the tongue. We allow those thoughts that fly through our brain to be expressed before we filter them. The filter of the frontal lobe is not highly developed until a young woman is 23 and a young man is 35. Hmmm....

Any of us who have lived through the teen years or who live with young adults certainly can appreciate the visual of a muzzle on the mouth. An outward disciplining device in place until an inward self discipline keeps the mouth from spewing 'word vomit' would certainly save a lot of trouble for any of us.

Though self muzzling should be a discipline most of us have down by the time we reach "true adulthood," some of us never embrace the restrictive concept. Our words snarl and snap at others. We hurt the ones we love and we really get out of control when our territory is challenged. We become rottweilers.

Remaining silent in the throes of threats and challenges to our self esteem is an incredibly difficult discipline to master. We tend to want to argue, prove our point, annihilate our enemy or bite the hand that is feeding us.

If we do not learn to muzzle it early in our lives, we suffer as do all around us. Words can cut to the marrow of those nearest and dearest around us. Words, once spoken, can never be retracted.

Our Example stood beaten and bound before those who would destroy him. He could have sent down legions to destroy them with one word from his mouth.

But he muzzled the mouth and instead spoke seven words to his Father.

And saved the world...

Day 126: God on the move

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17

David is finally at rest from all the wars and enemies. But Sabbath is a difficult place for David. David wants something to keep his hands busy...Ah! he says, I'll build God a house. After all, I have a nice house; God needs a house, too.

Sounds like a virtuous idea, yes?

But God is serious about rest and Sabbath.

And God is serious about not letting God's followers put him in a box.

God is a God rhythm. Rest and movement. Rest and movement. God likes tent dwelling. God wants to be able to move as the Spirit desires. God does not mind the simplicity of tenting in the wild. In fact, being bound by the slave holder's bricks and mortar are not desired in the least.

God desires God's people to be a people on the move. God does not like for us to become couch potatoes sitting in the comfort of status quo. We are to be a people who can get up and move at a moment's notice. We are to be hikers in the wild, not surrounded by the concrete of "we've always done it this way."

Rest and move.

Rest and move.

This is the rhythm of God's people.

"Greet a people with 'peace;' if they do not return your 'peace' shake the dust off and move on."

God's word to God's people is 'GO!'

Because in order to keep up with God, you have to know how to tear down a tent quickly, put your pack on your back and join the adventure.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 125: Unfailing love and faithfulness

Today's Reading: Psalm 89, 96, 100, 101, 105, 132

God's two main attributes--unfailing love and faithfulness--stamp the desire of every human heart. We long for both.

The sadness comes when we cannot find it anywhere in this world. Even the best of friends and lovers will ignore, cut and fail us at one time or another. And we return the "compliment."

In the midst of the frantic dance, we forget not only birthdays, we forget tender places on the heart of others. We do not always act in the best interest of others, especially when our interests are at stake. We do not always speak truth, and sometimes, when we do, we do not blend in the necessary spoon of sugar, love, that helps the medicine go down.

Because of our great desire and need for love and faithfulness, we search, often in all the wrong dance halls, and settle for substitutes which fail us miserably. We settle for placebos, hoping we're taking the real thing, only to find out we voluntarily entered a test unable to heal our broken hearts.

God's faithfulness in the psalms are highlighted by the rhythm of the turning of the seasons, the rising of the sun and the constancy of rain. God's love is the music of mountains and angel hosts alike.

From a distance, we are recipients of this unfailing love and faithfulness, but we are not satisfied until God comes up close and personal. Many are too afraid or too busy to have this kind of relationship with God. It does not come easily, nor is it cheap.

When the wisest of all was asked "how do I receive the inheritance of this kind of life everlasting and unfailing?" Jesus replied, "Sell all you have, focus on only God, clean your soul's house, be dedicated to prayer and fasting."

"It is too much; the dance steps are too complex," said his honest follower, "no one can attain this."

"You are right," said the Great Lover of All. "With your own power, this is impossible, but with God's power, all things are possible."

So, instead of the frantic searching in the midst of the world, we are called to sit and wait, like a wall flower.

Until Unfailing Love and Friend holds out the divine hand and asks us onto the dance floor.

Day 124: Wetlands

Today's Reading: Ps 1, 2, 15, 22-24, 47, 68

For years I have been a camp leader. One of my "jobs" has been to lead an outdoor adventure called the "creek walk." We'd don our squishy water shoes, sunglasses and sun screen and off we'd go wading through the creek.

