Chapter-a-Day Psalm 10

This is a young girl’s drawing from one of Taylor’s Art Therapy sessions in Uganda. She drew a picture of an LRA soldier killing her aunt in front of her.

Their mouths are full of cursing, lies, and threats.
    Trouble and evil are on the tips of their tongues.
They lurk in ambush in the villages,
    waiting to murder innocent people.
    They are always searching for helpless victims.
Like lions crouched in hiding,
    they wait to pounce on the helpless.
Like hunters they capture the helpless
    and drag them away in nets.
Their helpless victims are crushed;
    they fall beneath the strength of the wicked.
Psalm 10:7-10 (NLT) 

God’s Message is not a novel. It is not book to check off your mandatory reading list and then put on a shelf. It is a life-giving guidebook for the journey that grows deeper, richer, more poignant and meaningful the further you travel in life’s journey. I keep reading it and studying it because, while it never changes, I change. The wider my life’s horizon expands with time and experience, the more rich with meaning these chapters become each day.

Even a year ago, today’s chapter would have struck me much differently.

Our daughter, Taylor and her husband, Clayton, have been in Uganda this summer. Taylor is studying Art Therapy, and has been putting her education to work with students and other individuals there. The stories that Taylor has shared on her blog are heart wrenching. The area they are working is the site of some of the worst terror carried out by a group calling themselves the Lord’s Resistance Army.

As I read Psalm 10 this morning, the mental images of the first hand accounts Taylor and Clayton have heard this summer flashed into my mind. The description of the wicked lying in wait like lions ready to pounce on innocent victims could not be a more apt parallel to the stories Taylor has related from the victims of the LRA:

Jackie and her father (who died) were abducted when she was 12 years old. She was given to a soldier to be his wife. She gave birth to a child in the bush. She drew a picture of herself climbing up mountains with a baby on her back. She and her husband escaped and lived together for a while but he left her and the baby, so now she lives with her mother. She leaves her mother’s house at 6 in the morning and bikes to work, which is a 3-4 hour commute each way!

Todays chapter leave me thinking about evil and how it does not change from generation to generation. It’s a nice idea to believe humanistic epithets and pop music lyrics that we will all just get along and live in peace and harmony if we just give peace a chance with a little love in our heart. Yet I’ve yet to find one of these lyrical, idealistic notions that adequately addresses and solves the presence and reality of evil in the human heart and, by extension, in the world at large.

Today I feel like my thoughts are swirling all over the place. I’m thankful for the fact that when my children were young I taught them, but then as they get older they teach me through their own lives, knowledge and experiences. I’m thankful that God’s Message is living and active and constantly meeting me where I happen to be on life’s road. I’m thinking about LRA, terrorism, and evil. My heart is crying out with the Psalmist:

Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
    Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
 You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed,
    so mere people can no longer terrify them.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 9

English: Photograph of holing binoculars
English: Photograph of holing binoculars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.
Psalm 9:10 (NLT)

Ask a follower of Jesus to tell you their story and the opening chapters of the tale you will hear will typically be about that person’s search. Before one becomes a follower, before you are in relationship, and even before you know Him by name, you first find yourself a seeker.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

As with all that God has created, there is generally a natural and organic progression to things. The search is critical, for what you seek determines the paths you choose and the paths you choose determine where you end up.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

God does not abandon those who search after Him.

Don’t give up.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 8

Milky Way
Milky Way (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?
Psalm 8:3-4 (NLT) 

Which of us has not stood on a dark, clear night and stared up at the stars? Who hasn’t felt very, very small in the grand scheme of things as you contemplate our miniscule existence in relation to the enormity of the universe God created?

And yet, Jesus said that God cares so much for us small, puny human beings that the number of hairs on our head are known. God loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for our us. His care and attention gives us significance. A painting is just another oil covered section of canvas stapled to four pieces of pine until someone pays 100 million dollars for it. The price paid gives the painting significance it never had in its’ own existence.

Therein lies the balance. We are so small as to be insignificant in this vast and ever-expanding work of Creation, yet we are significant, not because of anything we’ve done, but because God gave everything, paid the ultimate price, in order to redeem us.

Perspective is a gift.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 7

Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobb...
Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[The wicked] dig a deep pit to trap others,    
     then fall into it themselves.
The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
     The violence they plan falls on their own heads.
Psalm 7:15-16 (NLT)

I just finished the unabridged audio version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings…again. Listening to the epic tale is sort of an annual pilgrimage I make while I spend time on the road. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the many themes Tolkien developed within this “leaf” he claims to have pulled  “from the tree of tales.”

