Fortune-ate   Leave a comment

Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

If we’re not careful, we can approach isolated passages of Scripture as we would fortune cookies. We eat them because they’re sweet, but not so sweet to leave us wanting more.  Fully aware that the little slips of paper cannot provide answers to our deepest questions, we still hold out hope that they will speak to the very longings of our hearts.  However, most of the messages are so vague or pointless that our only recourse is to find a way to laugh at them (often by appending “in bed” to the message, a surefire way to induce naughty giggles).

More deeply, we often seek from God, from faith or religion, that which we seek from a fortune cookie.  We want something sweet, but not so sweet that we’re invested into consuming more.   We want to crack open our destiny, to find easy answers within the sugary smooth waver that seems custom-wrapped for each of us.   And when we don’t find those answers, we’re inclined to make light of God, to find ways to laugh and snicker about faith and religion.   Perhaps there are so many jokes about priests, rabbis and monks walking into bars because so many people have walked into religious sanctuaries and have not found what they were looking for.

Today’s quote (above) actually sounds a bit like a fortune cookie.  It’s short and sweet.  It promises a direction to take and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  But so much more than a fortune is being spoken of here in the opening verses of Psalm 37.  There is a call  for patience, to wait upon the God who can be trusted, whose promises do not wither like the grass, but will come as surely as the noonday.

The Psalmist calls for delight, not in sweet and easy answers to the questions posed by a broken and fearful world, but in the Lord.   There, we find our laughter emerging not from cynicism or disappointment, but from the joy found in patience and trust.

That’s a far different fortune than the one we often seek.

Posted February 11, 2012 by seawalking in Uncategorized

God’s Handy Work   Leave a comment

And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship. (Exodus 35:31)

I dedicate this post to all of the Bezalels of the world.

“The who,” you ask?

The Bezalels.   You see, Bezalel was endowed by God with the wisdom and skills necessary to be a great craftsman, who could build with both beauty and function in mind.  God assigned Bezalel the critical task of constructing Israel’s mobile sanctuary, so that where the Israelites went, their God would be with them.

I’m in jealous awe of all Bezalels, like the gentlemen on my roof right now expertly (one hopes)  replacing leaky skylights, the fix-it aficionados who don’t need to call a plumber to repair a leaky sink, the men and women who can fashion highways and skyskrapers, remodel bathrooms and or build backyard decks.  I’m in awe of gardeners and auto mechanics, of cooks and carpenters, people whose spirituality emerges by the work of their hands, not the words of their mouths or the thoughts in their heads.   They matter, deeply, because they apply precision and discipline to the world of matter.

Why “blue collar” can have a negative connotation is beyond me, because those skills are so beyond me, I cannot help but appreciate those who have them.  And give praise to the Master Builder, from whom their wisdom comes.

Posted February 6, 2012 by seawalking in Uncategorized

Nooks and Crannies   Leave a comment

You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, opaz and emerald; and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond; and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper.  (Exodus 28:17-20)

Details matter.

That’s what I take from this chapter of Scripture filled with a detailed, yawn-inducing barrage of instructions, given by God, to those who would make clothes for the Israelite priests.  The Lord really gets into the minutia — the colors of the fabric, the kinds of stones and how they are to be placed, the bindings and bands, all specified.

It’s not exactly compelling reading.

But God sought a specific arrangement of colors and stones to weave meaning and  purpose into those clothes.  All those details, working together, reminded the Israelites who they were, and whom they were called to worship.

This is a reminder to those of us who would dismiss the details of this life to be trivial and unworthy of attention, because there are more “spiritual” matters to be considered.   Attending to the nooks and crannies of this life may in fact be the most spiritual thing we can do.

Details, when they serve as the object of our focus and not our obsession, can lead us into the very realm of God, the weaver of mountains and molecules alike.

 

 

Posted February 1, 2012 by seawalking in Uncategorized

Hearing Again for the First Time   2 comments

“You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

This is a life changing text.   Has been for me, anyway.

It comes from the parable of the talents, in which Jesus tells of a master who, on the eve of his long journey,  gives his servants talents (significant sums of money), each according to his ability.   Two of the servants invested and traded their talents, and in so doing, doubled them.   The third, fearful of messing up and losing the one talent he was given, buried it in the sand.

Jesus is clear who deserves the condemnation here, and who deserves the praise.   The tentative servant, though his motives perhaps were understandable, nonetheless failed by serving his caution and fearfulness rather than his Lord.   And the one talent he had was taken away from him.  The other two servants, willing to risk in order to gain, pleased their master and received even more.

Around 12 years ago, I heard a sermon on this text preached by Rev. Bill Kemp that moved me beyond my caution and fear and into marriage and ministry.   Who knows whether what I heard was what he was actually saying, but what I heard was the Spirit’s urging me to stop burying my gifts and desires to become a pastor and propose to my girlfriend, even if I was trying to protect and honor what I had been given.

