Thursday, August 13, 2020 : Sneetches

Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Hopefully you recognize the Dr. Seuss reference to Sneetches. If you are unfamiliar with this particular Dr. Seuss story it revolves around creatures called Sneetches and some Sneetches have Stars on their bellies and some do not. Dr. Seuss recognizes that differences between us can cause dissension, discord, envy and isolation.

Today we have stars that separate us. Our stars include: those with masks and those without, those that advocate for Black Lives Matter and those that advocate for All Lives Matter, those that worship indoors and those that worship behind windshields, those that go to school and those that school on-line at home, those that grocery shop and those that receive delivered groceries, those with Covid and those without. The stars that divide are as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Dr. Seuss concludes and my prayer is:

“The Sneetches got really quite smart on that day. The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches. And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches. That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether they had one, or not, upon thars.”

May we live in unity, not separated by our stars and may your day takeoff in peace.

 

Monday, August 10, 2020 : Just God

Psalm 28: 6-9

Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Forgive my absence from 180 Takeoff…no excuses…just sincere apologies. Maybe you had come to rely on these daily reflections. My prayer is that you find them a source of encouragement but this Psalm reminds us that the tools of our faith are not where we should place our hope, but in the Lord. I will disappoint you. Others will fail you. Systems will falter and the world will pass away. But God is eternally faithfully. Allow Him to be your strength, your shield, your help, your joy, your song. And give Him your trust and your thanks.

May your day take off in peace.

Monday, August 3, 2020 : Face-to-Face

Romans 1:8-15

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

 

We worshiped indoors for the first time since March. There is something about seeing individuals face to face. And yet we all had masks on. It was interesting greeting people and having to look really hard to recognize faces by just the eyes. And now recognition will come easier as I learn personalized masks. And the last five months of phone calls and even Zoom don’t cut it either. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is filled with his longing to physically be there in their presence to preach and teach. Letters are good but face to face…awesome. And that is how God designed us. The ideal is face to face. And that includes Him too. That is His plan for the future…to see Him face to face. 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

So as you long to see others face to face: coworkers, family, friends, choir members, Bible Study groups, church fellowship hour, worship teams and playmates may it be a reminder that this too is redeemable. A simple reminder that hopefully will deepen your longing to not only see one another face to face, but the Lord himself.

May your day take off in peace.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 : Tree Hugging

Genesis 30:37-43

Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

 

Jacob was a selective cattle breeder. Created his own herd…hand picked. Laban wouldn’t be expecting that! All in the context of a very specific example of God’s blessing upon Jacob. And being an outdoorsy, woodsy kind of guy I was fascinated with the naming of the three kinds of trees in Jacob’s fencing. Each tree type (poplar, almond and plane) is found only one or two other times in the Bible. So their translated names are dubious at best. But take a look at the root Hebrew meaning: poplar – white leaves or bark; almond – some time of nut bearing tree; plane – origin completely unknown but the root word means craft or wise.

Jacob built a fence to create his own herd from white, fruit producing, wise trees.

There is imagery at play here. God blessed and prospered Jacob and He blesses and prospers us in His righteousness (white), blesses us to be a blessing producing good fruit (fruit tree), and He blesses us wisely (craftily), using the unique skills and gifts given to each one of us beautifully and wonderfully made.

May your day takeoff in peace.

Monday, July 27, 2020 : Hope

Psalm 65:8-13

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. 10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.

I must confess I read this Psalm this week thinking that the world isn’t so rosy as depicted here: hurricanes, Covid, riots, election rhetoric to name a few. Closer to home: squirrels and chipmunks living in the garage, something flowering in the woods making it hard to breathe (am I developing an allergy?), starting a third worship service and all the energy that takes, small groups still not able to meet in person (thanks to Covid again) … whine, whine, whine, whine, whine…

If you know me I am one of the most eternally optimistic people in the world. For those less inclined to see the glass half full…I cannot imagine the funk you must be feeling these days.

I invite you to read the Psalm again.

It is a Psalm of hope…maybe tomorrow…maybe in a year…maybe when we meet our Lord on that great and glorious day.

May your day takeoff in peace.

Saturday, July 25, 2020 : The Longing

Psalm 119:129-136

Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts. Make your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees.  Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

We Pant, we thirst for God’s word.

God provides Mercy…sometimes we need to forgive ourselves.

God provides Direction…sometimes we need to follow His course or be aware of obstacles otherwise unknown to us.

God Redeems…sometimes we need deliverance from societal norms such as dualism, Karma or anything else contrary to God’s Word

God Teaches…sometimes we need a little light of God’s instruction in our day.

When tears stream from our eyes in our quest and thirst for a little spiritual water…God is faithful…He will provide living water.

May your day takeoff in peace.

Friday, July 24, 2020 : Home

Psalm 7:44-50

Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’

Living in the Northwoods around all these lakes,  Lisa and I have found ourselves outside in the evening swatting mosquitos as we attempt to clean fish. So, we were gifted with some free lumber and are building a fish house: an 8×8, covered, screened fish house. Plenty of room for a mess of crappy or some decent walleyes and side by side accommodations for two fillet-ers. I wonder if that is a word.

We build houses for dwelling as well as cleaning fish. Each made to specifications to meet particular needs. We build churches in which to worship God the Father, God the Son and god the Holy Spirit. But it is not the building in which He dwells…it is in our hearts.

What kind of  house will you build for the Lord today?

May your day takeoff in peace.

Thursday, July 23, 2020 : Sweet Canaan

Psalm 105

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”

 

Canaan Land, flowing with milk and honey. God’s physical destination of His people, the Hebrews, delivered from Egypt. The place where God would dwell in His holy temple. A physical symbol of the spiritual truth that one day God would call all people unto Him. He promised it to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and to all Israel. And now to you and me.

That His promise of a land flowing with milk and honey would describe our spiritual condition with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in we, His chosen people. Our hearts, the temple of the living God.

So go and praise, proclaim, sing and glory in His Holy Name!

May your day takeoff in peace.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020 : Knit One Purl Two

Psalm 139:13-18

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

Knitting is one of those skills I have not learned. Like work, I am not afraid of it, I could sit and watch someone else do it all day long. Seriously, the Psalmist uses this word picture of being knit together by God…stitch by stitch…every fiber, every knot, every nuance our uniqueness…all woven together by God. We are God’s work, His handiwork. By His hands we are made. This is a personal God. A God who knows us. A God who loves us. And like a woven piece of art we are made for a purpose. How vast is the sum of them: God’s thoughts, God’s plan for us, His prized creation. May God’s design in you and His plans for you allow your day to takeoff in peace.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020 : You First

 

Genesis 33:1-17

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. 7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down. 8 Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?” “To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said. 9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” 10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.

Recap –

Jacob: The herds are for you.

Esau: I have plenty.

Jacob: Please accept the gift.

Esau: OK.

Does this sound familiar to you? The last slice of ham on the dinner table: you have it, oh no, you take it, please, I insist. Or walking through a doorway: You first, on no, you first, I insist. Or guarding each other’s preferences: how do you think we should do that? No, whatever you think will be fine. I insist, let’s do it your way.

What a world we could live in if we would insist on outdoing one another in service to each other.

May your day takeoff in peace.