Friday, August 5, 2016

So This is Love

There are a number of reasons that I have not posted a blog entry in over a month. I have actually begun (but subsequently abandoned) quite a few possible posts. But I think this is where I'm going for today ....

I have always liked animated Disney movies, and Cinderella is one that I have especially enjoyed for some reason. Maybe it is partially because I had Disney's Cinderella on one of those late 1960s era 45 RPM records that came with the little book. You may recall the ones that would say "Ding -- turn the page." I remember mine had a scratch on it near the end of the story: "That was all the Duke needed --- That was all the Duke needed --- That was..."

Since falling and breaking my foot last Sunday, I have spent a great deal of time sitting and watching a variety of movies. Yesterday, I watched Cinderella again with my youngest daughter.

During the scene when Cinderella and the Prince were dancing at the ball, I paid attention to the song's lyrics more than usual. In all fairness, the song was probably not written for deep contemplation; just for a fleeting scene in a movie. Even so, it made me wonder what we have been teaching children for decades. If you've watched Cinderella much, then you may remember the waltz written by Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman, entitled "So This is Love."

There really aren't many lyrics.

So this is love, mmmm; so this is love
So this is what makes life divine
I’m all aglow, mmmm; and now I know
The key to all heaven is mine
My heart has wings, mmmm; and I can fly
I’ll touch every star in the sky
So this is the miracle that I’ve been dreaming of
Mmmm, mmmm; so this is love
So this is love. Really? So what exactly is love? Is love being dressed up beyond recognition and dancing for a few hours with a man who doesn't even know your name or anything about you? Is love going to a party and being the center attention when you're accustomed to being used, abused, and unappreciated at home? Is love escaping everyday life with a handsome stranger?

This is infatuation, perhaps, but this is not love. THIS is love:

  • Working all day at your job and going home to work more by cooking, doing dishes and laundry, and taking care of kids because your spouse is sick or injured and unable to do so.
  • Serving your spouse by cleaning up puke, changing bloody bandages, or helping them in and out of the tub because they are unable to do these kinds of things for themselves.
  • Forgoing your own personal goals or dreams to support those of your spouse. 
  • Sticking with each other through the worse part of "for better or for worse," the poorer portion of "for richer or for poorer," and the sickness component of "in sickness and in health."
  • Caring for a loved one who is terminally ill, even when it is difficult.

Obviously, these scenarios don't hold quite the dreamy, ethereal, romantic ideal of the waltz scene in Cinderella. She and the prince just gaze into each other's eyes for a few hours, get married, and then live happily ever after ---whatever that is. They have not battled anything together. They have not weathered any storms. 

I don't want to lay all of the blame for the sad state of marriage in our country at Walt Disney's feet, but surely the "So This is Love"/"happily ever after" lies we have been buying for decades haven't helped. 

Of course, we should know better than to expect Disney to accurately teach our children what love is or to expect a children's entertainment company to be able to say with certainty "This is Love." We have already been told what love is by one who knows:
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:10-11 NIV). 
Or don't forget:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Cor 13:4-8a NIV). 
What examples do you have that define "So This is Love"? 

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Perfect Psalm for Today

If you have read any of my blogs this year, then you know I have been slowly going through the Psalms. Occasionally, I get frustrated with myself because I’m going so slowly. It seems that I am getting behind on some artificial, self-imposed mandate to march through one psalm per day. But then I read the psalm for today, and I realize the timing is perfect. I am not behind. I am right on schedule.

You may or may not know that my sister, Angela, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. That is her in the photo with my daughter, Sabrina. Angela has been confined to a wheelchair for the past thirty-plus years. She has had a tracheostomy and been on a ventilator so she can breathe for maybe the past ten to fifteen years. She has been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia too many times to count. Each time feels like it might be the last. When she was diagnosed with MD in the 1970’s, the prognosis was that she would only make it to her late teens or early twenties, and she is now 46.

She is currently in the hospital again. This time with double pneumonia and a collapsed lung. As you can imagine, she is experiencing a great deal of fear and anxiety. Not fear of dying, but fear of the feeling of suffocation and pain. I would be too.

This morning, my first thought was that I might skip today’s psalm in order to read and pray over some other passage on healing or peace. But then I decided to go ahead and read the psalm for today anyway. Yesterday, I was on Psalm 55, so 56 was up for today. And it is perfect for today.

