Thursday, August 21, 2008

Psalm 58

David is harsh on the wicked, seeking vengeance on them. He pleads with Go to destroy them, and pleads destruction with poetry.

What I find interesting is that never once did David plead for God to change their hearts, for Him to call them to Himself and change their ways. Perhaps it is the "tolerant" society of our day, but I sort of grew up thinking that "pray for your enemies" meant to pray with compassion, that God would change them, bring them to Himself, and use them for His glory. I thought that we were supposed to love those we hate, and pray for their salvation, that the mercy of God could extend to them, too.

But David doesn't. He says that these men have been wicked from birth, as though there is no chance for their reformation, that they are wicked through and through with no hope for good. And so I wonder... is this a character flaw in David, that he is so caught up in the wicked these men are doing (ruling and judging unfairly) that he simply has no mercy for them, or is it a flaw in me, that I have fallen into a thinking shaped by society, and not by scripture, that everyone can be reformed, that everyone deserves a second chance, and that wickedness should be repaid by love, not justice. Do I need to rethink my understanding of the balance between God's justice and mercy? Do I need a new perspective?

The wicked in this passage are devising injustice and meting out violence on the earth. It doesn't sound all that different from some of the leaders in our government. I haven't been praying for God to destroy them, and I don't know that I would call them "wicked". Should I?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Psalm 57

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise.

I find it interesting that my praise comes in the form of song. So, apparently, did David's. There are other forms of praise, I am sure, but for me it is song. I think of the things God has done and I am inclined to sing them. I praise Him in the midst of sorrow and I find myself singing hymns and choruses that speak of His greatness, His faithfulness, His... Him.

I do not know why I am so inclined to commune with Him in music. I don't know why music has such an effect on me, why it touches me the way it does, even without words. But I know that when my thoughts turn to God, what He has done, and who He is, I break out in song, either inside or out.

And I think back to the hymns I learned growing up. And then to the worship songs I learned in college. There are plenty of emotional fluff "Christian" praise songs out there. I'm not thinking of those. I'm talking about the songs that are God-focused, theologically sound, beautiful songs of worship and praise. Many of these are based in scripture, and include direct quotes (and sometimes references) of scripture, too. I have struggled with staying in constant meditation on scripture, but am learning that these songs that run through my head, fill my heart, and keep my mind focused on Him help. I still don't know why I think in song so often, but I don't have to know why. Instead I will just thank God for creating me to praise Him and keep reading the word, meditating on Him, and praising Him as I go through my day.

As David says, I will sing and give praise. Today, right now, but also as a way of life. I will sing what is good and true and right, and teach my daughter to love Him, to think on Him, and to praise Him with every fiber of her being. For that is what we were created to do... love Him, serve Him, praise Him, and glorify Him forever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Psalm 56

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

This phrase is used twice in this short passage. Once in verse 4, and once in verses 10-11. David is being pursued and attacked, and the study help in my Bible says that he had been seized by the Philistines when he wrote this.

The way I see it, there are 3 main things to note about this little phrase. First, David begins with remembering who God is. "In God, whose word I praise," This is the God whose very words, thoughts, and plans are worthy of praise. By His word the world came into being. The Lord, whose word is so powerful, deserves praise.

Then David moves from praising God's word to trusting in Him. If God is so mighty, so powerful, that He needs but speak and the world comes into existence, then He is surely powerful enough to handle the situation that we find ourselves in. If we start with praise for who God is, remembering what He has done, that perspective will lead us to trust in Him. And if we trust in Him, we need not be afraid, for our trust is no longer in ourselves, but in Him.

And once you trust in the Lord, as David has done in this passage, why should you fear? "What can mortal man do to me?" Our hope in the Lord is eternal, and we know that His plan is eternal. Men can only take from us what is here on this earth, but that is not where our treasure is stored. They cannot take the Lord from us, nor our eternal security. If we die here on earth we go to be with the Lord, so really, what can man do to us? Nothing. Not if our hope is in the Lord.

Monday, August 04, 2008

How many have YOU read?

The story is that apparently the National Endowment for the Arts estimates that the average adult has only read six of these books. Here are the markup guidelines:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Mark in red the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your blog

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. The Complete Works of Shakespeare (I've read a LOT, but not all!)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens (reading this right now...)
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I hated this book.)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert -
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie -
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Well.... I could have done worse. Still, I have a few of these books on my shelf and I've never read them. I think that's sad. I also think this list is flawed. There are a couple books I feel are duplicated (Complete Shakespeare + Hamlet; Chronicles of Narnia + Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe) and there are an awful lot by Jane Austen (whom I don't particularly like to read) and non by other authors, like Ayn Rand. They're missing some of the classics, too. Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Metamorphoses... anyone? Seems broken. Still, I've read 24 of the ones above. At least that's over the average.

Psalm 55

But as for me, I trust in you.

These are the last words of the Psalm, and words I have found myself saying time and time again as things come up in my life. I have found myself at the crossroads of belief saying, "Either I trust Him, or I don't." And the truth is that I do. I may not understand Him and His ways, but I trust Him.

I am again at those crossroads, and just yesterday I reminded myself that I trust in Him. He knows where I am and He is still leading me. When I become uncertain I think back and remember that it was He who led me here. And I trust Him. So even though I do not like this place, I will serve Him where I am and trust Him to work His will for His glory.

There are lots of other things that struck me in this Psalm, but this is the one that hit home. And so, to quote verse 22, I will...
Cast [my] cares on the Lord and He will sustain [me].