The G-Word, Part 1: Sam & Tilley

I have a confession to make: I suck at gardening.


Marian Petkau, my mom, taught me everything I know about gardening. (Not that she’d brag about that…)

If the term ‘green thumb’ was coined for cultivation crackerjacks like both of my parents, I’m the reason the term ‘black thumb’ exists.

I can barely grow potatoes. My attempts at rhubarb and raspberries – crops that tend to overrun most people’s gardens – both fell flat. If I put bedding plants in my flowerbeds, I can usually keep them alive for a couple of months, but not always.

In light of that reality, it was quite a relief when my family moved into our current home, as it came fully landscaped, without a square inch of open soil.

I’m mildly ashamed of my horticultural hopelessness, I admit. As I said, my parents are both excellent gardeners, and I work for an agricultural company, so I have no excuse. But the fact remains.

The grass looks OK, thanks to a lot of rain this summer. But the flowerbeds that surround our back yard are, thankfully, just gravel.

Baldy’s Yard: The grass looks OK, thanks to a lot of rain this summer. But the flowerbeds that surround our back yard are, thankfully, just gravel.

But not long ago, vague feelings of inadequacy turned to mild horror and alarm when it dawned on me that the only job title available to humanity before The Fall was gardener.

‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’ – Genesis 2:15

 There’s a bit in Genesis 2 where Adam names the animals, but this was probably a one-time task, not an ongoing one. His focus seems to have been on flora, not fauna.

If the world was perfect until the serpent slithered into the garden in Genesis 3, does that mean every occupation under the sun other than gardening is an aberration? That God loves gardeners and tolerates everyone else?

G word       Naaaah, probably not…

… But there’s no doubt that horticulture is an activity close to the heart of God – and the Bible in general – so I’ve decided to explore some of the uses of The G-Word throughout Scripture, and share some thoughts in a blog series. Here goes:

 †     †     †

God Herself‡‡ is often described as a gardener. This image is woven into the fabric of the Creation story as follows:

‘Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.’ – Genesis 1:11-12

It is good, isn’t it?

As Sam said to Tilley in the 1987 classic film, Tin Men

Tilley Danny DeVito and Sam Jackie Gayle exchange witty repartee about a vital topic in Barry Levinsons 1987 masterpiece, Tin Men.

Tilley (Danny DeVito) and Sam (Jackie Gayle) exchange witty repartee about a vital topic in Barry Levinson’s 1987 masterpiece, Tin Men.

Sam (Jackie Gayle): … I’m beginning to think about God more.
Tilley (Danny DeVito): What, you were never one of those atheists, were you?
Sam : No, I’m not sayin’ that. It’s just that I’m beginning to give God more thought.
Tilley: What, did you have some kind of religious experience or something.
Sam: Well, yeah, the other day I took the wife to lunch, we went and had some smorgasboard, and it just kinda happened.
Tilley: [Gags for a second at this] At the smorg… you found God at the smorgasboard?
Sam: Well, yeah, I’m looking at all this food, I see all these vegetables, and I think, all these things came outta the ground. I see tomatoes, outta the ground, carrots, outta the ground, radishes outta the ground. And I think, all of these things come outta the ground. And I’m just talkin’ about the vegetables, I haven’t gotten to the fruits yet. And I think, how can that be? How can all these things come outta the ground? With all these things comin’ outta the ground, there must be a God.

With all these things comin’ outta the ground, there must be a God, indeed.

Amen.

†     †     †

The Garden of Eden as depicted in the first or left panel of Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych

The Garden of Eden as depicted in the first or left panel of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych

The word ‘garden’ appears 62 times in the Good Book – often simply as the setting in which a scene takes place, or a piece of property that’s discussed in the dialogue. But sometimes gardens seem to almost function like characters in the stories.

The Gardens of Eden and Gethsemane almost seem to have personalities.

I imagine Eden revelling in her role as the home for humanity and the place in which God walks with people in the cool of the day.

A few thousand(?) years later, the Disciples couldn’t stay awake while Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, but the garden himself seemed to keep vigil with Our Lord, sharing His anguish and fear; joining in His prayer for the disciples of then and now.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to use a feminine pronoun for Eden and a masculine one for Gethsemane, but what I have written, I have written.

The Garden of Gethsemane, photographed in 2012.

The Garden of Gethsemane, photographed in 2012.

†     †     †

‡‡Speaking of gender-specific pronouns, you may have noticed that I used a feminine pronoun to refer to God a few paragraphs ago, and I thought I’d provide a bit of context.

Last year, I decided to stop identifying God as male by default, as documented in my post Anti-pronoun. As painful as it is, I’ve been avoiding using any pronouns at all to refer to God since then. Instead, I keep using the (other) G-Word: ‘God poured Godself into the world’, rather than ‘God poured [Him/Her]self into the world’, and so on.

And it sets my teeth on edge, every single time. After all, God gave us pronouns; surely She must want us to use them!

Daniel Kirk

Daniel Kirk

But recently, I’ve noticed some of my favorite liberal podcasters (including Daniel Kirk, host of the LectioCast, and the pastors from House for All Sinners and Saints) –  who’d initially inspired my anti-pronoun stance – using pronouns freely, but simply alternating the masculine and the feminine.

Baldy see, Baldy do.

hfass logoLast year, I speculated that God doesn’t have a gender – that the concepts of male and female are not part of the spiritual realm at all. But lately, I’m starting to wonder if it’s not more accurate to say that He is both genders simultaneously – that all that is masculine and all that is feminine coexist without contradiction inside Her infinitely wondrous being.

Might just be an exercise in self-justification, but either way, I think I’ll give pronounical leapfroggery a try, and use Him & Her and He & She to refer to the Almighty for the next little while. (Feel free to stand way over there to avoid scorching when I’m inevitably struck by lightning.)

Peace be with you.

Posted in Bible, Faith, God, Grace, New Testament, Old Testament, Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Word at a Time

The one thing I don’t like about going on holidays is that it often means I have to miss church service. (That might be the most Ned Flanders thing I’ve ever said, but it’s true.)

