Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 1964

Rudolph is a normal reindeer, except that he has a birth defect: his nose. His nose shines so brightly, everyone turns their head.

Since he feels like a misfit, he joins other misfits and tries to make a new life for himself away from those who have called him names. Instead of seeing his nose as a gift, he sees it as a curse.

What makes you different from others? Rudolph’s nose didn’t make him feel special and useful until the end of the story. The ones calling him names didn’t realize that they had something that made them unique too. Some of us have to find out for ourselves what makes us special. We don’t all have gifts as obvious as the nose on our face.

This story is a family favorite every year. I especially love the part where Rudolph as a teenager gets called “cute” by a girl reindeer. He flipped out. It’s great to see someone feeling good about himself.

The ending shows the humility of a hero. Rudolph knew that he could help out by using his gift. He didn’t brag or flaunt it. He simply used it to help others.

Praying for Stuff, part three

Have you ever spoken bad words about someone and then realized they were in the room. You realized that when they said, “I can hear you.” I think it would freak out people who use God’s name in vain if God would respond in their hearing, “I can hear you.” 

Do you use helpful words? Join me at Seek God With Me. Today, I’m on the subject of how our words show our attitude.

Arrogant people speak with malice. The arrogant don’t really pray because they think they’re fine without God’s help. When we pray selfish prayers, we show our attitude in what we pray for. Since you and I have received God’s gift of repentance, we humble ourselves enough to use that gift and change our attitude. Then, you and I try to control our words in order to help others. Check out today’s post here.

It's A Wonderful Life, 1946, revisit

This movie is so good. Even though I’ve already reviewed it here, I can’t help revisiting it.

One of the things that I love about It’s A Wonderful Life is the filmmakers’ ability to show how a whole town is changed by one man’s self-sacrifice and fervent prayer.

We admire people in today’s world for these very things. You probably know someone who has given up their dreams to make someone else’s dreams come true. George Bailey is the hero of this movie because he made it a common practice to put aside his plans in order to help others.

Among those occurrences was the time he gave up his honeymoon money in order to help his Bailey Building & Loan customers during a crisis. Of course, Mary, his new bride, is the graceful heroine who was patient with him the whole time.

George helps out his community for years, and then another crisis hits. This crisis brings George to a new low. He’s so distracted by the crisis that he’s forgotten who he is. Clarence gives him the opportunity to remember who he is and refocus his efforts.

At one point, George wishes he’d never been born. A lot of people can identify with that feeling when they can’t see a way out of a problem they’re in. So Clarence helps distracted George find his way down memory lane, except things have changed in order to help George come back to reality. When George realizes the kind of man God has developed him into and the blessings God has given him, his wish changes direction and turns into a fervent prayer for God to allow him to get back to his wonderful life.

I love this movie’s encouragement for us to go out of our way to help others. George’s humility and “Do Unto Others” attitude strengthens the community he boldly stands up for.

Praying for Stuff, part two

Do you have a long wish list this Christmas? Some people are asking for needs and some are asking for wants. It’s hard to be the one in the neighborhood with the fewest toys. If that’s you and you have a real relationship with God, remember that other people see your relationship with God and wish they had that.

When you see your neighbors’ wealth and are tempted to wish you had all their stuff, remember to fight envy with compassion. Envy is from the fleshly part of you, but compassion is from the heart. According to Psalm 73:26, God is the strength of your heart.

You can pray for them, not that you would get what they have, but that they would get what you have.

Join me for more on this discussion at Seek God With Me.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965

I love Christmastime. The season is filled with generosity, beauty, and music. When I think of Christmas entertainment, one show that comes to mind is the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Vince Guaraldi plays the familiar songs that make us all want to do the Snoopy dance. The idea that Charlie Brown is such a blockhead that he can’t even pick out a good Christmas tree is such a sympathy-generator. And the free-spirited dance time that breaks out when the kids are supposed to be practicing for the Christmas play makes me want to dance too.

But Linus is, in my opinion, the hero of the show. He’s the one who cheers up Charlie Brown and tells him to get refocused on what Christmas is all about. Linus speaks from the Bible about the birth of Jesus, quoting from Luke chapter 2.

When a popular family show that reappears every year at this time reminds the audience that Christmas is about Jesus, it makes me smile. I think we all have picked out a scrawny tree or bought a less-than-perfect present. I think we all need to relax and remember it isn’t about the things we buy. Christmas is about Jesus.

Praying for Stuff, part one

Many people love this season. It’s Christmas time. Everyone is making a list and checking it twice, trying to find sales for the naughty and nice. 

