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Today is Easter Sunday, a day on which Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion.

The Cross is the universal emblem of the Christian faith, and its poignant significance resonates around the world. But another symbol I hold dear is the rock. The stone that was rolled away after the resurrection always reminds me: you don’t have to stay in bondage. If you think you can’t get out of an abusive or untenable situation, remember the stone that was rolled away. You can and you will. Pray about it, then get up and go.

There’s also something solid and unchanging about the symbol of a rock in a changing and challenging world.

When I think of Psalms, this is the one I always return to:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2 NIV

In that passage, there’s so much “strength” mentioned that I feel encouraged every time I read it. Like I’m getting stronger just sitting here. Now that would be an exercise plan I’d sign onto: sit and strengthen. That could be a thing!

The core principles we learned as children are like bedrock. Treat people well. Take care of your body like a temple. Do the work in front of you with all your heart. Be forgiving of yourself and of others.

I may not belong to a particular denomination, and my pew may be this chair I’m sitting in right now, but between the rock and the cross, my faith has a firm foundation. Easter blessings to you and yours!

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bible-998150_1920Last week, I read a blog post about selecting a Bible verse to pray throughout the year. It’s an idea that appeals to me where I am at the moment.

Where am I?  I have to admit that my prayer life has been a little lax. What does lax mean?  It means that when someone asks for prayer, I pray.  When I read about someone who is hurting, I pray.  But I haven’t been spending a lot of quiet time with God.

I’m also not feeling 100%.  I thought I was having muscle spasms in my back.  But this morning as I was getting dressed my husband spotted a palm-sized rash, pink and blistered. It is probably shingles.

I’m also between jobs – a side-effect of being a freelance writer.  I’m always restless and a bit off when I’m between jobs.  But what to pray?  God knows what I need and telling him to send it RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE seems a little self-absorbed.

I need a focus.  I need something to help me remember to make contact with God throughout my day.  I need a verse.  I’m going to print out several copies.  Then I’ll tape one here on my monitor.  Another will go on the treadmill.  One suggestion was to tape one to the bathroom mirror.

But first I have to pick a verse.  Sometimes I will pray it “as is,” reciting as I read.  Other times, when I see this reminder to reach out to God, I will improvise.  Here are four possible verses to use, starting with one of my favorites:

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 118:5-6)

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (John 5:14)

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13)

Oh, Lord.  Remind me to look to you when I am afraid, when I am sick, when I don’t know what to do. You are constant and unchanging.  You know me and my needs.  I call on you.  Amen.

–SueBE

church-1335474_1920Thanksgiving weekend.  We’ve all sated ourselves with turkey and potatoes or maybe your preference is stuffing.  There’re cranberries and green beans cooked several dozen different ways.  And pies.  Don’t forget the pies.  Frankly it’s all a little overwhelming.

Sounds a lot like life these days doesn’t it?  I hope you all managed a drama free turkey day.  Unfortunately, my son tried to create a sense of levity and . . . let’s just say my sister is tense and leave it at that.  But a lot of people are tense these days, worried about the next four years, worried about how their neighbors will handle the next four years, and worries about what tomorrow will bring. It can be tough to be grateful when the least little thing you say can make someone’s head spin around 360 degrees.

Things like this sure can make it hard to feel grateful even if it is Thanksgiving weekend. Fortunately, if we keep our eyes and ears open we will find the tools we need close at hand. God is, after all, paying attention to us even when we aren’t paying attention to him. He makes sure what we need is there.  We just need to look and listen.

In the Presbyterian church, we begin the service with a Call or responsive reading.  There are hymns, prayers, more readings, scripture and the sermon.  I am always amazed at how something in the service fulfills a need.

Last Sunday, the Call was based on Psalm 46.  Here are verses 1 – 3.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah 

The liturgist read and we responded.  God is our refuge.  No fear.  Though mountains shake.  God is here.

If that Psalm had been written today, I imagine it would be somewhat different.  “God is our refuge and strength, our help now in our time of trouble.  Though politicians and their supporters scream and peck and tear, shout and insult, lie and fabricate. No matter how deeply we fear for tomorrow, God is stronger than all of this.”

Selah.

No matter what is going on, God is here.  Things may be in turmoil, but God is here. And he is mighty.

I read this and I took a deep breath.  That’s right. Me and my deep breathing.  What can I say?  Yoga has had an impact.  But this reading really calmed me.  In my mind’s eye, I had a sense of God’s power and presence, a deep rumble of might tempered with mercy.

God is here.  This doesn’t mean that the days ahead will be easy, but he is here.  This doesn’t mean we have no work ahead of us, but he is here.  It doesn’t even mean things will be easy, but he is here.  And if God is beside us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31)

Take comfort.  Give thanks.  We may be in the midst of turmoil, but God is here.  Give thanks!

–SueBE

I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace. 

Psalm 34:1 (The Living Bible)

Glories and Grace

Breaking Now: Rain Possible on Sunday.

This is an actual headline on my local news website.

Guess that’s news, or something.

I’d like to add my own contribution to the headlines.

