God has left His footprints in creation.. He is not contained in creation or equated with it, but He is revealed by it. – Steve Harper
Let them praise the name of the Lord, For He commanded and they were created. –Psalm 148:5
The worldview of the wicked still seems to carry the day… Yahweh preserves us, and yet crud rules the day. We don’t particularly like paradoxes, though the Christian life is full of them.
From The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis
Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?”
Psalm 12:1-4 –
There is quite a lot to think about here. When I read the following portion, I immediately thought of social media: ”They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.” The thing is, I can’t just say “they”. It’s me, too, speaking idly. Speaking of things with little value. Wasting time.
And then there’s the flattering lips thing. Today that’s just a ‘like’ here and a ‘thumbs up’ there and a ‘beautiful inside and out’ everywhere. Facebook and Instagram are full of flattering lips. Except for the kissing/duck lips. Those are not flattering.
I am so guilty of “the tongue that speaks proud things…”. I fill my instagram with happy moments; I check-in on facebook so people will see I’m busy, not just sitting in front of the TV; I take pictures to say, “See? I have beautiful grandkids! I’m having fun! I am so witty!”
These few verses are packed with admonitions. Application is the key here. It would be so easy to just see that the wicked – the them of the world – are being addressed. And, yes, it does say the godly man ceases. But, there is always a message for us as Christians. When it seems as if they – the world- have won, remember Who is on our side, remember Who is Lord over us.
Psalm 11 has this to say in verses 1-2:
In the Lord I put my trust;
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee as a bird to your mountain”?
For look! The wicked bend their bow,
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
Many of us worry and live in fear. Yes, we are to be wise in our comings and goings; we shouldn’t recklessly put ourselves in dangerous situations. But, often, I think we shy away too much from situations when we don’t trust the Lord. How many of us think, or even say “I don’t want to go to that part of town” when it’s in just “that” neighborhood that people need to hear the Gospel.
Others are preoccupied with stuff and with socking away money for retirement. I don’t recall reading about any of the saints in scripture retiring. We fell prey to the “building bigger barns” syndrome when we bought a house that was larger than we really needed just because we could. And then it was a struggle to maintain.
In this election year, many struggle with the issue of our future as a country. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around all the strange and scary things I read and hear daily. Truly I have to lay this all at the feet of Christ, for I can only pray and trust. I don’t understand the whys, but I know it’s in His hands. Always has been.
Verses 3-4 of Psalm 11 say:
If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?
The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.
This is how Dale Ralph Davis puts it in The Way of the Righteous
in the Muck of Life: “Despair is managed by keeping Yahweh himself in the center of your vision.” I thought this was a great summation.
And let me leave you with this one last quote from Davis: “You have not seen Jesus yet you love Jesus. Christians are such conundrums.”
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.- Psalm 4:1
“ …in tight places you have made space for me.” – The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis
David was almost killed by a javelin thrown by Saul, his house was watched by Saul’s henchmen, he was let down through a window and escaped; yet in all this he pleas for and relies on the grace and mercy of God. Oh to have the faith of David!
I can’t say I’ve had the experiences of David. We all have our own trials and temptations, but God knows this. He knows our needs even before we do. I do know that God has relieved me in many distresses but I also know I have clung to crumbling walls and fretted over failures instead of giving my burdens to Him. My prayer today is for mercy.
Those friends from middle school are unique. They are the ones you grow up with and make memories with that last forever. I’ve drifted away from most of those, but about six years ago I reunited with Cathy and we became closer than ever. It’s like we fell right back into that kinship that all the years had not erased. We began to hang out a few times a month – it might have been a concert, listening to an author speak, going to a class, poking through a bookstore, or whatever we could find to do. A few years ago we even went to several funerals together. In March I had to go to one alone. Hers.
I don’t even know where to begin to think about Cathy. She was the kind of person who made you feel she was truly interested in you and your well-being.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24
Cathy truly stuck close to me, like the sister I never had. I could talk to her about anything. I don’t think I’ll ever have another friend like her. I thank God for the time he gave us.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15
In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, Aunt Ellen was described as “…seeming exactly strong enough for what was needed for her life.”