Some people have decided Santa can’t give them what they want. They’re asking God for specific gifts for their Christmas morning. What are you praying for?

When one person is mesmerized by an item in a Christmas catalog, telling it there’s “nothing I desire besides you”, another is trying to pay bills so their house is warm on Christmas morning. When one person calls receiving a certain piece of jewelry “heaven”, another is thinking of recently deceased family members and realizing that the reason Heaven is Heaven is because Jesus is there.

Are you praying for more clothes or world peace? What did Jesus tell us to pray for?

Join me at Seek God With Me for more about prioritizing your wish list.

Praying for Leaders, part three

Thanks for joining me in praying for our leaders this month. Being a leader is a huge responsibility. Our humility and perseverance in prayer is an important part of their success.

Sometimes we’re supposed to take action after we pray. But how do we know what kind of action to take?

At my devotional blog, Seek God With Me, I’m considering that very thing. Join me as I take a look at a Bible verse that shows an example of how to take appropriate action. 

Meet John Doe, 1941

We love stories about heroes. And we love stories about Girl Power. This is both. This film was directed by Frank Capra, whose films are usually about the common man, rather than superheroes.  

Barbara Stanwyck is Ann Mitchell, a newspaper reporter who’ll do anything to save her job. In her rage at being fired, she changes her last column before she takes her belongings and leaves. The column is a letter from a fake suicidal citizen who plans to jump from the top of city hall. The column gets the city in an uproar.  

Gary Cooper plays a former baseball player whose career ended with an injury. He’s been out of work for a couple of years and wants to get a job so he can eat. Cooper is John Doe, the supposedly suicidal man without a job. He gets enough attention to bring the newspaper out of mediocrity. Soon the newspaper’s circulation skyrockets.

John Doe spends his days in a hotel room playing baseball with his friend Colonel. Of course, they didn’t use an actual ball. Still, it was a fun game. Pretty soon the word gets out to all the surrounding communities about John Doe, and thousands hear him on the radio.

Norton, the owner of the newspaper, invests in the John Doe movement until “Join a John Doe Club” becomes a rallying cry. Everyone goes to meet their neighbor, and communities come together to help out those who need it.

When Norton wants to use this powerful voice of the people for his own plans, things get out of hand. John has a decision to make.

Praying for Leaders, part two

It’s funny to hear the way people pray to God today. We ask a lot from God without celebrating the fact that he is with us and we can have a relationship with him. Have you noticed that we sometimes save our praises for those moments when we see that God has answered our prayers?

During the month of November, we can choose to take a closer look at the way we approach God. We celebrate Thanksgiving. But only for one day. And not even a whole day. It’s mostly about football in some homes.

I wonder what would happen to our family unity and our national unity if we were to stand back and reevaluate our relationship with God.

On my devotional blog, Seek God With Me, I’m taking a look at the way we approach God. If we stop to look at our celebrations and double-check what it is we’re really celebrating, we could be surprised. It might affect the way we pray.

Join me today at Seek God With Me.  

Goodbye, My Fancy, 1951

Joan Crawford is Miss Reed, a woman politician who is the chairman of a Congressional committee and used to getting her way. She’s tough enough to speak her mind without blinking an eye.

Robert Young is the handsome president of Good Hope college, which Miss Reed attended 20 yrs ago. Both of them have tried to keep their secret all these years.

Miss Reed accepts the invitation to give the graduation speech at Good Hope where she’ll receive an honorary degree. Good Hope would’ve been her alma mater if she hadn’t been expelled from school twenty years ago.

She can’t wait to get back to her old school to see the man she’s loved all these years from a distance. Were they the same people who fell in love so long ago?

A twist at the end caught me off guard. I had envisioned a different ending. However, there were a few comments about education not being about protecting the minds of the young female students, but exposing them to current events and challenging them to think for themselves.

Praying for Leaders, part one

It’s the day after the Presidential election, and some people are happy while others are sad. Some people are wondering why God allowed this to happen, and others are thanking God that it did. That’s the way it goes with elections.

I’ve seen the question on faces of people who voted and became frustrated when the other guy won. “How do I pray for someone I don’t agree with?”

If you trust God, this is pretty easy. God wants us to pray according to his will, but God wants us to pray even when we don’t understand God’s will. On my devotional blog, Seek God With Me, I am sharing scriptures that help us understand the purpose of some spiritual mysteries.  Join me and let’s keep praying for our leaders.

Kisses for my President, 1964

Those who watch Desperate Housewives have seen Polly Bergen as Stella Wingfield. I haven't seen that one, but I have seen some of her 83 roles, of which one was United States President Leslie Harrison McCloud.

