Wisdom Was in the Beginning

We are currently in the Book of Proverbs, and immediately, there is a power I find when reading complete chapters.  My experience with Proverbs remained limited to cherry picking a verse here, or a verse there.  Experiencing the power and meaning of the written word in context provides richer meaning to my favorite passages.  One understands why and what circumstances pressed the author to write in a certain way with particular words and phrases.

Proverbs says that wisdom itself was the first of God’s creation. “ADONAI made me as the beginning of his way, the first of his ancient works.  I was appointed before the world, before the start, before the earth’s beginnings” (Pr. 8:22-23 CJSB).  The importance of a process that was not built on randomness, but at its very core, began with a grand design full of thought and purpose.  The creation of the world started with wisdom a central helper in the construction of the world.

The Book of Proverbs reminds me that nothing established by God is accidental, but at the very center of its being or purpose, is well-intentioned creation, giving light to the world.  As another wisdom writing states, “For everything there is a season, a right time for every intention under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1 CJSB).  Randomness remains in chaos, while order births meaning.  Our journey, while not always predictable, always has a purpose that enfolds out of our experiences.

Praise be to our God, who restores us to our right path.  Our Great Creator, who designed wisdom to be placed in our very DNA.  I hope that we may embrace the gift given to us.  We may listen to the spirit, and with discerning hearts, follow the path set before us by our amazing Savior.

Our Songs of Ascent

Psalms 120-134 are known as the Psalms of Ascent. The title possibly refers to physically climbing the outer stairs of the temple to reach the center square. Songs reflected melodies that started low and gradually got higher with each idea sung. The primary focus reflected God’s elevation and our constant desire to reach up for His guidance.

Our world teaches us to keep our head to the grindstone and get the job done.  While it is important to be productive, the Creator of the Universe wants us to look up and remember to give thanks for our deliverance.  Just as God calls us from the pit of despair, “ADONAI, I call to you from the depths; hear my cry, Adonai!  Let your ears pay attention to the sound of my pleading” (Ps. 130:1-2 CJSB), we are to acknowledge the hope and assurance found in those who are faithful.  The Psalmist expresses a strong dependence and commitment to God’s protection when he proclaims “Those who trust in ADONAI are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but remains forever” (Ps. 125:1 CJSB).

This week I invite you to join me in taking moments to reflect on God’s deliverance in your own lives.  What ways do you stop and raise your head to offer the Holy One your joys and concerns?  Please feel free to share your moments of divine revelation with me by posting a response.  Allow the blessings of God to overwhelm you as you recount all that the Lord has (and continues) to do for you.

From Song to Song

Today’s reading passed the 100 mark (we actually finished Psalm 101). In many ways, I feel like I am doing a disservice to the power of the mighty songs of God. Reading three to four Psalms per day is like taking a hymnal and simply reading the words of three to four songs each day. There is no melody to emphasize the beauty of the phrase, nor are there people with whom to raise my voice. Silence does not capture one ounce of the beautiful music of God.

 I know there is power in proclaiming the Word. As a doctoral student (boy that sounds nice) my emphasis was proclamation and worship. I learned techniques and ways to best express the meaning of content and honor the beauty of the language of God. Psalms is the ancients Jew’s hymnal. We experience songs of praise, songs of protection, and songs of absolute sadness. Our complete DNA exists within all 150 songs. Each one pleads for God’s presence in all times; happy and sad. Sing to God, who can handle anything. Praise be to God!

Maybe next year, I can reflect on the Psalms by slowing down and taking each hymn much slower than I can right now. My hope is to sing each one, and feel the presence of the Spirit as expressed in the Psalmists’ eternal devotion to their God. May we take a moment to Lift up our eyes to the hills. From where does our help come? It comes from the Lord (Ps. 121:1-2 ESV). Let us take time to raise our voices in song, united in the goodness of our God.

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

A Psalm of Joy for “MacDonald the Older” – Happy Birthday

I praise you, oh God, for out of the chaos of my life, You step over the darkness of my soul and create. Where once I believed there would be no new life, now there is an everlasting presence of a new creation. My son came into the world, and since the very moment of His birth, I have never stopped giving thanks for your gift.

I stand in wonder at your deeds, oh God. This young man, who shares my DNA most amazingly. His expression of music is quite amazing. I knew that he had the gift when he came from his mother’s womb. I gathered him in my arms as he screamed and cried. Softly, I began to sing a song, and he stopped and listened to my voice. I knew we had an instant connection.

How vast are the depths of emotions, oh God, how great is the love of a father lavished upon the son? Thank you for the joy of finding purpose in a world where nothing else makes sense. This little one, wrapped in a blanket of holy love between his mother and father. Bonds that fashioned a home together with a precious glue that holds us together in the most difficult of circumstances.