As the sunlight filtered through the trees making dancing crystals on the water, I would look for symbols in nature which pointed to God's glory all around us. The most remarkable were the trees planted near the stream. Though, in the midst of summer, some of the fields were clouds of dusty swirls, the creek trees were a vibrant sign of green life.

Psalm 1, one of my favorites, points to the fact of nature that living water keeps one alive. Whether it is an oasis in the desert or a water park in the summer, water brings refreshment and laughter.

Keeping close to the Living, Rushing Water of Christ by staying close to the Word of God keeps our lives bubbling with energy and purpose. Meditating upon the precepts of scripture, drinking deeply from God's wisdom, keeps the Body of Christ free from toxins.

How wonderful it is to delight in the word of the LORD--
to lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
to refuse to gossip
or harm neighbors
or speak evil of friends.
to despise flagrant sin,
and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
and keep promises even when it hurts.
to lend money without charging interest,
and to not be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever.

Like trees standing in the wetlands.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 123: Decent and in Order

Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 6-6:23; 1 Chronicles 13-16

I grew up under a mother who loved decency and orderliness.

As a young woman, my mother instructed me as to what was decent attire for someone my age. Skirts were not to be too tight or too short. Necklines were not to be too low. Make-up was to be natural looking and not overdone. Conduct was to be "lady like" and respectful.

I was also expected to live a well ordered life. My room and my belongings were to be kept clean and organized. I was to follow the rules and not bend them to my fancy. It was expected that I show up on time, do my best, give my all, respect my elders and accomplish tasks in a timely manner without sloth or disdain.

I grew up under a mother who loved decency and orderliness.

She would have made a great Presbyterian.

Today's passage is a lesson in orderliness and decency.

King David is learning two lessons in orderliness and teaching one in decency.

One lesson David has learned about orderliness has to do with his place in the whole scheme of things. His relationship to God is grounded in his realization that despite his earthly status of power, David recognizes that God is the the commander and chief of the army of Israel. As David makes plans to fight his enemies, he always "inquires" of the LORD. He understands his place in the authoritarian order. David is under God. God has the say about where, when and against whom battles are to be waged.

David gets an "A."

But a lesson David needs to learn has to do with the order of worship. His intentions are good. He wants to recover the ark of the covenant and bring it to a place of honor in the center of the people of Israel. But he misses some details. A new cart is made and the ark is transported by the strength of oxen.

Bad move!

The ark was not to be touched by anyone. It had rings through which poles were to be placed. The ark was to be carried by the strength of the priesthood; the poles were to be supported by the shoulders of four Levites.

Because of this breach in worship "order," the ark gets rocked and almost falls to the ground. Uzzah, a well meaning bystander, tries to rescue God's ark from falling to the ground. Though most would think this a good thing, God is angered, and strikes Uzzah dead. David does not understand God's wrath, is angry with God and also becomes very afraid of God.

David flunks this lesson.

God is not that difficult to understand. God gives a command and God wants it done God's way, no questions asked, no fudging with the details.

To follow God's will is very difficult. Most of us do not take God seriously. We want to bend the rules, make things practical and do "what seems right in our own minds." Just as we like to go 3-4 miles over the speed limit, we want wiggle room with God's ways. In today's story, God says, "I mean what I say. No arguing. No compromise."

When it comes to God's ordering of life--God's holiness--we all flunk the test.

But David is a quick study. After taking time to lick his wounds, he starts at the beginning and this time gets it right. The ark is not only carried properly, in its wake, blessings are strewn upon God's people. Abundance is poured out upon those who are present for the passing of the presence of God in their midst.

But one bystander is unwilling to receive the blessing. From her uppity chamber, she peers down upon the worshipping congregation and its leader and declares, "You are indecent! Who do you think you are and what do you think you are doing, parading around indecently in nothing but a loin cloth and dancing like a wild child. David, you are an embarrassment! Put some clothes on and act like a king!"

Now David is the one to teach all of us a lesson in decency. According to David, decency has nothing to do with appropriate attire of the body at this moment. It has to do with a proper and total focus on God, the garment of praise adorning the heart. David dances with abandon before the LORD. He is so un-self-conscious because he is totally God-conscious. "God centeredness is the heart of decency," he proclaims.

