Posted tagged ‘Psalms’

Running…to God

November 25, 2015

WORD FROM W.W.                                                                         November 24, 2015

                                                

A long-time friend of mine who recently lost her sister to cancer wrote a post on her Facebook page that resonated with me. She said, “Because of all your sincere prayers on my behalf my anger (that is a bit extreme) at God is gone. I was disappointed the Lord did not heal my sister on this earth. I am choosing to run to Him, not from him.”

     What is the direction of our run when we are in pain? It is easy to run from the God who didn’t answer our heartfelt prayer in the way we desired. Distance from God is a natural reaction to disappointment with God.

My own running has been punctuated by sprints away from God and slow crawls back to him. My running away in disappointment has sometimes been the result of God not going along with my desire for my enemy to suffer, or the absence of an angelic choir to sing about how my answer to a hotly debated problem is right.

Sometimes my running away comes from the unfairness of life, sometimes it happens because I don’t want to be fair with God.

My friend’s reference to running to him is using the lane with few footprints in it. David chose to run in this lane quite often, but, as we know, he also had his races of retreat.

What is the direction of our run? When the content of our prayers is dominated by the wants of our life we can expect that there will be a running from the Giver of grace. When our prayer is focused on our relationship with the Father running to him will often be our response.

If I am secure in my belief that what God wants for me is wholeness, not hurt, I will be slowly running to him.

We have a way of putting “what if’s” in our theological outcomes. Another friend of mine from years ago lost his daughter in an accident recently. I can not understand his grief, and, therefore, how he is journeying through the loss of life. Knowing the depth of his spiritual journey I’ve got a feeling it resembles someone swimming laps in a pool…the swimming away is followed closely by a swim to…and then a swim away!

My choice to run to God seems much less complicated than his.

This is Thanksgiving Week. A time to run to God and recognize that he is caring, concerned, loving, and kind. In a world with daily terrorist threats and warnings I’m choosing to be in the shadow of his wing…the cleft of the rock…rather than the isolation of my disappointment.

Songs That Sing To Me

June 5, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   June 4, 2014

 

                                  

 

As a pastor I get tired of the “music wars”, the battles over how many hymns, praise songs, and contemporary music selections we sing in worship on Sunday morning. I doubt that David envisioned the polarizing that music would bring into a worshiping community when he sat with the sheep and composed Psalms as he strummed his harp.

The thing about music is that its eternal…if we allow it to be. How foolish it is to use music as a battlefield! We all have preferences. I’m not into rap, but I can still envision the Almighty tapping his toes to a song that has more rhythm than I could ever harness.

As I look back over my life I see songs popping up at different times that have stayed with me, and have melted into my spirit. Here’s three:

“Pass It On!” After my sophomore year of high school I spent a week of my summer vacation at church camp at Judson Hills Baptist Camp in northeastern Ohio. It was a great week that included living in a teepee, having a girlfriend, Clara, who lived across the street from me back in my hometown (A little awkward after we broke up a few days after returning to civilization!), and learning about God. At our evening campfire we would sing “Pass It On!” Forty-plus years later I can still hear the mix of the soprano voices of the young lady campers and the strange voices of the boys who weren’t sure if they were heading to the “bass section” but weren’t committed to being tenors either.

It was a defining summer that headed me towards considering the idea of one day being a pastor.

“Color My World!” My high school prom theme was also the Chicago hit. I can remember strolling through the gym with Mary Cronacher on my arm dancing to the soft music and realizing that young ladies smell good! Underarm deodorant became a friend of mine about that time. A guy couldn’t be a jock and be able to dance closely for very long with a young lady who had a scent of apple blossoms blessing my nostrils. I can still hear the brass of the band as they played that song.

“Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?”  Larry Norman’s song that was rocking and rolling as I was graduating from high school. Nothing like that had ever come close to the ivory keys of the church’s piano, and Norman’s long flowing blonde hair made it even more radical for our Baptist young people’s group. That summer after high school I learned that it was okay to not look stoic as you sang in church. Some of the parents of our youth group members were not so sure, and I would lay money on it that our church’s deacons’ meetings included some serious discussion about the road paved to hell by rock and roll!

Three songs that still sing to me and remind me of where I’ve been, the boy I once was and the approaching of manhood that they hummed me towards.

