Tag Archives: Chapter-a-Day

Meditations on Song of Solomon

In the 11 years I’ve been writing my blog and posting my chapter-a-day meditations, I’ve not spent a ton of time worrying about whether posts are popular. I haven’t actively tried to either please or cater to a particular audience. That’s never really been the point for me. I simply post what’s on my heart and mind each weekday morning and scatter it like seed along my humble little path here in the blogosphere.

I have, however, casually noticed that my daily meditations on the Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs), have seemed to  maintain a certain level of popularity (I use that word very loosely in the context of my subscribers and page views) that is unusual for my typical posts. It totally makes sense to me. Song of Songs is the one poetic book in all of God’s Message that focuses on man, woman, relationship, love, romance, and sex. We are ever trying to understand the mystery, aren’t we?

So, for what it’s worth, here is a compilation of my meditations from Song of Solomon, originally posted in October of 2013. Cheers!

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 1
A Hint of Paradise

God, the artist, created us male and female. He created us naked. He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Love, intimacy and sex between husband and wife was part of the original ideal….

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 2
With Nobody Else but Me

Be mindful and wary of misplaced and competing affections and appetites.

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 3
Meeting the Parents

Today, I am pondering this dance of courtship that men and women have been doing since the beginning of civilization.

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 4
Sensually Good

Jesus said he came to give us abundant life. This includes a healthy appreciation for the breadth of senses God gave us to properly experience the full range of creation in its sensual glory.

Song of Solomon Chapter 5
The Art and Progression of Sexual Intimacy

My experience is that sexual intimacy does not become a breathtaking original work of art unless there are two people learning to create something together over time, learning to work together, make mistakes, erase errors, try something new, explore, play, complement one another’s individual style, and develop their own unique style as a couple over time together.

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 6
Browsing Among the Lilies

God created us male and female. He created us as sexual beings with hormones and sexual desires. He created a natural order in which people grow, develop, desire one another and have sexual relations through which new life is created. He called it “good.”

 

 

 

 

Song of Solomon Chapter 7
A Case for Delayed Gratification

In contrast to where our culture seems to be heading, I hear in Song of Solomon the wisdom, art, and beauty of love that takes time, effort, and creativity to develop. I am reminded that delayed gratification makes the climactic sensual feast deeper, more meaningful and ultimately more pleasurable.

Song of Solomon Chapter 8
Signed, Sealed, Delivered

God’s Message has scant descriptors of marriage. It does not prescribe a particular method or ceremony for marriage, but seems to allow room for cultures and history to develop a veritable plethora of customs around the marriage ceremony. What God’s Message does simply say is that a man and woman leave their respective parents, unite themselves, and become “one flesh.”


Tom Vander Well has been writing his blog, Wayfarer, since 2006. He lives in Pella, Iowa with his wife Wendy.

Over and Over and Over and Over and Over

In recent months I’ve been reading articles about the release of the script of J.K. Rowling’s production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There is a certain amount of frustration among fans who purchased what they thought was a book, only to find that it is actually the script of the stage play. Of course, a novel and a script are two very different things. They both tell a story, but in very different ways. A script requires something more of you as a reader. The author gives you the characters words, but you have to use your imagination to fill in more of the blanks. It’s understandable that many are experiencing frustration with it.

Along my journey I’ve come to understand that there is a similar frustration among those who undertake the reading of God’s Message from Genesis through Revelation. It’s not a novel. It’s not a script. It’s a compilation of writings (and different types of writing) authored across a large section of history. The content is not categorized chronologically but by author and the type of writing. It tells a story, but in a very different way than the way we are used to reading stories. It requires something of me as a reader to connect the dots and see the larger picture.

Even as I wade into the writings of Isaiah, it’s important for me as a reader to understand that I’m reading a smaller compilation of Isaiah’s prophetic poetry. I have to step back and look at the larger picture. I have to connect the dots. I have to see the patterns.

One of the patterns that emerges in prophetic writing is the repeated, cyclical themes of sin, judgement, deliverance, and redemption. I can see it already in the first few chapters:

The people rebel against God:

I reared children and brought them up,
    but they have rebelled against me.
Isaiah 1:2

The consequences of rebellion are God’s judgement and punishment:

Your men shall fall by the sword
    and your warriors in battle.
And her gates shall lament and mourn;
    ravaged, she shall sit upon the ground.;
Isaiah 2:25-26

When the people repent of their ways, God delivers:

On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.
Isaiah 4:2

Ultimately, God redeems and restores in glorious ways:

 Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
Isaiah 4:5-6

This repetition happens over and over and over and over and over and over again. In the compilation of Isaiah’s writings this pattern can be seen on a macro level (Chapters 1-39 are much heavier on judgement; Chapters 40-66 are much heavier on deliverance and redemption). The pattern can also be seen on a micro-level within a chapter or a few verses. The theme is repeated continually.

