Thursday, May 21, 2015

In the Deep Sleep of Presence

Psalm 4 has its heart the process of sleep. To sleep in peace, to ponder God in sleep and being with God even as we sleep. The psalm streams a waterfall of words on the being with the Lord and how the Lord hears our prayers. Hears our prayer. Having the ear of the Master of the Universe arises in me as a privilege. Rather than sitting on God’s lap with a laundry list of my wishes and desires and having the good elves shoo me away for the next kid, I find sitting and listening at the feet of the Master more than enough. Yes, he will wipe and wash the dirt from my worn feet, but hearing him in my dreams, brings me peace.

Money forms the crooked backbone of our world, and we all suffer from the temptation to conflate money, its power and prestige, with Gods. I remember working on a national prayer hotline how every shift I had a gentleman call asking to win the lotto as if powerball would solve the hole in his heart. Before we laugh at him, I have heard similar ideas about wanting to follow Jesus to go to heaven. If we follow Jesus to save our skin in the afterlife, are we really suffering from chasing our egos and fail to find the presence of the Lord. Are we chasing vain world, when the Word that came to dwell with us in the flesh stands ready to be with us. When I listen to God in my sleep, in my prayers I discover the same gladness and joy spoken about in Psalm 4.

Yes, we are promised heaven, and yet, I discovered heaven begins in the presence of the Lord. When I sit and listen to the Lord, peace finds me and I am save within his presence. God has come to be with us and the Master of Universe empties himself to the point of listen to a small man in Spokane Valley. God listens to me about the fears I have about my son and his upcoming surgery. Jesus listens as a brother bring the turkey for Thanksgiving when I share about being overwhelmed by my little Tito losing his eye.

God the Father speaks to me in my distress and beings the calming water of living voice whose baritone vibrato can shake the foundations of my fears. The Holy Spirit’s hand takes my shoulder and guides me to where i need to go and helps me as I lift my son in the coming weeks, months and years. I am so very grateful for God’s hearing my prayers. Answering comes from the hearing and in the act of conversation with God in everything, I find the Gospel.

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
    You gave me room when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
    How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.
When you are disturbed,[a] do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent.Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
You have put gladness in my heart
    more than when their grain and wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gods Glory in Loving Enemies… Psalm 3

Psalm 3 enters into the darkness of real life. Like fling open the door and finding your bed filled with dirty sheets and infidelity like my poor Grandfather once did, Psalm 3 strips the Disneyness of life and reveals the pain of having enemies. Do we have enemies in life? We all do not like to think about enemies surrounding us, but if we are honest, we recognize the enemies we have. These enemies are all around and sometimes look glare at us in the mirror. How to escape these foes? Do we have a platoon of angels to slay our enemies and make them pay for the pain the caused?

Jesus calls us to love our enemies and that is his Glory. In Psalm 3, the call is to look beyond the enemies surrounding us and look to the Glory of God. We are called to make our homeless in his Glory and then God will deliver us from our enemies. And yet, the Glory comes from Jesus loving those very enemies, in reality all of us including me, and taking on the cross for their sake. We, to our chagrin, are called to rise beyond our hate and to lay down our perchance for violence and love those that despise us. We, of course, want to wallow in our hate of our enemies. To wallow in hate is like a stink bug lowering his head and aim his backside to pollute in self protection. The shoe will still crunch us in our hate. God call us to love our enemies.

The Glory of God comes through the Cross and through Jesus rises beyond the Cross to Easter. To make our home in the Glory of God means to trust this truth as people go at us for we will all have enemies. To make our home with Jesus means to transcend our own need for vengeance, for vengeance is the Lord’s, and to live in love and take the cross that comes with it trusting in the coming Easter. When I am attack for my faith in Jesus or because of my disfigurement or because of my Mexican heritage or because I believe they way Jesus does that Greed is not Good and a Nation that stands on Greed will fail to find God’s Grace, I remember Jesus words and think of how to love and how to turn my bitter heart toward Jesus and his Glory. For to love those that despise you makes the spooning up an egg to the top of Mount Everest with nothing more that flip flops and a bathing suit seem more possible by comparison.

But with Jesus and his strong hands, even kneading and softening of my coal hard rock of a heart becomes possible. Psalm 3 proclaims the trust in Gods hands and I place my life in those hands. For in his Glory I discover love, love God, love of my wife, love of Tito, of those who call me an idiot for voting as I do, for those who hate Mexicans like me out of fear, and love for the sun rising in the morning as I walk to work.

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”[b]
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.
Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.
From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Psalm 2 and War

Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire[a]
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron[b];
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Today, I read Psalm 2 and as a Christian I read it differently than the original Hebrews did. For I see it through the lens of Jesus. Jesus, for me, is the anointed who the world, namely the powers of Rome and Empire, crushed on the cross. Jesus and the Holy Trinity answers with resurrection and the forgiveness of sin. The wrath of God comes under the shadow of the cross and all transforms into love. Psalm 2 delves into politics and the state of nations. As we also take a similar perspective, one looking at the history of man and his wars, can we not join God in anger. The waste of the strength of young men in the act of killing each other for the benefit of what?

All wars are wastes of human resources. Men who could be building roads, farming, and raising children are instead aiming guns, tanks, and weapons at each other. Yes, we may bow to the necessity of war in a sinful world, but it does not make war glorious. I think that is the greatest weakness of the Hellenistic ideals passed down to us. Homer celebrates the glory of violence in the Iliad and we took look at the warrior as glorious. Hollywood has cashed in our lust for glories for violence. It is this violence that Psalm 2 speaks about and how this violence comes down on the anointed’s head in a crown of thorns. Yet, God answers us and his righteousness remains and love triumphs.

Only when we find our refuge in Jesus' love can we be blessed. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Parading through Psalm 1

Psalm 1
Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked,
    nor stand on the path of sinners,
    nor sit in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in Yahweh’s[a] law.
    On his law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water,
    that produces its fruit in its season,
    whose leaf also does not wither.
    Whatever he does shall prosper.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For Yahweh knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked shall perish.

To be a tree planet by the side of a life giving stream. The vision presented in Psalm 1 as the purpose of life. Within it seemly simple verses lays the greatest mystery. Meditate on the law of God or in as the word means, meditate on the teachings and life path of God. For me as a Christian, the Psalm 1 means to pay attention to Jesus as I move within the times of my life. Love God and love others, Jesus sums up the law. Mediate on loving God and loving others, says Psalm 1, and your life will be like a tree by the side of a stream. Love God and love others in the fullness of the present moment accompanied by the living God forges a life in which God presence guides us like a marching band, kids lined up with smiles, and the smell of popcorn and hotdogs.

Last Saturday, as my son rode in the Spokane Torch Light Lilac Parade in the coolest blue Corvette. My wife and I walk past the people lined up on the street; I came into contact with Jesus. The Spirit moved me as I saw the kids wave and want to give us high five. My son, only six, waved a  yellow glow stick with a cheap plastic star from with in the car. His face illuminated like an early sunrise over a blue ocean. The afternoon filled with thunderstorms, making us doubt with we would have the parade. But the clouds parted enough and the water fed the flowers but did not spoil the the parade. The people, all with their own stories and their own concerns, cheered. I mediated on long God and loving others. In front of us was a float playing 50s music with teenagers dancing at a sock hop and behind us was a local high school marching band.

We there to support Make-A-Wish, who was there to give support in our time when our family needed a break. Psalm 1 says that paying attention to love in loving God and loving others and your life will be fruitful like a tree by a stream. The wicked all fade, the vision of Psalm 1 says. Meditate in the law of love even as you walk in the rainy night on a Spokane May celebrating Lilacs, those who protect us, those who line the streets, those walking in the parade, those riding in corvettes because their childhoods were spent fighting diseases and the Lord who is present in all of this. Coming home, life was too beautiful to capture and I let Gods love flow through me, for Psalm 1 proclaims the deepest truth.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Prayer Paying attention

Prayer is the the reality of Christian life. Or better put, there dimension of the Christian life by which Christians measure themselves and pay attention to God. Attention is a key ingredient to both love and of prayer. The act of paying attention creates love and when Jesus shares the secret to life of loving God and loving others, he gives the reality of abundant life which arises from paying attention to God and others and the whole of creation. Instead of distraction that culture and the society throws at us, whether by desires, fears or delusions. We find God when we pay attention to our scriptures, those around us and to God who is always present. We find Jesus when we consciously look for him in others eyes and in the dignity of their persons, for in their dignity lays the image of God. God comes to us through his creation, through his love and he is with us as we go about our daily life. 

Many Christians have disputed between whether God finds us in solitude and meditation or in actions of love or if either simply form another works-righteousness of us trying to be like God again. All three contain the truth. God finds us when we are still and know God is with us as within meditation, or to try to control God through meditation and solitude as we sinning humans will be prone to do, can lead us astray. The History of Christianity is filled with such excesses. We serve love and when we seek to enslave love toward our own desires, we fall into a pit of our making. Action can be a form of prayer and paying attention to God and of God finding us, but again, we can dry ourselves out without attention to God and making the action about our power and glory and ignore God by our ego or trying to please him. The original sin lurks though our lives and we cannot escape its grip so easily. Humility means the acknowledgement of perchance to wanting to be like gods of control and ignore the God of Love.   

When I discover the God who is always with me in playing with my son, in being with the people God places in my company, in my quiet time, I confront my deepest and wounded self, the self of my particular cross. Born deform and as such always suspect in the eyes of others, for we worship beauty gives to me a heavy cross to bare and on that can only be bared with the help of God. We all have such crosses, as I am aware. 

How do we imagine Jesus. Many think of his as the Platonic ideal of man, but without the burden of being weak like the rest of us, could it be a true incarnation. Without the weakness of men, then it would be Divine pretense, God putting a costume with a ripping off anytime it was convenient. So no, God took on the weakness of humans. Though it is clear that he took on the weakness of man without taking on sin. Sin makes us inhuman. For no reason that times of great sin like WWII has us exclaim mans inhumanity to man. Sin robs us of our humanity. No, God took on hunger, on being suspicious in the eyes of others (the rumors of being bastard and views of him being weird healer and a charlatan as they very charges the state with him his whole lie and led to the cross.) The temptations to control, to be selfish and to be above the common concerns of man as a spiritual superstar. Yes, Jesus, the incarnate God, emptied himself to being with us, even if that meant dying on a cross as a forgotten man. But he rose from the grave and because of it all man like myself doomed to be forgotten will be remembered by Jesus.