What are 5 things you’re thankful for this year?

We all have reasons to be thankful. Throughout Scripture, we are encouraged to remember and rehearse together the reasons we have to give thanks to God. The Psalms reverberate with this charge:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 106:1)

The Apostle Paul encourages believers in local churches to do this together:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

He also reminds us that our ultimate reason for giving thanks is found in Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose in victory over sin and death for us:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Even though we should give thanks at any time, it helps to have a season of year where we give special attention to remembering and rehearsing with others the reasons we are thankful.

One of our practices as a family is to give thanks for five things everyday together. So, what are five things you are thankful for today or this year?

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 November 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Pakistan psalms“Special Psalms Help Pakistani Christians with Persecution, Pandemic, and Disunity” – Yousaf Sadiq in Christianity Today: “As Christians observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) this month, many will place high on their prayer list the nation of Pakistan, ranked the fifth most difficult place in the world to follow Jesus. Yet amid the prejudice, discrimination, and persecution faced by believers there, many Pakistani Christians have a unique resource to draw upon at the heart of their worship: contextualized psalms. A century ago, the Book of Psalms was translated into Pakistan’s predominant language, Punjabi, in versified form. Commonly referred to as the Punjabi Zabur, these poetic metrical songs can unequivocally be regarded as the most accustomed, read, sung, recited, and memorized part of Scripture by the body of Christ in Pakistan. Corporate worship within Pakistani churches (which are overwhelmingly ethnically Punjabi) is considered incomplete if the Zabur are excluded. As the deepest expression of indigenous Christianity, they can rightly be viewed as the heart of Christian worship in Pakistan and have given its believers an unrivaled familiarity with the Book of Psalms.”


Beth-Moore-2“Beth Moore: What Galatians Tells Us About How to Confront Church Leaders” – Jessica Lea at Church Leaders: “Challenging other church leaders, says author and Bible teacher Beth Moore, can be grief-inducing and painful, but Scripture shows us that there are times to do so. ‘I don’t like being at odds with people that I love so much, those that have been my peers, my co-laborers,’ said Moore. ‘I hate that. I hate it. But there are times when leaders do have to say to other leaders, “Wait, this doesn’t seem in step with the gospel.”‘ In January, Beth Moore released Now That Faith Has Come: A Study of Galatians, which she co-authored with her daughter, Melissa. In an interview on the Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast, Moore shared how the book of Galatians provides a framework for some decisions she has made recently, including her choice to leave the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)….In March 2021, Beth Moore announced that she was leaving the SBC, saying at the time, ‘I love so many Southern Baptist people, so many Southern Baptist churches, but I don’t identify with some of the things in our heritage that haven’t remained in the past.’  Moore explained in the interview that her decision to leave came from ‘facing up to the fact that somehow, I no longer belong. And, you know, it began instantly with speaking out back in the fall of 2016. It was overnight.’ Moore drew criticism in 2016 for calling out Christian leaders who supported former president Donald Trump, even after tapes were leaked in which Trump used lewd language to brag about assaulting women.”


chinachurch0719_hdv“China’s Unrelenting Efforts to Abolish Christianity Continue with Surveillance of Clergy to Ensure Loyalty” – Andrea Morris at CBN News: “A report issued by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) outlines strict measures being taken by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which aims to oppress religious minorities. The measures, which went into effect on May 1, are a part of a series of newly issued regulations that add to the revised 2018 Regulations on Religious Affairs (RRA). Clergy members from all of China’s five state-sanctioned religious groups — Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association — will be subjected to rigorous monitoring and surveillance by CCP. “Article 3 of the Measures requires clergy — among other demands — to support the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule, the Chinese socialist political system, and the CCP’s ‘sinicization of religion’ policy, effectively imposing a political test to ensure clergies’ loyalty to the CCP,” the USCIRF report reads. The new regulations also ban government-sanctioned churches from interfering in any concerns with education or the daily activities of citizens.”


temple-lachish-416x275“Hezekiah’s Religious Reform—In the Bible and Archaeology – David Rafael Moulis at Biblical Archaeology Society: “One of the most significant changes in the religious life of ancient Israel occurred during the reign of the Judahite king Hezekiah, in the late eighth century B.C.E. The Hebrew Bible provides us with this image: ‘He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole (asherah). He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it’ (2 Kings 18:4). In doing so, explains the Bible, the faithful king Hezekiah simply ‘did what was right in the sight of the Lord.’ But was Hezekiah really motivated only by ‘the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses’? What was his reform like on the ground?”


