Friday, November 30, 2012

Remembering Scripture's Purposes

"as the Scripture has said"
John 7:38

When I was growing up, we lived down the street from an Australian family.  They were very nice people, a mom and dad with a small girl and a baby boy.  I don't remember the parents' names, but the kids had interesting and unusual names that I had never heard before.  The little boy was Kingsley.  Isn't that a regal sounding name?  It was a big name for a baby boy, but I'm sure he grew into it nicely.

The little girl was Kasha, which I also thought was a lovely and unique name.  But I also well remember her middle name, because that was a name I had heard before.  Her middle name was Louise.  It's a lovely name, in a rich shade of blue, but when I first heard the full name, Kasha Louise, it seemed odd.  One was exotic and unusual to me, the other was what I'd consider ordinary.

But the names went together beautifully.  It just had such a lovely flow.  And that began a running joke in my family that the middle name "Louise" goes with everything.  Think about it.  Choose any name, and match it up.  Sarah Louise.  Barbara Louise.  Carmen Louise.  Even Robert Louise and Steven Louise.

See?  Odd but true. 

Okay, you may or may not agree, but just stay with me here.

I love the idea of something that goes with everything, whether it's a middle name, a neutral color, or dark chocolate.   And I find that happening in Scripture as well.  There are three verses that I think connect, explain, or support almost everything in the Bible.

* The first is 1 John 4:8 ~ "God is love."

* The second is 1 Kings 8:60, although there are variations of this all over Scripture ~ "that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God."

* The third is Luke 10:37.  As Jesus completes the parable of the Good Samaritan, He says to His listeners, "Go and do likewise."

I can open almost any page in my Bible, and find one of these three verses applicable in some way.  For instance, while preparing this, I randomly opened my Bible and found myself at Joshua 11:6 ~ "Do not be afraid, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain."  Why?  "That all the earth may know that the Lord is God." 

Then I flipped to Mark 10:16, "He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them."  Why?  Because "God is love."

Or how about Ephesians 6:10 ~ "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power" --> "Go and do likewise."

Now, of course, I'm exaggerating.   You can't match up every verse in Scripture that way.   But I do find that remembering those three concepts helps me apply them in my life.  I feel like I'm seeing 2 Timothy 3:16 being illustrated.   That's the verse that says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."  Scripture does all of these things, and I just love the fact that He has a purpose for everything He has written. 

~ "they received the word with all readiness,
and searched the Scriptures daily" ~
Acts 17:11

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Being a Light in the Darkness

"on a cloudy and dark day"
Ezekiel 34:12

I really like my car.  Which is a blessing to me from God.  Not just the car, but the fact that I like my car.  I live in Southern California, in a car culture.  We do more driving here than in other parts of the country, so I'm very glad that I get to enjoy driving.

I love that it's comfortable to drive ~ not too big and not too small.  I love that it has a sunroof.  Although, my kids would tell you that I consider it my all-weather-roof.  The only time I don't like to have it open is when the sun is shining too brightly.  I love having it open all other times, even at night, and in rainy weather.

And I love the color of my car.  I think the manufacturer called it teal, but it's more complex than that.  There's a sort of undertone of gold, but it's not always noticeable.  You can really only see that when the sun is shining on it.  If the sun is not shining directly on it, it's just a teal color.  Lovely, but just your basic teal.

But on cloudy days, the car takes on another color entirely.  It's a color I call Chesapeake, because it looks like a murky sea on a rainy day.  Gorgeous.  If you like that kind of thing.  Which I do.  And I've gotten a lot of compliments on it.  There was even a time when a woman caught up to me in a store and said, "Is that your teal car?"  I told her it was, and she said, "It's such a beautiful color."  And that was a cloudy day. 

So not only is it a cool color, it's two colors ~ one in the sunlight, and another on cloudy days.

There's a pretty good contrast.

The weather has finally turned to Autumn, here in sunny Southern California.  So a few days ago, when I walked out to my car and remembered how pretty it is on a gloomy day, I took it as a challenge; a reminder that I don't have to be dull and colorless when I'm walking through clouds in my life.

What color are you when things are dark?  Are you dismal and dreary, or is there a depth to you that draws others?  What is revealed in you, in the light, and in the dark?  We can be beautiful, in Him and through Him, no matter what our life is like. 

~ "your heart will rejoice,
and your joy, no one will take from you" ~
John 16:22

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Do You Love Him?

"Peter went out and wept bitterly"
Luke 22:62

One of the things that I love most about the Bible is that even the passages I know very well, I never really know.  I mean, I know them, but there is still something to learn.  Joshua and the battle of Jericho, the Prodigal Son, the birth of Jesus, David and Goliath.... all are stories I've been hearing since my childhood, but still today, when I read the accounts in the Bible, or hear them in church, or study them in Bible study, there is something new for me to learn.  Maybe a new detail I've never noticed before; maybe a new application for my life; maybe a deeper understanding than I had before.

One of those passages that keeps opening up for me is in John 21.  It's the conversation Peter has with Jesus, after Jesus' resurrection.  It is, of course, also after Peter's denial of his knowledge of Jesus, in John 18.

If I were Peter, I think this would be the episode in my life that was I least eager to have the world know about.  But maybe Peter is more mature than I am, or maybe he just knew there were even worse things in his history, so he was okay with this one. 

The conversation consisted of Jesus asking Peter, "Do you love Me?" three separate times.  Each time, Peter responded, "Lord, you know that I love you," but verse 17 tells us that Peter was saddened that Jesus repeated the question. 

We don't really know what Peter was thinking there.  Did he just feel misunderstood because Jesus kept asking him the same question, like Jesus didn't believe him?  Or was it the language Jesus was using?  If you look at the original language, where our Bibles use the word "love", you'll see a difference.  Jesus was asking Peter if he was wholly devoted to Him.  But Peter was responding with a less fervent form of the word love. 

I've heard it said that Jesus asked the question three times, because Peter had denied Him three times, but I'm not really convinced of that.  Sometimes things just happen in threes.   I'm not sure Jesus would have felt the need to remind Peter of his failure; He knew already how disappointed Peter was in himself. 

No, I think Peter was beating himself up, as we all sometimes do.  He loved his Lord so much, but he had failed to stand strong when he got scared.  I think he was choosing a lesser form of the word love because he simply wasn't sure he could make the promise of wholly and completely loving Jesus.   There's a song we sing at church sometimes that has the line, "in all I do, I honor You".  It's a beautiful song, but I have trouble singing that line, because I know it's not true.  I don't honor Him in everything I do, and it feels like a lie.  And every time I hear that line, I have to acknowledge, in my own heart, that I have failed Him. 

