It will go down in history as perhaps mankind’s most bizarre year. Never has the entire globe in unison shut down because of a virus. Restrictions in travel, work, recreation, size of gatherings etc., have ruined businesses, increased the number of suicides and deaths for those with other ailments who cannot be hospitalized, amped fear to unprecedented levels, and created a huge divide in opinion over what should or should not be done. Meanwhile political unrest, rolling waves of violence, storms and disasters add to the cacophony of 2020.
Ten times the word despair is used in the Holman Bible. Fittingly Job is the source of one third of them. The Psalmist cried out, “Insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. I waited for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, but found no one” (Psa. 69:20). Despair is the stuff of hopelessness. It is a sinking feeling that saps one’s resolve. If not properly addressed it becomes the lingering glue of gloom.
Colossians 3:16--Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Sadie is amazing. Her body is constantly wracked in arthritic pain yet her countenance reveals mostly joy. She has more broken bones than most football players. Her abusive husband died leaving her penniless and with no insurance to handle her ever-mounting medical bills. Still, she does not complain. Her ’96 faded blue Ford Taurus won’t start so she must rely on the help of others to get around until she can find the money to pay a mechanic to fix it. Her son is addicted to meth and her daughter is in her fourth relationship with a man who is a total controller. If anyone was a candidate for bitterness it would be Sadie. Yet she is serene and confident in her faith. She consistently encourages others—an empathy distributing angel in a world of mean, selfish people. What is her secret?
As the shells rain down on hapless soldiers trembling in their foxholes, a man completely unknown as religious to his squad mates begins reciting the Lord’s Prayer. He remembers it from growing up attending Mass. Now in their time of desperation he delivers it up to God. Considered the most beloved prayer in Scripture and taught by Jesus to His followers, we would be wise to unpack it, study it and apply it rigorously to our lives. So let’s embark upon a prayer journey and take joy in 69 life-changing words.
1 Samuel 23:15-17—David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in Horesh when he saw that Saul had come out to take his life. Then Saul’s son Jonathan came to David in Horesh and encouraged him in his faith in God, saying, “Don’t be afraid, for my father Saul will never lay a hand on you. You yourself will be king over Israel, and I’ll be your second-in-command. Even my father Saul knows it is true.”
Tom Rath describes the strength of positivity in Strengthsfinder 2.0 this way: “You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation. Some call you light-hearted . . . people want to be around you. Their world looks better around you because your enthusiasm is contagious.”
Psalm 145:1—I exalt You my God the King, and praise Your name forever and ever.
Psalm 145 is one of my favorite psalms in the Bible. Aside from the eleven different verbs or participles used to praise or recognize God, the entire twenty-one verses are a tribute to God’s greatness. The predominant verb is the word praise (used six times). In addition, the words exalt, honor, declare, proclaim, speak, give a testimony, sing, thank, and informing, are used in the Holman translation. Five times God’s greatness is specifically highlighted.
When I’m not home and I don’t have a lot of time, I enjoy a hot Egg McMuffin, potato cake and large glass of orange juice. This morning I placed my order at McDonalds and asked the young man at the window if he would mind filling my mug with hot water. He said, “No I can’t it is against company policy,” and he looked away and mumbled something about hygiene concerns. So I thanked him and pulled up to the next window to pick up my order. I asked the young woman if she would mind filling my mug with hot water. She said, “Yes! Why of course.” Before I pulled away with food and a full mug she said, “Anytime you come by you are welcome to get hot water.”
It initially seems like a cruel joke. Poor children in Atlanta, many of whom are in families that cannot afford to buy a Christmas tree, are brought into a building. Each child is seated alone in a chair behind a table. An adult conducts an interview separately asking each child what they hope to get this Christmas. Next the children are asked what they think their parents might like. After this information is received, the adult brings in two packages. When the children open the first package it contains the gift they hoped to receive. When they open the second present it is what the parent would have wanted. As wonderment fills juvenile eyes, a catch is sprung—each child can only choose one of the two gifts.
Will Rogers humorously noted, “Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it’s called golf.”
Have you ever gone golfing with someone and watched them completely lose their composure when their swing was errant? I’ve seen players wrap a club around a tree in anger, hurl clubs in frustration, beat the ground with putters, irons or drivers, and, turn completely red in the face—totally frustrated by the uncooperative antics of a small white ball.
If you need more drama in your life, try this—sit in the middle seat on a packed airplane with two screaming babies nearby and feel the tension rise on the plane. Some people are wishing they could be anywhere else on the planet. Others wonder what is wrong with the parents that they cannot get their baby to be quiet. Some are compassionate—no doubt they’ve been in the same awkward spot with their own little children. Still others remain oblivious, sheltered inside their noise-cancelling headphones loudly playing Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, “The Sound of Silence.”
Coach Lou Holtzwas quoted as saying, “Never tell your problems to anyone...20% don't care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” Holtz has a great sense of humor; let’s just hope his findings are inaccurate! Most people don’t want to spend their time listening to others complain. As I write this, I recall a person I used to avoid taking phone calls from because his pattern was to grumble at great lengths about his circumstances. By the end of the call I was irritated. This person never seemed to be happy feeling only bad things were afoot.
Jude 20,21—But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.