As a woman who has just been elected US President, she has to balance career and family life in a little different way than all the men before her. She’s glad to be married to a man (Fred MacMurray) who isn’t threatened by stepping into a position in which his predecessors had always been called First Lady. Of course, it takes some getting used to. His normal routine is anything but normal.

He has an opportunity to stand up for his marriage and be his wife’s hero, but the unstable footing of his new position keeps him off-balance. He’s not sure he’s making the right decisions while his powerful wife is running the country.

When Arlene Dahl, who plays Doris, steps into the scene, trouble is written all over her. Trouble also follows Eli Wallach, who plays Valdez. These two keep the First Family on their toes and the audience rolling in laughter.

Facing Self-will

Facing self-will is something all of us should do. Not many of us want to.

Jesus had to face the human part of him at the Mount of Olives in order to pray “Not my will, but your will be done.” That prayer requires us to stop and think about what we’re doing. If we’re powering through our day like a bulldozer, we may miss the blessings God planted along our path.

Today on Seek God With Me, I’m encouraging all of us (including me) to slow down and listen to what God has to say before we make our plans. His wisdom helps our preparation and prevents our mistakes. Join me.

The Invisible Man, 1933

A scientist injects himself with a drug that makes him invisible, but finds out too late that he can’t reverse its effects. The drug’s side effects include madness. He snowballs from causing turmoil to running from place to place in a murderous rage.

The screenplay was adapted from the H.G. Wells novel. Director James Whale took on this project after the success of his 1931 film Frankenstein. This movie’s tagline was “Catch me if you can.” I saw the same invincibility in the Invisible Man that I saw in Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Catch Me If You Can from 2002.

Actor Claude Rains is the voice of this invisible mad scientist whose face is only seen a few times in the film. They had to use all kinds of tricks to make Rains invisible. The special effects were amazing to a 1930s audience. Not so today. Our technological experience makes the movie seem almost homemade.

Henry Travers, who was the angel in the 1946 classic It’s A Wonderful Life, played Dr. Cranley in this film. Cranley was the former employer of the Invisible Man and the father of the Invisible Man’s girlfriend.

There is always good news, even in a horror movie. Cranley believed that an antidote could be found to reverse the invisibility or possibly the insanity that came with it. The good news is that if you’re feeling invisible and unloved, God sees you and cares about you. Look around to see if God has sent people to help you as Cranley and his daughter tried to help the Invisible Man.

Facing God

Moses had an appropriate and reverential fear of God. If you read chapter nineteen of Exodus, you can imagine yourself in place of Moses and listen to God’s words as if you were there, kneeling in the dust.

When God called the people together at the foot of the mountain, he descended on the mountain in fire and smoke. The people trembled in fear. God had their attention, but Moses was the only one climbing the mountain to face God.

Today at Seek God With Me, I’m challenging you to face God and accept his invitation to begin a relationship or grow in your relationship with him. When others are shaking in their boots, you and I can climb the mountain of fear and face God. You and I can get closer to him.

What are you waiting for?

Frankenstein, 1931

Directed by James Whale, this classic horror movie shows mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein giving life to a monster created from different corpses. The monster, played by Boris Karloff, has personality, a strange innocence, surprising strength, and a rage that can’t be controlled. In some scenes, the monster makes the audience feel sorry for him. There's a look on his face that roars, "What did I do to deserve this kind of treatment?" And then he kills someone.

Boris Karloff, listed as 5’11” on, was not taller than Colin Clive who played Dr. Frankenstein also at 5’11”. The costume, lifts, and padding gave him his monstrous size. 

There is a well-deserved fear in the community regarding the monster, but no one saw the monster’s tender side when he was with a little girl. Of course, the tender side only lasted a little while, but it was there. To me this demonstrates that everyone, even monstrous people, have it in them to show a little tenderness sometimes.

Facing Disease

Luke 17:11-19 tells the story of the ten lepers. Only one out of ten thanked God for healing him. The oft-asked question is: why didn’t the other nine throw themselves at the feet of Jesus and thank him?

I couldn’t begin to put myself in their position since I’ve never been faced with a torturous, flesh-eating disease like leprosy. It would be a very scary situation. It’s a rot-while-you-wait kind of slow death. I would imagine living in a colony of lepers and watching everyone around you go through the same pain you’re feeling could destroy anyone’s positive outlook.

If you or your loved ones are facing a devastating disease, you can call out to Jesus. He will hear you. Today on Seek God With Me, I’m taking a look at what should happen after you call out to Jesus and he answers.

