an outlet of encouragement, explanation, and exhortation

Category: Meditations

Lectio Divina for Resurrection Week

Back in 2020, I made a series of lectio divina readings for Palm Sunday through Good Friday. The title pages have 2020 dates; but there is nothing dated about the readings – except they are keyed to the scriptures that take us through that week leading up to Jesus’ resurrection. In the hope that they may be of use to you in worshipping through the week, I decided to make a convenient menu of links which you can use to refer to them.


Palm Sunday




Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

The links above are to Youtube videos that I made on my phone back in 2020 for the LBFC Devotions channel. (I intend to edit them into a podcast series also; but that’s not ready yet.)

Job 28 – Wisdom and Understanding

I tend towards reading (or listening to) scripture in wider and wider context. More at one time. Sometimes, however, a jewel can be lost in the wider scope of a ….narrative? Poetry? Whatever one wants to consider the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible, what we call chapter 28 is a gem that ends in an even more precious gem. Here it is, from the NIV translation.

1 There is a mine for silver
and a place where gold is refined.
2 Iron is taken from the earth,
and copper is smelted from ore.
3 Mortals put an end to the darkness;
they search out the farthest recesses
for ore in the blackest darkness.
4 Far from human dwellings they cut a shaft,
in places untouched by human feet;
far from other people they dangle and sway.
5 The earth, from which food comes,
is transformed below as by fire;
6 lapis lazuli comes from its rocks,
and its dust contains nuggets of gold.
7 No bird of prey knows that hidden path,
no falcon’s eye has seen it.
8 Proud beasts do not set foot on it,
and no lion prowls there.
9 People assault the flinty rock with their hands
and lay bare the roots of the mountains.
10 They tunnel through the rock;
their eyes see all its treasures.
11 They search the sources of the rivers
and bring hidden things to light.

12 But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
13 No mortal comprehends its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, “It is not in me”;
the sea says, “It is not with me.”
15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver.
16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir,
with precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it,
nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention;
the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it;
it cannot be bought with pure gold.

20 Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.
22 Destruction and Death say,
“Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
23 God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
28 And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”

Job 28

Wow. Once more.

And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”

This reminds me of the transfiguration of Jesus. God speaks, and He says Mark 9:7:

This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Simple, eh? As usual, the theory is simple but the practice more challenging. May you and I be blessed in the challenge.

Writing a Psalm of Thanksgiving

At past LBFC Thanksgiving Celebrations, we have included times for expression of thanksgiving. In recent years, this took the suggested form of:

I am thankful to God for _____________because ______________

This was intended to help each of us form an expression of thanks to share in our worship celebration, allowing many to participate. This year, we are taking another step in structuring our Thanksgiving. This step is intended to integrate personal expressions thanksgiving into a sense of all giving thanks together – that is, corporate worship! The structure I recommended is taken from brief Psalms of praise or thanksgiving in the Bible. (This structure was explained and recommended to me and others at the recent Psalms Retreat that was led so well by leaders of Long Beach Grace Brethren Church.)

This structure is quite simple. It is in three parts:

  1. Call to Thanksgiving and Praise
  2. Reasons for Thanksgiving and Praise
  3. Call to Thanksgiving and Praise

Think of the first call as you speaking to others who are present as you speak or read your Psalm. You are inviting them to offer thanks and praise to God. The second portion of your Psalm is you giving reasons to those listening for your praise or thanksgiving. You may be speaking to the other people who are listening, or to God, or both. The third portion is you asking those who are listening, again, to join you in the thanksgiving – particularly now that you explained reasons for it.

Psalm 117 uses this pattern:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord.

The first portion:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

is a call for those who are listening – in this case “all you nations”! and “all you peoples” – to praise God.

The second portion is giving reasons for this praise:

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

And then the call to the listeners to praise God is repeated as the third part.

And that’s it. We are encouraging our congregation to work on writing their own Psalm of Thanksgiving leading up to our Thanksgiving Celebration. Bring it with you – in your memory or written down somewhere. (I keep mine on my phone). Then, in our time for sharing, as God leads you, read it or repeat it to call others to praise and thanksgiving, give your reasons why, and call them again!

Your Psalm might be longer than Psalm 117. For example, Psalm 118 follows the three part pattern with more words. The first call is verses 1 to 4. Then the reasons are given in verses 5 through 28! That’s a lot of reasons! And finally, a call is repeated in verse 29.

We probably wouldn’t encourage anyone to read a Psalm as long and complex as Psalm 118 at the Thanksgiving Celebration, but the simple three-part structure allows you to give more than one or two reasons for expressing thanks to God.

What do you say in your reasons?

You can talk about God and what He has done. Your reasons can be personal or general. They can be based on corporate experiences of our church family or your biological family. Reasons do not all have to be superficially “good”. Job and other examples of faith expressed praise for God in the face of severe trials, praising God in spite of circumstances. As several of the leaders told us at the Psalms Retreat, “Pain makes your praise credible.” When we are not driven by external circumstances, but by a deep experience of God’s faithfulness in times of trouble and pain, this can be a powerful witness of faith.

Lastly, even if you think you are unlikely to read your Psalm at the celebration, I’d like to encourage you to write one, or work on one. Several people – just in the 24 hours since Sunday when we introduced this exercise – have expressed how spiritually beneficial it has been for them to work through writing a Psalm of thanksgiving to God. I found it very encouraging and spiritually engaging to write Psalms as we were instructed to do so at the Psalms Retreat I attended. It’s a good thing to reflect and work through your reasons to thank God, particularly in this season of Thanksgiving, and to call others to join you – even if it is only in your own personal interaction with God.

As another example here’s a Psalm of Thanksgiving that I worked on during our worship times on Sunday. I was thinking of our very diverse church family as I wrote.

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

I rejoice in going up to worship.
God has called the nations to Himself, to life.
Let us go up together with many tongues and offerings of great praise from across the whole world.
God has done it.

My people didn’t know God when he called Abraham.
They didn’t know God when he called David.
When God sent Jesus, my people had never heard of him.
Our families were still lost when God’s holy spirit descended in tongues of fire and began to speak to the nations through his people in their own languages.

But now we are found.
Even in Long Beach, today – we are found!
We are alive, because we know Him and trust Him.

Praise his name.
Today, let us thank him together for what he has done!

Notes from the Other Side – Jane Kenyon

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

Jane Kenyon
Notes from the Other Side

Growth and Asking Questions

I heard Jeffrey Greenman, President of Regent College say, in a talk on ethics:

You grow in the direction of what you ask questions about.

My corollary: It’s when I think I’ve got it figured out that I stop asking questions. Life is a good corrective to such an attitude. God isn’t complacent about our complacency.

Un-Common Words from A Commonplace Book

Alan Jacobs, in his review of The Complete Words of W. H. Auden in the September/October 2016 issue of Books & Culture quotes an entry from a book written late in Auden’s life entitled A Certain World: A Commonplace Book:

Let me close with one more reflection by Auden, one of the longest in A Certain World, from the entry on “Friday, Good”; it exemplifies the wisdom and acuity of mind that this great man possessed, even in the somewhat diminished last years of his life:

Just as we were all, potentially, in Adam when he fell, so we were all, potentially, in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday before there was an Easter, a Pentecost, a Christian, or a Church. It seems to me worth while asking ourselves who we should have been and what we should have been doing. None of us, I’m certain, will imagine himself as one of the Disciples, cowering in an agony of spiritual despair and physical terror. Very few of us are big wheels enough to see ourselves as Pilate, or good churchmen enough to see ourselves as a member of the Sanhedrin. In my most optimistic mood I see myself as a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria visiting an intellectual friend. We are walking along, engaged in philosophical argument. Our path takes us past the base of Golgotha. Looking up, we see an all-too-familiar sight—three crosses surrounded by a jeering crowd. Frowning with prim distaste, I say, “It’s disgusting the way the mob enjoy such things. Why can’t the authorities execute criminals humanely and in private by giving them hemlock to drink, as they did with Socrates?” Then, averting my eyes from the disagreeable spectacle, I resume our fascinating discussion about the nature of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.

Yow. I think that’s all too often how we walk through life. Or we look for miracles while creation proclaims all around us.

I was working out today while Jesus bled on the cross

I was working out while Jesus bled on the cross today. Good Friday. It was around noon. The “sixth hour”.


Leading up to noon, one of the criminals crucified with Jesus mocked him. The other rebuked him, accepting enough of the knowledge of God given him. He trusted. Which am I?

“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour…” (Luke 23:44)

I was at the gym when I realized the time had reached (in Long Beach, anyway) “the sixth hour”. I was working out after aerobics on a weight machine.

one, two, three, four….

Jesus was on the cross today. Good Friday.
Suffering like this! You’re done already.
It was nothing like this. A flea to an elephant, or less.

…five six seven eight nine ten…

Which one is from me?
You’re suffering now!
Both are from you!

…eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen…

It became dark as the king of glory’s body weakened unto death. For three hours it darkened. My labor is as nothing compared to his.
Stop already.
Yes, it is as nothing, compared.

….seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two…

I was gritting my teeth. I want to stop. (I can stop! There’s no deep significance to this minor pain.)
Stop already!!
Yes, it is as nothing, compared.

….twenty-three twenty-four twenty-five twenty-six twenty-seven twenty-eight…

They offered him vinegar to suck from a sponge, on a stick. As he hung on the cross. Bleeding. Weighed down by my sins.
You could use a drink just now. But go for water instead of vinegar.
This is nothing, compared. There is a deeper thirst, and better water.
Remember, it wasn’t only your sins.

….twenty-nine thirty thirty-one… thirty-two

32 is a power of two, you nerd, STOP NOW!
I stopped. And sagged.
It is nothing, compared to the weight of sin and his suffering.
Yes. It is nothing.

I can do nothing to compare or augment or change what Christ has done for me, for us. Except live.
Live my life in my power. Eat and drink deeply. You will never hunger or thirst again.

I await the ninth hour. His ninth hour, and my own. And (more) what comes after.