Chapter-a-Day Psalm 70

On_the_huntLet those on the hunt for you sing and celebrate. Psalm 70:4a

The area where I live is big on hunting. Pheasant, quail and deer hunting are popular autumnal activities. I grew up hunting and many fall weekends were spent walking the plowed fields and fence rows in search of pheasant. Hunting is not a haphazard activity. You plan your hunt. You get permission from the land owners for the fields you wish to hunt. You arrive early and walk all day. If you’re fortunate, you have good dogs to follow. I was always exhausted after a day of hunting. I slept like a baby from the weariness.

Perhaps that’s why verse four jumped off the page at me on this gorgeous fall morning in which I write. "Hunt" is not a word that we generally associate with God. Yet, what a great metaphor! Jesus was very clear that "he who seeks finds." He told parables about those who "hunted" for a lost coin or a pearl of great price as metaphors for those who are truly hunting after God. God wants us to seek His kingdom and His righteousness. We’re to be on the hunt!

I’m compelled to ask this morning, "What am I hunting after?" I can quickly name things that I endeavor to acquire. I could list for you a few intangible feelings or emotions that I constantly seek. Can I, however, honestly say that I am hunting God? Do I endeavor to find God and to be in His presence? Do I pursue God with force and purpose? I’m afraid that what I hunt after says a lot about who I am and where I’ll end up.

If what Jesus said is true, that we find what we truly seek – then what will I find myself attaining in the end?

Chapter-a-Day 69

Living_fractal I’m hoarse from calling for help, Bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God. Psalm 69:3 (TM)

Ask those who know me and they’ll tell you that I’m generally an upbeat person. If I was a psalmist, I imagine myself being a lot like David. You would find my songs and lyrics filled with gladness and celebration most of the time. But, like David, I’m going to have my periods of struggle. I have to express that too, or my psalms wouldn’t be true. The dark valleys are as much a part of the journey as the inspirational vistas seen from high places.

In the book, The Shack, a man named Mack spends a weekend with God. In one particular scene, Mack is invited to do some gardening with Holy Spirit. Mack sees the garden and is struck by what a mess it is. The two go to work, digging and pruning and uprooting. As they work, Mack grows strangely comfortable with this space, this garden. Holy Spirit eventually reveals to him why:

"…this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive — a living fractal."

Life is a mess sometimes. You go hoarse from crying out to God. Your eyes grow tired of searching for God’s purpose. Yet, this is part of the "mess" through which God brings forth a "living fractal."

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Kevin Dooley.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 68

Sound_machine Listen—he’s calling in thunder, rumbling, rolling thunder. Call out "Bravo!" to God, the High God of Israel. His splendor and strength rise huge as thunderheads. Psalm 68:33-34 (MSG)

My wife and I sleep with one of those sound machines that produce a steady stream of nature sounds to help lull you into a deep slumber. Wendy has always set the sound machine on the sound of ocean waves. I don’t mind that at all. Hearing the constant rolling of the ocean waves is a great sound to help ease me into my dreams. My preference, however, has always been the sound of the thunderstorm.

When I was a young believer I read Job 37 which, like today’s chapter, is one of the many passages in God’s Message that describes God’s voice as thunder. Ever since that moment, I’ve not heard a peal of thunder that did not remind me of our Creator. I love a good thunderstorm, as it reminds me that God’s voice is present and all around me if I will tune my heart to hear Him.

And so, with my wife at my side, I enjoy fading into La-La-Land to the sound of the ocean waves. But, when I’m taking a nap by myself, I switch the sound machine to a thunderstorm and let my heavenly Father’s voice lull me to sleep.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and rubbertoe.

How Many Can Kids Can You Fit On a Couch?

Cheaper_by_the_dozen_lr I was at rehearsal for Union Street Players production of "Cheaper by the Dozen" last night and snapped some publicity photos. I particularly liked this shot of the kids gathered for a family meeting. Obviously, they couldn’t all fit on the couch…but they tried!

Madison and I are both in the show and Wendy is producing. Production dates are December 4-7.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 67

God, mark us with grace and blessing! Psalm 67:1a (MSG)

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve noticed that there are people who are "marked" by a particular attribute. John was marked by his success at anything he did or tried. Troy was marked by trouble that plagued him wherever he went. Kathleen was marked by sullen depression which contrasted sharply with all that she had going for her had she been able to see it. Phil was marked by his MacGyver-like mechanical abilities. Give Phil a swiss army knife and some duct tape and he could fix a nuclear reactor. Elizabeth was marked by her sweet spirit and her refusal to think or say anything bad about anyone. Joy, strangely enough, was marked by her judgemental and critical spirit.

