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February 6

O Lord, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

Psalm 16:5-6

This was inscribed on the sundial outside of the library at my seminary. As I had a difficult time with the ordination process and was never ordained in this denomination, I have thought of these words as excluding me and only pertaining to those privileged few who the denomination deemed worthy. It has always made me angry because I was excluded.

Reading this psalm today, I now see that I can claim these words for myself. Jesus does not exclude me. Although I am not worthy, Jesus declares me worthy as Jesus declares all those who trust in him worthy to enter the kingdom.

Jesus is my portion. My boundary lines do fall in pleasant places.

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February 5

The hills stand about Jerusalem;
so does the Lord stand round about his people,
Psalm 125:2

This verse reminds me of the scene in 2 Kings where the city was threatened by a military enemy and everyone was very frightened. The prophet, I think it was Elisha, is calm because he can see God’s chariots of fire all around the city in the hills. Chariotswere the tanks of their day. This was God standing between God’s people and their enemy. Although militaristic in character, the unseen presence of God protecting the people with overwhelming force always thrills me. God’s power is more than I can comprehend.

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February 4

It is better to rely on the Lord

than to put any trust in flesh.

Psalm 118:8

When we read the psalm appointed for the day in church we read it responsively

  • in unison

  • by half verse

  • By whole verse

With the lector leading and the congregation following. Any way it is done, it is done in a monotone.

Many of the psalms (I cannot be sure yet if all the psalms) are expressive of joy, anger, sorrow, despair or delight. In its sometimes repetitive structure, this psalm celebrates God’s protection and saving power.

It is good to know Jesus has my back.

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February 3

“Be still, then, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Psalm 46:11-12

God is in charge; therefore, I am safe.

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February 2

Psalm 24

This has been my favorite psalm since I was a girl. I have no idea how I learned it in some halting way. I’m not that good at memorization. I do not have an identic memory. I only remember partially.

The mystery to me is how I learned it enough. My mother’s voice sounds in my mind. We did not read the Bible. Perhaps I heard it in school? I went to public school when the Bible was still read every morning. It is why I know the Lord’s Prayer. I learned it there. We usually read the psalms so perhaps it was read frequently.

It was the King James or Revised Standard. The language was so ccaptivating. The question of who and what this who would be like. The vastness of making the earth and the wonder of establishing it on the floods. The gates were not as interesting, but the procession was.

It still thrills.

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Talking with Strangers

Listening to Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2:25-38) this morning in church I realized what a strange story the Presentation of Jesus really is.

Picture this. A young mother and her husband (young or old it really doesn’t matter) and their infant son, less than six weeks old, go to the temple. They are accosted by both Simeon and Anna. We act as if this is perfectly normal. Two old people come up to them and say crazy things. Simeon even grabs the child away from his mother to bless him. Simeon is described as just and devout and living in Jerusalem while Anna is homeless, spending all her time in the temple precincts. She must have looked like a scarecrow since she fasted all the time.

People were probably used to her sayings. Did they make any sense to them or did they just write her off, trying to avoid her when they came in? Did Simeon keep his revelations to himself or did he speak in the temple courtyards?

We typically avoid the homeless and people making pronouncements on the streets. We call them mentally ill, disturbed or just religious fanatics.

Would they have a word for me if I listened? Would I marvel like Mary and Joseph or would I be in a hurry to leave them behind? Prudence would suggest removing myself from any situation, especially when physical contact was involved.

Does God still speak in this way to us?

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February 1

O Lord, your love endures for ever;
do not abandon the works of your hands.
The Lord will make good his purpose for me;
Psalm 138:9

Imploring God and trusting God all in the same verse. The works of God’s hands are many. This may encompass the entire universe. But in that vastness, I am confident of God‘s purpose for me, the individual, not even a speck in the infinity of the universe.

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January 31

Our help is in the Name of the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 124:8

My path turns more and more to Jesus and focusing on him. However, I must remind myself to stay engaged with this world. I think it is in Romans 12 that Paul tells us to not conform ourselves to this world and to know we are in it. The Bible does not give us a good guy for participation in democracies. It knows of imperial Rome in the monarchies of Judah and Israel. These are difficult days and since I was a girl I think of myself as a patriot but I am watching my country slip away. I feel powerless to do anything about it.

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January 30

Happy are the people whose strength is in you!
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.
Psalm 84:4

More and more I am thinking about how I follow Jesus. I am trying to make this more a part of my life.

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January 15

Psalm 119:1-24

No particular quotation today.

Psalm 119 is an acrostic, that is, it is an alphabetical piece. Each stanza consists of all lines beginning with the same letter. Acrostics denotes completeness.

Psalm 119 talks a great deal about the law, decrees, commands and statutes. It can get quite tedious and each line does not really connect with the next. But if you think about it always having to begin each line with a particular character, it makes sense there is a stilted quality to it.

Thinking about the psalm’s focus on the law today reminded me that Torah, law, can also be translated teaching or revelation. I am coming to think of the psalm as less legalistic and more about gettingaligned with God’s way of thinking and doing. If I take it one step further and say getting behind Jesus’ commandments, there really is only one: Love the Lord you’re God. Jesus follows this up with love your neighbor as yourself. If the double love commandment is the “law” to meditate on, Psalm 119 becomes far more palatable.