Dis Unity

Our families are suffering from a lack of unity. Discussions on politics and national events have made any kind of family gathering (even by ZOOM) filled with polarized positioning, often expressed very loudly.

Our churches are suffering from a lack of unity. My denomination is on the precipice of a historic split that will forever change who we are, and I am heartbroken over that.

Our nation is suffering from a lack of unity. We have become the Un-United States. The disunity on our streets, in our media, in the national government, and in our towns is destroying us.

Can there ever be unity in the world again? One would think that a global crisis such as a pandemic would have caused us to lay down our swords and turned them into ploughshares for the sake of humanity.

But no.

When evil raises its ugly head and godly people are silent, the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy us by targeting our unity first. Knowing that there is strength in numbers, disunity is the goal of every evil force around us. When the righteous scatter, the enemy prowls around looking for weaknesses.

As people of God, unity should be our goal. Jesus‘ most fervent prayer was that we would be ONE. We are called to be the body of Christ for the world, working together in harmony to bring the kingdom of peace to the earth.

Let’s look at our psalm today and see what it teaches us about unity.

Psalm 133 (New Revised Standard Version)

How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!

Unity is good. Unity is pleasant. Unity is a blessing. Like a fine and precious oil, God’s gift of unity should flow down the chins of his people.

It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down over the collar of his robes.

Just as the dew on the mountains comes after the refreshing rain, unity is a sign of what life-forevermore will be in the kingdom.

It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
    life forevermore.

Where in your circle of friends, family, community, or world can you be the voice of unity today? Where can you offer a sign of reconciliation to someone “across the aisle” that would bring a moment of peace? Where can you lay down your right to express your opinion so someone else might voice theirs, and then listen with the goal of mutual understanding?

We can’t fix the world overnight. But you can change your attitude. Make peace with someone today and pass on a blessing of kindred living that is calm, respectful, and peaceful. One day, when Christ returns, we will all take a knee….in unity.

Every Knee Shall Bow by Kathy Schumacher

A Thin Quiet

Whether it comes through a miracle, science, medicine, or nature’s natural progression, we all anticipate what it will feel like to hear the words “the pandemic is over.” We have complete faith that we WILL hear it. What we don’t know is if it will take six more weeks, six more months, or six more years. (God forbid!)

In the meantime, we hide in our caves and wait.

In our scripture today, we find Elijah hiding in a cave, fearing for his life. He has been chased there by the anti God-ers who have murdered the prophets and are now after him.

1 Kings 19 (Common English Version)

There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire.

We look to the strong winds of science to relieve us, but that hasn’t been accomplished just yet. We sit through an earthquake of medical advancements toward a vaccine, but so far, no joy. Even the fire of public policy that requires masks, hand-washing, lockdowns, and 6 feet of social distancing hasn’t eradicated this virus from the earth. Are all these things capable of slowing the rising curve? Yes. Is it happening fast enough? No.

After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

I think this is how the pandemic will end. Science and medicine are making great strides. Public policy is slowing things down and keeping us safe. But after throwing every human resource known to man toward solving it with a great show of wind, earth-moving, and fire, we still aren’t there yet. There will be a moment where God will speak it out of existence in a thin, quiet voice. But will we be able to hear him? In the end, as it is with everything that matters, we need God to save us.

14 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.”

God’s thin, quiet word saved Elijah. His thin, quiet word will save us, too. We just need to shut up all the SHOUTING at each other long enough to listen.

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16 Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”

God preserves those who remain faithful and wait. Will you be numbered among the faithful?

Quiet Daybreak by Wende Pritchard

When Songs are Silent

A few weeks ago I attended my conference’s Clergy Executive Session via ZOOM. This is an annual meeting where we affirm the commissioning and ordaining of new pastors, remember pastors who have died in the past year, receive reports of those who have chosen to go on leave or exit the denomination, etc. I logged in as I was finishing an outdoor class at my YMCA and the opening session began as I was driving home.

This was not a good plan. I was traveling on our busy bypass when all of a sudden a gorgeous baritone voice came through my phone. He began to sing “Be Thou My Vision.”

My favorite hymn.

When the bishop introduced him, she invited us to sing along from our multiple locations across Georgia and beyond.

I began to sing and immediately started to cry. It wasn’t just a finger-dabbing kind of crying; it was a full blown shoulder-shuddering, snot-flowing sob. This is not a good thing to do while driving on a busy summer day of beach traffic.

