Psalm 112

SDG - Solo Deo Gloria

Praise the Eternal!
How blessed are those who revere the Eternal,
who turn from evil and take great pleasure in His commandments.
2 Their children will be a powerful force upon the earth;
this generation that does what is right in God’s eyes will be blessed.
3 His house will be stocked with wealth and riches,
and His love for justice will endure for all time.
4 When life is dark, a light will shine for those who live rightly—
those who are merciful, compassionate, and strive for justice.
5 Good comes to all who are gracious and share freely;
they conduct their affairs with sound judgment.
6 Nothing will ever rattle them;
the just will always be remembered.
7 They will not be afraid when the news is bad
because they have resolved to trust in the Eternal.
8 Their hearts are confident, and they are fearless,
for they expect to see their enemies defeated.
9 They give freely to the poor;
their righteousness endures for all time;[b]
their strength and power is established in honor.
10 The wicked will be infuriated when they see the good man honored!
They will clench their teeth and dissolve to nothing;
and when they go, their wicked desires will follow.

Psalm 112

I heard this psalm on the Daily Audio Bible today and knew I needed to come back and read it again, to let it sink in a little deeper. There’s nothing in it that really needs explanation or deep meditation, it’s so straightforward. And while it may be a little against the grain in terms of our expectations in today’s world, my life is not lived only in this world.

This is true. This is needed. And this is what I want and need. As I went back bolding things that connected with me, it was almost the entire passage… Great words, great timing, and great truth.

Their hearts are confident, and they are fearless,
for they expect to see their enemies defeated.

Lectio Divina – Psalm 23

This weekend I was able to be part of a men’s retreat led by Brian Hardin of the Daily Audio Bible. It was a great chance to get away for a day and enjoy God’s presence with some other men – some who I share life with, and some that I had never met before. That sounds like the cliche description of a men’s retreat, but it really was a great piece of the weekend.

During the retreat we shared a few discussions about the importance of having the Bible in our lives. Not as a ritual or something we check off our list every day, but as a true companion through life. I’ve come to love the time I spend in the word through the Daily Audio Bible, but have been wanting to find a way to step back and dig in a bit more lately beyond my daily chunk of the Word and a weekly visit to church to hear a sermon.

Brian shared a model with us known as Lectio Divina. It’s an ancient method of diving into God’s word in a way that, to me, is much more “whole” than the simply reading or listening to of a passage and then going on with life. It’s almost like making a meal out of the Word… you pick your food, you chew on it, you chew on it some more, you process it, and it eventually is transformed into the energy that gives you LIFE. I’m not going into detail on Lectio Divina here, though… I want to jot down something specific to my story (since that’s what I do here).

We spent some time diving into Psalm 23 together in this method. First we read the Psalm together – out loud – in several translations. Then we chewed on it, privately, and together. Then we shared, and then we chewed… much like a cow, chewing it’s cud, over, and over, and over… and every time, more began to jump out. Even in this familiar Psalm, we heard things we’d never heard before.

What jumped out at me were these particular words as read from the New English Translation:

You prepare a feast before me
in plain sight of my enemies.

In all my years, I’ve heard this line – “you prepare a table before me…” and never really thought about what that meant. A FEAST. Not a quick snack. a FEAST. Right there, smack dab in the middle of warfare and enemies on all side, the Lord prepares me a FEAST. When we’re feasting, we’re not worrying. When we’re feasting, we’re laughing, sharing stories, and completely relaxed. I get that, but “in plain sight of my enemies?” That is not something I’ve ever really thought was offered.

This weekend I received that very feast. Between the men’s retreat, my friends from the DAB being in town, a family gathering, and wonderful fellowship on Sunday, this weekend was truly a FEAST for me. Blessing abounding, here, there, and everywhere. 

The thing is, though, enemies were all around. Busy-ness as we prepared the weekend. A death in the family. A demand letter for $900 that showed up unexpectedly in the mail that I must address. An upset client. Enemies. Fear. Dread. Stress. Worry. Those are my enemies. And yet in the midst of that, the Lord prepared me a FEAST of fellowship, and even of actual food (man, was that good stuff!).

In the midst of my battles, my God prepared me a feast. He brought it to my doorstep, dined with me, and put my enemies at bay. As I launch myself back into the fray, I don’t consider that weekend lost or even a distant memory. It is an integral part of my walk, a rest along the way and a reminder of my Father’s love.

I’m so glad that I had the chance to glean this new insight from Psalm 23. To chew on it for several days and relish it. Wanna give it a try? It is hard to stop. To unwind. To read out loud when you could skim. To read again, and again, and again. To stop. To listen.