I thank you, oh God. All that I have, all that I am, is because of You. We are called to be present at Your table and continue to be grateful for all that You give to us. May we continue to walk in Your path forever. Amen!

Comfort Me, Oh God!

“You who have shown me great distresses and troubles will revive me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You will increase my greatness and You will encircle and comfort me (Ps. 71:20-21 CEB).

The psalmist calls to God, claiming that He is the source from which all things originate. Adonai shows great distress and revives the heart and soul of those who suffer. How can this be? Doesn’t Almighty God want us to be our best selves? Why show us horrible things?

The reality is that free will is part of our gift. We respond (either positively or negatively), and others must live with our choices. When a pebble drops onto clear water, the reaction of the event produces waves to extend far away from the point of impact. Everything in the path of the waves experiences a disruption of peace.

We, as humans, know what it is like to suffer the actions of a pebble. Someone makes a choice and effects many lives. Sometimes it feels like a small rock, while other times it feels like a massive boulder caused a large title wave. Whatever the size of the stone, our actions carry consequences.

With the concept of a free will in mind, the psalmist (David) declares that his allegiance to God does not shield him from events generated from the people around him. The Holy One may show him great distress through the actions of others, but rest assure the God of our understanding will bring restoration to our souls. Others may lead us to harm, but the Creator will deliver us and provide us safety.

To those who are affected by other people’s poor choices, hear the good news, God will deliver us. We find our shelter by holding on to God’s protection. In the shadow of Divine wings, we rise out of any catastrophe that holds us hostage. We face the things that hold us down and break free to experience revitalization. Praise be to God; that we can trust in Him, especially in the harshest of circumstances.

When God is Silent

“Wake up! Get up, my God, my Lord! Defend me and my cause! Give judgment for me, ADONAI, my God, as your righteousness demands” (Ps. 35:23-24 CJSB).

We know that we are children of the Most-High God. As His kids, there is a certain expectation that our Father will protect us from all of our enemies. He will cut them down to size. After all, don’t we provide that kind of security for our own sons and daughters? Someone oversteps their boundaries and we put them back in line. Don’t mess with my children!

If we read several of the Psalmist’s works, it appears that God is silent when David needs His help. Why is the Creator so quiet? He should strike out and punish those who rail against the faithful, who profess allegiance to the one true God. But, it seems as if we cry out in need, only to have our petitions go unanswered. Where is this amazing Deity, when we are at our lowest place? “Stand up! Help me in my defense against the ones who want to take me down. Show them all your power, Lord.”

There is an old saying that “Evil thrives when good men do nothing.” In silence, we allow those with the loudest voices to take center stage, often finding ways to strike us down. In stillness, the light darkens until there is very little sign that hope is still present. The flame of God’s love no longer feels close to us. In despair, we feel utterly alone as we beg once more, “God, please do something.”

In the darkest of moments, we find a glimmer of light; a touch of a hand, writing that evokes a memory, kind words in the most unusual of circumstances. Whatever we see, we remember that we are not alone. Emanuel, God, is with us! The promise of the Creator reiterates a call to remember that we are never abandoned. Praise be to God for the promise of complete protection, even the worst of all possible places.

Psalm 15 – Living in God’s Presence

“ADONAI, who can rest in your tent? Who can live on your holy mountain? Those who live a blameless life, who behave uprightly, who speak truth from their hearts” (Ps. 15:1-2 CJSB).

Practicing hospitality and kindness does not offer me the luxury to sit back and serve as judge over those who aren’t worshiping as they should. Radical love transforms me to be a living witness to the care of my fellow men and women. In other words, my actions dictate my place before God and not my condemnation of my neighbors. According to King David, our hearts must remain open and affirming to all.

I don’t believe that humanity possesses the capability to follow the path without making mistakes. Praise be to God that perfection is not the requirement. We do the best we know with Divine guidance. The most important part of the journey is our willingness to follow God. Our heart’s language reflects our action. If we say we love the Creator, our actions reflect our commitment to live according to His statutes. We stumble from time to time, but if we are faithful, we rediscover the path.

On this day, let us rejoice and seek to love one another as Christ loves us. Some people are easier to live with than others, but we must commit to the highest ideas of ethical responsibility. “This is my command: that you keep on loving each other as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12 CJSB). Rise above anger and resentment and chose to be a living witness to the one who delivered you. Praise be to God for another day to live in peace with each other.