When Psalm 67 begs "mark us with your blessing", the psalmist is asking God to be blessed in such a way that everyone takes notice, and it leads them to give the credit where the credit is due.

When people look at me, when they observe me from a distance, what do they say "marks" me?

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 66

Swim_practiceDidn’t he set us on the road to life? Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch? He trained us first, passed us like silver through refining fires, Brought us into hardscrabble country, pushed us to our very limit, Road-tested us inside and out, took us to hell and back; Finally he brought us to this well-watered place. Psalm 66:9-12 (MSG)

When I was a kid, I was a competitive swimmer. The beginning of swim season was always difficult. The morning workout was written out for us on a chalk board at the shallow end of the pool. I would stagger into the pool before most of my friends were out of bed, look at the chalk board, and groan. The workout list always looked so long and punitive. Our coach was "passing us like silver through refining fires." He wanted to push us to our limit, to "hell and back," so that we would be pushed to lower times and better finishes. It wasn’t easy.

In Psalm 66, we’re reminded that there is a purpose for this life road on which we travel. God is leading us with intention, even when the road is difficult and we feel pushed to the limit of what we can bear. There is a goal, a destination, on the distant horizon. Our task is to follow, to stick to the road, and press on through this momentarily difficult stretch.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and mhaithaca.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 65

Iowa_dawnFar and wide they’ll come to a stop, they’ll stare in awe, in wonder. Dawn and dusk take turns calling, "Come and worship."  Psalm 65:8 (MSG)

It is autumn. The mornings have grown dark and cold. The sun makes its escape early in the evenings when there is a crisp chill in the air. The fields are abuzz with activity as crops are harvested. Each day this week I’ve made a 45 mile commute to a client’s place of business. Each morning I’ve driven through the rolling Iowa hills and, late in the afternoon, I travel back.

The land changes. The tall, golden corn fused with a vanishing green hue is tipped with the red glow of the sunrise as I pass in the wee hours of sunrise. By nightfall, that same corn has been harvested. The land takes on a new dimension and texture. New scenery has unfolded. The deep, rich, brown earth seeps into the landscape through the broken stems as the waning sun blankets everything in warm gold.

Each day I stare in awe and wonder. Dawn and dusk call to me. "Come and worship the Master Artist who paints the panorama anew each morning and again each night."

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Todd Ehlers.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 64

Bad_newsListen and help, O God. I’m reduced to a whine and a whimper, obsessed with feelings of doomsday. Psalm 64:1 (MSG)

I’m in a period of life in which I’ve reduced that amount of time I spend watching and listening to news programs and news magazines. I have, at times, been a news junkie. I’d have the radio or television (or both) tuned to a news channel during almost every waking hour. Now, I’d rather tune the radio to my favorite music. I’ve been enjoying learning about art history on the arts channel. I couldn’t take it any more.

I’ve become fed up with fear and doomsday. Like the psalmist, I felt my spirit slowly being reduced to a whine and a whimper. The news feed, news ticker, news talk, news radio, news channel was a constant source for anxiety. Every fabric of society is falling apart. Everything I eat, wear, breathe, or touch causes cancer. I’d better get screened for colon cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and brain cancer. If cancer doesn’t kill me then my cholesterol is certainly going to cause me to have a fatal heart attack (it’s a wonder I’m still alive). My children are sure to have ADD or ADHD while likely to contract one of the STDs that plauge the X, Y, and Z generations. The Earth is on a cataclysmic course towards an ice age, a meltdown, a meteor strike, a dark age, a viral epedemic, an economic depression, and a world war. Watch out for the hurricane, tornado, earthquake, radon, heat wave, drought, flood, mudslide, tidal wave, eruption and forest fire. Be on the alert for the homicidal maniac, sex offender, deadbeat who is probably living next door. I better be extra careful because my very identity is at risk. Big brother is watching and listening to everything I do and say while not doing anything to help anyone.

And so, I turned the channel or I turn it off. My decision is not to hide and be uninformed. I can inform myself in a million different ways. I’m just trying to be a better monitor of what gets input into my brain and and spirit.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and stitch.