EARTH: Something Small In God’s Hands by Francine Rivers

October 9, 2018

From: Earth Psalms “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.” Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Matthew 13:31-33) Whenever it rains, earthworms come up out of their burrows and squirm above the ground. Usually, I grimace and toss them back into the garden. Remember the old song, “Worms crawl in, worms crawl out”? Worms used to make me think of death and decay. Not anymore. Much to my [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 149 by W. Robert Godfrey

October 2, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms The focus in Psalm 149 is on God’s redemptive faithfulness in the covenant of grace.  So Psalm 149 is a “new song,” (v. 1), like the new song of salvation we see in Psalm 98: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!  His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.  The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel,” (vv. 1-3a). After the crisis of Book Three, the king and people in Book Four looked for comfort to God’s faithfulness, especially as displayed in creation and in the covenant.  Because Psalm 148 already made [...]

EARTH: Slow & Steady Transformation by Francine Rivers

October 2, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18) While on a voyage through the Inside Passage of Alaska a few years ago, we cruised into Tracy Arm, a fjord near Juneau, to see the Sawyer Glaciers. We were fortunate enough to have a balcony, and we sat dressed in bathrobes with steaming cups of coffee as the ship turned around, giving us a phenomenal view. Ice is usually clear or sometimes white, but a glacier has blue within it. Over centuries, feet of snow are packed down year after year. As weight and pressure increase, the dense ice absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue, which is what we see. Glaciers move slowly, [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 148 by W. Robert Godfrey

September 25, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 148 is a psalm that praises God for his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises.  It calls for praise of the Lord from the heavens and from the Earth.  This psalm calls the heavens, (v. 1), and the Earth, (v. 7), to praise.  This praise culminates in verse 13 with the acknowledgement that God is above all things both in Heaven and on Earth: “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above Earth and Heaven.” The praise from the heavens is to come from the angelic hosts, from the lights in the firmament, and from the upper waters.  The praise from the Earth comes from the sea creatures, from the weather, from the dry land and vegetation, and from the [...]

EARTH: Responding With Thanks by Francine Rivers

September 25, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) One day, I noticed a battle going on in the skies overhead. Crows were attacking a red-tailed hawk. These weren’t small birds defending a nest; they were like a gang of bullies circling their victim. The hawk didn’t return the attack, though there were several times when it looked like with a swift rollover, he could have grasped one of the smaller birds and had a tasty snack. Instead, the hawk dodged and gave a flap or two of his powerful wings to gain a little more height. In ever-increasing circles the hawk soared higher and higher, until the crows gave up and flew away. Life’s problems can seem [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 147 by W. Robert Godfrey

September 18, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Book Two of the Psalter reflects on the king’s commitment to the Kingdom of God.  Psalm 147 praises God for providing for his people and building up his kingdom.  The focus on the kingdom in this psalm is obvious in several verses: “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel,” (v. 2); “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!  Praise your God, O Zion!” (v. 12); and “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel.  He has not dealt thus with any other nation,” (vv. 19-20a). This focus on the kingdom connects Psalm 147 with the language and themes of Book Two in several ways.  The gathering of the outcasts, (v. 2), points to the provision of the Lord for the needs [...]

EARTH: Planting Seeds Of Faith by Francine Rivers

September 18, 2018

From: Earth Psalms All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) Our church has few parking spaces, and the fire department has graciously allowed us to use the lot next to their building. As we walk from the lot to church, we pass by a barrel filled with dirt that serves as a planter. There isn’t much in it, other than a few volunteer pansies. Seeds have apparently dropped, because those delicate kitten faces smile up at us from other places along the way, including cracks in the concrete pathway. Pansy comes from the French word, pensée, which means, “thought.”  In the fifteenth century, this little flower was the symbol of [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 146 by W. Robert Godfrey

September 11, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 146 is the first psalm of this concluding set.  It is full of praise for God’s care and specifies how God “keeps faith forever,” (v. 6), to bless his people. This psalm connects in many ways to the first book of the Psalter, both linguistically and thematically.  The word “blessed” in Psalm 146:5 is the same word found in Psalms 1:1; 2:12; 40:4; and 41:1-2.  Psalm 146:8 refers to the righteous, as does Psalm 1:5.  The phrase, “way of the wicked,” connects Psalm 146:9 to Psalm 1:6.  “Salvation,” mentioned in Psalm 146:3, is found in Psalm 3:2, 8.  The theme of not trusting princes, (Psalm 146:3), resonates with Psalm 2:2.  The Lord who reigns as King, (Psalm 146:10), echoes [...]