But when I peeked into the Revised Common Lectionary and saw what the readings were for July 24, when my wife Karen and I were scheduled to be en route to our fabulous 20th-anniversary Alaskapalooza Cruise, my misgivings softened a little.

Alaskapalooza!

Alaskapalooza!

The Gospel reading scheduled for that week was Luke 11:1-13 – Luke’s version of Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer to His disciples. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of the Lord’s Prayer. I wrote an entire blog post devoted to it, a few years back and have touched on it in several others. I’ve studied it from a few different angles and I pray it nearly every day. If there’s a Sunday I can afford to miss, it’s one that focuses on the Lord’s Prayer, right?

Wrong.

Obviously.

While I don’t regret the Sunday away from service, I am glad I chose to listen to several sermons from churches that focused on this reading. At my church, guest pastor Andy Lees gave a great sermon on Prayer With Attitude; Denver Lutheran Pastrix Nadia Bolz-Weber preached a barnburner called Our Father Who Art in Everything; and Max Lucado, whose Oak Hills Church in San Antonio doesn’t follow the Lectionary, nevertheless preached powerfully on the Lord’s Prayer on July 31.

Maureen Crerar

But what spoke most loudly to me on this topic was a sermon from a church I’ve never even been to: St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Edmonton. I stumbled upon St. Timothy’s a few months ago when I was looking for podcasts from Canadian liturgical churches to balance out my U.S. Evangelical-dominated library, and I’m glad I did. The church seems unpretentious and Godly, and the preaching is accessible, yet insightful.

Case in point: the Rev. Canon Maureen Crerar gave a wonderfully encouraging sermon July 24 about the Lord’s Prayer. She mentioned that some years back, a mentor challenged her to pray the Lord’s Prayer, contemplating each word individually as she went.

Sad Ned-flandersThat sounded like a great idea to me, so I’ve decided to give it a shot myself in this blog post – using the contemporary-language version of the prayer, jumping willy-nilly from translation to translation in mid-prayer – because that’s just how I roll. (Take THAT, Flanders!)

Here goes:

Our

Do you ever think about the fact that even though God is the One who created us, we’re invited to call God our God? The entire universe belongs to God, so clearly, we’re God’s people. But this prayer suggests that this sense of belonging is meant to be mutual.

‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s is mine.’ – Song of Songs 6:3  

Father

God could require that we use words like ‘Master’, ‘Lord’, ‘King’ or ‘Owner’ here, but the most powerful being in the universe invites us to think of God as our parent. Please don’t let quibbles over the gender of God get in the way of the power of the incredible graciousness of this invitation.

Who

Not ‘that’, ‘what’ or ‘which’ (in this translation, anyway). Who. God is not some impersonal Force like you see in Star Wars, God is a personal being who knows and loves you, personally.

Art

A Picasso or a Garfunkel?

Leslie Jordan and David Leonard, known collectively as All Sons and Daughters.

Leslie Jordan and David Leonard, known collectively as All Sons and Daughters. (More accurately, I’d say they’re one of each.)

‘Art’, in this case, is an old-fashioned form of the verb ‘to be’. Another form of ‘to be’ is ‘am’, which God uses with great efficiency in Exodus 3:14 to teach us something about Godself: God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” I wrote a whole series about The A-Word a few years back. Here’s a link to Part 1. Lots of writers and singers have picked up on this same vibe over the years, including All Sons and Daughters, whose song You Will Remain reminds us that ‘You are, you will be, you always are the Great I Am.’

In

Here are some thoughts on the word ‘in’ from another previous blog post.

Heaven,

Im sure Heaven looks just like this.

I’m sure Heaven looks just like this.

What does it mean for God to be ‘in Heaven.’ Is Heaven a place? A state of mind? A plane of existence? Or is Heaven anywhere God is? (And if God dwells in our hearts, does that mean Heaven dwells within each of us, too?)

Holy

Yes, God is our friend and our mentor and our daddy. Yes, we are all made in the image of God. But the word ‘holy‘ means ‘set apart’, because despite all of the ways we’re invited to strive to be like God, God is perfect and we are not. And yet, this perfect, holy God invites us to use words like friend, mentor and daddy as we pray to Him.

is Your

Holy is your name. Sometimes ‘you’ is a plural pronoun, but in this case it’s singular. Only God’s name is holy.

Name.

holy is your nameIt’s not difficult to fathom that the Creator of the Universe is holy, but to think that even the very name of God is holy, is a challenging concept for me.

After all, we live in a culture where names are nearly meaningless. To have a name so intricately linked to the substance of a Being is instructive about both the nature of holiness and its potency.

Your

Not our kingdom, Your Kingdom. We are invited to be citizens of this Kingdom, but it belongs exclusively to our God.

Kingdom

Not God’s democracy, God’s republic or God’s anarchy. God’s Kingdom. A well-ordered, just and perfect Kingdom where there is no doubt Who is in charge and unanimous satisfaction about that fact.

Come

There’s an urgency in this word, isn’t there. Maybe even a desperation: Your Kingdom come … soon … please …?

Your

Similar to the last ‘your’, this one pleads for God’s will – and no one else’s – to be done.

Will

The Will of God is a terrifying, comforting concept, isn’t it? God’s will rarely consults our preferences, and it often takes us to uncomfortable spaces.

But there’s comfort in the knowledge that when God’s will is being done, circumstances are unfolding as they are meant to – the best possible scenario is being realized. There’s a ‘Come what may’ freedom that percolates when there’s confidence that the will of God is being accomplished. So please, Lord, Your will be done.

be Done,

I long for God’s will to be ‘done’ as in ‘finished’  (past tense) and unalterably, unshakably in place for all time. But when you’re a God who exists outside time, the past tense doesn’t really apply. On the Cross, Jesus declared, ‘It is finished’, and in one sense, past tense was appropriate here. But in another, Jesus’ work of salvation is an ongoing process that will continue in each of us for our entire lives.

