Slow to Anger, and Abounding in Steadfast Love and Faithfulness

Psalm 6

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD – how long?

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?

I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Exodus 34:6-7

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed,
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
but who will by no means clear the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.”

John 3:16-21

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

1 John 1:5-9

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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Next to Theology, No Art Equal of Music

Martin Luther wrote: “I am not ashamed to confess publicly that next to theology there is no art which is the equal of music, for she alone, after theology, can do what otherwise only theology can accomplish, namely, quiet and cheer up the soul of man, which is clear evidence that the devil, the originator of depressing worries and troubled thoughts, flees from the voice of music just as he flees from the words of theology. For this very reason the prophets cultivated no art so much as music in that they attached their theology not to geometry, nor to arithmetic, nor to astronomy, but to music, speaking the truth through psalms and hymns.”

Heavenly Father, giver of all we need, who blesses us with the gift of redemption through your Crucified and Risen Son, thank you for the gift of music which has truly been a source of comfort to my soul!

Loss and Hope

Hello Friends!

It has certainly been awhile!!  I’m excited to share with you now, however, my latest expression of creativity – a musical composition (see the link at the end of this post).  I discovered this online service – Noteflight – and have been rediscovering my passion for expressing myself through music.

Music had always been a huge part of my early years.  As a six-year-old, I remember watching epic war scenes in my mind’s eye with the 1812 Overture’s music creating the various emotions for each scene.  This is perhaps where the seed had been planted.

I took up the trumpet in fifth grade and played all the way through my first semester of college.  Concert band, Jazz Band, Marching band, and, YES, even singing in the various choirs – music was a large part of who I was (am).

In fact, it was what I wanted to do (be) in life.  My heart’s desire was to be the next Hans Zimmer!  I remember the first film I watched for which Zimmer wrote the score – Backdraft!

And that’s when the seed was watered and fertilized and began to grow!  I began buying the music scores to all the movies I loved.  In addition to that, I would play for hours on my keyboard creating the music for the stories of my own imagination.

After high school, I received a music scholarship to Greensboro College, NC.  I was so excited!  My dream was becoming a reality! But then…

The Dark Fear arose in my heart, and his voice whispered in my ear, “You are not good enough, nor will you ever be able to support a family.  Let me show you a more sure way.”  If only Chris Gardner had been there to shout back!

But, the Dark Fear was the only one there, and I succumbed to his lie.  That was 1992.

The Dark Fear later introduced me to one of his daughter’s – Regret.  She shows up every now and then, but not as much as she once did.  Perhaps its because I try not to visit the Dark Woods of the Past as frequently as I once did.

So, there you have it.  A little back story.

Here is my very short composition entitled, Loss and Hope.  My wife listened to only a part of it and she thought it sounded like wedding music! Ha!!  Perhaps she heard the hopeful part.  I wasn’t envisioning a wedding when I wrote it.  I was envisioning my wife’s first miscarriage 13 years ago. Irony.

Click the link below and then click the “play” button in the upper left-hand corner.  Hope you like!

Loss and Hope

Their Destruction Is Not Asleep

A Poem based on 2 Peter 2:17-22

Forsaking the right way,
These false teachers have gone astray.
The gloom of utter darkness
For them has been reserved.

For they entice by sensual passion,
Promising unsteady souls freedom.
But they themselves are slaves of corruption,
Entangled and overcome.

From the way of righteousness they have swerved,
From the holy commandment delivered.

Like the sow, after washing herself,
Returns to wallow in the filthy mire
To the corruption of sinful desire
Returns, the unregenerate self.

The Absence of a Father’s Presence

The absence of a father’s presence will
Become a lifetime she will seek to fill,

Trying to be daddy’s perfect girl,
Coping with a bottle, needle or pill.

How hard you worked for nothing she wanted
When your love was everything she needed.

On the altar of your empty labors
She bled and died a living sacrifice.

The Beauty of Sacrificial Love

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I just started watching the Lost in Space reboot on Netflix last night.  I absolutely love it!  I think the story is well-written.

I only have a few minutes before I need to return to work from break, so I want to mention one of several beautiful scenes from the first episode.  I choose the word beautiful for a very specific reason.

Our church has been discussing our three core values the past few Sundays – truth, beauty, and goodness.  Beauty was defined as that which is excellent, attractive, and transforming.  Much can be said about these three characteristics, but time does not permit now.  Perhaps later.

So, there is a scene in which the boy Will Robinson has escaped from an alien robot by climbing up onto a large tree branch.  Unfortunately for Will, he had only escaped the  severed lower torso of the robot.  The upper torso with arms and head managed to get up to the same tree branch.  But the robot sits and watches Will, and Will likewise watches the robot.

Time passes.  An unexpected forest fire happens and quickly approaches Will and the robot.  Will had noticed earlier that the robot was dying because of his severed body.  Now with the fire fast approaching, the lower torso of the robot is trying to reconnect with the upper half, but can’t.  Then, something beautiful happens.

Will moves toward the robot and pulls out a high tech rope saw.  And he begins to cut the end of the branch.  Before the branch is cut through, Will says to the robot, “No sense in both of us dying.”  The branch breaks and the robot falls and reconnects.  You can watch the episode to find out what happens next!

I am always attracted to those scenes in movies where the hero sacrifices his or her life for another.  My eyes well up with tears.  I also find myself transformed in that I long to show and give that same sacrificial love to family and friends, and even enemies.  This sacrificial love not only is attractive and transformative, but it is excellent in that to give oneself to another is inherent to our being.  For we were created in the image of God, and by his very nature God is self-giving.

Behold his Son given for you on the cross!  Behold the beauty of the cross!  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Into Darkness, Shine

“[Y]ou are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people.  Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10, NLT).

Those of us who have experienced the mercy of God have a new identity.  Ironic, isn’t it, that yesterday I began my Memoir Monday (yes, yesterday was Tuesday…ha!) with the question, “Who am I.”

According to God’s mercy we have been born again and given a new identity!  Peter draws upon Old Testament depictions of Israel to describe the Church.  Much could be said here, but my focus this morning is on the consequence of our new identity as God’s people.

Being God’s own possession and having received mercy, we are to show others the goodness of God, who sent his Son into darkness to give sight to the blind.  Jesus condescended into this cursed world, filled with sin and death, sorrow and grief, pain and brokenness, to seek and to save that which was lost.  Peter writes later in this letter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25, ESV).

We, too, are to show and speak of God’s saving goodness which we experience daily.  Our visible display and vocal declaration of all that God has done for us, our reflection of God’s light that he has called us into, can only be seen and heard in the midst of darkness.  Jesus in the Gospel of John, as he prepared his disciples for his impending departure, reminds them that though they are not of this world any longer they remain in it.

We must not shy away from the pain and brokenness we encounter on a daily basis in our families, at work, at school, etc.  For it is here where the light will shine forth the brightest.

We all once were like the demon-possessed man encountered by the Light of the world in Mark’s Gospel.  We, who have experienced the saving power of Jesus in breaking our chains of bondage to sin and death, are to do as Jesus told this healed man – “As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.  And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.'” (Mark 5:18-19).

Let us, this day, allow our faith to be made visible through our love to those we encounter, showing forth the goodness of our merciful God, who has indeed called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.

May the grace and peace of God be multiplied to us all!

Memoir Monday: “Who Am I?”

“A day late and a dollar short.”  Missed opportunities.  Lack of effort put forth in the time given.  Perhaps most of this post is too much effort put forth in too little time which will result in missing an opportunity to do something else.  I don’t know.  But if you don’t have much time, and don’t want to waste the precious time afforded you this day, you can quickly scroll to the Oswald Bayer quote!

I thought this idiom appropriate since I desired to write yesterday, but did not.  I awoke early today and began doing other things when my mind was drawn back to writing.

I shuddered at the voices in my head that shouted, “Why bother?” “You have nothing to say!”  “No one wants to read what you have to say!”  “No one cares!”  “There are better ways to spend your limited time!”

The last question is a legitimate one.  With the limited time given me, how shall I use it?  Time is a commodity of which we should seek to steward well.  I have three daughters growing rapidly before my eyes.  Am I stewarding the time with them well?  And can I ever really answer that question?  How would I measure the quality of the time spent with them, nurturing them?

I haven’t really reflected on my life yet, so is this a memoir?  And yet, perhaps I have.  I have spent much of my life seeking and searching.  Asking questions?  I wonder if there is a vocation in which all you do is sit around and ask questions.  I think I would be good at it.  And yet, you have to ask good questions, right?

But there are no stupid questions our teachers and parents told us.  I suppose their desire is to help us overcome our fear of others, as well as keep the flames of our inherent curiosity alive.

And yet, there are different kinds of questions. I came across this quote from C.S. Lewis this morning within his book, A Grief Observed:

“Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.”  Probably half the questions, thought Lewis, are nonsense.  That is a wee bit discouraging, if true.

Somewhere else – I didn’t take the time to track down the quote, sorry – Lewis apparently said that most theologians are answering questions that most people are not asking.

That is potentially tragic.  We can spend ourselves searching, seeking, chasing after…wind.

I’m not saying anything definitive…merely processing…and trying not to think about who may be reading this.

I wonder how much of my life has been spent chasing wind?  Why am I asking this question? What fuels it?  Regret? Is it pointless?  Is it unanswerable?  Do I have a bird’s eye view that can connect the dots…or is that the view only of God?

Why do I think like this?  Why have people often said I think too much, or that I think too deeply, as if the latter was supposed to be a compliment?

But back to chasing after wind.  It isn’t wind per se that all of us are chasing.  Isn’t it acknowledgement, approval, our very identity. We are seeking and searching for the answer of that very fine and fundamental question:  “Who am I?”.

Oswald Bayer writes in Living by Faith:  “There is no escaping the questions and evaluations of others. If one accepts and welcomes the other or not, if one greets the other or not, if one acknowledges the other -either through praise or reproach, affirmation or negation – or if one does not acknowledge the other and regards the other as worthless, a decision is made concerning our being or non-being. Only a being that is recognized and acknowledged is a being that is alive. If no one were to call and greet me by name, if no one were ready to speak to me and look at me, then I would be socially nonexistent. I would even be physically nonexistent, I would have no life at all, if my parents had not acknowledged me and respected my life even before my birth. I would no longer have any life if after my birth my parents had not smiled at me and talked to me, thus opening a space for community, accepting and acknowledging me. An unwanted child is aware of this rejection. The denial of unconditional and anticipated recognition, the denial of love, shows how necessary recognition is. Its denial is a painful and especially impressive indication of its necessity, its necessity for life. We want constant recognition of ourselves because it is vitally necessary. We need its confirmation and renewal. If it is lacking, we try to regain gain it or even to coerce it. We want to produce something which others will say gives pleasure and ought to be recognized, so that it is rewarded by a glance or a word, and thus finds an answer. To be recognized and justified; to cause ourselves to be justified or to justify ourselves in attitude, thought, word, and action; to need to justify our being; or simply to be allowed to exist without needing to justify our being – all this makes for our happiness or unhappiness and is an essential part of our humanity.

There is a lot to chew on here.  And I think I will use this as a springboard for Memoir Monday’s!