Facing Your Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde

Everyone wants some kind of change. If you don’t think there is something in each of us that we don’t like, check out the self-help books, cosmetics shelves, and plastic surgery ads. We try all kinds of physical fixes to help change what’s inside.

In the 1941 film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Spencer Tracy plays Dr. Henry Jekyll, who wants to help make the world a better place by removing the evil urges he’s sure everyone has. Dr. Jekyll’s good intentions turn sour as the experimental solution fails. Ingrid Bergman plays a barmaid, and Lana Turner plays a refined and innocent woman. These ladies have an effect on Dr Jekyll’s plans, but neither knew at first how far his experiments would go.  

This horror film, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, changed the story slightly and was nominated for three Oscars. Award-winning director Victor Fleming did a good job with this movie, but his only Best Director Oscar was for Gone With The Wind in 1939.

The good news you can take away from this film is that not everyone lets their Mr. Hyde run free. We can develop our God-given self-control. We allow God to help us make good decisions when we choose to use his wisdom. Facing that part of ourselves that we don’t like can be less scary when we give it to God. He can handle it.

Come back next week for more on how to take the scary out of your situation.

Facing Demons

The story in Mark 5:1-20 where Jesus faced a demon-possessed man seems like a story that would strike fear in the hearts of the hearers. I think the disciples who stood there with Jesus probably were a little scared. The local people of the day were unhappy to have lost their pigs, but they had to look at the bright side of the situation and remember that they were no longer plagued with fear when traveling through that area.

Join me at Seek God With Me where I’m sharing how Jesus can take the scary out of the situation.

We all face scary situations. Some of us relocate to a new community and have to adjust to new friends, new climate, or new responsibilities. Sometimes just going to the dentist is a scary situation. If we’ll remember who Jesus is, everything turns out better. Check out my devotional blog today for a happy ending.

Facing the Scary Stuff

This month, even though I don’t “celebrate” Halloween, I will be featuring reviews of scary movies. I will also have devotionals on my other blog, Seek God With Me, that take a look at scary things in the Bible.

We all have those moments when we’d rather not face what’s ahead for us. For some, going off to college is scary. For others, letting a babysitter take care of your kids for the first time is what makes your knees knock. When my daughter lost her first tooth, she thought all her teeth would fall out and she wouldn’t have any left. It was a scary moment for her. Of course, when we told her the truth about her teeth and comforted her, she calmed down.

Join me Wednesday for a Bible verse and a reason not to be scared. On Friday, I’ll review a classic horror film from the 1940s. Don’t worry, there will be some good news in it.

The Lady Vanishes, 1938

The beginning of this movie introduces several ladies. I always try to figure out who will be doing what before it happens, but I couldn’t tell right away who was going to vanish. However, I did see the beginnings of a romance and a few other forewarning details. The good thing about this movie is that it didn’t give away too much.

In a nutshell, the title is the plot. A lady disappears and is searched for. The bad guys hope the lady isn’t found. They hope the person looking for the lady gives up with a shrug and says, “Oh well. I tried.” But they didn’t plan for the persistence in the woman searching. Of course the bad guys lie about their involvement. That only makes the woman searching more determined to find someone who will believe the truth.

Very well directed by Alfred Hitchcock, most of this story takes place on a train. There are very few places in which a lady can be hidden on a train, but many places to search. It was funny seeing the perspectives of innocent bystanders (two guys chatting about cricket) and how they chose to either participate or not.

 I enjoyed Michael Redgrave’s performance as Gilbert, which was his film debut. He made his character likable, even though others thought he was self-absorbed, arrogant, or unpleasant at times. When he gives a woman the benefit of the doubt, he finds there are benefits to believing the truth.

Dame May Whitty’s role was important to the story, so casting her in that role was a very good decision. She’s been fabulous in every film I’ve seen her in, and she was fabulous here too.

Another bonus in this film is the word indubitably used in dialogue. Don’t you love hearing that word in a film? It usually makes me laugh. Aside from the comedic moments, this was a well-written, suspenseful movie.

Benefits of Believing

If Bobby said to Billy in the heat of summer, “I have an ice cream cone in my car. Do you want it?” Billy has to decide whether he trusts Bobby. If Billy is a stranger, he might not believe him. If Billy has deceived him before, he probably won’t believe him. If Bobby is a friend, but Billy knows the car has been in the hot sun for an hour, he might not believe him. If Billy’s mother said there was an ice cream cone in the car, Billy might run to the car in expectation of finding it.