This morning I’m thinking about the cyclical, repetitive nature of my own behaviors. No matter how hard I try, I sometimes do or say things that are just wrong or inappropriate. When that happens, things don’t go so well. Relationships are strained or broken. Sometimes I suffer from the consequences of those inappropriate words or actions. I feel guilty. I am guilty. I repent, turning to Jesus whose sacrifice for me on the cross affords forgiveness, mercy, and grace in spite of my repetitive bullheadedness and boneheadedness. Redeemed, not by what I’ve done, but what God has done for me, I humbly and gratefully continue to let go of what is behind and press on to love others as Jesus loved me.

Over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over….again.

Servant of One Master

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.
Romans 8:12 (NIV)

Yesterday my friend, Matthew, and I shared the third of four messages we prepared for our local gathering of Jesus’ followers on the topic of shame. Not coincidentally, Paul’s letter to the Romans which we are currently journeying through on our chapter-a-day sojourn figures heavily in the teaching. Without mentioning it, I chose to read through Romans as it dovetailed nicely with what I’m already pondering and sharing on Sundays.

We have a group of prayer warriors among our local gathering and it is customary for one of them to pray over those who teach after worship. Yesterday as our friend, Vicki, came to pray for Matthew and me she said she had been given a vision for me and wanted to share it.

She saw me on a dark stage. Small lights began to twinkle and swirl around. The number began to grow until they lit the stage. Tear streaming down my face, I dropped to my knees feeling the “freedom and love” God was pouring into me.

Our series on shame largely focuses on the dilemma that many of us feel. Our core sense of shame leads us to feelings of condemnation which then lead us to behaviors and “covers” (think fig leaf) to feel better about ourselves until those behaviors become addictive and deeply rooted patterns to which we become enslaved. Followers of Jesus know we are to be obedient to what we Jesus calls us to do, which is often contradictory to the deep-seated behaviors to which we feel enslaved. As Paul put it in his letter: The things I don’t want to do I end up doing, and the things I want to do I end up not doing! Who will set me free from this?! 

What was fascinating about Vicki’s vision yesterday is that she was describing, in detail, the opening scene of a play Wendy and I attended in Minneapolis a few years ago. The dark stage, the little twinkle lights swirling and growing in number until the stage was lit. Wendy and I often talk about it as one of the most breathtaking experiences we’ve had watching live theatre. The name of the play? The Servant of Two Masters.

Those who follow Jesus often feel the chaos of feeling like we are stuck trying to serve two masters, both the flesh and the Spirit. The point of today’s chapter and of the series that Matthew and I are teaching is that Jesus came to set us free from being “chained” and “obligated” to the flesh. We don’t serve two masters, but One.

This morning I’m thinking about Truffaldino, the lovable and comic trickster trapped by his own devices in Servant of Two Masters as he gets caught trying to serve two very different masters. I’m wondering if God sometimes finds it comical the way we foolishly swear obedience to serve Him and then sneak around trying to serve our own earthly appetites as if we’re being secretive about the whole thing. As Vicki envisioned, I drop to my knees in acknowledgement of what I have come to know: Jesus’ shed blood and resurrection set me free from any fleshly obligations. As Jesus said, “If I set you free, you are free indeed.”

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The featured image on this post is a picture of a Zanni mask (source: wikipedia) used in a genre of historical theatre called “commedia.” Servant of Two Masters belongs to this genre. The Zanni mask was worn by the dispossessed immigrant worker, often a trickster, like Truffaldino who finds himself trying to serve two different masters at the same time.

A Living Example

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:8 (NIV)

We called my maternal grandfather Grandpa Spec. Spec had been his nickname for as long as anyone could remember. Everyone called him Spec, which he preferred to his given name, Claude. Grandpa Spec had a rough life. The oldest of three siblings, his father shot himself (on his 36th birthday) and Spec was farmed out to be raised by his grandparents. That was likely his salvation. His mother drug the younger two siblings through a series of failed marriages, and they both had their own difficult paths.

When Grandpa Spec was near the end of his earthly journey, there were family members who shared stories I had never heard about my grandpa.

Times were tough during the Depression and World War II. Spec’s brother, an alcoholic, asked Spec for a job. Spec agreed to hire him, but knowing his brother had a problem with alcohol he told his brother that if his drinking interfered with his work just once he would be fired. Of course, the handwriting was on the wall. Spec fired his brother the first time his drinking caused a problem with work. The brother was angry and returned to family in Illinois where he spread all sorts of lies and rumors about how poorly Spec had treated him. Spec and his brother barely spoke again. Years later, when his brother died, Spec drove to Illinois to pay his last respects only to find that the family had told the funeral home that Spec would pay for his brother’s funeral. Despite not having much money, he did.

My grandmother’s sister then shared with me about how difficult things were for her when her husband left her. She was left to try and provide for herself and her children. Grandpa Spec and Grandma Golly, her sister, would regularly make the drive to the Quad Cities from Des Moines on weekends to help her out however they could. She was a proud woman and she said that Spec knew she would refuse a handout if they offered it. So, he never offered. He simply left a $50 bill on top of the refrigerator on each visit and then would confess to knowing nothing about it.

In today’s chapter, Paul addresses with young Timothy one of the most difficult social problems of their day. In those days, widows were often left in very difficult positions with no one to support them and no real means by which to provide for themselves. Jesus’ followers had a reputation of caring for the poor and destitute, so they would often come to the Christians seeking financial help. Paul tells Timothy that the believers in Ephesus should, by all means, help those who were truly in need. He adds, however, that family should first be responsible to take care of their own.

When I read that this morning I thought of Grandpa Spec paying for the funeral of the brother who caused him nothing but trouble, and who gave to his sister-in-law when she was in need. He was never a man of great means. Life had given him every reason to play the victim card and follow the path of bitterness, anger, and hatred. He chose, however, to follow Jesus down the path of forgiveness, kindness, and generosity.

Not bad footsteps to follow.

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Giving Myself…to What?

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
1 Timothy 4:15 (NIV)

There are only so many hours in a day, and there are only so many days allotted to us in our life journey. Each day we give ourselves away. We invest our time, our energy, our thoughts, and our resources towards different pursuits without giving much thought to it. To what am I giving myself?

I was struck this morning by Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “give himself wholly” to use of his spiritual gifts and his work among the Jesus followers in Ephesus. The goal, Paul told him, was his progress.

This morning I find myself thinking about the natural relationship between what I give myself to and what is being produced in my life. Where am I making progress? What is the evidence of that progress? Am I progressing in ways that are at all worthwhile?

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Featured image: kevandotorg via Flickr

Perseverance

It’s Thursday. Do you feel like the week will never end? Here are a few posts on perseverance to help get you through the week!

  1. Be Like a Tree
  2. Rain or Shine, It’s How We Respond
  3. When a Hallmark Card Just Won’t Do
  4. Refuge Amidst Rough Stretches in Life’s Path
  5. Built to Last
  6. Chapter-a-Day Numbers 27
  7. Chapter-a-Day Matthew 24
  8. Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 28
  9. Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 21
  10. Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 19
  11. Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 18
  12. Chapter-a-Day Micah 7
  13. Chapter-a-Day Exodus 2
  14. Chapter-a-Day Psalm 129
  15. Chapter-a-Day Esther 9
  16. Chapter-a-Day Acts 14
  17. Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 24

 

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Robbery, and the Chain Reaction of Praise

San Antonio Robbery“Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
    and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
    How long must this go on?’
Habakkuk 2:6 (NIV)

How ironic that this verse should appear on the page this morning.

Two nights ago, while on a business trip in San Antonio, someone broke into my hotel room while I was away having dinner with my brother. I was staying a Courtyard Inn and had a first floor room on the interior courtyard. The thief or thieves broke the plate glass of the patio door, snatched my backpack, all my electronic gear, and all the training materials I needed for a week of customer service training and coaching. The thieves got away without the hotel’s security cameras seeing them. It appears that they knew exactly what they were doing to avoid being seen.

I’ll be honest with you. The first thing that popped into my mind when I realized I’d been robbed was a not-so-nice exclamatory word. The second thing that popped into my mind was “chain reaction of praise.”

For the past several months my local gathering of fellow Jesus followers have been focusing on incorporating a simple formula in our lives:

Praise God in all circumstances (especially the bad ones)

which activates your faith…

to pray powerful prayers…

and overcome evil…

preparing us to live and reign with Christ

So, there I stood in my hotel room with a nervous hotel assistant general manager and an apathetic police officer who seemed more interested in getting to the donut shop than investigating the break in. I began going through the litany of things missing. It was a lot. Personal laptop, work laptop, iPad, folio with all my work files, two irreplaceable pens (I’m a collector),  external hard drive with ALL my photos, etc. and etc. I was shocked and sad and frustrated and violated and confused and really, really pissed.

And through my mind, over and over again, went the chain reaction of praise. And, Jesus’ words:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?”

I continue to cycle through all sorts of emotions, and most of them are not positive. It’s part of the process. In the midst of them I’m continuing to choose into silently, in my spirit, whispering praise for all that I have which can never be taken away. I’m choosing to pray for those who have stolen from me, and hoping that they get their lives straightened out. Neither of these choices are coming very naturally to me, but I learned a long time ago that faith is often about choosing the path that feels the least natural. Leap, and the net will appear.

Today, I will spend my day assembling the list of things missing, finding serial numbers, going through files looking for receipts, and trying to piece my personal and work life back together from back up drives and the cloud. I will talk to insurance agents and be told all of the things they will not cover and the high deductible I will pay out-of-pocket for the things they will. If you run across me you may find me grumbling not-so-nice exclamations under my breath, or you may find me praising God and whispering a prayer for the thieves. It will depend on the moment. I’m still in process.