Jesus is okay with sincere failure.  I think God treasures effort more than achievement.  And though Jesus was using a more committed form of the word "love" the first two times, the third time He asked the question, He met Peter where he was by using the form of the word that Peter had been using in his responses.

I don't know about you, but the more I fail at something, the more I beat myself up over my failures.  But I don't think it's supposed to be that way.   God forgives us for our mistakes, but He expects us to try to do better the next time.   And the time after that.  It's gentle pushing, really.  And I think that's so much better than if He were to say, "nice try, but I guess you can't handle that.  Never mind," and move on to someone else. 

Peter had failed at loving Jesus, but it didn't mean he didn't love Him.  I can't honestly say that in all I do, I honor Him, but it doesn't change my desire to please Him.   And I'm glad He knows that.

~ "And when He had spoken this,
     He said to Peter, 'Follow Me.' " ~
John 21:19

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down

"the way of a fool is right in his own eyes"
Proverbs 12:15

Do you watch reality shows?  I'm not really a big fan.  I'm not sure there's a whole lot of "reality" actually going on.  I think it's impossible for someone who is being continuously filmed, to forget that they're being continuously filmed.  So I think that even though they don't have a script, they are still acting.  Being in the spotlight can cause us to act in a certain way, or pretend to be more or less than what we are.   That's not really reality.

I do love to watch cooking competition shows, though.  I love the ideas I get while watching, and I love to see the creativity of someone matching foods or flavors that didn't necessarily seem to go together.

And I do enjoy watching The Amazing Race.  The contestants on that show travel from country to country, learning a little about the food and cultures of other places as they compete in challenges and race to the next location.  It's interesting to watch teammates and competitors interact with each other, and see how it can bring out the best or the worst in someone.

And I love that I can watch Race and cooking competitions with my kids.  There's nothing suggestive in the plot, and rarely even anything negative, other than some occasional bad sportsmanship.

And part of the problem with reality shows, I think, is that not only are the contestants influenced by the fact that there's a camera on them constantly, they are influenced by the other contestants.   People do things they wouldn't normally do when they are in an unfamiliar situation, with people they didn't know before, with prize money on the line.  Just recently we saw two teams conspire to steal money from another team.  One contestant protested weakly, but then gave in.  He just didn't have the moral strength to stand up to his partner, and two relative strangers.  

Have you seen the movie Chariots of Fire?  Do you know the story of British Olympic runner Eric Liddell, who refused to compete on a Sunday?   Teammates and friends tried to convince him to change his mind.  And there's a scene where he was called to meet with the Prince of Wales; the heir to the throne, who pressured him to put his country, and his king, above his God. 

How's that for peer pressure?  That's not even a peer!  That's worse than a peer!  The heir to the throne, trying to convince Liddell that what he believed was wrong.  But he stood strong. 

What do you believe?  And why do you believe what you believe?  And what are you going to do when someone questions what you believe? 

It's easy to be ruled by our emotions.  I think the only thing stronger than pressure from our peers, is pressure from our own hearts!  Feelings are strong, but sometimes unreliable.  It's one of the reasons I love reading and studying the Bible.  Then, when I have a difficult decision to make, I have God's words to turn to, to help me. 

Whether it's peer pressure, or me pressure, if He's my motivation, then He'll be my strength.

~ "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures,
    nor the power of God" ~
Matthew 22:29

Monday, November 26, 2012


"the man believed"
John 4:50

We are studying the Gospel of John this year in Bible study.  It's been a few years since I studied a gospel, and I just love the in-depth analysis I get from "studying" rather than reading, and from taking nine months to get through one book.

I also like the idea of someone else asking me questions.  We have homework in our study, and someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to write up questions to help us get the most out of our study of the Bible.  I normally approach Scripture with questions ~ I'm a sort of naturally nosy inquisitive person ~ but someone else giving me questions to answer, makes me think about things I might not have, otherwise.

But there's one question that I hate to be asked ~ and it gets asked frequently:  "Why do you think Jesus did such-and-such...."  Or, if I'm studying an Old Testament book, the question might be "Why do you think God did such-and-such...."

It's a question about motivation, and my inclination is to respond with something along the lines of, "How in the world should I know?" or "Because He's God."

But at the same time, I know there's value in my wondering; in my trying to answer the question.   And in today's lesson, that wondering gave me a wonderful insight.  It reminded me of something I don't think about often enough.

The question came up in John 4.  Jesus had returned to Galilee, and the text gives the indication that He knew what to expect from the Galileans.  Verse 45 says the Galileans received Him, "having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast."  This refers to chapter 2, when Jesus had been in Jerusalem for Passover.  He had cleansed the temple of those who were there only for profit, and then He had done many signs (2:23).  The Galileans apparently remembered these miracles, though chapter 2 also tells us that though they saw His miracles, they did not believe in Him as God.  All they believed was that He was a healer; a magician, perhaps.

Galilee was also the location of Jesus' first public miracle, the turning of water into wine, at the wedding in Cana.  So it's possible that many had heard of this, too.  So He came to Galilee expecting to be pressed for signs and wonders.

Sure enough, starting in verse 46 of chapter 4, we see that Jesus is met by a certain nobleman whose son was deathly ill.  He implored Jesus to come down and heal his son.  Jesus' response seems to contain a little weariness or cynicism about the Galileans, if He is capable of such emotions, for He responded, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe."

He almost sounds exasperated, like these people are never gonna get it.  But the nobleman continued, "Sir, come down before my child dies!"

Jesus' response changed the course of the conversation.  His response was different from His first comment to the nobleman.  This time He responded, simply, "Go your way; your son lives."

Sure enough, the man headed for home, and was met partway by his servants, who informed him that his son had gotten well, and the timing corresponded exactly with the time that Jesus had spoken His word of healing.  Because of this, the nobleman believed, along with his household. 

So the question in my lesson was something like, "Why did Jesus heal the son, after what He had said to the nobleman?"  And of course, I thought, "How should I know; because He's God!"

But then I gave it some more thought, and I came to two conclusions:  first, that while Jesus knew that many of the Galileans were just interested in a magic show, this man was hurting, and desperate for his son to be healed.  Jesus also knew, I'm sure, that while many of the Galileans saw miracles and did not believe, this man would believe, and he and his household would be saved.

But the other reason that Jesus might have healed the boy anyway, despite the Galilean love of being amazed and awed, is the one that was such a wonderful reminder to me.   I looked back over the text, and the conversation Jesus had had with the nobleman, and I thought to myself, "why would Jesus heal the son of a cynical Galilean?"

The answer is a pretty reliable answer to why Jesus did any act of compassion ~ healing the blind, or the lame or the ill, raising the dead or feeding the hungry.   Why does one do good things for people who need them?  Compassion.  But why does one do good things for those who don't deserve them? 