EARTH: Lessons In Risk Taking by Francine Rivers

September 11, 2018

From: Earth Psalms For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) Our family has had many kinds of pets, and one of the most interesting was a turtle. He lived in an aquarium with nice rocks that he could climb. He ate live fish (which was disturbing to watch) and did not appreciate being handled. If someone picked him up, he would disappear inside his shell. After Rick read an article warning that such turtles carry salmonella, he decided the turtle had to go.  The children and I took a drive out to the coast and stopped in at a ranch reputed to welcome retired horses.  We had seen a large pond with rushes and wild birds (none big enough to carry off a turtle), and we [...]

PSALMS: The Last Five Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

September 4, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms The last five psalms of the Psalter form a concluding group to Book Five.  All five of these psalms begin and end with the same word: “Hallelujah,” (praise the Lord).  Also, in contrast to the preceding eight psalms, (138–145), which are all ascribed to David, these last five psalms are untitled.  These psalms, united and highlighted at the end of the collection, invite the reader to explore their meaning and function in the Book of Psalms as a whole. The fact that there are five psalms in this group does not seem to represent a symbolic number in any way.  The only significance to the number five in the Psalter is the division of the Psalter into five books.  Are the last five psalms, then, a [...]

EARTH: God’s Thoughtful Creation by Francine Rivers

September 4, 2018

From: Earth Psalms For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and Earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. (Isaiah 45:18) Several years ago, Rick and I took an excursion to see Claude Monet’s famous garden that inspired much of his artwork. Along the way through the rural countryside, we saw numerous thatched roofs, each with a row of irises blooming on the crest. A nice creative, decorative touch, we thought. Then we learned the French discovered long ago that the roots of the iris will interlock, holding the thatch firmly from the top. (How they learned that would make an interesting investigation.) But holding a roof together is not the only benefit the flowers [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 138 by W. Robert Godfrey

August 28, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 138 begins the sixth section of the fifth book of the Psalter.  This section contains eight psalms of David, which contain both praise and intense prayer for help.  These psalms, as a recapitulation of redemptive history, point to a restored and blessed kingship.  This king still struggles – the new Heaven and new Earth have not yet arrived – but he is blessed by the Lord and praises him: “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.  The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” (Psalm 145:5-6, 8). All eight of these [...]

EARTH: Learning Generosity by Francine Rivers

August 28, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6) Some years ago, we had a huge German Shepherd, Hercules, who was a full 125 pounds of muscle and energy and did not like to share his food. We fed him just outside the sliding-glass door on a large patio step to our deck, and sometimes he would leave a little food in his dish for later. One afternoon, a mouse showed up for dinner. Herk, trapped inside the house and forced to watch this rodent munch on his kibble, went wild. The mouse happily sat in the middle of Herk’s bowl and ate. (I think it had a smirk on its tiny face.) Next meal, Herk ate every piece of kibble and licked the [...]

EARTH: Prayers Like Incense by Francine Rivers

August 21, 2018

From: Earth Psalms When the Lamb took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8) One Sunday in June, after church services, I went by Enchanting Sweet Peas in Sebastopol. It was tucked into a small lot next to Taco Bell – so hidden that even though I lived in Sebastopol, I didn’t know it existed until a friend told me about it. The small farm is open to the public only one day a year. When I arrived, there was already a gathering of people waiting with bated breath for the 11 a.m. opening. Many people come every year to buy seeds for new hybrid colors of sweet peas. [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 135 by W. Robert Godfrey

August 14, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 135 is the first in a group of three psalms that primarily focus on the enemies of God’s people.  Still, Psalm 135 is an appropriate psalm to follow the songs of ascents.  The pilgrim journey to Jerusalem culminated in the call of Psalm 134:2: “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!”  Now, in Psalm 135, the psalmist stands in the temple, calling on temple workers as well as the priests and Levites to join the king and people in praise.  This psalm, too, begins and ends with sections that call the servants of the Lord to praise him, (vv. 1-2, 19-21).  The intimate fellowship of God and his people in the temple is expressed in verse 21: “Blessed be the Lord from Zion, he [...]

