Rock of Ages: Rocks Cry Out!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 19:28-40

Tuskawilla’s Youth Director – Shrell – and I grew up in the same youth group. We served on the youth council and shared leadership roles among our peers. We led our share of crazy skits and sang in the youth praise band together. One of the songs that we sang with regularity was Ain’t No Rock.

That word ain’t spoke directly to the heart of this Polk County girl.

The song sings,

Ain’t no rock gonna cry in my place. As long as I’m alive I’ll glorify God’s holy name!

Sing! Praise God’s holy name! As long as I’m alive I’ll glorify God’s holy name!

And then the song continues, Ain’t no tree gonna wave its branches and Ain’t no bird gonna flap its feathers.

(Shrell and I would be happy to show off our fantastic dance moves that accompany this song upon request.)

As I reflect on singing this song as a youth, I admit that I was “going through the motions” of those dance moves rather than paying attention to what I was singing. I sang the song but I do not think I fully let the meaning of the song resonate in my heart and then pour out of the actions in my life.

Psalm 148 captures all of creation singing God’s praise. The praises progress from creation following closely the order of God’s creative activity in Genesis 1. Praises ring from the heavens, the celestial bodies, the meterological phenomenons, and the animals that fly, swim, creep, and roam. All of creation praises our God before the psalmist acknowledges that humanity joins the choir. So rocks and trees and birds…they are indeed capable of glorifying God’s holy name if we – if humanity – remains silent. Rocks and all of creation praise God in our place.

The psalmist invites humanity to join the hymn singing, “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord” (Ps 148:11-14)! We join the praise and the hymn ends. I do not think humanity completes the hymn, but I do believe that God is pleased when we make our offering of praise with the totality of creation in worship of our God. It is our choice to join the song; God will not force us. And if we do not join the song, our God will still be praised.

Desiring a greater intention of praising God rather than just ” going through the motions” this week I commit to turning my attention to when and how I offer my praise to God. What are my current circumstances? Am I at peace with these circumstances or wanting a change? How am I feeling? How would prefer to feel? What is God offering me in this moment? How could I show appreciation for that gift? God hears creation’s praise; it is unending. I want God to hear mine, too. 

Prayer: “I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath; and when my voice is lost in death, praise shall employ my nobler powers. My days of praise shall ne’er be past, while life, and thought, and being last, or immortality endures. Happy are they whose hopes rely on Israel’s God, who made the sky and earth and seas, with all their train; whose truth forever stands seure, who saves th’oppressed and feeds the poor, for none shall find God’s promise vain. The Lord pours eyesight on the blind; the Lord supports the fainting mind and sends the laboring conscience peace. God helps the stranger in distress, the widow and the fatherless, and grants the prisoner sweet release. I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath; and when my voice is lost in death, praise shall employ my nobler powers. My days of praise shall ne’er be past, while life, and thought, and being last, or immortality endures.”* Amen.

*”I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath,” The United Methodist Hymnal 60.

Strong and Courageous: Gift The Generations

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 71:18

The focus of our Scripture passage this week is investment – both our investment in others as well as our investment in doing God’s work.  “Even to old age and grey hairs!” we need to be about the business of doing God’s work.

I confess – I have grey hairs – but I’m nowhere near done because God is nowhere near done.

Where do we learn about investment?  I think – and have experienced firsthand – fabulous instruction about investment from people who have invested in me.

I serve as a volunteer in the youth ministry program that Andrew directs.  This past Sunday that church held a commissioning dinner for the adult volunteers that would be working with all “students” in the church this coming year – from bottles and diapers to true “old age and grey hairs.”  It was shared in that  training that one of the greatest gifts a teacher can give to a student is not information about the teacher’s respective subject matter, but knowing the names of his or her respective students.

One of my favorite YouTube videos is a poetic piece done in the spoken-word style subjecting Jesus’ conversation with the Woman at the Well in John 4.  You can watch the video by clicking here.  The refrain of this spoken-work declares, “to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

We are known by others because others invested in us.  We are loved by others through the same action – because others invested in us.

Weekly I have the privilege of investing in elementary students at the neighboring school to Reeves where I serve as a helper and mentor in a first grade classroom.  Weekly I have the privilege of investing in high school students as a volunteer in the youth ministry program that Andrew directs.  Weekly I have the privilege of investing in the community of faith that gathers at Reeves as I trust God to do what God does and make something out of the sermons I offer.  And I am convinced that I am able to do this sort of investment because of the folks that are investing in me, like:

  • My sweet mother who sends me an email every Sunday night to say that she prayed for me that morning, that she hopes I had a good day, and that she loves me.
  • My incredible partner in life, Andrew, who is a wonderful sounding board; cheerleader; and fount of strength, “thatta girl”s, keep goings, and true passion
  • Friends and colleagues that send completely unexpected yet completely intentional calls, emails, texts, and carrier pigeons (I’m sure the carrier pigeons are on their way…) to encourage, to console, to celebrate what’s going on.
  • The teachers in my life – spanning the secular, sacred, and social realms that took the time – and still take the time – to know my name and check up on me.

In the days that await me – until I achieve “old age and grey hairs” I want to display this kind of investment to others.  This is a vital gift that God invites and commissions me to offer to the present and coming generations.