Ultimately, it's why God does everything, I think, even the things that seem unpleasant.  He can do no less, because He is grace.  

I like the reminder that it's why He lets things happen in my life ~ the good and the bad; the blessings and trials, not to mention salvation itself.  All from His grace.  Free and undeserved.


~ "I know you by name, 
and you have found grace in My sight" ~
Exodus 33:12

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Run; don't walk

"for the glory of God"
John 11:4

Mary and Martha.  You probably know them well.

One is seen as a hard worker, laboring to serve Jesus and the others who were visiting.  The other is remembered for taking advantage of Jesus' presence in her house, by sitting at His feet and listening, while her sister bustled around her.

It's hard not to think about those two women, and not see ourselves as one of them.  Books have been written, and numerous discussions have been had ~ particularly among women ~ on the merits and struggles of those two personalities.

I think the two most famous accounts of Mary and Martha are the previously mentioned "Worship/Serve" controversy in Luke 10, and the account in John 11 of the death of Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus. 

Lazarus was taken ill while Jesus was out of town, and when He heard the news, He waited before going to Bethany, where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived.  And while He tarried, Lazarus died.  A fact which did not come as a surprise to Jesus, but I'm sure caused Mary and Martha no small amount of grief.  

After Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, when Mary and Martha heard that Jesus was nearby.   Verse 20 tells us that Martha went to meet Him, but Mary stayed sitting in the house.  What was she thinking?  Was she so distraught she didn't know what to do?  Was she angry with Jesus for not getting there in time to save Lazarus? 

Martha and Jesus had a beautiful conversation.  "If you had been there, he would not have died... but I know whatever You ask of God, He will give you," Martha said.  And when Jesus assured her that Lazarus would rise again, she replied with faith, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 

No matter what we may think of her while she's running around, missing the opportunity to sit at Jesus' feet to learn, clearly her faith is strong.  Before, she was distracted, worried, and troubled.  Now, she is at peace.  Trusting. 

But where is Mary?  Sitting at home.  But we don't know why. 

After Martha's conversation with Jesus, verse 28 says "she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister."  But it's Martha's message to Mary that intrigues me the most in this story.  "The Teacher has come and is calling for you."

"The Teacher is calling for you."  What did those words mean to Mary?  Did they give her joy?  Were they a comfort to her in her grief, or did they bring her some anxiety, like she was about to be scolded. 

I gotta tell ya, I don't know, cuz I've never met Jesus face to face, but I can't imagine that I would feel apprehension at finding out He was calling for me.  So I hope she didn't. 

So what did He want? Why was He calling for her? 

She went to Him, and fell down at His feet, saying, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."  Same thing Martha had said.   They must have felt so neglected by Him, poor girls.

But then came the miracle.  Jesus went to the tomb, had them roll away the stone, and He called Lazarus out.  He raised Lazarus from death, and He didn't want Mary to miss that.  It wouldn't have been good enough for her to have her brother back.  The miracle was not the point, at least not for Mary; not in His mind.  He wanted her to see the miracle. 

The thought of that thrills my heart.  What joy to hear those words, to know He has something special for you!  You, personally!  You, especially!   What will you see?

The Teacher is calling.   Don't miss what He has for you.

~ "Come and see the works of God; 
He is awesome in His doing
toward the sons of men" ~
Psalm 66:5

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Freedom to Choose

"choose life"
Deuteronomy 30:19

I was doing a little Christmas shopping today, and I had a grateful thought.  I was going through a catalog, trying to get ideas for a couple of hard-to-shop-for folks in my life, and I couldn't believe all the discoveries I was making.  Well, discoveries in the sense that I had no idea such items existed.  The first several pages of the catalog were all electronic gadgets, or accessories for electronic gadgets, or things to expand the capabilities of electronic gadgets. 

I am not an aficionado of gadgets.  I do not play handheld or computer games, and I'm pretty strict about what I will allow my children to own.   No X-Box, no Wii, no PlayStation, and to be honest, I'm not even confident I got all those names right. 

I also own the simplest phone I can get away with.  Just this year we decided our kids should have their own phones, as they're away from us a little more as they get older.  Both of them, and the Apple of my Eye, all have phones that are more advanced than mine.  And that's just the way I like it. 

So I paged through this catalog, wondering about all these gizmos and whatchamacallits, and suddenly found myself very grateful that I can have less.   I mean, glad that the options still exist for me to choose what I'm comfortable with.  I'm grateful for choice.  That's what freedom is, I think.  Private or public school; paper or plastic; white meat or dark meat... It's truly a blessing to be able to live my life the way I choose to; for my husband and I to raise our children according to our intelligence, and our consciences. 

This thought process had me remembering something I heard a pastor say about 20 years ago, while talking about free will.  He said God allows us to choose Him.  He doesn't force us to have faith, or to accept the gift of salvation.  No, He allows us the choice, and He allows the choice to be difficult for us.  This pastor said that in order for our choice to be meaningful, the alternative has to be attractive.  And boy, life gives us some hard choices, doesn't it?

And then the final stop on my train of thought ~ Deuteronomy 30.  One of my favorite chapters of Scripture.  I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I'll give you a few "choice" verses! 

~ "For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?'  Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'  But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws, that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now, choose life, that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him." ~
Deuteronomy 30:11-16, 19-20

It is a blessing to have a choice, 
but it's up to us to choose blessings.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Gift for the Ungrateful

"God so loved the world"
John 3:16

Maple syrup.  Real maple syrup.  Real Vermont maple syrup.  Real, grade A, dark amber, Vermont maple syrup.

Or grade B.  That's okay too.  And if it comes from Canada, that's fine.  

Maple syrup matters to me.  I grew up in a house that had the real thing, so my palate became accustomed.  And there came a point when I couldn't even stand artificial.  It doesn't have any flavor at all, to me.  And it's too thick.  They call it "imitation maple" but it does a very poor job of imitating.

It's the reason I never order pancakes or waffles when we go out for breakfast.  There are very few restaurants ~ in my experience ~ that  have the real thing.  Even when we were in Canada, they were serving the fake stuff.  Or should I say faux?

So we keep the real stuff in our home, but I was completely selfish with it.  The Apple of my Eye doesn't like real maple syrup, having been raised on the other, you understand...  And my kids were just fine with the cheap stuff.  In other words, their palates weren't discriminating enough to tell the difference. 

My Awesome Girl has reached the point where she prefers real maple, and I am now happy to share with her.  I'm glad to know she's enjoying it.  But for years, I didn't let my kids have any.   Why waste the expensive stuff on someone who's not going to notice?  I think it's a perfectly logical approach.  I don't think I was being selfish, just frugal. 

But I gotta tell ya, I'm glad God doesn't think like I do.  Every time I remember Romans 5:8, I am just so glad.  Romans 5:8 says "God demonstrates His own love toward us, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  It's just such a beautiful reminder that God did not discriminate when it came to offering salvation.  Nobody wanted it; nobody knew we needed it.  The whole thing was His idea, and if He had waited until someone was ready to appreciate it, He would have waited forever.  God sent His Son, for the whole world, knowing full well that some people would never accept it; would never understand or recognize the value of His sacrifice. 

I love Him for it, but only because He first loved me. 

~ "when we were enemies, 
we were reconciled to God
     through the death of His Son" ~
Romans 5:10

Answers to yesterday's quiz:  
1 - Mount Sinai; 2 - 3,000; 3 - Mourning; 4 - Fig; 5 - Donkey
6 - Miriam; 7 - Isaiah; 8 - John; 9 - Six; 10 - Jesse

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Have fun!

"I will question you, and you shall answer Me"
Job 38:3

1.  The Ten Commandments were received on:
       a.  Mount Carmel
       b.  Mount Ararat
       c.  Mount Sinai

2.  Solomon wrote how many proverbs?
       a.  3,000
       b.  600
       c.  10,000

3.  At one time, a shaved head was a symbol of:
       a.  Position
       b.  Mourning
       c.  Cowardice

4.  Which of these trees was cursed by Jesus?
       a.  Fig
       b.  Olive
       c.  Palm

5.  The prophet Balaam was saved from an angel's sword by:
       a.  A goat
       b.  A donkey
       c.  A child

6.  Who was Moses' sister?
       a.  Miriam
       b.  Midian
       c.  Mary

7.  After the Book of Psalms, what is the longest book (number of chapters) in the Bible?
       a.  2 Chronicles
       b.  Isaiah
       c.  Genesis

8.  Who is credited with writing the Book of Revelation?
       a.  John
       b.  Paul
       c.  Luke

9.  How many books of the Bible begin with the letter E?
       a.  one
       b.  five
       c.  six

10. Who was David's father?
       a.  Obed
       b.  Manoah
       c.  Jesse

~ "Let your speech always be with grace, 
seasoned with salt, 
that you may know
how you ought to answer each one" ~
Colossians 4:6

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Daily Appreciation

"every day alike"
Romans 14:5

It's almost Thanksgiving.  

I love Thanksgiving.  I love that we have a day set aside to appreciate all that God has given us.  And I love that Thanksgiving is a quiet, family sort of holiday.  It has refused to be commercialized, which means, of course, that Christmas ads have already begun... but Thanksgiving is still standing strong.  

We gather with friends and family, enjoying the traditions and the food, maybe sitting around the dining room table for hours; maybe playing board games or touch football on the lawn.   It's a celebration in which "the more, the merrier" can be truly spoken.

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and Thanksgiving, to me, is the high point.  But a few years ago, I almost missed it.  

Well, not that I would have missed it, but it nearly passed me by unnoticed. 

It was 2010, and my life had gotten crazy-busy starting in July.  My sisters and I were planning a surprise party for my folks' 50th wedding anniversary, and as the daughter nearest to them, I took the lead in the party planning.   The party was in mid-August, so the nearer the date came, the busier I got.  Organizing the caterer, the florist, the cake, the rental equipment and a myriad of logistics and did I mention the party was at my parents' house?  Have you ever tried to plan a surprise, semi-formal gathering of 100 at the home of the surprisee?  The planning overtook most of my days for several weeks. 

Now, in addition to this, my sister was planning a wedding in early November.  My mother was making her wedding dress, for which I and my daughter were needed to help.  And I hosted a bridal shower for my sister in October.  So before the anniversary party had even taken place, I had to begin planning for the shower and the wedding.  The wedding was out of town, so there were travel plans to be arranged, and wedding outfits to be bought for myself and my kids.   The Apple of my Eye, who is a graphic designer, was doing the invitations for both the shower and the wedding, and I did all the addressing and mailing.  This, of course, was after we had created, addressed, and mailed all the invitations for the anniversary party. 

By mid-November, the wedding was over, and I was still trying to find my routine after the travel and busyness.  And then one day I turned the page on my page-a-day calendar and realized that November was nearly half over.  And I hadn't been paying a bit of attention.  I had been completely oblivious to one of my favorite times of the year. 

Ever since then, my page-a-day calendar has told me more than the current date.  Every day I look at the date, and pause to get a sense of where we are in year.  I think about what I was doing in my life a year ago on that date.  I am still very aware of appreciating each day for what it has to offer, and I am determined not to let my days fly by.  Each one is too important to take lightly.   

And every morning, when I turn the page on my calendar, I think of Psalm 118:24 ~ "This is the day the Lord has made".  And every day I rejoice and am glad in it.

~ "whatever you do in word or deed, 
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him" ~
Colossians 3:17 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Loving and Being Loved

"being knit together in love"
Colossians 2:2

I forgot my nephew's birthday.

That's him, visiting NYC

Well, I didn't really forget.  But to him it would seem like it, because I didn't send him a card.

a very contemplative 7 year old...

I'm pretty good at remembering people's birthdays, but not very good at remembering them.  Well, I mean, I'm pretty good at remembering people's birthdays, but not very good at acknowledging them.

And the thing is, I'm crazy about my nephew.  He's 8 years old, funny, spunky, and smart-as-a-whip.  He's also brave-as-a-lion, bright-as-a-button, and busy-as-a-bee.  Oh, and cute-as-the-dickens.

See?  Brave.  You wouldn't catch me hugging that thing...

I was a mom before either of my sisters were, so when I saw how much they loved my kids, I thought it was because my kids are just so darn lovable.  But when I became an aunt, I realized that being an aunt (presumably like being a grandparent) is the next best thing to being a mom.  I couldn't believe the love I instantly had for my nephew, and the grip he still has on me, 8 years later.

This was several years ago ~ one of my favorite pics in the world.  My nephew tackle-hugging my son.

My sister and her family live in a different state, so we only see them a few times a year.  When we do, we swim in my parents' pool, play games, watch movies, and maybe take a day trip to a museum or the beach.  And I love hanging out with them.  I love getting to know my nephew and seeing how he's changed from the last visit; what he's learned and what his new passions are (dinosaurs, dragons, or birds who are inexplicably angry with someone...)


He's a bright boy; truly intellectually stimulating for someone his age.  He loves it when I joke with him, and he gives me a funny little sideways grin that tells me he's on to me.  And when he gets frustrated or loses his temper for some reason, he's always so sincere about being sorry afterwards.  He learns from his mistakes and to me, there's nothing more beautiful than someone learning.


But does he know how much I love him?  Does an 8 year old know?  There's lots of ways to show to a person that you love them, but that doesn't mean we all pick up on them.   I never read that book on love languages, but I know enough to know that there are different ways of showing love.   But does my nephew know that?  Cuz I'm guessing he never read the book, either.

If receiving a birthday card is how my nephew recognizes love, then I'm probably a disappointment to him.  If he recognizes the way I interact with him, and how glad I am to see him, then I don't need to worry.  

And I have to remind myself that this goes the other way, too.  There are people in my life who love me, that I sometimes wish would love me in a different way.  My way.   But I don't get to choose. 

My two kids are very different in how they show love.  One loves to snuggle, to hug and be hugged.  The other one likes their space.  I recognize that they both love me, and I know how blessed I am to be loved by two such Amazing and Awesome kids.  But if I were judging on physical affection alone, it would be a different matter.  To not see love where love exists is to miss out on blessings.  

They say love is blind.  But sometimes it's we who are blind to love.

~ "Let all that you do be done with love" ~
1 Corinthians 16:14

Monday, November 19, 2012


"Abraham believed in the Lord"
Genesis 15:6

"Abraham believed God"
Romans 4:2

See the difference?  It's slight.  But huge. 

Well, huge to me.

It's that one little word, "in". 

Abraham believed God, and he believed in God. 

It's two different things, ya know?  Do you believe in God?  Do you believe in His existence?  Do you believe that He is the Creator?  The Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the King of kings and Lord of lords? 

That is simple acknowledgement.   It's the first step of faith, and it is what will lead to all the promises of faith.  It's the beginning, but it's not the end. 

I think it's a far more difficult thing to believe God.   Believing God is taking Him at His Word.  Believing Him is accepting His promises; accepting the blessings He promises. 

There was a long time in Abraham's life when he had never heard of God.  He was a simple man living a simple life.  But God came to him and spoke to him, and Abraham believed in Him.  And it was credited to him as righteousness. 

But then it got a little more difficult, because God challenged Abraham to act on his faith.  He told him to leave his country and his people, and go to a new land.  That's when Abraham had a choice to make. 

As do we.  When's the last time God asked you to believe Him?  When's the last time you stepped out in faith?  When's the last time you made a decision that wasn't for your good, but for His glory?  When's the last time He asked you to do something that made you wonder ~ but you did it anyway?

The Bible asks us to do a lot of difficult things, but none of them are without a promise.  The question is, do you believe Him?

~ "Jesus said to her,
'Did I not say to you that if you would believe,
     you would see the glory of God?' " ~
John 11:40

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In Praise of Caleb

"from the tribe of Judah, Caleb, son of Jephunneh"
Numbers 13:6

I have been inspired by Caleb for years.  I admire his loyalty, his obedience, and most of all, his fearlessness.  Not "courage", although there is something to be said for obedience in spite of fear ~ but his fearlessness.   We never see Moses, or Joshua, or the Lord telling Caleb not to fear, or to be strong and courageous.  Caleb just was.

"Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, 
'We should go up and take possession of the land, 
for we can certainly do it"
Numbers 13:30

Caleb was not scared of the "giants" in the Promised Land when he was 40, and 45 years later, he was not afraid to drive out the Anakim from Hebron, to claim his inheritance.   And I find comfort in that, when I look ahead to what the Lord has called me to, and I sometimes think there's something wrong with me when I'm not afraid, when logic tells me I should be. 

"Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes, and said to the assembly, 'The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, and He will give it to us... Do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up... 
Do not be afraid of them.' "
Numbers 14:6-7

God knows we're going to be scared, and he does not condemn us for that.  He encourages us over and over.  When I look up His encouragements, I find "Do not be afraid"; "Do not fear"; "fear not"; "be courageous"; or "be of good courage" over and over again. 

"But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit, and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendents will inherit it"
Numbers 14:24

Stepping out into His will often means feeling scared.  If you do it often enough, that feeling of fear starts to feel normal.  If you've ever been someplace loud, like a concert, you have noticed, when the noise stops, that you are very, very aware of the silence.  I am acutely aware of this lack of fear, and it has sometimes given me cause to doubt what He has asked of me, because I believe that I'm supposed to be scared.    

"Here I am today, eighty-five years old! ... I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then... the Anakim were there and their cities were large and fortified, but the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as He said."
Joshua 14:10-12

It's okay to be scared!  But He reminds me that I have not been given a Spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.  And in my Bible, I found a name for this "lack of fear"...

it's called peace.

"Then Joshua blessed Caleb,
and gave him Hebron as his inheritance.  
So Hebron has belonged to Caleb ever since,
because he followed the Lord, 
the God of Israel, wholeheartedly."
Joshua 14:13-14

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's all in there

"I am the Lord, I do not change"
Malachi 3:6

Peter is proof that He forgives

Lazarus is proof that He is the giver of life

The woman caught in adultery is proof of His compassion

The cleansing of the temple is proof that He purifies

The Samaritan woman is proof that He is the living water 

Nathaniel is proof that He is omniscient 

Joshua is proof of His power in battle 

Mary and Martha are proof that He comforts

Abraham is proof that He keeps His covenants

Gideon is proof that He is the conqueror

The lepers are proof that He cleanses

Adam and Eve are proof that He is the Creator

The crucifixion is proof that He is the Lamb

The resurrection is proof of His power over death

Zaccheus is proof that He is a friend to sinners

The pillar of fire is proof that He is our guide

The lame and the blind are proof that He heals

Ruth is proof that He is our Redeemer

The criminal on the cross is proof that He is our Savior

David is proof that He is our song

Paul is proof that He is our strength in weakness

Noah is proof that He is our refuge

Moses is proof that He has a plan for us

Rahab is proof that He is merciful


~ "You search the Scriptures,
 for in them you think you have eternal life;
  and these are they which testify of Me" ~
John 5:39

Friday, November 16, 2012

Being There

"as he was speaking to me, 
I was in a deep sleep"
Daniel 8:18

Something happened last week that made my heart hurt a little bit.  I mean, in a way, it was a bad thing; in a way it was a good thing; and in a way, it was just one of those things.

I didn't find out about it until afterwards.  My Amazing and Awesome kids told me about it.  Seems my boy had a nightmare, and called out for me, but I couldn't hear from my bedroom. 

Now, if you're a mother, and the thought of that breaks your heart just a little bit, please raise your hand.

I thought so.

I don't know why he didn't get up and come to me, cuz my kids have certainly done that a time or two in their lives, prompting me to issue the following edict:  "If you don't feel well, or have a bad dream, come to me.  If you hear a scary noise and you're wondering if it's the boogeyman, please wake your father." 

Seems fair, right?

But for some reason, on this particular night, my son didn't come to me, he just called out, and I didn't hear him.  But his Awesome Sister did.  They share a wall, so I guess she had acoustical advantages that I didn't.

So she got up and came to him, gave him a little comfort, turned on some music for him, and then got him back in bed.  Isn't she wonderful?  When I started this blog, I asked each of my kids what adjective they'd use to describe their sibling.  He picked awesome for her, and My Awesome Girl she became.  And now you get a glimpse of why he chose that word for her. 

I felt terrible the next day, when I found out I hadn't been there for my boy, but I was also so grateful to God for the relationship my kids have.  I was so glad she was there for him.  There for me.  There for him, for me. 

It bothered me that I wasn't able to comfort and love my son when he needed it, but apparently it wasn't my turn this time.  Either I failed, or God intended for my daughter to handle it.  Either way, I believe it was how it was meant to be. 

It's funny; there are so many ways we fail to take hold of opportunities that God gives us.  But sometimes what pains us is the opportunities we think should have been ours.  We just need to find our peace in the knowledge that His ways are higher than ours. 

~ "they who love God love their brother also" ~
1 John 4:21

Thursday, November 15, 2012


"out of season"
2 Timothy 4:2

It's evening as I write this.  It has been a long day.  I was up and out of the house first thing, then stopped back at home long enough to have breakfast.  Then I left again for an appointment. 

Then I came home, and left again ten minutes later.  That time I was gone for a couple of hours. 

When I came home from that excursion, I was home for a couple hours, but I was exhausted and having trouble motivating myself to accomplish anything before I left again.

And leave again I did.  My hubby's car is in the shop, so I needed to pick him up from work, and drop my Awesome Girl off to do some volunteer work with her friends.  Then I came home and had dinner with my boy and my man. 

Then an hour later I left to pick up my girl.  I don't think I drove to any location more than 15 miles from my house, but I put about 75 miles on my car today.  I got very little done, and I'm exhausted. 

I can't say that I didn't pray today, but I have no idea what I said to Him, or if He said anything back to me.  And I never read the Bible.   I will before bed, but I gotta be honest ~ I feel spiritually dry today.  It made me think of this verse in 2 Timothy:  "Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." 

It's a tough verse.  It's not one I want to be reminded of on a tiring day.   How can I preach the word, convincing, rebuking, exhorting... when I've barely given Him a thought all day?  But Paul is telling Timothy here that circumstances do not amend or invalidate our duty to "go out into all the world".

I first came across this verse during a long dry spell in my spiritual life.  For weeks, I felt like I was in a desert.  I don't know if it was due to some disobedience on my part, or a time of struggle that He had planned for my growth.  I do know that I felt lonely, but not alone.  My time with His Word, and my time in prayer, were a struggle.  I knew He was with me, but He was silent to me.  I missed the joy of my pencil pouring forth His thoughts to me, but I did not despair.  I knew He had not changed.  I knew His love for me had not ebbed, not even a bit.

Whether by His design or our life's circumstances, we are occasionally "out of season".  We cease, temporarily, to produce fruit.  But growth is still taking place.  His Spirit has not gone, and the harvest will soon come.  But we must always, always be ready ~ wearing the armor of God, alert in prayer, always listening for His direction.

And I'm grateful to remember that even on a day when I haven't opened my Bible, I have His Word.  That's the beauty of "hiding it in my heart".  I only have to relax my mind and allow Him to bring me verses of peace or instruction.   So even on days when I don't feel ready, I'm ready.

~ "He awakens me morning by morning,
    He awakens my ear to hear as the learned" ~
Isaiah 50:4

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Four Steps to Wisdom

"Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God"
Proverbs 2:5

I love Proverbs 2.  It's one of the proverbs that talks about wisdom ~ though there are many of those.  As a matter of fact, most of the proverbs have something say about wisdom.  24 of the 31 chapters in the Book of Proverbs teach us something about wisdom. 

Hmm..... As I ponder that fact, I think I need to make a stronger point of seeking wisdom.  It occurs to me that I don't esteem wisdom as God does.  I think I need to work on that....

But anyway, today I'm thinking about Proverbs 2.  I love this proverb for two reasons:  the instructions and the promises.  First, is the promises that are in it.  Verse 5 is the promise of the instructions that come before it ~ "Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God."  Verse 9 contains another promise ~ "Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path."  There's more in verses 20-21:  "So you may walk in the way of goodness, and keep to the paths of righteousness.  For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it."  

Love it.   When I was growing up, my mother never said to us, "Because I said so."  She always gave her reasons.  Maybe that's why I love reasons so much.

The other reason I love this verse is because of the instructions.  I love when I am given clear guidelines on something; I like knowing what's expected of me.  And I had a pastor once who was teaching Proverbs 2, and expounded on the first two verses.  It has stuck with me for years because of how beautifully it describes how we are to approach God's Word ~ with the following four directions:  "receive my words... treasure my commands within you... apply your heart to understanding... cry out for discernment"

At first it seems a little redundant, but here's the breakdown:  "receive my words" is to read the Bible; "treasure my commands" is to memorize it; "apply your heart to understanding" is to study His Word; and "cry out for discernment" is to pray regarding His Word.

Do you take all those steps?  Or are you content with reading?  There's more to it than that.  And why?  Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God; that's why!

~ "The Lord gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" ~
Proverbs 2:6

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Loving His Word

"concerning the words of the book"
2 Chronicles 34:21

I read a pithy little quote several weeks ago.  It was something like, "The way you treat your Bible reveals the way you treat your God."

At first glance it seemed very introspective and thought-provoking.  So I thought I'd spend a few days analyzing how I treat my Bible, and see if it taught me anything.

I keep Bibles in several places in my house, and one in my car so there's always one nearby.  But that doesn't necessarily mean I acknowledge it.  I try to make a point of having a regular time of sitting down with my Bible, but that takes different forms.  Sometimes I have something specific I want to look up, other times I read what I'm studying in Bible study or church.  Sometimes I head to the Psalms or other favorite book and just wander.  Then, most days, I put my Bible down for a long part of the day.  I teach my kids, I clean my house, I run errands. 

Then later, when I have some time to work, to do some writing, I will generally read several things ~ maybe short, maybe long ~ as research or a reminder of something He's been teaching me.  Then I put it down again and get other things done ~ more housecleaning, school prep, making phone calls.  Then after dinner, I generally sit back down to do a little more study or research.  Then I put my Bible away on my desk or on the table, and head to bed.

But I'm not really sure the "Bible = God" thing is a perfect analogy.  My Bible is, truly, just a book.  I can go away from a book.  I can accidentally drop it or lose it while traveling, or leave it in the back of my car when I get home from church, because my hands are full of my kids' Sunday School crafts.  Yeah, I know, my kids don't do crafts on Sunday mornings anymore, but it used to happen a lot.

There is a Bible in several places in my house, but often I don't notice them, and there's not always one where I am.  But God is always with me. 

I see the point of the pithy quote.  If you aren't reading your Bible, you don't have a good relationship with God.  I know that our conversations with God cannot just consist of us talking --> prayer; without us listening --> reading His Word.  But the idea of equating Him with a book ~ even the Good Book ~ just rings a little too much like how the Israelites felt about the ark of the covenant ~ they thought the outcome of the battle hinged on the presence of the ark, not the presence of God. 

I know how important His Word is.  I love His Word.  I read it, I study it, I memorize it, and endeavor to hide it in my heart.  And all of that is still true even if I happen to have a Bible in my bedroom that is collecting dust. 

Maybe it's a good reminder for you.  I have a friend who never puts anything on top of his Bible; won't even set his keys and phone on it.  It's a way of reminding himself to respect what it stands for.  After I heard him say that, I starting giving more thought to my Bible.  I mean, I was never one to mistreat any book, but now I think about how I carry it and where I set it down. 

But more than the book, it's His word that matters, whether it comes off a laptop, or off a smartphone, or out of the Good Book.  If you honor His Word, you will honor Him. 

~ "Your word was to me
  the joy and rejoicing of my heart" ~
Jeremiah 15:16

Monday, November 12, 2012

Doing What's Been Done

"they did not obey,
but followed their former rituals"
2 Kings 17:40

A ritual is something established; a custom.  As a matter of fact, sometimes "ritual" is just a fancy word for "habit".  Both words imply longstanding routine.   But often it can constitute an act done mindlessly, done because that's what was done yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.

Ritual especially implies religious ceremony.  But how many religious ceremonies are performed routinely?  Mindlessly?  And how much must it pain God when our efforts on His behalf are devoid of meaning, or caring?

But how much more must it pain Him when He gives instructions to us, and we choose instead to discard them in favor of the rituals we have always done?

Rituals and habits are easy; obedience is hard.  And one-time obedience is not enough.  Rituals are strong and insistent.  They blind us with their apparent simplicity, or the grandness of their tradition.  They are comforting.

But obedience is the higher calling.  Obedience will be greatly rewarded.  Obedience will increase our strength over our habits, rituals and customs. 

And what's more, our obedience will bring Him glory.

~ "All too well you reject the commandment of God,
  that you may keep your tradition" ~
Mark 7:9

Sunday, November 11, 2012

One size doesn't fit all

"what is that to you?"
John 21:22

I got one of my favorite lessons today.  But when I say it's one of my favorites, I mean I love to teach it to others.  I don't necessarily enjoy having it taught to me...

And I'm pretty sure it's been taught to me before, but it's the kind of lesson one has to learn more than once, ya know?

It was in a conversation with one of my Amazing and Awesome kids.  We were having one of those difficult talks wherein I was having to explain why we, as parents, have had to make a certain decision.  Our kids are wonderful about accepting "no" when they'd rather hear "yes" from us, but some decisions are harder than others.   And in this case, I had said "no" to one of them, and "yes" to the other. 

Don't you hate when that happens?

And so I had to try to explain that the situations were not the same.  It was not apples-to-apples.  They are two different children, three years apart, and what's appropriate for one is sometimes not appropriate for the other.   So their father and I do our best to make wise decisions, which sometimes can seem unfair. 

So today I had to ask my unhappy offspring to try not to compare.  "It's not the same situation.  You need to trust that this is what's right for you, and not worry about what we feel is right for your sibling."

And while I said it, I heard God saying it to me.  I remembered what I already know about God's wisdom, and what He allows in the lives of His children.   I thought about Peter's words to Jesus, about John.  In John 21, it says that Peter turned around, saw John, and said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?"  And Jesus replied, "What is that to you?  You follow Me." 

I just love that line.  It's the gentle, compassionate version of "Mind your own business." 

It is so easy to look at someone else and want what they have.  Their home, their car, their career, their troubles...  Or their seeming lack of troubles.  I am, in general, very content with the life that I have, even though it's not perfect.  But every once in awhile, I look at some aspect of someone else's life with a little bit of longing.

But the situations are not the same.  You, me, him, her, them, us.  He knows what He's doing.  Some things that happen to each of us are the good or bad consequences of our decisions; other things are trials or blessings from Him.  But either way, it's a bad thing to compare ourselves to someone else, no matter how similar the situations appear to be.  It takes away trust, and leaves discontentment in its wake.

Face front, take up your cross, and follow Him.

~ "You, Lord God, know Your servant well" ~
2 Samuel 7:20

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Digging In

"thoroughly equipped"
2 Timothy 3:17

The weeds are getting out of hand in our front yard.   The Apple of my Eye tried to increase his mowing, but the grass itself really didn't need it, and the weeds came back quickly.  So then he asked our neighbor, who is a landscaper and gardener, for a little assistance, because clearly we needed to do something about getting rid of the weeds, and preventing them from coming back, rather than just making them shorter every week.

Our neighbor got started, but his business got, well, busy, so he hasn't been able to finish.  So part of the lawn looks okay, and part of it looks very weedy.  Hubby and I have talked about finishing the weeding, but we were afraid it would seem we were too impatient, or that we didn't trust our neighbor to finish, or something.  We didn't want to hurt his feelings.

But the other day I decided it has been too long, and I should do something about it.  It's not fair to our other neighbors for us to have a front lawn that looks like we're growing crops.  But still I did nothing, because I have no idea what tool I should use for the job.  I've tried just pulling the weeds up by their roots ~ that's what my parents always had us do when I was growing up ~ but these buggers are simply too strong.  I can't get a grip, and if I do, all I seem to accomplish is to break the weed somewhere in the middle; I'm not getting the roots. 

And the thing is, we have a tool for the job, but it's broken.  It's a long handle with a metal apparatus on the end, and you're supposed to swing it down sharply, to cut the weed off at the roots.  I'm sure it has a name, but I don't know what it is.  It's a tool similar to a hoe, but that's not it.

Okay, I looked it up.  It's called a cultivator.  Here's a picture:

photo credit:

Anyhow, it's broken.  The metal part is no longer attached to the handle, so it just swings around and around.   And if you swing it over your head to attack the weed with it, the metal part swings around so it's not aimed correctly anymore, and it just clumps ineffectually on the ground.

And there's nothing I to do fix it.  I could try to rig it together, but the tool is designed to be used very hard and very forcefully, and I know it's not gonna hold up through that.  I can't use it gently ~ that would be pointless.  Literally.  I think maybe it has to be welded.

It's frustrating to have a tool and not be able to use it. 

Aren't you glad we're not tools like that?  Of all the ways God can use us, there is no way He can use us that we're not strong enough to be handle.  Teaching others, showing compassion when we're feeling selfish, showing love to people we don't like.  That takes strength.  We are created by God to fulfill a purpose, and we're capable of doing that, because God makes us strong enough to hold up under what He's asking us to do.

So don't be afraid of what He's calling you to do.  Dig in. 

~ "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God...
that the man of God may be complete,
    thoroughly equipped for every good work" ~
2 Timothy 3:16,17

Friday, November 9, 2012

Living by the Sword

"a double-edged sword in their hands"
Psalm 149:6

I made another psalmic discovery today.  Or is it "psalmy" discovery?  Hmmm.... I wonder if you can turn the word "psalm" into an adjective....

Hey, cool!  The dictionary says there is an adjectival form of the word, and it's "psalmic"!  I was just kidding with that word!   Any day you learn something new is a good day, right?   And an even better day is one when you notice something new in the Bible.  Although hopefully, that's every day...

So yesterday, my psalmic discovery was in Psalm 150.   I had decided to start reading through the psalms again, and for some reason I started with Psalm 150.  I've just always loved how upbeat it is, full of praise for God.  And my discovery was seeing a pattern in the verses that I had never noticed before.

Well anyhow, I decided to continue in the Psalms today, but of course, the only direction to go was backwards... so Psalm 149 it was.

Today's discovery was in the words ~ specifically verse 6.  Verses 1-5 are all about praise ~ "Sing to the Lord a new song... Let Israel rejoice in their Maker... Let them praise His name with dancing..." Good stuff like that. 

But verse 6 takes a slightly different tone ~ a tone that reminds that God is not only compassionate and loving and kind, but also just.  He is Judge, and there will be punishment for those who deserve it.  So verse 6 says, "May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands." 

Seems a little violent at first, but we need to remember that Israel was God's chosen people from the beginning, and God promised to avenge what was done to them.  ("I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you" ~ Genesis 12:3)

But that wording, "double-edged sword" took my mind to Hebrews and Ephesians.  Hebrews 4:12, which says, "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."  And Ephesians 6 is the passage that lists the armor we are to put on, which concludes with "take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." 

Now verse 6 of Psalm 149 has taken on a whole new meaning.  The praise of God in my mouth, and the Bible in my hand.  Ready for anything. 

~ "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,
   and they spoke the word of God with boldness" ~
Acts 4:31

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In Praise of Praise

I opened my Bible today to one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 150.  I just love its simplicity and directness.  Its message is:  Praise the Lord, people!  If you’re alive, praise Him!  That’s actually verse 6 ~ “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” 

But today I noticed something new about this short but sweet psalm.  It’s not just about praising Him; there are sort of divisions, or specifics about praising Him.  So I thought it might be a good idea for me to borrow this pattern, but sort of put it in my own words.

Every line of the psalm is a command (or suggestion or recommendation; whatever a psalmist does) for us to praise God, and the first and last lines are simply that. 

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Lines 2 and 3 (these aren’t verses 2 and 3 mind you, just the next two lines) both speak to where.  “Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!”  This, to me, is a reminder that He is both in heaven, and on earth.  He is on the throne of heaven, but also in my church, in my home, in my heart. 

Praise the Lord!

Praise Him on the earth; Praise Him in the highest heaven!
Praise Him that He dwells in my heart; 
Praise Him that He reigns on high!

Praise the Lord!

The next two lines (these make up verse 2) both speak to why; or reasons to praise Him.  “Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!”  Now, of course, a section like that could go on forever; there are more reasons to praise Him than we could possibly name, but these lines in this psalm guide us to praise Him for what He has done, and for who He is.

Praise the Lord!

Praise Him on the earth; Praise Him in the highest heaven!
Praise Him that He dwells in my heart; 
Praise Him that He reigns on high!

Praise Him that He has redeemed you; 
that you are forgiven from your sins!
Praise Him that He is loving, merciful and just; 
the source of grace and truth!

Praise the Lord!

The next six lines are fun, joyful, and noisy.  These make up verses 3, 4 and 5, and they are the how of praise ~ “Praise Him with the sound of trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp!  Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!  Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals!”

Now this psalm, of course, speaks to everyone, so when I personalize it, it gets a bit tricky.  I do not have a trumpet, lute or harp, nor do I know how to play them.   I don’t even know what a timbrel is, although there’s a note in my Bible study notes that tells me it’s a tambourine-like instrument.  And I gotta be honest, I’m not very comfortable with dancing.  It’s just not something I do, although I can certainly make an exception for Him  ;) 

I also don’t have access to a flute, but stringed instruments and cymbals?  Now those I can do.  The Apple of my Eye and my Awesome Girl both play guitar, so we have a few of those on the premises.  My Amazing Boy dabbles on the drum, so we have a couple of those in the house, and I happen to know that there’s still a set of small cymbals out in the garage.  They are those children’s cymbals, like “My First Noisemaker that My Parents Are Going to Truly Regret Buying For Me”.   You know, Fisher-Price or Playskool or something, I think…

But if I’m thinking of how to praise Him, I don’t think it has to be limited to instruments, really.  I can sing, and I can shout.  I can tell others what He has done for me, and about all that He is.  And I can love others; I can serve.  All of that shows how thankful I am to Him.

So, I think for me, when I add verses 4-6 to my Psalm 150, it might look like this:

Praise the Lord!

Praise Him on the earth; Praise Him in the highest heaven!
Praise Him that He dwells in my heart; 
Praise Him that He reigns on high!

Praise Him that He has redeemed you; 
that you are forgiven from your sins!
Praise Him that He is loving, merciful and just; 
the source of grace and truth!

Praise Him with the sound of singing; 
Praise Him with instruments and a capella!
Praise Him with words and actions; 
Praise Him with love and service to others!
Praise Him with small but loud cymbals; 
Praise Him with clashing Playskool cymbals! 

{Okay, maybe just “clashing cymbals”…}

Praise the Lord!

And finally, verse 6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”  As a psalm that speaks to everyone, this line is letting every one of us know that we have reason to praise.  But in a personal sense, I am reminded that the fact that I have breath, that I have a heartbeat, is just one reason to praise Him.  It’s my most basic reason, but there are many others. Acknowledging some of my other reasons would bring my praise psalm to this:

Praise the Lord!

Praise Him on the earth; Praise Him in the highest heaven!
Praise Him that He dwells in my heart; 
Praise Him that He reigns on high!

Praise Him that He has redeemed you; 
that you are forgiven from your sins!
Praise Him that He is loving, merciful and just; 
the source of grace and truth!

Praise Him with the sound of singing; 
Praise Him with instruments and a capella!
Praise Him with words and actions; 
Praise Him with love and service to others!
Praise Him with small but loud cymbals; 
Praise Him with clashing cymbals! 

I have breath; I have life.  I love and am loved.
I am blessed by His Spirit and His Word.
He has made me; He has saved me,
and I will praise Him!

Praise the Lord!

My words and His Word.  He is worthy.