You don’t believe earthly things? How will you believe spiritual things? This idea, as paraphrased from John 3:12, reminds us that we have to trust the messenger. Jesus taught about spiritual things in parables, which were pictures of natural, earthly things. Those who ignored the point of his earthly stories also didn’t get the spiritual point. We have to believe simple things before we can move on to more complex things.

I’ve shared more on this topic at Seek God With Me. Join me today.

Come back this weekend to see my review of a movie about a woman who tries to get others to believe she’s telling the truth. Will anyone trust her enough to take action?

The Girl Was Young, 1937

Alfred Hitchcock directed this suspenseful movie with a love story carefully layered in. Robert Tisdall discovers a dead actress and is accused of killing her. He must prove his innocence with the help of Erica, the police chief’s daughter.

A coat belt was found to be the murder weapon of the strangled woman. Tisdall was asked if he had a coat that could have had a belt like it, and, being honest, he admitted he did. Two girls claimed that they were the first to have found the dead woman when they saw him running away. He is arrested, but he escapes. For the rest of the movie, the young couple tries to gather the evidence Tisdall needs in order to clear his name.

The police chief’s daughter had a soft spot for the innocent man because she helped him when he fainted. When he came to, she was a welcome sight for him. The relationship developed over a short time, but their interested-yet-hesitant regard for each other made them charming to watch.

Acting On The Truth

How many of us find out important information and then, because we don't trust the messenger, we disregard it? There are some truths that should never be ignored, even if they're inconvenient for us to act on.

Today at Seek God With Me, I'm sharing what happened to a group of people who acted on the truth they heard. The truth was about someone they didn't know well, but they acted anyway. They were relieved to find that their actions saved the lives of many.

Enjoy the devotional today and then come back for a Hitchcock movie review later in the week.

The movie review I'll share this weekend is about a woman who has to trust the information she gets from a man. First, she has to believe him, and then she has to act on that truth to help save his life.

The 39 Steps, 1935

When a man finds a woman he’s just met has been murdered in a his apartment, he leaves town on a train to save his own life. The next morning, he sees a newspaper article naming him as the murderer. He believes this woman was trying to stop an enemy spy, so he follows the clues she left him. He tries to find allies to help him, but few would believe the truth.

I’ve heard about this movie for years and finally saw it. The movie is an adaptation of the novel by John Buchan. When I found out it was a Hitchcock directed movie, I couldn’t pass it up any longer.

Robert Donat played the main character with extraordinary good humor despite insurmountable odds. I think anyone in their right mind would’ve freaked out a few times. However, the fact that he didn’t ever truly freak out makes me like the character more.

This is the same Donat who won his only Best Actor Academy Award for his 1939 performance in Goodbye, Mr. Chips by beating out competitors like Clark Gable (Gone With The Wind), Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights), Mickey Rooney (Babes in Arms), and James Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). I cannot imagine heavier competition than that.

What If They Don't Believe?

When Moses had to give Pharaoh proof that he was on a mission from God to free the slaves, Moses let God to use him to bring plagues to Egypt. God’s people were spared, but the plagues showed up on Pharaoh’s people and their land.

What’s your proof that you’re on a mission from God?

Hopefully, you’re not threatening people with plagues. It’s been done. There’s a more loving alternative.

Today, you can join me at Seek God With Me where we’ll look at how to prove that you belong to God. Are you showing enough evidence so people will believe the truth about you? It’s hard for some people to take us at our word. Sometimes we need to have proof.

And come back for Friday’s movie review. This week’s movie is about a man who had to prove to a woman that he was innocent so she’d help him escape the villains who had framed him. As long as she refused to believe him, he was in trouble. He needed proof.

Murder, 1930

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this suspenseful whodunit is packed with twists and questions. Although not as fast-paced as I’d like, I was still intrigued enough to hang out with the characters until all the questions were answered.

A young and very handsome Herbert Marshall is a juror in a murder trial and feels pressured to vote like everyone else in order to finish the trial and let everyone else get on with their lives. However, he isn’t sure he did the right thing. His only solution is to find the evidence to back up his belief that the convicted woman was innocent. If he can’t get the evidence quickly, his chance to save her will end with painful regret.

How does he do it? He only has a few pieces to the puzzle, but with determination and careful thought, he weeds through facts and finds new clues.

Who Will Believe The Truth?

Does your life prove that what you believe is truth?

Students are starting a new school year, so they’re receiving information that they assume to be true. If they don’t believe the new info to be true, the teacher must convince them. It takes a lot longer to teach a student who doesn’t believe what you say. Those who listen and believe can act on the truth and grow in that truth faster.