Singing is a beautiful, cathartic, uplifting, soul-stirring way to connect with the Holy Spirit. Somehow songs poke us in a place where we don’t usually get poked. Music resonates deep in our core, where we remember our mothers gently rocking and humming us to sleep and our daddies singing silly songs with us on long car rides.

Psalms are both painful and healing to me right now. They are painful in that they were written to be sung out loud on a journey with other pilgrims, which of course we can’t do right now. But they are also healing because I know that there WILL come a time when we can sing together again in large groups. Lord, hasten that day!

But for today, we sing silently with our eyes.

Psalm 105 (Common English Bible)

Give thanks to the Lord;
    call upon his name;
    make his deeds known to all people!
Sing to God;
    sing praises to the Lord;
    dwell on all his wondrous works!

Everyone I know, myself included, is hitting a wall right now. The mask wars, the number of COVID cases continuing to rise, remote learning gearing up to start (causing great stress for teachers, parents, and kids), waiting for days on end for COVID test results to come back, cabin fever, fears for our livelihood, sorrow over the 700,000 deaths worldwide, the lack of healthy social interaction…it is all getting to us. Tempers are fragile, friendships are frayed, families are not speaking to each other, and we need help. We need hope. We especially need to remind each other of the wondrous works God has done, is doing, and will do again.

Give praise to God’s holy name!
    Let the hearts rejoice of all those seeking the Lord!
Pursue the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always!
Remember the wondrous works he has done,
    all his marvelous works, and the justice he declared—
    you who are the offspring of Abraham, his servant,
        and the children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

When singing brings only tears, it is time to give silent praise. When a simple conversation provokes an angry response, it is time to seek the Lord. When everything you are doing feels overwhelming, remember God’s marvelous works, and let your heart rejoice.

Pursue the Lord and his strength when yours has run out. He will never run out on you.

Sing Songs of Silence by Michelle Robertson

Isaias

As I write this on Monday, Aug. 3rd, I am sitting in my window seat overlooking a sunlit canal. An Emergency Alert just made my Apple Watch vibrate with a notification that a storm surge warning is now in effect for my area. Life-threatening flooding is forecast, and my watch advises me to “urgently complete efforts to protect life and property.” A kayak goes by and I get a CNN alert that Hurricane Isaias-turned-Tropical Storm Isaiah is now predicted to become a hurricane again as it makes its way right toward the Outer Banks tomorrow.

Oh, 2020, you little prankster, you!

Here on the Outer Banks, hurricanes, nor’Easters, flooding, and high winds are no stranger to us. I have already brought all of the potential “flying objects” in, have downloaded several Netflix movies onto my iPad, and I am planning to spend the rest of this day writing before Isaias comes barging in and possibly takes out my internet or my power. Or both.

Jesus was no stranger to storms. In so many ways, his entire ministry was a matter of moving from one storm to another. The storm of disapproval, the storm of persecution, the storm of disbelief, (even from his own disciples!) all the way up to the final storm of crucifixion.

But it is safe to say that Jesus overcame EVERY storm.

Matthew 14 (Common English Version)

22 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

And Jesus says, “Come.” Come to me in the middle of your personal storm…the one that is keeping you awake at night and making the daytime miserable. Come to me in the fallout of your financial storm, and I will provide in ways you haven’t considered yet. Come to me in your pandemic storm, and I will show you ways to stay safe. Just come to me.

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

All YOU have to do is keep your eyes on Jesus in the storm. Don’t take your eyes off him for one second. Strong winds assaulting you? Keep looking at Jesus. Crashing waves threatening you? Keep your eyes on him. Starting to sink? Look up!

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down.

33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”

The Son of God is reaching out to grab your life and save you. It is only when you reach back that the wind will settle down.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus! Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.

The Calm Before Isaias by Wende Pritchard

Sleepless in Peniel

How are you sleeping? Are you getting enough rest? Or are your anxiety dreams so loud you can’t relax in your sleep?

This is a constant topic of conversation among my friends and family. Just a few days ago a friend described a dream where a dog was loose on her property and injured a neighbor, who then threatened to sue her. That same night my husband dreamt that a friend came over and when he went to leave, the lawn was filled with alligators. What the heck?

I don’t always remember my dreams, but several times a week I wake up exhausted from them. I hope and pray for all of us that when the pandemic is over, our sleep will be more restful.

