shortbread

short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the tag “encouragement”

“Psalms…Up Close and Personal”

Psalms have always been special to me. Maybe because they came out of the gut of the writer—David for the most part. David and Psalms are a little like Billy Joel and “New York State of Mind” sung in Central Park, or Whitney Houston hitting the key change in, “I Will Always Love You.” Soul stuff.

Decades ago, I read that Billy Graham went through Psalms every month—all 150…five per day. That’s commitment—particularly when Psalm 119 rolls around. It may have been the original praise chorus as it goes on and on…and on. (Being a little ADD, I appreciate the short ones. 🙂 )

I tried the “five a day” approach for a while, but for me it was just too much goodness to savor at one sitting.  So I adjusted and have for many years now, read just one psalm a day—a sort of spiritual vitamin. But that one psalm a day has become the most meaningful reading I do. As my little quartz guitar tuner helps me tune my guitar to a standard “A=440” tuning, Psalms helps me tune my heart to God.

A couple of tips that, for me, have multiplied the power of Psalms.

1) Take it personally!  Read the verses as though you were the writer—not David or some ancient, at-a-safe-distance somebody else.  Yes, psalms were written about Jerusalem, or David vs. Goliath, or a monumental blunder with Bathsheba, or processing up Mount Zion to worship on holy days.  But for your devotional purposes, the psalm is all about you. Take it personally.

The second tip has to do with a sort of spiritual geography.

Assume “Jerusalem”–that all-important, center of the Hebrew universe, the Holy City–is your life, and  that “the Temple” is your heart..your soul.  “The wilderness” and “Babylon” would be those times and places you feel furthest from God–desperate times and lonely places.

And what about “the enemies”?  Well, for now, the enemies are not some invading army or an angry King Saul trying to destroy David.  For now, the enemies  are those real life forces that are out to do you in.  Fear… lust… loneliness… financial pressures… addiction… anger,… shame… grief… greed… pride… a physical malady.  The enemy may be real life attackers like terrorists or political adversaries, or perhaps, social ills such as racism or injustice.  

Has that devotional time been a little lacking of late?

Try reading Psalms “up close and personal” for thirty-days…or thirty years.  Just one-a-day. It might just be “the cure to what ails you.” 

Keith

4-11-2015

http://keithelder.com/

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“Ms. Satterfield…Valentine’s…and 52 Names for Love”

Besides being an English teacher and life-friend, Gail Satterfield was and is a dream caster and seed planter. Of course, she had to teach us the what’s and why’s and how’s of words, but she took teaching to the next level.

For one, she always had a thoughtful quote waiting for us when we came in the room. The quotes were power points long before Powerpoint–written in perfect cursive on the big green chalkboard behind her desk. The quotes were John Donne or Robert Frost or Eleanor Roosevelt or Mark Twain. They were carpe diem! before “The Dead Poets Society” and they changed the way we saw the world.

For the record, Ms. Satterfield is still at it—still planting seed and casting dreams after all these years, only now her chalkboard is Facebook.  Two to three times a week she will post some plutonium-level, keeper of a saying, and knowing long before Twitter that 140 characters is ‘a plenty, her borrowed wisdom is always short, sweet, and to-the-point.

Today’s quote?…

“The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was so important to them; there ought to be as many for love.” (Margaret Atwood)

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey—let’s go with “Fifty-Two Names for Love!” I can do that!

  1. Jean… 2. Carey Beth… 3. Mom… 4. Dad… 5. Darryl… 6. Dwayne… 7. Celeste… 8. Grandmother… 9. Grandaddy… 10. Nanny… 11. Papa… 12. Roxy (the Maltese—you’ve got to love your dog).

I’m already at #12, and I haven’t even gotten out of the house.

“Fifty-two names for love”—I could get that many without going beyond our extended families. Some quiet. Some hilarious. Some wise. Some handshakers, some huggers and cheek-kissers, some note-writers.  Some, a little goofy—but all, “names for love,” due to things said or done, and the manner in which they were said or done.

Add schoolteachers and coaches and band directors who invested their lives into mine. They taught me to conjugate a sentence, to use a sliderule, to block and tackle, to swim and dive, to shoot a lay-up, to tie a square knot, to paint with oils, and to think for myself.

There were caring friends and neighbors who kept me on the straight and narrow (such as it was). They were pastors and Sunday School teachers and devoted youth leaders who taught me about God and prayer, and where to find Habakkuk in the Old Testament.

I could get into “names for love” like, guitar, pizza, camp, songwriting, speaking, travel, fishing, golf, sports, movies, ice cream, standing on the beach or at the top of a mountain, watching the game with friends, or just having a great conversation.

I could talk about God. God is love, you know.

You get the idea–fifty-two names for love.

Now, it’s your turn.  Piece of cake.

On you mark…get set…

Hey, wait a second—add “cake” to my list.

Keith Elder

2-14-2015

 

“The Ultimate Occupational Therapy”

“Love one another.”

