Day 137: Be blessed
There are some periods of your life when you have to fight for your blessing. For some, every morning they have to make a decision to choose the path of focusing on blessing and not that of feeling cursed. This beautiful Psalm shows us “how we can sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land”, v4. I see 3 keys for blessing. They show us how possible it is to live in a broken body every day; how we can survive the disappointment, the anger and the grief; and above all, it shows us how we can change the environment, whether that be the sound that is coming from a home, a church or the place we work in. But before we see them let us look at the environment that this Psalm focuses on. It is set in the time of Ezekiel and it is worth taking the time to read the verses in that book mentioned.
There is a river of regret, of being in a place you are not meant to be, v1.
There is a river of being overwhelmed, Ezekiel 3:15.
There is a river of the glory of God departing, Ezekiel 10:15-18
Yet even in the river of exile …
It can be a place of heaven opening, Ezekiel 1:1
Of visions of God, Ezekiel 1:1
Of hearing the Word of God, Ezekiel 1:3
Of having the hand of God upon you, Ezekiel 1:3
How do we turn the river of regret into a river of God?
Through 3 simple keys that look the same but involve discipline and choice every day:
v 5 “forget” not. KEEP CHOOSING THE LORD.
v 6 “remember”. STIR HIM WITHIN YOU.
v 6 “consider”. THINK OF HIM THE MOST.
As I write this, I think of a group of Christian friends who are changing their workplace into a river of God through these 3 keys. Wherever you are, whatever the circumstance, you can do this too.
Choose blessing, stay blessed.
Day 136: Be blessed
It was an ordinary day in 1937 and John Griffiths allowed his 8 year old son Greg to come and help him at work, controlling the railway bridge that crossed the Mississipi river
The morning went quickly and at noon they headed off for lunch, down a narrow catwalk onto an observation platform about 50 feet above the Mississippi. John told his son stories about the ships as they passed by. Suddenly, they were jolted back to reality by the shrill sound of an engine’s whistle. Looking at his watch, John realised to his horror that it was 1.07pm, that the Memphis Express was due any time and that the bridge was still raised. He calmly told Greg to stay put and then ran back to the controls. Once there he looked beneath the bridge to make sure there was nothing below. As his eyes moved downwards he saw something so terrible that he froze. For there, lying on the gears, was his beloved son. Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Immediately, John realised the horrifying choice before him: either to lower the bridge and kill his son, or to keep the bridge raised and kill everyone on board the train. As 400 people moved closer to the bridge, John realised what he had to do. Burying his face under his arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were instantly drowned out by the noise of the bridge grinding slowly into position. John wiped the tears from his eyes as the train passed by. A conductor was collecting tickets in his usual way. A businessman was casually reading a newspaper. Ladies were drinking afternoon tea. Children were playing. Most of the passengers were engaged in idle chatter. No one saw. No one heard the cries of a heartbroken father.
An ordinary day of extraordinary love.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.
Day 135: Be blessed
If my lips could sing as many songs as there are waves in the sea:
if my tongue could sing as many hymns as there are ocean billows:
if my mouth filled the whole firmament with praise:
if my face shone like the sun and moon together:
if my hands were to hover in the sky like powerful eagles
and my feet ran across mountains as swiftly as the deer;
all that would not be enough to pay you fitting tribute,
O Lord my God.
Hymn probably composed in the Talmudic period, 3rd-5th century A.D
All that would not be enough ….
Well, here are 12 reasons to praise the Lord
1. You are a servant of His, v1
2. He is good, v3
3. It is pleasant to do so, v3
4. You have been chosen, v4
5. He is great, v5
6. He is Creator, v6-7
7. He is your deliverer, v8-10
8. He is a giver, v11-12
9. His name endures, v13
10. He will vindicate you, v14
11. He is compassionate, v14
12. He speaks, He hears, He sees, He breathes life, v16-17
Hold on, that’s 16 not 12 reasons. Maybe there are too many reasons not to praise Him?
Even in the 3rd century they realised is.
Praise and be blessed
Day 134: Be blessed
Open your clenched fist.
Stretch out your withdrawn arms.
Turn them over into giving hands.
Do it in the night, when you have to trust Him completely.
This is the image of the Servant of the Lord.
This is Christ.
This is you.
This is blessing.
Day 133: Be blessed
God’s people getting along? In unity? Some would say more of a challenge than a blessing!
The enemies of unity are:-
“I don’t need help. I can do it on my own.”
The first step in defeating this enemy is simply to think of yourself less.
Unity is conceived when we think about “we” more than “me”.
Spinning more plates doesn’t increase your talent – it increases your likelihood of dropping a plate.
What’s it going to take to make us think we cannot do everything on our own? We need others. We need someone to help spin the plates.
Today many do not know how to converse with people, there are little relational skills. They have never been taught and they are not willing to learn. Some people are just not out-going and they do not think in this way. But even the most introverted person in the world can learn to enjoy the benefits of being united with others.
Other people are never convenient.
If you wait till you feel like it, you will never have genuine fellowship. The time excuse says that others are not that important.
The keys to unity are:
a) Don’t pretend.
Let’s not fall into superficiality for fear of upsetting people and rocking the boat. We need the courage to confront. Let’s not sweep anything under the carpet. But remember not to be rude, nor wound another.
b) Be respectful.
We’re all different. We all have someone who irritates us. When you stop long enough to understand someone then you know what they’ve been through and why they are like they are.
c) Don’t fantasise about what church, home, work should be like.
“He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter … ” Bonhoffer.
d) Be a loyal supporter.
If the devil is the accuser. Then if I step into that place of criticising and complaining about God’s family then I am doing the devils job.
e) Don’t listen to gossip.
We know not to speak it, but don’t listen to it.
People who gossip to you will also gossip about you.
Unity breeds blessing.
Day 132: Be blessed
By no means is this everyone’s favourite film, but I do like Tree of Life. It is based around a Texan family in the 1950s and focuses on their relationships and struggles. The mother wants her children to see a world of wonder, whist the father wants his children to see a wicked world.
In a beautiful scene one of the children, Jack is kneeling beside his bed saying his prayers. He says the usual list of requests that any 12 year old would, but then he begins to say things that I found so moving and challenging, because they echo my own heart.
“Where do you live?”
“Are you watching me?
I want to know what you are.
I want to see what you see.”
This is wondrous longing.
The reason I write about it is because the Psalmist recalls David’s longing for God, for His presence.
Where do you live?
He lives in a place where there is commitment, v2; where desire for Him is more than that of other things, v3-4; where He is sought after, v5.
Where do you live?
He lives in a place where you and Him can meet in worship, v7; in a journey made by both of you, v7-8; in the transferring of righteousness on to you, v9; in joy, v9.
Where do you live?
He lives in a permanent place and a desired place, v14; a place of provision, v15; and of salvation, v16; of power and direction, v17; and of great reward, v18.
Are you beginning to realise how blessed you are?!!
Day 131: Be blessed
Do you have someone who is not afraid to knock you down a peg or two? Is there a friend who will approach you and ask you how life is with your big-head?! A blessed person is someone who is not allowed to take themselves too seriously because they have learnt the importance of being laughed at over their seeming importance!
Leaders can be people with high insecurities and given to power and control simply because they have faced much criticism in their work.
Leaders can also be people with ultra-egos and given to make exaggerated and overblown statements usually about themselves though cloaked with a pretend-spirituality. All this is because their work has not been criticised.
Everybody needs somebody who’s willing to deflate their egos from time to time—even movie stars like Denzel Washington. While promoting 2007’s The Great Debaters, Washington was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. Midway through their conversation, Washington noted the encouragement his mother had given him throughout his life. He also shared this story of his mother’s reproof over his budding pride:
I walked in the house one day and—feeling full of myself, a movie star—I said to my mother, “Did you ever think this was all going to happen?” She was like, “Please. First of all, go wash the windows for me. You have no idea how many people have been praying for you when you were being a knucklehead.”
If you don’t have someone then go find a friend and give them permission to continue knocking you down to size.
This way you will stay blessed.
Day 130: Be blessed
“With you there is forgiveness”
God wants you home again. To the place we belong.
A Father had 5 sons. The eldest was obedient, 4 rebellious.
They were told never to go near the river, but each day the 4 brothers would get closer and closer. Till one day one of them stepped in and said ‘hold my hand so I won’t fall in’ – but the currents swirled and pulled them all in.
They were swept away to a strange land, a place they were never born for, a place they could not escape from.
Each evening they built a fire and told stories of their father and the elder brother, the Firstborn.
One night one brother failed to come to the fire. “I’ve grown tired of our talks. I will build a great house and settle here.”
The next night a 2nd brother failed to appear at the fire. He sat on the hill staring at the house his brother was building, “I’ll stay here and keep a record of wrongs our brother is making.”
The next night a 3rd brother failed to appear. He was found stacking rocks in the river. ‘I’ve failed – I will build a way back.’
The last brother returned to the fire.
Then one morning came the voice of the Firstborn “The Father has sent me to bring you home.”
The first brother said, “I’ve made a home here. Go away stranger. I have no Father.”
The 2nd brother said, “It’s great that you are here to see the sins of our brother”.
The 3rd brother said, ‘I cannot stop to talk I must work. I have sinned. I need to work.”
The 4th brother by the fire said “will he forgive me?”
The firstborn replied, “Would he have sent me if he wouldn’t?” and the younger brother climbed on the back of the firstborn and began the journey home.
What best describes you: pleasure seeker; bitter talker; work-driven or are you being carried back to the Father’s house.
“With you there is forgiveness”
Day 129: Be blessed
All of my life greatly oppressed, walked over, my body scarred forever.
BUT they have not gained the victory over me!
Yesterday, Mr Obama, the first black US president gave his address at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC almost 50 years to the minute after Martin Luther King Jr culminated the march with his celebrated I Have a Dream speech. The time – 15:00 local time (19:00 GMT) – was marked by ringing bells. “They assembled here, in our nation’s capital, under the shadow of the great emancipator, to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress and to awaken America’s long-slumbering conscience.” He went on to applaud the maids, labourers, porters, secretaries who transformed the US into the nation it is today.
Aung San Suu Kyi has become an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face
of oppression: “A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.” Freedom from Fear
Bono wrote the song ‘Walk On’ based upon her determination to keep going.
What you got, they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight…
Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t deny it
Can’t sell it or buy it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight
Friends whatever it is: Slandered all your life, scarred for life, oppressed, in the hands of the wicked or walking through the valley of the shadow of death …. BUT they have not gained victory over me.
Keep going! Walk on!
Day 128: Be blessed
“…your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” v3.
Two thousand year-old olive trees are not unknown, and some exist today. They have a way to ensure their own safety as they grow old. They send up new shoots from their outlying roots. These small young trees surround their “parent” tree, serving as buffers from the wind that help to protect the aged tree.
One of the joys of pastoring was to see children look after their parents as they grew older. Hospital appointments, home visits, shopping, and then above all gathering together in their final hours.
Whether we have our own natural children or not, if we have given ourselves to the younger generation then when we grow old they will be there for us, surrounding and supporting us in our time of need.
You may not be a parent physically but you can still be a mother and father. I have just finished reading a tribute to a lady who “was a mother of many”. This could be you.
Blessing is having someone younger than you be there in your hour of need.
So we can perhaps all be a blessing by supporting our own parents and/or those that have mentored us.