Are you a sheep?

Are you a sheep?  Or are you a goat?   Matthew 25: 31-46

When you read today’s bible verses, did you categorize yourself as a sheep or a goat?  I could definitely be a better sheep than I am right now as there is more I could be doing to give back of my time, talents and money.

As we dive into the beginning sentences, the vision painted for us is a mass crowd with God dividing us into two camps:  sheep on the right who will be redeemed and saved and goats on the left who will be condemned and lost.  The reading shares with us the characteristics of the sheep.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’   The “king” or God was not talking about himself.  He was referring to others in the world.  Did you give food to those in need?  How about those who were thirsty or needed clothes or needed help or even a hug?  If you see a homeless person on the street, do you walk by or do you give him or her something?

As I was evaluating options, so many ideas came to mind.  We can always find avenues to perform charitable acts such as serving in a soup kitchen or volunteering at an organization.  Each year at work, we have one day everyone serves.  Various events are organized in big cities and we are expected to attend and serve.  Here is Bloomington, we have worked at Home Sweet Home Ministries, sorting clothes, books, shoes, etc.  The day serves as a way to give back to the community and i s a wonderful way to serve others with your colleagues.  You walk away at the end of the day feeling very fulfilled.  My self check based on this reading is that I should do more of these types of volunteer activities as well as doing more for others.

Timing was perfect for today’s reading for me for another reason.  My son Jonathan (14) is currently in Ripley, Tennessee for his first church work camp experience.  He went to Fellowship of Christian Athletes trip in 8th grade in Missouri with Kingsley Jr. High and loved it.  Then, for whatever reason, when work camp rolled around last year, he did not go last year.  Upon return and throughout his youth group this year, he heard from his friends who went how much fun they had so he plunged right in this year.  They typically are assigned a work group with other churches so you meet new people.  At night all the work groups get back together for fellowship.  As we prepared for the trip and loaded his “work bucket” you could see he was excited but also slightly anxious.  His older brother Matthew (17) who participated when he was a freshman assured him the experience would be both fun and rewarding.  Certainly something he would not regret or forget.  Jonathan is a kind-hearted young man and I know God will allow his good nature and helping hands to show through as he gives back.  I cannot wait to hear the stories!

As you go about your week, hopefully you take the time to be sheep even if it’s “welcoming” or saying hello to a stranger on the street!

Psalm 138

Stay in YOUR Lane

Matthew 20:  1-16

What a great way to start our day!  In this story about “laborers” or every day workers, we are reminded of the real world.  The workers who start at 8 or 10 or 12 or 5 or even 7 all received the same wage.  Does that seem fair?  No.  In our every day lives, does everyone receive the same wages?  No.  Do some people at our same level who might do less work receive the same wages?  Yes.  Such is life.  “Unfair” as it may seem, it is that way.

I love this story as it reminds us that God treats each of us as individuals.  He does not necessarily give more to others than to us.  He treats us as individuals, the distinct and unique individuals he created us to be.   It may seem that he gives more to others, but why are we comparing ourselves to others anyway?  What counts is our servitude and attitude to God, not how we compare to others right?  If he called us all to Heaven today, what would he say about us as individuals?  He wouldn’t just take those with the most years being Christians would he?

I have a friend named J***** whom I have known since before I had children.  Throughout the years, we have stayed in touch as her youngest boys are the same age as my oldest.  We have been through tough times together and bonded over being “single moms”.  When the boys were in fourth or fifth grade, we had an issue with school friends (I can’t really remember what it was about now which means it probably wasn’t that critical?) and were discussing it one day or lunch.  She was asking about how she should handle an issue with other parents.   Should she call to tell the parents what she was seeing and hearing?  I said “you know I just try to stay in my lane”.  The point was I was overwhelmed at the time and was making choices over what I thought was a burning platform and what I just decided wasn’t my business.  We still remind each other of that phrase “stay in your lane”.  If it doesn’t pertain to you and doesn’t directly affect your children, don’t worry about it or be anxious about it.  When I read this parable today, those words came to me “stay in your lane”.  Can you really control how much the master pays others?  If you get upset, will it change anything?  If we see others receiving more than us in the form of money, happiness, travel, etc. should you worry about it or think “how unfair”?  Not really.  You can’t do anything about it.  All you can control is your lane or yourself.  You can make a difference in how you react to the situation God has given you whether it is exciting, not what you expected, or disappointing.  Really you can’t even control yourself; it is God’s plan right?  He decides your path and you can decide how you react.  If you are handed your “denarius”, how do you handle it?  Are you respectful and say thank you?  Or do you pout and say “it’s not fair”?  Great reminder to all of us to work on ourselves, our reactions to situations and our thankfulness to God for what he has already given us.

Psalm 126

Think Again!

Today’s reading is quite interesting as you can look at this parable from two perspectives.  As we read Luke 17:7-10, we can use the lens of the servant and then we can use the lens of God.

“Will any one of you who has a servant[a] plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly,[b] and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants;[c] we have only done what was our duty.’”

From the lens of the servant, he works all day, he works HARD all day and then his master or boss doesn’t thank him but expects more.  The servant may be wrapping up the last task of the day or so he thinks.  Think again!  There is more work to be done!  Doesn’t this sound like our days sometimes?  We work and work, driving kids, fielding phone calls, cooking, cleaning, picking up groceries and then “can you do (X) for me”?  In your mind, you were almost done with all your tasks and ready to relax.  Think again, you child needs one more thing! Sigh….

From the eyes of God, we are his servants.  We are on earth to be disciples, to do good works, to share the word, to serve him and to serve others.  He expects us to carry on and not to stop.  He does not pause in caring for us at the end of the day because he is “too tired” so why should we stop?   He is there watching over us and expects us to serve humbly.  We are not always given gratitude for doing his good works on earth today.  Our gratitude will come with eternal life.

This last part is sometimes hard in our daily tasks.   We try to please people by doing our jobs or we try to go above and beyond to finish a task to perfection.  I know at the end of the last two weeks, I was exhausted, working very hard on a number of projects and had to keep going with not much gratitude.  Sometimes we are thanked and sometimes we are not and that is the way it goes.  I think back to when my children were very young.  They could not even say thank you.  In those moments, my gratitude came from seeing them thrive or seeing them sleep comfortably.  I didn’t expect a thank you at that age.  I served humbly.  As my kids have grown, I have come to expect a thank you and hope I have taught them to be thankful, expressing gratitude to those who do things for them or “serve” them in even the smallest way.  As my oldest entered the business workplace for the summer, I talked to him about carrying on, even if he’s tired at the end of the day, to be thankful he has a job and to thank others even if they don’t thank him. Serve humbly and be thankful to God for all he has given us, even if we don’t see his gratitude right now.  Carry on.  When your day becomes tiresome and when you think you have done enough, think again!   How can we do more to serve God?  Are we thankful for all he has done for us?  Go forward and serve humbly.

For additional reading:  Psalm 114

 

The Parable of the Fig Tree (Part 2)

Luke 13: 6-9

Part 2 of the The Fig Tree.  When I went to write today’s post, I remembered writing about a Fig Tree in the past and went to research my past post.  It was actually quite different than today’s verses.  The past post showed Jesus’ use of power and how he crumbled the Fig Tree.  It was one of Jesus’ very few examples of power in a more negative fashion.

Today’s reading is a different twist on Fig Trees.  In ancient times, Fig Trees were often used in stories as they are symbolic to Israel and are important to the Jewish community.  “Today Israel is full of fig trees – huge, well developed, shady and mature. They produce two harvests of fruit a year, the early crop around Passover time in the spring, even before the leaves have unfurled, and the biggest, best, most juicy fruits come into their own in September, close to the Jewish holidays of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles respectively).”  Read more here.  Fig Trees are just one of a few trees used in the Bible.  Others include the “tree of life” and the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”.  My point here is to pay attention when the Bible refers to Fig Trees.  Take note, important message coming!

Our verses for today are short but right to the point.  The parable is about disappointment and also about patience.  The fig tree owner was not pleased with the fig tree.  He had been waiting for fruit for three years but still had none.  He was disappointed and most likely frustrated with the lack of progress in bearing fruit.  His impatience grew to the point of wanting to give up and cut the Fig Tree down.  In his mind, the tree had been barren long enough. Yet, the caretaker showed great patience.  He asked for another year.  Can you visualize him pleading his case as he lays out his plan for continuing to improve the health of the tree?

This story relates to our lives.  Jesus is the vineyard owner and we are the trees.  Jesus’ patience may run out with us, not necessarily after three years, but it he may ‘move on’ to others.  He may grant us mercy for yesterday, for today, but not forever if we don’t open our hearts for him.  He keeps knocking but will we answer?  Will we confess our sins?  Will we believe?  Do we take advantage of our borrowed time in the right manner?  Will we bear fruit on earth? These verses are short but certainly powerful.  Our lives on earth might be over.  He might not give us another year.  Kind of scary in a way IF we don’t believe.  The good news is he is a patient God.  He does have caretakers watching us, helping us, prodding us along in the word.  He does grant extra time to bear fruit.   A good lesson for us on repentance and on staying ready for his coming.

In case you wanted to read another parable about a Fig Tree, I have included my The Fig Tree post from February 10, 2017   Also included in this post are facts about the fig tree as a fruit again showing how important it was in ancient times and what a source of nutrition it is today, not only to the body, but in the case of the parables, to the mind.

For additional reading:  Psalm 102.

 

Our firm foundation

The Wise and Foolish Builders

When I first read this verse, I thought I should have traded with BJ! It would have been more appropriate for a builder who is very concerned about the foundation of the homes he builds to write on this topic! So, here goes with the analogy and the non-builder in me! I know there are many different types of foundations based on the type of soil, ground, climate, and geographical location.  Some homes have basements, others do not.  I only have familiarity with the poured cement foundation for a home with a basement.  As I think about the type of foundation for homes here in Central Illinois, I always picture the big open hole in the ground that looks so massive. A truck arrives and pours gravel all over the bottom of this hole.  Massive molds are delivered and set up in this big hole in the ground and supported with wood beams or big metal supports.   Then, the cement trucks arrive and pour the cement into the molds. These molds hold the cement in place until it is firm, dry and solid.  It seems to sit for a bit of time to become rock solid. In my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to watch this process take place twice. It is so interesting to me that those cement walls form together perfectly. The perfectly formed walls outline the edge of the house and in the end, hold the weight of the entire house, with all the wood, brick, furniture, people, etc. These walls have to be so firm and so perfect or the house would collapse. I think of homes in the south near coastlines. They are oftentimes built of huge cinder blocks and then the deck or upper floors extend out of the sand with wood beams supporting them. While the cinder blocks seem very solid, it would make me a bit nervous to have these beams in the sand support the upper deck of my house especially with the ever-present threat of hurricanes.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In today’s verse, we read about building our foundation on rock and not building it on sand that could slip away or be washed away. This analogy to a home is easy for us to make. It paints a vivid picture of how to build our personal homes. Obviously, we want to build our faith foundations on God, his word, his teachings and his way of living. He points out the solid rock he can be and is for us. However, we have to do our part. We have to believe in his word and follow it. We have to read it. We have to build our lives on it. We have to build our walls on this foundation. Even when the weight of the world is heavy upon us, he won’t let us down.  We are strong and have to rely on him in tough times.

One more easy-to-relate to story came to mind when reading today’s verse: The Three Little Pigs. We all know this story. The wolf comes along to try to get the first pig, shouting: “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.” He does. Why, because the first home is built of straw.   It happens again to the second pig, who’s home is built of sticks.   “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.”   The story highlights that the first two pigs were lazy in their preparation. They hastily built their homes so they could sing and dance all day. The third pig spent considerable time on his own house. He wanted to be safe and even let the other two pigs in when their homes had been destroyed. When the wolf comes across the third pig’s home built of brick, he again says: “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.” The wolf does not succeed. The firm foundation and walls are too strong. The brick protected the pigs from harm. I think of God as these brick walls and our foundation. No matter how harsh the wind and the world is, he protects us, and we need to build our faith in him. We also need to take time to continue to solidify our foundation by being in the word.  We have to use this firm foundation in God to survive the storms. He is there for us. He is our Rock and our Salvation.   You can sing “The Church is one Foundation” in your head all day like I did after writing this post!

 

Psalm 90

 

 

Fasting

Fasting. When you hear the word today, what does it mean to you? What images does it conjure up in your head? Dieting? Cleansing? Detox? If we take dieting in today’s world, we think of restricting our food intake to conserve calories with the ultimate goal of losing weight. We often hear people talking about the need for “dieting” to fit into clothes or just to be healthier. January New Year’s resolutions often include “going on a diet”.   Lately, we also hear more and more about “cleaning”.  The 3-day juice cleanse. The 21-day detox kit. Drink these shakes to “cleanse” to a healthier you. To take it to the next level, there are infomercials on specific cleanse routines. People sharing their testimonial about how successful their cleansing was and how much weight they lost. You get it. We all get it. It’s everywhere.

Our verses today are Matthew 6:16-18:

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

If we go back to biblical times, fasting was common. It was often attributed to people who were very sad, or in deep distress. They “put on sackcloth and covered themselves in ashes”. It was a ritual viewed as humbling the soul and doing all to give focus to God. People were so upset, they didn’t eat. They didn’t have time to eat nor was it on their list of priorities for the day. They needed to be focused on prayer.

The other fasting in the bible had to do with very significant events. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his journey into the land to share his word. Moses fasted for 40 days before going up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. As I prepared to write this post and researched fasting vs. dieting, I altered my prior view of fasting to giving up something you like. I think of it more of how people give up sweets or diet coke or chocolate during Lent, not completely starve without food or water.

In today’s message, Jesus teaches us how to fast the “correct” way. He does not want it to be a public display of “hey look at me, I’m on a diet (fasting)”. He doesn’t want us to fast for attention. He suggests if we are to fast, we must do it in secret or quietly. We don’t need to put ashes on or even sackcloth. He suggests we are clean when we decide to fast or give something up. It seems as if he does think fasting draws our attention to prayer, to being close to God. If we give something up, and we are in the word with God, we have an opportunity to truly listen to what he may be telling us or sharing with us during our prayer time. He suggests that we will hear his word if we are silent and away from others to avoid distraction. We will enjoy his “reward”.

I am not exactly sure what I am going to do about fasting after reading and studying these verses.  Maybe I should rethink Lent next year? I am open to your ideas too! I do walk away thinking more about how he directs us to be close to him in prayer. Just as he tells us not to serve just for attention or to give just to say we gave, we shouldn’t fast for the wrong reasons.  Another lesson for us on how to listen to God and to give him our undivided attention as we pray.

Psalm 78

Love For Enemies

When I first heard we were going to be focusing on the Sermon on the Mount, breaking it down by topic, my reaction was oh no, I hope I don’t have to write on the “the Big D”. Luckily, my name fell next to Love For Enemies. May I start off with a big shout out to Holly for her post on “the Big D”. Great job. Not a fun topic, for you, for me, and for a lot of people unfortunately!

As I move on to my topic, Love For Enemies, I can easily relate and have honestly worked diligently on improving my focus over the years. In particular, I had two very telling examples of how to move past the anger, resentment and hatred. Today’s reading gives us good insight into how God expects us to handle our relationships with all people, even if they appear to be enemies. Not easy, but he instructs us:

Matthew 5: 43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

As we look at what is written, God is with a crowd of people. He wants to convey a message and to possibly correct some past teachings the Jews may still be following. He tells us not to hate our enemies, but to pray for them just as God does for each and every one of us, as we are all sinners. He shows us two extremes in this teaching:  Sun, glorious sun (if we ever see it here in Bloomington?), still rises on those who are good and those who are evil, and the opposite, rain, still falls on good and evil. My interpretation is that is does not matter if you are good or evil, God loves you and we are to be disciples of God, act like God, love our neighbors, and “be perfect”. His statement about “must be perfect” really hit home. No one is perfect, meaning no one is only good without any evil, and therefore we cannot condemn someone who has done evil against us, but must pause and offer pray for them.

In my world, luckily I have only had two “enemies” or people who very much distressed me. It took years for me to overcome the anger and bitterness. It took my minister father sitting down with me on many occasions asking how my forgiveness was coming along, and he would explain how his forgiveness was coming along for this same person. We would talk about how we were going to get to forgiveness first before we moved to “love”. In my lifetime, my dad has never had an enemy, never met a stranger, rarely said a harsh word and is a very kind individual. I was so thankful that he admitted he himself was struggling with my situation. He helped me understand that forgiveness and love for enemies doesn’t happen over night and that is ok.  As time progressed, we both came to a point of forgiveness for this person.   We prayed for the healing of our “enemy” and now can both talk about the goodness that came out of a deeply distressful situation.

For my second round through this process, I was on my own (although my dad knew about it). As distress hit me hard again, I was in disbelief. How could this individual claim to be my friend and yet be so super deceitful? This person turned into an enemy and wanted to cause me harm. How could she go behind my back? She really wanted to get ahead. Once I started to realize her errant ways, I started to feel sorry for her. That was how she wanted to live her life? I truly prayed for her to return to the person I once knew. I prayed for her to return to her strong faith she once displayed. I also understood it was part of God’s plan for me. In the end, I’m better off in the place I’m in. God was watching over me and I’m happier now. What else can I offer up than thanking God for his goodness and continuing to pray for her?

In both this situations, God worked in interesting ways. First, he gave me the gift of my father’s guidance. Second, he showed me that he doesn’t expect us to always respond in the first five minutes and be perfect, although that would be the best approach.  He knows we aren’t perfect. He knows we sin. He knows human nature might take us down the path of anger, bitterness and hurt. However, he loves us, all of us. He expects the same in return for all our friends, neighbors and enemies. Enemies can exist in our lives every day. There are enemies in other countries causing harm here in the US or elsewhere. Political enemies exist and cause havoc to our surroundings. We have to expect we will continue to confront enemies in our lives. We also have to continue to pray for them. Pray for their healing and hope they find God’s word.  We must show love.

As I spend one more minute on my personal situations, the other part of my learning is how much easier it is to pray for my enemies than it is to be angry.  I had to learn the hard way to just move on, no holding grudges.  Anger harms me internally more than it harms them.  Flip the situation into prayer.  If I start to go down the path of becoming angry over either of these situations, I try to say a quick prayer.  I can’t say I’m ready for another deeply distressing situation, however, I am now more prepared for how God expects me to act.

Let us all show some extra love today, even to those who might be difficult to love!

Psalm 66

Praise Him!

David’s Song of Praise

2 Samuel 22

When I started to read this chapter in 2 Samuel, I thought I made a mistake as it reads like one of our many Psalms. Isn’t it interesting to have this chapter in the middle of this complex and sometimes graphic book?  It seems to me that most of 2 Samuel (and 1 Samuel too) has been about David’s story of continuous reign over more people and more land.  I found this chapter captured my attention enough to reread it several times. David must have been down on his knees praising God for all he had been given and the protection God offered him. David’s reign continued. He was full of Thanksgiving and demonstrated a grateful heart. He made a list of all the reasons to offer praise as he walks through all God had done for him lately. He gave examples of God’s actions and then he again praised him. Let’s walk through the outline of this song together:

God is the Rock, the Shelter:The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer;
3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield[a] and the horn[b] of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—

God heard his cries in time of need: “In my distress, I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.

God appeared like a storm when needed: He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared[d] on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark[e] rain clouds in the sky.

God protected him: “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.

God showed him the light at the end of a tunnel: You, Lord, are my lamp;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.

God is perfect: As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.

God carried him through his battles: “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!

As I was making this outline, it became clear that God could walk through our lives in this same manner. Do we believe he is our rock, our stronghold? Do we always call on him in time of need? He will protect us. He gives us hope during times of despair. He is perfect and carries us through our own battles, big or small. David certainly exalted God. He was thankful that God protected him in time of need and gave him the tools to succeed including strength. We can learn from this lesson and make our own outline of praise for God.  As Jillian stated on Monday “sometimes the details of our human lives are graphic, our truth isn’t always Easter white. ” We should offer praise and thanksgiving.

If you did not hear enough praise, we then turn to Psalm 54.

