Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘praise’ Category

“Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, you his servants; praise the name of the LORD.  Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore.  From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised (Psalm 113:1-3).”

Eight hours of oral history will be aired this week.: the reflections of Jackie Kennedy in the 1960s.

She discusses the stress her husband John F. Kennedy endured in the crises he faced. She told her interviewer:

“Once I asked him — I think this is rather touching — if he could have one wish, what would it be? In other words, you know, looking back on his life, and he said, ‘I wish I had more good times.’ ”

Life does seem to go from one crisis to another. When a new day begins, we are hoping it is a better day.

Sometimes our days are good, but life tends to be more struggle than not, at least for most I think. It is for me at least.

If you are not facing difficult circumstances or people, you still have to deal with yourself. You have to wrestle with your thoughts.

These thoughts can produce emotions such as fear, anxiety, worry,  and anger. When you feel like this, it’s not nice to be you. Life is just full of stress.

When I got up this morning, I asked myself what I had to look forward to except work.  I really didn’t have an answer to that question.

I am watching a series about my hometown, the city of Baltimore, at the moment. It depicts the daily lives of African Americans in the tough neighborhoods of that town.

Their lives are filled with poverty, drugs, crime and murder. The gangsters run things.

School is like a combat zone. In once scene, on the first day of school the white female principal does the sign of the cross as the doors are about to be open to all the kids on the first day of school.  She is like a soldier going into combat.

One teacher tells an ex-policeman, who is in the school to assist with some research on juvenile offenders, what the week is like for the kids.

She says that Wednesday is the best day in the school. This is when the children are farthest away from what is happening at home.

Mondays and Fridays they are angry. Tuesdays and Thursdays are just avenues to the other days. It seems that the situation for these young people is hopeless.

In the midst of the chaos, one ex-gangbanger who spent 14 years in prison is trying to help. He has against all odds begun a boxing club for the boys. His contribution, while admirable, is a drop in the bucket in alleviating the daily pain of these children.

As I thought about my own day ahead, I did the smart thing and turned to the Scriptures. God had an answer to my question about what I had to look forward to.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:1-6).

After reading this, I followed the Psalmist. I went to You Tube and found some songs of praise to lighten my heart.

Here are the lyrics of the  most meaningful song I heard:

Father in heaven, how we love You
We lift Your name in all the earth
May Your kingdom be established in our praises
As Your people declare Your mighty works
Bless be the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
Bless be the Lord God Almighty
Who reigns forever more

It occurred to me that what I had to look forward to this day was God. He is to come. He’s my future.

My future isn’t the difficult people or circumstances I might deal with today. The future is God.

It is the chance to go through the rest of the day singing His praises. When I am walking down the hall at work, I might not do it audibly, but I can still do it in my heart.

What impresses me about David, the shepherd king, is that he always factored God into the equation in his life. He did it constantly when he was being chased by his nemesis King Saul.

In one situation, David had the chance to kill Saul. The current king has walked into a cave where David and his men were hiding.

David’s men told him, “Here’s your chance” and even invoked God and his provision into their urgings. David did slice off part of Saul’s robe, but then he was struck with guilt.

David saw he had taken matters into his own hands. When he took a minute to think, he reminded himself and his men that Saul was still the king who had been anointed by God.

David relented and let Saul go. When he confronted Saul out in the open, David told the king that he would leave judgment to God:

“Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea?  May the LORD be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.” (I Samuel 24:14,15).

To David, his life and his future was in God’s hands, not Saul’s. More than that, God was his future.

Whatever kingdom David was going inherit was to be God’s kingdom. David saw himself as a flea on the Big Dog.

As I stride off to the office, it’s a good thing to remember: What I have to look forward to this day is God.

Let the good times roll!

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Praise the LORD.   Praise the LORD, you his servants; praise the name of the LORD. Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.  The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God,  the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust 
and lifts the needy from the ash heap (Psalm 113:1-7);

His nickname is THUD.  It is tattooed on his left bicep.

The person who owns both the nickname and the tattoo put this inky mark on his body as a reminder of where he had been.  He had been a big man on his high school campus, and then his life had come crashing down.

THUD is short for the full name Travis Hudson. This is the boy whose last few years have been a roller coaster ride.

T-Hud is a high school track star in my area who has won state titles in the high jump and been ranked nationally. All the success, however , went to his head.  He told the Roanoke Times,”I thought I was the biggest thing ever.” 

As a result, Travis’s life spiraled downhill. It was something his high school coach Shane Guynn saw coming on, like a train wreck, according to the Times.

In an article, the headline which begins with  “Out of the Wilderness…”, Reporter Robert Anderson further says:

Guynn began to notice a dramatic lack of effort in practice from Hudson. His grades were plummeting, continuing a downward spiral that had begun two years earlier.

Hudson argued with coaches, skipped practice and blew off homework.

Worse, he started partying with friends and lying to his parents about his whereabouts.

“Totally just being a little jerk, all the time,” Travis Hudson said. “I was fighting with my parents, fighting with my coaches.

“I would yell at them. I would cuss ’em out. I would say, ‘Screw it, I don’t want to be here.’ Sometimes I would leave.

“My grades were going down the bucket. Of course, I was getting in trouble at school because I would get smart with teachers, ‘Get off my back,’ or whatever.

“I didn’t want to go to practice, so I didn’t. I didn’t want to go to school, so I’d make up an excuse. I would go out and have fun with my friends, go party, shoot pool or go to the river or whatever.

“I thought I knew everything.”

Finally, Hudson was suspended from school for a week for a serious violation of school policy. The suspension turned out to be the beginning of his turnaround.

During his suspension, T-hud faced himself and said,” Is this really happening?”. Then, while he was spending  time in a disciplinary program offered by the school system, he noticed when he looked around that he was surrounded by little kids.

Anderson writes Hudson’s thoughts:

“It kind of hit me, ‘Why I am I in this classroom with these kids?’ “

Then the other reality hit home.

Why wasn’t he on the track with his teammates.

In addition to facing himself, what turned Hudson around was the people around him. His track teammates offered forgiveness instead of abuse, and he received mentoring from caring people.

A teacher provided tutoring which Travis told Anderson was a “godsend”. He also received advice from a former successful track star at his school.

The Times article quotes Hudson this way:

“He asked me, ‘Why go out there and throw away what God gave you? Why be mean to the people that are trying to help you succeed? Why would you stay here when you could be getting paid to go to college?”

Thus, the help and love of others helped to bring  Travis around.  Robert Anderson clearly tells what really  changed him.

But mostly, Hudson grew up.

“It kind of hit me the first week of school, ‘I’m a senior. I need to get my head on. I’m not a kid anymore. I need to be a man now.,’ ” Hudson said. “I started doing my homework, training on my own. I stopped hanging with the people I didn’t need to be hanging with. I stopped lying to my parents. I started eating right. I started sleeping well.

“I wanted to be a track star and compete.”

The Bible tells  the story of another person who learned from their suspension. I am referring to an episode in the life of King David, told in II Samuel Chapters15-19.

David was King of Israel, but had to flee the capital when his son Absalom engaged in a rebellion against him. David wandered out to the wilderness with his entourage.

While he was out there, the circumstances made David face himself. In his test, David exhibited some humility, took the good advice of his friends and, best of all,  looked to the Lord for redemption.

When things turned around for him, he showed a lot of grace to people who probably didn’t deserve it. He forgave, just as God had forgiven him for the abuses which led to his downfall.

While David was out there in the wilderness, he really had no idea if he would ever get his kingdom back, or even continue living.  He was in God’s hands, and he knew it.

Perhaps he wrote this Psalm while out there:

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me? 
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
   and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
   How long will my enemy triumph over me?

  Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
   Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
   and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

  But I trust in your unfailing love;
   my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
   for he has been good to me .” (Psalm 13:1-6).

When things go bad, the nornal tendency for we humans is to complain. David was unique in that he accepted his medicine, and not only didn’t think ill of his God, but praised Him for His goodness.