On

Thanks to gravity, there’s very little of humanity that is truer than the statement that we are on Earth. (Sure, we can use huge amounts of resources and ingenuity to liberate ourselves from the state of being ‘on earth’ for short periods of time, but there’s no denying that this is a fundamental component of humanity as we know it.) When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, I think it’s implied that we’re asking that God’s will be done on earth in the same sense, and to the same extent that we humans live on earth.

Earth

Not necessarily ‘Earth’, the third planet in our Solar system, or ‘earth’ the first of the four elements of the ancient world, but Earth, the place where humanity dwells. If humans ever colonize Mars, I don’t envision Martian Christians changing the words of the prayer to say ‘Your will be done, on Mars as it is in Heaven.’

As

Not ‘like’, as in ‘similar’. ‘As’, as in ‘identically’. We’re asking that God’s will be done on earth to the same extent that it is done in Heaven. That’s a pretty huge prayer when you think about it. And I think God wants us to think about it.

In Heaven

Heaven is the face of a little girl 
with dark brown eyes
that disappear when she smiles
Heaven is the place
where she calls my name,
says, “Daddy please come play with me for awhile”

God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more
But God, You know, that this is what I’m aching for
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door…

– from Heaven is the Face, by Steven Curtis Chapman

Give

Notice the absence of the word ‘please’ here. Jesus doesn’t tack on a bunch of flowery, exaggeratedly pious ‘We beseech you‘s and ‘We know we are not worthy but if you could please see your way to provide‘s, He invites us to simply say ‘give’ here – as if we’re invited to come to God not as beggars, but as children entitled to a place at God’s table. ‘As if‘ because in Christ, it is so.

Us

Not ‘me’. ‘Us’. This prayer is prayed for the entire community, and by the entire community. I wonder if, even when we are alone when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are part of a chorus of believers around the world, praying it together with one voice. I think that might be true, and I like that.

This

Sometimes it’s easier to imply the word ‘someday‘ in my prayers for God to give me what I’m asking for. You know, ‘Whenever You get around to it, Lord. Heaven knows some of my siblings in Christ have needs that are more severe than mine, and I wouldn’t want to cut in line ahead of them, so you know, whenever. And if that turns out to be “never”, that’s cool. You’re the God, after all.’

But Jesus instructed us to ask God to give to us on this day.

Day

Funnily, all of the images that came up in my Google search for the word 'day' looked like this. As if a cloudy winter day in a crowded city is any less a day than a sunny summer one in the country.

Funnily, all of the images that came up in my Google search for the word ‘day’ looked like this. As if a cloudy winter day in a crowded city is any less a day than a sunny summer one in the country.

What do we mean when we say ‘day’? Is it the eight-hour work day? The 16-hour period when we’re awake? The X-number of consecutive hours of daylight we experience between dawn and dusk? The 24-hour period in which the earth completes a full rotation?

And what does it do to our understanding of the word ‘day’ when we remember that God created the universe in six days (especially if we’re among those who don’t take this literally)? What about the paradigm-torpedoing word in 2 Peter 3:8 that ‘with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.’? Either way …

‘This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.’ – Psalm 118:24

Our

Again with the plural pronouns. Our daily bread, not my daily bread. Another reminder that we pray this prayer in community.

Also, again with the sense of entitlement. (Didn’t Jesus ever say ‘please’?) But I don’t think this use of ‘our’ is meant to convey a ‘Give us the bread today that we’ve got coming to us’ vibe. More like, ‘You know our individual and collective needs better than we do, so give us what we need to meet those needs.’

Daily

Give us today what we need today. There’s such humble, uncomplicated dependence in this word. Such acknowledgement that every day we eat, it’s because God decided we can eat today. Every breath is God’s to give us (or not).

Bread.

Here are some reflections on ‘bread’ from a previous blog post.

And

Because man does not live on bread alone, we add more to this audacious list of requests (which is worded to sound a lot like demands).

Forgive

Christian musician Matthew West tells us that forgiveness is ‘the hardest thing to give away’, but it’s also the one of the hardest things to ask for.

If there were a word for ‘Can we pretend this never happened without addressing who did what to whom?’ and that was the word used here instead of ‘forgive’, I think we’d be less daunted by that word. But even if such a word does exist and eludes me for the moment, it’s not the word Jesus taught us to pray here. He commended this prayer to us using the word ‘forgive’, because He knew we need to own our own sins before we can give them to Him.

Us

If 1,000 people are praying this prayer with one voice at the beginning, it seems odd to think that it suddenly becomes 1,000 individual prayers happening simultaneously when we get to this part. So assuming that we pray this part of the prayer collectively as well, is there room to wonder if part of the power of the Lord’s Prayer is that when one person has the strength to say this prayer but not mean it in that moment, God uses the power of the community to bridge that gap and forgive that person’s prayers, too?

Our

Not just your sins and my sins, but our collective sins as well. Our sins as a church. As The Church. As society. These sins are many, and for us to truly repent of them, we need to name them. A tall order. Thank God there’s grace.

Sins

This could have been taken from one of my stellar turns at the dartboard, but it wasn't.

Looks like Baldy’s been playing darts again.

One definition of ‘sin’ is ‘to miss the mark’. That doesn’t sound so terrible – especially when you consider that the bullseye we’ve fallen short of is Perfection Itself.

But we also know that our sins are so many and our darts so far off-target that it’s easy to wonder if we’re even facing the right target. (Is it any wonder that a definition of ‘repentance’ is ‘to turn around’?)

As

‘As’? Really?!?

The prayer is going great up until this point. Give us our daily bread, forgive us our sins … and then Jesus had to use ‘as’ – meaning ‘at the same time as’ or maybe even ‘because’ to tie God’s forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. And He built it right into the fabric of the prayer, as if to remind us not to even bother asking for forgiveness if we’re not willing to give it.

We

Again, is it possible that the collective nature of this prayer means that we get to pool our ability to forgive our debtors, so when one of us is unable to forgive right now, that the forgiveness of the rest of the community somehow ‘carries’ or ‘covers’ the one who can’t forgive today?

Just asking.

Forgive

Disciplehood title slides (8)Not so much a state of the heart, where we no longer feel like we’ve been wronged, but a decision to try to let go of the resentment and anger you feel toward the perpetrator – whether you ‘feel’ it right now or not. As West’s song emotes, ‘the prisoner that it really frees is you.’ Forgiveness.

