When you think of something that is timeless, what comes to mind? In art, you might recall pieces like the Mona Lisa or the Statue of David. In music, surely Beethoven’s Fifth and Bizet’s Carmen pop up. In cars it would have to be the Ford Model T or a 1960s era Corvette. In Rock and Roll it would be Stairway to Heaven or anything by Queen. (Argue with me!)

But when it comes to the Psalms there is only ONE. Heads and tails, the 23rd Psalm stands above the rest. Because of its inclusion in most funeral liturgies, it may be the most read aloud scripture of all time. At least in this pastor’s experience it certainly is the one scripture I have read aloud the most and for good reason: it is absolutely beautiful. It teaches us about the nature of God, it includes lyrical phrases, it proclaim’s God’s majesty, and it speaks to the heart of every pilgrim wanderer. It’s timeless!

Psalm 23 (New King James Version)

 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

I will always remember having an epiphany during a church matriarch’s funeral. I was preparing to read the 23rd Psalm as a soloist was singing. When my eyes hit the phrase “valley of the SHADOW of death” I realized that God was reminding us that death is just a mere shadow. When the light of Christ hits your life you don’t have to fear what lurks in the shadows any more. His light brings life.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

If you’ve had a rough week, meditate on these words. You will dwell in the house of the Lord FOREVER. Surely that balances out the aggravations of inflammatory politics, the constant threat of this pandemic, the uncertainty of our economy, all of our personal struggles, and the upcoming elections. ALL of these things will pass away and God assures us that the days of our lives will be filled with goodness and mercy.

Thanks be to God!

Valley of Shadows by Kathy Schumacher

A Really Good Day

What would a really good day look like to you right now? Attending a college football game surrounded by a blaze of russet-colored trees with a crisp breeze blowing across the field? Sounds GREAT. Or how about a day on the water catching the plumpest flounder the ocean has to offer? Sign me up! Or maybe a lazy sleep-in, stay-a-bed day reading a good novel with a pot of strong coffee on the nightstand? Or perhaps a family gathering celebrating a 90th birthday with great food, lively conversations, peals of laughter, and a lot of reminiscing? Yes, please!

Here’s one we can all agree on: a global announcement that the pandemic is miraculously and definitively gone from the earth.

Here’s another one we can all agree on: the day you came clean with God and received his forgiveness for your sins. Now THAT was a really good day.

We are blessed to be loved by a God who is far stronger in his steadfast love than he is in his anger over our sin.

We are also blessed that God doesn’t deal with us according to our misbehavior. If that were to happen, where would we be? If we were punished in equal measure to our sin, I am pretty sure most of us would be “smote” by now.

Psalm 103 (New Revised Standard Version)

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.

The sins we have committed are no longer part of our history and God has removed them as far as the east is from the west. Imagine that! This is the benefit of his steadfast love for you.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.

Any day we remember the extent of God’s compassion for his children is a good day. Any morning that we wake up and recall his enormous steadfast love for us is the start of a good day, no matter what comes next.

13 As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

May God bless this day with constant reminders of his love for you.

Make it a Good One by Karen Warlitner

A Really Bad Day

I confessed to my church yesterday that I hit the wall last week and had to shut down for a day or two. It came after a string of bad days that included a two-week house repair that was now in its third month, a visit with family that included conversations that drew lines between blue and red perspectives, and getting in the car with my husband to drive over five hours home and discovering ten minutes out that we had a flat tire.

Ever had a bad day that seemed like it wouldn’t go away?

I heard about a couple that was having a really bad day together. They had each had a bad day at work and when they got home, they were arguing a lot. Finally the wife got fed up and told her husband to just write her a note if he really wanted to talk to her. He agreed, so for the rest of the night they passed notes back and forth.

When they went to bed the husband left a note on the kitchen table saying, “Please wake me up at 6 A.M. I have to wake up early for an important meeting.” He went to sleep and all was well.

The next morning he woke up and immediately realized something was wrong. He looked at the clock and saw that it was 9 A.M. He ran to his wife and asked why she didn’t wake him up. She pointed to the table.

Next to his note was another one. He opened it and it said, “Wake up! It’s 6 A.M.”

Yep. That was a really bad day.

Do you know what to do when a bad day comes along? There’s only one thing to do…bless the Lord.

Psalm 103 (New Revised Standard Version)

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and do not forget all his benefits—

Oh, especially on a bad day, do not forget all of God’s benefits to you! The author of all creation loves you so much he knows the very count of hairs on your head. The One who told the stars where to shine has loved you from the moment of your conception. The Father who sent his only Son to die on the cross was sacrificing it all for your salvation.

who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

When I “cried uncle” after my bad day, I took some time to shut down all the cacophony and really focus on my blessings. I came out a few days later feeling renewed and ready.

Next time you’re having a bad day remember who redeems your life from the Pit. Remember who heals you and forgives all of your wrongdoings. Turn to the one who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, and just sit in his presence.

More bad days are likely to come but if you rest in his arms you’ll be renewed and ready, too.

The Start of a Really Good Day by Michelle Robertson

Songs of the Pandemic

The Psalms were originally written to be sung as songs. They provide a glimpse of ancient Hebrew life when we read them and hear what the people were experiencing. Music has always been a way to record the joys, sorrows, angst, and fears of a generation. In the Psalms, we experience the hope and sadness of that generation, and surprisingly, they translate into songs for our current circumstance as well.

As you read this, think of those who have lost a loved one to COVID 19. Think of the exhaustion of the front line workers who are taking care of us, feeding us, providing services for us, and putting their own lives at risk for us.

Psalm 116 (New King James Version)

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”

In every circumstance, God’s people have called upon the name of the Lord, and in every circumstance, God has inclined his ear. Wherever we find trouble and sorrow, we also find God, right there in the midst of it.

What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
13 I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

Many have died. Many more will die. All are precious in the sight of the Lord. We are one day closer to the end of this thing, but we aren’t finished yet. How can we continue to sing in the middle of this pandemic? What should our lyrics be?

I think we should join the chorus of the original Psalmists, and sing praises. We should lift our voices high in harmonies of thanksgiving. Let us simply praise the Lord. Praising God in the storm reminds us of who he is, and whose we are. God loosed our bonds so that we might be free of all fear and sadness. Yes, there is death, but death has no sting. Praise the Lord!

16 O Lord, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant;
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord.

18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
19 In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!

Singing Alone in the Pandemic by Wende Pritchard