Only so much space.

I’ve been busy. So have you. Busy enough that finding one long thought is challenging. But I can offer several smaller thoughts this morning.

One: We move on after a bad decision. We move on after something ends. Except for a life. We go on when a family member or friend dies. We go on, taking one step and then another. But we don’t move on.

Two: When Jesus told the Pharisees a story about a landowner who built a vineyard and leased it out, it’s a story that sounds like it’s from a modern investment strategy book. Plant the vines, build a wall, build a watchtower, dig a winepress. And then let someone else rent and operate it.

It turns out that Jesus wasn’t borrowing the image from Shark Tank. He borrowed it from Isaiah. Which meant that as he talked to the Pharisees, they understood that the story he was telling was abut Israel. And her religious leaders. Which was them.

Three: Psalm 62 looks like any other psalm: poetic structure, the word “selah” placed every few lines. Until you look at it more closely. You find that the writer says “you” to several different groups. Including himself. It’s an interesting thing to reflect on. I invite you to do so. (I started on it last week.)

Chaplain mugsFour: One of the hard things you are doing this morning is deciding what to do after you finish skimming this post. May I make a suggestion? Set down your digital device. Pick up your coffee cup (it’s okay if you don’t have one). And simply say, “God, help me have enough space in my heart to hear how I can help someone today.” And then go about your day. And when you hear the suggestion, follow it.

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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.

 

Me in there

I love the book of 1 Samuel.

It’s the story of a nation, their bad choices and their flawed leaders.

I find myself in those pages too.

In chapter 8, the Israelites said they wanted a king, just like the other nations. Samuel, their spiritual leader, told them that this was a stupid choice: “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. … some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops … The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials.”

Did that stop them? No.

“But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. ‘Even so, we still want a king,’ they said.”

I do my fair share of: “Even so, I want that…”

And yet God continued to guide and bless the Israelites. Though their choice to have a human king was a direct slap in the face of the King they couldn’t see (God), He still blessed them.

He helped choose their king, Saul. And he would let that king save them from their enemies.

And when King Saul’s life started to unravel because of his unwise choices, God chose a better king for them.


I’m thankful that even though I’m flawed, God still blesses me. Even when I make a bad choice, God can make it good, just as He did for Israel.


Paul Merrill writes here every first Friday.

Stop intentionally. Move purposefully.

I’ve been busy. You have, too. We mention it frequently, talk about it occasionally. And we keep going. As a result, we struggle to think reflectively, to sit quietly. Momentum keeps us moving until we stop. Inertia makes it hard to start moving again.

I could be wrong, but underlying the moving and the immobility are fear. We’re afraid to stop. We’re afraid to start.

reflectingIn the best times, there is a margin in our hearts, a breathing space that gives us the passion to stop intentionally, to move with purpose. But “these days”, the breathing space feels full of fumes. We take a deep breath and gag on the pain in the lives around us, on the screen in front of us. And so we fidget until we fall.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation,” is how David starts writing. It’s a statement from a Sabbath school lesson. It’s a thing we say when we are asked what we believe.

But David quickly turns to the people attacking him, pleading with them to stop, attacking the unfairness of their verbal assaults.

And then the text includes the untranslated word, “selah.” Pause. Take a break and catch your breath. Turn away from the screen.

When he starts writing again, he echoes the starting words. Almost. But he turns them from an abstract affirmation into a message to his own heart.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence; for my hope is from him.”

And from this new beginning to the journal entry, the words change. David will again talk about others, but from the perspective of God. God’s stability, God’s refuge. God’s endurance.

As you write your day, if your thoughts go sideways in fear, take a walk. When you come back, start talking to yourself with David’s words:

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence; for my hope is from him.”

A nice story.

I don’t look up when I run. I mostly look in front of me so I don’t trip. I don’t want to trip because I work in a hospital and have seen what happens when people fall and hit their head.

The other day, at the end of a run, I looked up. And I saw a sign. A one-letter sign.

A.

So I took a picture and sent it to Andrew and Allie, our son and his one true love. I told them I was thinking about them.

It’s not complicated. It didn’t take much time. It was fun to give someone an A.

a picture