Would you join me in praying for Angela. Pray for a sense of peace and calm that can only come from God. Let’s pray these words from Psalm 56 together for her…

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? ….
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. …
This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised;
Yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? …
For you have rescued me from death;
You have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
In your life-giving light.” (Ps 56:3-4, 8, 9b-11a, 13 NLT)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sing Praises!

I wrote quite a few songs during the time I served in worship ministry in Texas, but I haven't written any since we left. I have been slowly going through the psalms every day, and I spent these past few days I reading Psalm 47. I found a song there.

As poetry that was originally written in Hebrew, the psalms don't usually hold such rhythm in English as I found in verses 6-7 --"Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise" (NIV).

I have certainly read these verses before, but this time they formed rhythm and melody in my head as I read them. What I "heard" was this song that is an invitation for all people to join in singing songs of praise to God.

This blog entry is really a song --- listen to the link below and join me in following the instructions given us in Psalm 47 and sing a song of praise to our God and King!

Sing Praises! (Psalm 47)

Sing praises to our God, sing praise!
Sing praises to our King, sing praise!
For our God is the King over all the earth
Oh, sing to Him a song of praise!

Verse 1:
Clap your hands, all you people
And shout to God with a joyous cry
Lift Him up, for He is worthy
How awesome is the Lord Most High
(Repeat Chorus)

Verse 2:
Our God reigns over every nation
He's seated on His holy throne
Every knee will bow before Him
The earth belongs to Him alone
(Repeat Chorus)

Lord, You are good; You are holy
You are righteous; You are just
You are mighty and full of mercy
You are worthy of all our praise
(Repeat Chorus)

(c) 2016 Sheri Tesar

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Timely Prayer from Psalm 45

Just last night, my husband and I were discussing with friends the current situation regarding all the caucuses and the political machinery that is marching towards the final choices for President that we will be offered this coming November. 

This morning, I opened up Bible Gateway to Psalm 45, where I “just happened” to be for today in my slow tour through the Psalms. Psalm 45 paints a picture of a godly king who leads with truth, humility, and justice. My Bible Gateway app also opened this psalm in The Voice translation, the version I “just happened” to using last night for something else. The Voice offered the following timely notes in the middle of Psalm 45:
“Whether we realize it or not, the overall wellbeing of a nation is tied directly to its leaders. When the leaders are just and make good decisions, then the welfare of a nation is secure. But when leaders are unjust and make poor decisions, and they pursue personal agendas rather than the public good, then nations suffer. This is why Scripture instructs those of faith to pray for all people everywhere, especially that those in authority would lead the world to dignity and peace (1 Tim 2:1-3).
Psalm 45 celebrates that rare breed, a godly king who pursues truth and justice…May the world witness a new breed of leader, fashioned in the image of this psalm.” 

In a season when many are concerned about who our next president will be and where our country is headed … at a time when many are wondering if they should even vote because of the choices that we are offered … it seems that Scripture calls us to pray for our leaders ---something that we should not neglect or underestimate. We need to pray fervently for whomever our next president will be.

Lord, I pray that you will fill Trump, Hillary, Sanders (or whomever else rises to the top of the list of candidates) with incredible wisdom…wisdom beyond their years, beyond their education, and beyond their experiences (James 1:5).

I pray you will give them the discernment necessary to know what is best for the people of this country (Prov 28:2).
I pray you will give them the strength and courage to do what needs to be done (Josh 1:7).
I pray you will give them the humility necessary to listen to you and to listen to those that you place around them who are able to guide them in a wise, discerning fashion (Ps 25:9).
As for this election, the future of this country and this world, I pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).
I pray that each of these candidates and our future President will ultimately turn to you and serve you, the King of Kings, with their very lives and that they will speak your words and serve in your strength in order to bring you glory (1 Pet 4:11).
Finally, I pray that we will all “bring honor to your name in every generation. Therefore, the nations will praise you forever and ever” (Ps 45:17 NLT)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Let Us Exalt His Name

This verse from Psalms sounds like it could be a formal call to worship, an invitation from the worship leader for the congregation to join him in singing songs of praise to God during the Sunday morning worship service. As a worship leader, this is my first thought. And of course, singing songs of praise together is a “fitting” thing for us to do (Ps 33:1). But when I read this verse this week, I began to contemplate what else that “let us exalt his name together” might mean for us.