Those

Those people. The bad people who sin against others. I’m sure not one of those. … Am I?

Who

Not ‘those that’, ‘those who’, emphasizing their humanity. Yes, they are sinners, but so are we all. We all find ourselves on someone’s ‘those who’ list sometimes.

Sin

‘Sin’ sounds a little more nasty here than the previous time this word was used, doesn’t it? Now that we are the victims, it’s a vile, offensive thing that the world should be rid of, right?

But it’ll probably help us to forgive if we can remember that even when we’re the victims, ‘sin’ still just means, ‘to miss the mark’. Maybe that reminder can help us to begin to truly forgive as we are forgiven.

Against us.

Notice that the prayer doesn’t try to minimize the fact that we’ve been sinned against. God doesn’t seem to want us to pretend we weren’t wronged, or to downplay the damage that sin has done. God wants us to fully engage with this reality and choose forgiveness anyway, and leave the business of revenge, punishment and rebuke (if any) to God.

And

Once again, we’re invited to add more to this prayer, which already feels like more than we have any right to ask for.

Lead

God does lead us where we should go. The question is, do we follow?

us Not

This is a little word, but it packs a punch in the Bible:

  • ‘The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”’ – Genesis 2:18
  • “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. – Genesis 3:4
  • ‘Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.’ – 1 Samuel 3:7
  • ‘When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.’ – Jonah 3:10
  • ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’ – Malachi 3:10
  • “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

It’s amazing how God often answers prayers by not doing something, rather than by doing something.

Into

One of the cool things about meditating on words is that even the forgettable utilitarian shorties can reveal truths about God’s work in the world. The Bible’s first use of this compound preposition speaks volumes, and so does the final one:

  • Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. – Genesis 2:7
  • “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. – Revelation 22:17

As for you and me, if we’ve invited Christ into our lives, we can be confident the Holy Spirit has come into our hearts. We are new creations in Christ, and we only need to live into this reality. Thanks be go to God!

Temptation,

Do we really need to ask God to lead us not into temptation? Would a good God ever lead us into temptation? Or is the more contemporary ‘Save us from the time of trial’ more accurate?

I’m no linguist, but I actually prefer the older rendering of this part of the prayer. The word ‘trial’ is a lot like the word ‘test’, and if we’re not tested, we don’t grow, so I’m not sure we should ask God to save us from the time of trial.

Perhaps, with fear and trembling, we should give God permission to test us, and instead pray the slightly different prayer that God lead us not into temptation.

And back to the original question, no. I don’t think God would ever lead us into temptation. When I pray this part of the prayer, it’s not for God’s benefit – like if I fail to pray this, God will pounce on the opportunity to lead me into temptation – it’s for mine: it’s a daily reminder that God never would lead me into temptation; it’s another reminder that while God isn’t safe, God is good.

But

Steven Furtick

Steven Furtick

Another little word that packs a punch. North Carolina megapastor Steven Furtick has joked several times about his plan to do a sermon series someday called Big Buts of the Bible – looking forward to when he gets around to it. So often, the world seems to have the last word in a given situation, but God steps in and reveals bigger, better things.

Looking at this word from another angle, we often think our ways are good ways, and maybe they are. But … are they God’s ways?

Deliver

letterDoes a postcard deliver itself? Does a parcel do anything whatsoever to contribute to its arrival at a destination? No. Obviously, a piece of mail is a passive participant – a receiver – of delivery. And sometimes, it can be like that for us. We endure horrendous trial and hardship, and feel utterly powerless against it, and wonder if the torturous ordeal will ever end, and wonder in dread if this state has become our new, hideous normal. And then, suddenly – although it seems to have taken forever – it’s over.

We’re through the tunnel and we never even saw the light at the end of it. We’ve crested the hill without realizing it and are on a downward slope. The corduroy gravel road has suddenly become smooth, fresh blacktop. Not by our strength or our good decisions, but through a power that seems to work independently from us.

That’s what deliverance feels like. I’ve experienced this phenomenon a couple times in my life – not nearly as much as some of my loved ones have, by the grace of God – but I’ve experienced it.

I hope to never have to experience it again, but I hold fast to the knowledge that when trials come, deliverance is available to any who will persevere long enough to receive it.

Think of the so-over-used-it-seems-trite-but-nevertheless-true Footprints poem. Think of Winston Churchill‘s famous quote, ‘If you are going through hell, keep going.’churchill

Us

All of us. Individually, collectively; today, tomorrow and forever.

From

Where are you from? I was born in Red Deer, I grew up in Drumheller and I live in Calgary, but I think there’s a greater truth about where (or maybe I should say ‘who’) I’m from.

On another note, and getting back to the ‘pay attention to the little words’ theme, one of my favorite uses of this word is in these two tried-and-true (or maybe that’s tired-but-true) preacherisms:

  1. We don’t work for our salvation, we work from our salvation.
  2. Generosity isn’t what God wants from you, it’s what God wants for you.

Evil.

Make no mistake. There is evil in the universe. There is also evil in our own hearts. And we need God’s deliverance from both. Thankfully, God is in the Deliverance Business.

For

‘For’ as in ‘because’:

Because the kingdom, the power and the glory are God’s, now and forever, God can and will give us today our daily bread, God will God will forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us;
Because the kingdom, the power and the Glory are God’s, now and forever, God will lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.

For: once again, a lot of power is packed into this little three-letter conjunction.

The

Not just a kingdom. The Kingdom. Do you ever let that sink in? You are (or you can be) a citizen of The Kingdom.

