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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

PSALM 85

 
"O Lord, You showed favor to Your land;
You restored the captivity of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of Your people;
You covered all their sin.
You withdrew all Your fury;
You turned away from Your burning anger.
Restore us, O God of our salvation,
And cause Your indignation to cease....
Will You not Yourself revive us again,
That your people may rejoice in You?
Show us Your lovingkindness, O Lord,
And grant us Your salvation."
(verses 1-4, 6-7)
 
 
 
"The church was here in a deluge; above were cloud, below were waves; everything was dark and dismal.  The church is like Noah in the ark, between life and death, between hope and fear; being so...Here is the dove sent forth in prayer.  The petitions are against sin and wrath and for mercy and grace." (Matthew Henry)


 
This is agreed that it is written after the people have returned from captivity from Babylon.  So what now?  Here are some of Adam Clarke's quotes mingled with my thoughts...
 
"Thou hast forgiven the iniquity. Thou hast borne, or carried away the iniquity: an allusion to the ceremony of the scape goat.  This is the picture of Christ when He suffered and was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem.
 
"Thou hast covered all their sins.  As Thou hast freely forgiven it: its offensiveness and abominable nature no longer appear." 
 
"Thou hast taken away, "Thou hast gathered up all Thy wrath."  This carries on the metaphor in the second verse: "Thou hast collected all Thy wrath, and carried it away with all our iniquities."


 
If you think about it for a minute, would we want a hero who was not wrathful against wrong?  Could there even be such a thing?  Would we want a hero who had no fury over evil?  He would just be a  weakling in tights.  Of course God has wrath, has fury over sin.  He HATES sin.  Captivity happens when we slide back into the clutches of sin.  When He redeems us, restores us, it is with the warning not to return to the vomit of sin.  After all, it took the life of His only begotten.  That is how seriously God takes sin.
 
So after He saves us from the burning building of destruction, He must revive us with the mouth to mouth of resuscitation, the breath of God. 


 
"O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make it known;
In wrath remember mercy."
Habakkuk 3:2


 
"We have long had the sentence of death in ourselves; and have feared an utter extinction...'Show us Thy mercy' Blot out all our sins.  'And grant us Thy salvation.' Give us such a complete deliverance as is worthy of Thy majesty and mercy to bestow!"
(Adam Clarke)


 
Blotting out our sin is not God's handkerchief on our sweaty brow. 
It is His laundry bleaching out the blood stain that our sin caused. 
This is His willing desire towards us because of His lovingkindness. 


He has gone completely under to wash away our sins.


Monday, May 30, 2016

PSALM 84 continued, oh and please excuse my digression along the way...

 
"O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better
than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the
threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts."
(verses 8-12)

 
It was a good day in the courts of the Lord yesterday at church.  How about you?  Of course I'd rather hang around there than go camping with the tents of wickedness, for goodness sakes!  With God as a sun and shield, what more could I need?  For I guess what we do in church is listen to God's Word and then tug on His ear for awhile, "Hear my prayer; Give ear, O God...Look upon the face of Your anointed."   It's a little face to face time with God. So, is this a little like going back to the Garden of Eden where man could walk and talk with God?"
 



 
God is a sun: "He dispels darkness; comforts, warms, gives life."
He is a shield: "The Defender and Protector of His followers."
 

 
The Lord gives grace and glory.  My great grandpa had two daughters, Miss Sally and Reuben.  Yep, he named his first after his wife, then he said he would name his second after himself.  Johnny Cash sings of a boy named Sue, and I have a grandmother Reuben.  They called her Ruby for short.  However, my great grandfather also said he liked to call his two girls "Grace and Glory."  That would be befitting of two of the most wonderful women who ever were born, Miss Sally and Ruby.  I think my Gram had a bit of glory 'round her, like the shekinah glory cloud


 
But to think that is God' intention towards us, that He gives us grace and glory!  Grace is "To pardon, purify, and save, the soul from sin:--and then He will give glory to the sanctified in His eternal kingdom; and even here He withholds no good thing from them that walk uprightly."  Adam Clarke also says, "He gives grace, to prepare for heaven." and Glory, to crown that grace."


 
Our preacher preached on the love of God yesterday and happened to mention the verse Genesis 1:29, 31, "Then God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant...and behold, it was very good.'" In other words, God has given us everything we could need.  So maybe I can blame our pastor's words for my wild dream...


 
 
This morning as I struggled to wake up from this weird dream.  I realized I had dreamed that I had to make a diorama of Adam and Eve as an assigned project.  It started me thinking--in my dream--about where they lived, with a little more detail than of course than they lived in the Garden.  If you think about it, they wouldn't have wanted to sleep on the ground because it didn't rain in the Beginning, it only had a very heavy dew.  Anyway, I got to thinking that I sorta think of Adam and Eve as a kind of little Ellie May and Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies or like Tarzan and Jane, which got me thinking that, of course they would live in a tree house... Or it could have been a cave since we must have gotten the cave man notion from somewhere.  I doubt that Eve would have set up a loom and woven tent material in the Garden.  Animal skins hadn't been thought of yet as purposeful either...What, you don't have such ponderous dreams like this? 

 
Then I got a snicker from the verse that God would not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly.  I envision that picture we were all sold of the ape which gradually begins to morph slowly until it walks uprightly, and becomes man: too bad about the chimp, since it can't walk uprightly, it doesn't get all the good things God has for us.  Somehow we forget that God says He created Adam and Eve in the Beginning, that they did not evolve, and since they were created fresh from His hand, they were no slouches.  They were intelligent.  I even imagine they were more intelligent than we are.  That's hard to admit, isn't it?  After all, they had God's ear and He talked directly with them. 

 
Hmm.  So indoctrinated as we are, when we think back in history, the Supremacy of the Races rot, we become self-righteous and smug thinking we have arrived, we are so much more intelligent than cave men, which must refer to Adam and Eve.  We think we are at the pinnacle of God's creation, when actually it might be the opposite, that it has all been downhill since Creation, and we are swimming in the dark sludge of sin in this world barely able to keep our head above water. 
Yet, these promises are still true from Genesis till now, He will give us grace and glory, "No good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly."
 
You might ask, what did she eat before she fell asleep to cause such wonderings in her dreams?  Well, the angel Sharon Fox surprised me and brought over a batch of gluten free brownies yesterday.  So ask her what she put in them!


 
Anyway, I woke up before I finished making the diorama of Adam and Eve in my dream.  How would you have designed it?  Did they live in a tree house, a cave, or what?  Or did they sleep in a pile of tigers as Mark Twain described Eve as having done: "I found some tigers and nestled in among them and was most comfortable.  And their breath was sweet and pleasant, because they live on strawberries.  I had never seen a tiger before, but I knew them in a minute by the stripes."



Mark Twain had his own ideas of Adam and Eve when he wrote the tongue in cheek "The Diaries of Adam and Eve."

In fact, I jumped out of bed and startled my husband who asked what I was looking for.  I was searching for Mark Twain's book in my bookshelf.  Here's just a little of the diary entries...

Eve: "I think it is a man.  I had never seen a man, but it looked like one, and I feel sure that is what it is.  I realize that I feel more curiosity about it than about any of the other reptiles....I was afraid of it at first and started to run every time it turned around, for I thought it was going to chase me.  But by and by I found it was only trying to get away, so after that  I was not timid anymore but tracked it...At last it was a good deal worried and climbed at tree."




Adam: "This new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way.  It is always hanging around and following me about.  I don't like this; I am not used to company.  I wish it would stay with the other animals...I wish it would not talk; it is always talking."

Eve: "When I found it could talk, I felt a new interest in it, for I love to talk.  I talk all day and in my sleep, too, and I am very interesting.  But if I had another to talk to, I could be twice as interesting and would never stop...All the week I tagged around after him and tried to get acquainted.  I had to do the talking because he was so shy, but I didn't mind."



Adam: "The new creature says its name is Eve.  That is all right, I have no objections.  Says it is to call it by when I want it to come.  I said it was superfluous then."



Eve: "This morning I told him my name, hoping it would interest him.  But he did not care for it....He talks very little.  Perhaps it is because he is not bright and is sensitive about it and wishes to conceal it."



Adam: "She told me she was made out of a rib taken from my body.  This is at least doubtful, if not more than that.  I have not missed any rib...Perhaps I ought to remember that she is very young, a mere girl, and make allowances.  She is all interest, eagerness, vivacity.  The world to her a charm, a wonder, a mystery, a joy.  She can't speak for delight when she finds a new flower; she must pet it and caress it and smell it and talk to it and pour out endearing names upon it...If she could quiet down and keep still a couple of minutes at a time, it would be a reposeful spectacle.  In that case, I think I could enjoy looking at her.  Indeed I am sure I could, for I am coming to realize that she is a quite remarkably comely creature--lithe, slender, trim, rounded, shapely, nimble, graceful.  And once, when she was standing marble-white and sun-drenched on a boulder, with her young head tilted back and her hand shading her eyes, watching the flight of a bird in the sky, I recognized that she was beautiful."

So put that in a diorama, but it would probably be "R" rated for nudity.




 
 


Sunday, May 29, 2016

PSALM 84 continued...
 
It's too good to not have another slice...
 
"How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts!
(verse 1)

 
 
The highway to Zion?

 
"How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears
before God in Zion."

 
 
This life is a journey.  It's where we are headed that counts and the joy we can squeeze out of each day as we go step by step towards our Zion, strength to strength.  We are on the highway to heaven, the highway of holiness.  This valley of weeping, of Baca that represents the captivity of Babylon is not the last word.  Even salty tears can turn such a valley into a spring.  Without the early rain, there's no covering of green, of blessings.  Some may despair of rain, when it actually can bring blessings.

 
On our trip to Tennessee, it rained often.  It did not bother us because the land was a luscious green everywhere we looked, as far as we could see, every hue, every shade of green.  The only brown in sight was a plowed field here and there ready to yield its green growth, a promise of what was to be.  May that be the kind of journey we are on, one that takes the tears of Baca as a hope of watering of what will come.

 
This is how I roll!

They go from strength o strength.  I must admit I'm a couch or rather a recliner potato.  My exercise plan, as I've said before, is to get up and let the dog out, get up and let the dog in.  So when a couple of sights on our trip required a mile and a half walk, I only hoped I could make it.  I'm so proud that my dog exercise stood me in good stead because I made it easily with no muscle soreness (except when I slid, and tripped, and rolled down one hill but was relieved that I could stop before the cliff.  While I had a good belly laugh at myself stop, drop, and rolling, my husband was aghast imagining picking me up off the remote path and carrying a broken me to find an E.R.  God is good, and I had no such injuries, only a tendency to break out in a chortle at the memory of my stumble.)  Strength to strength with only a little stumble in between, picking myself up, dusting myself off, hitching my jeans back up and going onward .


 
I read Anne Graham's daily devotional online.  In her most recent post, she reminded us of the apostle John isolation on the island of Patmos in his last years.  How he might have longed for the Temple or the fellowship of believers.  Yet, he gave us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, The Book of Revelation.  His longing was fulfilled in the presence of God Himself allowing us the glimpse into what is to come, our Zion, the joys of heaven.  She asked what was our Patmos?  Whether it is young mothers feeling alone in their homes or a hostile work environment, whatever circumstances we find ourselves isolated in, God is there taking our Baca, our weeping, our being stranded on an island, using it as a spring of glory.

This is a glorious yard in Hilton, Virginia, a place so isolated, it's off the map,
a green luscious lawn with the wide ribbon of river in the background.
(Nobody was home here, but it's okay, the man at the market said,
"Nobody's goin' shoot you  here for poking around.")


 
"How blessed is the man..
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!"
 

What's in your heart?
 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

PSALM 84

 
 
You can long for something so sweet it cries out to you,
like a taste of something you yearn for.
Like cherries.
You feast with your eyes,
you can smell them,
you can roll them around in your mouth,
then bite into their juiciness.
They can't be obtained any ol' time.
They are a rare and precious treat,
plucked fresh at the peak of the Spring and early Summer.
The rest of the year, you just are wishing, longing, yearning.
 

 
"How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars,
O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God."
(verses 1-3)



Okay, y'all, we can't eat the whole pie or we'd be sick,
especially when one slice is so delicious we have to savor it.
That's how I feel about these verses.
I can't eat the whole thing, just stick a fork in this slice and die happy.
It makes my eyes roll back in my head with its sweetness.
It's about how lovely,
a yearning, longing heart,
singing heart and flesh for joy.
 