Reflection: Who invested in you?  In whom can you invest?  What is your timeline to begin this investment?

Prayer: “We will work with each other, we will work side by side.  We will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.   And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”* Amen.

*”They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” from The Faith We Sing, 2223.

Heritage: Builders of the Faith

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 127

This Sunday at Reeves we begin our Heritage series.  I felt led to share this series because the congregation is just about half and half.

  • Half the people have been here for years!  Their children – and some even their grandchildren – have grown up in this congregation.  They know the stories, they know the people, they are and continue the story!
  • Half the people are new – joining the church within the last few years.  They have heard bits and pieces of the story, and now as members of the story, I think it’s important they hear the whole story so the story will continue.

(And as a companion for this period of the journey, I reckon I should know the stories!)

So we celebrate Heritage at Reeves – looking at who this congregation is, looking at where we have been, and anticipating – alongside God – where we are going.

Psalm 127 speaks of the spiritual construction of houses while Deuteronomy 6:4-9 speaks of the spiritual instruction that takes place in the houses.

I remember when I was in the sixth grade my parents sold our home on the southside of town to build a new home on the northside of town.  For 6 long months (I think it was 6…it felt like 6…years…) I slept on the couch in the two-bedroom apartment our family rented.

My big brother got the bedroom…but I got the closet!

Hah!  Priorities folks…priorities!

During that time of transition from one house to another I felt very out of place…like I was in everyone’s way.  Since I slept on the couch, if people were watching TV and I wanted to go to sleep, someone had to move…either they ended their program-viewing early or I curled up under the dining room table. I didn’t have a space that was mine to order – from where things went to what went on in there.  I was completely dependent on someone else…someone over me had the say and final word…and I didn’t like it.

Yet as I read these passages…I become more aware that nothing in this world is mine to order solely on my own…and if I attempted, it would all be in vain.  What is mine to order is mine because God gifted me that ability, that opportunity, that responsibility.

Like the lyrics from Casting Crowns, “Not because of who I am, but because of what you’ve done.  Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are.”

God creates the space.  God gifts the space.  God invites me into the space.  To God be the glory.

And if I feel out of place in that space…well…I think that is an indicator I need to get back to the business of proper spiritual instruction.

Proverbs 14:1 and 11 read, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands…The house of the wicked is destroyed, but the tent of the upright flourishes.”  The wise person builds if she does so pursing the heart of her Creator; God will make her dwelling flourish.

God will make your dwelling flourish.  Invite God to order and craft your space.

Prayer: “Happy are they whose hopes rely on Israel’s God, who made the sky and earth and seas, with all their train; whose truth forever stands secure, who saves the oppressed and feed the poor, for none shall find God’s promise vain.” Amen.*

*from “I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath” from The United Methodist Hymnal Book of Worship, 60.  

Alpha, Omega, and Everything In Between: Musical Interlude

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 91

(or any Psalm of your choice!)

This week we enjoy a musical interlude.  Consider it our intermission in our journey through twelve major themes in Scripture.  But this isn’t your typical intermission.  Don’t tune out.  You can get up for a snack if you like, but come back quickly!  There is music to sing!

Like there are many different tones in music, there are a diversity of tones in the Psalms.  There are psalms of praise, psalms of lament, psalms of questioning, psalms of awe, psalms of forgiveness, psalms of assurance.

The Psalms can be sung.  The Psalms can be read.  The Psalms speak to all aspects of the human condition.  When we are joyful, mourning, hungry, seeking justice, aching for rescue, and more – there’s a Psalm for that!

When our words fail us, we have the gift of the Psalms.  They are a human composition, but I believe they were composed by God and then shared through human  hands.

The crafting of psalms continues today.  Perhaps you write poetry or music to get rolling thoughts out of your mind and onto paper.  Perhaps when you are stressed or worried you turn to music to give you  words when you can’t find them.  When I struggle to give voice to my emotions, I turn to my favorite songs both sacred and secular.  When I hear them or sing along to them I emote and then sense God’s peace.

Our lives are psalms.  We live them as we write them.  And like the Psalms, what we do with our lives is an offering to God.  Sometimes what we offer is not so pretty – those times of anger, frustration, and loss – but God honors that offering because it is authentic and true.  In the Psalms I believe we see humanity setting pretenses aside and standing in real-ness and genuine-ness before God.  And in a world that seems to be all about “putting on faces” and “keeping up appearances” I think we would do well to express, emote, and find our voice in and among the Psalms.

Reflection: (A) Take time to write a psalm of thankfulness to God for what God has done in your life this week.  To shape your psalm writing consider: (1) what God has done for you, (2) how God’s action changed you and/or your circumstance, (3) what will you do now that God has acted on your behalf, and (4) how has this experience made you more genuine and real?

(B) Think through your music collection – whether vinyl, CD, or MP3 – and identify songs in your repertoire that you see as psalms.  Maybe it’s a ballad by The Beatles or Kenny Chesney or Alanis Morissette or Journey!   Maybe it’s a hymn!  Study these songs.  Do they speak to thankfulness, struggle, or wonder?  How do they shape or how have they shaped your experience?  How do they help you set aside the facades and the appearances so you can uncover the real, genuine you?