This hymn wasn’t written until the 20th century, but I can imagine David marching along humming some version of his own:

“Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost;
Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power, making him God’s dear child.
Purchasing peace and heaven for all eternity;
And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me

REFRAIN: Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All-sufficient grace for even me;
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame;
O magnify the precious name of Jesus, praise His name!”

Our circumstances may or may not be redeemed as in the stories of Travis Hudson and David, but regardless, our spirits have. I deserve any environmental hell I may be in today, but my sould doesn”t have to live there. God has redeemed it. 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob: ‘No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale.  When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy;  they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction’ (Isaiah 29:22-24).”

Yesterday I was looking forward to spending some time with my family. I had planned a day trip around 90 minutes away by car.

First, we were going to the home of a couple we were acquainted with. My wife intended to look over and perhaps purchase some of the lady’s art.

Then, my itinerary had us going to a large lake in our state. When I was a kid, this lake was just a newborn, formed by the damming of two area rivers.

Now it’s a resort. I looked forward to seeing it for the first time and I had pictures of the family canoeing, hiking, and picnicking.

Much of the day went as planned. We visited the beautiful home of our acquaintances.

They actually own their own village out in the country. Their brand-new home  is on a creek, one that flows over rocks next to a forest. Some of the original buildings, dating back 100 to 200 years, are still on the property.

We also made it to the lake. While we didn’t get to do any boating, we did hike under the canopy of the forest on a hot day.

What didn’t go as planned was the attitudes, mainly complaining. For me, it marred what would have been a fine day.

First, one of my kids was in a particularly cranky mood at the beginning of the day. While I waited for my wife to finish up in the house, this was difficult to take. I didn’t want  bad moods this day.

In addition, when we got to the lake, no one could seem to agree on what to do. A couple people wanted to boat. Someone else wanted to swim. Another person just desired to sit by the lake under the trees and enjoy the ambience.

No one wanted to go hiking, really. Despite the “I don’t wannas”, that was our final activity.

By the time of the hike, I had had enough of the indecision and griping. I was angry.

My wife convinced me to hike, but I made sure the family was a far distance in front of me. I wanted to be alone and away from the source of my anger.

The problem was, I couldn’t really get away from its source. After all, I couldn’t leave myself, not in this life anyway.

Instinctively, I knew my family was just patterning themselves after me. My anger was the result of being unhappy at all the griping, yet I was at fault.

The complaining spirit I saw in my family has its source at the person I see in the mirror every morning. This spirit cycles through my family and rounds back around to me, resulting my anger.

There was someting else at work, also, in my anger yesterday besides my being ticked at the complaining. I learned this reflecting on the life of David.

David was a godly man, but if he is noted for any big mistake, it is the one he made when he took another man’s wife. His sin with Bathsheba is infamous. Not only did David take  Uriah the Hittite’s wife, but he had the man murdered.

All of this had long ranging effects. God told David that his household would suffer “calamity” of the same kind (II Samuel 12:10,11).

It didn’t take long for this process to begin. His son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, and she ended up a desolate woman living with her full brother Absalom.

The Scriptures say David was “furious” when he heard about all this. However, the Bible stops there.  It is silent when it comes to David doing anything about it.

Matthew Henry writes that there is a reason for this:

“If Amnon was dear to him, his punishing him would have been so much the greater punishment to himself for his own uncleanness. But he cannot bear the shame those must submit to who correct that in others which they are conscious of in themselves, and therefore his anger must serve instead of his justice”.

My wife counseled me later that I should have disciplined the party in my family who was griping at the beginning of the day. Instead, I just got angry.

My guess is that I was hesitant to think about discipline because I knew what I was seeing in my child was coming from his observations of me. So, as in David’s case with Amon and Tamar,  the shame prevented me from doing anything about it.

In not doing anything, I was doing my child a further disservice. Matthew Henry notes that inaction of the kind characterized by David and I only serves to “harden sinners” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). 

When I began to follow Jesus Christ as a young man, one of the first things that went away was my complaining spirit. I learned this when a friend told me that he used to not be able to stand to be around me, but that I had changed.

