Old Family Tradition Shedding New Light

We all have family traditions – some we love and carry on; others we’d probably prefer to forget. One of my earliest childhood memories is The Trip Psalm. Every time our family got in the car to go anywhere, if just to Atlanta for dinner, we said the 100th Psalm aloud. Even when traveling with some of my cousins we always said our family Psalm, as this was a tradition in much of our extended family. This was such a “must do” for us that I assumed every family did the same. Evidently I was a little bit blonde and a lot naive.

This tradition became my own and was one I brought into my marriage and family, so our kids know the routine as well. While I love Scripture and the choice to make it a priority of everyday life, unfortunately, some things that we do over and over tend to become just that – a routine but lacking in meaning. But God has a way of bringing our attention back to the main thing. Recently while driving somewhere by myself I began to recite The Trip Psalm.  For some reason (maybe God!) the words took on fresh meaning. The rich message in this Psalm has continued to reverberate in my heart and mind. While I currently enjoy using the ESV translation, I am sharing Psalm 100 with you in the King James, the way I memorized it years ago. It would be a good idea to read it in several translations to get more understanding for yourself.

1 “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”

What a great imperative! God wants us all to have joy and to express it. From my experience with people and observation of many lives, joy trumps happiness. So many people say they want to “just be happy.” Happiness tends to come and go, but joy is an inside job that sustains and always contains hope even in dire circumstances. So, yes, let’s choose to make a joyful noise to God — all of us!

2 “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.”

Too many people, including Christians, moan and say, “I just don’t know what to do.” Here is a start – serve God and serve with a glad heart. Down deep we all know that when we take time to help others, give time and talent and resources to good causes, it makes us feel much better. So let’s do it. If you still wonder what it is you could do, keep reading the Bible and put God’s commands into practice personally. Help a friend, encourage a brother, feed the poor, visit the sick, care for the widows and orphans, love one another … these are just a few to get you started. And then thank God that you can serve, praising him with singing. Years ago when I sang in a choir I dragged into choir practice most Wednesday nights, feeling exhausted and preferring to have just gone on home. But, without fail, when I left each week I was soaring and filled with energy. Ironic… or amazing…? To quote an old song that bears truth, “nothing improves my day better than praising Him.” Try it for yourself.

3 “Know ye, that the Lord, he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.”

Pause on this one, because it is big and oh so important. God, the creator of the universe, the sovereign Lord of this world, loves you and wants you to know him. We can try to outsmart God, but all that we have came from him, whether we acknowledge it or not. Oh, can I urge you to know him? Have you ever studied how a shepherd loves and cares for his sheep? It is a beautiful analogy and a wonderful promise to us. Things may be blowing up all around me, but I am secure knowing that I am his sheep and he is my shepherd.

4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Giving thanks is a choice. I visited with a friend this week who is 87 and has some pretty painful physical challenges. But let me tell you, she spent our entire visit telling me how thankful she is for so many things and people in her life! I was encouraged and blessed by our visit. Any of us can find reasons to complain, but just as easily, we can find things for which to be grateful. It is our choice. So let’s choose to thank God, to praise him and to bless his name. Every person I have ever met has the capacity to be wrong, even with the best intentions. Let’s don’t put all our confidence in other people who may one day disappoint or fail us. Rather, let’s relate to God and accept him as Lord and sovereign; then we have no need to worry; he will never fail us; he will never leave us; he will be with us through all the good times and every single hard time. Give thanks and bless his holy name.

5 “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

I love verse 5! Trust me, I have found and know for sure that God is good. Also, my own failures have been reason enough for his mercy to run out on me, but it never has. Truly, his mercy is everlasting, and don’t we all need that mercy… in different ways, but we all need it, right? A popular song has a line filled with truth and hope for each of us, “your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me.”

Finally, his truth does endure to all generations or, in other words, forever and ever. Our culture tries to tell us that God’s truth is old, outdated, narrow, and not relevant.  But that is such a mis-representation of God’s truth. God’s truth is reliable and does not bind us but sets us free. Read his word; let him speak to you. You will find out that he is good and that he knows you and loves you and has a plan for your life. You may not like it, you may reject it, but “his truth endureth to all generations.”

Thank you, family, for teaching me the importance of God’s word that continues to impact me and speak to me for years and years and years to come.


Shugie

Speaking With Your Mouth Closed

I used to think that communicating effectively required lots and lots of talking. Being very comfortable with words, I assumed my relationships would not suffer in the arena of communication. Boy, was I wrong! This is only one area of life in which my early expectations proved to be somewhat disastrous.

Communication is much more than talking. It is what you say, how you say it, when you say it, and most importantly, what the other person hears. That’s why a counselor will often suggest to individuals that they express their thoughts and then ask the other to repeat back what they heard. It is amazing how often you say one thing and the other person hears something entirely different. With desire and practice you can learn better patterns of communication.

 Silence

Getting older, or at least more seasoned at relationships, I find myself wanting to say less, listen more, and oftentimes let silence do its work. Here’s an example. When someone makes a mistake and something falls apart, a typical response might be for you to jump in and tell him/her what they did wrong, what should have been done differently, and how painful the consequences will now be. (These are skills I have down pat!) In many cases, that forces the culprit to become very defensive, throwing the blame to others, and bringing up accusations and reminders of things in the past that you messed up on. The problem at hand that needs to be addressed now takes a back seat to the comparisons of “what about the time when . .”

Zip Your Lips

God’s word is powerful and so relevant to life, even related to the subject addressed here! Ecclesiastes 3 specifically says there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:7) Another passage, Psalm 39:1, mentions “I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle”. These are truths I have had to learn and discipline myself to practice.

Consider this – when a mistake first becomes apparent, what if you said nothing? What if you just waited and pressed your lips together, not allowing all those accusing words to come out? What if you only said, “Wow, I’m sorry.” This allows the one who made the mistake to still own it and now have opportunity and responsibility to suggest what he or she will do to rectify the situation. If and when he or she asks you for suggestions, you are able to give some input, but not in a condemning way. Also, responding with silence can be a way of conveying  forgiveness and unconditional love…. Having messed up a lot myself, I often pause and think, “How would I want someone to respond to me if the shoe was on the other foot?”

 Benefits

 One of the great benefits of intentionally being silent is that there is sometimes more to the situation that what is first apparent. Too often I have jumped in, made assumptions and accusations, only to be ashamed of myself after finding out the whole story. By quietly waiting and holding your tongue, you can protect yourself and the other person from inaccurate assumptions and over-reactions before you know all the facts.

 You are better together

Preserving and nurturing relationships with important people in your life need to be the priorities. Let me remind you that we need each other. Your friends, family, co-workers are not perfect and neither are you, but you are better together. While you may each have habits or quirks that drive each other crazy, you also often benefit from the good attributes of each other.

In conclusion, think before you speak, and let Psalm 19:14 be your guide – “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”


Shugie

Good News

In my last post I indicated that while out walking and praying one morning I asked God to speak to me and direct my thoughts on what to write. He answered that prayer and gave me a good word to share. However, before writing on that subject, I chose to write on the fact that God Speaks, because he does! Now it is time to write on what I heard in my heart from him that morning.

Jesus Saves

Everybody struggles with something. There are no perfect people. This is just a fact of life, because we are all born with a sin nature and there is nothing we can do to fix it. We can try to classify people into the bad, the very bad, the not so bad, the pretty good, and the ones who look almost perfect! No matter what your classification system may be, the truth is that we are all sinners and we cannot escape that reality. Scripture simply states, “for all have sinned ….” Romans 3:23

The good news is that JESUS SAVES. God provided a way for us to be saved from that sin nature, regardless of what our stories may be. Jesus is the solution for our sin problem. God sent his son to earth where he lived a sinless life and died a painful death to pay the price for all our sins so we could be forgiven. What a gift; what a sacrifice. God raised him from the dead and he lives forever. All who believe God and receive Jesus’ payment for their sin are redeemed and made new spiritually. Those who are saved have the presence and power and peace of Jesus living within them. They also enjoy the assurance of life forever beyond death – eternal life in heaven with Jesus. This good news is worth sharing and provides hope for every hurting person.

Be sure to note this. Saved people are not perfect people. Those who have experienced the saving grace of Jesus realize more than anyone else how broken and needy and empty they are without him. Any good you see in a Christian is representative of the love and grace of Jesus who lives within. A healthy Christian is a mirror, reflecting Jesus and pointing people to him. However, Christians sometimes succumb to the temptations of Satan and make choices that are not reflective of the nature of Christ. Jesus promises power to resist Satan, but we don’t always make the right choice. Keep in mind; people, even those saved by Jesus, are not perfect. But Jesus is, and he is the one to keep your eye on!

Jesus Sustains

Life happens — good and bad — to all people. We have to fight the cultural trend of thinking “well if I am a good person” or even “if I am a good Christian” these bad things should not be happening to me! Says who? And, by the way, is there really such a thing as a “good Christian?” We established earlier that a true believer in Jesus knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is nothing good in himself/herself. So bad things happen – from natural disasters to criminal and terrorist activities – from bad choices that hurt our lives to disease and rebellion that have terrible consequences.

If a Christian is not guaranteed a life without heartache, pain, suffering, disappointment, tragedy, what difference does it make to even be a believer? Good question – and the good news is that JESUS SUSTAINS. When the bottom falls out, you are not alone; when crisis demands immediate decisions, he speaks and leads; when your heart is breaking, he comforts. Ironically, most people who have walked with the Lord over a period of years will tell you that some of the sweetest times in life came during and through some of the most difficult circumstances. You have to take a leap of faith and trust him in order to experience God in this way, but the joy and peace are indescribable and not to be missed.

Jesus Satisfies

Finally, everybody I know longs to be content, at peace, filled with joy and few regrets. Wouldn’t that be great? Most of us have tried many things over the years to fill some void in our lives – if I could just let go of the hurt, the hate, the resentment — if I could just make more money — if I could just be nicer — if I could just get that job — if I could just lose that  weight — if I could just go on vacation — if I could just get away from these people — if I could just have another chance — if I could just look like that person — if I could just move… all the things that we think would change our lives for the better. Perhaps you longed for something and finally you made it happen or it just landed in your lap. Did it bring all the good you thought it would?

The good news is that JESUS SATISFIES.  You have to experience it to believe it, but if you believe Jesus, focus on him, depend on him, and praise and thank him for the good in life (and there is always some good), he brings satisfaction that is deep and healing.  “He restores my soul.” Ps. 23:3  An old hymn starts with these words, “I am satisfied with Jesus, He has done so much for me; He has suffered to redeem me, He has died to set me free.”

Do you want to be set free from the bondage of sin? Jesus saves.

Do you want to feel secure when your world is out of control?  Jesus sustains.

Do you want to be content and free from anxiety?  Jesus satisfies.

I know these things are true because they are the best part of my story. Every now and then I feel compelled to shout out this good news, throwing it as a life saver to any who may be ready to believe and receive.


Shugie

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