From Job to Doctors to Psalms

Distinguished Doctors

This week shaped up to be a hectic and beautiful time in my life.  While still maintaining all of my Biblical readings, I graduated with a Doctorate of Ministry degree from The Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  The adventure into doctor land proved terrific.  While in the process, I discovered some incredible people who shared the path with me.  They are forever friends who continue to bless me and serve as a source of inspiration.  The picture above captures a little of the joy that we share as an incredible team of friends.  Don’t let some of the faces fool you.  There is a lot of wisdom in the souls of the people in the photograph.  We love each other fiercely and support one another through the darkest of times.  They are my tribe, my people.

And now to the end of Job and the beginning of Psalms… Job is a prime example of maintaining faith through the darkest of times.  His friends raised horrible arguments against him while he needed support.  His wife could only respond, “Just curse God and die!” (Job 2:9 NIV).  With friends like this sorry lot of characters, who needs enemies.  Job did not listen but responded out of his absolute allegiance to the Creator.  Everything may come and go in the world, but the God of our salvation remains steadfast, even in the darkest of circumstances.

What we learn from Job is that suffering is not always fair, and when we experience moments of unexpected chaos, we must hold fast to the One, who delivers us and raises our bodies out of the deep waters.  God is our lifeline.  May we never cease to realize the source of our strength.  Praise be to Him who loved us before we were ever born.

Job and His So-Called Friends

The epic poem of Job tackles some of life’s most difficult questions regarding the nature of suffering.  The friends (Zophar, Eliphaz, and Bildad) that surround Job represent traditional theology regarding who is to blame when bad things happen.  “If anything is wrong, you have done something to create this chaos.  There is no such thing as innocent suffering.”  Job refuses their ideas and challenges God himself.

We know what it is like when the walls of our house fall on top of us, and we struggle to make sense of why things happen.  We are quick to name a unique defect in ourselves to explain horrible events and circumstances beyond our control.  “What is wrong with me?  It is my fault that my son has this disability.”  We live mired in guilt and resentment.

We may exclaim that there is innocent suffering, but our beliefs and thoughts direct us to self-flagellation.  Ultimately, we resign ourselves to the notion that somewhere along the line, God messed up when the Divine created me.  I am a mistake.  We carry this very ill-conceived idea that we are very flawed in our inner core and run from anything that insinuates that we are as good as anyone else.  We are destined to always fall short of the mark.

Those of us who struggle with chronic illness know this feeling all too well.  From the very beginning of the diagnosis, we blame ourselves.  “What did I do to give this to my child?  God is punishing me because I lived my life so horribly wrong.”  We bury ourselves in a sea of unrealistic assumptions about our innermost being.

Hear the truth as affirmed in the good news of God, we are loved, we are restored, and we are made whole.  There may be many things that are left to holy mystery, a child is diagnosed with some type of illness, our lives fall apart without warning, investments fall upside down.  Whatever may happen, this we know, we are created in the image of God, we are the children of the Holy One, and Christ’s strength will sustain us in every situation.  Praise be to the Most-High God, who fills us with holy light in the face of unspeakable darkness.

Hearing the Torah Again for the First Time

Chapter Nine is a song of praise and a quick history recap about God’s guidance, delivery, and protection of the Hebrew people.  For those who want a Cliff Notes version of the Hebrew Bible, you found the right place.  We rediscover the Holy One as creator, redeemer, and friend.  God’s love is indicated at the very beginning of the story of our planet.

Many of those in attendance heard the sacred accounts for the very first time.  I remember my earliest memories of God.  They helped shape and form me into the person that I am today.  I can only imagine the connection to the Holy Spirit as Biblical passages took on new meaning.  The creator of the universe selected the people of Israel to be chosen, set apart for service.  Their lives changed, for like me in my youth, they heard the words and were transformed.

For a lot of us, we stray far away from the faith of our childhood only to lose sight of our Father in heaven.  “I can’t seem to find my way back to the path!”  In a moment of frustration, we forget who God is in our world.  The purpose of pleasing God is no longer a priority.  Little by little, each lesson from our youth surrenders to the chaos and demands of staying afloat in a world that could sink us to the bottom of the ocean.  God is a fleeting memory.

And then, through divine providence, we discover the path on which our feet touch holy ground.  The Holy Spirit works a miracle through us so that we may rediscover the love of the Most-High God.  And hearing the scripture read again, for the very first time, we are overwhelmed with Divine love.  Praise be to the Living God, who always takes us back with open arms.

christopherjoiner

Some Thoughts Along the Way

Cazandra Campos-MacDonald

We take our journey with love and hope.

Perseverance Runner

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

strugglewell

That marriages in crisis will find Biblical solutions and reconciliation

jefflust

Reflections on leadership and what it means to be the church God intends for the 21st century.