Kingdom,

What is the Kingdom of God like? If only Jesus had given us a few parables to help us catch a glimpse of this elusive concept.

the Power

Jeremy Camp used this word quite effectively in song recently, reminding us that ‘the same power that commands the dead to wake; the same power that can cause a raging sea moves mountains when He speaks, the same power that rose Jesus from the grave; that power lives in us.

and the Glory

We use this word a lot in church, but what does it actually mean? Wiktionary is glad we asked:

  1. Great beauty or splendour, that is so overwhelming it is considered powerful.
  2. Honour, admiration, or distinction, accorded by common consent to a person or thing; high reputation; renown.
  3. That quality in a person or thing which secures general praise or honour.
  4. Worship or praise.
  5. An optical phenomenon caused by water droplets, consisting of concentric rings and somewhat similar to a rainbow.
  6. Victory; success.
  7. An emanation of light supposed to proceed from beings of peculiar sanctity. It is represented in art by rays of gold, or the like, proceeding from the head or body, or by a disk, or a mere line.

I don’t think these definitions, even stacked on top of each other, do justice to God’s glory, but collectively, they’re probably a decent start.

are Yours,

The Kingdom, Power and Glory are God’s and God’s alone. And yet, God chooses to share them with all who will receive them. So in a sense, the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory can be ours.

Now

As I said a few posts ago, the only time we really have is right now. We don’t have the past anymore, and we don’t have the future yet. All we have is now.

And right now…

… in this moment …

… God is God and God is good and God is King, and …

God

is

with

you.

Now.

And

And?!?

You mean there’s more? After all we’ve asked for and all we’ve received and all we’ve celebrated about God, there’s still more? Yes. There’s more. Just a little thing God likes to call …

Forever.

James T. Kirk William Shatner falls for Edith Keeler a young Joan Collins in The City on the Edge of Forever, said by many to be the best of the original Star Trek episodes.

James T. Kirk (William Shatner) falls for Edith Keeler (a young Joan Collins) in The City on the Edge of Forever, said by many to be the best of the original Star Trek episodes.

This is a word we throw around fairly casually, but as temporal beings who can only perceive time as linear and inalterable, we can’t possibly connect with an ethereal absolute like ‘forever’. And yet, ‘forever’ is what we are told awaits us. The title of a famous Star Trek episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, is arguably an apt description of the ‘place’ we inhabit.

Forever is not so much a synonym for ‘unending’ as it is for ‘having no end and no beginning’. Forever refers to a reality that exists outside of time. And if the concept of such a reality is difficult to grasp, the notion of a Being Who dwells there, Whose power is so absolute that He is even Master of Forever.

And the Master of Forever is your Daddy. Your Friend. Your Rabbi. Your Defender. Your Redeemer.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His steadfast love endures forever. – Psalm 107:1

Amen.

Amen. Verily. Truly. Let it be. So be it. I’m in.

Thanks be to God!

†     †     

Well, there you have it. A one-word-at-a-time reflection on the Lord’s Prayer. This is by far the longest Disciplehood post in history, so thanks for sticking around for the whole thing – or at least skipping ahead to the epilogue. I hope you found some of the text to be insightful, interesting or challenging, but really, I’m glad to have done this even if I’m the only one who benefits.

But don’t let me have all the fun! Do your own one-w0rd-at-a-time meditation on this prayer. And maybe other familiar (but probably short) passages in the Bible, too. Psalm 23, for instance, while you’re at it. You probably don’t have to hit all of the prepositions and conjunctions like I (mostly) did, and it’s probably not necessary to publish your thoughts (or even write them down).

The experience provided some great one-on-One time with God, and any time spent with God is time well spent.

Peace be with you.

Posted in Faith, God, Grace, New Testament, Prayer, Simpsons, Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baldy’s Thirst Birthday

On August 25, I say goodbye to my early 40s, and I’m not super happy about that. So I’ve decided to postpone Age 45 by donating my upcoming birthday to a worthy cause – and you can help.

About this time last year, I learned about a fascinating organization called Charity: Water, which provides clean drinking water to the needy in developing countries.

Many of us have no idea what it’s like to be thirsty. We have plenty of water to drink – even the water in our toilets is clean.

But many people around the world don’t have that luxury. Every day, about 1,400 children die from diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple solutions like drilled wells, spring protections and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world.

One of the nifty things about Charity: Water is its wacky fundraising campaigns – one of which is The Birthday Project, where you ask that instead of gifts, your friends make donations (usually in the amount of the birthday boy/girl’s age, but any contribution is welcome) to help dig wells in areas that don’t have clean water.

Friends like you, reader(s).

If the members of my immediate and extended family are the only ones who kick in $45 to this campaign, it’ll amount to a pretty small drop in a bucket of the roughly $10,000 that’s needed to fund an average well – so I’m opening the door to all of you, and setting a goal of $1,000 for the Baldy’s Thirst Birthday Campaign.

Baldy's Thirst BirthdayNow, I realize most of you wouldn’t normally buy me a birthday present, but this year I’m asking you to make an exception and contribute some cash – whatever amount feels right to you – to help make life a lot better for some people in the developing world.

But, Baldy. How much of my donation will actually go to help provide water to the needy?

Great question, reader(s). Here’s the answer:

100percent

One of the coolest things about Charity: Water is its funding model. The organization has two completely separate funds: one that deals exclusively with salaries, office space and stationery, and the other that puts every single nickel collected from public donations – including the Birthday Campaign – toward the goal of quenching worldwide thirst.

Believe it or not, there are apparently more than enough people, foundations and corporations who are passionate about overhead to cover Charity: Water’s operating costs, and make the 100% Model viable.

I'm attempting to blow out the candles in this photo, not suck in the whole cake – in case you're wondering.

I’m attempting to blow out the candles in this photo, not suck in the whole cake – in case you’re wondering.

And if you need more icing on my birthday cake, when the specific water project the Baldy’s Thirst Birthday Fund helps pay for is complete, Charity: Water will provide us with photos and a GPS location so we can know exactly where our money went. (I expect it’ll take a while, but I think we can wait.)

Now, one of the criticisms I’ve heard about a lot of water-focused charities is that they’re great at start-up, but not so focused on maintenance. After a few months/years, wells can peter out – leaving the communities they were drilled for high and dry.

That’s why Charity: Water’s projects each have a plan in place to help local stakeholders make sure water flows long after installation. The organization invests in forming strong water committees – partnering with local government, and training mechanics to perform repairs.

Why WaterBut, Baldy, why Water?