2992“Gardens of Eden: the church forests of Ethiopia – a photo essay” – Kieran Dodds in The Guardian: “South of the Sahara, and just north of the Great Rift Valley in landlocked Ethiopia, the Blue Nile flows from Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country. Radiating out from the sacred source is a scattering of forest islands, strewn across the dry highlands like a handful of emeralds. At the heart of each circle of forest, hunkered down under the ancient canopy and wrapped in lush vegetation, are saucer-shaped churches – otherworldly structures that almost seem to emit a life force. And in a sense they do. Ethiopia is one of the fastest expanding economies in the world today and the second most populous country in Africa. The vast majority of people live in rural areas, where the expansion of settlements and agriculture is slowly thinning the forest edge by cattle and plough. Over the past century, 90% of Ethiopia’s forests have been lost. In Amhara province, the only remaining native forests are those that surround the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church buildings.”


Petrusich-WendellBerry-2“Out of Your Car, Off Your Horse: Twenty-seven propositions about global thinking and the sustainability of cities” – This is a throwback to 1991 from Wendell Berry in The Atlantic: “The question before us, then, is an extremely difficult one: How do we begin to remake, or to make, a local culture that will preserve our part of the world while we use it? We are talking here not just about a kind of knowledge that involves affection but also about a kind of knowledge that comes from or with affection—knowledge that is unavailable to the unaffectionate, and that is unavailable to anyone as what is called information….What, for a start, might be the economic result of local affection? We don’t know. Moreover, we are probably never going to know in any way that would satisfy the average dean or corporate executive. The ways of love tend to be secretive and, even to the lovers themselves, somewhat inscrutable.”



Music: Interim, “Breathe.”

Scott Cairns, “Idiot Psalms” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Scott Cairns’ poem “Idiot Psalms.” Scott Cairns is a contemporary American poet with nine poetry collections, who also is a librettist, memoirist, and translator. Cairns is the program director of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA in Creative Writing program.


1   

A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by Jew’s harp.

O God Belovéd if obliquely so, 
                     dimly apprehended in the midst 
                     of this, the fraught obscuring fog   
                     of my insufficiently capacious ken,   
                     Ostensible Lover of our kind—while 
                     apparently aloof—allow 
                     that I might glimpse once more 
                     Your shadow in the land, avail 
                     for me, a second time, the sense 
                     of dire Presence in the pulsing 
                     hollow near the heart.   
Once more, O Lord, from Your enormity incline 
                     your Face to shine upon Your servant, shy 
                     of immolation, if You will. 

                                     2   

A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by baying hounds.

O Shaper of varicolored clay and cellulose, O Keeper 
                     of same, O Subtle Tweaker, Agent 
                     of energies both appalling and unobserved,   
                     do not allow Your servant’s limbs to stiffen 
                     or to ossify unduly, do not compel Your servant   
                     to go brittle, neither cramping at the heart,   
                     nor narrowing his affective sympathies 
                     neither of the flesh nor of the alleged soul. 
Keep me sufficiently limber that I might continue 
                     to enjoy my morning run among the lilies   
                     and the rowdy waterfowl, that I might 
                     delight in this and every evening’s intercourse   
                     with the woman you have set beside me. 
Make me to awaken daily with a willingness 
                     to roll out readily, accompanied 
                     by grateful smirk, a giddy joy,   
                     the idiot’s undying expectation,   
                     despite the evidence. 

                                     3 

A psalm of Isaak, whispered mid the Philistines, beneath the breath.

Master both invisible and notoriously   
                     slow to act, should You incline to fix   
                     Your generous attentions for the moment 
                     to the narrow scene of this our appointed 
                     tedium, should You—once our kindly 
                     secretary has duly noted which of us 
                     is feigning presence, and which excused, which unexcused, 
                     You may be entertained to hear how much we find to say 
                     about so little. Among these other mediocrities, 
                     Your mediocre servant gets a glimpse of how 
                     his slow and meager worship might appear 
                     from where You endlessly attend our dreariness. 
Holy One, forgive, forgo and, if You will, fend off   
                     from this my heart the sense that I am drowning here   
                     amid the motions, the discussions, the several 
                     questions endlessly recast, our paper ballots. 

                                     4   

Isaak’s penitential psalm, unaccompanied.

Again, and yes again, O Ceaseless Tolerator 
                     of our bleaking recurrences, O Forever Forgoing   
                     Foregone (sans conclusion), O Inexhaustible, 
                     I find my face against the floor, and yet again 
                     my plea escapes from unclean lips, and from a heart 
                     caked in and constricted by its own soiled residue. 
You are forever, and forever blessed, and I aspire 
                     one day to slip my knot and change things up, 
                     to manage at least one late season sinlessly, 
                     to bow before you yet one time without chagrin.


Previous poems in this series:

Why the Psalms are Essential for Spiritual Growth

When people ask am what is a good place to start reading the Bible I often refer them to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John), Paul’s letters known as Ephesians or Galatians, or the book of Exodus. Each of these books speaks of basic and deep truths about God and the revelation in Jesus Christ. But a quick next step for me is to encourage the inquirer to spend time in the book of Psalms. In fact, I have come to believe that the Psalms are essential for spiritual growth.

In the psalms, we learn how to connect with God through important spiritual practices of Scripture reading and prayer. The psalms are, first of all, part of God’s inspired word and, thus, reveal to us the character of God. As we read the psalms, we understand who God is and what it looks like to relate to Him. But the psalms are also the prayerbook of the Bible, teaching us how to hear God and respond to Him in prayer. The psalms bring together these two powerful resources—Scripture and prayer—like two wings that help us fly toward God in the spiritual life.

In the psalms, we also learn how to bring our whole selves to God. When you read the psalms, you will see both intellectual and emotional aspects of life brought into God’s presence. The thoughtful reflection upon the significance of God’s revelation in Psalm 119 sits right alongside the deep emotional heart-cries of Psalms 22 and 69. Not only that, but the entire range of human experience is captured in the psalms, from the heights of joy to the depths of despair. The psalmists are not afraid to bring fear, delight, shame, exuberance, repentance, and restoration into prayer with God. As we read and pray the psalms we learn that we, too, can bring our whole selves to God.

While there are many ways to read and pray the psalms, I would encourage two different approaches that I have found helpful. The first method is to read one psalm per day, while sometimes breaking up longer psalms into two or more days. After, or even while, reading the psalm, one can pray back to God all or portions of the psalm to God. If there is a verse that sticks out to you, stick with it in prayer. If the whole psalm captures you, then pray it all back to God. For example, the beloved Psalm 23 is an easy psalm to either pray verse by verse back to God, or to rest in prayer within one phrase, such as “he refreshes my soul.”

A second method for approaching the psalms is to read through the entire psalter over the course of one month, praying certain psalms in the morning and others in the evening. This is a common practice in many church traditions, perhaps most known through the daily psalm readings in the Book of Common Prayer. While this may seem like a lot to move through in a day, book-ending the day with the psalms helps us begin and end our day with God in prayer and Scripture. Many Christians recommend this approach to engaging with God in the psalms.

While there is much more that could be said, let me refer you to some of my other posts on the Psalms:

Malcolm Guite, “A Sonnet for All Saints Day” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Malcolm Guite’s poem “A Sonnet for All Saints Day.” This sonnet is taken from Guite’s book Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year. Malcolm Guite is an Anglican priest, poet, and songwriter, who is a Life Fellow and former chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge.


Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards
Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,
It glances from the eyes, kindles the words
Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright
With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,
The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.
Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing
He weaves them with us in the web of being
They stand beside us even as we grieve,
The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,
Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above
The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,
To triumph where all saints are known and named;
The gathered glories of His wounded love.


Previous poems in this series: