The Psalms with Bono and Eugene Peterson

As we remember sacrifice for freedom this week, I thought I could do no better than offer you this 20-minute discussion between singer/activist Bono and pastor/scholar Eugene Peterson. I have known many soldiers, as well as others, who cling to the Psalms during hard times. Dr. Peterson and Bono talk about their gradual friendship and how relevant the Psalms are in our contemporary, violent world. Bono’s song “40” is based on Psalm 40. I hope this weekend you will make time to hear Dr. Peterson and Bono’s good and thoughtful conversation. Also, below is Psalm 40 in Peterson’s The Message Bible translation followed by U2 and Bono performing “40” on You Tube.

Psalm 40 (The Message)–1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God.

4-5 Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,”
ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile
of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one
comes close to you!
I start talking about you, telling what I know,
and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words
account for you.

6 Doing something for you, bringing something to you—
that’s not what you’re after.
Being religious, acting pious—
that’s not what you’re asking for.
You’ve opened my ears
so I can listen.

7-8 So I answered, “I’m coming.
I read in your letter what you wrote about me,
And I’m coming to the party
you’re throwing for me.”
That’s when God’s Word entered my life,
became part of my very being.

9-10 I’ve preached you to the whole congregation,
I’ve kept back nothing, God—you know that.
I didn’t keep the news of your ways
a secret, didn’t keep it to myself.
I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.
I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth
For myself alone. I told it all,
let the congregation know the whole story.

11-12 Now God, don’t hold out on me,
don’t hold back your passion.
Your love and truth
are all that keeps me together.
When troubles ganged up on me,
a mob of sins past counting,
I was so swamped by guilt
I couldn’t see my way clear.
More guilt in my heart than hair on my head,
so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.

13-15 Soften up, God, and intervene;
hurry and get me some help,
So those who are trying to kidnap my soul
will be embarrassed and lose face,
So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable
will be heckled and disgraced,
So those who pray for my ruin
will be booed and jeered without mercy.

16-17 But all who are hunting for you—
oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you’re all about
tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing:
make something of me.
You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—
but God, don’t put it off.

Journeying in Mazes and Labyrinths

For a long time I wondered about my inability to get numerous tasks accomplished on the first try. Of course, most people occasionally experience Murphy’s Law–“if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.” But statistically, I am a champion of start-overs and second attempts. In fact, it takes me longer to get out of real mazes than any of my companions! Now, before you think I am a pitiful paranoid, let me give you an example of what is part of everyday existence.

Maze Perplexity
Maze Perplexity

When my husband and I purchased an oval, oak table, we were told it would arrive at our home in one week. On schedule, two furniture movers brought in a big cardboard box and unloaded the most hideous rectangle table I had ever seen. It displayed chrome legs and a glass top with white plastic lines running across it.

“This isn’t our oak table,” I stated the obvious to the movers.

One of them looked at his papers and said, “Ma’am, the form says oak table.” With that declaration, the movers dodged for the door.

“Wait a minute! Where are you going? Does this look like an oak table to you?”

The one mover paused judiciously and scratched his chin, “No, it ain’t, but I guess it’s better than no table at all.”

They left. My oak table was delivered a week later, and the “used” glass and chrome table went out the door.

Of course, a furniture mix-up was a small matter. But when one lives under the expectation of doing most tasks twice, there is some soul searching and identity crisis. I discussed this problem with my dad one day to see if he could offer any enlightenment.

“Well, Sister,” he said, “You do seem to spin your wheels.”

Ah, the suspicion now confirmed.

He was right. A wheel spinner was exactly how I felt. Immediately, I started praying, “Please God, don’t let me spin my wheels every day.”

labyrinth at Franciscan Retreat Center, Colorado Springs, shows several people praying and walking in circles around it. At the center are three women sitting on rocks.
Labyrinth at Franciscan Retreat Center, Colorado Springs

Not long afterward, I read an article about the ancient Christian tradition of a labyrinth. A labyrinth is different from a maze in that you cannot get lost or go into a dead-end when you travel it. A labyrinth’s path will take you to its  center. Then, as you continue walking, stopping for prayer along the way, you will amazingly exit near the same place you started. You travel in a circle!

Ding! Something rearranged my thoughts, and I felt like God had answered my prayer. Maybe perceived wheel spinning was actually a journey that brought me closer to God and moved me outward and onward in life. Maybe my so-called “curse” of wheel spinning was really my blessing of traveling various labyrinths with Him. If that were true, I should not mind journeying the distance, even if it meant walking in circles and having forced Sabbaths when tasks resulted in a temporary halt.

The psalmist declares, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5, NIV). The dusty journey can be a labyrinth, not a maze.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, We Love Chick-fil-A!

NYC May Bill de Blasio is looking left with one hand up, and his mouth open like he is speaking. He has salt and pepper hair, is tall and stocky, and wears a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and red and white striped tie.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

A Chick-fil-A spokesperson recently said, “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity, and respect–regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender”(Wall Street Journal, May 9, p. A14). This person was responding to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who wants people to boycott the restaurant chain because the owners of Chick-fil-A have a different opinion than he does on LGBT issues. I assume they contribute their private money to organizations de Blasio is against. De Blasio reduces this to “Chick-fil-A is anti-LGBT.”

A two-year-old girl with a pixie face, squinting with a smile, has a bottle of chocolate milk and Chick-fil-A containers in front of her. She is sitting in a booth, wearing a purple shirt with white sleeves.
A satisfied Chick-fil-A customer

I really don’t want to get into the politics of this. I mean, there are laws against discrimination and courts to parse the troubles. But we are talking about chicken sandwiches here. Can’t we munch in peace with conversations about the movie Zootopia and how much cash the Tooth Fairy is going to slip under the pillow? Must we begrudge a successful company who treats the consumer as number one and employs thousands of people?

I had not been inside a Chick-fil-A restaurant until about two years ago, when a friend suggested we go there to feed chirping peeps. After that, we’ve been back several times. The Chick-fil-A experience consistently receives an A in my fast food book. The staff is trained to be polite, and they often ask if you need anything. The place is clean. The food is tasty. While we wait a brief time for our order, the kids munch on “appetizers” of Cheerios in small plastic containers. Our Chick-fil-A has a play area with slide, and there are little placemats and wipes to keep life tidy–perfect for the customers with munchkins.

Our culture wars are so deep these days that I feel we need to call “Time Out.” Let customers enjoy their chicken strips in peace around people practicing hospitality and civility.

One more commendable observation: since the chicken chain started in 1946, founder Truett Cathy’s decision not to be open on Sundays is still in place. That means, all the workers get a day off to spend as they so choose. It’s a win for the employee!

Mayor de Blasio, please be more selective about your rooster fights and try not to gulp the whole bird in one bite. You and I will both feel better.