Another fair question, reader(s). There are lots of things the developing world needs. Why help provide water – rather than food, fertilizer, clothing, shelter, education, capital or an assortment of other needs?

If one of these causes touches your heart more deeply than water does, go and support a charity that works in that arena instead, with my blessing. As for me, I’ve got water on my heart, for the following reasons:

Something to Drink2Aside from the fact that water is one of the most basic needs of all life on the planet, it’s also one of the most talked about topics in the Bible. As I mentioned in Part 1 of my FireWater series in 2014, the word ‘water’ appears 617 times in the New International Version of the Good Book.

And that doesn’t even include the famous ‘least of these’ passage in Matthew 25, in which Jesus Himself declares that when we give water to the thirsty, we’re giving it to Him.

Least of theseBut if you’re after more practical reasons water is the right Developing World need to focus on today, visit the organization’s Why Water? page for detailed information. Here are a few highlights:

  • Disease: Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. About 43% of those deaths are children under five years old. Access to clean water and basic sanitation can save around 16,000 lives every week.
  • Time: In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours every year walking to water sources. Access to clean water gives communities more time to grow food, earn an income, and go to school – all of which fight poverty.

Water is the most basic of human needs, and it can literally be the difference between life and death. What I find even more compelling, though, is that a reliable supply of clean water can be the beginning of the transition from surviving to thriving.

Please explore Charity: Water’s website for detailed facts and figures, but for an even more compelling account of the agency’s origins and contribution to peace and prosperity on Planet Earth, listen to this Rob Bell podcast from last July entitled Water for Everyone – The Scott Harrison Interview.

Harrison is the founder of Charity: Water, and Bell – best-selling author and founding (former) pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church – is an ongoing supporter of Charity: Water’s overhead fund.

Rob Bell, coincidentally, turned 45 last August 23 – just two days before Rob Petkau turned 44. He donated his birthday to Charity: Water last year, and in a clear case of Baldy See- Baldy Do, I got the sense that God is calling me to ride those coat tails and do the same this year.

Bell’s Birthday Project had a goal of $45,000, but raised more than $114,000 US! bell-petkauI kicked in $45 (Cdn) myself, since I listen for free occasionally to his podcast (known, eye-rollingly, as The Robcast). If you’re a regular Disciplehood reader and you feel a similar nudge for a similar reason, your donation is greatly appreciated.

But whatever your reasons, any support you can provide to the Baldy’s Thirst Birthday Fund will be greatly appreciated.

Now, it’d be great if the act of donating my birthday to this worthy cause actually kept me at age 44 for another year.

Sadly, I don’t think that’s how it works.

But making a small sacrifice that helps to alleviate world thirst just might help me stay a little younger at heart – and joining the party might do the same for you.

Only one way to find out…

Peace be with you.

Music, water and the word of God: three things I thirst for, daily.

Posted in Bible, Charity, Gratitude, Mercy of God, New Testament, Sacrifice, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perfect?

andy-stanley

Andy Stanley

Nobody’s perfect.

In his recent Address the Mess sermon series, Atlanta megapastor Andy Stanley pointed out that when we say the above phrase – and we all say it from time to time – we’re acknowledging that ‘There is a perfect that no one is,’ – that perfection exists, as a concept at least. He goes on to say that this ipso-facto admission puts us just baby steps away from connecting with the reality that there is a God who loves us and can help us access that perfection.

perfectIt’s a great series, so I both recommend and commend it to you. Here’s a link to Part 1.

Listening to that series lately has gotten me thinking a lot about the word perfect.

Like many of us, I long for a perfect life – and if you have a few hours, I’d be happy to outline in detail what a perfect life would look like for me.

The Coles Notes version is that I’d have all of my own wants and needs met, and out of that abundance would flow a great deal more altruism and service toward other people. Not exactly the ‘My power is made perfect in weakness’ vision of perfection that 2 Corinthians 12:9 describes; or the ‘extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity’ kind of living that Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians 8:2.

But we’re talking about a daydream here, not an actual plan for life – and I think an occasional self-centred daydream is probably not unhealthy.

An unimportant epiphany is something that would often come to 90s SNL character Ed Glosser, Trivial Psychic Christopher Walken, left

An unimportant epiphany often occurred to ’90s SNL character Ed Glosser, Trivial Psychic (Christopher Walken, left)

In fact, when I daydreamed in detail about this completely unrealistic and not terribly flattering ideal version of my life not too long ago, I came to an important epiphany (Are there any other kind?). Here it is:

My ideal life is actually not that different from my real life.

Same family, same city, same house, same church, same ministries, same car and even same guitars (just more of them).

More guitars, Baldy?

More guitars, Baldy?

And there are moments in my life that would not change one iota, if my life were perfect.

If I were a millionaire who didn’t have to work for a living and my wife and kids were all perfectly healthy…

  • I’d still want to be a worship leader at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, and I’d still want to be involved in the Calgary Anglican Cursillo Movement.
  • Jenny and Scotty double-dog dare you, too.

    Jenny and Scotty

    I’d still want to walk my dogs.

  • I’d still want to watch a superhero movie and eat way too much popcorn with my wife and kids most Friday nights.
  • I’d still want to take my wife out for wings and beer a couple times a month. (Yes, my wife likes to go out for wings and beer and watch superhero movies. My life sounds more perfecter than yours already, doesn’t it? ;))

While this thought was taking hold in my psyche, I was reminded of the reality that the only time we really have is right now. We don’t have the past anymore, and we don’t have the future yet. All we have is now.

life is perfectSo if the thing I’m doing right now is the same thing I’d be doing if my life was perfect, does that mean that right now, my life is perfect?

I think maybe it does.

Are you any better than I am at living as though that were true?

Even if your actual life is light years away from your daydream of a perfect life, there are moments in your life that are perfect.

If you live in Calgary, theres potential to see a sunset like this, every day.

If you live in Calgary, there’s potential to see a sunset like this, every day.

It might only be the second your head hits the pillow at night, or the feel of a hot shower on your skin in the morning, or that first sip of coffee.

The sound of a laughing toddler in the grocery store.

