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Showing posts from August, 2013

Psalms

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Happy are those     who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread,     or sit in the seat of scoffers;  but their delight is in the law of the Lord,     and on his law they meditate day and night. Psalm 1
Two Sundays ago, I invited people to begin reading the book of Psalms.  One of the reasons why I decided to do this is because of the very first word, "Happy".  We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about happiness today.  Often, that happiness depends on something outside of us.  We will be happy if that coworker leaves...that neighbor moves...that new car suddenly appears in our drive way. 
Happy is a word that will appear 25 times in the 150 psalms, that is significant. I am sure in the course of 150 conversations, I talk about happiness at least 25 times.  
What makes you happy?
Where do you long for more happiness?
The psalm does not come out and give us a five point plan for happiness or even guarantee that we will have our best live…

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Deep calls to deep     in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers     have swept over me.  Psalm 42:7
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13
When you hear the word, "Silence", what comes into your mind?  Sometimes for parents, silence is a dream.  For people who are often alone, often in silence, it can become a burden.  Sometimes in worship, silence is awkward, so people begin to cough.  Other times in worship, silence is shared conspiring, literally co…

Yes

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Unlike the post for "No", this post is much easier to write in some ways.  I like to hear the word "Yes" in my life.  Would I like some ice cream? "Yes, yes I would."  Would you like to serve on that committee?  "Yes, I thought you'd never ask!"  Would you like to refer someone else to read my blog?  "Yes, it would be my pleasure."  Of course, as much as we like to hear yes and all the warm/fuzzy feelings that go along with it; there is a downside.  Sometimes we say "Yes" so much that life gets overcrowded and chaotic.  Sometimes we say "Yes" only because we cannot find a way to say "No."  And then weeks after the fuzzy feelings are gone and we have to go to the meeting or feel obligated to do something, we can feel a different sensation: annoyance or stress or just plain exhaustion.
The initial euphoria of "Yes" can be like a cotton candy sugar rush that sustains us for only so long.
Yet, t…

Behold

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Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:19
Behold, the Lamb of God, John 1:36
Language is an amazing thing.  On the one hand you are able to read this blog.  I am typing words that form sentences that your eyes scan, your brain recognizes, filters through your experiences/understanding that lead (hopefully) to understanding and (with God's grace) to connections.  Yet, language is also limited.  You can misinterpret something.  I may write a sentence in my mind emphasizing one word, only to have you encounter that sentence and emphasize another part...totally changing the meaning of what I meant to say.  This happens, of course, not only in blogs but also in face-to-face communication.  Try giving a sermon sometime and asking people what they heard...then wondering if you were really in the same sanctuary at all.   Language is also evolving.  According to Google, on…

No

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It seems to me there are two universal truths in life:
1).  We don't like to hear the word, "No".  AND... 2).  The first word that falls from almost every toddler's mouth is, "No".
So it make sense to me that theologians and pastors spend a lot of time today trying to either work around times when God might say, "No" or trying to justify why God might say, "No."  In the former category, many Mainline Protestants spend so much energy trying to describe God as unconditional love that when something goes awry in people's lives we are sent into a theological tail spin.  On the other hand, other pastors are so sure that God says, "No" only because humans force God's hands.  They will contend laws we pass or legislation decisions limit God so all God can do is step back.  I have to confess I don't care for either explanation. 
I once read that we can make God out to be like a senile grandparent...that all we are interest…

When and why

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One of the amazing realities of the human mind is our ability to question.  Our curiosity really is a gift.  In fact, theologians over the centuries have sometimes contended that Genesis 3 is not a story of the first sin, as much as it is the narrative of our curiosity.  Adam and Eve were not so much trying to break relationship with God, but in exploring this big, beautiful, sometimes cruel and always curious world, the pushed the boundaries. Ultimately, Adam and Eve don't die...if that was the case reading the Bible from cover to cover would be more like reading a short story of only three chapters!  There are consequences.  Just as there are consequences today when we try to chart new courses.

Think of it this way.  When the first Christians gathered in people's homes there were no organs for music.  No choirs.  No committees (that brings a smile to people's faces).  No ministers (smile from my face disappears).  No buildings.  They met, they read what we call the Old …

Please

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If the word "help" falls from our lips most often in prayer, "please" is a close second.  Like the word, "Help", "Please" is a one-word prayer.  Sometimes I find myself uttering, "Please! God!" as if other words would be superfluous or just cannot find the right words to say.  I trust in that moment that God knows, even when I realize I don't fully realize all that is going on inside me.
"Please" often means that I have been brought to my knees.  It makes sense that "Please" follows "Help". When I ask for help, I am still actively engaged in whatever is going on.  I ask for help with holding up a heavy item or with editing something I have written.  But "help" is about partnership and working together. When I pray "Please", I may be stuck, I may not be moving at all, I may be all out of ideas, and all out of words (which as a pastor really says something!).  Please is vital in pray…

Help

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I lift up my eyes to the mountains—     where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord,     the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121
Surely God is my help;     the Lord is the one who sustains me  Psalm 54
If "Sorry" is a word that we find difficult to wrap our minds, hearts and lives around...."Help" is not much easier.  We live in a world where the narrative is that you need to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, where accepting help is seen as some sort of moral or person failure, and where asking for help makes our stomachs feel all queasy, like we rode the Tilt-a-whirl at the fair too many times.
We don't like to depend on anyone else.  Because, to be honest, we don't like to be beholden to anyone else.  We  don't want that hanging over our heads.  So, we do everything possible to make it seem like we are self made, which is physically impossible.  We have parents who are the ones who made it possible for us to exist and take in a…