My Spider Plant

I’ve been thinking a lot about patience lately. I believe that God put an analogy in my head during one of my 3:00 am “processing sessions.” I’ve shared it with a lot of people already, but for those of you who haven’t heard it yet, I hope you’re blessed by it as I have been.

I have a spider plant in my office. It’s the only plant in my office and I’ve had it for years. Overall, it’s doing pretty well. It gets lots of sunshine and I water it regularly. However, it has several leaves with brown tips and it hasn’t produced spider plant “babies” in a long time.

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To encourage growth and health in my plant, imagine going to it and talking to it like so many of us talk to ourselves in our head. “Now come on, you just sit there all day, let’s get busy and produce some babies.” “What’s with these brown tips? Get healthy!” “Oh, and hurry it up will you!” How’s that going to end for my plant? Probably not well.

And here’s why I think God gave me the analogy of my spider plant. That plant was given to me by a former member of our church named Beryl Kern. She had cerebral palsy and it greatly affected her speech and mobility. I loved my conversations with Beryl and would often talk to her about her father who was in World War II and was also a fantastic artist. I have one of his paintings still hanging in my woodshop. However, because of her speech, people often thought that Beryl was a person with a mental disability.

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(This is Beryl’s excitement when we showed her the new floor in her bedroom)

Beryl never married and never had any children. For Beryl, her pets and plants were loved by her as if they were her children. I always told Beryl that she taught me so much about patience. Yet, she never thought she was patient herself.  She was patient! Let me give you a couple of examples. I remember going to her house once and she had a cat in her lap that was passing away. She sat there petting that cat until finally the cat finally passed away. On another occasion, I had to kind of give Beryl a hard time because of her self reliance. You see, her hot water heater quit working and rather than let me know so we could replace it, she heated up water on her kitchen stove and then took the water to the bathroom so she could bath. Understand this as well, Beryl was not stable enough to carry the warm water to the bathroom so she would heat up the water, put in on the floor, sit down behind the pan, push the pan to the bathroom with her feet, and then bathe. I just ask you, how patient would you be with that situation? As I said, Beryl taught me so much about patience.

Beryl gave me that spider plant. I’m sure she grew it from a spider plant baby by placing a pot underneath the tiny baby. She placed it in good soil, watered it, gave it attention, and I’m sure she talked to it with a tender and loving voice.

When Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, he said these words, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground.” (53:2 ESV) Actually, God uses the analogy of plants all throughout the Bible. If you want to check some of those out, here are a few verses: Psalm 128:3, 144:12; Isaiah 5:7; and Matthew 15:13.

Beryl exhibited the fruit of the Spirit of patience, and although not perfected in patience, she mirrored God’s ultimate patience. In the Old Testament, over and over again it says that God is “Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (e.g. Psalm 103:8) Even till the very end, God is patient. Peter tells us:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:8-13)

I was given the analogy of my spider plant but really, God is not growing a spider plant in us, He’s growing an oak tree!

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Safe Place

Where is your safe place?

I actually have a few safe places, but my bathtub might just be at the top of the list. I love a hot bath. It’s part of the benefits of heating with wood, I get unlimited free hot water. I get the bath just short of what I can handle. Note: if you get it too hot then you can’t stay in there as long. Once I get in, I fully submerge my head so my ears fill up with water (this is essential to the process). Then I really, I mean really, relax so that the only thing I am hearing is my heartbeat. This means that I have to get the drain to not drip but more importantly, I have to get myself to totally relax. If I have any tension in my legs, I have to position them so they are totally comfortable. My hands float weightlessly by my side. If I have any tension in my eyes it sounds like a rubber band slowly stretching (brepp, brepp, brepp). Probably the most sensitive indicator for me is my jaw. If I even start to have any tension, I hear it as a low frequency static. I take several deep belly breaths until I can reach the state where I can only hear the two parts (lubb-dupp) of my heartbeat. It’s a wonderful, safe place to be.

How about for you, what’s your safe place? I’ve recently asked that question with a couple of different groups and I’ve gotten answers like “my bedroom,” “outdoors,” “my house,” “with my friends,” and “on my couch.” So, what is your safe place?

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Now, read Psalm 46.

God Is Our Fortress

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (ESV)

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There are some pretty scary things in that Psalm. Have you ever been in an earthquake, where mountains are moved into the heart of the sea? It makes me think of Haiti when they had that huge earthquake in 2010. Buildings collapsed, there was widespread death, and safe places were hard to find. Have you ever been tossed by the waves roaring and foaming? That makes me think of bodyboarding and one time when a river pinned down a canoe we were riding down a river once. I love to bodyboard but there are times that I get too far out in front of the wave and it throws me head over heels and all I can do is wait for the wave to pass and know that I’ll pop back up to the surface. Water is not to be messed with, it’ll win every time. Or, finally, have you ever been in a war zone? I have not, but I know some veterans who still suffer from PTSD from their time in one. No doubt about it, there are some scary things mentioned in Psalm 46.

I think we’re in need of a safer place than my bathtub! We need a safe place that actually goes with us wherever we go and that cannot be taken away no matter what the outside circumstance. Psalm 46 makes me think of four safe places.

God’s Word is a safe place. Scripture will never let us down. It is always a safe place because it always speaks grace and truth. When the battle rages all around us, God’s word tells us that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). I think this is a very important reason for memorizing scripture. What if you don’t have your Bible with you? Even if you have a Bible on your phone, you may not have your phone with you or you may not take the time to look up a verse. If it’s in your head, it can never be taken from you. Even if you’re in an earthquake, flood, or war zone.

Baptism is a safe place. I believe so strongly in baptism that all three of my kids were baptized the day that they were born. Not because there was a medical emergency but because I didn’t want them to be without baptism until we could arrange for godparents to get into town, yada, yada, yada. No matter what the world throws at us or the devil accuses us of, our baptism cannot be taken from us. When Martin Luther would feel specific attacks from the devil he would simply say, “I’m a baptized child of God.”

Communion is a safe place. This one is interesting to me. What happens when you take communion? I’m not looking for the deep theological answer here, just the basic act of taking communion. You eat the bread and drink the wine, then your body digests it, and then it literally feeds every cell in your body. Every cell in our body is affected when we take communion. The forgiveness that we receive when we take communion touches every cell in our body! This forgiveness cannot be taken away from us. Even if they were to kill our body, the forgiveness still goes on into eternity.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that God is our safe place. If God is not who he says he is, then the Bible, baptism, and communion are not safe places either. But God is who he says he is! Psalm 46 says that God is in our midst, that he cannot be moved, that he helps us, that he is our fortress, and that he controls angel armies.

We could get all worked up about the world not being a safe place, but the end of this Psalm says to “be still, and know that I am God.” We need to trust that God’s got this! I also love that the Psalm ends with “Selah.” Selah basically means to stop, and when we’ve stopped, to ponder this. Take a breath, meditate on God as your safe place. Maybe think about it during a nice hot bath.

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Where is Your Hope?

I had the wonderful opportunity to hang out with 56 of my colleagues this week at a conference on wellness. It was a wonderful time of laughter, inspiration, introspection, and fellowship. There were a lot of thought-provoking ideas shared but today I want to focus in on one of the devotions that got me thinking about where we experience hope.

Are you willing to do an experiment with me? If so, read on. I’d like to do a little bit of mindfulness with you. Mindfulness is something that I’ve been studying in my Masters of Counseling and it technically means, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” If that’s too technical for you, just think of it as being aware of what is going on inside of your body. It really helps to sit with your feet flat on the floor, start with some deep belly breaths, and relax. I find it very helpful to find a quiet place and to close my eyes.

When you’re ready, I just want you to think of the word “hope.” When you think of hope, what do you sense? Do you see, feel, or hear something? Where is it located? Inside your body, or outside of your body? Take as much time as you need.

When I did this exercise, hope was located in my chest as a glowing, warm light. There was a sense of comfort and peace and it started to bring up emotion like I wanted to cry. As I sat with that feeling of hope I received an image of a Sweet Comfort Band album cover. Okay, yeah, Hearts of Fire was released in 1981. But that’s the image I got.

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What got me thinking about this was that during the devotion on hope during the conference, I noticed that every time the presenter talked about hope, her body language indicated that she experienced hope outside of her and specifically in front of her and slightly to the left. I also noticed that when she referred to sin, her body language indicated that it was inside her. Now there is no wrong answer with this exercise. No wrong answer! But it got me thinking and chasing a rabbit, so here we go.

The English Standard Version Bible uses the word hope 165 times. The Greek word ἐλπίς elpismeans, “(to anticipate, usually with pleasure); expectation (abstractly or concretely) or confidence: — faith, hope.” The Hebrew word יָחַל yâḥal means, “to wait; by implication, to be patient, hope: — (cause to, have, make to) hope, be pained, stay, tarry, trust, wait.” But where does hope reside?

Let’s look at Psalm 42. Twice it has these words (is this some kind of chorus?):

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God. (vs. 5 & 11)

As I look at all of the verses about hope, I find that hope is often in God. Sometimes it is portrayed as a gift which is given to us (what does that feel like?) and other times hope is in God’s words (the Bible). We are warned not to hope in false things such as riches, knowledge, or pride and sometimes that warning comes with a “there is more hope for a fool than for him.” (e.g. Proverbs 29:20)

There are two passages that really need to be mentioned regarding hope. The first is 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The other is Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Like I said before, there is no wrong way to personally experience that hope, I just pray that you do experience hope.

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Our Play is Broken

“If you’re going to wrestle, take it outside.”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard my father say that to me and my brother Jeff as we were roughhousing. I joke that Jeff and I didn’t have babysitters when I was young, we had referees! One particular time that I remember was when we were on a long family vacation. My dad had a cap on the back of his pickup truck and Jeff and I would ride in the back. As we were going along, we got to wrestling, except this time dad couldn’t yell at us or reach out and stop us from wrestling. What he could do, however, was step on the brake! Jeff and I went tumbling forward…and got the message.

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Lately, I’ve been following one of my rabbit trails. This time it’s on the topic of play. In the book The Healing Power of Emotion,it talks about the importance of play.

Play may be the most underutilized emotional force that could have remarkable benefits in psychotherapy, especially with children.

The cortex, at birth, is largely a tabula rasa that needs to be socialized under the influence of basic tools such as physical PLAY to shape the many plasticities of the brain in a way that creates fine-tuned social brains that work optimally in the environments in which young animals find themselves in their struggle to mature.

The rabbit trail continued onto watching some TED talks by Stuart Brown about the importance of play. One of the types of play is what Jeff and I were participating in, rough and tumble play. (See dad, it was good for us!)

Then, when Stuart Brown showed a slide depicting rough and tumble play, it hit me that one of the things that was broken in the fall into sin is play.

Starting with Genesis, chapter three there is a description of the pretty quick slide into brokenness. First, we have humankind being separated from God.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8, ESV)

Along with this separation from God came separation between husbands and wives  (which would also include separation between all men and women).

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:10)

Even the earth is cursed because of sin. And the punishment of death enters the picture as well, where man returns to the earth from where he came.

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

When Adam and Eve have kids, it goes so wrong that one of them murdered the other one.

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)

By Genesis chapter six, God is ready to wipe out the whole earth except for Noah and his family.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (5-7)

Pretty quickly after the flood, God has to confuse their languages because of their disobedience and we then have the division between nations.

Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. (Genesis 11:7-8)

As I said, it’s a pretty quick descent into brokenness. But there is one thing that is not specifically mentioned, and that is play. Until I traveled down this rabbit trail, it never hit me before that this was one more thing that we lost in the fall.

We don’t hear about Cain and Abel after they are born until the vignette where Cain murders his brother Abel. And yet, they were brothers, and brothers wrestle. Rightly so, because God has wired us to play, even including rough and tumble play.  But those childhood memories of boys wrestling was destroyed when Cain turned on his brother, and now our play is broken!

In 2 Corinthians five, Paul says that we are ministers of reconciliation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (17-20)

We are seeking reconciliation everywhere that the fall has touched this world and in every relationship that is broken. We are seeking peace between nations, an end to violence, restoration of marriages, and reconnecting sinful humans to their heavenly Father. We’re even seeking to restore play to its rightful place.

As The Healing Power of Emotionputs it,

“Playfulness is an underutilized ‘force’ with which to reroute mature lives onto positive affective tracks. First, it is becoming clear that robust physical activity may be as good an antidepressant as any of the medicines that dampen emotionality. Second, it seems likely that play urges in adults can be reenergized by various types of bodily activities—from dance to sports—much of it hopefully facilitated by artistic accompaniments, such as music and dance, that are partly designed around the rhythmic motor impulses of the body.”

I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a fun ministry to me! Wanna play?

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Potholes

I stood in front of the congregation, guitar in hand, singing the pre-service songs as I watched people filling the church pews. Half of my brain was thinking about the music while the other half was thinking about potholes. I’m not talking about the condition of my dirt road (we’re not even to mud season yet) but rather Roman road potholes. Let me explain.

The Greek word is leitourgia and we get the English word liturgy from it. Here’s what it means:

  1. a public office which a citizen undertakes to administer at his own expense
  2. any service
    1. of military service
    2. of the service of workmen
    3. of that done to nature in the cohabitation of man and wife
  3. biblical usage
    1. a service or ministry of the priests relative to the prayers and sacrifices offered to God
    2. a gift or benefaction for the relief of the needy

As pastor and I were talking about this word one day, he brought to my awareness that there was an application from the Roman world. In the Roman world, one aspect of your liturgy was the section of road right in front of your house. You were responsible for it. You had to maintain it so that it was open for armies, for merchants, basically for the good of all people. You had to fill the potholes.

So when we refer to the liturgy in church, we’re not just referring to page 5 and 15 (some of you old Lutherans know what I’m talking about), we’re talking about people bringing the “potholes” from their life before the throne of God.

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That Sunday morning I saw the mother whose son had been in a serious car accident bringing him before the throne of God, I saw the family who just received very serious life-threatening medical news coming before the throne of God for healing, I saw the married couple that is struggling in their marriage bring their marriage before the throne of God, I saw the stressed out, the depressed, the grieving, the wounded, and yes, I was bringing my own potholes before the throne of God (if you want to know my potholes, just read my past blog posts).

So what happens in the liturgy, this service-worship? To continue the metaphor, we get spiritual asphalt. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV) Isaiah said, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2) These are just two verses of the many in scripture that talks about the tenderness of the Lord and what he desires to give to us.

As we were discussing leitourgia one day in Bible class, somebody made the interesting comment that the thing about potholes is that they’ll wash out and come back and then we’ll have to come right back begging God for more asphalt. I thought that was very insightful and true. That’s exactly right, next Sunday I’ll be standing in front of the congregation again and I’ll still look out at a bunch of people who are still struggling with the potholes of life. They’ll be there getting another wheelbarrow full of spiritual asphalt which they will then take back to their section of road, and fill in their hole for that week. Jesus said that we should pray, “give us this day our daily asphalt,” uh, I mean “bread.”

We keep coming back until that glorious day when we walk through the pearly gates on streets of gold. “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” (Revelation 21:21) Streets of gold, with no more potholes.

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Fear of Failure

I have been identifying a lot with Peter lately. You know, the sinking “Lord, save me” Peter. The “Get behind me Satan” Peter. The “you’ll never wash my feet” Peter. The one who denied his Lord three times, yeah, that Peter.

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(part of the amazing quilt that my wife made, which now hangs in my office)

It’s not that Peter was just continually putting his foot in his mouth, Peter out and out failed numerous times. Was it that Peter wasn’t afraid of failure or was it that he just couldn’t help himself?

But here’s the thing, none of us can keep ourselves from failing. Yet, it has been made abundantly clear to me over the last couple of weeks that I have a fear of failure. We all fail and yet I recognize in myself that I will work very hard to see that I don’t fail. Where there is a failure, I deny it or even try to cover it over so others won’t see my failure. This became abundantly clear to me during one of my online classes. Sure, get a Masters in Counseling, “it’ll be fun,” they said.

As I was processing this fear the next day with my professor, she encouraged me to “lean in” to failure. Okay, now what college professor encourages you to fail! Apparently, mine does. I’m doing my best to follow her advice. Even writing this blog post is me leaning into failure and being vulnerable to you, the reader.

Back to Peter and specifically the vignette where he walks on water. I’ve thought a lot about this story in the past; about how he had the courage to get out of the boat when all the other disciples stay huddled in the boat, how he was the only other person besides Jesus to walk on water, why Peter asked Jesus to command him to “come to you on the water.” I’ve thought about all of those things but now I’m looking at the story through a new lens. One of failure and its result.

I would imagine it’s a familiar story but let’s reread it.

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33, ESV)

Peter clearly failed. He took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the wind. When he did this, he was afraid and proceeded to sink. We can’t say, “he should have stayed brave and full of faith” because, with the little bit that I have learned about fear in my Masters, fear happens “below” the cognitive “thinking” process. We can’t think ourselves into not being afraid. But, back to the failure. Jesus said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” He didn’t deny that Peter had failed and yet, (and here’s the key) it doesn’t destroy their relationship. Jesus does not go on to say to Peter that “this is it, I’m done with you!” Matter of fact, in another Jesus-Peter episode, in the face of Peter’s failure, Jesus kept on coming back and renewing his call upon Peter’s life by saying over and over, “feed my sheep.”

I desperately need this from people in my life–that they see my failures and are still okay with me. Even more than that, we all need this from our God. It’s not that God looks at our failures and says, “It’s okay, no big deal.” No, He sees our lack of faith, our failure, our looking at the wind, and our sinking beneath the waves and immediately reaches out His hand and takes hold of us. There is an acknowledgment of our failure and yet, He still loves us, He is still in a relationship with us, He’s not done with us! Knowing that just might give us the courage to step out of the boat, even if we fail.

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Protection for Chak Moun

No, I didn’t make a mistake this week and re-post the same post as last week. Yes, I’m still thinking a lot about the topic of protection. If you didn’t read last week’s blog post, you may actually want to start there:https://gregarnett.wordpress.com

I mentioned that the ESV only uses the word “protector” one time. Yet, there are numerous times that the Bible talks about protection. Maybe the most thorough spot is Psalm 91.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (ESV)

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This is a psalm filled with imagery. There are so many ways that God protects us and so many dangers that God keeps away from us. What image from this psalm most resonates with you?

Humor me now and let’s read the psalm again, however, this time I want you to personalize it. Instead of generic pronouns, put your name in there. This might seem a little odd at first, but do it and just see what happens inside of you. I’ll delete the pronouns and put a “(your name)” in its place.

(Your name),who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (Your name) will say to the Lord, “(Your name’s) refuge and (your name’s) fortress, (your name’s) God, in whom (your name)trusts.”

For he will deliver (your name) from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover (your name) with his pinions, and under his wings (your name) will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. (Your name) will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at (your name’s) side, ten thousand at (your name’s) right hand, but it will not come near (your name). (your name) will only look with (your name’s) eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because (your name) has made the Lord (your name’s) dwelling place— the Most High, who is (your name’s)refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall (your name), no plague come near (your name’s) tent.

For he will command his angels concerning (your name) to guard (your name) in all (your name’s) ways.

On their hands they will bear (your name) up, lest (your name) strike (your name’s) foot against a stone. (your name) will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent (your name) will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to (your name) in love, I will deliver (your name); I will protect (your name), because (your name) knows my name. When (your name) calls to me, I will answer (your name); I will be with (your name) in trouble; I will rescue (your name) and honor (your name). With long life I will satisfy (your name) and show (your name) my salvation.” (ESV, all pronouns changed by author)

It’s the same exact psalm, yet oh my goodness! It makes me emotional just reading it that way. That God would do all of that for me. Not just the generic “everybody” but for me personally. The Haitians have a way of conveying this concept. Sometimes they would say “tout moun” which we would translate “everyone.” Or they can say “chak moun” which means each person. Yes, God protects tout moun, but this morning I’m praising Him because He protects chak moun.

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