I am now a middle-aged man, far removed from those days of my youth. My heart evidently has reverted back to complaining, and my family has picked up the bad habit, also.

I could stop complaining, I guess. I could fake it, put a big smile on my face, and pretend to be happy. However, my heart would remain the same.

The state of my heart currently all goes to how I view God’s work in my life. When Job was suffering, he said the following:

 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
   I will change my expression, and smile,’
I still dread all my sufferings,
   for I know you will not hold me innocent (Job 9:27,28).”

Like Job, I have a wrong view of God. What is needed in my case is a new perspective on God’s work in my life and a change of heart, not just outward performance and the resultant phoniness.

It seems to be what is needed with me is a heart of praise instead of complaining.

What reason do I have for praise, though? Life is hard.

Isaiah appears to have an answer to this question of mine:

The Lord says:

   “These people come near to me with their mouth
   and honor me with their lips,
   but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
   is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
 Therefore once more I will astound these people
   with wonder upon wonder (Isaiah 29:13,14a);”

Life has indeed been difficult. This has resulted in my becoming jaded

What I require is a return to the excitment and fervor I had about God when I was 19.  Somehow, I have forgotten his ability to shape me and my circumstances, a mindset I had in my youth. This was the error of Amnon, by the way  (Isaiah 29:14b-16).

The beginning of this heart change will be through giving the Word of God a thorough hearing and passing what I learn  on to my kids. A new heart will also come by regaining the spirit of my youth instead of staying in my played out state.

God is a God of wonder. I should expect from Him “wonder upon wonder” and communicate this expectation to my family, not be a grouch.

One man who seemed to love children was Rich Mullins. This man, killed in a car accident in the 1990s, was mainly known for his song “Awesome God”.

According to Linda Selleck, Contemporary Christian Music Magazine wrote that during Mullins  memorial, “Friends recalled a man who was equal parts sinner and saint, a man who had no children of his own yet was responsible for feeding thousands around the world” (through Rich’s many years of work with Compassion, International).

At the time of his death, Mullins was living on a Navajo reservation. He taught music to children there.

Selleck mentions a commentary Rich Mullins made on the story of Jesus in the temple as a boy.

I was twelve years old in the Meetinghouse, listening to the old men pray. I was trying hard to figure out what it was they was trying to say. There You were in the temple, they said You weren’t old enough to know the things You knew…. Did they tell You stories ’bout the saints of old, stories about their faith? Stories like that make a boy grow bold. Stories like that make a man walk straight.

Mullins asks if Jesus learned and grew from the stories of God from godly men.    The inference is that the answer is ‘yes”.  

Here’s the story Rick Mullins tells about his awesome God:

“Oh when He rolls up his sleeves He ain’t just puttin’ on the ritz,
Our God is an awesome God
There is thunder in his footsteps and lightning in his fists
Our God is an awesome God

And the Lord wasn’t joking when He kicked ’em out of Eden
It wasn’t for no reason that He shed his blood
His return is very soon and so you’d better be believin’ that
Our God is an awesome God

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
with wisdom, pow’r and love
Our God is an awesome God

And when the sky was starless in the void of the night
Our God is an awesome God
He spoke into the darkness and created the light
Our God is an awesome God

And judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an awesome God.”

Selleck quotes Rick Mullins as saying,

“If my life is motivated by the power of God’s spirit in me and the awareness of the indwelling Christ, if I allow His presence to guide my motives, that’s the only time I think we really leave a great legacy.”

Rick had it right. The awesome God is present in my heart. If I can communicate that to my family, then I can create a new pattern of living for all of us.

I indeed had forgotten that our God is an awesome God. It’s time to remember that, look to him in expectation for His wonders, and communicate all that to my wife and kids.

Read Full Post »

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm,  all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:10-12).”

We men are a screwed up bunch. Because we’re so confused, we have no clue how valuable the women in our lives are.

