The good life

1 10 2012

Do any of you want to live a life that is long and good?

That’s a very “now” question, isn’t it? So you may be surprised to learn that it was asked in the Old Testament book of Psalms – we’re talking about 4000 years ago!  It’s both “now” and “always” – human beings of every age want to live well.

Interestingly, the questioner doesn’t go for a lifestyle modification answer.  His recommendation is not for self-sufficiency a la 1970s sit com, or increased prosperity. It’s a character deal.

So how does the Psalmist answer his question?

Do any of you want to live a life that is long and good?  Then

  • watch your tongue
  • keep you lips from telling lies
  • turn away from evil and do good
  • work hard at living at peace with others

(Psalm 34:12-14)

There’s a high degree of intentionality in this. A good life will not just happen, and aren’t these surprising actions that are advocated? There’s nothing about earning lots of money or being a celebrity in this “good life”.  It’s nitty-gritty “inside” stuff.

I love the directness of what the Psalmist says.  No – “see if you can be a little bit more transparent and honest, and, if you can, do good to others. Oh and try to get on with other people. I know that’s a tough ask because other people are so infuriating…”

It’s straight forward – Just Do It!

We will never arrive; it’s an unremitting, challenging  journey and there’s enough action to keep us going throughout life, however long or short it turns out to be.  But taking action on these things will lead to character change (more of that another time) and a good life for us and those we live with.





What are you talking about…now?

30 07 2012

Way back, long before sports coaches or psychologists said it was a good idea, monitoring self-talk was considered important.  I came across this example the other day:

‘Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit.  I’ll say it again: Stay with God.’

This is self-talk attributed to King David in Psalm 27 where he lets us in on his struggles.  He has enemies who are out to get him.  We’re not told who they are, but they’re scary enough for David to pray for protection. My guess is that he had a “faith bank” that he could draw on; he had experienced God’s goodness and faithfulness to him in other tough situations, and so when the chips are down again, he knows which playlist is going to help.

Maybe a clue comes earlier:

‘When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!” ‘

“Seeking” isn’t a term we use very much – except in children’s games – and there’s an intensity about it that sets a challenge.  Life with God is a “whole being” deal, not just a nod in his direction now and again when I feel like it, or when “shuffle” throws him in my path.  There’s a positive choice involved – faith or doubt, staying or leaving, persevering or quitting – and I need to be prepared so that it’s easy to select the best playlist for the moment.

‘Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit.  I’ll say it again: Stay with God.’

Read the rest of this entry »





Am I too comfortable with God?

29 02 2012

The subject of this post has been troubling me since 08 February when I read about Joshua’s encounter in Joshua 5:13-15.   It’s not clear to me who this person was that he met, but there was something “other” about Joshua’s experience, just as there had been for Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6). 

Cool word for this – theophany

So what’s the problem?

I don’t have an issue with Joshua, Moses, the apostle Paul and others having these “other” experiences.  My issue is that I don’t!  I have very ordinary experiences, not ones where I fall on my knees, kick of my shoes or tremble in fear.

~

Sunday 19 February took me to Psalm 8:

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned themwith glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority— 
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!”

What a magnificent expression of worship!  And an astonishing positioning of human beings in the grand scheme of things.

~

22 February – I read a quotation of that Psalm in Hebrews 2 and the extraordinary assertion that Jesus “entered every detail of human life” and identifies with us as “brothers and sisters”.  No longer is God “other”; God is one of us. 

If that’s true,  I’d better kick my slippers off, stop sitting comfortably waiting for God to appear to me is some “other” manifestation, and take Paul’s advice –

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1-2)





First things first

29 01 2012

Sunrise over Southampton. Thank you Adam for permission to use your beautiful photo. See more of Adam's photos by clicking this image.

“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

The Psalms never cease to amaze me. There seems to be something for every situation. Psalm 5 encourages a positive start to the day – start with God and ask for his involvement in life, and then wait and see what he comes up with!

That’s life on the edge.





Whose way?

14 01 2012

I have been mulling over Psalm1.  It talks about not walking in step with the wicked, and by implication, encourages us to walk in step with God. (That would make a good sub-theme for the year.) But it demands a closeness and co-operation that I am not always willing for. Think three-legged race.

We quickly hear mankind singing Frank Sinatra’s My Way  and abandoning opportunities for closeness and co-operation in the early chapters of Genesis. Think hide and seek.

Despite that, God offers an extraordinary invitation in Genesis chapter 3:8-9 – “Where are you?”  It’s an invitation to come back to him, to stop hiding and to come back to closeness.  Of course God knows perfectly well where Adam is; he knows perfectly well where I am, but he will not force himself into relationship.  Instead he invites – “Come to me, walk with me, keep company with me.”

“But what happens when we live God’s way?

He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)

 





Listen and learn

22 10 2011

A couple of years ago I read Psalm 78 and had an “aha” moment.  It was last week’s Psalm and it was bitter-sweet reading it again.  Sweet because it was one of the inspirations for this blogging project; bitter because I’m still not much good at picking the right options in life.

The Psalm is the backstory of the people of Israel from Moses to David.  It’s not so much the historical detail that comes to the fore as the heart-attitude of the people.  Time and again a depressing note rings through –

  • stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful 
  • they refused, they forgot, they kept sinning
  • they stubbornly tested God in their hearts
  • they did not believe God or trust him to care for them
  • all they gave him was lip service; they lied to him with their tongues
  • their hearts were not loyal to him;  they did not keep his covenant
  • they did not obey his laws
  • they turned back and were faithless
  • they were as undependable as a crooked bow
  • they angered God by building shrines to other gods

And these were the people whom God had chosen as his own! 

Why does the Psalmist paint such a distressing picture?  He tells us in the first section of the Psalm that he wants to teach “hidden lessons from the past” –

“So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
      not forgetting his glorious miracles
      and obeying his commands.
 Then they will not be like their ancestors…”

That is precisely my motivation, my “aha”.

I don’t want the descriptor “futile” to be attached to my life.  I want the next generation to learn from my mistakes, and to “set its hope anew on God”, but not just in general terms.  I want my own grandchildren to be inspired to live well, to be able to say, “Granny showed us how to live Jesus’ way”, and to find the answers to life’s questions by listening to him.

“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” (Luke 8:8)





Two black eyes and a leaky bucket!

13 10 2011

Most people at some time or another pray.  The remarkable thing is not that most people pray, but that some people keep at it.  Why?  Why does anyone keep praying when there’s often so little to show for it? 

“Prayer is a leaky bucket,” writes Eugene Peterson. “You go to the river to get a pail of water and by the time you get home the water is gone, the bucket empty, and all there is left to show for your effort is a damp trail soon to be wiped out by the sun.” 

Does that ring any bells?

Jesus obviously thought that persistence in prayer was something that his followers would struggle with and so he tells the story of the widow with ultimate pester power (Luke 18:1-8).  She nagged and badgered until she got justice from the judge.

The judge is an unsavoury character but in the end the threat of two black eyes forces him to give the widow the justice she demanded. (I’m not great in the Greek department, but apparently “wearing me out” in verse 5 translates as “beating me black and blue”.)

So what’s all this about?  Here are a few thoughts –

  • God’s silence is a common experience for all who pray
  • People who pray ask, “Why?” and “How long?” a lot (check out the Psalms for evidence of this)
  • I don’t know the whole story of my life
  • Persistent prayer is not about my stubborn willfulness trying to bend God’s ear…
  • It is about relationship, a trust that God is good and has my best interests at heart

Is this enough to encourage me to keep praying, to not give up, to not lose heart?  Will Jesus find faith when he comes to visit me?








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