This month, I’m thinking about the question, “Who will believe the truth?”

I’ll be reviewing movies that all touch on that theme. The movies will also be connected by the fact that they’re all directed by Alfred Hitchcock. These movies take a look at how to convince people to believe you.

Today on Seek God With Me, I’m sharing a Bible verse from the sixteenth chapter of Mark in order to show that those who believe the truth will be able to find evidence. Is there evidence of the truth you believe?

I’m looking forward to sharing truth with you this month. Don’t forget to check out my devotional blog.

Summer Reading, part twenty-six

Here we are at the end of the book of Psalms. We’ve encountered sadness and joy, conflict and victory. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as much as I have.

Psalm 145 reminds us to tell of the power of God’s awesome works. This is something we don’t do as often as we could. I tell my children when I lean hard on the arm of God and he shows up with the victory. I have a new story of God’s goodness every time I step out and trust him.

When people look for a verse to memorize, we often pick something like 145:19. “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him” seems a little more selfish than verse thirteen, which is “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.” Both verses are true, but verse thirteen keeps our minds on God rather than ourselves. With the right perspective, there isn’t anything wrong with verse nineteen. We just have to stay in touch with what it means to fear God.

Psalm 145:8 is a good reminder to me to be patient with others as God has been patient with me. “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” If I’m going to continue growing into the person God created me to be, I must remember to act like I belong to him. Be slow to anger. Be compassionate.

I’ve read all 150 psalms this summer and enjoyed learning new things and remembering things I’ve studied before. I hope you have used this time to get closer to God. Once you let God deeper into your life, he transforms what you were into what he knows you can be. We’re one step further along in God’s plan. It makes me want to praise him for all that he has done this summer. Join me in Psalm 150.
Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Summer Reading, part twenty-five

We’ve been reading the book of Psalms together this summer, and it has been enjoyable. Thanks for journeying with me. Today’s selection is Psalms 134-144.

Psalm 137 isn’t a praise-filled song. It’s a pain-filled, tear-jerker of a song. The words vividly take me back to the stories of God’s people being taken into captivity. The psalms often take something that is described one way in one of the other books of the Bible and adds a little different description to it. This psalm could be made into an emotional music video about loss.

Psalm 139:13 is a memorable verse for me because I’m a mother. It’s comforting. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” This psalm was one of the few I read often during my pregnancies. I love knowing God is actively involved in forming babies. A child is never an “accident”.

Psalm 139:20 is a verse that reminds us to be respectful to God when looking for just the right exclamation phrase (example: Wow, that really hurt!). Some people don’t describe how they’re feeling. They just shout God’s name. “They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.” People who misuse his name are called God’s adversaries. I’d rather be called God’s friend. People don’t misuse the names of their friends.

Psalm 143 is a good place to turn in your morning prayer time when you’re asking for God’s wisdom. We often have decisions to make that challenge us and force us to ask for God’s instruction. When I want God to give me direction, I can use verses eight through ten along with James 1:5 and James 3:17. God loves it when we show that we’re willing to receive from him.

Psalm 144:14-15 bring up the subject of captivity again. “There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.” Quite a different mood to it this time.

Join me tomorrow for the final selection of the Psalms. We’ll start September with the usual film review and devotional routine. But for now, read Psalm 145 through Psalm 150.

Summer Reading, part twenty-four

I’ve enjoyed reading the Psalm selections with you this summer. Thanks for joining me.

One of my favorites of the Psalms is 133. It’s about unity. Where there is unity, there is blessing. Unity is important to sports teams, families, and corporate environments.

It’s like oil. Oil is a symbol of power. Pouring anointing oil on someone is a symbol of God’s power on that person. Oil is also a fuel for fire, and fire is one of the symbols of the power of the Holy Spirit. Unity must be present for your group to have power.

Psalm 136 also stands out to me. It’s like a responsive reading. A leader can read one part of it and the congregation can read the repetitive “His Love endures forever.” This is a great way to remember that God has done a lot of things for his people, and everything he does is done from a heart full of love – which, by the way, endures forever.

I think it’s so important to teach children that there are many things on the earth which will pass away (like people, pets, and even homes), but God’s love is forever. Everyone of us will make mistakes, but God’s love is strong enough to endure forever. You can count on him.

We’ve almost finished the book of Psalms. There are only fourteen psalms left to read, so don’t quit. Keep going. Read Psalms 137 through 144 for next time. I can’t wait!

Summer Reading, part twenty-three

Today’s selection, Psalms 120-126, can be described using the word SHORT. These seven psalms each have fewer than ten verses. Quite a contrast from Psalm 119.

