Monday, October 31, 2016

Five Ways The Psalms Give Strength For The Battles We Fight

"Up, God! My God, help me! Slap their faces,
First this cheek, then the other,
Your fist hard in their teeth!Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes your people!"
Deliverance, shield, shelter, safety, bloodshed, night-watch, sighing, death and Sheol.  The Psalms were written for the trenches.  Warfare; not peacetime.  Physical, mental and spiritual warfare. 

We have little control over life. We are afflicted; in need of deliverance from a sickness or situation too strong for us.  We are needy; people and life rob us of what little we have.  Seasons stretch personal limits to breaking.  Trials show up announced.  The body reacts; stress breaks down.  Stir sick and elderly parents into the mix; some stress into the mix, churn in some daughter drama and a little financial pressure and hope diminishes.  At home.  Abroad.  Big world.

The Psalms give words to our frustration.  Here are five ways the Psalms give strength for the battles we fight:

Positive purpose: “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined…We went through fire and through water, Yet You brought us into a place of abundance.”

Character development: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle…”  “Who may dwell on Your holy hill?  He who walks with integrity…and speaks truth in his heart.  He does not slander…He swears to his own hurt…He does not take a bribe against the innocent.  He who does these things will never be shaken.”

Mental Attitude (positive prayer/self-talk): “Why are you in despair, O my soul?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence…I will bless the Lord who has counselled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.  I have set the Lord continually before me…”

Coming conqueror: “I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep….Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

Transcendent hope: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;surely I have a delightful inheritance….You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Let us persevere with the picture that opens the book of Psalms.  That of a strong tree secure through the winds of life; “ He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Kind Of Men We Are: That's The Trouble With Us

That’s the kind of men we are.  That’s the trouble with us.  We’re content---but not with status quo. Not bound by the size of our circle of influence.  We have our principles and we’ll push the envelope; softly, maybe gently, maybe massaging it over time.  Still we’re pushing.  Content; but only so-so.

That’s the kind of men we are.  Weekend football, monthly mortgage and rounds of Happy Hours don’t satisfy.  We’ll go, we’ll have fun.  Still you might catch us looking out the window; or just staring; that far-off look in our eyes.  We’re seeing a glimpse of something that you’re not.  You’re drinking beer; we seeing Borealis.

We tilt at windmills.  Our hearts stir when neighbors’ oppressed.  Perhaps its Putin pushing boundaries. Could be local.  Injustice anywhere…. Our world views may differ but we’ve come to them through thought, reading and reflection. Conviction moves us.  Conviction steadies us.  Conviction makes us targets.

There’s trouble with the kind of men we are.  The world doesn’t get us.  The world doesn’t like us.  Hence we often go it alone or with six; or with twelve.  Or with six-shooter.  We reason; pen mightier than the sword and all that.  Times may call for the sword; lying down the pen, laying down our lives. 

Something; Someone, someplace calls to us louder than the current din.  The mountain calls; the wilderness calls, the challenge calls.  Complacency; not us.

That’s the kind of men we are.  Moments there are that we wish it weren’t so.  Still sleep is deeper.  Our dreams bigger.  Friendships tighter.  Need be we’ll go alone; Borealis beams.  Mountains call.  Adventure waits.  That’s the trouble with us. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Burgers, Chili-Sizes and Dining With Dad

Thinking about hamburgers.  Thinking about foods I enjoy.  Thinking about being introduced to those foods.  Thinking about my dad.  I remember going with dad to Tommy’s.  I didn’t like it then.  Kids like plain food. Though simple; Tommy’s is far from plain.  The basic burger with fresh tomato and lettuce and the famous chili in the burger.  Simple but so good.  There was a family outing to El Tepeyac—pork aplenty, fresh salsa, beans and house-made chips. (1, 728 reviews on Yelp.  4 stars).  Too hot, too spicy.  Today I could happily live on El Tepeyac and Tommy’s.  There is one strong link between burgers, chili and comfort that links childhood comfort and contemporary delight.
The chili-size at Bob’s Big Boy.   Dad missed segments, seasons and years of my life there was a season we frequented Bob’s Big Boy.   Always the Chili-size and a brownie for me.  I don’t remember what dad got.  I remember that we talked.  I still enjoy a good chili-size and I wonder if in part it’s because my senses recall the delight of those first experiences.

My memories disappear faster than snapchat photos so it’s tough to remember first experiences.  The first taste of a Butterfinger; first bowl of Capn’ Crunch, first Halvah, Gyro, Baklava…the list goes on and on.  Yet I remember when I fell in love with onion and bell-peppers atop a pizza.  I was alone for a week in Manhattan.  Walking the city, hungry, I stepped into a little cafĂ© and bought a slice of pizza.  So simply straightforward but so richly delightful. 

Thinking about burgers I want to chart my favorite foods.  A food time-line of sorts.  So much I don’t remember.  Once in a while though a tasty treat will make connection with those neurons linking sense and memory.  If I linger there long enough; there it is---Baklava, yes, perhaps, the Greek Market.