What To Preach When No One Is Looking

August 27, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       August 27, 2013

I’ve been preaching through Leviticus the past three years…I mean, three months. Three more weeks and I’ll be transitioning to Jesus. That is, I’ll be focusing on themes that come out of the gospels.

Leviticus has been a challenge, and yet, it has been rewarding to see the threads connecting the Old Covenant with the New Covenant.

Preaching is a privilege, and yet it is also a challenge. To be able to speak the truth in an age when truth is defined by a multitude of sources in a multitude of ways is a privilege…and a challenge.

Knowing that some of the listeners want it said in the shortest amount of time possible, while others want a whole loaf of spiritual bread to fill their souls for the week…is a challenge!

A greater question…that I wrestle with is… what does my life preach when no one is looking, and no one is listening? What echoes from my heart to God?

A couple of weeks ago I was attending the Global Leadership Summit local simulcast of the event that was happening at Willow Creek Church in South Barrington, Illinois. After one of the breaks the next session started with a man playing an incredible instrument called an “earth harp.” The strings of the harp connected from the standing bridge on the stage to the balcony about 250 feet away. You could see the strings around the stage area because of the lighting, but then they just sort of disappeared into the air.

What song does my life preach when I have an audience of One, when the music of my soul rises up to the Unseen?

It is far easier to preach from a text than to live the text. Preachers can fool congregations. It happens every week.

But only the foolhardy think they can preach to the Lord in ways that are put-on and pontificating fluff.

It’s why I’ve always been impressed with the Book of Psalms. David was totally authentic in his writing and composing. His heart seeks revenge, justice, peace, comfort, cleansing, answers to torment. He shouts praises and thanksgiving. He cries out for rescue, deliverance, healing, restoration. David preached what he was living.

What does my life preach? My resume would have to include some things like bitterness, hate, envy, whining, apathy, and a few other of their close relatives. It also preaches joy, laughter, love, hope, and grace, but I wonder how much pepper mixes in with the salt?

Sometimes I’m afraid my life preaches nothing to the Magnificent One, and volumes to the congregation. My focus can easily drift to developing the written manuscript and bypass the Creator.

Perhaps this Sunday I’ll have my life preach volumes to, and focus on, the God of heavens and earth; and then on Sunday morning I’ll preach in silence to the congregation.

The Rush To Vacate

May 22, 2009

Memorial Day weekend is a great weekend…to stay home!

The highways and byways will be packed with vans, trucks, trucks pulling boats or campers or ATV’s. It will be chaos and bedlam on asphalt. It’s a tradition, one that for many families is as customary as gathering around a tree on Christmas Day.

If you’ve been thinking about going to Sam’s Club…wait until Tuesday. If the thought suddenly occurs to you that “this weekend is pretty empty, why not go camping?,” spray yourself with bug repellant, start a fire in the fireplace, roast some indigestion-inducing hot dogs over it, and then enjoy the peace and quiet of your own living room.

I know that I sound anti-camping. I’m really not, but I admit that I do prefer sleeping in my own house rather than a tent with no heating or air conditioning system. Call me a wimp!

I’ve noticed that people spend a lot of time rushing to vacate. They leave town exhausted from the effort to leave. Camping isn’t the villain. It’s a mindset twitch that has infected our lifestyle. When I’m “here” I’m in a rush to get “there.”

But when I’m “there” I can’t enjoy it because I’m thinking of things that will happen next week when I’m back “here.”

We’re a culture addicted to rushing. Even at this moment I’m forcing myself to slow down and think through my words because I need to go visit someone. The sooner I can crank out the words the faster I can get to the next thing on the list.

By our actions and itineraries, “quantity of living” is more important than “quality of living,” but we press to get the quality with the quantity. In other words “we want everything and it better be good!”

I believe there is an intimate connection between “quality of living” and a slower pace. It’s tragic that most of the time when we hear the term “quality of life” it’s associated with someone in their last days who doesn’t have much life left to live.

It’s not coincidental that there was a quality to the psalms that David wrote, and he didn’t have deadlines. What he had was time to reflect, to be renewed, to see and hear with not only his eyes and ears, but also his heart. He was not in a rush.

Think about it this weekend whether you’re in an RV or your own bedroom. Think about your pace and ask yourself, are you conveying to your kids, friends, and neighbors that it’s a race or a walk?

Pastor Bill