Today we join Jacob at the brook of Jabbok. He is moving his family in accordance with God’s instruction to go back to the land of Canaan and rejoin his father Isaac. Things have deteriorated with his father-in-law Laban and it is time to skedaddle.

Genesis 32 (The Message)

22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

Sleepless nights can feel like wrestling matches. Indeed, it is often in the dark of the night that God comes to us to help us process things. Stress, anxiety, guilt, indecision, anger…our subconscious continues to deal with our waking issues even when we are dead asleep.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

Here is the good news. God always works things out for our good. All of the times when we are wrestling with which way to go will work out in the end if we remain true to God‘s direction…even when that place is far away from our comfort zone.

29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

Are you wrestling with something right now? Are your nights fraught with tossing and turning? Are you running toward God in your dreams, or away from him?

Jacob was blessed by God because he was OBEDIENT. He trusted God enough to pack up his entire family and move far away. He followed God’s direction at the expense of everybody’s comfort. And when God visited him for one last test of resolve, Jacob held on until the morning. And he lived to tell the story.

So stay the course. Hold on to God through the night, and when the sun comes up, you will see his blessing unfold.

The Day Breaks by Wende Pritchard

Abundance

One of the interesting things about life is negotiating the personalities of individual members in a group. In families, offices, institutions, and churches, people fall into different and sometimes opposing categories when it comes to taking a risk. Some are optimists, some are pessimists, some are risk-takers, others have a serious aversion to taking chances, some are followers, and some are leaders. If you ever want to see this in action, attend your church’s Finance Committee meeting. As the saying goes, “it takes all kinds.”

To put it another way, some are Tiggers and some are Eeyores. Tiggers see abundance. Eeyores see scarcity. One’s ability to take risks is firmly grounded in which one you are.

I fall into the risk-taking, glass always full, Pollyanna-lives-in-my-soul category, so I am always grateful to be balanced by the risk-averse folks who keep us in line and counsel caution. But sometimes God’s plan involves taking great leaps of faith.

I love the interplay between Jesus the risk-taker and the disciples, who are seriously risk-averse in this well-known story about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

Matthew 13 (Contemporary English Version)

13 After Jesus heard about John, he crossed Lake Galilee to go to some place where he could be alone. But the crowds found out and followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw the large crowd. He felt sorry for them and healed everyone who was sick.

Jesus saw the sick and felt sorry for them. What a beautiful statement of who Jesus is. He had tried to get away from the hustle and bustle of Messiah-life, and was probably feeling very burned out. I can relate, and I bet you can, too. If we all had a chance right now to get away to a place by the lake to just rest, I bet we would cherish that. But Jesus, ever mindful of people’s needs, tended to the large crowd.

15 That evening the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This place is like a desert, and it is already late. Let the crowds leave, so they can go to the villages and buy some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They don’t have to leave. Why don’t you give them something to eat?”

Here is the risk-taker at work. He tells the disciples that the people don’t have to leave because the disciples can give them something to eat. The Eeyores in the group looked at each other and likely thought the same thing: “W-W-With what??”

Jesus was teaching them to appreciate what they had and realize that everything we have is subject to multiplication. The trick is to offer it to the One who will multiply it for our good.

17 But they said, “We have only five small loaves of bread and two fish.” 18 Jesus asked his disciples to bring the food to him, 19 and he told the crowd to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish. He looked up toward heaven and blessed the food. Then he broke the bread and handed it to his disciples, and they gave it to the people.

In the Savior’s hands, the meager resources are offered to heaven and blessed. They provided so much food that there is an abundance of twelve large baskets of leftovers. God is never a God of scarcity, but always a God of abundance.

20 After everyone had eaten all they wanted, Jesus’ disciples picked up twelve large baskets of leftovers.

21 There were about five thousand men who ate, not counting the women and children.

The question for us today is, where are YOU offering your resources? Don’t be fooled. Just as the Lord can multiply what you offer him, so too can the Enemy. If all you offer is hate, violence, anger, selfishness, and vitriol, you can be sure the Enemy will take that and multiply it in a hurry.

But when you offer love, compassion, prayer, generosity, and peace, heaven will bless and multiply that in great abundance.

The choice is yours. What’s in your basket?

God’s Daily Abundance by Michelle Robertson

For the Good

A very long time ago, I worked for a wonderful church that went through a major building project. We purchased 63 acres of land three miles from our building and built a second campus with a thousand-seat worship center. Just months before we took occupancy of the building, the congregation was invited to write their favorite scripture on the concrete floor before the carpet was laid. Folks were encouraged to figure out where they would probably sit in the new sanctuary (based on where they sat every Sunday in the current one) and write their scripture in that spot. See! We understand how important “your pew” is to you!

