Can you make God sing?

Zephaniah 3:17

This passage, taken out of context, talks about the might of God and where he dwells which is with us. In my mind this raises the question: am I living in such a way that God would joyfully indwell with me? 

What about my life would cause the mighty God to find joy in my living? The songwriter wrote that we don’t want to live in vain. Am I living for myself or for God?  This isn’t to say that I’m proselytizing or forcing folk to change their ways. In fact, God asks us to love the hell out of one another. Nowhere in the Bible am I aware of God asking us to beat the hell out of someone. We are to live in such a way that others would ask what is it that makes our life so bright that the little light inside shines so bright? I believe this is where God would find joy in dwelling with us. 

So when he dwells with us, there he can find rest. In other parts of the Bible we find scripture that allows us to find rest in the Lord, and this seems to be a reciprocal or reasonable response by the disciple. To rest in him and he in us. But only where we have love. Love is where the lord is for the lord is love. 

And in love the lord will sing. I tag my email and some letters with this:

I do not sing because I am happy

I am happy because I sing. 

Song is a very strong evidence that joy is in my heart and that I feel love. This scripture teaches that where the lord finds joy and rest in dwelling with us, he will sing. 

Gifts

Today is not a holiday. 

It’s not a time of gathering around the table and consuming some predetermined beast that was unfortunate enough to be born on a farm. It’s not a night where some talking head insists we demonstrate the ability to perform question two of a sobriety check from the comfort of our homes or local pub. It isn’t a day to sit in a poorly air conditioned building, trying not to itch too obviously, while peering curiously around a purple pasted hat with a fake, white bird precariously perched on it. In fact it’s not even a day where one can expect sweet rewards for pretending to be someone they are not. 
It is a gift giving holiday, however. It may be one where someone you love (and can only hope feels similarly about you) has full intention, if not a formed plan, to present you with something. Some.      Thing. Some object of value, perhaps not based upon its intrinsic value, but on the amount of care selecting it from the any hundreds of things you could receive or give. But what gift to give? 

There comes a point in every giving situation where a choice must be made. Will this gift be handmade or store bought? This is a moment where ability meets the reality of economics and age meets expectations. At some point every person of a mind to gift someone something the giver must decide the careful calculation of the cost of time, money, effort, and perception of the recipients general attitude. This might include thoughts along the lines of:

“The last gift I gave, he never used….. At least not in front of me”

“What did she give me last time?”

“What day is this? (Checks phone calendar application) rent isn’t due until later so I’ve got time to replace this money”

“I’m out of money…. What can I make him?”

There seems to be a very special moment that no one notes in a diary or journal. Where the phrase, “I love it because you gave it to me,” takes an otherwise normal gifting occasion on a sideways trip to weird town USA  

That is the moment you decide if you’re going to give another clay ashtray to someone who doesn’t smoke anything or a handprint turned wildly colored turkey. Where you choose if the gift you really want to give is up to the standard of a store bought ashtray. Decide if investing in a large yet-to-be-formed lump of clay to be formed is a better and more thoughtful gift that 

I don’t know….

Ecclesiastes 11:5
Today, we are more connected than ever before when you consider the ready availability of the internet, wifi enabled equipment, social media platforms, 24 hour news cycle, town gossips, and online news sources.  Very little occurs now that doesn’t get noticed by a camera, cellphone, videographer, or newsman. Privacy is not even available in any public places or private. The mysteries of the depths of the ocean are fast becoming known and considered old-hat. The lenses which we fit on Hubble and SETI have effectively removed so much of the unknown from our visions of the eternal beyond the moon, it’s actually a shock when we see or hear something that is new. So little is considered new and a first it will often become the headline on the six o’clock news and then immediately be relegated to the back page as a casual interest. 

Nothing is new under the sun and you can’t tell me anything is new because it’s all been said before. Conceptually and perhaps even medically I am fully aware of how the bones in the human body knit and expand in density. Books exist that explain just how the child forms in the womb and how the movie was made by seeing the behind the scenes featurette. 

But then I read Ecclesiastes 11 and all of that goes out of the window. 