But it’s good.

 

 

This. Is. The. Day.

THIS IS THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE; I WILL REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT.

This

Today, not tomorrow. I do not need to worry about any of them, and that includes today. I may focus freely on what God has place ahead of me in the next 24 hours, one moment at a time.

Is

Not “was.” Not “will be.” IS. Right here and now. All planning for today has led me to this moment. What will I do with it now? Every moment that goes by is either lost or gained ground for the rest of my life, and eternity.

The

Today is no ordinary day. It will never be repeated, and is not just one out of thousands that I will live.

Day

24 hours. 1,440 minutes. 86,400 seconds. Tick tock, tick tock. I thank God for the daily “reset” he gives us.

That the Lord

The one with authority over all the universe is the one bringing me this day, this sunrise, this rain, and these moments. He has authority to determine its outocome and its contents, and I can TRUST Him.

has made

So much of life seems random, disconnected… but Today is not such a thing. The Lord has preordained moments for me today; some of them mundane, or so they may seem. But every moment, every second, is part of His plan, and has been since long before the creation of the universe.

I

Even though God has made this new day, He has left the choice of how to respond to it open to me. I am free to reject what He has created, free to call it a bad day, free to whine, free to complain, free to procrastinate, and free to hit the snooze button all day long. Each morning brings me a new opportunity to respond to His creation.

Will

The key word for me is right here. Rejoicing in today is a choice, an act of will power. Will my circumstances always change because I simply choose to “make it” a good day? NO, first of all, because I’m not the one making it a good day; God already has. Opening my eyes and choosing to respond with thanksgiving and praise is a choice that may not change my attitude, but it WILL open my eyes – to the world, to the day, and to myself.

Rejoice

I wonder what this word means. I”m sure it has something to do with joy. Maybe it means something like “repeating joy” or something. Not just a moment of thanks, a quick prayer in the morning, but an attitude of praise, worship, and thankfulness that can go on all day, no matter what I may face.

And

I don’t have to stop at the grumbled prayer, “ok, today is a good day.” I can step forward into real action. I can let the acts of my will affect the attitude of my heart and the outflow of it through my actions.

Be Glad

The goal here is not jus a moment of happiness, or a quick smile or a hug. This entire day is a gift, and I am free to BE glad all the day. Sad moments (short and long) will certainly come (and I could list a few right now), but they need not change the fact that I can still be in constant praise of my Lord, the creator of the universe, and this moment.

In It

I don’t have to look outside of my life to rejoice and be glad. I believe, regardless of the situations I face, that God will place bright spots in each day, in each week, and in each stage of life where I can consciously see Him at work. I don’t need to idolize someone else’s life, or wish my circumstances would change. I can rejoice IN today, and ABOUT today.

THIS IS THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE; I WILL REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT.

Weariness and Motivation

I’m in one of those seasons of life where tiredness, and even exhaustion, is more than something felt more than at certain points of the day… it’s more of a permanent state of mind. A big part of it, I’m sure, is the “role” I’ve taken on as “family-member-with-the-1AM-to-6AM-feeding-shift.” Add to that some significant focus on planning and changing my business model, a coaching role that can easily take up 1-2 hours a day, and then all the other stuff that comes with being a man, husband, and father. Oh, and then all those things that tug at my heart with signifance beyond my own little world.

But that’s not what’s captured my attention.

What’s captured my attention is that even though I’m averaging 4-6 hours of sleep a night, almost guaranteed to be interupted at some point… when that moment of interuption comes, I’m up, awake, and ready to go. But a few months ago, before the baby was born and my sleep was only stopped by an alarm clock or a body finally rested enough to wake up on it’s own, I’d have a terrible time waking up. I’ve felt more energy, more drive, and even more satisfaction with these long, tiring days than I’ve felt in a long time.

What’s the difference? What’s my motivation?

I’ve often looked at people of old whose stories I love and how they would only get a few hours of sleep every night. I would long for that to be my own state of mind, that I could power nap for a couple hours and then be ready to hit it again. But I didn’t see that happening. No matter what alarm tone I used, no matter how I tried to get myself up and going early in the morning, it just didn’t happen. And yet, years ago, when I had my paper routes as a teenager, I was routinely up at 5AM every day, and 4AM on Sundays.

What’s the difference? What drives these guys I look up to? What was my motivation back when I used to do that?