EARTH: Seeking Security by Francine Rivers

August 14, 2018

From: Earth Psalms You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. (Proverbs 3:24-26) A squirrel comes by every now and then. One morning he turned up his nose at the dried corncobs I put out just for him and risked his life checking out the bird feeder, only to find thistle seed. So he jumped back to the deck and began searching for acorns. Unfortunately for him, we had fewer that year. We didn’t want any acorns to sprout in the yard or attract the woodpecker who wanted to drill holes and store them in our walls. So I hired one of our grandsons to [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 121 by W. Robert Godfrey

August 7, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 121 is the second in the fifteen songs of ascents.  These songs all relate in some way to the idea of going up to Jerusalem as pilgrims to meet with God.  These psalms are all rather short with pointed themes.  The first of these songs expresses a feeling of being far from God and longing for his peace.  The last psalm speaks of the blessing that Zion gives to the people.  Other psalms celebrate the strength and joy of Zion, God’s blessings on the families of his people, and the full redemption of God. Psalm 121 fits into this group as a reflection on the journey of the pilgrim toward Jerusalem.  In Old Testament times, the journey was a real trip over difficult terrain to a physical city.  [...]

EARTH: An Opportunity For Joy by Francine Rivers

August 7, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing  nothing. (James 1:2-4) We have a lilac bush in our backyard. I planted it ten years ago, and every year I hope to see it filled with clusters of sweet-scented blossoms. Every year I am lucky to find two small clusters on the very top. My grandparents lived in Colorado and had a lilac hedge that filled with purple blossoms.  Rick’s relatives in Sweden had gorgeous lilac bushes with a profusion of clusters.  Why is my lilac [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 118 by W. Robert Godfrey

July 31, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 118 is the last psalm of the Egyptian Hallel, (Psalms 113–118), the six psalms that the Jews used especially during the Passover feast as they remembered their deliverance from Egypt.  Of these six, only Psalm 114 makes an explicit reference to Egypt, but all of the psalms are appropriate for leading Israel to reflect on God’s rescue of his people from the house of bondage.  Psalm 113:7, for example, applies to the exodus, as well as to many other times in Israel’s history: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.” Psalm 118 concludes the Egyptian Hallel with words full of praise and celebration for God’s blessing upon his people.  It is above all a psalm [...]

EARTH: Call To Confession by Francine Rivers

July 31, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31) A friend called from Hawaii and told me about an injured seagull she saw on the beach. The poor bird couldn’t walk at all but flutter-hopped in its quest for food. On closer examination, my friend saw that fishing line entangled the bird’s legs, hobbling it. She approached slowly, extending her hand in the hope she could remove the line and do something about the bird’s wounds. Frightened, the gull flew off, legs still hobbled and infected. Sometimes we are like that poor seagull.  We become entangled in bad habits or addictions, in destructive [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 110 by W. Robert Godfrey

July 24, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms If Psalm 109 gives us remarkable insight into the suffering of King Jesus, Psalm 110 opens for us his triumph in resurrection glory.  This third psalm of David in Book Five shows us not only the importance of the king in the redemptive plan of God, but it also transforms in a surprising way the whole meaning of the kingship. Most of the psalm is about a victorious king.  God himself seats this great king at his right hand and promises to subject the king’s enemies to him so completely that they will be no more than a footstool, (v. 1).  The scepter of this king will stretch out from Zion over all his enemies, (v. 2).  He will lead his eager troops into battle clothed in dazzling robes, (v. 3).  He [...]

EARTH: A Light For Our Path by Francine Rivers

July 24, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105) My hometown, Pleasanton, California, used to have a lot of fog. Not a light-misting fog that stretches over the valley like a cloud lake, but a pea soup-thick fog that spreads over roads and makes driving dangerous. The seven-mile stretch home from the movie theater in the neighboring town could feel like a hundred miles. Bright lights only made the fog blind us, and low beams didn’t shine past the front of the car. So we crept along, car door open, following the white lines down the middle of the road. We didn’t want to end up driving over the cliff into the Kaiser gravel pits. Angels must have been watching over us. Angels watched over [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 109 by W. Robert Godfrey

July 17, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms The praise of Book Five follows on the prayer for the deliverance of the exiled people near the end of Book Four: “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise,” (Psalm 106:47).  Psalm 107 praises God for answering that prayer: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south,” (vv. 1-3).  The psalm similarly ends with great confidence in the love of the Lord: “But he raises up the needy out of affliction [...]