It was a commandment (the greatest according to Jesus), but it was also a sort of primal occupational therapy.  When a person is hurt or has a surgery that incapacitates them, occupational therapy gradually prepares then to resume their normal activities.  Love does that.

Example: You are depressed.  Then, love one another. Go out there and help alleviate the suffering of someone else.  Volunteer at the homeless shelter once a month.  Talk to the people.  Listen to their stories.  Go around to the tables refilling water or tea glasses.  You will feel better.

You are grief stricken.  Then love one another.  Reach out to family and friends who are hurting as well.  Call them. Drop by to see them. Share your stories.  Laugh with them, cry with them.  Grieving takes time—but love leads to a speedier recovery.

You are lonely. Then go to where people are—but go to places that will make you feel better and not worse.  It’s a club centered around one of your interests. It’s an art class or a book club or a church small group.  Once you get there, love one another.  Make it more about them and less about you.

You are angry.  After you have had a little time to cool down, get over it and love one another. Say a prayer for the person you are so frustrated with.  You may recall, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Maybe you write a note to them saying, “Let’s get together and talk—life’s too short to spend it mad.”  Nothing sucks the heart out of a good day like unresolved anger.

Maybe you have shame or regrets.  Maybe you have let yourself or others down.  Then, love one another.  Baby step your way out of those dark places by very concrete acts of care and kindness.  Altruistic acts have been documented to give people an endorphin kick, not to mention the fact that it reminds us we may not be so bad after all.

It’s pretty amazing how we can love our way out of most holes.  And as for the one’s we can’t?…well, God loves us out of those.

–Keith   10-6-13

“Fail Forward”

Famous Failures

The slide with “Famous Failures” is a ray of light…a rope of hope to all of us not-so-famous folks who may have yet to see the magic happen.  Oprah, Walt Disney, The Beatles.  Can there be any more enormous success stories?  And yet there was a point when they were at the bottom—unknown, unproven, disrespected, discounted as losers by “people in the know.”

One thing I have learned about most people-in-the-know—i.e., the critics—is that they are critics because they can’t perform themselves.  They can’t play the sport or the instrument… or write the hit song or the novel… or get elected to public office. Talk about losers—how about the coach who cut Michael Jordan from the high school basketball team?  How about the educator who said little Albert Einstein would never amount to much? And the station that fired Ms. Winfrey because she wasn’t fit for television?  You think those geniuses haven’t kicked themselves to China and back a few times?

Everyone knows failure—at least, everyone who’s ever tried to do anything worth doing.  Learning to play a musical instrument.  Learning to swim, or to paint, or to speak before a crowd, or to sell, or to write a song…or to surf.  Write it down: there will be wipeouts along the way.

You’ve heard of the successful businessman (could have been a woman, but in this case, it was a guy).  In an interview he was asked about his secret to success. “Good decisions,” he answered.  “And how,” the interviewer asked, “did you learn to make those good decisions.”  “Bad decisions,” the man replied without hesitation.

There’s no question whether or not we are going to fail from time to time.  The question is, what will we do when we do.  Wallow in shame?  Blame the world?  Quit?  To quote Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman with bad teeth) in the movie, Hook“Bad form!”  The call of the day is to do your best to succeed, but on those days you do fail, fail forward.  Grow from the mistakes.  Process the pain and apply the newfound knowledge to that next challenge.

The Bible calls that “wisdom”.

Keith   9/12/13

“Expiration Date… NA (not applicable)”

It was a picture-post on “The Idealist” facebook page.  A sky with birds hovering over a tree…in a boat…with a light in a window on the trunk of the tree (shades of Keebler elves)…and a girl standing at the bow of the boat gazing into the future.

Caption: “Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date: take a deep breath and try again.”

I REALLY like this. Being a Boomer who’s taken a few tumbles and had many a doubt as to whether I will ever see my potential realized, this reminds me to hope.  The idea shows up all over the place.

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” –anonymous

God called an already up-in-years Abram and Sarah to pull up roots and go to a new place—and start a family.

God called to 80 year-old Moses from a burning bush and said, in essence, “It’s time to do your thing, Moses.  Go tell Pharoh to let my people go.”  The Red Sea, water from rocks, manna from heaven, and forty years of wilderness wandering—all came after Moses turned 80.

God kept old Simeon and Anna alive long enough to realize the hope of seeing the Messiah come.  (Luke 2:21 ff.)

And it’s not just about age.

Jesus used little kids, disenfranchised women, greedy tax collectors, fiery zealots, and a foot-in-mouth-prone “Rock” (Peter) to make the kingdom magic happen.  He even used a few rich people.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.”  Paul wrote, “If any person is in Christ, he/she is a new creation.  Old things have passed away, behold the new has come.”

I wonder how many of us have given up on our dreams or ideals because it (whatever “it” is) got hard. Because we sinned and fell short of the glory.  We’ve thrown in the towel on a job or a call or a person or a love or a dream—or ourselves.  News flash—the past is prologue, folks.  The clock’s still ticking… the game is still on!

Remember: “Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date: take a deep breath and try again.”

Keith   3/06/2013

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