Doing what pleases God without worrying how others respond is at the heart of what is decent and in order. God does not judge by what the human eye can see but looks to the heart. Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 states, "We speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts."

So I must ask myself, who will I please today? Myself? Others? or God?

Will my life look all decent and orderly on the outside while vile and chaotic in the heart? Or will I tend to the keeping of the LORD's commands and delight in God's presence with all my heart, mind and strength?

LORD, teach me your ways.

LORD, teach me to dance with abandon before you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 122: Name it!

Today's Reading: Psalm 106-107

I love the psalms.

They just name it...they get it all out there!

Psalm 106 doesn't just say, "O, by the way, LORD, forgive our sins and the sin of our parents." O no! We get a step by step, sin by sin, accounting.

"Our ancestors messed up, LORD, and we're going to name everything we can so we can yell, 'Hosanna!--Save us, LORD'"

Why do we want to hide from God when if we come to God naked he will heal us and save us and cleanse us? After all, God knows it all anyway, why not just name it and move into new life?

Holding back is like going to the doctor's office and refusing to take off your clothes. It would be like going in for a pap smear and then holding your knees together. It would be like not telling the good doc all your symptoms, getting a false diagnosis and paying a bill without getting any help.

How stupid is that?

I really like the psalmists. I want to be as open with God as they are. I think they get it.

If by naming, God created this world, wouldn't naming bring forth a new creation?

I think we need to get over our self consciousness and lay it all out for God.

And for ourselves...

We just might move on from our dis-ease into shalom!

Day 121: How Good! How Pleasant!

Today's Reading: Psalm 133
(from exegeting the two similes of Aaron's beard and Hermon's dew)

How good! How pleasant!
It is to be together
To share a common table
To share in common bread.

How good! How pleasant!
It keeps us from insanity
We realize that tending to
another gives us life.

How good! How pleasant!
A leader who shares blessings
And opens up the portal
Of praise to those below.

How good! How pleasant!
It's like an ice cold beer
After hauling hay together
On a sunny afternoon.

How good! How pleasant!
We sit around a table
And dine on fragrant potroast
Served up with vege roots.

How good! How pleasant!
To climb a mountain path
With friends right there beside us
To marvel at the snow.

How good! How pleasant!
To notice in the morning
The dew upon the roses
And drops upon the fruit.

How good! How pleasant!
To meet a challenge together
All focusing on goodness
For powerful and weak.

How good! How pleasant!
To be so close to Jesus
That we catch his fragrant scent
And dine at his feet.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 120: Realization

Today's Reading: Psalms 102-104, 2 Samuel 5, 1 Chronicles 11-12

King Saul is dead. David, who had been named king of Judah, is now named king over the rest of Israel. He has conquered and now resides in the "City of David," Jerusalem. He is building it up. He is establishing his house. He is victorious.

And suddenly we have this verse:

David realized that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that the LORD had exalted his kingdom for the sake of the LORD's people Israel.
2 Samuel 5:12

This man whom the LORD calls "the one after God's own heart" has a realization; he discerns that all of this fame, fortune, victory and "luck" has nothing to do with his own strength or power.

David realized that the LORD had established him.

And that David was established, not just for his own comfort and glory, but for the sake of God's people.

Psalm 103 must have been his response.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
All that is with me, bless God's holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all God's benefits.
Psalm 103:1

My daughter, along with many others this month, will graduate from either high school or college. Awards, accolades, scholarships and honors will be bestowed upon many who have had academic success. Applauds will fill the air. Cards of congratulations will be given. Parties of celebration will be given in honor of those who have "made it."

I wonder if in the midst of all that glory, success and victory, there will be any among us who will have the realization, the knowing, the perceiving, that it was not by her own power, strength, intelligence or wit that brought her to the place she is. Will there be one young man who discerns? Will anyone say, "I realize that the LORD has established me?"

And will any realize that all the gifts, strength, intelligence or power are in place to bless others and not just themselves? In the midst of all these proud moments, will we humbly turn to God with the realization of God's will and plan of service?

We all wait for you,
To give us our food in due season.
You give to us,
We gather up the gifts.
You open your hand
And we are satisfied.
Psalm 104: 27-28

O Establisher of All, call forth from our minds the realization that you and you alone are the source of all and the giver of every gift we receive.