Was it just that I “had” to get up that early? I think not. What I’m coming to see is that over the last several years, I really haven’t had that driving force to get me up and moving as if the first hours of the day mattered. Right now, I do. Of course it’s temporary, with the bottle feeding and all, but it’s still time that matters. My daughter’s hungry, my wife’s exhausted and getting rest from a day surrounded by these kids, and this is my time to do something that counts. And so I get up at 2AM, 3AM, or 4AM, and sit with her for half an hour, or two hours, whatever it takes.

I’ve noticed the same thing on Wednesday mornings, when I spend time with some brothers I truly care about, and who I know care about me. It’s worth getting up at 4:30AM, even if I went to bed at midnight the night before. Sure, my day is powered by caffeine and I feel more than ready to crash at the end of the day, but I wouldn’t trade that time for hardly anything in the world.

All this kind of came to a head for me the other day when I cam ehome rom a long day, and while I felt like crashing, I knew there were more important things to be done. In fact, the “important” part fo my day was just starting, now that I was home. But I was plain. wiped. out. I couldn’t get energy from coffee, from pushups, from anything. I even posted on Facebook for some ideas… and got everything from hugs to slushies to coffee to a backrub to a walk in the woods… all great things but all not on the agenda for that night. It just wasn’t going to happen. What I needed was something to remind me that what I was doing mattered.

So I decided to force the issue. I laid down with my 6 week old daughter and played our staring game for a few minutes. She laughed, smiled, and reminded me that I was one cool dad who she liked to spend time with. Then I put my son to bed, talked about his favorite Bible story from our book (Jesus dying on the cross, no less), and sang and prayed with him. And then, I went downstairs, made a cup of coffee, and told Erin, “let’s make some cookies.” (Thanks Jill) We didn’t have time to bake them, but we could at least spend some quality time together mixing ingredients up. And by the time that was all done, and I started getting ready for bed, I reailized… I’m not exhausted anymore! I’d gone from long, hard day to a feeling of accomplishment all around… not anything big, but a feeling of “this day was a success.” I didn’t cave when I got home, even though I felt like that was the next natural step.

As I drove into town the next morning listening to my Bible reading for the day, I heard this psalm:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
       he who watches over you will not slumber;

Psalm 121

Looking up to the hills… reminding ourself of what’s really meaningful… staring into the eyes of a 6 week old baby. When on a journey of the magnitude of life, we need the ability to life our eyes from the footsteps right in front of us from time to time, to be reminded of where we are going, not just of where we are. This brings me more than hope, it brings confidence that all we’re doing is part of something much bigger… that it is worth it.

And that, I think, is where the motivation comes from. From the reminders that what we’re doing is worth it. Will that get me up in the morning? Not if what’s “worth it” is simply exercising to lose weight, or getting to work early, or even making a big sale. What is worth it is how these goals fit into my bigger dreams. The things that make me tick. That’s what I’m on a journey to find, and that’s also what is making this journey such a thrill ride, because I’m starting to see where these puzzle pieces fit.

 

Affirmations – A Discussion with Youth

Tonight I’m once again leading the youth group at our church. Tonight we’re going to talk about Affirmations. An affirmation is telling yourself, in times of doubt, that which you know to be true at other times. This takes some forethought, of course, because that time of doubt when you need that nugget of truth is not the time to go discovering it. Tonight I’m going to talk with the youth about some of the affirmations we may already hold (positive and negative) and work with them to develop a couple on a note card they can take home and put on their bathroom mirror or something.

I love this popular youtube video about the young girl who knows all about these statements of truth. Even if this is prepared for video, the fact that this girl has these statements memorized and can recite them with passion and emotion makes me say “Bravo, parents. You’re doing well.”

I’m not a big fan of making statements about who you want to be and feeling that just because you say it sincerely of often enough that it will become reality. I am a fan of dreaming, and am also learning even now how to take those dreams, crystallize them into goals, and see them come to be reality.

But if something’s already true, why do we need to put it into a verbal sentence, much less write it down, and even less than that, put it somewhere we see it every day? The fact is, “statements of truth” are proposed to us every day. Whether it’s the massive amounts of stories on the news telling us that “my future is insecure” or “school is a dangerous place.” We get these messages from parents, who while they are trying to teach us invaluable lessons about manners and maturity, often fail to affirm us as we grow up. Instead, we hear as a child, “don’t touch that” or “stop talking so much,” which in turn, later in life turns into “I’m a clumsy dufus” and “I don’t have anything to say that so-and-so would like to hear.” We are surrounded by negative statements about ourselves, and they DO affect us. The exercise of examining ourselves, finding what is true, and then putting it into words we either repeat often or see often is invaluable to combatting this negativity that is pounded into us every day.

Here are a few affirmations of my own… the first I’ve had drilled into me every time I view my facebook profile for over a year, and the others are relatively new, and a joy for me to read.

  • I am an adopted son of God, brave and courageous.
  • I am a success. I set goals that are important to me, do what is necessary to achieve them, and finish strong.
  • I am a loving husband and involved father, who places my family above all other relationships in life.

I as I looked at these last week, I saw some of the negative statements that I was either brought up to believe (intentionally or not) or came to believe through past experiences:

  • I am a disappointment and a failure. I have nothing to offer.
  • I am too tired and busy to figure out how to accomplish this goal.

So in the youth group tonight, we’re going to work on some of these statements. We did this in a round-about-way a few weeks ago when we watched the video “God’s Chisel” by the Skit Guys. The statement of truth that day was something like, “I am God’s original masterpiece.” How true, yet how often we believe otherwise.

The Bible are filled with affirmations. Affirmations by psalms men like David about their true self, and affirmations about who God is, even when He seems anything but. Just a few examples:

  • Psalm 131:1-3: O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
  • Proverbs 16: 3: Commit your work to the Lord and then your plans will succeed.
  • 2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

There are many verses that while not directly “affirmation statements” are very true and appilcable, and could easily be turned into such. For example (source):

  • I can see the Kingdom of God because I am born again. John 3:3
  • I don’t worry about everyday life. God knows my needs and meets them because I make His Kingdom my primary concern. Matthew 6:25-33
  • Jesus shows himself to me because I love him. John 14:21
  • Because Jesus died for my sins, I am no longer separated from God. I live in close union with him. Romans 5:10
  • The fruit I produce brings great joy to God, my Father in Heaven. John 15:8
  • God’s power works best in my weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

There are many more affirmations-from-verses on this source site, and I’ll include them following the end of this post.

So this is what we’re going to review at church tonight with the youth. We’re then going to take some steps to make our own affirmations, based on facts of truth we know about ourselves, Bible verses, or a combination thereof. We’ll “supercharge” these affirmations by writing them down, saying them, and adding emotion to otherwise bland statements of truth. This site describes these superchargers well.

Affirmation Mirror work

Perhaps the most powerful way of using affirmations is to state them whilst looking in the mirror. Some of the most important messages you have received have been from people looking you straight in the eye. By looking yourself in the eye as you state your affirmation you magnify the importance of the message to yourself.

Written Affirmations

A great way of keeping your affirmation at the forefront of your mind is to write them down, leave notes or cards around so that you notice them throughout the day. The AffirmIt! program uses mobile technology to text powerful messages to you with the goal of keeping your mind focussed on your intention. Another idea is to write your affirmation down many times (10-20), this helps imprint it on your mind.

Say Affirmations with Passion

Say your affirmations with passion, the higher your emotional state as you say them, the more effective they are.

Sing or Chant Affirmations

One of the most effective ways to use affirmations is to sing them! The mind is much more accepting of affirmation messages when they are sung.

I’m going to include myself in some of these exercises. Even though I know some of what i want to remember, it still lingers on a sheet of paper buried in a notebook. I’m looking forward to putting in on a 3×5 card and placing it around my home, and then encouraging others in my family and circle of friends to do the same.

More Affirmations from Scripture

  • I can see the Kingdom of God because I am born again. John 3:3
  • I don’t worry about everyday life. God knows my needs and meets them because I make His Kingdom my primary concern. Matthew 6:25-33
  • Jesus shows himself to me because I love him. John 14:21
  • Because Jesus died for my sins, I am no longer separated from God. I live in close union with him. Romans 5:10
  • The fruit I produce brings great joy to God, my Father in Heaven. John 15:8
  • God’s power works best in my weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • Through the energy of Christ working powerfully in me, I teach others His truths. Colossians 1:29
  • I have been saved, not by works, but grace, so that I might do good works. Ephesians 2:9-10
  • My faith makes me whole in spirit, soul and body. Mark 5:34
  • When I call out to God He answers me. He tells me things I wouldn’t know otherwise. Jeremiah 33:3
  • Because I place my hope in the Lord my strength is renewed. Isaiah 40:31
  • As I follow Jesus…..as I walk with him, I have peace. Luke 24:36
  • Because I obey Jesus I remain in his love. John 15:10
  • The cross of Christ is my power. 1 Corinthians 1:17
  • My God meets all my needs. Philippians 4:19
  • God is my refuge and strength …. always ready to help me in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1
  • God gives me strength when I am weary and increases my power when I am weak. Isaiah 40:29  Continue reading “Affirmations – A Discussion with Youth”

The Voice of Truth – My Source of Help

As I push mowed my lawn this weekend, I had a song stuck in my head. It’s called “The Voice of Truth” by a group called Casting Crowns. The first verse goes like this:

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win!”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

This song, in case you’re wondering, is referring back to the story of Jesus’ follower named Peter who was invited to step out of a boat in the middle of a sea and walk on water. Quite a feat of faith, if you ask me… even to simply get out of the boat! How many of us would even have the thought. I think the thing about Peter was that he quite often acted before he thought, and while that may also lead to rash, un-thought-out actions, in this case… the guy defied physics, at least for a few seconds.

I like how the song compares the voice of truth with all the other voices calling out to me. In the place I am in life right now, there seems to be more questions than answers. That in itself, I am coming to perceive, is one of those false voices. There are not more questions than there are answers. Some of the questions may not be relevant at all, some of the answers will come in time, and some of it… just isn’t for me to know. So, as the song goes, I must choose to listen and believe the one constant: The Voice of Truth.

As I woke up this morning I had a psalm on my head that I couldn’t placed, so of course, I googled it. It’s from Psalm 121:

 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       where does my help come from?
 2 My help comes from the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.
 3 He will not let your foot slip—
       he who watches over you will not slumber;
 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
       will neither slumber nor sleep.

Those words are just chock full of the voice of truth, aren’t they? Getting your eyes off the one or two steps in front of you and looking up toward the mountains. Getting your focus off of the next few steps and seeing the bigger picture of the journey, and the destination. Reminding ourself where our help has come from in the past, and being reassured that it will continue to be that way into the future. Reminding myself who that help comes from: not a friend who’s “been there, done that,” a career coach, or a book… the Maker of Heaven and Earth! If God cares for me, and I believe wholeheartedly he does, I can trust that these words are true… tha the won’t let my foot slip on slippery cliffs, that He’s not going to take a break when I need him the most.

The Voice of Truth is telling me several things right now. Many don’t have anything to do with the next few months. The first one, and I love it… is that in 2 weeks, I am going to have a daughter. I am going to have new life in my family. Guaranteed. Bank on it. It’s also told me to take this past weekend off from the stress of things to come, from emails, from strategies, from considerations of the short term future. It’s told me to count on my friends, to be willing to share stuff they may not even “get,” not just because I want their advice, but because I need their companionship. It’s told me that I need not worry. It’s told me that tough decisions may truly be ahead, but that tough does not equal bad.

These are the things that the Voice of Truth is telling me, the things it is reassuring me with. It does not make fear go away, no, not in the least. In fact, it tells fear, “bring it on!” Because I know that when I am afraid, I can trust in my Father. And when I get in that habit of trusting Him, it begins to both couteract existing fears and prevent future ones from taking hold of me, even in the weak points of my life. So I choose to do that. I accept the fact that my life may change, or it may turn out much similar to what it is right now. I accept the fact that decisions made may also affect those around me, from family, to coworkers, to friends, to clients. That’s fine. Because I’m not the one determining my steps. I’m looking to the mountains, listening to the Creator, who cares enough for me to send His Son to die in my place. His care for me has been proven, and I have no doubt in it.

So to me, that’s what the voice of truth means. There’s a little followup to the story of Peter walking on the water that I theorize about a little bit. It’s from a little story told later on in the gospels, after Jesus has died on the cross and been raised from the grave. He comes to see his disciples who are out in a boat fishing again, Peter included. It goes like this:

 7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[b] 9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. (John 21)

My theory is this. It may or may not be true. I think Peter may have got his second chance to walk on water here. As soon as he heard that Jesus was on the beach, he took off. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t check the depth of the water. He hopped out and ran to his Lord, his Friend, his Savior. Whether he walked on water is not the question here, or the point. What I think the point is, is that he didn’t hesitate. His trust was finally there. He had seen Jesus “show up” for him by being raised from the dead, even after he himself gave up, abandoned Jesus, and even went so far to deny him while He was under trial.

The story of Peter is a great one of a growing faith and trust. He started out a man full of a haughty spirit and false bravery, which Jesus quickly proved empty. He ended up a pioneer of faith, trailblazing a Message that has spread around the world, and Changed. My. Life.

Irreversable Change. There’s no going back. Why would I want to?