I was struck once more by the very theme David brings out in the lyrics of today’s Psalm. Evil digs its’ own grave. The trap that the wicked lay for others springs back on themselves. The orcs at Cirith Ungol kill one another, allowing Sam to find and rescue Frodo. Saruman’s indescriminate attitude towards nature brings the unexpected wrath of the Ents which, in turn, brings ruin down on the kingdom he’d created for himself. Even Gollum, driven by his self-seeking addiction to the ring, ends up bringing an end to himself and it.

To that end, Tolkien weaves an interesting change in Frodo towards the end of the story. When the hobbits return back to their beloved homeland, they find it overrun with evil men and ruffians under the influence of the broken wizard, Saruman. While Pippin and Merry raise the Shire, realizing that the ruffians will only be driven out by armed force, Frodo becomes a voice for tolerance in the conflict. He refuses to take up arms. He stops fellow hobbits from indescriminate killing. He refuses to allow Saruman to be killed by a hobbit, choosing to let Saruman go to find his own evil ends (which he quickly does when his own wicked protege slays him).

Over time, Tolkein’s story, along with passages of God’s Message like today’s chapter, have influenced how I view and perceive others in whom I perceive wickedness of thought and action. I still have more questions than answers. Nevertheless, the older I get the more my scales of thought tip towards obedience to Jesus’ command not to judge others “for even the wise cannot see all ends.”

Proud of my kids in Uganda and all that they are learning and experiencing. Thought I would pass it along to all who follow my blog. Cheers!

Gone to Gulu

Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially half way through this journey. It’s hard to believe six weeks have gone by. A previous Child Voice intern told me that the middle part is the hardest, and I’d have to agree. The project proposal I started out with is unfortunately, completely out of reach, and the ending feeling of accomplishment seems laughable. This morning I was thinking about my friend Emily (who is currently biking across America to fundraise for water wells in Africa) and wondering if this is what she must be feeling. The excitement of the trail is over and the end seems too many blistering miles to push pedal after pedal. Is it worth it? Why the hell did I want to bike 3,000 miles for in the first place when it’s really hard?! But she’s a champ so she’s probably not feeling those things 😉

The beautiful and…

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Chapter-a-Day Psalm 6

from oter via Flickr

I am sick at heart.
    How long, O Lord, until you restore me?
Psalm 6:3 (NLT) 

Any one who has road tripped as a child or with a child knows the agony of impatience. My brain can easily recall the whiny, high pitched and agonized voice: “Daaaaaaaaddy!? How loooong ’til we get theeeeeere?”

This road trip called life is filled with long stretches of waiting:

How long until I’m old enough?
How long until I get married?
How long until I’m better?
How long until I’m pregnant?
How long until this is over?
How long until I’m over this?
How long until you show me the way?
How long do I have to endure this?
How long until I find a job?
How long until things are reconciled between us?
How long until this house sells?
How long will I feel this way?
How long until we’re out from under this crushing debt?
How long until the kids are out of this phase?
How long until the Cubs win the World Series? (Sorry. I couldn’t resist. It’s been a long season already.)

The songwriters of the Psalms commonly use the repeated phrase “How long, O Lord, How long?” in their lyrics. As we journey through each song, you’ll notice it cropping up again and again. Waiting, persevering, and enduring are common and critical to our human experience and to our spiritual maturity. I love that King David and the other lyricists were not afraid to wrestle with and express some of the most powerful emotions we face on our own journeys.

Today, I’m looking back at long stretches of my journey through which I had to press on and patiently (or impatiently) endure. I’m considering the abundant ways those agonizing waits helped me to grow and mature – how they prepared me for the rest of my journey.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 5

from imuttoo via Flickr

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.     
     Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5:3 (NLT)

When I was a kid, I often made outrageous requests of my parents at Christmas time. I’d leaf through the catalog and put some crazy expensive toy on my list. I knew there was no way that toy would be under the tree, but I threw it on there anyway. What’s funny is, I still have a lot of that kid in me. When Wendy asked me for a wish list for my birthday, I gave her a complete list that included both the practical and affordable as well as outgrageous (she loved seeing a motorcycle on the list). There’s no expectation that the outrageous would happen, but it’s out there.