The smell of the blossoms on a nearby tree.

The beauty of a sunset.

I’m convinced that if you look for these perfect moments, you’ll find them.

What if we acknowledged that fleeting perfection in those brief moments with a prayer along these lines:

God, thank you for sharing a bit of Your perfection with me in this moment!

Soon after I got my Kia Soul (similar to this car), I started seeing these nifty boxy hatchbacks everywhere – because I suddenly had eyes to see them. Could the same kind of thing happen with moments of perfection in our lives, if only we'd start looking for it?

Soon after I got my Kia Soul, I started seeing these boxy hatchbacks everywhere, because I suddenly had eyes to see them. Could the same kind of thing happen with moments of perfection in our lives, if only we had eyes to see them?

Would seeing, acknowledging and thanking God for the intermittent bits of perfection in our lives help us live the imperfect moments with a little more perspective and a little more grace? Is it possible that there’s more perfection to be experienced in the lives we’re already leading than we can ask or imagine, and all we have to do to find it is to start looking for it?

Are you willing to find out?

Peace be with you.

Posted in Christian Walk, Faith, Grace, Gratitude, Imagination, Insight, Saturday Night Live | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cup or Funnel?

Cup Running Over - Psalms 23 verse 5

Normally, I think of water when Psalm 23:5 is discussed, but it works just as well – or better – with coffee.

My cup runneth over.

In this oft-quoted line from the oft-quoted Psalm 23, David rightly acknowledges that God pours out grace on us faster and more fully than we can receive it and take it in. But maybe the reason that our cups runneth over is that we’re not meant to be using cups at all.

Does God rain grace down on us just for our sake? Or are we called to share God’s grace with others? When Jesus sent out the Twelve in Matthew 10, He gave them this instruction, followed by this context:

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. – Matthew 10:7-8

I think it’s safe to assume Jesus is talking to us here, not just the Twelve – and about freely giving ordinary grace as much as miraculous healing and exorcism.

Cup or FunnelAt a recent Cursillo retreat/workshop/worship weekend, a pastor friend of mine used a funnel to illustrate God’s call for us to share God’s grace with others, and I like that analogy much more than David’s cup from Psalm 23.

I also like that the narrowness of the giving end of the funnel helps us to target the grace we share with others intentionally. Serving with intentionality, rather than haphazardly, can help us to grow closer to the source of grace.

And she'll have funnel, funnel, funnel 'til her daddy takes the T-Bird away...

And she’ll have funnel, funnel, funnel ’til her daddy takes the T-Bird away…

But unfortunately, as my pastor friend noted, the narrower the pointy end, the slower the flow.

The deluge of God’s grace that we receive is reduced to a mere trickle flowing out from us. And considering that we’re called to be like God, who shares grace with us abundantly, that just won’t do. My pastor friend therefore declared that it’s the job of every believer to allow God to widen the spouts of our funnels.

Meet Henry the Vacuum Cleaner, known in Germany as Heinrich der Staubsauger.

Is Britain’s Henry the Hoover, known in Germany as Heinrich der Staubsauger?

In processing industries, they have a word for this – a kooky term, probably coined by an engineer, known as debottlenecking. An ungainly mishmash of words and word fragments that would make a schoolmarm sharpen her yardstick, this term is at least quite self-explanatory. (It kind of reminds me of the unflinchingly practical bluntness by which Germans call a vacuum cleaner a staubsauger – which literally means ‘dust sucker’.)

But aside from its linguistic inelegance, ‘debottlenecking’ comes with a pretty upbeat and empowering connotation. In industrial scenarios, debottlenecking is an ingenuity-filled process whereby experts devise amazingly clever modifications to a system that make productivity smoother and more seamless. It’s an exercise in optimization. In making things right.

Similarly, the notion of allowing God to do some spiritual debottlenecking to widen the spout of our grace funnels sounds exciting and even pleasant. But at the risk of taking the metaphor too far (Moi?), it might be worth noting that the simplest way to debottleneck a funnel is to cut off the tip!

The funnel on the right probably didnt enjoy its time on the cutting board, but the experience made it a better tool for its master.

The funnel on the right probably didn’t enjoy its time on the cutting board, but the experience made it a better tool for its master.

Gulp.

If we’re going to allow God to change us so we’ll become better conduits for God’s grace, it will almost certainly involve the shedding of habits, preferences, agendas and hang-ups that feel like they’re part of us. That’s scary, and it sounds painful.

And it’s probably also worth noting that once our funnels have been debottlenecked, it’ll be much more difficult for us to direct the flow from them with much precision. That intentionality I ballyhooed above becomes harder to achieve and maintain, and we end up splooshing the grace we intend to share strategically in a fashion that verges on willy-nilly.

That means sharing God’s grace will take up more of our time and resources, and we might well be required to share it with people we might not otherwise choose to interact with.

A great illustration of abundance

Do you carrot all for this illustration of abundance?

And while this will probably make us uncomfortable, I think it’ll also make us more Godly. After all, God rains grace on us not only abundantly, as I said above, but also indiscriminately – which is quite different from haphazardly.

And I think we’re called to do the same.

The amazing thing about this process, though, is that even though a wide-mouthed grace funnel is what each of us is made to be, and we’ll be happier when we get there and we know it (clap your hands), God allows us to set the pace for this debottlenecking process. God could take a cleaver and chop off the whole spout in one go, but instead God lets us decide when and how much to shave off. And I think God rejoices over every millimetre we surrender.

zwilling-pro-2-pc-hollow-edge-santoku-knife-cutting-board-set-3So how wide is the spout of your grace funnel? How long has it been since you invited God to slice off a chunk of it? Is it time for another session on the cutting board?

Peace be with you.

†     †     †

Author’s note: As you read this text about snipping the end off a funnel spout in order to become more like God, if you feel the urge to insert a sophomoric joke about a certain Jewish rite of inclusion, feel free. I’m far too mature for such shenanigans.

Posted in Christian Walk, Faith, Grace, Gratitude, Sacrifice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The R-Word Part 2

R wordLast time, we began exploring occurrences of the word ‘remember’ in the Bible: God remembering us, us remembering God and God’s promises, us remembering the past and remembering each other in our prayers.

