Thursday, September 26, 2013

Psalm 23 and a New Context.

Life shocks, jerks, grabs attention, and forces deeper understandings of the very familiar. It never occurred that a forest fire would offer new insights into Psalm 23—but it did.

The fire long quenched, opened views, blackened trees, professionals come to evaluate, decisions, decisions, decisions.
Craving comfort food, I return to the 23rd Psalm—a passage that has rattled my brain since childhood. Do I believe its expressed, comforting, challenging truths?

David speaks these words—David the shepherd, David the giant-killer, David a man who sins, David the enjoyer of an intimate friendship with God. His thesis: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1, NLT)

David well knows the role of a shepherd; he lived it. As he provided for and protected the sheep in his flock from eminent dangers, he is keenly aware of God providing for and protecting him from unknown dangers.

Do I believe God provided for and protected me in the midst of the fire? I know he protected our home … but how did he protect me? Sure, I have need of a physical dwelling; I also have spiritual and emotional needs. God knows—and declares, “I have all that I need.”

My temptation in the midst of crazy life is to blow past God and jump on the details. I hear these words, pay attention to the details. Call this agent; check in with this person; make these phone calls; do the next thing. Important—yes. Necessary—at some point, yes. But the most important—no. 

More important than knowing the Lord is my shepherd, I need to experience the Lord as my shepherd. This is what quells the storm and quiets the many voices. And in the midst prioritizes life.

So I seek the green pastures, perhaps a pretty city park. For me the beauty of creation (whether Gods handiwork or mans) is restorative. There in the quietness I breathe, I relax, I listen, I am revived. “He renews my strength.” (NLT) “He restores my soul.” (ESV) Psalm 23:3a

The plethora of details waits.

Something marvelous happens, with revival and renewal comes insight—the next right path. This is the path I need to follow; this is the path that will bring honor to God as well.

I leave this place of beauty with more than a do-list; I leave with peace, with expectation; I leave with courage; I leave having experienced the Lord as my shepherd. I’m learning to believe.

What about you? What quells and quiets the storms of your life?

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”                                                   Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Gift of Receiving

“Adam was created at the end of the creation week and began the first full day of life on the sabbath, on the day that God rested! Before achieving anything, Adam had a day of rest and shared with God a time of refreshment. It was a time for receiving.”  Catch your Breath, Don Postema, page 52.

A few years ago I started a new personal tradition—I throw myself a birthday party. On the invitation I write, “Your presence is my present.”

The first year I created a simple salad lunch that I enjoyed with six friends on our deck. Summer birthdays are the best.

The next year I invited a few to join our family at Culver’s for dinner. Our GRANDS were visiting and this is their favorite eatery. 

This past summer I had a list of ideas (still attached to the fridge with magnets). Perhaps a chocolate party; or a Downton Abbey party; or maybe wine and cheese. Hmmmm, what have you just learned about me? However none of them happened; my birthday was in the midst of our evacuation.

My desire is to create a fun time and to share that fun with friends. It’s a giving time, not a receiving time. But each year I receive so much: being with friends is the best; their words are a wonderful gift; our time together creates special memories.  

Don Postema’s observation from the Genesis narrative challenges me. Adam’s very first day was a sabbath; a day designed for rest, refreshment, and receiving! That is my heart for my birthday parties—for my friends. God graciously creates it to be that way for me too.

As a believer, Sunday is called the sabbath. I look forward to joining with many others at our local church. It is time I purposely set aside for God—to give to God. Yet, I receive so much more: I leave with new perspectives, quietness, joy, peace, creativity. 

I desire to give. I receive as well.

Being a giver is being like God; being a receiver is humbling me to enjoy who God is.

I’m asking new questions. God, what truth do you want me to receive from you today?