Three of these psalms specifically mention a desire for peace for Israel or Jerusalem. One psalm suggests peace by describing the comfort of knowing God watches over Israel. One psalm cries out for mercy. One describes rescue. And Psalm 126 speaks of the joy of restored fortunes. So peace is the common theme in these seven psalms, whether by word or feeling.

I like the comfort given in Psalm 125: 2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” It sounds to me like God hugs his children. That kind of protection feels good.

Next time, we’ll take a look at Psalms 127-136. This next selection includes one of my all-time favorites.

Summer Reading, part twenty-two

Did you read all 176 verses of Psalm 119 yet? Let me share some of the highlights.

Psalm 119:1 begins with a blessing for those whose ways are blameless. But who among us is blameless? We’ve all messed up. That’s why I love Psalm 119 so much. It doesn’t dwell on our past sins. It picks us up where we are, and we are at the feet of Jesus, having received forgiveness of all our sins. If we choose to follow in the way of righteousness instead of chasing after sin, we will have faithfulness to God as our goal. In your mind, see yourself as already having achieved your goal. Then read verse one again.

Yes, we all mess up from time to time. Verse five agrees that we still have faithful obedience as our common goal. If you fall down between verses four and five, you can stand back up in verse seven and start over by the grace of God. Verse seven is encouraging and reminds us that we are teachable. “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.”  

I need to put verse sixteen on my coffee cup to bolster my determination to get direction from God first thing each day. “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” If we start our mornings with a diligence to be open to God, our hearts will look like the eyes of children, wide with wonder and amazement at God’s goodness.

Going to God with child-like trust will affect our prayers. We’ll be more transparent and intimate with him. We’ll hear him better. Verses eighteen through twenty will be the song of our hearts. “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.”

I love Psalm 119 because of all the “sound bites” and memory verse opportunities. You can take one spiritual goal and find several verses that would serve as encouragement for that goal. For instance, just in this one psalm there are at least eighteen verses about getting guidance and understanding from learning God’s word. Teachability is an important character trait. If you only study eighteen of the 176 verses in this psalm (7, 12, 18, 26, 27, 29, 33, 34, 64, 66, 68, 102, 124, 125, 135, 144, 169, 171), you will still get a lot out of your effort.

Read Psalms 120-126 for next time. Enjoy!

Summer Reading, part twenty-one

Are you feeling as blessed as I am? Today’s selection, Psalms 112 through 118, is full of praise. Psalm 112:1 starts us off with a blessing. “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.” Verse five helps us check up on our actions toward others. “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” Will good come to you?

Psalm 115 compares the idols worshiped by others to the God who lives and protects his people. The first verse gives God the glory before the comparison even begins. “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”

Since I started the first section of our summer reading selections, I’ve never put a whole psalm in one of these blog posts. Until now. Psalm 117 is two verses. Just two. “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” Don’t you love it? I do.

Join me in reading Psalms 119 for next time. That’s right. Only one psalm for next time. Enjoy.

Summer Reading, part twenty

Are you still smiling from the last section of Psalms? I know I am.

Today’s selection is Psalms 105 through 111.
Psalm 105 briefly recounts the stories of Joseph and Moses. Psalm 106 continues with the story of Moses, giving different details. The people God saved out of the hand of Pharoah through many miracles, those people turned their backs on God. They forgot his goodness. But God allowed their descendants to enter the promised land anyway.

Psalm 108 reminds me of all that David went through. I can hear him singing at sunrise, full of victory and expectation. He knew how many times God had saved him, and yet he still needed rescuing. David asks in verse 11, “Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us and no longer go out with our armies?” I can almost hear his tone of voice and see the head-shaking. He believes more in the rescue than the rejection. He knows “human help is worthless” and that God will “trample down our enemies.” It’s not a psalm of wondering if God will help. It’s a song of victory.

Psalm 111:10 is a great place to go when you have a problem you can’t figure out. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” I need God’s wisdom to help me solve problems. But in order to have the right mind set to be able to use his wisdom, I must first have that “fear of the Lord” which is a deep respect for his presence.

You don’t get all of what you need without getting God’s powerful presence. If you don’t know how to deal with your problems, just focus on following God’s orderliness. An orderly mind is a peaceful mind. Following God’s precepts will prepare the soil of your being for the understanding God will plant in you.

Next time, we’ll cover Psalms 112 through 118. I’m looking forward to it. Aren’t you?

Summer Reading, part nineteen

This section, Psalms 100-104, is jam-packed with memorable verses.