Now 12 years later, I can share in the pride and joy of the other two servants.   Like them, I have received blessing upon blessing as a result of being faithful with those talents, as opposed to hoarding them.   I have a deep abiding marriage, two wonderful daughters, a church that pulls the best out of me and has so much to give of itself.

But today is a new day, the old has passed away and the new has begun.  And so I re-read this parable, and hear again my master preparing for a long journey and asking me, imploring me, to not hold back.   May I again be lead and exhorted to be faithful with a few and many things, so that I and many more may enter into the joy of our great Master, servant of all.

 

Posted January 31, 2012 by seawalking in Uncategorized

Is   2 comments

The voice of the Lord is… (Psalm 29:4)

I have little to say today.

That may be my cue to listen.

For the voice of the Lord is

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted January 30, 2012 by seawalking in Uncategorized

A So-True SOTU   Leave a comment

A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a false mouth, who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, who points with his fingers.  (Proverbs 6:12)

As soon as the speech is over, pundits will pore over President Obama’s State of the Union address and look for political points won and lost.  They’ll analyze whether it moved the electoral needle in any particular direction.   They’ll hype up the zingers, deconstruct the rhetoric, and thrust microphones before those with alternative agendas to keep the left-right conflict fresh and exciting.

If I have the stamina tonight to watch the speech after a full day and evening’s worth of meetings, I’ll be looking for something different:  Honesty.   With today’s verse from Proverbs in mind, I want to see our President walk down the center aisle seeking handshakes and high-fives with truth, not deception.  I want to look into his eyes and those of the pundits and political opponents and see them burn with integrity, not flicker with devious winks atop shifting feet.  I don’t want someone to win tonight, and someone else to lose.  I don’t want to be inspired or impressed, or be made to feel like my perspective is right and someone else’s is wrong.  I don’t want a speech that seeks the accumulation of “likes,” even my own.

I just want to hear where we are, who we are.  I want a speech that tells me about myself and my people, what we’re doing well and what needs our urgency.   I want to know what I should cheer and what should make me angry.   I want to hear, truly, the state of our union, where it is strong, and where it shows cracks, and how my life and living is wrapped up in all of that.  I want to go to bed tonight smarter and more attuned to reality, because of this speech and the post-game show, not in spite of them.

It’s easy to expect and ask this of others, of our President and those who will debate with him.  It’s harder still to live and speak with such honesty ourselves.

And so, I’ll listen to this speech, mindful that its content sheds light not only on the honesty of our leaders, but the integrity of we who follow.   Because if our ears seek deception, avarice and the scoring of political points, then this is what our leaders will give us.

Posted January 24, 2012 by seawalking in Uncategorized

Criss-Cross Will Make You…   Leave a comment

But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the first born. (Genesis 48:14-15)

Joseph was offended.  His dying father, Israel, sat feebly before him and extended his unsteady arms to bless Joseph’s sons.  Instead of following custom and laying his right hand on the head of the firstborn Manasseh, he palmed the forehead of the younger Ephraim, and placed his left hand on Manasseh.   Crossing his arms, Israel blessed both abundantly, but only Ephraim could receive Israel’s favored hand.  Understandably, Joseph did not like it one bit.

“Not so, my father” he said.

Joseph’s protest represented an amnesia of epic proportions.   He forgot that he himself received greater favor from his father, even though he was nearly the youngest of his twelve brothers.  He forgot that his father was also the younger brother to Esau, and yet received the greater blessing (see my previous koosh-ball inspired post for the backstory: http://wp.me/p25uE3-1e).

With all of his success in life, his stature in Egypt, Joseph had forgotten that the blessings he knew came not from merit or birthright, but something else.  Throughout the Biblical narrative, that “something else” often looks like blind luck or trickery.  Other times, it seems like holy sanction.

But when the arms of blessing are crossed, when things do not go according to how they ordinarily should,  some people cannot help but take offense.  In the other reading for the day, the disciple Peter cannot stand it when Jesus predicted his own death in Jerusalem, right after Peter had seen Jesus shining white in glory.

When our plans or desires are criss-crossed by a reality that seems all too ignorant of How Things Should Be, we want to jump up and say, “Not So!”  We can’t help but join with Joseph in forgetting that sometimes, the best blessings in life can come when arms are crossed in defiance of tradition or our own expectations.

And more urgently, we like Peter can find ourselves taking offense that abundant life must come through the death of One whose arms were stretched on a cross.  It’s not fair, it’s not right.

But thanks be to God.

 

(Join me in reading today’s texts from the New American Standard Bible by going here:  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=genesis%2048:1-49:33;matthew%2015:29-16:12;psalm%2020:1-9;proverbs%204:20-27&version=NASB )

 

 

 

Posted January 18, 2012 by seawalking in Uncategorized