The writer of this passage is not trying to get us to understand that even if we look hard under a microscope we should disbelieve what our eyes tell us. The writer of this passage is not saying that with a well attuned ultrasound the millions of changes that occur to a fetus will not be plain to all. It is not simply DNA deciding to twist this direction and that, or the blood flowing through that arterie or another. It’s more dazzlingly glorious than witnessing the upturned thumb being thrust into an open mouth or twins who embrace in the womb before they can even see. What is the incredible and inexplicable source of creation to the glory of God is the true mystery. Why would God form us in his image? Why would he look at us and say that is it’s good? What the writer is saying that the powerful gift and breath of life from God is what truly makes the bones coalesce into a complex dance of sinu, marrow, and cartelange forming a whole system of structural support for a human body. But that the reasons behind all of that are a mystery to us. 

The motivation of God to create is not for us to understand. It’s not for us to “get” why He would be so interested in seeing us enter into relationship with each other and Him. It is not for us to know what designs the creator of all has in his mystical trestle-board, upon which the designs of all that ever was, is, and will be is drawn. 

I know it’s disappointing but there really are some things we aren’t supposed to know. It flies in the face of our own perceived greatness. Perhaps it’s because we assume we are to be in dominance over the earth rather than in dominion. Maybe we should read Genesis again….

In due season and as God knows our young minds can absorb, I am sure of one thing: God will reveal. He is not a god of confusion or disorder. He gives us the wisdom and foresight to make choices and love and grow. He gives us so much, how dare we be so arrogant to suggest that we deserve to know more than he already has shown us about his plans and designs for us? I am sure that if we could handle the truth, as someone once said, it would be shown to us. But who’s to say it hasn’t already been shown us? Perhaps we were shown the truth and we misused it. Abused it. Refused to be held account for it. Perhaps even refused it. Maybe God wants us to learn more about ourselves before he gives us even more to absorb. God knows we’ve found spectacular ways to waste good knowledge after bad. Imagine if we knew how He thinks too? I’m reminded of the line in the sand at the base of mount Sinai that God told the Israelites not to cross or die. And when they wanted to see God only saw a small portion of him hidden by meteorological fury. That was enough to tell me that some people can handle the face of God and most others can not. I think I’m in the latter camp. 

God, I ask that you make me content in you. That you grow me to understand nothing and trust in none but you. I ask that you limit my vision to you and that anything else that whorl compete for attention that should be yours alone, gets away  and finds parts unknown. I ask that how you think be your understanding alone. That you remove arrogance from me and that your children on this world find contentment and peace in your vision, love, omnipotence and omniscience. Amen 

What is in a name?

My name is rather common and plain. It is not one you would mispronounce unless you are seeking do so with purpose. In my travels, work life, and friendship circles, I have met and married and associated and navigated relationships with many folk. Some with hard to pronounce names and others with exceedingly easy for my tongue to recall. 
The thing that has irked me the most are people I meet from far away shores who live near me here in America who have absolutely lovely names. Names that their parents almost certainly thought long and hard about. Perhaps discussed long into the night. Prayed over. Had ceremonies to imbue the name. But as soon as an American mispronounced the name, they would alter its pronunciation simply to ease tensions, calm prejudices, or worse ‘Americanize’ the name. Whatever that means. I met a young man who enjoys Chinese heritage. He was introduced to me as Lee. Upon further discussion I learned it’s spelled Le. So I asked him, “Is your name Lee or Le?” He replied Le, but everyone pronounces it Lee. I asked why that was so when that was not his given name? He supposed that “… It was easier for Americans to call him that.” I was saddened that a man would lose his identity and nationality. Le is Chinese. Lee is typically Japanese. I had never yet called him Lee and do not intend to start. 

Then my mind wandered, as it often does, to the bible. I began to wonder why is the name of the persons in the sixty six books so important? Their lineage. Their surnames. Their heralding comes from their name. Someone is always named something son of someone or somebody daughter of something. More than that, the name is rarely Americanized. Beersheba.  Malachi. Uzziah. Gershom. Abram. All are uniquely biblical but are not so complex that they defy repetition. But others are complex and clearly without much amusement from its original pronunciation. Aminadab. Naasson. Obed. (Matthew 1:4,5) Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai (Numbers 1:6) 
But then the is Mary and Joseph. Mary? Joseph? I’m pretty sure these names are not common in the days leading up to the birth of Jesus. So what we’re their names? I looked. 

Mary was Maria Mariam pronunced mar-ee’-ah mar-ee-am’ or mirjam. 

Joseph was Iōsēph pronounced ee-oh-safe’

Honestly I like their original names better. They speak more to their namesake and heritage and direction in life. The appropriation of their names for the palatability of the masses is of little interest to me. I hope that in time I will slowly replace their common speak names with the names spoken by Γαβριήλ, or as we pronounce it, Gabriel an angel of the LORD. 

It is my prayer that we seek to know one another better. To seek relationship with one another as human to human. Heart to heart. And it starts with a name. Our real name. 

Lasting victory

So last night I and millions of other basketball fans witnessed history. The Univeristy of Connecticut lady huskies won their 4th straight, eleventh overall ncaa championship. They way they dominated all season, and all of recent memory wasn’t lost on me.  What I found most amazing didn’t come to mind until today. 

I spoke briefly with a friend reminiscing about last nights game and I recounted their string of championships. It occurs to me that this graduating class of women has never known defeat. 

This graduating class of women has never known defeat. Let that sink in. 

This. Graduating. Class. Of. Women. Has. NEVER. Known. Defeat. 

This is not only rare. It is not only unprecedented. It is not only history making. It not only assumes legacy stature. It not only assures that some or all of these women can easily see themselves in WNBA garb in a years time. 

This Four-Pete will pay dividends in these women’s lives and their fellow classmates minds as a continuously looped reel of film that will forever play. No matter what adversity in life they face or obstacle is set before them. They will always have this in mind. Let me explain how important this is. 

A book author I enjoy greatly once was asked how do y’all write a novel. His response is to first write your first bad novel. And yes, the first one will suck. Just know that. But finish it anyway. Then put it away and start your second novel which will hopefully be better. Maybe not by much, but it must also be written. That first one? Forget sending it to publishers or sharing it or whatever. Just put it away. It’s not good. So why write it at all? Because when you become frustrated with later projects by writers block, life, family, bills, regular jobs, and more, and then you are ready to throw your hands up and scream “I GIVE UP!”… It is then you pull out that book you finished and remind yourself that you can do this. You’ve done it before. You can do it now. You need to see that it is possible. That this pause in your creative process is only temporary and you will finish the race. 

It is for this reason that these women who have never seen defeat will conquer anything before them in their chosen careers and lives. Because they’ve done it before. Not just once. But four times. They know what they can do. And they know how to do it as a team. They can look back at their bad books, and know that if they can do that, anything is possible. 

Fear has won…. For now

I awoke this morning to my own fears staring me in the face. 

A man who peddals in the seductive politics of fear has successfully played upon the heartstrings of the disenchanted among us. He has found a large and growing mob of angry people who recognize the party they’ve been dancing at since the 1960’s is playing Bing Crosby and asking them to do the foxtrot. But what they think is a better choice is Ted Nugent and slam dancing. They are being asked to continue to say no to statesmanship because being a statesman is no better than being a capitulator in chief, a weak kneed yellow belly… They are being told that the Grand Old Party is still their party but all they see is old men who talk of the Greatest Generation. Unfortunately most of those men and women are largely silent and quietly wobble their heads in silent objection without a clue how to talk to these neo-cons that so desperately need leadership that says something other than no. No. No. 

Enter an even angrier man who knows their anger and has a host of people to blame for their disappointments. Who points his finger and says that it’s not your fault, it’s not your parties fault, it’s the brown mans fault. It’s that religion you don’t understand… And frankly don’t want to. It’s their fault. It’s the fault of years of outsourcing jobs to people who are only to happy to take them because your well fed asses are unwilling to do them, but no matter. It’s still their fault for agreeing to do the work. It’s the party across the streets fault for not being as angry as you are. It’s everyone’s fault but yours. You’ve no dog in this fight. You have nothing to be ashamed of. No bone to pick with him because your country iOS in the toilet. Why because he has been on television long enough and built enough buildings to know just how to fix everything. All it will take is a wall and a few deportations. Then when we are completely isolated form the world and no one outside of these shores is willing to deal with us but must because they’ve no choice, then we will be in a much better position to dictate terms. To dictate how great we will again be. 

But these are ploys that prey upon old fears. Play upon memories that have no foundation in truth. Play upon anger that is illogical. Play upon strings that pluck kitchen table race conversations that vibrate loudly in small homes all across America. These are the politics of fear, segregation, fascism, dictatorial edicts that are couched in American exceptionalism. 

And the other party plays songs of we shall overcome. Plays tunes in b-flat minor that says rings hollow and stale. But it’s ok because we can still make history. We can see over the horizon. We have come a long way baby and we shouldn’t stop now. The other party has cookies and punch. The latest dance moves and a tent with no sides because all are welcome. But the scary old party across the street that plays those old songs can’t hurt us or drown us out. We are on the right side of history the other party shouts with arms raised up and heads held high. The other party says that we are so great that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself and we need not give in to it. We are better than that. We are able to vote for something instead of against something. Vote for someone rather than against someone. To be positive rather than negative. 

We are told to be the change we want to see. We are told that the man behind the curtain has a hot air ballon and he’s going to leave you if you don’t kill the wicked witch. But in the end, he leaves us anyway. We all know how the story ends. And no one seems to care. No one seems to be strong enough to pull the rug out from under the fox-trotters and remind them that they are better than this. That they do not need to stay angry. They don’t need to continue to dance angrily and shake their fists. To throw the brown man out and ridicule the disabled. The joke isn’t funny anymore and really…. It never really was funny. 

But now, it’s downright dangerous to laugh at these jokes. It’s actually going to get someone hurt or killed to continue to chuckle into bended elbows or cupped hands. It’s dangerous to shout at Pink to put him up against the wall while the band plays loudly and the crossed arms are thrust forward and back. It’s dangerous to hear the voice of God’s main man on earth speak truth to power and then say he has no right to speak about another mans faith. Convictions. Self aggrandizement. 

The days are now rather dangerous. It is time for the Force to take on the Dark Side and not faint. To lift up the bloodstained banner and wave it bravely. To reawaken the young, old, faithful, lovers, bleeding hearts and artists, the educated and the dreamers. The wealthy and the poor. A call to arms where the best weapon is a pen and a calm voice is pulled out of mothball and flung into the ring. The bell is sounded and the boxers have left their corners. 

Lets watch what happens next. 

What type of crop do you want?

When you bless someone else, the biggest recipient of that blessing may surprise you. It’s not always the person you bless, but it’s often yourself. When you forgive someone else, even when they were demonstrably wrong, do you know who receives the liberation? Or when you try to speak evil or I’ll into someone else’s life, that you cannot hurt anyone else without doing injury to yourself? 
Life has a way of giving to the givers and taking from the takers. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. 🎶you can’t beat Gods giving. No matter how you try. 

2 Corinthians 9:6… 

What is it you wish to reap? What did you sow? The songwriter wrote, sowing the seeds of love. Will you sow love? Or hate? Peace? Or strife? A bounty? Or a famine? 
The blessings need not be large. They can be simple. But in all cases, the blessings were paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus. So don’t get it twisted. Don’t shout hallelujah on someone else’s work. Be glad only on the blessings of Jesus. 
Take the limits off. The zip code you come from and the gender you are does not dictate your eternal blessings. 
Ecclesiastes 3 I have put eternity in their hearts. Don’t limit your hopes on where you are right now. Heaven is expansion and you are capable of so much more as Jesus Christ strengthens you. 
Poem by Pauline Murray (excerpt)
“Hope”

Hope is a crushed stalk

Between clenched fingers

… A word in a tumultuous 

A dream of forty acres and a mule 

A cabin of ones own 

And a moment to rest

At last

A song a weary throat 

Give me a song of faith and a people 

Who will believe it

A song of hope and song of love 

In a brown girls heart. 

To just hear it. 
-autobiography “a song in a weary throat”

Don’t substitute good words for good work. 

Good goals and plans and programs for good work. 

There is no substitute for good work. Practice what you read, hear, sing and know.