Psalm 100 is five verses of joy. But I found eight reasons to shout.
1. “Come before him with joyful songs.” We get to come before God with singing. We are not judged by our vocal talents, but enjoyed by the one who designed those vocal chords.

2. “Know that the Lord is God.” We know who God is. We don’t wander around with no idea that a “God” even exists.

3. “It is he who made us.” We can grow in our scientific discovery of our own bodies because we can ask questions of the one who made the bodies.

4. “and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” It is so comforting to know I belong to God. Knowing I am his brings limitless joy.

5. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” We get to enter into God’s place. I don’t get to enter The White House any time I want. I can’t get in to see many business owners without an appointment. But I can run to God and enter his courts day or night with praise on my lips.

 6. “For the Lord is good.” If you’ve been forgiven, then you know God is good. You know the difference between trying to live without God and trying to live within the limitations of his joy. Contrasting the chaos of living in our own foolish plans with the order of living in God’s plan gives us the confirmation that there isn’t anyone like God. He is good to us.

7. “his love endures forever.” I don’t know what forever looks like. I only know that time exists because of God. Time exists inside God. God doesn’t exist inside time. I have limitations, so I can’t know what the end of time looks like. And even with my limitations, I know that at the end of time, God’s love will still be strong.

8. “his faithfulness continues through all generations.” I’ve seen children who look a lot like a grandparent or a great-grandparent. I know that some of the genetically-transferred parts of us show up more in some generations than in others. And I know that God’s faithfulness isn’t shown to his people based on genetics. God is faithful, regardless of what we do. God is faithful whether we respond to his faithfulness or not. God is faithful. Period.

Do you feel like shouting now?

If not, keep reading. Psalm 103 lists the benefits of knowing God. He forgives us, heals us, redeems us, crowns us, and satisfies us. And he renews our youth. Not shouting yet? Read Psalm 103: 8-12. In fact, read the whole psalm out loud. So loud your flesh can feel it. “He does not treat us as our sins deserve.”

Make sure you read all of the psalms in today’s selection. You’ll finish with a smile.

Summer Reading, part eighteen

If you’ve been reading along with me, we’ve covered 1,523 verses by the end of Psalm 99. We’re basically two-thirds through with Psalms. Today’s section, Psalms 94-99 is full of beautiful praises to God who has been faithful.

Psalm 94:6-7 describes the wicked who are foolish enough to think they’re getting away with their crimes. “They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. They say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.’” How sad they’ll be when they find out that they’re not getting away with anything. If they’d only read James 1:27, they would find out that God wants us to look after widows and orphans to see that they have what they need. But they won’t read it because they’re fools. They say God doesn’t see, but God formed the eye (verse 9). He can surely see. The wicked are the ones who can’t see. Sad.

Psalm 97:6 reminds me of the description of Jesus appearing in the sky so that the whole earth would know of his second coming. “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.” There will be much rejoicing when he appears. Those caught worshiping idols will be shamed. I can just imagine that his appearance will be bigger than most people think. We think too small when we think of God. He’s bigger and better than our words can describe.

Psalm 99:6 reminds us that God will answer us if we’ll call to him. “Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the Lord and he answered them.” They expected a response from a righteous God, and they got one.

I enjoyed reading these 99 psalms with you. Please continue with our selections as we read Psalms 100 – 104 for next time. Happy reading.

Summer Reading, part seventeen

We’re covering four psalms today: Psalms 90-93. Many of these verses refer to a cooperation between God and man. Our part is to stay with God and do what he tells us. His part is to bless, protect, and rescue us. In short, we are to act like his good children, and he will do everything else.

I found several power verses in this section. Psalm 90:17 is very encouraging. “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” When you’re living in the favor of God, you’re in a powerful and peaceful place. It sometimes feels like surfing a big wave while relaxing in a recliner. Exhilarating, yet peaceful.

Psalm 91, the whole psalm, is one of my favorites. Verse one is comforting.  “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” To me, this means that God is going to be there for you. You can’t be in someone’s shadow if they’re not there. And if God is there, he will look after you to protect you and guide you.

Psalm 91:14 is also comforting. But it reminds us we can be bold in front of an enemy the way David approached Goliath.  
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”
If we do our part and live like we belong to Almighty God, the enemy will be defeated by him. David was little, but loved God. There’s power in that relationship.

Have you ever wondered where God was from? Psalm 93:2 tells us, “Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.” That verse makes me laugh because I’m from Texas. Everyone says things are big in Texas, but God is from Eternity – and that’s way bigger than Texas.

Join me next time for Psalms 94 through 99 as we finish the powerful nineties.