David called for God: Save me, O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
listen to the words of my mouth.

God helped fend off evil: Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.

God helped free David from his foes: I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.
You have delivered me from all my troubles,
and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

Let us remember to be filled with praise for God through our everyday lives. Alleluia. Christ has Risen!

Was it worth it?

2 Samuel 10

We continue today’s story of David by understanding his desire to be loyal. As is written: And David said, “I will deal loyally[a] with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me.” His motive appears to be right with the culture of their time and continues to show he is serving God loyally, allowing God to guide his actions.  Just as Jillian showed us on Monday in her post:  “David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15. We also saw in yesterday’s story, David showed compassion to Jonathan’s family.  He showed grace to Mephibosheth by welcoming him into his home.   He is performing God’s will.  However, in today’s story, the word on the street within the Ammonite community showed a high level of mistrust of David’s actions. The people did not believe that David was being loyal when he sent his servants. They distrusted his actions based on all the prior deaths and takeovers. Hanun listened to and believed in his people and made David’s servants feel as if they were traitors: “ So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away.”, all because he listened to the word of his people and thought David’s were sent to spy.   How embarrassing (and odd!). The servants weren’t even allowed back into their country or city. This one act by Ammon of distrust then leads to more war, to more people dying and to David gaining more land and reigning over more people. He did not send his servants to force this type of outcome. He was trying to be a good neighbor. What would have happened if Hanun would have accepted this act of kindness?  In the end, was it worth it?

It is interesting to think about this story in today’s world. Someone from another town, or company, or neighborhood, or church or even country tries to extend a helping hand or offer a comforting word, and there is a slight bit of doubt in the true intent of the action.  A leader or a popular person might listen to their “people”.  Then what happens?  Do you then catch yourself wondering if you listen to your friends or do you genuinely believe in someone being loyal or above board off the bat? Are you trusting them or not? If you have even the slightest bit of mistrust, it could lead to negative action.  You don’t sincerely accept their actions.  You might tell someone what you heard and thus spread a rumor or gossip.  What transpires from there could have a snowball effect, especially with social media. Is it worth it?

My takeaway from today’s story is to try to accept people’s actions as being sincere and genuine unless proven otherwise. If someone extends a helping hand, take it.  If someone extends words of support or empathy, take their actions for what they are. Don’t overanalyze or second guess that individual. Above all else, don’t retaliate but harming the person who has extended a helping hand or kind word!   It truly is not worth it!

Spoiler alert:  David is about to change…..and it won’t be worth it!

Psalm 42

Joy Comes in the Morning

In Samuel, we have been reading about many people in conflict, Conflicts that have escalated. Conflicts where God steps in and says enough is enough, ending someone’s life. We have read about massive battles which ends in loss of life. We have also read about the end of friendships.  Jillian’s recap on Monday was so helpful to remind us of the Saul/Samuel/David/Jonathan intertwined story.  Rachel recapped yesterday’s reading with the Saul reaching the end of his rope and asking Samuel to rise from the dead to help him.  Today’s reading in 1 Samuel 29 is no exception to conflict and confusion. In today’s reading, David comes to help yet is sent away.

But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,

‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands’?”

It’s been a lot of heavy reading around Samuel, Saul and David.  Then, we have the chance to read Psalm 30.   The title is uplifting: Joy Comes with the Morning. A Psalm of David.

The Philistines appear angry in today’s verse. Maybe they are overworked and underpaid. Maybe they are just downright worn out. Maybe they were still in mourning over Samuel dying. Maybe they are starting to mistrust everyone’s intent. Maybe they just want all the fighting and wars to be over?

Sometimes our days may seem like mini battles or wars. Maybe we are just downright tired. Maybe we don’t know what to do next to solve a certain problem. I know sometimes at night, I lay there and pray. I think about what I’m asking God to help me solve or overcome or have more patience with in my days. I might drift off and then in the morning “joy” comes. I feel relieved for some reason. Ready to tackle the day or ready to work harder at resolving a situation. It just seems as if God lifts my problems overnight or at least eases my burden. In our readings today, it certainly seems as if God is trying to lift up David. Let us be glad!

10Hear O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Wishing you all a “joyful” morning.