Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quit Quaking

     "It has been said that somewhere in the Psalms can be found a reflection of virtually every religious experience known to man, and the person familiar with the Psalter can find balm for every wound." Anthony Ash quoted that, however he admits that this statement may not be strictly true, but it does reflect the high regard for the Psalms from those who have experienced camaraderie and good-fellowship with the authors.

     Within Psalms, we find a blending of theology, worship, and daily living. One of my favorite psalms is 46 and begins with these words, "God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble." This psalm covers three troubling areas: natural disasters, political upheaval, and battle fatigue. During any of these events, we may lose sight that God remains aware of circumstances and remains in control, never to dethroned.

     The third stanza portrays war and battle fatigue, and God gives directions near the end. He says to the weary, "Be still, and know that I am God." That seems a daunting request when worry assaults as fast as a Ninja. However, for those who accept the challenge and stop worry, they find solace and anchorage for their souls because God keeps his promises.

     Through media, we’re bombarded with disturbing news, in our backyards and abroad. Shellshock has taken on a new definition. In our day, we experience virtual shellshock.

     Who doesn’t need a break from warfare? My heart breaks for the citizens of countries who actually live the headlines, news stories of rebellion, street attacks, and revolution. If you need a refreshing break from worldwide chaos or hometown commotion, take a deep drink from the Psalms this week. You can choose from 150 psalms.

     In 1529, the 46th psalm inspired Martin Luther to write the words and music to a well-known hymn. You may recognize the first phrase "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing." The same psalm that inspired Luther still instructs today’s believers.

     "Be still, and know I am God," isn't a take-it-or-leave-it instruction. It's a gentle invitation to bring about blessings through participation. This week, we could pray that phrase for the troops from our community, military personnel worldwide, President Obama, this country, and our enemies.

     Lean on the strong shoulders of the psalms for comfort, resolve to be still, and depend upon God to perform his promises. Join me in an act of humility as we admit our smallness in prayer, “You, O God, are eons beyond our imaginations. We trust your unfolding destiny for this earth and for us.”

     Hunger for Humility (Week 37): “In my alarm, I said, ‘I’m cut off from your sight!’ Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.” (Psalm 31:22)


Friday, September 07, 2012

Speak Volumes in Words or Silence

Words or silence – both speak volumes.

            Joy ignites smiles when clever persons respond with humorous replies. We need good clean fun, and dry-witted people often provide that. In addition, pleasures arrive when a person responds with the right answer at the right moment. Several stories about word usage come to mind from a favorite book of mine, “Viva la Repartee,” a collection of “clever comebacks and witty retorts from history’s great wits and wordsmiths.”

            Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president, was a man of few words, earning the nickname, “Silent Cal.” After returning home from church one Sunday morning, the First Lady, Grace, asked, “What did the preacher speak about today?”

            Coolidge replied, “Sin.”

            Disturbed by his lack of detail, she wanted to hear more news of the sermon she’d missed, “Well, what did he say about it?”

            Apparently enjoying the moment, Coolidge replied, “He was against it.”

            In the 1900s, Joseph Choate and his wife lived in England while her husband served as ambassador. While at a London party, the host suggested they play a game. She asked partygoers to name the person they’d most like to be if they were not themselves. When Choate’s turn came, he stood and glanced toward his wife before providing his diplomatic answer: “If I could not be myself, I would like to be – Mrs. Choate’s second husband.”

            As refreshing as clever words are, silence can prove stronger than words. When an intellectual discussion goes over my head, I dive out of the conversation and swim into the shallows of silence. There, I can seem contemplative instead proving my ignorance by speaking. “Blessed are they who have nothing to say, and who cannot be persuaded to say it,” said James Russell Lowell.

            In this year of studying, reading, and searching out humility, I’ve concluded that silence becomes trademark of a humble person. However, silence can be the wrong response whenever we see evil and our integrity demands a rebuttal. At those times, we must gather the courage to respond, but for this day, we address the good nature of silence.  

            Consider these effective ways to practice silence: Within a small gathering of people, when someone has received praise, remain silent and allow them to bask in the rewards of their labors.

            How about swallowing pride and backing out of opinion based squabbles by saying, “You could be right,” and then remain silent and listen to the other person. However, don’t stew in silence: truly contemplate their stance on the issues.

            When you ask a trusted person for advice or to evaluate your job performance, become silent, listen intently, and consider all spoken observations. A simple thank you will suffice when they are through. Don’t let bitter thoughts invade. Pray to receive and accept any truths they relate.

            Mend arguments with apologies. However, after a sincere apology, allow the controversial issue to drop, even if the other person continues to lecture. Remain silent and practice humility. You don’t have to get in the last word. Silence can often be the most sincere answer.

            I am moved by the many times, Jesus told evil spirits and storms, “Be quiet.” He stopped their rackets and trumped evil by calling for silence. I am moved when I remember how his disciples “kept quiet” when Jesus asked what they had been arguing about. They kept silent because they were guilty of arguing about “who was the greatest.” In poignant reply, Jesus sat down, called the disciples to join him, instructing, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:33-35).  

            Silence deserves a larger stage. Try lifting the curtains on it among your family and friends. When you stop a volley of words, they might want a curtain call.

            Hunger for Humility (36): “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15).

            Cathy Messecar welcomes comments at


Monday, September 03, 2012

What to do?

            I hear myself saying this sentence more as I age, “I have no wisdom about that.” When our family encounters a problem that has no probable solution, or two good choices come along in life, I refer to my go-to mantra: “I have no wisdom about that.” Read what Old Testament King Jehoshaphat did when faced with an advancing army, people to protect, and he had no apparent knowledge of what to do.

            The account of his kingship, in 2 Chronicles chapters 17-21, shows the king’s prayer-response to an advancing enemy against Judah. A report brought to King Jehoshaphat announced a “vast army is coming against you from Edom” (20:2).

            When the message arrived, the enemy was still at least 25 miles away. The news of impending attack spread from farmer to farmer from merchant to merchant, household to household. The citizens surrounding Jerusalem rushed into the city to “seek help from the Lord.” The urgency caused men to bring their unprotected families with them.  

            Alarmed by the news of enemies on their tunic tails, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for all of Judah, and afterwards he faced the temple and prayed. During his talk with God, the king reminded God of his promises. God had previously assured his people that when they sought an audience with him he would hear.  

            The final words in Jehoshaphat’s prayer express a common feeling of helplessness when our piddling wisdom and resources run out. The king admitted to God, and before his citizens, his lack of wisdom: “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.” He continued his plea, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (20:12). I’ve adopted the last sentence of Jehoshaphat’s prayer about personal issues, our country, and its people: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

            Too often, we let the daunting troubles that our eyes see sway us toward fear. We forget that God is mightier than any problem or foe we will ever face in life. The last line of Jehoshaphat’s prayer acknowledges our smallness and lack of wisdom. His words also confess that God is God and man is man.

            What was God’s response to this humble leader who knew he didn’t have the answers or the power to protect his people: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Then the Lord gave King Jehoshaphat an assignment, “[S]tand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (20:17). Read further in these chapters to find how conflict in the enemies’ ranks caused them to slay each other.

            Until the end of December, we’ll keep focusing on disciplining ourselves in humility. To help in our efforts, adopt Jehoshaphat’s verbal confession of faith and reliance. Almost daily, we see life stick out her foot to trip self or someone we know. We will have that “what-now?” look on our faces again. When that happens, remember God says, “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). Make a habit of praying the short prayer of King Jehoshaphat. Pray it for self. Pray it for the nations of the world and for our country: “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

            Hunger for Humility (Week 35): “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)