Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lenten Devotional Psalm 118

From my good friend and colleague, Bob Orr, who wrote this devotional ...

First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor - Lenten Devotional

Theme: Passion and Suffering
Palm Sunday, March 29

Scripture: Psalm 118

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever!
Let Israel say,
   'His steadfast love endures for ever.'
Let the house of Aaron say,
   'His steadfast love endures for ever.'
Let those who fear the Lord say,
   'His steadfast love endures for ever.' 
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
   the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
   What can mortals do to me?
The Lord is on my side to help me;
   I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
   than to put confidence in mortals.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
   than to put confidence in princes.
All nations surrounded me;
   in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
   in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees;
   they blazed like a fire of thorns;
   in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
   but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my might;
   he has become my salvation.
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
'The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
   the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
   the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.'
I shall not die, but I shall live,
   and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has punished me severely,
   but he did not give me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
   that I may enter through them
   and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
   the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
   and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord's doing;
   it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
   O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
   We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
   and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
   up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures for ever. 


Let's be clear at the outset. This psalm/song comes to us in the Christian faith from our brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith. We owe them a debt which can only be repaid with daily gratitude. They lived and loved and followed our common God in ancient times centuries before Jesus, a Jew, was born in Bethlehem. This is one of a hundred and fifty poems which enrich our lives even as they surely did his. I urge you to read this Psalm slowly aloud and think why it was first sung. What did it represent to men and women of faith? Why was it important? What themes or ideas did the writer want to convey? What melody lifted these words to God?
In my wife's family, there is a dear cousin who is schizophrenic. He has been in and out of institutions, group homes and hospitals for thirty years. He's fifty-six and was diagnosed with lung cancer last August. His mother wrote that she heard him quietly singing "Jesus Loves Me" in his bed a few weeks before he died in January.
Now re-read this Psalm. Jesus may have quietly sung this song when he entered Jerusalem for Passover that last week of his life, or when he hung on the cross and died. "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever."


Lord of life, we turn to you and remember that some things are worth dying for.
And living for.

About the Author

Bob Orr has been helped to pray the Psalms by visiting a community of Catholic Trappist monks in Kentucky where at seven services throughout the day they have sung or recited the Psalms, every day, seven days a week, month in and month out, for over one hundred fifty years.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happy Birthday Mom

Today's my Mom's birthday.
1912 it was, when it began.

And when she took leave of us,
1988, I had no tears.
Until my daughter, then 12, said,
"I remember playing Uno with her."

A few years later, at a Jungian Retreat,
We were, all 30 of us, or so, on the floor.
Pondering ...

For some reason, the question came: "Do I want
My mother in heaven?"

I had to think about it.
At the time, no great desire to ever "see her again."
And to this day, no great desire.

But, then, a thought:
"Might she at last, at least, there.
Find a peace that eluded her here?

And with that, I was at peace.
"Let her find the missing pieces."
If that's what heaven's about.

To this day, the memories remain.
And they're not fun.

She laughed heartily when she laughed.
She had intelligence ... a fine mind.
Often mean in its skills.
And bitter with rage and jealousy.

She birthed me, for sure.
Slapped me and screamed at me.
Threw an ashtray at me in 10th grade.
She missed, and put a hole in the wall.

Home life was tense.

Fearful of the explosion.
That would always come.
Sooner if not later.
Mostly sooner it was.

I remember ... can't help it.
So I'll go with my Jungian recollection.
Hope she has found her peace.
What she never had here.

I give thanks for her DNA in me.
Perhaps I've realized some of the gifts of
Life she never could embrace.

I've found my own peace.
With the all the pieces of my life.

I'm grateful.

And with a turn to my life.
To my wife.
To my children.
To what has been, what is, and what shall be.

I'll turn to my Mom.
And say it in faith.
"Happy Birthday Mom."

"Be of good cheer.
Kick up your heels.
Love those around you."

"Happy Birthday Mom.
Happy Birthday."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Let's Be Clear ...

Let's be clear:

1) the earth and its life-forms were not created in 7 24-hour days - it's a great story, a poem, a metaphor, a song and a dance, but it's not science; it's faith, and a good faith at that.

2) There never was an ark, though the ancient world seems to remember a cataclysmic flood in the eastern Mediterranean region. The story is an ancient writer's reflection on God decision to create a most befuddling critter. Or what we might call "buyer's remorse."

3) Neither fish nor whale swallowed Jonah - he was swallowed by his own hatred of Israel's enemy and his refusal to contemplate the fullness of God's love. It's Hebrew Theater at its story-telling best.

4) Virgin birth? Heck, lots of heroes, rulers and saviors, in the ancient world were born of a virgin. It's a device, a metaphor, to underscore God's hand in such things. But literal? Believe it if you want. But hold it lightly.

Enough for the day ...