Good morning. (Or at least it was when I started this.) Today is Saturday, January 12, 2013. Not much to report around here this morning. We had to get a leak fixed in our pool yesterday, so there’s a chunk of money down the drain. Literally. Hahaha! Ba dum dum. Actually, the guys have to come back today and pour concrete in the deck where they had to cut a hole to fix the leak. It’s the first time we’ve actually had to have one repaired under the deck. Work was, well, work. It was a pretty normal day. Christi’s still experiencing pain, not to mention the inconvenience of having to wear the boot. This morning, she was frustrated, saying she didn’t have time for this boot.
Thirty-one days from today, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. I’m finding it more difficult to be excited about baseball this year. The potential for both of my favorite teams does not look good. The Red Sox are still trying to recover from whatever caused their epic fail in 2011. They’ve ditched Bobby V (much too late, in my opinion), and added John Farrell as head coach. I’m not terribly excited about that, as his record in Toronto was not that great. But it has to be an improvement over Valentine, right? Then they signed Mike Napoli as a free agent. But he failed the physical. They have yet to hammer out a deal with him after that. The Rangers have done absolutely nothing of any value during the off season. Jon-Boy Daniels sat on his hands and let all of the really good players slip through their grasp. They did get a catcher, signing pretty boy Pierzynski. Stephanie said she thinks he’s cute. I said he thinks he’s cute, too. And they signed Lance Berkman, who’s had two knee surgeries. He might be a good DH for them, or he might be another Brandon Webb. If you don’t remember him, he was a Cy Young winner for the D-Backs at one point. But he had surgery, which seems to have ended his career. The Rangers gave him money for nothing. He never threw a pitch for them. Maybe they’ll sign Napoli back, since they seem so interested in “damaged goods.” So you might understand why my level of excitement is just about nonexistent, at this point.
Today is “National Pharmacist Day.” I always thought it would be fun to be a pharmacist. When I was a kid, the pharmacist was always way back in the back of the drug store (they still pretty much are today), but they were elevated. I seem to remember them always being way up there. Maybe I was just short.
On this date, in 1519, Emperor Maximilian I, of Austria, died at the age of 60. He was born “noble but poor,” but married Mary of Burgundy, “heiress to the fabulous dukedom that included most of modern Belgium and Holland and bits of France.” He then arranged for his son Phillip to marry Juana of Spain, who would “inherit most of the Iberian Peninsula from her parents Ferdinand and Isabella.” Phillip had two sons. Maximilian arranged for Ferdinand (one of Phillip’s sons) to marry Princess Anne of Hungary, “thus sowing the seeds for eventual Habsburg domination of the Balkans.” Ferdinand’s older brother Charles would be “the greatest emperor in history, ruling Austria, Germany, Belgium, parts of Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and all its vast territories in the New World.” Maximilian “changed history by marrying Austria into an empire.” Some parts of this empire endured until WWI. “He also founded the…Vienna Boys’ Choir, which included Haydn and Schubert among its singers and which is still going strong.” (From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
Today’s birthday is Jeremy Camp, contemporary Christian musician, born on this date in 1978. He is one Stephanie’s favorites, so I picked him today. Honorable mention goes to John Hancock, born on this date in 1737.
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Psalm 142:5
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 108:3-4
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Psalm 25:4-5
Father, I pray for a glimpse of you today. Help me to see your face and live by your precepts as I live in this day.
Today, I’m reading Isaiah 18.
1 Ah, land of whirring wings that is beyond the rivers of Cush,
2 which sends ambassadors by the sea, in vessels of papyrus on the waters! Go, you swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide.
3 All you inhabitants of the world, you who dwell on the earth, when a signal is raised on the mountains, look! When a trumpet is blown, hear!
4 For thus the LORD said to me: “I will quietly look from my dwelling like clear heat in sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”
5 For before the harvest, when the blossom is over, and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he cuts off the shoots with pruning hooks, and the spreading branches he lops off and clears away.
6 They shall all of them be left to the birds of prey of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth. And the birds of prey will summer on them, and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.
7 At that time tribute will be brought to the LORD of hosts from a people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide, to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts.
Cush apparently corresponds to Ethiopia, including Nubia. They were known to send papyrus boats with messengers to incite nations to rebel against Assyria. The Lord looks on quietly, waiting to act. I’m not sure who the “people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far” are supposed to represent. The Reformation Study Bible suggests that they are nations that the Nubians are attempting to stir up. At any rate, it is stated in verse 7 that they will eventually bring tribute to the Lord, to the temple at Mount Zion.
Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” The scripture reading, not surprisingly, is Psalm 23.
1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The metaphor of shepherd and king overlap frequently in the Old Testament. In Psalm 23, the “wise Shepherd knows where the good pastures are season to season and leads us right to them.” This Shepherd provides what we need, being “not only adequate, but also generous.”
Like many, I’m sure, who might read this, I barely have even seen sheep (sure I’ve seen them in pictures), much less have any understanding of what shepherding is like. I’m challenged to come up with a more contemporary metaphor that might be more easily understood. This is difficult, because I understand some of the role of the shepherd, but mostly from reading Bible commentaries. I’m not sure there is a contemporary metaphor that quite fits the description. We had a really good tour guide on our “hummer jungle tour” in Cancun, but he only showed us the good spots. If we had been attacked, I’m not sure he would have stood and fought for us, like a shepherd would for his sheep. The president of my country works to protect me from outside attacks, but he doesn’t provide for me, nor does he lead me to good places to drink or eat. The closest thing I can come up with would be my own parents. As a child, they ruled over me (compassionately and gently, of course), they provided for me, they protected me, and they showed me where to get food and drink. But even that analogy falls apart after I’ve grown up. Sheep never really “grow up” in the same way people do. And, even though I might still consult my parents for advice, from time to time, their involvement in my life has reduced drastically since I left home. As it turns out, the shepherd is probably the best metaphor for describing the way our Lord cares for us. And something tells me that that is no accident.
My dearest Lord,
be thou a bright flame before me,
a guiding star above me,
a smooth path beneath me,
a kindly shepherd behind me,
today and for evermore. (St. Columba of Iona)
Jesus, I thank you for being my shepherd. You have led me for all these years, teaching me, training me, protecting me, and providing for me. You have tenderly cared for me all of my life, and I have faith that you will continue to do so until my time on earth is done. As much as we humans like to come up with metaphors, there really isn’t a better one than “shepherd,” because a shepherd would, if necessary, even sacrifice his life for his sheep, and you did exactly that. You are truly the Good Shepherd. I echo the prayer of St. Columba, asking that you would truly be “a bright flame before me, a guiding star above me, a smooth path beneath me, a kindly shepherd behind me, today and for evermore.” I would ask that you would surround me, above, below, before and behind. May I always be aware of your presence in my life.
I pray for the rest of this day. We have a few things that need to get done. I pray that we will be successful in those, and that you will guide me as I practice for tomorrow’s worship celebration, since there are a couple of new songs for me to learn. May we have a good evening of rest, as well.