“Exalt” is not a word that I generally use in daily conversation. According to Merriam-Webster, it means to “raise (someone or something) to a higher level; to praise (someone or something) highly; to present (something) in a way that is very favorable.”[1] According to this definition, exalting the Lord would certainly include singing songs of praise together, but what about that last part, about presenting something in a favorable way?

In thinking about what exalting the name of Lord means, I began to think about the flip side --- what does it look or sound like when we don’t exalt or lift up His name? We have phrases in the English language relating to the opposite of lifting or exalting someone’s name. If someone does something we don’t like, we may say that their name “is mud.” We may speak of dragging someone’s name through the dirt or the mud, which is when we “tell people about something bad that someone has done so that people will have a bad opinion of them.”[2] Do we ever drag God's name through the mud?

My first thought about this was the use of God's name as a curse word. In our culture, we often hear people calling for  God to condemn whatever displeases them. However, I don’t really think that people who use this word fully expect God to bring down curses on the car in front of them in traffic, or their frustrating circumstances, or whatever they are angry about, nor do I think it makes those who hear it think less of God.

While I do not like to hear the Lord's name used as a curse word, I think a more damaging way that we drag God’s name through the dirt instead of lifting it up is by saying things that are contrary to the truth about His nature ---when we say things like, “God is not really good, because if He was, He wouldn’t have let this happen” … or “God loves other people, but He doesn’t really love me or I wouldn’t be in this situation” … or maybe we say “God hates gays” (or women, or people with green hair, or whatever group). None of these things are true, and they certainly don’t invite others to think more highly of God.

While it is fitting for Psalm 34:3 to be used as an invitation to sing songs of praise together, I believe it is also an invitation to speak highly of God --regardless of our circumstances, regardless of our frustration level, and regardless of our personal opinions of others. This may not always be easy to do. As the writer of Hebrews put it, “let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise –the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Heb 13:15 NIV).

Whether sung or spoken, whether in sadness or in joy, may our words about the Lord be filled with praise, and may we be intent on lifting up His name in the sight of others, rather than dragging it down to our own level. May we constantly speak about how good, how loving, how faithful, how patient, how merciful, how creative, how holy, and how amazing our God is, especially in front of those who don’t know Him, and so I say…

“Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together” (Ps 34:3 NIV).

[1], “exalt”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Secret in Psalm 23:1

I have been slowly working my way through the Psalms, and I recently made it up to Psalm 23. This is such a familiar passage that it would have been very easy to just roll right through it without stopping to contemplate its great meaning and depth. After all, I've had it memorized since childhood. I decided to go through it very slowly, but I didn't think I'd be this slow. I was stopped at the very first verse ----

I lack nothing. Nothing? Do I really believe that there is nothing I lack, or do I constantly have a long list of things that I think I need?
“The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need” (NLT).
Is everything that is on my list actually a need, or is it mostly wants?
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (ESV).
I shall not? Is being able to say “I lack nothing” just a matter of will? Can I just decide that I will be satisfied with what I have and not beg God for a long list of more and more?
Psalm 23:1 reminds me of the apostle Paul's very well-known statement that he “can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13 NIV). Paul is not saying that he can accomplish every goal that he sets for himself, but in order to see what it is that he can do and how this verse reflects Psalm 23:1, we need to back up to verse 12.
It had never occurred to me before, but it appears that Paul’s statement in Philippians 4:12-13 can be seen as a restatement of Psalm 23:1. Paul says, 
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:12-13 NIV). 
In other words, I think Paul is saying, The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing –I have all that I need –I shall not want.
Paul says that he has learned the secret of being content in any circumstance. How do we learn his secret ---this ability to be content, the ability to honestly say "I lack nothing," the ability to be satisfied with what we do have –especially in a culture where we are daily bombarded with all the stuff that we “need”?
Whatever our current situation – whether we have very little or very much –we can succumb to an attitude of discontentment and of always wanting more. If I’m not content when I have more than enough, might God take it away until I have learned to be content in Him, trusting Him as my shepherd and provider? In the same way, if I’m not content when I have little to nothing, might God leave me in that situation until I have learned to be content with what I have and not constantly be searching for and desiring more and more?
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing –I have all that I need –I shall not want…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…”

The secret to being able to say "I lack nothing" seems to lie with trusting the Lord as my shepherd --my guide, my provider, my master, my strength. While I can’t say, like Paul, that “I have learned the secret…” maybe I can say “I am learning the secret of being content and of being able to say "I lack nothing."