This just in: Dinner, possible. Around 6-ish.

Another newsflash: Breathing, likely, throughout most of the day. Your life, even.

Molehills are morphing into mountains everywhere you look.

If not for this phenomenon, there’d be no such thing as reality t.v. shows – or adolescence for that matter!

The thing is, there’s really no reason to focus on molehills when there are real mountains’ majesty to behold. God’s glories and grace are constantly flowing. All you have to do is look around you to see it.

There’s a very tiny elderly lady on my block who walks around with the smallest, fluffiest dog I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t need that leash she’s carrying, as she treats him like a little prince, not even letting his little paws touch the ground. Their devotion to each other is a sweet human interest story in life’s newspaper. A reminder that love comes in all packages, ages, even species. They are each other’s minute miracle.

Think of the glories that comprise our lives. We walk on a planet suspended in outer space and the reason we don’t fall off is gravity (AKA God).

We have within us this powerful contraption that keeps life pumping through our bodies from the minute we’re born until the day we draw our last breath.

Miracles surround us and even infuse our very being.

The real newsflash is this: God’s grace is a deep reservoir – you can draw from it endlessly and it never runs dry.

1I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace. I will boast of all his kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and exalt his name.

Psalm 34:1-3 (The Living Bible)

When my son was younger, I’d sit with him and his friends in our sunroom and we’d chat about whatever was on their minds. Sometimes, it seemed as if this was the only time in their lives an adult had ever asked them, “So how are you doing, son?”

Once, during “Sunroom Time,” one of my son’s friends plopped down on the couch and started flailing a long, sharp stick around. “Honey, put that down. You might hit your brother by mistake,” I said. Problem was, as someone with ADHD, he really wasn’t able to stop. His brother, sitting next to him, grabbed his hand and held it down. Even while restrained, the stick was madly moving around, making “whooshing” sounds.

“Wait, let him go,” I told his brother. “He’s not being heard. He’s speaking through the stick.” For some reason, it seemed that his body was telling him it was urgent to do this, and that he must not stop. I told him to aim it away from the others, which he did. Eventually, the flailing subsided and he was able to calm down.

Communication comes in many different forms. Earlier this year, my cat woke up one day unable to “meow.” He’d open his mouth and no sound would come out. His furry face looked so sad. After a visit to the vet, his voice was restored. That night, at 3 AM, when KitKat “meowed” to wake me up so we could play the Stealth NinjaCat Game (barrel roll into bathtub, dash down hall, slide under rocking chair and zoom up onto bed), I wondered if I’d made the right decision to give him back his voice!

People also speak without words. Waking my son in the morning, I am greeted with a fair dose of “side-eye,” as if his body is communicating: This is madness! You’re trying to wake me up?!? It’s summer, for Pete’s sake! Have you lost your mind, woman?

This picture of Warren Harding’s mistress and their “love child” says more than the entire article. I can only imagine she had a hard life and never really felt the “love” as a child.

Sometimes words can say too much. This neighbors’ dispute over barking dogs lead to an obnoxious sign. I was amazed to read that the couple hoped that writing disparaging remarks on a posted sign would make their neighbor apologize – even though he appears to have done nothing wrong. That sign doesn’t communicate, it exacerbates.

Often, words are merely ill-chosen. When I read this headline on Yahoo News, I was certain that an announcer had been shot during a football game, but it was just a very poor choice of words.

It seems like the Tower of Babel in the world today, with everyone talking a different language, and many with forked tongue. Not everyone has the best intentions when they speak, but here are some words you can count on: God said it. We believe it. That settles it!

 

Psalm 100Each morning the lectionary for that day arrives in my email.  It includes two morning Psalms, a Gospel reading, another passage and two evening Psalms.  I have to admit that my favorite part is the Psalms, perhaps because they are prayers.

Recently, I saw a prayer exercise in Alive Now that asked you to rewrite a Psalm as your own prayer.  I did this with Psalm 100.  This is probably my all-time favorite scripture because of the reminder that we didn’t create ourselves.  We belong to God; see the original scripture to the right.

Holy Lord,

Here us as we praise you from many lands.  Help us remember that you are the Creator.  You made us all.  We are all part of your creation.  We did not create ourselves. We owe what we have and are to you.

Blessed are you, oh Lord – the source of all that is good, the source of saving grace, the source of Truth for all mankind yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Amen

That doesn’t look much like the original, does it?  I tried to “translate” the Psalm verse by verse but the end result was repetitive and disjointed feeling.  It was only when I took notes about what the Psalm meant to me and set aside the original that I could create my prayer.

It would almost certainly be easier to simply read the Psalms with a Holy Father at the beginning and an Amen at the end.  But somehow, I don’t think it would resonate as deeply with me as does this prayer inspired by a Psalm.

What about your favorite Psalm?  Would you rather pray it as is or create a prayer with it as an inspiration?

–SueBE

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.

 13 For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139 1-4, 13-14 NIV

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

1 I cry aloud to the LORD;
I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
3 When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
people have hidden a snare for me.
4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.
5 I cry to you, LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
7 Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
preserve my life, LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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