EARTH: Water In The Desert by Francine Rivers

July 17, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7:37-39) One creature of southwestern Africa is the Stenocara beetle – a little black bug with a grooved, bumpy back. It lives in the Manib Desert, one of the hottest places on Earth, where sand temperatures can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Each day, this small creature climbs a sand dune before dawn and waits for the fog to announce the approaching sunrise. As it waits, tiny droplets of water form on its water-repellent casing. Once the [...]

EARTH: Community Matters by Francine Rivers

July 10, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Our family lives in the “Redwood Empire” of northern California, within half an hour of Armstrong Woods and two hours from the Avenue of the Giants. I’ve always marveled when standing inside a grove of redwood trees. Though the trees tower hundreds of feet overhead, and some of these trees are so big you can link hands with ten people and still not encircle the base, these giants have a shallow root structure. A good wind would blow one over if it were standing alone like an oak tree on a hillside. But because the [...]

PSALMS: The Character And Structure Of Book Five by W. Robert Godfrey

July 3, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms After the two relatively short books (seventeen psalms each in Books Three and Four), we come to the last and longest book of the Psalter.  The forty-four psalms of the fifth book offer praise to God in gradually increasing intensity.  The praise of God comes from a variety of times and authors.  It grows in various ways until it culminates in the perfection of praise. Some parts of the structure of this book of the Psalter are more obvious than in other books.  For example, each of the psalms from 120 to 134 bears the title, “A song of ascents.”  Presumably, pilgrims sang these psalms on their way to Jerusalem to worship God in some of the great festivals of Israel.  Psalms 138–118 have [...]

EARTH: Hard Work by Francine Rivers

July 3, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. (Proverbs 6:6-8) We consider ants pests, especially in late summer when they are sending out scouts and then armies to gather food for the winter. We do our best to get rid of them with traps and poisons. Even so, they keep coming back, year after year. They are industrious, determined, and strong in the face of tremendous intolerance and persecution. God honors them in Proverbs 30, counting them among a few animals that are “small but unusually wise,” (v. 24).  Why?  Because ants offer good life lessons: They [...]

EARTH: Spreading The Good News by Francine Rivers

June 26, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. (Matthew 28:19-20) When I was a child, I loved to pick fuzzy, fluffy dandelions. I’d blow the seeds and watch them drift away on the breeze. Then I’d run to pick another flower. We lived in the country, and it didn’t matter if a gazillion dandelion seeds were scattered hither and yon. But in a neighborhood with pristine lawns, blowing dandelion seeds might get you in trouble with the friends next door who spent hours digging up weeds. The truth is, dandelions are designed to spread. A windy day can scatter plenty of seeds even [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 106 by W. Robert Godfrey

June 19, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 106 is the last and longest psalm of Book Four.  It is one of the new songs of praise for God’s redemptive work.  If looking to creation builds up faith, so too does looking at God’s great saving works of the past.  This historical psalm reviews Israel’s past with special attention to the exodus and wandering in the wilderness.  But it also looks beyond that time to Israel’s present sufferings.  As a conclusion to the fourth book of the Psalter, it shows that whatever comfort may be found in creation and covenant, Israel’s full redemption is still a future reality. This psalm begins and ends with praise and contains repeated evidence of God’s saving mercies for his people.   It is [...]

EARTH: Protective Father by Francine Rivers

June 19, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The Lord your God is going ahead of you.  We will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt.  And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child.  Now he has brought you to this place. (Deuteronomy 1:30-31) Some years ago, while working at our warehouse. Rick called me on the intercom and said a mother quail was out back with her chicks. I came running, and we watched from the delivery doorway as the quail pecked for seeds and bugs among the grass behind our building. The chicks scurried around their mother like little puffs of tan cotton, unaware of us – or of danger lurking close by. We spotted a cat crouched and [...]