This is so much like Cathy. She had a quiet strength that took her to the end with hope and grace. For the two years we corresponded via snail mail and texts, she never grumbled. Rarely would she mention a hardship, but when she did it was more like she was just telling me about it, not complaining. She would talk about the future, the adventures we would have. When I went home to Jacksonville and took her out, she never let on how long it took her to get ready; how she had to wait for some of the drugs to get out of her system before she could function.
We would go out to eat and she would eat like a bird, then have the rest packed up to take home. But, we would sit at the restaurant for several hours just talking.
“Books were there… when I found a friend who loved books as much as I did and we could read together or spend an afternoon running our fingers over the spines.” -Mandy Shunnarah, from I Don’t Do It For You: A Reader’s Manifesto via her blog, Off The Beaten Shelf
This was us – we could spend hours rambling around bookstores like Chamblin’s Uptown in downtown Jacksonville. I will always miss my book buddy.
I’ve loved ABC books and A-Z lists for quite a while. As a teacher I’ve used the A-Z idea for brainstorming new topics, for studying, and for writing. I haven’t posted in this series for a while; this is one in a series on writing, with the subtopic of poetry.
“Stop fantasizing about writing- follow through and get it down on paper. Share what you write with others who you trust and receive their criticism- a special gift – nondefensively.” – Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio, author and speaker
Have you ever thought of criticism as a gift? Well, if you look at it that way it can be more helpful to you. The key is finding someone you not only trust but someone who either knows something about writing or knows something about the topic of your writing.
It’s sometimes hard not to want to defend your work. But, try to step back and realize that the feedback you are getting may well be the feedback from your target audience. And if the feedback happens to be negative, isn’t it better to fix it now, than to find out later you missed your mark?
On to poetry…
A Ghazal is a poem that I had never heard of before this year, so come along with me and explore this form. It is made up of a minimum of five couplets, where each couplet is an independent poem. The Ghazal has a refrain of one to three words that repeat, and an inline rhyme that precedes the refrain. Lines 1 and 2, then every second line, has this refrain and inline rhyme. The rhyming scheme is AA bA cA dA eA etc.
Here is a part of a Ghazal by Erin Thomas :
These Aged Pines
Amid lush fern carpet stand perpending pillars; Into broad canopy rise impending pillars.
Shady gloom in quiet calm hangs perpetual Neath enshrouding shelter of attending pillars.
Ringlets firm encircle hearts of antiquity, Deeply shielded within great suspending pillars.
Here is my first attempt:
A Ghazal of Psalm 20
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; May the LORD answer you when you call.
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you; May the God of Jacob answer you when you call.
May He send you help from the sanctuary, May He send you help when you call.
And strengthen you out of Zion; May the King strengthen you when you call.
May He remember all your offerings, May the King remember you when you call.
And accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah. May the King accept you when you call.
May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, May the King answer you when you call.
And fulfill all your purpose. May the King fulfill when you call.
We will rejoice in your salvation, May the King rejoice when you call.
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the King answer us when we call.
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions. May the King fulfill when you call.
Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; May the LORD save when we call.
He will answer him from His holy heaven May the King answer him when he calls.
With the saving strength of His right hand. May the King save us when we call.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; May the King answer us when we call.
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. May the King remember us when we call.
They have bowed down and fallen; May the King answer us when we call.
But we have risen and stand upright. May the King answer us when we call.
Save, LORD! May the King answer us when we call.
Nota Bene is a Latin phrase meaning “note well”. I first learned this when I was teaching sixth graders using a wonderful vocabulary program. Later, when reading a lovely book by Sharon Creech titled Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, I came across the expression “Tutto va bene” which means “all is well”.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all that is well. I know I’ve read several articles lately about how all we were taught in school about the first Thanksgiving and pilgrims and Columbus and a lot of other things were skewed. That may well be. And there is a lot, a whole lot, wrong in our world today. But, that should have no bearing on our being thankful. Please know that I am talking to myself here as much as to anyone else. I am thankful that God has not abandoned me to my self-centered moanings.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 95:2
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Philippians 4:6