I thought about prayer this morning in relationship to what happens after we pray. Do we sincerely present God with meaningful requests and then wait consciously, expectantly, knowing that God has both the power and desire to answer our prayers? Or, do we treat prayer a bit like an outrageous wish list? We throw it out there, but quickly walk away and forget about it because in our hearts we doubt God would ever answer.

Today, I’m not just mindful of my on-going conversation with God and the sincerity of my requests, but also my own response to my prayers. I don’t want to be like the farmer who throws seed up into the wind and then walks away. I want to plant my seeds carefully, then wait expectently for things to emerge.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 4

from thorne-enterprises via Flickr

Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
    Think about it overnight and remain silent. 
Psalm 4:4 (NLT) 

Anger is a powerful emotion. It comes on us like an explosion; it surges like a tidal wave. Caught unaware, it can move us to instant and thoughtless reaction of words and brash actions. When directed inward in attempt to hold it inside, it wreaks havoc on our heart, soul and mind. The results are ugly and can be devastating to lives, souls and relationships.

The lyric of today’s Psalm is a wise instruction in handling anger. It’s an ancient version of today’s Anger Management. The key is finding the tension between the two extremes. Neither rash, explosive reaction nor long term detrimental containment – but rather mindful, timely and appropriate response.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 3

Hammer365: 108/257 Grandma's Mantle Clock
Hammer365: 108/257 Grandma’s Mantle Clock (Photo credit: David Reber’s Hammer Photography)

I lay down and slept,    
     yet I woke up in safety,    
     for the Lord was watching over me. 
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies    
     who surround me on every side.
Psalm 3:5-6 (NLT)

I’ve never been a great sleeper. When I was a little tike I was that kid. At 5:30 a.m. I was at my parents bedside.

Come on. Mom? Dad?
I’m awake.
Somebody get up.

I remember my dad marching me into the dark living room. There was an antique mantle clock on the shelf. It chimed the hours. My dad pointed to it.

“Until that clock strikes six. I don’t want to see your face!”

Point taken.
But, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m awake at 5:30.
And, you didn’t say I couldn’t get up. You just said you didn’t want to see my face.

So, I would get out of bed each morning and scamper down the steps to the dark living room where I hid behind the gold rocking chair in the far corner (you never know if Dad might get up early; Can’t let him see my face). From there I could peek around the chair and keep my eyes glued to the mantle clock. I could listened to it tick…tick…tick…tick. I waited…for…it…to…chime…six.

I’ve gotten better about sleeping, though I still have bouts with insomnia. I appreciate the blessing of a good night’s sleep. This morning’s chapter makes me think about the millions of people who sleep each night in terror or in hunger or in anxious thought for how they will survive another day. I think about waking in safety and hope of a new dawn and a new day of uncounted blessings. I think about the joy of seeing the faces of those I love and through whom I am loved (after six o’clock, of course; well, with Wendy make it seven o’clock…or eight).

Today, I’m grateful for sleeping in safety; God watching over me. I’m thankful to be able to enter the day with hope and assurance.

The Calm Before the Storm

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Wendy and I spent a working vacation at the lake this past week. Our friends the VLs had been there for a family weekend when we arrived on Sunday and we got to spend an evening together before they headed home. I call it a working vacation because we both had work to do which was accomplished remotely on our laptops. It was also a working vacation because, while we enjoyed the quiet of the lake for a few days, there was a lot to do around the Playhouse. I power washed the deck and sealed it – a task I’d been putting off for two years. There was also a long list of little “honey dos” that we worked on throughout the week.

On Thursday Wendy and I took a personal respite, got out on the water, and enjoyed a meal at one of our favorite haunts. By Friday morning it was clear that I didn’t do a good job of putting sunscreen on. Yikes! My chest and belly were splotchy patches of alternating beet red burn and pasty white.

On Friday, our friend Cyndi arrived with Megan and Ben and we got to play for a few days. We enjoyed time on the water. I got to teach Megan how to drive the Waverunner. We watched movies and enjoyed an afternoon and evening meal at Bear Bottom Resort, one of our favorites.

Our friends left late on Sunday morning and Wendy and I had a couple of hours to get things cleaned up for our next round of guests. Newlyweds Michelle and Austin arrived to spend their honeymoon week at the Playhouse. I was also pleased to get Father’s Day phone calls from Madison in Colorado and from Taylor and Clayton in Uganda and enjoyed catching up with them.

So, the (semi-)calm week is over as I stare down a stormy couple of weeks with multiple business trips around the country along with some impending big deliveries for work.