And then we came across a few occurrences in the Psalms, where people urge God to remember:

  • Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. – Psalm 25:6
  • Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt. – Psalm 74:2
  • Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them – Psalm 106:4
  • Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. – Psalm 119:4

Don’t forget that You are a loving God. Don’t forget about Your people. Don’t forget that You love me. Don’t forget about Your promises to me.

As I said last time, I find the audacity and presumptuous of these uses of The R-Word when talking to the Almighty, to be a little startling. Issuing reminders to your superiors here on earth can be dicey (just ask my kids). You’d think that reminding Someone who’s infinitely superior to us of anything would be infinitely dicey.

And this was in Old Testament times, when God’s temper seemed to be infinitely sensitive!

Aaron's sons

The Smiting of Aaron’s Sons

The Great Flood. Sodom and Gomorrah. The completely freaky episode in Leviticus 10:1-2 where God wipes out two of Aaron’s sons for an act of unauthorized worship. Some of these Psalms were probably written during or after the Babylonian Exile. Much of humanity’s experience with El Shaddai when the Psalms were being written was downright scary.

And yet, these Psalmists appear to have no fear of using The R-Word with their God.

Hey, David. Hey, Asaph. Go sit on the other side of the tabernacle when you write stuff like that, so the lightning bolt from heaven doesn’t smite the rest of us on this side.

51mRiUU5h8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_But surprisingly, our scary, vengeful, jealous God is apparently fine with receiving reminders from His fickle, forgetful children.

Not only did the Psalmists not get struck by lightning or shaken to oblivion by an earthquake, their audacious, presumptuous prayers made it into the hymn book of the ancient Hebrews – and then became further immortalized in the Christian Bible. If there’s any truth to the notion that all Scripture is God-breathed (and there is), God must want us to remind Him of His promises.

Not that God needs our reminders, of course. God knows everything, all at the same time. God knows far better than we do what He has (and has not) promised, and God knows far better than we do when and how those promise should and will be fulfilled.

I think God invites us to use The R-Word in our prayers because when we think we’re reminding God, we’re really reminding ourselves of what is true about God and about ourselves. We’re reminding ourselves that God is faithful. We’re renewing our faith and trust in God’s good purposes and God’s good will. We’re reminding ourselves that we belong to God. That if we’re in Christ, Christ is in us. That, as I say in my Twitter bio, we are beloved children of God, and temples of the Holy Spirit.

84099.btUltimately, reminding God to remember us helps us to remember that God will never forget us.

So in the words of my favorite Christian recording artist …

Remember your people, remember your children. Remember your promise, o God … (and help us to remember that) Your grace is enough.

Peace be with you.

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Faith, Fear, God, Grace, Holy Spirit, Insight, Kindness, Lent, Mercy of God, Music, Old Testament, Relationship, Torah, Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The R-Word, Part 1

Remember.

Without this little, three-syllable word, Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan would have been permanent.

Think about that for a minute.

If the iconic Vulcan (Leonard Nimoy) hadn’t uttered this little command during a quickie mind-meld with longtime frenemy Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelly), we’d have missed out on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

That would have meant we’d never have met Klingons played by Doc Brown of Back to the Future and Dan Fielding of Night Court. We’d also have been deprived of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, in which Commander Chekov asks 1980s San Franciscans about the location of ‘nuclear wessels,’ and Captain Kirk brilliantly retorts at an indignant motorist, ‘Double dumb-ass on YOU!

For that matter, if Spock had stayed dead in 1982, I’m not sure there’d have been any more Star Trek movies, TV series or reboots. No Picard. No Worf. No Seven of Nine. Zachary Quinto would be forever remembered as That Villain from That Superhero Show, instead of Spock 2.0.

‘Remember’ is clearly a powerful word.

Just think of all the movie and song titles that use The R-Word: An Affair to Remember.  A Walk to Remember. A Christmas to Remember. Remember the Name. Remember the Time. Remember the Titans. Remember the Alamo.

R wordAnd a few thousand years before Spock was even a glimmer in the eyes of the three guys who created Star Trek (Gene, Rod and Barry), the authors of the Bible were well aware of the power of ‘remember’.

As I said in my last post, author Glennon Doyle Melton purports that ‘remember’ is the second-most repeated phrase in the Bible – right after ‘Don’t be afraid‘.

And she might be right. According to a few Bible Gateway quick searches, ‘remember‘ occurs in the New International Version, 231 times. ‘Recall‘ pops up seven times. And ‘forget‘ occurs 64 times – including 22 occurrences of the phrase ‘do not forget‘.

Whether that makes ‘remember’ the first runner up in this pageant or not, there’s no doubt that ‘remember’ is a powerful theme in the Good Book. Here are a few examples:

  • Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. – Genesis 30:22
  • RememberRemember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ – Joshua 1:13
  • These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants. – Esther 9:28
  • “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. – Jonah 2:7
  • Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. – Mark 14:72
  • I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. – 2 Timothy 1:3
  • The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. – Revelation 16:19

God remembers us (for better, in the case of Rachel in Genesis, and for the worse, in the case of Babylon in Revelation).

We remember God. We remember what happened in the past. We remember each other in our prayers.

All important uses of The R-Word.

But in the Psalms, we find an approach to this word that I find a little startling:

  • Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. – Psalm 25:6
  • Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed— Mount Zion, where you dwelt. – Psalm 74:2
  • Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them – Psalm 106:4
  • Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. – Psalm 119:49

These psalmists are sending reminders to God.

Does it strike you as odd – inappropriate and irreverent, even – that human beings feel the need to remind a perfect God with a perfect memory (and a perfect temper) of anything? That’s a level of audacity and presumptuousness that you’d think would provoke the irritation and even the wrath of the most powerful Being in the universe.

And yet, God doesn’t seem flummoxed by these uses of The R-Word. Could it be that God likes it when we remind Him of things?

A question worth pondering … next time.

Peace be with you.

 

Posted in Bible, God, Grace, Insight, Lent, Psalms, Relationship, Saturday Night Live, Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment