Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The rich treasures of Psalm 23

Wow! Once again, Psalm 23 has come to my rescue. Okay, we all know that Psalm 23 is used by folks as the kind of peace-while-dying and comfort-after-death Psalm. Sure, we all know it from childhood and we love Jesus as our Shepherd but that's basically how churches use it: on the back of a funeral notice.

But lately, God is really showing me how rich this psalm is. I haven't been keeping notes on it so I'll have to just wing it and try to remember all the times it's popped up to help me of late.

First there was the power of "thy rod and they staff they comfort me." A Shepherd's Rod is used to gently chastise and lead the straying lamb. Yes, we all know it. That tap from God on the spiritual shoulder, that sweet rebuke He gives us in a dream. A sheep knows and loves that rod. It's weird, but we do. I was so sick recently and then I got a dream of a dog lapping up its vomit and a voice said, "Haven't I told you not to eat anything with corn?" Well, yes, God has told me not to eat corn. About six or so years ago...but well, I didn't really obey. Then suddenly this rod in my dream. I felt rebuke but loved at the same time. I knew God was there for me. Sure I was sick as heck but He had been there all along and He had to really give me a hard tap on my sheepish shoulder to remind me of what he had told me years ago. It was a dream where an angel showed me a plate and scraped off corn on the cob, hotdogs, and pork, from my plate. A week after the dream a friend appeared out of the blue. She had been at a party and had some extra food. And what was on the plate? Corn on the cob, mini-sausages, and pork. But did I listen with full committment to the dream and the coincidence? Nooo! (Okay, I would've been good about avoiding the corn but quite simply I didn't trust God. I didn't trust the dream from Him. I didn't think such a simple thing as avoiding corn (and it is NOT so simple to avoid all corn products nowadays) was going to help me against the sleeplessness. This second dream kinda was God's rod. He showed me that He was indeed with me, but I wasn't doing my part to listen to Him. God isn't going to tell you anything more if you don't do the first things He tells you.

Second Treasure: I had a dream in which someone said to me: "Don't you know that Psalm 23 is a warfare prayer?" That really helped me. And this affirmation and positive confession of God's care produced a miracle which paid for my breast lumpectomy. God is so good. If that thing hadn't been taken care of, I would be way more mentally wobbly than I am now. Imagine being sleepless, worried about finances, worried about younger son, AND worried about breast? God is good. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by bills, I shout out, "I will not lack! The Lord is my Shepherd."

So, last night: I was feeling very lost, lacking direction. What will we do re finances? Should we try to pay for the bills...although we're three months behind in some and six or nine months behind in others? Should we try to sell the house or let it slip into foreclosure or hope we can save it? I was feeling like someone who didn't know what road to take at an intersection and also like someone whose foot was hard to move and whose eyes couldn't see. So I lay there in the dark looking up and feeling lost. Then the Holy Spirit showed me the "guidance" aspect of this psalm. So much of it is about being led. But I've gotten so used to thinking of it as God standing beside us while we wait around to die...that sentimental death thing. But the power of its words really popped up. So many times the psalm shows God as guiding and leading. By "still waters." "In the path of righteousness." And yes, "by his rod and his staff."

This morning hubby and I said a prayer for repentance to God. About credit cards (assuming we would always have a job to pay them off.) About leaning to our own understanding (when we should have trusted God.) About rebellion (because God specifically tells his people not to borrow.)

God is so good. Waiting to see what other riches Psalm 23 brings to me.

Psalm 23

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The song of the two princes: Praise for my savior the Lord Jesus Christ

Okay, we live in a world that doesn't have lords and ladies anymore. At least not viable ones. And the only kings we see on television are more fodder for celebrity gossip shows or UN reports on atrocities. But in the realm of fiction -- my particular realm-- kings still exist. Although a self-sacrificing king is pretty rare. Not that I'm picking but even if they sacrifice themselves, it's not to the death. And even if they die for someone, they usually do so for good people and not for the sins of evil folks who hate their guts. So let's begin:

A long time ago two princes were born on either side of the world. The northern prince lived in a great palace. He was dressed in silk and linen and had many servants to wait upon him while he dined on rich foods every day,

The prince of the south had no palace but lived among his people. He was born in a pig sty, became a refugee at his birth, and lived among the poor. He didn't eat the fancy foods the northern prince did. And no one bowed down daily to worship him. As was his habit, he dressed in common clothes and attended the births, deaths, and marriages of his friends. War had been waged against both these lands. An evil usurper bent on killing, stealing, and destroying.

The prince of the north lived in such pleasure and happiness that he didn't really realize that war had been waged against him or his people. But one day the northern prince stepped outside his palace. It was the first time he had done so, and he was very surprised at what he saw. He had not known how powerful the conqueror was. The people outside the palace didn’t eat as well as he did. Sometimes they didn’t eat at all. Their tattered clothing did not protect their bodies from snow and heat, their heads and feet were not covered with shoes and hats as his was.

The prince had always been kindhearted, but when he saw the suffering of his people he burst into tears. He had a nervous breakdown and got so upset he couldn't eat. Then he found enlightenment and realized that if he stopped worrying about the sorrows of his people and accepted their suffering...all would be well with his soul.

I swear, whenever I hear some Buddhist friend tell me about Buddha's enlightenment I have to resist rolling my eyes.

Give me a religion which teaches me to hope and not to merely stoicly endure. Praise for my Lord, born in a manger, poor, suffering, acquainted with grief who tells us that we CAN conquer evil.

I remember one day going to a festival/procession of our Lady of Guadaloupe at Graymoor monastery just up the road from me. The priest officiating was a teacher at Maryknoll, someone who had been to Latin America and whose aim was to bring more young men into the priesthood. I went up to him after the service and asked him to pray for a miraculous healing for my son. Instead, he lay his hand on my son's head and prayed for me to be given grace to accept my son's sufferings. What a crock! I said to him, "Sir, I didn't ask you to pray that God give me grace to accept suffering. I asked you to pray for my son's healing. Who am I to pray that I should accept the suffering of someone else? And who are you to ask me to do such a thing?"

He gave me an angry look but a few weeks later he wrote me a letter apologizing. Seems he had been a priest too long, healthy too long, without sickly family members he loved... he didn't know how to enter into the suffering of a child. All he knew was a platitude. I'm glad I brought him back to his Christian senses. Even if I was nasty about it. Praise ye the Lord.

That said, merry christmas. When you give and receive gifts today, remember a king who gave his life and died for you.

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