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July 31, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 134

The blessing of daisies. Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place, and bless God. Psalm 134:2 (MSG)

The other morning I walked into my home office. Other than a few pieces of artwork on the walls, my home office is a fairly stark room. Three desks, three computers, and books. This particular morning I walked in and found a gorgeous arrangement of beautiful daisies on my desk. Below it was a sticky-note on which was written "Praying for you!"

The flowers and note were not from my wife, but from my youngest daughter, Madison. What a blessing to her old man. The daisies are still there, beginning to wilt but I'm loathe to throw them away. The blessing from my daughter continues to bless, even as the leaves wither and flowers fade.

It's easy, in our gimme, gimme, gimme world to constantly ask for our Heavenly Father's blessing. "God bless me with..." is a pretty consistent cry from my lips. I'm reminded this morning that we have opportunity to actually bless our Heavenly Father.

How am I going to be a blessing to God today?

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and aesum

July 30, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 133

Vwell_50th_four_kids4_LR How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! Psalm 133:1 (MSG)

Like most people raised in a house full of kids, I remember days of knock-down-drag-out fights with my siblings. My brothers were seven years older than me, five older than my sister. So, they generally couldn't get away with beating up on the "little ones" outright. Their attacks took a more sinister approach, such as asking me if I knew what a "Hertz Doughnut" was. When I responded "no" I was immediately punched by the offending brother who then asked "Hurt's, don't it?" as he cackled with glee. My sister was closer in age and the only girl. So, our fights were worse. One of her favorite things was to grab my wrists and dig her fingernails into my skin until they bled. It was not lost on me how much nicer she became immediately after she realized she was no longer large enough or strong enough to sit on me and hold me down! As for my sibling infractions, those records have been sealed ;-)

How my mother made it through the madness, I'll never know. I know that I was responsible for many of those white hairs on her head. But, now we are grown and our parent's house is filled with laughter rather than the screams of rival children. It's a wonderful thing.

How sad that, for some families, the madness never ends.

July 29, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 132

O God, remember David, remember all his troubles! And remember how he promised God, made a vow to the Strong God of Jacob, Psalm 132:1-2 (MSG)

I got to thinking about the vows we make to God. As a kid, I used to bargain with God all the time. If God would just [fill in the blank], I would [fill in the blank]. My requests ran the gamut from the Vikings winning the Super Bowl (that didn't turn out so good) to sending those cute girls to drive by the house again (neither did that one).

It took me a while to learn that God isn't my errand boy and prayer isn't a divine Priceline site where I name my price and see if I get what I want for what I'm willing to pay.

July 28, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 131

Still waiting. Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always! Psalm 131:3 (MSG)

Waiting is a character-producing activity. Even calling the task of waiting an activity seems oxymoronic. Waiting feels like doing nothing. Waiting feels like wasted time.

Still, I'm reminded by the lyrics of today's chapter that my waiting is not void of direction, purpose or activity. I'm to learn contentment as I cool it. I'm to hope while I'm on hold.

[sigh] Man, waiting is hard work.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Eckler

July 27, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 130

A long list on the balance sheet. If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that's why you're worshiped. Psalm 130:3-4 (MSG)

Part of my job is analyzing phone calls that people take as part of their Customer Service job, and then coaching them on how they can improve (a la "your call may be monitored to ensure quality service"). When I go into the coaching sessions, I never cease to be amazed at how hard people are on themselves. It's rare that I have to convince somebody they can do a better job. Most often, people criticize their own performance far more mercilessly than I ever would. Most of us are hurtfully self-critical.

I've discovered the same thing to be true when talking to people about their faith journey. Many of us, deep down, are so convinced that the balance sheet of wrong doings to good deeds is so heavily weighted towards the wrong doings that we're convinced God wants nothing to do with us. "You don't know what I've done," is a phrase I've heard a time or two. I've uttered it a few times myself.