One character who exemplifies this is Dr. Gregory House, the main focus of the TV drama that bears his surname. In a recent episode of “House”, he is talking to his best friend Dr. Wilson in a  bar.

House is supposed to be at a charity event where the love of his life, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, is receiving an award. However, he has just lost a patient that could have been saved if he had diagnosed him in time. House found the right disease, a rare one, but it was too late.

Wilson has found House putting one on. He is pretty near three sheets to the wind.

“All of them are gone, Wilson. They’re all dead because I am screwed up”, House says.

Wilson replies, “You’ve lost patients before. You’ll lose them again.”

House says, “Exactly. Why?. Because love and happiness are nothing but distractions. The only thing my relationship with Cuddy has done for me is make me a worse doctor.”

Wilson answers (andchuckles), “Right. The great Dr. House doesn’t deserve to be happy. You know it’s not true.’

House replies: “My happiness is being paid for with other people’s lives.”

Despite the fact House is drunk and has missed her big event,  he goes to visit Cuddy. He tells her,”I’ve made a decision. Being happy and being in love with you makes me a crappy doctor.”

Cuddy replies,”Shut up. You’re too drunk to end this relationship.”

House answers,” I am drunk. And I am also right. You have made me a worse doctor. And people are gonna die because of that. And…you…are totally worth it. If I had to choose between saving everyone and loving you and being happy, I choose you. I choose being happy with you.  I will always choose you.”

Because  I have watched this show for several years (it’s one of my favorites), I know this last scene is a big step in House’s character development. Usually, the case is everything to him.

Nothing has ever stood in the way of Dr. House solving a case in the past. Now he has been stopped in his tracks by a woman he doesn’t deserve.

Nothing stopped Marvin Gaye, however, until it did -in surpising fashion. 

Gaye was an historic Motown singer. He was something of a poet for his generation, the youth of the tumultous 1960s. He cowrote “What’s Goin’ On”, a plea to the older generation to listen to their young’s protests over Vietnam:

“Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on.”

In 1984 Gaye was shot to death -by his former Christian minister father Marvin Gaye, Sr.  The younger  Gaye had tried to intervene in an argument betweeh his father and mother, and his Dad shot him with a .38 his son had ironically bought him for protection.

Gaye’s father was no saint. He beat him as a child, even while making him go to church. When he lost his minister job, he began to drink and became a recluse, and refused to work. Gaye’s mother ended up cleaning houses.

The junior Marvin learned well from his Dad. His treatment of his woman was equally as tragic.

Emily Gray notes that when he died, he had $30,ooo dollars in the bank and owed the IRS millions, despite making a fortune through his music. Writing in 1999, Gray said:

“Today, Gaye’s widow and his children live in low to middle-income housing outside L.A., where Jan Hunter Gaye cleans houses and receives social security to support herself and her children.”

Write’s David Karajicekc, “Marketed as Motown’s lover man, he was a misogynist who beat the women he professed to love—a trait he inherited from his father. He sang ballads and duets about soulful romance, yet forced his lovers into degrading and kinky acts that satisfied his sadism and voyeurism.”

Marvin Gaye’s life is a lesson to me. His way is no way to treat a woman.

I haven’t been as messed up as Gaye, I suppose, but I know I have treated  my woman badly. In return for her love, I have been abusive, unloving, diffident, indifferent and unkind.

I am now in my mid-50s, and she is the one now teaching me. It should be the other way around, but it’s not. However, I am grateful.

My wife is teaching me that God loves me, and that I should praise Him. I have formed an acronym out of her ideas. I call it HEP.

My wife tells me that praise is something we should do because it is Honoring to God . In addition, it is Effective in our lives.  She tells me we have no idea of the unknown consequences that praising God will bring to us.

Lastly, my wife says that praising God gives us Perspective.  It helps us see reality as it is.

My wife has been reading a couple Scripture passages to me:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,  who was, and is, and is to come.

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
   to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
   and by your will they were created
   and have their being (Revelation 4:8b,11).”

AND

“Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 
Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits— 
who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion…(Psalm 103:1-4).”

