Category Archives: questions

Psalm 6

(First published July 20, 2011.)

blankIt happens all the time in songs (and in stories.)

For the first two verses, everything is bad. And then the hero comes, the story turns, the cavalry arrives, the light dawns. We love to read these stories, to sing these songs, because they give us hope. The first two verses are exactly where we are. Adrift, in pain, needing relief, wanting answers. The last verse is where we want to be, acknowledged, accompanied, heard. And when the writer lived the words, all the better.

The practical among us don’t understand these songs: “Why include the doubting parts? They aren’t true, you know. The hero was watching all along.” But practical people, deep down, need hope too.

That’s why this song from the practical poet David can speak to all of us.

A reflection on Psalm 6.

God.

I know that you may be angry with me.
But if you are, please wait til you cool off before you punish me.
I am already fainting; please have mercy on me.
And the ache goes to my very bones;
I need healing more than I need more pain.
Inside and out, I am falling apart.
Can you please speak to me?
I feel like I’ve been waiting forever.

Change your mind and deliver me from all this.
Remember, dead followers can’t say good things about you.
And they can’t remember you very well either.

I groan and sigh all the time.
I can’t sleep at night,
the sofa is soaked with tears
My eyes are bloodshot
And all I can see is my enemies.

***

You know what, enemies,
you can just leave now.
God has heard me crying out
I’ve kept him up with my weeping.
And he finally heard.
And he’s coming for you.
You are going to run scared.

 

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The day after

First published April 15, 2010

They were, that Thursday night, a bunch of good friends at a quiet party with their mentor. The best kind of evening. The kind of night that you are sure will never end. On those nights, you can accomplish anything. On those nights, you can change the world.

Until the soldiers show up that is. And your mentor surrenders. And dies.

Then you are pretty sure the world has changed you. Lied to you. Destroyed you.

And you spend the sabbath wondering. The quiet day, the religious day, the day for reflection on God spent wondering what God has done, where he is, where he’s gone.

And then you get up Sunday morning hearing stories about how Jesus isn’t dead anymore. But no one is exactly sure what’s happening because, as John says, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” And all day long random people see Jesus. Scattered, surprising. Enough to have many people excited that it might be true.

So what was Easter Monday 1.0 like?

We don’t know. We have no idea.

We know that Jesus appeared off and on for a few weeks. We know that the 10 disciples told Thomas about a conversation they had with Jesus. We know that there were appearances and breakfasts and relationship mending.

But it all happens in the course of living.

Because on Easter Monday 1.0, everyone still had to live, to eat, to talk, to figure out how the miraculous resurrection of Jesus connected to daily life.

It’s the same thing this morning. Many people attended powerful celebrations, family parties, and other momentous markings of Easter. And today, in the recovery from excesses of chocolate, ham and music, we have to wipe the sleep from our eyes and say, “Okay Jesus. Next?”

The morning after

(First published May 24, 2011)

You make a new commitment. You watch a friend die. You finally decide. You screw up. You get the award. You finish the book. You make the call. You answer the call. You finish. You start. You can’t figure it out. You didn’t get to sleep. You won. You lost.

Then it’s the next morning.

The success is dulled. The commitment, foggy. The future seems permanently distant, unaffected by whatever you might do today.

If this doesn’t sound familiar,  go refill your coffee and get on to your day. Don’t even waste time here.

If, however, you are reading this and you know exactly what I’m talking about (and you, at least do), do what Jesus did one morning.

The night before had been wonderful, powerful, exciting. People heard that Jesus was staying at Peter’s house. Everyone brought an illness or a demon for Jesus’ autograph. “Heal my mom,” they said. “Keep my brother from being thrown into the fire,” they said.

He did.

In a foreshadowing of the Best Buy parking lot on the Friday after Thanksgiving, people slept in a line outside the door, waiting to get the “Magic Healing Touch, as Seen on TV.”

AwayEarly the next morning Jesus left the house. He found “alone.” He prayed.

The disciples found him. They said he’d made the big time. Word of mouth worked. He said, “We’re going to another village. I gotta tell them the good news. That’s why I’m here.”

What happened out there?

His dad reminded him that his purpose wasn’t making people happy. His success wasn’t measured in crowds. He didn’t have to solve every problem.

He simply had to do what he had come to do.

The line is long outside our doors this morning. We can do what Jesus did. Talk to his dad.

anything but vague.

First published May 21, 2010

Religion is often abstract. There is a vagueness to describing the spiritual. There is an empirical fuzziness to matters of faith.

For the man, born blind, healed by Jesus, there was no vagueness. He was sure.

He wasn’t sure how it had happened, or who exactly Jesus was. He couldn’t resolve all of the theological arguments swirling around him when he met with the religious leaders. He couldn’t clarify all the rules. But there were a few facts that were clear to him:

  • I was blind.
  • Jesus smeared mud on my eyes.
  • I washed my face.
  • I can see.

It is hard to argue with those facts. But argue the religious leaders did. They called in the man’s parents. They verified his blindness. They refused to verify his story.

If his parents had acknowledged the role Jesus played, they would get kicked out of the synagogue. If the religious leaders acknowledged the role Jesus played, they would lose the crowds. If the man refused to acknowledge the role Jesus played, he would lose his mind.

Every time I read this story, I laugh. He was so unafraid of their position that, when asked to repeat his story, he said,

“I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

What would make a beggar argue with people who held his religious community, his family life, his livelihood in their hands? Certain knowledge of his experience.

Not everyone is healed this way. Not everyone has his experience. Sometimes the “religious establishment” is more empirical than spiritual. Sometimes the experience that removes all doubt comes after years of believing. Sometimes it waits even longer.

But when it comes, if it comes, it is anything but vague.

Little pieces of love.

First published May 5, 2010

We want to do huge magnificent works of passionate loving action. We want to have a significant impact. We want to do something massive that will transform the world. We want to focus all of our energy into something amazing.

That’s what we want to do.

Instead, we decide that we can’t do anything massive, anything that will make any big difference. Or we get caught up in nothing.

An anonymous writer suggests that sometimes you don’t need massive works projects. Sometimes, the most effective way to help is with little pieces of love. Little bits of encouragement. Little words of affirmation.

Here’s what is written:

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

That deceitfulness, that deception includes stories we tell like the “No one cares what I do” story or the “What I do isn’t significant” story or the  “What difference do I make to anyone” story.

In fact, any story that I am telling that claims complete independence from other people or complete inadequacy compared to other people will kill me, will paralyze me, with consume me.

And that is why I need to give and to get encouragement. Telling you that I need your contribution helps me think about your work and your presence and your existence. It chips away at my sense of independence. It chips away at your sense of inadequacy.

And chipping is the best image I can find.

It isn’t one-time huge affirmations. Though they are nice.

It’s a day at a time, noticing that person, thanking that person, encouraging that person, redeeming that person.

Yes, that one. the one who just flitted through your mind.

Followers don’t leave each other alone. Like pests. Like partners.