Month: May 2020

The veil not yet rent


“Rent” may sound like real estate terminology, but that’s not the direction I’m going. For this post, we’re interested in the word as the past tense of “rend,” meaning “tear into two or more pieces.

In Matthew 27:51 we are told that the curtain restricting access to the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple “was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” when Jesus died on the cross. What powerful symbolism God provided to bolster people’s chances of understanding what Jesus, our great high priest, did by giving His life, by being the Lamb of God. This rending of the spiritual barrier required a perfect sacrifice, and Jesus was the only one qualified. Therefore, He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Having come to Christ for forgiveness and salvation, a believer has stepped across the threshold formerly barred by what must have been – at least, in my imagination, whether historically factual or not – a curtain of heavy, heavy velvet or canvas, maybe dark maroon or black. I imagine it being as thick as possible, impossible to have been folded up at its edges for machine hemming (much worse than 9 layers of blue jeans denim in a double hem at the side seams, practically guaranteed to break your machine’s needle!!). The point is that the veil or curtain was, in its spiritual meaning, impassable and impenetrable. Possibly we should almost imagine, too, that it was soundproof: God might not hear the penitent’s confessions nor the supplicant’s help-cries through that barrier.

Now: picture a softly-billowing, bright white curtain like the one pictured above. It is not secured at every corner nor all along top, bottom, and sides with harshly-forbidding metal hardware. Rather, it is mounted merely at intervals, so that light may seep through at the gaps. This veil of insubstantial fabric is softer than the finest bedsheets of Egyptian cotton. Furthermore, it is not soundproof. In fact, the One who keeps this curtain in place wants folks to hear what’s happening on the other side of it! He hopes those dwelling outside this veil will walk right up to it and camp there, listening, touching, and watching for shapes that occasionally brush against it from the other side.

The opening of that curtain for admission is an event that we have been promised and that we anticipate, in hope, as we read Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:54-55. That event is going to happen at an appointed time. The instant is as close as just one breath, and heaven-bound sojourners not yet able to cross the filmy barrier between mortality and immortality nevertheless experience much of what’s happening behind the veil. They discern in their spirits the voice of Who reigns in that place; they understand language; they raise their voices to join in the music. They are almost living there; just not quite yet.

I have now explained, the best way I can, how it often feels to me to be camping just outside the realm of heaven and of eternity while the confines of this brief, mortal assignment prevent me from stepping into the full presence of God. I suppose I must credit various New Testament passages (as well as Old Testament) for this sense I have of the merest degree of separation that holds us present in the body and absent from the Lord. See 2 Corinthians 5:8

So…what is behind that barrier?

Every good gift made perfect; every “the best I can manage” made the best possible by anyone; every mystery revealed; every question answered (or made irrelevant); every physical and mental shackle “poofed” away; every sorrow consoled; every tear dried; all inheritance granted that was formerly held in trust.

For the redeemed soul, the person grateful to be part of that unique vine-and-branches relationship with God incarnate, the activity just this side of the veil not yet “rent” is all about a desire to come home; to dwell permanently in a place that is known to be the most homelike though it has never been seen; to stop seeing “through a glass darkly” and to start life as life was meant to be. The veil grows thinner, weaker, and more see-through as intensifies our desire and our literal progress through time toward our appointed moment of seeing Christ face to face. And, when that time arrives for our entry into His presence, the veil simply evaporates away in the twinkling of an eye. Or, perhaps we simply walk right through it, as Jesus entered a locked room to be with the disciples on resurrection Sunday night! See John 20:19

As Heaven calls, the things of earth “grow strangely dim“! God, guide us, from this day until that great day, to be joyfully aware of how the veil not yet rent is dissolving a little bit more every day.

Sojourning and Journaling, part 3: The prayables


As promised, I have saved for last the best part, the most useful part, of this trilogy. And here it is.

Daily Bible reading has been a “hit or miss” commitment in my Christian sojourn, I admit. That situation did take a positive turn about a month ago when the April 6 article in a Lenten Devotional Guide published by Dawson Family of Faith moved me to action.

Since that day, as I have read each morning (simultaneously listening to voice actor Max McLean read, on the Bible Gateway app), I have noted a lot of “prayable” phrases and statements.