I am indeed a fortunate man. I have a wife who seeks to encourage me in my relationship with God.

Even King David, God’s “man after my own heart” did not have a wife like this. Instead, he had Michal.

David had just finished singing and dancing in the streets with the priests as Israel’s Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem.  The Scriptures say he then returned home to “bless his household” (II Samuel 6:20).

As he entered the house, Mical told David that his behavior was unbecoming for the King of Israel. She berated him, telling him he was vulgar.

Many people believe David was wearing little as he danced around, prompting Michal’s rebuke. This is how the cimema has portrayed this event.

However, David Guzik notes that David wore a linen ephod like that of the priests in the procession. It wasn’t “vulgar” in the sense of being degenerate. 

What Guzik says that Michal objected to was David the King making himself like the other commoners in the procession. Thus, vulgar in this context would mean “common”. It was in her eyes undignified for royalty.

David responded by telling Michal,”“It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes (II Samuel 6:21,22).”

Guzik, in his website Enduring Word, quotes Charles Spurgeon as saying of this discourse:

“David would more and more abase himself before the Lord. He felt that whatever Michal’s opinion of him might be, it could not be more humbling than his own view of himself. Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

I wince at Spurgeon’s comments because I have at times responded poorly to my wife’s well meaning attempts to improve my character. In fact, she is doing me a favor.

One thing I do know is that she loves me and wants the best for me. With this in mind, today I am thankful that I have such a spouse, one who cares enough to help me walk with God and love Him and my family.

I’m with David. It’s time to dance in the streets celebrating who God is and what He has done.

“Callin’ out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer’s here and the time is right
For dancin’ in the streets…

All we need is music, sweet music
There’ll be music everywhere
There’ll be swingin’, swayin’ and records playin’
And dancin’ in the streets

Oh, it doesn’t matter what you wear
Just as long as you are there
So come on, every guy grab a girl
Everywhere around the world
There’ll be dancin’
They’re dancin’ in the street (Martha and the Vandellas).”

I’m ready for a brand new beat of praise in my life and the gal I’ll be grabbing as I dance will be my wife.

Jesus will be the Lord of our dance.  A hymn that seems older than its years (it’s less than 50 years old) expresses my sentiments:

“Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he….

I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black;
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
But I am the dance and I still go on.

They cut me down and I leapt up high,
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he (“Lord of the Dance”.  Stainer and Bell).”

I am trying to learn what my wife is teaching me, that God loves me and that I should praise Him.  I have a choice. I can either choose to believe that God loves me as the Scriptures say, regardless of my feelings or circumstances, or I can stay in my stupor.

Tomorrow is Monday. Mondays and I have a poor relationship.

However, knowing now what my wife is teaching me, when I wake up in the morning, I need to do an attitude check.

Lyrics made popular by Cat Stevens tell me what my thoughts should be like:

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day (lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon.”

I think we men believe like House did that our women are holding us back. This may or may not be true. I know in my case, despite my faulty male thinking, that my wife hasn’t made me a crappy anything. She makes me better.

Even if she hadn’t, House came to the right view, the one I now have about my wife. Whether life is good or bad or happy or sad, like House, when it comes to my woman, I say, “You are totally worth it. I choose YOU!”

And I choose to believe what she is teaching me about God.

Read Full Post »

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship  and said:’Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;  may the name of the LORD be praised.’  In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:20-22).”

I have been back from Europe for a little over a year now, and it has been a tough adjustment.  Frankly, my life was easier over there.

I don’t want to romanticize my experience in the country of Finland where I lived.  Life was difficult there, too.

However, the “go-go-go” of American culture has gotten to me.  Half the time I feel I have been given the bum’s rush. 

I can relate to the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song “Free Man in Paris”.

“The way I see it he said, you just can’t win it
Everybody’s in it for their own gain, you can’t please ’em all
There’s always somebody calling you down
I do my best and I do good business
There’s a lot of people asking for my time
They’re tryin’ to get ahead
They’re tryin’ to be a good friend of mine

I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody callin’ me up for favors
And no ones future to decide
You know I’d go back there tomorrow
But for the work I’ve taken on
Stokin’ the star maker machinery behind the popular song

I deal in dreamers and telephone screamers
Lately I wonder what I do it for, if I had my way
I’d just walk through those doors, and wander
Down the Champs Elysees
Going cafe to cabaret, thinking how I’d feel when I find
That very good friend of mine.”