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body which is given for you…”                               Luke 22:19

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I spotted a ragged tennis ball ... one of Maggie's treasures. Another reminder. Our Golden Retriever suffered a heart attack in May and died while we were traveling. We didn't get to say good-by. I picked up the now smooth grayish-pink orb and tossed it away.
On vacation while hiking the Rainbow Trail, we stopped to admire a beautiful waterfall. The cold crystalline stream tumbled over rocks framed by wildflowers, tall and purple. The sound heavenly; the sight glorious; the memories--there they were again. Last summer we hiked parts of the same trail with Maggie. She took a swim below those cascading sheets.

The Black Forest fire ignited in June. Thankfully our home stands; the memories of 40+ years intact. But for a week, we lived evacuated and not knowing where we would be sleeping. We pre-grieved what we expected to be.

All summer the grief was real as we related to our neighbors and friends--some whose homes did burn to the ground. The new expanded scenery and blackened trees remind us daily of the hurt lingering around us.

July brought the memorial service for a Nav friend. The Great Hall of the Glen Eyrie castle packed with friends from across town and across the Atlantic to give testimony to a life well-lived. My tissues wadded in my hands wiped many tears between the smiles and laughter of remembering Jeanie. Her physical death brought us together to celebrate life--as it should be.

In the midst, I was considering grad school. Is that the fertilizer God wanted to add to my soul? I researched; I talked; I prayed. In August the decision culminated--no. 

But the grad school adventure excited me. Another first day of school loomed. (I previously taught elementary school.) The atmosphere. The stimulation.The opportunities. New friends. I was eager. The decision, however, seemed wise--yet another grief.

Four different kinds of death in the last firve months, death in the midst of life. I'm learning death refines; death leads to life; death can even be trusted.

"Grandy was gracious because she knew how helpless her friends felt. They
wanted to fix her, but they couldn't. All Grandy really needed from them at that moment was a knowing look and a warm hug." 

"Ive learned that grief, like a pot of soup, changes the longer it simmers ... I've learned that there is something down deep within all of us ready to help us survive the things we think we can't survive."

Quotes from Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen. I often given this book to friends who are going through their own griefs.

"For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake,
so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh."
II Corinthians 4:11

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Go - Be - Do

School year - summer.
School year - summer.
School year - summer.

Growing up school started the Wednesday after Labor Day.
College commenced each September too.
Teaching third grade (my domain before "I do") began in September.
Campus ministry--our vocation, our joy, our love--ditto.
Then our sons arrived; the cycle repeated.

Ingrained--September is the new year, more so than January.

So many opportunities, so many choices, The Rubber-band Ball bounces enticingly.

Joshua is also on the cusp of new; his daunting task of following in Moses' footsteps is reality. The beginning of his venture is recorded in Joshua 1:1-9.

My kitchen calendar turned again; September is now. I too am on the cusp of new. Th
e ancient words God saved in Joshua 1 instruct once more.

Go, be, do. Three little words communicating BIG direction appear 14 times in 9 verses.

Go (verses 2, 7, and 9) "into the land that I am giving..." "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you," (verse 3) God went before; God prepared; God planned; the new for Joshua is not new to God. I am reminded of Ephesians 2:10 ... " For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them." (Italics mine)

God, please cause me to go to only those places where you have gone before and prepared for me. Amen.

Be (verses 6, 7, and 9) "strong and courageous" "strong and very courageous" "being careful to do"--a great segue. Joshua needed to be strong as he led the people in their inheritance of the land God promised; and he needed to do it according to all the law.

Father, in whatever you have for me this fall, may it help me, like Joshua, to be strong and courageous. Amen.

Do (verses 7, 8, and 9) Joshua 1:8 (memorized years ago) gives a framework for the doing. "This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."

Each time do is commanded, it is connected to be.

Dear Jesus, as I consider your plans for me this fall, help me to bathe those plans (do-ings) in your word. Amen.

God reiterates his instruction to Joshua in two short sentences reinforcing be, do, go. The same commission in a new order.

Be something--be strong. God then emphasizes it from the opposite.
Do not be something--frightened or dismayed. God promises his presence.
Go--the Lord is with you ... and has gone before.

An outline worthy of my ponderings this September.

"but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night."
Psalm 1:2