The other pastors and I chose a place in the front where we anticipated sitting. I took the big Sharpie pen and wrote, “For God can use ALL things for the good of those who love him, and who are called to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I left that church 11 years ago, and those words are still there on the floor. I have experienced the truth of that scripture all of my life. No matter what comes our way….death, cancer, job loss, estrangement, pandemics….God can use those things for our GOOD.

If we let him.

And that’s the point.

Let’s back up a moment and look at that verse in its context:

Romans 8 (Contemporary English Version)

26 In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. 27 All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God’s people.

The power of these two verses is profound.

When we are weak, the Spirit is here to help.

When we don’t know how to pray, all we have to do is groan.

God knows our thoughts at all times.

He understands what the Holy Spirit is doing…and what the Holy Spirit is doing is praying the prayer you can’t form the words to say.

Feel better yet?

 28 We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.

Here is the trick. God is always at work for our good, but we have to yield to his understanding of what is good. We have to train ourselves to have the faith and humility to lay down our concept of “good” in exchange for his.

When I left that church, I was convinced it wasn’t a good thing. I was wrong. When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I knew no good would come of it. Good things did come. When this horrific pandemic hit, I gave up all hope that there would be anything good in life again. Yet all around me I see evidence to the contrary. I see people reaching out to help others in ways they NEVER would have done in their pre-pandemic busyness. I see families slowing down and spending quality time with each other. I see ingenuity, creativity, compassion, and scientific understanding growing exponentially. People are reading more scripture and experiencing the presence of God in new and surprising ways. And as a nation, we are confronting and discussing centuries-old issues that we have suppressed for way too long. Do we see a lot of bad right now? Absolutely. But yielding to God’s understanding of “good” requires that we see beyond the bad.

Need more convincing? How about this:

Because we are driving less, places like Washington DC, Los Angeles, and cities in China are reporting the cleanest air they have seen in decades.

Less large ship traffic in the waters is providing relief during the annual migration of sound-sensitive animals such as humpback whales.

Walmart just announced they will be closed this Thanksgiving. Folks, that is not only good, it’s a miracle!

So is the pandemic good? Oh, heck no. But can God use bad things for our good in some way? Yes. Even in this horrific time, God is still and always will be working for our good.

Where can you claim the good today? What one thing has gotten better since this started? What aspect of your life would you not go back to when the pandemic is lifted?

Think on those things, and ponder them in your heart today.

Quiet at the Docks by Michelle Robertson

The Smallest Seed

We are supposed to be having Vacation Bible School right now at my church, but of course the pandemic has changed that. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I have always had the role of storyteller at VBS, and the creative fun that ensues with sweaty, wiggly kids is one of the best parts of being a pastor.

Today’s parable took me back to a time when I was working with two off-the-wall pastors at VBS. We shared the story time, and I suggested we create a “growing plant” to use for this parable. You make it by rolling folded sheets of newspaper into a tight roll, and then cut slits from the top of the roll about half way down through all but the outer sheet. Then you tape around the base to secure it. When you reach inside and pull out the very center sheet, it grows into a large tree-like thing. If you use enough paper, it can be over six feet tall.

So I prepared several of these to use with each group, and the three of us took turns telling parts of the story.

Well, if you’ve ever been to VBS, you know that toward the end of the week and by the end of the day, the participants get punchy. So do the pastors. So at our last session, as I was pulling the paper out and making the tree grow, the narrating pastor decided to change the story and described how the mustard tree attacked the farmer. On cue, the other pastor grabbed the tree and pretended it was attacking him. His academy award-winning performance included the tree pushing him down as he wrestled with it, causing him to roll off the steps of the chancel and down the center aisle.

Well, that’s one way to tell the story! The kids LOST it. I still laugh at the memory of it!

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

The applications here are endless.

With a tiny grain of hope, life is renewed.

With the smallest seed of faith, peace is restored.

With just a little perseverance, a door is unlocked and you are set free.

With one man’s actions on a cross two thousand years ago, an entire world was saved.

With one word gently spoken, a lashing out of anger is prevented.

With one small act of kindness, a day is made.

With one selfless move, an accident is prevented.

With one smile, a stranger decides to hang on for another day.

With one quick phone call, a lonely person is comforted.

The question for us today is, where is God calling you to be that one small thing? What little effort on your part could turn things around for someone else?

You are the mustard seed. Go and plant peace, hope, and love in someone’s heart. You can make all the difference in someone’s day today.

From Small Seeds by Barbara Hudson

Talk About It

What do you like to talk about with your friends? Do you discuss current affairs? Family updates? The weather? Fashion? Politics…..oh, never mind. Hardly anybody ventures THERE any more!

I have a delightful moment once a week when I ZOOM with my two daughters and my niece. We talk about everything and anything. We catch up on the news of their children and jobs, we discuss the pandemic, we giggle about a feisty lady named Nancy whose room is opposite my niece’s office in the nursing home where she works, and we recommend books and shows we have enjoyed binging during the Pandemic.

Apparently there is a Japanese show called “Terrace House” that captured their imagination. I tried to interest them in the History Channel’s survivalist competition “Alone,” but I’m sure I lost them when I described how a contestant not only took down a 600 lb. moose, but killed a wolverine WITH AN AX. Those were my exact words as our free ZOOM call cut off, and that benediction has stayed with them for a week. “WITH AN AX!”

The content of our conversations with one another reveals who we are. Talking is our way to spur one another on, offer encouragement, support each other, give suggestions and corrections, and speak out loud the things that are nestled in our hearts.

In today’s psalm, we hear a call to speak about our Lord. We are invited to tell about his deeds among the people. We are asked to talk about his wondrous works:

Psalm 105 (New King James Version)

Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

Think back for a moment when you first learned about God and his love for you. You didn’t fall into that knowledge in a library, most likely. I’m guessing you didn’t take a walk on the beach and have a sudden revelation. No, chances are SOMEBODY TOLD YOU.

He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,”

So here is your challenge for the day: go and tell. Tell somebody about God’s goodness in your life and his covenant of love that lasts forever. Talk about what having a relationship with God means to you. You may be the only Jesus somebody will see and hear today!

Go, and tell.

This little guy came to Worship on the Lawn. Photo by Sharon Whitehurst

Truly Happy

What would it take for you to be truly happy? Deeply, unquestionably, full-tilt happy? I know that is an enormous question, especially if you are reading this first thing in the morning. You may need to go grab another cup of coffee.

I think that there are some answers that come more easily than others. For those who are in places or systems of oppression, “being free” probably comes to mind. For those who are battling a serious illness, “being well” is a natural response. I would hazard a guess that for everyone reading this today, “the end of the pandemic” rings true.

Those responses represent things that are beyond our control. What is something you can control that would bring you happiness?

Psalm 128 (Common English Bible)

Everyone who honors the Lord,
        who walks in God’s ways, is truly happy!

There is always a practical simplicity to the Psalms, isn’t there? The Psalmist boils true happiness down to two precepts: 1. honor God, and 2. follow his ways.

Other translations use the word fear in place of honor. I have never cared for that, as we tend to define fear as be afraid when we read it. But fear is understood here as reverential trust. That changes it, doesn’t it? Having a reverential trust of God and following his commandments is the key to happiness. Simple, right?

Wrong.

For most of us, following God’s ways as spelled out in God’s Word is very difficult indeed. Our need to assert our free will, our need to have things our own way, our weakness against temptation, and our easily distracted lives get in the way. We can read and study God’s Word until the cows come home, but living God’s Word is a different matter all together.

But the Psalmist goes on to describe the reward for honoring God:

You will definitely enjoy what you’ve worked hard for—
    you’ll be happy; and things will go well for you.
In your house, your wife will be like a vine full of fruit.
  All around your table, your children will be like olive trees, freshly planted.
That’s how it goes for anyone who honors the Lord:
    they will be blessed!

That’s how it goes! Honor God, and you and your family will be blessed by knowing that you are faithfully serving in ways that are meaningful and significant.

When we truly honor God, we make what is important to him important to us. When we follow his ways, we behave in the way that Jesus behaved…tolerant, accepting, forgiving, inclusive, and most of all, loving. Every day that we make strides in those areas we are guaranteed to come closer to true happiness.

May the Lord bless you from Zion.
    May you experience Jerusalem’s goodness your whole life long.

Blessings, goodness, and happiness await those who walk with God. If you don’t have those things in your life right now, consider the path you are on. Good things come to those whose lives are turned toward God.

Look for the Cross by Bonnie Bennett