Secret Decoders

There is a fun scene in the movie A Christmas Story where young Ralphie has finally received his secret decoder wheel after sending in the required amount of Ovaltine labels. This will help him decipher an important message from Little Orphan Annie that just might save the world! He works the decoder feverishly while locked in the bathroom. As the letters and words emerge, his sense of purpose grows with each turn of the dial. Finally the message appears!

“Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”

It is a sadder and wiser Ralphie that slowly re-enters the world, having experienced his first bait-and-switch “crummy commercial.” How disappointing!

I must confess I feel this way every time I click onto what looks to be a good article and discover that it is flooded with advertisements that blink on and off like the Vegas strip at midnight. I clicked on a news article on the west coast wildfires and was instantly inundated with ads for Zulilly, Wayfair, and something called Bud Light Seltzer. Is that even a thing?

The neat thing about today’s Psalm is that it takes a kind of decoder ring to get the full message. It is one of eight alphabetic acrostic psalms in the Bible and there is possibly some hidden meaning not only in its content, but in its form.

Alphabetic acrostics go through the Hebrew alphabet with the first letter of the first word of each line in alphabetical order. The “secret message” of a psalm that goes from A to Z (or more correctly, Aleph to Taw) suggests a completeness and wholeness that points to our relationship with God. The secret message in its form says that with God we are UNBROKEN.

In more practical terms, a psalm written in alphabetic acrostic is also easier to memorize.

Keeping in mind that the decoded message is “You are complete and unbroken,” read this psalm and think about what is missing in your walk today that needs to be filled in so that you might feel whole.

Psalm 145 (Common English Bible)

I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.

Do you bless and praise God forever and always, or only on the good days?

One generation will praise your works to the next one,
    proclaiming your mighty acts.
They will talk all about the glorious splendor of your majesty;
    I will contemplate your wondrous works.
They will speak of the power of your awesome deeds;
    I will declare your great accomplishments
.

They will rave in celebration of your abundant goodness;
    they will shout joyfully about your righteousness
.

    The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    very patient, and full of faithful love.

Remind yourself of this truth if you are feeling broken this morning.

9 The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
    God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork!”
10 All that you have made gives thanks to you, Lord;
    all your faithful ones bless you!
11 They speak of the glory of your kingdom;
    they talk all about your power,
12     to inform all human beings about God’s power
    and the majestic glory of God’s kingdom.

When you got up this morning, did you remember God’s compassion?

13 Your kingdom is a kingship that lasts forever;
    your rule endures for all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all that he says,
    faithful in all that he does.
14 The Lord supports all who fall down,
    straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
    and you give them their food right on time,
16     opening your hand
    and satisfying the desire of every living thing.

And let us not forget that God provides!

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
    faithful in all his deeds.
18 The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
    to all who call out to him sincerely.
19 God shows favor to those who honor him,
    listening to their cries for help and saving them.
20 The Lord protects all who love him,
    but he destroys every wicked person.
21 My mouth will proclaim the Lord’s praise,
    and every living thing will bless God’s holy name
        forever and always.

Make your day complete by contemplating these things. I know it’s long (all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet-long) but read it again. God will fill in your empty spaces with his presence and the glorious splendor of his majesty. From A to Z, God’s goodness is everlasting, and with him you are unbroken.

Unbroken by Wende Pritchard

I’m So Mad I Could…

Let’s play a fun “finish-the-sentence” game! Finish this with your favorite response: I’m so mad I could….

Spit Nails.

Punch someone in the throat.

Scream.

Snatch you bald. (OK, that’s a southern one…)

I began a five-mile run with my partner yesterday with one or more of these sentences. My aggravation was a familiar one. I had been without internet for five days after spending the entire first day getting no satisfaction from the 1-800-WEDON’TCARE internet provider.