On one hand, our natural inclination is correct. If God judged us based on our balance sheet, not one of us would stand a chance. However, when God's message tells us about Jesus dying for our sins, it simply means that He paid the price for our wrong doings. If you will believe Him, God makes a habit of tearing out the negative side of our balance sheet and tossing it in the incinerator.

I'm sure he's surprised when we keep bringing up the subject.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Alpha_Delta20

July 24, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 129

"They've kicked me around ever since I was young" —this is how Israel tells it— "They've kicked me around ever since I was young, but they never could keep me down." Psalm 129:1 (MSG)

Perseverance in the midst of trial is the path to maturity. Which one of us is able to look back at the road we've walked and see nothing but beautifully flat, easy boulevards behind us? We have all attempted short-cuts that turned into painful detours. We've all walked through our own deep valleys. And, we've all experienced the exhilaration of the occasional mountain top.

When I was younger, I used to listen to Bob Dylan's album, Saved, over and over again. One of the songs that has stuck with me to this day is a song called Pressin' On. To this day, whenever I feel "kicked around" I hear this song welling up inside of me urging me to keep to the journey.

Press on.

July 23, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 128

Your wife will bear children as a vine bears grapes, your household lush as a vineyard, The children around your table as fresh and promising as young olive shoots. Stand in awe of God's Yes. Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God! Psalm 128:3-4 (MSG)


July 22, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 127

The Embarrasment of Riches. Don't you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves? Psalm 127:2b (MSG)

I have been reading a weighty book that my wife gave me for my birthday. The Embarrassment of Riches by Simon Schama is a treatise on the Dutch culture. It investigates of how the little nation rose from medeival obscurity into the greatest economic power in the world in only two generations. Schama summarizes his own endeavor by saying that he wanted to find out what made the Dutch so, well, Dutch.

Being born to a Dutch father, I have been raised in what is known as the Dutch work ethic. The Dutch work hard. As I've been reading, our forefathers survived by raising their homeland out of the sea. By the sweat of their brow and the pumping of their windmills they tamed the ocean and made it do their bidding. Then they restlessly scoured the earth on their merchant ships and eventually drove the world's economy. My Dutch forebears brought their Dutch work ethic to America and scraped new life from the wild, untamed American prairie. The Dutch mantra could very well have come from Solomon: "Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider its' ways and be wise." If it's one thing I've been raised to appreciate, it's the value of hard work.

Raised in that obsessive work ethic, rest is easily seen as a vice - not a virtue on equal terms with work. It's easy to look at rest with secret suspicion and scorn. God is, however, adamant about the importance and value of rest. Isn't it interesting that working hard did not make the list of the ten commandments, but resting did?

July 21, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 126

Do it again, Daddy! And now, God, do it again— bring rains to our drought-stricken lives So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing. Psalm 126:4-6 (MSG)

On Sunday night we spent a lazy evening enjoying dinner and a visit from our friends. At one point in the evening the guys were wrestling around on the living room floor. I held my three-year-old playmate up by his ankles and dangled his head in the scruff of his daddy's neck. This illicited joyful laughter from my dangling friend, and when I lowered him back to the floor he immediately screamed, "Do it AGAIN!" So, we did it again...several times!

It's good to look back and remember what God has done. I believe it's important to recall specific instances when God answered our prayers, times when He gave us our heart's desire, and moments in our lives when blessings unlooked for and undeserved rained down upon us.

It reminds us that our Dad in heaven likes to bless His chidren. It gives us faith to say, "Do it again!"

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and KhayaL

July 20, 2009

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 125

Rock solid. Those who trust in God are like Zion Mountain: Nothing can move it, a rock-solid mountain you can always depend on. Psalm 125:1 (MSG)

Throughout God's message, He is described as a "solid rock" on which we can build our lives and in which we can find shelter from the storm. I found it interesting that the lyric of this song speaks of those who trust in God as rock solid. That mean I and my life the rock-solid mountain.

It prompts me to ask myself this morning: "Am I really "rock solid" or if my life is sand that shifts with every breath of wind and moves with every crashing wave?" I guess lies in where I built my house.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and gustty