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Recently a co-worker committed suicide. Today a friend waits anxiously for tomorrow’s surgery. Another waits afraid and knows not when he will be called for a heart operation. A fourth just found out that he has cancer in his liver and other organs, and has only 2 to 12 months.

Recently I shared with a Facebook friend that I too, often ask “Why?”

These are all people who have a vibrant relationship with the Savior, with the One who  can make a difference, who can change everything. Yet the change hasn’t happened.

After reading “A Sacred Sorrow” by Michael Card, I have looked at the psalms more often. In them I encounter God who often seems distant, but who, in reality, is closer than the psalmist even realized. God breathed out the very words that I take in when I’m reading the psalms!

My co-worker a few months before his death posted a quote from D. Bonhoeffer which said, “The Psalms are the prayer book of Jesus.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. It means that Jesus didn’t just pray Psalm 23, which we all know and love. He also prayed Psalm 80, were the writer three times looks for God to “shine His face” on him, which is ironic because the blessing the priests were to bless people of Israel with this blessing:

“May the LORD bless you and keep you and make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the LORD look upon you with favor and give you peace.”

That means that God knew, when the psalm 80 was written, that it sometimes seems to us that we are NOT blessed. God knows we will pass through very hard times. And he gave us these psalms to help us speak our pain back to him.

Jesus, as a pious Jew, prayed methodically through the psalms. This means that even the imprecatory psalms were spoken back to the Father by Jesus. (Imprecatory psalms are the “cursing psalms” where the writer vents his deepest frustrations and asks God to strike down his enemies, mercilessly.)

As I think about this, I’m beginning to see what it means to be a human in this fallen world, to yearn for the Redeemer and his redemption which has been revealed but is not yet in it’s fullness.

By praying all the psalms back to God, Jesus sanctified these emotions. By interceding for me now, he sanctifies my pain. The Holy One spoke this whole range of emotions back to God throughout his earthly life.


He knew rejection and persecution, unanswered prayers. And yet he remained faithful. And he was raised, and he promises that those who are “in Christ” will be raised too; regardless how bad it is now in this world, there is a better one, a renewed, future one without pain and death.

Psalm 80 is one of the few laments that doesn’t have the “oracle of salvation” which is that part of the lament where the tone inexplicably changes from dire to hopeful, from despair to joy. This tells me that it’s OK to be in the “why God” place. We can stay there for as long as we need. We might not have our prayer answered. Jesus knows that.

But the psalm ends as a conversation with God. The writer doesn’t turn his back on God, he stays there in the conversation, even though it’s painful. I want to tell you friends, to hang in there, to stay in the conversation, to pray, to wait, to hope. Jesus and I are in the conversation with you, beside you. And when I fail, Jesus won’t. He’s still beside you. His Spirit is praying through you.

I hope this is a light for you, even though it seems pretty dark.


Thinking Out Loud in Saratoga


Early in the Gospel of Mark we see that Jesus removes himself from the crowds to pray. Prayer, in solitude, is an important part of his life and ministry.

Jesus found times and places that were away from others. His custom was to rise early before anyone else and find a desolate place. Other times he sent the others ahead, stayed up late on a mountaintop to pray. So from Jesus’ example I’ve gleaned these steps:

Decide to “get away” with God.
Ask God to help you find the right time and the right place for your meetings.
Make enough time so that you need not rush.
Provide a comfortable atmosphere where you will not be interrupted. Perhaps make music available.
Place a Bible, journal and writing instrument all within easy reach, (or not, if these things distract you).
Soak in God’s presence.

John and Jesus both…

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I read an interesting post of a Facebook friend from Bosnia. She posted the following joke:

Best Friends

A woman stays out all night. In the morning when she shows up at the front door she tells her husband that she spent the night at a her best friend’s.

The man picks up the phone and calls ten of her friends–not one confirms that she spent the night.

Another evening the man doesn’t come home, and in the morning says that he spent the night at his best friend’s.

The woman takes the phone and calls his friends. After she talks to ten men, five say he did indeed spend the night at his house and the other five say that he is still there!

She added the comment that men are better friends than women. I responded by saying, “Or better liars.” [Another friend, commenting on my post asked “better” liars?] 

This got me thinking. Is it a better friend who tells the truth or who covers for a friend?

In the New Testament is says that love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4.8). It also says that love “rejoices in the truth” ( 1 Cor 13.6).

What are your thoughts on this? What would you do if you received a call like that?

Before I close let me include the Bosnian proverb, “A lie has short legs.” Which means that you can’t go far in a lie.

Any of you remember the dentist played by Lawrence Olivier in Marathon Man? Remember his hapless victim, Babe, played by Dustin Hoffman?

Well, let me tell you I thought of poor Babe a few times during my four one-hour visits to the dentist.

Zemir asked me if I wanted Novocaine and I thought, “Nobody else in this country uses it, why should I? Besides, he might think I’m a coward or a sissy.” So I went without.

He started working on my bad, old, metal fillings. He replaced them with enamel. The first one wasn’t so bad, only a couple of tender moments. Right after I left the office I was able to eat, even hot and cold. It was great!

Next day the same.

It went so well I gave him permission to replace all my old fillings. I don’t know how much fillings cost in the US but here I only payed $22.00 for the whole tooth. Some of my back teeth had two or three fillings!

I wonder how much mercury I ingested during the whole process. The suction device was a little weak and it kept getting clogged up. So I ended up swallowing some of the matter from my old fillings.

Now, the last day was harrowing. That day I felt like Babe in the Marathon Man. As soon as he started drilling he found a nerve. He was cool about it. When I reacted he would move to another spot and work on it for a while and briefly return to the sore spot.

But I knew he had to return to the spot, and I knew it hurt. As I anticipated the return of the drill to that spot the sweat began to pour and when he hit the spot a tear would well up in my eye. WAHHHH!

It’s finished. I’m no sissy. Hopefully these will last me another 20 years!

Tomorrow I get to go to the dentist. I already know I have to repair one filling.

I’m doing it here because it’s so much cheaper. But I miss my dentist in Toledo OH. He specialized in explaining everything well, and avoiding pain as much as possible.

Here Novocain is, for many, a luxury.

It will be the first time I go to this particular dentist so I don’t know what to expect.

I hope I don’t bite him too hard, I haven’t had my rabies shot.

Not far from my place of employment is a prayer room for all faiths. The only rule is that you take off your shoes before entering.

I haven’t prayed there yet but I need to. I don’t need to because it is a prayer room but because it’s quiet, close, and nobody else ever goes there. (That in itself is sad since people here killed one another over their religion. To kill for the right to practice a faith that you don’t practice in peace time seems a little hypocritical to me.)

I’ve begun the discipline of fasting and it seems to me that if I don’t pair my fasting with more times of prayer,…well… then I’m just dieting.

My desire is to connect. I need to abide with the One who promised to be with me. I want to know Jesus coursing through my veins like sap from the vine courses through its branches. Often it seems like it’s just me coursing through my veins.

Today I’m going to start visiting the prayer room for all faiths, perhaps it’s even for my weak faith.

I made an interesting self discovery the other day. I can write and write in response to someone’s blog. But I take little time to write proactively and to tell people what I’m thinking, discovering, feeling about life, love, God, and culture.

I hope my journey interests you.