I finally got an appointment five days later and when they showed up, the problem was just as I had predicted. The surveyors who surveyed the lot next door had driven a spike through my line. Which I knew and had tried to explain to the agent I spoke to after an HOUR of working through the automated call system. An agent who was reading from a script. So even though I knew the problem, I still had to “unplug, then replug the modem after waiting five minutes” at least three times in order to satisfy her. Only to find out that she doesn’t actually make the appointments…you have to wait for the local dispatcher to call and make one with you. Three days later. For five days out. Oy vey!

So as I was venting about this to my partner, I realized that my feelings of frustration and anger were expressing themselves by verbalizing aggression. All of my chosen idioms connected my displeasure with a physical act.

It is so easy for anger to take hold of your heart. And what takes hold of your heart can easily come out in your actions.

So here is your challenge for today. Read this beautiful Psalm and get IT into your heart.

Let’s pause for a moment…what is in your heart right now? Are you aggravated? Hopeless? In despair? Wanting to give up? Feeling mad about everything? Dreading remote school starting again? Ready for this stupid pandemic to be over?

If you leave those things in your heart all day, no good will come of it.

Psalm 145 (Common English Bible)

    “The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    very patient, and full of faithful love.
    The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
    God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork!”

The Lord is patient and merciful. Think about it! He is putting up with ALL of our nonsense, and still he is full of faithful love. Amazing. And by his own hand, our desires are satisfied. He cares for all of his creation so much he even died on the cross for it. Can you imagine a love like that? How can we stay mad?

Listen, anger is a normal thing. It’s all right to be angry when something goes wrong. But it is never good to stay angry. That only hurts your own heart.

The Lord supports all who fall down,
    straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
    and you give them their food right on time,
16     opening your hand
    and satisfying the desire of every living thing.


17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
    faithful in all his deeds.
18 The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
    to all who call out to him sincerely.
19 God shows favor to those who honor him,
    listening to their cries for help and saving them
.

This Psalm reminds us that we are God’s hands and feet in the world and we are invited to show the kindness and thoughtfulness that marks us as God-followers. It is OUR job to support all who fall down and are bent low. I don’t know about you, but when I’m mad at the internet company, I don’t have any kindness in me for anyone. Forgive me, Lord. Take away my selfishness so that I might be of use to you!

How can you reflect God’s compassion and patience today? Who needs your saving touch? Where can you extend mercy instead of frustration? God listens to his people’s cries for help….it’s up to us to listen with him. Come Lord, and empty out our hearts so that we might be filled with faithful love.

His Faithful Love Endures Forever by Michelle Robertson


Slow to Anger

Are you slow or quick to anger? Someone I know is VERY quick to anger. Before the offense is even formed in her mind, the explosion is coming out of her mouth. Another person I know is slow to anger. He is thoughtful, measured, and considerate of everyone’s opinions before he responds. Luckily, these two people are married to each other. Isn’t God funny that way?

The thing I appreciate about the one who is quick to anger is that once the explosion is over, she moves on. I have never known her to hold a grudge. There’s something to be said for that.

But those who are slow to anger are more like God himself. And thank God that God is slooooow to anger!! Otherwise we would have all been smote by now…and some of us would have been smote several times over. Deservedly.

That’s what is amazing about God. He never gives us what we deserve, thanks be to God.

Psalm 145 (New Revised Standard Version)

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

Such a wonderful word of reassurance to us today. There probably isn’t one of us who doesn’t need his steadfast love and compassion right about now. Part of the challenge of living through this pandemic is HOLDING OUR TEMPER. If you’re like me, you are feeling especially fragile right now and everything is annoying. My irritation meter is set on High and it is taking all of my self control to not respond to things around me. Do you feel that way?

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to all people your  mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

But the psalmist sets out a bigger picture.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
    and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.

The Lord indeed raises up all who are bowed down under the pressures of life. And he holds us up as we are falling. Take a moment to feel his arms around you, supporting you in your stumbles and struggles.

Sometime today, this week, or maybe in the next five minutes, you will feel annoyed. That annoyance will want to express itself in anger.

Don’t let it. Take a deep breath, walk away, and remember how God deals with YOU.

Slow to anger…it’s a God-thing.

The Glorious Splendor of God’s Kingdom by Wende Pritchard