You’re probably familiar with the term “praying the Scriptures.” Many books have been written with that title or with slight variations of it. Using exact phrases we find in the Bible, as we pray, is a powerful process. It doesn’t make the Word more true, but it makes a wider use of our wondrous Book! Praying Scripture truths is a tremendous witness, too. Now, remember: whether we quote Bible verses or not during the prayers we speak silently or aloud, we do not pray in order to appear eloquent or knowledgeable. Keeping that pitfall in mind, I nevertheless want very much to be opening this door and getting inside the room where the Scripture-quoting praying folks are.

Why? Because of the vast treasure of truth, assurance, and witness in God’s Word that we have the freedom and the opportunity to voice, to call to our own remembrance, and to share with any – especially within our own households – who may hear and be blessed and encouraged and educated.

Below, I have listed just a sampling of these “prayables” – items I find notable within a mere month’s mornings of assigned readings in Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Luke, John, Psalms, and Proverbs. Imagine what remains to be gleaned from Romans alone! I want to be found praying words like these. And there are eleven more months’ worth where these came from. Join me. Give some of these a shot.

..Not one sparrow is forgotten by you, Lord; you know the very number of the hairs on our heads! Luke 12:6–7

..We will not be afraid or terrified, for you, Lord, go with us; you will never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to remember this and not to be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:6

..Lord, may we listen to you and learn! Deuteronomy 31:12

..God, let your teaching fall like rain, let your words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deuteronomy 32:2

..Lord, you are our Rock. Your works are perfect, and all your ways are just. You are faithful and upright. Deuteronomy 32:3–4

..Holy Spirit, teach us what to say. Luke 12:12

..Lord, you have told us that we cannot add a single hour to our lives by worrying. Help us not to worry and not to be afraid, but rather to trust you. Luke 12:25, 32

..Dawn on us, Lord; shine on us. Be our help. Bless all of our skills. Bless our land with dew and with water. Give us strength to equal our days. Deuteronomy 33:2-13, 25

..Thank you, God, for the opportunity to work and then to rest. Based on Joshua chapters 10-11

..Lord, you have given us all that we have, including the ability to produce and to earn. All that we have belongs to you. Based on Joshua 12:6–7

..Lord, we see in your Word that if we have regard for you, then we have the basis of understanding how we are to regard our fellow humans. Based on Psalm 86:14 and also on Exodus 20

..Bring joy to your servants, O Lord. Psalm 86:4

..A treasure trove of prayables from Psalms 90 and 91:

  • Make us glad
  • May your favor rest on us
  • Make us to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and in the shadow of the Almighty
  • You are our refuge and our fortress
  • We trust in you
  • Cover us with your feathers; under your wings we will find refuge
  • We will tread upon the lion and the cobra
  • We will call on you and you will answer us
  • Be with us in trouble
  • Deliver us and honor us and satisfy us with long life

..Lord, we look forward to the day when we will eat and drink with you in your kingdom, at your table. Luke 22:30

..From Psalms 92 and 93:

  • Give us understanding
  • Help us to remember that evil will perish
  • Help us to flourish and to grow, that we may honor you
  • Lord, you reign, robed in majesty and armed with strength
  • Lord, your statutes stand firm

..Lord, may our souls march on and be strong! Judges 5:21

..God, we pray that we will not fall into temptation. Luke 22:40

..Make us prudent; may we always give thought to our ways. Proverbs 14:8

..Lord, your Word tells us that evildoers will bow down in the presence of the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous. Proverbs 14:19

..Lord, bring us out [of this worry… calamity… grief] with rejoicing. Psalm 105:43

Our starting point

I expect that once you and I really latch onto the value of “praying the Word” in this manner, both our Bible reading and our praying will be renovated and refreshed as we glean powerful truths and speak them – to ourselves, and before our families, colleagues, Life Group brothers and sisters, etc., as we have opportunity – to the end that we internalize more of these expressions of God’s truth and encourage one another with them.

Deciding to be faithful in reading is the starting point. (And don’t forget about available audio Bible resources!) As I read, it helps me to write down what I know will benefit me when I review it later on. What practices help you to retain the Bible passages you are reading?

Sojourning and Journaling, part 2: Everybody serves somebody


“A sojourning Levite” begins a paragraph written on May 3 in the spiral-bound journal you see at bottom right of the above photo montage. In part 1 of this three-part blog post, you got a bit of background both on the journal and on how I am currently using it as I read daily in a “one-year” Bible (also pictured above, in red).

Now: what is so fascinating about that sojourning Levite, whose story we find in the Old Testament book of Judges?

Israel had no king

Judges chapters 17 and 18 provide a strange-sounding narrative: a son steals 1,100 shekels of silver from his mother and admits it later, after she has been stressing vocally about the loss. She is happy, not angry, about the new information. At least, we are not told about any anger or any scolding – perhaps because even mothers were, first and foremost, women, and it was the men of the household who made all of the rules during this time, in Israelite culture.

My first thought was that the mother’s predominant reaction was gladness…why? Because the mystery was solved. The money’s whereabouts were no longer unknown. Me? My relief in knowing what had happened to the money would be tempered by great annoyance about the theft! This story in Judges and the questions to which it gives rise help us to see that Bible study – like the Bible itself – remains “living and active.” And we are only just getting started! Read on:

The mother now takes charge of some of the money. To be specific, 200 of the 1,100 shekels, or about 18% of the total. What purpose has the mother for this money? To melt it down and make it into “a carved image and a cast idol.” Are you getting as hot under the collar as I am? Like me, you are getting your Ten Commandments on, aren’t you? Making “images” and “idols” sounds like a clear violation of the commandment we find recorded in Exodus 20:4, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”

However, no lightning, plague, or similar disaster strikes this household. Instead, the son, Micah, who already had “a shrine,” makes an ephod (a priestly robe), makes “some household gods,” and installs one of his sons as priest. All of these actions seem pretty renegade in view of what we know about the laws governing Israel’s story dating back to Abraham, but the following explanation sheds light: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 17:6)

Everyone’s doing what seemed “fit” doesn’t exactly mean that lawlessness was rampant. The people we are talking about had the Mosaic law and tradition. They had, in a very practical sense, dominion and order within families or clans or tribes. Within each little realm, there was wealth and there was rule by someone patriarchal or by “elders.” Furthermore, there were collective armies to be assembled and sent when armies were needed.

Sheep without a Shepherd
Nevertheless, a poignant New Testament expression seems applicable: “sheep without a shepherd.” Israel’s later insistence on being ruled by kings was symptomatic of their need for the King of kings. And, in our day of partisan politics, we surely see that same need within the hearts of all our citizens. No matter what is going on politically, Jesus is the Master – the good Shepherd – we all need as our able Savior and wise Authority. A people doing “whatever seems fit,” submitting whenever possible to no higher authority than personal preference or common sense – that sounds an awful lot like a modern-day account, doesn’t it?

  • Follow your heart.
  • Go boldly in the direction of your dreams.
  • Be your own person.
  • Make your own rules.
  • Do what is right for you.

The list of similar mottos goes on, but each is just a slight variation on one theme: “Be your own god. Revere self above all.”

In this story in Judges, a certain Levite comes traveling near and ends up at Micah’s house. The information that this Levite left Bethlehem in Judah “in search of some other place to stay” is what prompted my word choice in a journal note, “sojourning.” In Part 1 of this trilogy post, I have explained a little of what sojourning looks like in my life in 2020 and thereabouts.

What does the sojourning Levite do at Micah’s house?

This unnamed Levite in search of a new situation happens upon Micah’s house and becomes the new, better, official priest. (Remember: the tribe of Levi were the priests of Israel.) And Micah is confident the Lord will be good to him as a result of this change. Will that expectation of Micah’s come to pass?! I sense foreshadowing. Or, should I say “foreboding”? 

Oh, just in case you are wondering whether this fellow in Judges is the same person as Micah the prophet, I wondered the same thing and turned to the 33rd book of the Old Testament in search of an answer. The answer is no. The prophet Micah, of Moresheth, lived during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Since in our story in Judges “Israel had no king,” these two Micahs could not be the same person.

My journal ramblings of early May say no more about this account of Micah, Micah’s mother, stolen money, graven images, and the sojourning Levite who became Micah’s household’s priest. There is more to that story in the Bible, though, thanks to a bunch of Danites who – inexplicably – apparently got totally left out when all of the conquered lands were divvied up amongst the tribes of Israel. These Danites lured Micah’s personal priest away. (Apparently, that Levite wasn’t done sojourning.) They said to him, “Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?”

Let’s recap
Summary time! Let’s close by fixing on what ought to be the central message of Part 2 in this three-part blog series. (And, by the way, I have saved the best material for Part 3.)
I’ll make this review a multiple-choice exercise:
A. Two hundred out of eleven hundred is about 18%.
B. A son should not steal his mother’s money.
C. Bible reading can be downright interesting, which is a good thing, since we are supposed to read our Bibles.
D. When you get right down to it, everybody serves a king. Make yours King Jesus. Definitely, you don’t want to go down the road of putting yourself on that throne. #ToBeToppled

I’ll go with D.

Scroll back up to that bullet list. Heart; dreams; individuality – there is a place for all of these considerations in a life bowed before King Jesus. It’s just that the person choosing Jesus as Lord finds passions, sees dreams fulfilled, and expresses individuality within good and safe boundaries, under God’s blessing.

Part 1, “Unsuspecting”
Part 2, “Everybody serves somebody”
Coming up next: Part 3, “The prayables”

Sojourning and Journaling, part 1: Unsuspecting


At lower right in the image above, you see a spiral-bound journal I bought because it was too cute to resist. The cover has a drawing of a cup of coffee and some writing in that “Courier” type of font that makes your words appear to have been rendered by an actual typewriter – reminiscent of a glorified era now gone. If you become sentimental for reminders of vintage office machinery and technology, just watch a few episodes of classic Columbo or especially Hawaii Five-0. Those dictaphones, telephones, adding machines, and punchcard-spitting computer monstrosities are simply fascinating!

“Coffee doesn’t ask silly questions,” my irresistibly-cute journal’s cover reads. Below that: “COFFEE UNDERSTANDS.”

Yeah, that’s kind of a weird message. However, because I enjoy coffee every morning, during the pure solitude to be found only by being up and about earlier than anybody else in the household, I’m fine with having a weird coffee message on the cover of the journal I am currently using to record my responses to the Bible. In fact, I recently admitted to someone that “making coffee a positive association” of this morning routine is helping me to sustain a renewed commitment to daily Bible reading. While that admission makes me wonder if I should apologize or be embarrassed that the Bible without coffee apparently isn’t sufficient enticement, I am not apologizing. Not today, anyhow. After all, on the third day when God created grass, herb, and tree, that included coffee, didn’t it?

I brewed the coffee…but God created it!

Since early April of this year, when another writer’s devotional message deeply convicted me that regular Bible reading is an absolute must, I have poured the coffee first, then pored over the assigned pages in a One-Year Bible. Every day. Haven’t missed a single day yet. I desire not to give up this daily time reading the Word “for any consideration” – to borrow what Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice says about the delight he finds in the absurd letters written him by Mr. Collins, a cousin who is silly, pompous, hypocritical, and socially awkward.

“Sojourning and journaling”

“Sojourning and Journaling” is the title of this three-part blog post. You are reading Part 1. The other two installments are set to publish immediately on the heels of this one. In Part 2 you’ll learn when and why the word “sojourning” became such a focus. When that happened, I took my pen to the facing blank page of that weird “coffee” journal and wrote:
Sojourning and Journaling
A title that may well describe the process of navigating life and spirituality in my pre-senior-adult years, and the record thereof

Isn’t “sojourning” quite nice in adjective form?
“A sojourning Levite happens upon Micah’s house”

I also like the word as a gerund noun. The title “Sojourning and Journaling” definitely feels descriptive of my ongoing learning and meditative process, an introspective and contemplative journey not just about what I am reading daily in the Bible in the year 2020, but also about semi-retirement and upcoming mother-of-the-bride duties and COVID-19 adjustments and constantly feeling as if my prayer life – nay, my total discipleship – is woefully stunted, and so much more.

Lately, this sojourn has been chronicled not only in the “coffee understands” journal dedicated to Bible reading sessions, but also in a series of “regular” journals – mostly, the classic, stitch-bound composition “theme” books I have been using ever since the happy acquisition of a beautiful cover made locally by Leldon’s Wooden Art:


These theme books and their predecessors have content that runs the gamut from highly-mundane goings-on to serious reflections, from travelogues to baking, knitting, and yardwork endeavors.

“From everlasting to everlasting”: one gem OF MANY in the Psalms

Before we get to the subtitle topic of this post, “Unsuspecting,” look with me at one poetic phrase in the assigned readings from May 2, within verse 17 of Psalm 103: “from everlasting to everlasting.” It employs as a noun what more naturally sounds like an adjective in English (as in “everlasting life”). Naturally, I ran straight to any website that might tell me what the Hebrew word translated “everlasting” looks like:
‘ō-w-lām H5956
Not being a scholar or even a student of Hebrew, I don’t find those notations very meaningful. But they look impressive, don’t they?

And this is really cool: the Hebrew rendered “everlasting” is explained by a list of words that includes both nouns and adjectives: 😄 #WordJoy

Long duration (noun)
Antiquity (noun)
Perpetual (adjective)
Eternity (noun)
Old (adjective)
Futurity (noun)
Always (adverb… just to keep this still more interesting)
Wouldn’t you like to be the writer who first employed the phrase “from everlasting to everlasting”? I sure would.

Is “unsuspecting” a good way to be? No. And yes.

As we now arrive at the primary topic of this installment, “Unsuspecting,” I need to point something out about the NIV (New International Version). There is a current NIV translation you get in the “audio” tab on Bible Gateway, and there is an earlier NIV in my One-Year Bible published in 1986. As a result, frequent differences in wording occur. For example, “unsuspecting” is interchanged with “at peace” in Judges 18:7 and 18:10.

Note also that the format of this Bible resource is a pretty big chunk from the Old Testament, every day, in sequence from Genesis starting on January 1 to Revelation concluding on December 31; plus, each day, a shorter passage from the New Testament; some verses from one or more Psalms chapters; and, almost as a postscript (but not), a mere one or two verses from Proverbs. You could almost do the math here if you were so inclined (and I am so inclined; oh, yes, I am!):
365 days times some 28 words on average per day should equal about 10,220 words in the book of Proverbs. Guess what: I was less than 3% off. That’s pretty close! One website reports that Proverbs has 9,921 words. #BibleTrivia
Math… English… Argghhh! Which discipline do I enjoy more?

Synonyms and Antonyms
How interesting it is to examine words and the apparent nuances of difference in their meanings! Let’s look at the use of “unsuspecting” versus “at peace.” In context, the term so translated seems to mean “politically at peace, unworried about possible attack by other peoples.” See Judges 18:7-10.

Would you agree that “unsuspecting“ often hints that the person so described is misled into feeling at peace? In fiction, the word nearly always applies to someone about to become a victim: an unsuspecting pedestrian suddenly hears screeching tires and a roaring car engine. Will that pedestrian react in time? In nonfiction, the unsuspecting (and slower) gazelle may not be very happy to glance up and discover a cheetah charging. YIKES!

It’s not only synonyms that deserve scrutiny; opposite concepts do, too. Therefore, look with me at Assurance/Peacefulness/Unsuspecting versus Warning/Unease/Alertness:

“Always be on the alert,” we are warned in the New Testament. “Unsuspecting” suggests a parallel to the saying “ignorance is bliss” (bliss meaning peace). To feel safe and secure, like a cared-for infant or a cuddled household pet, is blissful, because sure-to-return discomforts and worries are temporarily forgotten.

In the Bible we find profound assurances such as “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” always in tension with warnings like the one mentioned at the start of the above paragraph. The New Testament must have scores of verses in each category. Here is just one more of each:
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:38-39
“The world will hate you as it has hated me.” John 15:18

And, so, that tension between assurance and warning, between peace and unease, between unsuspecting and alertness, will be a part of our Christ-follower journey until THE DAY of God’s appointing, when there shall be no more tears. I do not know whether my sojourn between now and that day will always find me journaling as avidly as at present. I do know it will take “from everlasting to everlasting” for me to exhaust the store of ideas, reflections, and word combinations that occur to me in response to such a wise and infinite Creator, in whose image I am wonderfully made.

And isn’t it exciting to realize that God’s children one day will actually understand what “from everlasting to everlasting” looks like and feels like? Then, the unfathomable depths of your mind and of mine, will find full expression. Complexity is a facet of God’s nature, and we are made in His image. In His eternal home, all of our complexities, presently too great for us to understand no matter how hard we try, will be employed perfectly and to their ultimate extent. Mental complexities, yes, but physical, too! At least, this is what I imagine.

In other words, we each may find ourselves able to be gymnasts, soloists, scientists, philosophers, orators, quarterbacks, weavers, composers, goldsmiths, pianists, horticulturists, teachers, masons, swimmers, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth! I won’t have to ponder ever again whether I like math more than English, or vice versa. #NoLimits #Perfection

And, forevermore, we will know the sweet privilege of staying unsuspecting.

Part 1, “Unsuspecting”
Coming up next: Part 2, “Everybody serves somebody”
Part 3, “The prayables”