I know why I came back to the USA. I needed to be a responsible husband and father.  My wife and I both felt this was the best place for our family.

Hindsight is always “20-20”, but if  I knew then what I know now, I don’t think I would have made the move.  I’ve given up a quiet life for the pressure inherent in American life.

I always wanted to go overseas, all of my life in fact. My prayers were answered when I had the opportunity.

I fulfilled that dream. Unfortunately, the dream sometimes turned into a nightmare over there, too.

The above diatribe reflects that I have again picked up the American male malady. It’s called “whining”.

David Geffen unfortunately had the misfortune of having his whine immortalized by Joni Mitchell.  The latter wrote “Free Man in Paris” after talking with him.

Sufjan Stevens has commented on the origin of this song:

“Some of her best songs embark on the persona of conversation, capturing the voice of the people she observed around her. Did her friends tiptoe around the vigilant songwriter, worried they may one day be rendered in the inquisition of a song? If so, Joni’s radio hit ‘Free Man in Paris’ may have been music entrepreneur David Geffen’s worst nightmare. The song is built around Geffen’s own words, laid out verbatim, in quotes, taken, perhaps, from some offhand remark he let slip in passing: a cool, condescending diatribe against the headaches of the music industry.

If taken at his word (or Joni’s translation, per se), Geffen comes off an as A&R curmudgeon, wary of the tedium of Hollywood, pining for the romance of Paris. The obvious irony, of course, is that Geffen’s indignation is aimed at the very industry he helped create.”

David Geffen’s experience brings to mind that of a man named Zechariah. They both epitomize the saying,”Be careful what you wish for” (or perhaps pray for).

Zechariah also had the misfortune of having part of his story immortalized, in the Bible no less:

“In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.  But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,  he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

  Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,  for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

 Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.’

 The angel said to him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.’

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.  When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak (Luke 1:5-22).”

I think it must be tough to be an angel. In addition to people being scared out of their wits when you show up, they don’t believe you, even when you carry a message from God.

Gabriel probably had been given some leeway by the Lord in terms of how he handled Zechariah’s response. So ole Gabe decided to shut him up for a while. Gabriel, who sang with the angels, had had enough of hearing the human whine.

We ask God to do the impossible, and when He does it, we don’t care for the results. It’s a wonder God hasn’t sent the lightning down a long time ago.

I would have. But he’s God, with infinite patience.

The next time I get my prayers answered, I ought to avoid whining about the consequences. After all, God in His love deemed it appropriate to give me what I asked for.

So what if the results weren’t what I expected. It’s not His fault.

Read Full Post »

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live,  and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  On my bed I remember you;  I think of you through the watches of the night (Psalm 63:3-6).”

It’s hard not to notice.  The world is a chaotic place.  Is it any wonder many of us worry and suffer sleepless nights?

We westerners all know about Middle East conflicts, massive oil spills and the impact of illegal drugs on our society.  I suppose it’s whose newspaper you read which determines how much you know aboout the conflicts around the world.

One news website has an interactive section on “forgotten” conflicts around the world.  They range from an ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka to a number of confrontations across Africa.  One of these wars not thought of much in the west is in our news today because some Maoist rebels derailed a train in India and killed scores of people. 

All the way down to the family level, the human condition is one of upset, discord and confusion.  In our own home, my wife and I had a restless time last night over some of our own concerns.  At least we prayed together over them before we set out on our day.

The problems of families, peoples, and nations should not be a surpise.  Mankind has been in the moral depths for ages. As a result, we are like the squirrel I saw in my way as I drove down my street this morning: we are frantically going helter-skelter, backwards and forwards trying to get out of the way of the calamity coming our way.

One of the friends of  Job reminded the miserable ancient patriarch,” For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward (Job 5:6,7).” For a long time, men have been the cause of their own problems.

 Even as godly a man as Abraham, who followed Job, had trouble in his family.  The descendants of his son Ishmael are said by the Scriptures to have “lived in hostility toward all their brothers (Genesis 25:18b)”  His twin grandsons actually fought with each other while they were still in the womb (Genesis 25:21-23)”!

I read one story from South Asia last night which incorporates a belief that colic in a baby is a symptom of two reincarnated souls fighting for the child’s body.  This battle begins in the womb and continues  on at birth until one soul wins. If neither soul is victorious, the belief is that the person will evidence symptoms of mental illness, even insanity. 

Well, you can’t blame a person for trying. Belief systems must explain this ongoing battle between people, or mankind will go insane!  There’s already too much deranged behavior in the world already.

There is an explanation, a true one. The Bible gives the most plausible reason for our world’s woes.  It says we are a fallen race (Romans 3:23).  The Scriptures tell us we fight with one another because we are inherently selfish at birth and reject God’s intervention  as well (James 4:1-3). 

There are conflicts between people and nations because there is truly a battle going on for our souls.  In one instance,  we are self destructive in our own selfishness (I Peter 2:11).  In another case, their is an evil angelic being called Satan seeking to eat up our souls as well (I Peter 5:8).

Jesus Himself said we would have trouble in this world, but He also told His followers to be encouraged because He had overcome this fallen planet (John 16:33).   He also told them to not let their own hearts be troubled, but to trust in God (John 14:1).

The apostle Paul added that the followers of Christ will reap an eternal reward down the line.  We will experience the beauty and splendor of eternity with our God. We will think our troubles are light and worth suffering if we focus on what awaits us in heaven (II Corinthians 4:17).

Knowing what  Jesus and the Bible have told me, the next time I’m tossing and turning, I’m gonna muse on the endless fellowship with Him and the magnificence I will participate in up there, not on the worries, battles, pains and turbulence I am experiencing down here!

Read Full Post »

“I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.  For great is your love toward me;  you have delivered me from the depths of the grave (Psalm 86:12,13).”

An earworm is a piece of music that compulsively repeats itself in the mind.  I’ve had one of those songs in my head recently.

“Allelujah” was written by Leonard Cohen back in the 1980s, popularized by Jeff Buckley in the 1990s and played constantly in the Starbucks where I write.  It has been performed by numerous artists.  I first heard it as background music on a television drama.

The song is a beautiful one.  I can’t really understand the lyrics when I hear it, although I have thought that their theme is probably not Christian. The tone of the piece is mournful, and “Hallelujah” is an expression of praise, meaning “Glory to the Lord.”  However, after reviewing Cohen’s original lyrics (there have been many updates),  I now believe they are quite biblical.

Two famous people from the Bible, used of God, but fallen, are mentioned in Cohen’s lyrics: King David and Samson.

“Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.”

In seems some believers breeze through life and others are in a world of hurt.  When you’re hurting, it’s hard to sing “Hallelujah”.  But I am here to tell you that it can be and is done. Samson and David were flawed figures, but in their humanness they sought the Lord (Judges 16:28; Psalm 86:1,2). 

Cohen said about his lyrics,””All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value . It’s (the song), as I say, a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion….It’s a rather joyous song.”

We western Christians have tended to sell people a bill of goods about walking with Jesus.  When we tell folks about our faith, it is the “abundant life” we describe.  People who don’t follow Christ are deceived, and if and when they choose to come to Him they have to weed their way through their earlier misconceptions to get to the truth about the Christian life.

Later,  Cohen said about the song,”It’s the notion that there is no perfection – that this is a broken world and we live with broken hearts and broken lives but that is still no alibi for anything. On the contrary, you have to stand up and say Hallelujah under those circumstances ( Q Magazine, October 2006 http://awmusic.ca).”

The rock poet’s favorite stanza was the last one. (He also said Bob Dylan liked this part of the song):

 “I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”

I say Amen to that!

Read Full Post »