"It is supposed that David penned this psalm...the pious breathing of a gracious soul after God...
Gracious souls see a wonderful , an inexpressible, beauty in holiness...the beauty of holiness is spiritual, and the glory is within...The longing desire he had (after being driven out by Absalom) to return to the enjoyment of public ordinances, or rather of God in them.  It was an entire desire; body, soul, and spirit.  It was an intense desire.  He longed, he fainted, he cried out.  Yet it was not so much the courts of the Lord that he coveted, but he cried out, in prayer for the living God Himself."(Matthew Henry)


 
"My heart and my flesh:
"All the desires of my soul and body;
--every appetite and wish,
both animal and spiritual long for Thy service."
(Adam Clarke)


 
"His grudging the happiness of the little birds that made their nests in the buildings that were adjoining to God's altars, 'The sparrow has found a house and the swallow a nest for herself.'  These little birds, by the instinct and direction of nature, provide habitations for themselves in houses, as other birds do in the woods; some such David supposes there were in the buildings about the courts of God's house and wishes himself with them.  He would rather live in a bird's nest nigh God's altars than in a palace at a distance from them...here for the wings of a sparrow, that he might fly undiscovered into God's courts...(if I may offer a conjecture) perhaps when, in David's time, music was introduced so much into the sacred service, to complete the harmony they had singing-birds in cages hung about the courts of the tabernacle (for we find the singing of birds taken notice of to the glory of God) and David envies the happiness of these, and would gladly change place with them...to let this be his rest, his home; here he will dwell.  And he takes notice that these birds there they lay their young; for those who have a place in God's courts themselves cannot but desire that their children also may have in God's house, a place and a name."
(Matthew Henry)

 
That is a pretty picture of birdsong filling the temple not just from without, but within, from cages brought in for that purpose.  Just the thought of David's harp being strummed with the birds singing in the background, just as it would have happened out when he was a shepherd boy, but now in the temple, is a lovely thought indeed.

Just sorting through my C.D.'s I found five Nature Scapes, one of just birdsong.  Back in the day, we would listen to birdsong on cassette.  It was something we paused and took note of on our recent trip as we walked along the rushing creeks and rivers, the singing of birds.  I even captured a little of it on my iPhone as I took videos of the water seen through the trees.  Walking along in Sparta, Tennessee, our attention was grabbed by a pert, unfamiliar birdsong.  Our eyes sought the source up in the treetops.  It was a cardinal.  In fact, we often saw cardinals after that on our trip, a bird not found back home.  The bird snagged attention with its bright cherry-like plumage among the leaves.  what a treat!  A feast for the eyes, like cherries are for the eyes and mouth.

 
But more than all the singing notes, the rest, the desire to be at home in the beauty of holiness is what David is describing here.  It is a rest found within when it is not to be found without.

 
The light of the world may be a song.
 
Oswald Chambers wrote, "We are not called to produce admiration for ourselves, but to live a life in such perfect relationship to God that it produces a longing for God in the hearts of others."
May we be the singing birds within and without the courts of God.



Isn't that what we wish for our "nestlings," that we would have created such a natural beauty of holiness, the glory within of singing in the soul, that we would create a longing for our offspring to follow?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I'm blogging back again to the Psalms: Psalms 82...





 
"All rise."  God is in the house!  He is the ultimate judge. 

"God takes His stand in His own congregation;
He judges in the midst of the rulers.
How long will you judge unjustly
And show partiality to the wicked?
Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked."
(Psalm 82:1-4)


 
Who says Christians can't get political?  God is interested, invested in governments.  We can't be whimpies and keep our heads in the sand.  It is our privilege in our blessed nation to be able to freely vote.  It is a precious responsibility to choose those who will best lead as described above.  Sometimes it seems as if instead of choosing between  "good, better, best," it is between bad, worse and worst!"  Nevertheless,  God is ultimately over all, and all will answer to him.


"Arise, O God! judge the earth;
Thou shalt inherit all nations."
(KJV)
 
"Arise, O God, judge the earth!
For it is You who possesses all the nations."
(NASV)

 
God is concerned over the treatment of the weak, the fatherless, the afflicted and destitute and the needy, those who seem helplessly tied to the railroad tracks of the wicked.  He sees.  He knows.  He will ultimately bring justice.  "Vengeance is Mine, Thus saith the Lord!" (Deuteronomy 32:35)
 
"Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.
For the Lord will vindicate His people,
And will have compassion on His servants,
When He sees that their strength is gone."
(NASV Deuteronomy 32:25-26

 
An eleven year old sentenced to eight days of hard labor for stealing.
 
"Magistrates are the mighty.  They are so in authority, for the public good...God stands, He judges among them; they have their power from Him and are accountable to Him.  'By Him kings reign.'
God has their hearts in His hands, and His counsels shall stand, whatever devices are in men's hearts.
Let magistrates consider this and be awed by it; God is with them in the judgment Let subjects consider this and be comforted with it; for good princes and good judges are under a divine direction, and bad ones are under a divine restraint...as they will answer it to Him by whom they are entrusted with it." (Matthew Henry)


 
Speaking of family history, oh we weren't?  But now we are considering how we are talking about justice, and when it goes awry:  the Hatfields-McCoy Feud personifies when justice goes rogue, family honor, justice, and revenge.


 
 
Somehow we are shirttail relatives of the Hatfields since  Nancy Vance was married to Ephraim Hatfield (born 1765) and was the mother of Devil Anse and sister to Big Bad Jim Vance who rode with Devil Anse leading a regiment of Confederates.  (I just read up a little about it in Wikipedia.) 


Now, I must admit, I'm pretty brave to post such an ugly mug shot and still claim her.

Asa McCoy
 
First their regiment known as the Logan Wildcats killed Asa McCoy after he had been wounded and imprisoned and sent home.  Asa was one of the only McCoys who fought for the Union.  It was thought that Big Bad Jim Vance was the culprit.  There had been killings and retribution killings among these Confederates and Union officers, one of whom Devil Anse killed.  The McCoys were led by Ole Ran'l McCoy (whose grandfather immigrated from Ireland where he was born in 1750).

 
Ole Ran'l McCoy




Most McCoys lived in Kentucky while most Hatfields lived over the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River in West Virginia. (We did not make it that far north in our travels.) Then a McCoy claimed a Hatfield hog.  Uh-huh.  Evidently the notchings on the hog's ears were not clear.  So the Justice of the Peace, "Preacher Anse Hatfield," assembled a jury of six Hatfields and six McCoys.  It swung in favor of the Hatfields by the testimony of one who was related to both the Hatfields and  McCoys.  He was later shot dead by the McCoys.  The hog settlement might have gotten off Scott-free--(or should we say, Scotch-Irish-free?)  but resentments were building.

 
Roseanna
 
Then of all things, Johnes (Johnson) Hatfield, Devil Anse's son, took up with a Roseanna McCoy, got her pregnant but his father was against a marriage; so he let her go and took up with her first cousin instead, Nancy, and married her.  Hmm.   However, when McCoys rounded up them some Hatfields, including Johnes on a charge of bootlegging, Roseanna ran over and warned the Hatfields.  So the Hatfields went about freeing them. 


Then when three of the McCoys, brothers of Roseanna, stabbed Devil Anse Hatfield's brother twenty-five times before shooting him dead, the law did step in, Hatfield constables, but so did the Devil Anse Hatfield gang who got ahold of them murdering McCoys, and did a little justice on their own: they tied them to a pawpaw bush and shot them fifty times.  Devil Anse Hatfield was charged with vigilantisim, but was never brought in along with his other charges of bootlegging. 


Then the governor was bribed to get involved, sent out bounty hunters after the Hatfields, and it all broke out into "HE-double toothpicks."  Somehow bad boy Johnes and a gang of Hatfields later sought retribution and burned out the cabin of a McCoy, beating Randall's wife to death and shooting his daughter and a couple of children while a couple more kids got frostbite while fleeing, but the mother of Johnes' child was smoked out but not killed.  The law came in putting eight Hatfields and associates in jail and hanging the one who killed the woman, Cotton Top Hatfield.   A posse was sent out, Big Bad Jim Vance was shot dead, but Devil Anse was not among them.  He just moved further up in them thar hills and kept to himself.  His brother Valentine was one of the ones found guilty however, and spent the rest of his life in prison. After a couple dozen were killed in both families, with even the Supreme Court getting involved, the two families finally called a truce.  The moral to the story is rogue justice is out of order.
 
Valentine Hatfield
 
There is redemption however.  Though some say Devil Anse Hatfield never repented of killing anyone, it is said that he became a Christian and was baptized and spent the rest of his life in peace.
 
 
A Mr. Hatfield and a Miss McCoy intermarry,
evidence of the end of the feud.