Archive for June, 2015

Noisy

A New Day, June 30, 2015

“…the God of glory thunders” Psalm 29:3.

 Sunrise this morning was noisy.

Cheryl and I live on a hill and when it thunders it sounds like we are right in the middle of a heavenly bowling alley. “The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty” Psalm 29:4. Amen.

John, “…keep listening to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth” Job 37:2.

Glorious, powerful, majestic Father in heaven who does not waste mornings, weather, or thunder, open my ears and heart to hear what You are saying this morning?

How Long Is Your Shadow?

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

1 John 3:1

 Father’s Day meals and cards have passed but the reality of our Father’s love will never stop.

Father’s Day has a hidden, special place in my heart. My daughters are splendid adults, wonderfully married, followers of Christ, and terrific mothers.  No doubt it is so because of the superb love of their mother and the grace of God. Even then, they have beaten the odds since I came from a dysfunctional family and never knew my biological father. We know all too well what can happen.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day had entirely different results in the prison where I was chaplain. For Mother’s Day we had an observance and gave 2-3 greeting cards to each inmate. They would literally line up outside the door and around the building to receive them. While many did not have a healthy relationship with their mother, they still wanted cards to send to them and their grandmothers—who often raised them.

There was little interest in Father’s Day cards. No lines. No bartering for additional cards. Most inmates had unhealthy or non-existent relationships with their biological fathers. Once, I recall having to tell an inmate that his father died. He just laughed.

Sometimes, men and women struggle with God as Father because of their earthly father’s absence, neglect, or abuse. An inmate told me love was complicated to him because when his parents told him they loved him they then would beat him. Followers of Jesus, “see what kind of love the Father has given to us.” He actually loves us so much He gave His only—let that sink in—only Son for us. There is never a second He is not on your side. Please don’t let your pain or past destroy the Scripture’s invitation to be loved by the Father.

We had a video at our church for Father’s Day that ended with a question: How long is your shadow? Perhaps my prayer is yours:

Father, I am so grateful for the father-like men You sent who: led me to the Savior, gave me my first bike, taught me the Bible, patiently showed me how to drive a stick shift, portrayed godly marriages before me, included me, implanted a love for the church Christ died for, called in a nick of time…or chastened me when I needed it. Their shadow is long.

And then, Father, You gave the queen of the earth to love me, and entrusted marvelous children in our care, grandchildren to love and be loved by, and others to disciple, encourage, and serve. May my shadow be long for them.

Having a relationship with the Father of heaven makes all the difference in this unsettling world. How glad I am the Father is casting a long, loving, protective, guiding shadow when I walk with Him.

The Squirrel and Rabbit

A New Day, June 24, 2015 

“Be still and know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Cheryl and I walked this summer morning on a sport track that has an old railroad track beside a portion of it. Cheryl noticed a cute bunny rabbit sitting in the middle of the track between two rails. Have you noticed—when sensing danger a rabbit’s first strategy is to sit for a moment before hopping on?

Not many steps ahead a squirrel sat in the middle of the track. She, too, sat still for a moment, perhaps hoping to be unnoticed. Squirrels are neurotic, jumping back and forth when danger is coming—after lingering for a moment to assess the situation.

At best, living in reaction (only) to circumstances is neurotic.

Creation’s creatures have some lessons for us, don’t you think?

 

The Stupendous Contrast

New Day, June 23, 2015

“But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever…

Of old you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment.

You will change them like a robe…but you are the same, and your years have no end.”

Psalm 102:12, 25-26

Yahweh is the stupendous contrast to everything bound to time and space. Universes and galaxies, affliction and evil, enemies and wars, boredom and aloneness fall limp in His presence. Thankfully, in His compassion, the Commander and Creator “regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer” (17). Today’s covered horizon and hidden sun cannot conceal the “work of his hands” (25), nor His Kingship (12), nor the anticipation of forever-life in His presence (28). Now, Father, I can go and rejoice in the day You have given.

Every Imaginable Hue

“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty…The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’” Psalm 29

I spoke with Dad this morning. Mom and Dad live on the other side of the river, about 26 miles away. Dad and I often joke that, though near each other, the weather is different for each of us. It was hot and dry here while they visited for Father’s Day; they returned home to the remnants of a rain storm.

I enjoy your posts and descriptions regarding sunrises and sunsets where you are. Your sense of God’s glory in creation blesses me. A friend in Ohio wrote this weekend, “I loved the sky tonight…absolutely stunning –every imaginable hue of pink and purple and blue all blended and swirled into an amazing display…” Wow!

Everywhere on earth creation—with infinite variety—“cries glory.”

Marvelous!

New Day, June 18, 2015

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!” Psalm 98:1

As I take in the sunrise here it is setting somewhere else. I wonder what they saw in Tokyo at daybreak or what their sunset will be like soon. Here, the sun was muted by changing, pallid clouds but its glory still fills the earth.

Earlier, I prayed Psalm 98 and Psalm 19, including: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork…There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

All day long God will remind us of the marvelous things of God. He taps our hearts anew each day, telling His story of glory and salvation and—yikes—His judgment (Psalm 98:9).

How great we get to be His story.

Flashlights

A New Song, June 17, 2015

“The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice…The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.” Psalm 97:1, 6

This morning I imagined Yahweh as Master Painter and the sky as His canvas. Though the fever heat of June will burn away any clouds, the sunrise portrait of God’s glory started with wide and gentle strokes of wispy clouds and subtle pastels. Abnormally yellow at first, the Father then mixed a little pink and purple as the sun came closer to rising.

A striking single brushstroke crossed the sky parallel to the horizon. Like a tear in a tent of exuberant campers with a zillion flashlights the glory leaked out of the heavens. Truly, “The heavens proclaim his righteousness and all the peoples see his glory.”

All the “worthless idols” I am tempted to cling to for joy “are put to shame” with the clouds (97:7).

Oh come Yahweh, reign in me all day long!

Behold!

“Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him?” Job 36:22

Each new day we get to sing a new song of the grace of God.

Grace starts with dawn’s early light. The earlier we peek in on the process of sunrise the more vivid the colors. And they can change fast—from dark purples or reds or pinks (especially pinks) and, later, to yellows that are brilliant and blinding. I especially like it when the sun’s sibling, the moon, watches with a smile. Sometimes, only gray shows up and the vibrant colors stay in bed while the moon is on vacation somewhere else, probably near a cabin in the Smokies.

As the process of daybreak continues, clouds more quiet and gray than purple or pink build in the east. These, too, are grace gifts, shielding the sleepy eyes of commuters rushing toward the east while they guzzle hot beverages and try to wake up.

As I write from my porch, the sun’s prelude includes a crispness in the air worthy of my raggedy sweatshirt. Glimpses of God’s glory and grace are everywhere. The sky is cloudless and hazy and a rich pink is building every minute. (I wonder if pink is God’s favorite color—sorry guys.) Sister Moon is watching over it all. A woodpecker is up early, too, tapping a Morse Code of joy. The birds are singing their favorite creation songs—loudly. I wonder: do they know all the stanzas to “Amazing Grace”?

Have you seen the acrostic for grace: God’s-Riches-At-Christ’s-Expense? It is said grace saves us and keeps us. This is true of our salvation from sin’s penalty, power, and ultimately, its presence. And, the riches of grace will keep us all day long. As a good Rabbi-Teacher, Jesus keeps calling us into His completed Scriptures where He trains us in following Him. He instructs us; but He goes with us. As we travel He draws us to Himself with loving reminders, and He gives wisdom to protect us in a dangerous world, comfort to settle our throbbing souls, stern warnings of life’s potholes and ditches, and He unfolds a map for what is to come.

As the years pile on I am noticing innumerable riches of grace all day long. When I slow down and look, I see Cheryl’s accepting smiles, the enthusiasm and brilliance of kids, colors, the voluminous shades of green, kind greeters, powerful trains, cheerful puppies, shadows, the help of medicines, soulful or peppy songs, and the playful wisecracks of friends.

“Behold” (above) is a rich Scripture word. More than merely looking, it invites us to stop in our tracks. It pulls us in and beckons us to sit at the feet of our Creator-Teacher-Savior-Sustainer Jesus Christ. There we listen intently, drink deeply, marvel, sing, and talk with Him—who is Himself a gift of grace.

Father, sleeping life away is over-rated. Give me a heart to wake up and see grace. Because, when I look You are teaching me all day long.

The Rhea Herald-News, June 10, 2015

What Shall I say to Him?

“Teach us what we shall say to him…” Job 37:19

Do you ever struggle to know what to say to God?

I used to be a prison chaplain and I have been in many prison settings to talk with inmates—including death row. Not everyone shares this as a comfort zone. But…set me in a room full of toddlers and I am lost and nearly panic stricken. How can I communicate with them so they will understand and know I actually do care? Talking to the Father can be like this.

I just finished teaching a class about the Psalms. As others have said, I love the Psalms because they are not only a word from God to and for us, but they can be our words to Him. I recommend both regular reading of them and talking to God based upon them.

In Hebrew, Psalms is titled “Praises.” I love this broad view of life with God: no matter the circumstance, God invites us to praise to Him. Neither trouble nor triumph can take away our settled place of safety. Even negative Psalms can be turned into words of trust and requests for help. For example, Psalm 120 is a potentially depressing song. The psalmist is overwhelmed by the realities of his world: “In my distress, I called to the LORD and he answered me.” Where his prayer ends seems so unspiritual if we sanitize what it means to live in the world or how we can pray. He asks, “Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips…Too long my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.” Read and pray Psalm 120 when you go into the world tomorrow and rejoice in God, who listens and understands.

Most of all, the Psalms speak to us about Messiah Jesus. The moans, joys, battles, dark days and victories of shepherd and King David are ours, too, and point to the Greater David, Jesus Christ. These two quotes are helpful. Bernhard Anderson writes, “As interpreted in the New Testament [e.g., Luke 24:44; Acts 4], the psalms not only anticipate the advent of the King who would inaugurate God’s kingdom, but portray the passion and struggle he would undergo in fulfilling his task as God’s anointed…” As Allen Ross said, “The constant use of the Psalms for devotion and worship familiarized the people with them [prophecies about Messiah]. Expectation was aroused and kept alive.” They still do!

We now pray to the throne of God knowing Jesus Christ is there, and He sympathizes with us in our daily joys and weaknesses (Hebrews 4:14-16). The “Praises” help us talk to the Father because Jesus understands and is right there speaking on our behalf.

So, what are some of the hard or happy things you want to talk with God about? Read the Psalms where you’ll find a song to sing that fits you just right.

Dawn’s Early Light

A New Song, June 3, 2015

“But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker…who makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’…Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him?” Job 35:10-11; 36:22

Each new day we sing a new song of the grace of God.

At first, “dawn’s early light” was unremarkable. Vivid colors stayed in bed; the moon was on vacation somewhere else.

And then, grace awakened me. The grace of God pushed away the heavy clouds and rain from yesterday. As the process of sunrise continued, clouds–more gray than purple–began to build in the east. These, too, are grace gifts, shielding onlookers from a blinding sun. For commuters rushing toward the east it is needed grace; for gawkers guzzling hot beverages in hope of an epiphany grace arouses fresh sounds, sights, and smells from dawn’s early light.

Grace invited birds to sing loudly. Grace provided crispness in the air worthy of my raggedy sweatshirt. Grace moved a neighbor to stop and ask for prayer. And to think: I resisted grace’s wake-up call and almost slept in.

Father, give me a heart to be taught more about Your grace. Help me sing a new song of delight in Your many gifts all day long.



%d bloggers like this: