The Unending Joy of Friends

For many years it has been our family’s tradition to recite Psalm 100 before we eat our Thanksgiving meal. Now with our children grown, our grandchildren grown and establishing family traditions, we are thrilled to hear that they also have adopted for the fourth generation, the reciting of this Psalm.

This morning our phone rang. We knew who it was. He is always the first one to call. And when we reminded him to read Psalm 100 today, he said “Already have.”

Whatever your family traditions are, my prayer today is that you will make it something that your children and grandchildren can pass down and in this small way keep the memory of this close thread of family tradition continuing.
PSALM 100

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness:
come before His presence with singing.
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.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise;
Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting;
and His truth endureth to all generations.

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Holy Habits

According to a recent survey, the top two New Year’s resolutions for Americans are to lose weight and to exercise more; both broken within 30 days. My son prefers setting goals to making resolutions for if you fail to keep resolutions, you tend to give up, but if it’s a goal, you can continue pursuing them. I have discovered, however, that to set holy habits for the New Year has helped me achieve better than resolutions or goals. Among the holy habits I am focusing on this year is to study the Scriptures an additional hour daily.

My motivation to read and study the Scriptures has been triggered by three Scriptures.

The truth given to the prophet Ezekiel 3:3, 4: “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it. So I ate . . . He then said to me, ‘Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them’.” We are only prepared to communicate his truth, in my case, to write about his truth, when our minds are full of his words and our hearts are prepared by his words to share him.

Psalm 119:20 burdens me to experience the reality that “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” A high order. But that’s the holy habit I am pursuing this year. It will come gradually as I read, study, memorize, and meditate on his laws. My weakness will be memorizing, especially the references. My mind doesn’t hold them as it used to.

Last year as I studied the Book of Job, 23:12 burned into my heart: “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” I confess it will be a challenge to pursue that holy habit. But what a habit to form!

Psychologists suggest that it takes only twenty-two consecutive days to establish a habit. Knowing me, it’s going to take me much longer.

So readers, let’s join together in pursuit of our holy habits. Maybe we need to pray more, serve in our churches more, establish a daily devotional time, share our faith more, help others more, or even read the Bible through this year. These holy habits will not only help us individually but the body of Christ as well so that we experience the reality of strengthening spiritual muscles for ourselves and in our churches to make them power houses for worship, growth, outreach, and discipleship. Our communities will benefit from Jesus being alive and well and active in his people.

Ridiculed

I remember Patty, in my seventh grade, who wore braces on both legs. Always pleasant and never grumbled or complained about her handicap, she struggled from class to class and her laborious effort to maneuver her crutches echoed on the oak floors. When I heard her, I held the heavy oak door open for her.

Generally, Patty was ignored but sometimes she was ridiculed. One time the boys hid her crutches. When the dismissal bell rang, she reached under her chair, feeling around for her crutches, and almost fell. The hot water radiators had ledges above them and someone had laid the crutches there. I got them for her.

As I stepped into the hall, a student grabbed my arm and laughed in my ear,“Maybe she’d go to the basketball game tonight with ya. You wouldn’t have to hold her hand.”

As he took off, I grabbed him by the shoulder, and asked, “Suppose she was your sister? Would you want her treated that way?

He walked away, but I stood there, as she labored to leave the building, my mind asking, God, why are we humans so cruel to one another? Then I burst through the heavy oak doors myself, pleased that I had confronted him. I passed her scooting down the three concrete steps, dragging her crutches. I ran to the bus and didn’t look back, wiping my eyes on my shirt sleeve.

An Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was derided all the time for preaching the unpopular Word from God and so he complained, “God, I am ridiculed all day long, everyone insults me all day” Jeremiah 20:7b. “I became the laughingstock of all people; they mock me in song all day long” Lamentations 3:14.

Why do we ridicule the handicapped, oppressed, and less fortunate? Psychologists tell us that it is to get pleasure from the misfortune of others, to fit in with the group so we’re not different, and to make ourselves important by putting others down. Human nature wants others to conform and to think and act as they do, an admirable trait if the conformity is positive and Godly.

Here are a few Scriptural burs under our saddles to help us find out where we are in our attitudes toward those who are belitted.“He who despises his neighbor sins” Proverbs 14:21a. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her” Genesis 16: 6b. “They oppress the poor, the needy, and mistreat the aliens” Ezekiel 22:29. “Remember those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” Hebrews 13:3. This remembrance ought to motivate us to remove a few of the burs.

“Eternal compassionate Lord, give me eyes to see and feel as the less fortunate. Forgive my insensitivity when I ignore helping others and tenderize me with your compassionate heart so I feel like Jesus who healed the crippled, made blind eyes to see, cast out tormenting demons, fed multitudes, calmed storms, and raised the dead. Show me that same Power as I interact with those different from me, particularly the mistreated. Please keep the truth of Hebrews 13:3 alive in me, deep down in my heart and mind. Then and only then will I learn to reach out to those who are ridiculed and mistreated. Amen.”
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Excerpted from my memoir Naked With Clothes On soon to be published